Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What'cha gonna do.....

Overhead at Walmart in south-east Oregon:

Parent figure to young child, "OK, I'm tellin' ya one more time - cut it out right now or you're goin' into lockdown when we get home!"

Umm, yeah - being grounded or getting a time-out is a little bit like jail, I guess.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Order Up!

I suppose not too many people think cooking for 100 guests would be considered a vacation activity. But I had the opportunity to do that on my recent trip and I loved it! Wait, I should clarify something - I was a volunteer prep person in the kitchen, I wasn't cooking for 100 by myself!

By accident, my vacation coincided with a wine & food conference at my friend's Northwest Country Inn. Approximately 100 registrants were expected and they, in turn, were expecting to be fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner over the space of 3 days. I knew I wouldn't be seeing much of my friend unless I joined her in the kitchen, so off we went. (Because of the remote location of the inn, her labor pool is not huge. Even my rusty kitchen skills were accepted, with the promise that I would cut vegetables and not body parts. Promise kept!)

The inn has a dual personality. Daytime fare consists of burgers & beer while the nightime fare is fine dining and wine. The two personalities often overlap in the kitchen, when the nightime crew needs to start prepping but the daytime grill is still sizzling. That was the case on the Sunday when I tied on an apron. Tables were full of guests eating late weekend breakfast, chomping on hot burgers, and ordering Sunday afternoon pie and coffee. The two kitchen crews divide up the space, manuevering around each other, and produce amazing amounts of work in a short period of time.

I was put to work cleaning, slicing, and sauteeing 10 lbs of mushrooms. While I did that, everyone else completed 2 or 3 projects, but I was making sure there would be no Wendy's-fingertip-in-the-chili style lawsuits to be filed. After successfully mastering mushrooms, I was handed a whisk and asked to tenderly care for the gallon of bechamel sauce. It needed to be thick, creamy, and pure white without lumps or scorched flecks. My forehead broke into a light sweat and not just because I was standing over a commercial range. Bechamel is just a French name for very simple white sauce - any cook with a saucepan and spoon can make it, but it can go wrong in a hurry. Too thick, too thin, too floury, too salty, too burnt, too lumpy - but this batch turned out fine and made a beautiful finish to the fresh vegetable pastas.

While I was gently tending the bechamel, standing to one side of the range, I had a great view of the two grill cooks. They were a study in opposites. Cook A: Short, rotund, plain faced, middle aged female plodding slowly and methodically thru the line up; Cook B: Tall, thin, pierced and tattooed, hyperactive young male working in a blur of activity with exasperated outbursts and dramatic spatula flourishing. They seemed to have informally divided up the tasks and each monitored a separate section of the grill. At one time I counted 6 pancakes, 2 cheeseburgers, 4 plain burgers, 6 buns (top & bottom), 6 bacon slices, 2 mounds of ham, 1 mound of grilled omelette vegies, and 1 large mound of country hash browns on the grill. Two of the range burners held a soup order and some over-easy eggs. All the orders made it to the proper plate at the proper time! (Although I did surreptiously adjust the flame under the soup order when it was in danger of becoming stew as the stock boiled away.) It was like watching choreography, only with the smell of bacon and snap of grill grease. My task was to simply stay out of the way and keep the bechamel from burning.

At the end of the night, all was well. Cook A & B shut down the grill, cleaned off the grease, and headed home to cold beers or other organic relaxation products. The night crew finished off dinner and 100 wine loving locusts descended to devour every crumb and then some. We turned off the kitchen lights and headed down river, while discussing the menu plans for the next night. As a post note: I apologize profusely to the teen age dishwasher who is still probably trying to scrape burnt blackberry sugar syrup off the stock pot bottom. It wasn't my fault - it's not easy to stir the bottom of 48 cups of berries!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vacation Farewell

Yesterday I was driving on Scenic Route Hwy 230 through central Oregon alongside the Rogue river. It's a beautiful route lined with Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pines, and small state parks and campgrounds. As I passed through Farewell Bend, one of those parks, I glanced at the parking lot. There, parked parallel to the road, in between 2 large R.V.'s was a Batesville casket delivery truck. I'm not making this up. There was an actual casket truck parked in the Farewell Bend campground! WTH?? It's not like there are any funeral homes nearby - in fact, it would take about 2 hours of driving from that spot to reach one. Perhaps the drivers' GPS system failed and he felt Farewell Bend was an appropriate place to stop and get directions. Whatever. I didn't want to turn around to get a picture, but how weird is that? Another great vacation memory!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gone Fishing

On vacation until July 22nd! I'm not really fishing, just relaxing in a world class fly-fishing region of central Oregon. I'm in my favorite place of the world with my favorite people, which makes a perfect vacation. But I'm also compiling a mental list of potential posts... which won't happen until after the 22nd. Gotta go, the creek and my paperback book are calling.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Don't Touch That!

I was standing in line at one of our busier drug stores a few days ago, waiting for a (completely unnecessary but required) consult with the pharmacist. Lines at the pharmacy counter are 24/7, so some enterprising drug companies have installed a couple of touch screen displays to keep everyone occupied and informed while they wait. I was closest to the Wellness Topics. And, because of the angle, I could also see the grubby, sticky, smeared residue left from the fingertips of my fellow curious customers. Now, we're all there waiting for drugs - which I assume means some of us are sick, maybe with communicable diseases. Or maybe with just some generally icky condition. Regardless, this doesn't seem like the best place to install a screen which then NEVER GETS CLEANED! It might be a good strategy for repeat business tho. I skipped the Wellness Topics in an effort to stay well.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Driving Me Crazy

Like many people who live in CA, I spend a great deal of time in my car. (Sorry, I still can't refer to myself as a Californian even after living here 28 years. I am an Oregon girl living temporarily in the south. Just to clarify that....) Like I was saying, I drive 20 miles to my job each day which by Bay Area standards is a very short commute. 10 years ago the drive took about 22 minutes door to door. Now, because of increased population, more stoplights, general congestion, and irritated traffic gods it takes 35 to 40 minutes. On a really, really bad day when there's been a fatal accident or road closure, it can take well over 2 hours. So I have plenty of time to observe other drivers and develop defensive driving strategies. I'm pleased to present my summary here - however, I should warn readers: The following post will contain age, gender, and racial profiling. It's probably not politically correct, but it's definitely true!

Vehicle: Dodge Ram Diesel Pickup. Occupant: 40-50 year old male general contractor on his way to the latest mega-mansion project balanced on a hilltop. Driving strategy: Move to the right hand lane immediately and stay there until this rampaging bull of a vehicle has passed. The driver is quite probably late to a breakfast meeting with his bazillionaire client and is gearing up for a show down with the fancy pants architect who's coming up from San Franisco. Let 'im by.

Vehicle: 1990's American-Made Sedan, with a "Bush/Cheney" or "Support Our Troops" bumpersticker. Occupants: 80 year old couple from one of the gated retirement communities, driving to the bank or a doctor's appointment. Driving strategy: Move to the left hand lane ASAP, using your turn signal so as not to startle the driver. Make every attempt not to get stuck behind this car, because the occupants have all day to complete their errands and are in absolutely no hurry to get anywhere.

Vehicle: Newer Jetta, Matrix, Acura, Cabriolet or Similiar Sporty Model. Occupant: Young, adult white male - Millennial or Gen X'er. Driving strategy: Stay right where you are and do not adjust speed. Never try to change lanes because there won't be time. These drivers are multi-tasking: texting, e-mailing, blue-toothing, DVD watching and God knows what else. They are unrepentant lane changers who enjoy squeezing by other cars with only inches to spare. They earn some kind of game points for arriving at red lights 2-3 seconds before other drivers. They are sometimes, but not often enough, seen in conversations with CA Highway Patrol.

Vehicle: Previously-Owned 1980's Auto - often missing hubcabs, with under inflated tires, and broken brake light covers. Occupants: 4 -6 Hispanic Males of a various ages, often related to one another. Driving strategy: Approach with caution because the vehicles are often not well maintained and have frequent blow-outs or breakdowns. Move past the vehicle carefully. While these workers are to be commended for car-pooling, unlike their fellow CA drivers, there is no guarantee that they possess a valid drivers license, have car insurance, understand the rules of the road in the USA, or have ever had any formalized drivers training. In the event of an accident, all occupants will disappear across the fields and you'll be left with 2 damaged cars.

Vehicle: Chrysler Seibring, generally Convertible: Occupants: Heterosexual couple, possibly married but not necessarily to each other. Driving strategy: Use extreme caution. These are erratic, dangerous tourist drivers who have been seen backing up on a state highway, making U-turns across all lanes of traffic, driving southbound in a northbound lane, using a center turn lane as a private drive-thru, running red lights and stop signs, and engaging in unsafe sexual practices while operating a motor vehicle. They brake often for winery driveways and may have consumed a week's worth of alcohol by 3 p.m. Keep a safe distance and be prepared for the unexpected!

Vehicle: Toyota Prius or Honda Hybrid. Occupant: Baby Boomer of either gender, listening to NPR and sipping a soy milk latte while carefully nibbling a whole-grain, low fat muffin. Driving strategy: None really. The driver might be a bit spacey, but he/she will be driving the speed limit in order to conserve fuel and reduce carbon footprints and is unlikely to break any traffic laws. Generally safe, cordial and well mannered unless you go out of your way to antagonize him/her by flashing a "f**k Tibet" sign or something.

There are a few more: SUV Mom's (dangerous during school drop-offs/pick-ups), Low riding Ghetto Gangbangers (always dangerous but not usually out during daytime hours), Weekend Warriors with bike/kayak racks, etc. but this post is long enough already.

What's my ride? I'm not saying, but my strategies have kept it dent-free for 5 years.