Friday, December 30, 2011

Year End Wrap Up

My goal for 2011 was to focus on myself and find a new level of happiness that I felt was missing in 2010.
I rang in the new year by not doing anything except resting and sleeping.  I didn’t stay up until midnight; I didn’t go out; and I didn’t spend it with anyone.  To some people this may be seen as sad or weird, and while it’s not the way I would choose to ring in each new year, it was just what I needed.  It allowed me to put a close on 2010 and start 2011 the way that I wanted to: refreshed. 
And that was just what I did.  While everyone else was coming in late or hung-over to work that day, I was refreshed, excited and energetic.  I was ready to go and take on whatever may present itself to me that day.  It was perfect.
When I was presented with the opportunity to purchase an unlimited month of yoga at The Yoga Co in Santa Monica, I knew it was something I wanted and should do.  I sat on the deal for a month or so and then was inspired to take it and turn it into one month straight of yoga (My 30 Day Yoga Challenge).  I knew that was going to be a major undertaking but with the support I was receiving from my friends, family and coworkers, I knew it was something I could do.  And I did.

A month of yoga brought upon many challenges and breakthroughs; it brought on a physical and mental struggle; and it brought a community I didn’t know could exist; and it began to show me this new level of happiness.  So when that month was over, I didn’t stop.  I didn’t go everyday but I tried to get there at least 3 days a week.  (And up until the later part of the year, it worked).

This year I learned to let go of some things that had been bothering me and open up my mind and heart to what else is out there.  
And I stepped outside my comfort zone doing something that I’m still surprised I did: I went to the Healthy Living Summit in Philadelphia, PA knowing no one.  This was a big deal for me and very challenging on many levels.  I did what I could to push myself outside my normal comfort zone and met several amazing bloggers and people.  I discovered just how much of a healthy living community there is out there and was inspired and comforted to keep pushing forward in those attempts.

Unfortunately, this was also the weekend that my health took a turn for the worse.  My last night in Philly was the first time I experienced the severe pain on my left side that led to months of unknown, tests, and additional severe pain.  Unfortunately, September through December are a blur of doctor visits, hospital stays, and “resting” on my couch.  I wish I could have a better memory for the end of the year, but it is clear that was what took most of my energy.
That’s not to say no good came of it, because it did.  Through all of that, I was able to find one of the greatest friends I could have and with her support was able to make it through my Thanksgiving in the hospital and two attempts at surgery + recovery.  That I could (and would) not change for anything.

But the year is coming to a close and I’m ready to start 2012 fresh.  I’m hoping my health returns to it’s fullest extent and I continue to work on finding even greater happiness in my life.
Top 3 Favorite Posts to Write:

Fitness Friday

I’m happy to say that despite traveling this week, I’ve been able to maintain daily exercise.  My family belongs to a gym in the area and I signed up for their gym’s 3-day gym trial pass that I’ve been able to use.  It’s nice to see myself being able to return to my usual exercise routine or at least start incorporating more of my usual activities.

Saturday 12/24/11
Sunday 12/25/11
60 minutes walk and talk with family
Monday 12/26/11
40 minutes stationary bike - random level 2
15-20 minutes abdominals and stretching
Tuesday 12/27/11
20 minutes abdominals and stretching
35 minutes elliptical - random level 2
Wednesday 12/28/11
10 minutes abdominals and stretching
20 minutes Yoga Download session
Thursday 12/29/11
35 minutes stationary bike - cross country
17 minutes stairmaster
10-15 minutes abdominals and stretching
Friday 12/30/11
32 minutes stationary bike - random level 3
10 minutes stretching
I have lots of fitness goals for 2012 and new programs I want to try out so I’m definitely glad I’m returning to my normal self.  But more on that later...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Belated Christmas

Our Christmas may have occurred late and a bit out of order, but we are doing all we can to keep it as we know it.  This morning we decided it was Christmas.  Generally this is where I’d wake up to my parents busy cooking morning brunch but instead we all packing into the car and headed off to breakfast at Benedict’s La Strata.  It’s a cute little restaurant open for breakfast and lunch in downtown with an overwhelmingly delicious sounding menu.
After we all debated our choices for longer than someone probably should, we all ended up with an extremely delicious looking (and tasting breakfast).  I ended up with a soy latte (made with Intelligentsia coffee!) and pumpkin pancakes.  It was a fail that I didn’t take a picture of my breakfast or this cute little restaurant.  I’m pretty sure this will become a new breakfast spot when I come to town.
Shortly after we came home, we dug into our stockings and Christmas presents to each other.  We are all extremely happy with our gifts and my dad was downstairs immediately setting up his new computer.  Sadly, I have not yet been able to talk him into getting an Apple computer.  (Oh but I will!) ;)
After a quick lunch, my sister and I ran off for a little shopping.  We had a few things we needed to get, some gift cards to use, and with a certain birthday on the horizon, some additional shopping that needed to get done.
A delicious dinner, trip to the gym and post-workout snack under my belt, my sister and I are gearing up to watch A White Christmas.  We will have family over tomorrow morning and afternoon for more Christmas celebrations.  It is my hope to fit in a workout before it all starts and end the evening by catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in a few years.
So far, so good. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Foodie for a Day // Vegetarian Chili

Well after a four hour flight, I have successfully made it to Chicago.  I am currently seated in my parent’s living room watching Julie and Julia with my mom and sister, while my dad prepares dinner.
Anyway, I’m constantly on the search for (cheap) easy meals I can make for myself, especially during a busy week.  It’s always great to just be able to quickly reheat a meal after getting home from a long day at work.  
One of my favorite comfort foods has always been chili (and chili macaroni).  As a kid, my parents used to make chili and then make a side of chili mac for my sister and I.  It was as easy as a scoop of chili and then some added ketchup over macaroni noodles.  Yes, ketchup.
For whatever reason, I’ve never tried to make a vegetarian version myself after moving out and now that I have a small crock pot, this seemed as good a time as any to try. 

Vegetarian / Vegan Crockpot Chili
1/2 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 brick tempeh, crumpled
Chili powder (I used a handful)
Vegetable broth (about 1/2-1 cup)
I put everything in the crock pot, gave it a quick stir and let it cook on high for about 2 hours.  When it was done, I had a delicious bowl of chili.
I decided it would be an easy lunch of leftovers so I cooked up a pot of macaroni noodles and added a scoop of chili to the top of it.  This time, I left out the ketchup.  (Sorry, Mom!)  It was a delicious, super easy and inexpensive dinner that ended up producing several meals; I couldn’t be more pleased.  I will be making this again soon.
And can I just say, I love my crockpot?

Greetings From LAX!

Yesterday ended up being a super busy day. I found myself running from work to the gym, home to shower and finishing packing, to check a friends apartment, to hanging with a friend, to hanging with another. And I felt like I was moving at snails pace and things were taking longer than they should.

But here I am, all got done, and (so far) all is good! I got to the airport rather early since my ride had somewhere to be, but I'd always rather be early than late. And it showed to be good timing. Lines grew behind me to check my bag, in security, and buying a coffee. I'm hoping to continue this little lucky streak. :)

I'm flying Virgin America, and if you've ever flown it before, you know how nice it is. And if you haven't, you really have no idea what you're missing. Virgin is by far my favorite airline, hands down!

I'll hopefully be doing some work on the flight and reading Harry Potter 6. I'm off the eat my packed pb sandwich and coffee.

See you in Chicago!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Music Monday

Because Christmas was only yesterday and to me Christmas isn’t until later this week when I’m home in Illinois with my family, I’m staying on Christmas music this week.  In fact it’s all about my favorite Christmas movie, A White Christmas.
It’s a tradition to watch this movie every year and I haven’t seen it yet!  Thankfully, my mom and sister haven’t either so there will most definitely be some movie watching while I’m home.  (And cookie baking too, of course!)
So it is to be expected that today I’m sharing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” as sung by Bing Crosby; the only version of this song a girl could ever want or need.

I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas (and Holiday season)!  If you decide to be one of those people shopping/making returns today, please be nice to the retail employees, especially at the Apple Store.  I beg this of you!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Not Home for the Holidays - Part 2

Well the afternoon may not have turned out exactly as I thought it may, but I’m not complaining.  Overall, I think I can call it a good Christmas.
Obviously, if I was able to be home with my family and partaking in our usual Christmas traditions, it’d be that much better but I made the most of what I could.  My roommate and her boyfriend showed up a little after noon and while I was mildly annoyed, they ended up providing a bit of entertainment as well as allowed me to interact with people face-to-face (non FaceTime and video Skype that is).
While talking to my family this afternoon I did laundry and went for a walk around the neighborhood.  The weather today was in the 70s and sunny and with the gym closed, it was the perfect way to get in a bit of exercise.  (While a run would be nice, I’m not sure my body is quite ready for high impact activity - my incisions are still kind of sore.)  Shortly after getting home I started making my lasagna dinner.  I sautéed the veggies, built the lasagna and while I let it sit, I went out for another walk.  It was getting a bit chilly but was not bad at all.
Coming from the midwest and living in parts of the country where there are seasons, I have a hard time feeling like it’s the holidays in LA because it doesn’t get cold and it doesn’t snow.  While there was no white Christmas in my hometown this year, I’m hoping that’s because Jack Frost is waiting for me to come home and let there be a white Christmas on the day my family chooses to celebrate.  That sounds like the perfect present.
Anyway, I returned home from my walk, put the lasagna in the oven, prepared my salad and the garlic bread and when everything was ready, sat down to a delicious dinner.  I made a super simple vegan lasagna (lactose intolerance means lasagna has to be vegan), a simple from-a-bag salad, toasted up bread with garlic butter, and a 1/2 glass of red wine.  It was easy, super delicious, and brought a little bit of Christmas to LA for me today.

I had this plan where I was going to bake a bunch of cookies or my family’s Swedish Coffee Bread (instead I requested that for while I’m home), read a lot of Harry Potter and watched a bunch of movies.  Well I didn’t bake a single thing, watched a super cheesy ABC Family Christmas movie (and made a failed attempt at watching Chocolat) and will only be sitting down to read HP when I hit “publish.”  There’s a part of me that’s debating 20 minutes of yoga and another part of me that thinks I’ll fall asleep any minute, despite how early it is.
We can’t all be with our families for Christmas and that’s upsetting.  Sometimes accepting offers to celebrate with other’s families just doesn’t fit.  And while spending it alone may not be the most ideal situation, it’s all about what you make of it.  And this year, I feel pretty good about what I made of it.
Wednesday I get to head home for my belated Christmas with my family.  If I’m lucky, next year I’ll get to spend Christmas with my family on Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


Not Home for the Holidays - Part 1

Merry Christmas Everyone!
There’s nothing easy about not being home for Christmas, especially when you come from a family who makes it last an entire week.  But this year (to my family’s dismay), I made the sacrifice and told my coworker she could go home and that I would stay here.  It hasn’t been easy and quite honestly, makes today feel like any other day, but I get to go home in a few days and Christmas will happen then.  It’s good to hear my family is saving some of my favorites for then: Apple Crisp, Spicy Flowerettes, A White Christmas, and more cookie baking!
But despite it feeling like another day around here, I’m doing my best to still make it special and enjoy myself.  I started my day by making a delicious Christmas breakfast: gingerbread pancakes, an orange, and lots of coffee with warm eggnog.  There’s plans for a walk, laundry, and beginning to pack for my trip home this afternoon.
Yesterday, I found myself debating two kinds of pancakes for today: gingerbread or chocolate peppermint.  It was a tough decision but I ended up deciding to go with gingerbread and it was a good decision - so delicious and so easy!

Gingerbread Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat pancake mix (I used Kodiak cakes)
1 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
I mixed them all together and let the batter sit for 5-10 minutes and then cooked them on the stove to perfection.  This made 4 pancakes about 6” each.  

I had a short stack for breakfast and the second short stack is awaiting lunch time.  I would highly recommend making these.  They couldn’t be easier or more delicious.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Retail Christmas

The thing that really stinks about working retail is that holidays are almost non-existent, especially around Christmas time as it is our busiest time of the year.  Sometimes we’re able to have a few days off, other times, it’s just not in the stars.  Unfortunately, this year for me, it just couldn’t happen.  I get to go home a few days after Christmas which is great, so don’t get me wrong, but obviously not getting to be with your family ON Christmas and partaking in the usual Christmas traditions is a bit sad.
I worked 6:30a-3:30p today and filled my belly with tons of sweets and unhealthy foods.  (I could definitely go for a good workout right about now.)  One of my managers took me out to breakfast which was unexpected but delicious and amazingly appreciated.  We went to Jinky’s Cafe for crunchy french toast.  I know how weird this sounds, but I can’t recommend it enough, especially cinnamon and topped with blueberries.  Several cookies and a trip to the grocery store after work and here I sit watching Something’s Gotta Give and trying to keep myself awake.
I have my Christmas Day planned out, at least in terms of the food.  That’s where my foodie nature comes out.  Well that and I have to at least try to uphold some Christmas traditions even though I’m doing Christmas on my own.  Lots of food, Harry Potter 6, movies and Skype / FaceTime chats with good friends and family.  I guess that’s the next best thing, right?


Merry Christmas Eve!  I hope Santa leaves you all that you hoped for and more.

Fitness Friday

I had all the intention in the world to write up this post last night but it turns out that I’m having a hard time coming off my pain medication.  I didn’t even think that was possible after only a week (and taking it as needed) but after talking to a few people, that seems to be what’s happening.  I was weening myself off but only because I was concerned about pain.  Turns out, I needed to be concerned about withdrawal symptoms too.  Who knew?
Anyway, after being sent home from work with awful nausea, a headache and pretty severe shakes, I laid down on my couch and tried to sleep it off.  It worked long enough that I was able to eat dinner, but it all returned shortly after.  One thing that upset me was that all my pain was nearly non-existent yesterday and I was excited to get to the gym for a workout (still keeping it easy) before the holiday (especially since I won’t be able to get there for the next couple days with work and shortened gym hours).
It’s all good though and as I type this, I’m doing my best to ween myself off even more and just relax but needless to say, I didn’t make it to the gym yesterday for a really good reason.

SAT 12/17/11
Rest / recovery
SUN 12/18/11
Rest / recovery
MON 12/19/11
Rest / recovery
TUES 12/20/11
Rest / recovery
WED 12/21/11
31 minutes stationary bike - easy
10 minutes stretching - easy
THURS 12/22/11
35 minutes elliptical - easy
10 minutes stretching - easy
FRI 12/23/11
Rest / sick

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Top 5 Christmas Movies

I’m not the kid who grew up watching A Christmas Story or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Christmas Vacation and if I did I don’t remember it.  And I only saw A Christmas Story because my aunt and uncle use to have it playing at their house on Christmas when we used to celebrate it there (but I was in my teens what that happened.)
Now before you all get worried that I missed out on some major Christmas movie watching, fear not!  In fact, I don’t really think I missed out because my childhood was filled with some of the BEST Christmas movies ever, if I do say so myself!  And because of that, I would like to share my top 5 Christmas movies of my childhood (and thus has continued into my adult life):

1. A White Christmas
This movie is a tradition in my family.  So much so that it doesn’t actually feel like Christmas until I’ve watched the movie.  I thought I owned it but it wasn’t with my other DVDs when I looked last week so I’m going to have to look a bit harder because Christmas is only a few days away and I need a bit more of that Christmas feeling.  And if I still can’t find it, my mom and sister better be ready to watch it when I land in IL next week.  Let’s be honest, they should be ready to watch it anyway because it’s my ABSOLUTE favorite!

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas
I know I talked about this a bit the other day because the music in this “movie” makes me happy.  Can you even call it a movie? Or should we be calling it a short?  Either way, it’s cute and makes me happy. :)

3. The Santa Clause
This is a “DVD only” on Netflix which makes me angry.  What makes me angrier is that The Santa Clause 2 is available to stream and then The Santa Clause 3 is back to only being available on DVD.  Needless to say, I had to suck it up and fill my need for The Santa Clause so far this season with The Santa Clause 2 until I’m able to watch/send back the movie that I have.

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Did you know there’s currently a shortage of this movie on Netflix?  You’d think they’d just fix this issue by making it available to stream but noooooo, I had to add it to my queue and probably won’t actually have it sent to me until March.  Netflix #fail.

5. A Muppet Christmas Carol
Don’t hate! This is the version that I remember seeing the most and thus brings on some major nostalgia.  I like it, so there! 

This list isn’t the only Christmas movies I watch or like, but are definitely some of my favorites and make happy.  While I stuck at home recovering last week, I watched a lot of crappy Christmas movies on Netflix and Hulu.  Some were bearable, others not and others were just playing because I was bored and hoping to fall asleep.
What are your favorite Christmas or Holiday movies?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Foodie for a Day / Christmas Cookies

We all know the holidays as a time when cookies and other delicious sweets start appearing more in our diets.  For me, getting to bake cookies is one of my favorite things to do during the holiday season.
Growing up, my mom, sister, grandma and great aunt, used to all get together and spend the entire day baking a boat load of cookies.  We all had our favorites that we’d want to make and it wasn’t uncommon for each person to be working on a different kind of cookie all at one time.  We’d plan it out accordingly so that we didn’t have two cookies going at the same time that needed different temperatures.  We were like a well oiled machine.
As we got older, it became harder for all of us to get together and make a whole day out of it, but my mom, sister and I still try to at least bake a couple different kinds when we’re all together - or whoever is together.
Because it was such a tradition growing up, it’s never been the same to bake alone.  And turns out this year, it just lead to a bit of a disaster.  I tried making a few cookies that just didn’t turn out as well as I wanted and thus, I deemed them not good enough to give as gifts or share with anyone other than people who happen to stop (or live in) this apartment.  
Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies
My favorite Christmas cookies are Peanut Butter Blossoms and Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies (an Alton Brown/Food Network recipe).  The pinwheel cookies are new as of the last few years, but growing up Peanut Butter Blossoms were a family staple and one my sister and I would often argue over baking.  We learned we had to split the task and make sure we both got to put equal Hershey kisses on the cookies when they came out of the oven.  (There’s just something about that “shhh” the cookie makes when you stick in the chocolate kiss).

Anyway, I’m hoping that when I get home, my sister and mom will have saved a bit of baking for me to join in.
What are your favorite Christmas cookies?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recovery Check-in

Today was my return to work, but only for a 1/2 day.  I couldn’t be more thankful that I decided to only do a 1/2 day as I’m in quite a bit of pain.  With each day, I’ve been moving around better and easier and for the most part the pain has been getting more bearable.  That was until the last 24-36 hours.  I spoke with my Dr and she’s surprised I’m not doing better and therefore I may find myself back in the doctor’s office later this week if there’s still no change or things get worse.
Finding something to wear has also been a fun task as pants, particularly jeans are uncomfortable and painful as they put pressure on my wounds and swollen abdomen.  The best thing to wear are my super baggy sweat pants but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t go over well at work.  Instead, the outfit of choice is leggings with a longer shirt (or sweater) and boots.  I hope people are ready to see me in the same outfit (or nearly the same) everyday.
This is pretty much what I wore today and pretty much what I'll be wearing for the next several days.

I’m still easily exhausted and I hardly have an appetite.  I ate breakfast at 5 this morning and it wasn’t until after 2 that I realized I had yet to eat (or really think about) lunch.  I look forward to making a full recovery and getting back to my normal, energized and healthy self but for now, I’m just going to keep resting and focusing on getting better.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Music Monday // A Charlie Brown Christmas

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Christmas is SUNDAY!  Can you believe it?  Ever since moving to LA over 2 years ago, I have a hard time feeling like it’s Christmas when it doesn’t get all cold and snow.  The snowflake shaped lights and Christmas decorations all around just don’t have the same affect when the weather is still in the 60s.
But despite that, I still do my best each year to make it feel like Christmas and get in the festive spirit.  I have been listening to the non-stop Christmas music station in my car, watching random Christmas movies on Netflix and Hulu, and lighting up my Christmas tree anytime I’m going to be in the living room.  I think it’s working, at least kind of.
Last night as I was sitting around my living room (resting and relaxing from surgery) hanging out with Amy, I had the A Charlie Brown Christmas music playing in the background.  It’s honestly one of my favorite Christmas albums; plus it allows me to sit back and relax.
I still need to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas so I think I should add that to the agenda for this afternoon.
I mean seriously, how does this not make you happy?

Go watch A Charlie Brown Christmas or listen to the album.  You’ll be happy.  I can almost guarantee it!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Won't Show You the Pictures

Yes there are pictures but I won’t show them to you.  Unless you ask.  And even then chances are I won’t show them to you.  To me they’re gross and maybe a bit too intimate for anyone’s eyes - even my own!
The morning started off better than last time.  I woke up thirsty and having to constantly remind myself I couldn’t have water and trying to fend off my craving for a cup of coffee and big bowl of cereal.  But otherwise I was in good spirits, slightly nervous but holding my composure well.
Amy picked me up and off we went to the surgery center.  It was empty and we were immediately entertained by the staff putting the finishing touches on a handmade fireplace Christmas decoration in the waiting room.  (I really wish I got a picture, it was awesome!)
They brought me back to start getting ready, leaving Amy in the waiting room for a bit.  My nurses were immediately amazing.  I bonded with one over Berklee (her husband works for the college and they’re just moving out to LA).  I was so happy with how friendly they were and they really did a great job keeping my mind at ease.  

My veins though were not at ease and made getting the IV more of a task than it should have been, but thankfully we got it in and they allowed Amy to come back and join me for a bit.  We laughed over the warm air they were sending through my hospital gown making it look like I was in a bubble and did all we could to distract myself as the minutes ticked by getting closer to 1.
Shortly after 1 I was given my first dose of anesthesia, said goodbye to Amy and my friendly nurses and was rolled back to the operating room.  I was already feeling it kick in, though they said this was really just like a “cocktail” and asked me to move to the operating table.  (That was easier said than done after “happy hour.”)  They gave me a bit of oxygen, my doctor touched my hand and said “are you doing okay?” and I was out.  
I don’t even remember closing my eyes but next thing I knew I was being woken up by my friendly nurses (I think I was the only patient).  My first question was “can I know what happened?” to which they couldn’t tell me but said I could talk to the doctor when I was more awake.  Pain was excruciating.  They were giving me pain medication after pain medication and I couldn’t find comfort.  My chest was a little tight so they ran out to Amy to get my inhaler.  Then I saw the clock.
For some, seeing that it was after 3 may seem like nothing but when you asked your doctor weeks before for an estimate of surgery length then you would know 2 hours meant things were a bit more complicated.  A bit more complicated meant the potential that important things were removed.  I started crying.  It was a mix of pain plus the unknown.  The nurses decided they would get Amy earlier than they would normally and got my doctor on the phone to let me know what happened.
Thankfully, everything that should have stayed in place did and everything foreign was removed.  My doctor mentioned how happy she was with how the surgery went, especially since at first sight she thought she was going to have to remove a couple more important things that ended up being able to stay in place.
I was able to leave shortly thereafter and while I needed assistance getting dressed, was super dizzy and exhausted, I was well enough that we were able to make our way home as the pain medication was beginning to sit in.
As for how I’m doing now, I’m slow moving though quicker than I was just the other night, dizziness and blurred vision are definitely playing a role but that comes with the territory of pain medication, and I’m rather swollen and uncomfortable around my mid section which upon complaint I am reminded that I was just cut open and had a rather invasive surgery just the other day.  I’m also learning that I’m unable to cut back on my dose of pain medication because it doesn’t take much for it to become too much too quickly.
But despite all that happened and the discomfort in my body, I’m doing well.  I have been overwhelmed by love, support and well wishes and when one of your best friends becomes your roommate for the weekend, it’s really hard to complain.
Thank you all for your support through this and I can’t express how good it feels to know that I am on the road to recovery and there is an end in sight for the pain that overtook me for the last several months.  I feel blessed.