March 29, 2005

Thick Vegetable Soup

A hearty soup that's fairly easy to make and yummy to eat. Feel free to adjust ingredients and herbs to taste (or based on what you happen to have lying around).

3 medium sized russet potatoes (never use waxy potatoes in soup -- it makes the soup gummy)
3 - 5 carrots
1 medium - large onion
1 - 5 cloves of garlic (the more the merrier, i think. but add as little or much as you want)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes (i usually use one with salt and one without. that way i can add more salt to taste without the soup getting too salty.)
salt, pepper and marjoram (or other favorite herb) to taste
1 c. mushrooms (any kind you want)
1 c. corn (frozen works fine)
1 c. whipping cream or half and half (or milk)

cut up the potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic into large chunks. (1 inch or so across). toss them all into a large soup pot and add enough water to rise an inch or two above the items in the pot. (i'm very imprecise when it comes to adding water. if the soup seems too thick later you can always add more. at a minimum you want enough to cover everything in the pot.)

add the two bouillon cubes and boil over medium high heat until a knife (or fork) run easily through both carrots and potatoes. turn off the heat.

put everything through the blender. (i usually do a bit at a time and put the blended stuff into a bowl until the soup pot is empty and i can pour iti back in there.) if you're using waxy potatoes (red, yukon, etc.) this is where they'll start to get gummy and you'll realize your mistake.

if you want, you can stop right here and you'll basically have a creamy potato/carrot soup. (you may still want to add the cream/milk, but i've made this many a time with none at all.)

add the mushrooms, corn, salt, pepper and marjoram (or thyme or sage or ...) and heat on low until the shrooms and corn are no longer frozen/cold. add the cream/milk last.

you could probably just as happily add broccoli, cauliflower or any other vegetable that you'd prefer. i like to add corn because my kids love it and it sweetens up the soup a bit.

March 22, 2005

One Minute with Picks Disease

(Reprinted from my newsletter - Spring '04)

People occasionally ask me how my dad is doing. I generally don't know how to answer that question, not because I'm not around my dad enough to know, but because its not really the right question to be asking. My dad is pretty much the same from day to day and month to month. He doesn't know what has befallen him so there's no sense of "how is he doing in dealing with his disease." He doesn't deal with it. He doesn't realize it. To him, there is nothing wrong. He doesn't remember that he doesn't remember. He has no emotions about it.

The better question to ask might be, "How is your mom doing?" She's the one who is most often frustrated by dad's constant flow of questions (the same questions, over and over and over and over...). She is the one is who has to deal with dad at the check out counter when he says (rather loudly and in great alarm), "Fifty two dollars for groceries?! That's too much!" She is the one who has to plan her events around whether or not one of her daughters can watch her husband.

So, I thought that, in order to give my readers a better sense of this disease, I'd give you a peek at one minute with my dad. A typical minute together would go something (if not exactly) like this: (You may want to read this outloud for full effect. And feel free to pause a few seconds between questions. That's about how long Dad waits.)

Les: Did Mom tell you what her schedule is today?
Meg: She'll be here at 5:15 to pick you up.
Les: Did she say what she's going to do before that?
Meg: She's at work all day until 5 o'clock.
Les: Do you remember what day this is?
Meg: Wednesday.
Les: Wednesday. (Pulls out daytimer and looks it up.) That's right. The day Mom works.
Meg: Yep.
Les: So you want me to fold the laundry that's in the dryer? (He says as he reads the list I made for him that says exactly that.)
Meg: Yep.
Les: Let's see. Do you remember what day this is?
Meg: Wednesday.
Les: (Pulls out daytimer and looks it up.) Yeah. The day Mom works.
Meg: Yep.
Les: Do you know if she's coming to get me after that?
Meg: Yep.
Les: She is? What time?
Meg: 5:15
Les: Oh, 5:15. (pause) So you want me to fold the laundry that's in the dryer?
Meg: Yes, dad.
Les: Hmmmm. Did Mom tell you what her schedule is today?
Meg: She's at work, Dad.
Les: Do you know if she's going to pick me up?
Meg: Yep.
Les: When?
Meg: 5:15
Les: Oh. So maybe I'll go fold the laundry that's in the dryer.
Meg: Yes Dad, why don't you do that.
Les: Do you remember what day this is today?
Eventually Dad will go and fold the laundry, but not until there's been several minutes worth of the above discussion. Now imagine being with him all day....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

of course, that was a year ago. he's much worse now. here's a quick example of a recent conversation with my dad.

Les: I'd like to take your dog for a walk.
Meg: She's got 7 stitches in her foot, Dad. She can't go for a walk today.
Les: (looks down at dog. notices bandage.) Oh. yeah. Well, I'd like to take your dog for a walk.
Meg: She can't go for a walk dad. She's injured.
Les: (glances down at dog) Oh. Well, I'd like to take her for a walk.
(it goes on like this until i finally distract him by encouraging him to work on a puzzle. or until i remove the dog from sight in hopes that he might forget about her.)

March 21, 2005

Ukrainian Genocide Famine Foundation

Ten million Ukrainians died during a purge by Stalin in 1932-33. Nearly 1 in 4 rural Ukrainians perished and, at the height of the genocide, Ukrainians were dying at a rate of 25,000 per day.

The famine was induced, in large part, to rid the Soviet Union of the capitalist Ukrainians (in other words, to force the farmers to give up their land). Though the farmers were able to produce plenty of grain to feed themselves, the government siezed most of what had been harvested.

My great grandparents all left before this time, though most of their relatives stayed behind. Some were sent to Siberia and barely survived. (They had to join the Communist Party or remain outcast.)

Thanks to Katya for the link.

Hmmm, while looking for the photo I also found this page on the famine.

March 19, 2005

Linguini and Clams Marinara

This is my friend Rick's recipe but he didn't want to post it for me, so he dictated it to me instead.

Edit: I've changed the recipe a bit after trying it out on my own. No pics yet. We ate it all up too fast. Maybe next time.

1/3 c. olive oil
1 bell pepper (preferrably red)
1 c. mushrooms
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
1 can baby clams
1 can of crushed or diced tomatoes
keep some tomato puree on hand in case you decide you need it
1/3 bunch parsley (chopped fine)
salt and pepper (duh!)
cooking sherry
1/2 shot amaretto

Pour about a 1/4 cup olive oil into a frying pan. Add chopped bell pepper (preferrably red) and sliced mushrooms. In a separate frying pan, sautee crushed (or chopped) garlic (4 or 5 cloves) in the rest of the olive oil.

Chop up parsley (about 1/2 of a bunch of curly, American parsley) while the peppers, shrooms and garlic are cooking. Don't add the parsley to the pan just yet, though.

Open can of baby clams, drain (save the water), and add the clams to the peppers and mushrooms (after they have cooked for at least 10 - 12 minutes). While the clams are cooking, you can add pepper but not salt. (Adding salt will make the clams harden.)

After you've browned the garlic to a light golden brown (no more or it will dry out) add it to the clams and vegetables.

(After the clams have cooked for about 5 minutes, then...) Add 1 can of diced or crushed tomatoes. (If you use diced, then add some puree in with it.)

Now you can add some salt, parsley, a little cooking sherry, and a 1/2 shot of amaretto (and some of the clam water).

Cook the pasta al dente (in furiously boiling water). (Put some salt and oilve oil in the water so that the pasta doesn't get sticky.)

Mix everything together (after having first rinsed the pasta off with hot tap water) and serve.

Eat with some pecorino romano cheese.

Back yard of the San Francisco house

"Aerial" view of the back yard. It might not look like much, but check out the next pic to see what it used to look like when we bought the place. (This was the text under the first photo in the album... back when it was on Multiply.)

We removed lots of junk as well as about 200 square feet of cement.

Lots of new plants will be going in soon.

When we first moved into this house, the backyard was pretty trashed. The people that lived here before us (renters who we knew) said they'd already done a great deal to improve the yard.

Once we were moved in, we threw away the miscellaneous dryer, the rotting gazebo, and lots of junk. Then we broke up most of the cement and planted a vegetable garden, an herb garden and some random flowers.

Unfortunately, once I had the twins I couldn't do much of anything back there and the yard fell back into disrepair.

Since we moved away, a friend of ours, Brett, has been hauling away more trash, laying grass, and preparing plant beds.