Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Mini Marshmallow Brownie Pies - the Marshbrowpie

Orange and chocolate are a flavor marriage made in heaven. With a buttery crust, these bite-sized delights aren't as sweet as s'mores pies made with graham crackers. And since they're made in mini muffin tins, you can grab - and eat - a handful.

Earlier this month, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company held a social media contest. Participants simply had to make something chocolatey and yummy and use the hashtag #SweetestSecret.
After a looooooooong semester of school, work, physical therapy, and general parenting/wife-ing, I needed to relax, and an afternoon spent with Watson and Sherlock in the kitchen was definitely a great way to unwind.
Now, I am good at making exactly two things in the kitchen: marshmallows and pie. I'm terrible at cookies, have no patience to make and decorate cakes anymore, and, more than anything, I just really like marshmallows and pie.
As such, I decided to take the pie crust I had in the freezer and make mini pies. But marshmallows in pie crust? Boring. And not really a great way to feature, you know, Ghirardelli chocolate.
But marshmallows on top of a brownie that was in pie crust?
Ghirardelli liked one of my Instagram snaps so much that I was one of the winners of the contest.
How awesome is that??????????????

The winning snap!
For my "efforts" (can we really call it that if I was simply having fun in my kitchen?), I received a lovely package of Ghirardelli chocolate and baking supplies, and I'm so excited to use them all.

Clockwise, from top: Williams Sonoma cookie cutters, unsweetened cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate chips, bittersweet chocolate chips, a SILPAT, Williams Sonoma stainless steel spatulas, chocolate sauce
Mini Marshmallow Brownie Pies (Marshbrowpies)
Yield: 4 dozen

  • One batch No Excuses Pie Dough (or enough of your favorite pie crust for a two-crust pie; if you don't have a favorite pie crust recipe, you do now)
  • One batch Perfect Fudge Brownies batter (or your favorite brownie recipe; this should be your favorite brownie recipe)
  • One batch triple orange marshmallows (below)

Note: you're going to have both leftover brownie batter and marshmallow cream, so follow instructions to prepare a pan for the brownies and a pan or moulds for the marshmallows. The brownies will be good snacks to give to people who for some reason don't like pie and/or marshmallows (yes, Virginia, they do exist), and the marshmallows are excellent in coffee or cocoa or as snacks for people who don't like chocolate (or are allergic to it, as some people are).

For the pie crusts:

Roll out the dough (see original post for directions). Using a cookie cutter slightly larger than the diameter of the mini muffin tin, cut out small circles. If you don't have a cutter the right size, you'll find that an average drinking glass will do the trick. Cut out a small triangle so your circle looks like PacMan. 

Using a finger dipped in cold water, seal the two sides together to make a cone shape; place into ungreased, unlined mini muffin tins.
Chill for at least thirty minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 375°, and prepare the brownie batter.

For the brownies:

Prepare brownie batter according to directions. When the batter is mixed, add a teaspoonful of the batter to each of the pie crusts.

Bake at 375° for 9-10 minutes. Cool for at least ten minutes before adding the marshmallows.
Pour the remaining batter into a prepared pan, and bake for slightly less than the recommended time, checking frequently. I recommend breaking up Ghirardelli peppermint bark and sprinkling it over the batter so that you have peppermint brownies, especially yummy during this time of year.
You want the mini pie brownies to still be soft enough in the middle so that they collapse. If they do not collapse, press down the centers a bit once they cool enough to handle.

For the marshmallows:
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup cold orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups corn syrup (or rice syrup; agave nectar might also work)
  • splash orange juice
  • powdered sugar/corn starch mixture in which to toss the marshmallows
  • Additional zest, for sprinkling
Combine the juice, salt, and orange 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.
For the extra marshmallows: spray a 9X13 pan with either pan spray or coat with 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.
Alternately (and this is what I've started doing since my last marshmallow post), you can use silicone moulds, making sure to spray them with either pan spray or coat them with oil. You'll need enough moulds to make approximately 60 marshmallows (this is three Wilton baking moulds or 4 Chicago Metallic marshmallow moulds).
Bring sugar, syrup, zest, and and a splash of juice 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.
As soon as the syrup reaches the proper temperature, remove and pour into the mixing bowl, continuing to whisk on 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.

To assemble marshbrowpies:
Working quickly before it sets, add the marshmallow cream to the brownie pies. 
Pour the cream into two 16" piping bags, each prepared with a tip (I use a 5). Pipe a small amount into each brownie hollow.
If you don't have piping bags, you can pour a well-oiled teaspoonful of marshmallow cream into the hollows created when the brownies collapsed. 
Either pour or pipe the leftover marshmallow cream into a prepared pan or moulds.
Lightly dust orange zest over all the marshbrowpies. Follow that by sifting the corn starch-powdered sugar combination over the top of all 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.
To remove, simply use your finger or a knife to pop each one out. Remove any excess dusting powder, and sprinkle with leftover zest if you like.
These will stay in an airtight container for about a week (or however long they last before being eaten).

Of course, you could make almost any flavor of marshmallow here. I have also made these using salted caramel mallows. But I do think that the boldness of a citrus pairs so well with the chocolate that it's worth starting with.

Thanks so much to Ghirardelli for the #SweetestSecret fun, and of course for the wonderful gifts. The contest was a great way to end my semester and get back in the kitchen, and all of the goodies will be used with glee.

Disclosure: While I do use Ghirardelli chocolate for all my baking, my only "earnings" was the items that I won in this contest (all of which are pictured above). I have not been compensated for my enthusiastic use of Ghirardelli in this post or any other posts that may encourage use of their products, although I still encourage use of their products, because it's really good stuff.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Smoky Mountain Clusters

Mellow brown sugar marshmallows and creamy vanilla caramel sauce are the perfect accents to the smokiness of the pecans, almonds, and cashews in this homage to the pride of Nashville. This is definitely not your daddy's Goo Goo Cluster, but it's a smoky, sweet morsel that will surely cause Santa to add you to the permanent Nice List.

When I was a young pup, my dad brought home the most magical, delicious, and exotic treat from Tennessee after attending a conference in Nashville. It was a Goo Goo Cluster - a marshmallow nougat, topped with caramel and peanuts, and covered in chocolate. He also brought home a few Goo Supremes, which replaced the peanuts with pecans (it wasn't until the early 1990s that the peanut butter Goo Goo was released).
They. Were. Divine. 
So divine, in fact, I decided to leave one for Santa in lieu of the regular cookies and milk that year.
Santa appreciated it so much that he left me a note telling me how much he enjoyed the Goo Goo Cluster and how it was a rare treat for him, since (at the time) they were rarely found outside of the South.
Basically, Santa told me I was a BAMF for leaving him such a treat.
I've never forgotten how that felt.
This year, when Husband made a large batch of smoked mixed nuts for office gifts, my wheels got to turning as to how to use the leftover. It only took seven seconds for me to decide to try my hand at this favorite childhood treat and memory.
And you can bet that I'll be leaving a few of these for Santa this year, too.

Smoky Mountain Clusters
(inspired by the Tennessee original and one of my favorite candies in the world, Goo Goo Clusters)
Yield: 4 dozen*
  • 1 pint smoked nuts (you can use pre-made, like Blue Diamond)
  • 1 pint Caramel sauce (I use this recipe from Comfortably Domestic when I make caramel sauce; for this project, I added a sliced vanilla bean and its caviar to the sugar mixture and an additional Tbsp vanilla with the cream; I also cut out the salt)
  • 1 batch brown sugar vanilla marshmallows (below)
  • 2 1/2 bags Ghirardelli dark chocolate melting wafers (if you can't get these, you can sub 2 1/2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips with a tsp coconut oil)
I recommend that you prepare the caramel sauce and the marshmallows the day before you plan to make these so they have time to set (and so you have time to clean; some people might think this is a messy project, but I prefer to think of it as creative), although you can do it all in the same day if you make the sauce and mallows early enough.

For the marshmallows:
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups corn syrup (or rice syrup; agave nectar might also work)
  • splash water
  • powdered sugar/corn starch mixture in which to toss the marshmallows
Combine the water, 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.  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.
Alternately (and this is what I've started doing since my last marshmallow post), you can use silicone moulds, making sure to spray them with either pan spray or coat them with oil. You'll need enough moulds to make 80 marshmallows (this is four Wilton baking moulds or 5 Chicago Metallic marshmallow moulds; you will have leftover mallows using either method, which are great in coffee and cocoa).
Bring sugar, syrup, and 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.
As soon as the syrup reaches the proper temperature, remove and pour into the mixing bowl, continuing to whisk on 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.
If you're using moulds, pour the mixture into two 16" piping bags, each fitted with a plain tip (I used a 5, although I'd prefer a bit smaller). Pipe the marshmallow cream into each mould.
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.
Marshmallows in moulds will be ready much sooner, although I still prefer to let them sit 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).
Marshmallows in moulds can be manually popped out; even though it might not look like it, they will retain their shape; toss in the corn starch and powdered sugar mixture before storing.
*I used moulds for this project, which is how I got 4 dozen of them; if you make the marshmallows in a large pan, your yield will likely be different.

To assemble:
Apply a tsp caramel sauce to the top of each marshmallow, and cover with smoked nuts. Pop these in the freezer while you melt the chocolate.
Melt the chocolate wafers in a double boiler over low heat (don't boil the water) until smooth.
Once the chocolate is smooth and melted, work in batches of 8-12 marshmallows at a time (keep the rest in the freezer until you're ready to coat them). Using a fork and a spoon, dip the bottom of the marshmallow into the chocolate, and then spoon chocolate over the top, ensuring that the entire marshmallow is covered. Place on a wax paper covered cookie sheet, and chill in the refrigerator for at least thirty minutes. 
Keep refrigerated; share generously.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Post-Surgery Life: Six Months Later

*taps mic*
Anybody out there?
This fall has been insane. Between work, my classes, and PT, along with all of HRH's activities, has left me little time to sit and blog. I'm a year away from graduation.
But that's not really why I dusted off the laptop.

Today marks six months since my hip surgery. Six months ago, my orthopedic surgeon poke two holes in my upper thigh and shaved down my ball joint so it didn't rub against my socket anymore. It was actually a fairly quick surgery, as surgeries, go, and I was home later that day and back at physical therapy the next day.

Sexy hospital gown is sexy. It's the lighting, really.
And I have worked my tail off at therapy in these last six months. My ortho said it could take between six and eighteen months to fully recover, but after almost two years of Not Running, I'd like that recovery to be closer to six.
Lately, we've stepped up the plyometrics and abdominal work. I haven't done plyos since I was in high school track, so that's been…challenging. I have the grace of a sprinting basset hound, so hopping over even the shortest hurdle surely causes laughter to those who may be watching (I know this because they don't wait until my back is turned). Even so, I'm keeping at it, since I am continuing to make progress, upping weights and leveling up.
And, if you've followed me on Instagram (which is about all I can muster blogwise of late), you'll know that the most exciting news is that I have actually been able to run.

"Let's go, Mom! Chop chop!"
I think technically I'm still "jogging," but a run is a run is a run.
Here's what I've been allowed to do:

  • Warm up well (Zooey and I walk for at least a mile before attempting anything faster).
  • Jog in place for a few seconds.
  • Lean forward.
  • Go.
  • Make sure that everything is loading correctly.
  • If it's not, stop and start again.
  • Run no farther than 1/2 mile under threat of severe chastisement from all my therapists.

So that's what I've done.
Holy cats, running is hard!
We can start with everything to which I'm trying to pay attention. Before I got hurt, I (made the mistake of) ran somewhat mindlessly. That isn't to say I didn't pay attention at all; I just let my mind wander, especially if one of my favorite jams came on my playlists. Running was a way for me not to have to focus on something - work, class, other people - so I admit that I probably ignored my form. So now to pay attention to my foot strike (which I did before…usually) along with knee position and how much I am leaning and where my arms are and how long my stride is and whether I'm kicking my heels up instead of lifting my knees appropriately…it's…it's a lot. HRH is currently working on perfecting her butterfly stroke, and she struggles timing her arm movement with her dolphin kick, and I know exactly how she feels.
Like I said, sprinting basset hound over here (If you can't get that visual, here you go).

I mean, the only difference is that my ears aren't as floppy.
We also need to talk about how I could NOT get my breathing under control. You'll be surprised to know that after almost two years Not Running, Not Cycling, and Just Learning To Swim Again, my endurance is at a record low. So even though I felt on my second run that I had the loading under control, I had to stop and walk a bit to catch my breath before starting again. Sucking wind is a look I'm going to need to get used to for a while.
Am I ready to start Couch to 5K yet?
Even though I downloaded it.
But I'm getting stronger, and the fact that I have been cleared to do a bit of slow running as I basically learn how to run all over again is exciting. We are at the minimum marker for "full recovery," and while I know that I still have a ways to go before I announce to the world that I'm training for my first marathon, I'm starting to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
And hey, I may never be fast, but at least I'll be able to put one foot in front of the other and enjoy the forward motion. And for that, I am grateful.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Makes it Great

On Friday, I saw the PA at my ortho's office for a checkup. The last time I was in, the ortho said that this visit would be a deciding factor about when I'll be able to start cycling, running, and swimming again.
My range of motion continues to improve, and Jeff, my PA, was really pleased with how my muscle strength was coming along as well - I'm actually getting quad definition again, which means my muscle atrophy is receding, and my left leg is starting to become more equal in strength as my right. This is key for getting the go ahead for all activities.
That said, I'm not quite ready to put my improved joint to the test, and it may be a few more months before that happens.
The most important thing is having 100% range of motion back so that I can, basically, learn to run properly again. If I start before that, I'll likely have to compensate somehow, which will, of course, create a greater risk of re-injuring myself.  Additionally, I need to start back with one exercise at a time so that I don't overdo it. Since part of my surgery included repair of the hip capsule, Jeff wanted to make sure that was fully healed, which can take a little longer even if I "feel great and can't wait to start moving again."
So what does this all mean?
For now, I can continue walking and adding distance/time each week (I'm currently up to just under 1.5 miles). I need to continue with my PT twice a week, but as I need to move my hip as much as possible, I do need to do my exercises more often, so doing them in the pool and at the gym are highly recommended. If I keep this up, I should be able to start either cycling or swimming, in very small doses, next month, once I'm three months out from surgery.
Running, which is naturally the most jarring to the hip, will require the ortho's approval, so that's at least another six weeks, when I see him again. That means my goal of starting Couch to 5K near the end of September, in order to participate in a November race, isn't obtainable.
Of course I'm disappointed, but I also understand that I need to be healed and have that appropriate range of motion. My overall goal is to run this year, so even though I won't be finishing my first 5K in almost two years in November, I still have until December 31 to just run. So for now, I'm doing all that I can to get there.
Some people think that running is hard. Swimming and cycling can also be hard. But right now, waiting is probably the hardest thing I have to do. I see a runner out on the canal and wish that Zooey and I were out there, too. When I go to the gym and see someone doing lap after lap in the pool, I want to just be able to go fifty yards. I look longingly at RuPaul, who sits all but abandoned in the garage, and tell her that we'll get out of there someday, but not today.
Waiting is hard. But at least I'm waiting for something. And something is progress.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Small Victories: Walkies

There are these two terriers in our neighborhood that Zooey has claimed as her mortal enemies. She FUH-REAKS OUT when they walk by our house. When we have encountered them on walks, chaos has ensued. I've decided that she sees them as some sort of prey she needs to tree, because every time she picks up their scent, she goes the same kind of crazy as when she's gone on raccoon hunts.
Even at 100% strength, when she goes into full coonhound huntress mode, it's a struggle to stay upright, and that was everyone's concern when I started walking her again.
For the most part, our walks have been great. I think both of us are happy to have that time again, me because Walking is better than Not Walking and her because obviously I'm the cool parent who lets her do things on walks.

Head 'em up, and move 'em out!
This morning, though, she picked up a scent and whoa, buddy, were we off.
Yes, it was those two terriers again. 
Maybe I should start calling them "those white raccoons on leashes." 
Zooey was hell bent on catching up to them, but the most amazing thing happened.
I didn't fall when she pulled.
In fact, I was able to hold on to her leash (albeit with both hands) and make sure she didn't drag me anywhere.

Barking at those white raccoons is exhausting.
The last little bit of our walk was much faster than I'd intended, and I'd like to offer the neighborhood a "you're welcome" for being able to serve as a backup alarm so no one was late to work (I guess Zooey needs to take that credit), but it was the first walk that included unplanned instability - as opposed to the stability exercises I do at PT - and I managed to stay upright.
Ideally, I'd already be thinking about 10K an beyond, but in reality, I'm looking forward to the day when I can do a full minute of running intervals while walking. That means I need to find the joy in making progress toward that goal. And while the last year and a half has been frustrating, I'm making progress back to the running and cycling that I love, this time hopefully stronger and better able to meet my goals.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Green Means Go

Friday I had my six-week follow-up with the ortho. While I'd been in to get my stitches out and see the PA, this was the first time since the day after surgery I've seen the surgeon.
It was all good news. He was very pleased with my progress and my range of motion.

But more importantly, he said it's time for me to move more.

This week I'll be asking my physical therapist for some strengthening exercises I can do in the pool. I don't think I'm up for doing laps, even with a kick board, but I can definitely add in resistance work in a low-impact environment.
Right now, I'm only allowed to use the stationary bike, but I can add resistance and time to that. But when I see the PA in four weeks, it is a "definite possibility" that I'll get the go-ahead to get back on RuPaul. I'll content myself to hopping on the stationary at the gym when I'm there to hit the pool now.
As far as a running timeline, my goal to start the Couch to 5K program in late September, so that I can complete a 5K in November, was met with a positive response as well, and my ortho said that as long as we have no set-backs between now and then, he sees no reason for me not to plan that out.
For now, just walking less than a mile is still challenging, but my goal is walk Zooey three times a week (every day is too much at the moment) and little by little build myself up to walking far and long enough to start adding the running component on September 20.
It's been a long year-plus, but I'm starting to see finish lines again.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Walking a Mile (Almost) in My Shoes

Though I've done almost zero running for over a year, I've been trying to keep a regular walking (and when it's cooler, hiking) regimen with Zooey. Just because girlfriend is 7 doesn't mean she is slowing down, and so we walk.
Until my surgery, that is.
Obviously, walking any dog while on narcotics and crutches would be a terrible idea; as such, since the morning of my surgery, Husband has taken over dog walking duty. Even after I was cleared to drive, I wasn't stable enough to walk a dog who might pull unexpectedly. And certainly a fall is NOT what I need right now.
Last week, though, my physical therapist said I could walk Zooey. As long as Husband went with us in order to make sure nothing tragic would ensue. With HRH headed out on a trip with her grandmas this weekend, it was perfect timing. We could take Zooey on her regularly scheduled morning walk without trying to bring a 6-year-old along as well.
Friday was my first foray, and we went on what is basically a normal weekday walk route (on weekends we tend to take Zooey through the park down the street). Even though we cut it a little short, I was exhausted. I was out of breath and needed to stop every once in a while. When we got home, I couldn't ice my hip quickly enough.
It's amazing how quickly we lose any endurance, really.
But that doesn't mean I wanted to keep Not Walking Zooey, so Saturday I got up (after sleeping in, another perk of HRH being on holiday without us) and took her for a shorter loop around our neighborhood.

Hey, Zo, you wanna go for a walk? ME TOO!
Without Husband chaperoning.
It's not that I don't like spending time with him, but it was exhilarating to exercise a little more physical independence again.
Yes, I brought my phone and RoadID with me. I'm independent, not reckless.
Over the course of the walk, we encountered two kitties, one dog who JUMPED his fence to try to get at Zooey, a beagle  on its walk that Zooey really, really wanted to meet, and a woman walking two black fuzz balls that may have been long haired chihuahuas. But not once did Zooey pull or jerk me. She was, for the most, a model of a canine good citizen.

We walked .95 miles. I took 2,047 steps.
It wasn't even a mile.
It certainly wasn't a marathon.
It was just far enough for me to start getting tired, so that route will serve as my starting point as I work to build endurance. I need to be able to walk comfortably (and maybe a little more quickly at some point) in order to being the Couch to 5K program. Sure, when I started running I didn't follow a plan and just kind of went with what felt right, but this time I'll be starting from an even weaker fitness level, so I'm going to do it carefully, under the guidance of my ortho and my physical therapist. My goal is start the program on September 20, which will allow me to complete it for a 5K in November. We'll see what my ortho has to say when I see him next week.
Until then, I'll be out walking with Zooey.

Monday, June 29, 2015

ProTips - Surviving Hip Surgery

*blows dust off blog*
Well, hello there! I haven't written anything, except essays for my Restoration Comedy class, since February. But, if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you probably know that I recently had arthroscopic hip surgery.
I'll probably write a post about the process by which I got to surgery at some point, but for now, I'd like to leave you with a list of the wisdom I've gleaned to get anyone through the lead-up and the weeks after surgery.

Get as Strong as Possible Before Surgery
Leading up to surgery, I was at the gym several times a week, either swimming or doing the PT exercises I'd been working on before I scheduled the surgery. It was good to move, especially in the pool, but I think that it's helped me bounce back, if you will, more easily.

Have Nausea-Friendly Foods Prepared
The anesthesia used in surgery can often cause nausea in patients, so it's a good idea to have food that you can eat without seeing it again later. I made some beef stock (popularly called bone broth on the interwebs these days) in the slow cooker in case I couldn't stomach anything, and we always have Pellegrino on hand (ever since Husband discovered Costco carries it, he can't live without it). It was also something that Husband could heat up quickly after we got home from hospital, and since I hadn't had anything since about 10PM the night before and got home around 5PM, I was hungry. I'd say I was hangry, but I was too doped up to be truly angry about it. Fortunately, I was able to get through the entire process nausea-free, but the beef broth was pretty delicious anyway, and it's supposed to be good for healing, so there's that.

Take Selfies in Your Hospital Gear
Not only are you gonna look BANGIN, but it'll help distract you from being ravenously hangry, which you will be by the time you are instructed to change into your gown and other sexy hospital clothing. And a little more seriously, doing stupid things like that will help ensure a positive mood when you head to the surgery room.

Bring Your Kid to the Hospital So Your Spouse Can't Come Back to Recovery and Take Pictures of You Before You Fully Wake Up
Children aren't generally allowed in the recovery area. HRH spent the day with Husband waiting for me, and because of being on daddy duty, he was extremely disappointed that he didn't get a snap of me with my tongue lolling out or some such. The Struggle is painfully real for him.

Have Protein on Hand
The nurses who prepped me for surgery were adamant about my protein intake post-surgery. I swear they gave me the list of tuna fish, eggs, chicken, and peanut butter about a billion times (super fun to talk about food when you haven't had food in 12 hours, bee tee dubs). "Take your pain killers with food, but it MUST BE PROTEIN IF IT ISN'T PROTEIN TERRIBLE THINGS WILL HAPPEN." OK, so that might be a wee bit embellished, but they did what they could to stress the importance of downing protein with my pills so that I would not get sick. And I'll tell you what - it was really all I wanted for the first few days anyway. I took down a rotisserie chicken like a hyena, and I ate all of the peanut butter and almond butter in the house.

Have a One-Story House
This one miiiiiiiight be tricky if you've already got a mortgage, but the stairs were an obstacle I didn't want to tackle for the first few days, and I even though I've been (for the most) walking sans crutches for the last few days, I only stopped using them on the stairs yesterday. It's slow going, so if you DO have a multiple story house, have someone be a gopher to grab that one thing you need on the other floor. HRH was actually awesome in this job; she was great about running upstairs to get my iPad, or downstairs to grab my water bottle.

Stay Ahead of the Pain
This is something that the nurses also urged me to do, but it was my step-mother-in-law, a nurse, who told me to set my alarm so that I took my pain killers at regular intervals. And that's exactly what I did, even in the middle of the night. I had a little container of peanut butter and saltine mini sandwiches, and when my alarm went off, I struggled to sit up, had a few sandwiches, took my pill and drank a bunch of water. While I did have some discomfort, the worst I hit on the pain scale was a 5 (focusing more on the pain than anything else), and that was one evening right before bed. Setting your alarm for 2AM may not sound like the most fun thing to do, but the pain killers kept me pretty sleepy, so I had no issue falling back asleep, and I've taken many naps over the last few weeks, so I haven't felt deprived of rest.

Bring Your Crutches Out in Public, Even if You Stop Using Them at Home
The crutches will bring you attention/sympathy, yes (although so far I've not gotten any free stuff like my friends got when we were kids….that feels pretty discriminatory; adults like cookies, too), but more importantly, they are a visual cue that "I am slow, and I need my space" to other people, and you're still going to get tired more easily. The other day we went to a birthday party for one of HRH's friends, and I had one crutch, just in case, and I did get tired, so I was glad to have the support.

Binge on Netflix

Insist on Doing Stuff
Obviously, if you're going to be taking narcotics for pain, as prescribed by your doctor, you're not going to be permitted to drive. I was housebound for two weeks to the day before I was cleared to drive. Before that, the only time I really left the house was for PT, which I started the day after surgery and go to three times a week. Husband came home from work, took me to PT, took me home, and went back to work. But I got really tired of the view from the couch, so I insisted we go to the farmers market last weekend, and even though I got really tired, it was so great to get out for just a bit. Otherwise, I may have actually started to get out the painting supplies and start painting the walls.

Have a Sense of Humor
My favorite hashtag on Instagram is #donttakeyourselfieseriously. While I take things like this surgery seriously, I need to be able to laugh about things, and I think it's important to do so in order to continue to have a positive attitude. I'm not saying I haven't thrown myself any pity parties in the last year, because I have, but since scheduling the surgery, I've been pretty positive about the whole process. I mark my feelings and milestones with random memes, and I named both my crutches (Click and Clack) and my sutures (Statler and Waldorf). The one thing I am sad about is that I was never able to use the phrase "bitch, I will crutch you."

Be Religious About PT
I go to PT three times a week, and I've already been able to "level up" on a few exercises (thanks to Past Allison's foresight about her pre-surgery workouts), but with the exception of a few days on which I was so tired I could barely get up, I've done my exercises, which includes pedaling on a little pedaler twice a day for 20 minutes each, every single day. At one point, surgery meant an overnight stay in hospital, but I was home that evening and at PT the next day. My ortho told me he wanted me moving as much as possible, so I take the time to complete it so that I can be running again sooner instead of later.

Prepare to be Humbled by your Body
Physical therapy is probably the most humbling experience. The human body is amazing in how strong AND how weak it can be, and exercises that look like they should be easy are proven difficult. So check your pride at the door at PT in order to heal. Follow your doctor's protocol, and proceed only as appropriate.

Celebrate the Small Victories
I'm almost three weeks out, and I've got a long recovery ahead of me (three months minimum), but I already feel better. I'm no longer dependent on crutches. I am off the pain killers and am able to drive again. The discomfort I feel is the post-surgery discomfort, not the pain I had before. I've gone from doing glute squeezes to bridges. Progress in tiny steps is still noticeable, measurable progress.

I'm sure there are other, better lists of ways to prepare for and get through hip surgery, and not everything on this list may work for every person who goes through hip surgery. Some people may want to not take a make-up-free, hospital gown-laden selfie. That's OK. But hopefully I gave a little insight to the reality of surgery and post-surgery that can help others heal as quickly as possible.

Have you had surgery before? What kind? What additions do you have to this list?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Physical Therapy - Week Eleventy Billion

Hey-hey, kids!
It's been a while. End of semester research, final exams, Elf on the Shelf, beginning of semester, a kid with strep throat, and a major masters-related meltdown have happened since my last post, and my life has kept me busy enough that I've barely even thought about posting, much less had an opportunity to do so.
Let's catch up, then.
We left our intrepid hero eagerly awaiting the results of her MRI, wondering if surgery would be in her future.
But unlike weekly dramas, the results there were completely anticlimactic.
Based on new X-Rays and the results of the MRI, the ortho determined that I do not have a labrum tear. There is "normal wear and tear" for a woman "my age" (since I'm now at the age to hear phrases like that, I guess), but nothing that's indicative of the reasoning for my hip pain.
That's technically good news. I'm not going to have surgery, which, even if arthroscopic will be invasive and a shock to the body.
But at the same time, I admit that I was pretty disappointed. With a diagnosis of a torn labrum and surgery, there is a timeline of healing to which I can cling.
What I have is pretty much a shrug and "let's just keep doing PT until you heal."
Because, you know, insurance companies are totally cool with just doing PT forever and ever with no end in sight.
At the same time as the "beats me" determination, my allowed number of PT sessions did run out, so it's been a few months of filing paperwork, waiting, going again, and then filing more paperwork. Currently I haven't been in since December, which means I've been on my own to do my exercises and try to heal up.
So, SURPRISE! I am Still Not Running, and my hip still hurts.
I think I may have some leads, though. Based on what the ortho saw - or, rather, didn't see - on the MRI, the medical "team" (ortho, PT, chiro) are leaning towards a hip flexor strain. And yes, a muscle strain can take months to heal, especially when one is trying to retrain the body to use all muscles like they're supposed to be used.
It is 100% frustrating to not be able to run still, after nearly a year. Running has been my main form of exercise, and not moving has taken a toll emotionally as well as physically. At this point, I'm game to try just about anything to get me back on the road; I am looking into some different massage therapy (not covered by insurance) that could help release tension in the muscle's insertion point, which isn't as affected by stretching as the middle part of the muscle. I'm ordering an adjustable standing desk so that I can spend more of the day standing (this is probably not going to be covered by insurance, either). And I've started to add more yoga in again. I've even been doing some pain-specific relaxation and am considering pricing acupuncture to have another means to work on healing.
Kat sent me this when she knew I was struggling with the whole Not Running Thing. It's taped to one of my monitors at work.

So for now, it's time to stand up again.