Monday, January 11, 2016

A Religious Experience - Turkey Leg "Osso Buco"

I had one. Yesterday. This is no joke, like when I quote Robert Preston's line to Julie Andrews in "Victor/Victoria": "Oh, the bathroom is a religious experience!" No, this really happened and even I, a believer, am stunned. And gratified and grateful and hopeful that the person who was the subject of my rather fervent prayers continues to improve.

Perhaps this experience had something to do with the fact that I prayed to "my" God, as well as to "their" God. Because I am an eternal wiseass, and because I had just gotten worrisome news, at one point I remember asking if Anybody could please get a message to Jesus. 

Laugh if you will, you unseen nonbeliever, but my prayers were answered immediately - my phone buzzed and I saw the message that there had been a release from the hospital. Thank you, God, in all of Your aspects.

Yesterday was a very rough day, fibromyalgically speaking, and you probably don't want to hear me bitch yet again. (Today is not starting out any better. Half an hour sleep; the rest of the time I was awake and in pain. Just now, while sitting in kitchen, I put my head down and after a few minutes I got an excruciating  pain on the left side of my head, from nasal cavity to my eye and up through to the back of my head, immediately followed by the sharp smell of ammonia. WTH?) We had an invite for breakfast, but I couldn't get out of bed much less go out of the house. And that's all I'm going to say about that except I do have a recipe to share, prepared late yesterday afternoon in desperation (cook or chuck the turkey leg, there is no refreeze) but it's not difficult.

Turkey Leg "Osso Buco"

1 3/4 - 2 pounds turkey leg (drumstick) cut crosswise
1/2 pound cherrywood smoked bacon, cut into squares
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
grated zest from 1/2 large navel orange
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon honey
1-12 oz. bottle Shock Top Raspberry Wheat beer
chicken stock, as needed

In a deep heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the bacon in batches so the pieces don't stick to each other. Cook until brown but not burnt or hard, then remove and set aside.

Sprinkle the turnkey with some salt and pepper, then cook in the hot bacon fat about 2 minutes each side, until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Discard the bacon fat and let the pan cool, then wipe out the solid bits with a paper towel. Add the butter and return to medium heat, then add the carrots and celery,  Cook for a few minutes, then add the onion.  Cook for a few more minutes, then add the garlic and cook a little longer, until the garlic is fragrant.

Now add the spices, the ketchup, and the honey and stir to combine. Pour in the beer, stir, and add the bay leaf and orange zest, stirring.  Return the turkey to the pot, cover and cook for 2 hours on low to medium low. Halfway through, turn the turkey over. Check the sauce and adjust for seasoning. Cook until the turkey is very tender. There is not a great deal of sauce, so you can add some chicken stock to thin it out. Always taste and adjust your seasoning.

If you can't find the Shock Top Raspberry Wheat (I found it in Publix, individual bottle) and use a dark ale instead, cook the vegetables in 2 tablespoons of reserved bacon fat instead of the butter. I had originally planned on stirring the cooked bacon back into the sauce, but when I tasted the delicate flavor, decided against it. You can add the bacon back, or incorporate it into a side dish to accompany the turkey osso buco - I'm think of a risotto with bacon and peas. I promise to share that recipe if I go that way, but right now I can't stand up, much less stand at the stove for a half hour stirring risotto.

By the way, if you live near a Spanish supermarket like Bravo, check it out for the cut turkey legs. The price is going to be much better than Publix or even Walmart.

Oh hell, I may just cheat and make regular rice, the boil-in-bag type, and mix butter into it and then the bacon and peas. Don't forget the ground black pepper.

I have to show off a wonderful gift my son made for me. It's already in one of the china cabinets. It is BEAUTIFUL.

I love it.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Just one of those days

I had a very fine tai chi class this morning, and then I went food shopping in Publix, and then I made the spectacular mistake of cleaning up after the pets, changing pee pads and scooping litter and mopping floors. The boys were already on their way to a martial arts seminar so I thought ... well, I didn't really think. Used up all my spoons and then some. There will be no turkey osso buco and no discussion of modesty, or how the giant Eyes being built in cities all around the world are really part of a conspiracy to enslave the entire human race.

Let's try this again tomorrow.

Friday, January 8, 2016

"Nothing Can Faze Modesty Blaise" - Easy Pizza

Ignore that tagline. I'm just using it as a place holder for tomorrow's blog post. Just a reminder. But soooooo sixties. Like me.

We were off that ship and in our car by 7:44 am - and that's the best part of being platinum, better than even chocolate-covered strawberries. The weather is AWFUL - rainy and cold (63 degrees and stop laughing) Fortunately, the walkway from the terminal to the under cover parking is itself under cover. Checking my mail, I received an invitation to a breakfast meeting at the office for this morning. It's just the kind of slightly weird but lovable thing they do.

Finally we are home and I couldn't help but wrap myself in all the love from my furry kids. Then I curled up on the couch, surrounded by the doggies, and passed out. Slept for several hours and needed it badly. The last three cruises have not been restful and it is time to admit that the fibromyalgia has started to wreck even that little bit of personal enjoyment. Robert went out to buy some Powerball tickets (up to $800 million!!) Catching up on the news, which is particularly violent. Nothing that happened could have been prevented by the President's executive order. I am not opposed to improving background checks and targeting mental health problems, but neither of these can identify terrorists, foreign or domestic. They are criminals, and criminals are not known for their law-abiding ways.

I told you before that I hurt every day and that the only day-to-day difference is the level of the pain. That's now; several years ago it was 2 to 4 days a week, although that was sufficient to disrupt my life. I did a little thinking over the past week, and it occurred to me that the earliest signs of the fibromyalgia began to show up in 2010. It wasn't the chronic pain, but the cognitive problems that first signalled the onset.

I thought I was losing my mind. Oh, I'd had brain fog before - when I started menopause, and when I was taking the anti-depressant drug Effexor (Venlafaxine), but in time, those fogs cleared and my mind sharpened back up. This time, though, it kept getting worse until I was terrified that I was experiencing early onset Alzheimers. Anyone who tells you that fibromyalgia is not a progressive disease is woefully ignorant. I had to develop strategies for replacing words I could not recall and I know my court appearances suffered for it. As of today, I no longer have the ability to dredge up words. I ask other people for help; I certainly don't object if someone wants to finish my sentence for me. But it is virtually impossible to act as an effective and passionate advocate when you are fighting with yourself to remember words. In time, I lost the ability to retain new information - new case law, statutory updates, the whole new DCF matrix addressing how to interact with a family and determine if removal was necessary - my ability to read, understand, and remember was gone.  All I'd really had my whole life was my intellect, and now I was losing it. Think about that for a second.

And then came the pain.  If I remember correctly, 2012 was the year it started getting really bad. Frequent, chronic, debilitating pain in my shoulders, arms and hands. Harsh tingling in my arms, hands, and feet. Horrible gout-like pain. And the itching, that insane itching all over, but especially my forearms. They say fibromyalgia is invisible, but I have scars and damaged skin which prove it quite visible.  Progressive. My back, my legs, my knees. Sciatica flare ups. I think the first diagnosis of chronic pain syndrome came sometime that year, but it certainly could have been 2011. Once fibromyalgia became the working diagnosis, we started looking for relief, but for me, there is no relief. I won't take opioids (habit-forming!), and the other available medications don't really work for me. Some drugs, like Lyrica, had side effects I wasn't willing to live with.

The good thing about the pain is that it helped me put the whole thing together and realize that I did not have early onset Alzheimer's. The bad thing about the pain is everything else.

Have I mentioned the depression? The mood swings?  The whole panoply of mental health issues? Another time. I still have nightmares about my 72 hours in the crazy house.                                      

The time has come to appeal the decision of the SSA. I'm getting my ducks in a row. Watch me quack. Screw the pantywaist doctors; this is real. This is permanent.

I really wanted to talk about modesty today, and why I don't necessarily agree with totally open public breast feeding. I did, but I am much too tired and fuzzy-in-the-head to do it. Maybe tomorrow, although I have tai chi class in the morning. Maybe another day when my brain is working and it doesn't hurt to type.  Until then, guys just pull up your pants and gals stop wearing denim underpants out on the street.

While I'm not back into real cooking, I highly recommend using Pillsbury's crescent dough sheets for making pizza at home.  Goya tomato-based sofrito, Mexican cheese blend, pepperoni, green pepper strips, marinated artichokes, garlic pepper, dried basil, and parmesan. Put tin foil over a baking sheet, and no-stick spray the foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-13 minutes. Easy and good.                                                                                                        


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Winding Down, Packing Up, Sailing Out - Perline Pasta with a Dry Sauce

Last day of the cruise and the sun finally deigns to show its face. We're docked in Freeport, so a good percentage of the passengers have disembarked, leaving plenty of room to move about.  Food lines are very light, and tables on the pool deck are pretty much available. This is the sort of day we enjoy best on our cruises; too bad this one didn't show up until the end. What with the December cruise on the Sensation handing us the same crappy weather - and I blame El Niño, not Carnival - speaking for myself, I'm a bit cruised out. With tax season starting the minute we return home, I wouldn't be expecting any more cruising anyway until the end of April, but this year I am gladly waiting until the end of May when we will be sailing to Alaska with my cousins Cary and Maura. Cross-one-off-the-bucket-list.

This morning - well truthfully, I missed the morning. Missed breakfast and was on my way to missing lunch when Rob gently woke me up. So having pulled myself together, sort of, we headed to the pool deck and for the first time tried the burritos at the Blue Iguana Cantina.

Muy sabrosos (very tasty), especially the shrimp. Since I got to choose the fillings, there was no cold shredded lettuce or cold tomatoes or why-are-you-putting-filler-in-my-burrito? rice.

Chocolate cheesecake from the Chocolate Extravaganza (I skipped the chocolate fountain), hot black coffee, and for a few minutes anyway, all is well with the world. Life goes better with chocolate.

I've been catching up with the news - the Los Angeles prosecutor will not be filing criminal charges against Bill Cosby as the Statute of Limitations has run; a new drug is being developed to treat fibromyalgia chronic pain; the Bucs fired head coach Lovie Smith over the phone; nobody won the Powerball lottery yesterday, and the winning amount is now up to $700 million dollars; the stock market is down another 400 points and China's economy is tanking; North Korea is doing a happy dance over their not-really-hydrogen bomb testing; and the fashion industry appears to be bringing back modesty. I haven't even gotten to political news. The one I want to talk about is the article about modesty (seriously? Yes.) but that's going to take a while as I am going to try to avoid insulting and/or upsetting a whole bunch of people, and that takes thought and thought takes time. Maybe tomorrow.

So today is officially the best day of the cruise. We got to do what we like best which is to sit out and enjoy the good weather and the slow pace, to read or knit, and of course, to eat.  Since we are in Freeport, I also was able to get some really fine shots of working ships. Those 14 years in marine insurance, you know.

Let me leave you with a recipe and a bunch of photos, but first, a short list of suggestions for Carnival:

Hi Carnival, I'm one of your biggest fans, a platinum member who has been cruising almost exclusively on your ships since 2001.  As you might have realized, I'm a lot older than when I first started cruising, and my onboard needs have changed a bit. So could you look into making these additions to your cruise packages? Thanks!

1. I have to spend more time in the cabin that I used to due to health reasons.  I know I'm not the only one. Could you please add some more channels to your TV schedule? Definitely Food Network and FOX News, but Cooking Channel, FOX Sports (Florida), and BBC America would also be utterly terrific.

2. Please add a low-calorie soft drink to your iced tea/lemonade dispensers. I recommend Crystal Light.

3. Offer craft classes for adults, like knitting.  Maybe a fiber themed cruise? I know other cruise lines have done so successfully.

4. Same with cooking classes. And please change the menu for the cooking demonstration in Fahrenheit 555, and the Chef's Table menu. You do realize you have a huge number of repeat cruisers, and we really don't want to have to move over to Norwegian or Royal Caribbean to get a little variety.

5. Your crew continues to be wonderful. Extra props to cruise director Jaime Dee and Constantine, the maitre d' in the Sunset Dining Room. He's the best since Joseph, the self-proclaimed "super-charged maitre d'" from the Carnival Ecstasy. 

Here's the recipe (mine, not Carnival's):

Perline Pasta with a Dry Sauce

This is what happens when I go browsing in Trader Joe's.

The perline pasta has to be the best "filled" or "stuffed" pasta I've ever had. Each little purse has plenty of filling and you can really taste all of the flavors. Instead of a red sauce, or an Alfredo-type sauce, or even plain butter, I decided to do a "dry" sauce.  Cabbage-y vegetables make awesome dry sauces, like in Hungarian kraut sveckle, and there I was in Trader Joe's staring at a nifty cruciferous combo, and the light went on over my head, and I didn't even mind too much that they were out of cookie butter.

Like the kraut sveckle, this dish is all about combining cooked noodles with sautéed cabbage. So I cooked the perline pasta according to package directions, and then I cooked the cruciferous vegetable mix in a couple of tablespoons of butter, with some garlic-infused olive oil added. Medium to medium-low heat is enough for this. I also sliced up a lot of garlic - about 4 rather large cloves - and added them to the pan, with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes.

When the green stuff was sufficiently tender and sweet from caramelization, I added the cooked, drained perline pasta to the pan and stirred them together over low heat. But ha! I snuck those green vegetables into my family's diet, and they ate them and they liked them.  Seriously good eats.

And now the Really Big Finish:

The photo just reminded me that I also grated a bunch of Romano cheese over the finished dish. And more black pepper, I am wild about black pepper.

Also wild about sea-going container vessels and the tug boats who love them.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

All Over The Place - Expletives Deleted

I'm having the sort of day I wish those asshats at the Social Security Administration (hereinafter "SSA") could see. I cannot get out of bed; hell, it took me a half hour to f**king sit up. I told Robert to go ahead and have his breakfast without me. I figure if I start now, I might be able to get dressed and ready for lunch at Bonsai Sushi, but there is no way I am going to make it to breakfast. Not that I could eat anyhow.

Look, I am always in pain, the only thing that changes is the level. On a really "good" day, I suppose I'm around a 3; most days I don't go below a 6 or 7. Today can't be measured in numbers and my left arm is practically useless from the junction with the neck all the way down. Let's hope the Advil works because if I have to give in and take a Mobic (Meloxicam) or Robaxin (Methocarbomal), I'm going to be knocked out for the count. (But hey, SSA, of course I'm able to get up and dressed in a suit and pantyhose, and report to court in a timely fashion for a grueling day with Judge Nasty, slogging through judicial reviews I was unable to prepare for because my head doesn't work any more, on any day.)

I used to hate when people finished my sentences for me, but now I am profoundly grateful. That's fibromyalgia.

Now the cruise - yesterday we heard from Jaime Dee, the delightfully hyperactive, highly competent cruise director, that the weather was so bad that today's stop at Half Moon Cay was going to be cancelled. Can't run the tenders from the ship to island shore with the rain, wind, and high waves, so everyone please enjoy another fun day at sea. Hey, it happens. Unfortunately, the weather for both our recent cruises has been for sh*t, but considerably better than that cruise where we missed docking at two of the scheduled stops (including Key West, damn it), then sailed in circles for an extra day to give Hurricane Sandy a chance to get ahead of us. We literally followed that evil windy bitch at least as far as Brevard County, after which she headed north and destroyed my old neighborhood - all of them. Bitch.

I don't plan on voting for Ted Cruz under any circumstances; I have to admit he has conducted himself  in quite the savvy manner on the campaign trail, but never more so than when he responded to Donald Trump on the fake "birther" issue, and Cruz's eligibility to become President.

That's What Ted Said: Yes, that's my sweetheart Henry Winkler, "jumping the shark." Which I think sums up The Donald's campaign at so many levels, but only time will tell if the American electorate really has 2 brain cells to share among the whole bunch.

Ted Cruz is legally entitled to be sworn in as President of the United States (Yeah I read the Constitution unlike most members of Congress - what the hell were they doing in law school - running for student government and skipping Con Law?) Anyone who makes an issue about this is a f*cking idiot, I mean misinformed and misguided. You know what I mean.  Let's stick to the issues; I didn't care about Bill Clinton's sexual peccadillos while he was in office and I sure as hell don't care about them now, any more than I care about The Donald's third wife posing provocatively, dressed in nothing but her shoes and a smile.  Third Wife, First Lady? No indeed, let's not go there.

The Advil has blessedly taken the edge off of the pain, which means I will be able to get dressed for lunch at Bonsai Sushi, and knit, and do some mandala coloring, and knit.

But first, a message from Our Sponsor:

Yeah, that Advil gave me about an hour of mobility before starting to fade so trying to get dressed was a really crappy experience.  Creeping down to the little sushi restaurant was even worse. Sitting on the high chair had me practically in tears. My hands had problems working sufficiently to free the edamame from their pods.

Pain governs my life. Every moment, every movement, every thought is wrapped in that unpleasant reality. This is my new normal. Double f*ck and a healthy dose of damn-it-all-to-hell. I'm neither brave nor gracious about this. Cheerful words and aspirational memes just piss me off. If anyone (or any government agency) thinks I wouldn't rather be back at my job than live like this, they can go screw themselves. That includes the idiot doctor who told me "I can't say you're permanently disabled just because you don't want to work anymore."  If my memory was better, and I could remember which idiot doctor it was, I would fire his or her ass. Of course the frakking government has doctors terrified to state that their patient is permanently disabled, under penalty of something bad. One doctor was practically in tears, whining "I could lose my license!" For what? Telling the truth?

But now I am back in the stateroom and I feel safe.  I can take more Advil or even go to hell with myself and pop a Robaxin, which will knock me out. What the hell - I'm not going anywhere fast, or even slow.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program:

Right after the first of the year, I finished the little knitted shawl I'd been working on since the end of 2014.  I hadn't time to block it, so that's its fraternal twin I brought along to wear on the cruise. For 2016 I'd made no resolutions (except to continue my tai chi) but I had made a promise to myself to knit more.  Knitting is soothing except when I'm too upset to pick up a set of needles, which describes all of last year. But like the tai chi, it is something I need to do for myself. Several years back I decided that I was no longer knitting because I had to make something for someone. Most people neither understand nor appreciate a hand knit (or crocheted) gift, but beyond that, I decided I was not going to subject myself to deadlines or obligations.  I no longer knit sweaters because I hate knitting sweaters.  I no longer knit any really large projects that can't be done in smaller pieces that are then crocheted together, because I'm a post-menopausal woman living in bloody freaking Florida and I can't stand to wear turtlenecks, much less several pounds of wool draped over my lap and legs. Between the itching and sweating, I would definitely incline towards some act of violence. This is probably why I have so much trouble finishing log cabin afghans, as much as I love them.

I almost exclusively knit socks, indoor scarves, and shawls now, using lighter yarns and smaller needles.  I only wear knitted socks, so there is always a need.  I took some unfinished projects - 2 pairs of socks and one scarf - along for the trip, knowing full well I would be lucky to finish just one of them. While I don't think I'm going to get lucky, I have managed to make considerable progress on a pair of what the Yarn Harlot calls "plain vanilla" socks, which I'm knitting Hand Painted Knitting Yarn, no color name nor number, which I bought at The Yarn Mart in Little Rock, Arkansas.

What makes the pattern "plain vanilla" is that there is no pattern for lace or ripples or bobbles or cables. All you do is knit in stockinette and since socks are knit in the round, you don't have to purl.  Just knit. Keep calm and just knit. And that's my advice today, along with "read the Constitution for yourself."

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Food of Love, the Love of Food - Six Ships Passing in the Night

I had just finished publishing yesterday's post when there was a knock on the wonder-stateroom door.

Seriously. I had forgotten about this little reward-for-being-a-loyal-Carnival-cruiser, because we did not get the chocolate strawberry plate on our last cruise. Because our last cruise was a 4-day cruise and the strawberries only show up on 5-day or longer trips. (Me and Horatio Cane are doin' a happy dance. A very slow, clumsy happy dance.) So what's the problem?

It's just that I'm drowning in food here. Yesterday's tea time was a glorious affair replete with cute little sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, and more. Fortunately we had chosen to skip lunch.

Cooking food is my joy, but really anything having to do with food cheers me immensely. Eating it, certainly, but since 2003 I do have certain limitations. Shopping for it, walking around a grocery, breathing in the smells of fresh bread and rotisserie chickens. Watching far too many cooking shows (I even woke up from gastric bypass surgery watching Food Network.) These cruises are an embarrassment of edible riches, and even though I can't do more than taste, they are definitely happy-making.

Seeing-eye lox

The strawberries, truffles, and French macarons went straight into the little room refrigerator. Hey, it's formal night tonight. Duck, scallops, prime rib, you remember.  But first, a methocarbomal tablet and a nap. Fibromyalgia takes an occasional break, but never, ever sleeps. And this boat is starting to rock. What goes up must come down. Like me.

Today (Tuesday) the weather is as bad as yesterday which means we won't be hanging out on the Serenity decks. Adults only, a private bar, and some really cool seating and lounging chairs. I know a lot of folks got off the boat here in Nassau, but I don't think they will have as much fun as they'd hoped. The weather has actually turned cold (by my standards anyway) with a wicked wind and desultory   drizzle.  We came back to the cabin after breakfast (nope, this meal did not stay down, sorry. Cuban cheese pastel, chicken croquette, and egg torta, and very tasty but too dry for my finicky esophogus) mostly to plan our next meal, but also look for some afternoon activities.

I had just convinced Robert to shut off the TV (he keeps having the same argument with President Obama and let's face it, he can't win a battle against The Man With A Pen And a Telephone) when there was a knock on the door. Robert answered it and then turned to come back with a puzzled look on his face and - you guessed it - a covered plate in his hand.  More food.  Nothing says "we're sorry" like a plate of sweet delicacies. Nothing says "thank you" like a plate of sweet delicacies. Do we see a pattern here?

A white chocolate fudge and some sort of almond confection-to-die-for.  Nicely played Carnival, nicely played.

We first cruised to Nassau in 2002 on the Norwegian Majesty (thankfully decommissioned shortly after). As ports go, it is marginally better than Freeport, but not enough to matter, and certainly not even close to the islands in the Caribbean, nor the east coast Mexican ports. However, it is an extremely popular port and all the cruise lines stop here.

The Disney Dream and an unidentified Royal Caribbean ship

In fact, I was pretty sure they were all here this morning.

The Carnival Fascination snuggles with the Carnival Sensation. Awww ...
Hey Mickey you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind ...

A Regent ship making friends with Royal Caribbean's Something of the Sea

And now to finish this food-focused folio, I did get a burger from Guy's Burger Joint for lunch.

Those 2 bites were delicious! (Both ways.) Seriously, his burger concept is great. Thanks, Guy! (And thank you Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.)

Monday, January 4, 2016

C-Day on the Sunshine - Ain't No Sunshine When You're Gone

"C" is for cloudy ... and that's how it is on our seaday, which means sitting out on the balcony is less than optimal. (Oh, that I should always have such problems!) Yesterday it drizzled the entire day, which killed the joy for anybody who lives for the pool, or who enjoys sitting outside to eat, especially if lunch came from Guy's Burger Joint.

Doesn't matter.  The interior of this ship is quite enjoyable all on its lonesome, which Robert and I know well - this is our third time on board this particular behemoth. We broke fast at the Sea-day Brunch - Rob had steak and eggs while I had eggs Benedict, sitting on smoked salmon instead of ham - sublime! 

Most interesting, I ate half - that's one egg and half of an English muffin - and I kept it down, although I could feel it starting to get stuck.  I made myself relax, practiced a little tai chi and a few Jedi mind tricks and it worked.  I was even able to drink a cup of coffee with my meal, something I can never do.  Mind over matter? Seriously, it was the tai chi that did the trick.  

Does that mean I can enjoy lunch at Guy's Burger Joint?  Whoa ... and thank you, Sifu Tony!

We checked out the Cloud 9 Spa this morning, and found out which amenities come with our wonder-stateroom. Maybe tomorrow we'll go to the thermal suites.  Since I can't practice law anymore, I'll practice relaxation.

Sitting here in the Red Frog Pub, sipping Caribbean coffee (spiked!) 

while Rob tries out a beer with the improbable moniker Thirstyfrog Red

I don't think I could be any more relaxed, at least not with all my clothes on (naughty brkexpat) - is that why Vladimer Putin keeps taking off his shirt? (waving to Vladimer. I have a big following in Russia.) I'm not going to lie; I hurt kids, I really do. I had to take a meloxicam (Mobic) before getting dressed this morning, and 2 Advil and a Zantac before trying to leave the cabin. Truly I could have stayed in that comfortable bed all day. I think I made the better choice. 

Today is a serious eating day on the Carnival Sunshine. Besides the brunch, there was a cooking demonstration with copious samples at the steakhouse, a tea at 3:00, and it's formal night which used to mean lobster tails.  These days the menu includes sea scallops with truffled (blech) risotto, prime rib, and roast duck a la orange (yay). We decided to skip the cooking demonstration (come on, Carnival - change the damn menu for the demonstration!) but took advantage of our presence at Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse to make reservations for tomorrow's dinner. Like my blog, this ship is all about the food.  I usually lose weight during a cruise, but with my newfound ability to keep food down, who knows?

Today is also what would have been Bethe's 62nd birthday, the third birthday she is celebrating in Heaven. Although Rob and I usually toast to Bethe and Maurice on the first day of every cruise, neither one of us felt like having a drink with lunch yesterday. So we toasted them today with beer and spiked coffee. Happy birthday, Bethe, and thank you and Maurice for teaching us these cruise-crazy ways. I miss you and love you. Always.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Feh and Meh

And so it begins ... today's Daily Dose of Pain. Sitting in the car, minding my own business, as we make our way to Port Canaveral to board the Carnival Sunshine. Eating a Jammie Dodger with cold coffee. catching up on social media, I become aware of each ache and pain and muscle spasm. Life as usual.

Yesterday was another pain-filled day; even the Advil wasn't working, and I finally had to give in and take a methocarbamol. Helped the pain, but also knocked me out for a couple of hours. However, according to the Social Security Administration, I am perfectly capable of working on a set schedule. Ha ha, but no. How many times during the past 3 years did I sit in court waiting for a case to be called, squirming in visible discomfort but unable to take medication for relief because, let's face it, falling asleep during hearings can be a real career-killer for an attorney? Gotta love the fabulists at the SSA.

In spite of the pain, yesterday was a very nice day, emotionally speaking. Rob and I went to tai chi class in the morning and I was able to follow along the forms. We had two new people (well, new to the school; I used to work with one of the ladies) and I think they liked it.  The other lady is dealing with even more chronic pain than I am. I am happy for Sifu Tony that the class is starting to grow. If anyone out there wants more information about these tai chi classes, you can contact me through this blog or Facebook, and I will put you in touch with Sifu Tony Juron.

The evening also finished on a high note,

since we were meeting our New York friends Ron and Shelley (although they are officially snowbirds) at the Chart House for dinner.  There's a friendship that goes back 46 years - rich memories, good times. Like I wrote, overall a good day.

As I write this, our ship is sailing out of Port Canaveral, and I am already wearing my motion sickness bands. I blame fibromyalgia for screwing up my balance, recalling that in my early days of cruising, motion sickness was not a chronic problem.  Feh, these days everything with me is chronic.

This upgraded stateroom is quite nice, but it is already obvious it is in an inconvenient location, at least for us.  It seems the very best place for us is on Deck 5 and next time I book on the Sunshine, I'll pay the extra cost for picking my own stateroom. This is still a beautiful ship, our current favorite. Also the food is better in quality and choices, and the coffee is terrific. The coffee on both the Sensation and the Ecstasy is just barely meh. No idea why there should be a difference, but there is. And you know me and coffee. A couple of years ago I responded to a post-cruise questionnaire regarding the Carnival Ecstasy, and I mentioned the coffee. I assured Carnival that the Ecstasy was still (at that time) our favorite "home" ship, and complimented them on other matters (best-maitre'd-anywhere). I have never gotten another questionnaire although I've been on a number of cruises since then, and the Ecstasy no longer sails out of Port Canaveral. Things that make you go "hmm ..."

Yesterday I also fulfilled last year's New Year's resolution by completing the mini shawl I'd been knitting forever, or a least a year and a day. Blocking will have to wait until I get home, so I brought along a fraternal twin that I made some years back using that nifty pattern from the late, lamented Knitch in Atlanta's Virginia Highlands. Best-selection-of-Noro-yarn-ANYWHERE. So sorry it's closed now (insert frownie face). I love these little shawls; they keep me warm on those rare chilly days in Central Florida, or when the air conditioner is acting a little bit too enthusiastically.

On a totally different topic, according to the blog stats provided by Blogger/Google, we've got a huge following in Russia. Like twice the number of visits from the US. I am almost certain this is a programming glitch, but if I'm wrong, what the hell is going on?  Is Vladimir Putin collecting Brooklyn-Jewish-American recipes for his own nefarious purpose? Are the ladies of Russia unable to receive Food Network on cable, and so are relying on an internet cooking blog?  Do I still have relatives back in Mother Russia, and are they searching for me? Ha, I love the internet, I really do. Hello all you Russian Osherowitz people! Try my potato latkes!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Just Another New Year - Potato Latkes

It's been a while since I've thrown you an earworm, so let's start the new year off in the right way with something from Barry Manilow.
Don't look so sad

It's not so bad, you know

It's just another night

That's all it is
It's not the first

It's not the worst you know

We've come through all the rest

We'll get through this
We've made mistakes

But we've made good friends too

Remember all the nights

We spent with them?
And all our plans

Who says they can't come true?

Tonight's another chance to start again
It's just another New Year's Eve

Another night like all the rest

It's just another New Year's Eve

Let's make it the best

(I apologize for the crappy formatting, but I am just not up to fighting with Blogger today.)
Somewhere between my early twenties and my early sixties I lost faith in the power of the New Year, having come to the realization that all the hopes, dreams and prayers are aspirational at best. For too many years I spent part of the first week of January thoroughly immersed in whatever new version of Weight Watchers was being touted. Resolutions look good on paper, but having disappointed myself too many times, I no longer bother with them. Well, I did resolve to continue with my tai chi classes, but just that. After all, last year my resolution was to knit more, especially on unfinished projects. I'm still working on the same little shawl that was at the head of that list.

I have high hopes of finishing it this week,

so I can move on to a lovely scarf and a pair of socks I started in 2009 or thereabouts.

No promises and definitely no resolutions. Let's just say the Yarn Harlot has nothing to worry about.

New Year's Eve came and went - I was watching Doctor Who up until the last 5 minutes - and once the ball dropped in Times Square, I felt sadness rather than hope. Certainly there are things I hope for - health and well-being for those I love and care for, cancellation of all reality shows, and world peace - but I don't need the power of the New Year to express those, as I pray for them most every day.

I've learned that with fibromyalgia it is best to live in the moment, because who the hell knows how I am going to feel after breakfast? I guess that means it was pretty cheeky of me to book the Alaska cruise for May, but that's been at the top of my bucket list for many years and I am going this time even if Robert has to wheel me up the gangplank in a golf cart.

Speaking of cruises - I am always speaking of cruises - the nicest thing happened yesterday, courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line. The most amazing part is that when my phone rang, I answered it. Normally, I would not answer a call from an unknown number. Ha! Good call! The bottom line is that this nice lady from the nice Carnival office in Miami advised me that she was pleased to offer us a complimentary upgrade from our inside stateroom to a spa balcony stateroom. Why? Because We Are Platinum, that's why!

Besides the balcony, the room includes access to certain spa amenities like the thermal suites and thalassotherapy pool.  Best of all, we are on Deck 12 along with a very few other staterooms and easiest access to the outside Serenity deck, which is an adults-only zone. This is all on the Carnival Sunshine, our current favorite, very new and shiny ship, sailing out of Port Canaveral.  I like to think this is an omen as to how the rest of the year is going to proceed (but I wouldn't put any money on it.)

I am still working on those missing recipes, and since I won't be cooking today, I'm going to snag one that I have (finally) finished typing up.

Potato Latkes

6 peeled Russet potatoes
2 medium peeled onions
2 eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 - 1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
canola oil for frying

Grate the potatoes by hand or food processor. Put aside in a bowl of cold water with a little milk (to keep potatoes white.)  Chop the onions in the food processor. Put in a mixing bowl with the eggs, flour, salt and baking powder, and beat together. Drain the potatoes and squeeze our excess liquid.  Use the food processor chopping blade to chop the potato shreds a bit finer (pulse on-off several times but do not over process.) 

Combine the potatoes with the onion-batter; Add a bit more flour if needed to hold the mixture together. Over medium-high, heat the oil in a large heavy skillet. Carefully add 1/4 - 1/2 cup of the potato mixture to the hot oil and with a metal spatula gently flatten the latke to 1/4 inch. Fry on both sides until deep golden brown. move to drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with applesauce or sour cream.

These can be frozen in a single layer, then bagged for longer storage.  Reheat at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

So this is my basic, can't fail recipe, but I mess with it all the time, changing the type of potatoes, adding grated carrot, that sort of thing. For the ones I made in the photos, I substituted 8 yellow potatoes (or gold potatoes because these have thin skins that do not need to be peeled.) I cut the potatoes and the onions into 8 wedges, then ran them through the grating blade of the food processor one at a time.  No need to soak in water and milk. Tip the bowl to drain off excess liquid. I added an extra egg, some sour cream, some matzo meal and baking soda along with all the other ingredients. Delicious. Just not for Passover.