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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

shooting for one more twirl

a couple of weeks ago, i received a text from one of my mom friends that was actually meant for someone else.  nothing weird or anything like that, though.  she was sending her some information on a 10-day body reset using arbonne products, which she'd recently started repping.  she's not a pushy saleslady type, and she was quick to apologize for the mistake.  it had caught my attention though, and so i asked her for more information on it.

it's funny - my mom and i had been involved with arbonne back in the day, like in the early 90s.  back then it was all about skin care and clean, cruelty-free makeup.  so i was pretty amused to find myself purchasing their products again a couple of decades later.

knowing what you know about me, you'll probably think this is crazy.  because i was committing to changing my diet to include shakes to replace breakfast and lunch, with dinner consisting of a plate half filled with green veggies, with the other half split between lean protein (chicken, grass-fed beef or seafood) and some sort of healthy carb, like quinoa or brown rice.  but here's the kicker...i had to cut the following completely out:

  • sugar
  • gluten
  • dairy
  • caffeine
  • soy products
  • pork products
  • did i mention sugar?
i knew it was going to be rough going, but i was feeling really motivated to make a change that my body was apparently asking for.  not to mention - well, wan-niversary 15.0 is coming up in a couple of weeks.  and if you recall, last year i was barely able to fit into the dress again for the annual twirl.  i resigned myself to the notion that it was my final twirl, but this kind of lit a fire under my ass and i thought, maybe i can still make it one more year!  at the very least, i wanted to give it a try.

i received the box of products a few days before the reset was to begin.  inside was a bag of chocolate flavored protein powder, a box containing 30 days' worth of a digestion aid drink and a third box of a strawberry flavored fizzy drink powder.  i was nervous, but excited to see how this would all pan out.

on day one, i took out the first serving of digestion plus and mixed it into 4 ounces of water, per the instructions.


this stuff...oh, it was foul.  it was earthy and smelled weird and left the worst aftertaste even after every drop was gone.  but it was part of the program and i just told myself - one down, nine to go.

the next step was to mix up my first breakfast shake.  two cups of almond milk, a handful of fresh spinach, a spoonful of almond butter, a cup of frozen strawberries and two scoops of chocolate protein powder.



i decided to pick one of my prettiest starbucks tumblers from my vast collection, and poured it in.  this ended up being a thing - every day, i picked a different cup to drink my two daily shakes out of.  while the shakes were actually pretty tasty, using fun cups made it a little extra.







and i decided to try different kinds of milk, too.  having had oat milk a couple of times before, i thought it might be a good option for these shakes.


the old lady was doing a modified version of the reset along with me, and during a trip to the local sprouts market we came across macadamia nut milk.  it was a little pricey, but it sounded interesting and we figured it would be a good addition to our roster of non-dairy milk options.  except that when we tried it, we agreed that it was a little funky.  it wasn't terrible, but it added an odd flavor to the shakes and we ultimately decided to stick to the oat and almond milks.

as for dinners, i ended up sticking to some pretty basic meals.  one night, it was a pan-seared steak with asparagus and steamed brown rice with tomato.  another night, a simply seasoned chicken breast with arugula tossed in a little olive oil and sea salt and more brown rice.  and a couple of nights i cooked a salmon fillet in some ghee and lemon pepper.  i was usually starving by dinner time, and didn't even take pictures of most of my dinners.



when i mentioned to my friend that i was struggling a little without having a little something sweet in the evenings, she sent over a couple of recipes.  the first took a little more prep - something called "cake cups," even though it didn't involve any sort of cake at all.  instead, these were like reese's cups using some of the chocolate protein powder, coconut oil, almond butter and some cacao nibs.  i portioned out the concoction into mini cupcake cups and stuck them into the freezer as directed.


the cups solidified pretty quickly, and i took one out that night when the sugar craving hit.


these little things, as odd as the recipe sounded, turned out to be a lifesaver.  i was allowed to have two per serving, and the texture and flavor and the little crunchy cacao nibs were pretty fantastic.  although it was also around this time that i noticed something a little odd - while i had cut out sugar from my diet, a glance at the ingredients list for the protein powder told me that there was a decent amount of cane sugar in the mix.  7 grams per serving, it turned out.  that explained why the shakes were so tasty.  heh.

another night, i tried her recipe for a mug brownie.  this included protein powder, some coconut sugar, baking powder, a little olive oil and some almond milk.  it was a pretty generous serving, and it actually ended up being so rich that i couldn't finish it.  and why do these things always have to look like a big ol' turd in a cup?


after about 3-4 days of this lifestyle change, i happened to step onto a scale just for fun.  i really didn't have a weight loss goal in mind, and in fact had made the rookie mistake of not stepping on the scale before starting the reset.  but i'd randomly weighed myself the week before, and i was pretty stoked to realize that i was actually down 3.5 pounds.  it was pretty encouraging, but at the same time i was noticing that i was struggling a little.  i was feeling a little lethargic, like all the time, which i initially chalked up to lack of caffeine.  i felt like i was starving, but i tried to explain that away by telling myself that it was because the change was making me focus on what i couldn't have.

and then i noticed something else - i had pretty much zero energy during the day.  and i was grumpy as hell.  i was annoyed at myself for all of it, and the rest of the family did their best to cheer me up and help me through it, and that just made me feel worse.  and when i did my barre class on sunday, i had to stop several times because i was feeling so weak i felt like i was going to pass out.

i stuck to it for eight days.  and then last night, i finally broke.  the hub asked me what i was thinking for dinner, and i'd picked up some chicken breasts while picking up all of the stuff we were going to need for thanksgiving.  but then i thought about how unappetizing a baked chicken breast sounded, and all i could think of was how good a bacon cheeseburger and fries sounded.  i mentioned it to the hub and he just looked at me and said "dude...you're miserable.  just get the damn burger.  why are you doing this to yourself?"

that burger and those fries were so damn good.  it was like a opening the floodgates after a drought.  and it didn't take much before i felt like i was super full.  definitely a lot less than what i used to be able to take down in one sitting.

although i'm still a little bummed that i didn't stick it out through the whole ten days, i think i'm going to at least try to keep my sugar and carb intake lower than normal.  i'll probably go back to a little bit of coffee, but i might also keep the dairy to a minimum.  and maybe brown rice isn't all that bad after all.  not to mention, more veggies on the daily is always a good thing, and maybe i'll find a different protein powder with less (or no) sugar in it and stick to drinking a shake for breakfast.  but this body needs more actual food to survive, and i'm not gonna deprive myself anymore.  i'm just going to try to make better choices...and besides, who wants to diet through the holidays anyway?

not me, that's for sure.  bring it on...in moderation, of course.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

the 'rona is real

okay - so with the experience completely behind us now, i'm compelled to put out a possibly-tired-but-still-extremely-important PSA:  

KEEP WEARING A MASK AND CONTINUE TO SOCIAL DISTANCE.

and why do i feel it necessary to reiterate what has become the mantra of 2020?  well, it's simple:  we finally got to end our quarantine after the hub tested positive for the dreaded 'rona.

yup.  the covid hit the house of wan.  i'm happy to say that it didn't hit us hard, but still...we now have personal experience with the plague of 2020.

just after halloween, the hub started feeling a little off.  he found himself extra tired one evening, going to bed at the ungodly hour of 8:30.  and that night he couldn't get comfortable - he'd get super hot, start to sweat, throw the covers off and then he'd be freezing.  rinse and repeat, all night long.  since what he was feeling was just like the symptoms of his twice-yearly man colds, we chalked it up to that and he pretty much just stayed in bed for that day.  

except that unlike that usual man cold, he didn't feel better after a day of rest.  instead, he added a headache and full body aches to the roster of symptoms. and at the end of the second day, he found out that he'd been exposed to someone who'd tested positive for covid.  wonderful.

i booked him a mouth swab test at dodger stadium for the very next day, and within 24 hours he had his very own positive test result.  yaaaaaaaaaay.

and then i scrambled to alert everyone that the bean and i had spent any time with at all over the last few days while booking our own tests.  the old lady and her special friend booked tests as well, and on saturday morning the four of us headed out to dodger stadium - in separate cars, of course.


the lines were incredibly long, but i have to give them credit - the process was really streamlined and organized, and super safe.  windows stayed rolled up almost the entire time, with clear signage and cones to keep the lines separated.



i had to laugh at this cute little dog, who stared at us disdainfully as we sat in line.

when we finally got to the booth, i held up my phone with our confirmation numbers on the screen and was handed our test kits using one of those longarm claw things.  quite a difference from the last time we got stuff in this manner a few weeks prior.

inside was a wrapped swab, a cotton pad, a vial containing about an inch of some sort of liquid and this instruction pamphlet.

we pulled up to another stop sign, where the staffer asked us through the closed window if we'd done it before or had watched the instructional videos.  we hadn't, of course, because the hub had already told us exactly what to expect.  so he walked us through the whole process step by step, which was helpful.  and in no time, we were headed on outta there.

because i'm a bonehead, we'd discovered that the only thermometer we had in the house was broken.  and while i was texting with a good friend who's been working on covid-related research at city of hope, she found out that we didn't have one and promptly came over to drop one off on our doorstep.

by this time, the hub's symptoms had mostly disappeared.  he was still a little tired, but he was fever-free and feeling a lot better.  he was already at the bored stage, having spent too many hours bundled up in front of the tv.  and for a guy who's used to being on the go, constantly getting things done, it was like torture having to just sit around and do nothing.  luckily, he could still conduct business from his phone and laptop.  and i was so grateful to see that he hadn't gotten hit hard by this thing - after all, nobody knows how their body will react.  we've all seen and heard all kinds of stories from both ends of the spectrum.  and it was just such a relief to see that he was one of the lucky ones.  i continued to keep an eye on him and probably annoyed him with how many times i asked him how he was feeling, but i couldn't help but be worried.

our test results came in less than 24 hours, and all four of us were relieved to find that we were all negative for the corona.  of course, this meant that while the old lady and her special friend were clear and could go about their lives as normal, the bean and i still needed to act as though we were in the same boat as the hub since we'd been exposed to him from the beginning.  to be completely honest, aside from not being able to see the old lady, her special friend and stevie, it wasn't terrible.  we had plenty of food in the house and really didn't need to go anywhere.  it was a sucky time for my sewing machine to be out for annual maintenance, but it's not like i don't have a ton of other crafty things to do.

although quarantine this time was different because we knew we were staying home for a real reason and not just as a preventative measure.  distance learning turned out be a blessing for us, since the bean didn't have to miss a single day of school.  and i discovered the beauty that is target delivery:

i'm not gonna lie, that's something i might keep.  pick out all my stuff from the app, have someone go through the store to grab it and check out, and drop everything on my doorstep PLUS still be able to use my red card?  yes.  thank you.

and while we'd tested negative, i still watched out for any sign of symptoms for the bean and me.  after all, the negative result didn't guarantee that we couldn't still get the virus.  but as the days went on and we still felt perfectly fine, i began to let myself believe that we were going to be just fine.  i also remembered reading somewhere that studies had shown that people with blood type O seemed to be more resistant to this virus.  i don't remember if i'm O-positive or O-negative or just plain O, but i do know that my blood type is definitely O of some sort.  

towards the end of the second week, the hub's doctor had him go to the local clinic to have his oxygen levels checked.  he had to go three days in a row, and on the third day the doctor said that he was no longer contagious.  the nurses all told him that his vitals were great, and all of his symptoms had disappeared as well.  that was a good day.

twelve days after the the hub's symptoms began, we all headed back to dodger stadium to test again.  this was mainly for the bean and me, but the hub tested with us just to check.  i hadn't realized that the virus could still linger in the body for up to 3 months after being diagnosed, which meant that there was a chance that he'd still test positive even though he wasn't contagious anymore.  and since it was a weekday morning, the lines were much less intense.

as we waited to check in, we caught a glimpse of a giant dodger bobblehead statue being moved off in the distance.

being in the passenger seat this time, i got to capture the signage that explained the process for the self-administered mouth swab.


this time, we didn't wait for further instructions and were ready to drop our kits into the dropbox well before we pulled up to it.

but unlike the first time, our results didn't come back right away.  instead, we ended up waiting almost the full 48 hours before the text finally came through.  it was a long wait, and while the hub had the green light to slowly move back into normal life the bean and i had to wait until we knew for sure that we were good to go.  

and yes, we indeed got those negative results first thing on sunday morning.  the hub's was still positive, as we'd been warned, but it was such a relief to finally know we were all clear.  we'd been really lucky, and  it'll be easy to pick what we're most grateful on thanksgiving this year.

WEAR YOUR MASKS.  NOBODY IS TAKING YOUR FREEDOM AWAY.  IT'S A PIECE OF FABRIC.  JUST DO IT.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

nailed it...at home

so you've seen "nailed it" on netflix, right?  the show where they bring on amateur bakers and have them recreate some sort of crazy concoction usually made of cake and fondant and assorted decorations, which usually results in hilarity because it's just so ridiculous.  well, they started doing a "nailed it at home" challenge - you buy a ticket, which gets you a box full of (almost) all the ingredients needed to put together a fun themed baked treat that you assemble while on a zoom call with a host and the other participants.

you know we had to do this. we love watching the show, although i'm definitely no good at cake decorating.  that's been proven time and time again.  heh.  i was pretty excited when the goodie box arrived, just a few days before the day of the challenge.


the first two steps of the process needed to be completed a few hours before the start of the zoom call, so on saturday morning i pulled everything out and mixed up the batter to bake the cake.  this is also when i realized that i didn't have a basic 13"x9" cake pan in the house.  i don't even know how that's possible.  i ended up using the one pan i had that's slightly bigger, and i just hoped the cake wouldn't be too thin.




here's the instruction card i was referring to, with a picture of what the finished cake would look like.

when it had cooled fully, i sliced the cake as directed.  it baked beautifully, and luckily wasn't as thin as i'd thought.  body and wings, ready!


the bean came out to join in the fun, and we logged on and waited for the party to start.


a few minutes later, we got to see how many other people were playing along.  there were a LOT - which makes sense, considering this was a virtual event and you could join in from pretty much anywhere.


our "show producer" appeared next, to welcome everyone and then introduce our host for the hour - cathy ang, one of the actresses in netflix's "over the moon."



we started the decorating process by spreading frosting all over the whole cake.  this wasn't easy, with the cake so soft and fresh and the frosting slightly stiff and thick.  the logical step here would have been to thin the frosting out a little, but we were on limited time and just worked with what we had.


one of the show's judges and baking experts, jacques torres, appeared on screen to offer some baking tips.  too bad he talked about how to bake the cake, which we'd already done, so it really wasn't helpful for us at that moment.


they threw out some "challenges" throughout the hour, like having to work with just one hand, not being on your feet, and this one...not using hands at all.


when we'd covered the cake sufficiently with frosting, we put it in the fridge to chill a little while we rolled out the fondant.


pictures didn't really happen here because our hands were such a mess from everything we were doing.  here's when we spread the fondant over the cake and tried to pat it into place, only to find that we were a little short for the nose of the rocket.  oops.


no worries, though.  we just used another piece of fondant and covered it up.  not perfect, but good enough.  and i kept getting cake crumbs stuck in it.  d-oh!


the rest of the decorating process went pretty quickly, using all of the candy and the candles we'd found in the box.





i think we did a halfway decent job, considering.  we got to see some of the other participants' creations and ours was up there in terms of recreating the basic shape and style of the example.  and then it was all over.


the messy aftermath:


and the final photos.



we even managed to take a time lapse video of the whole thing.  here's an hour of cake decorating fun condensed down to about 23 seconds:


they're doing another challenge next month, holiday-themed.  you know i've already joined the waitlist to buy a ticket for that one.  we can't wait.

shooting for one more twirl

a couple of weeks ago, i received a text from one of my mom friends that was actually meant for someone else.  nothing weird or anything lik...