28 December, 2011

visions of sugar plums

Do you know what sugar plums are? Neither did anyone else I mentioned them to. But this year I made some and they are deliciously filled with all the flavors of Christmas - orange zest, cinnamon, cloves, stone fruits. Dare I say it, they are a healthy sweet that will be right at home on any plate of cookies. Recipe here.

17 December, 2011

in case i haven't told you recently

This past semester has definitely been the most difficult in terms of studying, but also the most exciting in many other ways. I am one step closer to becoming a doctor, planning an amazing conference, and learning skills that will actually help me to heal people some day. There were many times when I felt overwhelmed by all of this and inclined to complain about how stressful it is to be a medical student, but life kept sending me reminders that she is filled with so many more important things. The stress of exams is simply nothing compared to the joy and sorrow of life.

Life ≠ medical school. Life > studying.

A family member passed away, but it was his time. He was ready, it was peaceful, it was as he wanted. Few people today get to die in their own homes. It was a blessing, really. But, beside my desk sits a blank sheet of paper on which I meant to write a letter, and a photo, and a few stamps that I had meant to mail to him. I was going to do it as soon as this crazy week was over and I was no longer buried in books.

And so I am reminded of how painfully important it is to tell people that I love them. To make them feel that love as often as possible, without delay. That will be my New Year's resolution. That will be my new life resolution.

In case I haven't told you recently, I love you.

Perhaps that's the answer to it all.
Life = Love

26 November, 2011

i am thankful for

hot coffee,
and warm hats.
crowded buses,
and nearly empty streets.
red balloons that make me think of Le ballon rouge.

turkeys of all kinds.
time  to  stand  still .

22 November, 2011

wish list

 Do you remember getting the Toys-R-Us catalog right around Thanksgiving and circling everything you wanted for Christmas? That was always so much fun. It meant putting X's on the calendar each night as we got one day closer to Christmas, thinking about the airplane to Grandma & Grandpa's house, and dreams of snow! I never expected to get half the things I marked in that catalog, but, in a way, putting that circle around them made them mine in my head. So, in the spirit of playful dreams and extreme satisfaction even with none of them, here is my wishlist:

  • An Ashtanga Yoga DVD so I can practice even on the days when I can't make it to the studio.
  • The coolest cookie cutters I've ever seen!
  • A whistling  teakettle, because sometimes Ian forgets about the boiling pot he leaves on the stove for tea.
  • A bunch of these candles (in autumnal and wintry scents) to make a cozy fireplace effect.
  • Headphones that won't hurt my ear after listening to multiple lectures on double-speed.
  • A book of this incredible photographer.
  • My water filter broke over a year ago and a still haven't replaced it!
  • I don't think I have gotten one of these since the days when my sister and I got matching Christmas dresses every year.
  • This outfit.
  • Pretty much anything in this online magazine.  
  • A very unique locket.
  •  Well, why not?
  • A beautiful bicycle bag.
  • While I'm dreaming away, I'd also love to find the perfect perfume.

What's on your list? 

11 November, 2011

we belong to each other

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

- Mother Teresa

10 November, 2011

playing with light

The days are getting shorter. I am waking up earlier so that I don't miss a single beam of sunlight. Though it is now quite gray, when I opened the curtains to my window at 7am the sun filled the room with a beautiful orange glow that echoed the orange bushes in my back yard.

Light is such an amazing thing. It has a profound impact on my mood and the quality of the day. When the sun streams through the window I have more energy and feel more inspired to study. Here are some photographs of playing with light throughout the year.



02 November, 2011

transfigured autumn

The year has reached its mighty ending
With golden wine and fruit of gardens.
Forests around keep wondrous peace
And are companions to the lonely.

Then says the farmer: it is good.
You evening bells prolonged and quiet
Still at the last give us good heart.
A flock of birds hails on its journey.

It is the season of mild love. 
Down the blue river in a boat
How image follows lovely image -
Then all goes down in rest and silence.

-Georg Trakl

26 October, 2011


I suppose I've always liked to think of myself as a creative person. One of my favorite things to do as a child was arts & crafts. My mother kept a room of the house well-stocked with things to keep me and my sister occupied during the many summer months that were filled with the plea, "let's make something!" Unfortunately, that room is still quite full of half-completed friendship bracelets, scraps of material and tear-off instruction sheets from fabric stores.

Now-a-days cooking is my main consistent creative outlet, along with a bit of writing and the occasional re-arrangement of something in the apartment. It's really not much and I have found that when I go a few weeks without much time in the kitchen I begin to crave creativity. A few weeks ago I found myself in this situation. I wasn't sure what it was at first but little by little I began to concretize it and pin it down: I wanted to burst out in a rainbow of colors - I questioned the point of this blog - I wanted to publish a poem - I wanted a channel for expressing creativity - not just expressing but also disseminating it. It was a strange feeling and I was glad when it subsided. I was surprised by what did it, too.

It was a conference on clinical hypnosis. First of all, I think it's really unfortunate that the word hypnosis stuck, which immediately conjures up images of yo-yos, swirling cartoon eyes and clucking like a chicken. The history goes back at least as far as Franz Mesmer, from whom we get the term mesmerize, so I guess there was a lot to work with/against. I would rather call it something like enhanced-relaxation-through-guided-imagery, but even that is somewhat limiting. If you've ever done yoga, it feels a lot like the final relaxation, Shavasana.

I went to this conference because clinical hypnosis is a fantastic tool for doctors. It can be used to help people with bladder control, chronic pain, addictive behaviors, and anxiety. It has many more uses also, especially in clinical psychology. I was encouraged to go as a student because of the way it would change the way I speak to patients even now. I definitely learned a lot but, to stay on topic here, I was also pleasantly surprised to find that it quenched my thirst for creativity.

The one thing you should know is that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Nobody can make you feel anything or control your mind. That being said, a big part of the basic level workshop was practicing self-hypnosis on oneself. I found this to be nothing more than tapping into my own imagination and letting my mind rest there for some time. This allows for all kinds of creativity and self-expression. Most importantly, it allowed me to enjoy and appreciate my own imagination in a way that I can tap into it on a regular basis without feeling like I needed to do something outrageous, like become a painter or a poet alongside medical school. (That would be a stretch of the imagination.) Once again, I was presented with exactly what I needed. It may not have been a great need, but what grace!

Do you ever feel the need for a creative outlet? Have you found it in an unexpected place?

22 October, 2011

the way things go

It was a perfectly cool and sunny day and I was riding the train into the city, on my way to an art museum. I had been planning this day for some time. I would go downtown and walk through the crowds, observing, feeling both like I was part of the crowd and yet completely separate from everybody else. At the museum I would spend as much time as I wanted, alone, in front of each piece. Relishing the fact that I would take the whole day for myself, without obligations to anybody else or to anything else. Pausing to write or think, or stop thinking. In fact I was thinking entirely too much - about school, my family, what I wanted to do with my life, everything. Shortly before I got to my train station, where Ian and I would part ways, I told him that I couldn't decide if I wanted to sit and think about everything or not at all. His response? Either one would all be all right as long as I didn't think about thinking because, according to Aristotle, that's what God does. Well, then.

I got off at the wrong station, so that answered that question. It was a good answer. After walking and studying my map for some time (I'm somewhat slightly anti-GPS) I arrived at the museum and the first work that caught my eye was a film titled, "The Way Things Go". How fitting. I reflected on how I have felt so much gratitude recently for the way things go and the way that life sometimes seems to hand me exactly what I need, often without even knowing I needed it. Maybe I just take it and spin it this way in my head, but I feel no less gracious for it. Do you know what I mean? Things like seeing hundreds of faces that snapped me out of feeling sorry for myself, or a conversation with a friend about faith and hope that made me realize how special our friendship was, or something I read that encouraged me to write a little bit more often, just for myself.

How often do I miss the opportunity to see things in this light? But when I do realize what a blessing this world is, it is such a joy. Suddenly I am surrounded by a magical world with trains rushing by and people leaving work and children on their way home from school. In cars, on bicycles, walking, listening to headphones, carrying shopping bags. I see each of them as amazing individuals. I feel so blessed to witness these people in their daily routines, to glimpse their worlds as an outsider. It's incredibly beautiful.

What fills you with gratitude? Is there some little thing that reminds you that the world is full of beautiful things?

27 September, 2011

right brain

Have you seen the TED talk called "Stroke of Insight" by Jill Bolte Taylor? First of all, I think TED is an idea worth spreading in and of itself. Secondly, I absolutely love this video. It depicts the brain in a way that completely dispels the idea that neuroscience is nothing more than cold hard facts. Our world is full of beautiful mysteries. Mysteries that science can help to explain, yet also further confound. I couldn't figure out how to embed it, but please do check out the link. I could definitely benefit from tapping into more right brain.

thanks to Ashley for discovering this picture.

20 September, 2011

ten seconds

Take a deep breath.

No, take ten.

Almost anything can wait for ten seconds.

31 August, 2011

return to italy

I took my first combined neuroscience & pharmacology exam of the year on Monday. Tuesday it was right back to classes from 7:30 am - 1:30 pm, followed, of course, by more studying. I feel like I'm still recovering, but at the same time I'm already worried about getting behind on this next chunk of material. Ahh, medical school. I know, this is what I signed up for. I just need to get over it and stop feeling sorry for myself.

One good thing about an exam is that it gives you a reason to celebrate. I celebrated by bringing a bit of Italy to my kitchen. Right now, the best part of Italy to revisit in my mind is Sora Margherita in the Jewish ghetto of Rhome. I have definitely added this to my list of favorite eating experiences. We ate lunch there on a hot, sunny day. I was very excited to try this restaurant, described as a hole-in-the-wall joint that officially registered as a "club" rather than a restaurant in order to avoid stricter regulations. We knew not to bother looking for a sign and spotted the red curtains across the square. In front was a woman feeding pigeons and a few wooden chairs for waiting customers. We waited on those chairs in the brilliant sun for a good thirty minutes before there was space for us inside.

We walked to the back of a warm, cramped restaurant, past white paper table cloths and full, satisfied faces. In the back corner of the restaurant we started by ordering much-needed cold beers. The waitress didn't speak much English but we managed to understand each other well enough to agree to her suggestion that she bring us the day's specials. This sounded like fun to me, and I would have approximately forty-seven questions about the menu if left to decide for myself. We started with some kind of frittata and an amazing artichoke that had been fried until the leaves were crisp as chips. This was followed by several more plates: a meat ravioli with fresh ricotta and lots of black pepper, giant meatballs with sweet green peas and gravy that happen to be the best meatballs I have ever tasted, a lasagna with red sauce, and I don't remember what else. We joined the ranks of full, satisfied faces.

While Ian and I were in Italy this summer we saw and ate zucchini flowers everywhere. Of course, I had heard of them before but don't think I had ever eaten a zucchini flower or seen one in a grocery store before then. This past weekend Ian spotted some at the Oak Park farmer's market and snatched them up. Perfect timing.  I read about many ways to enjoy these treats - raw, torn into a salad, made into pesto, cooked with a soup, roasted... We went for the traditional (decadent) version: stuffed with cheese fried. Yum! It was actually very easy and after glancing at a few different recipes we were able to make them without any direct instruction in front of us. If you have a plant of your own or see them at the market, I would definitely give them a try!

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers Recipe:
12 zucchini flowers
1 egg, whisked
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (whole wheat)
fontina cheese
fresh herbs, chopped (like oregano, parsley, and basil)
salt and pepper
olive oil

Wash the flowers as well as possible and remove the inner pistil.
Fill each with a pinch of cheese and herbs.
Add some salt and pepper to the flour in a shallow bowl.
Dip flowers in egg and then flour so that they have a light coating.
Heat olive oil in a large pan. Cook over medium-high heat until flowers begin to look a bit crispy.

25 August, 2011

the dew of little things

Some things I'm loving right now:

walking barefoot through cool dew-y grass in the morning

hot black tea with lots of milk on the back patio in the morning

big green fields with long tree  shadows

afternoon cat naps

candlelit evenings outside

my pet caterpillar-chrysallis-butterfly

 doughnuts from the farmer's market

 postcards, from people I love and from strangers

these bracelets that mean so much to me

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.  - Kahlil Gibran

16 August, 2011

one year later

Last year, I often ended up parking on the top of a six-level parking garage, which was fantastic really. Six flights of stairs was sometimes the only exercise I got in a day, and I had a great view of the Chicago skyline. One night I happened to have my camera and decided to snap a photo. From then on I tried to get a picture every so often. Now, one year later, I have a nice progression of the seasons.







Are you getting tired of bare trees and gray skies yet? The play of light in different times of day might help to make it more interesting. Here's one in the morning... 

...and in the evening

 It can be pretty windy up there.



 Finally! some color!




Today: 8/16/11  

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