Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

After scouring the internets for the best picture I could find related to New Year's Resolutions I decided to settle on this bad boy.  Most of the options involved some joke about giving up on the goals, making ridiculous goals, or just not making any resolutions to begin with.  After my MIL posted the following pic on Facebook, I knew I had a winner.

This mantra is pretty similar to how I live my life daily.  There are challenges to living with a chronic illness, but being defeated is usually a personal choice.  So, when you set your resolutions for 2012, I encourage you to think manageable and keep them happiness-oriented.

Kara's 2012 New Year's Resolutions
~Live Healthily: Eat and drink with purpose and intention~
~Exercise regularly for mind as well as body~
~Social Work: Publish, write the curriculum, get a job, etc.~

Are you doing resolutions this year?

Oh, gluten... (and other vices)

I get asked a lot on this gluten-free diet about what happens if I indulge.  What happens if I slip?  Maybe just a cookie?  A cracker? One bite?

There are those out there with serious allergies to gluten and wheat.  One bite could place them in serious pain.  Others, it could be much worse- think of those you know with peanut allergies who go into shock with just a small amount of contamination.  Some people have to think- "I know this sandwich was made with gluten-free bread... but how was this sandwich prepared?  Toasted on the same griddle as gluten?  Do they have a dedicated gluten-free fryer for my delicious fries?"

My answer up until this delicious, memorable Christmas holiday was that I was much more energetic, my bones just moved better, and I just feel better when I live my life in a world of rice, quinoia, and corn rather than Olive Garden bread sticks.  It doesn't sound like a lot.  In fact, one could say I have fallen for the fad.
Holidays in general are hard for gluten-free folks.  All the traditional foods, going out to eat, the unfamiliar fridges... it's a nightmare.  So, because I'm fortunate enough to not be technically gluten-intolerant, I let myself slip.

We arrived into town on the solstice (December 21).  I was good that night.  And then little allowances were made.

December 22nd- Woke up late.  Forgot to eat breakfast as there was no gluten-free bread available.  Ate Famous Star (with bun!) at noon.  Thai food for dinner- didn't check gluten in the curries, pad thai, etc., but the dumplings sure as hell weren't GF.  Whoops.

December 23rd- Seafood buffet at the Coeur D'Alene Casino.  Not inherently bad, but used some bread to sop up delicious clam/crab juices.  Then had a piece of tiramisu.  I was still feeling good.  No problem.

December 24rd- Christmas Eve.  This is the night with my family.  I especially made a GF Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake AND stuffing.  I brought ingredients from Whole Foods especially so I could be gluten-free with my family.  The cheesecake was sooo good.  The stuffing was less so.  So, I made it taste better with gluten-y gravy.  Then sopped up that gravy with a crescent roll.  Whoops.

December 25th- Christmas with my husband's family.  A huge test (which I had planned on failing).  My MIL's monkey bread and homemade orange-coconut rolls for breakfast.  Then my FIL's aforementioned calzones.


I ate the whole calzone.  I had never done that before.

I forget which day I started hurting.  I think it was the evening of the 23rd or the morning of the 24th.  I got more and more stiff until I was downright cranky on Christmas. The next day, I was back on the bandwagon- armed with my Udi's multigrain bread and some gluten-free burritos.  I even had my mother-in-law purchase some gluten-free soy sauce for some Kung Pao chicken they made for dinner one night.  But, the damage was done.  I was achy, I felt slow, I woke up each morning without feeling rested, and getting up off the floor after playing with my nephew was a real bitch.  My fingers swelled up to nice-looking sausages and my wrists decided not to cooperate with any of the work I needed to do.  My Costochondritis acted up- which is always panic-inducing and fun. I was pretty miserable. 

It's important, however, that I mention the other bad things I did that could have caused this.  This isn't a gluten-free blog... it's a lupus blog.  There are lots of different things that could cause a lupus flare, and I was guilty of most of them.

I certainly didn't exercise as much as I should have.  I did yoga once in the nine days we weren't home.  I ignored my resistance band.  I took the dog for only two walks (it was really cold).  Yes, I was constantly running around and moving, but not in a way that kept my joints limber.

And then, I indulged while I was with my family- and not even in moderation.  My slab of prime rib at my family's Christmas dinner was embarrassingly huge.  Then I had another slice for "second dinner" later that night.  Topped with a big dollop of horseradish sauce. There was also snacking- Doritos, Ruffles, cheeses, large amounts of this delicious jalapeno Greek yogurt dip my MIL found.  It's at Costco.  Go find it.

Visiting family also means drinking.  Jack and Gingers, mimosas, hard cider, eggnog (with brandy), Knob Creek, and wine, wine, wine.  I didn't succumb to delicious beer, but that didn't matter. My liver is begging for mercy.  I did my best to drink water, but I certainly didn't do as well as I normally did.

I'm also sure I overdid things while in town.  Helping my grandmother, cooking a bunch of meals (Christmas dinner, cheesecake, three pasta casseroles, minestrone, quinoia and butternut squash bake, two turkey tetrazzinis, and chicken noodle soup), playing with my nephews, sixteen hour car rides, going out in the snow, wrapping gifts... it was a lot of wear on me. Since I visit so rarely I always try to squeeze as much in as possible to be the best friend, granddaughter, auntie, sister, daughter-in-law, whatever I can.  Hard to squeeze in time to be good to yourself when you're so busy.

Then there's the emotional toll of the holidays and some family matters that needed to be tended to.  While I'm going to opt not to elaborate here, I will say that there's some big changes going on and a lot of what-ifs and unanswered questions.  Stress city.  And I did very little self-care in the process. (Spa day, anyone?)

As you can see, I crammed a lot (of gluten, stress, gluttony, etc.) into a short visit to my hometown and I paid for it. It's important for those with chronic illnesses to learn from their mistakes, however, and I fully intend on working on that.

This post is a nice lead up to my next one- New Years' Resolutions!  Yes, I do resolutions.  There is nothing wrong with having goals in your life.  So long as you don't beat yourself up if you find yourself challenged.

Before all that, though...

How are you paying for all the holiday fun?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oh, Bob... I had such high hopes for us...

Yesterday marked my first attempt at using a gluten-free mix for my pizza dough.  As I mentioned in my last post, calzones are a tradition in my husband's family.  My father-in-law is a wizard... those beautiful creations are tailored to each member of the family and stuffed with ricotta, cheese, meat, and usually two kinds of olives.  They make me happy.  As does the two bottles of red wine we typically kill in the process of eating them.

So, I wanted to participate without giving in to gluten.  I was instructed to test out mixes and recipes before our trip to Spokane in December.  Naturally, I put it off.  When dieting, it's not the best idea to go on a pizza quest.  There's a free tip from your health and fitness expert, Kara.

Yesterday at Whole Foods I was armed with the pizza crust recipe from a certain Gluten Free Goddess.  Her picture of her pizza looked so tasty, I knew it would be the one to make my calzone dreams come true.  The first thing I needed was some xanthan gum.  Then a bit of sorghum flour, millet flour, and tapioca starch. No problem, this is Whole Foods, right?  WRONG. My shock at seeing the lack of sorghum flour AND millet flour was surpassed tenfold by the following...

Xanthan gum was 15 dollars per package!

What the hell is xanthan anyway?  Now, I know you only bake with a tablespoon or so at times, but this was still shocking to me.  Add that to the cost of all of the other flours and you've got yourself a thirty dollar pizza- at least!

So, I went for a mix instead.  I contemplated the Namaste brand after seeing positive reviews (I love technology and I love my smart phone), but frowned at the higher price.  Bob's Red Mill seemed like a close second and for only five bucks I was willing to give it a shot.
Just add egg, oil and water?  No problem.  Smooth onto a greased cookie sheet?  Bigger problem.

Pizza making really destroys the kitchen.  All the chopping, shredding of cheeses, sauteeing of mushrooms and zucchini to tender deliciousness... then add in a dishwasher hubby with a headcold and your tiny apartment kitchen is a disaster.  I considered calling FEMA.  But, I tredged on- using the only surface I could to set the cookie sheets on... the oven.  So, gluten is the wonderful protein that makes bread products all elastic and chewy and crusty all at the same time.  Spreading gluten-free dough is like working with a sticky biscuit batter.  I'm pretty sure there is no way to get it to a uniform thickness.  From reading online blogs, I expected this to be difficult.  I didn't expect the heat from the pre-heated oven to begin cooking the bottom of my crust.  


So, I sweated, I swore, and I busted out a pizza...

Chicken breast, spinach, sundried tomatoes, feta, mushrooms, zucchini, and mozzarella.

And it wasn't too shabby!  The edges weren't great... and it certainly wasn't real pizza (I'm a snob), but it was much better than a certain polenta abomination that graced my table when I first went gluten-free.  My husband swears that he liked it and- since he is sick and generally whiny/truthful in those instances- I'm going to believe him.

Then, there was the calzone.  Since gluten-free pizza dough is not, in fact, a dough... it was a bit difficult to form into shape and then fold over.  The results were less than pretty:

The calzone was okay- but I think that the dough really needed the pre-cooking step before adding toppings.  Compared to the pizza, the calzone was a bit more gummy in areas and dry in others.  No bueno.  My filling, however was tasty.  Whenever you have the opportunity to combine sundried tomatoes, cream cheese, and feta I think you should take it.  You won't be disappointed.

So, Bob, I don't think you and I are going to have a long-term pizza relationship.  In a pinch, you would do if I feel the need for a homemade slice, but I'm not giving up on prepacked mixes yet.  And eventually I'll just rip the bandaid off and stock my gluten-free pantry with all the fancy flours (and gums?) required.  But, for this Christmas I'll enjoy the treat of a gluten-y calzone.  If you can't treat yourself during the holidays, when can you?

What's your biggest splurge item in terms of kitchen food?  Personally, I was hoping mine would be some nice truffle oil...

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

WFD? Deliciousness

Ugh, blurry. 
This week I was focusing on the usual- gluten-free and delicious.  This week may be a teensy bit more indulgent than usual, as you can see.  Steak.  Carbs.  An avocado curry that will certainly have me on the elliptical until it's time to do make the shrimp fra diavolo- where I will eat more carbs.

Speaking of carbs...After cooking tonight I plan to post my results of Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix as soon as possible.  With our Christmas trip coming up I've been anxiously awaiting the struggles of being gluten-free for the holidays.  I'm mostly thinking about my father-in-law's delicious calzones and my mother-in-laws amazing Christmas morning breakfast- which typically includes both monkey bread AND orange-coconut rolls.  *swoons*

And now, something important: This Christmas will be without a very special family member.  The magnet in the upper left corner is representative of my in-law's family cat, Schmily (See how much I love you), who was put to sleep last week.  She was ornery, she was pretty, and she generally didn't like people.  But, she was family.  We love family even when they bite.  Rest in peace, Schmily.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I suck at baking...

...with gluten... and then not eating it...

I finally got around to de-glutening my pantry.  It turned up with several boxes of cake mix, two packets of Fiber One Blueberry Muffin mix, and a packet of sugar cookie mix.  My first thought was that a food bank could use the donations... until I realized they were all a couple months out of date.  Now, I know that they are perfectly fine- but having volunteered for a few donation centers I'm well aware that they don't appreciate expired foods.

So, I decided to whip up some baked goods for my g-parents.  The first problem came with the muffins.  As it  turns out, it's impossible to not drip on your fingers while filling up the muffin cups.  And then it's impossible to NOT lick your fingers.  Damn.

Then, the sugar cookies.  I had the cute idea of dipping the sugar cookie balls in holiday sprinkles to make them all festive-like.  The next problem came (I think) when I didn't soften the butter.  Or maybe it was too soft.  Or maybe it was the expiration date issue.  Or perhaps my ineptitude.  Anyone, so they flattened out a lot around the edges and got quite brown.  So then... there were reject cookies.  And I couldn't just let those cookies feel bad about themselves.

I wouldn't be human if I had no flaws, right? At least Mama and Papa will forgive me of my errors when they eat some delish muffins.

Do you ever cook/bake things that you're not supposed to eat?  How do you resist?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Goodbye, Don- Hello, Santa!

My physical therapist broke some bad news to me this morning.  Apparently, I'm at the point in my physical therapy that the insurance company is getting cranky.  I've made too much progress and insurance companies are about continued progress- not maintenance- and certainly not training me to be a long distance cyclist.  So, December 19th is my final day with my good friend and PT of the last two years, Don.  

In these next three sessions (frownie face) we are transitioning me to be ready for strength exercises at the gym and at home.  Now, I know I said I was contemplating P90X, but I am terrified about flying solo.  Who is going to make sure my form is correct?  What about stretching?  And I'm too deeply in love with pilates to say goodbye so soon- how is my core going to continue to be strengthened? Gah.

El Dorado Physical Therapy will always be there for future referrals- it's just that in-between stuff that's scary.  I do stupid stuff all the time, and it always negatively impacts my neck and/or my lupus.  Once, I challenged my husband to a pull-up competition.  I couldn't turn my neck the next day (but I won!).  I also occasionally decide to scrub my bathtub on my hands and knees, sometimes I play superman and horsey with my nephews, and roller coasters are way too fun to pass up. Hopefully, the progress that I've made will prevent these mini flares from destroying me.

I owe all of my progress to El Dorado Physical Therapy.  If you are in the El Dorado Hills/Folsom area and need a physical therapist, masseuse, or personal trainer, contact them.  Then tell them Kara referred you- I think I get movie tickets or something or a pilates session or something.

So, with whatever this new exercise routine will be I'm going to need a new more pieces of equipment:
Resistance Band Set with Door Anchor
Pilates Magic Circle
Arthritis-Friendly Dumbells
Stability Ball
And just a few more things- lifting gloves with wrist support, those yoga toe socks I keep bringing up (*ahem*), maybe some extra fitness clothes.  It's a good thing that Christmas is coming up.  It's a pity that my regular gift givers are not regular Sisyphean Effort readers.  Dommage.  Looks like I'll be shopping for Kara this holiday season.

What's on your holiday wish list? Going practical or fun in your letter to Santa?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chilly days and heating pads

I had such big plans for today.  Hump day was going to be conquered with a great workout at the gym, de-glutening my pantry, doing some paperwork, and writing a positive blog post about rising above negativity.  I even included a picture of a goat:

How can you not be positive when looking at that adorableness?
My plans first were foiled by Winter coming to California.  Taking the dog out chilled me to the bone.  I snuggled up to Spartacus with a mug of hot coffee and defrosted my toes before heading to the gym (the walk to which turned me purple again).  Cramps got me off the rowing machine in under six minutes, and I lasted on the Nordic Track just 24 minutes before I started doubling over.  I thought exercise was supposed to ease cramping?
Anyway, I came home and made myself a couple slices of gluten-free French toast to settle a wicked maple syrup craving. 
I ate it.
My wonderful hormone fluctuations aren't the only thing putting me on the brink of a flare.  For some inane reason, my insurance company decided that mail-order prescriptions were the way to go.  I am way too much of a spazz to remember to order things in advance.  Plus, because the insurance is through my husband's work, he is the one with access to the system to place orders. So, I have to remember to need to order my prescription, plus to tell my husband (and make sure he remembers, too!).  To get to the point of this rather boring paragraph, I've been sans-plaquenil for four days.  
So far, so pseudo-good.  But I'm definitely trying to take it easy.  
Speaking of which, I've got a date with my physical therapist I should jet off to.  I'm not sure how much pilates I'll be doing today, but I do know I'm looking forward to getting some of these knots worked out.
How is your hump day going?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Leftover Turkey Pho

Despite only having a 10 pound turkey, we were left with a sizable amount of leftovers.  In years past I would boil down my turkey carcass to make some homemade stock for turkey noodle soup.  Now, because I haven't found any gluten-free egg noodles, and because I'm missing being in college, I decided to go a more Asian direction with my soup this year...
On the Sacramento State campus, near the library, exists this wonderful little restaurant called Saigon Bay.  They introduced me to avocado smoothies, tofu spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce, and noodle soup with options of throwing in bean sprouts, jalapenos, lime wedges, hoisin, and sriracha.  Especially in these gray fall/winter months in Sacramento, that soup really hit the spot.
I decided to pursue making my own replication of that soup.  Now, I would alternate between shrimp and flank steak for my protein, but with all the leftovers it seemed a good time to use up my dark turkey meat (white is for sammiches and tonight's curry).
I used this recipe from Kevin's (hey, that's my husband's name) Closet Cooking as a base for my experiment. When I boiled down the carcass I already had ginger, shallots, and onions in there so I left that step out.  I think the best change I made is that I threw in a bag of dried shiitake mushrooms during my second stock process (after skimming out the solids and the top layer of fat).  This- combined with the ingredients of the star anise, cloves, and cinnamon- made for a very umami experience.  I would suggest starting low with the fish sauce and sugar altering to your tastes.
The result was a very delicious, warming pho. Topped with the rooster sauce and Dynasty hoisin (gluten-free) and a hearty heap of bean sprouts (super healthy!) it was satisfying and light after the previous day of gluttony.  The only change I would make in the future was to use thinner rice noodles.
Kevin (my husband, not the blogger) found this to be a great way to use the leftovers.  I'm happy that we have some leftover stock for the upcoming cold and flu season for a second round of pho- comforting, and the sriracha is great for the sinuses.  We happily slurped down the remainders of the pot for lunch today.
To conclude, I think a new leftover turkey tradition has been born.

Do you have any traditions in regards to your Turkey Day leftovers?  Any of them slightly unusual?
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Wfdw- Turkey Edition

Pardon the dark pic...

I hope everyone had a great day yesterday and celebrated with loved ones. Today makes the beginning of me trying to cram all of my thanksgiving leftovers into new recipes. Lunch was a delicious turkey sandwich on Against The Grain baguette with avocado, tomato, havarti, and spicy mustard.

(Source- Celiacs in the House)
This bread was chewy and delicious.  It had a bit too many air bubbles that made me wonder what I was paying for, but I cannot argue with that sandwich... Mmmmm....  I also used it for garlic bread.
Now, dinner recipes are a bit more difficult since I've yet to find gluten free noodles that can stand up to a soup. Tonight, turkey pho-which will hopefully help me forget that I'm eating turkey. Sunday, I'm throwing leftover turkey AND leftover sweet potatoes in rich curry sauce. Barbecue sauce will mask the flavor in our final turkey meal. Anything leftover from our ten pound turkey at that point will be thrown in the freezer (hopefully for future pho).

Happy leftovers, everyone!

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Gluten-Free Thanksgiving!

This is a bit late- I've already had my nap and my post-nap second helping of turkey- but I wanted to say happy thanksgiving, and I hope you all take a minute to give thanks. No matter how bleak things may seem, there's always someone or something that improves your life. Such as anti-malarial drugs.

Love you all, and enjoy the long weekend!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A morbid, but important topic

I have not been posting... the weird thing is that Kevin has been out of town on business these past could days.  With all of my free time you would think I would love talking to my good friend, the internet.  Instead, I've been talking to Spartacus, who isn't the best conversationalist either.  I've probably also been putting off writing about something uncomfortable.

The important post that has been brewing in my mind concerns one of the items on my to-do list from my Spokane visit- taking care of assigning medical power of attorney for my grandparents and filling out their advanced health care directives. With the frailty of human life- especially when you have a chronic illness, it's important to think about your final wishes.

  • Should you slip into a coma/become brain-dead, would you want to remain on life support?
  • Would you want fluids and/or nutrients fed to you to maintain your life?
  • Who would you want to follow through with your wishes and make decisions about your care?
These big questions are important to think about and discuss with your loved ones, whether it be discussing your own wishes or theirs.  

For most states (if not all, I'm no legal expert), the paperwork is readily available to download off the internet and print right at home.  In Washington State, the medical power of attorney required a notary, while the advanced directive only required two (non-relative) signatures.  

I don't exactly know how to end this post... except to say that I hope you think about it. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menu

I'm back from my trip to Spokane and trying to get back into the swing of things.  I'll post full updates soon, I just wanted to brag about my great Gluten-Free Thanksgiving I have lined up!
I'm excited for Thanksgiving this year- as I always am- because big meals are always a challenge to make.  It gives me a chance to honor the traditions of my family and try new things with my new family.

Seafood-Stuffed Mushrooms (nothing new here)

Olives- a family tradition.  During my trip all of my sibs were together in one place for dinner before I left.  We ate three cans of olives.

Candied Walnut, Pear, and Leafy Greens with White Balsamic Vinaigrette- we've eaten this before (not for turkey day) and it was a wonderful fall salad.

Main Meal
Cider-Brined Turkey with Star Anise and Cinnamon- normally I just rock a soy sauce mixture.

Wild Rice, Fruit, and Pecan Stuffing- to replace my StoveTop.  Yes, StoveTop isn't gourmet, but it's just like Mama used to make (but we both added freshly sauteed carrots, celery, and onions).  But, as the Eat This, Not That people reminded me, they are basically soggy, fattening croutons.  And gluten-y, of course.

Orange-Brandied Sweet Potatoes- about the same as Mama used to make, but with some additions.
Gluten-Free Baguette (thanks, Whole Foods!)... Kevin may get lucky and get some rolls from his mum.
Pomegranate Glazed Carrots
Mashed Taters

The Wonderful and Talented Gluten-Free Goddess has this recipe for a vegan pumpkin pie with a coconut-pecan crust.  Now, I figure it would be just as delicious if I put some dairy, eggy deliciousness in the crust.  Hopefully Karina won't track me down.  

Gluten-Free Goddess

Whiskey-Spiked Whipped Cream
There was almost going to be a second dessert... I'm still keeping it as a possibility if we get a couple more guests.  Frozen maple-mousse pie with candied cranberries.   *swoon*

Wassail or Mulled Wine(for while I'm cooking in the morning)
Pinot Noir- for our turkey pairing pleasure.
Sparkling Cider- because just because you're old enough for wine doesn't mean you don't want cider.

I also have some ideas for leftovers that will hopefully cure me of my leftover- turkey hatred... including a curry and some sammiches.

What dietary restrictions are coming to shake up your Thanksgiving celebration?  What traditions will never change?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lots on my mind

Today I have quite a bit on my mind.
This week has actually been more eventful than usual, and that's not just because I found a new show to watch:

Another strong jawline to enjoy. The superman abs aren't too shabs, either.
Tom Welling isn't what I've been thinking about, though.

I started my volunteer time with the local domestic violence/sexual assault agency.  I worked the crisis line on Tuesday for three hours.  Wouldn't you know it- no one was in crisis for the entire shift!  Just what this bored social worker needed!  Thursday I was on call for SART- the sexual assault response team.  Nada (not too shocking, sexual assaults are, thankfully, not too common).  I'm on call for the overnight shift tonight, maybe I'll see some action.

In the meanwhile, I've been pondering a support group that I could get started for the agency. After assault, it can be difficult for individuals to reclaim their sexuality in a healthy manner.  I would like to help those who were victims of marital rape, date/acquaintance rape, molest, etc, and I would like to help to agency by creating this curricula and the tools to evaluate the effectiveness (evidence-based practice, ftw!).  The clinical staff is very busy, however, and I'm finding it hard to stand by while my social worker skills get rusty.  So, I've been doing some research.

When I'm not trying my hardest to volunteer against the agency's will, I scour craigslist,, and county websites looking for openings.  I applied to a few more part-time jobs this week, but all is quiet on the employment front.  I keep thinking more and more about my future.  Will I ever be able to work full time?  How am I supposed to get experience if I never get a job?  How am I going to get my license?  It will take years to get all the clinical hours.  Until I get a new job my resume is looking pretty vacant.  So, I've been looking at PhD. programs and wondering if I shouldn't just go right into it.  School is easy- sitting all day does kill me, but it doesn't really take any energy.  The PhD program I'm looking at requires the GRE- I think they almost all do.  Did you know that there's no calculators allowed during the test?  I really should have learned to do long multiplication (the problem with being transferred to the "advanced class" right when they were teaching that). Also, analogies are the bane of my existence.

Shut up, Mr. Smiley Face. (Source)

It doesn't help that I'm not doing super well this week.  It may be the kidney infection and/or the antibiotics, but I'm just not bouncing back.  My physical therapy sessions have been leaving me exhausted, my sleep hasn't been restful, and I have wonderful moments of fatigue, chills/hot flashes, nausea, and dizziness.  It just makes me want to curl up with my dog and Tom Welling.
I feel better already.
So, that's what I had been thinking about today- support groups, long multiplication, clinical licenses.  And babies.  Always babies.  Then, my twin sister called me not too long ago to let me know that Mama wasn't feeling too well.

Now, the biggest thing on my mind is my grandmother.  Mama and Papa (that's what I call them) raised me and my siblings.  For lack of anyone else to fill the role (RIP, Mom), they were my parents and will always be my parents.  Earlier today she was taken to the hospital with possible pneumonia and hypoxia.  So far, it's not super serious, but I'm a worrier. Makes my own current issues seem a bit less significant.  However, it doesn't make me stop thinking about the future- especially my strong desire that she be in it for a very long time.

I already had a trip planned up to Spokane- leaving next Tuesday- to go meet my brand new nephew, Logan Scott.  Sooner now, if necessary. I hope my very small group of readers will keep her in their thoughts.

Ballin' on her scooter with my nephew, Riley

Back in the day, it seemed that I could conquer my lupus to take care of Mama.  No matter how crappy I felt, I could always rally when she needed me.
Who or what seems to defy the lupus-odds in your life?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Guess what I'm up to...

I'm drinking this swill. I've had some uti symptoms since Saturday. Normally I drink a ton of water and at least one bottle of this juice (NOT cranberry cocktail), and it goes away. Not so much this time. I thought my back was hurting from shitty conference room chairs, but eventually it was obvious that it was my left kidney. It very quickly progressed to a high level of pain.
One trip to urgent care, a cup of my urine, and a lecture from the nurse practitioner later, I'm back home. So, I'm on Cipro, I have a heating pad on my back, and I ate my usual "feel better meal" of a famous star with extra pickles (with a bun, to cushion the meds)- I should live.
Can't wait to post pictures tomorrow of the hubby and I, in costume for the exotic halloween ball! (I will feel better by then.)
Happy Friday, all.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Grand Experiment!

So, I'm a scientific person.  Just because you take one intervention and you see a change, doesn't imply direct causation.  This is what I was thinking with how amazing I had been feeling lately.  Yes, I had gone gluten-free... but was this why I was feeling great?  What happens if I eat a bit of wheat?

And so came the grand experiment!  We were heading off for the Hornets' homecoming game on Saturday- Sacramento State University versus Eastern Washington University.  Here is what I ate throughout the day:

A delicious McChicken.  Burgers you can have lettuce wrapped, or even with a GF bun, but with a McChicken there's still the spicy, moist, breaded chicken patty. It was a fantastic indulgence.  Did I mention it's only a buck?  That's value, my friends.

This was my meal during the game.  Tri tip sandwich with plenty of barbecue sauce.  It came with a side of beans and potato salad that I didn't really eat.  I enjoyed the smoky goodness of the meat most of all.
This wasn't exactly the highlight of my gluten indulgence, but it was night to not have to ration and savor each drop, like I do with my sorghum beer.

The result?  It't not really super dramatic. Minimal digestive distress, no humongous lupus flare.  The only thing I really noticed was that the following morning (Sunday) I was cranky, lethargic, and cranky (it needed to be said twice, I was a bit of a bitch to Kevin).  It wasn't until I got on my bike that I really noticed a big difference.  Weeks past, my knees moved easily as I pedaled- and typically I could go for at least an hour. But after wheatie-funsies on Saturday, I just couldn't really get moving, it just felt tight and forced.  Needless to say, I did not burn many calories.

So, am I actually gluten-intolerant?  Probably not.  But I feel much healthier when I'm leaving it out of my diet, and I still haven't had a flare since I started.  I think the best thing is that I know I won't die if I cave into my McChicken craving every once in awhile.  I'll just have to expect that I won't be rocking it in the motivation department afterwards.

Perhaps all of us would benefit from cutting back on wheat, though.  Maybe you would have more energy, bounce out of bed a bit faster, increase your time on the treadmill.  Wheat may not even be what's dragging you down- what about sweets, processed foods, or red meat?

Food for thought.  Happy Monday, everyone!  Being off the gluten again, I got in a walk, pilates at PT, 30 minutes on the elliptical, and a bit of the P90X Core Synergistics video (just enough to know I won't be able to hack it).

Any thoughts on possible changes to your lifestyle?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wfdw post with some added cute

It's a bit small, but here's the menu for this week. Spartacus was laying in the sunshine and I couldn't resist. This is the beginning of trying really hard to stay on a budget. Beans, rice, frozen veggies, and cleaning out the freezer before I buy anything new. The Thursday/Friday meals are courtesy of SkinnyTaste. I've been adding pumpkin to everything. I'm a mad woman. Watch your pumpkin patches. Hope everyone is having a good weekend!
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

P90X?! For a lupie?!

I told you I would be sharing my plans for my workouts in the future, and P90X is what I'm pondering.

I did some of P90X a couplefew years back when I was preparing for my wedding and my honeymoon (Victoria's Secret bikini, I wanted to look good-I'm also a bit shallow...ah, humanity).

I mostly did AbRipper and YogaX and then supplemented with the weight machines and arc trainer at the gym.  Now, my husband did the whole shebang, which was a bit intimidating with all of his weight changes (he bought dumbbells), the writing stuff down, and the plyometrics.  Even back then, when I was feeling good, I was concerned my joints would rebel with hardcore weights and the jumping around.

Today, now that I'm aware of the resistance band (no joint aggravation!) and not afraid to do my own thang, I'm thinking I may start it up after my physical therapy appointments run out in November. I'll keep one appointment a week for knots and neck issues, but try to stick to a similar schedule that P90X suggests.  When they do cardio or plyo, I'll probably head to the gym for arthritis-friendly fun.  I'll probably use my Eggs for Yoga for the tough stuff like Downward Facing Dog.
And of course, if I get tired, or achey, or flare, I'll cool it.

So, thoughts for the day: I'm human, and I'm also a Lupie... there's a STRONG need for caution whenever you go into a new exercise program.  No matter how amazing I feel, I still have a disease.

Just like today: I woke up and my feet were killing me for starters.  My right hip was a bit achey, and I just didn't feel rested.  I initially had my heart set on an Xbike workout (think a more awesome version of spinning) at nine-thirty this morning.  Instead, I did a ton of stretches, rocked my foam roller, and took Sparty for a walk.  Know your limitations and listen to your body- taking an "easy" day is much better than taking a a couple days off because you caused a flare.

I'm looking forward to bringing this up to my physical therapist and my doc to hear their thoughts.

Now, I'm going to soak my aching feet and deal with that issue before I do anymore workouts.  Apparently bargain bin shoes purchased four years ago aren't great for your toesies if you're working out a lot.  Shoe shopping time!
These are cute... (Zappos)
Or maybe this color? (Zappos)
Can you tell I like bright colors? (Zappos)
How's your fitness regimen going?  Do you do any workout videos?  Did you find yourself needing to purchase a good pair of running/cross-training/etc. shoes?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Am I annoying you yet?

I really feel like I've been bragging.  Yes, I'm still unemployed and on a budget (frownie face), so I have a ton of free time that's hard to fill without spending money.  I feel like I'm in a perpetual state of cleaning the kitchen and the bathrooms.  But things are actually quite awesome- as I keep telling anyone who calls, emails, texts, or writes on my Facebook wall.  I think I'm getting to be obnoxious with my positivity.  BTW, my spell checker is telling me that positivity isn't a word.  Spell checker ain't going to bring me down!

All smiley and stuff with my BFF, Cassie
As you can tell from my sporadic posts, I'm feeling really well.

Why is it easier to write when you have negative things to say?

Eh, I'm only human.  So, because I've been feeling well I've been spending a lot of time at the gym, or on my bike.  I've been walking every morning with the dog, followed by a workout.  I'm continuing to use my Three Minute Eggs and the accompanying video, Healthy Alignment, to keep my spine all happy. Here's one of my favorite poses:

I'm sorry the freeze frame for the video is of his crouch.  I have no control over these things.

Pilates at my physical therapy office is fantastic.  Usually after pilates I head to the gym for some time on the arc trainer or the elliptical.  I've been using resistance bands to pay attention to my arms.

It's just phenomenal.  Today, I went for an hour long, brisk walk with my dog (hips are feelin' good!). I did yoga (no wrist pain!), did the dishes (no hand swelling!) and got down on the floor to scrub out the fridge (and I was able to get up, afterwards!).  After blogging, I'm going to get on my bike and watch the newest Grey's.  I wonder if Meredith and McDreamy will ever patch things up...?

I digress...

The point is, it wasn't too long ago that starting my day was a painful process- getting out of bed, zipping up my jeans, tying my shoes.  Eight hours of classes, then calling Kevin from my parked car in front of the apartment because I needed help standing up and walking in to the couch.  And forget about spending some "married time" with my hubby.  How far I've come since then brings tears of joy to my eyes.  So, yes, I'm going to keep bragging and shouting it from the rooftops.  I hope that when you have good days, or good hours, or just a good moment, you do the same.  

So, am I annoying anyone yet?  Or is my positivity (I swear, it's a word, dammit!) a refreshing change?

Stay tuned for my plans for this healthy streak, as well as an experiment I'm planning on conducting tomorrow!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wfdw- Mmmmmmmm, Autumn

We spent our Saturday running up to Apple Hill to find some (hopefully hard) apple cider and have a picnic.  We weren't the only ones- as soon as October hits the drive up the hill gets a bit more congested.  Plus, there was some sort of event going on, which made getting off the freeway tons of fun.
We landed at Jack Russell Brewery, pretty sure that this would be our only stop for the day.
Their name is a bit deceptive- they also opened a cool new winery cave as of this fall!  Beer is available on one side of the building, then you meander over to the cave to find a selection of mead, cider, and wine.  Did you know that mead happens to be delicious?  It made this gluten-free girl very happy!
In addition, the brewery has a great little picnic area and they had vendors lined up around the edges of the property selling everything from hotdogs and tri-tip, to clothes and jewelry, even blown glass "art".  There was a lady doing chair massages that I really wanted to take advantage of, but I worried that I would be cheating on Don.
So, for my What's for Dinner weekend post, I'm featuring some butternut squash in a nice risotto and plenty of other comfort foods, including a roast recipe from the Gluten Free Goddess. Despite the eighty degree weather, it's still fall to me! Hence the autumn mix in the halloween bowl (upper left corner)-my favorite fall candy. Have a great weekend everyone!
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Teeny-tiny GF sammich!

I know the picture sucks.  I ate lunch at close to 2 pm.  Since I had pilates this morning and then ran a bunch of errands, I was starving.  Hence, the shaky picture.  I was literally moving forward to devour it as I was taking the shot.  Sorry, everyone.
One of those errands was running to this wonderful place: Azna Gluten Free Bakery in Cameron Park, California.  Kinda a random place for a shop like this, but worth a short drive.  I picked up one of the "Sweet Noni" loaves of bread, which includes these ingredients:

*Azna Dry Blend (Rice Flour, Pinto Bean Flour, Modified Tapioca Starch, Cornstarch, Guar Gum, Xanathan Gum,Leavening, Sea Salt) Stabilized Rice Bran, Sorghum Flour, Organic Sucanot,Organic Hemp Milk, Organic Palm Oil Organic Hemp Seeds, Roasted Flaxseed, Buckwheat,Yeast, 100% Pure Organic Noni Juice, Agave’Nectar, Evaporated Cane Juice*

Holy wow, that's a lot of stuff, including some stuff I had never heard of before.  The result?  It tastes like a Honey Wheat Bread.  The loaf is really tiny, and apparently I'm supposed to keep it frozen until it's time to eat it.  It was still a bit crumbly, but much better than the rice bread.  I toasted it, topped it with stone ground mustard, turkey, pepperjack, pickles, and tomato.  Super tasty.
Now, for what I didn't like... That loaf of bread cost me twelve bucks! Now, I expected the bread at this place to be slightly more expensive than the bland rice loaves from the grocery store- I did not expect double the price.  Don't tell Kevin.
This makes me all the more ready to purchase this bad boy:

Click to purchase :)... hint.
I also want a bread machine.  And a food scale.
I really can't justify the prices of the breads in the store- even six bucks is crazy for the small, tasteless things readily available.  And, with the opening of Whole Foods in Folsom, I should be able to find all the ingredients (Sorghum Flour?) in one spot rather than traveling from Bel Air to the Natural Foods store to Trader Joe's.  It gets old.
Happy present shopping, everyone!  I'm about to go enjoy my other purchase from Azna's, a (vegan) vanilla cupcake.
Whose finger is that?
The frosting I was dripping off, I swear.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gluten-free beer!

Probably one of the biggest things I miss about gluten is beer and wings on Sundays while watching football. Thankfully, I discovered this at my local grocery store. It tastes pretty decent, but was pricey at 7.49 for a six-pack. I'll savor one each Sunday. :)
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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wfdw- hello, autumn!

I'm taking the beginning of autumn and the onset of cooler weather to signal that I should start making soups, stews, and anything and everything squash!
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Thursday, October 6, 2011

How should I spend my days of unemployment?

As of today I am on day four of actual unemployment- no volunteering, no job, no training, no nothing.  And I am going insane.
I was actually starting to go insane on day two.  I managed to hold off on writing a whiny post until now.  You're welcome. 
I'm just not one of those people who likes laying around.  I need to get out and do things and be productive.  Don't get me wrong- I'm trying: Yesterday I watched a full season of Supernatural.

Check out those sexy jaws.
In my defense, a lot of the time I was watching TV I was also doing housework, applying for jobs, or riding my stationary bike.
So, until I get a job, I have a whole lot of nothingness to look forward to.  I'm already going to physical therapy twice a week and exercising whenever I can.  How should I spend my time?  Here are my options:
  • Work on getting published in a social work journal
  • Practice gluten-free baking
    • Get fat
  • Clean (Booo!)
  • Update my cookbook
  • Read
  • Learn Spanish
  • Start being an extreme couponer
The darnedest thing about unemployment is that I'm not supposed to be spending money.  Hence, the limited options.
Also on my to-do list is that I need to work on is not being a huge bitch when Kevin comes home.  After a long day of nothing, the last thing I want to do it spend an evening doing nothing.  So, sometimes that makes me cranky and resentful.
My dear friend and physical therapist, Don, has suggested that this is a blessing in disguise.  Perhaps, unemployment is what I need right now.  I don't know if I just need this time to get stronger or if there's some larger cosmic reason.  We'll see.
Any tips for surviving this monotony? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wfdw short week!

Here's the plan for this short week, although I have to do some rearranging- today is National Taco day! I hope you're all celebrating! And, of course, all this deliciousness is sans wheat.
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Monday, October 3, 2011

Gluten-Free Traveling

Ugh, I am so happy to be home!
For over the past week Kevin and I have been on the road.  We traveled down to San Diego to catch one of our favorite bands, TV on the Radio- give them a listen below.  We stayed with my best friend since third grade, Cassie.

Much fun and much alcohol was had by all.
There was also Muddy Buddies and mediocre gluten-free pizza.
But pizza nonetheless!
From San Diego we traveled up Highways 1 and 101.  We passed through all the tiny rich towns with lots of expensive cars.We drove along the ocean for most of the journey up until about Portland.  We went on an AWESOME dune buggy ride near Coos Bay, scoped out the Tillamook Cheese Factory and the Blue Heron wine tasting and cheese place.  It was a wonderful trip- just me and the hubby (and the booboo).  We ended up in our hometown of Spokane, Washington in time to celebrate my nephew's third birthday.  I'll post more on the trip later- this part is about the food.
Kevin and I knew that if I could survive a roadtrip on the gluten-free diet I could probably rock it long term.  It was difficult, to say the least.
For car snacks I mostly stuck potato chips and tortilla chips.  Not super healthy, I know, but when you're traveling you want the delicious salty stuff.  At one point we bought some beef jerky, only to realize it was flavored with soy sauce.  Frownie face.
Breakfasts got easier after the first day.  I discovered, happily, that Odwalla bars are gluten-free!
This one tastes like a rice krispy treat!
We would stop by a grocery store in the morning, pick up a couple bananas, some yogurt, and some of those bars.  Yum!
Lunch was another issue- especially in the smaller towns.  McDonald's was great for salads. I learned that Carl's Jr., home of the charbroiled chicken salad (yum!) seasons their grilled chicken.  This is not unusual practice.  KFC makes a delicious grilled chicken, but they do the same darn thing.  So, I ate a lot of lettuce wrapped burgers.  This wasn't an issue at Carl's, home of the low-carb six dollar burger.
It looks delicious, but I got sick of it eventually.  Other places didn't get the concept of a lettuce wrap so much.
"You mean, like put lettuce around the bun?"
No... instead of a bun, you wrap it in lettuce leaves.
"Oh, so the chicken snack wrap".
No, not the wrap either, just lettuce. 
"So, on a bed of lettuce?"
Well, no, not really, you still make it like a sandwich.
"Oh, I got it".
There were quite a few disappointing lunches.  None of the non-Carl's places got it right.  The example above is a McDonald's, when I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich.  It arrived on the bed of lettuce, with all the fixin's.  It was close, at least!  Burger King didn't do so great.  They stated that their lettuce was shredded, so they couldn't do a wrap (it wasn't that shredded).  So, I was greeted with a Whopper patty sitting atop a mound of lettuce.  The kicker on that one is they didn't give me any condiments.  It was a dry, flavorless experience.  To make matters worse, they also messed up my side salad order.  I cried during that lunch.
Dinners were easier since we were settled in for the night.  One evening we had mediocre Chinese food, another, a rotisserie chicken from Safeway (verified gluten-free).  One amazing night we indulged in some Thai food (Thank you, Portland!).  On our last night (and drive home) I encountered a very friendly Subway employee who gave me all the ingredients for a turkey sammich, but charged me only as "double meat" on my hubby's order.  Assembling all that Subway fresh veggie goodness on my crumbly, bland rice bread was a bit disappointing, but at least it wasn't another salad!
So, here is my list for gluten-free friendly traveling:
  • Carl's Jr. (Low Carb burgers)
  • McDonald's- Their salads are pretty good, and I rounded my meal off with a sweet tea and apple slices.  I was pretty happy.
  • Wendy's- After squinting over their little allergen chart I figured out that their grilled chicken is gluten free.  I put one of those on a large Caesar salad.  They also have the chili and the baked potatoes for options.
  • Taco Time- Taco Bell uses flour on their meat (and everything else).  I didn't get to try anything, but if you stick to corn shells and grilled meats you should be good.
  • Grocery Stores- why not just pick up an apple, some deli meats, and some Blue Diamond Nut Thins?
  • Chinese/Thai/Sushi- Just watch out for soy sauce and don't get anything that's breaded and deep-fried.
I think the toughest parts about this were that for lunch we wanted to save money.  This almost always translates into fast food.  And, when you're driving through tiny towns along the coast, there isn't always a ton of options.  You can get hangry in that amount of time.  Just make sure that you've married a guy who can make you laugh through your tears... some joke about flame-broiling the Burger King restaurant... I don't remember.  :)
So, I made it!  And, the crazy thing is that I feel amazing.  Normally the week of a roadtrip/traveling return rivals my period week for how shitty I feel.  I have almost NO stiffness.  I'm cautiously optimistic!