Archive for the 'Some Good News For A Change' category

Chocolate Yogurt, Balm of My Soul

The universe has seen fit to kindly offer some recompense for years of suffering. I thought it best to take public notice. You want to reinforce good behavior on the part of the universe, in the hopes that it might continue down that path.

There were many years after my stroke when my diet was extremely limited. Everything, it seemed, was a migraine trigger. Not just little headaches, mind you, but crushing migraines that left me bed-ridden for days. My migraine-enforced food deprivations included two of my favorite foods: yogurt, and anything chocolate.

Years of botox treatments seemed to have a gradual desensitizing effect on my food triggers, and eventually I could eat a large chunk of the richest chocolate with impunity.

And then I discovered that my favorite local yogurt-maker makes chocolate yogurt. Yes. And it is too wonderful to be true. Except it is.

I rationalized: there is virtue in indulging in my hi cal treat. Yogurt is good for you! Locavore! Eat healthy AND save the planet! But really, delicious chocolate yogurt is just something the universe owes me. The universe rarely gets around to coughing up much of anything it owes me (or anyone), so three cheers for tasty chocolate yogurt. I have a quart of it in my refrigerator right now.

My wish for all the Zuskateers: may you be granted your own chocolate yogurt-equivalent today.

3 responses so far

It's Alive! It's Alive!!!!!

The brain! My brain! It's alive! It still works!

Well, apparently there's nothing that a six-month migraine can do to you that a one week hospitalization in a dedicated migraine care unit can't mostly fix.  They take no responsibility for my ordinary Zuskatiness, but the headache, she is GONE!  Here's how it works.

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22 responses so far

Flying Chairs at #scio12 !!!!!!!!!!!

Forget the jetpacks, ScienceOnline is going to have FLYING CHAIRS!!!!!

They are incredibly awesome.

They look like ordinary plastic and metal classroom desk chairs, but you just sit down in them, think about where you want to go, and hang on!  They will whisk you from one session to the next, swooping and swishing above the crowds below.  You can take them outside, too, and fly around in the parking lot with your friends.  Sometimes, though, Bora programs them all to go to one place at one time when we all need to be there for a plenary session or a dinner or what have you.  It's a sight to see everyone rising up like a flock of nerdy birds, whizzing along to the next venue.


When I woke up this morning and realized that flying chairs at #SciO12 was just a beautiful dream, I felt sad only for a moment.  Even if there aren't going to be flying chairs, Bora and Anton will still have created something so fab I'll feel like I've been flying around by the seat of my pants for three days.

More down-to-earth and sensible discussions of what to expect at SciO12 can be found at Dr. Stemwedel's place and over at WhizBANG!


10 responses so far

How Soon Can I Go Back???

Whole lotta everything going on in the past few weeks.  Past coupla months.  Okay, the whole dang year.  It's not been one of my better blogging years.  But I've been spending time with people who matter to me, and that is something I treasure.

Last week, though, last week was just for me and Mr. Z.  We took our annual vacation to a warm sunny beachy sandy place.  We don't buy each other gifts or cards or flowers for birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. We save money for this vacation and relaxing time alone with each other, away from all the things we deal with in our daily lives.  This year the vacation seemed to stretch on and on; it felt much longer than the one week, and I felt thoroughly relaxed. Yay!  Eventually we had to come home, though, back to cell phones and stacks of mail and things that need doing for the people we care about and the kittehs we love even though they use litter boxes and the yard that looks like someone is trying to let it go back to the wild.

Last night I dreamed I went outside to get the paper and there was a tough old man with leathery sunburnt skin and strongly muscled arms and legs, busily working over one of my garden beds and in the process of turning it into a thing of beauty.  He'd already completed work on one - weeds gone, soil turned over and compost mixed in, some new perennials planted in pleasing arrangements, perfectly edged with natural stone - and was hard at work on the next.  I was bewildered.  Why was he here, where had he come from?  He said he had been sent to ensure that my garden would flourish until I had time to properly care for it again. Well, and then I woke up.

The beachy sandy place was lush with beautiful foliage. I went on a guided nature tour of the area to learn about the flora around me, and the gardens on site that produced many of the vegetables and herbs we found on our dinner plates. Someday, someday, I will be a real gardener.  Meanwhile, here are a few pics of things that enchanted me.

Dragonfly on palm frond


This is quite near the water, and I spent a lot of time here.

Sea grapes growing into beach hut


And here I was just enamored of the color and geometry.

Japanese fanpalm


During our yearly vacation, Mr. Z and I play gardener to each other's soul and spirit.  If we can't completely guarantee a year of flourishing between vacations, it seems we at least prevent complete wilting and withering.  We trade tips and make plans for proper care in the coming year.

For some things it takes a long time to see results but in others you get a bit of reward early on, if you are paying attention.  Last year I planted a tiny ninebark sometime around the end of June.  One year later it had turned into a fine young bushy plant and lo! -this dude showed up.

Ninebark leaves and mantis

I'm pretty sure that's a praying mantis. I can't remember the last time I saw one of those.  Even if my garden looks like crap to me, putting in those native plants is starting to make a bit of a difference.  Lots more bees this year, and other kinds of bugs.  Little things like that can keep you going for a long time.

So, dear Zuskateers: how does your garden grow?  None of us have that gardener of our dreams who will show up and take care of everything till we're able to get back to it ourselves.  How do you refresh?  What small thing in the past year gave you much delight?  Semesters are ending and we're gearing up for holiday madness so it might be good to reflect for a minute upon those things that bring us brief moments of joy, keep us sane, or keep us from going completely nuts.  At least until we can get back to the sandy beachy place once more.

11 responses so far

Smart Girls at the Party

Via Gerty-Z - thanks so much for alerting me to this site!

Smart Girls At The Party!

As Gerty-Z notes,

the tagline [is] "change the world by being yourself". Now, that already sounds pretty awesome. BUT, if you poke around you will find that it is set up by three super-awesome women: Amy Poehler, Meredith Walker and Amy Miles. They interview women and girls who do cool stuff

Valentine is a gardener.  And there are many, many more cool videos and other things on the site.  Share this with every young girl you know!!!!!!!!!!!


2 responses so far

Puree, Then Strain

I am a fan of farmer's markets, as most Zuskateers know, and I am grateful that I am able to enjoy their bounty.  As I have turned our diet to focus more and more on what I can bring home from the farm market, I've tried to get a bit more creative with the veggies and fruits.  This requires a few things beyond the resources to purchase said veggies and fruits. First, you need time - time to study out different recipes and decide which ones you want to attempt and how to go about them, time to undertake the various recipes, and possibly learn some new cooking skills along the way.

Second, you will need a good source of recipes.  If you have access to the internet (which, if you are reading this, I assume you do) you can always Google for a new idea, but I like having a book in front of me in the kitchen to page through for ideas. And my favorite veggie cookbook is Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  It has tons of great recipes, but also it teaches you about veggies and fruits, how to choose and store them, and it teaches you techniques for preparing them, as well as how to make various sauces and dressings that will be good accompaniments.  It is not cheap, so if you can get it used, do so.  The only thing I do not like about this book is that sometimes I will get excited about a recipe on page x, only to discover that it needs a sauce on page y, which is based on some other sauce on page z, and then I give up, because it's too complicated.  Or, I just fudge it.  So far I have managed to live without making my own garlic aoli from scratch.

But every once in awhile I do get the notion to make some complicated thing just for the hell of it.  Well, not just for the hell of it.  Sometimes I find spending three hours in the kitchen making some complicated concoction very therapeutic - it helps me forget all the elder care stuff, the pile of paperwork on the desk upstairs that needs my attention, the phone calls I need to make on behalf of my loved ones (or to yell at my insurance company).  Gardening is maybe the only activity more mentally helpful than pureeing the hell out of a bowl of something.

So what have I been making?  Fruit has been in abundance, so I've been messing with that.  First up, Cantaloupe Soup.  Take your melon, chop up the flesh.  You'll get about 6 cups, but who's counting.  Take 1.5 cups of orange juice, and if you're a purist, you could fresh squeeze your own, but I grabbed the carton from the fridge.  1/4 cup lemon juice, and here I did go the fresh squeezed route because, oh, fresh lemon juice, so nice!  2 T. honey - something nice and fruity, or whateverthehell is on your shelf.  Just a little cinnamon, don't go overboard.  The recipe said 1/4 tsp but they are insane, it was way too much.  At little cinnamon goes a long way. It also called for 1/4 tsp salt and here I agreed with them - it does need that bit of salt.  Mix all this mess in a big bowl and get out your immersion blender if you have one, which I hope you are lucky enough to have one, because nothing gets the stress out like sticking an immersion blender into a mess like this, pressing the button and going whirrrrrrrr!  The final mess should be sweet and a little tart.  Chill, and when you serve, if you are an ultra fancy soul you can garnish with a little chopped mint but I didn't have any so we ate ours plain and it was just fab.

Next, the lemonades. We start with Blueberry Lemonade. Two cups H2O, 3/4 c. sugar, bring to boil.  Add peel of one lemon in strips, 2 c. blueberries: boil 5 min.  Strain through a fine sieve. Be careful, hot blueberry stuff will splash everywhere and stain. Go slow!  Add juice of 4 lemons.  FOUR!  Do not skimp.  Sometimes I strain a second time to make it ultra smooth, into whatever pitcher I am going to keep it in. Refrigerate.  Serve diluted 1:1 with club soda or H2O.  Imbibers may want to mix with a favorite spirit.  You can make this with frozen blueberries too.

Blueberry Lemonade

Watermelon Lemonade is just as good.  Puree about half of a medium-sized watermelon.  Not one of those really huge ones, just a decent sized one.  Here it is nice to use a blender if you have one.  It does the job and the seeds don't really get chopped up, so if you strain the puree into a bowl, they stay behind along with the flavorless pulp.  Add in the juice of 1 lemon, and 3 T of simple syrup (more or less, to your taste).  (Simple syrup is 1:1 water:sugar, which you will have to heat on the stove to get the sugar to dissolve, then cool before adding to your melonade.  You may have extra, you can keep it in the fridge for awhile, or put some in your hummingbird feeder.)  Mix it all up, cool, serve.  Some say dilute with water but I never do, I drink it straight. Delish, and very refreshing on a hot day.

Neither of those recipes takes terribly long to make - the worst part is cutting up the melon, and/or juicing the lemons, but if you have a good tool it's not too bad.  Don't get anything fancy, get an old-fashioned one that sits over a bowl with the cone you stick the cut lemon half over and push down on.  You know what I mean.  It catches the seeds and lets the juice run through.  Pour the juice through the strainer if you don't like the lemonade pulp, or not.

And now, my three-hour crazy recipe.  It is from The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook.  If you follow that link and look at the middle picture on the bottom row, you will see what I was trying to make.  This is how it came out.

Cold Golden Tomato Soup With Melon And Basil Essence

So, mine isn't as beautifully photographed and I left off the fried basil leaves because at the end of the recipe I was all "you want me to do what now?  In a half inch of olive oil? For six basil leaves?  I don't effing think so."   But I have to tell you, it tasted damn good.

Cold Golden Tomato Soup With Melon and Basil Essence

I don't know what the hell a Sharlyn Melon is so I just used the cantaloupe I had lying around.  That's why it's just "with Melon".

First, the ginger syrup.  1/4 c. water, 1/4 c. H2O, 1-inch piece fresh ginger peeled and grated.  Shit.  Drive to grocery store and buy ginger.  Return home, pour self glass of blueberry lemonade, grate ginger.  Mix H2O, water, ginger, bring to boil, boil about a  minute, sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and pour it into a little bowl so it will cool quicker.  (One pot, one bowl, measuring cup, chopping board and knife dirtied.)

Cut up three big ass "golden" tomatoes (that's yellowy-orange to you and me).  The tomatoes were each about the size of a softball.  Core them, cut out bad spots - do this over a bowl so you don't lose any juices.  Get out your immersion blender and puree that mess!  Yippee!  Then strain through fine sieve.  (Bowl, knife, sieve dirtied.  You will have to throw out pulp and rinse the sieve several times to get all that tomato-y goodness strained.)  Now strain the ginger syrup into the tomato yum.  Stir and refrigerate.

Cut open melon.  Scoop out seeds.  If you have a nice ripe melon, juice will puddle in the cavity.  You need a bowl to put this juice into.  You don't have a melon baller, so use a spoon to scoop out sort-of roundish-y cone-balls of melon, somewhere between twelve and twenty, depending upon how many people you are willing to share this with.  Do this over the bowl, catching the juices.  Cut up the rest of the melon and put it in a container to eat later.  Then drain whatever juices have accumulated, into your bowl with your cone-balls. (Cutting board, knife, spoon, bowl dirtied.)

Oh shit, you did not make basil essence yet.  Pack a half cup full of basil leaves.  Thank the Lord you have chives in the freezer because you do not want to wash and chop 1/4 cup's worth.  Mix these two herbs in your blender, or your immersion blender mixing cup, along with 1/4 c. olive oil and, crap, 1 T lemon juice, okay, there's half a lemon in the fridge, that should yield enough.  Puree the shit out of this.  Takes awhile.  Now what?  Now...strain through a fine mesh sieve?  Are you fucking kidding me? Okay, with great patience, you collect enough frigging basil essence to use in two bowls of this stuff, and since there are only two of you, good enough. Hey, the rest of that stuff would be awfully good on pasta to go with this soup, since I didn't plan anything else for dinner... (Measuring cups, immersion blender, immersion blender cup, lemon juicer, sieve, cup dirtied.)

Okay, pour cantaloupe juice into bottom of two bowls.  Arrange cone-balls attractively in bowl.  Ladle tomato-ginger goodness  over top.  Drizzle effing basil essence around. Those fried basil leaves can suck my cantaloupe cone-balls.  Serve.  Oh. My. God.  It is really, really, really good.

10 responses so far

Sunday Afternoon Oatmeal For Two

Mar 28 2011 Published by under Daily Struggles, Some Good News For A Change

A recent piece about trendy brunch spots in my local newspaper tells me that oatmeal made from steel cut oats is now all the rage.  This is so awesome; my breakfast is now hip!  Yesterday I made oatmeal, and we called it Sunday brunch.  You can too.  You will need:

Water; steel cut oats; some butter; other optional fixings; a philosophical bent.

Place two cups of water in the teakettle to boil.  Measure out 2/3 cup of steel cut oats.  Go to fridge for butter.  Note in astonishment that the small tub of butter you got at the farmer's market has developed alarming brown and black spots throughout.  Contemplate  whether you have ever seen, or even heard of, moldy butter before in your life. Ask self just when was the last time you cooked something with butter.  Ask self just when was the last time you cooked anything.

Note with relief that slab of Kelly's Irish Butter next to tub of freaky moldy Frankenbutter is still good.  Pitch Frankenbutter, take out good slab.  Put about 2 generous tablespoons in a small pot on the stove,  melt on medium high heat.  Add the oats, and stir around for about two minutes.  You can throw in a pinch of salt at the end of this if you want.  The water should have long since come to a boil.  Grab teakettle and pour boiling water over the oats.  You forgot to wear an oven mitt, so the rising steam will scorch your hand.  Curse, lift teakettle away from pot, recommence pouring, scorching, cursing, etc. till all water is transferred to pot.  Stir oats around.

Cover, let cook for twenty minutes plus a little on low.  Give it a stir every now and then to make sure it doesn't stick.  Make coffee. Look around for what's on hand to satisfy spouse's sweet tooth.  Note with dismay that milk carton bears date approximately one month ago.  Half-and-half, however, is good to go.  Coffee is saved, and the oatmeal will have to be served with half-and-half.  Recommence sweet-tooth search.  Find container of hard, shriveled raisins.  Figure they'll plump up in the oatmeal.  Rejoice that cinnamon jar is not empty, and congratulate self for having bought a new jar of maple syrup back when you were in that blueberry pancake phase.

Find Entenmann's cheese filled crumb coffee cake still in fridge where you left it for spouse last week, confirming your suspicion that spouse never opens fridge in your absence.  Still has one day left on expiration. Figure a little microwaving will resurrect it.  Find some walnuts in container in back of fridge.

Return to nearly finished oatmeal.  Throw in handful of dried up raisins. Marvel at how plump they become!  Sprinkle in some cinnamon, swirl in a little maple syrup.  This is starting to look gourmet.  Serve into two bowls and sprinkle walnuts on top.  Spouse appears in kitchen and is duly impressed.  Offers to carry things off to (where else?) tv room.  Coffee, oatmeal bowls, the little plate with peeled clementines and a few prunes (which was all you could muster for a fruit cup), and you slap the Entenmann's in the microwave.  Voila!  Sunday brunch.

Settle into couch next to spouse with Sunday paper.  Tuck into oatmeal, after laying a little half-and-half on it.  Pretty damn good.

6 responses so far

Teach Your Children Well: Understanding Mansplaining

A friend of the blog recently let me know how understanding mansplaining is helping the children of England navigate today's world.

Scene:  A family home in Manchester, England.  Kitchen interior.  Mom is cooking, and pre-adolescent Son and Daughter are nearby.

Son:  Mom, how do new words get made?

Mom: Oh, well, lots of different ways.  Sometimes somebody just makes something up, and then their friends start using it, and then it catches on, and then everyone uses it.  Or sometimes an old word gets modified to describe something new.  Or sometimes two words get combined to describe something.  Here's an example I saw the other day in the New York Times: mansplaining.  It's a combination of man and explaining.

Son and Daughter: What does it mean?

Mom: It's when a man starts explaining, especially to women, how to do what they already know how to do, or how they are wrong about what they are actually right about.  Or they interrupt to give some small facts about something you are talking about that you know more about that he does.   Man explaining - mansplaining, is how the word is formed, and it means that annoying sort of totally unnecessary explaining done by men, usually to women, and often interrupting the woman when she was talking.  [See here and here for an elaboration.]

Son and Daughter: Okay.

Scene: The next day.  Out and about in the family car, kids in back seat, mom driving.

Daughter: Hey mom, did you know [story ensues about something that happened last week].

Son: [Interrupts Daughter and takes over narrative with his version.]

Daughter:  Hey!  Shut up! Stop mansplaining me!  [resumes her narrative]

Zuskateers, we can't say for sure that knowing the definition of mansplaining this early in life will have a profound impact on Son and Daughter as they grow up.  We can't say for sure that having the opportunity early in life to identify mansplaining in action in a relatively benign setting will make Daughter more likely to challenge it from now on, and/or Son less likely to engage in it.  But surely they both have more of a chance, now that they know what it is, than they did before. Yay kids!  Keep asking questions.

Sons, partake not ye of the mansplaining.  Daughters, when the mansplainer arriveth at thy very footstep, remember to callest out "Stop mansplaining me!"  The End.

Thanks to the family in Manchester for sharing this story with TSZ!

12 responses so far

What's That Blooming? Witch Hazel, and the Guest Blogge!

It was spring in February today.  Temps in the sixties, and the buds that broke on the witch hazel on Tuesday finally came full flower.  I didn't get out in the yard with the camera till the light was almost dying.

"Orange Peel" witch hazel in the front yard

Yay!  This year I finally have witch hazel blossoms!  Okay, last year I dug up the non-performer and replaced it with this one.  It turns out that all the showy bloomer witch hazels are grafted onto rootstock that has teeny tiny non-showy little buds that bloom in the fall.  The rootstock will take over if not pruned back.  Apparently, when I bought my dud, the rootstock was already growing vigorously through the graft and just kept on doing so.  "Orange Peel" survived last summer's heat wave and even though it looked awfully droopy at one point, it set out a nice batch of buds.  And here we are!  Blossoms in February to cheer the soul!  Here's a closeup.

"Orange Peel" blossoms

Spring in February brings a blossoming to Scientopia as well, with the start of our Guest Blogge!  Our inaugural guest bloggers are Frautech, who blogs at Design. Build. Play. and Paolo who blogs at Zygoma.  In her inaugural guest post, Frautech talks about putting the E in STEM.    Paolo talks about celebrating Darwin's birthday and ponders whether he would get a job in science today.  Stop over, read these and their other posts, and say hello! And keep an eye on the guest blogge - lots of other great bloggers are in the lineup for the future!

4 responses so far

A Nutritious Meal From Locally Sourced Whole Foods

Yesterday I spoke of my extreme personal makeover vows that included getting off the internet more and cooking nutritious meals from locally sourced whole foods every night!!!!!  So of course I'm here again today to report to you how I'm doing.  Ha ha ha ha!

Well, over the past few weeks I have been doing a bit less of the compulsive social network-and-email checking, a bit more cooking, and a bit more reading.  I may even make it to my book club tonight, albeit without having finished this month's selection, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I had a copy of that lurking around unread for decades but when I went to retrieve it, it was gone.  Apparently, it vanished in the last Great Book Purge a year or two ago.  Never again.  Never, never again will I take any one of my books to a used book store.  I don't care how stupid or useless looking the book seems to be, I don't care how long it has sat there unread and unbrowsed, I don't care how sure I am that I will never, ever, ever open its covers, how certain I am that I need to weed the rows to make room for fancy new blooms that caught my eye at the book nursery.  This is the skajillionth time I have wanted a book that I was sure I had on my shelves, only to discover that I had coldheartedly consigned it to the used bookstore bin. Sir Gawain may have met with the ax last time around because he was a dim reminder of my first marriage, but that's no excuse.  From now on every book stays. Even if a stack of them falls over and crushes me.

I may have made this extreme vow in the past.

Anyway, dinner last night.  We had the last of the pork and sauerkraut from new year's day.  The pork was from Whole Foods - whole foods! - and they said it came from a local producer.  I let the crock pot cook it all day long.  Chopped up an apple, threw it on top of the pork.  Dumped in a little caraway seed.  Dumped in the sauerkraut, sprinkled on some brown sugar, drizzled on some melted butter, put 'er on low, and went away for 7 hours.  Mmm.  Made mashed potatoes, but we didn't have any left last night, so I made this carrot pie to go with it.

Cousin Eunice's Grated Carrot Pie

I'm not sure whose cousin Eunice is.  The recipe is from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the pie was delicious.  I thought it would be more savory, but it came out a little more dessert-y than I expected.  Still damn good.  And very, very easy to make.

One 9-inch single pie crust rolled out, fitted into a pie plate, edge trimmed and crimped (I used a frozen pre-made crust)

1 1/4 cups peeled and grated carrot (thank you, Landisdale Farms carrots!)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
3 large eggs, well beaten
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the pie crust and set aside.  (I used frozen and used it directly out of the freezer, thawed only a few minutes.)

2. In a large bowl, combine the carrots, sugar, and milk. Add the eggs, and mix thoroughly.  Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and lemon extract and blend well.  Pour the filling into the pie crust, place in the oven, and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

3. Let cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

(From Sweety Pies by Patty Pinner, Taunton, 2007)

Okay, Cousin Eunice was smoking something if she thought that pie was going to be done in 30-35 minutes.  In my convection oven it took a good 45 minutes.  It is good to let it sit for awhile, but no way could we wait until it was completely cool.  Plus, it tasted awesome still warm.  Some juices will run out if you cut it warm, though, so let the pie sit on a tilt and let the juices accumulate in the missing slice spot, so the remaining crust doesn't get soggy.  It was full of carroty goodness and we told ourselves we were eating a vegetable, so why not have a second slice.

5 responses so far

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