Weekly Travel Theme – Motion

train sunset(Racing by a show-stopping Santa Barbara sunset on the Amtrak Coast Starlight)

The back-to-back, Monday-Tuesday, one-two photo challenge punch continues with this week’s Travel Theme of “Motion” from Where’s My Backpack. It is a counter-intuitive concept, to capture motion in a snapshot – I thought Ailsa picked the perfect quote to reflect this:

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.” – William Faulkner

And, with that, here are a few glimpses of motion I have captured both here and abroad.

dolphins(Dolphins playing alongside our whale watching trip in San Diego)

monkeys(Young rhesus macaques playing with prayer flags – and visitors – at Swayambhunath – The Monkey Temple – in Kathmandu, Nepal)

surfers(Watching the last wave of the evening, and resting after a long day in the sun and sea – Playa Dominica, Costa Rica)

pelaton(The Peloton entering Place de Concorde in the final stage of the Tour de France - Paris, France)

cairo(The slow meander of The Nile on a clear night – Cairo, Egypt)

niece on the move

nephew on the move(And, of course, no “Motion” post would be complete in my world without featuring my niece and nephew (both newly) in motion – thrilled with their mobility and clearly on a mission to tackle my camera.)

Weekly Photo Challenge – Nostalgic

nanis recipe books

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme over at The Daily Post is “Nostalgic” – these books, and their story below, are my take.

One of the few perks of being a child of divorce is the acquisition of additional grandparents. I was extremely lucky in this regard; my step-grandparents lovingly embraced me as one of their own from the very beginning. Following the death of my step-grandfather, my step-grandmother (whom we all called Nani – her spelling) moved to our sleepy coastal California town from her home in Rhode Island. I was thirteen. My brother and I would spend long afternoons at her house watching Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, playing chopsticks on the piano, learning to needlepoint (that was just me) and snatching up warm cookies right out of the oven, or snooping around the kitchen when we could smell her chili bubbling on the stove. Nani’s meals – served on sick days taken off from school, Saturday evenings when our parents were out being adults (every once in a while) and most every holiday – tasted like home. She clipped recipes of interest every month from her Bon Appetit and Gourmet subscriptions and sorted them into the collection of small, well-worn three-ring binders above. Once she tried them, she would rate her success with gold star stickers (one for ‘good'; two stars for ‘great’), and include notes of what to do or not to do, the next time around. Interspersed with those clipped magazine pages are her own recipes – tried and true family classics like her mother’s Danish Twist pastries that we all looked forward to on Christmas Morning, or the melty, gooey marshmallow rolls from her mother-in-law that Thanksgiving was never without. When Nani passed away in 2002, I had already transplanted myself to Boston for graduate school. One of the few things I asked be set aside for me were her ‘cookbooks’. Despite the 11 years it has taken me to return to California, my step-father continued to hold onto these precious collections for when I was ready and, once I settled into my home here, happily passed them along. His only request? Twists on Christmas.

Summer of San Diego!

balboa park(Museums in Balboa Park)

It is a funny thing, living in a vacation destination. Although I pass by the Sea World tower each day during my shuttle-ride to the lab, I am most often oblivious to the tourist attractions and natural wonders by which we am surrounded. In discussing how to spend our non-BBQ time during this Fourth of July weekend, The Bat and I got to discussing all of the San Diego attractions that, as residents, we have never taken the time to see and/or experience. Our list grew quite fast and the idea of a summer blogging project bloomed along with it.

east county (Looking out over the arid farm country of East San Diego county)

June was a hectic month – what with constant birthday parties, family gatherings, Whole30 restrictions and work schedule changes. I am very happy to put those days behind me. Luckily, July has opened full of sunshine and, thus far, much more relaxing. So, in the interest of living in the moment and soaking up what the city has to offer – I am officially declaring it The Summer of San Diego. I want to play tourist in my hometown and see what makes San Diego “America’s Finest City.”

alesmith (Beer tasting at AleSmith)

There is no time like the present to really explore the nooks and crannies of San Diego. After 7 years in Boston and 4 years in Paris, I can easily make lists of things I never took the time to see and do (Glass flowers, anyone? Or wine tasting in the French countryside?).  I do not want to take this city for granted. To that end, no project of mine is complete without a list. So, without further ado – here are more things than I could possibly fit into the next 8-12 weekends. Of course posting them here holds me somewhat accountable and provides excellent blog fodder as the summer moves along.

la jolla cove(Sea Kayakers in La Jolla Cove)

Let the games begin!

Attractions:

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Sea World

Legoland (I want to go this summer, mainly for this)

Belmont Park

 

Historical Landmarks:

Cabrillo National Monument

Mission San Diego

Old Town San Diego – Food and Tours!

 

Parks/Beaches:

Balboa Park:

-       Museums (so many, and free on Tuesdays)

-       Botantical Garden

-       Concert at the Organ Pavillion

-       Play at the Globe Theater

-       Japanese Friendship Garden

San Diego Botanical Garden

Picnic at Kate Sessions Park

Tidepools at Sunset Cliffs

Hiking at Torrey Pines

Palomar Mountain Observatory

Anza Borrego Dessert (might have to wait for flower season next spring)

Camping/Hiking @ Idyllwild

 

Sports:

Watch San Diego Padres baseball game at Petco Park

Play Disc Golf at Morley Field

Surfing Lessons (?)

Paddleboarding

Sea Cave Kayaking in La Jolla Cove

Watch (do?) paragliding at the Torrey Pines Gliderport

Del Mar Horse Races

Sailing in the San Diego Harbor

 

Food/Drink as motivators:

Beer Tasting (at one/some/all of the booming craft breweries in the area!)

Julian Road Trip and Apple Pie

Sunset cocktails at the beachside bar at the Hotel Del Coronado

Farmers Markets

 

@UCSD:

The Stuart Collection

Dr. Seuss Collection

Fallen Star

 

Beyond San Diego:

California Missions Road Trip

Joshua Tree National Park

Big Bear Lake

Wine Tasting in Temecula

Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez

Catalina Island

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Train to The Big A for an Angels baseball game

ucsd teddy (“Bear” on the campus of University of California, San Diego)

San Diegans (and visitors), tell me what I have missed, but must see!

Friends (or other bloggers?), let me know if you want to get in on the fun and join me on any of these adventures!

The list is long (and somewhat overwhelming), but it is so exciting to realize how much fun there is to be had in my own backyard!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moderation (Whole30, reintroduction phase)

IMG_0355(Taco salad – complete with cheese and greek yogurt in place of sour cream)

At the completion of the Whole30, I believed the hardest days were behind me. I was wrong. Despite an intellectual awareness that these dietary changes (and the newfound feelings of health that came with them) were the first steps in a lifestyle overhaul, the cheese-loving glutton in me was waiting on the sidelines to shrug off the entire experiment. My inner critic had been silenced in those 30 days by a clear set of unbendable rules. Starting on Day 31, when moderation and self-experimentation came into play, I faced an entirely different set of demons – those of guilt and indulgence – which were much more threatening to my dedication to health than the sugar demon I had put behind me on Day 5.

IMG_0353(Mushroom, scallion, tomato and cheddar scramble – so rich with cheese!)

Re-introduction as a concept seems simple enough. The Whole30 continues for 12 more days, with only a few additions and substitutions made in the now regular meal plan to test for reactivity to the previously banned food groups. In reality, it has been a blur. There was The Bat’s birthday dinner on Day 32, and several meals with family and friends who had been patiently waiting patiently in the wings until we could indulge together. Ideally, I did not expect this to pose any more of a challenge that the previous 30 days – I had figured that out without much complication, right? Turns out I am my biggest enemy (not that surprising, I know).

IMG_0360(Ugly, but delicious. Braised shredded beef with tomatoes and red wine)

I have a very ‘all or nothing’ personality. It works out great when I need to put my nose to the grindstone to push through a list of tasks (particularly experiments); or when I need to follow a very strict set of rules. I dive in, I have my reasons and I get it done. The flip side to that is that when that driven focus is turned off, I am really off; when I ‘let things go’, they are all over the place. So, when we went to Korean BBQ for The Bat’s birthday celebration and I planned ahead to eat only the meat (which I expected to have sugar and soy – my two first introduction groups), it took about 15 minutes for me to drop all pretense. Instead I joined a party where nothing was off limits. Come the next morning however, I paid for the booze, the bites of cheesecake and the relishes and garnishes I consumed with vacuum-like intensity the evening before.

IMG_0362(BBQ chicken, artichokes – dipped in hummus! – orzo salad)

After such a glorious belly-flop off of the ‘eat clean’ wagon, I did some intense navel gazing. What I returned to again and again was guilt. I realized that I have a horrible habit – once that first misstep is taken, I assume all is lost and, now that I’ve screwed up, I might as well try one of everything. The idea of taking just one bite, or stopping after indulging just a bit seems completely foreign. The frustration of letting myself down from a previously set goal sets in, and now the eating has the dual function of feeding my ‘all-or-nothing’ compulsion and cushioning the guilt.

IMG_0368(Pork sausage, tomato, scallion scramble with Kartoffelpuffer – German potato pancake – and applesauce)

The Whole30 had all but destroyed this destructive emotional eating cycle – no weigh-ins to beat myself up about, no one-to-many-glasses-of-wine nights out with friends or late night nacho binges. I followed the rules to the letter, I lost 11 lbs. (yay!) and, by the end, it no longer felt like work. I was completely unprepared for the resurgence of those bad habits once I allowed ‘bad foods’ back into my life. I fought back – even returning to safety of the Whole30 rules for several days – to remind myself how satisfying it is to eat clean AND be in charge of my emotions (in hindsight, the reintroduction of soy and sugar maybe was not the best place to start for impulse control).

IMG_0374(How to test gluten without chemicals? The infamous No Knead Bread)

After a few days to regain some semblance of control, I returned to a proper re-introduction cycle. Here’s how it went:

Sugar/Sweetners – Sugar is horrible. This I knew before, but living without it for 30 days underscored the point. Once reintroduced, it caused headaches and bellyaches, general malaise and mood swings. No one needs that. I plan to go forward limiting this as much as possible, using honey if needed.

Soy – No obvious adverse effects upon reintro, and I am delighted to dip my sashimi and have The Bat’s secret stir-fry sauce again. That being said, I have a new appreciation to the extent to which many prepared foods are supplemented with soy products, something I would like to limit from here on out. So, I’m excited to eat tofu, but not in my tuna – and I will shop accordingly.

Alcohol – After a dedicated reintroduction, I was thrilled to learn that a glass of wine is still a viable option. It appears that sake and the occasional liquor are also ok (with the limits of no sweetened mixers, of course). Beer remains an outstanding question – although a few sips taken from The Bat’s pint last weekend suggest that this may be a sore spot. In honor of this week’s holiday our lab is visiting the Green Flash tasting room for happy hour tomorrow – no time like the present to find out, right?

Dairy and Gluten – These two are getting lumped together because my response to them was basically the same – ick. I have not found my missing link – it is a low-level malaise that sets in when I eat cheese or crackers. Both give me a sense of fullness, but in a bubbly, not-so-good-way. So, not horribly bad (which is a relief), but not how I want to feel constantly. Something I will knowingly indulge in occasionally, when I feel willing to take on the consequences.

Legumes (other than soy), non-gluten grains – Next on my list, although not horribly missed so I will take them as they come.

IMG_0379(Filet in red wine reduction, fresh bread with butter, artichoke with – wait for it – more butter)

With the exception of beer as a possible ‘silver bullet’, the self-experimentation about which I had been so interested was rather boring. My most interesting observation came post-dairy/post-gluten, when I realized that the sudden low-level ‘ick’ I was feeling was how I had been used to feeling day in, day out before the Whole30. Understanding that I now know how to feel really good on a daily basis provided me with a palpable sense of relief. After several weeks going without and realizing the true impact on my belly, the concept of treating bread and cheese as treats to be savored, rather than their own daily food groups, is much easier to swallow.

IMG_0383(Avocado egg salad atop No Knead Bread)

Although I haven’t quite identified my IBS trigger, I am pretty much convinced that the compounding of each ‘low-level icks’ could have been enough –  especially with the additional excess of chemicals in prepared foods I was not previously aware of that I am now avoiding by learning how to make my own staples (a topic for its own post sometime soon). Looking forward, I feel cautiously excited; rather than feeling deprived of tasty foods, I am (mostly) giving up things that are keeping me from being/feeling the best I can on a daily basis. In the end, it is fighting my inner emotional relationship with food, my compulsive ‘all-or-nothing’-ness that will be the real challenge. The Whole30 allowed me to hide behind my beloved rules for a bit, building up knowledge, motivation and pride that I will use to (eventually) silence the inner critic once and for all. For this, I would be really intersted to hear from you – how you recover from slipping up and motivate to get back on the wagon (whatever it may be – diet, exercise, work), and how you might suggest achieving balance as I move forward into the uncharted territory where I make my own rules?

IMG_0364(Omelet with salsa, avocado and andouille sausage)

Despite the challenges and chaos that comes from confronting my own weaknesses, I remain thrilled with the entire Whole30 process. To learn that after several decades dealing with a range of ‘belly issues’ that I could feel great on a daily basis and go weeks without even thinking about my health is a revelation on its own. Not to mention the pride and motivation that comes from achieving this in a way that is sustainable and tastes good. These are all goals that I would gladly give up bread (gasp!) and cheese (shudder!) – even beer (sigh!) – to achieve.

IMG_0385(Warm days call for CSA veggies with pesto olive oil mayo dip)

As always, feel free to contact me on Instagram @researchingsandiego!

 

 

 

 

 

Awareness (Whole30, week 4)

salmon and fouscous(Weekend meal: pan-sauteed sockeye salmon, homemade pesto (no cheese!) and cauliflower fous-cous)

I am so close. Almost there. Day 29. And yet, looking ahead, I am not feeling an incredible urge to change much of anything in the ‘new normal’ I have established in the past month. This happens to be a convenient attitude with which to approach the next phase of the Whole 30, a 10-12 ‘reintroduction’ period. During these follow-up week(s), single food types (dairy, legumes, grains) are introduced – in the context of an otherwise Whole30-approved diet – one after the other, in order to identify ‘problem’ foods that may have been hindering me from being the best I can be. In the beginning, the idea of this self-experimentation was one of the biggest selling points of the program; now, towards the end, I’m a bit more cautious.

eggs in baskets again (Eggs in red bell pepper ‘nests’, avocado and blueberries)

You know who is counting down impatiently? Batman*. He has been incredibly supportive, endlessly patient and up for all sorts of food experiments (he did not strictly follow the Whole30 with me, but did eat a lot of my food – in the interest of solidarity – I’m sure – and laziness/avoidance of cooking two meals each time ‘round). But, we both miss our ‘Stir-Friday’ tradition (no noodles, soy), and there is no way I would let his birthday pass this week without raising a (real) drink in his honor (no booze). Plus, that delicious steak he likes to make on Sunday afternoons? Even better with a red wine reduction/shallot sauce.

garlicky beef stew and squash(Weekday picnic – garlic beef stew, zucchinis tossed with pesto)

However, as in any disciplined venture coming to a close, I have engaged in some pretty intense navel-gazing about the process. Mostly to consider where I go from here and what are the lessons I want to take from the past four weeks. With the obvious caveat that I cannot speak to my personal issues with specific foods (I’m sure that post will be coming in a week or two), here are a few general things I’ve learned, which I aim to focus on in the coming weeks/months ahead:

pesto egg scramble (Tomato, turkey, pesto scramble, avocado, raspberries)

I can trust my mind (and my stomach) again. One of the key points made in It Starts With Food, was that, during the Whole30, participants eat what feels like a huge amount of food. Wholesome, real food is often not as caloric as its junky counterparts, so to ensure that our daily needs are met, we pile the vegetables high and do throw an extra half avocado on the side. Initially I was stuffing myself silly and was shocked to realize I could not tell when I was full (model case of leptin resistance). I slowed down, turned off the computer during meals and focused on making food worth eating at the dining table. Within a week, I was putting my fork down halfway through dinner, satiated and delighted to have finally found the connection between my brain and stomach. After almost a month, I trust that connection implicitly. I have to take care to go slow and pay attention, but when I do, I know how much is just right for me.

 kale and sausage(TraderJoe’s Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage, lemony garlic sauteed kale)

Anything can be a comfort food. I had no idea what to expect in regards to cravings when this began. I am a lover of all things cheese, bread and noodle-y – so I assumed my dreams would be filled with wheels of brie and I might have to be physically held back if someone around me was to serve up a plate of fettucini Alfredo. I could not have been more wrong. I had days when my (chubby) emotional eating devil would pop onto my shoulder and whisper sweet nothings of tuna melts and pizza into my ear – how comforting and delicious they would taste – justifying such a breach in protocol by exclaiming how hard the day had been. With my mind clear (point #1), it was almost embarrassing to note how many times I had previously fallen for this argument. Not this time. Instead, I’d make a savory, thick bowl of chili, or persuade The Bat to make me one of his out-of-this-world onion-jalapeno burgers, sweet potato fries on the side. I learned that my comfort food is anything that is delicious – irrespective of its carb/cheese content. And, if I ever want anything to taste more decadent, I just should dip it into some homemade olive oil mayo.

 salmon salad(Leftover salmon/fous-cous salad)

My willpower is strong. It is not undermining myself to say that I have never been known to be a woman with unwavering willpower. It’s dizzying how fast I can talk myself out of a morning jog, or into a day spent on the couch in my pajamas. But when it comes to food, I have found myself stronger in ways I never knew I could be. Mostly in the lunch room. And at Monday morning lab meetings. And Friday afternoon Journal Club/Happy Hours. The first week it was hard, passing the pastries and turning down a cold beer. Now I don’t even glance. Except when the pistachios come around.

sole (Dinner out at Fish Public – Petrale sole, almonds, green beans – partial cheating because of browned butter? Probably. And I am ok with that.)

I do not miss rice or legumes – or (shock!) bread. To be honest, the upcoming reintroduction phase scares me a bit. I would like to create a framework based on the past 30 days that would allow me to eat clean and maintain the confidence, pride and change in pants-size I have gained (or lost, as the case may be). Beyond that, I want to live in a way that allows me to not be dominated by my ‘belly issues’ – only recently a dream that has been made reality in the past few weeks. I am nervous about cutting out favorite foods (dairy, gluten), but have been pleasantly surprised at those things I have not missed – rice, beans, lentils or peanuts.  If I have not thought about those foods during the challenge, I see no need in rushing to introduce them now. Honestly, after discovering the wonder of cauliflower rice/fous-cous, I may gladly never eat rice again.

eggs and pesto zucchini (Over-easy eggs atop pesto-tossed roast squash, nectarine)

I must be kind to myself. At this point in my life I know my shortcomings. One of the worst (and most common, I suspect) is that I am simultaneously my harshest critic and an unrelenting perfectionist. That leads to a very ‘all or nothing’ personality in which I can rigidly control/plan/work in bursts, but the moment I allow for one pause, one donut – all is lost and I spiral downward into a mental vortex of guilt, elbows deep in the pastry box. It will take some time to devise a plan for moving forward from here – what I will eat with abandon, what I will save for special occasions and what are the foods that I will enjoy and suffer the consequence(s). Even after implementing that framework, I will stumble into excess every once in a while. In those moments, I need to acknowledge, pick up and get right back in it – not wallow in guilt and pasta. These are/will be difficult changes, but based on how good I feel now, the right ones for me. I need to remember that this was never about dieting per se, but to better my health permanently. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and all that. I just need to be kind to myself along the way.

pork and green chile stew(Pork and green chile stew, cauliflower rice)

I will do another Whole30. That goes without saying. Either to get me back on the wagon (see above) or just to re-focus on my long-term goals of health, energy, and mind-body connection. I am already intrigued if/how it will be different the second time around. It has been a great experience – one that I would recommend to anyone.

lunch salad(Lunch salad – lettuce, green onions, baby bell peppers, avocado, turkey, pine nuts, blueberries, balsamic vinegar)

One more day and then onto the next chapter!

fruit snack(Fruity interlude – when I forgot my picnic lunch during our Farm Tour last weekend, I shared some garden-fresh watermelon and tomatoes instead). 

*Calling my boyfriend “Batman” will never cease to crack me up. And we all know how annoying it is when people laugh at their own jokes.

sausage and eggs in a nest(Last egg of the week, alongside Artichoke and Garlic sausage and cantaloupe)

I have been/will continue to post my ‘clean eating’ on my Instagram (@researchingsandiego), which I am also looking forward to using for non-food photography purposes. Having that community has also been a huge perk and motivation in these past few weeks. Thanks to all of you for the kind words of support!

Weekly Travel Theme – Flow

falls the firstWhen I saw that Ailsa posted “Flow” as this week’s travel theme at Where’s My Backpack, my stomach sank a bit. As far as I could recall, I has used my favorite photos of rivers and beaches for last week’s “Peaceful” challenge. It took some time for memories of a day spent exploring the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, to rise to the surface of my mind.

map

I spent eleven long days training at the Faculty of Medicine in Reijka, Croatia as part of an international workshop in viral immunology; on the twelfth day, our hard work was rewarded when we were treated to a hiking tour of the most stunning lake country I have ever seen. The color of the many linked pools seemed almost  an opaque turquoise from afar, in the sunlight. But once near the shore or on the water itself, I realized it was crystal clear  (filled with fish) and that the hue seen from a distance was a trick of the limestone and chalk basins.

falls the second

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes are comprised of >16 lakes, separated by natural dams but connected by waterfalls of all sizes. Our small group had the privilege of a guided tour from one end of the valley, winding around (and through!) the lakes and making our way through the surrounding forests to an overlook at the other end.

unesco

Each corner of the path brought with it new surprises – towering waterfalls, quiet, still pools, fallen trees reclaimed by the waters, and dark caves leading into the surrounding mountains. Although our group was only a small fraction of the total people in the park that day, the valley was mostly silent, minus the roar of the surrounding falls. There was a visible sense of awe and wonder in each face and very little was said,out of respect for the grandiose, sacred beauty that surrounded us. When we did speak, the words almost always emerged as a whisper.

falls the fifth

I learned later that the precipitation and deposition of calcium carbonate via the flow of the falls and rivers moving through the valley resulted in the eventual natural damming of the lakes and establishment of this extremely unique geological formation. The power of flow to both build and erode was abundantly clear throughout our exploration of the park.

pools

Yet, as with last week, I found these waters to also be peaceful – not only the calm aquamarine pools of the upper valley, but also the thundering cascades. Something about that power, pounding (virtually) throughout eternity reminded me how insignificant my current worries were, how little impact the flow of my life has on the bigger picture – that nature has been carving out these hidden jewels long before I entered the world, and will continue long after I leave.  What a wonderful thought.

falls the fourth

fishes

falls the third

pools and falls

Weekly Photo Challenge – Curves

This past weekend I joined friends (and Walker, of knit hat fame) to participate in the San Diego Farm Bureau’s Farm Tour Day 2013. We were guided through the grounds and operations of three local agricultural giants, specializing in flowers and succulents, avocados and seasonal, organic produce. I had checked the Weekly Photo Challenge before leaving the house early that morning, and spent the day looking out for images that evoked this week’s theme of “Curves”. I thought this photo of almost-ripe avocados did the trick. The fruit hung heavy on the thin branches, while the leaves provided a dappled shadow to protect them from the intense heat of the direct, summer sunlight. The dark, rough, pebbled curve of their outer shell belied the creamy, rich sweetness of the fragile flesh within. They were dipping low enough that I was tempted to grab and pull – but I resisted the urge and was rewarded with a ripe avocado souvenir at the end of the tour. It was a perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday.

low hanging fruit