Hello, Readers!

After four months of living with tinnitus (a high-pitched ringing in both ears), I finally broke down and made an appointment with the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. Why did I wait so long, you ask? Well, a) I am lazy and b) I’d read from multiple online sources that tinnitus isn’t curable and nobody really knows what causes it and c) I was naively hoping that it would go away.

Alas, it didn’t go away. It actually got worse; some days the ringing was so loud and so persistent that it drove me to tears. It also started to cause vertigo, and as bad as tinnitus is, vertigo is worse. I’m uncoordinated as Hell in a natural healthy state. Add vertigo into the mix and I’m a walking hazard. So off I went to the doctor.

Shitty News Item #1: There is, indeed, no cure for tinnitus nor do they really know what causes it. There are some things that have vague correlations with it: too much caffeine, too much stress, exposure to loud noise (like gunshots or construction machines or many, many rock concerts), teeth grinding/clenching, too much salt in the diet. Those are all just shots in the dark really. The best he could do was tell me to watch the caffeine, get some rest, try to relax, and to give up (sob!) my daily popcorn habit.

Shitty News Item #2: I had to take a hearing test and turns out, I’m fairly hearing impaired when sounds get into the higher registers. So, do I have tinnitus because I’m losing my hearing or am I losing my hearing because I have tinnitus. Well, they don’t know. Imagine that.

Not-As-Shitty News Item #3: They can try to relieve the vertigo, and that might help the tinnitus. Treatment for vertigo is weird and involves some sort of re-distribution of the crystals in your inner ear. Now, I consider myself a fairly educated person, but any time someone tries to explain to  me what goes on in the inner ear, I’m lost. Absolutely, totally stumped and it makes zero sense to me but hey, if sitting in a chair and being tilted up and down and seven ways sideways might ease the misery in my head, I’m in.

Shitty News Item #4: What happens after your little time in the tippy chair sucks. You might feel dizzy (yes). You might have nausea (yes). You might vomit (oh, yeah). You might feel extremely tired (uh-huh). For two whole days after the treatment. Other pain in the ass things involved: no bending down/over, no looking up, no looking down, and no sleeping in a comfortable position–again, all of this for 2 days. Ever tried to sleep in a recliner, keeping your body at a 45 degree angle? Ummm, it’s not very conducive to sleep. It’s also pretty impossible not to bend over or look down when you have children to take care of, a house to tend to and a small dog who wants constant lovin.’

But I tried. I did. I spent two miserable sleepless nights and, as directed, wrapped a scarf tightly around my neck to remind myself to keep my head upright at all times during the day. Luckily, the vomiting stopped after about 5 hours after my spin in the tippy chair, but can I  just say something?

If you want to experience futility, try to vomit without bending over or looking down. I mean, think about it? How do you do that? I was quite the failure at horizontal vomiting. It’s messy, highly inaccurate aim-wise, and so ridiculously impossible that I was laughing in spite of myself. On my list of things I don’t recommend: horizontal vomiting. Lots of laundry involved with horizontal vomiting.

As I write this, the tinnitus persists. It’s not quite as loud as it was a few days ago, but it’s still pretty loud and I’m trying hard not to be discouraged. The vertigo is better, and for that, I am grateful.

It’s been difficult to write much with this constant ringing in my head. It’s noisy enough in my head as it is, but the constant high pitched wail makes stringing words together monumentally hard. I’m limping along, though. Cross your fingers for me, would you?

*awkward segue*

The day of my appointment with the ENT doctor, I got busy in the kitchen early. I’d been warned that I might feel under the weather for a few days, so I wanted to have a few things prepped and ready to pull out of the refrigerator for hungry tummies. I packed several day’s worth of school lunches and snacks, cooked off a few chicken breasts and sliced them for salads/sandwiches and made this orzo side dish, which I’d seen last week on the Food Network.

It’s a Giada De Laurentis recipe, and I usually find most of her dishes are winners. I thought this one sounded like a nice departure from the usual bland, boring side dish. I’ve spoken before about how I get Side Dish Ennui, so I’m always looking for something a little different. With the charred tomato vinaigrette and the addition of smoked salt, this orzo dish sounded really intriguing.

This first time I made it, I did very little tweaking to the recipe. The only thing I did differently was add some extra chopped basil leaves, just because I love basil. The smoked salt is something that you’ll probably have to order online or go to a specialty grocery store for. I got mine at Williams-Sonoma, but I’m sure Penzey’s or Dean and Deluca would have it, too.

I’m wondering if smoked salts vary in the intensity of smoke flavor, much like paprika can be wildly different between brands/kinds? Mine was only mildly smoky–in fact, I didn’t think the dish was smoky enough. I remedied this by adding 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika (Pimienton) to the dish and that seemed to add that extra hit of smokiness that I wanted.

The dish was good, but I thought it lacked a texture contrast? It was just too smooth–I craved a little crunch, a little bit of interest. I think next time I make it (and I will, it was good enough to make again and fiddle with), I’ll add a little chopped scallion or red onion, maybe a few fresh cherry tomatoes, and perhaps a few chopped smoked almonds, just for richness and another layer of smoky flavor.  I’ll tinker around with it and report back, and if you decide to make this, let me know what you think/what you did.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, readers.  I’m ringing and I’m stumbling around, but I’ll make it through. But Jesus, how am I going to live without my popcorn?!!

the-kitchwitch-recipes-smoky-tomato-orzo

 

Orzo with Smokey Tomato Vinaigrette

recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentis

serves 4-6

 

1 pound (2 pints) cherry tomatoes

1 pound orzo pasta

 

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon smoked salt, plus more for seasoning

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional

 

Place the tomatoes in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes are tender and blackened/charred in spots, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and place in a large serving bowl.

While pasta cooks, place the tomatoes, basil, vinegar, olive oil, honey, smoked salt and pepper into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

After the pasta is drained, pour the vinaigrette over and toss until coated. Sprinkle the cheese over and toss. Taste for seasoning and add more smoked salt, pepper and/or smoked paprika, if desired.

{ 8 comments }

 

minx in sunglasses

Hi, Readers!

I took last week off because The Minxes were finally (!!) on Spring Break, and I wanted to soak up every inch of it. Holy cow, break was late this year. Bad news: it was laaaaate. Good news: the girls now only have six more weeks of school until summer vacation. Bad news: lame-o mom hasn’t gotten her butt in gear and needs to figure out summer activities and camps ASAP. Gaaa, I suck! I suckity suck at researching camps and activities for summer, even when I know that those very things save my butt when summer boredom sets in. Why, oh why, do I never learn this lesson? And why, oh why, can I never reform?

I fear I am a lost cause.

Our Spring Break was packed with cool things like a trip to the Denver Nature and Science Museum, an early afternoon viewing of the movie Home (Miss M. rates this movie, on a scale of one to ten, a resounding eleven. She wants me to tell you, so you can hustle yourself to the theater to see it. Preferably with a third grader, but I think kids across a large age spectrum will like this movie and there is a very low scare factor. I did catch M. crying a couple of times, but she’s a human watering pot like me. Home is not sad at all by animated movie standards; I mean heck, I remember being wrecked by Dumbo and that total bastard of a movie, Bambi. What’s up with all the dead mommies, Walt? Jesus.)

Also on the docket: several birthday parties, many rounds of laser tag, trips to the neighborhood pizza joint and ice cream shop, some swimsuit/garden hose mischief (yes, it got that warm one day!), hours of swinging and trampoline jumping, popcorn and movie nights in the basement, and a gazillion TONS of dog walking.

cookie helper^^Whaa? It’s only the tenth walk of the day, yo?

 

The Mozz-man always loves his walks, but in spring? He’s practically manic. He tumbles into the warmer months full-throttle, tail wagging, little pink tongue hanging out as he gasps for breath, sniffing every tulip and bush. And it just so happens that spring=rabbits, y’all! Our neighborhood has had a spectacularly prolific rabbit breeding season, much to Mozzy’s delight. Every walk is peppered with little rushes of excitement and leash tug-of-war, in pursuit of white-tailed bandits.

bunny^^Hey, Little Dude. We come in peace. Sort of. We’ll chase your bigger brothers.

It’s kind of exhausting.

Cute, but exhausting. Mozzy may only weigh 10 pounds, but when he’s in hot pursuit of a cotton-tailed devil, he can pull me halfway around the neighborhood like a quarterhorse. After all of that running, I should be skinnier, but there’s that little thing such as leftover Easter candy…

It’s almost gone. I’ll do better then. For sure.

Anyways. We’ve been insanely busy this week, and it’s a happy kind of busy, but it’s also the kind of busy that results in l-o-n-g days, and by the time the dinner hour rears its head, I don’t have much motivation. I want to get in and out of the kitchen in as little time as possible, with little fuss. Kind of the dinner equivalent of a “quickie” in another area, you know?

This recipe fits the bill. It features ingredients that I always have on hand, it’s chicken-based (so it pleases most people at the table) and it’s adaptable to any vegetable in the refrigerator and any rice or noodle you’ve got on hand. I love recipes like that, because when there are rabbits to chase and teens to laser tag, you don’t want to be stuck behind a stove for hours. You can get this sucker on the table in under 45 minutes (under 30, if you’re a good multi-tasker) and it’s delicious.the-kitchwitch-recipes-ginger-chicken

Viva Spring! I’m ready for you.

 

 

Ginger Chicken with Mushrooms and Green Beans

slightly adapted from Cooking Light magazine

serves 4

 

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger*

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

9 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup dry sherry

1 (10 ounce) package frozen thin green beans

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

1 1/2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy saucee

1 teaspoon Sriracha (optional)

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

cooked rice or soba noodles

 

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil and swirl around the pan. Add chicken in a single layer and cook until browned all over, turning pieces over after about 2 minutes, for a total of about 4-5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic and salt and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine sherry, chicken broth, soy sauce, Sriracha, oyster sauce and cornstarch. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet; swirl to coat. Add green beans and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sherry mixture, stir fry another 2 minutes. Add chicken back to pan and warm through; the sauce should thicken slightly. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serve over hot rice or cooked soba noodles.

 

*this amount of ginger results in quite a gingery dish. If you aren’t an avid fan of ginger (I am), you might want to reduce the amount of ginger to 1 tablespoon.

{ 10 comments }

“You won’t believe what Karl said today,” my husband chuckles, plunking a lone ice cube into his rocks glass.

Karl is one of the radiologists in my husband’s practice. He also happens to have a daughter about the same age as Miss D., who is a seventh grader.

“What?” I say, slicing cucumbers into thin rounds for the salad.

“This is good. Karl came into the reading room and he sat down and looked like shit. Just exhausted. He gave this big sigh and then said, ‘Has the entire climate of your household been completely upended by the demise of One Direction?'”

I crack up. “Okayyy. What did you tell him?”

“I said, ‘D. doesn’t give one single fuck about One Direction, Karl. She’s not into that kind of stuff. Now, say, if Benedict Cumberbatch had announced that he was quitting Sherlock or if they were cancelling Dr. Who or Supernatural, that would be a complete cause for hysteria. But One Direction? Nah.”

“I’m thanking the Nerd Gods that our kid inherited our Nerd Genes.” I pop a crouton into my mouth and grab the salad tongs. “D. did say that some of the girls at school were completely freaking out about it, though. I mean, crying, for Christ’s sake.”

“That’s what Karl was saying,” my husband shakes his head. “It’s complete emotional chaos. Crying and whining and despairing and constant phone activity. Talk about drama overload.”

“Zayne.” I wrinkle my nose. “Jeez, who even names their kid that?”

***

Later that night, I get a Facebook message from my friend Amy. Her daughter is also 13.

“Haley is going through some bad bullying from the group of girls she hangs out with,” she writes. “These girls are all big One Direction fans and Haley is the only one who really isn’t into them any more. She’s just kind of over it. But these girls were all broken up about that Zayne kid leaving, and Haley said something like, ‘You know, it doesn’t really matter,’ and these girls immediately turned on her. Boom, just like that. Now she’s being flooded with all of these mean texts and nasty messages on her Facebook wall.”

“That’s crazy, ” I write.  “That sucks. How is Haley doing?”

“She’s upset but okay enough about it to talk to me. Which I am grateful for. I told her that obviously, this is stupid and she should ignore them and that I was proud of her for being herself. But guess what these girls did? They went on Instagram and blurred Haley’s face out of every group picture they had.”

When I read those words, I go cold in my bones.  As fast as the times are changing, some things remain eerily the same.

The summer before I entered eighth grade, the group of “friends” I was part of decided that it was my turn to be ostracized. It didn’t come as a huge  surprise; this group of girls turned on each other on a regular basis. They had been doing it all year.

Of course, at some point, it was going to be my turn, but when my turn came, I was unprepared. The rapidity and the viciousness of it left me gasping.

One afternoon that summer, a boy from my grade called me on the phone. I was puzzled, because I knew this kid only marginally. He’d been in my gym class, but we’d never really spoken.

“Hey,” I said cautiously into the phone.

“Hey, there. Having a nice summer?”

“It’s okay, I guess.”

“Well, guess what your best girlfriends did today?” he said, in a silky voice.

I tried to choke something out but it caught in my throat. It ended up sounding like a faint and garbled “mew.”

I waited.

“They took all of the pictures of the group that had your face in it. All of them. And they burned them in Shannon’s backyard.”

I placed the telephone gently back into the receiver.

The message was clear.

We can erase you.

We can make you disappear.

Without us, you don’t exist.

Without us, you are nobody.

And sadly, part of me believed them. I was thirteen years old and didn’t really know who I was; I was still in the process of figuring it out. What girl, at the tender age of thirteen, really knows any of that stuff? I knew I was shy and that I liked to read and that math wasn’t my favorite subject and that maybe I wanted to kiss a boy somewhere down the road, but that was about it.

What did I know of the more difficult terrain of myself?

***

This weekend, my husband and I took the girls to the mall. At one point, I separated myself from the group to sneak off for some Easter gifts and all things chocolate. Later, as we were driving home, my husband broke into a grin and addressed Miss D., eyes twinkling at her in the rearview mirror.

“Hey, D. Wanna tell mom what you said at the  mall?”

My teenager rolled her eyes at him and plopped her headphones on, but she was smiling a little. “Jeez, Dad. Whatever.”

I laugh. “Okay, what? Spill.”

“Well,” he smirked, “I needed to get some shaving gel, because I’m out, and so I took the girls into Sephora. D. took two steps in there and physically recoiled. She said to me, in this horrified voice, ‘What the heck are we in here for? This store sells, like, makeup and stuff.'”

I rubberneck around to look at my daughter, who has heard but isn’t meeting my eye. “Yo, D.!” She grudgingly removes her headphones. “What’s wrong with  makeup?”

“God! Mom.” She shakes her head and puts her headphones back on. “Gross popular girls wear makeup. And all they care about is getting a boyfriend. They’re horrible. You won’t catch me dead wearing makeup.”

The day is unseasonably warm and when we get home, D. marches out to the backyard, headphones still firmly on her ears. As usual, she heads for the swings. I watch her out the kitchen window as she pumps her legs, seeking higher ground. My husband sees me watching her and smiles. He wanders over and watches her, too.

“She’s really going for it out there.”

“She always does. The girl loves to swing.”

He laughs. “She’s a funny kid.”

“She is. A great kid, but funny. I worry about her sometimes.”

“Why?” He looks puzzled. “She’s got a good head on her shoulders.”

“It’s just…this age, you know? Kids can be so cruel at this age, I mean, downright vicious, and I don’t think she has the skills to handle that kind of thing. She’s fairly immature for her age. Look at her. Five foot seven and still playing on the swings.”

“Aren’t you happy about that, though? She’s not boy-crazy or dressing like a tramp or sneaking beer out of the refrigerator.”

“Yeah, I’m grateful for that. I am. I’m glad she’s not in a rush to grow up. It’s the others I worry about.”

“Kids can be little bastards. But she’s a smart kid.”

“She calls herself a nerd. Like, that’s really how she sees herself.”

He gives a sharp little laugh. “So what? We were both nerds. Hell, we still are nerds. We say that all the time.”

“I know, but do you think she really believes that? Deep down?”

He puts his hand on the small of my back. “I think the kid is all right. You worry too much. Just…get yourself off the ledge and enjoy her, okay? Just the way she is.”

Enjoy her.

Just the way she is.

My funny, quirky, brainy, unbridled girl, with curls that run riot like wild horses.

It takes another few minutes before I can tear my eyes away from the window, away from the sight of her soaring, high as she can go.

 

 

{ 29 comments }