Catching up on this ‘n’ that

Back in early March, J. and I went down to Marina del Rey –the Venice Beach area of Los Angeles — for another working vacation. He’d be working, I’d be taking another (much needed) vacation, complete with personal training, long walks to the beach and along the beach, and some spa time. It was our anniversary (eight years!) and we thought we’d do something a little special.

That was the plan.
What actually happened was that the two MRIs and the wretched airline seat combined to throw my back out, extremely painfully, right in the soft tissue all around the coccyx. I literally could not get out of bed on Th morning, and after John helped me up, I couldn’t walk better than a slow shuffle. Moving around helped, but not significantly. So I called the concierge and checked my insurance company’s website, and found a local-ish doc in my network, and I went as soon as they opened.

(Side note: if you’re going to be ill on vacation, the Ritz Carlton is a very good place to do it. They had their driver take me to the doctor, pick me up, take me to the pharmacy and then back. Complimentary. The concierge also made my appointment, let housekeeping know to call before bothering me, gave me a complimentary movie to watch in-room, and sent up a delicious bath fizz bomb labeled ‘muscle ache’.)

Turns out I was having classic muscle spasms, and a heavy duty pain reliever and muscle relaxant were the fix. There went my long walks and workouts. I went to the spa treatment, but it was a huge waste, the time I was spending on the table just made my back worse, and the rubbing wasn’t very relaxing. :-(

Since then, I’ve been dealing with that. To be safe, I took a few weeks off of Pilates, but will be back again this Thursday. And I delayed the start of my Superslow program until this past week, also to be safe.

Superslow? you ask?

It’s an intensive strength training program that relies on specially designed equipment and a very slow lift/release sequence to bring your muscles to maximum fatigue. It is especially god for people with physical problems, because you very quickly build muscles, thereby supporting the skeletal system better. Many people report having long time problems (such as with knees) just disappear. You don’t really ‘bulk up,’ you just build muscle rapidly.

Which is my ‘secret weapon’ in trying to lose weight.

Losing weight is my big goal for this year. Last year it was surviving chemo with grace, and I believe i succeeded. But now I’m a woman in my 40s, in menopause, and taking tamoxifen — a negative trifecta that explains why I’ve been gaining weight steadily since early 2010, and why my attempts at losing have met with defeat.

I’m not one who accepts defeat, or takes it lightly when I fail. (No surprise, I know.)

But I’ve been joined by J. who has been making life changes and its really starting to show. The numbers on his scale are consistently going down, and he’s reached a new 5-year low. Me? I’ve actually lost 5 pounds in the last few weeks — the first loss I’ve seen in more than a year. (And note that the loss I had was because of surgery and attendant issues. Not sustainable. Since then — the lowest I’ve been since ~2005 — I’d gained 35lbs. I have a while to go before I reach that weight again.)

What are we doing? two things: we’re eating less (and its higher quality than before) and we’re moving more. That’s it. No pills, no special diets, no crazy gimmicks. Just eating fewer calories and using up more calories than before. We figure its the only way to make changes we can live with for the rest of our lives — and we do want to live very long (healthy) lives. I do have goals, both short and long term.

But back to our vacation, because we did have a very nice time, all things considered.

When we arrived, we walked down the street and had lunch at Tony P’s. This was a bit bizarre for us, they had heaters going on the plastic enclosed deck. People were wearing jackets and sunglasses. We were more than a little warm in our short sleeves.

The food was pretty good. Tony P’s is a large-menu place, and I can highly recommend their beer list (HUGE and well-organized by type so you can find something like what you normally like, but completely new). I had a cravodao salad (fresh crab and avocado) that was very fresh and yummy, marred only by too much tomato and onion. My ‘main’ was a pulled pork quesadilla (tres delicious) and a ‘side’ of their famous onion rings — which turned out to be a pile almost a foot high. They were tasty, but I wouldn’t have ordered them had I known how much food it was going to be. John was more virtuous than I, and had a large green salad to start and then had a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, and said they were very good.

Dinner that evening was in the hotel, jer-ne (lowercase is deliberate). Billed as unique California cuisine and recipient of a Los Angeles Michelin star, we had high hopes. The space is lovely, with high-backed settees for two making an intimate space for couples and small groups. In truth, the meal was adequate to good. I had the lamb shoulder, braised in merlot with goat cheese stuffed polenta, red pepper jam and, because I don’t like fava beans, caramelized root vegetables. The vegetables were barely done, not all all soft and carmelized. The polenta was superb, and the red pepper jam made a nice accompaniment, but the lamb was only adequate. John had the pan seared local bass, with a cauliflower risotto, swiss chard and saffron lobster foam — he declared it very good. My meal was accompanied by a glass (or two) of Longwood Shiraz, The Shearer, McLaren Vale Australia 2006 which was very good (perhaps the best part of the meal for me). We’d mentioned that it was our anniversary, and the chef sent us a surprise dessert of cheesecake, which was very good.

Dinner on Thursday night was at Chinoise on Main, one of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant. This was one of the first (if not THE first) Asian fusion concept restaurants. They are still fantastic. The setting is eclectic and feels very casual (we’d dressed up a bit, and were a little overdressed). There were several families having dinner, including one with two small children (~6 yrs old) and another with a grandparent. Not a place to take a business client for a first meal.

We shared an appetizer of crispy egg rolls with stir fried duck and vegetables. freshly made, these were delightful — very crisp and light, with a well-balanced mix that tasted delicious.  For my main, I had the roasted Cantonese duck with plum sauce and steamed bao. This was incredibly good, the duck wasn’t greasy, just delicious, and paired perfectly with the sauce and bao (which were like thick pancakes that you wrap the duck and sauce in to eat). John had the grilled Szechuan beef with spicy cilantro sauce. It was, surprisingly, not particularly spicy. The beef was flavorful and tender, and John enjoyed it very much.

On Friday night, our last night, we walked up the street to Cafe del Rey. This is a lovely modern-styled restaurant overlooking the marina (of course). I started my meal with a salad of baby lettuces, with pomegranate, toasted almonds, pomegranate vinaigrette — delicious! (I miss California lettuce sometimes.) For my main I enjoyed a lovely piece of halibut, well-cooked and tasty in a light potato puree with lemon butter sauce. Simple and delicious. John began with the tomato bisque (very good, was the verdict) and had the “surf and turf” — petite chateau filet, butter poached prawns, creamed spinach, fingerling potatoes. The prawns were sublime, and he tells me the meal was very good.

So, we did enjoy ourselves. And I’ll say that spending the time with him, even with a painful back, was better than if I’d stayed home.

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