The Dirtiest Month of My Life

Monday, 9:02 a.m., September 27, Brian, our contractor started to tear out our old (and only full) bathroom, including the shower and tub. On Friday, 8:26 p.m., October 30, I stepped out of the newly installed shower, wet, onto the bathmat lying on the newly installed Mediterranean tile—clean at last. For more than a month, Stephen and I have been washing up every day, using either the upstairs or downstairs sink. In that month, I learned a lot about making do and keeping reasonably presentable.

I thought it was going to be a nightmare. The backup plan included occasional borrowing of Annie’s shower, staying overnight a couple of times a week in the Holiday Inn, and even moving into the Residence Inn if things got too difficult. Part of what had me so worried was that Stephen was still recuperating from hip surgery and was not very mobile. And I dreamed about a house full of plaster dust and dirt, and noisy hammerings, bangings and other scary noises. I worried what if the contractor disappears, or gets sick, or is doing two jobs at once.

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Sensing and understanding consciousness

I recently finished reading the book Out of our Heads by Alva Noë. In my lifetime I have read many books on the nature of consciousness. Noë’s book is very thought-provoking, and his critique of much of current cognitive science is cogent. One thing he tells us is that neuroscientists who hope to find consciousness inside the brain are actually looking in the wrong place. There is a joke about the guy who was looking for his car keys on the pavement under the street light even though he had lost them in the grass, because there was more light under the street light. With all the brain imaging equipment that has been recently developed, scientists are looking at brain scans for traces of consciousness. What Noë tells us is that we will more likely find consciousness by looking at the relationship between us and our environment. That is because consciousness only develops through our interaction with the environment. He says that consciousness is something that we do, rather than a thing in someone’s brain. That is why I have made the title of this little essay, “Sensing and understanding consciousness”—sensing and understanding are things that we do, and in fact, they are good candidates for being forms of consciousness.

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Gluten-free Apple Crisp

Today I needed a good dessert to take to share with my play-reading group, which has two gluten-intolerant members. In addition, my definition of gluten-free rules out wheat, rye, barley, soy and oats. We’ll have our quibbles about this view in another blog entry. I did finally find an apple crisp recipe on the web. This one comes from Scott Adams’ website, identified simply as Apple Crisp #2 (Gluten Free). His recipe was for a 9″ x 9″ pan, I modified it for a 9″ x 13″ pan. Other than that modification, this recipe worked well just as written, but I have several food preparation points that I want to make in this blog.

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Cooking like Lorene, only gluten and cow’s milk free

Sausage and kraut with Lorene's spinach on the side.
Sausage and kraut with Lorene’s spinach on the side.

This has been a rough year. Well, just for starters, mom died this January. Lorene was the one person that I knew I could always talk to, from the time I was very young, for about 70 years. One of the things I most valued about mom was that she was a really good cook, and we talked about cooking a lot. So was my dad, my grandmother, and her mother a good cook, but it was my mother’s cooking that made my day. Once I set up housekeeping on my own, never very many days went by without my cooking something “Like mom used to make,” a practice which continues to this day.

Cooking like mom becomes a special challenge when your partner has food sensitivities. Readers of this blog will remember that we are currently living in a gluten-free household. We are also avoiding OD’ing on certain other foods, cow’s milk being one of these. Now milk and flour were staples of my mom’s cooking, so to continue in this cooking tradition, I have to be really inventive and experimental. And once in a while, I do whip up a meal or two that I can brag is “just like mom used to make.” Tonight was such a night, and I am proud to report it one day after what would have been her 96th birthday.

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Gluten-free Tomato Soup

Gluten-free tomato soup
Gluten-free tomato soup

Permit me a bit of a rant to start this blog. After reading the Progresso and Campbell soup labels for ingredients for 10 minutes this morning, and finding wheat or soy in every one of them, I decided that I would make my own gluten-free tomato soup,  better and cheaper than Progresso. And I did! Unfortunately, it took more time that just opening a can and heating. It took about 15 minutes. But the result was worth it, and so I am sharing this easily-modifiable reciple with the world.

1 cup water
1 boullion cube
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch (or other gluten free thickening agent)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar (or other sweetening agent)
1/4 c. tomato ketchup
1 16 oz. can of diced tomatoes
several fresh basil leaves, minced (or 1 tsp. basil)
heavy cream

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