Feta Attraction

It finally happened. My blood sugar nudged me across the line to a diagnosis: diabetes type 2.

Well, drat.

I knew it was coming, even as I continued to eat too much and move too little. My doctor said I could turn it around, most likely, by losing weight, and his primary concern was that I cut back on food volume. He said he wasn’t going to push exercise, because at this stage, it’s a secondary concern, and he doesn’t want me to have to think about too much. If I walk The Beauteous Sheila almost every day, he’s all for it, as long as I don’t stress about it.

My first thought was to look up vegetarian and vegan recipes–lots of veggie and grainy goodness. We’re demi-vegetarians; meat is not crucial to our menu. I found a lot of tasty looking vegan recipes and was surprised; I thought vegan food would be too–austere. As I browsed, I thought Hm. This wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe I could switch to this.

Then it came to me what I would be giving up.

It’s not the meat.

It’s the cheese. Specifically, feta cheese.

We buy our feta cheese at a little store called Mandros Imported Foods in Lancaster. It’s a wonderful, dimly lit store with crowded aisles, shelves packed with a boggling variety of chutneys, jams, pastas, crackers, herbs and spices. There are oils and vinegars, and the air smells so good in there that it almost makes your nose hurt. If you wend your way to the back of the store, you will encounter a case with all kinds of cheeses in it. This is where we–usually my husband–request 3 pounds of domestic feta and receive a tangy salty white block to take home. One of the Mandros brothers calls my husband “Mr. Three Pounds.” My son went into the store to order some and became “Mr. Three Pounds Jr.” (Well, that’s the spouse’s story.)

What do we do with it? Feta cheese sandwiches with a swipe of mayonnaise and a slice or two of onion. Crumbled into a big green salad. Melted onto a fried egg or in an omelet. Stirred into a lemony lentil salad. Tossed with diced potatoes and lemon juice and baked. Nibbled on crackers, sometimes heated so it is soft and creamy. We haven’t even begun to explore all possibilities. Googling “feta cheese recipes” brings up lots of dishes, not all of them spanakopita or Greek salads and many of them appealing.

I will eat a lot more in the plant realm, including grains and nuts and seeds. I don’t really foresee becoming vegan or a 100% committed vegetarian. If it came down to it, I know that I can give up bacon. I can give up sausage gravy on biscuits. I can give up chicken salad, pork chops, shrimp or pork egg rolls. If I had to, I could give it up.

But keep your darn hands off my feta cheese.

After all–we all have our feta cheese, and this is mine.


Peeves, Vexations, and the Golden Rule

My daughter and I went errand-running and shopping yesterday. At one place, a small “country” store, she took our cart back to the part where the various sized carts are kept while I paid for our items. She came back, seething. While she was there, at least three people “returned” their carts by shoving them through the doorway willy-nilly. She sorted them out and put them away. Right now, she’s wearing a medical support boot after her splint from ankle surgery was removed, and she pointed out that it really wasn’t that hard to walk ten more feet to put them away. She was very vocal about it. I bet the woman behind us put her cart away properly.

I sympathize with her completely, and in fact, she asserted that it was something she learned from me. I never understood and still don’t understand why people can’t return shopping carts in a way that doesn’t make it a headache for the person who has to come out and fetch them. Imagine taking 3-5 extra minutes to put a large cart in with the large carts and the mini carts in with the mini carts just so the cart fetcher doesn’t have to spend 10 extra minutes in pouring rain or blazing sun, or freezing air to sort the things into chains. Is that really so difficult? Is that much time so crucial that it would ruin your day to make someone else’s life easier?

When I was in college, if I had to empty someone’s clothes out of a dryer so I could use it, I folded it. It wasn’t entirely precise, but it had to be better than dumping it in a heap on top of the dryer. In that case, I used maybe 10 minutes of my time to treat a stranger the way I’d like to be treated. Now, I usually found my own dry stuff dumped on top of the dryer, but that wasn’t the point. I like to measure my life by what I do, not what I get.

It’s not that I think I’m perfect. I’m capable of selfish behavior, and at times I am even unapologetic about it. But there are a few places where I can rise above it, and I’ll do what I can when I can. I’m not looking for a medal for rearranging the cart corral.  I’m pretty sure the people who collect the carts might not even notice. Maybe they don’t care. But I know, and I care, and that’s enough for me. Even better, I’ve created a tiny legacy because my daughter follows my example. (At the Mart of K, our next stop on our shopping expedition, she counted three cart-abandoners, one right in the way of the exit door, as she waited for me to pick her up. (Slush plus an orthotic boot do not make a happy combination.) I daresay that she will carry on with the small tradition of restoring shopping carts to their rightful place.

Now if I could only get her to do the dishes more often….

Snow happens

I don’t understand why people complain about how awful snow is when it’s the appropriate time of the year for it to snow. I get it about shoveling and scary driving, but why does it seem to be a surprise? It often snows in January. In this area, though, we’ve had some pretty mild winters, so perhaps they deserve some slack, although the people who drive 15 miles an hour on a perfectly dry road because there are snow flurries ought to have their licenses suspended.

A supervisor I once knew grew up in the Midwest and drove in snow all the time. Deep snow. Uphill both ways. With bare tires. You know. So when people worried about getting home when it was snowing a bit heavily, she would laugh and mock them because it was nothing as far as she was concerned. Eventually, I pointed out to her that everyone else didn’t have the benefit of her experience and perhaps didn’t know how to drive in snow. Or, maybe they did know, but that didn’t guarantee their safety from all the other people out there who didn’t know but had to drive home.

I never learned how to behave. People don’t like it if you remove all occasion for superiority.

So yesterday’s snow wasn’t supposed to be much, according to a local meteorologist, but by 9:00, school districts were calling for two-hour delays which turned into closings this morning. Stephen left nearly 2 hours early to negotiate his way to work. I took pleasure in lounging in my pajamas a while. The down side, of course, is that the sidewalk had to be shoveled. H was recruited, and he complained bitterly because L couldn’t help her. She’s in an orthotic boot after ankle surgery. Shoveling is not in her cards at the moment. (She should be fine doing dishes. muwahahahaha!!!) 

He wasn’t outside long, but when I went out later, he hadn’t done a bad job. There was ice, though, a challenge beyond the scope of a plastic shovel. I chipped at it with my heel, then fetched some kosher salt to pour on it. It helped a little, so I can’t help but wonder why we don’t have rock salt. I imagine that Stephen felt we didn’t need it because we wouldn’t use it that much. I expect that I’ll go out and get a bag and secrete it away until it is needed.

It’s time to make pizza crust for dinner. It’s one of those things I find to be so satisfying on a wintry day.

Bless the Beasts and the UFOs

It is snowing. It was supposed to be a storm which was downgraded to a few inches, but just the promise has events cancelling all over town. I got home from the dentist with H and L before it started in earnest. Naturally, upon our arrival both Sheila (dog) and Ollie (cat) wanted to go out.

Sheila seemed to change her mind, and Ollie went out. He scratched at the door to come in (he can open our storm door), and Sheila promptly went out. I sat down at the computer, and Sheila barked to come in. I let her in, sat down at the computer, and Ollie whined to go out again. Clearly, he believes that the weather can change on a dime. I think he knows something important about climate change, but he’s not telling. I sat down at the computer and he started to scratch to come in. I opened the door, and he was gone.

“Ollie?” I said. He came around the corner and trotted inside. Now Sheila’s at the door looking glum. She can wait.

As for the UFOs–no, don’t make me a tinfoil hat yet. In KnitterSpeak, a UFO is an UnFinished Object. It’s the single sock still on the needles, the armless sweater stuffed in a bag, the last pair of mittens in the gift pile for numerous niece and nephews. It’s the half-finished shawl, the abandoned Christmas stocking, the unsewn afghan squares, the baby blanket that just needs to have the ends woven in and to be blocked. (That last one is one of mine.) (Oh yeah, the Christmas stocking, too. I can’t find it.)

There are methods for dealing with knitting UFOs. One is to make a pile of all UFOs and knit one’s way through them with clenched teeth and super-human willpower. Another is to gather them all together and pick out the one’s one thinks have a prayer of being finished. The hopeless cases can get frogged (KnitterSpeak for undoing or ripping out knitting–think “rip it. rip it. rip it.”) and the yarn and needles can be returned to their respective stashes to await another project.

A third way is to stare glumly at the heap of semi-demi garments for a while, then cram them all into one bag or box in hopes that their proximity will lead them to complete each other. Immediately after stowing the storage item in the farthest reach of the house, one must cast on a new project to cover the gash in the universe made by the concealment of the UFOs.

I think that this will be the Year of Finished Objects. I will keep finish one thing before beginning another. Actually, I usually have a portable project and a not-so-portable project going, and I guess the hoodie for H is still portable. I don’t know if I’ll get to my personal UFOs, but I’ll be sure to record any progress here. I have a sweater which is top down with stranded color at the neck and I stopped working on it for some reason. I’m afraid it’s because I dropped stitches and I didn’t want to deal with it. I’m not going to worry about it now, but I will finish it. Sometime. I think.

Oh. Sheila wants to go out.

For the time being

“But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.”

From For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio by W.H. Auden

I always start the new year with a lot of good intentions, so many over the years that I qualify for the position of foreman on Hell’s road repair crew. I can’t hold up to strict expectations, I suppose. I overdo it, or I fall into a trap where I paralyze myself by thinking too much about it. Start counting calories, and all I obsess about is food, for example. I know from experience with food diaries in the past that when I eat normally, I don’t exceed 2000 calories. I just have to be conscious of when and why I eat. I have to be mindful.

So this year, I suppose, might be the year of living mindfully. Even that’s a little too über-cosmic for my taste, but that’s the closest I can get. Maybe it would be better to call it the year of living. That is to say, the year when I participate, not sit on the sidelines. The year where I speak my mind rather than think about it. The year when I do, not think about doing. I’ve been leading up to this sort of thing for a while, and that’s my reason for restarting this blog, which is not going to be focused on any one thing but rather be a reflection of the facets of my living.

This sounds very high-minded, still. But I want to be seen as a thoughtful, mindful person who keeps her promises (the secret of which, of course, is not to promise every thing) and who is a “can do” kind of person. I want to feel as if I’m really living, not just watching others live. I want to get things done. The only way the kitchen table will exist if I take care of it.