Dogs & Health

This post is dedicated to those dealing with autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, cancers, the flu, or the common cold. I hope this lifts your spirits!

When I was in college (against my parents’ wishes) I rescued Jaxon.

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Jaxon is some sort of maltese/poodle mix if I had to guess (Maltipoo?) and he’s deaf from being left alone outside for the first eleven weeks of his little life. The vet’s best guess is that grass mites actually ate his ear drums- poor, sweet guy! He’s been deaf ever since.
(side note: I’m certain there’s a special place in hell reserved for people who are mean to dogs)

Thankfully, my roommates were all on board to keep Jaxon, so we took turns feeding him nutrients via syringe depending on who was at the apartment from class. Before we knew it he was making his rounds to all the college parties, occasionally even sneaking into classes and workplaces. On more than one occasion I was walking him through West Campus when a complete stranger ran up to us, “Jaxon!!!!” He was quite popular.

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In the Fall of 2012 when I became sick and was diagnosed with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis, Jaxon slept on my face while I napped for hours at a time. He slept on my feet while I had symptomatic episodes from the toilet. He stuck his nose beneath the door when I locked myself in the bathroom. He knew I wasn’t feeling great, and he did his best to heal me.

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And in a way, I really think Jaxon has succeeded in helping me heal.

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Honestly, he’s Mister Independent most of the time. His favorite spot is alone on the back of the couch. But if he knows that I’m not feeling well he sleeps ON my face, and I swear I can hear his concern. When I was worried about symptoms, he was there to try to calm them, letting me pet his soft fur all through the night while he curled up into a tight ball by my stomach.

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And now that I’m feeling much better he’s still careful to keep a watchful eye, making sure his people don’t wander too far:

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Just knowing my little furballer was at home patiently waiting to greet me after doctor’s appointments, infusions, procedures, or just a regular day made all the difference in the world, and I’m confident that he’s a big reason why I’m able to be the positive patient that I am.

 

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For more, here’s an uplifting article about how pets can improve your health. Do you have any experience with an animal helping you better manage your disease or condition? 

To find a pet rescue near you, click here! Hope you consider adopting whether or not you’re ill; pets have a way of changing your life for the better!

Keep moving forward 🙂 I’m rooting for you! (and so are your pets)

-Stacey

PetCareChoice.com


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Monday’s Suck Less with Coffee Chocolate Smoothie

Hi, Friends!

Hope you had a really great weekend! We drove to Dallas this weekend for the Red River Showdown: Texas vs. OU- a football rivalry we look forward to all year long. I actually didn’t take one.single.photo. this year- BLOG FAIL! But it was so fun….even though we lost. I loved visiting my sister who lives in Dallas, her boyfriend who gets deployed next week, and my in-laws. All of my favorite people!

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I finally cleaned out the “office” room of our house, and now you get to see what kind of real life slobbery Zack patiently endures ^

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It’s going to be much more when I get done with it, but for now it’s a clean space that Jaxon enjoys, and that’s enough!

Speaking of Jaxon:

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He’s a great cheerleader, deaf fluff and all. Love his enthusiasm.

The real reason for today’s post: I’m going to give you a reason to enjoy Monday mornings, because I like a challenge and Mondays deserve love, too.

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This thick, creamy smoothie was created with one of my favorite plant-based proteins, and if you’re a regular around here you know that’s Vega. This recipe has coffee and other goodness, making it a great way to kick-start your day with a boost. Try to fit as many nutritious ingredients as possible into your smoothies, just like you would a meal. Keep in mind that smoothies don’t trigger satiety cues from the brain the same way that food does though, meaning that it’s more difficult to get a sense of fullness from smoothies. They’re great for pre or post workout with a small meal, or as a snack, but make sure they’re thick and creamy if you’re eating them as a meal, that way you can actually sit down and eat them slowly. Also- strive for as much nutrition from your meals as possible, because real nutrition should come from real food, not protein shakes.

Morning Coffee Chocolate Smoothie

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A rich, coffee and chocolate smoothie perfect for breakfast.

Ingredients

  • high speed blender
  • 1/2 C almond milk
  • 1/2 C freshly-poured coffee
  • 1/2 C ice
  • 1 C frozen cauliflower
  • 1 handful of fresh kale
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tbsp organic cashew buttah
  • dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1 scoop of Vega Clean Chocolate Protein

Directions

  • Pour milk, protein and remaining ingredients into blender
  • Blend on “high” until thick and rich texture is visible
  • Pour and serve. Top with melted deep dark chocolate, or homemade granola for added texture and fun!


If you have a tough time getting the consistency as thick and as creamy as you’d like, add more frozen fruits/veggies or ice. Try just a small handful at a time until it looks tasty. If it’s too solid, add a bit more liquid and blend it up again. Don’t be afraid to play with your smoothie though- a good one is worth the work, and usually all it takes is a few more seconds of your attention.

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Tomorrow morning is a 5K jog, followed by one of these. Let me know if you give it a shot- tell me what you think! Hope your Monday is pretty good for a Monday 🙂


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Weekend in San Francisco

This past weekend Sydney, a close friend from high school, and I traveled to San Francisco to celebrate a wedding. We had zero plans after our plane landed, so we decided to take a drive across Golden Gate to Sausalito!

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I actually thought Sausalito was a sleepy little harbor town in a quiet dreamland, but after breakfast the town started to come alive. We really loved walking around and exploring this place!

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We found a coffee and breakfast nook called Cibo that I HIGHLY recommend if you’re ever in the Bay Area. I had a smoked salmon panini with black coffee that tasted nutty and strong, and the prices weren’t outrageous. I’d give them 5 stars!

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Then we walked along the harbor, hitched a Lyft, and journeyed to Muir Woods, down and around switchbacks that our driver navigated at brisk, daring speeds growing faster as the curves got steeper, and Sydney and I both ended up carsick…

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…But seeing this forest was well worth it!

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These trees were sacred. I mean it. I felt so incredibly enchanted and peaceful walking through their cool shade, looking up high into the sky to see their leaves while tripping over their strong, gigantic root systems in my tiny shoes, laughing at myself. I thanked God for this magical experience.

Just as I was thinking, “I am so small and insignificant” I ran into my roommate from Houston, Christy (and the world suddenly felt even smaller)!!! I had NO IDEA that we were going to be in San Francisco the same weekend, and we had ZERO cell reception in Muir Woods, so we honestly couldn’t have planned our reunion any better than fate.

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Remember when I said we had zero cell phone reception? That also means no Lyft or Uber…so after Muir Woods we called a (very expensive) taxi cab driver from the Muir Woods Visitor Center to take us back into Sausalito…where we ended up carsick (again).

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But nothing a glass two glasses of California Pino Noir couldn’t fix.

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Then we ferried back across The Bay for an affordable $12 and met Christy for dinner…

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…after coffee and bookstores, of course.

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They didn’t have Rupi Kaur’s new book that I was looking for, “The Sun and Her Flowers” *womp*

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The next morning we slept in and enjoyed the sun beaming in through our AirBnB before taking a walk under the warm sun in the cool, windy air to breakfast.

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We walked through a nice, beautiful neighborhood with large, manicured yards, which seems to be rare in SF. Sydney said these trees “looked like giant broccoli”- ha!

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We went to Cafe Antigua in Japantown where I was pumped to drink this almond chai, and it was delightful. But I made the mistake of ordering a breakfast taco (sorry guys, the Texan in me strikes again), which I’m pretty sure made me violently symptomatic…or maybe it was the chai. Who knows!
The rest of the day was spent napping/recovering while Sydney bossed an economics exam.

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Followed by ice cream from Cream

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And then the wedding! So beautiful. This was my first time at a Muslim Palestinian wedding, and if I’m being honest- I have never felt more alive at a wedding reception before in my life! From hours of dancing to live drums and tambourines to the food-I loved every soul I met- the families were so hospitable and accommodating “be sure to dance all night long!” and celebrating Waleed and Amany until late at night was a real treat.

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I got a pic with the King! Groom Waleed and I met while we were both working at a hospital in Houston. He was counting down the days until he and his roommate got to move back home to San Francisco, but in the meantime he adopted me as his little sister, and I am so thankful. I couldn’t be happier for he and his Bride- she is a true beauty inside and out. So much happiness!

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The next morning we said “Goodbye!” to our sweet, little bnb and headed back to the airport.

I missed Zack (and Jaxon) A TON, so it was great to return home.

Until next time, California 🙂


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Clean Protein Chocolate Berry Smoothie

Hi, Friends!

This week has been graced by much-needed fall weather here in OKC, and I’ve been loving it! Yesterday I was craving a thick and creamy, rich antioxidant smoothie that wouldn’t send my blood sugar levels soaring and left me feeling satisfied.

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And I nailed it. This smoothie is perfect for post-workout, early mornings…or skip the workout and enjoy it anyway, guilt-free. It’s nutritious, creamy, thick, and satisfying.

Here’s how to make this Clean Protein Chocolate Berry Smoothie

Clean Protein Chocolate Berry Smoothie

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • high speed blender
  • 1 C almond milk
  • 1 C frozen cauliflower
  • 1 handful of fresh spinach
  • ½ C frozen raspberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tbsp organic cashew buttah
  • dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1 scoop of Vega Clean Protein (I used the chocolate flavor, for obvious reasons)

Directions

  1. Pour milk, protein and remaining ingredients into blender
  2. Blend on “high” until thick and rich texture is visible
  3. Pour and serve. I like to top with melted deep dark chocolate, raw cacao nibs, berries, or homemade granola for added texture and fun. Enjoy!

I should also add that you can’t taste the cauliflower, because I really don’t like cauliflower, and I enjoyed the crap outta this creation.

I like Vega protein because I never felt like it added to my UC symptoms, and I have tried LOTZZZZ of different brands. In addition, Vega products contain no traces of whey or dairy. While whey is an easily absorbed protein source, it can add to stomach irritation. Need I say more? Oh- there’s no added sugar in this stuff. Okay- done. If you’re interested in shopping my very favorite plant-based protein powder here it is:


New Vega 45 Serving Tub

Hope you’re having a great day, wherever you are! Let me know what you think of this smoothie recipe if you decide to give it a try!

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And for you food nerds in the house, here’s some additional info:
-cashews are among nuts that can lower inflammatory marker levels, such as C-reactive protein, but pick a nut butter without added sugar | source
-Make sure to eat a diet high in healthy natural fats to help tame your sweet tooth. Also, cinnamon is a great natural way to sweeten your smoothies without adding sugar! | source
-One cup of raw cauliflower will provide: 77% of daily vitamin C needs, 20% of daily vitamin K needs, and 10% or more of daily needs for vitamin B6 and folate | source

Keep moving forward 🙂

-Stacey

 

Disclaimer: I receive a small amount of commission from the product links in this post. Please know that I would NEVER share products on my blog that threaten my authenticity or compromises the usefulness of my blog as a resource for those I care about. I share good shit, because it’s what I like. 

Peanutbuttah Cinnamon Granola Time

I love being awake early in the mornings on the weekends. I feel like the day is mine; like I’ve discovered a world without lines at the coffee shop, trafficless streets, and running routes free from swarms of people. Mine.

This morning I woke up and it felt fall-ish, so I thought I’d bake some quick granola in the spirit of the changing seasons. For all you runners and fitness freaks, this is an excellent source of complex carbs, fats, and fiber, giving you energy and keeping you fuller longer.  Note that this stuff is pretty caloric, so proceed with caution before you eat it by the handful  faceful.

Peanutbutter-Cinammon Granola

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What you’ll need:
-3 cups of old fashioned rolled oats (here’s the kind I buy in bulk, but use whatever makes you happy!)
-1 cup mixture of unsalted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sliced almonds
-a splash of cinnamon (or a hefty shake. If I’m being honest, I never measure cinnamon, and I know this will drive some people nuts. Live a little, you rule-abiding, recipe-following friends- I promise you won’t regret it in this recipe.)
-3 tsp honey (optional- tastes great without it!)
-4 tbsp vanilla extract
-1 cup peanut buttah- stick it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to soften
-1/2 cup coconut oil- also needs to be softened justttt a bit
-an oven, preferably one larger than my miniature oven, set to 350.

*The secret to this stuff is to mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately before combining them*
-Spread mixture over a non-stick pan and stick in the oven for 5 minutes
-STIR and fluff with fork at the end of the 5 minutes- this will prevent the stuff from sticking to the pan and burning
-Stick it back in the oven for another 6 minutes
D O N E

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Serve over yogurt, in a smoothie bowl, or in your hands. Enjoy!
Store in an air-tight container. Today I chose door number two pictured above, and I added raw cacao nibs for additional fun and excitement.

Hope you all have a great Saturday :). Mine is full of organic chemistry, a 5k, and a wedding. SO MUCH LIFE, and life is good.

Hey Ya’ll!

Hope your week is off to a great start! Thought I’d update you on some real life events:

We went jet-setting for a weekend…

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…to the City of Angels!

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We hiked to the Griffith Observatory after a quick breakfast at Roosevelt Cafe where they served copious amounts of avocado slices with my spinach and mushroom omelette, and not skimping on the extra avocado is my love language.

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Here I am modeling in unnatural poses at iconic tourist locations in an attempt to make Zack as uncomfortable as possible in public. (You’re welcome!)

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The switchbacks on the trail were NO JOKE, and we got a decent little workout in during our short hike. California is beautiful.

What possessed us to go to L.A. just for the weekend?

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Football.

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at the Texas Exes tailgate at Exposition Park

The last time our Longhorns competed against the USC Trojans, we were the underdogs for the 2005 Nation Championship at the Rose Bowl. We were the underdogs for this game too, but we lost…

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…but it was by one field goal in double-overtime. In case you don’t keep up with football, all you need to know is that my Longhorns have been sucking it uppppp for far too long, so I was quite pleased that we kept up with a top 5 ranked team. Hit me right in the feels.

That night we went for a live show at The Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd (where Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle, Steve Martin, and more got their starts!). Entry was free with minimum purchase of two drinks, so I ordered two hot and fresh out ‘the kitchen chocolate chip cookies and a water, naturally, because I’m seven years old. HILARIOUS. Crude and witty, my favorite combinations. I want to return to at least a dozen more shows.

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Then back to our quaint little bnb before a late brunch and a plane home the next day.

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Once we returned home reality set in and I had to continue fighting with my doctor’s office and the infusion center to get me scheduled for an infusion.

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Sometimes managing a chronic disease feels like a part-time job…Jaxon agrees. 

After returning from L.A. I was about a week past-due for my infusion. I had been sending emails and making calls the week leading up to our trip whenever time at work allowed, but I had no luck getting anyone motivated to send a doctor’s order to my infusion center.

Basically my infusion center discontinued my drug, Remicade. “We no longer carry that drug because it is too expensive.” But no one bothered to let me know BEFORE my infusion, so I had to find out once I actually arrived to get infused and there was no order written for the new drug.

So after enough back and forth communication to make me lose my mind, I showed up to my doctor’s office with an order. “I’m not leaving this office until he signs this order.” All he needed to do was fill it out. DONE!

…But he didn’t fill it out correctly. To make a long story short it took nearly two weeks after my scheduled infusion time to get everything sorted, but finally I GOT INFUSED!

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I have fought for over five years to reach remission. I’m finally here, and I’ll be damned if I begin having symptoms again because of a flawed healthcare system and people who won’t do their jobs. Being your own health advocate requires that you raise hell from time to time as if your life depends on it…because it does, friends. It really does.

But I must give a shoutout to my infusion nurse. She was a heaven-sent angel.

The rest of this weekend was spent napping (because infusions = the best naps evahhh), getting pizza (because infusion days always call for pizza)…
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…and (sour) beer…

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… and more football at quaint neighborhood bars
(if you’ve never visited OKC, you should. It’s tremendously underrated).

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Hope everyone has a great week. Hang in there and keep fighting, all my fellow IBD and/or chronic disease warriors! You life is worth it.

🙂

Stacey


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Another Whole30 Complete + How to do it on a budget

Hi, Friends!

It’s been awhile. Let’s catch up 🙂

I decided to do another Whole30 after feeling…sluggish. Just a classic case of the blehhs, and I wanted to get inflammatory markers under control to maintain remission. If you’re not familiar with the Whole30, I HIGHLY suggest you check out their website. They have TONS of free resources. I should probably mention now that I’m not endorsed by the Whole30 because I’m about to rave- just speaking as an inflammatory disease patient who has had tangible results from eliminating inflammatory foods through this program. 

Thankfully, Zack completed the Whole30 with me and it made life SO.MUCH.BETTAH. It’s easier to plan meals if you’re both on the same dietary wavelengths. Plus, I don’t lose my mind if he eats my Whole30 compliant Tessemae’s dressing if we’re sharing. WIN! WIN!

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Here’s one of my very favorite breakfasts from this past Whole30:

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Sweet potato hash from a cast-iron with peeled, sliced green apples, green onions, diced chicken, spinach, mushrooms, and walnuts sautéed in coconut oil. SEW GOOD.

And while I didn’t do the Whole30 to look better, that’s not a bad side effect:
Keepin’ it real life with my dirty mirror

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one month before –> one week before –> Day 30

What I learned from this round of Whole30:
– “Compliant” bacon AKA bacon without added sugar is VERY hard to find. But it is worth it. Do you know what bacon tastes like without added sugar? BACON. mind.blown.
– I ate WAY too much sugar in my day-to-day before Whole30. I’m looking at you, chai lattes. “I’ll just have one…today…and tomorrow…”
-‘The Whole30 Cookbook” was a useful purchase that helped us out in ruts of food boredom. The Whole30 Headmistress, Melissa Hartwig, published a new cookbook
while we were completing our Whole30 that has quick, fast recipes, but I haven’t tried it yet.

What we’ve changed after the Whole30:
-If you come eat at our house, you won’t have sugar anywhere in your entree. Ever. If you eat sugar, it’s gonna be in the form of homemade cookies or a pina colada, as God intended. Basically- if it’s something that should have sugar (e.g. dessert), then it will (but we will do our darnedest to use unprocessed sugar). If it’s a protein, fat, or carb- to hell with the sugar. Let food be food; it’s delicious as it is. Promise.
-Dairy has no place in our house. Zack makes these delicious “white wings” on the grill- and it’s some sort of magical combination of dove and bacon, cream cheese and jalapeños (hi, we’re Texans). UGH. They’re fantastic, and we may use them for rare, special entertainment purposes. But day-to-day, dairy rocks our world in the worst kind of way and we only have one bathroom, know what I’m sayin’? RIP, cheese. Side note: Dairy was one of the first identified triggers for my UC symptoms, so I need to steer clear regardless.

One question that I get asked often is, “How do you do the Whole30 on a budget?” Guys. This is actually really easy, and I’ll give you a few reasons why:
1. You’re not eating out as often.
2. You’re not adding the extra expense of alcohol or dessert
3. Real food does not have to be expensive. You can buy real food at walmart.
Fun fact: We are both broke grad students, and I have a low-paying job at a hospital. If we can do it, I’m confident that you can do it even better.

And now I’ll give you some quick and dirty tricks to make your Whole30 affordable:

1. Rotisserie chicken. They’re about $5, and if you get one marketed as “unseasoned” or “naked”, they normally don’t have sugar or non-compliant ingredients, but double-check the label. We used these bad boys for weekly salad toppings, and they normally lasted a whole work week.
2. Frozen. Veggies. Vegetables that are frozen can be more affordable for the quantity that you’re buying AND fresher than the veggies on display in the produce section. Shocking, I know, but they’re normally flash-frozen while they’re nice and ripe. Just make sure the only ingredients in the ingredient list is the vegetable you’re buying, without added preservatives or fancy sauces.
3. Go to the grocery store often. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but if you’re buying fresh, real food it will go rancid quickly. Buy food to last three-four days, make another list, and then go again. On average we probably spend $35 at the grocery store for each trip, and that got us a whole ton of vegetables, fruits, and a nice-sized meat protein.
And most importantly
4. Plan. Plan out your meals, make an ingredient list, and do not deviate from that list. If Glade plug-in air fresheners aren’t on that list, don’t buy them. Don’t buy junk that you’re excited to eat after your Whole30- promise it will still be at the store at the end of your 30 days, unless it’s Easter chocolate, and that stuff is crappy anyway.

Let me know if you decide to try the Whole30! Or if you’re a Whole30 alumnus, feel free to comment with more helpful tricks 🙂

-Stacey

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