Pretty Soon Now You're Gonna Get Older

I've entered a new phase of life, and it is terrifying. I am among the lucky to make it to this point, and I am grateful for all that has gotten me here. But I am at that point where I have realized I am most definitely in the second half of life, and what lays ahead of me is decidedly shorter than what is behind. This frightens me. It also is awakening in me a sense of urgency, a nudge to stop and consider how I am spending my time, how I want to spend my time, who I want to stay around with me.

This is all very morbid for a sunny Sunday afternoon, and perhaps more fitting to the dark of night when around midnight last night I finally realized that if I don't take ownership of my health from here on out, it will impact my ability to interact with the world around me in a deep and meaningful way.

So how did I get to this place of despair? Over the last year I have been developing edema. My blood pressure has been going up every time it's measured, and this year my ankles swelled to the size of my calves. Edema is when your body starts retaining fluid. Everything swells, and if you aren't walking like 5 miles a day, by the end of the day it all settles into your feet and legs. It's associated with a couple of things (like blood pressure), and I'll be discovering the underlying causes of mine in the near future (that is another story). 

Unable to make the necessary life changes to correct this (like consistently walking those 5 miles) have landed me on Dyazide. This is a super-powered diuretic that forces all that excess water out. When I started taking it, I dropped a size in two days (two very intense days that kept me close to home). Overnight, I could fit onto all of my clothes, my joints were able to move freely, and I started to feel all around like a human being in a way I haven't for years.

Dyazide tries to regulate and lower your sodium and how much gets into the kidneys. This is what they give people who can't manage to stop eating processed foods and cured meat. And none of the information I got from my doctor or found on the internet prepared me for what would happen if I continued to eat those things while taking Dyazide.

If anyone remembers Alli, this is the pill that blocks fat absorption so you can continue to eat cheese and bacon and butter and still lose weight. But the truth was if you ate too much fat, the side effects were explosive.

The same seems to be true for me and sodium and Dyazide. The euphoria of the first week was replaced by malaise the second week and a wretched stomach the third. Then came yesterday - a fairly standard breakfast at Bob Evans (a Denver Omelet and hash browns - I really haven't been making the effort) that roughed me up pretty bad, and then a luau party, complete with pig roast. By 9:00 I was tired, by 10:00 I was exhausted, which contnued to devolve into dizziness, headache, and the inevitable rejection by my stomach, and then basically all the known side effects of this medication.

It was scary. I didn't drink, having given that  up long ago. I did eat, though - Hawaiian meatballs, authentic musubi, fried rice, ambrosia salad, and plenty of the aforementioned pig. That's  a lot of sodium, and the Dyazide continued to try to keep it in check. But it was just too much. We left, and on the way home, with the party fading  in the distance, I faced this thing.

Today's breakfast was a home made unsalted omelet with fresh herbs and a dusting of grated cheese with some also unsalted boiled potato. I am much better. Life will be different from now on, and it probably should have happened a long time ago. I'm giving up the cured meats and chips (good-bye Utz cheese balls) and many of the aged cheeses. I'm returning to citrus fruits and leaf greens and lean meats. I'm reading labels differently now, and adding a sodium check to my current carb-to-protein ratio.

I can do this. I gave up cigarettes and booze and a whole host of other things when their actual negative impact became unavoidable. I still have a few decades left, and I want them to be vibrant and productive for as long as possible. My grandmother was a great lover of life, and I felt her pour out every bit of joy she could into our time together, even into her 90's. May I live to be so happy.

Composition

Gareth has brought up the Acorn website to listen to BBC TV while he paints. He started painting again about a month ago, which means I have started taking photos again.

We are talking about composition, about seeing the shot in my mind and then creating it, about moving from opportunistic photography into something deliberate, intentional. Taking my time to see the shot, to let it come to me rather than me rushing to it.

We are looking at the masters. He has me listening to the Modern Art Notes podcast and the interview with Edward Burtynsky. I am on InstrGram following the New York Times Food Section, Food52, and a host of food bloggers, looking at how they are composing their shots, lighting their shots, plating their food. I am taking pictures of my meals with my phone.

I am wandering the neighborhood with my camera, shooting landscapes right now but I am getting ready for the garden, getting ready for spring. I am getting ready to write again.

Here is what I've been eating at home and not writing about. More to come soon.....

Ichiban in Columbia Crossing

I found Ichiban by accident. I was running errands over lunch and got all turned around in Columbia Crossing. Getting lost in Columbia is a not uncommon occurrence for those who don't live there. The brain child of Edward Notron's grandfather (yes, that Edward Norton), Columbia is Maryland's planned community, and popular opinion is that it was most certainly planned as only a committee could have created it. A sprawling mass of shopping centers, corporate parks, and cul de sacs cross-cut by numerous state highways and thoroughfares, it all looks blandly the same and would work much better if it were based on a nice straightforward grid.

I've been working down there since November when my company transferred my department out of our nice digs in Harbor East, and yesterday I was driving without GPS. After circling Dobbin Road, Old Dobbin Road, Columbia Crossing, and Columbia Crosing II for some 30 minutes looking for the road back to the office, I spotted Ichiban and decided it was time to at least pick up some lunch.

Ichiban offers a fairly generic selection of Chinese and Japanese take out. I got a bento box of chicken tempura, shomai, and a California roll. It came with a side of rice and miso soup. The lady behind the counter promised a 10-minute wait and that was accurate. I was in and out in good time.

My bento box was well-packaged but that's where the goodness ends. The chicken tempura was greasy, and the meat was dry and flavorless. The California roll was also lacking in flavor, plus it came without chopsticks so I had no real way to mix the small dab of wasabi into my soy sauce. And, really, am I supposed to eat sushi with a knife and fork? The shomai was good but luke warm and a little dry on one side as if it had finished cooking first and had to wait for everything else to catch up. The miso was a fairly sad affair that I didn't even bother with. The best part was the rice - nice sticky flavorful sushi rice.

I also on impulse got a strawberry bubble tea. The menu offers additional bubble and flavor at additional cost, which is a good racket for them. My tea had a good ammount of large tapioca bubbles but was thin and watery.

Overall Ichiban only gets points for speed as the food itself fell flat for me. Which is just as well as I doubt I will ever be able to find them again. At $15 total for a mediocre lunch, I doubt I will go looking, either.

Located somewhere in Columbia Crossing (I thought I saw a Rack Room Shoes nearby?), Ichiban is open for lunch and dinner, dine-in or take-out.

Havre de Grace Ritz Gourmet Cafe

A fixture in downtown Havre de Grace for the last 20 or so years, The Ritz is primarily known for providing a decent lunch to proper ladies who are not in much of a hurry.  Now that Color Images is located on the same block, I had the opportunity to try out The Ritz for the first time, getting a take out order to eat while my color processed.

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Aberdeen's Korean Restaurant

The sign outside is just a large yellow banner that says Korean Restaurant in bold black letters. The first thing you hear when you walk in is an aggressively irritated Korean woman announcing how long you will have to wait for your food. It's noon and she is out of kimbap and nothing more will get done until there is more. On the right of the entrance is a hostess station that looks long out of use. You need to walk the length of the restaurant past a dozen or so unadorned tables to the counter in the back. There is a polite young woman behind the counter taking orders and payments as the older woman barks prices at her. The older woman is made up like a bad Hollywood stereotype - powdered white face, bright red lips, heavy black eyes. She looks at me and says like it's a challenge, "30-minute wait. You wait 30 minutes?"

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Easy Scones

Today the sun is out in full force. The air is warm. The snow that fell last weekend is melting at a rapid pace. Stepping outside you can believe that spring is near.

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Harbor East Sweet Green

Over the last few years, Harbor East has gone through a remarkable redevelopment. And even though I can still remember when it was just vancant lots littered with broken bottles and used syringes, it has now become a neighborhood known for its ever increasing dining options. When The Hyatt Place moved in last year, it brought with it several fairly decent chain restaurants, including Jimmy Johns, Cava, Nado's Peri Peri, and most recently Sweet Green, an upscale salad joint that specializes in locally sourced vegetables.

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Welcome 2016

The holidays are over and life is settling back into its normal everyday rhythm. I'm taking down the tree this weekend and organizing my holiday gear a little more effectively, a trend that I intend to carry over to the rest of the house. 2015 was another quiet year for this blog, mostly because I was busy, Gareth was busy, there wasn't much interesting going on in the kitchen - just good workaday meals that come together easy at the end of the day.

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Outside the Tourist Zone in Amsterdam

So I haven't been blogging much while in Amsterdam because there really hasn't been much to blog about food-wise. I encountered a nice French bakery up near Centraal Station in the heart of the city and got a decent crepe from a local chain restaurant. But I personally haven't had much opportunity to get out there and try the local cuisine.

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What to Do with $10 of Tomatoes

This is truly the best time of the year in my little corner of the world. If you live out in farm country like I do, everything is in season right now, so everything is fresh and readily available at the local farm stand. This includes ginormous boxes of stewing tomatoes for next to nothing. We scored a beer-case of them from Hopkins Produce for about $10. So this long Labor Day weekend was stewing tomatoes weekend.

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Chicken Booyah

I grew up with chicken booyah. While my family didn't make it, just about everyone else's did. Of unconfirmed Belgian origin, you'll find it in the peninsula of Wisconsin that juts into Lake Michigan and the surrounding area where a concentration of Belgians settled. The easiest way to explain booyah is like this: quarter a couple of stewing chickens and simmer them in a large pot until the meat falls off the bones and the bones break open releasing the marrow and you have at least a gallon of stock.

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Everything I Know About Biscuits is Wrong

So when you neglect your hobby for an extended period of time, you may find when you return to it that things are not quite as you left them. Which is how today's blog post started when none of the cameras I own had a charged battery. I had to go with my little Nikon CoolPix because I could quickly replace its disposable batteries and get things up and running. Which means all of the innovation is in the baking and not in the photography. 

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Good in a Pinch: Nando's Peri-Peri

Once upon a time, there was delicious Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken in Baltimore - chicken so delicious it drew the masses from all walks of life. Racial tensions and other petty rivalries eased as the city's denizens crowded into the tiny entryway of La Rotisseria for magically seasoned and always cooked to perfection chicken with beans, rice, and the best green sauce ever made. And, every once in a while, a small selection of hand-made papusas that always sold out almost immediately. That little storefront carry-out place was my first taste of papusas, and of Peruvian style chicken. And to date it has been the best.

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