Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Highway 12


There is an amazing highway here in Utah that is one of the most stunning roads that I have ever been on (not just my opinion, it is ranked as one of the top 10 drives in the country) and I just got back from a little trip that had me traversing it's entire length of 122.9 miles.   I had traveled a small section before, multiple times, but had never continued on. What a mistake!

I started on the south end, so I met Hwy12 from Hwy89 and a short time later was near Bryce Canyon National Park, one of my favorite parks!!!!.

It almost doesn't look real, does it?

Even the trees are calm, due to their yoga.  :)  It looks like warrior pose to me...
It almost looks like another world...

After leaving Bryce Canyon NP behind, it was time to continue on Hwy12 thru the little towns of Tropic, Cannonville, and the like til we reached our first day destination of Esclante, which is a gateway to the Grand Staircase National Monument.

The next day we drove the heart of the highway, which is an amazing feat of engineering and sheer determination in the last area mapped in the continental United States.

The road was carved into the rock
The rock almost looks like snow, doesn't it?

The thing that impressed me the most was the diversity of the scenery in such a small geological area: red rock, white rock, smooth, textured, it was all on display during this 60 mile section and when you looked for the river another aspect came into view...

Follow the river....the trees know where it is...

Even away from the river, life happens...

I love this desert wildflower.
So glad I'm able to visit places like this...

At every turnout, you just had to look and be in awe of this amazing planet and the slice I live near....

The road runs through Boulder, Utah and we stopped for a break and got an AMAZING tip to drive the Burr Trail.  So GLAD we did...
The beginning of a little slot canyon off the Trail

The echoes you could produce were insane

It always surprises me where trees can grow.
One of my favorite things about being out in nature is the silence and when I got out of the car and explored, it was there, and in that silence you start noticing the little things, like patterns in the red rock or a little nook tucked away...
Love this...

A porthole in the rock

We ended up not driving the whole trail, but if you did you would end up at Bullfrog on Lake Powell.  I think the next time I go down, I will.....

With scenery like this, I could drive forever

I love the diversity so close together...

It was time to leave the Burr Trail and Boulder behind and continue on to Torrey, home of Capitol Reef National Park.  I know that this has been a photo bonanza of a post, but I don't want to leave a section out....

First up, the animals of Capitol Reef...  A deer who posed for me

A very shy Marmot that was sooooo cute as he ran...

A bird that didn't want his face to be shown...

Capitol Reef NP is the smallest, youngest, and least visited National Park in Utah.  (How lucky am I to live in a state that has 5!!!!)  I even have a habit of skipping it, not being to it since I was a little kid.  I won't be neglecting it in the future!  It is beautiful and has a mixture of drives and hikes so I think it is easily accessed by anyone.

Ancient cliff drawings by the Fremont Indians

Twin Rocks

Amazing scenery as a storm rolled in...

A slot canyon for cars....

Overlooking the mesas of Capitol Reef

I was lucky enough to have perfect weather, low 70's and even the clouds worked for me for the photographs, and since I went before Memorial Day, the crowds weren't even out!  I will definitely be doing this adventure again, hiking trails I missed and roads not traveled....

And just another reminder, visit your National Parks!!!  But while you are there, respect them....
and just a little blog reading tip, if you want to see the photos larger, just click on them.
Melissa




















Saturday, May 7, 2016

Goiter Free in 2016

I'm betting you read the title and went 'Huh? What in the world is she talking about now?'.  I promise by the end this will all make sense and how iodine played a major role.

Yes, iodine...

It started with a simple statement in August of 'I just feel off....'  It wasn't even anything that I could put my finger on,  just something within me just kept saying something was not right, so I went to the doctor and they found nothing.  I chalked it up to everything that had been going on and vowed to take better care of myself and I did, but I never lost that 'off' feeling.

I won't go into all of the details, but let's just say there was a cycle of colds and flu's and each time my energy levels sunk to a new lower level of  normal.  I went to the doctor multiple times, but the cold or the flu got the attention and the treatments.

By the end of February, my energy levels were in the dump.  I felt like crap and was not in a good place health wise.

And then, it got worse....
they call it brain fog, but it's way worse than that...
I couldn't function.  I couldn't read (and if you know me at all, you know that was the straw that broke my emotional back).  For a couple of weeks, I didn't feel comfortable driving because I started feeling overwhelmed at all of the things I had to process at once, so I stopped driving.  I got rides to work, made friends drive when I went out, and then I stopped going out all together.....

Thankfully, a friend, around this time, suggested that I go to the doctor and beg them to run more comprehensive tests, especially the TSH, a test to check the individual thryoid hormone levels,  because it looked like I was going through what her sister had gone through...

I had to fight to get it done, but when the test came back all of my levels were messed up, dangerously messed up.    And it explained everything, all that I had been feeling for a long time, for you see, most thyroid issues don't happen overnight, it is a long slow decline, which is one of the reasons it takes so long to get a diagnosis....

Now here is the part, where I tell you some very frustrating news, for a lot of people, there isn't a definitive reason why their thyroid goes crazy.  There might be contributors, but one specific cause, not so much.  I have a family history, but that didn't guarantee that I would have issues, it just gave the doctors something to look into...  And it gets even more frustrating, treating the thyroid isn't a one size fits all treatment plan, it can take a long time to get the right medication, dosage, and health plan.  (If you really want me up on a soapbox, ask me about the #1 drug prescribed for thyroid issues).

My tale is a bit different, due to the fact that not only was my thyroid a mess, my entire endocrine system was in trouble and that got them doing a bit more investigating and research and asking me questions, and for that I consider myself very lucky.  A simple question of "Do you use salt?" and my response of "NEVER, I can't stand the stuff...." led to questions about the foods highest in iodine which resulted in an urine test which is the best option for testing iodine levels  and it showed that I had NO traceable amounts of iodine in my system which is very bad for the thyroid.

Iodine is ESSENTIAL for the thyroid to function properly, granted it's a delicate balance of if you have too much it can mess up the thyroid and if you have too little it can't function, but ESSENTIAL none the less.  I am in the small minority of not getting enough, and hence my goiter title because a goiter is the last symptom in low iodine levels.  Here is a LINK that has a list of iodine rich foods and what iodine does for you.  One thing to remember, your body can not produce iodine, so it HAS to come from your diet.  I ate some of the foods on the list, but not consistently enough to maintain my levels.

So, you see, my intuition was right, there was something wrong...
it just took a while to find it.

It's going to be a slow, steady upward climb to normal for my body, and it has to be done that way, because adding too much iodine back in my system at once can be as damaging as my low levels, but I already feel soooooooooooooooo much better.

I'm also thinking, now, that it may of been a good thing that I hit the rock bottom the way I did or they may of missed the iodine part of my problem, which was my key to solving my health issues.

So, why did I write this blog?  For one simple reason, these bodies that we live in are in a delicate balance and if something goes even a little off, it can have dramatic effects.  You are your best indicator when something is wrong.  Trust your gut, intuition, or whatever you may call it and if you have learned not to listen to it, start trusting it again.  Relearn to listen.  Your quality of life depends on it.

Now comes the part, where I remind you about the whole balance thing, do not panic and start self diagnosing and treatment planning, so do not just add an iodine supplement without your doctor's knowledge.  If you feel like this is an issue, start a dialogue with your medical professionals!  I have a very specific plan put in place by my doctors, nutritionist, and myself (cause I'm the one who has to do it) to build my iodine levels.  Be smart and find your balance of advocating for your health and trusting your medical team (whether traditional Western medicine or holistic or a combination, which is what I use).

I hope you never have to travel down this road, or any health crisis road, but if you are struggling, I hereby offer my hand, advice and encouragement to hang in there, because as I have learned your health is nothing to take for granted....

Healing...
Melissa

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Foodie Adventures...

I figured since I gave updates about my reading challenge that I would do it as well for my 2016 Food Challenge as well....  Here is a link to the Full Challenge

2.  Learn a new cooking technique.

     I made Baked Alaska in February for Baked Alaska Day, February 1st if you were wondering.  It was adventure!  The new technique came with the meringue that would be topping the dessert.  This is what I learned, sometimes the right tool can make all the difference!  I had two batches of mini Baked Alaskans and with the first one I used a hand mixer to whip up the heated egg whites and sugar.  I mixed and mixed and mixed and finally got it to what I thought was the right consistency and applied it to the ice cream and cake.  When they came out of the oven, they looked like bunny slopes, not mountain peaks......  Round two, I figured out a way to heat up the egg whites and sugar in my bowl of my kitchen aid mixer and then used the whisk attachment and whipped up the meringue in no time flat and when they came out of the oven, mountain peaks!!!!  If you want a more details and photos, here's MORE

3.  Go meatless on Monday for a month.

     In January, I made a point of eating more vegetarian meals, not just going meatless on Mondays, but at least 2 other times a week as well.   I continued this in February, March, and April...

40. Do a pantry clean out challenge.  (Don't buy anything except fresh veggies for a month)

      The month of February was when I tackled this and will do this once a year...  Details about it are here....

19. Learn how to sharpen a knife.
24. Learn a new French knife skill.

       On March 9th, I took a Knife Skills class at Harmon's, who knew they had a cooking school, but they do and it's AMAZING!  I learned how to sharpen knives and a whole lot of other great tips.  It turns out that the way I had been holding my knife was not the safest and the difference in the grip while cutting is huge!  I got a new knife out of the class, plus I got to take all of the veggies I had chopped up while learning home....  A great experience.

1.   Clean out and reorganize your fridge.

      This has been  on going and was also partnered with my Pantry challenge.  I found I had 7 different bottles of salad dressing in my fridge.  One of them had solidified....  I now have one and am working on eliminating that one by finding a homemade version I love.  I used up items and really thought about my preferences and tastes.  The best part about it, I know exactly where everything is in my fridge at the moment...

7.  Slow cook something.

     Even though I do not eat a lot of meat, I still find on holidays that I go with the traditional meal, which is generally founded on meat.  St. Patrick's Day with its corned beef and cabbage is no different and I make mine in the crock pot.  Throw it all in the morning and 8 hours later, dinner!  That is why I love slow cookers and use them often!  And if you are a vegetarian, don't feel left out, there are a ton of cookbooks for slow cooking vegetarian.

41.  Master pie crusts

     I made a HUGE step forward in this on pi day, March 14th, when my crust turned out both delicate and flaky!  It was a big improvement from my last attempt.  I found a recipe on Pinterest, of course, that walked me through the consistency part (how much water to add so you have enough to hold it together and not crack, but not so wet that it gets tough).  The other thing that I did was a 1/2 ratio of cold water and cold Vodka.  The vodka keeps gluten from going berserk when beginner crust makers like myself work dough.  I'll make another one this year and see if it holds, but this just makes me happy!

31. Create a well-stocked pantry.

     My pantry challenge made me realize what I want and need in my well-stocked pantry.  This was an eye opener, but now I can make multiple dinners with items I keep on hand.
 
15. Cook dinner at home at least three nights a week for a month

     I view going out to dinner as an event or gathering with friends, so on a daily basis, I cook and eat at home, so this really is not much of a challenge for me.  I achieved this in January, February, March and April and will probably achieve it all the rest of the months of the year.


16. Make perfectly poached eggs.

      Eggs Benedict, here I come....April 16th was Eggs Benedict Day, so that's what I had for dinner and poached eggs are necessary to that meal.  I can't say they were perfect, but they were pretty well formed and were cooked to the right consistency.  :)  Tip of the day...don't crowd the pan, do them in batches...


25. Pack your own lunch for a week.
35. Follow a recipe to the T without making any changes.
47. A salad for dinner at least once a week

     I won't go into details on these as it would be a bit boring, but they were done.

14. Deep-fry something

      This is something that I do not do often, but I have frozen mozzarella steaks in my freezer that I made that need to be fried, so viola, I deep fried something.  It's a quick easy meal that I pare with a salad.

36. Grow something.

    My early garden is in with peas, carrots, lettuce, radishes, kale, and broccoli thriving, and with May here, my other veggies will be going in

This has been an interesting adventure that has made me think more about the food I buy and prepare.  I still have quite a few to go but if you are looking to mix up your eating and food routines, try a food challenge....

Still cooking,
Melissa