Experiencing each day, surprises & all

04.07.13 meals

Today begins the first week of my cookbook challenge. The recipes look delicious and I’m really looking forward to it. When I went grocery shopping this weekend I was worried that my grocery bill would be astronomical. Luckily, it was actually down about $50EC from a normal trip! That probably had something to do with the fact that I had ground beef, pork chops, and tilapia already in the freezer, but could also be partially attributed to the fact that a lot of the recipes include fresh fruit and veggies, many of which are grown here on the island and are therefore less expensive. Additionally, I was glad to find that many of the recipes include pantry/freezer staples, meaning that I don’t have to buy every single required ingredient every week. So here’s what’s on deck this week:

04.07.13 menu plan

I discovered that many (if not all) of the recipes in the cookbook are available online on the Food Network website. While I highly recommend picking up a copy of the cookbook, I will link to the recipes for those that would rather use an online version.

Today we’ll be having soup and cornbread, fancied up a bit. For the Beef and Cannellini Bean Soup, I have decided to add in a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh basil while it cooks, as well as throwing in a couple of cups of fusilli ten minutes before it finishes. I made fresh dock stock this weekend, so I’ll be using a 50/50 mix of duck stock and beef stock. I’ll be halving the recipe for the Scallion and Mozzarella Cornbread, and will be leaving out the olives.

We’ll be sticking with the Meatless Monday theme (well, somewhat. It will have animal byproducts, but no real meat) with the Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms. Nick and I have recently fallen in love with brussels sprouts after my mom introduced us to her amazing recipe (which I will post at some point). In fact, I recently made a brussels sprout pasta combining her sprouts with a balsamic butter sauce that was amazing (I may have spent the entire evening talking about what a genius I am). It’s actually kind of similar to this recipe, now that I think about it, but I promise I hadn’t read it yet. So anyway, I’m excited to try this recipe. I’m making a few swaps with it as well: I’m using penne rigate instead of spaghetti, using duck stock in place of vegetable, using duck fat as a substitute for the olive oil, using balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice (there weren’t any lemons at the store, and I didn’t take the time to go to the fruit stand), and will be making my own creme fraiche.

I’ll be making Tuesday’s Chicken Adobo pretty close to the original recipe. I’m going to swap out the arrowroot for cornstarch, and will be doing a slightly different cooking method; after marinating the chicken I’m going to brown it in a skillet before  adding in the stock and marinade, and then bake it in the oven at 400F for 25-30 minutes (or until done), turning once. Once it’s finished, I’ll make the gravy in the recommended way. I’ll be serving it with yellow rice to help soak up some of that gravy.

The name of the Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Glaze for Wednesday is a little misleading. We’re not talking Panda Express style sweet and sour; this is agrodolce, an Italian version. I’ll be making these as is. The Carrot and Yam Puree, however, I will be altering drastically. To begin with, instead of yams, I’ll be using red potatoes. Instead of olive oil, I’m going to use duck fat. Finally, I’m going to cut the stock down to 1/2 cup of duck stock, because I will not be pureeing them anything. We’ll see how it turns out.

The Caramelized Onion, Chicken, and Grapefruit Salad (recipe online differs as it does not include chicken) utilizes a lot of fresh, local ingredients. I’ll be cutting the recipe in half, and will likely use lime juice instead of lemon if I can’t find lemons by Thursday. Since Nick hates cucumber, I’ll be using christophine instead, which is actually a member of the squash family and adds a nice crunch, especially when eaten raw.

On Friday we’re having Broiled Tilapia with Mustard Chive Sauce (again, a half recipe), which will feature dill instead of chive, mostly because that is what I could find at the store. I’m going to replace the Greek yoghurt with sour cream, because we have it and like it better. To make it easy, I’m serving it with rice pilaf prepared from a boxed mix.

Saturday will be our brunch day, for which I’ll be serving the Breakfast Tart with Pancetta and Green Onions. I’ll be making my own pie crust for this one rather than using the recommended prepared crust. I’m going to use a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, because that’s what I have on hand. Finally, I remembered the recipe wrong and bought prosciutto instead of pancetta, but I think it will still be tasty.

The last thing I’ll be making this week will be dessert: Peanut Butter Cookies with Blackberry Jam. As the store has been out of butter for the last little while, I’m going to experiment with swapping coconut oil in for butter, which apparently can be done. I’ve got homemade (by a coworker) mango jelly on hand, so I will likely swap that in for the blackberry jam, and may leave out the cocoa powder because of that.

So that’s what will be hitting our table this week. I’ll keep you posted on how everything turns out. What will you  be cooking?

much love, Cayley

Huge Miracles in Small Packages: Elly “the Iron Lung” Mosca

For those following the saga of our dogs, we have unbelievably fantastic news that I am very belatedly passing on (sorry about that). On Tuesday, March 12, Elly was allowed to come home with us! Her breathing rate is still elevated, and she may have lifelong respiratory issues, but she is now at home, happy and extra love-y. I feel like it’s only right give Elly her due in a little biography.
Never far from her dad's side.

Never far from her dad’s side. Photo credit: John Weller.

About Elly
I adopted Elly from the Humane Society in 2007. I wanted a second dog for a lot of reasons. First, I believed Nyla should be a part of a pack. I was working full-time and while I was able to come home at lunch and let her out and give her some love, I felt she needed someone to play with and keep her company. Little did I know the amount she would learn from her little sister (for instance: how to use a doggy door to go outside to pee. It was a revelation!). Second, I wanted the chance to give a dog that needed it a home. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was meant to be my dog. Even though she had a very sad story – she was found tethered to the back of her previous owner’s house starving to death and surrounded by waste – she was still full of pep and cheer and love. When I had begun looking for a second dog, I wanted one that would be a little bigger; I was told that they suspected Elly was in the 20 weeks age range and that she would at least double in size. In fact, she maybe grew by 5%. Maybe. But, as it turns out, she is the perfect size. No one can nail down what breed of dog Elly is. Vets have said she is likely some mix including Rat Terrier and Jack Russel; in Grenada, she is often mistaken for a Pot Hound.
Elly loves to lay her head on Nick's chest and slowly work her way up to having her face inches from his.

Elly loves to lay her head on Nick’s chest and slowly work her way up to having her face inches from his.

Elly is one of the most loving dogs you will ever come across. She’s never met a stranger, and is always very excited to give kisses to everyone she runs across. In fact, I believe that may be what saved her. It is our suspicion that the Paraquat was thrown in our yard hidden in food – possibly in a bag with the corner snipped. My hunch is that Elly was so excited to greet the visitor she missed the “treat”, while the take-no-prisoners Nyla went straight for it. By the time Elly got to it, it was probably mostly gone.
Even on a hash,  Elly is trying to make new best friends.

Even on a hash, Elly is trying to make new best friends.

Elly is quite the active pup. She loves to chase lizards, go to the beach and run through the waves, run the neighborhood, and hash. Even though, just like Nyla, I had Elly before Nick and I ever met, she is a daddy’s girl through and through. Given the choice, Elly will hang out on the couch with a studying Nick over laying in bed with me watching shows – unless I sweeten the pot by turning the A/C on, of course. Elly’s favorite activity is running with Nick on a hash. She comes back panting, muddy, and exhausted, but that little white-tipped tail of hers never stops wagging. She knows what it means when we get her harness and leash down on a Saturday afternoon; once it’s down off of the hook, she does her jumping routine for a few minutes and then tails us around the house until it’s time to go – she doesn’t want there to be any chance of being forgotten.
She's an intrepid explorer, this one!

She’s an intrepid explorer, this one!

Elly’s Story
Nick began to get nervous midday Friday that Elly’s breathing was unusual. She hadn’t eaten since Wednesday and was being a little mopey, but up until that point, we had assumed that she was just worried about her sister. We decided to take her on a short walk to the beach by our house to see how she would react. The walk was fine, but she wasn’t as peppy as usual. She didn’t want to run up and down the beach as she usually did, and she was lagging as we walked home. Once we were home, we kept an eye on her breathing, which started to sound labored and raspy like Nyla’s had. So Friday evening, we decided to bring Elly in.
Visiting Elly her second day at the clinic. Luckily she was in a crate that would hold us too.

Visiting Elly her second day at the clinic. Luckily she was in a crate that would hold us too.

The emergency vet came in, and was very forthcoming about the situation. He said that with a second dog with similar symptoms, Paraquat poisoning was further indicated. He said that they would do everything they could and treat it with antibiotics in case that wasn’t it, but that the outcome did not look great. As Elly was still oxygenating on her own, they were going to leave her off oxygen.
Visiting Elly her second day at the clinic. Luckily she was in a crate that would hold us too.

Giving love and affection to Elly.

We left Elly in their caring hands and went home to wait. We visited Saturday, then again Sunday, and again on Monday. On Saturday and Sunday she had to stay in her crate (which was large enough for us to sit in with her), but on Monday they let us take her to an exam room. She was tired, but so happy to be out and get to spend time with us. We both sat on the floor with her and let her crawl all over us. We left the clinic still cautiously hopeful.
The day before we got to take Elly home. Excited to have her out of the crate.

The day before we got to take Elly home. Excited to have her out of the crate.

On Tuesday I called to see when we could come visit Elly. I was told noon would be fine. Shorty thereafter, I got a call back from the vet. They were ready to send Elly home! The vet said that although Elly still had a slightly elevated respiration rate she was oxygenating on her own and had been eating and drinking. She said that they weren’t doing anything for her there that we couldn’t do at home. She asked me to give her a few hours to research possible treatment options for Elly’s damaged lungs; since it is so rare for Paraquat poisoning to not be fatal in animals, there isn’t a standard of care for recovery. I called Nick, who had been planning to meet me at the clinic at noon. I told him that we didn’t need to go at noon, because we’d going in at 1:30 to pick her up for good. He started crying with relief. I had held it together until that point, but couldn’t any longer.
As you can tell, she was very excited to get released from "jail".

As you can tell, she was very excited to get released from “jail”.

While it was incredibly hard going into the clinic with two and leaving with one, I don’t think that we can feel guilty about being so ecstatic to have Elly back at home with us. I can’t imagine what we would have done had we lost both of them. When we took Elly home, she knew something was off. She looked for Nyla in her crate and under the couch. The next morning when I let her out she was so excited to get out the door and look in Nyla’s outside crate (she stuck her whole head in, then ran down into the yard to look). She’s seemed a little sad since then, but I think has figured out that Nyla isn’t coming home.
I've always said Elly had wise eyes. Photo Credit: Go Gray Productions

I’ve always said Elly had wise eyes. Photo Credit: Go Gray Productions

For the first week that we had Elly home she was on an antibiotic, Prednisone, and Ventolin (a liquid form of Albuterol). She’s off of the antibiotic now, and is slowly tapering off of the Prednisone and Ventolin. Nick took her into the vet last week, and other than some “clutter” in her lungs (which they believe is clearing up based on another set of radiographs), they gave her a favorable bill of health. They want to keep her under observation for the next three months, with us calling in any changes and bringing her in occasionally, but they said if she makes it through that time period she should be out of the woods.  We’ve been told she’s a miracle pup. No one gets better from this. We are so unbelievably grateful to have her home.

Elly's favorite place is still right next to her daddy.

Elly’s favorite place is still right next to her daddy.

The dog that was once living outside is now inside all day, except for supervised bathroom breaks, and is even sleeping in our room. She starts off on the bed, but at some time during the night she moves down to the floor. She still gets excited, but she also tires easily and mostly just wants to cuddle. We took her to the beach the other day, but she just wanted to lay in the shade and relax. Which is fine with us. We took her hashing last weekend (on the walkers trail, of course), and she had a great time. I ended up carrying her about 2.5 miles, but it was well worth it to see that signature Elly smile.

Elly still loves to hash, but has to be carried when she gets tired or the terrain is too taxing.

Elly still loves to hash, but has to be carried when she gets tired or the terrain is too taxing. Photo credit: Brian Steele.

Cookbook Challenge: the Rules

As a part of my 30×30, I made the decision to cook my way through an entire cookbook. After going back and forth between Weeknights with Giada and Jamie’s Food Revolution (and initially selecting Jamie’s Food Revolution), I settled on Weeknights with Giada. I love both cookbooks, and have cooked a few recipes from each that have been fantastic.

The first choice

At first I chose Food Revolution because a main theme of the book is sharing and passing on the recipes found inside. In the introduction, Jamie asks readers to pass it on by ” … pledging to learn just one recipe from each chapter of this book. Master these in your own home first, and then pass it on by teaching at least two people (preferably four) how to cook them, too.” In a pay-it-forward type of way, those that learn the recipes are then asked, again, to pass it on.

As someone who loves to cook, and loves to cook for others, I appreciate the sentiment. In my family(s) – both the one I grew up in and the one I joined by marriage – cooking at home and eating as a family is an integral part of everyday life. Food is a language of love with us, and I want to continue this tradition. With readily available convenient fast/takeout food, it seems that the art of everyday cooking has become somewhat lost; we’ve begun to believe that it is something best saved for the weekend, or when more time is available.

That said, as I began going through the cookbook to map out my cooking schedule, I realized that there was no way I was getting through that cookbook by my birthday. There are a ton of great recipes that I can’t wait to try, and I highly recommend the book; however, I didn’t want to set myself up for failure from the get-go.

The ultimate choice

So in the end I’ll be cooking my way through Weeknights with Giada. It’s funny, and fitting, because of the Food Network Stars, she was never my favorite until quite recently. It’s not that I didn’t like her recipes, or even her as a host. It was that something made me very uncomfortable with the way she really enjoyed her tasting bites at the end of the show. I know, it’s weird of me, but I always felt like I was interrupting a very intimate moment. Recently I’ve become a fan of Giada. One of the shows that Nick and I watch together is the Next Food Network Star, and seeing her mentor on it really made me appreciate her more. Nick, on the other hand, has always loved Giada. And it’s not just that she’s gorgeous, and Italian, and a fantastic chef. I’m pretty sure it’s in part because he too loves to take very loud, savoring bites as he eats; I have actually called it “Giadaing” since the first time I noticed him doing it.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve cooked a few recipes from the cookbook before, and they’ve all been great. As I was mapping out my cooking plan, I started to get pretty excited about the food we’ll be eating in the next couple of months. The dishes are packed full of flavors and ingredients that we love, and shouldn’t be too heavy. In fact, that’s another element that I really like about this book: The food is all pretty healthy and utilizes fresh ingredients. Perfect for cooking in Grenada!

The rules

So now that I’ve picked the cookbook, what are the “rules”? I’m not going to apply many, because I don’t want to back myself into an impossible corner, get frustrated, and just give up altogether. I’d like to cook five dinners a week out of the book, leaving us two other meals to cook our regular favorites. One of the chapters in the book is “Breakfast for Dinner”, but instead of using that as an evening meal I’m going to make brunch on Saturday or Sunday using a recipe from the chapter. Nick and I are both fairly adventurous eaters that are willing to give anything a try; however, we do both have things that we’re not huge fans of. He, for instance, hates cucumber, and I am not such a fan of sweet potato (but I’m starting to come around). That, paired with the fact that we can’t always find specific ingredients here, means I need to give myself a little flexibility. With that in mind, I’ll probably end up taking some liberties with the recipes and edit as necessary. I think that’s a good point to keep in mind with any recipe. Just because you can’t find certain things, or don’t enjoy certain things, doesn’t mean you can’t tweak it to your needs. Creativity is one of the best parts of cooking!

I’m sure as we go I’ll make adjustments to the plan, and may occasionally want to add or reduce the numbers of recipes I use on a weekly basis. I’ll be starting next week. If you were to cook your way through a cookbook, which would you choose?

30×30, Part 3

With everything that’s been happening in our lives, I’ve kind of falling off of the blogging wagon. I’ve absolutely fallen off the trying-to-accomplish-a-thing wagon. But it’s time to brush my shoulders off and power through.

One of my favorite things in life is food (eating, cooking, smelling, thinking about … the list goes on). So it should come as no surprise that the final portion of my list hits right in my sweet spot – the kitchen.

In the Kitchen

Nick and I both love to cook. We often say that we fell in love in the kitchen. Even though I’m decent in the kitchen, there is always more that I want to learn and try.

21. Finish Top Chef University. Nick bought me an online subscription to Top Chef University before we left home, and I have done exactly half of one class. With my love of cooking and learning new techniques, it really was the perfect gift. I just need to make the time to finish it up (especially since it will expire soon).

22. Learn to make croissants from scratch. I love croissants. Plain, chocolate, whatever. The flaky pastry is one of the best in my opinion. The dough used to make croissants is a little tricky, especially in this heat with all of the folding in of butter. I’d like to become a croissant expert.

23. Make a perfect soufflé.  Soufflé intimidates me. Nick makes a fantastic savory soufflé, and I’d like to become the resident dessert soufflé expert in our home. I just feel like it’s such an impressive dessert to serve.

24. Host a successful multi-course dinner party, and get the timing right. We have friends over for dinner semi-regularly, but any time the menu goes beyond a main dish and side, I start to feel a little overwhelmed. I’d like to host a dinner party including a starter, main dish and side(s), and dessert.

25 – 30. Commit 5 recipes/meals to memory. I’m getting better at remembering recipes, but I still often have to check back to the original version to make sure I’m getting it right. I’d like to have at least five meals I can prepare from scratch, without having to look anything up. This will be especially helpful if the grocery store doesn’t have everything that I need for a meal I’ve planned; with recipes memorized, I will be able to simply access the old memory bank and do a quick swap-out.

And one to grow on. Cook my way through a cookbook. I love this idea. I followed the Julie/Julia Project blog before it was a book (and subsequent movie), and loved the French Laundry at Home blog. As a cookbook hoarder, I think it would be a good lesson for me however it turns out. I’m expecting either A. Don’t buy a cookbook when you don’t like 3/4 of the recipes or B. Use more cookbooks! You love the recipes! I’m trying to narrow down the cookbook to use, and as I only have a limited supply with me, it won’t be too hard of a decision. At first I thought I would do the Feed Zone Cookbook, since I need to focus on food designed for training, but since I need to readjust my consumption based on the fact that I can’t currently run (more on that in another post. Le sigh), I’m not so sure that’s the best choice. I’m kid of between Weeknights with Giada and Jamie’s Food Revolution. I’ll keep you updated on what I decide.

Time to get on it! Only a few months to go.

Saying Goodbye to Nyla “the Bean” Mosca

It is with love, and sadness, and anger, and an indescribable sense of loss that I sit down to write this post today. I don’t know how to say it, so I’m just going to state it: Last night, at about 9:30 pm, we had to humanely euthanize our dog Nyla.

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Nyla “the Bean” Mosca
2005-2013

Love

For those of you that know me (and knew Nyla), you know how much she meant to me. She was my first dog, and I loved that little rat. I got Nyla not long after leaving college; I was living in a new town where I had no friends and was lonely. I wanted a dog, and since I was living in an apartment, it would need to be small. I had never had any particular draw to chihuahuas, but when I found Nyla online, I knew that I wanted her. I drove over five hours to pick her up, and she could literally fit in the palm of my hand. She was small, and sweet, and from that moment, has been my little baby.

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Little cuddle bug

Nyla was with me through health scares, breakups, and life changes. She has always been there to cuddle into a crook and offer comfort. Even though she was my dog well before meeting Nick, she loved him, and loved to cuddle him.

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She loved being outside in Grenada, chilling with her daddy & animal peeps.

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Expert co-navigator

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During a brief fitness phase, Nyla enjoyed puppy pull ups. She had to get bikini body ready, you know

Nyla wasn’t a dog that loved hiking, or playing, going to the beach. Nyla’s favorite thing in the world was laying down on soft things. Whether it was a cozy floor mat, a stack of pillows, or lying in bed buried in my hair, she was at her most content in a state of half-sleep.

Back Camera

Burrowed down on top of my head

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The princess and the pea

It's a Panama, Jack!

It’s a Panama, Jack!

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She didn’t love the beach …

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Not such a huge fan of the snow, either

The majority of Nyla’s life she enjoyed being indoors. I’d let her out to go to the bathroom in the morning and she’d be back at the door in about a minute, ready to get back inside. When we moved here, things changed. First, it started with her yipping at night, all night, to go out. When we’d let her out, she didn’t want to come back in. So, we began leaving the dogs out at night to sleep. They loved it. Then, she decided she didn’t have any interest being inside during the day. She chewed her way to freedom out of two crates, so we began leaving the dogs outside during the day (on our roofed patio). She loved it here. If anything, I can confidently say that she was happy with her life right up until the end.

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Nyla was often used to show the size of other objects, like this lobster.

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Or this moth.

Sadness

It’s hard to imagine life without the little Bean. It’s hard to think of what it’s going to be like to come home after work, and not see her running around in circles and hopping sideways, so excited to see us. To not have her cuddle up by me and give me stinky little kisses. For her to no longer be here, with me. There’s a dish of food sitting in her crate, waiting for her to get home, that I haven’t had the heart to throw away yet.

Anger

So, now onto the anger and burning rage. It appears as though Nyla was poisoned. Most likely deliberately. And I don’t know how to deal with that. In my head, I always thought that our dogs would go from old age (or complications resulting from it). I don’t know how to reconcile the fact that someone could have intentionally murdered my dog.

The sequence of events:

Nyla didn’t eat anything on Tuesday, but that is not out of the realm of normal-ness for her. On Wednesday, she didn’t eat breakfast, and while Nick was studying on Wednesday afternoon he called her out from under the couch (one of her favorite places to lay down) to sit on his lap. She came over, and when he picked her up, he noticed that she was wheezy.

We decided to take her to the vet. After looking her over, and doing blood tests that showed nothing abnormal, the vets kept her for observation for a few hours and then sent us home with her. Honestly, I kind of assumed she was pulling another Classic Bean Fake-Out. Thursday evening, she was still wheezing and not eating, so we let her (and Elly) sleep in the bedroom with us. We gave them them a variety of treats, of which Nyla wound eat none. We finally got her to eat a little peanut butter, but not much, and she was hesitant to drink water. She slept by my head that night, sounding like the tiniest little bellows you’ve ever seen stoking an invisible fire.

We decided to take Nyla back to the vet clinic at around 9:30 Friday morning. I took her in, and they began giving her oxygen, running blood work, doing radiography, and giving her a workup. They told me that other than an enlarged esophagus with a lot of air in it, there was nothing abnormal on any of her tests, but that they wanted to keep her to keep running tests. I went back to work and we waited.

That afternoon, they called. They had done a barium swallow, which had shown nothing. They said that something else could present, but given the symptoms, it was likely that she had been given a dose of Paraquat, a herbicide that is illegal most places, but is still legal here. It is used to kill weeds and is also, apparently, commonly used to poison dogs. There is no test for Paraquat poisoning; likewise, there is no cure. The symptoms include difficulty breathing, increased respiration rate, and, you guessed it, and enlarged esophagus.

Because of the lack of a test and the lack of a treatment, they continued to treat Nyla as though it may be something else. They gave her oxygen, they started her on IV fluids, they gave her antibiotics, and they gave her pain medication. We were hopeful.

And then Elly got sick. When we took Elly in with similar symptoms on Friday night, the vet said it further solidified the suspicion of Paraquat. They told us that they would keep a close eye on the dogs, and call us with updates.

We visited the dogs yesterday (Saturday) morning. They were in their crates, hooked up to IVs, and Bean had a cone on with plastic wrap over the top (with an open corner to let out CO2) pumping in pure oxygen. She was still breathing rapidly and forcefully, and was so tired. She would stand up for a bit, and then need to sit back down and rest. The vet indicated that they would be doing further radiographs in the afternoon to see if there was progression of symptoms. She said that with Paraquat, things can go from bad to worse very rapidly, and asked if we would authorize immediate humane euthanasia should it start to do so. With the kind of painful death the poison brings, we agreed, even though we wanted the chance to try to be there if it happened.

With nothing more we could do, we left, came home, and waited. The vet called about 8:00 pm, and the news was not good. Radiographs showed fibrosis developing in Nyla’s lungs, further indicating poison and a reduced chance of recovery. On pure oxygen, her oxygenation levels were at 97%, but she was having to put in a lot of effort to keep herself there. The vet indicated that one of two things were likely to happen: Nyla would no longer be able to keep up with the effort needed to keep oxygenating, or she would develop an esophageal tear, both leading to death. I asked her one of the most difficult questions I’ve ever had to ask – at this point, with this progression, would now be the time to consider humane euthanasia? The vet said that she fully supported that decision.

So Nick and I sat down and had a hard, tear-filled conversation about what we wanted to do. On the one hand, we wanted to hold out hope. We didn’t want it in the back of our minds that had we waited just a little bit more, she could have gotten better. But with the lung fibrosis, and all the research we had done about the poisoning, and all of the intelligent, thoughtful advice we had received from the vet clinic, we knew she wouldn’t. So, on the other hand, my biggest fear and sense of grief came from the thought of her dying alone. The thought of her rapidly declining overnight before we could get there, and then having to be euthanized with no one there that knew her, that loved her, the way that we did. I couldn’t live with that. The thought of her being alone, and scared, and passing. I wanted her to feel our love.

So we went to the clinic. We spent about fifteen minutes with her in a private room, telling her how much we loved her, and would miss her, and giving her kisses. She was happy, but obviously exhausted and struggling. When we were “ready” the vet came in and administered the succession of three injections that flushed, sedated, and finally, eased her suffering. We pet her and talked to her the whole time, and I knew immediately when she had left us. The dog that had been so full of personality, so full of love, so full of courage and compassion, was no longer there. We stayed with her a while longer, and then gave our permission for a full autopsy. Hopefully, the vet students can learn something from her case, or even more hopefully, they find something that will allow them to treat Elly in a successful manner.

In the end, I hope she knew how much we loved her. How hard we tried to keep her. And why, in the end, we had to let her go.

Daytime napping ... a Nyla favorite

Daytime napping … a Nyla favorite

30×30, Part 2

Continuing on with my 30×30 list. I kind of feel I should point out the fact that by posting this, I’m accomplishing one of my already listed goals – to blog more. Man, am I good at this stuff (this is where we really need a sarcasm font ASAP).

Mind Body Soul (Balance)

Over the past couple of years – and with the support of my amazing hubby – I’ve made big strides to make my life(style) a healthier one. I want to continue with this trend; continue to do good for myself and feel amazing. I have a tendency to put all of my eggs in one basket (for instance, train for a half marathon but never stretch or weight train), so reaching some sort of holistic balance is a big goal for me.

11. Train for a marathon, to run under 4:30. Nick and I are both signed up for the Aspen Valley Marathon in late July, and I start a training schedule for it next week. If it were before my birthday, I’d  make the marathon itself my goal, but since it won’t be, I’m going to make training the goal, especially since it’s pretty grueling in and of itself. I had originally chosen a training plan built around simply finishing, but I really want to train to finish in a certain amount of time, with minimal walking. Plus, it made me nervous that it didn’t even have me running 20 miles at any point. So I selected a 3:30 goal time training plan, and am just making small adjustments based on my individual speed goal. I’ve gotten some really great advice from a friend of ours who is pretty much a runner-savant, and I’m feeling pretty good about things.

12. Hit a yoga class 1 – 2 times per week. With all the running I’m doing, I need a good stretch and an alternative form of exercise added into my rotation. Also, as a known worrywart and over-thinker, yoga is a great way to clear my head. I’m going to try to do hot yoga every Sunday, with another class added in throughout the week when my body tells me that I need it. I’m also going to try to do a few routines at home on my own. My goal is to touch the floor on a forward fold by the time we go home at the end of May.

13. Stretch before every run. As you can probably tell, muscle tightness and flexibility are a big concern of mine. When I was running last semester, I was starting to get really sore, and in the past couple of months I started to develop pretty bad sciatic nerve pain all down my right leg and in my lower back. It had even started to interfere with my sleep and work life, since I could barely lay or sit still comfortably. Since I started properly stretching before and after runs and doing yoga, that pain has virtually disappeared. For stretching, I’ve started doing a set of 5 pre-run yoga poses and 5 post-run yoga poses (plus whatever else I feel that I need) that I found on the lululemon website. I like it better than stretching from cold because it warms my muscles up while I do it, and I focus on my breathing, which gets me ready to run.

14. Get up ten minutes early every morning to do pushups and ab work. While Nick was in Grenada by himself last year, it became a part of my morning routine to get up and do some crunches and pushups. That kind of stopped when he got home. With the running I’m doing I feel like I need to strengthen my core and get some arm strength to help balance out my legs. Just like incorporating yoga into my routine, this should bring my fitness into alignment.

15. Get monthly couples massage. It’s a bit indulgent, but both of us could absolutely use that kind of muscle relaxation. When Nick isn’t spending his time hunched over his computer studying or sitting in class, he’s running long distances to get ready for the marathon. I spend my days in an office chair, my early evenings running, and late evenings back in bed working on my computer, which isn’t exactly ergonomically ideal. We could both use a professional work-over.

16. Only eat refined sugar one hour before and after runs. I’m starting to get a little more dependant on sugar than I should be. I have regular candy cravings (that I give into easily), and if there are sweets in the house they are going in my mouth. I recently hit an all time low of buying strawberry syrup (you know, to make strawberry milk). What? Why? What am I doing? I’ve looked at the “what you crave/what you really need” infographics, and according to them, craving sugar means your body really needs chromium, carbon, phosphorous, sulfur or tryptophan, so I’m going to try adding more broccoli, fresh fruit, eggs, poultry, nuts, grains, and cheese into the mix (there are a lot more recommended foods containing those elements, but those are the readily available ones here). I also have the theory that since I’m running more, I need more carbs, and so my body is sending the “quick, give me sugar” signal, when really I need to address the carb issue. I’m leaving the hour before and after runs in case I want to have chocolate milk when I get home from a run (which “they”  say is good for runners), or if I need some Gatorade before I go. Also, note the word “refined”. I will still be eating plenty of honey and fruit.

17. Drink at least 100 oz of water per day. When I’m running, I am better about drinking water throughout the day, but that’s because I feel dehydrated all the time. I’d like to be drinking enough water to not feel constantly dehydrated, and to feel less thirsty on my runs.

18. Track meals. I have tracked food consumption in the past for diet/weight loss reasons, but now I want to start tracking to make sure I’m meeting my nutritional needs. Some sources say that a runner should try to hit a 60/25/15 diet (60% carbs, 25% fat, and 15% protein), which is a big adjustment to what I have been doing. I think I’m going to try to fall in a 50/25/25 to 60/25/15 range, and try to settle into my sweet spot within it.

19. Read one book per month. Of all of the amazing things my parents did for me over the years (many of which I am just now starting to appreciate), instilling a love for reading is one of the greatest. I grew up in a home filled with books – with almost every room having at least one or two big bookshelves – and there was never a time that my parents told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t read something. From an early age I loved Tom Robbins, John Irving, and Margaret Atwood. In recent years, I’ve stopped reading as much. I brought a book with me to Grenada that I have been reading since before Nick and I met. I’ve read things in between, of course, but c’mon. Now that I have a Kindle, I have no excuse not to read more often.

20. Take time to get outside and relax. We’re only here for another year and a half, and who knows the next time we’ll live by the ocean in a climate warm enough to enjoy it daily. I tend to get caught up in work, and life, and not take advantage of my surroundings. Once a month, I need to go to the beach or pool and just let go. And hey, it’s a great place to read a book!

Any tips on getting mind, body & soul in balance? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

30×30, Part One

If you’re in your late twenties, or know anyone that is, I’m sure you’ve seen your share of 30-by-30 lists. Some people use it for big milestones they want to hit, some use it for adventures, others use it as an accelerated bucket list, and my husband used it to list things he is proud/thankful for. I turn 30 in July, and I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a 30 by 30; I’ve decided that my version will be 30 things I want to do to that will improve my life now and for the long term, by the time I reach 30. I remember reading something a while ago (I don’t know what magazine I saw it in or when, but I’m pretty sure I was reading it in a doctor’s waiting room) that stated that you should be in the best shape of your life when you hit 30, because it gets substantially more difficult from there to change your lifestyle and body. So, here’s to self-improvement!

I’ve split my list into a few main areas: Relationships & Connections, Organize & De-clutter, Future, Mind Body Soul (Balance), and In the Kitchen. I’m going to hit on the first ten 30 x 30 items in this post.

Relationships & Connections

I have a bad habit of not maintaining relationships unless they are right in front of me. Part of it may be my introverted nature; part of it may just be laziness. With that in mind, I am going to make more of an effort to stay connected with people and continue to be mindful of my handling of relationships.

1. Do something special for Nick 1 time per week. I am sometimes guilty of getting into the mindset that since I currently carry the household “burden” (making meals, cleaning, planning, laundry, etc.), that I am doing special things for my husband all the time. But really, none of that stuff makes him feel special. Cared for, yes, special, no. Nor should it. In the “real” world, when Nick would take out the garbage every week, it didn’t give me the warm-and-fuzzies. It was just his job. I’m making it a goal to do something extra for Nick, which will make him feel special, (at least) once a week. Whether it’s making his favorite meal, or taking him out for brunch, or planning a movie night (and staying awake for the whole thing), or booking a massage, I want him to know that I’m thinking of him and making an effort. He’s pretty much my everything, so naturally this is number one on my list.

2. Blog 1 – 2 times a week. I know that I already said that I was going to do this, but I’ve been failing miserably. In addition to being a good outlet for me, and the fact that it will serve as a great memory book later, it’s also a way for our friends and family to keep up with our lives.

3. Email, snail mail, and Facebook friends and family more regularly. As noted, I’m not always so good about keeping up with folks. I want the people that I love to know it.

Organize & De-clutter

If I don’t get serious about getting my life in order, I’ll be appearing on the show “Hoarders” by the time I turn 40. The lady that weaves her way out of the newspaper maze? Replace the newspapers with cooking magazines and that could be me.

4. Clean out the closet. Before we left home, I did a major purge of my closet and donated a few giant boxes worth of clothes, shoes and accessories. Even still, I know that I left way more than I needed to at home, and brought more than I needed to to Grenada. This summer, I’m bringing the clothing that I don’t wear regularly back to the States to wear over the summer and leave (because it’s still stuff that I like, but doesn’t make the clothes rotation. It’s mostly race t-shirts and really casual sun dresses – stuff I thought I would wear regularly, but  haven’t, since I need to dress up for work every day). At home, I’m getting rid of my “safety” clothes. I know everyone has their skinny goal clothes (I know I do), but I also kept some just-in-case fat clothes. They’re mostly items that would be expensive to replace – fancy cocktail dresses, suits, and the like – so I had trouble parting with them. Now that I’ve stayed at the same size for a year, I feel that the time has come to cut the cord and let it go. I want to start my 30s in a place where I don’t have a fallback and love all the clothes that I have (or at least want to wear).

5. Craft “junk” into containers and get rid of the rest. I want to get organized (more on that to come). I’ve been saving what some (Nick) may call trash, but I call project supplies. You know, a variety of empty (and cleaned) tin cans, empty cereal and cracker boxes, empty jars, empty wine bottles … so, when you put it like that, trash. But, I have pinned a ton of cool things to do with said junk, some of which only require a pair of scissors or some spray paint. I just need to schedule a craft day to sort out and make things, and then – gasp – throw out the rest. This, for a Class B Hoarder like me, would be a huge step. And would clear up a big ol’ box to use for other types of storage!

6. Organize stuff into bins/containers. Before we leave Grenada to go home for the summer, I want to get the rando stuff that fills up my drawers and shelves more organized. For instance, I just found a mini hairspray and dry shampoo – that I brought down with me when I came to visit Nick last April – in a drawer. I’d like to come back to a well-organized house.

7. Meal plan one month at a time. I started trying to do this this past month, and it’s helped a lot. This way, all I have to do is make my grocery list on Saturday and head to the store. When I plan for a month, I can buy the ingredients that are common across my recipes in bulk (or, the Grenada version of buying in bulk, anyway). Also, this way I’m not falling back on repetitious meals or themes (for instance, having chili and stew in one week, and then starting the next week off with taco soup).

Future

Unfortunately, our time on the island won’t last forever. In less than two years, we’ll be back to the States and un-pausing our lives. I’m a notorious procrastinator, and if I let it sit, I’ll become increasingly stressed about the things that need to be done while still doing nothing. By having some items crossed off the list early, it will make our transition back to reality an easier one.

8. Update resume and make it kick-ass. I have a normal word .doc resume that I’ve maintained and kept up-to-date. As I have gained more relevant experience over the years, I’ve slowly dropped my college-era jobs off of my resume. On my “compilation” resume (the one that I keep all of my information on, so that I can copy and paste depending on job requirements) I still have my GPA and college honors/executive positions held, but at this point, those don’t need to go on my “real” resume. I need update my “real” resume to include all of the most relevant, important information and drop off the rest. Once I’ve gotten the information that I want to include updated, I want to make a more visually stimulating resume. I feel that the field that I’m in, I should have something with a more graphical, creative tone.

9. Build a portfolio. Over the years, I have designed tri-fold brochures, created advertising materials, and written, starred in, and edited videos, both for instructional and entertainment purposes (I know that sounds dirty, but it’s not). I need to create a portfolio that will show off my skillz.

10. Start taking vitamins and Folic acid. I am not the best at remembering to take vitamins. I’ll do great for about a week, and then forget. I feel like I need to cut that behavior out and get serious. While we don’t have plans for kids anytime in the near future, it’s time to start prepping my body to be the ultimate host a growing little life.

So that’s the first ten items on my list. Do you have a 30×30?


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