Monday, October 21, 2013

Tomato Cucumber Soup

The cold weather has rolled in to stay for the season and with that brings the excitement of my kitchen back to life. Since I live in a tiny, airconditionless apartment the summer is not prime cooking time for me. My most recent in depth home cooked meal was none other than my favorite soup: Tomato Cucumber. Its full of veggies, spices, and love :) I used to call it "Hot, wannabe gazpacho" because of the types of veggies used, namely the cucumber flavor that comes through, but over time it has evolved and therefore the name needed to evolve as well.

P.S. I used to make this recipe by pre-chopping all the veggies in a food processor, but I recently obtained an immersion blender which significantly lessens the work and improves the texture of the soup - if you don't have one of these and you like to make soup, please please please consider buying one. It is my new favorite kitchen toy and I'm constantly looking for excuses to use it!

Tomato Cucumber Soup
Ingredients (makes 4-6+ servings):
1.5 tbls Butter
1/2 medium sized Yellow Onion
3 cloves of Garlic
1/2 tsp of Thyme
3 tbls Flour
~3 cups Chicken Stock (can substitute with 3 cups water + 3 bullion cubes)
3 stalks of Celery
16 oz can Diced Tomatoes in Sauce
8 oz can Tomato Sauce
1 medium-large Cucumber
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Pinch or two of Sugar
2 tbls Parsley
2 heavy handed tbls Basil
Salt and Pepper
~1/4 cup Heavy Cream

*Note: for easier prep, pre-chop all veggies. They only need to be roughly chopped if you have an immersion blender or plan to blend the soup at the end. Otherwise, finely chop in a food processor and reduce cooking time in steps 3 on by approximately half.

1. In a medium pot on medium heat, drizzle a bit of oil (approx 2 tbls) and add 1 tbls butter. Once butter is mostly melted add roughly chopped onion and sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper over the onion to add flavor and draw out the juices. Cook until onion softens and starts to become translucent.

2. Add garlic (roughly chopped) and thyme and allow to cook for approximately 3-5 minutes. Your pot should become fragrant. Add flour to form a roux by constantly mixing flour into the oil &butter so that it is absorbed. Once roux begins to turn a light golden color, add chicken stock slowly while stirring or whisking continuously. If you do not stir continuously and pour in stock slowly you will get a lumpy texture - do not cheat here!

3. Add red pepper flakes, and roughly chopped celery. Increase heat slightly to allow to come to a simmer and then lower. You will want the soup to continue simmering for the rest of the cooking process. Allow celery to simmer in soup for approximately 8-10 minutes on medium-low heat.

4. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chopped cucumber. Allow to simmer for an additional 5-8 minutes.

5. (My favorite part) Get out your immersion blender and blend veggies (I use lowest setting... my immersion blender is powerful). If you don't have one, you can also transfer the soup in batches into a food processor or blender and then return it to the pot for the final cooking/addition of spices.

6. Add pinch of sugar, parsley and basil. Feel free to add a little more basil - this is a flavor that should be prominent at the end. Taste test for salt and pepper and add more if desired. (The saltiness of your rough product will depend on what type of broth/bullion cubes you use and how much you pre-salt your onions at the beginning). Allow to simmer an additional 5-10 minutes so the flavors can marry a bit more. Add the heavy cream - I say approximately 1/4 cup but I just drizzle in a bit to very slightly lighten the color and thicken the soup. You can even omit the cream all together. This is art not science, you can simmer or continue to cook on low heat for longer if you wish - it may even make the flavor profile richer... I just tend to be impatient at this point.

7. Serve with garnishing of your desire, I like to add some shredded cheddar. If you are not a soup-is-an-entree person, this goes very nicely with grilled cheese or, my personal choice, BLTs.

*Recipe disclaimer: I don't measure my spices at home! These are estimates to guide you based on quantity approximation. Always taste your food as you go and remember you can always add a spice but once its in you can't take it out.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Time for some PA Advocacy!

If you are a frequent flyer to my blog, you already know I'm a Physician Assistant. Given the recent passing of national PA Week (October 6-12, 2013), lets take a moment to spread the word about PAs!

A PA (Physician Assistant) is a member of a medical care team supervised by a physician. Depending on what part of the country you are in, and what medical setting we are discussing, this medical team can include multiple physicians, PAs, nurses, medical assistants, or it can be a two person team consisting of just the physician and the PA.

The details of physician supervision varies by state, but overall the term generally means that physicians oversea and delegate the activities the PA performs and assumes some level of responsibility for the medical care provided by a PA. The physician need not always be in the same vicinity as the PA nor does the physician always dictate each and every medical decision a PA makes. PA's are an extension of physicians. We are educated in the same model as physicians and we are licensed by the state in which we practice to provide competent medical care. We must graduate from an accredited PA program and pass a national board examination in order to become licensed.

What I do:
I work for a major medical center in the department of hospital medicine (we take care of all the patients admitted to the hospital under general medicine, as opposed to a specialty such as neurology, surgery, cardiology). A day in my life begins with reviewing lab work, test results, vital signs, rounding on 12-16 patients with or without the physician present, make a medical plan with the physician and carrying out that medical plan whether it be ordering tests, prescribing medications, or calling specialty consultants. The physician may physically be on the floor with me for as little as 2 hours, or as many as 8-10 hours a day depending on their practicing style. When they are present, we work together coordinating patient care, tests, consults, and social needs with the social work team. When the physician is not present, I not only continue to carry out the plan discussed with the physician, but handle any issues that may come up in the meantime. However, I am never completely on my own and can always reach the physician on call by phone, pager, or text if needed.

For links to more information: Click here!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Waking in Autumn

The air is different now. It's smell has changed and the lens of your eye captures a more burnt quality in the color of the leaves and grass. Its a subtle change, something you may not notice in the middle of your day, but something you surely feel as you struggle a little bit more to wake in the morning with your alarm clock. It seems the sun has decided to push "snooze." What's ten more minutes? As you come into your body from that dream state, your skin is first to realize the morning crispness. Yes, ten more minutes, please. Anything to postpone sticking your toes out into the world from their snuggly abode under your sheets and blankets.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

F is also for Food

I seem to be starting a theme here for Fall -- first fantasy football, now food, perhaps I'll dedicate a whole month to "F" related posts in honor of Fall (then again perhaps I won't since this alliteration was mostly coincidental).

Anyway, the point of this post is to discuss food. Rather, its to discuss diet. I've written a post or two in the past about improving healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise, and since its something that is constantly on my mind you should expect to see this topic come up every now and then. Today I read an article entitled the Anti Inflammatory Diet from JAAPA (The Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants). I have an inflammatory condition so articles like this always intrigue me on a personal level to begin with so of course I read it.

The article touched on concepts we already know: whole grains are better for you than refined grains, excessive sugary and deep fried foods are bad for you, eat more fruits and vegetables. What was different was the extensive number of statistics the article posed with regards to the differences in inflammation within the body of individuals who eat "western diets" (low fiber, high refined grains, sugars, fried foods, red-processed meats) vs. those who eat a "prudent diet" (high fiber, fruits, veggies, fish, whole grains, legumes, etc). The article referenced several studies that showed significant results that should be quite meaningful to any medical practitioner.

Overall, the conclusions were that inflammatory markers (signs of inflammation in the body) were increased in those who consumed the "western diet". This not only meant that these individuals were more at risk for conditions such as cardiac disease from the high fat intake, or diabetes from the high sugar intake, but that they were more at risk for their bodies to be under a chronic state of inflammation, which wears and tears on your tissues over time. Unsurprisingly on the contrary, those with a "prudent diet" had decreased inflammatory markers = less inflammation, less damage, overall healthier and at lower risk for future health conditions. Yay for fruits and veggies!  

Monday, September 30, 2013

F is for Fall Fantasy Football

Fall used to be a simpler time for me - it would bring a simple sadness that winter was coming and my summer clothes would be doomed to darkness in the dresser for the next 9 months. The only bright light during this dim time would be Thanksgiving and the joys of the holiday season. But never fear, fantasy football is here.

This is my third season and I've graduated to participating in two leagues. Two leagues, I had hoped, would equal twice the fun. No. I was wrong. Two leagues = twice the disappointment, anxiety, and bitterness on each and every Sunday and Monday for the 4 months of this terrible and wonderful time of year. Let me explain:

The season starts with the giddy joy of being accepted back to the leagues (as a woman this is quite a feat). The excitement continues with the prospect of the draft - who will make the team? Will it be Drew Brees? Or will I finally believe Howie when he says I over-value quarterbacks and attempt to hoard receivers and runners? And what about my team name? Oh the pain of seeking a brilliant team name that strikes fears into the hearts of others in my league! In actuality, I really just hope my team name gets at least a chuckle for being mildly clever.

Then draft day arrives. With many windows open on my screen, I jump back and forth frazzled trying to look up the players I'm not as familiar with between picks. After all, before fantasy entered my life I only ever paid attention to the Giants - there are a lot of players in the NFL to learn about! The end of the draft brings some relief, but also the onset of nerves. Did I make the right picks? Is my team solid? Week one will tell.

A loss and a win. Okay, I can deal with that, its only week 1.

Week 2: a loss and a win. Alright, being 1:1 in both leagues is not bad... its still early.

Week 3: a loss and a loss. Ughhh. My defense is falling apart in one league... my receivers in the other are getting double covered on every play. My stars are falling to "Questionable" for next week. The players left on free agency are limited. I fear a trade. What to do? What to do? It's still early...

Week 4: Here we are. What started out as a hopeful Sunday in the lead after the 1:00pm games has turned into a nightmare and I'm looking at another 0-2 weekend. How can this happen? My teams were solid...

My options seem to be dwindling and despite the appearances of solidarity on a "stacked" team, my players still can't keep it all together to get me a win. What looks like a solid lead turns into a 30 point deficit just because Tony Gonzalez has a breakout 38-point achievement that never should have happened while my defense dwindles into negative points for the 2nd or 3rd week in a row.

I know this is all of a lot of jargon and for those of you who don't participate in fantasy football, this is probably a nonsense post. I just can't help but reflect how my fall has changed from a time of mourning the seasonal equinox to anticipation over how my 17 players from 10+ different teams will play in their weekend match-ups. I now worry over predictions and averages and rivalries. In some ways, my fall is a lot more exciting, especially when my team wins. Its also brought me closer to a sport I grew up with but did not fully appreciate before. However, it also brings with it the emotional roller coaster of a lifetime. Oh fantasy. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The light at the end of the tunnel

Six weeks post-wedding and here we are! This will be my last wedding related post. I couldn't leave you all hanging at the 2 months-to-go mark so here is a synopsis of the craziness that happened at the end.

{Since this is the last "getting married" post, I just want to remind anyone who is reading who needs some helpful links and vendor recs to see the Wedding Links page under the "More.." tab.}

Where we left off ...
     Engagement photos: We had wanted to do these in April. Then we wanted to do them in May. Then we scheduled them for mid-June. With everything we had going on at the time, we sprung for the extra $200 to have the photographer come to us in NY from his home base outside Philly - which was well worth it. This was one thing I had initially thought I was not going to do at the beginning of my engagement, but boy am I glad I did. Not only do we now have tons of professionally done pictures of the two of us (as opposed to only having a handful of photos taken with smartphones on tipsy nights in poorly lit bars, clubs, or restaurants), but we also got to know our photographer and have a lighthearted "date" of sorts with each other to ease some stress.

     Flowers: Last we chatted flowers were not done at the two month mark. Thankfully all it took was a skype date with a smaller mom & pop florist shop and a bit of chemistry to check this off the list. I showed her a few pictures of flower arrangements I liked based on my likes and dislikes I sorted out from the first shop we almost contracted with.

     Transportation: I ended up feeling frazzled enough that I ended up putting this in the hands of my then-fiance. He contacted my brother who knew of bus companies in the area from his fraternity events-coordinator days and he called up a few limo companies found via google. We calculated the best way to limit the number of vehicles we needed by deciding to transport the bridal party around in shifts using one limo, and likewise scheduling shifts with one school bus for transporting our guests between the hotel and reception venue.

     Favors: We knew we wanted something that was not going to be thrown out when people got home the next day. We didn't want a personalized trinket or "souvenir" to send our guests home with. So my mom suggested we give away Hope's Cookies, a local mini-chain in the Villanova area that baked and packaged the cookies in pairs for us. All we had to do was pick them up. It was perfect.

     Seating Plan: This was tricky. We only had approximately 2 weeks to sit down and do this and its really the type of chore that you just have to buckle down and get it done.

     The Extras: The last week before the wedding there were, of course, a million little extras that needed to get done. At first I was not going to take that entire week off from work, but boy am I glad that I did! I needed the time to finish all the miscellaneous details and feel secure that we did all we could to make it "perfect".

     The Big Day: Surprisingly, the entire occasion went off without a hitch on the day of - except for my own nerves of course. All the details were perfect, the flowers were perfect, the DJ was perfect. We had an amazing time and really enjoyed our celebration. If you are planning your wedding in the greater Philadelphia area please see the wedding links page (under the "Extras" tab) for our vendor suggestions - we LOVED each and every one of them.

     The Honeymoon! YAY! The best part of everything! We booked in June for the end of August. We wanted somewhere non-traditional after our bold original plan of going to Italy fell through. I knew it needed adventure and relaxation to appease both of our interests so we chose Belize! It was absolutely fantastic and we would go again in a heartbeat. Beach, ocean, snorkeling, Mayan ruins exploration, swimming with sharks, zip-lining, fantastic food, we couldn't have asked for more!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What's in a vitamin? (Vitamin B12)

Last summer I started this little segment about vitamins, so here's a lighthearted post about our next special vitamin. How do we really know what vitamins are actually worth the buzz? That's what I'm attempting to discover. We've already discussed the benefits of vitamin D and C, next up: B12.

Vitamin B12
B12, aka cyanocobalamin, is fairly well known as an energy booster and has been on trend for the past several years. Given is ubiquitously known name, lets just jump in and affirm that yes - B12 boosts your energy! This is mostly due to the fact that people with a B12 deficiency suffer from weakness and fatigue as a side effect. So when you replace what you've lost, you feel better! But what else can this little bugger do for you?

B12 is a vitamin only obtained via diet, whether it be fortified foods, OTC or prescription supplements, or naturally occurring in foods. Without it not only will you feel your metabolism slow (two of its by products are active in metabolism.. metabolism = energy), but you can also develop anemia and neurological deficits including abnormal sensations, such as pins and needles, and memory loss, which can contribute to a sense of weakness and fatigue. Deficiency can also lead to constipation, depression, weight loss, and loss of appetite. There are a few factors that put a person at risk for developing a B12 deficiency.

1 - being vegan or vegetarian. B12 is naturally found in the meat, fish, shellfish, chicken, and dairy... therefore if you are not eating any of those foods you put yourself at risk for developing a B12 deficiency, among other things. If you practice vegetarianism, be sure to see a nutritionist to make sure you are getting enough of the vitamins and minerals you might be missing out on. Side note: B12 can also be found in fortified cereals.

2 - being elderly. As you grow older, you GI system gets tired and doesn't absorb the nutrients in the foods you eat as well as it did when you were younger. In fact, many times older people may be misdiagnosed with early dementia if their chief complaint is only memory loss and therefore the practitioner doesn't think to check for B12 deficiency. NY Times wrote an article on Vitamin B12 with this scenario as their back story.

3 - having a gastrointestinal disorder. B12 is absorbed in the small intestine. If you have a GI disorder, such as Crohn's Disease, Celiac's, or another condition that affects the small intestine, it can lead to malabsorbtion of many things, including B12.

4 - having had GI surgery or bariatric surgery. If you are missing some of your pieces, then its fair to guess that your body is going to miss out on whatever it is those pieces do for you. You lose your gallbladder, you can no longer secrete the enzymes needed to break down fatty foods, therefore you can no longer eat those fatty foods you love or else they'll be coming straight out the other end the same way they came in... gross (sorry for the visual, it was the first example that came to mind and I was too lazy slash entertained to change it to something more benign like losing your uterus means no babies). Likewise, if you are missing part of your GI tract, you can bet you're gonna miss out on absorbing some or many of the nutrients your body needs.

So how does this affect you and what can you do about it? For most of the young American population, you probably aren't B12 deficient. If you are tired, its probably because you stayed up too late watching TV or going out with you friends or taking care of your kids all day. However, you should eat a well balanced diet including an appropriate amount of meats, fish and dairy, and you should still get an annual physical in which your doc does routine blood work to check for anemia and vitamin deficiencies. And if you are still worried you might be deficient - a little OTC B12 never hurt nobody (at least not that I can find in the literature...)

Another fun fact: along with folate and vitamin B6, B12 also contributes indirectly to overall cardiovascular health.

Where this information came from: 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Human Race

There was a time when I believed racism did not exist. There was a time when I thought people in my social class, in my town, in my neighborhood, in my family could never possess the capacity to be racist knowingly or unknowingly. There was a time when I thought it was just a non-issue in my life. I'm hesitant to write on this subject, but part of me feels that I need to record these feelings somewhere.

When I was a child, my mother's mission in raising me was to raise me to be perfect. An ambitious task that clearly failed, as no one can obtain perfection. However, her attempts were not fruitless and my parents certainly got a few things right. Somehow they taught me to love people. I was painstakingly encouraged to find the good in everyone, to treat them well, and to love each one. As a child I would befriend anyone, it never mattered if they were small, large, boy, girl, black, brown, "cool," or "weird." I lived in a nearly homogeneous town - approximately 95% white. Race was never a big deal because there wasn't much of it. Of the handful of non-whites in my class, all of them found a crowd to belong to. I never experienced or witnessed discrimination. College was another near-homogneous environment and life continued as it always had. My husband and I met a week before I turned 18 the first full day of orientation at our undergraduate university. We became friends and we shared friends we had in common. He was black and I white, but I never noticed. It was just something seen but not processed - it didn't matter.

I had a moment when Howie and I both seriously entertained the idea of dating. The thought first crossed my mind: "Oh, he's black... does that matter? What will my parents think? What will my friends think?" To this point I had never met an interracial couple, I had never faced this concept, and while my instincts about befriending people bore no colored glasses, I consciously entertained the idea for a moment. What did this mean? For all my parents hard work to raise me right, to raise me blind to this taboo social constraint, I had a moment in which I hesitated. I consciously took the issue and made a decision about it in that moment. If race never meant anything to me for the first 19 years of my life, I was not going to let it affect me now. It was stupid and superficial, especially when a deep love for that person was already nesting in my soul.

I was 19 when racism first grazed my life.

Our dads were not so keen on our black/white-ness at the beginning. It was a stress that became a part of our first months of dating. It didn't take convincing, per say; I never had to sit down and explain my reasoning for dating this person to my dad, nor he to his dad. But it did take time and encouragement from our mothers for them to identify the fact that they needed a moment. They needed a moment to consciously hold the question in their minds and face the issue. And unsurprisingly with a little time and patience they both embraced each of us as their children. Perhaps its because they are our dads that it was easier for us to not really take this to heart as a personal attack after it all settled down and to move forward along with them.

We continued living in our relative bubble of life, which did not include racism. Surrounded by our peers in age, education, and socioeconomics, we remained a part of a homogenous society.

Sadly, just 15 days before our wedding day racism struck again.

We received a message on our wedding website from an anonymous source criticizing our interracial union. Its unknowable if it was a family member, a friend, or a random passerby to our site who felt it their moral obligation to butt into business that is not their own. But the message was racist and did just what racism is meant to do - incite insecurity and inferiority. The author made a series of points including "a person truly secure with themselves instinctively wants their children to look like them," "you're the beautiful young lady you are because your parents and grandparents respected the fundamental to marry within their own heritages," "sure you and Howie can be friends, but raising a family is serious business and you should marry within your heritage especially since our kind is quickly becoming a minority," and finally ending with the statement that "your friends and family are ready to support you in your decision to cancel this event [meaning my wedding]. Sincerely, A Friend."

I was, needless to say, shocked. Stunned. Speechless. I was reeling with disbelief, anger, and insecurity. My inner monologue was practically on speed with spite and sarcasm... Well clearly, I am so insecure that I would like to hide my genes behind the dominant black genes that are sure to take over. I'm certain my children won't look one bit like me after those genes have done their work. And yes, only white European mutts are beautiful, clearly people like Halle Barry, Alicia Keys, and Mariah Carey are not beautiful. Who talks about "heritages" anyway... and does this person realize I'm a mix of at least 5 different Caucasion "heritages" from across western to eastern Europe all the way up to Russia? Good job, ancestors, for marrying only within your own. Maybe "our kind" becoming extinct isn't so bad if it means narrow minded people like you become extinct with them. Signed a Friend? A Friend? What kind of "Friend" is this. And do they realize the wedding is in 15 days... If you are such a concerned friend, then why now after I've been engaged for almost 3 years. They better not be invited to the wedding, and if they are, they better not be coming. What if they are coming, what if they say something at the mass? What if this "friend" feels the need to make a scene, or say something to my parents or me in person? 

My initial anger gradually changed to anxiety. I promptly removed the post from the website in my wild desire to attempt to make this issue now disappear. But the feelings remained and the words continued to sting my memory. It wouldn't disappear. And I knew that it wouldn't disappear as the anxiety swelled and the fear of hearing someone agree compelled me to keep this quiet and secret from most everybody.

It was troubling and challenging to deal with, partly because it was something I had never dealt with or witnessed (at least to my knowledge I had never witnessed it). I had developed a distrust for my extended family and friends and a sense of resentment toward my own race. In fact, I felt my race had been taken away... or rather that I was giving it up. I didn't want to be seen as white anymore. I didn't want to belong to a race, a group of people that, for all the hurts it caused and supposedly regrets still carries on with the same haughtiness and sense of superiority and entitlement that enabled itself to commit those prior crimes in the first place. Not to say all whites are the same, surely many would never feel those feelings. But in that moment and the following days, I was facing the inferiority and insecurity created by a racist note from and unknown party. I felt like the world was against me and I didn't realize it was a conspiracy until too late - I felt like I was walking into a trap, that my wedding was a set up and all I loved and knew would crumble. I no longer felt like the blissful outsider I once was. My ideals about society and the human race had been stripped from me. I thought we had finally figured out that being part of the human race was enough to unite us, at least here in my American, educated, middle class bubble it should be enough -- it should be enough, right? We should know better. Perhaps I should have known better...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Adventure

This is a personal shout out post in honor of my PA school besties (holla at a dolla honey boo boos!).

We've been fortunate enough to be able to take time to go on mini-vacays (mini-vacations) and local outings in between our studies and now in between our work schedules. All have ended successfully, but let me tell you - they were not always smooth sailing, complicated often by rain, cranky non-morning people, missed transportation, or other series of unfortunate events. Let me take you on an adventure with a little creative writing of our most recent get-away:
With the rolling in of early spring, we were absolutely tired. Tired of winter, tired of work, tired of the monotony that our lives had recently transformed into. It was time. After the success of our last mini-vacay to Florida, we were ready to embark once again. While sitting on the couch at an impromptu and very rare evening get together, Misterious and myself were chatting.

"I'm tired of work, I need a beach," I said.
"I know, we need to go on a vacation," Misterious replied.
"Well lets do it, when can we go? How about June? We don't have our schedules, we can request off now."

With that, Talulah meandered in "What's that?"
"We are going on a mini-vacay, wanna come?" I asserted.
"We are? Where are we going?" Talulah questioned hesitantly.
"Anywhere, lets just go, why not?"

And so the planning commenced. We were each a bit nervous at first if we should all commit to the request, and it took some convincing to get Mr. Napkin Head to agree to take time off, but finally we picked the dates: a Monday-Wednesday in early-mid June. We had the destination, we had our bathing suits, we had the booze (what we didn't have was a promising weather forecast). That Sunday night we settled departure times. Monday morning we woke to a dreary clouded sky with sprinkles of rain in the air. Last minute errands were accomplished and Mist texted me to let me know they were on the way to pick me up. I was in my usual state of last minute rushing trying to play musical dufflebags so all of my belongings, snacks, and sun lotion would fit.

The phone starts ringing, which is also usual when I'm rushing. It's Talulah. "Heyyy..." I answer in my what's up voice. "Soooo... I don't know about making the 12:15 ferry....", "Uhh... why?", "We just got in an accident..." Talulah proceeds to explain to me that no one was hurt (thankfully), but that the guy who hit them is crazy and it might be a while.

1 hour later via text "how you guys doing?", "waiting for the police", "they haven't arrived yet? what's with these bronx po po"

2 hours later via text "po po show up?", "nope, not yet", "what?! that's crazy!", "we just called 911 again"

3 hours later the phone rings. It's Talulah. "Soooo... we just got back to the apartment and are switching cars now, so we should be there in a half hour." Finally we were on our way again headed towards our mini vacay. After a stop for coffee, cash (real cash, no checks), and a run back to the house for a wine bottle opener we hit the highway. After our drive over the bridge and through the woods we made it to Bayshore. We grabbed a quick snack and found the ferry boats - the only visible ferry boats from the parking lot, mind you. It was rush-rush as usual since we had exactly enough time to buy our tickets and hop on the boat before it departed.

After twenty or so minutes of mouthing sentences to each other on the very loud ferry boat we landed at stop 1 and then shimmied over to stop 2 where we departed into the light drizzle. We walked about 30 steps and called the hotel to find out where to go.

(Side note, this is my personal interpretation of the phone conversation that took place since it was not I who was on the phone):
"You're where?!?" The receptionist exclaimed.
"Uh... Ocean Bay Park? Right?" We nodded in agreement.
"Ocean Bay Park, you girls took the wrong ferry!" I hope you are inserting the Long Island accent when this receptionist is speaking... it really makes the translation better.
"Well, I mean, I guess you have to either walk here or you can take the ferry back to Bay Shore and come back on the other ferry."
"Well, how far is it?"
"A mile."
"Then it seems like it makes more sense to just walk, I guess."
"Alright well just keep walking for a mile towards the water tower and you will find Ocean Beach." We looked around, and alas, no water tower insight. But fortunately we were right next to a bar so Misterious peeked her head in, asked for directions and we embarked on our mile long journey, each with multiple heavy bags, plus groceries in our hands.

As we began hobbling along, our faces sunk. Ten yards away was a puddle the size of a small pond blocking our walkway. We hesitantly glided through the cool water as frowns of concern traversed our faces. What were we walking through? What were we gonna do? We forged forward calculating when our last tetanus shots were through alternating dry and puddled walkways. Some puddles were as deep as our ankles, others we could hop around on the outskirts of the walk. On two occasions we were greeted by extremely friendly deer. The first attempted to follow us until we reached a puddled, the second darted at our bags and sniffed them before trotting off.

With Talulah on the google maps navigator we made it, "The blue ball says we are at Ocean Beach, now what?" We couldn't see anything obvious to walk towards so we called our receptionist friend once again.
"You're where?!"
"Cottage," the name of the walkway we were on.
"Oohhkay, Just turn this way, walk to town, go right, then right, then I'll be looking for you." So we walked to town, and the rains came down. Our clothes began turning see through, our bags became heavier, and I felt as though I needed windshield wipers for my eyes. We got to town and traversed the puddles with Mr. Napkin Head on the phone with the receptionist until we finally made it.

With a great huff she said, "Aww, look at you, the lost girls, let me get you some towels. I guess you've never been to Fire Island before." We weren't quite sure if she thought we were complete idiots or if she genuinely felt for us, but the towels were warm and we were aching from our bags so we went with it. Our journey wasn't quite over, though. We had a two block walk to our apartment through yet more puddles before finally being able to change into dry clothes and lay our our belongings to dry. Once we accomplished that, you can guess what a group of four sensible women like ourselves did - made good use of that bottle opener.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two Months and Counting

A couple of days ago I passed the two-months-until-the-wedding mark. This is absolutely terrifying - how can this be moving so quickly!!

Here's an update on where I'm at, whats going well, and what has been trickier than I could have thought.

The Dress:
Last time I told you my dress was on the way - well it finally came at the end of July and the alteration we made looks great! It was so great to finally see it again after 9 months of waiting. Time to finalize shoes before my first fitting!

The Shoes:
Speaking of shoes, I found a pair that could potentially work while shopping with my sister for her shoes. Ironically, the shoe we picked for her looked so cute and was so comfortable (for the 10 minutes we spent walking around DSW anyway) that I ended up buying the same shoe. Normally, I have the inkling that this is taboo... but I'm not sure I really care. I like it, its comfortable, my sister likes it, it goes with her dress, what's the harm? I probably will keep my eye out anyway in case I do happen to stumble upon something else... but in the end I'm not sure there's actually a problem with wearing the same shoes as others in my bridal party. I also don't really buy into the concept of wearing shoes all over your house for 3 months straight to break them in so I feel a sense of flexibility with this issue that I think others tend to put more pressure on.

The Invitations and the Guest List:
This is the crux of the stress with wedding planning. The storm has not fully hit yet, but it's coming. We have a family friend writing out the addresses in calligraphy and so we have been sending them out as she has completed them. If you have not yet planned a wedding or if you have the type of budget that you can afford to invite everyone you've ever met to your wedding, this may seem like a terrible thing to say. However, we have a limited budget and there are a handful of individuals we would like to invite that we have been thinking about because inviting everyone may or may not make the numbers borderline unreasonable. This has caused a lot of pressure and stress and hopefully it will pass without any major issues with us being able to include everyone we would want. Once this is settled, the chore of seating arrangements will begin.

The Flowers:
... Are not yet booked. That's right folks! I'm just about screwed when it comes to flowers. I know next to nothing about flowers which made me hesitant to jump into this task. My mom and I went on a trip at the very end of April and had been talking and trying to negotiate a contract with a florist, but by the end of May it fell through. So now I'm scrambling. Part of the reason it fell through was lack of comparison - after talking to this florist and seeing the prices we soon realized that this place was far over priced. After talking to a few friends who have been through wedding planning my realization about price was confirmed. In hindsight, we should have compared more florists at the beginning of our search and, in a perfect world, we should have been more assertive about our budget from the get-go. Unfortunately when working and coordinating multiple wedding plans at the same time in the setting of regular life commitments time got a bit away from us on this one. This week I've contacted several florists in an attempt to quickly negotiate a contract that we will hopefully be able to finalize by the end of next week.

The Tuxes:
This chore I placed directly on Howie's shoulders. If he shows up in khaki's, oh well!

The Transportation:
We've had an idea about what transportation we would like to have, but we just started the research this week ... more to come on this topic once we know more.

The Rings:
This was incredibly easy to finalize. We went to the same jeweler where Howie purchased my engagement ring to select styles. They should be ready for pick up in a week or two (a month total from our visit to the jeweler).

The Centerpieces:
We have decided to do these ourselves. states moderate flower centerpieces are about $50 per table, and the price can quickly go up. We are expecting to have 13-15 tables. I'm not a girl who's really into flowers anyway, so we decided to do an arrangement of vases and floating candles for a little under $20 per table. We were very fortunate that our venue offers a few extras which include 10-inch flat mirrors for each table with 3 votive candles. We also plan to add flower petals in the same colors as the flowers in the bouquets once those are finalized. Other than the petals, this task is checked off the list!

The Honeymoon:
We were a little late to the game on this too, but for good reason. On average, couples book their honeymoons 3-4 months before their wedding. We held out because of flight pricing. We had a dream honeymoon location, but due to the costs and our position in life, we'll have to postpone that trip. Instead we just booked our honeymoon location in a different spot we had not previously consider and we are incredibly excited! We still have to organize our schedule with the various excursions included and book our flight. But overall, its a trip on a better budget for us with the same balance of excitement and down-time we were looking for. We are keeping it a secret (as best I can) until we depart, but it will involve beach, adventure, and relaxation!

The Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Party:
While this was not something I was an integral part in planning, its still an integral part of preparing to get married. We did both events in one weekend to ease planning with my friends and my work schedules and it was a blast. The shower was perfect and the bachelorette party was absolutely crazy. I couldn't have asked for a better time. Shout out thank yous to my sister, my bridesmaids, and my besties for all your help with this!

More to come soon on flower finalizations, transportation, engagement photos, favors, and seating plans! Bring it on! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Yoga: Why you should think about doing it

In my quest for health (which, if you have been a consistent follower, you will know from my commentary last summer I began taking my health and fitness seriously and *pat on the back* I've kept it up) I've recently stumbled upon yoga. My routine last summer was pretty consistent: running 5-6 days a week. Once the cold kicked in, however, I had to get more creative. I have reactive airways (my lungs act up like an asthmatic under certain conditions) and the cold is just not my friend. I kept up my running until the end of October after my second 5K and then it was time for a bit of recovery. I took approximately two months off from running busying my time with a few weight exercises and Kenpo X here and there.

{Kenpo X is a disc from the famed P90X series... up until recently it was the only disc I would indulge in - 45 minutes of cardio in the form of mixed martial arts, primarily boxing/kick-boxing like exercises}

Shortly after the massacre in Newtown, I learned of a 5K at the end of March to support the victims families and immediately signed up. This meant I had to jump back into running. I joined a gym in January and resumed my running with more vigorous weight training than I had previously been doing. I ran my 5K and then fell into a bit of a slump. With my new career it was very difficult for me to work out with the frequency I had previously been used to since I work an odd schedule, and now that I wasn't tied to an upcoming event I lost my motivation to run.

As if it was a sign from the heavens, my mom called me one day and said "I signed up for yoga!" My whole family was shocked since we had all been ragging on her for years that she needed to get involved in some kind of physical activity because her body wasn't going to get any younger or stronger without it. She told me about it and insisted that I would probably enjoy it too. I knew P90X had a yoga disc, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to stray from my Kenpo X to attempt Yoga X.

The "X" I discovered really does in fact mean "intense". Of course I knew Kenpo would be intense since it is a full body cardio work-out, but I still felt the X was a silly name attached to all the discs for the sake of the series. However, Yoga X is freakin' hard, people!! The first time I tried it, I could barely make it through the first 20 minutes of the work-out... which is a whopping hour and 45 minutes long. However, I really felt like my inner core was strengthened by even that measly 20 minutes. So I continued to attempt, and re-attempt the Yoga X. While I still can't do the entire disc at once, I've significantly improved and I really feel like it has enhanced my strength and endurance. And while the P90X instructor really doesn't focus on the mental health aspect that yoga claims to also enhance, it really does help clear the mind if you focus on the breathing while timing the stretches with the breathing as instructed. It brings your mental awareness to yourself, your body, your breathing, and brings you to the present moment.

Basically, it all boils down to the following reasons why I advocate for this form of exercise: 1. It's challenging and gives you a real work-out, 2. It builds your core strength and flexibility - which will enhance your overall athletic ability, 3. It can serve as a fabulous form of "you time" to workout your body and mind. So if you are looking for an alternative work-out to add to your routine, seriously consider adding yoga! Ohmm.

As an extra tidbit, if you are curious about yoga, I recommend you purchase a $10 video on amazon before you decide whether or not its something you really want to commit to at a studio. Studio yoga classes are ridiculously expensive and you can get a well guided workout from a video.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thoughts for food

I actually had every intention of sharing a recipe with you in this next post. I then forgot to take pictures of said recipe so I decided I would wait until the next day and share a different recipe. Alas, my work week started and so I became even more forgetful during my evenings and have no pictures. So you will all have to wait until I make something worth sharing again to get an actual recipe post.

Instead, let's talk about cooking. Let's talk about the joy and peace of mind that comes from designing a recipe, committing to it, and perfecting it. Even taking a dish that was passed down, or a recipe found online and tweaking it to meet your own tastes lends a certain satisfaction to an "everyday-chef" that is sometimes hard to find in the fast paced lives we lead. Its a mental release - the way reading is for some and music is for others. While effort is required, it is certainly worth the reward.

Learning to cook well demands a certain passion for food in general. Personally, it took me a long time to get to this point. I was an extremely picky eater as a child. I didn't start gaining an interest in food until college, which my friends started pushing me to try new and different things. My world expanded, and it was good.

Getting older and wiser has only allowed my interest in food to change and grow. Learning to create the type of cuisine you grew up with is one thing. But being able to expand and experiment with new styles of cooking is even more exciting.

Not only does creating a new meal provide a therapeutic escape into creativity, it actually poses a challenge to eat better, more well rounded meals. Or, rather, it dares you to eat better. Putting effort into making something productive drives you to make something you can feel good about in the end. Making a meal that tastes good is only enhanced when it also happens to be good for you. I feel significantly better about myself when I make a good meal, both inside and out. Any anyone who knows me knows a happy belly equals a happy Jessie (same way a Snickers makes Joe Pesci turn into a party bro). 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

With 95 days to go....

... I still have a bunch to do! Getting married is a LOT of work. Let me fill you in from where a left off as a sort of sequel to my last post about getting up to speed.

Here is what's happened since where we left off:

The Save-the-Dates:
This caused some mama-drama with guest lists and who needed to receive save-the-dates. I'll spare you the details but we designed them ourselves and printed them through They were very inexpensive and we chose to send them as postcards. We ended up sending them primarily to family and the extras went to friends who lived away and were not part of our everyday conversations. I highly recommend this website for this detail since, lets be honest, who wants to break the bank on save-the-dates? If you are money conscious, this is a great way to go.

The Dress:
I knew I wanted to get my dress at a local boutique. My mom had a budget established for how much she was willing to pay, so we called around the neighborhood and found a few shops throughout Westchester County that had dresses in our range. I had perused several magazines and websites looking for styles I was interested, but being the indecisive (though I prefer to say open-minded) person that I am, I wasn't sold on anything particular other than the fact that I did NOT want strapless. I did not want to have to even think about being worried about having to pull my dress up all night. Of course at each store I visited, the sales ladies found a way to attempt to put me in a strapless dress, and each time the dress was beautiful, but not worth the worry. After two separate outings I found it! I wasn't sure it was the one at first, so I left it behind. But I couldn't get it out of my head for the following 2 days so I went back to try it on again and was still attached, but still nervous. There was one detail about it that I didn't love. After some discussion with the owner of the boutique, we inquired with the designer whether we'd be able to change the detail I wasn't fond of. It was possible, though it would push the cost from being under budget to slightly over budget, my mother agreed to it and we put the money down! After a long wait (since September!) it should be arriving by the end of the month.

The Bridal Party: 
This was challenging for me. I dragged my feet and waited until the last possible second to select the individuals I wanted to be in the bridal party. I have about 10-15 close close girlfriends and that's it. I'm not the type that has expansive groups of friends from here and there and everywhere. With that, I knew that I felt 10-15 bridesmaids would be far too overwhelming for me, so to pick and choose gave me quite an emotional roller coaster. My advise: give yourself time, breathe, and follow your heart. If you are choosing people for the right reasons, your friends will understand.

The Bridesmaid Dresses: 
We did this primarily online, we wanted to find something that would be comfortable, cocktail length, styled well on girls with different body types, and would be easy to coordinate purchase with some of the girls living out of state. We hunted online for a designer we liked, looked what stores the designer was sold in, and went from there. When all was said and done, we ended up ordering the dresses from the same boutique where I got my dress and it was a fairly painless process.

The Menu: 
This was super easy because everything is being done by our venue - we did not need an outside caterer. We scheduled a day, taste tested the menu, and decided. Done. A word to the wise: While you may find a venue that you LOVE for its space and aesthetic, please please please seriously evaluate if you can find something just as gorgeous that has their own caterer. If you need bring in your own caterer it will load on an excessive amount of research, budgeting, and time you will have to devote to finding a caterer in addition to finding all the other things you need. In short: pick a place that does it all! 

The Cake:
We have not finalized the cake itself, but we did go on our tasting trip already. We went to two bakeries and they were INCREDIBLY different. Thank goodness we made the effort to take the trip and see multiple people. It matters - just do it. Of note, I'm sure this sounds like a "Duh" suggestion, but keep in mind we are planning our wedding from away, so every in-person meeting for us is a big effort. I'm sure we would have tasted more bakeries if we lived closer to the venue.

The Registry:
FUN FUN FUN!! This was my favorite part. It took me approximately 4-6 weeks to put it all together because of my obsessiveness with finding exactly what I want. I registered at two common places, no Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel for us. However, I am extremely excited about the items we selected. Give yourself time to indulge in this - look online, go to the store, plan to do it in multiple stages. At first it can seem incredibly overwhelming with the multitude of options you can choose from and the number of things you may or may not need.

The Invitations:
I am IN LOVE with my invitations. We got them from a shop recommended to us by a friend. My mom and I went through several huge invitations books in one sitting and narrowed it down to two. We went home to sleep on it, and I dragged Howie out a week later to make a final decision. We picked the invite and then selected the fonts. We got our proofs within a week and the final delivery within two. It was super easy and I would recommend this shop to anyone... so if you live in the great NYC area and are interested, let me know!

That just about covers where we are up to now. Stay tuned for more wedding adventures as we begin to tie up all the loose ends! 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Let's get up to speed

Its been a while. I admit I miss writing. I also miss sleep and structure. I've been working as an internal medicine PA now for 5 months; its gone by amazingly fast and I still feel as brand new as the day they let me off my training leash. My job is hard. Harder than I could have anticipated - and for that I love it. I am being challenged, truly challenged, and in the long run it will make me so much better. However, for now it makes me incredibly lazy on my days off and with Howie being on a completely different schedule its hard for me to stay strict with my own needs. The temptation of staying up with him to watch TV and sleeping until 11:00am on days off is too much for me to say "no" to. And since I no longer have homework and studying hanging over my head, I become a slave to my couch. Clean the kitchen? Eh, it can wait. Go shopping? I have a computer. Socialization is the only thing I can motivate myself to do, but even that is hard with my friends being on such different schedules. 

I've been telling myself its time for a change for a couple months now, and I've been mildly successful. I've devoted more time to wedding planning. I exercise 3 times a week ... though I miss having the motivation to work out 6 times a week... I send myself articles that I sometimes read. All in all, this is not where I want to be. I want to be productive and frankly I feel unproductive. So I have to find a way to hold myself accountable. I started this blog last spring. My goal: To revive my drive, to resume regular posts, to increase my work-outs, to read more medicine, to cook more meals at home, and complete wedding plans in a more timely/organized fashion. Once I do that, I have more goals to add, but I wouldn't want to bite off more than I could possibly chew so soon. Let's start small people! Here's to ambition and, hopefully, achievement!