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.