14 November, 2013

stealing joy

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted anything here. The longest yet. I've been thinking a lot about writing lately - writing or reading poetry and short stories, writing as a means of understanding medicine and human interactions. I want to delve into the newly-discovered world of narrative medicine. I should have some time to do so in the coming months, so we will see how far that goes.

In the meantime summer ended. The farmer's market made it's transition from strawberries and asparagus, to every green thing imaginable and berries, to squash and apples, and now it's gone. A chilly August was followed by a warm September and October (relatively speaking), but November  was ushered in with a freeze and I harvested all our potted herbs. The rosebush remains, two buds debating whether or not to bloom. My cooking followed the market trend. Transitioning from salads and things like these noodles to roasted squash, bean stews and all kinds of things with miso. The leaves turned and have almost all fallen, sweaters have migrated to the front of the closet, and I've initiated a daily ten minutes of sitting beside my SAD lamp. Autumn is verging on winter and I am determined to enjoy it by relishing in coziness as much as possible. I'm talking double socks, fun hats and scarves, casseroles and cookies, bubble baths, steam room at the gym, hot tea, poems like "November Night" by Adelaide Crapsey:
Listen. . 
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

We already had our first snowfall, just a few days ago, it collected and stayed on the ground the whole next day, despite the brightly shining sun, deceptively not warming things up.

Actually, the first snowfall I saw was in October, but most people were asleep and it barely touched the ground before melting. I saw this beautiful snow - barely a fall at all, really a light drifting down, like a feather or crepe paper confetti - because I was up in the middle of the night on the labor and delivery floor of a community hospital, helping/learning how to deliver babies. Delivering a baby is one of the most magical experience I've ever had, and I struggle to describe it adequately. One doctor said it was like "stealing joy". There is something accurate about this, as it indicates that the doctor is still somewhat removed from this new family being formed. An integral part of the experience but ready to transform into bystander as soon as the whole visceral process is over. If you think of joy as something that is not diminished by being shared, but rather increases, then it sounds even more fitting.

But it's more than just the joy of new life (what a presumptive thing to say, just). It's the entirety of this most ancient ritual, born of complete necessity, drenched in blood and vernix (lit. 'fragrant resin'). The hours of the mother contracting, dilating, effacing, breathing. Teaching your gloved fingers to feel blindly for cervix and station, like digging through a bag  of cotton balls trying to find the one that is slightly softer. The absolute miracle of a newborn maneuvering through the cardinal movements of birth, filling his water-clogged lungs with air, remodeling his entire vascular system. A fish becoming a bird. When things go perfectly smoothly, it's seems the baby would have slithered out whether your hands were there guiding him or not (which does occasionally happen even in a hospital!).

That night, minutes after the baby was born, the nurse looked out the window and remarked, we had a little snow angel on our hands. I've delivered four babies so far. And yes, I am most definitely keeping count.

16 August, 2013

veggie nachos

I took 4 weeks off from clinical rotations last month to study for Step 2 of the medical licensing exam. You might remember me talking about Step 1 last summer, which was much more traumatic. Step 1 seemed like a huge hurdle to overcome on this path to becoming a doctor. By the time Step 2 rolled around, I realized the whole track is filled with hurdles. To keep that metaphor going, it really does remind me of when I did the hurdles on my high school track team. The first hurdle was terrifying, coming out of the blocks and the brief seconds leading up to the first leap. But once I made that first one, I found this rhythm - step, step, hurdle, step, step, hurdle - and the hurdles became less of an obstacle and more just a part of the way I ran. In some ways, medical education is like that. I know that I will continue to face small daily challenges, occasional monumental ones, and everything in between, which allows a sort of rhythm and acceptance.

During that month of studying, alone, day after day, alone, I wrote this on the edge of a to-do list:
I can already feel
how when it's all over
I'll look back
and say,
"It wasn't so bad, really."
In hindsight that sounds like a reassuring realization, but at the time it wasn't. At the time it seemed devastating. Because it meant that I would be brushing off one of those challenges as if I had accomplished nothing, telling my friends "you'll be fine, it's not so bad", and leaving them to feel alone when the the hurdle looked a little bit too high off there in the distance. We do this to ourselves over and over, and it's one of the unexpected ways that medical school has struck me as an emotional challenge.

The more I think of this though, the more I think it's actually a sign of something really good. When we stand at the finish line and look back at the hurdles we crossed, they don't look nearly as threatening because we know we just made it over all of them. And it's natural to say that it was worth it all - the fear, the planning, the training, the sacrifices - because we are doing exactly what we were meant to be doing, what we signed up for, what we are called to. So now when I look back at my weeks of studying, I see that those days took on a beautiful cycle. Each morning I woke up, made a smoothie, studied, went to a yoga class, made a tomato sandwich or salad for lunch, studied, practiced mindfulness meditation, studied, made mushrooms and greens for dinner, studied, read something non-medical, went to sleep. There was very little variance to that schedule and that type of life works really nicely for me. I haven't made it to a yoga class since, and my mindfulness practice has nearly disappeared.

But I am not here to complain. I am here to remind myself that that was good, but impractical for today. I am here to say that I will find a way to keep some of those things in my life no matter what else is going on.

The one thing that is easiest for me to keep around, and to keep myself connected to a sense of wellness is food. Going to the farmers' market, keeping a fridge full of produce, and eating fresh wholesome meals at least twice a day are things that I have managed to maintain. One of my favorite meals this summer is vegetarian nachos. They are quick and easy, there is no need to follow a recipe once you get the idea, and it's an easy way to use up whatever happens to be on hand. The combination I had yesterday was particularly stellar, so I decided it was time to share it with you. And I'd love to hear, what is the thing that keeps you connected to yourself when life starts to get in the way?

Vegetarian Nachos for 2:
Blue corn tortilla chips
4 oz. ground seitan (My favorite is Upton's chorizo)
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 handful chopped kale
1/2 a zucchini, sliced into thin half-moons
1 avocado, peeled & sliced
1/4 cup crumbled feta
Tomatillo salsa, to taste (I used this one)

Heat a bit of oil in a small pain over low heat and add the seitan, stir occasionally, cook until warm.

Meanwhile, spread some chips out onto a plate. Layer on the already chopped veggies, the seitan, the avocado, and the feta. Finally top with salsa to taste.

Enjoy with a Corona and lime on the patio and savor the remaining days of this fleeting summer.

08 July, 2013

to remind myself of mindfulness

In the midst of studying for yet another major exam, it seems like a good time to return to why I started this blog. It's easy to be dragged down by monotonous days, but even in the simplest day there are many beautiful simple things, things that make life wonderful if we would just notice them. I've been learning more about the idea of mindfulness in terms of mindfulness based stress reduction and  Zen Buddhism. There's a lot more to share about this, but right now the part that I'm working on in my own life is trying to keep my mind connected to my body, rather than letting it wander into the future, even as I think about the future.

Here are a few things that have helped me to do that in the last couple weeks, shared with the hope that they will help you notice more in your own day-to-day life:

  • Looking up at the moon always fills me with a peaceful energy, admiring the recent "super moon" was an incredible moment.
  • The way the light streams in my kitchen window in the morning.
  • Biking to the farmer's market.
  • Fireflies, which always remind me of summers at my grandparents' house.
  • Making oatmeal pancakes before Ian left for Italy, and listening to Chelsea Morning. That song always helps me start the day.
  • "I release all disappointment from my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual body, because I know that spirit guides me and love lives inside me." -India Arie

24 June, 2013

artichokes for 2

I've been wanting to follow up those last 2 posts with a recipe but it's been a hectic few weeks. But now summer is here, and I kicked it off with my family, gazing at the super moon, and admiring some photography. Believe it or not, I'm looking forward to a month of studying and a break from the hospital. A cup of coffee and sunshine streaming onto my textbook instead of three-hour morning rounds, a load of online practice questions instead of the daily public questioning that one can never be adequately prepared for, and the freedom to step away from it all in search of inspiration, a wholesome meal, or a few sun salutations.

In that spirit, here is a nice simple recipe, perfect for sharing with a friend.

My mom always served steamed artichokes with Hollandaise sauce, which is delicious but full of fat and its need for precise, careful preparation intimidates me. This is a healtheir, easier alternative but just as full of flavor. Eating it is messy and completely occupying, so there's no room for multi-tasking or any distraction greater than a pleasant conversation.

Artichokes for 2:
 2 artichokes
6 cloves garlic peeled
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
a few springs of rosemary or thyme

Cut the stems off of the artichokes so that you have just about 1 inch remaining and a nice flat bottom. Pull the leaves open a bit so that you can shove the garlic cloves in, scattering them through 3 different layers and 3 different areas of the artichoke.

Fill a pot with about an inch of water, add a good pinch of salt and the fresh herbs, and set the artichokes in it. Ideally, the water won't quite reach the lowest leaves, the artichokes will balance well on their own, and a lid will fit over them without touching. But if any of those don't quite work out, it will probably still all be just fine.

Bring the water to a simmer, cover, and let steam for 30 minutes - 1 hour, depending on how small and tender the artichokes are. I usually try to pull out a middle leaf at around 30 minutes to see how well-cooked it is, just be careful not to burn your hands! Just put it half-way in your mouth and bite down softly with your front teeth; it should be soft enough that the meaty part near the base easily scrapes off.

When they're done, place each artichoke in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as salt and pepper if desired. Serve with an extra bowl or plate for discarding the leaves.

In case you haven't eaten an artichoke before, you should know that the center is the best part! When you get to the point where the leaves become translucent and prickly, stop eating, scrape those leaves and the soft fuzzy stuff underneath them out with a spoon, and eat the heart just as it is, sopping up any of the olive oil and vinegar that remains.

02 June, 2013

thought for food. part 2

Clearly, many people are struggling to navigate the world of healthy eating trends, trying to figure out how to feed their bodies and souls, confused by all the options. Here is my favorite thing I've read about it: "the terrible tragedy of the healthy eater" - it's hilarious! And talk of the microbiome is going mainstream, thanks to the New York Times and Michael Pollan. But eating well is about more than just what we eat, it's also about how we eat, so that's what I want to talk about in part 2.

Fortunately, this is much more straight forward, and it basically boils down to taking the time to appreciate your food. Ideally, we would do this through every step of the process - from purchasing whole ingredients or actually growing them, to preparing a meal from scratch, to eating it mindfully. Usually when I hear people talk about these ideas, it conjures up this image of some do-it-all woman making her own homemade sunscreen, with a chicken coop in her backyard, friend of all the farmers at the weekend morning market, cooking 3 meals a day for her family and baking her own bread each weekend. She probably has an awesome blog with 100s of followers, too. It's beautiful, terribly impractical, and probably nonexistent.

Fortunately, you don't have to treck out to a farm or become a gardener or a gourmet chef. Food appreciation can fit into your everyday life. Even simple weekday meals  can be eaten mindfully. When we know a bit about where our food comes from or have taken the time to pick out the nicest bunch of radishes at the supermarket, it's easier to relish it a bit more. When we take the time to cut and wash those radishes, we begin to think about how nice it will be to eat them. When we eat more slowly, without music or television as a distraction, we enjoy it more and we eat less.

To me, sharing food and recipes is a big part of this as well. I think the most wonderful thing about this bubble of food blogs is that it encourages just that. Similar to church women's leagues creating cookbooks, I often feel like I have a community of like-minded people writing about their love for food. It's a community that has introduced me to all kinds of new ingredients, like spelt flour, chia seeds, and ramps. I also think cooking for others is a very powerful thing. It fulfills a desire to nurture and to give in the most fundamental way. It also exposes people to things they might not try otherwise, like quinoa (really, some people don't know about quinoa yet!) or simply a vegetarian meal. In fact, it's one of my favorite things to do, and I wish I did it far more often.

I recently read a summary of the characteristics of a group of Greeks who tend to live much longer than most people. A few of the "10 ways to live to be 100" are: take naps, stop worrying about being late, grow a garden and eat from it, 'get it on', walk daily, be part of a spiritual community, and surround yourself with people who do the same. Even if you won't live to be 100, don't those sound like ways to have a happier life in general? Taking the time to enjoy your food is the same. It's good for you, and you will enjoy it. Win-win.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. But it's definitely worth striving for.

16 May, 2013

thought for food. part 1

I've been mulling over the idea of writing a more substantial post about my thoughts on food for a while now. Finally the combination reading tweets from the Nutrition and Health Conference at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, hearing about Michael Pollan's latest book, and a few integrative medicine conferences I've been involved in recently has pushed me to do it. My plan is to break this into two posts: one about what we should eat, and a second about how we should eat.

There's almost no need to even say that we are constantly bombarded with different theories regarding what we should eat. The diet industry has been around for decades, and now the internet gives us access to a near-infinite number of theories about which foods will increase our risk for heart disease, which to avoid to 'lose belly fat', and which to eat if we want to stay young. I think there's actually a lot more to this than people trying to make money. The rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) have grown to atrocious levels, affecting people of all ages and socioeconomic statuses. There's a lot at stake here, and I’d like to think we all know that on some level. The problem is that we want a quick fix - turmeric and garlic to fight cancer, veganism to lower cholesterol, raw milk to erase allergies. Even those who are willing to make some sacrifices want a clear-cut answer to health. Ian often asks me which nut is healthiest, or if I could make him some sort of smoothie with all of the healthiest ingredients possible. It doesn't quite work that way, though. Pollan does an excellent job of explaining the downfalls to this route of "nutritionism" in his book An Eater's Manifesto. When we reduce food to it's parts, or try to reduce our needs to a formula, something goes missing. That being said, I completely understand and share in this desire. Navigating the world of food health blogs can be as confusing as the supermarket.

Here is the huge divide in the foodie movement as I see it. [Sorry, I'm going to over-generalize a bit.] On one extreme we have Vegans. The Ornish Spectrum diet is a prime example of this school of thought. It keeps fat down to 10% of your total caloric intake and eliminates animal products (with a few exceptions). Instead, there's an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. In concert with exercise and stress reduction techniques, Dr. Ornish's research indicates that this program may actually reverse CVD. Closely related are Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet and the often touted, though less defined, Mediterranean diet.

On the other hand is the Traditional Foods revival, which is where I’d place the popular Paleo Diet. Here, the emphasis is on grass-fed meats, whole fat (often raw) dairy, sprouted grains or no grains at all, and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha. It seems like gluten-free diets can overlap with either of these branches, whereas the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet seems to fit better with the latter. To be fair, I don't know nearly as much about this line of thought. But there is research out there indicating that full fat dairy may also help to reduce CVD. The Weston A. Price Foundation is a big name in researching and promoting this type of diet, and they have some really interesting studies to show for it.

But how can this be? Two diets that seem so different at first glance: one focuses on eliminating animal products, the other focuses on eating more, but better, animal products. Let's start by looking at what they have in common. The most obvious thing is the elimination of junk. Nobody is talking about dunking Oreos in their raw or soy milk. Prepared and processed foods account for a lot of the bad stuff in our diets: preservatives, coloring, extra salt, extra sugar, and refined grains. It's amazing how much of this we eat without realizing it - even plain old butter often contains "natural flavor." (Shouldn't it just taste like butter all by itself?) Aside from getting rid of all the non-food in our food, eliminating processed items also cuts down on the simple carbohydrates in our diet. This is a really big first step to eating better. Carbs (bread, pasta, potatoes, crackers) are essentially converted to pure sugar in our diet, so in some ways you can lump them right in there with soda, cake, and ice cream. Without fiber and protein to balance them out, they send our blood sugar level through the roof, forcing our body to secrete loads of insulin and stress hormones to combat all that sugar, and setting us up for developing diabetes. It also augments the immune response, causing some normal protective processes to progress to the point of unnecessary inflammation. Most people have heard of some of inflammation's deleterious health affects by now, like arthritis, irritable bowel disease, and various autoimmune disorders, but it's also being linked to a lot more. In fact, inflammation seems to be turning up as a key player in major chronic illnesses like stroke, heart disease, and even depression. A lot of this research is still in the works, and I don't know of any good studies linking diet with inflammatory markers and a particular chronic disease, but I won't be surprised if we discover that inflammation plays a much larger role than we now know. It's exciting to think about, in a nerdish kind of way.

The second big thing these two ways of approaching food have in common is a lot of fruits and vegetables. I’m still shocked every time a patient tells me he doesn’t like vegetables. There are so many of them! and so many ways to prepare them! How can you possible not like any of them? Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you already know that fruits and vegetables are delicious packages of vitamins and phytonutrients. If you’re not convinced about any one particular produce item, just look it up on this site. They also have lots of fiber, and veggies are low in calories, so there’s no need to limit your intake like you do with other food groups. If you’re not convinced that you should be eating at least 5 servings of fruits & veggies daily, e-mail me and we’ll have a chat.

Finally, what I’m really excited to talk about, is why I think the Vegans and the Traditional Foods folks might both be correct, why both might offer really good advice on what we should eat. Perhaps the link is how we digest and process foods, and it’s all largely dependent on our normal gut flora. There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of probiotics for a variety of reasons, and this is where the fermented foods come into the spotlight in the Traditional Foods diets, so it’s something I’ve thought about casually for a while. I’ve also been fascinated by what I’ve learned about our normal intestinal flora (the bacteria that always live in our gut). But when I read the article by Tang et al. in the New England Journal of Medicine about intestinal microbial metabolism and cardiovascular risk, a few light bulbs lit up. There are two parts of the study, and I’m going to go ahead and explain it in a bit more detail than some might care to read. You see, this is the kind of research that fields like nutrition and integrative medicine need, because it’s so important to say that these lifestyle recommendations are evidence based. The “n” or number of participants is small, but I think the design is fantastic. So, here we go:

For the first part of the study, 40 healthy adults were given a dietary phosphatidylcholine challenge, i.e. they ate two hard-boiled eggs. Phosphatidylcholine is found in egg yolk, and it’s a major constituent of all our cell membranes. The closely-related choline is found in meat. Bacteria that live in our intestines metabolize phosphatidylcholine to trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). After eating these eggs, researchers measured the amount of TMAO in the subjects’ urine and blood. Then, six of the subjects were given a one-week course of antibiotics (500mg each ciprofloxacin & metronidazole), to wipe out the intestinal bacteria. (This is the same process by which taking antibiotics can give you diarrhea.) They repeated the phosphatidylcholine challenge after finishing the antibiotics, and then a third time one month later after the intestinal flora had presumably restored itself. They found that the course of antibiotics significantly lowered, indeed, nearly erased, the amount of TMAO measured. After one month, these levels came back up. This study demonstrates that our intestinal flora is responsible for producing TMAO.

The second part of the study enrolled 4007 adults who were undergoing elective cardiac catheterization without evidence of ongoing heart attack, and measured the TMAO level in their blood. These subjects were followed for three years, to see who had adverse cardiovascular events. Those who did were more likely to have many of the expected risk factors, as well as a higher baseline TMAO level. Even after adjustment for traditional risk factors, a higher TMAO baseline level was still a significant predictor of major adverse cardiovascular events.  Further, it proved to predict risk on a graded scale, rather just a simple high or low cut-off, even for subjects in the lowest quartile of other risk factors.

To summarize without so much jargon, though this may also make it sound more definitive than most scientists like:
·       Phosphatidylcholine is a substance found in eggs. Choline, found in meat, is very similar.
·       It’s not all bad; our body needs it to some degree.
·       Some of the bacteria in our gut convert it to TMAO.
·       It doesn’t get converted to TMAO without those bacteria.
·       More TMAO = higher risk of heart attack or stroke.

Therefore, one would think that more meat and eggs also equals higher risk of heart attack and stroke. The authors give a really nice conclusion in their discussion of what this might mean for dietary recommendations.
“Our data suggest that excessive consumption of dietary phosphatidylcholine and choline should be avoided; a vegetarian or high-fiber diet can reduce total choline intake. It should also be noted that choline is a semiessential nutrient and should not be completely eliminated from the diet, since this can result in a deficiency state. However, standard dietary recommendations, if adopted, will limit the intake of phosphatidylcholine- and choline rich foods, since these foods are also typically high in fat and cholesterol content. An alternative potential therapeutic intervention is targeting the composition of the microbiota or biochemical pathways, with either a functional food such as a probiotic or a pharmacologic intervention.”
The speculation that I would like to make, and this is of course reaching quite a bit, is that the “functional food” component of the Traditional Foods movement – raw milk & yogurt, fermenting – does in fact change the microbiota or biochemical pathways. It would be fascinating to do a similar study as the first part of this article – phosphatidylcholine challenge with 3 arms: a control, a group treated with antibiotics, and a group eating a reasonable amount of these foods on a daily basis for some period of time.

But we’re not there yet, so where does that leave us? I think Aristotle got it right millennia ago with the Golden Mean. Life is about flux and trying to find balance, and this applies to diet too. There are a few things about which we can walk away from all of this with certainty, though. The first is that we should keep prepared, processed foods to a minimum. Anything that comes in a box or a bag with a long list of ingredients, especially if you don’t know what some of those ingredients are, should not make up a large percentage of your diet. The same thing goes for inflammation-provoking carbohydrates and added sugars. The second thing is that we should eat more fruits and vegetables. Everyday. Period. The beauty of this is that once you start eating this way, your body won’t ever want you to go back.

20 April, 2013

final winter recipes

I don't have any new recipes of my own to share. These days I'm either following recipes from others or just throwing things together without enough attention to write it down. Some of my standards are cooked greens and eggs (either scrambled or over easy), or a hearty grain like quinoa or farro with lots of veggies thrown in, and my most recent favorite is vegetarian nachos that have nothing to do with fake cheese pumped out of a metal box at a refreshment stand. But I've found some really good recipes lately and thought it would be worth sharing the links with you. Sadly, they seem to show that I haven't fully transitioned into spring. I blame it on mother nature of course, all this cold and rain and sleet we are still having has demanded a slow transition away from the warm comforting foods of winter. But the signs of spring are ever more common these days, and soon I'm sure I'll be eating nothing but salads and fresh veggie sandwiches.

Also, if you live in Chicago or happen to be visiting, you should definitely try the Little Goat Diner. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, bake their own bread, have awesome coffee, as well as cocktails. It's a great way to get a taste for the chef's style without the wait or expense of Girl & the Goat. I think you will love it.

09 April, 2013

the land of enchantment

Our recent trip to New Mexico was truly enchanting. I find myself returning to certain moments in my mind; like I've made little souvenirs out of the smell of sage pulled off a desert bush mingled with burning wood, and the image of pink rock layered with orange buildings and blue sky. It does feel like there is a muse lurking in that landscape - but maybe I just want to identify with Georgia O'Keefe, who never tired of painting a little door in Abiquiu and rafted the Colorado River at the age of 74. The week was also laced with juniper berries, poems by Anne Carson, and friendship. You can read about a few more details I shared on the travel website Afar.

16 March, 2013

still winter...

Remember last March?

With it's unseasonably warm days, bright blue skies, and sunshine. Well, it's not like that this year. It's still cold - freezing, even. When it rains, it's a mixture of rain and snow and sleet. And I have to keep telling myself that spring will come eventually. It must, right?

Any survival tips?

13 March, 2013

chia seeds

You probably aren't going to be very interested in a recipe without a photo, right? I usually want a photograph before I consider a recipe. It's just so much easier; a quick glimpse and I know if I'll be interested, before I take the time to read the list of ingredients and imagine how they will taste once melded together in my mouth. And eating ought to be a visual experience as well as oral and olfactory. The more senses you use, the more you can enjoy. Unfortunately, I have reached the limit of my free blogger photo space.

I didn't know a limit existed, but it does, and it has me questioning what this is all about. Really though, that questioning is nothing new. I go through phases that range from feeling like I'll keep blogging indefinitely and have this fantastic archive and many followers, to satisfaction that I just enjoy writing it for it's own sake, to the whole thing being utterly pointless...like writing into some void. I recently read a comment elsewhere which read: "when my blog grows up I want it to be like _________." Certainly, many people feel this way. Because there are a lot of beautiful blogs out there (I have a theory about blogs and Victorian letter-writing; perhaps I'll share it another day), and we can be inspired by them, or transported, or educated. And there are a lot of women out there with great recipes, beautiful homes, flourishing prose, and lovely photographs. Do I really have something to add to the near-infinity of what is already on the internet?... I'll think of giving it up, but then another idea will come to mind that I'd like to share, and I find myself writing again. Which is all quite fine. At the very least, I know of a couple friends who read it. And my dad, and maybe even one of his friends (hi Mr. McFarland!).

Anyway, I plan to keep it up for now - even without photographs - because I want to tell you about chia seeds. Chia seeds are about the size of a strawberry seed, get stuck in your teeth just the same, and are packed full of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. In 1 ounce, they have 11 grams of fiber (reference: recommended daily amount for women is 25g, for men it's 38g), and almost 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (that's 8x more than salmon). They also have calcium, antioxidants, and a bit of protein. They have very little flavor, so you can do all sorts of things with them. Throw them in a smoothie, sprinkle them on top of yogurt or a casserole. I bet you could go so far as to sneak them into an omelet and nobody would notice. Apparently you can even use them as a pectin substitute to make jam, and, like ground flaxseeds, you can use them as a substitute binding ingredient in baking. This is because they absorb water and become like a gel. Aside from easing digestion, soaking them in water (1:6 seed:water ratio) is also a great way to soften them up and prevent them from sticking in your teeth, which can be rather annoying. My big chia seed kick has been based on this soaking method. I keep a mason jar in the fridge, and in the morning I stir a spoonful into my oatmeal or yogurt. Here's a recipe for my current favorite breakfast:

Yogurt with Chia Seeds Recipe:
1 bowlful of Greek yogurt - whatever you consider an appropriate serving size. My favorite is Fage 2% fat.
1 spoonful of chia seed gel
1 spoonful of jelly or honey

optional: 1 spoonful of peanut butter. I don't care for this, but Ian loves it!
other extras: nuts, granola, fresh fruit, dried fruit, etc.

Just mix it all together and enjoy!

p.s.: if I did have a photograph, I would want it to look something like this one

17 February, 2013

a poem

It's not something that comes up in everyday conversation, but I really love poetry. I love how reading so few words can have such power, thanks to careful choices and strategic arrangement. I also write poems from time to time, but rarely share them with anybody other than Ian. However, I submitted a few to the William Carlos Williams (an amazing physician poet) poetry competition, and received honorable mention for one. I'm thrilled! And it gave me the extra bit of confidence I needed to share it online. I hope you like it.

Fluid Crystals
“Why do we have membranes?”
asks my professor
who is a bit too cool for us
with his unnamable accent –
“Because life is compartmentalized.”

But I don’t want my life to be compartmentalized.
I want it to be fluid,
like the bilayer lipid membrane itself,
so that every component can translocate
and interact with the others.

So that holding the hand of my cadaver
triggers poetry,
rather than disgust
or detachment.

Because art and anatomy collide on the street,
each four-chambered heart pumping,
each brain full of memories
and twelve cranial nerves.

The winter trees are skeletons,
but they will reflesh themselves.

29 January, 2013

things are falling into place

“Eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moments, and know everything happens for a reason."― Albert Schweitzer .

02 January, 2013


Happy New Year!

When I've had a rough day, I'm extremely grateful for the fact that I get to go to sleep and start over again in the morning. New Year's is sort of like that, only bigger. It's so wonderful to have this celebration every 365 days, to feel like we accomplished something and can now begin anew. A freshness.
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