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Thursday, November 10, 2016

An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump

Thursday,  November 10, 2016

Dear Mr. Trump:
 I am one of the 60,122,876 people who didn’t vote for you on Tuesday. I didn’t vote for you because as far as I can tell you have neither the experience, knowledge nor temperament to be President.Furthermore, you seem to have only a tenuous grasp on reality and an inability to tell the truth. But most of all, I didn’t vote for you because you have, with your belligerent, bullying, demeaning rhetoric, fanned the flames of hate and anger in many of your supporters, legitimizing their racist, misogynist, hateful attitudes toward  women, blacks,  Latinos,  other ethnic minorities,  Muslims,  people in the  LGBT community, people with disabilities and  many others.  Just this week,  two of my friends and neighbors have been accosted and traumatized by  people whose hate and anger you have legitimized.

Maybe you didn’t see this coming, but a lot of us did, and it terrified us. It still terrifies us. You say you want to be the President of all the people, but how can that be when you have in effect told your followers that it’s all right to attack and accost those you have targeted in your speeches? How can that be when you have bragged about how smart you are for not paying the taxes that support our schools, our libraries, our hospitals, our  police, our military, our veterans, taxes that guarantee that we have safe food to eat, clean air to breathe and water to drink, that our roads are built and kept in repair, that provide a safety net for those who  fall through the cracks, for the  elderly, for people with disabilities, for the working poor who often work two jobs and still have trouble keeping  their children clothed and fed? Which leads me to question how you  can be pro-life, yet talk about cutting back or taking away services and programs that help to sustain and improve life for those already born? You say you want to make America great again, but how can you do that when you have encouraged your followers to turn on their fellow citizens much as the KKK turned on blacks and Jews and Catholics, when hangings and cross burnings were common during some of the darker, not so great periods of our recent history? And now you have the endorsement of the KKK and some of its leaders, who now feel so emboldened that they are distributing flyers in neighborhoods close to me.

You said that you will bring back jobs and industries that once thrived but are now shuttered, the jobs shipped out of the country. Mr. Trump, a lot of those jobs aren’t coming back, they’re finished. But we do need to encourage innovation for new products, particularly in areas of green energy so we can build up supply chains with skilled jobs that pay well.  We need to support labor unions with their training and apprentice programs to provide a well-paid, skilled workforce. We need to replace the coal and retrain miners for these new jobs so that they can become productive, able to support their families and  be proud of the work they do.  But of course, you believe climate change is a Chinese hoax, don’t you, so no green energy jobs, I guess.  We need to support companies that pledge to  keep jobs here and invest in their workers rather than outsourcing or shipping their operations  abroad, while avoiding paying their share of taxes. We need to find a way to encourage small businesses, and to support American farmers and manufacturers through effective, efficient and fair trade policies and tariffs  that benefit us and our trading partners.

We need to strengthen our ties with our allies, not threaten to abandon them by withdrawing from NATO, and we need to stand up to Russia’s threat of aggression in the Baltic states, not check our balance sheets to determine whether they“have fulfilled their obligations to us.”  That’s kind of rich coming from someone who doesn’t even pay his federal taxes. No, Mr. Trump, I don’t have much confidence in your abilities, nor in your program and policy proposals, and even less in the people you  are reported to be  looking to  appoint  to Cabinet positions.

I would love to be proven wrong, that the great plans, the best plans that you refer to, whatever they are, actually will work well for the nation as a whole. But I would remind you that while you may have won a stunning victory in garnering the most Electoral College votes, you did not win a mandate from the people.  Your opponent actually won the popular vote by roughly 300,000 votes at last count.  Those of us who voted for Sec. Clinton are watching you, and we will let you know how we think you’re doing. Meanwhile I suggest that you make some attempt to rein in your supporters, whose sparks of anger and fear and hate have been fanned into  a raging fire that, if not checked, will burn this nation to such a degree that we will not be able to recover for perhaps generations.  I don’t think you, or any of us, want that.

Grace K. B. Smith

Thursday, June 02, 2016

First and Fifth

On the first of every month my grandmother always said “Rabbits!”  for luck when she  woke up.  I forgot to say “Rabbits”  yesterday. That may account for my most unusual and LONG day at the infusion clinic for my fifth Erbitux/Camptosar treatment on June first.

My appointment was for 8:45 AM and since they ask you to be there fifteen minutes early, we  arrived at 8:30. I signed in, paid my co-pay and was called back to the lab to be weighed, have my temperature taken and my  blood pressure recorded. My temp was below  normal and my blood pressure was slightly low, but  neither seemed to be a problem. Getting blood through the port for the blood test, however, was a major  problem. The phlebotomist, after several attempts in which she had me raise my arm or turn my head, was unable to get my port to draw, so she sent me over to the oncology nurses to see if they could get it to work. They sat me in one of the recliners and tipped it  all the way back so I was nearly standing on my head.  Nothing seemed to work.  The phlebotomist, meanwhile, took blood from my arm so as not to hold  things up any more than was needed. They then injected what the nurse referred to as a liquid plumber to break up any obstruction in the catheter and I was  put in a cold room to give it time to work. Did I mention that the temp in the building is kept just slightly above the temperature in a meat cooler? I was beginning to wonder if my blood had frozen solid and that’s why they couldn’t get it to come out. 

After about an hour in the  exam room the doctor came in, apologizing for all the delays.  Seems they are in the process of converting all the paper patient files to an electronic format, so instead of bringing in my usual thick green folder, she was carrying a little mini computer. Evidently there is a steep learning curve and computer people were constantly bustling about and everything was delayed, even  getting the orders for  the infusions. 
I told the  doctor about the skin reaction I had over the weekend, which was  a LOT worse than the previous  outbreak and caused intense  itching and burning, leaving me with bright red skin,  big welts all over my neck and flaking, dry skin that  was peeling off. I got it under control with some Aveeno products and was amazed at how well they worked on calming the rash and redness down and softening my skin. The doctor said she thought I was probably having a reaction to the doxycycline. She had asked me before prescribing it if I had an allergy to tetracycline, and I told her I had no idea, since I had taken so few drugs in my life. Turns out I may have an allergy or a sensitivity to it after all. We’ll see how it goes this time without the doxycycline.  She said I’ll have my sixth treatment in two weeks and then another scan the week after that to see how the drugs are working. I told her that  between my thinning hair and  scaly flaking skin I thought  I was transmogrifying into a hybrid cross between Lizard Lady and Gollum, so they had better be working just to make all this worthwhile! Meanwhile the nurses tried a few more times to get blood to draw, to no avail. I was told they would send someone  to take me to radiology to see if the port and catheter have shifted or become obstructed and needed to be removed and replaced. I kept my fingers crossed that the problem was a minor, easily corrected one.

I went back   to the waiting room to… yes, wait.  So I waited and waited for the wheelchair person to show up. Finally, after making a few calls and determining that  everybody was tied up  for emergencies, one of the receptionists from the oncology department wheeled me over.  That was quite a trip, down hallways, around corners, through the walkway connecting the clinic to the main hospital, then down more hallways.  It was a regular maze and I would never have found my way over there on my own, even if I had been able to walk that far without collapsing!

Once I was up on the radiology table and the plates were placed under me, the doctor moved the machine into position, assuring me that the arm would come very close to me but wouldn’t actually touch me. Then he had me hold my breath while the machine did its thing. It was kind of neat to actually see the port in place and how long the catheter was. The radiologist was able to draw blood with no problem, there was no obstruction or kinking and nothing had shifted, so they don’t know what the actual problem was. I was wheeled back out and waited once more for the valet service to take me back.  I thought, since it was already past 1:00 and my infusion has been taking between four and five hours, that they might reschedule, but they decided to go ahead and told me I should be finished up by 4:30. The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful. Well, except for the trips to the rest room that became extremely frequent once the infusions began,    prompting the nurse to move me to a chair just outside the bathroom door so I wouldn’t have to drag my pole and infusion bags so far.

Mr. G left at one point to go home and let the dogs out. We were worried they might have accidents all over the house since they hadn’t been out in quite a while. He said they were most anxious to get out, too, and made a mad dash to the back door when he got home.

He came back and spent another hour in the waiting room.  Finally I was finished and we arrived home at around 5:15 PM, nine hours after we’d left.  I was hungry and exhausted, but fell asleep before I got a chance to eat. Mr, G  made me a sandwich and I ate a little when I woke up at 7:30 before falling asleep again. I slept on and off all night and am finally beginning to feel almost normal, or as normal as I usually feel after an infusion. You can rest assured that  on the first of July, I will wake up saying “Rabbits!” to avoid another occurrence like the fifth on the first!

Sunday, May 08, 2016

I've got you under my skin

That is my song for Erbitux today. It is definitely under my skin, and not in a good way. Today I am going to indulge in a little (or a lot of) whining. The nasty Erbitux rash has spread from my face down to my neck and beyond, itches and burns like crazy and  my skin is unbelievably dry and flaky!  Mr G says it looks much better today than it did yesterday, but it sure doesn’t feel any better!

We had grand plans yesterday to go to Pepper Place Market and then do some grocery shopping and pick up some herbs for my herb garden, but decided it might be a better idea for me to stay in out of the sun, since sunlight exacerbates the rash. I’ve been slathering SPF30 sunblock on my exposed skin, wearing a hat, sunglasses and long sleeved shirt when I’m outside, etc., but maybe I should just become a nocturnal creature and venture out only after dark. I guess gardening is on hold, too, which is a big disappointment.  I’m not sure that gardening after dark is such a good idea.  There’s no telling what the neighbors might think if they looked out their windows and saw me wielding my spade and digging holes in the back yard! So we’ll just wait and hope the rash subsides within the next few days.

I’ve been using the Clindamycin gel the doctor prescribed, and it did seem to work after the first and second Erbitux infusions, but doesn’t seem to be doing much good this time around. The itching and burning woke me up  last night and the night before, and I was unable to  get back to sleep, so took a Benadryl.  I don’t know whether that was a good idea or not, but it did let me go back to sleep. If the rash  hasn’t improved by tomorrow I plan to call the clinic to see if there is something else I should be doing for it, but in the meantime, I’ll just gripe and complain.  I’m getting really good at it, too- just ask Mr. G!

Here’s a pic Mr. G took this morning of my “looks much better today” rash.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Three Treatments Down

Yesterday we left for the clinic at 8:45 AM and arrived back home at 3PM.  Five of those six hours were spent in the infusion chair. It was a LONG time! I watched other people come and go, get hooked up and unhooked.  Only my fellow infusee in the next chair was in there almost as long as I was and we chit-chatted a little when both of us were awake- although we both drifted off a few times.  He has pancreatic cancer and has been  on chemo for almost a year, too. He said he'd lost about 70 pounds  since his diagnosis and lost all his hair at one point, although most of it has grown back now. He couldn't believe I had lost neither weight nor hair. He is a fairly upbeat person, although most of the people I've talked to who come in for treatment the same time I do are philosophical about the whole thing and are pretty upbeat.  My chairmate told me there was no family history of cancer, but that he had already lost a son to cancer several years ago, before he himself was diagnosed. His son left behind a four year old and a five year old child. We commented how hard it is to watch a young person with  his or her whole life ahead of them be struck with this devastating disease, and it does seem that an increasing number of younger people are being diagnosed. I sometimes wonder whether it’s because diagnostic tools are much more precise and are able to detect disease earlier, or whether there really is an increase caused by environmental factors.

Yesterday was my third treatment with the Irinotecan and  Cetuximab. I did have one mishap.  On one of my trips to the restroom, (and after all that liquid is pumped into one there are many trips, believe me) I managed somehow to  pull the needle out of the port.  That was  quite a shock and I didn’t have the presence of mind to close the clamps on the tubing so I leaked a little of the chemo, but I’ll know to do that if it happens again. Fortunately, the nurse was close by and got me rehooked straight away. Except for the fatigue and the skin rash I’m tolerating the treatments  well so far.  I did go to sleep when we got home yesterday and slept most all of the evening and into the night, with frequent wake up calls by my bladder. I still feel tired this morning, and the rash and flushing are spreading down my neck and onto my chest. Most of the acne-like pustules that formed during the first and second treatments have pretty much cleared up, thanks in part to the clindomycin gel the doctor prescribed- at almost $100 a tube. I also had some eye problems that developed after the first treatment- my eyes were crusted shut when I’d wake up and then start running and itching.  That cleared up after a few drops of the prescription eye drops. Now I am  left with very red, very rough, very dry and flaky patches of skin.  I feel as though  tightly stretched alligator hide has replaced my skin! I have switched from coconut oil to emu oil- I figured a bird might be a better adversary for an alligator than a coconut would be and so far, so good.

I have been able to remain active, for the most part,  attending events and   working in the garden. On the Friday of the off week between the first and second treatments I attended a wonderful performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony performed  by the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  at one of their coffee concerts. These concerts, held in the morning, are less formal, less expensive than the evening concerts and are not as crowded.  I have  been lucky in being able to get my favorite seats in the Dress Circle very close to the exit and   almost in touching distance of the bass  section. I also get a wonderful side view of  our marvelously dynamic conductor, much better than looking at his back for the whole concert!

Our forty third anniversary fell two days after my second treatment, on Friday, April 22.  I slathered on some SPF 30  sun block,  donned my hat and a long sleeved shirt and we celebrated by attending the Magic City Art Connection, a wonderful  three day  show of arts and crafts held in  Linn Park in downtown Birmingham.  The weather forecast hadn’t been too promising but  the rain, except for a few sprinkles, held off for the duration of the show. It was great to   visit  some of my artist friends  who had work for sale, to enjoy the live jazz music, and to run into two of my favorite street photographers and a few other friends while we were there.

My gardening efforts are ongoing, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We’ve had a few rainy days, which seemed to give a lot of slow starters the impetus to get going. I t also   gave the weeds a  growth spurt, so there’s always some  good and some bad effects  when it rains.  The beans are coming along nicely and  will need to be thinned out, I think since the seeds seem to have drifted and  they look quite  crowded in spots. I  planted out some of the calendula I’d started from seed, some strawberries in the tub planter and  Mr G dug up and moved a clump of Echinacea, some Tagetes lucida, a couple of thyme plants and  I re-potted some of the plants that go on the deck, so it does look as though something has been accomplished.  Today it’s quite windy, sunny and a little chilly, so in between the weather and my fatigue I won’t even try to get out and work in the garden today.  Maybe tomorrow, because, after all, to plan a garden or to plant a seed is to believe in tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Weak, Woozy and Wet Weather

I may have overdone it by going to the market on Saturday.  I spent most of Sunday feeling weak and woozy, which was most frustrating. I did get a few things accomplished but not much. I decided on something simple for supper, so made  a chicken and avocado salad with  almond/orange dressing, using a recipe from Annabel Langbein’s cookbook.  The chicken was surprisingly tender and juicy, which was a surprise since most of the breasts we’ve cooked lately have been tough and tasteless. I’ll probably use her method of poaching chicken using mostly residual heat, from now on.

By Monday I was feeling a little more energetic and got plenty of exercise by going up and down the basement stairs to do several loads of laundry. For only two people Mr. G and I seem to have a lot of dirty laundry. Sometimes, when I view the pile of laundry that needs to be washed, I wonder if   someone isn’t sneaking in and dropping off their laundry hoping I won’t notice.  But alas, it is all ours. After getting the laundry washed, dried, folded and put away, I  decided to cook some of the shiitake mushrooms we had bought on Saturday.  I chopped about half of them, along with some white mushrooms I already had, and made a  mushroom velouté. I don't know if it was the mushrooms or just time doing its thing, but I do feel more energetic today and not nearly as fatigued as I have been feeling.

I had hoped that when my energy level improved we’d be able to get some things done in the garden, but the weather hasn’t been cooperative-  it’s been rainy, windy, cloudy and  generally not good weather for being outside, and it looks like the forecast is calling for more of the same.  There’s plenty that needs to be  one inside, so I won’t be idle- but it’s more fun  to be outside playing in the dirt!  Meanwhile, I’ll  look at  pictures of past efforts in the garden and  keep hoping I’ll be able to  get out there soon to finish  weeding and bed prepping and get on to the business of planting!  Last year, not sure  how I was going to react to the chemotherapy, I pretty much   did my gardening on the deck, in containers, which worked out well,  as  you can see from these pics, 

but  I’d like to get some stuff in the ground  again this year, and  rework my  little raised beds again   These pics are from 2014, and that’s what I’m aiming for, as well as having a  nice deck garden again. Except for the Squash.  I will not grow squash.  Squash vine borers and other  critters that have attacked   my squash plants every year leaving a   limp and wilted  mess rather than the nice  healthy robust plants I began with have convinced me that I am no match for them. I have tried every non-toxic remedy I could find, to no avail.  I admit defeat. I will concentrate my efforts instead on picking off the  tobacco hornworms that  seek to destroy the tomatoes every year. Organic gardening in the Deep South is a challenge.  I love a challenge- as long as it isn't TOO challenging ;-) 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

This Little Piggy Went to Market

Today was the first market of the new season at Pepper Place Farmers Market, and I was determined to go because it’s become a tradition. So, heeding the warning to avoid sun exposure while on Erbitux, I slathered on the SPF 30 sunscreen, donned long sleeves and a hat and off we went.  The long sleeves, and the turtleneck I wore turned out to be a good choice because it was   a tad on the chilly side this morning.  As we neared the market, the streets were lined with cars for blocks and people were walking.  I didn’t know if I was quite up to walking a great distance since I still felt just a little weak and wonky, but sometimes the fates smile upon us, and they did today. We lucked out, and found a spot just across the street from the market on our first pass.

The market is usually crowded on opening day, but today was as crowded as I have ever seen it. 

You could barely move.  And dogs! It seemed like every other person there had brought his or her dogs.  It would be nice if they would also bring pooper-scoopers and not let their dogs on retractable leashes  tangle  themselves around folks' legs, but. . .Some dogs were very well behaved; others   seemed to be over stimulated by the sights and scents. This guy was one of the calmer ones, waiting patiently for his folks to finish making their purchase. I could never take Agatha and Victoria- the excitement would be too much for them and they'd  most likely have conniption fits and never recover!

There were vendors with all manner of food and craft items.  The fresh veggies and strawberries were in abundance and there were two mushroom vendors. We bought some spinach, strawberries and shiitake mushrooms. We decided to grab a cup of coffee and something to eat and sit at one of the tables.  Mr. G bought some boudin sausage and I grabbed a chocolate croissant. It was nice and relaxing to sit and listen to Debbie Bond and Rick Asherson play the blues and watch the little kids grooving to the music and dancing, having a grand time. 


It was a fun morning, but I was   quite tired so we decided to head for home.   
Once  home I took a nice long nap. Altogether it was a pretty good Saturday, perfect weather with blue skies, a wonderful market with fresh veggies, happy little kids, and blues music for entertainment. Who could ask for more?

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Progress Report- Good News and Bad News

 Spent another long day in the oncology clinic yesterday; we got there at 8:30 AM and left just after 2 PM.  One of the oncology nurses had phoned on Monday to ask if I could get there an hour early because the doctor was changing my chemo drugs and the new combination would need to infuse at least four hours.  I figured the CT scan results from last week’s scan must not be what we had hoped for. As it turns out there was some good news and some bad news on the CT scan. The bad news is that the liver tumor has increased in size by 18%. The good news is that all the other hypodensities in the liver and pancreas have remained stable and that the stomach, small bowel, appendix and colon appear normal and the rectal mass is still unseen. Based on the growth of the liver tumor, my oncologist started me on a new chemo regimen today.  I thought at first that I would be getting FOLFIRI plus Erbitux, but I’m actually just getting the Erbitux and Camptosar (Irinotecan), both of which have some fairly nasty side effects, but have shown a lot of promise in clinical trials, especially in patients with wild type KRAS gene, which I have.  So I guess that makes me a wild child. I’m hoping I can tolerate the side effects without having to stop the treatment early. One of the side effects of the Erbitux is an acne-like rash which I hear is quite unpleasant.  The doctor said if I did get the rash to call and they would phone in a prescription for a gel to use on the rash.  I hope it doesn’t come to that.  One should not have to deal with acne in one’s seventies; I am sure there are better ways to fake a youthful appearance!

Once in the infusion room I saw that someone had already taken my favorite chair so I wasn’t as close to a plug for my Kindle. It didn’t really matter as it turns out because I kept drifting off to sleep anyway and didn’t use the Kindle much.  I took the Tylenol the nurse brought, and then she hooked me up with some benadryl and  anti-nausea drugs. After that, we got the heavy stuff.  A short while after the Erbitux began flowing I began to itch.  Furiously. On my arms, legs, abdomen, buttocks. Then welts started popping up.  I looked and felt like I had been closed up in a roomful of angry, hungry, biting mosquitoes!  The nurse stopped the Erbitux and hooked up something to stop the itching.  It worked, thank goodness!  She told me my mouth would get very dry, like it had cotton stuffed in it. Sure enough it did, but she had brought me a cup of water and a peppermint candy- they helped a lot. We were able to continue the infusion of the Erbitux, then they hooked up the Camptosar and after another hour and a half, I was unhooked  and on my way.  The best part is that I’m not on the pump any more! The doctor took me off 5-FU. Hallelujah!

Much as I dislike this whole set of circumstances, I am constantly reminded that some people are a lot worse off.  One poor elderly woman who came in for her first treatment didn’t yet have a port.  It took three nurses to try to get a vein that would work.  She kept hollering in pain telling them to take it out, she’d just come back tomorrow.  They finally gave up and   took her down to radiology, so she might be getting a combination of chemo plus radiation. I hope she gets her problem sorted out, but she has a rough road ahead, for sure.
When I went back to the waiting room to find Mr.G he said I looked pale as a ghost, and after looking in the mirror I have to agree with him.  I could probably try out for a part on the Walking Dead and not even need make-up! Once we were in the car, I kept dozing off and went straight to sleep once we got home.  I slept most of the afternoon, off and on and felt completely wiped out.  This morning I still look like death warmed over, but am feeling much perkier, although my face feels hot (no fever) and has a strange mottled appearance with some red blotches, grey skin  areas. To make things worse the bags under my eyes look like I’ve been packing them for a trip. This too shall pass.  At least I hope so!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

CT Scans and Craneflies

I had a CT scan yesterday with contrast.   Since I had a nasty reaction to the barium solution I drank beforehand for the  previous CT scan,  I was told to arrive an hour or so before the scan to drink  a solution they had  at the center.  After I  registered  a nurse brought out a bottle of what appeared to be clear water.  It was Omnipaque, an iodine solution in powder form mixed with water. It actually was  nearly tasteless and much easier to get down than the barium solution.  Best of all, it caused no  nasty reactions. About an hour after I’d  finished drinking it,   a technician called me back,  took a finger prick blood test to  check kidney function and had a nurse access my port. While they were doing the preliminary positioning, test scans, etc., we discovered that the buttons on my new shirt are not plastic, as I thought, but have some metal component that  screwed up the image, so we  began over, sans shirt, and they  began pumping in the iodinated intravenous contrast. That is always such a strange sensation and I’m so glad the tech warned me about it he first time I had a scan. Within   seconds of the dye pumping in, you  feel   a lot of heat,  especially in the groin area,  and get the sensation that you  are wetting yourself.  If they had not  warned me I would have sworn I WAS actually wetting myself. It’s very strange, but passes quickly.  The table slid  into the CT doughnut,  the whirring began, a disembodied voice ordered me to " Breathe in," "Hold your breathe," "Breathe!" a couple of times and   before I knew it, the tech was telling me we were finished. Now to wait for the results and keep fingers and toes crossed that the rectal tumor and  metastasized  liver tumor have shrunk, there are no new lesions anywhere, and the existing  spots and lesions have disappeared or remained stable.

Not having had anything to eat or drink since supper the night before I was ravenous when we got home at around  1 P.M. and desperately craving  a cup of coffee. Mr. G made some coffee, and  ham and cheese sandwiches, with loose leaf lettuce from our own little crop growing on the deck.  After that I napped for a little while before going outside to do some watering in the greenhouse and weeding in my little jungle of a garden bed.  It is somewhat frustrating to get tired so very easily, but   working fifteen or twenty minutes then taking a ten or fifteen minute break DOES get the job done, albeit a bit slower than I would like. The plan was that   I would cook supper early than take a short  break before getting ready for yoga. I had told the instructor that I probably wouldn’t be there because  I’m usually so fatigued for  three or four days after I get unhooked from the pump, but this time, I had a lot more energy, so I planned to go. Problem is, I fell asleep on my “short” break and by the time I woke up  it was too late to even think about cooking supper, getting showered and going anywhere, so I missed yoga class.  We did have a nice supper, though: more recipes from Annabel Langbein: Mediterranean baked fish and a slightly tweaked version of her parsley mashed potatoes (I added sour cream), and  spinach bacon and avocado salad with raspberry vinaigrette.

Today I’ve been back outside weeding the jungle, fighting to control the  ever expanding soapwort, watching   the cedar waxwings   gobbling the berries off the holly tree, and  wondering why these two,  who I think are craneflies, were at it for well over an hour on the back door didn’t  get a room somewhere!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

More Political Ponderings

Since I  was first diagnosed  with cancer last year, my Medicare  supplemental policy insurance has been billed just over  $307,000 for the  physician care, tests, biopsies,  scans and treatments I’ve received. Because Medicare and the insurance company have been able to negotiate lower costs with the providers, they have paid only a portion of that amount, and  my total  out-of-pocket expenses are capped at $6700 per year. It’s still a hefty amount which threatens to destroy whatever meager savings we have managed to accumulate, but I am extremely grateful  to have the coverage and wish all Americans could have the security of knowing  they  can get affordable care, should they face a similar diagnosis or a catastrophic accident requiring extensive care. Which is why the idea of universal coverage as Bernie Sanders proposes appeals to me a great deal.   I like a lot of Bernie Sanders plans in theory.  But I have a lot of questions on how some of these plans would actually be implemented and question his and his campaign managers’ grasp of financial matters,  I find myself asking, "How?" to most of what Sanders says he is going to do. "How do you plan to convince Congress to increase taxes on the rich, increase wages, create jobs, extend Medicare to all as well as guarantee a free college education, etc.?" How much does Sen. Sanders actually know about how Medicare works? Does he realize how much those of us receiving Medicare have paid into it, how much our monthly premium deducted form our Social Security checks for Part B coverage is? Does he know that we have a pretty hefty out of pocket expense and that while it does provide many preventative services, Medicare does not cover most dental or eye care services, and does not cover hearing aids? What about the current  Medicare portion of the FICA payroll tax  paid by both  employers and employees to  cover Medicare premiums? Now the Medicare tax is 1.45%  for those earning under $200,000. Those earning   more than that amount also pay an additional 0.9% Medicare surtax.  Will that be increased or will the   tax be scrapped and rolled into an all inclusive payroll tax for universal healthcare? What about the unemployed?   How will their  tax be covered? Medicare is  truly a wonderful thing as is the idea of  universal healthcare is a goal we should strive for.  I believe the Affordable Care Act is a first step in the right direction toward achieving that goal, but when I look at the  Republican congressional opposition to it, the number of efforts to overturn the law and the  many Republican governors who have refused to expand Medicaid  so that their  constituents are eligible , I wonder just how realistic  many of Sanders sweeping proposals and promises are as opposed to Secretary Clinton’s more pragmatic approach and her determination to   support  down ticket Democratic candidates at  state  levels. Because   it is as the state and local level that a lot of legislative change and political  leverage  is needed

 A  question about Bernie Sanders’ free college  for all plan.   According to the summary on his site, Sanders’ plan  states that total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70 billion per year. Of that cost, under the Sanders plan the federal government  would be responsible for  67% of the cost while the states would be required to pick up the remaining 33% . But according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states have been cutting funding  for K-12 programs since the 2008 recession and most states have not restored those earlier levels.  In fact, in about half the states reporting, less general aid  per student is being  provided now than in 2008, and In three states, including Alabama, funding  cuts are 15% or more.

The cuts also affect higher education. While state funding for higher education has been rising slightly in the last  couple of years, there is still a large reliance on student tuition to fund higher education.  US News reports that, “ Overall, half of states now receive more financial support from tuition dollars than from state or local funding. And the reliance on tuition revenue varies widely between states, from a low of 15.1 percent in Wyoming to a high of 84.5 percent in Vermont.”

Sanders’ plan calls for  financing the federal  funding  by Imposing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street, a Wall Street speculation fee on investment houses, hedge funds, and other speculators of 0.5% on stock trades (50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005%fee on derivatives. He estimates that this fee will raise the necessary  money with some left over, but nowhere  in the plan does he address the problem of where the already cash-strapped states are going to come up with their share, nor of what happens  if  there is another  recession or a drop in speculation, stock trades, etc.

Sen. Sanders said, “I promise at the end of my first term we won't have more people in jail than in any other country. .But according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the  2.2 million Americans in prison at the end of 2013, only 215,000 inmates, less than 10% were in federal prisons. The rest were in state and local facilities. Even if he freed every prisoner in federal prisons, we would still have 2 million   people in prison.

And  back to taxes:  Many of the tax inequalities in this country are due to  state and local taxes. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), “On average, the poorest 20 percent of taxpayers nationwide pay more than double the effective tax rate paid by the richest 1 per cent of households (10.9 percent v. 5.4 percent). ITEP’s analysis factors in all major state and local taxes, including personal and corporate income taxes, property taxes, sales and other excise taxes.  And a lot of those taxes are state and local taxes that  affect the poor. Here  in Alabama, the poor pay more than 1½ times as much of their income on state and local taxes than the rich. Alabama also has some of the nation's highest sales tax rates, which disproportionately affects middle - and lower-income earners, and we also pay a tax on groceries.  Yet  Sen. Sanders' plan calls for adding  even more of a tax burden on the middle class.  As he noted in an October 2015 interview with George Stephanopoulos,“If you’re looking at providing paid family and medical leave – which virtually every other major country has – so that when a mom gives birth, she doesn’t have to go back to work in two weeks or if there is an illness in the family, dad or mom can stay home with the kids, that will require a small increase in the payroll tax.”  Right now there are federal  laws being proposed to deal with these issues including the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would create a national paid family  and medical  leave insurance program  that would provide up to 12 weeks of partially - paid leave for reasons covered by the FMLA.  Also, more than $2.2 billion proposed in the Department of Labor’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget that would hel p states fund and implement new paid family and medical leave programs, and $35 million proposed for states to create the infrastructure needed to develop new state paid leave programs . Does Sanders propose to build on these policies or scrap them and  start from scratch? How does he  intned to get   Republican governors and state legislators on board, given the opposition they have shown to the Affordable Care Act?

I worry, with so many  Sanders supporters vowing that they  will not support  Clinton if Sanders loses the nomination,  that all the enthusiasm for the “revolution” that Senator Sanders is calling for  will  die down and that his followers will drop out rather than continue to work on passing progressive legislation and in getting  progressives elected to  local and state offices.
 So, yes,  I have a lot of misgivings about Senator Sanders’ proposals, and policies and the  way he has used the  Democratic Party he has scorned as being  part of the establishment responsible for our current   inequities and problems to further his own candidacy without supporting other progressives within the party.  Both candidates have flaws, all politicians do, and no politician is  going to be able to please 100 percent of  his or her constituency  all of the time.  What I wonder about is, do Sanders and his supporters realize that bankers and the 1%  are also part of the fabric of this country with rights and interests.   Their interests shouldn’t outweigh the interests of middle class and poor Americans as they have in the past and do now,  but in order to institute reforms and rein in   the influence of money in politics, compromises will have to be negotiated. In order to accommodate the interests of a diverse populace and best serve the needs of the country as a whole, adversaries with different ideologies will have to work together. Given that Sanders has castigated and alienated the banking industry and the rich to  a large degree, I’m not sure Sanders  is the best candidate to effect those changes, reforms and  compromises.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Look, Ma- red hands! A brand new side effect

Today was unhook day- Mr. G. unhooked me from the  5FU pump and flushed the lines this morning. I wasn't as fatigued as  I normally am and stayed awake most of the day.  I noticed that  the tips of my fingers and thumbs were sore, but didn't think too much about it.  Until I woke up from a  late-afternoon nap with   raging red palms and fingers that felt  sore and swollen- especially  the fingertips. Even soles of my feet were sore, but not  as much as my palms. Evidently I'm getting  all the side effects I've  read about with 5-FU, but thankfully not all at once.  This one is called  palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia, or hand and foot syndrome.  Sounds  kind of like  hoof and mouth disease, doesn't it? In medical literature, the condition is described as "a cutaneous toxicity that manifests with palmar and plantar erythema, edema, and dysesthesia with varying degrees of pain, scaling, and vesiculation." There are all kinds of theories as to what causes it and who gets it, but  it is supposedly more common in women of advanced age, and I certainly fit that criteria! One of the more promising things I read in the Oncology literature was: "There actually have been some reports of PPE being correlated with improved survival, suggesting that greater exposure to the therapeutic drug, as represented by the PPE, also results in improved outcomes."  Now that would make a fair trade off on the  symptoms if  it turned out to be a strong correlation.

Anyhow, it was quite painful at first and I didn't know if I'd be able to  prepare supper, but Mr. G said he'd step in if needed   so I decided to  go ahead and try. I had already planned to cook some chicken tenders with roasted asparagus, and decided on lemony chicken francese. I think  working with the chicken, which involved a lot of hand washing, actually helped. I'd read that  one should avoid  heat with this condition, so I washed my hands  with cold water.  This is the exact opposite of  dealing with  the neuropathy I had earlier, where you avoid cold. I do think the cold water helped because the pain and  tenderness did seem to subside somewhat, although some tasks, like twisting the little tops on the salt and pepper mills, were painfully difficult. But everything went well, all things considered, and the chicken turned out  quite tender and the lemony sauce with capers was delicious.  It's now  a few hours later and while my hands  still feel a little sore and swollen they  are much improved and I'm hopeful  they'll be back to normal  soon.

So this is a most interesting journey,  quite bumpy at times, but a learning experience for sure.  Although, come  to think of it, it's not exactly the kind of learning experience I would have chosen if I'd actually had a choice.

I hope  the  whole hand  problem will be over by tomorrow.  We're supposed to have a nice day before the rain sets in on Sunday, and there are seedlings that need to be potted up, so I'm hoping to spend a few hours at the potting bench and maybe even get some more weeds pulled in  my jungle of  what was once a garden bed.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Treatment number four of this round is now history!

Had another  morning in the infusion room yesterday. This was my fourth treatment  on this round.  I have a CT scan scheduled for Monday to see if the tumors  and other liver lesions are regressing, progressing or staying stable. My oncologist  feels pretty confident that the scan will show shrinkage based on the results of my bloodwork, vitals and  general appearance.  I hope she's right. The one glitch is that  she will be out of town all week, so I asked if  it would be possible for me to get the results before she got back.  She said she'd leave  instruction for one of the nurses to call me when the results come in.  I'm hoping she remembered to do that. She knows having to wait for results causes me anxiety and that I  have much less anxiety when I get  bad news than I do having to wait for news, good or bad. I don't know   how we'll proceed, whether there will be more chemo or what- it all depends on what the scan shows.

There was quite a bit of activity  in the chair next to me yesterday. The woman in the chair was there for her second treatment, but her port  was infected, so she needed to get her infusion directly through a vein. Her veins were in such bad shape that it took two nurses to get the infusion started.  The doc came in and told her that if she wanted to delay the treatment for a week that she had no objection, but the  woman said she wanted to go ahead and get it, if possible. The poor woman was supposed to go straight  from the infusion to hospital admitting to begin a course of antibiotics and  have the port removed but when she found out they would keep her overnight for observation she insisted she needed to go home first, which they evidently got worked out to everybody's satisfaction.. She was in pretty good spirits when I left and talking about having a PICC line in place for the next treatment.  I do hope all goes well for her and she's able to finish  her chemo regimen.

I'm doing much better so far  after this treatment, not half as fatigued as usual.  I did crash for a few hours after we got home, but  have been up most of the day today, not doing anything strenuous, but have been able to  check on the greenhouse a few times,  take some pictures of things in bloom and post them to facebook, feed the dogs, and play toss the toy with them. I may even be up to  making supper tonight. The facial flushing has begun, as usual, bu even that isn't too bad, and actually, the red face is  an improvement over the deathly grey  pallor I have n the day of treatment.

When we got home yesterday, poor Victoria went to the brass  container I keep behind the front door to hold their leashes and tried to pull hers out, indicating she wanted to go for a walk.  I felt sorry for her, but just couldn't accommodate, so I'm kind of glad it's been raining today.  She  doesn't like the rain at all, so hasn't made a move to get her leash!

Our  dogwood is almost in full bloom- it looked like a lovely bright cloud on a gray morning. I snapped this just as the rain began to drizzle down.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Strange noises and chicken pot pie

Very early this morning I woke up and  thought I heard a female voice  asking, "Can you get it out?" over and over while a much deeper voice answered, "Noooo."  Turns out Agatha and Victoria were snoring and making dream sounds. I've never before heard them snore in a way that made them sound like human voices- it was really kind of spooky!

Fortunately, the rest of the day passed without any more weird happenings.  Mr. G and I went out in search of an orchid  for  our daughter-in-law's birthday, found a beautiful one,  then delivered it and spent some time  playing with  granddaughter Abby, who as usual, was bubbling over with energy and  giggles.

Once home,  it was time to start supper.  We had  bought a rotisserie chicken at Publix when we went grocery shopping on Wednesday.  Although we had  two meals and  some sandwiches from it, there was still quite a bit of it left,  so I decided to make a chicken pot pie, using a recipe from Pepperidge Farm that used  their puff pastry as a crust. The first step was to roll out one of the pastry sheets to fit in the bottom of a round casserole,  then  prick it all over with a fork, cover it with foil and  bake it  for about 25 minutes.  The pastry shrank back from the sides of the casserole dish a little, as you can see.

While the  pastry was  baking, I browned some fresh sliced carrots,  chopped onion,  and sliced mushrooms in butter, then added  some flour  and  cooked until the flour   turned  deep gold.  Next I added some broth, some thawed green peas from the freezer,  the diced chicken,  some  spices, and  some  minced parsley fresh from  the Earthboxes on the deck. When the mixture had thickened, I spooned it into the  pastry lined casserole dish  then  weaved   some strips cut from the second  sheet of puff pastry  to make a latticework  top. I cut the   strips too wide for the casserole dish I was using, but it turned out all right anyway.

 It went in the oven to  bake for  forty-five minutes and came out nice and golden, with the  filling  bubbling   under the lattice top. It smelled  delicious and tasted  very good, too.   With several meals, and what little was left on the carcass  chopped up for the dogs and cat, I think we got our money's worth from that rotisserie chicken!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I'm back and it looks like spring around here

It's been ten days since my last post.  During those ten days I got another chemo treatment and spent another  46 hours wearing the portable pump. It seems to take longer to  snap back after a treatment now, and I am perpetually tired.  Which is a shame because the weather had been glorious and I would love to be messing about in the dirt and pulling weeds. As it is, I've managed to keep the plants in the greenhouse and the little seedlings  that have now moved outside watered, and to keep the bird feeders filled.  I've even managed to take the dogs for a walk a few times, and cleaned up my very messy study, banishing the dust bunnies that had multiplied...well, like rabbits! And the kitchen floor- I  had to mop it- it had   gotten in such a state I feared the  board of health would be out to  close down the kitchen any day now if I didn't get some of the dog hair, tracked-in  dirt, splattered grease and other unidentifiable nastiness  swept up and mopped.

I've also  gotten outside to snap a few  pics  to  show that spring is finally on  its way. 

Monday, March 07, 2016

Ramblings on politics, the economy and the futility of seeking simple solutions

I'm thinking that NAFTA and other trade agreements probably did have something to do with manufacturing job losses in this country. But there were probably a lot of other factors, including financial market collapses, the oil crisis in the 1970s, that made smaller, fuel-efficient cars more attractive and provided an opportunity for Japanese auto makers to compete with US manufacturers and entrench themselves in the United States. There have been advances in robotic technology  that will have an impact on manufacturing now and in the future as more manufacturers shift to robotics.

 Even before the loss of a lot of those jobs in the auto industry, companies were being pressured by retailers like K-Mart, Target, WalMart, etc to keep prices low or lose business, and shareholders were demanding more profits, so American manufacturers looked overseas, mostly to Asia, where wages and production costs were cheaper. I'm pretty sure NAFTA didn't have a lot to do with the fact that years ago, it seemed every time I called a customer service number I ended up talking to somebody in India. And it wasn't just companies--according to a  report by CBS aired in 2003, at least 18 states were outsourcing welfare benefits calls to Indian operators because it saved money. That same report estimated that "in just the last three years, as many as 400,000 jobs have gone to places like China, Russia, and India." People just love to save money. 

We expect to pay low prices- without thinking of the consequences of those low prices. We have lost a lot of manufacturing plants; it's hard to find products made in the USA; But it can be done, there are still companies producing quality products in this country. You'll probably pay a little more for them than for the cheaply made products on sale in WalMart but if we're really concerned about the loss of  jobs and  manufacturing here,  we out to put our money where our mouth is and at least make an effort to "Buy American." Now that wages are rising in China and other countries, more manufacturers are beginning to bring production back home and customer service calls are increasingly being answered by people in the US. But we will probably never return to the heyday of American production that existed post- WWII. 

The global economy is complicated, but it seems, in addition to low prices we also want simple answers, and it's so much easier to blame something like NAFTA or GATT or the TPP for all our woes than it is to try to view them as part of a much larger picture, to figure out all the different aspects that have contributed to the problem and try to find a solution based on the reality of the situation. And it probably won't be quick or simple, no matter how much we'd like it to be.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Energized again!

I've been suffering from bloggers block for the last few days. After my first chemo treatment it took me five days after the unhooking before my energy level was back to nearly normal. Unfortunately this time I didn't have the full five days because Super Tuesday fell on the fourth day and I may very well have overdone it. Since we were going out to vote anyway I figured we could just combine trips so in addition to going to  the polls I went to the post office for stamps, to the grocery store for odds and ends we had run out of and to the beauty shop to get my hair cut. Consequently, by Wednesday, when I should have been full of vim and vigor, I was still dragging and we had to put off our once-- every-two-weeks trip   to Publix for groceries and    the dogs' appointment at the  groomer's until Thursday . As luck  would have it, Thursday was one of those cold, miserable, rainy days when you wish you could stay home.  But off we all went. I'm happy to report that although we got cold and wet, we  did get  stocked up and the girls look and smell much better.  It's amazing how much better it is to ride in the car with rain-wet dogs after said dogs have  had a bath and a haircut.

Today was a beautiful spring-like day, perfect for being outside.  I puttered about at the potting bench, transferring the baby lettuces  that were  sown a few weeks ago into their permanent homes-  long window box planters.  I also  planted the new lettuce seedlings from the latest sowing into the window boxes to eliminate  the need to  disturb their roots by  potting them up several times.  If they do as well as  the lettuce did last year we can look forward to some lovely salads in a couple of months.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Question for Sanders Supporters

I posted this in my facebook page but decided to post it here too. I really would like some answers.
As I've said before, I like a lot of Bernie Sanders plans in theory. But I have many questions on how some of these plans would actually be implemented. First, a question about Bernie Sanders’ free college for all plan. According to the summary on his site, Sanders’ plan states that total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70 billion per year. Of that cost, under the Sanders plan the federal government would be responsible for 67% of the cost while the states would be required to pick up the remaining 33% .
But states are cash strapped, and education has been taking a hit in state budgets. According to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states have been cutting funding for K-12 programs since the 2008 recession and most states have not restored those earlier levels. In fact, in about half the states reporting, less general aid per student is being provided now than in 2008, and In three states, including Alabama, funding cuts are 15% or more.
The cuts also affect higher education. While state funding for higher education has been rising slightly in the last couple of years, there is still a large reliance on student tuition to fund higher education. US News reports that, “Overall, half of states now receive more financial support from tuition dollars than from state or local funding. And the reliance on tuition revenue varies widely between states, from a low of 15.1 percent in Wyoming to a high of 84.5 percent in Vermont.”
Sanders’ plan calls for financing the federal portion by Imposing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street, a speculation fee on investment houses, hedge funds, and other speculators of 0.5% on stock trades (50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005%fee on derivatives. He estimates that this fee will raise the necessary money with some left over, but nowhere in the plan does he address the problem of where the already cash-strapped states are going to come up with their share, nor of what happens to the federal funding if there is another recession or a drop in speculation, stock trades, etc.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Unhooked- Freedom and Fatigue

Today was unhooking day.  Chemo treatment number two of this  regimen is over, and I have survived. But  I have slept most of the day.  I don't know what it is about   getting unhooked from the 5-FU pump, but I am more fatigued on that day than any other, it seems. It was a shame  to be inside all day-  the sky was a beautiful blue and the sun was shining but my body decided it needed sleep more than sunshine. So this is really going to be a short  blog post.  In fact, fatigue is taking over again, so  I'm off to   bed. Maybe I'll dream of some new mischief to get into tomorrow.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A welcome sign of spring!

The sun was shining this morning!  The beautiful azure sky  provided a lovely backdrop for the  skeletal tree branches gently swaying in the wind. But it was cold!  After  nice warm temperatures a few days ago, the rain and wind blew in  cold weather again.   Except for  checking on the seedlings in the greenhouse and  re-filling the bird feeders I didn't venture out today.

But when I did venture out to fill the feeders I was greeted by our first daffodil bloom of the year! There she was,  a lovely golden beauty, "fluttering and dancing in the breeze."  She kept her head down so as  not to lose her  hat, I  think. She was alone, but  was surrounded by several fat buds  ready to burst open and join her any day now. On this date last year we had snow, and we  may get some more this year, but for right now, I'll take any sign of spring I can get, so am very grateful to the daffodil.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wonky on Wednesday

Had my second chemo treatment in this series and have been  sort of  wonky ever since  we got home, asleep more than awake so will have to make this a short blog entry. Or not.  Sometimes I talk too much even when tired.

Yesterday was rainy and windy all day so  didn't get any work done outside except to check on the new seedlings and other plants in the greenhouse and refill the bird feeders. I had gotten most of the   living room carpet vacuumed when I  made a wrong twisting move and threw my hip out, so didn't get much more done in the way of housecleaning, either. I did get some ironing down and  some cooking, thanks in part to the lovely surprise that came via UPS yesterday. But  by the time we'd finished supper I was too tired to  do my usual blog post and went to bed early. So here's part of what I would have posted, had I been awake enough to do so :-)

When we   were watching the  Jacques Pépin cooking show, Heart and Soul, on  our local  Public Television channel a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had  quite a few  of Jacques' books, but not the one for that series. Unbeknownst to me, Mr. G  went online and ordered it. It came yesterday.  He   wrote on the  box, "Happy Anniversary, Birthday, and Maybe Merry Christmas." I  didn't quite know how to take that, so I asked him if he gave it to me early because he  thought I wouldn't live another  few months  to celebrate our anniversary or my birthday, but he assured me that was not the case, that he just wanted to get it while he was thinking about it and then not forget where he'd put it. I can believe that because his mother had a habit of buying birthday presents for people, hiding them away and  then forgetting where she'd put them. I can't remember how many times  she told me she'd bought me a birthday present but  forgot where it was. I got a lot of birthday presents four months late,  usually on Christmas. Since I'm convinced the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, I accept Mr. G's explanation.

Here's a pic of the title page from the  cookbook. There are wonderful recipes, beautiful photographs of the food, and of Jacques  enjoying food and fun with his friends and family. I just discovered that Jacques Pépin is also an artist in  a medium other than food- the  whimsical  roosters are just some of his original artwork scattered throughout the book.

I used a recipe for velvet spinach from the new book.  I liked that very much.  Mr. G not so much- he says  he prefers  my  old recipe for creamed spinach. Oh, well.  The rest of our meal  was prepared using  recipes from another Pépin cookbook, More Fast Food My Way.  The Pork medallions with grapes in  pomegranate sauce were oh, so tender and delicious.  And the Apple maple topping served over butter pecan ice cream- what can I say?! Here's a pic of the apples bubbling away on the stove.  Can you smell that delicious scent of  maple syrup, apples and  just outright deliciousness- which I'm convinced has a  scent all its own.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Rainy Days and Mondays

It's been a lazy, rainy day.  Agatha and Patches sat looking out the  front door most of the morning, watching the  squirrels and birds, who were very active all day.  
There was both good news and bad news when I went to the greenhouse to take the cover off the seedbox.
The bad news was that   the humidity in the box  had  provided the perfect environment for fluff white fungus to  grow  in the the pots and packs of seedlings I'd  repotted last week. I've taken them out of the box now and will be setting a fan on them tomorrow to see if we can't take care of the problem. The good news was that we had more sproutage! The zinnia seeds and the second sowing of lettuce have sprouted and  it looks as though the  calendula are about to pop up, too.

Tonight was yoga class.  The weather was horrible, rainy and foggy the whole  drive there.  I was surprised  that we had a full class tonight, but yoga folks are a determined lot, it seem.  I feel better for going, and I'm  sure most of my yoga classmates feel the same way, so we  brave all kinds of nasty weather  in order to  be trees and mountains and warriors and such.  Tonight we were stars and did moon salutations in honor of tonight's full moon,  the Snow Moon, which,  because of the rain and clouds, we aren't able to see. Oh, well, we  saluted it anyway, and are  more relaxed and fit   because of our salutations, I think.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rainy days are good for cooking and baking

It has rained off and on most of the day.  The forecast for the next couple of days sounds like we could be in for a rough ride with the possibility of severe thunderstorms and the threat of a tornado. Looks like Mother Nature is determined to make us pay for those few nice  days we had  a few days ago.

Since  it wasn't a good day to work outside, I decided to cook. I had planned   to cook slow roasted  lamb with herb crust  and roasted potatoes  with a vegetable tian, and a maple and apple tarte tatin for dessert. It's been years since I  baked a tarte tatin but this one turned out to be not too bad. I  could have  cooked the syrup a little longer- it wasn't quite caramelized enough, although it was much darker than it appears to be in the picture. The flash makes it look a couple of shades lighter

Mr. G had peeled and cored the apples for me, and had peeled more than  I needed for the tarte, so I decided to break out my newest   kitchen gadgetry purchase and make some apple tarte tatin turnovers.  I ordered a set of three turnover gizmos from King Arthur flour. They are so cool! When they are closed up they remind me of  play denture sets. You roll out the dough, then cut a circle with one side of the cutter,  turn the cutter over, place the dough  on it, Before I  fold mine I usually moisten the edges of the  circle  to help seal  them, today I brushed on a beaten egg and also used  the egg  on the pastry before putting it in the oven to give it a nice shine. Then I  put the the filling on the circle, folded the cutter over and it automatically  closed and crimped the edges. I didn't get any pics of the finished  product before we gobbled them up.  Sorry about that.  Here are some pics of the  cutters- they came in a 4", 5" and 6 " size and can be used for meat pies,  empanadas and calzones, too.
They cut perfect  circles! Of course, puff pastry   tries to shrink as soon as you move it.
Here is the pastry laid on the top of the  form, the filling in place and the egg wash around the edge.
Close up the mold and Voila!  a turnover all sealed and crimped and ready to bake