Thursday, May 30, 2019

Next stop: Soggy Bottom

Here's a recipe I wanted to like that didn't quite turn out like the picture in the co-op mailer.

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Grease an 8x8" baking dish with an old butter paper.

3. Mix 2 cups rolled oats and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts in a large bowl.

4. Blend 1 large chopped banana, 2 cups almond (I used cow) milk, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt. 

5. Add 2 tbsp ground flax seeds, if you have them. (I did not.) 

6. Pour over oat-nut mixture and stir thoroughly.

7. Fold in 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries.

8. Spread in pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. 

9. When the bottom is still soggy, bake for another 10 minutes.

10. Give up an just nuke each piece, upside down, before you eat it.

I don't know if almond milk has a lower evaporation point than cow's milk, or if the flax seeds would have significantly soaked up some of the liquid, but this was not as crumbly as I had anticipated. Next time I would use maybe 1 1/2 cups of milk, and maybe a little more maple syrup. The frozen berries had thawed slightly, giving the finished dish a slightly purplish hue.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

I spy with my nefarious eye

"BWA-hahahhahaha!" boomed the pastor. 

"MWA-heh heh heh heh heh!" I responded, rubbing my hands together.

We were practicing our evil laughs while playing a spirited round of Nefarious during Game Night at church. In addition to trying to take over the world with mutated viruses and talking robots, we practiced other godly virtues like deceiving our neighbors with the card game Spyfall, in which players ask and answer questions while one spy has to try to guess a location (e.g. a bank) before the other characters figure out who the spy is.

The laugh for this game was different, though, as we got out our jitters by cavorting with false bravado after each deal:


Despite the deluge of rain, a good time was had by all.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Veggie Pizza Pizza

I always admired this dish when it was served at events at our old church in Illinois, so when the pastor's wife posted about it on Facebook recently, I decided it was time to figure out how to make it myself. It's pretty easy! I combined Pillsbury's Easy Crescent Veggie Pizza with the Reduced-Fat Crescent Veggie Pizza based on the ingredients I could find. Because the recipe(s) supposedly produce 30 servings, I made us only half of the recipe at a time, which for us was 4 dinner-sized servings or enough for 2 meals with sides, typically carrot sticks, green salad, or fruit salad.

1. Heat oven to 375F.

2. Lay one canister of 90-calorie Pillsbury crescent rolls out flat on an (un)greased pan. I pressed down the seams, as instructed, and tried to make something of a crust on a flat sheet. That part was marginally successful.

3. Pop crust in oven for ~15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, chop vegetables. You can use whatever you like: broccoli, tomato, bell peppers, onions, cucumber or zucchini, radishes, asparagus, etc. Shave 1 small or 1/2 a large carrot.

5. Remove crust from oven and place on oven mitts or trivets in the fridge to cool. (I didn't want to have to wait half an hour, as it was already nearing 7 o'clock.)

6. Mix 4oz (reduced fat) cream cheese with 4oz (reduced fat) sour cream, 1/2 tsp dill weed, and 1/8 tsp minced garlic (the recipe called for garlic powder). You might have to soften the cream cheese in the microwave briefly. The low-fat version called for cottage cheese, which I thought would be too lumpy.

7. Spread cream cheese on crust. Sprinkle carrot on top, then gently press the rest of the vegetables into the cream cheese.

8. Cut into quarters and enjoy about 45 minutes after starting prep.

N.B.--If you enjoyed this vegetarian recipe, you might like the following (in increasing order of difficulty): chickpea saga spinach as a side dish, these kohlrabi fritters for an entree, and/or a green grain gourd salad best for for a holiday dinner.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

With a mulch, mulch here, and an oink, oink there

Today Dear Husband and I planned to help the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy plant flowers up in Butler, PA, an hour from Pittsburgh. Alas, the starttime on the website was incorrect, and we were straggling this morning, so we showed up 1.5 hours late--just in time to spend an hour toting and spreading mulch. It turned out to be a planting with the Butler AM Rotary Club, and Clint, the one-man welcoming committee, confessed that he had also mistaken the start time. He was friendly and persistent, and managed to extract most of our life histories in between buckets. Reportedly this is sort of a rough area of town, so the garden really livens up the traffic patterns. Although as more than one person asked, why do they have to choose to annuals every year, when perennials would be mulch less work?

Afterward we went to a friend's house to clean up. The four of us carpooled over to a new BBQ place, When Pigs Fly. What a hidden gem! A little divey but the food is totally worth it. Locally owned, with plenty of eating space inside and out, all decorated with flying pigs. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and a radio under the umbrella at a picnic table outside. (After the owner warned us that the table without an umbrella was right under a nest of poopy birds!) The kitchen was fast, and the portions were generous. DH polished off a whole half-rack of juicy ribs, while the rest of us ate pulled pork and brisket sandwiches stuffed into hotdog buns. Neither the pineapple jalapeno nor hot sauces was particularly spice. We tried four different sides: collard greens, candied yams, potato salad, and macaroni salad. If I had had any more room, I wanted to taste the mac and cheese. Apparently they do catering and take-out, as well as sell sodas and walking tacos to the kids getting out of school up the hill. I left them an excellent review on Yelp and hope they prosper.

On the way back south DH and I stopped for ice cream at Hammer's, just like last time we drove to Butler, although we didn't bother trying to ask for a discount this time. We had a quiet afternoon and evening after getting home, the hard labor, heat, and so much food pretty much killing our desires to be productive, practice, go to the grocery store, or even cook, so we settled for take-out from the Middle Eastern restaurant down the street and hanging out with Rosie. Good thing there are still two more days this weekend yo get all those things done.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

I don't use military metaphors in medicine lightly

"In the Trenches"
A poem published in the Ad Libitum section of the Annals of Internal Medicine

Feel for the teenaged girl who cuts
herself so she can control some-
thing in a divided household
but cannot bear the dozen pricks
of the thin lidocaine needle
so she will not feel any of
the one hundred twenty stitches
needed to lace her wrists back up.
Sutures march like rows of barbed wire
across this no-man's land of skin.
Her mother whispers in her hair,
while her father stands guard, arms crossed,
watching from the foot of the bed.
My hand cramps around the forceps
as I bend down to sew again.

I don't use military metaphors in medicine lightly, despite their ubiquity: we talk constantly about "fighting cancer" and "beating the disease." In graduate school I did a research project on the use of contemporary geopolitical language in the earliest days of bacteriology (~1880s). Because non-white, non-Western bodies seemed to bring diseases with them (especially cholera), terms such as "invasion" and "colonization" reflected both fear and the vacuum of an entirely new field that needed a vocabulary. What this sometimes overwrought language did, however, was pretend like nineteenth-century European and North American cities weren't also already filthy places to live.

While military metaphors seem normal now due to their longevity, the anthropomorphization of unthinking malignant or infectious cells is not inevitable, as Susan Sontag wrote in Illness as Metaphor (1978). She described how being encouraged to "fight" her breast cancer made it seem like her clinical outcome depended more on her state of mind than on the biology of the cancer or the efficacy of the available therapies.

In this poem I invoke "the trenches"--of World War I, of a family at war with itself, of front-line healthcare workers threatened with burnout. I think it's important to point out that burnout can happen if a nurse or doctor becomes overwhelmed with all the tragedy around them--essentially if they feel too much for their patients--and it can also happen if the long hours and bureaucratic red tape prevent them from feeling anything for the vast majority patients who come seeking aid without ulterior motives like pain medications or a free turkey sandwich.

One last note: as I counted up the syllables to make them even in each line, I realized that 15 lines x 8 syllables = 120 beats/stitches.

N.B.--Other poetry you might enjoy include this little Ogden Nash ditty, and this more somber verse about the relationship between the Pacific Ocean and the coastline.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

That's So Pittsburgh: High Tea with Sherlock Holmes Afficianados

Today Dear Husband and I celebrated the end of two weeks of night shifts with a date for Sherlock-Holmes-themed high tea with the local Britsburgh Anglophile group. It was hosted at the Omni William Penn Hotel, the fanciest hotel in the world when it was built in 1916, at least according to the maitre d'. The chandeliers behind us were gifts from the queen of Austria and are worth $50,000(!). The organizers chose this hotel in part because of the fancy-schmancy atmosphere of the Terrace Room, and in part because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself spent one night there when traveling through the United States lecturing on spiritualism and the paranormal.

The invitation encouraged guests to get all dressed up and ladies to wear hats, and we happily complied. We ended up sharing a table with a slightly older professional couple. Sheila is a runner, and Frank likes organ concerts, so there was a lot to talk about. DH chose the mountain berry tea, while I opted for Earl Grey. We enjoyed a variety of finger sandwiches but could not manage to finish this impressive display of fruit and desserts. The china was a beautiful, classic, floral rose-on-white pattern. Service took over an hour, however, so the special lecture was delayed.

The guest for the day was Sherlockian Jim Zunic, who described himself as someone who has "an inordinate interest in Sherlock Holmes," and it made me wonder what constitutes an "ordinate" interest. He has read all 4 novellas and 56 short stories, watched the television and film knockoffs, and collected a variety of ephemera. It was a short but very interesting lecture. Zunic reminded us that many details associated with the famous detective in popular culture are not "canonical" from Conan-Doyle's original writings: the deerstalker hat, the curved pipe, and the phrase, "Elementary, my dear Watson!"

One last thing: the Terrace Room is overseen by a mural of George Washington recapturing Fort Duquesne (now Fort Pitt) in 1755. The hotel maitre d' pointed out a number of intentional inaccuracies, from the depiction of an elderly GW for recognition's sake, although he would have been 33 at the time, to the Plains Sioux headdress on the Iroquois Native American man in the foreground. The soldier on the left is General Braddock, not Governor Pitt the Elder, for whom the fort and later city were named.

Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this edition of That's So Pittsburgh (TSPGH), you might like the World War I commemoration we attended, or this post about other historic murals.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

What Residency Looks Like XLI: Llamapalooza

Sometimes residency looks like a houseful of pediatricians and their dates/families hiding from the rain in an old farmhouse, crowding around the potluck table and grilled meats, and darting out to the barn to feed the llamas and pet the friendly barn cat. The llamas are all named Jackie, and the cat's name is Twinkie. The hostess and her husband used to have as many as 35 llamas; now there are 6. In the spring they invite the department out for a party on their farm an hour outside of town, complete with legendary grilled salmon, music over speakers from the second-story porch, multiple mixed drinks, and a bonfire once dark fell and the rain relented. If the weather hadn't been so wet, there would have been cornhole and frisbee. As it was, the 5 dogs had the time of their lives. The llamas had no comment, although one deigned to eat a little cracked corn out of my hand.

You had better believe that when the first guy to feed the fire left, yours truly, Girl Scout Extraordinaire, continued to nurse it.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

That's So Pittsburgh: Mystics in Motion

One night at Mystics in Motion (the Wednesday night service formerly known as Worship Jam), we made sock puppets. The idea was that while we might show one face to each other, God knows our innermost selves. So we decorated socks and then turned them inside out and decorated them again. And because this is a group of creatives, we went around the circle to name and describe our characters before and after their transformations. (That's my sock with its two different personalities above.)

Because I waited too long to write this post, I can't remember any of the details, but that's probably just as well, as many of them reflected their creators' personalities and interior journeys. I will say that I was struck by the fact that no one's sock puppet had the same shape as anyone else's: one was tall, another short, one with a long nose, another short, and so on. That diversity and the safe space to open up to one another--to do crafts, and sing/dance, and have the faith of children--is one of the reasons we enjoy this group so much.

In an effort to be conscientious, the socks were undecorated and donated after we finished with them.

Friday, May 3, 2019

What Residency Looks Like LX: Starzl's stare

Sometimes residency looks like listening to interdisciplinary rounds with the intestinal care team under the watchful gaze of Thomas Starzl (1926-2017), the famous liver transplant surgeon. He was recruited to Pittsburgh from Colorado, where he had grown tired of opposition to his pioneering but as-yet unsuccessful operations to save the lives of patients in liver failure. At Pitt he developed a highly successful transplant service, training fellows who went on to populate the field. This was back in the 1980s, when transplantation was still so new that Starzl had to fly in a rented private plane to the various hospitals where a donor had died, harvest the organ, take it back to Pittsburgh, and implant it--there just weren't other surgeons who could do this kind of surgery. According to Burden of Genius, the well-done documentary I watched on the IMAX at the Carnegie Science Center, he was a no-nonsense perfectionist and difficult to work with. But he got results. There was scandal about the way he let wealthy patients from the Middle East pay their way, but he also operated on any patient, regardless of their ability to pay. A government investigation found him innocent, but he burned out of the OR after 10 years here and turned his attention to researching immunosuppression regimens for preserving organs after transplantation. Click on the link above to see some great photographs and watch the doc-trailer.

p.s. Pittsburghers, you have two more chances to see the film at the Science Center, May 19, 4pm and 7pm!