Friday, September 28, 2012

Take 14 - An eventful month of August

An eventful month of August

For us, the month of August is traditionally known as one where we indulge in some vacation days, celebrate David's birthday and generally chill. However this year, it was nothing close to that, although attempts were made to go on with the usual customs and traditions. Reservations were made at a dog friendly hotel in Carmel-by-the-sea, doubts about leaving for Carmel grew larger after a certain medical mishap hit me like a Mack truck, ignorance of the American way of doing things during a medical emergency set us back and a series of tos-and-fros had us in limbo for many days and in awe of the human body's resilience.

Without going into too many details, let's just say that after 9 units of American blood over a 10 day-period, I am now feeling much much better. Does that now mean I am half American :-) ?  I will have to look into that!!! But seriously, an event such as the one we(and I say we, because it affected David probably more than it did me) went through leaves you wondering how people fend for themselves facing such issues and at times with very little resources.I was actually very lucky that it happened when it did and that I was in such capable hands as my husband David's and the wonderful professionals I encountered.

At this point, I must speak of the medical facilities I visited during my ordeal. The first one, a Government subsidized establishment, where we unknowingly went because it was the closest to our home and secondly the private one where I was twice admitted as a patient. Here, in the USA, in case of an emergency and if you have medical insurance coverage, you call your physician or Health Care Provider who will meet at the hospital where he or she is practicing. Unlike in Canada where you go to the closest Emergency facility and wait your turn, just as we did here at the public place. At about 6:45 pm,when we arrived at the public hospital, the place was already crowded, sadly, probably mostly with uninsured people and we now had to wait our turn, just as everyone else, to even speak to the first triage nurse. I suppose if you can walk in, as I did, you can sit and wait. Finally it was my turn and after a quick evaluation and to avoid the prospect of  being slapped with a lawsuit should one have a heart attack while in their <care>,  I was taken to a small room for an EKG just to rule out any surprises. After that we waited, and waited and waited some more. After more than 5 hours without seeing a doctor, I decided we should go back home since, coincidentally, I had an appointment scheduled with my physician for a routine visit the following morning.

The next day, we learned of how different things can be when you have insurance coverage and know how to use it. My physician made a few calls and we drove out to Mountain View to the private facility where I was quickly seen and admitted for a procedure and the first overnight stay. This private place is El Camino Hospital (This one I am willing to name) which David and I have since nicknamed THE SPA, although I also heard it being called THE FOUR SEASONS, by someone in the know. First at the ER, you are processed at lightning speed and when taken to a cubicle, a whole team is immediately upon you taking your vitals, installing all manners of monitoring devices on you, making you comfortable and prepping you for hydration, etc. Just like in movies or tv shows, they work quickly and efficiently and look like a well coordinated ballet.  This hospital has to be the best place to land when something major happens to you. It is, after all, The Official Hospital of Silicon Valley. I was even told by several member of medical personnel that of all the hospitals in the region (and there are many) this one is where all serious and dedicated staff want to work and where people want to go for the best care.  It is the most advanced facility around. The wing I was in is about two years old with state of the art equipment including robots that look like small filing cabinets roaming the halls on certain floors to deliver or pick up all kinds of things including lab samples, documents, meals, etc. On the patient floors, the rooms are spacious, super modern and comfortable. Almost like a hotel room, but not quite due to all the tubes delivering goodies into your body :-) The personnel is outstanding and a full team is assigned to you per work shift. You have a personal and direct contact with the people taking care of you and should you request something, it is delivered to you very quickly. There is a glass board on the wall underneath a flat screen television and for each work shift the name of the RN, PN and of several other individuals in charge of your care are listed along with the date, your weight and your height and special notes relative to your case and well being. They truly go above and beyond the call to make you better and it really works.  Oh, and let's not forget the totally Wi-Fi service, a definite plus when you are trapped in bed. :-) .However, I did not have much of an opportunity to sample their cuisine since I was mostly on a liquid to soft diet and anything they allowed me to have I gobbled up indiscriminately. 

 A million thanks to ECH medical and miscellaneous personnel and to the wonderful team of professionals at El Camino GI Medical Associates. By the way, during procedure number 3, the anesthesiologist gave me a drug made famous by none other than Mr. Michael Jackson. Propofol also known as Diprivan. Thankfully for me it worked beautifully and given under close professional supervision,  it is a wonderful drug when you need to be rendered unconscious. Finally, let me add that the body is a wonderous machine and that I am thankful for how well mine performed in those trying times.

I may still not be allowed to have a glass of wine or a spicy meal of any kind  but I certainly can have a wonderful salad so enjoy the following recipe.

Apple and Celery Salad

Serves 4-6

2 large Granny Smith apples
4 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 large bunch of celery
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1/2 cup of raisins
1-2 tsp cumin seeds
4-6 Tbs finely chopped parsley
1 cup toasted peanuts, almonds or cashews
salt and black pepper to taste
6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Rinse the apples,dry and cut into quarters, core and chop into bite size pieces. Place in a salad bowl. Drizzle with half the lemon juice. Rinse celery, dry and remove all outer filaments. Chop into bite size pieces and add to bowl. Add garlic, raisins, cumin, parsley and nuts. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining lemon juice and the oil. Toss well and serve.

Bon appetit !

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Take 13 - Trifecta

What can you say when you have three activities on your calendar and all three leave you enchanted and in awe.

On July 20th, we attended a show of Cavalia. Banners and posters all around San Jose showed a wonderful picture of a horse and at the bottom, a quote from Jay Leno that said it was the greatest show he had ever seen. Well, I totally agree with Mr. Leno. It is THE GREATEST SHOW I have ever seen ! Cavalia is the baby of one of the co-creators of Cirque du Soleil, also from Montreal and if you have enjoyed any show of Cirque du Soleil, chances are you will love Cavalia. Now, neither my husband nor I are horse people. I may have ridden a total of 3 times in my life and I don't even know whether David has ever even been on a horse. However, we were mesmerized by this show. Who knew horses had a sense of humor, reverence, respect and could be totally playful ? Every one of them is male and after a little reflection and imagination, you will figure out why. The performers on stage with them are totally awesome with their incredible skills and talents but the star focus is always on the horses. After the show we had tons of questions that will probably never be answered. Questions like what kind of training they received, where they lived, how they traveled from one show to the next, etc. The sets were beautiful and the music soothing. You often forgot you were sitting under a huge tent and really felt part of the show. A wonderful evening from which we still remain totally mesmerized and in awe as well as with an new found respect for these wonderful creatures and their trainers.

The next activity was Chicago, the Musical. A San José local production, presented in a tiny theater (City Lights Theater on 2nd Avenue in downtown San José ) with 6 musicians and about 20 actors/singers/dancers. It was totally delightful. All actors were Bay Area performers and were all very talented. The whole thing was very cosy. 120 seats at the most with seats set in a half circle. We were seated in the center of the third row.  Perfect seats. You even get to pick your own seat. How perfect is that ? As long as you get there early, that is ! I had seen several musicals in the past but it was a first for David. What a great experience for a newbie to be sitting in such an intimate setting. As we left, we picked up the program of this theater's future productions and as we read through it, we promised ourselves to return. They only produce one musical a year and it seems to be only in the summertime. Can't wait for the next show which is a regular play to be presented this Fall.

Finally, the third activity is just for me, well kinda..... What I mean is that I take the class but David will reap the benefits. I have signed up for a Cheesemaking class at Sur la table. Now I must talk about Sur la table. The name is kind of self explanatory, from the French, on the table.  I have been fascinated by that store for years and there are none in Canada (that is there were none when I left Vancouver almost 9 months ago). David was certain I would start over indulging the minute we got here but, I have been most reasonable.  One good reason is I have the tiniest kitchen with the tiniest cupboards and a total lack of counter space. When we move from here, that will become a totally different situation. But seriously now, Sur la table is to anyone who likes preparing and eating food, the equivalent of a child at TOYSrUS or better still FAO Schwarz. There is every imaginable pot, pan, mold, tool, coffeemaker, utensil, gadget,etc. Furthermore, people there are very very knowledgeable and friendly. When I found out they also had classes, I was overjoyed and signed up for the cheesemaking one which has taught me how to make Ricotta and Mozzarella. What a great class ! The Chef was super friendly and a great teacher. Ricotta is so easy to make, it's almost child's play. Mozzarella is more complicated and demands a few more steps. We also got to make gnocchi and ice cream with the ricotta. Just so good. The group of students was made up of 8 ladies (including myself) and three of them had Italian roots. Everyone was down to earth but fanatical and very knowlegeable about food. A wonderful group. I will certainly go for other classes at Sur la table. For $69 you get a 2-hour class of very high quality in a small group and get to eat everything you make. You also get a coupon to purchase equipment or supplies at the store.

Now, I don't know about you but all of this talk of food, food prep and food equipment is making me hungry, so here is a fantastic recipe I borrowed from David Lebovitz's website. I tweaked it a bit and made it my own. You can make it your own as well.  Enjoy !

Israeli Salad
Serves 1 to 2
1 ripe tomato1 medium cucumber, or 3 small ones ( I love the tasty Persian cucumbers)1 medium carrot, peeled2-3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion5 red globe radisheshalf a small beet, peeled (I love yellow beets, if you can find them)half a small Jicama, peeled and dicedlarge handful of arugula, lettuce or baby spinach1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro2/3 cup mixed nuts and seeds (such as walnuts, sliced almonds, pine nuts, pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds – coarsely chopped)1/3 cup crumbled Feta or firm goat cheese2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or lime juice  (more if preferred)2-3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil (or more)sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Chop all of the vegetables into the tiniest cubes you can manage. Preferably 1/4 inch thick (or Brunoise, as the French call it). Gather the arugula or other greenery into a tight bunch and slice into thin shards. This makes the salad fluffier and easier to chew.
2. Toast the nuts in an empty skillet (no oil required) over medium heat, stirring or shaking the pan frequently, taking care not to burn them (watch out for pumpkin seeds, as they tend to ‘pop’ while toasting). Toast until the aroma is released and the nuts take on the slightest bit of color. Remove from heat and let cool. Again, watch carefully as you get busy with another task and your nuts or grain burn in a flash.
3. In a medium bowl, mix all of the chopped vegetables with sliced arugula, toasted nuts, and dress with the lemon juice, olive oil, adding salt and pepper to taste (don’t forget that the cheese is salty).
Check for seasoning and add more lemon juice and olive oil to your liking. Top with the crumbled cheese and serve immediately.
Bon appetit !