Posts tagged ‘friends’

Keeping in Touch

I am at the halfway point with my first rotation of my third year of medical school. I am starting off with one of the most time-consuming rotations – internal medicine. Despite the 6 day a week schedule, I have loved the rotation so far and am learning so much. I feel incredibly lucky to get to talk to people each day, to learn their stories and help be part of the team that figures out why they are sick and how they can get well. There are hard moments, and the days can be long, but the work is rewarding and challenging. The hardest part of this rotation is keeping up with friends and family. Weeknights are filled with studying, writing notes, and reading, and the one weekend day off is often filled with necessary life tasks like laundry and cleaning. However, you always need to eat and so I have found food the best way to stay in touch with friends over the past month!

My wonderful friend brought me a home-cooked meal at the end of a very long week in the middle of my rotation, and I was so incredibly grateful both for the delicious food and the lovely company. She made Lemon Thyme Farro following this recipe from The Pursuit of Hippiness, which we enjoyed with green beans on the side and fresh berries for dessert. (I was a bad tired blogger that night and forgot to take pictures!)

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I also got to make homemade sweet potato ravioli with another med school friend, which were delicious but the recipe still needs tweaking before it is blog worthy. Rolling out the pasta dough gave us plenty of time to girl talk and swap rotation stories, so the fancy meal was worth the extra effort!

This post can’t end without a recipe! I had a few friends over for dinner on my most recent day off, and a dinner party was just what I needed to feel balanced and re-centered for another week on the wards. I made grilled polenta with a honey-balsamic reduction, caramelized onions, and goat cheese, which blew my taste buds away! The sweet and sour combination of the honey and goat cheese really gave this side a gourmet feel, and the results are much more impressive than the minimal effort this dish took. I would make this again in a heart beat!

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Grilled Polenta with Honey Balsamic Reduction, Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese

serves 3-4 as a side

1 polenta log, sliced into 1-in pieces

1 tbsp honey

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 onions, caramelized

2-3 oz goat cheese

Before preparing this dish, make the caramelized onions. In a small sauce pan, combine honey and balsamic vinegar over medium heat. Stir; heat so that sauce thickens and reduces but does not boil. Do not cook for too long, as vinegar will reduce too far and become sticky and hard. Want a honey like consistency. Meanwhile, slice the polenta logs. Spray a griddle with cooking spray and heat to 350 degrees. Grill the polenta for 5 minutes per side. Heat the caramelized onions on the side of the griddle. When the polenta is crispy and has been cooked on both sides, pour reduction over the rounds. Allow to heat for 1 more minute. Transfer to a serving platter. Top with caramelized onions and a crumble of goat cheese. Serve warm.

June 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment

Game On

A new month, a new challenge! My competitive nature has been brought out once again, this time for the Game On Challenge. My friends read the book and were inspired, so they got a group of us together to participate in this healthy living challenge. Although most of us already lead pretty healthy lifestyles, we all have our different motivations for participating. We are a week into the month-long challenge, and the competition is pretty fierce! All in a friendly way, of course. There are two teams of six, and the losing team rewards the winning team with gift certificates for a massage.

So what are the rules to this game? Well, there are a few basic categories: diet, exercise, sleep, hydration, habits, and communication. Every time you follow the rules within the category, you earn points. Every time you don’t follow the rules, you don’t gain points, and for a few circumstances, you lose points. You are allowed to take one day off per item per week with no penalty, or can cluster these days off if you specify ahead of time that you have a vacation or extenuating circumstances. To keep track of this, we have an epic spreadsheet, shared through GoogleDoc. A competitor, much more tech savvy than I, set it up so that the columns auto-fill and tally every time you record your day’s habits.

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A few of the categories have pretty basic rules: you have to sleep at least 7 hours a night (sleep), you have to drink 3 L of water (hydration), and you have to communicate in some way with at least one teammate and one opponent every day. For exercise, you have to log 20 minutes of intentional exercise each day. This can be running, body resistance exercises, yoga, or a brisk walk. It cannot be biking or walking to class, or running to catch the bus you are late for!

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From Pinterest

The most complicated sections are diet and habits. For diet, you must eat 3 solid meals each day. Breakfast must contain 1 fruit or vegetable, and lunch and dinner should have at least 2 vegetables that comprise at least half of your plate. One meal a day has to be vegan. None of your meals, snacks or ingredients can contain added sugar, with the exception of agave to sweeten morning coffee. You also lose points for any unhealthy snacks that break the above rules.

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Following the rules doesn't mean deprivation! This decadent breakfast I made the other day still fit the rules! Click the picture to get to the original post.

The habits section is individualized for each competitor. The goal is to choose one healthy habit to implement, and one unhealthy habit to break. My healthy habit: taking my vitamin every day. My unhealthy habit: getting off my computer a half hour before going to bed. This means stopping work for the day, getting ready for sleep, and giving myself a chance to read a book for fun or reflect on my day before passing out.

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From Pinterest

So at first glance, there are a lot of rules. Why would I subject myself to this if I already live a pretty healthy lifestyle anyway? Well, a massage is a pretty good enticement! All kidding aside, I still think it is important to evaluate your habits and be more mindful of your routines every once in a while. Sure, the rules surrounding diet and exercise fit pretty well into how I already live. However, I am terrible at drinking water and getting sleep! Turning my computer off and forcing myself to relax is helping me to get more sleep at night, but I am still struggling with the water challenge! I find that I am drinking so much that I cannot snack between meals. My meals tend to be smaller with snacks fit in between, so losing this snack has meant that I am not always taking in as many calories as I need. I didn’t recognize this until I was running on Saturday with my roommate and was having weird pains and dizzy spells. My body is starting to get used to having more water in my stomach, so my appetite is slowly starting to return. I am also bulking up my meals slightly since I still have less desire to snack than usual. I am learning to balance this new habit, but do not think I could continue to drink quite as large a volume forever! I am hoping to get used to drinking more each day though, and intend to be continually mindful of drinking at least my 8 glasses a day.

We have three weeks left of the challenge! Do you want to join us? You can choose one transformation areas and commit to those goals for the next three weeks! Whether it be hydration, exercise, sleep or a healthy habit, it is good to be mindful of every aspect of your health and well-being.

Question: What area would be hardest for you to make a change in? Do you want to join us in any aspect of this challenge?

March 8, 2012 at 10:00 am 7 comments

Vegan Entertaining

The biggest roadblock for me over the past few weeks as a vegan has been community. I feel awkward accepting dinner invitations, hesitant to ask for restrictions on what my friends can cook but also unable to eat what I am served without question. Dining out can be difficult, depending on the menu. Hosting should feel like the easiest option, but I get nervous about my friends reactions to my “weird vegan food.” However, sharing meals with friends is an important part of my life, and I needed to face my fears of communal vegan eating head on this weekend.

I met up with friends for lunch and was terrified of not being able to order anything at the tiny diner we ducked out of the snow into. I scanned the menu, seeing fancy omelettes, pancakes, homemade muffins… and I panicked. But then I saw the life-saving asterisk: for vegans/vegetarians, all eggs can be replaced with tofu or tempeh. At no extra charge, this was a miracle! I got to enjoy  tempeh with home fries and veggies, which was a really filling and satisfying lunch! As my friend said, “only in JP,” commenting on the characteristic residents of this notoriously hippie Boston neighborhood. Not all restaurants are so vegan friendly, but I was happy to have a small hurdle to conquer my fear!

My evening was spent catching up with a few friends from school over dinner, so I got to conquer my fear of serving friends “weird vegan food” as well. It was also an easy hurdle, since four of them were independently doing their own vegan challenge, and one was a former vegan. We laughed about experiences with friends, family, and servers; commiserated over the questioning of preparation methods and scanning of ingredients lists; and swapped recipes and new foods to try. It was such a great night, and the food was a hit!

thai fried quinoa

Original photo from Mama Pea's Thai Fried Quinoa

kale chips

Original photo of Sesame Kale Chips from Whole Living

To avoid the, “Um, what did you say that is?” reaction, I wanted to find a recipe recreation that would be familiar to people’s taste buds. I chose Mama Pea’s Thai Fried Quinoa, since it harkens Thai pineapple fried rice and can be customized with various toppings. It was a huge hit and definitely a recipe I will make again! On the side, I made Sesame Kale Chips. Kale is a veggie-lovers green, but I have never met someone who could turn down a crispy kale chip. Even my Dad loves kale this way, despite his usual turned up nose when it appears in soups and stews! I omitted the lemon juice, used a little less oil, and added a dash of ginger. I will definitely be playing with different seasonings for my kale chips from now on, since these were so flavorful and not just overly salty! The green stuff went faster than the main dish, which I think speaks volumes!

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Original picture of Victoria's Peanut Butter Cup Hippiecakes

Vegan desserts on their own can be tricky, but another wrench was thrown in – my friends were also not eating any added sugar! Good thing I had these muffins on hand! A friend and I baked on Friday night, and certainly got our peanut butter and chocolate fix with these. I put out the rest of the muffins for dessert, and my friends were so excited to be able to enjoy a sweet treat at the end of the meal! You can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate, and the natural sweetness comes from the dates. They are even healthy enough to fill the role of an on-the-go breakfast, making these another make again recipe!

What I learned from my Saturday: don’t let fear hold you back! It might take a little more creativity, planning and thought, but you can enjoy communal meals and laughter with friends, no matter what your current food lifestyle choices are!

Question: Have you ever been afraid of friends reactions to food you serve?

January 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm 5 comments

Giving Thanks

There is so much to be thankful for this year. I got to be home with my family for several days. The family that we are not near, we have gotten to catch up with on the phone.  I have been able to spend time with my sister and my closest friends. I have not had to think about school or sneak away to get work done at all during this holiday. I am well and energetic, able to go for a run in the beautiful fall weather each morning. I have so many hobbies that I can enjoy, in both busyness and vacation: cooking, knitting, blogging, running. I have a fridge full of good food and have been able to spend days in the kitchen with my mom, experimenting with old and new favorite recipes. I am so thankful for the many blessings I have in my life, but am most thankful for the deep and meaningful relationships that I have. My sister was asked to sing at a church member’s funeral on Friday, and I was deeply touched by the message of how important relationships are in life. The pastor’s sermon emphasized her importance as a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. The tributes recounted memories of time spent together and, even without knowing her well, I could see how deeply she had touched others lives. One day, we will look back and remember holidays, birthdays, and dinners spent together. Important things of the present like exam scores, work deadlines, and temporal achievements will fade away. I hope to carry this message with me throughout each day of the year, and not just let it permeate my mind during this holiday of thankfulness.

To celebrate Thanksgiving, we made our traditional feast, even if we were a day late! The rest of this post will be pictures and links, with a few teasers of some recipes I will post in the next few days. Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend and continue to reflect on the many people who bless your life each day.

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An easy appetizer: canned crescent rolls with a spoonful of cranberry sauce and slice of brie cheese inside. A great way to use some leftover cranberry sauce as well!

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Our Thanksgiving spread

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Dad carving the turkey

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The evolution of the mashed potatoes: roasted, then mashed, topped with roasted leeks. They contain no butter and just a splash of milk, substituting some steamed cauliflower instead! The recipe will be up soon!

Recipe to come soon!

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Sauteed green beans in the forefront, using red onions instead of shallot, and roasted asparagus in the back. My sister claims that she has never liked asparagus so much, so that simple recipe will be posted soon as well!

Sauteed Green Beans, a Homemade Adventure Original

Mustard Roasted Asparagus, recipe to come soon!

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We roasted the white and colored veggies separate, trying to keep the beets apart for as long as possible so everything didn't turn pink! Worked out well, and also allowed the unique flavors of the turnip, rutebega, parsnip, carrot, and beet separate! We spiced things up with some fresh sage, thyme and rosemary added before roasting the veggies.

Roasted Root Vegetable Candy, from the Pioneer Woman Cooks

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Spiced Sweet Potatoes, made with sliced almonds instead of pecans. Lesson learned: go shopping for staple items before Thanksgiving Eve! Our grocery store ran out of pecans! Pecans or almonds, this is so good that you will never go back to the marshmallow casserole again.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes, from Rufus’ Guide

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Mom's classic Sausage and Herb Dressing, recipe from an old cookbook.

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Cornbread Stuffing, made with homemade veggie broth and heated in a casserole dish instead of stuffed in the turkey. My first experience with this type of dressing, I was skeptical when we first put it in the oven, since I am used to the more rustic stuffing that my mom makes. The results sure were sweet, though!

Cornbread Stuffing, from Rufus’ Guide

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My homemade cranberry sauce, a new holiday favorite!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce, a Homemade Adventure Original

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Vegan Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls, so simple and easy!

Dinner Rolls from About.com (How did people cook before Google? ;)

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My Thanksgiving plate! Who says you need turkey on Thanksgiving? Love all of the colors from our veggies!

gingerbread trifle

A Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle, with recipe to come! Adapted from a few different sources, this is a relatively healthy dessert and is a beautiful way to end your Thanksgiving meal!

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle, recipe to come soon!

Question: Which recipe do you want to see first?

November 26, 2011 at 6:38 pm 6 comments

Pumpkin Baking

I have recently done the opposite of what most of the healthy food blogging world attempts to do. Bake with pumpkin, twice? No, that’s still pretty much everywhere. I un-veganized a recipe, twice. Why, you might ask? (after wondering if that is a real word…) I made plans to bake with friends, and both times ended up traveling to their apartments. Since most of my friends do not regularly stock almond milk, flax/chia seeds, Earth Balance, and specialty flours, I had to change the recipes up a bit to make them more user-friendly. The results: fantastic. They are definitely indulgences, but the best part of baking with friends is that there are many people around to enjoy the results!

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The hardest part about this recipe: you have to let it chill for a few hours to let the pie set! So hard not to eat right out of the oven...

Baking date #1: Oh She Glow’s Pumpkin Brownie Pie. I saw this weeks ago and immediately called my friend to tell him about it. Pumpkin pie and brownie together? What’s not to love. Unfortunately, one of his roommates is allergic to pecans. In order for everyone to be able to enjoy the pie, we used slivered almonds in place of the pecans. You can find the original recipe here. The changes we made, besides the nut substitiution, were to use butter in place of coconut oil in the brownie, as well as to use regular milk and butter wherever vegan alternatives were called for in the recipe. The result was truly decadent. A splurge whether you keep the recipe vegan or not, but so worth every bite.

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I swear there is a pumpkin pie layer in there somewhere!

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Artful icing drizzles

Baking date #2: Eat Live Run’s Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. M and I are in another discussion class together this semester, so of course we had to bake something delicious for our classmates! Remember those sinful brownies we made last time? Deciding against the chocolate coma this time, we experimented with these fall treats. We again used regular milk and butter, used a real egg instead of a flax one, and omitted a few of the spices that M didn’t have on hand. We also added a few big spoonfuls of pumpkin to the cinnamon sugar filling. The result: decadent, fall-spiced cinnamon rolls. Even with the un-veganizing, these are still on the healthier side of baked goods (not counting that amazing icing of course!) Our classmates enjoyed the treat during a long Wednesday afternoon discussion!

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Convinced of your need to hit the kitchen and bake these yet?

Switching between baking styles can be tricky, but whether you are cooking for a vegan recipe for non-vegan friends, or trying a new trick or two in vegan baking, remember to have fun! If the recipe changes you make don’t work out, just try again! Most of the time, however, your experimenting will result in something delicious!

Question: Do you ever modify recipes to suit your own or your friends needs/preferences?

October 21, 2011 at 7:14 am 8 comments

Urban Camping and NH Hiking Adventure

New England fall – beautiful leaves, crisp air, and unpredictable weather. You learn quickly never to trust the weatherman up here, but it always a disappointment when the weather refuses to cooperate with your plans. What do you do when the camping adventure you had been planning for weeks gets rained out? You make the best of what you can!

We had planned to visit Wompatuck State Park for an overnight camping and day hike adventure. We were so excited for ‘smores (which my phone can’t spell and caused a few giggles at “snores”) and campfires, stars and fall foliage. If it rains after you have set up, it is manageable. But if it is raining continuously for the afternoon evening, with high chances of thunderstorms, it is no fun. We decided to change our plans, and “camped” in my apartment instead! We cooked dinner together, planned our hiking adventure for the next day, made ‘smores over the gas burner of my stove, and watched the beginning of my favorite 80’s adventure movie, The Goonies. No campfire, no stars, but just as much fun.

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We got up early the next morning for the long drive. Since we couldn’t camp, we decided to go somewhere a little more exotic, like New Hampshire! Some of the best hiking in New England is in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and the drive was totally worth it. The fall foliage was at a peak, and the scenery even along the interstate was breathtaking. We literally stopped mid-conversation at times to verbally appreciate the beauty of the majestic surroundings. The parking lot for our trail was 7 miles off the interstate along a winding, bumpy park road. We left our car and were surprised at how much cooler it was just a few hours north of the city. We hoped we would stay warm enough hiking!

mt osceola

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We followed the trail to Mt. Osceola, one of 48 four thousand footer’s in NH. The beginning of the path was treacherous, and we even questioned if it was the path. One of our friends fell immediately because of the wet leaves and rocks. She assured us that she was fine and wanted to keep going, so we forged ahead. We questioned the wisdom of continuing once again when we quickly reached a waterfall that we had to cross. A little more of a challenge than we had bargained for, but we were determined to have our hiking adventure! There were more stumbles and slips, streams to cross and boulders to climb as we made our way slowly up the mountain, but we persevered. A little less than 3 hours later, we made it to the top. It was worth the hike! The views of the surrounding White Mountains were breathtaking, especially with the fog rolling through the distance and the sunshine making feeble attempts to pull through. We were freezing (literally, it was probably only 30 degrees at the summit), but we explored the overlook for as long as we could stand it. We found a little bit of rock face that was more protected from the wind so we could enjoy our PB&J, and only headed back for the trail when we couldn’t feel our fingers, faces and toes. Note to self: next time, bring a hat!

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Our original plan included the second summit, East Osceola, but our later start, cold fingers, and poor terrain told us to turn around. We descended the mountain much more quickly, but still had to be careful of the slippery rocks. It began to hail almost immediately after we left the summit, so we were really happy with our decision to cut our loop short. The hail stopped and the sun came out for a few more brief periods, allowing us to enjoy the full beauty of the colorful carpeting that seemed thicker around us than we we began the climb. There truly is nothing like New England fall.

Safely back at the car, we stretched our hurting knees (we’re too young to feel old!) and refueled on some snacks. The trail mix combo for this trip was a hit! Cinnamon Puffins, cocoa roasted almonds, peanuts, raisins, and honey roasted soy nuts. Even after this tasty snack, we were still hungry less than halfway through our drive home! We had covered quite a few miles that day (6.4 to be exact!) and a lot of elevation! We rewarded ourselves with a stop at a Manchester legend, the Red Arrow Diner. This place was tiny, and it was hopping! We had to wait for a bit for a table, but once again the patience was worth it. We all feasted on breakfast for dinner. The guys had the King’s breakfast, which took up two plates each! The girls were more modest in portion sizes, but still enjoyed homestyle eggs, hashbrowns and toast. No night drive would be complete without a little car karaoke on the way home, and a few stars viewed from the sun moon roof!

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Lesson learned from this weekend: you can plan all you want, but you can never fully be in control. So learn to go with the flow and enjoy the time in the company of great friends!

October 17, 2011 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Half-Marathon Recap

I love road races. The energy that emanates from the thousands of runners gathered with both collective and individual goals is incredible. People of all shapes, sizes, levels of fitness and experience come together with the single purpose of running the best race they can. It leaves me smiling and bouncing out of my seat with excitement, like a kid on Christmas morning.

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We boarded the shuttle buses at 7am to head over to Boston’s Franklin Park, full from a breakfast of toast with peanut butter and a lot of water. The weather yesterday was unseasonable – 7am and it was already 65 degrees outside. The high for the day was 81, so we continued to guzzle down water in light of the heat advisory and fear of dehydration. We arrived, got our bibs pinned on straight, stretched and warmed up a bit, and swapped last-minute tips with our friends. After a final run to the bathroom and bag check station, we were corralled inside the gates with the thousands of people registered to run that day.

before race 1

before race 2

Matching was not planned...

They attempt to split you up by projected mile pace (6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 minute mile starts) but chaos and disorganization is inevitable with so many runners. After the Star Spangled Banner, the start gun went off and we began the slow trot to the start line. After crossing the line that would trip our timers, we took off. My roommate and I were planning on running the same pace, so we stuck together for the first few miles, weaving through the crowd and enjoying the beautiful early morning sunshine. We hit the first mile marker, and were shocked to find that we ran our first mile an 8 minutes. We blamed it on adrenaline, and tried to slow down a bit. Our second mile was just as fast though! I started to feel the heat a bit by mile 5, since the day was warming up quickly and there was only intermittent shade. I was sipping water at every stop, but still was starting to feel dehydrated. I was feeling chilled, and realized I wasn’t sweating enough! I slowed down through the next water stop, walking through to ensure I had plenty of time to drink. My official split time at 5 miles was 42:10, much faster than I anticipated!

At mile 8, they handed out goo, the sugary energy boost popular for long distance competitive events. I had a goo pack during the bike portion of my triathlon, and it was a huge life saver during that race, replenishing my energy levels and helping me get through the rest of the ride. I took the goo and a cup of water, but was immediately nauseous after one small sip. I tried to force one more sip down and then wash it down with water, but gave up after that. I realized that goo is pure sugar, which my body hadn’t seen in 3 weeks. No wonder it revolted! I dealt with nausea over the next mile or so, eventually falling behind my roommate as I walked through the next water station to rehydrate. I kept a good pace, clocking in my 10 miles at 1:28, 2 minutes under my planned 90 minutes.

Eventually, I saw my roommate’s blue tank top in the distance, but this time she was walking with another familiar blue shirt. I jogged up to them, only to find that our friend was in trouble. He was dealing with heat stroke and dehydration, staggering and delirious. Another runner had stopped to help him, noticing that he was weaving and about to faint. We walked with him for several minutes, but he told us that he already had help and the medics were on the way. He didn’t want to ruin our race, so he begged that we kept going. Torn, we left him with the Good Samaritan runner. At this point, my head was no longer in the game. I was worried about my friend, and also conscious of the fact that the conditions were potentially dangerous. I drank 2 full cups of water at the next stop to avoid dehydration, and allowed myself to walk off a cramp at one point. My roommate and I stuck together from this point forward, in case either of us ran into similar heat trouble. When we reached mile 12, we checked our watches and realized that our goal of completing the race in under 2 hours was still in reach. We picked up our pace, passing runners again as we ran through the final curves of the course. When we reached the final 400m, we looked at each other and decided to sprint. We crossed the finish line at 1:59, just making our goal!  WE DID IT! Exhausted, thirsty, and in pain, we staggered for water and Gatorade. I realized how much my hip was hurting, and was crippled by a cramp in my foot that traveled up my leg. I sucked down some water and got a bite of bagel and banana, while collecting more food for later.

Before we could celebrate our own achievement, we had to head to the medic tent to check on our friend. Unfortunately, we didn’t know his number and they could not tell us anything about his condition without it. Still worried, we met our other friends at our planned spot and waited. Our fastest friends, who completed the race around 1:45, were there waiting for us. Our slower friends then trickled in. Finally, our heat-exhausted friend came to the meeting spot, medal and all. He fainted after we left him, but was revived with plenty of water and a few minutes to rest. He doesn’t remember much, but walked the last 3 miles of the race. He was one of two of our friends who ended up with heat stroke in the medic tent, and luckily both ended up being okay. When we were all together again, we celebrated our individual and collective accomplishments! We all finished the race, many of us achieving PR’s despite the heat. Most importantly, we were all safe and together again.

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Victory is ours!

The celebrating continued at our friend’s house with a cookout. We shared the triumphs and tribulations of our personal struggles throughout the race, and laughed about and celebrated the day. It felt more like a summertime afternoon than an early fall day, especially with the grill roaring and the abundant BBQ food. I still had little appetite, likely still recovering from the adrenaline, dehydration and volume of water I imbibed, so I grazed slowly. I started with some pita chips and tatziki. I grazed on grapes. A few hours later, my stomach rumbled, so I got a veggie burger off the grill and topped it with some guacamole. Full from that and a veggie skewer, I continued to rehydrate. Quickly, I was hungry again! I enjoyed some juicy watermelon for dessert, and enjoyed my first baked good in several weeks!

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Our lovely hosts

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Proud of our accomplishments, and enjoying the post-race food and watermelon!

That reminds me: an update on the sugar fast! Our three weeks are up, and so I can once again enjoy sugar! I must admit: I did cheat a few times. I took my “get out of jail free pass” to attend a friend’s dessert party, and occasionally snuck a granola bar or handful of yogurt-covered raisins while studying at the library. Was the experiment worth it? Yes and no! I think it was an interesting idea, and really made me aware of how much added sugar I consume, even with a relatively healthy diet. I don’t regularly consume baked goods or obvious sugar-laden treats, but do love jams, granola, and other sweetened treats. The only problem with giving up sugar before the race was that it made my body unable to tolerate the energy boosts classically given in a race. I doubt that the sugar fast helped my speed, but it was a fun experiment to make me more mindful of what I consumed on a daily basis.

My race day celebration ended with a group movie night to watch “Chariots of Fire.” I had never seen the classic, and enjoyed watching a movie that celebrated running and the inner drive of true athletes. Between that and the leftover race excitement, I know that I am still hooked on running and am looking forward to more races in the future!

Question: Do you have Columbus Day off? Did you do anything exciting with your long weekend?

October 10, 2011 at 10:41 am 14 comments

Birthday Hike in the Blue Hills

What could be a better birthday present than an entire day spent outside with great friends? I can’t think of any! Med school tried to steal my birthday thunder by having our Infectious Disease exam the day after my birthday, so I decided to steal the rest of the weekend for birthday celebrations. To celebrate turning 23, I spent Saturday hiking in the Blue Hills Reservation just south of Boston with three of my friends.
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We chose the Blue Hills because it was close and none of us had been there before. Sure, Boston is close to great hiking destinations like Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, but day hikes in these scenic New England locations often require 5am wake up calls to beat the masses to the trails. The Blue Hills Reservation was literally a 20 minute drive, and a 9am departure was much more friendly for this brain-dead med student. We hiked the Skyline trail, one of the more challenging in the reservation. There were at least 4 hills that we climbed, giving us a pretty good workout without being too much to handle. We made it to the Great Blue Hill in two and a half hours, and lingered over breathtaking views of the city skyline in the distance.
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We found a rock just beyond the lookout to enjoy our lunch. Homemade peanut butter with Nutella on homemade whole wheat bread (a gift from my friend Vince) with apple slices (from my friend Sam’s parents’ backyard in CA) and trail mix. Such a great lunch! We lounged on the rocks for an hour, soaking in the sun and the calming silence of nature, interrupted only by random thoughts or fits of laughter.
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Our hike back was marked by silence, since Marie and Mere were fast hikers and had pulled ahead, and Sam and I were brain-dead from the exam and were enjoying the thoughtlessness of walking through the woods.

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I loved the Blue Hills, how close it is to Boston, and how restorative a hike can be for your mind and soul. I am really looking forward to heading back when the leaves start to change! Fall is definitely the best season in New England, and captivates me enough to not remember how harsh the northern winter that will soon befall can be.

After a whole day outside, I got to enjoy an evening outdoors as well! My friend Jon has been trying to host a BBQ for months now and has previously had 2 rainouts. Third time was the charm! A bunch of friends gathered and spent the beautiful, crisp evening outdoors.
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Jon was quite the grill master, making veggies skewers and asparagus spears, as well as tons of grilled chicken and the hit of the night – bacon wrapped chicken bites filled with jalapeno cream cheese. He is quite the cook/host! The night ended with a birthday cake by Vince, not pictured because it was too dark outside. Somehow, he managed to figure out my favorite cake combo with no direction from me other than, “I just want a cake!” He made a fluffy white cake, split into four layers and filled with a strawberry mousse, and then iced thinly with the best chocolate frosting I have ever eaten.

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My friends made me feel so loved, from my community group’s surprise cake on Thursday to all of the birthday phone calls and messages to my hike and BBQ on Saturday. I am so grateful to have so many incredible people in my life and am looking forward to another fantastic year!

September 18, 2011 at 9:20 am 7 comments

The Wonderful Wedding

Who would have thought that was started eight and a half years ago would lead to this…

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The wedding was absolutely beautiful, down to each detail and personal touch. For having only 3 months to plan, they did such a great job! Everything from the colors to the centerpieces, the ceremony to the slideshow, was amazing! Some of my favorite moments:
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Getting ready at my house! The bridesmaids all spent the night at my house after the rehearsal dinner, and it was organized chaos the next morning as we all straightened and curled hair, did each others make up, snagged a bagel breakfast, and made it into the limo by 10am!

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Seeing my best friend walk down the aisle. She is always beautiful, but she was absolutely glowing. Her dress was perfect, and you could just sense the peace and joy emanating from her soul. Like I said in my maid of honor speech, I so admire her intuitive emotion and love for others! You could see her love for her husband on her face as she walked down to meet him.
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Our youth pastor got to perform the ceremony! He has watched us grow up, and has been there since the beginning of my friend’s relationship. It was so awesome to see him bless my friends and their marriage.

Taking pictures in the beautiful weather! We got so lucky with the weather, since the ceremony was outside and we went to a nearby park to take pictures. It was sunny and beautiful, warm but not stifling. I can’t wait to see how the photos turned out!

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The first dances! Amanda’s music choices were spot on. Everyone was in tears, especially after she danced with her dad to “I Loved You First.” I’m not a crier and it even got me!

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The food! The eggplant rollatini in the cocktail hour was beyond words good. The vegetarian option at dinner was the best I have seen at a wedding, too! It actually contained veggies and not just a sad pile of pasta or other carb. It was a veggie stack of eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers with green beans and mashed potatoes on the side. Yum!
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There was so much happiness and love surrounding my friends on their wedding day. I am so happy for them and am excited for them to begin the rest of their lives together! Congrats guys!

September 8, 2011 at 9:00 am 2 comments

A Relaxing Rehearsal

As I mentioned last week, I was lucky enough to celebrate with two of my best friends as they got married this past weekend! They have been dating since we were 15, and it was so great to see two people so in love commit to support each other and spend the rest of their lives together. I was honored to host a rehearsal dinner for them, and pulled together an early Labor Day BBQ reminiscent of so many other backyard hangouts. We enjoyed a simple but delicious menu, enjoyed hanging out with old friends, played lots of ladder ball, made ornaments for their first Christmas tree (leave it to Momma K to always be creative!), and enjoyed a bonfire and ‘smores. It was relaxed and a great way to laugh and get out nervous energy the night before the big day!
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The menu was simple, and focused on what I knew to be some of Amanda’s favorite foods. We set out tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole to tide everyone’s hunger when they first arrived from the rehearsal. I mentioned this to the guests once already, but I would be nothing without my mother! We slaved away together cooking and setting up the backyard all morning, and she kept working while I snuck away to the rehearsal. By the time I got back, the backyard was transformed and the dishes were set up and waiting to be filled with chips and guac!
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For dinner, we enjoyed classic BBQ food: cheeseburgers (a special Portobello burger for me!), BBQ chicken, grilled veggies, pasta salad, and potato salad.
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The grilled veggies are so simple: we mixed red, yellow and orange bell pepper strips with Vidalia onion rings, baby bella mushroom slices, zucchini and yellow squash. Marinated in a bit of canola oil and season salt, we cooked these ahead of time and heated the tin in the oven when the guests arrived!
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The potato salad is also a repeat recipe, an original mayo-less salad I made at the start of the summer for a Memorial Day BBQ. I sliced the potatoes into rounds before cooking them this time to avoid scalded fingers, and it worked out perfectly!
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The pasta salad is also a modification from another of my recipes. Instead of processing the sun dried tomatoes to make a sauce, I just sliced them thinly. I mixed them with some of the packing oil and fresh olive oil, some basil and combined it all with tortellini and steamed broccoli. Just as good as the original recipe, but more BBQ friendly since it can be made ahead of time and served cold.
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For dessert, we enjoyed fruit salad and homemade whipped cream. To make things a little more special, I carved the watermelon into a fruit basket (click here for a how to!), and used a melon baller to scoop out the watermelon and canteloupe so all of the fruit would be round. I even served the whipped cream in the melon halves for fun! Definitely a hit, but not as big of a hit as the bonfire and ‘smores!
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I show my love for people by cooking, hosting, and ensuring that everyone has a good time. I know I had a good time, both at the rehearsal and at the wedding! I love these two so much, and can’t wait to share more with you tomorrow!

September 7, 2011 at 7:35 am 3 comments

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