Monday, September 28, 2009

Cookies and Butter

It's very bad to go for 2 weeks without posting because then all the things I was going to post about, I didn't post which leads to a meandering and pointless update.

I've been cooking again with a little more joy. Last Friday, not the 25th but the 18th, was a great day. I sat outside and wrote for 5 hours, picked up Z from school, and made cookies. Oatmeal cookies. I haven't made cookies in ten years because I can't eat fewer than four at a time. But now I'm pregnant so four seems like a reasonable number of cookies to eat. Plus, they're filled with all that nutritious oatmeal and butter. Friday the 18th was a great day. Then, things went down hill with a trip to Sedona's Apple Fest where, upon arrival, we learned all the apple blossoms had frozen the spring before. So it was really more like a sell-your-jewelry-in-a-stall fest. And I didn't need any jewelry. Then, other lame and annoying things happened like a complaint about workshop comments, three meetings on Wednesday, a rejection on a manuscript and a meeting on a Friday morning. Dumb week.

But this weekend, things began to improve. Speaking of butter. Erik and Zoe and I made butter in a Nalgene container (BPA's be damned) yesterday. We took some whipping cream and a marble and shook. And by we, I mean mostly Erik. Zoe hit herself in the head. I lost muscle interest early. Then, when we couldn't hear the marble anymore, we poured out the "butter." Erik was like, this is just whipping cream. He also wondered why we didn't use the Kitchen Aid. We knew it could make whipping cream. He also thought this was going to be the most expensive butter ever made ($3 for Horizon's Organic Cream). Or rather the most expensive whipping cream. The whipping cream tasted good but it wasn't butter. I investigated on the internets what went wrong and discovered that you shake the cream until you can't hear the marble any more. Then, you're halfway done (that's the whipping cream). You keep shaking until you can hear the marble again. Then, the butter has separated from the milk. You pour off the buttermilk and then wash the butter. Erik admitted that it was super fun and that the butter tasted good. All half a cup of it. It's not cost-effective but the process leaves you with the feeling of self-sufficiency. I'd like to think that if the end of the world were upon us, and if I had a cow, I could make earth's most precious resource with the aid of a Nalgene bottle, a marble, and Erik's willingness to shake.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spontaneous Camping

It looked like it was going to rain. At least in part of the sky it did. You can see for a long way up here. Part of the sky was black as a parking lot. Another was dotted with white clouds, round but light looking. Another part was blue as a popsicle. I had 10 hours of work scheduled. The house was a mess. We didn't sleep much last week. Zoe had a bad fever for two days. I woke up at 3:45 one morning and didn't go back to sleep until 6.Z still was recovering from a three-week long cold. It was cold. At least at night. The furnace had kicked on the night before. We had no groceries.

And yet, whatever. It would only take an hour to pack the car. I could work while Erik packed. Zoe really, really wanted to go because you know, camp. It has fires. And tents.
By 2:30 we were ready. We stopped at the store for brats and hot dogs, chips and yogurt. And cookies. We wouldn't starve.

Erik drove down logging roads, toward oak creek canyon. We got deeper into forest where dispersed camping spots became more and more dispersed the deeper we went in. As usual, and we'd drive by one camping spot, and say, maybe this one is it. But maybe there's an even better one just a little bit further ahead. We do this a lot, keep looking for the best spot. We drove deeper in. Zoe fell asleep. The problem with this always-a-better-spot mode of camping spot choosing? Sometimes, we look so long it gets dark. Sometimes, we look so long, we have to turn around and go home. It was already 5:00. It gets dark here at 7. We drove so far, we ended up on a ridge that overlooked what was maybe the back part of Oak Creek. The road ended there. If there had been a fire pit, we would have stayed. Instead, we went back two spots to a place with a fire pit and a clearing in the trees.

Erik put up the tent and Zoe and I unrolled the sleeping bags. We made brats. Easy. We made a fire. Zoe fell asleep on her dad's lap. We could hear some lowing in the woods. We decided it must be elk. The clouds moved past and we could see stars. Erik was right. The star I was calling north was not, in fact, the north star at all. Still, I pointed out Orion correctly.

We waited until at least nine, which was impressive, since it had been truly dark for an hour and a half, to go to bed.

Of course, no one slept. Zoe snored. She got a charley horse. Also, in the 3-person tent, Zoe, Erik, me, and Cleo do not really fit. I can't sleep on my stomach except that's the only way I can sleep is on my stomach but on the hard ground, The New Addition (tm Fellner), objects. I turn on my left side and the ground chips away at the bone in my shoulder. I turn onto my right and the ground grinds into my hip. I turn. I get up to pee. I flop and get the sleeping bag all tied up around me and Zoe's sweating because she's sleeping in my too-hot sleeping bag and I have the sleeping bag I got at Wolfe's 20 years ago that is square (which my feet thank god for) and flannel lined and perfect except the part that I was lying on before becomes the part that's on top of me now and the zipper's making it's way down as if the sleeping bag is trying to wring me out. I watch the moon come up which is how I know my north star was really a south-in-the-sky star. The hunters on their ATV's drove by before even the first crack of light. I must have slept a little because I swore at them for waking me up. And then I felt bad for the elk they would be hunting. And then I got up to pee again. (Only my friend Misty knows how many times I pee a night when I'm camping. Erik and Zoe can sleep through it but the tent-zipper sound is tied directly to Misty's disaster-sensory-system. She's been known to abandon the tent and sleep far away from me. She's also been known though to give up the out-of-tent sleeping and put up with me when the mice start to crawl around in her hair, forcing a similar kind of sleep-flexibility on her.)

And yet, even though I didn't sleep much at all and I had gotten no work done and the house was a mess when we got back, it was the most fun I'd had in a long time. Camping, if one thing, teaches you not to be rigid. You don't need a spatula to cook hashbrowns. You don't need a cup to drink your coffee; a bowl works just fine. You don't need to sleep because it's cold outside and you're warm inside your tent. Camping puts a soldering iron to your rigid-- I must sleep, I must have ketchup, I must use toilet paper--metal rivets.

And, I have a plan for next camping trip. First of all, I'd been rigid even in my camping methods. I've always used a sleeping bag because that's what you take camping, right? But I hate them. I get too hot and I get oragami'd in them so tight I can't get out. I'm taking a lesson from Jo's blog and taking many, many blankets, and maybe a mattress camping next time but I am not wedging myself into a straight-jacket-sleep-destroyer unless I'm backpacking. It never occurred to me, because what I gain by being rigid I make up for by being unimaginative, that you could not sleep outside without a sleeping bag contraption. I probably still won't sleep and I'll still feel bad that the house is a mess and I didn't get any work done but at least I will be able to toss and turn rigidity-free.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I have recently discovered the reason why pregnant women wear overalls--regular pants don't fit and maternity pants, with nothing to grab onto but gravity, fall down. Overalls stretch out and hold on not by any usual pant-holding mechanism like hips or butts but via the sturdy, steadfast, non-morphing shoulders.

Would that I would be caught dead in them. But who knows? Maybe the sheer physics of the pants will persuade me?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Too much health care?

2009 has been another banner health year for my health insurance company. It hasn’t been as grim as the 2005, the year Zoe was born and was in the NICA for 3 weeks ($60,000), but unlike 2005, when the NICU stay was inevitable and necessary, some of the health care administered to me seemed entirely due to the fact I had good insurance. In January, my doctor discovered I had high blood pressure. Not really surprising since I’d been prehypertensive before and living at high elevations can exacerbate hypertension. Plus, my dad had high blood pressure and my grandmother had high blood pressure. Circumstance predicted I would too. Not great news but not the end of the world either—The cardiologist I was sent to prescribed good medications and the smallest dose seemed to manage the symptoms well. But the cardiologist wanted to be sure it was just run-of-the-mill hypertension. So he scheduled me for a CT scan and an echo-cardiogram. The echo-cardiogram was painful. The CT scan stressful. Both were normal.
Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this if the scans hadn’t been normal but all evidence suggested they would be. Perhaps if the mediation hadn’t worked then maybe the cardiologist should have run those tests. Perhaps if I had any symptoms, chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, then he should have run the tests. But what was it to him, the tests? My time and a big check to him..
A couple of weeks after the echo, I got a bill in the mail for $3,460 for the procedure. This wasn’t good for my heart. $3,460 for an hour long ultrasound test that was administered by a insensitive tech? I’m sure the big bucks were for the machine as much as the cardiologist and the tech. I freaked out, called the office. Obviously, my insurance just hadn’t tracked. They fixed it. No problem. Except when I received the statement from the insurance company, the cost of the procedure, $3,460 showed in the left hand column. To the right, the amount allowed by the insurance company. It read $789. The cost of the procedure had been reduced, thanks to the bargaining power of the insurance company, to less than a quarter as much. If I hadn’t been insured, I would have owed that original amount. If my insurance company had less sway, they would have owed more. Did I even need that $3,460 procedure? Would the cardiologist have asked me if I wanted it or could afford it if I didn’t have insurance? How would I be “healthier” if I had to add $3,500 to my debt?
I know I’m lucky. To have insurance. To not have anything truly funky going on with my heart. To have access to doctors and to medicine. But that’s what it is—pure luck that I have a job with health insurance. Why should I be so lucky and someone else who may need the test more than I not be able to afford or not be offered the test in the first place be so unlucky? Too much health care for the lucky ones sucks the health care right away from the not so lucky.
*I didn’t name my health insurance company for fear they would somehow find this, get pissed off, and kick me off their policy. Because luck only holds for so long.