Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday morning rambling

This morning--right now--is my ideal morning. The Engineer woke me up with a rub on my back at 7:30 (good lad, that Engineer), and we went out for coffee. It's sunny and crisp outside. I wore the blue felt mittens my cousin gave me for Christmas a few years ago and a burgundy-colored stocking cap, which I love despite the fact that the seams always leave unbecoming ridges pressed into my forehead. On the way to City Feed Coffeeshop, the Engineer and I talked about circuits (which the Engineer is studying right now) and the series finale of Six Feet Under (which we finally watched last night). I held my coffee in both hands the entire walk home, just smelling the coffee as I listened to the Engineer jabber and occasionally adding a comment or two of my own. A perfectly made americano is an ideal morning all on its own.

Back home, I toasted bread while the Engineer scrambled eggs, and then we parted ways for the day--the Engineer to his office in the back room, and me to my nook in the front room with blanket and coffee and toast and book. I just started reading Saul and Patsy by Charles Baxter and so far I'm loving it. It's been a while since I've read a good, solid work of fiction that isn't trying to be anything except a good, solid work of fiction. It's a nice breather. In fact, I think this book, which is set in a tiny Midwestern town and profiles the lives of a quirky young married couple, is partially responsible for putting me in this nostalgic, idyllic mood.

Soon I will get antsy and feel compelled to move on with the events of the day, but that's the charm of an ideal morning: it doesn't last forever. And it doesn't happen every day. It happens just often enough for you to really appreciate them. In fact, the ideal morning is less of a destination than it is an oasis that you unwittingly stumble upon. And when you've had your fill, it will gently propel you back into the wilderness, sated and ready.

A few tasting notes and miscellany:

*A perfectly made americano really is an ideal morning all on its own. Americanos are shots of espresso diluted in hot water. One story I heard during my days as a barista says that this drink got its name because Americans travelling in Europe found the taste European coffee--essentially shots of espresso--too strong for their palate, and they asked for water to be added to the cafe
so consistently that a new drink was born. It's deliciously bitter and dark, and I recommend drinking it black. Unlike regular brewed coffee that can have a harsh acidic aftertaste, an americano leaves a slight taste of caramel that sits on the tongue between sips. I also find americanos smoother and slightly thicker than regular coffee, a texture I enjoy because it makes me more conscious of what I'm drinking and aware of the drink as more than a convenient way to wake up in the morning.

*Scrambled eggs are one of those great American dishes that is in essence quite basic and yet everyone you talk to has a slightly different way of making them and a slightly different opinion about what qualifies as The Best. The Engineer is the Master Scrambler in our household. He pre-heats a flat pan over low heat for several minutes while he cracks and mixes the eggs. He adds about one tablespoon of cottage cheese per egg being cooked, which makes the scrambled eggs more fluffy and moist. He melts about one tablespoon of butter in the pan and then adds the eggs. Instead of stirring the eggs frantically, the Engineer scrambles by scraping the eggs in long even strokes from top to bottom and side to side, and they're done in about a minute. Perfect every time. But then again, he is the Master Scrambler.

*Some of you--especially those of you who knew me in my teenage years--might be wondering about and slightly disbelieving of the fact that I got up at 7:30 am on a Saturday. This is no lie, my friends, but the latest development in my transformation from an insomniac to a normal sleeper.
I've been taking sleep medication (first trazedone and then amitryptolene) to help me sleep for about seven years. At various points, I tried to wean myself off of it, but always ended up back on them. I find Western medicine to be generally a fine thing, but my doctors have been particularly unsupportive of going off of this medication and didn't have much advice for how to sleep normally without it. This past August, I called it quits. One night I had a pill in my hand and just...couldn't do it. I decided that I wasn't sleeping very well on the medication, so how bad could it be off of the medication? Sure enough, the medicine wasn't making much of a difference and I found my sleep about the same before and after. I would have 'good' nights of sleeping solidly through the night, and then several nights in a row of lying awake for hours before finally falling into a fitful sleep.

A month or so ago, I came across a book called Say Good Night to Insomnia by Gregg Jacobs, and despite the EXTREMELY ridiculous title, decided to give it a try because it sure couldn't hurt. Indeed, there are some bits in the book that are a bit on the ridiculous side, but there are also some real gems that I've duly tried and that have seemed to help. The main messages I have gotten from it are "you're probably sleeping more than you think," "you'll always fall asleep eventually," and "no one has died from insomnia." If you're already a normal sleeper, these three concepts won't be that revolutionary to you, but they drastically altered my thinking and negativity about insomnia. Instead of being this thing that ruled my life, insomnia was something that sure sucked but that could also be dealt with.

The main strategy in dealing with insomnia, according to the book, is to keep a sleep diary tracking when you went to bed, how many times you got up in the night, how long, what time you got up, how many total hours you slept and how good quality that sleep was. To my surprise, I found that I was sleeping more than I thought--an average of 6.5 - 7 hours per night--but that the quality wasn't very good. The next step in the book is to reduce the number of hours you allow yourself for sleep each night to the same number of hours you typically average for sleep. The reasoning behind this is that if you know you're only going to be sleeping [X] number of hours, you might as well only be in bed for those [X] number of hours--the average sleep is the same regardless of time spent in bed. This will make your bed a place associated only with sleep and only associated with sleep in a positive way, will theoretically increase quality of sleep because the sleep is condensed, and will also increase the number of hours you are awake during the daytime and thus make you more sleepy when bedtime comes. So this is why I'm going to bed at midnight and getting up at 7:30 every day--weekdays and weekends. And it's going pretty well so far! I still wouldn't call myself a normal sleeper, but I'm definitely less of a sleep-deprived zombie during the day. Thus ends my Long Winded Speech on Insomnia (whew--I really got going on that subject, didn't I?). For any insomniacs or restless sleepers out there, I definitely recommend this book. It might not be The Answer but it's certainly a beginning.

*A sneak preview of some upcoming posts:

  • a recipe for My Favorite Lasagna
  • adventures in home-made crackers
  • muffin recipe tests for a contest I'm entering
  • book reviews of Blankets, The Nasty Bits, and The Memory-Keeper's Daughter
  • introducing The Engineer's Christmas present--the boyfriend sweater
  • and finally--as promised--I am going to felt that laptop cozy again--and I rilly promise to do it this time


Anonymous said...

nice. I never really have appreciated an americano but i think that the next time i have one i will. without cream.

and i just may start sleeping- being in bed- less. I seem to wake up a lot at 5-6, anyway- so i love the idea of just not going to bed until i'm dog tired.

- the other engineer

Emma C said...

There is absolutely nothing more frustrating or crazy-inducing than either not being able to fall asleep or waking up in the night and not being able to fall asleep again. That book, "Say Goodnight to Insomnia" is a bit impractical at times, but there are some real gems. I recommend it as a place to start. Sweet dreams!

Angelina said...

You know, I've been behind on my blog reading in the past couple of weeks and you've been PROLIFIC! I was an insomniac for the better part of my life until I got pregnant with Max. Bad insomnia as in a few hours of sleep a week. It's true that you don't generally die of insomnia, but it's also true that it can unhinge the most sane people. Insomnia interferes with living comfortably on so many levels. But I suppose I experienced it on extreme levels.

I have only had a couple of bouts with it since having Max. But it's always been my mode to not go to sleep until I'm so tired I can't keep my eyes open.

I'm really glad you're having better sleep experiences now. It's such a relief, huh?