Kitty in the Coal Mine

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Author: Sandy Sue

Em in a BoxAs blasé as cats seem, they are actually quite sensitive creatures.  Stress makes them sick, especially if they are inside cats and can’t de-stress with normal feline activity like snapping a squirrel’s neck or dashing up a tree to escape the neighbor’s dog.  The urinary tract is especially susceptible.  My Henry develops crystals in his bladder without a special diet.  And now Emmett has a urinary tract infection.

Emmett has always been a Scardy Cat.  Plastic bags send him running.  As does a flushing toilet.  And don’t get me started on the vacuum cleaner.  He hates being picked up or handled in any way.  When we moved to the apartment, it took him almost two years to jump up on the bed with us at night and burrow under the covers.  He actually loves being petted and groomed, but on his terms.  That’s usually when I’m on the toilet or sitting quietly in my big chair.  I am the elephant in the room, and Emmett feels much safer if I’m not stomping around.

I knew all the hubbub this summer would be stressful for both of them—the bathroom remodel, the bed-bug inspection, and then my five days away in Minneapolis.  I tried to soften the effects—keeping them shut up with me in the bedroom while the contractors worked on the bathroom, providing lots of hide-holes, having a friend they knew come visit while I was away.   Emmett went into deep hiding, which is fairly normal for him.  But then he urinated under my chair in the living room.  Houston, we have a problem.

So off to the vet for confirmation and a time-released antibiotic.  Not a huge concern.  But, I was hysterical.

Immediately, I was reliving a time in my life when a different kitty peed where she shouldn’t.  At that time, several traumatic events happened at once.  I wasn’t just remembering that time, I was in it, feeling all the terror and helplessness from twenty years ago.  I bolted awake from nightmares.  When the UPS man rang my doorbell, I screamed.  I knew I was over-reacting, but couldn’t talk myself out of it.  Then, I remembered working with my substitute therapist, Ben, last summer, and how I had the same kind of reactions.  He named it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was hard for me to accept.  I’m not a war veteran or a rape survivor.  But as we slowly worked through the memories and flashbacks then, I began to see that what had happened to me was bad enough.  So I went to Megan, my regular therapist, and we worked through it again.

Bed Lump

Emmett and I are slowly coming back.  He’s spent the last two weeks in the safe cubby I made for him in the bathroom with access to food, water and the litter box.  He didn’t mind me sitting next to the nest and reaching in to pet him, but he bolted when I turned on the shower.  So, on the days when I didn’t go to the Y to shower, I tucked him under a blanket on my bed.  He complained loudly about being moved and handled, but would stay under the blanket all day.  He was too scared to come out from that safe, dark place.  To make sure he drank some water and used the box, I had to pull him out and set him back in the bathroom.

His fear broke my heart, but that reaction is also part of my old trauma.  It’s confusing, this layering of past and present.

A few minutes ago, he came out of the bathroom for the first time on his own.  I tried not to make too much of it, staying put in my chair and greeting him in a soft voice.  But when he heard me, looked up and saw me, he scurried back into the bathroom.  Emmett is my mirror and my Teacher in this particular lesson.  We both need to relearn who is safe and who is dangerous.  We both need gentleness and time to come back to ourselves.

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Grilled Steak with Spicy Ssamjang Sauce

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Author: sheriwetherell

You know a meal is good when the chatter stops and all becomes silent at the table once the food arrives. A recent dinner at Girin Seattle, an upscale Korean restaurant in the heart of Seattle’s Pioneer Square district, had me spellbound and anxious to recreate their grilled skirt steak dish at home. Served with banchan (little side dishes; see image below) and crisp leafy greens for wrapping, the unctuous steak was grilled to a perfect medium-rare, sliced, and served with whole roasted garlic and charred baby onions. And here’s where things got crazy good: you grab a lettuce leaf, lay in a couple strips of steak, toss in some of those garlic and onions, then give it all a healthy schmear of ssamjang sauce. Ssamjang sauce (ssam means “wrapping” and jang means “sauce”) is a spicy condiment with deep, bold flavors, a hefty kick of heat, and just a hint of sweetness. This dish hits all the right taste buds – fatty, salty, spicy – and delivered in a fresh, hand-held wrapper.

If you’re looking for a new twist to add to your grilled steak repertoire, this one is easy to do at home. We like skirt steak as it remains tender when grilled and has just the right amount of fat, but sirloin tip is also comparable as it has a similar loose grain that grills up nicely without being tough. Read on, your home-cooked Korean barbecue is just around the corner!

Grilled Skirt Steak with Spicy Ssamjang Sauce

Serves 4

1 to 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak (or the cut of your choice), grilled then sliced into strips
1 head garlic, roasted (recipe follows), cloves left whole
4 baby onions or 1 small yellow onion, sliced 1/4- 1/2-inch thick, grilled
Lettuce leaves for serving (green leaf works best), allow a few leaves per guest
Ssamjang sauce (recipe follows)
An assortment of banchan, such as kimchi, seasoned spinach or bean sprouts, rice, etc. (optional)

Roasted Garlic
Rub a whole head of garlic with olive oil and wrap in foil. Place in a 375° F oven for 30 minutes or until garlic is soft. When ready to serve, carefully remove roasted cloves from their skin and plate.

Grilled Skirt Steak
Grill steak to the doneness of your liking, then remove from heat and allow steak to rest 10-15 minutes. Once rested, slice into 1/2-inch thick strips. Grill the onions while steak is resting.

Charred Onions
Lightly brush sliced onions with olive oil (or cooking spray) and place on the hottest part of the grill. Once deeply brown to slightly blackened on one side, carefully turn over and repeat. If your onions are quite small, use a grilling basket to prevent them from falling into your grill.

Ssamjang Sauce
Yields 2/3 cup

4 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

3 tablespoons dwenjang (also called doenjang, a fermented soy bean paste) or red miso

2 1/2 tablespoons gochujang (red chile paste)

2 tablespoons mirin
 (or 1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix ingredients in a bowl, then adjust for seasoning. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

Editor’s note: recipe is our recreation based on a dish from Girin Seattle (as shown in photo at top).

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An apple a day brings more apples your way

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Author: Tim Crowe

Shopping on a full stomach is sensible advice to prevent buying up big on foods that you don’t need. Now scientists have taken this idea further by showing that what a person eats before they shop can influence what they buy.

It is age-old advice that it is best not to grocery shop on an empty stomach if you are trying to eat better and eat less. Taking this advice one step further though and injecting some science into it, researchers from Cornell University asked the question if what a person eats before they shop could influence what they purchased. The research was published Psychology & Marketing.

In the first study, 120 shoppers were randomly given an apple sample, a biscuit sample or no sample at the start of their shopping trip. The shoppers’ purchases were then scrutinised at the end of their shop. The people given the apple sample ended up buying 28 percent more fruits and vegetables compared to those given the biscuit samples or those given nothing.

The next part of the study moved the research out of the supermarket and into the lab. Volunteers shopped online for their purchases, but just like in the first study, were given an apple or biscuit sample before they did their virtual grocery shop. When presented with 20 sets of choices containing one healthy and one less healthy option, those who received the apple sample were more likely to pick the healthier choice compared to those who ate the biscuit.

The final study gave volunteers a chocolate milk drink which was either labelled as ‘healthy’ or ‘rich and indulgent’ before they did their online shopping. Despite the drinks being the same for everyone regardless what the label stated, those that were primed by the ‘healthy’ label were more likely to choose healthier options when presented with contrasting healthy and less healthy food pairs.

The findings from the three studies illustrate the idea of ‘priming’, where exposure to a stimulus activates a conscious or subconscious mental thought related to it. For example, playing French music in a wine store increases sales of French wine.

What it all means

This was only a small study, but showed some impressive results using a very simple study design. It is a good example of ‘nudge theory’ where a small prod, in this case a healthy snack before shopping, can be enough to push people in the direction they wish to be going. Munching on an apple on the way to the supermarket may be one of the simplest and effective health promotion ideas yet.



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Do Superheroes Get PTSD?

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Author: Sandy Sue


Several Teesha stamps on this card

One of the items on my IPR Bucket List is to attend a Teesha Moore art retreat.  I found Teesha years ago when I first started using rubber stamps.  Hers were grungy, and weird, and everything I loved.  As you can see from the link, she makes bizarre-o collages and art journals, and held Artfest annually near her home in Issaquah, Washington.

First she quit making rubber stamps (boo!), then she quit offering the retreats.  I never had the funds to get out there anyway, but I always hoped—you know—someday.  So, she stayed on my list, because weirder things have happened (like me going to London last year).

Yesterday, she sent out an email to announce that Artfest had risen from the dead and would I like to register?  Boom!  Done!  Later, as I scrolled through the information about Artfest, I realized some Cosmic Convergence or Synchronicity Faerie worked unseen in the ethers, because the theme of the retreat is:

Calling All Superheroes to Unite

As Teesha says on her website:

It is my intention that by the end of Artfest Rising, we will all be flying out of there with our capes flapping in the wind and our confident faces to the skies from our newfound understanding of ourselves, our powers and our place in this world….not to mention an amazing super-sized journal packed full of the coolest artwork around!

What feels even more serendipitous is that I’ve been contemplating my super powers recently.  I know most people don’t consider mental illness a super power, but take my Clark Kent glasses for a moment and have a look-see.

dark knightThere’s Bipolar Disorder, a cross between The Dark Knight and The Human Torch.  This is Human-Torchthe veteran, the Bad-Ass, the muscle.

FataleThen, there’s Binge Eating Disorder.  She’s been around a long time, but never identified, never given her full cred in the super power department—sort of like Fatale, one of the Dark X-Men.  Deceptively evil—strong as the horse she’s usually eating.

mistiqueBut the super power that’s come out to play recently is one I know little about.  She’s a Mistique, a chameleon, blending into her surroundings for the sneak attack.  This, of course, is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  She’s played me for a while now, posing as memory, setting trip wires that jettison me into past trauma with anxiety and flashbacks.  I’m not used to thinking of her as part of the Superhero Pantheon, but this girl’s got game.

These three (four, really—Bipolar could never be content with one aspect) might seem like a hinderance, a handicap, but look again at their power.  They’ve protected me, kept me safe.  Sure, there’s a price.  And the bill never gets settled.  But the more I learn about them, their origin stories, their special abilities, the more I can see their beauty.  I’m making room for them, inviting them in instead of locking them out.  It’s a tentative truce, but we’re making progress.

I can’t wait to take them all to Artfest next spring to see what happens.

We’re on an Adventure.

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Two days before DC Beer Week, it’s Cask Night!

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The 5th annual DC Beer Week begins next Sunday, but this Friday and Saturday, 7/8 August, Barrett Lauer, brewer at the District Chophouse in downtown Washington, D.C. hosts an unofficial ‘soft’ opening for DC Beer Week: Cask Night & Cask Day. Twenty-four breweries in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are sending a cask ale apiece to the festival: nine each from breweries in the District and Maryland; and six from Virginia. Each will be served Friday evening for Cask Night, and, again, Saturday afternoon for Cask Day.

Here’s the lineup as it stands today. Plans may change and different casks appear. As well, ten of the casks remain yet to be announced. I’ll update this post as details come in.

  • WASHINGTON, D.C. (9)
    • 3 Stars Brewing (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Mike McGarvey
      • —> Peppercorn Saison
      • Style: Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale, aged on cherries.
      • Specs: 6.5% alcohol-by-volume (abv); cask infused with cherries.
    • Atlas Brew Works (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Will Durgin
    • Bluejacket (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Josh Chapman
    • DC Brau (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Jeff Hancock
    • District ChopHouse (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Barrett Lauer
      • —> Cheque Please
      • Style: Czech Style Pilsner
      • Specs: 5.7% abv; 70 IBUs; cask dry-hopped with Hallertau Blanc; infused with hull melon.
    • Gordon-Biersch Restaurant Brewery (Washington, D.C., downtown)
      Brewer: Scott Lasater
    • Gordon-Biersch Restaurant Brewery (Washington, D.C., Navy Yard)
      Brewer: Travis Tedrow
      • —> Cream Stout
      • Style: Milk Stout with lactose
      • Specs: 5.6% abv; 23 IBUs.
    • Hellbender Brewing Company (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Ben Evans
      • —> Saison
      • Style: Hopped Saison
      • Specs: 5.9% abv; 25 IBUs; cask dry-hopped with Galaxy.
    • Right Proper Brewery (Washington, D.C.)
      Brewer: Nathan Zeender

  • MARYLAND (9)
    • The Brewers Art (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Steve Frazier
      • —> Birdhouse
      • Style: American Style Pale Ale
      • 5% abv; 32 International Bittering Unties (IBUs)s; cask dry-hopped with Simcoe hops.
    • Franklin’s Restaurant and Brewery (Hyattsville, Maryland)
      Brewer: Mike Roy
      • —> Sourgarden
      • Style: Kettle Sour ale with garden herbs
        Specs: 5% abv; 9 IBUs.
    • Gordon-Biersch Restaurant Brewery (Rockville, Maryland)
      Brewer: Christian Layke
      • —> ESB
      • Style: Extra Special Bitter
      • Specs: TBA
    • Heavy Seas Beer (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Chris Leonard
      • —> Cross Bones
      • Style: Session IPA
      • Specs: 4.5% abv; 35 IBUs; cask infused with dried grapefruit.
    • Key Brewing Company (Dundalk, Maryland)
      Brewer: Mike McDonald
    • Oliver Brewing Company (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Steve Jones
      • —> One Last Laugh in a Place of Dying
      • Style: Southern Hemisphere IPA
      • Specs: 7.5% abv; 80 IBUs.
    • Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant (Bethesda, Maryland)
      Brewer: Geoff Lively
      • —> Scottish Export
      • Style: Scottish Export
      • Specs: 5.5% abv; 19 IBUs.
    • Union Craft Brewing Company (Baltimore, Maryland)
      Brewer: Kevin Blodger

  • VIRGINIA (6)

The District Chophouse & Brewery is located in Washington, D.C.’s Penn Quarter (which old-timers used to call Chinatown) at 509 7th Street, NW, between E and F streets, NW, just 1 1/2 blocks south of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop on the Red, Green, and Yellow lines. For more information, call the Chophouse on (202) 347-1922.

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