Freakin’ out

Let’s talk about what’s ahead.

  • April 23- Comps.  AKA my masters comprehensive exam, in which I have to answer hella detailed questions about public health, medical nutrition therapy, epidemiology, and biochemistry. If I don’t pass every question, I don’t get my MPH (okay well fine there are make up opportunities but as you’ll see in the following things ahead, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THAT). I’ve been studying with a group for comps every Friday at 8 am for three hours (which is obviously so, so fun) but I’m scared. There is a LOT of material! And that is FOUR WEEKS FROM TODAY!
  • April 29th through May 2nd- Finals. Yes, one week after taking the One Exam To Rule Them All, I then have to take a bunch more exams. Also, May 1st is (Greek) Easter so I’ll basically take two exams on (Greek) Good Friday, hustle home and go to a bunch of church with my family, then after Easter frantically finish my last exam from home (which I’ll submit online May 2nd).
  • May 6th- proctoring the exam for the class for which I am a TA. After my time at home, my very very very brief break from school, I have to hustle back to NC and proctor an exam and then work on grading. Actually, I might have to come back even earlier than the 6th to lead a review session for the kiddos, ugh.
  • May 7th- THE NEXT DAY- move across the state! To live at the beach! In student housing (which will likely involve sharing a bedroom with someone, dorm style)! Because…
  • May 9th- start clinical internship! Yes, after a whopping not even one week to collect my thoughts after comps and finals, I’m starting my full time hospital-based internship, which will be for 12 weeks (through July 29th).
    Apparently hospital internships are legit- you’re essentially a full time dietitian without the formal RD yet. I’ll be doing rotations in a variety of departments. There are mandatory rotations that every dietetics student has to complete:  liver and gall bladder disease, acid base balance, pulmonary disease, surgery/GI, neurology/rehab, nutrition support/critical care (like prescribing tube feedings and IV feedings), and oncology and HIV/AIDS. The hospital may also include other rotations depending on their specialties (I’m hoping to get a peek into nutrition for pregnant mamas and babies).  I’m apprehensive about summer for many reasons- it’s hard work, being on your feet all day and treating people with lots of comorbidities (my classwork until now has been like “Let’s say a patient had diabetes” whereas in the real world it’s more like “Let’s say a patient has diabetes, hyperlipidemia, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, and arthritis”).
    My medical nutrition therapy classes (essentially “How to Take Care of People Using Nutrition”, the bread and butter of being a dietitian) seem very long ago. And we also had open book and open note tests, and while the real world is certainly open book and open note, I also don’t want to arrive at the hospital looking like an idiot who doesn’t know anything. So I’m trying to cram some stuff in and build myself a pocket guide of dietitian-y terms, disease states, lab tests, meds, etc.
  • June 5th (mid-internship)- Myra and Alex’s wedding. It will be awesomesauce, but it’ll also be a logistical challenge. It’s in Asheville, in the mountains, on the opposite side of the state from which I’ll be living, and on a Sunday. So I’ll have to take a day off. And uh I have no idea how that works with clinicals. Perhaps I’ll offer to work on the 4th of July? Or on a Saturday?
    Their wedding will be great. I keep telling myself. It’ll be great. Truthfully I’m apprehensive because my ex will be there and I haven’t seen him over the year and our last (email) interaction was quite unpleasant. And he’ll be there with his new girlf, because he uh… is never single. And right now my tentative date is my friend Colton, my “work wife” who I TA with. A friend date. (He has a boyfriend of his own, hahahaha). So it’ll be fun but it’ll be weird.
    Also, Myra and Alex are freaking out about their wedding and seem to spend a ton of time thinking about it. I want to be there as a helpful person (Myra asked if I could be the day-of contact person for the staff at the venue where they’re getting married- apparently this role is traditionally played by a wedding planner or wedding coordinator, but Myra and Alex are skipping that and I’m supposed to do it. Eesh!) But I’m also a little curious to see how it turns out, since people in Wedding Mode are so different than how they are the rest of the time. For example, they sent all the wedding guests a color scheme with a palette in which we are requested to dress x_x Of course, I had no clothing in those color families. But I think I found something today… anyway.
    Once I’m done with that I’ll make the trek from the mountains to the beach and dive back into clinicals!
  • July 29th- last day of clinicals
  • Immediately after July 29th- move! Yeah so Alli and I have hated our apartment’s management company for a long time. I think I have made fairly frequent references to this hatred on the ol’ blog. This year, we decided to bite the bullet and put up with the stress of moving. But our lease is up at the end of July. So we gotta figure something else out! I wonder if we can pull off just car moving since we’ll be staying in the same general vicinity… I know I can fit my desk, dining room chairs, my (disassembled) couch, and my beanbag in my trusty Camry with the huge backseat. I could probably wire the mattress and boxspring to the top. However, the kitchen table would likely present a problem… although I could probably take that apart too… anyway, we’ll see.
  • August 13th- Lydia’s wedding. My high school bestie is getting married and I am the maid of honor, huzzah! But she is getting married in Chicago, so I have to hustle out there and figure out accommodations and such. Also, since this is going to be my first break in QUITE some time, as you can see, I am toying with the idea of doing some cool Independent Woman Travel Adventure type thing. Perhaps a road trip. But what is worth seeing between North Carolina and Chicago? Frankly, it doesn’t seem like much.
  • August 23rd. – begin my advanced internship… somewhere! Slash also write my master’s paper about… something! I have until December… somethingth… to do these activities! They have yet to announce our graduation date, so I’m not sure exactly what day in December!
    Was that a messy couple of sentences? That’s because everything about this time period is SUPER UP IN THE AIR! Let me explain.
    In the fall semester, I am supposed to spend 10 weeks (total) doing an advanced internship. The advanced internship can literally be anything in the field of nutrition and public health, as long as my preceptor is a registered dietitian. I am floating around some ideas (and working with one of my professors) to narrow down what I’m doing and where. My current goals are twofold: 1. To build my professional network in North Carolina (since I love it here- aside from the psycho state level politics, on which I’ll comment at some point in time- and want to remain living here), and 2. To build my skills working with mamas and babies, because those are the populations I get really excited about helping.
    So ten weeks is obviously not a whole semester. What most people do is start their internship when everyone else in the school starts their first day of class, then finish around Halloween. However, should I need or desire to, I can start my internship earlier (as early as the beginning of August), start it later (as late as 10 weeks before graduation, I guess), or break it up into multiple chunks that total ten weeks.
    But if I follow the usual schedule, I’d finish my internship at the end of October and then spend November writing my master’s paper. Which can also be about anything, basically. More freedom, but more uncertainty! Some students have created business plans, some have written grant applications, some have done case studies of patients or patient populations, some have done meta-analysis research papers, some have written cookbooks, etc. etc. While I have some vague ideas about my advanced internship, I have NO IDEA about my master’s paper!
  • September 2nd- my cousin’s baby is due! This is the one thing on the list about which I am 100% unreservedly excited and unafraid (well of course I am unafraid, I don’t have to push a human being out of anything).
  • December- graduate!
  • January- take the RD exam! Get a job! BE A SUCCESSFUL ADULT!

I think sometimes I paint a really rosy picture of my life on this blog. Here’s the truth about where I am in my life right now: freaked out!

This week in particular has been kind of a parade of mood swings. As I write this Saturday night, I’m in a pretty good place mentally. I just fed a cute fat cat whose human is out of town. I’ve been invited to my friend’s house to eat cake and watch the West Wing (uh, DUH I WANT TO DO THAT). My soul sister, Andrea, who’s now off singing opera in New York City, came down for a visit and we had an epic Power Woman Summit at a coffee shop. Talking about our professional goals, how we’re building ourselves up and expanding our emotional intelligence and learning about ourselves and trying to do big important things in the world. I’m like a plant that’s been watered.

But earlier this week, man? I was walking through the halls of campus feeling perpetually on the verge of an anxiety attack. Grinding my teeth. Studying at coffee shops fantasizing about going up and punching the people chatting loudly around their tables because DON’T THEY KNOW COFFEE SHOPS ARE FOR QUIET ACADEMIC WORK?!

And I will confess that while the academic pressures above are (clearly) no laughing matter, I would add that there had been a rosy glow to the earlier part of the semester because I had a crush and I was excited about it… and then earlier this week I was thinking that things with that person were tanking. And the rosy glow I’d been feeling crashed and burned. If you had asked me at the beginning of this week whether things were going to work out with the dude with whom I’ve been hanging out recently, I’d say 97% no. Now I’d say it’s 50-50 even odds (he, uh, was the person whose cute fat cat I was minding).

But I was APPALLED with myself for quite how UPSET I was over my perceived romantic failure. Really really depressed! I recall being much more functional when I split up with my boyfriend of four years! But some of my best lady friends talked me down with wise words. Alli pointed out that this was the first person I’d really gotten excited about since my dramatic breakup, and that meant that my feelings about him represent a lot to me, even though the relationship itself wasn’t serious. Andrea noted that when a long term relationship ends in a tough way (as things did for me and the ex), in many ways you find yourself realizing that you’d been mourning for the relationship’s death while it was still happening, and once it’s officially ended there’s some relief. Whereas when something ends and you’ve been in the fun, exciting early part you’re not relieved! You don’t have a long list of things that annoy you about that person to turn to! You haven’t discovered them yet!

Anyway, I don’t know where it’s going and don’t really want to jinx things on the Internet. While if I were being my most strong Beyonce-like self I would’ve gone “Ugh, screw this! I don’t want to deal with a guy who turns down opportunities to hang out with me! Dudes should be begging me to date them!” I’ve decided that part of beating perfectionism is giving yourself some grace in your interpersonal relationships.

I now have realistic expectations about how things are going with this dude. What I can get (intellectually satisfying conversation, amusing stream of consciousness text messages, the company of his cat) and what I can’t get  (he is super antisocial and I likely will not see him terribly frequently, we will not have feelings talks). It’s refreshing for me to be with someone who has his own friends and inner life and isn’t reliant on a female partner for happiness and fulfillment. It’s also nice to be with someone who’s not interested in me doing my thing of psychoanalyzing/trying to be the therapist of the dudes in my life. Also, frankly, for the moment I’m not meeting anyone else and not really on a hunt for a soul mate, so why not spend some time with someone instead of no time with no one? (I know that last bit is a double negative but you know what I mean) (Also, I realize this paragraph has made this sound like a sketchy hookup situation, and it’s not. Chiefly because we are not hooking up!)

I seem to have written more than 2000 words of largely word vomit. The points I was attempting to make with this post are:

  • Grad school is no joke.
  • My mood has been sort of dramatic lately and I’m thankful for the support I have gotten from female friends.
  • Argh, boyyyyyyyyys. Amirite?
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more weekending

So the other weekend I astonished my classmates and actually went out.

I had just chopped off my hair (the story of me and hair: I ignore my hair for 4-9 months at a time, then look in the mirror and go “Oh my God I hate my hair”, then chop off a bunch of it as soon as possible).

I was also going to 90s Night (!!!) so I figured I’d wear a black dress and try to channel Posh Spice.

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I met my friend Camille at her place before we all went out to drink wine and eat food and get in the 90s music spirit 🙂

Her… aunt? uncle? I feel guilty for not remembering… her family member is a glass blower and made this beautiful cup!

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Another angle (plus ankle boots)

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I brought these foodstuffs:

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Vegan banana bread (which other people noshed on and I think did a world of good in hangover prevention), classy artichokes, and kale salad with ginger miso dressing.

Camille, along with the wine, supplied the main course, which was a super yummy seafood veggie chowder.

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Then the whole gang came together for a very excellent evening. We were going to Cats Cradle, which is an old and semi-legendary music venue. I felt sort of silly going there for the first time just to listen to DJs play 90s music. But, who would turn down 90s night?!

We assigned Colton, one of Camille’s housemates, to take a picture of all of us decked out (apparently the 90s dress code was black, black and black) and of the dozens he took using Sam’s phone, Sam opted to post this one on the Internet, hahahahahahaha. She’s the one sneering on the left.

90s night

Then we danced and danced and danced and danced. I was a little nervous at the beginning of the evening (the event started at 9, we arrived around 10) because the guys who were DJing at first were playing hipster nonsense and didn’t even appear to’ve been born until the early 2000s. Gross.

But then they played Say it Aint So and from that point in the evening things were simply splendid. Spice Girls happened. Will Smith happened. Third Eye Blind happened.

Other than the wine I’d enjoyed with dinner, I did not imbibe for the evening. After all, I experienced the 90s sober once before and had a great time.

Anyway, I struggled to stay on top of hydration as it was with little alcohol in my system. At certain points in the evening, I was sweating to such a great extent that I appeared to have recently been in a pool. When they played crappy songs (infrequently though it happened) I pounded water.

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It was great. Dancing with your girlfriends in the best. Boys are high maintenance when you go out dancing. They invade your personal space. Their fragile egos require that you pay constant attention to them. You always have to mind their level of sobriety and hydration.

Being out with the ladies, I just danced and danced!

Funny generational thing though: there is a HUGE difference in going out dancing with a bunch of grad students than going out with a bunch of undergrads. We saw this awkward couple of 18 year olds making out on the dance floor like they were trying to swallow each other’s faces (ewwww) and then one of the girls who met up with us went, “Oh my God, that guy’s my student!”

hahahahahah.

Anyway, we stayed out late but not too late, and I woke up feeling good.

Then the next afternoon was also something fun and excellent! My sweet cousin Sophia treated my sister and me to a cooking class at the always incredible Southern Season. My aunt Michele, Sophia’s mama, was in town, and her mother in law also tagged along. It was quite the family affair.

It was more of a cooking demo than a hands on class- so essentially watching a jolly Southern woman cook and having delicious footstuffs hand delivered to me. Not too shabby!

We started with a drink and a lagniappe (apparently a Louisiana term for a little something something on the side. My sister went to school in New Orleans and has yet to fully figure out what lagniappe means). Anyway, the lagniappe, whatever that is, was a thyme shortbread and was REALLY yummy.

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And the drink was mulled wine. It was funny, because the weather outside was lovely, but the prearranged menu was comfort food to eat by the fireplace. But of course there is never a bad day for mulled wine.

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Also, since my cousin is preggers (hurray! She just found out it’s a boy!) she didn’t have the wine and passed her portion to me and Malindi. Sweet 🙂

The entree was probably the best fish I have ever tasted in my entire life. It was snapper (which I always love) but it was cooked PERFECTLY and was in this unbelievably decadent red wine sauce that had been seasoned with ham hocks. I repeat- BEST!

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Then there were buttery grits. Well, quite frankly, more like grits-y butter. They were SO GOOD and creamy. Those mushroom bits on top were basically the only vegetable component of this meal x_x but they were real good!

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There’s something beautiful that even the most highly trained chef struggles with the food processor. They are such moody pieces of crap that inevitably cease to work when one tiny stupid plastic bit breaks.

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But she persevered and made the pastry crust by hand. Ohhhh yes.

That resulted in this dessert. Oh Lord.

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A shortbready crust topped with homemade caramel, milk chocolate ganache, and nuts. Like a candy bar on steroids. Just heavenly.

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So life was happy happy joy joy and I went, “Okay self, now it’s time to take a break from the fun times and get serious about studying for midterms!”

And then my immune system LAUGHED UPROARIOUSLY.

And before I knew it I was in student health getting tested for strep. Where, if it is suspected you could have strep, they make you wear a RIDICULOUS mask. Like, I have no future playing a charming surgeon on TV.

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It turned out not to be strep but I felt *quite* awful for *quite* awhile. Which was *quite* unfortunate since I’m 1. a grownup and no one is going to do things for me and 2. in grad school with demanding midterms that were not going to be postponed.

I did my best. I got this HIGHLY revitalizing soup at my favorite sushi place.

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I got it for the vegetables- to hold off scurvy- and the broth. The broth was greatly enhanced by this amazing thing they brought me:

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Where have I been?! I want to consume this stuff forever! The adorable lady who owns the place (my roomie and I are both buds with her and she has an adorable baby who’s there a lot) sent me home with a little sample of it.

So soup was pretty much the highlight of my school week. Mostly suffering and studying. Then on that following Friday I kind of just said screw it and hung out with my friends. And a lobster.

My friend Steph is a Boston native and loves her some lobster, so she planned a lobster night!

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She is wearing a lovely princess tiara in this photo because she had just gotten her wedding dress in the mail, having ordered it from China online (!!!) and it had come with a complimentary tiara (!!!!!!!)

Jaclyn had us over to her place. We obviously had to use this as an opportunity to see how her dog would react to a lobster.

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Jaclyn made SUPER yummy (unpictured cause I was too busy eating them) imitation Red Lobster cheesy biscuits. She also made these delicious roasted veggies (the kale with coconut was ridiculously good)

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And because the only lobsters in town anywhere (at the Chinese market, it turned out) were a whopping three pounds at the smallest, we ended up splitting just one and it was still a huge amount of meat (TWSS).

Dunked in butter, obviously. Nutrition students, that’s us.

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Oh and then we decided to try putting the tiara on the dog.

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It went about how you would expect

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I spent the rest of the weekend studying studying studying. And rewarded myself, as has become my habit when in a biochem frenzy, with a super gooey and amazing grilled cheese sandwich at Looking Glass. If you have to study late into a Saturday night, you need something to take away the sting of that. (Jaclyn, who met me there, opted for a beer :D)

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the latest food science

This post catalogues two very different weeks in my always-memorable food science lab.

The first week, after a lonnnnnnnng lecture on food safety and various governing bodies addressing food safety, we tackled poultry in the lab. (Frankly, learning about campylobacter and salmonella did not make me particularly enthused to take on this process).

My group made chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. I opted to peel the garlic cloves- I find smashing and peeling to be calming and contemplative, though it’s no joke when you’re tackling four heads of garlic. Sticky fingers!

Here’s a midway progress shot:

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And the final product. I’ve heard raves about chicken with 40 cloves of garlic but I thought this was just okay (and I love me some garlic).

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Another group made this BEAUTIFUL chicken and rice dish.

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I was so impressed! A twist on arroz con pollo. It looked like paella, but was less complicated. Also, I just really love olives and don’t cook with them enough.

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One group made oven baked buffalo wings that made everyone lose their minds. Plus a dipping sauce on the side (which was not quite bleu cheesy enough). Aren’t they beautifully plated?!

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Someone reaching in for a nom. I think these were the crowd favorite.

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Poor Nate- as the class’s sole pescetarian this wasn’t a fun week for him. His group sneakily made him some potatoes so he could at least enjoy the dipping sauce and garnishes.

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One group made shepherd’s pie, using ground turkey in the filling and opting for edamame instead of peas to up the protein content. I found it most noteworthy for its BEAUTIFULLY crosshatched topping.

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And the last group took way longer than the rest because they were making a fancy shmancy Rick Bayless recipe. Roasting poblano peppers and so on.

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The final product was this stack of yumminess.

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It was creamy cheesy chickeny corny goodness.

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So that’s chicken week.

The following week, cake week, was ridiculous for a number of reasons.

Ridiculous: Our professor brought us cookies. Which I know seems nice, but we were about to make five cakes!

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Ridiculous: Our not at all healthy materials for a nutrition class:

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Our teacher went a little haywire about demanding everyone’s mise en place was perfect before beginning any baking, so we got to work.

My group was making a banana skillet cake.

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This group assembled things for a buttermilk cake with marmalade filling…

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And the red velvet group made a food coloring mixture that looked like toxic waste…

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Everyone was being all adorable. Pan greasing!

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Hazelnut peeling!

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Butter chopping!

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Ridiculous: all these lovely people making cake. Seems like such a joyful, experimental day, right? Yet somehow, our professor made two people cry (that I know of!) during this portion of the class. Whattttttt?! (She is a little bit crazy and mercurial).

Our cake was among the first to finish- it was relatively straightforward. No egg separating and things. Into the skillet it went.

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Then out. On the right there is the bittersweet chocolate sauce that went with the cake.

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We put Taylor in charge of decorating.

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I thought it looked BEAUTIFUL and delish!

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Ridiculous: Our professor came up and went “Ooh, loosey goosey.” And then said loosey goosey a lot. I guess that was her way of calling this cake a hot mess?

Whatever, it was beautiful. And I want to a cooking class the following weekend led by a professional chef (which I’ll blog about in a bit!) and that chef topped the tart she made in an identically “loosey goosey” fashion. So there!

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I want you to imagine what the room was smelling like at this point.. five groups making five cakes. There was lots of torture like this, waiting for things to cool:

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Ridiculous: the color of these cupcakes.

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They were among the softest, springiest cupcakes I have ever beheld.

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Ridiculous: our professor immensely penalizes us if we turn in any work with typos. Which, fine, we’re in grad school. However, her recipes are riddled with errors and missing information. Ahem.

My friend innocently started melting her chocolate and cream into a ganache because the recipe made it sound like you did that while the cake was baking. Right?!

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Apparently not, since this induced another freak out from our professor. Let the record state, the ganache was a success.

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The next portion of class consisted of a decorating frenzy.

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Nate and Claire really went for it with their coconut cake. Fancy spatulas and so on.

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Then coconut sprinkling…

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Wrapping icing all around…

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Flinging coconut onto the sides!

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So beautiful.

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I also had to walk past this softening strawberries situation a few times.

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We were finally in business! Cupcakes were frosted.

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Fillings and glazes were complete.

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Completed cakes were laid out for admiration….

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At this point there was a bit of a lull.

Waiting for one last group’s cake to finish cooling so they could get to the decorating phase.

Certain nutrition students may have stood around eating extra icing out of bowls… this class is SUPER WEIRD, DUDE.

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Just as the last group wrapped things up and it seemed we were about to get to dig in… frantic text messages started arriving from the National Weather Service! UNC sent us ALL CAPS alerts! Sirens started wailing! My professor got even more hysterical than usual!

Ridiculous: due to a tornado warning, we then spent the next HOUR AND A HALF crammed into a VERY SMALL BASEMENT with 150 OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH STUDENTS, FACULTY AND STAFF.

It was a little exhausting.

Then, thank God, we got to come upstairs and eat cake.

Here’s that last one:

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Ridiculous: I didn’t actually eat that much.

As I am watching the sugar, I packaged up my portion of cake servings in a Tupperware and delivered them to the boy later that day (the way to a man’s heart, eh?). I had a few tastes of things for the purposes of filling out my tasting sheet and called it a day.

But I made a plate for Helena who was too ill with a virus to expose the cooking to her germs but who was healthy enough to stay on campus and study and then join us for the tasting portion.

And she graciously posed with her lovely plate!

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From the top, that’s coconut cake (milk in the batter, flakes in the frosting, swoon!), hazelnut torte with strawberries and cream, banana skillet cake with bittersweet chocolate topping, buttermilk cake with marmalade filling and chocolate ganache, and red velvet with cream cheese frosting in the middle.

Ridiculous: yes, I am in nutrition school.