Tag Archives: Food

Down Three Teeth

I saw the new year in with a throbbing jaw, thanks to the movement of a wisdom tooth that had been dormant since my twenties (my twenties, not the twenties. There is a difference, thanks). Cassie had a stinking cold as well, so quite the sorry pair we made. We were having some friends over for a relatively quiet new year dinner, and this meant it would be even quieter. So at the same time as buying wine (for mulling – yum) and food, I went to Rite Aid to collect the penicillin my dentist had kindly phoned through for me. That kept me going until my appointment with the dentist back in San Diego, who prodded around with his implements and recommended I have it out. The date was set for last Friday.

It would involve enough sedation and anaethesia to prevent me from driving home – I would need to be dropped off and picked up. Cassie was unable to take work days off, after the extended break we’d just had. Luckily, my friends Brian & Stacy were free to come down to San Diego, take me to the oral surgeon first thing in the morning, and then pick up the drooling, moaning results. So they came down on Thursday, we went for a disappointing meal (after rave reviews on Twitter) at Crazy Burger. To be honest, I wasn’t feeling in the mood for beef’n’beer, or ostrich’n’beer or croc or anything else – I was nervous about the needle. I’ll go back another time – I’m sure it’s really good if you’re into it.

Early Friday morning B&S took me to the Center for Oral Surgery, and we hung out in the waiting room watching the standard dentist fishtank and reading Newsweek magazine. Then I was summoned. They took a once-around X-ray, (I must get hold of these images sometime) and then it was time to be knocked out.

I had to have one tooth out, but I spoke to the dentist about another one which has given me problems in the past, and he said he’s take that one out too while he was in there, and while I was out. This  meant he had to take the one above it out as well for some dental reason. The fourth could remain, it was so well embedded in my head.

I got nice and comfy, then they covered me up with plastic sheeting to protect my clothes, the walls etc. The nice anaesthetist first had me breathing some laughing gas, which did actually make me giggle. Well, that and the anaesthetist’s statement that she was my new favourite drug dealer. Then the IV went in and it was bye-bye.

I woke up with a head full of gauze, both physically and mentally. I decided to relax for a while on my recovery room bed, then B&S came and took me home. I was given Vicodin and Amoxycillin, and went to bed, and to la-la land.

Cassie came down from LA later and took over my care – the first thing she said was, “Can I slap you in the face?”. The weekend consisted of chilling out, maxing and relaxing all cool (no B-Ball though), popping pills and eating a variety of soft or liquid foods. It reminded me of the scene in Trainspotting when Renton kicks heroin using the Sick Boy Method.

“Recovering from Oral Surgery. Stage One: preparation. For this you will need:

  • one room which you will not leave
  • one sofa
  • one bed
  • one television
  • one DVD player
  • chicken soup, for consumption warm
  • tomato soup, for consumption warm
  • mushroom soup, for consumption warm
  • ice cream, vanilla, one large tub
  • Trader Joe’s Belgian Chocolate Pudding, one tub
  • Vicodin pills, one bottle
  • Amoxicillin capsules, one bottle
  • Ibuprofen pills, one bottle
  • salt water mouth rinse, several glasses
  • Carnation Instant Breakfast, various flavours,
  • Jello, strawberry flavour, one bowl
  • rice pudding 
  • The Internet and it’s colourful cousin, the World Wide Web
  • one fully-appointed bathroom

And now I’m ready. All I need is a final Vicodin to soothe the pain while the Amoxicillin takes effect…”

Giving Thanks To Vegas

Late November, 2008. It was my first American Thanksgiving weekend, and it was my best ever. Cassie’s parents live in Las Vegas, in a nice gated community called Spanish Trail. In the few years they’ve been there, Cassie’s Dad has already got himself elected as the President of the Residents Association (or something). He calls himself the “King”, but no-one else does (except Cassie – she loves her Daddy).

Thanksgiving traffic is famous. I should have taken the train to LA, but I had a big suitcase, and I needed flexibility for my return journey. I was able to nip off from work early, but even leaving at 1330 on Wednesday had me taking 6 hours to drive to LA. Monstrous. Train for definite next time.

The drive to Las Vegas is pretty spectacular in places, with great expanses of scrub and tumbleweeds, and the orange mountains in the distance, under the stark blue sky. The problem is, the straight road and the distance make it very similar to the Desert Bus Game, albeit from LA to LV rather than from Tucson.

Joining Cassie and I and her parents for the big dinner were some of her parents friends, who were very nice, and the food was good, and the wine was good, and the surroundings were good and it was very nice all round. None of the histrionics I had come to expect from watching countless Thanksgiving episodes of American sitcoms.

The food included the traditional turkey. I explained about how turkey is the Xmas food in the UK, and that we don’t do Thanksgiving (I’m sometimes surprised at how many people ask me that). With the bird we had Italian stuffing, chestnut stuffing, cream mashed potatoes, pumpkin squash souffle and other sides. For dessert we had pumpkin pie (of course), whipped cream, chocolate cookie pie (not sure what it was really called, but it was delicious) and a cheeky little sparkling Chiraz (I know!) that Cassie and I have been enjoying recently. Cassie’s Mum is an awesome cook, and she loves feeding her family and friends. She gave me some Spaghetti sauce in freezer containers, of which I am enjoying the second batch this week.

There’s a common misunderstanding that goes around here about turkey. People say it contains high levels of an amino acid called tryptophan, which causes you to feel sleepy. This story gets trotted out every year, and every year doctors and scientists have to explain that no, it’s the thousands of calories and multiple glasses of wine that make you sleepy. That and all the college football.

While digesting, we watched a movie-on-demand. Having watched The Savages a couple of weeks previously, I really didn’t need to see Smart People, but it was the consensus. Apart from anything else, I didn’t care about any of the people. The fact that the premise is effectively the same (fractured family comes together, injury forces members to help etc.) didn’t help matters. That said, it’s true that The Savages affected me more because the storyline concerned an elderly parent and adult children. I still find myself affected by memories of the deaths of my parents.

So just to remind me some more about age and mortality, the next night we watched Young At Heart, a brilliant documentary about a singing group in Massachusetts whose average age is 80. They sing standard show tunes, but also adapted versions of songs like Schizophrenia by Sonic Youth (“You can’t understand the words!”) and Talking Heads songs like Life During Wartime and Road To Nowhere. The latter was particularly apt given that the original video for that song had the Hi Vista Community Hall Singers performing the opening and closing refrains – it echoed the community spirit of the story. It’s a great movie, and one that had us all welling up.

Cassie’s Mum (or should I start saying “Mom”?) asked me to check her computer for spyware and stuff, because I am that most precious of family members, the one who is “good with computers”. I agreed of course, and I was pleasantly surprised to find she is using Firefox, and her security software is all up to date. This is a big change from someone elses machine I used to check. One Xmas I updated their virus files. The following Xmas I checked their virus files and found they had been updated “…365 days previously. Please update now.”

Cassie and I had splashed out and booked a night at The Venetian, one of the less crazy hotels in Vegas, with just a small recreation of the Venice canals up on the 4th floor, complete with gondolas and boutiques. The room was pretty nice, a split level with a king-sized bed, remote control drapes, big TV, marble everywhere and a great view of the hundreds of air-conditioning units covering the roofs below. I was seriously coveting the lamps, but I have to be careful about what that means. We got room service and watched a completely legitimate DVD of Stephen Fry’s America documentary, specifically the episode where he went to Nevada and California. Nicely meta. It was interesting to see his take on Vegas while stretched out in a hotel room in Vegas.

That evening we joined the folks again to go and see the musical Jersey Boys, the musical story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It was a really slick production, with great a falsetto performance from the lead, and many songs that I never realised were originally Frankie Valli songs (like Bye Bye Baby, which I thought was by the Bay City Rollers. Yes, I know now, don’t I?). The show was performed in a special full size theatre built inside hotel casino just for this run, and it was comfortable and spacious – a big change from London theatres. But did it lose the charm? Don’t think so.

After the show, we had dinner with the folks again, and after that, and a couple of Grey Goose Gimlets, I was ready for bed. We slowly made our way back through the casino, drinking in the atmos, and finally crawled into the huge bed.

Opening the curtains by remote control from said bed was cool, but I could have done with a couple more hours in the dark. But, we had to get up and go, especially considering we had our drive back to LA in the not-quite-so-atrocious post-Thanksgiving traffic. It did take a couple of hours more than usual, but at least that gave us time to listen to crazy right-wing AM talk radio as we stop-started through the desert.

Bah Humbug – No That’s Too Strong

I did not want to emerge from my cocoon this morning. I have the clock radio on loud to encourage emergence, but I find that if I put my head under the covers, I can listen comfortably. I was up late last night wrapping presents, packing my suitcase and preparing the apartment to be left for a few days. I’m driving up to LA this afternoon, and then Cassie and I are going up to Orinda to spend Xmas with her brother’s family. It will be ace.

The nostalgia centres of my brain are on overdrive at the moment, as has been noticed by friends, but I love Xmas, always did. I don’t come from a particularly large family, but when we were all together, it was a happy time. I like presents, obviously, and as my fortunes have improved, I enjoy buying gifts for people. I have been frustrated at my own lack of foresight and gift-buying imagination sometimes, especially when I see the wonderful array of one-off stuff available on the net. But in general it’s an exciting time for me.

I’ve taken to calling it Xmas in recent years on this blog. It’s partly a Futurama reference, and partly trying to avoid the religious connotations. I’m not religious or superstitious (the same thing, aren’t they?). Xmas for me has always been about the season, the colours and atmosphere, the food, the music and the imagery. I have no problem with the disconnect from the original meanings, be they Christian, Pagan, or other religion.

I have no shame in telling you that I love Xmas music. My favouraite Xmas song is Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas, which has an anti-war message (of course, for the time) but also a couple of interesting lines about about belief. Plus the Troika melody, which always brings a tear to my rheumy sentimental old eye. Also in the running:

This morning, the blaring radio had an item about the Humanist winter celebration, HumanLight, which is celebrated on December 23rd, halfway between the winter solstice and Xmas. Humanists gather, sing songs, play games, and do all the regular Xmassy stuff, but with an emphasis on reason-based (as opposed to faith-based) beliefs, and trying to create a peaceful and prosperous future for all.

While the imagery of HumanLight doesn’t appeal to me, and the music I heard on the radio certainly doesn’t, I appreciate the effort to make something concrete for this time of year. There’s a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” thing around this time, where if someone asked me why I was using all the decorations and religious imagery, I’d have to make some general comments about liking the season (much like here).

Does that mean I would like to get rid of “traditional” Xmas? I don’t think so, I’m too fond of it. But it may be necessary in the future. The War Of Attrition On Christmas, perhaps.

Anyway, I appreciate the HumanLight sentiment. All the best for the season, and I wish you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous new year!

November Beach Weekend

I’m now parking in the underground lot beneath my building, which cuts down on the time needed to get to work, and the amount of calories I burn to get from the car to my desk (uh-oh, gym tonight). My building has every convenience, it’s going to make life easy for me. It’s gonna be easy to get things done. I will relax, alone with my loved ones. And that’s what I did at the weekend.

Cassie took her turn to come down to SD at the weekend, bringing Gordon (pron. gor-DON, rolling the “r”). I had another Friday off under the every-other-Friday-off-in-return-for-longer-hours regime, which is working nicely for me, even after only a month.

I spent Friday running some errands and generally pottering. I had an optometrist appointment in the morning, which was a spur to getting up and about. I like going to the optometrist – all the technology and gadgetry, and they don’t even hurt you! He did that thing where he puffs air at your eye, which makes you blink, and he took photos of my retinas. As with my dental x-rays, I was tempted to ask for copies of the images and post them here. WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MY CAPILLARIES? My eyes are fine, my prescription has hardly changed, no I don’t want Lasik or contact lenses. I have to say my company insurance rocks for optometry.

My computer seems to have been fried by my putting 110v volts through it instead of the 240v it was expecting. Why that should fry the power supply is beyond me – this is why I failed A-Level Physics, and am not an electrical engineer. Anyway, I took it to a friendly repair place, who diagnosed the fried PSU, replaced it, and sold me a wireless router as well. Proteus2 lives again. Now to get the router working…

Cassie arrived early evening, and after the usual Zagat’s discussion we went to a nice Moroccan restaurant, Kous Kous. The food was great: Cassie had a chicken tagine dish, and I had beef, all washed down with hot mint tea. We declined dessert – she had a craving for ice-cream (!) so after a stroll round the trendy neighbourhood we stopped off at 7-Eleven.

We both wake up early during the week, so it’s hard to sleep in at the weekends, especially with Gordon whining to be let out. Unfortunately, “out” means getting up, dressed, and taking him downstairs and out of the apt-plex to pee and poo, so by the time you get back, you’re fully awake and dressed. So we decided to go straight to Coronado Dog Beach. It was a lovely day, altough the temperature hasn’t been as high, so we weren’t planning on swimming. Very wise too – the surf was quite impressive, crashing and booming, and paddling was very cold. The adjacent air base was launching some F-20’s, and Gordon had a great time dashing about, barking like a loon, and digging as predicted. After a good length of time playing, relaxing, walking up and down, and throwing the ball for G, we though maybe it was time for lunch. Then we saw that it was 9.45am. Hmm. We managed to drag it out for a while longer (I know, poor us), before taking the mutt to the scrub shop for a soaking. A slice of pizza and a coke later, we were home.

In the evening we met a colleague of mine and her husband for a couple of beers at O’Briens (“the hoppiest place on Earth”), which was really nice – the first time I’ve socialised with a colleague outside of a couple of happy hours and lunches. Must do more.

Sunday morning I made pancakes with Bisquick – my Americanization continues. I added slices of banana to the batter in the pan, so they were embedded. We ate them with Aunt Jemima’s Original syrup, hand-made by the lady herself in a gigantic stainless steel factory. I was horrified to see you can buy sugar-free syrup at the grocery store, which I’m sure is just like the real thing. Whatever, they were delicious, and I’ll be doing it again.

On Sunday afternoon we went to the horrid Mission Valley mall to pick out some frames for my new glasses. I took the plunge and chose some with very bold frames, a departure from the half-framed or frameless look I have sported for so long. The prescription wasn’t very different from my current specs, so I can keep my old ones for a choice of looks. I’ll be picking them up in a week or so, and I’ll post a picture.

While at the mall, we saw Role Models with the very funny Paul Rudd. The commercials really don’t do it justice. It veered from so-so crass comedy to the climactic surreal end sequence, where the guys dress as KISS to enter a LARP battle. I was laughing a lot throughout, especially when swear words were yelled – I’m a simple man.

Back In Blighty

Well, here we are back in the good old 51st state. We had a great time in Scotland, first in Dundee, Mairi’s birthplace, and then in a quiet-now-the-festival’s-finished Edinburgh.

Dundee was an experience for me, never having been before. Had a tour of the old haunts, primary school, the beautiful, burned-to-the-ground but now being restored Morgan Academy, and of course the chippy.

A delicacy to be savoured was the macaroni cheese pie, eaten hot or cold, with hot chips with salt and vinegar, and of course the red sauce. Fantastic, but very non-Atkins-friendly. This is good because the Atkins diet is frankly scary – but as is normal with these fad diets (sorry, ‘lifestyle changes’), people get very tetchy towards non-believers.

Broughty Ferry is along the Tay estuary, and is a great little coastal town – not much to do there, mind, but the peace and view makes up for it.

We stayed with some family friends of Mairis, who were very nice and hospitable. Beautiful house too. They kept urging us to sell up and move to Dundee or thereabouts. Detached stone 3 bedroom house for the cost of a taxi ride to Waterloo, or something.

Then to Edinburgh, which is always busy, but the edge had been taken off by the festival being over. Very relaxing. Went to a nice ‘contemporary Scottish’ restaturant, where I had haggis (of course), but haggis in filo pastry with red wine sauce. Lovely stuff. A bit slack on the veggie options though. I’m not veggie myself, but Mairi is, and it’s very frustrating for us when we’re trying to find a decent restaurant. The trouble is, IMHO, that really gastronautical places would rather die than limit what they could serve, because they’re very snobbish. This snobbery translates into a breathtaking lack of imagination. Roasted vegetables ahoy! French cuisine (once the best in the world, but now stagnating and complacent, apparently) is another case of, “if you don’t eat meat, you don’t love food” which is of course nonsense. Alternatively, you get veggie places which seem to lump all veggies into a kind of ‘knit your own yoghurt’ pigeonhole, with wholemeal pasta being offered. This consists of sawdust, flour and water mixed to a paste and extruded.

Rant over.

Yum

Managed to partake in that quintessentially British pastime, Afternoon Tea, on Saturday. Mairi’s birthday is this week, so on Sat we went to Claridges.

Fantastic time, very swish surroundings, all the sandwiches, scones and pastries you can eat, washed down with litres of tea. Great value, as long as you absolutely gorge yourself. Which I think I did.

Thence to the Anchor pub on the South Bank, which is apparently where Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire destroy most of London in 1666. A few pints of distictly non-authentic European lager, then hopped on the tube down to Tooting for a curry.

Chicken Dupiaza, very nice, if a little hotter than I was expecting. They always do that at the Sree Krishna.

A great day, and a great Sunday to deflate.