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Monthly Archives: January 2010

State of the Onion

I originally wrote this post the day after the State of the Union. I had every intention of using this space to help digest Obama’s rhetoric more fully, but truthfully I still don’t think I am proficient enough (or comfortable enough) with blogging to do it justice. So I will say just this:

I felt uplifted by Obama’s elegant prose (who isn’t, really…truly) and then I was punched down like overblown bread dough while listening to commentators and pundits launch into their over-zealous fact checking and general dismissal of his speech by saying that nothing will materialize from his words and that all of our temporary up-liftedness will dissolve away within a few days when we must again, face reality. I am most frustrated by the partisan politic divides that prevent any sort of collaborative work in politics. I applaud Obama for his scolding of both parties and felt shivers run down my spine when he said:

“Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don’t also reform how we work with one another. Now, I’m not naïve. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony and some post-partisan era.

I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years. They’re the very essence of our democracy.

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side, a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can…

…To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.

And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours, as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.

So let’s show the American people that we can do it together.”

Amen, Obama!

I admit, that I was one of those Democrats who, after the initial satisfaction wore off from electing Obama into office, fell into a deeply peaceful slumber that seemed to exculpate me from doing anything political ever again. Obama would fix it. He would fix it all. I could just wait and watch. Or not even watch at all…because soon it would just happen. And then, only a year later, because everything wasn’t “better” here I was beginning to blame Obama for all of our problems. Just like everyone else! The Supreme Court ruling, the MA elections, our economy…now it was all his fault. But it is actually our collective fault. We were tired of working so hard, of feeling so stressed by fighting for what we believed in, we just wanted to take a break. Obama promised us fresh politics, he gave us hope, but he did not give us an infinite vacation from action, activism and advocacy.

Back to work, America! While very little is solved, hope is not lost. We need to start by identifying the things that we can control. And what can we control? Only ourselves, and our own actions.

Think about it. And in thinking about it I will give you some food for thought. Incredible food. Hope-filled. Your taste buds will celebrate and revel in the simplicity of it.

I found this recipe in my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, although apparently Deb wasn’t the first food blogger to rave about it. She cites at least 3 other food bloggers (all also very worthy of your perusal) who have become as enamored by this tomato sauce recipe as she (and I) have. I also had to share this recipe today because it relates oh-so-punnily to Obama’s. Thank you to my incredibly clever sister, Sarah, who is now in Ecuador, for coming up with this deliciously witty title.

3-ingredient Tomato Sauce
Found on Smitten Kitchen. Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking

28 oz whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano was recommended, which I used…found at most supermarkets)

5 Tbs (70 g) unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved

Salt, to taste (I found the salt in the tomatoes to be sufficient for my taste)

Combine the tomatoes, onion and butter in a 3-qt saucepan, over medium heat until it simmers. Lower the heat just enough to keep it at a slow, steady simmer. Cook like this, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, or until droplets of buttery goodness (ok, fat) rise to the top. As you stir, crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. They should be almost completely broken down by the time you finish.

Remove from heat, scoop out the onion (but don’t throw it away, it’s a delicacy now) and add salt, if necessary.

If I make this again, I will definitely double the recipe. One recipe serves 4, but not as liberally as I (and you) will wish for. Add to whatever pasta you wish (I used farro, and it was delicious) and sprinkle with Parmesan (which I actually found unnecessary). I preferred the simplicity of the pasta served naked with the tomato sauce. It’s a flavor explosion.

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Posted by on January 31, 2010 in Main Dishes

 

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And as I promised…

…the bread I am baking.

Matt asked me why I am cooking so much. (Goodness, doesn’t the boy know not to question about his good luck?) We both decided that I am cooking to deal with my stress regarding (1) what Oral Surgery program Matt would get into and (2) what Nurse Practitioner program I will get into. Now that it is just me left, I am keeping my fingers crossed as I knead the bread dough. (Sort of awkward, made me want to crack my knuckles. Didn’t last long.) Cliché perhaps, but I found the kneading very therapeutic. And the sweet yeasty smell of this yummy bread recipe is now making my mouth water incessantly. So, without further ado…

Maple Oatmeal Bread

From the kitchen of “One Perfect Bite” Courtesy of: Bernard Clayton

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
2-1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oil
5 to 6 cups all-purpose/whole wheat flour + flour for kneading

Directions:
1) Place oats in a large bowl. Pour in boiling water. Stir and set aside for 1 hour.
2) Add yeast, syrup, salt and oil to the oats. Add 3 cups of flour and mix well. (I used a 3:1 ratio of whole wheat to all-purpose.) Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until small bubbles form on surface of dough, about 1 hour.
3) Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough comes together. Turn it onto a floured surface and knead, using flour as required, for ten minutes. Dough will still be sticky, but it will form a cohesive mass. Shape dough into 2 loaves and place in 2 greased pans. Cover and let rise another 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
4) Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until bread is brown and sounds hollow when thumped with a finger. Transfer pans to a cooling rack. Brush tops lightly with butter. Remove from pans and cool to room temperature before slicing.

Yield: 2 loaves.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2010 in Breads & Muffins

 

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New Jersey & Cake Bites

What does the state of New Jersey have to do with these tasty little morsels?

Well, let me tell you.

After months and months of waiting in grim anticipation, the waiting game was finally up. Match Day, January 25th, informed thousands of dental school grads whether they had made the cut into their selected specialty program.  Matt and I had pondered all the possible permutations: he would get in (spin the globe, where will we end up?), he won’t get in (try, try again), or I would get in to a few nursing schools and we would choose a place for him to reapply the following year…the possibilities were endless and it was agony to wait. But the 25th brought relief, and yes, SO MUCH excitement. Matt will become an oral surgeon in the state of New Jersey (although, I still say I am moving to New York) and we will be temporarily “closing shop” in Seattle in only a few short months! To celebrate this momentous occasion, I baked these little cake bites (which Matt promptly renamed  Cake Truffles) and brought them to the oh so luxurious “Court Cafe” at the University of Washington, where all the dental kids hang out during lunch. Despite the abysmal sugar content, and near-obsessiveness about keeping their pearly whites in mint condition, the soon-to-be dentists devoured these cute lil’ puppies in mere minutes. Never say no to free food!

Cake Bites

found in: http://buttercakes.squarespace.com. By: Evan Davis, courtesy of Bakerella

A Spoonful of Simple Steps (I am sure that the excitement of my new blog title will wear off soon…)

1) Bake whatever flavor cake you desire. Even cake from a box, which I did.

2) Let it cool, then crumble it all up in a big bowl. Mix in about a cup of frosting (again, your choice – homemade or store-bought) and mix well with your hands.

3) Roll smallish-sized balls of the cake mixture until it is all used up, then chill the balls to help them firm.

4) Melt your favorite chocolate, or combination of chocolates, over a double boiler and dip the balls to your heart’s content. Place on waxed paper or aluminum foil. Decorate now, or after you have chilled the balls. (I poured decorative sprinkles on some and piped contrasting chocolate on others.)

5) Chill cake bites for about 3o minutes, or until the toppings have set.

6) Enjoy! Yum. You can’t feel guilty for have just a “bite.”

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2010 in Desserts

 

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Inaugural post

My inspiration to begin blogging actually began with the old folks. More specifically, it began with the death of one of my residents.

In a world this chaotic I try to remember the good things. I recently began working in Assisted Living. Initially intended purely as nursing experience, meant to fill my time and my wallet (ever-so-slightly), it has become the most dynamic, keep-me-on-my-toes  job experience that I can recall. As I accumulate a small stash of memorable moments, experiences and anecdotes, I feel compelled to not only record them, but to share them as well.  Some days are hard, like in the story I am about to share, but when I remember why I am there and who I am helping, it all feels so right.

Like eating lunch after a long hike...never tastes better

A few days ago, Lynn died. She had been my resident for as long as I had worked at Sunrise, three months in all. It is surprising to me that it could hurt so much after only knowing her for such a short span of time. But one thing I have learned from my time at Sunrise is that care giving is an intimate business.

I grew close to Lynn within days. Probably her most memorable trait is her ability to look at almost anything pessimistically. In a very endearing way. Her health, her dog’s health, the food at Sunrise, the mail that she receives, the tall pile of books that she has yet to read (though she reads nonstop), the plant that came in the mail that was clearly doomed to die: everything. Maybe it is because she was old that it seemed and sounded so cute. More than anything, she loved her dog, Maggie. An incredibly overweight black terrier, Maggie is sweet and always by Lynn’s side which makes an adorable impression when she sits beside Lynn while she is wearing one of her 7 pairs of terrier pajamas. Fairly independent, Lynn didn’t need my help for much. She had survived a rough bout of cancer and fought a battle to survive (even though she wasn’t sure that she wanted to) and recovered so fully that she could get around at 83 with only a 4-pronged cane.

I gave her a hydro every Sunday. I remember feeling so nervous to give my first hydro and I now know that I was lucky to have Lynn to guide me. She created an easy and pleasant experience. It soon became an hour where I could ignore the chatter in my walkie, and draw the steamy bath water instead. We both loved the bubbles. Just before she passed, one of her relatives had gifted her an economy size bottle of Sweet Pea bubble bath, knowing how often she used it. During the hydro I only washed Lynn’s back; she could do the rest. But my presence was essential to the process of the hydro because she talked the entire time. I wish I could include a transcript of one of our conversations but it mostly involved my nodding, shaking my head, and empathizing with things I didn’t always completely hear. I usually understood about 1 word in 3 since the rushing torrent of  bath water muffled her voice dramatically. At first I would ask her to repeat herself until I actually heard but then I realized that I was just interrupting her flow and what she really enjoyed was having someone to talk to. So I listened, soon realizing how much I enjoyed doing just that because even though it felt like doing nothing, it was truly doing something.

When she died I was initially distraught. It seemed to me that she was cheated out of valuable years of life. 83 may sound old but it is not in all people and Lynn still was young in many respects. Yet, I learned that when she first came to Sunrise, she told everyone that she was ready to die. She had just survived cancer and was coming to live in a place that she didn’t think of as home. The bulk of her unhappiness stemmed from the fact that she could no longer care for herself. By the time I came around, she had recovered sufficiently to do most things on her own, an incredible feat. Her strength was impressive and demonstrated that Lynn would not be happy watching her body grow weaker day by day. After her fall, a few days before her death, it became clear that she could not longer function so independently. Maybe this is when Lynn decided that it was the end. She died peacefully, without pain and without giving up her cherished independence.

*All names of all residents are changed*

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2010 in Dealing with Death, Healing Spoonful

 

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Here goes a spoonful of something…

How to begin a blog? I mean, it’s not quite like writing in a journal, so I probably shouldn’t write “Dear Diary” or anything, and I am hopeful that it is entertaining enough for any poor unfortunate souls who happen upon it when it is still in its amorphous & awkward “teenage years.”

I’m still not sure about the content, so bear with me, friends, while I try to find my blog-self…It’s easy enough to talk about my life, and I am finding my stories from working in Assisted Living as fairly entertaining, so maybe I will start there. Followed by the bread that is currently rising on my kitchen counter.

I just felt like adding a picture to spice up the post…
 
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Posted by on January 27, 2010 in Miscellaneous

 

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