Friday, December 29, 2017

That's So Pittsburgh: the Maxo Vanka murals

After Christmas, friend JHR invited me to a docent-led tour of the Maxo Vanka murals at St. Nicholas Church in Millvale. The first of two Croatian Catholic Churches in Pittsburgh suffered a fire in 1927. After being rebuilt, the walls were painted white. Then a new priest knew someone who knew a Croatian artist who had fled pre-WWII Europe to New York City with his American wife and daughter. Vanka (1889-1963) came to Millvale for 8 weeks in 1937 to paint murals on the walls just in time for the 10-year re-dedication of the church. He came back in 1943 for a few more months to paint more. In 1951 he returned to paint symbols on the choir loft.

Behind the altar, Vanka painted a Croatian-inflected Byzantine Madonna and Child with Croatian immigrants at their feet. Around the walls, he contrasted images of Croatian mothers mourning sons killed during World War I with immigrant mothers mourning sons who died in industrial accidents. He also depicted the Evangelists with a silver-leaf background that used to be behind Mary and Jesus, before a re-paint in the 1970s. I'm not such a fan of the silver, but apparently the mural preservation society hopes to restore the original look. Over the last several years, seven conservation artists (all women) have painstakingly cleaned and brightened many of the murals. They have also rigged up a fancy LED lighting system.

Some of the images Vanka created in 1937 and especially in 1941 are pretty avant garde, but the weirder ones he put towards the back of the sanctuary or on the ceiling.


Above the large creche you can see the fairly conventional crucifixion scene. (Lighting was hard.)


Here you can see the paintings being highlighted around the stained-glass windows. That's Injustice there on the right, wearing a gas mask and one blood-red glove, bearing a bloody sword and uneven scales. Below on the right is the angel of Justice, wearing white and holding up even scales. I rather liked her.


Above on the left is the Pieta, with Mary holding Jesus' body off the cross. You can see that the church was still decorated beautifully for Christmas with white lights and red and white poinsettias.


Here's one more for you, a sickly green Jesus being crucified on a twentieth-century battlefield. It's the kind of thing that was getting artists purged over in Europe, but here Vanka was safe to make his critique of war and class warfare. My photography is obviously amateur; it's much better to see the murals in person.


Editor's Note: You might also like my posts about an eating tour of the Strip District or St. Paul Cathedral's summer organ series.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Eating our way through the 2017 winter holidays

This Christmas has been marked by delicious but under-documented meals. Here are some guest-pleasing recipes from my kitchen to yours. The first and last come from my oldest cookbook, a handwritten compilation of recipes from my college suities. My New Year's Resolution is to cook from more of the recipes I own in a variety of books and on note cards collected at my bridal shower. Of course you can find all the delicious details right here.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
prosciutto
fresh basil leaves
grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup chicken bouillon
2 tbsp prepared mustard
minced garlic to taste
cooking oil
toothpicks

1. Assemble the ingredients. Heat the oven to 350 and some oil in the pan.

2. Cut the chicken breasts into thirds. I slice off the long "flap" on the side and then cut the remaining half-heart crosswise. Try to get lumps of meat that are roughly the same volume, if different shapes. Score the long pieces lengthwise to make them more flexible and cut a pocket into the thicker chunks.

3. Stuff with a layer of prosciutto, then 1-2 basil leaves, then a generous pinch of mozzarella. Roll up the long pieces or pinch closed the pockets and secure with 2-3 toothpicks. It's okay if a little of the stuffing leaks out, but try to protect the insides as much as possible.

4. As you complete each ball-o'-chicken goodness, place in frying pan to brown on as many sides as possible. Rotate them in between securing the other pieces. When each is sufficiently browned, transfer to the baking pan.

5. Once all balls have been browned, pop them in the oven to cook a further 20 minutes. Meanwhile, add bouillon to the frying pan and scrape up all the caramelized bits. Add mustard, garlic to taste, and any remaining basil leaves or prosciutto, cut into strips. Let cook down ~5 minutes.

6. Serve with noodles, a veg, and a warning about the toothpicks to your guests!

For dessert you can offer a fruit salad and/or (almost) vegan brownies.



Fruit Salad with Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:
pineapple + any fruit you might have on hand
I used 1 pear and 1 apple, while the recipe suggested oranges and kiwis. Banana would also work.
1 pomegranate
bib lettuce
2 cups raw cranberries
1/3 cup water
1/2? cup juice (the recipe recommended orange, but grape is what we had)
<1 cup="" p="" sugar="">
1. Pull up something to watch on your laptop, such as a Star Wars movie, or a M*A*S*H marathon.

2. Line the serving container(s) with lettuce leaves.

3. Chop the fruit. I did not find cutting up my first pineapple as difficult as I thought it would be.

4. Retrieve the seeds from inside the pomegranate. I did find this task about as difficult as I thought it would be. Start by scoring the outside of the fruit on its six ridges. Next work your fingers into the grooves and tear the fruit open. Fill a large bowl halfway with water. Pick out the seeds while holding the segments under water. The seeds are supposed to sink and the pulpy parts float. Then skim the surface for the detritus, pour out the water, et voila, pomegranate seeds! Sprinkle on top of the fruit.

5. Boil the cranberries and water for ~5 minutes, or until the berries start to pop. Take them off the heat and mix in the juice and sugar. Let cool. Then push through a strainer, making sure to mash all the berries. You can save the skins for toast or pork chops, but the sauce you should cool in the fridge about 2 hours.

6. Dress the salad just before serving, otherwise the sauce will stain the fruit red (as demonstrated above).

(Almost) Vegan Brownies

Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (vegan) chocolate chips
toothpick

1. Heat oven to 350. Grease a 9"x9" baking pan. If you are baking for a vegan, use something other than butter, otherwise they are (almost) vegan.

2. Mix first 3 ingredients in one bowl and the rest in another. Fold wet into dry, then add the chips. Pour into pan. Place into oven for 20-25 minutes. You know it's done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. I would rather err on the slightly undercooked side for the gooeyness.

3. Cool before slicing. Despite having no eggs, these make a really "cake-y" brownie. By the time I wrote this blog post, there were no survivors for photographic purposes.

Friday, December 8, 2017

What Residency Looks Like XI: Self-Care


This time last year, I was burned out. Working 12+-hour days six days week for three months, sometimes I felt as if the only thing I enjoyed all day was the smell of my conditioner in the shower in the morning. This year my schedule is much lighter: for the last two months, I have gone in later, come home earlier, had free weekends, and worked out twice a week. I am also able to recognize burnout and feel like I would be more likely to ask for help this time around. Here are a few things I am doing for self-care as the weather turns colder:

  • Cozy winter accessories: if I have to leave the house at dark o'clock, then I want to do it with a totally unstylish knit hat pulled over my still-damp hair and ears. I'm still wearing my famous rainbow scarf, but I am now on about my thirtieth pair of soft winter gloves.
  • Listening to all the Harry Potter books on CD: suddenly I look forward to my commute with the daring adolescent trio from Hogwarts instead of depressing news on the radio. When I finish a book, I watch the movie. Hilariously I've gotten the same aghast reaction from most people I've told this to (including a stranger walking ahead of me on the sidewalk): Yes, I read all the books when they first came out (15-20 years ago!), and I have already seen all the movies. It's still enjoyable to relive the magic.
  • Leaving early: last year I tried to attend lunch conference before driving to my weekly afternoon clinic, and I almost invariably found myself speeding to arrive on time for teaching and my first patient. This year I have given up on lunch conference on my clinic day, as it usually takes me 45 minutes to commute out of town. Instead, I arrive with 15 minutes to eat my lunch in peace, check email, and review my charts. Building this buffer into my day has improved my mood at the start of clinic as well.
  • Reading before bedtime: over the summer I was diagnosed with bruxism (tooth grinding), which I believe accounts for my neck stiffness in the morning (my pillows have been exonerated!). I can only do so much to change the large-life stressors I assume underlie this unconscious behavior, but I can smooth things around the edges. Unless I'm bone tired, I will lie on a heating pad and read a few pages of some book. Almost two months later, I am still working my way through this book.
What are you doing for self-care these days?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Getting Ready for Advent 2017

I admit that spiritually I have been feeling somewhat unmoored ever since Dear Husband and I landed in Pittsburgh. The primary culprit was searching/waiting for a church home for an entire year. During those months of DH's under-employment (and my over-employment, in a sense), I missed seeing a regular church family every week, as I had had weekend shifts about 50% of the time, and the other 50% we were visiting at some church or other. We became friendly with a couple of congregations, and we made friends outside church, but it has been a relief to finally have a Sunday morning center. Even if I can't be there in person (still over-employed), somebody is thinking of me.

The secondary culprit is that I have been lax in my spiritual discipline, reading and praying almost never. This is wholly my fault: "I'm too busy." But Facebook gets a lot of airtime on my phone. I especially miss Tuesdays evenings with our Bible study, both the camaraderie of peers and the "homework" that gave me something to ponder in between worship services. "You can do anything for a short period of time" is my Christian family's Buddhist-like mantra, so I made a New Church Year's resolution to do an Advent devotion this year.

Good friend A.S. found me some likely culprits. For the whimsical at heart, there's the little plastic Wandering Wisemen (and their camel Hezekiah!), whose antics remind me of DH's creche stylings. For the artistic, I can recommend Jan Richardson's The Advent Door. Father Richard Rohr offers daily meditations through the Center for Action and Contemplation that seem to aim toward inner peace, but I was hoping for something less mystical and more...progressive. I signed up for the Office of Social Justice's thrice-weekly devotion on "Immanuel, incarnate," since that is one of my favorite themes in Scripture. But I was really hoping for something I read and pray on in the mornings before work, perhaps by the light of the Advent calendar candle my grandmother had sent us. I finally settled on Making Advent Great Again from Homebrewed Christianity, even though it starts a week before Advent, runs Monday-Friday, and comes at 3pm instead of in the morning. DH and I can do them together over dinner, instead of watching a comedy show. (It's great to laugh with your best friend, but I suspect it will be even better to talk with him...) I even gave a little more than the requested donation, because I value the time and talents of the authors HBC has put together.

This Advent I will listen to the voices that cry, "How long, Oh Lord?"



Editor's Note: Although the counter on the website ran out November 27, I received no email, so I surmise that someone discovered too late that Advent didn't start the Sunday after Thanksgiving after all, and I am going to have to wait another week to start my devotion.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Seafood Bread Pudding

I am trying to be more economical about our food purchases as the end of the year approaches with a full freezer. Coming back from Thanksgiving away, I found we had part of a loaf of old bread in the fridge and decided to concoct a seafood bread pudding for dinner tonight. The FrDrDr blog has experimented with savory bread puddings before, once with ham, red peppers, and spinach with good success, and once with South African bobotie with rather less success. This time I decided to use the following basic recipe:

  • 2 cups whole-grain bread cut into cubes
  • 1 cup meat (in this case, 1 tin salmon)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2  large eggs
  • 2  large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup milk
I was thinking along the lines of a seafood pot pie, but with the cubed bread crust mixed throughout. A brief internet search confirmed my suspicion that cheese was not required for a basic custard, so I omitted it, since we'd eaten the last of what we had with lunch. This was an unfortunate choice, as it left the pudding without a creamy topping. The jarred red pepper we did not have I had intended to exchange for frozen peas that we did, but I didn't remember until the dish had already been in the oven five minutes, and anyway there wasn't a lot of room left. As for seasonings, I opted for several heads of garlic, (not enough) rosemary, and a splash of lemon juice.



A study in greens: One quarter of the "pie" with roasted asparagus (olive oil, salt, herbed salt) and a small side salad. Verdict: the meal was filling, but the seafood bread pudding left something to be desired. I may send Dear Husband to the co-op for some cheese to grate over the last two pieces before we microwave them for dinner on Tuesday with the rest of the asparagus and more salad.

Editor's Note: The dish was infinitely improved with some grated, melted Gruyere cheese on top. Next time I will not omit this important detail!

Friday, November 10, 2017

What Residency Looks Like X: The Long View


Sometimes residency looks like the vista from the clinic workroom. The foreground is a construction site, in the middle ground stands one of the 5 hospitals at which I rotate, and in the background a long train disappears around a bend in the Monongahela River. I spent the morning here in class talking about 12-step meetings and the afternoon by myself completing modules about good clinical research practices. Now I'm headed across town to the children's hospital to moonlight for a few hours in the evening. I'll never get tired of this view.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

FrDrDr Cooks Breakfast

Like many of us I suppose, I'm a creature of habit. And I am in the habit of eating yogurt with fruit and granola in the mornings for breakfast while berries are in season, and oatmeal with raisins +/- walnuts during the winter and early spring. Sundays are for pancakes with peanut butter or Nutella. But I do like to cook and am not averse to changing things up when I have the time, so during a slow overnight shift in the ICU, I looked up new breakfast recipes. I found three that I thought would fit my budget, diet, and time constraints; here's the first one.

Barley and Compote
1. Thaw bag of frozen blueberries in fridge until you have a free morning to spend 45 minutes cooking breakfast.
2. Put pot on stove. 3. Discover you have a jar of pearl couscous in the cupboard, not pearl barley.
4. Make oatmeal for breakfast.
5. Purchase pearl barley.
6. Wait for another day with a late start.
7. Bring 1 cup of pearl barley, three cups of water, and some salt to a boil. Then simmer for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
8. Simmer 1 cup of thawed blueberries, one-and-a-half tablespoons of orange juice, and one teaspoon of honey for 10 minutes to thicken it. The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of orange zest and 2 teaspoons of chia seeds, but I did not have these available and so did not include them.
9. Spoon barley into bowl. Add some blueberry mixture. Forget to top with a quarter cup of milk and toasted almond slivers.
10. Eat.



The barley provides a not-unpleasant chewy texture like steel-cut oats. 1 cup of dry barley makes enough cooked barley for 4-6 servings. I made another bowl with pear and maple syrup, which was good. I tried again with milk, blueberries, and walnuts (no almonds in the house). Then I pretended the barley was oatmeal and used cinnamon, raisins, and brown sugar as toppings. I have a cup of dry barley left over after this experiment, and I will use it again to introduce some variety in my breakfast routine. Maybe I'll flip the script and try savory oatmeal for dinner one of these days!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Halloween Pumpkin Contest

One of the best parts about working in a children's hospital is that people rarely take themselves as seriously as at adult hospitals. Case in point: the non-carving pumpkin-decorating contest (sharp knives are dangerous, you know). These spooky and silly specimens were among the dozens on display in the cafeteria. It was a popularity contest, but I never did hear who won. Probably everyone, just for participating. I certainly enjoyed looking at all the contributions.


You've got Edward Same-Day Surgery Hands on the left, 
and a bejeweled and befeathered "Proud as a peacock of peds residents" on the right.




There were a couple of variations on the candied apple theme, a Troll, and a mummy. 
The Pediatric Puffer Phish from the research administration has spines made
of Hershey's kisses and lips of Chinese fortune cookies!


Among the more artistic were this Wizard of Oz globe and a Man in the Moon (with witch).


And then there was the submission from Radiology: an x-ray of Gordy Orange's head. 
"Looks seedy" it says in the upper right; in the lower left, the diagnosis is rendered as "seeditis." 
I understand that condition is often cured by lobotomy.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Witches and Goblins and Ghosts, Oh my!

Again this year for Halloween, the Pediatric residents got together at someone's house for snacks, drinks, games, and pumpkin carving. The program donated gourds for the monthly Happy Hour, but Dear Husband and I had already picked ours from the patch, so we brought knives and spoons for the disemboweling. I used a stencil for the owl's face and then free-handed his feathers. DH free-handed his "classic" face, updated with a goatee. Other designs included a hipster pumpkin complete with thick-rimmed glasses and bushy mustache, and the face of one of our program directors, which turned out better than any of us thought it would. Unfortunately, we kept the jack-o-lanterns inside so they wouldn't get smashed overnight--but instead they succumbed to the same nasty green fungus as last year. So, no lighted jack-o-lanterns on the front porch for us tonight.

For home decorations we again went with cobwebs on the porch, a skeleton in the ivy, and a spider dangling from the lamppost. Our neighbors up the street go all out with orange lights on the porch, ghosts and witches, blinking "eye" lights in the bushes, which is my favorite touch.

As for self decorations, I rotated my five(!) pairs of Halloween earrings: spiders, a cat/witch, pumpkins, spider webs, and candy corn--the last three handmade by my friend J.R. The candy corn ones have been crowd pleasers. In Pediatrics it is de rigeur to show up on October 31 in some kind of costume, so I consulted the internet for a witty get-up and settled upon...



Those are Smarties on my pants. Get it?

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I'm a "smarty pants." Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2017

How to Throw an Autumnal Party, FrDrDr Style



1. Realize you didn't fire up your charcoal grill all summer AND that you have s'mores fixings left over from someone else's party.

2. Design a Facebook invitation with an appropriately autumnal graphic and invite some friends.

3. Instruct Dear Husband to purchase a gallon of​ local cider. Leave town for a long weekend.

4. Drive home in pouring rain, arriving just in time to start the coals.

5. Discover that the grill has not been cleaned after the last time you used it.

6. Learn that you do not, in fact, have a bag of charcoal in the house, and that the drug store across the street would rather sell you Christmas decorations.

7. Start heating cider on the stove.

8. Clean the grill while DH plays spooky music on the piano and you wait for someone to show up.

9. Friends arrive with fresh pumpkin bread and adult conversation.

10. Cook marshmallows in the microwave to order, topping with dark Hershey's chocolate and Honeymade Graham crackers. Enjoy the tastes of autumn!


The blog has previous enjoyed apples and pumpkin as autumnal delights!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What Residency Looks Like IX: Multitasking

Sometimes residency looks like an unexpected morning off from clinic, so you read your book for book club while squeezing in some much-needed exercise. The pediatric residents will be discussing Exit West, Mohsin Hamid's semi-realistic contemporary novel about migration, in a couple of weeks.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

What Residency Looks Like VIII: Working at Home


Residents are now required to log their "duty hours" of clinical responsibilities, but we all spend hours of unclocked time each week answering emails, preparing presentations, and studying. Sometimes residency looks like completing a required module on acid-base disturbances from the comfort of my rocking chair while enjoying the sunny view of the green and gold gingko trees on our block.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Four Trees a Jolly-Good Fellow


In March Dear Husband and I visited Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's famous creek-tottering domicile, and were so impressed by the work of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, its parent organization, that we joined on the spot. I have enjoyed the flower plantings cultivated around time by the WPC and started looking for a chance to plant trees for the environment and the aesthetics. Happily for so late in October, the weather was fair on a recent Saturday, when we joined 40-50 volunteers to plant 84 trees and 125 potted plants along the North Shore of Pittsburgh. Behind us in Heinz Field were the cheers of some fan activity, while across the Allegheny River protesters could be glimpsed carrying neon signs outside Station Square. There were lots of people out walking themselves, their dogs, and/or their children; running; biking; and generally enjoying the weekend. I think at one point a parade of people on a stroke walk came by.


After a breakfast of bagels and coffee, we watched a tree-planting demonstration. The Pittsburgh Redbud Project has planted so many of its eponymous namesake that the young trees we were planting had to be shipped in from New Jersey, as none of the nurseries around here had any that were big enough. And these were deceptively heavy for saplings, requiring 3-6 people to wrestle them into their new homes. DH and I then worked with three other Pittsburghers to plant three redbuds and a hornbeam tree: Galadriel (pictured above), Gandalf, Waldo, and Louie. I wanted to continue the Lord of the Rings theme and name Waldo "Tom Bombadil," since he was going to live in the middle of a bunch of bushes (see below), but I got outvoted. Louie we named for Louis Armstrong (a horn player, get it?).


Three hours later there was pizza and cookies. We needed showers after sweating in the 70+-degree weather (it had been less than 50 degrees when we left the house that morning) and discovered aching muscles we didn't even know we had. It was good, honest, manual labor that we will likely repeat at least once a year. That's so Pittsburgh.


If you liked this post, you might like these ones about Pittsburgh's labor history or the the Frick Art Museum.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Garden of Glass


One of Dear Husband and my favorite spots in Pittsburgh is the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Their big attraction this year is SUPER. NATURAL. Glass Art by Jason Gamrath. Gamrath has created dozens of flowers out of glass and metal that are hundreds or thousands of times larger than real life. That lets us marvel at their detail even more. I first visited the exhibition one sunny spring day with J.R. Then I brought DH back in the fall for a networking event. After some hors d'oeuvres and polite talk, we toured the darkened halls that had been redecorated with mums. I've shared some pictures from both trips so you can enjoy them day and night. (Locals, the show goes on until November 5 at 11pm!)

These blue ones are pitcher plants. They're usually reddish, but Gamrath made them blue for the details. Left during the day, below at night, with big pink mums and mist for ambiance. DH liked these glass-plants best, and I think this is my favorite photo.

The main atrium has enormous orchids scattered throughout. Below you can see the same pink orchids in the spring and the fall. What I liked about my spring day trip was getting to see the details on the reverse of the petals through the glass conservatory walls while walking in the outdoor gardens.




Can you believe those orchids are taller than you? The perspective really makes you feel like a bug in a terrarium, doesn't it?


Here are yellow orchids at night and my least favorite flowers, spiky blue "racer" orchids that look alien. The Venus fly trap below was actually my second least favorite display piece, because I don't think the metal stems marry well with the glass heads.



Above left is the French garden, full of mums. I just wish they would better light that far alcove for night photography. To the right is a tall, glass corpse flower that smells A LOT better than the Phipps's real corpse flowers, Barbara and Romero, named for characters in Night of the Living Dead, which was filmed outside Pittsburgh. Finally, below is an enormous lotus flower with metal petals and glass stamens set in a reflecting pool.



If you liked this post, check out this post about Columbus's botanic garden and Pittsburgh's second botanic garden.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What Residency Looks Like VII: Stress Relief


Sometimes residency looks like a bubble bath and a new German novel to soak away seven weeks of ICU: long days, longer nights, fumbled presentations to attendings, heart-felt conversations with families, children who don't get better, watching people die, and generally feeling like I was practicing beyond my knowledge and/or competency. Yes, I learned a lot. But tonight I will let it digest subconsciously under the scent of a citrus-coconut candle.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Fall Tastes like Pumpkin and Apples


It's fall! Around here that means crisp apples, pumpkin cookies, hot cider, and Halloween decorations. Every year I bake 1-2 batches of pumpkin cookies from The Official Millbrook 1010/Greg 1010 Cookbook, compiled by my college "suities" E.F., C.M., and I. (One of three extant copies pictured at left.) The original recipe calls for icing, but I find them sweet enough. Instead, I add raisins. The texture is spongy and cake-like, and they taste particularly good warm, with hot apple cider from a local orchard. Here's how to make the cookies:

First, take out the butter! It never fails that I sift the dry ingredients and then pull rock-hard butter out of the fridge. Or worse, like today, discover that we are out of the creamy yellow stuff and have to send Dear Husband to the Co-op. He wants to bake Kirchenkuchen next week, so he was going to need some anyway. (Fall tastes like plums, pears, and cherry pie/cake to him.)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp cinnamon (be generous!), 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/2 tsp salt.

Cream 1/2 cup butter and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Add 1 tsp vanilla, 1 egg, and 1 can pumpkin, which DH sweetly bought for me without my asking, because he knew it was in season.

Mix wet and dry ingredients. Add raisins to taste. Drop on a cookie sheet with a spoon and bake for 15-20 minutes. You know the cookies are done when they are slightly tacky on top. Cool on a rack. They keep well in the refrigerator and can be frozen for later. Heat 10-15 seconds in the microwave before enjoying with the fall-themed beverage of your choice.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What Residency Looks Like VI: W-w-w-white out!


In the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU, pronounced "pick you"), these are the tools of my trade as a resident:
  • A stethoscope and alcohol wipes with which to clean it between patients, although this was really only useful for consults in the emergency room, as each patient in the PICU has their own disposable yellow plastic stethoscope. Nobody cleans it between users.
  • Water bottle: hydration, hydration, hydration!
  • Keyboard = germ-infested portal to the electronic medical record. Since I started working in the hospital (and came down with gastroenteritis in my first month), I will not eat without washing my hands with soap and water. I touch as little of my food with my hands as possible, going to far as to eat snack mix with a spoon and my sandwich or chips out of the bag "like a horse" (according to my coworkers).
  • "Pickle phone" aka short-range wireless phone so I can always be reached no matter where I am in the hospital or unit (including, you know, ... the loo).
  • Rounding sheets onto which to copy overnight events, vital signs, ventilator settings, laboratory and imaging results, fluid balance, medications, consults to call, consultants' recommendations, something resembling a treatment plan, and a to-do list marked by open squares that I shade in like a bowling score card depending on how close to done the task is.
  • Pen, pencil, and white out for fixing mistakes before copying the sheet for the attending and for whiting out today's details so the sheet can be copied and used for several days if the basic information does not change. The resident's personal bottle of white out may be disappearing from the PICU, as the unit transitions to a computerized rounding sheet that requires three clicks and then *poof*. Or rather *print*. No more two hours scribing information that is often out of date by the time it is presented on rounds. Unfortunately, the rounding sheets are still in beta, and I have no more scheduled PICU rotations for the rest of residency (!).

If you also find tools and technology interesting, check out this post about bathrooms, this one on toadstools, or this one about everyday things in Germany.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

What Residency Looks Like V: Sustenance II


Sometimes residency looks like the breakfast sandwiches your fellow or attending buys the team after an overnight shift so that you all will make to morning sign out without eating each other.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

That's So Pittsburgh: a metal reminder of bygone days


While walking back to our car in East Liberty after lunch on my day off, I looked down and noticed this bronze plaque set in the sidewalk. An object that dimly recalls the glory days of manufacturing in the Allegheny River Valley, it's from The Wadsworth Stone & Paving Company, Pittsburgh, PA. The name of the firm rises with the sun between two mountains. Other such markers are extant in the city: Father Pitt found one in Squirrel Hill, and kb412 found one on Mount Washington. According to a history by J. Richard Bowersox that I found online, the Wadsworth Company was incorporated in 1892, worked Kentucky rock from 1903 to 1917, and then was folded into the Kentucky Rock Asphalt Company. I hadn't realized that rock quarrying was a big industry in Kentucky in the early 20th century. The Pittsburgh City Photographer collection at the University of Pittsburgh has a photo of one of the local production sites in Larimer from 1911.

Know what else you can find in East Liberty? Motor Square Garden.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What Residency Looks Like IV: Sunshine

Sometimes residency looks like sunlight and shadows in the hospital healing garden. My attending likes to give her teams a break once a week, so I am AWL (absent with leave) from the ICU, enjoying fresh air and the giddy feeling of being outside in the middle of a work day.


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Thursday, September 7, 2017

What Residency Looks Like III: Bees and Flowers


Sometimes residency looks like an outdoor snack break in the middle of a computerized exam to clear your mind and process the death of one of your clinic patients.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Columbus: So Much Topiary!

For years now we have celebrated our anniversary with a quick trip to a local city to recreate our honeymoon. We originally spent 5 days in Denver and Estes Park, seeing the botanical garden, the art museum (I bought us t-shirts: DAM that’s great art!), and a baseball game. In Estes we hiked up a small mountain to a little lake, where a chipmunk ate out of my hand. Then we flew to Cleveland, where we picked up Michael’s car from the airport where his parents had left it for us and drove all night to get to Champaign-Urbana to move into our new apartment together. The next year we went to Chicago, then to St. Louis and Kansas City, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Madison, and Metropolis, IL. The year I got back from researching in Germany I didn’t want to see another suitcase, so we stayed home and enjoyed each other’s company in our own zipcode. One year we counted an April jaunt to San Francisco as “the trip,” and another year The Chorale’s big tour of Central Europe to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. I wanted to sail in the Greek islands for our 10th anniversary, but the timing was poor what with me getting ready to travel all over the US for residency interviews, so we saved up for The Chorale’s next tour, of Spain and Portugal. Then Dear Husband got sick last year. We moved to Pittsburgh and counted our blessings to have each other, as we celebrated our 11th, "steel anniversary" in the Steel City

This year we celebrated with a fancy dinner on Mount Washington. Then, because I was off on Labor Day, so we decided to drive 3.5 hours to the other side of Columbus for DH’s family picnic after church. The weather only got nicer the farther west we drove from the remnants of Harvey. We had a delightful party, complete with corn hole (“bags”), kids having a water fights, and throwing a baseball around. Then we hopped in the car and headed into Columbus to the Comfort Inn in the German Village neighborhood, we had a lazy night watching Daniel Craig fall in love and get his heart broken in Casino Royale and then slept in until the end-of-breakfast rush at 9am. I was disappointed that the German Village visitor center wasn’t open the next day to tell us about the brick streets and houses, so we checked out and headed to the Kelton House, a Victorian mansion that was also a stop on the Underground Railroad. Alas, all my online research had not disclosed the fact that this museum is closed on Labor Day. Also the James Thurber House and the Columbus Art Museum.



Plan B: So we took a stroll through the Old Deaf School Topiary Garden, which uses shaped yew trees to re-create the 54 human figures, 8 boats, 3 dogs, 1 monkey, and 1 cat in Georges Seurat’s post-Impressionist painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte (1884). The large photo above is from the painter's perspective marker on a little hillock; the one below is a close-up of one of the boats.


Then we ate some raspberry pie in the car, and set out for the second stop on our tour, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which had the good sense to make their employees work on Labor Day (ha!), as the parking lot and grounds were full of people out to enjoy nature. First we ogled the Dale Chihuly pieces downstairs. Then we went upstairs to find the butterflies in the South Conservatory—an appropriately tropical South Pacific room. We were just in time to watch a staffer release a batch of new young butterflies. DH’s favorite was the large black one with brilliant blue wings; it had a wingspan at least the size of one of his hands.  

After the presentation, we hurried out of the heat and humidity of the tropics…into Himalayan and American deserts. The lower level concourse was blissfully cool, and full of hands-on activities for the young and young at heart: a coloring station, a large 3-D puzzle, and this train set up. That Thomas the Tank Engine rushing in from stage right, pulling Snoopy and the dog house; on the upper track you can glimpse the orange butterfly caboose.

One of the temporary attractions this season is topiary of endangered animals, which we encountered in the various rooms and gardens, like the lion above. Then we found chairs out in the workshop, just in time for the last glass-blowing demonstration of the day. An artist narrated as she created a red flower vase; there were a variety of specimens for sale in the gift shop. That was pretty cool. There was more Chihuly glass art, of course.


















Upstairs were a collection of Bonsai, many of which were at least as old as I am. This conservatory is about the size of the Phipps, but I found the signage inadequate for really learning about the plants. It is however well set up for hosting events, as long as your guests don’t find baking in the greenhouses. Maybe it’s colder at night. After two hours we had seen everything and repaired to the car for apples to tide us over until we could get to Wheeling, WV, for pizza and salad dinner. Although we did not see everything I had planned on this short trip, it was restful, which is the most important thing, and we got home in good time for me to go to bed early in advance of three weeks of 4AM wakeups.


At 3 hours from Pittsburgh, Columbus is not a bad drive away for a weekend jaunt. My impression of the city is of wide streets with little traffic. There's clearly plenty more to see and do, such as a prize-winning zoo. I expect we'll come back to get a better taste of Ohio's capital city.