Monday, January 9, 2017

Thanks Dr. Google...

My cat, Meeko, is getting on up there in years.  As best as I can figure, due to her being a feral rescue and the number of years I have been her slave, she is 16 to 17 years old.  She is slowing down, can't jump as high as she used to, and has some areas that are tender and achy.

The hard fact is that she is getting old..and health concerns are starting to appear..

This afternoon, I was hanging in the front room with Bacall when Meeko came in and wanted some affection, but when she jumped up on my lap, her back haunches were decidedly wet and slightly sticky.  As this is an area where she is tender, I was immediately afraid a cyst or something had ruptured, but it was not the case.  Next, I was concerned that she had 'wet her pants' and then had just laid in her own urine, not realizing it.

Needless to say, I was CONCERNED!!!  I immediately started googling loss of bladder control in cats, because my normal vet was closed and I wanted to get an idea of what I was dealing with before I called the emergency vet.  Worst case scenarios started popping up on my screen....

However, Meeko was not acting sick or in pain, in fact, she cruised into the kitchen to try and get some food out of the situation.

Meanwhile, I'm sniffing her wet blanket making sure it wasn't urine.  (Isn't the life of a cat owner glamorous?)  No urine smell....

I take the damp blanket to the washer to throw it in and realize something....
and then burst into laughter, which made Meeko infuriated and annoyed.

A bit of a side story, that is vital for your understanding...
I, for the past number of years, have made my own laundry detergent (non toxic, environmentally friendly and WAY cheaper) and keep it in a 5 gallon bucket near the washer on the floor in the laundry room.  

The lid on my 5 gallon bucket isn't always attached as it could be.  Meeko likes to hang out in the laundry room as an exploring base.

Do you see where this is going?
She jumped on the lid, which flipped off, and in she went.  Fortunately, it was only about a third full, but her bum definitely dunked.  I would of paid big money to witness this event.  The lid flipping, her going in and immediately coming out, then the sauntering off like nothing happened.

Soapy...aka Meeko
I made sure I wiped her off as best as I could, and now that she is dry, her fur on her bum is soft, fluffy and shiny....plus she is static free (hahahahahahahahahaha!)


So Thanks Dr. Google, but it turns out it was just an embarrassing situation for my cat.....

Sleeping with one eye open, cause I laughed....
Melissa







Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Resolute....

A couple of days ago on Facebook, a friend of mine defended New Year's Resolutions in a succinct and powerful way.  She posted,

 "It has become fashionable to put down the tradition of making New Year's Resolutions.  To be cynical ('you won't stick to them').  To be judgmental ('why do you need a date on the calendar to decide to change?').  No.  Make your best New Year's Resolutions ever.  Infuse them with resolute sacred intention.  Claim them:  "You know what?  THIS is the year that I will....."  And then lean in.  Right now.  This is a ritual that we actually need.  Love your resolutions and encourage those of your loved ones.  xo"

That post summed up better than I have ever been able to express why I still make Resolutions.  It's a chance to challenge, grow, explore and build upon my experiences in my life.  People ask 'Why?', and I say 'WHY NOT?'  Because even in the missed attempts and errors, you will still learn and move forward.

So with that, I hereby present my 2017 New Year's Resolutions.....

1.  Limit social media and screen time.

Facebook, Instagram, apps and all of that have a place, but throughout 2016 I felt them going a bit sideways sometimes and it made me realize that at times, I was not in control of it and it was starting to control me.  Not good.  With a lot of my groups that I get together in real life communicating and organizing things on Facebook, I can't leave, but I can make sure that I set limits and involvement.

2.  Write letters, cards, in my journals, etc.

Picking up a pen and writing....what a concept!  This came out of a realization from a 2016 resolution that I found really value something hand written, so why shouldn't I spread this to others?

3.  A New (to me) Restaurant a Month

I live in an insanely wonderful neighborhood for food!  The local and healthy options outnumber fast food options.  While I eat at the local options, I still have a tendency to eat at the same one over and over again.....  Eating good food and supporting local businesses, sounds like a good deal to me...

4.  Be a tourist in my town and state

This one started simmering in my mind in July when some family came to visit and I had done NONE of the things we were suggesting for the group to do.  Really?  Not only will I have a better idea on what is worth it and what is not, I will break up the mundane of day to day life.

5.  Take time for self care

I admit I am not always the best at this.....  I don't mean taking a spa day, I mean taking 5 minutes to breathe or turning off my phone during the day or any of the other little things we can do for ourselves to calm, protect, energize or whatever else we need.   My resolution of last year of a daily walk started this realization, so I decided to expand a bit.  The reasoning behind this is the classic airplane safety instruction, 'Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.'  No matter our situation in life, married or single, with children or without, young or old, we all need to take care of ourselves.

6.  Do at least 3 30 Day Challenges

I consider 30 Day Challenges mini resolutions.  I have a couple picked out-- a cardio/exercise one, a photography one, and a self care one and will probably add another.  It's a way to focus and make a jump forward in things in my life.

7.  Travel solo

There is something freeing in travel to begin with, but to do it on my own (not meeting a friend or family member somewhere, but knowing absolutely no one) seems both freeing and comfort zone pushing at the same time.  I have an idea where I am going to go, but am still working on the details.

8.  Reduce my throwaways...one and done, straws, bags, etc.

I'm pretty good about using reusable grocery bags, but I wanted to do something tangible for the earth and environment and reducing my plastic use seems like a good place to start.

9.  Do something once a month out of my comfort zone.

I have a pretty eclectic life, but still have a tendency to stay within my comfort zone.  I'll probably vary the way I do this, but if you never try something, you'll never know....

10.  Bucket List items (shocker I know, as this has been on the list for the past 4 years)

It always surprises me which items get done each year and which ones that I had planned to do don't, but every year, I have crossed items off my list.


It's funny, I say that I need 10 Resolutions, but the last couple of years, I have ended up at 10.

Here's to another trip around the sun...
Melissa

ps.
If you are really curious about how last year's turned out, I updated my post laying them out with the results.  You can read it HERE


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Rumbly in my Tummy...

As the year comes to a close, I am realizing that I didn't quite finish my food challenge.  :(  But I have a plan for the 6 items I didn't complete, they will be done in January.  I never tried a food that scared me...I didn't make a layer cake from scratch...I haven't taken my tour, but I did buy the groupon to do so...I didn't make mac and cheese....so, January is going to be a good food month.

But I did do a lot of things, very yummy things....
Instead of going thru all of them, I thought I would just hit some of my adventures.  As you will see, some were wonderful, but others are a work in progress....


49.  More dutch oven cooking, especially during the summer

May 14th, I got the charcoal out and had the first of what I plan to be many dutch oven meals.   The smell alone of it cooking just made my saliva pool.  I ended up using my dutch oven almost once a week during the summer.....

18. Make a condiment from scratch.

May 16th, I blended up the blend that had been marinating for lack of a better word for two days and viola, I had made mustard.  I also made ketchup, in my crockpot and then canned it!

21. Make a soufflé.

It turned out pretty well, but I think it could of been fluffier....

23. Cook a steak to perfect doneness.

I think I eat steak once a year, but I managed to grill it to the exact doneness I prefer and to the preference of those I was cooking for...  YA!!!

42.  Cheesecakes without the cracking

Well, I'm going to have to do this one again.....  I did not have the right size pan for my water bath and it went dry, so my cheesecake got dry and dry cheesecakes crack....  It tasted fine, but grrrrrrrr...
oh, well, I make another one down the road...

27. Feast on an ethnic food you've never had before.

Groupon helped me with this one, I now can say I have eaten Ethiopian food at Mahinder Restaurant here in SLC.

33. Make homemade pasta.

I actually took a class at The Salt Lake Culinary Center and learned how to do it, and let me tell you the difference between fresh made homemade pasta and dried pasta is MASSIVE!!!  The best part, it is soooo easy to make!

5.  Make tomato sauce from scratch.

Tomato Basil Simmer Sauce...trust me it's good, and the bonus, I canned it so I will be able to enjoy it year round.

34. Flip pancakes without them folding.

Here's what I learn with pancakes and eggs and flipping, control and speed help, but as folding prone flipper, size matters....  make your pancakes a little smaller so that they fit with little overlap on your spatula, you'll gain confidence and no more folding...


20. Visit your neighborhood farmers market.

I went to my mid week Sugarhouse Farmer's Market!!!  Not as much as I wanted but I did go this year!


I have no regrets attempting this challenge and not accomplishing all of them.  It pushed me to try new recipes and got me more aware of my food and my approach to it...

Melissa

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Home Stretch...

or Part 4 of my Literary Challenge....


#38 . The Aeneid by Virgil

I have a bit of a confession on this one, I scanned some sections.  I am on my third variation of the Trojan War this year with The Odyssey and The Iliad already completed.  I started it and then recognized a weird underlying theme....so I did some research into the Aeneid and found that one of its criticisms is that it is a not so veiled pro Augustus, the Roman emperor, tale.  I then realized why I was not enjoying it...we are having our current political season shoved down our throats and I can take no more.  I may put this on my reading list in the future when I can read it without the two other poems so fresh in my mind and also without the politics so fresh in my mind....

#46 . Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

As you may remember, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is one of my least favorite books EVER!  So I approached Jane Eyre with trepidation and very quickly found that having a different Bronte sister as the author makes a world of difference.  I LOVED this book!  The descriptive words, the gentle, yet never boring, pace, and tale of knowing your own worth, even when others do not, and standing by your principles.  I cannot recommend this book enough!!!


#11. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

There are books that even though you really didn't enjoy or like reading, you can appreciate what the author is doing, 'The Brothers Karamazov' falls into this camp for me.  As much as my reading challenge has taught me that I love French authors, I am realizing that Russian authors are not my favorites.  I found this book to be rambling and overly dramatic at times.  It poses a valid questions of how to balance religious and a secular life.   I have friends, whose opinions and preferences I respect and generally agree with, that have this and other Dostoyevsky novels as their all time favorites.  I now can say I have read him and appreciated the experience, but have no plan to do it again.


#42 . The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

I have started the first Tale multiple times due to the fact that the version I am reading is in Middle English and it has taken me a bit to get used to it.   Once you get past the language, it flies and is quite entertaining with humor and lessons abounding (even women's rights)...the best tip I received, read it aloud.  It helps you find the rhythm and helps with the comprehension too.


#49 . The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka by Franz Kafka

I have read more short stories this year than I have in my entire life this year due to this challenge.  As with the other collections I have read this year, some stick out and some you just read and leave.  The surprise of this collection was the unexpected humor, granted a bit dark and sarcastic at times, but humor none the less.....

#39 . David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Well, I read it...and it was good, but I wasn't wowed by it.  David Copperfield is believed to be an a thinly veiled autobiography story of Dicken's life.   It is his most popular book, but it isn't mine.  It's going to end up one of those books that I read, but don't really remember.......

#50 . Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

We all have someone in our life that when telling a story gets sidetracked at the slightest distraction and as a result you often don't always get the whole story from them but it is generally entertaining.  Tristram Shandy is like that person, it is supposed to be his life story, but when you haven't even gotten to his birth over a third of the way thru the book, you know you're in for an adventure.  It is laugh out loud funny and quite the satire with profound wisdom scattered throughout.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to end this year's challenge.

Still reading...
Melissa



Monday, December 12, 2016

An Unexpected Crime.....


I was robbed the other day.....
not of a material possession or money, but of time.

I had 36 hours stolen from me.

As I have mentioned here before, I periodically get migraine headaches.  They are nasty, not fun, and painful, so as a result,  I have learned my triggers to avoid them.

My biggest triggers and the cause of my most painful migraines are the result of nuts, with cashews, almonds, and walnuts being the worst culprits.  I can eat pecans in small portions and have no issues with peanuts, but there is a chemical compound in the others that trigger my migraines.  

As a result of this knowledge, I ask about ingredients when presented with food.  In restaurants, I don't order items with my triggers.  When I eat at someone's home, if they ask beforehand, I tell them and if they don't, I ask at serving and then just avoid the food with nuts.  I truly appreciate when alterations are made to recipes to allow me to eat them, but at the same time, I get embarrassed that one person is altering a recipe.  I have no problem or issue just not eating the items with nuts...

I do have a problem when I ask and someone doesn't think it's a big deal that there are nuts in something and either lies or forgets, which is forgivable, but frustrating!

The robbery of my 36 hours came when someone was trying out a recipe for Thanksgiving and asked me to try it.  Knowing the baker and her dietary preferences, I asked specifically if there were nuts in it and was told no......

but there was.  Almond flour used in place of oat flour.  1 cup worth.  Half of the flour used was almond flour.  For the record, nut flours count as NUTS!!!!!!!!!!!!   There was going to be no stopping this migraine. 

For the next day and a half, it felt like there was an ice pick in my right eye.  My vision was blurry and had auras.  Sensitivity to sound was unbearable.  Nausea was my constant companion.  I don't sleep all that well due to the pain, so even after the migraine ends, I feel wiped out.

It has taken a while but my Doctor and I have figured out a medication plan that works.  First to be tried is a homeopathic remedy that works for 95% of my migraine and has no side effects.  This time, nothing.....  Next is a prescription medication that is a lower level migraine drug.  I prefer it to the next option.  NADA....  Finally is a pill form of a drug, that I prefer in a shot form, but my insurance doesn't like to cover, so a pill it is.  If I get to this level and it doesn't work with in a hour, I am to go to the ER for what will be a couple of days stay due to the side effects of the injection I will receive.  It took 45 minutes for it to kick in and start to help, so I at least avoided the ER, but now I had to deal with the side effects of this drug.  UGH.

I say this next sentence with a plea....

PLEASE RESPECT SOMEONE WHEN THEY TELL YOU THEY HAVE AN ISSUE WITH FOOD!  IT IS NOT A JOKE!  

When someone asks, it can be life threatening.  My migraines, while annoying and painful, for the most part are not life threatening, but other allergies and triggers can be.  

As a result of this episode, I have been having some interesting conversations about allergies, triggers and issues with food with different people.  It's not an easy thing to deal with on multiple levels...  As someone hosting or preparing food, it can sometimes feel like a mine field of things you can not serve.  As a someone with issues, you feel like a bit of a troublemaker.....

I am writing this blog at this time of year with food being the focus of some celebrations for awareness and acceptance....

If I turn down your food, that you prepared with love, it isn't because I don't appreciate it, it's because it's not worth the pain it will cause if there are nuts in it.   I desperately wish that I could partake and I do not want you to go out of your way to accommodate the needs of one.

Not so nutty,
Melissa










Thursday, December 8, 2016

How I ended up cleaning the kitchen at Midnight.......



As I was going to bed, the other night,  I glanced down at my toes, which just a few weeks earlier had been pampered with a pedicure, were now looking a bit scruffy and needing to have the polish removed.

No big deal, right?
Simple, right?
In theory, yes...  Reality proved much more complicated.

Here's how it went down....
I got out the cotton balls, swabs and the remover.

It started easy enough with the cotton balls.  I got the majority of the polish off and then realized I needed the cotton swabs to clean them the rest of the way.  I dipped the first swab in the bottle of remover and lost my grip and in it went........

So now I have a cotton swab floating in my nail polish remover.  Problem #1

I tried angling the bottle to get it out and no go.
The liquid was going to have to leave the bottle to get the swab out.  A new plan was quickly devised..

Since nail polish remover isn't the most edible liquid ever, I decided to triple up 2 plastic cups and pour it in to them.  I then went to the kitchen sink and proceeded to shake out the cotton swab.  Success!  And then I heard a muffled pop...

The nail polish remover had eaten thru one of the plastic cups and now the remover was going all over the counter and onto the floor.  I immediately run over to the other one and in not one of my smarter moments pick up the 2nd cup and the bottom falls out and remover splashes all over the place.

Here's a fun fact for you....nail polish remover upon running into plastic, say a bread bag, immediately starts to destroy it.

Food had to be rescued and put in new containers, nail polish remover wiped up and then counters, floor and cabinets had to be sanitized.

And that is how I ended up cleaning the kitchen at Midnight the other night...

Facepalm....
Melissa

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Literary Discussion, Part Three

Can you believe how fast this year is flying by?  Here are links to the full challengepart one, and part two.

#9.  The Divine Comedy by Dante Alleghieri

There are some books in which you know that while you may get the gist of it when you read it for the first time, you probably won't get all of the complexities of it, The Divine Comedy falls into that for me.  Scholars spend their whole careers studying this book;  I spent a week and a half reading it....

So, here is my take...  It's basically a mid life crisis book that ends up giving us a guide for life.  Dante has reached the mid point of his life and is asking and pondering some pretty deep questions.  He is taken through Hell, and gives a pretty gruesome and gory vision of it and some say, our idea of hell,  Purgatory and Heaven.  I found things to take from each section to incorporate into my life...

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown (a book club's selection)

This book robbed me of sleep!  What a fun, light, yet never lame summer read!  A chef is taken hostage by a female pirate....the bad guys turn out not to be such bad guys and as for the 'good guys' just read and find out...

#30 . The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov

A collection of absolutely amazing short stories!  You are taken to Czarist Russia and given glimpses into everyday life with mastery of plot and the execution of words.  Some stories are only a few pages long, but others are 20.  He knew how to stop, not give to much, but at the same time, not to have a story feel incomplete.  Ironically, I had meant to read a couple of stories a night and then read something else, but I inhaled this collection of Anton Chekhov's....

#40 . Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

For the first little bit of the book, you feel like you are on a merry-go-round with characters jumping on and off and feeling a little lost, but then you see through the chaos and once again the brillance and gift of Virginia Woolf shines through.  Simple moments, like a walk through a park, can trigger a thousand and one memories and choices taken or not taken.....

The Food of a Young Land:  The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-WWII America
           (a food challenge item) by Mark Kurlansky

Did you know that FDR's New Deal had a provision in it to help writers get back to work as well?  It was know as the Federal Writer's Project (FWP).  Their first task was to complete guidebooks about the entire United States and some of them are still in use today.  Their second was never completed, a documentation of what Americans were really eating in 1940, not the flashy, trendy food, but what they were having dinner every week.  The organizers sent writers out to find out but the beginning of WWII ended the project and it was lost to oblivion until the author stumbled upon a box in the Library of Congress.....


#43 . Collected Fiction by Jorge Luis Borges

Another collection of short stories for this challenge, but this one I did not speed through, but slowly absorbed and contemplated.  Jorge Luis Borges is a master of words and of the short story.  I would only read one a night because they took all of my concentration and I didn't want to miss a word.  There were some stories I liked better than others, but I think that is the case in most collections....

#4.  Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Call me Ishmael, nope, I'll call you someone who ignores all signs and warnings.  Captain Ahab, take some advice from Elsa and 'Let it Go!!'.  The Whale, maybe you could take some anger management classes.  I read the true story last year that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick and enjoyed it soooooooooooooooooooo  much more than this.  I was actively cheering for the whale....  Moral of the story, vengeance never ends well, pay attention to signs, and if you're a whale avoid big boats...


#26 . Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Pull up a chair, relax, sip an iced tea or a cocktail on the porch and enjoy this Southern masterpiece.  There are multiple narrators with varying degrees of fact, but each tell their own truths and isn't it interesting that a person's truth may not always be fact.  Faulkner's gift (or the thing that drives non Faulkner fans crazy) is his ability to tell a story in an non linear sense...you jump all around the time line of this story of a man who wanted to build an empire without learning from not only his mistakes from the the past, but a collective community's .


#31 . The Red and the Black by Stendhal

A tale of a young man who doesn't fit into his family, he is teased for reading, and has ambitions for a different life.  He is taken in by his town's mayor as a tudor and proceeds to make some questionable decision, like starting an affair with the mayor's wife.  There are times you are very angry at the main character, but as the book progresses you become more sympathetic, even as he commits a very surprising crime, because you see that the rules of the life he wants don't apply to him because he wasn't born into that life.....

I have to admit that reading these classics one right after another has been more challenging than I thought....it has slowed my reading down quite a bit.