Sunday, November 4, 2012


So I thought my next post would be about food again. But sometimes things in life happen when you don't expect them.

Today I was reminded of my own mortality from the death of my husband's friend. She was in her mid-20s, in school, healthy, and the last person you'd expect to find out passed away.

Our lives are ephemeral. I am young, fit, and healthy--the probability game says yep, things are going to be fine for a while. And they most likely will be. But walking across the street, going taking the short cut home, or just not taking care of yourself and getting sick can just erase you from this world.

I went running today, and had a serious over-production of saliva, so I spit into the Charles from the bridge above. I could see it fall into the river, and stay there, then diffuse over about 30 seconds, and I thought it was very pretty. I got home and found out a friend had passed away, and oddly I thought of the spit.

We are here for a short while, probably 60-70 years, but who knows? My goal is to make sure I'm happy for those days, as many of them as I can. I cannot view my life as on hold simply because I'm in school, or I'm busy, or anything. Life has started, life is now, and I can't ever get that back.

I hope that she will rest in peace, that she had happy thoughts, and happy moments. That she loved and lived. She reminded me to live my life, and I hope hers was fan-fucking-tastic. RIP.

Friday, November 2, 2012

For the Sake of Truth Part 4: Krugman-style

So I had a post idea all set, and then I read the NYTimes, and Paul Krugman says it way better

If you don't want to read the article, here's the gist: 

1. Many on the conservative side are now trying to appeal to the logic that yes, President Obama did something good (didn't defund FEMA for one thing), but if he gets re-elected, do you think he'll be able to get anything done in this bipartisan congress? No. 

2. So based on that, you should vote for Romney! Because if dear Mittens takes office, well, the democrats are much more reasonable than the extremist Republicans in congress and wouldn' know, go through debt ceiling crisis round 2: how-crazy-can-we-get edition. But, the Republicans would be willing to work with President R. 

3. Also, do you really think he's going to be that extreme when he gets into office? Defunding Planned Parenthood? Giving FEMA "back to the states" silly! That's just what he says to get elected. What's he's going to do is totally different. Yeah, right. 

This isn't written with my typical poise, probably because I just got done studying for an exam and the poise fell out of my head when I shoved the hypogastric nerves in, but it's all true. And it doesn't make any sense. If you agree with Romney, vote for him (although I truly wish that you just sleep through election day), but don't go for the the "holding America hostage" argument--it's ridiculous and frankly embarrassing. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

For the Sake of Truth, Part 3: People Do Die from Lack of Insurance

Previously known as On the Offensive...I've been posting these on facebook, but decided to switch it over to my blog.

Fact:  On Wednesday October 10th, Mitt Romney said that people don't die from lack of health insurance.

"We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance. We don't have a setting across this country where if you don't have insurance, we just say to you, 'Tough luck, you're going to die when you have your heart attack.' No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it's paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital."

Fact: Absolutely correct. As a future physician, I am not going to turn a person away from medical care they need. So yes, if you show up to a hospital ER, you will get treatment.

Will it be preventative? By definition, no.

Will it be long-term? Be definition, "emergency," no. 

Will it be expensive? Yes. Not everyone that comes into the ER can pay their bills. That cost gets shifted on to the other patients by raising costs on their insurance companies (hence why a Tylenol pill costs $7 at the hospital). In turn, the insurance companies raise premiums on their customers. 

Fact: People do die because of lack of health insurance. If you have insurance, you are more likely to go to a doctor, to catch illnesses ahead of time, to treat them before it becomes out of control. Think: heart disease, diabetes...diseases that are prevalent in communities that are a part of poor communities that usually do not have health insurance. Tell them that not having health insurance does not lead to death, and a painful death.

Opinion: Gov. Romeny goes around saying people need to have "personal responsibility" for their actions. I agree, but do we punish someone so severely by taking away the quality of their life if they make the silly mistake of not purchasing health insurance, or worse, not being able to afford health insurance? No. We are a first world country. We are socially advanced. We are a nation that takes care of each other, especially when others can't take care of themselves. 

His comments are a hallmark of an individual who has not had any experience with or even taken the time to reflect on the condition of people who don't have health insurance. It's really hard to imagine it unless you really, really try, or see it and experience it first or second-hand. This is not an individual who should be making policy. 

Opinion Why does not expanding insurance matter as much to him? Because the people who need it the most are the 47% that are not important Americans to him--they will not vote for him anyways. 

Educate yourself before you vote. 

Death by Ideology -- Paul Krugman, NYTimes
A Possibly Fatal Mistake, Nicholas Kristof, NYTimes

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dill Butter and Salad Dressing

It's been a while blog, it's been a while. Apparently medical school is just as time-consuming as everybody made it out to be--shocker! Well, I was a little. I was surprised by how quickly the day goes by, how I will how generally choose studying over everything else, and how quickly time moves.

It's amazing...I've been in medical school for nearly 2 months and now (as of 10 minutes ago) taken an exam in every core subject that I have. It's a bit crazy to think about. I think I've been pretty good at maintaining my stress level, but this weekend threw me for a loop. It was weird, I lashed out at people I love more than I normally would, which made me feel terrible, which made me not happy, which made me study more furiously, which made me not want to study period.

It's a vicious cycle I tell you, vicious. But a learning experience nonetheless. It was important for me to once again realize that medical school was not life, it's just medical school. Yes, it's stressful, yeah, it's a lot of things to learn, but it's not the number one most important thing in the world.

However, my mental health, which largely depends on the happiness of those I love and my own sanity, is the most important thing in the world.

It's only going to get harder from this, so learning to stay calm, not lash out at those closest to me, and realizing again that hey, other people have stuff happening in their lives too. Whether it's objectively as hard as what I am doing doesn't matter, it's stuff, and it's important, because it's their stuff. So this is my note to myself to get over myself, and keep that calm that I've spent years, years, building. After all, it's just school.

Now...a recipe! So I've recently become a little enamored with dill. I use it in salad dressing, mix it into butter (courtesy of some great dill butter sandwiches from Sonali), mix it with olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper to make a pasta sauce...basically in anything.

But I don't have a ton of time to cook unfortunately, so my new obsession is the EarthBound Herb Puree. Sounds odd, but it's amazing, and it lasts a LONG time. Try it, and you'll love it--it'll jazz up any regular old salad dressing, oh hey, like the one below.

Dill Dressing

0.25 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. minced garlic
A squeeze of the dill puree (about 1 tbsp)
Salt and pepper to taste

**Optional: a splash of heavy cream or a small spoonful of sour cream or non-flavored yogurt to make it creamy**

Which all these things together and in a small bowl, and drizzle on top of salad, pasta, bread, or just use it to marinade veggies! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

What Teach for America Gave Me

I meant to write this all summer. In fact, I meant to write this before I left San Antonio, Texas--my Teach for America home for 2 years after college. But for some reason, I just never did until I happened to see this article on the NYTimes setting up the debate about the effectiveness of TFA.

When I joined Teach for America in 2010 in the San Antonio Charter Corps, I knew I would be leaving for medical school in 2 years. I knew that TFA was notoriously difficult because of the high expectations placed on its corps members and the situation they were placed in.

Coming right out of college, wide-eyed and idealistic, it's a bit of a shock to go into a classroom prepared to pull a "Stand and Deliver" moment, only to be completely unsure of what to do when a student starts yelling racial slurs across the room, and another picks up a chair looking to throw it.

But how could I enter the world of medicine, saying I wanted to effect a change in health policy and work with the underserved population, when my experiences were primarily in volunteering? I did Teach for America because I knew it would give me perspective on the social, economic, cultural, and academic impacts of American poverty. In return, I could provide 2 years of my dedicated, unrelenting effort to my students as a science teacher.

I was provided about 6 weeks of in-class training, and then training throughout the school year about being at teacher. Most people, especially those who did semester or year long in-class training, gawk at that. How can you possible learn to drive an effective classroom in that amount of time? The answer is simple: you can't. I didn't, and I doubt anyone does. But what it gave me was a template of how to prepare lesson plans, focus on academic achievement, and set high standards for my students. More importantly, it slapped the wide-eyed innocence right out of me. It showed me what I would have to do, gave me the tools on how to handle it, and sent me off--trembling from excitement and a healthy dose of fear of failure.

But that's why Teach For America has a rigorous selection process. It's not all a numbers game: it's about leadership. After all -- what are you if not the leader, commander, and director of your classroom? Though it is not fool proof, it does effectively recruit people who are goal-driven, hard workers and will not give up at the first, second, third, or fourteenth failure.

I gave everything I could to my students over the 2 years that I worked for San Antonio Independent School District. I promised them I would teach them Biology, and I did. I promised them I would get them above and beyond passing the state Biology exam, and for most, I did. I promised them I would never give up on them, and I didn't. People often ask me if I feel that I made an actual impact on my students' lives--and I'm honestly not sure. I can tell you that there are students that will never remember, and students that will always remember me. I can tell that I had the opportunity to work with children to take them from knowing very little about Biology, to being conversational in basic Biology by the end of the year. I can tell them that I made students feel, and therefore be, smart. But a lasting impact? Only time will tell.

But my time with them gave me more. From an educational standpoint, TFA has made an education advocate out of me for life. I have internalized the impact that schools can have on students even when communities and families are struggling. I understand what it is like to be a teacher in an over-crowded underfunded classroom. And I know now what it's like to want to help your students so badly, but face a seemingly insurmountable sociocultural and political barriers. Education is no longer the great equalizer in our country, I see that clearer than ever, and I will work to ensure that changes.

From a medical standpoint, starting my future-physician career, I am more aware of how the world works. I can not only identify the socioeconomic determinants of health and health care delivery, but I have seen and internalized them. Two years gave me the time and experience to look at my school community broadly and learn why my students and their families make some of the choices they do, both helpful and harmful. I believe it has given me the beginnings of insight into what could be implementable and effective in these communities to better health outcomes. Or I could be wrong, but at the very least it has fueled my desire to learn more and push my career in medicine towards community health care and closing our health outcomes gap.

Do I think Teach for America is the answer to our educational woes? No, it's a very big band-aid on the wound that is our bleeding education system. I never took TFA for the answer--but rather a program that will push people who normally wouldn't be interested in education (either because of the extraordinarily low pay or the lack of respect the profession can engenders, or both) and change that,  making them more aware of the problem. TFA alums, no matter where we go, either staying in education or moving on to a different career, will always have our students and our experience in the back of our minds, consciously or subconsciously influencing our actions.

So back to my main point--what TFA has given me. It's given me a direction. A direction I was tentatively leaning towards after college, but now am barreling towards in medical school. A direction I can only hope will be worth the high monetary investment in my teacher training and classroom, and will help to shape the communities I was privileged enough to work in for 2 years. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Medical School Starts With White

So it's been a while. Mostly because in the past few weeks after getting back from Paris, we've been running around like chickens with our heads just barely still attached.

We ran to IKEA, bought all of our furniture, built all of said furniture, dealt with an IKEA delivery mishap (they forgot to deliver one piece of furniture), unpacked all of our stuff, went on a trip to Hawaii (awesome!), came back, painted the apartment, cooked food for a month to feed us, went to Acadia (awesome!), came back, finished unpacking, and oh yeah...started medical school.

Ziplining in Kauai

A morning swim. Tyler and Adele. 
Our jam-packed apartment! 
My dad and I picked blueberries in Maine!
Hiking in Acadia
More Hiking!

Love and a red hat :-)
My lovely sister in law and her frog
After a life time of dreams, moments of wavering fears, and still completely unsure of what's to come, I am now a medical student. Not a pre-med. Not a doctor. A medical student. A physician-in-training, as one of our professors put it.

One of the major events that most medical students in the US all experience is the "White Coat Ceremony." At the beginning of your medical school career (or in some cases, later) you are given a white coat by your school, signifying that you are now on the path to becoming a physician. Our coats are shorter than the actual doctor's coats, with a plastic name tag that we pin to our pockets, but they were significant none the less.

Cotton, slightly larger than expected, and white, they represented the culmination of the work we had all done to get to this place. The studying, the activism, the caring, the growth and maturation as individuals. But more importantly, the coat was humbling.

It's amazing that a piece of clothing humble you, but I should have known putting on a white coat would. I realized, or rather re-realized, that in a few short years, after my brain has been jammed packed with more information that I thought possible, people will be opening up their world to me. The life, the secrets, the illness, the pain, the happiness--all of it wrapped up into one person for me to care for. I became suddenly and uncomfortably aware of my ignorance. There is much to learn in the next four years, both in terms of the science and the humanity of medicine, before I really can touch my first patient. It is scary. But I am thankful for that time to learn, thankful for the support and guidance, and thankful I have seen my family go before me and do it well. I am not afraid.

So the white coat ceremony is done, my white coat is neatly put away, waiting to be taken out for my Introduction to Clinical Medicine class where I take my first steps talking to patients. Classes have started, and my time is spent primarily on concepts of Biochemistry and, soon, Anatomy. But every once in a while, when I open my closet and see my coat, and I get that tingly feeling of excitement for the day it becomes just a bit longer. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Politics on vacation

Unsurprisingly, I have been avoiding writing about politics much on vacation. I have read about it, rolled my eyes at it, became over joyed by it, but definitely did not write about it. Why? Because I am in Paris. But there are things happening abound that must needs be discussed.


1. Justice Roberts restored some of my faith in the Supreme Court. He shook his fist at judicial activism and instead, a month before the decision was to be rendered, told his good friends Antonin, Clarence, and Anthony that they were going to be ridin' solo on this decision, since he wasn't going to allow petty partisianship to affect the decision that he, the Cheif Justice of the highest judicial body in all the land, would make. While I am a bit disheartened at just how happy I am that a conservative justice put the constitution above politics, I can rest easy knowing that America is on it's way to becoming a more morally correct country.

To those who oppose it: we will all use the health care system at least once in our lives. To ensure that our system can actually remain solvent, we must compel everyone to purchase health insurance, prior to actually being sick. This way, we can reduce the number of emergency-room-and-not-gonna-pay visits, allow for physicians to actually provide preventative health care to all (including the underserved population) while knowing that they're going to get paid, push our system to become more efficient and evidence-based, all the while increasing the health outcomes of our nation. More than that though--more people will be able to save money on their premiums, which will help overall. To those who think we should let people without insurance die on the side of the road: I hope a pigeon craps on your head.


2. Mitt Romney saying people should get as much education as they can afford. I completely agree with the sentiment--you're trying to say that people strive for higher education and spend their money on that. That being said, your idea of what people can "afford" is a bit skewed Mr. MoneyBags. Not everyone collects $200 dollars when they pass go. Most students and their families cannot "afford" to pay for any real higher education, that's why we have these things called grants and loans. As for your suggestion that people join the military and the government will cover the cost of your education--this is definitely not a feasible option for all those students in our country that cannot afford a higher education, nor is it ideal for all.

Also, the concept of, "if you're willing to serve, we can help you" as he puts it baffles me because increasing our rate of higher education IS serving--the more highly educated individual we have, the more economic output they can produce, the happier the general population will be. Either way, this further underscores my concern that Mr. Romney's childhood and subsequent life bathed in wealth has pushed him far out of touch with the "common man." So much so that the small bouts of volunteer work or interactions with the masses cannot mend the gaping hole in his understanding of the life the common folk. A man like this cannot be the President of the 99%.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sight Seeing in Paris + Travel Tips 4&5

The amazing thing about Paris is that you can be walking around and you'll just walk by a random gothic tower, or a pretty church in the middle of the bustling city...the juxtaposition of the new and the old, the conventionally beautiful and the industrial. For example, we were walking to get a falafel today (by the way, who knew Paris had SUCH good falafel? I didn't, but wow...they do. When you come here, you must visit Maoz, a tiny falafel storefront in the 6th arrondissement,get the falafel and the French fries, you will not be disappointed. Anyways, I digress), and I just looked up as we were walking by a courtyard and saw Notre Dame. It's amazing that Parisians can just look up and see stuff like that all the time!

Our view from the top of Sacre Coeur
Me sticking my head out of the fence on the top of the Eiffel!
Us inside notre dame

Flying buttresses of Notre Dame...Tyler really loved these

Anyways, beyond just eating the amazing food--which is truly, truly amazing--Tyler and I also wanted to do a bit of sight seeing in the basin of history that is Paris. We spent our first few days getting to know our area, and kind of wandering around in awe at the people speaking rapid French, eating crossaints, and never seeming to gain a pound (as well as the extrodinarily well-behaved dogs, and the pretty, pretty parks).

By day 4, we got a little we sat down with our travel book and went through each monument, museum, historical sight, or random cool thing that was mentioned in our book and made a list: name, genre, location, rating (1-3) of how much we want to see it, rating of time sensitivity.

For example, the louvre is in Tuileries, we wanted to see it very much (1), but I didn't care when we saw it (3). This was one of the best ideas for we had a document that we could look at and say...hmm, okay, I want to go to the Louvre today, what else is around there? OH! Arc de let's go to the louvre, then this, then this, etc etc. So we minimized the time we spent on the metro, and maximized our overall time enjoying Paris and walking around seeing stuff.

My journal of "crap I want to do in Paris"

Tip 4: Make a list of everything you want to see in Paris

Whether you do this when you get to Paris like we did (since we are spending 3 weeks here, time was not an issue), or you do it at home...just make sure you make a list of the things you want to see in a well-organized manner. Trust me, this will save you time. I'm not the type of person, on vacation, that likes to stick to a super strict schedule, so I didn't make any "At 900 hours we'll do this and at 2100 hours lets rally here" type of plans, just a general list so I could look the night before and say hey, let's do this tomorrow, and here's all the other stuff around it we can do as well.

This kind of leads me into my next tip, so really it's a double-whammy post. Two posts, for the price of one people.

Tip 5: Know What You Like

To Museum Pass, or not to Museum Pass, that is the question. Before you come to Paris, you will here a lot of people talk about this wonderous Museum Pass. Basically, it's a pass that you pay a certain amount of money for, and it allows to visit almost any museum in Paris (and some other things like the Eiffel Tower). The passes can be for 2,4, or 6 days from what I've seen, and have some other perks, like they get you in front of lines at museums (and trust me, some lines at museums can be long). It's a pretty cool pass.

Us at the gates of hell in the Rodin museum
I chose not to get it. When you go on vacation, it's important that you know what you want out of your vacation, given the amount of time you have. For me, I knew that if I got the museum pass I would feel: A) Rushed to squish in all my sight-seeing into a short period of time and B) Compelled to go to museums that I would otherwise have little interest in. I knew I didn't want that--feeling rushed in appreciating artwork (with my novice skills that barely extend beyond "Ohh! Pretty colors, shiny brush strokes!") would only serve to make me tired, and grouchy. Moreover, I knew that if I visited the Louvre, Rodin, and D'orsay in the span of a day or two...the artwork would blend together. So, I didn't buy the pass and I'm quite happy with what I've seen (eiffel, Rodin, Louvre, Sainte Chappelle, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, and soon to come--the catacombs!), and I promise...I haven't had to wait in epically long lines, or pay beauchop d'argon (a lot of money).

Tyler inside the Louvre after bypassing a three hour long line into the main enterance by simply using one of the two enterances. We were inside in a matter of minutes rather the hours.

Us looking furtive after we bypassed the crazy long line, AND got into the useum free since it was the first Sunday of the month when the Louevre is free for all!

Basically though, just know yourself and you'll have more fun on your trip. If you know that you want that whirlwind experience--get the pass! It'll be fun and worth it. But if you know that you want to see a few specific things, or you have more time to spread it over, just take it slowly.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mita vs. the Parisian kitchen

Tout a Paris est miniscule. If my French is somewhat correct, the sentiment I'm trying to get across is that everything in Paris is tiny. The apartment in Paris is tiny, the shower is such that I have to you have to literally turn and slide to get in, and the kitchen makes the galley kitchens I was complaining about in Boston apartments looks huge.

A tasty meal of lentils and pasta with radishes,olives, and mushrooms
It's time to face the facts: I have been spoiled by a large kitchen in Texas, with a gas stove, a huge oven, and tons of prep space. Not that I would trade that for living in Boston next to my family, but still, my opinion of "normal" has shifted after two years of being spoiled.

This kitchen is about big enough to fit one person...or more like 3/4 a person. You stand in one place and just turn in order to reach EVERYTHING. To be completely honest, when I first saw it I started laughing and nearly had a cooking was I supposed to cook in a kitchen that small?

Teeny tiny kitchen
For three weeks?! But a cook is a cook...and you cook with what you got! So I pulled it together...and tried it out.

Our tasty meal of cheese, herbed cooked potatoes, radishes sautéed in thyme butter, blue cheese, Comte, olives, toasted baguette, and some rose wine.
After a few spills, a few bumps on my head from hitting it on the same damn cabinet over and over (literally, there is a bump), and one instance of veggies going flying when I tried to be supremely awesome and flip my food during a sauté situation, I'm happy to report that it's not that bad. Except for lacking an oven, it's pretty cool. I have all my spices, my tools, etc. It also has a pretty sweet washing machine in it! Okay, so maybe it's not ideal, but I can make some pretty darn good meals in that kitchen. Don't underestimate what you can make with a pan, some olive oil, veggies, and some spices.

Basically, my point is--don't judge a book, or a kitchen, by it's cover. You can make the most of anything..and make it pretty darn tasty.


Paris and the Internet, Travel Tip 3

Have I mentioned that I'm a fan of airbnb? We found the apartment we are currently staying in with ease online, booked it, locate it, access it, and live in it without a hassle. It is exactly what we expected, with no extra hoops to jump through, no giant rats running around, etc. I've loved coming home to our huge windows, a kitchen we can cook in, and the sounds of the 10th arrondissment bustling outside.

A view of the Market on Rue Mouffetard

We have only had one problem: the internet. For some reason our internet was not working when we first arrived. Now of course, me being slightly more tightly wound than Tyler, I immediately began to freak out...running around like a chicken with my head cut off. It was as though the world was ending--no interwebs?!? What will we do? How will we eat?! HOW WILL WE SHOWER?!

Cafe p'tit Louise on rue saint martin

Tyler kindly reminded me that eating, showering, and other day-to-day activities did not actually require the internet, at which point I was mildly placated. After a pastry rational, albeit sleepy, mind had returned to me as Tyler explained to me that travel did in fact occur prior to the advent of the interwebs. Ahh my lovely husband.

Je bois un double cafe por la rue saint Martin

So we set off to solve this problem by first and foremost contacting the individual through whom we rented the apartment. Simple enough...except we had no phone or internet. Where to turn?! Ahhh...good old McDonalds. You see my friends, despite its many, many, many flaws, Mickey D's has something awesome to offer everyone--free wifi.

Tyler's new jacket!

In the land of pay-for-everything-including-a-tiny-plastic-shopping-bag Paris, free wifi is a silly notion. Until you see those golden arches. We turned to McDonalds and even Starbucks (though McDonalds is more affordable with more reliable internet), to contact the owner, check our e-mail, move money around, etc. We finally have internet in our apartment, but this experience has definitely provided me with an important travelers tip that I would love to share with you...

Maddie C'est ici dans notre apartment!

Paris Travel Tip #3: Find all your nearby McDonalds and Starbucks.

You can be certain these American institutions will retain some vestige of their native country in terms of free wifi. Though you may not suffer our woeful wifi issues, you may well need navigation help during your time in the city. If you have an iPhone or any other smart phone, internet is key--you can save pictures of maps to your phone or even pull up and save directions. One of the most helpful things we have done is save the location of every McDonalds downtown, so that we know where we can get some free wifi if we need it.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Parisian thoughts

Bon jour tout le monde! Nous sommes a Paris, dans in apartemont petit e mignon! I think I spelled that all correctly...thankfully I can speak more French Than I can write. Either way, I am writing to you from PARIS!
Pictures from the phtomaton in the metro!

The first few days have been a whirlwind of discovery--the bakeries with fresh bread every day, the cafes that serve wine for ridiculously cheap, the cheese...oh the cheese. I cannot even begin to describe what my first taste of chevre in France was like. A totally new experience--I have never had something so rich in flavor, creamy, and fantastically textured before. Needless to say we have beaucoup du'fromage in our fridge right now.
Notre dejuner cafe avec quatre fromage, noix, e un petit salade

So I have a few things that I've noticed about Paris and Parisians aside from the cafes, etc.

1. They're not as rude as people say they are. I had this expectations of Parisians walking around with, well...for lack of a better way to put it, sticks up their ass (pardon my French). But their not. For the most part people have been quite nice to us. You'll have your random rude person or shopkeeper, but nothing like people make it out to be. I will say however, it is much appreciated when you try to speak a bit of French to them.
Je manges à l'extérieur d'une boulongarie

2. Paris: the land of green eyes. I've always wondered where all the green eyes in the world I know: Paris. In the States, I almost never see clearly green eyes, but it's common place here! I find myself constantly staring at someone's eyes, shocked by how green they really are.
Mon beau mari

3. They dress exceptionally well. Initially, I simply thought that all Parisians were just...gorgeous. However upon closer inspection, I've come to realize that it's not the facial structure or anything that separates them, it's the mode of dress. The day-to-day is simply a bit fancier. It is rarer to see jeans and a t-shirt, but instead a cute pair of colored slacks, a nice shirt or blouse, and a scarf fashionably hung around a woman's neck. For men, nice jeans, a casual button up, and a casual blazer. The casual blazer is BIG here for both men and women. Anyways, this leads directly to my next Paris Travel Tip...
Nous sommes a la fete de la musique, 21de juin

Paris Travel Tip #2 Pack few clothes, but nice ones.

Why? Because the easiest way to be spotted as a "tourist" and taken advantage of--either ripped off of worse, robbed--is to look like one. This is especially helpful, I think, if you, like me, do not speak the language fluently.

Anyone that has been inside my closet would most certainly not call me a fashionista by any measure. But when we were packing for Paris, I made a promise that I would pack no more than one bag for 3 weeks, and it would contain travel-able but chic clothes. So I packed 1 fancy dress, 1 simple day dress. 1 linen skirt, 1 pair of blue slacks, 2 T-shirts, 2 tank tops (one formal, one informal), 1 button down shirt, and 2 scarves. These, along with 3 pairs of shoes, provide me with a solid rotation of outfits and allow me to blend in with the crowd.

Additionally--bringing a large purse with a zipper has been super helpful in allowing me to minimize the number of random bags we have to carry!












Monday, June 18, 2012

International Travel: Paris Edition

Since we drove into Boston, things have been pretty crazy. We had to unpack our overloaded VW, sell said VW, find an apartment, acquire said apartment, and put the finishing touches on time in Paris. 

We finally had a few moments to breathe, and I thought it might be nice to document our little excursion. While we were packing up, I had the opportunity to look at some of our old pictures, and memories...and it really made me realize how important taking pictures are. Or at least documenting memories in some way. Pictures can transport us from time and place to another, reminding us of happy, sad, and in between times. 

This picture, we took in 2010, the day Tyler left to go to his first JAMP program in Dallas. He was driving across the country, leaving Boston for two years, to join me in San Antonio, TX. He drove in the same white VW Rabbit we drove back to Boston in, and it was just as overloaded then as it was this time around. 
Revere Beach, 2010
So when we came back this time around, I thought it fitting that we go back and take a similar picture. A bit grainier, not at sunrise, and a completely different sentiment. It wasn't a bittersweet "see you later" to Boston, but instead an ecstatic "HALLELUJAH! We're BACK!" sentiment. Two years later, married, older, wiser, more in love, and pre-grad students. Some things change, some things don't. 

Revere Beach, 2012
The long and short of it is: I'll be taking a ton of pictures when we go to Paris. I want to experience it, and then be able to look back, holding a picture (or let's be realistic here, looking at a picture online), and be transported back to that time and place. 

Also! Travel Tips! So I usually do recipes, and although we will have a kitchen in Paris, I may be too excited by the fact that I'm eating in Paris to actually take pictures of it, so I'm going to be putting down Travel Tips! First one is's actually how found our apartment! The next time I will probably be from Paris!

Travel Tip #1: Explore airbnb

Where to stay is always a question when you are travelling, especially internationally. It can get really expensive, and if you're staying for a long period of time, do you really want to stay in a hostel the whole time? This website is a short term or long term apartment rental website. Basically any where you want to travel, you can find different places to stay, all in different price ranges.  We found our apartment in central Paris for 3 weeks at a reasonable price (something a teacher and a student) could afford. We'll have the one bedroom to ourselves, with a laundry unit, fridge, great view, and stove/oven.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Years

These are some of my thoughts that I've collected for the past few days, just what came out of my head:

School ended for me on June 6th. It is now June 15th. We spent the past 9 days packing up our house in San Antonio, moving across the country, finding an apartment in Boston, losing an apartment in Boston, finding another and signing it, reconnecting with my brother and sister-in-law, and seeing a few well-missed friends. It's been a whirl-wind experience, and I look forward to experience the rest of this summer with so many firsts.

But almost a week and a half has passed since school has ended and I have definitely had time to ruminate on the past two years. There's not much to say that has not been said already. I never saw myself in the classroom, but these past two years have given me experiences, perspectives, and thoughts that I never would have had if I had simply passed straight into medical school.
My class key 
My classroom

It is absurd to think that I will not being seeing most of my 280 students again. I won't stand in my classroom again and see them walk by as sophomores, while I usher in my next group crazy freshman.  I hope in some way I have impacted their lives, and helped them to see that they can reach for a world outside of their 20 mile radius.
My lovely 1st period class
I am truly thankful to Teach for America for allowing me to see and live the other side of the desk as a teacher. I would have never seen or understood the behind the scenes work, be it administrative or just planning, that teachers do every day.  In order to truly achieve a transformational change in education and education policy, we need education advocates from all walks of life to better understand the slowly festering crisis. To that end, TFA has achieved it's goal with me: I will forever be an education advocate.

I'm looking forward to the future, with some excitement, some fear, and a lot of butterflies. Medical school will be tough...but it definitely won't be the same type of tough as 30 expectant pairs of eyes staring at me, Miss Shah, and expecting me to fill their brains with knowledge. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Peach Toast

It's been a while, I know. Things have been hectic over here. We are getting ready to move, so we're selling ALL of our furniture (moving to Texas? Need some furniture? I'm selling it all for $250), making plans for our 3 week stay in Paris (!!!), contacting real estate agents in Boston to search for apartments. Overall craziness in the Shah-Hoppenfeld household. 

So hectic in fact, that I actually forgot to go grocery shopping last week. Well, not really forgot. It was a mixture of laziness and the epiphany that we will actually have to eat all the food in our pantry before we leave in about 2 weeks. So I've been trying to get a little...creative. Hence--peach toast! 

Usually for lunch Tyler and I have a sandwich, and we end up with the ends of the bread. I've used these for a few different things--bread crumbs, croutons, but my new favorite is breakfast peach toast. Sometimes the best things in life are simple. Toasted bread, butter, sliced peaches, and a sprinkling of sugar. The toast has been a nice reminder of simplicity that can be pretty, and tasty.

Peach Toast

Slice of Bread 
Square of butter
Fresh, ripe peach, sliced
1 tsp. white or brown sugar. 

Toast the bread in your broiler or toaster. Then spread the butter on the bread and toast for a little while longer. Then place the sliced peach on top of the toast, and sprinkle the sugar on top and viola! Pan avec peaches :-) (Frenglish) 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mistake: Commentary on Douthat's latest article

Everyone makes mistakes. I made one today, I read the Ross Douthat column. My husband saw my hand making a increasingly taunt fist on the table, and immediately forwarded me a funny online comic.

I really shouldn't read them. It's not that I don't appreciate the other view, I do when it's well thought out and does not simply ignore reality. He claims Obama has ignored discussing unemployment rates and the economy in favor of discussing social issues. True, the past few weeks have been flooded with social debates, rather than commentary on the economy. Why though? Because the social issues have been forced to the forefront by the GOP, and what else is the President to do other than to respond? It is a campaign year, and it is a bit ridiculous to fault him for commenting on the numerous GOP foot-in-mouth moments (re: Rush Limbaugh calling a law student a slut).

Yes, social issues have taken over the news coverage greatly for the past few months. Many Republican pundits have lamented that we are talking about these "inferior" issues rather than the main issue facing America--the economy. I could not disagree more. While we are most certainly grappling with global economic crisis, we must never forget that it is more than the economy that affects citizen's lives--the social issues affect us everyday: access to health care, women's health, the ability to have your relationship federally recognized, freedom of speech no matter how repulsive, education allowing for social mobility, etc. These issues cannot be ignored, they are truly the foundation of our country and what makes us still the country where many people would (and do) walk through fire to live in.

Will the President address his economic policy and the unemployment rate in this country? Most certainly, after all, he will be forced to on the campaign trail. Do I think most Americans can understand that this is a global crisis, and it will take time, more than 4 years to pull us fully into the black again? Yes. Do I think most Americans will think we are better off now than in 2008, and realize that going back to Bush-era economic policies would be devastating? I sure hope so. But to endeavor to fault the President for responding to social issues that are critically important, well that is simply foolish and narrow-minded Mr. Douthat.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A lot

A lot has happened in the past few days. President Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage, Tyler finished his final class at UTSA, my students took my Biology end of course (EOC) exam, and we went to a great restaurant.

I don't think I'll get to all that in this post. Let's take one thing at a time.

Today honestly felt like nothing I have ever experienced before. Watching my students take the EOC test was a moment that made me understand a little bit what parents probably feel towards their children--an overwhelming sense of pride. I saw them open up their test books, I saw them underline, highlight, star, cross off answers...use all the techniques I taught them. I saw them pick the right answers, I saw them get confused and pick the wrong answer. But they worked so hard, and I just couldn't help the smile plastered on my face for the first 30 minutes of class.

One student in particular, B, came to my tutoring since...February. Any time I had tutoring, she'd be there. During school, after school, heck, even once before school I think. And I was lucky enough to be testing with her today. I feel an unexpected attachment to her and a deep investment in how she did on the test. Just watching her circle the word transcription and write DNA --> mRNA on the paper was just enough to make me understand...remember, realize, why I did Teach For America. I taught her that. I did! Not any random thing, but me...up in the front of a class, coming up with lessons, teaching the general and nuances. Isn't that amazing to think about? If I didn't teach it, they didn't learn it. Sometimes the weight of responsibility becomes all too apparent. I am so proud to have been able to be her teacher, and well, a teacher to all my students--even the ones that make me want to tear my hair out.

There is an indescribable value to having good teachers in this world. Am I the best teacher? By far and away no. But I care about my students, invest time and effort, and if I were staying in the profession, I might I would get there. I hope that something can happen soon in terms of education reform to make it possible for all students to receive an equal and fair education by well trained teachers implementing best practices.

Either way, today has made me thankful, proud, and happy. I feel like I have accomplished something, even just a little. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How To: Learning a New Language

As I have mentioned a few times, Tyler and I will be going to France this summer! So, we decided to try and learn French, in part because I think it would be fun to learn a new language together, and in part because it's respectful to the country and culture we're visiting.

I knew when we started that we would not be fluent by the time we go to France, definitely far from it, but I hoped we'd know enough French to get around and have basic conversation. To this end, we found a French tutor on craigslist, and got started!

Our first French tutor was...well, not good. So we hired another one, and she is great! Bi-weekly, we practice our French conversations and pronunciations with her, and it's been well worth every dollar spent. But, she also suggested that we get an audio-tutor to listen to the French language and learn more daily. In particular, she suggested the Pimsleur Language Program, a set of audio CDs that we could get for free from our local library, and listen to in our cars, while walking the dog, etc.

If you are interested in learning a new language, but you want to hire a tutor, I'm telling you--this is the way to do it. These Pimsleur programs are around 30 minutes each, and they teaching you starting at the very basic level, provide you oral practice each lesson, and build up slowly, lesson by lesson.

I got the French CDs from the library, starting with French 1A, and I've already learned so much! I'm only on lesson 8 right now, but I can have a basic French conversation (albeit, a conversation about how you are, where you want to eat, when you want to eat, what you want to eat, etc.) and it's quite exciting.

So, my suggestion--if you want to learn a new language, check out these Pimsleur CDs from your library. You can even rip them onto your computer and upload them to your iPod/iPhone. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Quick Dinner Idea: Cheese and Bread Edition

So Tyler and I don't really go out to eat much, both to save money and to eat healthfully. But most days, neither of us have the time or energy to prepare an elaborate meal...hence this post! A quick dinner, made while we were both sick and feeling like crap. It didn't take a lot of time or a lot of money. 

Meal Components: Cheese, Bread, Fruit, Butter, Dulce de Leche spread
Protein: Cheese

Cheeses: Le Petit Brie, Stilton, Parmesan, Landaff, Mimolette. I really just picked up two cheeses from the store, and used whatever extra we had in the fridge. The trick is, balance it out: have one brie, one hard cheese like a gruyere or a parmesan, and one stinky cheese like a blue cheese. Or if you don't like blue, try goat cheese! Or maybe a sharp cheddar? 

Butter: Dill butter. I used old herbs I had in the fridge. You can easy just take a stick of room temperature butter and mix it in with dried italian seasoning. 

Fruit: The fruit is great to off set the flavor of the cheese. Try apples, pears, peaches, and even grapes. I also tossed in some Kumquats that I picked up from the store because Tyler loves them. Either way, fruit is a must...because it adds roundness to the meal. 

Spread: You can either buy dulce de leche from the store, or make it at home...either way, it's great, and I'll definitely do a post about it soon. But if you don't want to do that, go with something honey. It's amazing how good honey, parmesan, and a slice of apple are on a slice of baguette. 

Anyways, mix it up! Use the baguette as a vessel and try different layers of the cheese, fruit, and spread to see how things taste. Quick, interesting weeknight dinner!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Udon Chard Wraps

We leave San Antonio in 40 days. We drive to Boston in 40 days. We leave Texas in 40 days. We start searching for an apartment in 44 days. We go to Paris in 50 days. We go to Hawaii in 76 days. We go to Arcadia in 92 days. And I become a medical student in 96 days. 

Woah, that's a lot of countdowns. I've been trying to ignore them recently though...just having fun with what I can do now, read books, teach children, read the newspaper...sleep late. All things I hope I can still retain to some extent in medical school.

That's one of my bigger fears, that it will be a "step back" in some way. That I have just gained my adult life, and it will be yanked away from me by school. Don't get me wrong, I am ridiculously excited for medical school, and going back to studying, but I am worried that I will gain a myopic perspective about studying, and I don't want that. I want to continue to be well-rounded, read books, cook, make random political commentary, etc. I understand that I can't do it to the extent that I am now, and I don't really want that, but I am going to work damn hard to keep it. Luckily, I also think Tyler will help me out in remembering that hey, I can and should take breaks! Anyways, on to the recipe! 

These udon chard wraps are really freaking good! Albeit kind of messy to eat...

They are already vegan, but they are easily made gluten free if you substitute the udon noodles for rice noodles, or for quinoa. Try them, seriously. They might sound weird, but don't run away...I swear! They're great! Also, they're pretty easy to took me just under 30 minutes.

Udon Chard Wrap 

There are 3 parts to this recipe: sauce, chard leaves, and noodles. 

3 tbsp. peanut butter 
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil 
2 tbsp. soy sauce
squirt of your favorite hot sauce (mine is sriracha) 
handful of chopped chives 
slightly less than 1/4 cup water

Stir these items all together, and you have yourself one tasty sauce! Add some salt if needed. 

Some tofu, cubed
udon noodles

Cut up the tofu into cubes, and saute them in some olive oil until they are lightly brown on either side. 

While this is happening, boil some udon noodles until they are the softness you like. Strain the noodles, and then mix the sauce into the noodles and let it cool.

Chard Leaves

Bunch of rainbow chard leaves, that are relatively in tact still

Cut off the stems of the chard leaves, until it's just the leaves. On the bottom of the leaf, there will still be a thick stem left...cut it out careful. 
When everything is done, lay out a chard leave, fill the middle with a bit of the noodles, put a few slices of avocado, or some walnuts or pumpkin seeds in the middle, a splash of hot sauce, and roll it up like a burrito. Enjoy! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Green Eggs

Let me tell you about my allergies. I have never really had them before. In Arizona, allergies aren't crazy because it's too hot, and in Boston...well, I don't know why I didn't have bad allergies in Boston. But good heavens, in San's a whole new world! 

I didn't have allergies last year, but then again 2011 was the hottest year on record for Texas, as we went through a severe drought. This year, rain galore! And the flowers are out in full force showing off their pretty little petals. Me, thinking I'm immune, have taken no precaution against allergies. I drove with the windows down, kept the doors open, walk amongst flowers, etc. 
Key example: Tyler and I at the botanical gardens eating a picnic lunch (hence why his mouth is full of food), and inhaling all the demon pollen. But the flowers were pretty!
PSC, poor stupid child, that's what Tyler calls me. I came home earlier this week and proclaimed that I was getting nose was stuffy, my head hurt, and my eyes were all watery. He patiently informed me that I was suffering from allergies...and boy does it suck. 
The week was...hell-ish to go through, with me frequently telling my students that I needed them to whisper because my head hurt that much...but the weekend was great. I literally spent all of Saturday in bed with Tyler reading books, relaxing, using a Neti Pot (they work!), and drinking lots of water. Brilliant! On such days, it's quite important to have a easy go-to snack that is healthy and filling...ergo, green eggs! 
Basically, it' a hardboiled egg with cilantro pesto on top. Quite tasty, quite easy to make all the stuff ahead of time, and just keep it in your fridge as a go-to. 

Green Eggs

Cilantro Pesto

If you're not a fan of cilantro, feel free to replace any hearty green. I've done this with baby spinach, dandelion green, etc.

2 bunches of cilantro 
3 cloves of garlic 
0.25-0.5 cups of grated parmesan cheese (honestly, you can either grate your own, or if you're short on time, use the Krafts pre-grated kind of fake parmesan) 
2 tsp. lemon juice or white vinegar
0.25 cup olive oil 
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the bunches of cilantro and trim off the ends, so you have mostly the green leaves. Place them in a food processor and pulse a few times. Then add in the garlic cloves and turn it on to full-blast. Then add in all the rest of the ingredients. Taste and adjust as desired. This keeps in the fridge for about a week and a half, and in the fridge for month. I make it in large batches and just unfreeze it when I need it. 


Just take a hard boiled egg or a soft-boiled egg, peel the shell, cut it in half, and spoon out a little bit of the pesto on top. This also make a really good party finger food. 

Other Ideas

The pesto makes a good pasta sauce, pizza sauce, spread on sandwiches, salad dressing when thinned out with more olive oil and a little water, or even a good dip for veggies when mixed with some greek yogurt or sour cream.