Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pretty Posies and Tasty Treats

My kitchen is currently bursting with colour.

On Friday, one of my colleagues dropped off a bouquet of flowers, a (more than generous!) certificate for HomeSense (yay!) and the nicest card I have ever recieved. The card read as follows:

"To our beloved friend and colleague Jen,

On behalf of William Osler Mental Health and especially the staff on the MH Intensive and MHESU, we want to wish you the best of health and speediest of recoveries. In short, we love you and have missed you. Please enjoy your gifts. They are directly from the heart.

With Love from your friends,

As you may have already guessed, I was a bit overwhelmed. Thank you all so very much.

Yesterday I had a lovely few minutes to myself and picked up the camera... they were far too beautiful, far too full of colour and texture not to.

Unknown Macro
(Unknown) Macro

There were more surprises to come... At one point there was much hush-hushing in the kitchen (and broken off toddler exclamations); much to my surprise, my husband and son walked into the living room a few minutes later, each bearing six long stem red roses. Quinn said, "Here Mommy. These are for YOU! They're flowers! Happy Val-wem-times!"

How could one not melt?

Love ♥ Love ♥ Love
Love ♥ Love ♥ Love

They were very, VERY appreciative to the homemade cinnamon buns that I made in return. I tried to pinch them into heart shapes, but they rose in the oven and went back to a round spiral. In the spirit of creating a simple pleasure, I took my time making these and was rewarded with an excellent dessert. They are not calorie wise, they are not heart smart or anything like that. They are good, old fashioned, everything in moderation food. They are also DIVINE! If you are interested, here is the recipe:

2 envelopes yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
6 tblsp shortening
1 tsp salt
3 beaten eggs
2 tsp + 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup + 2 cups flour
brown sugar, cinnamon, nuts, raisins and cherries to taste
butter or margerine

Add yeast and 2 tsp sugar to water and let stand for 10 mins then stir. Add milk, shortening and salt to 2 cups flour to make a batter. Add yeast and eggs. Beat well. Add remaining flour. Knead lightly and put into a bowl. Let rise to double in bulk then punch it down.
Roll out flat and spread with butter or margerine. Sprinkle with cinnamon, brown sugar, raisins, nuts and cherries to taste. Roll and cut into rolls. Place in a buttered and cinnamoned pan. Bake @ 375F for 15 minutes.

(I used cinnamon, brown sugar and pecans in mine and then made a quick drizzle icing for them. I also used a flat pan with Pam, so they were slightly less gooey. They were marvellous!)

These are the simple things that make life enjoyable...

Making the simple complicated is commonplace;
making the complicated simple,
awesomely simple, that's creativity.
--Charles Mingus

Rediscovering Simple Pleasures

Three days before Christmas, I was sitting at my desk at work trying to remain calm as my heart decided to skip a beat every so often.

As you know, the days leading up to that point were pretty full. New house, new job... Christmas obligations looming on the horizon. I was still recovering from a nasty flu bug that would not go away; it had been over two weeks and I was still having symptoms. The first Christmas dinner with my family in my new home had gone without a hitch and there were three more days to go before Santa. Sure, there were presents to wrap, last minute shopping to do, but the big stuff was over with.

There I was though, quietly doing my charting as my patients rested, and my heart felt like it did a somersault in my chest. I barely had enough time to look down and go "what the....?" when it did it again. And again. And again.

The next while would prove interesting as my symptoms worsened. I was guaranteed a bout of PVC's every half hour or so, the sensations ranging from "ginger ale" to "baby roll over". You mothers out there who remember what it felt like for an almost full term baby to do a complete roll will have the best understanding, as that is exactly what it felt like. Only it was in my chest and accompanied by a sinking, disembodied feeling. It was creepy. Caffeine, alcohol, chocolate were all on the verboten list, which is a helluva thing to say to a person during the holidays. I made the mistake of sneaking a thimbleful of sherry on Christmas Eve only to lay awake most of the night as my heart freaked out. Up until a couple weeks ago, I would wake up and cough as the fluid collected in my lungs as I slept. My extremities were cold, I always seemed to be huffing and puffing, I was tired all the time and my fingernail beds were a lovely shade of mauve... I was a mess. The ER doc who saw me suggested that it was maybe a viral myocarditis brought on by my recent flu.

In the last two months I've had a slew of tests and I'm very thankful that they have not shown any permanent damage or structural problems of note with my heart. I wasn't too thrilled with the noncommittal attitude of my cardiologist, but I've been given medical clearance to go back to work. It's not a moment too soon either; I've started to get my energy back in the last few weeks and I've gotten a really bad case of cabin fever. I've also been missing all those shift premiums on my paycheques and at a couple hundred bucks a cheque, it's made a bit of a dent in our lifestyle, to say the least.

I'm still to eschew caffeine and if the other day is any example, alcohol and chocolate might as well still be on the no-no list. My stairs are still causing me to get a little out of breath, but that too is easing slowly. My biggest challenge (as always) will be stress, but I have a new approach that seems to be working.

One night in January, when we were out at Chapters picking up my copy of Square Foot Gardening for my upcoming garden project (and Pete and Pickles for Quinn), I wandered over to the sale table. There I found a cute little piece of fluff called Simple Pleasures: Soothing Suggestions and Small Comforts for Living Well Year Round. What the hell, I thought... it was marked down to $3.99.

The book offers inspirational quotes and quite the little collection of "favourite things". It's also divided into seasons, offering timely suggestions for when the weather gets you down. Its worth lies in the overall theme of slowing down to take in what is around you; to enjoy the little details that make it all worth it. It was a timely find on the discount table for me, that is for sure. Simple Pleasures came to me at the perfect point, just as the illness was receding but when I still didn't have the energy to do very much at all. It was a relaxing bit of fluff that allowed me to really enjoy planning my garden and to rediscover cooking and baking. My family has been treated to some wonderful meals in the last few weeks.

Have you ever made soup? I've made lots of soups and stews over the years, but it generally involves me quickly dumping a bunch of ingredients in a pot and hoping for the best. I make my own broth, so it was definitly a simple pleasures experience the other day as I emptied all the frozen broth containers from the freezer into "the big pot" and melted them down. Over the next hour I heated them all to a boil and then cooled them slightly to skim off the fat. I then worked my way through the ingredients, chopping and adding each to the pot individually and marvelling at the flavour that each added. I made a pleasurable experience out of making simple stick-to-your-ribs food, yet the care I took came across in the flavour. My family were very pleased with it and we look forward to the containers that we put in the freezer for the weeks to come.

I go back to work tomorrow. Luckily, it is a holiday and the following day only an eight hour shift (followed by two off), so I get a chance to ease back into it. They say that everything happens for a reason; I'm hoping that this episode has been to remind me once again of what is important. It has certainly given me some insight. To be honest, I'm not sure how or where I will incorporate these ideas into a busy day in the ER... but as I glance out my french doors into the sunshine and listen to the birds sing for a moment... I know I'll figure it out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

(For Facebook)

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click post.)

1. I hate water. I think I would rather drink paint thinner. I have to add flavour packets to choke it down. The only time that I have ever been able to drink it is after 20 mins or more of cardio and then only tiny bits. Or on a really hot day. That's it.

2. I can't swim. Never learned how. I float most excellently.

3. Oddly enough (after the last two) I love baths. Nothing cures all stress, illness, aches and pains like a nice hot bath with your choice of bubbles/scents.

4. My son and husband are the most important to me. Many people say this, but for us it is the truth.

5. I never wanted to have children. Now that I have my son, I want more (many more, but that is probably not possible)

6. I'm a sensualist. Most of my choices in life are based around how something interacts with one of them.

7. I hate clothes. Most of what I wear is utilitarian and just enough to cover/meet local standards. I don't like shopping for them and other than a few brief periods in my life where a particular garnment has made me feel pretty, I just don't care. I often go for non-restrictive and soft (see #6).

8. I hate socks. I know these too are clothes, but I feel so strongly that this should have it's own number. I am a barefoot person, in all seasons. I put a hot water bottle at the end of the bed at night if I think I might be cold. The only deviation is slippers... I will wear those, but only with bare feet. I love the feeling of sun warmed hardwood, carpet and grass on my feet. (see #6)

9. I love my job. If I won the lottery tomorrow and could quit my job, I wouldn't. I'd probably go part time or casual.

10. I am often puzzled by people's reactions to my job. When people find out I'm a nurse, they have all sorts of bizzare questions for me. When they find out I'm a Mental Health nurse, they smile and shy away. Even our colleagues in other specialties are afraid of us. To answer your question: Yes, I probably am "analyzing" you. But I'm trying really hard not to.

11. I will say that being a Mental Health Nurse has "ruined" a few things for me. I can't watch reality tv, I have a very limited tolerance for stupid behaviour and I can't look at things like Winnie the Pooh the same anymore.

12. I have a china tea cup collection.

13. I love to cook. I love it when I have plenty of time and plenty of room to do it in. I experiment with flavours and sing along to my favourite songs as I do so. (see #6). I love presenting my friends and family with something tasty and have everybody dig in and eat until they are satisfied. I don't like the day to day cooking when it's Thursday and I have 15 mins to figure out what to do with the pork chops.

14. Photography is an addiction with me. I currently have limited time, space and equipment, but I am most definitely hooked. I am especially fond of macro photography and discovering what my lenses can see that I can't.

15. My eyesight is very poor. I am extremely nearsighted and I have a severe astigmatism. I have to rely on the autofocus a lot when I am taking a picture as I am naturally out of focus all the time. I was very excited at the end of high school when they finally developed a contact lens that I could use and I could see 20-20 with. It was like a whole new universe was open to me. I have to wear gas-permeable rigid lenses which are weird and very expensive. I don't have a pair right now and I miss them; it makes things like grocery shopping much harder when you walk down the aisles and everything is a big colourful blur.

16. I like Spring, Summer and Autumn equally. I love the promises of spring and the renewal of life, I love long hot summer days (and nights) and I love the colours and cool nights of fall. I don't like being cold and wish winter was much shorter. Winter, unfortunatly has lost most of it's charm as I have gotten older.

17. My favourite flowers are hyacinths. I'm also quite fond of calla lilies and peonies. I do like roses, but I'm not gaga over them like some poeple.

18. I'm directionally inept. Left in a room, I can't point north. I can read a map and navigate quite well, but I need tools. To get around I use a lot of landmarks and the sun. To quote my husband I have "a compass in my head just like everyone else, but hers is broken and just spins".

19. I like being lost. This meshes well with #18.

20. I really enjoy spending time with my son. He makes every day a discovery. I know he will not like hanging out with his mom forever and that makes this time ever more precious. Having said this, I am also a fan of bedtime.

21. I am the eldest of two. I have one brother, who is four years younger than me. Now that we are adults, we have a very good relationship. That wasn't always the case.

22. I like to get my hands dirty. When I garden I often forgo a trowel for my hands. When I bake I like to get my hands in there to mix. Once again, see #6.

23. My hobbies (when I have time for them) are a quite a mix. I like to fish, make jewelry, read, garden and photography.

24. I love Kraft Dinner. I don't know why either. It is my ultimate comfort food, along with hot chocolate. The hot chocolate is best with Bailey's or preferably Amaretto in it.

25. I did not think I could come up with 25 things.