PaleOhNo! Part One

I’ve been hesitant to talk about my stomach for fear of speaking too soon only to backslide to where I was most of last year. I realized though that anything could change, so I should share the good news while it’s here.

It all started with my visit to the homeopathic doctor who I lovingly refer to as the witchdoctor. He was so wonderful. He listened and immediately identified my underlying problem which was causing a whole variety of nasty side effects. The basic issue was an overgrowth of fungus (candida) in my intestines which was brewing up an unhealthy amount of yeast in my stomach and gut.  It was never idenitified as an issue before because most conventional doctors don’t consider fungal growth a problem. Luckily, the witchdoctor does, and he got me started on a special diet and herbal remedy plan immediately. There are anti-fungals you can take for this issue but they can be pretty rough on your liver, so we decided to pursue this course of action first.

The idea, he said, was to starve the fungus by cutting out it’s number one food source: sugar, of course. He doesn’t believe in extreme diets, so he only asked me to avoid all forms of refined sugar. Additionally, we didn’t want to introduce any new fungus via fermented foods, so no wine or beer, vinegar or mushrooms. Honestly, the wine was the worst part. I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, but I do enjoy a nightly glass of wine. Still, it had been such an awful year, I would have done anything in the hope of feeling better. Because it wasn’t a totally restrictive diet, I was able to start right away. The only tricky switch was the vinegar. I usually have a salad every day for lunch, and almost all dressings contain some variety of vinegar. I switched to olive oil and lemon which I was surprised to find most salad joints have on hand. I didn’t love it at first and missed the variety, but it’s really grown on me!

There was also an herbal component which included some multivitamins and digestive enzymes. The vitamins are excellent especially my new multi which includes valerian root and has done wonders for my general anxiety levels. It’s hard to tell if the enzymes have made a difference, but they haven’t hurt.

I started feeling better almost immediately. I’d say within 14 days I could tell a noticeable differnce. After a month, I finally ditched the “emergency bag” I’d hauled with me literally everywhere for the past year. This was a bag full of 4-5 different type of stomach meds, ginger chews, peppermint gum and chamomile tea. All of which I used to employ (usually all in the same day) to keep my stomach symptoms at bay. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. It was as if I didn’t even realize how bad things had gotten until I finally remembered what it feels like to feel normal. I didn’t even have to plan my outings around bathroom stops anymore! It was a life changer, but I still wasn’t 100%. I still had tough days and couldn’t figure out why, so I did a little digging.

There’s a ton of research out there about the candida diet, and all of it agrees that sugar is the number one irritant, and it needs to be elimintated. Like I said earlier, I don’t really have a sweet tooth, and I didn’t consume tons of sugar before starting the diet, so I didn’t really understand what eliminating sugar would do. After doing some reading, I realized I was forgetting about a main source of sugar that I definitely did have in my diet, which was carbs. I’d done the gluten free thing before and felt better but I never considered (and still don’t consider) myself gluten intolerant. Still, I decided to cut out all simple carbs for a few weeks and see how I felt.

I should pause here to note, that there are plenty of people out there who don’t even believe Candida is a real issue. That’s cool, but since making a real effort to eliminate it, I feel 100xs better. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m happy, and I’m a believer.

Researching a carb free lifestyle led me almost immediately to the Paleo Diet. Having experimented with vegetarianism and gluten free living, I am obviously not shy about hopping on diet trends. Still, I was skeptical. Would I have to start cross-fitting? Would I need to convert everyone I love? All of that and more in Part Two, but let’s just say, going Paleo has changed my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Yep. I’m one of those now. Sorry.

The Lion King

Such a fun weekend that it took me three days to post! The fun actually started on Wednesday with a work from home day for the two of us. Chris got some wonderful work news, so we had a little snowed in celebration.

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Once we were able to leave the house again, the celebrations just continued. We ventured to Edwards, a Jersey City steakhouse, on Thursday. It was so good! The atmosphere was cool and sleek, and the food was pretty great.

Friday night Deb and Mike wanted to keep the party going so we all went out to ATH in Cranford for some excellent local eats.

Saturday Chris and I met up with his parents and brother in the city to see The Lion King on Broadway. Chris’ brother Rob got us all tickets for Christmas, and it was a nice February surprise.

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The play was amazing! The artistry and talent of all the performers was breath taking. We really loved it. After the show, we headed to the UES for dinner at a little Italian wine bar near Rob’s apartment.

On Sunday we decided to keep the eating train rolling, so Chris got to work on his mom’s “Sunday Sauce” while I tried my hand at some homemade bread and pasta. The bread was from a kit, so it was crazy easy. The pasta wasn’t bad at all either. I definitely didn’t roll it out thin enough, so the noodles were kind of huge, but practice makes perfect I guess.

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The sauce was excellent! The marinara touch must run in the family!!

It was a great (and filling) weekend which was a nice break in between massive snow storms and other winter dreariness.

Bowled over

Yuck. Sorry for that title, but really how do you preface bowling?

This weekend was practically perfect save for a lack of sleep. I met up with some girlfriends for drinks on Friday night. The best part (other than the company obviously!) was that I didn’t even have to leave town! One lives in the neighboring town and the other is a native Cranfordian. Considering we met in college, I sorta love that we ended up living just blocks away from each other. Way to be, Union County!

It turns out that wine and 1/3 of a plate of nachos do not make for lasting energy, and my own raging hunger woke me up at 7:30. This is why I will never understand people who can skip meals. After feeding my face, Chris and I headed to Freehold to meet up with a potential florist. We loved all the guys there and are almost positive they’re the ones. We’re visiting another company next weekend just to compare. I never thought I’d be this excited about flowers, but I really am.

We spent the rest of our rainy (but much warmer!) Saturday shopping for some house stuff. Taking down that Christmas tree made everything feel so empty that we decided to bite the bullet and just pick up a few pieces for our dining room. I mean the table and chairs were free, so we felt ok showing the room a little love. I’ve been covering a rug for that room for months, but was really hoping to find a 7×9 for around $100. After scouring the Internet, a million home stores and a thrift store, I realized that was a bit unrealistic and went for the most affordable option I could find.

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cat toy squirrel is old; rug and potted trees are new

I’m already in love.

Back story: Around the end of November, Chris and I jointly came up with 5 date night ideas then individually wrote out 5 more each. We threw them all in a jar and now we take turns picking at random when we have some free time. I’ll admit that I thought this idea would be a little silly or might not gain traction, but it has been SO FUN! We’ve done four so far, and I’ll probably link to all the dates once we’ve exhausted our pile!

Our fourth date was bowling! It was Chris’ idea, and I loved it! We grabbed some delicious burgers beforehand since I had literally dreamt about burgers two nights last week.

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just look at that greasy deliciousness

Our first bowling alley was a total bust as they didn’t open to the public (ie not a private party) until 11:15. Sorry but I’m too old to be starting my night at 11. Luckily, the next option was still pretty close and ended up being a really fun place with lasers! And beer!

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Don’t let those stellar scores fool ya. That was by far the best game I played. I am the world’s most inconsistent bowler. After rolling two strikes at the end if game one, I went out to get 6 (!!) gutter-balls in a row! That’s three straight turns with no pins down. I scored a 33 for the game. I wish I could say I took it in stride, but I don’t like sucking at things, so after failing to break 50 twice, I was sort of over bowling.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great night and an awesome date idea, but I think next time might involve more beers and less games.

Thanksgiving 2013

I love Thanksgiving. It’s all the wonderfulness of Christmas with so much less pressure. This year was extra special because I have so, so much to be thankful for. 2013 has been a huge year for me, and none of that was lost on me on Thursday.

Chris and I both had a chance to work from home on Wednesday (my first time ever!) due to the holiday and a Nor’easter coming up the coast. I was thankful for the chance to stay put as the morning was pretty dark and stormy. Our basement even took on a little water which caused a minor freak out, but we’ve got a remediation plan in place. Luckily, the weather got better as the day went on, but we still stayed put most of the day. I baked some cookies for the next day too.

Thursday morning started with breakfast while watching the parade on TV. After that, Chris and I went on a little run. I wanted to see what my hamstring felt like. Not great was the answer but we got a nice, easy 3 miles in while enjoying the cold but sunny weather. After our run, I got started on my apple pie! I bought frozen crusts, but the filling was all me! It wasn’t bad at all. Next time I’d probably do refrigerated crusts because the crust that was supposed to act as the top of the pie sorta fell apart when I flipped it over. Thankfully, no one noticed or cared. I ended up with some apple filling left, so I made a quick apple crisp on the side. It turned out to be a bigger hit than the pie! Figures, right? Simple is better.

My mom and Molly (Annie stayed in Charlotte this year; after all her moves she was a little over traveling hah) met us at the house while I finished getting ready. Then we took some pictures (still trapped on the SLR) in front of the house before heading to Chris’ parent’s for dinner.

Traffic was a bit of a bear, but we all made it. It was so nice to have both our families in the same place. It just felt so right to me, and I really appreciated the effort both families made it make it happen. Of course, there was plenty of food to be thankful for as well. Chris’ mom just started a new job, and she’s been working like crazy, so she had most of the food catered by Wegman’s with some sides brought by family. It was awesome!

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We had turkey, mashed potatoes, a squash and spinach salad, stuffing, stuffed mushrooms, green beans, gravy, cranberry relish and chicken cutlets (plus Chris’ cute cousin and her fiancé Pete caught unaware by my sneaky paparazzi ways). There was so much food, and I tried everything.

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After dinner we cleaned up before we got started on round two.

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There was so much pie plus cookies, brownies and fruit (which mostly went untouched). I had a coconut custard pie that was just awesome, and my desserts were a hit too. After that, everyone slipped into a nice food coma while watching The Godfather Parts I & II (never III) on loop, a Rappa tradition.

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After a few hours more, we rallied and made the trip back up home. I was shocked by how much traffic there still was, but we made it and watched a couple movies (flipping between a Harry Potter marathon and a James Bond one) before passing out.

The next day I had just one thing on my mind: Christmas!! We already had our tree, so it was time to put that bad boy up. I turned on some Pandora Christmas tunes, made some hot cocoa, and we got to work.

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The cats were equal parts excited and terrified of the process. Shockingly, Miles was the braver one throughout. After the tree was up, I started decorating. The tree is pre-lit, and it was so nice to skip stringing the lights.

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When we finished, I was over the moon. I didn’t expect to be quite as thrilled as I was, but it was just so pretty. It totally put me in the spirit. Sometimes, I just stand and stare at it. This season is so short, I’m just trying to soak it all in.

We met Debbie and Mike in Jersey City for dinner at yet another new restaurant. I think 5 (that I know of!) have popped up since we left. That city is bustling! Unfortunately, we also drove by the wreckage of a building that house several apartments plus our favorite Italian delivery place in JC. A fire destroyed it the day before Thanksgiving. Luckily, no one was killed, but it was still awfully sad.

Saturday was the turkey trot in our neighboring town. I sat it out because 5 miles is too much for my right leg at the moment. Chris did it though, and he was so great! The course is three loops of a park, so I got to catch him a couple times. I had a blast cheering for him.

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He blew our time from last year out of the water finishing in 50:04.

After the race, we went to see Catching Fire, and it was so good! The second book was my favorite in the series, and the movie did a great job bringing it to life.

Sunday we went to church as I was officially welcomed into my adult confirmation program. It was a beautiful rite, and I feel very privileged to be experiencing all this at the church we’ve chosen. The people are just so warm and welcoming. The atmosphere is great.

For such a long break, it certainly seemed to fly by. I was not ready to head back to work yesterday, but I did find myself more rested and definitely thankful for such a great holiday.

Wedding Dress Weekend

First of all… Happy Anniversary Chris! Our two years have magically felt like both 10 years and only hours. I mean to say, part of me feels like we’ve always been together while the other part of me feels like time flies by so quickly that I wish I could catch it and reel some of it back in. This has undoubtedly been the most amazing 2 years of my life, and the fun is just beginning. You are all that I could ask for in a partner and best friend, and I thank my lucky stars that you came along.

This weekend was so wonderful, I didn’t want it to end. Alas, rainy Monday is here, so I’ll have to settle for reliving it through pictures.

Friday night, Debbie and Mike took us to a place in Cranford they’ve been raving about call A Toute Heure. It’s a farm to table restaurant tucked away in a cute little house in the middle of a neighborhood, and it’s wonderful! Their menu changes daily, and the staff is so friendly and helpful.

Chris and I shared a pot of mixed olives to start.

For my main course, I had a huge pot of mussels with feta cheese and pesto in a delicious garlic broth plus a side of fries.

Even though I was about ready to burst at the seams, Chris and I decided we had to split the hazelnut pudding.

Wow! Just looking at the pictures makes me hungry all over again.

Saturday was beautiful and perfect, and I seriously hope the spring weather is here to stay.

Sunday wrapped up the weekend with a day I had been anticipating for weeks… dress shopping! One of my bridesmaids lives in Chicago, so when I found out she would be in town this weekend, I knew I had to try to get everyone together for some dress shopping. I emailed the moms and all the bridesmaids and everyone was free, so we were on!

I told Chris and the bridal party that there was no way that I’d be buying a dress. The wedding is over a year away, and I only had a small idea of the type of dress I wanted.

Along with my mom and little sister, my middle sister Annie drove up from Maryland for the day. Chris’ mom came along too! How lucky am I to have all these beautiful ladies in my family?

All my bridesmaids were able to come too!

Dress shopping! @amullen6 @mollymoo__ @judysukovich @debruns

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I picked out 5 dresses that were all very similar, and the consultant at David’s Bridal picked out 5 more. Molly also requested that I try on at least one “poofy” dress (I’m more interested in sheath style gowns), so I probably tried on close to 11 dresses.  I fell in love with the first one, and just couldn’t shake it. Many dresses later, everyone agreed that while there were definitely a few beautiful dresses, nothing could top the first one.

So, I bought a dress.

This isn’t it, silly. I won’t be posting it on the internet for a while. This was one of the contenders. It was a little too white and a lot too strapless for me.

I know it sounds kind of crazy that I bought the first dress I tried on during my first appointment over a year away from the wedding, but it makes a lot of sense to me. I generally have a pretty good idea of what I want. I’m a “know it when I see it” type, and I knew this was the one.  I’m happy to have found my dress but sad that it was over so quickly! I guess this just means I have a lot of shoe shopping to do, right?

that time I went vegetarian by eating a steak

I am an exercise in contradictions. I realize that.  I said in my 2013 goals post that I really wanted to focus on getting back to vegetarianism. Then I ate a steak for the first time in years last night.

 

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And it was, sadly, delicious.

Considering we just moved to a new apartment, put a big down payment on our car lease in order to transition to financing it, and booked a Jamaican vacation, Chris and I decided to keep Valentine’s Day low key this year.

I knew immediately what I wanted to do. I wanted to make the man some steak. He’s such a healthy eater, and he puts up with all my strange dietary impositions, but he really loves some red meat now and then. And, who doesn’t love a home cooked meal?

I briefly contemplated making him a steak and me something else a little more veg-friendly, but nothing kills a food buzz quicker than looking up from your dead animal to see someone eating a head of broccoli and becoming overwhelmed with guilt. We were either doing this or we weren’t.

If I was going to cook and eat a steak, I wanted it to be from a cow who had a really good life. Morally, I don’t have a problem with eating animals. I have a problem with the way animals raised for consumption are treated in this country. I do believe there are humane ways to raise animals who will eventually be slaughtered for food, and I don’t think it’s right or fair to eat animals raised any other way.

So, I turned to my food source, Fresh Direct (we order all of our groceries there and their quality and customer service never cease to amaze me; I will never go to the grocery store again), to see what my humane options were like. They have an amazing selection of local, organic food, so I was not surprised to find 100% grass fed, local, organically raised beef from a family farm on the menu.

Our steaks came from Hardwick Beef in Johnson, NY and our cows were raised on one of two local family farms. After reading about them, I do believe our cows were treated humanely. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than most, and it made me feel comfortable about my purchase.

For the record, two filet mignons (about a pound of beef) were $37. That’s what humanely raised cattle cost. That’s the cost of treating animals with respect. Sort of makes you wonder what happens to cows that turn into McDonald’s hamburgers that cost $1. That’s a story for another day though.

I shared the price because I think it’s really important to recognize the implications that come along with it. We live in a country where you can have meat as the centerpiece of every meal of every day, but that doesn’t mean you should. The drive to lower the cost of meat and make it more available to the masses has led to cost cutting in an industry that deals with animals with thoughts and feelings and souls. Measures to keep prices artificially low and profits high are the main cause of the horrible conditions in most of the farming industry. I also personally believe the abundance of cheap, low-quality meat has contributed significantly to the obesity epidemic.

If everyone paid the real cost of their meat, we’d eat less meat which would result in healthier lives for us and them. Ok, I really didn’t mean to rant here, but if you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out this article by Mark Bittman.  And if you want to change the way you think about food forever, read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It’s in my top 5 favorite books of all time, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Moving on, we got our sustainable steaks, and I was so nervous to cook them! I looked up one million recipes, but ending up settling on pan searing the steaks and serving them with a red wine reduction (I added 2 tbsps of thyme along with the beef broth but otherwise followed this recipe exactly; it was amazing).

For the steaks, I rubbed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them in a medium hot skillet. I seared each side for about 5 minutes a side then turned the heat down to low medium and cooked them through for about another 5 (we like them medium well; for rarer, 10 minutes is likely sufficient).

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Despite appearances, we do not live in an abandoned insane asylum. We have pictures up,  you just can’t see them from that angle. Also, our table is stuffed in a weird corner because we are working with 700 square feet, and we never use it. After this picture, I turned off the crazy bright light and we ate by candlelight. Just needed to clear that up.

 

For the sides, we had broccoli steamed in the microwave then drizzled with some balsamic vinegar, a salad, and garlic mashed potatoes using my girl Martha’s recipe. They were good, but missing a little something. Next time, I’d use red skin potatoes with the skin on.

After dinner, everyone passed on in a food coma.

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Except Miles because demons don’t need to sleep. They do need to hold hands though.

As for me, I got the luckiest of all.

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Chris snuck home during his lunch break to set up this lovely display of beautiful flowers and pictures! We’ve been talking about printing pictures for 100 years and have never done it, so he took initiative and printed and framed them! I love it. He printed a bunch of extras too, so I get to take some to work. How wonderful! I can’t even describe how sweet it was to come home to this. I was totally surprised!

I also got a sweet care package from my sister and chocolate covered pretzels from our building management. I just love Valentine’s Day!

 

 

so it begins

February is going to be one busy month for me. Like I have something planned every day of every weekend. Like I will probably sleep 24 hours total. Like, it’s going to be rough. Still, at the end of February, Chris and I are off to sunny, beautiful Jamaica, so I’m keeping my eyes on the prize. The craziness kicked off this weekend, so I’m feeling it today. There’s not too many pics, so I’ll keep it short. Let’s go!

Friday was actually quite lovely. It has been absolutely freezing lately, so Chris and I decided to stay in, and I attempted a very ambitious, for me, recipe of fish tacos.

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They were delicious and much easier than I thought! I:

  • marinaded two filets of flounder (because it was on sale) in lime juice, chopped garlic, cilantro, chili powder and paprika for about 15 minutes
  • crushed a cup of tortilla chips and added those same seasonings (minus the lime) to the chips and breaded the fish with them
  • poured the remaining marinade over the fish and cooked it in the oven for 15 minutes on 375

In the meantime, I:

  • made brown rice with lime and cilantro
  • sliced up an avocado
  • chopped up a quarter of a red cabbage and mixed it up with salt, pepper, lime and cilantro
  • warmed corn tortillas in the microwave (2o seconds each)

When the fish was done, I flaked it into chunks they layered it on the tortilla and topped it with the cabbage slaw, jarred salsa and sliced avocado. They were divine!

Saturday we were up bright and early and off to New Brunswick. Chris dropped me off at the Alpha Chi house then went on to spend the day with his parents. I spent the day helping the Alpha Chi’s get ready for formal recruitment, and getting so excited! Their plans sound so great, and I just know they’re going to have an awesome time.

When I was done, Chris picked me up and we wandered the mall for a few hours killing time until Steve’s birthday dinner!

We decided on Hibachi which I was so excited for, but ended up waiting forever to eat even though we had reservations. The people at the table where we were to be seated had finished before we even arrived, and despite the fact that we were obviously waiting, they just continued to sit and sip their drinks FOR AN HOUR rather than heading to a bar or, ya know, not drinking their faces off prior to driving home. Anyway, we eventually sat and it was worth the wait.

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The birthday boys (Steve has a twin) had a great time and so did we.

Sunday was another early morning for us as we had to drive into the city so I could drop some things off at a medical lab. I’ve been dealing with a host of (blessedly) minor medical issues lately including increasingly annoying digestive problems, anxiety (maybe related, maybe not) and getting diagnosed with a very benign blood disorder called Thalassemia (I have a very mild form). All these ailments have resulted in about 6 doctors appointments in 2 weeks. It’s not fun, but I’m eager to get it taken care of before our trip, and I’m thankful for health insurance. Sunday was just a drop off so it was quick, but it was still a pain to wake up and drive into the city. Thankfully, Chris did all the driving because he is a saint.

After our mini adventure we went on a chilly four mile run then came back and cleaned for a long time. It was needed, and our apartment looks lovely now. I met my mom for lunch which was just what I needed then came back home to finally relax and unwind.

We watched Dream House

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which looked like it should have been amazing with Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts. I remembered seeing the trailer and thinking it looked very cool. Turns out seeing the trailer was the worst thing I could have done. The “surprise” that comes about 40 minutes into the movie is totally revealed in the trailer. So, the first half of the movie was basically a waste of time for me. How does that happen? How do you give away the twist in the movie in the preview?? The rest of the movie was just ok. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Oh and I spent the weekend mezmerized by this beauty

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Ok. It’s a little cloudy there, but the moon was gigantic (I guess the moon doesn’t really grow; it just appears closer to the earth, but that’s less fun to say) all weekend, and it was so amazing. The world is just awesome sometimes.

Have a great week!