Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Pastry

It was well after midnight on Christmas Eve when I realized that not only was I making a yeasted dough (please see my post about the Bread In The Pipes Incident) but that it was a yeasted puff pastry dough and I still had two more "turns" to do and still needed to chill the stuff for an hour before I could carry on. But the pastries (recipe here) were, my husband said, "One of the best things you've ever made". I changed the recipe a bit. What's the deal w/ beating the butter w/ a rolling pin? Nope. God and Cuisinart teamed up to make the food processor for this very reason. And, besides, the kids were in bed and "Santa" was in the living room wrapping presents and drinking beer, so I couldn't wake them up in the name of Following the Recipe Exactly. Sometimes the science of baking has to take a hit to keep the visions of sugar plums dancing and all. And I didn't have cream cheese. I had mascarpone. And there was the panic: Pinch what, fold how? Huh? And yet.... I wanted to put the picture of the little layers of the finished dough with its lovely layers, but I thought the pastries looked better.

Oh, yeah. The score on the accursed paper was increased juuuust enough to get an A in That Class. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


So, the funny thing is, now that I'm on winter break I start wondering, "Can I do it? Can I handle nursing school? Am I tough enough? Do I *really* want to be a nurse?" And, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: idle hands are the work of....Aw, you just need to keep busy during the long break...etc. No. I'm making a quilt for each of my kids (that I want to have finished by Christmas, ho, ho, ho, uh), I'm planning to make five different kinds of candy for the neighbors (plus Christmas sugar cookies the kids can cut out and decorate): almond toffee, peppermint bark, homemade crackerjacks, chocolate-walnut fudge, caramels (I've been wanting to make caramels out of honey for a while. Have you tried it?). I have Christmas shopping to do. I'm in desperate need of a new pair of shoes and some new bras. Have you seen this house? I'm having the family over for brunch on Christmas morning and there are books and notes and clipboards and other finals-studying detritus that are strewn across every horizontal surface waiting to be shelved in shelf-spaces that don't exist or burned (depending) in a fireplace I don't have. Sigh. So, no, it's not that I've suddenly been granted all of this time and head-space to contemplate nursing school and nursing and what do I think I'm doing. It's..

just not fair. I turned in a group paper (remember the Constipation project?) and it was marked down to a C. And points were taken off for things that were included in the paper. And this was by the instructor who (pretty much) put smile-y faces and "great job" on very other paper, who told me, "Don't worry about it." when I asked about the mysterious "Appendix B" in the rubric (I want to spell that w/ a "k" instead of a "c". Is it just me? Is this-the rubric- a new school thing. I don't remember rubrics twenty years ago. Does it have something to do with Powerpoint, also a non-thing twenty years back...). Word on the street: Smiley-face teacher gave everyone 100 on the paper and was told she needed to be more critical. My guess: she took random points off rather than re-read the paper. Stopped reading any emails from students. My group has turned to the head of the program for a re-grade. Someone, I'm told, who worries a lot about "Appendix B".

So, who cares right? Let it go. Because of this paper I got a B in That Class. The one I barely endured. And I got an A on the final, but only because my friend, "S", made excrutiatingly detailed notes and gave me a copy. And, the other sucky thing= I was responsible for finishing up the paper and I deemed it "good" (that should read "B" to anyone taking notes, but was "Great Paper" and smiley faces for that instructor). So my group goes down with me. And that leads me to the peppermint bark. Pictured up there is the toffee. I'm not going to get into the toffee with you. It's good, real good, but if you haven't already made toffee before I don't want you to curse at me. You'll be stirring the sugar-y goo and it will take twenty minutes to get to the hard-ball stage rather than 10 and, if you're an idiot like me, you'll be using a meat thermometer to take the temp (it has a 5 inche pointy probe so you have to hold the thing with one hand and stir with the other and that thermometer hand is hovering pretty close to a goo that is registering 300+ degrees and it's bubbling like a mud pit in Yellowstone NP), and it's a rainy day which, apparently, in the candy-making world= potential for doom markedly increased because it's not the heat it's the humidity. sigh.

Anyways, we're on break here, people! We're not doing science. We're not measuring anything! We're stirring something up and slapping it down and letting it cool and eating it.

Here. Peppermint Bark.

About a pound of white chocolate broken into pieces(I know what I said about white chocolate, the peppermint counterbalances its evil) - not the chips, they melt funky

around half a pound of semisweet chocolate, small pieces- chips are fine

two or three splashes of cream (I dunno, 6 Tbsp)

one lid's worth of peppermint extract

10ish smashed candycanes or 30 or 40 crushed up round peppermints

Line a cookie sheet with parchement paper
melt white chocolate in double boiler (mine is a random saucepan at a crazy angle in another random saucepan with about an inch of water in it over medium-low heat)
pour half of it onto parchement spread it out with a spatula (but not all the way to the edge) add about half the crushed candy, spead evenly,and chill 'til firmish in fridge.
melt chocolate combined w/ peppermint extract and cream in "double boiler" and combine 'til smooth. Working quickly, pour the chocolate over the white chocolate, spread w/ spatula and fridge 'til firm (um, half an hour?). Re-melt the rest of the white chocolate and working even quicklier (I was slow and the top layer of white chocolate melted some of the real chocoalte and turned my top layer light brwon, but still tasty) pour and spread white chocolate over real chocolate layer and spread. Add the rest of the crushed candy. Fridge until firmish. Use the parchement to lift it out of the cookie sheet and put it onto a cutting board. Remove parchement. Use a sharp knife to cut it into pieces (keep it right side up or you'll make a mess).
This is sooooooooo goood.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is It Thursday Yet?

Ah, finals week. During my first tour of college around twenty years ago I would stay up all night studying. I'd drag my sleepy, studied butt into class and take whatever test it was and then stay up all the next night re-loading for the next test. I can't do that anymore. Can you say, "Almost forty."? Can you count the two kids over there? Chances are with the two of 'em, one will wake me up w/ a bad dream and one will have forgetten the How To Put On Your Own Blanket at 3 AM training session that we've gone over and over world without end anyways. And, so, I'll be up and bleary-eyed the next day anyways.

So, here's the deal, when you're old like me and you're busy like me and you go back to school the second time around you have to do it right. You do the reading when it's assigned. You start studying for the hard tests *at least* a week before the test. You show up to every class. You take The World's Best Notes (in part because all the note-taking keeps you awake!). You annoy the hell out of your fellow students by asking a million questions if you don't understand something. And that leads me to That Class: Nursing Theory. It will be my final final for this quarter and it's this Thursday. That test is the only thing that stands in the way of the completion of this first quarter in nursing school. And I have done NONE of the things I've just mentioned. Someone recently used the word "endure" to describe what it takes to get throught that class. I haven't endured. I've flaked. And I don't even care.

My pathophysiology final was today. I did, indeed, practice my exemplary busy mom study habits for that one. Still, hard test. My friend, S., came to class and informed me that I could get 13 wrong and still get an A in the class. It's good to have friends who figure these things out in their spare time! So, here's my list of the 5 diseases (not counting infectious diseases -um, ew, guinea worms!) I do not want to get in ascending order from, uh, "best" to worst:

5. Right-sided heart failure. There's something about all-over edema that really creeps me out.

4. Cirrhosis of the liver. You get varices (extra blood vessels) that can burst, especially in the esophagus. And, well, we're back to edema, especially in the abdomen.

3. Pancreatitis. Two words (or is it one?): auto-digestion.

2. Chronic renal failure. It's the edema, again. And this time it's in the lungs. And the urea build up. You can get a "uremic frost" wherein your skin is coated w/ crystals of urea like a dusting of candy-sugar or light snow. And it smells like pee. You wipe it off. It comes back.

1. Diabetes. It's the number one cause of renal failure, but it's not just that, it's that many of the complications occur because you're all sugary. Sugar literally gums up the works and causes everything from blindness to artheriosclerosis. And the infections! You are the perfect sugary breeding ground for bacteria.

Ooops. I left alzheimers off of the list. Oh, and hemorrhagic stroke. I should have done a top ten, but I need a break from pathofizz for a while. I have to spend time not studying for my last final.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The End is Near...Let's Bake!

There may, indeed, be something wrong with my brain. I have finals this week and next and I've spent all my "spare" time baking and cooking rather than studying. I just can't get around to it. My daughter's 6th birthday was today and making her tasty cupcakes and setting up a make-your-own pizza dinner was more important to me than doing well on tomorrow's nutrition test. And they *were* tasty cupcakes (recipe below).

I had my first final on Monday in Skills Lab. I had a horrible night's sleep the night before and I barely studied. I really felt like I knew my stuff. I've been watching the DVDs (Hygeine! Asepsis! (Oh No, It's) Bowel Elimination!), I've done the reading. But the test was horrible. Horrible! It had questions on the manufacturing instructions for glucometers. What are trocanter rolls and what do they have to do with patients in a coma (the question of the day)? After the test I asked one of the instructors. "Oh, you'll learn that *next* quarter." Um. It was, apparently, a test on premonition skills. But the worst part was the random skills part of the test. This was the doing part of the test and I thought I had it down cold, had it wired, had it in the bag etc. But the instructor handed me the card with the instructions on it and the four (hey, they told us three, see, here in the syllabus...) skills I had to perform and then snatched it away from me and gave me grumpy looks and muttered comments while I did my thing. I asked, "Um, aren't rectal temperatures contraindicated for end-stage AIDs patients?" and she grumbled something and had me do it anyways (I think she was hoping I would miss that so she could pounce on me for it.). Let me back up. Some of us were doing our skills on another student, but I got the mannikin (complete with place for rectal thermometer!). So while everyone else was chatting w/ their fellow nursing students and happily doing vital signs I was giving a bed bath to a mannikin with Growly Instructor glaring away at me. I knew the night before that I would have to make an occupied bed. I worked so hard on making beds (I'm not, uh, by trade, much of a bed maker) and it was the one skill I really improved on. I've nver practiced making a bed with gloves on (AIDs patient, er, mannikin, though, remember?) and it must have taken me a half an hour. It wasn't terrible. You should have seen some of my mitered corners before, though. I was so flinging proud of 'em. These just hung there like lasagna noodles stuck to the pan. Growly was not impressed and told me so. I tried to look at the instruction card and she was trying to hide it from me. Then she told me to write something down. "What?" "Here," she said, flashing the card at me, "you have to document it." Um. " uh, document what?" And the card was waving around again, but she wouldn't let me look at it. I wrote down 300 mL of urine ( I had to empty a "Foley" - the bag that catches urine from a catheterized patient. A skill that I never practiced and was shown once 2 minutes before class let out one day in October). I wrote down (on a scrap of paper, mind you) 38 degrees C, rectal temp (I figured that's a good temp for a mannikin w/ a fever) and I handed it to her. She scribbled down something in my permanent record and I went into the other classroom where the untested students were sitting. "Geez, what did they have you do in there?!" people asked. I was in there for an hour and fifteen minutes. And, just chatting with a group of people I started randomly crying. Does that ever happen to you? You're just chatting all of a sudden tears are slipping out of your eyes before you can stop them. Not about the test. I'm just overwhelmed which leads me to the cupcakes.

Make These Cupcakes

I stole this recipe from, but it's for some sort of cake w/ apricot this and such and I've turned them into the perfect kid party white cupcake.

8 oz imported (read: Lindt) white chocolate (I don't like white chocolate either, but it works in these cupcakes)
2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 1/4 tsp non aluminum baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk (I used low fat)

preheat oven to 350.
spray oil muffin tins (will make more than 12 cupcakes, maybe even 24)
Melt white chocolate in a double boiler (my "double boiler" is a smaller saucepan in a larger saucepan with the flame on the stove down low). Sift flour, b.powder and salt. Cream butter and sugarin mixer 'til fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternatively with milk in 3 additions, beating after each one and blending until well-combined after each addition. Add melted white chocolate. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in tins for 20 minutes before removing. I frost 'em with cream cheese frosting, but you can use your favorite.

Picture is of my daughter's cake from her party Sunday.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's All in Your Head

Neurologic disorders are always really fun to learn about. Raise your hand if you've ever thought you had a brain tumor. See? And some of the symptoms are things that happen to you all the time. Are you ever fatigued? Have a headache? What's that ringing in your ears (is it *really* someone talking about you or could it be...)? A little more forgetful than usual? In pathophysiology we had our first neurologic disorders lecture and the loveliest thing about it for me, personally, is that I was suffering from one of the worst migraines I've had in months. It was one of those migraines wherein everything looked like it was backlit by a soft glow and I just wanted to throw up even if that would only offer a moment of relief from the nausea. So the lecture was on head trauma and disorders of extra cerebral spinal fluid (that's CSF for those of you taking notes). There are two types of head trauma in the world: closed and open (and if you have to choose one, pick closed. I don't want to go into infection and skull fragments here). It sure felt like I had something jabbing into my brain and I was wondering if I had one large swirly-gigging pupil and one normal one and almost turned to the person next to me and said, "Can you make sure I don't lose consciousness?" Apparently, with a head injuy you want to keep the person awake so that you can monitor their level of consciousness. You can ask, "What's your name?" and check them for crazy pupils. My sister often draws people with one big swirly/googly eye and one regular eye. And that's the way it is with head trauma, so I have learned. It would have been a good day for a lecture on endocrine disorders, but, with The Migraine From Hell, the last thing I wanted to hear about was things going wrong with the head and brain.

We had our last Skills Lab before our test. We got to give each other bed baths. We all wore or brought shorts and our own towels to class. It was one of those class times when you really cross your fingers for a good lab partner (oh, please not the Grumpy Woman who pumps the blood pressure cuff past 200!). And, you know, it was kind of pleasant having someone else brush my teeth and wash my feet. But it's only because I didn't Grumpy Woman as a partner.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Ooops. I forgot to post on Wednesday. I was too busy chopping vegetables and baking. Now I've lost all three of you, my loyal readers. One of the best parts about the Thanksgiving holiday was skipping That Class to go to the Farmers Market. The funny thing about going to the Farmers Market two days before Thansgiving is that it is not any more crowded than it is any other time of year, but if you go to your usual grocery store the lines go all the way down the aisles and the wait is about an hour. You get to check out what other people have in their carts and spend a lot of time staring at the canned goods and thinking, "Huh, who knew you could get *that* canned....?" and that leads me to bread. I have to confess that I haven't made yeast bread for over a decade. The last experience was so bad I have been too scared: I was visiting my folks when in my twenties and decided to make a loaf of bread. Got it together, kneaded it by hand, and left it to rise on the back of the stove. Came back either minutes or hours later and it hadn't changed a bit so I threw it in the sink and shoved it into the garbage disposal and went home. Turns out, the warm pipes were the *perfect* place for the dough to rise. It did and required a price-y visit from a plumber. ooops. And last week I wanted to serve bread with a vegetable gratin for dinner and had only 3 slices left in the bag (and, well, besides, I've been disgruntled with the quality of sandwich bread available these days). I made the whole wheat walnut bread on the back of the King Arthur flour bag. There's the picture. It was very tasty. Next time I'll let it rise a little bit longer, but it made perect sandwiches the next day.

This quarter is almost finished. I'll be 1/8 of the way finished with nursing school. That sounds pretty crappy, but after next quarter I'll be 1/4 of the way there and, hey, well, shoot, that sounds pretty crappy, too. I haven't been studying. I'm daydreaming about baking bread and what kind of cake I'll make for my daughter's sixth birthday. And what's with the baking and the nursing school? I've never really been a big baker, more of a cook. A little of this and a little of that and -voila!- it's tasty on a plate. Baking, though, it's a science. A little too much flour and the wrong-sized pan and -sad violin music- all that work for nothing. They say that nursing is an art and a science. Maybe I'm working on the science part of my brain these days. I don't know.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Make These Biscuits NOW!!!

Part of the reason I'm putting out this recipe is because the one I cut out of Cook's Illustrated magazine a couple of years ago is falling to pieces. It has so many tack holes from being consistantly pinned to my kitchen bulletin board and so many stains from buttermilk splashes. I want to preserve the recipe here. These are the foolproof biscuits; delicious and easy to make. Perfect for Thanksgiving and for making sandwiches the next day.

Buttermilk Biscuits of The Gods


2 cups unbleached AP flour
1 TBsp baking powder (non-aluminum to prevent that acrid flavor that comes w/ lots of bp)
1 TBsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 TBsp (1/2 a standard stick) of cold unsalted butter, cut into little cubes
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk (can be made by using milk and adding a TBsp of vinegar to it, but the real stuff is better)

For Forming Biscuits

1 cup unbleached AP flour
2 TBsp unsalted butter, melted

Heat oven to 500 degrees F. Spray 9 inch round cake pan w/ oil (can rub generously w/ melted butter instead). Spray or butter inside and outside of 1/4 cup dry measuring cup and set in pan.

In food processor, pulse the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, baking soda) to combine - about six 1-second pulses. Scatter cold butter cubes evenly over dry ingredients and pulse until mix resembles course cornmeal, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to medium-large bowl. Add the buttermilk and mix w/ a rubber spatula until just incorporated. It'll be a messy, lumpy, wet batter. That's ok.

Spread the 1 cup of flour onto a baking sheet. Using your greased 1/4 cup measure, scoop up a glob of batter and drop it into the flour on the baking sheet. Use a spoon to free the dough if it sticks (sez the original recipe, I use my finger and do it quickly. The point is keeping the dough as cold as possible to allow the still solid butter to melt into little airy pockets in the oven, right?). Repeat w/ the rest of the batter. You'll make 12 biscuit-mounds. Flour your hands and gently and quickly pick up a dough lump and coat it w/ a little four, shake off the excess and put it in the cake pan. Repeat, going around the inside edge of the pan in a circle w/ 9 biscuit lumps. Three biscuit lumps go in the center. Brush or drizzle with melted butter and put in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, reduce oven temp to 450 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes. They'll be a lovely golden brown. Remove from oven, cool in pan for 2 minutes. Invert biscuits, carefully, onto a clean kitchen towel and break them apart and place them upright. Cool for 5 minutes. Eat. Sooooooooo goooooood!

No picture. Sorry. The picture is of a club near Nursing School U. The sign has, clearly, been changed to reflect the "current" decade at least once. Thus is the town of Nursing School U.

And I've changed the settings. You can now post a comment without registering for the site. Give it a try.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Student Nurses Milling Around

There we are, a clod of student nurses. Yes. I'm the Old One. They make us dress in white so that a) we will blind people w/ our brilliant clothes and they won't notice that we don't know what we're doing and b) people will know that we're students and don't know what we're doing. Take your pick. We went back to an "elder care facility" to do our "teaching". Remember I told you about going and taking elder folks' blood pressures and such? We had to gaze at our data and decide what we wanted to teach the elder folks about and our "nursing diagnosis" (glad you're keeping up with me on this!) was "constipation" and "risk for constipation". Pretty easy to teach about, right? So we spent hours hunched over images of colons, rifling through info about constipation-inducing drugs, banging out brochures and and science-fair-style posterboard making (look at the lovely colors!) and (my three-year-old said the other day, "Drum roll, mommy,") only three people showed up. We were a cluster (herd? school? flock? pride?) of about twenty white-clad and eager students w/ our various posterboards, our brochures, our snacks (did I mention our tasty high-fiber food selection? The other presenters had food, too, though I have to question licorice as a food choice.), info in hand and brain ready to go and hardly anyone came! Arg! Maybe it was our "pick-up line": "So, are you constipated?" Maybe it was our bright posterboards or eager faces. Maybe it was because it was Veteran's Day and people had better things to do. We mostly stood around snacking on high-fiber foods and chatting. I had a great conversation about constipation with one very attentive elderly woman. I then learned that she had late-stage Alzheimers. Sigh.

I'll try and post a Thanksgiving recipe for you before next week. Do you want something sweet or savory?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Process

So I may be poised to get my first B on a test since my second go-round in school and the worst part of it is that the B may be a C. It's That Class again. And, here's the problem: it's important information. It's pretty much How To Be a Nurse (you know, in the head). Here's how to communicate. Here's how people develop. Here's what you can expect from a typical eight-year-old. What are the symptoms of anxiety? How to care. How to comfort. What the heck *is* a nurse anyways? And some of it is kind of snazzy info, too. Like nursing diagnoses. As a nurse I can diagnose people with Risk for Powerlessness, Spiritual Distress, Fear, and Disturbed Energy Field. And unlike medical diagnoses (asthma, depression) you can actually resolve a lot of the problems you diagnose as a nurse! Or, well, at least that's what they say. There's lots of things you can do for Hopelessness and, heck, you don't have to be a nurse to cure someone with Deficient Diversional Activity! And you can see things coming, too, in nursing. You can diagnose people with a risk for....Social Isolation or Ineffective Denial.

So why can't I get it straight? Why can't I focus in this class? And it may just be me having trouble. Everyone else walked out of the test looking heavenward and sighing, "That was much easier than I thought it would be." I left thinking, "Crap, I can kiss a future MSN ba-bye." And not only am I The Virtually Undisputed Queen of Calm and Quick Test-Taking (come *on*, you know me: I'm unflappable in the test world, right?) but I'm also She, Formerly of Liberal Artsdom. Heck, it's ALL about theory there. I should be getting this stuff. I got it before! Could it be that my aging brain is now all about Science and Math (uh, ok, maybe not math. We'll talk later)? Have I lost all patience for anything that is not straightforward, not linear? Could it be the D I got in psychology 20 years ago? It can't all be the miserable room and the confuso-teaching team. It can't all be the unfocused wandering from subject to subject. Some of it has to Just...Not...Getting...It. "Hi, I'm your nurse. I can take your blood pressure, but I can't comfort you because I forgot Erikson's 20 Stages of Whatever It Is That He Broke Into Stages."


Is there any more perfect category of food than Hand Food? Ah, calzones. Put whatver you want in 'em and they say Dinner. I like olives, mozarella cheese, fresh pasta sauce (see recipe previously posted; I'm making the same thing now, but using canned tomatoes), and sauteed mushrooms. How about broccoli? I've used vegetarian pepperoni. Provolone? Carmelized onions? It's your calzone. You decide. Here's the dough. It's ripped off from Deborah Madison. I wont tell if you use store bought, but it' *so* easy to make your own!

Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast (it's about a package)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (gives it a nice toothsomeness)
3 cups AP flour and then some (up to 1/2 a cup)

Add yeast to 1/2 cup of very warm water. Set aside and let foam. It could take 10 minutes. Sometimes my kitchen is too cold and it doesn't happen and I use it anyways and, so far, the yeast has dome the right thing when asked to.

Add the rest of the water, the olive oil, the salt and beat in the ww flour. I use the dough hooks on my mixer. You could do this part w/ a spoon. Add the AP flour and mix until you get a shaggy dough. (You can do this by hand and just knead and knead until it comes together. ) Turn out onto a well-floured surface and mix, adding dough, until you get a relatively smooth, but still semi-sticky dough.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and turn it to coat. Cover it w/ a towel and allow to rise until doubled in size. It takes my chilly kitchen an hour to do this. I've started putting it into the oven after I've heated it to 150 and then turned it off and this works well. Still takes an hour.
Preheat oven to 450.

Remove dough form bowl and cut into eight pieces (you can do 6, but those calzones are monsters and will scare the children). Flatten each ball into a disc a using a rolling pin. sprikle them with a wee bit o' flour and let them rest on the counter while you prepeare the filling ingredients.

Mound filling onto half of the disc, leaving some edge free of stuff. Brush a little water on the edge, fold the top part over the filling and roll the edges shut. Do this well or your ingredients will leak all over the place. Bake until golden about 15 to 20 minutes. Brush w/ olive oil and sprinkle w/ parmesan. Your family will diagnose you with Good Dinner-making.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Kidneys, Don't Fail Me Now!

So That Class. Today the hum of the fluorescent lights combined w/ the whine from the instructor's microphone in a way that made me feel like I was going to throw up. I don't know if anyone would have noticed. We're all hypnotized by the overly wordy Powerpoint (I'll make it one word this time) slides and the information which made no sense. People tried to ask questions, but they were deflected by Confuso-instructor as she motored on and on at a pace that was too slow to render her speech into a soothing drone. That Class is Contemporary Nursing and I enjoy *not* doing the reading because it makes the mixed bag o' lectures a little more exciting. What'll it be this time: Piaget's cognitive theories? Anxiety? Or The Adaptive Exchange Model? The latter is something made up by someone at Nursing School U and is the flow chart/model that will help us to better help our patients. Arrows are pointing here and there and it's water in/ water out (or, wait, that's the fluid intake/ output we were supposed to track that led to my belief that I have impending kidney failure and, no, it's not because we're looking at diseases of the kidneys in pathophysiology right now and, all right, you don't want to hear about pee anymore) and when I asked, "What are you talking about?" to the Other Instructor Who Teaches the Class (the one who talks so fast it has become a whole new language, because, yes, the class is taught by *two* instructors on alternating days because it's not insane enough otherwise) she said, "Oh, you should have seen the other guy's theories! You'll be thanking us for our lovely theory. At least it fits on ONE PAGE." Except the other guy is not a guy she's a nun. And now that this is all clear to you (just as clear as it is to me!) I have a great muffin recipe for you. This one is soooo easy and sooo tasty! I stole it from a random web site and modified it to make it less healthy and more tasty.

Mini Apple Nut Muffins

2 grated apples
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of butter
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 cup of milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups of AP or cake flour
1 TBsp non-aluminum baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Spray mini muffin tin w/ oil or butter lightly.

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine flour, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.

Put first 6 ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to simmer. Cover w/ lid, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the milk. Add the eggs.

Mix wet and dry ingredients.

Stir in walnuts.

Fill muffin tins w/ batter. It wont quite make 24 so put a 1/4 inch of water into empty tins. Bake for 10 minutes or until toothpick comes back almost clean.

I don't have a picture of them. They were eaten too quickly. Those are pumpkin guts.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cups O' Pee

Nice title. Now you wont try my corn muffins, will you?

So, every nursing student blog has the gratuitous photo of the required books stacked to the heavens and, heck, who am I to go against the genre? So there it is. The quarter in the lower left is to give the behemoth some scale. And, I'll add here, I did not fluff this stack up with any extraneous textbooks from, say, Anatomy or Microbiology, though I have them around and I use them all of the time. And, I must say here, most of these books have tissue thin pages and fonts of a size I thought unreadable for their microscopity a few months ago. Um, maybe I still think they're unreadable, but the flow charts in some of these books! Oh, the flow charts. They are...baffling/beautiful. And, for your information, the book buying is not done. That's just this quarter (not the one for scale, the one that is a breakdown of the academic year).

I had my first clinical last Friday. We went to an elder care facility and took blood pressure and glucose readings on some folks. And then we interviewed them. A good time was had by all and I only had to re-do two out of the three "client's" glucose tests. And two out of my three "clients" had high readings which made me feel a little sad about the festive and out-sized donuts sitting there gleaming w/ sugary coatings. They were brought by my instructor. Whoops. The quarter for scale would have been itsy bitsy next to those monster-donuts. They would have eaten the quarter.

My favorite class is Skills Lab. We get to do fun stuff like: blood pressure readings until you're blue at the fingertips! Make an unoccupied bed! Make an occupied bed (oooooh!)! Poke your lab partner's fingers for glucose tests! Do it again because you were too chicken to press hard enough and they were whining when you tried to "milk" the blood out of the first stabbing! The real fun was perineal care on the mannikins. They have interchangeable genitals so you can practice washing the man and then - switcherooneee - washing the woman. It's a Code Brown! And then there was peeing in cups. We had to practice dipstick readings w/ our urine. And the bathroom is a quarter mile down the hall. On the way from the bathroom w/ full cups we could just pretend we had small drinks, but on the way back down the hallway to empty the cups o' pee we were wearing our gloves and it was pretty obvious that the cups did not contain beverage.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Corn Muffins: Mini!

I've been making a lot of mini muffins 'round here of late. It's nice to have something to give to the kids first thing in the morning and a mini muffin makes a perfect kid-sized snack. Sometimes the kids help make the muffins. We've done blueberry (not the best for mini-mizing - something about the big blueberries does ungood things to the texture), pecan, lemon poppyseed, banana nut (I process the nuts in the food processor for the fussy eater. The fussy eaters always have a thing about texture), and Cleanin' Out the Cupboard muffins (coconut, oatmeal, walnut - good, but half of 'em fell apart coming out of the tin).

The corn muffins have been the biggest hit. I adapted them from a Bobby Flay recipe that I found on the Food Network website. That recipe used blue corn and jalapenos (Fussy is not going to eat blue food or spicy food. nope. not happening). These things are almost a meal.

Best Mini Corn Muffins

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup mild cheddar, grated
3 ounces cream cheese (I just used some grated mozarella instead, but the ones I did w/ cream cheese were great, too)
1 cup All Purpose flour
1 cup corn meal (I used whole grain corn meal)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I used aluminum-free baking powder. Perhaps healthier, but it eliminates that odd bitter baking powder flavor you can get when using such a large amount)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs poppy seeds (optional)

preheat oven to 375.
Spray muffin tins w/ oil or butter them generously (that cheese makes the muffins clingy). Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add milk. Mix well. Add cheeses and mix well. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add to batter a cupfull at a time and mix after each addition just until barely combined. Stir in poppyseeds if you're using 'em.

Fill mini muffin tins a little more than half full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick in the center comes out clean. Color is not an indication of doneness. Do not overbake.

These made about 30 mini muffins. You could also make it into a cornbread in a 9X9 pan or do full sized muffins.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


There are a LOT of things that can go wrong with the heart. And I'm going to be tested on that tomorrow. I've already filled half a notebook (5 subject even) w/ notes in my pathofizz class.

So, I'm crammed into overheated, windowless rooms (4 out of 5 of my classes are in windowless classrooms - you do the math) with the same goup of 64 people. Sometimes we're broken up into smaller groups, but it's still the same people. And their quirks and annoying qualities are starting to show. I found myself being really grumpy about some of them ("man, she's annoying!" "shaddup already!" "Quit jabbing my finger w/ a needle!"). Maybe it's the lack of sleep. Maybe it's that I am dying (Right Now. As I Type This.) of several different and, possibly, unrelated heart ailments, but some folks in Nursing School are a little pesky. There's Hat Woman. She ALWAYS has something to say. And it's ALWAYS self-referential. There's Woman With Ill Boyfriend. She ALWAYS has something to say and it's ALWAYS about her boyfriend and his health ailments. There's Drunken Party Gal. Ok, she's not ACTUALLY drunk during class (um, I hope), but she ALWAYS has something to say and it's ALWAYS a question about drinking LOTS and LOTS of alcohol. Aside: she also went on and on, at one point, in a conversation I participated in with her, about the directions she ABSOLUTELY refuses to drive in. I only remember that she wont go south. (I don't really want to go south, either, but I will, at least, DRIVE south.) And then there's Odd Eating Habits Woman. She - IN PUBLIC - ate an apple and spit out the peel into a plastic baggy because -get this- she is worried about the pesticides on the skin. Um. Ick. Then there's Insensitive Guy (one of the rare fellas in the program) who always has some sort of comment that offends at least one person, but, more often, the whole class. Example: "I mean, come on, the guy's 41. He shouldn't be playing BASKETBALL! He should be creaking around in a golf cart." I've missed some people. But, here's the deal. I've started looking for good things about the people who annoy me the most. Hat Woman? She's really friendly and, even though it's the same hat every day, it suits her. She of Ill Boyfriend? She's got some nice tattoos. Drunken? She's got an infectious liveliness to her (there's a there there). And, heck, we've all gotta have boundaries. ApplePeel? She's lovely, smart and elegant. Maybe it's not all bad. But next time my lab partner pumps up the blood pressure cuff past 190 (I think my finger tips popped) and gives me high blood pressure ("uh, 120 over 90?") I think more than my fingers might pop!

That's a picture of popcorn the kids picked at The Harvest Festival this weekend. We'll pop it for Thanksgiving. It has to dry first. Ask me about my failed pretzels!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

That Class and Tomato Sauce

My Contemporary Nursing Class is this amorphous blob of a class taught by two very different instructors. Neither instructor ever talks to the other instructor or that's how it seems. It gets worse (remember, this is the class where they gave everyone $20? I asked, "How bad could it be?"..): it's held in a room with no windows. The room is painted stark white and the starkness is interupted by smudges on the wall. I don't clean my floors very often, but I got some sort of good housekeeping diploma (suitable for framing) when my floors were compared to the floor in this classrooom. I think the coffee cup lids are actually permanently imbedded in floor-scum. I'm afraid to put my backpack down. It may never come up again, but the room is so crowded, well, I have no choice. There is a constant hum from the cheap-ass flourescent lights above and there's an almost imperceptable machine-whine from the computer monitor that assists The World's Dullest Teacher in displaying her Power Point (is that one word?) slides w/ perky old-fashioned traingle-hat wearing nurse images tucked into corners and what may (or may not) be an outline of what WDT is blahblahblahhing about up there. Oh, right. It's either about Florence Nightengale, Don't Date Your Patients, or The Nursing Process, but it all blends into the hum and the whine and the scum and the windlowlessness so she could be reading from the phonebook and I'd be equally engaged. The woman next to me writes on her notebook, "Kill Me Now" and angles it my way.

And then there's the tomato sauce. Those are san marzano tomatoes from the farmers market. And This Is The Best Sauce Ever:

8 to 12 tomatoes or so
Small onion: chopped real fine
2 cloves o' garlic: smashed or pressed
2 Tablespoons of fresh basil
splash of olive oil
salt and pepper
dash of red pepper flakes

Saute onion and garlic in splash of olive oil until softened (I dunno, five minutes)
Peel tomatoes by immersing them in boiling water for 10 seconds and then peeeling skin off with your fingers. Ouch to you if you have any cuts on your fingers, but it makes the sauce better to not have curls of tomato skin in it. Seed the tomatoes by cutting them in half and scooping out the seeds w/ your finger. Whir the seedless, skinless tomatoes in your blender or food processor until smooth (or chop it in chunks if you want a chucky sauce). Add the tomatoes to the onion. Add the basil, salt, pepper and red pepper and let this simmer over low heat for 20 minutes or so until thickened and tasty. This is so good over pasta w/ scraping of parmesan and it's fabulous in calzones if allowed to thicken appropriately. Even better, let the sauce sit in the fridge overnight and re-heat it. Now you're talking!

These tomatoes came from Tip Top Produce. The farmer who grew them just killed herself at age 38 and this will probably be the last sauce I make w/ her enormously delicious tomatoes. So very sad.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Asepsis!: A Review

Movie Review: Aspepsis! +

One of my textbooks (aside: I spent more on textbooks this quarter than on tuition! Don't try this at home, kids!) is actually a set of DVDs about nursing skills. My favorite so far is the one entitled Asepsis!+

The scenario is that three nursing students are learning how to keep things clean. We learn how to remove soiled gloves, how to keep a sterile field (DO NOT let your hands drop below waist level!) and Proper Handwashing Technique. I give the "film" three stars (out of a possible five). The action never ceases, the actors are perky and semi-believable (though the actors playing patients are a little too bit tidy and overly-friendly to be real patients) and the cast is diverse to a fault. There's the funny Asian American Guy Nursing Student! There's the amicable African American Gal Nursing Student! There's the patient Older White Gal Nursing Student (hey, I thought, that could be me...if I was tall and thin and had an assymetrical bob-do)! The conflict in the film comes about when a slovenly nurse is leaving the room of a patient who has an antibiotic resitant infection and she's NOT WEARING PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (which is up to and including a full on plastic mask) when confronted by the Amicable African American Nursing Student she (just about ) pops her gum and (actually) says, "What..ever." Next we find Amicable talking to her nursing instructor about it. I don't want to spoil the ending for you. Suffice it to say, you'll have to see it in the theater.

Next: I review the American Psychological Association's writing format.

+ The exclamation point was added by me, Student Nurse, for extra drama

Friday, September 29, 2006

First Day of School

Yesterday was my first day of Nursing School. I shuffled from a PE class (oh, sorry Nursing School calls it "kinesiology" class), to Nutrition (Apparently you *are* what you eat), to Pathophysiology (that's diseases to you and me) to, uh, some other class. I was so tired at that point I can only call it The Class In The Room With No Windows Whose Climate Control Is Operated By Someone With An Undermedicated Thyroid Disorder. But I was given a crisp twenty dollar bill almost as soon as I sat down ("sign here," they said)+, so how bad can the class be...? Did I mention the climate control? Yes? Bad.

So I heard that there are many people in midlife making career changes to nursing. So, where are they? Not at Nursing School U where I am going. Nope. There are maybe 5 people out of 65 over the age of 30, I'd say.

Apples. Do you know what that means? No more peaches. And pretty soon tomatoes will be gone, too. I'm sorry. Apples don't stand in for peaches and tomatoes for wonderful. The apple tree in my folks' backyard fell down. It was host to many delicious apple pie apples. No. It was a golden delicious tree. Who knew that golden delicious apples make the Best Apple Pie in The World. Yep. Mom's apple pie.

+ so, the school decided to pay for my malpractice insurance and, apparently, the twenty clam was money I'd given them at Nursing School orientation

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Refrigerator Pickles

I want to eat sandwiches all day long so that I have an excuse to eat these homemade refrigerator pickles. I used this recipe:

1 Pound Pickling Cucumbers (about 8)
1 cup of water
1 cup white distilled vinegar of 5% acidity
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon slightly crushed dill seed
1 teaspoon slightly crushed mustard seed
1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh dill
4 cloves whole garlic, peeled

Combine cukes (I sliced 'em into rounds, you could leave 'em whole or slice 'em lengthwise), water, vinegar, sugar, salt, dill seed, mustard seed, peppercorns and red pepper in a large bowl.

Let it sit for four hours

Four hours later, place fresh dill (I choped it just a little) and whole garlic in a clean wide-mouthed jar (I used a big bowl w/ a tight-fitting lid). Remove cukes from brine and put them in the jar and cover them w/ the brining liquid (I included the seeds and such). Refrigerate for TWO WEEKS.

The first time I made these I used celery seed instead of dill seed. The question was: sliced or not sliced? I sliced 'em. The hardest part was having to wait for two weeks for the things to cure in the fridge. I tasted them after four hours and they were very cucumbery, but after a week they were more pickly (but still had a cucumberyness to them) after two weeks they were the best pickles EVER. A little spice-y and nice and crisp!