Saturday, December 31, 2011

A (Decadent) Year in Review

This morning, I bid 2011 a farewell by running 8 miles, 5 of which were with Zooey (I had to drop her off at home, as she pretty much taps out at mile marker 5).  It was a glorious morning - a sunny Arizona "winter" day, which started off at about 46° at 9:00-ish; by the time I finished, it was at least in the 60s.
When the year began, I had never run more than about 4 miles, and I was gearing up for my first 10K (a scary 6.2 miles).
Now that the year is ending, I am getting ready to run my first half marathon, twice as far as a 10K - and then a little bit more - a feat that I never dreamed I would entertain, much less aspire to, when 2011 dawned.  I can't lie - it was due mostly to my friend Katie, who told me about the Disney Princess Half Marathon (hello, tiaras!) and to my friend Veronica, who just laid on the guilt/pressure.  I also have to credit my friend Allison as well (no, not me - I don't talk in the third person.  Usually.).  She started running marathons just a few years ago, qualifying for the New York marathon basically immediately.  While she encouraged me in my baby steps of running, I flat out told her she was crazy.  I really hope I don't decide to do a full marathon, as then I'll have to eat my words, and I'm more comfortable being right in my diagnosis of her.

Monday, December 26, 2011

I Love Elastic Waistbands

After suffering some sort of health ailment for most of the month, it was so nice to have my appetite back (remind me I said that when I can no longer fit into those size 6 jeans, OK?) in time for Christmas weekend.  It was also nice to have gotten off antibiotics so I didn't feel badly about having a glass of wine... or six.
The holidays are a good example of why this blog is titled the way it is - it's one of the times over the course of the year during which, as my darling husband (I'm still excited about the heart rate monitor) says, we dine like decadent philistines.  I'm not one for gluttony (unless chocolate covered mint Peeps® are involved), but it's nice to sit down to a top notch meal a few times each year, especially when I'm able to share in that good fortune with family and friends.
And of course, it's a good excuse to pull out the china.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The One Where I Ask, "Will I Ever Run Again?"

So I thought I beat the flu and went for my usual Monday morning run this past Monday.  However, I realized that I was still a bit under the weather, so the two days leading up to my colonoscopy were reserved for "rest" (I really didn't want to do anything on my prep day, anyway, although I had thought about running, but since I couldn't eat anything, I thought better of it).  I had planned to do my usual long, slow run on Saturday.
And then Friday - BAM!
The cootie express rammed right into the Philistine house, knocking me back.
I *think* it's a cold instead of the flu, but I have a fever and some aches, so who knows?
The most frustrating thing is that it's smack dab in my training for the half marathon at the end of January.  I missed a 7-mile run two Saturdays ago, and this coming Saturday (Christmas Eve), I am supposed to run an 8-mile run.  I"m not sure I'll be prepared to do it, regardless of how slow I make Zooey go.
Thus, I have a decision to make - do I go ahead with the half marathon training for London's Run (its last year!), or do I opt for the 10K and do a half marathon later on down the line (knowing full well that it won't be long after London's Run that it will get too hot for me to realistically want to run farther than 2 miles)?
I'm pretty sure I'm a little too loopy from this bug to make an informed decision today, but I'll have to make one here soon - I need to register for the run as well as let Veronica know if I'm going to disappoint her by doing the 10K.
Have you ever been flattened out from illness in the middle of your training?  What did you do?  How did you recuperate?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Be a Good Cookie Week - My Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,
I'm sure you already know those things that I want for Christmas - an iPhone 4S, a heart rate monitor for my workouts, stuff for the house, a pair of Christian Louboutins, but I've been remiss in sending you the wish list of what I really need.
So here it is.
Santa, I need you to find a cure for cancer.  It's more than just a terrible disease; it's a malevolent fiend who purports to be altruistic and without bias, never discriminating.  What a bastard.  Cancer took my dad from me, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish desperately that he had lived to see his granddaughter.  There are days that the pain and grief and anger I feel because my daughter will never get to meet her grandfather is so raw I can hardly breathe.
Then I look at that little girl, who is my entire world.  I would move Heaven and Earth for her.
And I can't help but remember that there are some moms who can't look at their daughters and sons without a constant worry, fear, and pain that an uninvited guest will be more powerful than their children.
Moms like my friend Alicia, whose daughter Lily is, thankfully, in remission after battling alveolar rhabdomysarcoma for nearly a year.
And then I remember those moms who can only look at pictures of their children because cancer crept in, unseen and unwanted, and stole those beautiful lives away.
Moms like Heather Solomon, who said goodbye to her 7-year-old daughter London, her baby girl, after London's 7-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
Moms like Heather Rebeor, whose 16-year-old song Dylan lost his fight with colon cancer hours before his football team won the state championship.
Santa, it isn't right.
Moms should draw countless pumpkin patches with their children.  They should pretend to eat pizza fresh from their children's play kitchen (and imagination).  They should help their children learn how to brush all their teeth, not just the front ones.  They should roll their eyes at the umpteenth viewing of Dora the Explorer.  They should snuggle with and read a story to their children before kissing them goodnight, every night.
Moms like Gretchen Holt-Witt should never have to bake 96,000 cookies to help raise money for their child's cancer treatment instead of doing all those other things that I take for granted.
Oh, but Santa, I'm so grateful that Gretchen did.  And I'm grateful that people have taken up her battle cry to fund the fight against childhood cancer, to stop it in its tracks and force it to beat a hasty retreat like so many other cowardly menaces who threaten those we love.
And, Santa, I am also grateful that I have been given the wonderful opportunity to make friends like Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic, Jeanne at Inside NanaBread's Head, Megan at Wanna Be a Country Cleaver, Kat at Tenaciously Yours, and Mads at La Petite Pancake - these ladies who have a similar desire to do good and so have come together for a second time in as many months for Be a Good Cookie Week, just so we can help lay the groundwork for you.  Kirsten, who stands at the front lines of this battle in memory of her sister, and Jeanne are both offering giveaways during this week to help spread the message that pediatric cancer isn't something to be feared; it's something to be quashed.  Make sure you, the missus, and all the elves take a few minutes out of your busy schedules to enter - and help fuel the fire against pediatric cancer.
So, Santa, I've left these cookies out for you, on my grandmother's china - my grandmother whom ovarian cancer took before I was born - along with this message, in the hope that you can help deliver this gift that is so needed this year - and each year until cancer, that elusive phantom who robs people of their joy and light, throws up his hands in ultimate surrender.  I know it's a tall order, but my dear friends and I are ready to help you meet it, head on.
In case you were curious, the recipe for these cranberry-walnut-white-&-dark-chocolate cookies is from the Best Bake Sale Cookbook, a cookbook that raises money for Gretchen's organization, Cookies for Kids' Cancer.  The book would make a great Christmas gift for the person who loves baking.  It's chock-full of fantastic recipes and wonderful stories of how people are making a difference in the fight against pediatric cancer.
I hope you like the cookies, Santa, and I hope you can at least put a few elves to work to help deliver this Christmas wish.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My First Colonoscopy

You know you're a parent of a pre-school age child when you look at getting a colonoscopy as an appropriate excuse to take a nap.
That is exactly how I approached Thursday.
I've documented before that I have a family history of cancer.  My dad lost his battle with colon cancer in 1999, and his sister (his only sibling) fought breast cancer before passing earlier this year.  My paternal grandmother beat breast cancer only to be taken by ovarian cancer before I was born.  My dad's cousin continues to battle non-Hodgkin's lymphoma while her son fought AND BEAT colon cancer when he was in his 30s.  And that's the ones I specifically know; I remember one instance of my dad telling me that family members on his side had also had kidney, stomach, and liver cancers, just to name a few.  Apparently, if it's in the mid-section of the body, our family can -and does - get cancer there.
The fact that my dad had colon cancer and my grandmother ovarian cancer is not something to ignore.  Studies are showing, more and more, a relation between the two when there is a genetic disposition toward cancer (I am currently working to have the genetic test done, but this is something that insurance companies don't like to cover, so it's been a struggle, to say the least, and it is an extremely expensive test that I cannot afford out of pocket right now).  So when I went in for my consultation last month, the PA was highly interested in this fact, and even though I have other family history, it was the one that, to her, was the most important in determining that I was indeed a candidate for a colonoscopy at age 33.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Practical Use for Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka

I love Twitter.  Without it, I would not have known that today is National Hot Cocoa Day.  How that didn't  make it onto my social calendar I'll never know.
Since tomorrow I embark on a 24-hour all-clear-liquid diet (vodka's a clear liquid, right?) before my, er, procedure Thursday, I'm kind of celebrating in a "last meal" type of way.  Except I haven't had anything to eat since lunch.
But hey - who cares - onto some hot cocoa to warm my soul and help me sleep!

The family-friendly version:

The adults-only version:

The recipe, taken from the side of the Hershey's® cocoa container, was the same for both versions.  That way I could let HRH have some but not worry that one of you will call CPS.

Hot Cocoa with an Adult Version, if so Desired
adapted from the Hershey's® recipe vault

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder - I prefer to use the dark cocoa, if you can find it - it's tastier (in my opinion), and everyone knows that dark chocolate is better for you, so when you use the dark powder, it becomes a health drink, too.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • dash of salt - I use Real Salt for most everything that calls for a dash - it's got a great flavor on its own.
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 4 cups milk (confession - I used some half and half, too)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinnacle whipped vodka

Mix the cocoa, sugar, and salt in a medium pot.  Add the hot water and stir over medium heat until boiling.  Boil and stir constantly for two minutes.
Add the milk and heat through.
Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

HRH was excited to help me.  It's been cold and rainy all day, so it really is the perfect evening to curl up with a big mug of cocoa to watch Dora's Christmas Carol.  Or whatever your 3-year-old decides is way better than White Christmas or Miracle on 34th Street, like you suggested (I'm not sure why she thinks that Dora can out-sing Bing and Danny, but whatever).
Once HRH's portion was ladled into her cup, I added the whipped cream vodka.  One capful to my cup. It tasted lovely - rich and creamy.
Of course, for experiment's sake alone, I added another capful after the initial tasting.
Two capfuls is much tastier than one capful.
Three capfuls, though, might be a bit much - it depends on how much you like vodka, as that's when I started to taste the alcohol behind the creaminess of the cocoa.  It wasn't distracting, but you'll have to be your own judge from that point on.  I was content at about two and a half.  Because, you know, I totally measure things out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Make Friends and Eat Cookies (or, The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011)

I was thrilled this year to participate in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Love and Olive Oil.  Madeline, one of my former students (well, I didn't actually have her in my class, but I did work with her as the NHS advisor, and at a school of 150, all of the students were my students) who goes to the University of Michigan and has her own food blog, Munching in the Mitten, brought my attention to it, and I'm so glad that she did, as it's been fun to bake cookies and send them off to fellow food lovers, not to mention the fun it was to receive cookies in the mail - an early Christmas gift!
I love Christmas.  Specifically, German Christmas.  I love the multiple trees; I love nutcrackers; I love finding the pickle ornament (even though there is debate as to whether or not this one's really truly a German tradition).  I love the food.  Mmmmm... food....
So when presented with what cookies to make, I immediately knew that I wanted to try my hand at Lebkuchen, a traditional German Christmas cookie that is akin to gingerbread.  Unlike gingerbread, however, I like to eat it.
Lebkuchen is spread out on a jelly roll pan, and then once it's out of the oven, cut into bars or other shapes.  My plan was to make one batch plain and another one covered with chopped almonds.  Then I'd cut them into diamonds.
I baked.  I cooled.  I cut.
And then I realized that the bottoms of the cookies were burned.  Every. Square. Inch.
(Dear Santa, I think I might need some new jelly roll pans and cookie sheets.  Love, Allison)
So those three food bloggers to whom I was assigned did not receive any Lebkuchen this year.
After I cleaned up the mess and dried my tears, I did a quick inventory of what I had, checked my favorited recipes, and BAM!  Maple-walnut cookies.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The "Doctor" is In

This weekend brought in the flu.  While it was kind enough to allow me my long Saturday run before completely bringing me to a halt, in hindsight, the symptoms - being tired and a bit achy - were all too apparent even earlier in the week.
Sunday found me in bed for most of the day - Scott took HRH to a family birthday party, so the house was quiet for a few hours.  When they got home, Scott was kind enough to run out to get me some matzo ball soup.
That was when I knew that I was truly sick: 1) I wanted chicken soup; 2) I could barely muster the appetite to eat my share.  I almost never want chicken soup, not being a huge poultry fan to begin with, and I generally have to hold myself back from seconds, so having to man up to take down one matzo ball was quite uncharacteristic.
After that feat of energy, I was ready for bed.
I lay pretty low Monday as well.  I took a sick day (something that most teachers loathe doing, as it ends up creating more work) and hung out with HRH all day, watching Disney movies and plenty of Dora (note to Santa - more Disney movies would be really swell).  We even took a nice little nap on the couch after she claimed she wasn't tired but acquiesced to another viewing of Beauty and the Beast.
But other than rest, the question is always posed: What can I do to get over this bug sooner?
I know plenty of people who hit the NyQuil and TheraFlu right away, but I haven't known of anyone ever saying, "That stuff really works!"
The older I get, the less likely I am to reach for the Tylenol Cold.  I try to avoid taking medication whenever possible; even when I have a headache, I try rehydrating and taking in a bit of extra caffeine before I raid the medicine cabinet.  Instead, I try to use ice or heat for aches and honey under my Band-Aids for those cuts and scrapes.
But when I'm SICK, I would kill to have something go all nuclear annihilation on those germs and wipe them out almost instantaneously.  If you ever find that, let me know.  Don't tell me what's in it - just tell me I'll be better faster than you can say "Wingardium Leviosa" (#nerd).
Until that cootie virus bleach is invented, I'd like to offer those natural remedies that have worked to keep sickness at bay or at least help me feel better sooner than if I were to just "wait it out."

Organic ACV (with "the mother"), honey
(from Costo - The Husband got that), garlic,
my favorite black tea, hot sauce