Sunday, July 24, 2011


I've read that breaking a fast correctly is just as important as the actual fast.  Therefore, to prime my system once again for sugar, I will be reintroducing it very slowly.

With this beautiful thing.

The Chocolate & Peanut Butter S'mores with Vanilla Ice Cream

I think that's slow enough, don't you?

I just drooled all over myself (and maybe a little on the dog snuggling in my lap) watching this come to life on the "Ice Creamy" episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate.  Prime 112 in Miami serves this, and it's the kind of thing that makes me want to mind-meld with pastry chefs.  Unfortunately, Miami is not high on my list of travel destinations.  I'd go for the food (I'd go anywhere for the food), but the regional penchant for mini skirts and self-tanner keeps me away.  My scarred knee caps and creamy white thigh flesh are fine with this decision.

Alas, I will be tinkering with recipes in my own kitchen.  The chef was happy to disclose the five wonderful layers of goo and gorgeousness:
  • Graham cracker crust baked in the bottom of a ramekin (easy enough)
  • Peanut Butter Ganache made with brown sugar (easy enough . . . if I don't eat it out of the bowl first)
  • Chocolate Ganache (now we're just getting silly)
  • Scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • Suffocate the whole wonderful mess with marshmallow cream and torch until roasty (commence sugar-gasm!).
The 30-Day Baked Goods Ban ends on Thursday, August 11th.  I'll give myself until Sunday, the 14th to experiment and put this together.  Let's face it, I won't last much longer past that.

There will either be pictures of the finished product, or pictures of me scooping peanut butter with my fingers in defeat.  Either way, that's just good internets.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dunnshine's Favorite Things, #2

1.  Being Right
A few weeks ago, my doctor increased my hormone dosage.  I know that regulating the thyroid hormone can be a process (often more frustrating then surgery and treatments).  The lucky thing is that I went into this whole thing healthy and pretty in-tune with my body.  So, I noted any and all changes to report to my doctor.

First, the Ladies.  Sweet baby Jesus, how they hurt!  I mean, I'm toting around a rather large and impressive pair (all natural, just so we're clear) to begin with.  Since the hormone replacement, they have felt like heavy (and heavier) bags.  Also, my lower back and hips are operating like someone three times my age.  There's popping, cracking, and it hurts to bend over the sink to brush my teeth.  I'm not in agony by any means, but things are wonky and unpleasant.  This past month, my uterus decided to join in the fun.  Let me say, without getting too graphic, that my bits have operated like clockwork since that fateful day in the girls' bathroom outside of Mrs. Larson's 7th grade English class.  Therefore, when that clock went haywire, I was on the phone with my gynecologist ASAP.  She asked all the necessary questions:
Are you pregnant?
Did you miss pills in your birth control pack?
Are you stressed out?
Uhhhh, YEAH!  My body is currently running a hormonal experiment on itself.  You could say I'm a little stressed out!

So stressed, in fact, that I broke down in tears on the phone with my gynecologist.  That's another thing--the crying!  I've always been a cryer.  Songs, movies, opening presents, good news, bad news, a really good piece of cake--I'm a puddle.  For the first few years of living together, I had to constantly reassure D.R. that crying is my body's natural reaction to just about anything, and it has nothing to do with him.  Crying is not new for me.  What is new is how intense it's been lately.  Granted, I am job hunting, which, anyone who is in this same boat knows, is a frustrating massacre of pride and self-worth, certainly worthy of a few breakdowns.  But, as D.R. ever-so-gently pointed out, 2 or 3 times a week for an hour at a time is a little much.  Even for me. 

This is what makes hormones frustrating:  even perfectly balanced, they are so unique to the individual.  They are affected by stress, mood, diet, and other lifestyle choices.  And, if something is off, the symptoms can be so non-specific (headaches, joint pain, mood swings, low energy, weight fluctuations, dry skin, etc.), it could be any number of things.  You may just be stressed out; you may have cancer.  Dealing with those extremes, it's difficult to keep perspective and not feel like a lunatic.

After my crying jag ended, my gynecologist recommended I see my doctor and get my levels checked again.  Armed with my list of recent shenanigans, I rolled into my doctor's office.  He was sympathetic, but explained that all the symptoms I am experiencing usually only happen when someone's thyroid is "way off".  Well, considering I no longer have one, I'm guessing it's pretty off!!  I think he was trying to protect me from being alarmed and scared by attributing all my symptoms to the stress of job hunting, but he ended up sounding condescending and dismissive.  This infuriated me more because, since my diagnosis, I have been diligent about nutrition, exercise and stress.  I am by no means a picture of zen and glowing health, but I am treating my body better now than I did before the diagnosis.  AND I WAS TRAINING FOR A HALF MARATHON AT THAT TIME!  If it sounds like I'm bragging, it's because I am.  I got the motherfuckin' memo, kids!  I don't care how easy thyroid cancer is to treat.  Cancer gets to cross my path unchecked exactly one time.  After that, it's fists up, and you better believe I'm comin' fo ya!

But I digress.

After a lengthy discussion, my doctor did a blood test and called with my results.  Turns out my thyroid levels were "way off".  So off, in fact, that he was surprised.  He took the time to explain all the medical stuff, but I just kept thinking, Ha, sucka, I was right!  I know my body, and I. Was. Right.

It's easy to pin it all on the doctor, but really, he doesn't know my body the way I do.  All he knows is what I tell him, and whatever the gooey stuff under the microscope tells him.  If those two things don't make sense, who do you think he's going to be skeptical of?  It's not the microscope.  Yes, doctors should be advocates for their patients, but they're not oracles; they don't have all the answers.  At the end of the day, we have to take responsibility for our own health. 

I am happy to report that my doctor increased my dosage by quite a bit (112mcg to 150mcg).  It's only been a week, but the Ladies seem to be happier and lighter.  Looking forward to the other stuff working itself out.

Also, did I mention that I was right?

2.  Frosted Cupcakery
Strawberry/cream cheese deliciousness.
D.R. with his beet juice.  So not a cupcake.
I stumbled onto this place a little over a year ago, and will continue stumbling into their strawberry/cream cheese cupcake.  Some Angelenos have allegiance to Sprinkles, and they really are wonderful cupcakes.  But the 30-minute wait, only-available-on-certain-days flavors, and the trip to Beverly Hills is not worth it to me.  Frosted is closer to our apartment (although, not walking distance--hallelujah!  It's a good thing that I gotta work a little for those frosted beelzebubs.) and all the flavors are always available.  The flavors are pretty standard but executed well.  When you bite into the strawberry cupcake, you bite into actual strawberries.  No crazy flavor combinations here to distract from poorly made cake and/or frosting.  The cake is delicious on its own; it's not there just to give the frosting something to sit on.  And good-NESS!--the vanilla/salted caramel hi-top is just stupid delicious.  I could eat a dozen and welcome the sugar coma with open arms.  This is the place I take new friend applicants, and if they don't like the cupcakes, there's a real chance I'm going to be "too far away from my phone" whenever they call.  Cupcakes are serious biz-nass in my house.  

So serious that my sweet friend, Joey, brought over some cupcakes on Sunday, including the latest Flavor of the Month, key lime/cream cheese.  Unfortunately, Joey was unaware of the 30-Day Baked Goods Ban, and I wept inside as I turned down that fluffy frosting for some . . . beet juice.  I did, however, watch Joey as he ate a cupcake.  I told him he had a purty mouth.

3.  Nutritional Yeast
Since I'm not eating cupcakes right now, I'm focusing on healthier options.  Nutritional yeast is a huge help in this department.

A few months ago, my lovely friend, Nari, came over to cook dinner with me.  She thrust a jar of homemade salad dressing into my hand, along with a piece of bread for tasting.  Then she stood back and waited for my reaction.
"Holy shit, that is the best dressing I've ever tasted!  What, besides crack, is in that?" I asked.
"It's nutritional yeast!"
"Umm, what is that, and please tell me it won't cause itching or burning?"
I ran right out to Whole Foods to see what this stuff was all about.  It comes in dry flakes that are a golden yellow-ey color (kinda looks like fish food), and it has a cheezy nutty flavor.  Evidently you can sprinkle it on popcorn, pasta or what have you, but I've pretty much used my entire supply in, what is now referred to in our house simply as, The Dressing.  Once you make it, you will not need any other dressing in your fridge.  I'm serious.  Like, for realsies seriously serious.  

The Dressing
adapted via Nari, via "Hollyhock Cooks: Food to Nourish Body, Mind and Soil"
  • Whole head of garlic (that's right, the whole thing.  It's somewhere between 9-12 cloves.  Do not fear it.)
  • 1/3 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of Soy Sauce or Tamari
  • 1/3 cup of Water
  • 1/2 cup of Nutritional Yeast Flakes
  • 1 tsp. of Dijon Mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups of sunflower or safflower oil (I've also used olive oil and it's just as tasty.)
Combine everything except the oil in a food processor until the garlic is finely minced.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Turn the processor back on and slowly drizzle the oil in until there is a happy golden-beige sauce of joy.  I would advise not having any kind of bread handy when the dressing is fresh, otherwise you will stand at your kitchen counter dipping bread into the dressing and moaning.  Makes about two cups that will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks.  Drizzle over salads, turkey sandwiches, fresh tomatoes, Greek salad, shrimp, corn salad . . . the list goes on.

4.  Dolphin Pose
I've mentioned a few times that I love yoga.  Usually, I pop in a DVD and stretch and sweat in my living room.  A few months ago, however, I latched onto an instructor at my gym and I've been regularly attending his class.  While it is a beginner/intermediate class, he does a great job of reading the group and challenging us with new poses.  The first time I attended we did dolphin pose, a pose I had never done before.

It looks like downward dog, but it's amazing how one change--resting on the forearms instead of the hands--can change the entire intention and feel of the pose.  I usually go into downward dog for rest and to regain control of my breath.  Dolphin pose, however, requires all of my strength and concentration.  My shoulders burn, my back engages, and I fight hard to hold onto the calm.  For a little more challenge (as my instructor says, "If you're looking for a little more joy . . . "), he has us extend our legs back and up, one at a time.  This helps prepare for the eventual execution of an arm balance.


I can't do the full arm balance yet, and my whole leg and foot trembles when lifted; my forehead is just a faucet of sweat. But, the other day, I glanced in the mirror and saw my very long leg extended upwards and my toe pointed perfectly.  Damn, it was graceful!  And that's the wonderful thing:  those surprising moments when you see the progress, even when it doesn't feel that way.  So often we are too much into ourselves, and we get buried in the turmoil and the exertion.  But if we just allow some moments to glance outward and see the grace and beauty that has come as a result, we can take the grace back into ourselves.  Who says grace can't tremble and wobble?

5.  Lake Gregory
I have lived in Los Angeles for almost five years now.  I really do love it here, and one of the perks of Los Angeles is that I can leave Los Angeles.  I can drive for about an hour and be in the mountains.  For a girl raised in the Rockies, this is a big perk.

We started going up to Big Bear a few years ago.  It's really beautiful up there, but with the "rustic" lake-front mansions, "rustic" drivers in their Cadillac Escalades, the "rustic" Starbucks, and every woman (and some brave, fashion-forward men) in fur-lined boots in case they get caught in an avalanche while at the "rustic" day spa--it's lost its mountain-y-ness for me.  We started looking for alternatives, and that's when D.R. found Lake Gregory.  It's a comparatively small lake in the vicinity of Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead.  I'm sure most people just skip it on their way up.  I'm here to tell you, stop skipping it.

All of the houses are further up the mountain, leaving the lake shore pretty open.  There is a water slide and swimming area for kids and families.  There's a baseball diamond on one end that seems to act as a dog park when there's no game.  There are nice stretches of shore for fishing, or just sitting and enjoying fresh, non-smogged air.  People acknowledged us when they walked by, and some--what?!--struck up a conversation.  I can't say for sure if boats are allowed on the water, but there were none while we were there.  It was lovely and quiet.  The few hours we spent there made me forget we are city-dwellers.  We're going back tomorrow.

Also, you can hit the hoppin' towns of Blue Jay and Twin Peaks (no affiliation with the TV series).  D.R. and I had dinner at The Grill at Antlers Inn.  While it's clearly the hot-spot (the only spot?), and people were dressed pretty snazzy, they had no problem with us rolling up in shorts, sunglasses and smelling of lake water.  The menu ranges from sushi and Italian, to bistro fare and brunch.  It's not the best food I've ever had, but I think they are aiming for variety, not excellence; it gets the job done.  I think, however, we're going to the all-purpose town diner next time.  Mountains always bring a craving for chicken-fried . . . something.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Last Supper

Here's what I'm eating right now:
  • Chunk of double-cream brie cheese
  • Chunk of very sharp cheddar cheese
  • Scoop of boysenberry jam
  • Scoop of sharp dijon mustard
  • Hunk of whole grain (how healthy!) bread
  • Glass(es) of white wine.
(Just so we're clear, 'chunk', 'scoop', and 'hunk' are all precise measurements.)

Here's what I will be eating later this evening:
  • The Maple Brown Sugar Bundt cake from Trader Joe's
  • Scoop(s) of Peanut Butter Tracks ice cream from Trader Joe's
  • Glass(es) of white wine.
(I'm also flipping between Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Just Friends.  Ryan Reynolds and Ron Weasley make my heart go pitty-pat.)

Does this sound like a gluttonous last meal to anyone?  If so, you are correct.  D.R. and I are about to embark on a challenge . . .

I first read about the 101 in 1001 here--a friend from college, one of my favorite bloggers, and an uber-gifted storyteller.  I read more on it, and decided to write a list myself.  It took a while to compose (so long, in fact, that goal #64 is "Finish this damn list!"), but I felt motivated when it was finished.  I have been slowly crossing items off the list, strategically avoiding #34, "No alcohol, baked goods or candy for a month."  While I do love a glass of wine at the end of the day and a bag of M&M's every now and then, I knew it was the lack of baked goods that would pose the greatest challenge.  Have I mentioned that I'm kind of a slut for all things baked, frosted, buttery and gooey?  I find pastry crumbs on my clothes at the end of the day more often than is acceptable for one functioning in polite society.  It's a problem.

While I do consume obscene amounts of cakes and brownies, I have also, lately, been consuming a lot of information about juicing.  I don't feel like enough of an expert to preach to you all, but Kris Carr has an amazing story about the benefits of fresh juice in her diet, as do Joe Cross and Phil Staples.  My idea is not as extreme, but I decided it would be a nice challenge to fill in some of the holes left by tiramisu and blueberry tartes with wholesome juicey goodness.  And, I am lucky enough to have a sweetheart that is committing along with me.  We've agreed to cut each other some slack for the first sugar- and alcohol-deprived days.

And so . . . 

The Contenders:  D.R. Edmonds and Samantha Dunn

The Challenge:  No alcohol, baked goods or candy for one month (July 11th-August 11th).

The Amendment:  Consume 8-16oz. of fresh juice every day.  One day can be missed, but not two.

The Reward:  Sure, "health and wellness" are wonderful, but I'm going to need something concrete at the end.  I shall think more on this.

Rainbow of goodness straight out of the juicer.

You should see how I look when I consume the cheese, bread and cake.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No Pressure

A few months ago I had grand plans to run two or three half marathons this year.  Then, as I was researching races (and wincing at registration fees), I had a thought.   

I don't want to do this

Last year, I was excited to train and sweat and pound and push, but I can feel my body resisting that idea.  I'm feeling good these days, but kinda . . . fritzy.  I understand it's a process to find the "new normal" with hormones, so I don't want to add to it with tight joints and sore muscles.  Right now, inflicting the violence of running seems mean.  At the risk of sounding hoakey and new-agey, I feel I have to honor that. 

With a mileage-free calendar, I have been experimenting with classes and workouts.  I completed eight weeks of Boot Camp H20, which was a lovely and welcome challenge.  As a runner, I was pretty smug about my cardiovascular fitness . . . right up until I was asked to swim the entire length of the pool under water.  People, I am not an amphibian; my lungs are built for land.  The first time, I had to come up for air three or four times.  By the last class, I came up for air once.  I was also able to do a minute and a half of pull ups, in the water, off the starting blocks.  Certainly easier than pull ups on land, but as a member of the Scarred Elementary Students asked to "stop straining and just sit back down before the vein in your head pops" during those abhorrent fitness tests, it counts.  You better believe it counts. 

Yoga has been a staple the last few months as well.  I could certainly expound on the mental and physical benefits of yoga, but I'm currently loving it because of the instructor that stays just this side of inappropriate when he reminds us, in a breathy somewhat lecherous tone, to "go deepeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer."  It makes me laugh, which reminds me that there is room for amusement and joy during moments of exertion and unbalance.  That's just life.

I'm thinking a triumphant return to Spinning could be next, with a few Zumba classes sprinkled in.  I watch So You Think You Can Dance every summer and it reminds me how much I love to shake my untrained, less-than-coordinated groove thang. 

I do sigh longingly when I see those sweaty runners on our neighborhood streets.  This is reassurance that the need to run will return in time.  But, for now . . . no pressure. 

In other news, the highly anticipated juicer arrived yesterday.  More to come on that, but here's a sneak peek . . .

Armload of awesome.