Weinstein was the tipping point.
By Lorraine Dusky
An x-ray confirmed what I knew: I needed surgery. I found my way to Dr. John Yu in Riverhead, N.Y. Earlier in the summer I had a cortisone shot in my ankle, but if it alleviated the pain and made walking easier, I barely noticed. When friends from out of town visited, I did not go sight-seeing in Manhattan with them. That would have been too much walking for me, even with a cane–and I’d used one the time before I was in the city. Getting another cortisone shot seemed pointless. I had been taking various over-the-counter meds for years. I had moved on from plain old glucosamine and chondrotin to Schiff Move Free Ultra, with the mysterious ingredients of “cartilage blend” (potassium chloride and cartilage), boron and hyaluronic acid. But while it may have alleviated my discomfort a long time ago–that was then, this is now. Continue reading
Ankle replacements–unlike knee replacements–are still rare, but I am one of the vanguard, and got a new, metal and plastic thingamajib implanted in my right ankle two months ago. So far so good. But how did I get here, two months later? Here is my diary of the journey. I will be posting my progress in a series of posts over the next few weeks.
Summer, 2014: My ankle has been giving me a hellava time for years. I sprained it badly about a decade ago–just a little bump in the kitchen, tripping over a step I knew was there. It didn’t feel so terrible immediately, but an hour later, my ankle was screaming in pain. A trip to the doctor confirmed a bad sprain and I did RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Big deal. My ankle was screwed, and I instinctively knew it.
I have loose joints which makes me ace with yoga but sometimes my ankle just collapses when I am walking and I stumble. Years ago I probably should have done exercises to strengthen my ankle muscles to hold the ankle itself in place. But I did not. Continue reading
What to wear when you “dress up” in your sixties and after comes with caveats for most of us. I do not go to the gym nearly enough to have great arms. Or legs. Or dammit, even a midrif! Sag and flab abounds, even though I am a former jogger who once had a 24-inch waist and slid into size fours. Now they are a distant memory even though I swear I am going to lose five/ten pounds and if I do, I know I will be happy for the rest of my life. Anyway, not for anyone am I exposing arms or midrif in public, and no matter how some women feel about exposing boob tops, after a certain age, letting them see the light of day, in public, is too obvious for my taste. It’s trying too hard. Besides, we are talking winter here.
But in the meantime, what to wear to cocktails, six to eight, in the Hamptons. It’s not all glam as any readers of People magazine might assume–if you do not hang with the crowd the paparazzi is after, it’s way more laid back. Cocktail parties among my friends–writers, editors, literary agents, photographers and artists–are quite often casual. Like the other night.
But we’re not talking sweats and Lulu Lemon here; it was still rather dress up, which does mean different things to different people and in different places. Despite not needing a totally all-out glam outfit, I still had one heck of a time getting ready. My constant companion has learned to be patient. He’s only one sweater change–or add a blazer–away from “Ready!” Which of course is so irritating. And this night, problems abounded. One top was too revealing, with another the broad neckline revealed the Kimora top I had put on to hold the line on flab, which would never do. (I must not have needed the Kimora* last time I wore it.) Another outfit felt too fussy, another felt too dowdy, and another–egads, did those last five pounds make that much difference? Oui. It was sad.
The clock was ticking. Constant companion is a patient man, but then, he is a man who is always ready ahead of time. He once confessed he went to a dinner party (before me, naturallement!) ten minutes before the appointed hour and the hostess answered the door in her bathrobe, forever curing him from arriving early anywhere other than the airport. (That is another story.) This night, six o’clock came and went and I was still trying on and rejecting…until I popped on a very dark hunter green–the same tonal quality as “midnight blue”–mock turtle top in stretchy velvet that covered my butt. I pulled on some black velvet pants–also stretchy, thank god. This outfit did require the use of a Kimora top–to smooth out my midrif. But itself, the outfit of dark green and black was too severe, too Robin Hood, even in velvet.
It measures 54 inches on a side. Formidable. In truth, I have never been able to figure out how to use it because of its size, but when I saw it at a yard sale for ten bucks, who could resist? Not I.
Though it’s after Thanksgiving and crazy to be publishing a cranberry recipe, I’ve been asked for the recipe for my unusually flavorful cranberry sauce, a hit with everyone who loves the taste of lime and ginger. Without a food processor it takes a bit of dicing, but if you have one the only extra work is the cleanup. Though my husband is not a lime/lemon guy, I make a batch of this and use it on my whole-grain toast with crunchy peanut butter every morning until it runs out sometime in March. With my coffee, it makes a great breakfast. If I can still find cranberries in the spring, I often make another batch.
2 pounds of cranberries (Today that means 2 and a half bags as they are now 12 oz., rather than 16 oz.; I freeze the rest to use in apple pies or crisps). Or you can cut down on the cranberries and make the other calculations yourself.
1 large orange
1-2 inch knob of fresh ginger, also chopped fine, can be done in food processor along with fruits
1/2 teaspoon of powdered ginger or more (if you really love ginger; I do and always add the extra)
2 cups of sugar (if you are worried about tartness, add an extra tablespoon or more but I usually find this adequate. I haven’t done this yet, but I imagine this works just as well with Splenda.
1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 cup of raisins or currents
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 teaspoon of Tabasco or dried red pepper flakes
Dice orange, lime (including rinds) and ginger in food processor with the metal blade and set aside.
Cook cranberries in a heavy pot until they are bursting; add sugar, diced orange and lime, raisins, cinnamon and ginger and mix in. Cook and stir for a while longer over medium to low heat, until all the cranberries burst. The time will depend on the type of pot you use; heavy cast iron over medium heat makes quick work of the boiling berries. Stir frequently or constantly during this process. If a few cranberries are slow to pop, smooch them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. You don’t want this to cook down into a smooth paste, a slightly chunky chutney consistency is what you want. Turn off heat. When cooled, stir in vanilla and Tabasco sauce or red pepper flakes. Even the whole teaspoon of Tabasco won’t make this very hot, but it you are dubious, add it in bits, stirring it in and tasting before adding more.
If you love lemony, limey tastes, you are unlikely ever to want another cranberry sauce. I put mine in jars and they last in the refrigerator, as I said, until the spring. Great on toast with peanut butter, and it goes well with pork roasts or any meat that can stand up to a strong flavor. Since it is out of the ordinary, put it in a pretty jar, wrap a ribbon around it–voila! a homey house gift when you’re invited to dinner rather than the usual bottle of wine.
THE SPY LOVER by Kiana Davenport is a magnificent novel about the human heart and the savagery of the Civil War, about conflicting loyalties, about love and redemption, about people pushed aside because of their skin color and the slant of their eyes. It is told through the story of three main characters caught up in the Civil War: a Chinese immigrant who fights against slavery and for the Union; his daughter, Era, who tends the wounded of the South while spying for the North; and the Confederate cavalryman she nurses, then loves, and finally betrays.
What is surprising is that no one up until now has written about the Chinese who fought valiantly for a country that offered them citizenship, but then reneged on that promise due to powerful anti-Asian sentiment afterwards. Davenport fills that gap with this brilliant portrayal of that war. The day-to-day lives of the soldiers, North and South; the hands-on participation of Southern women in the war effort; the epic battles; the prejudice against the Chinese before and after the war are all so thoroughly researched you know you are reading a work from the hands of a master.
We learn how Southern women cultivated poppy for opium to give their soldiers–not only for pain, but as a kind of euphoric courage as they went into battle without enough resources, food in their bellies, or even, shoes on their feet. In the mind of the Southern hero, Warren Petticomb, she captures what had to be the dreary and exhausted mind set of soldiers who knew they were fighting a losing war. Though I am a Northerner by birth and bent, the reader cannot help be sympathetic to the individual suffering of both sides, the inestimable cost in human misery.
THE SPY LOVER brings to life the blood and guts of the Civil War in a vivid, unforgettable way. A few decades ago, high praise for her writing would have been: she writes like a man, because the Civil War was bloody awful and Davenport does not shy away from depicting it as such, blood, guts and gore. The first chapter plunges you right into that reality, and those who would turn away should read on. There is so much to admire here.
The writing is raw, the images searing, the insights profound: “At night he tosses, remembers pointing his revolver, and he wonders if one is least guilty at that moment one aims a weapon at another human. For the guilt already exists; it is manifestly there in the intention.”
Of the end of day at Gettysburg, she writes: “…Eventually, the guns die down, exhausted. Union artillery continues ripping at their flanks, as barefoot and starving, Southern boys fall apart in human bits and pieces until the last of them go down. Dusk approaches, the battle blurs, the air turns soft and still.” I gave up reading it at night because I couldn’t get to sleep after. Yet at its heart, this is a love story.
Davenport herself is an amalgam of the two cultures she writes about so movingly. Her mother was a full-blooded Hawaiian native, her father an Anglo from Alabama. The two met when he was in the Navy and stationed in Pearl Harbor. As she puts it at her own blog: “I am part-native, part-Southern redneck.” From her mother’s side, an uncle was the basis for the character Johnny Tom, the Chinese Union fighter; from her father’s side, an ancestor who was a cavalryman with the famous unit known as the Prattville Dragoons of Alabama.
Davenport has written well-regarded novels before, but this is her masterpiece and catapults her into a whole new category. I wish it had a different title so it didn’t sound like merely a romance novel, but by any name, THE SPY LOVER-historical novel, expose, love story–is destined to become one of the classic novels about the Civil War.
Published by Thomas & Mercer, a division of Amazon. Order in paperback or Kindle version–please!–at First Mother Forum in the sidebar. I can’t figure out how to ad the direct link to Amazon here. Maddening. And thanks.
There are pumpkin pies and then there is ambrosial pumpkin pie that comes from my mother’s recipe. I’ve made this for company and my family for years and it never fails to get a lot of ohhs and ahhs. The secret is a good flaky crust, a smooth custard filling and a bottom crust that has butter, brown sugar and nuts baked into it. If there is heaven, this is served in it.
They are all pretty much the same and so I won’t bother you with that here, but I will let you in on my secrets to a Truly Great Crust. Substitute about a quarter of a cup of the white flour with whole wheat flour and quarter of the total flour with Wondra, that over-processed stuff in the blue and white can. It makes the pastry truly flaky. By using part whole wheat, I’m adding back in some of the nutritious goodies that were taken out in processing of the white and Wondra flour, as well as adding a slightly more robust flavor. You can play around with the amounts of whole wheat and Wondra but I wouldn’t go over a half cup of Wondra with one and a half cups of white/whole wheat flour. (2 cups of flour total). Even a couple of tablespoons of whole wheat flour in place of the white gives the crust a stronger flavor and the folks who only like white flour (my husband) won’t complain.
I use the Cuisinart to make pastry since that assures that you don’t overwork the flour and end up with a tough crust, the anathema of pastry chefs. Also, sometimes an all butter crust gets tough, and so I substitute half of the butter with safflower oil. Pulse flour/oil/butter/dash of salt in the Cuisinart until crumbly (no longer-you don’t want it to form into a ball) , then add the ice water. And pulse again. Again, DO NOT OVER PULSE. YOU STILL WANT IT CRUMBLY. Form it into a ball and then a disc once you take out out of the Cuisinart–onto a sheet of plastic wrap.
After you make a flat disc with the crust on plastic wrap, let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour. (Overnight or a day or two is fine, but longer than that, I’d freeze it.) Roll it out between plastic wrap (you will have to use overlapping sheets to get the whole crust on the plastic, but it is worth it. I’m usually very stingy about wasting plastic (there is too much in the world) and such, but this is one case where it makes life so much easier, and you won’t end up swearing and scraping the crust off your counter. After you have rolled it out to size, peel away the top layer of plastic, move the pie dish close to the crust, and lift it off the counter on the plastic, and turn it upside down on the pie plate. Voila!
Now. The filling.
Praline Pumpkin Pie
Yield two small or one large pie
Pre heat oven to 425 F
- 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
- 1/3 cup ground pecans or walnuts
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- Mix this together with a fork and press into bottom of crust. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes. Cover the edge of the crust with strips of foil to keep it from over browing during this high heat period. Reduce Temperature to 325 F.
- The real deal:
- 4 eggs
- 1 ½ can (small) can of pumpkin puree
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark, your choice; dark has more molasses, and thus a deeper flavor)
- 1 tablespoon + all-purpose flour
- ¼ – ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mace (Don’t have it? Don’t worry–it’s the outer shell of nutmeg and is used in very few recipes these; medieval folks loved it.)
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon or more
- 1 teaspoon salt or less
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or more. (I love it, add a heaping 1/2 t, but if ginger is a tad too zesty for you and your guests, eliminate or cut down to 1/4 t)
- ½ -1 teaspoon fresh nutmeg –generous grating of fresh (Fresh makes all the difference. Use a plane grater for an even grate.)
- 1 cup light cream or can of evaporated milk. Now taste it. You can add more or less of any spice you like (careful with the cloves) and add more sugar for a sweeter taste.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, 2/3 cup brown sugar, flour, cloves, mace, cinnamon, salt and ginger. Blend in cream until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into partially baked shell.
Bake at 325F for 40 to 50 minutes, or until filling is set. (It takes longer in glass, less in a tin.) The oven will start out much hotter for the filling, since it has been up to 425 F. Usually the center with split a bit when it done. That’s fine. Use a toothpick or a cake tester that comes out clean to make sure it is fully set.
I serve this with heavy cream whipped with a small amount of sugar (to taste, I like it not very sweet because the pie is) and a tablespoon or more of bourbon or rum. Years ago in Glamour magazine I read that men find the aroma of pumpkin…sexy. My husband loves the smell, and he still loves me, so maybe there is some truth to that.
PS: What are you going to do with a half can of pumpkin? I simply used two full cans, added a scant 1/3 cup more sugar (light brown); upped the spices about 1/4 t all except clove –just a healthy pinch or a half of a 1/4 t, an extra egg, and a 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and poured all the excess in a small baking dish. They bake in much less time than the pie –check them in a half hour.