Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RECIPES - Part 1

In an earlier post about our garden, I said that I would put recipes in an upcoming post.  Well, I've kept my promise . . .


Pesto
Simple to make (no cooking, except for the pasta), and loaded with the great taste of basil.
  • 1-1/2 c. basil
  • 2 cloves garlic (more, if you're a garlic fiend like me)
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • 3/4 c. Romano cheese
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
In food processor, blend together basil, garlic and pine nuts.  Add cheese till mixture is really thick.  With processor running, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream until desired thickness is reached.  Serve over pasta.


*****

Brown Butter Raspberry TartLemon Raspberry Tart
This recipe is amazing with just-picked raspberries, but frozen can be used as well.


Crust:
  • 1-1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
  • 9 tbl. butter (cold)
  • 1-3/4 c. sifted flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In food processor, mix sugar, butter, salt & flour till it looks granular.  Add egg and process to form ball.  Chill 30 min.  Roll out dough, place in 10" tart pan, bake with beans as weight for 15 min.  (Note:  I put a sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough before placing the beans there.  If you don't do this you'll have a heck of a time trying to pick beans out of the puffed pastry!)

Filling:
  • 1-1/2 lemons (grate peel and save)
  • 8-9 tbl. sugar
  • 3/4 c. cream
  • 2 whole eggs + one yolk
  • Rasperberries to cover tart
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grate lemon zest, then remove skin from lemons.  Put lemons in processor with sugar, eggs and cream and process till smooth.  Put zest in bowl.  Strain mixture and add to zest.  Place berries in pan with crust.  Cover with 3/4 of the cream mixture.  Bake 1/2 hr.  Add rest of cream mixture and bake another 1/2 hr.  Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar before serving.

*****

Swiss Chard RavioliSwiss Chard Ravioli
The process is a bit involved, but I save steps by using wonton wrappers instead of making my own pasta.  Well worth the effort!
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pound Swiss chard, center spine and stems trimmed
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • wonton wrappers
  • 1 lg. egg white, beaten to blend

  • 3/4 c. (1-1/2 sticks) butter
  • 1/4 c. chopped sage

  • Romano cheese
Bring 1/4 cup water to boil in large pot. Add chard leaves. Cover; cook until tender but still bright green, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Drain. Cool slightly. Squeeze dry. Chop chard finely. Transfer to large bowl. Mix in ricotta, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, egg, garlic, thyme, salt, rosemary and pepper.

Line baking sheet with foil or plastic wrap; sprinkle with flour. Place 1 gyoza wrapper on work surface. Brush surface of wrapper with some egg white. Spoon generous 1 teaspoon chard mixture into center of wrapper. Top with another wrapper. Press edges together to seal. Transfer to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining wrappers, egg white and chard mixture to make 32 ravioli total. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)

Melt butter in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add sage; stir 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Working in batches, cook ravioli in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer ravioli to 
large shallow bowl.

Pour sage butter over ravioli and toss. Serve with additional Romano cheese.


*****

Baked Stuffed Zucchini
These puff up as they bake.  They are SOOOO good!
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 2 ounces shredded Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Scoop the flesh out of the zucchini and place in bowl.  Set shells aside.  Combine zucchini flesh with bread crumbs, Romano cheese, onion, parsley, salt, most of the Parmesan cheese and egg. Fill zucchini shells with mixture. Dot tops with butter and sprinkle with remaining Romano cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.


*****

20090928YellowTomatoSoup.jpgYellow Tomato Soup
This soup is beautiful, with flavor to match.
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 1/2 cup
  • 6 bacon slices (about 5 ounces), chopped
  • 5 cups chopped yellow tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chilies*
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup 2% evaporated milk
Sauté onion and bacon in heavy large pot over medium heat until onion is tender and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.


Add tomatoes and garlic and simmer until tomatoes are tender and juicy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add Sherry and wine, and let simmer for five minutes.

Add stock and simmer until mixture is reduced to 6 1/2 cups, at least 15 minutes. Stir in chipotle chilies and oregano. Working in batches, puree soup in blender. (Skip this step if you have an immersion blender, in which case you can blend it right in the pot.)  Return to pot.  Add evaporated milk and stir until heated throughout. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


*****

I will post more recipes soon, including one for an aromatic Moroccan Lamb Stew.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

TOP 5 SCARY MOVIES OF ALL TIME


WARNING:  This post contains spoilers!


One of my favorite holidays is upon us -- Halloween.

This weekend I read many lists of scary movies on websites and blogs (like this one:  boston.com's top 50 scary movies), and now that I have a blog, I can add my own.

Before I get to my list, first a word about films that do not scare me.

Slasher films just don't cut it for me (pun intended); I mean, how many times do we have to watch directors try to outgross each other to see who can make the goriest film?  Besides, real news stories about atrocities humans inflict on one another are far more scary than any Saw film.  (OK -- I'll admit that little swirly-cheeked dude is creepy -- check out "Honorable Mention" below.)


Giant spiders, sharks and other abnormally mutated animals don't frighten me.  I'm one of those crazy people who think spiders are cute.  And aliens don't scare me either.  I would welcome being beamed up by visitors from another planet because the one we live on has become totally unhinged, and I'm optimistic enough to believe that any alien landing on Earth would come in peace.

Vampire films aren't on my list either.  I love a good vamp film as much as anyone, but the vampire class I'm taking has changed how I view these unfortunate creatures.  I pity vampires because they are metaphors for many anxieties in society like alienation and humans' fear of death.  Besides, from what I've read, hot vampire sex is the bomb -- just ask Sookie Stackhouse.

* * * * *

I won't keep you in suspense any longer -- here is my Top 5 scariest movies countdown:



NUMBER 5:
THE SHINING

When it comes to horror, what could be more frightening than watching your generic, happy-go-lucky Dad slip slowly into the dark side?  Jack Nicholson's over-the-top portrayal of Jack Torrance is bloodcurdling; he has so mastered his craft that his facial expressions alone instill more terror than any special effects technician could ever dream up.  

In the hands of Stanley Kubrick's skillful direction, a little boy riding his Big Wheels takes on the menacing appearance of an innocent child entering the abyss of hell.




And what is up with those twins?  Sure, they look innocent enough, but would you want to run into them in some dark, empty hotel lobby?  What makes this movie so chilling is that if a normal family like the Torrence's could be taken over by some unknown evil entity, then it could happen to any of us.




* * * * *

NUMBER 4:
ROSEMARY'S BABY 

Poor Rosemary Woodhouse.  All she wanted was a normal life with her actor husband and a baby.  What she got was an asshole for a spouse, a coven of witches, and the spawn of Satan.

Say what you will about Roman Polanski; he is one hell of a director.  The tension he creates in this film builds agonizingly as we learn that Rosemary's husband, Guy, has sold his soul to the devil with the help of their neighbors in their deliciously gothic Manhattan apartment.

What woman could not identify with poor Rosemary as she scrambles around with her swollen belly, desparately trying to save her unborn child from the clutches of the Castevet's and their fellow witches.  For me, one of the most terrifying scenes in the film is when Rosemary is in the phone booth and we think finally -- she will be saved.  But then we see a man has followed her and is standing ominously outside the booth.  Now we know that Rosemary is doomed.

The terror in this film doesn't come from special effects; these characters seem real; it's what we don't see that scares us.  And in the end, the bond of motherhood prevails.  Yes, we mothers love our children unconditionally, even if they do have the eyes of a goat.


* * * * *

NUMBER 3:
PSYCHO  (The original 1960 version, not the 1998 abomination.)

OK, so technically Psycho is a slasher film.  But it was the first.  And the best.

Alfred Hitchcock was a genius.  In the infamous shower scene, he was able to totally freak out his audience without buckets of blood or grisly, gaping wounds.  Sure, there was some blood, but that's not what is so scary about this scene.  The true horror is watching Janet Leigh's life slowly ebb out of her as she helplessly tears down the shower curtain to escape her fate, with perverse violins playing an eerie wee-wee-wee-wee in the background:



The end of this scene, where we see an extreme close-up of Leigh's blood swirling down the drain, which turns into a close-up of Leigh's eye, is brilliant.

Anthony Perkins' as Norman Bates is one of the scariest characters in the history of film.  Perkins' understated portrayal of the murderer is chilling, and in the final scene, his twisted smile brings the creep level to new heights as the voiceover says, "Why, she [Norman's mother -- his alter-ego], wouldn't even harm a fly."



Thanks, Hitch.  Because of you I still can't take a shower without locking every door in the house.

* * * * *

NUMBER 2:

Our 19-year-old daughter Marcy called me last Friday to tell me she was going on her first camping trip with some college friends.  She goes to George Mason University in Virginia which is a very rural setting a few miles outside of Washington, D.C.

Me:  So, you're first camping trip.  You must be excited!

Marcy:  Yeah, but I think I made a mistake Mom.  I watched The Blair Witch Project last night and I don't think that was a good idea.

Me:  Don't worry Sweetie -- you'll be fine.  It's only a movie.

I resisted the urge to call her on Saturday, but on Sunday evening I caved in.  

Me:  So how was it?

Marcy:  Oh-my-God, Mom!  Our campground was in Maryland and you wouldn't belive it -- when Leah, our driver, told us we were almost there, I looked out the window.  Then, I saw the sign:



Yeah, THAT Burkittsville -- home of the Blair Witch.

This film is so well made that I completely fell for the hype that surrounded its debut.  I mean look at it -- it's a documentary for crying out loud -- of course it's real.

The premise of this film is simple:  three average college students working on a documentary.  They go camping in the woods -- you know, those places that city people like Marcy and I fear more than the streets of Roxbury. They become hopelessly lost.  Things go bump in the night.  They wake up to witchy twigs hanging from branches.  In the end, the only things that survive are the videos they made, and the footage is used to make this documentary.

Many factors contribute to the realism of this film.  It was filmed in video and in real time.  The directors rationed the actors' food and left them in the dark about what was going to happen next; as a result, the fear the actors exhibit is real, and therefore totally believable.


Marcy taught me a couple of things this weekend:  (1) she's not a helpless little girl any more and, (2) she's got balls the size of watermelons.

* * * * *
NUMBER 1:

There are so many hair-raising images in this film, it's hard to know where to begin.  So let's just get right to the images of sweet little Regan MacNeil in full-tilt possessed mode.  

William Friedkin eases the audience into this freak show by first showing some furniture moving around Regan's room on its own.  But then stranger things begin to happen to Regan . . . 

Holy shit!  She's levitating!


Oh my God -- what's happened to her face??  And WTF is that green stuff coming out of her mouth??


Sweet Jesus, her head is spinning!  Mommy!  Mommy!


Yes, there were special effects in The Exorcist, but you have to remember -- the film was released in 1973 and trust me, there was nothing even close to this on film at the time.  People ran screaming out of theaters when it was first shown.  These images will be seared on my brain forever.


* * * * *

HONORABLE MENTION:

Any film with clowns or dummies in it scares the shit outta me.  Period.

          

*****

All of my top 5 scary films have common denominators:  they achieve their frightening goals through the mastery of their directors and the brilliance of the actors who portray unfortunate characters with whom we can all identify.  In The Exorcist, where special effects were used to enhance the storyline of a young girl possessed by Satan, it is the storyline, incredible acting, and direction of the film that made people run out of theaters.  Unlike horror films today where the special effects are the storyline, these five directors knew how to tell a scary story by slowly building tension and leading their audience to a psychological free fall of horror.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

STEROIDS - PART 6 - THE END.

Steroids Part 1


With a deep, clear breath, and a humble appreciation for the advances of modern medicine, I bid adios to the world of steroids.






Wednesday, October 20, 2010

STEROIDS - PART 5 and WOO-WOO KITTY

Steroids Part 1


There is much to be cheerful about today; I am in the homestretch with my Prednisone regimen and I feel FANTASTIC!  After all the scary, frustrating days that led up to this, my lungs are clear and I am sleeping more soundly than our teenage daughter Marcy on a Saturday morning.  And I got through it all without vomiting up coffee grounds.


I would not have gotten through the ordeal without Paul and our amazing cat, Flash.  

I believe pets can tell when their humans are sick or depressed, and  Flash was extra concerned about her Momma during this ordeal.  She shadowed me constantly, to the point of being a nuisance.  But how could you stay mad at a face like this?


Flash has been a member of our family since I got her from a cat rescue shelter 15 years ago.  She is an extraordinary creature; among her many enduring features, she is polydactyl and has six toes on each front paw instead of the usual four.  Polydactyl cats were brought from Europe to the U.S. by the Puritans and as a result, they are usually only found in New England.

Flash has what look like opposable thumbs on each paw, and she uses them in that capacity with great dexterity.  She wraps them around her favorite toys as she bites and bats them with her hind legs.  These claws also enhance her value as a top-notch mouser.  When the weather gets cold, Flash will occasionally leave a present for me on the floor by my side of the bed -- a nicely rigor mortised mouse.  What a great treat it is to wake up on a chilly morning and step on a tiny, furry corpse.

Flash works hard at looking beautiful -- it's a full-time job -- and she has mastered the fine art of posing for her humans' entertainment.  Here Flash displays the Turkey Butt Kitty pose where she makes herself look like an oven-stuffer roaster:


  
Here is the frightening Don't Mess With Me/I Will Eat You Leer of Death; watch out Bela Lugosi:



Like all cats, when it comes to snoozing, Flash has many poses in her repertoire including the I Have a Dream pose:


and the I'm Too Cute For Words pose (which is extra effective when performed next to a sleeping Marcy):



One of our nicknames for Flash is Woo-Woo Kitty.  She earned this title from midnight ravings that sometimes take hold of her.  It goes something like this:  Paul and I will be lying in bed when all of a sudden we'll hear Flash galloping from one end of the house to the other.  She comes to a screeching halt at our bedroom door, then stares wild-eyed at some thing hovering over our heads that can only be seen by cats (we call them greeblings.)  Next she pins her ears back on her head, arches up like a Halloween cat, and jumps simultaneously backward and sideways before spinning around and racing back to the other end of the house.  Evidently, Woo-Wooing takes a lot out of you because she'll do this for a few more rounds before she gets so exhausted that she jumps onto our bed and goes into a deep slumber.

We are not privy to the reasoning behind this behavior -- it simply must be done.  

Unfortunately, getting photos of Flash in full Woo-Woo mode has eluded me.  We never know when it will happen next (I think it has something to do with a full moon), and I'm usually at the brink of sleep when she commences flight.  But some day, when she least expects it, I'll be waiting in bed with my Leica. . .

Sunday, October 17, 2010

STEROIDS - PART 4

Steroids Part 1


Wow . . . Yesterday, Day 4 on steroids, can only be described as bizarre.

My fears about not sleeping on the evening of Day 3 were unfounded; I slept soundly through the night and woke up early yesterday, fully rested.  I took my 2nd day of 5 pills, read my e-mail, then two chapters of this week’s vamp novel.  But then I could read no more.  A strange sensation came over me; after weeks of exhaustion and lethargy, I was overwhelmed by an unbelievable surge of energy.  I couldn’t sit still.  My mind was buzzing with things I wanted to do.  I got up and began dusting the entire living room, then I cleaned out a closet.  Trust me -- housecleaning is not my strong point, so this flurry of activity was most unusual.  I worked so frantically that I was soon soaked in sweat.  I took a shower, trimmed my hair, then tried to sit down and read some more, but it was hopeless.  I just could not sit still.

Paul was beginning to worry.  If you know anything about me at all, you know that I am the farthest thing from a Type A personality.  I am as laid back as they come.  I’m not a slacker – when things need to be done, I do them, but at my own pace.  So it’s no wonder that Paul was worried – I was zooming around like a yellow jacket around a jar of honey – totally out of character for me.

I felt like I had to get out of the house, so I decided to make a trip to Target to buy some new dishes.  Despite his concern, I convinced Paul that I was OK to drive myself.  As I got into the car the heightened vision I’ve been experiencing was very noticeable -- the brilliant fall leaves on trees were nothing short of psychedelic.  Undaunted, I put on my sunglasses and headed out to Route 16 on my way to Target.  Amazingly, I had no problem driving.  I got to the mall and walked into the store. 



The minute I entered I took off my sunglasses and was blinded by complete sensory overload.  The first thing I saw was a huge Halloween display and the colors literally made my head spin.  Ghoulish sounds and spooky Halloween music were playing, and eyeballs were staring at me.  Don't get me wrong -- I love Halloween, but when your vision and hearing are in altered states, the Halloween display at Target is not the place you want to be.

As quickly as I could, I navigated my shopping cart through a maze of giant walls of soup, teetering towers of storage bins, and jumbled shelves of household cleaners before I got to the rear of the store where the dishes are.  


I was overwhelmed by the cacophony of happily chirpping Target shoppers.  Claustrophobia set in.  I began sweating heavily.  I raced to the dish aisle and hastily picked out two sets of dishes -- one black, one red -- threw the heavy boxes into my cart, then made my way to the checkout as fast as I could.  I was frantic to get home.  Again, driving was not a problem, and I made the return trip without a hitch.

The whole experience was incredibly surreal.  While I was in the store I felt like I wasn’t really there.  I grew up in the 1960s, and like many young people then, I experimented with drugs.  My excursion to Target brought me back to those psychedelic days – it felt close to tripping, but without all the fun.






When I got home I told Paul what had happened.  He joked and told me he hid all the kitchen knives.  (I love that guy!)  He told me to sit down and try to relax, then he made me dinner to calm me down.  He served it on our beautiful new red dinnerware.  It worked to a certain extent; I was able to chill out a bit and watch a couple of Masterpiece Mysteries without feeling the need to clean the house from top to bottom.  Unfortunately, I was still unable to read, but at least I wasn’t jumping out of my skin anymore.

Last night I was again able to get a full night’s sleep.  Today I still feel a bit on the speedy side, but now I am behind in my reading and will have to spend the day hunkered down with my nose in my book.

The good news about all this is that my breathing is vastly improved – no more wheezing at all.  I can still feel some residual gunk in my lungs when I wake up in the morning, but it doesn’t bother me during the day or while I’m sleeping.

This weird experience made me think about people who abuse steroids.  I can understand how the feeling of euphoria might be exhilarating – up to a point – but I cannot fathom living with this feeling every day.  I can clearly see how daily usage of this drug could put you over the edge.  Today I’m down to four pills and I eagerly await the day when I’m done with this medication.  It will be soon, and that is a reason to be cheerful.


Steroids Part 5

Friday, October 15, 2010

STEROIDS - PART 3

Steroids Part 1


I thought that by taking my pills early in the day yesterday I would be able to fall asleep easily last night, but I was wrong.  I tossed and turned fitfully because of the steroids, and I was treated to the pleasure of experiencing a new symptom -- heartburn.  It is SO frustrating to be exhausted and unable to sleep.

By 3:30 this morning I had had enough.  I learned my lesson the night before and had taken possession of the TV remote before Paul fell asleep.  I surfed over 300 cable channels for something completely mindless and found the perfect snooze-fest movie -- an asinine film starring the equally asinine Carrot Top.  Man, this is one scary-looking dude!  My plan worked though, and I fell asleep about three minutes into the movie.  I was so zonked out that I didn't wake up until 1 p.m. today.  I slept soundly the whole time and to my delight, I didn't wake up once coughing.

Today I reduced my dosage to five pills, but I'm worried because I took them so late in the day that it might prevent me from getting to sleep again tonight.  I've got my fingers crossed, so we'll see what happens.

My heightened vision and hearing is still there, and my eyes are still sensitive to light.  It occurred to me as I write this that I've recently read a similar account of sensory overload.  I searched through Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire and found this passage where the vampire Louis, tells the person interviewing him about the sensations he felt when Lestat drained him of his blood and made him a vampire:

I saw as a vampire . . . It was as if I had only just been able to see colors and shapes for the first time. . . . Then Lestat began to laugh, and I heard his laughter as I had never heard anything before . . . It was confusing, each sound running into the next sound, like the mingling reverberations of bells . . .

To me, this is close to what I've experienced.  Hmmm . . . I think I've been reading too many vampire novels.  I'll have to keep a close watch on my teeth and make sure I don't sprout fangs!

Three days into this ordeal the steroids seem to be doing their job, and this makes me a happy camper.  In keeping with the spirit of my blog, I think it's time for something else cheerful . . .

*****

I believe that Stephen Colbert is hysterically funny -- all l I have to do is look at the guy and I crack up laughing!  This is a clip from a show he did last year.  It may be old, but it is one of the funniest things I've ever seen, and it never fails to make me laugh out loud.  This is sheer comic genius.


The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Craziest F#?king Thing I've Ever Heard - Barreleye Fish
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

Steroids Part 4

Thursday, October 14, 2010

STEROIDS - PART 2


1:15 a.m.  Well, I tried, but sleep is a no go.  I wake up coughing, but it’s less severe than it has been.  I am also soaked in sweat, but how can this be?  It’s 40 degrees out, I’ve got the window wide open, the ceiling fan on low, and another small fan pointed right at me.  I’m having flashbacks to menopause.  I throw off my blankets and look over at Paul who’s wrapped up in three heavy blankets like a mummy.  I take one of many trips to the bathroom then try to go back to sleep.

2:30 a.m.  Still wide awake.  I’m sweating again.  Another trip to the bathroom.  I want to watch TV because that usually puts me to sleep, but where’s the bloody remote?  Our cat, Flash (a.k.a. Flashish, Woo-Woo Kitty), curls up next to me.  She’s like a heat-seeking missile and finds the torrent of heat emanating from my body to her liking.

3:45 a.m.  Still awake.  One of the neighborhood skunks has decided to forage in our backyard and his aroma is wafting through the open window.  Is my sense of smell heightened too?  Paul’s still mummified and snoring away.  I hate him right now.

4:30 a.m.  I actually fall asleep for awhile, but wake up again coughing and soaked in sweat.  Could somebody please shoot me?

10:00 a.m.  After a few minor coughing spells and constantly pulling blankets off then pulling them back on, I managed to finally get some sleep.  I get up, make myself some oatmeal, and swallow my six tablets.

*****

While battling this cold, I have struggled to complete my assignments for the two classes I’m taking at Harvard Extension School this semester:

Blogging and The Vampire in Literature and Film.  It’s hard to be creative when you feel so rotten, but somehow I managed to write my blogs.  In my Vampire class, we have to read a novel a week, which means I’ve got my nose planted in a book at all times.



So far I've read Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla, John Polidori's The Vampyre, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Guilty Pleasures.  The books are fascinating, and reading about the undead seems very apropos under the circumstances.


Next on the reading list is Lord of the Dead by Tom Holland.  This should be an interesting exercise, considering that the Prednisone has altered my vision.

STEROIDS - PART 1

This is Part 1 of a six-part series.

Today I started a 12-day regimen of the steroid Prednisone for asthma problems that arose from a severe cold I've had for 4 weeks.  Today and tomorrow I take six tablets, then the dosage is slowly weaned down so that by the 12th day I’ll be taking one tablet, then none.

The good news about Prednisone is that it is not the type of steroid that is abused by athletes.  Great – at least I won’t end up looking like this:


The bad news about Prednisone is that it may produce some very strange side effects, including:

-       Weight gain.  (Oh, joy.)
-       Increase of blood sugar.  (I have Type II diabetes – what fun.)
-       Difficulty sleeping (Great.  Just what I need.)
-       Increased sweating (Yippee!)
-       Mood swings; nervousness.  (This should be interesting.)
-       Vomit that looks like coffee grounds.  (WTF???)

The best time to take this medication is in the morning because it can cause difficulty sleeping, but I didn’t get out of my doctor’s office till 5 p.m.  The pharmacist told me to take the six tabs ASAP, and they have to be taken with food.  So I rushed home, had a quick peanut butter sandwich, swallowed the pills, and hoped for the best.

*****

8:30 p.m.  I’m glued to the TV as the last of the 33 Chilean miners is raised to the surface.  Finally, a news story worth watching.  But something feels strange . . . some of my senses seem to be heightened.  Everything I see seems crisper and sharper, as if the outlines of everything are more defined.  I have to turn off the lamp next to me because the light seems so intense.  My hearing has been affected too – the voices on the telly have a surreal ring to them.  It sounds like Anderson Cooper is sitting right in my living room.  I tell Paul, my husband and soul mate, about these sensations.  He looks me in the eye and says, “Look at you – you’re out of your mind on steroids!”  I tell him to shut up.

10:00 p.m.  Paul and I retire to the bedroom to watch Top Chef Just Desserts.  The most amazing thing has happened – my constant wheezing has disappeared.  This is a good sign.

11:00 p.m.  I want to watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, but where's the damn remote?  Paul wants to go to sleep and won’t help me find it.  He gets up and turns off the TV manually.  I resign myself to a long evening of trying to get some sleep.