Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in knitted goods

Based on yardage alone, I knit a little less than half this year than I did in 2010. This is not particularly surprising, given the prodigious number of items that I produced during that year, and given the rather abrupt decrease in knitting time that occurred in May of this year. (I will also note that this total does not include things that have yet to be completed; there is a 3/4 finished sweater and some mitten cuffs that are not reflected here.) The tally for 2011 stands as follows:

4 cowls
2 pair socks
5 hats
2 baby sweater
4 pair baby legwarmers
1 pair adult legwarmers
1 BlackBerry cozy
1 pair mittens

For finished items, this totals 1.91 miles of yarn, or 121,017 inches. If each stitch is slightly less than an inch of yarn, which seems like a reasonable estimate and is one I’ve used before, that’s almost 1/8 of a million stitches. If each stitch takes an average of 5 seconds (with a mode closer to 1-2 seconds, but with some distant outliers with more complicated patterns), that’s 605,085 seconds of knitting, or 10,085 minutes, or 168 hours of knitting this year. That would seem to average out to about 0.46 hours of knitting each day. That seems high, but I guess days of vacation where I knit for 4-5 hours in an evening would bring that average up quite a bit, as would days of lecture where I knit for 2-3 hours in an afternoon, and would perhaps compensate for what seemed like many, many days in which I did not knit at all.

Here’s to a 2012 filled with knitted things!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A little holicrazy?

Cross-posted on Dose of Reality:

I think I’m not alone in occasionally feeling on the edge of hypomania around the holidays...

Clinical definition: Hypomania is an episode of at least four days of elevated or irritable mood different from the individual’s normal mood that does not cause marked impairment of function or hospital admission, and which includes at least three of the following
  • gradiosity
  • decreased sleep
  • more talkative than usual
  • racing throughts or flight of ideas
  • distractability
  • increased goal direct activity or psychomotor agitation
  • excessive involvement in pleasurable activities even if they have a high potential for negative consequences.
Although oftentimes my family and friends' extracurricular expectations of me are low, I love finding, wrapping, and giving gifts, and have been known to go a little overboard sometimes. This year I think it was brought on by the realization that I hadn’t handmade any gifts for anyone. Usually I knit like crazy during the summer, fall, and early winter to make sweaters, socks, hats, and scarves for friends and family. I knew that wasn’t an option this year, with the clinical calendar as it is, but decided to make small gifts for my extended family members. This blossomed from a well-intentioned little craft project into a bit of a crazed mission involving large volumes of chocolate and Martha Stewart branded craft materials.

(Another note: This gifting is not the extent of the holicrazy. I also made squash soup from scratch, which included roasting the squash seeds as a snack, and was posted earlier this week… Also, I drafted all of these holiday posts in a single morning when I was feeling particularly productive…)

Since they were all mailed last Saturday, and should have arrived already, I think it won’t be spoiling anything for anyone to post some pictures and the recipe here…

Chocolate Bark
adapted slightly from Seriously Good Improvisational Chocolates by Sally Schneider
Chop up 1 lb (or more, or less, depending on how much you want) of really good chocolate into 1-inch or smaller pieces. I used Callebaut chocolate, which they carry at my bulk food store, and Ms. Schneider recommends Valhrona, which I’ve seen at Whole Foods, or Sharfenberger. You can use either dark semi-sweek chocolate or milk chocolate. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt 1/2 of your the chocolate in a saucepan floating in another saucepan of water on the stove (or use a double boiler if you have that sort of fancy equipment). When half the chocolate is melted, remove it from heat and stir in the remaining chocolate until it’s all melted. Use a spatula and spread it into the parchment paper so that it’s about 1/8”-1/4” thick. Let it sit for 3-4 minutes to set a bit, and then sprinkle with the toppings of your choice. I’ve listed the festive holiday options I chose below. Let the chocolate sit for a few hours or until it’s firm. Break it into shards, and package it up! Per Ms. Schneider it will keep for several weeks in a sealed container at room temperature.

For Mexican hot chocolate: Vietnamese cinnamon or other very fragrant cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle the cinnamon liberally, and go easy with the pepper.

For candy cane: Crush candy canes in a plastic bag (I used a rolling pin) and spread the shards over the chocolate. This is pretty!

For fleur de sel: This may seem obvious, but it’s just fleur de sel. It can be as coarse or fine as you’d like to grind it.

For gingerbread: This was (I think) the best one. Smash up some gingersnaps or other gingercookies in a plastic bag until the largest pieces are about 1/2” across. Sprinkle these over the chocolate, preferably dark chocolate and spicy cookies, and enjoy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Soup for the holidaze

I tried out a new recipe last week, and it has quickly skyrocketed to the top of my list. It would be delicious with canned squash or pumpkin, but working with a whole squash was fun (if a bit time consuming). I modified the recipe so that it was more healthful and also vegan, but you could obviously use heavy cream in place of the silken tofu, although the soup might be a little thinner (and with less protein!). It was equally delicious reheated the next day, so it’s also a convenient weekday lunch…

Squash Curry Soup
adapted from the Fall/Winter 2011 Good Health, which Blue Care Network sends to me on a quarterly basis, ostensibly to lower my health care costs for them

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little for roasting the squash
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup diced celery
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups water
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1-2 squashes (total weight 32-40 oz, or one 32 oz can)
1 package silken tofu

(Skip this part if you’re using canned squash/pumpkin.) Preheat the oven to 400F. Wash and peel the squash. Cut it into slices, and set the seeds aside if you want to bake them later. Arrange the slices of squash on a baking sheet with a small amount of olive oil, and bake at 400F until they are easily poked/smashed with a fork. Let the squash cool a little, and then transfer to a food processor. Process until you’ve got squash puree. Set aside while you work on the rest of the soup.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and cook until tender. Stir in the curry powder, coriander, and crushed red pepper and cook for another minute.
Add the water and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10-15 minutes to allow the broth to take on the delicious onion, garlic and celery flavors.

Stir in the squash puree and the silken tofu, and cook until heated through. Use an immersion blender (or carefully transfer to a blender or food processor) to blend until creamy.

 Garnish with fresh thyme or other herbs and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Welcome to the Holicraze!

Cross-posted on Dose of Reality

Friday evening marked the start of my winter vacation, but it was by no means the start of my preparations for the holidays and other festive winter activities. Since starting my psychiatry rotation, with it’s generous schedule and emotionally intense patient interactions, I’ve been doing lots of things to celebrate 1) being 2/3 done with M3 year, and 2) the coming solstice and all the holidays nearby. There’s been so much going on that it will take a few separate posts (some of which will be cross-posted on Dose of Reality).

First was the tour of the Parade Company workshop and warehouse. The Parade Company puts on the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade each year, and also supplies floats, balloons, and expertise to parades across the country and the world. Their facility is in an old car factory, which was apparently on the cutting edge of industrial design because there was so much natural light coming in through the overhead windows. (All of the photos should enlarge if you click them... If you're a Detroiter, see how many floats and big heads you can identify in the pictures!)

You could still see the old train tracks where they came into the factory.

It is impressive to see all of the floats and balloons together, and I was particularly taken with the storage of the big heads in a gallery on the wall.

The big heads are a Detroit tradition, after some artists in Venice taught the Detroiters how to make them out of papier mache. Some of them are as light as 5 lbs, while others way much, much more.


Overall the tour was pretty incredible, and I have to thank Gary, my dad’s neighbor, for discovering the tours and inviting me along!

More holidaze posts to come…

Saturday, December 03, 2011

More delicious things to do with greens and squash

As we near the real winter, I know I’m not the only one constantly looking for more things to do with greens and squash. My CSA ended a while ago, and I still have some squashes to eat. Luckily the squash keeps for a while, so I focused on the greens to keep them from wilting into little bags of brown goo in the fridge! Here are some of my more recent endeavors:

Ravioli on a bed of wilted greens 
Fried egg sandwiches
Scrambled eggs with greens and potatoes 
Baked tofu sandwich 
I’ll leave you with the directions for crafting that last sandwich, which I would consider an excellent achievement for the following reasons: (1) it is delicious, (2) it would be vegan if you used vegan mayonnaise instead of the addictive substance filled with egg yolk that I love, (3) in uses greens, and (4) it also features chili garlic chutney, which used a bunch of the hot peppers I also had accumulating in my fridge from the CSA. A win all around!

Chili Garlic Chutney
Adapted from 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, ground
3-4 large cloves garlic, peeled
3-4 quarter-size slices of peeled fresh ginger
8-10 fresh hot chile peppers, in any combination of red and green, serrano, jalapeƱo, whatever, coarsely chopped
1-2 red or green bell peppers, chopped
1/8 cup of lime juice
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground ajwain seeds (available at some Indian groceries, or use dried thyme)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Put the garlic, ginger, hot peppers, bell peppers, and lime juice in a food processor and process until they form a paste. Add the paprika, ajwain/thyme, pepper, and salt and process until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl, or to a container for freezing or storing in the refrigerator. Per Ms. Batra this will keep in the fridge for about a month or in the freezer for 6 months.

Baked Tofu
1 package extra firm tofu
1/3 cup tamarind date sauce (available at Indian markets, or substitute barbeque sauce or something else a little sweet)
1 tablespoon chili garlic chutney
Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the tamarind date sauce and the chutney in a large bowl or pie pan. Press the tofu between two paper towels to remove some of the excess water, and cut into 1/2” slices. Place the tofu slices in the sauce mixture and let them sit while you prepare the pan to bake them. Film a baking sheet or roasting pan with a small amount of oil, and lay the tofu slices in the pan. It doesn’t matter if they have had a ton of time to marinate, because they will pick up more flavor as they bake.
Once you’ve spread the slices in the pan, spread some of the extra sauce on each on in a thin layer. Bake until they are slightly chewy, usually when a fork will no longer easily poke through, flipping approximately every 5-10 minutes and applying additional sauce with each flip. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Awesome sandwich
1 square pita
Mayo to taste
Chili garlic chutney to taste
4-5 small spinach leaves, washed
2-3 slices baked tofu
Combine and enjoy!

Reflections on the seasons as an M3

From Dose of Reality:

In talking to a friend about the weather last week, I realized how much of the seasons I’ve missed this year. While I’ve been so consumed with learning about medicine this year, the world around me has often been observed only through a layer of glass…

During the summer I was immersed in the long hours and overnights of inpatient rotations, and I often arrived at the hospital before the sun came up, and headed home as it was setting. I managed to miss the hottest days of summer this way, seeing the sweltering heat radiating up from the roads and sidewalks from the privileged position of the windows outside the operating rooms. I caught the tail-end of summer on my family medicine rotation, watching the sunshine stream in through my car window as I drove out to my assigned clinic location. I did take advantage of some free weekend time to enjoy the warmth and light, but it was already September and I was looking forward to fall. As the leaves changed and temperatures cooled a bit, I again found myself appreciating the vista from the OR windows during my week on neurosurgery, wondering if it would be inappropriate to bring my camera back (I decided it was) to capture the fall color as I was seeing it for the first time from inside the hospital. The last six weeks of the OB-GYN rotation have been some of my favorite weeks of medical school, and yet I couldn’t help but notice how drawn I was to the post-partum rooms on the 7th floor of Mott, with the long hallway of windows between the elevator and the patient rooms. When we followed our team for a quick tour of the labor and delivery floor of the new Mott, we all stood and marveled at the beautiful views from the patient rooms, watching the river meander through the falling leaves from the windows on the 9th floor.

And now somehow it’s really winter. Dividing up the year into 4-8 week blocks makes it really fly by, and I’m not sure how it’s the beginning of December already. We’ve gotten the first good snow of the season, and I’m looking forward to avoiding being out in it too much, as I’m starting my community psychiatry rotation on Monday. I’ll be enjoying the next 6 weeks of winter weather from the car.