My surgery has been postponed a day, so I’ll be going in Thursday morning instead of tomorrow.


I’m a bit rigid on scheduling. Don’t like change. Once I’ve got my ducks in a row, I like to forge straight ahead without any detours, so this pretty much stinks. But, one day doesn’t really matter (or so I keep telling myself) and I’m working to shift gears. Luckily, my army of handlers can shift gears, too, and everyone who’s stepped up to help is still available on Thursday.

Including Trevor, who incidentally is The Birthday Boy today. Happy birthday, Trev. Glad you finally caught up to me. I hope they’re doing something nice for ya in Calgary. Being away from home on the day of one’s birth is no fun, but at least you’re getting a break from the heat and the swarming mosquitos. Those darn bugs are cramping my convertible style, big time.

Instead of relaxing in my windfall of an extra day, I am–you guessed it–running around like a crazy person, wanting to cram more, more, more into my life. Get ‘er done is usually my motto. The to-do list is long, and an extra day means not only more time to accomplish those tasks but also some wiggle room to add even more jobs to the list.

Crazy, I know. I could sit on the couch and watch the 22 episodes of Cake Boss that Macy has Tivo’d , or finish my book club book, or flip through the pile of magazines waiting patiently for me to get some “free time,” but no, I’m making a grocery list and planning how many meals I can whip up real quick to have on hand for my convelescing.

Crazy, right?

Here’s what’s even crazier — me, who does not eat meat, doesn’t even like to look at it in the grocery store and avoids buying it at all costs, putting 7 lbs of ground sirloin in my grocery cart. On purpose. Willingly. Yikes. I usually avoid the meat section of the store like the plague. I might tiptoe around the outskirts to grab a package of all-natural, hormone-free turkey breast for Payton’s lunchbox, but going headlong into the moderately bloody counters that stretch on for days? Not for me. I swear I can hear little cries of “Moo!” or “Cheep” if I do look into those cellophane-wrapped packages of former animals.

Despite the snippets of Food, Inc running through my head, I piled my cart full of meat (after putting the cellophane-wrapped packages into a plastic bag and scrubbing my hands with antibacterial wipes, of course). Then I took that meat home and actually put my hands into it to mash the eggs, breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese together to make Mrs C’s famous meatballs & sauce. I rolled an endless line of meatballs with my own two hands and cooked them up the old-fashioned way: in hot olive oil studded with slivers of garlic.

It was a meatball factory in my kitchen. The flash on my iPhone camera gives everything a yellowish tint, but you get the gist. My dogs just about hyperventilated from sniffing the smells of meat, fresh meat, in their very own home. They don’t get that much. Tofu doesn’t have much of a scent.

The first pile of the finished product. This batch of meatballs was rather erratically shaped because I was being a big baby (I admit it) and was trying to roll them as fast as I could to avoid the amount of time the meat came into contact with my body. After I saw how lumpy they were I decided to suck it up and roll them for real. The next batch came out much more even and pretty. Not that it matters one little bit, because once they take a dip in the sauce and simmer for an hour, it’s hard to tell what shape they are, and once they are on the plate, they tend to be devoured quite quickly by the meat-eaters of the world.

After the balls were cooked, it was time to create the sauce. It’s a simple red sauce, composed of tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste. No chunks in this age-old favorite. A generous sprinkling of parmesan and a glug of red wine is all that’s needed for flavor. Sometimes I’ll throw in some fresh basil but today I had none so the sauce went unadorned of herbs.

The tile backsplash behind the stove isn’t that ugly in person; again with the too-flashy iPhone camera, and me in too much of a hurry to fiddle with it to get the light just right. I’m cooking, man, no time for fiddling.

If you’re wondering why there’s such a copious amount of sauce and such a sky-high pile of meatballs, you’re not alone. I thought the same thing as I searched for a small oar with which to stir the vat of sauce. The recipe makes a lot to begin with–enough to serve double-digit guests or one very fat Italian family. I doubled it to pass some along to a friend who had surgery recently and has 3 hungry kids underfoot. Some for my kids, some for hers and everyone is happy.

Meatballs & sauce done, so it’s on to the chicken pot pie.

I was happily chopping the onions and celery — chopping has always been weirdly therapeutic and calming for me — when I realized I’d completely forgotten the carrots. My mind is going a million different directions, and apparently the chopping therapy isn’t working so well.

My sweet mama always said the skinniest carrots taste the best, so I dig out the narrow ones to get chopped.

Next comes garlic. I like a lot of garlic. I am Greek, after all. 

The chicken is poaching while I’m chopping, but I’m not taking a picture of it because raw chicken is even more disgusting — IMHO — than raw ground sirloin, so use your imagination there.

Once the chicken is poached and the veggies are sauteed in olive oil, I combine them with a can of corn and a simple white sauce. Throw in a few potatoes and away we go.

While the pot pie cooked, I thought maybe a batch of chocolate chip cookies would be a nice addition to the meal for my friend, so I whipped those up to finish off the meal. 

Nesting complete.

Ice, ice baby

Pagophagia sounds like one of those words Lucy spouted off in A Charlie Brown Christmas. You remember the scene, in which Charlie Brown pays a call to Lucy’s psychiatric booth (The Doctor Is Way In), and she confronts him about his prospective phobias. “Perhaps you have hycangeophobia; the fear of responsibility. Or maybe ailurophobia — the fear of cats. Or climocophobia — the fear of staircases. Or thalassophobia — the fear of the ocean.”

I remember those long, complicated names for the phobias because I played Lucy in my 5th grade production of A Charlie Brown Christmas. I remember the blue pinafore dress that was my costume, and I remember that it was kinda hard to pronounce and memorize the long words that marked the phobias from which Charlie Brown might well have suffered. Little did I know that as an adult, I myself would suffer from claustrophobia and aquaphobia. How ironic.

So the first time I heard the word agophagia I figured it must be a phobia. Nope, it’s a disorder. And I have it.

Agophagia is a form of the disorder pica, in which a person craves and is driven to ingest non-nutritious substances, usually because of a vitamin or mineral deficiency. People with pica tend to eat all kinds of weird things, from paint to dirt to chalk, and it can get really weird with people trying to eat things like batteries and feces. Gross. I must be pretty mild on the agophagia spectrum, because the idea of eating any of those things is not just weird but disgusting.

No, for me the agophagia manifests in a powerful addiction to ice. 

Yes, that’s right, ice.

Not even ice that’s surrounded by a good cocktail, either, but ice. Just plain ice.

I am addicted to ice.

Hello, my name is Nancy and I’m an ice-a-holic. I’m an agophagiac.

I didn’t think much of it at first, but just chomped away happily at the ice that was left in the bottom of my water glass, or the cubes that collected once my iced tea was gone. Sonic ice left me positively swooning, but I didn’t realize I had a problem until I was going through the drive-thru just for a cup of ice. Route 44 size, please. Feeling a bit self-conscious about my addiction, I did a little research and learned I am not alone. Sonic ice has a Facebook page with more than 218,000 fans.

Excessive ice chewing is a symptom of an iron deficiency. Guess what I have? Yep, an iron deficiency. I am definitely anemic. I’ve been on a prescription iron supplement, but once I started feeling so puny from the long-term antibiotic I had to take, I stopped taking the iron pills. Not a good idea.

My cutie-pie oncologist likes to blame my iron deficiency on the fact that I don’t eat meat, but the fact of the matter is that it’s yet another fallout from the nasty-ass infection I contracted after my bilateral mastectomy. I was vegetarian long before cancer dive-bombed my house, and never had a problem with anemia. Once the mycobacterium set up shop, though, the anemia gained a foothold, and the ice obsession began for real. That dadgum myco caused a whole lot of problems, of which the anemia was the least of my worries. Once diagnosed with that wretched, wily infection, one of the many sites I consulted for research stopped me dead in my tracks with this: “Disease typically chronic, progressive; rare spontaneous resolution has been reported.”

Guess that means my ice-chewing obsession would be around a while. 

Like most addicts, I was the last one to notice that I had a problem. My girlfriends would giggle at me when my input on where to go to lunch after tennis revolved exclusively on which places had the best ice. Yes, I have them categorized much as my dear friend Amy Hoover knows which places serve the best iced tea. Some places use the same filter for the flavored and unflavored tea, ya know.

We have an ice machine outside, in the outdoor kitchen. It makes these groovy mushroom-shaped ice cubes that I adore. Not as much as Sonic ice, of course, but they’re pretty darn good. In the height of my addiction, I would consume 3 or 4 rounds of a 24-oz Tervis tumbler full of ice. Sometimes I wondered if the chomp-chomp-chomping sound was disruptive to those around me. Most times, though, I chomp-chomp-chomped away anyway, blissful in my puffy little cloud of addiction.

I’m not one bit ashamed to admit that I’ve been known to dig through the Hoshizaka to find the choicest bits of ice. Some cubes are more delectable than others; it’s a fact. And those are the very cubes most desirable to an ice-chomping addict.

However, I did start to suspect I had a problem when the only thing I wanted to pack for a long evening at the baseball field in 98-degree heat was ice. No water, just ice. And when the only thing I purchased at the baseball field concession stands was ice. Again, no water, just ice.

The pivotal moment in my addiction came a couple of weeks ago, when I was on my girls’ trip with my Duke friends. When it came time for the beverage service on the plane en route to the beach, I requested ice. No water, just ice. And more than one cup, please. Once at the beach, I realized the ice-cube trays in the freezer of our condo would not suffice, so I had to run out and get a cup of ice. Every day. I got smart and ordered 2 cups so I could put one in the condo’s freezer (alongside the worthless ice) for later. Each night at dinner, I asked for a to-go cup of ice. In the past I’ve been known to request a to-go cup, but I can assure you it wasn’t just ice. These were unchartered waters I had entered.

After becoming seriously worried that I was going to crack my teeth on all the ice I was consuming, I decided it was time to start taking that prescription iron supplement again. Within days, my ice obsession had waned. Weird.

While I still covet really good ice and will still pick through my ice machine for the best cubes, I’m not driven to chomp cup after cup of it. In fact, I realized this week that I’d gone 2 whole days without chomping any ice. Today while watching Macy’s tennis lesson, I got a cup of iced tea (extra ice, natch) and actually left most of the ice in the cup.

I’d like to think that my waning obsession with ice is a harbinger of my return to normal life, after a protracted cancer battle. I’ve had my share of complications on this “cancer journey,” and the idea of things turning around for real is pretty sweet. I relish the thought of being able to put that “cancer journey” on ice and getting on with my life.