Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Years! Step away from the resolution and accept a challenge

I dare you, no I double-dog dare you to forgo the usual New Years resolution and accept a challenge when the clock strikes midnight. Kiss the girl, eat the grapes, fire the cannon and walk around the block with a suitcase: but no resolutions!

Why? Because they fail, resolutions are like writing a to-do list for the first week of January. Without fail those that resolve to loose weight will clog the gym for a week or two, then leave the rest of us again come February. Those that vow to eat healthy will be back to their drive through and huge portion sizes in no time, produce left in limbo in the salad draw. Resolve to improve your relationships? How do you do that?

So instead I dare you to accept a challenge (or all of them) this New Years Eve and turn anual failure into accomplish.

Challenge Your Mind

Pick out a good book, not from Oprah book club or the NY Times list, a real good book and read it. Start with one, one book that will help open your mind, change your point of view, or show you new lenses to view the world through and read it. I dare you.
Challenge Your Body

Don't just aim to "be healthier" or "go to the gym," set a real goal with a real end point. Challenge yourself and register for a 5k, a lifting competition or a 30 day app challenge.

  • 30 day Squat challenge - App Store 
  • 30 day Crunch challenge - App Store 
  • 30 day Plank challenge - App Store 
  • 30 day Yoga challenge - YouTube 
  • 5k road race (couch to 5k program) - Google local road races 
  • YouTube - there are more fitness videos than you can shake a stick at! Just pick one and do it, I really like PopSugar, Fitness Blender and BeFit channels. 

Challenge Your Spirit

Do what? Challenge what? "But my spirit is so fragile, I'm barely surviving!" While its hard to hear, the best advice you will ever get is: fake it 'til you make it.

  • Put on a happy face - several studies, including "Effects of Self-Generated Facial Expressions on Mood" from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrate that you can effect your mood by facial expression. As in, assume the posture of happiness (smile, lift your head and put a bounce in your step) and soon enough you will actually feel happy. 
  • Delete Facebook - yeah, I double dog dare you with a cherry on top. Stop, just stop posting everything good, bad or otherwise happening in your life. You do not need he outside affirmation that your life matters: it does. Facebook and its constant barrage of garbage, bad news, sensationalism and engagements does nothing for you. Nothing. 
  • Learn a New Skill - A new skill, a new source of pride. You are never too old to learn something new, never to old to find a new source of pride and pleasure. And, it's super easy in the age of technology: you can be a cooking master with the help of an app or two. My favorite is Jamie Oliver's cooking app. Or.... Check out the Unconventional Quilting page and find some inspiration from a new found quilter. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

It's the Midwest Baby! Winter Edition

I have traveled all over the United States and seen a lot of amazing and awful things, but there are some things you only find in the midwest. 
Scary the Snowman, make of tires and inner tubes.
Winter brings out the creativity in some people around here too. This beauty is on North Osteopathy St. in Kirksville, MO. 
Its just Iowa
Lots of farm land, feed plants and old homesteads to bee seen though. There is a lonely beauty in driving through these "flyover states." 

First Light near the Missouri/Illinois border  
Winter in the midwest is cold and snowy, with freezing winds whipping across the planes right into your face. But, the landscape sure can be beautiful if you're willing to brave the ice and wind.

Route 63 Between Greentop, MO and Kirksville, MO
If you do decide to drive here are some of the more common sights, no big cities around here...or even decent sized towns.
Retired firetruck on Route 3 south of Kirksville

Active farm on rt 63 north of Kirksville, MO
So you don't want to drive to Kirksville? No problem! We have an airport, its only 5 miles south of town and this little twin engine beauty is the commercial airliner. I've ridden in the co-pilot seat because it was booked full, an experience not to be missed.
This is the commercial airliner

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mind, Body, Spirit

The three tenants that Osteopathic Medicine revolve around are: mind, body and spirit. Keeping these in mind help not only with the amazingly arduous task of becoming a doctor, but in caring for our patients and ourselves.

A common problem in medical school

The mind is a terrible thing to waste - we've all heard this before. But it is also fragile and needs a break from time to time. Medical school stretches our minds to the limit, with huge amounts of raw information to memorize, millions of connections to be made between facts about diseases, treatments, symptoms and side effects, and rigorous schedules of deadlines, due dates and exams.
Taking a moment to think about nothing and veg out seems impossible, but its not - and we need to. Even just a few minutes a day are enough to refresh and reset our minds for the mental gymnastics our education requires.

Its temping to turn to Youtube or Facebook for some brain down time, but try these ideas instead for your mind rest/refresh:
  • Meditation - the Mayo Clinic has a great introduction to mediation and easy ways to get started. 
  • Rest - "sleep like the astronauts" was the pre-exam catch phrase all through medical school, and for good reason. We need to recharge the batteries and get a good nights sleep to perform at peek mental power and agility. 
  • Prioritize - don't let the day get too hectic and unbearable that your brain hurts. Plan ahead and create a must-do list for the day. Prioritize the top three things you absolutely have to do each day and start with them, then move on to the should-do items.
NEMO triathlon 2013 - I'm on the far left

DO you treat your body like a temple? Or more like a cheep motel? 

To live a fulfilled life we need our bodies to be there (and get us there).  Nutrition and physical activity are hugely important for all of us to maintain the hectic pace we live at, note I didn't say diet and exercise. 

Changing the way we look at food, at activity and fitness is the next step. Taking the focus off low-calorie, low-fat, High fructose corn syrup, etc and placing it on food that is recognizable, grown and fresh simplifies the quagmire of the grocery store. 

Get out of the elliptical machine, bench press gym frenzy and build activity into everyday actions, make fitness fun and pleasurable. 
  • Shop the perimeter - Yup, avoid the gooey-center of the grocery store and expand your horizons by shopping only on the perimeter of the grocery store. Here we find the fresh produce, the butcher counter and dairy section - identifiable food! Dehydrogenated and trans-fats are no where to be found.
  • Use a hand basket - Yes, I said it. No push grocery carts. Not only does this limit drastically what we can fit in the basket, but also makes us use our muscles (gasp) to carry the food.
  • Daily Exercise - Cant get to the gym? Awesome, take the stairs everywhere, park far away from the door, walk to the grocery store (bring a backpack) ride your bike to work. Make your daily activities active.
  • Get Out of the Gym - Get outside when the weather allows and bring the family too. Look up local parks and trails in your area and go try one out. All you need is a pair of sneakers, and dress in layers. Teaching little ones active hobbies and weekend activities will instill positive life habits in them early and encourage you to be a great example. Heading to the neighborhood playground is great too, monkey bars are way more difficult as an adult and all the bending and squatting while playing with the kids builds relationships and thigh muscles. 

North East Missouri sunrise

Life is hard, and we can make it so much harder by trying to make it alone. Keeping in touch with loved ones, family and friends and maintaining and growing those connections to the world are extremely important. Medical school can make you feel so alone, only a handful of people in the country understand what you're experiencing, your language changes, your ideals shift, your understanding of the world and systems around you change and its so hard to adjust. 

Keeping the mind and body in line and on track are huge, but not as important as keeping the spirit up and engaged and feeling involved. Over the years I found myself calling my family members more just to chat, to keep a connection and feel like I wasn't alone. I was checking my phone, email, Facebook constantly to the validation that others existed and cared that I was there. 

It's hard to feel loved, worthy and human when you are constantly pushing and dragging yourself forward. Depression can sneak into your life without any fanfare, you can find yourself just not caring anymore, no drive left and no pleasure in anything. Depression can feel like you've run out of gas, no energy or interest. Depression can be sadness and despair, nothing is going to change and you'll never be happy. 

Listen to your spirit, keep in touch with yourself and know when something feels different, or you feel nothing. There is help, there are people that care and you can feel normal.
  • Affirmation Statements - Check out this post by Remez Sasson to learn about affirmation statements and try out a few. Positive thinking can make you feel positive and change the attitude you approach the day with.
  • Maintain Connections - Make that phone call. Call your mother or grandmother while walking to or from class. It doesn't have to be a long call, and you don't even have to have something to talk about, just reach out to say hello and know you are connected to the people that love you.
  • Be Honest - Be honest with yourself, don't run or hide from how you are feeling. No one feels great all the time, and there is a point that you should seek professional help. I've been there and yes, its hard to accept at first, but there are professionals for this reason: we all need help sometimes.

Happy Fish: Cheater Stars

Sunny yellow fleece combined with happy little swimming koi fish make this cuddly soft throw cute, warm and perfectly silly. I love the optical illusion effect that this quilt has.

A birthday gift for my sister

Here I used a parallelogram cut out and 12x12 inch squares to create the top in cheater fashion. Each star uses eight parallelograms ironed around the template.

I alternate the two colors to create a optical illusion like effect with the stars and back grounds.

Pinned blocks ready to stitch down 
When the blocks are stitched together the points on the stars will touch and bring the lines in crisper.

This fleece throw turned into a birthday gift for my sister.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!

The holidays are the time for big parties, awesome food, great drinks...Enjoy them! But stay responsible, don't over indulge in cookies and rich foods or over imbibe in fancy cocktails and toasts. Don't let all your hard work this year go down in flames during Christmas dinner. Yes, New Years is right around the corner, but who needs resolutions when health and happiness are a way of life?

Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season this year! Keep on track and keep up your workout routine, your eating habits and thoroughly enjoy the season, family and all those parties and goodies (in moderation).

Christmas Cookies

Chocolate chip, gingersnap, snicker doodle, sugar cookie, rum ball and all oh-so-tasty treats! They are so tempting and so delightful, calling out with their beautiful color, frosting, powdered sugar and crispy promises of joy.

Don't forget just how many calories and how much butter goes into those little beauties. On average each chocolate chip cookie hides 120 calories in its deliciousness. Enjoy a few, but don't binge eat the whole batch.

  • Try drinking a glass of water with or after each cookie. Help your self by not only drinking more water (calorie free) which we all need to do, but helps space out those treats. 

  • Don't walk by the dessert table. Simple, but effective avoidance tactics. Out of sight (and reach) out of mind. 

Holiday Dinner 

Traditional, rich, flavorful, no-holds-barred recipes are the fare of choice at most holiday dinners. Hosts serve foods we're not likely to find any other time of year, they go all out to provide a memorable meal and lots of it.

Even the vegetables are hiding sugar and butter, so wondrous in creamy sauces, so decadent in caramelized sugar and oh-so-calorie-laden.
Get friend involved, make cookies together the day of

  • Use the salad plate for dinner. Honestly, humans like to fill their plate, the aesthetics of a bare plate drive our minds nuts. And we don't want to seem rude, so we clean that plate too. Using a smaller plate keeps us from taking larger servings but allows us to take a full plate and try a little of everything. 
  • Sit and talk. Do not get up for seconds, sit, talk and spend time with the people you are here to celebrate with. Make your dinner more about the people around you than the food in front of you.
  • Pass the water! Try to drink a whole 8oz glass of water with your dinner. It will help make you feel satisfied by slowing down how quickly you eat, and fill you up a little. 

Party Time 

Parties (unless you're Mormon) mean drinks: wine, beer cocktails and spirits. Enjoy them, but don't over imbibe. Save yourself the hangover and extra calories, try a few of these ideas instead.

Old fashioned and champagne cocktails 
Games are fun, and while some are super silly playing party games with the family or friends can create some great memories. Ever see a group of adults try to open a present while wearing mittens? 
  • Mitten Madness: One wrapped present, one pair of mittens, hat and scarf. The whole point is to open the present, but each couple or pair has 10 seconds for one person to put the mittens, hat and scarf on their partner and then try to unwrap the present (with the mittens on of course). The ensemble and the present work their way around the room to each couple until it is unwrapped and out of the box!
  • Board games and party games make great gifts, especially to the host/hostess of the party. This way you can enjoy playing with a crowd. 


There are lots of traditions each and everyone of us has those special foods, activities, clothing and more that make the holidays special. New traditions are great too, its never too late (or early) to start a new one!

Beautiful Morning for a hike

Thousand Hills State Park trail
  • Holiday Hike. Is the weather not so wintery? Try taking the family for a Christmas hike, let the little ones enjoy the outdoors and burn off a little energy before driving to grandma's for dinner. Or take your special someone out for a lovely hike around the nearest lake, its so romantic and a great time for conversation and secret kisses. 
  • Reign in Breakfast. Not every meal needs to be indulgent, or at least high in calories and fat. Try a warm and inviting breakfast of oatmeal, dried fruit and nuts with cinnamon for the family. High in fiber and low in sugar this highly sweetened breakfast can provide the foundation to start your holiday out on a healthy foot. 
  • Use those cookie cutters. Not for sugar cookies, but for Bisquick rolled biscuits! Make a fresh batch of biscuits shaped like trees, ornaments or bears for breakfast sandwiches of egg and low fat ham, add some spreadable fruit if your feeling adventurous.  
Everyone loves a happy breakfast.

Ninja: my little creeper

Ninja is our rescue kitten. She started life in the front yard of a good friend here in Kirksville, MO drinking out of puddles and eating god-knows-what. We found her at about ten weeks old and brought her home, gave her a bath and she's been weaseling into our hearts since.

Adorable no? 

The trouble with Kittens is that they invariably turn into Cats. And cats are rude. So we've been working on training Ninja to think she's a puppy :)

Adventure Cat! 
No, I'm not the only one in my family to put a cat on a leash, Grandma started it with Target. But Ninja is the adventure cat, prowling around Thousand Hills State Park.

Bothering Homer the beta fish
ANY container of water automatically belongs to Ninja, tea cups, fish bowls, you name it. She doesn't even care that Homer is in there, just wanted a drink.

My study buddy 
Every once in a while cats still do something so cute you can't help but go "awe" and remember why you love em'.

Every time I work on anything 
But hen they go right back to sitting on your project, playing with your computer mouse and stealing your socks. 

If looks could kill
Have you ever tried to was a cat? Not as easy as washing a kitten. Now they know how to resist and are big enough to. We had to draw a bath, dunk her in, apply soap and rinse by dunking. No more sink baths for this girl.

Full Loaf 
You learn some interesting things living with a cat, words have new meaning and privacy is out the window.

There is no privacy 

The cat that wants nothing to do with baths loves to sit, lounge and play in the sink.

Ninja is not impressed 

Does this sweater make my butt look big?

Merry Christmas!

From our house to yours - Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Super Simple Squares

If you can cut and sew a straight line, you can make this simple yet beautiful runner. I think that it would make a great quilt too if you kept going. Four different fabrics are used here, cut into long strips with or without a border. I really like the silly, happy little characters on these fabrics and the way the colors are carried throughout.

Super Simple Squares

  • Four fabrics cut into 2.5 inch strips 
  • Border fabric cut into 2.5 inch strips
  • Backing fabric 
  • Batting 
For every two strips of each fabric you will yield two squares. Here that means one with santa on the outside and one with santa on the outside. 

Cut and ready to go
Often times while I'm sewing, studying, typing or just about anything my little helper will jump up and "assist". She is great at holding fabric down and stealing pins.

Ninja wanted to help too

 Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance sew the strips to one another long ways. Be mindful to keep the patterns going one direction, like the trees here I want pointing toward the snowmen.

Iron each one flat with the seams going the same direction 
 My dad says quilting is "cutting up perfectly good fabric to sew it back together again." He's quite right, and not only do we cut up good fabric once in this pattern, but twice! Using a right angle and a cutting wheel cut out triangles, you should achieve two triangles of each side (Santa and snowmen).

Using a right angel and cutting wheel
Here are four triangles all ready to be sewn into one block of our table runner. Take care to line up each of the fabrics before sewing the block so you get nice, crisp lines.

Ready to sew the first square
Once you have your desired number of blocks for the length of your table sew them together and add on the triangles to the ends. For a finished look use a solid colored fabric as a border. Sandwich with the backing and batting and finish off by sewing over the seams in either red or green. 

Christmas Warmth: an Honest Quilt

This beautiful Christmas themed throw has a sister living in New Jersey. My mother and I devised a pattern for this delightful double star pattern based on a fellow quilter's Pinterest post. I live using a photo as inspiration for my projects and creating the pattern and learning techniques as I go.

The key to this quilt is precision cutting, I love using my cutting wheel, ruler mat and 24x6 ruler, to achieve accurate dimensions and crisp corners. Each piece is sewn together using a 1/4" seam allowance and creating as many straight lines as possible. 

This quilt is finished with a wine fleece backing and double loft batting. 

Scrub Caps - Hiding Your Hair in Style

Help! Those bouffant lunch-lady style scrub caps aren't just ugly, they itch. And not much is worse when you're scrubbed in and sterile than needing to scratch your forehead - and you can't..... for four hours.

For Women:

After lots of trial and error I present to you my tried and true pattern for crafting a comfortable and cute ladies scrub cap without the lunch-lady look. This is my favorite style, clean lines and room for all of my hair.

Clean lines and secured hair

Any cotton print fabric does the trick, I've got a collection with one for each season and holiday. 

Begin by cleaning off your work space and ironing out your chosen fabric. There are only two cuts of fabric required here:
  • One 7x28 inch rectangle 
  • One 9.5x6.5 inch tear shape 
In the Photo you'll notice that I shadow cut my 9x6 tear shape, this works great too. Don't forget to snip off the point of the teardrop. Once we've got out fabric cut its time to pin and sew.

Take the long rectangle and fold the short edges over about 1/4 inch twice so you hide the raw edge and sew over with a straight stitch. Fold the remaining raw edge of the long rectangle up about 1/4 inch twice and sew it down using a straight stitch. 

Starting at the front - the rounded side of the tear drop - pin the right sides together of the center of the long side of our rectangle with the teardrop. Pin all the way around to the back, yes the fabric will wrap around the back to the other side and over lap one another, thats what we want. Sew at 3/8 inch seam with a straight stitch, then again with a large zig-zag catching the edge of the fabric. 

Now the top of the hat is connected to the sides, with over-lap in the back to create room for your hair. 
Ready for the elastic 
To finish the cap we add elastic to the back. I really like using thin, round elastic and often utilize a Scrunchie at this point. Insert the elastic into the hat band we created by folding and sewing the bottom of the hat five inches into one of the open sides. Secure the elastic by sewing it in place. Scrunch up that side and work the elastic another four to five inches into the other side and using a seam ripper pull the end of the elastic through the folded band. Take a moment to size the cap - do not make it tight, but fitted enough to contain your hair.

Secure this side of the elastic and sew over the seam ripper hole. Enjoy your brand new scrub cap!

For Men:

Men's caps are super simple as well, and don't require any elastic. Simply cut out:

  • One 9.5x6.5 inch tear shape
  •  5x24 inch rectangle - slope top corners down like shown
Take the long rectangle and fold the short edges over about 1/4 inch twice so you hide the raw edge and sew over with a straight stitch.  

Again, with right sides together begin pinning at the front and continue around to the back. Straight stitch to secure and follow with zig-zag on the edge to prevent fraying. Fold the remaining raw edge of the long rectangle up about 1/4 inch twice and sew it down using a straight stitch. 

Add ribbon or double fold bias tape for ties to either side of the back and enjoy. 

    Friday, December 19, 2014

    Keeping it Cute in the OR

    As a medical student I spend a huge amount of time in the OR and that means long hours in head to toe surgical scrub. My favorite way to add a little personality to the sterile ensemble is donning an awesome cap. Personally I despise the standard issue lunch-lady bouffant style caps provided and opt to make my own,.

    Keeping it cute in the OR
    After lots of trial and error, a few too-tight hat bands I've come up with these awesome and easy patterns for bringing some personality to the OR. Check out the Unconventional Quilting page for my favorite patterns for men and women's scrub caps! 

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014

    Steak Tacos

    Steak tacos so good you'll fool a Texan!
    Build these at the table for a fun, personalized dinner.
    Living in Kirksville You get either settle for restaurant food, or you learn to cook. These little beauties are the result of living with a native Texan that just will not settle. Hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

    Fresh ingredients are the key to great taste

    • Garlic - 1 head peeled and coarsely chopped 
    • Yellow Onion
    • Lime 
    • Red Bell Pepper - here we use mixed sweet peppers
    • Fresh Cilantro 
    • Cherry Tomatos - a handful
    • Avocado 
    • Black Beans - no salt added is best
    • Mission Tortillas - yellow corn and the small ones!
    • Steak 10 oz - we use what ever is cheapest at the butcher counter 
    • Cotija Cheese - crumbly white cheese with a subtle flavor 
    • Salt & Pepper 
    • Vegetable Oil - 2tbs 
    Steak Rub: 
    • Garlic powder - 1/2 tsp
    • Red pepper flakes -1/2 tsp
    • Cayenne pepper - dash
    • Chili powder - 1 tsp
    • Cumin - 1/4 tsp
    • Paprika 1/2 tsp 
    • Salt - dash
    Begin by getting the prep work out of the way, once we start cooking everything goes fast. Thoroughly coat the steaks in the rub mixture, making sure to get every edge. Once the lime is cut up, squeeze once slice over the steaks and discard the rind. 

    Steaks rubbed and waiting 
    Peel and coarsely chop the entire head of garlic, not just a few cloves, set aside. Next slice the onion in half and peel, then slice into 1/8" slices and set aside. Slice the lime into multiple slices and place half in a small serving dish and set the other half aside. Next wash and clean out the bell pepper, create long thin slices and set them aside. The tomatoes come next, dice them into quarters and place in a small serving dish. The cheese crumbles easily using our hands, crumble a small serving dish full and place aside. 
    Amazing what fresh toppings can do!

    Frijoles Negros 
    Frijoles Negros, black beans, make a great topping and side dish for our tacos. In a small sauce pan combine the whole can of black beans with 1 tsp of chopped garlic and 1 tbs of finely chopped onion, dice up a few slices we pepper earlier. Add a few twists of a pepper  grinder, a couple chopped cilantro leaves and stir the ingredients. Put the heat on low and allow the pot to simmer with the lid on while we continue. 
    Now it's time to make the guacamole. Add a 1/2 tsp of the chopped garlic to a small mixing bowl along with the juice from two lime slices. Finely dice up to slices of red pepper and three slices of onion, add to the garlic and lime. Add the flesh from our ripe avocado to the bowl and using a fork mash the ingredients together, make it as thick or as smooth as you like. Finely chop a few cilantro leaves and add to taste. 

    Fajita Vegetables
    On a taco? Oh yes! Add a touch of oil to the bottom of a large frying pan on high heat, we are going to cook these quickly and even sear them a touch. Give the oil a moment to heat up and toss in the remaining garlic. Once it is browning, won't take long, add the onions and peppers and stir frequently. We don't want them to burn, so once we start seeing the garlic turn dark brown and some of the onions are really close to burn looking empty the frying pan onto a serving plater and set on the lowest rack of the oven with the broiler on low. 
    Healthy and beautiful

    Living in northeastern Missouri its a rare day you will find me outside grilling in December, but the broiler does a fine job when I don't want to freeze! Using the pan from the vegetables (if its oven safe) or another handy baking dish place a touch of oil in the bottom of the pan and set under the broiler to heat (it should be on low already). We place the pan on the highest oven rack, right under the broiler, we want to sear the steak not bake it. Turn the broiler to high, and once the oil is good and hot place the steak into the pan. There should be a nice sizzling sound as the meat hits the hot oil, slide the rack under the heating element and cook the steaks roughly 3 minutes on each side (we like the meat medium rare). Slice into thin strips and place on the platter next to our vegetables. 

    Taco Shells
    Tossing the corn tortillas under the broiler on low for a few moments while we set the table and place all the toppings around the table really brings out their full flavor. Don't skip this, warm those babies up and get the most out of dinner. Building your own tacos at the table is fun and personal, try difference combinations of toppings and enjoy!