Not Coq Au Vin

I had all that delicious stuff from the farmers’ market, and I really wanted to cook it before it went bad (which happens kind of quickly in our house in the summer, due to the heat/humidity). Before I left work I Twittered that I had red-skinned potatoes and crimini mushrooms, and what could I make with those. My co-worker/Twitter friend Marie wrote back first and suggested adding chicken, garlic, and red wine to make coq au vin.

On my way home I picked up chicken and a shallot. (I don’t know why a shallot, I just felt like this meal needed it.) Then I got home and discovered I didn’t have the exact ingredients on hand that I thought I did. So I started out by making a broth of water, chicken stock (only had a little left), and white wine (only had a little left). I had an almost full bottle of cooking vermouth, so I added that, and that made a big – positive – difference. I scrubbed the potatoes and chopped them into pieces of roughly the same size, then added them to the broth. Then I cut up chicken and cooked it in a pan with a little oil and a little shallot. I also put some chopped shallot in the pot with the potatoes, as well as a little garlic. And I sliced up the mushrooms and added them to the pot as well.

When the chicken was nicely browned, I added it to the broth and let the whole thing simmer for a while. It smelled really good, so I figured it was done. I served myself and GG a bowl with a good selection of potatoes, chicken, and mushrooms, and a scoop of broth. The verdict? Delicious!GG kept making comments that he felt like he was eating some sort of peasant stew. It was fantastic – I’m mostly writing this so I remember how I made it. But it definitely wasn’t coq au vin. Do you know if there’s something else we should be calling this meal?

Last Weekend of June

I know you’ve all been wondering how my weekend and stuff has been. (Especially you, Mount Laurel. I saw how many times you visited!)

Thursday: GG was off work and did some chores for me at home, yay! When I got home from work, we went and got Chinese food and watched a DVD of Devil’s Playground I got from the library. Very interesting! I learned a lot about Amish culture that I didn’t know about.

Friday: GG went to his parents’ place to work for the weekend. I arranged to meet up with Jess and have dinner. I got changed after work, then went right to her house to pick up her and the baby, and we went to the Redstone Grill to meet Rob for dinner. I hadn’t been there yet, it was very good! The baby was pretty good during the meal, Jess fed him while we were waiting for our food, then Rob ended up holding him the rest of the time (and ate his hamburger with one hand) because he fell asleep and they didn’t want to move him and possibly wake him. After dinner we went out for ice cream and got caught in a huge thunderstorm with hail. So instead of eating outside, we went back to their house and watched Taken, which is an hour and a half of our lives we won’t get back. Jess and Rob were passing the baby back and forth during the movie, and then they were like, “Hey, do you want to sit with Aunt Lola?” and suddenly there was a baby on my lap. He is cute and all, but holding him just reinforced my feeling that I really don’t want kids. I went home around 10 PM and managed to paint my nails and toenails before falling asleep (and missing GG’s post-work phone call).

Saturday: I got up at 6 AM and started cleaning the house – cleaning and mopping the kitchen and bathroom, vacuuming and dusting the living room and dining room. Then I got dressed and headed out to the farmers’ market by 9:30 (it starts at 9 AM, and you really have to get there early to get any sort of selection). It was the first time I’d gone by myself, so I didn’t really feel like hanging out. I just did a quick lap of the market to see who had what, then went back around to make my purchases. I got some red potatoes, delicious mushrooms, blueberries (kind of pricey, but good), and the sweetest sugar snap peas I’ve ever had. I came home, ate something, and spent much of the afternoon on the sofa, alternating between the laptop and napping. In the evening we drove out almost to Lancaster for a band concert. We left early so we could get dinner at the Sonic out there (neither of my carpool buddies had been before, but they liked it). The weather was perfect for a concert: no humidity, and a little breeze (which died down eventually, which was good because otherwise music and stuff would have blown around). The sun kept going behind clouds, but it was mostly sunny. The crowd at this park was much better than when we played there last year – there were tons of people, and they were enthusiastic and really enjoyed the music. We had a standing ovation through our whole last song!

Sunday: I got up pretty early again, and GG left his parents’ place really early, so he was home by the time I was up and about. I did laundry and napped while he got caught up on whatever had been happening on the internet while he was gone, and eventually he came up and napped with me a little. Also I spent a lot of time putting away clothes and reorganizing my shoe storage. We had been invited to two parties and possibly an evening concert, but weren’t really sure which events we were going to attend, if any. Eventually we decided to skip everything, have an early dinner, and do a couple errands. And afterward, we went to Dairy Queen because I had a coupon for Blizzards! And then we got home and watched movies on TV and lounged around for the rest of the night.

All in all, it was a good weekend :o)

So what’s up with my heart?

When we last checked in, the doctor had told me I had heartburn and I started taking a prescription strength dose of GERD medicine daily. I didn’t see any improvement after taking the pills for a few days, but figured I’d just hold out until I had my appointment with the cardiologist. I played two 1-hour concerts and was barely able to get through each of them without my chest feeling like it was going to explode.

So on Monday, I came home from work, made dinner for me and GG, was standing in the kitchen… and I noticed my right arm felt kind of hot. I looked down, and my arm was bright red from my elbow to the wrist, and hot to the touch. Just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, I had GG check, and yes, my arm was hot, red, and slightly swollen. I called my mom, and she said that sounded like a blood clot and I should call the doctor.

I called the doctor and luckily they are open until 8 PM and keep those evening slots open for same-day emergency appointments. And more luckily, my doctor was the one on duty that night. I got his last appointment of the evening, which was about two hours from when I called. Of course, in those two hours, my arm magically got better. It still felt a little tingly, but I kept my appointment. My doctor probably thinks I’m some crazy hypochondriac, coming in twice in a week.

When I got to the doctor’s office they did the routine stuff before he came in: blood pressure, pulse, temperature… and I had a temperature of 100.3! That was weird. Then the doctor came in and he was awesome and very concerned, and he checked my arm all over and made me push against things and turn it different ways and stuff. The only thing he could think of was that it might have been some sort of bug bite? And of course the high temp was concerning. I asked if he thought it could be related to whatever’s going on with my heart, and he said in young people, usually everything is related. Awesome. I mentioned that I didn’t think the GERD pills were working and he said I hadn’t been taking them long enough yet. Okay…

I felt pretty much the same (noticeably hard heartbeat, occasional pain in chest and left side of my head and neck) for the next few days. On Wednesday morning I had blood drawn for the blood tests the doctor ordered (I rescheduled from Friday afternoon after realizing that it would be easier to fast overnight and go first thing in the morning than to fast all day and go in the afternoon). When I got home I didn’t really feel awesome, but I ate a bowl of cereal just to eat something. Luckily it was my day to work from home, because I felt like garbage all day – lightheaded, chest pain, bla bla bla. I napped a lot and ate a late lunch/early dinner, and that helped some. I had a concert that night and was able to play the entire thing, but by the end I had a horrible burning pain in my left side and left arm.

This morning I felt completely fine (except for being able to feel my heartbeat). No pain or anything. I was great all day at work, until I stretched this afternoon by reaching my hands above my head – which I do all the time throughout the day. Something must have snapped this time, because I got a pain back in my chest, and it’s lasted all night. I think this is the worst chest pain yet, it feels like I was punched right in the sternum. It’s like a muscle pain, not a burning or anything like that.

I mentioned on Twitter that I felt awful, and Kristen mentioned (as many people have been) that I might be having a panic attack. She suggested a half-dose of Benadryl to calm me down. So GG and I ran out to the drugstore, bought some, and took one when I got home. So now I feel very relaxed… although my heart is still pounding and I still feel like I’ve been punched in the chest.

Also today, the doctor’s office called and said the results of my bloodwork were all normal. I know they were testing cholesterol and thyroid, not sure what else, I guess just normal blood stuff? So let’s see, how many tests and exams have all been totally normal since this started? An EKG, chest x-rays, bloodwork at the hospital, bloodwork for cholesterol and whatever else…

One week until I see a cardiologist..!

Linky Thursday – 6/25

Tiny Art Director: Read this artist’s young daughter’s critiques of his work.

24 Ridiculous Pictures of Boy Bands: Mostly cheesy poses in baggy outfits, but wow, some of these are unbelievable. (Suggested by Jen)

Did You Know? “We are living in exponential times”: Very cool video with facts about all the information available to us today and in the future. For example, if MySpace were a country, it would be the 5th largest in the world!

Review of “The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America’s Largest Families—How They Do It”

I picked the Duggars’ book up from the library on my way home from work on Friday, and finished reading it on Sunday morning (and keep in mind that I was out of the house most of Saturday). It is a very quick read. I only wish that I had taken notes while reading, because there were some things that I thought when I came across them that I wanted to mention in a review, and of course now I’m probably forgetting some.

The book isn’t really a how-to guide for families. There’s a little of that, but it’s mostly about the Duggars’ background and how their family came to be in the position we now see it. It starts with Jim Bob and Michelle’s childhoods – Jim Bob’s family was always struggling, his parents had different jobs all the time, and he just had a very difficult life. When he was five years old, an older kid convinced him to steal a box of Cracker Jacks from a store, he was caught, and he turned his life around, or something. Michelle had a more comfortable life growing up, but one time she took some money out of a lady’s purse at a pool and was going to spend it at the snack bar when she was caught, and turned her life around. They didn’t meet until they were in high school (different schools), and they married as soon as Michelle graduated because her family was moving out of state.

The next few chapters follow their lives and growing family. They started out selling cars, then added a towing business, ran a convenience store for a while (which was nothing but trouble), bought and sold some real estate, and eventually bought the 20-acre property where their current home is located, which also includes a former chicken hatchery that they rent out as storage space. They moved houses several times during this period. Most of their early years were spent living with a whole bunch of kids in a 900 square foot home on their used car lot, but then they moved to the house they lived in during their first TV special, and on TV we saw them move from there to a rental, and finally their kajillion square foot home where they live today. They gained some recognition during Jim Bob’s time in the state legislature and his run for Senate, their story caught the eye of TLC, who wanted to do a TV special on the family, the show became one of the most popular things on TLC and Discovery Health, and the rest is history…

One of the main ideas that’s stressed in their story is basically to stick to your convictions and things will work out for you. They don’t say it this way of course (they just emphasize their convictions, which you are recommended to follow), but I’m interpreting it this way. They believe in living debt-free, so even though there have been times when they could have gotten what they needed by borrowing some money, they didn’t do it, and instead some other opportunity came up where they got what they needed without having to borrow. Any time they want or need anything they pray about it, and whatever they needed magically turns up (a blanket, someone to help with laundry, a piano, trucks full of dirt, whatever).

My number one biggest complaint about this book is that it’s written mostly in first person singular (though sometimes it’s first person plural, and occasionally third person) and the “narrator” switches back and forth between Jim Bob and Michelle, with no way to tell who’s “speaking” at any given moment, until they clarify it with a line like, “Then I (Michelle) did such and such.” There were several times I found I was reading in the wrong “voice,” and that’s just inconvenient.

My number two biggest complaint, which is also a really huge complaint, was the horrible layout of the book. Every page is broken up with captioned photos, side stories, recipes, Q&A, which are so annoying when you’re trying to read straight through, and also are rarely even related to whatever the topic of that page/section is. I think the recipes stuck everywhere were the worst. It would have been much better, in my opinion, to include a recipe section in the back with all their other “resources.” Instead, they’re in highlighted boxes throughout the text, and it’s very disconcerting to be in the middle of reading about potty training and then bump into a recipe for pot roast, or to have the story of Jim Bob almost getting murdered by car thieves interrupted with a recipe for “Lemonappleade.” Also, that makes it hard to go back and find a recipe if you decide you want to try one. I never would. Almost every ingredient is a canned vegetable, or something pre-made and packaged like barbecue sauce, tuna, candy bars, etc. The infamous Tater Tot Casserole recipe is in there, as is a very similar Hash-Brown Casserole, which I actually thought was the same recipe, until I came to the TTC later in the book. On one hand, this is horrible, but on the other hand, at least those girls aren’t also tasked with chopping veggies and whatnot. They set up an assembly line with their little brothers to open the cans instead. (The only fresh produce I remember seeing was chopped onion that was used as a topping for chili, and potatoes that they roast in the oven and call French fries.) Ugh, the worst recipe was probably the Chili-Frito Pie, which consists of a pile of Fritos on a plate, topped with canned chili beans and cheddar cheese – they serve this when friends come over to help them move. Also, the servings are totally inconsistent – some of the recipes serve 4-6, some serve 20, some just say “serves a crowd.”

The one useful tip that I may actually utilize in my own life is Michelle’s system for organizing during a move. (However, it’s not actually her own system, she got it from another book.) Boxes are color-coded and numbered, and contents of each box are listed on a color-coded and numbered index card. All the cards are kept together, so you know exactly where every item is, and where each box goes in the new house.

They really gloss over any unsavory aspects of their lifestyle, but the one that bothered me most was the constant references to “training” and “correcting” children. Training is something you do with a dog, yet Jim Bob and Michelle train their children to happily and immediately respond to any command given by them or god. (Oh yeah, did you know that when you feel like you have to go to the bathroom, it’s actually god telling you you have to go, so you need to obey immediately so there’s no accidents? That’s part of their potty training.) Correcting for them seems to be a synonym for punishment, but they don’t really go into how they correct their children, which leads me to believe that it’s too awful to write about. I’ve heard things, but it’s all just rumor and speculation. (For example, Michelle writes about blanket training, but there’s no mention of the “hitting with wooden spoons” part of the system.) I don’t even want to mention their “schooling” – as a quick summary, they learn to read from alphabet workbooks, then they’re pretty much on their own for most subjects, and all the children come together to study the IBLP Wisdom Booklets for history, science, law, and medicine (with lessons about Biblical “character qualities” woven into each topic). I hope the kids end up making real estate transactions as lucky as their parents, because otherwise I don’t know what types of careers they’ll be able to have that let them keep all their extremely conservative standards, never spend any time away from their families, and afford and care for herds of children.

One thought that occurred to me as I read, was in response to the speculation that Jordyn-Grace (Duggar #18, unborn at the time the book was written [but still included in the 20 total Duggars in the title]) might be the last child born. I didn’t really notice it myself, but a lot of people mentioned that Michelle seemed extra sad on the show when she mentioned the possibility of having more kids, and it’s possible the doctor really recommended she not have any more, or that she had to have some sort of emergency hysterectomy or something. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Michelle knew she couldn’t have any more kids after Jordyn-Grace, because any subsequent kids wouldn’t be included in the 20 referenced in the book title, and wouldn’t even be mentioned in the book. For a family so concerned with not leaving anyone out that they gave 18 kids names starting with the letter J, it would be weird to leave someone out of the family book (even if they weren’t yet conceived).

There’s a lot of photos with captions in this book. Most of them you’ve probably already seen if you are out and about on the internet. There were a couple older ones that caught my eye, though. In one, Michelle is in a zebra-stripe lame top while pregnant with John David and Jana. In another, Jinger and another sister in the background are wearing some sort of pants/pantaloons while Jim Bob is working on a floor tile project (it looks like they’re wearing long t-shirts over them).

So overall, I’m glad to have read it, but also glad I didn’t spend any money on this book (not even buying used and saving the difference).

Here’s another review of the book from Duggars Without Pity – fostersmom really makes a lot of the same points I do and has the same types of comments.

Summer Solstice

Yesterday was so much fun! My band was the opening act at the Summer Solstice Celebration at the Kimmel Center, a 15-hour event that culminated with a sunrise drum circle at 6 AM. Our performance was at 3:30 in Verizon Hall, which is basically like the best place ever to perform music. The Philadelphia Orchestra performs there. The concert went really well and we actually had quite a crowd there. Unfortunately my heart is still freaking out so I couldn’t really enjoy myself, but the hour-long concert definitely went by really quickly.

When my performance was over, GG and I walked back to the car (in the pouring rain!) and I dropped off my clarinet and got changed. Then we went back to the Kimmel to check out some of the other events. We had wristbands so we could come and go all day. It was pretty crowded, but we saw a bunch of stuff: a Mummers string band, some sort of multi-level craft show, some Philadelphia Songwriters Project contest winners, a bluegrass band, and some other stuff that was just going on out in a lobby area.

At 7:00, I got a call from this guy Scott who I went to college with. He was the president of my fraternity the year I joined, and he was Julia’s Big. He lives a couple blocks away from the Kimmel, so when he saw I was playing there, he suggested we meet up for drinks after my show. He came by to meet us outside, and I figured we were just going to go somewhere for a quick drink. We ended up spending all night together! We first went up to his apartment, which is on the top floor of this house with like a million flights of stairs. Seriously, I don’t understand how there’s so many stairs, looking at the place from outside it doesn’t seem that tall. And inside his apartment is another flight of stairs to get to his bedroom – but we didn’t go up that one, we just sat in the living room and he and GG drank beer and we all talked. Eventually we headed out to this bar that he likes, which neither GG nor I had heard of, but apparently it’s the oldest bar in Philadelphia! It’s a very old looking little place that’s on a street which is actually like an alleyway (the rest of the street is lined with the dumpsters of the surrounding businesses). It was pretty crowded and loud in there, but we got a table and had some drinks and the boys had sandwiches and I got some potstickers. We had a lot of fun, played songs on the jukebox, and talked for a long time.

Eventually we headed out of there and thought we were just going to go our separate ways, but then Scott suggested we get dessert. It was after 10 PM at this point and most stuff was closed, but he said there was an ice cream place near his house that was open. So we went there, and got some water ice. A “small” cup there is like a 16 oz. cup and it’s only $1.90! So we all ended up with these huge cups of water ice and gelato. It was starting to rain again, so instead of eating at the sidewalk tables there, we went back to Scott’s place. We ended up sitting there for a couple more hours, eating and drinking and talking. It was so much fun. Around midnight I was getting really tired, and GG wasn’t feeling so good either (probably the burger he’d had earlier), so we decided to call it a night and head out.

GG wanted to stop back at the Kimmel one more time to use their bathroom before driving home. We got back in and he went to the bathroom while I watched a drag queen show. (The crowd and performances at midnight were definitely very different from what was happening when we were there earlier in the evening!) GG came up from the bathroom and we were heading to the door when someone came running up and tapped him on the shoulder. It was one of the guys from Animosity Pierre! They had been performing in one of the events there that had just ended – if we had known we would have come to see them! So we talked for a little while, and then we all had to leave, so we finally headed home and got back probably around 1:30.

Not only was it the longest day of the year, it was also just a long day for me!

My Aioli

The other night I attempted to recreate the patatas bravas from Amada, by just roasting some bite-sized peeled potato chunks. (Didn’t bother to cut them into cylinders or whatever.) I tried that smoked paprika aioli recipe, but wasn’t quite happy with it. It was probably because I used extra virgin olive oil, and the flavor was too strong. Also, the oil didn’t really get incorporated all the way, so the end result was kind of… oily. So then I tried my back-up plan, which was just to mix smoked paprika with regular mayo. I was also not happy with that, the mayonaise flavor was too strong. So I added some of the first recipe into the second batch, a spoonful at a time, until I was happy with the flavor. Doing it that way worked out quite well. It was good on the potatoes (though they were no Amada patatas bravas), and was also good on sweet potato fries for lunch yesterday.

Tomorrow is my big exciting concert! I’ll write about it here after it happens, of course, but if you’re my friend on Facebook you probably noticed I was pimping it out recently.

And now, I leave you with a picture of me eating a giant ice cream sandwich last night:

Open wide for the Yodeler!

Rainy Summer, Heartburn?, Duggars “Big Family in Big Sandy”

What a rainy summer this has been so far. Yet another outdoor concert has been affected – tonight’s concert at a retirement community has been moved inside. I don’t know if we’ve ever played indoors at this place, but I’m pretty sure whatever space they have is going to be crowded and loud, because our band is huge!

So I went to the doctor today. It’s a new doctor, and oh my gosh, I already love this office! So much better than my last doctor (which, by the way, I have a bad review of to post on Angie’s List – but I’m waiting until they transfer my records to the new guys so I know they won’t sabotage anything). After checking everything out, listening to my story, and even reading my 2 pages of notes I’ve been taking every day on my symptoms and what I’ve been doing (he even photocopied my notes!), the doctor says… it’s heartburn? So I have some Prilosec to take for a week, and if that helps, then I can pick up some prescription-strength stuff. Also, I’m having bloodwork done on Friday afternoon (and have to fast for 12 hours before that, ugh) to check my cholesterol and stuff. He said to avoid fatty and fried foods, too. But those are the best foods! Just kidding, I think I really do eat pretty well, especially recently, actually.

I would write something about the Duggars last night, but the episode was really pretty boring. I wish they’d explained more about ATI and Bill Gothard, but of course that would turn off too many people if they actually showed their true colors. Instead, let’s see more about how they take 1,000 pairs of underwear for their weeklong trip! Also, another good quote from Josh, on how he and Anna first met in the line for the concession stand at the ATI conference: “You are what you eat.” There’s something dirty in there, I just can’t quite put my finger on it… And Jim Bob being asked to autograph a fan’s hairspray bottle was fantastic! The best part, though, was Michelle saying some kids might meet their future spouse at the conference. Focus on John David. Cut to Erin Bates. Ooohh!! (Even though Erin is adorable and talented and I would love to see her end up with John David, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was actually being fixed up with Michaela, considering she’s closer to his age. Nor would I be surprised to see Jana hook up with Zach Bates – now that would be a good looking fundie couple!)

Ohhh Heart.

First of all, I am so grateful to have so many concerned friends (both real-life friends and people I’ve never even met)!

Now, so I don’t have to tell the same story five thousand times, here’s what’s been happening:

On Wednesday, June 3, I was driving to band practice when I felt a pain in my chest. The only thing I could think of was Bart Simpson whining, “Dad, my heart hurts,” when Homer told him to butter his bacon. The pain went away during practice, but came back stronger that night and was more like pressure in the middle of my chest. I got concerned and talked to my mom, she said it was probably either a pulled muscle (from what? the most strenuous thing I’d done all day was vacuum) or gas pain/heartburn. She came over the next day and took my blood pressure and pulse and listened to my breathing and said it was all normal. (She’s a nurse, btw.)

Since then, I’ve had that same pressure in the middle of my chest at varying levels of intensity. It seems to get worse when I’m laying down, like if I’ve just gotten into bed for the night. I tried taking both Tums (in case it was gas – no real effect) and Advil (in case it’s a muscle thing – maybe helped?). The pressure also got a little more intense during long band concerts. My heart also felt like it was beating really hard and really fast sometimes, at times when it shouldn’t have been, like if I were just sitting still at the computer or watching TV, or going to bed.

Over this past weekend I was actually feeling mostly okay and thinking I might be getting better, but then Sunday night as I lay down to go to sleep the pressure in my chest felt pretty bad. The next morning (yesterday), my heart felt like it was beating really hard. That went away by the afternoon, and after work I actually went out and did some errands (which involved going up and down a few sets of steps), came home, made dinner, and sat on the sofa with GG for a little bit. I got up and went upstairs to collect our trash to take out, and after climbing the stairs my heart was pounding like I’d run a marathon! It continued beating that hard for the rest of the night, even as I just lay still and tried to relax.

When I went to bed, I counted my heart rate at close to 100 bpm, which is probably not what a healthy person’s heart should be doing as they’re laying down to fall asleep. So GG took me to the hospital at about 10 PM. They first did an EKG on me, which was normal. Then I got chest x-rays, which were also normal. Then they drew a ton of blood, I don’t know what they tested it for, but that was all normal. And while I waited for all these results, I was hooked up to heart and oxygen monitors, and that was all normal. So they sent me home with a referral for a cardiologist (who I’m seeing in a couple weeks), and I’m also seeing a regular doctor tomorrow. The ER doctor assured me I wouldn’t die in my sleep, so at least I have that going for me.

I didn’t get home until after 3 AM (GG had gone home to sleep a little, and I called him to pick me up when I was done), so I took half a sick day this morning so I could sleep in a bit. That makes 8 hours of sick time that I’ve taken in the last 2 years. Since I was hired in 2005, I’ve taken 5 total days of sick time. Wow, I’m healthy.