Monday, October 29, 2007


I forgot to mention an important local food source: Bodo's Bagels. :)

Thank you, everyone for the suggestions. I'm noticing a small shift in my thinking. Bodo's for example. I used to view bagels from Bodo's as a special treat and something to be bought infrequently. The main reason I used to shop at Giant was because their bagels are better than Harris-Teeter's. So why not just buy all our bagels at Bodo's? My kids love them in lunchboxes and they're only $0.10 more per bagel than at Giant.

Still, all food and nothing else makes Patience a dull girl. I survived another clinical day, and got to see a lumbar puncture done--with xray to guide the doctor when he put the needle in. Cool. I've never seen cerebral-spinal fluid before. Three more clinical days to go this semester. I also have an exam Friday, so must get away from the computer and start studying.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Food project

Beer is going to be a problem. If only the Beer Run were open!
I ought to be keeping track of certain variables in my local food stores only project. The most important ones to me are
  • cost
  • quality
  • variety--does the store carry what I need?
  • convenience
Yesterday I spent $110, divided evenly between Integral Yoga, where I bought produce, bulk baker's yeast, cumin, rice, tortilla chips, vanilla yogurt, milk, and expeller pressed safflower oil, and Reid's where I bought two boxes of Cheerios, nutella, baking chocolate, a 5# bag of flour, peanut butter chips (for cookies) brown sugar and other things I can't remember now. Today, I popped into Feast and bought the eggs I couldn't get yesterday, plain yogurt, a bag of salad greens, some chicken salad, and some organic boneless chicken breasts at the organic butcher in the Main St. Market. I spent $23.

I was disappointed that Integral Yoga didn't have tortillas made with wheat flour and seems to only carry tortillas made with various alternative grains like spelt and brown rice. Yes, I ally myself with the mainstream wheat-eater. I guess I'm fortunate not to be allergic to wheat, but as I considered the package of spelt tortillas, I wondered if I could be allergic to spelt and frankly, brown rice tortillas are not very appealing.

Tonight I mixed the plain yogurt with curry powder, garlic and cumin, marinated the chicken in it, and made a stir fry of the chicken with rice and broccoli and spinach from IY plus frozen peas left over from the evil supermarket chain.

Lunch boxes are also going to be a problem. I have to pack lunches for four children every day. Buying food in the school cafeteria is unthinkable.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Today, I just could not face grocery shopping in the rain. I decided to skip the supermarket (I usually go to Harris-Teeter @ Barracks Rd or the Pantops Giant) and make do with whatever I could find at Integral Yoga.

This got me thinking: how long could I go without buying any food at a major supermarket chain? Not that I never shop at local stores. I often shop at Cville Market and make periodic IY runs for some bulk items that I can't get anywhere else. I walk past Feast on my way home from work, and sometimes pop in for a few items--but not too many, since I have to carry them all the way home to Belmont.

A project is forming in my mind. Can my household of six people shop only at locally owned food stores? And for how long? A week? A month?

The closest food store to me is Stoney's, on Avon St.--about a two minute walk from my house. Stoney's is like the Room of Requirement (from the Harry Potter books.) No matter what you need, you will find it at Stoney's. I once ran out of molasses in the middle of making something that required molasses. Stoney's had it. Work gloves, respirator masks, almond extract, apples, hairnets (for ballet) Stoney's is the place.

These are my store choices (in order of their distance from my house)
  1. Stoneys plus other Belmont delis.
  2. Feast (and other shops in the West Main Market)
  3. Cville Market
  4. Reid's
  5. Integral Yoga
  6. Foods of All Nations--all the way across town, but has the biggest selection, and isn't as expensive as everyone says. They have the cheapest tahini in town, anyway. And the best tea.
It's probably not such a wise idea to embark on a sociological project when I am so busy with school, but I am so sick of wandering around huge supermarkets, negotiating their parking lots, and being forced to use their VIC cards or MVP cards or whatever in order to "qualify" for sale prices.

Today at Integral Yoga, I bought enough foods to make dinner for several nights (although it irritates me no end that they don't sell eggs there. I know, it's their store, they have the right to sell what they want and I hope I don't get hate comments from people who don't eat eggs, but the lack of eggs is the main reason I eschew IY in favor of Cville Market most of the time.

After IY, I stopped across the street at Reid's. A long time ago, I made disparaging remarks about the atmosphere at Reid's and got blasted in a comment. I don't mean to put down Reid's. It is ugly inside, but they have the cheapest Nutella in town, carry Fair Trade coffee, and don't make you sign up for a stupid bonus card. I do have two words for Reids, though: automatic doors. Please.

Until further notice, I'll only be shopping at the stores listed above. Let the games begin.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An entertaining spectacle

Nothing like displaying your near-naked body to the entire neighborhood at 11:30 on a sunny Saturday morning. It happened like this: Just stepping out of the bath, I heard pathetic whimperings coming from the next room. I wrapped myself in a towel and went to investigate. My daughters, Drama Queen and Miss G were out on the front porch roof repairing a Halloween banner they'd made. They'd instructed their little brother, Mr. McP to hold the window open for them. The window is heavy and the storm window had fallen, so he was holding both. I took the window burden from him and immediately the storm window came completely loose and swung out of the frame. What's the best way to call attention to yourself when you are standing in an open window, wearing nothing but a towel? Scream “Goddammit!” repeatedly and as loudly as possible.
Drama Queen miraculously caught the storm window before it shattered on the porch roof, and I somehow managed to hold up the heavy sash, maneuver the storm window into the house, and not let my towel fall off—which it wanted to do very much.
So my corner of Belmont got to enjoy the sight of a crazy screaming naked lady who apparently lets her kids play on the roof.
Other than that it was a fun weekend. We got together with friends on Saturday and Sunday and last night we ate dinner at the C&O on the dime of the pharmaceutical industry.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Politics of clean

What is clean? It's almost become a political issue. My house is not clean these days. It is neat, because I ruthlessly and recklessly trash everything that irritates me. I once threw a functioning blender into the garbage. Indeed, even now, the bundt pan my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas several years ago is in the trash, awaiting collection because I realized the other day that I never have, nor will I ever want to bake a bundt cake. (I donate to charity things that are useful, but this pan is in a somewhat dented, not to mention dirty and disgusting state, so it is not Salvation Army-worthy.) But now you can see why I say cleaning is political.

Some people drink alcohol to excess, or douse their pain with pills. I throw things away. But “neat” and “clean” are not the same thing, as is becoming obvious to me because the crud on top of the baseboards is spreading and there are food stains on the wall of the room that, before our addition was the dining room, and that we now call “the old dining room” for lack of a better name. Today I realized that the applesauce Mad Scientist lobbed at the living room ceiling nigh on two years ago is still there.

I've considered hiring a cleaning lady. Friends were telling us about their wonderful cleaning lady, and how she is looking for more clients, and it was on the tip of my tongue to get her phone number. But then my friend said, “I just tell her what to do, and she does it.” Therein lies the problem, because I would have no idea what to tell the cleaning lady to do. What would I say? “Please clean the applesauce off the ceiling,” ? And why should that be necessary? Isn't the meaning of cleaning understood?

Then there's the matter of products. One must provide products and a vacuum for one's cleaning lady. I am lost when it comes to cleaning products. Out of a sense of environmental responsibility, I buy one environmentally friendly brand of all-purpose spray and use it for everything. I suspect this is not correct. For years, I resisted buying toilet bowl cleaner, because of my earth-friendly proclivities. I poured silly things like baking soda into my toilets, and as you can imagine, they got themselves into a shocking state. Now I do buy toilet bowl cleaner, but justify it by the fact that I clean my toilets so seldom, I'm probably not making much of an impact.

Today after school I executed a mini cleaning frenzy. I used my environmentally friendly spray on the bathroom vanity. I dusted the bathroom shelves and threw things away. I cleaned the stovetop, and a particularly dirty section of baseboard in the kitchen. I wiped the dog paw prints off the front door and cleaned the food off the wall of the old dining room. The applesauce on the ceiling remains.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Dear John Letter

Dear Jon,
Dried lavender in the spaghetti sauce is not a happy combination.
Aileen (AKA Patience)

Jon is proud of his sauce, and rightly so, because it's good. He will often make his sauce for dinner when I am too tired to cook, and I appreciate that. A few weeks ago, I detected a new and troubling flavor in the sauce. It was one of those things that I felt I ought to be able to identify, but couldn't. "I think it might be the tarragon" he said. I didn't think dried tarragon that has sat on the shelves for at least three years would make that much of an impact but I didn't say so. The other night, the strange flavor was still present in the sauce, only this time I saw the bottle of dried lavender out on the counter amongst the other sauce spices.

I'd bought the lavender after seeing a recipe for a lavender cake I wanted to try, but after taking a whiff, I decided I didn't want to make a lavender cake after all. It smelled nothing like I expected it to. Not that you want your food to smell like air fresheners and cleaning products, but still, it was a let-down. So the bottle sat, unused, until fully half of it disappeared into two pots of sauce.

On another note, today is foley catheter day in skills lab.

We've rapidly progressed through the skills, starting with handwashing and bedmaking, then onto vital signs and more. The last couple weeks were hanging IV fluids, changing the tubing and flushing the line (which I did with a real patient on Monday. I was proud of myself. Jon rolled his eyes.) Then came sterile technique. From that I learned that I will never be an OR nurse as I contaminated my sterile field repeatedly. Alas, nurses have to use sterile technique outside of the OR, such as when inserting foleys. I think the only skills left this semester are NG tubes, more with IVs and IM & SQ injections.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Porch life

Here's a picture of our fabulous Halloween wreath. (Did I mention directions can be found in this month's Country Home magazine?)

I took some other pictures of our messy porch. My porch gives the impression of slovenliness. I was not raised in the type of household where life's detritus tends to collect on the front porch and neither was my husband. And yet, my front porch looks like something that would fit right in on Green Acres. I was raised in a house so immaculate you were afraid to touch anything. My father's whole family is extraordinarily tidy. This summer, at my aunt's house, there was a crisis involving a toad that was headed into the pool's filter. She told me to get a stick, and I couldn't find a single twig, so immaculate was her back yard. Perhaps my porch is a sort of rebellion.

This is the woodburning stove we removed from the living room complete with "Trhyme" game. I still haven't listed it on Craigslist or Freecycle, although I fully intend to do so.

Mad Scientist's socks and satchel.

How many people have a well-thumbed copy of Locke on their porch? (This is Mad Scientist's reading choice, not mine.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

snobbery vs laziness

Master's or Associates?

Back in May, my happiness in getting accepted to nursing school was almost immediately killed by the comments of some the nurses I work with--”You won't get anywhere with an associates degree!” or similar remarks. Later, some of my relatives reacted with visible wincing or treated with condescension my announcement about nursing school.

UVA has a Clinical Nurse Leader program designed for people who already have a bachelor's degree in something else. After an intense 24 months of study, you graduate with a master's in nursing. I considered applying last year but felt too preoccupied with all I needed to do just to get admitted to the associates program. Now I wonder if I made a mistake. I have a couple of friends in the CNL program and they praise it to the skies, and earlier this month I decided I would definitely apply—I have completed all the prerequisites and there's even a chance they'll accept my old GRE scores, if I can only figure out how to find them.

Starting the CNL program would mean waiting another year until actually being able to work as a nurse. Two years ago, I was a full time at-home mother with no ambition beyond finding a part time job so that I could have a little money for nice shoes and lunches out with friends. Do I really want to get into an expensive, intense program like UVA's? Currently, there's a fellowship for the CNL students—each student gets $17,000 which pretty much covers tuition for the year, and one of my friends in the program said he heard it was going to be extended another year. That's great, but what do I do if it ends after my first year and am stuck with a huge tuition bill right at the moment when I'll be getting ready to send Mad Scientist to college?

Do I care enough about nursing to get a master's in it? Before I've ever practiced as a nurse? We invited one of our friends in the program to watch a movie with us, but he declined, saying he had to “read about leadership.” Do I want to spend 24 straight months reading about leadership and nursing theory? I hate nursing theory. I hate the whole process of nursing school—agonizing over care plans, writing assessments and having to redo them until they're perfect. I have loads of writing assignments for clinicals, and it's not like you can hand in a care plan and get a “C” and be told to do better. If it isn't perfect, you have to redo it until it is perfect, along with your new writing assignments. Not to mention (this week at least) 240 page reading assignment for theory class.

A few weeks ago I was happily imagining myself as part of the master's program, but I think its appeal to me is mainly snob appeal. I'd rather be known as a UVA student than a PVCC student. Do I really want to go through the whole application process and a rigorous program just for snobbery? It's so much more gracious to hold my head up high about my two year degree and not be affected by people's comments. Conversely, should I avoid the CNL program just out of laziness? Because I don't relish more research papers? I would be half way through the nursing program I'm already in, and most of my credits would not transfer, if I were to go to UVA.

I'm not asking for advice, just getting my thoughts out. Any sensible person would probably say, “Just apply and see what happens.” That's probably what I'd tell someone else in my situation. We'll see, but right now I'm leaning toward sticking it out at the community college.

As Jon pointed out, already having a bachelor's—even though it is not in nursing—will still help me be a better nurse. As an associates degree nurse, if I ever really feel the need to further my education, the hospital I work for will pay me to do so.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


If the weather doesn't cool down soon, I can't be held responsible for my actions.

Today I felt like crap--overstuffed sinuses, ears plugged with fluid, deaf (or nearly) and carrying a 300 pound head on my neck. It's my weekend off and I'd looked forward to visiting the Alderman library and stocking up. I got there about 10:30 this morning and discovered the library doesn't open until 1:00pm today, due to fall break.

I did return at 1:00--I really wanted some new books to read--but by that time I felt even sicker. I have a fear of passing out in public places. I never actually have passed out in public (or at all) but I've come close enough to it to be fully sensible of how embarrassing that would be. The only thing worse than passing out in public would be to pass out somewhere in the stacks at the Alderman library on a Sunday, where you could lie for hours, undiscovered.

I didn't pass out, but my fluid-stuffed head made me feel something like a pumpkin tottering around on a dandelion stalk.

I did fully restock my bedside table with the following titles:

Bruce Chatwin by Nicholas Shakespeare
Mollie Peer: or the Underground Adventures of the Moosepath League by Van Reid
The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious Disappearance of an American Hero by Scott Anderson
American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis
The Funeral Makers, Once Upon a Time on the Banks, and The Weight of Winter by Cathie Pelletier

If any of them turn out to be exceptional, I'll write a review.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What I did on my summer vacation

This was the summer we painted the exterior our house ourselves. It was supposed to be "we"--ideally it would have been "he." One Saturday early in June Jon announced that today was the day to start to paint. I put up strong resistance to this idea but in the end, lost the battle and went to Meadowbrook Hardware and selected a quart of gray paint called "swordplay" for the house and "vintage wedding" (white) for the trim. Jon slapped a 3'X3' area of paint on the front of the house, we squinted at it, said, "meh, it's OK," and Jon returned to the store and bought several gallons.

We set Mad Scientist to work scrubbing the stucco with a tsp and bleach solution and I took the younger kids to Mint Springs and Jon stayed behind to paint. When I returned from the lake, the entire front of the house was purple. Not gray. The purple paint contrasted oddly with the old trim color-a yellowish cream--making our house look not unlike an Easter egg. A neighbor came out to laugh at my discomfiture and told us the house looked "phat."

Thus began the summer of painting.

Our labors were interrupted when Jon's father died. We spent two and a half weeks in New York, and while we were there Jon broke his 10th rib playing extreme frisbee with his nephews. When we got home, he was unable to paint and I did the rest of the work myself.

I scraped the trim--sometimes scraping through 100 years accumulation of paint. I removed the window sashes, repaired the sash cords, removed and replaced cracked glazing compound. (I broke so many panes, the people at Virginia Glass must think I am either an exceptionally careless person, or have anger management issues.) I painted the sashes and the front door raspberry red to contrast with the purple house and the white trim.

Prior to this summer, I'd had a fear of ladders. The front and back of the house didn't require much ladder work because I could stand on the porches and roofs. When it came time to do the sides I had to overcome this fear. By the end of the summer, I could extend our ladder as far as it would go, climb as high as was safe and paint with confidence. I learned how to balance the ladder on uneven ground. The west side of our house is nearly three stories high. I still need to paint most of the trim on that side, but the rest of the house is finished (other than the porch floor.)