Sunday, June 25, 2017

Surprise Breakfast on Saturday

On Saturday morning, I woke up to the sound of daughter moving around in the kitchen.  At first, I thought she was making her coffee.  Then, I thought that maybe she was making herself some oatmeal.  When I went to the kitchen to see what she was doing, this is what I saw:

She was brewing my tea and making me breakfast as a surprise!  Scrambled eggs and pancakes.  She said she would have fried bacon, too, except she didn't know if I had any and if so, where it was kept (I had a package in the freezer).  She said she thought that if she was going to spend the day helping her friend prepare for his party, then, she could at least make me breakfast!  Of course, she left me the dishes to do, as she hates doing the dishes!  But that was fine with me, as I don't mind doing the dishes and, in any case, I was planning to run the dishwasher, today.

Daughter left shortly after breakfast.  Her friend came to pick her up and they picked up another friend who was going to do the cooking and then they were going grocery shopping and so forth.

I spent a relaxed morning watching some TV shows now that the TV is working again.  I enjoy the Saturday morning shows on the public television channels - quilting, knitting and crochet, sewing, cooking, etc. 

Later, I did a load of laundry and ran the dishwasher.  Then, I attached new elastic to the waistband of one of my skirts.  I was getting ready to alter the waistband of another skirt, as well, but then, I noticed that there was a tear in the fabric of the skirt.  I could have darned it, but it was an old skirt and I decided to toss it, instead.

I also renewed a pillow.  I had two small pillows, bought a couple of years ago, which had an inner covering that had deteriorated.  I pulled the fiberfill out of both pillows, stuffed it all into an old pillowcase, and sewed the opening closed to make myself one new pillow:

Renewed Pillow
 Later, I watered the front garden.   These pictures were taken a couple of days ago:

Dusty Miller and Gladioli

Gladioli Close Up

Baby Pomegranate
After that, I cooked rice, green beans, and a meatball curry using some of the frozen meatballs I had bought earlier.  Half an apple for dessert.

Daughter came home later in the evening and we chatted for a bit before she went to bed.  I should be going to bed, too, as soon as I've finished this post and cleaned the litter box. 

On Saturday, I was grateful for:
- Daughter cooking me a surprise breakfast
- Daughter is able to spend the weekend doing fun things with her friends
- Machines that do the work for us - washing machines, dishwashers, sewing machines, etc.
- Cooking and sewing shows on TV
- Phone calls from friends and aunt

How was your Saturday?  Have you woken up to a surprise breakfast being cooked for you?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer Joy List

The Spring Joy List worked out quite well and I decided to do a Summer Joy List, as well.  Some items on the list  remain the same, as they do bring me joy no matter how often I do them.  Others have changed and I've shortened the list a little. 

This summer marks the second year since my cancer diagnosis.  It will also be the summer when the follow-up mammogram will confirm if I am in remission or not.  I want to make sure that each day I am blessed to live is filled with as much joy as it possibly can.

Here is my Summer Joy List:

1.  Daily prayer and contemplation
2.  Continue to drink my tea or coffee in my favorite cups
3.  Continue to interact daily with my daughter
4.  Invite aunt and cousin to a meal
5.  Go out to lunch or dinner with a friend
6.  Visit a neighbor
7.  Do a craft project or two
8.  Do more gardening
9.  Bring more fresh flowers and greenery into my home
10. Play with fabric
11. Visit the farmers market
12. Visit the library
13. Music - listening and singing
14. Indulge in summer fruits
15. Declutter the house/decorate for summer
16. Strawberry lemonade

Anyone else making a summer joy list?

Spring Joy List Review

Time to review my Spring Joy List, which was for the period between March 21 to June 20:

1.  Daily prayer and contemplation: take time to appreciate this time of renewal - Have been saying my prayers daily.
2.  Continue to drink my tea in my favorite cups - I've gone back to drinking coffee, but I have a favorite cup for coffee, as well.
3.  Continue to chat daily with my daughter - We've been doing this every day.
4.  My daughter's next visit home (in April or May) - She visited over the Mother's Day weekend, which was lovely and is visiting again, this weekend!
5.  Savor my last jar of homemade apple and pomegranate jam! - The jam is just a memory, now!

Flowers from the Garden

6.  Visit the temple - Visited the temple and made donations
7.  Do a craft project: make a birthday card for my sister - I made a thank you card for my supervisor, instead
8.  Do more gardening: plant a vegetable garden, scatter some flower seeds - the flower seeds didn't do anything, but the vegetable garden was planted and at least one zucchini has been harvested!
9.  Celebrate Sri Lankan New Year (April 13) - Celebrated it in spirit.
10. Bring in more fresh flowers and greenery - Did that several times

Zucchini Growing in the Garden

11. Play with fabric - Not to the extent I would have liked.
12. Visit the farmers' market - Visited it regularly
13. Visit the library - Visited the library several times; even borrowed some books to read! 
14. Read a book or two (or more) - Read a few
15. Do more sketching - Doodled a bit, but that wasn't really sketching, as such.

One of the Books from the Library

16. Naps on the sofa! - Oh, yes!  Several!
17. Take in the sunsets - Almost every evening.
18. Music - listening and singing - Quite often.
19. Arrange to video chat with a friend - Video chatted with my friend
20. Indulge in strawberries!  - Did so several times, included the one strawberry my one plant bore before it died!

The Single Strawberry Harvested!

Did you do a Spring Joy List?  If so, were you able to do some of the joy-inspiring things you wanted to do?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thursday: Farmers Market and Daughter Comes Home

On Thursday, I went to the office.  During my lunch break, I went to the weekly farmers market.  This time, I remembered to take my cell phone with me to take some pictures. There are stalls set up along the sidewalk and in a courtyard area:

Breads and Other Baked Goods

The sellers offer a variety of items from fresh produce to cooked food and hand crafted items such as homemade soap.  I bought a croissant from my favorite French bakery stall (but forgot to take a picture of that!)

After work, I picked up the Thai food my daughter had requested for dinner - beef fried rice and chicken satay with peanut sauce.

Then, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few items: milk ($1.99), bread ($1.99) and bananas ($.59/lb).  My total came to $5.18.

June 22 Groceries
(Yes, Mr. Nosy came to see what was going on, as usual.)

After that, it was time to go to pick up daughter.  Her flight was delayed, so she arrived an hour later than scheduled, but she's here, safe and sound!  We had dinner, chatted, and looked through some photo albums/scrapbooks, together. Daughter "fixed" the TV so now it works again.

One of my friends had called and left a message, so I called her back.  One of my neighbors called, too, and I chatted a bit with her.

On Thursday, I was grateful for:
- My daughter had a safe flight home
- Daughter is home for the weekend
- Weekly farmers markets
- Safe driving to and from office, etc.
- A working TV

Thursday's To Do List:
- Office - DONE
- Bank
- Farmers Market - DONE
- Change bed sheets - DONE
- Laundry
- Grocery store for milk - DONE
- Pick up Thai food for dinner - DONE
- Pick up daughter from the airport - DONE
- Hug a daughter! - DONE!

Friday's To Do List:
- Bank
- Pharmacy
- Pet supplies store for kitty litter
- Laundry
- Spend time with daughter
How was your Thursday?  Did you have a good day?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Wednesday - Sorting out the Dental Situation and the First Day of Summer

Thank you, all, for being so supportive of me as I went on and on about the dental situation.  I believe I might have over-reacted a bit.  I had felt overwhelmed by all of the recommended procedures and the costs, especially.  I had taken a quick look at the detailed list of recommended procedures the dentist had given me, that first day, saw numbers like $2,600, $2,000, etc. per tooth, did a quick mental tally, saw that it added up to at least $10,000 and felt stunned.  I just clutched the estimate and my antibiotics prescription and practically ran out of the clinic! Later, I added up the costs with a calculator and it came to $10,890.  I wondered if the dentist was just trying to get as much money as he could out of me!

The bit about bone grafts needed for the implants and my radiation oncologist voicing his concern about bone necrosis got me even more worried.  Then came all the drama to get the medical clearance.  The last straw, in a way, was the appointment for the deep cleaning ahead of the extractions.  I wasn't expecting that, at all.  I felt very confused and didn't know what to do. 

Earlier, when I went to see the dentist for the second time for additional antibiotics, I did tell him that I only wanted the extractions done, now, and wanted to wait on the implants until I can change my insurance coverage.  He said something to the effect that he had given me his recommendation and left it at that.  At the time, I was still dealing with a tooth ache, so I wasn't thinking too clearly.

Last night, when I said my prayers, I prayed for guidance on this matter.  Today, I felt calmer.  I called my insurance and I verified what was covered and what was not (some of the deep cleaning is covered; what dentist has listed on his estimate was the part that was not covered - mostly medications, apparently); extractions are covered for $15 per tooth (but I am also being charged $15 by dentist - perhaps the difference between his regular charges and what insurance covers?  But $15 per extraction seems reasonable to me and I will not quibble about that).  What is not covered are the implants and implants-related procedures and the crown listed for one tooth.  I will have to pay out of pocket for those (and they are the more expensive items).

I asked the insurance customer service person about getting a second opinion and what I needed to do if I chose to change dentists (I have to ask new dentist if his clinic accepts my coverage, first of all, and then, call the insurance to have them transfer me to new dentist).   My one cousin's dentist is out of the network, so any work he does won't be covered at all.  I also got another cousin's dentist's information (he's a new dentist for her, too, assigned to her by her insurance and she hasn't had any work done by him, yet).  I didn't call yet, though.  Maybe I'll call and see if he's in the network or not.  
But now that I've calmed down a bit, I think I will go to my currently assigned dentist for the deep cleaning appointment, ask him why the deep cleaning has to take place before the extractions (maybe it is to ensure I'll do the deep cleaning as opposed to getting the extractions done and then, disappearing!) and take it from there.  If I can get the deep cleaning and extractions done for now, it will all come to under $1,000 and I can manage that.  In October, when it is open enrollment again, I can look into a different dental plan with more coverage.  It won't go into effect till January, however.

In other news, I went to the office again, today.  There was a cultural festival in the courtyard of the building where I work to celebrate Caribbean heritage with music, limbo dancing, and a catered buffet lunch to which we were invited.  My supervisor and I went together and stood in line to be served rice and beans, chicken, fried plantain, cole slaw (don't think that's very Caribbean!) with a slice of caramel frosted cake and a coconut tart for dessert!

Caribbean Lunch
It was very good.  Not spicy hot, but very nicely flavored.  Especially welcome because I hadn't taken a packed lunch, today, only an orange.  I had intended to eat a chicken salad and crackers snack kit that I had at my desk.  Free Caribbean food was better.

To make up for that big lunch, I had a salad for dinner:

Salad Dinner
Lettuce, roast chicken breast, grated carrot, and some canned mandarin segments with bottled dressing.  Just right for a warm summer night.  Yogurt for dessert.
Daughter said there was an earthquake near Berkeley this afternoon and she felt it while she was at a meeting.  Fortunately, it was a relatively minor quake of 3.0 magnitude.   But it was centered on the Hayward fault which goes directly under Berkeley, so I worry any time there is an earthquake in the area. 

Today, I am grateful for:

- Getting my dental situation sorted out, somewhat
- Free lunch!
- Today's earthquake near Berkeley was relatively minor and daughter is OK
- Emails from a friend
- The pharmacy refilled one of my medications without any problems!

Wednesday's To Do List:
- Go to the office - DONE
- Call cousin's dentist to make an appointment for a second opinion  - NOT DONE/Changed my mind
- Call dental insurance - DONE
- Call the oncologist's office - DONE
- Go to the bank - Thursday
- Put away laundry - DONE
- Water the garden - DONE
- Change my bed sheets and remake bed - Thursday
- Laundry - Thursday
- Pharmacy - DONE

I didn't get all of my to do list done; I went to the Caribbean festival instead of going to the bank during my lunch, today.  

Thursday's To Do List:
- Office
- Bank
- Farmers Market
- Change bed sheets
- Laundry
- Grocery store for milk
- Pick up Thai food for dinner
- Pick up daughter from the airport
- Hug a daughter!  :)

How was your Wednesday and first day of summer?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Warm Tuesday and a Spam Alert

Today, I went to the office and spent the day in air-conditioned comfort.  I don't know how warm it got today, but it was 95F when I got home at 6:30 p.m.  I had an early dinner, changed the bed sheets on my daughter's bed, did a load of laundry, and put away an earlier load of laundry.  One of my friends called and I chatted to her for a bit.

Earlier in the day, I had texted my cousin and got the name and phone number of her dentist.  He is not covered under my insurance, but I thought I will call and make an appointment to see him to get a second opinion.  I haven't called him yet, though.

Spam Alert:  Recently, in the past week or so, I have been getting a large volume of spam comments, which has been unusual.  They have all said "Anonymous" and I have opened some because I know I've one or two regular readers who comment as "Anonymous".   All of these spam comments seem to be links to various sites, but really, I am not interested in learning how to enlarge certain body parts and so forth.  Therefore, in these last couple of days, I have been deleting all Anonymous comments without opening them, because I am afraid some might contain a virus or something, and I will continue to do so for a few more days.  So, this is to alert those of you who are regular readers who comment anonymously, I might unknowingly delete your valid comments among others.  I do apologize in advance if I delete your comments.  But, for the next few days, at least, be advised that I will not be opening any anonymous comments. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- Air conditioning at the office
- Fans at home
- Phone calls and emails from friends
- Video chatting with my daughter
- Safe commutes

 Tuesday's To Do List:
- Go to the office - DONE
- Bring the trash cans in - DONE
- Change bed sheets and remake beds - DID Daughter's bed
- Laundry (bed sheets) - DID one load
- Freeze the overripe bananas (too hot to bake!) - DONE

Wednesday's To Do List:
- Go to the office
- Call cousin's dentist to make an appointment for a second opinion
- Go to the bank
- Put away laundry
- Water the garden
- Change my bed sheets and remake bed
- Laundry

How was your Tuesday?  Is it hot where you are, too?

Monday: Doctor's Appointment and Medical Clearance

Today, I received a call from the clinic at 8:00 a.m. to confirm the afternoon appointment with the doctor.  They had called me on Friday and left a message, but by the time I came home after jury duty, it was too late to call them back.  I confirmed that I will be there in time for today's appointment. 

My appointment was at 1:00 p.m.  I was at the clinic with 15 minutes to spare.  But, by the time I was checked in, weighed, blood pressure checked etc., and seen by the doctor, it was past 1:30 p.m.  My pressure was good and I gave them the record of daily readings I had been keeping, as well.  The doctor checked me and signed the medical clearance form.  It was close to 2:30 p.m. when I left the clinic. 

I came home and had a late lunch.  There was an email from my supervisor, so I called her back in response. 

Then, I called the dentist's office to tell them I received the medical clearance and to make an appointment.  Next week Wednesday was the earliest they could give me and, according to the receptionist, it was for a deep cleaning!  Um, what about my extractions?  I would have thought the deep cleaning could wait until after the extractions were done!  The receptionist said that that was something I'd have to discuss with the dentist, once I see him!    Oh, dear!  As if things weren't stressful enough!

After all that, I felt sleepy!  I tried to stay awake, but gave up and took a nap!  From approximately 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.!  No doubt that is going to mess up my sleep patterns even more! 

Later, I watered the garden, front and back, took the trash cans to the curb, handwashed a few items of clothing, and put away the laundry I had already done.  A few hangers have now been put back the normal way, indicating those garments have been worn. 

One of my cousins called to tell me about the passing of a family friend and I called her daughter to sympathize with her.

Later, I video chatted with my daughter.  She'll be home in time for dinner on Thursday night.  She asked for take out from our favorite Thai food place, so I'll pick up our dinner on my way home from work, that day. 

It has been another fairly warm day with the highs in the low 90s.  It will continue to be in the upper 80s and low 90s for the next 10 days according to the weather forecast.  No rain, of course.  0% precipitation, according to the forecast.  Summer is here!

Today, I am grateful for:
- The doctor's appointment went well.
- My pressure was good.
- I received my medical clearance.
- The dental appointment has been made, even if it is for a teeth cleaning and not the extractions!
- Early evening naps.

I have not been posting to do lists, lately; time to start posting them again, I think.

Tuesday's To Do List:
- Go to the office
- Bring the trash cans in
- Change bed sheets and remake beds
- Laundry (bed sheets)
- Freeze the overripe bananas (too hot to bake!)

How was your Monday?  Did you have a good start to your week?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Weekend in Review

Saturday morning, there were several phone calls going back and forth, coordinating rides to that evening's monthly prayer gathering.  The first phone call woke me up and I followed it up with two phone calls.  Then, I went back to sleep, only to be woken up by yet another phone call! 

In the afternoon, I put gas to the car and did the weekly grocery shopping.  In the evening, I drove myself to the prayer gathering and gave a ride to a cousin and her daughter.  It was an hour long drive, each way, and this time, I didn't take the wrong freeways (three freeways)!

My friend who hosted this month's prayer gathering had prepared Indian food for the dinner - rice and a type of Indian flat bread called parathas served with various curries - chicken, green peas with spinach, eggplant, potatoes with cauliflower, cucumber and yoghurt salad, and the one non-Indian dish, which was sausages with mixed bell peppers and onions.    For dessert, she had made a fresh fruit salad and there were some mini cakes as well and another friend had made sago pudding - sago, boiled with coconut milk and jaggery.

On Saturday, I was grateful for:
- Being able to sleep in between phone calls
- Being able to drive myself without depending on others for rides
- An evening of prayers and fellowship
- Getting together with friends and family
- A safe drive to the prayer gathering and back

Afterwards, I video chatted with daughter. 

Saturday night, I couldn't fall asleep until 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning!

I had a very late night/early morning meal on Saturday night and that was a mistake - I woke up about 30 minutes later and found myself throwing up!  But then, I changed and slept again.  My neighbor T's weekly Sunday morning phone call woke me up and then, I dozed off again until my daughter called me. Even then, I stayed in bed for another half hour or so before I finally got up!  I felt fine the rest of the day.

I did two loads of laundry in the afternoon and hung them up to dry.  Daughter called a bit later in the afternoon to tell me she was going shopping for some items she needed.  She asked me if I needed her to pick up anything for me, to bring down when she comes to visit at the end of this week.  I've my own personal shopper!  How fun is that?  I asked her to pick up another packet of socks for me and to see if they had a plain black blouse in "my style".  She sent me a picture of a black blouse, but it had cut out shoulders, which wouldn't be suitable for office wear.  I told her not to worry, I will shop for the clothes on my own.  She did find something with Pokemon on it for a friend's daughter's birthday which is coming up in August and bought it; we've learned to buy these specialized items when we find them because, too often, they are not available when we want them!  I will pair it with a gift card to a bookstore and that will be a good gift. When daughter came back from her shopping, she called me and we video chatted so she could show me what she bought. I love it that she wants to share such things with me.

Later in the evening, neighbor T knocked on my door with a small problem and she was so flustered that she couldn't remember her daughter's phone number.  I was able to help her with her problem, but I suggested to her that maybe I should have her daughter's phone number with me so I could contact her if needed any time in the future.  She called me back, later, and gave me her daughter's phone number. 

One of my aunts called me in the night and we had a nice chat.  She was concerned about my upcoming dental procedures and wanted me to let her daughter know when the extractions are scheduled, so my cousin could accompany me!  Earlier, I didn't think the extractions were anything to worry about, but now, I am starting to feel a bit anxious about them!

I also pinned the hems on the new pair of pants I bought, but I didn't sew the hems yet.  I also removed the waistband of another skirt I want to alter.  The original waistband was fitted in the front and elasticized at the back, with the elastic sewn with 3 or 4 bands of stitching.  Not something I could alter by replacing the elastic.  So, I just cut the entire waistband off.  The skirt is long enough that I can refold the top to make a new waistband and pass an elastic through it. 

On Sunday, I was grateful for:
- Feeling fine after that one episode of being sick in the morning
- Being able to help my neighbor with her problem
- Daughter offering to do my shopping for me and showing me what she bought, afterwards
- She was able to find a gift for my friend's daughter's birthday
- Aunt was concerned enough want my cousin to accompany me to my dental procedures.

How was your weekend?   Did you do anything special for Father's Day?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June Grocery Shopping - Week 3

June 17 Groceries

I needed milk, coffee creamer, bananas, and bread; in addition, I wanted to get oil and eggs if they were on sale.   So, after I put gas to the car ($30 worth at $2.75/gal.), I went to the grocery store across the street from the gas station. 

I bought:

1/2 gal. milk = $1.99
32 oz. coffee creamer = $1.99
1 doz. eggs = $.99
1 33 fl. oz. (1 liter) bottle oil = $1.79
10 count sourdough English muffins = $.49
 1 cassava/manioc/yuca root @ $.99/lb = $.84
1/2 lb. green beans @ $1.99/lb = $1.05
3 bananas @ $.59/lb = $.53
Total = $9.6.7

Once I brought them home and took a picture, it didn't take long for them to be closely inspected:

"What did you buy, Mummy?"

I thought the English muffins will make a nice change from regular bread.  The manioc is for Sunday brunch.  The green beans looked very fresh and tender, so I bought some.  I didn't buy more vegetables because I still have the cabbage I bought earlier and the zucchini I picked from the garden, plus carrots, etc.

Just three bananas, because they get ripe too quickly in our heat and I don't like very ripe bananas.  I still have half a papaya, 1 avocado, 1 or 2 kiwis,  the last of the oranges from my tree and some apples, as well, so I don't need a lot of fruit, this week.

I still have 6 eggs, but they'll get used up quickly if I bake this weekend, and I am thinking of making some banana bread with the three overripe bananas I have.  Same for the oil - I still have some in my currently opened bottle, but it needs to be used soon and I'll probably use it up to make the banana bread.

6/17 Grocery Receipt

Grocery spending in June = $7.93 (Week 1) + $14.17 (Week 2) + $9.67 (Week 3)  = $31.77
Amount left in June grocery budget = $75 - $31.77 = $43.23

I might go grocery shopping again, a bit later, this week, as my daughter will be coming home at the end of the week.  But I have more than half the month's grocery budget left for the rest of the month and that will work out well, I think.

For those of you wondering where is Dancer, he's nearby:

Always Keeping an Eye on Things
Have you gone grocery shopping yet, this week?   How is your grocery budget for June coming along?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday: Jury Duty, and Remembering my Step-Father

Patty Pan Squash Flowers

Today, when I looked out from my back door, I saw something bright yellow - the patty pan squash plant had about three or four flowers blooming at the same time!  Today's highs were in the 90s, so, by evening, the flowers had withered.  I'm hoping there were open long enough to get pollinated and I'll get a patty pan squash or two. 

I've had a fairly good day, today.  I woke up every couple of hours in the night because I was a bit anxious that I might oversleep, but I was able to wake up at 6:00 a.m. without too much difficulty.  I  got to the courthouse just as they started juror orientation, which takes about an hour or so.  Once orientation was over, they gave us a 30 minute break.

As luck would have it, I was in the first panel of potential jurors to be called.  I did explain about my upcoming doctor's appointment for medical clearance on Monday afternoon to the judge, but wasn't excused at once.  So, I had to stay the entire day while they interviewed the potential jurors and made the final jury selection.  They needed 12 jurors and 1 alternate.  We were a panel of 35 potential jurors.  One by one, our juror ID numbers were called, and each one was assigned a seat number, with the first one called getting seat #1 and so on.  I was number 33.
One by one we were all questioned - each one had to answer the basic questions: area of residence, marital status, occupation, occupation of spouse/significant other, included ex- or late spouses, number of adults in the household and their occupations, number of adult children (even if they are not living with you) and their occupations, if you've been a juror before, civil or criminal case, and if a verdict was reached.  Depending on the answers given, the judge asked additional questions.  Then, we had to answer another set of questions pertaining to any incidents in our past (arrests, and so forth), interactions with law enforcement personnel, if we understood that in this country, the accused was presumed innocent until proven guilty, and so on. 

Then, the lawyers got to question the jurors; the defense attorney questioned us first, then, the prosecuting attorney.  Then, each attorney received x number of chances to excuse jurors - starting with the 12 people seated in the jury box.  As one juror was excused, another would be called from the general pool, starting with person seated in the #13 spot and so on down the rows.  The last one to be called was #32, as the alternate juror!  I, and the other two remaining potential jurors were then excused and, as it was at the end of the day (after 4:00 p.m.) we were not required to remain in the jury room (some of those who were excused earlier, had to remain in the jury room as potential jurors for any other case until the end of the day).  So, I received my discharge papers (to be turned into my employer) and was able to come home!  I've now served my jury duty for the next 12 months!

I had a quiet evening after I came home.  My gardener friend came by to do the garden and I had him transplant the jasmine vine we had found growing behind the shed (there is another one growing there, under some ferns, but I might leave it there).  Then, he weeded and mulched another of the planting beds.  Later, I called a friend and chatted with her; returned an aunt's phone call, and called a cousin.
Today is my step-father's death anniversary.  30 years since he passed away, peacefully, in his sleep.  He never referred to me as his step-daughter; I was always his daughter and his rainbow. 

Today, I am grateful for:

- I wasn't selected to serve as a juror
- I am now free to schedule my medical appointments without worrying about scheduling conflicts
- Free parking provided for jurors
- Air conditioning at the court house
- Fans in the house

It was another hot day, today, with the temperature in the 90s.  The house felt stuffy, when I came home.  I opened some of the windows and switched on the fan (I can't open all the windows because the screens on some of them are torn and I am afraid Dancer will try to go out through the openings; getting the window screens replaced has been on my "to do list" for awhile).  It is almost 11 p.m. now and the house is finally starting to cool off. 

How was your Friday?  Have you served jury duty?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Darn It Again!

Yesterday, I noticed that there was a small hole in the blue cardigan I had worn to the office:

Blurry Picture of the Hole

The cardigan was a gift from an aunt three Christmases ago.  It is 100% merino wool and I thought I should try to repair it and darn the hole:

Another Look at the Hole

I gathered the items I'd need, including the boxes of embroidery thread and the one reel of navy thread and kept them on the sofa to get my other pair of glasses that I use for sewing.  I should have known.  This is what I found when I came back with the glasses:

Dancer on Top of Things, as Usual

Be careful, Dancer, there's a needle stuck on that reel of thread next to you!

I checked all the blue embroidery thread I had against the cardigan and the reel thread seemed to be the closest in color; everything else was a lighter blue.  So, I chose to darn with the reel thread.

Choice of Thread
Of course, while I was selecting my thread, Dancer was, as usual, helping!

"Blue thread, Mummy?"
"I think this is blue"

"Yes, definitely blue!"

"This one, Mummy!  I found it for you!"

 "Oh, wrong shade of blue?  You don't need it, Mummy?  OK, Dancer play with it, then!"

Dancer found a new toy!

I rescued my embroidery thread from him and finished darning the cardigan.

Darning: Wrong Side

Darning: Right Side

It's noticeable to me because I know where to look for it, but I am hoping it won't be too noticeable when I wear it (it's at the back, a little below the shoulder; if I still had my long hair, it would have been covered by the hair).

In the meantime, someone was pouting behind the sofa:

Sulky Kitty

"Why'd you take away my thread, Mummy?  I was having such a good time with it!"

Dancer Feeling Sad
Those paws tucked under him is his version of crossing his arms!  Eventually, he scratched side of the sofa in revenge and moved on to the sofa to nap.

Sleepy Kitty

Or, maybe not?

"I'm not sleeping, I'm sulking!"
Oh, OK, Dancer, you have a good sulk.  I'll talk to you when you are feeling better.

And a few minutes later, we got distracted by a bird that flew into the window:

"Where Are You, Bird?"

Doctor's Appointment on Wednesday and Combo #4

Wednesday's Outfit
I went with Combo #4 to wear to the doctor's appointment and the office, today.  Ooh, look at that - a shorter skirt!  You can actually see my ankles!  LOL.  I will try the other combinations over the next several weeks.

A long time ago, when one of my cousins first started working, her mother (my mother's oldest sister) advised her to get 15 different outfits for the office, one for each work day for three weeks.  After the end of the 3rd week, cousin would start with outfit #1, again.  According to aunt, by that time, people would have forgotten what she wore that 1st week and it would appear she had a new outfit every day!  Technically, I have more than 15 outfits, but, lately, I've been wearing some of the same items way more frequently than once every three weeks! 

Today, I had a follow-up appointment with the Physician Assistant to check my blood pressure.  I had assumed that if my pressure had been deemed acceptable, then, I'd get my clearance for dental work.  The appointment itself went well enough - my pressure was good, blood sugar was good, weight was OK, etc. The PA had received the abdominal ultra sound results, too, and confirmed that there was no evidence of blood flow to the cyst (which apparently is an indication it is not cancerous), but, since she knew I was still anxious about it, she said she will put in a referral for a biopsy as well for further analysis.  I appreciate that very much.  However, with all this going back and forth to test the blood pressure, it seems they overlooked the initial reason for the visits - the medical clearance! Apparently, I still need to be seen for a "pre-op" consultation by the medical doctor for that! So, I made an appt. for Monday afternoon, which was the earliest they had available. Hopefully, the tooth won't bother me before I get the clearance!

After my appointment, I went to the office and spent the afternoon working on my projects. I felt tired after I came home, and almost fell asleep in my chair, but I didn't take a nap. I had a cup of coffee, instead, returned an aunt's phone calls, chatted with a friend who called, responded to blog comments, and just took it easy.  
I received a lovely card from my cousin who visited from Australia in the mail today:

Card from Cousin

I called about the jury duty, this evening, and was told I don't need to come in tomorrow. Now I am almost positive I'll be called in on Friday!

Today, I am grateful for:
- The availability of medical services
- The blood pressure and other readings were good
- There was parking validation available today (they were out of validation stickers the last time I was there)
- I don't have to report for jury duty in person tomorrow
- Family and friends keeping in contact

How was your Wednesday?  Did you have a good day?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Zucchini Harvest and More Clothing Challenges on Tuesday

The First Zucchini

Today, I harvested my first zucchini!  It practically doubled its size in a couple of days!

Harvested Zucchini
I didn't cook it yet.  I think I have enough to try cooking it a couple of ways.  I found a recipe for baked zucchini, but need to buy parmesan cheese for it.  In the meantime, I'm thrilled to bits about my zucchini harvest!

This morning, getting ready to go to work, I found it a bit of a challenge to find an outfit to wear.  Things I tried on either didn't fit or didn't coordinate with other items!   A black skirt with a blue floral design fitted, but I didn't have a black blouse to go with it and the blue blouse didn't really  match.  The brown pants were too big and so were the old black pair (haven't hemmed the new pair, yet).  Eventually, I settled on my black skirt (the same skirt I wore to lunch with my friend on Saturday) with a salmon pink blouse, and topped it with a black cardigan:

Tuesday's Outfit

Which, as can be seen from the picture, was a slightly different shade of black from the skirt, as it is an old cardigan and faded after much washing:

Different Shades of Black
In the meantime, I had this little pile of discarded clothing on my bed:

 (Spot the Dancer!)

The pile has 3 skirts (which fit, but don't have a blouse to match), 2 pairs of pants (too big), 2 or 3 blouses (too big) and a jacket (too big).  I will be putting aside everything except for the skirts. 

These are the possible combinations I've picked to wear to the doctor's and then, the office, tomorrow:  the skirt is, again, something I sewed with fabric in my mother's stash.

Combo 1: skirt with blue twin set

Combo 2: skirt with cream knit top

Combo 3: Combo 2 worn with the cardigan from the twin set
Combo 4: Combo 2 worn with a navy cardigan
All depends on how things fit and look when I try them on, of course, but I am thinking that combo 4 looks the best.  What do you think?

After I came home from work, I harvested my zucchini, returned phone calls from aunts who had called, and spoke with my half-sister who called.  I called to see if I need to report for jury duty on Wednesday, and was told no. Which means I can go to my doctor's appointment on Wednesday morning, after all.  Still later, I video chatted with daughter.  

Today, I am grateful for:
- Didn't have to report for jury duty today
- Don't have to report for jury duty tomorrow, either
- I can go to my doctor's appointment, tomorrow a.m.
- The first zucchini harvested from the garden!
- Phone calls from family

How was your Tuesday?  Have you harvested anything from your garden, yet?  What are your favorite zucchini recipes?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Rice, Glorious Rice!

SandyExPat had asked me some questions about rice and the presence of arsenic in rice, and had suggested that maybe I could do a blog post on rice, storing it, cooking it, etc.  I couldn't refuse such an invite, now, could I?  :D

I am South Asian by birth.  Rice is our staple food.  We eat it, or dishes made from it or from rice flour, often three meals a day.  We rarely ask, "Have you eaten?"; almost always the phrase we use is, "Have you eaten rice?" When I was a child, all the rice we consumed in our household were grown in my father's rice fields, or paddy fields as they were called, paddy being the name for the unhusked grains of rice.  The rice was grown and harvested twice a year.

Back then, the paddy fields were ploughed using water buffalo to drag the plough, although now, tractors are also used.  However, some paddy fields, which are terraced on the sides of hills, are very narrow, so tractors can't always be used.

The fields are flooded with water and the unhusked seed rice (or paddy) is scattered, usually by hand (at least, that's how it was done when I was growing up; I've no idea if that has changed).  Once the seedlings have grown to several inches high, they are uprooted and transplanted in rows, usually by hand and often by women who bend over and walk backwards, in a line, in the mud and water of a flooded field.  There will be several women in a row, each planting one seedling of rice in front of her, in a straight line, then, taking a step back to plant the next seedling, all the way down the length of the field.  They carry the seedlings to be planted in a bundle in one hand and there are people who will replenish the bundles as needed.  These days, there might be mechanized planting; I really don't know.

Once the rice has grown and is ready to be harvested, it used to be cut by hand, using a type of sickle.  The harvested rice is then threshed to remove from the stalks, husked, and winnowed.  The traditional way to winnow was to scoop a pile of threshed rice in a triangular woven basket, narrow and about 2 or 3 inches deep at one end and wide and flat at the other end and allow the rice to fall from a height.  The heavier grains of rice fall down in a pile and the lighter chaff is blown away by the wind.  Rice is also winnowed by shaking and tossing the rice up and down using this same basket, catching the grains of rice in the basket as they fell while the chaff gets blown away.

The resulting rice is unpolished or brown rice (or, in Sri Lanka, red rice) and is considered more nutritious.  White rice has the inner husk removed and is called polished rice and has a better keeping quality, especially in a tropical country.

The harvested rice used to be stored in what we called gunny sacks (burlap sacks).  Some of the harvest was stored in the rice box, a big wooden chest that was in the kitchen.  The one in our kitchen probably measured 5 feet in length, and was about 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep.  It came up to about waist height of the adult women in the household.  My mother had it custom made and lined with zinc to keep out bugs.  She had it painted blue, I remember.

After my father died, the rice fields were inherited by his children by his first wife as they had been a part of their mother's dowry.  Once the household broke up, for the first time in my life, my mother and I had to buy rice.  This was at a time when rice was rationed and we could only get what was available through our ration cards, which was usually not the type of small grained rice called "samba" that I grew up eating and preferred.  My mother would buy it on the black market, for me!  Yes, I was spoilt!

Sandy's question pertained to the presence of arsenic in rice.  Arsenic is a known poison and a carcinogen; it is present in the soil and, often, in water.  Rice, grown in flooded fields, absorb the arsenic.  Often, it accumulates in the brown husk, so unpolished or brown rice will have more arsenic than white or polished rice.  That makes it hard because brown rice is considered more nutritious than white rice. 

The amount of arsenic ingested depends on how much rice one consumes, of course.  The more rice one eats, the more arsenic is consumed. 

I have read articles that say to soak the rice overnight, before cooking, in a 5:1 or 6:1 ratio of water to rice (5-6 parts water to 1 part rice), drain the water, and then, cook as usual.  Some articles I've read say to cook the rice in 5 to 6 parts water (rather than the usual 2 parts water to 1 part rice) and drain the excess water as one would boil pasta and drain the excess water.  I really don't know about that as I haven't tried it.   I generally rinse my rice in about 3 or 4 changes of water.

Back when I was growing up, the rice, having been threshed and winnowed on the bare ground, would contain small bits of stones and grains of sand!  Preparing the rice to cook involved first spreading the rice out and picking out as many stones as one could see and then, washing the rice by swirling it around in a bowl which had grooves carved around the inside. These bowls were originally earthenware pottery, but later, there were aluminum bowls, as well.  The one I have is aluminum (and it needs a good cleaning!).

Grooved Bowl

I only know the Sinhalese name for these bowls; I don't think there is an English name.

Close up of the grooves:

Groovy!  :D  (You are allowed to groan!)
One would gently move the bowl back and forth to let the water flow out of the grooved bowl, along with the top layer of rice into a bigger basin filled with water.  Then, add more water to the grooved bowl and repeat until most of the rice has flowed out of the bowl.  The stones and sand, being heavier, would sink to the bottom of the bowl and get trapped in the groves.  Usually, the rice was washed at least twice like this, sometimes thrice or however many times it took until no grains of sand would be left behind in the grooves.   And then, cooked.  If the rice had been properly washed, one could eat the rice without any problems.  If it hadn't been properly washed, then, it was common to suddenly crunch on a piece of grit!  LOL!

These days, the rice rarely has sand and grit; just rinsing it is sufficient.  Conventional wisdom is to cook the rice in 2 parts water to 1 part rice.  I am afraid I have never actually measured out 2 parts water to 1 part rice.  The "rule of thumb" I grew up with said to rest the tip of the middle finger on top of the rice and the level of water should reach the first knuckle.  As a result, I've never measured how much water I add!  I just eyeball it - approximately 1/2 inch of water above the layer of rice seems just about right to me.  Maybe, the next time I cook rice, I'll measure the amount of water I put!

These days, I usually use a rice cooker to cook my rice, although I have cooked it on the top of the stove, as well.  When cooking in a pot on the stove top, the way I learned to cook rice was add enough water to reach the 1st knuckle, then cover and boil until it starts to boil over, then, move the lid so the pot is partially uncovered and let it cook until the rice is fully cooked, by which time, all the water is absorbed.  Traditionally, rice was cooked in an earthenware pot, so there was some water evaporation through the pot, as well.

The way to tell if the rice is fully cooked is to take a couple of cooked grains between your thumb and forefinger and mash them.  If there is a grainy bit in the middle, then, add just a bit more water and cook a bit longer.  :) 

It is how I taught my daughter to cook her rice, too.  She, too, cooks it in a rice cooker, but she will dip her finger in to gauge the level of water. 

Occasionally, if one wants a fluffier texture, the washed uncooked grains of rice are sauted in a little ghee (clarified butter), butter, or even oil.  Then, water is added (and sometimes, spices and flavorings) and cooked.  We do this when we make yellow rice, rice pilaf, etc.  The sautéing coats the grains of rice in a film of oil which prevents them from sticking together.

I have also read that it is best to freeze the rice overnight to kill any bugs, but I haven't done that.  I tend to buy my rice in 10 or 20 lb. bags, for the most part and they have stayed bug free so far.  I do have a few large tupperware containers in which I store my rice, once the bags are opened.  

So, am I worried about arsenic in my rice?  Not too much.  Not enough to start soaking my rice overnight, but maybe I should be and do so?  Would that long soaking change the cooking time, I wonder?  How about you?  Do you soak your rice overnight?