Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Monday, February 28, 2011

Foolproof Perfect French Crepes

This is a recipe I discovered during my year in Rennes, France.  Rennes is the capital of "La Bretagne" (Brittany), the region of France just south of Normandy.  Crepes and galettes (galetts are savory crepes usually filled with egg/cheese/meats/veggies/etc.) are considered a regional specialty.

Now there is, in fact, a trick to making awesome crepes that never fall apart.  But it's not what you're thinking.  It has nothing to do with any crazy wrist skills or even the type of pan you're using to make the crepe.  I actually discovered it in the U.S., by making my own crepes often, and then read about it in France.  The trick is just to let the batter sit for at least thirty minutes after you make it.  Yup, it sounds weird but during my middle and high school years I noticed that the first few crepes of any batch never really held up as well as the later ones.  Then in France I read the answer:  The batter has to sit so that the flour and eggs and all that can "coagulate."  It sounds really medical and a little bit gooey-gross, but it just means that the stuff has to sort of get itself together and stick.

This recipe is SO easy.  The hardest part is sifting the flour, but you could probably get away with just stirring it with a whisk.  (If you have the right sifter, sifting flour takes two seconds - I like the OXO one-handed flour sifter for $13).  Also, if you have time, you can let the eggs and milk get to room temp before you start the recipe.  This actually makes any recipe better, but isn't necessary.


2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp butter, melted
3 tbsp superfine sugar (regular sugar also works fine)
Large pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sifted flour

All you do is place the eggs, milk, vanilla, and melted butter in a blender.  Add the sugar and salt, whiz until smooth.  Add the flour and whiz again, then set aside for thirty minutes.

Stir the batter again immediately before making the crepes (separation is normal; get it back to a unified texture).

Heat a nonstick pan to somewhere between low and medium heat.  Spray with PAM.  If you're feeling really decadent you can actually melt butter on the pan (sooooo good), but since we're trying to be heart-healthy we use PAM.   Once heated, pour about 1/3 cup of crepe batter on the pan.  Start tilting the pan until the batter runs over the entire surface.  It's okay to dip back into your batter for more; just use however much it takes to coat the pan.  It's also okay to have holes that you fill with a little extra batter.  It'll all work out in the end, because you let your batter coagulate ;)

My pan is specifically for crepes; it's very shallow and the surface is nonstick.  I got it in France but you could probably find it online, maybe  The shallow edges do make it easier to slide the crepe off onto a plate, but really aren't necessary.

Eventually your crepe will start to bubble up and pull away from the nonstick surface.  Ideally you want it to get to the point where it just slips right off onto your plate, with a little help from a spatula to unstick any stuck parts.  But even if you have to turn the entire pan upside down, it's not a problem - just wait for the crepe to cool on the plate a little and then spread it back out for toppings.

Sometimes people ask me about cooking both sides.  I've never found that necessary.  Crepes are very thin and are they cook through quite easily.  Cooking both sides just isn't worth the hassle, in my book.  (I also tend to like a wetter, chewier crepe - sometimes when creperies in the U.S. cook both sides they just get dry and boring).

We've experimented a lot with toppings over the years.  To be heart-healthy, our favorite remains fresh strawberries, blueberries, and/or bananas with brown sugar and maybe a little whipped cream (well, a lot of whipped cream for me; a little for him).  But if you're on a chocolate fix (and really, who isn't?) you can place chocolate chips on the crepe while it's still cooking on the pan, and watch them melt before you slide the crepe off onto your plate.  Top that with whipped cream... and maybe some powdered sugar ... mmmm.

And of course there's nutella.  But here's a tip on that:  In France, only the street vendors sell crepes with nutella.  It's sort of more for the tourists and the children; you won't find it in the self-respecting creperies (at least not when I was there, in 2000).  Nutella came to be during WWII when chocolate was scare due to rations and children still needed a treat.  It's made from hazelnuts... it's sort of like the French version of peanut butter in that way, though for some reason Europeans really think peanut butter is disgusting.  Anyway, if you're at an authentic local creperie and you order any sort of crepe with chocolate, they don't use nutella.  Instead, they throw a spoon full of butter on your crepe and douse that in chocolate powder... and it is SO GOOD.  I've been able to replicate it at home with melted butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt to taste - just in the microwave.  It's amazing and goes well with on a crepe with just whipped cream or with any other type of fruit, too.

Anyway, if you've ever been interested in crepes, give this recipe a try!  It makes about 6 crepes and usually people want at least two apiece.  It can be a real crowd-pleaser with decadent toppings or, if you stick to mainly strawberries and a little sugar, it can be a pretty healthy, fairly light breakfast.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Redeemed :)

I think somebody read my post from last night... when they finally got home from work at 1:30 a.m.

Because somebody miraculously got out of bed no later than 10:00 a.m., already talking about brunch places :)  And when I went to check my email, what should I find pulled up on the screen?  My very own blog post from last night, scrolled down to the end.

It was a magical time.  Even Matthew made it through with barely a fuss, which was pretty amazing considering the 20+ minute drive to downtown, the ten minutes of searching for parking, the walk to the restaurant from the parking spot, and the thirty minute wait.  I think he just knew... his mommy needed a special outing.

Looking sharp, ready to take mommy out to Valentine's Day brunch :)

We ended up at Stephi's on Tremont.  I love this place, and wouldn't have dreamed it logistically possible with a 5 month old.  I'd been there once before; Maddie and I treated ourselves to one nice lunch out in downtown Boston when she visited.  We'd been aiming for Aquitaine but a friendly local (I never said none of them were friendly!!  Just that the frequency of budging is craaazy) advised that Stephi's was even better.  That time I had the "French Onion Panini" (shaved prime rib, melted swiss cheese, and sherry-braised onions on sourdough, served with onion soup dip).  It was amazing.  So I was in h-e-a-v-e-n picking and choosing from the brunch menu.

The scene: 

(my photography skills are nonexistent and I don't have one of those awesome cameras my friends all seem to be getting into... maybe someday).

The food did not disappoint.  We ordered a "ruby red grapefruit brulee" (L) which was a grapefruit covered in sugar and torched, like they do with creme brulees, to make the crunchy top layer.  It was awesome and so fancy.  To the right is my "cream of wheat with sour cherry compote and fresh whipped cream."  It was perfect, and definitely inspired what I'll be bringing to our next book club meeting, which is to be a brunch.  Ramekins, get ready!

The sticky roll (towards the back) was just okay.  But once you've tried Mark's mom's "Sticky Pecan Rolls" every other sticky roll is ... just okay.

 I think we'd have had more appreciation for the French toast had we not already satiated our sweet cravings.  It was a brioche bread with cinnamon baked in, and served with a cinnamon honey butter and maple syrup.  It was good... but not out of this world or anything.

What was out of this world was the salty pretzel encrusted crab cake benedict, with whole grain mustard hollandaise and home fries.  We agreed this dish got an A, although I'd reserve my A+ benedict for the "lobster eggs benedict" at Cafe Luna.

Anyway this time together, out of the house, was like a therapy session for my soul.  That Mark actually woke up at 10:00 am to make it happen was so, so sweet.  And now my babes are both in bed, napping together, happy to be reunited.  I couldn't ask for a better Saturday.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Par for the course...

I'll admit it.  I'm having kind of a rough night.  And with 3 hours to kill before bedtime, a clean house, food to last another 4-5 dinners already made... I'm going to write about it.

I woke up this Friday morning SO excited.  Mark finally has a weekend off, and that hasn't happened for at least six weeks.  I think it may actually be the first weekend he's had off since Christmas but with the post-holiday craziness and general baby-still-wakes-up-once-a-night sleep deprivation I really can't remember much that far back.

I wore a cuter-than-usual outfit and dried my hair.  Put on make-up, the whole nine yards (well, once you're a mom there are really only about 2-3 yards).  Mark worked extra late last night so that we could have "more of a weekend" so I figured he'd be home early, maybe even 7 or 8 pm.  When the baby spat up in my hair (baby's favorite thing ever is to suck on his his thumb wrapped in my hair) I actually re-washed my hair in the sink, with shampoo.  I made sure the apartment was clean so we could really enjoy our surroundings this weekend.

I started looking at nice brunch places on the internet.  Mark had Valentine's Day off, randomly, but we haven't yet celebrated.  On the day of the holiday, I was on my way back from visiting a friend in Oklahoma.  Knowing he had the day off, I skipped dinner on my layover in anticipation of some sort of cute Valentine's Day spread he might have made for our happy reunion.  Unfortunately, though, there was nothing.  He spent the entire day sleeping - he actually slept 21 hours waking once to eat while I was gone.  So he hadn't had time to prepare anything.  I was kind of sad, but it's hard to fault anyone whose body is desperate to get twenty-one hours of sleep.

He thought we'd celebrate on his upcoming weekend off, now this weekend.  The plan was to go to a nice brunch so that we could bring the baby.  We really don't do anything without the baby because in my opinion, the baby is already getting jipped on daddy-time and the baby's needs are my #1 priority.

Anyway.  The point is I had different websites of brunch places pulled up and was so looking forward to this evening.  The baby took a later evening nap so I thought maybe there would even be a little father/son time tonight.  I imagined a happy reunion, putting the baby to bed together, discussing brunch places for tomorrow morning, maybe watching a Netflix episode...

But 5:00 came and I hadn't head anything.  Then 6:00.  Then 7:00.  I put the baby to bed at 7:30.  By then I knew that in spite of last night's extra-late night, this was not really going to be an evening together; with a 60-90 minute commute, once it gets to be 7:30, it's sort of all over.  Sure enough, just before 8:00 he called.  To say he'll be working really late again tonight.  Later than 11:00, my bedtime, so I won't see him until tomorrow morning.  Apparently, because he has two days off in a row, he has a lot to prepare for the resident who will be covering his patients this weekend.  Or something. 

That would itself be sort of sad, but the reality is that I really won't see him until tomorrow afternoon.  He won't get to bed tonight until after midnight.  Since he has now gone twelve days without a day off, and gotten under 5 hours of sleep each of those nights, he probably won't even be able to wake up until 3:00 pm-ish.  So suddenly his one weekend off after 6 weeks and for another however-many-weeks is really only a day and a half.  There's no Friday night.  There's no Saturday morning.  There's no Saturday afternoon.  On Sundays we'd usually go to church and community group but this is basically why we've become non-practicing Christians:  The rare Sundays off are either slept through or needed for the family time we otherwise simply won't ever have.

So here I sit, a little depressed and wondering if I should read for my book club or watch Twilight. 

When I mention Mark's schedule to people, I hear a lot of "But it's only temporary, right?"  Um, if you can consider 17 years temporary, sure, it's temporary.  Totally temporary.  I'm 30 and this has been the drill since we started dating when I was 18.  I'm married to a perfectionist in the medical field.  Even when we were in college he was always pulling all-nighters, and gone weekends all over the state running track and cross-country.  And now he's at MGH, which is fabulous for his career but would take a hefty toll on anyone's family life.  This year was already supposed to be better.  Last year, his intern year, was supposed to be the worst of it.  And he worked well over 100 hours many weeks.  But when MGH realized it needed to crack down on the 80 hr/week limit for interns, it shifted work up to junior and senior residents.  This year has actually been worse than last year.  And I just heard that next year, as senior residents, they're now scheduled for a ton of 12-hour overnight shifts.  In my experience those are just as brutal as their thirty-hour call shifts because when they do have a day off, they sleep through the ENTIRE day off and are up all night.  Then the year after that (2013-2014) will be his first year of fellowship, which is supposed to be just as hard as the first year of residency was.

Sigh.  If I were the person I sometimes wish I were, I'd just snap right out of it and continue being happy.  I'd think to myself "There are starving people in Africa!  I have it SO good, I should be nothing but ecstatic about life!"  Or at least "I could be a truly single mother!  At least I'm a single mom who doesn't have to work!"  But honestly, when I hear about people with really rough lives, it's not much of an upper for me.  I actually have a hard time enjoying what I do have when I am truly happy - which is most of the time - because I want everyone to have what I have before I can allow myself to enjoy it.  Every time I marvel at my healthy, beautiful baby, it's tinged with the awful knowledge that other parents out there exactly like me are watching their babies struggle with terrible illnesses and disabilities... oh I'm crying just writing about it.  And several times a day I'll feel such satisfaction that my baby is so loved and well-cared for, only to have it followed by a crushing sadness that there are babies out there exactly like my precious son, just like him who are not being loved, or who are being abused, and they are every bit as innocent and sweet as he is, and they don't know any better.  It breaks not just my heart but my soul to think of that.  I can hardly stand it.

Anyway, all that is to say that I'm feeling sad tonight and I'm not someone who can snap out of it by thinking of other people in worse situations.  I'm still thankful for what I do have, don't get me wrong... but for me, being thankful for what I do have necessitates being sad that others don't have those things, and it's all well and good to keep in mind but it doesn't add a spring to my step.

So, here's to hoping tomorrow is better.  Tomorrow afternoon, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Defense of the Midwest

If you ask any native New Englander (or at least, many native New Englanders) what they think of the Midwest, they may look perplexed at the idea that their response to such a question could possibly be of interest.  If pressed, they may disclaim that they "don't know much" about the Midwest and that all the states "sort of look the same," or "look like big squares."  A few honest souls may even admit they think of the Midwest as a vast nothingness of cornfields and/or a haven for strip malls, chain restaurants, and mega-churches.  In their minds, the East Coast is where it's at - "it" being everything worth discussing.  Chicago?  A mere NYC-wannabe.  Abe Lincoln?  Wasn't he from Connecticut or something?  And I'd love to pit an East Coaster against a Southerner for a discussion of who all can claim the coveted (or disdainful, depending) title of "Yankee." 

To be fair, New England does have a lot to offer.  In just one small corner of the country you can take your pick of ocean beaches, mountain getaways, beautiful wooded hiking, and pristine swimming lakes.  You'll never find yourself in a "blah" world of monotonous suburbia.  Rather, most any drive you take will have you winding and twisting up wooded hilly roads and occasionally passing an independently owned creamery or farm stand.  The historic homes you'll inevitably pass will knock your socks off and send your mind spinning into fantasies of the colonial period happening "right here!" (until, if you're me, you recall there was no toothpaste).  Yes, the quaint seaside towns and the charming little villages with their Old World main streets offer immense delight to lovers of U.S. history, lovers of all that is cute or "has character," and, well, probably lovers generally, old and young.

Concord, Massachusetts, a neighboring "cute New England town."

(View from historic cemetery established by some of the earliest settlers, and well-used by the same during their first New England winter).

Another view of Concord; the preserved historic homes at the foot of the cemetery hill.

Upstate New York is not too shabby.  (although the extreme poverty in the mountains definitely is).

Vermont could certainly be uglier.

The mansion walk in Newport, Rhode Island offers a fascinating glimpse into old money America.

And who wouldn't love Boston Commons, the oldest public park in the U.S., and its gorgeous Frog Pond??  Image google "Boston Commons" - I can't myself do it justice.

Yes, it's just lovely out here.  Which really begs the question:  If this area is truly so fantastic, then why at the grocery store last night did I see an SUV proudly displaying a bumper sticker identifying its driver as a "MASSHOLE"?  Why, this morning at Panera, was I budged in line by the couple behind me, who apparently think "I'll take who's next" from a nearby cashier means - who else?  Why, them of course!  And how in the world did I end up flipping the bird to another driver on my way to drop off a meal I'd prepared for "Take Them a Meal"?

Sixteen months of living here have given me a lot of time (and a LOT of reason) to ponder the origins and phenomenon of the "M**hole."  And basically, it's all becoming pretty clear to my Midwestern self.  Having lived 18 years in Madison, five years in or just outside of the Twin Cities, six years in St. Louis (and one year in Rennes, France), the conclusion is inescapable:  the day-to-day living in the Boston area, well... it sort of sucks.  And when everyone in a highly populated, poorly planned, barely-zoned area is walking around on their last nerve, even sweet Midwesterners (who shall remain nameless) are liable to snap.

Oh sure, those fleeting twenty-something years could be really great here.  As a single, childless "young person" you could share a tiny apartment with several friends (or several random people you found on Craigslist and don't particularly care for).  You could easily tough out a few years dealing with your inevitably soulless landlord and his attempts to bleed the property dry.  Mice and even birds (yes, I've heard of *birds*) will "make a great story" for your friends, and habitability is such a small sacrifice for living only a ten minute, frigid walk to the T.  Yup, the T will give you near-instant access to downtown Boston and about 10% of its restaurants (you probably can't afford the other 90%).  Oh but that's right, your access often won't be "near-instant" because during rush hour, there are actually "T traffic jams" that not-so-infrequently tack on an additional 15-30 minutes to your travel.  ?????  And yes, that will at some point happen when you're on your way to the airport (it's terrifying).

But really, as a young person, you can deal.  The remaining 10% of restaurants you can actually afford are pretty decent.  You get a great vibe being in the birthplace of America, and even if you're not associated with Harvard yourself it's still a cool feeling to imagine yourself surrounded by brilliant thinkers (at least until they budge you).  Yes, Boston is navigable to the young and childless...

But let me tell you.  Once you're married with children, all bets are off.

If you have a family in Boston and are not particularly rich, get yourself prepared for an endless amount of hassles and swallowed frustration.  Any Midwestern parent would surely balk at the idea of living fifteen minutes from a decent grocery store or twenty from the nearest Target.  And make that thirty if there's a random traffic jam (which there will be - and it won't be during rush hour because leaving your house at rush hour was already out of the question).  Oh and that grocery store and the Target?  Nowhere near each other.  So if you have a little one in tow who needs his naps, you can count on being able to do ONE (yes just one) errand per outing. 

Midwesterners would generally find the idea of a ninety minute work commute utterly outlandish.  The most I'd ever heard before moving here was an hour, but if you don't think you can fit your family in a studio apartment and you'd like to stay under $1800/month for rent, get ready to spend your life on buses and the T (or waiting for a spouse whose new home is on said public transit).

And what will be your reward for such a heroic commute?  A two-story, 3-bedroom, 2-bath home such as many of your Midwestern friends have owned for years?  Ha.  Ha.  HA.  Nope, after 2-3 hours total on buses and the T, you'll arrive home to your family's two-bedroom apartment, and probably at least a one-floor walk-up.  If you're really lucky (like we thankfully are), you'll have a good landlord and things will generally be in working order.  If not, you'll be getting evicted under false pretenses due to your new pregnancy and the Massachusetts deleading laws (yes, I've heard of this more than once) or at least fighting mice. 

This is our steep, narrow walk-up.  Every time my parents visit I find a new picture of it on their camera.  It appears they believe I will one day die falling down these stairs while carrying a baby (let's not even think of harm befalling the baby).  Many out here would consider me lucky to "only" have a one-floor walk-up.  

Personally I think my parents' worries would be better spent on our treacherous driveway.  I've already slipped and fallen once, thank GOD I was not carrying Matthew at the time.  I injured my shoulder and neck.

Shoveling this driveway when it's slippery is a nightmare, even when there's still room to put the snow.  Getting the car into it often takes a few "running starts" interspersed with shoveling and one particularly slippery time, Mark got out of the car to shovel a path for the wheels and try as he might he kept slipping back down the driveway and landing on the car.

Backing out is not as labor-intensive but leaves me terrified of killing unsuspecting pedestrians whom I cannot see beyond the tall mounds of snow. 

Intense winter storms yield charming New England scenes, but the utter lack of space for the snow makes for less-than-charming area inhabitants.

The sidewalk.  

But even when it's not winter, the streets are still a disaster.  Winding, twisting, gorgeous roads are just fabulous on summer weekends but they pose nothing short of disaster during weekday rush hours.  When we first moved here, I nannyed for a family who lived just under five miles away.  Seems pretty ideal right?  No.  It typically took me 27-30 minutes to get to their house.  And on the way back it often took 35-40.  To go five miles, people!  And we are living in the 'burbs!!

Apparently the roads here evolved from old cattle trails.  And those cows just could not walk a straight line.  There are no "blocks" here, because none of the streets are straight.  And so I can only imagine that older residents who had to tough it out without GPS systems simply have permanently shorter fuses.  I mean that's all I can come up with to explain the behavior of the wealthy-looking gray-haired sixty-something year old woman who ended up on the receiving end of my favorite finger as I towed an infant and a carefully prepared meal-for-a-mom over which I had slaved all afternoon.  We live on a somewhat blind curve (don't even get me started on the infinite blind curves and unclear intersections), and she was not visible when I pulled out onto the road.  Normally that's fine, but this woman was in a serious hurry to get to the next inevitably-red, traffic-piled light down the way.  She (she!!!) came up behind me, dangerously and purposefully riding my rear, and you had better believe that I (I!!!) will not hesitate to express my dissatisfaction with any car getting too close to my baby.  I watched through my rear-view mirror as she rattled of a list of her own profanities and threw her arms up at me in response.  With 29 years of Midwestern living under my belt, I can truly say:  Such an exchange between two such people just wouldn't happen in St. Paul, MN. 

And there you have it:  The Making of the M**holes.  It's not that the people here are inherently less patient or more entitled.  I mean when you think about it, these are the people in our nation most likely be in favor of giving away as much of their income as possible to benefit government programs for their neighbors.  But if those same neighbors are legitimately ahead of them in any sort of line or traffic, and they have somewhere important to be?  Watch out.  This is a land where a lot of people have an excess of money but a shortage of time, and it shows.

And so I say, to those of you who think the Midwest is boring or forgettable, or to any Midwesterners stuck out here and feeling less-cool than the natives:  Stand tall, be proud.  Yours are the communities built on functionality and common sense.  Yours are the friendly, helpful people who wait their turn in line.  And even if the scenery can't quite measure up, let me tell you:  The wait at Cheesecake Factory out here is longer than it is in St. Louis, and that says a lot about the accessible restaurants in the area.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Starting a Book Club! (aka, Girl Time Please!)

If there's one thing that mommies (and medical wives) don't get enough of, it's girl time.  My mommy friends are always resolving to get together more often, but the reality is we usually only get around to it when someone is having a baby shower, or someone's child is having a birthday party.  Such events can't really count as "girl time" since everybody is still chasing kids and otherwise parenting!

As for me, if Mark happens to be available to watch Matthew that means he's home, and I don't want to miss a minute of him. 

What to do? 

I think we've found a solution.   A few friends and I decided to start a book club.  We're meeting once a month, mainly at my house on Monday evenings at 7:00.  It may seem like an odd time, but it works well for my working-mommy friends who don't have to give up any of their weekend time with their babies, and it works well for me because Mark isn't usually home until after 9:00 anyway.  Can it still count as girl time when I'm hosting and doing M's bedtime routine?  It'll have to!

We had our first meeting last night and it was a blast.  We picked a Valentine's Day theme (since it's February) and the ladies - did I switch from the term "mommies" to the term "ladies"?  Success! - went all out on the food.  Incidentally, if you're reading this and you live in our area, you are welcome to join us!  We're reading "Firefly Lane" by Kristin Hannah for next month's meeting.

I believe a fun escape was had by all, and I was really impressed that everyone pushed for monthly meetings (I had suggested either monthly, every 6 weeks, or every other month).  Even though next month I'll be watching a friend's MS-stricken father for nine days and then out of town another fifteen, these ladies found a way to make it work so we could have it sooner.  (Moms can do anything, don't you think?)

Hopefully this will kill two resolutions with one stone:  More girl time, and more fiction reading.  It's so easy for me to spend M's naptimes at the computer, reading nothing but facebook status updates.  I *love* reading them and I'll press the "more" button on the "most recent" (not just "top news") until I'm back to where I left off.  Reading all the status updates of 469 friends takes a LOT of time!  I'm resolved to be more balanced in my reading, and make time for books once again. 

Some highlights from book club and two worthy recipes:

I've always loved this recipe, from "My French Kitchen."  Chocolate pots-de-creme.  All you do is take 9 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and melt in saucepan (I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips from the baking section).  If you keep an eye on it and stir, you don't need to bother with a double boiler.  In another saucepan you heat 3 cups of heavy (whipping) cream until it reaches a simmer.  Combine the two slowly, stirring and heating through until all is uniform (it'll happen, give it time).  Spoon into ramekins (or espresso cups) and decorate as desired (I whipped the remaining cream and the cookies are Trader Joe's Meyer Lemon Thins).  Chill at least 2 hours.  A complete indulgence, but sometimes life calls for those.

On the lighter, but equally tasty side, Kelly made "Fresh Pineapple Trifles with Orange Coconut Cream" from  Amazing and they went really well with the more-indulgent chocolate dessert (because everyone who needs two desserts knows:  they've gotta mesh well).

The tea set was my grandmother's.  I was so excited to finally use it!

Three of the five attendees, Kelly, Jen, and Susan.  Our new friend Connie was also in attendance!

Jen brought homemade artisan-quality bread - SO good - and Trader Joe's English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions, which I cannot recommend enough.  And Susan introduced me to another new favorite, bread, bleu cheese, and honey!  I loooove mixing salty and sweet and this was simply amazing!  Connie brought red wine, which one can never have enough of :)

Thanks ladies for a great time!  Here's to more girl time and reading more books!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Yup, I'm starting a blog.

It's time to face the facts:  My scrap-booking supplies have been in a box in the attic since I moved to Boston about sixteen months ago.  Prior to that, they spent six years in a box in a closet, since we didn't have an attic in St. Louis.  The last scrapbook I made covered my senior year of college, a (gulp) whopping eight years ago.  And while I love my college scrapbooks, and my husband begs me to "create more memoires," I think it's time to admit that it's just not going to happen. 

So, like many moms (and dads) before me, I'm attempting to document our family life in a blog.  I'm calling it "Married to Medicine" because our life pretty much revolves around and is dictated by my husband's career.  That may sound antiquated, but it's actually brought about by simple necessity.  I would love to have one of those idyllic (but perhaps mythical) modern marriages where housework and childcare are shared 50/50.  Actually, 80/20 would be great, since I'm a stay-at-home mom!  But when your husband works 80+ hours a week and commutes another 15-20, the reality is that when he's home, he's asleep - or if he is awake, he's far too tired to help.  As I write this, at 10:22 p.m., I'm expecting him to walk through the door sometime in the next fifteen minutes.  At that point we'll finally eat dinner, he'll check his email, and we'll briefly discuss anything that needs addressing, allocating up to 5 minutes for any life-or-death situations.  He'll then go to bed around 11:30 - later if he took any work home with him.  I'll follow shortly, after the kitchen is cleaned up.  Less than five hours later, at about 4:20 a.m., his alarm clock will go off.  At that point I'll literally kick him out of bed, which will be painful but necessary for both of us.  Shortly thereafter, our five month old will wake up hungry.  He'll be nursed and put back down, and he and I will sleep until around 8:30 a.m., waking up to the daddyless home that is our status quo.

To be clear, my husband isn't "working late" tonight.  This is par for the course.  His next day off is 9 days from now.  Until then, he may see our son awake briefly every several nights if he happens to get back a little earlier, and if the baby stays up a lot later.

And so Daddy's career is a pretty dominant force in our daily lives:  When do we next get quality time with Daddy?  Where will Daddy's career take us next?  How long can we count on living in any one place?

 "Daddy's Home!!!!!"  (it's very exciting)

"Daddy" is currently an internal medicine resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (a Harvard affiliate, and the main hospital featured on the ABC show "Boston Med").  He's about halfway through three years of training to become a board-certified internal medicine physician.  Technically, he's already a "physician" and shoulders enormous responsibility in the trial-by-fire environment of MGH.  After this is over, he'll have another four (yes, another four) years of hematology/oncology training that could be here or could have us moving as far away as Seattle or Houston.  His post-college academic and professional training will ultimately total thirteen years.  Thirteen years of sacrifice on both our parts - sacrifice of income, retirement and college savings, but above all, a sacrifice of what I consider everyone's most valuable resource and gift:  Time.  Weekends, evenings, vacations, holidays, movies, friends' and family weddings (I almost always attend spouseless, often dancing with my dad if he's there) ... Time.  A mommy friend of mine who is herself a physician recently explained that it's never just one spouse who attends medical school and residency; it's always both.  And I will confess to having felt a surge of gratitude and even relief when one of my husband's attending physicians (i.e., his boss) complimented *me* on my husband's top-notch doctoring.  When I thanked him but disclaimed that I couldn't take any credit, he said "Oh YES you can!" 

And I do try my best to run our home such that he doesn't have to lift a finger here - I don't plan on doing that forever, but for these years we're really both just trying to get by.  My goal as a mom is for the limited hours during which "Daddy's home - and awake!" to go straight to our son.  So I've taught myself to do it all, even the guy stuff.  Definitely not a natural part of my personality, and certainly not always easy with a baby in tow.  But well worth it.

I'm sure that many reading this might think of me as some kind of anti-feminist or martyr (ugh!).  While it's true that in addition to the above-mentioned sacrifices, I gave up my bar license, a truly "perfect fit" legal job, and all of my professional connections when we moved out here for his residency ... plus even remote proximity to family and many dear friends ... BUT (and this is a big but), I'm doing exactly what I want to do, and not all parents with the desire are able.  I'm staying home with our son - in spite of my law school debt.  I'm still not sure that I actually "can" do it.  As in, I'll often say I feel "blessed to be able to stay home" - but I'm not sure I'm actually "able" to, by anyone else's definition.  My husband ultimately wants to go into oncology research, so after this thirteen-year haul and our mounting educational debt - mounting because his resident's salary doesn't allow us to make our crazy-high student loan payments - he won't ever have a "doctor's salary."

"Well why did you go to law school then, if you wanted to stay home??"  It sounds crazy, I know... 

But I enjoyed law school, I enjoyed my 3 1/2 years of practicing, and I'm glad I didn't shortchange myself in "being all that I could be."  I have no regrets, but I do have a lot of financial anxiety over our combined educational debt.  When my husband and I started down our medical/legal grad school paths, we had no idea he would fall in love with research and choose a career that would pay a fraction of private practice medicine - and oncology research at that, which entails 7 years of post-med school training before you EVEN get that salary.  We assumed money would be fine.  And as a general rule, I don't (or didn't) believe in women making any career decisions based on a wanting to later stay home with children.  These days I don't know what I think about that... I do expect my husband to, eventually, balance his demanding career with our family's needs - and by balance, I mean sacrifice.  But you can't know, as a happily married grad student, that you'll even be able to have children.  Would I still do law school again if I knew then what I know now about our finances?  I guess I can't answer that until we see about kids' college and retirement.

Basically, *both* my husband and I are of the "follow your dreams" generation.  We've *both* made choices that were economically difficult, in pursuit of those "dreams."  But part of what drew us together, and maybe one of our few truly shared personality traits, is our intense idealism.  So we're both living our dreams in this household.  And just hoping that our son won't someday read this and say, "But guys, what about *my* dreams??  Like [insert expensive private college he worked hard to get into]?"

Ooooh this is really long.  LOL!  I guess my other reason for blogging is I have a *need* to write.  It was always my favorite part of practicing law.