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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Flying Mango, Des Moines, Iowa

When I was at Quilt Week in Des Moines my family came over to have dinner with me between the first and second day that I was there.  It was such a treat to have them do that, and it made me feel like I was really on vacation.  The restaurant has a combination of Cajun food and barbecue and we had a mixture of the two at our table.  The thing that we liked the most was the Andouille sausage.  It was flavorful, smoky, and not too spicy.  The texture and the flavor were perfect, and that is what I would order next time, with a side order of corn bread and red beans and rice.  The salad that we had before dinner was very good, and the rest of it was good (which included the brisket, the ribs, and the chicken wings).  I had the potato of the day and my spouse had the grits of the day, and they were both excellent.  All in all, a very good choice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pickled Green Tomato Relish

 We have been having green tomatoes off and on all summer, and this week we decided to go out to our CSA farm and pick a few for the winter.  It is remarkably easy to go overboard when you are on a farm that feeds about 500 people with vegetables.  They have tomato plants the height that we are, and rows of them.  No trouble at all to get way too many way too fast.  So we made some Green Tomato Relish to
can, so that we address our profound lack of refrigerator space.
  • 7 pounds green tomatoes 
  • 4 large onions
  • 2 large red onions
  • 3 large green peppers
  • 2 large sweet red peppers
  • 4 teaspoons canning salt
  • 5 cups cider vinegar
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seed
  • 4 teaspoons mustard seed 
  1. Cut tomatoes, onions and peppers into wedges. In a food processor, cover and process vegetables in batches until finely chopped. Stir in salt. Divide mixture between two strainers and place each over a bowl. Let stand 3 hours.
  2. Discard liquid from bowls. Place vegetables in a stockpot; stir in vinegar, sugar, celery seed and mustard seed. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 30-35 minutes or until thickened.
  3. Carefully ladle hot mixture into eight hot pint jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  4. Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 15 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Yield: 8 pints.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ego Mechanisms of Defense in Narcissists

It is true that politicians in general are not completely honest in their feelings and motivations and may say one thing to one audience and another to a different one.  But that can be said of me at work.  I do not share my full feelings nor is it in the least bit appropriate to do so.  I wish there was more transparency and that politicians were less beholden to big money, but I think that is inevitable in a democracy.  It is the worst form of government, except for all the rest.  By which I mean that while it is terrible flawed in almost every sense, that we have yet to find something that is more functional.
This political season we have someone who is a complete outside running for president in a major party who appears to a be bird of another feather.
Here is what I mean.  A true narcissist is someone who is flamboyant and  braggadocios on the outside, to the point of being intolerable, but who is really quite fragile on the inside.  When a narcissist is challenged, their thin eggshell exterior can quite easily crack and they fall apart or explode.  The ways that they maintain peace within themselves are several fold.  The first mechanism that they use is repression, which means that they keep unpleasant facts about themselves out of their conscious mind.  So it is possible that they would say that they respect women at one point and yet say demeaning things about women's weight, looks, intelligence and abilities on the other.  They would not see a connection between these two.  If repression fails, then there is outright denial, which means just that.  They will assert that an incident that is distressing to them did not happen.  No, I did not assault a woman, that did not happen.  The denial of facts is common for a narcissist.  Another ego defense used is distortion and lies.  There can be an almost compulsive nature to it.  Finally, the narcissist uses projection to shield themselves from realizing unpleasant facts about themselves.  So instead of seeing that he is a liar he calls his opponent crooked.  When people speculate that his persistent sniffing in the first two debates was evidence he was using cocaine he says that his opponent should be drug tested.  Instead of admitting his own affairs and unwanted sexual advances he points to the behavior of his opponents spouse.  It is almost as if the public should look at his latest accusations of his opponent to figure out what he is now afraid that we will find out about him. Oh, and these mechanisms of defense, while normal in young children, are not normal even by the teenage years, and adults largely grow out of them and move on to more mature mechanisms like altruism.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Chemotherapy Blues: A Mild Case

Can I take a moment and feel a bit sorry for myself?  I have been getting chemotherapy on a regular basis for a year. A year is a very long time when you are getting cytotoxic agents on a regular basis.
The good news is that I finished up 5+ months of what for me was fairly intense chemotherapy in the spring.  I had a handful of unplanned hospitalizations that added up to about an extra month in the hospital, and I lost a lot of strength and the ability to do much more than the bare minimum during that time.  So I had a small life during that time that included my house, my family, and a few friends.  When that was over, at the recommendation of my oncologist, I began a year of maintenance chemotherapy with Lamparza and Taxol, and today was my 9th treatment.  It is so much better than what I was doing before, but the side effects, while much subtler and easier to tolerate, are just a bit much of a muchness.
 Why?  There are a number of things going on, and while I have managed to not have the peripheral neuropathy that plagues many who get lots of Taxol, I have this, that, and now I have the other thing, and before you know it, it all adds up.  Boo hoo.
What to do?  When the going gets tough, the modestly blue woman takes a trip. not this week, but pretty soon.  And I am postponing my next chemo until I get back (I was going to do it two days before I left and then take the oral agent while I was gone, but I am boldly putting it all off until I get back).  I think that will do the trick for me, but I definitely get why people who get chemotherapy longitudinally tire of it.  It beats the alternative, but it is no walk in the park.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Tree Fell in the Driveway

 When a tree falls in your driveway, it definitely makes a noise.  And when it is over a hundred years old, it makes a very big noise indeed.  I have two very strong emotional responses to this event.  The first and foremost is that we felt very lucky.  Our house sustained some damage, but this is one gigantic tree that was living in very close proximity to a number of structures, including the bedroom where our youngest son was when the tree fell.  Our cars, things that you would expect to find in the driveway, were largely unscathed, as was our garage.  The power that such a huge tree exerts when it comes down to earth is astounding.  It crushed everything in its direct path and lots of things with it's much smaller branches. 
The sad thing is that this very old tree, which is certainly as old as the house itself, is gone.  It took up a lot of real estate in the sky, and that is all opened up to sunlight now.  The tree had been alive for many events, both local and far afield.  It witnessed a significant part of the history of our young country, and now it will be warming houses in the place wehre it once thrived.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is a book about occupied France during World War II.  It covers the water front of the difficulties associated with war, and the reality of giving up rather than fighting.  Occupation is not at all pretty, and this book brings out all the gritty details of the lives of those who are civilians.  There is no war, no battlegrounds, nothing at all associated with the acts of war other than an occasional execution by soldiers of village people and bombs falling on towns.  The book is largely about how war affects women, and that is told in the story of two sisters.  One, The Nightingale, is a brash and brave woman who throws herself into the resistance movement and lives and acts very much like a man.  She moves more freely because she is a woman, but that is where it ends.  Her sister, Vianne, is much more easily identified with.  She is not brave.  She wants to keep her children safe.  She does not start out being a troublemaker, but as the realities of was unfold, she sees that she doesn't have a morally acceptable choice not to help.  It dawns on her and she is her own kind of heroine.  Very thought provoking book.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pho All Seasons, Des Moines, IA

 This is the best Vietnamese food that I have had in Des Moines.  I am still finding my way with Vietnamese food, mostly because there is a lot about it that is a little too meaty.  I love the abundance of vegetables in the cuisine, but there is an equal part that includes organ meat and sinew and fat that I am trying to figure out a way around.  I am sure that I will get there, and the journey has been fun.  This is a place that I would definitely stop at again.
The bahn mi is excellent.  This is the litmus test for a Vietnamese place, and Pho All Seasons passed with flying colors.  The sandwich comes in wide variety of meats, and that is always a good sign.  We got the traditional pork filling and it was very good.  Fresh bread, liver pate, and a good balance of heat with slices of jalapenos, herbal with the cilantro, and sour with the carrot and daikon pickled vegetables. The spring rolls were also excellent and come with a number of flavored meat fillings.  The dumplings were good as were the egg rolls.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Royal Night Out (2014)

On one level this movie is cute and charming, and on another it is sad, and on a third it is downright irritating.  It is a movie that revolves around a true event.  When peace was declared at the end of WWII, Elizabeth and her sister are let out of the palace for one night and one night only.  While they are on an adventure that takes them through all sorts of socioeconomic classes and all sorts of experiences, the bottom line is that Elizabeth did this on a one time basis (or so the legend goes).  She is depicted as smart, kind, charming, and all about doing the dutiful thing for god and country, she is also quite unappealing in that the outside world held so little interest for her that she failed to enter it again unless she was absolutely the queen.  Nothing else would do, and that just doesn't seem like a great life.  The movie does immerse the viewer in a particular time and place, as well as with a person, and that is all very interesting.  It is streaming on Netflix and certainly worth a watch if you are an Anglophile.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Day of Atoning Comes Around Again

It is yet again time to atone for sins.  And to fast.  And to think about life.  This last several months has been so busy for me that I haven't really been able to slow down enough for the high holidays, but as I have sat around a number of different tables with various members of my community, I have definitely had time to think about the things that are good in my life.  I think this election season has unleashed a lot of behavior that leaves a lot to be desired.  I am not at all sure that those folks are seeking atonement, mores the pity.  As is so often the case, those that need it most are least likely to seek it.  I myself am working on my own foibles, and in the absence of making big changes, at least trying to down size my life to what I think are important elements of it.  That, and trying to get to November 8th without losing the friends that I share values with.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pick Up Sticks

 I took two classes at the recent American Quilt Society's Quilt Week in Des Moines.  It was a wonderful experience just to be there, but ever so much fun to be in classes with other quilters.  I have not done much of that in a long time, and the intensity of quilters who go to Quilt Week is above my own, so somehow it is comforting to me that  I am not alone in my obsession with fabric and the idea that cutting big pieces of material up into small pieces of material and ten sewing them back together into big pieces of fabric really is something wonderful.  My teacher for the second workshop that I did was Becky Goldsmith, and the quilt we did was different from the applique quilts that I know her for.
The quilt is called Pick Up Sticks for reasons that are pretty clear.  I think there is a lot of fun in this quilt and it can come out a number of different ways.  There were people in the class who were like me, using one color palate for the sticks and a plain background.  My table mate had a white background and all the colors of the rainbow for the sticks and that worked really well.  Another woman had a very busy background and plain sticks.  This quilt has some wonderful elements to it and you can make it a number of different ways--and a quick and pretty easy baby quilt.