Author Archives: Tineke

Of Groundhogs and Pancakes

2 February is not just Groundhog Day. If like me you’re from Belgium, you also know it’s pancake day: traditionally celebrated on Candlemas. Belgian/European pancakes are different from the US variety: I guess you’d call them crepes here to differentiate. (We just don’t know yours are different, and if we do, we call them American pancakes.)

So of course I had to make pancakes, because everyone on the What’sApp family group was telling me all about theirs. And it turns out you can make them with one hand if you have a good cast iron pan. A heavy pan does not slide around so you don’t need a second hand to stabilize it or keep it in place.

I even managed to crack an egg with one hand. I admit that was the most risky aspect of the whole business. But I was prepared to risk a very messy kitchen for some real homemade pancakes. Here’s the basic recipe (link in Dutch) I use for one hungry Belgian:

  • one egg
  • 250 mL milk
  • 100 gram flour
  • pinch of salt
  • chunk of butter, unsalted (melted if possible; 10g, or eyeball it)

Mix all these ingredients in a blender, and heat a cast-iron pan that you only use for making pancakes. Oil the pan with some standard non-flavored oil (preferably not olive oil in other words), and when the pan is nice and hot pour in a thin layer of batter. When the batter is no longer liquid on the top, flip the pancake. The hotter your pan, the crispier the pancakes will be.

You can experiment with thicknes. Thicker pancakes sometimes are also called egg cakes in my family, but I think we make that batter with less milk. In spring we sometimes added dandelion leaves, and you can also add rolled oats.

If you have guests, you can multiply this recipe easily by just adding more eggs and adjusting the other quantities proportionally. Most blenders can handle up to 1 L of milk with the other ingredients.

Image of a pancake/crepe with golden brown crispy colouring, in a black cast iron pan.
Crispy golden pancake, darn near perfect.

Once I had my pancakes, the real question was how I would eat them. I still cannot eat with a knife and fork. But I found an ingenious solution, even if I say so myself: the pizza wheel! Maybe not your traditional Flemish little rolled pancake with brown sugar, these look more like Korean pajeon, but they were very tasty, and went down very well with the hot chocolate (which conveniently came out of the little packet from Trader Joe’s).

Pieces of a pancake with brown sugar sprinkled on the plate, cut with a pizza wheel, like pizza slices. All the right edge of the picture Facebook can be seen, in the top right corner the pizza will rests on the plate.
Pizza wheel to the rescue!

Apparently the groundhog has predicted another six weeks of winter. As long as someone can every now and then bring me a bottle of milk, I should be fine.

A car covered with snow, the snow comes up to the side of the car almost to the level of the rearview mirrors. You can barely see the car under the snow cover.
Clearly I’m not going anywhere for a while. Also, I can’t drive due to being functionally single-armed for the moment.

Shoulder insider news

On Tuesday morning it was very busy inside my shoulder. I don’t know exactly what it all looked like because I of course was under anesthetic and don’t have any memory of what happened from the moment they put some special medicine in the IV which in the words of the nurse who administered it “stops you caring about things”.

And sure enough it did. I drifted off and the next thing I knew I looked at the clock, saw it was 12 PM or there about and I knew that the surgery was done.

I have been amazed at how fast the recovery went compared to the last time I had surgery and full anesthetic. That was 25 years ago for the same shoulder. I was kept in the hospital for about five days at the time. This was not unusual back then (beds were available after all) but also I think science has made big progress, and there have been changes in how anesthetic is used and the recovery protocol. I felt most of the afternoon on Tuesday OK. There were (long) naps, but I was mobile, I was back home. I had a friend look after me, but it definitely was very different from the previous experience when I felt dizzy or nauseous and now I was just a little sleepy, and not hungry.

The main thing that I remember from Tuesday was that I was incredibly thirsty. My voice was hoarse and although it gradually became a bit better through the course of the day, they were fits of coughs and moments where I could really feel gunk coming up. That was the result of being intubated for about an hour during the procedure. This was five days ago and today (Saturday) is the first morning when I wake up and I don’t feel that. I also noticed that I used shallow breathing instead of regular abdominal breathing, but now I feel pretty good, and I think I have regained my full lung capacity. PSA: don’t get intubated if you can help it.

Two days after the surgery, you can take off the big dressing that is put over the stitches. Underneath you can see about four small incisions at the front and back of the shoulder. This is where the camera went in, the little arthroscope which is used to look inside the joint, and also all kinds of tools. As I said it was very busy in there. The main reason for the surgery was a labral tear that needed to be repaired and that required placing two small screws (anchors) on the side of the bone that forms the socket and then with a little lasso or loop attaching tendons from a muscle — as far as I understand it at least — to those little anchors. That should keep the ball of the joint of the shoulder better in the socket, and that will prevent future dislocations and stop it from feeling “loose” (and painful). But while you’re in there you might as well clean up. A little bit of a bone spur was shaved off with an electric shaver; I’m fascinated by that. And then there was a little bit of hoovering up of all the debris — or debridement as it’s called with a technical term, no one uses the word hoovering here I’ve noticed.

Dr.’s sketch of Bankart procedure to repair torn shoulder labrum and return stability to my poor shoulder. (Other aspects of the full procedure not depicted.)

I got sent home with some very nice, strong painkillers, so I have not really been in any pain. Ice packs have also really helped to keep the pain under control. The first day it was 20 minutes of ice every hour on that shoulder. That really helps, even now I will regularly grab an ice pack.

The first two weeks I will be in a sling and not use my arm at all; at most moving around my fingers and my wrist a little bit, maybe stretch my elbow to maintain some range of motion. At the moment just taking the sling off for showering and then putting it back on while getting dressed or changing requires some thinking, because I need to keep my elbow close to my body at all times. That makes it very hard to put my arm in a sleeve, for instance. I can do it, but of course as with any injury or disability (temporary or permanent) daily life activities just take more time and energy and thought.

I have a follow-up appointment scheduled two weeks after surgery and then the next day I will start with physical therapy. I will have my arm in a sling for six weeks; total recovery is currently projected to be four months. I asked the surgeon how long it would take before I can play flute again. That is undoubtedly the thing I will miss the most over the coming few months and he said likely about three months. However he didn’t quite know how to hold a flute — and I could not show him because this was after the surgery. Because it was the most painful of all the activities I was still able to do before surgery, I think I’ll temper my expectations to closer to 3 1/2 or maybe even the full four months to be comfortable playing through an entire flute session of 45 minutes.

Let me know in the comments what you would like to hear more about as I recover from this surgery.

This post is brought to you by the power of Siri speech recognition and a lot of cleanup. Apologies for typos, weird sentence constructions, and other strange stuff that makes it hard to read.

Fifth Flutiversary!

Today it’s five years to the day I picked up a rental flute from a local music shop and blew my first notes.

How appropriate that today I found in the New York Times the feature “Five Minutes That Will Make You Love the Flute”. Click on the image below to have flutists (flautists if you’re European and play a flaute?) and composers introduce you to some of their favourite pieces.

New York Times: “Five Minutes That Will Make You Love the Flute” And yes, flutes are bigger than you think.

I’m already in love, but perhaps you need some more convincing? Have a listen!

For me, it was the one and only Emmanuel Pahud who did it. (His official website needs to update a certificate, but you can read more about him if you do a quick internet search.) He was one of the youngest musicians to join the Berlin Philharmonic, in 1992, and I saw him first in 2015, at two concerts that took my breath away (scroll down to “new hobby”), and inspired me to pick up the flute. I’m currently at 636 hours of practice time (excluding lesson hours), so well on my way to 10,000!

While I enjoy some modern music with funky extended techniques (i.e. not regular blowing notes but clicks with keys, playing with micro-tones, and making noises that make you think “wait, is that a flute??”), the stuff that makes my heart beat faster and that I really have on my bucket list is from C.P.E. Bach, son of the great J.S. Bach. Some day, I’ll play that Sonata in A minor for solo flute.

I could write for hours about flute music, but I won’t. Instead, why don’t you discover some of the repertoire for yourself, and let me know in the comments what you find?

Urgent message to all members of Backyard Wildlife College!

BWC Campus Safety urges all members of the college to stay well away from the human dwelling #1. In particular members of InInEx (Intrepid Indoor Explorer Club) should evacuate immediately and cancel all plans for new indoor expeditions. (Please note, InInEx is not endorsed by the College because it would hike up our health and life insurance group rates beyond belief, but we still care about your safety.)

All signs of activity point to a late but viciously deep spring clean happening this weekend. Based on previous years’ patterns, we thought we had escaped lightly from this year’s Great Indoor Destruction season, but based on ongoing observations, it appears to have been simply delayed for no apparent reason. (We do not think there is any connection with the Great Sickness, but our scientists are still working on understanding what it does to humans in-home behaviour. Apparently it’s complicated.)

We are also still working through the latest intelligence to set up the habitual summer time-share we have with the human in #1, but there is currently no evidence we’ll get the place to ourselves anytime soon: no suitcases have been brought out of storage, and there are periodic mumblings about delayed visa paperwork. We will keep you up to date.

Until then, please practice caution when approaching #1 dwelling, and stay away from The Thing!!

Hoover/vacuum cleaner, Dyson ball - bottom part with carpet-brush.
The Thing, cause of many an arachnid’s untimely end, and feared by all Creepy Crawlies.

The future is bright…

…the future is Mozart:

Shopping list for flute music

Earlier this week, my flute teacher gave me a little shopping list for music, and be still, my heart… Mozart K. 314, the second flute concerto in D major, has been on my flute bucket list since the very early days of flute-mania. Its final movement never fails to cheer me up. It’s likely you heard the tune somewhere before, it’s very “hummable” and it’s hard to believe this piece was originally composed for oboe because it sounds so good on flute.

If you think it’s just me who feels it’s a joyful piece, check out the full concert with Emmanuel Pahud playing this in 2001 in Istanbul (starting at 25′), who simply dances his way through the whole thing with the Berlin Phil conducted by Mariss Jansons, making it all airy and light and happy.

Close up shot of young leaves of tea plant

Backyard Wildlife College Newsletter 2:1 (2019)

“More than just fluffy bunnies”

(Backyard Wildlife College, Allentown PA, est. 2017)

Infrastructure improvements at Backyard Wildlife College

On Friday evening, we arranged for some improvements to the infrastructure of the College.

With the fear of frosty mornings a few weeks behind us, the little patio was repopulated with its usual sojourners: a small selection of herbs, a couple of succulents, and a growing collection of carnivorous plants.

We opted for an experiment in full soil growth, with a random mix of herbs and flowers, including some rescues.

1. Petunia. A freebie that was table decoration during an open house at Muhlenberg College, rescued from oblivion at the end of the session.

Small petunia in full soil


2. Lemon Bee Balm: useful for all sorts of things apparently, but let’s first see if it grows and provides some flowers for the bees and bumbles on the BWC campus. Continue reading

Knit happens! Unbelievable, but here is an FO!

Yes, I am now known as “she who knits during meetings” and I have to say it is one way of keeping my ears focused on meeting materials. My meetings are always productive, and in cold meeting rooms I can keep myself a bit warmer than my other female colleagues, with a sweater or afghan in progress on my lap. Wool for the win!

Ja, ik ben intussen gekend als “die die breit tijdens vergaderingen” en ik moet zeggen dat is een van de manieren waarop ik mijn oren kan toespitsen op de vergadermaterie. Mijn vergaderingen brengen dan ook altijd resultaat, en in koude vergaderlokalen kan ik mezelf wat warmer houden dan de meeste van mijn vrouwelijke collega’s, met een trui of deken op mijn schoot. Gered door de wol!

These socks were not exactly large enough to do so, but they are a tangible result of a few faculty and department meetings. I think I also had them with me during AAS.

Deze sokken waren niet echt groot genoeg om dat te doen, maar dit is wel het tastbare resultaat van een paar faculteits- en departementsvergaderingen. Ik denk dat ik ze ook tijdens AAS mee had.

Yarn is Into the Whirled, Pakokku sock, “Snow angels with an ood”, knit on 0/2mm circular needle. 72 stitches cast on, 2×2 ribbing for a while, then plain stockinette and my go-to sock pattern that’s mainly hiding in my head. Made for me.

Garen is Into the Whirled, Pakokku Sock, “Snow angels with an ood”, op 2mm (US 0) rondbreinaald. 72 steken opgezet, 2×2 ribbelsteek voor een eindje en dan gewoon jersey en het gebruikelijke patroon dat ergens in mijn hoofd rondzwerft. Gemaakt voor mij.

Socks in almost self-striping pattern of dark and light blue

America, we need to have a chat…

It’s about time. I’ve lived here almost six years now and you keep giving me these weird surprises. Like this:

Amerika, het is tijd dat we eens praten. Echt praten. Want ik woon hier al zes jaar en je blijft me maar van die rare verrassingen geven, zoals dit:

Large glass of orange liquid topped with whipped cream, claiming to be an orange cream shake
Advert for an Orange Cream Shake, not my cup of tea!

A larger than life picture of a massive glass of orange cream shake in the weekly adverts. Not even a milkshake, but a cream shake. It’s almost on a par with mint chocolate.* Is it just me?

Continue reading

The best-laid plans…: Dealing with “demons” that interrupt planning

I have this irrational habit of procrastinating by reading how-to-get-organized books and articles. I am always looking for the holy grail of productivity, and although I know it doesn’t exist, it hasn’t stopped me from going “oooh! Shiny!” when I see something interesting or new I haven’t heard of yet, and then reading all about it.

In the end, it always comes down to the same list of recommendations: keep track of what’s going on or needs to be done and don’t keep it in your head, review regularly what you’ve got on all your lists, break the large projects into small bites, and begin doing something. That “something” should in my case not be “read more things that might get you unstuck” because I am not really stuck, I’m just lazy and sometimes lack internal motivation. Nothing quite like a deadline!

This spring break I am reading How to Make it All Work by David Allen of How to Get Things Done/Getting Things Done fame, and Joli Jensen’s Write No Matter What came through Interlibrary Loan the other day and they complement each other nicely.

Continue reading

New site, old site, hiccups possible

Ads on the blog should be a thing of the past now I run this site through our BergBuilds project. Overall, everything you found on the old wordpress site should show up here, too.

In the process of migrating content, a few links may have stopped functioning. If you find one, let me know and I’ll try to fix it.

For the moment, the old site will remain, but no new posts will appear there anymore. Please adjust your bookmarks.