What this is all about...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Better 2 years late than never!

So...yeah. I haven't posted in almost two years. But, let me tell you, some stuff has happened, and I had to redirect my energies elsewhere.

The last time we were together, I was getting all healthy and being all vegan and feeling pretty awesome.  So, of course, my body said, "Hey, this is the PERFECT time to have a baby!" And I got knocked up.  Historically, getting knocked up has led to very bad morning/all day sickness, which proved true this time, except way worse.  I couldn't even look at a piece of iceberg for months--forget anything leafier.  For awhile I survived on popsicles, saltines, Zofran, and chicken breast.  And I hopped back on the Coca-Cola bandwagon because my OB told me it would help with my nausea. (Which it did.  Which seems counterintuitive since it has things like phosphoric acid in it.)  The extreme sickness finally went away around my 5th month (yes, 5th month, not 12th week like all the pregnancy books tell you) but I continued to have a lot of digestive issues and had to stay away from things like beans and a lot of raw veggies. (I will not lie, I even ate cheese a few times.  It was not as awesome as I remembered it, however, and it made my already bad pregnancy congestion even worse, so it didn't stick around for long.)

Pregnancy does suck, but you get to take home a baby afterwards, and I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy last summer.  My diet did get better, but nursing a baby 24/7 while taking care of his big brother led to a lot of trips to Wendy's, which conveniently was 2 minutes from our apartment.  Then I went back to work and things got even hairier.

I saw a functional medicine doctor last fall and she told me to cut out all carbs, including fruit and rice, and eat only things like vegetable, fish, and eggs.  Well, I'm allergic to eggs, I hate fish, and I need to eat more than just veggies because I'm breastfeeding...and it was right before Christmas and I turn into a baking machine over the holidays.  I tried to follow most of her suggestions for a few weeks, but it ended badly--I was so hungry all the time that I almost bludgeoned my coworkers and my milk supply dropped, which totally pissed my baby off--so I said, "Screw it, I need to try all these vegan cupcake recipes."

I promised myself I would get back on track after the holidays, which I started to, but then we moved.  Moving + working full-time + commuting over 2 hours per day in the Midwest winter + raising 2 children = VERY BAD.  I ended up getting mycoplasma pneumoniae.

What is mycoplasma, you may ask?  It's pretty much the technical term for walking pneumonia.  It's a blood infection that causes an array of symptoms, such as extreme shortness of breath, cough, exhaustion, etc.  I didn't have the cough, so I thought I was just tired from moving and I had a bad upper respiratory infection. My (conventional medicine) doctor suspected extreme anemia, and ordered the mycoplasma test along with the bloodwork for anemia and immune function.  (He was right about the anemia--which reminds me, I need to take my Floradix...)

I didn't seem very sick outwardly, since I had nary a sniffle and no cough.  But I couldn't take a deep breath and I was completely exhausted.  I had never been this exhausted in my life, and this is even compared to when my first child was a newborn with colic, GERD, and a milk allergy.  This was bone-deep exhaustion.  I had to take medical leave from work and it was over 2 months before I fully recovered.  I still get bouts of shortness of breath at times, especially when it's hot or I'm stressed.

No one else in my family caught this super-fun mycoplasma, thank goodness, but that made me wonder--how did I get it?  I must've just randomly picked it up from somewhere, which is actually hard to do, so my immune system had to have been very compromised in some way.  My diet is crap, I'm stressed out a lot, I spend most of my time sitting behind a desk or in my car, and I have approximately zero time to myself.

There's only so much I can do about my limited time, but I can hold myself more accountable for what I'm eating and thinking.  I just finished Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, and, like The Kind Diet, it has a lot of great research and nutrition information, as well as a great section on treating yourself better.  I don't have a juicer and I'm not about to get a colonic, but I can incorporate a lot of the ideas slowly into my life.  And you are welcome to come along for the ride.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tons of food reviews and some soapboxing

Hello everyone!  I had yesterday off work and it was so nice to spend some extra time with my guys.

I picked up a few new things to try and made some new recipes this weekend.  On Friday I roasted some carrots and made crispy kale--kale brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, and then baked in the oven for about...well, I think it was ten minutes.  I gave my little guy some carrots and kale, and he poked at the kale and said suspiciously, "Mommy, it's....crunchy."  I informed him that potato chips and veggie straws are crunchy, too, but he didn't buy it.  But at least he looked at it.  I got him to eat broccoli this weekend, which was a big win for me.  The carrots and kale were pretty good, but I have this issue where I always end up dumping too much oil on things.  I can't figure out if I'm supposed to measure it or what.  I look at it and say, "Oh, that's not enough..." and then everything ends up swimming in oil, and I kill a tree in paper towels to soak some of it up.  So if anyone has any tips, I am all ears.

I found Amy's Kitchen Vegan Rice Macaroni and Cheeze at my health food store.  It was....gooey.  It's made with cheddar Daiya, which give it a really cheesy feel, but to be honest, I've been so long without cheese that anything that has a similar texture wigs me out a little.  It was also very, very heavy--22 grams of fat, 520 calories--this was vegan junk food at its worst!  I won't be buying that again.  I just can't handle that much fat in one sitting anymore.

On Saturday we made a trip to a place called Tremont Scoops--they have dairy ice cream and vegan ice cream, so we thought it would be fun to check out.  It's a little shop, very cute, and the owner was nice and explained all her vegan options to me.  All the vegan ice cream and sorbet is kept in a freezer case separate from the dairy ice cream, which is great because it lessens the chance of cross-contamination for those who have allergies.  She had vanilla Tofutti ice cream and a few fruit sorbets.  We usually only get the Trader Joe's brand of vanilla (or cherry chocolate chunk for Mommy) and sometimes the So Delicious brand.  Tofutti tastes way different--definitely much creamier than my little man is used to, with a definite aftertaste.  He once tried a Tofutti milkshake at a local restaurant and he didn't like it--and it was the same with his ice cream cone.  He licked it once and handed it to me, and then we fed his cone to the birds.  I got a sundae with chocolate and peanut butter sauces--so good but, like the mac and cheeze, so much richer than I'm used to.  I think I ate half of it.

Tremont Scoops also does vegan cakes!  I was excited.  We are going to order the marble cake with vanilla icing for my birthday.  Reviews, vegan and non, forthcoming. 

Trader Joe's soy "chicken" nuggets?  Eh.  They were okay.

My changeover to veganism is going really well.  It's been over a week since I've eaten any meat, and before that it was about a week--I've eaten chicken maybe three times in the past month.  I'm reading The China Study and Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating right now, and it's incredibly interesting reading about the extreme health benefits of being vegan.  The Dr. Dean Ornish cardiology trial was amazing!  It makes me want to strongly encourage my loved ones to minimize their animal product intake...but I haven't figured out how to do that without coming across as pushy, preachy, or psycho.  I was reading portions of Vegan to my husband this weekend and he informed me that I was depressing him with all these statistics about meat and heart disease and cancer, and I replied, "I thought knowing these things would empower you to make better food choices!" 

However, I think at first it can be so overwhelming to change your diet.  I have experience with it--I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for several years, then I added chicken and turkey back into my diet, then I stopped eating dairy and eggs, and now I'm going vegan.  But when you've eaten the same way all your life (and have a picky palate), it's hard to even think of making a change.  Trying out new food and recipes is trial-and-error, too, and it can get discouraging and makes it easy to give up.  I seriously had to eat ten crappy vegan pizzas before I came up with a recipe I liked.  I had to figure out how to cook tofu, and I'm still battling with the kale.  But I believe it's a change worth making--even if it's a little change, it's still in the right direction--and I want to be educated so I can be empowered to make my life, my family's life, and the animals' lives better.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vegan Cake

Well, the big 3 - 0 is coming up next week and I am searching for a vegan cake.  For the past several years, since I stopped eating dairy, I've made my own cake, but I would really like to not have to this year.  (Plus, I'm tired of my only vegan cake recipe...I need to get Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and try out some new recipes.) 

I've been searching and so far I have found...one bakery.  That's it.  Last year I called around to a bunch of existing bakeries and asked if they made vegan or dairy-free cakes, and the answer was no.  There is a bakery in a small health food store I frequent, but to be honest, except for their vegan buckeye bliss bars, their bakery kind of stinks.  I ordered cupcakes for my mom's graduation party this summer and not only was the woman behind the counter incredibly rude to my husband and son, the cupcakes were awful.  There is one more cake place that does vegan cakes, but they do not accept small orders--only large orders for weddings and the like.  I emailed the bakery that does smaller cake orders, so we'll see how that goes.  I'm thinking about going to the farmers market tomorrow and begging the lady who makes the awesome vegan muffins to make me a cake. 

I've been a bit disgruntled with the selection of vegan food offered in my cafeteria lately.  You would think, since this is an urban university, that they would have more of a selection of vegan food, but they don't.  How easy would it be to make rice with oil instead of butter?  They offer pretty much no vegan protein in the cafeteria by my office.  The other day I didn't bring my lunch and ordered their veggie burger, which, when I asked a few weeks ago, was vegan...but then when I asked specifically about the bun, it turns out that all the bread they had available had egg or dairy in it.  I have to say, the staff in my cafeteria is wonderful--they always take the time to find out the ingredients to everything, and when I told them to just leave off the bun on the veggie burger, they brought it to me with huge, beautiful slices of tomato and lettuce.  It's a cafeteria, I understand that they have limited food choices, but I'm not asking for anything fancy.  Just beans to put on my salad or something. 

Do you know who seems to be incredibly food-allergy and vegan-friendly?  You may never guess, because I was shocked as well....Disney World!  I am so not a Disney person.  I'm really not into all the commercialism and advertising to super young children and that milk commercial on the Disney Channel bugs me for several reasons.  But my husband loves Disney World, and my son is a good age, and my husband and I are both turning 30 this fall, so we decided to go.  Originally we were looking into renting a house so we could cook, but once I started researching, I came across multitudes of parents whose children have severe food allergies and say the Disney World chefs are awesome.  It requires a bit of prep work, but I have no problem calling and chatting with the chefs about what yummy stuff they can make for us.

Hooray, three day weekend coming up!  Thank goodness.  It has been a rough week.  I'm looking forward to relaxing with my guys.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My sweet husband

As many of you know by now, my husband is not big on the vegan food.  (Or, as he calls it, "weird food.")  However, we had a date night on Friday and he surprised me by taking me to a new vegetarian restaurant called Treehugger's Cafe.  (I know, they totally stole my name.)  He proudly informed me that he "prepared" by eating a big lunch, just in case they didn't have anything he would like. 

Lo and behold, they did have chicken on the menu.  In fact, I think they had more options for an omnivore than a vegan.  Almost everything had cheese or some other sort of dairy in it, but our server was great and was able to modify my sandwich to make it vegan.  I had a portabella mushroom sandwich on tasty whole wheat artisan bread and vegan coleslaw that was surprisingly super yummy. 

My dinner, picture taken with my cell phone:

My husband had a chicken sandwich of some sort and fresh-cut french fries (which I had a few of and they were delicious).  I also got a smoothie, which I was not happy with.  Every smoothie on the menu had dairy yogurt in it, so they modified it for me, but it was completely watered down and from what I could tell by the giant chunks of ice in my smoothie, they really need to look into getting a new blender.  Plus, it was $5.  Five bucks for a watery smoothie?  Live and learn, I guess.  (Another area restaurant charges $6 for a Tofutti milkshake--however, their dairy milkshakes are about the same price.)

Today marks the anniversary of our first date--eight years ago!  Aww.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back on the Crack

Oh, dear.  I have fallen off the wagon big-time.  I did such a great job during my 30-day challenge, felt great, lost some weight....but once those 30 days were up I fell right back into my old habits.  I have been totally overboard on the sugar.  I've been really stressed out with work and starting school and have been hitting the sugar like crazy.

It's actually so bad that I think I may have a candida overgrowth.  I can imagine what's going on in my body...no refined sugar or flour for a month, things are humming along rather nicely...then my system gets a double shot of the white stuff and stress.  I did some research online on candida overgrowth (a lot of sites call it an "infection," but I prefer to think of it as a "yeast party") and I have a lot of the symptoms.  I won't go into detail, because many of the symptoms are quite embarrassing--however, I will cop to the "sensitivity to fragrances and/or other chemicals," "sinus inflammation," and "cravings for sweets."  (My husband will probably be quick to point out the symptom of "cognitive impairment.")

There are also a lot of crazy candida detox diets on ye olde internets, but I will not be doing any of those.  (Seriously, cutting out absolutely everything except meat, eggs, and low-glycemic veggies?  Hmm, what would I be able to eat?  Lettuce?)  I am thinking about going back on my sugar detox, as one month was not enough to learn my lesson (I can just hear my husband now), and also watching the amount of vinegar I eat, since I do love my balsamic.

However, I've found that it's really hard to be vegan and completely sugar free.  And I have been doing fairly well on the vegan side of things...in fact, I've stuck to my goal of only eating meat with my family--this week I haven't eaten any meat since Sunday.  And in the long run, I think it's more important to not eat animal products than it is not to eat sugar.  Maybe someday I'll get there....when I'm out of grad school, my little boy is older, and I have my own chef....(kidding on the last one, but seriously, what busy young professional mother doesn't want her own chef?  Hmm...maybe once my little guy is old enough to use the stove and knives I can make him my own personal chef.  The kid does love to cook with me.)

Speaking of my little guy...a few days after he pondered the fate of lobsters at the grocery store, I pointed out a cricket on the sidewalk to him.  And do you know what my sweet little boy did?  He lifted up his foot to stomp on it!  I was horrified.  I yelled, "Nooooo!" and moved him away before he could follow through.  My husband about died laughing at the look on my face.  We are going to have to have a serious talk entitled, "You Only Squish Inside Bugs, Or Yell For Mommy And She Will Capture It And Take It Outside."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eucalyptus Oil: Not For Sissies

My previous experiences with essential oils have been to study them whilst at the health food store, sniff several, ponder if I should purchase any, and then eventually put them back and go on my merry way.  I have a list of several that I know I would use, but let me tell you, the sticker shock on the lavender oil is pretty severe. 

However, I've been dealing with this sinus-y cold-type thingy (my poor little guy is so stuffy that he's been snoring louder than Daddy) and don't want it to turn into a sinus infection.  Usually my only defense against sinus infections is a combination of my neti pot, Flonase, and prayer, but I decided to oomph it up a little and get some eucalyptus oil for steam inhalation.  

This stuff is potent!  I put a few drops in my steamy bowl of water, tossed a towel over my head, leaned in... and started coughing.  It's not an unpleasant smell, but it's very sharp and menthol-like.  I had to stir the water a few times and then I was okay.  I was going to put a few drops in my son's bathwater, but since the smell alone made my eyes water and skin burn a little, I decided against actually having it touch his skin.  I will tell you, though, this stuff works.  It really helped loosen up everything in my sinuses.  Followed by my neti pot (which has helped me so much in the sinus infection department--I used to get sinus infections 5 to 6 times a year and since I started using the neti pot (or "doing pot," as my husband likes to joke) I haven't had to go on antibiotics at all) my sinuses felt totally clear.

Ye Olde Tummy has now decided it hates nutritional yeast.  Sigh.  I've been wondering why Tummy got angry when I ate that faux boxed macaroni and cheese (called macaroni and chreese, I believe), and now I understand.  I may experiment with a few different brands, though, because I really want to make this macaroni and "cheese" casserole.  I made this totally awesome burrito-type-wrap thing last night--extra firm tofu cut in cubes, cooked in olive oil, sea salt, pepper, minced onion, and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, along with baby portabella mushrooms sauteed in olive oil, in a whole wheat wrap that had melted Daiya faux cheese on it.  It was total yum.  I probably didn't even need the Daiya, but I have an open package and wanted to use some up.

Tonight is my first grad school class!  Eeeeeek!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Product review time

Several weeks ago I posted about ordering new personal care products from Aubrey Organics, and I wanted to hold off on reviewing them until I could see what they did for my skin over time.  Well, let me tell you, I can say without a doubt that they are awesome.

A little background...most treehugging redheads are fair with sensitive skin, and I am no exception.  I have a mild case of rosacea, weird combination skin, and anywhere from mild to severe acne (caused by the rosacea, according to my dermatologist, but I think my skin just thinks it's still a teenager).  I have tried a slew of skincare products, ranging from prescription-strength topical acne medication (made my skin totally freak out) to topical medications for rosacea (the sulfur smell in one made me so nauseated I had to wash my face about seven times to make it go away, and the last one I tried made my sinus issues flare up) to a wide variety of over-the-counter products, ranging in price from Neutrogena to Clinique.  Nothing has ever really worked.  If it took care of one problem, it exacerbated another, and most of them had fragrance that gave me a migraine.  However, one day I was surfing the internets and I came across reviews absolutely raving about the Vegecol line of skincare from Aubrey Organics.  I looked at their site and was very happy to see that they offered a travel set of trial sizes for their products for under $10, and then I found another site that carried it and offered free shipping, and I was sold.

I bought the Vegecol with Aloe Facial Cleansing Lotion, the Vegecol with Aloe Alcohol-Free Facial Toner, and the Vegecol with Aloe Moisturizing Cream.  My first thought upon using the cleansing lotion was, "It feels like I'm slathering my face with butter!  It's never going to get clean like this!"  However, it rinses clean (I use a washcloth because I'm so used to the "squeaky clean" feeling you get from the conventional products with SLS and the like) but doesn't make my skin immediately tight.  I instantly fell in love with the toner.  I've never been able to use toner because it burned my skin, but this uses witch hazel and is very mild--and it actually tones my skin.  Imagine that!  The moisturizing cream was a bit weird at first--I was a little put off by the bright yellow color--but it goes on nicely and feels good on my skin. 

My skin looks really good.  (Well, good compared to before.)  My redness has gone down considerably, and I have a nice glow that isn't oil or sweat.  It doesn't do much for preventing breakouts, I think, but once I have a breakout it heals it very quickly.  I ran out of my samples and had to go back to Purpose while waiting for my shipment to arrive, and my skin flipped out.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has the same issues I do--and Aubrey Organics also has different skincare lines for different skin types (all with the trial sample).