Monday, May 30, 2016
“Have you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
Sunday, May 29, 2016
10 to 16 ounces spinach or baby spinach
2 to 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of sugar(can omit)
- Wash and dry the spinach: Spin the washed spinach in a salad spinner or press thoroughly between kitchen towels to make sure the spinach is as dry as possible before cooking. Spinach with a lot of water on the leaves will steam in the wok and become soggy.
- Chop the spinach into pieces: Remove any thick, tough stems. Chop or tear the spinach leaves into roughly 2-inch pieces. Baby spinach can be stir-fried as is.
- Heat the wok: Set your wok or skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two of contact.
- Add the oil: Pour the oil down the side of the pan. Swirl to coat the bottom and lower sides of the wok evenly.
- Stir-fry the garlic: Stir-fry just until fragrant, 10 to 20 seconds.
- Add the spinach: Add the spinach to the pan all at once. Stir to mix in the garlic and coat the spinach with oil.
- Stir-fry until just starting to wilt: Stir-fry the spinach until you see the edges of the leaves start to soften, 30 to 60 seconds.
- Add the salt and sugar: Sprinkle the salt and sugar evenly over the spinach.
- Stir-fry less than one more minute: Keep moving the spinach around the wok until the spinach has just barely collapsed and wilted, but is still bright green.
- Serve immediately: Transfer the spinach to a serving plate and serve immediately.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
This is a funny movie overall, but there are real elements of seriousness that pervade it as well. It is streaming on Netflix, which is always a plus (I find that it is sometimes hard for me to find movies that I will enjoy but have never heard of on Netflix, which is why I mention that). Ed is the new kid in high school and is suffering from all that comes with that. He doesn't have much in the way of support until he meets his next door neighbor, Ashby. Ashby has just had a seizure and lost his driver's license so when Ed comes to interview him about his life Ashby sees him as a potential chauffeur. The draw for Ed is that he discovers that Ashby has a history as a CIA assassin and a basement chock full of weapons. He is not at all who he appears to be and Ed really loves that about him. Ashby helps Ed with his ability to stand up to bullies and Ed becomes his unwitting wheel man. A match made in heaven.
Friday, May 27, 2016
Thursday, May 26, 2016
This was made by my spouse for a low calorie dinner--delicious!
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup Tamarind liquid (see below--I buy it already made)
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
1 1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs cilantro
To make the flavoring sauce, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, tamarind liquid, fish sauce and Sriracha. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste the sauce and adjust the flavors to taste, if necessary. Add extra sugar to reduce tartness, fish sauce for more savory depth, chili sauce for extra heat or water to dilute.
Refresh the shrimp by putting them in a colander and tossing them with a liberal amount of salt. Rinse immediately under lots of cold water and drain well.
In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Ad the shallot and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until they have turned pinkish orange and are half-cooked. They will release juice and look shiny.
Give the flavoring sauce a stir, pour it over the shrimp, and stir to coat the shrimp. Let the sauce come to a vigorous boil, stirring occasionally to keep the elements moving. The sauce will reduce to a thickish consistency, in about 2-3 minutes.
Transfer the shrimp and sauce to a deep plate or shallow bowl. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.
1 package (14-16 oz) seedless tamarind pulp
4 cups water
In a small saucepan, combine tamarind pulp and water over medium heat. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to steep and soften for about 30 minutes, or until you can easily press the pulp against the side of the pan with a fork.
Roughly break up the pulp to make it easier to strain. Position a sieve over a bowl and pour in the tamarind. Using a rubber spatula or metal spoon, vigorously stir and press the solids against the mesh to force as much of the pulp through as possible. If necessary, return the pulp to the saucepan, add some of the already strained liquid, stir to loosen up more of the pulp, and then work it through the sieve again. When the pulp is spent, discard the fibrous leftovers. The resulting liquid will resemble chocolate cake batter.
Use the liquid immediately, or pour into ice-cube trays and freeze. Note how much each tamarind cube contains; it is typically about 2 tbsp. Once the cubes are frozen hard, transfer them to a ziploc bag and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
I listened to a piece on NPR a couple of weeks ago about women having bilateral mastectomies with increasing frequency when only one breast is affected with breast cancer. The health care professionals interviewed were alarmed by the trend because there is no survival advantage to this approach, and since it is major surgery, why would women choose this option. The piece touched briefly on what would be a motivator for me, which would be that I would be reducing my risk of having to have chemotherapy again, which is a not insignificant consideration. The physicians commented that a new cancer in the other breast is not likely, and if it were to occur, it would be caught early and is therefore survivable. Great, but survival is not the only thing going on here (although it is obviously very important). The fear of it coming back, and having to undergo chemotherapy again would be overwhelming for me. Not to mention that a second go round with chemo carries increased secondary cancer risks that we really don't know that much about. The ability to quantify the quality of the life one leads is very far behind the ability to quantify the quantity of life we have, and that is an important gap to recognize and think about.
Monday, May 23, 2016
1 oz white rum
2 oz rhubarb syrup (recipe below)
5 (or so) mint leaves
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 oz rhubarb syrup (recipe below)
5 (or so) mint leaves
1 Tablespoon lime juice
In the bottom of a glass add a bit of nutmeg, lime zest, mint leaves and the lime juice. Using a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon muddle the ingredients. You want to really bruise and break up the mint leaves. Add the rum and syrup, give a light stir then top with ice. Garnish with mint and a thin slice of rhubarb.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
The Daniel Craig Bond character harkens back to the early days of the series with a hero who is more human than other Bonds. Christoph Waltz' bad guy is well within the bounds of off-the-chart evil that you would expect for a Bond opponent. I think it was the script that I had quarrel with more than anything. It is a star studded cast and a darkly filmed movie that will probably make lots of people happier than I was with it. Maybe I am just not that into Bond any more. The end of an era.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
It turned out that in the end, time did not help me much. I just couldn't get used to what felt like fakeness to me about the wig. I really deeply wish I could overcome those feelings, but after a lot of struggle, I had to admit that I just could not. Those who know and work with me would not be fooled either way. A wig is after all not my own hair, and even though I got a very good wig that I very much like the style of, there is no way anyone who knew me would be fooled by it. So wearing a head covering of a cloth nature wasn't so bold in that respect. What I did not realize was that it would definitely announce to those that I do not know that I was getting chemotherapy. I was recently on a return trip to a number of restaurants in Chicago, and on several occasions, someone in the restaurant noted they had served us on a previous trip. We are not a family that stands out or is in any way memorable. We enjoy food and each others company, don't get me wrong. We don't go back to a place that we don't think is great, but rarely do people recognize us on a second go round. Nope, I am pretty sure that not wearing a wig is what was the game changer. At first it surprised me, but on second thought I realized that was the downside of my approach. I was sharing what I was going through with everyone, strangers included. So be it, because while I am hoping to have enough hair by the end of the summer to look punk, I might not.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
It is the call of culture luring you in.
Up until last month I had rarely ventured outside of my house in six months. I was waylaid by a combination of chemotherapy, fatigue, and a need to avoid both crowds and noise. So for my first vacation in months, I wanted to be sure to keep my expectations low so that I would not be disappointed. One of my very favorite things that I got over this six month period of time was daily art. A friend who is far more knowledgeable than I sent me art every day. It was so profoundly uplifting that I wanted to be sure that my first vacation in months included some museums, even if I could only do one or two things there.
I managed to do this while I was in Chicago. I saw two exhibits at the Field Museum and spent an afternoon at the Art Institute, and while it was not an exhaustive viewing of what either place had to offer, it was very uplifting to be amongst beautiful things.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
The first was a friend whose family had escaped the Shah's Iran. How they had come to leave their homeland and live near me I never knew much about, but I did know that I was comfortable with them, and they nurtured another love, one of food from multiple cultures. I never turned down a meal at their table, and my favorite meals to this day are those that highlight food that I do not make well, foods from cultures that are not my own. The second close friend at that time grew up in a large family of adopted children, herself included. Her parents adopted those who were hard to adopt. Her sister had leukemia, another had hydrocephalus, a third was born without functioning limbs. No one could visit her house and feel that they had the worst fate. All sorts of unfortunate possibilities were visually on display.
In many ways I was lucky to learn to cope with this early on in life. Life is hard and not fair and yet exquisitely beautiful. I think it helped me be resilient and thankful for what I have, and yet the sadness of loss had not gone away. So today I once again thank my brother for everything that he taught me in his all too short life.
Monday, May 16, 2016
I have been on a great run of watching good movies, and this is no exception (despite the fact that it is over two hours long). It chronicles the real life story of the Russian spy Rudolph Abel (played by Mark Rylance, who won Best Supporting Actor for this role) and his court appointed lawyer, Jim Donovan (played ably by Tom Hanks). Donovan is tasked with appearing to provide a competent defense for Abel, despite the fact that he was not a criminal defense attorney, and he took that job more seriously than most intended him to, appealing his conviction to the Supreme Court, where he lost. His commendable approach to defending Abel won him no friends and plenty of enemies, and when he was approached about brokering a prisoner exchange with the Soviets several years later he participated, despite the poor treatment he had received. The most interesting thing about watching the movie was the outrage our son had at the prisoner’s treatment. He didn’t realize that many of the rights that he takes for granted post-dated the time of the movie. The most disturbing thing about watching the movie is that not much has changed in our approach to those who wish to do us harm. The public opinion and treatment of Abel is very reminiscent of terrorists put on trial and the fact that we lacked Guantanamo in the 1950s was not lost on me. We have a long way to go to extend civil rights equally to all.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Saturday, May 14, 2016
The novel tells the story of Milo Andret's life, from a solitary 1950s childhood in the woods of northern Michigan through his academic years of feverish productivity and being awarded the prestigious Fields Medal. It also tracks his frustrations, thwarted in love at Berkeley and confounded by a devilishly difficult problem at Princeton before a disgraced return to the Midwest. The book covers a lot of points of view en route, and that is its strength, although inevitably I liked some view points better than others. A very thought provoking book that is well worth a read.
Friday, May 13, 2016
This is a very good British movie about exactly what is different about those with autism, and in some ways it demonstrates just how important it is for those kids who are “on the spectrum”. Nathan knows that he is different, and tragically his father, the only person who really got him, dies in a car accident when he is quite young, and his mother (aptly played by Sally Hawkins) is left to cope. She does an admirable job of getting him the help he needs to fully realize his talents as a mathematician, going so far as to be recognized as one of the very best in England. It is in that group of kids that he does not stand out as that weird, and he has his first interactions with girls that is positive. The mantra for raising kids who are a bit different is to help them to feel as normal as possible for as long as possible so that they can gain as much as possible, and this is a really nice film depicting the value of that. There is a side bar message about trauma and how hard it is to process in childhood that is also well worth thinking about for all of us, not just those who are raising kids who are a bit different.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
- Snap off and discard the tough bottoms of each asparagus spear. Cut the asparagus into 2-inch lengths
- In a wok or cast-iron skillet, heat the oil until nearly smoking. Add the asparagus, season generously with salt and pepper and stir well, making sure the asparagus is coated and glistening with oil. Continue to stir-fry over high heat for about 1-3 minute, depending on the thickness of the asparagus, until it looks bright green and barely cooked. Add the garlic, ginger and chile and stir-fry for 30 seconds more.
- Transfer to a serving platter and scatter leaves on top. Serve immediately
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
The British really are obsessed with World War I. It was the crashing end of the highly structured class system in Britain, with old families still able to maintain big houses and equally big staff well into the 20th century, despite all. Never mind that it was a false economy built on the backs of the sprawling British colonies, and that their insistence on maintaining that to the detriment of almost everyone led quite directly to World War II. France was equally to blame with their priority on making Germany pay for the decimation of their countryside, no doubt about that. It was a disaster, and yet none of the films about it really capture the enormity of it’s impact on history. The cost in this film is purely personal. Young men go gallantly off to war and come home crippled, maimed, or dead. And in very large numbers, which changes everything. Women volunteer as nurses and put themselves in the path of danger, but also in the know about just how terrible it all is. They lose their friends, their lovers, and their siblings in large numbers. The rich rushed into battle to do their duty rather than hiding out behind the lines and therefore everyone was affected. A generation was changed and this is yet another very good depiction of the enormity of that. Well worth a watch, very well done, and yet there really is nothing new here.
Monday, May 9, 2016
This is a variation on the recipe from the New York Times. I made it without bacon because I wanted it to be super easy to make (not that cooking bacon is an insurmountable task, but it does add to prep time and not everyone wants to add meat to every meal, and this could be a good Meatless Monday option. I also did not add peas because we have great asparagus available now, but they could be added or substituted for asparagus. This pasta has a richness from the eggs (yes, five whole eggs--but a pound of pasta goes far with this dish) and you will not miss the bacon if you go this route.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 4-8 spears of asparagus, sliced diagonally
- 10 fresh basil leaves, chiffoned
- 5 eggs, whisked, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons milk
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the bacon, cooking for about 5 minutes, until crispy. Transfer the cooked bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel and set aside. Return the pan with the rendered fat to the stove top for future use.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. . Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for the amount of time recommended, or until al dente.
- While the pasta cooks, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the asparagus, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until cooked but still a bit crunchy. Remove from the heat, stir in the basil, and set aside.
- Whisk together the eggs and milk. Have the egg mixture, Parmesan, and asparagus ready to toss with very hot pasta. Toss vigorously to cook the eggs without curdling them then serve.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
This year my parenting game has been severely affected by having cancer. Not surprisingly, my children have responded quite differently to life threatening illness in their mother, and I am just now starting to work on what I can do to help. Before it was all more or less left to my spouse to deal with because I was just too ill much of the time to do more than attend to myself. So that is the task between now and next Mother's Day, to better handle my job as a mother now that I have a big piece of uncertainty about my future to cope with. Wish me luck because I am definitely going to need it.
Saturday, May 7, 2016
This is a jaunty film about the meltdown of the financial system and the corruptness that underlies what happened. How does it manage to keep it light? First by focusing on those who saw what was coming and while they by no means tried to stop it, they did become increasingly alarmed when the market was not acting as it should and tried to figure out why. The answer, as we all know, is that the system is rigged, and while a few banks and investment houses went down in the crash in 2008, few did and almost no one went to jail. We could learn a thing or two from Iceland, where the financial crooks were treated as crooks and incarcerated. Not so here. The movie is packed with good acting. Steve Carell is excellent, maybe the best that I have seen him, and Christian Bale has taken his wooden style of acting to where it needs to be and become quite good at portraying a kind of character. Brad Pitt is almost unrecognizable and Ryan Gosling takes a double take to notice, but they both put in great performances in a film that almost flippantly tells the saddest story of the 21st century in America. It could well explain how an outsider like Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, managing to escape the wrath of voters against the very moneyed class that the crash protected at their expense. We all desperately want to believe the best of those with money, and that is simply not the case. This movie makes that all very palatable to watch.
Friday, May 6, 2016
Thursday, May 5, 2016
I just had a wonderful dinner with friends recently, where the hosts spent time and effort on creating a memorable meal, with great success. The appetizers were delicious--I ate so many I was worried I wouldn't have anything left for the meal, but that thankfully did not happen, because the meal and the dessert were every bit as wonderful as the pre-meal options. The thing that I love about eating in people's homes is that it is more private and more relaxed. There is no orchestration of when to leave, other than the clock and the obligations of the next day. That always puts me in a good frame of mind--I might not always stay there, and over the past six months there have been a number of times where my fatigue or my pain have limited me more than anything else, but I am constantly and gratefully reminded that dinner with friends is a wonderful thing.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Suffice it to say that the movie is just what you would expect. The women get carried away when they are on the road, their producer is a very unlikable guy, the band does not easily get the respect they deserve, and in the end, only the ones with grit manage to thrive. It is a good depiction of that, and unlike The Rose, it is not painful to watch.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Monday, May 2, 2016
1/2 lb. shredded radish
1 1/2 Tbs. white vinegar
1 Tsp. kosher salt
1 Tsp. sugar
1 Tbp. olive oil
1 Tbs. horseradish
Parsley to taste
Mix the ingredients together and serve.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
The Irish are a verbal people, preserving legends in story and song. The Book of Kells is a painstakingly illuminated medieval manuscript preserving the four gospels, and every page is a work of art. Many monks created it over many years. Perhaps the viewer is to think that Brendan was one of them. Brendan befriends old Brother Aidan, a traveler who has arrived bearing the precious book. Some pages remain to be created, and Aidan says Brendan must help. He can start by disobeying the Abbot, venturing outside the walls, and gathering the nuts he needs to make the ink.
This and his further adventures are a little like an illuminated manuscript itself. Just as every margin of the Book of Kells is crowded with minute and glorious decorations, so is every shot of the film filled with patterns and borders, arches and frames, do-dads and scrimshaw images. The colors are bold and bright; the drawings are simplified and 2-D. That reflects the creation of the original book in the centuries before the discovery of perspective during the Renaissance.
The movie has a wide appeal, with a gap in the middle. I think it will appeal to children young enough to be untutored in boredom, and to anyone old enough to be drawn in, or to appreciate the artistry.