This is what is going on outside my bedroom window right now...
That's right! An April blizzard. Whatever, Minnesota. I'm supposed to be on spring break, enjoying robins and tulips and bike rides and picnics. Alas, instead I am shivering away, enduring the sixth month of winter we Minnesotans have had this season. I hope the weather decides to warm up before I have to go back to school at the end of this month! I want to enjoy a few free days in the sun...
I just finished my second trimester of classes toward a Masters of Oriental Medicine. Two trimesters down, seven to go! Since September last year, my life has been a whirlwind of large books, flashcards, Chinese words, and remembering the ins and outs of pattern diagnoses like "turbid phlegm harassing the upper body" and "wind cold with pre-existing cold rheum".
I feel blessed for having the opportunity to be in school. The program is challenging and exciting, and everyday is an affirmation that I am on the right path. It's exciting to make connections between my own health experiences over the last five years with what I'm learning in class. I love thinking about the type of practitioner that I want to be and working toward that goal. When school starts again in a couple weeks we start our first classes in Chinese herbs and needling techniques, and get deeper into diagnostic practices and treatment strategy. Exciting!
In addition to absolutely loving it, I am proud to say I am rocking a 4.0. And not only that, I recently received a scholarship based on my academic achievement, leadership experience as president of our campus LGBTQ organization, and my volunteer work experience with a local clinic that supports transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
I've found it challenging to find the balance of school, work, volunteering, self-care, relationship, and friendship. It's been harder than I thought it would be, honestly. I figured it would come naturally to me, that I would easily slide into this new lifestyle pattern and still find the time to cook and take care of myself and have a healthy social life. Wrong! It's been hard. One of those things they never tell you when you decide to go back to grad school.
Culinary endeavors have taken a particularly large hit. My income as a student is drastically reduced compared to the past (I worked for Target's advertising department for eight years). While much of my former income was spent on medical expenses, I know I was also wasteful with money and was not always aware of the privelege that income afforded me. It's been a really good reality check, honestly. Living off loans and part-time work means I no longer have room in my budget to regularly buy large amounts of food and expensive specialty items for baking and cooking experiments. I'm having to take a much different approach to preparing and sharing food, and I think it will ultimately benefit my readers and my future clients. I mean, who wants to take advice from someone who makes suggestions that you can't afford to follow? Food accessibility is a huge issue, and this is especially true for individuals who need to follow specialized diets based on health conditions. I look forward to developing and sharing new recipes that are both nourishing and more affordable than recipes from my past. For example, I was looking at a past recipe and I saw that I used over 1 cup of maple syrup. I gasped, thinking I would never consider using that much maple syrup right now, because there is no way I could afford it. Like I said, REALITY CHECK!
I also have exciting news to follow about my job. I am a proud cheesemaker for Punk Rawk Labs , a Minneapolis-based company that makes organic vegan cheeses from cashews and macadamia nuts. These cheeses are fermented, live, raw wheels of whole food goodness that you will LOVE. It is creamy and buttery, ranging from a texture similar to fresh chevre or brie (cashew cheese) to something more like ricotta (macadamia cheese). It is great with crackers, and can also be used in many ways in recipes. Working for Punk Rawk Labs probably ranks in my top three job experiences in terms of overall satisfaction. We workers are treated so well by the owners, and I feel awesome about making a product that I believe in. The cashews we use are so amazing, purchased from Equal Exchange from an organic cashew farm in El Salvador called Aprainores ( here's a great blog post about the farm ). These are the best cashews I have ever eaten, hands down, and are even more delicious because they are sourced responsibly!
One of the perks of the job is constant snacking. We often have small, extra wheels that aren't large enough for sale or wheels that aren't quite as pretty as they should be, and these wheels are perfect for employee snackies. Here's a photo of a particularly impressive snack spread from a couple of weeks ago.
I definitely recommend you look up the Punk Rawk Labs website and find a place in your neck of the woods that sells our product. You will love it! The cheese is pricy, but if you have the chance to splurge on a wheel I am sure you'll be satisfied.
And, as a bit of eye candy...
Here's a photo of an amazing dessert I made for my dad's birthday back in February. Flourless chocolate torte with chili-pepper infused ganache, garnished with candied chili peppers. Yeah.
I have been cooking and baking as often as I can, but simply haven't had the time or desire to sit down and blog about it. My brain has been so full of school stuff! But truly, I am hoping to get some of these things blogged soon, cuz they are too good not to share. Nut-free granola, fudgy chocolate browneis, tasty bean dishes, curries, and on and on. My sweetie and I have been making the best gluten-free pancakes for months now. And I've been juicing up a storm and have some delicious juicing recipes that I think you'll love.
Healthwise, I've been doing okay. The chronic Lyme Disease I've been fighting for what feels like an eternity went into remission last summer, and I felt amazing when I started school last fall. But, as chronic Lyme Disease often does, the infection became active once again and I relapsed. In January and February, my body started being ravaged by strange symptoms I was trying to deny. Dizzness, visual disturbances, swelling hands, severe body pain, brain fog, night sweats, insomnia, waking in the middle of the night, extreme mood swings, digestive issues, sudden rashes, the list goes on. After getting blood work done, which confirmed the presence of an active Lyme infection, I finally conceded and started treating again. I am working with my naturopath and physician once again, and have started taking antibiotics (Omnicef and Zithromax) in combination with botanical medicines (teasel root tincture, Nutramedix Samento, Enula, and Banderol, and Byron White A-Bab, A-Bart, and A-L Complex). My body is capable of handling really large amount of "killer" medicines at once, so I'm hitting it hard in the hope of killing it off and getting back into a remission state once again. Fingers crossed! I already feel a lot better after the last month of treatment, and have a lot of hope.
Eventually, I hope to write more about my Lyme protocol over the years. It is something I talk a lot about in person with people, but haven't focused on as much as I hoped on the blog.