Friday, November 28, 2014

We Gather Together



In a word: YUM. Thanksgiving at the Chardonnays' was scrumptious and toothsome. I didn't love everything we made (as always), but I give it a solid B. (Husband and Mom say A–, but they are more good-natured than I.)

We missed Arty Jenny, our companion of so many years who now resides on the Left Coast, but it was wonderful having Mom here, especially on the six-month anniversary of my dad's passing. The day was full of friends, family, and food, lots of laughter, and some great hooch. A perfect Thanksgiving!

Here's the food ranking, from Worst to First. And the good news is, nothing was truly terrible — and I haven't always been able to say that, believe me.

Kind of Blah
  • Tre Verdure (Three Vegetables), Comprising Corn & Scallion, White Bean, and Fennel & Red Onion Insalates: Based on our love of the antipasti at Alta Strada, Mimosa and I liked the idea of having three pretty little veggie dishes. Unfortunately, nothing we made held a candle to the offerings at Alta Strada. Clearly I am not using enough salt. And also, I made the corn dish with frozen corn, and it really really needed fresh corn. C'est la vie.
  • Roast Eggplant Dip: Such a disappointment! Eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic, lovingly roasted and then blended with white beans and lots of yummy herbs. It made the house smell like heaven, but it tasted like thick, dry hummus. Again, not terrible, but nothing I would make a second time.
  • Cheese Straws: Kinda bland. Period.
Tasty, But Probably Once Was Enough
  • Smoked Bluefish Pate: Legal Seafoods made the BEST version of this, and it's no longer on their menu. This recipe was okay, but too chunky — more like tuna salad with celery than the smooth velvety wonder I remember. Though I had some with crackers for breakfast this morning, and it tastes fine — just nothing to knock your socks off. (Mom breakfasted on creme brulee and sausage links.)
  • Stuffed Mushrooms with Chorizo and Manchego: I make stuffed mushrooms with salami and smoked cheese, and they are the best stuffed mushrooms in the entire world. Every time I try a new recipe, I say, "Why do I do this when I already make the best stuffed mushrooms in the entire world?" I am a mystery to myself.
  • Chocolate Cupcakes with Crispy Magic Frosting: I've had this recipe for years, and I'm glad I finally made it because how enticing does that frosting sound? But the cupcakes are a teensy bit dense and a teensy bit dry; I have a much better chocolate cake recipe — moist, dark, and luscious. And the thing I forgot about frosting . . . is that I don't really like frosting. And this recipe made a TON of frosting. We'll be putting leftover frosting on everything from meatballs to the cat's food for a week or so, I fear. But it was crispy indeed, and I guess magical, so there you have it.
Delicious, As You'd Expect
  • Pigs in Blankets: Really, what is there to say?
  • Creamy Salsa Dip: This is always good, but I think I may have used the wrong Knorr's vegetable soup mix (which sounds weird in salsa dip, I know, but it is really good) — it was way chunkier than I remembered. (I'm all about that texture, 'bout that texture, no nutrition.) Whatever, it still tasted good.
  • Vanilla Creme Brulee: Very good, though the crust was not as crackly as it was supposed to be, possibly because we were all ready to eat dessert and didn't want to wait any longer.
SUBLIME
  • Candied Bacon Sticks: Oooh la la.
  • Chicken Enchilada Dip: It never disappoints. This year I made it with mild jalapenos instead of canned green chilies, and it was the best yet.
  • Salted Cracker Toffee: OH MAN this is so good. Practically my new favorite dessert recipe. SO. FREAKING. GOOD.
  • Plimoth Plantation Planter's Punch: Yum!!!! I got the recipe from Mrs. Cynicletary's sister-in-law, and it was so yummy, especially when made with fresh-squeezed lemon juice. (I had a lot of naked lemons, denuded of their skins to made homemade limioncello.)
  • Berry Bellinis: I cooked down two flats of raspberries into a fruity simply syrup, and made this with champagne, berry syrup, and a shot of Triple Sec. Sublime!!! Oh, did I say that already?
  • Raspberry Lime Richards: For my non-drinking husband, I used the same berry syrup, combined with fresh lime juice and tonic water, to make a Rickey for grown-ups. Extremely tasty!! (Good Neighbor Anne tried the first one I made and said it was too sour, but I added more syrup to the second one, and it was fabulous!)
Also delicious, but not officially part of the menu: Rosemary Cashews, which we snacked on while we cooked.

What didn't make the list: Homemade limoncello, which I made and then totally forgot about. And Mom rejected the idea of having it with our breakfast. Report to come!

As mentioned, GN Anne stopped by while we were cooking; she declined a drink but ate 3,000 cashews, which was gratifying. Then after dinner Mrs. Cynicletary and Handsome D came over; they enjoyed a Berry Bellini and played Act Out/Sound Out with us, and it was wonderful to share this day with them.

We played many many games, found a container for every leftover, washed a mountain of dishes, and had a truly lovely evening.

Memories!! I love Thanksgiving.

Blessings and love to you all.

— Lady C

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Know that Depression Lies, But Sometimes I Forget



The Maud-L e-list is currently discussing depression and medication, and my friend Cari Triple-M posted about how lost and listless and unlike herself she felt after her father died. She lives on the West Coast, a three-hour time difference from me, and I am watching the clock and waiting till it's late enough to call her.

I have a new addiction to talking to friends who have also lost their fathers — mostly because I'm seeking validation that I'm not a loser, despite all evidence to the contrary, as well as reassurance that this too shall pass.

I feel almost undone by grief, and I am ashamed and embarrassed about it. I think my dad would be disappointed in me. I keep on keepin' on, because what choice do I have? But I am not myself.

Usually at this time I'd be planning my annual caroling party, which Good Neighbor Anne and I started in 2002. But this year, my urge to lie low and add nothing new to my to-do list is almost overwhelming. Then again, I love this party, and once it's in full swing I find it incredibly nourishing to my soul. Is it worth the effort involved to get to that point? That's the decision I'm struggling with.

In the meantime, we've planned our Thanksgiving menu, I think it's our best yet, and my mom arrives tomorrow at 11:51 p.m. I LOVE having my mom here! She is the best guest. We are all very excited.

But before then, here's what I need/want to do:
  • Grocery-shop for Thanksgiving 
  • Mend and de-pill the hideous green couch that houses the guest bed
  • Dust
  • Wipe the baseboards
  • Vacuum the basement
  • Deep-clean the kitchen
I've got 48 hours, more or less. No problem.

Today I'm having lunch with Mrs. Cynicletary, which is always a treat, and I'm calling my car guy to find out why they haven't credited the $750 that was "temporarily" charged to my credit card — and also calling Cari Triple-M, as noted, which will be lovely. Maybe I can talk and de-pill at the same time. And it would be great if I could do some editing for Harvard in there somewhere.

In other news, I've been reading up a storm:




And here's what I've got on my stack:




I'm in a mystery phase right now. The weather is chilly, and there is nothing lovelier than curling up under a blanky with a hot drink and a mystery. The puzzle is resolved, the bad are punished, the wise are rewarded. So satisfying!!

Off to . . . get dressed, I guess. It's dark and rainy outside, I haven't made my bed yet, and climbing back into it sounds almost unbearably appealing. But my list calls . . .

— Lady C, not her usual ebullient self, but working on it

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Monday Is D-Day. Or, I Guess, T-Day. UPDATED with Doctor Love!!


On Monday, my no-Tamoxifen trial period ends and I have to decide what to do. I would describe myself as 100 percent on the fence. I know what I want to do, but I also know why I want to do it, and it's a bad reason. My hope is that if I list all the variables here, in order of how annoying they are, a clear direction will emerge.


Weight 
  • During Tam: I promptly gained 10 pounds within a week of starting the Tam. Then both perimenopause and osteoarthritis came to call, my metabolism slowed and I couldn't do zumba any more, and my weight continued to creep up, up, UP.
  • Month Without Tam: For three weeks and a few days, nothing. This blew my mind — why wouldn't the 10 Tam pounds fall right off? Then a few days ago — presto! My weight dropped five pounds. And I assure you, I have done nothing different, weight-loss-wise. 
(It's hard to write this, but it's true. I have not been the picture of dedication. I have instead been the picture of over-work, over-commitment, and stress. It is . . . not the best time in my life, for many reasons. But that is a different post.) 
In any event, my weight is heading back down again, which feels so good.
Ladyplumbing
(Warning: This paragraph is not for the faint of heart)

No change whatsoever. Things move sluggishly. The "result" is so foul, I can hardly stand myself. I used to have the easiest breeziest poos in the entire world. Tam has wrecked me forever, I fear. 


Fatigue and Weepiness
  • During Tam: I have been exhausted, and everything makes me cry. Now, was this true before April, i.e., when my dad got sick and died? It's hard to remember. In any event . . . 
  • Month Without Tam: No real change in the weepiness. However, my mood is much lighter, possibly because of the cortisone shots in my knees, which, while not removing all knee pain, have made me feel incredibly much better. And lack of pain is a mood-lifter, my friends! You can quote me. And possibly it's psychosomatic: I believed I would feel happier, so I feel happier. 
And also . . . with Tam, I needed to keep track of my adult beverage consumption and stay within seven drinks per week. Without Tam, I can drink myself into oblivion — you know, if I wanted to. And that is the reason I want to stop taking it, which I know is a bad, bad reason. But there it is.


Perimenopause
No change. Tam started me on a path, there is no going back. And my main "symptom" (besides slow metabolism) is feeling like I'm about to get my period all the time. Tender boobs, intense emotions, general heaviness — check! All there, all the time. So. Freaking. Fun.

What Does All This Add Up To?
It looks like the only real change is my weight. My change in mood is likely influenced by many variables, not just the Tam. However, my doctor said I could take one more month off if I was still on the fence, and that's what I'm inclined to do. December can be a tough stressy month as it is, and I also have a TON of work scheduled, in addition to the Christmas hoopla. (And I am the driver of the Christmas Hoopla Bus, so it's best to have me at peak performance levels.)

I will resume the Tam in January, unless I feel dramatically better in December. And if so, then, yay! And I'll reconsider my decision then.

OK! It's good to have that decided. I will write to my doctor now . . . and then get back to work. And probably cry a little, you know, just because.

— Lady C, woman of resolution

UPDATE

I wrote to my awesome Cancer Prevention Doc, basically summarizing the above, and this was her response:
I am so glad you are feeling better! This plan sounds fine. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year, and let's touch base afterward to see what you want to do. 
She is da bomb!

In other news, I subbed yesterday, and my knees were killing me by the end of the day, despite my supportive footwear. My day ended with Motrin and alternating icepacks. I am much better today.

Now, have I done one second's worth of the physical therapy my orthopedist prescribed? Um, no. Not even one second's worth. I was fooled by how good I felt — but clearly I still need to build up my quad muscles. Today, I promise, I will start.

My day started at 6:15, and I've already taken two children two different places, submitted my timesheet, sent a dozen e-mails, had my car inspected, enjoyed coffee and a Verna's doughnut with Husband, and moved all the donations for my church's Harvest Moon Fair from my basement to the living room. (Next step: car then church then GONE!) It's 9:19, time to start "working," even though I've got a bad headache. But the work is piling up, I need to make a dent in it.

Onward!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Well, It Is a Day With a "Y" In It


 When you take Tamoxifen, you're supposed to limit yourself to one drink per day (or a max of seven per week).

 It . . . is good that I'm taking a month off from Tamoxifen.

Life is a whirling whirligig of a whirlwind at present, four Chardonnays going in four different directions at all times, with Air Traffic Controller Mommy barely, just barely, keeping all the balls in the air and all the trains running on time. (Let's play Treasure Hunt and find all the metaphors in that sentence, shall we?)

I'm too tired to post anything in real detail, but here are some newsy bits:

After 16 years of carefully easing our way up and down our front steps during the icy season, holding on to nearby bushes for support, we now have railings! And they are gorgeous! And they were relatively cheap!! I am so so SO happy!!!!

(FYI, these are not my steps, but my railings look exactly like this. Well, except not, because I only have three steps. But otherwise, exactly like this.)

I have a "new" (used) car! It is a 2010 Honda Civic with less than 40,000 miles on it, it is sweet and clean and beautiful and drives like a dream, and I have named her Foxy Red:



After spending money on all this, plus a huge chunk of change to rebuild the crumbling retaining wall that runs along my front lawn, we are even broker than usual, and our Home Equity Line of Credit is crying. But! Harvard wants to hire me again, plus I have another job scheduled for next week. All will be well. Probably. Maybe. Most likely.


I can't remember how long ago I colored my hair, but it still looks fabulous!!! I am so happy when I look in the mirror!

I think that's all. Mimosa appears in West Side Story this weekend, I'm on the Make-Up Committee, I have to turn a dozen WASPy tweens into a Hispanic street gang. Me and a mascara wand, we are magic.

I e-mailed Brunie today:

I estimate that I can start drinking in four hours. Is it wrong that I’m timing it practically to the minute at this point?

She replied:

I say any time after noon is fair game drinking wise. Go for it!

Me:

It just seems wrong to breathe alcohol into the faces of impressionable Anglo teens. And also, I have to drive back and forth to Watertown. A clear head seems . . . right.

Three more hours. I can wait. (But thanks for pep talk, ENABLER.)

Brunie:

I do what I can to help. And you can just tell the kids, "It's mommy's medicine, and shut up, I know I'm not your mommy! How drunk do you think I am? I'm GLAD I'm not your mommy. If I were your mommy, I'd slap that snotty look off your face right now! Now get over here so I can make you a Mexican or whatever."

Three hours, good luck!


I'm home now, and sippin' some of the sweet stuff. And it's goin' down gooooooood.

Bath time! Yes, at 6:40 p.m. I'm living large!

Cheers!

— Lady C

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Can't Think of a Title


Brunie and I were talking about getting together on Tuesday night, but after Errand # 2,019 early in the day, I began to fade.

I e-mailed her:
Check with me again later in the day, maybe I’ll have a second wind. (A mighty wind! It’s blowing you and me!) 

I have to go back to the bank before then, though, because Smarty Bank Lady gave me a form that I wasn’t supposed to take with me.

How I love incompetency. How refreshing and inspiring I find it. How I look forward to toasting SBL with my first drink of the day.


Brunie wrote:
The first drink of the day wasn't imbibed before 12:30? You're doing GREAT!

I said:
Only because I was still at the bank.  Clearly I need a flask. A discreet flask that looks like a lipstick, I think.

Well, looky what came in the mail today!

 

My girl Brunie — she awesome.

So here I am, two weeks off the Tam, waiting for the 10 pounds that fell right on to fall right off, my digestive system to right itself, and my mood to dramatically lighten, lessen, and otherwise shape up.

. . . .

I have nothing to report. Either (1) it wasn't the Tam causing all these problems or (2) the Tam has PERMANENTLY RUINED ME. I bet you can guess which one I think it is.

Today's million errands also included a cortisone shot in each knee — and I have a new nominee for the lowest rung on the ladder to happiness, believe me. I hope and expect that my knees will feel terrific and zumba-ready soon, but to quote from the handout I was sent home with:
When the novacaine wears off, the area where the shot was given may be quite sore and you may experience pain to the same degree that you had before your injection. This may last 1–2 days and then gradually diminish.
Both knees hurt like blazes. Time to lie on the couch with ice packs, swilling Motrin and watching Jeopardy. And "supervising" Li'l Martini as he packs for a weekend away with his LARP buddies. I'm not sure which I "love" more — packing myself, or being responsible for someone else's packing.

Jeopardy will be a good distraction.

Ooh, and maybe I'll play with my flask.

— Lady C

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

One Day at a Time Takes Freaking Forever



So much going on! This weekend I was a master of accomplishment, checking items off my to-do list right and left. Half my basement papers are filed! Estimates for porch railings are flying into my Inbox! I wrote an article for the church newsletter, read this week's submissions for my writers group, made pumpkin brownies with the aging can of pumpkin in my fridge! I called, I wrote, I went Halloween shopping with my son (we needed face paint for his disgusting costume, and pumpkins for carving, which turned out to be surprisingly challenging! But we found what we wanted at Wilson Farms, plus some hot-out-of-the-fryer cider doughnuts, a highlight of this glorious season).

(I'll try to remember to take a picture of our jack-o'-lanterns before the slutty squirrels have their way with them. They turned out super cute!)

A few updates and newsy bits:

  • It's my fifth day off the Tam. I'm in a supremely good mood, but can we attribute that to being Tam-free? or getting stuff done, which I LOVE? or the gorgeous weather? or my knees hurting less today? I'm still weepy, the scale needle hasn't budged, and my digestive cycle is a thing of woe. Progress? I dunno. Plus I have an exciting new ailment: ulnar nerve entrapment, caused by excessive computer work! Awesome. 
  • I'm getting x-rays on both knees on Friday, and I have an appointment with an orthopedist on November 6. I am so hopeful that something can be done and I can be pain free. And return to zumba!!
  • Yesterday was the birthday of my darling friend Zanzibar! Happy belated birthday, dear friend. I am delighted to celebrate the fact of your birth.
  • I have found the yummiest way to cook vegetables! The Pioneer Woman inspired me. Usually I make fun of her recipes ("This is so delicious, and all you need is a pound of butter, three cups of sour cream, and a block of cheese!") but this one is actually healthy. She says, Mix your seasonal vegetables! So instead of a big pan of starchy roasted roots (turnips, beets, squash — all of which I like, but it does get kinda . . . old), I added mushrooms, onions, red peppers, asparagus, and lots of sliced fresh garlic, and sprinkled everything with my favorite J. Lee Roy seasoning plus salt and pepper, and roasted two trays (the other secret is to spread everything waaayyyyyy out) at high heat (450 degrees) for 20 minutes. YUM!!! And so pretty, too!
 
  • Tonight the kids and I are going to see Les Miserables at North Shore Music Theatre, so fun! I've never seen it onstage before. It's been a theater-heavy couple of weeks, for sure, but there is almost nothing I love more than live theater.

I feel like I had other stuff to say, but I need to eat some lunch (potato soup, green salad) and get ready for the long haul to Danvers, Mass. Before we head out, Li'l Martini must see his orthodontist, so he'll be a sad boy with ouchy-tight braces when we hit the road. I am packing soft snacks and Motrin.

I dreamed a dream  . . . that tomorrow my scale will give me some positive freaking reinforcement, for once!

 — Lady C

Friday, October 24, 2014

OK. Breathing Now



Sorry about yesterday's rant. I dunno . . . I just dropped my basket briefly, I guess. But today is a new day (without any mistakes in it, so far! except that Husband forgot to put a bag in the kitchen trash can last night, and my idiot children blithely poured their trash into a naked trash can — but guess whose problem this is not?) (and I also had to change the light bulb over the kitchen sink, wayyyyyy up high, which meant standing on a chair, which, with my bum knees, was quite the comedy of errors) (and aren't those weirdo twisty light bulbs supposed to last, like, a lifetime?? Mine burn out all the time. What the heck??) . . .

. . . and I'm feeling cautiously optimistic.

Yesterday I met with my cancer-prevention doc, and she looked at my medical record and said, "So you met with Dr. Dixie [my boob surgeon] last week, she asked you how you're doing on Tam, you said you hate it but the voice of your dead grandmother told you to keep taking it. Would you . . . say that's accurate?"

I said, "Yep."

She said, "Well! Okay, then."

I'm so happy that the voice of my dead grandma is part of my medical record!

I told CP doc all my symptoms and said, "I know we can't really tell what's due to Tam vs. perimenopause vs. knee injury vs. stress vs. grief . . ." and she said, "Maybe we can." She's having me stop taking Tam for a month and keep close track of how I'm feeling (not a problem. I excel at this), and then we'll evaluate:
  • If I'm not significantly better but I note improvement toward the end of the month, she'll give me another month off. 
  • If I'm not significantly better, period, I'll resume my life with Tam, the inscrutable exchange student.
  • If I'm clearly significantly better . . . then I have a hard decision to make: Resume the medicine that's making me miserable, or roll the dice and assume that I won't get breast cancer? (which, if you're keeping track, I might anyway, even if I keep taking the Tam)
I'm thrilled to begin this trial, and I love my doctor for listening to me and totally getting it.

So it's Day 1 of No Tam, and so far I feel . . . really sleepy. I watched How to Get Away with Murder last night, then read a little of Soldier Girls until my eyes closed — but then it took me an hour to fall asleep. And Friday mornings begin at 6:12 a.m., when my kids must arise for Madrigals and Boys Chorus, and I had to put on real clothes today, not just dash out in my nightie, because we were almost out of cream for my coffee. So: yawwwwwwn.

But I have a ton of work to do, so I shall have at it!

Other items of optimism:
  • Tonight Mimosa and I are going to an author reading for two authors/books that we both loved:
  • We'll have dinner at Alta Strada, a yummy Italian restaurant, where our favorite thing is to order small plates of vegetables, salad, and dessert. YUM. I've never taken my girl to an author reading before, and I am very excited.
  • Avenue Q on Saturday night!!!
  • I'm making a deeply concerted effort to leave my inflamed cuticles alone, and they are actually looking pretty good! I feel like I have no control whatsoever over my weight — even when I do everything "right," I still don't necessarily lose a pound. But this is a no-brainer: If I don't pick, my fingers look better. Right now each nail is polished half navy and half emerald, with clear violet glitter over the whole thing, and they look very fabby.
  • Yesterday, as I bemoaned the 173 messages in my Inbox, Writer Jenny promptly e-mailed me with this subject line:
174.
  • My friends, they are wicked funny. And also wicked. I may be dead broke, but I am RICH in FRIENDS.
  • I'm test-driving a new mantra:


Work calls. I shall answer.

— Lady C the dutiful