A colitis-treatment shake... that isn't disgusting

Monday, 13 February 2017

As I've mentioned, colitis has gotten the best of my digestive system these days.  The treatment plan is a long process of eating decisions, lifestyle choices and just letting it go.  One of the best said eating decisions, when really wanting a bowl of ice cream but not succumbing, is this chocolate banana shake.  There are two versions that I really love - one is a new discovery for colitis treatment and the other is a tried and true, forever good option:

Option 1: for the colitis treatment plan:
1 - 2 frozen *bananas
1 scoop of [chocolate] Collagen Protein Powder
2 tbsp almond butter
1/2 cup almond milk

Option 2: always good: 
1 - 2 frozen *bananas
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp chia seeds
2 tbsp almond butter
1/2 cup almond milk

Simply blend!  Actually, I have found that I like to mix the banana/almond milk first, so all of my powders don't get relegated to the side of the blender and never actually mix in.

I'm always trying to better figure out my flare ups and how to calm them down as quickly as possible.     Collagen has been my latest discovery in this last round.  Collagen is one of the key components of what makes bone broth so great.   I can fully attest to the benefits of bone broth but it's sometimes hard to come by, expensive, or inconvenient to make from scratch.  I have been so pleased to have a shake that tastes good and seems to be doing good things for my intestines.  Collagen is normally thought of as the substance that holds our bodies together - our skin, muscles, etc.  It's also what helps rebuild a strong intestinal wall.  So my takeaway?  So my multi-tasking self is loving the idea of healing my intestines while helping out my skin:) I'll keep you posted on the intestine part!

The above measurements are what works best for me, but it's all customizable to taste.

*One tip - when you pre-freeze these, remove the peel!  It's a miserable experience trying to get a peel off of a frozen banana. Trust me.  Also, if you want this to be more of an ice cream consistency, go heavy on the amount of banana and lighter on the amount of almond milk.  Only add as much milk as necessary for it to blend smoothly.

I hope you enjoy!  If you have any other crazy healthy snacks, do share!

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Put down the juice

Friday, 27 January 2017

I opened up this fresh blog post intending to write a post about design.  You know, statement headboards.  Rustic meets contemporary.  Adding plants to add some life.  Safe topics.  Pretty topics, even.  But topics that aren't quite relevant to my current day-to-day.

Truth be told, I am in another colitis flare up that seems to be challenging my previous flare-ups to their version of an arm wrestle.  Yes, this one is big, strong, and bold. I get it.  It's making work more and more difficult and sleep less sound.  It's making a regular diet decision anxiety provoking.  "Can I have those few almonds?"  "Don't buy that croissant. Just don't. I said don't."  "Has this bone broth boiled enough?"  "Have I spaced out my avocado purchases well enough to always have ripe ones on hand?"  - all things that have gone through my head in the past six hours.

I mentioned it here and there in the fall - mostly after the salmonella incident.  My poor intestines just did not know what to do and seemed to have turned on themselves.  I thought I had it under control but started to see some telltale signs over Christmas (a lowered immune system gave me a cold, more frequent bathroom trips, a few canker sores) and once I was back in the UK, it was at its full force.  Fitting with every January good intention, I decided that a juice cleanse was what I needed. They seem to heal everything ailment!  I thought that giving my intestines a true break for five days was going to be great.  Kickstart my autoimmune system, get rid of the toxins and be back on track.  I ordered my 14 cucumbers, 40 apples, 50 pears and all the kale, carrots and celery you could imagine and was on my way.

It was horrible. Beyond horrible. I can totally see how it would be helpful for a person with a regular digestive system.  I'm just not one of them.

I jumped into it without a ton of research.  If I spent more than 30 seconds thinking about it before I signed up with Reboot with Joe (not some guy in his basement, I swear!), I would have researched the impact of juicing on an inflamed large intestine.  I would have read fellow patients' anecdotes.  I would have consulted a doctor.

I think we get desperate for a change and a quick fix.  We hate the situation we're in and want to fix it.    So we act.  We buy a juicer that doesn't feasibly fit in our cupboards.  We sign up for the cleanse. We order the supplements.  We google just about everything.  We look for ways to escape and rid ourselves of this pain.

But there's not always a quick fix.  So after 4.75 days of juice cleansing hell, after several days of working from home, after mystery pains and a diet that I can never quite get ahold of, I'm trying to settle in. Sometimes you just have to ride this wave.  Pray.  Make wise eating decisions.  Guzzle the water.  And know that this too will pass. That there are lessons to be learned in the process and remember, without guile or cliche, that this makes you stronger.

To all the people who deal with colitis, IBD, or any other health ailment - praying and thinking for you too.  xo

See also:
My early days with colitis
Colitis coping mechanisms
Traveling with colitis

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A Canadian 2016 Christmas

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Yes, Christmas has come and gone but I think it took me this long to get back into the swing of things that it’s the first time I can actually reflect on it! I won’t lie – Leaving that family bubble was hard.  I made this Christmas break as simple as possible. It was about (finally!) spending time with my little (adorable. Wonderful. Amazing) nephew and just being with family for the regular days that followed Christmas. They were the best kind of days – playing board games mid-afternoon; going for a walk or run at any time of day because you can; slow mornings with several cups of coffee.  [Got sick somewhere through this too, but that aside].  It was wonderful.

There was also a bit of anxiety that goes along with it, as you ALWAYS KNOW THE CLOCK IS TICKING and ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END and every other applicable saying.  With intentional windows of time for different people, there’s always a pressure that the time has to count. So, you best not be annoyed with each other, have a headache, or be off your game or any other possible deterrent.  But life is also life, so learning how to call it what it is and acknowledge the less than shiny moments is and was so key.  I’ve written about the pressure of Christmas before – and I would say that still applies (though a little less?!) when you’ve flown across the Atlantic for it.

Here’s what I know: Relationships are what matter.  To know and be known is one of the biggest human pursuits.  Being at home, where I truly, wholeheartedly feel that way fills my cup like nothing else.  Getting back on a plane feels abhorrently wrong in the process, yet once I get back and [two weeks go by], I get back in the groove, I know that this is the right place to be – for now.  There is always the pain of being away from the people nearest and dearest – and you can bet Luke and I will feel all the feels whenever we’re headed to Heathrow to board that plane again.

In the meantime, who wants to come visit?!

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Classic England attire

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

If there were one fashion item that I associate with England, it is the classic trench coat.  Beige, Burberry-inspired, structured and chic.  It's the thing you want to be wearing as the wind is blowing and the rain is threatening.  Classic England.  You can pull that waist strap just a little tighter and tuck your scarf right in.  Back when Luke and I were toying with the idea of moving to England, I always thought that a trench coat should be my first purchase to commemorate the decision.

Well, that didn't happen.  Wedding and visas and moves are expensive!  So, it made me all the more excited when Tobi sent me a classic trench.  It has definitely been a staple the last little while, especially as the weather has stayed quite moderate.

If you're in the market for a coat like this, I'd say it fits true to size if not a little big.  Nice when you have a bunchy and comfy sweater underneath.  For dresses at Tobi, if deviating from the regular sizing, I tend to go up a size as they can be on the short side.  Cost wise, watch out for the deals!  And/or... 50% off your first order.

So I'll be the one wearing this coat for as long as I can get away with it.. before the parka comes out.  We wear those over here too :)

While Tobi sent the coat to me (along with this and this!) all opinions are my own. 

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When I was 25

Friday, 28 October 2016

Ahhhh, where, oh where, did that year go.  I sit here on the eve of my 26th birthday, feeling somewhat melodramatic, a little melancholy and mostly excited for the weekend trip to Copenhagen!   Maybe it's the burning candles, the great dinner Luke and I just had or the bottle of wine that was shared, but I'm looking back at the year and feeling so many of the moments over again.

I'll reflect in the nicely systematic way that I've done in years passed (When I was 23 & When I was 24).  There's something about writing it all out; I have a journal that I revisit - usually when I'm feeling intense emotion, be it joy, sadness, anger, whatever.  I do it to process, to remember. I'm always writing for my future self - the one that will need to read this in months or years to come and identify the lessons, remember the failures or successes, and learn from it all over again - or quite possibly for the first time.

Namely, November of last year. I actually clearly remember that month.  Having just recently moved to Oxford (October was our first full month here), it was in November that I started to crave some routine.  It didn't necessarily mean a job, but this is when I started to look.  It was more about working on some entrepreneurship ideas and putting some solid time into that. It was also about enjoying the time off.  I took pleasure in the freedom.  I remember being downright shocked that I was ok with this 'in-between' jobs thing.  I thought I'd be climbing the walls but instead I was catching up on sleep, incorporating exercise into the day and taking on my own projects.  I loved it.  

I soon learned that Christmas in England is just about as lovely as they make it out in The Holiday (minus the snow - that doesn't happen).  Nevertheless, we went to Christmas markets, attended carol sings in the most beautiful of concert calls and enjoyed our fair share of Christmas meals.  We happily donned the ridiculous/wonderful Christmas sweaters and really did take in the novelties of Christmas here with still maintained the traditions that we so love.  And then it was time to go home :) It was a packed and amazing two weeks at home.  It had all of the 'coming home for Christmas' hype, but also some of the regular, practical moments that make up regular life. That is what you miss in being away.  And that is just what I wanted in coming home.

January brought about some change. While home for Christmas, I did my second interview via Skype and later learned that I got the job.  I was so excited! Getting that email while still in bed and waking Luke up was such a fun moment.  This brought about more of a commitment to being here. It gave my presence here more legitimacy, in a way.  I was so happy and excited to be here with Luke, but it gave me a purpose of being here outside of him. Yes it was good content for cocktail chatter and networking receptions, but it's more than that.  Through the career opportunity and growth, it gave me a personal sense of commitment to Oxford.

January also brought some sad family news - my uncle passed away after a long battle with cancer and Parkinsons.  He was the kind of man that made everyone feel special - and respected and loved by all.  Another moment where it's so hard for family to be far away.

The next few weeks/months were mostly uneventful, but an ongoing commitment of recognizing  the sweet little moments.  Luke was/is on the golf team which meant he was away for many of the weekends. That of course, brought about lots of girls dates and chick flick movie nights.  I watched About Time, one such evening and was totally taken and inspired with the final narration.  They really get you in this movie!

"We’re all traveling through time together.  Everyday of our lives.  All we can do is do our best – to relish this remarkable ride."

Sure, a little cheeseball, but tell me this isn't true. And now picture me red-eyed and dazed, starring at the screen as the credits roll, upon a pile of tissues on the bed with an empty glass of red and the remains of a popcorn bowl.  Or maybe don't.  Oh, February.

Daffodils bloom in February here, so March can truly be considered Spring.  Don't get too envious, however, as it can still be ridiculously rainy and cold!

March brought about our first trip of the year. We extended the Easter long weekend and went to the South of France. It was lovely, though in all honestly and retrospect, a little unplanned. Ha!  I think we were about two weeks too early.  We were hoping for a warm(er) escape, but didn't quite find that.    I also had more of a Provence-style vacation in my head but had actually planned a French Riviera/Provence split.  I didn't even anticipate the size of Marseilles.  Where was Rick Steve's when I needed him?! He usually tells me these things.  Our lack of foresight and planning aside, it was a week of jumping in the rental car and driving where we wanted, of eating some of the best meals (I still drool about one meal in Nice) and taking some time away from work/the Oxford bubble.

April was a crazy month.  I went on my first work trip to Dubai, where I had my initial exposure to the Middle East.  Well, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, that is.  The calls to prayer, the Western brands, the smells - it was so interesting.  I then came home to have my sister arrive a day or two later.  It was so exciting to have her here - our first visitor!  This girl isn't a visitor, though.  She fits into life wherever she is - easygoing and beyond helpful. We basked in all of the time that we could, getting our fill of the long conversations and easy silences that sisterhood just brings.  Each of the weekends had a different trip.  First up was London, as she had to get a good taste of the world class city so close to us.  Lots of tea, pubs, and walking.  The next weekend was a little road trip to Wales, where we were treated with beautiful weather, castle ruins and a pitstop in the Cotswolds.  The final weekend was a treat - an extra long weekend to Paris, the city of all cities.  It was so much fun for me to show Lydi around.  Cheese fondue, pain au chocolats, crepes, Eiffel Tower picnics, aimless wandering and museum hopping. What's not to love?

It was during Lydi's time here that we heard about Luke's Dad having leukemia.  It changed everything.  It took the focus from settling into Oxford and life here and into the realities and worries for our family, who felt so painfully far away.  Luke went home very shortly after hearing, which initiated our phase of distance.  I've been quiet on this blog for much of this, but have also been very straight up that it was and is a difficult experience for everyone involved.  I went home in May for a week to be with family for a short but helpful week, putting me in more touch with the realities and emotions of life there.  It also gave Luke and I a week to be doing it together - caring for each other in the ways that phone conversations and texts fall short. This also gave me the opportunity to attend my uncle's memorial service.  Though he passed away in January, this was his memorial in Ontario, where he had grown up.  I was so thankful to be there - to honour and remember my uncle and to be with family.

Coming back to England after that trip was really hard. I felt isolated and lonely. It didn't feel right to be here but it was the practical reality.  It was a phase of raw emotions.  When I needed to cry, I cried. When I needed to go out and be amongst people, that's just what I did.  I was reminded of how much energy interpersonal relationships give me but also of the peacefulness in silence.  I so often have the urge to fill the spaces, but I think I learned more in tuning into the silence.  Luke was then back in England for most of July.  It was healthy, relieving and built up our marriage.  We also had so much fun when my wonderful friend Leslie came to visit, and we filled any and all free time with trips around England.  In the midst of it all, it was amazing.

I looked forward to the last week of July for months in advance.  I was meeting my parents and aunt for a trip through Portugal, and was so excited.  I couldn't' wait for warmth, new cultures and food, and being with people that know me so freaking well. I missed that familiarity and feeling of being known.  We were reunited in Lisbon, went south to the Algarve, back up to Evora and I left them after some time in Porto.  However, after some time in the Douro Valley my parents joined me in England.  It was a different trip than we had planned; we thought Luke was going to be with us.  We also thought my sister and brother-in-law would join us in England.  At about 6am one morning, I woke up to missed calls and texts telling us that my sister had gone into early labour, and had a beautiful baby boy to care for and love.  We were all so thankful that they were at home when this all happened.  And, I became an aunt!  I can't wait to hold that sweet baby and officially meet the addition to the family.  He's the cutest.  I don't care if that's biased.

It was all quite a whirlwind, as I soon left for India after my parents departure. Being a work trip, I got just a taste for the tourist sites of Delhi and Mumbai, but you can't help but have the culture wash over you.  It's at every street corner, restaurant or school.  It's in the food you eat, the disparity between the shanty villages and gated hotels, the families living on highway meridians, the stray livestock (literally, cows and goats) eating the piled garbage on the streets.  There's a feeling of passion and stubbornness in so many of the people you meet.  It was fascinating - truly an assault on the senses and there remains so much to explore and discover - to slowly unravel the subcultures, foods, landscapes and experiences.  Luke and my one year marriage anniversary was spent with me in India and him in Canada... thanks to the hotel, it came complete with 3 dozen red roses and a full chocolate mousse cake.  I think they thought Luke was joining me and were very confused. The front desk receptionist offered to keep me company.  Bless her.  #cakeforone #soundsaboutright

The only bad thing about India was that I had salmonella poisoning that hit a couple days after my return (so I don't rule out the plane food!).  I had a trip home to see my Luke and all family, but that was very rudely dislodged. It was a painful deliberation but one that had am obvious right answer.  I couldn't risk spreading the bacteria with my little nephew or with my father-in-law, who was in the stem cell transplant stages of treatment.  I was bitter and angry over this one.  The trip home was a huge motivator and encouragement in the lonely preceding weeks. Again, digging down especially deep at this stage.

Luke came home (Oxford home) late September.  It was utterly relieving - a sweet reunion after a long time apart.  We quickly took off to Tenerife to have some down time together and take a pause before jumping back into work and school routines.  It was 5 days spent looking at the ocean from our balcony, exploring a volcano, driving along steep and winding roads, and, as always, finding the good food :) It was so good to be back together.

So what did I learn this year? That life takes a good dose of grit - but we all have that when needed. That you never know what is around the corner. That each day is truly a gift.  Cliche, but so damn true.

See you later, 25, and cheers to 26! 

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