Friday, February 27, 2009

I {heart} Josh Ritter - part deux

Here is a video of my beloved:

I {heart} Josh Ritter

02.26.09 031

My musical tastes can be all over the board (most listened to songs on my iPod include anything from Michael Jackson to Madeleine Peyroux to the Killers) - but what remains constant is my love of Josh Ritter (and his music, of course).

Last night, my dream came true and I was able to watch Josh Ritter, in concert with a string quartet, from the front row. Yes, it took standing for 5 hours, but it was all worth it. It was a wonderful concert experience and just amazing. I didn't take too many pictures of Josh, but more photos are available here (including opening acts Tiny Television, Dave Smalls, and Laura Gibson).

And a big thanks to my friend, H, for putting up with my obsession and standing with me for 5 hours.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Falling off the wagon

I admit that I'm a little bit of a food snob but in the end, I will eat anything. After all, I eat more than half my meals at the hospital cafeteria. I don't think it's half bad and it's not bad for you, so I eat it.

So, when I went grocery shopping yesterday, I had grand plans to get fruit, veggies, all that goodness. However, I walked out of the store with this:


And yes, that's three different types of ramen/udon noodles. And yes, that's a lot of mushrooms. That's just the way that I roll.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Residency is full of challenges and we all know how fun it can be to grin and bear it through everything. This week has been a week full of challenges. I have had to grin and bear it through difficult patients, difficult social situations, difficult nurses, difficult bureaucracy, and difficult diagnoses.

Example of today: Patient A has abdominal pain and chest pain, for which we are literally doing nothing but refusing to let him eat. He has been infinitely patient, but we continue to challenge him. We poke him repeatedly for blood and got none. We lost his belongings, including his house keys and his wallet. Yet, he continues to tell me, "Doctor, I just want to get better." At the end of the day, literally as I have my keys in my hand, his blood gets drawn and he gets a critical lab value - and I put my keys back in my pocket and proceed to poke and prod him further. To add to it, I get calls from physical therapy and social work that there are issues with him - even though I had consulted them early in the day, knowing that he would be discharged.

Patient B is incarcerated and presents with chest pain and weakness. We rule him out for any real cardiac pain. We rule him out for a stroke. Yet, he says he has continual chest pain. Convinces the nurse, as he is about to go back to jail, that he has the classic substernal chest pain radiating down the arm to the jaw and feels like an elephant sitting on his chest. So, there I am, again with keys in hand and they go back in the pocket, as I sit and wait for an EKG - which arrives an hour later. Nice to know "stat" means something resembling "in the next lifetime."

And of course, this does not include the dozens and dozens of pages I get a day. Half the time, they're worth it. Half the time, I answer them and sit on hold for 5, 6, or 10 minutes until someone answers the phone and then is disappointed that I'm not the person they're looking for.

This week has been challenging, to say the least. I guess it's all a part of my life that is intern year. That doesn't make it any easier, especially knowing that intern year is almost over, meaning that I will be a second year with twice as much responsibility.

Garden updates!

I have updates! I have neglected my garden as of late but thankfully they have not suffered because of the wonderful rain we have been getting.

Here are my orchids, which I stuck into an old orchid pot and suddenly, there's a sprout!
02.24.09 002

And here are my bulbs (crocus and hyacinth) - their progress in the last week has been amazing.
02.24.09 003

On that note, my mint has been growing out of control, so I decided to put it all into a different pot. Rumor is, on the garden blogs, that mint can grow out of control and they recommend potting it separately. So, in place of the mint, I planted some parsley and lavender. We'll see how long it takes for them to come up.

However, after repotting the mint, I realized I have a lot, so I placed some into smaller pots to distribute to friends. Anyone want some minty freshness?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Do you like your work? Oh, that's too bad.

That's what my 8-year old cousin emailed to me. That's the entire email. How did she know the answer to the question and then so succinctly put her response in the second sentence? Amazing, my cousin, she is.

Grand ambitions

I have lots of ongoing resolutions - e.g. using an item out of my freezer for every meal (today, I stir fried frozen shrimp and chayote squash), making more crafts, and getting outdoors more - and today, I added yet another.

Yes, I have resolved to make homemade pasta on a regular basis. No more dried pasta from a box for me. I had been thinking about this for awhile and today, I saw a pasta maker on Amazon and had to get it. Just had to (and also package my travel guide to Morocco in the same purchase). So, now I have a pasta machine coming my way. And lots of posts on pasta experiments.

Earlier this week, I thought I was French and today, I thought I was Italian. What will it be next week?

Blog style update

I found a nice blog template that I like, however, it requires some troubleshooting. So, for now, that nice side bar - all the links, archives, photos, etc - will be on the bottom, as a footer. Tell me if you like the new color, layout (with footer as sidebar), etc. I still have some tinkering to do with it.

Afternoon project


I had an extra hour this afternoon and couldn't fall asleep, so I did a quick project. I like white for some things (soap, shampoo, rice, lights), but I wanted to spice up my bookcase, so I painted my magazine holders today. I was inspired, oddly enough, by some paper tape I had in my pocket from the hospital. No, I did not steal it. I used a little of it and forgot I had it in my pocket - so I put it to good use.

Now, my magazines, or my financial folders, can sit in colorfully created magazine holders!

Oh, if you're wondering where that wonderful print in the background is from, it's my wonderfully talented and endlessly creative cousin, Quyen Dinh and you can purchase your own right here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tilapia with pesto pasta

My goal for the last month or so has been to use something out of my freezer for every meal, in a sad attempt to get rid of some of the stuff in my freezer. Albeit, it's been a successful experiment, but it doesn't help that I also add to my freezer in the same attempt (when I used my frozen chicken bones to make chicken stock over the weekend, I ended up with leftover chicken stock to put in the freezer again).

Ah, but in my attempt to use one more ingredient in my freezer, my inspiration tonight were tilapia fillets. In general, I try not to buy frozen filets in a bag, but I had them leftover from some dinner, so here I am, staring at a tilapia fillet and no idea what to do with it. Alas, also in my freezer are some pine nuts (not too eager to get rid of those - you have to ration those babies), so that inspired me to make some tilapia with some pesto pasta and pine nuts.

2.18.09 010

Tilapia - pan fried with wine sauce - and pesto pasta
Serves 1
Prep time: 25 minutes active, 1 hour passive
Cook time: 10 minutes

  • (1) tilapia fillet - set out to thaw if frozen (hence the one hour inactive time)
  • (1 tsbp) flour
  • (1) shallot, minced
  • (2-3) cloves garlic, depending on whether you love it or hate it, minced
  • (1 cup) white wine
  • (1 tsp) butter
  • (1 tsp) pine nuts
  • (1 serving) pasta, cooked
  • (1-2 tsps) pesto sauce. I used Trader Joe's because it's a standby for any pesto seasoning I want (bread spread, pasta sauce, chicken marinade, etc)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place tilapia fillet on paper towel to get excess water off. Then, place in plate of flour (seasoned with salt and pepper), making sure to cover all parts of the fillet. Shake off excess flour.
  2. Place butter in pan over medium-high heat.
  3. When butter is melted, place fillet in.
  4. Cook for about 4 minutes each side, until brown and cooked through.
  5. Remove from pan and set aside.
  6. Place shallots and garlic and pine nuts in remaining butter and brown. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. As it's about to brown, add white wine and pesto sauce, until cooked down.
  8. Add cooked pasta, toss, plate, and serve with tilapia.
Overall, I think it turned out very well. I am trying to cook more with butter and wine - who do I think I am, French? - and so this experiment in trying to use ingredients from my freezer and using leftover wine and pesto in my fridge worked out. I forgot that I had pecorino romano cheese in my fridge from my risotto until after I finished my meal, but that would have been a great addition as well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

So so crafty

In addition to cooking, catching babies, and gardening, another hobby of mine is crafts! In general, I stick to jewelry making, but I have been trying to branch out a little bit more (on my craft to do list: make a lampshade, bead a border on one of my shirts, etch my drinking glasses, create a headboard).

So, today, I made jewelry. It's the first time I have made jewelry in a very long time and it was tons of fun. Though I admittedly spent too much money at the jewelry store (and still forgot to buy wire, of all things), it was all worth it.

So, here is my bounty from today:

02.16.09 001

I made two necklaces (from beads I bought abroad), wine charms, one set of earrings, and hair clips (which I forgot to take a picture of before I gave them to my friend). More pictures here.

Dessert!Dessert party


I had a few friends over for some yummy Vietnamese desserts, aka che. Che is a generic name for dessert in Vietnamese and includes any of a couple dozen types of desserts. Generally, they are liquidy in consistency and are made with either coconut milk, tapioca, and/or simple syrup. They can be made with almost anything. In the selection that I got, it included corn, taro, cassava, banana, jellies, mung bean, kidney beans, longan, and who knows what else.

Overall, it was a nice way to introduce people to Vietnamese dessert that was non-commital and experimental. That way, if you taste one you don't like, you can just ignore it for the rest of the night and try all the others!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Updates on the garden

I'm so excited. I haven't checked on my balcony garden in a few days and when I went out there yesterday, alas, look at what I found!

02.07.09 017

Yup, those hyacinth bulbs that I planted just over a week ago have actually emerged from the ground! I'm so beyond excited. I'm still waiting for the crocus bulbs to show their faces, but I can be patient. And, if you look closely at the picture, you will see little sprouts - those are Flander's poppies. I may have spread too many (I didn't think they'd take), so we'll see if they overwhelm my garden. Hehe.

Now, I can't wait until my lemon blossoms fall off and little lemons start coming out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Eat away

Pants, 654
A funny photo from my stay in India - and realizing that if I gained 200 pounds, I'd still fit into their pants!

Everyone out there who reads my blog knows that I'm a big fan of homecooked meals. Any day of the week, I'd rather experiment and try something new in my kitchen then eat take out - even after a grueling shift or day and night's worth of work. Why? Because good food makes me feel good. It's as simple as that. So, when I saw this article, using the Biggest Loser as a spring board to talk about the decline of home cooking, it got me thinking. Would I be much larger if I ate the same amount of food, but it was at restaurants (not even talking about fast food)? Probably so. Why don't restaurants cook healthy foods? I have no idea, but think it may be because it's cheaper to season something with fat (or oil or butter - all of which make food taste better) than use good, quality ingredients. Then, I got thinking about my daily diet.

I do eat half my meals out, but it's at the hospital cafeteria. I think that if it were elsewhere, I would be large enough to be a candidate on the Biggest Loser, but because it is in a hospital, it aims to be healthy (does the clam chowder really only have 4grams of fat? Maybe so, maybe not) and because I choose the right foods. And when I'm not in the hospital, I cook my own food. In college, it was a frugality thing - it was simply cheaper to cook my own food. However, I realize that sometimes I spend a lot on my ingredients and stocking my pantry, so frugality is not the sole reason any longer. I think now, I cook because I enjoy the actual process of making food and knowing exactly what goes in it (I braised a whole fish that was amazing last night - and only after I ate it did I realize I did not add any extra fat/oil to it).

I've always thought that if we made the same stuff restaurants made, we'd be amazed. We would be amazed at the amounts of oil used (a little bit of oil at home is very different than a little bit of oil in a restaurant). We'd be amazed at how few vegetables are actually in a dish. We would be amazed at how much artificial flavoring is used (including the infamous MSG - which is banned from my kitchen).

Now a short note on snacks. Snacks are the bane of any dieter's existence. They are almost always salty, sweet, fatty, fried, or all of the above. How do I keep away from the bad snacks? By keeping good ones ready to go in my fridge and cupboard so that I see, and reach for, those first instead of the bad snacks (which I admit I do have in the back of my cupboard). I wash bags of fruit so that I just grab them to eat. I boil and blanch green beans so that they're an easy grab and eat snack while I'm watching tv or reading. I drink lots and lots and lots of water (I can drink about a liter in one sitting if need be). And if you eat more whole grains in your meals, you'll be less hungry for snacks because they make you fuller for a longer period of time.

So, those are my two cents, and more, on healthy eating. Do I blame the entire obesity epidemic on the lack of home cooked meals? Of course not - I think that it's a lot of factors that just culminated and then are perpetuated. Do I think it can be cured by more home cooking? Not really. Will eating more home cooked meals help? Of course. Duh.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mushroom risotto

What I had for dinner over the weekend:

2.2.09 002

Mushroom Risotto
Serves 4
Prep and cook time: 60-90 minutes

  1. 2 cups arborio rice (a purchase from Berkeley Bowl)
  2. 4 shallots, diced
  3. olive oil or butter
  4. 1 cup pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, finely grated
  5. variety of mushrooms - I had a bag of shittakes (about 1/2 pound) and a few king oyster mushrooms (about another 1/2 pound)
  6. about 2 cups chicken broth (I have some homemade chicken broth that I keep my in freezer)
  1. Place oil and shallots in pan over medium heat. Sweat out the shallots until they start to get fragrant.
  2. Add arborio rice to the pan, mixing until rice is just heated up, about 5 minutes or so
  3. Add mushrooms and about 1 cup chicken broth.
  4. Keep over low-medium heat with cover halfway on, mixing thoroughly every 5 minutes or so, to make sure rice doesn't burrn
  5. As the broth is cooked and evaporates and is drawn into the rice, add a ladle of broth at a time, mixing and stirring
  6. When the rice is a thick, but slightly-softer-than-al-dente, consistency, it's close to being done
  7. Add grated cheese now. You can add more or less as you desire - however, the cheese really does the job. I tried it without the cheese, for tasting, and it did not taste the same. Mix cheese thoroughly to melt completely.
  8. Turn the heat off and season with some freshly ground black pepper (you can add salt, but I found that my chicken broth and the cheese made it salty enough).
  9. I added cilantro on top, just because I love cilantro.
Enjoy! It was my first time making it and definitely not my last.

My resolution for the next month: to use at least one thing from my freezer in the preparation of every single meal. It's because my friend opened my freezer the other day and was astonished at how full it was. It's mostly marinated meats, seafood, and random stuff that I make in advance. We'll see how long it lasts.