Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Couch Blogging

My mom got me a wireless keyboard for my birthday so now I can blog from my favorite place, the couch! As I write this, Ian took my pic! Thanks mom. :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hurricane Allison

My husband calls me Hurricane Allison after I've made dinner because I make a huge mess.  Lately, I've been making a lot of messes and have been cooking/baking up a storm, so the hurricane has come through often at our house.  :)

I used to hate cooking, I never thought I was any good at it.  I hated timing everything, always burned something and the food I made was horrible for you because I had no idea what I was doing.  Then, in 2004 or so, I joined Weight Watchers and started making their recipes.  I started using spices (because they were no points) and experimenting, and then something happened, I liked cooking.  Now that I'm gluten free, you kind of have to cook or you don't eat since everywhere outside your house may poison you.  So, I guess I was forced to learn to do it well.  (I listed more recipes/dishes from a previous post if you click on that link.  I also posted about gluten free options at restaurants here.)

I that that is why I never liked cooking, because I never really liked eating before now.  Food and I just didn't get along and I thought it was a big waste of time.  Now, I enjoy what I make because it is safe for me to eat and is healthy for us.  I also get to eat a lot more than if I go out because I know that what I made is gluten free, so it's just easier. 

We get really tired of the same old thing while school is in, and even though we eat the same thing every day for lunch, we try to change it up for dinners every week.  This year, we started cooking on Sundays for dinner on Monday - Wednesday and then again on Thursday for that night through Saturday.  Sunday we always eat gluten free spaghetti with Ragu sauce, it's a family tradition (except that my grandma made homemade sauce and we just don't have time!).  It has worked really well and we haven't repeated a week so far, and we are seven weeks in.  I feel like I'm getting better and better and Ian says the food is delicious (and of course I agree) so it's a win-win!

At first, I started making gluten free recipes that I found online.  I saw this one, after making some horrible gluten free (box mix) cookies and wished I had all of the strange ingredients that it required, so I got them on Amazon.  For the next three weekends in a row we made these cookies and they were delicious, just like the real thing!

Then I started wondering - why don't I just substitute gluten free flour for regular flour in all of the recipes, and not worry so much about finding a gluten free recipe for something I want to make?  So, that's what I started to do and made some really delicious stuff:

(Weight Watchers vegetable lasagna and all we did is sub out the noodles with these ones below.)

(Fish and chips made with Glutino Gluten Free Bread Crumbs, cod, olive oil and baked cut up potatoes.)

(GF gumbo made with this.  You will have to add your own spices because it is kind of bland, and it is a VERY complicated recipe taking days and many steps.  Turned out pretty good though.  We also tried a Chicken and Wild Rice soup mix and it was yummy also, you will just have to spice that up too!)

(This is one of my favorite Weight Watchers recipes - Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken.  You need flour to make it so we just subbed Bob's Red Mill GF All Purpose Flour instead.)

And, I don't know who I thought we were but we started making breakfast on Saturday mornings.  I wanted to use my Norpo Dutch Baby Pan that my dad got me so I tried to make a dutch baby, then apple pancake and then blueberry blintzes.  We stopped this weekly tradition after gaining 5 pounds but here they are for your enjoyment!  (And anyone that knows us well knows that Ian rarely wears a shirt at home!)

(This is a dutch baby and it's made mostly of eggs but has some flour too.  You make it and then put powdered sugar and lemon on top - my favorite.  I first had one here and I was hooked!  And, the gf kind tastes just like the original!) 

(Then, of course, I had to make the other recipe that was the dutch baby box, the Apple Pancake.  Sooooo good with caramel drizzle on top!)

Every year we go to Easter brunch at a place that has blintzes.  Well, since I can't eat them anymore I wanted to try to make them on my own.  This was a super complicated task and I ended up using three different recipes to get the crepe, filling and blueberries right.  They are so hard to make because you are essentially making three things at a time and then baking the finished product - but not before feeding it your your husband with raw eggs and almost poisoning him!  I also had a Magic Bullet mishap during this and should have taken a picture but was too shocked at the GIANT mess I made that I just hurried to clean it up before Ian got home from the store!

And with all the good cooking comes some bad choices once in a while and we definitely made one with these noodles from Wal-Mart.  I thought they were good at first but as I continued to eat them, all I tasted was corn.  So, I'm going to stick with all rice noodles from now on.

We also watched this documentary about tap water and bottled water a couple of weeks ago and decided to get BPA free 5 gallon water bottles.  We previously had water delivered every month from but decided that we'd get our own, better bottles (since they didn't offer a BPA free option) and fill them up ourselves with filtered water from Water and Ice.  A better choice for our health and our environment.

I post these recipes and pictures in hopes that other people who are gf can learn something and use them.  It is new to me and I've appreciated all that I've read, so I hope I can do the same for others.  Bon Appetit!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Modern Medicine

Since I have been in the hospital twice this last year, and Ian has been once, my view of doctors and medicine have totally changed.  I feel as though we get drugs to mask our problems but never to fix them.  I spent 32 years thinking that either my stomach didn't have a problem or that it was something else (and took a pill for "chronic pain" for years), when all I could have done was stopped eating gluten.  It is shame what the medical profession has done to all of us. 

My mother-in-law has a teacher at her school that was doubled over in pain for years.  The doctors (many at different hospitals) thought it was something else, or didn't look hard enough, and this guy just never got better.  Finally, one doctor listened and now he is on the path to recovery.  Our friend Will had the same thing happen to him.   He was diagnosed with Crone's disease, thought he'd have to live his whole life with it, couldn't eat anything and was in and out of the hospital when someone finally figured it out.  All he had was a fungus from being exposed to mold and yeast and now he is almost better.  Imagine that.

My favorite doctors over this past year have been the ones at urgent care because they listen to you and have everything there in case you need to give blood, get an x-ray, an EKG and so on.  Even the guy who has been my primary care doctor, and who I really liked for years, has stopped listening.  They always rush you through, hurry you along and prescribe you some drug that will make you feel better in the moment.  I want to go back to a time where wellness was a long term thing, something everyone focused on and took steps to improve over time.  Something we relied on herbs for and talking through our illnesses, instead of just drugs that would make you forget but have horrible long term affects.

This past couple of weeks Ian and I tried acupuncture and herbal remedies for the first time.  I have always taken vitamins (because I exercise so much and eat pretty sparingly) but I actually bought some herbs to help with fertility and hormones.  Ian has been suffering from chostochrondritis since January and nothing has seemed to help him, even though he has seen two doctors and been prescribed 3 different things.  So, we thought we'd give it a chance.  My friend Jenny and I had been talking about fertility acupuncture for awhile, and then she got a client who was certified in it so we all went and tried it out. 

The place is a community acupuncture place, so you do not lie on a white table in a stark room with needles sticking out of you, administered by someone in a lab coat.  Instead, it is a large room surrounded by curtains with comfy armchairs, relaxing music playing and low lighting.  Mayo, who owns the place, is very knowledgeable about what she does, she listens to your concerns and ailments and then chooses the right energy path for you when applying the needles.  She takes the time to explain things to you, listens and is very calming with her voice.  You instantly feel comfortable and relaxed.  You sit with the needles for about 40 minutes, try to relax (even though it is so hard for me!) and just let the blood flow through you.  Afterwards you feel really calm and drained, like you've just had an hour massage, and then you go home kind of floating throughout the day.  The needles don't hurt but you are kind of achy afterwards, that means it's working.  We really enjoyed the experience and I've gone again since, I think it's something I'd like to add to my health routine, it is like the yoga of medicine for me.  I asked if I could bring a book or something (reading is my favorite) because I am not the type of person to fall asleep in a strange place, and trying to relax is nerve-wracking for me, but I couldn't read because of the needles in my wrists.  Maybe next time I will try my iPad, playing Solitaire always relaxes me.  :)  Last time we went, we were the only ones there so Jenny, Mayo and I talked the whole time and that was more relaxing to me - and fun!

Ian has also been trying fire cupping at home to get the blood moving through his chest.  It looks silly while he is doing it, but seems to be working for him.  He just takes a lighter and puts it briefly inside a cup and the presses it to his skin and leaves it there, suctioned.  I have also started massaging him every night to work his joints and that benefits him too.  Glucosomine (for joints), stinging nettle and turmeric are herbs/vitamins he has been trying with a good outcome.  (Check out this article on the best supplements for men, but research each one if you are worried about interactions.)  He is so tired of feeling bad and I don't blame him, it sounds miserable.  I talked to a friend who is a physical therapist and he says that chostochrondritis doesn't usually last this long so I'm so sad for my hubby that he still doesn't feel well.

Mayo, the acupuncturist, recommended that I try red raspberry leaf (tea) and dong quai root for fertility.  The tea helps the reproductive system and the herb helps regulate your hormones.  I got the raspberry leaf supplements too and have been taking them a couple of times a day because you have to drink a lot of tea to get the affects.  The dong quai scared me when I tried it the other night because I'm allergic to so many things and I was worried about it being one of them.  It can be used as a muscle relaxer and is a root and when I started feeling funny and my mouth started to itch, I stopped drinking it (I had it in a dropper that you put in water).  I am too scared but it seems to have so many great benefits.

I have had such terrible experiences with doctors over this past year, it's unbelievable.  I almost died from an allergic reaction to an allergy shot because the office didn't make me wait the required amount of time and I left my OB because they failed to read my chart after my miscarriage and made me tell my whole story multiple times.  I had a heart doctor tell me that the only cure for my fast heartbeat was to go in through a main artery to see if something was wrong (surgery) and a pregnancy specialist for tachycardia (fast heartbeat, totally normal) charge me a $50 copay for just talking to her, with no advice given.  It is overwhelming and sad, and you get frustrated with the system.  Aren't these people supposed to help me?  Aren't they supposed to listen to me?  You feel as though they don't care, like you are just another number to them (or dollar sign).  I think over time doctors forget, they get caught in a routine, like all of us, and just see us as someone else, shuffling through.  Will I be one of those parents who doesn't give their children medicine and instead gives them herbs?  I am pretty close to this scenario.

The biggest in your face to the industry are the facts.  I recently watched this movie and I know it is one-sided but you can't deny the facts.  Countries that use midwives have less death during childbirth than ones who don't.  And out of all my friends/family I have seen c-sections rushed and options not given.  My blog friend Ashley had a natural, water birth with a midwife and loved it, so amazing (click on her name for her birth story).  Really makes you think.

Anyway, try it out.  See if there is an herb that can help you instead of seeing a doctor.  Explore your options, do the research, don't just rely on what someone tells you.  Find someone who will listen, someone who will really help.  And this truly will be "modern medicine."  Feel better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Friend

My step-mother passed away from breast cancer over 3 years ago and today is her birthday.

I've been thinking of her a lot lately and wishing so much that she was still in my life.  The older I get the more I could have used her advice, and her thoughts.  She had the best things to say when you had a problem, and awlays had empathy for you.  She was one of the first people who told me about yoga, and I actually went to my first real yoga class with one of her good friends, Peri, after she died.  Leslee had a way with words, she was always very matter-of-fact and told you how it was, but was also encouraging and thoughtful.  I miss her point of view.

The older I get I miss her more and more.  She was there for me as a friend and I liked that I could relate to her in that way.  When I found a lump on my own breast (just a cyst), she went with me to get my first mammogram (ouch!).  I learned so much about cancer from her, and admired her positivity even when she was frustrated with it.  I know that it took a lot for her to get up every morning - put on a wig and do her makeup, but she always looked flawless and effortless.

She was sick for a very long time and she and my dad formed a tight bond and didn't let anyone really know just how hard it was.  It was a difficult time because I was selfish and wondered why I didn't see my dad as much as I used to, not thinking of how sick Leslee was and how he had a lot on his mind, taking care of her.  I wish that I would have spent more time with her and gotten to know her better.  I wish she had never been sick.  I wish I had been older and more aware of what was going on.  (I know that almost 4 years ago I was 29, but the difference between 29 and 33 is a big one, even though it is just a couple of years.)

I was at the hospital with her when she was very sick before she passed away.  It was the first time I had ever experienced someone dying of cancer, it was very sad.  I know she is not in pain anymore and that she watches over my dad and I.  I know that she is so happy we are so close, and that I'm here to watch out for him when she's not.  I also realize that as I write this, she would have hated this post about her, that's just how she was.  (After walking in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for years she finally said, "What has Susan G. Komen ever done for us?"  So we started "sleeping in for the cure" instead!)  My dad and Leslee have a biting wit and a sarcastic sense of humor, to know them is to love them.  And, I love her dearly and miss her - so this post today is for her.

When leaving the hospital while she was sick I listened to
this song on repeat and cried my eyes out (I still can't listen to it all the way through).  It makes me think of how many people out there are leaving the hospital or heading to one, to visit loved ones.  This event taught me compassion for others, real compassion, for the first time in my life.  That person who cuts you off or is in a hurry, maybe they are running on an hour of sleep, rushing to see their person, their love.  My dad spent a month in the hospital, over Christmas and New Years, and none of it mattered, he had to be there, for her because that's what you do.  It makes you think, and teaches you to be more accepting and forgiving of others.  There are other people out there in the world, something we tend to forget once in awhile, especially when we're young.

I know what this song is really supposed to be about, but to me, it is for Leslee, I think of her every time I hear it.  My dad and I have talked many times about when you die, the only way you still exist is with the people who remember you.  What happens when they die?  Are you then forgotten?  The lyrics speak these thoughts.  I plan on telling my children about Leslee - about her courage and strength.  That way, she will live on long after she's gone.  Be rememembered - this is so important.

Happy Birthday Leslee, I miss you.

From "Samson" by Regina Spektor

You are my sweetest downfall.
I loved you first, I loved you first.
Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth.
I have to go, I have to go.
Your hair was long when we first met.

Samson went back to bed,
not much hair left on his head.
He ate a slice of Wonderbread
and went right back to bed.
And history books forgot about us
and the Bible didn't mention us.
The Bible didn't mention us, not even once.

 (Since it is almost my birthday, this was taken very close to exactly 5 years ago.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Let Go, Jump In

Woke up singing this song today.  It has been a very interesting week and the words are speaking to me.  What a beautiful morning, welcome to 90 degree weather Phoenix, it has been a brutal end of summer!

So let go, jump in.
Oh well, whatcha waiting for?
It's alright,
'cause there's beauty in the breakdown.
So let go, just get in
oh, it's so amazing here.
It's alright
'cause there's beauty in the breakdown.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Reunion Reflection

A concert is coming up for two bands that I liked when I was younger and I am going with an old friend.  It makes me think of all the people in my life I have met along the way and who have helped to shape me into who I am.  It is a reunion of sorts and a definite way to reflect on who I was, who I will become and the future me.

When you are younger, you have many friends.  As you get older, your friends dwindle and you come out with only a few close ones, but they are close in a way you never thought you'd have closeness.  They are truly family.  All the people you met along the way, however, added to your life and were important to you at that moment in time.  They add to the backpack of your life, that sack you carry with you to put things in, things you have learned.  Sometimes you fill it with regret, hope, love and all of the lessons learned.  I tell my students this, everything they do and experience now, will make them who they will become.  The good and the bad, the crying moments and the laughing ones.  And, exploring your past will give you further insight into the person you are today and everything that lead up to this moment in time.

One of my favorite books by Robert Fulghum talks about reunions:
The high school reunion event is a powerful ritual occasion, whether you decide to go or not.  And the real reunion is not with other people so much as it is with yourself.  Daily, we reunite with self in the bathroom mirror.  The first high school reunion is an invitation to look into a larger mirror.

Some people never go to reunions or go just once.  Some regret going.  And there are those who attend every reunion occasion that comes up as long as they live.  Whatever you are inclined to do, I have formed a strong opinion out of my experience:  The odds are in favor that the re-view in the mirror will lead you to the kind of self-revelation we associate with wisdom.  Which is why I say you should go at least once.  Go and see who you were or else you will never fully understand who you are and who you yet may become.  The mirror always has something to tell you.
I went to my 10 year high school reunion and had a blast.  It was in 2006 and I was so nervous because all of my close friends are a year younger than me, but Ian and I went anyway.  We met up with some friends, had drinks and enjoyed the show - running into people I used to know and seeing how their lives have ended up so far.  I learned something very important about myself that night, something I would not have realized unless I had gone back.  I am so happy I went.  And it's funny, we think this is final, this 10 year reunion.  But at our 20th, it will be a different show with a different focus and the same at our 40th or 50th.  We will be different people with a fuller backpack and more life experience.  Isn't that funny?

  (November 2006, the night of my 10 year reunion.)

There are many kind of reunions, not just these big events.  This concert I'm going to will be a reunion of sorts and it makes me think of all of the people I have met in my life.  I truly believe that each and every one of them added to who I am today and that I took something valuable away from our relationship.  Sometimes relationships end amicably and sometimes they don't, and many times I reflect on this ending.  I even think that different parts of my life have gone a certain way because of the choices I've made, the karma I've created for myself.  But either way, I thank each and every one of them for being in my life at the time because I believe they added something important.  And I know this works both ways, I have taught them something about themselves also.  All of your life events, all of your experiences have shaped someone, and hopefully they have taken something good away from it.  This is a true test - everyone gets knocked down and it's how many times you can get back up that shows your strength.  Instead of focusing on the negative that comes from the past, focus on what you have learned.

I read a book once called Life After Life where it explored a bunch of people's near death experiences.  (It is an eye-opener and if you are into that I suggest you read it.)  Out of all the people studied many of them had common things happen to them as they were dying and one of them was a bunch of pictures of their life flashing before their eyes.  I know you've heard of this before but something in this book affected me - they weren't just pictures like you were watching a move of your life.  Instead, as everything was happening and as you were watching, you were feeling what was going on too.  So if it was a good moment you were feeling the feelings you felt at that time, the happiness and the joy.  But if it was a moment where you upset someone or hurt them, you would feel how it made them feel.  That's something to think about.  After reading that it really makes you think about how you treat others, or how you've treated people in the past.  The sadness and heartbreak, you will feel it just as they did.  Wow.  It makes you think about your future actions and how from this moment forward you can change that, you can do better.

As I turn 33 in a few weeks I feel so old.  But as I think about my life and how many years I have yet to work before retirement and all the things I still want to do, I realize that I am not even yet to the middle of my life - so really I am so young.  It's just amazing with a difference 20 to 30 is and I can't even imagine the difference from 30-40.  We think we know so much as we go through life, but then your mind opens up - bad things happen, really good things happen, life happens and then you realize you knew absolutely nothing.  And it's true, you wonder where all the time went and you start forgetting parts of your life.  Robert Fulghum reflects on this too while sitting on top of his purchased grave plot):
Sitting for an afternoon on his own grave, he has had one of the potent experiences when the large pattern of his life has been unexpectedly reviewed:  the past, birth, childhood, adolescence, marriage, career, the present, and the future.  He has confronted finitude - the limits of life.  The fact that his own death lies before him and beneath him - raising the questions of the when and the where and the how of it.  What shall he do with his life between now and then?

I tell you these things with such certainty because the man is me.  I speak of him in third person because I often think of him in third person.  He's the man in the bathroom mirror I see every day.  For as long as I can remember, I have gone to meet him each morning.  And I see him each night before I go to bed.  Sometimes I ask myself:  Who is he?  What will become of him?  This daily consideration of the reflection of the man in the mirror is the oldest ritual of my life.  A sacred habit.  

I recall when I was a kid going through puberty.  I anxiously checked to see if he was becoming taller, growing hair, and getting pimples.  I felt older than the kid in the mirror.  Now I notice he's going through middle age, and I worry when I see he is growing wider, losing hair, and getting wrinkles.  That man in the mirror is older than I am now.  While I've been thirty for many years, he'll be fifty-eight next June.

I see his white hair and beard, the lines in his face, the liver spots an scars on his hands, the sagging of his flesh.  And I wonder how far from making use of his gravesite he might be?  He certainly looks closer to death than I am.
Every single time I look in the mirror and see a gray hair or a wrinkle I think of this passage.  Who is this person standing in front of me, staring back at me?  What has she done in her life, what is she going to do?  Who will she become?  What events/people will shape her life even more in the future?

So, as this reunion comes I think of my past and am happy for it.  I have some regrets but have learned from all of my experiences - so there really is no room for regret.  The person that doesn't learn from their mistakes is someone without remorse, someone to worry about.  I thank all the people I have met along the way and realize that each one of them was so important to me at a certain time in my life.  I am sorry for heartache and heartbreak, but am happy that we learned something together about ourselves.  You added to my backpack and made me a better person, and the things I have learned along the way will make me an even better friend, wife, daughter, sister and mother.  I am looking forward to another reunion, a place where I can find out something else about myself, from my past.

I encourage you to revisit your past and use it as a time to reflect.  Look in that mirror and see if you like what you see.  See if you can do better, we can always do better. 

Update 9/11/10:
Went to the show and it was a blast!  Saw old friends, saw people I knew that I knew but didn't know their names, ran around with a good friend like it was 1999 and ended up with no voice by 12am.  So much fun!

(Pulled out the tape of one of my favorite bands, who were playing, from 1997-98 so I could listen to it in the car on the way over.  Yep, I still have a tape player!)

(Keep Away rockin it!)

(June and I)