31 January 2013


I have become a cook. I used to just bake, but lately I've been getting into cooking.

I have made this butternut squash with farro and pepitas salad recipe (with barley instead of farro) innumerable times this winter, and I am now grieving the loss of the squash for the season as they start to get harder and less sweet. I suspect that my obsession with this salad arises from a deep love for red onion, which in this recipe are slightly pickled in vinegar (it calls for sherry vinegar; I use white wine vinegar). I may possibly have overdone it on the onion a few times to the point that I was just about the only person who could eat it.

I also made this warm butternut squash and chickpea salad, but I don't like it quite as much. It tastes like butternut squash hummus, which is delicious, but I think my issue is with the tahini dressing. I keep trying, but I really only like tahini in small doses.

On Sunday, I finally realized the craving I've been having for pea soup. I made this vegetarian recipe, but I added veggie sausage and used veggie stock and added some smoked sea salt. The brilliance of this recipe is the smoked paprika ($1.99 at Trader Joe's!), which I added directly to the soup because let's just be honest: I'm packing this stuff up and taking it to work. I'm not going to make anything like that lovely bowl she created each time I warm it up in the microwave. It has been consistently delicious, though.

I know that I should have taken pictures or something, but I am never home during daylight hours to do such a thing without using the flash on the camera, which would ruin the pictures. Plus those links will take you right to beautiful pictures. 

Cooking is so consuming and mindless at the same time. There are many, many other things going through my head, but they are the sort of things that you can't talk about on the internet, and so I cook, and I hibernate, and I think too much.

27 January 2013


I spent most of my late afternoon and evening yesterday trying to buy a Thermos. 

I do know that it shouldn't be that hard. 

See, I needed a Thermos for winter outdoor activities. On every winter outdoor activity I do, there are people with Thermoses who have delicious warm drinks when we stop for lunch and I instead have delicious cold drinks, which are delicious but just not the same when you are out in the snow. 

I had a winter outdoor activity planned for today, and so of course yesterday at around 4 pm I decided that I needed a Thermos now now now. 

Reviews suggested that REI had a good one, but there were also some available at T@rget that looked good, so I went there first. 

I stood in front of the Thermos section for a while, thinking, picking up various Thermos products and then setting them down again. (Thermoses are expensive, which is a fact that I did not know. $15 for a little soup Thermos that your kid takes to school? What if they lose it? What if I lose it?)

At length, I decided that I would buy the REI thermos instead of the bigger, bulkier one at T@rget, and I went off to buy some things at Trader Joe's and then to REI.

It was 6:10 when I pulled up to REI. 

It turns out that they close at 6.


I was determined that I needed a Thermos now now now, so I went back across town to T@rget and bought the 18 oz one. 

It's amazing how easy a decision is when you only have one choice. Sometimes - many times - I think I prefer it that way. If there were not so many choices, I would not find myself standing aimlessly in T@rget for far too long. 

(T@rget is particularly bad for this. 

When I came back from Rwanda for Christmas in 2003, I remember standing in front of the snack aisle in W@lgreens while my pictures printed, mesmerized and immobilized by the row of snacks. There were so very many of them! I was used to having my snack options limited to Pringles and three types of cookies, two of which were tasteless. 

I still feel mesmerized and immobilized in T@rget, which is probably why, contrary to the rumors that circulate on the internet about never getting out of T@rget with less than $200 spent, I need either a list or my sister to get me to spend any money there. It is not uncommon for me to walk out with nothing if I do not have a list. There are just too many choices.)

25 January 2013


A freight train rolled slowly through town, sounding its horn. Each time it buzzed the horn for longer, until it was a solid roar and I turned to look.

The train had stopped just short of a crossing. Cars were stopped on both sides of the barriers. "Why doesn't the train just go?" I wondered.

As I kept watching, I finally saw a man slowly rise to his feet and stumble off the tracks. 

By this time the train had been still for long enough that the barriers at the crossing were going back up. The cars crossed the tracks, and the man ambled on, not looking back at the train that could have killed him.

24 January 2013


I decided this morning to start doing 100 crunches a day. 

For fun, obviously. As one does. 

And to see if crunches alone, even a variety of crunches as I fully intend to do because repetition is boring, can actually make any difference in ab definition. 

It's January. It still gets dark early. I have to find some way to pass the time.

I had 60 crunches in when I went to advanced fighting class, and by one time around the workout circuit the instructor designed, I had 100 in plus 16 with an exercise ball.

I realized my mistake when the instructor then added a whole bunch of bicycle crunches to the next time around the circuit.

96 bicycle crunches and 16 exercise ball crunches later, I am going to have difficulty sitting up tomorrow. 

Which is fine. The importance of sitting up is vastly over-estimated in life. 

Maybe I'll move up to 200 crunches a day.

It's been over a month since I worked out on a regular basis (thank you Christmas, also sinus infection), and I am back at that awesome place where you can feel muscles you forgot you had: forearm muscles, for example. My forearms hurt.

I really do love my fighting class.

22 January 2013


Our tree house is surrounded by fog. I haven't been able to see into the valley for days now. 

The trees are frosted with ice that doesn't melt during the day, so the world up here in the hills is all grey and misty and strange.

I hibernated this long weekend, barely leaving the house but for warm drinks and snacks. I needed to be quiet. I needed to think. 

I had coffee on Saturday with one of my favorite people in this town. (I feel like I have a lot of favorite people in this town; this town is full of great people.) We talked about some hard things, but good, in the way of people who care enough to be honest about their own faults and gentle with the other person's. I left happy and thoughtful.

And the fog swirled around, and the days were grey, and I rested.

I woke up this morning with a raw feeling in the top of my lungs like the beginning of getting sick, again, two weeks after I got antibiotics for my sinus infection, and when I laughed I could hear a scraping in my windpipe.

I came straight home from work to lounge on the couch and drink tea with honey and watch Fringe and go to bed early: my cure-all.

18 January 2013


The other night, as I was coming home from J.'s birthday party, I saw a man with a walker beginning the long, slow trek up the hill by my house. It was 11 pm and about 30 degrees F, he wasn't wearing a coat, and I knew where he was going - to the rehab center about 1/4 of the way up the hill. 

He was walking in the road. On the edge, but in the road. I worried that an on-coming car would hit him there in the dark. 

I ran through the checklist in my head: police? Silly, when I knew right where he was going. Rehab center? I doubt they would come out into the cold for him.

And so I swung my car into the next driveway and turned around.

"Do you need a ride?" I asked. He first declined, but I insisted, not wanting him to be hit by a car. 

Plus, look. I grew up in a place where our Peugeot was not infrequently filled front to back as we drove up-country. My brother and I would start in the middle seat and end up in the back-back as my parents picked up random people on the side of the road. It isn't often that I feel safe giving rides to men in the US (I have given a ride to a girl in this town), but he was a rehab patient with a walker. I wasn't exactly worried.

It wasn't until he had ever-so-laboriously lowered himself into the car and I had folded the walker and stuffed it into the back seat that I realized that the combination of hospital smell and cigarette smoke was going to seriously alter the air quality of my car, possibly forever.

And it wasn't until he got out of my car, ever-so-laboriously, at the rehab center, that I remembered what I had seen at the beginning and forgotten: only half of his rear-end was covered by sweatpants. The rest was enjoying the cold winter air and had been enjoying my passenger seat. 

"Do you want a hug?" he asked, and years of politeness training lost to the instinct not to be touched by strangers.

"No, thanks!" I said, setting his walker in front of him. "Be safe!"

15 January 2013

too much

I somehow managed to pack my weekend to the point where I did not do that silly thing called rest. At all. Who needs it?

Perhaps the girl recovering from a sinus infection should have thought about that a little more.

And yet, I wouldn't have missed any of it.

On Saturday, I went out into the mountains. There is something about the mountains, in their silent layers of snow, that makes my heart feel both empty and full at the same time. Snow-shoeing is much noisier than cross-country skiing - no moments of silence in the woods - but also much less scary - no sliding sideways into trees or down into valleys. 

I probably shouldn't have gone. I was on the prednisone days (that stuff about it clearing my sinuses: lies, all lies, apparently nothing will ever clear my sinuses as long as I live out here; fortunately that stuff about it making you crazy: also lies, for me), and I should have slept in and rested. 

But, oh, the mountains. The blue sky. The white snow. The little snowboarders high on the butte. How could I have missed it?

My friend J.'s birthday was Saturday, and on Friday night I made cookies to bring as my contribution. My momma gave me a cookie cutter in the shape of a mitten in my Christmas stocking. A January birthday seemed the perfect occasion to use it. 

I tried to take a picture at the party, and L. told me to hold up one mitten in each hand, a left and a right, but I'd made them all left hands, like the Mitten.

08 January 2013

not guilty

I always feel sort of sheepish about going to the doctor for things other than an annual physical, because what if my symptoms aren't serious enough to need a doctor? What if it's just a virus and I'm wasting the doctor's time? 

And since I feel better in the morning than the afternoon/evening lately, I felt silly at 8 am when I walked into the doctor's office. 

"I usually wait until I'm incapacitated before I go to the doctor, but I have some big stuff going on at work later this week, and I can't be sick," I explained, as I answered most of the questions no. 

No, I don't have much mucus.

No, my ears don't hurt.

No, I don't have a cough. 

No, I don't have a fever, that I know of (it's hard to tell when you are mainlining ibuprofen to get through the head pain).

By this time, I was feeling like I should have just gone straight to work.

The doctor turned out the light, shone a little flashlight against my cheek, and looked at the roof of my mouth.

"Well," she said, "it looks like you do have a sinus infection." She showed me in her own mouth (I love my doctor) how you should be able to see the light of the flashlight through your cheek like through your hand. Instead of a spooky red glow, my mouth was just dark. This means that my sinuses are full of... something. Something that is not coming out of my nose, since I sinus rinse twice a day and get nothing.

My coworker told me that his ENT doctor told him that most doctors don't actually check what they are supposed to check for a sinus infection, and that however they are supposed to check hurts, badly. I am glad that my doctor didn't check that way. 

I hope she's right about my sinus infection, because by the afternoon today I was getting to the point of wanting to just cut off my own head to get rid of the pain. Something needs to give. Ibuprofen is now a joke. The only thing that got me through the work day was the fact that I had amoxicillin waiting for me at the pharmacy after work. (About taking sick time: well. I am not very good at that. I never feel sick enough to take sick leave when there are things that need to get done.)

If my sinuses do not start to drain within two days, I am to take a course of prednisone, because one does not want compacted sinuses like that indefinitely.

I am not the hypochondriac I feared I might be.

And now I feel not guilty at all about having plopped onto the couch and turned on cooking shows tonight.

07 January 2013


So I bought a little rolly suitcase while I was in the Netherlands, because the little rolly suitcase I had brought with me turned out to be crap for traveling. (I think it might have been intended as more of a briefcase? Maybe? Except that I tried it as a rolling briefcase and it was crap as that, too. But it looks nice! It's just useless. It has all these tall pockets that you can't really get into, and each pocket is too small for anything real - putting a binder in it cramps the other pockets - but too big to be a cubby for small things. It is at its best empty, which is, yes, useless.)

The little rolly suitcase that I bought in the Netherlands, in the shopping center across the canal from where my tante and oom live, is a pretty blue, and it has four wheels.

Four wheels on a suitcase has revolutionized my life. This is part of the reason why I now travel so light: I want everything to fit into the little suitcase with four wheels.

For someone with gimpy arms like me, pulling a two-wheeled suitcase starts to hurt after a while. There is more weight resting in your hand than you realize. My fingers always end up numb and my hands always hurt on the plane so that I can't find a comfortable position. 

The four-wheeled suitcase changed that. The weight stays on the ground, and I can push it with much less force, and therefore much less pain in my hands. This is a wonderful thing, because I love to walk circles around airports while I am waiting for my flights, and now I can!

Until, thank you very much, the Phoenix airport. I don't know whose idea it was to carpet the Phoenix airport with some silly pinkish/maroon carpet, patterned in a tessellation of airplanes, that is just a bit too thick to allow a four-wheeled rolly bag to roll, but I bitterly resent that person. They invented tile for a reason, person whose idea it was to carpet the Phoenix airport with some silly pinkish/maroon carpet, patterned in a tessellation of airplanes, that is just a bit too thick to allow a four-wheeled rolly bag to roll.

I was reduced to misery not seen since I first injured my arms in 2006. I tried to push the suitcase with one hand - pain - and then with the other - pain. I tried to pull the suitcase with one hand - pain - and then with the other - pain. I tried to push the suitcase with both hands - pain - and then it fell over because I was applying so much force to the top of it. 

And then I tripped over it. 

A lady walking by asked if I was okay, and I explained that I have nerve problems in my arms and I was having trouble pushing the suitcase because the silly pinkish/maroon carpet, patterned in a tessellation of airplanes, was just a bit too thick to allow a four-wheeled rolly bag to roll.

You know what she suggested? She suggested that I take the courtesy transport. 

Yes. It has come to this, PHX. Your silly pinkish/maroon carpet, patterned in a tessellation of airplanes, just a bit too thick to allow a four-wheeled rolly bag to roll, is taking from me my freedom to walk around the airport and get some exercise in between flights. It is condemning me to the cart that annoys everyone walking in the middle of the concourse.

I didn't take the cart, but I did curse the airport soundly, under my breath, for that silly pinkish/maroon carpet, patterned in a tessellation of airplanes, that is just a bit too thick to allow a four-wheeled rolly bag to roll. 

04 January 2013

face infected

For the last few days, I have been increasingly paranoid that I am getting an infection in my gums. Yes, the gums in my mouth. My whole mouth has been hurting more and more every day, as I frantically flossed more and more.

I couldn't figure out how this was possible. I floss, people. I floss every single day. I can't go to bed without flossing. How could I get a gum infection?

It wasn't until today when I felt the space behind my face jolting in pain every time I took a step that I realized what was going on: the beginning of a sinus infection.

Ibuprofen is changing my life once again.

I've only had one sinus infection in my life (fingers crossed this one dies out on its own). I was in Kigali staying at my boss's house when I found myself, one day, unable to lay my head down on a pillow. It hurt too much. Fortunately, I had a friend in Rwanda who is a doctor and they sell antibiotics over the counter in pharmacies.

I had to go to three pharmacies to find amoxicillin on a weekend, but when I finally got it, I took the first pills and immediately felt better. I had mentally debated the antibiotic concept, because antibiotics are overused, but I had reached the point where I began to see why people used to just die of bacteria infections. It hurt so much that they lost their will to live.

When you really do need antibiotics, they are a miracle drug. One day I was moaning in pain on D. and R.'s couch, and within 24 hours, I was fit to go out to the Intercontinental with my friends.

I really hope it doesn't come to that this weekend.

01 January 2013


My flight left the Mitten at 5:33 am yesterday morning, a 45 minute drive from my parents' house.

My alarm clock went off at 3:00 am. That is 12 midnight in State of Happiness.

I got to sleep at 1:40 am this morning, 25.5 hours later.

I had to wake up at 9:30 this morning for some awesome brunches my friends hosted.

It is now 8:22 pm, and I am going to sleep.