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Pho The First Time

First and foremost I feel the need to acknowledge the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I have many friends over there right now, thankfully all of which are okay. I hope all of your loved ones there are okay too!! I can’t get over some of the unreal images being shown on the news. After experiencing my first earthquake last summer, I can’t even fathom how terrifying it would be to experience one of that magnitude. Having the earth lurch and shake beneath you is probably one of the scariest things I can think of.

Now if only we as a world could rally support for man made disasters like we do natural disasters. Sigh.

In other news, I got my cast off today!

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I finally got to look at my gnarly incision site for the first time. This is after I cleaned it off. It was way gross before.

As for life now without the cast, I’m instructed to start physio asap. I still can’t flex or extend my elbow or rotate my wrist on my own. So I have to get someone to hold my arm and gently lead me through these motions to get my joints used to moving again.

My surgeon said it looks like my bones are settling well. He said my elbow was so pulverized that he’s impressed with any progress at this point. I get the feeling that in any other case he would have immediately inserted a prosthetic radial head. But for some reason he feels my arm can heal on its own. He told me that apart from screws, he also used some kind of glue to piece my shattered elbow back together, which is apparently “unconventional.” There’s also an abnormally large screw in there that may give me problems further down the road and have to be removed.

My next follow up is two weeks from today back in Ottawa. I’m going to see a physiotherapist in Toronto until then. I’ll fly back to New Brunswick from Ottawa after my next appointment in a couple weeks – where I’ll stay to live!! I’ll have to find another orthopaedic surgeon and physiotherapist back home.

Oh, and I asked my surgeon about running. He said no. He doesn’t want me doing anything where I might accidently over extend my elbow. Moving it past it’s current range of motion (which is just a couple inches) can release unwanted fluids and re-injure the joint. Soooo walking it is! I still have to wear my sling when out and about. And he specifically instructed me to wear it on the TTC so assholes don’t jerk my arm around :P

I have to admit, it’s also kind of nice being back in Ottawa with my sis. My sister welcomed me back Thursday night with a dish the city is known for.

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I had no idea Ottawa was so pho obsessed. I’d been planning on trying my first bowl of pho in Toronto before I leave. But Sara said that was silly, seeing as Ottawa is a city that runs on this hot soupy dish.

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After reading a few reviews online, we ended up at New Pho Bo Ga La on Somerset. Not to be confused with Pho Bo Ga, Pho Bo Ga King and Pho Bo Ga La, all within 100 metres of one another.

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I was pleased to see it was a nice sit down restaurant and not some run down take-out joint. We immediately poured ourselves a cup of hot jasmine tea that was already on the table.

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The menu was giant, offering every combination imaginable for pho. Different kinds of noodles, meats and levels of spiciness.

Sara and I started with a shrimp rice roll. 

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Neither of us are fans of the deep-fried spring rolls. I love the sticky texture of the rice wrap!

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Stuffed with whole shrimp, rice noodles, mint and lettuce, dipped in a sweet peanut sauce. Very simple and incredibly tasty.

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The waiter brought us a plate of bean sprouts, thai basil, thai peppers and lime wedges. I knew the soup was next!!

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Sara, a pho expert by this point, went with something a little fancier. A pho with spicy tomato broth, peanuts and rare beef.

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I tried a taste and it was awesome! The peanuts were a perfect addition.

I on the other hand wanted to try something a little more traditional for my first pho experience. We both ordered large bowls and they were giant!

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With rice noodles, rare beef, chicken, green onion, bean sprouts, basil, and a few sprinkles of sriracha. I’ve never tried sriracha before and I think I should finally buy some since I put hot sauce on everything!

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For pho newbies such as myself, it’s a traditional Vietnamese dish made with a flavourful beef broth, rice noodles and thin slices of rare beef. The soup is served so hot that the beef cooks into tender sheets of meat in no time.

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When it comes to soup, I can take it or leave it. I’m usually pretty picky. But I loved this bowl! The broth was unlike any I’ve ever tasted. Not too salty, a little oily (in a good way!) and very bright tasting. The addition of lime, mint and coriander give it a very unique taste. The piles of noodles of course didn’t hurt.

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I only ended up eating half my bowl and brought the rest home for lunch the next day!

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I added an egg to the mix at home and it was oh-so-good. Also cheap considering I got two meals out of it.

I also want to thank you for the continued support from all of you over the past month as I recover from this injury. I’ve always been a hopeless optimist, but the comments and words of encouragement I get from you on a daily basis has played a large part in keeping me so upbeat. I sometimes feel silly yammering about my trivial woes on here when real trauma is happening elsewhere. But I at least hope my relentless optimism is contagious, and leaves you feeling hopeful at the end of the day too.

Have a great weekend!!

Amblings Of An Injured

Hello friends! A few people have been asking me for an arm update, but at this point there’s still not much to tell. Tomorrow not only marks one month since the skating accident that shattered my elbow, but I’ll also be getting another round of x-rays in Ottawa. My orthopaedic surgeon in Ottawa is keeping a close eye on it to ensure the surgery took.

I may also be getting my thin fibreglass splint off. It runs from my armpit to my wrist on the left side and keeps my elbow at 90 degrees. I’ve gotten pretty good at managing it. The pain has decreased significantly since my last round of x-rays two weeks ago. The swelling is virtually gone, and I’m getting more functionality and strength back in my left hand every day. It will be a looooong time before I can do normal things like carry grocery bags or do a push-up (6 months to a year). Driving a car may still be a few months off. But it’s at least really comforting to notice progress with each passing day.

There is however one thing that I am really struggling with – not being able to exercise. I hate for this to sound trite. And at first, my body was so traumatized the idea of exercise was virtually impossible.

But I’ve been sitting on my butt for a month now. Mostly alone, while the rest of the world does productive things at their respective jobs all day. I’ve been very candid about my struggle with anxiety, a condition I’m able to control partially with the help of vigorous exercise. I’m an endorphin junkie. Sweat and high heart rates make me happy and ready to face the world. Without it, I’ve noticed some of my difficulties with speech are returning (I mumble and stutter when anxious). I’m antsy. My mind is racing, I’m worrying and obsessing over things, and I’m having difficulty concentrating.

Friends, this girl needs to work out. For the sake of my mental sanity!

Unfortunately, since I no longer work at a gym, I also no longer have access to one. Even with my arm in a cast, some incline walking or recumbent cycling on the machines would be fabulous right about now. There are a million reasons why I can’t wait to move back home in a couple weeks. Going to my hometown gym is one of them.

With that said, I have been getting out walking every day. Rain, snow, sleet or shine. Walking is nothing compared to the high intensity exercise I used to do and loved. But it’s at least getting me out in the fresh air more and an opportunity to explore my neighbourhood.

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Most notably, “The Doll House.”

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Do not adjust your monitors. That is indeed a town house with thousands of dolls crammed into the tiny front yard.

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And yes, this is located right in my Toronto neighbourhood. The first time I saw this was at night and the owner of the house came out. He looked just like Crispin Glover and started talking to us. So. Creepy.

When the city streets become too much, I can always wander down to the Leslie Spit.

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The Spit is a piece of land that juts out into Lake Ontario. It’s where they put the dirt they dug up while building the subways.

It also happens to be the my most used running trail while living in Toronto.

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Never run on when snow covered of course. This little slice of nature is what kept me sane while living in my concrete jungle of a city.

Of course, the view of the Toronto skyline always served as a reminder of where I was.

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Just beware the stink of Lake Ontario. Certain gusts of wind bring it right to your nostrils.

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There’s also random sculptures. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s art.

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Even though it will be some time before I can lift weights, do yoga, swim, or even bicycle, the one thing keeping me going is knowing I’ll soon be able to run. Just as the weather warms up for the running season. It’s hard to get bummed about my injury when I still have two working legs.

Honestly though, I am completely terrified to get my cast off. Moving my elbow is excruciating, and not having it locked in place with the splint gives me a lot of apprehension. Last time I moved my left arm even the slightest, my hand swelled like a balloon for two days.

Knowing the recovery process it going to be long, I have decidedly taken a very short-term view with it. I will start physio immediately and do those exercises every day. I will dedicate time each day to stretching, something I embarrassingly haven’t done since the accident. My new short-term goal is to be pain-free enough to hold my left arm up on its own to go for a run. It’s something I am desperately looking forward to.

Until then, you can find me aimlessly wandering the streets of Toronto over the next two weeks in efforts to boost my mood. And possibly looking for croissants.

One Hand Meals

As all of you know, I fell skating just over a couple weeks ago. I’ve recovered nicely from the surgery, but my arm is still casted up. This leaves me with one working hand and unable to exercise.

Which in turn, has affected the way I eat.

First things first, I’m a sedentary person now. Thankfully, my hunger levels have started reflecting that. But I absolutely cannot eat the way I used to when I was working out at the gym every day. I’m upset enough about my arm as is,I don’t need to get upset about a weight gain on top of that.

Secondly, my body is trying to heal itself. Not only does it have skin and bone to repair, but the risk of infection after surgery is very high. Especially when my arm was open for so long. My body needs nutrients to do this, and my weird food cravings lately are a direct reflection of that.

Finally, I’m only working with one hand here. I lovelovelove to cook and bake. Being limited to the use of one hand in the kitchen is a big bummer.

I started slowly, frying eggs and making toast. Peeling an orange with one hand is a laborious process. Getting anything out of a pan when you can’t hold on to the handle with the other hand is harder than you’d expect. Thus, my first attempts ended up scrambled.

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I moved on to simple sandwiches. The Herb & Spice food market here in Ottawa carries these things called “tofu cutlets.” Sliced tofu smothered in a savoury gravy-like sauce. I’m obsessed.

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Then I got risky, attempting to stuff a fragile pita with just one hand. Slow and steady wins the race, and it came out great. My sister had to open the can of tuna for me.

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After a week of eating fried eggs on toast every day, I needed to change it up. French toast is actually very simple to make with one hand!

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I even got a little experimental, despite my boring palate as of late. I wanted to make iced coffee, but my sister had no ice cubes. Thus, the iced coffee float was born. With dark chocolate frozen yogurt.

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One-handed cooking has actually turned into something of a welcome challenge for me. My days are always empty, so trying out something in the kitchen gives me a project for the day.

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Like the above jambalaya made with delicious handmade sausages and local organic beef. My sister did all the chopping of the vegetables, I did the assembling and cooking.

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I tried to make dinner for my sister one night, using this recipe for Colcannon Mash and frozen fish sticks. I subbed the cream out for yogurt and used a mix of regular and purple cabbage. I had to use the knife like a machete to get through the potatoes, but I was proud of myself when done.

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The leftovers made for a great breakfast by cracking in a couple eggs, sprinkling with cayenne, and baking. By this point I’ve become an expert at one-handed egg cracking. Not to mention this was a great way to get veggies and nutrients in first thing.

But my most ambitious work yet has got to be Banana Bread.

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Yup! All with one hand! I used this recipe for the best banana bread ever. However I do not think it’s my best loaf. I used two large bananas and it could have used three. Not banana-y enough!

The food part of this story doesn’t end in the kitchen. I’ve been out to eat a few times in Ottawa too! Not only is making food a challenge now, but so is eating it. I can’t use a knife. So anything that requires being cut into pieces is out. Getting the last few bites of something in a bowl is impossible when you can’t hold on to the bowl. Even handheld items can be a challenge depending on their likelihood to fall apart and get messy.

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My sister and I made a pit stop at The Atomic Rooster on Bank Street after running some errands. I wanted something light, plain and nutritious, just like all my cravings as of late. I ended up with a mango chicken wrap. It was a close call. Had it been wrapped improperly, there was no supporting it together with my other hand. It could have ended in disaster.

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My sister of course had a major hankering for junk food. Our cravings never seem to match up. So she went for a burger with cheese and guac, with a side if poutine and beer. The poutine by the way, was really good.

I may be out of Toronto, but my love for brunch continues. I have a university friend here in Ottawa who I finally got to see over the weekend.

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Nicole and I often worked together on broadcast journalism assignments. A lot of running around town lugging camera equipment and trying to convince people to talk to us. Then hours upon hours nitpicking over our digital frames in the editing room. She was awesome to work with, and we’re closer now because of it :)

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We’d originally planned for Stoneface Dolly’s in Little Italy, but the wait was unreal. So we ended up at Il Primo across the street. I suspect not as good as our first choice. But I ordered the lemon ricotta pancakes that were on special and they were delicious. I’ve never added citrus to my sweet breakfast concoctions and it was a welcome flavour.

Nicole actually just returned from a trip to Toronto where she picked up this treat from a DIY cookie place called Sweet Flour on Bloor West. For a regular sugar cookie, it tasted anything but boring. I especially liked the thick frosting.

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I ate it one little piece after another and before I knew it, it was gone!

Surprisingly, I think I’ve lost a little weight since my accident. My hunger levels have drastically decreased since I stopped exercising. Now that I’m not eating out as much, my belly pouf has deflated.

However, I am still paying special attention to what I eat during this recovery process. For the sake of my self esteem and body’s ability to repair itself. Junk food actually doesn’t cure all. My cravings are now geared towards the plain and boring. So I am now, ahem, kindly asking for “get well” spinach salads only. I know you understand ;)

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