Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Vacation

I'm officially on Christmas Vacation!  Whoop Whoop!

Today was my first day of Christmas Vacation since Public Health is closed from Dec 22nd to January 2nd.  It's actually awesome because it means I get to go home for Christmas without missing any days of work.  They have Mandatory Leave with Pay days up here which means you're not allowed to work but you still get paid as if you were.  So technically I got paid to ski today!  Have I mentioned that I love the North?
Getting Paid to Ski :)

Meg and I headed out to the Hay River Ski Club to hit the trails.  It was more of a social ski than a workout since Meg was on classic skis and I was on skate skis but it was still fun.  I am anxious to get out and actually get better and get a good workout in though.  I guess I just need to find someone roughly my speed...aka not very fast!  I'm still learning so it's tough but I love that it's an activity that allows me to spend hours outdoors in the middle of winter.  I bailed pretty hard on one of the hills but other than that I managed to stay upright.  Unfortunately we had a pretty rough windstorm a few days ago and haven't had any new snow since then so the trail was covered in a lot of debris so I spent most of the ski terrified that by the time I was done the basses of my skis would be destroyed.  There are a few scratched on 'em but I'm hoping they'll brush out.  Fingers Crossed!

Last night we celebrated being on vacation by having a big bonfire out in Old Town at a friend's place.  I'm still really bad at whipping out my camera all the time in fear that I'll look like a huge looser so I only have a couple of blurry, dark pictures.  It was fun though!  We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on the fire and had a nice low-key night.
Bonfire Night!


I think I’m finally starting to become acclimatized to the North.  When I first got here I was bundling up in 12 layers every time I left the house.  Now I don’t wear my ski pants unless is colder than -25, I’ve switched from a hat to ear muffs for temps warmer than -15 and I don’t wear my big huge gortex mittens unless it’s -25 and instead just wear a pair of knitted red Olympic Mittens that I didn’t deem warm enough when I first got here.  I also started out by wearing huge clunky Sorrel boots every time I left the house but since it’s so cold here, and stays cold, I really didn’t need the waterproofing of those boots and now I just wear a pair of Ugg knock-offs which I’m pretty sure were about 7$ at Walmart.  I had never ever wanted a pair of real Uggs because in PEI girls would walk around in them but have wet feet all day since the puddles were unavoidable, even in the dead of winter.  The dead of winter in PEI means a lot of snow, but even more slush, which is definitely not conducive to wearing fabric boots. They seemed like the silliest invention ever considering they were winter boots but not waterproof.  Now  that I’m here and realize that not all winters require waterproof boots, I am beginning to see the appeal of a warm pair of boots that are light weight and easy to walk in.  I might have to invest in a pair of legit mukluks before the end of winter.

Other than how to dress appropriately for the weather, I feel like I’ve learned a lot up here!

1.)    “Down South” means Edmonton, not Florida. This is important since it’s used in conversation all the time and I was under the impression for my first week here that everyone went to Florida regularly and had family there.

2.)    Eating polar bear liver will kill you because it has toxic levels of Vitamin A in it.

3.)    Tuberculosis is still very prevalent up here.  About 80% of people test positive for the Mantoux test indicating that they have had exposure to TB and are carriers of it.  If I make it out of here without exposure to TB I will be considered lucky, especially since I am working in Public Health and in the Hospital.

4.)    My coworker is Stompin’ Tom’s cousin and was also in the show “North of 60”.

5.)    It is commonly believed that rabbit is a Canada’s Food Guide Serving of Vegetables (not meat and alternatives) since rabbits eat vegetables exclusively before being eaten themselves

6.)    You can wear real fur without fear of having red paint thrown on you by some Peta supporter. In fact, it’s encouraged because it’s soo much warmer than synthetic.  I’ve seen fur lined hoods (like in my Canada Goose Coat), I’ve seen fur lined coats and I’ve even seen a full seal skin coat and mittens ensemble.  No one looks twice or judges you for wearing it either.

7.)    Out at the ski club (aka a mere 15km from town) there are wolves and lynx and black bears.  I figured there would be wolves, but LYNX!!  How unreal is that?  I hear they are incredible rare to spot, but we saw lynx tracks along the ski trails last week.  So rad. Pictures of them remind me of our old cat Sid for some reason. The ski trails are lit at night (which is almost always) and these cats are primarily nocturnal.  I wonder if any late night snowshoers have ever gone missing from the trails…

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Evidence Based Practice

This week at work has been incredibly quiet. By quiet I mean boring.  I’ve only had one client and was caught up on my charting and all my work at the end of last week so I didn’t really leave myself much to do this week.  I’ve been passing the time reading journal articles and catching up on the most current nutrition research.  I’m sure this time next month I’ll be wishing for an afternoon to read and catch up so I’m trying to take advantage of the office being slow while I can.

Despite the quiet, I did have one cool project this week!  We have a mom of a premature baby who is in the process of switching from breast milk with added human milk fortifier to formula and wanted to know how long she should keep her baby on specialized formula for preemies.  There are a ton of different formula products out there formulated specifically for different conditions and stages of infancy.  The formulas designed for premature babies are higher in calories (22-24 kcal/fl oz versus 20 kcal/fl oz for full term formulas) and are higher in protein, vitamins and minerals. I didn’t know the answer to this question off hand; my initial assumption was to keep the baby on preemie formula while tracking growth very regularly and once the baby has achieved healthy growth patterns they could be switched to regular formula.  However, I didn’t really want to give a recommendation without knowing exactly what the research and official recommendations were.  As Registered Dietitians we use Evidenced Based Practice, which means we use the latest research to make recommendations to clients and to develop all of our interventions. We had an Evidence Based Practice course at UPEI where our project was to pick a random nutrition related question and answer it in a paper using evidence from our own research.  The point of the class was to learn how to evaluate research papers to determine if the research itself was strong enough to base recommendations off.  Anyways, it was time consuming and a huge pain, especially considering the paper took all semester to write and was only a max of 4 pages.  But I did learn a lot from that class. I really liked going through research articles and finding the limitations to the studies and flaws in their methods and having to decide if it was applicable to the population of my question.

Since I had a lot of free time this week for reading, I decided to tackle the question of the preemie baby formula in the same way.  I didn’t realize I was doing it until I was perusing through the Cochrane Library via the UPEI library website and had a flash back of 4th year university.  It made me happy that I was actually using skills and methods I learned in University to solve real life Dietitian problems.  There were a lot of classes in University that I have never once used and that I am fairly confident I will never ever use in either my practice or my real life.  I loved UPEI and am so glad I chose to do my undergrad there and using this process made me realize just how awesome my program was and how lucky I was to have gone through a University program that actually prepared me to join the work force.  There are not a ton of programs that do that anymore.

Based on the research, there is no strong evidence that giving a premature baby specialized premature formula after hospital discharge impacts growth or development.  Babies are smart, and the evidence shows that preemies who aren’t on specialized formulas simply take in more of the regular formula to make up the different in the calories, vitamins and minerals. There is some evidence that these formulas can result in greater growth if provided for at least 6 months, but this was only evident in very small birth weight infants weighing < 1000-1250 g, which the baby in question is not.  So long story short is that this baby is following a normal growth curve and is currently doing well.  While providing him with specialized formula will likely do no harm, it hasn’t been shown to provide benefit either.  This answer seems really fluffy…it doesn’t actually contain a concrete recommendation for what mom should do, but based on the evidence it’s all I can really tell her.  I used to be really frustrated by the fact that often the evidence isn’t available for us to make definite recommendations and felt like we weren’t really answering the questions asked of us as Dietitians.  However, I am glad that we can tell people what the most current research is saying and allow them to make their own decisions based on fact.

Today is my last day of work until the new year! I’m getting antsy to get home. I’ve never travelled this close to Christmas though and am slightly terrified of what the airports are going to be like on the 23rd of December.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

First Ski of the Season!

Before I moved up here I had googled the town to figure out what facilities they have here in terms of sports or clubs that I could join once I got here.  I saw that there was a nordic ski and biathelon club and have been wanting to make it out there since I arrived.  It's only 15km from town but I don't have a car so it's been tough to get out there.  One of the nurses at the hospital hooked me up with a couple who are on the ski exec and they took me out to the club on Saturday.  I even got a 40 minute or so lesson before we headed out for our ski which was much appreciated since I'm not exactly a super star and haven't really done a ton of skate skiing before. Our actual ski ended up being primarily social.  They have some bird feeders set up about 20 minutes from the club that they wanted to refill and one of the other members of the club was out with his super hard ore camera gear and wanted to tag along.  His gear was heavy so we ended up pulling it in one of those baby buggies.  I posted one of his pictures in this post. When we got out to the feeders there were boreal chickadees everywhere!  Before we filled the feeders we put peanuts in our hands and they came and ate right out of our hands! Other notable parts about the ski included seeing a bear scratch tree, lynx and wolf tracks.  Skiing with these guys was awesome because I was constantly being coached by Bob while Adam and Sue knew the names of every type of bird and tree we saw and pointed out a lot of cool stuff I wouldn't have noticed before like the animal tracks.  I also got introduced to a bunch of other club members who I can hopefully hitch rides with!

Boreal Chickadee

Trail Map
The club is awesome.  It's small and run completely by volunteers.  Members have the password and can come and go as they please.  The club is completely stocked with tons of snowshoes and ski wax that are free for members to use.  The majority of the trails are all lit at night so you can ski whenever you want.  There's a little kitchen thats stocked with coffee and tea and a couch and fire place making the clubhouse definitely somewhere you could hang out all day with intermittent ski loops and snowshoe trails. I really wish I had a car, I'd be out there all the time, it's gorgeous out there!  The best part is membership is only 55$ a year!  It costs that much just to go for one ski at home if you're renting gear for the day.

Ski Club
I didn't really take a ton of pictures (I had my phone on me) but I'm hoping to make it back to the ski club on a very regular basis between now and the end of April.  I hear the snow doesn't melt until May so it'll be an extra long ski season!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Candy Shrapnel

Happy Friday!

Today was pretty uneventful.  I only had 1 client come in to see me this morning and the office was dead quiet all day.  After aerobics I went to the grocery store and stumbled upon this on my way home:

It's hard to tell but it was the Hay River Santa Clause Parade!  There was a big to-do in the paper about it several weeks ago when I first arrived because the city had decided not to have a parade this year to the dismay of the residents. All of the local businesses got together to make it happen though.  I ended up having to wait on the side of the road for about 20 minutes while the parade went by before I could cross with my bag of groceries to get home.  I didn't mind though because otherwise I wouldn't have seen the parade at all!  Plus it was cold enough out to keep my groceries frozen.  My favorite part of the parade was all the little kids handing out candy from the floats.  It consisted of them hurling handfuls of candies at the crowd. Literally pelting the crowd with Hershey Kisses and little mints and caramels.  I'm fairly confident that there will be candy on the road for at least another month.  Actually, if you look in the bottom left hand corner of the above picture you can see shiny silver specks which are candies all over the road. This was the scene for the entire 2 km parade route. I managed to catch a few to nibble on while the parade went by but most of the candy hurled at me bounced off my head and rolled under the cars parked on the street.  The ravens will have a feast tomorrow with the left over candy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Sunshine!

It's almost Friday!  This week has been way more exhausting than it needed to be.  We were pretty busy at work, and now that I finally have access to all of the computer programs I need, I have been doing a lot more work by myself.  Today was my last day of 'shadowing' slash working with the other Dietitian and starting tomorrow we'll each be responsible for our own workloads and will have different roles within the office.  We had out office pot-luck yesterday and our office cookie exchange today so I've spent every night this week baking or cooking.  For many of my coworkers, today was their last day in the office until the new year so we had all of our Christmas celebrations today. My apartment is slightly Christmas-y now since I have pretty Christmas cards to decorate with.  It was a busier than normal week, but not really that busy at all, but yet I'm still pooped.  To be honest it's probably just a sugar crash from all the holiday eating that's happened at work this week.

I believe that every single person has a talent.  It may be obscure and not very obvious, but every body has something that they excel at better than anyone else.  I used to think that my talent was functioning on very little sleep without being an exhausted zombie all day.  My productivity:sleep ratio used to be pretty impressive if I do say so myself. I say "used to" because I feel like I've been  a walking zombie since I got here!  One of my goals for the year was to try to get 8 hours of sleep a night, and I have been consistently getting more than that, but yet I still feel like I could fall asleep at any moment.  My mind feels hazy, as if I haven't slept in weeks and all I ever want to do is go home and nap.  

I'm beginning to think that the lack of day light might be getting to me!  It's pitch black when I go to work and pitch black by the time I get home from work.  I have a window in my office but it's tinted heavily to protect patient confidentiality when I have clients in my office.  I don't normally get a chance to venture outside during the either, but I might need to start trying harder to do so.  I also need to start taking some Vitamin D!  You can't get enough Vitamin D from your diet and the rest normally comes from sun exposure.  The majority of North Americans are Vit D deficient, and up here it's actually impossible to get enough from the sun so we recommend 1000 IU of vitamin D daily to all of our clients.  Vitamin D deficiency is typically associated with bone health but current research has indicated that adequate levels of Vitamin D are also associated with decreased risks of cancer, increased risks of developing diabetes, hypertension and multiple sclerosis.  It's one of those super vitamins that no one really knows a lot about.  More and more research keeps coming out suggesting even more super powers the vitamin may have.  I guess it's time to start practising what I preach! On the bright side, the shortest day of the year is December 22 nd this year which is soon! By the time I get back up here in January the days will be getting longer and brighter and hopefully I'll be more awake throughout the day.

Enough about my exhaustion, it's probably mostly in my head anyways!  I'm so excited to get home for the holidays to temperatures that permit running outside during day light hours!  Plus I have 10 days off work and am not even missing a single day.  We have mandatory leave days up here from the 22nd to the 2nd, which is probably so people don't go crazy in the dark over the holidays.  This time next week I'll be all packed and pumped to get on a plane the following morning.

To get into the holiday spirit I'm spending the night watching my favorite Christmas specials.  Charlie Brown Christmas, and the claymation Rudolph.  It's not Christmas until I've seen them each at least once.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Diet Destruction

I have never actually been a real grown-up over the holidays before.  I've always been a student, cramming for exams.  My strategy for cramming for exams usually also involves cramming food into my mouth at a more abundant rate than is typical for any human being.  I somehow manage to find time to bake a lot more during exams that I do during the rest of the year.  Not to mention I somehow managed to wander my way into the kitchen every 5 minutes convinced that I was 'hungry' when actuality I was just bored out of my mind of biochemistry or stats or microbiology.

Turns out that there are very few things worse for healthy eating than working in an office over the holidays.  Instead of just having to deal with your own baking marathons, you have to weave your way through everyone in the office's baking sprees too!  There are countless parties, all of which include a potluck or buffet meal, office cookie exchanges and countless other delicious treats being brought into the office every day.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays, including holiday baking, but I can only take so much of it!  It's still almost 2 weeks until Christmas and I have a potluck, cookie exchange and hospital christmas party/dinner to go over the next week.

Chocolate Covered Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls
Today a co-worker brought in chocolate covered cookie dough balls.  Working in Public Health, there are a few of us who are slightly food safety conscious.  Raw cookie dough, as delicious as it is, is actually considered an unsafe food because it contains raw eggs, which have the potential to carry salmonella.  This normally doesn't stop me from licking the bowl and beaters clean when I'm baking cookies but it would definitely worry me if I was serving raw cookie dough to a group of people.  I'd be too afraid that someone would get sick to serve it!  Luckily this recipe didn't contain egg so we were in the clear.

However, according to a recent study investigating the cause of an e.coli outbreak that was traced back to raw cookie dough in 2009, raw egg may not be the ingredient to worry about!  This outbreak involved commercially available cookie dough, and in most commercially available products that contain eggs, the eggs are pasteurized which kills pathogens that could cause harm.  Actually, every single ingredient in the cookie dough underwent pasteurization, even the baking soda and margarine used in it's preparation, except for the flour.  When analyzing commercially available wheat flour, researchers found that 13% of samples were contaminated with salmonella.  Although the study was somewhat inconclusive, and researchers can't actually state that the flour was the definitive cause of the outbreak, they still recommend that raw cookie dough not be consumed, whether you buy it commercially or make it at home.

My favorite part of this study was the random stats on raw cookie dough consumption:

My first thought was that only 53% admitted to eating unbaked cookie dough.  Guaranteed that way more people eat raw cookie dough than 53%.  The key word is 'admitted'.  I'm not convinced the will power to bake cookies without eating a bit of dough even exists.  I have to admit though, I'm not surprised that some of the dough was purchased with no intention of baking cookies.  

Even though I probably have more food safety knowledge than the majority of people given my Food and Nutritional Sciences degree, and I know that cookie dough may carry e. coli or salmonella when consumed raw, it never seems to go through my head when a bowl of cookie dough is sitting in front of me.  


I've lucked out with some unseasonably warm temperatures this month.  I have nothing against the cold (there's not such thing as bad weather, just bad gear) but it has been nice to have a chance to get acclimatized to the conditions a bit over my first few weeks up north. The coldest it's been so far is -33 with the windchill but it's generally been steady in the - mid-teens.  My walk to work is about 15 minutes each way and on the colder days I've been wearing my ski pants over my work pants to keep warm.  Add to the ski pants my giant tourist parka, hat, mittens, scarf and boots and I'm pretty much parka-plegic by the time I'm all bundled up.  I somehow manage to waddle my way to work with limited use of my joints, sweating buckets by the time I get there, swearing to myself that I'm not going to be so ridiculously afraid of the cold the next day.  But every morning I check out Environment Canada's Weather and I see the high negative numbers and convince myself I need to put on every single piece of warm clothing I own just to step foot outside.  I am slowly learning though!  Today I didn't even wear my tourist parka!  After thinking that maybe my parka was a bit overkill and after seeing all the locals in their 'normal' winter coats, I decided that since it was a balmy -14C I would simply wear my snowboard jacket to walk to work.  I wasn't cold per say, but I definitely did miss my parka.  For no other reason than it's so cozy that I could curl up into a ball and nest in it.  My 'normal' winter coat does not have that coziness to it.  Yes it kept me plenty warm and yes I realized that I don't NEED my parka, but I decided that I LOVE my parka so I'm going to keep wearing it, even when the temperatures aren't necessarily cold enough to justify it.

The whole point of the above ramblings was to ask the question I've been asking myself since I arrived:
  At what temperature is it acceptable to be wearing ski pants over work pants?  
There's gotta be some kind of temperature threshold in which it's ok for adults to be bundled up like school children.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lucky Superstitions

My fabulous red Canada Goose "Tourist Parka"
It's funny how every culture has it's own superstitions that seem so ridiculous to outsiders that they are laughable.  I went out with some friends for wing night in town last night and I was being made fun of for my big huge red parka.  Terrified of how cold it gets up here, I purchased a Canada Goose jacket to bring with me.  A fabulous red one.  Well, I might as well have a giant sign on my head that says "FROM AWAY".  All the locals refer to them as Tourist Parka's and make fun of me as often as possible for wearing it. My saving grace is that my colleague has the same one but in a different colour so at least we're lame tourists together. To be fair they are incredibly warm, and I am not used to walking around in -50 degree weather.  Today was only -25 and my eyelashes froze to each other on my 15 minute walk home from work. I was definitely happy to have my 'lame tourist parka' today and I am sure I will be more than happy to have it once it gets into real winter weather a month from now.

 Apparently the only people who wear Canada Goose coats up here are Japanese and Chinese tourists who come up to see the Northern Lights.  I got laughed at once again by all my local friends for asking them to call me at any time of day if they happen to see the Northern Lights.  I've never seen them before and apparently they are absolutely unreal up here.  It's been too warm and cloudy to see them so far, but I've been told that on a clear night in the middle of winter the entire sky is just full of a plethora of different colours and it's spectacular.
Northern Lights over Hay River
I was surprised to hear that -25 degrees Celsius was too warm for the winter lights!  Apparently Northwest Territories is a very popular vacation destination for Asian tourists specifically because of the Northern Lights. I was told that in Chinese and Japanese folklore, it is said that children conceived under the  Northern Lights will be male and blessed with good luck. Crazy eh? It makes me wonder what they would think of our superstitions here in Canada. For example: opening an umbrella in the house is bad luck, crossing the path of a black cat is bad luck, making a wish at 11:11 on the clock is good luck, people believe in lucky charms, breaking a mirror is 7 years of bad luck, and the old school rhyme "step on a crack and break your mothers back".  Obviously these are all just as ridiculous, but they do share a common theme.  All of these superstitions, regardless of where they originate are based around luck.  Everyone is looking for good luck and for good things to happen to them without having to put in any work. And the reverse is true as well; there are many superstitions that cause bad luck and give people an excuse for bad things happening so that they don't have to take responsibility and be accountable.

I find the same phenomenon in my clients.  Everyone seems to be looking for a quick fix, an answer to all of their dietary issues that doesn't involve doing any of the hard work that is required to make changes and see improvements.  I'm not sure how I feel about luck.  I like to think that you make your own luck.  Yes I think that some people are fortunate with the timing of opportunities, but you have to set yourself up and work hard to be in a position to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you.  One of my favorite quotes is "Success is when preparation meets opportunity" and I believe that some people interpret this as luck, forgetting about the preparation required by the 'lucky' individual.  For now I'll pass on the superstitions and just keep working hard knowing that the next new exciting opportunity is around the corner.

PS the picture of the Northern Lights was taken in Hay River by a local. I recently purchased a coffee table book containing a bunch of his pictures taken in and around Hay River and it is gorgeous!  His website is found here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Anticipatory Excitement

The Michael Buble Christmas Special is on TV right now and it makes me happy.  I LOVE the holidays! I started listening to Christmas music as soon as Remembrance Day was over and have been excited ever since. I had been listening to Michael's new CD and the Justin Beiber CD on repeat in the car and while studying at the end of my internship and was 100% in the holiday spirit. 

Since arriving up north, I seem to have lost the anticipatory excitement of Christmas looming in the near future.  The town is decorated with lights and trees, but it just doesn't feel the same!  I think the best part about the holidays is checking off all those holiday things you only get to do once a year like wrapping presents, decorating the house and tree, going to parties, and eating copious amounts of Grandma's shortbread cookies. It's the traditions associated with the holidays that make them so fun, and that's what I'm missing up here.
Cooper the Christmas Cat
All of the things I normally look forward to during the holidays is back home and I'm up here.  I don't get home until really late on the 23rd, so technically Christmas Eve and I know that I will have to go without getting to do many of my favorite holiday things. It's a bit of a bummer but on the flip side I've only been here a week and already I've had so many great experiences that I would not have been able to have at home.

I LOVE snow, and I spend the majority of most Decembers crossing my fingers and wishing for a snow fall before Christmas.  I have never seen so as much snow in one place as they have here! Its awesome!  I haven't had much opportunity to take advantage of it yet, but I'm hoping to in the near future.  I'm excited to get home for the holidays but so glad I'm here!

Monday, December 5, 2011


Today was a bit of a bust.  We had 3 clients scheduled but one of them only wanted to see the nurse and requested that the RD NOT be present, and the other two were simply no-shows.  Apparently no-shows are very common in December since everyone gets really busy with Holiday stuff.  It's also common for people to be no-shows when 'holiday stuff' entails holiday parties and holiday eating and they feel as though there is no point to coming in because they know their blood sugars are going to be out of whack and that their current laboratory values are not indicative of their typical diabetes management.  I can understand wanting to avoid an appointment if I thought I would be scolded by a nurse and a dietitian for indulging in a some festive treats, and for the fear of seeing huge lab values and blood glucose values when you feel as though they don't represent how you normally eat.  Most of our diabetes clients come in every 3 months to have blood work done and to meet with myself and the nurse, so missing one appointment doesn't seem like a huge deal to them. I also think that the appointments that are being missed are even more important that a typical visit simply because it is so close to the holidays and eating habits are so irregular. As a public health dietitian, it's my job to help people self-manage their diabetes through diet and exercise recommendations.  This is possible for many newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics but sometimes medications and insulin are unavoidable, but regardless diet and exercise always play a key role. We don't tell people they can never eat their favorite foods or splurge every once in a while, but we try to teach them how to eat so that their blood sugars remain within target ranges.  This includes educating clients how to enjoy some not-so-good for you treats every once in a while without it resulting in chronically high blood sugars.  A check-in with us at this time of year would actually be beneficial for clients because it gives them a chance to learn strategies and refresh their knowledge on maintaining control over their diabetes despite indulgences.

Ok enough of my ranting! Instead I'll just cross my fingers that our clients show up tomorrow!  Since I don't have any admin work to do or charting to get caught up on, I spent the day reading and responding to e-mails.  Didn't feel like the most productive day, but I do think I learned a lot in my readings!  I am working towards becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator this year so I have a lot of studying and reading to do for it.  I also have to complete 800 hours of direct patient diabetes education...yet another reason I really like when clients show up, so I can get my hours in!

I also used the hospital gym for the first time today!  I was disappointed to be honest. The machines are ancient and kind of useless and they don't have any possible place to do seated row. I know this sounds like a lame reason to be disappointed in the gym but it's one of my favorite exercises and we used to do it quite a lot when I was training.
The Hospital Gym...note the machine in the back definitely would have been in a infomercial featuring Chuck Norris if television had been invented when it was.
So anyways, the gym here is a bit of a bust.  You can't really tell in the picture but it's old school.  The saving grace is that it's cheap.  There is apparently a second gym in town that is better but I have yet to find it and I also hear that it gets really busy and it's expensive.  I might go find it to see if it's worth the extra money.  But until then I'll be paying my 10 bucks a month and making this little gem work for me!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Footloose, Finally!

The buzz about the Firemen's Ball was not unwarranted! The hall in the legion was done up all swanky  and there was a beautifully catered meal and everything!  The DJ even played "Footloose" !  Footloose is such a crowd pleaser every single time it gets played at a bar or club or dance.  Obviously the entire crowd got up and busted some mad moves as soon as the song came on. It was fabulous.  While I was at school in PEI, I would request Footloose quite frequently and the DJ always refused to play it.  I considered it a small personal victory last night when at last my footloose request was appeased.

On a semi-related note, last year at school I was at the gym when the girl on the treadmill in front of me started dancing.  Full out, flailing arms and singing out loud dancing.  On her treadmill, while running.  It made me so happy because she was clearly loving her life and didn't even care that the entire gym was starring at her. I told myself at that time that one day I would have the guts to do that. Anyways, this story is actually related to footloose.  A friend sent me a video the other day of this guy who puts his ipod in his ears and dances wildly in public.  The difference between this dude and treadmill girl is that he is purposely looking for attention.  But regardless of his motives, the video is pretty funny and in the video he happens to be dancing to footloose.  See? Eventually it all ties together!

While I was out and about this weekend socializing, I met a lot of awesome people, and learned that pretty much everyone knows everyone else.  While this is one of the charms of small town living, it does worry me a little.  As a dietitian, I will be seeing clients about a wide variety of different medical conditions and personal concerns that they have.  I have access to their medical records and charts and tend to know a lot about the people I see.  People divulge personal information to me and there are obviously strict client confidentiality standards in place.  I wonder if my clients will feel awkward to see me in the community? I am also aware that it is a small community and everyone knows everyone so I need to be careful when out with friends to ensure that I am representing myself in an appropriate way. It's not as though I was planning on going out and being crazy every weekend but it's definitely something I'll have to be somewhat aware of.  There is also a possibility that it's all in my head and that no one will actually care.  I suppose that if the nurses in town don't have the same issue than I shouldn't either. Well, either way I will definitely find out soon!

I'm going be booking my own clients starting this week and will begin to see clients on my own too!  I'm still going to be primarily shadowing for the first half of the week but by this time next week I should be doing things solo! I'm not sure why I'm sooo excited considering these are all things I've done before during internship - it's not as if I've never seen a client before.  I'm excited to go to work tomorrow morning. Hopefully 20 years from now I will be sitting in my house somewhere excited to go to work on a Monday morning.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Perfect Snowflakes!

The snowflakes in Hay River are perfect!

There is definitely never a shortage of things to do here!  It's incredible how many activities and clubs and social opportunities there are in such a small town.  I have to admit, I have misrepresented Hay River a little bit.  It's a small town, but it services a fairly large number of people.  There are about 3600 people in town but the area that uses it's services is about 6000 people.  A lot of people drive in from the reserves surrounding the town to grocery shop and use the pool and library.  So it's a pretty bumpin' little town!

Before I got this job I had never even heard of Hay River, but now that I am here everyone I know seems to know someone from Hay River or who has been to Hay River.  Just yesterday I went to the Bank to open an account and the bank manager went to UPEI and we had an english class together in my first year! What a small world!  The 6 degrees of separation theory can definitely be proven here!

Last night I went to the Legion for a few drinks with the girls and it happened to be Karaoke night! What was intended to just be a beer or two ended up resulting in a night of dancing and socializing until the bar closed. Since I'm new to town and the town is fairly small, I stick out quite a bit.  Everyone knows I'm new and everyone wants to know who I am, why I'm here, what I do, where I came from and how I like Hay River so far. It was nice to have people approach me and talk to me for the first little while but by the end of the night it became a bit exhausting!  It's almost like being a mzungu in Kenya all over again!  Regardless it was a pretty good time! It's nice to feel like I'm making some friends and being welcomed into the community!

This morning was Hay River's Family Christmas Day and they had a free breakfast with Santa! Stacey and I went for pancakes this morning and then to the craft fair at the high school.  I bought a coffee-table book full of photographs of Hay River taken by the librarian here. The photographs are gorgeous and I can't wait to get to experience all the different things that are represented in the book!  I'm hoping to have personal stories to go with many of the images in the book by the end of the year.

Tonight is the Firefighter's Ball!  So we're getting all glammed up and heading back to the legion for a fancy dinner and dance party.  It's the buzz around town and apparently quite the event! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Always an Intern, Never a Dietitian

It's a winter wonderland here in Hay River!!

Today was my first day in my new job!  After interning for 40 weeks I was incredibly excited to finally get to do work as a Registered Dietitian and have my own patients / clients, my own office and to be earning a pay check. As an intern, you do a lot of shadowing, you get to see patients and clients but you're pretty much always in the presence of your supervisor and everything you do has to be read over and approved. I finally get to make my own decisions regarding client care! Well, turns out that my first day was slightly anti-climatic in that regard.  I spent the day shadowing Stacey.  I know I should have expected this, but it would have been nice to get to do at least something on my own!  I will essentially just be an intern again for the next week.  But on the bright side I'll be getting paid for it, and I'm sure I will learn a lot over the next week!  I also go my new e-mail address and all my login info for the computer systems and charting programs.

Hay River Ice Road!
Despite being an faux intern for the day, today was still pretty fun.  I went into the office for a few hours this morning for some general orientation and then Stacey and I went to the treatment center just outside of town to give a presentation on Healthy Eating. I spent the afternoon seeing a client for diabetes and diabetic nephropathy and in a HR meeting filling out forms, signing my life away and learning about my benefits etc.  To get to the treatment center we got to drive on the ICE ROAD!!! Ok so I should clarify...there are 2 ice roads in Hay River.  One goes from Hay River to Yellowknife across Great Slave Lake.  The second one goes from one shore of Hay River to the other shore. To put this in perspective, the point in which the road crosses the river is only about 100m wide.  The ice road we took today was the short one, but it was still really exciting!  Its one more thing I can cross off my list of must-dos while in Hay River.  I'd also like to apologize for how fuzzy and blurry all the pictures I take on my phone seem to be.  Ice roads are not the smoothest of roads and I took this one while driving.  I'm also thinking that maybe my pictures wouldn't be so fuzzy if I started wearing my glasses.

Tomorrow should be another fun filled day at the office!  Friday's are admin days so we won't be seeing any clients and I'll be learning the ropes in terms of charting protocol. Plus it's already FRIDAY!! Woot Woot!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Virtual Tour of My Apartment

I woke up early this morning to pack my stuff up in my hotel room to make sure I'd be ready to move first thing this morning into my new apartment in town.  The moving company that trucked all my stuff up to Hay River for me called last night to let me know they would be delivering it today, which happened to work out perfectly since I'd actually have a place to move it into! Like I said, I woke up early to pack. I set my alarm for 7 am so that I would have time to pack up my hotel room and be ready to move first thing.  However, I had only been in the hotel room for 2 days and I only had one duffle bag with me - I did not have a lot of stuff, and the majority of it was still folded neatly in my duffle bag. Plus I hadn't actually confirmed with the landlord that I would be taking the apartment yet, I had decided to think about it over night to just make sure I was happy with my compromise. I had eaten breakfast, and was completely packed by 7:30 am. 7:30am is too early to be making phone calls so I had to hang out watching tv for a few hours until it was late enough to phone people. I called the landlord around 9am and she said I could move into the apartment anytime, to just stop by the office and get the key.   Yesterday she mentioned she would pick me up since I don't have a vehicle, but today she didn't mention it.  I looked in my good ol trusty Yellow Pages but there were no cab companies listed for Hay River. Eek!  I now had no way to actually physically move, other than lugging my stuff all the way to town which was really really unappealing.  So being sneaky like I am, I called the landlord back to ask her about the existence of cabs with the hopes that she might just offer to shuttle me.  Two good things came out of this exchange: 1) She gave me a ride and 2) As I was waiting at the door for her to come get me, a cab drove by and I was able to put the number in my cell phone for future use.  I scored a ride and the cab info! I was appreciative of the ride, even though she forgot about me and I had to text her to remind her I existed over an hour after she was supposed to pick me up. It all worked out though and I got to my new apartment about an hour before the moving truck was due to arrive.

All my stuff arrived in one piece! It also arrived frozen solid. I had heard horror stories about expensive groceries up North so I packed a lot of food with me.  It's all currently thawing in my cupboards.  It is so so so nice to have a pretty much fully stocked pantry upon moving into a new place. There is nothing worse then having to spend a million dollars on condiments and spices and staples that you're used to always having on hand. It's so nice to open the cupboards and have them be full without having just been to the grocery store. Best thing I could have done for myself moving up here!

I start work tomorrow! It's been nice to have a few days to get settled and to move in and everything but I am ready to get working! Specially since I just paid a deposit and one month of bank account needs me to be working. I'm a little bit terrified of being incompetent but I'm also giddy with excitement at having a real, honest-to-goodness grown-up job!

I'm quite cozy in my new apartment now that I'm all moved in!  When you first walk through the door, there is a bit of an entry way with the door the the bathroom on your right and a big closet to your left. Take a few steps forward and you're in my bedroom slash living room!  There is a bed, a chair, a tv and a hutch and 2 big closets. At the far end and to the left of my room is the teeny tiny kitchen.  It's a bachelor apartment so it's really all just one big room, but I think it will suite me just fine over the next year.

My Boarding Pass from Edmonton to Hay River....please note that its hand written!
Downtown Hay River - North Mart is the Grocery Store.

Looking from my kitchen into the rest of my apartment.

My teeny tiny kitchen (with fully stocked cupboards :)

My little reading / tv nook.

My Bathroom - shower and tub are to the left of the toilet.
I'm off to aerobics again tonight with Stacey (my coworker who is also a new grad, from Newfoundland)!  Hopefully I'll be flailing a bit less this time. On the bright side, based on Monday night I can only improve!

Hay River, Northwest Territories

I’m really looking forward to the next chapter of this blog! I finished my Dietetic Internship a little over 2 weeks ago and have since moved to Hay River, Northwest Territories for my very first grown-up job! I’ll be working as a Community Dietitian for the next year as I cover a maternity leave position. I’m really excited to start working! Obviously it will be nice to finally get a paycheck after working full time for 40 weeks for free, but mostly I’m excited to get experience working in my field. My job will entail seeing clients one on one in the office, as well as getting my hands dirty within the community through presentations and workshops that I’ll be giving.

 I’ve only been in Hay River for 2 days, but so far so good! I flew from Toronto to Edmonton to Hay River on Monday. The flight from Edmonton to Hay River was on a tiny plane that only had 16 seats on it, 6 of which were occupied. The flight attendant sat in the cockpit with the pilot and gave us crackers, cheese and kielbasa as an in-flight snack – best in flight snack ever!. The airport in Hay River is one room. The luggage belt is approximately 6 ft long and it only takes 2 minutes for the luggage to make it from the plane to the belt. I couldn’t help but think that this is what it must feel like to be a movie star with a private jet...if any movie star in their right mind would decide to travel to Hay River. 

Last night after I got to the hotel and dumped my stuff, I went to an aerobics class with a co-worker. I was the one flailing in the back. I’m incredibly uncoordinated and generally avoid aerobics classes, but it was actually fun! Plus it was a great way to meet some people. I took the opportunity to ask around about car pooling to the ski club and inquiring about different programs that were offered in the community. Specifically I’m looking for a swim team and a book club to join. There’s no swim club, just lane swims, and apparently the library will start up a book club if I mention it to them and they can get other people interested.

 “Downtown” is a way more happening place than I thought it would be! There is a grocery store, a library, a drug store, several apartment buildings / hotels, a brand new community center with a 25m pool and hockey arena, a bowling alley, liquor store etc. We even have a movie theatre! (I say we as if Hay River is my hometown even though I've been here for a mere 48 hours) It’s one of only two theatres in the entire Northwest Territories! I expected it to only play super old movies, but the current options are the newest Twilight and Tower Heist…not half bad!

 I spent the day apartment hunting. Housing is quite expensive here. I ended up settling on a bachelor apartment. It’s fairly small but at least it’s my own space. I had to find a balance between price and space. There was a one bedroom apartment I liked much better and that had a TON more space, but it was also several hundred dollars more each month. There was also a bedroom in a 3 bedroom house up for grabs that was WAY cheaper but had shared kitchen and living spaces. The bachelor seemed like a good compromise - not as much space but it's my space, and the price was in the middle of the two other options. I’m only here a year, and the leases are just month to month so I can always change my mind and move somewhere more spacious if I start to get cabin fever in my tiny bachelor.

 When I wasn’t apartment hunting, I spent the rest of the day lounging around my hotel room reading and watching tv. I’m not going to lie, I’m already sick of television! Except for the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, which I am currently indulging in as I type this. I also took the time today to read the Yellow Pages from Cover to Cover just incase I found something fun to do in it that I hadn’t already considered. Mostly I just learned about how much cool stuff there is to do in Yellowknife relative to Hay River. But I have a feeling I’ll keep myself busy nonetheless!

 It’s only been two days but I already feel like I’ve learned some valuable lessons!
 1. When looking to rent a place, make sure you indicate that you don’t have a car. As soon as renters realize you wont be using electricity to plug a car in then the price drops dramatically.

 2. Regardless of how cold it is, you will sweat while walking in a Canada Goose Coat. Your legs however, if covered by only one pair of pants, will not. In fact the skin will freeze solid in a matter of seconds.

3. It is possible for your nose to run even though your snot and nostrils freeze solid the second you walk outside.

4. Short socks and big boots result in socks that fall off and ankle blisters that bleed.

Pictures to Follow Shortly!

*Written November 29th, Posted November 30th*

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Apprenticeship Beegins!

Two years ago, my Dad decided that we should have a beehive in the backyard. We all thought he was joking but he was very persistant and kept talking about it. I was actually excited, which doesn't come as much of a surprise because I tend to get overly excited about things that are suggested, most of which never end up happening. I like to think I was slightly instrumental in his beekeeping endeavours since I always encouraged the idea and I bought him "Beekeeping for Dummies" to read on a long flight to Peru a few years back. We actually did end up getting bees the following spring! We had the bees for two summers, and even gave away honey as wedding favours at my brother's wedding this past October, but unfortunately the colony didn't survive the winter. I love the idea of having bees, and I've read a beekeeping textbook to try to learn more about bees, but since I wasn't home last summer, I haven't really had much of a chance to learn how to bee-keep. Since our colony died over the winter, my Dad decided to replace them with not just another colony, but two more. When I learned that we were getting new bees, I decided that I would be my Dad's unofficial apprentice this summer and learn as much as possible about keeping bees so that I could have my own colony when I eventually have property of my own. Since the weather was so crappy at the beginning of the summer, it wasn't until two weeks ago that we actually got our bees.

It seems strange that you can buy a colony of bees. Strangest of all, the bees come in a box. We literally bought two boxes of bees, that emit a low hum that is somewhat calming until you start to actually think about it, at which point it gives you goosebumps, especially when they're in the backseat of the car with you. The boxes each come with a Queen in a plastic casing so she doesn't get lost and 3 frames of her royal subjects. When you open up the box of bees, you transfer the 3 frames into your beehive. When you take the Queen out and place her in the hive and seal it up, her followers stick with her and make the new hive home since that's where their Queen is.
Two Boxes of Bees!

Beehives have layers (supers), and each super has 10 frames. The bottom super doesn't produce honey because it is usually left for the bees to use for personal use (winter reserves, etc) and then you can take the honey from the upper layers. When you first buy them, you only get 3 frames full of bees, but as the hive matures, all ten frames in the bottom super fill up with bees and when you add honey supers they fill up too as the colony expands.

Getting the Smoker Ready for the Transfer

Transferring a Frame From the Box to the Hive

Even though we only got the bess two weeks ago, we opened up the hives to see how they were doing a couple days ago and already the colonies have expanded exponentially! The 10 frames are not quite full but all contain bees and the hives are buzzing happily. I love bees! This post wasn't very technical but I'll be sure to post about all my adventures in apprentice beekeeping this summer!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Lead

I went in to have my defibrillator tested out on Tuesday. The procedure meant having my heart forced into arrhythmia just to see if my defib will shock it back into a normal rhythm. They put you to sleep while it happens and it only takes about 2 minutes so it's not nearly as bad as it sounds. The pre-admission for this test includes going to the pacemaker clinic where they checked out all my stats. I use my pacemaker about 3.5% of the time, but they found out that one of the two leads that go from the device to my heart muscle, has dug too deep into my heart muscle and was at risk for perferating the muscle completely. There was some fluid built up around the lead on the outside of the heart from the irritation. My cardiologist recommended that I get another echo just to check everything out. Based on the echo, the cardiologist thought that the perferated lead could cause issues in the future and that I should really have the lead replaced so that it can't poke through the muscle completely in the future which could cause bleeding and all sorts of problems. These meant surgery all over again!

Since I've been home for the summer, I joined a half marathon clinic at the Running Room and have been running 3-4 times a week. Our distance is up to 16 km already! I also borrowed a road bike and have been biking several times a week and swimming several times a week in hopes of participating in my very first sprint triathelon laster this summer or early fall. After having to give up everything at Christmas to recover from the initial surgery when the pacemaker and defib were put in, I finally felt like I had my groove back and like I was finally getting back into shape. I was happy! I had a routine and training buddies (who all happened to be men in their 50s..but at least they were reliable and always showed up for practices and swims!) and events to train for. Having surgery again, and having to take off 6 weeks AGAIN and losing the ability to lift more than 5 pounds or move my left shoulder AGAIN after finally getting to do all that stuff again was more than a let down, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry when I found out. I could have opted out of surgery, but with the risks of internal bleeding and punching a whole in my heart with this wire, there really was no point in ignoring it. I figured if I needed the surgery I might as well get it over with and get it done asap. Plus since I was already admitted to the hospital, they could rush me through and get me in asap instead of being put on a wait list that was a few months long.

I was admitted Tuesday night, spent Tuesday night in the hospital, got to go home on pass for Wednesday and Wednesday night,and then went back in Thursday night for surgery on Friday. Surgery went well and I got to come home today (Saturday) and am taking a weekish off work (probably less..). So far, the day of surgery was WAY worse this time than last time because I had a general anesthetic instead of the local anesthetic I had last time, but the day after and recovery seems to be much less painful. I've only taken 2 percosets since the surgery as opposed to the 1 or 2 perks I was popping every 4 hours at Christmas.

It's incredibly frustrating to have another 6 weeks without being able to do anything just as I was getting back into sports and finally feeling like my old self again. Not doing anything athletic or physically active made me feel sluggish and grumpy and really unhappy. I felt so horrible about myself because I wasn't fit anymore, I couldn't run very far or very fast anymore, I couldn't lift any weight and my clothes weren't fitting. I was definitely in a funk, and it took getting back into training to get me out of it. I'm hoping that I can find a hobby or something to prevent me from going back into the funk. I'm not good at being bored or at sitting at home staying immobile while everyone else I know is out training and being active nad doing fun stuff. I'm hoping that the second tiem around is easier than the first.

4th Annual Souris Village Feast

I have to admit, I'm always a lot less motivated to write blog posts when I'm at home. If you go through the timeline of posts, you will notice that whenever I am home for a week or more, there are huge gaps in my posts. I don't know why, but I'm always uninspired and unmotivated to write when I'm home. A lot has happened in the last three weeks!

First, I went to PEI for the Souris Village Feast and
Canada Day. It was incredible and one
of the best weekends I've had. I arrived on Friday and went straight to Tuck's for a Canada Day BBQ and drinks, then we all went downtown to watch fireworks at Victoria Park and then to Peakes for a dance party. Saturday morning we spent chopping vegetables and shucking muscles at Chef Michael Smith's house. We were feeding 1200 people the next day and had to do all the prep work for the seafood chowder and potatoes. Luckily there were a lot of volunteers and lots of people to help out. The military and the local biker gang were among the volunteers. After chopping veg, we went to Basin Head Beach to waste some time before going back to Michael's house for a HUGE feast prepared by the 8ish famous chefs that Michael had flown in for the occasion. They were all guys he worked with at the Vancouver Olympics, and they did not disappoint! There were about 12 different dishes, and each were mouth wateringly delicious. Needless to say we left for home stuffed, tired and very happy.
Sunday was the big show! The 4th annual Souris Village Feast. The Feast is a giant steak dinner with all the trimmings prepared by famous chefs. Tickets are sold and a
ll the proceeds go towards buying a cookhouse for a school in Kenya. They also raise money for the food bank in Charlottetown. Tuck and I got involved with this because we gave a presentation to the Feast committee last winter to talk about the impact these cookhouses have on the kids in the schools and the community at large since we spent all last summer working in the communities and with the schools that have received cookhouses in the last few years from the funds raised by the Feast. We were asked by the committee to speak to the 1100 paying guests plus the volunteers about the cookhouses back in the spring and we happily agreed and I booked my flight to PEI for the weekend. On Saturday, we were also asked to speak to all the volunteers, chefs and military guys about the impact of the cookhouses as a pep talk once everything was all set up and before paying guests started to arrive. They wanted the volunteers t
o be emotionally committed to the cause and t
o really understand what we were accomplishing by raising the money to buy the cookhouse. To add to everything, the Food Network happened to be filming a documentary on the event! I was more nervous to give the pep talk than I was to speak to the 1100 paying guests! We had a small group of people's undivided attention and cameras in our faces! It ended up going really well though, and we even had people coming up to us after to congratulate us on the work we had done, and on speaking so well. I think we managed to pull a few heart strings which was exactly what we were asked to do! We had more aprons made to sell at the feast, and we me
ntioned the apron project in our pep talk incase anyone was interested in buying some. The Food Network director came up to us after and said that our apron project embodied everything they want the audience to feel during the documentary and asked if they could interview us for the documentary.
We ended up selling about 100 aprons and still have more to sell. I'm really looking forward to seeing the documentary which airs this fall and I hope to have a screening party of some sort when it airs. If I was smart, I would have written about this a few weeks ago when it actually happened because soo many little details get blurred over the weeks. When we were getting interviewed, the light being reflected onto our

faces made my eyes water hard-core, so it's probably going to look like I'm crying throughout the whole interview!
On Monday, in the morning before
my flight, I waited outside the confederation building and got to see Will and Kate! Their plane was parked at the airport when I was there too which was kind of cool!

Friday, July 1, 2011

3 Down, 7 To Go!

3 weeks of my 10 weeks placement are officially dunzo! The past few weeks have been unreal! I absolutely love my internship placement and learn new things and am challenged everyday. This past week I spent a day working with the morning cook who prepared breakfast and lunch. I know I shouldn't have been surprised but pretty much everything that is served comes preprepared and in buckets of boxes. The cooks pretty much just heat things up and pour pre-made batter into muffin tins or cake pans. Although this job doesn't sound particularly challenging, I had to admit that the cooks complete these tasks with an efficiency and finess that I severely lack. I ended my first cooking shift with splatters of every single dish on my shirt. Both only does each meal consist of 2 separate meat, veg and carb choices, but each of these choices needs to be both minced and pureed for those individuals requiring texture alterations. My job for the day was primarily manning the Blixer-6V (AKA fancy food processor) and mincing and pureeing everything. It's soo time consuming! I've decided that out of sympathy for the cooking staff, when I become an RD I am going to do everything in my power NOT to prescribe minced diets or pureed diets.

I have a love / hate relationship with HR. As a manager, you have to deal with employees all the time. You make schedules, you deal with discipline, you have to hear about all their complaints. It seems as though no matter what, every single day there is a staff member in the office with a silly issue that needs to be dealt with. I hate this. I hate that so much time gets wasted dealing with silly little things that shouldn't need dealing with, such as "this person didnt help put the groceries away or that person stole my butter knife from my floor" etc etc. Like really? This past week, we had a cook chop the end of her finger off while cutting lettuce for coleslaw. Policy indicates that all staff using knives must wear a no-cut glove, which this staff member wasn't. She pretty much cut her finger nail right off the top of her finger, so she couldn't finish her shift, and ended up going to the ER to have it coterized (spelling?). Because it was a workplace incident, the company takes 200$ from our account as punishment for not ensuring all staff were following safe workplace practices and the employee has to be disciplined. It sucks for the employee who chopped her finger off but it also sucks because it's now a few hours of paper work that needs to be dealt with.

I got to work the other day and had it pointed out that my pants were split a few inches along the seam in the outside of my leg. I have no idea how I missed that, but I had to strategically staple my pants back together and try not to move very much all day. I was worried that as soon as I sat down the staple would buckle so I did everything I could to give myself busy work that required that I be standing to do it.

I've joined a Running Room Half Marathon Running clinic! I've been running 3 times a week and have even made a few friends through the clinic. A couple of my new running buddies happen to be men in their late 50s but they are super keen and are training for a triathlon. I took up road biking a few weekends ago when the owner of the restaurant I work at's husband mentioned he wanted a training buddy and had an extra bike he could lend me for the summer. I also decided to train for a triathlon and do one with Rach when she gets home from the states in August. I think those plans may have changed but I'll be doing one in either August or September or both! So I've been biking and swimming with my new training buddies and loving my life. Now that I'm working and training for something I feel a million times better and am finally getting back into a groove of sorts. It's hard to be home and not training for paddling during the summer, because I never have been home and not training before. It's taken a while to find a groove but I'm super happy now that I have! I'm still paddling war canoe this summer so it's like the best of both worlds!

I'm at the airport right now about to board a plane to PEI for the Souris Village Feast! We're selling our aprons there and speaking about our projects and the Food Network is filming a documentary about the event. Should be a really good time! I'm moving back home on Monday from where I was house sitting so I'll have my laptop and internet access again so I can post regularly again!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rubber Gloves, Hairnets and Puree

After sitting around at home being bored out of my mind for a few weeks, I finally started my foodservice internship placement! I'm working at a long-term care facility in the West end of Toronto for ten weeks, and then moving on to my clinical placement in September.

So far my placement is awesome. My supervisor is pretty chill but has been in the business for a really long time so I've been learning a lot from him, and the rest of the staff have been great. They laugh at me a lot as I attempt to do things as efficiently as they have learned to do everything but they're always willing to help me out which is nice, specially considering how many questions I ask them all every day about policies and procedures and the tasks they do on a daily basis.

The first two weeks of my placement were dedicated to learning the jobs of the Dietary Aids, who serve the meals to the residents, wash dishes, and make sure the serveries on each floor are fully stocked with the copious amounts of prune juice, high energy-high protein milk and bran muffins that are requested by and prescribed to the residents for meals and snacks. I must admit...I washed A LOT of dishes over the last few weeks! I don't really mind washing dishes, but with about a quarter of the 128 residents on pureed diets, it makes for a very messy clean-up. It's Ministry policy that the foods that get pureed and served to those residents requiring that texture are exactly the same as what the residents eating normally textured foods get which means we literally just put the food we are serving in a fancy food processor (the Blixer-6V). This includes bread since toast is served for breakfast. I never thought I'd be scooping up and serving bread with an ice-cream scoop, and I really hope I never have to eat it.
The Dietary Aide uniform includes an apron, a fabulous giant white hairnet and big thick green rubber gloves when washing dishes. There was a bit of a learning curve when I came to washing dishes...there is a big sprayer to spray and pre-wash the dishes with before they go through the dish machine. The sprayer works by using very hot water with a lot of pressure to scrap the food of the dishes. The pressure is so high that it ends up spraying everywhere and if you're not careful when spraying bowls and cutlery, you get a face full of whatever it is you're attempting to spray off the dish. I learned this the hard way when on my first day I ended up with an eye full of pureed tuna salad sandwich which left me blinded for a few minutes and severely wanting a shower for the rest of the day.

The residents are actually hilarious. Most of them are fairly healthy compared to the typical long term care resident and are more than happy to tell me stories about their lives. One resident used to be a model and was telling me all about her career and it's ultimate demise and her stint in rehab. Another resident used to work for the royal family and always has a story to tell me over breakfast. The residents are also always happy to tell me what the kitchen is doing wrong, how their food should be prepared and what they should be served. There is a Food Committee consisting of a handful of residents and I went to their monthly meeting last week. The only people that showed up are the ones with nothing good to say about the food and the ones who love the food. Since January, when my supervisor took over the kitchen, resident satisfaction has gone up about 20% to almost 90% satisfaction rates. Despite this, there are still a few very vocal residents who seem to think we're doing nothing right. Somehow, in the middle of the meeting, the group got side-tracked and since they were mostly women, started talking about how unfortunate it was that almost all of the men in the building were married. They suggested that the home should start a dating club so that all the single people in the building could get together and meet one another. I guess the food can't be THAT bad if their main concern is finding a date.

So much happens everyday that I've been making notes and meaning to blog on a daily basis about the day to day workings of a longterm care facility kitchen but I have yet to get a round to it. I have only had an ipad for internet this past week and for another week which makes it hard to post. I joined a Half Marathon Running Clinic, have taken up road biking, its war canoe season and I've been working part time so things have been a bit crazy since I have yet to settle into a regular routine. I'm hoping to post almost daily now that I'm interning and will catch up on my intern adventures soon so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Follow-Ups and Aprons

We've spent a lot of the past week doing follow up evaluations of the programs we implemented last summer. Our two main projects last year were to assess the school feeding programs at 5 schools based on the World Health Organizations recommendations and to work with 2 womens groups to give family nutrition seminars. The feedback we've gotten this year is unreal. We've discovered that every school is at the very least soaking their beans and maize and using mbembe maize (whole grain / unpolished....all the nutrients are in the outer husk that they normally remove by polishing the maize) and they are all adding more vegetables to the meals now then they were this time last year. I honestly wasn't expecting so many positive changes to have been made. When we arrived in Kiirua and the Meru area (where all the schools are) there was no mistaking that they have been experiencing severe draught. The short rains season just ended without nearly enough rain and the long rains season before that had passed with very little rain as well. The majority of the crops were not successful enough to harvest and the school gardens are looking pretty rough. Some of the schools have access to water piped in from Mt Kenya (CEFA water) but an elephant stepped on the line last week and it hasn't been repaired yet. When the conditions are already so incredibly dry, even a few days without water for drip irrigation can make or break the harvest.

Despite the incredibly challenging conditions, each school is making nutrition a priority and has really done all they can to make changes. Ruuju school in particular has even gone above and beyond the goals we made with them last year and has made even more changes than anticipated! It's been really greta not only to see that our messages were listened to and are being followed, but it was equally as awesome to get to see all of the wonderful people we met last year at each of the schools. We were even greeted as fellow staff at one of the schools by the headmaster. I can only imagine what the school feeding programs will look like once the area gets some rain and the conditions improve. The school feeding programs run by donations from parents. Each parent is responsible for donating a specific number of kilograms of maize and beans, but right now, the parents have nothing to donate. Most of the schools only have enough maize and beans stored for a few more weeks, not enough to last the rest of the school term. I'm not really sure what will happen when they run out, but it's not looking good.

We have been working with Esther again to have more aprons made. We were asked to speak at the Souris Village Feast and we are going to sell aprons there too. Ester has just finished making us more than 200 more aprons! They look awesome and I'm really excited to sell them! She is planning on using the money from these aprons to buy a solar panel for her home so that her kids can have light to read and do school work at night. How cool is that?! Her husband has been helping her make them so it's turned into a family affair.

We've only got 4 more days in Meru, and 1 day in Nairobi left until we head back to Canada. It's crazy how fast three weeks go by! I wish I was staying all summer but at the same time I really missed summer at home last year, plus I'm pumped to start internship!