Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My brain break is over

Coming back from a two week visit with my family in Connecticut involved five airports, four planes and a big bump – the kind that left me with a hefty travel voucher. I came back with a cold too, but a NyQuil induced coma of 24 hours cured that up real quick.

As is typical on any vacation I take, my intentions of working on my Romanian were lofty. Reading aloud, some intense study sessions, new vocabulary words, nailing down those pesky grammar issues that have plagued me for years – the plans were set. But any really good plan has some wiggle room, and I was in the mood to wiggle. There were gab sessions to enjoy, mountains to climb (OK it was just a hill) and thrift stores to explore.

I believe that Connecticut has the very best thrift stores in the country, if not the planet. Picture Talbots sweaters with original price tags and buttons still attached, as far as the arm can stretch. My sister Joanne and I went four times to the same Savers and I now have enough sweaters to get me through the next Ice Age. Which by the way has not hit the East Coast yet, some days it was just sweater weather. I’ll blame my lack of Romanian lessons on global warming.

One of my first days back home I read a passage of Romanian out loud to my husband, who by the way stayed home in California where it was cold. It was rough, my reading that is. My short two weeks away did a number on my Romanian pronunciation, that was apparent. It had nothing at all to do with the amount of chocolate consumed or all the Hallmark movies I watched. Time away and global warming, they are language killers of the worst kind.

So my first Romanian meeting back after the NyQuil induced coma was a bit nerve wracking. Everyone was happy to see me, and I stumbled through my story about my family being fine and the weather in New York being so warm. I've found it’s just easier to tell a person from Eastern Europe that my family lives in New York. They don’t know about Connecticut and its thrift stores full of never worn cardigans.

To my pleasant surprise it was the most I ever understood in my history of attending Romanian meetings in Sacramento. I got most of it, or at least I think I got most of it, which is a victory. There was even a video played that had Romanian dubbed over English, and I didn’t have my typical scenario of the English voices trying to drown out the Romanian. I heard the Romanian and I got it. And the last talk was by our dear Grigor, who talks at the speed of those people at the end of an infomercial. You know, those guys who read 10 minutes of material in 5.7 seconds. 

I’m chalking this language victory up to two things - giving my brain a rest from Romanian, and my new hearing aid! Yes, my dear Mom insisted I see her “hearing aid guy" in Brookfield Connecticut, right down the street from Savers. He was great to work with, and he set me up with a fancy new hearing aid to combat the hearing loss I have from Meniere's Disease.

Frank the hearing aid guy says my situation of really good hearing in one ear and horrible in the other is frustrating to my brain and emotionally draining, like having my brain cut in two. Yep, I would say so. It was wonderful from the moment I tried the loaner on, I danced around the office and hugged Frank and his assistant. I absolutely love it. I hope my brain can forgive me for putting it off so long. Romanian grammar, I’ve got my whole brain back and I’m coming at you.

Loved it from the second it went in my ear.

Me and my brother Jeff on the Walk Over the Hudson.
It wasn't cold, the hat was for a bad hair day.

My friend Sara's feet and my feet with a sign.
It's what people do now.

Me in Warwick NY
December 2015, no coat!
My Mom and I took a little drive down to see my friend Sara in Warwick NY. She and her family moved there to help with the new headquarters for jw.org. Besides getting to chat with someone who always helps me put my head back on straight, I got to see a bit of Sara's lovely home and new town. Charming. Simply oozing with it. I can't wait to go back and spend some more time in Warwick in the coming years. Because everyone needs a brain break now and then.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I think, therefore I yam

Or is it "I think, therefore I sweet potato?"

Turns out it's the second one. I finally got it straight. All those ugly looking tubers in your neighborhood grocery store, the ones hanging out near the potatoes and the onions, are sweet potatoes. Apparently, we've been lied to all these years. Every last one is a sweet potato. 

But the deception continues because a sweet potato isn't really a potato. More lies! They're not in the potato family, but rather the Convolvulaceae, or morning glory family. True yams are something completely different, way more dry and starchy and have scaly skins. But the moniker has stuck here and you'll find them named whatever makes them sell. Because their looks are not their best asset. Raw or baked, these guys are pretty ugly.

This was labeled Asian sweet potato.

These lovelies were called Beauregard yams.

The lighter skinned ones are usually labeled sweet potatoes.

The checker told me the insides of the purple ones would be white.

Two by two, they went into the oven for the ultimate taste test!

We don't smother our sweet potatoes in marshmallows or brown sugar or butter. We just bake them and eat them plain. They are really hard to mess up. Scrub them gently under water. Put them on some parchment paper, foil or Silpat, and then on a baking sheet. Put them in the oven at 350 - 400 degrees and let them bake until they're done. When are they done? Hmm, how do I put this delicately...

Cook them until they poop.

Cook the c€@p out of them.

Cook them until they're even uglier than when you put them in. 

That purple sweet potato is the one the checker said would be white on the inside.
What is it with the lies?

My verdict in the ultimate taste test? This particular purple one was a bit dry, but I've had others that were moist, so I'm not writing off the purples ones yet. The white one (labeled sweet potato) was really delicious, with a mild flavor. The Beuregard yam and the regular old yam on the far right had the softest texture and the "yammiest" flavor. They are so full of color,  I bet nutrition-wise maybe the yams have one up on the lighter fleshed sweet potatoes.

If I could find one that has the skin of a sweet potato and the flesh of a "yam" that would be my dream tuber. But they are all terrific and yummy, so flavorful I don't want to put one thing on them. And since there are nearly 400 varieties grown, I see more yam poop in our future. Excuse me, sweet potato poop.