Friday, December 19, 2014

Five Favorites: DIY Holiday Cards

I'm all done with exams and finally made it to the post office to drop off good wishes to friends and family near and far. Usually I send store bought cards with a photo or whip something up with an easy online template. But not this year! This year I sat down with Karl, my roommate Sophie and her boyfriend Pete and we just crafted our incompetent little hearts out. The good thing is, some very talented DIYers have posted wonderfully simple instructions online and with their help and a few ideas of our own, we were on our way. All our cards were super easy to make, just add the holiday greeting of your choice and drop it in the mail! Here are my favorite five:
Number One
Number Three

Number Two

Number Five
Number Four

Number Five was Pete's very ingenious solution to all the bits and pieces we had at the end of the evening. I actually think the leftover-scraps-card became my favorite one!

 Look up at the Sky!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Exam Stress

Oh me oh my. Yesterday I had two exams, today I had two exams, tomorrow I have three exams and after that...sono libera!  That's the only thought going through my head during all this cramming: soon it'll all be over and I'll be home with my family with no scoliosis or kidney stones in sight! Also my roommate Sophie made me waffles this morning before my exams, to fuel me up and brighten my day. It was so sweet of her and they were delicious!

I've been at this whole university-end-of-semester thing for a while, but still the final sprint before the end, the frantic cramming and all-out exhaustion gets to me every time. I just finished the written portions for surgery, urology, orthopedics and anesthesiology. Tomorrow I have the oral tests. I hate oral exams with a vengeance, because despite being relatively well-spoken under normal circumstances I always start stuttering and blubbering when asked to answer the most elementary questions under pressure. And I have to say, while several of the subjects we're studying this semester really interest me, I absolutely hate ortho. All those bones and tendons everywhere, all with their own specific name and random classification to memorize. Ugh. I love the other three though, so I'm going to try and focus on that. 

This is shot of one of our classes last week. The anesthesiology department has a great skills lab set up like an operating theater and a very friendly plastic patient with all kinds of capabilities. He talks to you, tells you where it hurts, blinks, vomits, urinates, cries tears and sweats sweat, he has a heartbeat and breath sounds, pupils that dilate and probably many other functions I have yet to discover. We use him to run drills and learn about different medical emergencies without harming real people during our learning curve. It's actually really fun! 

So here's to learning, which I like, and being tested, which I don't. Three more tests, two sides of the med school coin and one more day until winter break!

Look up at the Sky!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Memories

Hiking in the Rainforest in Costa Rica with my fabulous sister, Zelda (left, in shorts)
I love traveling the world (and sometimes staying at my comfy, cozy home) with family and friends. On Mondays I'm going to try to take a look back at some happy memories, and remember to be grateful for all the wonderful opportunities life has provided!

This one is from trip to Costa Rica we took as family the summer after my first year of medical school. My parents, Zelda, and my grandparents all flew over and met in San Jose. We spent many happy hours trekking different trails and enjoying the amazing nature of the tropics. We were able to visit both coasts and spent a week in the middle of the Rainforest at a research station studying the habits of fruit bats! We had to wake up at four in the morning because bats are most active at dawn and dusk, but it was such a unique experience even this epic sleep-inner loved every minute! 

I also love this photo because I vividly remember bickering with Zelda about whose turn it was to carry the backpack with our picnic lunch the whole way up that mountain. Now she lives in Rotterdam and is so far away, I would carry her backpack for her every day if I could! Funny what growing up does to you.

Look up at the Sky!


Pre-Gaming Christmas

Karl's family is so extensive that they don't get together for Christmas itself, because it's just so chaotic for everyone to travel to one place for the holiday. Instead, they have a wonderful tradition of picking a weekend in December that works for all the families and having a big pre-Christmas bash with everyone there.

 Karl's inexhaustible Aunt Greta hosts it, everyone exchanges gifts and coos over the new additions, and we all eat an amount of delicious dishes that defies the anatomy of the digestive system. Then, we all fall into bed like the gluttonous dead weights we are and wake again for a sumptuous brunch on Sunday morning which renders all easting unnecessary for the rest of the week. Seriously, Greta's brunches are legendary and fill you up for days. She's also a prolific decorator and purveyor of kitch (see her epic Santa collection) which adds another layer of festivity to the whole event.

I've heard many horror stories of relations with in-laws and partner's families. Karl's is fabulous and all have welcomed me into the family with open arms. I'm so grateful for them and for our relationship. Karl's grandparent's are so sweet to me they're almost like my own and his cousins and their girlfriends (the whole youngest generation of that family is male) are more like friends to us than distant relatives. In fact, we girls had a great hair-dos-and-gabbing session during a break in the feasting.  Having family, whether your own or adopted is the greatest blessing in life. We had a wonderful weekend, got in the Christmas spirit, and left with a huge haul of presents! Happy pre-Christmas!

Look up at the Sky!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Five Favorites

So often I get bogged down in all the rainy old busyness of life and start counting my have-nots and my I-wishes more than my many blessings! So I'm going to try a nice easy gratefulness remedy half-lifted from one of my childhood favorites, The Sound of Music: a simple list of, say, five favorite things every Friday. 

Five Activities to Get Out of a Dead-of-Winter Funk 
1.) Take a long walk in the woods, alone or with a somebody. We did this a few weeks ago while visiting Karl's family and even though it was cold and crunchy instead of wintery and wonderland-y, I could just feel it doing me good! There's a lovely quote in one of the Sissi movies that goes: "Wenn du einmal im Leben Kummer und Sorgen hast, dann geh mit offenen Augen durch den Wald." Which roughly translates as: When you have stress and suffering in life, take a walk through the forest with open eyes." And I must say, corny as it is (and corny is pretty much the calling card of all the Sissi Movies) it holds true for me. Something about nature just gets me back on the right track!

2.) Make holiday cards for friends and family! I am not anywhere near as crafty as those amazing DIYers out there but even with our very limited skill set, Karl, Sophie, Pete and I enjoyed sitting down together earlier this week and throwing some glitter and yarn at colored paper. Makes you feel like a kid again and I think recipients appreciate the extra personal touch. (Stay tuned, I may work up the courage to show off our amateur handiwork)

3.) Bake cookies. Duh! Then eat all the dough and have to make a new batch.

4.) Listen to Christmas music...from somewhere else! Whether you discover a new favorite advent tune or have fun hearing familiar songs in  foreign tongues, this is definitely one to try. I love introducing non-native English speakers to Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. It's not well know outside the US but I think it perfectly captures the Christmas spirit everywhere! I recommend trying Es ist ein Ros Entsprungen, a beautiful Marian Hymn from 1609 and I think of all languages Silent Night is most transporting in french: Douce Nuit, Sainte Nuit.

5.) Write it down! Since I started this blog as a way to keep myself accountable to a diary of sorts, this one is big for me. Have you're family write a one page Christmas journal to be sealed up until next year. Then, you can all open them and see what 2014 felt like in the moment, and what you're hopes for 2015 were. Then rinse and repeat! In a few years you'll have lots of letters to read through and a festive chronicle of the years going by. 

Hopefully I'll get through these favorite five in time for Christmas, or at least start smelling the roses more while trying.

Look up at the Sky!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Advent Potluck

Finn takes a catnap on our couch after dinner
Last weekend Karl and I hopped over to Berlin to visit my parents and partake in a big ol' Advent Potluck. It was wonderful to see all my parents' friends again, they have a very cool, very tight-knit group whom I've known all my life. They're all like uncles and aunts to me and their kids are the cutest pseudo-cousins ever! I cooked a chicken with lemon and thyme and my Mom made an awesome Mung Bean Soup. Everyone brought something; quinoa salad, roasted zucchini, plain pasta for the kiddies...we ended up with a eclectic mix and a marvelous meal!

Afterwards, Mama hauled mine and Zelda's old Barbies from some forgotten corner and we played wedding, road trip and high-fashion runway until dessert was served. I had forgot how many outfits and accessories we had, but I must say Barbie play is somewhat boring now I'm grown up.  Pretty much limited to dressing and undressing them. Dialogue was minimal due to the two-year-old's lack of interest in my plot ideas.

Also on the weekend, we went to Yoga as a family (Papa and Karl are utterly inflexible but endearingly dedicated), watched a documentary at Hackischer Höfe Kino, in my opinion one of the world's coolest movie theaters. We also went to see an exhibition at C/O Berlin at their new location in the Amerika Haus right by Zoo Station. The show is called "Magnum. Contact Sheets" and looks at the perspective and the context in which famous photographs were shot. D-Day by Robert Capa, the Tank Man at Tiananmen Square and the iconic Che Guevara portrait are on display and it's absolutely fascinating to see the contact sheets those images came from and learn about the way they were captured. If you're in Berlin, check it out!

Wonderful weekend. Thank you, Karl and Parents!

Look up at the Sky,


Wednesday, December 10, 2014


And now, Ladies and Gentlemen: Let's meet the cast!

Bay Area Beach: The Family at Play!
Zanna (aka Me)
Twenty-something, trilingual, trying to be an adult and so grateful to be failing terribly!
Things I love: red peppers, frozen raspberries, dark chocolate, traveling, studying medicine, good books, evenings that end with the kitchen a mess and covered in vanilla sugar.
Things I hate: cheese.
(I know that makes me persona non grata with some people. Sorry, can't stand the stuff)

Karl (aka The Boyfriend)
Karl et Moi
Also studies medicine, started in the same year as me but now taking a semester off to do research on tuberculosis. We had not one but several meet-cutes as the universe kept pushing us together and pulling us apart like an accordion. Finally got together, survived half a year of long distance (me: Paris, him: Lausanne) and then we both called uncle and moved back to the same city. Much better. Just celebrated our two year anniversary and still going strong, due mostly to his inexhaustible patience for my many crazy schemes and idiosyncrasies.

The Roommates 
Sophie holds me up in the Bolivian salt flats
My roommate since we moved into this lovely apartment on the edge of the woods (and a sleep-in-friendly ten minute ride to uni) is the unshakable Sophie, fellow med student and port in any storm. She's a scheduled, orderly, and utterly endearing vegetarian who loves baking and "basteln" with her three nieces. Sorry, there are some words that just don't translate. Also crashing here on a semi-permanent basis is her Chinese-American boyfriend Pete, whom she met in Australia the summer after first year. He's a whiz with computers and card games, except Rommey with we girls always win. Home is cozy, there's usually something delicious in the kitchen, and with a revolving door of residents, spontaneous parties can happen anytime from breakfast to bedtime (and beyond. Pillow fights.)

The Family
Sunbathing in Chapada Diamantina, Brasil

Mama, Papa, and my sister Zelda: the fabulously funky foursome. Zelda is three years younger and studying something math-y and computer-y in Rotterdam (one of Europe's coolest cities. Believe it!). Parents live in Berlin, both academics, both work and travel like there's no tomorrow.
We interrupt each other, text constantly, and have been first on the dance floor at every family wedding in living memory.
I'm also close to my slightly more extended family, Paternal Grandparents and Paternal Aunt who live in sunny California and my cousin Brooks who lives in NYC with his girlfriend Deedee.

The Best Friend
Scottish sunset with Clara and Charlie
Clara is lovely, loony, and LDS--a great combination, by the way.  We've been friends for a billion gazillion years (aka since middle school). She's one of my few friends who isn't in medicine (med stu's tend to cluster, its not a good thing). She's originally South African, raised in Europe, studied anthropology and archaeology and now lives in Edinburgh with her amazing husband of one year, Charles. Charlie is the exactly the kind of guy you would wish for your best friend. Kind, calm with a sense of humor as dry as the Sahara and the perfect mix of responsible adult and take-it-as-it-comes. They are a fascinating couple to converse with on just about any topic and she's my one and only talk-about-absolutely-anything friend. Everyone should have one of those.

That's everyone! Well, not everyone of course, but the ones that count. We'll see who else pops up in this blog as time goes on.

Look up at the Sky!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome...

Our Family Reunion in Sicily--Staring meditatively at the ocean and the sky

Welcome to my new years resolution, begun prematurely and with the very best of intentions. I want to be a journal-er more than a blogger, to be honest, but year after year and in many attempts I have failed miserably at this task. I used to write a diary when I was a teenager, and continue to get my act together and document trips (2014: Skiing in the Alps, Paris, Prague, Rotterdam, Sicily, South Africa and Edinburgh! More on those adventures later...) but the act of putting pen to paper to capture every day life somehow eludes me. And frustrates me. Immensely. I love looking back, paging through old journals from a time I still consistently wrote in them. A different and yet deeply familiar voice sings back, of fights with parents and little sister, childhood dramas and adolescent dreams, what we had for dinner and where we went sledding, shopping, gallery-hopping on any particular day. I want my old self to look back on this youth, these precious student-y, med-school-cramming days and to know which tests I hated, which recipes I loved. Can't rely on this dusty camera in my head!

So, this is my attempt to be accountable. You are my workout buddy and my AA sponsor. I will be true, will write to you, when I'm bouncy, when I'm blue. No, no more Dr. Seuss rhymes.  Promise.

Apart from my last ditch effort to keep some words nailed down from windy time, I'm also just plain curious about blogging. Whats up with blogs, anyway? Are they just the narcissistic monuments of the selfie generation? Do we need the positive reinforcement that we're living life correctly? Or is there something really to it? Before starting this, my first blog, I looked around the blogosphere (word usuage?) and everyone who shared a  "why i blog" post seems totally enraptured by both the experience itself and the sense of community provided by this new literary art form. I was particularly intrigued--and pushed over the edge, thus my early start-- by this little list I stumbled across. Number 3 and number 12, here I come!

 So, again: I'm curious. Lets see...