Tuesday, July 25, 2017

For the Good Times

The heartbreak isn't over but I'm beginning to see the light. I've never lost a best friend before. 

Yesterday I was measuring the refrigerator for a replacement. After eighteen years, the old one has finally given up on making things cold. All of a sudden, a magnet jumped off the side wall. When I fished it out from the narrow space between the counter and the appliance, I realized it was the magnet my best friend gave me many years ago. It seemed like a sign to me that she's still with me. I smiled for the first time since Friday when she passed away.

The magnet reminded me of the time at her house when I was raiding her refrigerator and slammed the door too hard. Her little ceramic angel magnet fell off and broke in two. The head rolled underneath and was lost in the dark kingdom of dust bunnies. She'd had to leave town unexpectedly, following the loss of her grandmother and my return flight was not changeable, so I waited alone to go home. I wrote her a short, sorrowful note of apology with an offer to buy her a new magnet to replace the one I ruined. She forgave me with no hesitation and the matter was closed.

My next trip to her house, I was amazed to find the angel magnet hanging proudly on the front of the refrigerator door. She'd found the lost piece and glued it back together. I carefully closed the door on the cold realm of leftovers and sodas and smiled.

My friend will never call me again. We will never walk on the beach looking for shells. Or watch the glorious beauty of sunset we like did so many times on our vacations together. Somehow, I cling to the hope that we are still together, even if separated by life and death, and that one day we will again walk along the shore in awe of God's handiwork.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Banana Pudding with Homemade Custard

Sometimes I crave something that reminds me of summer and childhood. Years ago, we made this recipe with Nabisco Vanilla Wafers and Instant Banana Pudding.

These days, I prefer the taste of the homemade custard that takes only minutes to cook and the flavor alone makes up for the time invested. It's also easy cleanup as only one medium saucepan is needed.

There are 5 main ingredients needed other than bananas and vanilla wafers. Most of these items I keep on hand in my pantry.

Ingredients for the Custard

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar - or use 12 packets of Stevia sweetener or Sucralose
  • 4 Tablespoons of powdered corn starch
  • 1/4 cup of Karo corn syrup
  • 2 egg yolks - It's easy to separate the yolks from the whites. See below.
  • 2 cups of whole milk - You can also substitute 2% milk.

After the pudding thickens add:

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract or sometimes I use banana extract if I have it.
To prepare the dish you'll need

  • Vanilla wafers and two bananas.
The key to making delicious pudding or custard is in the attention to stirring. Plan to dedicate 15 minutes of your undivided attention to this. Constant stirring eliminates the need for a double boiler and keeps the pudding from scorching and sticking to the pan.

Start with a heavy duty medium sized pan.

Measure out the sugar or sweetener right into the cold pan.

Add the corn starch and Karo syrup.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks by using a knife to crack the egg or strike it gently on a the edge of the counter.

Over a separate container, allow the egg white to drip through half of the shell.

Pour the egg yolk into the pan with the dry ingredients.

Pour about half a cup of the milk into the ingredients and stir with a whisk to form a paste.

Add the remaining milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Set a timer for about 20 minutes. Depending on your stove, it takes from 15 - 20 minutes for the mixture to come to a boil. At the first sign of boiling, remove the pan from the heat and add the pat of butter and vanilla extract. Stir and allow to cool a bit while you prepare the dish.

Line a casserole dish with a layer of Vanilla Wafers. 
Slice the bananas over the wafers.
Pour the cooked pudding custard over the top.
End with another layer of bananas and finish with the custard. Sometimes I crumble a few Vanilla wafers over the top. 

Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours and serve with whipped cream.

I hope you enjoy this family favorite dessert.

Monday, July 10, 2017

5 Hours in the Emergency Room

Sitting in the ER on the day before a holiday can be frustrating. Truth is, it can be frustrating anytime, any day. A visitor tends to notice the small, bothersome things, like debris on the floor or black scuff marks on the wheels of the gurney. The patient, on the other hand, notices only the delay in getting the proper care or pain medication that they are screaming for at the moment.

The constant bleeping noise of the blood pressure monitor, left running while the patient is taken to some mysterious location for CT Scans and Sonograms becomes the heartbeat of the room.

The wail of other emergency transport vehicles sounds loud as they echo down the deserted hallways, first a siren, later only flashing red and blue lights before the transport team makes their way past us to one of eighty rooms in the ER.

A lonely housekeeper pushes the hospital equivalent of a Swiffer down the linoleum tile. I almost asked when our room will be swabbed as well, but I didn't. Instead, I concentrated on the blaring volume of the TV where the soap opera plays its own version of drama. My companion, the patient's mother, stares without blinking at the screen catching up on her stories so she can relay updates to her daughter when she returns.

Minutes tick by on the clock in the room, the hands moving ever so slowly as we wait for some sort of results or decisions. After an hour, I go out in search of my missing friend.

"They said she'd only be gone a few minutes," I tell someone kind enough to stop.

"Oh, the techs have no idea how long it takes," the radiologist informs me as I'm pacing the halls under the x-ray sign. "I'll find out what happened to her." He asks her name again. I tell him.

At that moment, a door opens and they roll her back to the same location on the dirty floor of the ER room where it rested before. Someone else comes in the room with the same questions that have been answered a number of times. I wonder what is the point of entering data into the computer when no one can find it again.

The doctor on staff, who's substituting for the regular doctor who's on holiday, who is filling in for the patient's primary care physician, asks if my friend has an Advanced Directive and a Living Will. Although expected, this brings to light the severity of the situation and the possibilities of the outcome.

Five hours of staring at the photo on the wall opposite the ER room, the nurse finally tells us that a room assignment has been made. They roll the patient down the hall, with a brief stop in front of the nurses' station to add Dilaudid to the IV drip We follow the gurney through two buildings and up an elevator to the south wing on the fourth floor where we settle into an ice cold room, thankfully, a private room with a window, where the questions resume with a familiarity that is unnerving and redundant.

"What is your name and date of birth?"
"Do you have an Advanced Directive? A Living will?"
"What is your level of pain on a scale of one to ten. A ten?"
"What prescription pain medications do you take at home?"

An hour later, the shift changes and the night nurse comes in with the same list of questions. By now, we're preparing flash cards with the answers to save energy.

My friend is in Stage IV of Pancreatic cancer, unable to eat, barely able to walk, and each question answered requires serious effort at speaking. We turn the air conditioner setting warmer from 65 to a more pleasant 75 degrees, take our positions on the hard folding chairs provided and wait.