Friday, April 30, 2010

April is and was OT Month

BRMC Occupational Therapy staff minus two.

During my day time work hours, I am an Occupational Therapist at our local hospital, Bristol Regional Medical Center. April is the designated month to strut our stuff and attempt to inform people, including medical personnel, what it is we actually do.

When I was an OT student those many decades ago, we frequently were asked to define the profession. This, it turned out was not an exercise designed to inculcate college students new to the field, but training for the long term.

In 1976 our national professional board defined the profession as such:
"The therapeutic use of work, self-care, and play activities to increase development and prevent disability. It may include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and enhance the quality of life"
Bet the definition cleared it right up, didn't it. Not. About the most universal statement I can make about succinct definitions of occupational therapy is that no good one exists.

The field of occupational therapy got it's name at the beginning of the previous century and the meaning of words evolve over time. The field is very broad as it addresses performance deficits in multiple arenas. We could be involved in anything from an overuse syndrome of a professional musician (de Quervain's syndrome perhaps) to setting up a blow switch on the Intensive Care Unit so that a new quadriplegic can summon nursing staff without the use of his/her hands.
The range of settings and is wide and varied.

We work in hospitals, nursing homes, schools systems, home health agencies, mental health settings and the community. It's too wide a field to shoe horn into a few sentences.

Display set up on Wednesday April 21st in the BRMC Cafeteria
Here I am clowning around to the amusement of fellow staff members

At Bristol Regional, a 340-bed regional hospital, there are 10 occupational therapists with 2 secretaries. We have 4 therapists in the outpatient Hand Center, three of which are CHTs (Certified Hand Therapists) with the 4th training for the designation. To become a CHT requires a degree in occupational or physical therapy for starters. Next you need to work and study hand therapy for 5 years and 5000 hours at a minimum. Lastly you must pass a 200 question, 4 hour board test. Whew!

Three of our therapists work acute care in the hospital. One specializes in recovery from joint replacement surgery. Another recently got certification in lymphedema management. The third and our only male therapist splits his time between outpatient pediatric services and acute care.

Two of the therapists do prn work or fill-in for vacations and the like, one in acute care and one in the outpatient neuro-rehab program.

The outpatient neuro-rehab program is where I spend my days, helping folks that have experienced a stroke or traumatic brain injury return to as normal living and independence as possible. A few specialty certifications help me provide high quality service. It is work that is rewarding in many ways.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Garlic Mustard - A weed, not a condiment

First year plant - Garlic Mustard

Second year plant - Garlic Mustard

The leaves of garlic mustard give off a distinctive odor of garlic, and the plant was probably introduced from Europe (where it is a native) by early settlers who were looking for a good source of salad greens. Garlic mustard is a cool-season plant and grows best in moderate to deep shade. It gets an early start in the spring, and makes so much shade that native wildflowers cannot thrive. The first victims of garlic mustard are therefore spring ephemerals such as trillium, bloodroot, Jacob's ladder, and wild geranium.

So, while you definitely want to eliminate this weed from your flowerbeds and woodland areas, you may wish to add it to your dinner table. That means you can take the weeds you don't throw away and cook with them! Last night we had a creamy, spicy shrimp and pasta dish that incorporated a little of the garlic mustard obtained from weeding.

Here is a semblance of a recipe.

Creamy Pasta and Shrimp with some Kick

1/2 lb pasta - I used whole wheat farfalle (bow-ties)
1 lb raw shrimp (thaw if frozen)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
one clove fresh garlic - minced fine
1/2 teaspoon hot, red spice (you pick, I used medium hot chili powder)
smaller package fresh basil
about one cup picked garlic mustard
1 tablespoon oil of your choice
1/3 cup half and half
1/8 cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
Black pepper


Peel shrimp and place in a bowl. Add extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, hot, red spice, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Let sit at least 15 minutes.

In a second bowl place the following ingredients as you finish prepping them (less dishes to wash)

Chiffonade the basil.

Tear or cut up the garlic mustard leaves. Saute the leaves in oil or butter about two minutes.

Start your pasta water. While it is coming to a boil, saute those shrimp until they are just cooked through in the same pan you sauteed the garlic mustard leaves. Once cooked set them in the second bowl along with the leaves.

Cook and drain the noodles.

In the pan used for cooking noodles, lower the heat and add the half and half. You can use more half and half or use cream if you are not especially calorie/fat content conscious. Heat it to simmering, Throw in the pasta. Stir to coat the pasta with the slightly reduced half and half. Add Parmesan. Stir to incorporate. Add shrimp and leaves. Stir. Cook just long enough for it all to heat through, another minute or two.


This dish could be varied many, many ways. You could use chicken instead of shrimp. Adding sauteed red bell peppers or other veggies would be wonderful, or you could eliminate meat altogether and go completely veggie.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Lost that New Car Smell?

This past Thursday, on the way home, the '96 Volvo passed a milestone that I felt significant enough to pull over to the side of the road and document with a photograph. Not very many cars make the quarter million mile mark, but this particular Volvo is not even the highest mileage vehicle in my driveway.

Could this be a useful segueway to introduce photos from road trips taken this past month? A quest to explain how all those miles accumulated on the odometer.

Separated by 2 letters and 300 miles.

Those would be the cities of Asheville and Nashville.

April 1st, as previously documented on this blog, entailed a trip to Asheville for the Edible Book Festival. In addition to the festival, I toured several of the downtown art galleries and got lunch at this cool little addition to the downtown restaurant scene, chai pani.

Chai pani features Indian street food at reasonable prices. While I don't have the experiential background to comment on the authenticity of the food I can say my meal was quite tasty.

The restaurant is also noted to be environmentally conscious. They use local produce and humanely raised meats from local and regional farms. The only thing not local are the spices that they get from India, roast in-house, and ground-up fresh daily.

The cold chai was delicious and laced with cardamon, a flavor I adore.

Folks from Asheville don't always wear their flowers on the lapel.

Little skully wine and champagne corks spotted in a shop window.

Music city USA

The Friday before last, I pointed the car west and drove to Nashville. The official mission was to attend a Saturday conference on the use of Botox for muscle spasticity due to neurological injury, but that didn't stop me from checking out the bright lights downtown Friday night.

Neon lit the nighttime sky on Broadway and the crowds seemed ready to go consume a few adult beverages while listening to a plethora of musical offerings.

The neon outside Jack's Bar-B-Que features winged pigs that light up sequentially as the go down a slide.

On afterthought, the photo I should have taken was of the elaborate dress incorporated into the wardrobe of the downtown Friday-night, urban, Nashville cowgirl. It was quite distinctive, featuring cowgirl boots and hats of course, then a mixture of tight jeans or short skirts and dresses. A short skirt paired with cowgirl boots just has it's own distinctive look. It indicates that the young lady is interested in some task other than roping calves.

Oh yeah, I learned a thing or two at the conference as well. Actually, it was very good and worth the trip.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Egg Haiku

Symbol of Spring.....Egg
Shell an engineering marvel
Interior breakfast.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day - 40 Years Later

One U.S. senator and a core of young organizers turned April 22, 1970, into the day the environmental movement was born.

On that day, 20 million Americans in 2,000 communities and 10,000 schools planted trees, cleaned up parks, buried cars in mock graves, marched, listened to speeches and protested how humans were messing up their world.

Earth Day was the brainchild of Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., who came up with the idea of a national teach-in on the environment after 3 million gallons of oil spilled across the beaches of Santa Barbara, Calif., and killed 10,000 seabirds in January 1969.

Nelson's idea gave birth to a green movement and a green generation that would be as powerful as the industrial revolution in shaping the future of civilization.

Denis Hayes was heading to law school at Harvard in 1969 when he answered an ad looking to organize environmental teach-ins in New England. Hayes had been a prominent activist against the Vietnam War as the president of the Stanford student body.

He went to Sen. Nelson's office in Washington to interview — and came away the national coordinator.

He gathered together a staff of 20 idealistic young people to get information out to the thousands of colleges, schools and community groups that had expressed an interesting in participating in the Earth Day event.

Hayes and his group of Green Generation activists left the streets and got into political action.

They raised $50,000 for a national campaign to oust Congress' environmental "Dirty Dozen." Their efforts contributed to the defeat of seven of the 12, including the powerful chairman of the House Public Works Committee, Democratic Rep. George Fallon of Baltimore.

Over the next decade, Congress passed the 28 major initiatives that became the foundation of the nation's environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act and amendments strengthening the National Environmental Policy Act. Many passed in the first three years after Earth Day and were signed by President Nixon.

In 1966, Nelson hadn't been able to find a single co-sponsor when he introduced a bill to ban the pesticide DDT, which was shown to cause the thinning of eggs of bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other of America's disappearing raptors.

By 1972, DDT had been banned.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gertrude Sofia - Button Queen

Allow me to use these photogaphs to introduce my maternal grandmother, Gertrude Sofia Lundvall, born March the 17th 1898. Date of the photograph in question is probably 1950's or 60's. Her hairstyle was remarkably similar to that of Queen Elizabeth of England, so I borrowed the British crown jewels in a manual cut and paste operation and have used the resulting image in multiple projects.

This particular project is a 4inch by 4inch collaborative book featuring buttons and button card designs. There are 15 participants, each of us has made 15 cards of our own 4x4 inch design and mailed them off to our hostess in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. She will sort the pages so we get one of each and they will be bound together in a book format.

There were no specifications as to button color but I chose to use small vintage white buttons, many of them mother of pearl or river clam shell in origin, rather than plastic.

With 15 finished cards to play with I gave in to my urge to arrange and photograph them in various combinations.

Here I have grouped together an arrangement of the backsides of the cards created for this swap. They were made from some photographs taken of vintage sewing notions and contain contact information.

Fia, as my grandmother was called would have found the addition of the crown and royal jewels to her portrait amusing.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Edible Book Revisited

I saved the photographs of this entry for my second post about the edible book festival. It started out as a map box that was altered to meet the "literary requirements". Novel cuisine is pronounced Nou velle Cuisine per the instructions on the inner lid.

If you want to know what an edible book festival entails see the description in my previous post.

This Em&ma is written by Jane Asheville rather than Jane Austen.

And judging from the freshness of the contents, it was produced much more recently than 1816.

For those individuals unfamiliar with the the word gorp, it is an alternative name for trail mix, and may stand for "good old raisins and peanuts", or "granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts". These are all probably backronyms or folk etymology. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1913 reference to the verb gorp, meaning "to eat greedily".

Both Hadley Fruit Orchards and Harmony Foods (two California growers) claim that trail mix was first invented in 1968 by two California surfers who blended peanuts and raisins together for an energy snack. However, trail mix (gorp) is also mentioned in Jack Kerouac's novel The Dharma Bums as the two main characters describe their planned meals in their preparation for a hiking trip.

Alexander Dumas wrote of D'Artagnan and his three musketeer buddies Athos, Porthos and Aramis

The Mars cited as author would not be the Greek god Mars, but rather the heirs of Frank Mars, the Tacoma choclatier. His company has grown into a huge international consortium generating annual revenues of $30 billion.

My favorite Amy Tan story (as told by her) features Ms. Tan at a book signing. By this time her Joy Luck Club is being taught in various high school and university English classes. She spots a Spark Notes synopsis of her book. Perusing this study guide she was pleasantly surprised to find out how cleverly she put things together and much of the symbolism she employed was a revelation to her.

Obviously it has been decades since I had a bowl of Lucky Charms. I don't recall the marshmallows looking anything like these.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Festival of the Edible Book - Asheville 2010

Not quite a month ago, Bookworks in Asheville, North Carolina sent out a call for entries in their second annual Edible Book Festival. It is part of a larger international event that has been ongoing for ten years.

Taking a day off work, I created my entry and took a drive over the mountains on a lovely day that seemed designed for just such an outing. The creations on display were inspired and are to be shared here and possibly in greater detail on upcoming posts.

This entry puts a literal spin on the title of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. The carved mushrooms have their fiercest game faces on and carry sharp carrot spears.

Sadly at the end of the evening, I consumed the brave mushroom soldier on the left, spear and all. That would be the custom at these events. At the end of the festivities, the creations are eaten.

That's right, exhibitors and attendees alike chow down and the arrangements are reduced to mere crumbs.

So let's review the rules:

From the international guidelines

Everyone is invited, individually and collectively, to this world banquet where delicious, surprising bookish foods will be consumed.

Participation rules are as follows:

1) the event must be held on April 1st (or close to that date)

2) All edible books must be "bookish" through the integration of text, literary inspiration or, quite simply, the form.

3) Organizations or individual participants must register with the festival’s organization (go to Registration) and see to it that the event is immortalized on the international festival website (

The folks at Bookworks stipulated further:

❑ I agree to bring a typed list of all ingredients used in my piece when I submit it.
❑ I agree that my piece will be made following all food safety precautions.

"Bookish" obviously covers a wide spectrum of interpretation and edible an array of ingredients.
Chewing gum made its way into two entries.

I am told edible markers are available at A.C. Moore (who knew?) They seem to write quite well on sticks and rolls of gum.

The short story on this gum scroll is included below as it would have been difficult to photograph in its entirety.

Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar integrates two concepts. It cleverly presents the cover image in an accordion book format using frosted cookies.

Here Ramen noodles create the coiffure of a turnip faced Marie Antoinette on her way to the pretzel rod gallows.

The Book of Kales is a reference to the illuminated manuscript The Book of Kells. It captures in bread the look of an ancient manuscript transcribed around 800 AD. The original manuscript was transcribed by Celtic monks and contains the four gospels of the New Testament.

God also gets another mention in this Alice Walker quote from the Color Purple-inspired entry, in the form of lavender infused baklava lettered with poppy seeds.


For younger blog readers, this image may not be part of your cultural repertoire. It references a 1969 album cover (back in the days of vinyl) from the band King Crimson and is titled In the Court of the Crimson King.

Here the presentation is a highly literal interpretation of A Clockwork Orange. A Clockwork Orange is both a novel written in 1962 by Anthony Burgess and more famously a 1971 movie directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Another literal or verbatim presentation arises out of the combining of phrases resulting in A Red Velvet Heart of Darkness hypothetically penned by Joseph Conred.

And as this post is already so lengthy, I will just hint at the contents of this very punny box of literary allusions coming to you in a near future post.

And that was just a portion of my photographically drenched and fun-filled day off work.

Extra points to anyone who can guess which entry was mine.