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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 7

I made it to Day 7! As I said from Day 1, 7 days is way more digestible (pun intended) than 21. I embarked on a 21-day Vegan cleanse at the end of July and I suffered through. I think mostly because my husband, Bryan, half way participated with me but that’s another story.

The final meal on this 7 day reset was very fitting because soup is my all time favorite comfort food. The name of the soup in the cover photo is Comfort Soup and it’s topped with kale croutons. The ingredients are leeks, potato, garlic, spices and kale. I have a confession though. When I couldn’t find my nutritional yeast (provides the cheese flavor), I decided to add parmesan cheese. Yup, I did. AND it was good despite not being vegan. It was vegetarian!

So how did I do on my goals? Remember, my goals were to have less bloat, sleep better, and have clearer skin. Well, I got 1 out of 3. The timing was a bit off for this reset because I started my period this week…so much for the bloat. Also, as with most women, my hormones were all over the place due to my period and I have the zits on my chin to prove it. BUT I did get a smidgeon more sleep as the days progressed. In full transparency, it probably helped that I took a sleep aide called Z-Quil a couple of nights.

A goal I didn’t mention but ended up happening anyway was to reduce my resting heart rate. It had slowly been rising the last couple of weeks. However, I notice it cycles by increasing and then decreasing every few months. It’s never increased out of range. Since I started the reset, it’s decreased by 3 points. I read that an increase could be early warning signs of heart disease or may have something to do with low iron. Long term affects of radiation treatment can be heart problems. I had radiation as treatment for breast cancer on my left side of my chest. My oncologist also prescribed me iron pills due to anemia. I have an upcoming appointment in the next month with my oncologist so I’ll talk to him about it.

This reset was a good reminder of the importance of eating mostly a plant based diet. It’s also refreshing to make new recipes. Variety is the spice of life for me. I will continue to share my meals with you.

So what’s next? I’ve already started two new challenges simultaneously. One is to revamp my exercise routine and the other is to curb my spending. Read my next post to find out more.

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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 6

Home stretch. I slept in more than usual on Saturday. I had actually been up for hours just laying in bed reading. I didn’t get up for the day until almost noon, which supported intermittent fasting with little effort. I decided on Friday that because I had leftovers from previous meals from the week, that I wouldn’t cook the last meal until Sunday. It’s a soup and I’m looking forward to it!

I was not a huge fan of the Austinite Tacos. You can read about it in my previous post. I had some leftovers so I buckled down and ate them for lunch on Saturday although I almost opted to purchase a vegan meal from a restaurant. I didn’t so I wouldn’t waste food, plus I can save that money.

In my true fashion, I didn’t want any more of the leftovers so I decided to have one of my vegan frozen items for dinner.

Vegan burger. LPC

I bought this from Aldi’s which is far from where I live. I’m glad I purchased 2 boxes at the time because I like them a lot. They’re great for a quick lunch. I had the vegan burger and my avocado green smoothie (cover photo) for dinner.

The smoothie was so creamy. The liquid was supposed to be cashew milk, but I put the cashew milk in the freezer to chill earlier in the day and forgot about it. The box was frozen so I substituted with coconut water. The other smoothie ingredients were half an avocado, pineapple, spinach, plus I added flaxseeds, collagen peptides, and fresh ginger.

My Vegan reset week is almost over and I’ve been thinking about the best meal for transitioning back to normal eating. My daughter asked me to make her favorite which is any kind of bean and rice. We love red beans, pinto beans, black beans, butter beans, and lima beans, but we opted for pinto. This will be a good transition meal. I’ll probably roast some chicken to pair with it.

In the final post, I’ll share my progress on achieving the goals I set out to do for this week. To learn more about what led me here and the recipes read http://sometimes vegan chronicles.

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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 5

Cravings…let’s talk about them. Did it start with the sweet aroma permiating the house of my husband, Bryan’s, BACON cooking in the oven or was it when he toasted 2 buttermilk and vanilla waffles? Perhaps it was when Bryan pan fried a juicy burger for lunch…? No, it might have been when we went to Chick-Fil-A to pick up a late lunch for the teenagers.

Bryan has made bacon every day this week & it didn’t affect me until TODAY. It was today, the 2nd day of my menstrual cycle, that I was reminded of why being a vegan is not sustainable for me. BUT can I make it for just 7 days? I only have 2 more days to go. It’s getting tough. I had my snacks on deck, but I have a confession. I ordered some waffle fries from Chick-Fil-A while picking up food for the teenagers. They were good.

Some of the ingredients for AUSTINITE tacos. LPC

I’m going to get right to it and let you know I’m not a fan of tonight’s dinner. It was interesting and turned out better than I thought, but after the leftovers, there will be no repeat. This recipe won’t make it to my meal rotation. I get the feeling that Austin, Texas (where I live) was the inspiration for the recipe and name, especially since Austin has become such a foodie place. Tacos are beloved here in Texas.

I ate them and was again reminded of why being a vegan is not sustainable for me. I * enjoy * meat * too * much. Yes, I do.

Austinite tacos. LPC

Day 5 was a struggle, but I made it. There were lots of components to tonight’s dinner that are too much to share right now. There was a filling, a slaw, and a chunky guacamole (my addition).

Let’s see what days 6 and 7 bring.

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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 4

I woke up more rested than yesterday, did an excellent kickboxing workout, drank my morning liquids, ate my coconut granola with bananas and almond milk, drank my Pineapple Detox Green smoothie, prepared/ate another loaded sweet potato for lunch, and made/ate the thai lettuce wraps for dinner.

These meals keep getting better. I think mostly because I’m trying new recipes and food combinations. If you need a refresh on why I’m doing what I’m doing and where I’m getting my recipes, read this post: Sometimes Vegan Chronicles.

Light lesson of the day: SLEEP is a game changer and I need more of it. I was joyful and unbothered today. Oh and part of my crankiness is due to my cycle starting. The Fitbit tracker actually got it right.

Day 4 was good. My meals were plenty satisfying.

Thai lettuce wrap ingredients: shallots, celery, mushrooms, walnuts, green onions, garlic, ginger, snow peas (my addition), cilantro, mint. Sauce: Tamari, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, lime juice. LPC
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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 3

I was mostly tired and cranky all day today. Perhaps the cleanse is working, but this lack of sleep is a problem. By the way, read my post from Monday called Sometimes Vegan Chronicles to see how I ended up on this journey. One of my goals for this cleanse is better sleep, but I’m not there yet.

Baked sweet potato ready for loading. LPC

I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to prep most of the snacks and the produce (wash, chop, store) over the weekend so that I wouldn’t find myself eating something I didn’t want to eat. Because I know myself so well, I even bought a few prepared frozen, vegan items in case I couldn’t make a meal for some reason. Never mind that my teenagers have been eating my frozen items. Like since when did they become vegan?

Famous Loaded Sweet Potato. LPC

Tonight’s dinner was so scrumptious. Similar to the coconut ginger carrot soup, I’ve had this recipe for a while and made it for the first time today. I was pleasantly surprised with the slaw topping. But how can you go wrong with a slaw of shredded red cabbage, carrot, and kale with avocado, sesame seeds, and pepitas, mixed with a lemon dijon vinegrette? I’m so happy this will be lunch tomorrow too. I’m definitely adding it to my regular meal rotation.

I do like having a meal plan to follow which helps me follow the plan. I’m going to take my tired and cranky self to bed because I can’t take it anymore. Hopefully, I’ll get some quality sleep.

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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 2

I did great on Day 2 of my Vegan reset with recipes from simplegreensmoothies.com. My avocado finally ripened enough to cut so I was able to make the Tropical Skin Cleanser green smoothie. It was pleasantly tart and had my lips puckering.

Me enjoying my green smoothie on the porch. LPC

The smoothie is meant for breakfast, but I didn’t finish mine until around lunch time because I have a whole routine of liquids that take me a while to drink. I start my day drinking 16-24 ounces of water spiked with either unsweetened cranberry juice or a green energy powder. I drink this during my workout. Then, after I get dressed for work, I have a cup of my morning detox drink that entails apple cider vinegar, a lemon wedge, warm water and honey or I’ll have a cup of detox tea. That’s about 8 ounces. Mix that in with meetings and now you know why it takes me a while.

Tropical Skin Cleanser Green Smoothies. LPC

I had the Waldorf salad as a snack, but didn’t get to take a picture. It didn’t look that pretty anyway.

Garden Vegetable Stir Fry. LPC

I modified the Garden Vegetable stir fry by not stir frying it at all. I prefer roasted vegetables so that’s what I did. I also added mushrooms.

Prepping helped a lot because I had healthy snacks. At the end of the day, I was exhausted, which makes me think the cleanse is kicking in. Overall, I had a great day.

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Moving on

It’s hard to believe how quickly 2020 is moving…at least in my world. Every year in October since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2016, I write at least one post about my breast cancer journey. The days seem like a blur since teleworking for more than half a year now. Just like I don’t want COVID-19 to define my life, I don’t want breast cancer to define me either. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share my progress.

As of today, I’m cancer free and have been for almost 5 years (January 2021). My initial treatment was a lumpectomy, followed by breast reconstruction surgery on both breasts, followed by 3 weeks of daily, intensive radiation treatment, and followed by oral medication, which I will continue to take for possibly another 5 years. I started the medication almost 5 years ago.

I continue to meet with my oncologist every 6 months in addition to visiting with my primary care physician and endocrinologist annually. I also get a 3D mammogram annually. My lab results (drawn every 6 months) on my blood continue to be within range with some markers being impeccable and some below range. My oncologist likes to say all of my numbers are “right in the middle”. My glucose even decreased by 10 points at my last visit. All in all, I’m healthy.

For me, breast cancer came into my life with a BANG, turned it upside down for only a period, but then turned it right side up again. I was very intentional about adhering to treatment so I could heal faster. I was intentional about self-care. Being physically fit prior helped my recovery tremendously. Though it was a difficult experience, particularly the 4 months post diagnosis, I’m amazed I got through it. I suppose that’s part of the reason why they call us ‘survivors’.

I thought I’d be one of those people who participated in all the breast cancer walks, marathons, etc., but I haven’t participated in any walks, marathons, etc. I’m not sure what that is about but it’s not a requirement for a complete experience. I think one factor is that I like to keep my world small. It’s more manageable that way. Also, I don’t want breast cancer to occupy so much space in my life. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I can best support the breast cancer community.

In the fall of 2019, my husband and I attended a conference for cancer survivors and I really enjoyed the experience. I’ve kept up with the group that put on the conference, the Texas Oncology Foundation, since then. I’m a person that enjoys learning new things. That format was more in line with what I’d continue to participate in.

Since breast cancer entered my life, my outlook is generally positive as it was before. I’ve been feeling more exhausted in 2020 though. It’s no wonder why with everything going on with COVID-19, the political climate, and racial unrest. My sleep could be better. I could stand to lose about 15-20 pounds. I need to reduce my work stress. Of the three, the last is what I want to focus on the most because stress can negatively impact health in so many ways. I’ve been setting work boundaries. I’m constantly refining how I manage.

Once you have cancer, there’s a nagging fear that it will return despite treatment. In some cases, it does return as the same or a different cancer. I’ve mostly heard of cases being more aggressive upon cancer’s return. I’m at higher risk for other cancers since cancer appeared. Those thoughts are not at the forefront of my mind, but they show up when it’s time to get my annual mammogram, at other medical appointments, or at other random times.

I have scars from my surgeries. Although mostly faded, I can still see the circle on each side of my body by my ribs from where the tubes were placed after breast reconstruction surgery. I had to keep the tubes in for a week post surgery. Yup, long tubes were hanging from my body. My husband drained them several times a day for that whole week.

My left breast has a significant dent which you can’t tell too much from the picture of me in the cover photo. The dent is the result of the location of the tumor and my first surgeon removing the tumor along with extra tissue to be sure he got it all. The plastic surgeon completed the breast reconstruction surgery and I also received a breast reduction. I went from a double D cup to a C cup.

Breast cancer has changed my life but it doesn’t define me. No question it has made a huge impact on my life. I’ve learned and am still learning from it. I have moments where I’m laser focused on how finite life is. I have moments where I worry about my kids risk. I have moments where I worry about putting on weight because I don’t want to increase my risks. There are moments where I succumb to stress.

Overall, I think I’m doing a great job of moving on with my life post diagnosis. I have struggled at times like others with keeping things in perspective. I’m grateful for access to tools and resources to help me navigate life.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, get tested with a mammogram early. If you’re at least 40 years old, get tested with a mammogram. I was aware that my breast looked different so I made an appointment to see my doctor. There was no pain or lump. I had already been getting regular mammograms since the age of 35 due to family history. I was due for another.

Pay attention to your body. See a doctor regularly. Eat healthy. Exercise often. Reduce stress. Surround yourself with loved ones. Get a pet. Spend time with God.

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It’s been 14 days

I wish I could say this whole cleanse up to this point has been a breeze, but I can’t. Exactly two weeks ago on July 26, I let the world know I was embarking on a 21 day Vegan cleanse through https://simplegreensmoothies.com/. I’ve done this cleanse once or twice a year for the last few years. I’ve written many blog posts about my experiences, which is different every time. What makes this one fun is that my husband, Bryan, decided to join me for a friendly challenge. This is his first time on the cleanse.

Week 1 was actually a breeze and it felt really great to be preparing and consuming these nutritious foods. Since I’m not new to the cleanse, I’ve gotten really familiar with the recipes and know which ones I like and don’t like. Of course, I stuck to the ones that I like, hoping Bryan would like them too. He’s a very finicky eater.

Week 2 is where we both leave much to be desired in how poised and committed we’ve been to the recipes. The most important thing about Week 2 is that it is the actual cleanse week. Not only are we consuming all vegan foods, but grains, lentils, and beans are omitted. Life certainly is less colorful without these foods. I also remembered that I did NOT like most of Week 2’s recipes.

Bryan has denied this, but I think his strategy was to simply not eat in order to avoid eating the food. There was no question we were mostly hungry this week. Have you ever been so hungry, yet didn’t want to eat the food before you? You usually hear that if you’re hungry enough, you’d eat anything. I was hungry most of Week 2, but didn’t want to eat. We did cheat a couple of times with onion rings. Onions rings are vegan. What can I say (palm bump on forehead)?

I’m hoping for greener (pun intended!) pastures in this last week. Grains, lentils, and beans are back. At least they’ve been back since day 13 because I couldn’t take another day without them. If this were an actual race, I’d be the one clawing and clinching to the finish line. I’m a little surprised by how I’m experiencing this cleanse. And to think, I was actually planning on going an extra week. No way!

All in all, it’s been a fun experience with Bryan. We’re both a little lighter too. We’re celebrating the last day of the cleanse by BREAKING the cleanse for our daughter’s birthday. She gave us the side eye a couple times as she watched us cheat. I type this in jest, but what example are we showing her? I know. Execution might not be perfect, but finish. Pick back up where you left off. Do your best, and even if you don’t, keep it moving.

I will lay this cleanse to rest for the remainder of 2020 once we complete this round. Here are some pictures of the beautiful food I made with my own hands. As an experienced cook, I tailored the recipes to my preferences and even combined some.

Citrus beet green smoothie
Swiss chard white bean skillet
Black bean zucchini tacos
roasted veggies served with basil pesto and brown rice (not pictured)
Baked hash cakes over a bed of mixed greens
Prep for lemon chia pudding; vanilla extract not pictured; chia seeds soaking in coconut milk
Herbalicious hummus with veggies
Filling for black bean zucchini tacos
Pineapple carrot green smoothie

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Sometimes things get worse before they get better

I type this post as I lay in bed awakening from a nap on this lazy Sunday afternoon. I rolled over and felt the urge to share my progress. If you read my previous post, you know on Monday, 4/13/2020, a nurse called to tell me I did not have COVID-19. SWEET! That news was relieving although I was not surprised. By Friday, 4/17/2020, I had spoken to 2 more nurses and my primary doctor because I was miserable and not feeling any relief in symptoms despite taking a full regimen of antibiotics and prescription cough medicine.

Esperanza plant. LPC

I want to be as perky and bright as the beautiful bells of my Esperanza plant… I’m not there yet. Yellow is one of favorite colors. The dress in the cover photo is one of only a few pieces of yellow clothing I own. Yellow is my go-to color when I want a pick me up and I need one right now more than ever.

I bought the Esperanza plant because it was planted all over the property of a beautiful house one of my best friends rented for us in Wimberly a few Father Day’s ago. Wimberly, located just outside of Austin, is considered the “Hill Country” and it has a woodsy, lush, and lazy charm. We spent the weekend with my husband and kids, my friend, her niece and nephew, and her parents.

I’m thankful to have pleasant memories such as those to dwell on and perk up my spirits. I think I’m on the way to the other side of this thing called bronchitis, but not without more medications.

Advair inhaler

I haven’t seen the likes of this device since my son, Caleb, was first diagnosed with asthma years ago. His medications have since evolved to different types of inhalers. I’m grateful Caleb’s asthma is under control, but because of his asthma, he would be considered high risk for contracting COVID-19. I worry about him as he goes to work at the Walmart near our home. However, he’s given personal protective equipment on his shifts and tells me he washes his hands often.

I never imagined one day I’d be taking the same medications Caleb used to for his asthma. I haven’t been diagnosed with asthma, but I have significant upper respiratory inflammation. I tend to be conservative with medication and prefer natural remedies where applicable, but I need some relief. I’m not sure if I’ve noticed a change yet since using the inhaler for 2 days. I do feel a little better as my doctor also prescribed another medication for the cough.

I’ve been telling myself it is necessary for me to take care of myself and I shouldn’t feel guilty because I’m sick. I do struggle with the demands of my job, especially when I’m not at my best. I took off work Friday afternoon and I’m still not sure if I will work tomorrow. I know my husband, Bryan, would prefer I take off another day. I will see how I feel in the morning.

The main things I’m doing right now to get better is listen to my body, take my medications, drink lots of liquids, continue to eat healthy, exercise, rest, and be comforted by my loved ones. If you’re in a similar situation, I recommend this regimen for you too. As with this whole COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes things get worse before they get better. One day this will be behind us and the world will be better. I’ll be better soon too.

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Self-Care 101: Lotion Up

Who else has dry hands due to the constant hand washing and hand sanitizing? And who else neglects to moisturize those hands after getting them all squeaky clean? With COVID-19, now more than ever we need to be vigilant about personal hygiene, but I’m not complaining. I’m here to remind you that self-care is as simple as lotioning up.

I’m guilty of washing my hands frequently throughout the day and then wonder why my fingers look like PRUNE STICKS hours later. I have no excuse either because I have lotions tucked away all over the house. I love the feeling of moisturizing my skin with a luxious, rich lotion after my nightly shower or bath. The lotion PLUMPS my parched skin back to life.

I’ve tried all kinds of lotions for my different body parts. The lotions/creams pictured are my favorite at the moment, but it could change next month. My full body is represented with these products from my lips (Eos), to my face (Andalou Naturals), to my to hands (Meyer’s Clean Day), to my body (Nivea), and to the heels of my feet (Shea Moisture Shea Butter and Vaseline).

I do have some other lotions not pictured. Anybody remember Avon’s Skin So Soft (SSS)??? My mom used to “sell” Avon products. I think she was more interested in getting products for her daughters and herself rather than “selling”‘ for a profit. When my mom was last in Austin over 3 years ago, she left me a tube of SSS for the hands. It’s in the junk drawer in the kitchen. Do lotions have a shelf life?

I’ve had a long history of dry skin. I’m no dermatologist, but I believe brown skinned people are more susceptible to dry skin. I learned early on from my mom the importance of skin moisturization although I didn’t really take it seriously for my face and hands until I was a young adult in my early twenties.

I love Olay’s slogan of “love the skin you’re in”. This one body is working hard to keep you strong, healthy, and alive. It’s magnificent, resilient, and efficient. Love it by keeping it healthy.

Take care of your precious skin. It’s a simple action that goes a long way towards self-care.

What are your favorite moisturizing products?