Monday, October 31, 2011


Calvin the Pirate and Bailey the Witch say "HAPPY HOWL-WEEN!"

I hadn't baked in a while and so I decided to try my hand at making some pumpkin cupcakes.... Wasn't sure about the recipe while I was making it, turns out, I didn't really like what I concocted but they were all voted "ok" by everyone.  I personally think they tasted a little too pumpkin-y and they were definitely not as moist as I would have liked them to be.  I have some ideas to tweak it up a bit and so next time I'll work on it and let you know the results....

I ended up doing a little Thanksgiving theme with them.  I did a cinnamon cream cheese frosting and I did it mummy-style :)

Funny thing is, I wasn't sure how they looked and so I showed them to mom and asked "do you know what they are?" to which she replied with much confidence "ghosts!" and I said "no" and then she looked at me with this quizzical look and said "santa claus?"..... Mom..... :)

By the way.....
Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Subjects

Its now Saturday evening and I've had a day of cleaning up and "winterizing" things in the yard.  Still have some more to do.  Also did some frolicking and running with Cal-Mal to the DP and Petsmart and all the places that make his ears perk up.

This evening brought a bath for the foul smelling, gooped up boy.... He's never thrilled with that four letter word.... B-A-T-H.  His tail tucks like I beat him and he tries to inconspiculously slink away and find a hiding place.  Doesn't work - I can usually smell him :)

Now, I'm sitting here jumping around on recipe blogs to find some intriguing cupcakes to make for work on Monday, Halloween.  I'm thinking I want to try a good pumpkin cupcake recipe, but then later in the week I think I want to do S'mores - I have a really cool idea that I'm going to work on.  It seems that I'm home for the week - I may go to Philly towards the end, but not sure.  In the meantime, I have a little time to work on some recipes.

So, here's a share - a blog that I follow, that I've referred to before, The Kat Eye View of the World, has been transferred to a really cool website, Kat's Studio.  If you like photography, you have to check out Kat's site!  Its pretty cool!  FYI, Karl and Kim,  Kat just moved back to the US from Italy - she's in Eugene, OR and so she posts the west coast pictures once in a while.  Anyways - check out her site, she's got some great pictures!

So, as autumn progresses and as I hole up inside searching websites for cupcake recipes I say "Hello winter, I'm ready to put on that extra-cold-padding that the winter brings -- especially for someone obsessed with making cupcakes!" :(

Tests And Cupcakes

Another work day downtown - 7 hours of running washer verification tests and running back and forth between 3 sites.  Long day, but good day.  I really love this account because they're so nice!

We had planned as a family to get together that evening and so I figured I'd Yelp! and find something to bring for dessert.  What did I find, but within a few blocks of the hospital, they had put a Sprinkles cupcakes in!  I was so excited I placed a cupcake order on line to pick up after I finished up at the hospital.  

And here they are!  I got plain vanilla, cinnamon sugar (they actually did have frosting, just dipped in cinnamon sugar), black and white, chocolate, apple cinnamon, pumpkin, lemon coconut, and chocolate marshmallow.  The ones that I tried were all pretty good, I think I still like my chocolate better :)  The only one combination I'm interested in tweaking is the chocolate marshmallow one.  I was actually planning on trying a pumpkin cupcake, I just need to look at putting together a recipe.

I think tomorrow afternoon I'm going to play around and find a pumpkin recipe so I have some Halloween goodies to bring in to the office - I always feel so rewarded when they all ooo and ahhh :)!

Oh - just a little blog update - I'm sitting here on a Saturday afternoon blogging and flipping around tv.... The new Amityville Horror is on, the one with Ryan Reynolds, as they're driving from the hospital in one scene they're driving through their town -- ITS TOTALLY ANTIOCH!  You can see the Main Street.  Now that I see that I remember hearing that they filmed around here - I think the house was up in Salem, WI somewhere.  Its just weird seeing Antioch on tv.....  The movie itself is getting pretty creepy so I'm getting ready to turn it off and head outside to put some stuff away for winter.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Little Glimpse Into My Perspective of Healthcare

This was a post that I started before I left for europe the beginning of October - I never finished it, but I figured I'd expound and post now....

Coming back to work was - well, coming back to work.  Its been meetings and then running to my big account in Chicago trying to help them figure out some issues they're having, which means extended hours of running tests which means I'm just sitting waiting for the test to finish.  Its so boring, but necessary, but boring....

I'm sure by now everyone knowswhat I do for a living (ha ha) .  It doesn't matter that much what I actually do so much as it matters where I spend the majority of my days. I.E. - hospitals. Its such an interesting environment to work in and I've seen so many changes over the past 12 years that I've worked in facilities. I've learned a lot and a lot has changed me and the way I think. I now travel around, work or vacation, and look at the world in light of healthcare. Like I can feel a Starbucks coming up - I can feel a hospital coming up. I can just sense when a healthcare facility is nearby - its like a sixth sense or something. I drive down the highway and the thing that I always spot is the blue H sign that indicates a hospital is in the distance. When I visit people in the hospital, there are things that I notice and look for that no one else would. When I watch tv, where theres a hospital involved, I notice things that no one else would. I'm a strange bird... :)

 So - here are a few things that I figured I'd share as I just chuckled about something else today. I'm down in San Antonio, TX and I've had a few calls. My last call I went in by myself and I had been there before but I wasn't exactly remembering where I was going. And then I saw some things that I remembered where I was and where I was going. I was calling on a hospital that was part of the Baptist Health System and, in order to get to the Baptist Hospital, you literally had to drive through the Methodist Hospital. The directions on the GPS literally bring you through the Methodist Hospital parking lot and turn you into the parking lot of the Baptist Hospital. I had to laugh! It seems like, all the hospitals in the U.S. are primarily denominational -- they're either, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish or Catholic. Barnes-Jewish, St Therese, Methodist General, Baptist Medical Center. There are very few hospitals that are actually just a hospital. Even the ones that are basic names like the name of the city they're in or such, they've got Bible verses and all everywhere. I think that "Christianity" and taking care of peoples' health seems to go hand in hand usually. Very interesting ... at least thats my observation....

Here's the other thing...

 This is a picture of an instrument drawer in one of my larger facilites (a women's facility to be exact). The instrument drawers are where they keep their excess basic general instrumentation that they replace out in their trays as needed. They always keep a surplus because these are the instruments that get thrown out on a regular basis or worn down or out for repair. They're musts for trays. I love this picture because it gives you this sense of the progression of surgery. There are basic instruments like speculums and forceps and such but then a surgeon uses it and says "AYE! If only the curve on this was a milimeter more to the left than I could actually function with it!" and then an instrument company hears that surgeon and the surgeon pushes it and pretty soon, he's got a picture of his "creation" in their next catalog with his name under it and, I'm sure, getting some type of kick back from the sales. You'll go through instrument drawers or catalogs and you'll see a billion names... Frazier Suction, Richardson Retractor. Here's an interesting one - Forester Clamp which was created by David Forester who "pioneered sex change operations in the United States"... Metzenbaum Scissors were created by Myron Metzenbaum who specialized in oral reconstructive surgery. The Liston knife is a knife usually used in amputations - named after Robert Liston, a Scottish surgeon - a surgeon who was known for his "speed and skill". He was described as "the fastest knife in the West End." as he could amputate a leg in 2 1/2 minutes. I don't know if thats a skill to be proud of or sad of?

Speaking of, indcidentally, I can't remember if I mentioned it before, but I was working in an OR a few weeks back where I actually observed an amputation. It was crazy - I didn't even know what the procedure was at first as I was just circulating and I had seen a bunch of different cases that morning. The next thing I know, they're wheeling in this large woman with a red biohazard bag on her leg. Hmm, all of a sudden, theres bone dust flying everywhere. It was crazy and, well, kind of sad to me because I was thinking about that poor woman who went into the hospital that morning knowing that she'd be leaving without a "friend" who had been with her for a long time. She was pretty big too so, I'm wondering if she'll ever even be able to walk again as I don't know if a prosthetic could even hold her. 

Ok - so on to other healthcare topics. I'll now touch on the proud banners that ever facility flies in their lobby. Every hospital I go in to always touts its "number-oneness" on something or other, proudly tacking large canvasses to their walls telling everyone that "US News and Word Report Named them one of the top 100 hospitals to make patients happy" or "Voted one of the top 50 hospitals that valet parks cars by the National Highway Patrol" - okay, that one wasn't for real, but thats how stupid sounding some of the are. And I do believe that most people going into that facility have never been in the 2000 other hospitals that I've been in so they don't know that every hospital is voted "special" on something and this hospital that they're going to, although I'm sure it has it merits, is not THAT great because the banner they have posted really doesn't mean that much. I'm waiting for someone to make a comment while exiting the hospital - i.e.: Bill: "Martha, that cheesecake in the cafeteria was some of the best that I've ever tasted" ... Following week - banner posted on east lobby wall "Best Cafeteria In the World - Voted by Bill" Ah - healthcare. Where would we be without good health care competition - keeps us creative and trying.... I have so many other comments, but I'm going to close it here.

Enjoy your hospitals and - remember to wash your hands before and after and during touching something in a hospital - just be safe and don't go into a hospital unless you have to.

Back to the old "salt mine" hospitals tomorrow - another day of endless waiting for test results.  But its FRIDAY! :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Some Venice Travel Tips

So, as most of you know, I do a lot of travelling.  I've learned some things and I've discovered some things - in general and in specific.  The one thing I'm bad at is remembering those things.   A lot of these little tidbits I know would help others when they travel and so I've decided to be a little more proactive with my travel tips.  I probably won't remember a lot of my advice a few months or a year down the line so - for the record - if you ever think of travelling to Venice.... Here are a few things for you to consider.

  1. Make sure to purchase your Venice Card well in advance!  Because all of Venice is waterways, the only way to get around is either via foot (which is pretty easy but sometimes you want to get places quickly and, on foot, you may need to do a lot of winding and crossing canals, etc) OR via water.  You can take the occasional gondola ride, but gondolas are very expensive (incidentally, if you do a gondola ride, you can barter for the price - never pay what they say.  Also - you're paying for the gondolier as much as the ride so make sure you get a personable one who can offer something besides the ride - some history, a song, something like that).  So, the quickest and cheapest way is via water taxi or "Vaparetto".  The Vaparetto can be bought on a single ride for most locations, but the best way is to get a Venice Card that allows you to travel as much as you want in a certain time period.  We did two 48 hour passes, personally.  So, you can buy those Venice Cards when you get into the Venice airport OR, the best way to do it is to go-online a few weeks in advance and buy a Venice Card as you'll save about 10 - 20%.  Go to to purchase a Venice Card.  If you wait until a few days before you go, what may happen is you may want to purchase a card for Wednesday until Sunday, but it will block the days so you can only purchase a card from Saturday to Sunday - so go on early enough to make sure that you can purchase all the days you want ahead of time.  We didn't and we weren't able to get a discounted card :(
  2. I would really recommend to look at getting a bed and breakfast or, even better, an apartment while you're staying in Venice.  Venice is amazingly expensive and so hotels can be better high and you may not get a really great place.  However, you can get a pretty fair price on an apartment and you can find some really nice, newly renovated places.  The nice thing there too is that you can do breakfasts and bring a pizza back to the place in the evening and save some more there - meals are VERY expensive in Venice!  Save a few times a week and then you can afford to go someplace nice a few times.  I usually look at or just google holiday apartments for rent.  The place we went with was which was a nice place.  We did wait a little late and so I was kind of searching for a place as all the ones I really would have liked were rented out already.  The other thing I like about renting apartments is that you can get a little more feel for the way people really live in a place.  This apartment we stayed at was in a back area of Venice, but a nice area.  We had to go up a few flights of stairs, but it was a really nice place and we got to live a little Italian and hang our laundry out the window and bring take out pizza back to our place.  Its always fun and an experience.
  3. DO NOT!!!! DO NOT!!!! Eat on the Grand Canal by the Rialto Bridge!!!!!  ITS SUPER SUPER EXPENSIVE!  And, I must admit that they are extremely rude.  We ate at a few places and they tried to get you in, get your money and get you out.  That was not our experience anywhere else, it was just the Rialto.  The food was not that great either....
  4. You have to try a wine bar - just go in in the evening and stand at the counter and order some wine and listen to people talking.  
  5. If you decide to stop for a coffee or a snack at the Piazzo San Marco area, know that if you sit outside at one of the places that has an outdoor "orchestra" playing - you WILL get charged for the priviledge of sitting there :)  They charge upwards of 12 euros just to sit under the strains of the violins, even if they're on break :(  Go next door to the place that doesn't have the orchestra and enjoy the sound for free!
  6. We were told this several times and it was one of the first things we actually did -- GET LOST!  Just take a look at a map and the basic hotspots and then go out walking and enjoy life in Venice.  Along that line - do not take a map and think that you will follow the map as you will get lost trying!  Its impossible to find the streets and then to match it on the map.  You totally have to look for major sites and then occassionally find a landmark sign pointing you to San Marco or Rialto or something.
  7. From what I understand - don't go to Venice in the summer - its stinks -- literally smells.  Mayish or September and October are the best months.
  8. You HAVE to visit Murano and Burano - take a stroll around the main Venice, but make sure make sure you hop a ferry boat to those two other little islands.  Burano is the best - colorful. lively, but peaceful and you could find quiet little spots.  Loved it!
  9. Definitely consider taking a little sidetrip - rent a little car and drive up to Verona and a few other little historical spots along the way - it will take about an hour to drive from the airport and it can definitely be a day trip.  Its worth it.
  10. If you don't like pigeons - Venice is not the place for you!
And so concludes my little wrap up of Venice and the wonders therein!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Its Weird, But Some Of My Favorite Picts

I know its a little touched, but some of my favorite picts from Venice were the cemetary.  But to be fair, I love old headstones.  

This section of the cemetary must have been for diplomats and foreigners.  Its kind of interesting how a lot of them have to do with the ocean as well - ships and schools and such.  

I found this one above to be interesting - its basically a memorial for this woman's husband.... At least thats what I kind of got out of it.

I loved this headstone - what it says.  I love the headstones that have a story on it and tell you who that person was.  I wish we could still put as much on ours.  I love the line "but breaking our narrow prayers by His broad loving will".... I love that!  It says just what it needs to - sometimes we pray for things that we think would be the best, but God has a better plan for us even though sometimes that plan hurts.  I love what this headstone says about Emma and her family.
I took me a while to get what this picture was about - its a physician, but I can't figure out if its saying this guy was a physician or if it was like Jesus, "the great Physician".  Either way - its kind of cool.

I'll post some more pictures from the trip a little later, and I promise, they won't be cemetary pictures.... :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Reviews

VACATION!  Sometimes its means time to just READ!  Yay!  I actually found time between classrooms and meetings and lunches and coffees to sit down and finished two books - not just two little piddly books, but two pretty substantial ones.  I actually started in on my third, but that one I'm still working on.  So - in the meantime, here are some good reads you should check out.

This book is one that you HAVE to read!  Its a truly amazing story and told in a truly amazing fashion.  The book is "Unbroken" and its written by Laura Hillenbrand, the author of "Seabiscuit".  I love that she made the comment that she really wasn't looking to write another biography after she had gone through "Seabiscuit", but then she sat down with the man who this story is about and he had told her that it should be much easier to write his story, because he could talk to her.

This story is about Louis Zamperini, a guy who was an amazing runner (he ran in the 1936 Olympics) and then ended up as a pilot in WWII and, through that, ended up as a Japanese POW.  His story is absolutely amazing and inspiring and its a book that you absolutely can't put down.  I can't recommend this book enough.

My hair-stylist recommended the book to me and as I read it on my trip to Budapest, I had tons of comments from people who had read the book or where trying to find the book.  The general comment was that the ending was the best part of the book and that it made the whole story worth it, but no one would ever even hint what the ending was.  So, in the fashion of those before me, I will not spoil the ending but will tell you that it is the highlight of the book.

Beg, borrow, please don't steal, but ask me if you feel like thats your only option - you have to do whatever you can to get this book and read it!  You will never want to put it down until you finish it.  Even if you're not into biographies or true stories or history - this is one book that everyone would love.

Thanks to the clearance sales at Borders all over the country, I picked up many different books that I would never have thought to grab from the shelves unless they were marked down to like $1.99.  "The Bang Bang Club" was one of those books that I don't think I would have ever paid money for.  Mainly because of the fact that it took place in Africa and that was one continent that, I have to admit, has never really interested me that much.  But, since, the book was $1.99, I decided to learn a little about Africa.

It was definitely a book that I couldn't put down, but it was bitterly true.  Its pretty graphic, human yuck graphic.  Its actually a true story that was made into a book and then made into a movie.  

A group of photographers during the 1980/90s are out photographing war photos for the newspapers.  They're mostly all South Africans themselves so they understand the people and the language and the landscape and because of that, they're able to go where a lot of photographers wouldn't normally go.  Unfortunately, due to the violence that was occurring, it really did mentally tax on several members of their "club".  

I liked the book in the sense that they would describe stories and how they got certain shots and then if you flipped to certain sections in the book, you could see the photos that were being described.  A number of them were quite graphic and you would just read the story and look at the picture and wonder how people could do those things to each other.  And then you start questioning the ethics of the journalism photography that was occurring and how people could walk away from scenes like that and still have a normal life.  

"The Bang Bang Club" is a good book, but you have to be ready to read things and have pictures in your head of a pretty graphic nature.  It is true life and it did happen, but its just pretty jolting.  Its definitely a different story and it opened my eyes more about a time and a place that I'm not as familiar with.

I'm moving onto fiction right now.  I've been reading so much real life stuff that I wanted to switch my brain back to fiction for a while and see where that goes.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Finishing Italy

 Couldn't figure out who these guys were but everyone stopped to watch.  They were either gondoliers in training or gondoliers in retirement -- I seem to think the latter....
 I'd been wanting to get over here all week.  Its St Marys which is across from St Marks.  

 St Marks
 St Marys

 Glass at a glasswork shop near St Marys

 Pizza Italian style!  Just a slice, but its a lunch!
 So sad - we found this pastry shop right around the corner from our apartment, but we found it too late... :(  We stopped there our last morning because we looked in the window and saw people standing by the counters drinking coffees and eating delicious things.  I caved and we went in and I got the most amazing donutty thing ever!  The sign on it said "cremeara" and it looked just like the "marmallata" thing in the above picture.  We walked away eating our delicious delights and I discovered how amazing it was and when we came back in the afternoon, I stopped in the shop to get another - AND THEY WERE GONE!  Help!  I was so so sad!
 Laundry Italian style!
 On our last day, our flight didn't leave until about 7 in the evening so we rented a little car and drove about an hour to Verona from Venice.

 We arrive at the Capulets house...  :)  

 Juliet's balcony

 Apparently, if you rub Juliet's right booby, it brings you good luck...  

 The Roman Colusieum in the town center.

 I found the cremeara thing!  It wasn't as yummy or fresh as the one in Venice.  That one was so warm and fresh and creamy.  Yummy!

 I thought this was adorable - this little girl has that scarf wrapped around her neck - so Italian.  And you can't see it, but she's eating a gelato.  SO Italian!

 Our Micro