From My Kitchen Pantry. Rich and Luscious Crème Pâtissière.

Ron and I are making eclairs this pastry weekend. I had never made pastry cream before, but have made curd numerous times. I was thrilled to find out they are equally easy. I used this recipe and followed her instructions exactly and my cream turned out perfect on the first try!

The Paddington Foodie

Creme Patisserie

This weekend we’re celebrating my husband’s birthday, and as always I’m baking a celebratory cake. Last year we embarked on a serious chocoholic indulgence with a Chocolate Mousse Torte with Candied Morello Cherries and Hazelnut Praline, this year it’s to be something lighter – a berry and cream filled Pavlova. Of course for my family one regular sized pavlova just won’t do so I doubled the recipe. What to do with eight left over eggs? Make Crème Pâtissière; an idea initially inspired some time ago by Ana over at her blog Delicious By Ana.

Crème Pâtissière is a ludicrously rich and luscious French pastry cream or custard that can be used to fill all manner of desserts, tarts and cakes. Think simple fruit tarts, choux pastry puffs, mille feuille, éclairs, Napoleons and layer cakes.  In my family it is also enjoyed inelegantly and stealthily; by the spoonful, straight…

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Bright Lights, Big City

Migraines suck. It is a special kind of hell.

Before I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (IC) and fibromyalgia, I was just sick. No one could tell me what was wrong, just that I wasn’t dying. I couldn’t leave the house and hardly left the sofa. That went on for months until I just happened to come across an article on IC as well as a treatment (hydroxyzine). Finally I was free from the bounds of my living room and bathroom!

Fibro is awful enough on its own, but at least I was able to knit, watch tv, drive to appointments, and sometimes even meet a friend for a movie. When I’m flared I can be stuck on the sofa for days but I feel confident that the flare will end and I’ll get back to what I consider normal. As I’ve had fibro since I was 14, I was able to figure out how to still have a life.

With migraines, it’s just not possible. Not only do I have noise and light sensitivity, I have other, weirder symptoms. Some are easier to live with than others; smelling marshmallows or baked cookies is much nicer than feeling dizzy and nauseated. Driving means I have to turn my head from side to side, not to mention I can see the road whizzing by me, all of which makes my head spin. It’s like being rather drunk and that light feeling you get when you shake your head.

I spent three days this week trapped in my bed because I didn’t feel safe being alone in the house and walking around. Twice in the last week, I have blacked out and fallen. The first time took out my right knee when I landed on it. The second time I just got a bruise on my leg. But I’m terrified that I could hit my head and if there is no one home, I’m screwed.

Sometimes I can’t even watch tv because I have an auditory version of blurry vision; I can hear sounds but can’t translate those sounds into speech. It just sounds like garbled noise. That means I can’t have a conversation with my husband. I get nauseous and shaky. It’s hard to knit when you don’t have much fine motor control. It’s difficult to concentrate when you’re worried you’re going to heave, not to mention dealing with the blinding pain.

While fibro is debilitating, it is nothing compared to chronic migraines. I never thought I’d long for the days of “just” having fibromyalgia. If I had a doctor’s appointment, I could suck it up for an hour, knowing I could come home and go back to bed. With a migraine, things get cancelled. I don’t know 24 hours ahead how I will feel; I could feel perfectly fine ten minutes before needing to leave to go somewhere then get hit with blinding pain and nausea and not be able to leave my bed let alone my house. As much as I hate to pay $40 for a missed visit, it’s much cheaper than dealing with a car accident. I wouldn’t drive while drunk so I’m certainly not going to drive while migrainous.

I am incredibly lucky because my family is sympathetic. My husband gets (bad for him) migraines and has to just sleep through them so he knows somewhat how I feel. My daughter gets aura without migraine, so she realizes just how awful all the accompanying symptoms are. That means dinner still gets made, floors are still swept, and laundry still done even when I’m out.

About the only thing I’ve found that is a useful preventive is cranial sacral massage. While it’s not a good rescue solution, it can prevent or abort an attack. I can easily lie on a table and let someone massage my head and neck as long as I don’t have a raging migraine. Of course then I end up with crazy Einstein hair, also known as the post-fornication look. I’m sure all the shops around the massage therapy school think that people are having mad sex in the parking lot as I’m not the only one walking around with crazed hair and a satiated glazed look in my eye.

I have hope that I’ll eventually get this figured out. It took me years with fibro before I figured out how to still have a life. It’s only been seven months since the chronic migraines started; I’m still learning what the question is so I can’t be expected to know the answer yet.

Meanwhile, I have set up a nest on my bed. I have my computer, phone, knitting, and tissue all within hand’s reach. My mp3 player is loaded with cello music as I’ve also learned that low frequency music works with my rescue meds to shorten an attack.

Ugh. Even as I type this, I can feel a migraine wavering in the background. My left eye feels tender and pressurized while my left brain has a dull ache. I already know that our plans to go out for dinner are not going to happen. Like I said, migraines suck.



I Can Hold On Fine

I received an email from a dear friend/surrogate parent asking why he hasn’t seen any posts since January. I guiltily admitted that I had not written anything. To be fair, I had no idea it had been that long. I swear yesterday was Christmas; I blinked and tomorrow I turn 47. Only 8 more months of shopping days until Christmas again. No. Someone please stop the tilt-a-whirl for a minute because I feel a bit dizzy.

I think I’ve slept through a lot of the past three months thanks to my ramped up migraines. I still have another month before I finally have an appointment with a neurologist, but thanks to a four day hospital stay after being admitted through the ER, at least I know I don’t have any tumors and my spinal fluid volume is normal. On the plus side, I did find out that I have an aneurysm (very tiny and in a spot that very rarely hemorrhages). I swear this is karma biting me in the ass for when, 25 some odd years ago that I first had pray-for-death level migraines, I joked about it being from an aneurysm. While some types certainly can cause migraines, mine is not one of them. Rather than a neurological problem causing migraines, my migraines are causing neurological problems. It’s a better situation, definitely.

That’s not the only way that karma is working overtime around here. All my younger (much, much younger and much more evil) days of flirting with married men now sees me on the other side of that equation. Intellectually, I know that my marriage is safe and sound (thank goodness this didn’t happen even just a couple of years ago), but psychologically, I know exactly how insidious attraction can be. Add in a whole lot of insecurity from being chronically ill and it’s a formula for misery. Oddly enough, this has been a positive thing. In spite of our weekly fight cycle, we’ve been spending some great quality time together, partly due to my husband’s attempts to reassure me that he’s not going anywhere. It helps that we finally have a mutual hobby.

In February at a knitting retreat, a couple of other knitters started talking about a baking competition reality series called The Great British Bake Off. Initially I was watching it with Aubrey but after passing through the living room while it was on, Ron got caught up in it. What started as simply watching episodes turned into talking about baking, and eventually we attempted our own. It’s exciting because there aren’t any local gluten free patisseries so we can’t just go buy pastries. Nope, if we want to eat this stuff, we have to make it.

I’ve always loved cooking with my husband. Making frittatas on Saturdays is one of my favorite things that we do together. But this is different. We’re both decent cooks but novice bakers so we’re learning it at the same time. Yesterday was our first go. I found a recipe for cherry-lime curd and figured it would be great in crepes. Since curd only uses egg yolk, we had four whites left over, so Ron decided to make meringue cookies as training for future macarons. I wish I’d thought to snap a pic of him looking up into the bowl of meringue as he held it upside down over his head to see if it was thick enough. He flavored them with Grand Marnier but thought they tasted too boozy. I thought they were delicious, even if they did have the texture of packing peanuts. Unfortunately, we also learned that we’re both sensitive to sorghum flour. Although Ron can have gluten just fine, sorghum gave us both a gluten-like reaction. Being sick sort of took the shine off our morning but now we know to avoid it.

In addition to migraines and baking, we now have Aubrey living at home again. Her roommate had a major health issue and had to move much earlier than expected. Rather than moving in December, she found out at the beginning of March that she needed to be out by April 1. Of course that was right when I ended up in the hospital…worst possible timing! Somehow we managed to get everything packed up during her last week and hired movers to get it all down the two flights of stairs.

Having her here is both good and bad. She’s easy to live with and I love seeing her every day but we are crammed in. If it weren’t for all the KonMari work we did in January and February, we wouldn’t have had room at all. As it is, all of our KMing came to a shrieking halt just when I was almost done with the craft studio. We managed to do our bedroom, the bathroom, the office, the kitchen, and most of the living room. The unfinished craft piles were moved from the studio into the office. The first few days after Aubrey moved in were rough because crap was piled everywhere and boxes were stacked in the living room. I ended up making her put the living room boxes in her car until she gets a storage unit.While that still doesn’t solve the boxes in the kitchen and the ridiculous amount of clothes in her room, at least my living room is clean.

In case you’re wondering, our bedroom is still clean and uncluttered!  All of our drawers are full of perfectly folded clothes stood on end. My nightstand is occasionally in need of purging and our pillows tend to stay piled on a chair since I go back to bed too often to warrant bothering to make it in the mornings, but the floor and our dresser tops are all clear. During the days of disaster in the living room, it was my safe haven so I didn’t go crazy.

Considering that tomorrow is my birthday, I’m glad I got a sort of end-of-year clearance post done. Hopefully age 47 will see me not gain 300 lbs as I eat all the carbs that I swore off last fall. I also hope to finally (after five years!) get rid of the shit brown paint in my kitchen. Yup, those are my two main goals for this year and trust me, they’re huge. After all of the leaps and bounds of progress during age 46, I think 47 is going to seriously kick ass. Happy birthday to me!