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Winter in Iceland

3/25/18




Finally able to reminisce about our adventure in Iceland. What a wonderful experience! So many people have asked me first, why Iceland and second, why now? My best friend and I LOVE to travel. We both have been longing to see the Northern Lights and the best time to go is in the winter. With my Chase Sapphire card points, I was able to get us roundtrip tickets on Icelandair for $250 each. The tickets were cheaper because it's a lower tourist season.


Side note - the Chase Sapphire Preferred is literally the best credit card ever. Highly recommend it if you have a lot of upcoming travel plans (i.e. applying for residency and have interviews lined up all over the country). This credit card will practically pay for itself in the end. My biggest regret in medical school is not getting it during my fourth year interviews. You can apply here and earn 50,000 bonus points: https://www.referyourchasecard.com/6/U9SL5W42G2



So our initial flight was canceled, which was actually fantastic because otherwise we would have missed several opportunities including the Northern Lights boat trip and the South Coast route.

We booked all our tours on our own before arriving so that we had a pretty full schedule. We decided to go for about 7 days (2 days for travel and the rest for touring the country). It was the perfect amount of time although I'd love to return in the summer for a couple days.

Here's our itinerary - everything was shifted though due to the flight cancellation so unfortunately we missed the Golden Coast tour - just another excuse to go back ;):


We stayed at 22 Hill Hotel for the majority - I liked that it included breakfast each morning, which helped cut down on costs, but it wasn't my favorite place to stay. The rooms were pretty cramped. Our last night we stayed at Storm Hotel, which we both loved. It also included breakfast and was overall a prime location when it came to exploring downtown and transportation pickup.

And now to breakdown our trip -

Day 1: Despite the hiccup of a trip delay, we made it and jumped right into our glacier hike. Good thing we're both doctors, trained to run on adrenaline. Equipped with cramp-ons, pick-axes, and harnesses, we spent almost 3 hours traversing the fissures of Iceland's glaciers. We learned about how much climate change has melted the area as well.



We got soaked by the Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls but quickly warmed up with a delicious Icelandic feast. Finally, despite every geothermal measurement arguing against the possibility, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Northern Lights.


Day 2: We relaxed at the Blue Lagoon with silica mud masks and strawberry prosecco, spelunking in ice caves and enjoying delicious meals from the top of the Perlan dome. It was the best Galentine's day celebration <3

Day 3: Could not have asked for better weather as we rode through the picturesque countryside atop the majestic Icelandic horses (not ponies). It was our first time experiencing the unique tölt gait these animals are known and revered for around the world.

Day 4: All our tours were shifted around so we did the South Coast tour on this day, traveling to the Solheimajokull glacier and Black Sand Beach with its basalt rocks. We visited the town of Vik and got to see the Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls again. Fun fact - several of these locations can be found in film scenes from Star Wars, Interstellar, Game of thrones, and Captain America just to name a few.

Our boat tour was rescheduled for Day 4 and I am so thankful it was! All the stars aligned (literally the solar flares lined up with a clear night sky and we were surrounded by complete darkness).

On our last night I became an amateur photographer armed with my Sony Alpha 55, lots of luck and the incredible Aurora Borealis.



Day 5: Our final day was spent exploring Reykjavik's most famous landmarks. These included the Harpa concert hall with its distinct glass windows, the skeletal looking Sun Voyager ship, the austere Hallgrimskirkja church, and, of course, the delicious Braud & Co cinnamon rolls. If only I could share smells with you virtually too.


I also discovered the amazingly warm Icewear brand:




Check them out on Amazon!

So if you're filled with wanderlust like us and looking for a fun, low cost adventure, definitely consider Iceland in the winter :)

(This post contains affiliate links)

How I Lost 5lbs in 2 weeks

1/28/18

Stay active by going to the gym or walking your (or in my case, a friend's) dog.
Follow this cutie @centercitypup on Instagram!

I can't believe it's already the end of January, especially with the 60 degree weather we've been having here in Philly. In addition to budgeting, my other New Year's resolution was, like many people, to lose weight. I never experienced the "Freshman 15" in college, competing in pageants kept me in shape throughout medical school, and PIIT28 plus the 28 Day Reset helped me tone up during intern year (read more about PIIT 28 here). However, moving to the city has led to lots of fun brunches with friends, eating our way through restaurant week, and munching on late night snacks from the hospital cafeteria. Despite meal prepping, it can be difficult to keep up with the appetite you build running around answering pages and admitting patients. That busy work can easily lead to unnecessary snacking. While I am at a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index), I still had room to safely shed some weight. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be just with making some simple food changes.

Before reading on, I would recommend everyone check their BMI to see if you even have room to lose weight: Click here to check your BMI on the NIH website
 

Step 1. Get a partner


Working toward a goal can be both empowering and also un-motivating depending on where you are in reaching it. My first step was to find someone else with a similar New Year's Resolution who could encourage me, congratulate me and inspire me to keep moving forward. It could be a family member, a friend, someone in your gym or exercise class, even a colleague from work. This is a relationship that goes both ways - you are also there to support them and help them achieve their goals.

Step 2. Make a trade

I learned some easy tricks for snacking to help satiate my need for that "crunch" while still getting healthy nutrients. My favorite is eating sugar snap peas instead of chips. They're easy to snack on and they're nutritious.

In terms of substitutions, cauliflower is a great replacement for potatoes or rice. You can even make pizza with it! And for pasta lovers, have you ever heard of the Shirataki noodles? Also known as Miracle Noodles, they're just like real pasta but made with soy-beans and yam flour (minus the carbs and calories).


                      

You can pick up them up at Whole Foods (or order on Amazon - Miracle Noodle Zero Carb, Gluten Free Shirataki Pasta, Angel Hair, 7-Ounce and Tofu Shirataki Noodles Spaghetti Shape 10- 8oz Bags). I made pad thai the other day and couldn't tell the difference. I honestly can't believe I've never heard of them before. Have you?!


Veggie Pad Thai with Shirataki Noodles: 0 carb and < 20 calories per serving





Another new trick I picked up was at an Athleta nutrition class with OnPoint Nutrition this weekend: Cook with vegetable broth instead of vegetable oil. It helps cut down on fat, doesn't burn your pan, and gives you even more nutrients.

My biggest change in eating habits was allowing myself to consume unlimited vegetables, fruits, non-fat greek yogurt, eggs, poultry, seafood, and turkey. I found myself making better and fresher choices every day. This doesn't mean you have to eat salad every day. It just means to choose wisely and really look at the ingredients. I also cut back on alcohol, having only one glass of Prosecco in two weeks.


OnPoint nutrition bars are filled with one of the best weight-loss ingredients to reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer: Fiber

Look for snacks filled with fiber to help get you through your day!



Step 3. Keep a record

I started to keep track of everything I ate. I loved the 28 Day Reset because the meal planning was all laid out for me before. Now, I'm trying to figure out less of a diet and more of healthy eating habits. Even if you lose the pounds, you have to maintain the lifestyle to stay on track. There are tons of free apps for your phone that can help you keep track of how much protein, fiber, sugar, carbs, calories, etc you're consuming. My favorites are MyPlate and MyFitnessPal.

Another great app for goal setting and helping you conquer your food cravings is Cravemate: 


Click here to learn more and download Cravemate now on the app store!

Step 4. Divide and conquer


When you're going out to eat, as long as the portions allow, try to divide it so you eat half for your meal and save the other half for the next day. Not only are you cutting your calories, you're also saving money by making two meals out of one!

Pro-tip: bring a Tupperware container with you and to help reduce, reuse, and recycle instead of wasting the disposable plastic containers restaurants provide.



Step 5. Spice it up


The best spices to give your meals (especially those veggie stir-fries) that WOW factor- cumin, chili pepper, onion powder, garlic, salt, pepper, and the best of all, nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast offers the "cheese" flavor, similar to parmesan but without the extra calories. You can sprinkle it on anything, even popcorn.


               

And lastly, the easiest way to lose weight? Get a haircut!

I was able to do this and lose 5 lbs in 2 weeks - I even went down a size at Lululemon! You don't have to follow my footsteps and make all of these changes at once. Do what's right for you and your body.

How do you know which residency program is right for you?

1/21/18


With the upcoming deadline for the official Residency Match list rankings approaching, I figured this would be helpful for anyone who still has lingering doubts about which residency program is right for them. These tips could actually be applied to any new job or school you're considering even if you're not in the medical field.




Here are the key areas to consider when deciding on rankings:

Location 


Is it in a place you could see yourself living? Is the lifestyle similar to your own or something you could adapt to? Do you have a social network there or family nearby? Do you want a new place to start fresh or would you feel more comfortable being around familiar people and places? Are you a city person or more rural/suburban? Does the area offer a patient population you feel you could thrive in as a doctor? Is there commuting involved and if so how far, how many sites, how many rotations do you have to commute to? Is there public transportation or do you need a car? These are all questions to consider just based on where the program is, which can help you narrow down your top three fairly easily.

Size


How big is the program? Are you looking for a small program, medium-sized, or large program? When I interviewed there were sites that had two residents and some that had upwards of 15 residents. Of course the size can also be a reflection of the medical specialty you're pursuing (internal medicine programs often have the most residents in their program).




I chose a medium-sized program because I wanted to be able to get to know everyone but also not get lost in the crowd. I was also worried in a program of only two people, what if I didn't get along with the other person? I'd be stuck working with them for three years.

Future



What do the residents do after they've graduated? How many go on to pursue a fellowship vs go into general practice? When I interviewed at Stanford, the most helpful tip they gave me was to look for programs where half the residents go into fellowship and half go into general practice. That means the program is strong enough that graduates feel they have enough experience and knowledge they can easily practice as an attending and the program is well-known and supportive enough that if you wanted to pursue a fellowship, the opportunity exists.

Fit

Could you see yourself working there? Did you get along with everyone, not just the residents but the attendings too? Try not to base this off of one interaction but looking at the whole picture. It's true, when people say "you just know what program is right for you," there really is a "fit" or a "feeling" that you get. Did you rotate there for a sub-internship and if so how did you feel after? After rotating at my current program as a medical student I attended a medical conference a month later. I had been auditioning at a completely different site during that time. I remember walking in to the auditorium for the opening plenary session and without even thinking twice, I chose to sit with the residents from my first sub-internship. They were so welcoming and made me feel like I was already part of their program.

Best of luck! And congratulations on starting a new chapter of your life.

Happy Mummers Day Eve

12/31/17


In Philadelphia, we celebrate the New Year with an entire day-long parade of fantastical productions (as opposed to other cities with their 10-second ball drop). Go big or go home #amirite? This will be my first time watching the Mummers Parade. Inaugurated in 1901, the parade consists of local clubs competing in categories like comics, fancies, string bands, and brigades. With ostentatious costumes and performances along Broad Street, it's going to be a New Year to remember. I'm so glad it wasn't canceled despite the frigid weather reports.

Of course with a new year comes lots of new goals and the R word. Yes that's right, Resolutions. Although I prefer to break it down like Re-Solutions (and since alcohol is a solution I suppose you could argue it's just a fancy way of encouraging those midnight champagne toasts). But for real, if you're looking to come up with your New Year's Resolution, maybe this post can help you out.



One of my top goals this year is to find ways to save money while still enjoying things like going out with my friends, traveling, and of course hitting up all the great restaurants in Center City. I'm challenging myself to expand on that - making some money by spending money:



My friend showed me this app called Seated. It's perfect for anyone living in or visiting major cities. You sign up and book a reservation at one of their restaurants that vary from inexpensive ($) to ritzy ($$$$) with a variety of food genres. My favorite spot so far is Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro. We also visited this delightful vegan restaurant called Bar Bombón. Depending on the number of guests, you spend a minimum amount and can get money back in Amazon, Uber, or Starbucks credit. I've already been able to pay for half of my holiday gifts just by eating delicious food! Use my Referral Code: ALYSSA274 and get an extra $5. Click here to learn more.



Another of my go-to apps is Mint, which is run by Intuit. I can control all my accounts, create a budget, and keep up to date on when all my bills are due - for free. I check it at least once a day to make sure I'm on track and also analyze where my money is going.
   


If you're trying to figure out how to create a budget I recommend listening to some of the Millenial Money podcasts. There's a great book too that helps you evaluate your relationship with money and how to approach financing for your future. It's called "The Broke Millenial" and it's kind of written in a fun "Choose Your Own Adventure" style starting off with the 5 steps to #GYFLT.





And lastly - the best way to travel and save money is through points. I was able to purchase roundtrip flights and a tour for an upcoming vacation to Iceland through my Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card points for not just one but two people! You have to spend a certain amount of money within the first three months of obtaining the card in order to get the 50,000 points (which equates to 1.25% more when used for travel as opposed to 1% for cash back...so 50,000 points means you can get $625 when used for travel including transportation, hotels, and activities or straight $500 cash back). I will say the first year of having the card is free and then they charge an annual fee of $99. You can always cancel the card before then - just make sure to use your points.

Click here to get yours today!


Now you can ring in the new year with lots of (re)solutions and a trip to Iceland...or rather a warm place with a nice ocean breeze in your future. And don't forget to watch the Mummers light up the streets around City Hall.

Merry and Bright

12/25/17

Happy holidays everyone! It's a beautiful day in Philadelphia, there's even a dusting of snow coating the sidewalks.

I wanted to post this earlier but didn't want to ruin the surprise for all the gifts I sent my friends and family. I've found that the best kind of holiday gifts are homemade ones, whether they're greeting cards, jewelry, or even handmade scarves. It means so much more when you know someone put time and thought into creating something especially for you.
This year, I got my friends involved in making holiday cards! We used water color pencils and Pinterest for inspiration.
You don't have to be a Monet to make these either: it can be a simple paint by numbers design or something as quick and easy as dots on a line! Just grab some cardstock and have fun - throw in some glitter to celebrate the upcoming New Year. Keep in mind, you can't really make a mistake because every time you color outside the lines, you make it your own. You make it unique. And that's what makes it from the heart!

Same thing goes for other arts and crafts like knitting and crocheting. Every little "mistake" is just another detail of your personality going into your work. I started knitting for the first time this year after teaching myself through Youtube tutorials. I made my friends and their families headbands and scarves. It makes me so happy to know that I am helping keep them warm this winter even when I'm not around.

This has become one of my favorite hobbies too - especially when I'm on call at the hospital. I can pick up in between answering pages right where I left off. At the end, I feel like I've accomplished something extra on top of treating my patients!

#LIFEHACK

For those of you who don't have a fireplace - you can always turn your screen into a "Yule Log" through Youtube, whether you have it streaming on your TV, phone, or computer. I used Apple TV to pull up the 8 hour version of the Yule Log video on Youtube and now get to sip hot cocoa by our crackling "fire." We used to do this all the time when we were studying for exams in medical school during winter.

Stay warm and be merry :)

Thanksgiving Thursday

11/23/17


Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for today? I think it goes without saying family and friends are at the top of my list. This year has been a whirlwind of transitions and re-rooting. I am so grateful to you and the rest of my blog readers, my friends, my awesome residency program classmates both new and old (shout out to intern year), and of course, my family. After working a 24-hour shift I finally have a chance for some R&R with them. We've spent the well-deserved break playing Charades, listening to Bobby Darin, drinking 19 Crimes red, and preparing lots of delicious food.

If you're looking for a great sweet potato recipe, check this one out from my friend, Jessie. It's complete with marshmallows!





Speaking of amazing food, my residency program had our first Friendsgiving a few weeks ago.  Since we are in our second year of residency (aka PGY2 for Post Graduate Year 2), I started a tradition of PGY "2(TUES)day" gatherings. Given how busy we are between rotations and call, it was serendipitous that we were all free that one night! We had so much fun and even more leftovers.


When you're looking for a residency program and everyone describes it as the "right fit" or "you'll just know," I didn't always understand what that meant until now. Aside from over half of my fellow residents also owning a Subaru like me, they are awesome. They are smart, funny, interesting, and supportive. I could not have chosen a better group of people to learn my specialty (or stuff my face full of turkey meatballs) with than them. So cheers to you all :) And a special thank you to all the hard-working doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, CNAs, and LNAs who are working this holiday. Happy Turkey (or Tofurkey for the vegetarians and vegans out there) Day!

Namaste Sunday

10/22/17


Happy Sunday! What better way to celebrate a beautiful fall Sunday and get to know a new community than through yoga? It brings people together from all walks of life to destress and re-center. This is especially important when you're in residency. I've been on a yoga marathon after finally replacing my old mat a few weeks ago with this perfect one from Athleta: the Manduka mat.


In fact, on my way back from picking up my new mat, I discovered CorePower Yoga was promoting a free trial week for newbies. Wanting to give my Manduka a test drive, I signed up. Talk about holding yourself accountable. I went every day to trial their classes from Yoga Sculpt to Levels 1 and 2. It was tough because I wasn't used to the heated yoga but I felt so rejuvenated afterward. Plus, when you're on a budget (thank you student loans), the best kind of yoga class is a free yoga class.


Looking for more fun activities in the area, I decided to check out Athleta's upcoming events. They host free weekly yoga classes often accompanied by a tutorial on eating healthy and taking care of your body.




I registered for today's Be Gentle to Your Body class and my favorite instructor from CorePower Yoga, Melissa, turned out to be leading it! They cleared the store so we had plenty of room to stretch out. Melissa led us through a gentle early morning flow with lots of downward dogs, warrior ones and twos, and an amazing Shavasana complete with a lavender oil aroma. Not to mention you're surrounded by Athleta's beautiful activewear. They even give you an Athleta goodie bag at the end filled with coupons and treats like chocolate covered Date Truffles. I was ready to buy the whole store.



Afterward we had a discussion about healthy eating with a focus on yogurt parfaits. Melissa, a certified nutritionist, explained how important it is to focus on consuming all-natural ingredients. Your body is better equipped to digest and extract the necessary nutrients from whole foods. It doesn't know how to metabolize processed foods appropriately, which is why you may not feel well after, say, a fast-food binge or ice cream indulgence (Halo Top excluded).


She cautioned us about parfaits that have too much sugar, which can be hidden in granola and yogurt. She also emphasized the importance of bulking up breakfast with protein. Tricks to do this include using Greek Yogurt as a base and adding toppings like hemp seed, peanut butter, and pumpkin seeds. We learned simple ways to add sweetness using honey, raw cacao nibs, and fresh blueberries (fun fact: these are also loaded with tons of antioxidants). You can even flavor with cinnamon and throw in chia seeds to provide extra fiber. We got to make our own yogurt parfaits using her recommendations with fantastic ingredients compliments of Trader Joe's.

I also got to meet two young women from Temple University's Pretty Girls Sweat club at the class. They told me all about their club and how they empower college girls through fitness around the country by promoting free upcoming events and classes. You can follow them on instagram @prettygirlssweattu :)

Check out what the fitness stores and studios are doing in your area and I'll see you on the mat!
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