It’s funny how we set emotional timelines for ourselves, and say, well of COURSE I’ll be there by then. And yes, sometimes it feels like a real victory when we meet those deadlines, and we are there, and we say, I’ve gotten out of that negative place, and now I’ll take on the world and be that perfect person I’ve been intending to be all along. The problem, of course, is when we backslide. Or rather we slide down off the exuberant pile of intentions we’ve built ourselves and say, “Oh shoot, I’m actually still kind of sad about x, y and z.” Our feelings about ourselves change, our feelings about others change, our health changes, the seasons change. We hope that we can learn things.

Anyway, that was all a bit psychobabble. The point is, I feel very much like a work in progress at the moment (and no kidding, I always have been and I always will be). The week I took the pictures in this post I was filled with a sense of real contentment and well being, and the week that I’m blogging about them I’m a little fuzzier about how I’m feeling about life. But hey, that’s okay. The feeling of well being was a blessing, and my feeling now is more self-examining, and I want to be able to dig into that feeling too, and get something out of it.

It’s Spring, and thank heavens for spring. The cold thaws, the nights get lighter, we’re greeted by daffodils and baby bunnies, and we hope that the day to day grind of life gets a little easier. It’s okay for me to bounce around town feeling rosy and optimistic, and yet it’s also okay for me to spend a quiet few minutes watching the sun set, listening to the birdies tell each other good night, and do some reflecting (even of the melancholy sort).

The later part of Spring Break left me feeling springtime optimism and my positivity was bubbling over. This led to a desire to cook and entertain a lot! I invited friends over for Indian food- actually sent out an open invite on facebook to anyone who was in town who felt like eating something I cooked. I made tofu tikka masala, sauteed cabbage and potatoes and carrots with spices (actually an Ethiopian recipe), and basmati rice. And then Myra totally stole my thunder by bringing this beautiful and delicious chickpea bisteeyah.


Two of my friends were initially excited for the Indian dinner but then opted out when they learned when it would be served at 7:30 pm, a mere half hour before their baby’s bedtime. Determined to see them, and excited to continue feeding all the people I care about, I invited them over for a more child-friendly mealtime (6:00) the next day. That was delightful, because baby Toula is walking like a CHAMP! And she’s just the happiest little bambino, and super chatty.

I decided to make a recipe that my cousin Rachel taught me about: Moosewood’s Russian macaroni and cheese. Its defining features are a TON of sauteed onions (both red and green), caraway seeds, and cottage cheese in addition to the traditional cheddar. It’s really pretty healthy- look at all the vegetables crammed in there!


My whole family loves this recipe- it’s comfort food with a fun twist. I think this time it wasn’t quite as good as when I’ve made it in the past, probably because I was too committed to health. Low fat cottage cheese is fine (though never buy fat free cottage cheese, please, it tastes like acid and death) but then also using low fat sour cream and reduced fat cheddar just was too virtuous. Next time I’ll rock a little more saturated fat!


Also at the table was a yummy dip that unfortunately ended up a little barf-colored. I cooked red lentils with whole garlic cloves, olive oil, and salt; then mashed it up with cumin and turmeric. It was good, despite its appearances. The baby loved it! Dan and Bethany were also nice enough to bring bread and smoked salmon. Man, their baby housed that bread. She’s a big fan of the white carbs. Aren’t we all, hahahahaha.


Okay now by FAR the highlight of my spring break happened on the last day of it. Myra and I headed off on an adventure to… CAT HEAVEN!


Goathouse Cat Refuge was frankly a little overwhelming. In that it was amazing, and also caused me to lie in bed at night going, “THERE ARE SO MANY SWEET LITTLE KITTIES WITH NO MUMMIES AND DADDIES TO CARE FOR THEM WHAT CAN I DO, OH GODDDDD”.

A totally donation sustained organization, at any given moment there are 350 (!!!) cats at this amazing place. And visitors are allowed from 12-3 every day of the week, and though most of the cats are up for adoption, you can also go if (like me) you aren’t yet ready or able to offer a cat a home but just want to help socialize the animals.

There are a lotttt of cats, but it helps that they have free access to the outdoors (which is pretty amazing, and seems to keep the cats really happy and chill) and are also on multiple levels in the rooms inside, so you never feel overwhelmed by the number of cats (though straight talk: what is overwhelming is the smell).

Some of the kitties are in cages, if for example they’re new and getting used to the other cats, or recovering from medical treatment, or on a special diet. But most get to just wander around. There are, natch, lots of sleeping surfaces.

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This guy, below, was happy to see me. After I took this picture, he calmly decided to climb down from the shelf via my neck. Myra took a series of photos of me keeping the cat balanced on my back and bending down to the ground so he could peacefully disembark. Cats, man. We’re just here to serve them.


Cat bunk beds! This room (with the series of shelves you see below) had approximately 28 cats in it (Myra counted) but it just never seemed that crowded. They seemed really happy and chill.

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But I thought the really amazing part was the outdoor area. It was a warmish day- low 60s- and both cats and humans were stoked to be spending some time outside.

Lots of things to climb on.


Lots of things to climb in! I think a human child would enjoy this kind of space just as much as a cat.

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This guy was a boss climber. The roof he’s climbing off of was the quarantine building for new kitties or sick kitties. There is also a kitten cabana (!) There were only a few kittens the day we were there but the staff said the kittens really started coming in in April and May.

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I loved this lady. She was the most confident, friendly cat. And had the most GORGEOUS fluffy tail.


There was some playtime as well outside, hahaha.


This kitty had the most beautiful green eyes and just wanted you to pettt himm. On the one hand, you felt like these animals had a wonderful, cat-friendly space and had all of their needs met and seemed really content. On the other hand, some of them clearly just wanted a forever family where they could be loved and cared for by one person :,(

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Outdoors, basically everything was a scratching surface. A lot of the trees looked a little ragged at the bottom!


How amazing is this climbing structure?! I want one!


I loved this chubster. He was very affable.

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This cat was super sweet and kind of had a face like a little fancy purebred cat. There’s something about this vantage point looking into things from above that cats just seem to love.

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Nuzzle nuzle.


Kitty buddies looking contemplative together.


The cat was nibbling on the pinecones and then when I went over to take a picture he looked a little embarrassed.


There are some kitties who have just always been feral. They stay on the outskirts of the outdoor area (which is large, so they definitely can get the solitude they desire, while having their needs for food and water and veterinary care and so on met). They were having a big sunbathing party.


We petted SO MANY CATS. Seriously, if you have blood pressure concerns, go to this place and do some quality cat petting.


More scratching.


Can you even with this little guy’s belly camouflage? So cute!


Don’t you love when cats stare intently at something like they’re trying to solve an important mystery and then peacefully close their eyes, like “Ah, I see it now. All is well.”?

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This little guy LOVED me! (In general, what’s with cats and toes? What weirdos). At one point he put his paws up on his knees and I started to bend down and it was like he was trying to climb into my arms sob sob sob. Then another kitty came over to say hello and this guy hissed at him, like, “DO NOT RUIN THIS FOR ME BRO”. This is what haunts me when I lie in bed at night, man- little baby kitties with no families.


(Also, apparently from those billions of goosebumps on my legs, it was really too cold that day to be wearing shorts, eh?)

Emotionally drained but happy after our visit, Myra and I then went to one of Pittsboro’s other lovely offerings, the bakery. These cupcakes were adorable but I guess you have to special order them because they were only plastic models. Sigh.


Nonetheless, they had a yummy selection, including slightly less adorable regular cupcakes.


Myra and I both opted for the donuts, which were SO good. Light and yeasty and sweetly frosted. I got one with homemade lemon curd inside and it was SO good- tangy, like I like it!


Then I went home and my neighbor brought over ridiculously delicious spring rolls made with love by her Thai mother. And I hung out with my girlfriends and we giggled about life.


Spring Break was done and I felt like the flowers I saw around me, like I was thawing. I felt an overabundance of blessings in my life, despite some of the pain it contains too.

I am blessed, to have a family that contains so much love- my life was so enriched by my cousin’s presence and the years I got to overlap with him.

I made many steps in becoming the person I am in my now-finished relationship. As my roommate wisely pointed out tonight, when you make the decision to love someone, you choose to make them part of your life story, however long your time with them overlaps. They’re always written into your story, and you are the person you are in part because of them.

I chatted with a pro today (I was feeling a little freaked out after my insane- literally, insane- allergy medicine reaction last week) and she mentioned how she could see me benefiting from incorporating more mindfulness into my life. I told her about my resistance to the idea of making my mind completely blank. She said, why not just go for a walk, and for its first ten minutes, turn off everything else in your brain and choose to focus on what’s around you. The breeze, the chipmunks, and so on.

I took these pictures on some of my walks home from class the other week. Daffodils on every lawn, popping up seemingly overnight.


I despaired during my first spring in North Carolina- where are the crocuses?! I thought we were in the wrong climactic zone. Imagine my deep, deep joy when I saw these guys peeking up out of the dirt. Hello, spring. Hello, renewal. Hello, hope. Hello, change.

Bless you, dear little crocuses!




When I have a biochem test it is NO JOKE.

Thank God, we had a snow day just a few days before my last biochem test, which meant that we had a solid day to just devote to biochem. Since I am a benevolent person who wanted to host my classmates whose homes had no power, and since I am a slacker who has to have supervision to avoid watching Netflix all day, I invited over some study buddies!

I am a great hostess who makes her study buddies pancakes. (And I am a food addict who goes to buy buckwheat pancake mix when there is an impending snowstorm). I had mine with peanut butter and honey, and informed my friends it was BYOS (bring your own syrup).


And then there was lots of studying and lots of snacking. Dude, these kale chips were WEEEEEEIRD! I’ve actually eaten and loved chocolate kale chips before, because I think commercial kale chips are way more delicious than the homemade ones, probably because they have access to a dehydrator, which I do not. The main barrier I have to buying commercially produced kale chips- $$$!- was not an issue, as these were 75% off at Whole Foods. However, I really should’ve suspected why.

You know how I don’t want kale chips to taste? Creamy. They had this weird, unpleasant creamy residue in your mouth, which is something you really don’t want mixing with kale aftertaste. Anyway, most of us hated them but Camille, that lovable weirdo, liked them, so I sent them home with her, hahahaha.


Camille brought chocolate and almonds, yesss, so I was happy to share with her. Pictured below is also one of my billion cups of tea I drank and made for others that day.


And then I came along this delightful Krebs cycle mnemonic, which didn’t actually come in that useful on the diabolical test, but was amusing.


Now apparently I have a lot of pictures of the things I did to distract myself from studying biochem (on which I still spent probably… an average of four hours a day? during this time period) and to reward myself after biochem was done. After I escaped biochemlandia, if you will.

I have a Nutrition Buddy, a second year student who mentors me in the ins and outs and unwritten rules of our department. We got sushi together! So fun! At the strange little sushi place that opened recently. Their rolls are a little expensive but also HUGE. This one had baked salmon on top, and I forget what else. It was quite tasty.


That same weekend I had a nice romantic dinner with my lady friends, for which I neglected to photograph the food but for which I captured the ambience nicely 🙂


And then a BIG highlight- some friends and I went to see Andrea in an OPERA! Yes, my friend is an awesome, talented opera singer.


The view:


The performance was amazing. While the orchestra played the beautiful overture, the people on the stage were frozen in poses, the women wearing these beautiful red dresses. It was like a painting, and sort of eerie and beautiful.

And then, as if I didn’t love Andrea enough already, later in the week she introduced me to her sister’s awesome puppy!


And then a final delicious meal: I had a leisurely dinner with friends at Venable, a restaurant I”ve been wanting to try for a long time. Their house red wine is $5 and is SO SO SO GOOD. Unfortunately it’s only listed on the menu as “Rosso Veronese”, meaning wine from Verona. I’m on the hunt for it. Working to my advantage is that my friend works at Venable (and was actually our server!) so I’m going to interrogate her about it.

Also, totally out of character for me, I ate pig… But GOSH this croque monsieur was so good. It was local and pastured and all the good things one wants in their ham. And delicous. And the cheese and bechamel were glorious. (The ham was also really thick, which was hard to see in this picture, so I had leftovers). However, perhaps an even bigger highlight was the roasted veggies (carrots, parsnips, and rutabega) on the side. The vegetables were perfectly cooked- I tend to just roast mine with no preparation so they get all wrinkly (though they still taste good) but these had been blanched or something in advance so they were wonderfully tender. And perrrfectly seasoned.


And finally, a fun, simple, indulgent sandwich I made at home: grilled cheese and avocado. Cooked in coconut oil. Yummmm.


yummy silly fun theme parties

Right now I am, as the kids say, tripping balls on the allergy medicine I just started. Really hoping I feel better soon. [ETA: it’s the next day and I do feel better, probably because I went to bed at 9pm last night and discontinued the crappy meds. However, still feel loopy enough to’ve come up with this post’s silly title.]

In the meantime, here are some nice ramblings about some fun times I had around Valentine’s Day and the following week. With, you guessed it, yummy silly fun theme parties.

I cat sat for my cousin. Hobbes was not a fan of me (or the fact that he had just moved into a new house). He hid inside his little cat hut the whole time I was there, and I sort of feebly tried to reach through the hole and gingerly pet him.


My classmate is the most perfect human being in the world (you may remember her as the person who got me- who gets everyone in our class, for that matter a birthday cake, and the person who made everyone caramel apples for fall break). She made deliiiiicious almond fudge cups for Valentine’s Day.


But the best thing awaited me when I got home! I think suspecting that newly-dumped me would be a little blue, my mom and sister sent me a fabulous Valentine’s Day Harry and David gift package!


I mean REALLY. Their fabulous fabulous juicy sweet perfect spotless pears, two kinds of cheese (gouda and cheddar), pepper jelly, yummy little jam cookies, crackers, chocolate raspberry truffles. Mmm.


My roommate got us some flowers (she’s started buying flowers for herself now, since we both got sick of coming into the apartment, seeing a bouquet, and turning to the other to say, “So you two have been fighting, huh?”) They looked very pretty with the pears.


The highlight of Valentine’s Day, though, was celebrating the birth of my favorite puppy- Lochsie! As ever, all my pictures of her are a blur. She is just the craziest little blonde miniature daschund I know (and, er, the only).


Myra and Alex have custom-made coasters with mixtures of their puppy on them, hahahahahahahaha. This is her in her earlier in her life, before she started to look as daschund-y.


Lochsie’s best friend Charlie came, along with his humans. Watching them play is pretty great.

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In the food department, Myra and Alex are obsessed with their waffle iron, and I’d emailed Myra a list of things one can make in a waffle iron earlier in the week. So when I arrived at the party, I helped her finish one of the recipes listed- wonuts! With pretty pink frosting.


There were also veggies (including AWESOME homemade beet chips), and burgers and dogs.


The decor was very love-themed.


And in the cocktail department, whoo! They started with chambord…


… then a dose of cream


(Unpictured fizzy water), and whipped cream on top


And a fresh raspberry garnish! And adorable straws! How Pinterest-explosion-worthy is this?!


Lochsie got many ridiculous presents, including a giant tennis ball, and an automatic tennis ball launcher (the I-Fetch, hahahaha, unpictured). Watching babies and puppies play together is the best.


The baby is very into spoons and kitchen implements right now. She liked stirring the dog’s water.


Then, because Lochsie truly is Myra and Alex’s child, she got a PROSCUITTO BIRTHDAY CAKE.

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By this point in the proceedings, Charlie was so tired that we managed to get a hat on him! Adorable.


Then, as if that wasn’t enough fun, the following Saturday I went to another awesome get together! This time a birthday Bring Your Own Crepe Filling brunch with my classmates. Yay crepes! (Confession: I’m a little intimidated by making crepes, but love eating them!)


The drink department:


(Some of the) food department. I brought goat brie and fig jam for crepes 🙂 There were lots of fruity jammy yummy contributions.


She of the Valentine’s Day fudge cups above made quinoa-chia seed porridge scented with rose water. It was so different and good!


Here was my plate: a crepe with half dulce de leche and cinnamon apples, and half bananas and nutella. Plus some of the porridge, topped with fresh strawberries and pecans. PLUS, some OUTRAGEOUS french toast casserole.


Then Steph, our hostess, got to makin’ mimosas!


She says when she hosts parties she always ends up standing on a chair 🙂


I had a mimosa with unsweetened grapefruit juice which was yummy and different. I like my alcoholic beverages tart!


Then we went to visit the chickens. There’s a chicken bullying situation going on, which is sad yet interesting. She’s getting baby chicks early next month, and we’re going to have a little baby shower for them.


Then we had some nice birthday cakey for Colton (in that we took a piece of the french toast casserole and stuck a candle in it)


And then hung out laughing and chatting. Colton’s brother was visiting and he does MAGIC so that was fun. And inspired just absurd amounts of Arrested Development quoting, which in and of itself was funny since only four people at the party (myself included, natch) who had actually seen Arrested Development (the horror!) so we were all rolling on the floor laughing while everyone else sat around awkwardly wishing they were us!

Then we’d digested round 1, and our friends showed up with stupid good homemade waffles. It tasted a lot like someone had stuck pound cake batter in a waffle iron. Soooo buttery and crispy. And then Lesley, our classmate who went to culinary school, made us perfect scrambled eggs, with eggies from the chickens in the backyard! They were wonderful.


And now, as I recover from the jittery craziness/depression and so on, I’m finding myself craving a nice weekend waffle adventure.

reading the cards

It’s been wonderfully springtimey here and I have things on which to opine.


Let’s start with reading my Tarot cards!

Let me preface this by saying that I wouldn’t describe myself as *believing* in things like astrology and tarot, but I enjoy them. Foremost, I think that they can be really cool, interesting ways to connect with the people who do the interpreting, and that to me is their main value. And it’s fun! And just to keep the skeptics mad, I’ll note that my mom’s great aunt did astrology throughout her life and did the charts for both my sister and I when we were born (my mom has her letters saved in family photo albums). And she said that I would be a lifelong cat lover (haha!) and be interested in nutrition, and my sister would be sensitive and crave a sense of home, and be a writer. Very very true of both of us! And the reading below is pretty damn interesting too. Which is to say, WHO KNOWS!?

So my friend Andrea has a neat deck of legit Tarot cards, and she described them as a fun hybrid of ancient pagan symbols, signs of the zodiac, and early Christian symbols. This is the Celtic cross, one of the most common formats you lay out to read someone’s cards. When you’re looking to answer questions about someone’s life you both look at which cards appear (and note that I, as the person whose cards were being read, cut the deck) and in which positions of the Celtic cross they appear.

(sorry for the crappy picture, this is just to give you an idea of the layout)


There are four suits in the Tarot deck (as well as “major arcana”, essentially “face cards” that don’t belong to a suit), and the suits correspond to the elements of the earth. Andrea described this to me a little but I also did a bit more Internet research because I thought this stuff was fun!

Wands, my most commonly recurring suit, corresponds to fire and its qualities- heat, light, destructive yet regenerative, self perpetuating. Also involves creative energy, drive and ambition, passion.

Cups corresponds to water- water is vital to life and nourishing. It can be still or turbulent and destructive. It’s flexible, moving. Water is wrapped up in love, mind, body and spirit, and feelings.

Swords correspond to air- air can both be cleansing (wiping the slate clean) yet the interplay of hot and cold can result in winds that can be devastating. Air can be wet or dry. This suit is wrapped up in concepts of truth, clarity, ideas, justice, and mental strength.

Pentacles (the stars) correspond to the element of Earth- holds water and can sustain fire. stabilizing. growth, beginning stages of something tangible, material abundance, new enterprise, improving wealth

Now, for my specific reading. You can approach a reading with a particular question- I kept it general and asked how my next few months would be.


The first card laid down is person in question- in this case me! The king of wands has will/determination, is dynamic, confident and high in mental energy (all the good qualities of fire, which corresponds to wands, remember?)


Overlaid over the first card the challenge/situation at hand- the 2 of wands. The lower numbers in a suit represent the poorer attributes of that suit’s corresponding element. So Andrea read this as the negatives of fire: control, domination over another, a willful vision of things, dissatisfaction. Perhaps there had been an influence in my life, from myself or others, pressuring me to be a certain way.

She also talked about how this and other things about the arrangement of my cards implies that I’ve been guilty of too much navel gazing and being too much in my head, and the way to get out of this is through being a positive fiery force, full of energy and action.


The recent past- yikes! I’ve kept it no secret on my blog that the recent past has been crazy and stressful and this card calls it pretty perfectly. I don’t really need to explain the tower- it symbolizes sudden and unexpected upheaval.


I read a number of interpretations for the position on the right. The future/best outcome/present state of things/current resolution or lack thereof. Flux, I’d call it! So the moon symbolizes dreams but also nightmares, hidden things, mystery, confusion. This is funny given I have had a LOT of sleep disturbances lately! And also have been feeling a sense of mystery about the meaning of life/why terrible things happen to good people/etc.

I also just want to note I think this card looks really cool and it’s fun to think about all the attributes of the moon and how they can be human attributes as well. I also want to note that this is the first of many highly female symbols, which is apt since I’ve been all about the female energy lately (girlfriends, mother, sister… even the cat is a girl)


Above- this position symbolizes my goal, the possible/best outcome of the question, and a more short term outlook. Totally dig this Temperance card- it’s all about harmony, balance, and moderation. I will note that this is the closest thing to my star sign- I’m a Libra!


Below- this position is all about someone’s foundation, their subconscious realm- underlying feelings and trends. I got this card upside down, which is significant and is called a reversal. A reversal of the 5 of pentacles signifies coming out of a dark period, small gains, turn for the better. Sweet! Andrea and I talked about the interplay of gender, and how this could be a paternal deprivation card, and all the other strong female energy cards I have are in the opposite, nourishing spirit.


This next position in the Celtic cross had a lot of potential meanings listed! It can mean advice and recommendations from outside influences, or factors affecting the situation (which is a little vague to me). Anyway, this is another super grim looking card! The 10 of swords- ruin, feeling broken, sudden ending, grief, negative outcome. Yes, the outside world has been kind of intense lately.


Andrea talked about this position being how you’re observed by others, whereas the Internet said it was about external influences too, or the environment. Anyway, another awesome female energy card! This is the queen of pentacles- she’s a Mother Earth type. This card is all about self nurture. It’s cool if this does symbolize my surrounding environment, because as this blog tries to highlight, my neck of the woods is reallll crunchy. Andrea also pointed out that right now the work I do for one of my professors is a study that’s all about supporting mothers and babies, so I think this card is wrapped up in that too.

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For some reason I forgot to take a picture of this card at Andrea’s, but I found it online! This position is all about hopes and fears. The 4 of wands symbolizes initial success, first stage of completion, progression, setting up a new home. I certainly feel as though I’ve been doing this in a figurative, if not literal sense. And of course a new home can symbolize a fresh start but also the loss of the comfortable and familiar.


The last position is a long term outcome- where the situation is headed, how the issue will be resolved. This card was another inversion, the upside down 7 of cups. If you look at it right side up (Just stand on your head in front of your computer! I’ll wait :D) there are all this gold cups, but if you look inside them they have snakes and other nasty dangerous things. So if this were upside up, this would be about deceit, but since it’s an inversion, it’s about seeing through lies, making up my mind, uncovering ill intentions, and foremost- recovery!

So that’s a bit of kookiness for your Monday!

So last week was my Spring Break. I went home for a few days. We had a memorial service for my cousin- in the Greek tradition, you do a memorial for someone who has died at seven days later, 40 days later, and a year later. My mother points out, aptly, that you’re in a different phase of your feelings at each of those times. Anyway, it was good to all be together.

Also, we all had a meal afterwords at my sister’s godparents’ house, and they got a ridiculous amount of dessert (God bless my family). And we got to take most of them home after my sister was ruled the dessert appointer and everyone else refused these beautiful tarts!

I mean my God, we had three kinds of tarts in our fridge. Ridiculous.


I spent my remaining time at home cultivating my wellness (including a mental health refresher with my old shrink, yaaaay!) and bonding with my favorite ladies. Long walks with my mom, Zumba with my sister, and morning snuggles with Sheila.


More soon!


I made a big deal at the beginning of last semester about writing weekly updates. The idea was that I could look back and fondly reminisce about my grad school experience, and have an area where I had noted the new information I’d learned that really stuck out to me as important.

However, the inevitable craziness of grad school prevented that sort of meaningful reflection on a weekly basis. So instead I’m hoping to reflect on the semester as a whole. To that end, I took:

1. Nutrition through the Lifespan!

In case you couldn’t tell, this was probably my favorite class, thanks to getting to learn about MAMAS and BABIES.  (Also children, adolescents, and older adults, but what I really dug was MAMAS AND BABIES!)


Yeah son, that’s a placenta! Yeah it is awesome! If you want to learn more about how cool placentas are, watch this awesome Khan academy video.

This semester I’m working on a really cool project for one of the professors who taught that class- it’s all about mamas and babies, my favorite! It’s the Pregnancy Eating Attributes Study (PEAS!) So far, most of my responsibility has been calling pregnant women and reminding them to fill out their surveys- if possible, actually filling out their surveys for them. They are so, so happy and so, so nauseous. Bless them.

2. Nutrition Counseling, Communication and Culture

Key points I got were:

– 1 in 5 Americans are functionally illiterate! That means people across disciplines (not just in the nutrition and medical communities) need to get better at showing and not telling. We watched a really telling video from the American Medical Association about health literacy.
–  How to work with an interpreter (which is totally an art form)
– Cultural humility (a more advanced version of cultural competence)
– Motivational Interviewing, which is now my JAM! I already knew no one wanted unsolicited advice (ever. Don’t even bother.) but this included really helpful techniques for meeting people where they are and helping them make positive changes in their own lives, propelled by their own motivations. We used a lot of Molly Kellogg’s tips, some of which are listed here.
– Practice laws in North Carolina, which involved us learning about this craziness. (What that article doesn’t mention is that diabetics were arriving to Charlotte area hospitals with dangerously low blood sugar, and it turned out they were PAYING this guy for advice. Yeesh!)

3. Biostatistics… yeah. Not a lot to say about that one. Will note that Biostats and Epidemiology have both made me very very fond of the Spurious Correlations website.

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4. Health Behavior

Key thing: upstream matters a lot more than downstream. In other words, yelling at individual Americans about how they’re fat and lazy doesn’t do much to improve population level health. Despite the fact that we in America seem to love yelling at individual people and telling them to have willpower about any number of additional “failings” (poverty comes to mind). Instead, what helps for a healthier population (and thus a greater number of healthy individuals) is to make changes at the community, society, policy levels: ban smoking in public places, build neighborhoods with sidewalks and bike paths, give people a break on their insurance premiums for exercising, making sessions with dietitians affordable, etc.

5. Nutrition Policy Seminar

I took this class just for funsies! Some things we talked about included: school nutrition standards, GMOs, farm subsidies, food labels, and food waste, on which I’ll opine for a moment.

What sticks out to me is the HUGE amount of household food waste. It goes to show you, we think of restaurants as being so wasteful, throwing away anything leftover on our plates that we haven’t eaten, even if we don’t touch it, but we are so so so wasteful in our own homes! Our speaker noted that people speak promisingly about composting, but that’s not the best thing to do with food. Per the USDA, in descending order of efficiency, the best things to do to prevent food waste are:

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So now we’re caught up! Ish!

Now I’m working on:
– Epidemiology
– Environmental Health
– Health Policy Management
– Nutritional Biochemistry
– Medical Nutrition Therapy 1

So that last one: This semester, I’m taking my first (of two) Medical Nutrition Therapy class. MNT is the bread and butter, so to speak, of being a dietitian. You assess patients, give them a nutrition diagnosis, and work with them to make and implement an action plan to improve their nutritional status. Monitor, evaluate, then lather, rinse, repeat.

We recently learned something called the “9 Step Plan” which enables us to look at a patient’s needs for calories and protein (which we learn through calculations) and create a daily menu plan for them using the dietary exchanges (which were originally created for diabetics but are applicable to everyone- they’re actually the basis for the Weight Watchers points system).

Since I’d been at a funeral when we learned the Nine Step Method in class, my classmate Jenna was nice enough to give me an individual tutorial, so this is her (perfect) handwriting. This was a tall, fairly active man, so he got 2500 calories a day (sorry, ladies- you’d probably get less than this). As you can see, we opted to give this patient fairly standard macros: 50% of calories from carbohydrate, 20% from protein, and 30% from fat. If the person had a dietary condition, we may modify this.

First you convert calories from each of the macronutrients into grams (ex for this person, since he’s getting a 2500 calorie diet, he should get about 1250 calories of it from carbohydrates, which means about 313 grams)

Then you use the exchanges- there’s a pretty good explanation here. You first allot the patient’s servings of dairy (since that includes both carb, protein, and fat), then fruits and vegetables (to make sure they get lots of those healthy things!) then starch to fill in the remainder of the carbohydrate grams.

Then you count how many grams of protein you’ve included so much and add protein foods to make up the remainder (we did a mix of lean, medium and high fat proteins). Then you do the same thing with fats: count how many grams you’ve already given and give the amount of grams you have left with fat servings- preferably healthy ones like olive oil.


Then you spread out those servings across meals. This person just wanted three meals a day. You could also include them in snacks, obviously.


Another fun and educational thing we’ve done in MNT is use art to improve our clinical descriptive skills. It’s important to be able to accurately describe a patient’s appearance to others to better diagnose a patient. We’ve learned how to do anthropometric measurements (I can measure your tricep skinfold to assess body fat composition!) and how to use physical touch to assess for malnutrition (for example, when you run a finger along someone’s temple you should feel a toned muscle that gives resistance, rather than a squishy depression like a deflated balloon).

For an extra assignment, we went to the Ackland Museum of Art (on UNC’s campus) and split into groups. Each group was assigned a painting, and one person, the describer, looked at the painting and described it in as much detail as possible, and two other people, the drawers, stood with their back to the painting and did the best they could to recreate it.

My group was assigned this awesome Picasso.


And this is what I ended up drawing, based on the description of my excellent describer!


Obviously, I took a lot of notes. Keys seemed to be:

– Starting with a big picture. As humans we remember the things we hear first the best, and any details that we add on later are more meaningful if we know them in the context of the big picture. Just having our describer saying, “It’s a Picasso” let us know that we wouldn’t necessarily be creating something that followed the normal rules of what a face looked like.
– Using analogy skillfully (“Her ear looks like a figure 8” is very helpful. Another group had someone say, “Her earring looks like a Lego piece”.)
– Being consistent about right and left (ex, “I’ll be talking from the perspective of looking at the patient. Her nose is on my left.”) Our professor reminded us how many people get surgery on the wrong side of their body because of right/left mixups!
– Using absolute measurements rather than relative measurements of where things are (for example, “Her nose is on the left side of the outline of her head” rather than “Her eye is above her mouth”)
– Avoiding making assumptions. We were confused when our describer said our person was sitting in a rocking chair, since we thought the painting was just from the shoulders up- how could she know it was a rocking chair? It turned out she had inferred that from the shape of the chair’s back, but it messed us up. It goes to show you, that old adage about what happens when you assume is pretty valid…

So that’s some of what I’m doing right now! I’m leaving out some complaints of biochem-induced suffering, and perhaps I’ll do a separate post about making the most of the Affordable Care Act. And another separate post about measles and autism, since we read the- NOW RETRACTED- original Lancet article that started that whole sh**storm. Anything else that people would like to hear about life in the best public school of public health in America? (Note that even though they are listed first alphabetically, we are TIED with Harvard and cost about 1/3 as much. Cha-ching!)

the last reason you want to be home

I’m trying to intersperse silly posts with serious posts in this blog. It’s sort of a method I’m attempting in my own life too- I’m aiming for a mix of fun and distracting activities (playing with puppies, watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) versus digging into the grief activities (journaling, listening to Amy Winehouse). I seem to’ve hit this phase where I just get… sad around 12:30 every night and stay up late doing… nothing. (And eating carbs). I guess it’s serving some kind of purpose in my life right now?

Let’s rewind in time, when I was in the weird place when I knew my cousin was gone but hadn’t gone home for the funeral yet. (And knew I’d had a breakup but hadn’t had the We Are Never Ever Ever getting back together conversation).

My friends were great. A girl from my program treated me to lunch at the delicious Sandwhich. I got their lunch box!


The BEST TUNA SANDWICH I’ve ever had (line caught tuna, super fresh tuna salad made with lots of crunchy and flavorful veggies), a bowl of squash-potato-maple soup, chips (only had a few- more of a sugar than salt girl- but they were yummy and homemade), free little pickled carrots.




I did a lot of wandering around town. The deer in this place are just so unconcerned, eh?


On my rambles I often come upon Weaver Street Market and realize I haven’t eaten anything in nutritious (I went through a few days there where pouches of cookie dough played a big role, oy). So I get hot bar for my serving of produce.


From 9:00- shredded raw beet salad with cilantro (mm), roasted cauliflower, hummus, Mexican style beans, sautéed carrots and fennel and leek (mm), and super fresh and nice strawberries. Plus a lemon and lime Sweet Leaf (I always think about Austin when I drink Sweet Leaf, since they’re based there).


On the cooking front, lots of comfort food. Also cleaning out the fridge kinds of things. In this particular instance, I threw into the crockpot:

– Leftover whole grains that I’d made in bigger batches and thrown in the freezer (farro, steel cut oats)
– Leftover Pacific mushroom soup
– Leftover bottles of wine, hahaha.
– carrots


Ended up serving this with a mushroom gravy on top.

Then when it was Super Bowl Sunday, and I had no participation whatsoever in any football related activities, I decided I did want to experience the best of the Superbowl experience, which is of course dip.

I made a pretty healthy spinach dip (spinach, garlic, lotsa greek yogurt, dill, light jarlsberg cheese from trader joes) and ate it with wheat thins for dinner.


And of course, there always have to be days like this (getting refreshment at my favorite coffee shop)


Then I went home. Oy. I got to this picture and I took a break in writing this blog post. As I’m writing this now I’m getting ready to go home for Spring Break and actively reminding myself that home isn’t just a place i go to be sad, it’s also where everyone I love is. And that’s how it was going home for Chris’s funeral… everyone I loved was there. And the reason they were there was awful.

I (I say I, but really my mother, because I slept in the day of the funeral and woke up and she’d already made the dough!) made koulourakia, traditional Greek cookies.


It’s often nice to do something with your hands at time like these. And, inevitably, it makes me feel connected to my grandmother.


As I worked on the cookies, Sheila supervised. I guess my laptop case smells like me and this is an indication of love?


Then there was the funeral. Sigh. My uncle delivered the eulogy. Uncle of the cousin who passed away, but also father of a son who he had to bury a few years back. My family seems to’ve gotten an unfair quantity of tragedy. The uncle who delivered the eulogy talked about how there’s this cultural narrative that we’re supposed to get “closure” and move on after death, and how it’s fine to politely accept kind words from people urging you to do so, and then ignore them. When you lose someone you love, there’s a hole in your life in the shape of them and it doesn’t close, nor should it. Instead you try to see them and their spirit and how it persists. He mentioned the thought of driving along and seeing a young man in a truck, pulled over, patiently explaining to a cop how he was in the right, hahaha.

I went to yoga last week for the first time since all the craziness began, and had kind of an intense experience. We were done with the flow and going into shivasana, and the teacher came and did that wonderful thing where he cradles the base of your skull in his hands and gently stretches your neck, leaving you comfily lying down for the rest period of the class. And I think there was something about being touched in a healing, comforting way by another human being (and obviously my friends love me and stuff, but it’s different, when you end a relationship, than the kind of touch you get from a romantic partner) and something about the release of the tension in my body… I started crying. In yoga class. As one does.

I thought about the nature of matter and energy, and about what happens when someone you love dies. There’s all the love you had for them, and all the love they have for you, and… it just has to go somewhere, right? It can’t just disappear. It was comforting (and sad) for me to think about all the great things about Chris, all the people he cared about, all the good he did (and the potential for future good- does that go somewhere too?)

Anyway, it was a quick trip home, and a sad one, and I ended up getting a pretty bad headache the last night at home and extending my trip for one last night, leaving early the next day. I needed some calories and caffeine at a certain point in the trip, and stopped at Cracker Barrel for oatmeal and coffee.

And, whimsy interjection: I got it down to one nail on the first try! (Love this game).


Then my sweet classmate, the one who gets everyone birthday cake and made autumn caramel apples, heard about my troubles gave me the cutest card. Love the Nutrition department 🙂


friends with babies!

I have this amazing classmate who used to be an interior decorator. She hosted a baby shower for our other classmate (who has since given birth to a beautiful baby girl named Eleanor!) and it was at her absolutely exquisite house.

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Our other classmate is also pretty much perfect, and made this beeyoootiful cake.


(It was as delicious as it was beautiful- super almond-y. And MOIST MOIST! (Sorry.)


My contribution was the slice and bake cookies in the background there. Hah.

I also got the baby-to-be two books: a copy of Hop on Pop (a classic!) and one about wombats that I stumbled upon at the bookstore that was too cute not to get (title: Sometimes I Curl Up In a Ball, daww!)

This is Melissa’s freaking front path. It’s like a magic fairy land.


The glass beads sound musical when you walk on them. And seemed soft, somehow, despite what they were made of.


But then there was more baby fun! My friends’ baby Toula turned one.

The theme for the party was inspired because they found a small, fish-shaped, inflatable BABY BALL PIT on Amazon (whaa?!). So, behold, Under The Sea.


There were healthy snacks (the black bean salad and Israeli couscous salad were particularly nice) and of course cake. Haha man watching a kid get their first real whammy of refined sugar is kind of intense.

I WANT EVERYTHING EVER TO BE CAKE ALWAYS. She looked a little dazed by the end, and was just hunting around her high chair and bib for any last scrap.