Friday, December 31, 2021

It's Just Another New Year's Eve


It isn't quite midnight in Omaha yet (about 9 PM) but it is largely quiet save for the occasional fireworks. No gunfire yet, and much less noise in general than most years. We had a bit of freezing fog earlier making roads dangerous and we're expecting a snowstorm after midnight so maybe people took the warnings seriously and stayed home. 

There's a giant moving truck across the street and we have new neighbours moving in tonight. I'm sure they're trying to stay ahead of the storm. Our street is well lit so it isn't dark out there, but I do feel really sorry for them because it is freezing cold. I guess they'll have a memorable story to tell. 

Yesterday, my husband came home from work to isolate after the person that sits next to him at work tested positive for covid. They're about 10 feet apart and wear masks at work but he's still concerned. He had an quick test yesterday that came back negative, but he's isolating until Monday when he's scheduled for a PCR test. No symptoms, and he's had 3 jabs of vaccine, but it is still worrying. We're lucky enough to have a finished basement room where he can isolate, and an extra bathroom he can use alone. I'm wearing masks when I bring him food, or he has to come upstairs but otherwise we're all distancing. There were 800 (!!!) cases in Omaha yesterday (that were diagnosed, god knows how many more are out there) and nine deaths. It is everywhere in the community and with no restrictions in place and all the bars and clubs open tonight things are only going to get worse. We're still dealing with the spike in cases from Christmas. Since it is impossible to avoid it entirely without staying home, the best chance anyone has to get through this is to vaccinate, wear a proper mask, and distance from others. He's been doing those things so hopefully it will have been enough. It is a large office with no windows and a large number of employees so there's only so much that can be done. You can't unfortunately control what people do outside of work. 

Dan's school is on break until the 5th, but the school announced they're going back to mandating masks when classes resume. That brought a shit-storm of complaints from parents that still don't believe in reality, but the school is sticking firm. That's very good to hear because the largest increase in cases has been in young people. I guess after sending the kids out into a tornado there was some concern that the administration wasn't taking the physical safety of students as seriously  as they might. I'm glad they're doing masks though, the kids unlike the adults will actually wear them. They have some brains. 
But tonight is New Year's Eve, so I put on a vintage Lurex skirt (but skipped the matching tunic) and made the best of it. I sent a festive smoked salmon frittata and cucumber salad downstairs for Mr. ETB and Danny ate while we waited for the night to get underway. 
I made this dairy free for Danny by using tofu cream cheese, soy cream, and margarine. I had three small leeks to use in something and this was the perfect place to dump them. With some chervil and tarragon it came together into a fancy meal, though not the one I had planned for the evening. The blini and caviar can wait for another night. Tomorrow there will be Hoppin' John a dish made with black eyed peas, celery, bacon (turkey bacon for ours) and bell peppers. The peas are supposed to symbolise coins and be eaten for good luck and wealth in the new year. It is a Southern US thing-I never ate Hoppin' John in Chicago, but my husband's dad was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana so we make it as a nod to his heritage. His mom was from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania but I am absolutely not making Hog Maw (pig stomach). I have my limits. My family didn't do anything for New Year's Day that I can remember. My mother was probably nursing a hangover. 

I already have a headache-no sense adding alcohol to it. I don't have anything good and I don't want to drink cooking wine.

Hi there! I'm not taking down the wall until the 6th so please continue enjoying my holiday decorations until then. I'm tempted to just take down the stockings and Christmas items and leave the bricks. We'll see. Not much to do after New Year's until Burns Night. 

Almost 10 PM now and still quiet. Don't want to put a jinx on it, but so far so good.

These knit trousers are thrifted and I really like them-they appeared unworn and are perfect, except that they have faux pockets. 
Why? They still have to sew something in there, how much more would a pocket cost?! I still like them and will wear them often, but the fake pockets are silly. I wish companies would stop that.
First wear for the Egyptian tourist bracelet made of faience and plastic tinted to look like coral. It is a beautiful piece and I have several necklaces in a similar style. I'm showing you the back here as the fastening is so ornate and beautiful. The sweater I'm wearing was also recently thrifted and this is my second wear. It is a good shade of pink for both my complexion, and existing wardrobe-it matches nicely with several pieces. 
I'm wearing quite a lot of pink and brown lately. This outfit is such a fun piece of Western wear by American company Panhandle Slim.  
I don't have a horse, but that isn't going to stop me rocking a pair of vintage corduroy culottes. Let's go horsie dragon!

I know there's still a couple hours to go, but let me wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year. I'm not making any predictions because if the last couple years have taught me anything it is that none of us have any idea what's coming. I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best in 2022.


Sunday, December 26, 2021

Firecracker, Firecracker, Boom, Boom, Boom!

 I'd be a terrible elf.

"Man pants! Man pants!" or something like that.  

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas/holiday/day off. We did our usual Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas eve where I made a paella with seven fishes in it, except it was four this year because shit happens. No one really cared. I like making a big paella so there's leftovers and I don't need to spend Christmas cooking. 

The sofrito was made back in September with tomatoes from my garden and then frozen. I was happy I planned ahead because one less thing to stand and do this week was a gift. 
I bulked it out with chickpeas and artichoke hearts. There's salmon, Mahi Mahi, Cod, and Tilapia. Anyway, for something I only make once a year I was happy I didn't screw it up. My brain hasn't been functioning at peak performance lately. 

Boxing Day I made an orange sesame chicken stir-fry that was quick, easy, and used up the odds and ends of vegetables. That's not proper rice under the chicken, but rice made from chickpea flour. After the arborio rice in the paellla I figured it was best to stay away from the real rice for a bit. I did manage the cooking for Mr. ETB's diabetic needs and he was able to enjoy a Christmas fruit cake that was mostly nuts, whole wheat flour, and grated carrots. I've been feeding it booze for a couple months. They both said it reminded them of a white christmascake without the molasses, but that the spices got the job done. So that's good to know, and I'll post the recipe for anyone that wants to try it for next year, or as a diabetic wedding cake, Simnel cake, or anywhere else a fruitcake makes sense. 

The waffle maker is fantastic. Dan's finding reasons to get out of bed before dinner. 

The all important Christmas trousers got worn, which felt like an accomplishment of sorts because most years I don't get to the majority of outfits I want during the holiday period. 
I love these so much. There's nothing that says they're Christmas, just that the pattern makes me think of a stylised tree. I could wear them year round of course, but then they wouldn't be special. I don't wear trousers much anyway. 

Maybe I can wear these in June for laughs. 
Or just the bodysuit and tights next time I need to go to Dan's school. I'm sure he'd appreciate me turning up like this. 
Christmas Eve was so warm there were giant flies emerging outside. Christmas Day was nice too, but next week we're headed into more seasonable temperatures. Still, it was nice to get into December without needing to run the furnace every day. 
My horrible/wonderful vintage shoes. They need to go to the cobbler for a professional re-gluing. 
This angel was a recent thrift purchase. I liked the mid-century lines of it. 
My earrings are pinecones, but that's hard to see in the photo. 
It was time for the red velvet skirt. 
and the tartan shoes...
Dan got a marzipan pig from Germany. I remember those being a very big deal when I was a child, and almonds being one of the few nuts I could have. It isn't the same without the  delicatessen/grocery/bakery/import shop paradise that was Kuhn's Delicatessen on Lincoln Ave and the old lady that would send me home with a year's worth of 4711 samples because she knew I liked it. No one is getting a bottle of Asbach Uralt (almost impossible to find in Nebraska) and there were no licorice pipes, ornately wrapped chocolates, or imported beer with a lady in a swimsuit on the can (I can't remember the brand) but by golly, my boy is having a piece of the American Midwestern 1970s Christmas experience that included a marzipan pig from Germany. 

The boys bought me a robe and it matched my velvet trousers so nicely I just went ahead and wore it all day. I'm sure I looked like  loony sitting in the sun Christmas day wrapped up like a convalescent at a TB sanatorium, but it was a nice way to spend the day. Beth's slippers have been getting a lot of wear.   I spent most of the day checking my plummeting blood sugar and then trying to force it back up with juice. Not ideal, but that's where we're at. Hopefully I can get an Rx for a continual monitoring one that I can wear and don't have to prick my fingers for blood tests so much. I have an appointment Tuesday, so we'll see. On a positive note, I've discovered I really like white grape juice. Almost like having a glass of dessert wine. 

Just like last year, Mr. ETB made the trip to the Mexican pottery shop in South Omaha and bought a couple planters as our gift. 
This one weighs a tonne.
A squirrel having a meal. How cute is that? I love squirrels as everyone knows, so that was just the perfect gift. I bought Mr. ETB a nice set of pencils and small notebooks along with a quality pepper grinder. We're still using the one my parents got when they were married in 1957. It will be nice to have one that can handle harder peppercorns. Anyway, he was excited to use it and likes that it has an adjustable grind feature. I bought mine from Penzy's because I like their spices, and their politics. I know they lost a lot of business this year for taking a stand against all this nonsense, and we try to buy what we can from them in support. Speaking of which...
I put packets of Penzy's spice samples in the Christmas crackers. Everyone's had enough candy anyway. 
I also put Thanksgiving stickers in because, what the hell why not?
Okay, the suction hanging hook was a last minute thing to fill out the tube, but they're useful. Not your typical Christmas cracker, for sure. 

And then it was Boxing Day. I got dressed, spent the day monitoring my blood glucose and drinking juice accordingly. Not bad, but I'd have rather been out. I won't be going out for any unnecessary trips now until the covid numbers come back down. I'm worried what's coming post holiday, but maybe people did the right thing and got vaccinated and wore masks. A Christmas miracle? 
Unlikely, but not impossible. 
I'm looking forward to a nice New Year's Eve at home. Maybe for excitement people can start their "Celebratory Gunfire" before midnight. Because what's more American than greeting the New Year by firing several rounds indiscriminately into the air? Happens every year, and every year someone gets shot by the "celebratory gunfire" but traditions are hard to change. Yeah, what can I say? Fireworks are also legal on New Year's Eve in Nebraska and last year they passed legislation permitting even larger ones to be purchased by the home consumer. So that's fun because we have plenty of extra help at the hospitals right now to sew people back together after they set off the equivalent of an artillery shell on their driveway. It also makes it fun sitting at home playing a game I like to call, "Shot or Firecracker"? Most of the time I can tell, but when they're going off at the same time it scales up the level of difficulty. 

But don't mind me. I'm old and cranky and just want to be in bed by 10 PM with a mug of cocoa and a book.

I hope the last few days of 2021 are pleasant for you and that you celebrate in an appropriate manner. Cheers. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Oh Sugar, Honey Honey

 Hello all!

First things first, we came out of the storms safe. We were surrounded by tornadoes (an almost unheard of 20 twisters at latest count-they're still assessing damage) and high wind thunderstorms (90 mph winds in a thunderstorm, in December is NOT normal) but we never lost power (had a few flickers but by golly it held on). We sheltered in the basement whenever the tornado sirens went off (it happened a few times) and our weather radio was ringing constantly for a couple hours, but then it all blew out across to Iowa and that was that. 

As I predicted, I was sitting in front of the High School waiting to pick up Danny when the first sirens started blowing. That was scary, and even more concerning because there were children that were on foot and had already left school. They should have cancelled school-all the other districts did and businesses were letting people go home early ahead of the storm. They were lucky nothing happened, but that sort of gambling and brinksmanship whether it is with weather, student safety, or covid seems to be a hallmark of this superintendent's style and I don't like it. That sort of thinking that you're stronger than covid is about as effective as thinking you're stronger than a tornado. Yeah, the odds are in your favour nothing will happen but do you really want to endanger a school to make a political point or look like a tough guy? I am answering my own question because that's exactly what's happening. They wonder why all the young people are moving out of state-look at the sort of leadership we have. I can't blame a young person wanting out of Nebraska. Anyway, no one got killed so I guess there's nothing to see here, move along now...

Thursday I took my large carton of decorated cookies over to the library. It was nice to see people but it was also extremely awkward-more about a possible reason for that later. I guess, what do you say after delicately hinting/asking if everyone made it through the pandemic? And what on earth can you talk about? "So, how's your pandemic been?" These are people I've known close to twenty years and none of us are getting younger, but we quickly shifted to talking about kids and grandkids. I left happy to know everyone's doing alright but also knowing, no one is actually doing alright. Not having covid is good, but that doesn't mean people haven't been utterly traumatised by the last two years. Interestingly, no one was wearing a mask (I was, two!) which struck me as crazy. I don't want to think about the possibility that people I've known all these years are anti-vaxxers because that would be too much for my poor brain to get around, so I prefer to think they're just fully vaccinated and sick of wearing masks. I didn't ask. Sometimes I just don't ask things I might not want to know. But it was weird, and as I already said, awkward. I wasn't sure if I was getting stared at because I was wearing (two) masks, or if it was political, or maybe people just don't know how to interact anymore or maybe I had something stuck in my hair? Who knows? But it was odd. Most of the time when things are awkward I just shrug them off as, "Yeah, sometimes it is like that" and don't spend too much time thinking about it. I didn't really think it was anything personal. I mean, they were happy to see me, and to have the cookies. So I left and didn't think anymore about it.

Here's what I wore to deliver cookies. I had to get at least one wear in of the vintage Halston skirt. The night before, when I was decorating the cookies I had a killer migraine. I pushed through and just finished as my vision got too bad for decorating. I was nauseated and dizzy, so I sat on the kitchen floor until it passed. That's not strange for me, I've always made use of the kitchen floor for a quick sit down. I keep the floor clean.  

Next day, Thursday I go to deliver the cookies to the library and then still feeling a bit run down and headache-y I went a did a couple errands before getting Danny from school. My eyes were bothering me as I made dinner, but nothing that interfered with my ability to cook. I sat down to join the boys for dinner at the table but I didn't feel right. And I wasn't. I definitely wasn't. 

I thought it was a stroke. I couldn't get words out and the ones that did were gibberish. I was shaking all over and could barely walk. It wasn't a stroke. It was a hemiplegic migraine, but it took a brain scan to be sure and although the symptoms went away the longer I was at the hospital, they insisted on admitting me because my blood sugar was 50 again and just wouldn't come up no matter what they did. That could, they also thought cause someone to be unable to speak. I really didn't want to take up a bed in a pandemic if it wasn't absolutely necessary so the young doctor looked at me and said if I left it would be against her medical advice because I could slip into a coma in my sleep and die. She said they absolutely had room for me and that was that, until she circled back to ask if I "Wanted to be resuscitated if anything happened" because my advance directive wasn't taking this sort of scenario into consideration. 
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble, sure". 

They got me up to that hospital ward and I think every student doctor in Omaha came through and had a chance to look me over and listen to my lungs. I didn't really mind but it was getting exhausting to keep explaining the same stuff over and over. I felt bad for the nurse pulling a double shift who's job was to check my blood sugar every 30 minutes around the clock. She said she set an alarm on the phone and it was no big deal, but I felt bad for her. At least I wasn't a difficult patient-the nutcase in the bed next to me was really bad. And an anti-vaxxer screaming about, well everything and blasting Fox News on her TV. Her partner at home had covid and her family members kept piling in to visit her. It was awful. I really hope I don't end up catching anything from her. I wore my mask the entire time because of course, she didn't. She was there for something non-covid related but I think everyone knew it would just be a matter of time. I felt really terrible for the nurses because I could hear everything on the other side of the curtain and it was just argument after argument and they didn't deserve that sort of abuse. It must be exhausting to be such an aggrieved person. 

They wanted to keep me another day but after we'd established that I wasn't going to die in my sleep from low blood sugar (but I do need to keep an eye on it) they agreed to let me leave, but only after I basically begged. I'm glad that bed was available when I needed it (there are very few non-covid spots available right now) but I was ready to vacate for someone else in bad shape. I have follow up appointments and new things to worry about (thanks, migraines and hypoglycemia!) but I'm so relieved it wasn't a stroke. Of course I can't always assume the next one isn't a stroke because I could still have one at my age, so the doctors made me promise I'd come back if it happens again. I asked the neurologist if it was likely to happen again and she just smirked. I guess once these things start happening they're with you. They did put me on some preventative medications and gave me something to take at the first sign of an attack which is supposed to shorten the severity, so fingers crossed, we can manage this. It did leave me horribly disoriented and weak for a few days but that could also have been the blood sugar. 

Like anyone that gets a new diagnosis, I turned to Google and did some reading. I'm now wondering if I was acting a little strange at the library but because they hadn't seen me in so long, they didn't say anything? I mean, they were still wrong to not wear masks and there might have been god knows what going on there but...sigh, what if I was acting strange and everyone was too polite to say anything? I hope not, but now I also realised I have to get a medical ID bracelet because if someone saw me like I was Thursday night, they'd have thought I was drunk, or on drugs. If a cop came across me god knows what might happen when I couldn't follow a command. I'd rather not die that way, so I'm going to get a medical alert bracelet and hope for the best. 

It also sounds possible that it might have something to do with the muscles in my throat jamming up. Probably not, but it is worth looking at. The horrible vertigo and nausea? Probably related to migraines. I always thought because I just got an aura but not much pain my migraines weren't a big deal. Maybe they weren't. They sure as hell are now, and the timing really bloody sucks. There's something terrifying about your body becoming unpredictable. Sure, I know that's always possible but the older I get the more I understand pretending to exercise any control over my body is just something I do so I don't sit down and cry. Yes, I *know* this stuff happens but who wants to think about it?! I just want to get on with it. 

On the positive side, my ELF eyeliner didn't smudge at all the entire time I was in the hospital. So there's that. I do love a good value in cosmetics. The Rimmel eyeshadow stayed on pretty well too. 
Anyway, I'm back home taking it easy though it annoys me that this mirror is so dirty. It also annoys me that my legs look like Twiglets but that's arthritis for you. I was reassured by the rheumatologist that came to look in on me (no idea why as I wasn't there for anything autoimmune) that it didn't "Look that bad." Easy for her to say, she's not walking on them. 

I wasn't really up to photographs but I did want to show how nicely my handbag matched my vintage skirt. That was a one in a million, and it would have been a shame to skip documenting it. I know what's important in life.

Yes, the Barbour handbag is thrifted. You don't really think I'd spend money on something like that do you? I haven't completely lost my mind. 

With Danny's birthday coming up quickly I still needed to bake the cake. I've been more or less using the same cake recipe for 17 years though now I use shortening and oat milk instead of butter and cream. I could bake that cake with my eyes shut, and I practically did. It is a yellow cake with egg yolks. The whites ended up in Mr. ETB's breakfast so nothing was wasted. I didn't try replacing the sugar as Mr. ETB isn't really a cake person and can just have one small piece without harm. I wore my favourite Christmas shirt to do the baking. The shirt is really a child's pajama top, but it is daywear now! I do love squirrels, as you know. 
Isn't that hilarious? 

What sort of a novelty cake can I make for my son who's planning to leave the US?  I do understand, though I wish he felt like it was possible to have a future here. No country is without issues of course-maybe Ann the Polyester Princess can gently remind him that Belgium isn't paradise even if it admittedly looks like it next to the US. I thought about making a giant waffle but in the end went with something a bit more elegant. The Curious George in the middle was just something he loved as a small child and I couldn't resist. I believe George was French not Belgian. He's supposed to be headed to France this Spring, but who knows now? There's still one more year at home before he leaves for university but I don't think he's changing his mind. He would have been happy to stay and start an exterminating business but the last few years of chaos in this country convinced him otherwise. I don't know what he'll do with international relations degrees, but with his ease of learning languages it should open some opportunities he'd never have here. The sad thing is that the biggest deciding factor was not wanting to live somewhere where there's a good chance of getting shot. And that's not exaggeration-your odds of getting shot in America are better than not. Of course not everyone dies after being shot but think about how crazy that is that we think it is acceptable to say, "Oh well, they were OK." 
I always remind him that things might get better and he can always come home but I think we both know that's not true. I can't fault someone wanting to live in a society where you won't be penniless if you get sick, be able to own a home, and not be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for school before you've even started out in life. I get it. Add in the violence, the racism, the political craziness and of course not wanting to be shot at-I'm afraid our country isn't doing a good job of selling itself to young people. Anyway, we're old and he'll have no reason to be here. Where in the EU he eventually ends up is an open guess but for school anyway, he's heading to Brussels. 

Well that got depressing rather quickly. Would you laugh if I told you I bought him an electric waffle maker for his birthday? I did, and he loved it. I also bought him a book, an ornament, and a giant onion. No reason for the onion other than I saw it in the pile at the grocer and thought it was magnificent. You don't see an onion that size every day, now do you? Eventually it will get cooked but for now it is displayed on the dining room table next to Beet Poot. It occurs to me that my son might be leaving the country less for opportunity and more for getting any from his crazy mother that buys him an onion for his birthday. 
A fine young man and his onion. 
I thought about a Belgian waffle maker but this is the sort of waffle he prefers. Most weekends I make him frozen waffles from the hippie health food store that get made in a toaster and then  topped with sautéed apples. I guess now I'll need a recipe for batter that can be made ahead and stored in a pitcher in the fridge. I'm sure he'll have fun trying things out. 

Not my fanciest cake but I'm pleased with how it came out. Tinting the icing that shade of blue took some effort. I was always good at mixing paint though.
I mean, that's some onion! It weighs close to two pounds. 

so that was the birthday.
Before all the hospital chaos I managed to wear this Christmas skirt. The blouse, waistcoat, and handbag are all recently thrifted pieces and I'm so delighted with how nice they look. A little bit nana-ish, but in a good way.
Not that I have anywhere to go, but I still like to get dressed every day.

I'm probably not going to get all my festive outfits worn this year but I just don't have the energy. Maybe I'll wear them for Easter instead. 
I'll leave you with this vintage, velvet Lilly Pulitzer skirt I bought in the 90s and this wild handbag that sadly has no label to tell me anything about it. 

Dan has one day left of exams tomorrow before going on winter break. I wish there were someplace we could take him but right now staying home makes most sense. I guess we can make waffles and watch movies. 

see you later.