Monday, October 6, 2014

Physical Therapy - Week 21 (PLUS the MRI)

As far as PT goes, we're just keeping on keeping on.
I haven't done the Sproing in about two weeks, but I'm still working on ladders, and Stephanie keeps hinting that she's going to change/add stuff, but we are both kind of stuck in our holding pattern until I talk with the ortho, which is this Thursday, right before my PT appointment.
Which means that I got the MRI.
For those of you who have never had an MRI, they….are not super fun.
Since the MRI was of my hip, the good people at the magical photography tube location needed to inject some contrast dye into the area in order to get a good look.
Fun fact: not all medical personnel think that your joke about confusing the word "shot" is funny. Whatever. It was hilarious.
As far as the injection went….oof. There were actually two. There was the surface numbing injection, which was lydocaine, and then the interior injection of the dye. While the surface numbing worked so I didn't feel the actual poke of the second, it was still disconcerting to feel the dye go into the body. It actually makes me a little queasy thinking about it.
However, my ortho ordered some cortisone as well (I mean, there were gonna be in there anyway, right?), so that was a pleasant surprise. We had talked about injections not being an acceptable long term solution, but the hope is that this can offer me some short term relief as we talk about the actual long term plan.
And then it was time for the amazing magical tube (TWSS).
I was told I could keep my shoes on. And while I only really did keep them on to grab this AMAZING selfie:

I'm pretty sure this look is hitting the runways this fall.
I was really glad I did, because while my torso was comfortable during the procedure, my feet were freezing. I can't imagine how I would have felt had I kept my shoes off.
Now, I'm not a claustrophobic person. But OOF that tube is small (again, TWSS). The tech suggested I turn my head so I could "see out," which was OK, but I was almost to the point that I wasn't able to see into the room. I ended up just closing my eyes and trying to entertain myself while sounds of machine gun fire whirled around me. There were a few moments when I was scared by the noise (they warned me it would be "loud" but didn't specify) and was convinced that the machine was backfiring and I'd be trapped in there forever. I did my best to NOT hyperventilate or panic, and I did manage to make it through the entire ordeal without squeezing the Panic Ball of Panic that I was handed, "just in case you need us."
The cortisone has yet to take effect in the hip; I was told that it would be 3-7 days before I really felt any relief (and you can bet that I'm counting down). But I did experience one side effect - a weird taste in my mouth. I have a salty palate normally, but everything tasted overly sweet after the shot (I read that there can be metallic tastes, so this was surprising). Even water tasted sugary. Thankfully, that seems to have abated, which is good, as one of the things that tasted awful this weekend was my favorite beer (The. Horror.).
What does that mean for PT? Who knows. We are making sure I don't over-exert myself, and we have stopped doing some stretching that could exacerbate a torn labrum, if that's what it is. By Thursday, I should know what's up, which means I may or may not have a few new exercises to discuss in my next post. 
Stay tuned for next week's post, same bat-time, same bat-channel.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Physical Therapy - Week 20

I've now been in physical therapy for five months.
I celebrated by only going once last week.
Just kidding. I had a workshop that conflicted, and since the workshop was required and I don't get paid to go to PT, I obviously spent all day in the workshop.
But even if I had gone to PT, there wouldn't have been much to report. Until I get the MRI results back in a few weeks, we're basically keeping the status quo: Astym®, stretching, various exercises, and the Sproing (once a week only on that one).
The goal now is to continue to strengthen instead of getting me back to running. Of course, MY goal is to run again, but now that we know PT isn't going to do that alone, we need to make sure I'm in the best shape I can moving to the next stage.
On deck this week: my MRI. I'm not sure the medical staff will approve of pictures or humor me by taking any, but I'll try. I hear hospital gowns are in for this fall anyway.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Physical Therapy - Week 19

With my two literature courses in full swing, it seems that getting one post per week about my physical lameness is all I can handle.
Last week wasn't much to write home about, in terms of PT. Since I had my ortho appointment Wednesday, we took it easy on Monday, adding nothing and reducing reps when possible (which was also good since I was extremely achy that day). That way, I could go in to the ortho with no flare-ups.
Friday wasn't any different, either. I was glad I was still able to run on the Sproing, even if we haven't changed anything about it over the last month.
Like I said. Not much to write home about.
The bigger news is the ortho appointment. Since I was obviously stronger but with the same pain, my ortho sent me over to get new x-rays so we could take a fresh look at what was going on.
Apparently there's a lot going on.
I have hip displasia.
I have deep sockets, which led to pincer impingement (FAI).
There is more bony coverage from those deep sockets.
Having my legs/hips in certain positions, then, can cause a tear in the labrum (the ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket).
Certain positions like cycling and running.
The x-rays were able to indicate a labrum tear only, so in order to have a positive diagnosis, I'll be getting an MRI in a few weeks. That being said, based on my symptoms and the fact that PT hasn't led to any relief, my ortho is pretty certain that's what it is.
Since the odds are in that vein, I did ask about treatment.
There are two options:

  1. modify my lifestyle and manage the pain
  2. arthroscopic surgery to mend the tear along with possible lifestyle modifications

Obviously, not being able to run or cycle ever again is not an option, so I am readying myself more and more for the latter. It is possible that cycling will be out as an option for longer than running (or perhaps forever), but if I can make a recovery and start running again, surgery will be worth it.
In the meantime, we're continuing the course of therapy so that I can be ahead of the healing game if I do have to choose Option 2.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Physical Therapy - Week 18

Not much changed last week.
Since I have an appointment scheduled at the ortho this Wednesday, Stephanie didn't want to change or add anything in order to avoid possible flare ups beforehand.
So, we did Astym. We stretched. We foam rolled. We did ladders and ran on the Sproing.
I also had an adjustment on Friday, and I cracked so much that I sounded like bubble wrap.
So, the good news continues to be the same. I'm getting stronger, and I'm able to do much more than I was able to when I started.
Additionally, the pain from the run has subsided so I'm no longer constantly wanting to ice, heat, or guzzle anti-inflammatories.
But there's still the bad news: I do still hurt more than before the run, and I'm back to Not Running.
While I'm terrified of what the ortho will have to say Wednesday, I also know that I'm a little closer to having some resolution.
And as long as that resolution includes - some day - running and cycling again, I'll be OK with it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Physical Therapy - Week 17

Being able to run again was exhilarating.
I was on top of the world.

I was a little sore and achy after my first half-mile run, but it wasn't the pain that I'd felt before.
But last Tuesday, the day after my second run, my hip was screaming.
Honestly, it was like I'd never set foot in physical therapy. It wasn't a muscle soreness; this was pain in my bone.

My goal to run twice last week, then, was dashed.
With HRH's schedule including two days of soccer practice plus swim and ballet, there was no way I was able to get in before my scheduled Friday appointment, so I iced and rested and took it easy when I swam (hooray, at least I swam again).
Friday, I was still sore. And basically terrified that I'd undone four months of hard work.
Thankfully, if Stephanie was really concerned, she hid it well. After an intense Astym® session, she instructed me to take it easy and be careful, and I did. I didn't NOT do any of my exercises, but I dropped the reps on a few and went slowly on most, with multiple staff members watching me to make sure I didn't suddenly drop on the floor.
At least I was able to run on the Sproing again, even if it was an alternating walk-run for a mere five minutes.

Plan for this week: No Running, and we'll see how I feel come this Friday.
If I'm not in pain, we'll continue working, but maybe a little more slowly. If I'm still in pain, then it might be time to panic we've decided that I will call the ortho and express….concern about the progress I'm not making with the pain even though I've made considerable progress in my muscle strength.
Of course, I'm a LITTLE more than concerned. I'm feeling much stronger than I have in ages, even before my hip pain began in the first place. And gaining muscle strength in my glutes and surrounding muscles has helped my overall strength, so I'm certain that when I hit the starting line of my next race, I'll be stronger than I ever have been as a runner.
But at the same time, this pain hasn't abated, and knowing that the next steps are injections (which, why even bother; they don't fix anything) or surgery, I'm nervous that I'll have to go a more extreme route.

And since I've never had any surgery more major than the removal of my wisdom teeth, I'm staying awake playing Worst Case Scenario in my head.
So….paws crossed that a week of rest and a bit of a reboot at PT is all that I need.
Otherwise, I'll probably need a hug.

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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not Princess Stephanie's Chocolate Cherry Chunk Ice Cream for Ice Cream Tuesday

HRH, like many young girls her age, loves Olivia the Pig.
We have all of the original book series by Ian Falconer as well as a few of the Nickelodeon series DVDs and the books from those series.
In fact, for her first Halloween, HRH wore an Olivia costume. She hated everything about it.
One of her favorite Nickelodeon episodes/books is "Princess for a Day, in which Olivia and Princess Stephanie of Poshtonia switch places; hilarity, naturally, ensues.

The complicating incident in this plot takes place in the local ice cream parlor, where both Olivia and Princess Stephanie enjoy some cherry chocolate chunk ice cream. Every time she reads the book or watches the episode, HRH has asked for us to make cherry chocolate chunk ice cream.
Except for the part where she's not a huge fan of cherries, this is a great idea.
So, I simply switched the main and supporting flavors, and now, she can't get enough.
Neither can I.

Imagined when making my dark chocolate orange concoction earlier this month, this ice cream combines dark chocolate, cherry puree, and chunks of both chocolate and cherries to make a rich and delicious treat that princesses and non-princesses alike will enjoy.

Not Princess Stephanie's Chocolate Cherry Chunk Ice Cream
Inspired by this recipe from Scoop Adventures

For the syrup:
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cherry juice
  • 1/8 tsp salt 
  • 1 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
For the ice cream base:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp cherry extract
For the cherries:
  • 2 cups fresh sweet cherries, pitted and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp cherry vodka (you could use regular vodka if you want)
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Additional mix-in:
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips or your favorite chocolate chunks (optional)
Combine cocoa powder, sugar, cherry juice, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate. Let sit for five minutes, and then whisk to combine fully. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together ice cream base ingredients, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until boiling. Boil for ten seconds, and then immediately strain through a fine mesh strainer into the chocolate mixture. Whisk to combine fully.
Cool over an ice bath (I use a larger bowl filled with ice water) until mixture registers about 50°, and then cover and transfer to the refrigerator to cool overnight. If you don't have a ton of horizontal room in your fridge for the bowl, use two quart jars (this makes a little over one quart).
Macerate the cherries in the sugar and vodka in a covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
Once the ice cream mixture is completely cooled, add to your ice cream maker and churn according to directions.
When ice cream is just about at soft serve consistency, drain the cherries and add them, along with the chocolate chips/chunks, to the ice cream maker. Churn until well mixed, and then transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Press plastic wrap down on top of the mixture, cover with the lid, and freeze for at least 4-6 hours before enjoying as you watch your favorite Olivia episode.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

For the Love of Dog: Ice Cream Tuesday Edition

I had planned a lengthy post that would highlight why I love my dog so dang much, but between work and school, with ballet camp for HRH and a migraine sandwiched in there somewhere, I'm just gonna post some cute but less than stellar quality pics of the world's greatest black and tan coonhound and boil it down to this: your dog wants to celebrate Ice Cream Month, too, and here's one way you can spoil your pup without spoiling her tummy.

"Can I just eat it already, Momma?"
"Om nom nom"
She heard Husband open the door, so she picked it up and ran so she wouldn't have to share.
Made with 99% lactose-free kefir, this is appropriate for those dogs whose tummies don't do well with wheat, which is in the popular commercial brand of doggie ice cream (or those other ingredients that you can't pronounce that you don't want to give your pup, either).

Cool-Yer-Paws Doggie Ice Cream
  • 1 large-ish sweet potato, roasted and skin removed (give your dog the skin to snack on)
  • 1 overly ripe banana
  • 32 ounces full-fat plain kefir, preferably organic
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (or, as we call it in Arizona, "room temperature")*
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate until chilled through. Churn according to your ice cream maker's directions. Upon soft serve consistency, spoon into 1/4-cup containers and freeze until firm.

I suppose you don't need to churn it, but I wanted to give Zooey ice cream and not just a kefir-sicle, so the churning added in some air to the mixture. It has nothing to do with me maybe being a crazy dog lady.
As you can tell by the photos above, Zooey had no problem with the ice cream, unless you count having to wait for it while I took a photo.

*Coconut oil turns solid below 76°, but it doesn't fully freeze; when it's mixed with the other ingredients, it helps to keep ice crystals from forming in this ice cream so that your dog doesn't have to lick her tongue raw trying to enjoy her treat. This might sound like a lot of oil, but because even full-fat kefir doesn't have nearly the fat content that cream does, this will further help the consistency of the ice cream. The oil can help keep your dog's coat nice and shiny (it's great for itchy dogs), and the sweet potato will help keep everything moving in the right direction, if you catch my drift, while the banana makes sure it doesn't move too quickly.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mr. Pineapple Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Beer Caramelized Pineapples for Ice Cream Tuesday

A few weeks ago, when I was about to churn my chocolate orange ice cream for last week's Ice Cream Tuesday post, my ice cream maker died. I had just poured my mixture into the pre-frozen base and turned it on, and it made The Most Horrible Machine Dying Sound.
And then it stopped.
And I was left with a mixture that had already started to freeze to the ice cream base and no real good way to get it OUT before having to start over.
It was panic at the disco over here.
Of course, Zooey tried to help, so that was fun. Dogs and chocolate go together so well, you know.
Thankfully, I only managed to lose about half a pint as I madly poured and scraped the mixture back out of the ice cream maker and into the quart jars from whence they came.
And then, once I cleaned that remaining half pint of mixture off the counter top, the cabinets, the floor, and me, I sat down and thought, "Crap. What do I do NOW?"
Certainly I could have made this without an ice cream maker, but after posting about this little adventure on my personal Facebook page, some close friends texted me and said I could borrow theirs for a while. They even pre-chilled the base so I could get back to where I was before Disaster struck.
So naturally, I've gone mad with power and am making All the Ice Creams.

This ice cream is a nod to a local summer favorite: San Tan Brewing Company's Mr. Pineapple wheat beer. This seasonal brew is immensely popular round these parts, and people celebrate its tapping each year like it's a national holiday (it should probably be a state holiday, at the very least). The subtle sweetness that the pineapple adds to the beer is a perfect partner to the brown sugar, and when you add in pineapples caramelized in that same beer, you have a winning combination that just might make you forget that it's 110° already.
It's worth a shot, at least.

Mr. Pineapple Brown Sugar Ice Cream With Beer Caramelized Pineapples
Ratios inspired by Jenni Fields's Pastry Chef Online Maple Buttermilk Pecan Ice Cream

  • 2 cups San Tan Brewing Company's Mr. Pineapple Wheat Beer (or other wheat beer with pineapple or other tropical fruit to it)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I use Real Salt)
  • 14 ounces brown sugar (you could probably reduce this to about 10-12 ounces)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 cups whole milk, chilled
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • Beer caramelized pineapples*

Combine the beer, cream, half and half, salt,  brown sugar, egg yolks, and cornstarch in a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
Boil for ten seconds, and then immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl.
Add the whole milk, which you can just bring right out of the fridge when you need it. Whisk to combine completely.
Cool over an ice bath (I use a larger bowl filled with ice water), and then cover and transfer to the refrigerator to cool overnight. To save valuable horizontal space, I recommend using two quart jars.
Once completely cooled, add to your ice cream maker and churn according to directions. In the last few minutes of churning, mix in the caramelized pineapples.
Once the ice cream has reached soft serve consistency, pour mixture into freezer safe container. Press plastic wrap onto top of mixture (don't worry; it won't freeze to it), and fasten lid before moving to the freezer. Freeze for at least four hours before enjoying.
Just a note: this makes two full quarts, so you may need to pour some out for your homies before churning; otherwise, when you add the pineapple, the ice cream will spill out of the dasher. Or, I suppose you could do this in multiple batches. It's up to you.

*To make the beer caramelized pineapples, follow this recipe from The Beeroness; I used more Mr. Pineapple instead of the saison she recommended, and it.was.amazing. Just make sure that you chill the pineapples before mixing in to the ice cream, or else they will warm the mixture up too much, and you'll be churning for a bit longer than you plan.

Common sense warning: Even though the beer is cooked and the alcohol levels thus reduced, this ice cream still contains some levels of alcohol, so it's probably not the best choice to give your kids. Which is perfectly fine; you work hard to raise those kids, and you deserve to have an ice cream all to yourself for once. Get the kids a non-boozy flavor and enjoy responsibly.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream for Ice Cream Tuesday: Scoop Adventures Edition

Well, we had our last double digit day for the foreseeable future a few weeks ago, so if you need me, I will be stuffing myself into the kiddie pool I bought for HRH and Zooey to share and washing down an iced tea that may or may not be of the "adult" persuasion.
Oh, and pants are pretty much optional until October.

So naturally I jumped at the chance to make MOAR ICE CREAM when Jenni, our fearless leader and ice cream wrangler over at Pastry Chef Online, asked if anyone wanted to join the reindeer games for a special Ice Cream Tuesday to celebrate the publication of Scoop Adventures: The Best Ice Cream of the 50 States: Make the Real Recipes from the Greatest Ice Cream Parlors in the Country, by Lyndsay Clendaniel. Lyndsay also writes the blog Scoop Adventures, and she's a certified ice cream devotee. Her new book highlights fifty amazing - and local - ice cream shops from around the country. 


Fellow fans of ice cream can now get this book; you can order directly from Amazon by clicking the picture of it above. If you so choose, you can also locate a local bookstore here and order it that way.
BUT!!!!! You can also enter to win a copy of the book! The details are below, so keep reading! Excitement and exclamation points abound!
In choosing what ice cream to make, I needed to make sure that someone else in the family would eat it; once pants are back in fashion in the Philistine house in the fall, I do need to be able to fit into them, after all. Since HRH wasn't a fan of the horchata ice cream, I looked for a recipe with chocolate so that she, too, could enjoy the fruits of my labor (since she didn't actually want to participate in the "labor" portion of the exercise). Thankfully, I found this fabulous chocolate and orange dream of a recipe, and I knew I had to make it. While oranges are no longer in season, citrus is just A Part of Life in Arizona, so we usually have zest and juice of some sort in the freezer, although I did nab a fresh orange at the store to make the ice cream (right now all we have is lemon and grapefruit juices).

This ice cream is deliciously chocolatey, but the orange juice makes it refreshing at the same time. It's perfect for the kids as well as any adult ice cream love in the house. Even Husband, who eschews ice cream in favor of sorbet, said the flavor was great; he still only had one spoonful, though, so HRH and I had to power through it ourselves. It was rough.

Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream
gently adapted from this recipe at Scoop Adventures

For the syrup:
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet (70%) chocolate, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp salt (I use Real Salt)
For the ice cream base:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp honey (orange blossom is a great addition here)
Combine cocoa powder, coffee, sugar, zest, and juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let the mixture stand five minutes, then whisk to combine fully. Whisk in the cream cheese and salt until smooth; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp of the milk with the cornstarch until it makes a slurry.
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and honey and cook over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Return to the heat and boil until the mixture coats the back of a spoon; this should only take a minute or so.
Pour the cream mixture into the chocolate mixture, whisking to combine.
Chill completely before churning; I recommend using two quart jars to save room in the refrigerator.
Strain through a fine sieve and pour into your ice cream maker. Churn according to your ice cream maker's directions. If you don't have an ice cream maker, check out Lyndsay's post on making ice cream without an ice cream maker.
Once the ice cream has reached soft serve consistency, pour mixture into freezer safe container. Press plastic wrap onto top of mixture (don't worry; it won't freeze to it), and fasten lid before moving to the freezer. Freeze for at least four hours before enjoying.

Now for the exciting part - the giveaway!!!! I don't normally do giveaways, since my blog is small, I had started to be more of a running blogger than a food-ing blogger, but I felt it was my duty as an ice cream lover to share this opportunity.
Here is what you have to do:
  1. Follow Scoop Adventures on Twitter (@scoopmuse); leave a comment, with your Twitter handle, telling me that you have done so.
  2. For an extra entry, leave a separate comment telling me what your favorite summer frozen treat is. Are you an ice cream sandwich person, or do you go for frozen fruit bars? Did you chase down the ice cream truck as a kid, or did you always have Otter Pops in the freezer?
The fine print: Entrants must be residents of the US or Canada who are at least 18 years of age. Twitter profiles must be public; I must be able to verify that entrants are following Scoop Adventures. This giveaway is open through 11:59 PM, Pacific Daylight Time, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. The winner will be selected by random drawing and notified by email; once the email is sent, the winner will have 48 hours to respond. If, at that time, no response has been received, a new winner will be drawn and be subject to the same parameters.

Make sure that you check out some more of Lyndsay's recipes, as made (and adapted) by these fellow frozen treat fanatics. You'll also increase your changes to win the book by entering their giveaways, too. Then go make some ice cream yourself. Feel free to wear pants if you'd prefer.
Full disclosure: As compensation for being a part of this special Ice Cream Tuesday, I received a copy of Scoop Adventures: The Best Ice Cream of the 50 States: Make the Real Recipes from the Greatest Ice Cream Parlors in the Country. While I did not use a recipe from the book for this posting, I did modify one from Lyndsay's blog. I will not receive any compensation if you choose to purchase this book through the links given above. All opinions are my own.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Physical Therapy - Week 8

This week was a big week.
I mean, sort of.
Basically what happened is that I "graduated" from two of the exercises I'd been doing - the hip dips and straight leg raises - and moved on to a more advanced version of another. Stephanie also added one new exercise to the mix.
So, hooray! Progress!
Despite my strong desire for some sort of massage instead, the Astym® is still going strong. The bruising isn't nearly as massive as when we started, but the sensation of my muscles crunching is still present, and there are definitely some areas that are tender by the end of that part of therapy. Those areas have never been so grateful to see a foam roller.

The instruments of torture; Stephanie uses the one in the middle on me.
Even though one exercise (which I cannot figure out how to do at home yet) was added, so I really only have one less to do, I felt like yesterday's session went faster. It's been taking me at least an hour and a half to go through all the exercises. But since my arse is feeling stronger, I've been working really hard to stick with it on a daily basis (I may or may not have promised myself a little piece of jewelry if I go a full week without skipping a day…) so that I can hear those four magical words: "You can run again."
On the home front, Husband surprised me by initiating a conversation about where I was headed. I guess maybe I've been down in the dumps a bit more than I'd realized, as he suggested that we start looking into an elliptical, "so you can do some cardio even if you're restricted from running as much as you used to."
To be honest, my feelings were kind of hurt at first. After all, the whole point of physical therapy is to get me running - and cycling - again. So to have him suggest the elliptical, a machine that neither of us really like, just so I can do aerobic training with less of an impact on my delicate hip, was….startling.
But I saw his point and also understand that he doesn't see the progress I'm making (neither do I, to be honest), and I appreciated the suggestion for that, since we had discussed a treadmill at some point, and he'd shot it down, saying we don't really have the room. We still don't, so making that suggestion so that I can move again was a big deal for him.
I really really really really really the the elliptical, though. I don't know that I'd use one at home, even if we invested in one. I do think I'd be more inclined to use a treadmill.
So I asked Stephanie about it, and she said that I'd get more use out of the treadmill, not just because I'm more inclined to use it, but also because I can work a greater range of muscles on it. On the elliptical, I can go forward or backward, and I can go fast or slow, but basically, I'm repeating the same motion. On the treadmill, I can incline - and on some, decline - as well as walk sideways and backwards. Plus, I can walk or run, and I could even train Zooey to walk on it when it does get too hot for her sweet little paws.
But at the same time, she did reassure me - maybe she saw panic in my eyes? - that yes, our goal is to get me running again and at the same level to which I'd been used to. She knows I want to run a full marathon someday and doesn't want me to hang that idea up.
I'm not saying that we are going to go out and buy a treadmill right now, though. It's something we need to consider and then budget for. And if the numbers are similar, I may prefer to join a gym so that I have the opportunity to add on yoga and pilates in a setting that I'd actually do it (it's not easy to do your yoga when your exercise room is also the play room). Zooey wouldn't get the benefit of it that way, but we'll see what happens.
For now, I'm happy that the change in the PT routine means that I am truly gaining strength and I'm one week closer to hitting the canal again. It won't be soon, but it'll be sooner.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

But Yet I Run Before My Horse to Market?

(Or, On Not Running and Stuff)

Now is the winter of our smug content
Turned abhorrent summer by this desert sun;
And all the rain that lour's on the Northwest
Is in the deep cockles of our hearts dreamt of.
Now are our brows crowned with execrable sweat;
Our leather seats covered with beach towels;
Our fiery sidewalks used to fry up breakfasts,
Scorching steering wheels driven with oven mitts.
Sweat-tainted clothes ousted one-starched threads;
And now, instead of heading out to play
To fill the air with joyful intonations,
We hunker lamely in a curtained hallway
Under the tempering blades of ceiling fans.
But I, that am not shaped for staying put,
Nor made to linger under roofs, looking out;
I, that am aptly shod, and want nothing more
To run along a carp-laden canal;
I, that am curtailed of this activity,
Cheated of pastime by loathsome injury,
Wounded afflicts, sent before my time
Into the PT's world, rife with hip pain,
And that so lame and achy each waking hour
My dog barks at me as I halt her run;
Why, I, in this weak, fragile state of health,
Have no delight to pass away the time
Without to spy my shadow in the sun
And abandon my damn'd discomfiture:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a runner,
To entertain these long, feverous days,
I am determined to prove a swimmer
And hate the parching hours of these days.
Plots have I laid, exertions ambitious,
By desp'rate suspicions, brainstorms, and dreams,
To set my bothersome him and myself
In joyful reunion with each other:
And if my PT be as good and deft
As I am bruised, marred, and decrepit,
This plan should my hip surely be healed up,
Hoping a green light she gives, and run
On the canal this sportswoman shall go.
Heal hip, down to my bones: pool,
Here I come.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Physical Therapy - Week 7

This week, Stephanie had me start doing my bridge exercises using an exercise ball, and she added static lunges.
This takes my routine to almost two hours.
Especially when you include the part where I throw myself on the floor and dramatically cry, "It's soooooo hard!"
Tuesday I woke up with an extremely tight left quad. It was sore enough that it was uncomfortable to walk, so I modified my home PT, omitting any weights and doing fewer reps per set and skipping both the lunges and the squats, as they were both painful, not just uncomfortable, to attempt.. When it wasn't feeling much better on Wednesday, I was able to re-add the weights, but I still didn't do the squats or lunges.
When the pain didn't abate in the evening, I took a heating pad to it. Using a heating pad when it's over 100° outside isn't the most fun activity I can think of, but it helped me relax a little bit so I could go to sleep. My hip was also still pretty sore, so even though I tend to ice it after I'm finished with my exercises, the heating pad felt good on that as well.
Of course I brought all this up to Stephanie on Thursday, and she said that while she didn't like that my quad was painful for that long, she wasn't surprised that I was sore, since we hadn't worked too much with the quad, so adding the lunges should have had an effect. But since I was still pretty tight - she did some myofascial work during my Astym® treatment to try to loosen me up - she reduced my lunges to one set of ten on each side, and I'll work my way up.
It took me until this week to have the brilliant idea to actually write down what's going on each day in my running journal. I mean, hey, I'm not logging any miles, so it's not like there's no room. My hope is that if I can take notes each day, I can actually see myself progress - and feel like I'm making progress.
I know I'm making progress; I can tell that I'm stronger than I was when I started PT in May. But I still don't feel stronger, since I'm still constantly sore and uncomfortable, which means I still can't run or cycle, which in turn means I'm still frustrated and this close to going stir crazy.
My next goal, then, is to be able to do two sets of the lunges by my next update. I have a week. Let's get to it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#Reverb14 · June Prompt · Staycationing

#reverb14 is an opportunity for participants to reflect throughout 2014. Each month, the Reverb team will post a new prompt. Join and write, or simply join and read.

June Prompt: It's summer time, and the livin' is easy. Tell us about where you are RIGHT NOW. Tell us about your summer time at home. Does "home" mean heading out of town for the season? Does it mean an extended staycation? What does summer at home mean to you?

Even though I work from home, it's nice to have a few weeks (4, to be exact) during which I don't have to open my work computer. I'd be a big fat liar if I said that I wasn't completely burned out at the end of this school year and needed a break like nobody's business. After over a decade in the education world, I'm starting to wonder what's next more and more.

My vacation started this week. So far, I've made ice cream, marshmallows, chocolate-sweet potato muffins (in which I forgot an ingredient, but they turned out pretty good anyway), chocolate-sweet potato-banana bread, strawberry-rhubarb-apple empanadas (aka hand pies), and I'm planning to try a slow cooker cinnamon roll recipe a friend shared with me this weekend. I'm working on a baby blanket that will hopefully be done by said baby's first birthday (oops). I am attempting to clear off the dining room table so we can actually eat a family meal at it, but since Husband was gone for a class all last week, total neatness has been…..not A Number One Priority.

Guess which one was the sacrificial "taste test" empanada?
I've also been working hard on my PT and trying to get back in the routine of walking Zooey, who was left to her own devices last week when Husband was gone; HRH doesn't get up early enough to go in the morning, and I won't leave a 5YO home alone. Once she's at school, it's too hot for Zooey's paws. In order to give her the opportunity to get that extra energy out in a positive, non-destructive way, I sent her to doggie daycare for a day last week, and she was OMGSOHAPPY about that.

A rare snap of a peaceful coonhound, post-walk
But this morning, I just wanted to sit and do nothing. I'm not going to have many opportunities to do Nothing while I'm on break; I still have my summer session class, which is….not my favorite, but it will fill the bill. I had hoped to do as much work during my own break as possible, but my professor only posts one week's worth of readings/assignments at a time, so that doesn't seem likely (he said he likes to make sure we are all engaged in a similar direction at the same time or….something like that).

And if my own class weren't enough to keep me busy, I've scheduled Lots of Things for HRH to keep her busy before she begins kindergarten. Right now, she's taking swim lessons every day for two weeks (this is on top of her regular weekly lessons, so at the end of this week, she'll have had 12 lessons over the two week period). She's also taking two summer classes at her dance school - the next level of ballet to make sure she's ready for it and musical theatre, which combines all of her favorite things: singing, dancing, and being overly dramatic. On Thursday, she'll go from school to swim to ballet. I've promised her we can go out to dinner and that she can have whatever she wants, since she'll be exhausted. I'm hoping that in a few weeks she can do ballet camp, which will mean ballet two hours every day for the week.

Yes, that's a lot, but since we can't just go outside to play during the summer months, both HRH and I need activities that can keep her busy so that we don't revert to "just watch a movie while I wash the dishes." We all need our down time, but I don't need to train her to be a couch potato, either. We have been discussing how much she loves to swim, and she said to me, "It's too bad that some people don't like to exercise."

I won't let her become someone who doesn't like to exercise.

There are some mornings that have been cool enough to warrant an early trip to the park down the street, which we tend to finish off with a splash in the kiddie pool I bought for Zooey. The city recently put up a ramada over the playground equipment, so it's actually pleasant in the shade. We have one rule for how long we stay: when the water is nearly gone, we head home. HRH is extremely dedicated to following this rule and pays careful attention to her water consumption, although the promise of banana bread, muffins, or other tasty treats as a return snack probably doesn't hurt, either.

But our summer will also include a trip up to Michigan to see family and get out of the heat. I'm excited that we can actually go outside and play in the park when we want, and we've got plenty of activities to keep her (and us) busy, although we're planning for a few days of (almost) nothing but R&R on Lake Michigan. My mother-in-law got the extra bike tuned up, so I'm hoping that Stephanie gives me permission to go for a ride or two while we're up there, but I'll settle for going for hikes or walks if I have to. I finally feel like I am getting stronger (more on that in my weekly PT update), and I don't want to undo almost two months of hard work.

I guess the short version of this post could have been, "what's a vacation?"