Great Things

I’m harboring this anxious feeling to do something great…to accomplish, to achieve, to make my mark on this world, to make a difference. As I feel this sense of urgency, I’m compelled to reflect back on my 54 years, I realize I have accomplished what may be defined as “great” things. By no means does this mean I am satisfied nor am I finished. The realization of what I have done, however, is worthwhile. “Life reflection” we call it in the hospice world. I hope I’m early in that reflection, but a few of worthy accomplishments bear mention if for nothing but my own acknowledgement.

1.  I’ve raised triplet daughters to be compassionate, thoughtful, intelligent women who respect themselves, their God, their fellow human beings, this world’s creatures, and their family. If I accomplish nothing else in this world, I’ve achieved this very great thing.

2.  I’ve saved lives. As a nurse, I’ve been the one at the patient’s bedside who noticed a change and acted upon it. As a critical care nurse, I have monitored my patient’s every breath and heart beat and acted quickly and competently to ensure–God willing–that they survived a critical illness and moved on to a fuller recovery.

3.  As a hospice nurse, I’ve had the privilege to be there for the dying patient, to respect their wishes for a dignified and comfortable death, and to support their grieving family. For the patient and the loved ones left behind, to make a difference at such a momentous time of life, to be there at death as a guide, an advocate, an educator and comforter…surely, this is a great thing.

4. I’ve taken in needy creatures. At this moment, I have six cats and one dog, all shelter rescues. My heart breaks for the many cats and dogs (and rabbits and guinea pigs and other hapless creatures) who are abandoned or homeless. I know that I’ve made difference in the lives of the animals in this house, and I continue to contribute financially to local shelters.

5. I have the love of an amazing and honorable man who accepts and loves me with full knowledge of my follies, foibles and failings. This is indeed a great thing and I cannot take credit for accomplishing this feat, but I must acknowledge the fact that I have found deep and abiding love. May I never forget to be grateful, responsive and attentive to my dear husband.

While it’s not an earth-shattering list of accomplishments, it still merits my acknowledgement. I don’t crave fame, although I wouldn’t snub fortune. The urgent need to contribute and improve the world around me persists, even if I can only do so in small ways. I pray I never feel there’s nothing more I can do!

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  Mother Teresa.


Bucket List

This will be an ongoing work. I want to start putting something down on paper (virtually speaking). How can I know what if I’ve accomplished what I want to do unless I first define what I want to do? Hmm, should I start with things I HAVE accomplished? Or at least include them? Or maybe that’s a separate list. An “Accomplishments” list. Yeah. In any event, I’m starting a list of things I want to do; some will be mundane, some grandiose. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, though! I’m not going to limit…or force…myself into a number (“100 things…”).

Things I’d Like to Do, in no particular order:

  1. Tropical cruise
  2. Take a culinary vacation/tour
  3. Learn a language — probably Spanish, including medical terminology
  4. Respond as a volunteer in a disaster
  5. Go to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee
  6. Visit Austin, Texas
  7. Spend a week at a luxury spa
  8. Go to Yosemite
  9. Visit a dude ranch
  10. Visit the Vatican
  11. Go to Cape Cod (New England sea food)
  12. Take a pastry decorating class(es)
  13. Visit a castle
  14. Go to as many Iron Chef restaurants as possible
  15. Visit New Orleans
  16. Become an accomplished knitter
  17. Become a wine connoisseur
  18. Establish a backyard retreat (hot tub, evening lights, gazebo, pond, etc.)
  19. Put in high end appliances in my kitchen
  20. Establish a “sun” or window room out of my side porch
  21. Create a relaxing, luxurious bedroom
  22. Try acupuncture
  23. Join a “cause”
  24. Have a successful herb garden
  25. Kentucky Derby
  26. Attend a “super-game” (super bowl, world series, stanley cup…)
  27. Get a facelift
  28. Surprise someone/family by paying for their groceries or meal

A Recyclable Tradition

For years it’s been a Christmas tradition of mine to give my daughters Christmas stockings. They started out small and grew as the years went on. Now that my children are adults, the tradition continues. Unfortunately, when their father and I split up, the original stockings went missing. At least the set of three were no longer complete. Each year since I’ve used different items as “stockings.” I’ve used large shopping bags, popcorn tins, etc.

This year I’ve gone green! I’ve recycled! I cleaned, painted and decorated kitty litter containers. A household with six cats manages to accumulate a number of empty containers. After cleaning them inside and out, I placed a dryer sheet inside for a few days to absorb the (clean) kitty litter odor. Then I decorated with spray paint and scrapbooking paper, as well as a little decorative duct tape. I thought of using Christmas designs but opted to use colors and designs they like so they can use them for storage in the future.

As usual, I’ve stacked them full of unwrapped goodies, as is our tradition. Mostly silly and useful items. But it’s a tradition my girls enjoy and depend on and I have fun coming up with new ways of presenting them!IMG_0870

Is it time? Now or never?

Three years ago I planned on going to school to complete a CRNP (nurse practitioner) program. Life changes got in the way and I didn’t go to school. I moved out of my house, I got divorced, I bought a new house, I changed jobs…three times. My girls went to college (where they remain) and I’m really wishing I had continued my schooling.

Is it too late? Just hit my 53rd birthday. It’s not that I don’t feel I’m capable. I worry about incurring (more) debt and having difficulty recouping expenses. I worry about working and going school at the same time and supporting the financial needs of my household.

I had three discussions this weekend that make me think, heck, just do it. My husband encourages me. A physician’s assistant I spoke with today encouraged me to just do it (thanks, Chris Hart). And thirdly, Dr. Laman, pulmonologist/critical care doc tells me I should do it; I should be doing something “more” than I am currently.

The market for CRNP is growing, growing. Even if I only work 10 years as a CRNP, it will be time well spent. So now or never? Go for it? What’s another $25,000, hmm? It’s only money, as my mother would say. I’m gonna die owing so why not pursue something I want?

Del’s Italian Restaurant and Bar, Bloomfield PA: Review

Del’s Bar & Ristorante DelPizzo is located in the Bloomfield section of the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Del’s Italian Restaurant is owned by third-generation Delpizzo family. In December 2011, Del’s underwent a “Restaurant: Impossible” make-over; a Food Network series that sends Chef Robert Irvine into “America’s most desperate restaurants” and infuses them with new ideas, new decor and new hope for the future.

As dedicated Food Network fans, Mark and I were excited about the opportunity to see a “Restaurant: Impossible” make-over first hand. It had been many many years since I had been to Del’s, and Mark had never been there. My memory of what Del’s was like before the make-over is too distant to serve as any comparison. I do know that Del’s has always had a reputation for providing very good, authentic Italian food and to my knowledge had a thriving business with regular clientele. I was very surprised to learn it was a candidate as one of America’s “most desperate” restaurants.

January 7, 2012–my birthday. We set out for an early dinner, arriving and finding a parking spot in the designated section of the shopping center parking lot across the street from Del’s. It’s always nice to find parking spot in these little urban towns around Pittsburgh without incident! Del’s has a bar on one side, with restaurant seating behind the bar and in a separate room beside the bar. We followed another couple into the restaurant and approached the empty hostess station. Workers bustled about but it took several minutes before the couple in front of us was approached and seated. Then several more minutes before a harried-looking, not particularly happy young woman approached us, saying “How many? Two? Follow me” and lead us to a table. Our menus were slapped unceremoniously–and precariously–on the edge of the table.

We took some time to observe the decor and postulate what was pre-existing and what Chef Irvine had implemented. We decided the aqua colored walls, the red light light fixtures and the red shelving lined with pottery all bore the marks of Chef Irvine’s doing.  The gold faux-marble table tops were probably not new, and we determined the chairs had been painted. The photographs on the wall were encased in red frames, matching the light fixtures. The carpet we differed on; I thought it looked old and Mark thought it was probably new…a dark green cross-hatch patterned carpet.

Our waiter (“Mark”) was a nice young man. He brought us drinks from the bar (Sam Adams winter lager for Mark, a glass of Riesling for me) as we looked over the menu. The menu had a number of choices and a few of the daily specials, printed on a separate sheet of paper, indicated that they were “Restaurant: Impossible” items. Mark’s menu, by the way, was missing the list of specials; it held the paper clip where the list ostensibly should have been. Neither Mark nor I, however, ordered one of the “new” menu items. Mark chose the Pesto Crusted Salmon with a salad, and I selected the Ravioli with Artichokes and Walnuts with wedding soup. Bread was served to us first….cold, Italian bread with butter packets. Alas, we had no tableware and our waiter apologized and brought us each paper-napkin wrapped knife, fork and spoon. We also asked to be provided water.

Susan’s meal: The wedding soup was not what I expected but was not bad. There were no meatballs; instead, there were large hunks of chicken. It came in a cup with a good bit of the soup sloshed onto the saucer and a packet of saltines resting in the overflow. I had one piece of the cold bread; I had no desire for more. My entree arrived and initially didn’t look like much: four raviolis in a cream sauce. It was actually pretty tasty but quite salty, and I have a high salt preference. Three raviolis filled me up; they were larger than I originally thought. As it was my birthday, we asked to see the dessert menu. Our waiter brought us a plate with several choices and I selected the Vanilla Almond Torte. A large serving was presented to me, drizzled in a cherry sauce. It was the best part of my meal, and I could only consume half of it. I suspect, however, that it was not made onsite. I could be wrong; there was no printed dessert menu to provide me more information, nor does the website discuss desserts.

Mark’s meal: Mark’s salad contained lettuce, onion, cherry tomatoes and large slices of carrot with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It was a satisfactory salad. His entree, Pesto Crusted Salmon, was a good portion size served over fettucine. There was no “crust” to the pesto which had been heaped onto the salmon. They had attempted to get the pesto sauce to crust which resulted in parts of the salmon being overcooked and dry. For dessert, a vanilla bean cheesecake which was drizzled with a cherry sauce. Mark gives the cheesecake a “4 out of 5” rating. The taste of the pesto sauce from the entree lingered, however, throughout dessert and even on the drive home.

Overall, our experience with Del’s was unremarkable. Certainly not the worst we have ever had, but also not the best or even very good. We had hoped for more, given Del’s long history in the area and the recent make-over. I’m glad we went and it was fun playing Food Network critics, if only to each other as audience.

In pursuit of “our place”

Mark and I have been trying local restaurants in pursuit of a non-chain establishment  that provides consistently good food, service, and atmosphere at a non-ridiculous cost.  Ideally, we’d like to find a place within five miles of our home.  Thus far, we haven’t been terribly successful.  It appears we need to expand our territory.

I will be posting reviews of the places we try. Last night, for my birthday, we went to Del’s Italian Restaurant and Bar in Bloomfield. We were pretty excited (well, I was) about this as the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible” had just done a re-do of the place last month (episode to air on February 29, 2012). My review is in a separate post.

We don’t go out too often so this part of my blog will be slow-moving. But there will be more to follow!



Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I used this recipe as a base for a buffalo chicken pizza:

I used Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough.  I think I need a “moister” dough for this recipe. It was quite good but the dough was a little dry. Not a fault of the recipe, obviously, I just need a regular white dough, I believe.  I used shredded sharp cheddar as that is what I had on hand. I didn’t have green onions but I chopped some fresh chives from my herb garden and tossed them on.

My pizzas tend to be made from ingredients I have readily available so I look for a recipe for whatever idea strkikes me and then I take it from there. I meant to use the cremini mushrooms I bought the other day, too, but I got distracted by a phone call from Teresa as I was making the recipe. So I forgot!