FOMO vs Right Place/Right Time

So my weekend plans have changed and tomorrow I’m going to a Girl Scouts end of the year party as my cousin’s Plus One.

If you think that is lame, 1. I don’t care and 2. I’ve been VERY excited about meeting the creative and unusual young women of my cousin’s daughter’s Girl Scout troop ever since Elisabeth (my cousin) shared this memorable post:

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Also, the party is at an aquarium and I LIVE FOR AQUARIUMS. (Aquaria?)

I’m having the not unfamiliar sensation of my life being a bit on hold. It’s in the nature of grad school- you don’t really have time or money to do things like travel, your weekend plans are always a bit tenuous when you’re studying for Defcon 1 level exams on a regular basis, you don’t have a career ladder climb since you’ve made the often insane-feeling choice to opt out of what could be some of your prime working years, gambling on the chance that more schoolin’ will result in you being such an expert in your chosen field that people would be insane not to hire you despite your relative lack of experience.

Anyway, this weekend I was supposed to drive up to VA (roughly six hours there and another six back) to see my family and to celebrate my best friend’s birthday and bridal shower, and I ended up backing out yesterday at the last minute due to illness. When you work at a hospital, an upset tummy could mean relatively little (which I think in this case it’ll turn out to be since I feel quite a bit better, though still weak, after sleeping for twelve hours last night) but an upset tummy can also mean C Diff, which is all over the place and is just THE WORST.

So I apologized profusely to Lydia for being a crappy maid of honor, and begged my mom to come down to see me here this summer, and put on my jammies and resigned myself to, as I find myself so often having these days, a low key weekend. Le sigh.

Backing up a little, there was yet another awesome thing I missed last weekend, one that I knew pretty early on that I would not be able to logistically coordinate. My family members, not having dietetic internships to complete, got to converge in Mexico this past weekend to celebrate the wedding of my cousin Kate.

She and Francisco tied the knot in a pyrotechnic blaze of glory.

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Haha so glamorous! In reality, I think it was just a lovely gesture towards Kate’s father, my uncle Andrew, a lifelong pyromaniac.

The actual wedding ceremony was special and solemn and took place in a WINE CELLAR IN A HACIENDA IN THE COUNTRYSIDE. Puebla, Mexico. I mean come on. Francisco just haaaaaaad to be from the most beautiful place in the world, right?!

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Here are the parents of the bride, Nan and Andrew (Nandrew!), just being the cutest.

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Here is my mom, who looks so good you’re probably all, “What, did she have you at fourteen?!” I KNOW RIGHT. Hope I get her genes. Work them legs, mom.

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Annnnnnd my glamazon sister, because she doesn’t start backbreaking nutrition school til *next* year, she got to go too. More beauty, y’all.

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In all seriousness, I wish I could have gone but am also tickled to live in the Internet age where I do actually get to see pretty high quality photos and video of the goings on. Including a charming video of the flower girls walking down the aisle that somehow my aunt took upside down! Who knew that was even possible on an iPhone?!

Though last weekend I stayed stateside, I did have fun. Took a Saturday beach walk which was quite a bit livelier than my usual after-work desolate strolls. I saw this young fella making the most ambitious sand castle I have seen… ever.

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I went to a Greek festival with Elisabeth and ate really great Greek salad, dolmathes, and many unpictured delicious pastries.

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Then we admired the decor and Elisabeth and I both laughed a lot, fairly inappropriately, at this…. Greek bobblehead?! DOESN’T HE LOOK LIKE TED CRUZ THOUGH!

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I also did some more lovely beach walking on Monday. Like, two hours of just listening to softly crashing waves and letting my brain go. We had a lecture in biochem about how sleep sort of “washes” your brain and cleans everything out and I think it happens when you walk quietly on the beach too.

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While taking this stroll a small part of me was like, “Hm, this is nice and would possibly also be nice with a boy, and it wouldn’t be some huge commitment to join OKCupid just for the summer and meet some nice people to hang out with in my temporary town” but then another part of me was like “Ugh, but how about that lady who got decapitated by that dude she met online dating?!” and I opted out. Anyway, the truth is that I really like my own company.

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I am content right now. I’ve told some of the RDs who’ve been teaching me, I feel like I’ve already learned in two weeks at the hospital this summer more than I did for my entire health department internship last summer. I feel like a plant getting water. 40 hours a week seems like nothing- I’ve been staying extra to do things like attend a breast feeding peer counselor training at the health department, lead by the awe-inspiringly smart RD/lactation consultant who works in the NICU.

I’m also really satisfied with my home life. Obviously going to the beach whenever I want is marvelous and still kind of mind boggling- like, I think about going to the beach, and then I’m at the beach. What?! My roommate is a gem and we both largely keep to ourselves but also enjoy chatting about our days. We each also have our own bathroom, an unimaginable luxury! I also joined a gym, one cause I started doing some YouTube kickboxing on a rainy day and realized I was going to make my neighbors hate me and two cause I like feeling strong. A really nice personal trainer taught me how to use a rowing machine properly and it kicked my booty in the best way.

And in a bigger sense I feel like I’m getting to like myself and my true nature. Yes, other people would have moved heaven and earth to fly to Mexico four days into their internships and turn around two days later and get back to the US, flying through who knows how many airports with who knows what kind of time margins. Other people would be frantically meeting up with people in their new town. God love those social folks. Me, I like people a lot, and like hearing their stories, and think that will make me a good dietitian and hopefully also a good friend/potentially a good partner to the right kind of person. However, I’m relived I’m at a place in my life where no one is forcing me to apologize for being the way that I am. I like taking walks on my own!

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Anyway, I want to reflect on this clinical internship so I have some memories to look back on as I move forward in my career. And so yall can hear what I’ve been up to!

  • Thus far I have done my rotations with two dietitians. Week 1 was with the dietitian who covered general medicine, some pulmonary patients (not the ICU, but for people who have, say, chronic COPD or are post lung surgery and are relatively stable), and behavioral health (the psychiatric hospital). Week 2 (which I just completed) was with the dietitian who covered renal (people with kidney disease; they also put some people with complex conditions on the renal floor since the staff is used to managing a lot of things at the same time) and rehab (the hospital for folks recovering from surgeries on muscles and bones and things and also people recovering from strokes and traumatic brain injuries)
  • The rehab hospital is AWESOME! They have a big gym and it has the stuff you’d expect in terms of fitness equipment and mats and so on, but they also have a variety of sections that simulate real life experiences and how to navigate them. A hotel room, an ATM, a gas station, a fast food restaurant, getting in and out of a car, climbing stairs, etc. It’s really big, but I didn’t want to take too many pictures but I had to share my favorite area, the BEACH! Stands to reason that if you live in a beach town you’ll want to know how to navigate the beach. Sand is obviously tricky! Getting in and out of folding chairs is a pain for people in perfect health!

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Along with the sand, they have several other practice surfaces on which to ambulate/roll: bricks (deliberately spaced in a way that can trap the end of a cane, as old bricks are wont to do) and cobblestones, and astroturf.

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  • The rehab hospital is also great because the doctor 100% respects the dietitians judgment and lets her make the decisions and write the orders when it comes to nutrition. Obviously if you or anyone you know works in a hospital, they’ll have their opinions on doctors and their general disdain for non-MD’s. It sounds like there’s a range in our hospital- one of the dietitians I’ve been shadowing loves some of the doctors but says one of them “thinks I stir the muffin batter”, oy. But in general the rehab hospital has really great collaborative care. The nurses are very cool too- I got to see the wound care nurse in action changing a dressing and it was amazing! (Apparently students in the past have fainted, hahahaha. I recommend if you ever work in a hospital that you be cool with blood and gore, which I apparently am, hurray!)
  • The behavioral health hospital is also great! Like most people, I had visions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s split into small units, and the people in the units have meals together in a little cafeteria, go to rec therapy together (which sounds SO FUN- they do crafts and coloring and so on), and have access to lovely courtyards with flowers and sunshine sprinkled throughout the area. The psychiatrists’ notes are really in depth and it’s clear they’re getting good care. Having met with the patients, I can assure you that you have probably met someone who’s spent some time in a psychiatric hospital and had no idea. They aren’t that weird! There’s something kind of comforting in the fact that someone can be having a hard time in their life, dealing with a lot of stuff (and reading people’s files can be heartbreaking- a lot of people’s admissions have to do with crappy family histories) and people can go to this hospital and get the help they need during a time of critical illness and then move on with their lives. Also, this hospital offers electroconvulsive therapy- ECT, which yes, you might know as “shock therapy”- and apparently it is an absolute lifesaver. I couldn’t tell you if any of the patients I met were on ECT, but one of the nurses was telling us that it’s amazing, they see people who have just been totally unable to function and ECT just manages to completely reset things for them. Which I guess, if you think about it, it’s like a heart defibrillator, but in your brain. Apparently hospitals from all over the state send folks to this hospital because they offer ECT.
  • I toured our dialysis unit and gosh it was interesting. The nurse who took me through was SO SMART and you manage so many skills working in dialysis- physics, chemistry, and medicine! Take care of your kidneys, yall. They are small and mighty. We have these huge machines that try and still can’t do the great work of our God given blood cleaners. (Your kidneys also do a bunch more for you, including regulating your fluid balance, producing hormones and active vitamin D, etc.)
  • Evvvvvvvveryone we see in the hospital is on Ensure or some kind of supplement. It does not seem too fun:/
  • Gastric bypass surgery is an object of fascination in popular culture, but can I recommend other methods of weight loss? Cause yikes, people come in with some really scary complications.
  • I have never washed my hands as often as in this hospital. C diff, as mentioned above, is around and it’s real nasty. There’s a special protocol for folks in those rooms, which includes washing your hands, not using hand sanitizer (apparently C diff spores can live for 100 days outside a host, which is about as sobering information as I’ve ever heard). One of the RDs also sterilizes every computer she sits down to work at (we have an office, but spend most of our time in the units, floating between the different pods of computers that doctors/nurses/therapists/whatever use as needed).
  • Electronic medical records are fascinating. There’s so much information in them that it’s kind of overwhelming and it’s tricky to know what information you should narrow on for your own nutrition assessment. I’ve learned that you can usually count on nephrology to get a good weight (which is important for kidney patients because they retain a lot of fluid), and if it says someone has a pressure ulcer you should always look for a note from wound care because sometimes if it looks like a pressure ulcer it’s not actually a pressure ulcer. Also, doctors tend to assume everyone with low albumin has malnutrition, and THAT AINT TRUE. Bless them and their minimal nutrition education.
  • Apparently some people refer to the registered dietitians on the clinical nutrition team as “dietary” and they hate it so so much it’s almost funny. In our hospital we have nothing to do with food service. We don’t cook. We don’t deliver meals. We don’t take orders for room service. Take note, readers, if you haven’t already figured this out from my colossal amount of course work, dietitians are the NUTRITION EXPERTS. We can calculate a patient’s calorie, protein, and fluid needs for their disease state, and predict what deficiencies they might have. We can dose a patient with a tube feeding and, depending on whether we have the certification, even place a nasogastric tube (from their nostril down to their stomach) to feed them. We can dose a patient with an IV feeding. We can interpret a patient’s lab values- for example, as said above, albumin (a protein in your blood) is an indicator of inflammation, not malnutrition. Though if needed we can also assess whether a patient is malnourished using more appropriate criteria. We can educate patients on particular disease states (tell me, can you list high phosphorus foods that a patient with renal disease should avoid? A dietitian can! Consult one!)
  • Thus far I have had mostly adorable and nice patients. I know this is not the norm (who can blame someone for not being at their best in the hospital?) so I’m girding my loins for more drama.

So yeah, that’s what I’m up to now. Anyone wondered anything about hospital life? Whether it’s like Grey’s Anatomy? I’ll do my best to answer any questions!

life after all those dang tests

Now I’m interning away at the beach, but let’s not forget all the craziness that preceded that big life change.

After taking my Big Huge Deal comprehensive exam on the 23rd of April, I had a whole week (#sarcasm) to prepare to take yet more exams, in the form of my finals. Lovely.

Despite the continued demand on my brain and body, I took the Sunday after comps off (after some frenzied celebrating on Saturday night) as a treat yo’ self kind of a day. First I got a massage. Then I got a bibimbap bowl mmmmmm.

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Then I went to a Game of Thrones premiere party! GAH GAME OF THRONES IS BACK. Thus far I’ve managed to see the first two episodes (through both legitimate and illegitimate means) but I don’t know how I’m going to make the rest of the season work. My cousin Nicole had an HBO password that literally our entire extended family was using and when she got rid of HBO it was… cataclysmic.

Anyway this was a very fun party. I know so may people with projectors! It’s very hipster to throw out your TV and buy a projector.

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My sweet family also looked after me. My sweet sister brought me an adorable care package of brownie brittle, cookie dough oatmeal, candy, and various other delicious treats.

My cousin had us over to dinner where we admired her sweet animals.

Cara:

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Hobbes:

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My cousin Sophia is SO CUTE and pregnant right now! Little nugget is already 2 pounds floating around in her belly! She cooked us a tasty tofu stir fry for dinner and then there was EPIC DESSERT from Sugarland, courtesy of her husband Mike. There’s nothing like a celebratory cupcake or six. I got the most fancifully decorated one.

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I of course did have to get back into studying mode for the week. It was not easy to motivate myself, let me tell you. Thank God I have Steph, my reliable study buddy with whom I take reliably pleasant study walks.

The UNC arboretum is such a gem. I swear they’ve finagled it so there’s always something blooming. I like the purple pom pom guys they have going on right now!

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I survived my two on-paper finals (food science and biochem) and did well, for the most part, and then it was time to hit the road to Virginia!

I took a picture of this remarkable license plate for my sister. (She loves ham). (I was stopped at a red light).

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I went home to celebrate Greek (F)Easter with my wonderful extended family. It is a tribute to what entertaining conversationalists they are that I have almost no photos. However, I did have to capture this truly bizarre moment in which my sister brought her cat on his Star Wars harness through the festivities. She is odd. The cat is odd. This picture is odd and quite amusing.

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My Aunt Kathy hosted this year and GODDDDDD everything was so good. I was pleasantly overstimulated when I approached the buffet table so I literally just tried every single thing there. On theplate from the top, going around the outer rim: green beans with onions and tomatoes, carrot salad, garlicky Spanish-style shrimp, more green beans with shallots, a nice kale/cranberry salad, orzo, kolokithopita (Greek squash pie- it’s a little bit of a misnomer, since the squash in it plays about as much of a supporting role as zucchini does in zucchini bread- it’s basically a vehicle for eggs and butter and sugar mmm), spanikopita, couscous salad. In the center we have lamb topped with such lovely rich tzaziki (yesss whole milk), a cracker with an amazing cheese, and BEETS!

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Not pictured is dessert. Know that I ate lots of it! Truthfully my life was a sugar binge in the days surrounding finals. I just can’t summon up the energy to feel guilty about it.

Anyway, the Easter celebration was full of wonderful family and Kathy and Tom’s always cool and entertaining friends. It was so nice spending a few days in a whole different world from my NC life. Getting out of the academic pressure cooker!

I had planned to stay in Virginia through Wednesday, completely forgetting that my mother, IMMEDIATELY after our Easter celebration (from which she emerged very sleep-deprived, since the Orthodox Easter service is at midnight and we weren’t home til 3am), was embarking on a business trip to Seattle early Monday morning.

So not so much quality time with my mom (though she did send me excellent photos from the conference: she was there with a bunch of eye doctors!)

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However, even without my dear mother’s company, I decided to stay in VA for a few more days as I had planned. It let me spend more time with family, it gave me a quiet place to finish my last final (a take home for nutritional epidemiology. Eeeeegh we just won’t talk about that). I did my paperwork responsibly, and when I couldn’t bear doing that anymore, I got to love on this crazy ginger cat:

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It’s weird that I love her so much- one morning, she woke me up by gently digging her claw into my upper lip. It was really something.

But love her I do.

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Ahh, then I had a fancy shmancy Frenchy lunchy!

My sweet aunt and uncle (really they’re my mom’s cousins once removed or… something. Family!) took me out for a wonnnnnnnderful lunch  to celebrate the end of my classes. We dined at at the spectacular L’Auberge Chez Francois.

Joanne and Roger had wanted to eat outside but the weather was not cooperating. However, the inside of the restaurant looked like a magical fairy tale. Like, and I mean this in the most serious way, the delightful French village in which Beauty and the Beast took place. Like it was in danger of being made of gingerbread. Like we were going to have lunch there and emerge in the Alps for a yodel. Beautiful!

And the service was just totally perfect- perfectly attentive without being hovering. I am seriously in awe of people who are professionals in the restaurant biz- I seriously lack those social skills!

Because this was a classy affair, there was an amuse bouche! And it was lentil soup, which I already love in non fancy form. In fancy form (this was a wee little cup you were meant to drink) it was sublime. So creamy and… meaty?! I thought there were mushrooms in it, but we asked the server and she said no. “Lentils, and heavy cream…” LOL yes heavy cream well there you go. Of course it was delicious.

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Joanne and Roger are food pushers in the loveliest possible way and enthusiastically encouraged me to get an appetizer. I didn’t have but so much appetite (see: Easter and general merriment in the preceding days) but Joanne said she’d split something with me. I had forgotten that this NOTORIOUSLY means she’ll have one bite hahahahaha. It was no hardship for me to eat the majority of this nummy mushroom crepe.

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There were fancy and flavorful wild mushrooms in a buttery sauce on the side, but also mushroom filling. I believe it was mushroom duxelles- basically, the mushrooms tasted as though they’d been cooked slowly for a long time until all of the mushroom flavor got intensified like a thousand fold and the texture was like pate. So so so good! I love mushrooms.

And then for our mains Joanne and I both got the lobster salad. It was fresh and delicious with these perfect little fruit segments. It had a vanilla vinaigrette, which is quite different, eh? Joanne thought it was a bit odd but I kinda dug it.

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My group had made souffle in food science lab, so it was such a treat to try the real deal at a proper French restaurant! I did the damn thing and went for chocolate:)

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They brought it out hot and puffed out of the oven and then poured warm bittersweet chocolate sauce on top, *swoon*. It was seriously amazing how there were multiple zones of taste, temperature and texture in this- the outside edges were chewy, lightly browned and lightly crisped like a meringue. Moving inward the texture got lighter and gooier. In the center, where the bittersweet chocolate sauce pooled, it was dense and intensely flavorful. Yes please!

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Roger also got a souffle, a raspberry one with sauce that was the color of jewels. So beautiful! Joanne got this hazelnut cake and insisted I take a picture of hers too. So pretty!

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It was SUCH a delicious meal. I feel like sometimes when I catch up with family it’s kind of a mob scene and everyone’s talking at once and I leave feeling like I didn’t have substantive conversations with some of the people I’d meant to. So having a slow leisurely lunch was really nice!

Gosh, I am so blessed to have my family cheering me on. It makes me so sad to hear about all the stress and sadness that some people associate with their families. I mean of course my family is not perfect and neither is anyone else’s, but I am heartsick at the thought of people for whom going home for holidays is something to dread. I know it’s a super common thing to experience, and I so admire people (close friends of mine included) who’ve built their own non-biological families as adults. I’m lucky to have both sets. I have to say, the older I get the more I appreciate that unconditional love stuff. It’s hard to come by in this world.

On that note, more cat pictures, hahaha.

I spent my last few days at home doing (still more) school stuff- wrapping things up for the class I TA’d. With Sheila’s advice and support, of course. I put this picture of her sitting on my lap while I worked on the final exam review into the slideshow of the final exam review. #Meta.

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Then I hit the road back to NC and got the first years in shipshape for their biochem exam. The spring semester was at last done, and I had a few days to wind things down in Chapel Hill before leaving for my summer beach destination!

Some of my girlfriends from the program and I got together for an evening we’d been sort of intending to have for well over six months. Sam, Carolina and I had had “South Africa Movie Night” a few months back. Sam did Peace Corps in South Africa, I’m 1/4 South African and woefully uninformed on that part of my heritage, and Carolina is a lover of all cultures- girl is reading Harry Potter in French, for fun- her third language, NBD. It had been great watching Long Walk to Freedom and talking history while we had snacks.

Anyway, this follow up night we didn’t get around to expanding our South African cultural knowledge in any sphere outside alcohol, but we did enjoy this liqueur from my dad’s family’s homeland!

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We also threw together a collaborative meal with a few more friends. In this endeavor we were supervised by Leo the cat.

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Everyone cleaned out their fridges/pantries and brought what they had. These pakoras came from a local Indian grocery store- you could heat them in a frying pan or, lazily, as we chose to do, in the microwave. It was fun watching them- they started totally flat, then had little tumors pop up on one edge, then gradually puffed up into the traditional pakora shape.

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I threw together things in my fridge/pantry that needed using: ginger (a bit), almond milk (a lot), carrots, and red lentils. Soup!

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There were also canned sardines bulked up with fresh tomatoes, onion, and garlic (dietitians-to-be love them some sardines)…

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…and a quiche that involved chicken sausage, onions, shredded carrots, and cheese. I never would’ve thought to put carrots in quiche and it was flippin’ delicious.

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All together. We also popped a mini bottle of champagne, which was adorbs.

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Then icing on the cake… well, chips on the cookies… Sam made Snickerdoodles! And Helena decorated them with chocolate chips.

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And Lesley made fudge! Good grief this was a lot of fudge.

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After that fun evening, I also spent three nights in a row watching Harry Potter movies with Colton- I finally saw 6 and 7 (parts 1 and 2). They were okay. The books are better. No surprise there. It was fun getting in lots of sarcasm with Colton. What will I do spending a whole summer without my work wife?! We sass each other non stop and it makes me so happy.

Also, on our last night, pre-Harry Potter screening, a few of us went to get grub al fresco and we discovered a new taco truck that was muy delicioso!

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I got one with lamb barbacoa and one with chicken and avocado. So fresh! They do homemade tortillas on the weekend, yes please.

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Here are some crazy kids from my program. From left, Erin, Colton (blocked, hahaha sucka), me, and Sam.

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Still burnt out on exams. Still a little dazed and confused. But ready for summer? Ready for new places? Ready for internship adventures? Ready for actually being real grown ups and going out and saving the world one nutritious meal at a time?

Stay tuned!

internship life

My brain is vair tired after a long day, and I have to be back at the hospital at 7:30am tomorrow, but I wanted to pop in and share how excited I am about my clinical internship!

QUICK highlights:

  • The dietitians had a welcome breakfast for me. It was SO NICE!
  • On the subject of food, I’ve given my brain a break from cooking duty this week because it has enough to contend with. Lunches have been Trader Joe’s premade salads, dinners have been avocado toast with a smear of hummus. (Or, full disclosure, one night, a no utensil affair of veggies dipped in hummus and handfuls of peanut butter pretzels).
  • The team seems very cohesive where I am. All women (duh, as is 93% of our profession). There’s a manager (my preceptor, who I’ll get to shadow on a management rotation) and twelve dietitians. The dietitian I’m working with this week has a cat of the day calendar, so obviously we get along.
  • My rotations will start off more general (literally, right now I’m in general medicine) and get more specific. I’m particularly excited to spend time in pediatrics and outpatient oncology. Well excited is the wrong word but seeing specialists and the kind of expertise they have to work in those areas is going to expand my knowledge a lot.
  • I have already filled out two patient progress notes! Like a real dietitian! Saying what ought to be done for those patients’ care!
  • Then I got BEEPED about one of them! It was really scary! I felt like I was on Grey’s Anatomy! It was blessedly anticlimactic. Me: “HELLO YES YOU PAGED ME?! WHICH PATIENT HAS A PROBLEM?!?!?!?!” Nurse: “Oh yeah we had a question about fluids but then you said ask nephrology about fluids, so we asked nephrology about fluids.” Me: “OKAY SORRY THANK YOU HAVE A GREAT DAY THANKS GOD BLESS YOU GOODBYE.”

Obviously my communication skills are weak at the mo, plus fear of HIPAA violations is going to prevent me from talking about my day to day activities anyway. So, here are some pictures of the WALK ON THE BEACH I took YESTERDAY AFTER GETTING OUT OF WORK. It is quite extraordinary, walking on a virtually empty beach before the tourist season has picked up at 6:30pm or so after a day of work.

Old hotel.

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Crazy kite surfer.

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I TOTALLY SAW DOLPHINS FISHING FOR THEIR DINNER. It was the best thing that has happened to me in some time. By pointing my phone at the water and clicking over and over I think I actually managed to capture a dolphin in this picture- basically in the exact center. Click on the photo and then zoom in between the two whitecaps and peer a little closer to the horizon. See?!

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the end of food science lab

Below are the chronicles of my last few weeks of food science lab. People seem to enjoy these posts… so I’m glad some good has come from my and my classmates’ suffering through this class😉

Meat Day:

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I was still Lent-ing it up and not eating any meat, plus in general kind of avoid preparing meat at home due to all the food safety drama to deal with so this was sort of a gross week for me.

One group made mini meat loaves. They were glazed and cute.

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And then coming out of the oven looked SO NASTY! Hahahaha. Kind of horrifying when you think about the fact that when you make meatloaf the regular way all that orangey grease stays in the loaf and you eat it.

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Another group did fajitas.

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The school ovens have pretty crappy broilers, so they didn’t get the sear they’d hoped for on the steak.

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It also ended up quiiiiiite rare! But people seemed to enjoy it!

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Another group did a sausage dish. They precooked the sausage a little bit, then scored it and cooked it with some peppers and onions. Half cooked sausage is QUITE gross looking!

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But the final dish was pretty dang gorgeous.

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Another group did an Ottolenghi recipe for ground lamb with sweet and savory seasonings.

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The finished dish wasn’t real glamorous in the looks department but people seemed quite excited about the flavor- it involved cinnamon, raisins, caramelized onions, pine nuts, etc.

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My group did a lamb curry. There wasn’t quite enough lamb stew meat so the prof told us to round it out with chickpeas. This smelled AMAZING as it cooked.

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And looked very pretty with the final garnish.

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We served it with rice, and my ambitious classmate who went to culinary school threw together an impromptu chutney.

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Apparently, though, the final curry ended up being kind of bland, despite the plethora of spices it contained.

But anyway, I didn’t taste anything- this was the meal I had that particular week!

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Next we had Ice Cream Day… oy oy oy.

So fine, we had to learn about the science of ice cream. The RD exam is pretty archaic and there are a lot of food service questions on it. Totally get that.

What I 100% do not comprehend is what happened in food science lab. “We don’t have an ice cream maker”, announced our professor, “So we’ll be making composed ice cream desserts.”

So in my  Masters in Public Health Program (ranked second in the whole United States, tied with Harvard), in the middle of the week my classmates and I were frantically studying for our comprehensive exams, in a class that ought to have been preparing us to provide practical food preparation advice to our client populations, we were… rearranging store bought ice cream into odd shapes.

It was QUITE peculiar.

Nothing like high-fructose-corn-syrup-packed Sarah Lee pound cake as the foundation for a recipe in a nutrition class, eh?

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I was in charge of cutting it into layers. Oooh, aaah.

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We softened some strawberry ice cream and mixed in crushed almonds and minced maraschino cherries (…?)

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And then what was supposed to happen was that we layered cake, then our gussied up strawberry red ice cream, then cake, then chocolate ice cream, then cake, then pistachio ice cream, then cake.

And chill it, and let the layers set, and remove the layered creation from the cake pan and cut slices of this layered delicacy.

However, as you’ll see several times in this week’s photos, the freezer available to us in our kitchen was not particularly good, and having five separate groups putting together frozen desserts meant the door was constantly opened and closed. So when it came to our final dish…

As you can see…

#NailedIt

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It looks like cat barf, right?!

Here is a brief glimpse of what could have been…

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Meanwhile, another group was turning vanilla ice cream into baked potatoes.

Let me explain.

They took scoops of the ice cream and rolled it into ovals in plastic wrap.

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Then once those had chilled (ish) they rolled them in cocoa powder (the “skin” of a baked potato) and topped them with marshmallow fluff (representing sour cream) and green sprinkles (or “chives”).

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They were quite cute. Might be a fun activity for like… a six year old’s birthday party. Again, though, this was a required assignment in my masters program.

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Another group made ice cream “spaghetti and meatballs”.

Cause…?

This was accomplished by putting vanilla ice cream in a ricer.

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There was a “parmesan” topping, made by shredding white chocolate.

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And chocolate truffle meatballs, and raspberry sauce. RAPIDLY melting.

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Another group also involved chocolate and chocolate.

Chips:

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Wafers:

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Theirs involved coffee ice cream as well.

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They were wise and stored theirs in the relatively-unused freezer in the break room in a separate part of the building. Thus, why it was not a hot mess.

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Another group did a watermelon mold… the outside was “watermelon rind”, meaning  vanilla ice cream painted with green food coloring.

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Slicing it went… okay. Jenna was a trouper for taking on this task.

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This inside did actually kind of look watermelon-ish. They’d mixed raspberry sorbet with mini chocolate chips.

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It collapsed pretty quickly but was semi-successful?

The real highlight for the week was the sauces. This raspberry one was blissful.

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Our group made a chocolate fudge one.

(I keep having to repeat that I am in a nutrition program. I feel like that is not clear, right?!)

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Camille and I posed as we took on quality control.

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Another group was supposed to make a butterscotch sauce but risked the omnipresent wrath of our professor by accidentally adding chocolate to it. But you know what? It was DELICIOUS!

Anyway, I was happy when that odd, odd week was over.

Vegetable Day: like, the day that actually makes sense for a nutrition program.

We began our day with a lecture from a super adorable professor emiritus. He’s done a lot of research on vitamin D and polyphenols over the year. Super interesting stuff.

Then we cooked vegetables! In a nutrition class! WHAT A CONCEPT!

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One group did an experiment with cooking cabbage in an alkaline medium (with baking soda) and an acidic medium (with vinegar). As you can see, cabbage can basically be used for a litmus test! The anthocyanins (blue/purple) leach out in alkaline solution, and the (I think?) careotenoids (red) leach out in an acidic solution. SCIENCE IS EVERYWHERE YALL.

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We prepared brussels sprouts by steaming, boiling, and roasting; seasoned just with oil salt and pepper. The boiled ones were SO SO BLAND. Do yourself a favor and don’t boil your vegetables.

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We also made some roasted ones (at left, below) the way I like to do them, with honey and dijon and dill. Apparently we should have intuited that this was not the way we were supposed to make them, so got yelled at for awhile. Sigh. But of course my classmates adored my brussels sprouts because they are DELICIOUS.

And at right, our professor’s recipe, where they were shredded and cooked with lemon and shallot and red pepper flakes. Twas good.

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Also did a variety of cooking methods for asparagus. Again, boiled was gross. Steamed and microwave were equally fine. Roasted was okay but I sometimes just want asparagus to taste like asparagus, not “roasted” (you know how all roasted things kinda taste like “roasted” and it’s good but it’s not what you want every single time?)

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While we took on the green veggies, other groups were preparing various components to make a giant Salade Nicoise. Fancy culinary school grad classmate brought her mandoline which made quick work of the fennel (gosh guys I love fennel)

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Another group was making hard boiled eggs, but gussied them up into deviled eggs. Using fresh eggs made for tasty eggs but painful peeling. Glad I didn’t have to do it!

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They gussied up some of the deviled eggs with capers and/or anchovies.

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The final dish had a TON of ingredients and was a bit overstimulating. You know how they say with accessories you should remove one thing as you’re walking out the door? It was that kind of thing.

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Arugula and steamed potatoes and green beans and fennel and tomatoes and red peppers and deviled eggs with their various toppings and olives and tuna and vinaigrette and green onion and on and on!

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But each individual component was quite tasty. I really love high quality oil-packed canned tuna; I forget that sometimes.

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Oh and then after all those lovely veggies we also had some fruit- strawberries marinated in balsamic and sugar and black pepper. Our professor insisted we had to serve them on ice cream (because otherwise this week might actually be healthy) but I had them straight up and were tasty. This inspired a salad I made for friends a few days later- it’s a yummy combination, especially with the pepper.

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Final Project Day:

Our last assignment for the class was what (in my opinion) we should’ve been doing all semester: we were to take a recipe for a “classic”, frequently made dish and redesign it to be a healthy choice for a specific patient population. We served our dishes to our classmates and everyone voted on the best final product.

Everyone laughed uproariously viewing the hilariously lengthy ingredient list one group created- all thanks to Nate, who really gets ambitious in the kitchen.

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They made quite the classy meat sauce

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And because their recipe was designed for people with Celiac disease, they used naturally gluten-free zucchini strips for the lasagna noodles (they salted them first so they wouldn’t get watery as they baked).

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It smelled like real lasagna, despite the substitutions- meat and cheese will do that:)

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Our group decided to create a recipe for people with chronic kidney disease, as I mentioned a few posts ago. Our tacos ended up quite pretty and popular.

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Another group made meatloaf that was appropriate for the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension- a diet meant to be high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber; and low in sodium and saturated fat). They bulked up their meatloaf with oats and veggies. However, in my opinion their most brilliant idea was swapping out the traditional (high sodium) ketchup topping and instead topping their loaves with sun dried tomato pesto.

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As again this week it was still Lent and I was still meatless, I didn’t eat the meatloaf but kept giving myself spoonfuls of that sun dried tomato pesto. HEAVENLY! Also, kudos to their group for managing to make meatloaf look pretty and decorative and appetizing, something I hadn’t really thought was possible.

The only group whose creation I did get to eat took on fettucine alfredo to make it work for people who are lactose intolerant. Their sauce involved cauliflower and nutritional yeast and was quite tasty. The pops of color from the peas and parsley were also quite nice.

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And finally, the last group created a chili recipe for people on a low FODMAPs diet. FYI, FODMAPS= fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. It’s a diet with the basic philosophy that bacteria love to eat fermentable sugars, and if you have an imbalance of bacteria in your small intestine (your large intestine is supposed to be full of ’em, but not your small), the best way to deal with this small intestine bacterial overgrowth is to starve out the little buggers by depriving them of their favorite foods.

Anyway, kudos to this group because they made chili and traditional FODMAPs are:

  • onions
  • beans
  • garlic
  • mushrooms
  • dairy
  • beer (and their reference recipe was a beer based chili)

So they had quite the undertaking! Anyway, their final recipe looked pretty and smelled delicious.

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And then GLORY GLORY HALLELUJAH we were done with food science lab. I hope you have enjoyed these recaps. I hope that in my future there is tasty cooking with friends… but without the specter of an angry professor breathing down our necks.

I survived!

Two days before my comprehensive masters exam in public health nutrition:

For reasons best understood by her, our student services manager scheduled mandatory department picture day. It was a use of time we really would’ve preferred for other things (LIKE STUDYING). We fantasized about smiling like Ted Cruz for the picture.

(I’m telling you, we are obsessed with Ted Cruz’s weirdness. Please don’t take this as an endorsement of anything Ted Cruz says or believes though, okay?)

(Also, Jaclyn on the right is from Texas as well and I think she just really channels him)

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Later on Thursday, two days before comps, the teacher I’ve been working with to arrange my advanced nutrition internship, in her infinite wisdom and tact, announced that the plan we’d been working on for months for the internship had fallen through and we had to start all over again. HURRAY. Imma think about that later.

I felt not particularly great, due to mental exhaustion and that crappy news. My roommate had also had a frustrating day. So we wrapped ourselves up in fleece blankets and binge watched The OC.

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One day before my comprehensive exam in public health nutrition:

I had my last meeting with our study group. It is DISGUSTING that we are called upon to memorize things like this.

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Then I met up with Steph to study a bit more at her place (but first she made me a grilled cheese❤❤ <3)

Thank God for Max, her roommate’s cat who’s just the greatest little guy in the whole world. Carefully monitoring neighborhood security.

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LOOKIT HIS LITTLE FACE! LOOKIT HIS BIG EARS!

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We studied for awhile and then my brain was so so tired but I also didn’t want to sit alone in my house. So I stayed at Steph’s and we watched Atonement❤ After a bit her boyf (well fiance actually) Eric came home and the girls were watching Atonement and the boy was flying around his drone in the backyard annoying their pet chickens. It was adorable.

On the day of my comprehensive masters exam in public health nutrition:

My neighbor’s dog woke me up barking hysterically at 7am. Lovely. I lied around in bed being angry but not getting back to sleep. Then I gave up and got up and sang When Doves Cry in the shower. I stopped at my fave coffee shop and got a veggie breakfast burrito and a cappuccino. Then who should step up to the counter but my advisor and epi professor, who gave me a hug and told me she’d be sending intelligence vibes my way (WHICH IS GOOD CAUSE HER SECTION OF THE EXAM WAS THE HARDEST BY FAR).

I then meandered over to Steph’s again, bringing along a hot chocolate for her, and we embarked from there to walk to our test (SO SMART, getting fresh air and exercise prior to sitting in a sterile room with banks of computers; but also serious FOMO looking at all the people sitting outside eating brunch and enjoying the beautiful spring day).

I took the exam. Boring story.

Then it was celebration time! I got home and was exhausted and befuddled. Fortunately, I ran into my cute six year old neighbor and sat outside with him for awhile, admiring his nerf gun and discussing our favorite kinds of dogs. He always wants to come in my house and jump on my furniture, so I let him come in for a bit and he made me listen to Daft Punk (haha what a weird kid right?!)

Then my girl Camille came by. We put together the best kind of dinner, things dipped in things (triscuits, bell peppers, green apples, bread; dipped in hummus and baked brie). Alli, the best roommate in the land, gifted us with a bottle of the finest Barefoot champagne and we toasted and toasted.

We next took a delicious evening walk to Weaver Street Market where we ended up meeting with some friends intentionally and more friends unintentionally (it was a glorious evening to be outside). There was ice cream and snackage and merriment. There was a cute black lab named Alice sitting by us begging to be petted so that was a highlight as well. Here I am sandwiched between two of my best compatriots, Helena (demolishing some strawberry rhubarb pie) and Camille.

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The evening continued and then somehow I ended up hanging out with that dude again… I know, I know. I decided that in the individual circumstances of yesterday (a still-racing brain that hadn’t comprehended yet that its vigilance could at last turn down) hanging out on a weird guy’s couch watching horror movies and drinking red wine was what I wanted to do. And it really was quite fun.

As for today (the day after my comprehensive master’s exam in public health nutrition) I have a massage booked for four pm😀 Life is good!

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It is actually difficult for me to remember my life before I was studying for comps. What did I do with my time? I was probably bored and lonely. Now I am  busy and exhausted, but also fundamentally bored because studying nutritional biochem around the clock and memorizing tiny details about enzymes and hormones and things is not exactly a thrill.

Because photos of me hunched in front of my computer are decidedly non-entertaining, I’ll share some pictures of my best study buddies.

Steph’s roommate’s cat Sam:

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SO CUTE!

Also, Helena is a freaking GEM and made EVERYONE in our class a comps care package. Other people got cute cartoon pictures of themselves on their cards. I got a picture of a ginger cat:) She knows me well!

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Some of the tasty contents:

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She also included a little factoid in everyone’s care package:

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And THE CUTEST CLEMENTINE I HAVE EVER BEHELD!

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(She also included a lovely voodoo doll, which is a private joke but made me very amused)

I had Helena over for a study date and (woefully trying to measure up to her generosity) fed her dinner: my homemade French onion soup topped with cheesy bread, and some of Trader Joe’s finest salad: greens, bleu cheese, craisins, candied pecans and raspberry dressing.

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More school stuff: despite the fact that nothing from our stupid food science class will be covered on comps we still had to complete a rather large assignment for it in the midst of all our comps studying. My group adapted a taco recipe for people with chronic kidney disease. Actually, I guess creating this recipe did lead to us reviewing CKD for comps, which was a worthwhile pursuit. Our technique was all about limiting protein, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and calcium.

Anyway, my group created this taco recipe in which we swapped ground beef for chicken thighs (lower in phosphorus and also just a healthier choice), bulked up the filling with flavorful but low-phosphorus and low sodium mushrooms, made homemade taco seasoning with way less sodium, etc.

Carolina got out her fancy camera to take a classy picture of our taco makeover:

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Here’s my crappy iPhone version hahaha. The rest of the group ate these for dinner. I, still Lent-ing it, had sauteed vegetables over shredded lettuce. It wasn’t bad, hahaha.

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So just assume that most of my life is studying but here are some amusing pictures of non studying aspects of my life.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the patriarchy. It is alive and well. Dudes on the bus just do not think about how they take up other people’s space the way women do. (This bro’s backpack kept smashing me in the face).

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I’ve been trying to get my nature on. I met my friends and their kiddo at Honeysuckle Tea House, my first time back there since they reopened for the spring. I love it so much.

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The beautiful black lab was fulfilling his greeting duties, as usual. All he wants is for you to throw him the tennis ball. The hyper children running around in a mob were happy to comply with his wishes.

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Such a cool place.

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There was also one blessed day where it had rained earlier in the day and the sun came out and that meant temporarily LOW POLLEN AND I COULD ACTUALLY TAKE A WALK! I needed it to clear my head after a lottttt of studying.

I saw this sweet sign. Oh, Carrboro.

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I’ve also been maintaining my habit of taking a walk in between food science lecture and lab to tone down my irritability and get some fresh air (pollen-y air, but I suck it up and deal with the snottiness that ensues).

The arboretum is still flippin’ gorgeous.

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I’ve also been playing dress up preparing for the gazillion weddings I’m attending this summer. (Well, three. Would be four but I cannot fly to Mexico in the first week of my clinical internship to see my cousin tie the knot, alas).

Normally sane people go a little cuckoo when they get married. I adore Myra and Alex but it’s a little out of character for them to uh, send every single one of their wedding guests (not just people in the wedding party. All of the guests!) a color scheme in which they must dress. Naturally, I owned no clothes in those colors (I am a Mediterranean olive-skinned lady, I don’t have anything peach…) so I went to Target and consulted my boo Andrea (who was blessedly in town) whether this dress was wedding appropriate. She said it was and I could dress it up. We’ll see. Anyway, it’s part of the color scheme, oy.

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Meanwhile my bestie Lydia is tying the knot and is way at the other end of the spectrum and even though I’m the maid of honor she is just like “Wear whatever you want! Maybe something that’s like a garden party!”

So I went through my closet and went, uh, here’s my most garden party-esque dress…

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And she said well hm actually that might clash with the flowers which are purple and blush.

SO TBD FOR THAT WEDDING.

Meanwhile, I am somewhat hilariously waitlisted for my friend Steph’s wedding, whose venue limits the number of people she can invite. She said if one more person backs out I’ll get to go hahahahahahahahaha. I’m choosing to find this funny rather than insulting- weddings are tough, money is weird, parents are weird.

If I do go, perhaps I’ll wear this, which I got from a clothing swap and feel hot in! (I took like fourteen pictures to get this one, which is not very high quality hahahaha. I have no hidden talents for taking selfies).

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Another clothing swap purchase which I’m SOOOOOO tempted to wear to something even though I can barely walk in them and look like a stripper:

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Finally, this past weekend (which marked T minus 7 days til comps!) I decided I needed a break and took myself for an adventure at Goathouse Cat Refuge.

I was too busy hugging the cats to take pictures of any of them but I did get this shot of the goat who enthusiastically ignored me as I begged him for his friendship.

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Then I was close to Pittsboro, so I went to Phoenix bakery to get my cousin donuts for her birthday the following day. I also got this monster of a pecan bun for myself <3<3<3 I ate it in two installments, it was enormous!

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Then I got a killer period headache and was out of commission for the rest of the day Saturday! Sometimes our bodies are what make the decision that we’re done studying for awhile.

Finally, one of the weirdest, funnest things I have been involved in:

My mother sent me the link to this absolute GEM of Ted Cruz’s bad lip reading. Being someone who likes to bring joy to the lives of others, I have shared it with many people. My friend Claire and I have started to run away with it, communicating now almost exclusively in quotes from Ted Cruz bad lip reading.

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And it’s transformed into something where we just enthusiastically follow all ridiculous Ted Cruz related news (Ted Cruz seems to invite these things, what with the dildo ban and being ignored by his fellow Republicans at that fundraising dinner and the ex college roommate who hates him and stuff).

This story, a relatively benign one about his bizarre love for Campbell’s soup, lead to the exchange of these priceless photos.

I sent her this:

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To which she MAJORLY raised the stakes and responded with this:

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You gotta get the laughter where you can, man. Thanks, Ted Cruz.

semi-recent goings on

Cooking:

I made homemade French onion soup for the first time. I had homemade broth, I had onions to caramelize…

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I threw in some mushrooms too…

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I didn’t have the traditional baguette and gruyere but I had whole wheat English muffins and various cheese bits in my fridge.

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Delish!

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Other random meals: snack plate of carrots ‘n hummus, homemade tortilla chips and mashed avocado, Greek yogurt for protein.

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Scrambled eggies with tomato and cheese.

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Toasties topped with hummus and Trader Joe’s killer feta spread, kale chips.

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Nachos! “Nachos”. Bean chips (so good! and more protein and fiber), lunch meat, cheese. More avocado.

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Weaver Street market, when I feel my veggies are lacking. Beans, Caribbean collards (which have yuca in them and are boss), polenta, beets, creamed spinach. Ate this in two meals, as I recall.

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Outdoor living:

For awhile there I was taking LOTS of evening walks.

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And making LOTS of new cat friends.

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Then this happened: the annual North Carolina OH MY GOD THERE’S POLLEN EVERYWHERE situation. Super gross when you think about the fact that it’s essentially tree sperm. Also, I am violently allergic to it.

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There’s an app for that. And it’s bleak.

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Time with friends:

I went to the school cafeteria at UNC (!) for the first time with my friend Leesie to catch up. This is not a good picture but I had to share it because THIS WAS MY SIGNATURE SALAD! In college, I ate this for lunch alllllll the time. It is quite tasty:

  • spinach
  • feta
  • kidney beans
  • broccoli
  • red onion
  • cherry tomatoes
  • oil and vinegar

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And because UNC’s caf is FANCY, I also got a bit of sushi with my salad!

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And had a bowl of lucky charms for dessert:) ah, college life.

Then things started going in a super lame direction with the dude I’d been kind of sort of seeing? And wow my friends are really excellent and did a good job of distracting me.

Alli (the greatest roommate who has ever lived) gave me flowers, chocolates, and an AMAZING Easter Bunny Pug card.

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Colton, my fellow TA and work wife, invited me over and fed me a superfoods lunch of baked salmon and homemade sweet potato oven fries.

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After we ate he was basically like, “Please don’t tell anyone I am secretly this nice or secretly eat this healthily. It will ruin my reputation”. Hahahaha.

Jaclyn invited me over to watch The West Wing and play with her adorable dog. This was when Jaclyn was trying to lure Lemon onto the couch with a toy. Every time she succeeded, I’d frantically attempt to hug Lemon and Lemon would run away. LOVE ME LEMON.

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She is SO SO CUTE!

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And let the record state, later in the evening I got her to spoon with me on the floor. Oh, animals. The best.

When Helena heard about my boy woes, she said, “Can I take you on a date?” And I was like “OH MY GOD YES.” It ended up being (American) Easter Sunday (mine isn’t til May 1st). We went to the beautiful Rue Cler. I began with some delicious coffee.

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And admired their decor, which was a mix of Frawnch classiness and cool Durham repurposed tobacco warehouse vibe.

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We both got the special of the day, a crepe filled with tomatoes and caramelized onions and mushrooms and cheese topped with two poached eggs. She opted for the fries, I for the salad. The salad was actually sublime- that perfect rich yet tangy French-style vinaigrette.

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Then another night- and this was less about boy drama by this point and more about school drama and not having gotten to see each other in weeks and having tried to plan a get together for months that didn’t work out until this particular evening- Melissa and I went to Starlight Mead. We tried the new mead they were debuting and also had some snacks- since it was on April Fool’s Day, this was the “sushi”. Adorbs!

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Then we got dinner at Carolina Ale House and man oh man you’d never guess these were nutrition students. Shrimp and grits and spinach and artichoke cheesy dip❤

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