Saturday, July 16, 2005

Posole time!

I love posole! Posole is corn that has been soaked in lime water. You can get it canned in grocery stores, usually in the Mexican food section. I made a soup today that turned out really well. I'm beginning to think I should have named this blog "Chasing Waves of Soup"!

Anyway, on Thursday just threw together cubed grilled pork, a box of Pacific chicken broth, a can of posole, a can of fire roasted tomatoes. I sauteed an onion, a green pepper and two jalepenos and tossed that mix in with some cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and just let it cook on slow in the crock pot until that evening. I guess it had about 6 hours of cooking. Turned out really good.

Spent the day listening to all my Queen tapes (CD player has died), supplemented with Pink Floyd, B.B. King, and Garrison Keillor's "Songs of the Cat". My taste in music is definitely eclectic. Now if I can only find my Van Morrison tapes...

July 16, 1988

It wasn't until Saturday morning that the doctor came to see my grandfather. Dr. S was waiting for test results. My grandfather's fever had gone down but the thrush had become much worse so now he had that odd tasting medicine to swish around in his mouth.

I don't remember all the test results obvious but two stood out. Bamps' t-cell counts were extemely low and the pneumonia appeared to be something called PC. Dr. S gave us the full name but PC was just easier to remember, not to mention say. Dr. S didn't have a great bedside manor, so after he left he asked one of the nurses to explain what he said. She said it looked as if he had immune problems, but more tests would be needed.

Later that afternoon a pulmonologist came in. After 60 years of smoking, my grandfather's lungs had been severely damaged. The PC was damaging them even more. Dr. R said that right now, the best thing was to get the pneumonia cleared up and to begin respiratory therapy. Dr. R had seen my grandfather before, when he was operated on in 1985 for the aneurysm. He explained he was afraid that my grandfather had been received tainted blood and been exposed to AIDS. It would certainly explain his symptoms and the test results.

So now, more tests and waiting, until at least Monday. In the meantime, my grandfather asked me to smuggle in some good chocolate ice cream and a Snicker's bar. The stuff the hospital called ice cream just wasn't chocolate enough. (I tried some and it obviously was from some previously unknown species of chocolate plant that tasted like milk of magnesia and chalk mixed with frozen Ovaltine. Well, more chalk...) A day didn't go by without him having his ice cream and Snickers! He was even called the "ice cream man" by kids in the neighborhood who knew if they came by at about 4 pm, he'd share the ice cream with them!

By now all his friends knew he was in the hospital and were coming to visit. The most common complaints I heard though ran something like "gee, you can't see what the girls look like in this getup!" and "what run-over animal did they try to feed you today?"

One of them even smuggled in a double Manhattan in a thermos for him that night, which definitely did not go to waste!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bastille Day, 1988

Links and other things are down at the lower left hand side of the page - I'll correct that tonight...

The dated entries are a diary of my grandfather's illness. His journey began in 1985 after having eleven pints of blood transfused over a three day period, following surgery for an aortic aneurysm. He symptoms (fatigue, weight loss, sores that wouldn't heal) began in 1987, but were very subtle and were dismissed as part of aging.

On Bastille Day of 1988, my husband and I took my grandfather to the hospital. He had recently lost a few pounds, which I thought not unusual for him during the summer since he was outside in the garden or riding his bike to the store. He was very short of breath though and had a fever of 102. Even without a stethoscope it was obvious his lungs were raspy sounding.

We waited in the emergency room for only a few minutes because the triage nurse thought my grandfather (who I called Bamps) looked very pale and ill. About 20 minutes after waiting for word from a nurse saying my husband and I could come back to the examining room, a nurse did come out and said my grandfather was being admitted to the progressive care unit, into an isolation room. He appeared to have pneumonia, and possibly some sort of bacterial infection of the lungs as well. He would have more tests, the results of which could take a couple of days.

When my husband and I went to his room, before we could go in we had to put on a gown and mask as a precaution. The doctors weren't sure what he had yet. Bamps' spirits were still good, although he was very fatigued, and really just wanted to sleep. He was also adamant that we not hover around him in the hospital. Since visiting hours were limited, our hovering ability was greatly reduced.

It was early evening by the time he settled in and the doctors said all they could tell for sure is he had pneumonia (what type they weren't sure yet), some odd skin lesions, and thrush. Dr. S, my grandfather's primary physician, said that by the next afternoon they would have some answers. In the meantime, my grandfather would be in isolation, receiving IV antibiotics and fluids, along with a host of other medicines.

Hank and I went home and I called my mother to give her the news. At this point all we could do is wait.

Chili Time, the Sequel

This is nothing to do with chili.

I've decided, especially after talking with my sister, to not mention my mother's conversational memory lapses to her when we talk. She's extremely aware that the Alzheimer's is causing changes and there is nothing she or her doctors can do about it. So, I'll just accept the lapses; if she forgets something she said two minutes ago or forgets who it is she's on the phone with I'll just remind her and carry on like it's no big deal. It's going to take a while to get used to it. I do tend to be impatient and this is going to be a good way for me to work on that particular area.

I don't really care when she starts repeating stories. I'm going to start taping them. She's got tons of stories about growing up and since I was raised by my grandparents (her parents) it's always interesting to hear them because I can see my grandparents through new eyes. She has most of the family photos and it would be interesting to put together a CD presentation. Give me a chance to learn some new skills here!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Karl Rove

It's becoming obvious that Karl Rove had a hand in outing Valerie Plame, whether or not he actually spoke her name or referred to her as "Joe Wilson's wife" or any variation of that theme. Semantics schmantics! So what is George Bush going to do about it? Is he going to bull-headedly support Rove at the expense of what little remains of his credibility? Rove needs to step down as he has managed to become the main attraction in the bizarre sideshow that is the Bush administration. Rove should be investigated, and if deemed necessary, prosecuted under the Identities Protection Act of 1982. Period. And so should anyone else in the Bush administration who participated in this.

One thing is for certain: KR has managed to become the choice entre in the the media feeding frenzy. The question is, did he manage to offer himself up on the chum platter? I can hardly wait to hear more of what comes out of the grand jury room to find out.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?

When something horrible happens, it's really hard to know what to say at first. Usually most people say something like "Oh my God, how can this happen?" or utter a four-letter word gasped in disbelief. Some just stand or sit, wordless. Within a few hours shock turns to anger and we want to know who perpetrated the heinous act, why didn't our government stop it, are they lying to us; the questions and conspiracy theories rage go on and on.

I knew someone who died on Flight 93, the United Airlines plan that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001. I didn't find out until two days later, when I saw his face on the local news. The pit in my stomach that had been been growing since that sunny and terrible morning suddenly suddenly became a sinkhole. I didn't know him well at all, but seeing a face belonging to someone I had talked to less than a week before suddenly shocked back to life the feelings fear and disbelief.

It happened again while watching the news broadcasts about London. I realized that time and time again this scenario is going to be played out throughout the world: normal people going to work, going shopping, simply doing things they do every day - until suddenly there is a horrific, unexpected event which rips across the fabric of thousands and millions and tens of millions of lives, slowly tearing apart a world we once felt safe in.

To have this happen in war is one thing. We've got thousands of years of experience of dealing with war. But terrorism is different. Who do we fight back at? What is the face of the enemy like? There are only a few faces we associate with 9/11 and terrorism in general. There's no specific country to attach blame to. News reports I've seen say that a group called the Secret Organization of al Qaida in Europe is responsible for the London bombings. No one has heard of them before as far as I can tell. They are, like most of al Qaida, a group that transcends national boundaries and operates in the shadows, stepping out long enough to cause horror and grief. Their reasons for it are based on their own brand of ideology, which we can't seem to relate to on any level, and I'm not sure I'd want to. They claim the Koran is the basis for their beliefs and the justification for their actions. But I know many Muslims, and the actions of these extremist groups are abhorrent to them and they are antithetical to the Islam they live in their everyday lives.

How do we end this scourge? Invading Iraq certainly didn't help. In fact it has added fuel to the burning hatred these people feel against the West, particularly the US and Britain. The terrorist groups certainly won't talk to us and our government uses the threat of future terrorism to justify their own questionable actions in the name of freedom.

All I know for sure is that I grieve. I grieve for all those who have lost friends and loved ones in these barbarous attacks. I grieve for the prisoners in Abu Graib and Guantanimo Bay who might be innocent but who guilty only by association. I grieve for the innocent civilians killed in war the that our government justified with false evidence.

I grieve for the military families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. I grieve for our men and women in the military who are in Iraq and Afghanistan, doing their jobs willingly, then come home to be insulted by a few of their fellow Americans who call murderers and babykillers, like Viet Nam all over again. Even if you disagree with the war, these men and women are patriotic and brave enough to carry out their missions they may not necessarily agree with in hopes of helping the people in these areas rebuild their countries.

Most of all I grieve for the loss of truth. Truth has been a casualty killed by both sides. There were no weapons of mass destruction to justify the war. al Qaida twists teachings of the Koran to justify their actions.

Sadly, I can see no end. At least not now. I fear that it will take an event so horrific, so obscene in scope and cruelty to bring about the end of this cycle of violence.

In the meantime we are left only with hope. Hope that truth and justice shall prevail over all the dogma, politics, greed and ignorance that allows terrorism to exist.

To the people who are promoting this hateful darkness, know that while you may cause chaos for a short time, you will be stopped. If not by us, by the god you so perversely invoke.

It's Chili Time

This is the recipe for the chili that I inherited from my grandmother. Due to the lack of room in the crockpot, I didn't put any beans in it, which is really the way chili should be. I'm saving those for the red beans and rice dish I'm making this afternoon. This recipe is sized for a medium (two and half quart) crockpot.


One medium crockpot, one large skillet, a colander and the usual knives, spatulas, spoons, etc. You'll notice the measurements are not entirely exact. It's just the way I cook.


  • About three pounds ground beef. 20% fat has the best flavor. Just drain the fat off in the colander after cooking.
  • 2 28-ounce cans of crushed whole tomatoes.
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped.
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped.
  • 2 to 3 jalapeno peppers chopped and seeded. If you don't like your chili too hot remove the white membranes. That's where the heat really is, not the seeds. You can up the pepper content to your liking.
  • 1 small head garlic, minced. Yes, that's head, not a clove, of garlic. Of course you can use less. But why would you want to?
  • Chili seasoning, whichever generic one you like.
  • Kosher or sea salt. I prefer kosher salt.
  • Fresh ground pepper. If you don't have a pepper grinder, you can use course ground pepper. Regular fine ground pepper disappears tastewise unless you really load it up. Don't do that, it just a bad idea. It just won't taste right.
  • Olive oil, one - two teaspoons.


Here's what you do:

C hop the onion and green pepper. Mince the garlic. Finely chop the jalapenos.

Y'all pay attention now: Jalapenos can pack an unwelcome wallop if not prepared with care. If you take care when you are preparing them, or any other member of the capsicum genus, you can enjoy them the way they are meant to be, and not have to worry about "hot eye" or mouth syndrome.

Here's some guidelines: If you have disposable food gloves (and every cook should), put them on and the oil won't get on your hands and transfer the hot goodness that should go into your mouth into unwanted areas, like your eyes.

When you chop your pepper, slice off the stem, then slice the pepper in half lengthwise. You'll see the seeds look like the seeds of the green pepper you cut earlier. Now the hotness is not concentrated in the is in the white membrane, the ribs of the pepper! If you want a totally mild chili, take your knife and remove all the membrane you see. I can never remember doing this myself, but others might not like the amount of heat I do.

Chopping the jalapenos, and any pepper, is easiest when you chop the skin side down. For jalapenos, I usually cut a quarter inch strip lengthwise and then bunch them together and cut into quarter inch dice.

When you are through cutting the jalapenos, take off your gloves and using your knife, push the leftover membrane and seeds are left into one of the gloves. Fold it over and shove it into the other glove, tie it off and discard. Toss in the garbage. That way if a child or pet gets curious about garbage while you blink, at least you can snatch it back safely. If you have a garbage disposal, put the seeds and membrane down that. Better yet compost them.

If you get the oil on your hands, soak them for about three minutes in milk, and discard the milk. If you get the oil in your eyes, daub 2 cotton balls in milk, put your feet up and the cotton balls on both eyes. What, the oil's only in one eye? C' long as you are doing one eye, do both. It's relaxing! Two minutes usually does the trick. (Unless you've had a very hectic day, wink, wink!)

And now back to the show...

Heat the pan and add the olive oil. Saute the pepper, onions and jalapeno together over medium heat until they are barely soft but not translucent. They will cook more in the crockpot. Set them in your crockpot.

Saute the hamburger in the pan you sauteed the veggies, adding salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of chili seasoning. Cook until all the pinkness is gone. Drain fat off in colander, and make darn tootin sure you was that baby good afterwards!

Add one can of crushed peppers to the crockpot then add the hamburger. Using a sturdy spoon or a clean hand (one of the most versatile kitchen tools ever) mix ingredients together thoroughly. Add a heaping tablespoon of chili powder, the second can of tomatoes, and repeat. The crockpot shouldn't be completely full or it will boil over. If it is, remove enough of the mix to leave a one inch space below the rim. You can cook whatever you removed in a small pan on the stovetop for a quick "I can't wait until the chili is done" treat (covered on medium heat, 20 minutes or so).

Put the lid on the crockpot, turn to high and cook for one hour. Check your seasoning at this point, add more if you want and turn the heat to low. Cook for another three hours. About 30 minutes before serving check the hotness. If you want to add more chili powder, do it now and remember: you can always put more in but you can't take it out. Add a little at a time until you are happy with the flavor. Cover, let it cook for another half hour, then serve.

There are all sorts of things you can serve on the side or on top of this: chopped onions, peppers, jalapeno slices, sour cream, guacamole, tortilla chips, cornbread, even chopped pineapples. (Don't knock it unless you've tried it.) Keep some Tabasco sauce around so people can add more heat if they want. Heck, why not start a collection of different hot sauces? You never know what culinary mood might strike you!
You can make this entirely on the stovetop, but the long cooking in the crockpot really makes it flavorful!

This is the basic recipe that I use when I'm working around the house and want a quick chili. I have lots of other recipes in the vault!