Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Long and Difficult Month

Life's a beach, and sometimes it's not.

It's been a difficult three weeks for The Artist and me. His mom was ill, recovered and became ill again with a different problem. She's getting better, but at 91, it takes a long time. She's so used to being independent and wants to return home, but must spend some time in a rehab center to build up her strength.

Making sure she's taken care of, visiting her and cheering her on to keep her spirits up and make her eat has taken a lot out of us. As my very good friend (who has two aging parents) says, there's a lot of mental stress. "Who will take care of me when I'm their age, since I have no children?"

Fortunately, she has a strong will to live. We long for her to return to her apartment and life to return to the way it was before she became ill. Secretly, we know that it will probably not happen exactly like that.

Work has been very hard and very difficult. Projects are due sooner, new projects appear from the ether to be fit in to normal workflow and more is expected with less staff. I try to tell myself that it is not age, just work, but my self-image suffers. I expect it to get harder and more difficult.

The show circuit has stunk this summer. The Artist has not done well, but neither have many other craft artists. Sometimes it's like that. The Economy.

So, what cheers us up? When the sun's out. Good food (but not too much of it). Reading. Working in the shop. Talking with friends.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What a Challenging Week It's Been, and Continues to Be

Challenge. It breeds character, maturity, strength, all that stuff. And I should be a better person as a result of the challenges this week.

The first week of the month is always a trial, or should I say trial balance, because my "real" job is closing the books of a large hospital, so I'm wrapped up in the "close" (pronounced with a "z" sound, like "cloze", or "clothes"). My life revolves around all my responsibilities in the close. This is the first month of the new fiscal year and we had a new subsidiary charging system come on-line. There were a few problems, but nothing I couldn't overcome. It was just annoying that I kept finding them. I like things to go smoothly. Having to fix them takes my mind away from its smooth-running, orderly monthly checkoff list duties. (Just don't look at the snow of paper on my desk.)

So, it started last Friday, and I was already behind. I kept finding things and fixing them.

Great weekend. I cooked a lot and weather was great.

Monday, I received a call from the Emergency Room. It was The Artist. He still had all his fingers, but he had taken Mother of Artist to the doctor for her normal visit and the doc wanted her to be admitted. Off to the ER. Nothing too life-threatening for a hardy 91-year-old, but she did require a few days' stay. Monday, I spent lots of time in the ER. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thurday, I spent all my breaks, and probably more, visiting her and Friday AM some time on discharge planning.

I work for a hospital, but am usually so far removed from the main business of care-taking, that it is sort of on-the-job training when I really have real, personal business being on a patient floor. It's very interesting and completes the full circle of issues in working for a hospital: the staffing issues, the computer on wheels, the time clocks, the dispensing machines, the needle collection boxes, real medical equipment, not just a tag number in a computer system.

It was difficult getting all my real work done. In July, new spreadsheets with new budgets and new prior years have to be set up, so that takes even more time than usual. The year in some computer systems has to be rolled forward. New process. Finally got the last one resolved at 4:00 yesterday. How I got everything accomplished that I did, I will never know.

Challenge. Character-building.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Great August Weekend - Blueberry Scones

Nothing special. Just a great, relaxing weekend in August.

Up at 9:30. (If only I could do this every day!) I made fresh blueberry scones for breakfast, used self-rising flour and they were incredible. (I love scones. Sweet or savory, they are a wonderful, hearty breakfast.)

Here's the recipie from Saveur (cut down for 10 large scones and liberties taken in preparation):

3 1/3 c self-rising flour (I store mine in the freezer)
1/4 c sugar
2 sticks cold butter
1 egg
1/2 c milk
1 c blueberries (plus or minus)

Preheat oven at 400.
Whisk flour and sugar
Grate butter (sounds strange, but I picked this up from a hint in Fine Cooking)
Work with your hands until texture is like cornmeal.

Whisk egg and milk together
Add 1/2 c milk to flour/butter mixture (reserve rest of milk)
Mix with hands until dough is soft, not tacky
Mix in blueberries very gently with hands

Transfer to a lightly floured surface
Pat dough into large circle, 1" thick
Brush with milk mixture and sprinkle a little sugar on
Cut in wedges with a long knife into about 10 wedges

Using long spatula, place on baking sheet (I use my fish spatula)
Bake for 20-25 minutes

Transfer to a wire rack
Best when eaten warm

So, The Artist and I ate four smallish ones for breakfast, I put four in the freezer, and two in the fridge. Reheat in toaster oven.

I have a whole bunch more huge blueberries from the Farmers' Market. What will I do with those? Will The Artist make blueberry pancakes? Will I make blueberry crisp? Tune in later in the week.