Recession, destabilization, doom, gloom, blah, blah, blah…
I, for one, am looking forward to 2009, no matter how grim the outlook. 2008 was basically the hardest year of my life and I am thrilled to be kissing it goodbye tonight. I know it might not look like a great year up ahead, but I’ve got high hopes that it will at least be no worse than 2008, and possibly a lot better.
So to anyone who has had a similarly trying year – and to all who have supported me through my dark times – I wish you a very happy, healthy New Year, full of brighter days.
Whatever comes our way in 2009, here’s something to keep in mind, from a sign that I see every day in the radiation clinic:
Bring on the New Year!
My holiday decorations survived a week white I was away without daily watering, fluffing or bulb-changing but still need to make it through the holiday stretch for a few family gatherings and drop-ins.
Is your once-fresh greenery fading and droopy? Add some wide wire ribbon as a garland to disguise twisted branches. A few glass balls or pinecones will fill the gaps formed by sagging limbs. Fresh trees that have settled into a drying state will benefit from redistributing larger ornaments to distract from holes.
If the boughs of your fresh Christmas tree are starting to turn inside-out despite proper watering, a little floral surgery can help get you through in a pinch. Green floral wire and gardening pruners will bring things back to shape. A little nip here, bending there gets weaker bough tips off the floor and gives them extra support.
Artificial trees can benefit from fluffing, especially at the bottom where we have all been climbing in and out for gifts or keeping pets at bay.
A last resort for suicidal fresh trees (I’ll find a picture of my own from ‘07…) is to save a selection of ornaments that haven’t crashed to the floor and fill large vases and bowls for coffee tables, mantels and centrepieces. Sometimes we just have to let go. No matter how glitter-y the ornaments and lights may be, if the the tree is brittle and not holding water, it is a fire hazard.
Imagine your worst sunburn. Or not yours, but that of a tourist passed out from too many cervezas under the full fury of a mid-day Mexican sun. A sunburn of the bright red bubbling skin variety. Now imagine that you have to keep exposing that epic sunburn to the sun for two more weeks. And that after you finish exposing the skin to the sun for two more weeks, it will keep on cooking for about a week and a half.
Welcome to my underarm. Ay carumba. It’s quite something.
The rest of my left chest area has its hotspots too, but my underarm feels like ground zero of the blast radius. The constant friction isn’t helping, but unless I can figure a way to function normally while walking around half naked with my left arm raised all day, there’s not much I can do about that.
My doctor recommended saline soaks four times a day, and this is helping. (Abridged Princess Margaret Hospital saline soak recipe below for anyone experiencing similar problems)
I was under the misapprehension that radiation would be a “cakewalk” compared to chemo. This is a myth. Yes, chemo makes you bald, and that alone is just plain mean. And yes, you can get very sick and your bones may feel like they are going to explode, but there are breaks between these periods of agony and torture; days of respite from the side-effects. Radiation’s daily regime can be extremely wearing and disheartening. And radiation burns notwithstanding, I’m just sick of going to the hospital every day.
On the upside, I have only TWO WEEKS of treatment left. Count ‘em. This is light – clear and bright - at the end of one hell of a tunnel.
SALINE SOAK – do this 3-4 times a day:
· Mix 4 cups of water with one level teaspoon of salt & boil for 10 minutes.
· Allow water/salt (saline) solution to cool.
· Wash your hands and pour enough saline solution in to a bowl to just soak a clean, soft cloth. (You can save the remainder of the solution in a clean, covered jar for 24 hrs.)
· Wring out excess solution, sit or lie down, and place the cloth over the affected area for 10-15 minutes. (Read a book, watch TV, call a friend…)
· Remove cloth before it dries – if it dries before 10-15 minutes, apply more solution before attempting to remove cloth from skin.
· Allow area to dry for 10-15 minutes. (Read some more, change channel, call another friend…)
NOTE: Do NOT put talcum powder, cornstarch (cornstarch??!) or moisturizer on cracked/open skin. And use a clean bowl & cloth each time you do the soak.
Good luck, stay strong, look at the light.
I love holidays. No surprise that I spend most of it in the kitchen. Because both Steve and I work in the food industry, holiday time together is, well, rare. He worked both Christmas Eve and Christmas day (at night) and when you throw in Murphy’s law, I seem to be at work when he’s off. So when we do get time together – it’s glorious. Yesterday we decided to make homemade squash ravioli. I worked (cooked, of course) in northern Italy for 6 months so I’ve had my fill of making pasta – but for Steve it’s a novelty. We borrowed a friends pasta roller and set to work. He made the dough and I did the filling.
It’s easier to make the dough in a food processor. Whirl 21/2 cups apf (or use “00″ flour if you can find it – it’s a durum wheat flour – good for pasta making – it’s higher in protein than apf flour and has a talcum powder softness that comes from excessive refining) with 1 heaping tbsp each salt and olive oil and 1 large egg. Once that’s mixed in, keep motor running and gradually whirl in 2 more eggs. Whirl until mixture comes together to form a dough. If mixture remains stubbornly dry, whirl in 1 more egg. Turn onto counter and knead until smooth and supple. Cover with a piece of oiled plastic and let rest, at room temperature, for 1 hour.
I was in charge of the filling. Since squash is abundant (and that’s what was in the house anyways) that’s what we used. Cut 2 small butternut squash into chunks and spread out on a baking sheet. Liberally drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in 400F oven until very tender. At the same time, roast a whole head of garlic: cut top off, drizzle exposed cloves with olive oil and wrap in foil. Bake until golden and tender). Once squash and garlic are done, turn squash into food processor. Squeeze in 3 to 5 roasted garlic cloves (save remainder for use another day – think garlic mayo for sandwiches -yum) and add more pinches of salt and about 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts. Whirl until pureed. This may take some time and a little help – scrape down sides with a spatula occasionally and add a little water, if needed. You want the puree to be quite stiff and dry – not runny or soupy.
Once the pasta dough was rolled into long thin sheets, we hung them and let dry for about 15 min. Then, using a round cutter with a fluted edge, we cut the dough into large circles and filled with a dollop of squash puree, then covered with another round of dough (brush with water so layers stick together.)
I boiled them for about 4 min. – they float to the top, then drained and finished them off with a brown butter and sage sauce. I garnished them with a Parmesan gremolata: grated cheese, lemon peel, chopped parsley and more pine nuts.
I love holiday eating.
Yesterday, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister and currently its most prominent female politician, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to speak about her country’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza strip. On the second day of Israel’s air strikes, in the midst of horrific violence and death, she was unflinching — a striking, unnervingly determined force.
When journalist David Gregory asked her “What is your message to the Arab world this morning?” she said this: “You know that Hamas doesn’t serve the interests of the Palestinians or the moderate Arab world. You know that Hamas doesn’t represent the national aspiration of the Palestinians. You know that Hamas represents this kind of ideology of hatred that they want to spread in the region. You know that Hamas stands [in] the way of the Palestinians to create their own state. So… put your money where your mouth is. … Say the right things right now.”
That deadpan, direct answer reminded me of a fascinating magazine profile of Livni that I once read in which she is described as a person who “does not like to leave loose ends” (also as a person possessing “ambition” and “impatience”).
Livni was elected the leader of Israel’s centrist Kadima Party in 2007. She had told the previous leader, her boss, Ehud Olmert, that he should quit. Now officially resigned as prime minister, Olmert runs a caretaker government while waiting for a February 2009 election in which Livni is determined to become the second woman (after Golda Meir) to lead her nation.
She is poised to take over Israel. What will happen then? It’s a riveting, high-stakes story to watch.