Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Twas the Night Before Christmas '11

Christmas Eve is hosted by my Mom's parents each year.  It is traditionally my parents, brother, Erin, me, and my grandparents who celebrate the evening together.  Here's a recap of Christmas Eve 2011

Grandma and I in the kitchen.  A little blackberry wine cocktail while we finish cooking .

Grandma and Grandpa with the amazing spread they prepared for us.

Mom and her parents.
 This year's feast featured many amazingly delicious Whole Food's items, including vegetarian egg rolls, chicken pot stickers, hummus with crackers and seaweed snacks, shrimp, veggies, sausage cheese balls, strawberries and grapes, cheese cubes, latkes, and sweet potato spinach quesadillas.  The combination of everything was FANTASTIC!  I love buffets because I can get a little bit of lots of different things.
The beautiful spread

My plate.  Too many great options meant that I was required to have a second big plateful.

An assortment of Trader Joe's cookies.  Yum!

After dinner we spent some time talking with my Uncle and Cousin on Skype.
In deep conversation after dinner.

Royce and Erin
With full bellies and some great gifts from my grandparents, we headed home for some Christmas Eve family time.  As I mentioned previously, our family tradition is to receive pajamas on Christmas Eve.  Evidently this year Mom and Dad decided to get us cozy slippers rather than another pair of pajamas to add to the collection.  However, when Mom read about how much I treasured the tradition, she went out just days before Christmas and picked up pajamas for us as well.  Thanks Mom and Dad!  Both the slippers and PJs are warm and cozy.

By 11pm, everyone was tucked tightly in bed so that Santa would have plenty of time to make his appearance while we were sleeping.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lazy Dog

Bailey is my partner in crime when I'm at home.  From my morning wake up call as she takes a running dive onto my bed, to an 8  mile run, to car rides, to lounging on the couch reading, to curling up by the fireplace, to snuggling up at my feet in bed, there aren't a lot of moments where she isn't keeping close tabs on my whereabouts.  Anyone who first meets her would probably agree that she is a wild and crazy dog with TONS of energy.  As seriously as she takes her exercise and playtime, however, she also places equal effort in her laziness.  Should you have any doubts, reference the pictures below as my evidence.

Every night in the winter at about 5:30pm, Bailey calls it quits for the night.  She paces in front of her bed until someone comes to turn on the fireplace and cover her in a blanket.  I kid you not - this dog loves nothing more than burying herself under a blanket and passing out for the night!

In the living room, we have a couch that goes unused most of the day unless someone decides to curl up with a book to read, or to take a nap.  The second someone enters that room, Bailey immediately comes running.  She knows that the opposite end of the couch is all hers.

Curled up with me while I read.  Notice that she snuggles up with my blanket and is sleeping across my legs.  

Sometimes she doesn't even need a couch partner.
If it's mid-afternoon and the dog has disappeared, you can very likely find her here.

This is MY bed and MY pillows.
Someone else seems to think the whole comforter + pillow construct makes a perfect dog bed.

Yes, the dog owns a sweater.  What can I say, she hates to be  cold.
This is the office sofa.  All it takes is Dad saying "Bailey, let's go to work" and the dog makes herself comfortable.
And just for the record, when my parents first got the dog there was a "no pets on furniture" policy.  As you can see, things have changed.  Princess Bailey rules the roost, no questions asked.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Perkins Family!
Dennis, Kathy, Crystal, Royce, Bailey, and Kaluha

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Love Breakfast

During the work week, breakfast isn't so much a formal meal, but rather, a rush to quickly eat something remotely nutritious between morning conference and the 7:30am start time for the operating rooms.  Fortunately, the surgeon's lounge is stocked with about 10 different kinds of cereal.  For the sake of convenience and the fact that it's free, cereal has therefore become my breakfast staple.  Most mornings I stick with Kashi Go Lean or Kashi Go Lean Crunch, but occasionally I'll mix it up with Raisin Bran or Mini Wheats.  On the days that I have off, making a more elaborate breakfast is one of the things I look forward to nearly as much as sleeping in.  Morning favorites include pancakes, yogurt bowls, french toast, eggs, bagel sandwiches, and oatmeal.

Here's a few of my vacation breakfasts from the past week.

Chocolate protein pancake + Nutella + Cinnamon + Bananas + Strawberries

Plain Greek Yogurt + Raw Oats + Granola + Almonds +Blackberries + Strawberries + Cranberry Sauce + Almond Milk

Blueberry pancakes + Almond butter + Bananas + Strawberries + Blackberries + Blueberry Syrup + Cinnamon

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Afternoon at the Fox

Several weeks ago Mom had emailed me to see if I was interested in taking in any concerts or performances while I was home.  Who can say no that that?!?  She had a list of several options and my reply was "they all sound great, you pick".  The end result was matinee tickets for Atlanta Ballet's "The Nutcracker".  I've seen the performance once before several years ago and remember the dancing and music was incredible, so I was most certainly excited.  

Prior to the show, we decided on lunch at R. Thomas, one of our relatively recent discoveries that serves up some pretty tasty vegetarian and vegan cuisine.  The restaurant itself is quite eclectic from the moment you arrive.  It wouldn't surprise me if the outside decor and dozens of birds caged along the entryway have been enough to deter guests.  Fortunately, we knew that what awaited inside was worth passing the obnoxiously loud birds.

I started with the Sleepy Hollow juice - a deliciously tart combination of fresh squeezed apples and cranberries

For my entree I chose R's Raw Veggie Dinner.  It included raw falafel, cauliflower tabouli, spice veggie noodles, asparagus fennel salad, and kefir dips (curry, rosemary,dill, and lime cilantro).  Awesome group of salads and completely unlike anything you can find at other restaurants.

Mom modeling her selection - The Southern Vegetarian Bowl.  Collards, millet corn casserole, smashed potatoes, shiitake mushroom gravy, butternut squash, lolla rossa greens, and a garlic chili flax dressing.  The end result was a clean plate, so I'd say she loved it!
As we drove into Midtown in search of parking near the Fox, we were greeted with dark skies with threats of rain.  No sooner did we get parked and the threat turned into a reality.  We're talking about summer-like, raining like cats and dogs, type of rainstorms.  We made a run to the theater with umbrellas in toe, but dry we were not.  Any chance I had of being somewhat less than saturated was ruined by the very nice lady who chose to dry her umbrella by quickly opening and closing it directly into my face.  Thank you very much lady - Merry Christmas to you too!  And speaking of etiquette, to the 3 women in the bathroom who were using all 3 of the "hand dryers" to dry their umbrellas and boots, shame on you for telling me to wait a few minutes with dripping wet hands  while you addressed your personal needs.  Obviously you never learned the lesson of sharing in the sandbox.

Mom and I before the show.  Do we look like sisters?  We hear that a lot, and Mom loves it!

Let the show begin!

Our seats were perfectly located just 16 rows back and left of center stage.  
Just minutes before the show began, a rather large woman found her seat precisely in the seat in front of Mom.  In theory, the seats are staggered and you should never have to stare through the head of person in front of you.  However, when your head is as wide as your shoulders and your neck doesn't exist, you pretty much block the view of the stage for everyone in a 4 foot radius.
The Fox Theater is so amazing!
The architecture is ornate and detailed and the roof is even designed to look like an evening sky.

The ballerinas were all fantastic.  Mom enjoyed reminding me of my ballet days in preschool.  Unfortunately, I was never gifted with the grace necessary to succeed as a ballerina and I quickly transitioned to soccer instead.

The snow that began falling just prior to intermission was greeted with squeals of delight from the children in the audience.
New to the show this year was a live orchestra for all of the performances.  I really enjoy the Nutcracker music, but having the live performance really took it to the next level.  It brought back great memories of playing in the orchestra for musicals in high school.

All together, it was a great Mother-Daughter afternoon!  Great food + good company + a spectacular performance. It's been hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it's nearly the end of December and Christmas is fast approaching, but The Nutcracker certainly reinforced the reality and excitement of the holiday season!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Survey

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Definitely hot chocolate - although soy nog is pretty darn tasty

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Always wrapped in special paper and handwritten name tags

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
White icicle lights outside and white lights on the tree

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

5. When do you hang your decorations up?
Historically we've always had "family tree decorating night" the Saturday or Sunday following Thanksgiving.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Hmm . . . that's really tough.  Everything is always so good and we tend to have some new dishes mixed in with the classics each year.  Maybe homemade cranberry sauce perfectly perched on each bite of juicy turkey?  I also always enjoy the lunchtime appetizer spread that Mom puts out for munchies before dinner.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
My brother and I would be up by 6am on Christmas morning.  The rule was that we weren't allowed out of our rooms until both Mom and Dad told us to come down.  I remember being so frustrated because Dad would take his time letting the dog out, starting a fire, making coffee, etc.  In the meantime, Mom would slowly be getting up for bed and putting her glasses in.  I'm sure it was only 5 minutes of waiting, but it felt like hours!

8. What is on your Christmas Wish list?
Some baking/cooking gadgets, a North Face jacket, and dark chocolate.  I'd desperately love to get a camera, but that's a little much to ask of Santa in this economy.  Looks like the iPhone pictures will continue to suffice for now.

9. Do you open a gifts on Christmas Eve?
We have Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparent's house.  After dinner we open the gifts from them.  We also have a family tradition of exchanging pajamas that night.  We always anxiously await a new pair of cozy jammies!  It's definitely a tradition that I'll enjoy with my kids one day too.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
We decorate the tree as a family each year after Thanksgiving.  The collection of ornaments is a vast variety of garland, decorative balls, elementary school artwork, baby's first collectibles, commemorative ornaments from vacations, and gifts.  It's really amazing the collection we've accrued and it's always tons of fun reminiscing about the memories that each ornament symbolizes.

11. Snow.  Love it or hate it?
Love it!  Assuming that is that I'm at home, curled up by the fire, and able to watch it fall.

12. Real tree or fake tree?
Growing up we always had a real Frasier Fir tree that we picked out each year.  However, allergies got the best of all of us over the years and we're the proud owners of an artificial tree for the past 6 years.  At least we never have to worry about who watered the tree!

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
That's really tough!  My parents always do such a great job of giving gifts that I wasn't expecting and are great surprises.  I received my flute and piccolo (different years) as Christmas gifts, and those stick out in my mind as particularly special and treasured gifts.

14. What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you?
Spending time with my parents and brother, seeing the reactions of family members to gifts that I've selected for them, and enjoying the simple pleasures of the holiday season (curling up by the fire, baking, my brother and I both being at home on Christmas Eve).

15. What is your favorite Holiday dessert?
All of these food questions are so hard for me since I find it terribly difficult to pick a single favorite item.  I most enjoy making a tasting plate of small portions of all of the baked goods we've made.  We're having creme brulee for dessert this year, so maybe that will be the new favorite.

16. What is your favorite tradition?
I love that both my brother and I have always been home on Christmas Eve.  It's simple, yet also so special to just relax as a family, open our pajamas, and then all wake up under the same roof on Christmas morning.  It will definitely be different when that doesn't happen one year.

17. What tops your tree?
A star made out of tree branches that is lit with white lights.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving?
Definitely giving.  I love seeing everyone's reactions to the gifts I've picked out for them.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Transiberian Orchestra's "First Snow"

20. Candy canes, yuck or yum?
I don't have a strong feeling about them.  I rarely eat them plain, but enjoy mixing them into baked goods.

21. Favorite Christmas Movie?
No particular movie stands out in my mind right now.  I remember loving The Santa Claus and Miracle on 34th Street dozens of times each year growing up.

22. What do you leave for Santa?
When we were kids, we always left a plate of cookies and milk.  Plus, of course, some carrots for Rudolph and his buddies.

23. Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?
Now that we're older, getting up at 6am is no longer tradition.  We're normally up by 8am though.  We start with stockings and follow that with presents.  Breakfast consists of grits casserole, sweet rolls, and fruit.  The food goes in the oven when we start presents, and is typically ready about the time the last presents are being unwrapped.

24. Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall?
Definitely online - no lines, better prices, no crazy mall traffic, and pretty much the only possible way to shop when you spend the entirety of your day at work.  

25. Christmas letter or Christmas card?
The Christmas letter has become a tradition in our family over the past few years.  We typically rotate among us who takes charge of writing it each year.  It's a fun way to catch friends and family up on the Perkins family happenings, and seem so much more personalized than a generic card.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Saturday marked the official start of my 1 week Christmas vacation.  Yipee!!  I'm very thankful that our residency program allows a full week off at either Christmas or New Years.  Since Thanksgiving, I had worked every single day.  Mostly 14 hour days.  Simple pleasures such as enjoying the sunlight are lost when you walk in to work at 4:25am and walk out sometime after 6pm.  I'm learning a ton and getting to do several surgeries, yet regardless of the fun, I was pretty darn exhausted.  There comes a point where you are desperate to reconnect with life outside the hospital and the OR fluorescent lights.  So, my week away is all about that - reconnecting to life, sunlight, cooking, sleeping in, family, workouts, laziness, and fun.

Saturday featured catching up on sleep, enjoying a run (only the second in since my thanksgiving 13.1), Mellow Mushroom Mega Veggie pizza, and shopping.  Sunday started out with a 90 minute bike workout, and then was followed by baking, a little Christmas gift hunting, and a family dinner.
Snack plate lunch - veggies + lemony hummus, wasa + eggplant spread, veggie pizza, grapes
Family Dinner - Black Bean Burgers + Butternut Squash "Fries" + Stir Fry Veggies
Obviously I was too focused on satisfying my hunger that I failed to capture the meal on film until I had already demolished 50% of my meal.
 I was wide awake at 4:30am this morning.  Obviously my body clock has gotten a little to used to waking up at such a crazy early hour.  After a couple hours of reading the newspaper and playing words with friends and sodoku, I finally fell back asleep until 9am.  Crazy to think that I'm normally 5 hours into my workday at that point!  A lazy breakfast + coffee sipping was on the agenda first.
Breakfast included a protein pancake topped with nutella, banana, and strawberries served with a clementine on the side.
I followed breakfast with a few errands, a swim, and a trip to the dentist.  I had grand plans of heading directly from the dentist office to The Sport Factory for strength + yoga.  Unfortunately, I was left sitting in the office waiting (VERY IMPATIENTLY) for the dentist until 5:20pm.  Despite the fact that I got a great report on healthy teeth, I was left feeling frustrated that there was no way possible I was going to get from Woodstock to Roswell in a mere 10 minutes.  I hit up the weights back at home, but it certainly wasn't the same.
Fun at the dentist - not exactly how I anticipated spending 1.5 hours of my afternoon.
Tomorrow's agenda includes a run with dad, grocery shopping, a mani/pedi date with mom, and some much needed lounging on the couch curled up with a good book.  Oh, and I can't forget about the cookie baking to be done!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Savoring Sunday

93 hours in 7 days - that is the number of hours I have spent at work.  Needless to say, working that many hours is both physically and mentally draining.  More than sleep, however, I really crave time at home be lazy and catch up on life.  This morning I came home in my post-call stupor and headed straight for a hot shower and then directly into bed.  After catching about 4 hours of sleep I was up to enjoy the first daylight hours I've spent outside the hospital in the past 12 days.

Today was exactly what a lazy Sunday should be.  It included things like lunch while watching the Today Show, sorting mail and paying bills, 1.5 hours on the trainer (much needed exercise!), Christmas present shopping, preparing my trauma conference presentation while listening to Christmas music and smelling the great scent of a mistletoe candle, laundry, and preparing a home-cooked meal.
Christmas music playing with a mistletoe ambiance and dinner simmering on the stove.

Laundry - I hate it, but it had to be done.  Don't worry, I quickly proceeded to fold and  put it all away.

Yum!  Dinner of spaghetti and green beans.  A PERFECT Sunday meal !
Sadly, Sunday is quickly coming to a close and it's right back to work tomorrow.  The 4am alarm clock is already set (the most depressing nightly task) and my new flannel bed sheets are calling my name.  Fortunately, I have just 5 days of work before vacation begins!  I can't wait!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Season of Indulgences

Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There's no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On! www.duncanhines.com

Seasonal coffees, savory appetizer spreads, sparkling cocktails, elaborate meals, and decadent desserts.  Tis the season!  I'm pretty sure that mot every family has a long list of their favorite meals and treats that their family prepares during the holidays.  A few of my family's favorites from the past include:

  • Tree Decorating "Appetizer Dinner" - cocktail shrimp, cheese and crackers, fruit platter, pizza rolls, veggies with dip, and a cookie and candy tray.

  • Christmas Eve Buffet - a mix of finger foods while celebrating at the grandparent's house
  • Christmas Breakfast - grits casserole, cream cheese sweet rolls, fruit
  • Thanksgiving/Christmas Dinner - turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts

  • Sweets - snickerdoodle cookies, brownies, chocolate cherry balls, peanut butter fudge, raspberry shortbread strippers, oreo truffles, gingerbread men

This year, I'm looking forward to cooking and baking a whole new delicious spread of vegan goodies.  There's nothing better than spending a lazy, fireplace crackling, morning in the kitchen with family and/or friends, cooking up a host of delicious foods.  

Prior to heading home for the holidays, I'll be celebrating here in Charlotte with friends.  This weekend, one of the ortho residents and his wife are hosting a "Second Thankgiving".  The details are somewhat top-secret, but there's rumor of amazing food, and ortho "family" picture, and a gingerbread house contest.  Despite the fact that I have to work all day before the party, and all day after, I'm looking forward to a short break to enjoy friends and the holiday season.  I've been assigned multi-color sprinkles to contribute to gingerbread houses.
Do sprinkles remind anyone else of the deliciousness of Confetti cupcakes in elementary school?!?
Speaking of Duncan Hines, have you checked out their extensive recipe collection on their website?  A few holiday recipes that caught my eyes include the Black Forrest cookies, Spicy Hot Chocolate brownies, Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Espresso Glaze, and Cinnamon Crinkles.

What are your family's favorite holiday recipes?  Do you have a traditional meal that you share with family or friends?  

Remember to check out Duncan Hines' website www.duncanhines.com to find some great recipes for your holiday get-together! I was selected for this sponsorship by the http://www.clevergirlscollective.com">Clever Girls Collective.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Finding Time

One thing I've learned since I started blogging is that the amount of spare time I have correlates directly with the frequency of which I post.  Given the fact that it's been nearly a week since I put a post up, you could conclude that life has gotten pretty crazy again.  In actuality, it's not so much that life is crazy, as it is that I am pretty much living at the hospital.  December 1st marked my return to the orthopaedic trauma service.  While I'm certainly glad to be back with my most favorite residents in the hospital, ortho trauma come with long hours and very little time in the "real world".  The average day starts with 4:30am rounding, followed by 6:30am conference, a mix of surgery, consults, and clinics, and ends sometime after the sun goes down and patients are tucked into bed for the night and prepped for the next day.  In essence, I never see the light of day except in the occasional patient's hospital room window.  It's kind of depressing.

In the world outside the hospital, however, everyone seems to be abuzz with the joys of the approaching Christmas holiday.  I've been listening to Christmas music to and from work in an attempt to enjoy the season.  While it's impossible not to notice that most people are obsessed with jingle bells, Christmas trees, and Santa Claus, I'm finding it very tough to get excited this year.  Hmm, that needs to change.

My post-work routine consists of doing some ortho reading, exercising (sadly not on a daily basis), eating a quick meal, and passing out in anticipation of a pre-4am alarm clock.  I'd share some photos of my dinners, but there simply aren't any pictures.  Think canned soups, frozen burritos, salads, and eggs and toast.  Simple, quick,  and somewhat well balanced, but most certainly not photo-worthy.

Well after a long and frustrating 9.5 hour case today, I'm sitting with my very sore feet propped up in my comfy leather chair.  I've dosed of at least a half-dozen times just writing this post.  And it's only 8:45pm.  My bed is calling.  Good night!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Simply Dressed

I was recently given the opportunity as a member of the Clever Girls Collective to review the new line of Marzetti "Simply Dressed" Salad Dressings.  My goal is to only review products that I, myself, would consider buying and including in my meals.  This requires that the products are made of a relatively short list of ingredients, all of which are natural, and complement my healthy lifestyle.

I was impressed by Marzetti's commitment to produce fresh-tasting and pure flavors without preservatives, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial flavors or colors.  Their dressings include simple ingredients such as EVOO, canola oil, and sea salt.  While this may seem to be a logical approach to salad dressings, try taking a look at the ingredient list on a host of grocery aisle salad dressings and you'll realize this "naturalness" is a rarity.  Marzetti offers many flavors which include:

  • Blue Cheese
  • Ranch
  • Caesar
  • Pomegranate
  • Balsamic
  • Coleslaw
  • Champagne
  • Strawberry Poppyseed
  • Greek Feta
  • Ginger Sesame
The dressings are available in the refrigerated section and range in price from $3.59 - $4.59 depending on your particular grocer.  To find Marzetti's Simply Dressed Salad Dressings at a store near you, visit www.marzetti.com/where-to-buy/.  They also have several recipe ideas available on their website at www.marzetti.com

In the past, I've tried the balsamic and champagne dressings, and had mixed reviews.  The balsamic was quite delicious with a strong yet smooth balsamic tang and was very similar to several of the homemade dressings I enjoy making.  The champagne dressing, however, was not nearly as impressive.  The combination of the more gelatinous texture and slightly chemically-taste just did not appeal to me.

I selected the Ginger Sesame to try for this particular review.  The scent of fresh ginger immediately caught my attention as I opened the jar.  I served it over a "kitchen sink" salad for lunch today.  The flavor was moderate and definitely gave the salad an extra punch.  It tasted exactly as I expected a oriental salad dressing to taste.  I especially liked that it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet like many dressings can be.  It would be really good as a marinade for fish or tofu, as a sauce for a stir-fry, or tossed over an Asian-themed salad.
Kitchen Sink Salad - mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumber, sprouts, carrots, bell pepper, quinoa, potatoes, peas, and carrots
Overall, I would certainly buy this particular line of salad dressings in the future.  My only complaint is the high sugar content in a few of the dressings - strawberry poppyseed and pomegranate.  I'd also like to see Marzetti add some yogurt-based dressings that would be slightly less caloric than their oil-based counterparts.

Pick up a bottle of Marzetti "Simply Dressed" salad dressings the next time you're at the grocery store and let me know what you think!

I was one of the bloggers selected by T. Marzetti Company and Clever Girls Collective to host a Marzetti Simply Dressed review. They provided me with product to test myself and compensation for my time.  However, my opinions are entirely my own.

For complete details about their line of salad dressings, visit http://www.marzetti.com/products/marzetti/salad-dressings/marzetti-simply-dressed.htm