Monday, July 01, 2024

Starting over. Where to begin?

For days now, my first thought in the morning has been that today is the day that I must pick up the dropped threads of my blog. After all, I’ve been blogging since 2006. I checked just now, and my last blog post was June 08, just shy of a month ago. But where to begin? I think I’ll go wash my hair.

Truly, that’s been sort of my attitude. A Scarlett O’Hara-type tendency to put off what I’m not sure about dealing with. When this attack on my physical well-being began, I was woefully ignorant of how severe the impact would be. Just a minor problem while I went merrily about my family, writing, and social life. In the hospital I wrote, in my mind, great blogs and even roughed out a new Irene adventure (she told me she was not through yet, but where she got this hare-brained idea, I’ll never know). I had no idea how hard everything would be. For goodness sake, walking from my bed to my desk this morning with the four-wheeled walker was a major challenge. Write another Irene novel? Maybe on down the road, but not this week, thank you.

My blog started as a mix of writing, cooking, and grand-mothering. Pretty much all of that is changed now (yes, I sometimes want to howl, “I want my old life back!”) The grands are mostly grown—youngest is now sixteen (maybe seventeen—I lose track). Because I have had a tracheostomy, my meals are liquid and bypass my mouth and taste buds completely—so boring. I guess I have always measured out my life not with Prufrock’s coffee spoons but with meals—they were like punctuation for each day. Without that incentive, there goes maybe half my blog. Writing remains, but I am not sure even avid readers want to read about writers and their doings all the time.

Originally the blog was a stew of those three elements, but eight years ago when I downsized to my cottage, I made a half-hearted attempt to change it to “View from the Cottage.” It seemed to me that my view of the world then was limited to what I could see from the cottage—like the tiny sliver of the street in front of the house and the glimpse of children walking to elementary school. But that wasn’t really true then—to a certain extent I was out and about in the world. Now my view really is limited to what I see—and hear and read—from the cottage. So what do I write about?

I am loathe to give up the blog. I’ve made so many good friends, met so many interesting people. For me, the blog is like Emily Dickinson’s letter to the world. My blog links me to a wide, wide world, and I like that a lot.

So bear with me. I’m not extraordinarily private, but I do promise not to share daily medical updates. I am known for strong political opinions, and I’ll likely share more of that. I’ll watch for other topics, and maybe you’ll have some ideas to share.

Can we start View from the Cottage, Part II together? I’d be so grateful if you’d take this new journey with me.

Saturday, June 08, 2024

An explanation and an apology


An AI generated image of America's first long table--
or so they would have us believe.
Not much diversity or inclusivity1

Whoa! Did I get in bigtime trouble for my blog post last night. I who am wallowing in the care and love and support of my family, apparently offended them because they interpreted my post about no dinners in the cottage as whining that they—specifically Jordan and Christian—don’t come to see me anymore since I’m not serving dinner. That wasn’t at all what I meant—and I did say that Jordan is out here several times a day checking on me. My point, if I had one, was sort of sociology, a comment on the fact that food draws us together—as families, as neighbors, as community groups. We are closest to others when we gather around the table. I just happened to use my family’s current circumstances to illustrate.

That does not at all mean that my cooking, sometimes wonderful and other times appalling, was the only thing that drew the Burtons out here for supper. If they didn’t care about me, even Julia Child couldn’t have gotten them here for dinner—and mostly on time. I know that well, and I thought they did. They came so we could gather together—and food, specifically dinner, provided the reason for the gathering. No that there’s no food—well, I do offer yogurt, etc.—there is no gathering, no set time and reason. And everybody’s busy.

I hope it’s clear that no one could ever do more for me than my children, with Jordan as the captain of the army. She keeps track of my medical appointments—time, place, diet specifications, etc., if there are any. Because I don’t hear well on the phone, she has most calls directed to her and asked me the other day just to tell people to call her. She has a separate folder for each specialist we’ve seen, with notes on the visit. She has, in effect, become my personal assistant, and I don’t see how anybody goes through a medical crisis like this without her. Christian, too, spent many days going with us to various appointments, until Jamie arrived and took over his duties. Jordan is doing this while dealing with her own luxury travel clients—and tonight they are both worried because they have decided they will have to put their remaining old dog down next week. Their lives go on, but they have put them on the second burner for the time being to take care of me. It’s ten o’clock at night and Jamie is sitting in his car right outside my door, taking a business call from Hong Kong. He’ll likely be there until two in the morning.

No, they were not the subject of the blog. In fact, they were no more than illustrations of an idea. A story that seems to fit here: in one office recently, I introduced Jordan and Jamie as my daughter and son. A few minutes later, the tech, filling out one of those endless forms, asked me how many pregnancies I’d had. When I said, “none,” she whipped her head around and stared at the three of us. What I think happened in that minute was that she felt the love between us and couldn’t believe me. Jordan explained that they are adopted, and she seemed to accept it. It made me think of when I had a hip revision—my kids were all four gathered in the surgical waiting room when my brother walked in. Later, he said, “You could feel the love in that room. It was tangible.” That’s what family is about. Gathering for dinner is an entirely different thing.

All my adult life, I have loved cooking for a crowd. In a hunting cabin in Missouri, where the bedroom was a check coop that had been cleaned (thank goodness) and attached to the house, I had dinner parties for my friends and my then-husband’s fellow medical students. One night I fixed those good Jewish boys stuffed cabbage and, following the recipe, topped the dish with gingersnaps. One by one they walked through the kitchen, lifted the lid, and sniffed, “That’s not how my mom did it.” That may have been the beginning of my cooking for others. In subsequent years I cooked in big houses and small houses, fixing holiday dinners for twenty, Sunday supper for at least fifteen, dinner parties for eight and Christmas parties for sixty or seventy. It all had to do with bringing people together to eat.

In recent years there as been much talk of the long table. Perhaps you’ve seen the meme that urges “Don’t build a high wall—build a longer table.” In other words, don’t wall people out. Invite more to dine with you. There is today a charitable organization called The Longer Table. This is from their literature: “Something magical happens when we sit to share a meal—strangers become friends, and neighbors become family.” That’s what ‘s been missing from my cottage lately, due to circumstances beyond our control. I think when I get through this rought patch, I need a longer table so more can enjoy what Jordan, Christian, and I have. That when we sit together to share a meal—strangers become friends + neighbors become family.


Something magical happens when we sit together to share a meal—strangers become friends + neighbors become family.



Friday, June 07, 2024

Life at the cottage has changed dramatically


Jamie and  his guitar

I have always believed that much as it nourishes our bodies, good food nourishes our souls, especially if eaten with congenial company. And I have consciously been a nurturer all my adult life. When pandemic hit, I welcomed Jordan, Christian, and Jacob to the cottage for supper almost every night. We had a few friends who we knew were quarantining as consciously as we were, and they came for happy hour on the patio, our logic being that open-air visits were safer. As a family, we ate well but not lavishly—no lobster and few steaks, but meatloaf and burgers that Christian grilled and casseroles I made and sometimes invented. Jordan and I made weekly menu plans and grocery lists, and one of my greatest joys was to scan the internet and a few magazines, principally Southern Living, for new ideas. By this Spring, of course, all that had changed. The Burtons had social and business obligations, Jacob was off being a high school senior, and I occasionally went to dinner with friends but was more likely to have friends to the cottage for a light supper.

Almost three weeks ago, all that changed again, all at once. I was told I should stick to soft food (anything I can cut with the edge of a fork—yogurt, applesauce, oatmeal, potatoes, etc.); I was told I can never have another glass of wine (If I wish to survive); I pretty much lost interest in food (nausea seemed to linger close to the surface). To my surprise I still enjoyed finding new recipes and already have a bulging fold labeled “Recipes to try.” Someday, someday.

Meanwhile the Burtons pretty much stopped showing up. I’m not sure what or how they and Jaie are eating, but I don’t hear dinner plans,etc. Jordan comes many times a day to ask, “How’s it ging?” or to discuss medical appointments, of which I have many. Christian rarely comes, and I think Jacob has been out here twice (we did have that lovely dinner at Pacific Table). Jamies is here now, for moral support and company to doctors’ visits, but he has the most irregular eating habits I’ve ever seen—he brought a jar of peanut butter and cans of ravioli with him—and his working hours are just as irregular. He works remotely but hasn’t found the perfect place yet—yesterday and today he’s at one of those rent an office by the day places at Clearfork, and he came in at 1:30 this morning.

But the result of all this is that I am alone, with Benji (and today Jamie’s dog) much more than I am used to—at a time when it is perhaps not the best thing for introspective me to be alone. But what this new schedule tells me most of all is that I was right—we gather at the table for more than physical nourishment. Eating together feeds our souls as well as our bodies.  I will be glad to get past this physical problem of mine and start cooking again. I will say that music also feeds our souls—last night, about eight o’clock, Jamie brought out his guitar. With memories of another pleasant evening when his guitar had healing properties, I crawled into my bed, and he played softly for me for about an hour. I was probably more relaxed than I have been in weeks.

Another Jamie adventure today: on our way home from today’s doctor’s appointment, we passed a car apparently stranded on the side of a high overpass. As we drove by Jame said, “Looks like an old lady.” Next thing I knew we were in the totally wrong lane for going home, and almost peevishly I asked, “Where are you going?” “Back to check on that old lady,” he said. And so we made the whole circle around the highway exchange and pulled up behind the stranded car. This scared me some, because you always hear about good Samaritans being hit by passing cars, but Jamie was careful. From the passenger seat, I watched him laughing and smiling. When he came back, he said, “She’s got a tow truck on the way. I told her I’d be glad to change the tire”—I looked at his white jeans—“but she said it was all taken care of.” Do you wonder that I’m proud of the kids I raised?

Sunday, June 02, 2024

A family dinner


On our way to dinner

It’s wonderful to have family and friends share the high points in your life, as we did Friday night celebrating Jacob and three other Paschal High School graduates. But sometimes, a quiet family night is nice too. The four of us went to dinner at Pacific Table last night. Jacob got to choose the restaurant. It was a gorgeous evening again, and we sat on the patio. Yes, the wait for service was long, but we were talking and reminiscing. Jacob ordered, as he usually does, Caesar salad. This night it came in long, uncut leaves, and as he attacked it with a fork, I gently (well I tried) pointed out that the salad, invented in Mexico, was originally finger food. You were to pick up each leaf, with a dollop of dressing on the far end, and eat it. Jacob’s response? “I’m kind of liking the fork.” So much for food history. We lingered until dark—a thoroughly pleasant evening. We don’t often have Jacob’s company in the evening, which made this special.

My cone flowers in the front yard have really spread this year with all the rain we’ve had. I asked Christian if when the flowers go to seed, he could capture some seeds and spread among the wildflowers in the back yard to introduce a new color or at least a new shade of pink. He explained that the plants all have runners and that’s how they spread. But we reasoned they must also have seeds, so if anyone has any hints about sharing the wealth from front to back, please let me know.

Son Jamie just blew into town, literally blown in before what promises to be a storm. Thunder was rolling a few minutes ago and the sky was dark—briefly it was silent, the air very still, and then came the rain. A good medium rain, hard enough to soak in but not to wash away things. Jame will stay the week, helping with my doctor appointments, errands, etc. He brought his Pomeranian, Cosmo, and we had the great introduction of Benji and Cosmo. Benji was of course excited out of his mind, while Cosmo tried to pretend nothing was happening. Given one chance, he bolted out the patio door to the yard, but of course Benji followed him. After only one half-hearted scuffle, they settled down to the butt-sniffing stage. But Benji is very jealous of any attention Jamie pays to Cosmo.

Benji learned a new trick today but I’m quite sure he will unlearn it quickly. The walker was next to me at my desk when suddenly I was aware that Benji’s face was in mine. He had crawled up on the walker, which promptly began to move under him, leaving him scrambling to get his feet on the floor again. Then just now Jamie left, with Cosmo, to get Mama’s Pizza (high school memories die hard) and Benji got so excited he jumped on the credenza next to me where I keep racks of file folders. Two jars of dog treats went down, but I caught the file folders in time. Pray for me—it’s going to be a long week.



Friday, May 31, 2024

A day of celebration tinged, for me, with a bit of nostalgia


Jacob Burton, Lexi Nader, Caroline Russell,  and Colin Russell

Friends and family gathered at Joe T. Garcia’s late this afternoon to celebrate four high school graduates. Tonight, as I am writing, they are walking across the stage at TCU Schollmaier Arena, collecting their diplomas. That’s right, I’m the grandmother, and I’m not there. Apparently, each graduate got few tickets. Plus Jordan reasoned it would be a madhouse and a long evening, so we celebrated beforehand. If I’m not mistaken, Jacob has gone to school with these kids since kindergarten. Jacob and Lexi will go to Arkansas; I don’t believe at this writing I know where the Russell twins are going—except they will not go to the same school.

To see Jacob graduate from high school—even if I’m not there—is a real moment of nostalgia for me. For his first five years at Sweet Lily B. Clayton Elementary across from my house, I was the daytime caretaker. We did homework, though he would sometimes say, “Juju, I think we should wait for my dad on this one”—that almost always referred to math. We cooked meals and dodged thunderstorms and had lots of sleepovers. There was the night he put a chair, a glass of wine, a book and a flashlight in the closet for me, blankets and a game for him, and insisted we stay there until the storm passed. Lots of good memories of his school years. It wasn’t until sixth grade, when he was ten, that we moved me to the cottage, and he 
and his family moved into the main house.

Renee Hoke, Jordan, Marge Martinez (whose daughter graduated from Keller High
earlier this week), and me

The weather was perfect for Joe T.’s tonight—sunny and in the low eighties. We’ve had so much rain, we were all afraid the heavens would let loose again this afternoon, but they didn’t. It rained this morning, and I think will rain again tonight, but the gods favored us. I saw a meme of a man yelling, “For God’s sake, stop raining!” and my first thought was never say that in Texas. The day will come when we all pray for more rain.

Joe T.’s is tricky for someone on a soft diet: I had an order of guacamole, but one can only eat so much guac, good as it is. While the Burtons hurried off to TCU, Renee brought me home, and I had a small bowl of applesauce.

The other big bit of nostalgia: my twenty-year-old, VW Bug convertible went away today; Three years ago when I gave up my license—driving a Bug while using a walker doesn’t really work well—I gave control of the car to Christian, hoping he could sell it for something special for Jacob to use for college. That didn’t happen, but Jordan drove it occasionally (not with as much joy as I had). Then it wouldn’t pass inspection, and then it wouldn’t start. So it sat in the driveway, a kind of grim reminder of a life I’d given up. Still, it was a comfort to me to see it there. For sixteen or seventeen years, my identity was closely tied to that car. People all over the city knew where I’d been and what I’d been doing because they saw not me, but the car. One of my great joys when the Burtons lived in Hulen Bend was to put an Alex Beaton tape on (that’s how old the car was—a cassette), put the top down, and drive home from their house through the park, belting out Scottish songs as loudly as I could. (I’m loud, but I don’t carry a tune well at all). So there went another chunk of my active life. I tried hard not to see it as symbolic, and Colin encouraged me to see it as a relief. I know Jordan was ecstatic to get it out of the driveway. What’s next for my Bug? I have no idea. The body is worn, but the engine has under 40K miles on it.

Me and the best car I ever owned.

So a mixed day, and one that confused me all day—I was sure today was Saturday.

Sweet dreams, my friends.


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Fierce winds, a jealous dog, and a couple of good books


Meet Chloe, the therapy dog

Benji didn’t even know it was time to get up this morning, because it was so dark outside. Texas continues to have fierce storms—more are due tonight. But this morning, the darkness and the heavy rain gave me a nice reminder of my mom. I could practically hear her voice saying, “Rain before seven, clear by eleven.” And sure enough, by eleven or a little after it was a lovely sunny day with blessed temperatures in the eighties. And it’s to stay that cool all week.

Benji had a spell of jealousy this evening, though he was, as he always is, good natured about it. The medical office where I had an appointment today had a therapy dog. That’s Chloe above—a lovely (and calm) two-year-old Aussiedoodle. At one point we heard a scratching at the exam room door, and the woman with us asked, “Do you like dogs?” Jordan and I assured her we do, so she opened the door, and in came Chloe with a ball in her mouth ready for us to throw. With the door closed and no place to throw the ball Chloe allowed us to love on her a bit and then lay down for a nice nap. Quite a contrast to Benji who jumped about wildly when we came home and then, a few minutes later, when Mary arrived.

Benji obviously smelled Chloe on me  and gave me such a thorough washing with his tongue that I nearly had to shower before I could fix my supper. Now he’s trying to get me to take an old artificial bone he loves. But I notice how rough it is, and I wonder if that means he’s chewing off particles, and we should take it away from him. At eight-thirty, it’s the hour when he settles down and lies next to my desk—unless something outside intrigues him. It’s probably my favorite time of the day—the soft lamp is on, along with the colored lights Jordan long ago put on a collection of pussy willow. They may look like Christmas, but I find them warm and comforting in the evening.

I read an interesting column today about reading habits and mental decline, the latter being a subject of much discussion today with our two aging presidential candidates. I have my own opinions on who is in mental decline and who isn’t—I bet you can guess!—but I won’t go into that. The suggestion in the column was that a switch from fiction to nonfiction might indicate a slowing of brain function. Fiction, the theory goes, requires active participation by the reader, using the imagination to engage with the plot and events of a story. Nonfiction on the other hand lays out facts that the mind can more easily grasp.

I would have thought the opposite. Recently I started the new Erik Larson book, The Demon of Unrest, about the period between the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, which signaled the beginning of the Civil War. It was then a period when our democracy was as fraught and threatened as it is now. Larson’s research is superb, his writing clear and compelling. I found the tension of the foreword—waiting for the Confederate guns to bark out—almost unbearable. Nonfiction at its very best.

But it was not what I need right now. My mind has enough tension and suspense of its own—I don’t need to grapple with history.. Raher, I need escape, so I turned to an unread book on my Kindle; A Big, Fat Greek Murder, by Kate Collins. It’s a cozy, no deep dark problems (except murder) and it distracted me from my own situation. What I’m trying to say is that I found—and often find—fiction easier to read than nonfiction, less demanding on my brain. How about you? What kind of reading is easier, more relaxing for you?

Thanks to Kait Carson, who writes thrillers, often about deep sea diving, for bringing up this subject.

Monday, May 27, 2024

A workday and a happy happy hour


Have I mentioned I have a new Irene in Chicago Culinary Mystery coming out at the end of the month? Just joking, because I know I have. It’s easy to think by now it’s all done, and I am idle, but that is not the case. Today I fired off two guest blogs to tell the cozy world about Irene in a Ghost Kitchen and tonight I’ll try to post on some cozy mystery groups web sites. I still have to proof the final version, when the formatter sends it, and get it up and available on Amazon, decide who gets comp copies, etc. A lot of details to wrap up, and so that’s where much of my day went today.

Jean and Jeannie Chaffee came for happy hour tonight, bringing with them a bountiful feast of dips and quesadillas and all sorts of good things. Despite our best efforts, they wouldn’t take any of it home with them, so I have a loaded refrigerator. Jeannie also brought Benji a bag of new toys, and he took an instant shine to her, plopping his slobbery tennis balls in her lap, crawling over others to get to her. I haven’t seen as much of Jeannie in recent times, so it was fun to reminisce about the days we shared office space—well, the administration didn’t know it, but that was what it amounted to. We had glorious funny lunches and all kinds of adventures. It was a good life, and we will always treasure those memories.

Those two ladies are getting ready to set off on an adventure—they leave this week for London for a couple of days and then a ferry across the Channel to France. June 6, D Day, will find them on the beaches at Normandy, with a crowd of at least thousands, marking the 80th anniversary of that event. It gives me goosebumps to think of them crossing in a ferry, replicating that journey taken by all those men, many of whom never returned. I know the trip will be fun, and I suppose they’ll have lots of rich experiences—they will, for instance, spend a half day with the Bayonne Tapestry. They will probably also eat some really good, country French food, the food of the villages and not Paris—I offered Irene’s menu advice, but so far they have not taken me up on it. But it will also be a somber trip, commemorating a day when many lives were lost. It seems significant that we mark today the men and women who died for democracy when democracy itself is so challenged. A part of me will be with my friends as they make this journey.

Tomorrow, the world gets back to business, and I have a list of phone calls to make, questions to ask. We are supposed to have a cold front (lower eighties, which is just fine, thank you) coming in, with possible storms tonight. I will be glad if the world is a bit cooler, although the heat hadn’t struck me until late this afternoon when I opened the patio door for Benji and a blast of hot, wet air hit me.

I haven’t seen much of “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae this year, so here’s the final verse. It amounts to a challenge to Americans to fly the flag high and remembers those who gave all on June 6, 1944.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.




Sunday, May 26, 2024

The food continues to improve, a dilemma, and a prescription for conversation


Tonight's supper

I think I’m getting a handle on this soft food business—Jordan said tonight it’s good to see me hungry again, but I think I was always hungry. It was just that the things I thought I could eat had no appeal—I was getting tired of yogurt and applesauce. So for lunch today I had a leftover piece of Dover sole. No one in my family understands that I like cold food as well as hot. Christian would have insisted on heating it, but I ate it out of the fridge. I squeezed more lemon over it, added a layer of mayonnaise, and topped that with grated Pecorino. Served with

fresh watercress because I’m aware I’m not getting good leafy greens but am a bit cautious of salad. Then again, who can resist watercress. It was a delicious lunch, and I have another piece left for tomorrow. Yes, I did offer it to Jordan, but she declined—her loss.

Tonight, though, I fixed the dish I’d been thinking about—eggs scrambled with a diced green onion, diced tiny tomatoes (maybe not a good idea because of skins), smoked salmon, and a huge spoonful of cottage cheese. With more watercress. Tasted so good, and it was nutritious and pretty to look at, though I warn if you try it, the eggs will seep as you eat—it’s the cottage cheese separating and nothing to worry about. And I finished both meals with chocolate bonbons. I am in danger, however, of running out of bonbons. I’m not normally an ice cream devotee, and I think now I’m interested in them mostly for the chocolate covering. I am afraid to try my beloved chocolate-covered salted caramels. All in all, I feel well fed. Now for some ideas for the rest of the week. One day I have to eliminate all good things—meat, dairy, mayo, etc. and eat lots of leafy greens. I can sauté in olive oil, so I’m working on that. Sauteed cabbage sounds good, but no one would eat the rest of the head. This is all for a Pet Scan.

Me with a bob
on a good hair day
Me with short hair
(and Megan)

I am struggling with the dilemma common to older ladies and always ongoing—short hair or long. When I thought I was gaining weight, especially in my face, I let it grow into a bob, which it did fairly rapidly. My thought was that longer hair lengthened my face, and Rosa, my stylist, agreed. But now, my face probably thinner and facing medical matters, I’m thinking short hair might be the better choice. Neither my daughters nor Rosa have been helpful about this, all saying it’s up to me. I think I want someone to step in and make a decisive call. I have until Friday to decide. Rosa, who has been coming to the house to cut my hair ever since I lost the ability to walk unassisted, has set Friday morning for her next visit. Opinions welcome.

Yesterday I took my courage to my computer and sent a memo to friends saying how much I welcome their visits, but that I requested upbeat, cheerful talk—right now I don’t want to hear about illness, medical procedures, other people’s experiences, surgery, funerals, or related topics. I think it was the late Norman Lear who was once very ill and requested that people laugh a lot when with him. It worked wonders toward his healing—and if I’m right about Lear it means he lived a good long life. So I want happy talk—politics is fine because that fascinates me, jokes are good, food is good as long as it’s not steak and the like. The memo had immediate results—I now have guests scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. (Friday is Jacob’s high school graduation, and I will be going to the pre- dinner at Joe T.’s but not the graduation—Jacob gets few tickets, and all of us have been to so many graduations; I guess that’s what happens when you’re number five grandchild).

Today’s sermon at church fit nicely with my conversational prescription. Russ Peterman began with the assertion that there is not a soul on earth who doesn’t want to be happy. I’m not sure, because I see a lot of people who make themselves miserable. But following his premise, he went on to say none of us can define happiness. We don’t know what that elusive quality is. Certainly it is not wealth nor success nor fame. Finally the conclusion came that happiness is a byproduct of a life lived for others. It reminds me of one of my writing friends who talks about living life beyond ourselves, concept I truly believe in. But for the time being, until I get through this rough patch, I am going to be living life for myself, with as much attention and care to others as I can muster.

Maybe, just maybe, happiness is having a dog lie next to your desk while you write. If I had moved to get a better picture, he’d have moved. So this is what I see in the evenings, and I know he is there.

Benji on guard

Saturday, May 25, 2024

The food around here is getting better


Dover sole unintentional hash

Tonight, Christian is in Coppell, with his dad who is not doing well after surgery, Jacob is off being a high school graduate, and Jordan and I looked at each other and said, “Wha’s for dinner.” Then she added, “I’m probably not going to eat what you eat,” and truth is she wouldn’t have; I planned to use that smoked salmon in scrambled eggs. But then, just in time to order from Central Market, she called and asked, “Fish?” I ordered filets of Dover sole, one large baking potato, and a few other things we needed. We feasted on a shared potato and generpid helpings of sole. (Note to self: a quarter pound filet is enough for one, unless maybe it’s Christian.) I must explain the picture above—that fish is hash not because I need small bites but I have rarely been capable of cooking sole filets that hold together. Now I know why it’s so expensive in restaurants. But, to justify myself a bit, Jordan got her helping out in one fairly good piece, and here’s a picture of the two left-over small filets that I cooked after we
Almost pefect filets

ate. I think maybe size is one clue. And also maybe it’s like that first piece of pie that never comes out of the pie pan whole—but the rest do fine. At any rate, it was a good dinner and satisfied my craving for solid food. In a bit, when I’m not quite so full, I’ll go get the tiny bit of tiramisu left from last night.

Otherwise it’s been a day at the computer—organizing our schedules, which seem to change with every email from a doctor’s office. But I also caught up on my own work. For the first time I am putting an AI disclaimer on the copyright page of a book—makes me wonder about the future. And I carefully, I hope, compiled a list of French foods with the accents where they should be. Involved cutting, pasting, and guessing.

Today I heard from an old friend who has always maintained an apartment in Chicago but lived there part time and in Florida the rest of the time. Politics and climate have driven him out of Florida, so he’ll be in Chicago more. I jokingly said I’d write him into the next Irene book, and he revealed that one of the first projects he worked on years ago at the University of Chicago Press was a book titled, The Hows and Whys of French Cooking, by Alma Lach (1977). A plot idea immediately sprung into my mind—can’t you see Irene working with a real editor and harassing him near to death. In fact, I warned my friend, the editor might meet an untimely end. Am I committing myself to another Irene book. Heaven help me!

Hot still weather has come to Texas early, not a good sign. At eight-thirty, it’s 85o and the air is eerily still. Possible thunderstorms tonight and several days during the week. And 100o tomorrow. Too soon, too soon. I am glad Benji and I have the cool cottage. Now he’s lying by my desk but earlier something was disturbing him, and I think it was more than the flies he was chasing. He paced our tiny space, and when he paces his nails click on the wood floors. At night, he moves silently as a cat, but the earlier clicking brought me close to screaming. Another good thing about him—he has never eaten people food not even scraps. And he doesn’t associate my cooking with food. Oh, sure, he’ll come sniff at the butcher block (which is just above his nose, fortunately) but then he turns away. Even tonight when it was raw fish. That dog gets better daily.

You know what I think I’ll do tonight? Read a book and go to sleep early. Sounds like a winner. How about you?

Friday, May 24, 2024

Soft foods and a silly dog

This may be a repeat, but some time ago when I asked my primary care doctor if we needed to talk about my weight—in my happy wine-drinking, chocolate gorging days I weighed more than I ever had. He replied, a bit righteously, “We do not encourage the elderly to lose weight.” Now I know why: when major illness hits, we overweight people have a cushion to rely on. I don’t think this is exactly a license for gluttony, but I did continue on my merry way, loving the strip of fat on a good steak, a lot of butter on my toast—you get the picture. Now I know what he was talking about.

Limited pretty much to soft foods, I have lost a few pounds—not the way I wanted to. And I’m hungry, and a bit tired of soft foods. So I welcome any suggestions. (Maybe I’ve said that before too—I lose track of things these days). But then again, things aren’t all bad. In the picture above, I am enjoying tiramisu for dessert, having just had smoked salmon and good deli-rich cream cheese on toast as my entrée. Tomorrow I think I’ll dice some of that salmon into scrambled eggs with a bit of onion and tomato. But then, the prospect for breakfast is a dark chocolate protein drink. At least it’s easy.

Today was another day of doctors’ appointments and tests, this an out-patient biopsy that confirmed what doctors suspected I was dealing with and emphasized the message that it is curable. So rough ride ahead, but I’ll come out all right, albeit no doubt dramatically changed by the experience.

Meantime my kids, especially Jordan, continue to be amazing support. She was with me at the out-patient surgical facility all morning—would you believe we got home earlier than we expected? Medical matters never work that way! We were both touchy at first, but after all, it was five-thirty in the morning. But we sweetened up as the morning wore along, and she promptly appeared in the recovery room, full of good reports and good cheer. Her siblings are studying how they can best rotate being of help, but the scheduling, which is a mess, all falls on Jordan, with meager help from me.

Benji ready for tea

Benji continues to cement his way into our hearts. The other day, Renee came by, and Benji jumped into the chair next to her, looking for all the world like he too would like to have afternoon tea. “And two lumps of sugar, please.” Moments later I caught what I thought was an aristocratic look—turns out his attention was fixed on a fly on the ceiling. He is in and out of the flexible screen all day long, which means he inevitably brings some insects in with him. But he is also sensitive—he knows something is wrong and sticks close to me when inside, following me to the bathroom, sleeping by my desk while I work, settling by my bed when I sleep—though he doesn’t stay there long and prefers his crate. It’s amazing to me to have a dog who only has to be told once, “Go to your crate for a treat,” and he does. No attempt to bolt outside for one last bark at the moon. He was just now growling at something in the oh-so-dark back yard, and I pay attention, 
Focusing on a fly

Me? Wouldn’t you know I have a desk full of work—guest blogs to write about Irene and her ghost kitchen, a revision of my brother’s obituary to reflect his importance in osteopathic medicine (if you knew him, you’ll understand that and his “magic hands,”) and yes, Irene is tapping me on the shoulder telling me she doesn’t think her story is over. And then there’s that book about dogs. I welcome all this these days even if it does make me feel harried and hurried.

And politics to keep up with: my current indignation is about the amount of corruption all around us. As a friend said recently, it is incomprehensible that a justice on the Supreme Court flew a flag of rebellion and wasn’t run out of town on a rail. Made me think of the days when they tarred and feathered people for far less serious transgressions. And then there’s Judge Cannon in Florida, so obviously unqualified and biased that it leaves one breathless. And those are just the big names, supported by an unbelievable web of evil. Some days I just want to weep for my country.

That aside, I am working hard to make my days cheerful.