Sunday, January 29, 2012


So I signed up for a 10 mile race in February. Figured I needed something to train for and wanted to do a race before I go away for my elective in March. For the record, I haven't run 10 miles since I was living in Revelstoke approximately 4 years ago. And I haven't really been running much lately, just short interval sessions, but no distance. Then I realised the race was in 2 weeks, panicked and registered for a 1/2 marathon trail race at the end of the month. Seems I felt like registering for races = training for races. 

The other twisted logic I recall having at the time was well, if I am running 10 miles on the 12th I might as well run 13 miles on the 26th. Again, there are some major holes in that line of reasoning. Especially if you can't actually do the former.

But then I think the little voice that makes sense piped up and said, you did a 4h and 38 min adventure race in November, how bad could only running for a couple of hours be??

And that was when the true value of thrashing my body all around for the Sea to Summit finally came to light. For the rest of my life I will have to compare all acts of athleticism to that day, and pretty much nothing is going to be that much of a challenge--so why not go for it?? Sweet.  Why not, indeed.

So today I tested the waters (or rather, the pavement) and went for a 10.8 mile run just to see if I could do it. And I could! (At the pace of anvil-dragging snails mind you, but determined anvil-dragging snails.) So maybe I won't die in the Irish countryside this February from a cardiac catastrophe. Hell, maybe I'll even enjoy myself!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

When Alcohol Should Be Taken Before Exercise: a.k.a Zumba

I was lured into my first zumba class by my eternally optimistic and anti-weightlifting roommate last week. I used to snobbily chortle at the aerobics classes last year in the University gym and vowed never to attend such a fitness monstrosity. I figured zumba must be something completely different...

For those of you who haven't attended a class yet, I'll ruin the surprise: zumba is nothing more than an aerobics class to Latin dance music.

And it doesn't look anything like this:

No, it is more like this:

Which is awesome, actually, because I'd be way too scared an un-glam enough to go to the top class anyway. But the whole experience has been a bit of a disappointment, in myself. I like to think I have rhythm and maybe even some sweet dance moves. Turns out, I have neither. I took highland dancing as a kid which is a very regimented, precise type of choreography. Zumba requires hip gyrating, booty shaking, arm twirling, and general freedom of movement. Possibly some sexiness as well. I am incapable of shaking my money maker with abandon, especially when that money maker is in lycra and not in the gin and tonics. 

Dear Margaret (roommie) and I agreed that we'd probably crush the dance floor if only we arrived a litte tipsy one day. Then we felt like that agreement made us sound like alcoholics. Then we questioned if drink only made us think we were good dancers or if it truly loosened us up enough to display our Jennifer Grey type skills. Either way I think my Irish heritage shows itself well amongst my fellow wooden, self conscious, antitheses of sexy, arhythmic, fair sisters. 

The bottom line, however, is I am sweating and laughing at the end. And possibly expanding my (already killer, right?) repertoire for my next big night out. Which is more than I can say my nemesis The Treadmill can offer!

Zumba, I misjudged you and your aerobic-class self.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Know Nothing

One of the things I like about medicine is it definitely keeps you humble (well, it ought to). Just when you think you have some vague sense about something, another GIANT hole in your knowledge is revealed (for you to fall into, in front of a patient).

Dr. J asked me to talk to a newly diagnosed patient about how to manage her diabetes.

Er...can I tell her instead about how to landmark for the femoral pulse? Or the 10 most common reasons for pancreatitis? Or, about how long troponins will be raised after a heart attack, instead?

So...Mrs. Glucose, lets, about diet. Sorry, not a diet, per se...but what you normally eat in a day...

Oh, normally I get up and have a cup of tea and a fag, then I'll eat something for lunch, usually...and then there's dinner, usually with spuds.

Riiiiight. OK. Maybe you can tell me a bit more about what you normally eat for lunch and dinner then...

You know, a roll, meat and veg.

[Dr. J reenters room]

So, ABB, did you make much headway with the discussion on lifestyle changes, nutrition and managing sugar levels??

Yeah, um....not so much. 


I know nothing about how to motivate people, how to explain nutrition, how to advise major lifestyle changes, how to counsel for smoking cessation, what the normal step-wise approach is to managing a newly diagnosed diabetic. In a nutshell, I am rubbish. Unless you're having a heart attack in front of me. Then I am slightly less rubbish.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Mother Dearest

"I read your mini-blog yesterday, glad to know you're getting out from time to time and doing some enjoyable things despite how crazy your life is. Also, it was a nice change from your usual jaded whining...which of course, all of your readers have come to know and love..."

Awesome. Only a mother can say that. (Hi mom!)


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ding! Ding! Round Two.

Today I bought:

-Toronto Notes, 2011. Yes. All 1400 pages. I think it's officially in the lead as most expensive (135 Euro) and heaviest textbook of my collection. Yet it is light compared to the weight of worry which is post graduate training....dun....dun....dunnnnnn. It is basically the study guide for our Canadian boards, known as the "EE"'s because there are too many letters ahead of that, so even the acronym gets shortened.

I've held off until now because I thought it was a bit much in every sense of the word.  But, I've realised that if I don't get 99% on the EE's I'll either be staying in Ireland to train or working as an RN in Canada, with M.D. after my name. And almost half a mil of debt. Sub-awesome. So the Toronto Notes are now becoming my new BFF.

It's true though. The fourth years in my program have just found out their Canadian interview offers and two (of 13 Canadians applying to get back) didn't even get an interview. Nada. The shopping spree continues...

I also bought the kindle version of First Aid Cases for Step 2. Mostly just as a way to structure some of my studying using cases instead of just reams of multiple choice questions. Which brings me to my next purchase...

Access to the Canadian MCCEE's Question bank for the next 9 months.

And then I accidentally bought USMLE Secrets For Step 1 for my ipad kindle. Yeah. I already have written step one. I meant to buy step 2. [Hits head on self-assembled desk.]

After reading dozens of reviews on step 2 study guides I opted for Step Up to Step 2.  It will also be arriving shortly via the postman.

Then I bought some pens. You know the ones. Because there is a lot of writing looming on the horizon, and that writing is going to be done nicely in blue-black 0.3mm point style, dammit. We have the technology, people.

It's only a short matter of time until I also cave on a USMLE q-bank but I just can't decide on USMLE-World or Kaplan. Kaplan is cheaper (wow, I can't believe I just typed that phrase!) but everyone seems to say U-World is tougher and prepares you better. In the same way getting hit repeatedly with a hammer makes getting hit with a hockey stick almost seem gentle.

I need to give my visa some time to stop shaking before I use it again. It was an expensive day. I am not even allowing myself a mental tally at this stage.

As always, any thoughts, experiences, frustrations, or treasured methods of study for the EE's or step 2 welcome.

And so, round two of studying for a life-and-career-path-altering exam begins!! Ding! Ding!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Conversations with Joe

I have a feeling that over the next 5 months I will be having regular blog posts that will simply involve quotes from Dr. Joe, my delightful GP preceptor.

I wish there was some way that I could absorb not only all of his medical experience, but also his vast knowledge of local history, and the history of everyone in it. He could tell you where the finest pint is poured, the most talented Irish dancers gather, and the sweetest hillside flowers bloom. He knows the best card player, baker, painter, and mechanic. He's the quintessential Irish country doctor who sometimes gets paid in fowl and peat. Yet his practice is anything but old-fashioned as he tirelessly stays up-to-date on medical research and evidence based practice. In my mind he represents the epitome of family medicine. It's so inspiring to see. And more than a little entertaining.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Scenes From A (gastronomical) Canadian Winter Holiday

I've been rather unplugged the last few weeks, in the wintery wilds of Québec. My slothful existence has mostly starred red flannel snowflake pajamas, a reading chair, exquisite food and drink, late mornings, a stack of books, my mother, Tobie, his family, strong coffee, a grand piano, and a few brief appearances by friends (that means you, Liz, Lisa, and Not House!)

Other than my uninterrupted, daily rumination on what will I be when I grow up, will I ever get accepted in a Canadian residency, and how can I somehow turn lead into gold to pay next year's tuition...I threw medicine on the back burner and let other areas of my life simmer. It's been great.

Shortly after my arrival in Québec, Tobie and I swept the car off and made our way to Montréal.

When we were car-less, job-less, penny-less and living in residence 2 years ago, we'd sometimes go on imaginary dates in Canada, pretending our purple comforter was a magic blanket that would take us anywhere. We would try to outdo one another with elaborate descriptions of these dream dates. Montréal was a frequent destination when Tobie was choosing the city. We took our magic comforter to go Christmas shopping at Simon's after a crammed lunch at Schwartz's deli. Then we'd walk the dark and snowy streets looking for a quiet place to duck in for some nice wine or sugary treat. After that, it was a chilly ride back across the Atlantic.

Finally, this year we were able to live some of our magic carpet dreams. And probably shorten our lifespans a little in the process. (Apologies for the double photo posting, but until more than 10% of you look at my tumblr account, I won't feel too bad...)

I give you the lean smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's.

 Belly up, boys! Take a moment to imagine pure deli chaos: the clink of dishware, the holler of orders, scrape of chairs, splash of fries into the oil, murmurs of 'mmm', the ring of the cash register, the smell of spiced and cured meats, salty pickles, and cherry soda. There, you have it now.

I call this photo of Tobie below, "Quintessentially Canadian".  Next to that is Perside, his sister, presenting her Jaime Oliver turkey recipe extravaganza. This was Christmas dinner, when I ate until I developed an upper right quadrant cramp. Similar to a running stitch, only this one was from eating instead.

Below is the classic 'driving home from Christmas dinner' scene. I miss being five years old, falling asleep during the ride home, having mom carrying me (while I pretended to be asleep) into the house, and being put to bed. These days it'd be an improbable feat of superhuman strength for Tobie to haul my somnolent butt out of the car, coat and all, to tuck me in.

Me proving that yoga can indeed be done in yoga jeans. Tobie reading a rag while we were waiting for our table at La Paryse. Seriously, seriously great burgers. The poppy seed bun is well worth the risk of post-meal embarrassment.

Below we are back at Schwartz's for more smoked meat love, this time with my momma-bear. She was fresh off the plane and ready for a week of gastronomical delights, including our own 'food tour' of Montréal. We all should have worn jogging suits for the trip. Not because we were jogging, but because elastic waistbands would have suited our needs a little better. Mind you, we did stand outside in -20 degree Celsius weather for over 20 mins waiting in line and shivering does burn calories. Oh yes it does. Pretty sure my lips were frozen onto my teeth in this photo.

Dinner that night at DNA. OK people, take your bucket lists out now and add, Eat At DNA in Montréal.

No, I am not getting any kickbacks for the endorsement (I wish!) I just need to convey that this was one of the most fabulous nights of dining I can remember. You need to experience this place before you die. Period.

Momma-bear had the lamb (on the left), Tobie and I had the suckling pork loin, slow cooked for 7h and then topped with salsa verde, sweet spaghetti squash, and some pureed goodness that tasted like possibly butternut squash and apple. The photos poorly represent the outstanding presentation, but it was the best I could do.

Tobie tucks in. 

The dessert was no disappointment either. 

Tobie and MB had the lime-tart (I was thinking, lime tart? What, are we eating at a hospital cafeteria in the 1950's??) But the joke was on me because the lime tart should have been called, 11 Minutes of Uninterrupted Eating Bliss involving light and (quite) sharp lime, tempered with soft, fluffy whipped cream, and a crust that would make most pastry chefs weep.

The New York cheesecake was no slouch, topped with their house-made rhubarb jam and a wafer of almond and caramel. And by no slouch I mean that it was the 'Goldilocks and Three Bears' of cheesecake--not too heavy, not too light, not too cheesy, not too bland. Juuuuuuuust right.

Not only was the food brilliant, the decor was very chic in an unpretentious way, as were the house staff. They cure their own meats in the basement and sell house-made pickles, jams, chutneys. All ingredients are locally sourced and seasonal. WIN!

After dinner we cabbed our way over to Pullman wine bar and took in the people watching, deliciously fermented grapes, and their funky atmosphere which included a chandelier of inverted glasses.

Then we returned to the hotel, drank some water, and went to bed.

Just so you don't think we're food snobs, I'd like to direct your attention to the place-setting at the restaurant where we ate dinner the following evening. Let's just also mention that the walls were wood paneled, the waitress was passive-aggressive, no, just straight-up aggressive, and all meals came with white buns and gravy. 'Nuff said.
This is what happens when Tobie chooses the restaurant.
New Year's Eve heralded the invention of a new cocktail (see my recipe posted here), more homemade gourmet feasting (courtesy of Tobie's phenomenal sister), watching fireworks from the living room window, and drinking herbal tea while discussing novels with my mother. It was all very serene. 

Speaking of serene have you ever seen how pretty a preserved hibiscus flower is when it is sitting in a little puddle of gin?  Feast your eyes.

Also, when was the last time you had a drink mixed for you by a blogger in a solar system blouse? Too long ago I bet, too long ago.

And so, another year came to a close. The last few days of my holiday were spent trying to fit into my clothes, packing, and saying goodbye to my near and dear ones. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to unwind a little. I know this will be the last long Christmas holiday that I will have for years, which is why only a small dose of daily guilt for my slovenly and sub-academic behavior crept into my awareness.

I'm hoping that 2012 will bring new recipes and races, great reads, light westerly winds, mentorship, adventure, and a few surprises...good surprises. And of course the answer to some of my questions...

Here's to you, 2012, whatever you will be.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Update from Deep Gatineau

Greetings and Happy New Year, bloggers and blog-readers!

I'm alive (and eating a lot of smoked meat and poutine) in deep Gatineau, Quebec. I'm banking on my low stress levels to counteract the arterial plaque buildup. A photo montage of the last three weeks will soon be up, but until then I am tweeting and mini-blogging. Back to Ireland in a few days.

Hope everyone had a wonderful New Years.