Monday, 25 March 2013

Welcome Home Zamboni!

On Sunday am, Zambo got the all-clear to leave the hospital at NorthWest Nuclear Medicine & boy, was she happy.  As soon as I came in the room she was meowing and rubbing her face on her cage door.  We were also so happy to see her!

Since she's been home, life has been pretty uneventful for her.  Most of the time she looks like this:

I guess she needs to catch up on some Zzzzz's after her stressful time in Vancouver.  I'm sure she'll be back to her normal trouble-maker self in no time!

Bringing Zambo home was definitely the highlight of the weekend.  We did a lovely walk on Saturday, & thanks to Derek accompanying me, I actually did a walk of appropriate length.  It was so nice to get home and not be limping, that I wisely kept my walk to 20 mins today too!

The waterfront is not far from my office, so I used to run there at lunchtime.  Today I drove there, then walked the loop.  Having grown up in Victoria, I will say that Nexen is not the most picturesque beach, but it's still nice to have a little piece of waterfront to enjoy.

Belly-shot of the week: 32 weeks!
Walking along the Squamish River
Lunchtime walk today: Nexen Beach
In the food department, we had a great success with CBC #10.  I did a double-header out of my WhiteWater Cooks with Friends.  We will call it:

Cookbook Challenge #10: Visions of Roy's, from WhiteWater Cooks with Friends

This is the 3rd Whitewater cookbook and I love each one.  I've enjoyed most things that I've made out of any of these 3 books.  On Sunday night I made two new meals from this book.  They both sounded to me like something you would order off the menu at Roy's, an amazing "Hawaiian Fusion" restaurant.  Everything is great, but the chocolate lava cake is practically enough to convince Derek to hop on the next flight to Maui!

Though I don't have a Roy's cookbook, these recipes would fit in at Roy's no problem.

CBC #10a) Macadamia Nut-Crusted Halibut with Lobster Saffron Sauce from Whitewater Cooks with Friends

Here is what I learned from this recipe:  If the recipe tells you TWICE that it is "worth the effort" to find a random ingredient that you've never heard of, you can assume that ingredient will be hard to find.  In this case, it was recommended that significant efforts be made to find "lobster base."  This was not an easy task.  Now, before you laugh and state the obvious (I live in Squamish, home of three very run of the mill grocery stores), you should know that I also took my search to Vancouver, where neither Whole Foods nor Seven Seas Fish Market could provide me with lobster base.  Back in Squamish, I found a can of lobster pate, which is not the same thing.... but I used it anyway, and I think the result was good.

I even tried to make my rice look cute like Roy does!
A Roy's inspired dinner must be followed by a Roy's inspired desert... Lava Cake of course!

CBC #10b) Chocolate Lava Cake from WhiteWater Cooks with Friends

Actually the recipe also includes sour cherries & calls for some kind of cherry liqueur, but I knew that would not go over well with Derek.   So I adapted slightly and ended up with a heavenly chocolate lava cake.  It was actually too rich for me to eat!  

It's enough to make a grown man cry:
chocolate lava cake, chocolate ice cream and chocolate milk!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Cookbook Challenge #8 & 9 (and Zambo update)

Its a gorgeous weekend in Squamish & I am itching to get out for a walk.  My walks have become shorter & shorter, but its always nice to get out for some fresh air.  I'll be doing some cooking later this weekend, but I thought I'd give a quick review of a few recipes I made in the past 2 weeks; I am still doing pretty well at finding new & interesting options in my books.

Before I show you those, a quick update on Zambo.   The great news is that it sounds like she will be discharged tomorrow.  I'll be so happy to bring her home & I know she will be glad to be here.  After her treatment she had a complication called "Thyroid Storm" or "Thyrotoxicosis"  (both awesome names, IMO).  I was a bit worried, because when humans get thyroid storm it can be very serious, even life-threatening, and they frequently end up in the ICU for days.  Hurricane Zambo began on Wednesday, a day after her treatment, but it seemed to be brought under control with medications.  However, the next day she was storming again & the vet was at a loss to explain why she was still having such dramatic symptoms.  It sounded to me like they were worried about Zambo.  I barely slept that night.  The next day we got good news: her symptoms were starting to settle down, and today she is looking even better.  They want to observe her today, but tomorrow looks promising.   I made a recording of my voice for the vet to play while Zambo was at her nuclear retreat.  It's a CD of me reading from Pride & Prejudice, and the vet says it makes her happy.  By now she'll be wanting to hear what happens next - we were just at that moment when Lizzy & Mr Darcy meet in Lampton & we can see Lizzy starting to fall in love.... so exciting!

Hello Mr Darcy!  What's not to love?

CBC #8: Grilled Pineapple with Chai Spices from Bonnie Stern's Friday Night Dinners

This is a great book that I don't use often.  Meals are bunched together into themed 3-4 course dinners.   I feel to really do this book justice I should have ambitiously made a whole dinner for my CookBook Challenge.  But I am a busy woman, so I didn't!  

I LOVE fresh pineapple.  However, it is probably the only one food that seriously disagrees with my system.  Every so often I'd be off on a gorgeous tropical vacation when I would get quite severe stomach pains.  It took me a while to notice that it was correlated with pineapple intake.  Because I love it so much I've tried different techniques to prepare the pineapple in a way that doesn't upset my stomach.  I've found that if I bake or grill it, the acidity is far less & it works!  And it still tastes sweet & delicious.  So this recipe with grilled pineapple coated with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg & anise was a yummy treat for me.  

Healthy desert: grilled pineapple with coconut yoghurt.  Yum

CBC #9 a) and b) from Simply Ming by Ming Tsai

I love the way this book is organized.  Each section starts with a "Master Recipe", which is a sauce, a salsa, a broth, or a rub which can be prepared ahead of time & kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.  After the Master Recipe come 3-4 recipes that use that ingredient for quick & delicious meals.  Its super for busy cooks.

My "master recipe" was Black Bean & Garlic Sauce.  It had what I thought of as a very quintessential Chinese food taste.  I had most ingredients on hand, and it hardly took any time to make.

CBC #9 a) was Pork and Tofu Stir-Fry.  Sorry, I have no picture of it, but it was quick, easy & delicious.  

A week later, I grabbed the Black Bean & Garlic Sauce out of the fridge & within 15 mins I had CBC #9 b) Wok-Stirred Beef with Eggplant and Black Beans on the table.   

Derek kindly sharing ALL of his eggplant with me.
I have a few cooking plans for tomorrow, but for today I think it's time to close the laptop & go enjoy the sunshine.  

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Healing meows to radioactive Zambo!

Meet Zambo, our beloved kitty.  She is about 11 years old, and dresses up fancy in a Tuxedo for all occasions.  She's very cute, as you can surely see.

I got Zambo when I was in my 3rd year of medical school.  I lived in an apartment that didn't allow pets, but I got her anyway (what a rebel!) and she proved to be an excellent companion in a very busy & stressful time in my life.

Zambo is (in)famous for two things:  one is her disposition, which has been described as feisty, grumpy, ill-tempered, or more recently fractious.  I hadn't heard this word before, but I looked up the definition & it suited Zambo to a T.  If you don't want to look up the word, I'll provide some examples of Zambo behaviours to illustrate:

Yes, she is giving you stink eye.
1. History of expressing unhappiness/dis-statisfaction by urination on couch, bed, owner's head.  (behaviour much improved since Cat Psychologist visit 5 yrs ago, but that is another story)
2. Banned from a vet in Vancouver due to "attitude problem"
3. Hates it when company comes over, but rather than leave the room, will sit right in the middle of it, glaring at all present & swiping at anyone who tries to pet her.
4. Transforms from mild mannered cat into Tasmanian Devil at the vet, becoming approximately 4x her regular size, allowing examination of teeth (bared), coat (sticking up in all directions) and vocal abilities (excellent hisses & growls)

Speaking of size, that is the other thing Zambo has been famous for.  She is a chunky kitty who loves her food.

Guarding her food 
Maybe she is just big boned..... 
Back in November, we bit the bullet and took her to the vet for a general check-up.  I was not brave enough this time so Derek took her on his own.  With the whole team of assistants leaning their full weight into Zambo, the vet was able to do a quick exam & came back with a remarkable assessment:  Zambo was deemed "too thin".   We were sort of amazed by this news.   We certainly had not noticed any weight loss & had long ago given up trying to achieve this goal.  In fact, to balance against her anxiety, we had stopped restricting her food & just let her eat to her heart's content.

We got a new prescription food to fatten her up & a plan to follow-up if it didn't work.  After a few months, it was obvious she was not gaining weight, in fact she seemed to be getting thinner.  Even our non-cat-loving friends noticed a difference in her appearance.  

Zambo a few weeks ago: a shadow of her former self
I plucked up my courage & took her to the vet.  The wise vet sedated her and managed a full exam & some lab work, which revealed that she has an over-active thyroid gland.  This was good news to me, as I was worried about kitty Diabetes (the thought of giving her daily needles = yikes!), or worse, kitty cancer.  And better news yet - there is a cure!  All we had to do is send her to Vancouver for week to get radioactive iodine treatment & she comes back as good (& as chubby) as new!

Knowing Zambo's temperament, the week away was not something that I was looking forward to.  We cuddled her lots to make sure she knew how much we loved her!  

The reason for the long stay in Vancouver is partly to monitor for any side effects of the medication, but  mostly because she will be radioactive!  They have to monitor her emissions every day and can not let her go home until she has fallen below legal limits of radiation!  Poor little kitty!  Hopefully she will be released on Saturday, but to add insult to injury, Zambo will not be allowed any cuddles with me for 2 more weeks!  She will still have low levels of radiation, and since we don't want Rufus to be born with lobster claws, she will have to stay clear of me & the bump.  Poor Zambo will think that I hate her.  And she will probably express her dissatisfaction with vindictive peeing!  We've got a tough few weeks ahead.

Zambo had her treatment yesterday & the report from the vet was that she was having a bit of a side effect today.  When I spoke to them this afternoon, things had settled, but they are keeping an eye on her.

Zambo at the vet in Vancouver.  

She was slightly stressed, but did not light the room up like she does at our local vet.
I really miss Zambo's meows greeting me when I wake up in the morning & when I come home from work.  I used to complain at times that she was whining too much, thinking that she was just begging for more food, but I discovered that all she wanted was pets & cuddles.  She's only been in Vancouver for two days & I miss her already!

We won't get to cuddle like this for a while
I'll update you all as I hear more from the vet.  Heal up well little kitty!  We really miss you!!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

From my side of the gurney

As a family physician, I see an enormous variety of issues in my practice.  Some simple, like a kid with a runny nose, some complex such as helping a family cope with a devastating diagnosis, or trying to figure out the cause of someone's unusual symptoms (page Dr. House!)  I have been lucky enough to enjoy good health, so in most cases I can't say that I truly know what it feels like to have the ailments or concerns my patients bring to me.  But I try to listen to them and be there for them, and hope that I can be a support & source of strength.

Every now and again, I do know what it feels like - because I have the same thing!  This has been a common experience for me in pregnancy.  Prior to these past 7 months, patients would come to me with their pregnancy concerns.  I would draw on my training, my OB text, or consult a specialist, and come back with some reassurance or a plan of action.  I can only imagine what it would sound like to a woman, pregnant with her 2 or 3rd child, to have this young doctor who's never been pregnant telling her - "Don't worry, that is normal." With labouring patients I actually felt like a sham at times!  "Its normal to feel some burning", "Its normal to feel a lot of back pressure."  I have been told it hurts alot, & it sure looks like it does... but I haven't actually a clue what it really feels like!

Me at 21 weeks with my former roommates Tisha & Julie

I've enjoyed a different type of connection with my expectant patients lately.  They come to their appointments for medical advice, but we often chat a little about our pregnancies - they ask me questions and I ask them.  We talk about a stroller we'd heard about, a PN yoga class we'd been at, or just laugh or commiserate over shared symptoms.

I remember the first baby I delivered.  I was a medical student doing a rotation at Women's Hospital in Vancouver.  I was minding my own business at the nursing station when one of the nurses came out of a room asking urgently if Dr so&so had arrived.  When the answer came back "no", the nurse looked at me and said "Get in here, this baby's not waiting!"  I ran into the room just in time to catch the baby.  The family was so excited, they probably failed to notice how wide my eyes were and how much my hands were shaking.  But it was super exciting and I still have the photo they gave me of me holding their newborn.  Since that time, I've done lots of deliveries: some are so quick I barely get to the hospital on time (sometimes I don't!), some are so slow they feel like they will never end; some are so easy I feel like I could do it in my sleep, some are so challenging I leave the hospital with at least 10 new grey hairs... but in all cases its an indescribable feeling to share this magical moment with families.

Visiting my friend Mya in Winnipeg, 26 weeks

In the past month, I've had three deliveries, and the experience seems different now that I am getting closer to my own delivery.  These deliveries were more touching & intimate for me than deliveries had been in many years.  I felt a greater connection with the labouring woman as she worked through the pain and challenges of her labour.  I felt the excitement and anxiety of the expectant dad.  I got all misty-eyed as the new mom & dad held their baby for the first time.

My turn at labour is coming pretty soon though, and this might sound silly or naive, but I am looking forward to it!  Not just meeting this little Rufus, but the actual labour part.  I am inspired by watching my patients dig deep and find the strength they didn't know they had.  I don't know how it will be for me, how long it will take or what it will feel like, but I am ready for the challenge.  As long as I've got my supportive hubby by my side telling me to "giv'er", I'm pretty sure it will all be good!

Belly shot of the week: 31 weeks, hanging out with Mom

Friday, 8 March 2013

Bringing a little Aloha to the Breakfast Table

Well, its been almost a week since we hosted our friends to a tropical brunch and I think I've finally digested all the delicious food we ate that morning!

Derek and I were in Maui in November & we went out for breakfast at the Kihei Cafe one morning.  I have a weakness for always trying the local or house speciality, and so I ordered the "Loco Moco", a uniquely Hawaiian breakfast.  Imagine a mound of white rice, topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg (I actually got my egg poached to make it healthy - haha!!!) and then smothered in gravy.  Now imagine what my arteries looked like after I ate that!

The rest of the menu featured all sorts of yummy Hawaiian influenced treats - banana macadamia french toast, coconut pancakes, tropical fruit salad and the like.  I was struck the inspiration to host a tropical inspired brunch in the middle of a grey Squamish winter, to help lift us out of the winter dull-drums.
We invited a group of old friends up to Squamish and I got to work perusing my cookbook collection for brunch dishes that made me dream of beaches and sunny weather.  Here's the menu I came up with:

Huevos Rancheros (CBC #5 from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
Coconut Pancakes (CBC #6 from Bill's Open Kitchen)
Pineapple and Coconut Muffins with Ginger (CBC #7 from Sunlight Cafe - a great breakfast/brunch cookbook from the Moosewood collection)
Pineapple loaf & Banana Macadamia bread (both brought home from Maui)
Lime & Mango Yoghurt, Coconut Yoghurt
Tropical Fruit Salad
Bacon & Breakfast Sausage (no brunch would be complete without!)

CBC #5: Huevos Rancheros from this great book I got for Christmas.  I particularly loved this recipe as it was easy to make for a big group and didn't require me standing over a hot stove turning out one egg at a time.
And the Huevos were muy deliciosos!

CBC #6: Coconut Pancakes
Bill Granger is an Australian chef and this book is full of warm-weather meals inspired by the land down-under.

The coconut pancakes were light, fluffy and delicious!

CBC #7: Pineapple Coconut Muffins
If you love brunch, you must get this book!

The gang digs in!

Brunch with Aloha Spirit!

The rest of the weekend was relaxing and enjoyable.  Our tropical meal had a positive influence on the weather; we went from grey and rainy on Saturday to bright and sunny on Sunday.

I went for a very lovely walk on the Four Lakes Trail at Alice Lake.  As is my (bad) habit, I went out for too long and my walk turned into a waddle!

In Squamish we have a wonderful Farmer's Market with local produce, baked goods, and crafts.  In the winter they move indoors to the Railway Museum.  I'd never been to the museum or the winter market, so I checked it out on Sunday.  It was really nice!  The venue is very cool with tons of natural light & some old railcars sitting in the middle of the room.  The market itself is always a popular community gathering spot, so its a great place to catch up with people and hang-out.

Squamish Winter Market at the West Coast Railway Museum

Sunday I attended my first prenatal yoga class.  It was harder than I expected, but I enjoyed it.  It was nice to meet a few other expectant moms.

Belly shot of the week: on my way to prenatal yoga at 29 weeks.
Mini Zambo in the foreground.
Finally we ended the weekend with a delicious meal and Cook Book Challenge # 8.  This meal is getting some bad press over at my mom's blog Wipe Your Paws, but I'm here to tell you that its yummy!

After a Sunday of hiking, market-going, yoga and cooking, I literally collapsed!  I'm no longer the energizer bunny I always thought I was.  This weekend I'll make sure to chill out more!

Cookbook Challenge # 8: Fancy Mac & Cheese from "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" by Ree Drummond

I had never heard of the Pioneer Woman until I got this book as a wedding gift.  After the wedding we left most of the gifts at my parent's house in Victoria while we did a little road trip.  Prior to leaving, my mom convinced me to open up this gift, which was given to me by her very good friend Lolo.  After I left, mom wasted no time cracking open the book and giving it a little "test run" (or two... or three!)  Talk about shameless!!

Now I am very familiar with the Pioneer Woman as I read her blog and have 2 of her books.  Her style of writing is funny and familiar & with lots of pictures to look at, her recipes are easy to follow.  She is not afraid to use fatty goodness in her food.  In fact, I think she might be afraid not to.  The fancy mac & cheese is a perfect example.    But how can you go wrong when butter, whole milk, cream, and 4 varieties of cheese meet to make a white sauce?  Fancy it up with a some fried onions, roasted mushies and bacon and as she says: "This is the stuff love handles are made of!"

I say "YUM!"
Derek shows his approval
Derek enjoys some Fancy Mac & Cheese while soaking the nuisance toe
But don't take our word for it:  Thanks to the Pioneer Woman's super fun blog, you can make it for yourself.  Check it out: The Pioneer Woman's Fancy Mac & Cheese