Update

Sevilla, Part II

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Oh, so much to do and so little time - that was the biggest problem we had while in Seville.  The city is not that large and it is packed with ancient artifacts, which means we walked (a lot) and around every corner we did that gasping “wow”.

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One of my favorite things about these deeply historic European cities is that you may find on a tiny little cobbled street a pair of huge shabby oak doors and then you open them up and you find this dazzling church inside complete with priceless art, beautiful stonework and an indulgent alter.

 

 

 

Life at home can get frenetic and one of the things I love about getting away is it changes your perspective.  It gives you a chance to take a breath about those huge issues that are really small issues that are bothering you.  Heck, you can’t do anything about it from three thousand miles away.  I had not felt this chilled and relaxed in a long time.

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The gelato is so delicious.  I think I ate my weight in it during my trip.  There are gelato stores EVERYWHERE, so it’s just too easy to pick up a scoop several times a day.  I gave myself a challenge to try every flavor, I just may have succeeded. 

 

I managed to pick up a cooking class while in Seville.  It was so well organized and a wonderful experience.  The meeting point was in a local market and the first hour of the class involved searching for the ingredients we would need for the menu.

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Then we went back to the cooking classroom and started cooking.  We made gazpacho, creamed spinach and chick peas, but my favorite was making paella from scratch.  The whole process took about 2 hours (but did not feel that long because they kept us well supplied with sangria).  From making the chicken stock from the carcass, to deboning a chicken the right way, to just the right amount of saffron and how you toast and crush it, to the adding of the rice at the end. 

Little known facts.

  • When you add the rice do not do not stir it.
  • You simmer the paella until there is almost no liquid left and there is a crust on the bottom.
  • If you order paella at a restaurant and it takes less than 30 minutes to come out, it is not paella!!!

I think one of my favorite times in Seville was at night.  The locals all disappeared in the afternoon to miss the heat of the day (sensible people) but at about 8pm everyone appeared, the tapas bars were hopping, children were playing in the plaza, the light began to fade just enough that there is an ethereal glow over everything especially those ancient buildings.

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This is the cathedral, which has a mixture of Roman, Arabian and Catholic influences.  If you climb the tower (which I have) you will not find any steps, just lots of ramps…in case you want to ride your horse to the top…. which I did not!

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We were sad to leave but did so with many happy memories of spending time with Jenny and Elliot and exploring yet another striking and ancient city with a hope that we will return one day.

A Review of a Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan

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My very informed son suggested I read this, and as I always do what my adult children tell me (because they are usually right!), I bought the book, listened to the podcast, got the T-shirt!

The book is written by an integrative psychiatrist (holistic approach to mental health issues) especially written for women who have depression and anxiety issues.  I was so blown away by it to the extent that I have been buying extra copies and giving them away.

The premise of the book is the best way to heal the mind is to heal the body.  With some serious changes to diet and lifestyle, depression and other mental health diagnoses cannot just be helped but cured.  That’s a bold statement but she has anecdotal evidence from years and years of patients successfully implementing her guidelines and resolving all their issues

Kelly states that it all begins in the gut, if the gut flora is off then there is an imbalance in the body, especially the brain affecting mood.  She recommends that you eliminate gluten and dairy (oh boy no more pizza!), drink filtered water, because the water table is full of drugs and bugs and the EPA know and are doing nothing about it (this I think is outrageous), stop taking synthetic hormones like the contraceptive pill and incorporate meditation and yoga into your schedule and stop wearing perfume - now that is going a little too far, I am really not willing to give up my Estee Lauder habit! And absolutely no alcohol.  She also recommends adding an Omega 3, Vitamin B6 and B12 and a multi vitamin. 

So as a lifelong sufferer of depression and anxiety and a spring where I unexpectedly was struggling with this I decided to give it a go.   

Week 1: I was miserable, no cheese or wine what is the point of going on!  I was not too hungry but was craving dairy and bread all week, but I valiantly soldiered on.

Week 2:  Much much better, getting in my stride, beginning to feel lighter and glowing (skin clear and bright).

Week 3:  Becoming a lifestyle.  I think adding the vitamins has been key, Omega 3 and the B6 vitamins are closely linked to mood disorders and most of us are deficient in these so no wonder we are sad.

One of the points that Kelly is quite insistent on is getting rid of all psych meds as soon as possible.  I knew this was a no-go for me as soon as I read it.  She may be right but I will never, never give up my meds, I think it could be potentially disaster for me and my family may well leave me on a top of a mountain with no supplies and no chance of escape if I did that.  It would not be a gift to me or my family.

Kelly sees patients in New York and will not even see you if you do not eat meat (meat is rich in B vitamins) so I am not going to see her anytime soon because I am quite happy being a vegetarian/vegan thank you.

She also recommends you get rid of all the chemicals in your house.  Now steady on, as a self-proclaimed OCD cleaner I would have a hard time giving up my Lysol and my Bleach, but I am willing to do in baby steps so the dishwasher cleaner just went organic as did hand soap and shampoo!

All in all, a very very interesting read. Most of all it gave me a plan to make some healthy lifestyle changes on my own which gives me some sense of destiny of a lifelong issue with depression that I can control with certain interventions.

STOP PRESS:  Just had the results of some routine blood tests.  After a month on this regime my A1C (indicator of blood sugar) dropped over a point which I have been battling for a couple of years and the doc also recommended a cut to my thyroid medicine (which has never happened) because my thyroid is beginning to function better – yeah for healthy living!

Still doing the raw diet as much as I can and pretty much vegan 90% of the time.  Does not suit everyone but my body does seem to like it so we will carry on.

Until the next time, 

Angie 

Where the Heck Have I Been?

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Been MIA for a while from the blogging world - a combination of some serious writer’s block, finishing a semester with a lot of very intense children’s yoga lessons (can you imagine 20 kids doing the Very Hungry Caterpillar yoga!), and the beginning of summer where my mind and my body was begging me to breathe, be still and so, I did.

But I’m back. Life has been full and fulfilling in the meantime.

We went to New Hampshire to spend time with the lovely Joe and Chelsea and climb some mountains.  On this day the sky was so clear we could see Canada in one direction and Maine in the other.

 

We said goodbye to Elliot and Jenny, who had been home for 10 weeks (oh how I loved having them here).  They have embarked on their next adventure to Seville, Spain via Portugal. They are having a ball. We Facetime a lot.

We took lots of beautiful walks around the reservoir and because the spring and summer have been so wet (oh when will it ever stop raining?) everything is very lush and green.

We took some day trips.  This one is to Longwood Gardens - my happy place, acres and acres of gardens full of flowers and fountains. 

And the adventures continue, some wonderful things planned in September including a trip to Seville to see Elliot and Jenny.  A trip to New Hampshire to do more hiking and spend time with Joe and Chelsea and a fun visit from one of my special god-daughters, Ruth. (I have several and they are all special!)

Until the next time,

Angie 

My House is Full

So, this happened, these two kids came home!

Elliot and his lovely girlfriend Jenny have been traveling around Southeast Asia (in particular, Thailand and Indonesia) for 8 months…well because they can. We spoke often while they were away but it’s always better to have them in the flesh. We picked them up from JFK and the laughter, endless making of food and laundry line began and I could not be happier!

We have been babysitting Jenny’s dog, Lulu, for 8 months while they were away.  This sweet girl.

She was so happy to see her mommy at the airport. And she showed her love by pooping and throwing up on Jenny on the way home!

 

Since they have been home there has been a lot of this...

This is a crazy week where I am teaching 10 yoga classes - my most to date! Eight classes for children and two adult classes. I am both excited and overwhelmed by the prospect.  One thing I am noticing is that it is hard to get to a yoga class for my own mental health benefit.  I know this is a common problem for yoga teachers as the week is consumed with class planning and teaching.  I am trying to get out of my comfort zone and go to classes at other studios who have classes at odd times but that fit my schedule.  This is a little daunting for me as I am not known for doing well going into a room with a whole load of people I do not know, but I am just going to put my big girl panties on and deal with it.

I am also in the final week of teaching a BSN (nursing class) which is always crazy because I have to grade super long final projects and make sure my grade book is up to date.

It's a bit chaotic, but all really good stuff with a house full of kids and dogs, belly laughs and joy. 

I wish the same for you! 

Xo, Angie

Raw Food Update

It’s been over 6 weeks since I started this 2-week Raw Food Diet experiment.  I kinda got into a groove and am enjoying it so much I just want to keep going.  I feel great, the eczema on my skin is completely cleared up and I have more energy and less brain fog than I did.

I am not being purist or rigid about being a raw foodie and do have cooked food (yes that includes cheese!) every now and again.  But when I do, I immediately feel bloated and uncomfortable and my skin gets very itchy, so that is a huge incentive not to stray.

The first 3 or so weeks as a raw foodie, I had this huge appetite, it seemed like every couple of hours my body yelled “more food please.”  However, that has calmed down now and I do not feel the need to eat a small horse to satisfy my hunger cravings.  Sometimes it is hard to get all the calories in.  On a raw food diet, for my gender, and weight I should be shooting for 2000 calories a day.  That’s an awful lot of bananas!  In addition, a lot of that intake is supposed to be leafy greens to get in all the nutrients and protein that your body needs.  I hate greens, I know silly, right?  So, I have added a daily vitamin and vegan protein shake to my daily intake to try and make up for what may be lacking in my diet.

This is what my breakfast usually looks like: 

This is what my lunch looks like: 

This is what my snacks look like: 

Also, on a recent trip to Vegas I wondered how much I would be able to eat raw food in a city where burgers and nachos are king. We actually saw a restaurant called Heart Attack Burger where people over 350 pounds ate free - there is something very wrong with that.  But it was not hard at all. The hotel had a marketplace downstairs with a cool fridge stocked with fresh watermelon, pineapple and grapes.  And of course, everywhere you go there was a famous Vegas Buffet so it really was not hard to make a beeline for the salad bar and load up.

You may be asking yourself, how much weight has she lost?  I am happy to report I have lost a whopping 4 pounds.  Let’s alert the media!  However, this whole exercise was not about weight loss but health. I have also lost almost 2 dress sizes and that makes me very happy.

So, I will keep going and I will continue to post updates.

Has anyone out there done a raw food diet?  What were your highs and lows?

An Update: Raw Food Diet

So, I have tried so many diets in my life.  As someone who has always struggled with her weight I have been the diet queen and most of them have only lasted for a little while, some as short as a few days, some a little longer.  But from the start, this Raw Food thing has been fun, filling and sustaining. I have never felt hungry, mainly because if you are hungry you eat! Salad, fruit, nuts - whatever takes your fancy as long as it is raw.  I have not missed bread at all and I am a breadaholic. I am getting lots of carbs from all the fruit I am eating so I think that is satisfying my body.  I am not sure if I have lost weight (which was not the goal anyways) but clothes are fitting much better and I have noticed I have lost that bloat in my belly and my face. 

My main reason for becoming a raw foodie was because the eczema on my body and my GI issues.  Within 5 days both things had completely resolved. Can you say, Amazing!

Here are the pros and cons I have come up with so far:

Pros

  • Health benefits of eating a pure diet, no toxins from processed foods going into my body.
  • GI system is very happy.  Regular pooping is good for everybody.
  • Never hungry, can eat when I want as much as I want as long as it is raw food.
  • Everything tastes so good; my palate has changed and the rainbow range of food I am eating just tastes wonderful and bright and pure. 

Cons

  • Having to shop for fresh produce every 3 days or so, but I only really go to the produce aisle and the toilet paper aisle (!) so it is super quick.
  • You have to be organized and do lots of food prep to set yourself up for success when you are starving and need something to eat NOW!  This may be a lot of work for someone who has a super busy job and life.
  • Easy to get in a rut with your go to veggie and fruit plate.  I solved this by buying a raw food cook book to give me some new ideas.
  • This book has lots of wonderful recipes for the fully raw diet so I can change up my salads and salad dressings every day.  Also, lots of yummy smoothie recipes. It has really helped!

This is my go to lunch: Rainbow salad with orange ginger and dill dressing. 

This is what my fruit bowl looks like now, this will last me about 3 days!

This is what my fridge looks like now, again about a 3 day supply.

Just in case you thought I am making hubby eat this way, I am not.  I really am the nicest vegetarian I know because I have no problem handling and cooking meat.  I usually make him a chicken sandwich for lunch, but I am amping it up a bit for him.  I love Ezekiel bread, it is fully sprouted and has no preservatives and as a result needs to be kept in the fridge, but it is full of nutty goodness. Also, I try not to buy cold cuts, they are full of nitrates and preservatives, so I buy organic grass fed chicken breast, roast and slice them and use them for sandwiches all week. 

I found raw trail mix at Trader Joes that I go through fast. It's yummy and filling and I know I am sticking to the raw food mantra. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe's, I feel pretty bad for you, they have amazing organic products at incredible prices!

I am also trying not to be too purist with this whole thing.  Being too rigid could derail me fast.  So, if I am desperate for something not raw, I will have it.  Hubby and I were out running errands last week and we ended up eating out for dinner. I could have had a salad but the pasta with spinach and artichoke was calling my name.  I ate it without guilt and really enjoyed it and got back on the wagon the next meal.

So far so good.  I am really enjoying this way of eating, it’s not a diet to me as I am not doing it for weight loss but for health.  My sense of well-being has risen so much and I am a big proponent for doing whatever you need to elevate your quality of life, so I am going to keep going for as long as I am having fun.  I committed to 2 weeks and that has come and gone and I do not see myself stopping anytime soon.  I will let you know how it goes!

Xo
Angie

An Update: Breast Cancer Screening

A little while ago I talked about getting tested for the BRCA gene due a close family history of breast and ovarian cancer. Well the 2 weeks promised result deadline turned into a month...sigh. I was not losing sleep over it, but I did want to know.  The results came in and it was good news. Sort of. 

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First off, I do not have a positive BRCA gene, which means I do not have that 85% risk of developing breast cancer in my lifetime. However, this test does not only test the BRCA gene but several other genes too. A change was found in one of my genes that puts me in a high-risk group of developing breast cancer in the next 5 years. Oh bother, now that’s annoying. Still I did not really freak out, which is not like me. Just did some deep breathing and tried to focus on the information that was being given to me.

The recommendations are that I do lots of surveillance, breast MRI every 6 months alternating with mammogram every 6 months. Deep joy - lots of boob squishing!  But I will do this, it's mildly inconvenient, but relatively noninvasive and the regularity of the imaging gives me comfort that if any of those nasty cancer cells tries to invade my body, it will be caught early.

Also, there was a recommendation to start the drug Tamoxifen right away. This is a med used to prevent breast cancer and to treat those who already have it.  But the risks of some very nasty side effects are high.  I will not be doing this!  I just do not want to put this highly toxic drug in my body.  Now like I have said before, I am not averse to taking drugs and this is a personal decision, so if you are in a similar situation please do not be swayed by my point of view. 

If I had a diagnosis of breast cancer I would pop that tamoxifen pill in my mouth like it was an M&M, but I do not. So I think I am going to go the conservative route for now because quality of life is very important to me. 

Then part of me thinks with this whole genetic coding thing am I just watching the clock until the Big C strikes me.  I remind myself I cannot live like that, fear will keep me stuck and prevent me from enjoying the stuff that gives me deep joy in my life, of which there is an abundance of right now. I am very blessed!

So, me and my boobs are just going to soldier on, getting smooshed, prodded and poked and have a positive attitude and (try) to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Anyone out there going through something similar?  I would love to hear your stories, feel free to post in the comments below.

For the meantime, here’s to boobs, they serve us well.  

Xo

Angie