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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quick Update

I got home from the hospital yesterday after surgery early Tuesday morning. Everything went well according to the stoic, matter-of-fact, blunt neurosurgeon (is blunt a word you should use to describe a surgeon?). It took about three hours, and he had to take out a piece of bone to get to the disc where my spinal cord was "splattered"—his word (did I mention he has no bedside manner to speak of?)—against the vertebra. The incision site hurts like hell, but 100 percent of the nerve pain in my back and legs is gone, completely. I can stand up straight for the first time in a couple months, and I slept very well last night (Percoset and Valium helped a bit with that), and didn't once wake up screaming and squeezing poor Mr. Chalmers's upper arm in a death grip.

What I'm dealing with now is the kind of pain that I can tell is going to go away—my dad, who's had four operations on his back, put it this way too. In other words, this pain makes sense: cut muscles, bruising, staples, and whatnot = hurt. The pain I had before made no sense. I know I'm going to be completely better very soon.

My mom and Mr. Chalmers are still pretty much doing everything around here that I would normally do—and then some. The nurse told me to eat lots of red meat to help heal the muscles, so they pulled some big "cowboy steaks" (bone-in rib-eyes) out of the freezer for supper last night. I'd gotten them as part of a "freezer pack" at Simply Meats on Baxter Street the day after our chest freezer came. They were amazingly tender and delicious, even though I'm not normally a fan of the rib-eye. Athenians, let's keep this place in business! Why didn't it turn up in the ABH piece this week about local butcher shops? Sure, it's not all local meat, and the more unusual cuts and meats are frozen or special-order items (as they are most places), but certainly it would've been worth a mention.

Mr. Chalmers also brined and hot-smoked a side of salmon over the weekend. I think it was his best yet. The bug ate—no exaggeration—about a quarter of it.

Continuing with the random food notes, after all my pre-op stuff at St. Mary's on Monday, the bug and I took Grandma to Just Pho . . . and More for lunch. We'd been there once. The night before, my mom asked the bug, "What is pho?" (She knows, but was just making conversation.) Without missing a beat, the bug answered, "Deeee-LISH-us!" My little girl makes a valiant effort with the chopsticks, but of course mostly uses her hands.

She also really enjoys the boba "smoothies":

My mom, who traveled through Thailand for a month or so with my Thai aunt, was happy to see that they had a durian boba drink. I had no idea she liked durian, even the fresh-cut ones. I've never had the guts to try it, but the smoothie version wasn't too bad. Weird, but not as terrible as the fresh fruits smell.

The pho itself was better this time than on our first visit. The herbs and add-ins were nice and fresh, and the basil was real Thai basil. I always ask for the raw meat on the side; last time they gave me raw round, but dry and crumbly cooked brisket, so this time I just went with the round, and it was nice.

I guess that's it for now. Time to lie down.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Stocking Up

Wow, it's been a while. I intend to write a real post one of these days, but in the meantime you can check out Flickr to see pictures of, among other random things, the Chalmerses and my mom and our friend Regan making butter in our old glass Dazey churn. I do have a big piece of news to relate: we've gone and gotten ourselves a chest freezer! It's a relatively small model, 8.8 cubic feet to be exact, but it fit through the narrow old pantry door (with about two millimeters to spare), which means it can be essentially right in the kitchen—such a luxury. I remember my parents' chest freezers—two of them: one in the laundry room on the other side of the house from the kitchen and one out in the storage barn. Holy pain.

It's a rainy, at times windy day here. My mom and I sat on the porch waiting for the freezer to arrive while it rained and the bug napped under a quilt in her teepee, on a bear-hide* rug my mom tanned out in Washington. I was reading Stocking Up and getting very antsy. I want to can a lot more stuff, sprout stuff, curdle and cure stuff, dry stuff, freeze stuff.

Earlier, we'd had a "tea" party. Table was a stack of boxes of canning jars. It was a good day to be on the porch. Grandma even swept the "piderwebs" away so the bug could—would—ride her trike up and down the long empty side of the porch.

We've become a bit lackadaisical about the chickens, one of which is seen here. These days we kind of just let them out in the morning and put them in at night and hope for the best. So far I think only one is laying, so unless that's the one that gets carried off by a dog it wouldn't be a huge loss. I must admit, though, that I've become accustomed to having them around.

My mom's been here for almost three weeks, and will stay a couple more weeks to continue helping out. I'm having back surgery this Tuesday to fix a badly herniated disc—it's been a mess for two months now. As much as I'm not looking forward to the process itself, I'm very much looking forward to putting the whole back-pain thing behind me so I can at least stand up long enough to cook a full meal, or take the bug for her bedtime walk. It seems that surgery is the best (some would say only) way to do it.

Mom and the bug planted a cover crop of annual ryegrass on my spring garden plot—right on top of the straw and newspapers I put down in early summer to kill the grass—and it's growing like crazy. She just put two loaves of bread in the oven and made some tea. She's almost done sewing slipcovers for the old orange sectional—she's been dragging her feet on the last part, with the curved swoosh-shaped back. Need to light a fire under her. Then she needs to start getting supper ready, and there's vacuuming to be done . . .

*Edit: Correction: sheepskin. But she did tan it herself.