No-Fail Pie Crust

With nearly 70 cookbooks, you’d think I’d reuse the same pie recipe over and over. Until recently, the problem was I was making pies so infrequently that I’d forget the one I liked most. Then I’d buy a new cookbook, feel compelled to try a new recipe and start all over again.

Starting with the dry ingredients

Fortunately, Southern Living is a mainstay in my cookbook library, and it was what I reached for over the holidays. I made five pie crusts, each one turning out perfectly. The sixth one–not so much– I didn’t put in the exact amount of shortening. The entire batch had to be discarded. The lesson learned? Do not mess with a perfect pie crust recipe.

Perfect, no fail pie crust recipe

For a 9 inch pie crust
1 1/4 cup flour (unsifted)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (this is my add. I like sweeter crusts)

Mix by hand

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening (also my add. 2 tbs vs 1 makes the dough just perfect to hold together and roll)
3-4 tablespoons chilled water (put water in a glass of ice)

1. Place flour, sugar, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl
2. Cut in the shortening
3. Hand-mix (I prefer this. It’s much better than a Cuisinart mixer as the dough is softer/flakier)
4. Add in the water. The dough will slightly moist and should hold together well.
5. Roll in to a flat ball, wrap with Saran wrap and chill for 1-3 hours or overnight. It will hold for several days.
6. Roll out when ready to use (follow directions for the pie you are making)

The dough should resemble peas in size

I doubled the batch, enough for a pie and a few mini-pies

Roll and fold in preparation for placing in the pie
Place crust in the pie dish

This is the mini-pies

Mold the edges of the crust
Add the filling–pecan

Pie filling-pumpkin

Get spicy — the cook’s ultimate spice rack

Making good on my promise to cover all things kitchen and kitchen remodeling, I’m starting with the most important section of the kitchen– the spice cabinet, for one cannot properly cook without spices.

This is the outside of my spice cabinet
(excluding the top cabinets)

Let’s all bond on one simple thing: the stand-alone spice racks are inferior. Too short or tall, circular or standing, wrong color, plastic, rotating or not. Trust me. If it’s out there, I have bought it. A cook needs counter space and a spice rack takes up valuable real estate (for grins, I should calculate money spent on my kitchen, divide by counter space and…wait. I do not want to do that. I’ll make myself sick). In any case, I couldn’t find a price listing of just the spice cabinet portion of a kitchen, just the entire remodel.
I’ve also gone the other direction, placing my spices in drawers when I was living in various condos and 

didn’t have the space to spare. My spices have also done their time in a pantry, which was the ultimate in inconvenience. So when it came time to create the kitchen of my dreams (and given the size constraints of the house we were remodeling), the first thing I designed was the spice rack.

Consideration #1. Your height.
Sounds strange, but you don’t want your life spent bending over. We do that enough, picking up, putting down, bending over. Ideally, you reach straight across, eye or chest level to get what you need.

Consideration #2. Your space constraints.

Each shelf holds 7 spices (you can
see I have a blend of brands–they are
all pretty much the same size).
5 shelves per cabinet = 35
6 cabinets = 210 spices

It’s all about priorities. You can always put extra plates in the storage area or move the food to the pantry. You use spices every day, multiple times. You need to prioritize the spice rack is first and foremost (not all kitchen designers will understand this, particularly if they are non-cooks).

Consideration #3. Volume of spices.
I’d never actually counted my spices, until we were preparing to leave the condo I’d purchased prior to Rog (great location, nice kitchen, but not lots of counter space. I used the drawer technique). “What are you going to do with allll those spices?” he asked me, as though I were going to ditch some. I thought about it a bit longer. “Cooking without spices will make your food taste like dirt.” They resided in boxes during the remodel (2 yrs). In the end, though, I had to throw them out and start anew. (the moist nw air ruined most).
1- count the spices
2- measure the size of the spices. Bottles, boxes and tins are all different in height.
2.a- measure dry spices first. You may use these most often
2.b- measure the tins second. Tall tins/short tins as well as widths (think my Hungarian paprika tins).
2.c.- measure your cooking oil bottles/containers, shortening/lard size etc.

All these impact the height of the shelves (which should be adjustable) with the exception of the number and size of the dry bottles (the ones used most frequently).

Once you have this down, then you can start understanding the possibilities.
1.  Fold out drawers. I’ve seen this in a variety of kitchens. The labels are on the top. It’s convenient if you have more drawer space than you do shelves. My challenge is that I’m nearly 5’11” and bending over is something I hate to do. Plus, I like to see the spices (I’m weird, I know) and I realize one of my deficiencies is not alphabetizing a drawer. I want to see everything at once.

The right swinging cabinet opened,
revealing the backside (where I keep
all of our hot sauces-we are hot sauce freaks)

2.  Standing cabinet. That’s what I chose. Other than the bending-over-seeing-the-spices-thing, I had/have very specific requirements for every single drawer/cabinet under the counter. It was by default. (Future blogs will cover drawers designed with baking in mind, pan, slide and in racks etc).

Going with the standing cabinet, you now can create the style that fits for you.
1. Clear or wood fronts. I prefer see-through plexi-glass. This ensures I can identify small tins that are not as tall.
1.a. Height of the fronts. As this like a retaining wall, keeping the spices from falling out, the height should keep them in w/out being burdesome to put in and out. Mine are 2.5 inches.
2. Fixed or flexible. You need to determine if you want to be able to adjust the spaces or not. I was pretty firm on not adjusting my spices, but Rog told me to be flexible just in case. I did so. In eight years, I’ve not moved the spices once (I guess this shoes how anal I was in the first place)!

Now that have got that down, count your spices and all other baking items. I realized pretty fast that I was going to need a non-traditional cabinet. Specifically, one that rotated out, giving me a double-sized shelf. This dramatically increased the number of spices it could hold.

This is the left side-more spices

In our case, I have all of our “American” cousine spices in this standing spice cabinet. The dust wasn’t even off the kitchen when I loaded it up, and to my dismay, I realized my spices of Indian and oriental cooking were nearly as many as the American ones. Thus, they are relegated to my pantry. In my next life, I’m going to have cabinets for each type of food I like.

**sorry I didn’t get a close up of the plexi-glass. It’s there, in front of the spices.

You see my wood is solid cherry. You don’t have to go that expensive if you don’t want. In fact, a good friend of ours recently remodeled her home and saved thousands by doing a few things. It all started when she gave her husband the estimated price tag (He said he about swallowed his tongue). Aside from the appliances, the cabinets are the #1 expense (typically). He found an on-line service that allowed him to take his wife’s specifications, inserted his requirements to the software (free), and then a customer service person helped him pick colors. It was sent to his home (the company was in North Carolina, on the other end of the country), nary a person at his house, and to his delight “I saved fifty thousand dollars!”) Yes, he received a semi-hardwood, yes, it wasn’t quite the quality of a custom manufactured kitchen, nor did it have all the little details (such as metal shelf holders–his were plastic) etc. Still, it looks awesome, and for a savings that large (his version was $12K), the results more than matched the aesthetic and utilitarian requirements.

I hope you take this cheat sheet in to the cabinet design center, or the one of the many on-line design centers near you.

Letting go of friendships

I-5 south is a freeway that connects the northern tip of Washington, slices through the center of Oregon and California, finally ending at the borders of Mexico under the metal arches of the barbed wire laced boarder crossing. Two and a half hours north and I’m in Canada, joy in my heart, knowing my final destination is a ski resort in Whistler. Traveling the other direction for an hour, through little town called Centralia, conjurs a different emotion. It’s not the town that does it, for Centrailia is neither a tourist destination or recreational hotspot. It’s the five minutes it takes to drive from one end to the other at the regulated fifty-five miles a hour that used to depress me. It’s the home of my former friend.

File:Centralia Downtown Historic District.jpg
City of Centralia….home of…the cute mainstreet

We were grade school buddies, she and I, our mother’s inseparable due to their occupations and five-mile daily walks. From the six grade through junior high, most weekends were spent together — overnighters allowed since we attended the same church on Sunday. My friend even came with me on multi-week vacations, the true sign of a lasting friendship. Though middle school and high school found us with different friends during the week, (she was a year older, had completely different classes and was an introverted book worm, whereas I was an athlete-cheerleader who never heard of an event I didn’t want to attend) we sought one another out week after week, year after year.

In college, she was in another stage and I drove to see her on weekends, staying in her dorm, listening to great music and laughing non-stop until we collapsed from exhaustion. I started working, she went on a service mission in a foreign country. I got married, pregnant and divorced in the time she got pregnant and then completed her degree in nursing. Strange, the old addage that different paths lead to the same destination was true. By the time we were both 23, each of us were single and with a child in tow.

We moved to different states and did our best to keep the connection. Well, at least one of us did. I sent letters, I called. I drove to see her, to and through my trips to see family in Oregon and California. As the correspondence became more one-directional, I sought for the positive. The excuses of her life, living as a single mom, the challenges of working the graveyard shift. Even when she was promoted to swing shift, I empathized with the struggle she faced, always willing to see her, since my schedule had a bit more flexibility. When we turned thirty, twelve years post high school graduation, I realized she’d come to my house once, though the highway is only ten minutes off the beaten path from our road, and as far as I can tell, it still goes both directions, north and south.

The last ten plus three years (13), have been more of the same…well, a little less. Fewer return phone calls. Fewer emails. No visits. I was invited to her wedding, attending with with my husband and daughter, and though we looked at one another with the fondest, a separation existed that hadn’t been present before. It was as if the unique trait of instantaneously coming together in a moment after a long period of separation had, like a rubberband, finally lost its ability to snap back.

It was a few years later that I learned she’d had several unplanned pregnancies prior to her marriage, and given both up for adoption. The cause was ironic. She’d been smoking pot, and this, according to the nursing staff, dramatically reduces the effectively of the birth control bill. My ignorance disheartened me. The decision to not confide in me was  another step my friend had taken in the growing distance in the gap of our relationship.

Still, I held out hope. Never saying a word of doubt to spouse or mother, unwilling to admit that the people we were in high school and early twenties no longer existed, at least not in a way that connected to one another. That realization was the hardest. I continued to believe that life intrusions, ups and downs, were speed bumps and curves on the relationship instead of a toll bridge, where each pause took a little bit more from my emotional piggybank. Eventually, my wallet ran dry. I had no more money to give, even though the road was still there and always will be, just like I-5.

The last time I went through Centralia, I felt the nothingness of the great abyss (I know that’s from a movie, but can’t recall which one). As I reached the other end of town, heading back home, I realized that I’d finally let go of the hope we were going to be as we once were. I made the decision to keep her a place for her in my memory, one without association to a unhappy feeling. To ensure I’d not feel the bitterness of abandonment, I decided to remember her as a friend of my youth, the image bordered with fond memories. There she will stay, like a picture on my internal wall that is not often looked upon. When I round the corner to my everyday life, I know she’s no longer there, and that I’ve finally let my friend go.

Food as medicine

Finally getting rid of the ick that’s been lodged in my lungs and throat for the last ten days. It’s akin to the white clumps of flour on a gravy recipe gone awry (and pretty much the same color), the associated hacking and burning is not condusive to working out.

Nonetheless, it is Wednesday, the posting of the week I focus on getting in shape, and one can’t get back to shape without eating the right foods. Thus, I’ve pulled the title of this blog from a line in the Jobs bio. Long after Jobs is diagnosed with cancer, he insists on continuing dietary peculiarities: rituals of eating one food only for extensive periods of time (carrots for weeks, then another food), or various cleanses (liquid or other). The doctor gets to the point of irritation and Jobs must stop looking at food as food. Instead, view “food as medicine.” (apparently, his doctor isn’t the only one to think this way. conference as books abound).

That has been a great visual and concept for me to get my arms around. I take medicine that tastes awful but works, sometimes downing horse-sized pills in the name of eradicting an evil inside my body (and no, that would not be a pill for ’emotional sickness,’ thank you very much). Now that I’m healing, I don’t need my Swami to advise me on how to eat a parallel diet of health.

I like this one

My culinary medicinal routine started like this…I need greens every day. I hate greens, unless they are loaded with a thick, rich or highly fattening substance. (think caesar salads).
Instead, I have been telling myself “it’s the doctors orders, and I did in fact, look up the phrase “food as medicine” and found many recipes “that heal.”(going with the whole, food-as-medicine concept). Sadly, my energy is entirely back and I am still on deadline for my next manuscript. I’ve gone old-school, falling back in to my pregnancy-eating rut. It’s cheap. It’s easy. It’s healthy, yet I won’t have to deal with a child popping out at the end.

  • Breakfast: steamed spinach (three massive handfuls) steams down to a cup, give or take. salt + lemon juice
  • An hr later: 2 eggs+2 egg whites. First sautee 3 green onions then 1 chopped tomato. Add eggs. Scramble.
  • Snack: apple and some sesame seeds (or other nut if I can handle it).
  • Lunch: vegie soup: sautee onions, carrots, add celery and homemade chicken or veg broth. Add meat if kids and spouse are going to revolt.
    (pause…) At this point, I’m sick if making food and eating food. It’s hard the rest of the day.
  • Mid afternoon: whatever isn’t going to make me feel bloated and tired. I like frozen grapes, but honestly, it’s so not satisfying. I want sweets or carbs (same thing really). Protien drinks are normall great, but sound too sweet in this post-sickness state. Instead, I’ve been having a bit mor soup.
  • Dinner: spinach again, with either a bit of meat (fish) but actually, more soup. I’ve been making my lentil, split pea, beef with barely, turkey noodle…you name it. soups are great, warm and keep the weight off.
    • I just went to the Food and Recipe section of this blog and was chagrined to find that I don’t have a single one of my soup recipes posted. How lame am I??? I’m Swedish for heavens sakes. I just bought sardines, black truffle oil and skiens last night at the deli. I’m going to put all good Swedes to shame if I don’t get my act together.

Throughout, loads and loads of water, chamomile tea.No dairy at all. No breads (both stuff up my sinuses). I was reminded of Jennifer Aniston’s oft-quoted mantra: “I eat clean foods.”  I like the notion of a clean food (organic, no oils, fats, sugars etc) as much as the next idealic, global-piece-will-happen-in-my-lifetime-dreamer sort of a way. But really, I call this medicine. And like a good patient, I want to get well.

To do before the end of January

The month is swiftly moving along. Before I know it, Valentine’s Day will be upon me and I’ll be left standing with my proverbial red ruby lips on, matching my same-colored pumps, clicking my heels, wishing I’d done all those things in January I said I’d do (for the last ten yrs, but whose counting?)

By golly, this year, I’m going to rise with the morning sun, grab one of the icicles from under our deck, pick my teeth like the stone giants in the Hobbit and get myself in gear.

Number 1 thing to do: Take advantage of the remaining after Christmas holiday ornament deals. Some are still to be had. My favorite? Tree ornament shopping. Sound freaky, in a ‘your-getting-really-eccentric-for-a-forty-three-year-old’ kind of a way? I know. I agree. Here’s the deal.

When I was 23, I had a child and a divorce under my belt. I was in another state, where my child’s father was to be having his first Christmas. It was a few days prior and I dropped by my Aunt’s house. She had an open door policy for decades (still does) and so I went in her living room and hung out by the tree, alone. In my misery and woe, I looked at her tree. It was….a tree for cooks. It had minature spatulas, rolling pins, mini measuring cups, even some bread colders (all the size for a Tom Thumb). Feeling so distressed and sad, I found joy in what I’ve now referred to as the ‘cooks tree,’ for the last twenty years. It made me happy.

Patriotic without the guns

Her daughter got the spirit and then some, working her way up to eight trees at last count. All colors, size and shapes. My favorite is a ‘bear tree.’ Serious. She got started at a garage sale and kept going, picking up bears here and there. Personally speaking, I have three trees, one for each odd eara of our odd house. I have a lodge tree, a cowboy tree (which you have oft seen) and then a ‘formal’ tree. Even then, I mix up my formal tree. My favorite is when I go for my ‘author’ tree, or as my daughter says, my “book tree.” At an antique shop, I bought these 200 yr old books, little things with the brown leather binding falling off. I took each one, opened it up and placed it in the tree. I mixed in other fun books with red and white (Christmas themed) and so forth. That year, I had a party and everyone thought it was so cool I had done a “career tree.”

Decorating the Christmas tree
I like this, though I’m not sure what it is. A driver-
or poor-wayfaring traveler? 

How weird is that?? And yet, it’s a great idea, is it not? A cook’s tree for the cook. A sports tree for the sports fanatic (I’ve seen all types of expensive, lovely sports ornaments), or a gardening tree. I really like that one, and have never seen it done. I even think a combat tree would be cool. You know, for all things army? Every country has an army doesn’t it?  It could be full of plastic guns, tags, plastic medals etc. It can be a vet-tree or a grown-up bb-gun tree. 

Number 2 thing to do: (and this one is a lot more important than #1). Start making a list of what to get people next year!! and start doing it NOW.

Some years, I’m really good about buying in advance because I do just that. This last year? Not so much. Example: My next door neighbors came over for our belated Christmas dinner last week. As the turkey was coming out, the wife comments “I have always loved your turkey roaster! It is the most amazing thing.” Not to mention, it gets all the credit for my great turkey, not my lovingly buttering the thing every 20 minutes for 3.5 hours. Whatever.

Turkey Roaster for Joyce, color blue if possible. Check. Done. No more lame gloves or unecessary gardening tools. Get the woman what she wants.

I think this goes back to the honesty that comes with post-present opening gluttony. The true feelings emerge (“you know what I really need…” or “next year, I’m going to get you…”). Sit down, pay attention and write it down. Oh, and hope that nobody changes there mind.

The last and final thing to do now. Figure out how you’re going to pay for it all next year.

What’s coming-remodeling, writing and manners

I’m excited, for today I realized I can ‘back-post’ topics. This means that blogs can start appearing randomly (like April 1, 2010) and go straight in to a category of topics, rather than post sequentially. I’m thrilled. This is handy for subjects that aren’t top of mind or for the general reader because of the specific nature of the subject. Here are a few of the things that are on my mind…

  1. remodeling a kitchen. I’ve been wanting to do one on this topic for eons, because I’ve done several, and with my existing kitchen, I created it the way I wanted to–for a cook! I had the entire thing layed out, then contracted with the cabinet maker to general the details on a computer. It was awesome. Each time a visitor comes (who is also a cook) we gab about the little things. Important for those of you who are, or may, build or remodel your kitchen.
  2. upgrading your room by painting your walls. You must understand, each one of my aunt’s on my mother’s side could write a book about upgrading anything, cooking anything and sewing anything, so this will bore them. however, in 3 steps, a person can change the inside of their home from looking dull, worn and cheap to elegant and expensive. once again, my motto in life? If I can do it, so can you (I’ve been doing a lot of painting as I’ve been sick, though I have to wait until Rog leaves the house. He always meddles in my work).
  3. more blogs on writing. I scanned the page of notes from the movie producer and have put it in to Paint. I think that every aspiring writer (or just general gossip enthusiast) wants to see what a real-life producer of actual movies that make money (none of those are ‘real,’ are they??). Now that things are moving along, and I’m on book 2, and I go back and forth w/the studio frequently, I am comfortable sharing this. it’s cool. But that’s just one. Another blog is on the latest in ebook and overall publishing.
  4. cooking blogs. I’ve got nearly 2 dozen folders of photos for different food blogs, all started from back in November. What’s my problem you say? It takes so bloody long to write a blog on food. Seriously. Cropping those photos, typing the instructions…i can jam out something on a relationship faster and have it be more interesting. Not to worry. I haven’t stopped cooking.
  5. manners and etiquette. I’m always fascinated by the actions and reactions of people, for good and ill. It never ceases to amaze me how the littlest actions hurt, mutilate, tear up and otherwise destroy friendships, all in the  name of ignorance. So if you think I’m a little old-fashioned in calling out social faux-paus, that’s ok. I don’t like my own feelings trashed, so I’ll try and give out hints now and then.
Oh, and as She has been telling me “keep it to 5 paragraphs!” Yeah. I know. I’m like a drunk that keeps thinking I can walk past the liquor store and not walk in. I try. I really do. As we all know, that golden brick road doesn’t always lead to Oz.

Speeding up your metabolism

I’m getting over a stretch of illness and the first thing I want is some pecan pie. It’s my own. It’s good (thank you Southern Living) and it’s been patiently waiting in the fridge for me. Beyond telling me I was as crazy as a loon in winter, my ever watchful husband says,

salad“So what does it take to be pre-diabetes?” How’s that for  a desert buzz kill. Personally, I think he just wants me to be well enough to swing from the rafters, but that’s just a hypothesis.

“Don’t know,” I respond, glumly lifting my hand above the pecan pie and to the (only slightly) less toxic giblet bread stuffing I made. (The backstory is that on Wed, 2 days ago, I made a traditional Christmas dinner, complete w/4 pies, the bird, stuffing and lots-o-sides, including my buttermilk biscuits. Since we’d been gone and I was sick, I was annoyed I’d enter 2012 w/out my happy-time meal).

His question made me think about our guests on Wednesday, one that is on the line to pre-diabetes (so says his heart doctor) and his wife, who just sent an email out to her two grown children and husband that they all need to lose 30 pounds. As it’s Friday, and that means it’s a license to eat your heart out (even in South Africa, hi new readers!) here goes the results of my research on accelerating your metabolism and what it means to be pre-diabetes, (plus a bit of my own experience thrown in).

1. Being overweight. Solution: Drop 10 lbs. According to sources from Prevention Mag, even extremely overweight people were 70% less inclined to get diabetes if they lost 5% of their weight. For a 175 pound person, that’s only 9 pounds.
2. High blood glucose levels. According to, 79 million people have high blood sugar levels. Solution. Take your hand and make a fist. That’s roughly how big your stomach is/should be (unless your stretched it to the size of an elephant). When you eat, put that much food on your plate. Try to be healthy about it, but let’s not split hairs. Just eating the size of your stomach is a major stat.
3. Mood swings. You’re not on your man-period (I’m convinced they have one just as we gals do), and you can’t figure it out, you may be pre-diabetic. Solution: take the three diabetes tests.

  • The A1C test
  • The fasting plasma glucose test (FPG)
  • or the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

Remember host/hostess, always ask your guests a few days prior about food preferences. If someone comes back with a list of lean meats and good carbs (vegies vs breads), be aware.

Now on to speeding up the metabolism. I must say that my Swedish Grandma wasn’t merely ahead of her time, I think she was mother-time. She always had 2 tablespoons of vinegar “with the mother” in the morning, along with her chamomile tea with cayanne She swore the former sped up her metabolism while the latter increased the blood flow and circulation in her limbs.

Guess what? Both are heralded for those exact benefits.

Speeding up your metabolism
1. Drink 2 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar ‘with the mother’ in the morning. jumps starts the system. My choice is Braggs. Boy, will it wake you up.
2. Eat breakfast. It gets metabolism going + people who eat bfast are 4.5 times less likely to be obese.
3. Drink six cups of cold water a day. It burns 50 calories a day
4. Eat fiber. Women who eat fiber gain the least amount of weight over time.
5. Always eat meat. Studies show that eating meat during a meal increases post-meal calorie burn 35%. (Vegans will just have to make a bee-line for the treadmill).

With this good information in mind, go throw back a few chugs of vinegar, chase it with some cold water and eat protein.

2,000 Days to live

True love is defined as your spouse taking the children on a Saturday, braving the crowds at the supermarket so you don’t have to. Typically, the two hours of pain (one of shopping, the other of feeding the kids a noxious meal of processed pizza) is followed by grumpiness as the bags are being unloaded. Not on the 28th of December, 2011. This was when I was greeted by a husband who walked in, came right in and held me tight. The don’t-ever-let-me-go kind of tight I associate with near death experiences and giving birth. I was about to make a quip when I saw his eyes (misty) and his stance (still hugging me).

I waited.

“I had an interesting experience today,” he began. I guess so. The last time he said this, it was December 3rd, and he’d told me about his ‘visit with Rockey the driver,’ who had chauffered him home from the car dealership. During that 50 minute space, Rockey told Rog about his life. Wife left him, taking the two kids and the money. He lost it all. His job. His joy. “But then something happened,” he went on to tell Rog, who was as speechless as when Rockey began his tale. “I found I could be happy when I wasn’t a workaholic jerk.” The man had found peace with his lot in life: being the “driving ambassador for the owner of the dealership,’ and enjoying every day he lives. After this first incident, Rog was a kinder, mellower human being. For about five days.

I reminded Roger when he’d invoked these words last and he nodded. “Someone is sending me a message.” For him to make this statement is akin to Moses admitting he dropped the third set of plates instead of God retracting them outtright.

“There we were, standing in line as usual and Porsche sees the black man with the mask.” This man, a tall, thin individual that Rog and I have hypothesized is between 25-30, is a checker at a local Costco. We’ve been seeing him for about the last year. He is memorable for the fact that he wears a mask over his mouth and nose that is attached to a tank on his back, similar to a diving tank. Roger continued to tell me about our 6 yr olds undying curiousity about it (remember the incident with the amputated foot?). In any case, Rog doesn’t hold her back, and she asks the man about it. Just like Rockey, he opens up.

“I had a double lung transplant,” he told her without the least bit of discomfort.

“Did it hurt?” she asked.

He shook his no and told her about going under. He then proceeded to answer her questions about getting with this statement.

“No, I won’t get better. I’m going to die pretty soon.”

Rog was shocked but told me he maintained his composure. Porsche on the other hand was vitally interested and asked. Again, he answered.

“The doctors told me I had five years to live, or about 2,000 days, give or take.” Rog had done the math, (an economist will do that on the fly), and it was only 1,825 days. The man was rounding up. We’d seen him with the breathing aparatus for a year. That’s less than 1,500. Four Christmas’s and New Years left. Four birthdays. Or, as Rog pointed out to me during the retelling– “it’s like looking at your mortality hourglass every day of the year.”

Porsche treated it like he did: a normal and natural occurance, asking him what he does and how he feels. Rog described his attitude and responses as “remarkable. He was happy to be alive. That’s what he said. “I’m just happy every day to be alive.” Alive, living with a mask, working at Costco, checking bags.

Rog finished telling me the story by giving me another embrace, apologizing for being so…well, so himself. He asked if I could join him in trying to be kinder to one another in 2012. Happier. More at peace. More patient. Easier to let past issues be forgotten. All very non-Rog kind of things. I agreed, with one exception.

“If you a have a third and final visitation, I think it’s going to be a ghost,” I deadpanned. Immediately catching on that I was making a reference to A Christmas Carol, he reached for my ribs and began his torture payback. Sassiness has gotten me this far. It may be needed in the future of sun and happiness to carry me a bit further.

Getting over a breakup

It’s Thursday. If you are going to break up with someone in your life, do it today. In five minutes even. It’s the nice thing to do. You know why? It gives the break-ee a chance to emotionally or financially get it together before the weekend. If you are inhabiting the same domicile as your soon to be gone ex, that person will need the weekend to pack and get out (or for you to leave). Date nights also take planning.

Don’t forget to be as considerate to yourself as to your future ex. Get better. Improve what ails you. Figure out why the relationship broke in the first place. Or, as my dear friend told me, take some classes at The Break up Club and heal thyself.

Even people who breakup with Facebook need this kind of therapy.

“What?! Are you serious,” I retorted, completely stomping all over my friend’s feelings. She’d recently dumped a guy (and I do mean, hardcore dumping. Just stopped returning his calls. Left her things at his pad. But then again, he yelled at her dog one to many times and that was that). The guy prior to that was a hot young thing, with more working gears in his car than his head (I think that was the problem). Regardless, she told me she found the site and it works.

“I thought it was crazy myself, but I sat in on a few classes and it had some good advice.” I love the tagline. Use your ex love to get your next love. Only two girlfriends and some marketing margaritas can come up with that type of tag. I must say, it doesn’t hurt that at least one of them has been published in the subject area and is a step away from her psychotherapist status.

“They give homework assignments that are really getting to the heart of some of my issues.” I am still dying to know “the issues” but figured it wasn’t my business. I wasn’t the one she dumped.

Since this blog is all about juicy tidbits, I’ll tell you a long-kept secret that will be a secret no more once I type it down (see, this is my own personal version of a therapist. And it’s free. To me. You, the poor reader, probably needs therapy after reading the words written here. Certainly my long-suffering Swedish mother does).

My secret is this. Some weird, wacked out part of me always broke up with my significant other prior to major holidays or weekends. Just prior to Valentine’s, Christmas, my birthday. I’ve had many a girlfriend tell me to do the opposite, “must it out until right after. Take the gift!” Even as a teen, I thought this was the definition of pure evil. I’d feel as guilty as all-get-out, knowing I wasn’t in love, and then have to return whatever it was (no woman of fine moral upbringing as I would keep a gift under such circumstances). The result? I was unduly accused by said ex boyfriends as being cruel. How ironic is that? I was saving the money darn it.

But I digress, as usual. If, heaven forbid, I decide to break up with my spouse, I might spend time on this site. Well, I sort of liked what I saw, and I’m not even considering breaking up with him (aren’t you relieved to hear that?). I guess that goes to show I can use relationship improvement advice no matter what stage of love I’m in.

6.5 tips to sleeping better

Who among us is not sleep deprived? That’s the question. As I regained my eyesite over holiday, I started with the Dec issue of Yoga Journal and have summarized to extensive articles on the subject. Thanks to yogajournal (which can’t be blamed for my ‘slight’ editorializing!

According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institues of Health, between 30-40 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia. Nice. They include…weight gain, itchy, red, puffy eyes, irritability, lack of concentration, and the ever important…lack of libido. Who wants that? Besides the obvious solutions, which include avoiding all caffeine comsumption for 6-8 before going to bed (mom, that means you and your chocolate, but I’ll never tell), here are a few others.

  1. Turning off the tv and cell phone for at least thirty minutes prior to hitting the sack.
  2. Stopping reading your email at least that far in advance. Of course, this is hard for me personally, but I still stry. The worst is getting an email that fires me up and spins me in to a mental tailspin. The only way to stop that type of this is…well…crashing.
  3. Don’t read email at all after work, or on weekends. This is an impossibility for me, but my friend, a school teacher for 4th grades, says she has to ‘unplug,’ since random, angry emails from parents “destroy my home life.”
  4. Eat good snacks that make you fall asleep.
    1. Dairy products, lentils, nuts and seeds and low-fat cheese are rich in trypophan, a natural sleep inducer.
    2. combine whole grain crackers with natural peanut butter, whole grain cereal with milk or soy milk
  5. Stock up on hormone producers. Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the body and regulates sleep patterns. Tart cherries, grapes and walnuts contain melatonin.
  6. Hit the herbs. Certain herbs have been shown to produce a calming effect and therefore help with insomnia. I’m a big believer in taking baths with lavender oil right before bed. It takes it (my energy, moods etc) out of me. Valerian is a liquid extract of a sedative herb that can be taken internally, but you need to wait a few weeks for it to have an impact. Passionflower can be found in lots of things, from bath and body wash, drinks as well as tea. Nighty Night by Traditional Medicines includes passionflower.

6.5 My husband recommends wild, passionate….anything….right before bed. “That’s a guaranteed winner.” Ever the pragmatist.

PS– did you know that coffee has 100-150 MG per eight ounce cup, chocolate has 12-25 MG and energy drinks are a bountiful 60-140 MG? That information will keep me awake.

**References–thanks to the December issue of Yoga journal for providing some of these great facts–

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