Reboot: Back on AIP

When I hear about friends trying out Whole30 or Keto, an evil smile comes to my lips. It might even be called a self-righteous grin. I delight in the fact that they will deprive themselves as I do every day. This is not a very generous sentiment. It’s a “Welcome to my World” face. I’m not being fair, because in the beginning, it is really hard to give up a lot of the foods we love: no donuts, cinnamon rolls, freshly baked baguettes or bagels for on paleo diets. The cravings go away, but the temptation is all around us. There are substitutes, but they are always just ways to fake our brains into feeling like we are having rich, buttery carbs. It is never quite the same.

You see, I have been eating primarily without sugar, dairy, no nightshades and most grains for a few years now. The idea of doing it for a month now seems easy.  From the way other people lose weight, you would think I would be a stick. I’m not. I’m heavier than I have ever been. There are some really good reasons, starting with the fact that I’ve let quite a few glasses of wine find its way into my evening routine.

Sometimes I want to curl up in a ball and have a pity party. This won’t change things around, though, will it? Little Ms. Excuses has shown up in my life, and I am eliminating each lame justification as it pops into my brain. It’s time to reboot, rethink and tackle my disease.

I have given up sugar in processed foods for the most part, but I had let some creep back into foods that I don’t even really need day to day: in the Daiya vegan Ranch sauce I love to use on the side with sweet potato fries, in the Lara bars I was taking to work for snack breaks, in the super delicious truffle liver pate they sell at Trader Joes. Small amounts add up when you have autoimmune disease and inflammation.

This summer I finally broke down and spent the extra cash to see my functional medicine doctor, who I have not seen for a while as my insurance does not cover those visits. We realized my thyroid levels hadn’t been tested in two years. My natural thyroid medicine became unavailable because it had been manufactured in Puerto Rico, and we needed to make a new plan. It is amazingly hard to find thyroid medication that does not contain either gluten or lactose! It turned out that my thyroid levels were dismal, so we doubled my dose. After two months on that dose, I retested and my TSH and antibodies for Hashimoto’s are the highest they have ever been. Basically, my body is really struggling to produce the hormones that regulate my metabolism, my body temperature and my energy, and I’m not doing too well.

This summer I am dedicating my free time to healing. I’m allowing myself to sleep in until 9 a.m. I am trying to go to the gym or walk the dog more, do yoga and weights, and play with my new one year old Lab puppy, Lucky, who makes me laugh and smile a lot.

To avoid depression in depravity, I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon of many autoimmune bloggers and celebrate what I can eat instead of whining about what I have eliminated. The Brewmaster and I are trying lots of creative and yummy recipes. We used cherries from our own tree to make Mickey Trescott’s cherry BBQ sauce (recipe link here: 20180628_190807First we grilled a whole chicken by splitting it down the back, placing it on the grill and basting it with the sauce. 20180628_190757Then I used some of the leftover breast on a pizza made with a sweet potato crust (recipe link here, we added 1/2 cup arrowroot flour and 1/2 cup Cassava flour to 1 large white sweetpotato and pushed into a circular pizza pan: We added carmelized onions and used some of the cherry BBQ sauce to top the pizza. A few days later we made BBQ chicken wings and legs using the sauce.20180701_171053

We’ve also discovered a great way to disguise zucchini, which is not my favorite unless in zoodles: prosciutto wrapped zucchini. Delicious and crisp! (recipe here: If Lucky hasn’t completely trampled my whole garden (he took down the fence when he was running around the yard with what can only be described as the Zoomies), I will be able repeat the recipe with homemade zucchini and make lots of zoodles like this dish with shrimp and butternut squash. IMG_20180626_200323_828


The Brewmaster has been craving Key Lime pie, so I made key lime bars.(I used this link but used 6 limes: I discovered Coconut Butter, which is truly heaven in a jar. The bars taste a bit like key lime cheesecake, and tonight I am making coconut whipped cream to put on them to celebrate July 4 when the Brewmaster gets home from playing a band concert. I’m hanging with Lucky to see how he reacts to fireworks. Mostly I’m too lazy and hot to get off the couch!

My next recipe I want to experiment with is pork patties with figs for breakfast….coming soon!

In addition to avoiding all grains, sugar and nightshades, my doctor recommended a special multi vitamin, from Amy Meyers, MD, especially for Hashimoto’s patients. ( She also suspects I have SIBO (Small intestine bacterial infection) and prescribed Atrantil, which I am also taking at each meal. ( I feel pretty energetic, but the verdict is still out on bloating and discomfort.

All said and done, I’m optimistic that I can turn my old body around. I know menopause is right around the corner, but I feel young in my mind and I know from past experience how I can mold my body through exercise and yoga. I’m where I am today, and that is already better than yesterday. Doing yoga and mat exercises with a lab is always a challenge! Lucky likes to get right in on the action. He keeps things real. And crowded.



Happy July 4th from Lucky and all of us! Stay safe, keep your pets indoors, and let’s not forget that kindness, acceptance and inclusiveness are what make America great.36649127_10155814566091025_7097764293675843584_n


Life is a bowl of cherries

Winter came early and outstayed its welcome in Iowa this year. Our cherry tree blossomed three weeks later than usual, and the cherries just ripened this past week.


20180617_110849.jpgI think the Brewmaster and I picked and pitted about 6 quarts of cherries in two days. It is never anything like the game of my youth, “Hi Ho, Cherry-O.” Instead, you squint into the sun as you get pricked by branches, balancing on a ladder and trying not to dump your bucket of cherries on the floor. It’s not really funny like in the game when you do.

Or maybe I’ve lost my sense of humor.

I’ve certainly have had many reasons to not feel like life is just a bowl of cherries. We lost our dog, Rose, in March to a battle with cancer. It was too sad to blog about losing the dog that got me through single motherhood and through many ups and downs. Soon I may be ready

Life has been less than peachy. When it gets me down, I don’t blog. I don’t want to whine, to complain. Being 50 has been a rough year. I have aches and pains all over, I can’t even run a mile, and the current political climate is extremely alarming and depressing at the same time. So I have been silent.

However, it is on the upswing. Take that cherry tree, for instance. For a LONG time I felt very bitter about it. My ex bought it the summer we were divorcing. My son had gotten very upset when I pulled up an apple tree sapling that was growing in the fence. It turned out that it was “base” for all his chase games in the back yard, and he had a major tantrum like only four year-olds can. I felt bad, but tried to reason with him. My ex went out a bought a new tree, a sour cherry tree, and planted it. That summer he wasn’t contributing any money, or helping around the house, so it irked me that he would buy a tree that we really didn’t need, in the interest of being the “good parent.”

Who doesn’t need a cherry tree? It has been fun to see it blossom beautiful white flowers every year, and see my son rejoice as we got more cherries than the birds as years passed. Last year we even had a chipmunk that would sit in the tree and eat the green cherries, and thumb his little paw at me when I tried to scare him out. Something ate all the ripe cherries overnight, and we were devastated. If it was that tiny chipmunk, he must have had a wicked belly ache. We had no cherry clafoutis, no cherry pie, no cherry crisp and we were very sad.20180618_202942.jpg

This year we made sure to pick them as soon as they ripened. I made two pies and we took one to friends, and I was embarrassed at the number of pits that people found in their slices. The cherries are small and we haven’t found a fool-proof pitter, yet. We saved extra bags of cherries and tonight I made a delicious paleo crisp, mostly just for me. And we will make a clafoutis before my son goes to France.20180618_213725.jpg

See, it took time for me to get over my sour attitude and be grateful. I’m grateful my son has a good relationship with his father, who was generous enough to care about him and nurture through nature.

And this year’s bounty shows that even though some years the cherry bowl is empty, a new season (and smarter gardeners) will bring happiness.

The tide will turn, and if I keep healing through food and being good to my body, the aches and pains and sadness will go away.

The Struggles Are Real

This weekend’s London terrorist attacks hit close to my heart. In college I spent a semester abroad in London with a string quartet. Oberlin College already had an English program abroad, and the Conservatory of Music piggy-backed on their infrastructure and sent two quartets to study intensively.

It was one of the best educational experiences I had as an undergraduate, albeit challenging. I thought it would be easy to live in a country where I spoke the language, but soon learned that all the different Brit, Scottish and Welsh accents were difficult to understand at times.

I was a vegetarian and lived in a hippie Co-Op at Oberlin, and I wasn’t too fond of the food in London. I survived on Indian food and sometimes chips with no fish.

Our quartet struggled to get along; we were living together in a flat AND practicing 4-6 hours a day, and at one point tensions were high. I offered to move in with some of the other English majors, and that was a good decision. I went to plays, toured the Globe Theatre and rented a cottage in the Lake District with a group of friends during our fall break. We had to walk to the nearest pub and that was a good incentive to stay in shape in spite all the beer we were drinking.

One highlight was being invited to High Tea at Harrod’s by a British pianist I met in a chamber music program before my semester started. I was amazed by how much of a ritual it was; not just tiny cucumber sandwiches and scones, but whipped cream and lots of other pastries. And I became a tea and biscuit fanatic in London, as we had a daily practice break with all the students.

This was long before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s or realized just why beer hurt my stomach SO much. I ate freely (except for meat) and didn’t worry about sugar or fat content.

It was also before Europe was quite so plagued by terrorist threats, but it was beginning. I remember touring Paris with a friend during break and seeing the French CRS, or compagnies républicaines de sécurité, lined up with their machine guns near banks and popular public areas. I moved to France after college. I got used to having my purse searched before going into a department store and seeing all the garbage cans covered in the pedestrian mall in Marseille.

Europeans are accustomed to being targeted. They are constantly on high alert.

And yet terrorism still prevails. Terrorists are very good at waiting until everyone has their guard down, or finding the one moment to strike. There is no easy solution. More police hasn’t always helped in France, and how intelligence is interpreted is beyond our understanding as civilians.

I do know that it is easy as Americans to say that we would do it differently, that we are stronger, that we will prevail. We are far away from the countries that seed terrorism and feel less vulnerable. I do know that fear-mongering won’t help; terrorists thrive on that. The hatred and rhetoric of fear are what justify their cause.

And so today I am making scones. I making scones in celebration of London, or my memories of such a wonderful, diverse place. I’m thinking of the markets, the Tube (“Mind the Gap!”), riding my bike through Hyde park, dancing hip hop in underground night clubs, shopping, walking in Kensington and going to Pubs. It was a more innocent time for my diet, but today I have to be more careful.

To make scones, I adopted Living Lovely Autoimmune’s Recipe for Coconut Flour Biscuits. This basic recipe has changed my life and made breakfasts and lunches more fun.

IMG_7881.JPGTo make sweeter scones, I took half the batter and added 2 Tbs coconut sugar (which turns the scones a little brown), a dash of cinnamon (1/2 tsp) and then added in dried Pomegranate seeds, small strawberry bites, and ripe blueberries for a berry trifecta. I shaped them into triangles and cooked them a little extra (25 mins) in order for batter to set around the berries. I baked the rest into biscuits to have for savory food. They are not picture-perfect, but boy are they delicious! No grains, no dairy, no sugar…yet sweet with a wonderful, scone-like texture.FullSizeRender (11).jpg

I don’t know if my friend Liz would have approved; there will be no whipped cream with this high tea (although if I had the ingredients on hand I would make maple whipped coconut cream), and I will slather on ghee and honey instead of butter. However, she had a big heart and I know that as much as I am feeling empathy for the people of London, she would forgive me and want me to heal.

London, you are in our hearts. We honor you and send you peace.


A Few of My Favorite (Cello) Things

Warning: this post will be cello-centric. Today we will explore a few of my favorite things that will promote successful cello studies and performance.

  1. A flat-seated chair with no arms. My absolute favorite chair is the Wenger Cello Chair. It has a perfect height for me (5’8″), but is a little tall for children or teens or smaller adults.It leans forward slightly, which is optimal for cello playing. Wenger chairs are pricey, running around $260 on Amazon. A cheaper alternative is the Ikea dining chair “Stefan,” running around a mere $29. I add a flat cushion or a wedge cushion (see below) to make this chair more comfortable. An adjustable stool might be handy for growing smaller students.

    Stefan chair from IKEA
  2. Wedge cushion: this will help tall people find a better height, but it also promotes a slight lean into the cello that I find beneficial for releasing weight into the instrument and avoiding tension. It will also save your lower back! I like the kind with a carrying strap for transporting to orchestra rehearsals. On Amazon, the TravelMate Medium-FIRM memory foam cushion is only around $18.99. travel mate memory cushion
  3. Cello Strap: Of all the contraptions that have been invented to keep cellists’ endpins from slipping and scratching floors, I still find the strap the most reliable. My absolute favorite is one I bought in France, still available online through the Maison des Cordes, but unless you have a European connection, it’s very pricey. It is made of wood and wraps up like a yo-yo. I find the wood conducts sound better than metal or rubber. However, Shar and most local luthiers or music shops carry the Xeros Cello straps, which also work well for most people. They are adjustable. In a pinch use your cello case strap!

xeros end pin strap


French Atelier D’Estien strap

4. Wolf-tone eliminator: Most cellos have a note that vibrates TOO much and produces a wonky, unstable tone. Often this is between Eb-F on cellos, and sometimes a simple sound-post adjustment can fix this. Many times, a wolf-tone eliminator is necessary to “tame” the vibrations. My favorite system is actually a weighted magnet is placed on the top of the cello by a luthier, but a cheaper DYI solution is a weight that is added to the string. My preferred model does not have screws that can vibrate or come loose and is easily adjustable. wolf tone eliminator

5. Rosin: My preferred rosin at this time is Andrea solo or orchestral rosin. However, these lovely, sticky cakes of rosin run close to $40. For students, I recommend Magic Rosin Ultra brand. Magic Rosin Ultra is only around $35. It is super sticky, comes in a handy plastic case that prevents breaking, and there are a gazillion fun designs.


6. Cleaning Rag: You will need a rag to clean the dirt and rosin off your cello, and another one to clean your strings. I just use old t-shirts that are cut up into squares. Don’t use anything that might have lint and, for goodness sake, don’t use any products on your cello except those intended for string instruments!

7. Plastic Portfolio or tote bag: It’s good to keep your lesson materials in one place that is easy to find and bring to lessons. I highly recommend putting photocopies in a binder and method books in one big folder. Better yet, get a durable plastic portfolio to carry everything around in. plastic portfolio.jpg

8. Music Stand : Manhasset Music Stands have room for all your method books and are really sturdy. They also have great gig stands with carrying cases, and come in fun colours. Wire stands are also portable, but choose sturdy over flimsy for best results.


9. Music Stand Light: There is nothing worse than not being able to see your music, especially for middle-aged eyes, ahem. The best light I’ve found is the Mighty Bright Orchestra light, but there are cheaper versions. The ones you can plug in and recharge overnight are handy if you don’t want your batteries to run out in the middle of a show.

stand light.jpg

Happy Cello-ing! Let me know some of your favorite things in the comment section.

The Nuttiest Season of All

This week I’m in the pit orchestra for a preview of the Joffrey Ballet’s new production of the Nutcracker. We have rehearsals all week, with the first performance of five tonight. All eyes will be on the Joffrey Ballet as they premiere this new version of an old classic, newly set by the world famous Christopher Wheeldon.

Last night I wracked my brain to think when the Nutcracker had become a “thing” in our family. The Brewmaster is in the pit with me tonight as he has been for several years at this time of year, while Ballet Boy already started performances last weekend as a rat, a court attendant and a polar bear in the Houston Ballet’s brand new production. Next week the Brewmaster and I perform a more traditional version with a regional ballet company, the Quad City Ballet in collaboration with Orchestra Iowa.

It’s a completely nutty time of the year for all of us, as we try to pack our normal teaching and class schedules around all of these extra rehearsals and performances. In order to remain sane, I remind myself how magical the Nutcracker is for families all over the USA.

Growing up, the Nutcracker was not a part of our family traditions. We attended Cocoa and Carols, performances of the Messiah and other chorale concerts, but I have no recollection of the Nutcracker. After college I lived in France for 11 years, where the Nutcracker is not quite so important to ballet companies that do not rely on it as their “bread and butter.” In Europe, the arts are more heavily subsidized by government funding and selling out houses becomes secondary to creating new art.

I have seen very few Nutcrackers, in fact, as I’m often in the pit. My first experience was with the old Joffrey production when they brought it to Iowa City in 2003. Although the music was all familiar since songs like “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Nutcracker March” are on the radio a lot, but I hadn’t realized quite how difficult the score was. Almost four year old Ballet Boy was sick and I remember is being in the ER with him because he was having a massive croup attack and was very low oxygen. They gave him steroids and he was up all night, as well as his mama. Playing two shows the next day seemed heroic.

Ballet Boy grew to be a more accomplished dancer, and his home studio, Nolte Academy, put on a wonderfully popular local production. The cast was all kids; teen stars filling very difficult roles that many seasoned pros struggle to perform. Ballet Boy was lucky to be cast as the Nutcracker prince, and then later the cavalier. I was able to play in the orchestra, which was set up in front (not below) the stage, so I could watch. His last performance there was very emotional for me; I cried buckets knowing he was leaving soon for Houston, and this would probably be our last collaboration ever. I was so proud!

Last year in spite of playing many shows on our own, we went to watch the Nolte production (which has delightful and humorous story-telling) and then went down to Houston to watch the last year of the Ben Stevenson production there. They were very different scales–obviously the Houston Ballet is one of the world’s best companies and has a huge budget–but what I took away was the power of dance to transform and transport an audience through the magic of Christmas. Good triumphs over evil, and we are left wondering if the whole thing was a dream or true, just like the after-daze of Christmas.

So, in spite of playing so many shows ourselves, the Brewmaster, my mom, my sister, my nephew and I are all hoofing it down to Houston to see their new production right before Christmas. We can’t wait to see the magic the new Stanton Welch production will bring. If you look closely at this photo, you’ll see Ballet Boy as a court attendant in his funny cone hat of brightly colored macaroons stacked on his head.

Now, let’s go crack some Nuts, folks! Go support your local productions and find some nutty cheer.15272027_10157874623130584_8553592219936805149_o


My first running race of 2016 is finally in the books. Race day was exceptionally humid and warm for Iowa, and I struggled with asthma on the run. Considering my lack of consistent training, it went as expected. I jogged about a 12 minute mile, way slower than I’ve run in the past, but slightly faster than I’ve been jogging in my hilly neighborhood. The race and course are all too familiar: it is a fundraiser for our school district and I’ve run it for over a decade.

The first time, when my son was in kindergarten, I tried to run the 1-miler with him. That is when I realized I needed to get in shape, as it was not easy for me. He was in difficulty and whining at the turn around, so I finally told him just to Riverdance to the finish (he was a big Irish dance fan.) He took off and smoked me to the finish line.

Later he got 3rd place in the half mile on a day when they cancelled everything else due to rain, and one time he ran the 5k with me. He had a big lull in the second mile, so I walked with him and encouraged him to not give up. He had a second wind and smoked me again at the finish.

I had my own PR on that course, finishing in 29:20 when I was 44. That was right before my ankle surgery and some setbacks that have made it tricky to run consistently again.

I ran my first 10k and my first half-marathons on that course several years ago.

And then nothing last year. I can only explain this by a complete sense of exhaustion and need to heal in different ways: yoga, ballet and sleep.


However slow I was compared to the past at the finish yesterday, I realized that I felt equally, if not more proud, to finish even in 37 minutes. I knew that it took a lot to get out and run on a Sunday morning when I’d played a concert the night before, and I had little time to train the week leading up to the race. But the race itself motivated me…not out of a desire to win, but out of a desire to accomplish something. I’ve never been a fast runner, but I have gotten better with perseverance.

Some people are motivated by a desire to lose weight. I can’t say I’m happy with my weight right now, but it is less about how people perceive me and more about how hard it is on my body. Trying to run with 30 extra pounds on my frame is like trying to run carrying a bag of Morton salt. It sucks.

Some people are motivated by competition. Sometimes I feel competitive in a race, and I did indeed sprint at the finish yesterday. I noted about 6 people ahead of me that I decided to pick off, even if they were only about 10 years old. (No more nice mom now that my kid is far from home.) However, I can quickly feel bad about myself if I’m comparing myself to others.

What motivates me is the sense of accomplishment I feel when I put my mind to something and then try and do it. I feel like I’m being a good mom, because I’m showing Ballet Boy that I empathize with his hard work. Whenever I feel like I don’t have time to run, I think about the fact that he gets up every day, no matter how sore, and dances about 6-8 hour a day, excluding pilates and other weight training. If he can do it, I can certainly get my butt out on the road for 40 minutes.

I feel like I’m a better partner and wife, because running makes me less grumpy. The endorphins make me a much more pleasant person to be around, and the Brewmaster was very cool and hung out by the finish line yesterday. He missed my grand finale, which was not only a sprint to the end, but a beeline to the port-a-potties that had been plagued by a long line at the beginning.

Finally, I’m motivated by myself. Who else is going to get me out the door? I’m too slow to run with Candy Ass or others, but I know I will get faster if I work at it.

So, I just signed up for another race. This Friday! A very flat 5k that benefits United Way. This time it should be 60 degrees and cool. No more excuses…gotta run!





Autumn Leaves are Turning

As the election day grows closer and our national political scene becomes absurdly outrageous, I find myself turning to what I know is real and worth fighting for. I know that the love and respect I have in my marriage, the way I’ve raised Ballet Boy to be a caring, sensitive young man and spending time with friends and family make the world a better place. I know my vote will count, and more importantly, I trust America to select a leader that will represent our core values of respect, tolerance and freedom for all. And if we don’t elect that person, winter will be hard and long, but will eventually come to an end.

The seasons are very prominent in the midwest, reminding us that all things come to an end, but are part of a bigger cycle of life. Fall is here in Iowa; the leaves are turning to gorgeous red and orange hues, nights are cool and all my squash is ripe. According to my weather app, it is perfect running weather…

The last pick from my garden; butternut and spaghetti squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers

So why haven’t I been out there running? A memory came up on Facebook today that reminded me that a few years ago I had run ten miles this day in training for my first half marathon. Where did that woman go?

Sometimes I feel that since my Hashimoto’s diagnosis I’ve become lazy. I’ve wallowed in exhaustion and self-pity, and my drive to run, swim and bike is just disappearing altogether. But then I remind myself that I went through a necessary period of destressing; focusing on yoga, getting more sleep and meditation.

There has to be a balance of the two. I know that running gives me a high and that I feel much better about myself when I’m running several times a week. Right now I feel sluggish and out of shape, and that is never a good feeling. In spite of avoiding sugar, rarely eating grains and walking my dog almost two miles every day, I am gaining weight and feeling down.

So today I came out of ballet and told myself to seize the moment; my legs were warmed up and we had stretched out our feet by rolling them on golf balls. I came home, downed a glass of water, and told myself that I just had to run one mile. I ended up jogging two miles. I let myself walk up two hills, and just congratulated myself for getting out and trying.

Oops, I did it again!

After my jog I went straight to my computer and signed up for a 5k that is only one week away. Will I be able to run 3 miles by then? Probably not. Signing up for a race took a great amount of self-humility today, as I know that I will be far from my 5k PR that I set on this same course. I will be lucky to run 11 minute miles, and I don’t really care. I know that in order to motivate myself to train more regularly, I need a goal. This race is for a great cause–our local schools–and is a fairly flat course. The weather should be great. I promise to let you all know how that goes.

Here’s to a great fall! Last night the Brewmaster and I made spaghetti squash from our own garden with tomato sauce and goat’s cheese. We’ve been enjoying drinking hard cider and cooking things from our garden. Tonight I will stuff one of the huge zucchinis that grew to gigantic proportions when I forgot to check on my garden for a whole week; I’m thinking organic sausage and grass-fed hamburger would pair well with it. In the meantime, this pumpkin-chia-almond milk smoothie is the best post-run concoction to come out of my Vitamix yet! Think liquid pumpkin pie with a lot of protein.img_6496

And I will use this lovely weather to get back out there, and feel thankful for all the love and respect I have on the homefront. Winter is coming, and it may not be a gentle one.