Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pain Meds for the Hurtin' Heart

See this cute thing?

I got a new phone a couple weeks ago, and decided to make this picture my wallpaper.  It's my cat, Daisy.  I just wanted to adore her every time I looked up the weather or checked my e-mail.

And not a week later, she disappeared.

I have bawled all week--at home, out walking, sitting in the Office Depot parking lot, clutching a few dozen freshly-copied "Lost Cat" flyers. 

I know, I know.  It's not the gravest tragedy in the world.  I get that.  I know a woman whose house is filling up with hospital equipment because her husband isn't getting better.  I know another woman living on dreadful green food, trying to beat cancer for the third time.  Yet another holds her newborn, still trying to absorb the news that he will never have the life other children have.

Not to mention a lot of people I don't know who are getting shot at--on the battlefield, at work, in malls.

Yes, I know I don't own all the sorrow in the world. 

Still, what is all this pain?

One night after dinner, a crushing sense of emptiness came down hard.  I launched into a round of overchecking Facebook and e-mail, flipping through the newspaper for some picture or story I hadn't seen already.  Or maybe couple more slices of frozen pizza would do it.   

What's going on here?

Well, what's going on that we're casting about for some way to feel better, and none of it is working.  

I've relied on this to figure out what to do next.  Not every possibility is a probability, say the experts.  I've leaned toward the Panicked Cat theory.  For cats like Daisy, who go out every night, who love their owners but hide when company comes, scary things interrupt their going-home routine.  They hide out, probably within a five-house radius.  Maybe in three days they will work up the confidence to make a dash for home.  If not that, seven to ten days of hunger and thirst eventually drives them out of hiding.

We're at seven days now.

We've been through this before.  Gatsby disappeared, returning at about seven days in spite of reports of coyotes in the neighborhood. But with her five pounds to his twenty, she just isn't as coyote-proof.  Oh, but I would just love for all this to blow over, to come back and tell you, "I did a lot of bawling over nothing."  But I'm kind of flickering out here. 

The only feel-better trick that has worked is diving deep into Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.  So here's the prescription and dosage:  Twenty-five pages of rich and miserable Russians.  Take as often as needed.

As for your recipe, this has been a week of family standing around, like cats by their dishes actually, and wondering when I'm going to dole out dinner.  They've heard "Figure it out for yourself" quite a few times.   

But at some point, you just have to get up and function.  So, life resumed again with Ravioli Casserole.

I may be back to running the kitchen. But it's not an entirely safe room.  It contains the back door, which I check far too often, just in case her cute little face peeks through the window.

Why don't I go take some more Tolstoy now?  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Not For the Bathtub

Still in the middle of Anna Karenina.  I'm sure you're not surprised to hear this.

I wonder what kind of all-nighter I would have to pull (or how many all-nighters) to see the pages fly all the way to the last dramatic speech (I peeked.  Somebody makes a speech, but I didn't check too carefully who it was, because we want to be surprised, don't we?)  This one probably needs a combination of late nights plus eating meals alone plus running hot baths and reading until the water turns cold.

On the other hand, this is no bathtub book, not unless one is accustomed to holding something the size and heft of a box of diapers above water level, for an hour or so.

Once upon a time, I plowed through a chain of fat books, one right after the other.  John Adams, by David McCullough--600+ pages.   Witness, by Whittaker Chambers--800+ pages.  The Firm, by John Grisham--400+ pages.   And all this during the months we were trying to sell a house and move to Chicago.

In fact, the boxes were packed, the truck loaded and the keys surrendered, and I still had not finished Chambers' book.  I held on to it one more night, vowing to swing by the library on our way out of town the next morning.

We settled into two motel rooms and roamed the nearby streets until businesses began to shut down.  Then, back in our room, the kids discovered The Safe.  It sat in the hotel closet.  Oh, what fun to take your sister's flip-flops and lock them away from her!  Ha-ha!

Eventually, some joker tucked my library book into the safe and forgot the combination.  The hotel staff would come by in the morning and get it out, but meanwhile, I was a bored and desperate woman shut up in a hotel room with some not-very-funny kids.  I needed something to read.  Even the phone book would do.

I looked toward the nightstand and saw two of them.  Even better, someone had left a magazine tucked between them.  It was one of those thick magazines, like Glamour or Mademoiselle's super-double fall preview issue.  Ah!  Saved!

I pulled it out, eager for lipstick ads and advice columns and chatty TV-star interviews.  And I found--


Whoa!!!  A little too much mademoiselle here!

It was nice of some hotel guest to share it with us.  We caught the spirit of sharing right away and offered it to the hotel staff.

Anyway, perhaps I'd have more time to finish fat books if I fed the family Hamburger Helper weeks on end.  But Bye-bye Nesquik cannot stand kitchen boredom and this week she vowed to use up a couple links of Italian sausage that had languished for months in the freezer.  This is what happened to the sausages:

Aunt Rita's Italian Stew  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It Depends On Who's Doing It

As I continue to swim my way through Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (The self-deceptions begin!  The malicious gossip abounds!), the back cover provides a clue to why the book is such a joyful read.

In praise of the translators, Caryl Emerson, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University, says, "At last, a version of Tolstoy's great novel that is neither musty, nor overly modernized, nor primly recast as a Victorian landscape."

So it all depends on the translation, does it?

I wonder what the two translators could do with a Hawthorne novel.  Try a little Hawthorne for yourself and maybe you'll agree that his overwrought English is nearly as difficult as Russian.   

In the Bye-Bye Nesquik kitchen, we have a frequent Sunday dinner guest, The Boyfriend.  Maybe his appearance was supposed to send me into paroxysms of worry.  How shall I impress our guest? 

Or maybe I decided to let him worry about impressing me.  (And I am impressed.)

At any rate, I didn't over-trouble myself, and proceeded with the humble-but-yummy dish that was on the menu before we knew he was coming.

"So what did your girlfriend's mom feed you?" his friends asked once the ordeal was over. 

"Egg Salad Tacos," he told them.

Which they found terribly funny.  The next time he came over, they wished him well.  "Enjoy your tuna tacos," they told him.

Humph!  I'll bet if Rachael Ray trotted out the hard-boiled eggs and the taco shells and the sharp cheddar (the secret to its yumminess) on her show, Egg Salad Tacos would be the hippest food of the week.  People would make their own spin-off tacos.   You'd see special salsas for it on Pinterest.

It all depends on the source, doesn't it?

I got the recipe from Southern Living.  Does that redeem me?


4 large hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1/4 cup (1 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 TB chopped green onion
2 TB lite Miracle Whip
2 TB salsa
1 TB lite sour cream
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
6 taco shells
Lettuce leaves
3/4 cup (3 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Additional salsa

--Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.
--Combine Miracle Whip and next 4 ingredients; fold into egg mixture.
--Line taco shells with lettuce.  Spoon egg salad evenly into taco shells. Sprinkle 2 TB cheese on each taco.  Serve with salsa.  YIELD: 6 servings, 200 cals each, but I can't confine myself to just one taco. 

Tonight, we fed The Boyfriend  Maple Teriyaki Salmon Fillets.  It was the most eager eating I've ever seen from him.  Take that, oh hipster friends!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With . . .

I need your pity and your patience.

Actually, no, I don't need the pity.  But the patience, yes.  I have embarked on the Russian novelists, namely Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.  It's going to be weeks before I can say, "I've finished this great book and I actually know what I'm talking about when I bandy the name Tolstoy about."  But, just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, a book of 800 pages begins with 1 page.

And what a page it was.  A household in disarray, a guilty conscience.  I thought the great Russian novels were supposed to be boring and difficult.  But, except for the character names, which are a mouthful, I'm enjoying the ride--all the ice-skating, the oyster-eating, the blushing and the insulting going on with the Oblonskys and the Shcherbatskys and the rest of the gang.  

Since I won't have anything to talk about in the near future besides Karenina, are you interested in books I have read in the past?  I've done a few posts like that recently and my vague impression is that reader interest plummets when I do it. 

So speak up.  Cast your vote.

Meanwhile, we all have to eat, so I'll keep the recipes coming.  

We needed a quick dessert today.

My dessert story starts on Thursday, when I went to the music store.  Very dangerous place for a woman like me.  I told myself I was only going to ask about one book.  Once that was done, my next lie-to-myself was I'm just going to look through these bins and see if anything interesting catches my eye.  Before I knew it, a spirit of greed gripped my soul and I was surrounded by a half-dozen books, wanting all of them.   I didn't lose all my self-control, but then, anybody can say that when they want the whole cake but only eat three fat pieces.

Anyway, I own some new music books.

And I couldn't play through them because I had to leave town the next day.    They kept playing through my head while I was gone.  Not that I wasn't having a good time.  But while walking through some tres chic neighborhoods and eating at a cute breakfast place with my husband and changing clothes in the temple, I couldn't quit thinking about the Bach and the "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and the Christmas tunes and the . . . .   Ay-yi!   The noise in my head!

Back at home, I lusted for them all the more.  Every time I walked by, I would take a peek, maybe pet the pages lovingly.  But we needed groceries.  And the laundry?  Situation Critical there. 

Finally, around nine o'clock I was free.  I took one book to the church to play through it on the organ.  I stayed until nearly midnight.

It's nothing unusual for me to skid through church short on sleep.  Usually, I stay up too late Saturday nights making Sunday desserts.  But today, I was short on sleep and dessertless to boot.

So,  Crispy Pretzel Bars to the rescue!

See?  Quick dish.  Shouldn't steal too much time from your Sunday nap.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Some People Call it Geezer Romance

I spent my evening the way a family gathering should be spent--talking with the family.  Actually, it was more than just talking.  It was a lively discussion about the problems some people have with church and how to figure out what the real rules are.  This is my excuse for not having gotten very far with Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, but it's a pretty good excuse, if you ask me.

I'm sure I can sneak in some more reading here and there, but what I have covered so far is a drily comic story of a widowed British gentleman, caught in a moment of bereavement.  There's conflict over a family heirloom.  There's a visit from the three town busybodies, one of  whom is single.  The other two busybodies make sure she's dressed-up, made-up and perfumed up.  Then they shove her forward to express condolences and make pleasant conversation.

Then there's the Pakistani woman who owns the village convenience shop.  A cup of tea starts a friendship.  Then, more tea, more friendship.  Nobody's calling this thing a romance yet but, my, my, the major's step sure is lighter when Mrs. Ali comes around.

No telling what the proper Britishers villagers will think of a romanc . . . er, . . . friendship between one of their own and this foreiger lady.

I'll keep you posted.

In the kitchen (mine, not the Major's), I decided not to let the remainder of a jar of Alfredo sauce go bad.   Don't we love websites where we can type in an ingredient and a recipe appears before our eyes?

Summer Squash Chicken Alfredo

Yep, this is the one where I got rid of the sauce, but now I own a wealth of sun-dried tomatoes, all looking for a way to get on to Bye-bye Nesquik's dinner table.  I'm sure allrecipes will furnish some tasty options.  Hopefully, this doesn't become some vicious cycle where using up the tomatoes requires balsamic vinegar and cooking with the vinegar requires pine nuts, ad infinitum.   You get the picture, I'm sure.