Thursday, February 26, 2015

February is brought to you by the color yellow

When my friend Myra gave me a big box of iris rhizomes from her Great Grandma Rosie, I had every intension of planting them right away. But we were busy painting the house yellow, so I put them aside. Then we got busy painting the inside of the house a color that was supposed to be a soft shade of creamy loveliness, but it ended up yellow as well. The irises sat in a box, for a year, out behind our yellow house. 

When I finally got around to planting them, I remember thinking "I would be so very happy if these came up blue, or white, or purple, or pink. ANYTHING but yellow." Nature is so funny! 

Meet our yellow irises, lots of them! 

Our weeds are yellow too.

And so are the daffodils, of course. 

The orange cider Ernst brewed came out a nice orangy yellow, which bubbled over in the fermenting process in the corner of the living room, which was lapped up by our...

...Golden Retriever, who got a little mellow.

This month I discovered the medicinal properties of fresh turmeric, which turned my cutting board and fingers, you guessed it, yellow. Come to think of it, they look a lot like iris rhizomes. 

Hello yellow!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

From where I sit

Having my editor living under the same roof has its advantages. I can yell out stuff like "What's another word for stupid that sounds more intelligent?" and other pressing questions. Tonight we had some work to pound out, literally. We had to make up some time we lost because of the little bitty issue with the heart attack last week. It's not easy typing with all those IVs in the way, and if he's going to take some time off, his trusty assistant deserved a little break too.

Usually my writing process goes something like this. Ernst tells me about a new project we have coming up, or reminds me of an assignment I have that's due. I whine and fuss and complain, curl up in a figurative ball and act like a three year old in the canned soup aisle. Yes, I throw writing tantrums. But once I sit down and start tackling a big project, the words start flowing and I really do enjoy it. I send it off to Ernst, who is usually sitting across the room and he says he'll get to it. That is when I find out there are deadlines and there are deadlines. After all that inner wrestling, to have my hard work sit in his in box is more than a bit annoying. But it feels good to get it out of my head and onto the page and done.

Then he reads it. Most times he needs to tweek it a bit, massage the words into place, and often he tells me I'm writing once again in the passive voice. What, he wants aggressive? I'm still trying to figure out once and for all time what the passive voice is so I can avoid it, but it just won't stick. Or stick it won't? The voice, it is passive? And the problem, what is it?

Then comes his editing my attempts at humor. We write almost exclusively for dental websites. (For dental websites we mostly write.) So, very often, as he's editing my work, he will yell out "You can't SAY that" about dentures, or implants, or missing teeth or drooling or spitting or all the other amusing dental realities. I begrudgingly agree, and all the funny jokes, puns and double meanings get cut, never to be enjoyed. Until now.

My latest project, still involving dentistry, is taking about 120 dental themed cartoons, adding a catchy and punchy caption to each one, and then finding the perfect link to our client's webpage. It's about teeth and I'm SUPPOSED to be funny! I can joke, I can make puns, I can be irreverent. It's like a dream come true, except the nightmare part. There are 120 of them. That's a lot of pressure. And some of them are a bit too funny, and "dentally off-color". Now it's me who's yelling across the room "We have to cut this one, I mean, You can't SAY that about teeth." (It is about teeth for which these things you cannot say?)

Ernst writes sitting up, at a table, feet on the floor. Seriously.

I write sitting on the couch, laptop on lap, feet on coffee table. Whining.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Audrey the Puffy Quilt rides the Pineapple Express

The forecast said we would wake up to rain, lots of it. So I went to bed very happy. All night long I woke up and listened, no precip. We woke up, no precip. I guess the Pineapple Express, the big atmospheric river the size of the Miississippi River was taking its sweet time in arriving to our parched Northern California.
Upon checking my email, I saw there was an Etsy conversation waiting a response, someone interested in one of my puffy quilts. That woke me up, and soon I was dragging the quilt out to get an accurate measurement to answer the inquiry. Measuring a puffy quilt is like measuring a moving hippo, so it came down to an estimate. There were some more questions and a photo of a pillow was sent to see if I thought it would match an existing decor. Looked good to me! We had ourselves a sale, after a bit of a dry spell on Etsy. Fortunately I had already made a pretty gift tag, so all that was needed was to find a box.
By now it was raining, and all the hippo-sized boxes were out in the pool house/office/man cave/storage area soon to be torn down and rebuilt. Note to self: don't make any more puffy quilts, they don't want to be contained. Ernst helped me choose an acceptable price and delivery time balance, because I now know that promising to mail a zoo animal-sized craft across the US in a timely fashion takes a bit of cash. She really needs it by next Friday, let's hope the prevailing winds help get this package where it needs to be. I promised Ernst from now on I will weigh, pre-box and measure the girth of any more future bohemoths before committing to a shipping price. Except for those times I forget to do this, or am too lazy, or just want to shove the beast in the cupboard, I totally will do that. Every. Time. 

Does this box make my puffs look fat?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Wistful Wednesday, Thankful Thursday and TGIF

...a continuation of the Ernst Chronicles...

Seven years ago when Ernst had his first heart attack, the Place to have any heart procedure in Sacramento was Mercy General, the one in midtown by the Fabulous Forties. They had (and still do) a top notch cardiovascular team that handled a huge load of heart patients. That's where Kaiser sent all of their heart surgeries, including angiograms (which are now referred to as catheterizations, or caths). The Catholic hospital with the receptionist nuns did the caths, I guess that was appropriate. When Ernst was in the ER last week and they started talking about doing his cath at Kaiser Roseville or South Sac, I about had an internal meltdown. It had been ingrained in my head, GO TO MERCY FOR THE HEART.

What a difference seven years makes. Kaiser doctors now work part-time at Mercy, Mercy doctors do rotations at the Kaiser Cath Lab (which I kept wanting to call the Meth Lab) and all this mixing around is good. When Ernst was transferred to the Kaiser South Sac facility, he came to be in wonderful hands and we experienced the best hospital experience I have yet to see first-hand.

I arrived to the hospital fresh from a shower and sporting clean clothes, I was still pretty shook up but glad we would be getting some answers. One of the questions was, why are all these medical professionals so young looking?? His nurse in the cath lab, Eli looked extremely capable, but on the young side. He said the doctor doing the cath would be Dr. Skipper, and wow did he look young too. Turns out it's spelled Schipper, which reassured me, oddly enough. But the most reassuring thing of the entire experience was learning that 9 out of 10 times they go through the arm now, not the femoral artery. Why they don't make public service announcements about this is beyond me. Stents - They Don't Have to Freak You Out Anymore!! No more visions of a pregnant nurse climbing on top of my husband to stop the bleeding from his femoral artery, like what happened at the hospital with the nuns. About 83% of my worries went away instantly. We went out to the waiting room and I was able to calm down enough to read the paper that had been so abruptly interrupted that morning by a zillion firefighters in our living room.

The procedure went well, they were surprised to find his 3 old stents free and clear. We would like to thank all the plants in the world for that. Thank you plants, we will keep eating you in abundance. What they did find were two areas of new blockages. I'm going to use some technical terms here, so hang in there. Seems like a few areas of old gunk broke off, and when stuff breaks off in your heart, a bunch of sticky activity takes place and causes blobs of yuck that can block blood flow. These needed to be sucked out by the vacuum cleaner attachment they stuck up his wrist all the way into his heart - like a Dyson for humans. Then they shoved up two stents that look like the little springs in a ball point pen to keep the arteries nice and expanded. He was awake and got to watch. With each suction and placement of stents, he felt better and, like a miracle, his back pain went away. OK, I'll stop using technical terms now.

Linda and Jeff went up the ICU with me to see Ernst. We did something really dumb and didn't know it until later. We got to the locked doors of the ICU and failed to see the call button and camera off to the right. How do we get in, we wondered? Being the pioneers we are, Jeff gave a good old fashioned knock on the doors to the Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits beat. A person came and opened it up, looking a bit perplexed, but we were in and it was terrific to see Ernst looking fabulous. He was in great spirits, happy and healthy again. The room had a big window, lots of room, and I was glad I hadn't pitched a fit about not going to Mercy.

There's more than one way
to make a meal vegan. Poultry theft!
They brought in a bed/chair contraption with pillows and bed linens so I could spend the night. Our night nurse was amazing. The procedure for undoing the wrist artery contraption (sorry, I'm getting all technical again) compared to seven years ago with the femoral artery is like comparing a hovel to Buckingham Palace. The night nurse, Lindsey, sat in a chair next to Ernst for about an hour, slowly releasing air from his wrist apparatus, watching for bleeding. They talked about climbing Mt. Whitney, hiking the Sierras, her hometown Chicago and regional accents. No bleeding, no drama, no trauma. Lindsey came in through the night to check on his wrist, but she was quiet and we both slept.

So much hospital staff came into that ICU room in the next two days, it almost became comical. Of course there is the guy who draws blood at 5 am. They must clone him because it's always at 5 am, like how Santa Claus is able to visit all those houses in one night. A hospital mystery. There were cardiologists, Eli the Nurse Guy from the cath lab, nurses Roxanne, Lindsey, Casey and Sherri, regular doctors, the head of the nursing dept. for ICU, the ICU director, the discharge doctor with the title "Hospitalist", the room sanitizers, the nutritionist who arranged some nice vegan meals, the team of giggly girls who were skin checkers (I have no technical term for this, they came in and checked his skin) and others whose specific roles now escape me. Let's just say Ernst was well cared for.

Little did we know there was an Ebola scare happening in the ER the day we arrived. I'm so glad we didn't know, it turned out to be nothing. But after the initial medical concern is over, it hits you - You are in a building full of really sick people. The nurses called Ernst a Walkie/Talkie/Easy/Peasy because he was so relatively healthy although assigned to the ICU. We kept the door to his room closed as much as possible to keep him that way. As he got more and more IVs removed from his arm and he was only tethered up to the heart monitor, he became like an astronaut on a space walk, and he wanted to go home! Poor Jeff came down with a nasty case of the Flu From He!! a few days later, but after an Ebola scare, we will all count our blessings. I honestly don't know what I would have done without Jeff there, he is a rock. A really funny rock.

What does the future hold? More plants and lots of them! If I could speak to the old plaques in Ernst's arteries I would say "Let's just keep calm here. Hands up against the wall. Stay put. Don't move a muscle." If they only could invent something like super hold hairspray for artery walls, he would be fine. But for now, emergency averted and we go on. Whew! Thank you all for your visits, calls, emails, Instagrams, hugs, texts, prayers and calming reassurances. We love you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Worrisome Wednesday

...a continuation of the Ernst Chronicles...

It was a gorgeous day weather-wise, I will give it that. It made the parking process, the hustling into the ER and the numerous trips outside to make shaky voiced phone calls comfortable, if not exactly pleasant. When my neighbor Linda and I arrived, we joined our friends Jeff and Myra in the waiting room, waiting, of all things, for Ernst to get officially checked in and given a bed. Having Jeff, Myra and Linda there for support was like having the Royal Canadian Mounted Brigade of Calmness, Practicality and Organization, also known as the RCMBCPO. They had bags and pockets and hidden containers from which they would pull out incredibly useful items, such as hot tea, granola bars, and eventually our phone book from home. How the RCMBCPO pulled that one off is still a mystery, but they did and it was oh so useful. If you're going to switch phones, and your phone is going to suddenly stop cooperating and only allow you to text some of the people some of the time, try to not let this happen with a family member in the ER.

Ernst checked out fine in the hospital. EKG was normal. BP was normal. Heart rate, normal. Blood enzyme test showed no heart attack in the past day. Normal, normal, normal. Except that morphine was not touching the extreme discomfort in his chest. Second dose, the same. That is when they started talking heart procedures. Noooooooooo! This can't be his heart! It's just back pain. We are low-fat, plant-based, plant-centered, go hug your local piglet vegans!!! This can't be his heart. No!!! We pushed for less invasive tests, we knew there were less invasive tests. Each doctor that came in said, if this was happening to them, they would want the angiogram because if a problem is discovered, the problem can be fixed right then. It was all so maddening and unfair and scary. To top it all off, there was a guy retching in the waiting room and a woman down the hall needed two security guards because she was screaming obscenities at the medical personnel trying to assist her, and frankly all you need is a vomiting man and a violent, foul mouthed woman to make it extremely difficult to make a proper medical decision.

It finally came down to the pain, Ernst was exhausted and ready to find out if it really could be his heart after all. We talked it over with Team RCMBCPO, and the plan was set. Jeff would once again drive down to accompany Ernst, who of course would transfer to Kaiser South by ambulance. I would go back to the house and get out of the really awful choice of footwear I had on, take a quick shower and put on a better Meet the Doctor Who Will Send A Catheter Up My Husband's Heart outfit. Linda would race home to put more amazingly practical things in her bag of tricks, and Myra would go off to take care of her son while putting together a bag of food that ended up getting me through to the next day.

More to come...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Wild and Wacky Wednesday

It started off like most Wednesdays, with a stumble out to the kitchen to throw a lunch together for my husband, make some tea and coffee, feed the dog, check out the Sac Bee food section - not always in that order. I was back in bed, lunch made, drinking my coffee, dog fed, reading the paper when my husband calmly tells me he is having some chest pressure and he is about to call 911. His recent back pain was now more like extremely uncomfortable pressure and his first nitro he popped since his heart attack seven years ago took the pain away for a few minutes."WHY DIDNT YOU TELL ME BEFORE NOW?" was my response. He reminded me that I needed to stay calm, so I said "why didn't you tell me before NOW?" I went and threw on some clothes, opened the front door for the paramedics and wandered around aimlessly trying to wrap my head around this unwelcome development.

Ernst had been dealing with back pain for over a month, and it kept getting worse, but he was by no means sick. A few weeks ago he dug up a stump in our front yard for crying out loud, his heart and health were great. And now we're calling the fire department out for nothing but some back pain? Silly us! Here we are getting the neighbors all worried about a huge fire truck out front and about a zillion firefighters pouring through the door. (While it's not something I wish for anyone, if at some point you can experience the rush of thankfulness and relief that a zillion firefighters pouring into the house brings, you'll know how I felt.) They took his stats. Fine. They took his EKG. Fine. They asked me if he looked pale, and I had to admit he did look a bit off. But of course back pain does that to a person, right? Any stress lately? No. OK maybe a little stressed that our living room is full of firefighters looking concerned about a guy whose chest pressure went away with nitro, but other than that, no stress.

While trying to be a good hostess to the rescue guys and gals, and trying to not look like I cause any stress whatsoever to my husband, I thought it might be a good idea to make some phone calls. I called our neighbor Linda and our friends Jeff and Myra. Jeff showed up in mere minutes, dressed like he was about to teach a course at a fancy college. The only thing better than having a zillion fire fighters show up, is having a well dressed friend show up in an emergency. It was decided that Jeff would follow the ambulance to the hospital and I would grab some items that one needs to for an ER visit, like my brain and my husband's medications. I could not locate the former, and I mistakenly grabbed the stash of old medications Ernst keeps in the fridge for dire emergencies instead of the current ones he keeps in the vitamin drawer. With my hair disheveled and really needing to be washed, my bare feet shoved in some boots because it seemed like a good time saver, and all the wrong meds, I raced out the door to pick up our neighbor on the way to the ER. She was well dressed and had a bag of practical items that would prove very helpful on this Wednesday to remember.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Capitol idea! Or was it a Capital idea?

When we lived in Tahoe the only time we went to the lake was when we had guests. Dumb yes, but true. It's so easy to get too busy, with every weekend passing by with puttering around the house and yard, working on all the things that had the nerve to break down. And I offer that up as my excuse for never having been inside the Capitol in Sacramento. Yep, that building downtown that my Moldovan friends call The White House had never been graced by my footsteps. 

The Capitol in Sacramento in the Capital of California (the building has the O, the place and the adjective have the A) has some amazing plant and tree specimens. I know this because a few years back we were in a contest called the Great Sacramento Race, and part of the competition involved running around getting information from the identifier plaques from various trees. Last Sunday, we took the grounds at a much easier pace, mostly because we decided to not only bring our out-of-town guests, but we brought our dog Molly too. I figured it just might be camellia season, and it was! Full on gorgeous camellia season with dozens and dozens of professionally tended bushes coaxed into the most amazing shapes. These had passed up the term "bush" long ago and were outright trees. White, pink, red, red with yellow centers, red and white peppermint swirls, compact, fluffy (see how I really know my camellia terminology?) they were just lovely.

And what a surprise when we saw that the Capitol was open for tours, on a Sunday no less. Taking turns outside walking the dog, we all stepped into the warm and welcoming building. There is a long hallway with all the counties' attributes displayed. Our guests from Lake County enjoyed seeing their county display, and we all were able to use a real bathroom as opposed to the port-a-potties set up for a rally outside. I finally saw the beautiful rotunda under the dome. My Dad worked on the renovation of the building years ago, and got to see the artisans restoring it. He was right, it is really stunning. So there, the Capitol in the Capital was seen and appreciated. Capital! 

Someone knows what they're doing.

The rotunda

Arnold, the bear that Schwarzenegger left.

Molly left a little something herself, on the grass.
Ernst, a very good pet owner, got a bag out of the trash and did the right thing.

We don't know what we're doing, but we still got blooms
from our Charlie Brown Camellia bush.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Feeling a bit blue

The quest to clean out the fabric stash continues. Not because I plan to give up quilts, but sometimes I just want to say goodbye to the old before I make room for the new. I do the same with our produce. I don't know when exactly the mood will strike, but sometimes I just must wash, slice, chop, mash, cook or purée every last living fruit and vegetable in the house. I make a big soup that may or not be that great, a salad of enormous proportions and a few more odds and ends, mostly odds. Once I prep the living daylights out of all living things in the kitchen, I feel free to go stock up all over again. It's so liberating to walk into the produce section and think "Hmm, what do I need...Oh yes, EVERYTHING!"

Trying to resist the urge to buy more fabric, I'm shopping my closet so to speak, peeking under stacks of material to see what can be made. Thinking on purely a color level, the other night all the blue hues started talking to me. When fabric talks, I listen and I started chopping the living daylights out of all the blue fabric I had on hand. Out came a very pretty quilt that is easy on the eyes and soothing to the senses. After it was done, my sister emailed and said a friend wants to mail me a bunch of fabric. Hopefully I can get a pink hued quilt cut up and sewn together so my stock will be super depleted before the new stuff arrives. I just love the look of an empty veggie drawer and a desolate fabric cabinet. I think Mother Hubbard was choosing to keep her cupboards bare and her options open. Either that or she just felt like Thai takeout. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter turns the corner

The days are getting a wee bit longer, our cold snap is easing up and it's a new day/month/year. It was the Decembah to Remembah, and I'm certainly glad it is over. For a person still without a steady job, I had too much work. Between the proctor job in Chicago and working for the school district, I'm ready to get back to my regularly scheduled life. I ended the year with a 12-hour shift at work on New Year's Eve, with a possible intruder in the yard of where I work. That will keep a person awake! If need be I was all set to whack any intruders with the drying up Christmas tree, but it wasn't necessary. I'm sure the deputies patrolling the place were more of a deterrent than the risk of a face full of dried pine needles.

When the days are cold and dreary, I need soup and I want it hearty. As soon as the sun comes out, so do the smoothies and salads, even if the calendar still says Winter. My knife is sharpened, my cutting boards are handy and the fridge is stocked with fresh produce. Winter blues? Like a dead old Xmas tree, that's so last month.

We have salads with citrus dressing. Yum in a bowl!

We have smoothies with strawberries, bananas, pineapple and Romaine. Yum in a blender!

We even have a farm to forehead hat. Because it's January and Spring is just around the corner!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Vegan Pigs in a Blanket

If you were looking for cute appetizers without meat, you may want to refine your search. These little pigs are not for human consumption, and the blankets will be for keeping newborns warm and snuggly. Following a pattern on RepeatCrafterMe I whipped up these little morsels to be part of a gift set for some co-workers. My friend Myra has ordered some adorable pig themed blankets from Etsy that should pair with these quite well.
 Even though I made them just a few days apart from each other, and made the noses and ears in the same sitting, they are not quite the same. How I can follow a pattern for ears and have them come out different sizes in one sitting baffles me. But the babies won't know and the pigs don't care. 

Pig snout!
Pig ears!

Deep fried pork skin? Ewww, that's not vegan!

Pig tails!
Non-Paleo, plant-based pork products!