Wednesday, January 23, 2019

My new friend, Toby

My daughter Val has had the same carpet cleaner for years. It was time for his services, but she couldn't reach him. After persistently trying off and on over a month's time, she finally reached him. He had a pretty bad stroke a year ago, couldn't work, lost his business and was about to lose his house. She has a soft heart, went to his place, found him and his house and his dog in shambles. The two finches who were living in an entertainment center seemed in good health. She couldn't find any dog food in the house and suspicioned that the dog, Toby, was eating bird seed. She took him to Trader Joe's, where he got some food for himself and pet food, and has been keeping an eye on him. He is suicidal, is alienated from his family, and has decided lying down in a snow bank is a pretty painless way to go. She called government agencies, tried to get him some help. He is about to lose his house, he said he has maybe two or three more months and then his savings are totally gone. She suspicions that he is continuing to have some mini strokes. She tried to find homes for the pets so she could take him to the hospital. She found a home for the birds, but not the dog. She said he was very sweet, but dirty, probably malnourished, not very attractive. I said if she couldn't find a home for him, I would take him until Patrick was on his feet and could take him back. She is also looking into housing for him. So how is she going to find housing that will take in a dog and two finches, along with Patrick, who is very ill? Last Sunday, Val and her husband Mike went to Patrick's house and convinced him that he should check in to a hospital, that she would take Toby to me, and that I would take excellent care of him. So Mike and Patrick went to hospital, where Val's suspicions were confirmed. Patrick has had several more small strokes. Val and I met halfway between Mishawaka and Zionsville to do the dog exchange. Yup, he was a mess! But a good boy with a sweet personality. I made sure I would have someone at my house when Toby met Fred, my dog, especially with ice and snow on ground and me in a boot from a fractured bone or two in my foot. I didn't need to have two fighting dogs on my hands, so my friend Jim was there to help when I got home. No need to worry - they got on fine.
I've been reading up on how to train an adult dog that has peed and pooped wherever he wants for 14 or 15 years. I'm trying the umbilical method. He is now tied to me via a long leash, which Phyllis Panozzo made for one of my dogs many years ago. He is pretty good if I watch him all the time because he heads towards a door before he lets loose, but I don't always pay attention. Now, when he heads for the door, I know it because he is attached to me and will be pulling me along as he heads for the door. Yesterday he must have followed Fred out the automatic door while I was at the vet's picking up some paperwork. Of course, he couldn't get back in because he didn't yet have the magic fob on his collar that operates the dog door. Fortunately I had gotten him his rabies shot the day before, tag on collar with vet's name on it. Someone picked him up on Lincoln Way East, where he almost got hit by a bus. They called my vet's office, got my number and got him back to me. I had been driving around but hadn't gotten that far from home. I had also tramped through the snow by the river worried that he might have gone in. A friend chided me for getting an old dog a rabies shot. Did you know that you cannot get a dog groomed in Indiana unless you bring in the paperwork that shows the dog has a current vaccine? Of course, when she heard that she understood why I did it. Thank goodness that tag was on his collar. I might never have gotten him back without that tag!
Jenna grooming Toby
All done!
Back home and having dinner
Beautiful Toby!
I am already in love. But he is Patrick's dog, and if Patrick finds a way to take him back, he will go to his owner. All's well that ends well, and I'm not sure walking around with a dog attached to my dog leash "umbilical cord" is the best ending. What will be will be.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

First post surgery CT scan

I had a malignant sarcoma known as a GIST (Gastro Intestinal Stromal Tumor). It grows on a stalk and lights somewhere between your throat and your anus. I lovingly refer to it as the "a-hole to appetite" tumor.

Mine was near the top of my stomach, close to the esophagus, a very bad place. Initial diagnosis from first surgeon was to take the whole stomach and about a fourth of the esophagus, unless we could shrink it enough with chemotherapy to take less.

The chemo didn't work. In fact, it damned near killed me. My liver enzymes hit 577, and I started having daily (and quite intense) Prinzmetal's angina attacks. Those attacks are caused by spasms in the coronary arteries, which shut off blood supply to the heart - in other words, small heart attacks that can become big ones without immediate attention. I keep nitroglycerin tablets in a locket around my neck. I have three or four of these a year, pop a tablet, sit down for a couple of minutes and all is well again. But while on chemo, during the last six days, I had seven of them, so severe that it took two tablets and 10 or more minutes of lying down and trying not to think about the elephant on my chest.

So I had no choice but to have surgery, and have it quickly. Dr. Google and I had some long chats, and I got some good information from a GIST board. Dana Farber cancer clinic in Boston was number one on the list of centers of excellence for GISTs. I was there meeting with surgeon and oncologist within 10 days.

The oncologist there insisted that it was a rather terrible tumor (the oncologist here in Indiana disagreed). The surgeons disagreed as well. The Indy surgeon recommended a total gastrectomy, the surgeon in Boston said he could remove a small bit of stomach wall and leave the esophagus completely alone.

Again, Dr. Google and I did some consulting, and I decided to go to Boston for the surgery. The surgeon removed only 10% of the stomach wall, and I was eating fried chicken within two weeks!

I love food. I couldn't think of anything more horrible than losing my stomach. I was quite sure I had made the right decision. However, over time if I had any kind of distress in the gastrointestinal tract, I was sure I had made the wrong one, and that I was filling up with tumors. My fears became more frequent and more irrational as I got close to the six-month mark, date for first CT scan. In fact, I asked the oncologist to move up the date of the scan. He did, and five months and one week after the surgery, I had my first scan. It was clean as a whistle!

In another six months, another scan, and then another and another, every six months. If they are all clear (and today I am sure they will be), I go to a scan every 10 years.

I am very thankful for my good health, and for a healthy GI tract. :)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Yeast in my kitchen, hard at work!

Tomorrow I take in baked goods to my booth at the market. The work started last night, when I fed my sourdough a little extra for Tartine's recipe for country boules. This morning when I got up for my workout at Crossfit, I tested it, and it wasn't at the float stage. If the starter sinks to the bottom of a bowl of water, it doesn't yet have enough gas in it to make bread rise. By the time I got home from working out, it was perfect!

I also started my poolish, which is sort of a sourdough, because you mix flour, water and a tiny bit of yeast and let it sit on the counter for 12 hours before making the dough for French baguettes. It enriches the flavor, and allows me to use only half as much yeast in the finished dough.

I then fed my rye sourdough, filled the jar nearly to the top, so that I would have the 15 ounces of active sourdough to make two loaves of sourdough rye. This morning, I ground the rye berries, caramelized the onions and mixed the sourdough with water and the freshly ground rye flour.

The coffee beans on the counter by the new ferments are there to attract yeast that like coffee - or so one of my bread baking books says they will do. Left to right, the poolish for nine baguettes (will bake in the morning), the rising rye dough with a new jar of starter in front, and rising dough for boules with new starter in square bowl in front.

Poolish for baguettes, sourdough rye rising, country boule on first rise. 
By 3 this afternoon, I set the rye bread and boules to rise. The baguette dough will be made this evening, refrigerated for a slow rise, then in the morning, loaves are formed, set to rise, and baked. They are always still warm when I leave for market.

Two loaves of rye rising, two boules rising (one round, one oblong)
Buzzer just went off. Time to turn on oven and get ready to bake bread!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Go big or go home.

Sometimes we need our friends to tell us what we don't want to hear. I have had a web page, with varying degrees of success, for at least a dozen years. The latest is okay, but the friend said it - if you don't have a viable, usable, attractive website, better not have one at all.

I have hired a media firm - TJ21 Media Group in South Bend - to spiff up my site. TJ told me it wasn't bad, but needed updating, better pictures, a blog that gets updated frequently instead of when I get a minute. You see, I would much rather blog here about this and that than to have some discipline about updating my blog for product stories on my site. Time to get to work.

The journey started Tuesday night, when Liz, my assistant at the market who just happens to be a photographer for her "real" job, came over and we did pics of all of my essential oils. They will be going up on my web page shortly. I have good prices, nice variety and a source of excellent oils. So why have I been keeping them under a bushel? I'm gonna let them shine!

I've also started carrying CBD products, so they too will be featured on my page. I learned the value of CBD oil when I was on chemo. It had failed to register that while I was taking it for nausea, I no longer had to take Celebrex for tendonitis in my hip. After chemo, no more CBD oil and I was back on Celebrex -- and then the nickel dropped. CBD oil is great for inflammatory disease. There will be a new section for CBD products. I have a story to tell and a product to sell.

Fortunately my web site bones are good. The firm is prettying it up and making it more comprehensive, and providing those good old meta tags that will get me more viewers. Liz and I will be doing all of the photos, and I'm doing the pricing and product descriptions.

Stay tuned for what's happening. Here's a link to the current clunky site. Watch the progress while we work!! Ceres & Co.'s current web site/

Monday, December 10, 2018

Some days everything turns out right!

  • I got in a hurry making my last batch of moisturizer and it broke - retail value about $350. I made more and put the broken stuff in the fridge rather than throw it away. Usually that is a fatal error. Today I put it into an ice bath and went at it with my stick blender. Success!! Saved, and in fridge for when I need another batch.
  • I balanced my checkbook and found nearly $800 in errors - IN MY FAVOR!
  • The marina quoted me $300 for a new boot to cover the bimini top - just got the bill in the mail and it was for $197. Smiling, smiling, smiling!
  • When I got my new computer, my formatting was hosed on all of my essential oil labels. I discovered the culprit - hadn't carried over Abadi MT Condensed. Found it on a free font website, downloaded. Just opened up computer and the file is fixed. :)
  • Fred hasn't peed in the house for four days now.
Like I said, some days everything turns out right.

Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

A big chunk of my family - something else to be happy about!!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Day with my daughter at Jungle Jim's

My daughter Valerie and I went to Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati - a grocery store that is five acres under one roof! She had been there once, assured me that two hours was about all you could take in one visit. She had a meeting in Zionsville that night (a little over two hours from Jungle Jim's) so we had about three and a half hours max for shopping.

We wandered about a bit, then I found housewares and wandered in awe. My daughter went for groceries, came back to find me, tugged on my arm and informed me that I had been in that department for about two and a half hours. If I wanted any groceries, I had better get out of there stat!

So I reluctantly left. There were some real finds there. I got a new set of dishes last year, and I had broken one plate. I found one that looked pretty much like what I had. And it was! When I got it home, it was exactly the same make! I like my martinis in the old fashioned martini glasses. Had two, broke one, then recently broke the other. They cost a small fortune, but there were the exact glasses that I once had. Two martini glasses into my cart and at a very reasonable price. I found all sorts of tools but left most of them there, realizing how much of the things I was looking at already resided in my cupboards, drawers and china cabinets at home. I did buy a lovely red coffee mug, and I use it every day. I didn't have a RED coffee mug, so I convinced myself I really needed it.

Of course I checked out the sales. I had a Lodge braising pot, very old, very stained as those porcelain lined pots all seem to be with age and hard use, but still worked fine. But be still, my heart, there was a whole rack of Le Creuset ON SALE! And right in the middle of one shelf was a bright yellow braising pan, a little shallower and wider than the one I had at home. I didn't need it, and where would I put it? Aha! I would offer up my old pan for $10 on Facebook. I had three buyers in a flash!! Amy bought it, is using it and loves it. And I am braising in my bright yellow Le Creuset braising pan. It says it is dishwasher safe but having used many cast iron pans with porcelain finish, I beg to differ. My new girl is getting the best treatment. She is hand washed like fine china.

We had such a lovely time. Val got home for her meeting in time. I love every last thing I got. We were going to try to make another trip before the holidays with my son's fiancée Christine in tow, but time has slipped away. It will have to be a trip for another time.

My new braising pan

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Making brioche feuilletes

One of the things I learned to bake when I went to Paris a couple of years ago was a very unique pastry called a brioche feuillete. It starts with rich brioche dough, full of eggs and butter, and then after chilling for 12 hours, it is rolled out and a sheet of cold butter is laid across the center of the dough, and the dough is folded over the butter. Then roll, turn, roll, fold again, and on and on as if you were making puff pastry. However, the base for puff pastry is just flour, salt and water. By starting with brioche dough you end up with a dough that is unbelievably rich, tender and flaky.

I have found that making a pan of cinnamon rolls out of the same dough takes a lot less time, and my customers seem to like them just as well. Here are pictures of Friday's baking, starting with the poolish, which sat in my counter last night and was the base of the dough I made this morning, all the way through taking the finished product out of the oven.

I teach classes on making French baguettes, and have been asked to teach making feuilletes as well, but I'm not sure how I would pull that off. Maybe someday.


Next morning, eggs and milk in bowl

Add flour, sugar, poolish, salt, yeast and mix well

Add 250 grams (a little over 2 sticks) soft butter to dough

Mash butter and add a piece at a time

All butter added, now chill for 12 hours.

Flatten chilled dough by beating with rolling pin

Flatten 125 g of very cold, hard butter

This is messy! Flour flies everywhere

Butter on middle third of dough

Make a package with butter inside

Roll and fold - hard work!

Do it again - two folds each time

Chill for a half hour

Roll out to form pastries - cut for feuilletes

These are about 125 g each

Braid them, then curl them up

and put in buttered ring mold

Roll out dough for cinnamon rolls, sprinkle with sugar & cinnamon

Ready to proof

Into the oven


Voila! Brioche feuilletes