Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Food Network

This picture was before Cameron discovered pureed fruits and veggies.  What a sad world rice cereal land can be!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, our house is on the market.  This requires you to be at your cleanest and most organized, during the busiest "viewing" times of the week - evenings and weekends.  Typical evenings and weekends in our house include entertaining our infant with a variety of paraphernalia- including but not limited to - a boppy, a bumbo, a jumperoo, exer-saucer, activities mat, and a "calming vibrations" reclining bouncy chair.  Babies=cluttered house.  But in our quest to keep things in order, I've found something else strewn about our living space. 


They can be found in the kitchen, the living room, our bedroom, Cam's room and on occasion, the bathroom.  And they seem to multiply at an alarming rate.  Brian made me box some up in an effort to free up cabinet space in our kitchen..... still, new ones appear.  Until this year, I've had the same 5 or so cookbooks in my kitchen that I owned when I was in college - Two cookbooks written by a woman from my grade school parish; two cookbooks I found at Borders for $5; a random cookbook I found at a garage sale, and the Better Homes and Garden cookbook given to me by my uncle.  I used to prepare the same recipes over & over- in fact, my brothers still tease me about my eggplant parmesan and green bean casserole.

As Brian and I dated, got engaged and then married, I found myself expanding on my repertoire.  An aunt gave me the Joy of Cooking for Christmas one year - this was a game changer.  Everything you'd want to make, anything you might want to try, you can find in this cookbook.  Between that and realsimple.com, I was set.  I could have fun preparing and experimenting with easy, delicious weeknight meals (Brian and I have always took turns cooking, which is AWESOME).  I remember hoping that there would still be time in the week to cook once Cameron arrived. 

In the last five months, I've been on this quest to discover and learn how to cook any and all meals that are heart healthy and DELICIOUS.  I absolutely refuse to sacrifice the possibility of a flavorful, satisfying meal because I live in a low fat, low sodium world these days.  The invasion of the cookbooks began with an article in SELF magazine about Gwyneth Paltrow's new release.  Yes, in addition to acting and singing and blogging, the woman cooks... WELL.  A particular line in the article resonated with me and referred to her father, who with throat cancer, didn't know who he was if he didn't have his morning coffee with cream and sugar (AMEN).  When faced with the reality of a lifelong cardiac diet, I remember thinking to myself - who am I if I don't eat cheese or bacon... or CHEESE?!  Who am I if I can't put half and half in my coffee or enjoy a pumpkin spice latte or drink a bottle of wine?  Well, not doing any of those things (or doing them very rarely) makes me a person who cares about her health and wants to live to see her grandchildren (and maybe, their children too!)

A few weeks after Cameron arrived, my aunt Lisa came to visit, bearing a four inch wide, three ring binder of heart healthy recipes, broken down into such categories as "legumes", "poultry", "fish" and "grilling".  A few weeks after that, heart healthy cookbooks from the American Heart Association, the National Institute of Health and St. Mary's Health Center arrives.  A few weeks after that, my college roommate Katy sent me a book of heart healthy recipes she collected from her family and friends and created herself.  More recently, I have swapped cookbooks with co-workers at Habitat and received (the loveliest of going away presents!) a Wine & Food cookbook full of low sodium entrees and their best wine pairings.  I've discovered this "food network" of like minded people who for one reason or another, have chosen to eat healthily in their life.  Some are hard core carnivores, others are vegetarians, some are vegans and some are like me - flexitarians! 

When I worked at Banana, I used to hear all the time that if you did something 21 times, it would become a habit.  I'm sure it had something to do with folding a sweater the right way and quite frankly, I'm not sure if that's even true.... but I'm happy to say that I've eaten heart healthy (with very, very rare "cheat" meals) for 21+ weeks.  So I guess its a habit.  And now, it's not so hard picking the healthy thing on the menu or preparing a heart friendly meal three times a day.  It does require some thought and some planning, but once you get in the habit, it just becomes part of your life.  And on the rare instances I do "cheat", those items really don't taste good anymore and/or leave me feeling sick. 

Well, except for cheese.  Gotta work on that one and some how, I don't think soy cheese will be an adequate replacement for my kind of cheese plate!

From Gwyneth, a note on cooking:

"Invest in what's real. Clean as you go. Drink while you cook. Make it fun.  It doesn't have to be complicated.  It will be what it will be."

Monday, September 19, 2011


There are some big changes going on in the D'Souza/Siebert household.  Not that this year hasn't already been full life changing events - I guess we haven't quite had enough going on. My last day at Habitat is tomorrow and my final session of cardiac rehab is on Wednesday.  Brian and I have managed to cram a life full of stressful events (having a baby, a major health issue, both of us starting new jobs, and trying to sell our house) into the span of six months.  All we need now is a relative to move into our basement, and we'll be all set (Matt & Josh, don't get any funny ideas!).

One would think that we would crave stability in a time of such uncertainty.  It really is seredipitous how opportunities fall into your lap when you least expect it but are in most need of it.  We decided if we were going to jump (into new roles) we should at least hold hands and go over the cliff together.  With all that has and continues to transpire this year, I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful partner.  Being a new parent isn't easy when that's the only thing you have on your plate - add a heart attack to the mix and things become extra complicated.  Clearly, parts of the recent past have not been sunshine and rainbows, but I have had the opportunity to learn more about my spouse and appreciate the ways we compliment/take care of each other.

I am excited to take on a new challenge.  With everything that's happened, I've really had to think about how I want to spend my time.  I think everyone - EVERYONE - deserves to do something they love, that they can THRIVE on, 40, 50, or 60 hours a week - whatever your job (if you work) looks like.  I know this is not easy because doing something you love gets muddied up with having to pay bills/survive/feed your babies/etc. But sometimes, it's worth it (or at least I have faith that it is) to take that plunge.  Having Cameron and being a mom inspires me to be better.... but I guess the heart attack made me actually DO better. 

On a separate note, rehab ends Wednesday.  When other participants have graduated, they've brought the nurses treats - donuts, cheesecakes, and cookies to name a few.  REALLY?  I think my peers fell asleep during the nutrition module!  I want to bring a treat too, but as I've embraced heart-healthy land, there's no freaking way I'm taking anything I wouldn't eat now!  But I do want the nurses to feel my love and gratitude - does fruit plate really say that?  I'm not sure.  It's funny how food is used to mark an occasion, to celebrate something or commemorate.  All this being said, I have been perfecting this vegan dark chocolate brownie recipe (with walnuts for Omega-3s) and I'm hoping this will be a good "thanks for rehab!" treat at 8 o'clock in the morning.  It will be SO strange to work out in a regular gym, without a heart monitor on - but again, I guess the time has come to leap!

"Change is and always will be inevitable, but everything is relative, and all the moments and times in your life will come back around again, you just might find yourself on the other side of the coin. Things are always changing, as fast as everything stays the same.” - Anonymous

Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer days keep driftin' away....

A bit of a mish-mash update........
With the arrival of fall like weather this week, I can't help but mourn the waning of the summer season.  Summer is my FAVORITE.  I seem to have selective amnesia about the humidity, heat, crime and other various drama that summers in St. Louis bring.  My summer usually begins on Cinco de Mayo and ends with the first sub-70 degree evening.  In between is some hodge-podge of my birthday, lots of wine and mojitos, outdoor concerts, traveling, al fresco dining, lazy mornings and banana pancakes, watering the herb garden and tomato plants, singing at the top of my lungs with the windows rolled down and lots of sweat.

Of course, this summer has been just a little bit different from years past. Along with the usual summer lineup, the summer of 2011 has been sprinkled with new mama experiences, date nights, milestones for Cam, cardiac rehab, doctor's appointments, hospital visits and much needed naps.  That being said, we still managed to have a good time.

Here we are at my family's annual Labor Day picnic.  At the same event last year, I told my brothers I was pregnant.

Cameron has learned to roll over.... clearly, Mowgli is not impressed.

Brian and Cameron at Food Truck Friday. 

With the fall comes some change.  Cardiac Rehab is winding down - I only have a couple weeks left and then, I'll graduate to hitting the gym 3-5 days a week.  I met my new cardiologist last week and am excited.  While no one really specializes in SCAD, he knows SOOO much about unique cardiac events.  For the first time (happily), I have a doctor who isn't treating me for heart disease (which I clearly don't have), but instead, is treating the aftermath of an unexplained cardiac trauma.  This means no more cholestorol medicine (WOO HOO!!!!).  He is interested in figuring out why this happened to me and if there's some underlying cause that's been missed as to why my artery tore and caused the heart attack.  I do appreciate this, but honestly, have sort of given up on ever really knowing "why".  But, if he has a team of doctors who are interested in figuring this out, by all means, they can have at it!

I will miss the friends I've made in rehab.  I had to switch to the "early" class when I went back to work full time, so I've met even more heart attack survivors over the last few weeks. It will definitely be strange when rehab is complete and I don't see my classmates three times a week.  As amusing and surreal as that experience has been, it's also been oddly comforting to be surrounded by people who've endured a similar situation.  As I approach the five month anniversary of my heart attack, I find myself feeling no less emotional/confused/angry/blessed/scared/lucky with the whole thing.  I can't even comprehend the possibility of not having been here to be a part of life unfolding.  But, if I have learned anything in the last few months, it's that time continues to pass, no matter what you do-so make the most of it.  I think I made the most of my summer the best I could, and am looking forward to many, many beautiful seasons to come.

"To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together"

Is that spit-up on your pencil skirt?

I always figured that there was nothing quite like the foot pain you experience after being on your feet all day, working retail on Black Friday.  It didn't matter how many pairs of shoes you brought to change into or how many layers of cushion-y socks you wore under your boots- after 3, 5 or 8 hours on your feet during that special day on the retail calendar, you were DONE.  Only copious amounts of peppermint foot lotion (try LUSH's), a warm water soak and a massage (only someone who loves you deeply will get near those gnarly toes!) can really fix that day's damage.  Thankfully, Black Friday only comes once a year and I no longer work in retail.  But, I've discover a new pedal affliction- any working mom will know what I'm talking about.

I've been back to work full time for about a month now.  On Tuesdays, I drop Cameron off at daycare before I head to the office.  Other mornings, I go to rehab first or the grandmas come to our house to watch him.  Tuesdays are my "mommy in heels" day.  I get up a bit earlier so I can get myself, then Cameron, ready to head out the door.  He'll usually play for about 30 minutes before he gets hungry for his morning bottle and that gives me time to brush my teeth, wash my face, iron, make/eat breakfast and prepare my lunch.  Then he gets his breakfast, at which point, we're both wearing bibs if I'm already dressed for work.  He sits in his bouncy seat and watches me put on my make up, fix my hair and hide treats around the house for Mowgli to find throughout the day.

We head out the door about 30 minutes before I have to be at work.  The drive to his daycare is short (usually 2-5 minutes depending on stop lights) and I try to talk or sing to him on the way there.  Once we arrive, I have to lug him, in his carseat, with his plaid lunchbox, along the sidewalk, into the building, and down the long hallway.  Usually in heels. 

A brief digression - I LOVE heels.  Tall ones. What would you expect - when you're 4'11, if you want to be seen (and not run down with a grocery cart or plowed over by a stroller), you do what you need to do!  It's self preservation, really.  While I try to find the most comfortable (HA) yet cute pairs, it really doesn't matter if my toes are crunched up inside or if I have blisters on my achilles.  Wedges are my favorite summer love affair.... knee high boots in the winter make me swoon.  I'm not a shoe junkie though - I don't have to have every pair I see.  But, if I find a pair I love, I wear them out.  FYI - there's a great cobbler on Olive by my parents' house if you ever need shoe repairs (Yes, there are still such things as cobblers) - he has saved many of my heels from an untimely demise.  Upon survey my closet, I realize the only flats I own are gym shoes and flip flops.

Okay, back to my Tuesday morning.  So, I find myself teetering along, like a pack mule in a pencil skirt and heels, transporting Cam to his classroom.  Once we arrive, I have to slip these little blue booties over my shoes so as not to track germs into the infant room.  I get Cam situated, usually in a Bumbo or Boppy with a little play gym set up near him.  I slide his carseat under his crib (as Brian typically picks him up) and get his bottles in the mini fridge.  I check his cubby for his retired artwork, which usually winds up hanging above my desk.  It's sort of hard to get down on the floor in heels, but I can't leave without kissing those chubby cheeks goodbye, so I manage this awkward, closed knee squat, hoping that I'm not flashing any other baby, or god forbid, his teachers.  

Walking back down that hallway is one of the loneliest walks ever.  I actually WANT my feet to hurt, because that would mean I was still in pack mule mode and Cam was close by.  Sometimes, I think about snatching him up and bringing him with me.  Or if I can possibly find some time in my day to sneak away and visit him, to make sure he's enjoying himself.  But, I force myself to get in my car, and usually, by the time I get to my office, the renegade feelings have disappeared.  My day is usually full and passes very quickly.  Getting home after a satisfying day and slipping those shoes off feels better now than ever, because I have the best reward waiting for me!  Usually, I arrive home to find Brian and Cameron playing catch with Mowgli in the yard. 

Best. Feeling. EVER. 

“Total commitment to family and total commitment to career is possible, but fatiguing.”  ― Muriel Fox

"Being a mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love."  ~Mildred B. Vermont