Thursday, February 16, 2012

I'm still standing

Oh man, where to begin?  I know my last post was not very encouraging as I was in the thick of holiday stress.  Little did I know that 5 days after writing that post I found out my bf of 3.5 years was being unfaithful to me (not the first time) and so I lived like a gypsy for the remainder of 2011 and first week of 2012.  I found a great apartment to move with the two pups and began the tedious process of unpacking and organizing.
Two weeks ago one of my dogs started to refuse food and after a week of uncertainty- why is her spleen enlarged? why is she anemic? was it cancer?- the diagnosis and emergency treatment for immune mediated hemolytic anemia was in order.  Uncertainty lingered as she did not immediately respond to treatments- medication, followed by a blood transfusion, and finally an infusion to further calm down the immune response.  I was an emotional mess, not eating, sleeping or exercising well and yet had a job to still report to and a second, healthy dog to attend to.  Through excellent medical care and plenty of prayers she is back home and life seems to FINALLY be getting back to normal.
Well, as normal as cooking for one can be.  (Pro: brown rice and whole wheat pasta are back, red meat is out!  Con: I'm getting tired of eating 3 days of leftovers from one meal and washing all the pots and pans).  Now I will need to concentrate my kitchen efforts on fresh, tasty, balanced meals for one.  Any ideas?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mental Health Vacation

Happy holidays, dear readers.  I wish you and your loved ones a joyous holiday and blessed new year.
I am taking this week and next off work because I seriously needed a break from the grind.  It became clear as I intentionally slacked off (by taking my time replying to patient emails and returning calls) that I was nearing the point of burning out.  In healthcare that can lead to dangerous mistakes and serious consequences.  So with more than enough PTO banked up and one month's notice, I was approved to check out for the last 2 weeks of the year.  
I confess to reading my work emails form home because if I didn't I would return in January to about 200 unread messages (damn you daily listserv communications!) and a I did log into to our patient care program to see if any cancer patients had kooky questions (a recent curveball: "Someone told me to drink aloe juice, honey and rum everyday to keep the cancer from spreading") or if tube fed patients were not tolerating their formula, etc.
Now it seems I've traded one set of tasks and deadlines (clocking in, seeing patients, attending meetings, etc) with another (today it was buying the last couple of gifts for family, wrapping the pile that has amassed this holiday season, dusting, unloading the dishwasher, washing the two counters-worth of used dishes, cleaning the bathroom, hanging up my clothes from earlier this week, finding time to exercise, make dinner, prepare a salad for 42 friggin people on Christmas, and on and on)...
What I DIDN'T need was cleaning up red wine/pizza/salad/taquito barf last night (which was not mine).  Or a speeding ticket (51 in a 35).  Or wrapping my car around a parking garage column.  (Insert every bad word you can think of and you've echoed my sentiments exactly).
So now I confess to *desperately* needing a time out.  I am forcing myself to sit quietly and do nothing but close my eyes breathe at regular intervals throughout the day.  I am giving myself permission to be flawed and to not have everything done perfectly.  And most of all, I am reminding myself that Christmastime is about family, hope, and love.  Here's a perfect example of that, courtesy of my 4 year old cousin:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A holiday jingle

Sung to the tune of "Deck the Halls"

Fill the 'fridge with seasonal produce
Fa la la la la la la la la 
'Tis the season not for berries

Fa la la la la la la la la 
Give the winter crops
A fighting chance
Fa la la la la la la la la 

Sad tomatoes just aren't worth it

Fa la la la la la 
la la 

I admit to not making it down to the farmer's market every week so from time to time I rely on grocery stores for my produce (like most of the world).  It's shocking to see anemic looking summer month crops trying to be passed off as yummy year-round.  Just look at how pale the poor fruits are in my photos.  Look, I love strawberries and tomatoes as much as the next All-American foodie but I respect the seasonality of foods and patiently wait for the right season (or buy them frozen) to thoroughly enjoy and maximize on their nutritional value.
To find out what's in season, visit Sustainable Table and enter your state and the time of year.  See you in summertime, berries.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, readers! I am thankful for each of you taking the time to read my posts and commenting. I hope you have a delicious day ahead!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The secret ingredient is...

... red cabbage!  My bf's mom dropped off some Korean food (cuz we all know I can't pull that off) this week as well as some miscellaneous produce.  When I saw the cabbage I was taken back to the last time we squared off: junior year of college in my organic chemistry lab.  The task: isolate the essential oil.  The challenge: gagging my way through each noxious step at 8:00 in the morning.  Yep, that day red cabbage won and since then I've kept my distance.
Well, I have a hard time throwing away perfectly good food (except for the red onion; had NO problem throwing that monster away) so I turned to my trusty sous chef,, and tried to find a way to even out the Erica-Cabbage score.  I present:

Sausage Smothered in Red Cabbage


  • 1 small head red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter (didn't need because I skipped the next ingredient)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (definitely omitted)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 1 pound kielbasa sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces


  1. Place the cabbage in a large kettle, and add the diced apple, 2 teaspoons of the salt, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil then simmer, covered, about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
  2. In hot butter, saute the onion until golden. Add the onion to the cabbage along with 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, vinegar and sausage. Cook, covered, 20 to 30 minutes until sausage is heated through. To serve, spoon the cabbage onto a heated platter, topping it with the sausage.
I expected a bitter-tasting dish so I doubled the vinegar and used apple cider vinegar instead because I thought that would tie in the apple flavor well. It did, but came out a little salty so I would cut back to maybe 1-2 teaspoons salt and probably add another apple. (Korean mom practically gave us a bushel.) I served this alongside smashed potatoes (too lazy to peel them) and voila! Dinner is served :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mad scientist makeup

The longer I work in oncology, the more suspicious I am about everyday items contributing to cancer development.  It just doesn't make sense why young people have advanced forms of cancer or really rare forms of cancer that doctors don't know how to best treat.  You can't blame the patient- it's not like they intentionally messed up their DNA or swallowed the tumor whole- so what gives?
The state of medicine and health seems to prioritize treatment rather than prevention.  I appreciate the advances thus far after reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and understanding the horrific surgeries and excruciating chemical cocktails used to treat cancer in the past.  Yet that big question- WHY- has largely been ignored. 
One reason why I participated in Breast Cancer Fund's hike last month was because they are committed to identifying and advocating for the removal of environmental exposures to prevent the disease.  While we may choose to eat organic foods and watch the alcohol intake, lather on sunscreen, and exercise diligently to take care of ourselves we don't consider the carcinogens found in personal care/beauty products.  Starting with bright purple j.a.n.e. eyeshadow and frosted pink Bonne Bell lipstick in 7th grade, who knows what's accumulated in my body over the years or why I got my period when I was 10 (a risk factor for breast cancer)!
I've spent hours looking up the insanely long chemical names in my beauty products and I am *so* glad that I did.  I've basically scrapped all my hair, nail, shower, makeup, and body products in favor of alternatives that don't contain parabens, phthalates, lead, or triclosan, among other nasty ingredients.  I think the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database should win a Nobel Prize for making this information readily available.  I've searched by brand name (shame on you, MAC!), ingredient (see above list of nasty names), and by product type (i.e. foundation, deodorant) to find the lowest rated health hazards. 
Fortunately, Bare Escentuals is a low risk product line easily found at Sephora and lots of acceptable cosmetic, hair, and body products can be found on and  I've been introduced to the wide array of products from Maia's Mineral Galaxy and Honeybee Gardens by the EWG database.  I am proud to support their company's efforts at making people feel happier and having fun with their appearance without jeopardizing their health in the process.

Lead used to be an ingredient in lipstick.  Not cool.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


It's hard to love your body when it's bursting at the seams of your pants. Good thing today is the first day I can use my $30 off a $100 purchase at Banana Republic. I'm on the hunt for stretch-blend trousers!