Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Relish Tray

I'm hosting my first ever Thanksgiving this year. I've got a 12.5 turkey in the fridge. Free range but not organic. I figured at least the turkey was mostly happy even if he ate a lot of junk food. Since free range organic was twice the price of just free range, it was the best I could do. But I feel good about the free range part. If you've ever been on a farm where you see free range chickens versus chickens in cages, the difference is shocking. Free range chickens are really quite attractive birds, have a lot of energy and are just a lot of fun to watch. Caged birds are not attractive or happy in any way. It makes sense. I wouldn't like a cage either. (Nor would I like to be eaten on Thanksgiving but that's a whole 'nother post).
Anyhow, for a great site about preparing for Thanksgiving, Cooks' Illustrated set up a site that is really helpful. It did create a dilemma for me: high roast vs. regular roast? I think for my first ever turkey, I'll stick with the tried and true and just do the traditional. Maybe next time.

I love the midwestern relish tray, typically a fancy dish piled with pickled vegetables, and rue the fact that it seems to fading into obscurity. One of my favorite Thanksgiving family traditions is the relish tray with cream cheese and olive stuffed celery. Who can live without this? Many moons ago when I lived in SoCal and was horribly homesick for Pittsburgh, I went to a homestyle restaurant in Southern California and when they brought out a relish tray, I almost cried with happiness. Funny how food is that powerful, you know?

My fabulous twist on the relish tray this year is using olives that have been stuffed with orange peel rather than the traditional pimiento stuffed olives. Ho ho! That would throw my family for a loop. Going all gourmet n'at.

But my non-midwestern friends up here in New England will probably just think the whole relish tray thing is weird. But only until I bring out the three layer jello salad. That will obliterate any further stuffed celery comments for a while. New Englanders just don't know how to appreciate jello. I myself have a special appreciation of Jello because it is not only my midwestern heritage, but I can claim the inventor as a relative! Yes, I know, not all of us can claim such distinction and I'm obviously not showing any modesty here.

Hope you all have a great holiday. We all have plenty to be thankful for.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Artist as Shaman, or, Is This Another Ego Trip?

I happened to read an article about a Boston artist named Peter Lyons. I like his work, but something he said intrigued me more.

From the article, "About 2 percent of painters are shamans, he said; the rest are crap, choking the life out of the best galleries in New York and London and Paris."
"The artist as shaman is this direct experience with the spiritual world," he said. "Through a metaphor -- a painting on a cave wall, a painting on a canvas, or a dance around a campfire with song -- he takes the other people around him on this journey that only he could take." What he seemed to mean was that the work of the true artist functions as a portal, offering momentary passage to grace and truth. And even if I was wrong, even if I hadn't completely grasped the artist-as-shaman conceit, what of it? Who was I to question Lyons's theories about the metaphysics of the art universe? He was, after all, painting's Next Big Thing.

Huh. That whole art and spirit thing is one of my favorite angles on art. And I certainly have plenty of snootiness about most of the work I see, as I've demonstrated on this blog. Will have to ponder this more.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Factor of One

So the biggest shift for me in the new place, other than the happy duck shower curtain, is of course that it's nothing but me in there. So far I'm OK with this, but I've already noticed myself acting differently in small ways. On weekends in the late afternoon as the light is fading and the November golds and pinks tinge the clouds, I've been sitting with a cup of tea and watching the sun go down from the kitchen window. As the light fades, I'll light a candle. That's it. I just sit there. I never really did that in previous places. When I needed a break I would hide in my room which usually means a nap rather than sitting and doing nothing. I guess for the first time I am comfortable being still. Perhaps I've always been a bit self-conscious about doing nothing, always wanting to appear busy and productive to others.

There are a couple of books out there on the subject of solitude. Although I wasn't too excited to read it on the train where all my fellow passengers might think I was a complete misanthrope, I thought the book, Intimacy and Solitude by Stephanie Dowrick, was pretty good reading. And I have Jonathan Franzen's How to Be Alone on the list although I don't think it is really meant to be instruction. Then of course, there is Bowling Alone, a book by Robert Putnam about how fewer Americans are doing things in groups, reducing their "social capital." I suppose my choice to have my own apartment contributes to this trend.

However, as several friends have pointed out, having my own place makes it more likely I will seek out time with friends as opposed to just seeing them when I happen to do so. And if I get lonely, as my friend who is an expert in social networking tells me, I can simply pick up the phone. Sometimes I ponder a pet. A cat? A fish? A bird? But for now I am OK. I am trying on this new way of being and seeing how it feels. It will be interesting to watch how it affects my art as well. So. I guess this is what you might call an anti-social experiment.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Picking Out Shower Curtains, Or Life as an Adult

In addition to my cool new doula gig, I've also moved into my own apartment. That's right, no roomies, no nothing. Just me and my own self. Kinda cool, kinda scary. It's exciting to decide where things go, to use all of my own dishes, to set up shop just how I want it to be. And I have a remarkable amount of stuff I've been saving over the years for "when I get my own place." And now I'm finally there.

It's really a nice spot. I'm on the third floor and have a back porch where a tree's upper limbs are right there in their autumn glory. I have a bit of a view into the hills in the distance. And I have a claw foot tub which I get to pick out the shower curtain for. I chose the "Happy Duck" motif and I'm very pleased. (If you're dying to see it, you can look at the "Happy Fish" one on the website which is the only one you can get there.) My couch is coming in a few weeks, and after a trip to Costco, I'm all stocked up on Britta filters for the next four years, literally. That place is dangerous, even if they do have yummy food samples.

So yes, I'm settling nicely into my new leafy queendom of one. Hooray for being a grown-up. Oh and if you're nice, maybe tomorrow I'll post a photo of my new hideously cool lamp, a gift from my good friend, Debris. (The trash day in Somerville can yield some treasures for the vigilant).

Doula at your service

I managed to survive the last few weeks of craziness so maybe I'll actually manage to post a bit more in the next few weeks. Part of my busyness was training for my new hospital doula gig.

Typically a doula only works with private clients, i.e. a mother hires you to go to the hospital with her. This is a bit different. It's a part time job working with two Boston hospitals -- MGH and Brigham and Women's as part of a research study they are doing about the fevers associated with an epidural. They need doulas to support the comparison group who are, they hope, not going to get an epidural because they are being assisted by a doula. With the use of a doula, the percentage of need for pain meds (and other medical interventions) in a birth drops signifigantly. Nice to know we're helpful and the docs know it!

It is also good feeling to be part of an important study whose outcome is being closely watched by the birthing community. I am surprised at how much I am enjoying becoming a part of the hospital community. I love my badge and my scrubs and my beeper to the point I drag them out whenever friends come over so they can admire my id photo and tell me how cool my beeper is. I imagine some of the excitement will wear off after I've been beeped at 3 AM and my groovy scrubs are covered with, um, airborne pathogens.

Speaking of which, I promised a placenta story. I won't get too graphic. Part of my job is to take the placenta after the birth to a lab and follow certain procedures to determine if there has been any infection in the mom or baby. These include taking a photo (smile, my friend placenta!), weighing it, swabbing it, and cutting some parts and putting them in liquid nitrogen to be sent away for tests.

In our training, we donned our scrubs, gloves and face masks and got to work on practicing these procedures before doing them with a placenta from the study. Here's where things got a bit interesting for me. This was the first time I'd ever seen any sort of body part in action, shall we say. And I'm covered head to toe in protective gear in a hot room, breathing into a plastic face shield. I'm watching our instructor cut some placenta samples. Although I was feeling perfectly calm and not weirded out at all, some part of my physical system said, uh uh. Nope. The room starts spinning. I say, "I think I need to go sit down." Being healthcare professionals, the folks in the room knew what to do and within moments I was all set up like a queen with a glass of cold water, a cold cloth and a comfy chair (with my head between my knees in a rather unqueenlike manner). I was fine, but I had never experienced such a physical response before. There was no choice about mind over matter -- some part of me did not like what was happening.

A little sheepish and humbled, I recovered and headed back in and was able to get to work with no problem. I kept the plastic face shield a little further from my face which probably helped some in the fainting department. And I went to work and did two full placenta procedures like a champ. How's that for a good day's work. I tell you, returning to my regular desk job the next day felt like I was returning after a trip to Mars. The squeamish should skip the next part: the question most people are asking me is what a placenta is like. It's definitely like an organ -- a fairly firm mass of tissue. Working with it is very much like working with raw chicken. See, I knew all those years of cooking would serve me somehow ...

We are just flesh and blood after all. That's part of what I love about this doula work -- it's about as real as you can get.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Another political note

Continuing on a political theme, it would seem negligent not to mention the election. I have to say, I was truly impressed with the GOTV (get out the vote to those who don't like cool acronyms) effort in this country. Lots of people I know actually traveled to other states to go knock on doors or make calls. They took many days off work to throw their energy behind something they thought would make their world a better place. I'd never even heard of such a thing before. Today someone said their daughter stood in line for 13 hours to vote in Ohio. We're constantly told how apathetic Americans are about politics. This time they weren't. And that is really a beautiful cool thing. To those who worked so hard or waited so long to make their voices heard, I thank you. Even if your candidate did not succeed, you did. You impressed the heck out of all of us and showed us what it means to be American.

Speaking of which, this article may be of interest to anyone who feels like they were punched in the gut on Tuesday. The part about Nixon's re-election gave me a good laugh and overall the article gives a good perspective. Ten Reasons Not to Move to Canada

Kissinger's still talking: MSNBC - America's Assignment

A friend tipped me off on HK's latest deep thoughts. Click on the link above if you want to read what Kissinger thinks should happen next. It fascinates me that he is still considered someone to go to with this question. That he is considered an expert on foreign policy is just gaspingly wild. But hey, I guess a lot of gaspingly wild things happen here in this country.