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.