The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rebirth and Death

The last week has been tough. My uncle is dying. My mom flew up to NY and she is staying with me. I have been driving her to his home on Long Island every day to visit. She is flying back home to Florida tomorrow, which means today is probably the last day she will spend with her brother. Today's good byes will be their final good byes. I am so glad that we brought her up to NY while he is still well enough for them to enjoy their time together and they had much to share and remember. But watching this unfold against the backdrop of the earth reawakening is breaking my heart. He will never see the trees and flowers blooming or feel the warmth of the sun on the back of his neck. Such is the circle of life, and dealing with the death of our loved ones is something we all endure. It is part of an ordinary life. But it is still heart wrenching.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

BIG and Little

Over the past few months, I have made some BIG changes in my diet and therefore, in my lifestyle. But being on a restricted diet and taking control of your food is a BIG commitment. It takes planning and preparation which can be difficult to manage if you work full-time. I don't, so that makes it a little easier. But the payoff has been BIG. Most notably, I have reduced the antihistamine meds I am taking to control my chronic hives from 2 to 1 per day. I am also sleeping better. I am getting more exercise especially as we transition into spring. So overall, I feel better physically and mentally.

But over the last week or two, there have been many little erosions in my autoimmune protocol. There was Passover seder, my mother visiting and her wanting to take the family out to dinner, a trip to the New York Botanical Garden and the Garden Cafe chili, my birthday including gluten-free cupcakes (but still cupcakes!). The result has been little yet noticeable changes in my well-being. I've woken up with 2 or 3 hives over the last few days. And yesterday my stomach was messed up and I got really overheated (cold sweat and ringing ears) in the tropical climate at the orchid show.

So it's back to basics..... good quality food, no (or almost no) sugar, paleo autoimmune protocol with some tweeks, cooking almost all my food, packing lunch and sometimes dinner, and exercising and enjoying time outdoors. I definitely do not want all the little changes to add up to big changes to my health and well-being. I'm worth the time and effort.

This weekend I made cauli rice, paleo brisket in the crockpot, veracruz red snapper, broccoli rabe with garlic and lemon, kale chips, roasted shoestring beets, and a big tossed salad. Don't you wish you could have dinner at my house?

Friday, March 29, 2013


Holidays...... holidays bring many families together and often there is food involved. And so it was with my family celebrating Passover. Passover is one of my most favorite holidays. For me it's about celebrating spring's rebirth as much as it is about freedom. This year everyone in my family (brother, mother, nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles and associated spouses and partners) agreed to celebrate on Sunday, even though Passover was Monday night. My sister-in-law had the day on Sunday to get ready. Nobody had to rush to get there after work. There was much less traffic traveling down the NJ Turnpike. But most important, we had more time to spend together. I happen to love my family and cherish time we can be together. That is the way it is supposed to be, but I know it doesn't always work that way.

Every year my brother prepares a game show for us to play. Last year it was Let's Make a Deal and this year it was The Price is Right. We had to guess the prices of all the products my sister-in-law used to prepare our seder. Do you know the price of a 14 oz container of Manischewitz matzo farfel..... do you even know what matzo farfel is? The money we earned in the Price is Right was then used in a gift exchange Yankee Swap style. OMG. My uncle ended up with a pink striped plunger. The whole event was hilarious.

My family will be together again very soon. My niece is getting married in 5 weeks. I'm so excited. So much to celebrate as winter melts away to spring.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I'm Walking

I can't run, but I've been trying to do some good old fashioned walking. Given the choice: outdoors or the gym, I will take the outdoors option every single time. I am willing to put on extra layers and navigate sections of snow covered trails to avoid the gym. I have been exploring the the options close to home, and Teatown is becoming one of my favorite walking/hiking destinations. The loop around the lake is 1.5 miles, and totally flat, perfect for a "quickie." But there are many miles of trails with hills aplenty. I always bring tunes and I often bring a camera.

Today was one of those early spring days that felt more like winter than spring. It was more cloudy than sunny and windy too. Temps into the low 40s. I walked along the lake and then took one of the trails that climbs fairly steeply then descends back down to the lake. I set my music to "shuffle" and spent about 90 minutes breathing in the cool fresh air and contemplating the colors of winter. I moved slowly through the snow covered sections to decrease the chances of slipping or falling. I watched the swans sticking their heads in the water to find food. I saw a few other people, but most of the time I had only myself to keep me company.

I came home, made myself a cup of tea, and then started to do the things I needed to get done. A very peaceful day.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

No Excuses

When Paula posted a ride earlier in the week, I'm sure she was thinking it would be a high 40s kinda day. Not so! But I really want to be on my bike. I feel like I have a good amount of catching up to do, and the only way I am going to figure out what I can and cannot do with my cranky knees, is to ride. So I signed up, and showed up with full winter gear-- many layers, warm gloves, balaclava and shoe covers. When we rolled out of the parking lot at 10:00 this morning, it was hovering right around 32 degrees. And it didn't get much warmer than that. Those first few miles (which were downhill!) were brutal. A couple of people almost turned around! But we did warm up eventually. Our destination was a nice warm coffee shop, where we all warmed our insides with hot beverages. The route home had most of the climbing, so we warmed up quickly once we left the warm coziness of the coffee shop. Twenty 3 miles. Not too shabby for us slowpokes in mid-March. I expect to sleep well tonight!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Paleo Prep

Since going "paleo" I have made the effort to prepare for the work week by prepping and cooking over the weekend. That is not a bad strategy for anyone trying to improve the healthiness of their diet. But it's even more important for PALEO people on the autoimmine protocol because it is not as easy to find appropriate food at the corner deli. And nobody likes to come home from work or the gym at 8:00 in the evening and have to start cooking. I almost always pack my lunch and often I pack 2 meals. If I don't work late, I usually go to the gym after work. It seems to work better for me to have food before walking through Grand Central Terminal...... I won't be tempted to buy something that is "off limits." So since making the decision to give paleo AIP an honest effort, I have put time and effort into food prep. Here is what I did last weekend:
• Browsed some recipes, make at least 1 decision about 1 protein main meal. I decided to try curry meatballs using the recipe from PaleOMG
• Went shopping! Bought all nutritious paleo foods..... cauliflower, kale, avocados, salad veggies, coconut milk, wild fish, etc.
• Prepped the cauliflower, washed, broke up into florets. Shredded half of it and prepared cauli rice (should have done the whole head).
• Prepped the kale, washed, stripped from the stems and tore into chunky pieces. Cooked up 1 tray of kale chips. Ate them. Rest of the kale in the frig ready for cooking.
• Threw big bag of frozen chicken and turkey bones into crockpot, covered with water, threw in a few other ingedients and let it slow cook for 14 hours. Resulted in beautiful bone broth.
• Cut 2 sweet potatoes into matchsticks (might be time to invest in mandoline) and made oven baked fries. Love these.
• Made a batch of curry meatballs. Forgot 1 key ingredient. Still delicious. Cannot wait to make them the right way. Used just made bone broth.
• Threw some spices on 3 pieces of boneless chicken breasts, threw them in toaster oven. Sliced up to add to lunch salads.
• Baked a piece of scrod with ground pecans, orange zest and orange slices. Dinner for 2 and lunch for another.
• Hard boiled 4 eggs, for breakfasts. Really good with some of the curry sauce from the meatballs!
• Made big garden salad for dinner and 2 lunches (see chicken note above).

That was alot of work! But over most of the work week, DH and I ate meals of nutritious delicious good for you food. Other than a cup of tea, I have not spent any money on take-out, lunches, snacks, etc.
Bottom line: Time spent over the weekend has made it much easier to eat well over the week and still work and play.
Downside: although it was a good time investment, it did take a good chunk of time. I'm not sure I will always have that much time to do this. Also requires planning and thought, and remembering to pack meals for the next day. Plus I am always shlepping a bag of food to work in addition to all the other things I carry around on a daily basis. It can get heavy. Luckily I don't walk very far.

What will I cook this weekend?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Knees. Wheat. Hives. Paleo.

"It's always something..." That's what Roseanne Roseannadanna always said (many of you are too young to remember Gilda Radner's character on Saturday Night Live). I've been facing my share of "somethings" over the last 6 months, some more challenging than others. The end result is finding myself in a different place physically than I was when I went cycling in the Canadian Rockies over the summer. That put me in a not so great place mentally. After too much time on the couch, I finally got my act together. My physical/health issues are what they are, and while they may impose limitations on what I can do, I know that continuing rest (slothdom) is NOT going to be beneficial. So I am making a come-back. I turned off the TV. I am back in the gym. I am eating very differently and very clean. Right now my goal is to resume an active healthy lifestyle. I am mixing and matching--cycling, walking, zumba, strength training, yoga. I might even get back in the pool.....I might even get back in the pool for some deep-water running! Right now I don't have any specific goals--races or events--I just want to feel better.

Here are my "somethings:"

1. My left knee is arthritic. I am convinced that this in fact traumatic arthritis resulting from Shelly v. Truck. The force of that gigantic "push" traveled down my butt through my leg and that side of my body has never been the same. I feel it most climbing up and down stairs. My running days are over, that's for sure. But I have been doing lots of walking. I did enjoy a beautiful afternoon of snowshoeing. I am supposed to be receiving an injection of Syn-Visc, which is kinda like a synthetic joint lubricant, but the combination of insurance company and specialty pharmacy is proving to be a giant black hole. But this black hole has given me the opportunity to explore "alternative" treatment. That leads me to

2. Wheat free. After reading Wheat Belly, I decided to give it a try. No bagels. no pizza. no sandwiches. no bagels. no cookies. no cake. no bagels. no croissants. no biscotti. did I mention no bagels? It was tough in the beginning, but the payoff has been huge. My knee is still not normal, stairs still hurt, but have have far less pain, especially overnight. I have no need for painkillers which is good because

3. Hives. Back in November when I was taking up to 4 Aleve per day (which is what my orthopedist recommended), I started to get Hives. Big red patches of itchy hives from my neck down to my knees and everywhere in between. I stopped taking the Aleve, but I still had Hives every day. Saw a dermatologist, started taking antihistamines, still getting Hives, saw an allergist. I have been diagnosed with AICU--autoimmune chronic urticaria (that's the fancy name for Hives). I am not sure if the Aleve was the trigger, but I am not taking any NSAIDs any time soon. The allergist changed up my antihistamines and the hives are under control if not totally eradicated. But that diagnosis had me reading about the connection between autoimmune disease, leaky gut syndrome and nutrition. After finding success by eliminating wheat, I decided it was time to go

4. Paleo. About three weeks ago, I cleaned out the pantry and the frig and gave away a big box of food. No grains. No dairy. No legumes. No soy. No processed food. No sugar. What do I eat? high quality lean meats, vegetables, some fruit, some nuts and seeds. I am also leaning toward the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP) which also eliminates nightshades: eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. I noticed a difference in how I felt after 1 week. At 2 weeks, I stopped taking 1 of the 2 antihistamines and the Hives are still under control. It's not easy, but again, I feel so much better and empowered!

So where does that leave me and my blog? Somewhere very different than when I first started blogging. Maybe that's why I haven't been. I haven't decided if I will keep blogging, but I do feel a certain need to write about this "paradigm shift." There's a very vibrant online community of paleo people battling autoimmune disease. Might make some new bloggy friends along the way. So stayed tuned for the next chapter of Vergence Ranges......after all, it's still about "the ins and outs of an ordinary life."