Murph 2016

Our bathroom/basement renovations are finally complete; Taco Party 4.0 has come and gone; and the skin has grown back on my hands post-Murph.  I can type out to quick post a get back on track with the blog.  I was able to check off a big entry on my Crossfit bucket list this past Memorial Day--performing Murph as rx'd.  100 pull-ups without a band.  Eight skin rips starting about halfway through.  When I started Crossfit in 2013 I couldn't do a single pull-up.

It took me 45:45 to get through the mile run/100 pull-ups/200 push-ups/300 air squats/mile run.  Then I was nearly unable to take my sports bra off for the shower I was simultaneously dreading and looking forward to. It took a couple of days of diligent WOD welder application before I could wash my hands without wincing.  Surprisingly, my legs were not sore at all.  I survived the next day on L&D by avoiding the Purell dispensers.

After a grueling morning of SAT subject tests, Sophie and I went to the NEX to buy a birthday present for her friend's party tonight.  It is a combination birthday/graduation party that begins at 8:00 p.m.  The dress code is "cocktail attire.  A very nice Korean? lady at the Benefit counter applied more makeup than Sophie has had on her face in her whole life.  She looks older, and the "highlighter makes my eyes look less dead."  

Ian stayed home so the air-conditioning repairman could fix our unit.  Apparently the problem involved some breakers, the fan motor and a "huge ant nest in the compressor."  Unbelievably, he did not get a picture for us.

We are wishing Maddy was here this weekend, but she is enjoying cooking in the Pippin Hill kitchen.  I am currently very unmotivated in the cooking department.  Like we just had Velveeta/Rotel dip and chips for dinner unmotivated.  I did make an excellent vanilla ice cream early this week to accompany the first round of pick-your-own strawberries.  Nearly 5 lbs. of strawberries gone in <5 days.

Coming up in the near future--college visits in California, a trip to Williamsburg for the fourth, and the Finger Lakes in mid-July.  Stay tuned.


As promised, our first-hand account of surviving Snowzilla.  Living on a snow emergency route has its benefits--those plows were out early and often.  We were able to dig a tidy snow cave into the piled up snow.  Pepco managed to keep the power on, and I had shopped for at least a week's worth of groceries.  We were well-fed, warm, and never ran out of toilet paper.

Sophie's snow-generated week off of school coincided nicely with the end of the winter quarter.  She used her time wisely--cutting out and gluing literally hundreds of felt circles to one of her Katsucon costumes.  A coworker of mine took a bullet for me, switching shifts at the last minute, preventing me from spending the entire weekend in the hospital.  Ian changed his flight and got home ahead of the storm.  Hunkered down, I cooked many, many dishes from "The Food Lover's Cleanse".  It's not the kind of cleanse that requires massive stores of toilet paper.  It's the kind of cleanse with dishes like Moroccan lamb shanks with pomegranate that you can invite your backyard neighbors over for during a snowstorm and enjoy with a nice bottle of red (or two).

 we are putting "snow cave designer" on her college applications

we are putting "snow cave designer" on her college applications

I never did have to snowshoe into work, but I admit to a serious case of road rage at the snow removal crews who thought rush hour was the optimal time to block all but one lane of River Road. Thankfully, none of my patients had to emergently deliver a baby at home.  Now the only thing that we labor and delivery professionals are more afraid of than Zika is being on call in mid-October when all the blizzard babies will be due to arrive.

We like the nightlife, we like to boogie.

Ian had his first Uber experience in Charleston.  He and our young driver talked "Call of Duty," and he was pleasantly surprised by both the speed and value.  Maddy encouraged us to rate our driver with 5 stars--apparently they have to get a certain number of good ratings to retain their jobs.  That, and not assault anybody.  

We arrived at The Gin Joint just in time to snag the last table.  The craft cocktails were surprisingly reasonably priced and delicious.  They had a selection called "bartender's choice" where you  chose two adjectives, i.e. fruity and nonalcoholic (Sophie) or spicy and smoky (Maddy) and they created something original.  I wish the food had matched the quality of the cocktails, but the ricotta stuffed meatball was dry and the donuts clearly suffered from underproofing.

Meatball disappointment aside, it was magical to wander the streets on an unseasonably warm December evening (coincidently our 19th anniversary).  We planned to rectify the substandard donut experience with a trip to Glazed Gourmet the next morning.

Make Mine Milk Bar

Maddy's 24th birthday was last week, and per tradition, she got to pick her meal and cake.  This cinnamon bun pie from Momofuku Milk Bar definitely skews breakfast so we killed two birds with one stone.  Or at least Sophie and Maddy did, Ian and I ate our share all at once after dinner.  We spent the day in "Koreatown" enjoying endless samples at the Shilla Bakery, scoring cosmetics at the Face Shop and coveting everything at a little shop that sold all the adorable Korean stationery we remembered from Seoul.  

While the girls binge-watched "Ink Masters," I finished the first of three pairs of ancient stitch mittens.  I lined them with some seriously spendy faux fur we got at G-street fabrics.  Super soft, but sheds like a chinchilla in a sauna.  I am waiting to vacuum until I have lined the other pairs.  My in-laws arrive this Friday and this is my deadline.  Currently in contention for Thanksgiving desserts are apple pie, chocolate haupia pie and grapefruit cake.  This sweet potato recipe also looks intriguing.   

We have yet to tire from eating recipes from Lucky Peach's " 101 Easy Asian Recipes."  It is easily my favorite cookbook purchase in recent memory.  Put it on your wish list. This is good weeknight cooking without sub recipes, and once you have acquired the basic ingredients, truly easy.  

Looking forward to Whitman Drama's production of Sweeny Todd, the Turkey Chase and the annual persimmon harvest.  Tonight it's leftovers and Project Runway since Ian is in Ft. Polk (they put the armpit in Army).  

You got peanut butter in my chocolate.

I felt like it would be hard to top our 2014 post Army Ten Miler meal at Le Diplomate, but our friends pulled out all the stops and put on an amazing brunch complete with bottomless champagne, foie gras pate, a bloody mary bar and an amazing charcuterie board.  I had promised to make a dessert, and this Dominque Ansel Paris-New York  pastry fit the bill.  I skipped the glazed peanut garnish. The other reason I chose this pastry was because our dear friends who have a daughter with a peanut allergy were visiting sans daughter!  

Luckily there was plenty of "do-ahead" and assembly was manageable with Ian and Sophie's help.   I texted Sophie from the Metro on the way home from the race and she sliced the pastries in half. Ian helped fill the piping bags.  That peanut butter mousse was really stiff!  I should have told Sophie to take it out of the fridge a bit earlier.  I think I would also stick with the traditional "cream puff" shape instead of the rings--they just didn't puff up as nicely.

The ten miler went much better than I had anticipated.  I was just under two minutes slower than 2014--good enough to be the second fastest on my team.  We placed 4th in the mixed master's division.  Ian and I hiked Old Rag with some new friends the next day, and I think that made me more sore than the race, to be honest.

As I write this post I have <3 hours til my call shift is over and "I get my life back."  I delivered 5 babies this week, including 2 that I had originally thought might need c-sections.  With a job like this, it's hard to complain about the loss of sleep.  Still hoping that phone doesn't ring though.....

The full manti.

I took some liberties with Gabrielle Hamilton's manti recipe.  Pictured below are the adult sized dumplings.  I made a few dozen of the regulation sized (1/4 of a wonton square!) before I realized I needed an assistant that would be willing to roll meatballs the size of a pea.  That assistant was not Ian.  Luckily the meatballs were very simple--just ground lamb.  I did not have any College Inn beef broth in the house so I subbed in TJ chicken broth and served on a bed of lettuce from the garden.  They were very, very delicious.  I made enough for a second round which I served with Prune's braised green cabbage with anchovies and garlic.  Don't be afraid of the anchovies, even Sophie couldn't discern any fishiness.

Ian is "happy to have his life back" after finishing his semi-annual physical fitness test this morning.  He and Sophie can celebrate with the Spam fried rice I left them for dinner.  I won't have my life back til Sunday with all the L&D time coming up.  Homecoming and the county cross-country championships are on October 24th.  Then Sophie can have her life back.  Maybe she can work at Williams Sonoma gift-wrapping for the holiday season and getting us a sweet employee discount.

 Harris has started this year's persimmon harvest prematurely.

Harris has started this year's persimmon harvest prematurely.

Overproofing. Good for bourbon, bad for buns.

Good news. I don't have a rotator cuff tear.  Bad news: I might have a nerve injury.  Worse news: the way to diagnose a nerve injury is a an EMG.  Whilst Googling away, I discovered this youtube video which made me feel a lot less anxious.  I love how Dr. Smolinski jauntily places the needle in his own bicep!  Of course he's in the Army!  

My cardamom buns got slightly overproofed because I forgot to turn the oven off after setting it to the lowest temp.  Much of the butter leaked out as well.  I gave the better batch to the PT clinic and sent the one pictured with Sophie.  I figured a bunch of XC runners on a bus to Manhattan fall into the "beggars can't be choosers" category.  She will be gone <48 hours, but this is the list of food she packed:  the buns, 14 old-fashioned donuts, 2 apples, a pear, a peach, a granola bar, a large bag of cheddar popcorn, a ziplock bag of cereal, a granola bar,  half-eaten bags of Swedish fish and chocolate covered almonds, an airline snack leftover from Ian's latest trip, a mostly eaten bag of Oreos, 2 bottles of tea and a bottle of sports drink. She wanted to make sure I gave her enough money to buy "meals."  Additionally, she is hoping to make a stop at Momofuku Milk Bar.  Her glycogen stores will be on fleek.

The fabric of our lives.

Sophie and I checked out the Dominique Ansel cookbook and made this intermediate level recipe.  Very light, as advertised.  Make sure you allow to thaw completely as directed or the texture will suffer.  We renewed said cookbook, and at this point I don't have another bake planned.  It is beautifully photographed and pretty intimidating.  

Needless to say, I stuck with the Fika cookbook and made my physical therapist some cardamom buns.  I will bring them to my follow up appointment today, and hopefully she won't tell me I have a rotator cuff tear.  Nearly three weeks of no Crossfit.  It is depressing.  My running has benefitted greatly.  Maybe the Army Ten Miler this weekend will give me a much-needed morale boost.  

I also checked out Prune--very favorably reviewed by Jennifer Reese, and likely my next cookbook purchase.   So far we have enjoyed the bacon marmalade sandwiches, the soft cooked zucchini with green onions and poblanos, and the sesame biscuits.  Maddy was in town for a photonics conference, and she gave her Chinese co-worker some of the sesame biscuits.  He loved them and said, "I can put the whole thing in my mouth."  I think referring to the fact that they are not too sweet.  She sent him the recipe.  You can find it here.  I did not have to mist the dough to get the sesame seeds to stick.  Honestly, I wouldn't have anyway.  Next on my "to make" list is the manti--impossibly teensy dumplings filled with lamb.  How teensy?  You make each dumpling with 1/4 tsp. ground meat and 1/4 of a wonton wrapper.  I will try to get a photo if I pull it off without explosion.

Pain, pain go away.

I had a set back Monday night complete with another tearful early morning trip to the ER.  This time I had to drive myself so no narcotics--just IV toradol and a lidocaine patch.  I am unbelievably grateful for the Army physical therapy clinic who expedited my appointment for later that day.  Maddy drove back up to help out and my coworkers stepped in and covered a shift for me.  The pain has been intermittently severe and unpredictable.  The general trend has been improvement, but when I feel it start to escalate in the slightest I find myself increasingly anxious.  It is the kind of pain that is all-consuming--when it's there, I feel like it will never go away, and when it's gone I am just waiting for it to come back.  It is exhausting.  I find myself napping almost daily--partly due to poor sleep at night, but mostly because I feel wrung out.  I have not been back to Crossfit (the thought of lifting anything overhead makes me shudder), but the PT cleared me for running.  Interestingly, the pain is almost completely gone after the first mile.  I get 45 minutes of normal each day during my run.

My physical therapy treatment has included dry needling with and without e-stim.  For someone who is a pretty significant needle-phobic, I signed the consent form for treatment with no hesitation whatsoever.  The needles are so thin you barely notice the insertion.  When they hit a trigger point it's like an instant charley horse--this fatigues the muscle and allows it to relax.  The final read on the MRI was good news--all just age-related changes, no acute process.  I am hopeful that this pain will continue its downward trajectory.  It's been >48 hours since I've had a Percocet, and I'll be done with my steroid taper tomorrow.  

Things that made me happy this week: cashew cheese, vegan chocolate cake (I ate two pieces), running, Maddy, Sophie and Cyrus binge-watching Project Runway with me, my rice sock, and the love and care from family and friends.  I will leave you with this picture that probably needs a trigger warning....

The good, the bad and the really bad.

We had a great time at the Hershey RV show, and I think we have decided on our future new RV.   It will have to wait until Ian is out of the Army, and by then the house in Hawaii will be paid off along with the car.  Pictured below is the Itasca/Winnebago Navion 24J.  This had the best floor plan, and we hadn't even considered it initially because we thought the corner bed would be too small.  I quickly determined that the U-shaped dinette was a must-have, because, Bananagrams.  It has a cab-over bed, and I anticipate we could sleep up to 6 people.   The Winnebago Minnie Winnie 31K was a close second until we talked with somebody who owned a smaller model.  They loved it, but the 6-7 mpg fuel economy was a deal-breaker.  The Navion is built on a Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis and gets 15-17 mpg.  It has optional solar panels and a generator for camping off the grid.  We will replace the toilet with a composting model.   Our hope is to spend a year off traveling North America before heading to Hawaii.  The RV would stay in the mainland and be used initially for vacations with the kids and possibly for extended travel once we are totally retired.  

We got home from the show in time to go to Sophie's XC pasta dinner.  The Milk Bar cookies we brought were well received.  I was so looking forward to attending her first meet, but I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating neck/shoulder/arm pain.  When 800 mg of ibuprofen and a 5 year old Vicodin that I had hoarded from a previous ER visit did't touch it we decided to go to the ER.   As we suspected, the MRI showed a disc bulge at C6--confirming our working diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy.  After a total of 10 mg IV valium, 3 mg of dilaudid and some IV decadron I was functional.  By functional,  I mean I was able to go to sleep for a couple of hours while awaiting the MRI results.  The ER team was great, especially my nurse who expedited my pain meds and got my IV with the first try.  There are likely some baked goods in their future.  I was sent home with valium/percocet/ibuprofen and a medrol dose pack.  I will hold off on Crossfit for a few days until I get in to see the doctor/physical therapist.  My personal physical therapist left for Alaska on Sunday and won't be back for a week.  

Maddy and a few of her friends were in town for the Small Press Expo, and I felt well enough later in the day on Saturday to cook some Korean food (kalbi, samgyeopsal, chap jae).  We had champagne to celebrate our family.  Sophie had a bad day at the races (her time was still 33 sec faster than last year...), Maddy just missed passing an important test, and I had been through the wringer, but we were all together and, aside from my neck issue, healthy.  

As I type this, I suspect the IV decadron has run its course because the neck pain is back.  I had to take a percocet on top of the ibuprofen and steroid pills.  Counting the hours until I can call for my appointment and remembering weird dreams about being in the hospital with a c-collar made out of socks.  There was a petting zoo in the hospital atrium with guinea pigs, chickens and rabbits.  And that was before I took the percocet.