Thursday, February 25, 2016

11 Week MCAT Study Schedule

Well, I have decided in order to reapply for Medical School, I am going to retake the MCAT. I took the MCAT in 2014 and since then, many changes have been made to the test. I am planning on taking the exam on May 14, 2016. That leaves me 11 weeks from Monday to prepare.

Today, I spent some time working out a master plan to help me hold myself accountable for my studying efforts. I am also going to be taking some Master's classes during this time, so I am only able to devote part of my day to studying for the MCAT.

I plan to use the overhauled ExamKrackers 6 Book Series and the AAMC Questions and Exams that are available. My investment in prep materials is around $300. I also have the old AAMC Exams that are formatted for the test prior to 2015. Additionally, AAMC partnered with Khan Academy to offer study materials.

I set up my plan in Excel and can send you the document if you are interested in a copy. Below is a link to the first week.

Week 1

Monday, February 1, 2016

MCAT 2015 Prep

Here is my just over 2 month study guide plan. I will be adding on to it as I go. Wish me luck!

Week 1: What do I know? What do I think I know? What am I clueless about?
I wanted to figure out what I knew, and what I was going to need to learn or relearn conceptually. The best way to do that is to wade through a bunch of concepts and vocab to figure that out. From there, I will map out the concepts that I need to focus on and work those into the rest of my study time. In addition, from discussions with current medical school students and doctors, it seems that the MCAT focuses more on can you figure it out and less on did you memorize it. So, I am including some logic training into my MCAT prep. I have not seen this anywhere else, but it makes sense to me to add it. 

Day 1: Biology: What do you know? What don't you know?

Spent the morning working through the vocab/concept questions on WikiPreMed.

Spent the rest of the afternoon looking up the vocab I was unclear on and creating flash cards on Quizlet. Over 200 cards. Thought my thumbs were going to fall off from typing.


Quick break to put together dinner for my husband and kids. Then I wrapped up the day by reviewing GlycolysisPyruvate Dehydrogenase ComplexFermentationThe Kreb's Cycle, and the Electron Transport Chain. 

To end the night, I finished off with a review on the MIT OpenCourseware Series that focused on Glycolysis, Fermentation, etc. It was great because there was ~40 minute video and an interactive quiz.


Day 2: Review Day 1 and Start Physics:

Spent the morning reviewing the entire metabolic pathway. Reviewed videos and drew out entire pathway. Checked out out some additional info on Glycolysis. Worked my way through the entire pathway forwards and backwards.

Oxidation of Pyruvate (PDC)
Kreb's Cycle
Glucose Metabolism
Final Glycolysis Notes

Took a lunch break. I think it's important to stop for a few minutes. Some sources recommend study for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break That is too frequently for me. It takes me to long to get back in the zone. I study for 2-4 hours, and then take a 10-30 minute break.

In the afternoon, I buckled down and broke out the physics. I already know that this is a weak area for me. So I am skipping the what do you know process and jumping right into learning and relearning.

Topics that I focused on include: Velocity, Acceleration, Displacement Curves, Free Fall Motion, Uniform Acceleration Motion, and Projectile Motion.

Worked through Translational Kinematic problems using MIT Opencourseware on Classical Physics.

Watched the videos on MCAT4ME. Be sure to work through each problem with paper and pencil to develop muscle memory. There is a great section about interpreting graphs on the MCAT.

Using flashcards I practiced memorizing the equations for uniform acceleration of motion. I also worked on flashcards to help memorize key concepts that I learned/relearned by watching the videos.

Day 3: Tried Something New: 
Worked through a Physics Review, then started on General Chemistry.

Today I was joined by a study partner. Very excited there is another nerd that is focused on the MCAT. We chatted about strategy and developed a game plan for the day. Due to this, I got off to a late start.

Started reviewing the physics flashcards I created yesterday on kinematic equations and interpreting graphs.  Followed that up with reviewing all of the physics topics listed on PreMedHQ. Had a combination of videos to drive home the topics covered yesterday.  My study partner was kind enough to share an equation sheet developed by a physics professor. Took a quick break, and then spent the rest of the morning doing practice problems.

Day 4: Took a Personal Day

I promised myself when I started this journey that I would still have a life. Politics is something I am passionate about, so one day each week, I am planning to help with a local Congressional Campaign. This is important to me. It provides me with the opportunity to decompress, talk to other adults, and be part of something that is energetic and in the present. It helps to refuel my mind.

Now, just because I took a personal day, does not mean that there was no MCAT review. Using an AAMC MCAT question book, I worked through 2 Verbal Passages, 2 Biological Science Passages, 2 Physical Science Passages, and then read two articles in Science Magazine. Gotta keep the juices flowing.

Day 5: Took a Mom Day

I may have forgotten to mention that Christmas is less than four days away. So this morning I had to be a wife and mom. That meant running errands for my husband, gathering sausage making supplies, catching lunch with a dear friend, and then dropping into school to deliver Christmas presents to the kid's teachers. This year it was coffee mugs with a chocolate dipped spoon decorated with Frosty made of marshmallows, packaged with hot chocolate, and wrapped up with name tags. After dropping off presents, picking up kids, they took some time at the local Boys and Girls Club while I finished running Christmas errands. After that, we came home, had dinner with Dad, watched a movie (I fell asleep), put the kids to bed, and then out came the MCAT work.

I worked through several passages online through MCAT Question. They are a great place for practice problems. You can sign up to receive via email a question per day. Then they have a Q bank that contains passage questions. I worked through these until I feel asleep.  Long day!

Quick & Healthy Breakfast - Oatmeal with Fresh Rainier Cherries, Pecans, & Maple Syrup

Rainier Cherries
 Like most moms, I am always looking for a quick, but healthy breakfast for both me and my children. It has become a family tradition that in the summertime I take the kids to go pick cherries at our local orchard, Orr's. They have a great farmers market and pick your own produce.

My favorite cherries are Rainier Cherries. These are not the bright red cherries that you are accustom to. No, these are cherries have a beautiful pale yellow flesh that is encased with a blush outside. They are sweet and tart at the same time. I look forward to them each summer.

This summer Orr's happened to have a great special they day we arrived. $10/bucket. We picked three full buckets, or nearly 18 lbs of cherries. Needless to say, cherries have been coming out of my ears.

For breakfast this morning, I thought I would try to speed up finishing up the cherries. I am a big fan of oatmeal, but I try to avoid the instant oatmeal that is loaded up with sugar.  I use Mom's Best Plain Grains. It is a great plain oatmeal with flax seed added. Below is a great recipe of how to jazz up plain oatmeal without packing on the extra sugar.

Oatmeal with Rainier Cherries, Pecans & Maple Syrup

1 packet of instant plain oatmeal
3/4 cup water
1/2 c. chopped fresh cherries
a handful of pecans
splash of milk (almond milk is great, too)
a drizzle of maple syrup, the real stuff.


Cook the instant oatmeal as directed. In my case, I popped it into the microwave for 90 seconds. While it was cooking, I assembled the rest of the ingredients: chopped the cherries, grabbed the maple syrup and pecans. For the pecans, I place them into a sandwich bag and smack them with the back of a large wooden spoon. (I find this is faster and if the kids are not fully awake, the noise helps get them moving.) By the time the oatmeal is cooked, I am ready to assemble

In the bowl of oatmeal, I add the toppings. First the cherries, then the pecans, followed by a splash of milk (just enough to cover the top), and then a quick drizzle of maple syrup. I think it makes a difference if you use the real thing.


What to do when a friend drops off 2 gallons of milk and some fresh picked raspberries - Make Custard with Red Raspberry Rum Sauce

Milk and Freshly picked Red Raspberries
My dear friend, Mary, is headed off to Maine. While I will miss her while she is gone, it also means, her fridge needs to be cleared of perishable items and I just happen to the recipient of 2 gallons of milk and  just over 2 quarts of freshly picked Red Raspberries.

While I am fan of raspberries and can gobble them up on my own, my family needs a bit of coaxing. At the same time, I have been working my way through an old family cook book that I was given a few years ago for Christmas. This book is a collection of hand written recipes mixed with cut out recipes from newspapers and magazines from the early 1900's. It is a real prize.

Combine the two situations and I ended up with Custard with Raspberry sauce.  The best part of this recipe is most of the work is done by the oven, so I can keep watching physics lectures and studying for the MCAT.


6 eggs
1 quart of milk (4 cups)
dash of salt
scrapings of 1/2 vanilla bean or a dash of vanilla extract
1 cup of sugar
butter or spray for the pan

Red Raspberry Rum Sauce:
1 quart of Red Raspberries
a shot of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
a dash of salt
a dash of vanilla extract (or just throw in the scraped vanilla bean)

Make your own water bath
Crack the 6 eggs and pour them into a bowl. Mix aggressively for at least 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of sugar, (I used vanilla sugar.), a dash of salt, and a dash of vanilla extract or scrape part of a vanilla bean.  Mix well. Add 1 quart of milk. ( You could also use half and half or cream if you are wanting something a bit richer.) Pour the mixture into an oven proof container or bowl. Set that inside of another larger container or bowl. Add enough water in the larger container to reach about half of the smaller container. Carefully place in an oven that has been preheated to 300 degrees. Let is slowly bake for one hour.

Red Raspberry Rum Sauce
In the meantime, gather a saucepot and add the raspberries, a shot of rum, a dash of salt and a splash of vanilla. Add about a cup of sugar (again I used vanilla sugar). Let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes on medium heat.

When you can run a knife in the center of the custard and it comes out clean, you know the custard is cooked through.

With the sauce, you have options. You can leave it with the seeds and bits of raspberry or if you prefer a smoother sauce, you can pour the sauce through a strainer lined with cheesecloth.

Let the sauce cool a bit and the custard cool a bit. When it is time to serve, a spoonful of custard (or two) and a drizzle of sauce and you are ready to dig in. Such an easy dessert and just delish! Thanks, Mary!

Making Cookies with Emma

One of the more difficult aspects of this process has been to still find quality time with the kids where I am actually mentally present. It has been tough. Most of the time my thoughts are on the MCAT, paying for all the testing and application fees. I feel like I am mentally absent sometimes when I am with my family. But today I found a few minutes with my youngest one. In between studying for the MCAT, and putting in the garden for fall harvest, we found time to whip up a quick batch of cookies.

Looking around the house, we happened to have half a bag of milk chocolate covered toffee bits (Don't ask me where the other half went to? LOL) With a quick google, I found an Emma approved recipe, Brown Sugar Toffee Cookies. Based on cookie making experience, I made a couple of quick modifications to the recipe. They turned out excellently. These were so good, I had to pour a cup of milk to make the snack complete.

Brown Sugar Toffee Cookies

2 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 stick softened butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
1 cup milk chocolate covered toffee bits

Combine dry ingredients. Set aside. With an electric beater, whip the butter, shortening, and sugars together. Add egg and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients, one half of mixture at a time. Mix well. Stir in toffee bits. Bake 11 minutes in an oven that was preheated to 350 degrees.

This recipe made exactly 3 1/2 dozen. We used a small ice cream scoop to dole them out. Enjoy!

Tip: To ensure even distribution of the toffee bits, stir in 1/3 a cup of the bits at a time. It really makes a difference. 

The Devil Hill....A Lesson in Falling

A day or so ago, I found out that my application to the only medical college I applied to was denied. The denial process is quite cold and impersonal. My name on a web page with a hyphen followed by a single word - denied- is how a crushing blow was delivered. It was 1:37 am when I checked the website to find out if I was offered an interview. Stunned, tears of exhaustion and defeat streamed down my checks. In my stunned state, I emailed my mother. She deserved to know as soon as I knew. This is as much her dream for me as it is my dream for myself.

It has been a long 5 months in my life, and yet again, another dream was crushed. Needless to say I spent the rest of the night somewhere between crying silently and bawling my eyes out. Finally exhausted I fell asleep, only to wake a few hours later and get the breakfast for the kids.

Later that morning, I told Emma, my youngest, first. With big tears filling beautiful blue eyes, she hugged me tightly for as long as she could. Letting go, she brazenly said to me, "Well, you are just going to have to get back up and try again. Just like me and my bike." As she finished her matter of fact statement, an enormously innocent grin came across her face, and my heart, which had felt nothing but sadness, brightened. The honest innocence of an eight year old can bring you back to reality faster than anything. She is something else.

In the afternoon, when Nolan and I were alone, I told him the news. His face held many complex emotions - frustration, sadness, and secretly happy. He gave me a hug and then pulled away to bury his face in his pillow, trying to hide the tears trickling down his cheek. I tried as best as I could to comfort him. Later, while in the kitchen, he found me. Pulling me into a hug, he said to me, "At least you'll get to spend more time with us. You can always try again."

A text message to Savannah to break the news was followed by an immediate phone call. For a sixteen year old, that is a pretty severe response. She was confused and a bit stunned, then sadness followed in her voice. I just did not have anything else to give to her at that point.

A message to my husband to give him the news. "Why?" What could I tell him. It's a roll of the dice. It was a rough day, but all day long, even in my emotionally exhausted state, my thoughts continued to return to what Emma had so innocently stated about her bike. You see, Emma had to conquer what we have come to loving know as the "Devil Hill". It is part of an asphalt track at her elementary school where she would sometimes ride her bike. The hill is steep and the site of a very bad bike accident that has left her a scar on her forehead. My husband and I encouraged her to go back to that hill and conquer it, rather than letting it beat her. It took some time, but she did just that. She got back up, got back on her bike, and conquered the "Devil Hill." What kind of role model would I be, if I gave up?

So like my courageous daughter, I am going to get back up and try again. I know this is meant to be.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Garden Fresh Zucchini Lasagna

The garden has been producing amazing amounts of zucchini, so much so, we are having a hard time keeping up to eating it all. I have grilled, fried, sauteed, shredded, mixed, baked, breaded, well, you get the picture. We have eaten a lot of zucchini. So, it is time to start putting some away for the winter. What a treat it will be to pull out a pan of this amazing lasagna in the dead of winter and be transported back to summer.


5 Red Peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 Green Peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 White Onions, coarsely chopped
1 Zucchini, coarsely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 Ribs of Celery, chopped
2 cans of petite tomatoes
2 Cups water
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 T Worcestershire Sauce
3 Bay Leaves
2 tsp Dried Basil
2 tsp Dried Oregano
1 T Fresh Thyme
1 T Fresh Tarragon
1 T Fresh Sage

In a large sauce pot, cook onions, peppers, celery, garlic, zucchini for 15 minutes or until everything is softened. Add the herbs, tomatoes, water, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until the vegetables are very soft, nearly 90 minutes.

Remove bay leaves. Blend with immersion blender or a regular blender. If you use a regular blender, you will need to do it in batches. Be very careful not to splash the sauce on you.

Once blended, adjust seasoning if needed. ( Add more salt, pepper, herbs to reach the flavour you like.)


2 48 oz containers of cottage cheese
1 56 oz container of ricotta
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 10 oz box of frozen spinach, thawed, and squeezed to remove any water
1 tsp basil

Just dump everything into a large bowl and mix.


Zucchini sliced on a mandolin. The number of zucchini needed is going to depend on what size your zucchini are. Because ours are from the garden, they are on the large size. If you are using zucchini from the grocery store, they are a lot smaller, so you'll need about a dozen. From the garden, 4-5.

2 boxes of pre-cooked lasagna noodles.
6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Assemble the lasagna:

1. Spoon enough sauce into the pan to cover the bottom well.

2. Place a layer of zucchini.

3. Spoon a thin layer of the filling.

5. Place a layer of noodles.

6. Place a thin layer of sauce.
7. Place a thin layer of zucchini and start the process all over until the pan is filled.
8. Top with a layer of sauce.
9. Top with a layer of mozzarella cheese.

I par-bake mine at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes. Because I use aluminum pans, I let them cool and them cover with an aluminum lid.  This made 4 pans of lasagna. Off to the freezer they go.

Note: You could also substitute eggplant for zucchini. I made a pan of that. You can also forget about the pasta for an all vegetable lasagna. Experiment!