8.03.2015

Top 3 | Summer Coffee

I believe strongly in keeping things seasonal. Weather, clothes, activities...there is a time for everything. Even coffee. In fall you have your pumpkin and cinnamon, in winter the peppermint and caramel but in summer it's all about the sugar. Kidding. Sorta. 

Now, I like my frappuccinos as much as the next guy but they did not rank in the top three coffees of summer...sorry and please don't hate me frappi fans! These three made it because they are simple, unique, completley delicous and, of course, scream pool side sipping. Over the summer months I typically start the day with a hot coffee (French press or espresso with a little half and half), have an iced coffee in the late morning, one of the first two coffees below in the afternoon and a black espresso after dinner. 

Coffee Concentrate
The name does not begin to explain the delight of this drink but, for lack of a better name, coffee concentrate it is. This recipe originated from a really amazing coffee icecream recipe. So it's pretty much like drinking icecream. How cool is that? In a sauce pan combine 1.5 cups very finely ground coffee, 1 cup sugar, 4 cups milk, 4 cups half and half and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Heat on your stove's lowest setting being very careful not to boil until the milk starts to steam. Remove from heat and let sit until cool. Strain and chill in fridge. Serve over LOTS of ice. Alternatively, you can blend with a few icecubes and serve with whipped cream for a more frappuccion esque drink. I shutter to think what the calorie count of this might be. But because it's so rich I only drink a very small serving and try to limit myself to one of two cups a week...depending on my self control. 

Coffee Cocktail 
Breakfast + coffee cocktail + poolside = little bit of paradise.  In a cocktail shaker, shake for 1-2 miutes 2 parts very strong iced coffee to 1 part vanilla syrup (I like Starbucks vanilla syrup). Serve over ice. If you do it right, there will be a nice thick layer of foam and your arm will be sore for several days. Take a few ibuprofen and deal with it because it's so worth it!

Cold Brew
I know, I know. I'm two years late on the cold brew trend. In my defense, Starbucks just hopped on the cold brew wagon so it's not completely blase yet. For this recipe you've gotta start with a really good coffee bean. My family loves The Bean Coffee Company's organic coffees. (And, yes, we do buy the five pound bag.) To 1 gallon of cold water add 4 cups finely ground coffee and let set 12 hours. Strain through a reusable coffee filter (we've used this one for years), chill and enjoy over ice. (I like mine in a straw cup with a splash of half and half.) 

How are you drinking coffee this summer? 

7.29.2015

Currently Reading | JULY


The other day I was  wondering why I started writing these posts. I really can't remember why but I'm so pleased at sticking to it for three months I'm going to keep going through the summer. I Love (with a capital L) reading list posts AND having the opportunity every month to beg for book suggestions is awesome. So here goes!

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman 
Yes, I read parenting books for fun. Don't judge. Human growth and development is amazing.  I love kids but, quite frankly, there are some kids who are so incredibly aggravating they make me want to go out and have my tubes tied. HOWEVER. I believe it is bad parenting that makes bad kids...and likewise good parenting makes good kids. I picked up this book on a whim because the cover was cute, it was a parenting book I had not yet read and the first chapter title was awesome (French Kids Don't Throw Food). Basically reading this book was like hearing my mom give one of her how-to parenting talks. It's a fairly short book but took me forever to get through because if my mom was in the room every few paragraphs I would stop to read her a section with a "Hey, mom this sounds just like you!" And then we would have a long talk about such-and-such aspect of parenting. Which was awesome. While living in Paris Pamela Druckersman, an American journalist, noticed a stark difference between French and American children. Not only were French children better behaved they were happier and their parents less harried. This book, topic by topic (sleeping through the night, eating, discipline, etc.), examines the differences between French and American parenting...and reveals how superior the French philosophy of parenting is. I love how every aspect is really just basic common sense. And I love the idea of definite boundaries and freedom within boundaries for a happier, content, self controlled child. There are a few things I don't agree with (I'm not convinced daycare is the best option for every child) but overall this book is a wonderful, practical manual. 

What Patients Taught Me: A Medical Student's Journey by Audrey Young 
My obsession with medical memoirs is great. I've collected this hugely long list of "doctor books" I've read. Maybe I'll post it someday. What Patients Taught Me is an eye-opening glimpse into rural medicine. Audrey Young chronicles her years through medical school rotations in rural northwest settings with little to no health care. Always having lived in the doctor-saturated northeast, the idea of not doctors or hospitals for hundred of miles is completely foreign. But there are MANY ares in our own US of A where people must travel several hours for medical attention. All I can say is, it takes a special type of person to practice in such a setting and those who do have my admiration.

The House of God by Samuel Shem
Basically EVERY pre-med reading list includes this book as one of the great medical classics. My list does not.  If I could sum up this book in three words they would be: sexist, racist and unbearable cynical. (Adjectives don't count.) Usually I will stick with a book, no matter how crummy, until the end just because I really hate NOT finishing a book. But I just could not stomach The House of God. I read the first three (maybe?) chapters before returning it to the library. So yeah...medical classic or not, not my kinda book.

The Dark Vineyard, Black Diamond and The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker
Apparently, there is a French theme this month. Interesting, since I've never been particularly interested in France. The next three book in the Bruno, Chief of Police series. All three hold true to the charming feel of the first book. I love how each centers on a different industry of the French countryside (wine, truffles and Foi gras) and how much I have learned about various French foods. The mysteries themselves are predictable. Don't read for a Sherlock Holmes quality of sleuthing. These are books you read for the atmosphere.

Aunt Dimity's Good Deed by Nancy Atherton 
My mom got me started on this series last summer. At first I was a little hesitant because of the series title...Aunt Dimity: Paranormal Detective...I'm really not into the paranormal. But, as it turns out, that is a very small portion of the books (the main character communicates with her dead aunt through a journal...more fairy godmother than ghost). The setting is cozy (English cottage) and the mysteries are not your typical mystery. Basically, ideal summer reading when you want to give your brain a snooze.

Everything I Learned in Medical School: Besides All the Book Stuff by Sujay Kansagra 
Judging by the unprofessional cover (I think it was self published), my expectations were low for this book. But it turned out to be a delightful read. The writing itself is less than perfect. But I very much appreciate the author's upbeat attitude and storytelling. It's kinda like reading a blog. A collection of short stories, each highlighting a lesson the author learned in medical school. Not necessarily earth shattering but fun and informative for anyone interested in medicine. 

Well, that was rather wordy...now it's your turn! What are you currently reading? 

7.02.2015

Does Running for a Cause Make a Difference?

In May I had the pleasure of participating in the second annual Race for Respect, a 5k run for Down Syndrome advocacy right here in the heart of old D.C. The race was pretty near perfect, from the weather to the scenery to the amazing people who ran on Henry's team. And I'm glad I ran. But I'm going to be honest, there were many days whilst trudging my flabby, winter body up hills when I wondered, "Why the heck am I doing this?"

Charity runs are awesome. But you have to ask, do they make any real difference? Obviously, evidenced by the fact that I did drag the aforementioned body through training, I believe
they do. In more ways then one...

Financial - Now I realize in most cases, after overhead, very little of the entrance fee will go toward helping people with Down Syndrome. But some will. And I believe wholeheartedly in the amazing work of the organizations who host Race for Respect and am always happy for the chance to support their work. In addition to providing community support, information and resources for people with Down Syndrome and their families, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (our local group), DSNMC, CDSPG, DSAGR, DSANV, DSASM, PODS of PGC and DSC grant scholarships to people with Down Syndrome and student going into professions that benefit people with disabilities, help families with medical expenses, advocates for legislation that will improve the quality of life for individuals with Down Syndrome and other disabilities (such as the ABLE act, laws prohibiting abortion based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome and laws creating nondiscrimination in access to anatomical gifts and organ transplantation) and much more. At the race I was encouraged when I was introduced to a father of a sweet three year old boy. He shared of attending a Buddy Walk (hosted throughout the region by the above groups and across the country by many others!) when his wife was 20 weeks pregnant with their son and they had just received a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. He said seeing the families of children with Down Syndrome made him realize they were just normal families and reassured him that he, too, could do this. That is awesome and totally worth it.

Making a Statement - You can chose to look when you see the employee at the grocery store/child on the playground/young person at school with Down Syndrome. But you can't ignore 600 people running down Pennsylvania Avenue. When you run for a cause you make a statement to which people must listen. Before Addison was born I did not know anyone with Down Syndrome (now I realize how sad that was!) and I think there are many people outside the Down Syndrome community who can say the same. Events such as Race for Respect and Buddy Walks are a wonderful chance for the general community to get to know people with Down Syndrome and their families! Guys, once you can put a face on the diagnosis it makes the citizen casting their ballot/mother considering aborting their child with Down Syndrome/person mocking people with disabilities rethink their actions. We need to show the world what their missing!

Better You, Better World - Running is physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. So is being Addison's sister. Running is hard. Being Addison sister is even harder. But it is worth it. And if I'm going to be the sister he needs I need to be physically, mentally and emotionally strong to care and advocate for him. In order to reach my greatest running potential a few months out of the year I need to kick running ass. In order to reach his greatest potential, every day Addison must choose to kick ass. To, despite the physical and mental challenges, wake up every morning and fight for every ounce of food...fight for every milestone...fight for every movement. I'll never be able to understand what he goes through on any given day...but I can through demanding more of my body identify with his struggle and be prepared to help him be his best.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts! Have you ever participated in a charity run/walk? Why or why not do you think they make a difference? Comment below.

6.27.2015

Currently Reading | June

This month...all novels. No shame.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Hmm...what to say about Americanah? Honestly the plot was just eh, okay. The story alone could not carry this book. And I was not impressed by the characters. You get the feeling Ifemelu is supposed to be a strong, resilient character...I just got indecisive and a lot of whine. And the same goes for Obinze. I couldn't attach to any of the characters which is a bad sign for any book. BUT! The redeeming aspect of this book was the chance to see America and specifically race in America through the eyes of an African woman living in America. (American three times in one sentence...I deserve a patriotic award.) Eye opening, it will challenge your thinking. Even though the story was lame, I gotta say, it was engaging. Due to some content and darker themes I would only recommend to mature readers.

Bruno Chief of Police by Martin Walker
This book was really just cozy, fun fluff. Recommended by my librarian, this murder mystery centers on Bruno, Chief of Police in a small town in the south of France. The setting was just so fun and every time food is mentioned (which is often) it made me hungry...Bruno has some cooking talent and hopefully he will publish a cookbook some day! But the best part of this book was the snippets of WWII history throughout the story.

And speaking of WWII...never mind we'll come back to that...best for last, you know. First let's touch on...

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Love, love, love! A Spool of Blue Thread tells the story of four generations of the Whitshank family. Their struggles, their hopes, their failures. The story centers in their family home in Baltimore. (I love books that take place in Maryland.) It's a book about family...a cross between The Happy Yellow Car and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The story is beautiful. The writing is beautiful. The characters, in all their flawed glory, are beautiful. It makes you want to cry and laugh at the same time and really encourages you to treasure family. Can't recommend enough, I will definitely be looking up more by this author! And just to give you a sample of Anne Tyler's writing...

“For years, she had been in mourning for the way she had let her life slip through her fingers. Given another chance, she’d told herself, she would take more care to experience it. But lately, she was finding that she had experienced it after all and just forgotten, and now it was returning to her.” 

“You wake in the morning, you’re feeling fine, but all at once you think, 'Something’s not right. Something’s off somewhere; what is it?' And then you remember that it’s your child—whichever one is unhappy.”

"There was nothing remarkable about the Whitshanks. None of them was famous. None of them could claim exceptional intelligence. And in looks, they were no more than average... But like most families, they imagined they were special. They took great pride... At times they made a little too much of the family quirks—of both Amanda and Jeannie marrying men named Hugh, for instance, so that their husbands were referred to as “Amanda’s Hugh” and “Jeannie’s Hugh”; or their genetic predisposition for lying awake two hours in the middle of every night; or their uncanny ability to keep their dogs alive for eons. ”

Just go read the book before I end up posting the entire manuscript.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Oh goodness. This book. I've always had a thing for WWII books (not really sure why but there you have it). And this story is particularly touching. It follows three parallel stories: 1. A young, blind French girl, Marie-Laure, as she flees Paris with her father to live with her uncle who still suffers from the ghosts of the Great War 2. Werner, a German boy whose talent with radios and the sciences lands him in Hitler's Youth and 3. The Sea of Flames, a priceless diamond fabled to protect the owner and destroy everyone the owner holds dear. And yes, I know that sounds weird but as the stories of these three come together it makes sense. It's a dark, emotional story but so worth it for the chance to witness a little light in such a dark part of history. Again, I would only recommend for mature readers because of some very dark themes. And I will warn you, it is almost impossible to put down...I read over five-hundred pages in six days...which is pretty much unheard of for me but gives you an idea just how engrossing it is!

I will be back next month and I promise there is nonfiction in the lineup!

Always on the lookout for recommendations...what are you reading?

Until then...

6.03.2015

Caution! This Post Contains Gluten

photo via pinterest
Before we get started I want to preface this post by saying I have the greatest sympathy for any individual who has a medical diagnosis of Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance and I am in no way trying to make light of their challenges. That said...

To be perfectly honest, I am more than a little fed up with the gluten-free trend. Five years ago how many of us gave gluten a second thought? Don't you remember the good old days when we were too busy trashing carbohydrates to pay gluten any attention? Now this innocent, naturally occurring protein composite, responsible for the lovely chewiness of bread and lightness of cupcakes, has become the villain of the grocery store shelves. Bread, once considered the staff of life, is now viewed as a national threat. Grown adults shutter at the G-word. What happened?

Monkey see, monkey do. Keeping up with the Jones. It's human nature. But just because Novak Djokovic's game improved after he was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance does not mean going gluten-free will make you a tennis star. And just because celebrity-not-a-nutritionist, Gwyneth Paltrow, started her kids on a gluten-free diet does not make you an irresponsible parent for letting your kids consume gluten with total abandon.

Nosophobia is commonly experienced by medical students who, while studying a disease, become preoccupied with a particular disease to the point where they are convinced they are suffering from x disease. But let's face it. Headaches, dizziness and weakness can be caused by one of a million things. Including simply not drinking enough water.

Crazes cause individuals to think and do...umm...crazy things! And social media (aka trend breeding ground!) does not help. It starts innocently enough. Mrs. So-and-So is experiencing abdominal pain, headaches and fatigue. After proper testing, her doctor diagnoses Celiac disease. She begins to eat a gluten-free diet and her symptoms resolve. But, wait! You've been having those symptoms as well as irritability and constipation! So you consult Dr. Google. Lo, and behold, right there on Web M.D., your symptoms are staring you in the face. This is incredible! You follow Mrs. So-and-So diet and, miraculously, your symptoms resolve. Pat yourself on that back. You just self-diagnosed. Sheesh, why stay at that desk job you hate so much? You're ready to hang up your shingle and take on patients. Who needs medical school?

Is my snark showing?

First, let's get our names straight. There is a difference between Celiac disease, a wheat allergy and a gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the lower intestines' nutrient absorption. The Celiac Disease Foundation states an endoscopic biopsy is the only accurate way to diagnose Celiac disease. A wheat allergy is a short term reaction to a substance the body considers harmful. A gluten intolerance is the GI track mounting a stress response to gluten resulting in permanent damage to the intestines.

You know how annoying it is when someone walks in on the middle of a conversation and, not understanding the context, makes a ridiculous assumption? Just because your symptoms resolve, you loose weight and feel great after switching to a gluten-free diet does not mean gluten was the source of your problems. Cutting out gluten means cutting out a lot of foods. It could be your self imposed gluten limitation is discouraging you from consuming processed products and empty carbohydrates and is encouraging you to seek out more nourishing foods. We would all feel better if we replaced processed crap that bloats and weighs down even the best of us with fruits and veggies. And, judging by the taste of most gluten-free alternatives, it wouldn't surprise me if a gluten-free diet encourages portion control...there is only so much dense bread one can take before going crazy.

Ultimately, if eating gluten-free makes you happy, by all means knock yourself out with the rice pasta.  But please do not minimize the conditions by claiming Celiac disease or gluten intolerance without a medical diagnosis. It's not fair to those with a legitimate diagnosis. And it's not fair to yourself. If you are having symptoms consult with a trusted physician. 15 minutes of internet research does not equal 15 years of medical training. If that was the case I wouldn't have nightmares about student loans and MCAT scores. You need to care for your body and self treating could just complicate matters by masking symptoms. Love your body, love your life. Admit you are not your own doctor.

Would someone pass the pasta?

5.28.2015

Currently Reading | May

I know, I know...long time no post! Well it's also been a long time no seven-hours-of-sleep and long time no-time-to-breath so cut me some slack. BUT! I'm planning on a slightly slower paced summer...so hopefully we will up the post count on the old blog. Although, when it comes to a choice between writing a blog post or chilling by the pool with a book...love you guys but guess which option wins? I have a tempting stack of book recommendations from my awesome-even-if-she's-never-read-Agatha-Christie librarian. 

And speaking of reading...I had three topics to choose from for today's post. I could tell you about Henry's party...but I don't have time to edit photos...or I could rant about my completely frustration with individuals "self-diagnosing" Celiac...or we could talk about my May reads. You can thank me later for choosing the later. (But consider yourself forewarned of what's to come.)

Take the Risk by Dr. Ben Carson - I did not read this book because I am particularly interested in risk management. In all honestly, I've never given risk management a second thought. But my sister gave me this book because I'm kindasortareally a huge fan of Ben Carson and his amazing work (we can discuss my patheticness later). So I figured I would enjoy Take the Risk but did not anticipate being so intrigued by the subject matter. Surprise! Take the Risk is about learning to decided which risks are worth taking, the importance of taking risk and having the courage to....um...take the risk. Dr. Carson's B/W Risk Analysis is seriously brilliance on such a simple level that even I understood it. But I will warn you! You will find yourself applying the B/W Risk Analysis formula to literally everything...and learning just how many risks you take on a daily basis and how many more you should be pursuing.

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill - The title is intriguing, the book even more so. I'm something of a memoir junkie...as in tendencies toward devouring them with a passion. It's a chance to see inside someone's head and that is awesome. Anyway... Michael Gates Gill grew up as a son of privilege, had a high powered job he invested everything in and then suddenly found himself alone, jobless...and in Starbucks. Asking for a job. And this once powerful member of the elite is scrubbing bathroom floors. And finding himself genuinely happy for the first time in his life. This book will challenge you to find happiness wherever you are, embrace the joy of serving and will make you really want to work for Starbucks! If my list of reasons Starbucks is the best wasn't long enough...

The Medical Book by Clifford A. Pickover - My mom tells of passing time at her father's desk flipping through the PDR and admiring the pretty, bright pictures of all the pills. (Guys, I seriously want a PDR!) Apparently I'm my mother's daughter...I love the big, shiny pictures in this book of (among other things) anatomy, microorganisms and molecular structures! Basically, this book is a trip through history with medical discoveries as your mode of transportation. Definitely not an in depth exploration of each subject but enough to wet your appetite. And all the pretty pictures!

What are you reading?

5.10.2015

What My Mother Taught Me

  If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

What good is a 'perfect' home...or any home at all...if you never share it with the world?

You can feel like hell but you don't have to look like hell.

In all areas of life poshness must reign supreme.

Life isn't about you.

People before all else.

Family before all people.

Always make things right.

Failure is giving anything less than your best.

There is no group of individuals I find more fascinating to observe and study than that unique race we know as mothers. No two are alike. Their personalities, appearances, backgrounds, upbringings, educations...they are all unique. Together these factors form their mothering philosophies which will determine who their children (and consequently, the next generation) will be. (No pressures, moms.)

Above are just a few of my mom's key phrases. I've heard these principles taught for as long as I can remember. And as I have, one by one, grasped the significance of each lesson I've realized...wow! My mom knows a thing or two. When you are young you think your mom is...well, you mom. I'm finding the more I get to know my mother as a person and my friend...and truly understand her strengths, weaknesses and what makes her tick...the more I respect the incredible person she is. Mom is not perfect and she isn't the perfect mother. But she is the perfect mother for me. And I am so grateful God chose for us to walk through this life together.

5.06.2015

Confessions of a Runner

↑ All the sarcasm...
-I hate running.
-As in seriously, despise-dread-sorta-hate.
-My farthest run is six miles.
-I have no intention of ever running any farther. 
-Currently I am trained to a 5k, 3.1 miles.
-A slow 5k.
-My seven year old sister can run circles around me.
-I am not...I repeat not...a natural born runner. You know, the annoying breed who can run a half marathon without training and never break a sweat.(And yes, I do kinda-sorta-really-hate those people.)
-While I have run several winters (below 19 degrees hurts) I chickened out and didn't go for a single run last winter. And I don't regret it one bit.
-Even though I know it kills my endurance, sometimes I can't resist the urge and just sprint...there is such a thrill is giving it all.
-I have to have motivation to run. Otherwise, forget about it.
-This season I have been working on improving my attitude toward running. Sure it's not the biggest bundle of kicks, but I am grateful that I have the ability to run and I'm trying to keep that in mind and take it one hill at a time. It's a work in progress...  

4.29.2015

"Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Baltimore is a beautiful city full of charm. While D.C. is great is will never be able to capture the realness of Baltimore. In the past weeks a cloud has covered Baltimore. In the daytime there is an eerie silence. Guards and police are posted on every corner. Businesses are closed. The fear hangs in the air like a thick fog. Things are not right. The tragedies of Ferguson are saddening but this is our turf. This is personal. Want to talk about surreal? Driving past sites where riots were taking place less than twenty-four hours ago.

I couldn't even count how many times a week I remind a flustered little sibling, "Just because (insert person, place or thing) did it does not make it right." Violence is and will forever be wrong. And two wrongs will never equal a right. Our human hearts will forever be set on evil. But never is the power of the Gospel more real than when we see the depravity of humanity up close. What could overcome such a force? What could possibly transform hearts so full of hate? Only the Gospel. We are wicked sinners. But Jesus is a wonderful Savior.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  Martin Luther King, Jr.

4.28.2015

Two Years

Two years ago Henry entered my world. I had no idea what was I was in for. I will never be able to understand how this little person...this little person who most of our world does not consider worthy of life...could so completely transform me. How can one person who says no more than four words change my entire way of thinking, my priorities and my life goals just by being himself?

Happy birthday, little man. I am so grateful God chose to place you in my life. It has been my greatest honor to know you and be able to invest in your future. Your bravery and strength to keep fighting, despite the challenges, has inspired me in more ways then you will ever know. There have been some crappy dark times but it has been worth the hurt to see you shine through them all. Kid, you are going to move mountains and I couldn't be more excited to be on your team. xoxo