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BBC: ‘Five Days at Memorial’.

Hey, hey! It finally got chilly in Austin last week (yes, it even snowed!), and I’ve been SO paranoid that this would be year #3 of having the Christmas Mouse come for a visit. Blanche started meowing at my coat closet door on Wednesday, and ever since then I’ve been so paranoid (not to mention I had a nightmare about a mouse flying out of the closet, and then woke up convinced there was a mouse on the kitchen floor – it was a dust bunny).

I proactively set mouse traps, and spent a good part of 2017 scouring my place for any holes that would allow unwanted guests – and filling said holes. I was confident, but it’s starting to slip. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t sleeping with my hallway light on tonight.

I need sleep. And this weekend was set not up to not be forgiving in that area… wah! But, ’tis the season, right? I know everyone is busy as heck this time of year.

So, let’s slow things down a bit and talk about this week’s book from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina – and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.

In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and maintain life amid chaos.

After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several of those caregivers faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. 

Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.

In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.

I heard about this book on a podcast and I was sold when I heard: true story + Hurricane Katrina. This book uses sold investigative journalism to look into the days leading up to a criminal investigation in one of New Orleans’ most historic institutions.

It’s a glimpse into public health and the issues any hospital would face as a storm approaches – Do they stay or go? What about the patients? How could they logistically get everyone out safely and in time? What if the weather alert is really nothing to worry about?

The questions get deeper when you start to consider patients on life support. Will the generators hold up? How long might we be without power?

But the real question the doctors inside Memorial hospital faced in those five days were moral questions of life, death, and ethics.

This story is a chilling one, but it’s fantastically written. I’m recommending this to my true crime lovers, any students of public health, and all who love the great city of New Orleans.

The next book we’ll be reading is “Watch Me Disappear” by Janelle Brown.

I stayed up late last night baking cookies and finally watching “Home Alone” for the first time of the season. I was able to bake everything I wanted… minus the meringues. This is my second attempt ever making them and I can never seem to get the texture right. Anyone got any advice? I miiiight try it one more time before i just give up – they just look so pretty in the pictures!

Anyway, I’ve got another packed week ahead, but I’m going to try and squeeze in some more holiday movies before the holiday season flies by!

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Holiday weekend EATS.

Delish summer treat!

You guys!! We are on the cusp of one of my favorite times of year – summer! In Texas, the later months of summer are waaaay too hot to enjoy much of anything, so this beginning part sure is something to celebrate.

Before my Vegas vacation, I know I talked a lot about my efforts to eat right, exercise more, and drink less. And I did! Honestly, I still felt a little pudgy in my bikini, but… 31. I ate and drank pretty much everything in sight on vacation and then got back on my healthy eating once I returned.

Ever since, I’ve been feeling better and am starting to see a little bit of a difference in my figure, but being healthy and feeling good is my top priority. It’s still a constant struggle, though, to find recipes and things to cook at home that make me excited to eat healthy.

I have been eating 1 hard-boiled egg, an oatmeal English muffin (it has double the protein), and half a bottle of Naked juice for breakfast for the last three weeks and I’m still not sick of it. In week’s past, I’ve made vegan chili, veggie rolls, sausage and grits, and Hawaiian chicken sewers, among other things for lunches and dinners.

But I wanted to find some festive, special things to cook this weekend to deter me from eating out (I am still letting myself have a cheat meal at the Drafthouse to see “Baywatch”). So, I am really excited to share with you these two recipes I found on Pinterest. Here goes:

Shrimp Boil Foil Packets

Photo + recipe from Damn Delicious!

I was really excited when I saw this recipe – it was in a collection of recipes that all involved a foil packet. I have been craving some Louisiana food, and this is a really easy way for me to fulfill my wishes while still staying healthy. I think I’m going to eat this as-is, but it would also been good served with brown rice, or other veggies such as asparagus or okra (yum!).

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (12.8-ounce) package smoked andouille sausage, thinly sliced
2 ears corn, each cut crosswise into 4 pieces
1 pound baby red potatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons cajun seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill over high heat.
  2. Cut four sheets of foil, about 12-inches long. Divide shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes into 4 equal portions and add to the center of each foil in a single layer.
  3. Fold up all 4 sides of each foil packet. Add olive oil, cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, to taste; gently toss to combine. Fold the sides of the foil over the shrimp, covering completely and sealing the packets closed.
  4. Place foil packets on the grill and cook until just cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.*
  5. Served immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Note: This can also be baked for 15-17 minutes at 425 degrees F.

Black Bean Butternut Veggie Burgers

Recipe + photo from Peas and Carrots!

I really love a good burger, especially in the summer. While a regular burger is perfectly fine, I have been making a conscious effort to eat less meat and focus on plant-based foods. I’m hoping this recipe turns out great – I’m planning to add a little cheddar to my burger, and serve it with sweet potato fries and maybe some watermelon!

INGREDIENTS

1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax + 3 TBSP water) or 1 egg
1 cup mashed black beans [refried black beans work too!]
1 cup pureed butternut squash
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced celery
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
1 TBSP olive oil [or butter]
3/4 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [like mrs. dash]
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley [or fresh if you have it!]
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1.5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats [not instant]

Optional toppings: 4 burger buns (I used a bakery poppy seed onion bun – amazing!), 4 slices of pepper jack cheese, romaine lettuce, fresh baby spinach, mayo (store-bought or homemade) mixed with sriracha chili sauce

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together 1 TBSP ground flax with 3 TBSP water and pop it in the fridge to set.
  2. Next mash black beans in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Add your butternut squash to the beans and set aside.
  4. Next saute onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil until tender and near-translucent, adding the minced garlic towards the end to prevent burning.
  5. Season the veggies with your Italian seasoning blend, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and parsley and stir to coat.
  6. Add the freshly sauteed veggies to your beans and squash and stir in your oats.
  7. Remove your flax egg from the fridge and add it to the bowl.
  8. Stir to fully incorporate and roll mixture into four balls.
  9. For optimal burger shape, cup each ball in your hands and squeeze tightly, rotating as you gently, but firmly, press it into a disc.
  10. Giggles aside, pop your burgers onto a plate, cover with foil or cling wrap and refrigerate as you prep your buns [or lettuce wraps!] and toppings. This will give them a little while to set. You can even leave them overnight and cook them up the following day.
  11. Pour a tablespoon or two of oil in a skillet and heat to medium-high, so the burgers sizzle when you add them to the pan!
  12. Cook for a few minutes on each side until you’re left with a golden crust. and a warm center. Repeat for each burger, or cook two at once if you have a big enough pan!
  13. Slather your buns with sriracha mayo, pile them high with lettuce, spinach, pepper jack and top each with a yummy butternut burger.

That’s what I’ll be cooking up on this gloomy, rainy weekend – I’d love to know what recipes you’re looking forward to this weekend, or this summer!

All hail, the Queen of Bounce.

Bow down to the Queen Diva, Big Freedia.

Bow down to the Queen Diva, Big Freedia.

I spent a decent portion of last weekend in bed watching back-to-back episodes of “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” on FUSE.

As if I don’t already have enough shows on TV I like to watch, I find great joy in seeing what else is on that I can possibly latch onto. About a month ago, I saw this series was on and starting recording all of the episodes.

I let them pile up and then started from the beginning on Saturday – it was the perfect excuse to turn my head away from the protests and political craziness for a bit.

The thing is, I’d heard of Big Freedia, and have done some dancing to her songs at the studio, but really didn’t know much else. That changed, and I’m hooked. Here’s the trailer for season 1:

There’s at least five seasons, if not six, so there’s a good binge-session waiting for you. Anyway, who the heck is Big Freedia, the Queen Diva, YOU already know!!!! Okay, I’m sorry, I really do just love her positive energy!

Big Freedia is from New Orleans, where Bounce music originated, and has been popular since the 90s. Although many other artists have dabbled in Bounce before moving on, Freedia has been credited with taking it out of NOLA, and throughout the world.

Bounce music is difficult to describe – you’d know it if you heard it – but it’s music to twerk to, clap to, shake ya rump to – that’s the best part about it, it’s a genre of music that’s meant to be positive, meant for everyone to just cut loose without judgment.

Freedia started performing Bounce with drag queen and Bounce legend Katy Red in the late 90s. Hurricane Katrina sent Freedia to Texas, but when the city recovered from the storm, Freedia was performing several times a week, and became very well-known.

The television show catches Freedia just as things are really kicking up in her career. She’s about to embark on her first international tour, and is trying to figure out how to affordably become mainstream and go global.

Of course, the focus is on Freedia, but Katy Red is also in the show a lot, along with Freedia’s managers, dancers, producers, and family.

What I really love about the show is how it really shows this homegrown artist – a person who was born and raised in New Orleans, performing music known mainly in New Orleans; a person who has designed her own outfits and hair and styling for performances… and watch as they attempt to make it big.

The managers have one opinion, Freedia has another. But which decision will be the best for the career? For the tour? For the music?

It’s bittersweet to see because Freedia is just so awesome and humble and has this unique view of the world; but it hasn’t gotten her global (until now, of course).

Freedia started appearing nationally – in the New York Times and on HBO, in 2009, and is very well known for her performances at SXSW and her collaborations with RuPaul. She has set the Guiness World Record for twerking, and serves as the opening voice for Beyonce’s “Formation” Tour.

I’m only two seasons in, but I’m excited I still have plenty to watch, and plenty to learn. I don’t think I can quite convey how awesome the energy is – whether it’s in the music, the dance, or just the way Freedia talks (you’ve got to love a deep New Orleans accent, okey beh-beh) – it is just what I needed in these dark times.

So… if you need me, I’ll be twerking. YOU ALREADY KNOOOOOW.

Wiggin’ out — NOLA style.

A few weekends ago, I joined my friend Liz in New Orleans for a good ‘ole girls’ weekend — cocktails, fine food, street car trips, dancing… and shopping for wigs. One thing I’ll say about Liz is that she’s always fabulous, so any time with her is always a fun one.

Because Liz has lived in New Orleans for a few years now, she decided it was time to get in with the crowd and purchase a wig to wear when she was just, “Feelin’ good.”

Really, looking for wigs, I felt like Kim Zolciak-Biermann, and then I just wished for a guy like Kroy.

Anyway, let’s focus on the issue at hand: how does one find the perfect wig? Here are some tips I found from The Wig Experts:

  1. Cut: Consider the length (short, mid-length, long), the texture (straight, curly & wavy), and the hairstyle (bob, pixies & boy cut, layered, bangs, without bangs).
  2. Capsize: The average wig size fits most people and measures 22-inches around, but measure your head from the front hairline, behind the ear, to the nape of your neck, and back around. This will ensure the best fit.
  3. Composition: Do you want human hair or synthetic hair? There’s pros and cons to either choice, and The Wig Experts have a nice little chart that weighs the options.
  4. Color: This is the fun part, right? Now The Wig Experts are pretty serious about wigs, and they suggest choosing a color that’s close to your natural tone for the easiest transition. But, coming from someone who colors her hair, I say, pick something new, something you love, something fresh! Go for it!

Facial shape is also something you should consider when buying a wig, as it will help you pick a cut and possibly even the right length.

  • Diamond = Bobs, styles that can be tucked behind the ears, shoulder-length
  • Heart = Bangs, fringe, long, multiple layers
  • Oval = Any style!
  • Round = Long-layered styles, off-center part, short hair with high volume
  • Pear = Angled fringe, bangs, short, cropped styles
  • Square = Feathers, wispy bangs
  • Oblong = Shoulder-length, waves, curls, lots of layers

Alright, now onto the wigs! When I searched online for some wigs I loved, I found a TON that I really liked — so my apologies for all the choices. I’m open to different colors, since I really don’t know when or where I’d sport a wig, but all of the ones I found were very inexpensive. I have always dreamed of having super long hair, so I was automatically drawn to the lengthier ones.

Let me know which ones you love!

Pictured wigs: Melody Susie, Crazy City, Lolita, Wine Red, Angel, Royal

Pic of the Week.

We're so summery...

We’re so summery…

Saturday night, my friend Liz was celebrating 10 years living in Louisiana! She invited me to join in her celebration — and it felt special, because not only have I been in Louisiana for ten years, too, but I’ve known Liz for most of those years!

I asked my friend and gym-influencer, Derek, to join me, and we made a day of it, traveling to New Orleans to go shopping (where I found a great sparkle skirt for $10), have lunch (oyster club & a house-made summer ale), and then we went to the party.

It really was a fabulous day, and night, so worthy of my pic of the week. I got to see some friends I haven’t seen in awhile (some in years) and I met plenty of new ones, and had some great conversation — pay no mind that it was laced with champagne bubbles.

Derek and I even learned a new game: Get Buckets. It involves tossing baby satsumas onto a roof and cheering it on to… “Get buckets!”

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately, and it’s weird… When I left Indiana to live here, I never thought I’d reach the ten year mark. But I have.

I don’t know if I’ll stay in Louisiana forever — there are definitely other places I’ve dreamt of living. But no matter where I go, I can say with certainty that this place has had a great effect on my heart.

I guess I feel that I was following my instincts, and at the same time being guided by the best. I became totally intrigued with Louisiana — the people, the food. It is a part of my life. Everything that has happened for me since moving here has just been icing on the cake. 

—Emeril Lagasse