Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Goodies

Well, it's gift giving time and I'm having the usual troubles trying to find my Dad a present. He'll get the usual assortment of lottery tickets, and some small items, but I wanted to give him something special. Mind you, we spoiled him rotten for his birthday- the NC trip, a cooler full of meat & seafood, and tickets to NASCAR, WWE, and B B King- so he's not expecting a lot anyway. Mom & I are jointly getting him a new recliner, so that's his big gift.

Anyway, he was bemoaning the fact that nobody sells good fruitckae anymore. I don't believe that there's such a thing as a good fruitcake, but my father apparently loves the stuff. He's gotten them from Harry & David, Swiss Colony, and several other places over the last few years and nothing meets his standard. Nobody knows/remembers where Gramma used to order the ones she sent him. He liked the old Hostess slices, but they haven't made a comeback this year like Twinkies and the snack cakes. So Mom suggested we- meaning I- should make him one.


Do you know how many varieties of fruitcake there are? I had no idea, probably because we didn't cover those when I got my useless baking & pastry degree. I did an online search for recipes and nearly fell off my chair. It makes sense, I suppose. EVERYTHING has variations. Anyway, I eliminated the ones with really weird/exotic ingredients or that required 10+ weeks of marinating in booze. Then I crossed off the ones that called for any liquor other than bourbon or rum. I finally narrowed it down to about 5 recipes- 2 light, 2 dark, and 1 unspecified. (the difference, in case you're wondering, appears to be mostly the type of sweetener used and the variety of fruits. Dark fruitcakes tend to have brown sugar/molasses and more dark fruits like chopped prunes & dates)

After we sent the old coot off to bed last Sunday, I was telling Mom about my search. Turns out Dad likes dark fruitcakes, so that elminated 2 more of my choices. We were debating the merits of the other 3 when Mom bolted up out of her chair and ran to the kitchen. She came back a minute later, grinning from ear to ear, carrying one of her old cookbooks. It's called Platter Parade

and was the Camp Lejeune Oficer's Wives version of a Junior League cookbook. It has a fruitcake recipe that Mom used to make when I was small and was very well liked by the relatives she sent it to. I remember watching one year when I was about 6 and being scandalized that it had RUM in it. (No idea why I thought that was a bad thing)

Anyway, we discovered that it had several fruitcake recipes in it and got discouraged all over again because Mom wasn't sure which one she'd used. And then I dropped the book and the dust cover Mom had made for it fell off...revealing a handwritten index on the inside of the original color with page numbers listed and the notation "YUM!!!"
Sure enough, one of them was the fruitcake! The downside is that it makes a LOT of fruitcakes. 3-4 to be exact.

Then inspiration struck again. Why not make the full batch? I'm going to send one to Aunt Myrtle & Uncle John. One of my coworkers was moaning about trying to find one for her aunt, so she's taking one of them. Dad gets one, and since it keeps well, maybe two.

Next post may be about my adventures in fruitcake baking...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snow Days

We don't actually get them at my job. We're considered "essential" personnel (until it comes to being given raises, promotions, etc) and have to come in if we're scheduled, no matter what. I've been told that if I can't get my car out of the drive/off the street, they WILL send an officer to get me. Hasn't happened yet, but that's the official rule.

Well, it snowed Friday. I was called and told I could come in early if I wanted to beat the snow. It was barely sleeting when I got to work at 1:45. By the time I left work at 10:30 there was about 6 inches of snow on my car. At least it had stopped falling by then. The city, as usual, dropped the ball on snow removal, so it took me almost an hour to drive home. (as opposed to the usual 10-20 minutes)My little incorporated city helpfully cleared our street...leaving a 2 ft high mound of snow & ice at the foot of my drive. I had to park on the street, kick enough of it down to be able to get in the drive, and then pull in. Then I listened to them plow the street every 10 minutes from roughly midnight until I went to bed at 2. Nothing else had fallen, and they'd pretty much gotten it all by the time I'd gotten home earlier, but they kept scraping the blacktop until I started wishing for a bazooka.

Saturday loomed, clear & cold. Got to work for my OT shift, no problems. Louisville Metro had finally done something about the major roads. Going home, no problems. Then it snowed again overnight. Not much, maybe an inch. You'd have thought the world was coming to an end. People decimated the stores of bread & milk. Personally, if I thought I was going to be housebound for an extended period, I'd be stocking up on toilet paper and coffee. Or booze, if I were trapped with my family.

Monday was clear again, then we got another half inch this morning. Schools were cancelled, business opened late, and I expect that any store that had managed to re-stock is probably half empty again. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Battle of the Blood Pressure

So, a new clinic opened in Louisville a few months ago. They specialize in back & knee pain and non-invasive therapies for both. Free consultations were offered, so I decided to give it a go. After reviewing my history, they said I was a good candidate for their services. The bonus was that they'd contact the insurance company and find out how many treatments they'd pay for and what type. Then I got a free aqua massage which left me feeling better than I had in months.

Well, when I went in for my second consultation, they took my blood pressure as part of the pre-treatment procedures. Backing up for a minute, I was stressed to hell when I got there that day. My appointment was for 9 a.m, but traffic was horrible with numersous wrecks along the routes, and I didn't get there until 9:30, despite the fact that I'd left home at 8 just to be on the safe side. As I've mentioned before, I'm a high stress driver, so you can imagine my state of mind by the time I got there.

Anyway, the guy took my BP. And freaked. So he tried it again. Still freaked. Got a new cuff from another tech, tried that, and freaked some more. Then he went and got the staff doctor. She took my BP and her eyes were huge. At this point I began to suspect something might be wrong. (LOL) They asked me if I had any idea why my blood pressure might be excessively high. I explained about stress and the drive, and told them that if they'd give me 30 minutes to calm down, it would probably drop. "Not that much- you should be dropping dead from a stroke right now." (they phrased it a bit more diplomatically) I told them that it was also higher than normal due to the insurance company having priced my old medication out of reach & that I'd been off it for several months. Dr B had given me a new one to replace it, but I'd only been taking it a week. They were still insistent that something was WRONG, and called his office. My luck- it was his day off and the covering doctor didn't want to be bothered with me. They were told to send me to the an immediate care center.

So, back in my car I go. The clinic wanted to call an ambulance, but being the stubborn person that I am, I knew I was ok and there was an ICC a couple of miles down the road. Headed there over their protests. Got to the clinic and explained to the desk clerk what I was there for. The intake nurse took my BP and shrieked "OH MY GOD!" Ok, so maybe it's a little higher than I thought. They threw me into an exam room and told me to lie down and try to relax while they got the doctor. She came in, I went through the whole story with her, and she took my BP again, with a similar reaction.

Dr X gave me a dose of some medication and said they'd come check me again in 30 minutes. They also checked my sugar, expecting it to be out of control too. (it wasn't)Less than 15 minutes later, they took my BP again and it had barely changed. "Well," I was told. "You're going to have to go to the ER becasue we're not prepared for this. We'll call an ambulance for you." Um, no. They made it clear that they weren't going to let me drive and threatened to call the police if I tried to. That was the last thing I wanted/needed, although I was tempted to tell them to go ahead because it would probably be a friend of mine. I told them that my parents lived less than 5 minutes away, so I'd call them to come get me and would hand my keys over to the staff until they got there.

Called my parents. I had texted them about what was going on before I'd left the PT clinic, just to give them a heads up. It took 5 tries, calling both their phones alternately, before one of them FINALLY picked up. After talking Mom down from her freak-out, I told her to hurry up and get there before they panicked at the ICC and tried to stuff me into an ambulance that I really didn't want to have to pay for.

It took my parents 30 minutes to arrive. They live less than 5 minutes, literally, from the ICC. (one of the reasons I chose to go to that one) I was not amused. Mom babbled about taking a shower, etc. I wouldn't have cared if she was funkier than Miley Cyrus, as long as she got there quickly. The ICC asked me what hospital I wanted to go to as they were going to call and tell them I was coming. I told them where I wanted to go (Jewish East, where Dr B's office is and where they know our whole family pretty well after the last few years) and they said "Oh we don't send patients there. Why don't you go to THIS (a newly constructed Norton building) Hospital instead?"

Fine. Then I had to argue with my mother over the directions. We got there, went to the ER and was told that they didn't know anything about me coming, but to sit down and they'd call me when they were ready to see me. Good thing I wasn't really having a stroke or I wouldn't be here to type this post.

I finally got called back and they proceeded to repeat the taking of the BP & freaking out. The nurse practioner assigned to me asked what I'd been given & when I took it last. I gave her all the paperwork from the ICC and repeated what my daily meds were and when I'd taken my last doses of them. She told me that the meds I was given at the ICC had lowered my BP a little, but probably needed more time to work. She also agreed with my assessment that I probably could use a shot of Atenolol (a med I used to take but stopped per Dr B because we thought that was the one causing my dizzy spells)and ordered it. She was impressed that I was so conversant in my meds and my reactions to them. (and knew I wasn't having a stroke because I was able to converse rationally with her about everything)

So, I got hooked up to an IV (at least they didn't put it in my hand this time) and was given saline for dehydration and the Atenolol. By this point, I've called the office and told them I wouldn't be in that day, and possibly the next. I'd been told that if my BP didn't drop appreciably in the next 2 hours, I was going to be admitted. You can imagine the helpful responses I got to that.

2 hours later I was told that my BP was still high, but at an acceptable level to let me go home. 90 minutes later, I finally got to go home. Now, this all started at 9:30 a.m. It was 4:30 by the time we left the hospital. I'd had nothing to eat all day (the parents & I were supposed to go to Red Lobster for lunch between the clinic & work)and was freezing because the ER was cold. The hospital had a Starbuck$ in it, so Mom went and got me a hot chocolate while we waited for my release papers.

I was told to follow up with my doctor the next day. Duh. We went to an early dinner at Red Lobster before going back to collect my car at the ICC. I went home, went to bed, and slept until 9 a.m. Dr B's office had already called to get me on the schedule, so I called them back and went straight over. He went ballistic when he found out his covering partner had REFUSED to see me and was irate that I'd had to spend so much on co-pays. (he remembers my budget issues) My BP was still higher than he was happy about, but he agreed with me that it was lower than it had been when I first started seeing him 5 years ago (and it had not gotten that high the day before) and would probably come back down as long as I stayed on my new meds. But to make up for some of the drama I'd been put through, he called my office for me and told them I wouldn't be in that day either, walked me down to the ER in their building, and had me hooked up to an Atenolol drip again. He told the attending nurse to bill his practice for the treatment, NOT ME.

So, that was Wed/Thursday. I probably should have stayed home Friday, but there was nobody to cover me at work, so I went in. I had to go back on Monday for Dr B to check me again. BP was still high. Another ER session billed to his practice (he told me that he found out which partner was in the wrong and was making them pay for my subsequent treatments. Apparently I wasn't the only one this cluck refused to see when they were supposed to be covering for him)and I was treated to another day off from work.

I've been back several times since then. For some reason, my BP is no longer responding to most of the meds. Poor Dr B is at his wit's end. I'm not at stroke level for the time being, but nothing is working as well as the meds that I can no longer afford. To add insult to injury, a lot of the side effects that we thought were coming from the meds he had me stop taking turned out to be effects of the expensive meds instead. I've had considerably less dizziness, psoriasis, joint pain, etc since I stopped taking the Benicar.

The good thing is that Dr B isn't charging me to come in and have my BP checked every week. I call his assistant directly, she checks the schedule, and they whisk me in/out between patients. Since it IS slowly coming down & hasn't been bad enough to need further in-office medication, I'm only there about 5 minutes. He says he'd rather not charge me $25 for each of these 5 minute trips if it means that I'll keep coming and let him try to keep me alive for a few more years. (I think my morbid sense of humor has rubbed off on him)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Eating

Well. We survived Thanksgving without too much trauma. Since I had to work, as usual on holidays, we decided to have the family dinner on the Sunday after. Daddy got to have an oyster roast on the actual day (since I wouldn't be there to gag at the sight/smell of oysters), so he was amenable to the idea.

Mom, who watches WAY too much Food Network, decided to try a version of one of Anne Burrell's recipes for the main course. We had a boned, flattened turkey breast, filled with stuffing, rolled up, and wrapped in bacon before roasting. The stuffing was a sausage/mushroom/cornbread mix. Both were insanely good!

I was supposed to bring a side and dessert. The problem was that I had a CFS flare-up over the weekend that left me both exhausted and weak as a kitten. I had intended to bring Pioneer Woman's Fresh Green Bean Casserole, but that didn't quite happen. I still made a green bean casserole, but it was more a mix of Ree's & the instructions on the can of Trader Joe's Fried Onion Pieces. (which kick ass, BTW) I used TJ's Cream of Portobello Soup, a couple of chopped strips of Whole Food$ Black Forest Bacon, and 8 oz of sliced cremini mushrooms, along with a sack of blanched, fresh haricorts verts. (skinny green beans) Oh, and a splash of half & half. It would have been good if I'd cooked the beans longer and cut them in half. It wasn't bad, but green beans shouldn't be that hard to eat.

Dessert was a loaf of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread mix, baked up. Topped with some homemade whipped cream, it was delicious!

(I am not being paid to endorse Trader Joe's. I just happened to try and like the products mentioned above. Ditto for Whole Food$)

So now we're looking ahead to Christmas dinner...which we may also have the Sunday after, depending on how our schedule shakes out at work. We've done Crown Roast of Pork for several years, and roasted hams. I'd rather not do turkey again. I was going to suggest something totally different this year and offer to prepare a baked salmon, but recently found out that my mom doesn't like fresh salmon. She likes lox, and salmon croquesstes made from the canned stuff, but not fresh. I might try to redeem myself after the green bean fiasco and make a better batch for Christmas. Or should I stick with the now-traditional brussels sprouts w/bacon & onion? I'm thinking corn pudding might be a nice change of pace as well.

Whatever it is, Christmas dinner will most likely be good, and we'll all probably eat too much of it. Which, to me, is the best part of a holiday meal!

Monday, December 2, 2013

9 Things for a Happy Life

Lovely author Gail Carriger posted a list titled 9 Things Every Happy Person Should Have that she'd found via yet another blog. It included her response to each item on the list and this was my hands down favorite:

2. A go-to Karaoke song.
No. But I'd be delighted to provide an interpretive background dance to your singing.

While most of the original list was interesting, I decided to create my own version. So without further ado, here are 9 things to make me happy:

1. Deep, restful sleep and lots of it.

2. Caffeine, and lots of it.

3. Books and lots of them. (detecting a pattern here?)

4. Favorite foods...and lots of them. (LOL)

5. Comfy clothes. I don't care if they're stylish, as long as I can relax in them.

6. Peace & quiet/time to myself. I don't need people around 24/7, nor do I need noise that much.

7. A functional car. I need to be able to go places without relying on others.

8. Pets. As aggravating as they can be, they also provide pure unconditonal love.

9. My own space. I don't think I'll ever be able to live with anyone ever again. I like the peace & privacy.