Stuff and Nonsense: June 2016


My Completely Random & Probably Overly-Optimistic Post-Surgery Reading List

I'm going into the hospital for surgery Monday and I'll probably be there for five days, then home recuperating for ten(ish) weeks. So I've been amassing reading materials. And padding out my library hold list. And stuffing my Amazon cart for when I run out of library things ... as if that is likely to happen.

Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, I hope to be pretty out of it (and totes comfy) for the first day or two, so I'm thinking of packing just a few "light" graphic novels like the first few volume's of Chi's Sweet Home as just-in-case reads. And then, when my brain is fully functioning and needs distracting from my body's new reality (who stole my asshole? fml), I have this lovely list of totally random, but appealing titles to keep me going:

  • Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam
  • The Cry of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith
  • Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule
  • Ei8ht, Volume 1: Outcast by Rafael Albuquerque et al
  • Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld w/ illus. by Joe Sumner
  • The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future edited by Alexandra Brodsky & Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
  • The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig
  • Groot by Jeff Loveness w/ illus. by Brian Kesinger
  • Half World by Hiromi Goto w/ illus. by Jillian Tamaki
  • The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani w/ illus. by Leland Purvis
  • In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
  • Kaptara, Volume 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien by Chip Zdarsky et al
  • Life list: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds by Olivia Gentile
  • Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored by Mary Gabriel
  • Paper Girls, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan et al
  • A Silent Voice, Volume 1 by Yoshitoki Oima [translation & lettering by Steven LeCroy]
  • Small g: A Summer Idyll by Patricia Highsmith
  • Snuff by Terry Pratchett
  • You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures & Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart


Goodbye, Adios, Sayonara Rectum

SURGERY IS GO FOR JUNE 20, BITCHEZ. Had my pre-operative assessment interview and will be given a hospital arrival time shortly. This. Is. Really. Happening.

Currently up in the air as to whether I am having a proctocolectomy completion or perineal proctectomy, because (despite CT scans of my GI tract, etc) no-one can actually be certain of what's going on with my insides until they've cut me open and had a good look around. Hooray. Feel free to bet amongst yourselves as to which surgery I'll actually get and how many hours it will take.

Amusingly, my surgeon does not draw butts as well as I'd expected.

It's also still up in the air as to whether I indeed had ulcerative colitis back in 1998 or if I have Crohn's. The CT scan suggests no signs of Crohn's in any other digestive organs, so I probably did not have Crohn's, BUT (heh) the 1998 pathology and surgical reports list points consistent with Crohn's ... so, maybe, I do have Crohn's, and removing my large intestine just happened to take care of all the inflammation and I've been in remission ever since. I definitely had toxic megacolon (toxic colitis) which, unfortunately, is found with both UC and Crohn's. Way to be unambiguous, body. Right now, I believe we're tentatively calling whatever I had/have indeterminate colitis -- which is simply the cop-out term used when a clear diagnosis cannot be made.

(Or, maybe, it's aliens. Aliens have a thing about butts, right?)

Certainly, I've spent the past eighteen years believing I'd had ulcerative colitis, telling everyone I'd had ulcerative colitis, and generally feeling fine. So, if believing a thing could actually influence the universe, I must have had ulcerative colitis.

Anyway, this just means I get a gastroenterologist of my very own (hooray) when this is all over ... and something new to worry about, which is not fair, because this surgery was supposed to end all butt-related worries. Rectum comes out. Butt reverts back to simply being a pair of lovely lady lumps. I never think about cancer or fistulas again.

Well, except for every time I "manage" my ostomy. So that's ... four or five times a day? But, while my current (rectum-related) thoughts are stressful one along the lines of "So, self, when do you think you'll give me cancer?" or "I wonder where the next fistula will spawn, all wormhole like?" my ostomy maintenance thoughts tend to be indignant ones like "It's 2016. Why the fuck are my medical supplies not covered by insurance?" and "It's beet juice! Not blood! Stop freaking out, you nincompoop."

Seriously. Beet juice. Every. Time.


Wordless Wednesday: Cranesbill

Cranesbill -- that's true geranium. The other plants we call "geraniums" are
actually pelargoniums ... because gardening isn't confusing enough, right?


Chipotle Burgers

This is not so much a recipe as a throwing together of things. I had a hankering for burgers ... there was chipotle puree and limp chopped cilantro leftover from taco night ... and I thought "chipotle burgers" and, lo, that is what I made. The chipotle lends the beef a mellow smokiness, which I adore, and while the cilantro, alas, lends no noticeable flavor, it does lend a bit of color. I like to think the cilantro flavor is there, just so harmoniously blended with the other ingredients that it doesn't call attention to itself. (Otherwise, I might have saved myself the time chopping cilantro!)

My mother gave me a hamburger maker/keeper set when I first set up my own household and I used to use them a lot in the summer, just as my mom had done my whole childhood, but then I fell sway to the siren call of the readymade burgers in the grocer's meat case ... I'm trying to get back to making my own burgers, because it's not exactly difficult to make my own and it's a great way to guarantee the burger I eat is the burger I really wanted (lamb burgers, I am so making you next weekend). Also, if you're one of those thrifty types, it's less costly.

Chipotle Burgers

Yield: 4


  • 1 lb 92% lean ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp pureed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 gloves garlic, pressed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper


  1. Using your hands, gently combine beef, chipotle puree, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.
  2. Shape into 4 patties. Refrigerate until needed.
  3. Grill as you will.

I cooked these burgers in a grill pan on the stove for about 7 minutes per side. They came out just the way I like them -- a crusty, slightly charred outside with a juicy, pink inside. We ate them on toasted potato rolls with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a simple chipotle mayonnaise I made by mixing chipotle puree with garlic mayonnaise until it tasted "right." I will definitely make these again! Maybe topped with with a little avocado as well the other fixings, next time?


Everything Will Probably Be Okay

Saw one of my doctors yesterday and he was not thrilled by my abrupt spike in blood pressure -- numbers higher than we'd seen in two years -- so he had me do a self-assessment and it's obvious my stress levels need to come way the fuck down. That's not exactly what he said, but that's definitely the gist of it.

I'm having surgery in nine days. Nine. Days. Nine. A completion proctocolectomy which basically means that the rectal remnants I retained after my partial proctocolectomy for ulcerative colitis way back in 1998 are coming out. Do they absolutely need to come out rightnowthisminute? Probably not. But I am at an increased risk for several cancers, I already have a history of fistulas, and I'm simply tired of the day-to-day care (and worry) I'm spending on a part of me that doesn't have a useful function, anymore. My rectum is currently about as useful as an appendix ... which I don't have, because it came out during the partial proctocolectomy.

I've been slowly but steadily headed toward this surgery for months now ... so I ought to have had plenty of time to get over myself and not succumb to anxiety or stress myself out. I've done the research. I've had a bunch of tests. I've spoken with my surgeon repeatedly about what could happen during the surgery. I thought I was pretty chill about the whole thing.

And then I thought about all the lists I've been making for myself -- things to get done at work and home before I go under the knife. Things to read. Things to cook. Things to clean. Things to reorganize. Things to buy. So. Many. Things. It's clear I've simply channeled my surgery anxiety away into every other part of my life. Hooray.

So. I'm having surgery. Big, kinda scary surgery. Bad things could happen. However:
  1. My surgeon knows what she's about.
  2. I am currently in good health.
  3. My hospital has acceptable ratings for the things I care about.
Everything will probably be okay.

Everything will probably be okay.

And, for the love of god, stop writing lists.


Ginger Carrots

Last time we stopped by the warehouse store -- ostensibly for toothbrush heads and batteries -- I espied a solitary double-pack of real baby carrots in the produce section. Not those whittled down carroty nubbins marketed as "baby" carrots, but proper "baby-as-in-young" carrots. Obviously, I snaffled them before anyone else got wind of the treasure in produce and tried to claim it for themselves.

The first half of the pack I steamed and served them my Grandma Anne's way with lots of butter, generous amounts of parsley and salt, and a pinch of sugar. Yes, sugar in carrots. She swore it brought out the carrot's inherent sweetness (mind you, she had a rapacious sweet tooth) and it does seem to work. Anyway, The Husband really enjoys them prepared this way and it's an easy way to keep him happy.

The second half ... I was a little experimental with. May's Improv Challenge was coming up and the ingredients were orange and ginger. These flavors go well with carrots, so I thought I'd try giving them an orange ginger glaze. They turned out okay -- not Improv worthy -- but good enough for supper, definitely, an worth repeating with a nice crackling pork roast as accompaniment, maybe.

However, I will say I used one tablespoon of ginger in this recipe, which made for some excessively gingery carrots, so you might want to start with half a tablespoon and then taste until you reach the right level of gingerness. They're still delicious as is, yes, but very gingery. (It's possible the ginger root I used as stronger than usual?)

Ginger & Orange Glazed Carrots


  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, peeled & grated
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 6 Tbsp orange juice
  • Salt & pepper, as desired


  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the carrots. Simmer for 5 mins or until just tender, then drain.
  2. In a large skillet or wide pot, heat the butter until melted and foamy, then add the carrots, ginger, cilantro, orange zest and juice. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 mins, turning the carrots gently until they are thoroughly coated and juices are greatly reduced. Season with salt and pepper, as needed, and serve.


Wordless Wednesday: Buttercup, Redux

Not enough buttercups last week! Here's another in all its golden glory.


Fabulous Chipotle & Cinnamon Brownies

Just too much on my mind lately and sometimes, rather than tossing and turning in bed all night, it's easier to just get up with the birds and bake something.

And that something needs to be uncomplicated. Because while I am too wired for sleep, I am still not together enough to be trusted with knives or box graters. And something quiet. Because the last thing I want to do is wake The Husband and have him worrying about what I'm doing up and about in the wee small hours.

So brownies. Brownies are pretty much perfect.

To make these fabulous chipotle and cinnamon brownies, I started with a mix and then threw flavors at it until it seemed "right." My coworker had just hosted a taco bar party, so "Mexican" flavors were already on my mind. While I like the mild, mellow burn these brownies leave on the back of my throat, you might want to increase the heat by adding a little cayenne. I'm also kind-of curious to see how sriracha would work out, too, so if anyone wants to try that and get back to me ...

Even baked for 40 minutes, these are very dense, soft, almost-but-not-quite-gooey brownies. I think the bittersweet chocolate gives the commercial mix more complexity and depth, making for a more grown-up brownie. Warm, they're dynamite with a dollop of cinnamon ice cream, they're also pretty darn fine all by themselves at room temperature.

To make these chipotle and cinnamon brownies, prepare a brownie mix (I used a Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie mix) as directed on the box and then add:
  • ½ tsp ground chipotle
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Mexican vanilla (from the Penzeys bottle I've been hoarding since I realized they no longer sell it)
  • 2 oz coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (a bit of Divine 70% bittersweet chocolate leftover from Choctoberfest)
Bake and cool according to box.

Because The Husband hates cinnamon and I knew the very idea of spicy brownies would appall him, I made The Husband his very own pan of brownies by doctoring another mix with the zest of a large orange, 1 tsp orange extract, and 2 oz coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate. I was striving for a Terry's Chocolate Orange-esque brownie and my results weren't too far off. Of course, after I'd baked The Husband's brownies, I realized I could have just chopped up a dark chocolate orange and thrown that in instead of the bittersweet chocolate!


Chipotle Salmon & Beans

Threw together this simple and easy baked salmon and bean salad for supper earlier this week. Took no more than 20 minutes from fridge to table, was extremely flavorful, and looked like a lovely bit of summer on a plate. Which is exactly what I needed! The smoky chipotle puree lends the dish a mild, mellow heat and the lime makes it very bright and zesty. The bean salad is quite delicious as is, but I bet it will be even better in late summer with garden fresh tomatoes and corn! (Not that I'll be gardening this summer, but there's always the farm stand).

The bean salad makes more than you need for two portions of salmon, but will keep fine in the fridge for a few days and pairs well with grilled marinated chicken or shrimp. Or you could double the salmon and serve four people, leaving no leftovers. We're a household of two and I like (a manageable amount of) leftovers.

Chipotle Salmon & Beans

Yield: 2 plus leftover beans


  • 2 6-oz salmon fillet portions
  • 1 Tbsp pureed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 15.5 oz can cannellini, drained and rinsed
  • 7 oz can corn, drained
  • 4 oz chopped grape tomatoes
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts chopped
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper, as desired
  • 2 lime wedges


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Brush a pie plate or baking dish with olive oil.
  3. Pat the salmon portions dry with a paper towel and place on the pie plate. If your salmon has a thin end, fold it under for even cooking.
  4. Brush with chipotle puree and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp cilantro.
  5. Bake 10 minutes or until fish reaches 145°F and flakes easily with a fork.
  6. Meanwhile, mix together the beans, corn, tomatoes, scallions, lime juice and zest, and remaining 1 Tbsp cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Mound some of the bean mixture in the center of two plates. Top with salmon and serve lime wedges.
I use pie plates for everything now ... except pies. Can't remember the last time I baked a pie.


Wordless Wednesday: What's Up, Buttercup?

Creeping buttercup. From the carpels to the sepals, such an attractive flower.