Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Week on Cruise Control and Not Yo Mama's Mama

First, the cruise.

We sailed out of Miami on the Carnival Glory, our first time on that particular ship. The itinerary was a blend of old and new, so with four stops we decided to sign up for shore excursions at the two new locations, Amber Bay in the Dominican Republic, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. That meant two days at sea plus two days in port (St. Thomas and Grand Turk) wherein we stayed onboard. Staying onboard is a big part of our vacation; having the ship mostly to ourselves, picking our favorite seats to hang out, read, knit, and sample the different food venues. Most importantly (to us, at least) the food was fabulous. Yes I said fabulous. On a Carnival ship, no less. The only items that were less-than-successful were the frog's legs (sauce was oddly bland) and the corn bread that accompanied my frankly fabulous barbecue ribs. The rest of the food (and we ate a lot) was prepared perfectly. The desserts and baked goods were utterly sublime. Way to go, Carnival!  

Both of our shore excursions were extremely enjoyable. We have traveled around the Carribbean a number of times and taken many excursions where we climbed onboard a nice, cool tour bus to see and hear about the particular island - it's history, people, economics, infrastructure, and food. Somehow I never gave a coherent thought to the Big Picture involving the aboriginal peoples, the not-so-pristine actions of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Catholic royalty, the Dutch, and a couple of wars we never really studied in the Lawrence-Cedarhurst school district. I've always  admired the various styles of architecture, but never really thought about the "how?" and the "why?". And although I have gotten into the habit of thinking of Puerto Rico as a southern outpost of Florida, our tours of Old San Juan and Amber Cove consolidated the rich back story of the Caribbean in my admittedly cognitively-impaired head.  Loved every minute.

These photos are from Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic. Then came Old San Juan, but by that point, I was seriously wearing down, and left all of the picture-taking to Robert. Once he gets a chance to download them from camera to computer, I'm going to steal a few to share with the blog, but until them, I did snap just a couple from our stop at Princessa for lunch:

Mojitos and mofongo - one of the best lunches ever.

In addition to being our annual post-tax season cruise, this was a celebratory cruise. Robert turned 70, an exceptionally special birthday, plus we had an anniversary fall out during the week. I was all about making the birthday special and had made some arrangements via the Internet prior to sailing; cake and room decorations, a bottle of wine and glasses, and all the birthday cards a dad could want. To our surprise, Carnival got in on the act, birthday and anniversary, possibly because we are at their frequent cruiser platinum level. Extra cake, messages on the mirror, special towel animals, cookies (really good cookies), champagne and a special dessert at our Steakhouse dinner, and I probably forgot something. Thank you, Carnival. It was all rather wonderful.

Of course the fibromyalgia came along for the ride, but I managed. Moved at a comfortable (read: slow) pace, maintained a positive emotional attitude, took my prescribed medications faithfully, took all time necessary to rest and relax. I napped often, put my feet up when I wasn't using them for walking, knit comfortably on one project that was just the right degree of complexity to avoid causing me to rip the yarn off the needles in crazed frustration and hurl big handfuls into the nearest garbage pail (don't giggle; my knitting experience in South Korea was less than stellar, resulting in my leaving piles of shredded bulky red yarn all over Korea except in Busan. That was only because we didn't stop in Busan.)

And perhaps most importantly, I practiced my Tai Chi, at least as much as I could remember. Tai Chi has really helped me live with fibromyalgia; look, there's no cure, medical, pharmacological, or otherwise. All I can do is find what works for me and use it to obtain a few more lower-pain hours and to keep the really dark depression a little bit at bay. This is where Tai Chi shines. My memory is still crashed and my overall cognitive ability just ain't what it used to be (and will never be again) but I can calm myself when I feel a panic attack coming on, or focus better, at least for a short while.

It was a very good cruise, I can't emphasize that enough.

Lots of birthdays this week! Yesterday was my cousin Steve's birthday, and I am sure his beautiful family celebrated accordingly, with much joy and laughter and cake. Gotta have cake.  I truly believe that the measure of a man is what kind of family he has helped to make, and Steve is at the top of that list. I wish I had known you while growing up, but I am so happy I did find you. Happy birthday cuz, and may you have many more happy and healthy birthdays.

Today is my sister's birthday, which still feels strange (but very nice) to be able to write. Happy birthday, Nora! So glad I found you and so grateful to your daughter/my niece, for helping to put us in contact. Have a wonderful day and a blessed year.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. Lilacs are blooming in my hometown of Brooklyn as they always do in time for Moms Who Live In The Northeast. I miss lilacs so much. A relatively new phenomenon, public declarations of love and appreciation are all over my Facebook News Feed. So many of my friends and relatives have been posting lovely photos of their mothers and it is very clear that those mothers are much-loved and in some cases, missed terribly. I think all that sentiment is absolutely heartwarming but also terribly foreign to me. I don't understand people who proudly announce that their mother is their best friend. As long as I can remember, my mother was my worst nightmare.

Don't get me wrong; I am truly happy for my friends and family who have clearly experienced the type of childhood I never imagined existed. I won't deny there is a twinge of envy there. Okay, maybe more than a twinge. At the same time, I am woefully aware that my experience is not unique. Toxic parents like my mother have sadly left a trail of tears and huge therapy bills.

But then there are mothers-in-law and I've got the best. Thanks for everything these past 45 years, Mom. Happy Mother's Day, with love.

Mother's Day will always be a mixed bag for me, with the very best part being that I am the mother to the Best Son in The World. All grown up now, but still my crowning achievement as a human being. So many wonderful characteristics that sheer modesty prevents me from recounting them all; however, I can tell you how I did it: I simply did everything the opposite of how my mother raised me. Worked like a charm.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

This Time I Know It's For Real

For the first time since I acquired my iPad Pro, I feel like it is a wonderful, useful extension of my fingers. My Zagg Slim Book finally arrived from Amazon, and if first impressions count for anything, this is even better than the Zagg keyboard I had for my last iPad, which served me extraordinarily well for years and years.

There was no Zagg case for sale when the iPad Pro first arrived, so I bought a much cheaper keyboard case through Amazon. Within a day I realized I was saddled with a real POS; within two days, the iPad had jumped free of the case and landed on the tile floor. There was damage to the corner of the glass protector and I was pissed. Eventually it became so difficult to use that damn keyboard that I avoided using my iPad. When the Zagg Slim Book became available I bit the proverbial bullet, paid the steep price and here we are. You get what you pay for.

Over the past few days I've had another flare, and my normal bad got worse, a lot worse.  Never mind the details, you've all seen my ubiquitous complaints.

So today is now Thursday, April 28th and I have made it past yesterday's eye evaluation - yes, it is cataracts, yes, we can schedule surgery as soon as we get an approval letter from my insurance company, yes, it will take about a month - I figure the first surgery will be in July, which is after the disability hearing. I'm good with that. Besides, I got the good news there was no retinal detachment.  My eyes got dilated in the process, which put an end to any driving I might have wanted to do yesterday, which meant no therapist, which was unfortunate because I was feeling unbearably cranky and trying so hard not to turn it on Robert and Cory.  I sort of yelled at Romeo and Anakin though, and I feel a little guilty.            

The days are starting to get jumbled for me as I move closer to our cruise. There is stuff one has to do before leaving for a vacation but it just seems this time there was a lot more stuff than usual. Having done all my gathering, it is time to pack. I don't mind packing, but it does leave me exhausted.

I want to pack today, but I promised myself that if I did nothing else I would finish a certain bracelet and earrings to match and bring them to the post office to be sent off for a certain birthday. Just when I thought it was all ready to go I got a brainstorm and made two additions.  It pulled the whole thing together. In typical Cindy-style, I forgot to take a picture before I sealed the box, and all I have is this shot from several days ago.

The theme is Sisters, and this is a birthday present for my sister who I have never met. We have a father in common, and I think I've told the story of finding my father's side of my family at an advanced age - I was 60 - and learning that I'd had four siblings beside the brother I grew up with. Sadly, three of the four had passed away years before, but I was fortunate to find, and with the help of her daughter, my niece Rachel, make telephone contact several times.

I added an angel charm and a beautiful sky blue and cloudy white bead in memory of our youngest sister, who died of breast cancer almost 30 years ago. I also made some drop earrings to go with the bracelet and tucked in a couple of those cotton face cloths.

Without a common upbringing, and without being able to see each other on a regular basis, and you know I hate the bloody telephone, it's been hard to build a relationship. Anyway, I knew her birthday was coming up and I decided to send her a little something. All I have to do is get this little box to the post office because if it fits, it ships, and this box is stuffed to the gills. I hope she likes everything because truly it was made with love.

(She liked her gifts!)

So then, I did not post this before we left on our cruise nor at any time during our cruise, and now it is Saturday, May 7th, and we are back from our cruise, back from Miami, sitting in our personal chairs and recovering from 8 days off our regular schedule. It was a lovely vacation, one of the nicest cruises we've taken. Details to follow.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Gonna Take You To Electric Avenue

A new manifestation of the fibromyalgia has been plaguing me these last 4 weeks, and I am more than a little upset. Electric shocks in my arms, hands, toes, but especially my fingers have made it difficult to type, scroll down an iPad or iPhone, hold a book, or even knit. Besides the constant discomfort, the hands and fingers jerk and twitch, causing me to make numerous mistakes. I also find my hands and arms are totally lacking in strength. It is unreasonably tiring to chop an onion, or hold objects in my hand without risking having them slip out and drop to the nearest surface.

I have trouble keeping my head upright; this has been getting worse over a long period of time. Also I recently read that eye pain, floaters and flashing lights are associated with fibromyalgia and of course I have those as well. They can occur due to other conditions, but apparently the fibromyalgia can make them worse. I have an appointment with an eye specialist on Wednesday to address the cataracts that were seen by the optometrist last month; maybe he can check on the floaters and flashes as well.

I am feeling emotionally battered by the constant physical deterioration, and that's no lie.

I figure it is taking me twice as long to type, since I always have to back track to add missing letters and to make other corrections. Add in a factor for time spent searching for a forgotten word or name and I am hopelessly slowed down. When I was still working, I would type one or two sentences of a petition or final judgment, stop to correct them, then put my head down on the desk because I was totally lacking energy and mental clarity. If I think back to my working days (no easy task as much of that is a mental blur) I remember my arms feeling too heavy to stay in position on the keyboard, and everything slumping down off the keyboard and onto my lap.

It may seem silly, and even petty, to bitch about my difficulties with crafts and hobbies, but those  activities are critical to my well-being, physically and mentally. Pre-fibromyalgia I had very good fine-motor coordination; now knitting and bead jewelry are literally slipping out of my grasp.

For those reasons, I was gratified to actually finish two of the six bracelets I had planned for, and it only took me 3 weeks. That's called sarcasm. But I am rather pleased with how they look and I hope the recipients like them as well.

Despite feeling rather grim, last week was a really fine one for me.  Getting to watch Emeril cook and kibbitz on the stage in front of me was a thrill. I learned so much from him over the years, about cooking and food in general. His show was so good, and watching him do his shtick in person reminded all of us that the present evening line-up on Food Network just ain't what it used to be. Not even close.

I am also the proud owner of one autographed cookbook. The book signing was an uber-speedy, well-choreographed blur, but there was still time to exchange pleasantries as I watched him write my name and his name on the same page. Yeah, I'm a fangirl.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Saving All My Spoons For You, Emeril

With my plan to head over to Walmart still inchoate, last night I made the earth shattering decision to take today off. First of all, there is no immediate need for more plastic.  More importantly, we have a special evening planned, and it is going to run late, and I want to be able to enjoy every minute. Rather than leave the house and risk incurring exhaustion and enhanced pain, I got smart for a change and boldly gathered all of my daily spoons for the single purpose of heading to downtown Orlando to see Emeril Lagasse. This might not mean much to you, but he is at the very top of my list of favorite celebrity chefs and always has been at the top, since the early days of Food Network and "Emeril Live!" five nights a week. I really miss giving it up for Doc Gibbs and laughing at Emeril's silly jokes, and drooling over the food he prepared.

Publix, who created this series of three chef performances, sent an email the other day, reminding the ticket holders` to come early to taste their food samples. During which I should have the time to purchase Emeril's newest cookbook (which I would have bought anyway) so he can sign it after his presentation. The signing part won't start until about 45 minutes after his presentation ends, and then there's the waiting with several hundred other fans which makes this a very late night indeed. Since I'm normally tired enough to go to bed at 8:30, I had to plan carefully. Look, I know it's not a Barry Manilow concert, but this is going to be another special memory and I don't want the #@%&!! fibromyalgia ruining it for me.

So that means no walking up and down the stairs except as absolutely necessary, no cooking, no long walk in the Vitamin D-drenched sunshine, no gardening (haven't been able to do that for months), no driving, no shopping, no working on Project Zero. No nuthin'.

I'm stoked.

The Absolutely Incredible Emeril

The New York primary on April 19th drove me nuts. I've developed a pretty healthy dislike of Bernie Sanders and consider him an embarrassment to the Jewish people. Worldwide anti semitism is at an alarming high and he is complaining about Israel. Anti Zionism is anti semitism, Bern. If the day ever comes that we Jews are persecuted to the extent that we have to leave our home countries, I hope the Israeli government tells you to stay in white bread Vermont.

The entire primary and election systems need to be burned down and rebuilt from scratch. The differences from state-to-state border on the absurd. Their only purpose seems to be the perpetuation of he two major parties, and that's a serious issue. Major reforms are needed, starting with lifetime term limits for all members of Congress. Hey, I would have loved a job where I could vote myself a raise!

Get them the hell out of there. Twelve years is more than enough time to rip off the American people, an even better deal than the President's eight years. Forty or more years in Congress is an abomination - think about it, and try not to punch your fist through a wall.

Finally, I received a Notice of Hearing on the pending appeal of my disability claim. Now I have something else to obsess over. That cruise can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Drugs, No Hugs (because hugs hurt) - Tin Roof Cottage Pie

Tuesday - I hate fibromyalgia because, among other things, it overrides the medication I take for depression.  At least that's what I think is happening. I took Cymbalta for years with pretty good results, but when I look back I realize the efficacy began to decline as the fibro symptoms increased, resulting in some very deep, dark depression. My psychiatrist, who I am seriously thinking about replacing for various reasons, took me on a wild ride of pharmacopeia intended to replace the Cymbalta. She was determined to get me away from an SNRI (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) - not sure why - and I became a test subject for all sorts of crap, including that oldie-but-goodie Lithium, and when it was all over the only "experiment" that worked was the relatively new drug Fetzima. Which is, you guessed it, an updated SNRI, just like the Effexor I took for a number of years until the side effects became unbearable, and which the good doctor replaced with Cymbalta.  I didn't have any side effects from Cymbalta, and it probably just needed to have the dosage increased, and did I mention it serendipitously gave me a small amount of relief, but relief nonetheless, from the fibromyalgia pain? (Fetzima isn't approved for treatment of fibromyalgia, nor have I noticed any serendipitous relief.) Apparently SNRIs are most helpful in treating my depression, provided the dosage and side effects are monitored. I can only imagine she'd had a spat with the sales rep who handled Cymbalta, because why else take me off that medication without even trying to adjust the dosage when I was nowhere near the maximum?  

To conclude this dreadful rant, I woke up today yet again in a funk and not a good Uptown Funk kind of funk. I am always depressed these days despite daily medication and weekly talk therapy. Not the horrible, landed-me-in-the-hospital depression from last year, but bad enough. Fibro fog has been brutal, what with forgetting simple words ("recess" is just one of many examples) and names (Samuel L. Jackson and several people I worked with fairly recently). I have to stop what I am saying and ask for help from the person I happen to be speaking to. I lose track of the thread of a conversation and have to ask what we were talking about. Can't do simple math without writing it down or hauling out a calculator. And then there's the anxiety - will I even be able to get out of bed today? Will I get any of my chores done (incidentally, I had lost the word "chores" for weeks, which is why I referred to them as "tasks" in recent blog posts). Can I take a shower and dry my hair without having to take an inconvenient nap immediately afterward?

In other news, the Magic did not make it to the play-offs which means, at least for them, basketball season is over. Placing blame is part of the game, and I place the blame squarely on the heads of the overpaid morons who whipped up the latest series of trades. Congratulations, you are all right up there with Otis Smith for making the Most Destructive Magic Trades this century. Asshats, all of you.

As you know, I did a little cooking. Very little. And now I typed up the recipe for you; it only took me three days. But you're worth it.

Tin Roof Cottage Pie

There are endless variations of this humble dish and its venerable first cousin, Shepherd's Pie.  It resembles a pie as much as does my mother's sweet potato pie - which is to say, not at all. There is no bottom crust and unlike a potpie which does have a top crust, shepherd and cottage pies have none. Instead they are topped with a nice layer of mashed potatoes. Meat and mash, what could be better?

This version was inspired by my extended possession of mushrooms and onions. They were threatening to go limp, like Dom DeLuise's lizard in "Robin Hood - Men in Tights".  You know how I adore Mel Brooks, and how I hate to waste food, so instead of confining this pie to the maximum 3 layers - meat, mash, and green peas (and sometimes corn) I threw in a fourth because anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

It took me 5 freaking days to complete this simple dish. (And 3 additional days to type it up.) That's me - I have fibromyalgia and have to stop frequently to take an Advil, or a nap, or a day off.  For most people, excluding the overnight slow cooking of the mushrooms and onions, you are looking at 2 to 2 1/2 hours, including the final baking time.

As I previously stated, there are 4 layers to my version, and they all ready work well together. Like the United States and no other country in the world. (Maybe Britain - Mexico is furious with us, and even Canada is a bit miffed after the Keystone pipeline debacle. And let's not even mention Israel.)

And now, the pie:        

Mushroom and Onion Layer 

1 pound white mushroom, sliced thickly
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 large onions, halved and sliced thickly
1 stick butter, cut into smaller pieces
Kosher salt, ground black pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion,
 Emeril's Original Essence, dried thyme leaves - all to taste
1 1/2 tablespoon Worestershire sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in the order given in a 4-5 quart crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours; stir and cook for another 2 hours. Set aside to cool.

Corn and Peas Layer

1-11 oz. can niblet corn, drained
Equal amount of frozen green peas, thawed under warm water
1-14.75 oz. can creamed corn
To taste: Kosher salt, ground black pepper, pinch of sugar, cayenne pepper, dried thyme
1 tablespoon butter

Combine everything except the butter in a small saucepan, and over medium heat bring to a steady bubble. Add the butter and stir until it is melted and incorporated. Set aside to cool.

The Meat Layer

2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1-10 1/2 oz. can Campbell's chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
To taste: Italian seasoning, garlic pepper, kosher salt

Cook the beef, onions, and carrots together in a large skillet until the meat is browned and te vegetables are tender. This will take a little while; the carrots need time. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring for a minute. Add the tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and seasoning; hold back on the salt until you have a chance to taste. Both the chicken broth and the garlic pepper have salt in them, so taste first, then adjust the salt. Simmer until the natural juices are mostly reduced. Drain off any excess grease, and set aside to cool.

Potato and Rutabaga Topping

1 pound rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 pound gold potatoes, peeled
1/2 tablespoon sugar
Grated cotija or Parmesan cheese
To taste: kosher salt, ground black pepper
1/2 stick butter
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
Dried chives
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten

Boil the rutabaga with some sugar in the water for 10 minutes. Drain and keep warm.  Set the potatoes to boil in salted water; once the water boils, add the rutabaga and boil together for 30 minutes until the rutabaga is soft enough to mash. Drain, return to the pot and mash using an electric hand mixer. Add the butter and mash with the potatoes and rutabaga until melted. Add the cheese, heavy cream and chives and mix them in. When cool enough, mix in the egg, using the hand mixer.

Construct the pie:

I happened to use 4 aluminum loaf pans, but you can use any baking dish that suits your fancy. Spray the inside lightly with some no-stick stuff and make the layers, pressing each layer down lightly:

1/2 of the meat mixture
All of the mushrooms and onions
Remaining half of the meat mixture
All of the corn and green peas

Top the entire dish with the mash, making sure it is covered to the edges. Since I intended this to be rustic,  I did not use a piping bag or tip. Instead I used the tines of a dinner fork to form some swirly track. Nothing too complex. Finally I sprinkled the top with more of the grated cheese, and baked in a 375 degree preheated oven for 45 minutes, until the interior is headed through and the top is browned to your liking. Let it cool slightly before serving.                      

Very tasty. And filling; add a salad and bread and dinner is abundantly ready. And pretty. Yes indeed, it's a culinary trifecta.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Stick a Fork in the Taxman, He's Done - New-Fangled Old Fashioned Chicken

The Interregnum of the Profits is coming to an end ...

Today is the official end of Tax Season, and as the spouse of an accountant I am deeply and completely relieved. Tax Season annually represents the yin and yang of a public accountant's career - the craziness of the hours and the insane number-crunching, versus the financial recompense. Fortunately we have gotten into the habit of a pre-tax season cruise and a post-tax season cruise, and with our Alaska excursion sadly on indefinite hold, I have booked a traditional post-season fling on Carnival for a little later in the month. Yeehaw! By the way, does anyone know why the Federal Government, in its infinite wisdom (now there's an oxymoron) extended Tax Day to April 18th?

Having said all that, today is going to be a rough one for the folks at Taxman, going down to the wire with appointments throughout the day, including one brave soul/crazed procrastinator coming in at 9 PM. Well, there's always one.

As for me, I woke up at a reasonable hour with my usual aches and pains, plus an unreasonable dose of panic attack. No flippin' idea why. During the week I've been chipping away at the new phase of Project Zero, organizing, packing small items into plastic shoeboxes and tucking them into the few remaining open spots in my closet, which has turned out to be bigger on the inside. Unlike the TARDIS, that space is not infinite. Neither is my energy; lately I've been going through spoons like a sailor on shore leave. Perhaps that is the source of the panic. Who knows? Not me - I'm not a doctor nor do I play one on TV.

I have spent the day nibbling away at a few tasks and grumbling about the pain. Grumbling, whining, trying not to spill a few tears; it is that bad. The medication is having no damn effect; even my collar bones hurt. I had figured on a trip to Walmart for more plastic drawers, and a shower, but there was no way I could swing either one. Ain't got no spoons for that, kids.

Old Fashioned Chicken

Tucked neatly into a plastic page protector and stored in its logical location in my personal Poultry ring binder was this recipe for Old Fashioned Chicken. Scribbled in pink ink on a page that was clearly meant for other purposes, it brought me back to a time when young married women exchanged favorite recipes, before the Internet, before Food Network, before the Dark Times when young people with absurdly muscular thumbs lived on fast food - fast, but unhealthy.

The numbers in the right hand corner are the babysitter's hours, and the name in the left hand corner (the phone numbers are blocked off) belong to the young man who eventually bought our house in Ronkonkoma. The Fudge Square recipe was from one of my friends; I've yet to try it.

The year is 1991, I'm getting ready to take the Florida bar exam, and George H.W. Bush is the President. Ha, who needs a TARDIS when you have a recipe?

This is easy, and although I moved slowly, I finished it in one day. My family actually had it for dinner the same day I cooked it. I changed the original recipe slightly (does that make it new-fangled?), and it was a big success on the Homefront.

To make things easier, take the Brussel sprouts and little corn cobs out of the freezer and put in the refrigerator the day before you intend to prepare this dish.


8 chicken thighs, bone and skin intact

Garlic pepper
Lemon pepper
Cayenne pepper
Dried herbes d' Provence
Kosher salt

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons garlic olive oil
6 tablespoons flour
1-32 oz. carton unsalted chicken stock
1 Knorr chicken bouillon cube
1/4 cup semi sweet white wine

3 gold potatoes, cut into 8 wedges and then cut in half crosswise
3 small white turnips,  peeled, cut into 8 wedges
1-12 oz. bag baby carrots (avoid thicker ones)
1-10 oz. box or bag frozen Brussel sprouts, thawed
8 miniature frozen corn on the cob (Pictsweet calls them "short"), thawed

Season the chicken with the different spices and herbs. Go easy on the salt. Let the chicken sit while you cut and chop the vegetables to give the seasoning time to be absorbed.

In a large, deep skillet over medium high heat, brown the chicken in the butter and oil. Do this in two batches, and if you have one of those splatter screens, this would be a good time to use it. Place the browned chicken in two regular or one ginormous baking dish.  Place the carrots, potatoes, and turnips around the chicken. Sprinkle the vegetables with a small amount of salt and black pepper. (Use a little Hungarian paprika if you are so inclined.)

In the same pan you browned the chicken, cook the onions until they are browned around the edges. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the chicken stock and stir until the flour is well-combined.  Bring to a boil while stirring, adding the bouillon cube, and cook a few more minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly. Stir in the wine, then taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning.  Shut off the stove but leave the skillet on the burner.

Ladle about 2/3rds of the sauce over the chicken and vegetables; cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes. Add the Brussel sprouts and corn on the cob to the skillet, rolling them around in the sauce (remember, the heat is off.)

At the end of 50 minutes spoon the Brussel sprouts, corn, and all the remaining sauce over the dish. Cover again and return to the oven for another 40 to 50 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are all tender, but not mushy. This will serve 4 to 8 people.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Someday Walkabout

The best things to come out of Cleveland have been Michael Symon's restaurants and (dare I say) Howard the Duck. The upcoming Republican Convention is not going to add to that list. Okay, maybe Lebron James and the Cavaliers. Maybe.    

The last few weeks have been so tiring I could scream. This is despite the weekly Vitamin D I have been faithfully taking. The rheumatologist has me back on B-12, but even that is not making a dent in this physical fog. Even tai chi is taking too much effort. Lately I've been napping away half the day and then going to bed early.

The rheumatologist, in addition to tweaking medication instructions, also recommended some light aerobic exercise and a daily walk in the sun (excluding midday). I had let my daily walks fall by the wayside as the weather got colder and the fibro flares got more vicious, so I was very happy to get back on track at the doctor's suggestion.

This was not an easy thing to do, however, as I am apparently out of practice, but I'll keep at it. It's just that after a good walk, my back sets up a protest of great magnitude, the kind that sends one to bed with a bottle of Advil, a handful of muscle relaxers and a box of tissues to mop up the tears. Part of that may be that I walked in quite perfect weather and kept walking, and I suspect I covered a pretty good distance, and this, my friends, constitutes overdoing. I never learn, although my pace is pretty slow. My power walking days are long over, but even a neighborhood stroll has to be carefully planned.

So I walked and kvetched, but I did get that nice photo of the blue pinwheel garden in Courthouse Square, reminding folks that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, as well as a street photo celebrating Spanish moss.

Officially speaking fibromyalgia sucks. Lately I've developed a weakness in my arms and hands, making it difficult to knit, type, and scroll an iPhone - my hand and arm shake, and I end up clicking on unintended links or missing keyboard letters. When I type a blog post - or anything, actually - I end up having to constantly erase and correct. Then I'm also in the midst of a memory fog, unable to recall words or names when I need them as part of a conversation. This time it is particularly bad, scary bad, the type of bad that makes you think senile dementia is right around the corner.

When I have good days, I want to enjoy them. I want to celebrate their existence. But that joy is tempered by the knowledge that the bad days are going to reappear. Always, no exceptions. And that's where the depression comes from. That plus the loss of loved ones, in my family and the families of people I care for.

So I felt well enough to do some cooking, the first time in a long time, but I'm still too tired and my hands too shaky to start that typing.

Coming soon to a blog post near you

Hold on, I'm getting there, but right now I am dreaming about my bed - low lights, feet up, back well-supported, and a couple or five furry children snoring at my feet. And something medicinal for the pain, did I mention that? No opioids and no damn medical marijuana. Don't get me started. Everybody is so happy happy joy joy about the possibilities of enjoying the wacky weed legally, they've forgotten about side effects.                                                          

And the side effects, Morpheus? Paranoia, rapid heart beat, respiratory ailments, impact on brain function?

Friday, April 8, 2016

I'm With Her

So I was imagining the Presidential election between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, and I laughed so hard I fell down and cried. And cried some more at the thought of either one of them in the Oval Office with their finger on the nuclear button.

In the meantime, the world keeps heading to Hell of its own volition.

It's Fibro Fog Friday here in Historic Downtown Kissimmee. Having trouble moving forward on my plans for today, lists be damned. I'm not really comprehending my own lists, and I can't seem to put together the steps for any task. I woke up with Cat Flat Hair, a direct result of Anakin's determined possession of this pillow.  My pillow, as it happens.

This is going to need application of a hot hair roller thing (so help me, I can't think of the word) while standing, and lately I don't do standing all that well.

Anyway, I spent all my standing spoons on a bath for my little old guy Woody. He's lost most of his hair and his weight is way down, but he's in good spirits, even if Anakin did take his favorite sleeping spot. There is so much I have to do, and so little I can actually do, a typical fibrotastic day bereft of energy but full of pain and fog.

The cottage pie remains incomplete; there is no way I can leave the house to buy a rutabaga. Even if I had, I don't have the ability to stand at the kitchen counter whilst peeling said rutabaga. Everything - laundry, beading, cooking, spot cleaning, book shelves, and you-name-it - has come to a big halt. Believe it or not, what set off this latest flare was that shower I took yesterday. All of this and Bernie Sanders has sent me into the Bad Mood Zone. Best I stay in my room, where I can't snap at innocents and where going without a bra is not going to cause nervous laughter and SMHs posted all over Facebook.

I did manage to finish one UFO, so now all of the ends on those utterly luxurious handknit wash clothes have been woven in.  The cloths are in the linen closet alongside the more pedestrian terry cloths that Rob and Cory will continue to use. The sense of accomplishment feels good.

I'm glad something feels good.