Category Archives: Food

Adding Gadgets To My House (or Tools To Help Me Out)

While I’m trying to cut back on my spending and bringing more things into my house, sometimes you need to break that rule to make things better. It’s a hard balance to figure out because I’m sure I can justify spending for stuff I really don’t need. So I’m trying to be very picky and making sure that it’s something that I really need and not just something that I want. But there were two gadgets that fit into that rule that I ended up buying this week.

The first thing I got was a lamination machine for my house. Usually when I need to laminate stuff, I go to Staples and pay to get it done. I normally only need one thing or one page so it never seemed worth it to me to have my own lamination machine. But my mom has had one for a while and loved it, so when I was thinking about getting stuff laminated this week I looked into buying one for myself.

I did manage to find one that was heavily discounted on Amazon that would arrive that day at my house (thanks Amazon Prime)! And it was perfect because I have been working on my meal planning and wanted to create a nice reusable meal planning guide.

The machine I got is really easy to use and it came with a bunch of the laminating pages so I don’t need to buy any for a little bit. And I have been able to use the meal planning page I created each day (although I’m still trying to figure out how I can write on this without ruining it). And it’s small enough that it fits into a shelf on my desk so it is out of the way when I am not going to be using it.

The other new gadget I got this week also has to do a bit with my challenge to work on meal planning. I’ve thought for a long time that my kitchen was perfectly set up for me to cook, but I’m aware that I set it up based on what most people need and not what I need. I’m a pretty decent cook and my knife skills are ok, but when I have to cut up a bunch of stuff I’m not so great at it. So I have been looking casually at ideas to make chopping stuff easier and decided I needed to invest in a new cooking gadget. So I went out and got the Vidalia Chop Wizard.

I got it yesterday and used it last night to cook dinner. I made meatloaf muffins and this was perfect for chopping the onions and mushrooms I use it in. It was so much easier than chopping things by hand and everything was uniform so I didn’t bit into a huge piece of onion while eating dinner. I know that this can be used for a ton of stuff and I have a feeling that I will be discovering ways to use it on a regular basis.

And besides the new stuff I bought this week, I’ve been rediscovering stuff in my kitchen to help me with my food goals. I’ve been using my slow cooker (and I found my slow cooker liners so I don’t have to do much cleanup) to make easy meals and I’ve found recipes that don’t require browning food or getting another pan dirty to make the meal (my slow cooker pet peeve). And I’ve been using my food processor regularly the last few weeks and have started to think that maybe I need to buy another food processor bowl and blade so it will be easier to use it multiple times a day.

I know that I can do a lot of the work I’ve been using these gadgets for by hand, but why should I? This is making cooking easier and seems like I could be more likely to keep things up in the long run. The only downside is that I do need to go through my kitchen now and figure out what I really want to keep and what I can give to others because my kitchen is super tiny and lacking storage space. I don’t know where to put everything just yet (there are things all over my house that could live in the kitchen if there was space), but that will be something else I need to work on with organizing my house.

But for now, I’m just so glad that I was ok spending a bit of money to try to make things better for me with figuring other things out in my life.

Brunch Time (or Keeping Up With Our Group)

It’s now the 3rd year that my WIF mentoring group has been meeting and I’m so glad that we have been able to continue meeting as a group. Even though the past 2 years have been without our mentors, I still think our group is just as effective as ever. We have bonded so well as a group and the encouragement we get from each other is so important.

We had our first meeting of 2017 this past Sunday (we’ve discovered that brunch meetings seem to work best for us all) and it was nice getting to see almost the entire group together! We did miss 2 people due to scheduling issues, but it’s pretty tough to get everyone to be able to agree on a date with all the crazy schedules we all have. So we try to pick the time that works for most of us and that’s what we go with.

We had a nice brunch at Rush St (where my birthday party was 2 years ago) and even though it was Super Bowl Sunday, we were there early enough that the restaurant was still pretty empty and it was quiet. We all got there within a few minutes of each other and quickly ordered our food so we could get down to the business part of the meeting.

Every time I’m at Rush St for brunch, I have to get something that includes their tater tots. They are so amazing and even though this was a splurge meal for me, it was totally worth it (it was also my main meal for the day).

Once we got our food ordered, we had our traditional meeting with going around the group sharing what we have been up to for the past 2 months and asking for advice with things that we need help with. Everyone wanted me to go first so I updated everyone on my liver situation, the short film, and the Beverly Hills Shorts Festival (which is coming up this Sunday if you want tickets!).

I realized that I didn’t have too much to update everyone on beyond those things since lately my life hasn’t been too focused on my acting career. I didn’t realize how much I had been slacking on things until talking to the group so it was a big wake up call for me to get my butt in gear and start doing more. I know that I am putting things off because of the surgery in 2 months, but there is a lot I can do before surgery and I want to get things in place to be ready for me when I’m fully recovered (which will hopefully take about a month).

When everyone else was sharing, as always I was so inspired by each of them. While we all are at different stages of our careers, I know that we can all learn from each other and that the experience we each have is valuable. I love getting to hear what everyone else has been doing and the progress they’ve been able to make in the last 2 months. Some of the projects that we talk about are things that people have been working on since our very first meeting. It shows how important sticking with it and not giving up really is to having a successful career. As much as we all want to be overnight success stories, so many of those are really 10 years in the making.

Because of all of our busy schedules, we had to keep this brunch pretty quick so we could all get to our various meetings, events, and jobs. It is awards season right now and there are so many things happening around LA. Plus, with the Super Bowl happening that day, the restaurant was starting to fill up and the sound was being turned on the tv so it was getting loud. So we all wrapped up our meeting and headed out to continue our day.

Our next meeting will be in April and it should be before my surgery. I joked that I wanted to hold the next meeting from my hospital room, but I’m glad that we don’t have to do that in case I’m in too much pain. But I think most of the people from the group are going to be visiting me when I am in the hospital. Plus, since so many of them live in my neighborhood, they have offered to help me out if I need it after surgery. I will have my parents here for about a week and a half, but it’s good to know that I have some amazing friends that can be there for me if I need it.

Time For Some Planning (or Trying A Challenge Again This Month)

It’s a new month and time for a new challenge in my Ink+Volt Planner! First, I want to reflect a bit on my January challenge. I set my challenge to be to work on tumor visualization every day. I set an alarm to remember to do this each morning and most of the time I would be able to do this before the alarm went off. Many mornings, I put my tumor visualization in my morning pages for “The Artist’s Way”. And if I didn’t write about it in the morning, I spent some time sitting quietly and thinking about my tumors getting smaller.

I won’t know if this worked until I have my next MRI in March, but I’m going to keep doing this until my surgery and then after surgery I will be doing liver visualization to work on getting my liver to regenerate quickly. I know that in the past, the power of positive thinking has worked really well for me so I’m looking forward to seeing how well it will work for me this time.

I’ll admit that my January challenge wasn’t too challenging for me. It was something I wanted to do, but I didn’t have to work too hard to do it. So since I did something easier last month, I’m doing something that has challenged me multiple times this month. My February challenge is to work on meal planning again.

I’ve attempted meal planning more times than I can count. I’ve tried doing it with bulk cooking, delivery diet meals, meal replacements, and just trying to cook more at home. They have all had moments of success, but none of them have really lasted that long. So this time, I’m attempting another method to see if this time it will be one that sticks. I believe that eventually, a method will be the one that I connect with and I can’t find that out until I try different ones.

I’m doing a pretty basic meal plan set up. I don’t have a specific diet or plan I’m trying to follow. I’m just trying to plan my meals so I don’t have to think too hard about what I’m going to eat that day and to be better and only getting what I need at the grocery store. I found a pretty basic meal plan printable and I started using that this week.

Originally, I typed in what I was planning to eat but because things keep changing I’ve been crossing things out a lot. I’m thinking about printing a blank template, getting it laminated, and using a dry erase pen or post-its to plan so it is easier to switch things around. There is also a grocery list printable that matches this, but I’m used to writing grocery lists on envelopes (if I’m using coupons) or on scratch paper so I don’t feel the need to use a fancy grocery list.

My ultimate goal would be where I could plan things out on Sunday and do my grocery shopping for the week and be done with it. If I don’t have to go to the grocery store to find something for dinner, maybe I won’t be tempted by all the things I shouldn’t be eating. If I plan things out, I can know exactly how many of each thing I need and then I can make better grocery lists. This could potentially save me money too, but that’s not the focus right now.

My main goal with meal planning is to be successful with following the plan for at least 2 meals a day. Breakfast should be pretty easy, but I do struggle with lunch and dinner a bit. But by having a plan, I can look forward to what I will be eating that day and hopefully it will take my mind off of thinking about what I should go to the store and buy after I’m done with work. I’m also hoping that it will help me with eating a better lunch on days that I’m working out. Sometimes, I don’t make the best food choices on workout days and my workouts do suffer because of that.

I’m not expecting a miracle. I know that there will be a lot of challenges with this and that there is potential that I will not be as successful as I like to be with my monthly challenges. But I have to try because I know that I need to make a change in my life to get into recovery and to lose weight. And if nothing else, this will force me to be more aware and a more conscious participant in my food choices and help to limit the lack of mindfulness that I do struggle with.

This won’t be an easy challenge for me to do, but it’s an important one for me. I’m going to do my best to plan and to figure out the best way for me to do the planning, and hopefully in a month I’ll be able to share with you all that this worked really well for me!

Getting Out Of A Food Funk (or I Need To Get Back To My Good Work)

I had been doing really great with food for the past few months. A lot of it started when I spent the day in the hospital and then was on a restricted diet for a bit while doctors figured out what was wrong with my liver. I lost quite a bit of weight during that time and I was binge free for a few weeks. I know that not having binges and restricted diet obviously helped with the weight loss, but I had also been keeping off the weight so I figured it was also the hard work I had been putting into things.

I’m still having trouble accepting compliments about the weight loss. It does still feel unearned to me in a way because the majority of what I lost was while I was sick so I didn’t feel like I did anything to earn it. I’m finally able to just say “thanks” when someone says I look like I’ve lost a lot of weight and not explain as much that it was because I was sick. But when people ask me what I did to lose the weight, then I end up telling them about being sick and the restricted diet I was on for a while.

There have been a lot of splurge meals lately. I need to be able to enjoy food and not stress about it, so I do allow splurges. The key is trying to get back on track with the next meal and not waiting for the next day, next week, next month to do so. I had been doing ok with that as well and I have been trying to plan my food around the splurge meals to try to eat lightly before and after the big meals. I think I’m a lot better at planning for before the meal than after, so I try to make those bigger meals dinners.

But this past week, I’ve been struggling a lot. It happened the day after my appointment with my therapist (ironic timing). I’ve had more binges in that week than I have had in a week in a while. The only good thing is that the binges are significantly fewer calories than they have been before. A lot of the binges are 1/3 or 1/4 of the calories of the old ones (yes, I track calories during binges when I can). I think that while this is a set back, it is progress at the same time and showing that my relationship with food is getting better. Obviously no binges would be better, but binges that are only 25% as strong as the old ones were is good.

From all the “bad” days I’ve had this past week, I’m up about 5 pounds. It’s not that much (and as a friend pointed out to me this gain could also be related to hormones), so the fact that I’m aware now is hopefully a sign that it will not continue to go up much and I can get it back down to where it was and then start making progress on my weight loss again. While my focus of getting my body ready for my liver surgery isn’t weight loss focuses, there is a number that I’d love to get to on the scale before I have surgery.

I know that being aware of these problems is a big step. In the past, I know that I have gone months before I realized that I had a problem. I’ve gained 40, 50, 60 pounds back after a weight loss before I took a second and realized that something wasn’t right. My binges were more of trances and I didn’t get out of the trance as quickly so I wouldn’t know I needed to stop. Awareness is a skill that I’m working on so I’m happy that there is a sign that it’s starting to work in my life. I just need to make that skill stronger and I don’t know how to do that outside of actual practice (which I don’t love because that means I can only work it when I have a binge episode).

I don’t want to blame the holidays for the increase in binges, but I know that having a busy social life can be a part of it. Things will be calming down for me in the next week or so, and hopefully that does help a bit. But on the other side, I know that being bored and having no plans can lead to binges as well so I need to find the perfect balance of busy and bored. It’s a balance that will be tough to find, but clearly I’m working my way toward that since these bad episodes are significantly better than they have been for me in the past.

A Christmas Lunch (or The Levin-Levin-Levine Summit)

I hope that you all had a really nice Christmas! I knew my day was going to be pretty low-key, and it was exactly that and perfect! Not everything went the way I was expecting, but I think overall I had the exact day that I needed.

It’s tradition to watch movies and eat Chinese food on Christmas for me. I love the tradition and I was looking forward to it again this year. The only thing that was slightly stressing me out was getting delivery food. I set it as a monthly challenge earlier this year to stop getting delivery food. And with the exception of getting Chipotle delivered from Postmates a few times (which to me is more about being too lazy to go to Chipotle than it is about delivery food), I haven’t had delivery food since February.

I was ok with breaking that streak for Christmas and was planning on doing just that. But then my friend Sarah Levin (technically we aren’t related but there is a study out there that says all people named Levin are 30th cousins or something) asked me what I was doing on Christmas. I invited her over to watch movies and get Chinese food, but she asked if we could go out for food instead. She had a friend (named Sara Levine) with her and wanted to go out for lunch. That sounded perfect to me and we all met up for Christmas lunch!

The restaurant we went to ended up not being too crowded. It wasn’t one of the restaurants that does Jewish comics on Christmas (those were all booked up), but it had good Chinese food and had a large vegan selection since Sarah is vegan. We ordered several dishes to share (some vegan and some not) and it ended up being a really great selection for us all.

And besides great food, we had great conversation! We had so much random stuff we talked about (somehow the conversation took a dark turn, but that was fine with us all) and since the restaurant wasn’t too crowded, we didn’t feel rushed out or that we needed to hurry up. It was a relaxing lunch and all the food was so delicious!

And of course, with Chinese food you get fortunes and I think we all got some pretty awesome ones.

And because we thought it was so funny that 3 Jewish girls (2 named Levin and 1 named Levine) were together for Christmas lunch, we had to get a photo together. We took some normal ones, but I think the silly ones were best!

After lunch, I was planning on going home and resting for a bit before another friend was going to come over to watch movies with me for the evening. I felt fine at lunch, but after getting home I started to have some bad cramps. I thought at first it could have been from indulging at lunch, but sadly they ended up being menstrual cramps. I haven’t had to deal with those in forever because I was on the pill, but now I get to have them again. One of the reasons I was on the pill and took it continuously was because of the horrible cramps I used to get. Now I don’t have a way of avoiding them.

I texted my friend to let him know of the situation and ended up cancelling our plans. I was taking painkillers, but I was still feeling awful (the cramps ended up lasting about a day and a half so I’m doing better now). My afternoon and evening were spent on my couch with a heating pad on my abdomen, fake fire on my tv, and a good book on my Kindle.

I would have liked to have been able to be social on Christmas evening (I was invited to several parties that night), but my body needed me to rest. I’m working on listening to my body even though sometimes I do push through things because I’m stubborn. And my body said that my evening was going to be low-key and that’s exactly what I did.

It really was a nice way to spend Christmas. I have never really celebrated Christmas so all I care about it the few traditions I have been doing that day. Chinese food is only one part of that, but spending it with friends is important. And getting to combine the food and friends that day made things so much better. I didn’t order delivery food, which is a big risk for me to have a binge episode, so I’m glad I found another way to continue the traditions and to make them even better.

Another Grove Adventure (or Dinner And Not A Screening)

I rarely go to the Grove, so the fact that I went last week was unique enough. But the fact that I went back this week is totally crazy! But since it is the time that I get a lot of invitations to screenings, there is always a chance I’ll be back there. Most of the screenings I go to are at the Director’s Guild or other screening rooms, but from time to time the screenings are at regular movie theaters.

This week, I had been invited to a screening of “Sing” at the Grove. I RSVPed right away, but because it wasn’t a screening hosted by an organization that I’m a part of they said that they overbook and seating will be first come first served. I invited my friend Dani to come with me and since we both had that afternoon free we decided to meet up for dinner before the screening.

The screening was at 7:30 and we figured we should try to line up an hour or so early (that’s what I usually do), so we met for dinner at the Grove at 5. We ended up going to the Cheesecake Factory since it is next to the theater and were seated on the balcony. They have heating lamps out there so it wasn’t too cold, and I liked having the view of all the lights from our table.

We had a nice dinner and discussed lots of random stuff. Some of it was about our tickets for Pantages (it was at dinner that we realized our next show was on Oscar Sunday so we started to work on figuring out when to move our tickets to). And of course since she is my workout buddy we discussed Orangetheory. It’s always nice to be able to get together with a friend for dinner and I’m glad we had some time to hang out that wasn’t before a show or on the treadmills during class.

We enjoyed our dinner of salads and cheesecake (you can’t go to Cheesecake Factory without getting cheesecake!) and then headed to the theater next door to line up. The line wasn’t too full so I figured getting there when we did worked out pretty well. Dani has never joined me for a screening, so she was excited to go to one with me. And close to 7pm, the line started to move and we were getting excited to get inside.

But as we were almost at the front of the line, someone from the studio came over to say that the screening was at capacity and that there were no more seats. This is something I know can happen at screenings, but it’s never really happened to me. Turns out, the line that we saw when we got in line was only part of the line. They had been letting people inside the theater for almost an hour by the time we got there because some people were lining up 2 or 3 hours before the screening.

While I was sad that we didn’t get in, it wasn’t horrible. I do want to see “Sing”, but I’m sure I’ll have other opportunities to see it. I know I’m so lucky that I get to go to as many screenings as I do (movies are so expensive!) so I’m not going to be upset that I missed one of them. There were so many kids in line who didn’t get to see the movie and I feel so bad that they didn’t get in.

Since we no longer had a screening to go to, Dani and I decided to walk around the Grove a bit. The Christmas decorations were just as pretty as they were the week before, but it was so much more crowded there!

We decided to wander around Barnes and Noble where I found some new books I wanted to add to my library wish list plus some books that I want to buy as gifts for people next year. It was funny walking around a bookstore since I haven’t really done that in a while. And there were some sections in the bookstore where there were so many books in a row that I have read! I know I read a ton, but since they are usually on my Kindle I don’t think too much about the number of books I get through.

It was nice getting to window shop in a bunch of different stores and see the various holiday decorations that the stores have, but the crowds at the Grove were starting to get a bit overwhelming. It was tough to walk around without having to stop because there were too many people in front of us. So we decided it was time to leave there before the crowds got even worse.

Even though my plans that night were to get dinner and see a movie with a friend, it was just as nice to get dinner and window shop. Taking time to just walk around and check out what is happening isn’t something I do all the time, so it was a nice change of pace from what I’m used to.

Foodie Con (or Still Not Sure If Conventions Are My Thing)

A little while ago, I was asked if I’d be interested in attending a food convention that would be happening in LA. While I’m not a huge fan of conventions (I don’t love the crowds and overwhelming feeling I get there), I thought this could be something really fun to do. The convention I was invited to was Foodie Con LA and it was held this past weekend.

foodie-con-sign

I was only able to attend on Sunday (I was busy with work and other commitments on Saturday) and originally planned on trying to go with a friend. Unfortunately, my friend couldn’t make it so I headed there by myself and was determined to make the most of my time there.

While there were some really great things about Foodie Con, I was saddened to see that when I arrived there were several empty booths. I don’t know if those people were arriving late, but they weren’t there an hour after opening. It did help to have fewer booths to try to get to, but it was weird to see the emptiness in the space.

But besides the emptiness, I did have some fun there. I still had the overwhelming feeling of being at a convention and it was tough being there alone, but I did meet some cool vendors. I didn’t try anything (my stomach was having an off morning) but it was fun to see some of the new and creative food products out there.

If I had to pick a favorite vendor, I think it comes down to 2 options. The first favorite that I met is a grocery delivery/farmers market box service called Milk & Eggs. I’ve thought about doing a farmers market box in the past, but I’m always afraid that I won’t be able to eat everything in the box (or it will include things that I know I don’t like). But with Milk & Eggs, you can set it up to be more like a regular grocery delivery. They have the farmers market samplers that are very common to see with other companies, but they also have prepared foods and other thing available.

food-delivery

Yes, they have dairy and egg products (hence the name), but they also have pantry items and meat. And some of the things I was seeing online were holiday specials like honey ham and pastas. I don’t know if I want to have something like this delivered to me on the regular, but I like having it as an option. I’ve been thinking about when I have my liver surgery how I may be restricted in lifting things for a while. So a grocery delivery service may be necessary. And I think Milk & Eggs seems like an awesome one to use that is reasonably priced and has a lot of things that I would want to eat.

And my favorite food vendor was Truffles USA. I love truffles. They are just so yummy and when I see a dish that has truffles in it at a restaurant I will usually get that. And Truffles USA is all about truffles! They do sell whole truffles (which are very expensive and totally out of my budget), but they also have a lot of truffle products for sale.

truffle-table

I didn’t buy anything while I was there, but I have a feeling that I will be making some purchases from them soon. I’d love to have some truffle oil or truffle butter to use in recipes. It may help to get some creativity back into my meals. Truffles USA also posts some recipes on their website and I’m seeing if any of them seem to be something I could and would like to make. I’ll share with you any truffle recipes that I test out and love!

There were other nice vendors at Foodie Con, but I didn’t really connect with any of the other businesses there. Some of the stuff was food I wouldn’t really eat (a lot of vegan and gluten-free options compared to non-vegan or gluten foods) and there were a few booths that were so packed with people that I didn’t feel like I could go check it out. Even though there weren’t a ton of people at the event while I was there, it seemed like a few booths were the super popular ones that everyone went to and crowded around.

Overall, while conventions aren’t really my thing, I’m glad I checked out Foodie Con. I did get to meet some cool food people and I have a feeling that I will be checking out some of the vendors to see if I want to order from them at a later time. I’m grateful that I was invited to check it out and hopefully the next time I go to a convention like this I have a friend to check it out with me!

Thanksgiving Prep (or So Little Time)

Leading up to Thanksgiving, I knew there was a lot of stuff I had to get done and I was really trying to plan things out the best I could. Of course, things never work out the way you think they will. I’m just glad I got all my prep work done before I left last week!

The main part of my Thanksgiving prep was getting the food made that I knew I was bringing. I only was bringing 3 dishes with me, but when you have a tiny kitchen making 3 dishes can seem overwhelming! Especially when I don’t have multiples of the kitchen things I was using!

The first thing I made was banana bread. This has become a tradition over the past few years and I’m glad I’m able to make it to help out. It’s a pretty easy recipe to make and I happened to have some bananas that were overly ripe that I could use. I had almost all of the ingredients that I needed for the recipe at my house (except some of the dairy and the blueberries) and it was a quick thing to put together and get into the oven so I could make the 2 other things I needed to make.

The other dishes I was bringing were dips. I made the feta dip that is a tradition with the family (usually my mom makes it but it is now my thing to make). This is another easy thing to put together, but it is something that I usually don’t have the ingredients for in my house. But once you have everything you need, you just throw it all in the food processor and it is done! The other dip I made was a white bean dip that I found online. It was another really easy thing (just white beans, garlic, parsley, olive oil, and lemon) that was a food processor dip. The only complication I had was I only have one food processor bowl. So I made the feta dip, washed and dried the bowl, and made the other dip. Between the dips and the bread, I got everything done within about an hour.

thanksgiving-food

Packing was something else I tried to plan out, but it ended up being something that I was doing while I was working the day I was going to be driving to San Diego. My family now does casual Thanksgiving and that does make things easier with packing. But because I have lost a pretty significant amount of weight lately, I’ve been realizing that many of my clothes don’t fit anymore. So I grabbed all of the things I was thinking of packing and was trying them on between customers. I guess I should just feel lucky that my work is online chat and phones and my customers can’t see me!

Between packing and cooking, I felt like I had enough on my plate. But I also ended up having my liver MRI the night before driving to San Diego. I was at the hospital for a few hours getting it done so that was a bit of a time suck. The MRI itself wasn’t too horrible. Once the IV was in and I was in the machine, it was about 45 minutes. And at this hospital, you can listen to music while in the MRI tube. They had Pandora as an option and I requested the Broadway station. All the songs that played were things that I knew, but the best moment was when I heard my friend AJ singing on the “Heathers The Musical” soundtrack in-between 2 songs from “Hamilton”! That really made me happy and forget about all the stuff I had to do to prepare for San Diego the next morning.

And because all that craziness wasn’t enough leading up to San Diego, on Monday morning as I drove to my workout the power steering in my car died. I’ve never driven without power steering before and I knew that it was something that needed to be fixed before driving down. I took my car into the shop around 10am on Monday and discovered that the power steering in my car isn’t the standard one used so it would be tough to find a replacement part. They were hopeful that my car would be fixed by Friday, but that meant I wouldn’t have my car for Thanksgiving. Fortunately my mechanic offers free loaner cars so I got one of those and drove that to and from San Diego. As I’m writing this, my car still isn’t fixed. They got the replacement part in on Friday, but it’s still not fixing it. I’m hoping I’ll get my car back this week, but at least I have a loaner car to use so I don’t have to pay for a rental.

My Thanksgiving prep did end up being a bit stressful, but it all worked out in the end. I got everything done that I needed to (plus some things I wasn’t expecting) and I had an awesome Thanksgiving trip. But my Thanksgiving recap won’t be until tomorrow’s post!

A Harry Potter Afternoon (or Enjoying Some Butterbeer)

Since my appointment with the surgeon about my liver was in the morning, I knew I’d have that afternoon free. And when I have an afternoon free, I always contact my friend Michelle to see if she wants to go to Disneyland or something. We had gone to Disneyland recently enough, so we decided that we should do another adventure at Universal Studios. And right before that day, we discovered that they were offering one of the special Harry Potter drinks as a hot version for the first time there! So we figured it was meant to be that we went to the park.

Our entire reason to go to Universal was to ride the Harry Potter ride again and to get the hot butterbeer. We decided to get our drinks first since we were both a bit hungry and wanted a snack. We were warned that the drinks were hot so we decided to find a place outside to sit and people watch while we waited for the drinks to cool down.

hot-butterbeer

For those of you wondering, yes the hot butterbeer is awesome! I really love the frozen one, but this is just as good. It’s not as sweet as I expected it to be (except for the topping which was a bit too sweet but I didn’t taste that until I got to the end of the drink) and it felt like such a treat! We just hung out and relaxed while enjoying our drinks (and discussed the craziness of me having a tumor).

Our next stop was to ride the main ride in the Harry Potter section. After my fat shaming incident, things have gotten much better and I do enjoy the ride now. I use the alternative loading area so I have more time to get into the ride, but there is no issue with me fitting into it. The ride was just as fun as it was the last time and I know it will be one of those rides that I go on each time I go to Universal.

The only other ride we went on was the little roller coaster in the Harry Potter section. It’s a cute little ride (nothing too crazy), but since we didn’t want to do too much else in the park it was a nice way to spend some time.

Besides the butterbeer, the other main thing about going to Universal was to see the Harry Potter castle lit up at night. With the time change, there was finally a chance to see that happen. But we had some time to kill before the sun went down. At least the sky looked really pretty while we waited.

sunset-at-universal

And we got to check out one of the short shows that they do as well. I hadn’t seen one of the shows before, but this was really cute (even though I haven’t really read or watched Harry Potter and didn’t know all the references).

harry-potter-show

They do character photos after the show and we had no plan to stick around for it. But then they decided that the line would be starting behind us and we realized that since we were first we might as well take advantage of it and get a fun photo from the day.

group-photo

And before we knew it, the sun was down and the castle was lit up. It really was beautiful to be there looking around because they worked really hard on making this section of the park look amazing.

castle-at-night

You get sucked into the world and it feels like the outside world doesn’t exist anymore. You get to escape, which was perfect since this was the day before the election and we were both scared what would happen (I’m still pretty freaked out now after it’s all gone down).

We walked back through the Harry Potter land to get back to the main gate to leave the park (it was only a few minutes before the park closed so we weren’t going to stick around). We went to a fun Chinese restaurant at Citywalk for dinner to wait out rush hour traffic before heading home.

It wasn’t that long of a visit to Universal Studios (we were there less than 2 hours), but it was a lot of fun. After being nervous about my doctor appointment and then in probably a bit of shock after, I needed something to distract me from my day and make things end on a positive note.

My pass to Universal is about halfway done. I’ve got about 6 months to keep going to the parks and then I’ll have to figure out if I want to get a new pass. Before this, I hadn’t been to the parks since I worked there, but now I’m really enjoying it. It’s not as fun as going to Disneyland most of the time, but this is much closer to me and I still have a great time there. I’m hoping I’ll get at least another couple of visits in before my pass expires and I have to make a new plan on what to do.

Learning Lessons (or What Being Sick Taught Me)

I’m finally feeling almost 90% better now. This past week seemed to drag on as I felt off, but I’m glad that I almost feel like myself again. I’m questioning if the residual uncomfortableness is related to my liver, but I won’t find that out until I meet with the surgeon in a week and a half. And I think that going to Disneyland was good for my mental health and that helped me to feel better.

I’m still being very careful with what I’m eating and trying to take things easier than I normally do. I don’t want to do anything that will make me feel horrible again and being cautious makes me feel a bit in control in a situation that feels very out of control to me right now.

Now that I’m almost over whatever stomach thing I had, I’ve been reflecting a bit on what good things came out of this. Obviously, discovering that there may be a cyst on my liver is something good to learn about. If I didn’t have the stomach pain, I wouldn’t have known until it was worse and it may have been a more urgent situation. And I’m starting to wonder if my stomach pain was my body telling me to get checked out. I know when my mom found out she had cancer, it was because of a suspicious bruise that wouldn’t go away. The bruise had nothing to do with cancer, but it was what got her to the doctor and to do all the medical testing. Maybe my body was doing the same thing.

I’ve been on a pretty restricted diet since last Wednesday. At first, it was just clear liquids (chicken broth and jello) and has moved to soft foods. I’m starting to eat more normally now, but I’m still keeping things a bit restricted. This doesn’t feel like a weight loss diet, but that’s what it is. I’m eating mainly fruits and some vegetables with very little meat. This is not the most restrictive diet I’ve been on, but it’s up there.

But because of these restrictions I’ve been rediscovering foods that I love or that I forgot could be just fine for a meal. I’ve rediscovered cream of wheat (although the exact packets I loved before don’t seem to be in stores anymore). I make it with water and have a banana with it and it’s a pretty filling breakfast or lunch. I’ve had cheese and crackers for dinner one night when I was feeling a bit full and knew I still needed to eat something. And I’ve been looking at making the sautéed vegetables again that I used to have a lot when I was on the cleanse I did last year.

All of those foods are things that I could have had before, but I either forgot I enjoyed them or was so focused on other things that I wanted to eat that they just didn’t come to mind. These are all good and healthy things for me to eat and I need to work on keeping them in regular rotation. While I’m still a believer that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, there is a difference in how you feel when your calories are from a variety of foods versus a binge of one food.

I’ve also learned how to be gentle with myself. It’s not easy to take things easy, especially when you know you have so much you need to get done. I don’t want to be lazy and sit on the couch all day because that reminds me of myself when I wasn’t working hard at bettering myself. But sometimes, you need to have those days on the couch doing nothing. It was important for me to do that so I could get better and if I had pushed myself I know I wouldn’t be feeling as good as I do now.

And finally, I’ve learned to accept the out of control feeling again that I really hate. Right now because my liver isn’t healthy, I can’t take any painkillers. I hate the idea that I might be in pain and can’t take something to make it better. But I have to deal with that now and it’s been a good thing for me. I may have been taking too many painkillers for what I really need (I usually took 3-4 a week so it wasn’t close to what the maximum I could take would be). I’ve had to tolerate a bunch of needles lately. In the last month I’ve had 3 blood draws, 3 shots, and 1 IV for an MRI. And I’ve got at least one more IV coming up next week. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, and I can’t do anything to change it. So I have to learn how to accept something I can’t fix and make it the best situation I can.

While I wish I could have learned all these things without getting sick, at least knowing something good came out of it makes me feel a bit better about the situation. I know that I may need this positive thinking to continue as I do more tests on my liver and find out what a surgeon thinks needs to happen. Maybe I will learn more lessons from this whole liver situation to make it even seem more worthwhile that I had to go through something that isn’t that great. I know how easy it can be for me to get sucked into feeling sorry for myself (I had that happen when I got sick last week) and I am refocusing my energy on learning what I can from the circumstances I’m in.