Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Pat’s Day

On Thursday while we were at the ophthalmologist office for a follow-up appointment for Richard’s eye (he got a good report), a telephone call arrived from my sister’s husband, which was captured by the answering machine. He inquired after Richard’s eye, told us about a Webcam set up on an eagle’s nest on Catalina Island, which is 26 miles off the coast of Southern California, and invited us to the St. Patrick’s Day party my sister is having today.

Richard and I laughed at the idea of how much fun it would be to hop in the car and drive out there – without telling anybody – and showing up at their house for the party.

Some people could do that. They could… and they do. I envy them that freedom. Our life is too complicated right now for us to do something like that. And I don't think we would be brave enough to try it even if it were possible. Doggone it.

Instead, as soon I finish this, I will put corned beef brisket and potatoes and carrots into the crock pot (cabbage will go in later) for dinner tonight. Yesterday, we bought rye bread and Swiss cheese in anticipation of Ruben sandwiches tomorrow.

Once upon a time, I found a recipe for homemade corned beef. I bought brisket and cured it in brine with spices. It tasted great, but it looked horrible. Horrible. It was a nasty gray color because I lacked whatever chemical it is that keeps the meat bright red. I decided making my own corned beef was not something I wanted to pursue.

In the meantime, I am thinking of my 3 half-Irish cousins today. They are blessed among the extended family: both of their parents are still alive. Unfortunately, the physical tents that their parents occupy are failing, neither parent is doing very well, and my heart goes out to these precious cousins and my Aunty and Uncle. Wishing them a good day today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Visions of peach cobbler danced in their heads

I think people are being a bit careful not to complain that that Spring seems to be here already. The problem is: We barely had Winter, which, of course, really isn’t a problem except that it just doesn’t feel right, somehow.

To be sure, Winter didn’t skip us altogether: We had some cold days, a few days when it got down to 0 overnight, and it stayed below freezing for about a week in January, and there were a few days when there was snow on the ground, and school had to be cancelled for a couple of days because the roads were bad.

Unlike every other Winter I can remember since we moved here, we did not get hit with a bad ice storm or a lot of freezing rain. The old athletic shoes I have rigged up with cleats so I can walk on slick ground never saw the light of day. Can’t complain too much about that.

We all might be singing a different tune tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. It could easily turn nasty again – has done in the past and probably will do in the future --

and the promise of peach cobbler offered by the peach tree outside the back door could be dashed by another hard freeze.

But in the meantime...

one can dream…

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Not Florence Nightingale

Last week Richard was given some instructions about how to care for his eye after the procedure. In addition to three different eye drops, he was required to wear a patch over his eye while he was sleeping for a few nights to protect it and help keep it from getting infected.

My job was to tape the eye patch on his face and put in the eye drops.

I am quite good at putting in eye drops.

But at putting on the eye patch? Not so much.

After my last attempt at securing the eye patch, he looked up at me with his good eye and said, “You aren’t Florence Nightingale, are you.

I was laughing so hard by the time I got the camera that I could hardly hold it still.

Taking a cue from the man I see for routine health care, “I-am-not-a-doctor-just-call-me-Bob,” I am not Florence Nightingale, just call me Nurse Betty.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Look down! Look down!!

My beloved has always enjoyed the Kingston Trio, and a brief interlude from their song Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley might be appropriate right about now.

Of course, my beloved is not about to be hanged for killing someone, but he is being required to keep his nose pointed at the ground and his eyes looking down and I am not sure how well he is going to be able to do this.

Some time ago a small “tent” developed in the macular part of his eye that distorts the center of his vision. The fix for this defect is the injection of a small bubble of gas which floats to the back of the eye and puts pressure on this spot and which ultimately makes the problem go away.

To keep the gas bubble where it is supposed to be, the person must keep his or her eyes on the ground as much as possible for up to 2 weeks. The procedure is about 90% effective if the person complies but drops to about 60% if the person does not comply.

Yesterday was our first full day with Richard trying to keep his eyes down: he put his computer monitor on the floor, and he figured out how to watch TV by looking into a mirror on his chest; he drank his coffee out of a straw. As the day wore on, however, he started doing more and more around the house. Without saying anything to me, he went outside a couple of times to get stuff out of the freezer in the basement; he even started cooking dinner before I could stop him. I know that even though he was holding his head down, that he was frequently moving his eyes up and forward to see what he was doing -- stuff you don't even think twice about -- hanging the oven mitts on their hook, reaching up to get the spices he sprinkles on the fish, opening the door to the convection oven.

And he started getting annoyed with me for reminding him to keep his eyes down.

No, he hasn't killed anyone... yet. 

Monday, March 05, 2012

“American blind justice…”

There is a lovely bit of irony in Arlo Guthrie’s song Alice’sRestaurant, which is carried through in the movie by the same name. In the song, Officer Obie has arrested Guthrie for dumping trash, and he is required to go to court. Officer Obie, had compiled “27 eight-by-ten color photographs” of the crime scene with which to impress the judge of the severity of the crime.
We walked in, sat down, Obie came in with the twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, sat down. 
Man came in said, "All rise." 
We all stood up, and Obie stood up with the twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and he sat down, we sat down.
Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at the twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog.
And then at twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry, 'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American blind justice... And we was fined $50 and had to pick up the garbage in the snow, but that’s not what I came to tell you about.
Came to talk about the draft.
And this isn’t really about blind justice…

Our church, which is very small, has been without a pastor for almost a year, and another church in our denomination in the next town down the road, which is also very small, is also without a pastor. So the two of us put our heads together and thought perhaps we could find someone willing to pastor two small churches at the time. Together we could come up with enough money to provide a living wage. The idea is not without precedent – the Methodist minister in town takes care of two churches and so does the Presbyterian minister and so does the Catholic priest.

After weeding through lots of resumes and interviewing various candidates, the state coordinator for our denomination found someone in Michigan who said he would be willing to take this on. There were several conference calls between the woman at our church who is keeping things going, and the people at the other church, and the state coordinator, and this man. 

They invited him to come to Missouri and preach at both churches and he agreed to come over the weekend.

When she was explaining all of this to us, she mentioned he "had a hearing problem." But we didn't think anything about it. Her husband is a bit hard of hearing. We figured he was an older guy who had some hearing loss. Not a big deal.

The woman at our church is very excited. Last Sunday she requested that the piano player (me) and young man who plays the keyboard at our services have an extra practice session with the congregation to make sure we were familiar with the songs she was going to pick from the hymnbook and for us to work on the contemporary songs we play together so we would sound good.

We abandoned several songs because nobody could sing them well or the melody too high or the pianist had no clue -- just like I had to learn "southern gospel" type music when we joined the Freewill Baptists, I am having to learn another very different musical tradition with this denomination.

We had “meet and greet” carry-in dinner Saturday night, and when we walked into the other church’s fellowship hall and he came over to greet us, and introduced himself, and began to speak, I knew immediately by the way his voice sounded and the way he pronounced his words that his "hearing problem" was actually profound hearing loss. He is not totally deaf -- he does have a bit of hearing in one ear that is amplified with a hearing aid (and he can hear on the telephone) -- but he must read lips.

Our practice the Sunday before was not a waste of time, but it was very clear he was not going to be able to hear us singing. I couldn't help but remember what happened to Arlo. There was more to my smile as I spoke to him than pleasure in meeting him..

He did preach at both churches yesterday. He did a good job at our church and I assume he did a good job at the other church. I know all of us were required to pay very close attention to him and to watch his mouth as he spoke to understand him as much as he is required to watch our mouths when we speak for him to understand us. The “old man in overalls” at our church, who has trouble hearing, commented “I didn’t fall sleep once!”

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Spice of life (or beans, by any other name…)

My brother’s daughter had this clever idea for my Christmas present to do some shopping at a local market that sells Indian food.

She knows how fond I am of Indian cuisine.
She bought a large bag of whole garam masala, one of the various spice mixtures called for in Indian cooking, and perhaps my favorite. I am familiar with the ground garam masala – I have been working my way through a gallon jar of it -- but not with the whole version. 

At first glance, it looks very much like common garden-variety pickling spice, but one sniff and you know this is not pickling spice.

I was not sure what to do with this bag of spices, but I found a recipe for a pear-avocado salad that calls for a syrup made by simmering the whole garam masala in sugar. I made this and it was quite nice. I fed it to my first luncheon victim in February.
Another item in the Christmas box was a packet of curry powder. I assume my niece is aware that that – just like in the United States – there are many regional styles of cooking in the huge country that is India. Perhaps she was not aware that there are also many different varieties of spices from these various regions that are blended and called “curry powder.” 

Did she have any idea what she was buying when she picked up the packet of “Madras Sambar Powder?”

Probably not. In any event, I certainly had no idea what a surprise it was going to be when I started adding it to the recipe for curried kidney beans that I was making from my Indian cookbook (had I gone online and looked at any of the several recipes for curried kidney beans that have been posted, this adventure in cooking would have been avoided).

Curried kidney beans?  Does that sound yucky??

Don’t yuck too quickly. The ingredients in my recipe are nearly identical to any basic recipe for Mexican style chili beans – onions, beans, tomatoes, fresh green chili, and even some chili powder -- but it tastes totally different from chili because of the various other spices and ingredients.   

The recipe called for 2 tablespoons of curry paste, which I did not have, so I added 2 teaspoons of the curry powder my niece sent me. When I had it made, I took a state and there was a bit of heat, which I thought was from the green chili, but not much of a traditional “curry” taste, so I added 2 more teaspoons and gave it a stir.

The main ingredient of this curry powder appears to be ground red pepper. It made for a very…very lively meal.

I am just so thankful that I did not add 2 tablespoons.