Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pooch to 5K

My sisters are amazing.  I have always been the "athletic" one of us girls, which by that I mean I'm the only one who did a sport that wasn't music-related.  Both of them have never really enjoyed exercise, especially Amy.  Ashley would at least do crunches and stuff, but Amy hated running and the sort.

Amy just finished her first 5K!!   And Ashley is training for her first 5K run as well!  Both of them have 2 kids also, which makes the fact that they even started training in the first place even more amazing.  They both asked for my input on training plans, which I shared with them.  One was called the "Couch to 5K."  I wasn't trying to offend them, but it is a great starter program for any first timer. I am so proud of them for doing this.

I have been wanting to get back into training (not just random runs, but actual training for a while).  When I adopted Lyna, I was hoping for a running partner.  But with all her anxiety issues, the medicine we put her on made her less energetic and our walks became very short.  And I couldn't leave her alone in the house to go running on my own either.  Now I've decided that the medicine is not working like I had hoped, so she's been off it for a while and her energy is returning.  That fact combined with my inspiring sisters turned runners have led me to decide that Lyna & I WILL be training partners.  We are going to do the "Pooch to 5K" training program.  In 12 weeks, Lyna will be able to run a 5K.

Since I have been running since I was 12(wow!), running comes back to me pretty naturally to me even if I haven't ran in a while.  However, Lyna spent the first 3 years of her life in a cage birthing puppies.  We did a test run just to see how she would handle it a couple days ago, and we only ended up jog-walking 1 mile.  I figured she would make me feel out of shape, but honestly...she's kinda slow, haha.  I'm hoping that dogs get faster just like humans, but we'll see.

This is what I picture Lyna's reflection of our run today (60 second run-90 second walk:  8 times for a total of 20 minutes) sounding like:
"I was so excited to wear my pink harness.  It started off just like a normal walk, sniffing the ground, marking my territory, training my human, getting scared by those cats (no wonder they call them scaredy cats!).  Then out of the blue, she started going fast.  Here I had been trying to drag her around for months but she taught me otherwise, and now she finally wants to listen to me and get going.  But then she kept going fast.  Finally she walked, but she wanted to do it again and again and again.  She kept telling me how we were going to do a 5K.  I hope K is for cookie, because I don't think I can do 5 of anything.  By the end, I was pooped.  I found my favorite patch of grass close to home and lay down for a nap.  She carried me to the sidewalk and made me walk the rest of the way home.  When we got inside, I wouldn't leave the doorway until she gave me a cookie.  Then I went back to my nap that got interrupted.  It was ruff ruff ruff."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Living with Allergies

It was sometime around 5th grade that I remember first experiencing seasonal allergies.  We were learning how to type, and I was having trouble because my nose was running, so I kept wanting to (disgusting, I know) wipe my nose with the back of my hand/sleeve, but I couldn't because we had to keep our hands on the keyboard.  I remember going to cheer leading tryouts at the end of 6th grade, and having a box of tissues in the car on the way there because I couldn't stop sneezing.  I've tried just about every allergy medicine known to man.  Claritin is my least favorite, and Zyrtec followed by Allegra are my favorite.  Unfortunately, now insurances don't cover these because they are now over-the-counter medicines.  So instead of paying a measly $5 co-pay for a whole month's supply, you have to pay $25 for half a month or less.  They do however still cover Flonase which is a nasal steroid that reduces the swelling in your nose so you can breathe. This has continued all the way until I moved to California, where I have much less issues than in Illinois.

When I was about 13 or 14, I sprained my ankle running.  I wore one of those latex ankle braces.  I remember waking up before my oldest sister and parents had gone to bed and feeling like my ankle was suffocating and itching all at the same time.  I got out of bed and went into the hallway to where I could see my leg in the light, and it was swollen and covered in hives.  It took us days to figure out that it was the latex in the ankle brace causing me so many problems.  My mom had just kept feeding me Benadryl to keep everything in check until it finally donned on us what the problem was.

When I was 15, the doctors wanted to try putting me on a medicine called Inderal.  About a day or two after I started taking the medicine, my lips swelled up, I got hives on my face and then they my throat started to close because the hives got in my throat.  My mom got back from the dollar store with Benadryl just in time.

When I started college, I soon realized that I was allergic to bananas when my mouth and throat would swell and itch.  Then I discovered the same for kiwis.  I would eat something that I used to be able to eat, leave the dining hall, go to my room, grab my Benadryl, and take a nap while the itching and swelling would go down.  One late night, I went to the late night across campus for some things.  I saw a package of sunflower seeds and thought how good those always are, and I hadn't had them in a while so I figured, why not?  Later, back in my dorm room, I was dumping the seeds into my left hand and popping them into my mouth.  Lets just say I was eating them rather quickly and not paying attention to anything other than my notes to study.  Suddenly I realized, my left hand wouldn't stop itching.  My lips, tongue, and throat were swelling up quickly, and it was all itchy.  My eyes got so big from shock when I looked at myself in the mirror.  I quickly found my Benadryl which I had learned to carry with me in my purse.

That was when I decided that I should probably go see an allergist to find out what else I was allergic to.  I made the appointment the next day.  They did a skin prick test on my back.  They would take a small needle, prick my skin and then put a drop of a solution of a possible allergen on that spot.  I remember halfway through, the nurse kept saying, "Oh my!  Oh my!"  They ended up reading the results of the test early because I was having such a bad reaction to so many things, that they wanted to give me allergy medicine as soon as possible.  They also sent me to have blood work done to test me for some other allergies.

This is what the results of the skin prick test looked like for the most part (though this is not me).

The results came back very positive or negative depending on how you look at it.  I am allergic to all 15 of the tree types they test for, all 10 of the weed types, 7 of the mold types, dust, mites, cockroaches, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, apples, bananas, carrots, kiwi, oats, peas, peanuts, potatoes, strawberries, walnuts, green bell peppers, sunflower, chestnut, and a few other things.  The severity of them varied.  I can still eat apples for example, I just have to be aware that in the future my body could develop an increased intolerance for them.  But eating a raw potato or a raw carrot will cause my mouth and throat to itch, known as oral allergy syndrome.  There are also more complicated components to some of them, such as the molds.  Molds are everywhere--mushrooms, wine, and down comforters for example.  Some of them are related to the latex-fruit syndrome or the pollen-fruit syndrome.  Bananas for example, have the same protein in them that causes the allergic reaction to latex....hence why I am allergic to both.  And carrot proteins are similar in structure to mugwort weed....hence why I am allergic to carrots and mugwort.

Getting tested was definitely a necessary step in helping figure things out.  I have to choice to completely cut out at least all of the foods that came back with a positive result, but I don't really want to give up apples, peas, and peanut butter just yet.  Doing so would help clear up my skin and keep me from having a running nose quite so often, but it also would make it more difficult to eat a balanced diet.  The doctor also trained me on how to use an Epi-Pen in case I show signs of going into anaphylactic shock.  I usually carry my Epi-Pen and a bottle of Benadryl with me wherever I go.

I try to find humor in it most of the time.  For example, trying to convince my niece that eating carrots is yummy, I popped a bite of carrot in my mouth only to remember after that, "Oh hey, that makes me not feel so great," is a laughable moment.  Sometimes it is frustrating, like when I really want to have a peanut butter and banana sandwich, but can't because eating everything I'm allergic to at once probably isn't a good idea at all.  It can also make me nervous sometimes.  Like the other day, I went hiking with a group of women, and one of them offered me an extra snack bar (Clif bar type thing), but I turned it down.  I didn't want to have to go through explaining that I have food allergies, and chances are there are sunflower seeds or something in that little bar that could potentially kill me since I was 3 miles of mountainous terrain away from my Epi-Pen and Benadryl.

Right now, I really want a strawberry-banana smoothie, which is what promted me to write this.  But there you have allergies explained somewhat.

I forgot...

I had a really great idea for what I should blog about.  And just like walking into a different room to get something, I forgot what it was that I wanted to post about.  Something with the bathroom maybe...or church?

Let it be known that I got all the way to the part where you type in your new post and forgot.  I was going to blog today.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Whirley Popcorn

Sometime during Jr. High, I started eating a bag of popcorn on an almost daily basis.  My popcorn eating habits decreased tremendously because for some reason, I could never figure out how to pop a good bag of popcorn in my microwave.  I tried more during the summers if there was a different microwave, but it usually proved unsuccessful.  On occasion, things would end up with the apartment smelling like smoke, and I would toss the bag out on the porch:

Then I got engaged, and one of our presents from Peter's brother and sister in-law was a Whirley Pop.  I had only a vague idea of how to make popcorn on the stove, but I gave it a shot.  That is when my life was forever changed.
I'd like to say that in our 8 short months of marriage, I have mastered the popping technique, and I have also gotten rather creative, too.  It's all about timing.  You put just a couple tablespoons of oil into the popper (more if you're adding a lot of seasonings that need to stick to the kernels) over medium heat.  Then you put about 3 kernels of popcorn in.  Once those 3 have popped, it is time to add your popcorn. and stir.

As I have previously stated, I'm starting to get creative with the popcorn, more so than just butter and salt.  Whirley Pop's website has  a whole "recipe book" of popcorn.  I've tried a few, and I feel that it is my duty to report back to you (whoever you are) how they turned out.

Kettle Corn
This is my go-to popcorn.  If I don't feel like putting together some sort of fancy popcorn, and I want more than butter, then I make kettle corn.  You just add some sugar when you add popcorn.  The problem I have found is that if you don't keep stirring the popcorn until it has cooled, you ended up with a popcorn ball in the shape of your bowl instead of separate pieces of popcorn.

Game Day Chili-Cheese Popcorn
 This one is pretty darn good, a combination of popcorn, chili powder, garlic salt, and cheese.  I could definitely see myself watching a Cardinals game or the NHRA races with a bowl of this popcorn in my hand.  Whatever you do, don't add the cheese while the popcorn is still in the popper.  I still haven't figured out how to keep all of the cheese from falling to the bottom of the bowl.  It's sort of like bagglers, though.  (Bagglers=French fries at the bottom of your happy meal bag.)  While it is annoying to have to pick out the cheese from the bottom of the bowl, you still get excited knowing that there is more leftover.

Bacon Flavored Whirley Popcorn
This one requires the substitution of leftover bacon grease instead of olive oil/veggie oil to pop the popcorn.  I was surprisingly disappointed with this one.  The directions clearly stated that it is good without butter or salt because of the mild bacon flavor.  Wrong.  Perhaps the problem was that I went directly from eating delicious, flavorful, crunchy bacon to eating popcorn with nothing on it but bacon grease.   Perhaps if you saved the bacon and crumbled it up to mix in with the popcorn, it might taste better.  If I'm being honest though, the bacon wouldn't last long enough for the popcorn to pop because it would be eaten before then.

Cinnamon Crunch Popcorn
Cinnamon, sugar, and popcorn--a pleasant combination.  If Kettle corn is too boring for you, then add a dash of cinnamon.  The directions say to pour the spice mixture into the popper right after you take it off the heat.  However, that just burnt the cinnamon.  If you wait just a little bit, then it won't burn.  Remember, a little bit goes a long way when it comes to cinnamon.

Garlic-Parmesan Popcorn
I've only made this once, and I don't remember too much about it.  That tells me it wasn't the best, and it wasn't the worst.

Southwestern Popcorn
This was the popcorn that inspired me to write this post.  I made it last night after I got off work.  It is a whole heap of southwestern-flavored spices and some popcorn.   The southwestern  popcorn is probably the only popcorn that was so good, I couldn't finish the bowl.  It was just too much deliciousness to handle.  I recommend having a glass of water to go with this bowl, because between the slight kick and all the spices, you're going to need something to wash it all down.  I probably won't make this too frequently just for the fact that I don't want to go through all my spices in one week.  It is also the first recipe that I have used my coriander for, so that was a milestone moment in marriage.

There are about a thousand other popcorn recipes that I am just dying to try, including mastering the art of caramel corn.  However, this is a pretty darn good start.  Friends, be warned.  If I can't find anything good on your wedding registry if/when you decide to get married, I just might buy you a Whirley Pop.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Tortoise Neubert

We added a new member to our family yesterday!  It is a Russian tortoise named Herschel!  It is an early birthday present from Peter.  The best part is that nothing is wrong with him (that I know of)!  My mom enjoys making fun of my animals (three legged hamster, separation anxiety dog, former hamster that spun in circles for all but the first two months of its life).  This one is normal, active and has all body parts.

He seems to enjoy the greens that I got for him to eat.

He's got a pretty nice little set-up if I do say so myself.  Aquariums often confuse tortoises, so I just up-cycled Lyna's former dog kennels and put the bottom half of the plastic one inside the metal one.  Keeps the dirt in and the dog out!  However, Lyna is TERRIFIED of the tortoise.  I was worried she'd want to eat it, but she honestly starts shaking if she notices it moving.  She'll get over it.

In other animal-related news, Lyna has graduated from her Intermediate training class which focused on the 3 D's--Distance, Duration, and Distraction.  Next she will complete the Advanced class and become a Canine Good Citizen certified dog.  I've quite enjoyed going to the training classes with Lyna.  It's something I enjoy, and I get to meet other people with similar interests.  Lyna is currently snuggled up next to me sleeping with her head on my shoulder, such a sweetheart.

I also recently got back from a trip to Illinois to visit my family!  I went all by my big girl self, too!  Peter drove me to the airport.   Then I took a plane to Houston, plane to Chicago, the "L" to downtown Chicago, navigated the streets to Union Station where I took a train to Bloomington, and then my mom drove me home!  Then I did it all in reverse except my old (ha!) sister Amy drove me to Bloomington and not my mom.

I really enjoyed getting to hang out with all of my sisters together again.  In a perfect world we could all live in the same area, but even if I moved back to Illinois, Ashley would still be in Michigan and vice versa.  Not to mention that I'd have to go back to awful allergies again.  I got to meet my newest niece, Addison.  She was so much fun for me!  Her sister Chloe has become quite the active little girl!!  She was also fun, but she did wear me out.  I don't know how Ashley does it!  Praise to her!  

I also got to catch up with Megan, Rachel, and Laura--my other three bridesmaids.  I've decided that my bridesmaids are super important in my life.  They're all from different parts of my life.  Amy is my oldest sister, so we weren't close until later.  Ashley was stuck with me since I was born, and had to deal with me when the principal would come to her saying, "Your sister is crying again."  Rachel and I have been best friends since kindergarten.  Megan and I were friends first in our freshman year in college and then roomies.  Laura was a friend first via Peter connection, and now she is a sister in-law.  Our relationships all have different connections, which is what makes the story so great.  I'm so glad I picked them to share my special day with.  I will always look back and know that they are very important in my life.

And that's about all the updating I have for now.  I can't believe it is already June!  Wasn't it just New Year's Day?