*1-22-2001 Year of the Snake

Happy Chinese New Year (of the Snake):           January 22, 2001

I  expect  this  letter is coming to  you  late  this  week,

although  I  am writing it on Monday as usual. In an hour  or  so

I’ll be taking Aelfwine over to the doctor to see whether he  has

influenza or bronchitis or pneumonia. (It’s pneumonia- the doctor

was quite impressed with how ill he was. He started by asking how

he  felt  about  hospitals, and later said that  he  hadn’t  seen

anyone so sick walking in on their own. Gave him a shot of  anti-

biotics  and  sent  us home with a prescription  for  more  anti-

biotics and codeine. It worked like a charm, he’s feeling  better

already although still totally wiped. 1/23/1) He started coughing

last  Thursday,  and  by the time he got home on  Friday  he  was

really  obviously  NOT  WELL. The big problem is that  he  had  a

really  bad sore throat which is interfered with  his  swallowing

anything,  even liquids, and is generating a great deal of  mucus

which he coughs up every time he tried to take a drink. Also when

he  doesn’t.  This is about every five minutes-  which  means  he

really hadn’t slept or eaten or drunk much in three days.  Sunday

night  was  the worst, with his throat swollen to  the  point  he

couldn’t  inhale  except slowly, with ugly gurgling  noises.  And

lymph  nodes  swollen until you could almost SEE  them  from  the

outside! The oddest part is that he didn’t seem to have any mucus

in his head- just chest. Strange.

I  expect  that by the time you get this he will be  on  the

road  to  recovery.  By the way, I have  discovered  a  wonderful

expectorant  formula: Mullein, fennel, and garlic, and add a  bit

of cider vinegar to the tea. You can get the mullein at a  health

food  store if you don’t have any growing around you-  which,  it

being  mid-winter, you don’t. But it works wonders.  (of  course,

coughing  up wads of phlegm is a kind of yucky wonder,  but  it’s

better than having it stay in your lungs.) AElfwine says that  it

acts very fast-one sip, and he’s choking up phlegm. Takes him him

minutes  to  get  through a cup. Usually  he’ll  just  chug  most

herbals  to  avoid the taste issue, whether it’s real or  not.  I

don’t think they taste bad.

As  I  drove to the dentist this morning the  news  reported

that  a major storm had hit the Northeast over the weekend.  Also

that our winter crop of “Frost Heaves” signs have sprouted. I was

surprised- we hadn’t noticed any storm. I think of us as being in

the   Northeast,  but  apparently  they  meant  New  Jersey   and

Connecticut. We just got three inches. It covered the goose turds

in  the back yard, and the blood stains in the front, and we  had

to  shovel  the  driveway of course, but it  wasn’t  anything  to

mention.   Of  course it snows in the winter. Very  pretty,  big,

fat,  fluffy  flakes.  It’s pretty chilly- it  hasn’t  gone  over

freezing  lately.  But  we are all so acclimated  that  20  feels

fairly comfortable. The goats go out and play in it (and eat it),

and the geese seem to sleep in it.

The other evening when we tossed out food for the geese, and

opossum  came  out from under the barn and ate it. I  would  have

expected the geese to drive it off, but they just stood back  and

honked  at it in a very offended manner. We would have  shot  it,

but  that was the night Aelfwine was getting sick and  he  didn’t

feel  like  going back in for the rifle, and since it  was  after

supper, I really didn’t feel like cleaning it (although  Treelady

tells  us that it’s fairly good eating), so we let it  go.  Maybe

later  if it hangs around. I haven’t seen it since. Of course,  I

haven’t tossed grain right there since either.

The  hen  turkeys and single hen duck  have  started  laying

again (finally), so Kat has eggs she can eat again. The  chickens

don’t go out much anymore, preferring to stay in and dirty up the

bedding  which we spend good money on. And I do mean good  money!

The  shavings  have gone up 50% last week. Once Aelfwine  is  well

again we’ll have to pick up more sawdust from Wally.

And the Wally and Monica story continues: this week Monica’s

lawyer  has told the paper that it was Charley, the guy  who  was

living  with  them  who  burned the  house  down.  He’s  old  and

handicapped,  and  has a speech impediment so severe that  it  is

almost  impossible to understand when he speaks. In fact  they’ve

said  he isn’t competent to stand trial. I can believe that  they

managed to confuse a confession out of him, but hey- how are they

going   to   explain  that  Charley  put  Monica’s   kids   birth

certificates and papers in their backpacks that morning, and  how

is  he  supposed to have gotten Monica to threaten  her  son  the

fireman into lying about what he saw at the fire? It doesn’t wash

at  ALL. The big thing that has us annoyed is that she is  trying

to  implicate  Caroline  Otto  in her thefts.  I  can  see  Wally

convincing himself that blaming the fire on Charley is OK if it’s

just  going to get Charley put in a “funny farm” for the rest  of

his  life- but there is no way he should stand for screwing  over

Greg and Caroline. I am telling you, I feel like we are on one of

those TV shows like Picket Fences or Twin Peaks. Life is weird.

Toadstool  (our  local bookstore) finished moving  to  their

bigger  facility,  and  I picked up a  copy  of  The  Schwarzbein

Principle.  I was pleasantly surprised that it was NOT as extreme

as Chick had suggested. While Dr./ Scheartzbein does say that  it

is  healthy to eat non-damaged fats, and that Americans  eat  too

much  carbohydrates,  I  would say that the  OVERALL  message  is

promoting  a  balanced  diet. You can eat  pretty  much  whatever

healthy food you want to, but it should be balanced, not  weighed

heavily  toward carbohydrates as they now suggest with the  “food

pyramid”.  But  the  program  also  includes  totally  giving  up

tobacco,  alcohol, most OTC and many prescription drugs  (phasing

them  out while working with your doctor, of  course),  caffeine,

and  processed  foods  which  includes  all  sugar,  white  flour

products,  and  processed oils, as well as  reducing  stress  and


In  many  ways this IS totally radical, in many  others,  it

seems  like non-news. Personally, I can’t see Aelfwine giving  up

his  Coke, or me never eating chocolate or baking  yummy  goodies

again. I think about the Amish and the people at the turn of  the

century who had pies and cakes and breads- of course, they worked

hard  all  their  lives.  Luckily,  I  feel  (and  so  does   Dr.

Swartzbein)  that  when  you are healthy,  you  can  process  the

occasional health antagonist, and one should not obsess about the

lapses, just keep on working toward ones goals. She keeps saying-

“any  improvement  in  your nutrition is going to  result  in  an

improvement in your health.” and “Congratulate yourself for  your

successes and move on from there.”

As  usual, I got very excited about the new  information  in

the book- I thought to myself, I’ve got to tell Alva, and Dennis,

and  Allyn,  and,  and, and…  All the people  I  know  who  are

dealing  with  weight problems, and heart problems,  and  asthma,

diabetes,  high cholesterol, FM, ADD and the other myriad  health

problems  that  we all seem to have. Of course all I can  say  is

check it out- get a copy of the book yourself, borrow mine or one

from your library, decide if you think it makes sense, and if you

feel  like giving the system a try. Going against popular  wisdom

is  difficult for many people, even if years of  experience  show

that   eating   diet  food  results  in   gaining   weight.   The

merchandisers of those products have convinced us it’s a  failure

in  us, not their product that creates our problems.  This  woman

isn’t giving us a free ride to eat junk food- far from it.  Sure,

you  can  butter your popcorn, but no french  fries.  Indeed,  no

anything  deep  fat fried- she says high heat is one  thing  that

damages  oil  to  make it dangerous. (As a matter  of  fact,  she

recommends air popping the corn before dousing it with butter!) I

suppose  I  could see only having those  marvelous  batter  fried

onions  once a year at the county fair. Special  treats,  plugged

into  special  occasions-  I  think that fits  in  well  with  my

feelings  about  fasting and feasting. Of course,  no  more  deep

fried  bunny, seems more difficult as it’s something we are  used

to having more often.

But  I think it was the moderation that appeals to me-  it’s

not NO carbohydrates, she suggests eating carbohydrates at  every

meal,  along  with proteins and vegetables. Not NO  fruits,  just

don’t overload on them.

I have books on Your body’s Cry for Water, on The Promise of

Sleep, on exercise (aerobic to weight training), on all kinds  of

nutrition,  from  eat  no  yeast  or  vinegar  to  books  pushing

fermented  foods, books touting no meat to any meat but pork  and

contaminated  fish.  And all of them claim  research  backing  up

their  positions.  On the other hand, almost everyone  who  isn’t

selling  one  of them agrees that alcohol,  tobacco,  stimulants,

artificial  foods,  etc.  are  bad for  you,  and  getting  rest,

drinking water, and eating whole foods is good for you. How  many

times  does  this need to be researched and promoted?  How  often

does  someone have to go on Oprah and Sally to tell the  American

public to eat real food?

OK,  I  still buy some processed foods- cold  cereals,  some

breads  (crackers,  tortillas,  pitas, frozen  waffles-  I  can’t

figure   out  how  Vans  makes  their  rice   blueberry   waffles

palatable), soup concentrates, yoghurts, chips, sodas, and candy.

I do like candy. (Of course, I’ve gotten to the point that  there

are  some  candies I only like freshly made- but I’m  willing  to

admit  that  that’s just that I have effete taste.) Who am  I  to

suggest  to  anyone with less time, money, energy  or  access  to

whole  foods  that  they should give up canned  soup  and  frozen

dinners?  I figure it takes me an average of about two  to  three

hours to make dinner- and I think I’m a pretty efficient cook. (I

figure  a  half  hour  is plenty of time  to  make  pancakes  for

breakfast.) If I were to eliminate those processed foods  would I

accomplish  (besides  driving  the  kids  out  of  the  house)  a

significant  improvement  in  my  health?  Even  Dr.   Swartzbein

cautions that you shouldn’t expect to drop weight as if you  were

on  a  diet-  it will creep off as it crept  on  as  your  health

improves.  So  if it creeps off me, you can ask me if I  did  the

Schwarzbein program. Seems to me I was just as excited about  the

last diet I was going to try too.

And  as  a  pathetic counterpoint, I just got  a  great  new

cookbook- on baking. Let’s face it, even the most healthy recipes

for  baked goods have white flour in with whole wheat to  lighten

it. Still, a recommended breakfast is an omelet with oatmeal  and

fruit, or eggs with whole wheat toast with cheese and tomatoes on

top. So I may be able to bake a little.

Another  book I started reading this week was Wild Child,  a

book about girls raised in the counter-culture of the sixties and

seventies.  One  phrase  from it that I liked was “I  am  not  as

crispy  as  some,  but  I am more crunchy  than  most.”  I’m  not

counter-culture,  I’m pretty mundane, other than the  SCA  stuff,

but I identified with a lot of the chapters I’ve read so far. I’m

not done with it yet- but I managed to put it down by strength of

will.  It’s good.

I’m also reading a book about medieval food called Feast and

Fast,  which  amused  be  as  I discovered  in  it  many  of  the

historical  bits  mentioned  in The Wicca  Cookbook  which  I  am

currently  reviewing  for the Blessed Bee magazine.  Reading  the

Wicca Cookbook left me in a constant state of irritation  because

although the spellcraft seems pretty good to me, and I can’t pass

judgment on the accuracy of what the authors say about Wicca, too

much  of their medieval history is off- not a lot, but too  much.

And  they must come from much further south than we  do,  because

they  constantly suggest things like stuffing nasturtium  flowers

with  cream cheese- which certainly sounds delicious- for  a  May

Day treat. Or that strawberries and raspberries are available for

May Day, or that you should have flowers growing in March.  Also,

the recipes aren’t well written- in one they suggest lining a pan

with  frozen  puff pastry dough- then they say cook  the  chicken

until the meat falls off the bones. If you let frozen puff pastry

dough sit out for two hours, it won’t puff when you bake it. They

should have checked that before publishing.

In  fiction,  I read the Dragon and the Fair Maid  of  Kent,

Gordy Dickson’s latest in the Dragon Knight series. A lot of fun,

but not the best one in the series. Mark loaned us that one.

We watched The Patriot this week. While the choreography  of

the  fight  scene when he and his two younger  sons  rescued  his

oldest son was very impressive, I don’t see what the big deal was

about his letting them have guns. They were saving the older sons

life, after he’d done everything non-violent possible to stay out

of the war. And he couldn’t have saved him without their help. Do

they think it would have been less traumatic for the boys to have

had  him let their brother die, while their father  did  nothing?

The  movie maker had even gone so far as to have had the  British

that  were killed in that scene have just walked along a line  of

wounded  shooting them. They made sure that these were “very  bad

guys”  worthy of being killed. I don’t see what the problem  was.

The  history was weak, (so we brought out our old copy  of  Sweet

Liberty  with  Alan Alda, over the weekend) but it  was  still  a

pretty  good  movie. Certainly not more violent than  war  really

was  I’m  sure,  and the violence  was  carefully  deplored,  not

glorified. I also watched Pulp Fiction this week, which I thought

had  a few amusing moments, but WAS too graphically violent.  So,

now  I’ve seen it. I have to wonder what the big deal  with  that

one  was. Willow also took out Stir of Echoes. I thought  it  was

much better than Sixth Sense had been, especially in it’s  genre.

I love it when the heroes resist admitting that they are  dealing

with ESP, ghosts, etc. I think most people would.

I think I’m mostly done with the libraries selection of  old

famous movies. Unless they keep adding to it.

Even  if we are back to eating meat again, (and  the  Rabbit

Gumbo was SO good!) I thought I’d share this recipe with you from

The  Vegetarian  Hearth,  even  Aelfwine  liked  it.  It’s  Beets

Vinaigrette:  Take  a pound of cooked beets, and  slice  or  cube

them, then add them to a sauted onion with garlic, dijon  mustard

and a bit of wine vinegar. Serve warm. (admittedly, the  original

recipe  said grate the raw beets and cook them with  the  onions,

but I had some cooked beets on hand and they came out great!)

I  don’t  want  to overload you on recipes, but  I  have  to

mention the Russian potato salad. It had capers and black  olives

and beets and it was SO good (although it looked kind of odd  the

next day when the beets had bled through everything else)!

I  meant to mention last week that my aunt Amanda is or  was

in  India  participating  in the big festival of  Kumbh  Mela  in

Allahabad  bathing  in the Ganges. The festival lasts a  week,  I

think, starting on the 15th, when the most holy folk get to  take

a  dip, and then progressing down through the yogis and  such  to

the tourists. Very cool stuff. I hope she doesn’t catch anything.

When  she  came  back  from Tibet  she  apparently  brought  back

something  that  doesn’t effect 25% of the people,  gives  25%  a

cold, makes 25% very ill, and kills the other 25%! Luckily,  when

Uncle  Charley  got it, her doctor thought to  check  on  Himilan

diseases and saved him (he had the serious quarter).

Another  very exciting thing is news, this from South  Korea

on January 18th, that on the 500 year old statue of Kian Yin  the

Compassionate in the Chonggye-sa temple in the suburbs of  Seoul,

which  is covered with gold (it’s actually re-gilded every  three

years,  so  there should be nothing there to grow on)  there  are

blossoms  of some very sacred flower which is said to only  bloom

once  every three thousand years blooming on her brow. This is  a

major  miracle  and is very cool indeed. The  blooming  of  these

flowers  on  this  place are supposed to predict  the  coming  of

Maitreya (Buddah), the Sage King of the Future. Scientists say it

shouldn’t  be  possible, and there’s a lot of  healing  going  on

there-  they say it could become a Buddist Lourdes. Kian  Yin  is

very  cool intrinsically. She was supposed to have been  able  to

enter Nirvana, but refused because she couldn’t turn her back  on

suffering humanity.

Dan  came up on Saturday, which was very nice. I do  wish  I

hadn’t  been  nervous  about possibly  giving  her  her  father’s


He  stayed upstairs in bed, of course, but that would  have  been

too  bad. So we didn’t get to play board games, which is what  we

like to do when she comes to visit.

Sunday Honour, who was back on this coast briefly, was going

to come up and help me warp my loom, but we had to warn her away,

so  I  didn’t get to see her. (or get her very  valuable  advice)

Darn! Next weekend she is going to see a folk concert in Michigan

and  she’s invited Steve, and Kami and Michael are going  too-  I

think  she  said  Pete  Seeger and Joan  Baez  are  going  to  be

performing.  Impressive,  I’d certainly go if we could  take  the

time off.

Star  had his finals this week, not midterms,  because  it’s

the strange split year schedule. He was pretty stressed about it,

but seems to have done OK (although we are still waiting for  the

grades). I DO wonder how one gives an exam in Weight Training.

Willow  got her paycheck (for taking care of Fitz) for  when

she  was  away  visiting Jenny, and split  it  between  Star  and

Aelfwine.  I  think Star is finally beginning to  understand  the

appeal  of  a regular paycheck. One could  practically  hear  the

gears whirling in his head- if he were a toon, dollar signs would

have appeared on his eyeballs.

Kat  is  under the weather, still, always. I  fear  she  may

suffer  the brunt of my excitement about the Schwarzbein diet.  I

can  look at the way she and Star have been living on  fruit  and

cold  cereal  during our vegetarian period, and  wonder  if  that

might  have  had something to do with her headaches  and  general


I  got myself a sweater shaver to try and “de-pill” some  of

the  gorgeous angora sweaters I got from my mother, but it  takes

so  long  to use it to take them off, I might as well  just  pick

them  off by hand. I mention this in case you’d ever  thought  of

trying one.

Willow is having major withdrawals from gaming- they haven’t

managed  to get everyone together for a couple of weeks  and  she

keeps   walking  around  muttering  that  she  wants   to   “kill


Willow and I went down to Nashua during errands on  Thursday

(since  our local Ben Franklin closed) because she has  an  order

for  another green man, or rather Fall Woman, mask. We saw  Missy

Clark,  who  was  Dan’s  best  friend  in  grammar  school.   She

recognized us, and we didn’t recognize her, until she  identified

herself.  (I  hate  it when that happens, I  feel  like  such  an

unfeeling jerk!) I suppose you would remember someone who had fed

you cat food. She told us that her big sister was getting married

in May, and has come back and is living in their old store/house.

It would be nice if someone could open the store again. It  would

be nice to have two stores in town again, especially if she could

get the gas pumps put back. Local gas would be so reassuring.

The  books  we’d  ordered from  York  finally  arrived.  The

postmark was 11-23-00, so they WERE late. These are books put out

by  some  university press on the digs at York- one on  wood  and

bone,  one  on fiber arts, one on iron work, one  on  non-ferrous

metals, and a couple of others on “small finds” from  Coppergate.

I  have  to  wonder if in some sub-conscious part  of  his  brain

Aelfwine  didn’t  draw in being sick so he could  read  them.  Of

course, he is so sick he can’t think or talk, much less read, so,

as   usual,   that  wouldn’t  actually  work.  Of   course,   the

subconscious,  since it hides from the conscious, tends  to  miss

the practical aspects of the stupid plans it hatches.

One  last bit of running on at the keyboard- I  have  gotten

quite  cross with the people who write homeopathic books. I  come

to  the books with a explicit set of clear  symptoms,  productive

cough, no color in the mucus, sore throat, fever, body aches,  no

headache, no head congestion, ear pain from grinding teeth… and

what  do  they  ask?  Are the symptoms  better  before  or  after

midnight?  Does  the patient want to be cuddled  or  left  alone?

(AElfwine ALWAYS wants to be left alone when he’s sick, no matter

what is wrong with him!) Does it feel like a splinter or a  knife

in the throat? Feh! and I say again FEH!

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