Monday, April 30, 2012

I love lunch

Lunch is my absolute favorite meal of the day. I not only enjoy it the most, but its also the most satisfying for my belly. Why is lunch so great? I'm glad you asked.

1. You can eat whatever you want. You want pancakes? That's acceptable (brunch really is lunch, people just like to add the br- for a sense of security when ordering breakfast foods, but as you can see, I don't discriminate at lunchtime). You want an omelet? Have at it. You want a sandwich? Yum. You want a burger? Okay. You want a salad? Go for it. You can get away with eating any type of food at lunchtime. I don't think burgers for breakfast fly, and in order to eat breakfast for dinner you have to preemptively plan a brinner (however, brinner is totally enjoyable when in the proper mood, holla Scrubs).

2. It's in the middle of the day. The the part that lets you know you're halfway through your work and in a few short hours you'll be at home ready for dinner (hump-hour of the work day, as it were.... which makes Wednesday lunches the best lunches ever...)

3. You can eat (somewhat) guilt free! Unlike dinner, after lunch you still have 8 more hours of daytime to work off what you ate! Yay! Have that brownie for your lunch dessert... its only 1 pm.

4. Lunch is social. You still have enough energy to actually want and be able to talk to people while enjoying a good meal. Breakfast is always too rushed, and by the time dinner rolls around on most nights of the week you are already pooped. I guess it could be just me... but it takes a lot of energy for me to be social during dinner hour.

5. Lunch is just awesome. The world would be a sad place without lunch.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pre-Cana Weekend

Last post to catch you all up on the process: 

Being Catholic, and planning to get married in the Catholic church, we are required to complete pre-cana. This was the most recent thing we completed in our preparations, so you'll be all up to date on the wedding planning at the end of this post.

The "when" and "how": I've heard and read about several different ways the course is set up. Some churches have pre-cana set up as a one day marathon of talks and discussions. Other churches treat it as a real course in which you go for 1 hour once a week for 6 weeks. Ours was a weekend in which we were to attend a 5 hour session Saturday and a 4 hour session Sunday, including a mass. Villanova offers only 3 weekends a year to choose from and they book up fast. We opted for April this year instead of waiting until November '12 or February '13 because I'll be new to the workforce, have no idea where I'll be working, what my schedule will look like, or how much time off I'll be allowed. The weekend was technically booked, but the coordinator sneaked us in because of our situation.

A word of advice: If you are Catholic and need to do pre-cana (I don't know if other christian religions have the same thing or something similar... anyone know?), look into this immediately after booking your date so you can plan accordingly. Every parish has different requirements and regardless of the length of your engagement you will want to at least have an idea of where and how pre-cana will fall into your timeline.

The "who" and "what": We were one of 35 couples to attend out pre-cana weekend. It was hosted by Villanova's wedding coordinator and the "pre-cana team." This team consisted of an individual who I'll call the moderator, 3 married couples, and a priest. The moderator guided us through the talks and introduced the speakers, and the priest offered an opportunity for reconciliation and gave the mass on Sunday. The couples spoke on 4 topics, communication, finances, sexuality, and spirituality. These topics were chosen because, as the moderator put it, "The three biggest things couples fight about or divorce over is money, sex, and God, in that order. And its all usually related to a lack of communication." After each presentation, we took 10 minutes to write our feelings about the topic, and then 10 minutes to talk to our fiance about what we wrote.

There were no discussions about pre-marital sex, or living together before getting married, or any of the things you might fear to come up at pre-cana. It was a weekend to reflect on the issues of marriage, as opposed to the issues of getting married. Most of the topics and questions were issues Howie and I have already talked about, or have tip-toed around, so it was a good opportunity to reflect on what we already agreed on, or decide how we would progress together if we disagreed.  All in all, it was a stepping stone and something we were able to check off the list.

Side note: Because the couples usually come from far away, Villanova was crafty and set up a 2 hour music session at the church Saturday night in which we got to hear samples of the musical selections to be played/sung during the ceremony for us to choose what music we want to play. We were required to choose musicians, instruments and cantors provided by Villanova. It was really a nice treat to do some planning as just the two of us.  This will probably vary depending by church so another thing to keep in mind is who provides the music during the ceremony. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Talent for Practice

I recently read Complications: A surgeon's notes on an imperfect science written by Atul Gawande. He uses anecdotes from his days as a resident to introduce the reader to discussions about mistakes, failures, uncertainty, and mystery. I highly recommend this book to any medical professional and, if you are into thoughtful discussion about the human element of life and work, I'd recommend it to you, too, regardless of your chosen profession. I was particularly drawn in by this passage and have been contemplating it for a couple of weeks now:
Surgeons, as a group, adhere to a curious egalitarianism. They believe in practice, not talent. People often assume that you have to have great hands to become a surgeon, but it's not true... To be sure, talent helps. Professors say every two or three years they'll see someone truly gifted come through a program - someone who picks up complex manual skills unusually quickly, sees the operative field as a whole, notices trouble before it happens. Nonetheless, attending surgeons say that what's most important to them is finding people who are conscientious, industrious, and boneheaded enough to stick at practicing this one difficult thing day and night for years on end. As one professor of surgery put it to me, given a choice between a Ph.D. who had painstakingly cloned a gene and a talented sculptor, he'd pick the Ph.D. every time. Sure, he said, he'd bet on the sculptor being more physically talented; but he'd bet on the Ph.D. being less "flaky." And in the end that matters more. Skill, surgeons believe, can be taught; tenacity cannot. They take minions with no experience in surgery, spend years training them, and then take most of their faculty from these same homegrown ranks. 
And it works. There have now been many studies of elite performers - international violinists, chess grand masters, professional ice-skaters, mathematicians, and so forth - and the biggest difference researchers find between them and lesser performers is the cumulative amount of deliberate practice they've had. Indeed, the most important talent may be the talent for practice itself. K. Anders Ericsson, a cognitive psychologist and expert on performance, notes that the most important way in which innate factors play a role may be in one's willingness to engage in sustained training. He's found, for example, that top performers dislike practicing just as much as others do. But more than others, they have the will to keep at it any. 
I've added underlines for emphasis on the statements that really struck a chord in me. This is an interesting excerpt, especially in a society that values talent so highly. Anyone logical could probably reason that practice is really what makes perfect, but to have someone in a field in which talent is perceived to be so highly regarded explain so skillfully that talent is not what got him where he is, is quite refreshing. Personally, it's also pretty inspiring and forces me to tweak my perception of success and how to gain it. I've been fortunate enough to have been successful to the point where I am now, but I can't help but fear what will happen next. In a few months I'll be jumping out into the abyss on my own in a world of science that is every changing and never completely knowable. How will I keep up? Especially because I will no longer have the crutch of schooling helping me through it all. More and more I realize what "life-long learning" truly means in it's most basic form: I'll have to keep practicing. Hopefully I have that talent.

Gawande, A. Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science. New York, NY: Picador; 2002.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Food Adventure

It's time for a recipe!

Over the winter my good friend shared a new food blog with me entitled Food Wishes (see link in Blogs I Love). It so happened that the post for that day was for a creole crab and corn chowder. I had just started getting into seafood over the past year or so and Howie had been trying to convince me to like crab for some time by having me try it every chance he got (note: if you don't already know, I used to be the pickiest eater on the planet growing up, hence why I'm just expanding my diet now). This site is primarily a video blog of the chef narrating the preparation of the meal. So I watched the video for this chowder and thought, hmm, that looks interesting. I printed out the ingredients list for safe keeping. About 2 weeks ago Howie bought lump crab meat from Costco to bring to my parents for a dip he wanted to make while we watched Master's. Sadly, we left the crab at home. I knew I had this recipe in my back pocket, but was truthfully nervous about making this chowder. It's completely out of my realm of comfortable food styles and I was still questioning how much I really actually like crab. When the weather turned back to cold and rainy, with it came my itch for soup. It was time, and it was very successful!

Creole Crab and Corn Chowder
Courtesy of Food Wishes with Chef John
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced pepper (bell, jalapeno, or any you like)
1/2 cup diced celery
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp old bay
1 1/2 tbsp flour
3 1/2 cups water or stock, divided 2 1/2 cup, 1 cup
1 lb sweet corn, divided in halves
2 cloves garlic peeled
8 oz fresh crab meat, divided 2 oz, 6 oz
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp sweet spanish paprika
green onion to garnish (optional)

Please see the video from the original link if you want to make this for the best directions from the chef, but here is a brief description of the instructions:

In a medium pot on medium heat: melt butter, add onions, peppers, celery and a healthy sprinkle of salt. Sweat for 5-ish minutes until the veggies are tender to your liking (note: total cook time will about an hour, so don't over cook them at the beginning). Add old bay and cayenne seasoning, mix.
Add flour to make a roux, add 2 1/2 cups of the chicken stock slowly while stirring the roux continuously. Add half of the corn and 2 oz of the crab. Increase heat to bring to a simmer. In a blender, blend the other half of the corn, the last 1 cup of chicken stock and the 3 cloves of garlic. Add to the simmering pot and lower head to med-low and continue simmering. Let this simmer for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes, add the cream, paprika and the rest of the crab. Mix it all together and let it cook for 5 more minutes to warm through the crab and cream.
My notes: I ended up only using jalapenos with the seeds removed (I had a green bell on the side in case I got nervous about the kick from the jalapenos). I used low sodium chicken stock. I used 3 small-medium sized cloves of garlic. I ended up adding A LOT of salt and pepper at the end... so make sure you taste test to see if you have enough before serving... corn needs a lot of salt and pepper. I didn't garnish with green onion, but I did add a small sprinkle of nutmeg at the end. Had I known what to expect with the flavors I would have served it with a french baguette on the side for dipping... next time!

Serve and ENJOY!! This was a delicious adventure and I will definitely be adding this to my repertoire!

Let the planning begin!

After about 8 months of being engaged with no wedding planning attempted, I finally started to feel ready to dive in a little bit back in August of last summer. I knew what church I wanted to get married in (St. Thomas of Villanova), so I contacted them to find out what I needed to do to get started and put my name on the infamous list. The university is a popular place to get married, and therefore their church has A LOT of rules to follow. Fortunately the rumored 4 year waiting period was wrong. In fact, we could not book our date sooner than 18 months in advance (actually a good rule because otherwise I'm sure the list could become 4 years long). There were also other deadlines and paperwork. Because we were not parish members, we had to find a priest who would be willing to officiate our mass and we needed to have a letter of permission from the church to which we currently belonged.
A word of advice: Regardless of where/when you want to get married, decide on a church first and contact them to see what they need from you to set a date. If you are Catholic, you probably will need to be a registered member of the parish and you may or may not need certain documentation of your baptism/confirmation among other things.
Next was the venue. Late last summer I began the search. At first I started with Google, but I soon realized the results were not necessarily tailored to what I was looking for. That's when I stumbled upon the Knot. I made a username and got access to search engines tailored to wedding venues/vendors. I was able to search based on location, cost, accommodations and more. I was also able to save venues I liked for later. I used this as the launching pad.
A word of advice:  Look into a wedding website to at least create a username to take advantage of their features. Some sources nowadays even recommend developing your own wedding website for your guests to utilize for information about registry and details about your shower, bachelorette party and the big day itself. See the "About wedding planning" Page for additional useful links.
We got a list together and my fiance, parents and I took a trip. We were able to see 3 places in one day, each appointment lasted between 1-2 hours. We got a full tour of the facility and then sat down with the facility's wedding coordinator to discuss the details of the wedding package and costs. By the end of that day we had a place in mind that we wanted.  However, we were still 5 months out from being able to set our date and officially book, which we had told each place we had seen. We went home, went over the details and made a mental commitment to our favorite venue.

September - January was pretty low key for us as far as the planning went. We continued working with our local parish and the church at Villanova to get all of the paperwork done. As January arrived we were prepared. We had our date in mind and we knew our venue had it in mind too. February 1st we called... we got our first choice date and time! That afternoon we called the venue.

Surprise! They changed their package! Yikes. This threw me for a loop. They gave us a week to decide. In typical me fashion I became neurotic crunching numbers and looking for other locations that were less expensive. Howie got pretty sick of my antics, but I couldn't commit without knowing I had considered everything and was 300% sure that we wanted to make this place work. I even made my parents take and impromtu trip back to Philly to look at three more locations that were more cost effective. We were sorely disappointed with them in comparison to our dream place. Impulsively on the way home I said lets do a drive by of the original venue. We got there and I fell in love all over again.
Lesson learned: Yes, its nice to have time to be "la-dee-da," but keep tabs on things when/if you have lags of time between decisions. In hindsight we should have called the venue before booking the date to ensure everything we had previously discussed was the same. This would have given us buffer time and prevented the neurosis outbreak I had.   
In the end we did the number crunch and Howie and I committed to making this venue work, even if it meant cutting out other things. We had "the feeling" and we were gonna run with it. Its been almost 3 months since making that decision and I am still thrilled and excited envisioning my big day happening at the venue we chose. Its going to be beautiful!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A fresh start for forming healthier habits (Part 2)

Exercise is my nemesis.

I think the last time I enjoyed exercise was when it came under the disguise of "tag" when I was 8 years old. Well, I guess I somewhat enjoyed it to a certain extent in high school when I was a member of the swim team. I attempted to force myself to enjoy running in college. Running was very popular among my roommates. Sophomore year I even got myself running 3 miles about 5-6 days a week for a couple months. Senior year I went to the fabulous brand new gym on campus here and there, but never on a steady basis. Since then, I've done close to nothing in the way of physical activity beyond walking 2 blocks to where I park my car. So in essence, you can expect this next habit change to be a tremendously difficult one.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of value in exercise. It releases endorphins, it leads to better body image, it strengthens your heart and lungs, it improves your overall health, and so on. I'm not a fool, I'm just lazy. Apart from play time as a kid, I never developed a routine of exercise as being a part of my everyday life. And let's face it, exercise should be a part of everyone's life for their entire lives. As much as we pretend we don't need to be active, we are animals and we need physical activity to be at our best.

First thing to do is realize that this needs to be a permanent change. Some sort of physical activity needs to enter my life for the long haul. With that, I need to start with the basics. I know if I go out and pretend to run for the first time in 3 years it's just not going to happen. I won't be able to do it, I'll send myself into an asthma episode, and that will be the end of that. Two months ago I finally built up the motivation to stop thinking about exercise and to start doing some. That abruptly ended when I was hit with the most severe upper respiratory infection I've ever had: inhaler every 3 hours, prednisone, nebulizer treatments, unending cough suppressants, and so on. Since then this recent lull really set in. So it's time to start getting my act together.

Going off of my philosophy with diet, I've decided to start slow. What is manageable? What is something small I can add to my daily routine without feeling overwhelmed? 10 minutes sounds like a reasonable amount of time to start... what can I do in 10 minutes? How about 4 sets of 15 tri's and bi's? So that's where I started. I also told Howie to whisper in my ear every now and then about doing some activity since he was already in the routine of working out every day. After I decided working my arms was very manageable and not enough, I added 4 sets of 10 lunges. Then I added some ab ripper X (from Howie's p90x). See where I am going with this?

I went for my first run this weekend and to my delight I didn't die! I guess all those core things really do work! Unfortunately this week with the down turn of the weather and me not quite figuring out mentally how to make myself go do cardio after being at work all day, I haven't run again in 4 days.  Good news: I'm still doing my core.... The real improvement is that I haven't given up and I haven't completely reverted to my old ways. This is the first start to forming a habit - sticking with it. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A fresh start for forming healthier habits (Part 1)

For a few weeks now I've been thinking about habits. I'll admit I've been feeling pretty down about myself with regards to body image lately - its one of those months where I'm just not feeling too great. We all have these moments. I've been half-heartedly considering diet changes I've been trying to motivate myself to live an overall healthier lifestyle. But man, it is so hard to do sometimes! So lets talk about a topic I have strong love/hate feelings for:
Diet and Excercise! *
How many times have you heard or read about diet and exercise? I should ask how often you hear about these two things on a daily basis (Think diet food/beverage commercials and online ads in the corners of most websites).  It may seem repetitive and boring at this point to hear about, but these two sneaky little habits have been shown time and time again to influence major health conditions and overall health. Think about it: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, constipation, colon cancer, depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, memory loss. These are just a hand full of conditions that can be aided by diet and exercise. 

I'm not the healthiest eater and I don't exercise regularly. I look healthier than I am, which you may think this is great, but it's really just a crutch to promote my bad habits. I'm at high risk for developing almost all of those conditions I listed above once I get older based on my genetic lottery and my poor health behavior, which means I need to change NOW. So how? Little by little. And with the help of a buddy: Howie. He motivates me on the exercise end (he runs so he's already in that routine) and I bug him about establishing better eating habits. So what do I do to start making healthier habits?
Disclaimer: this is not any formal, professional advice. This is what works for me when I'm in a slump to START getting me back on track. I start with one thing, and then once I'm back in a better routine with that, I add another little change.
Lets start with what I'm better at regulating: 
Long term goal: Better eating habits

With regards to lifestyle changes, my biggest suggestion is to start small with a task that is not overwhelming. So, yes we have one umbrella goal of better habits, but how do we get there? When I realize my sneaky bad habits have taken over, I start getting back on track with one of the following 3 options: 

Short term goal 1: 
Don't eat within 2.5 hours of going to bed for the night. If you go to be at 10:30pm, this means no more food after 8:00pm; very manageable. This is my favorite rule to start with. Over time, it even allows the flexibility of moving that stop time earlier depending on your schedule (this week I'm attempting no eating after 7:30pm). I also give myself the one allowable cheat: If I'm starving by bedtime to the point I won't be able to sleep I am allowed one healthy snack, such as a small carrot, a glass of milk, or a quarter of an apple. After even just a couple of days of getting in the mindset that I'm not going to eat after the designated time, I don't even consider the cheat anymore and I actually prefer going to bed being on the slightly hungrier side versus the slightly full side.

Short term goal 2: 
Revamp one meal. I usually start with breakfast. Lets say my bad habit is eating no breakfast or something not so healthy. My new small change is to eat a breakfast that contains protein and/or fiber while avoiding white carbs. Example: multi-grain english muffin (fiber) with an apple (fiber and the natural kind of sweet cheat) or yogurt (protein, dairy, calcium). Nothing extreme, a health freak could think this is nothing, but its what works for me and its a positive change from eggo waffles or bagels. Like I said, I start little by little and keep going until I get to a happy place; as long as you are making changes in a positive direction. Another alternative to the revamp rule that I like to do is make a rule to include a vegetable at every dinner (helps the boy be better, too). One of our biggest bad habits is to have a mostly carb with a little bit protein dinner, such as pizza or pasta, or chicken with mac & cheese (yum). By simply adding a vegetable, I automatically dish out less of the carb, but still get my fix. Over time, I find myself craving the balance of having more than 2 food groups represented in my big meals.

Short term goal 3:
Portion control by changing the size of your plates; instead of serving yourself on your huge dinner plate, use the small lunch plates from your set, regardless of what meal you are eating. The difference in portion size when you do this is astonishing. I find that if I put food on that big plate, I'm going to work to eat it all, (I'm not kidding when I say I love food). Whereas when I put food on the small plate, when I finish I usually find it was enough. And if I still think I'm hungry, it gives me the pause to really think about whether or not I really need seconds.

This method of starting slow and going little by little helps me stay on track, not feel overwhelmed, and I'm not tempted to jump off the wagon because the changes were too major for my body. Its no secret that the majority of people who jump into a crazy diet or exercise routine head-on easily fall off and end up right where they started. Remember, we are trying to change habits here, not go through a phase of good behavior only to fall back into our bad habits. Habits are routines established over long periods of time. They are deeply ingrained by the time you reach adulthood and they can't be changed overnight.

As an additional tidbit, a good friend of mine recently wrote on his own blog about keeping New Year's resolutions and staying motivated. His tips are excellent, but the best part is they don't just apply to New Year's resolutions, they apply to any goal or habit change you want to make. I'm always up for a good suggestion about staying on top of things! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Droppin' knowledge on homemade dressings

Howie and I love food. We LOVE food. If you met me in high school, you wouldn't think I could possess a domestic side. I hated indoor chores, I hated outdoor chores, I didn't cook (my mom was a stay-at-home-mom and did all of the cooking), and I could only bake goods that came in a box (still my preferred method for brownies: holla Ghirardelli). However, once we became juniors in college, we graduated to the apartment life. Goodbye food plan, hello kitchen. Howie's upbringing was totally different. Both his parents worked so he had to learn to cook and get along on his own. At one point during the beginning of our junior year, Howie decided to make me a dinner. I was shocked and impressed. He seemed to have so much fun doing it and just whipped it up from memory. He taught me some of his tricks and I began watching the food network religiously. I love cooking, finding new recipes, and I've even started coming up with my own. Howie also has his repertoire so we split the cooking responsibilities about 60/40 depending on who is the most stressed  with school. 

Which brings me to the point of this post. Howie recently made a delicious meal which included a salad and lime-cilantro vinegarette. The recipe he used for the dressing made a large amount, so I saved it as left overs. If you know me, you know I'm not super germaphobic and I usually go by my nose when deciding if something is still good. This dressing I knew was super acidic (lots of lime juice and lots of vinegar) so I figured it would last awhile. Recently, I decided to make myself dinner with left over chicken and I decide to use the dressing to make a salad. Its been over a week now since it was originally made, but it still looks and smells good. So I'm chugging along and I'm wondering how long do homemade dressings actually last? To Google I went. 

Now, I would never claim to be any sort of advanced or even experienced cook. But I was in for a real surprise that definitely brought me back down to a feeling of "novice" status. I found this great post that asked the question "How long do home made dressings keep in the fridge." The first response explained very well how different ingredients in the homemade dressing make for different shelf lives. This made sense. The part that caught my attention was this one little sentence, however: 
"The classic is the homemade garlic oil: you can keep pure garlic and pure oil for months in the pantry, but once you combine them, you get a botulism risk."
At first I just re-read it and tried to wrack my brain to see if I could figure out what this meant. I've seen on the food network that some of the chefs make garlic infused oil and that it is a popular commodity among Italians. I also knew garlic was one component of this dressing, in addition to the oil. So I typed in a new search: "Garlic in Oil." As I read through a couple of the hits I became more and more nervous. Keep in mind, I'm still eating and am already about half way finished with my salad. Apparently, garlic in oil stored at room temperature is a breeding ground for the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that causes botulism. Botulism is a scary, progressive, and often deadly reaction to the botulinum toxin released by these bacteria. The toxin is a paralytic and in high enough concentrations gradually paralyzes the muscles of the victim eventually leading to paralysis of the muscles that keep you breathing. It may start with abdominal cramping, fatigue, droopy eyes, and weakness in the arms and legs. Over time symptoms progress, reflexes are lost, and if the diagnosis is not made, it becomes deadly. The problem is, its a hard diagnosis to make. In this day and age, botulism is uncommon enough that it is probably not at the top of a doc's list and the initial symptoms can mimic a variety of diseases. Once this diagnosis is correctly made, anti-toxin is given.

So, as I'm reading these articles about the risks of garlic in oil, I'm becoming increasingly nervous. I start researching botulism itself (like I said, its not a common condition and its not the top culprit of food poisoning). Symptoms may come on in 18-36 hours. I promptly tell Howie if I start acting weird and become weak, bring me to the ER and tell them to look for botulism. He thinks I'm crazy. And then the rationalization starts. Well, its not garlic alone in oil. Its got lots of acid to kill bacteria, and it was kept in the fridge. So, that's okay, right? As you can tell, I'm still living today so clearly I did not get botulism. But its an important point to take home since homemade dressings are delicious - once you start making them, you'll want to make more. Here are the tidbits I found out during my research. {I apologize for not remember what sources I got this stuff from to properly give them credit, but the general tips are ones I found repeated in several of the sites I visited}

1. Clostridium botulinum is a bacteria often found in dirt. Its spores can adhere to any vegetables grown in the ground, such as garlic. Botulism is often associated with canned vegetables. This type of bacteria can only grow in an environment without oxygen (something called anaerobic). Once ground vegetables are sealed into a liquid with no oxygen available and are not properly preserved, the spores "hatch" to life and the bacteria begin growing and producing toxin.

2. Don't ever store garlic in oil at room temperature, EVER. The oil seals in the bacteria and seals out the oxygen.

3. Some sites say garlic in oil stored in the fridge can last up to 7 days max. Attempt at your own risk.

4. There are a few ways to reduce risk if you want to store it, such as drying out your garlic completely before infusing it into the oil, or heating it up to a specific temperature for a specific amount of time before putting it in the oil, or pickling it in vinegar, or acidifying the concoction. None of these are sure-fire ways of eliminating all bacteria and their spores (the dormant form that only starts growing in the right conditions). My dressing contained large amounts of vinegar and lime juice, which is probably what made it safe enough.

5. Likewise, some sites say that it can be stored in the freezer to keep for longer.

6. VERY IMPORTANT: There is no way to tell if your dressing or garlic oil has gone bad because this bacteria and its toxins are colorless and odorless! 

So, best way to avoid the risk: make a small quantity of dressing you can finish fresh that day or that you will only have a small amount leftover to finish in the next couple of days.Always store it in the fridge, never on the counter. Based on the information I read, I would highly recommend against keeping any homemade dressing containing garlic and oil for more than one week, regardless of the other ingredients. Most importantly, if you don't make homemade dressings yet, don't be afraid to. They are 100% better than store bought dressing and I plan to continue testing them out. Note: everything I had to say was about STORING the dressing. Eating it fresh is absolutely safe!

For more information about botulism in general, the CDC has a great variety of information. Click here to go to their page on botulism. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What a drag it is getting old

I had a high school teacher who once came into class flustered, clearly having a tough day, and sighed, "What a drag it is getting old." She then credited the Rolling Stones for their opening line of their song Mother's Littler Helper. Being my father's child, I knew the Rolling Stones, but I only knew their most famous songs. To this day whenever I stumble across this one on the radio I think of that teacher and that line. To be honest, I don't have a clue what the rest of the song is about.

Getting old sucks. Point blank. I'm not even old and I already have developed a rock solid, and possibly irrational, aversion to the thought of getting old. I know what my bad habits are doing to me now, and I know what my genes could have in store for me down the road: heart disease, colon cancer, and Alzheimer's. The first two I can fight, so I guess I'll just deal if those happen. Alzheimer's is the problem. The word alone irks me. The thought of the symptoms form a nice little ball of anxiety in the middle of my belly. I can hardly watch some of the scenes in Grey's Anatomy lately of Chief Weber struggling with his wife's Alzheimer's. It just hits far to close to home and it hurts.

My grandfather died fairly recently from Alzheimer's, among his many other physical ailments. It was devastating. If you have seen this disease, you'll understand how terrible, terrifying, and life altering it is for everyone close to the victim. My grandmother has now started with symptoms and it breaks my heart. Consequently, anytime I stumble upon information regarding progress in research about this disease, I gobble it right up. In one of my daily newsletters from the AAPA this week (American Academy of PAs) the top article was one about physical activity and Alzheimer's:

Daily Physical Activity May Help Reduce Alzheimer's Risk.

The CBS Evening News (4/18, story 6, 0:20, Pelley) reported, "It appears that daily physical activity may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease." After monitoring some "700 elderly people," researchers found that "the least active were nearly two and a half times as likely to develop Alzheimer's as the most active."
        USA Today (4/19, Lloyd) explains, "A higher level of physical activity -- not just exercising -- is linked to a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease even in people over 80," according to a study published online April 18 in the journal Neurology. "Protective activities include washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, gardening -- even playing cards. People who scored in the bottom 10% of physical activity were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's."
        "Plenty of research has suggested that people who make a habit of exercising are less likely to get Alzheimer's, though scientists aren't sure how to explain the link," the Los Angeles Times (4/19, Kaplan) "Booster Shots" blog notes. "Other activities that have been correlated with a reduced risk for Alzheimer's include engaging one's brain in mentally stimulating activities, spending time in social groups and eating a healthful diet, according to the National Institute on Aging."
        Focusing on the study's methodology, MedPage Today (4/19, Phend) points out, "Highly active older adults in the 90th percentile on actigraphy were 2.3 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease during a mean 3.5 years of follow-up than their inactive peers in the 10th percentile." Specifically, "the analysis included up to 10 days of 24-hour actigraphy monitoring for 716 individuals without baseline dementia participating in the observational Rush Memory and Aging Project." Notably, "after adjustment for age, sex, and education, total daily physical activity was associated with incident Alzheimer's, with a hazard ratio of 0.477 (95% CI 0.273 to 0.832)."
        "Just how exercise may reduce risk of developing Alzheimer's is not known, but in general, what is good for the heart is believed to also be good for the brain," WebMD (4/19, Mann) reports.

For those of you who don't love science, studies, or statistics. This synopsis basically is saying that there is a correlation between increased activity of any kind, physical and mental, and lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. This does NOT mean that high activity levels prevent Alzheimer's; it means that there may be a relationship between increased activity and decreased Alzheimer's risk. As the last statement of the synopsis reiterates - this disease is not well understood, and in my opinion it probably won't be understood for quite sometime. The take home message for me is really you get out what you put in. Yes, the human body is mysterious and there will always be things to learn about it. However, on its simplest level, its pretty much just like anything else, if you take good care of it, it will take good care of you. This is true of almost any pathology (fancy word for disease). The trick is starting those healthy habits from a young age and sticking with them for a lifetime.

 Healthy habits aren't any more difficult to have than bad habits... they are habits regardless of how you look at it. And a habit is just that, its something you do routinely without thought. Whether its eating Eggo waffles for breakfast, or eggs with a glass of milk instead, washing your hands after using the bathroom, brushing your teeth before you go to bed, and saying "God bless you" after a sneeze.  Your routines become your habits, and habits set the tone for lifestyle and health. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The first 2 weeks...

Since I'm now 15 months into my engagement, the next couple of posts are going to be backtracking to discuss things that have already been accomplished and the way in which we are going about this whole planning business. Hopefully this will offer some little bit of insight to those who are also/will be in my same shoes at some point.

The first 2 weeks of my engagement were a bit of a whirl-wind. As soon as he popped the question he grabbed my phone, shoved it in my hands and said "Call your mom." To my shock, I was paralyzed. I wanted nothing to do with calling my mother, or anyone actually. I wanted to just sit on the couch with Howie for hours. Just sit. And maybe cry a little. And sit some more. To this day I cannot explain my initial reaction. This was something I had wanted and been looking forward to for months. It was something I was waiting for. And yet, when it happened I couldn't believe it. I felt like my life changed in that split second.

I was far from the quintessential screaming-out-of-excitement girl you picture in your mind. Howie had to convince me for 5 minutes that I should call my parents. But I didn't want to. I wanted to keep this a secret to hoard and treasure on my own for a while. After he kept repeating how much he wanted me to call people I finally gave in. Of course, everyone was excited. I can't even count the number of times I was asked "So, how did he do it?" All of this crazy attention was extremely overwhelming. It took away from the novelty and the sparkle that moment originally possessed. To this day I don't really like to share that story. It's my story, its our moment of vulnerability and commitment to each other.

For the next couple of weeks the weirdness continued... I was not ready to start planning and it seemed that's all anyone else wanted to know about. When's the date? Who will you have in your wedding party? Have you looked at dresses online? Where will you have the wedding? Where will you have the reception? Band or DJ? What about bridesmaids dresses? What colors do you want? What flowers do you want? I'd grit back my teeth and say "I don't know yet" a million times, when all I was thinking was BACK OFF. I have no idea if this is a common reaction - but if any of you have experienced this as well, let me know! It be nice to know I'm not completely out of my mind.

The worst part wasn't all the "others" asking the questions, though. It was my mother. Dunt. dunt. duhhhhhh.

As soon as Howie put the ring on my finger I blurted "We don't have to get married until 2013," which was to his relief (he had been hoping for a longer engagement).  My mother immediately assumed we'd get married 12-18 months later...She was not a happy camper when I told her we were thinking summer '13. But I realized in that moment I needed time. Time to breath, time to enjoy this new status, time to get my mind straight, and time to plan. She, too, started asking the same questions listed above, and any time I'd offer a thought, she'd counter with her own idea and how I had to listen to her because 'this was her gift to me.' That got old real fast and after about a month of being on completely different pages it became clear that this was not the time to plan. I mandated that we were going to take this slow and we were going to avoid arguing as much as possible.

This brings me to my two cents, if you will. If you feel anything like I've described, its okay to put your foot down. This process requires happy, level headed people working together. If you are feeling this way, know you are not alone! In a world where this thing is so hyped up and girls are expected to be giddy and have everything already planned in their minds since childhood, realize that is just not reality.

A word of advice: If you are debating between a long engagement vs a short one, I definitely advocate for the pros of a long engagement. It has been the best decision. I've had time to calmly discuss things with my mother that we don't agree on, I have felt no pressure or rush yet, and it gives me time to do my due diligence when it comes to research and deciding on the details I think are important. We started making some final decisions and commitments at the start of this year so I had my time to enjoy being engaged without the pressure all last year. I, personally, needed that time to process everything, to mentally make the switch in my mind that this is all real; it's no longer a hypothetical dream.

If you still have hot pants for a wild and fast romance, at least take a pause of time to put planning on the back burner and just enjoy that moment of being engaged. If you rush ahead without processing and enjoying simply being engaged, you will miss out. Whether its for a week or two, a month, or in my case a year, take that moment and breath it in; that's the moment you are living. 

Take me out to the ball game

Tonight was my first ballgame of the season. Howie had been asking repeatedly each day this week if I wanted to go to a game and today he finally got me to commit, despite the last minute notice and my supreme exhaustion due to lack of sleep (allergies are getting the best of me this season).

Preface: I am not a baseball fan. If someone forces me to name a team I like the answer is the Astros or the Mets, and its only an answer by association (guess which teams Howie likes?). In fact, up until the second or so year I dated Howie I actually never watched baseball, hated the idea of watching baseball, and had only ever been to one game as part of a field trip in 7th grade. Baseball is Howie's first love, however, and so it has been his mission to convert me. Today, I will admit I enjoy watching a game at the stadium. I still have no team loyalty, I know only the basics about how the game is played, and I really only get truly excited about the hotdogs, but I still have a good time going to a game with my boy.

On this drizzly evening we got to watch the Yankees take on the Twins. The first inning was quite exciting actually; the Twins brought in 4 runs and the Yankees brought in 3. The subsequent innings were typical and mellow. We had fantastic seats just behind home plate, in which we sat on cushy seats and had our food brought to us. It was such a treat! The view was absolutely perfect - we could see everything. I was hoping for a foul ball to come our way, but today just wasn't the day for that.

By the bottom of the 7th, however, I was ready to go home... mostly due to my exhaustion, but also the drizzle was making me cold and uncomfortable (I am not very pleasant when I am cold). Nonetheless, it was a nice diversion from the usual work week and it put my favorite smile on Howie's face.

the view from our seats
my happy boy

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Intro to an Engagement

If you've read my last couple of posts you know I just completed my pre-cana, which therefore spills the beans that I'm engaged. With that said, you can safely expect to read about the woes of my wedding planning here over the next many months. Here is my launching pad for this theme.

August 20-23, several years ago - The meeting

It was orientation at Villanova. I can't recall which day exactly it was, but at some point during these first couple of days we had our very first floor meeting. In the common room of St. Monica's 4th floor we gathered. My roommates and I sat in a corner next to the table and waited. The room filled and finally Regina, the RA, got us to focus. We were to introduce ourselves, state where we were from, and give a fun-fact. To this day when meeting new people in a group I still try giving fun facts... it became that ingrained in me during my time at Villanova. Regina threw a ball to someone to get things started. Things barely began rolling before two boys walked in late. There were no seats left so they sat on the table next to me. I was quiet and listening attentively as the ball was passed. However, the one kid kept trying to make comments in my ear. Excuse me buddy, why are you talking to me? Instead of saying this, I gave a nervous smile and diverted eye-contact. He continued to try talking to me until finally the ball was in my hand.  
"Hi, I'm Jessica, I'm from Connecticut, and I'm a Giants Football fan." By the end of that sentence my face was bright red and I couldn't get rid of the ball fast enough. With such nerves, how could I remember what I said that day? Because my now-fiance tells me that statement was the reason he kept talking to me from then on...  mostly because of his disdain for the Giants, but also because of intrigue that I used that as my fun-fact. 
After a year of friendship, I finally realized I had feelings for this kid who had been my buddy all through freshmen year. My roommate, Katie, ratted me out eventually and so Howie, who already had some interest, and I started the awkward transition from buddies to boyfriend/girlfriend. We had our ups and our downs. We studied abroad in separate countries, we lived in different cities, we were interested in different professions, we had different groups of friends. We grew into ourselves and learned from eachother. Our best qualities rubbed off, and we started breaking down the worst qualities. Some days we were vinegar and oil, other days we were two peas in a pod. Our bond was unconditional.

December 20, 2010 - The engagement

We had been living together at that point for 6 months, I was halfway through my didactic year of PA school; he was working in the city. It was Christmas time, and therefore there is a cheesy proposal story that comes along with our engagement. Unfortunately, Howard would murder me if I shared it, so we'll save walking that tight-rope for another day. The point is, this was the day my life as Howard & Jessica really became Howard & Jessica. 

Since my engagement, part of me has been a bit upside down. I have no experience with even attending weddings and few close contacts to draw information from about how to plan a wedding. If you know me, you know my mother and I often don't see eye to eye, which can be straining. I also have a tendency for neurotic tantrums (often dealt with by Howie) in times of great stress. Essentially, the "getting engaged" part was easy, its the "after" that is the mysterious, challenging, and exciting.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The best brunch I nearly never had...

While at 'Nova, I was intent on hitting up all of my favorite food joints on our quick 36 hour trip this weekend. These included primarily Campus Corner and Wingers. I mean seriously, I could never go to Villanova and not re-live the "double chicken parm on garlic bread". CamCo still had my phone number registered to my name when I called. Too bad I didn't have my wildcard...

Our food journey also included the staple Gullifty's - I had a delicious cajun burger with some kind of tangy ranch dressing and a Hoegaarden. Boy had a steak sandwich topped with guyere cheese and onions completed by a dunkelweizen. We love our wheat beers. Saturday night we also indulged in some boneless wings and the famed chicken ceasar wrap from Wingers. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. However, and surprisingly, none of these were the highlight of the weekend's food adventures.

Meet Nudy's Cafe

Howard has been talking about this place called Nudy's since we graduated. I can't recall why or when its come up, but on occasion he gets that look in his eye and tone in his voice and starts a rant about the wonder that is Nudy's. I had never heard of this place in all the years I went to Villanova, so naturally I was a skeptic. The only breakfast place I knew and supported was Minella's. Well, forget about Minella's. After eating at this place, I don't think there is a better breakfast place ANYWHERE. Yes, a bold statement, but I am feeling quite passionate about this place right now. Before I jump in, let me tell you a bit about myelf: I'm not a breakfast person. I don't eat eggs, I don't like breakfast meats, I get sugar crashes from the syrup on pancakes and french toast, waffles are burdensome to tackle. Its just not my favorite meal, and that is a-okay with me. When Howie says, "lets go out for brunch," I'll go, but I go begrudgingly. In my mind, why not just wait for lunch?

Fast forward, here we are at Villanova for our pre-cana weekend and its Sunday morning. Part of me is rooting for bagel factory since I know what to expect and am feeling groggy. I know how pointless this thought is, Howard's mind is made up - to Nudy's we go. He keeps talking about this french toast and I'm sitting there wondering who names their breakfast joint "Nudy's." We pull up on the gorgeous morning that was this past Sunday. I was immediately comforted by the smell of the grass and flower perfumes mixed with the smell in the air just after it rains while everything is still moist. The sun was starting to melt the haze and the people was loitering in the gravel parking lot waiting. The place was hopping. The outdoor patio in front was filled, the innside, tiny dining room was a hustle and a bustle with people, and the noise emanating from the back patio was enough to tell us the place was packed. I was okay with it... the hostess said only a 10 minute wait, and it was exactly that. We sat, got our coffees and started perusing the menu. It looked great, complete with anything you could ever want for breakfast or lunch. I asked Howie how lunches were since I was eyeing a few of the sandwiches. He looked at me straight faced and said - "I only get breakfast here." He said it as if I was a fool to get anything otherwise so I flipped back to the breakfast selections. I was not in the mood for an all-carb, sink to the bottom of your belly kind of breakfast. I noticed they had crepes. I'd only ever had a crepe in Africa, and it was pretty good. The menu said it was filled with sweet ricotta and topped with fruit and whipped cream. I'll take it.

There are no words to describe how wonderfully scrumptious this breakfast was. 
This is Heaven. 

It was phenomenal. The best breakfast I ever ate. It was the definition of perfection. Period. End of Story. 

But it's not the end of the story, because Howie also ate breakfast. He ordered the Cinnabon French Toast. What is that all about? It is literally the most enormous cinnabon you've seen dipped in french toast batter, griddled up and served to you with love and tenderness. Oh, and they give you TWO enormous cinnabons. I could only have a bite of his because I was far too infatuated with my own breakfast, but let me tell you - this was awesome. 

Buttery and sweet, it was french toast on a whole different playing field. It couldn't even compete with french toast, really. 

Moral of the story: If you have never been to Nudy's and you live on or near the main line YOU MUST GO. I cannot believe I missed out on this joint for so long. It is worth it. You will not regret it.

The Lowdown on the new NovaNation

Welcome back! And welcome to the new Villanova University sign on the corner of Ithan and Lancaster. If you are facebook friends with the University (or if you "like" the University?) you probably saw posts about this a while ago, but I couldn't help but take a picture of it myself as I walked on to campus for the first time in 2.5 years. The picture does not do it justice at all - the thing is huge! It actually makes it challenging for students who trudge up from south campus to walk around it, it's that big. Of course, this wasn't the only change. Here's a few comments I have about what we saw on our mini-tour of main campus this weekend.

I will admit, I was very nervous to get back on campus knowing changes were afoot. I wasn't sure what to expect and I wasn't sure that it would still be "my" Villanova. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised!   The only change I did not love (or really like for that matter) was the pop-out colored pavers they decided to place in front of Connelly and Dougherty halls. They may look harmless in this picture, but with the back drop of the beautiful light gray stone of the Villanova-defining buildings, it is much too harsh of a contrast. My hope is that the will fade a bit overtime, I guess we'll see.

~  side note: I like to think I was being artsy taking this photo of Howie's feet and shadow ~

 Despite the stone pavers, the patio area in front of Connelly was wonderfully done. There were two levels of brand new outdoor tables and chairs nestled close to the building and out of the way of passersby. I would also add, had I had enough time, that this would probably be an ideal people watching location while chowing down on some great Bell Air Terrace food.  Sadly, I do not have a picture to share. There were some Nova girls sitting outside eating/reading and I felt odd taking a picture of the patio while they were there... I'm not that much of a tourist/creeper. Upon departing Connelly from the first floor, we were greeted with an excellently placed staircase and new walkway to sneak over to Sullivan. It was very well done and quite unexpected.

We meandered out way towards the church and stumbled upon out class' gift to the school as well: this quaint and well-placed clock! This was the point at which Howard rolled his eyes at my touristy behavior. I say, never be ashamed of being a tourist (to a point... read: I did in fact refrain from taking a picture of the Connelly patio, I do have some self control). Memories only last for so long in tact - we live in a great age of technology, take a picture, it will last longer than your memory.

In closing, I'm sure you are all wondering where the Oreo is if you read the hub-bub on your newsfeed each time its been moved over the past couple of years. I'm standing in its expected location while taking the picture as if I was walking towards the grotto. Here it is:

I wish I had a thoughtful comment, but when I look at this picture I feel sad it is all wrapped up and closed off.... Right now, I'll just be hopeful that next time I return it will be back in its rightful place where I can sit on it and be properly nostalgic.

Friday, April 13, 2012

To Villanova we go...

V for Villanova, V for Victory
B for blue and W for white,
with the blue and the white we will fight!
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight....
For Villanova, Fight for victory,
For we're out to win the fray, Villanova leads the way
With a capital V for Victory!

I LOVE my alma mater. The very first time I visited back when I was a lowly junior in high school I actually was sick and fought with my parents to stay home. Of course, I didn't have a fever and wasn't vomiting, so in my mother's book I was not sick. First stop was a teeny tiny school up near Scranton, PA. It was cloudy and drizzly and my mother's pick. Naturally, I had no interest in it. Then we drove the 2 hours down to Philly. Fortunately the sun was shining and it was April so the flowers were in bloom. We got to campus and my world changed. It was vibrant, people were everywhere, and they were having fun. My dad and I were solicited at the Oreo (space in the middle of campus where people gather) to participate in various on-goings being hosted by different groups on campus.

On our tour, we got the traditional Villanova speeches and dramatizations. The most memorable for me: "Pick your date before you pick you mate" There was a ubiquitously known rumor that the waiting list to get married at St. Thomas of Villanova was 4 years. Yes, FOUR YEARS. So the tease was to put your name down because, also a ubiquitously believed rumor, Villanovans often marry other Villanovans.

I was in love! All I could talk about was Villanova. And that church - it was the most beautiful parish church I had seen. White stone, pink marble floor. I was convinced I would attend this school and I was convinced I would get married in that church. It was the first dream and goal I had as a person (as opposed to a child). Everything to that point in my life was step-wise and determined; Villanova I would choose. And I did. I applied early action, was accepted and cried in a way I had never cried. I was not sad, I was not hurt. I was so relieved this dream was coming true, and the tears came rolling. It was the first time I cried out of happiness.

I could go on and on about Villanova ad nauseum. Mostly because it is the place were I became me. It is also the place I will be getting married to another Villanovan next year (2013). So why am I writing about this now? Because we are off to Pre-Cana tomorrow at Villanova! I am so excited to be going back after not having visited in 2 years. I don't know what is in store for us as far as pre-cana goes, but I have already begun preparing for the nostalgia that is about to ensue and planning how I will hit up all of my favorite stomping grounds while I am there this weekend. Wish me luck - there's a lot to accomplish! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me...

... Papa-Paparazzi

Anyone not living under a rock is familiar with the famed Lady Gaga song. Its been in my head for approximately 30 minutes now after hearing it on the radio and proceeding to sing-a-long. Ironically, I signed on facebook to be confronted with this youtube video posted by my aunt:
If you want to skip the video, I'll give you a synopsis: Adrian Grenier (Star of Entourage on HBO) noticed a 13 year-old kid in the mist of the overwhelming group of paparazzi trying to take pictures of him one day. He approached the kid to find out why he was in this business and decided to make a documentary following the life of this young entrepreneur as he works tirelessly to hunt down the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan.

I have to give the kid props... I mean... he makes $500-$1000 per picture. And he's 13 years old. When I was 13 I babysat for $5 or $6 and hour. However, aside from the money he makes doing his "job," it's actaully fascinating that this is now going to be turned into a documentary. I guess Hollywood will take anything mildly interesting and turn it into a sensation. In reality, they are already winning just by the fact that I saw this and now all of you have watched/are about to watch it. Anything can become shiny and interesting. Is that good? Is that bad? Does it speak to our cultural ingenuity, or rather does it make us seem ridiculously easy to distract? In my opinion, it's probably both, but I'd like to advocate the "cultural ingenuity" angle.

I'm sure my parents and grandparents and those general public over the age of 50 would criticize this stuff for its lameness (seriously though, isn't the 7 pm news, talk shows, and shows like Access Hollywood the precursors to all of this anyway?). But really, it works; the proof is in the fact that other countries are following suit. Yes, its easy to laugh at American culture, we can be immature, we focus on completely unimportant things, and a good majority of the young people out there care more about the Kardashians than the republican primaries. But its ingenious - people watch our "garbage tv" and like it! My friend in England has written posts about their copy cat show Geordie Shore about ridiculous Pauly D and Snookie wannabes in northern England. And what about TLCs new find, My big fat gypsy wedding? Pretty sure those accents aren't American. Despite the ridiculousness of these documentaries and reality shows about the things people do, people watch and are entertained. And the craze keeps spreading. We watch, we follow, we eat it up. I don't know about you, but I'm probably not gonna stop. I'll probably be watching TLC or E! later tonight in fact. And I won't judge you if you do too. Enjoy it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Food = the gateway to the practitioner's soul

Food is often known to be the gateway to a man's soul. In some cases, like mine, it may also be the gateway to a woman's soul. Maybe my mind is warped, but truthfully, food is the gateway to everyone's soul. Food, whether by obligation or delight, is something we can all count on to bring us to the table.

Today was drug rep luncheon day. This means free food. In the medical world, you get offered free food, you take it and never look back. The boss wanted Chinese. We got Chinese. It was brought by the rep, who is one of two people on almost every occasion: a gorgeous, well dressed, long haired, classy jeweled young woman, or a suited up, good looking 30 something year old man. Today's rep was marketing a fairly new anticoagulant. Ironically, she was from the same company my dad works for. The docs know the drill, but I'm still eager enough for the following exchange: "Hi, I'm Jessica, I'm a PA student" "Oh great, how are you? Would you like to hear about our drug?" "Sure!" I then get to stuff my mouth with delicious fried chicken as she reels me into the fancy spiral bound booklet of graphs and tables. The drug looks good. Its the same or better than the current drug in every category. I'd prescribe it. Win for drug company.

This evening I then report to my dad "Hey, guess what?" My dad, being the skeptic who's always on the look out for the dreaded salesmen, teases me saying "oh, do you now feel obliged to use our drug??" His tone, while joking, also makes me think those sneaky reps. They fed me, essentially bought my time and attention, showed me pretty organized graphs and figuratively sold me their drug.

And its not just in this setting that food is the gateway. Food bribing is classic and timeless. Think about when you were in kindergarten and you brought all the cupcakes in on your birthday to have free party time and for everyone to sing to you. Think of every single family get together - really, how many snacks and hors d'ouevres does a table REALLY need to get a bunch of people to sit down and talk to each other? How about "you can have dessert as soon as you finish your vegetables?"

Medical practitioners are fools for this trickery. It starts during interviews for schools - which school had the better breakfast spread to calm your nerves before all the crazy questions? Luncheons for drugs, luncheons for equipment, coffees and pastries before presentations. We are slaves to our stomachs. Truly, its a brilliant brainwashing technique - that's why it works, and that's why drug reps keep hosting luncheons. All in all, I'm okay with it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Something to write about...

I've been contemplating writing this blog for a number of months now. I have a million ideas about a million things and most writers agree, writing it all down is cathartic. Since this is my first ever blog, let me narrate a bit about myself.

I didn't always know I had potential to be a writer. My parents always pushed the "she's a math/science student" antic. Which I am ... I find the nerdy side of me growing as I realize just how much I used to enjoy math as I get farther away from it (I was last required to take math in high school). And if you ask my fiance, he will jump at the opportunity to commiserate with someone about how nerdy I am biology and medicine (speaking to my soon-to-be profession, physician assistant). Though he enjoys me and my friends' company, you can catch the gigantically conspicuous eye-roll when we start talking about the cool patients we've seen since the last time we got together. However, I also have an artsy side. I enjoy giving myself art projects, albeit I'm easily distracted from them (it took me 2 years to complete a piece to commemorate my fiance's love for baseball), and since no longer participating in a program that requires English and history classes, I've missed creative writing.

My theory on this interest in competing disciplines and completely full-of-scattered-ideas brain: my ever troubling issues I have with differentiating my right from my left. I never categorized it as an "issue" until I started graduate school in a science. Sure, family and friends would be confused when they thought I was a traditional lefty but then would switch my glass and fork from one side of the plate to the other, or use my right hand to write on the chalk/white board in class. I would just shrug my shoulders. Growing up, I'd compare with other lefties what they did with their left vs. their right hand. My list: I write with my left, I iron with both, I bat with both, I can ONLY throw or bowl righty, but I eat chopsticks with both and use either hand to pick up a glass/fork/knife... So what does that mean? My brains compete. My left brain likes math and science, my right brain likes art and feeling. I am my parents child. My dad, right-handed, is constantly in logic mode (math/science) and my mother, strict left-handed, is one big right brain (read: emotional).

Who cares? Well, lets save that for another post. Point is - my brains are both always running, which means, I'm bursting with thoughts and ideas about a variety of things. Hopefully this means you will have varied and interesting things to read about and comment upon.

So... with that said, my secret is out - I'm a nerd. It is this nerdiness that gives me something to write about. But I'm not just interested in writing for a passive audience. I'm pretty sure the whole point of a blog is to share with an audience who will get involved (otherwise I'd just go to Target and buy a journal - and I actually really hate journals). If you read this blog and you have an idea, a comment, a concern, a topic you'd like me to comment on, please share.