Uncategorized

Missing Leslie

After the unexpected death of my dear friend, Leslie Jordan Clary, on September 7th of this year, I had to withdraw from Facebook and the online world for a time.  I tried to let my friends and family know how to reach me, but it was impossible to let everyone know.  I appreciate all those who reached out to me via email or Messenger.  The love you shared was palpable.

I have lost other loved ones before, my mother, aunts and uncles, grandparents.  But never a close friend.  And never before have I lost a loved one so shockingly, just out of the blue.  Leslie suffered an aneurysm and never regained consciousness.  I did not know of her passing until I read about it on Facebook a day after life support was terminated.

Leslie and I met at the University of Nevada, Reno, when I was in the second year of my Master’s program in English, and she was just starting hers.  We hit it off instantly.  We discovered that we both lived in Lassen County, only 14 miles apart, and we began to car pool the 150-mile round-trip to UNR as often as our schedules allowed.  We were both 30-something mothers with kids close in age.  We were aspiring writers. We were nature lovers who enjoyed hikes in the desert and the mountains together.  We had very different backgrounds and belief systems, but that didn’t matter in the least.  We became the closest of friends and writing buddies. We read and commented on nearly everything the other wrote for many years.  Leslie helped me set up the website on which this blog appears.  I’d never have done it without her, but she helped me, encouraged me, led me, taught me how to make it happen.

Leslie was a restless spirit with itchy feet.  She liked to move around, live in new places, experience other cultures.  When her family moved to San Diego, we stayed in touch via email and occasional phone calls, sending each other poems, stories, and essays to read, but we didn’t see each other during that time.  Then her parents passed away one after the other within a very short time, and she decided that she needed to get away from her present life.  She spent three years in China, teaching English part of the time, free-lance writing for various gemstone and jewelry and travel magazines part of the time, traveling to different parts of Asia for free-lance assignments.  She also traveled in Mongolia with her then-husband, Bob Clary.  She’d also developed photography skills for her assignments, and she took many beautiful photographs during her journeys.  When she came back to the states, she started teaching more classes online for National University and developing curriculum for them.  Eventually, she and Bob separated, and Leslie returned to live in Lassen County.  She worked for a time at the local college, won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Northern India, and stayed there for several months.  She wrote quite a bit about that experience in her blog, “Cloud and Mountain.”  Many pieces of writing came out of that Indian trip, and she began to think about a book project, which we discussed many times.

After leaving Lassen College in what were shameful circumstances on the part of the college administration, Leslie worked at the local paper as a reporter and began to develop a stronger free-lance presence in the magazine industry.  Eventually, she quit the newspaper and began to free-lance full time while continuing to teach online for National University.  At the same time, Leslie began to deal with some events and memories from childhood which had shaped her life in ways she was only beginning to understand.  In an effort to gain clarity, she began to study Buddhism and eventually took the Buddhist precepts.  Buddhist practice gave her an unprecedented calm and focus, and she began to write about those troubling experiences from childhood.

About that same time, while still teaching online and free-lancing, Leslie began a new business.  She had become interested in making topical cannabis products for health purposes, particularly for people suffering from arthritis.  She went through all the legal processes to license and register her business and began making and selling salves through cannabis dispensaries and to those who had a valid California medical marijuana card.  She believed in the efficacy of her products and knew that they helped people in pain, and she felt so good about her business, Leafy Botanicals, and put a tremendous amount of effort into making it grow.  Just this summer, Leslie told me that she felt she’d finally found her purpose and calling in life.

I remember that moment so clearly.  We were sitting in the sun on the front brick steps of her house, with our feet on the wooden deck where we’d practiced tai chi together when she first taught me.  We were looking at the herb garden she was creating in the rock pile that formed her front yard.  I’d given her many of those plants from my herb garden, and in fact I’d stopped by that day to bring her some Johnny Jump-up seeds.  She was exploring ways to incorporate many different healing herbs into her cannabis salves and oils.  Earlier that spring, we’d both gathered dandelion blossoms, I to make a tincture to use in I wasn’t sure what, she to incorporate into her salves. “I love what I’m doing,” she said on that bright July day.  “It just feels right, like I’ve come home in myself.”  That was the last time I saw her.

Only a couple of months later, Leslie was gone.  I could not believe it at first, and then I was thrown into a maelstrom of grief and loss.  Leslie was my closest friend in Lassen County.  She was someone I could talk with about anything, and we did talk about everything:  our men, our kids, our faiths, our politics, our worries, our joys.  We didn’t always share the same point of view about everything, but it didn’t matter because we loved each other, and there was never any rancor if we disagreed about something.  We appreciated the differences of our viewpoints.  Leslie also had a great sense of humor and a strong perception of irony, so we laughed about everything.  There were many times we laughed so hard we cried.

I cried a lot the first few weeks after Leslie’s death.  I’m weeping as I write these words because I miss her so much, and I know I always will.  A few weeks ago, Leslie’s stepdaughter, Alia, contacted me and asked me if I wanted one of Leslie’s houseplants. Alia and her dad were at Leslie’s house, cleaning and removing the last of Leslie’s possessions, getting the house ready to rent.  I drove up the next day and sat on the deck for a while with Alia and Bob, talking about memories of Leslie. It was a bittersweet time, but I’m so glad I got to know Alia a little bit and see Bob again.

Before I left with Leslie’s plant (now sitting by my big living room window), I picked some juniper berries from the trees around her house.  Last fall, Leslie and I made soap together with bear fat, juniper-infused olive oil, and ground juniper berries.  It came out great, and we gave a lot of it away last Christmas as gifts to our families.  We’d planned to make another couple of batches this fall.  She won’t be here to do it with me, but I will do it in her memory and with the memory of our laughter as we made our first batch together ringing in my ears.

 

Advertisements
Standard
Garden and Greenhouse

Not Just For Lunch

I love birds.  I love to watch them nesting and breeding around my place.  But I don’t love what they do in my garden.   I don’t mind sharing with the birds, but sometimes they ruin what they don’t completely consume.  This year, they’ve gone after my ripening tomatoes.

Usually, the birds don’t bother with the tomatoes.  They aren’t sweet enough to compete with plums, apricots, and berries.  But this year, I don’t have any blackberries for them.  This spring, Dennis and I cut my blackberry patch to the ground to renew it.  There were an awful lot of huge, dead canes in the patch that just got in the way when we wanted to get in and pick.  I knew we wouldn’t get any berries this year, but that’s okay because I have a small chest freezer full of berries from last year.  But without the blackberries this summer, the birds are turning their attention to my ripening tomatoes.

It’s a lot of extra work to try to protect fruit from the robins and Steller’s Jays that nest around my garden and orchard and live on their bounty.  As I discovered with my apricots, netting only discourages birds if they can’t perch somewhere and peck away through it.  I don’t like to net tomatoes because it’s too hard to remove the netting to pick the fruit without damaging the plants.  Some years ago, I tried using brown paper lunch bags to hide the tomatoes from the birds, and it works very well.

If I can slip the whole bag over the individual fruit or clusters, I can clip the bag together at the top with clothespins.  If the clusters are wedged awkwardly between stems, I tear the bag and wrap it around the cluster as best I can to hide it from the birds.  Wooden clothespins can be manipulated to close the tops of the bags.

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor   Image may contain: plant and nature

I also use nylon tulle in certain situations to protect my produce from birds.  I can lay it over berries or wrap it around tomatoes to protect them.  In the pictures below, I took the tulle off the boysenberries and wrapped it around the bottom of the tomato cage to protect my cherry tomatoes.  I’d already lost a few nearly ripe tomatoes before I realized the birds were going after them.  The tulle is fastened to the tomato cage wire at the bottom and at the join with clothespins.  The fruit at the bottom of the plant is ripening first, so it has to be protected first.  And I had to wrap the tulle in a way that will allow pollinators to get in and pollinate the blossoms on the upper part of the plant as it grows.  I can add another section of tulle as needed.

Image may contain: plant, tree, outdoor and nature   Image may contain: plant   Image may contain: plant

I reuse the tulle and brown paper lunch bags from year to year until they start falling apart.  Sun will eventually rot out the nylon, but I have some pieces I’ve been using for ten years. It’s very dry here and rarely rains in the summer, but the paper bags will hold up though a thundershower or three.  They dry out quickly here, so they don’t lead to mildew issues.  (This might be a problem in humid climates.)

I also use the lunch bags for seed collecting.  I can cut seed stalks of plants like kale, lettuce, heirloom carrots, dill, parsley, penstemon, and lupin, label the bags, and close them securely with masking tape.  Then I stash them in a cool place and let them dry without worrying about losing the seeds.  Drying seed can scatter everywhere with seed pods that pop open when dry, like petunias, snapdragons, lupins, sweet peas, and beans.  If these pods are contained in paper bags, there’s no muss, no fuss when the pods pop.  The bags allow air to circulate, so seed pods dry quickly.   And all I have to do later is remove the stem and empty pods, re-close the bags, and store them in a cool, dry place for next year.  I have plastic shoe boxes for my seed storage.  I save those silica drying packets that come with things like boxes of new shoes or prescription drugs and tuck them into my plastic shoe boxes with my seeds to keep moisture to a minimum.

Brown paper bags and nylon tulle are both inexpensive ways to protect my garden produce from the depredations of the birds I love.

 

 

 

Standard
Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Image may contain: food

I love a cold, hearty salad for dinner in the summertime.  I’m always on the lookout for such recipes.  I went looking specifically for a lentil salad recipe because I wanted to up the fiber in my diet.  Lentils are quick-cooking and full of fiber and nutrition.  I found a recipe, and the flavors sounded good, but some of the method seemed odd to me.  For instance, if you cooked diced carrots and onions with the lentils long enough to get the lentils tender, as the recipe dictated, the vegetables would be mush.  Not very appetizing.  I prefer the texture and crunch of raw veggies anyway.  And there was no mint in the original recipe!  What, in a Mediterranean-flavored salad, no mint?  I had a small zucchini that needed using, so I diced it and put it in the salad also.   I made a number of alterations in the recipe I found, and I was pleased enough with my dish to share the recipe.

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

1 cup dry lentils (any color or variety, but use all one kind) *See Note

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon dried thyme

2 cloves garlic, minced

In a saucepan combine lentils, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on variety, or until lentils are tender but not mushy.  Drain lentils and remove bay leaf.  Allow to cool.

Add:

1 cup diced carrots

¼ cup diced red onion

1 cup diced zucchini or cucumber

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

(I also added about 1/4 cup of chopped chives because I had some that needed using)

Mix vegetables, herbs, and lentils together and prepare salad dressing.

Dressing:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Whisk dressing ingredients together and stir into salad.   Allow to marinate and chill in fridge for a couple of hours.  Crumble in ¼ – ½ cup of feta cheese and toss before serving.

Note on cooking lentils:  Various colors/varieties of lentils require different cooking times.  I mistakenly mixed red and green lentils, and the red ones cooked to mush before the green ones were tender.  It didn’t ruin my salad, but I learned my lesson. Here’s a link to a handy guide for cooking times.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/lentils-common-varieties-and-how-to-cook-and-use-them/2014/01/07/6cf88616-74cc-11e3-8def-a33011492df2_story.html?utm_term=.4341c608503b

Standard
Uncategorized

Backsplashing

We sure know how to stretch out a renovation!  As some may or may not remember, we started working on the kitchen at the end of January 2016.  We had so many delays with the countertops, the kitchen wasn’t usable until May 2016.  By then, we were busy with the garden, the spring raking and burning of pine needles, and all the other maintenance jobs involved with a three-acre property with lots of trees and old buildings on it.  (Dennis and Joel put a metal roof on the old house we call the barn last fall.)  So the kitchen went on hold as soon as it was usable, and the backsplash tile, mastic, and grout sat in a corner for the rest of the summer, the fall, and the winter.  I really thought we’d get to it before Spring 2017, but best-laid plans and all that.

Just after Easter, Dennis finished laying the backsplash tile.  I wanted to share what we learned about laying backsplash with the kind of tile we used.

The only tiling Dennis has ever done was on our hearth a decade or more ago.  He used big slate tiles on that job, and it came out quite nicely. He was nervous about tiling such a large area in the kitchen:  two long walls and two short end walls.  I don’t have pictures of all of it because I can’t keep it all clean enough at the same time to take a picture, but I will when the entire project is finally finished.  (We still have to finish the pass-through slab and install it, and repair the wall where we cut it.) This is what I call my baking station.  All my flours, sugars, and other baking paraphernalia are stored in the cabinets above and below, and my vintage canisters, bread board, and stand mixer can stay here on the counter.  I love my baking counter!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Because Dennis was nervous about the tile job, he thought using those 12’X12’ mosaic squares, with the tiles attached to a web backing, would be easier than laying the subway tile I wanted.  He thought it would be less work and there’d be less chance of messing up the lines.  Just the opposite turned out to be true. This is the small subway tile I liked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We talked it over and decided that the best approach would be to tackle one section at a time, get the tile up and grouted, before moving on to the next section.  That way, not all the counter space would be out of commission at the same time, and it would help to avoid having all the kitchen counter paraphernalia (canisters, toaster, bread board, coffee maker—you know, all that stuff you keep on your counters) in a pile in the living room.  (The living room has enough piles already.)

So Dennis started on my baking station.  It’s about a six-foot long section of counter.  He covered the counter top and started applying mastic to a small section.  We’d been advised to use mastic rather than thin-set because we were going over a painted surface instead of tile board.  Mastic dries out faster than thin-set, so you have to work quickly or work in small sections.  Dennis soon found out he wasn’t going to be working quickly.

The tile we chose, once subway tiles were off the board, was a 12’X12’ mat of small 2” square tiles. They were reasonably priced at Floor and Décor, and they looked good with the granite countertop, a classic, plain backdrop for a rather busy stone counter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dennis was happy. He thought he could put up a mat, put the tile spacers at each corner of the mat, and then put up another mat, and so on, keeping the lines straight with the spacers around the mats. He thought it would go pretty fast.  He got all that first section up, painstakingly slowly (a whole day of labor), trying to get it right, let it dry the required time, and then grouted it.  And that’s when all the mistakes showed up.

Lines between mats were crooked, lines within the mats were differing widths.  There were places so bad, he had to remove tiles and mats and redo it.  He re-tiled about a third of that first section. He learned that when working with mats of tiles that will eventually have grout lines between them, you have to put a spacer in between every single tile.  You can’t depend on the mat to space the tiles evenly.  (It might be different with glass strip mosaic tiles.  I don’t know.  I didn’t like any of those with my busy countertops.)  As you can see in the picture above of the mat, the tiles are not necessarily perfectly applied to the mat.  Each mat contains 36 tiles.  I can’t even remember how many bags of spacers he went through before, near the end, our son came over and said, “Oh, Dad, you’re supposed to take those out. They make a little hook thingy to pull them with.”  By that time, all but the section behind the stove and the short wall under the pass-through were done.  Grouted over.  I said, “Heck with it.  Leave them in.  You have enough to finish, and they are small enough to grout over.”  We couldn’t see them at all after the grout was applied. Here is the worst part of the baking station after the repairs were made and the tile grouted. I’m happy with it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dennis finally admitted that laying subway tile would probably have been easier and less time-consuming.  I think it took him two weeks to completely finish the job with caulk in the seam between the tile and the edge finishing product we used.  (It’s nice that all this stuff, grout and caulk, comes color-matched.) The edging strip is made of PVC and creates a finished edge for tiles which don’t come with bullnose or tapered edge pieces.  (We thought of edging after we’d purchased ten boxes of tiles for which bullnose was not available!)  This edging is made by Schluter Systems, and it was fairly easy to use, Dennis said.  It gives a finished look to the backsplash and was inexpensive compared to bullnose tile.  The edging goes up on the mastic and the last row of tiles goes over the bottom of the edging.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In general, I really like the way the backsplash tile and dark grout look against the granite countertops and the light oak cabinets with their dark hardware.  The tile job isn’t perfect, but the tile in my daughter’s brand-new house, which was laid by professionals, isn’t perfect either.  In the end, Dennis took the time to fix his worst mistakes, and the kitchen walls look very nice.  More importantly, when I start making jam this summer, I’m going to be able to clean that backsplash easily instead of scrubbing paint (along with jam) off the walls.

Next, we have to start cutting and finishing the pass-through countertop and shelves.  That’s going to be a big job, because it’s a big juniper slab.  We may be working on that for several months. Wish us luck!

 

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Combating Arthritis

It has been some time since I’ve written a post for this blog.  That’s partly because winter is hard on my body, and partly because again this year, I was hit by the flu, and it took me down pretty hard for more than a month.  The flu and other logistical problems wreaked havoc with my plan to have my daughter give me a series of laser bio-stimulation treatments on my arthritic joints.  I have only been able to have four treatments starting in February, two in the week before I got sick, and two in the last two weeks since I’ve been well enough to go to Reno for them.

For those who are interested in alternative treatments to arthritis, I’m going to go into more detail about how these laser bio-stim treatments have worked for me, and I’ll end with an account of the dietary things I’ve been doing to reduce inflammation.

First, a bit more about the laser itself.  It is a garnet laser made by Periolase, used primarily for micro-surgery in my daughter’s periodontal practice.  But with the proper settings and held at the right distance, the laser is capable of stimulating tissue.  “Low level laser therapy (LLLT) is typically used for therapeutic and/or stimulating skin treatments and involves lower laser power doses than those generally used in surgical operations. In surgery, lasers are used to cut, coagulate and vaporize. Various types of lasers and pulse energies are used based on the absorption properties of the target tissue” (https://www.modulight.com/applications-medical).  My daughter has been carefully monitoring the amount of energy, measured in joules, which the laser puts into my joints.  She’s been putting about 2000 joules into my larger joints, like my neck, shoulder, elbow, and knee, and between 750 and 1000 joules into my thumb, finger, and toe joints, and the area around my heel affected by plantar fasciitis.

I noticed that after the first two treatments, done with a day’s rest in between, my hands were very sore for two days.  Then, after two days of rest, they improved quite dramatically.  The joints that are already badly damaged did not feel much different, but the joints in my index fingers that had just begun to show inflammatory changes over the winter were pain-free for two weeks following the first two treatments.  This confirmed my hunch that the laser bio-stim treatment would be most effective at stopping or retarding the inflammatory process at the beginning, before it had a chance to do much damage.  (Once the joint has developed bone spurs and the cartilage has broken down, I don’t think anything can restore it.) The same was true for my big toe joints, which had just begun to hurt this winter. They felt much better after the two day rest period.  As for my neck and shoulder, there was quite a bit of improvement almost immediately, and neither neck nor shoulder has been as painful since the treatment.  My elbow has been painful since my right shoulder surgery three years ago.  Having to keep my arm bent in a sling for 8 weeks post-surgery caused inflammation to set into my elbow.  My knowledge of anatomy is insufficient to name the joint, but it is the lower or inside joint that is painful, and the inflammation sometimes spreads along the tendons and muscles for an inch or more.  The laser treatment each time has made this joint significantly more tender at first, but then has provided significant relief after the rest period.  While the treatment also seems to relieve some pain in my knee, my heel did not respond as well to the laser bio-stim.  By that, I mean I saw little difference in pain levels after the treatment.  Whether this is because inflammation is of long standing there (going on ten years now) and has already done its damage, or for some other reason, I don’t know.  I expected it to help more than it did, because as I believe I reported before, the moxa treatment my massage therapist gave me a few months ago helped tremendously for quite a while. I think it might be time for another moxa treatment.

The plan now is for me to try to get in at least one laser treatment a week, if possible.  We’ll see if a long-term approach has more cumulative effect.  But for now, I feel hopeful that the laser offers a chance to stop inflammation from damaging more of my joints, particularly in my hands and feet.  It’s very frightening to contemplate more loss of movement in my hands.  It also seems to provide some pain relief and greater ease of movement in the larger joints, so maybe in time, I’ll see more improvement there also.

I’ve also been doing some dietary things to counter inflammation.  Last fall, I had an EGD (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy) to see why I had so much acid reflux and stomach spasms, even while taking Nexium to counter the symptoms of GERD.  The doctor said that Nexium was keeping me from developing ulcers again, but that my stomach was very inflamed.  He said it would be best for my stomach to stop taking all anti-inflammatory drugs.  I was at that time on a low dose of Celebrex, but I could only take it once or twice a week because of how much it bothered my stomach.  I didn’t think I’d be able to stand the increased arthritis pain, but I decided I had to try stopping Celebrex. It’s been years since I’ve been able to take ibuprofen or any other anti-inflammatory medication (after taking them all for decades), and I thought Celebrex was my last stop-gap measure to keep all my joints from breaking down completely from inflammation, the resulting bones spurs, and the subsequent tearing and breakdown of cartilage. But I thought I had to try for my stomach’s sake, so I did stop taking Celebrex completely in late December or January.

At the same time, I decided to start drinking tart red cherry juice daily.  It’s good for gout, and while I don’t have it, gout is an inflammatory condition similar to arthritis.  (By the way, after extensive testing, my rheumatologist called what I have erosive osteoarthritis because it is eroding my joints all over my body at the same time the way rheumatoid arthritis does.) I really didn’t know if cherry juice would help, but I knew it wouldn’t hurt.  And to my surprise, it does help.  I drink at least ½ cup of tart red cherry juice every day, and it really helps my knee and shoulder.  I am able to move these joints better and with less pain.  If I run out of juice or skip a couple of days, I can really tell the difference, especially in my knee.

Lots of people swear by turmeric.  A couple of years back, I tried some caplets from Costco with curcumin and black pepper extract (which activates the curcumin extracted from turmeric), but they bothered my stomach, so I stopped taking them.  I try to include turmeric in my diet whenever possible, although it is hard to say whether those small amounts help.  Golden milk, a hot drink made with the milk of your choice, turmeric, honey, and other spices, is one way to get turmeric daily, but I don’t do it daily.  I usually don’t want to drink something hot and sweet before bed.  However, my stomach has improved so much in the past four months without anti-inflammatory drugs, I am about ready to try the curcumin compound again and see if I have better luck with it this time.

I have also started taking collagen in powdered and tablet form.  Cartilage is composed of several types of collagen.  Some folks believe that ingesting collagen can help strengthen cartilage.  (Some don’t—there are believers and non-believers for everything!)  Some people regularly make and drink bone broths for the collagen component.  (That meat jelly you get after you’ve cooked down a chicken carcass for soup or boiled any kind of bones or meat with cartilage, then cooled it, is gelatin, which is cooked collagen. And if chicken soup is curative, gelatin/collagen is probably the reason.)  Collagen is also supposed to improve the condition of skin, hair, and nails.  In addition, according to some doctors, ingesting collagen can help with “leaky gut syndrome.”  Yep, that’s exactly what it sounds like, and I can only be grateful I don’t have those symptoms!  I have only been taking collagen for a couple of weeks, so I can’t say whether or not it has helped my joints.  My guess is that if it does, it’ll take some time.  But again, taking collagen won’t hurt, so why not try it?  If I lose a few wrinkles in the trying, I won’t complain about that!  I found powdered collagen at our health food store, the Health Nut in Susanville, and I found collagen tablets at Costco in Reno.

The other thing I have done is to start drinking an anti-inflammatory tea every night.  The arthritis tea contains nettle, alfalfa, horsetail, and gotu kola. I get these herbs in bulk at our health food store (and boy, am I grateful we have such a good store in our little town), and mix equal parts with a pinch or two of mint to offset the grass-flavor.  You can drink 3-4 cups a day of this mix for a month, according to my nurse/herbalist friend who gave me the ingredients list, then evaluate progress. I can’t drink that much of anything a day except water, so I have started adding a tea ball full of this mix with the sage tea mix I use to keep those nasty hot flashes and night sweats manageable. I brew up a big pot of this menopause/anti-inflammatory tea each week and keep it in a glass jug in the fridge.  I like to drink it cold just before bed.

I cannot tell if this tea mix helps anything but hot flashes (and it does help with those if anyone is interested in learning more about sage for hot flashes), but it cannot hurt, and maybe, in addition to the laser treatments, the cherry juice, the curcumin compound, and the collagen, it will be another weapon in my fight against arthritic inflammation.

Although it has been about 4 months since I last took a Celebrex, I can say, and this is a biggie, that my arthritic pain and inflammation is no worse than it was while I was taking Celebrex, and at times, it is better than it was when I was on Celebrex.  And my stomach is so much better now, I can even drink a glass of wine in the evenings now if I want to, without ill effect.  So overall, I feel better.  I hope this recounting helps those of you who also want to try alternative methods of combating arthritis.  If you have questions or if there are other things you’ve tried that help, please do leave a comment.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Not Gone Fishing

I wish I could say I haven’t been writing because I’ve been gone fishing, but that’s not the case.  I haven’t been writing because winter is so hard on my arthritic hands.  I got through Christmas, but I’ve been in a lot of pain since.  I kneaded a batch of sourdough bread last week, and my hands were numb for hours afterwards.

I’m going to be trying a new treatment on my hands pretty soon, so hopefully it’ll help, and I’ll be able to post a positive report for those who also suffer such problems.  The treatment is a laser bio-stimulation, and my daughter, the periodontist, will be doing it for me.  She uses a laser in her practice for gum surgery, but it also has bio-stimulation applications.  Recently, I had an experience that made me even more eager to try an extended bio-stim treatment program.

I’ve been getting regular medical massages for a couple of months from a therapeutic masseur, Bob Tripp, in my hometown, and these treatments have helped tremendously with my TMJ and head pain from clenching because of all the other pain.  Jaw, head, shoulders, and heel pain is all much, much better.  Interestingly, the treatment that helped the most on my heel pain was moxa.  Moxa is a method or technique of heating the tissue to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself.  I don’t know much about it other than what Bob told me.  He said it is used with acupuncture sometimes, but he does it with a small butane or propane applicance that heats up the tissue as he works it.  I was in such pain in my feet after Christmas, I could barely walk, and I couldn’t put any weight on my right heel. One moxa treatment, and my heel was so much better I really was astounded.  I had been considering seeing a podiatrist, but now I feel no need!

The laser Amy, my daughter, uses does something similar in the bio-stim application.  It heats the tissue deep down, and the heat continues to radiate for hours, even as much as day, after treatment.  Amy has done it for me a few times before, but we’ve never done an extended period of treatment as we intend to start at the end of the month.  I have hopes it will help my hands and other joints that are being affected by chronic and systemic erosive arthritis.

In the meantime, even writing these few short paragraphs has my thumb joints protesting and my little fingers going numb.  Here’s hoping I have something positive to report the next time I check in.  Later, friends.

 

 

Standard
appetizers, Desserts, Fermenting, Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes

Sourdough Fun

Update 12/6/16:  I baked the sourdough sugar cookies again yesterday, and when I got out my paper copy of the recipe I’d printed off from Cultures for Health, I realized I had made a number of rather important changes to get the good result I had from my first batch.  I thought I’d better post an update, so here’s the amended sugar cookie recipe.  The link to the original recipe on Cultures for Health appears in the original post below.

Sourdough Snickerdoodles

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar in the cone)*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Gently mix in the sourdough starter. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonful onto a PARCHMENT PAPER–COVERED cookie sheet. (If you do not have parchment paper, spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray.  I used a bare pan in one trial, and the cookies stuck a bit.) Sprinkle the cookies with cinnamon and sugar if desired. (I did, it was good and made them taste like Snickerdoodles.)

Bake 12 minutes. (I baked 14-15 min. at my altitude, depending on the size of my spoonfuls.)

Notes:  Because of recent experiences with sourdough starter recipes being too wet, I reduced the amount of starter the original recipe called for and omitted the water.  My starter is 100% hydration, so it is wet and fairly thin.  I used whole wheat pastry flour in the dough. The original recipe called for types of unprocessed sugar I’d never even heard of before.  I did have some piloncillo in the house, which is an unrefined, Mexican brown sugar. It comes pressed into cones of varying size and weight.  It was a pain to break up (I had to pull out the food processor), but it made a delicious cookie.  I see no reason why subbing white sugar, organic or not, wouldn’t work.  Regular brown sugar will work. I have made one version with regular brown sugar, spices, and nuts, but I still need to tweak it a bit before I post the recipe.

~~~

In my last post, I said I would share links to other sourdough discard recipes if anyone wanted them, and my faithful reader and friend, Kelly, said yes!  So here are my favorite discard recipes so far.  I’m sure there will be others as I explore the sourdough websites, in particular, Cultures for Health.

First, the sourdough cookies.  I really liked these cookies, and my son and granddaughter did too.  I used piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) instead of the sucanat called for (raw sugar), which I will not use again because it is a pain to deal with that cone of hard sugar.  Next time, I’ll use organic white sugar and reduce the amount by 1/4 cup, and I think that will make them taste even more like Snickerdoodles, my son’s favorite cookie. I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the tops of the cookies and called them Sourdough Snickerdoodles.  I have ideas about other incarnations of this recipe too, which I’ll be exploring shortly.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/soft-sourdough-cookies

Another favorite recipe for using sourdough discard (remember, this is just sourdough starter batter that you have to use up before your starter becomes too big to be manageable) is the pizza dough.  I really, really liked this dough, so much so that after I tried it the first time, I made two batches of fresh dough the next day and froze them for future fuss-free pizzas.  The dough should be thawed overnight in the fridge, and I would take it out several hours before rolling to let it come up to room temperature.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/sourdough-pizza-crust

The third recipe I liked for sourdough discard is an onion ring batter.  This recipe came from Cultures for Health also, but the recipe was for onion fritters.  I decided to add a little sugar and use the batter for apple fritters, which I love. I was very disappointed with the result.  The fritters would not hold together, and I finally figured out one reason was the lack of egg in the recipe.  A batter needs eggs, people!  Also, the batter wasn’t thick enough, and I ended up adding a lot of additional flour before I got something resembling a fritter.

However, I decided to try the batter, with the addition of an egg, for onion rings.  (Mostly, I wanted to use up my discard, and I had a lot of fat leftover from the apple fritter experiment that I wanted to use up.) I wasn’t terribly surprised when my altered batter created yummy onion rings.  So here’s that recipe, for those of you who aren’t afraid to fry.  (I really don’t like frying myself, but onion rings are about the easiest thing to fry, so don’t be timid.)

Fried Sourdough-battered Onion Rings

(serves 4-6)

  • 1½ cups sourdough starter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne (optional)
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • ½ cup brown rice flour (or any flour you prefer)
  • Preferred fat for frying (I used a mix of refined coconut oil–not unrefined because it will burn at the temp needed for frying—and avocado oil.  I don’t feel guilty about frying when I use “healthy” fats.  You can use vegetable oil or peanut oil, also.)

Turn your oven to warm, and set cooling racks over paper towel-lined cookie sheets inside the oven.  You will probably need two racks.

Start fat heating in a deep, 2-quart saucepan. You’ll need several cups of fat, and this is why I prefer using a deep saucepan with a small bottom rather than a cast iron skillet.  You can get a deep fryer effect with less fat.  The fat should be at least 4 inches deep in the pan when melted/heated.  If you happen to have a deep fryer, follow manufacturer’s instructions for using.

It’s wise to have a candy thermometer or digital thermometer to monitor the heat of the fat.  The fat should come up to between 350 and 360 degrees.  (Hotter than that, and this delicate batter coating will burn immediately.  Cooler than that, and they will absorb too much fat and will not be crispy.)

Separate onion slices into individual rings.  In a medium bowl, combine sourdough starter, beaten egg, sugar, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne with a whisk. Combine baking soda and baking powder and sprinkle over batter; whisk until just combined.  Batter will foam and increase in volume.

Working in small batches, toss a few onion rings in flour to coat (a Ziploc bag works well for this).  Dip flour-coated rings in batter with a fork or tongs, and place immediately into hot fat. Don’t try to fry too many at a time; cook three or four at time, maximum.  If you crowd the pan, you’ll lower the temperature of the oil, with the results noted above, and it’s also harder to flip a bunch at the right time than a few. Fry until bottom is golden brown, turn, and fry for about a minute longer.  These onion rings cook very quickly.  They are done in just about 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove from fat and place on racks in oven to drain.  You can salt them now if you wish, but they don’t really need additional salt.  These onion rings are light and crispy. Enjoy!

The last recipe for sourdough discard also comes from Cultures for Health.  I like the recipes on this site, obviously.  This one is for Sourdough Egg Noodles.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/rustic-sourdough-noodles

I made these for my Thanksgiving turkey carcass soup because, yeah, I needed to get rid of some discard, and I love homemade pastas!  This recipe calls for incubating the dough for 8 hours, so starting it early in the morning for dinner that night, or the night before for a lunch dish, is key.  However, when I was planning to test this recipe, I forgot that the dough was supposed to sit for 8 hours, and I didn’t get it started until 11 o’clock in the morning.  I figured I’d cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put the dough by the heating stove and see what happened in the time I had.  I was very surprised that in just 4 hours, the dough had more than doubled in size.

I took half of it out of the bowl (and I had only made half a recipe anyway because I didn’t want to sacrifice 6 eggs on an experiment) and rolled it for noodles for the turkey soup. I covered the rest of the dough and left it sitting on the counter, thinking I’d roll the other half when I got home from my granddaughter’s basketball game, if I felt like it. I could tell I’d have plenty from the one half for my pot of turkey soup.

I rolled the dough out on a floured board and cut it with a pasta cutter (which is old and dull, so I think I’d have been better off with a sharp knife), then spread the noodles on racks to dry for a couple of hours before being added to the soup.  Then I went off to my granddaughter’s game.

  

An hour and a half later, I got home and decided I was too tired to finish the soup and roll the rest of the noodles.  I cooled the soup and put it in a bowl to chill in the fridge so I could skim the fat (that wasn’t done when the carcass and pan drippings were put in the bags by SOMEBODY at my daughter’s house and frozen—wasn’t me!). I wanted to skim the fat off the soup before I added starch in the form of noodles.  The leftover noodle dough had risen again, even in the cool kitchen, so I stashed it in the fridge to deal with the next day. The rest of the noodles were left on the drying rack overnight. (Sometimes my ambition is too big for my energy’s britches.)

When I got up the next morning, I decided to finish drying the noodles in a warm oven, so they’d last for a few days before I had to use them up.  I decided to roll out the rest of the noodle dough that afternoon, dry it for just a bit, and then add it to my soup.  I love fresh pasta, and I didn’t want to pass up that fresh, tender pasta texture.  I’ll use the dried noodles in venison or bear stroganoff later in the week.

The noodles were wonderful, tender as only homemade fresh pasta can be. That half-recipe of dough made enough noodles for a big pot of turkey soup and one other dish for two.  If you are an empty nester, like I am, I’d definitely cut the linked recipe in half, or even quarter it, so you don’t end up making more noodles than you can easily use.  If you have a large family, by all means, make the recipe as it is in the link.

That’s it for this round of sourdough fun.  I’ve found a bread recipe I’m testing, and I’ll report on it soon.  The recipe was posted on a Facebook group by a guy who’s a doer, not a writer, and as is usual in such things, it’s a bit confusing as written.  As soon as I get the kinks worked out, I’ll share that.  It looks promising. The grandkids ate half a loaf when they came over after school to make dog biscuits. My grandson wanted to take the rest of it home, and that’s quite an endorsement from the food critic in the family!

Standard