I’ll Just Have Ice Cubes for Lunch

 

 

Picture this… I go over to my mom’s, open the fridge to grab a bottle of water, and I see almond toffee in there.  I open the box to take a peek and “magically”, one or two pieces leap frog from my hands, and into my mouth.  In the first few moments of eating them, I look something like this:
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Within 10 minutes, I feel something like this:

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I then go into a full day of remorse and regret, realizing it takes superhuman strength to shut the fridge door, and leave that sweet goodness where it was before I got there.

While this is totally normal for almost anyone, those of us with a mouthful of “sweet teeth”, have to deal with a lifetime struggle of maintaining a nutritional balance that keeps us healthy.  And as we get older, the struggle becomes REAL.  So how do we combat this, to ensure we don’t end up looking like White Goodman in Dodgeball?

Self-realization, discipline, and education.  In other words, start listening to your body, be good about what you’re putting in it (as often as you can), sweat it out, and learn how it operates.  You’d never put the wrong grade of gas in your car, would you?

My Story

Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s meant not getting the best of diagnoses, when it came to allergies.  Back then, you were allergic to dander, pollen, dairy, or nuts.  Things like Celiac Disease were still considered 3rd-world country diseases and were not widely accepted as mainstream ailments.  This meant I spent 28 years of my life, not consuming dairy, but being allowed all the wheat I wanted.  Yet, week after week, I’d be doubled over in pain, miserable, cranky, tired, heavier, and sick; perplexing doctors, and making my mother think I was lying to her about consuming dairy products (to this day, I’ve never actually had a glass of milk).

When I moved to San Diego in 2006, my cousin let me know that her son was diagnosed with Celiac, and urged me to see a doctor and get tested.  Sure enough, my Greek family members either carry the gene or they have the disease. I immediately stopped eating wheat (there really were no substitutions back then) and focused solely on what I could eat (which wasn’t very much).

But then I hit a plateau.  I was so focused on only those foods (and beverages) that I could consume (which included many of my favorite candies) that I was ignoring the life-long side effects I’d have, from the damage this disease did to me; including inflammation, mood imbalances, a weakened immune system, a weakened digestive system, sleep issues, and ADD.  Little did I know that sugar would be the culprit that would exacerbate these issues even more.

This led me to dissecting what was happening to my body, why it was happening, and then doing the research on how to re-balance myself appropriately.

What’s the Root Cause of Too Much Sugar? Inflammation.

Those of us, prone to inflammation, feel and (oftentimes) look something like this when it happens:

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For me, Celiac has made my body super sensitive.  Too much salt, too much sugar, pain, etc. can make me swell (if you see me in leggings and a baggy sweater, out in public, chances are, this is why), going from being my ideal weight, to 5-7 pounds heavier, in less than a week.  It is the most miserable thing in the world.  But I digress.

Now, think of a puffer fish and what happens when they feel threatened.  Our bodies are not meant to consume bad things in mass quantities and as a result, will pull out all the defenses (resources) it has, in order to kill off the foreign substance (in this case, and for the rest of the post, we are talking about sugar).

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, “The insulin-resistant fat cells you pack on when you eat too much sugar, produces nasty inflammatory messages (cytokines), spreading their damage to the brain. In fact, researchers have suggested calling depression “metabolic syndrome Type II” because instead of just having a fat swollen belly, you also get a fat swollen (and depressed) brain.”  In other words, you’re trying to turn yourself into a depressed, acne-prone teenager.

And, in addition to causing insulin and blood sugar imbalances, sugars use up the B vitamins we need to sustain good moods.  This means a moody, depressed, acne-prone teenager.

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Let’s say you can deal with the bloat, the acne, and the mood swings.  Let’s add in the following, from the Brain Bio Center, a non-profit in the UK, “Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood; symptoms that this is going on include fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, excessive sweating (especially at night), poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and crying spells, digestive disturbances and blurred vision. Since the brain depends on an even supply of glucose, it is no surprise to find that sugar has been implicated in aggressive behavior, anxiety, and depression, and fatigue.”

So picture a bunch of rebels attacking your body, and they are double, maybe triple the number of thyroid hormones (we’ll call them ninjas) you have.  Those ninjas are gonna work their asses off to protect the thyroid (the Grand Central Station for your body), in order for you to keep yourself up and running.  If the thyroid gets gets attacked, due to lack of ninjas to guard it, the result can be a severely impacted metabolism, stunted growth and development, and/or an increased body temperature.

All of this is just in a normal body with no ailments, allergies, or life-threatening diseases.  Imagine the impact if you throw one (or more) of those in the mix.

What This Meant for Me

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Sure, that’s what this felt like at first.  So then I started finding healthier diets that I mashed together, to create my own.  It was through a ton of trial and error, to realize what my body needed, in order to be in tip top shape.

Think of going through your storage closets at home and finally tossing out everything you don’t need.  That’s exactly what I did with my diet and so far, it seems to be working. The trick?  A routine that is tailored to how YOUR body responds to what you put in it (and sweat out of it).   For me, the following plan seems to be ideal, and is working:

  1. First three days of my new diet was all protein.  That meant chicken, steak, egg whites, and non-fat yogurt – as much as I want, until I feel full.
  2. On the fourth day, and every other day after that, I include veggies (no corn, beans, or high-carb ones allowed), and low-carb, sugar-free desserts (I user Truvia baking blend in my egg-based custards, as well as egg-based “cheesecakes”).
  3. The days I’m not protein and veggies, I’m protein only.
  4. One day a week, I allow myself a cheat day with no guidelines.  This is important, as it keeps my body used to understanding how to digest bad foods (note, don’t go hog wild – eventually you won’t feel so well).
  5. I drink tons and tons of water!

The drawback to this diet is how sleepy you can be for the first week.  However, it’s imperative to work out and begin to build that as a healthy habit.  Since I tend to need an extra boost to go work out I use this:

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Kidding.  It’s MusclePharm Assault.  It gives you a complete natural energy boost with no crashing side effect.  It’s done wonders for my workouts and my fat burn rate.  I highly suggest it when needing an extra push to get in that early morning workout, or when you’re just “not feeling up to it”.

So Where Am I At Now?

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Yeah…. not really… it’s more like this:

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I’m happier, more alert, more energetic, sharper at work, physically in better shape, healthier, and more confident.  I’ve learned it’s not so much about the physical weight, as it is about the mental shape you’re in.

Does this mean I won’t let one of those almond toffee candies, disappear into my body, in the future?  No, it does not.  It just means that when I consume it, I’m more mindful of what the impact will be, leading to me making better decisions about what/how much of something I am allowing myself to digest, in the future.  After all, I have me, and only me, to live with the rest of my life.  And since that’s the case, I don’t want to live with a grumpy, thin person, who deprives herself of even the smallest of happy moments, from time to time :)

Social Cabin Fever or Extreme Wanderlust?

“I feel like I’m seeing the same people, having the same conversations, and going to the same places over again, and I’m getting tired of it.  I need to get out of here.”

Right about this time of year, when the holidays are over and winter has crept in, Washington D.C.’ers are found saying this exact thing at the same indoor social establishments they have been frequenting, since they have been seeking refuge indoors to avoid the biting cold.

While touring the monuments and partaking in other outdoor activities are beautiful to experience in the warmer months, in the colder ones, it’s often more appreciated from the window of an Uber, as trying not to slip on ice, splash in mud, and bundle up as though you’re Randy from “A Christmas Story“, is more preferable.

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Yes, we live in a city that’s known for it’s summertime fun thus, we have a low tolerance of cold temperatures (and patience); high cases of seasonal mood disorder, and a constant need for new stimulants (that this town provides very little of in the winter).

Its a long way of saying, it’s the time of year when we begin to feel “social cabin fever” en-mass.

Those of us that live in this great city, know that summertime is the best – the boats are out for lazy weekend get togethers, outdoor parties are aplenty, new crops of people are moving here, which means you’re making new friends; and you aren’t feeling restricted in 20 pounds of snow gear.  And, for some reason, the same places that are frequented by the same faces, are no longer mundane, as there are at least 4-5 parties/get togethers to attend in an evening, giving you plenty of options to jet off and see even more faces. Yet, what I find interesting about our culture here, is that we seem to find ourselves traveling to places far off, during this time, causing us to blow budgets all in one season, without thinking of what happens when the days are shorter and colder.

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Why isn’t it reversed?

In writing this blog today, I asked several people why this is the case, as they all feel the same way.  The consensus fell to the fact that their work expects their employees will be taking longer vacations in the summer (when the kids are out of school), as well as throughout the holidays (to see even more family); returning to their desks full-time, during the winter months (until Spring Break has arrived).  You might now be thinking, “This is totally unfair to us single people” – you’re right.  BUT we fail to remember that our vacation hours belong to us, and we need to think of how we maximize the spend of those, while properly planning out just enough travel, to keep our minds fresh, and our friendships in-tact.

Last summer, my family and I were gone for two weeks in Europe (it was entirely too short in my opinion because I love Europe, and why leave?).  After mentally prying my hands from the plane door when we landed back in the states in July (mentally kicking and screaming that I didn’t want to come back yet), it would literally be six months before I went on another vacation for a long weekend in Cancun (which was a few weeks ago). Why?  1. Because of money (“because last summer was epic, and needed to be spent out as much as possible”, which I’m now realizing isn’t boding well for my winter social life, since I’m financially digging myself out of that hole) 2. Because like many of us, I felt it was important to do my best at work, save some money, and then set my sights for travel later (like maybe one winter trip.. and then I’m good with the summer). As you can see, the logic here is off.

After I got back from Cancun, I realized that I needed to plan for long weekends once a month, not only for my sanity’s sake (giving myself something to work hard towards and look forward to), but also to cure the wanderlust I was having.  And that’s when it occurred to me: Our “Social Cabin Fever” (as I am affectionately calling it) isn’t that at all – it’s a desire to keep going out and exploring the world, to keep our minds fresh, and our soul excited.  It’s about re-prioritizing how we go about our lives, so that we’re constantly at our best.

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While some of us don’t think we have the resources to travel once a month, think about how much you spend in one weekend, going out to the same places, doing the same things.  You’re gonna spend a bit more (to get from point a to point b), but you get a much better experience than staying home – and you can’t put a price on sanity. Secondly, I know you’re saying, “But most of the world is cold this time of year and all the warm places are expensive”.  You’re absolutely right.  HOWEVER, it isn’t the weather that’s the problem, it’s feeling “stuck” in the same atmosphere, having the same repetitive conversations over again that’s the issue – not the weather.  For example: Two Decembers ago, I went to Toronto for a girls’ weekend.  They had a snow storm the night I flew in, so the rest of the time there was cold and damp.  We had NEVER had a better time in such weather.  We met so many people and went to so many fabulous places that the cold wasn’t really an issue.  Example #2: Sundance – it’s cold, snowy, and what would be deemed miserable, if it weren’t for the abundance of parties, celebs, and things to do.  I rest my case.

So how do you get onto this cycle of a bit more travel in your life?  Here’s how I’m planning to do this for the next few months:

January: Cancun for the weekend (mission accomplished) – it’s cheaper that time of year

February: Disney World with my family (mom’s birthday, glad something was planned :-)

March: No plans, which means I’m looking for unique things to do, and making reservations at (at least) one restaurant I’ve never been to, in my own backyard

April: San Francisco for a work conference, then staying to hang out with friends for the weekend.  I might jump down to Los Angeles for a bit and work from there, after that.

The summer months will hold at least two long weekend trips, followed by a two-week trip to somewhere outside of the U.S. in October, or around New Years – it might be Dubai and India, or somewhere else in Asia (I’m still in the planning phases).

This, to me, looks like a far better year, taking my mind off of the mundaneness of winter and being “shut in”, than trudging through the cold, dark months, waiting for the first signs of spring.

So to all of you out there, waiting for “magic” to happen, i.e. new faces, places, and experiences – make it happen for yourself.  Get out of here and go do something different, give yourself things to look forward to, and if anything, the warm weather isn’t that far away :)

 

 

 

 

 

Kicking Winter to the Curb… for a Weekend Anyway

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I’ve always thought of Cancun as a true Spring-Break-Only type of destination, filled with cheaper resorts, catering to those that are seeking a place to crash at night, not really caring about the type of food or alcohol they are consuming.  In October, when I was looking for a potential weekend getaway spot for January, I was told over and over again to check out the Hard Rock Hotel, and that I would not be disappointed.  I’m glad I listened.

Booking the Trip

First, I’m a deal hunter.  I never believe in paying full price for anything, ever.  I scoured the usual sites, comparing one deal against another, finally turning to United Vacations (I’m a United Chase Card Member) to see if their prices would be any different (I was assuming far more expensive).  Sure enough, it ended up being the cheapest price – $1600 per person, including airfare to and from Cancun (from DCA), three nights in the Rock Royalty Level (more on that later), transportation to and from Cancun airport, all taxes, and because we are in the dead of winter, trip insurance (which I never get but why take chances?).

Now before you potentially balk at the cost, I should explain that when I go on vacation, I like an EXPERIENCE.  There’s a great big world out there and I like to see different places every year.  It’s rare for me to go to the same place twice, unless I’m visiting friends.  Thus, I believe in the best experience possible, knowing that it might be the only experience in that particular locale.  And, given that that level of room is usually starting at $900/night, it was too good to pass up.

So once the vacation was booked, the Rock Royalty Level (RRL) Concierge emailed me, to thank me for booking my trip, and to ask me if I had any requests.  Why yes, yes I did.  To start, it was my boyfriend’s birthday AND he happened to announce his departure from a firm, to embark upon being his own boss – both GREAT reasons to celebrate!  They offered a bottle of champagne and a mini cake at no extra cost.  I then scheduled two additional services, based on the $550 credits I now had with the hotel – a private dinner on the beach and a couple’s massage.

The day finally came to travel…

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Flying to Cancun, IAH’s United Club – Is it Worth It?

We flew from DCA to IAH for a SIX HOUR layover, before we could land in Cancun.  In order for us to get this deal, we were limited on flights that flew in and out of locations that didn’t get plagued by snow.  Thus, it was either take what was available, take the risk of our flight being canceled because of inclement weather, or pay a lot more.  So, I used my United Club passes to at least give us a comfortable place to pass the time.

For anyone who has ever used the United Club at E Terminal at IAH, it’s a bit disappointing.  For as large as the space is, it tends to be over crowded, mainly because they have too many work desks and not enough comfortable chairs.  That, and the food are mostly snacks, much of which were not gluten-free.  (If you Google reviews on this United Club, you will see I’m not alone in my disappointment.)

Customs and Transportation

I’ve flown all over the world and usually, when you cross international borders, you are handed customs forms to fill out – that are in English, unless you request Spanish, or that country’s language.  For some odd reason, all of Mexico’s were in Spanish, and every single passenger on the plane either had to know Spanish (like me) or had to fudge it along.  It was odd.  Still, the customs agents couldn’t have been nicer in helping people fill them out, so the travelers could go on their way. Pro tip: Bring along a pocket Spanish guide if you do not know Spanish!

Once outside of the Cancun airport, if you have never been there, it is nothing but transportation agents, ready to take you to your vehicle for your ride to your resort.  This is absolutely, hands down, the best way to do this.  It’s safe, secure, trustworthy, and cheaper.  Usually, when you book a vacation, you can book transportation, either with the package or with the hotel.  Lomas Travel was the preferred partner with Hard Rock Hotel.  Pro tip: I highly suggest booking a shuttle, prior to starting your trip.

The Hard Rock Experience Begins

Imagine being the world’s biggest celeb, the minute you step out of the car, and there are (what seems like) a million people there to greet you and help you, pretty much making any wish come true.  It is the exact feeling I got the minute I stepped out of the shuttle.  In a well orchestrated series of maneuvers, the gate guard radioed up to the bellboys and greeters that we were arriving.  We step out of the van, and were immediately greeted by name, given ice cold towels, drinks, a beaded bracelet for me (to denote Rock Royalty), other refreshments, and an orientation on the resort.  From there, we were introduced to our check-in representative, who led us to a separate room for a special check-in, including another drink (a special waiter for that as well), and finally, an introduction to our butler.  Yes, we had a private butler.

When we were all checked in (and had our bracelets that would be attached all weekend), our butler took us up to our room on the 11th floor, and opened up the door to our suite, which was decked out in a fun streamer for my boyfriend’s birthday. But, when we stepped in, I was speechless.  Not only had they made good on the champagne and mini cake, but they also filled the room with balloons and rose petals, and gifted us a beautiful beach bag.

 

Still, that wasn’t even the half of what this room held.  The balcony, overlooking the entire resort and the ocean, was exactly what I needed (although it was pouring rain that night), and of course the over-sized jacuzzi tub, large enough to hold a small family. But, what sat behind two cabinet doors was the best thing I had ever seen: Premium liquor taps and plenty of mixers in the fridge.  All of a sudden, we felt like spring breakers :)

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But before we could celebrate with self-made cocktails,  we had barely eaten all day and were eager to grab some food. We chose the Brazilian Steakhouse, Ipanema, for our first meal.  And, it absolutely did NOT disappoint.  Given that I’ve been to other all-inclusives, who have offered less-than-mediocre fare, I was completely delighted by the food, the service, and the five-star atmosphere.

The First Morning and the Private Dining Experience

Waking up at 7:30am for a sunrise, while on vacation, would seem ridiculous to most, given that most people want to sleep in.  I am quite the opposite, likening myself more to a kid on Christmas morning.  Why?  Because everything at first light looks absolutely magical.  It’s a moment where I feel completely at peace – a moment where I don’t think about a thing, have no cares in the world – I feel completely free (see my entire European trip last summer for more on that).

Much to his demise, my other half got up with me to at least pretend to enjoy what I was seeing.  And to reward him, I ordered breakfast to our room, so we could sit on the balcony and enjoy the already 75 degree warmth.

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Shortly after, we were racing out the door to grab two chairs by the infinity pool, which was already more than half full at 9am!  But, being that we’re active people, we started wandering around, re-locating to the beach for a bit.

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Since we had (what I thought) was a 5:30pm private dinner on the beach, we decided to head back, grab lunch at the market (make your own ice cream sundaes!), and take a nap.  However, it occurred to me that at check-in, no one mentioned the two reservations I had made and thus, wasn’t sure if that dinner was still on.  We talked to the concierge, who didn’t know of them, who talked to the travel planner, who was supposed to hand us our vouchers for both.  We then called the travel planner one hour later, and she told us our vouchers were with the concierge.  Sigh.  This had to have been the biggest (and really my only) frustration – lack of communication ONCE a guest is fully checked in.  Still, we received our vouchers and continued on.

Private Dinner NOT On the Beach

Unfortunately, it dumped rain from late afternoon until 30 minutes before our dinner, which I was almost positive was going to get canceled.  Instead, they tried to set up a “romantic” dinner for us in a ballroom, cut down to a smaller size.  And, it wasn’t just us – there was another couple there, who just got married, and looked rather unhappy they had another couple in the same room.  Still, given the circumstances, and while overly cheesy, it was fun to have a privately catered meal, as well as a few other little surprises.

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Day Two – All About RELAXATION

Now that I’ve seen the sunrise over the ocean, I was good with sleeping in and grabbing breakfast out, before hitting the gym (after all of that food and alcohol, we had to do something).  And that’s when my faith was restored in the customer service… one of our butlers saw us, called us by name, and ushered us to another restaurant (Zen) for breakfast because there were no lines.  He had us seated immediately.  Out of the thousand or so people staying at the resort, I was floored he had remembered us.

After our breakfast, we headed over to Body Rock (gym), and sweated it out for a good hour.  Interestingly, the gym is by the very front of the cul-de-sac that takes you to the lobby entrance, as though it was an afterthought when the resort was renovated.  Every place I’ve ever stayed at on the beach, has a gym with sweeping views of the beach, so it was a bit confusing to trek to a remote place to go workout.  Still, we got in what we needed to and headed back to change and try to snag some chairs. Pro tip: Claim your chairs in the morning and come back.  It’s no joke that they fill up, starting at 8am.  So, we claimed one chair and walked along the beach for a bit before grabbing lunch, a quick nap, and then off to our massage, which was utterly amazing.

That evening, we chose Ciao for dinner.  If there is one place to have a five-star dining experience through and through, it was this restaurant.  Had we known how amazing it was, we would have canceled the romantic dinner the first night and ate there all three nights.

Our Sad Goodbye… at 5:10am

Yep, it was a super short trip but a great one!  The check out was efficient, and a bit sad as they snipped off our wristbands.  Our shuttle arrived on time, we took the 20 minute trek back to the Cancun airport and began our journey back (this time opting for a wine bar at IAH, as opposed to the United Club) and got home, just in time for the epic snow blizzard that tackled DC.

While I have pointed out some of the flaws in our trip, I still 100% recommend Hard Rock to anyone, looking for a great experience in Cancun.  We both agreed that it was a perfect mini-vacation but next time, we’re going to take more time off :)

More pictures are in the slideshow below.

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Hardwell Kicks Off The New Year at Echostage!

Although a “few” weeks late, I didn’t want to fail to post what was absolutely an epic time at Echostage (and an incredible way to kick off the new year), dancing all night to Hardwell.  It was my second time being able to watch another of my favorite EDM DJs, perform from one of the best views in the house – the stage table.

Echostage is a unique EDM venue, which has exploded in popularity, not just because of it’s heart-pounding sound system, visually mesmerizing LED boards, or trippy laser light shows; but also because of the continuous parade of top-name DJs from around the world.  In fact, you often hear people “joke” about how they are going to start signing paychecks over to Echostage, because there isn’t one show you ever want to miss.  It’s become so popular that Slate News recently named it “the best place for EDM music”.  Need proof?  Check out my videos and slideshow below.

 

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What a Pet’s Death Teaches Us

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On January 2nd, my family and I had to say goodbye to the single greatest family member to ever come into our family.  They say losing a pet is 10 times harder than losing a human family member but you really have no idea until it happens to you. You also have no idea what unconditional love means, until you have been loved by a pet.

Roxy was born on October 12, 2001.  She outlived her parents and all eight of her siblings.  She was one tough pup, causing us to believe she was part cat, due to the “expenditure” of lives over the years (giving her humans more than a few heart attacks).

I remember the day we picked her up from the breeder.  There were nine puppies in her litter – all of them with different little personalities.  Some were huskier-looking labs, some were more playful, some were vocal, some looked sad and sleepy, and others were just curious.  Then there was the perfect one, currently asleep in a teenage girl’s arms with a sweet face,  and large floppy ears. I knew immediately that was going to be the family dog.  So when the girl put her down, I snatched her up and she became ours.

Roxy was a fast learner.  The first night we had her, we didn’t have a crate for her yet, so we piled blankets in a rather large Rubbermaid bin, and I slept on the couch, to make sure she didn’t wander off.  I’ll never forget the 3am swat on the face with a little paw, puppy breath burning through my nostrils,  this sweet face, eager to get outside.  I put her leash on her, took her outside, she immediately “went”, and was then ready to go back in and go to sleep.  We learned quickly that she came housebroken at 2 1/2 months.

She’d learn so much else during her first six months, and we learned a lot too.  She overcame Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Lyme’s Disease) at five months (first heart attack), she never liked fetch but loved chasing anything living out of the yard.  She loved swimming in pools, chasing humans in pools, stealing dinner off people’s plates when no one was looking (even eating a pan of cookies, fresh out of the oven), car rides, dog park visits, and naps in front of the fire.

When she was three, she moved with me to Seattle.  We both learned to love the outdoors.  She would jump in the Wenatchee River or Lake Wenatchee and decide swimming downstream and/or chasing boats at a rapid pace (heart attacks 2-4) was the most fun she’d ever had.  Thankfully, there was always someone to pick her up and bring her back. :)

She also learned to “self-socialize”, as I loved to call it.  When I lived in Seattle, I dated someone whose parents lived in a little town called Cashmere.  When we’d visit them, it was there that Roxy realized no door, paging collar, or other device, meant to keep her on the property, mattered when it came to socializing with other neighboring dogs every morning, within a one-mile radius (heart attacks 5-20).  By year two of that, she also attempted several escapes through our SUV window when we’d get into the town (I’ve lost count on heart attacks).  She was a lab through and through.

It was through this time that I also learned she hated loud noises and although meant to be utilized as a duck hunter, hated gun shots, and could care less about the retrieval part.  In fact, she was 100% labrador, with no sign of retriever anywhere in her.

In 2006, my heart broke when I decided to move to San Diego, and could not find a rental that would allow dogs, especially ones of her size.  I made the hardest decision I ever had to make and flew her home to my dad and his wife, to live there – a place she was familiar with for the first three years.  She came back to them a more well-trained, sharper pup than they had remembered.

Throughout the next eight years, Roxy enjoyed grilled steaks, an automatic dog door that gave her instant access to the pool (and instant access back inside, dripping wet), jaunts with horses, boat rides, sleepovers with other labs she adored, and more road trips than anyone could count.

In 2014, her age started to show.  She had a tumor the size of a football inside of her spleen.  We were not prepared to let her go and the fighter in her said it wasn’t time.  When it was removed, the very next day she looked at us, as though we were all crazy for being freaked out.  Our problem wasn’t one of her longevity anymore, but of having to find a way to keep her from getting her stitches wet in the pool, and trying to run around the house at full speed. Still, at 91 human years, old age finally started to set in with a bit of degenerative hip disease, which caused a slowness to her movement.  Although she could feel it, she was determined not to let it slow her down.

In the final year of her life, at the age of 98 (far surpassing any of our other family members), her hips were frail and she was in pain intermittently.  It was heart breaking to watch her try to be mobile – you could see her brain was telling her she could do it, but her muscles had other ideas.  So, once we were through the holidays, we gave her, her last round of cooked steak and salmon, her last belly rub, and her last goodbye. She “went to sleep” right after the new year.

While I’ve been an emotional wreck, I reflect back on all that she’s taught me – lessons that I wouldn’t have learned well, had she not been in my life:

  1. Nothing is more important than experiencing unconditional love.
  2. My dad is right – animals have little souls that speak to you.
  3. They might not be able to talk (in human language), but they understand you just fine – they know when you’re upset, and they know when you’re happy.
  4. Happiness should be the only thing on your agenda. Ever.  Also naps.
  5. Never take things for granted – enjoy every moment of it – especially with someone else (human or otherwise).
  6. Pets have a calming presence.  They change so much about your personality.  There are reasons why they are used as therapy.
  7. Taking care of/being responsible for another living being is the most amazing/rewarding experience there is.
  8. You will never be as grossed out by bodily functions and dead animals again.
  9. You would die for your pet if you had to.
  10. You would spend your life savings on your pet if you had to.

Although I have had my own little dog for the last year and a half, Roxy will always have a huge place in my heart and in my soul.  I only hope that when she made it to heaven, there was someone there to show her to her swimming pool, tower of treats and salmon, and a nice, big belly rub.

My dad put a beautiful tribute together for her (click here to view).  I’ve also put together some of my favorite images of some of her favorite times.

I miss you Roxy girl.

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Christmas In DC!

There are no shortage of amazing Christmas-y things to do in Washington, D.C.  Those that live there, tend to have their usual traditions – Visiting the National Christmas Tree, seeing Septime Weber’s Nutcracker Ballet, taking pictures with the two-story high Nutcrackers in front of Old Ebbitt Grill, or the towering tree at City Center; or even partaking in all the festivities going on in the Gaylord National Harbor – all of which I’ve adopted as traditions of my own.  While the Christmas festivities are just ramping up for me, here’s a peek at two of my favorite traditions, mentioned above: The National Christmas Tree, and Christmas at the Gaylord!

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Renwick Gallery: Wonder Exhibit

I’m a sucker for a good museum exhibit – especially when you can walk through, in, or ON them :-)  Renwick Gallery just reopened and to celebrate, they opened with one heck of an exhibit.  Wonder takes you though a spectacular journey that creates a sense of wonderment (henceforth the title).  Artists have used recycled materials (and in some cases former living beings), to create art that you sense you’ve seen in some wacky dream in the past.

In one room, you might be standing under a rainbow.  In another room, you may be laying down on an expansive floor, totally zoned out, staring at the ceiling art.  And, in another room, you might be looking through the hole of a manmade tree trunk, with a stranger staring back at you at the other end. This exhibit is left open to such high interpretation that it has drawn thousands of people in, all having different points of view on what the art looks like, what it represents, and what they feel when they look at it.

Below are some of my pics from my tour.  I highly recommend it.  The museum is open from 10am – 5:30pm daily.

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Recipe Box: Dukan Diet – Light Cheesecake

The Dukan Diet Light Cheesecake recipe, comes directly from the Dukan Diet book.  It’s meant for those on the Cruise Phase.

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 10 minutes, plus a minimum of 4 1/2 hours to chill

Cooking time: 12 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 10 tbsp. fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 tbsp. corn starch
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Splenda
  • 10  egg whites

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, blend the yogurt, cornstarch, egg yolks, lemon juice, and sweetener until smooth.
  2. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until still peaks form, and carefully fold them into the yogurt mixture.
  3. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch microwave-safe pan.
  4. Microwave for 12 minutes at medium setting.
  5. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours.  Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving

BREAKFAST VARIATION

I’ve made crustless quiches with this same recipe.

Instructions:

  1. Remove the the Greek Yogurt, lemon juice, and Splenda from the recipe.
  2. Add in low-sodium ham or turkey (to your liking)
  3. Add in low-fat cheese (to your liking)
  4. Spray olive oil, lightly on the baking pan (I use a pie/cake pan)
  5. I like to heat mine in the oven, so preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until full cooked.

 

 

Recipe Box: Dukan Diet – Lettuce-Wrap Burritos

The Dukan Diet Lettuce Wrap Burritos recipe, comes directly from the Dukan Diet book.  It’s meant for those on the Cruise Phase.

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 1/2 lbs. 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 sweet red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small red chili pepper, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. low-sodium tomato juice
  • 3/4 c. tomato paste
  • 1/2 c. low-sodium beef broth
  • 8 big iceberg lettuce leaves
  • 4 tbsp. no sugar added tomato sauce, store bought

Directions:

  1. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Add the crushed garlic cloves, the diced onion, and 1 tbsp. of water.  Cook until the onions and garlic become tender, about 5 min.
  2. Add the ground beef and stir continuously until cooked to medium, about 5 min.
  3. Add the sweet pepper, chopped chili pepper, 1/2 tbsp. tomato juice, tomato paste, and the beef broth to the pan.
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Lay the lettuce leaves on a platter and fill each with an equal portion of the beef mixture.  Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp. tomato juice and the tomato sauce to the filled lettuce leaves.

Recipe Box: Dukan Diet – Chicken Marengo

The Dukan Diet Chicken Marengo recipe, comes directly from the Dukan Diet book.  It’s meant for those on the Cruise Phase.

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh thyme or a pinch of dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 1/2 c. slice mushrooms (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a nonstick frying pan with a lid, place the sliced onions to cover the bottom and ad the chicken broth.  Simmer until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, thyme, pepper, and salt.
  3. Place the chicken on the inions and add the wine.  Cover and allow to cook over low heat for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken and set aside.  Reduce the excess liquid by rapidly boiling the pan juices, uncovered for a few seconds.
  6. Pour the juices over the chicken and serve.