Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas!

I hope your holiday was warm and bright. Can you believe it's nearly 2017? Wow!

We had our holiday party - it was a blast! Because it was a combined event (business & personal), we were able to do a few extra fun things, like I mentioned before... ice rink, snow machine, mechanical reindeer... awesome-sauce!!! The day before the party, the rental company called me saying that the folks who'd rented the ice rink before me had destroyed it. Oh crap! They were able to salvage only 1/3 of it! So, they cut me a major deal, then gave us a human snowglobe. Lol! It was so cool! I am short on photos, but these will give you an idea. And yes - I did ride the mechanical reindeer. I think I lasted all of 4 seconds. LOL!!!
Set up time! The snowglobe has blowing "snow"
inside of it. You enter through the back then it's
an awesome photo opp!
 
Bill and I in the globe. Family members were shaking it trying to get us to fall.
They succeeded. Lol! 

This reindeer was the hit of the night! The kids
adored it (and were so cute!). As the evening progressed,
the adults commandeered it, lol! And let me tell you,
it's no toy! That thing can MOVE!

Synthetic ice rink! So fun!
The boys weren't very happy with their accommodations for the party, haha, but we made it up to them in treats and snuggles.


It was a great party, and a really fun time. When all was said and done, we had nearly 100 people there! Woohoo!

After the party, it was the final stretch to Christmas. Our daughter Ariel spent the holiday with her boyfriend & his family out of town, our son-in-law Jared is deployed, and my parents were mid-move, so our group was smaller this year, and we missed them very much. Jared was able to skype in for the gift opening, and again later for dinner, and that was fabulous for all of us, but especially Shiloh.

Speaking of Shiloh - she's now 24 weeks pregnant! We've hit viability!! Yay!!!!! She's beautiful, glowing, and growing :-) I just love having her here during this pregnancy. And, oh that baby bump!!! hehehe!!

Christmas Eve, we had our annual poker party - which didn't last as long as usual due to the missing folks, lol. Everyone had fun playing, and I had fun prepping breakfast for the next morning. We tried two homemade cinnamon roll recipes, plus my traditional breakfast burritos. Yum! Sunday was wonderful, I love having my family gathered together, and hope next year to have them ALL here. ;-)

For dinner, I used my sous vide Joule - so easy!!!! I seriously love that tool! I had cooked the carrots the day before, so about an hour before the beef was done, I just put those back in the water bath and they were ready when we were. Did I say it's so easy? Because it is! LOL!
I had to cut my roast in half in order to fit in the skillet for searing, lol. 

After 2 hours in the water bath, the beef had just an hour to go, so I added the carrots back in to warm up.
Worked perfectly! 

My Joule is my favorite toy, lol.  Anyway, dinner enjoyed, leftovers divvied up, pups spoiled and kids all hugged, then it was just us. Shi and Bear went to bed, and Bill and I lit a fire and cuddled up on the patio to watch Deepwater Horizon and savor our well-earned wine. It was a great day, and a beautiful night.

This coming year will bring some fun and exciting events - Bill is taking me to New Orleans in a couple weeks!! Shi helped him get it all booked and set up, even put the info into a binder for me for Christmas! (Yes - the organizational binder. I raised her well!). I'm so excited!!! Then of course, Jared comes home (hopefully before the birth), and Baby is due mid April. There are no words to express my joy and gratitude for this baby!!


And, because my husband is the world's greatest, there's another event planned for the fall.... Me, my mom, and Shiloh are heading to Maryland to stay at...

Inn Boonsboro!!! Wooooohoooo!!!!

If you're  not familiar with Inn Boonsboro, check out the link above. It's the setting for a Nora Roberts Trilogy (here), and we can't wait to experience it!! The boys (Bill, my Dad, and Jared) will be on baby & puppy duty, lol, while us girls get a weekend away. Happy Dance!!!!

Here's to looking forward to what 2017 brings. I hope this year ends quietly and gently for all of us, and that next year brings joy, peace, and adventure. Best Wishes to You!!



Monday, December 5, 2016

Happy Holidays!

I can't believe it's been so long since my last post! Yikes!
So... a quick catch up...

Daughter is blooming in her pregnancy - she's currently 21 weeks along! I can't give words to how grateful we are for this growing baby! Here's his pic at 19 weeks...


The boys are (mostly) staying out of trouble. Hunter and Bear still get into it here and there, but Loki is the resident referee. Lol. So far we've only lost a stuffed Rudolph, one santa slipper, and a handful of holiday picks. We're pretty sure Loki is the culprit, but he does a great frame job on Hunter.

Our best friend's daughter got married - she was such a beautiful bride! I definitely cried when she and her dad had their dance. So sweet!  Here's Bill and I at the reception.

We had a great thanksgiving. I even managed to brine two turkeys, flip them on day 2, and despite having a tweaked back, I did not end up on my ass holding a sopping wet bird. Victory is MINE!!!!

I made use of my turkey roaster, ninja cooker, and multiple crockpots - along with the oven, lol. Full spread. And I loved preparing and serving it. I told Bill I needed a bigger counter for next year, though. Ha! Ya'll can imagine how he responded. Hehehe.

Ended the night relaxing with some wine and old Gilmore Girls. The next day, Shi and I marathoned the new Gilmore Girls. Woohoo!!! And yes, we watched it while eating chinese food & pizza. Lol.

Saturday, the kids all came over to help set up the Christmas decorations. During a break, Joey took the Can-Am for a spin to continue breaking it in. Evidently artificial rocks aren't just for decoration. Lol. Hunter very much enjoys riding - passenger seat or back, he's fine either way. Loki and Bear not so much.

House is all decorated up. We even got lights on the trees outside! Woot! Of course, the dogs (ahem, Loki) have eaten through one of the strands, so that'll need to be replaced.



Foodwise, I'm loving my Joule from ChefSteps. Sous vide is so much fun!!! I've been playing with all kinds of recipes, and adore the "poached" eggs. The steaks are absolutely incomparable! If you don't know about sous vide, check out this article and this one.  Having played around with it, I can tell you it's the most painless and idiot proof method of cooking. Even more than the crockpot!! Seriously - a steak that you CAN'T overcook??? Count me in!!
Sous Vide Steak with Poached Egg &
Roasted Asparagus
Sous Vide Teriyaki Chicken & Veggies with
Poached Egg


Other things in the works currently include getting ready for the big Christmas Party. I've been working on the party since September, so Friday I started working on my followups with the vendors.
Lighting - check.
Caterer - check.
Equipment (ice rink, snow blower, mechanical reindeer) - NOT CHECK!!! 

OMG, I booked it for the wrong date!!!! Menopause-brain strikes!! Panic ensued, frantic phone calls, emails, panic... thankfully, my rep was able to get everything straightened out with no blood loss. Whew!!!!! Unfortunately, my prego daughter couldn't wait to tell Bill what I'd done. What a brat.

Now I'm working on finalizing the beverage list - seriously, how much booze for 75 people? Lol.

Additionally, after a painful weekend, I finally hauled my butt to the dentist. Now I'm looking at a multi-hour visit tomorrow morning for a couple crowns, a filling, and the possibility of a root canal. Dagnabbit. Of course, the fact that it's been about 10 years since my last dental checkup might have something to do with it. #$%&@!!!  Don't judge. Lol.

And so... that's my update. And now prego-Shi and I are off to the gym. We're both battling colds, so hopefully it won't kick our butts too badly, lol.  Wish us luck!

Happy Holiday Season!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Are We There Yet?

Well, Shi is almost completely unpacked. We do have her TV on the dining room table still - keep forgetting to have Bill move it into her room. It's too heavy for her to lift, and while I certainly can, I don't want to take responsibility should a stray pup wander between my legs and it comes crashing down. Lol. She's ordered a bassinet for her room, since she and the baby will still be here for a couple weeks before Jared is out (finishes his military commitment in June). I've also got the cradle my Dad did when the kids were babies. :-) That'll go in the living room. So excited!

We've got a regular checkup on Friday morning for her, then after that Bill and I head out to Colorado for the weekend. So looking forward to it! Going to eat great food, soak in amazing hot springs, and drink wine by the fire. Ahhh! Are we there yet?

It's still a challenge to find family meals... While Bill and I are loving the meats we got from our Butcher Box order, Shi is continuing to find meat a challenge. We did upgrade to her being able to eat scrambled eggs again, though, so I'll take that as a victory. I've got her all stocked up for protein smoothies while we're out of town, so I can rest assured she's getting enough nutrients. Lol.

I'm continuing my workouts with Kayla. We try for 3x/week, but mostly we're hitting 2x. That's ok, for now. I'm also still trying to get my hormones 'fixed', so my energy is pretty low most days. Once we're on track with that, though, I'm looking forward to getting my drive back. So far, most of my numbers are improving and coming in line, there are only two that are a current concern... progesterone and prolactin. I'm zippo on the first, and crazy high on the second. Not a whole lot of fun. Doc is still considering kicking me onto a Keto diet if there's no improvement on my next blood panel. Hopefully I can avoid that. Crossing my fingers (and toes)!

Food, like I mentioned earlier, is great. Balanced, though per doctor's orders I've lowered my protein intake (which feels so weird after all these years!). More veggies. And more veggies. Lol. I'm cooking more, which is wonderful. With all the stress, we had fallen into ordering take-out. Thankfully, our area is full of great choices, even gluten free! Still, home cooked is best, and I'm glad to be back in action there.

Honesty - With everything we've gone through in the last couple years, all of my energy has gone to simply taking the next step, whatever it might be. Whether it's waiting for test results, or driving back and forth to California for another procedure, or grieving test results, or... it's truly been all consuming. At one point, I couldn't leave the house unless it was to drive to CA. Literally couldn't leave. If a task wasn't for Shi or for Bill, it didn't get done.  I ordered groceries delivered. Prime Now was my best friend. Part of me was terrified because of it, but the rest of me was just too buried under the fog of anxiety, depression, and fear.

Thankfully, I had great support at home (and a really fantastic online group of friends - I'm talkin' to you, EXPN!), and eventually managed to crawl out of that hermit hole. Social events are, to be honest, a serious challenge for me still. But I can go to the grocery store, run errands, and occasionally go to the mall - though that many people is... difficult. I hate to say it, but I dread the holiday shopping season. It's just hard to be surrounded by a lot of people. I don't like feeling this way - I don't like the anxiety, the random anger. It's not me. I'm a people person. I love crowds - the energy. I miss that joy. But... I know I'll get it back. Correction - I'm getting it back.

And in the meantime, I'll continue to plug along, enjoy the time with my family, plan for my daughter's family, cook, workout, (play gow, lol)... life goes on. I'll look forward to what's ahead... in the short term - simply being back in the kitchen, a getaway or two with my hubby, family holidays... in the long term, the birth of our grandbaby, family/friend weddings & events, and more. There's so much to be grateful for. I'm choosing to live in hope & joy - it's so much brighter out here than in my previous cave of doubt and fear.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Stepping Into the Light

When I began blogging eight years ago, I promised I would be transparent. I promised to share - the good and the bad, honestly. I have. Faithfully. For six of those years.

Over time, you've seen me grow, fight, achieve. You've shared with me your support and your love. And I value you. I thank you.

Because of that love and support, today I am opening the door on the last two years of my life. All those things I told you I would share when I could... Now is that time.
 (My daughter has shared her journey - I encourage you to read it here.)

It began with three beautiful, amazing words -

"Mom, I'm pregnant."

Oh, Bill and I  were so excited!! Being me, I instantly hit up the bookstores... baby this, mommy that, daddy the other... nutrition for pregnancy and babies...   (because you know me) ... stacks of books. Then came the baby clothes, and toys, and so much! We had a blast planning, chatting, it was the best time!

Until it wasn't.

Until an 8 week ultrasound broke our hearts. The baby had died. Their doctor grieved, and even cried when he told them. I grieved for the loss, for my daughter and her husband, and I was so angry that I was 5 hours away and wasn't there. I felt so helpless, so useless. Honestly, I was so jealous of that damn doctor. He was able to physically convey his sympathy. I wasn't.  Yet, I was so grateful he was there... But that was only the beginning.

The pregnancy announcement should have been the start of something wonderful, instead it opened a door to a world of fear and sorrow. What followed was two years of sheer hell. Despair. Grief. Joy. Hope. Disappointment. Terror. Depression. Devastation. Incredible highs, only to be faced with soul-shredding lows.  I would give anything, absolutely anything, to have spared my kids from the battle they've fought.

It has a name, that battle. It has a definition. 1 in 8 couples in America suffers from it. It's classified as a disease, and yet insurance does not cover it. It won't kill you, but it will eat away at you and devour your dreams.

It is Infertility.

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive.  If you are over the age of 35, the time of trying to conceive is reduced to 6 months.  (Resolve.com)  

I was young when I married the first time. By the age of 20, I had experienced my first miscarriage, and delivered my first child. By 26, I had three beautiful children, six lost angels, and had a medically necessary hysterectomy. There was no explanation for my struggles. No medical professional ever took my miscarriages seriously - I was young, there was plenty of time. Until there wasn't. I helplessly grieved each loss. I cherished my rainbow babies. But I never got answers. Time moved on.

Two years ago, when my daughter and her husband had decided to begin their family, oh how we rejoiced! Yet in sorrow, I have watched history repeat itself. To date, she has experienced 5 miscarriages, undergone countless tests, been given heartbreaking results, and has humbled me with her strength and grace.

We are so grateful, so blessed, that unlike my experience, Shiloh had a doctor who truly cared. He tested, he researched, he listened. And he when all signs pointed to... he referred her to a wonderful infertility specialist who has been a consistent light in a very dark time.

It's been a time of seeking. As we've traveled this path, we've had a significant learning curve. While there is some research, there isn't enough. Not nearly enough. Particularly in young women. In May of 2015, my daughter was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure. While she was only 21, her ovaries were like those of a 46 year old woman. Testing also revealed that she has the MTFHR genetic mutation, which among other things, means that she can't absorb folic acid and vitamin B like "normal people". Additionally there is a blood clotting disorder.  (At the urging of Shiloh's doctor, we had my other daughter and myself tested. We all three have it.) FYI, those of us in this world call it (sorry for the language) the Mother Fucker Gene. Because, yeah. It's like that.  Not kidding.  Google it.

Putting together my daughter's diagnosis, further test results, and family history (namely, me - let's talk about guilt), it's estimated that Shiloh will experience complete reproductive failure by about age 26 (total terminal failure - hysterectomy). In light of this, they decided to perform two aggressive IVF cycles - back to back, in an effort to retrieve as many eggs as possible. It is terribly expensive, prohibitively so. It breaks my heart to think of the couples who can't pursue the option. I'm so grateful for my husband and the way he embraced this fight.  Because of him, we were able to proceed with the IVF process.

From May to the end of July, 2015, Shiloh underwent IVF. After low egg numbers the first cycle, the second one was "all out". Medications were increased, stims were even higher.  The trauma of the first cycle was nothing compared to  the second. All those trips back and forth to San Diego last year were for those two cycles. To help in whatever way I could, and to care for Shiloh after her surgeries.

It's an awful process. The sheer amount of hormones being pumped into the body, the daily needles & injections, the distressing bruises, weight gain, mood swings, the fear and doubt that try to drown out hope... and then the painful retrieval procedure and recovery. I so wish I could have spared her. But I couldn't. So I cooked. Lol.
Post-retrieval surgery
Once all the eggs were fertilized, had gone through the 5 day maturation process prior to freezing, we were down to 7 total embryos. They were shipped off for genetic testing (PGS). And then we waited for the results. I went back home to Arizona. We were all on pins and needles. Two weeks, wondering how many grand-babies we'd get from them, and what would they be like? Bill and I couldn't wait! We knew Shi and Jared would be amazing parents. Those babies would be so loved.

Finally, it was time for the appointment. August 14, 2015. I will never forget the sound of Shiloh's tears, the depth of her pain, the anger inside me that I was so far away - that I couldn't wrap her up and hold her tight.

I can't even say that our worst fears were realized because it hadn't occurred to me that this could happen. None of the embryos could survive. The egg quality was too poor. The crushing blow was delivered - Shiloh is unable to carry her own child. It's just too cruel. The incredible journey of parenthood so many achieve so easily, was denied to her. (this news was the reason for this post. I still cannot watch that scene without reliving those moments - if you want to empathize to any degree, watch that clip in the post, you'll get it.)

In the following weeks, we learned what the options available were.
A - give up.
B - someday adopt.
C - move forward with an embryo adoption (a fertilized egg from another couple).
D - move forward with a donor egg (freshly harvested, to be fertilized by Jared).

Who has to make these kinds of decisions at their age?? It's so wrong, so unfair.

They were "brave and strong and broken, all at once". Shiloh & Jared chose to go the donor egg route. This began the search for the perfect donor. Shouldn't be too hard, right? A blonde haired, blue eyed girl with similar features to Shi. That is not asking too much. Evidently, though, it was. We went through six donors over the next several months. It was brutal.

At one point, we were all traveling to Colorado for our annual family "Christmas" vacation and got the call that the donor she'd chosen was available but we had to put a deposit down (doesn't that sound ridiculous?) or she could be scooped up by someone else. We had just made the turn into Durango, and Bill and I pulled out of the caravan to run into a bank to wire the funds. Everyone was texting, "Where'd you go? Where are we going??" as they headed out of town.  Lol.

Eventually everyone managed to arrive at the property and we celebrated that the donor was booked! It was happening! We had a beautiful week, so much fun! So many hopes and dreams! Then it was time to return to the real world.  We packed up and hit the road.  On the drive home, Shiloh got an email from the agency... the donor was pregnant. When she texted me, I thought, Oh My god. Why the hell would you tell her that???? Say she had a family emergency and had to pull out of the program, say she got sick, say she had to move out of the country... say anything but that!!! It was yet another brutal low following a brilliant high.

Despite the crippling disappointment, Shi and Jared stood strong. She continued to search for the right donor, continued to hope,continued to believe.

One year after Shiloh's IVF cycles, Donor #7 began hers. The donor goes through the same demanding medical protocol that Shiloh went through  - pills, shots, ultrasounds, more shots and then the surgery to "harvest" the eggs. (This is after she is carefully screened - genetic testing, counseling, and so much more. While her identity remains anonymous, every aspect of her health and history are scrutinized).

Each month, a "normal" woman will produce one egg out of one follicle, from one ovary. In IVF, the follicles are stimulated chemically to produce multiple mature eggs- in a healthy woman, this is anywhere from 20-50 eggs. At one time. It requires absolute dedication. It is painful.  It requires modification of lifestyle to an extreme degree. And this time it was all done by a donor who is voluntarily undergoing the process and giving away the eggs harvested to someone she will never know, to create potential babies she will never see. Though these women are financially compensated, I stand in awe of those who selflessly undergo IVF in the hopes that their gift will allow a total stranger to become a mother.

July 6th our donor had her egg retrieval surgery. It was a success. The eggs were fertilized, incubated & documented, then frozen and sent for testing. And we waited. Another two weeks of fear and doubt, of hope and prayer. Please, please don't let this end badly. Please, please give Shiloh her dream.

JOY!!!!! Babies!!!!  Many, many tears were shed. So much excitement, relief, and yes - still some fear. There's a long way yet to go.

Shiloh began the drug protocol to prepare for transfer. More needles. More ultrasounds to track the progress of her uterine lining. And finally, at the end of July, Shiloh underwent the transfer procedure. I was blessed to be there. I can now say that I was present when my daughter got knocked up - I even video'd it. ;-)
 

Since that beautiful day, the road has not smoothed. She's been in the hospital several times with bleeding. Many IVF women experience Subchorionic Hemorrhaging, and Shiloh unfortunately is no exception. It's terrifying. Every trip to the restroom brings back the fear of miscarriage. Despite that, each checkup brings greater joy, more confidence. She's currently 12 weeks and absolutely blossoming.

I'm amazed at how far technology has come since my time... the ultrasounds are crystal clear, we've already seen little fingers and toes! And Shiloh purchased a heart doppler - it's wonderful! She checks on the little guy every day and that whooshing heartbeat is the best sound! Oh, my heart!

Friday we had the 12 week ultrasound. What an incredible milestone! Though the little peanut wouldn't give us a full profile, we got to watch him wiggle and wave. Oh my heart!!

Throughout her journey, though a private person, she always planned to "go public". There are so many women seeking answers, understanding, support - I certainly was one - with no resolution, a product of my time. She's been one of them for the last six years, and she wants to help be the resource so many are searching for. I applaud her courage. I'm so proud of her. (Her story is HERE)

Opening up about infertility is not for the faint of heart. People can be cruel, whether they mean to or not. The sheer number of stupid, awful things "friends" and "family" have said to her over the last two  years are overwhelming. Here's just a tiny sample, and these are real...

"You must have done something wrong to have miscarried."
"Why don't you have a baby yet? Take the jump!"
"I know your struggling, but it's just too dark for me. I need space from you."
"Maybe it's just not meant to be."
"Oh, just give it time, relax, it'll happen."
"I'll carry your baby!"
"You can have my eggs."
"Just adopt."
"IVF is wrong. It's unnatural. God won't bless that."
"You can't have kids? Take mine, they're driving me nuts!"
"You're pregnant? Finally!! Is this one going to stick?"

If you've known me for any length of time, you can probably imagine the profanity I spew when I hear things like that. I get so angry, so hurt on her behalf. But she's always so graceful in response. She's a much better person than me. Lol.

In spite of people like that, there are others who have stood beside Shi and Jared through their journey. Friends and family who are true. Additionally, I'm so grateful for the wonderful group of women she's connected with online. They've truly become sisters in this journey. They are beautiful, amazing, strong and resilient women.

I'll tell you the truth, my daughter is my hero. What I have seen her survive would break most of us. The catastrophic pain she has shouldered... yet still she can smile, dream, love. She honors me, and she humbles me. I'm thrilled that she's home with us for the next months (though sad that Jared isn't- he's deployed out of the country). I get to coddle her, hover to my heart's content, plan, shop, cook and generally baby her. I'm loving it. Though we're still trying to find food she can eat, lol. Evidently spaghetti squash is still out. ;-) Chicken is also a no-go. Though the Sea-band have helped a LOT - including helping her sleep through the night (oh the joys of the first trimester).  Lol.

We're all praying for continued health - for mommy and baby. And praying for the future. I want all her dreams to come true. I'll do everything in my power to make it happen. And when it's outside of my power? I'll pray. I'll dream. I'll support. I'll do whatever it takes. If you, or someone you know is experiencing this also.. I'll pray, dream, and support for you, too.





Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Catching up - it's what I do...

Once again, here I am apologizing for my lack of posts. A huge part of the reason for this is that there is so much going on in our lives that I cannot share publicly. Yet. Next week I'll be at liberty to open the doors on the last two years. Yep, two years. It's been a long and winding road, with more than a few hairpin turns and cliffhangers.

Looking back, I'm stunned at just how much has happened. I've shared with you the frightening health issues we've faced - my mother in law and sister in law with cancer (both now cancer-free and thriving!), my husband with his mass and subsequent surgery and tests (benign!). We've lost loved family members and friends. We lost our sweet Sadie. Dreams have died - while I didn't share publicly - we had found a wonderful property in Colorado that would be our family retreat, and my husband and I's legacy to our children. 80+ acres of glorious hills, trees, streams and ponds. Two residences, including one that could (after a bit of renovating) sleep the entire family including all my future grandkids, lol.  Everything about it was perfect. Until it wasn't. Not once but twice, the property fell out of escrow. In the end, it cost us too much, financially and emotionally, and we made the decision to walk away. So hard to let go.

Professionally, as you've seen on the blog, I have had to slow way down. The demands of our circumstances have taken precedence over anything else. While I do plan to resurrect the newsletter, and simply do more, that time is still a bit off. Nearly every bit of my energy right now is going into my family. That said, I haven't been completely standing still.  Within the next months there is a HUGE addition coming to Recipe For Fitness. A whole new area of service that I'm really excited about.

At home, we're settling into our new routines. Our son-in-law is deployed, and Shiloh and Bear have moved back home. Loki is thrilled with his new playmate, but Hunter and Bear are still deciding who is alpha, lol.  We love having Shi here, and can't wait for the time when the kids permanently move back to Arizona. We'll have all of our chicks close again. Though, Joey is threatening to move to Alaska, lol. He runs the out of state jobs at hubby's company and recently spent time just outside of Anchorage. He absolutely fell in love with it.

The hubby and I are STILL waiting for our camper. I am unclear on why it's taking a month for them to replace a countertop, but I've been banned from handling the matter. Evidently Bill doesn't want to have to bail me out of jail. Pfft. In the meantime, we've booked a couple trips - for my birthday we are returning to our beloved Colorado. Mountain air, hot springs, fire pits and red wine. Hell YES! Really, really looking forward to some couple time. Then in November, we're heading out to Las Vegas to see Santana at the House of Blues. Yay!!!!! Can't wait!!!

In the meantime, I'm gearing up for my fall garden. Woohoo! I've still got two thriving eggplant bushes, plus my insane basil. Sunday I winterized the asparagus beds, and started prepping the other beds for the next season. I can't wait to get my hands in the dirt again! It's such amazing therapy.

Well, there you go. That's my update.
I hope all is well in your world.




Monday, September 12, 2016

I'm still here - I promise!!!

Wow! Can't believe it's been so long since I've posted. Crazy! I'm sorry.

The heat has wrought pure havoc on my garden - though the sweet basil and lemon basil continue to grow wild. It's great!! I haven't had to buy basil at the market since spring! Woot!! This week we're finally enjoying temps below the 100's... but it won't last. Next week is supposed to jump up again. I can't wait for it to cool off enough to start planting my fall garden.

From the kids' last visit - there's actually
3 dogs there. Lol! Bear, Hunter and Loki.
This week, though, is more of the crazy. Lol.  Today and tomorrow are stacked with my continuing education course, attempts at gluten free baking, recipe development research, household rearranging, and packing. This morning our son-in-law shipped out for deployment. We'll miss him so much! Our daughter is finishing up her packing, then Wednesday morning we head to California to load her up and bring her home. While it'll be nice to have her close by, I'm sure she'd rather have her hubby. Lol. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes Bear (her lab) to adjust to living with (not just visiting) our Hunter and Loki.

On the personal health front - I've got a fabulous new doctor - a Naturopath, and I'm thrilled. My former doctor just wasn't cutting it with this menopause crap. My first appointment, the new doc sat with me for over an hour - asking questions, explaining treatments. He called me by name throughout. I cried. Finally someone in the medical field was actually listening to me! He ran a ton of bloodwork, and asked if I was ok with making immediate changes to my drug protocol while we wait for the results... Oh, you mean the ones that aren't working???Ummmm, YES!! He pulled me off the drugs the previous doc had me on right then and there. I went home with hope, a shot in the butt, and a new protocol. Within 48 hours the night sweats were gone. Within the next 24 hours the low grade headache I've had for months was gone. Wow!

Once my bloodwork came back, he spent another hour with me going over it. Incredible!! We're working together to restore my health using a whole-life approach and I love it! I am so looking forward to feeling good again! It's such a relief to know that the wonkiness in my life isn't just "me" - it's a direct result of my hormones being out of whack. And we're fixing it. I'm so grateful! If you're in the phoenix metro area, and looking for a doctor who actually cares, check out Protea Medical Center in Chandler - Dr. McCarthy. You will NOT be disappointed!

Currently, my treatment includes a T-shot once a week (combination of testosterone and estrogen), and a daily progesterone sublingual and a thyroid pill. We're watching my bloodwork and adjusting as we go. Additionally, he suspects a correlation between my joint flare ups and gluten - so I'm on a 30 day gluten-free diet. I've been GF before, but for some reason it's particularly challenging this time. I don't know what my deal is but it's been rough. Weird.

So, being me, I'm doing a ton of research and testing. Today I managed to create some banana chocolate chip muffins that are TASTY, high protein and GF. Next time, I'll add another mashed banana, just to make that flavor stronger, but the experiment was a success!! Next up is my first attempt at making artisan GF bread. Hopefully it'll knock this insane craving I've had for french bread. Lol.

In other news... The hubby and I recently made the decision to invest in a camper and ATV. We wanted the ability to take off on whim - with the dogs.  We both have a love of camping, though haven't done any in years. The idea of a toyhauler was especially appealing - we could load the ATV right in and hit the road - and be able to get around wherever we go. Plus with the smaller set up, we wouldn't need to upgrade Bill's truck (an expense we don't want right now).

We did tons of research (of course, lol), shopped and shopped, and finally made our choice. We carefully examined the specs for each and it was perfect! The Can-Am (street legal) would fit just right into the Forest River toyhauler (little one). So... we did the deal. Picked up the trailer, headed over to load up the Can-Am and BOOOOOOO. No joy. It seriously didn't fit. Not by a little... by a LOT. Turns out our trailer has an upgraded cabinet tower that isn't listed on the spec sheet. Crap. Much scratching of heads, a lot more cussing, and finally the good folks at the dealership said they'll figure it out. So we dropped it all off with them and let their team scratch their heads and swear. Lol.  They did indeed figure it out and we are currently waiting on a new countertop - then we'll be ready to go.

They sent me a pic of the ATV inside the trailer so we know it really fits now. Lol!
Like I said, we got the little trailer, lol.  But it's just perfect for us. Bill and I and the pups can head out into the wilderness - hike, play, fish, whatever! It can actually sleep 6, but we've told all the kids it only sleeps 2, haha! You'll keep my secret, right? ;-)

We've already scouted out our first campsite - not too far from home, but up in the pine & aspens. Can't wait!!
There's our setup! Woohoo! 

Ok - I've got to get back to my studies. What's the subject of my new certification? Well, let's just say I know more about sperm than I ever thought there was to know. LOL!!

And if you were interested... Here's the muffin recipe....

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (GF)
makes 6 muffins

1 cup Glutino GF Muffin flour
2 mashed ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 c greek yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 c Enjoy Life (df) mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees & spray your muffin pan
In a medium bowl, mash bananas. Add eggs, yogurt, and vanilla and mix well.
Add flour and mix well.
Add chocolate chips and mix.
Pour into muffin tin and bake 15-18 minutes. They're done when you can insert a sharp knife and pull it out clean.
Allow to cool 5-10 minutes.
Enjoy!



Monday, July 18, 2016

Welcome to the Surface of the Sun...

Happy Monday! I don't much care for Mondays, but that doesn't stop them from coming. It's been a pretty typical one, with me making lists, goals, and plans - then getting to round-about-3pm and realizing there 'aint no way I'm getting this all done. Lol. Like I said, typical.

Hope ya'll are staying cool. We've been running the AC like crazy. I don't even want to think about the bill. Our area has had way too many triple digit days and there's no end in sight. Haven't even had a good monsoon yet. People like to say, "oh, but it's a dry heat, right?". Sure. Sure it is. Dry heat like opening the oven door when it's set on broil - you know, singe your eyebrows and nose hair kinda heat. But yeah, it's dry. Lol.

Recipes around here lately have been pretty simple - light & fresh meals that can be put together in a snap. It's too darn hot for anything else. Mostly salad based dinners... topped with rotisserie chicken and chopped veggies, or taco meat and black beans... that kind of thing. Tonight's dinner is a twist on the recipe I shared last week - Summer Steak Tart. I'm swapping out the steak for rotisserie chicken, exchanging the feta for manchego and pecorino cheeses. I'll share the results tonight.

One thing I've had a serious hankering for lately is spaghetti squash. Haven't seen any in my local stores. And the ones I planted have stubbornly refused to bear fruit. Buggers. Speaking of my garden...

It's summer. And it's hot. Ugh. Next summer I'm planning to utilize some garden shading - not sure yet what exactly that will entail, but losing crops makes me mad. I never did get fruit out of my Armenian cucumbers - the vines are still growing, but I think they're about done. I got quite a bit out of my regular cucumbers, and my tomatoes were an absolute triumph - still are, in fact. I'm harvesting cherry tomatoes every day. The cabbage and cauliflower went to seed while we were in England, but I left them in the garden because they were pretty, lol.

Now I've got pumpkins, cantaloupe, and watermelon all struggling to produce in two of the beds. A third has my second batch of corn that hasn't made it to maturity (seriously irritating). I've cleaned out and amended another bed and replanted using the three-sisters method (corn, green beans, and squash all together).  Haven't had a lot of luck with any of those crops, so maybe lumping them together is the trick.

I've also seeded a few empty sections with more fun stuff... broccoli, cilantro, dill, more peanuts, more peppers. I'm sunflower crazy, so I've also sowed a bunch more of those, including in the front yard around the big Fir tree. I had tried to do this several weeks ago... dug a little trough all around the tree, laid in fresh soil, put in my seeds. And the all came up! I was so excited and couldn't wait for them to grow and bloom. Then the guy who mows our lawn came. Yep. He ran them all over. I may have shed a few tears. So... I went out and got some little fencing and did it all again. Lol. You can see they're popping up. Woohoo! My pumpkins and watermelon seedlings in the front yard are also doing great. Maybe I'll get something out of those since the ones in the backyard are giving me fits.
 

My herbs are going crazy! I've got lemon basil, sweet basil and thai basil that have all thrived beyond my expectations. It's awesome!! My oregano was doing really good until this week, drat. I've got nice strong tarragon, savory, and parsley, though I'm hoping to get more of the first two. Seeds are in, so we'll see. My carrots are poking their shoulders up, and my peppers are all doing well. My favorite part of the day is picking a pepper for my breakfast omelet :-) I've got several different varieties, so it's fun to play with them all. I have discovered I prefer red jalapeno's over green ones. Lol. They're hotter.

The pups are doing great. I've been working with Loki in the pool - he loves to be held while in the water, and he loves to swim, but he still won't get in on his own. Weirdo. Hunter on the other hand...

Lol!! He adores that thing! And so far, hasn't been able to bite through it! Yay! Once Loki decides to venture in on his own, I'll get another floaty for him. This is the one I bought from amazon and it's really great.

Life has been as crazy as usual for our family. We've got a lot of things going on. Some days I manage to keep all the balls I'm juggling in the air. Some days not so much, lol. But hopefully this week brings us good news on a couple different fronts. Cross your fingers for us ;-)

Signing off - me and the guy "helping" me write this post. Lol.
Yes... he's laying on the keyboard. What a goober.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

New Recipe!!! Spectacular Summer Steak Tart

OMG - you guys... this tart is unbelievable! I've been playing around with recipes that let me use my garden veggies and herbs... recipes that are quick and easy... recipes that help alleviate the ridiculous heat (been averaging 111 all week). A month or more into summer, we're a wee bit tired of salads (though I've got plans and ideas to liven those up, too!), so I started experimenting with tarts.

Now, I don't know about you, but when I think of tarts, I visualize those gorgeous little baked delicacies piled high with seasonal fruit. That, however, is not what this is. Lol.  Today's recipe is a savory tart. And let me tell you... it's phenomenal! The hubby went back for more. Twice. SOOOO GOOD!!!! Several times he told me just that. And he wasn't lying. I'm considering making it again for dinner tonight. Because... I need better photos. Good excuse, right? ;-)

You can play around with the recipe. Use different veggies, cheeses, herbs, proteins... Make it your own! Another important note... I chose to use full fat yogurt & cheeses - you can significantly cut the calories and fat by using fat free yogurt and reduced fat cheese (or reduce the amount of cheese). Your choice. Have fun with it!

Summer Steak Tart

"This is a fabulous way to use those fresh summer veggies! With a greek yogurt base on puff pastry, it's layers and layers of veggies, herbs, and proteins! Easy to prepare ahead of time, too! "
Healthy Summer Veggie and Steak Tart Recipe
Serves 6
Prep Time:
Cook Time:

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt, full fat*
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 3 Tbsp parmesan, fresh grated
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, ground (more to taste)
  • 1 very small eggplant, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 8 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or sliced
  • 3 oz grilled, lean steak (I used leftovers from a previous meal)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme*
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano*
  • 1/2 tsp fresh basil*
  • 6 large eggs, raw
  • 3 Tbsp crumbled feta

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Thaw 1 sheet of puff pastry and place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Roll it out smooth.
  3. Gently turn up and roll the edges into a small crust.
  4. Finely chop the herbs, then divide in half.
  5. Thinly slice, then dice the cooked steak. Set aside.
  6. Thinly slice the eggplant and red pepper. Halve or slice the tomatoes.
  7. In a small bowl, mix together greek yogurt, milk, parmesan and a sprinkle of sea salt & pepper to taste.
  8. Pour mixture into the center of the pastry and spread evenly.
  9. Layer veggies over the yogurt mixture.
  10. Sprinkle half the herbs over the tart.
  11. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until veggies are softened and pastry crust is mostly cooked. Remove from oven.
  12. Evenly spread the steak over the tart.
  13. Sprinkle 3 Tbsp crumbled feta over the top.
  14. With a spoon, create six wells evenly over the tort. Make them deep and wide enough to contain an egg.
  15. Crack an egg carefully into each well.
  16. Sprinkle the remaining herbs.
  17. Add a touch more sea salt and cracked pepper over the top.
  18. Return to oven and bake for about 20 minutes - until pastry is no longer raw and eggs reach desired doneness. I prefer soft set - whites fully cooked, yolks soft).
  19. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  20. Slice into 6 pieces.
  21. Serve.


Nutritional Information

Amount Per Slice  Calories: 290 | Total Protein: 15 g | Total Carbohydrate: 22 g | Total Fat: 17 g | Total Fiber: 3 g | Total Sodium: 410 mg 


NOTES:
*To prepare ahead, after the first baking, allow tart to cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to finish. When ready, preheat oven, add the steak, feta, eggs, and herbs. Continue as per the recipe.
***Herbs - I used fresh herbs from my garden (the veggies, too!), but you can certainly use dried if that's what is available.
    Clean Eating Summer Veggie Steak Tart
 

 View this and more recipes at www.RecipeForFitness.com

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Fires of Hades Have Arrived

Seriously, ya'll. It's freaking HOT. The hubs and I were running errands yesterday and snapped this...
Yep. You read that right... 120 degrees.  And, it actually went up from there. We topped out yesterday at 122. Way too darn hot. I made the mistake of trying to do some damage control in the garden during the afternoon - just a bit of water at the roots of my wilting plants... and wow. That heat.  Almost took me down. While we Arizonians joke about our summers, the dangers of the heat just aren't funny. We actually had 3 hikers and 1 mountain biker die yesterday in this heat. And they weren't unprepared or unfit - it's scary.

Back to the garden... it's still doing great! My basil has become a forest, I'm still harvesting tomatoes each day. I've got cucumbers and tomatoes, beets and turnips, several kinds of peppers. My eggplant is nearing harvest (they're so pretty!). The watermelon and pumpkins are doing great - I even planted more out in the front yard - thought it'd be a cool thing when they're ready to harvest - the kids in the neighborhood can pick their own pumpkins!



eggplant!



The puppies are doing great! Growing like crazy. They bring us so much joy! Hunter is a big water baby - he loves to jump in and just swim in circles around the pool. He also has a thing for the float - he can chill in that for long periods of time. It's so darn cute. Loki still hasn't decided to chance the pool, though he's getting more and more curious as he watches his brother splash and play. Hopefully we'll get him in soon.

Food around here has been dictated by the weather, lol. Lots of light & crisp meals - chicken salad w/veggies, stir-fry, that sort of thing. Quick and easy, light and flavorful. I've also been testing out another delivery service - Freshly. My subscription is 12 meals a week (3 dinners for three people, and 3 breakfasts). The convenience cannot be beat - fully cooked meals, delivered in a refrigerated box, and you microwave them when you need them... two minutes from fridge to table. Drawback is that the entree's don't really have a lot of flavor. That said, the breakfasts are incredible!!!! Omelettes, quiche, frittata... so yummy! I've got one more week of subscription (should arrive today), then it's back to my normal weekly food prep. Lol. The hubby is ready to have my food full time again. ;-)

Workouts have been going well. Had to switch over to Pilates for my last session since I so gracefully sliced open my heel (ugh).  Finally went and had the doctor look at it and the bugger was infected. A very painful exam and more painful tetanus shot later, it's finally on the mend. Today I will be attempting to wear gym shoes for the first time in a week. Wish me luck! Lol.

This summer, along with the insane heat, we've got lots of activity and travel. Already we have traveled up to California for my nephew's graduation party, to visit the kids in San Diego, and next month we've got a wedding, followed by another in September, with a couple trips to San Diego in between. In addition, we're shaking things up at home - one kiddo moving out on her own in July, another moving back in September. Lol. Plus lots of work changes for the hubby. It's super stressful for him, but I'm so proud of where he is, what he's built, and the opportunities that are opening for him.

So... there's my update. Hope ya'll are staying cool!