To celebrate life

First thing is first. My MRI was normal. Normal. Good. Healthy. OK. Whatever you want to call it, however you want to say it, the result is fantastic! It puts me one notch further up that ladder of being deemed as ‘cured’. 10 years in remission still seems like a lifetime right now, but I truly believe that I will make it and that I’ll still be wearing a smile on my face.

A lot of my inspiration for such a sweeping statement has come from time spent with my amazing fellow models and the fantastic coordinators of the SteppingOutToCelebrateLife fashion show. Rehearsals got turned up a notch this weekend and the past few days have been filled with store stylists and fashion designers fitting 30 models for 3 scenes each. That’s 90 outfits in total. Pretty impressive. The women I have met are phenomenal. Each has a different take on what breast cancer means for them, but each is a survivor and each is grateful for successful treatment – some are still in the midst of it. I take my hat off to those ladies who will be shedding their wigs and head scarves this Saturday evening to step out in front of 500 people with heads up high.

The skies are blue as we car pool to our fitting at West Coast Leather in the city. None of us can quite believe the clothes we end up wearing. I just hope that the button won’t burst on the tightest leather trousers ever as I walk down the runway. We chat about how much we love San Francisco and we soak up the fantastic view as we drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. Truly spectacular.

At Banana Republic, a lovely stylist called Michael, covers me in bling and at my fitting at Macys, I am presented with a glamorous pink grecian evening dress. I know that sounds awful, but it’s spectacular. Pics to come.

My mums suitcase arrived on day two after her flight arrival. The baggage lady from BA called on day 4 to check if it had arrived. A bit late luv!

In the midst of being a glamorous catwalk model, I take it upon myself to paint the boys bedrooms. Why now? I’m not quite sure. Maybe I’m more of an all or nothing person than I’d care to admit. I get a welcome relief from this escapade on day 1 with a fantastic curry night at my lovely friend Wendy’s house with a group of lovely ladies, overlooking Mill Valley and the Bay from a lovely deck at the top of a hill. Day 2 doesn’t offer much relief and at 11pm at night I soak myself in the bath peeling paint out of my hair, from the bottom of my feet etc etc. You get the picture. The result is fantastic and well worth it though. Amazing what a lick of paint can do! The boys are happy. I finish one room and half of another. Still searching for the energy to finish room 2. Post fashion show, me thinks.

I also take it upon myself amongst all of this to try to break into successful gluten free bread baking. As much as I love Udi’s, I’m missing the smell of fresh baked bread. Unfortunately my forays into this particular gluten free arena are spectacularly disastrous so far. I won’t bore you with the details. I’ve now been given some top tips by the lovely Carol Kicinski and she has pledged to write a blog post on her ‘simplyglutenfree‘ site about making bread in bread machines for gluten free baking novices just like me. Thank you Carol!!!

I can however count the luscious lamb that M conjures up as a household g-free culinary success.

This is how he made it:

Ingredients:

lamb steaks (1/2 inch cut)

1/2 cup dried cherries

2 teaspoons Cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

4 cloves crushed garlic

8 Dried Cloves

4 shallots

2 tablespoon soy sauce (gluten free)

1. Mix the ingredients in a clay pot and add sea salt and pepper, put in the oven on 400F.

2. Quickly fry the lamb steaks 45 seconds on each side until they get a nice color.

3. Move them into the clay pot and cover with aluminum foil.

4. Cook for 20 minutes.

5. Remove the steaks and cut them in 1/2 inch thick pieces. Strain the remains from the clay pot and use the sauce.

Serve with oven baked potatoes, potato mash or rice. Enjoy!

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Mum, Miwok and g-free meatballs

My mum arrives at SFO on Monday. M dashes down to collect her from his hectic day at ‘Appnation‘. He’s hoping to collect her, bring her home and then zoom back into the city for the speakers dinner, but alas, British Airways has spectacularly messed up and failed to bring along the luggage of about half of the people on my mums plane and as as result there is no quick exit through immigration, customs, and luggage pick-up. M is patient. He waits and waits and waits, misses his dinner, entertains mother-in-law on the drive home and still manages a smile. Today, he is my hero.

Without giving my mum much time to breathe, I drag her – still wearing the clothes she traveled in (bless her) – off to accompany me for my MRI the next day. OK. If anyone out there likes MRI’s then there is something seriously wrong with you! Those things are bloody awful. Not only do I get stabbed about to fit an IV for the contrast ‘stuff’, but I also feel as if I’m on an emotional roller coaster. The ‘what if’ factor. What if they do find something? What if I drank one to many glasses of wine above my 3-a-week, post breast cancer quota? What if I haven’t been eating enough fruit and veg. What if????

Luckily the ‘what if’s’ preoccupy so much of my mind, that the ordeal of the MRI is soon over. As she tells me that there is only one more 7 minute session to go, I find myself thinking “only 3 more chapters of a Captain Underpants book. Not bad.” Ok. That is an indication of the fact that we are reading way to much Captain Underpants in our household right now if I’m even beginning to measure time by the length of the chapters. Sad, but true. C would be proud of me.

2 more weeks until I see my surgeon and get my results. Fingers crossed. Subject closed.

I have a stomp up the Miwok trail in the fog on Wednesday after dropping C off at school. I’m liberated by the fact that T can stay home and hang with his grandma and so I feel that throwing the ball in the park for the dog wouldn’t do this slice of freedom any justice. I underestimate quite how foggy and eerie it will be up there and I’m kind of freaked out by the weird micro climates going on within yards of each other. At one point it’s raining, but it’s only raining over 1 tree and then it stops again. Now that is weird. It’s also pretty breathtaking, but I’m not sure I’ll repeat that walk again on such a foggy morning.

We then head into San Fran and go to Loehmann’s to try and find clothes for my mum. Still no suitcase. I – of course – do spectacularly well there at finding things for myself, but my mum doesn’t have the same success. She end up by some nice pants in Ann Taylor next door and then we head home again. T gets a giant gluten filled croissant as a treat for being so patient while we shop. we tell him not to tell C. Does anyone out there have a recipe, or a source, for gluten free croissants?

That afternoon, I’m amazed at the conversation in the back of my car between the 2 7 year olds that I’m ferrying to tennis practice. It starts with a conversation about baseball. THen moves on to Barry Bonds and within seconds is centering around why Barry Bonds was bad because he took drugs. C has obviously never heard the word ‘drugs’ before and asks “what are drugs?”. I dread the answer, but it’s actually quite a good one. “Drugs make you strong, but they are really bad for your body and you are bad if you take them”. Phew. I’d really hopes that I could save the drugs conversation until middle school.

Prompted by my lovely friend Cale, I make g-free meatballs that evening, so that I can share the recipe. Here it is:

Ingredients:

2lbs ground (minced) beef

1 egg

1 onion, finely chopped

salt and pepper

olive oil

1. mix all of the ingredients in a bowl

2. make meatball sized balls out of the mix (it should hold together well. Add g-free breadcrumbs if too sticky)

3. fry in olive oil

4. Serve with or without tomato sauce. (we ate one batch with baked rosemary potatoes and another on polenta with tomato sauce)

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To celebrate life, rock stars, and seared tuna

This week gets recounted in random fashion. Fashion being the operative word of the week. My rehearsals for the ‘To Celebrate Life‘ fashion show start and are in full swing. I find out that I am going to be in a scene wearing leather, with Sammy Hagar (remember Van Halen?), which is pretty amazing. I feel like I am in a dream and can’t quite believe this is happening to me. It’s going to be an exciting few weeks!

The organizers of the fashion show are phenomenal. By the second rehearsal, I start to get a sense of how much planning has gone into this and how much they are juggling with all of us novice ‘models’ to get the show on the road. A phenomenal show, I might add. Each model is a breast cancer survivor. We film a short testimonial and I realize that we are a really diverse bunch of women. Each amazing in their own right! It’s quite overwhelming to be in a room with so many women who have fought cancer and survived. Overwhelming and reassuring all at the same time. Oh – and – fun! Ticket reservations and the silent auction are available online: www.tocelebratelife.com.

to celebrate life rehearsal

I discover a new walk with the pooch this week. Amazing how something can be on your doorstep for an age and you don’t realize that it’s there. My friend calls this walk ‘soprano lane’. If you’ve ever watched the Sopranos you’ll get why. The houses have phenomenal views across the San Francisco Bay and are right down on the waterfront. Separated only by the path that I find myself strolling along on a glorious morning. I giggle as I watch a man’s head bobbing up and down over one of the garden walls. I presume he is trampolining. At least I hope he is!!!

While I walk along the path with the amazing view, T has a play date with a friend. He has an amazing time zooming around with his friend in a battery operated go-kart for a few hours and has absolutely no desire to leave when I come to collect him. As I go to leave my friends house, she presents me with the 2 biggest zucchini’s (courgette’s) that I have ever seen. They look amazing, but I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with them. It turns out that I make a pretty good zucchini soup. Even M compliments me on it and that’s a big deal from a man who says he hates zucchini.

Curried zucchini soup

1 organic yellow onion, finely diced

4/5  organic zucchini

2 tablespoons of curry powder

1 quart of organic vegetable stock

2 cups of organic plain yoghurt (I use goats milk yoghurt)

Olive oil

salt and pepper to season

mint to garnish

1. Heat the oil and stir in the onion and the curry powder, until the onion is soft.

2. Add the zucchini and soften for around 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Blend with a hand blender until smooth, add the yoghurt and plenty of seasoning.

5. Serve garnished with a sprig on mint and enjoy.

M in turn, treats me to an amazing seared tuna. He cooks the fish a little more for the kids and they find it pretty tasty too.

Seared Tuna

Fresh or Frozen Ahi Tuna steaks (since seared Tuna is partially raw it is crucial to have good tuna). I used frozen wild Ahi Tuna from Trader Joes.

3 tbs sesame Seed oil

1 tbs mustard (preferably one with a bit of kick to it)

3 tbs soy sauce (we use gluten free)

1 tbs finely chopped cilantro

Optional: 3 tbs sesame seeds (if you want that restaurant look)

salt & pepper

1. Stir sesame seed oil, soy sauce, mustard, cilantro, salt and pepper together in a small bowl, ensure it is properly mixed.

2. Poor the mix on a flat(ish) plate and let the tuna steaks swim in the mix for 2-3 min each, ensure you let both sides hang out with the mix.

3. Sear (basically fry lightly) the tuna steaks in a very hot pan, use some olive oil in the pan to keep it from sticking. For best result let the steaks fry for 45 – just over a minute (depending on thickness of steak) seconds on each side.

4. Move to cutting board and slide in 1/2 inch thick slices. Serve on a bed of rice noodles, salad or just on its own as a starter.

TIP: The kids preferred the steaks that had been cooked for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side which makes the middle less sushi-like.

We get a new back door this week, as the old one is way to easy to break in to. I’m surprised at how much work goes into fitting a new door. I’d loose my patience way to quickly to do that on a regular basis. The painter comes to paint the door and I go into ‘must entertain the worker mode’. There is obviously a disconnect between how workmen are treated in the UK and how they are treated in America. Back home, the guys get pretty fed up if they haven’t been offered a cup of tea or coffee within the first half hour of starting their job. Here, it seems that I can’t force a drink upon anyone, no matter how much I try. The painter also misinterprets my polite banter and suggests that “maybe I should stop my inner chatter”. When I ask “why?”, he replies that “I might feel calmer and less dissatisfied with myself as a result”. But – I’m not dissatisfied and I was as chilled as it gets at that particular point in time. Honestly! Note to self: never try to engage in polite conversation with the painter.

Speaking of inner calm. The crazy Italian yogi from last Tuesday gets a big big big thumbs down when I go back to his class again on Thursday. Sorry Franco, I will not be shedding any tears once you have left Mill Valley Yoga Works. Taking away my water bottle and telling my that you would throw me out of class if I dared to breath through my mouth again, are pretty un-yogic actions in my book.

Namaste.

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Fresh perspectives and tasty chickens

It’s a strange feeling walking up the stairs to one of my surgeons offices for a check up, as I remember coming down that exact same stairway with phone in hand calling M and telling him that I have cancer. I feel it in the pit of my stomach and it takes me back. But it doesn’t take me back for long. That hurdle has been jumped now. Time has moved on! My aunt e’s and tells me of how her friend died within 3 days, once diagnosed with stomach cancer. Another of the many reminders to cease the day. And within the same week, a school mom friend has part of her thyroid removed and the pathology results come back benign. Amazing amazing news! Life is fragile and every now and again we get a nudge to put every day trivialities into perspective.

It’s with that perspective that I aim to move forward today. Instead of grumbling about the fact that every single part of my body aches from yoga yesterday, I try to relish the fact that I had the strength to endure the class – well most of it. I decided to take the leap yesterday to try out a new yoga class at Mill Valley Yoga Works. It’s on the schedule as a level 2 and I reckon I can handle that – really? It doesn’t really help that the yogi ‘dude’ has the softest most sing-song Italian accent ever and that his instructions sound more like a hum than actual words. There is no long warm up, no time for meditation. Just straight in and 1.5 hours of solid exercise. About 20 minutes into the class, he is asking people in the room why they are standing on the wrong leg. I really want to say “because we can’t understand what the hell you are saying”, but I keep that thought to myself and soldier on. I tell a friend which class I went to later that day. She laughs and says “oh, you went to yoga boot camp”. Boot camp it was indeed. I will not be beaten, despite the fact that he asked me more than once if I’d eaten too many pancakes that morning (and no – I hadn’t. I was exercising on an empty stomach and was starving, thank you very much). So, I’m going back tomorrow with a small possy of friends – a united front of yoga warriors. ;-).

Perspective also comes about as I drive back from the doctor’s visit. I turn on the radio and it’s playing one of my all time favorite songs. The Clash, ‘should I stay or should I go now‘. I turn up the volume and blast it out as I drive along. It sums up how I’m feeling about America right then. A sweeping statement, I know, but you have to admit that being told that you probably have 5 more years in line before your green card is going to be processed just because your husband is a Swede and swedes are over subscribed right now, is pretty ridiculous. There I am sending my kids to school to pledge their allegiance to the flag on a daily basis, going to baseball practices and creating perfect little Americans, having spent the last 5 years paying my tax dollars dutifully and without the right to vote and influence what happens with all of that hard earned cash, and yet the crazy immigration system still stands in our way.

Ok. rant over. I love where we live, really I do.

On a positive note, the weather over Labor Day weekend is fab. We lap it up while swimming, playing tennis and soccer with the boys, catching up with friends and grooving to the local band ‘Vinyl‘ at the Homestead Music Festival. The festival is cool. Quite grungy and very low key. The band is awesome. They remind me of the Average White Band and so I’m excited to find that AWB are playing at Yoshis in San Francisco at the beginning of November and buy tickets right away.

The boy’s highlight of the past few days (remembering that the way to a mans heart is through his stomach), is the sticky lemon chicken that I make, using a Gordon Ramsay recipe that M has found on YouTube. It’s the first time I’ve ever cooked to a YouTube video and it makes it quite a fun interactive experience. I use gluten free soy-sauce and agave nectar, instead of the honey. The result is delicious and we eat the chicken on a bed of roasted rosemary potatoes with fresh rosemary from the garden. Yum!

As I cook the chicken, M takes the boys up the road to our friends house where they have just acquired 6 chicks. The boys are so excited to have seen the chickens, but M deems it inappropriate to discuss it over dinner in case they make the connection that the cute fluffy things that they just saw are what we have sitting on a plate in front of us. Funny.

The lunchbox successes continue. I venture into the land of hot soup in a thermos, previously unchartered school lunch territory. It helps that the thermos is a Harry Potter one – the new household craze. I also try out a few new g-free products and add these to my ‘products that we love‘ page.

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A fast moving week & tasty g-free chicken tenders

Another week flies by. I’m not sure quite where it has gone and it takes me a while to even recount what we did.

On the plus side. T’s head heals fabulously. Thank you again doctor Don! C has a great week at school and we have a week of fabulous sunshine.

On the double plus side, I try to recount the negatives and there aren’t really any. And that’s not just my Californian happy clappy side talking…

The first school day of the week is celebrated with huge scoops at Swirls – the hot frozen yogurt spot in town. We beat the after school rush and head there with friends and bump into a few others along the way. I think the kids like making their cups of yogurt and toppings as much – if not more – than eating them afterwards.

On Tuesday, T and I spend an amazing couple of hours on our friends roof terrace, lunching and overlooking the Bay and Coit Tower. The children splash in the paddling pool and my friend and I catch up. Life is good.

I also have my soccer training debut that afternoon. I wonder if I’m a better team ‘mom’ than I am assistant coach right now, but I’m determined to find my groove. I immediately go home and order a book on youth soccer coaching.

On Wednesday, we hit the tennis court at Boyle Park after school. It’s a drop-in class, but C and his friend are the only 2 kids there on this hot and steamy afternoon and so they end up having a semi-private lesson, which is great. I see a huge improvement in C’s playing and his ability to focus. Pre g-free, he wouldn’t have had the energy to follow through like this on an afternoon after school. It’s amazing to see the difference and to see him so happy.

T starts pre-k on Thursday. It’s a big day for him to go into the ‘Tigers’ class. Drop off is hassle- free – for the first time ever with T. There are so may cool things set up for him to do. I cross my fingers that he has a great day and that his excitement about school continues. I stop and take in the view as I drive out of the school car park. Probably the best pre-school view ever, with the San Francisco skyline in the background:

It’s my first long kid-free day in an age – I have from 8.40 until 2.50. I can hardly believe it and seize the moment. After a great long walk (or hike, as they call it in these parts) with friends and dogs, I head over to the lovely Fingers and Toes nail salon with a couple of girlfriends for a good catch up and a mani pedi. Heaven!

I pop into Pharmaca for some vitamins afterwards and am taken aback by how many vitamin labels now also say ‘gluten free’. Really? It hadn’t crossed my mind that this was even gluten territory. It just goes to show! Am amazed as to how gluten awareness seems to be growing and growing.

We head to the swimming pool after school for the next 2 days. On day 2, the boys both have a significant swimming ‘aha’ moment. Phew! The lessons are starting to pay off. I can finally see a glimpse of myself lounging by the pool while the boys splash about in the water.

My favorite easy kid-friendly g-free recipe of the week is chicken tenders. It goes down a storm and also makes a perfect lunchbox filler.

Chicken tenders

Ingredients:

Organic chicken, gluten free cornflakes

1. Take 1lb of organic chicken breasts and cut into strips

2. Crush a couple of cup fulls of gluten-free cornflakes (put the flakes in a ziploc bag a and crush by rolling with a rolling pin)

3. Coat the chicken in the crushed cornflakes

4. Bake at 425 F for 20 minutes, turning once.

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A week of easy g-free lunchbox ideas

We’re on a roll with the whole school thing now. T started pre-school today and where he usually complains about what I put in his lunchbox, even he gave me the thumbs up.

Am updating my easy kids lunchboxes page as I watch ‘Real Housewives of New Jersey’ (sad, but true). 6 days worth of meals posted now. Will keep it rolling…

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soccer, style and sea bass

I wake up a tad startled when the alarm goes off on Saturday morning. Saturday? Alarm? Oh yes… The soccer coach training continues. No rest for the wicked.

I head over to the field where the training is taking place, cup of tea in hand, for 9am. Am happy to see some familiar faces when I get there and have quite a giggle as a result. The trainers – to English ‘blokes’ – are hilarious and have everyone out of breath and giggling within about 10 minutes of doing exercises. It’s their plan to run through as many sample activities and different learning scenarios as possible with us over the course of 3 hours. Despite the fact that we are all adults and we are all there to learn, it strikes me as hilarious that sport brings out the competitive child in people, no matter what. One ‘bird’ in particular is pretty scary. As the morning progresses you’d think she was out there trying to win the premier league championship, not learning how to coach an elementary school child. After being thrown together with her in one team challenge where she can’t help but scream at me telling me what my every move should be, she quickly gets frustrated with me and dismisses me as ‘not winning material’. I pity the kids on her team – but then again they will probably win every single match they will play.

After training it’s off for a much much needed haircut. It doesn’t seem strange to be sitting in the hairdressers chair anymore. Unlike a year ago, when my hair needed it’s first post-chemo cut. You couldn’t really call it a cut – more of a ‘shape’ really. Now I have a ‘style’ again and it’s exciting. I reach a milestone by having my hair cut into a style that I aspired to last October when I spotted a chic lady in the Guggenheim museum with a short curly bob.

While in the hairdressers chair, I get my magazine fix. I read a really weird article in Marie Claire about coffin seminars in Korea. What is a coffin seminar I hear you ask? Well, ask away. It’s just plain old weird. you basically get locked in a coffin for 10 minutes and as a result are faced with your own mortality. You then apparently learn to value the life you have more, become a better person and a better worker. An article in the LA Times earlier this year sums it up really well. as someone who has survived a pretty horrific experience with breast cancer and who has faced her own mortality, I am pretty disgusted by the thought that anyone would willingly want to bring that experience upon themselves. Whatever happened to plain old Carpe Diem?

Moving onto a happier note. I take the kids for ice cream and sorbet at our local fave, Woody’s. It happens to be my wedding anniversary today and given that my hubby is working I find myself saying ‘Happy Anniversary’ to the kids over our ice cream instead. I do buy a bottle of J bubbly on the way home, intent on at least raising one glass that evening.

Sunday is all about yoga with the fabulous Nicole Mickelson and Toy Story 3. To top it all, a delicious gluten free meal of sea bass on the BBQ.

Grilled Sea Bass

1. Chop a red onion, a bunch of cilantro and a bunch of parsley.

2. Place on kitchen foil and add salt and pepper and olive oil.

3. Place the sea bass on top, seal the foil and grill.

4. Serve with rice or potatoes and enjoy!

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