Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wino gravy

Well, not really, but that got your attention, didn't it? Anyway, I always make my gravy with a splash of whatever red wine we have on hand. The other night we also had a bit of white left; not enough for a proper glass of wine, so I decided to add it to the gravy, which needed a bit of thinning out. The premise was: I always put wine in the gravy; this gravy is too thick; since I have to thin it anyway, this lovely white wine will taste much better in said gravy than boring old water.

Perhaps because I was mixing red & white, or perhaps not, but we decided that, yes, it is possible to add too much wine to the gravy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My husband the tech

We got an e-mail this afternoon from a woman I've performed with a couple of times. She and I also costumed each other's shows last year, and we keep running into her & her husband in the audiences of the shows we attend. She has a show opening this weekend and just had one of her techs wash out for the 2nd weekend of the run and one other performance; could TW help? He decided to cover the 2nd weekend, so tomorrow night he'll go to their rehearsal to see what he needs to learn.

I was planning to see the show anyway; guess I know which weekend that'll be. ;)

Still a mystery...

We know it wasn't my heart giving me that nasty scare last week (TW wasn't so worried; said he didn't "get a feeling" that it was anything serious). Now my doc is trying to figure out what it was. The first candidates are stress and acid reflux. She prescribed a couple of days off at the end of this week - really! I've even got the note! a different muscle relaxant in case the 800mg mega-motrin was getting to my stomach, and some prilosec for the reflux. I'm getting pretty darn tired of all the pills - I can't help but wonder when I'm gonna start rattling - but if it solves the mystery, I'll deal with it.

But what I'm really looking forward to is a doctor-prescribed 4-day weekend! That means I can sleep in as late as I like Thursday, for starters, when I've had inexplicable insomnia the past 3 nights. TW and I are off to the cabin that night, leaving from my rehearsal, and since I told him I've got specific instructions to "take it easy!", I've got carte blanche to sit on my duff and read all weekend (and go over my Pirates lines and music) - gotta love it!

Monday, April 21, 2008

So what the heck was it?

The cardiology lab called this afternoon to say that all those tests on Friday showed no problems with my heart, thank God! I've got my follow-up w/ my doc tomorrow; maybe then I'll figure out what the heck it was that did such a good job of impersonating cardiac problems.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Planting in the rain

Managed to get about 1/3 of the flat of impatiens in the ground before the rain resumed. (The rain's been on a rheostat all day - swells to bucketing, backs off to nothing, swells to bucketing, backs off...) Since I was on a roll, I just got an umbrella and kept planting. 19 assorted impatiens are now freshly planted and already looking lovely. TW picked some beauts - a wonderful assortment of colors, and all with very healthy-looking foliage. I also planted one stub of white impatiens, a bit that had broken off when TW was doing some yardwork last fall. He stuck it into some water in a bud vase and it's been hanging in there all winter long (even bloomed, twice, after he put it in the vase). That's it in the close-up; it's the one with no flowers, at least right now. We'll see how it does now that it's outside.

My only concern is that the neighborhood cats have been using that bed as a litter box and in the rain, it smells like a used litter box, when it ought to smell of dirt and flowers. Anyone got any ideas for keeping the cats away? TW likes mothballs (which haven't worked), I've tried liberal sprinklings of cayenne pepper.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nasty scare!

Wednesday night I had a bit of a stitch in my side throughout rehearsal, that got more persistent and prolonged as the evening wore on. Driving home, I got the added sensations of tightness across the front of my left shoulder and tingling all down my left arm. That got me nervous enough to pull into a grocery store parking lot and call 911! They sent not just one but 2 ambulances, whose crews checked me out, determined I wasn't going to keel over in the next half hour, and asked me what I wanted to do next: drive myself to the nearest ER or let them take me. (Notice that forgetting about it and going home wasn't seriously considered as an option.) The fact that driving myself was an option was reassuring enough that I decided that would be the way to go.

So off I drove to the local hospital. I was relieved to see fewer than a dozen people in the waiting room; "oh good, short wait." Little did I know that chest pains are an automatic pass to the head of the line. I had barely handed in my check-in sheet (name, age, symptoms) when they asked me to come around for preliminary processing. After a few questions and a very quick EKG, they took me back and hooked me up to a monitor. They drew blood, took a chest x-ray, and decided things were stable enough that they sent me home w/ instructions to contact my doctor first thing in the morning to arrange for a stress test.

I didn't get home until nearly 1 a.m., but woke TW, whose first words were "Where have you been?" Seems he'd stayed up until 11, much past his usual bedtime. When I told him what had kept me, he let me have it for not calling him. He didn't yell, just shook his finger at me in mock ferocity and gave me that "look" - you know, the one that says "and what if I'd pulled something like that?"

Thursday morning had me on the phone trying to set up my stress test, which was something of a stress test in itself. (Some days I would cheerfully subject the inventor of voice mail to a very s-l-o-w, excruciating demise!) While I was on the phone, I started getting the pins-and-needles down my left arm again. Since I'd been having the stitch-in-the-side feeling for a while, that had me calling my HMO's advice line; the nurse's verdict - back to the ER.

This time TW drove me to a hospital closer to home (and where my HMO's cardiology department had an office). Once again, chest pains and left arm tingling zipped me to the head of the line and they took me straight back to be EKGed again. This time, when they sat me up to move me to another area, I got a nasty twinge, so they rolled me instead of walking me back. Again with the monitor, which of course didn't use the same leads as the EKG, and the blood draw, and since this was my second "episode" in less than 24 hours, they decided to admit me instead of sending me home while awaiting my stress test the next morning.

If you've ever spent the night in a hospital, you know how hard it is to sleep there. I got to my room around 6:30 or 7 p.m., actually had a halfway decent meal, but still had the IV port in one elbow and all those leads stuck to me, some of which were hooked up to a little box that had some sort of wireless connection to the heart monitor above my bed. As a stomach sleeper, I knew there was no hope of assuming my favorite sleeping position w/ 5 leads stuck to my chest and that little box to try to avoid sleeping on. Then of course there were the interruptions; a roommate wheeled in around 10:30, the nurses who came in around 11:30 to take my blood pressure and do another blood draw, another visit around midnight:30 to ask me yet again my name, date of birth and also such urgent questions as what was important to me and what worried me most about my illness! At 1 a.m., the first answer that came to mind to that one was "getting anything resembling a decent night's sleep!" Oh, and then they told me I could have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, not even water. Seems you have to fast for a stress test.

By the tme they came in around 6:45 a.m. to tell me to get dressed so they could take me for my stress test, I was a wreck. Worse, I was headachey and was resigned to being able to do nothing about it until after my stress test. Imagine my "delight", then, when they told me that could be 4-5 hours! Seems there's more to it than just the treadmill test: first you get a heart dye, which needs an hour to work; then you get "pictures" of the heart; then the treadmill test, then more heart dye and more pictures. So when the tech gave me the first heart dye and told me I needed to drink at least 4 cups of water, I was so thirsty by then, I coulda kissed him! Unfortunately, by this time the headache was definitely becoming a migraine. Only when I went in for the treadmill test and warned them that I was starting to feel migraine nausea did I learn that I hadn't needed to wait to take my imitrex. I took care of that omission immediately, knowing that the imitrex would need hours to kick in but hoping it would work just the same.

I didn't get through the whole business without getting sick, but I did manage to wait until we got home before getting sick again, instead of getting sick in TW's car. By this time, between sleep deprivation, thirst, hunger and one heckuva killer migraine, I was pretty well useless. I went straight to bed, slept for 3 1/2 hours, tried to eat some dinner, lost it, and went back to bed a few hours later. When another blasted migraine woke me around 4 o'clock this morning! At least this time I could hit it with the meds early enough that I was able to get rid of it instead of letting it pick up momentum and completely clobber me.

Today I was still a little wobbly, of course, but I was finally able to eat and to check my e-mail (for the first time since Tuesday!), though nothing else. However, TW bought me a flat of assorted impatiens when he went looking for some log screws. I'm hoping by tomorrow I'll feel up to planting them. And taking a very thorough shower and shampoo afterwards, since the tree pollen count is through the roof right now.

When I'd heard the term "chest pains", I'd always assumed for some reason that they'd be more internal; mine felt subcutaneous. If there's a history of heart problems in your family, pay attention to that symptom - don't assume, as I did, that it's just a stitch in your side.

As if trying to take a stress test w/ an untreated migraine weren't sufficient insult added to injury, the weather's been gorgeous since Wednesday. Worse, we had prepaid, nonrefundable reservations for a B&B weekend starting Thursday as an anniversary present to ourselves. So much for that! We'll have a nice dinner out tomorrow, but I still feel cheated - we both were so looking forward to a nice, long, pampered weekend with nothing to do but some leisurely sightseeing, exploring local eateries, etc. Suddenly we're seeing the point of travel insurance...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New car!

I picked up my new car today - a 2008 Honda Civic. I went with Atomic Blue Metallic; not what I would have chosen, but it's not as though I'll be spending hours gazing lovingly at its shiny new finish. It's got a lot of features I've never splurged on - cruise control, power windows, power mirrors, even an mp3 jack; now if only I could figure out why my iPod output doesn't...

I transferred the plates from my Saturn, which now sits in the driveway until I can arrange for the charity to come fetch it. I had hoped to take it over 100,000 miles, but after spending the equivalent of 4 1/2 car payments in repairs just since February, and with the steering developing a slight but consistent squeal, 99,300 miles will have to do. Maybe my new Civic will make it to the 100K mark; sure hope so.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Engineer's guide to cats

Warning: it might be best to set that drink down before watching. And watch it all the way through; I like the final sentence.
Two professional engineers illustrate the proper care and practical benefits of cats. None of the kitties, humans, or engineers were mistreated in the making of this film. They were however, slightly annoyed. ...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Car shopping

Yesterday the Chief & I did a bit of preliminary car shopping. I liked the Vibe - nice ride, good visibility, and of course all that hauling capacity. I didn't test the turning radius, but it did OK on the slight hills in the dealer's neighborhood.

Next stop was the Honda dealer down the road. Sounds like Honda has some incredibly intelligent engineers designing their vehicles. I absolutely love the way they've arranged the Fit's cargo capacity - those seats fold 20 ways to Sunday! The gauges are a little tough to read, though, and I dearly wish the Fit were more the size of the Matrix or Vibe. Give me that, Honda, and I'll take two - one for me and one for TW! I also test-drove a Civic. Like the Fit, it had a nice ride and tight turning radius (at least compared to my Saturn). The instrument panel was much easier to read than the Fit's, for a sedan it's got good cargo capacity, and to our surprise, it actually gets slightly better gas mileage than the Fit, due to its more aerodynamic lines. Both of them had an impressive list of standard features, which is giving Honda the edge at the moment. And when the salesman started itemizing all the service features (shuttle to take you anywhere w/in a 20-mile radius, free loaner if your car is in for extended service), well, as I said, Honda's looking really good right now.

Our last stop was a Toyota dealership. This one was pretty crowded, our salesman wasn't a true salesman (or maybe just new), and we were getting tired by then, so I only tested a Matrix. (I'll test a Corolla some other time). The Matrix's acceleration seemed a bit sluggish compared to the other cars, even the Vibe (same size engine - I checked the info the Pontiac dealer gave us), which surprised me. Comfortable enough, though the full power steering would take some getting used to, after driving only power-assist for the past 9 years. We got the books for the Matrix & Corolla and left. I'll check them out at a dealership near work, maybe later this week.

The last candidate is the Mazda3. Haven't even been to a Mazda dealership yet, but there's one near work, so there's one more agenda item for an afternoon this week.

Do you have any of these? What do you like about yours, what do you not like, would you buy it again or go with something else?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Won't be much longer...

... before this day is over at last. Ugh.

I had a follow-up appointment with my new dentist so he could make a recommendation based on the records from the Chief's dentist. (For those of you keeping score, this now makes 6 dentist visits this year, and counting.) He said the jaw itself looks normal and referred me to an oral surgery practice. Turns out they don't do TMJ dysfunction; at least the receptionist warned me over the phone that they'd just give me some exercises (!) and anti-inflammatories. Great - I can't eat without pain and sound effects (joint popping), and singing in my upper register is starting to get problematic, and they don't want to deal with it. Guess I gotta start calling around and see if there's anyone who will try to fix this.

Then, as I was on my way home, my (manual) transmission went out as I was trying to upshift after making a turn. All of a sudden, my gear shift only moved forward and back, much too freely! I had first gear only, nothing higher, which meant the engine revved like crazy if I went more than 10 mph. Worse, I now have no neutral and no reverse. We found a nearby mechanic and I limped my poor car over there, but they're not open Saturdays, so I have to wait until Monday to get a diagnosis for the problem. Will I need a new transmission, or just a shift cable? If it's the 9-yr-old transmission, will they be able to fix it or find a replacement? I'm trying to prepare myself for the worst; that I'll need to rent a car to get to work and rehearsal come Monday, and will need to find a new car mucho pronto.

And of course the transmission went out just after I'd been listening to a particularly depressing NPR piece on job losses and the looming recession and was thinking I'd wait as long as possible to replace my paid-for car (which had 99,099 miles on it when I left it at the mechanic's this evening). Hah!

I'd like some good news, please. Please?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Not your usual crossword

One of my customary "stops" when I get on the computer at night is the Codebreaker Crossword. It differs from standard crosswords in that there are no clues and it uses every letter of the alphabet. Took me a while at first to figure out how it works, but now I can usually finish one pretty quickly. The fun part, at least for me, is building my "expectancy" - given a word this long, with these letters filled in, what words might I expect to be able to fill in? What letters could I expect to see in this position? (In that respect, it sorta resembles an acrostic.) Some of the words used are proper names or foreign words that are relatively common in English, so it's a nice stretch for the vocabulary.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Before and after death

Warning: if the pain of losing a loved one is still raw, you may not want to click on the link.

Dooce posted a link to a feature on the web site of the Guardian newspaper, a series of photos of people taken before and after their deaths. These are all people who learned they had terminal illnesses. The range in the photos is striking - some look no different after death; merely asleep. Others look considerably older, or more at peace. Most unexpected, at least to me, was how few of the post mortem photos show people made gaunt by the disease that killed them.

How amazing that these people were willing to be photographed and to be interviewed for their views on life, however edited, to be preserved. Requiescant in pace.