Archive | September, 2010

a few philly favs

18 Sep

On our anniversary last week, I was busy cramming for exams and John was rafting the Upper Gulley.  Our celebration of our first year of marriage, therefore, took place on Thursday.

You might say the night was kind of doomed from the start.  After getting drenched head to toe (literally, I looked like a drowned rat) in a flash thunderstorm and then enduring two hours of an unanticipatedly painful choir rehearsal in an overly air-conditioned room, I came home in a foul mood.  John had done some research and found this adorable and affordable Italian bistro just 1.5 miles away, on a walk that would take us past something like six of Philly’s best parks and squares. But then, moments after the last damp spot on my dress dried, the rain came down again around park #3, and we arrived to the bistro wet and shivering…just as they closed their kitchen.  Any attempt on my part to laugh it off was overcome by my rumbling stomach, wet clothing, and more impatient demons.  In other words: I tried to be cool but was, instead, a bitch.  Poor husband.

As I ran to try to catch a taxi, the clicking of my heels scared this woman leaving the bistro half to death–she thought that this old dude who was flirting with her at the bar might be following her…llllllll.  Without skipping a beat, the woman (Dawn) asked us if we needed a ride somewhere, and then proceeded to drive us home.  Talk about the City of Sisterly Love, right?  And you would think this unexpected kindness would be enough to turn my mood around…

Then we showed up to restaurant #2, Supper, again just in time to see them closing the kitchen (9:30pm closing for like every restaurant in Philly?  Really?!).  But the bar was still open.  Well, twist my arm, why don’t ya!  We sat down, and Candice took care of us.  FYI, this woman makes the best vodka gimlets in the world (her secret: bag the Rose’s and go for fresh lime juice with just a hint of simple syrup).  And that’s the story of how John and I drank our anniversary dinner, with a dessert of spicy bar popcorn.  Classy and delicious.

So…our time at Supper on Thursday was definitely hazy…we decided to clarify things by returning for a proper supper last night.  We sat at the same place and let Candice work her magic, this time substituting sea bass and local chicken with farm vegetables for Thursday’s Dogfish Head IPA and Grey Goose.  Oh.  My.  God.  Ecstasy by the forkful–sounds kinky.

And Supper has other things going for it too (as though the food and Candice weren’t enough!).  It is a mere two blocks from my front door, and it has this fun ambiance about it–like a fusion between an old hotel lobby and a country farm, with some modern elements as well, like its central chandelier.

And a few other neighborhood discoveries:

Garce’s Trading Company, a restaurant, charcuterie, cafe, bakery, and wine shop all rolled into one!  It’s BYOB, so here’s what you do: get seated at a table; pour over their menu trying to decide between all mouth-watering options; and, when you’ve finally made up your mind (that’s the tough part), you stroll into the attached wine cellar, and pick out a bottle (or several) that pairs nicely.  No uncorking fee.

Sabrina’s, just a hop skip and a jump down 9th street toward to the Italian market.  Lolo and Lauren introduced us to Sabrina’s when we were in Philly for Sarah’s wedding in June, and I’ve gone back twice since.  I went with my dad and Krystyna for brunch the morning after the white coat.  The cacophony created within the echoing walls of the converted townhouse was a little irritating at first (especially given the fact that my dad and I both have what John’s diagnosed as “processing issues”), but completely forgotten once our perfect omelets arrived and our table neighbors offered us their unfinished half a bottle of morning champagne.  I’ll tell you again, City of Brotherly Love, it’s not a rumor!  And then I enjoyed a charming outdoor dinner with the lovely Jackie two weeks later.

Have I mentioned I love my neighborhood?



17 Sep

Whoa!  With John around, I’m finding it hard to do well, anything but be with him.  Except for small group section, I have missed every lecture since exams (looks like I’ll be VC-ing [Virtual Curriculum] a bunch after he leaves on Sunday)…which brings me to…

I PASSED!!!  Genetics, Embryology, and Cell and Tissue Biology–done done DONE!

I would love to say that I made it through the week cool as a cucumber…well, I thought I was, until I called John at 12:30 am on Tuesday sobbing–like violent sobs, the kind that make you feel like you’re going to choke on your own snot–that I was going to fail embryology and would he still love me if I failed out of med school.  Yeah…my husband is a saint.

Then, after pulling an all-nighter Monday/Tuesday in order to not fail said embryology final, I passed out for like 12 hours before cell and tissue.  I woke up on a crumpled towel on my bed, still in my running clothes–oh, I was a vision with my sweat-caked hair and rank tank top–two hours before the final.  Okay, so based on the last day’s “episode,” you would think I would be in hysterics.  Au Contraire.  I kid you not.  Once I figured out what day and time it was, I kind of thought to myself, “Okay, that was not what I had planned.  Do I think I can pass this test today?…..Yes, I think I can pass this test today.”  (In my head, I sounded a little like Joey Tribbiani: “Did they go to the zoo?…Supposably.”)  I know, it’s like a calmer bizarre-o Anna took over; I sure hope she sticks around for the next 4+ years.  One of the girls on my learning team even said that I looked “serene” during the exam.  Totally digging the whole pass/fail thing.

Now if only I can eliminate the freak-outs…or at least keep them to a max one a semester (month?), I’ll be set…and I’m sure John would be way appreciative.

Thank you so much for your support!  Next up: MORE Biochem (gag me); physiology; and ANATOMY!

to the woman in the pink running shorts pushing a stroller with two infants

16 Sep

I see you, passing me on the Schuykill River Trail at breakneck speed…

Okay, in truth, you don’t really need to be going terribly fast to pass what might be generously described as a trot up and down the river, but she still looked fast to me.  AND she was pushing TWO infants, who together easily weigh over 50 pounds.

Anyway, I see you leaving me in the dust, and I like it.

magic granola

15 Sep

I am really looking forward to telling you about the last two days, but John is here, so I want to hurry up with my work so I can spend as much time with him as possible.  I’m about to get started on some granola for him, so I thought I’d share the recipe.  Honestly, this granola is the best ever.  I stole the recipe from one of my mothers-in-law years ago…although she still lovingly sends batches of the granola to John–don’t worry, Leslie, he still can’t get enough!

Ahhhhh…I love foods that are easy to prepare and easy to please.  Alon calls it my magic granola.  Thanks to him, they are now making it in Israel.  Try it in your kitchen!

Combine dry ingredients: 4 cups oats (old-fashioned or some other variety, but NOT instant) * 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut * 3/4 cup sunflower seeds * 3/4 cup slivered almonds * 1/2 cup sesame seeds

Combine wet ingredients: 3/4 cup honey * 1/3 cup vegetable/canola oil

Mix dry and wet ingredients, then spread on a jelly roll pan.  Bake at 325 F. for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When cool, add 3/4 cup raisins.

Lower Fat/Fruitier Variation:

Combine dry ingredients: 4 cups oats (old-fashioned or some other variety, but NOT instant) * 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut * 1/2 cup sunflower seeds * 1/2 cup slivered almonds * 1/2 cup sesame seeds

Combine wet ingredients: 3/4 cup honey * 1/3 cup vegetable/canola oil

Mix dry and wet ingredients, then spread on a jelly roll pan.  Bake at 325 F. for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When cool, add 1 cup raisins, 1/2 cup dried apricots, and 1/2 cup pitted prunes.

Or Go Crazy:

Experiment with some of your favorite nuts and dried fruit!   I recommend always including some almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and raisins, but John and I have incorporated similar quantities of dried cherries, dried strawberries, dried blueberries, dates, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans…and you what?  It’s never lasted that long in our house; somehow we always manage to swallow it down.  If you want to get really REALLY crazy, spice things up with some cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, or maybe some vanilla.  You can’t go wrong!

A couple quick tidbits:

To save time, I once mixed the dry and wet ingredients together all at the same time…BIG mistake.  And, while I love my French Blue KitchenAid Mixer with my whole heart (I’ve written haikus in its honor), this recipe does not work well in the KitchenAid…just a good ol’-fashioned bowl and a spoon works best.  And, if you’re not sure, take the granola out early…it should be slightly golden.

wish me luck!

13 Sep

My first two “final” exams of med school are tomorrow, and then the third the following day!  At 11am on Wednesday, I will be DONE with genetics, embryology, and cell and tissue biology.  Woot!

I gotta say, a 70 to pass never felt so high before, and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.  I received a some incredibly thoughtful notes from readers last week–whether you’re a regular or just stopping by, I love feedback!–and I’m deliberately trying follow some of your suggestions and hopes.  A strong and intelligent woman recently recommended (paraphrased): be as kind to yourself as you are with the people you love.  Thank you.  I’m remembering that goal in the final hours of cramming–attempting to be caring to my mind and body, to forgive myself for not studying more or with greater efficiency.

And then on Wednesday I get to see John!  And on Friday, my brother Steph, sister-in-law Anna Lynn, and their two spectacular kids are coming to town!  (Pictures below are from when the family visited us in Boston–is it not the most ridiculously good-looking family you’ve ever seen?!)  Needless to say, I will not be studying this weekend.

Please wish me luck!


12 Sep

The “traditional” first anniversary gift is paper (followed by cotton, leather, fruit on the second, third, fourth…).  John and I have that gift in the bag.  If you and I are friends on facebook (and if we’re not, let’s take the plunge!), click here for how our letter-writing habits got incorporated into our proposal!

Since we first started dating, John and I have written love letters, love notes, quick scribbles of affection on post-its.  I’ve found notes tucked in between the pages of books on my nightstand, in my suitcase, on the front door.  I’ve mailed John postcards from California to Jordan, or simply letters written in Boston to our home address while we were living under the same roof.  When John was in Guatemala, he wrote me at least once a week but, having no place to mail them, kept them with him, and then handed me the thick stack when he met me at the Guatemala City airport.  Before he left for Ghana, I wrote him a little note (they were short!)–thoughts about what I loved and missed about him; favorite quotes; a Valentine’s card–for every day he was away.

Today, we’ve been married a year.  I can’t believe it’s been a year, and there is simply too much to say about what I love about this man, what I love about our marriage.  One of the minute, perhaps even trivial, things that I love is that we write to each other.  At this time, there is very little that I love more than coming home from class, opening my mailbox, and seeing his very distinct, crowded handwriting.  My heart literally skips a beat.

Happy Anniversary, John.  Thank you for being my love, my husband.  This last year truly has been the best of my life.

How the music was made.

for anna oppenheimer and john jesus on their wedding day

She decided on a picnic

And he selected the wine.

She melted the chocolate for truffles,

Rinsed the grapes for snacking,

Contemplated the perfect tree.

He gathered butter and stories

For bread, kneaded the dough with laughter,

Made a mess of the kitchen.

They knelt together by the stove

awaiting the miraculous rising

of wheat,

Fingers and shoulders

skimming the waters Of closesness

Eyelids and lips leaning on each other

Like books.

Love was there.

Always there.

Minutely contained and

Ravenously known,

Like a june-bug in a cupped palm


The sun spread honey

And the world whirled by

In its new autumn shoes,

But inside their kitchen

Of white and dark tiles,

They were constructing lyric

And the geometry of fitting.

She began humming.

His heart groaned with yes.

We do? Yes.

We will? Yes.

Always. Always. Always.

What had their hands held

Until this very now?

He/She/They reached

And the future chapters of their lives

Slid into cadence.

There would be time for picnics.

Oh heart.

It is a madness to go wanting.

It is an ecstasy to exist

As these two, these two strings,

side by side,

On an instrument

Orpheus whittled from bone,

As G-d

draws her palm across you like


And elicits a singular note.

-horace ballard

and about famous people…

11 Sep

The dude teaching me biochem–who, by the way, has the most gorgeous flowing silver tendrils of hair–discovered the mechanism behind the Lac repressor.  All of you milk drinkers out there, lift your glass to M. Lewis!

(In case of confusion, above picture is not of my professor, but I think he totally deserves a featured advertisement.)

william carlos williams

11 Sep

Not going to lie, when I was deciding where to go to medical school, I totally took into consideration the famous people who went to each institution–not famous physicians, scientists, or noble prize winners.  Let’s see, Meredeth Grey went to Dartmouth, but Martin Luther King Jr. went to BU…and why in the world didn’t I apply to Michigan?!–Dr. Gregory House went there!!!

So, not that this tidbit has any relevance to my medical education, but reason #167 why Penn is a great fit for me: William Carlos Williams, the famous poet-doctor (doctor-poet?), went here!  Definitely, definitely one of my top three favorite poems of all time is “This Is Just To Say”, but it’s been getting so much press recently (as it should!) that I wanted to post something a little different.

I don’t read a lot of poetry; I read some tonight/this morning because I wanted to take part in some kind of personal ritual in honor of September 11th.  The following poem really has nothing to do with September 11th, but, as the summer draws to a close, it gave me peace.  I present to you “Summer Song,” by William Carlos Williams:

Wanderer moon

smiling a

faintly ironical smile

at this

brilliant, dew-moistened

summer morning,—

a detached

sleepily indifferent

smile, a

wanderer’s smile,—

if I should

buy a shirt

your color and

put on a necktie


where would they carry me?

Above pictures from Abby and Colin’s beautiful Texan wedding at Abby’s grandparents’ farm.  Not quite summer, and not quite morning; the colors and attitude are perfect.

daily dose of encouragement

10 Sep

I received so many kind notes from many of you since my last post–huge thanks!  Truly, your input, suggestions, and kind words really mean a great deal to me.  I also find them to be incredibly motivating in helping me work toward two of my goals: to be a good medical student (and, hopefully one day, physician); to appreciate my time and place as a medical student, both in terms of the big picture and the minutiae.  I have not yet responded to all of you, and for that I apologize–I will soon!

We have three culminating exams early next week (in genetics, embryology, and cell and tissue biology).  It’s important to me that I try to write a little something everyday.  I love the consistency, and I love just putting some select thoughts/experiences/feelings down into words.  Most of all, I really love sharing them with you.  In light of the little bit of stress I’m feeling over the amount I need to study in the time I have, I should keep these posts brief.

Today, and possibly for the next several, I would like to focus on a phrase or word of encouragement that will inspire me to kick butt on these exams or, at the very least, bring a smile to my face.  This one is from my friend Scott R., a fellow double-hoo and TJ grad with whom I enjoyed part of my time in Boston:

“Keep badassing, badass.” Yeah!

What are some of your favorite words of encouragement?

Above is a demonstration of what I have to look forward to on Wednesday at 11am, minus the baby (one of my adorable nieces).  Note the raised pinky.  I am one classy dame.

the inevitable

9 Sep

I cried in discussion today.  Well, not entirely…after a long silence following a question about glucagon receptors in our biochem small group, I chirped up, guessed the wrong pathway (because I am a dumb and, despite having read about glucagon receptors like–oh, I don’t know–nine times late last night/early this morning…it was like my mind was like, “Anna, so this is the right answer, right here, at the center of your attention…got it?  Now make sure you say the EXACT OPPOSITE”–idiot!), and our small group leader scoffed.  She actually scoffed at me.  And I just felt my eyes well up with warm tears.  I held it together, or so I thought.

Clearly I was not at all subtle.  At the end of discussion, after people started filing out, the discussion leader approached me to apologize…and then I started actually crying and I apologized to her for being wrong…and then being emotional.  What a basket-case…and a nutjob.  Is this not the most pathetic display of anxious med student or what?  The sad thing is, I’m not even stressed…I’m exhausted from staying up all hours trying to make sense of biochem.  Genetics, Embryology, I could study those until the cows come home.  Biochem, not my cup of tea.  Anyway, those of you who know me well already know this: number one sign that Anna needs to sleep more = Anna cries at absolutely nothing and then develops the reputation for being the overly sensitive girl for the next four years.  Fantastic.  The plus side?  Apparently our discussion leader thinks that it’s “obvious that [I] know this material” (her words)….uh…????????????  Placation?  Or could I have her fooled?  In all seriousness, she was very kind to me after section.  I’ll pass, and I’ll be done with biochem in mid-October.

Not to bitch more, but I’m going to bitch some more.  And then I sat in the dentist’s red-carpeted and painted waiting room (word of advice: if you’re in a business at all related to health care, opt against a blood-colored interior motif) for two hours even though I had an appointment.  They charged me $95 for a two-minute follow-up procedure, which involved drilling without anesthetic, and made me miss yoga.

I almost bought myself flowers.  Instead, I used the money to buy laundry bleach and disposable razors–for my laundry and my legs, respectively…nothing morbid!  (I also bought zucchini, balsamic vinegar, and Greek yogurt.)

Next best thing to tangible flowers?  Digital flowers!  And tonight I decided to look at the beautiful ones Kathleen had waiting for John and me at her charming cottage in Austin this past April…she knows that sunflowers are close to our hearts!

And then she introduced us to bluebells and Indian paint brushes…

…that laid out on along the side of the road like carpet.

Kathleen jokes that, when we lived next-door to each other, I had bouquets of eleven flowers.  John would always give one to Kathleen.  I love that.  I also love that we drink good wine together.

Six days until I get to see the stud-muffin in the middle of the two East Side Sirens!

This post put me in a better mood.  I think I’ll go to bed.