Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ozark As An Adjective

Last weekend we went camping. It was the most perfect weekend of the entire Spring to be outside, away from it all. D. couldn't come so we made a girls' weekend of it, driving out into the woods with Sunshine to meet up with a bunch of other families.

And, well...I took photos. On our way, we realized we would need hats so we stopped at a Fred's in Harrison and found cheap hats and sunglasses. Stella models:
We made poached eggs Saturday morning. No vinegar in your camping supplies? That's okay, just do what we did and use pickle juice! Worked perfectly.

I'm rooting for T-Rex. Those tiny little claws don't stand a chance.

Makeup removal in the tent. Naturally.

Delicious on a hot, gorgeous, lush, relaxed Saturday deep in the woods.

Sunshine napping in the back of our truck. Notice our blue tarp wall, protecting us from the portapotties.

Okay, this is quite a story. This tiny mouse was found inside the belly of a rattlesnake that some of the younger guys killed and skinned, with the original thought of cooking. IT WAS STILL ALIVE! These guys proceeded to spend the next five days squeezing milk from a sponge into its itsy mouth. It seemed to thrive and we thought little mouse would make it...but just didn't.

We're being followed.

These houses were all seen on the backroads somewhere far off the highway, and seriously in the woods. I fantasize about living this far away from everything....for a while.

The most beautiful swimming hole in the world. On the banks of Piney Creek.

The sign used to say "Downtown Optimus." Ha!

Sunshine entering Tommy's Famous in Mountain View. If you live in Arkansas and watch Austin City Limits, the underwriting plug for this restaurant always runs first. We ate one of their super delicious veggie pizzas. I love the deep indigo of the outside, with the bright turquoise of the door.

I can't wait to get away again. Maybe floating on the Kings this weekend?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Crêpe That Started It All

I think it's fairly obvious that I have a lifelong love affair with food and cooking. Only recently, though, have I started thinking about how and why this love has developed and flourished. I think I can trace it back to a night in my early teens during which I was randomly, and serendipitously served a fresh crêpe.

But first, as with most histories, we must go before that night. As I've mentioned several times before, I was raised in a household where food was treated as fuel, or medicine, and flavor or seasoning wasn't considered very often. This is not saying that strict macrobiotic food has to taste bad, but in our case it did...most of the time. We were fed a steady diet of burnt, seasonal greens, brown rice, tofu, and miso soups into which everything possible was tossed. We would visit our southern relatives and the brown beans cooked with ham hocks, cornbread cooked in thick, black iron skillets seasoned with years of bacon grease, and the many, many layered salads tasted like heaven. Like many children who are raised with extremes, I craved the other. I developed an early and intense sweet tooth, and could have eaten an entire stick of butter smeared on that soft, squishy, store-bought bread. My sister Jessy and I would hoard candy and chocolate (FORBIDDEN!) in our rooms until the bugs found it. I swung so far to the other side of the spectrum, that when I moved into my first apartment I'd buy Country Crock and Fruity Pebbles and instant pudding. Gross!

Because my mother was all about utilitarianism, though, we learned the basics of cooking very early. That was a very good thing. I could make rice (brown only. Of course), bread (whole wheat. Flour ground in our own little home mill), gravy (whole wheat flour, oil, potato water, tamari), and vegetable stock by the time I was 13. Even when I was really young, though, I was led by my taste buds. I've always approached cooking this way: start with what flavors I want, build from there. I say, learn what you like and always try something new. Make mental notes along the way.

But back to that night when we were riding around aimlessly. One of our friends was at the Dairy Hollow House, one of the first and best-known Bed and Breakfasts in the Ozarks, Arkansas for that matter. I had sort of known the proprietors, Ned and Crescent, for as long as I could remember. This was a town of less than 1,800 people after all. So we stop to visit our friend, all spilling out of the car like clowns at a circus. "Come on in," Crescent called from the main house, "We're making crêpes."

And were they ever. These strange and wonderful new things (like tiny, delicate pancakes, I decided to myself) were filled with a light yogurt-y filling and topped with a fresh fruit compote. I don't remember the exact flavors or fruits used, but what I do remember is the ease with which Crescent was making them. If a crêpe folded wrong or got wrinkled in the pan, it didn't seem to faze her one bit.

The crêpe night probably ended in a fit of boredom, the way many of them did back then; we all went our separate ways. But things had already started to change inside. A switch had been flipped.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Drib Drab

Last weekend we went to Eureka and it was just what the doctor ordered: hanging out with old friends, sunny day at the Kings River, collaborating on delicious meals, and walking around the town at night.

I ate morels for the first time! My friend Karen quartered them, batter & fried 'em (D.'s mom says that in the South, "If anything is still long enough, it'll get battered & fried.") and served them with garlic butter. If you're my grandmother reading this, cover your eyes - but HOLY SHIT! They were incredible! Hillbilly truffles! Alas, I took no pictures. I can't always be the food photojournalist I want to be.

It finally decided to give us a break and stop raining for two days in a row. Sunshine! Warmth! Rosebuds and dogwoods in bloom! Lilacs, too, for crying out loud! The delirium of SPRING all at never loses its impact, year after year.

I'm feeling good. I think I'm getting the hang of creating and maintaining balance with regards to work/home/me/others/creative pursuits/guilty pleasures/simple/gourmet/sleep/exercise/social/private.

This coming weekend will be the only one in a month we'll be at home. Next weekend: CAMPING!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

True Story


COMES NOW the Petitioner, Alannah Alden, being duly sworn upon oath does state as follows:

1. My name is Alannah Alden, and I am of age and competent to testify herein.

2. I live at XXXX N. John Wayne Drive, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

3. I was born on March 31, 1975 on a commune in Point Arena, California, to Stephen Whittaker Freegard and Linda Gail Robinson.

4. My parents were not married at the time of my birth.

5. My parents had taken names for themselves different from their birth names.

6. My birth father was using the name Garett Alden.

7. My birth mother was using the name Eroca Alden.

8. I was born at home, and no birth certificate was issued at the time of my birth.

9. My parents married on May 28, 1977, and applied for a birth certificate for me under the name Alannah Alden.

10. In 1978, my parents divorced and my mother was joined in a ceremony to Richard Glenn Massey.

11. I have three siblings, one full sister and two half sisters (children of my mother and Richard Massey), and all of us go by the last name of Massey.

12. I registered for school under the name Alannah Massey.

13. At some point after I started school, my mother applied for a social security card for me in the name of Alannah Massey.

14. As of this date, my social security card is issued in the name of Alannah Massey, my passport is issued in the name of Alannah Massey, and I file all of my taxes under Alannah Massey. My driver's license, however, has been under the name Alannah Alden, and recently I was informed that a new driver's license cannot be issued because of the discrepency between the name on my birth certificate and that on my social security card.

15. There are no objections to this name change as my mother is in agreement, and my birth father is deceased.

FURTHER Affiant sayeth not.


Alannah Alden (Massey), Petitioner

State of Arkansas )


County of Washington )

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Complaint Department

I think I've written before about my jaw saga, but I'll update y'all on my current, stymied situation.

I've dealt with neck pain off and on for years. It comes and goes with my stress levels and amount of stretching yoga I am doing. A few months ago, this pain migrated to my face. The entire left side of my face hurt so badly that I thought I either had a sudden cavity or had been punched out while I was asleep. I made a dentist appointment and hoped for the best - that it was a cavity and I could have it removed and be on my way without spending too much money.

The dentist determined right away that I didn't have any cavities but suggested it might be jaw-related and recommended that I see an oral surgeon. So I made the appointment with the oral surgeon for a TMJ exam. My health insurance doesn't cover TMJ-related treatments so I had to pay out of pocket for the exam ($350). The surgeon took a ton of X-rays and sat with me for about 20 minutes to explain that he could definitely see that I have arthritis in my jaw. Also, the cartilage that is supposed to protect the joint on my left side is not visible. He thought it either slipped out of place or had worn down. He wanted me to get an MRI to determine exactly what happened to this cartilage. Because my insurance doesn't cover TMJ, I would have to pay the $800 MRI myself. The oral surgeon also suggested that I see an orthodontist to be fitted for an oral splint - a mouthpiece that encourages your teeth to fit together better and to relieve pressure on the jaw and joint.

At this point I made an appointment with my regular doctor to get her opinion. Here I should also note that my health insurance SUCKS ASS. I pay $200 per month for my premium and I also have a $45 copay per office visit!! So I try not to see the doctor, if possible, because $45 can buy a lot of groceries.

My GP thought I maybe didn't need the MRI, but that I should definitely try the splint. So okay....I made the appointment to see the orthodontist. The preliminary TMJ splint exam with him was $250 (again...out of pocket). He said that I have a very high threshold for pain which is probably why it took me so long to get all this checked out. He thinks that my jaw and face pain, and probably a lot of my neck pain will improve drastically by wearing this mouthguard piece. The cost of this piece of plastic you wear on the inside of your teeth???


My dental insurance will only pay 50%. So I'm looking at having to shell out a minimum of $1,200 for this splint.

Especially after all those different appointments I can't afford that. Isn't this why we have insurance? Just for weird health issues like this?

I'm so angry. And still in so much pain.

I'll just keep on popping Ibuprofens I guess.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

When All Else Fails, There's Always Polenta

After eating nothing but (let's face it - bland) casseroles and cakes for three days at D.'s grandparents', I've been craving nothing but vegetables and hearty flavors since we've been home.

Last night I cleaned out the veggie drawer and made portabello mushroom, spinach, & organic chicken sausage (I will sometimes eat meat..if, as in this case, it is given to me as a gift) sort of sauce served over oregano/asiago polenta with, of course, that damn requisite green salad with toasted pecans, Gorgonzola crumbles and, in this case, jicama matchsticks for crunch.

I'm going to keep cooking delicious meals until there is nothing but peace and relaxed energy in our house.....I banish thee, tension and crabbiness!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Death, Rebirth...Turn, Turn, Turn

On our way back from Little Rock last Sunday, D. and I stopped at his grandparents' place in Rosebud, Arkansas to visit with his grandmother and to see his grandfather. It was a warm day and I brought his grandmother a bouquet of lilacs that I'd picked in my friend's yard. I am so glad we had that day because on Wednesday morning D.'s mother called to say that her father had passed early that morning. Thursday D. and I drove down and spent the next three days there.

Small town Arkansas is worlds away from fast(er)-paced, bustling business & college town Arkansas. Rosebud reminds me so much of my grandmother's hometown of Horatio, Arkansas, over in the southwest corner of the state. At the viewing on Thursday night everyone seemed to have known everyone else all their lives. The gifts of flowers (gardenia bushes, peace lilies, daisies and roses) and casseroles (chicken and noodle, broccoli and cheese, cornbread stuffing) were overwhelming. D.'s grandmother and grandfather were married when she was 16 and he was 17. They had been married for 67 years. He was born in Rosebud, Arkansas and died in the house he'd built himself in the same small town.

D.'s relationship with his grandfather was a lot like mine with my own sweet grandfather. Teaching him how to fish, riding in the back of pickup trucks down dirt roads, that quiet and patient connection to another time and place...

On Friday, after the funeral service, D. and I took a walk on his grandparents' property...soaking up the warm, mild, sunny afternoon. All of nature felt particularly bright and new.

This tree caught my attention for being all alone in the middle of the pasture.This old chicken house practically begged for the B&W treatment.

The happiest creature of all this weekend was Lucy, who loves nothing more than running and running through fields in the country.
Notice how her markings form a heart shape on Lucy's butt when she lies down?
Forget-me-nots. Poignant and fitting flower that day, no?
D. brought along his new toy.
Vlogs in my future - I'm sure.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


We're on our way out the door to drive to Rosebud, AR, where D.'s grandparents live. His grandfather passed away Wednesday morning. The circumstances reminded me a lot of my own sweet grandpa's passing three years ago - long terminal illness, hospice care, the grandmother running herself ragged as primary caretaker.

So we'll be down in the land of no wireless internet, one or two bars of mobile access, and little old farmhouses. I'll read a lot, and try to be of help.

I'll tell the story of D. trying to do something very special and wonderful for my birthday only to have it all's the story of my life!! But I sure am lucky to have him.

We're all gonna be okay.