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Sunday 2022.5.22

New Food Love

I found a new food to love last week. I was in Costco shopping to find some English muffins. I can make them myself, but they require a lot of time and effort. Is it really worth it? I didn't see the muffins in the store. Maybe they're in another section. However, they had these square "Artisan Rolls" things that looked like I might enjoy them. I bought some.

Actually, in texture and flavor they're very similar to English muffins. They're baked rather than fried. There are lots of holes inside to hold butter and/or jelly when the roll is toasted. They're even partially split.

I like to butter them and toast them in a skillet. I might have a toaster out in the shed. Maybe not. It has been so long since I last used it, I can't remember. The skillet works fine for me. Heat to around 350°F (180°C), slather the bread with some butter, and place in the hot skillet, cut side down.

One evening I flattened a boneless, skinless thicken thigh using my tortilla press (it works great) and fried it a few minutes on each side. Being so thin, it cooked quickly. Then I made a chicken sandwich using one of the artisan rolls. They're good for egg sandwiches too.

And that gave me another idea. What if I were to flatten some chicken thighs, dredge them in the coating mix for my Finger Lickin' Chicken, and then fry them in a little butter? It would save me the effort of deep fat frying with all that oil. I'll use oil more than once when making something like New England Clam Cakes, but after frying chicken I prefer to discard the oil. I'm sure it would be safe to use again, but raw chicken is so prone to contaminating things, the oil seems safer discarded. Besides, it isn't expensive.

I gave the flattened chicken thing a try. It was good. And that sent me onto the internet to look up recipes for breaded chicken cutlets. Most were unsatisfactory. The cook flattened an entire chicken breast, breaded it, and cooked it. I don't know about you, but I don't want an entire chicken breast on my plate. It's too much. Maybe it was meant to be carved at the table, but that wasn't specified or demonstrated.

One cook carved the raw breast into smaller cutlets, flattened those, and breaded them for cooking. That looked much better. So now I want to buy some chicken breasts and experiment. I think breaded chicken cutlets would make a good video, especially if I use my tortilla press to flatten the chicken and my air fryer to cook them.

Something New

I learned something new this week. I've been getting phone calls daily from a number I do not recognize. I don't answer those, but I needed to know more because I'm expecting a phone call from the hospital. There are reverse number lookup sites on the internet, but you don't get the information you want unless you give them money. There is another way, and it's free.

You can do a Google search for the phone number. I did that and several page options were listed, almost all about complaints people had lodged against the use of that phone number for spam purposes. That solved my need to know.

A few months ago I blogged about finally purchasing a smartphone. It wasn't something I wanted, but I needed it because the cell phone company sent me a notice saying they were retiring their 3G network and my existing phone would no longer work. I purchased a Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. It has a feature that lets me enter a phone number onto a block list. I did that and it works. I really like this new phone.

Something Else New

You gotta love the internet. I do. As mentioned above, I have a new smartphone. I now get text messages, like when Costco notifies me about a refillable prescription that is ready to pick up. I don't like the notification though. My phone does a couple short vibrates and maybe there is a buzz tone too. I don't know. The tone is too quiet to notice unless the phone is at my side. Can I add a custom notification like I add custom ringtones for each of my contacts? Yes, but it's a little complicated.

There is a notification options thing in the settings, but there is no selection for adding a custom tone. What to do? Google it. I can copy a custom tone from my computer to my phone. Enter the Text to Speech app again.

On my computer I have an app that lets me convert text to speech. I can type in "You received a new text message" and the app will read it in one of three voice options. Then I can save the speech clip as an MP3 file. After copying the audio file from my computer to my phone and then listing the text message notifications again, the file appears at the top in the "Custom" section. Select that and I'm done. When I get a new text message my computer will announce it in a human-like voice rather than a faint buzz.

Wednesday 2022.5.18

Another Doctor Visit

These days it seems like my life is a series of medications and doctor visits. I saw the doctor on Monday afternoon. I think I can refer to him as "the surgeon" now because he will be performing the surgery.

I gave him the go-ahead to schedule it as soon as possible. He couldn't give me a firm date, or even a window. The surgeon said I would be in the hospital overnight and then probably released the next day, barring any unforseen complications. There is always a measure of risk when going onto the operating table, but it's a type of procedure that is considered low risk.

I called the friend who will drive me to and from the hospital. I'm a bit concerned about him. He's never on time. If he says he'll be here at 9:30, I don't expect to see him until well after 10:00, and he'll show up with an excuse for being late. Either the dog was running around the neighborhood and had to be caught or his wife put the car keys where he couldn't find them. The truth is he's very disorganized.

If I can cheer myself a little bit — rah, rah, rah — I am organized. When I step into my home everything in my pockets goes into one place — keys, wallet, etc. His wife once commented to him, "Dennis knows where everything is," as if that were amazing. She said that because they were here when I was making Seafood Fettucini for them. I would ask her, "Please hand me a stainless steel bowl. It's in that cupboard there (pointing) in the middle of the second shelf up." Yes, I know where things are. But I digress.

What should I do about that friend? Should I tell him I need to be at the hospital an hour earlier than necessary? That might work well. If he shows up at my home on time, I can always say, "We have plenty of time. Can I make you a cup of coffee?"

It's Going to Happen

Yesterday I received confirmation the surgery will take place on Monday June 20th. The surgeon's office sent me a Surgery Schedule. I have a pre-op appointment with the surgeon a week before and another one a week afterward. There are a few things not to do. No food after midnight the day before. No aspirin-like medications the week prior to the surgery, but Tylenol is okay. A Covid 19 test will be taken two days prior to the operation. Supposedly there is a pre-surgical hospital appointment scheduled, but I haven't received that call yet — something about labs needing to be done 1 week prior to surgery.

It isn't a major operation. This isn't open heart surgery. But evidently it's serious enough to require a lot of preparation. I'll be unconscious, under general anaesthesia on the operating table. But if all goes well I'll be able to return home the following day.

It might seem odd, but I was concerned the operation would conflict with my ability to blog on Wednesday. If all goes well, I'll be in the hospital on Monday and home on Tuesday.

Sunday 2022.5.15

Watching the Temperature Rise

I knew the latter half of the week was going to be a scorcher. The meteorologists predicted 77°F (25°C) for Friday. That means 87 where I live. By 11:00 in the morning it was already five degrees warmer than their prediction. By the afternoon it was nearly 93°F (34°C). So much for 77. Yesterday was the same. Today is supposed to be even warmer and tomorrow it will peak at 81°F (27°C). Again, add another ten degrees to where I live.

It might be long summer. Firefighters have already successfully knocked down two brush fires in the area. Thankfully, I have plenty of N95 masks, should the air get smoky.

I didn't wait until the temperature was uncomfortably high in the office. I started the air conditioner before noon.

Despite the heat, I craved some soup; so I made a pot of New England style Clam Chowder. However, I went a little rogue. Rather than one cup of water I used one cup of chicken stock. And I used some heavy whipping cream with the milk for a richer soup. What can I say? It was delicious. I also have a recipe for Manhattan Clam Chowder. The New England style has always been my favorite, even on a hot day when it's too warm for soup.

I also made another pot of Marinara using my pressure cooker, which greatly reduces the cooking time and therefore also heats the kitchen less. And this is one of my most pleasant ways of cooking because I use the induction cooker. I adjust the temperature to maintain the recommended pressure in the pot and I set the timer to automatically turn the unit off at the end of the cooking time. Set and forget. It will take care of itself.

Passing the Time

While I'm working through this annoying condition thing, I'm following a recommendation of a friend. He, by the way, has the "caretaker" personality type. If someone is in need, he'll drop everything and rush to their rescue. Knowing that surgery is in my future (his father went through the same disorder), he told me he was being careful not to schedule anything so that he would be available to drive me to and from the hospital when the time came.

His recommendation to keep my mind off my discomfort: Go back to making shirts. Good idea. I have the fabric. I have the time. I'm not going anywhere. It's sort of like that period when California Governor Gavin Newsom told the state's residents to stay home during the peak of the pandemic, only I'm a little less comfortable this time around.

I finished one shirt that was nearly done. It only needed buttons and buttonholes. Thankfully I have that Brother computerized sewing machine I bought at a temporary discount at Costco. It automates the buttonhole process and I can even use the machine to attach the buttons. It's really easy. I hate sewing on buttons by hand. And the worst part of that task is that it comes at the end. Sometimes it's better to put the worst part behind you early, then the rest is smoother sailing. However, the Brother removes the frustration; and I don't have a lot of patience right now anyway.

Following that shirt I took my time cutting another. There was no hurry. I had all day. Not that mistakes don't happen. I cut one of the fronts and the two sleeves sideways. There is a slight pattern in the weave of the fabric. It's difficult to see, and therefore I might have got away with one front cut 90° to the other, but in certain lights the error might have been noticeable. Thankfully, I caught the mistake before I stitched those pieces. I'll use them for cutting smaller pieces later, like sleeve cuffs, pockets, and sleeve plackets — they're large enough to maybe cut a collar or two.

And thus I keep myself busy. I'll see the doctor again tomorrow afternoon to determine the next step. Meanwhile, I take my pills each day. I don't know how well some of them are working, but I can see immediate results for one of them. I have a blood pressure meter, the kind with the arm cuff, and my blood has been normal. That's a relief.

Wednesday 2022.5.11

Lost for Words

Last month I mentioned a medical condition I'm working through. It's unpleasant. I thought about blogging about it, but decided against it. It's also personal. Maybe later when all this discomfort has passed and I feel good again. Thankfully I have friends who are willing to help.

And, because my primary focus these days is on this health issue, I don't have much else on my mind to blog about. How about issues in the news?

Ukraine

Maybe you've already heard too much about the war in that nation. Initially I was interested, watching as much news as possible. Now I watch for an hour and that's usually enough. In fact, an hour at bedtime is enough to get the day's news.

Economy

Inflation is an important issue as we head into the summer before the mid-term elections this fall. I don't drive much; so gasoline prices don't affect me much. After a doctor visit yesterday morning I stopped to fill my SUV's tank. $80. The national average for gasoline is currently $4.33 per gallon. It costs a dollar more here in Southern California.

Books

I started reading This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns. One point I gleaned from early in the book — during the final weeks of his presidency Trump surrounded himself with advisors who only told him what he wanted to hear. So, yes, he really believes the election was stolen from him, despite all the evidence, because that was all he was told. No one had the guts to say, "Mr. President, you lost."

I also picked up A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times by Mark Esper. I'm not sure when I'll start reading it. However, the weather has been very pleasant, urging me to sit outside on the deck and read.

Spare Time

Meanwhile, what do I do with all this time with nothing to do as I'm stuck in my home? A friend offered a good suggestion. Go back to making shirts. I have all the fabric. I only need to do some tailoring each day, taking my time, to take my mind off my temporary hardship.

Sunday 2022.5.8

Happy Mother's Day

Hopefully you gave your mother something special today, or maybe a visit if she hasn't seen you in a while. In these days of Zoom meetings on the internet, even a pleasant video chat might be sufficient when loved-ones live far apart.

If your mother is gone, as mine is, it might be good to remember mom's positive points this day. My mother was not a gourmet cook, but she kept the family fed and she brought us up well. None of us ever got into trouble with the police.

This might seem a bit odd, or more likely macabre, but I occasionally need to refresh my memory of when my parents passed away. I did another search on the internet and found a photo of their grave marker. Given how much the person in charge of such things received from the estate, 90%, I was surprised so little was spent on the stone — the bare minimum of names, years born and died.

Doing my laundry this past week, I remembered a story about my mom. She always washed her dishes by hand every evening. One Christmas, my father gave her an automatic dish washer. It was portable, rolled up to the sink, and hooked up to the faucet after the drain hose was placed in the sink. Immediately, my mother opposed. "Just try it one time, Dearie." That was her nickname. Reluctantly she agreed. After starting the machine, she sat down in the living room with us to watch TV. She was hooked. The machine stayed.

My laundry made me think of her because for several years I washed my clothes by hand. It was an arduous task. At the time, I didn't know about portable washing machines. When I discovered they exist, I did some research and ordered one. Like my mother, I never looked back. It is so easy to set up the machine to do my laundry automatically. I especially like the spin cycle. My damp clothes dry so quickly. I could never achieve that by hand.

Experimenting

Someone suggested I consider making Irish Soda Bread. I did some research and it looks very easy. Easy is important to me right now because of this medical condition I'm working through. It's nothing life threatening, unless I do nothing about it. I'm under the care of a doctor. If he recommends surgery, I'm all in. I know someone who went through the same thing a few years ago. He got the surgery and he's doing fine now.

Meanwhile, moving around my home is a little annoying. I get frustrated easily. I'd explain, but it's not the sort of thing I feel comfortable blogging about.

As for the experiment, I wanted to make the soda bread, but I didn't have buttermilk. What would happen if I substituted heavy cream (whipping cream) instead? One issue came immediately to mind. The leavening is baking soda. Unlike baking powder, soda has no acid in it. The buttermilk provides the acid. That works with the bicarbonate of soda to make bubbles and that causes the bread to rise.

However, I have tartaric acid in the cupboard. I bought that to make Mascarpone Cheese. So, what would happen if I added a teaspoon, maybe a little less, of tartaric acid to the dough? Here's the thing: I didn't need to go shopping; the ingredients are inexpensive and on hand — flour, sugar, salt, tartaric acid and cream.

I made the dough, adjusting the liquid a little until I got the consistency I felt I needed, and placed it in a parchment paper lined cast iron skillet. I baked it until the internal temperature rose to between 190 and 200°F (88 - 93°C). You can bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, but I prefer to work by temperature. The result was an edible loaf of bread, albeit not as tender and delicious as the Basic White Bread I used to bake every other weekend.

As far as quick breads go, it was good enough to enjoy with some butter and honey.

Wednesday 2022.5.4

Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

As mentioned in Sunday's blog, CNN broadcast the premiere episode of the second season of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. The episode was done in Venice. Those videos always inspire me to experiment in the kitchen. There was one scene in which it looked like the chef was cooking spaghetti in a large skillet with only a little water. I tried it. The pasta cooked, but it left a stubborn coating of starch in the pan, even though it was nonstick and in very good shape, almost new. A little soaking and scrubbing cleaned the pan. Note to self: Never try that again.

I watched the episode twice, but nothing special stood out to make me want to add another recipe to this web site. I never cooked with cuttlefish and very likely I never will.

Many years ago, when I was a student in college, I was walking along the beach at a time of very low tide. There was a little octopus in a tidal pool. I toyed with it for a little while, but I really wished I had some means of getting it home to try cooking with it. I'm not sure what I would have done. Although I was already becoming a decent cook in college, octopus was well out of my range.

One of the best cooking experiences in college was with a girlfriend who was a diver. She brought me a generous amount of abalone, which we pounded flat on the patio and then cooked. I'd never eaten abalone and I haven't since. I don't even know the latest status of abalone off the California coast here. I seem to remember something many years ago about an unusually large population of sea otters devouring them. Local fishermen wanted to reduce the otter numbers to save the abalone market.

Another TV Show

Yesterday evening was the season finale of The Curse of Oak Island. I've been watching the show since it premiered several years ago. The teaser for the episode was: "After more than a decade of work, the Laginas and their dedicated team are close to recovering the treasure." I don't believe there is treasure, nor do I believe in any curse.

They found a few stone roads on the island, some pieces of iron, and several ox shoes. Why build roads and bring in oxen just to hide a box or two of gold? Every time they mentioned the animals they frame them as hauling something onto the island from a ship.

In the first episode of the second season they talked about a British naval officer who believed he found gold on the island. They mined several tons of the stuff and loaded it onto ships — which explains the roads and oxen — and brought it back to England, only to learn it was fool's gold, iron or copper pyrite, often mistaken for gold. They never mentioned that episode again.

If so much iron pyrite was found on the island back then, surely there would be some remaining in the soil. With all the drilling they've done, bringing up tons of dirt, stones and timber from more than a hundred feet below the surface, it's odd they never found any fool's gold. Or did they, and declined to mention it?

After all, there are the TV ratings to consider. I believe the only treasure on Oak Island is the millions of dollars the people are earning from doing the show.

Pills

I also mentioned in Sunday's blog the five medications I was prescribed recently. Reluctantly, I've been taking them. It's all too complicated for me. When do I take this one and that one? Which one is with food and which one is to be taken on an empty stomach? I made up a chart that I taped to the kitchen cabinet where I store the little bottles. I check off each med as I take it. So far, so good. I haven't missed any.

The blood pressure pills are working. I have a meter. It's accurate. And I record the numbers for the nurse practitioner. On April 27 my numbers were 161/107. The following day, after taking the second medication she prescribed, my blood pressure was 121/84. Ideal is 120/80; so I am doing well. The numbers fluctuate a little, but yesterday was 128/89. "Elevated," but still good.

As for the others — one for cholesterol and another for blood sugar (I'm borderline type-2 diabetic) — I'm not sure how those are working. I have no way of testing.

I don't like taking pills. Maybe I shouldn't comment on this, but I sit in Costco waiting for the pharmacy to fill my prescription, and I watch as a line of elderly people step up to the counter to pick up their latest meds. Some are older than I am. They are asked for their date of birth. I was born in 1951. I sometimes hear years like "1946" or thereabouts. Am I becoming one of them?

Not all are elderly. There was one young guy, about college age. He looked Asian, maybe Japanese. When he stepped up to the counter he said he was there to pick up some penicillin. I couldn't help wondering what that was for.

I probably have little reason to complain. At nearly 71 years old this is the first time in my life I have been on medications, other than the occasional antibiotic for an infection. I try to keep a positive attitude. "Better living through chemistry."

Heads Up

Sunday is Mother's Day. If you still have a mother (mine passed away in 1988) get her something special.

Sunday 2022.5.1

No Smoothies

One of the conditions my doctor wants to control is my borderline type 2 diabetes. I'm one point away from being diabetic. She prescribed pills for that. I mentioned smoothies and she said, "No smoothies." Even though I don't add sugar, I guess all that sweetness from the ripe fruit won't do my blood sugar levels any good. So, smoothies are out, unless they're savory, like Avocado, Cucumber and Lime. Oh well, another love disappears into the sunset.

Iced Coffee?

Should I have mentioned my love of iced coffee to the doctor? (Actually, she's a nurse practitioner, not a doctor.) I don't see why. She knows I drink two cups of coffee each day and the second cup is really only half a cup, or half a mug to be more precise. That's a small glass of iced coffee, made with Cold-Brewed Coffee. With so many of life's pleasures being taken away as I get older, I should be allowed to keep a few.

New Shower

We sometimes need a little something new to brighten up our day. During my last trip to Costco I purchased a new shower wand. The old one was strange. Up near the fitting that attached to the shower pipe there was a vent that I never understood. When I was taking a shower, half the water came out of the vent. Why? It seemed like a terrible waste of water when we're supposed to conserve water here in California.

The new one cost about $45. There was a fancier one that costs twice as much, but it's only a shower — not a life-affirming experience. It works like a shower head should, and I feel good about it. I'm not wasting water. I even kept the little water conservation attachment that helps reduce water usage. And I particularly like this shower wand. It has "magnetic docking." No need to find the hook thing the wand fits into. Just aim close enough and the magnet grabs and holds the wand.

As for water conservation, maybe you saw or heard on the news about the latest measures in California to limit water usage. Starting June 1st, some areas are allowed to water their landscaping only once a week.

That limitation isn't being imposed here yet. We're not in the most dire circumstances. Of the four levels of drought — moderate, severe, extreme, exceptional — we're in the second level. And even if the county does establish such a restriction here, it won't affect me. I don't have any landscaping. I have a few citrus trees, but they're in planters. My yard is all stone. No grass. The trees get a couple gallons of water every four or five days. That's good enough.

Something Good

I've been looking forward to it for weeks. This evening CNN will premiere the second season of Anthony Tucci: Searching for Italy. It was originally announced for March 15th, but was delayed as CNN started covering the war in Ukraine. A second series, Nomad, will premiere immediately after Tucci. That one might be an attempt to replace the highly successful series by the late Anthony Bourdain. I'll record both shows and hopefully I'll have something positive to say about them in Wednesday's blog.