San Simeon, CA || Hearst Castle & Elephant Seals

One of my goals for this fine year of 2015, is to do more things.
Ya, I know how broad and general that statement sounds, but it is what it is.
I have lived in California my entire life, I have been to the beach, shopped at the farmers markets and gotten more sunburns then I can count. 
I have also taken great advantage of the beautiful place I live in.
There are so many "tourist" things I haven't ever done and so many places I have never been to.
You don't really appreciate things until you see it through other peoples eyes, I think. Like the beach for example, I think the only time I have ever been to the beach in the last ten years is if someone is visiting from out of town, or I am joining in on an activity with my nephews. Never, do I go of my own accord. 
Why, you may ask. Well, because it's always there.

So this year, before I leave the country and live in a place covered in rain and with fewer beach opportunities, I am going to try to be more of a tourist in my own town.
It's easy for me to think of all the places and adventures I'd like to have when I'm in Europe, but I have to remind myself that people from there are also dreaming of adventures over here.

To start off my new tourist antics, why not go with a little taste of Europe in my own side of the world?

Last week, I joined in on a little field trip with my sister/nephews/niece to the Hearst Castle.
If you don't know about this place, you can go to their website and learn all about it
I kid, I kid. Well, not really.
Basically, it is a home built by Mr. William Randolph Hearst to resemble the castles he had seen through Europe.
Because when you are a spoiled kid with more money than you know what to do with, you build a castle. 

I think being fresh outta Newsies gave me a negative perspective towards Mr. Hearst.

(Pulitzer and Hearst they think they got us, do they got us?! No! )
I have been to the castle once before, back on an elementary school field trip and I remember it being a lot more majestic. I think living in a day and age where fancy buildings with large pools and home theaters a plenty, kind of ruins the appeal a bit.
The construction and lack of water, also kind of ruined it. 
Especially the bit about the visitor center bathrooms all being replaced by port-a-potties to conserve water. 
It took me a good five minutes to decide if I could hold my bladder all the way home or not. (the answer was not)

I got home to a memory card filled with nine hundred something pictures, so here is a small catalog of my time at Hearst Castle!

We went on the grand rooms tour, which started with us watching a documentary type movie in the visitors theatre, a bus ride narrated by Alex Trebek,  a tour of the grand rooms (living room, dining room, sitting room, billiards room, and the theatre.) then a self guided tour of the grounds and pools. The self guided tour of the grounds is a newish feature of the last few years, and I loved that element. You can wonder around as you please, look around then leave when you feel like it. Which means I could totally have a photo shoot there if I want. 
Which I do want.
There where these awesome choir chairs lining both the living room and dining rooms, that were apparently only used for acoustics but looked way cool. 
No flash was allowed in this incredibly dimly lit castle, and my camera didn't like that very much. I know it's all expensive fancy stuff, but still open a window or something.

There are a few other houses on the grounds, besides the main castle. I'm not exactly sure what they all are about but they sure look purty, I guess I just have to go take the other tours. ;) 
All the fountains and the Neptune Pool were pretty lame without water in them. Without the bright blue water reflecting all of the architecture, it just looked like a bunch of old structures. The orange cones across the bottom of the pool didn't help with the appeal either. 
After the tour, we grabbed some five dollar waters and chips and headed up the road to the elephant seal beach.
There are elephant seals all along that area of the coast, but this specific spot they all kind of congregate throughout the year. There are some times in the year when there are more then others, based off the breeding schedules and all that. But we still saw plenty!

Until next time, xoxo.


Paleo German Chocolate Cake

Last Sunday was my birthday! 
It was super low key because the weekend before we were in San Francisco, and in my old age I don't really care too much about my birthday anymore.

It's just an excuse to eat cake, really.
A cake that everyone on restrictive diets could eat, which meant a cake without cane sugar, dairy gluten or grains.

And yes, I make my own birthday cakes. I enjoy doing it, and have the excuse to make it however I want because it's my day and I can do whatever I want.

I chose to make an easy chocolate cake with a german chocolate cakes coconut frosting. I did this because:
A) how do you make a delicious frosting without powdered sugar and butter.and 
B) it is the best frosting ever. 
Unless you are a small child related to me, then you probably don't like it.

To make this recipe, I just used one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes and tweaked it to what is essentially a paleo recipe. 
Unintentional paleo, is what the majority of my baking recipes these days are.

The resulting cake is an incredibly delicious dessert. It's like a candy bar/brownie/cake all got together to make a tasty layered treat.

And since it is basically just a bunch of nuts, that means it must be healthy. That is what I told myself anyway, as I was making this recipe into a bar like situation yesterday, and while I was shoving them all into my mouth.
Protein, was my excuse.

It may not look like much, but it tastes like a lot.
But don't just take my word for it, try it for yourself!

Enjoy! xoxox


Where We're At Right Now and Food Sensitivity Testing || ALCAT & CYREX

Over the last couple of weeks I have made some comments regarding my current food restrictions and super serious diet situation.

Because these new rules do effect the happenings on this here blog, I figured I better lay it all out for you.
So here we go.

As you all should know by now, I was diagnosed with a disorder called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome back at the end of 2011. It started with a cold, that never quite went away and a nagging lightheadedness every time I stood up or made a sudden movement. Eventually, I started passing out anytime I had to stand still or moved to quickly. I ended up in the ER a couple of times, first them shrugging me off as dehydrated or anemic, then when all my blood work came back normal they were baffled. By chance, a resident in the hospital had heard of a disorder that had such symptoms, and I was diagnosed, monitored and sent on my way with a handful of new prescriptions. It took a lot of time, and experimentation to find the right dosages and medications to control my symptoms, but eventually I was able to get to a level high enough to at least function.
Flash forward a couple of years to another cold, which resulted in pneumonia and another wasted trip to the ER. The pneumonia was treated, but my POTS symptoms came back threefold. The medications that had been keeping it in remission were no longer proving effective. After struggling through more experimental medications (there are only a handful of medications proven to help treat the symptoms of POTS, all of which I have tried) I headed to an autonomic expert at Stanford, where they did more tests to confirm the diagnosis, and test the rest of my autonomic function. It was determined that while I definitely had POTS, my nervous system was all around dysfunctioning. It no longer knew the difference between rest or activity, and therefore I was just in that state of fight or flight 24/7. They added more medications and sent me on my way.
There was nothing else to really do if those medications didn't work out, I'd run out of options.
That is when I decided it was time to really put all my focus into healing. Living in a constant state of adrenaline and panic was taking too much of a toll on my mental and physical health.
So I left my full time job, reduced as much stress in my life as possible and started working my tail off. For the last several months, I have been gradually increasing my physical stamina and taking a very disciplined stock of what goes into my body.
After about 3 months of doing this, I felt the same. My exercising ability had just slightly increased, but I would still get lightheaded and nauseous walking down the street or going into a grocery store. Even though I barely took any calories in every day, I gained almost twenty pounds in that couple of months. My insomnia was worse then ever, and I still was spending every day drenched with fatigue.

That's when it became time to turn to alternative methods. I wouldn't say I am incredibly pro any types of medicine, whether it be holistic or traditional, but rather I believe that there is a time an a place for both directions. Traditional medicine was not giving me the help I needed. Even when things seemed okay before, any progress I had made came crashing down every time I picked up a virus...which is frequently due to my Celiac compromised immune system.

I started seeing a doctor that specializes in nutrition and natural healing, took a boat load of expensive  tests, and purchased a million different supplements.

So that's where we are at now.

I have been really lucky to have a really great medical team, from my very open minded primary care physician to the cardiologist who was willing to take me on without really knowing what he was getting into and to the great doctor at Stanford he referred me to when he acknowledged he couldn't help me anymore. All of these people have done their best, and taken a lot of time and effort to help me and I appreciate that a lot.

But back to this new doctor.
He ordered a couple panels of food sensitive testing, which was the reason I ended up seeing him in the first place, as well as some genetic testing and other random blood tests.

From the blood work, it was determined that my body doesn't absorb vitamins (which we already knew) and that I have low oxygen perfusion and high sulfate levels. I have always had high cortisol levels (which is a stress hormone) so he put me on a supplement to help reduce those, as well as some supplements that reduce sulfates and help the body absorb vitamins.
The genetic testing basically just showed that I had a lot of things working against me, primarily in the immunity and thyroid departments. I don't really understand yet what all that genetic mumbo jumbo is all about, but it all seemed to make sense to him so that's what really matters I guess...

The food sensitivities where tested on two different panels, the ALCAT panel and the CYREX.
And those are what this whole post was supposed to be about, until I got majorly sidetracked with my life story. Sorry about that.

The CYREX tests the IGE response which is what one would call an allergy, and it showed up with only a handful of issues. The only severe item was cranberries, and on the mild side where blueberries, pineapple, gelatin, beta-glucan and locust bean gum.

So those are all outta my life.
That there locust bean gum doesn't seem life much, but if you take a look at any dairy free product, whoop there it is.

The ALCAT however, showed a whole lotta stuff.
Things that I don't want to be removed from my life, because I love them so.

The panel divides all the things it tests into a four category color chart.
Green foods are okay, yellow are a slight sensitivity, orange is mild, and red severe.

Lets start with the red, because they are the most depressing. These foods need to be avoided all together for at least six months, then reintroduced sparingly.
These foods are: lobster, bakers yeast. sweet potatoes, garlic and millet.
I cried inside when I saw garlic on that list, so long my best friend.

The orange column is supposed to be avoided for three or four months I believe, and its includes: cane sugar, coffee, halibut and psyllium.
Nothing too sad, I don't drink coffee and sugar is easy enough to replace so I can survive without these.

Next, the yellow list. To be avoided for at least thirty days before reintroduction.
Apricot, asparagus, basil, beef, bell peppers, black pepper, blackberry, tea, broccoli, cashew, cherry, chickpea, clam, ginger, green pea, hops, mango, onion, oyster, raspberry, sesame, soybean, string bean, sunflower, and vanilla.

A lot of things I love on that list.
So, so sad.

And ya know, sensitive to gluten and casein/whey blah blah blah.

I am about a month into the food elimination and supplementaion now, still exercising and reducing my intake of meats. Even though I don't have sensitivities to any meats besides beef, I still notice an increase of sleep difficulty when I eat any sort of meat product.
When I got my results, I was told to expect a ten to fifteen pound water weight loss from the diet and to keep track of my daily sulfate levels to see if they were reducing at all. (with a little testing strip)

As of now, I have not lost a single pound, I still struggle to sleep and my sulfate levels have not reduced. So thats a bummer.
But, I do not spend the entire day in a foggy fatigued state, I can cook dinner without feeling lightheaded, and I walked through Ikea and downtown San Francisco for goodness sakes. I can go to the grocery store, walk up some stairs, and have even ventured out without those awful compression stockings that I have been wearing for the last three years.
All things that weren't true a month ago.
I don't know if it is the diet, the supplements or a combination of them both, but I can function again. There is still a long way to go and a lot more mystery in this here body of mine, but I don't feel like I am lost in the deep dark whole that I was in last summer.
There is a glimmer of hope there, I just have to keep working towards it.

Sorry my friends for another big medical jumbo rant, it was not where I was expecting to go with this post...it just happened that way.

The moral of the story, is that my recipes from here on out are going to be a little bit different. There are far fewer things that I can just go pick up at the store, and a lot less ingredients that I can include at home.

So I apologize in advance for the lack of garlic, basil or all around delicious things.
Most of the food items I have been able to eliminate without a problem, but I am struggling deeply with the garlic, onion and peppers.
I basically have to relearn how to cook. Those are literally the first items in my hands when I get in the kitchen. Not even kidding, you guys.

Now I'm going to end this rant of a post, go pick up my herb bible and do a little light reading.

Thank you for the ten minutes you donated to reading this story, I love you all!

Enjoy xoxo