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Entries in Boston (3)


A Tribute to Dana-Farber

I've worked at a lot of places in my lifetime. My first paying job was babysitting as soon as I turned 12. After that I worked light housecleaning at 15 and summers through high school at Blue Cross and Blue Shield. When I finished college I bounced around through several companies and positions. My husband on the other hand has had two employers his whole life. I guess I'm an idealist, believing there's always something else that will fit me better.

After college I'd left a career as a clinical dietitian to explore publishing for almost 10 years. I was working at a medical journal with great coworkers and benefits when I realized that I still wasn't happy. I really really missed helping people directly. When I interviewed for a position at a Dana-Farber satellite, I knew my chances were slim since I'd been out of the field for so long. My current boss who did the interview believed in me but there were doubts by other managers involved. I wasn't the top choice and had to wait for other candidates to fall away before the job was finally offered to me months later. 

It sounds like a cliché but I believe that what's meant to be eventually happens. I was scared to death to return to a clinical setting where in the past I'd encountered some difficult staff who didn't respect dietitians. But I'd always wanted to be involved with cancer patients at Dana-Farber, and even if I didn't get the job I was considering volunteering there. My experience at Dana-Farber for the past four years has been the utmost best of my life. I've never met an entire team of people so compassionate, kind and selfless. The patients' care, comfort and high level of treatment are the main focus of every staff member; even the volunteers and housecleaning team go the extra mile to serve the patients. I've never seen communication so tight among providers, nurses and support staff (providers have chatted by email late night discussing very ill patients). I educated and counseled patients but also developed relationships as I walked through their treatment with them.

In July our entire staff was summoned for a meeting and we were told that our satellite was closing end of the year. The breathtaking new multimillion-dollar Yawkey Center unveiled at the downtown Dana-Farber site in 2011 had not filled to capacity, and our satellite that was initially built to receive the overflow of patients from the main campus was simply no longer needed. It has been a very difficult past few months as staff have scrambled to find new jobs (thankfully most have so far) and for remaining staff to continue to care for longtime patients who refuse to leave our site until the doors shut for the last time. It has been most difficult to fathom that this team, this family, will no longer be.

I initially planned to take one or two group photos as a momento, but it turned into much more as I realized that all the treasure of this special clinic held endless memories, more than I could fit into this video. We are officially slated to close on January 31, 2014.


Hey Parents...

Wanted to share a couple of local family events coming up!  

On June 25, the popular Beaver Summer Day Camp in Chestnut Hill opens and this year partners with one of my fave local businesses, Healthy Habits Kitchen (HHK). HHK's program will be offered daily to the campers at no extra charge and is called Healthy Cooking Camp, which educates kids about healthy eating and sparks their interest in cooking with fun recipes. The very hands-on nutrition/cooking classes will include cool themes like Edible Art, New England Cuisine, Berry Berry Fun, and Farmers Market Freshness. I definitely believe in getting kids comfortable in the kitchen as early as possible so they can learn about all the foods they're eating and to truly appreciate every bite!


If you're a frustrated parent who needs savvy guidance on how to better manage your family, the Lifetime series America's Supernanny is now casting families in the Boston and New England area. My son is 5 and I sometimes watch shows like these to get useful parenting tips but end up mainly being thankful that I'm not in those situations! Deborah Tillman (Michelle Obama lookalike) is the Nanny who saves the day, identifying and tackling the toughest issues parents face. Interested but nervous about what to expect? Tamra Barcinas, casting director for the show, described to me the casting process:

Deborah Tillman"Interested families are given an application to complete and return with some family photos. A casting producer calls the parent(s) to discuss what issues they need America’s Supernanny to address. If they're a good fit, the casting producer will visit the family for an interview and then observe them interacting for a few hours. We want the families to be themselves and to genuinely want Supernanny’s help! The home footage is then reviewed and submitted to the network. Families selected for participation are notified by the casting department within a few weeks after their home visit. The process takes a little time and effort, but having a happier family life is the worthwhile reward!"  

Tamra also shared what happens after the "intervention" by the Supernanny. "Once the filming is completed it is up to the family to continue to use the tools and techniques that Deborah has given them. Some families build special bonds with Deborah and choose to stay in touch. She is a wonderfully warm and kind person. We producers often hear back from the families about their experience and receive updates about how their families have benefited."

If you are in a difficult parenting situation and would like to receive personalized advice (and don't mind baring all for America to see!) contact the Boston Casting Team directly at mbarry@shedmediaus.com.


LeanWorks: Fast Food Reinvented

I've been waiting for this West Roxbury eatery to open since December but I'm such a skeptic of "healthy" restaurant food that I wasn't expecting much. Wow, it was definitely worth the wait. LeanWorks is healthy fast food that emphasizes proper portion sizes (dietitians say yahoo to that!), lean cuts of meat, high quality salads and slaws, and intense flavors. Its idea of "fast food reinvented" was created by co-owners Shea Coakley and Peter Roy, two foodies who used to drive around looking for a quick bite, usually at places like McDonald's or Wendy's, but wishing for something a little less greasy.

Very kid friendly. Jake, who likes McD's chicken nuggets best, gave a thumbs up for LeanWorks' baked chicken nuggets.Shea describes LeanWorks' 1-2-3 menu concept as "no brainer healthy choices." 1. Choose your base of a potato or whole grain bun, honey wheat wrap, or bowl with Romaine lettuce as the base. 2. Choose your protein from 6 choices including slow roasted pulled pork or chicken, shaved steak, ground turkey, angus sirloin, or a black bean burger. The meats range from 90%-97% lean. 3. Choose your flavor from 8 delicious options such as a citrus pesto spread, Memphis BBQ sauce, or California roasted red pepper spread. No matter what choices you make in each category, the end result will be 490 calories or less, says Shea. 

Pulled chicken Memphis style with sweet BBQ sauce and tangy slaw with a side of crispy baked fries = 565 calories $7.58.You can then supplement with seasoned baked fries or sweet potato fries, fresh side salads, slaws, or soups. There's also a kids menu with a choice of turkey hot dog, baked chicken fingers, or burger. The calories are listed next to each item and Shea notes the meticulous care that was taken when first designing the menu to ensure proper portion sizes of everything from the meats to the sauces. The burgers are preportioned and the sauces are packaged in Portion Pals dispensers that measure exact, consistent amounts. Above: Cup of thick carrot ginger soup (very creamy with a little kick) = 140 calories $2.99. Be sure to try the crunchy delicious mayo-free apple fennel slaw = 50 calories $1.39. Below: Portion Pals dispense an exact amount of sauce each time. 



Can you gain weight eating here? Sure thing. If you ordered a sandwich, fries and small soup, you could easily top 700 calories, which might be too much at one meal for someone trying to lose weight. However, the point of this menu that I applaud is being able to make informed choices. My gripe with restaurants is that menu descriptions tempt health seekers with meals that wear a health halo. "Grass-fed beef, organically grown greens, and sweet potato mash" could mean 1000 calories or more because we don't know how the food was prepared or because of generous portions. At LeanWorks you're presented with clear-cut information and it's your decision to meet the calorie level you want. Another plus is that this is simply great-tasting food! Honestly, for lunch my stomach would be singing with just one of their sandwiches and maybe a piece of fresh fruit. Shea says that he hopes to expand LeanWorks to more chains in suburban locations, so my only fear is that quality could suffer in the future as I'm betting this chain will be very successful. But that's aways away and for now I and my stomach are smiling. For more info check out LeanWorks' facebook page. If you stop in, it's likely Peter or Shea will be there to greet you with a big friendly hello!

Disclosure: The food tasting for this review was compensated by LeanWorks.

Here's a bathroom treat: Check out these handmade mirror frames made by Peter's mom!