Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Suddenly In Perspective

Last Thursday, tragedy struck my small suburban upper middle class town.

Unfortunately, this tragedy seems all too familiar; it’s the sixth time something like this has occurred in the past four years.

A teenage life cut short. A family torn apart. A community rallying to lend support. The reality that each day should be lived like it’s the last reinforced to all.

Since I began my freshman year in college, there have been five other deaths in our small town.

*E.K. hit a tire lying in the middle of the road while driving home at night that sent his SUV flying into a tree and burst into flames. He was 22 years old and 1/5 of a mile from his house.

*MA hit a tree when he came around a sharp bend late at night at a very high speed. He was 17.

*J.W. was lost at the expense of an OD…the taboo topic of suburbia. He was 18.

*AB (a close friend of mine) was killed when his Jeep flipped over on the highway and was ejected from his seatbelt while driving home in the predawn hours. AB was 1 week away from his 22nd birthday.

*NT was killed when his SUV crashed into a three telephone poles while driving through the center of town 8 minutes before his curfew. He was 21, and ½ mile from his house
and finally

*AO drowned while swimming in a lake in Maine while away at football camp with the high school football team. AO was 15 and 1 week away from starting his sophomore year.

It’s truly awful that it takes such horrible events to make people realize the value of life- the joy of each breath, the power of last words spoken, that there are no guarantees, or predictable second chances.

Although I am away from home, this tragedy really struck me. AO was my little sister’s classmate,, my neighbors all-star football player, the school teachers comic relief, the town’s 6th reminder that the future is uncertain.

AO’s family relocated to our town a few years ago. They moved from a neighboring city with a marginal school system, a high crime rate, and a higher poverty rate. Life seemed to be going well. AO had amazing friends, was well liked by coaches and teachers, and the family was settling in, enjoying their new surrounds.
But everything changed in an instant.

The moment the town got word that tragedy had struck again, they went into auto pilot. Meals were cooked, ribbons were made, memorials were held, differences were put aside, and the focus was on supporting the sufferers.

The small town B.S. (politics) was put aside, pre-season sports team practices were postponed, stressing over not having finished summer reading ceased. Suddenly, life was in perspective. Girls made ribbons and organized a memorial match and candle light vigil on the high school field. Boys rallied support and raised funds to support the unexpected cost of loosing a loved one prematurely. Life was put into perspective.

Tonight was the first night of the wake. Hundreds of people gathered to mourn the loss of a life. Tomorrow AO will take his symbolic journey to the next life, but his memory here on this one will never be forgotten.

Please remember that you never know what tomorrow will bring. Give your friends and loved ones a hug, don’t go to bed angry, don’t assume that you will have tomorrow to right the wrongs. In the famous words of James Dean, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die tomorrow.”

RIP A.O. You will always be in our hearts.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bibbidy, Bobbidy, Boo!!!

Thanks to a marvelous suggestion, you will all have the pleasure of reading my adventures of cooking in my new "kitchen" or at least something of the sort.

All those who know me, know that I love to cook, bake, etc. My mom says that it began long before I was ever even allowed to touch the microwave. She tells me that I used to play for hours in the dirt and sand piles of our back yard, turning Frisbees into pie plates, rocks into cake decorations, flowers into vegetables, etc. However, I soon discovered that flour (the kind that "grown ups" used to bake with) was WAY more fun that just dirt and I started pulling a chair up to the counter, taking a dirty shovel and *stealing* flour from the flour jar. Dumb? Yes. Creative? Of course? But dumber was the fact that I would lie, say that I hadn't done taken anything (while brushing the trail of white stuff into the rug that trailed from the kitchen to the back yard). Oh well, no harm done. I grew up to still be a bad liar that loves to cook.
But I digress.
Anyways, my NYC kitchen is well, SMALL. There is approximately 16 inches of counter space next to an under mounted sink. <180 degree turn> A refrigerator/freezer combo next to mini 4 burner stove with built in microwave. the kicker of it all...the kitchen is quite designer- granite counters, stainless steel appliances, custom natural cherry cabinets. But more on the cabinets...thank god I really don't eat much processed food because I have 1 1/2 cabinets for food. What's in the rest of the cabinets?? I have a drawer of flatware, a canister of kitchen utensils, a cabinet filled with tableware for 12, a cabinet filled with cleaning supplies (my OCD for cleanliness plus a cleaning lady who lives to shop for cleaning supplies = more bottles of cleaner than humanly necessary), a cabinet filled with mixing bowls, vases, a pasta pot, a veggie steamer (two actually, one specifically for asparagus), two colanders (one fine, one thick), a cabinet with cookbooks, menu's, and Tupperware, and last but not least, one and half for food. Oh yeah, its important to mention that I'm 5'4, but I have 10 foot ceilings with cabinets that go to the top...case in pint, I need a stool to reach a vast majority of what I keep in these spaces.
the other night, I gave the kitchen it's first real test. Although I cook for myself most every night and make my daily lunch for work, that's a whole lot different from cooking for people (yes, plural!)
It sort of reminded me of an episode from the Food Network show, "Dinner Impossible". My challenge was to cook chicken parmesan with homemade sauce, al dente linguini, fresh grilled vegetables, and a homemade béchamel sauce for 4 (my vegetarian self excluded). I had a time line of 2 hours. I got home from the grocery store at 6 and my guests were coming at 8. (Random note, there are more fresh, organic markets here than I know what to do with. Yes, some of them are outrageously priced, but what the hell. This is New York and my friends and I are worth it. Plus organic makes *cheese* and *chocolate* seem less bad, right???)
Here was my strategy:
6pm (20 minute allotment): slice peppers, zucchini, summer squash, purple onions for grilling; dice Vidalia onion, mince garlic, chop Roma tomatoes for sauce.
6:20 (15 minutes): coat veggies for grilling with ExVirgOO and herbs; sauté the onions, then add garlic, then the tomatoes.
6:35 (15 minutes): remove chicken breasts from fridge to allow to come to room temp on counter; fix coating for chicken (bowl of seasoned flour, egg wash, bowl of seasoned bread crumbs with extra grated parmesan cheese) preheat oven to 350 and turn broiler on
6:45 (15 minutes): add tomato paste and white wine to sauce, stir, cover, simmer on low for 30 minutes; coat the chicken in flour, egg, bread crumbs.; put veggies on grill pan and place under broiler
7:00 (15 minutes): heat oil in skillet, brown chicken on both sides; place chicken in covered baking dish in preheated oven); flip veggies under broiler
7:15 (10 minutes) stir sauce and recover; make béchamel sauce with chive cream cheese and milk-stir consistently, turn off heat and cover; check veggies- wrap in foil and place back into the oven
7:30 boil pasta water; place bread in oven to warm; flip chicken
7:40 add pasta; turn off oven, but keep door closed to keep food warm
7:45 (5 minutes-I know, quite a skill): hop into shower, change into clean clothes
7:50: uncork red wine to breathe; set table (i.e. oversized circular glass coffee table) and place pillows on floor as cushions
7:58: stir sauce one final time
7:59 sigh of relief
8:00: greet guests! and pour a LARGE glass of wine

So hopefully that didn't scare all of you non cooks out there. I swear I'm not crazy. In case you were wondering, dinner was a success! Everyone was so full that they didn't even care that we didn't have dessert. However, with full bellies, a tired eyes, the guests left by 11, and I realized what a mess I had to deal with. I had washed the pans as I served the food, so they were done, but now I had all the dishes (if you hadn't noticed apartment kitchens rarely have dishwashers), and the messy stove top, and the drips on the floor, and the finger prints all over the coffee table. Now don't get me wrong, I had a lovely time, but I was really tired and wanted to go bed. However, if there is one thing that drives me crazy, it's waking up to dirty dishes in the sink and smelling the food from the night before (okay, maybe the smells thing is from waking up after a few too many fraternity parties and having a sudden recollection of just how much beer I drank the night before and smelling the contents of my stomach coming from the bathroom....too much detail? sorry) Alas, I cleaned the dishes (let them air dry), Windexed the table, and gave the stove a spit polish shine and THEN I went to bed at 12, to get 4 1/2 hours of sleep and begin my day with a good long workout.

And for all those who wonder...can you cook and entertain in a NYC apartment kitchen? OF COURSE! All it takes is a little planning, a little patience, and of course, a little creativity! (Think Bibbidy, bobbidy, Boo!- Cinderella, of course)

Thanks mom, for never stifling my desire to get into the kitchen, even if my first creations were nothing more than apple pie with whipped cream (sand with rocks and wet flour).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Who? What? Where?

I often get phenomenal ideas for blog entries during the day; however, they always seem to arrive at inappropriate times (i.e. while shaving my legs-that foamy lather makes holding a writing utensil nearly impossible; during morning rounds, especially when the med students stand there so proudly spewing back text book answers that they think will win them a gold star with the attending, only to be shot down with a, "neexxxttt"; while trying to listen to my needy/whiney friend- admit it, we all have one of them; when I want my brain to turn off at night at midnight so I can get up at 4:45; while out on a 10 mile run- for some reason carrying a pointed object while traveling at vigorous (okay, steady) speeds doesn't seem like a smart idea; etc). If you were able to follow the above, I swear I had a point with those details. Oh yes, I hate sitting here, when I do have free time (shocker!) ,and can't come up with anything (entertaining) to write about.

#1) I don't have kids whose amusing antics I can write about.

#2) My dating life is less than exciting lately, so that would be a very short, "once upon a time...the end".

#3) HIPPA prevents me from writing anything (or at least in any great detail) about the crazy stuff I see at work...one can only tell so many stories in the third person.

#4) Drinks in New York cost a fortune so I rarely have those collegiate "whoops, I made a drunken mistake" kind of stories...then again, even while indulging in those luscious (nasty, horrific, grotesque) $7 handles of gin/rum/vodka, I was still tipsy after 1.5 drinks, so I guess I'm a cheap date....Wait!! Maybe this is my solution to situation #2

#5) This past summer (while living in limbo, sleeping on an aero bed, and living out of a suitcase) my idea of a good time was organizing the closet in the bathroom; although this may tickle Martha Stewart's fancy, it scores me no points in the coolness department.

#6) After working a 12 hour shift, I say screw the bar, I have a date with my bed.

#7) Despite my passion for cooking and trying new things, my vegetarian 'ideas' don't always spark excitement to my carnivorous friends and family. *I swear, if they were willing to try dairy free, blueberry banana spelt muffins.....they would love them! (if you want this recipe, let me know).

Despite the major digressions (is this a word) in this post, initially, there was a point I wanted to make; however, at this point in time I cannot remember what it is/was/should be. So I guess if you have any suggestions on how to generate an interesting post, please feel free to leave comments!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

the "Ummers" and the "Aahhhhs"

We all do it. We all have certain habits, nervous movements, trademark sayings, etc.

The first one that I remember having my attention brought to was the California Valley Girl, "Like"......
Then there was the, "Ya know what I mean?"
And the ,"Totally"
And the, "Sick"
And the, "Dude!!"
And the, "Duhhh?!?!?!?"
The, "Wasssuuuuuuppppp?"

Now that I'm a little bit older, I have grown accustomed to both watching and listening to people when they speak (I guess it's a curse of being a nurse....always looking for the disconnect between the affect, behavior, and content of peoples speech). The other night, after maybe a little bit too much wine and not enough sleep, the concept of public speaking came up in conversation with my friends. here is what we decided:

1) People don't think before they speak; they just spew out whatever comes to their mind first, thus often creating awkward pauses they people fill with, "Ummmmmmmmmm."

2) Some people, already aware of the "ummmmmm" culture, choose to use, "ahhhhhhhhh". Although they may think it sounds more intelligent, it really just makes them sound like are getting a strep throat culture.

3) Some people just have no concept of personal space; yes folks, I'm talking about the close talkers. Those who no matter how hard you try and back away, they keep coming in closer acting as if the breath of their words will make them more comprehendible

4) The victims of the close talkers are viewed as ignorant and inattentive because they would rather stand very far away and hear nothing than to risk having their personal space invaded.

Although the previous descriptions are all unfortunate, the real tragedy is when they are all combined into one. For example, the blind date from hell who begins every story with, "Ahhh, so yeah, ummm,...I have a friend that, umm yeah ahhh, who" while simultaneously getting closer and closer to your face and when you attempt to back away and are no longer within an earshot, you find yourself nodding and saying, "Yes. Okay" and then you realize that you have just agreed to go out with the "Ummer-Ahhh-closer talker's" friend.

Moral of this all....think before you speak to avoid awkward pauses, be okay with a moment of silence, and never agree to anything that you cannot hear all the details about.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

in case you were wondering where I have been....

I have been, to be quite honest, very busy.
After taking the dreaded NCLEX on July 5th, I had an entirely new lease on life. I watched movies (without trying to diagnose the characters' medical afflictions), I slept in past 8am (gasp! shock!), I cleaned out my nighstand in my bedroom (finding stuff from 6th grade...my how everyone has changed), I went out to lunch and dinners with family and friends, I got really drunk one night with no intention of going out after while wearing sweatpants and a ratty shirt (just because I could), I cleaned my family's house from top to bottom, inside and out, leaving no drawer, closet, cabinet untouched, and oh yes folks....I moved to New York.

I am now an official "New Youurrrkkkooorr", but please don't ask to see my new license. I look petrified in the picture. It more closely resembles a mug shot than a glamour shot. Oh well.

I also began my new job. For months I have listened to people ask,
"Are you ready?
Are you nervous?
Are you really sure about moving to New york?"
(oh yeah, these questions ususally followed the squnity face, nostril flared look of disgust that accompanies my disclosre of working in the burn intensive care unit).

My response was always the same. "YES! I am ready. YES! I'm excited. and YES!!! If you are going to live in NY, the best time to do it is when you are young, unattached, and lookiing to have a world of opportunities at your fingertips.

The actual move itself was uneventful, aside from the $65 parking ticket. True to my anal retentive/organized nature I did not go to sleep my first night here until after each and every box was unpacked and I felt like I had some semblance of organization working for me.

The new roomate is great. The apartment is amazing. The building is fantastic... I've already met at least 5 of the dogs who live in the building (and they already know they can expect a cookie from me), and the cute man who is always on the elevator who I think lives on the 8th floor, and the mysteryious man who is in denial that everyone can smell his weed when he lights up, and last but certainly not least, I am well aware of the homeless man who wanders up and down 76th street with his shopping cart full of cans and his blissfully distant smile as if to symbolize eternnal euphoria originating from a far off planet.

For the first time , despite having "lived away" for 4 years, 3 of those off campus, I feel so self sufficient. I'm a real person. I go to work, out with friends, to the gym, sleep, play, and do it all again the next day. I get paychecks...R*E*A*L paychecks. It nice to see figures that are triple digets, even after taxes. I can come home to a freshly cleaned apartment (hey, it's not like I can't do it...I'd give Baldy Mr. Clean a run for his money) but its great to treat myself.

So this post has gone astray from where I originally intended, thus I'll sum it up fast.
I relaxed, I moved, I began a new job, and I realized that my blog was way OVERDUE for an update.