31 March 2011

Recipe: Roadside Diner Cheeseburger Quiche

1 sheet refrigerated pie pastry 
3/4 lb  ground beef 
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped 
1 medium onion, chopped 
1/2 c dill pickle relish 
1/2 c crumbled cooked bacon 
5 eggs 
1 c heavy whipping cream 
1/2 c 2% milk 
2 t prepared mustard 
1 t  hot pepper sauce 
1/2 t salt 
1/4 t pepper 
6 oz shredded cheddar cheese 
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
Optional garnishes: mayonnaise, additional pickle relish, crumbled cooked bacon, and chopped onion and tomato

1.  Unroll pastry into a 9-in. deep-dish pie plate; flute edges and set aside. In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomatoes, onion, relish and bacon. Transfer to prepared pastry.  

2.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, milk, mustard, pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Pour over beef mixture. Sprinkle with cheeses.

3.  Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted near the centre comes out clean. Cover edges with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning if necessary. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Garnish with optional ingredients if desired. 

Yield: 8 servings

Notes:  I didn't use the pie pastry.  I substituted 1-1/2 c milk for the cream/milk combo, which made this pretty liquidy, so I need to remember to use less milk next time (especially since I only use fat-free milk).  I didn't use the Parmesan cheese, because I think that's a migraine trigger for me. 

30 March 2011

Something is not quite right

So, I'm watching tv earlier today, and one of those "if you took this medication and now your head is falling off," commercials came on begging people to join a class-action lawsuit.  It caught my attention because it happened to be a medication and an issue that was discussed only yesterday in my doctor's appointment.

But when THIS screen came on my tv, I did a double-take.  I did such a double-take, I'm surprised I don't have whiplash, actually.  Then I had to pause the television so I could take a picture and send it to some friends who I knew would appreciate it.

Then I decided it needed a larger audience.


29 March 2011

Today was an interesting day

(from Merriam-Webster) in•ter•est•ing (adj): holding the attention

Today was an interesting day, an a few different fronts.

That is all.

28 March 2011

My Exciting Week

Plans for this week

Today: I had my pulmonary function test.  Apparently, I have lungs and a small nose.

Tomorrow: I get to visit my gyn to get checked for a hernia.  This is basically like the regular internal exam, except no Pap.  I go back next month for that.  I can't get it done in one visit because my insurance will yell if I get the Pap done before a certain date.  Med Student pointed out that her mechanic gives her a discount if she gets her oil changed BEFORE the date on the sticker.  I said I'd call IBC and see what I could work out.

Wednesday: Errand running, groceries, must remember to put Mom's birthday present in the mail.

Saturday: Med Student comes over.  We're trying two new recipes.  A revision of a recipe I posted earlier and a recipe from Julie.  If that recipe works, I'll be posting it here later.  Med Student coming over means that I need to get the house cleaned. 

Since this place is still recovering from being Pertussis Palace from mid-January to mid-March, this will take all of Thursday and Friday.  Yay.

27 March 2011

Doin' the ChaCha

About a month and a half ago, I started a VERY part-time gig (technically working as an independent contractor) for ChaCha, which is a mobile search engine.  People text in questions to us (the number is 242242 - it spells out "ChaCha"), and we answer them (with varying degrees of success depending on which guide answers your question, of course - just like any other customer service job).

The pay isn't awesome (we're paid per question answered), but the perks are these: I can literally work any hours I want, including only during commercials when the race is on; I am highly entertained by the questions that come in; I learn something every night; although the pay isn't great, it's certainly better than nothing; they have contests and bonuses a LOT that are on top of the regular pay we receive; and they have forums, including a "Frugal Living" forum that include coupons, give-aways, and discounts that everyone posts when we come across them.  I've already saved some money thanks to some tips and tricks!

When I first started, I did a Google search that said that ChaCha is a scam and I shouldn't do it, but they were all regular blog posts, nothing associated with state AG offices or Better Business Bureaus.  So I figured I would do it for one month and see if I got paid (you have to "bank" a certain amount of money each month to get paid).  If I didn't get paid, I figured I'd have only wasted one month, plus I had the entertainment and educational value.  But they actually put a fair amount of time and energy into the training (I had to pass an initial test, then get trained, then pass a second test), plus they do QC ratings (on several levels) every week.  So that seemed like an awful lot to go through for a scam.

I'm happy to say that a couple of weeks ago, I got my first pay.  Yay!

So, at least until I get a Real Job (TM), I'll be doing the ChaCha.  And after then, I'll probably keep doing it, because it IS fun, and it's a great way to score extra funds.  (Anyone who's interested, let me know and I can hook you up.)

26 March 2011

You Know You're From Missouri When

Something today on a forum I participated in made me think of this, so I thought I'd post it.

1. Everyone you know has been on a "Float Trip,"

2. "Vacation" means driving to Silver Dollar City, Worlds of Fun or Six Flags.

3. You measure distance in minutes rather than miles. For example, "Well, Webb City's only 20 minutes away."

4. The phrase "I'm going to the Lake this weekend"only means one thing.

5. You know several people who have hit a deer.

6. You know what "Party Cove" is.

7. Your school classes were cancelled because of cold.

8. Your school classes were canceled because of heat.

9. You instinctively ask some one you've just met, "What high school did you go to?"

10. You've had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.

11. You think ethanol makes your truck "run a lot better."

12. You know what's knee-high by the Fourth of July.

13. You see people wear bib overalls at funerals.

14. You see a car running in the parking lot at the store with no one in it, no matter what time of day.

15. You know in your heart that Mizzou can beat Nebraska in football.

16. You end your sentences with an unnecessary preposition. Example: "Where's my coat at?"

17. All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable or grain.

18. You install security lights on your house and garage but leave both unlocked.

19. You think of the major four food groups as beef, pork, beer, and Jell-O salad with marshmallows.

20. You carry jumper cables in your car and know that everyone else should.

21. You went to skating parties as a kid.

22. You only own three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup.

23. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

24. The local paper covers national and international headlines on one page, but requires six pages for sports.

25. You'll pay for your kids to go to college unless they want to go to KU.

26. You think that "deer season" is a National Holiday.

27. You know that Concordia is halfway between Kansas City and Columbia, and Columbia is halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City, and the Warrenton Outlet Mall is halfway between Columbia and St. Louis.

28. You can't think of anything better than sitting on the porch in the middle of the summer during a thunderstorm.

29. You know which leaves make good toilet paper.

30. You've said, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity."

31. You know all four seasons: Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer and Football.

32. You know if another Missourian is from the Boot-heel, Ozarks, Eastern, Middle or Western Missouri soon as they open their mouth.

33. You know that Harry S Truman, Walt Disney and Mark Twain are all from Missouri.

34. You failed World Geography in school because you thought Cuba, Versailles, California, Nevada, Houston, Cabool, Louisiana, Springfield, and Mexico were cities in Missouri. (And they are! AND you know the correct way to pronounce "Versailles" and "Nevada.")

35. You know what "HOME OF THE THROWED ROLL" means.

25 March 2011

List #2: Authors

Authors I adore (in no particular order, and not so much a list, really):

1.  Brad Meltzer (I believe I've prattled on about him enough that you've got the idea by now, yes?)

2.  Lisa Scottline: Let's hear it for Philly authors!  She's got a wicked sense of humour, and while got her law degree from that OTHER law school in Philly (I'm a Temple Law School drop-out and her J.D. is from Penn; Drexel's law school wasn't yet started when I started law school, so it was a two-way rivalry in my day), I still love her.  Her characters are multi-dimensional, and she writes strong, intelligent, sassy, female characters.  No wussy, co-dependent, needy women here!  These aren't the typical legal thrillers, either.  If you're looking for John Grisham in a skirt, keep going.

3.  Jennifer Weiner: Let's keep the Philly-author love going.  She tends to get pigeon-holed as a "chick-lit" author, which just isn't fair.  Why can't women write about relationships without it being "chick lit"?  I dare say she could write the exact same thing, you could slap a male's name on the book and no one would call it "chick lit."  Her books are thoughtful, moving, witty, and insightful.

4.  Marian Keyes: I honestly couldn't tell you which Keyes book I read first, but I was instantly hooked, and I've read all of her books since.  Anyone who can make a hysterically funny book about a young woman's stint in drug rehab is a winner with me (Rachel's Holiday - the title alone tells you how deep the denial goes).  Some of her books are part of a series (she has books on almost every sister in the Walsh family), and some are stand-alones.  But anyone who likes either fun, funny books about Irish families or just a serving of light lit to get you through should check these out.

5.  Jane Green: Brit chick lit at it's finest.  Although Ms. Green lives in Connecticut now, I started reading her when she lived across the pond, and a great deal of her characters either live in England or are British imports (of some kind).  Mostly I adore her narrative style.  She has a tendency to write as if just the two of you are huddled together in a corner spying on the characters in the novel and she's doing the play-by-play.  "Now we observe so-and-so.  See how confident she seems?  That's because..."  I love it.

6.  Michael Connelly:  I LOVE this man.  Before I was laid off last year, I used to be able to say I owned all of his books.  Thanks to the library, I can at least still say that I've read all of his books.  Most of his books are from the Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch series.  Harry is an LAPD detective, and what I love about his is that he's completely flawed.  Connelly has masterfully created an entire world throughout his series within which Bosch has made mistakes, conquered demons, and discovered much about himself in the process (including solving of his own mother's murder).

7.  John Lescroart:  This is another author whose books I used to own all of before my lay-off.  Most of his books involve attorney Hardy Dismas and, to a lesser degree, police lieutenant Abe Glitsky.  At the beginning of the series, Dismas is a bartender, who then goes back to practising law.  He and his friend Glitsky are often on the opposite sides of the same case, until one of them convinces the other he's wrong.  Since the two are friends and call on each other for advice, this doesn't require as much suspension of disbelief as it seems.  Lescroart writes the court scenes and manoeuvres the legal intricacies quite well for someone without a legal background.  Also, my sister got to meet him once (in her work at Barnes & Noble and said he was extremely nice and down-to-earth).

24 March 2011

Good-bye Dame Liz Taylor

I know Dame Liz actually died yesterday, but I figured that y'all had probably heard enough about her the, so I figured I'd spread out the Liz overload one more day.  :P

As I posted on Twitter yesterday, I immediately had two thoughts when I heard about her passing.  (1) Well, I guess the tabloids finally got one right (but it was thought in a sarcastic sense.  I mean, it doesn't really count when they've been screaming this as a headline for the past umpteen years AND the person is already an older person in failing health.  Call it when it's young, vital person, and I'll be more impressed.  I mean, even a broken watch is right twice a day.  C'mon.)

And (2) Now she can join her friend Michael (Jackson) in Heaven, and they can both rest in peace.

It bothers me that as her life progressed, she became more and more a staple in gossip magazines and a tabloid fixture.  This is the woman who brought us "Cleopatra" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf."  While she also was accused of breaking up a marriage, it's sad that our society becomes so obsessed and fixated on everything we feel people are doing wrong instead of remembering what people have added to our cultural landscape.

She's a friggin' DAME for heaven's sake!  She was instrumental in the founding of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research!  And she's estimated to have raised (or helped raise) more than $100 million toward research, treatment, and public education about HIV/AIDS.  How are these accomplishments less important than eight marriages?  Or that she was a "home-wrecker"?

I think it's sad that when people leave this world, we suddenly start to remember "Oh yeah, this is why we loved that person."  Shouldn't we show that person that love when they're still alive rather than after their death?  Aren't we arsing this up by getting this backwards?  (On the other hand, I do hate it when we turn hypocrite and turn someone that we didn't like into a hero after their death.  "Oh, s/he was the best!"  Please, we didn't like him/her then, let's not go overboard now.)

So, Dame Liz Taylor, rest in peace, and know that you were loved.  Also, thank you for White Diamonds perfume.  For that alone, you have made it very easy to shop for my mom for any holiday, and I shall think of you every time I has a Fancy Occasion.

23 March 2011

Medical Good News/Bad News

I saw my doctor today - my PCP.  As per usual, it was a lengthy appointment (about 90 minutes).  This is because she's the hub of all of my medical information.  While I have several specialists, she keeps COPIOUS track of what each of them is doing, what the latest info she has is from each of them, if I have anything more recent, when I'll be seeing that doctor next (and why, what we hope to accomplish, etc.), and then, of course, we finally get to the actual exam, which usually brings up discussion of my most recent labs, action plan, blah blah blah.

And this time was even more because I had to catch her up on my newest specialist - my allergist.  I gave her the list of my allergies, and I asked her a question about one of my new meds that I was too embarrassed to call the allergist to ask.  Dr. Font answered that and explained her answer (I love doctors who don't just give an answer, but also give patients credit for being intelligent enough to understand processes).

Now, the good news is that all the hard word I've been doing with diet, my oral diabetes meds, and exercising has been paying off.  My hA1C went down by a statistically significant amount!  It's still high enough that I'm considered in the pre-diabetes range, but it went down, which is GOOD NEWS.  (She had even put a smiley face on the lab report she sent me a couple of weeks ago.  But I didn't want to post about it until I got the official word today.)  I need to keep up the work and we'll see what happens in another few months.

The bad news - well.  This one is complicated.  If you follow me on Twitter, you know I mentioned a bit ago that I didn't get my last period.  It seems that my thyroid is acting up again.  I knew this when my labs came back a few weeks ago (my lab sends the results directly to me, as well as to my doctor, who then puts any notes on the report and sends me clean office copy), but I've also been symptomatic - such as missing menstrual cycles.  The problem is that the dosage of Synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone) I'm on now is 75 mcg, and the next level is 50 mcg, which is a big jump (at least in thyroid-ese).  So if my endocrinologist decides to lower my dosage, she might decide to do something like 75 mcg four days a week and 50 mcg three days a week.  But my PCP said sometimes patients end up feeling worse on a day-to-day basis on those schedules even though their thyroid levels improve.  The current plan is to retest my levels late May and see what my endo wants to do when I see her in June (if she doesn't want to adjust before then).

ALSO, since I'm on Seasonale (so I only get a period every three months anyway), they may want me to either stop the pill completely or go back to a monthly pill to see how often I'm actually getting my periods (the thought being that if I weren't on the Seasonale, I may have actually missed more).  BOOOO!

22 March 2011

Crock Pot Tuna Casserole

2 10-oz cans cream of chicken soup
1 c milk
2 7-oz cans tuna, drained
1/2 c chopped onion
1 c frozen peas
1-1/2 c dried elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
1 c sliced mushrooms

In a small bowl, mix together the soup and milk.  Pour into a slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients.  Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Yield: 4 servings

Notes:  I used an entire onion (shocking, I know).  I threw in a jalapeño pepper, including seeds.  I didn't have any mushrooms left, so no mushrooms - sad.  I didn't realise that I was supposed to cook the pasta before I put it in the Crock Pot until I just now typed this up, and it didn't seem to affect the outcome.  Next time, I will probably skip this step.  I used tongol (which is a species of tuna); they sell this at Trader Joe's, and it is Felix-approved.  When it was done, I stirred in some cheese.  Tuna casserole is not complete until it has just a bit o' cheese.

This was REALLY good and MUCH easier than the regular method of making tuna casserole.  I'm definitely keeping this one in my arsenal.

21 March 2011

Julie Says

(You know, like the game "Simon Says," but this is "Julie Says.")

A few days ago, I told y'all to go check out Julie's blog.  If you did so, you probably saw this post from her in which she mentioned some things she likes to discover about people.

So since she mentioned some things I could do, I figured that would be the subject of today's blog post.

Thing #1: what they eat for breakfast, specifically I like to see pictures of what people eat for breakfast

Just to be clear, that medicine bottle that appears to be sitting on top of the milk carton is actually sitting on top of the toaster oven in the background, and it is NOT part of my breakfast.  Only the Peanut Butter Puffins, the fat-free milk, and the blood oranges, all compliments of Trader Joe's.  This was my first foray with blood oranges, and I LOVE them.  Although it was probably funny watching me choose a bag because I didn't know that some of them were darker naturally, so I kept rejecting bags.  I probably rejected about ten bags before I finally asked someone if blood oranges just looked that way.  Then I joked that someone somewhere was probably wondering wtf my problem was.

Thing #3 she asked for: what their handwriting looks like

When I was a kid, my natural handwriting usually tended more toward the one on the bottom.  You'll see that not all of the words are fully spelt out, and that's more because of the steno teaching I did when I taught court reporters; it comes in handy quite a bit.  However, when I was a kid and my mom (the teacher) would check my homework, if she couldn't read my homework, she would rip it up and make me start over.  So I learnt quite quickly to "write pretty."

Thing #5 she asked for: what is in their medicine cabinet

Top row: sink drainer, Desitin (yep, the diaper rash cream)

Third row: Head & Shoulders sample, Neutrogena New Hands cream (x 2), Flonase, Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Fast Absorbing Hand Cream, Neutrogena Triple Moisture Healing Shine Serum

Second row: Night guard brush, night guard container, Neutrogena Healthy Defense daily moisturiser

Bottom row: Listerine, Colgate samples (x 3), contact lenses, Vicks Vapo-Rub, Neutrogena Radiance Boost eye cream,  Neutrogena Healthy Skin eye cream (x 2), yellow nail polish, red nail polish

And, no, I didn't organise my medicine cabinet AT ALL prior to the taking of this picture.

(And, Julie, you may remember about a year ago when you polled people on your blog about their skin care products and I told you that I owned pretty much everything Neutrogena manufactured...  I wasn't lying.  You should see the rest of my inventory; that's just my medicine cabinet!)

20 March 2011

Amish Breakfast Casserole

1 lb sliced bacon, diced
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
6 eggs, lightly beaten
4 c frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
12 oz 4% cottage cheese
1-1/4 c shredded Swiss cheese

1.  In a large skillet, cook bacon and onion until bacon is crisp; drain. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; stir in bacon mixture. Transfer to a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish.

2.  Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Yield:  12 servings

Notes:  Obviously, I used turkey bacon.  Of course, I used two onions.  I meant to put in some jalapeño pepper that I had, but I forgot.  Boo.  I put in some black pepper and cayenne pepper.  No salt, though, since turkey bacon has plenty of sodium.

This was really great, and I plan on making it again in a few weeks when Med Student comes to visit for a Top Chef marathon viewing (she's REALLY behind).  She's a vegetarian, so we're either going to make it completely meatless or throw some seitan in; we haven't decided.

Oh - and when it says "in a large bowl," it really means "pull out your largest mixing bowl, realise that bowl isn't big enough, pull out a bigger bowl, transfer everything, and then STILL spill things over the edge as you mix everything, vowing to use your roasting pot next time."  Good luck.

19 March 2011

Uh - sorry, no.

You Are a Auditory Learner

You tend to remember what you hear, and you have a knack for speaking well.

You excel at debating, foreign languages, and music.

You would be an excellent diplomat - or rock star!

This is HYSTERICALLY wrong since I have a learning disability called CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Deficit/Disorder/Deficiency/insert your favourite "D" word here).

This means that I most certainly am NOT an auditory learner. In fact, this is my least favourite way to learn, and it is the least effective way for me to learn.

If you've ever watched television with me, you know I use the captions. And if you've ever had a class with me, you know I use CART services, which is like having a captionist with me, so I can read the lecture off of a laptop in real time. After class, the transcript of the class would also get sent to me so I could take notes, because if I try to take notes while I'm listening, my brain gets completely overwhelmed. With the CAPD, I can either listen or write - doing both at the same time is a complete cluster.

Although having CAPD sometimes results in some funny moments. Another CAPD effect is that the brain will mis-translate sounds. For instance, a friend of mine once said that her friends like to meet in Philly because it's "a central location." Now, this is a friend from my MPH programme, so she knows about my CAPD. I gave her a look and asked her why they met in Philly. She repeated the reason. I asked her again. She repeated it. I said, "I'm sorry - one more time?" She finally said, "What are you hearing?"

"A sexual location."

But the most frustrating thing for me is that CAPD-ers have a really difficult time with word recall. I know everyone has those "Ooh, what's the word I'm trying to think of" moments, but imagine how often you have them, and then imagine that you have them several times a day. And then imagine that EVERY time you're stressed or anxious you have them. Most CAPD-ers are intelligent people, so it's especially frustrating when it happens. For me (I won't speak for all of us), I usually get a visual picture of the word I want. So I can access the idea of the word, but not the word itself. And sometimes it'll be up to a two weeks before I get the word. My friend Kirsten has become especially adept at helping me with this. "Kirsten! I need a word! The word that means, like, a mountain with ice! It's all shiny!" It ended up the word I wanted was reflection.

It's fun being me.

But the bottom line: This meme is SOOOOO wrong!

18 March 2011

List: Concerts

I'm totally copying Julie (it doesn't feel right to say "taking a page out of her book" when I'm actually copying her blog), and I've decided to start doing a list every week.  And speaking of Julie, you need to pop over and visit her blog.  She posts the most amazing pictures, and her posts are often thoughtful, sometimes funny, and usually make me smile (today's made me snort my yoghurt).

Today's list - Concerts I've Been To:

1.  Kenny Rogers
2.  Tanya Tucker (she opened for Travis Tritt; we walked out when he came on)
3.  Petra
4.  Amy Grant
5.  Janet Jackson
6.  No Doubt
7.  Stevie Nicks (my sister and I got into a fight with some biker dudes sitting behind us)
8.  Tori Amos
9.  Celine Dion (Mom and I got drenched in a freak thunderstorm; after the storm, only about a fourth of the crowd remained - everyone else had gone home.  Our fourth row seats turned into second row seats.)

17 March 2011

My First Trip to the Allergist

Today I went to see an allergist for the first time.

This trip was prompted because of a horrific allergic reaction I had last summer. I'll show the pic at the end of this post so those of you who would rather not see it can just read the post and skip the pic.

First, the rest of the background: I had moderate-level asthma and I've always been highly allergic to bugs. If it crawls, I'm allergic to it. The worst I remember is one time one of the dogs we had when I was a kid got fleas and I got flea-bitten. My entire body was covered in hives. I had to wake my mom up every couple of hours so she cover my body in Benadryl spray. We had to wash everything piece of clothing, linen, etc., in my room, vacuum every surface, and the dogs weren't allowed in my room for a week. Miserableness.

So when this incident happened this past summer, which was the worst allergic reaction I've EVER had, I knew that I had either developed a new allergy or my allergies were getting worse. It started as what looked like a bunch of small bites, so I did what I always do - popped an Allegra and applied Benadryl cream. But it got worse over the course of a few hours. It grew into a giant hive that covered about 6" x 8" of my underarm, it felt warm to the touch and it was raised. Yum. I avoided the ER (because it was the weekend) by applying lots of ice. I went to urgent care first thing Monday morning, and got a Medrol pack. And we agreed that I should see an allergist.

Fast forward to today.

The allergist I saw told me that few people are actually truly allergic to bugs; they usually just have a more sensitive inflammatory reaction to them. Okay, fair enough. They did the needle pricks on my back where they put the serum under the first layer of your skin, and they leave it 15 minutes to see what reacts. Because your back is most sensitive, they test there first. If anything is negative, they then test those serums on your arm, but under more layers of skin.

So while I was on my stomach and the medical assistant was sticking my back 41 times, the doctor comes in to introduce herself and go over everything with me (until now, the MA had gone over my history). The only thing I tested allergic to was house flies. So I got to do 40 sticks in my arm, but since my arms are small, she had to split them up - 20 on each side. Yay!

This is when the doctor repeated that I probably wasn't really allergic to the bugs, but that since I DID have a history of being very sensitive to them, she wanted me to be more aggressive about treating bites. However, by the time we were done talking, the arm sticks were ready to be read, and boy - had I reacted to a BUNCH. She said it's rare that people will react to the second sticks when they're negative to the first ones - yay me! (I thought about including pics of my arms, but I figured no one wanted to see pictures of my bloody arms. Although my buddy at TJ's was impressed.)

So, it turns out that I'm allergic to: dust, dust mites, mice, black ants, fleas, house flies, moths, and mosquitoes.

And I'm being sent for blood tests to check for mango and eggplant allergies since I get the "tickly tongue" feeling when I eat those.

Since the Allegra that I normally take went over-the-counter last week and is now hella expensive, she gave me a prescription for a new antihistamine to use that is less expensive and will work just as well or better. She also gave me a prescription cream to use that is stronger than the Benadryl cream. And she gave me some prednisone to have on hand in case I ever get a severe reaction like last summer so I won't have to be miserable.

Speaking of that reaction, here's that picture. Remember, if you don't want to see it, navigate away now!

I mean it!


Last chance!

16 March 2011

15 March 2011

A Eulogy for Teri Meltzer

As promised, this is Brad Meltzer's eulogy for his mother Teri, who passed away in April 2008.

What My Mother Gave Me Before She Died
By Brad Meltzer

       She's the kind of woman who would say, "Ucch, what a depressing funeral."  And so the obvious thing to say is that I want to celebrate my Mom.  But what I really want to do is share my Mom.  Not the person who was here the past few months.  But the woman who was here the past 63 years.

       In my case, my mother fought to have me.  She tried for three years to get pregnant.  And I think that struggle always left her feeling thankful for what she had.  It is, to this moment, the only rational way to explain the neverending love she gave to me.

       My very first interaction with my mother came before I was born - and as she used to relay the story - when I was in her stomach, she would put an ashtray on her belly, take a great drag on her cigarette, and then cheer me on as my sudden in utero kicks sent the cigarette ashes bouncing on her belly.  Now think on this a moment:  she's smoking - while pregnant - and then relishing the moment as her tiny fetus - me - kicks wildly for his life.  But when I look back on this, it's blatantly clear just how differently the world looked through my Mom's eyes.  You should've heard the joy - true insane joy - in my mother's voice as she proudly recounted how amazing it was to see me kick that ashtray on her belly.  I always took away the lesson that we shouldn't asphyxiate our unborn, but Teri Meltzer had a far different lesson - a maternal lesson - and all she could see in that dancing ashtray was that her child must be special.

       Of course, my Mom quickly took a more protective stance when it came to my well being.  And by that I don't just mean that she stopped trying to inadvertently kill me.  As I entered grade school, my father, who breathes baseball, signed me up for Little League.  I lasted one year.  But it wasn't until a few months ago - as we were looking back on her life - that I finally found out just who saved me from year two.  "Stewie, don't make him play if he doesn't want to play."  That was my Mom's threat.  Even back then, she knew me.  And for all of childhood, she nurtured me, growing my little artsy side and always making sure that I could find my own adventure.  And she fed it with one of the greatest seeds of imagination:  television.

       This will sound silly and trite, but in my mother's honor, I'm not apologizing for it.  One of my clearest memories of childhood is sitting at the side of my Mom's bed - the side that faced the TV - and watching show after show with her.  To be clear, TV wasn't something that watched me - she didn't put it on just so she could go do something else.  My mother watched with me.  Or rather, I watched with her.  Old movies like Auntie Mame.  And modern classics like Taxi, Soap, MASH and of course, our favorite for every Wednesday night, Dynasty.  (Please, what else are you gonna do with a son who doesn't play baseball?)  Some mothers and sons never find anything they can truly share.  But my Mom always treated me like an adult, always let me stay up late to watch the good stuff, and in those moments, she did one of the best things any parent can do:  she shared what she loved with me.  Of course, she also shared far too many copies of the Star and the Enquirer (which she would swear, always had the real news first).

       When I was thirteen, my Mom faced the worst tragedy of her life.  The death of her father - Jonas Benjamin's namesake - Ben Rubin.  My Poppy.  My Poppy would do anything for my mother - come over the house at any hour for whatever it was we needed.  That's where my Mom got it from - but when he died - I remember at his funeral, my Mom screaming and yelling wildly because the funeral home had neglected to shave my grandfather, and my Mom wanted him to look just right.  It was a fierceness and ferocity I never saw before - or again.  It was a fierceness that my Mom saved for when someone messed with her family.  And I know she put that one in me too.

       But when I think of my Mom - more than anything else...more than anything - I think of the pure, immeasurable, almost crazy love she had for me.  I remember the first time I gave her The Tenth Justice.  It's my first published novel.  My first time ever putting real work out for anyone to see.  I was terrified when she said she'd finished it.  And then she looked right at me and said, "Bradley, I know I'm your mother, but I have to be honest with you.  This book...is the greatest book of all time!"

       When someone was recounting the story to me a few days ago, he called my mother the queen of hyperbole.  But as I think about it, he had it wrong.  Hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration.  My mother never used hyperbole.  My mother actually believed it.  In her eyes, I really did write the greatest book of all time.

       And in that book, I also wrote my mother - the mother in Tenth Justice was based on my Mom.  But when my first editor was reading it, he sent back the comment that he didn't think the mother and father in the book were realistic.  He said they were "too crazy."  So I brought my parents to meet my editor.  They came up to the editor's office, and for the half hour or forty-five minutes, I sat there, silently, smiling, as my Mom and Dad talked this poor man's face off.  When they were done and had finally left the office, my editor turned to me and said, "Leave the parent scenes exactly as they are."

       A few years ago, I went to the headquarters of Borders Books up in Ann Arbor.  And when I was there the main buyer for Borders said to me, "Guess where your books sell more than anywhere else?  Straight sales, not even per capita."  So of course I said, "New York" - 8 million New Yorkers in one city.
       "Washington, DC?  I write about DC."
       "Chicago, the flagship superstore?"
       The number one place my books sell was the Boca Raton Borders, two miles from the furniture store where my mother worked.  That means my mother single-handedly beat 8 million New Yorkers.  Messing with the power of a Jewish mother is one thing, but never ever mess with the power that was Teri Meltzer.

       Of course, what made my Mom my Mom was the fact that that love - that love that burned in her brighter than fifty suns - was there even when times were bad.  When The First Counsel was published, USA Today gave me a ruthless review.  It was the kind of review that just felt like a public humiliation.  The headline was:  Make First Your Last.  But when my mother saw it, she said to me, "Don't worry.  No one reads that paper anyway."  It's the number one paper in the entire county!  It's the one paper everyone reads.

       And when my publisher shut down and we went to find a new one, I was faced with one of the scariest moments of my career.  My second novel had bombed and sold so much less than the first one, so if we wanted to move forward, we had to leave a guaranteed contract behind and hope that another publisher would take over the contract.  This was terrifying to me, and I was wracked with fear, feeling like I was watching it all deteriorate.  And I'll never forget my Mom on the phone - she said to me, "I'd love you if you were a garbage man."  It wasn't anything she practiced...it was just her exact honest feelings at that moment.  And to this day, EVERY day that I sit down to write these books, I say those words to myself - "I'd love you if you were a garbage man" - soaking in the purity and selflessness of that love, and the knowledge that - and I don't care where she is - my mother is always there for me.

       Let me be clear:  all our strength, confidence, any success my sister and I have been blessed enough to receive, those were all watered and nurtured by the strength of the love that my mother showered on us.  There is no coincidence that my sister and I both work for ourselves.  From when I was born, my mother worked for herself, decorating and being creative.  Now there's a certain confidence - and an underlying insecurity - that goes along with being creative.  Your job lives and dies on your taste...and on people believing in it.  In every decision, you leap from that trapeze...you give your opinion...and you try to never think twice about if someone will catch you.  To me, watching my Mom - you should've seen her decorating:  That color?  Gorgeous.  That pillow?  Awful.  That couch?  Horrible.  Ucch.  Terrible.  Un-believable.  Feh.  Bleh.  That looks like pulverized shit.  I'd rather drink poison.  When she came to Washington and I took her to the White House, she looked around at the décor.  Unga Patchke.  Overdone.  It's the White House!  In everything she did, she rattled off her opinions as if they were absolute truths.  In fact, a few months back, my Mom and I were arguing over some decorating detail in our new house.  Now my mother is sick at this point.  The cancer in her brain made it incredibly hard for her to speak, so most of the argument is her shaking her head and rolling her eyes.  But as we're going back and forth, I finally lose it and ask her if it just might be possible that I might have my own taste.  And my mother, who hasn't said much of anything in awhile, shouts:  No.  You.  Can't!

Maybe it was taste, maybe it was stubbornness, but I'll always be thankful to my Mom for teaching me that you can believe in yourself like that.

       For that reason, when I found out the last book had hit the top spot on the bestseller list, Cori already knew, so the first person I called was my mother.  And of course my Mom starts hysterically crying.  She's so proud.  And when I hear her crying, I of course start crying.  And in the midst of this tear-fest, I say to her, "Where are you now?"  And through her sobs, she says to me, "I'm at Marshall's."

     Of course she's at Marshall's, still trying to buy irregular socks for two dollars.  It was my mother's greatest lesson:  never ever ever ever change for anyone.  And her second greatest lesson:  that Marshall's just may be the greatest store on earth.

       And that leads me to the other great loves of my mother's life.  First, a word about her grandchildren, one of whom is sitting right here, making his Nana so proud.  When my first child - my son Jonas - was born, my mother said to me, "Now you'll understand how I love you."
       She was right.  And it was the first time I got to see life through my Mom's eyes.

       Now I know every grandparent loves their grandchildren.  But not like my Mom loved mine.  Of course she spoiled them, and let them eat bags of jelly beans, and watch endless TV.  Of course she bought toy after toy - I opened her truck once and it was filled TO THE TOP with piles of Hot Wheels cars and toys and whatever she could find in the dollar store.  "Just in case.  You never know."  You never know what, Ma?  If an orphanage is gonna show up?  But my Mom would offer over and over to come babysit.  We didn't ask her.  She'd call up and tell us we should go out to dinner.  I said to her, "We just want to go for Chinese food."  She said to me, "You can go to China for all I care."  She just wanted to be there for her grandkids.  For Jonas and Lila and of course Theo.

       You see, my Mom knew how sick she was.  And I don't think it's a coincidence that she plummeted so soon after Theo was born.  In truth, I think my mother was supposed to die eight months ago, when she had that stroke.  But she fought back.  And learned how to walk and talk again.  And started yet another chemo regimen that the doctor never really thought would work.  It wasn't the first time.  When my mother was born, she had a disorder in her hips that was so bad, the doctors said she wouldn't ever walk.  But she walked.

       She was far tougher than anyone ever expected.  And so, after the experimental chemo, my mother got a near perfect four months of borrowed time, where she finally found her way to Paris and saw her namesake, Theo, be born.  She fought for that moment.  Even in her final days, when she showed barely any recognition, she would light up when Theo, Lila and Jonas entered that room.

       And that leaves me with her truest love.  The one I don't think I ever fully appreciated.  But when my Mom was at her lowest - when the September stroke had kicked her brain and we didn't know if she'd ever come back to us - there was one thing she reacted to as she laid there in the hospital bed.  Stewie.  My father would enter the room and her eyes would open.  She knew that voice.  And not just because it's such a ridiculous voice.  My mother didn't get to pick me and my sister.  She was stuck with us.  But she picked him.  She picked my father.  And for all the ups and downs they took, make no mistake, they loved each other with a fire and passion that every set of spouses should aspire to.  You should always take pride, Dad, in the happiness you brought her.

       In the end, my mother died the same way she lived.  She laughed and smiled and enjoyed everything she could get from life.  She belly-laughed when her brother and chief sidekick Uncle Richie entertained and distracted her from the sadness (which we all needed).  And when she lay there, two days before her death, when her mother, Dottie, my Nanny, came in, she was basically motionless.  But when my Nanny started singing some old kooky 1920s song, my mother, who barely could move, raised her hand high and rolled her eyes and gave that look of "Mom, what the hell're you doin'?"
       And in that moment, as we all laughed, my Mom, Teri Meltzer, was back:
       -The woman who loved Marshall's and the Enquirer as much as she loved the Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay.
       -The woman who, even at 63, has friends who are in their thirties and forties.
       -Who used to hate every piece of modern art, because she would say, "I could do that."
       -Who never grew up or grew old - never wished for "how things used to be" and instead always searched for the new style, the new thing (y'know how much Project Runway this woman watched?  Even before it was popular).  She had the mindset and taste of a thirty year old gay man who lives in the East Village, and just like him, she didn't give a shit what you thought about her.
       -She hated snobs, she hated phonies, she hated rich obnoxious asses who can only talk about what kind of car they drove, or jewelry they bought, or what big trip they recently took.  And over the past year, as we've been calling doctors and nurses and secretaries, even the valets who park the cars, when I say my name, all they say is, "Oh, how's your mother?  She's such a nice/funny/sweet/great-
spirited lady."  And as one receptionist reminded me, "Not everyone is nice like that."  The truth about you is what people say behind your back.  And I love my mother so much for that:  From the Queen of England to the janitor in the bathroom, she'd treat you the same.

       Over the past few months, as my mother was dying, she never complained.  Truly.  Never.  Not to us.  She was protective to the final moments.  I'd ask if she was in pain, and she'd insist, "No."  And when that lie was clearly a lie, this was just days ago, I looked at her in the bed and said, "How you doing?"  She opened her eyes at my voice and smiled that Teri Meltzer smile and said, on her deathbed, "Fantastic."

       And there we were.  For the past six months, me and Bari and Cori and Will - all her children - were once again at her house, where the TV was once again on her side of the bed, and we were all once again watching her favorite shows.  They weren't sad nights.  In fact, they were some of my favorite nights with my Mom - not because I love Dancing with the Stars or Top Chef or every other show Bravo TV has to offer - but because, when I sat there, I was nine years old again, safe and comforted by that neverending well of love I could feel from my Mom.

       On that note, I want to thank all the people who have been there for her - this year, or any other.  All the family and friends who laughed with her and shared stories with her...who sent cards and notes and flowers and sub sandwiches, who left messages and emails, and especially those who sent photos of your kids (I'm sure she's bought presents for all of them)...and especially to those who drove and made their way to see her, then and now.  All the doctors who were friends first and who got info and test results and whatever else she needed.  And all the nurses and chemo ladies and strangers who spoke to her and made her feel like a person instead of a patient.

       I don't miss particular moments with my mother.  I can always remember those moments.  What I miss is my mother, and her reactions, and how she never hesitated to tell you who she hated or what she thought (even if it was a quick judgment), and most of all, how she loved me and my family with more love than one person should be able to muster.

       She once said to me, "I'd saw off my own arm for you."  Again, not an exaggeration.  Just Teri Meltzer being Teri Meltzer.

       That love my Mom gave me is my strength.  It never.  Ever.  Wavered.  It's like the hum on an airplane, of the engine - it's there and it never lets up and it never stops - and you get so used to it, it just becomes part of the ride.  But you'd know the second it was gone.  My mother's love for us never stopped.
       It was a constant.
       A foundation.
       A law.
       It is the pillar that has carried me everywhere and holds me up right now.  Her love is a gift that she gave me.  And it is the part of her that I hope I, and my children, and all of you carry with you every time your child or grandchild shows you a picture they colored, every time you say thank you to the valet who parks your car, and damn well every time you drive past Marshall's.

       I miss you Mom.  And I thank you.  I thank you for teaching me how a parent is supposed to love their child.  And I hope you know that, in that and so much else, you live on forever.

14 March 2011

A Eulogy for Stewart Meltzer

Most of you know that my favourite author is Brad Meltzer.

Last week, his father passed away.

When his mother Terri passed away, Brad emailed the eulogy to the fan mailing list.  Tonight, Brad posted his father's eulogy on his blog.

It's long, but in typical Brad style, it's touching, funny, and truly amazing.  Most of all, it's full of love.

Everyone should be sent out with such grace.

Go read it.

Tomorrow, I'll post Terri Melter's eulogy.

Ha! I caught her!

Sometimes, when I'm talking on the phone with my mom, I'll suddenly stop and say, "You're not listening to me!"  And, to my chagrin, she'll repeat nearly verbatim my last several sentences, INCLUDING the "You're not listening to me!" (or whatever accusation I've made).

But tonight - TONIGHT!  I GOT HER!  HA!

I was telling her about "The Next Great Restaurant" (an NBC show) because there's a contestant from KCMO, and some pretty interesting restaurant concepts.  We were chatting about some of the restaurant concepts, and I said, "Ooh, guess what one of the concepts is!"

Long pause on the phone.  So I finally said, "Mom?"

She said, "Yeah?"

"You're supposed to be guessing!"


"You're not listening!"

"No!  I heard you.  Tacos with meat and hard tacos and soft tacos and tacos with anything and then the guy on tv said two to five inches of snow and then Dale said PT Cruiser and then they showed it on tv wrecking and then - yeah okay, I stopped listening to you.  You got me.  What am I guessing?"

"I KNEW YOU WEREN'T LISTENING!!" and I absolutely cackled with glee.

I was so pleased that I finally caught her!

Then we talked about Celebrity Apprentice for a bit (I've lost all respect for Dionne Warwick, but it turns out that Mom never liked her to begin with.  Then Mom wanted to know how Star Jones is doing, and I pointed out that it'd be much easier if she would just WATCH the show instead of me recapping the show every week).

By then, Mom got excited because they were showing the PT Cruiser wrecking on the news again (it must have been a slow news day back there).  But this time the news label on it was "KU SEEDED #1"  I suggested to her that maybe that was why the PT Cruiser had wrecked - they got excited about KU doing so well in the NCAA brackets.

And I told her I was hanging up before she started ignoring me again for the PT Cruiser crash coverage.

12 March 2011

Enchilada Casser-Ole! Recipe

1 lb lean ground beef (90% lean)
1 large onion, chopped
2 c salsa
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c reduced-fat Italian salad dressing
2 T reduced-sodium taco seasoning
1/4 t ground cumin
6 8-in flour tortillas
4 oz shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 c shredded lettuce
1/4 c minced fresh cilantro
3/4 c reduced-fat sour cream

1.  In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the salsa, beans, dressing, taco seasoning and cumin. Place three tortillas in a 2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with half of the meat mixture, sour cream and cheese. Repeat layers.

2.  Cover and bake at 400° for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until heated through. Let stand for 5 minutes before topping with lettuce, tomato and cilantro. 

Yield: 8 servings.

Notes:  As per usual, I doubled the onions.  I know -- shocking.  I used the full packet of taco seasoning because I didn't feel like dealing with a partial envelope of taco seasoning until the next time I made tacos (or the next time I made this).  I also used whole-wheat tortillas, but not as many as the recipe called for.  I skipped the tomato and lettuce on top because I knew I'd have leftovers and didn't want to deal with parsing out individual lettuce/tomato portions.  But if I was making it for a supper party where I thought most of it would be eaten at once, I'd totally do that part.

This was O.M.G. SOOOOO good.  And really easy to make.

11 March 2011

The Harlem Globetrotters

When I was a little girl, I wanted nothing more than to see the Harlem Globetrotters.  How fortuitous and or serendipitous it was then that they always rolled into my hometown the week of my week of my birthday.  Surely this was destiny!

Every year, I begged my mom, "Please!  Harlem Globetrotters!"  And every year, it was explained to me that the show was only good if you could afford to get the seats in the very front, and we just couldn't - not on a teacher's salary.

But I was a relentless child.  "Harlem Globetrotters are coming again this year!  ON MY BIRTHDAY!"  And, of course, the answer was always the same.

I don't remember how, but a few years ago, Galen, one of the guys on my mom's bowling team found out about my childhood dream.  And he now also teases my mom about this.  How could she never fulfil such a simple dream?  Every time I go back for Christmas, he asks me when the Globetrotters will be there, and I supply the dates, and we give poor Mom a hard time.  I'm surprised a bowling "accident" hasn't happened by now.

Tuesday of this week, I called Mom, elated.  "GUESS WHO WAS JUST ON TV!"

"Who?"  "THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS!!!  They were on the midday news!"

"That's great!  You got to see them!  Now you can shut up about it!"
"No, Mom.  It doesn't count.  It wasn't a game."
"Well, I'll buy you a ticket."
"To WHAT?" (I DO know her, after all)
"To SOMETHING!" She dies laughing.  (See?  I told you I know her!)

Of course, I had to call her tonight to give her a hard time.

Me: Guess what I COULD be doing tonight?
Mom: What?
Me:  Seeing the Harlem Globetrotters.  But I'm not.  Because my mom didn't buy me tickets for my birthday. AGAIN.
Mom:  That's true.  I didn't.
Me:  Wouldn't it have been easier to have just done that once?
Mom: Yes, it would have had I know you have bugged me FOR THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS!  Next time I have a kid and they say "You'll regret this," I'll know what they mean!

So then I got to laughing.  I told her that my poor kids will be dragged to the Harlem Globetrotters year after year and will probably hate every second of it.  "MooooooooOOOOOOOmmmmm!!!  Do we HAFTA go AGAIN?  WHY?????  I don't WANNA!  They're STOOPID!"

10 March 2011

Creamy Veggie Casserole

16-oz package frozen broccoli, cauliflower, carrots
10-oz package frozen peas
10-oz can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c milk
8 oz garden vegetable cream cheese
1/2 c croutons, crushed

1.  Cook the vegetables according to the package directions, but do not overcook.

2.  Meanwhile, in a small pot, melt together the soup, milk, and cream cheese just enough to mix easily.

3.  Stir cream cheese mixture into vegetables.

4.  Pour vegetables into 2-quart dish.

5.  Bake at 350º for 25 minutes, or until casserole is bubbling.

Notes: I used Trader Joe's Organic Foursome, which has carrots, green beans, corn, and peas.  I used a pound bag of peas.  So, yeah, my casserole was pretty pea-heavy.  I added black pepper and cayenne pepper, but I nixed the croutons.  I didn't use salt since canned soup has plenty of sodium (even though I used reduced-sodium soup), and I used fat-free milk.

This was OMG super good.  I'm definitely making this again!

09 March 2011

Med Student's birthday

Yesterday was Rachel's birthday.  Since she was busy doing some pretty important things (like choosing a dress for her wedding), I took her for a celebratory supper tonight.  We did our traditional sushi outing at AKI in Centre City.

We made a couple of stops along the way first, which resulted in a quick trot through the city.  I snagged some black toner at Staples, successfully remembering to redeem my six dollars in Staples Rewards before they expired (SCORE!), and then a quick stop at CVS.  I needed to pick up my meds and Rachel needed a greeting card.

Then AKI where it was more crowded than we expected for a Wednesday evening.  We ended up being seated between two entertaining tables.  First, a bit of background.  When Rachel had called earlier in the day, I started coughing quite a bit, and I told her that I was generally only coughing when I talked.  So we should eat supper in silence.  Or we could eat supper and text each other all night.

So it was pretty funny when the one of the two women at the table next to us wouldn't put her phone down.  I tipped my head toward her and said to Rachel, "You know, that could have been us."  Rachel said, "It still can!" and promptly began texting me.

A little while after that, the restaurant sat a party of five (ah, PO5, a show I rarely watched but always heard about) on the other side of us, but perpendicular to us.  I told Rachel that I wasn't sure why, but the people were annoying me.  Then Rachel put her finger on it - they had brought a small child with them.  Ah - that's what it was.

While this restaurant isn't extremely posh, it's a relatively nice place, and isn't really a child-friendly restaurant.  So while we're trying to enjoy a nice night out, we're hearing "AND THEN THE GAME DOES THIS!  AND THEN THE GUY GOES LIKE THIS!!!  AND THEN!" while his mom and her friends all use their kid voices to talk to him all evening.  Whee.

Of course, Rachel and I being who we are, we made the best of it by doing what we do best... having fun anyway.  ;)

08 March 2011

Knitting Again

After experiencing some major knitting fail lately, I think I'm back in the groove again.

I finished the test knit today.  I actually got gauge the other day (that was a major ordeal that I don't care to ever discuss again).  I cast on today, I finished it today, and I even took the pics and gave the designer my feedback!  Whee!

It's a sock for iTouch, which will be my mom's birthday present (her birthday is 02 April).  As is our tradition, she knows that I made it for her - mostly because I wanted to make sure that she actually wanted it and would use it.

Here's a pic of it, but it's on my BlackBerry, so it looks a little funky.  The BlackBerry is about the same width and height, but it's much thicker (especially with the holder that I keep mine in and didn't think to take it out of for this pic), so it throws off the look just a tad.  But I wanted a modelled pic for the designer (and for my Ravelry project page):

07 March 2011

7 Things You Probably Know About Me

Last week, I did a list of seven things you don't know about me.

So I thought this week, I'd do a list of things you SHOULD know about me if you're my friend (or if you've been paying any attention at all).

1.  I'm a big Michael Jackson fan.  In fact, that's probably an understatement.

2.  I don't eat pork.  This is because of the book "Charlotte's Web" and the movie "Babe."  When I was a kid, "Charlotte's Web" was my favourite book.  I have LONG told my mother that her grandchildren will be named Charlotte and Wilbur.  I tried not to eat pork when I was a kid, but I was raised in the Midwest where pork is a staple.  And my mom is the "you'll eat what I put in front of you, or you won't eat" type.  When "Babe" came out (they used 48 pigs in that movie - pigs grow FAST!), James Cromwell said that he became a vegan as a result of the movie (he was already a vegetarian), and I decided that if someone his age could change his eating habits, so could I.  So when I moved to Philadelphia, I quit eating pork.  Done and done.

3.  I'm a big sports fan.  But with the exception of the Royals, I'm not a homer.  I root for the San Jose Sharks, the Oakland Raiders, and I'm not much for basketball (although in the day, I loved to watch Michael Jordan fly).  Besides MLB, NHL, and NFL, I also like NASCAR, tennis, the X-Games, and a lot of the Olympic sports.

4.  I love water.  In a restaurant, I rarely order anything to drink.  At home, I drink from a one litre water bottle, because it's easier than walking back and forth to the kitchen faucet all day since I generally drink three to four litres of water per day.

5.  I love to read.  If you've been in my flat, this one is obvious (unless you thought I just hoarded books).  Or if you've been in my bedroom and glanced at my bed and noticed the several books and few magazines that are usually occupying the side of my bed.  I was that kid who got in trouble for reading during class.  Hell, once during summer vacation, Orin yelled at me for reading too much in the car and not admiring the scenery.  When Mom would drag me to antique shops and flea markets when I was a kid, I finally perfected the art of reading while I walked up and down the aisles.

6.  I've never met a spicy food I didn't like.  Yum.  If a menu denotes certain items as "spicy," I will automatically start eliminating the non-spicy items from consideration.  And it damned well BETTER be spicy, too.

7.  I have a list of the top four movies I HATE.  In order, they are: The Wizard of Oz, E.T., Alice in Wonderland (the original animated Disney movie), and A Christmas Story.  I hate The Wizard of Oz so much that Mom will sometimes call me just to (sarcastically) let me know it's on.  E.T. was creepy enough on its own, but it got even creepier when Orin bought my sister and I these E.T. dolls that were about a foot tall and had these unintentionally almost glow-in-the-dark eyes.  I'd wake up in the middle of the night and both of these dolls would be friggin' staring at me.  Alice in Wonderland is just NOT a normal movie made my normal people for normal people to watch.  And A Christmas Story is just plain annoying and ridiculous.

06 March 2011

Poor Marcos Ambrose (no race spoilers)

Last week, as Mom and I were on the phone during pre-race festivities, they started interviewing Marcos Ambrose.  Suddenly, Mom interrupts our conversation to say, "Every time I see that man, I hate him more and more!"

Now, for my non-NASCAR friends, Marcos Ambrose is generally known as one of the most likeable, easy-going drivers in the garage.  So I figured she CAN'T be talking about him.  "Uh, Mom?  WHO about you talking about?"  "That guy on the tv!  What's-his-name!"

"Marcos Ambrose?"


"What'd he ever do to you?"

"Isn't he the guy who was so rude to us in Kansas?"

"No, Mom.  That was A.J. Allmendinger."

"Ohhhhhh!  That's right!  Oops.  I've been hating the wrong guy all this time!"

I died laughing.  "Mom!  How could you hate The Thunder from Down Under!  He drives the Little Debbie car, for God's sake!  And has commercials with koala bears!"

"Well, I thought he was mean to us!  And here I've been rooting for him to crash.  Whoops!"

"OH MY GOD!  YOU'RE why he wrecked in Daytona last week!  You owe Marcos Ambrose an apology, Mom!"

So let this be a lesson to you.  If you ever meet my mom, make sure she doesn't get you confused with anyone else later.  It could be disastrous.

05 March 2011

Knitting Fail

I've been having the worst knitting luck lately.

In February, I started the Endpaper Mitts as part of a KAL.  Halfway through the month, I had only done 13 rows.  When I got back to the mitts, determined to finish at least one of them by the end of the month, I discovered that I had done those 13 rows wrong.

Earlier this week, I signed up for a test knit.  This test required sock yarn.  I picked out some sock yarn.  The label on the yarn actually says "luxury sock yarn."  However, I went up to size US6 needles and STILL wasn't getting gauge, and I decided that it was going to be ridiculous to go to 7s to get gauge.  Plus, I was already wary of how the fabric was turning out with the 6s.  AND this was tension square number FIVE.

Nevertheless, I decided to start the project.

I did the ribbing and did one pattern repeat.  It was okay, but not great.  By the end of tonight, I had decided to just finish the project (it's a small project) and then do a second one later with tweaks, but at least I'll have completed the test.  (I'm the moderator of the test forum; I have to set a good example!).

And then I realised that I had done the pattern completely wrong anyway.


04 March 2011

Mushroom & Black Bean Tortilla Casserole

My friend Julie featured this recipe in her blog, and it sounded so good that I made it tonight.

I believe that she got it from Everyday Food magazine.

2 t olive oil
3/4 lb. cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed & quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
course salt & ground pepper
15.5 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
8 corn tortillas, warmed & halved
2 cups salsa
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1.  Preheat oven to 400. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until browned, 7 minutes. Add garlic and cayenne; season with salt & pepper. Add black beans and stir to combine. Cook until beans are warmed through, 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2.  Arrange 5 tortilla halves in a 2-quart baking dish. Top with half the bean mixture and 1/2 cup salsa, then sprinkle with one-third of the cheese. Repeat with another layer. Top with remaining tortilla, salsa, and cheese. Cover with foil and bake until centre is hot and cheese melts, about 10-15 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese is bubbling, another 10-15 minutes.

What I changed: Because it's me (and if you've read my other recipe modifications, you know this is coming - say it with me now), I used more garlic.  In fact, this time I tripled it.  I also doubled the cayenne.  I used whole wheat flour tortillas, but that was only because Trader Joe's was out of corn tortillas, and I wasn't going to another store just to hunt down one ingredient.  It still turned out fine.

03 March 2011

Health Recap

I saw my doctor friend Peter today.  He did a thorough exam, and then he sent me for a chest x-ray.  He was "98% sure" that it would come back negative, but just wanted to rule out any exciting, exotic things.

He called me later in the day and said that while it hadn't been officially read by the radiologist, he had seen the films and my lungs looked good.  So, he's sticking with his original diagnosis of either pertussis or RSV.

I asked him what to do about the extreme fatigue, and he said to just listen to my body, but maybe stay away from "The Price is Right" for awhile.  Ha ha, Peter.

He expects that I'll probably feel better within the next 2-3 weeks, 4 weeks at the most.  Yay.

02 March 2011

My Day Today

Last night, I slept about nine hours.  Then I got up, and I watched "The Price is Right."

For those of you who have actual jobs, this is an hour-long show.  It's a game show on TV.  Watching it is like watching any other tv show.  You sit on the couch and watch.  It's not a particularly athletic endeavour.

However, I apparently found it so exhausting that I dosed throughout the show, and then when it ended, I went back to bed and slept for two more hours.

I mod a really active board on Ravelry, so I tended to that when I woke up.  By the time those duties were done, I ate breakfast (at 3:00 p.m.).  By that time, it was time to get dressed to take my friend Ella to school.

She had foot surgery on her right foot about two weeks ago and can't drive herself around.  So I'm helping her out.  In my half-awake state, I tried to leave the house without a shirt on.  Oops.

Since her class is only a few hours, it makes more sense for me to stay on campus than to drive her up, drop her off, drive back home, then go and pick her up again.  So I got some work done on campus while she got all smart.  After, we grabbed a bite together.  And we learned how men act when they're drunk.  Wowza.

My day, ladies and gentlemen.

01 March 2011

7 Things You Don't Know About Me

(Inspired by Ria's blog post a few days ago)

1.   I sleep with a lamp on.  Nope, not a nightlight - a full on lamp.

2.  Sometimes, I have such realistic dreams that I'll have to check with friends in the morning to see if my dream was actually a dream.  There have been times when I've shown up to meet a friend for lunch because I've dreamt that we had something scheduled, and I didn't realise it was a dream.  So I've learnt to put EVERYTHING in my book.  When I wake up, if it isn't in the book, check with said friend before actually trying to meet them.

3.  I get stuck on songs and can literally listen to the same song all day without getting tired of it.

4.  When I was a kid, my favourite colour was purple.  My grandma hasn't realised that I'm not still a kid.

5.  My favourite sandwich is a patty melt.

6.  I am VERY particular about the correct way to eat candy bars.  For instance, a Pay-Day should have all of the peanuts eaten off one-by-one first.  Then, the rest of the bar may be eaten.  A Kit-Kat should have the ends nibbled off.  Then the top layer should be nibbled off.  Then each subsequent layer should be removed one by one.

7.  I once got my eyebrows waxed and have regretted it ever since (for philosophical reasons; it was completely painless).  While I don't judge others who wax, thread, pluck, or tweeze, I don't think there is anything that could ever convince me to do that again.