So Hard to Say Good-Bye

I love me some Diet Coke.  I can’t function without it.  I get mad when a restaurant offers Pepsi when I order a Diet Coke because ewwww; it’s DC or nothing, baby.  My co-workers know I’m in my cube each morning when they hear the crack and hiss of my first can opening. I need my daily dose of caffeine and coffee gives me heartburn. Plus I only like coffee that’s loaded up with cream and sugar – not the healthiest choice. I know aspartame is awful for you and DC is all chemicals but as I think KickyBoots has so rightfully pointed out in the past: there is nothing like the sweet burn of aspartame at the back of your throat to get you going.

The problem is I drink a lot of Diet Coke.  If it’s available I will drink it until it’s gone.  I drink a lot of fluids every day (60-90 oz) and if there is DC around I will guzzle it down before I have any water. A couple of weeks ago, after cracking open my 4th or 5th DC of the day I realized how much I was vibrating.  And I wasn’t sleeping well, either.  Hmmmm…maybe it was time to cut back on the DC?

So, I started to wean myself down to one 20 oz. bottle a day. Then I ran out and didn’t buy any more.  I’ve done this before; I detoxed off DC and stayed off the junk for nearly 2 years before I tumbled off the wagon straight into a vat of its bubbly goodness. So I knew I could do it again. The caffeine withdrawal sucked.  I had headaches and was so very tired – like cat nap after work tired.  But then the fog began to clear and the headaches went away.  I’m drinking a ton of water and iced tea in place of my usual daily 6-pack and I’m not so tired anymore.  Except for 3:00 PM each afternoon, then I would give my right pinkie for a cold Diet Coke.  But, so far I haven’t caved.

I’m not sure how long this will last but in the meantime my drink of choice is iced tea or water flavored with cucumber and lemon.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a tear well up in my eye when I see Diet Coke on a menu.

Perfect Pancakes

Not long after M began eating table food we established the tradition of Sunday Pancakes in our house.  After some trial and error we realized that I was the chief pancake maker in the house so every Sunday I played around with the routine. It started innocently enough with Bisquick and some Log Cabin but it has now evolved, in true food snob fashion, to pancakes from scratch and local maple syrup.  The first revelation was when I purchased a cast-iron 2-burner griddle which made flipping and heat control much easier.  Plus I could make 4 cakes at a time, thus getting breakfast on the table in less then an hour.

Then I started looking around for the best pancake recipe I could find.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Alton Brown’s was the best. Truthfully pancakes from scratch are not that hard and I’m guessing you have what you need in your pantry already. AB’s recipe tells you how to mix enough dry ingredients for 3 batches so you can use it like instant mix but it’s so easy I just make what I need each week.  His instructions were a new concept to me – you whisk the yellow (melted butter + egg yolks) and the white (buttermilk + egg whites) separately before mixing together and adding to the dry stuff.  This produces a very thick batter which looked all wrong the first time I made it, but it produces thick, fluffy pancakes!

I do have a few tweaks that I’ve learned along the way to make the pancakes even better:

  1. Get good, full-fat buttermilk. You want thick, creamy buttermilk not the watery stuff you find in many mega-marts.  We get ours at the Farmer’s Market but have also found that Trader Joe’s has a good one.
  2. I add in a tsp of vanilla to the liquids before adding the mix to the dry.
  3. Whip the egg whites to almost soft-peak before adding the buttermilk for extremely light and airy pancakes.  Make sure to gently fold everything together after whipping the egg whites.

Mark likes to top his with peanut butter and I prefer local maple syrup that we pick up at the Farmer’s Market.  We both use plain, old Trader Joe’s butter but I suspect that I may soon go the way of Jonniker and Metalia and seek out some cultured butter to try.  As for M, she rarely eats more then 2 bites but I am counting on her to start liking pancakes someday.

Our Private Restaurant Week

Next week M will be spending a week in Lima for “Grandma & Grandpa Camp” along with her cousins.  Mark and I will be taking full advantage of the week by dining out Every.Single.Night.  There are dozens of restaurants we still want to try and we are attempting to narrow down our list.  Right now there is one slot spoken for – Sarava (I won a gift certificate from Trish’s Dish and we will be using it next week).  The other 4 nights are up in the air.  Here are the contenders:

Boulevard Blue
Crop Bistro – I’ve was recently there for lunch and would love to try their dinner menu
Greenhouse Tavern – we’ve been here, but it’s oh so good and I’d like to try it without the kid in tow.
L’Albatros  – I had an amazing lunch here and would love to check out their dinner fare.
Lolita – I know! We haven’t been here yet and it’s a travesty.
Three Birds
Tremont Tap House
** Edited to add Mark’s Picks:
Ponte Vecchio
Melt – I think this one could be saved for when we have to take the kid with us
Bar Symon – seems kid friendly but I haven’t heard if that is true or not, maybe we wait on this one, too?

I’d love to hear your suggestions or votes. Keep in mind we are trying to hit places where it’s more appropriate to be sans kid…I would love to hear your thoughts!

Because I DO Read Blogs on the Weekend

I hate to go political here because I can be a bit um, argumentative, in real life when it comes to political issues.  I tend to be very liberal in my views and yet I come from a family of staunch conservatives, so conversations can get a bit heated. I try to get my news and information from varied sources. I might hear of an issue on Huffington Post but I do my own research (including what Fox News has to say on the subject, yes really) before coming to my own conclusion. I listen religiously to NPR, I refer to Fact Check and PolitiFact and read C-Span. In other words, even though I tend to be liberal I try not to get my news from mouthpieces and more often then not I side with the Centrists.

So when Pauline published this post over at Classy Chaos (I blog I adore), I got a bit worked up.  Then I calmed down and visited my usually sources for clear, factual information on the subject matter and then I got worked up again.  Because this post, along with the original one she linked to are what I see as skewed interpretations of the proposed bill.  And I will take a moment to stop here and remind everyone that this is only a bill (“sittin’ here on Capitol Hill…”) and  the House Version at that.  The Senate will have their own version and then the two will be intertwined into a final bill that will go to vote.  And President Obama did not write this bill – as Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) is so fond of announcing in every interview he gets.

What struck me about Pauline’s story is that she seemed to be advocating exactly what she said was so wrong with her own healthcare growing up – paying cash for better, faster service. Psst – I’ll let you in on a secret: almost every hospital, except county hospitals, has a VIP wing and services and you have to have $$$ to access them. So under the current system, if you’ve got the cash you’ve got the care. And she paints her 4-hour wait in Paris to see an ER doctor as proof that their system is broken.  I’m guessing that she has never visited one of the local ERs.  Last year when I had my gallbladder attacks I waited over 6 hours in the middle of the night at a suburban, affluent, top tier hospital to be seen. I wasn’t waiting because of traumas, either; it was because so many people use the ER as their primary care because they can’t afford to see a doctor until they are in unbearable pain. I wonder what her visit to the Parisian ER cost her because without insurance mine would have cost $7,241.  My subsequent hospital stay and surgery (for which I had to wait 3 months to get on the surgeon’s schedule) would have cost over $50,000.  I’m not sure about her, but I don’t have that kind of money lying around.  All told I paid $50 out of pocket for everything – because I am one of the very lucky ones with rock-start insurance. In my former job I didn’t have this kind of coverage nor could I afford the premiums on a single-income.

I wonder if people would feel differently if they were one of the thousands of a full-time, minimum-wage worker making $10,712 a year?  Better yet, if they were one of the hundreds of thousands of middle-class poor who can’t afford the more then $1000/month out-of-pocket cost which is the average annual premium for employer-based healthcare and who don’t qualify for gov’t assistance. (That $1000/month doesn’t include co-pays which can be as much as 30%  – I couldn’t have afforded $15k for my illness, could you?)

A few things that were singled out in both posts caught my eye:
Pg 42 – The “Health Choices Commissioner” will choose your HC Benefits for you.
Guess what? If you have insurance, someone is already making theses choices for you! I don’t care if it’s employer-based, self-insured or Medicare someone is already telling you what they will and won’t cover and what benifts you get.

Pg 59 lines 21-24- Govt will have direct access to your bank accounts for electronic funds transfer
Pg 195 -Officers & employees of HC Admin (GOVT) will have access to ALL Americans financial/personal records.

Have you ever gotten your tax refund as direct deposit?  If so you’ve already handed over your information willingly. And the gov’t already has access to your financial records – it’s called Form 1040 and you are required by law to file it every year. And it includes information such as your investments, childcare costs, medical expenses and housing costs in addition to the basics such as salary, child support and other income.

Pg 241 Line 6-8- Doctors, doesn’t matter what specialty you have, you’ll all be paid the same.
If you became a doctor for the money I don’t want to be seen by you.  Let’s hope our doctors became doctors so they could help save lives and they love what they do, not for the paycheck.

Pg 430 Lines 11-15- The Govt will decide what level of treatment you will have at end of life.
Actually, the govt just mandates that you have a living will and be provided with counseling to compose said will. These specific lines refer to the individual’s living will and outline the range of care that can be requested in the will. Considering how quickly the previous administration wanted to get involved in deciding the level of treatment Terry Schiavo received I think a mandated living will could solve a lot of problems.

Those are just a few points that I have reviewed.  No, I have not read the full 1000+ page document, but I have read the lines in question and think that Jill and Pauline have a skewed interpretation of the bill. Take a few moments and review them yourself and see what you think.  And maybe do a bit of research, too.

I don’t think this bill is the best solution, but I think it’s a good start. Because to me, America should not be a country where 62% of bankruptcies are caused by medical expenses and 78% of those HAD HEALTH INSURANCE (source: American Journal of Medicine, August 2009.) It shouldn’t be a country where people hold fundraising nightsspaghetti dinners, car washes and sales to pay for medical care. It shouldn’t be a place where people have to choose between living in pain and getting care.  It should be a place where your basic needs, including healthcare, have a safety net.