22 February 2010

Sunlight and Visuality

What's it like to be a writer again? Is it anything like this sudden desire to photograph, which I really am terrible at doing, or to explain? Does it have to do with how sunny Seattle has been since I got back--this feeling that I can actually see things, they glow somehow, the moss is so green and the dusky sky so clouded and mute-blue?

Of course, I am freakishly cold right now. The apartment isn't cold, but I am. So it goes. But cold sharpens things ... no, probably not. It probably distracts things.

Yarn is more expensive than I want it to be. I'm investigating the prices of blank yarns per 100 g skein, and man oh man, are yarn-sellers an unorganized bunch. No pictures? Pictures and now no way to buy online from you? Why do you have a website that showcases your goods and yet has no way to sell them to me? And WHY OH WHY do you not list the AMOUNT of the thing you are selling? I can buy "quantity 1" and pay a million dollars and you don't tell me how many grams of yarn it is ... Is that a winning strategy? No, it is not. I am a crabby online shopper who is used to Amazon, and I like my websites easy to use. (Why do people still list a limited number of items on a page? I can scroll ... at least give me an option to view all ... )

Whatever. All of this is really here only to say that things look more beautiful to me than they have in a while, in a way that is difficult to pin down, and may have everything to do, literally, with sunlight and visuality. And that I'm ready to buy a whole lot of yarn, like $300 of yarn, and play with it. And sell it to you. But I want to be certain I'm getting the best deal first.

Quest #2: Which whole-wheat bread recipe is easiest and best-tasting? Trial and error. This recipe from cook for good is pretty tasty, but this recipe from Bob's Red Mill is also really tasty, and today I put together Peter Reinhart's basic whole wheat bread recipe from Whole Grains, and it is really tasty, as well. I am a bit worried that Peter's recipe might bring about the death of my KitchenAid mixer, because it requires a lot of kneading some really tough doughs together, which I am not about to do with my hands. Full disclosure: I did try kneading some bread together yesterday, and it was perhaps the stupidest thing that I've done since I was injured. No idea what I was thinking. It hurt a lot, and my elbows are mad at me, and my left hand is mad at me, in a way that I don't remember feeling before -- probably because I haven't been this stupid before.

And perhaps you are interested in the black bean chili recipe which features bourbon, which I mentioned elsewhere online? I will get it up here soon enough.

Be well, friends. Do not be stupid.

17 February 2010

Eating Really, Really Well

It's been a while since I talked extensively about food, and me, and us over here. And since it crossed my mind the other day that some of you may be eating bland, unwholesome, or expensive food, I want to share my current meal plan. And yes, I'm making meal plans now, and our grocery bill and our diet is much better for it.

I started following the cookforgood.com plan, and while I love the idea and the woman has some great recipes, I'm not enthused about following it exactly. Okay, I'm not enthused about following it exactly at all. I don't want to eat three dishes based on black beans in one week, once for dinner and the next day for lunch. I don't want to eat pasta every other day. And I hate making side dishes. I like eating them, but I run out of drive when it comes to making them. I just end up looking at the head of broccoli and thinking, Why am I cooking you again? I don't want to. I just want to eat my bowl of vegetable-filled legumes and whole grains.

What follows is a list of 17 vegetarian meals I wrote down off the top of my head, with this week's meal plan at the end. I'd be happy to share recipes; just ask. They come from many sources, so I won't bother listing them. They're roughly sorted by shared ingredients.

Thai peanut noodles with cabbage, carrots, and broccoli
Pasta with tomatoes and kale

White beans with cabbage and parmesan
White bean stew with tomatoes and garlic

Pizza with parsley pesto and mozzarella

Black bean chili
Black bean soup with corn
Cuban black beans
Black bean and vegetable soup
Black beans with salsa, rice or tortillas

Garbanzos in curry (chana masala)
Garbanzos with quinoa, green something, and garlic-tahini dressing

Lentils with kale and roasted tomatoes (really good with polenta)

Hoppin' John
Baked BBQ black-eyed peas

Green soup with ginger

... and for dinner/lunch next day this week:

Black beans with salsa, brown rice
Black bean soup with corn, brown rice
Pasta with tomatoes and kale
White beans with cabbage, roasted potato wedges
Thai peanut noodles
Butternut squash soup, garlicky greens, something bready
Pizza with parsley pesto and mozz.

What are you eating these days? Hmmm? Is it as bad as I imagine?

14 February 2010

My Grandmother is Not Dead

She lives! We spoke on the phone once, she didn't return my call after that, she did return my brother's call, and somehow, we don't know how for sure, she went to a doctor's appointment despite snow and winter, which were previous excuses for not going to the doctor, and is apparently kind of stable. Stable for her condition? Stable really? Not sure on that one.

Folks, we are playing it by ear. And I am back in Seattle.

Land of Noah, land of humidity, land of green moss everywhere, and even sunshine greeting me on this fine V-Day. There are roses (I think) blooming in my yard. BLOOMING. Because I live in a temperate rainforest. The more I remind myself of that, the easier it is to accept that I've traded snow (which I had today, in St. Louis) for green things. Not a terrible trade.

But there was lots of excellent family visiting, lots of cooking good food, lots of throwing things out of my parents' pantry and fridge that have expired. Examples: dried black beans from 2002. But the worst: just-add-water cocoa mix from 2000.

All this death watch business comes down to ... improvement in her condition, more time, a chance to let her know I do care about her, and let her do with that what she will. So far, that means not returning my calls. It feels like my evil grandmother has either decided she is a) totally done with me and most of my family, b) pushing us away to see if we stay away, or if we run in to save her and prove our love, or c) resolved to die alone, not in a sinister way, but in a kind of surrender. All of this is uncertain.

One certain thing: I went to the Fremont farmer's market today and bought maple syrup from a guy who is a grad student at UW, whose family makes it in Vermont, who takes off spring quarter to go make syrup, then brings it back and sells it to ... me. A delicious certainty. On waffles.

01 February 2010

Reminder: Keep Breathing

Sunshine, sunshine, snow, days of fires in the old stone fireplace that nearly fell on the neighbor's house and had to be mudjacked back into place. Days of babysitting Amelia, helping her in and out of her new pink princess dress with the flower crown and wand and a choice of either a pink sash or a silver sequin sash. I've watched Mulan and the Lady and the Tramp so many times that I think I could sing them all to you. I keep humming "A Girl Worth Fighting For," and since my mom teared up once at the end of Mulan, where the emperor bows to her, I keep tearing up no matter how many times we've watched it that day, and my brother said that he does, too, that it's the kind of movie that can take your emotions and run with them, if you let them.

My grandmother received 5 units of blood and 4 of platelets in her 9-day hospital stay, then was discharged home. Her doctor said he'd never written the order for "placement" and that he didn't think she'd comply if he did write it. My brother and I tried to reason/argue with her that she needed to move into assisted living (Zak, serious: "Nancy, you're straight f*cked." Nancy: giggles), and she tried convincing us that since she won't receive any more chemo (because she has permanent kidney damage from losing so much blood a month ago), she would feel "better," be able to organize her hoarder's hellhole of an apartment (literally boxes to the walls, covering all the floor, with a cot and one chair in the kitchen and some room on the floor to lay down and watch TV), and then, "I can't think of anything better than to lay down on my bed at home one day, go to sleep, and never wake up."

Of course, someone else in her position might say "hospice" at this point, but no, she is too deep in her manipulation games of controlling people to do that. I am pretty certain that right now, what she wants more than anything is for both 1) everyone to leave her alone and let her die in peace and 2) for all of us to rush in and save her somehow. I suspect she's waiting for things to get bad enough that my mom demands she move in with my mom--which would be an emotional disaster and a physical disaster, since my mom couldn't take care of her needs at all, as my mom can't cook, clean much, or help someone else move around. So, these goals are incompatible, and I have a feeling the dying will happen first.

The lesson? Crazy people are always crazy. They die crazy. It is ugly for everyone.

I called her yesterday and didn't hear back; she had a doctor's appointment today that she rescheduled for Wednesday. I'm sure she rescheduled because she feels bad, which would be a good reason to see a doctor, especially if you spent the last nine days in the hospital receiving a unit or two of blood and platelets every other day. So, will my grandmother (Nancy, I don't call her grandmother, per her request when I was an infant and she said, "I'm too young to be a grandmother" even though my mom was 30) die at home in the next two days? Will she call us? Will she call an ambulance? Will my deeply embedded feelings of hyperresponsibility take over, guide me to drive to her apartment and drag her back to the hospital? Or will I let her be responsible for her own bizarre, deluded, totally crazy decisions?

I have no idea. I have a feeling the end of her life is right here, that we are all staring at it, and that she is still playing games to ensure that people do what she wants. I have a feeling that I was right to pack funeral clothes.

A nice thing: being with my family. My dad's mom (who is Grandma) is coming to visit next week, mostly because I'm here and our timing lined up nicely. She is so wonderful to be around, lots of reading, sleeping, talking, coffee-drinking. We had a big family dinner last night with my brother, his wife Lucy, and their girl Amelia--pulled pork, baked bbq black-eyed peas, and the best collards ever: collards with garlic, raisins, and orange juice. Amazing. And cornbread. Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen is wonderful; the collards and peas recipes are his.

I read The Road in two nights. I, um, I'm working on my post-apocalypse skills. I'm glad the boy made it through. And I learned that even after the apocalypse, one must be concerned about the safety of consuming home-canned vegetables. Good lord, Cormac McCarthy can write a lyric. Can't believe I hadn't read him before. The plot would get so bleak and terrifying that I only kept reading for the lyric. And the subplot of "is this boy a god or not."

So, keep breathing, little girl. Your skin and hair are drying out in this familiar Midwest winter air, so drink more water and less coffee. Be wary of old canned goods.