Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A perfect day

The day, while not actually perfect, was nice. As I was walking to work (where all my patients turned out to be pleasant types who said “Please” and “Thank you,”) I admired my favorite mittens which were keeping my hands very warm and comfy. I reminisced about why I had them at all – thanks to my perfectionist friend for whom I had made them. She is one of those who examines all projects – hers and anyone else’s – and loudly exclaims about any imperfections she can find. She insists that everything be perfect and that any ever so teensy mistake be remedied immediately, even when the trouble of remedying it far outweighs the trouble of living with it. In my opinion, this attitude too often leads to never finishing anything at all because nothing can never be good enough to satisfy its creator. Anyhow, these mittens, many years ago, were designated as a Christmas present to her. They were my first real stranded knitting project besides a little sweater with a Fairisle border that I made for Rebecca when she was wee. That sweater was total torture to knit and I vowed that I would never do stranded work again. I didn’t know about steeks at the time, and so I was knitting back and forth which I simply can’t do in two color work. These mittens were promoted as being very easy and blitz quick to make. Talk about false advertising. I suffered quite a bit, but not, I will admit, as much as with the sweater, since I was at least looking at the right side of the knitting all the time. The part that you see in the picture turned out quite well, but I could not grasp the pattern on the palm until I had the mittens nearly ¾ done. This sort of thing does not bother me at all. I can close my fists if some super picky person is looking at my mittens, and furthermore, it gives them character. I will have to admit that had the mistakes been on the more public part of the mittens, I might have been fussier. Actually, I most certainly would have been fussier. Anyhow, I realized that these mittens would not do for my friend because of the mistakes. Additionally, I decided that she might be the sort who expects both mittens to be the same (boring!!!) So I kept them for myself and quickly made her a truly easy and truly blitz quick pair of Aran type mittens. Those had no obvious mistakes and were a great success as a gift. I have been grateful to her quirks ever since as these are my most favorite mittens – the softest and warmest, and the nicest colors. And had she not been such a fussbudget, I would not have them. I might add that I am pretty cavalier about unimportant mistakes, and find perfectionists annoying in general. However I would not be adverse to this irritating trait in my neurosurgeon, should I even need one.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A cold and hot day

Here is a picture of the Christmas Cake Rebecca made – very artistic, as you can see. And a picture of Rebecca the child admiring the Christmas Cake I made many, many years ago when we lived in Ireland. Not so artistic, as you can also see.
It is the third day of Christmas, so I can still tell of Christmas adventures. I must add here, that while I have a warm heart, I am a cold person and I do not tolerate heat well at all. When I am in Hawaii with the aunties, I whine incessantly about the hot weather. I only closed my bedroom window a few days ago, in honor of the snow and in deference to the rest of the household, and plan to open it again soon. Maybe even when I finish writing this! I consider a balmy (to everyone else) seventy degree day to be oppressively hot, if not sweltering. This boring insight will shed light on my Christmas eve ordeal.
We live about a mile from the Cathedral, and as it was very snowy and very cold, Rachael and I dressed very warmly for our trek there for Midnight Mass, and when we arrived, what to wear under our choir robes was a though decision. I was thinking that at Midnight Mass people left their coats on, and it would probably be chilly in the huge building, so I left on more than I usually do. A big mistake. Our robes are two layers, and quite warm at any time, (click here to see) and I should have known better. I had on my woolly stockings, a petticoat, a wool skirt, a silk undershirt, as well as the usual underwear essentials. The rehearsal was tolerable as that room really is cold most of the time. Our first few songs were also tolerable, but halfway through the Carol Service which preceded Midnight Mass, I was sure I was going to pass out. Things were wobbling in front of my eyes, and my head felt light. I slipped out of the formation and went outside and breathed in the lovely cold for a few minutes. Thinking I was recovered, I slipped back in as the Women’s Schola was processing upstairs into the gallery where it was REALLY hot. I lasted about five minutes there before the wobbles and wooziness returned. What to do? I crept out of the gallery, found a discrete closet and took off all the clothes under my choir robes except the essentials. I hid my clothes under a bench. Then I crept downstairs to the bride’s dressing room and doused my face in cold water. Much better. I crept back upstairs and rejoined my group. I was a little worried about my clothes, as I am not so averse to warmth that I would not have been quite unhappy to go home without them. Fortunately they were waiting for me when the Mass was over. And no one was the wiser, until now that you know, of course.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Christmasy day

As a special New Year’s Treat for you, here is a picture of the world’s cutest and sweetest doggie as she peeks out from under my covers while I sit here typing.
Our Christmas was very nice despite the snow. The Cathedral sent out an email enjoining us that while we might be dreaming of a White Christmas, we were not to pray for one. Miraculously, despite very adverse travel conditions, the choir in its entirety was there for Midnight Mass, which was glorious as usual. The Cathedral was full, but comfortably full, not the usual full where people have to stand outside and listen to the Mass on speakers after not one more person can be crammed in. The Christmas morning Masses are voluntary for the choir. In years past, only the cantors (who are paid professionals) have had to sing. Last year however, some folks asked Jim, our director, if they could come sing, and so he invited us all to come if we wanted to. He was astonished when about a third of the choir showed up. The Cathedral provides us breakfast between the two Masses, and all in all, it is a very nice way to spend Christmas morning. The Midnight Mass is televised, so one is not allowed to scratch, make faces if they don’t like the homily, and one must look happy and pius even in the difficult parts of the Bach. Since so many people will be watching, and mistakes will be immortalized, this is not a relaxing event. The morning Masses are very different. We don’t sing the most difficult of the music, everyone is a bit tired since we left the Cathedral at about one-thirty in the morning and are back at nine. I always feel that a “bit tired” (not a “lot tired”) sometimes calms one down.
Last year, when they opened the Grand Ceremonial Doors for the Archbishop process out through, everyone could see that it had unexpectedly begun snowing during the Mass. It was beautiful to see the snow through the doors, and a cheer went up. Oh, so different this year. We groaned when the Mass was over and it was snowing yet again. There has really been sufficient snow. The weatherman told us that it would rain on Christmas and this thought made us happy, as we are ready for normal life to return, and normal life is not possible – or is at least seriously curtailed – when there is a foot of snow on the ground in hilly Seattle. The weatherman was correct in that it rained for a minute or two, but then it immediately started to snow yet again. Today, it looks like there might be a meltdown of the good sort. Let us hope so. I need to go shopping.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yet another lazy and snowy day

Today was the predetermined day to work on Tom’s estate papers, etc., and bring it all up to date. I have to say “etc.,” because I can’t even tell you what is there. Well, in my role the queen of procrastination (especially in this sort of thing,) I decided that I would start right after lunch. Then, after lunch I noticed that the floor of Rachael’s room was really gritty and that Margaret had found food bits to spread around. I felt that it needed to be Hoovered immediately. Then, as long as I was doing that, I thought I might as well do my bedroom too, and then the rest of the upstairs. Since I had brought the vacuum cleaner all that way up. Then I realized that I was way behind on the laundry, and had better do that. After several loads were washed dried and folded (as well as some hand washing that had been sitting there for several months,) I got out the Tom stuff, and found a few bills that I needed to pay. Just then, Ana called to say that she was stranded at work because of the snow, and could she come stay the night? Naturally, I had to drop everything and fix her dinner. I fixed a broccoli, spinach and tomato risotto, and we thought it was quite tasty. Then, since I had company, I could not possibly work on those excruciatingly boring papers and accounts. However, I actually had spent at least ten minutes at it before Ana called, and I felt very virtuous. But now I will have to spend another day soon avoiding it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yet another snowy day

Last night the snow came down in droves, yet again. When poor Margaret went out for her walkies, it was over her head. I had to carry her to the middle of the street where the passing autos had made her a pathway. She was not pleased, needless to say. I am going to feel similarly when I forge my way to work this afternoon. I set this picture of Pike Place Market chilis as my computer wallpaper to cheer me up, and I thought it might cheer you up too.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A rosy day in December

The snow is falling again, and we are hunkered down for a while. Sadly, I have to unhunker and go to work tomorrow, and I am hoping that it will be possible to get there. In the meantime, we are having soup and hot chocolate, and being cozy. There are a few floral bright spots even in this weather. A favorite patient of mine gave me these roses as she was leaving the hospital to return to Alaska. Originally, they were part of a daisy and rose bouquet. The flowers stayed fresh looking for a long time, and as they were starting to fade, I decided to try to preserve them. I tried microwaving them, and it was successful. I did two at a time, for eleven seconds and then eleven more seconds and then eleven more seconds until they were dry. They turned out rather nicely, and now whenever I come into or leave the house I see them in my entryway and think of Helen. The more tropical looking flower is a Christmas cactus given to me by a sweetie about thirty years ago. At the time, I lived in a second story flat, and I had my plant on the windowsill in my kitchen. One day, it leapt out and crashed to the ground below. Horrified, I ran down to rescue it, and as you can see, it survived.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another snowy day

When it snows, Seattle stands still. Folks from snowier parts laugh at us, but there it is. We really cannot function in the snow. My bus is one of the first to give up when there is snow, and in this picture of my bus stop, you can see two abandoned buses waiting for the snow to go away. And as you can see from the yellow tape, the road itself - a rather main one - is closed. Last evening at work I was praying that the predicted storm would not arrive in Seattle until I arrived home from work, and so it happened. My bus was still running and there was not too much ice on the sidewalk from the previous stormlet. I had visions of myself slipping, breaking an elbow and ending up a patient on my own nursing unit, but I arrived home intact. However, in the wee hours of the morning, there was a ferocious thunderclap, followed by another, followed by intense snowfall, followed by Margaret protecting us from the snowflakes. She is ever vigilant and diligent about keeping the weather at bay. She continued barking until we finally gave up and got up. Several days ago, I was talking to my aunt on the phone, and she asked, "Has it started snowing?" "No, what makes you think so? Is it snowing at your house?" I asked. "No, but Margaret is barking," she said.

Here is my snug little house which I hate to leave when the weather is bleak.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A snowy day

Every Sunday two members of our choir are supposed to bring treats for the choir, to give us strength to sing exquisitely, and then to help us recover after we have sung exquisitely. This basically means preparing breakfast for sixty people. For some, this is a competitive event, with choristers vying for the title of the most lavish and delicious treats bringer. For years, when Rebecca was in the choir, we worked together on the treats, and gave folks a run for their money. This was all due to Rebecca, of course. She planned the menu, and was the general in the kitchen, assigning me menial duties to get the task done. When Rebecca started back to school, she did not have time to sing in the choir anymore, but she still helped me with the treats, and last year Tom and I did the cooking, while Rebecca directed from afar via phone and email. This year I was on my own – no Tom, and Rebecca too busy to care about my treat troubles. I fretted all week about what to bring, and by Friday --- nay, Saturday morning, or even Saturday afternoon, I still hadn’t really decided what to make. Then after I had shopped for several options, I was so overwhelmed by the immensity of the treat ordeal that I took a nap. My treat partner called to tell me that if it was snowing, she would not be there, nor would her treats. Aaaaak! Finally, about eight in the evening, I swung into gear and made two kinds of focaccia, some barley soup which I was planning to serve in a crock pot, some boiled eggs to devil in the morning, and I prepared some raw fruits and vegetables. Once I got moving, I became enthusiastic, and enjoyed cooking – but I sure had been a slow starter. I went to bed about one, fretted all night about the treats, got up at five and found the world covered in white. There was snow and a big sheet of ice outside my garage, which is on a hill, so I opted to walk. This meant no soup and no drinks as I had to carry it all by hand. Since this was a “women only” Sunday, and the snow prevented many from coming, the numbers were few and my treats were minimally adequate, even without my partner’s help. This all reminded me of a Christmas pot luck at a job I had many years ago. It too was rather competitive, and I prided myself on bringing something spectacular every time. This year, however, I was in a funk and did not feel like doing a thing. I had planned some elaborate dessert from Julia Child, but when the evening to cook arrived I felt that I just could not do it. I looked in the refrigerator and found some apple tart filling left over from some other fabulous Julia Child dessert, and some homemade cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving. No doubt the applesauce, which had brandy and orange zest in it, was left over from Thanksgiving as well. I rooted about some more and decided to make some Bird’s Custard Pudding and fancy it up. I made the custard and put in the apple stuff. The milk in the pudding instantly curdled. Unfazed, I picked out the curds – large rubbery things - and discarded them. I put the resulting concoction in a nice dish with the cranberry sauce layered in like a parfait. When the morning came, I was humiliated about my dessert, and talked another woman who had brought apple juice into trading and saying she had made my dish and I would present her apple juice. Since she was the apple juice bringer type, everyone was amazed that she had brought real food. The odd dessert was the success of the party, and everyone pestered her for the recipe. She was mortified, and finally admitted that it was my doing. Then they wanted the recipe from me, but I had to claim that it was a family secret, as the dish was really quite unreproducible.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

St. Nicholas Day

On Saturday, we had a visit from St. Nicholas – the real St. Nicholas – the holy bishop who wears a miter, carries a crozier, and rides a white horse, not the fat fellow in a red suit. Rebecca and Rachael both were always more excited about the visit of St. Nicholas on December sixth than they were about actual Christmas. Perhaps because Christmas can be so overwhelming, but the visit from St. Nicholas was their own special event and was always relatively serene. They put out their shoes and a bowl of oats for the horse, and eagerly awaited their gifts of something warm to wear – usually on hands, feet, or head – and fruits and cookies. Rebecca, who was the best child ever, was ever needlessly worried about getting a bit of coal or worse yet, being put in Krampus’ sack. No matter how firmly we assured her this could never happen because she was always so good, she worried terribly. One December 5th night late, it snowed for the first time in quite a long while. Rebecca woke up, and everything looked different due to the snow, the altered light, and the consequent new shadows on the wall from the bare tree limbs. She was sure Krampus was there to get her, and cried out pathetically. We leapt out of bed to comfort her, and she was relieved to see the snow and no Krampus. Did she perhaps she have some terrible secret that only Krampus would be aware of?
This year, Rachael actually forgot to put out her shoes, or possibly thought she was too big for Niklaus to visit her. She was delighted when she got up and found her shoes filled with cookies, candy, an apple, and this pair of gloves which I knitted for her. Later, when I was changing my linen, an apple rolled out from the sheets. I was mystified until I realized that, unlike the candy and cookies which were quickly consumed, the apple had been rejected and left behind.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A mismatched day

Often when I am at work (or sometimes even not at work) my whole focus of the day is to get home, get my cup of something hot, get in bed, get comfey, and settle down with my book. A few months ago, I came home from work at midnight, snuggled up with my book, Margaret, and a cup of hot chocolate. Ecstasy. But short lived ecstasy. The phone rang – a dreaded sound at one in the morning, especially after work, as it is usually the nurse following me calling to ask why I did or did not do something. Once a nurse called me in the wee hours to inform me that I had forgotten to chart the insulin I had given a patient. I recall that this particular evening, another patient had a reaction to a medication about 30 minutes before I was due to leave, and my focus was on saving his life rather than charting the insulin. I reported the call to my manager the next day, and she was incensed, I am happy to report. “What did she expect you to do - come in and chart it?” she sensibly asked. This particular evening, my friend Nurse Mademba was calling to ask me if I had taken the narcotic key home. I was confident that I had not, I told him. I hadn’t even used it. “Check your pockets,” he said. “You have to have it.” Well, I did check and I did have it. Grrrrrr. Someone had handed it to me at the beginning of the evening, and no one had used it the whole eight hours. The down side of taking the narcotic key home is that you have to bring the narcotic key back. Right then. My heart sank. I just can’t get dressed, I thought. I told Mademba I would bring it to the ER and he could come get it. He agreed. I left the house in my PJ’s and a sweater, and when I got to the ER, I decided to just take it up to my unit. The security guard looked at me like I was a mad woman. I started to explain why I had my pajamas on (they must see a lot of pajamas there) and he said, “It’s not that. You have on two different colors of shoes.”
This morning in church, two altos were tittering and looking at my feet. I assumed that they were marveling at how I was still wearing sandals in December. Later, as we were leaving church, Rachael said, “You know you have two different sandals on, don’t you?”
In the picture - above, disparate workshoes, below, disparate sandals - one brown and one gray, and to the right, Margaret contemplating one of the many dangers of getting dressed in the dark.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A busy day

A rather busy but productive day. After my triumph at the bank, Rachael and I went to the paper store to get special paper for my Auntie’s secret project. First we went to an office store, but they had only papier ordinaire, and we wanted something nicer, so we went to Arvey’s, a real paper store. This place had paper galore. I love a paper store, but they seem mostly to be posh boutiquey sorts of places with uppity staffs. Not as bad as wine or camera shops, which can be terrifying to the uninitiated, but close. While this one had everything, it was all warehouse-ish, and so not intimidating to the likes of me. The woman who helped us knew all about different sorts of paper, and seemed to take in the special needs of this project. Rachael too thought it was a fine store because it had free donuts. (The kind you eat, not the kind you put on your paper holes.) Later, I fixed us a yummy repast - mushroom tartlets, - which was supposed to be a meal-in-minutes, but actually was not. I was planning to serve it at four, giving Rachael lots of time to get to her six o’clock engagement, but I failed to factor in the time needed to thaw the puff pastry. I was thinking that I knew all about using this stuff, but I think I must have used it in my dreams, because once I began, the process was unfamiliar, and I can’t think of anything I have actually made from it. However, the tartlets were good and Rachael was ready on time, so all was well. I recommend this recipe. It really does not take much time, and is rather impressive. Your guests will think that you are quite clever and that you spent hours slaving in the kitchen.

A golden day

Actually, the whole day wasn't golden, but bits of it were. I was walking to the Cathedral yesterday afternoon for my Family Kitchen stint, and there was definitely a golden moment. This is the view from the Cathedral's hill looking down the street towards the water and mountains. The Cathedral is the building on the left, and an apartment building on the right.
I am off to the bank now to deal with the bank ogres. Wish me luck.

Update later in the day: my banking business, which I began working on in August, and which should have been a simple transaction, but which turned into a nightmare, as no one in the bank seemed to know what she was doing, is finally done. I have transferred money from one account to another, and it only took zillions of phone calls, letters, faxes, visits to the bank and a few tears of frustration. Finally, the brilliant Janice got it all fixed up. Tom's money is in his account and I can begin to pay his bills. Hurray!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A lemony day

About a year ago, I ventured into the mysteries of modern bread making – a vastly different thing than the bread making of my youth. Tom was helping me, and although we had a fun day, the bread was disastrous. The texture left much to be desired, and to top it off, (Shades of King Lear!) I forgot the salt. What a disappointment! So I decided that since one of Rachael’s favorite foods is bread pudding, I would use the bread to make that, and put in a bit of extra salt. Rachael was thrilled and even emailed a friend that she was having bread pudding for dinner. Well, it is scarcely credible, but true --I forgot the salt again! So the bread pudding was doubly unsalted, and was rather disgusting. Undeterred by failure, I tried again a month or so later, and had great success. I recently made Rachael some lemon pudding, and this suggested to her that it would be nice to have lemon bread pudding. So I tried that this evening, and it was rather good. I remember the first time I had bread pudding ever. I was about six, and was visiting my friend Therese’s house for dinner. They were rather posh, and consequently, my mother, anxious to avoid social disgrace, had given me many admonitions about table manners and about eating everything on my plate, even if I didn’t like it. I was suitably impressed with my duties to uphold the family honor. In addition to being posh, this family had a horrible Siamese cat who terrified me and made me sneeze. I was prepared to have a most unenjoyable evening. The dinner was served, and for the veg, they had artichokes, which I had never seen before. This bit of exotica both impressed and horrified me. What to do with it???? They showed me how to eat it, and I thought my ordeal was over, but then they brought out the dessert --- bread pudding. I thought I had never seen anything so disgusting looking. I still remember recoiling in horror and trying to look pleased at the same time. I don’t recall actually eating it – just my initial reaction. I know that thirty years passed before I ever had bread pudding again. Grandma Rossi made it, and I then realized that it was actually a good thing.
Here is the recipe for the Lemon Bread Pudding I made this evening:

Sugar, about one cup
Half a cube of butter
Juice and zest of two smallish lemons
Two tablespoons of flour
Three eggs,
2 Cups of milk
Five cups of cubed bread, preferably a few days old.
Cream the sugar and butter, add lemon juice and zest. Mix it well. Mix in the flour. Add the eggs and mix it up. Add the milk, stir it and pour it over the bread. Bake it at 350 for 50 minutes to an hour. Serve it hot with a bit of milk poured over it. Yummy!
Here are Rachael and Maria having a discussion about whom the pudding actually belongs to.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A teary day

Our poor little kitty took a turn for the worse on Saturday while Rebecca and I were preparing dinner for the aunties, so we took him for his final visit to the vet. Unlike, Margaret and Leslie who adored going to the vet, Michael hated it and always acted very badly. This time, however, he seemed resigned, and knew that his troubles would soon be over, so he was a good boy, and went gently into that good night. His funeral was this morning in the one two hour window we could find when we were all three neither working nor in school. Tom always officiated at these events, but in his stead, Julie, who has been a hospital chaplain, gave a very nice feline service. We sang our traditional pet funeral song – “All Things Bright and Beautiful” with special Michael verses.
He made our little Michael,
His coat so soft and gray,
His one green eye, the other brown,
His pussywillow tail.

He was our darling nurse boy,
With tender loving care,
His soft caress, his lovingness,
A cat who brought us joy.

He loved his little family,
Protected us from the rat,
His fearless heart, his loving heart,
Our Mikey was quite a cat.

Not very poetic, I'll admit, but heartfelt. The song didn't go well because we got too emotional to sing, so it was a bit disjointed. Rebecca made a lovely anise cake, which we had with tea, for the funeral meats.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Thankful Day

Happy Day after Thanksgiving! I had a rather odd but pleasant day. My women’s choir, the St. James Women’s Schola, (picture from last Christmas!) sings every year for the Thanksgiving morning Mass. This is a lovely event and the Cathedral is usually packed. When we arrived for practice – quelle horreur – at least five sopranos – were not there, including all of the four big guns. One was in the hospital, another was ill and had no voice, another was caring for her mother. I’m not sure about the fourth, but at any rate, she was not there. You must understand that this choir has about 22 members, so five is a huge bunch. Unfortunately, we were singing a newish chant, and it was rather difficult, I thought. It was all pretty unnerving. My friend Paul (obviously not a regular member, seeing as he is a guy) had been called in to do the solo bits, and of course he was brilliant. The rest of the rehearsal was unsettling. Jim, our director, bore it all very well, especially given that we were fairly awful, it seemed to me. Usually, the alto section is the focus of his attention, but this time, it was not so, as the sopranos were not hitting their high notes. Several altos were temporarily promoted to sopranos. Then, at the actual service – a miracle - it all went well, and the music was splendid as usual. Preise den Herrn!
Since I am a nurse, I am obliged to work a certain number of holidays, and it was my turn for Thanksgiving. Actually, don’t tell anyone, but I enjoy working on Thanksgiving. We get paid time and a half, get a free dinner, and everyone is usually in a good mood. Odd you might think, since they are working instead of being home eating, but so it is. Maybe that’s a sign that we love our jobs. No, I’m not being sarcastic. I think most of my colleagues really do love their jobs. I do, anyway. This evening, my patients were all nice, none were having crises, and all was going smoothly. The fly in the ointment was that half way through the shift I was going to have to float to another floor. Then they said I could go home if I wanted to. At first I said I didn’t, but then realized that I was not going to have my tasks finished on time to rush off to another unit, since I had just gotten an admission and he needed many things, including wound care. I didn’t want to leave all this for the next nurse, so I said I would go home, thinking I could then get all my stuff done. This patient had a gross abscess on his neck, and I had to irrigate it and put on a new dressing. I saved this for last, fortunately. I had on gown and gloves naturally, but didn’t feel that I needed a face mask. However, when I irrigated it, squirting saline into the wound, it all shot back – all over me, including in my eyes and mouth, which must have been open as it usually is – me being such a loquacious type. Yeeeeech!! I washed my face several times, getting my lab coat all wet, and reported to the nursing supervisor. I then had to go to the ER for labs and a better eye washout, etc. In the manner of emergency rooms (and me being a non-emergency), what amounted to 15 minutes of actual work, took about three hours. The fly in this ointment was that I had left my book upstairs in my backpack. About two hours into the process, I crept off and got it. This improved things immensely. By the time I actually left, it was my usual departure time, so I got paid for the whole eight hours after all. Also – they always draw labs on the patient as well as the victim, and this patient did not have any terrible diseases. Just whatever was making his neck abscess. Ugh! I don’t even want to think what that might have been. This picture, actually beach debris in Hawaii, represents some awful gram positive cocci which might have been lurking in that neck.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sad day coming

Our little Michael is ailing, and is probably soon to visit the Rainbow Bridge. Here are pictures of him as a baby, a youth, and an oldster. In the baby picture, he is watching his mom cook - a lifetime preoccupation with him,and in the youth picture he is doing the same from the porch to which he has probably been exiled for being too helpful. In the oldster picture, he is politely waiting for Maria the dominatrix to finish licking the bowl so he can get in a taste or two. As you can see, his preoccupation with food has been a lifelong trait, and I knew he was quite ill when he didn't care about his breakfast.
Michael is fifteen, which I used to think was a Methuselah in cat terms, but now it seems quite youthful compared to the ages of my aunts’ cats at their demises. We will miss him very much, as he is a most singular and loving kitty.
PS. I had to change the picture from yesterday, because Rachael informs me that the cat in the photo was actually Maria.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A disasterous day

I was in bed reading or knitting recently, when I heard a shriek from Rachael’s room, and then frantic the dismayed chitter-chatter of Rachael and her friend Lillian as they talked on the phone. Some disaster has occured, I thought. Maybe one of their celebrity heroines had gotten arrested for drugs, or eloped with someone unsuitable. But no! It was way worse. Mother’s Cookies was going out of business! When she was little, Rebecca always ate these dreadful frosted animals when we visited Grandma Rossi, and she loved them. Since she only got them at Grandma R’s house, they are closely associated with her memory. Now, Rachael has inherited this odd gustatory trait, and loves them as well. I love to see them, since they remind me of Grandma Rossi and baby Rebecca, but for some reason, I find them rather revolting. My dear Uncle Robert, on the other hand, always had some Mother’s Vanilla Sandwich cookies on standby and I think of him whenever I see them. So all in all, these cookies, none of which I like to eat, are severely nostalgic, and will be sadly missed, by both eaters of them and non-eaters alike.
You would definitely hear a shriek of dismay from me if the genuine and absolutely delicious animals in the other package were to disappear. They - with a glass of milk - are one of life’s true pleasures.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A busy day with a funky dinner

Today was my sainted auntie’s birthday, but we couldn’t have the real party today because the real cook was working. In the morning she (my auntie, not the real cook) and I took Poor Michael to the vet who showed me how to hydrate him. My auntie had done this (more accurately, she had Rebecca do it) for her ancient cat who is no more, and at that time, I had thought it was ridiculous. Now that it is Michael, seen here in Dakki's lap, it seems not so ridiculous at all. Michael is pretty feisty when you try to do anything to him (i.e, trim his nails) that he thinks needn’t be done, so I am not at all confident about how this will play out. Will report on my success or lack thereof. Then we went to the bank, to deposit a check into Tom’s account, and I asked for a balance, which, when given, showed that my estate business STILL had not been taken care of. I said, “Grrrrr,” and the teller man said why didn’t I have Janet help me. I said I was sure she couldn’t, because someone in Texas was supposed to be working on it and I didn't have any of the paperwork. But he thought I should give it a try. Janet was the intelligent woman who replaced the dingbat who originally was supposed to be dealing with my estate troubles. The one who hung up on me when I told her that the higher office said she had not filled out the forms properly. I told Janet of my trials, and how I cried the last time I talked to the Texas folk, and that I didn’t want to talk to them again. She talked to them, had it all fixed in five minutes. What a relief! Or it will be when this transaction actually takes place – in up to two weeks, she said. Since it was Dakki’s birthday, I decided to invite her for dinner, and fix a busy day meal. We had Protein Loaf – which, as you can tell from the name, is a relic of my youth, but good. It has cauliflower, onions, cashews, cheese, and eggs, and is pretty yummy. And lemon pudding cake for dessert. Fast, easy, tasty. Our friend Julie came for the impromptu meal, and expertly prepared the green beans (also delicious,) as I was in a bit of a frenzy, since the meal-in-minutes was taking more minutes than I had anticipated.
Here we are sitting down to our meal, and here is the meal. The Protein Loaf does not look that appealing, but it is really quite good. While doing the dishes, I dropped a glass on my toe. You can see my injury here, if you are interested in such things.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A tacky day

This picture was on our refrigerator for years, but when we painted the kitchen, it seemed to disappear. I serendipitously found it a few days ago, and was mighty happy, because it represented a happy memory. Years ago, Rebecca found a party book at one of her favorite stores, the Goodwill. The book was from the fifties, and had several party theme suggestions, most of them rather silly, I would imagine. A couple of them appealed to us though. One was a pink party, which we gave in the form of an afternoon tea for our lady friends. We made a pink sandwiches, a pink salad, and a pink cake, which as I seem to recall, was a Lady Baltimore cake and a flop, but most of the food was good, and the company was excellent. This party was at least 15 years ago, and I still remember it as a fun day. Another suggestion was a “bad taste party.” Our guests were instructed to wear tasteless clothes, and our party decorations were selected for their awfulness. Most of our guests wore their normal clothes, but Rebecca, Samos, and I found some delightful thrift store outfits. We had made very clear in our invitations what the dress code was, and afterwards pondered what it might mean that our friends wore their usual attire. What do you think?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A work day

My friend Laura told me I needed to update, and I see that she is right. It has been a day or two. I have been working, working, working, and the day I wasn’t working, I was working. My actual job has been rather horrendous lately, with my patients suddenly going downhill and needing to be saved, always a time consuming (although rather exciting) process. Happily, this evening was different from the two previous. My patients were all calm, pleasant, and healthy, relatively speaking. There was one patient who seemed to be having DT’s, and I said a little prayer of thanks that she was not mine. Actually, she had been mine the previous time I worked and initially, I was a disappointed not to get her back. I was quickly cured of that. She and her roommate were fighting like Tomcats on a fence – yowling insults back and forth until we had to move one to a different room. My patients, on the other hand, were all lovely, and one of them was watching The Wizard of Oz, so I gave him extra special attention because, not only was he a great guy, but I love the Wizard of Oz and had just been thinking I should watch it – having not seen it for a few years. In my youth, it was an annual event, despite the fact that the flying monkeys terrified me. I missed them this evening. The man pointed out that the Munchkin Coroner was about to sing that the witch was undeniably, reliably dead, and that the Lollipop kids were coming, and later that I had missed they monkeys. He seemed to know the movie by heart. Fortunately, I managed to be in his room when the water was thrown on the witch and she melted away, lamenting her beautiful wickedness. We were both delighted at her comeuppance.
These pictures are relevant in that one was taken on my way to work, and the other on the way home - or waiting for the bus which is sort of on the way home. In case you can’t recognize that black blob, it’s the bus coming up the hill – a most happy sight after a hard days night. Click here to see the same scene in the daylight.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A multi-Birthday day

The fabulous autumn birthday event took place this afternoon and evening. Since so many folk in my family were born in September, October, or November, it would be too much to have a party for each. So we have a big gala festivity to celebrate about ten birthdays at once. If one, like me, is incapable of stinting on the cake and ice cream, but hoping not to “take on flesh,” as they say somewhere, this is probably a good idea, as it is no doubt better to go to one party than ten, diet-wise, at least. As to the cake, it had a little accident on its way to the table. My aunt wears her reading glasses on a string, and somehow, the glasses got entangled in the cake, turning them into Spectacular Edible Birthday Spectacles. She wondered if she should try to return the frosting to the cake, but we assured her that it would not be necessary. Here are pictures of Aunt Pauline, the glasses, the cake, and some of the happy celebrants. I have eaten far too much and am feeling a bit ill. Perhaps I should have some chamomile tea like Peter Rabbit did after his unfortunate adventure in the vegetable garden.

A quizzical day

You Should Be a Teacher

You are patient, optimistic, and good at explaining things.

You work well with all types of people, and you are a good role model.

Success and positive outcomes are extremely important to you.

You are both a good leader and instructor. People look up to and depend on you.
You do best when you:
- Can see the results of your work
- Are able to teach someone a new skill
You would also be a good nurse or non fiction writer.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A leafy day

All week long, I planned to dig up a little area of my garden today – to prepare a spot for spring flowers, and to plant some bulbs there. I woke up, had my morning tea, decided that the Saturday NYT crossword was probably too hard, slouched out of bed and realized that – hurrah! – it was pouring rain, and I would be unable to garden! I went shopping at my favorite grocery store, and got in the line of my favorite checkout lady. She was complaining that she was not getting her lunch break, and this made me feel better because I thought nursing was the only job where one never got lunch breaks. I got home with my purchases and, quel horreur! The sun was shining brilliantly. The thought of digging up mud had really minimal appeal, so I used my guilt-free procrastination technique and opted to do some other previously-procrastinated-about but way-less-horrible task. I would rake leaves. Here is a picture of me surveying the monumental project. Last year, my fytophobe neighbor had, just after threatening to cut down Rebecca’s cherry tree, put her raked up leaves in my yard so I would deal with them for her. In a fit of rage, I threw them back in her yard, and have felt rather bad about this since. So this year, I picked up her little piles of leaves along with mine. She, true to form, came out to commune with me while I was doing the leaves, and said she would help me. This meant that she would watch me and be sure I got ALL her leaves. However, her rake was much better than mine, so it all worked out and was worth it for an increase in neighborly relations.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Beginning the day

Rebecca and I were chatting with friends, and she said that her favorite bit of the day was in the morning with her first cup of tea. I realized that this is very true. It is such a contented moment, sitting there, back in my cozy bed, after having given Margaret her breakfast and walkies while the teakettle comes to a boil, having made the tea and collected the newspaper; relaxing with the editorials, the comics, and finally the crossword puzzle, the wonderful warmth and comfort of a hearty cup of hot milky tea, and the promise that a new day brings. Rebecca refers her tea pale and wimpy, but I want mine thick enough so that a mouse could run across it -- strong, dark, and yummy. By the third or fourth cuppa, one begins to feel the need for a little something to complement it, and what better than an English muffin? The Eng muffies are equally perfect accompaniments for that second great moment of the day – when one returns to bed with the final cup of tea – after the day has run its course, and either (hopefully) fulfilled the promise of the early morning, or proved an ordeal to be gotten through. This time, the cuppa and the wonderfully versatile muffin are accompanied by one’s novel and knitting, rather than the newspaper. There you have it! Life sandwiched in between delightful cups of Lapsang or Earl Grey.
The three toppings shown are Zergut, a zesty spread of sweet peppers; an ersatz Nutella; and a Becca-made tomato marmalade – my favorite. We recently went to our favorite food import store, to get more Nutella, and there was a sign next to an empty shelf which said, “Life is nothing without Nutella.” But they were out and there was no Nutella. An potentially ominous situation!

A joyous day

I am sooooo happy! I was worried about working on Election Night, as I feared making a spectacle of myself if the Other Persons won. Well, they didn’t win and I made a spectacle of myself anyway. When the happy moment came, I was in the room of a sleeping patient whose family told me they would have liked to vote for Sarah Palin for President, and were sad that was not an option. Yikes! These people were very nice, but, I fear, not politically astute. Fortunately, they went home early on. Anyhow, as I went about my job, I kept glimpsing these state returns on my patient's TV's, and they were all red. I was so upset and worried, and when ABC announced that, “Obama is the President-elect!” I started to cry, and could not stop. When I left the room, still crying, a woman came out of a room at the other end of the hall. She was a large, comfortable African woman whom I had not met, but her father’s nurse told me the day before that they were from Africa, and members of the same tribe as Obama’s father, and that the woman had cried with joy when her father was able to vote on a special hospital emergency ballot. I made a happy sign to her, and we rushed down the hall and collapsed into each others’ arms, both in sobbing for joy. One of our nurses, also from the same tribe, and who had greeted me earlier with “Yes, We Can!” joined the heap of sobbing women, and we had wonderful three way hugs. Everyone was jubilant, and I was glad that I was at work after all, and able to share this wonderful moment in our history with my co-workers. On the midnight bus ride home, I saw streets blocked off – filled with people celebrating the end of our national nightmare. Halleluia!!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A mysterious day

The Requiem was as wonderful as anything could be - as wonderful as Christmas even. Every year I get shivers when Mozart’s marvelous opening chords play. To hear it in its intended context, the Mass for the Dead, and to actually participate - it seems as though I am unbelievably blest. And it was so solemn - even the gospel was chanted. I felt the spirits of Tom and my father there, and felt enveloped in them and the music. My mother, on the other hand, really didn’t like this sort of thing – a long sitting in one place (unless it was a bridge table) and with such a crowd of people, so she probably remained in heaven doing whatever they do there - in her case, maybe bidding five hearts and eating those little mints and nuts they have at card parties. But Tom and my dad were definitely present. And having my little Rachael there singing was yet another gift. You can see her in the lowest row of the choir.
These pictures are courtesy of my friend Maria, and you can see her full album here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A uniformly uniform day

My job has decided that we all should be wearing uniform uniforms because patients can better distinguish what our roles are if we all have the same attire. My thought on this is, if they can’t read the huge RN sign beneath our nametags, they probably are not going to grasp the color-coding system either. Also, “patients want color!” they tell us, so we will all be wearing Prussian blue and gray – a very cheery color selection, don’t you think? We had to go and try them on and make our style selection, which I put off doing till the very last minute. I had heard from my coworkers how horrible and cheap the uniforms were, but I was nonetheless totally unprepared for the reality. They are made of plastic material, which, with the frequent washings needed, will be ragged in no time at all. There were various styles of pants and tops in the same colors, but only one dress – white, of course. Since I always wear dresses or skirts to work, that was it for me. My boss, ever the optimist, said, “You will like the dress! It is really cute.” So I thought it might be okay. It was obviously a lot more cute to someone who would never have to wear it. In fact, when I saw what I would be wearing every day for the next several years, I was flummoxed. It was a trip down memory lane, reminding me of the housecoats my mother-in-law bought for about $5 at Woolworth’s many years ago. Or of what the waitresses at The Doghouse might have worn. I am not excited about this new epoch at my job. My mother-in-law, God rest her soul, was a remarkably wonderful woman but not a fashion icon. She is shown here in one of her house dresses – at least it is not white – making noodles for soup. Yummy! Her soup would be a comfort in the sartorially grim days to come.
Addendum: Looking at the picture of Grandma Rossi, I realize that the dress she is wearing is actually nice, and would be an okay nurse dress, and that I cannot find the picture of her in the exact dress (with - shudder - a zipper front) that will be our uniform. That picture is around here somewhere, though.