Feeling Awesome by Work Out and Crappy by Anything Else

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  Say hello to work out Meghan. Running (well, “running” but it’s not walking, so who cares how many miles per hour it is?) with the breeze blowing through my hair, one foot after the other, busting out an uphill gain (Ok, so it’s only 50 feet, who cares?) while I’m doing a little dance move with my hands to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass.” Perfect. Seamless. True, legs are a little sore, calves still haven’t completely adjusted to the new vibram five fingers or the torturous cold air 4 mile jog that I am putting it through. Yes, my knees are a little rickety and at a time or two I slide ever so gracefully on a small patch of black ice. Yes I am absolutely covered in sweat from head to foot because for some unknown reason, I perspire 1000000000% more than the average human being.  Yes, my earbuds slide out every few minutes because apparently my ear holes aren’t properly formed for the latest Sony bud covers. Yes, my spandex pants are a little too tight, thus accentuating parts of me that I’d like a little more toned. Yes, I’m breathing through my mouth, gently wiping slobber out of the corners of my mouth and off my cheeks. Yes, I MAY EVEN BE mouthing or heaven help us, SINGING OUT LOUD to the song on my shuffle. But, don’t I look happy? I am in my element. I am doing it. I have AS and I’m out of shape and I’m running. And I like it. I even got Andrew out there running with me and putting up with my crazy routes. My butt feels NO pain. Take that SI joints, I have found a way to mute you. Take it! My lower back feels like I have brand new vertebrae of flexible steel. I don’t know if it’s possible, but just imagine it is. My muscles are relaxed and I feel like I could fly.

That’s work out Meghan. Now meet Meghan at any second of the day when she is not working out.

Meghan is broken. Meghan is in pain. Meghan is exhausted. Meghan is ready to throw in the towel. Imagine your neck and back and butt being steam rolled, spat on, and steam rolled again. That is Meghan on no Enbrel and not in work out mode. It could be an hour after working out, it could be in the morning before working out, it could be on a “rest” day. This Meghan is evil. She feels like crap, she is groggy. She feels like she has been up for 5 days straight. She wants a vacation.

 

How is it possible to be both Meghans? I’m not sure myself, but trust me, I know it is! I don’t get it. It exhausts me to start thinking about it (not currently working out). I try to figure out how I can feel so wonderful exerting energy that quite frankly, I don’t even know that I have in me. Yesterday, I did NOT want to get up. I knew we were supposed to run 4 miles and I wanted to run 4 miles but I didn’t want to get up. I hit snooze a couple times. Andrew got up and got ready and then came back into the bedroom. It took everything I had in me to get out of bed. Once I was outside, I felt a little more awake but really sore. I remember thinking to myself, there’s no way I’m going to be able to run 4 miles. But you know what? I did… and I’m not sure how- but I do know that during those 4 miles I felt invincible. So I guess my question is, is it possible to work out all day? Because if I could, I would. If that’s the only way to get relief, I am. in.

Next Monday, I have an appointment with my Rheumy (FINALLY!). I’m really hoping that he gives me the go-ahead to get back on Enbrel. Please cross your fingers– I think if I can go back on, I will start to feel 1000000% better!

 

The Best Money You’ll Ever Spend

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You hear it a lot with diet fads and exercising enthusiasts. You see it posted in shoe stores and in advertisements for shoe pads. The best money you’ll ever spend is on a good pair of shoes. Well, I couldn’t agree more. This time, I’m putting it on my “realizaversment” of AS. The pamphlets and the books say that exercising is good for folks who have AS and that it can help with the pain management. As many people with auto-immune diseases can echo– umm, ok smart pants… but, if you’re in a ton of pain and your back and neck are stiff and your SI (aka butt) feels like there is a knife in it, how are you supposed to exercise?

My answer. You make yourself. That’s the best way I can put it. Perhaps my motivator is a race of some sort. I’m signed up for a half marathon in February and a 5-day bike ride in the summer. I’m not going to lie, I’m scared shit-less (pardon the language) of how my back and SI will feel before/during/after these races, but I forced myself to go to the gym to exercise and I did it over and over and I’m continuing to do it. And you know what? For that 30-45-60 minutes that I spend working out, my back and SI don’t hurt. It’s amazing. And you know what? Rather than spending my time focusing on blisters or the way the shoe was rubbing my little toe or how my arches hurt, I enjoyed my work outs. How? By coughing up some dough to get fitted for a good pair of running shoes. The folks at the running store actually watched me run and they commented on my gait and found me a pair of shoes that work really well. And that my friends, is the best money that I’ll ever spend because when I wear them and i go to the gym or go outside and exercise- for those 30-45-60 minutes I feel minimal pain. And I’ll take that.

Those shoes and perserverance is how I ran a 5K this past weekend. Now I feel invincible.

 

In other news, Andrew’s sister-in-law, Mariah, whom I’ve mentioned previously on my blog awarded me with the Liebster Blog Award! Mariah, if you don’t remember, has RA. She is now preggers and off Enbrel and the drugs. You can find her over at From This Point. Forward. As stolen from her blog post:

A Liebster is: “sweetheart, beloved person, darling adj. dear, darling; beloved, liked very much; affectionate, loving adj. favorite, preferred above others; liked or loved above others.”

So here are the rules of this award:
  1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
  2. Link back to the Blogger (or Bloggers) who awarded you.
  3. Answer the following questions, down below.
  4. Pass the award out and recognize other Bloggers letting them know that you love them.
So, as mentioned previously, a HUGE thanks to Mariah Z-Leach over at From this Point. Forward., who was diagnosed with RA and hasn’t let it stop her… and now she’s an expecting mom (can’t wait for the baby shower!)
Ok. On to the questions:
Favorite color: Orange and Hot Pink. Just perfect.

Favorite animal: Besides my pup, Franklin and my bearded dragon, Roxy… Penguins or Manatees :0)

Favorite number: 2. It’s way ahead of most and has the motivation to work to improve.

Favorite drink: Iced green tea or Gin and Tonic

Facebook or Twitter? Facebook. I use twitter occasionally but Facebook is more fun.

Passion? The environment, cooking, running, biking, and living life to it’s absolute fullest. Oh and doing what someone says I can’t just to see the expression on their face.

Getting or giving presents? I love giving presents.

Favorite day: Flag day. Andrew and I picked it is as our anniversary and on our drive home from our first trip away together we found it was flag day…
Favorite flower: Snap dragons. Always loved them and their names.
The rules are unclear on how many folks to give this award out to, so I’m just going to award it to a few choice folks who I think our rock stars.
My first award goes to Jess over at Just Call Me Janks. She’s a 20-something Baltimorean who blogs about life in her 20s. She recently got engaged to one of my all-time bestest friends from college, Jason Ader. She has a great blog about life and I think you’ll all enjoy it!
My next award goes to The Faces of Ankylosing Spondylitis. This blog/website is a great project that showcases the stories of folks who are suffering from AS. It has some very insightful information and it really helps inform folks of what people with AS go through day in and day out!
Lastly, I’m giving an award to Kelly Christal Johnston over at Hurting but Hopeful. She has an extensive blog on family life with AS and the aches and pains and bumps in the road. She is a very strong woman who keeps a positive attitude!

 

Hey AS, I just kicked your butt!

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That’s right, folks! This morning I kicked AS right in the keester. I ran not 0.5, not 1.0, but 2.0 miles. Not a run-walk, a run. Well, a run as fast as I can run which is more of a jog, but really, I don’t care. I wasn’t walking. I am continuing to deal with not being on Enbrel although I am VERY ready to be back on it. As I mentioned previously, I show up at the gym hurting and then as I work out and loosen up, the pain gets better somehow. It’s like magic (except in my knees which have really been bugging me lately but that’s a story for another day).

I feel good throughout the workout and that adrenaline… you just can’t beat it. When I started running this morning I thought, oh I’ll just run a mile. Then I got to a mile and said, oh I’ll just run a mile and a quarter and so on and so forth, until I got to two miles. Now, as I mentioned, I may not make it to running a full 13 by the time of our half marathon, but I will do my absolute best to run as much of it as I can so that the next one, I will run straight-through.

Now, I am hurting more (it’s about 6 hours after the workout). My back and SIs are stiff, my knees and ankles have given up, and I smell like sweat, but still I couldn’t be happier. Today, I kicked AS for two miles. I’ll take it.

A Month of No Enbrel

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As I mentioned in previous posts about the implications of a tick and the follow-up to that post about having to go off enbrel to take antibiotics, I am still going through the motions of lyme’s and mono. I finished up my antibiotics and was very anxious to get back on enbrel because of my increasingly painful back and si joint flare-ups. Unfortunately, when I called my Rheumy for his approval, I did not get the response I planned on. He told me that because the antibiotics are all gone, I need to now wait a couple more weeks until I restart Enbrel to make sure I don’t have any continued symptoms. Blah. I am not excited about waiting longer.

The nambumetone seems to not help as much as it had been previously- perhaps because I am not combo-ing it with Enbrel. My back pain in the mornings has gotten worse and lasts longer than before. The one thing that I did notice is that when I went to the gym the other day, I arrived in pain. I wasn’t sure if I could work out let alone jog. I decided to push through it anyway because I need to get some jogging in in light of the Feb half marathon in California. I hurt to begin with but as I kept going, I realized that my SI pain got better. It eventually came back a while after the gym, but while I was at the gym, I felt good! Guess I’ll keep exercising!

In light of everything that has happened I’m not sure if I’ll be able to run the entire half marathon in Feb, but I can at least do a run/walk. At first when I came to the realization that running the entire thing was probably not going to happen, I was sad. I felt like I let myself down. But now, I am ok with it and I know that I can work hard to get in a good run/walk and then I’ll be ready to take on the next half marathon and run the whole thing. Besides, I made it to the gym 3 times this week and I biked a total of 30 miles and run-walked about 4. That combined with some long walks outside and I’ll take it.

So, it looks like I’ll be calling the doctor to see what I should be doing in the meantime while I’m waiting to go back on Enbrel… perhaps he can suggest a stronger anti-inflammatory than nambumetone (750mg horse pills). For now, I’m going to go enjoy the beautiful day!

Greek Pie Crust

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Part of the Zucchini and Herb Pie recipe requires a greek pie crust. The recipe for said crust is also in the Mediterranean Harvest cookbook. It’s fairly simple and straight-forward… and pretty tasty!

Ingredients:
2.25 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 cup water

Pie Dough Ingredients

Steps:
1. In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil, vinegar, and water. Mix with a fork just until the dough comes together.

2. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead just until smooth, no longer than a minute. Divide the dough in half. Press each half into a circle about 4 inches in diameter. Dust with flour if the dough is sticky.

Pie Crust Dough Sitting

3. Wrap tightly in plastic and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature. If you aren’t using it right away, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 3 hours.

Enjoy!

Zucchini and Herb Pie

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Along with making some fresh pasta from scratch, we also made a zucchini and herb pie. Again, this recipe came from the Mediterranean Harvest cookbook (it’s a winner)! Per usual, we changed up some of the ingredients and made our own pie combination. It looks awesome- haven’t tried it yet but I bet it’s a good one!!!

Ingredients:
3 pounds zucchini (we used a combo of zucchini and yellow squash- about 6 squashes total)
3 tablespoons olive oil (we only used 2)
2 large onions, finely chopped (we used 1/3 medium onion and 1 large red pepper)
5 to 6 squash blossoms, chopped or 1 medium carrot, shredded (we used about 6 baby carrots, shredded)
1 cup finely shopped wild fennel or dill, or a combination
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Leaves from 5-6 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped (optional)
7 ounces crumbled feta (we used 6 ounces)
2 large eggs, beaten
Salt/Pepper
Greek Pie Crust

Steps:
1. Grate the zucchini and squash in a food processor or on the large holes of a box grater. Place in a large colander, salt generously, and let drain for 1 hour, pressing down occasionally to squeeze out liquid.

2. After an hour, wrap shredded squash in a towel and twist to remove the excess water.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions (we added the onion and red pepper). If you want you can add an additional tablespoon of olive oil at this stage. Add in the carrots, herbs, feta, eggs, pepper, and salt to taste.

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 12-inch pie pan. Place 1/2 the pie dough in the bottom of the pan. The easiest way to do this to roll out the dough so that it is about 2 inches wider than the pie pan so that when you place it into the pan you can spread it up the sides.

5. Scoop the veggie mix into the pie crust.

6. Roll out the other 1/2 of the pasta dough and place on top of the pie/veggie combo. Score the top of the pie in a few places, brush with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, until it is golden-brown.

7. Cool on a rack to room temperature.

Enjoy!

Homemade Pasta from Scratch!

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Andrew with Some Freshly Smoothed Pasta Dough

Last night we made a simple vegetable broth and a phenomenal winter squash risotto. Both recipes came from the cookbook, Mediterranean Harvest. The recipes were so good that we decided to dive in again and try some more tonight. The first was a recipe for pasta dough. For Christmas, my parents gave us a pasta maker which is awesome! We have been really interested in making our own pasta for a while, so this made it even more possible. When I saw the recipe for pasta dough in the cookbook we received from Andrew’s parents, it was as if the starts aligned :0). Below is the recipe we used for the pasta dough. We altered it slightly from the recipe in the cookbook, but the results were fantastic. As we “speak” the fettuccine is drying on the pasta drying rack in our kitchen. I can’t wait to try this batch out and start making some more unique recipes!

 

Pasta Dough Ingredients

Ingredients:
3 scant cups unbleached all-purpose flour (we used 1.5 cups of flour and 1.5 cups of semolina flour)
3/4 teaspoon salt (We used freshly ground sea salt from my brother!)
3 large eggs
2-3 tablespoons water (We used 3)

Steps:
1. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and pulse a few times to combine. Although we have a food processor, we didn’t use one. We simply mixed the flours and salt in a large bowl.

2. Add the eggs and 2 tablespoons and process until dough comes together in a ball. If it seems dry, add another tablespoon of after. Again, we stirred by hand and ended up needing to add 1 additional tablespoon of water.

Part I of Step 2

Part II Step 2

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for a few minutes, until you have a smooth ball. Wrap in plasatic and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour. We let our dough sit for about 35 minutes.

Pasta Dough in a Ball

4. After the allotted sitting time, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. While working with one piece, keep the other 3 pieces covered with the plastic wrap. Set the rollers at the widest opening, flatten the piece of dough so that its width will fit inside the pasta machine roller. Run the piece of dough through the machine at the widest opening.

One Quarter of Pasta Dough

5. If the pasta is too sticky, dust with flour. Change the pasta machine opening to a smaller opening and run the flattened pasta dough through the machine.

Running Pasta Dough Through Machine

6. Continue to run the pasta through the pasta machine at a decreasing width rate until desired thickness.

Threading Pasta Dough Through the Machine

7. Choose your desired pasta cut (a standard machine does regular pasta and fettuccine). Place the handle into the appropriate cutter slot and run your thinned and smoothed piece of pasta dough (from Step #6) through the cutter. If it doesn’t cut, the dough is too sticky and needs to have some flour added to it. It’s important to note that having two people to work the pasta machine seemed to be extremely helpful.

Fettuccine Coming Out of the Machine

8. Immediately hang your pasta on the drying rack and make sure to separate each noodle so that the dough does not stick together. Repeat Steps 4-8 for the remaining three pieces of pasta dough.

Fettucine Hanging on a Drying Rack

9. Let noodles dry for at least 30 minutes. Pasta can be stored for up to two weeks in a closed jar.

Pasta Drying

Enjoy!