Monday, September 1, 2014

Physical Therapy - Week 16

Last week was so promising, as physical therapy went.
But losing Holden threw a wrench into my whole week, so Friday I canceled my appointment so I could take the day to grieve.
I'm not sorry for that decision. I cried a good chunk of the day, so it was good that I was home or with Husband to just let all the feelings out as they came.
But before that - and the emotional eating of all the Cheetos in the land - I was set to have a good week.
How good, you ask?
Stephanie told me I could run.
OK, so technically she said "jog." And only for about a half mile.
But it was running, not on the Sproing, nonetheless, so I chalked it up to victory.
We ran at the middle school near our house; it has a dirt track, and Zooey happily loped alongside me as we logged the slowest half mile in memory (I didn't haul out the Garmin, but I'm pretty sure tortoises could have passed me). She didn't want to stop, but I'm glad we did, because later my hip was achy for some time before calming itself down.
I'd planned to do another run on Thursday but knew Wednesday night that wasn't happening. But Zooey and I've gotten out a few times for a walk, and I'm ready to start truly moving again.
Since the rehab center isn't open for Labor Day, I won't see Stephanie again until Friday, so in the meantime I'll do my home exercises and attempt to have two slow runs as well as my first swim since my lessons finished (with everything that happened with Holden, I haven't hit the pool, either).
Hopefully my nearly two weeks "off" won't reverse my progress, but if it does, I'll roll with it.
After all, each day that I'm moving, I'm still moving forward.
With a coonhound on my tail.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Price We Pay for Love

Cats are jerks.
They are jerks because sometimes they pee on your bed, or your dog's bed, or your kid's princess bean bag.
They are jerks because they can't be bothered to accept your love when it's convenient but insist upon it when it's not.
They are jerks because if they throw up, it's always on the carpet or a comforter.
But mostly, they are jerks because they leave us before we are ready for them to go.

Holden left us Thursday morning. 
He was 16, or thereabouts.
His decline was swift; I brought him to the vet the previous Thursday because he'd stopped eating. After some blood tests, a liver infection was determined, and we picked up a prescription of antibiotics as well as some canned food for him to enjoy.
He ate two small meals but then refused anything else. Then he peed on my bed and the couch in short succession.
In a panic, I took him in again on Tuesday, and we had a urinalysis done as well. His urine was extremely diluted, but there was no infection, and there was no fever. 
He'd lost half a pound since Thursday.

At that point, the vet knew it wasn't just an infection, but she gave us an appetite stimulant to see if that, combined with some force feeding in the meantime, would bring him back around.
But even in this attempt, she wasn't optimistic. Having seen him Thursday and again Tuesday, she saw such a change that she….she just knew.
We had the discussion.
But I really really really really really really really hoped that things would change.
But they didn't.

Have you ever force fed a pet? I don't recommend it. It's heartbreaking. And not only did I have to force feed my baby boy the stinkiest food on the planet; I also had to force two pills down his throat.
It tore me up.
When he continued to refuse food, I knew.
He was tired, and it was time.
We decided to let him go Friday. That decision to wait was a little selfish; I know. But we still had a small hope that the appetite stimulant would, in some miraculous way, bring him back.
Hope springs eternal, after all.
Thursday morning, he couldn't walk. I ran into the bathroom, where Husband was showering, and let him know, and he called the vet.
But Holden, who always hated car rides, had no desire to make one more trip. He lay himself down, and I knew that his time was close. I petted him, and I told him that if he needed to go, I understood.
A few minutes later, he was gone.
I was holding on to him. I held him as he came into our lives, and I held him as he left.

Holden was my first Christmas present from Husband when we were first dating. Underneath the Christmas tree at his uncle's in Pinetop in 2000, I opened a package that contained a gift certificate to the Arizona Humane Society. He knew I loved cats, having grown up with them (Punkin, Scooter, Tiger, Blackie, Fanny, and Roy, throughout my first 18 years), and that I wanted to have my own cat as an adult.
So, over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in January, 2001, we took a field trip to the Humane Society, planning to bring home a cute little kitten.
But alas, there were few kittens that day, so we meandered through the adult cages.

In one of the bottom cages, two golden, beseeching eyes looked up at me, begging to get out.
We took him to the private "preview"room, and it was all over. 
I was smitten.
A gorgeous, orange white creamsicle of a cat.
We were told he was three years old and had been relinquished because "he pees on things."
And he was all mine.

And he did pee on things. Everything, it seemed like. But then our vet at that time diagnosed him with urine crystals, which, common in neutered males, is extremely uncomfortable. After changing his food to a low calcium prescription diet, he barely peed inappropriately (except for when he got pissed about Zooey coming into our lives, but I'll let that one go - new puppies can be traumatic for a cat).
We had almost-fourteen almost-pee-free years together.

Wherever we went, Holden went with us. He was our first little family member.
When we moved to Michigan so Husband could complete his master's degree, Holden came with us. He learned to live in sometimes-harmony with my in-laws' cat Pepper and Akita Chili (who rolled him exactly once).
When we moved back to Arizona, he came back and happily took to being an "only child" once again, likely relieved that the damn Akita was no longer in his midst.
When we moved into our house, he claimed his space quickly.
When we brought Zooey home, he was pissed but at the same time relieved that the upstairs was (until Zooey stopped peeing on the carpet because she couldn't tell that it was Not Grass) his domain.
When HRH was born, he claimed her, and her room, as his.

While he was loved by all members of our family, including Zooey, he was always My Cat. He knew, somehow, that I was the one who chose him and helped him find freedom from his little cell at the Humane Society. I was the one who cleaned his toilet. I was the one whom he woke in the mornings to feed him.
He was my boy. And I was his human.

Last night, I dreamed that it was a few days ago, and I brought Holden a can of food. Instead of refusing it, he perked up and ate it all, regaining the vigor he had lost.
You can make of it what you will; I know it's his way of saying he's OK now. He's not in pain. He's happy. He's comfortable. He's free.

Run free, my sweet boy. Thank you for the years of love that you gave to us. You were the first member of our little family, and we our house will never be the same in your absence. 
I will never forget you. 
Grief is the price we pay for love.
And despite the pain, I'd do it all over again.
I love you, Kitty Man.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Physical Therapy - Weeks 13, 14, & 15

Now that the school year has begun for both HRH and me, the schedule that I had is out the window.
Who knew kindergarten could be so exhausting?
For now, at least, I think I've got my new PT schedule under control, even though it means that HRH has to tag along with me sometimes.
Over the last few weeks, I've continued to make progress. I'm still run-walking on the Sproing once a week and doing ladders the other day. Additionally, I've been promoted to fire hydrants (so named because you look like a dog taking a leak on said item), and last Friday, Stephanie had me start doing side to side hops with the mini hurdles.
I'm still not ready to actually run.
But I'm getting closer.
The hops - both the ladders and the new hurdle exercise - are actually a major stepping stone in my progress. For one, I can balance without falling over (the same cannot really be said when I'm doing medicine ball lunges), and even more key: I do not have pain when I land.
I'm not completely free of pain. But that I can be airborne for a second and not feel a knee-buckling pain in my hip is certainly a reason to rejoice.
I'm getting close. Dare I register for a fall race?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Horchata Marshmallows

I dream about horchata.
It may be my spirit animal drink.
I've raved before about the amazing horchata that Jeanne's husband TCP made for us during our big OKMH meet up in Houston earlier this year, and I could truly wax poetic on how drinking it basically tastes like fairies are dancing on my tongue.
It's seriously that good. Make it. You're welcome.

But instead of waxing poetic, I channeled my enthusiasm into making yet another treat inspired by this most delicious of concoctions. Because horchata ice cream just wasn't enough.
I do not regret my decision.

These marshmallows are so good that I told Husband to get the ones I didn't ship off to Kirsten (and I had to seriously think long and hard about shipping them instead of keeping/eating them) out of the house.
Which he didn't do.
So I ate them.
I do not regret my decision.

Horchata Marshmallows
adapted from Jenni Fields's Pastry Chef Online and inspired by TCP's Horchata

For the horchata starter:
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 1/2 cups gently boiling water
  • 1 3" Mexican cinnamon stick (canela)
For the marshmallows:
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup cold horchata starter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups corn syrup (or rice syrup; agave nectar might also work)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)
  • splash water
  • powdered sugar/corn starch mixture in which to toss the marshmallows
Combine the rice and boiling water in a blender (you may want to allow the water to cool just slightly before you turn it on, or things could go….awry); blend for 90 seconds. Add the canela; cover the blender jar and allow to sit on the counter overnight or up to 48 hours. Strain liquid through a fine mesh sieve (discard the rice and canela) and refrigerate until completely chilled before beginning the marshmallows.
Combine the horchata starter, salt, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a mixer.  Sprinkle gelatin over the mixture and whisk to combine, being careful to get rid of any lumps.  Set aside.
Spray a 9X13 pan with either pan spray or coat with oil (I use my Misto and olive oil).  Line the pan with plastic wrap, and then coat the top of the plastic wrap with oil.  Coat completely with your powdered sugar and corn starch mixture.  I've played around with how much, and what I've found works well for me is to coat completely and then tap out the excess.  This makes, for me, a less clumpy end product.  Set the pan aside.
Bring sugar, syrup, and cinnamon (and a splash of water) to a boil.  Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 244° (the soft ball stage).  
When the syrup mixture reaches about 235°, turn on the mixer, using the whisk attachment, to low or medium low.
As soon as the syrup reaches the proper temperature, remove and pour into the mixing bowl, continuing to whisk on low/medium low.  
Gradually raise the speed of the mixer.  Continue to whip until the mixture has about tripled inside (read: you're fearful it will overflow) and it starts to come off the sides of the bowl in small threads.
Using a large spatula liberally coated with pan spray or olive oil, pour the marshmallow cream into the prepared pan, carefully spreading it out evenly.  Take a pause to lick the spatula before throwing it in the sink.
Sift the corn starch-powdered sugar combination over the top of the marshmallows, making sure that you can't see any of the shiny mallows under the snowy powder.  Allow to sit, uncovered, for several hours or overnight.
Once the marshmallows are set, invert the pan over a large cutting board.  Use the plastic wrap to easily remove the marshmallows from the pan.  Using a serrated knife, cut into one inch cubes, tossing each in more corn starch and powdered sugar before storing in an airtight container for about a week (or however long the mallows last).

Some serving suggestions (if you want to be more refined than cramming them straight into your mouth):
  • These are excellent in coffee.
  • They would be just as excellent as a topper to Kirsten's Mayan Hot Chocolate (this would also be a great gift pairing….if you can handle giving them up).
  • They would be fantastic over ice cream.
  • Ghirardelli now makes a cinnamon crunch chocolate square that would likely be a perfect mate in a s'more.
  • I imagine they would also be great in coffee that had a splash of Frangelico. Probably. I haven't tested that theory….
However you take your mallows, I encourage you to enjoy them with friends, since friends make life sweeter than any marshmallow can.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Physical Therapy - Week 12

Now that the school year is starting up again, I'm struggling to schedule some consistent times during which I can go to PT, so in the next few weeks, I'll be therapist hopping.
This week I worked with both Stephanie and Brian. I know I've mentioned it before, but while I feel somewhat like I'm being disloyal to Stephanie when I have to work with another therapist, I really like working with Brian as well. They're both really effective but have some different approaches, so my hope is that this will help keep me from getting into a "rut" of doing "the same old thing" over and over each day. That's especially vital to me right now, as I've just started realizing that my hip isn't in a constant state of pain or discomfort.
Therapy works, y'all!
Of course, I can't do every exercise each day, so just going in to the rehab center will continue to strengthen my hip with activities like the Sproing, which I used again this week.

Thanks to Morgan for taking these pictures of me being ridiculous on the Sproing.

I felt like those little kids who are attached to the backpack-leash.
After we changed things up last week, I woke up on Saturday and couldn't believe how sore I was.
But it was my thigh muscles - NOT MY HIP - that was sore.
This is what we call progress, kids.
In fact, Stephanie was thrilled to hear that my discomfort manifested in muscle soreness instead of "the usual" hip achiness. It was really only this week, then, that I've realized that my hip isn't in a constant state of pain/discomfort; while I do feel it if I sit for too long, it comes and goes much more than it did when I first started PT a few months ago.
I'm starting to see the light - do I dare start thinking about scheduling races?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Strawberry Colada Ice Cream for Ice Cream Tuesday

Since I've been unable to run, my physical activity has dropped off significantly.
I still walk Zooey fairly regularly, and I am working to do my PT exercises as much as possible. But all of this together still doesn't burn as many calories as my normal running routine.
It was only a matter of time, then, when Lack of Movement plus No Change in Caloric Intake took a toll on the waistline and the self esteem.
In an attempt to do what I can to alter the part of that equation of which I am in control, I've decided to focus efforts on lowering my refined sugar, grain, and dairy intake (the dairy reduction was more to combat headaches and migraines than anything else) as well as pay careful attention to the actual amount of food I put on my plate at each meal.
Of course, reducing one's sugar and dairy intake means reducing one's ice cream intake, and sometimes, a girl just wants her dessert.

Now, the great thing about ice cream, other than the way it tastes, is that its the fat content that gives ice cream that smooth texture. Coconut milk, which has the creamy texture that I was looking for, is also high in good fats, too, so it's a perfectly good substitute, and because the fat doesn't need to be cooked in the same way that a custard-based (read: with eggs) ice cream does, making a dairy-free ice cream was quite a simple process that only required a few ingredients.
And then, of course, fruit, because I still wanted to feel virtuous even when indulging.

Strawberry Colada Ice Cream
(dairy-free, paleo-friendly, vegan)

For the ice cream base:
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 4-6 Tbsp agave nectar (to taste)*
  • 2 large strawberries (or 4 small to medium sized ones) - this is just for color
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp vodka (optional - this will help the ice cream from setting up too hard)
For the mix-ins:
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
  • 1 cup pineapple, chopped (if you use canned pineapple, you can use the crushed variety; just be sure to drain it completely)
  • 2 tsp coconut oil, divided (or less - you really only need to lightly coat the pan)
  • 2 tsp agave nectar, divided (optional, if you want your mix-ins a little sweeter)
Combine coconut cream, coconut milk, agave, strawberries, and vanilla in blender, and puree until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh sieve (optional), and refrigerate overnight. I recommend using a quart jar in order to utilize vertical space.
Heat 1 tsp each coconut oil and agave a 6-inch sauté pan over medium heat; add strawberries and cook until caramelized. Cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate overnight. Repeat this for the pineapple (you could do them together, but I wanted to keep the color of the pineapple).
Churn the ice cream base according to your ice cream maker's directions. When the mixture is just about at soft serve consistency, add the strawberries and pineapple, and continue to churn until the fruit is well distributed.
Transfer mixture to a freezer-safe container; press plastic wrap down onto the surface of the ice cream, and cover with lid. Freeze for at least four hours before enjoying.

*NERD ALERT - A (not very) brief word about agave nectar: For a few years, agave nectar was seen as a "natural" alternative to sugar, being lower on the glycemic index, and as such, considered a better and even safer choice for diabetics and others who were concerned about sugar intake. However, for various scientific reasons that I won't go into here except to say that the large amount of fructose in it makes you want to eat more, even when full, agave nectar has been proven to not be a "healthier" option. I used it in this recipe because of its more neutral flavor (compared to honey or maple syrup). If the full amount suggested above (less than 7 Tbsp) is used, each serving of the finished ice cream will contain under 1 Tbsp of agave nectar, which in terms of sugar intake is slightly under the RDA for an adult (1 Tbsp has about 21 g of sugar; the RDA is 25 grams).

Today's post brings a close to a month of Ice Cream Tuesday posts for National Ice Cream Month. I hope you enjoyed reading the posts and recipes as much as I enjoyed eating them. In case you missed any, here they are:
And don't forget to check out some of the other wonderful bloggers who have participated in Ice Cream Tuesday this month; we've all had so much fun:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Physical Therapy - Weeks 9, 10, & 11


More on that in a second, but I couldn't wait to tell you.

Technically this should be Week 12, but since we were in Michigan for a full week and I did exactly one day of exercises while we were there, I'm not counting it.

Since I've been back, though, things have been progressing nicely. I've graduated to some higher level exercises on the table, and we've taken a few off the rotation for good (although Stephanie told me that I can continue to do them at home). I also started with floor ladder exercises to help with coordination when I'm in motion but not necessarily forward motion.

This week has been pretty exciting.

I ran. Did I mention that before?

OK, so it was only for two and a half minutes, in thirty-second increments, with thirty seconds of walking in between. And it was on the Sproing.

Regardless: I ran this week. And I am filled with joy.

I've also started swimming. Which is funny (both funny ha-ha and funny strange) because I've said a few times that I'd NEVER swim or consider a triathlon. I'm using the "not being able to run or cycle does strange things to a person" excuse. Not Moving can cause a person to become certifiably insane, I'm pretty sure.

So now I have swim "class" on Fridays for six weeks.

I even bought goggles.
Last week: panic. Like, OMG I am going to drown panic. Thankfully, though, the coach was really patient with me and gave me some great suggestions on 1) Not Panicking and 2) getting my breathing timing down better.

This week: since I had PT today, I spent the hour doing pulls in order to keep my legs from getting fatigued. It took A Lot of thought, sand sometimes I struggled to put keep what my legs, arms, and breath needed to do all together.

I'm not sure how much swimming will play into my training as I become stronger and am able to run and cycle again, but I am happy that I'm able to open my eyes under water (yes, even with goggles that has often freaked me out) and time my breathing more accurately. Adding swimming to the rotation will help alleviate the pressure on my hip, so I really hope that I decide I like it enough to buy a pass to the pool. For now, it is absolutely what I need. One hour in the pool, and I'm happily exhausted.