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trying this blog thing again

i’ve owned this vanity URL for over a decade and never did anything with it, so here i am, doing something with it. i’m just getting started but so far it’s a blog where i’m writing mostly about my ongoing brain surgery recovery/health updates as well as my post-surgery/pandemic obsession of non-alcoholic beer. i hope to write about more. i guess we’ll see.

please use the category links if you only want to read a particular topic.

non-brain health update

i mean, it is all about my brain, really. but i just went for my annual physical with my GP (dr. yount) who is also my GYN on monday and am overall pretty pleased with the results. it’s so convenient to get my annual PAP/STI screening at the same time as my blood work and all the other stuff. dr. yount is a one-stop shop! i hadn’t seen her since my brain surgery – in fact, she was the one who gave me the referral to get the MRI that got me on the path to the surgery at my last annual, last july. so we had a lot of catching up to do.

my BP was just a tad high 134/82 in the office – but when i check it at home, 8 times out of 10 it’s in the 120’s/80 or lower, much closer to “normal,” so she told me to just keep monitoring it. i’ve gained all the pounds i lost post-surgery but am at my usual weight, haven’t put on any extra pounds. she poked and prodded me, they took a urine sample, and lots of blood. (thankfully they found a vein on the first try!)

my lab tests all came back today and everything checks out as being within normal range except my cholesterol, which is of course borderline high. my HDL and triglycerides are actually really good though, so that helps. it’s the LDL that is bad. i think i need to make some adjustments to my diet for sure. i’ve been trying to eat better the past couple of weeks but particularly when i’m overnight dog sitting and rushing around with no spare time, i have to admit i eat pretty crappy. lots of takeout and frozen meals. this past week i stepped up the exercise, adding an evening walk in the park to my routine, which also has the added bonus of aiding in my digestion of dinner and helping me sleep better. but i’ll need to stick with it and get more vigilant with what i’m eating, for sure.

the part i’m pleased about is that my glucose and A1C were both good, both of which had been flagged last year as borderline high. i really think it had something to do with the fact that i didn’t fast last year before the exam, in fact i ate lunch right before i went there! but this year i made sure to eat breakfast really early and not have anything else but water for 8 hours before they drew blood, so i think these results are a lot more accurate. so no diabetes for me!

am i the model of health for a 53-almost-54 year old woman? no. i have pounds to lose, i have achy joints and a wonky knee, high cholesterol and blood pressure that i have to keep an eye on, and i know i’m at risk for heart disease – it runs in the family. not to mention the remaining brain tumor. but really, despite all that, i’m in pretty good overall health. i exercise daily, i drink a LOT of water, i don’t drink sugary sweet drinks, i no longer drink alcohol and don’t smoke. now if i can just figure out how to eat better on a regular basis and keep stepping up the exercise.

i swear, if there was ONE thing i could say to my younger self, to change the trajectory of my life, it would be to take better care of my body and to pay more attention to what i put into it. and to exercise more. we all just think we’re so invincible when we’re young, don’t we? but i can’t turn back the hands of time, so here i am at midlife. time to make some adjustments.

9 months!

yesterday marked 9 months since my brain surgery! in some ways it feels like a very distant memory; in others, it seems like it was yesterday.

overall, i am doing great. i am functioning more or less normally in most ways in my life, to the point that anyone who sees me out and about in the world would not ever know i had brain surgery unless i told them.

i am still struggling with a few “invisible” deficits (my throat is still a hot mess, between my frozen left vocal cord and my permanently swollen right tonsil – i sound like an old man coughing and clearing my throat all the time as these issues still make swallowing and breathing challenging at times) but they are minor in the grand scheme of things.

my eyesight has stabilized for the most part; i only have double vision first thing in the morning or really late at night when i’m really tired, on rare occasion. i still haven’t made it in to the eye doctor but hopefully a new prescription will resolve some of that.

my head – skull, really – still feels weird. waking up each morning is a daily reminder of the trauma i went through, as my head and neck always hurt for a little while – likely from the pressure having built up, from being flat all night – but once i’m up and about it goes away. from what i’m reading from others who’ve had this surgery, it really doesn’t ever get better. my head is going to feel strange for the rest of my life. i have accepted this and i try to not let it bother me but some days it’s hard to not dwell on it. it can be alarming.

my voice comes and goes. some days it is better than others. people still tell me it sounds like i’m getting closer and closer to my regular voice but to me it still sounds so strange and not me at all. the thing that bothers me most is not being able to speak loudly or yell. folks still have a hard time hearing me sometimes.

i would say my work capacity is at about maybe 2/3rds to 3/4ths of what i was able to do pre-surgery, with some limitations. (i think i learned last week that 10 days is maybe too long for overnight sitting without getting some kind of break. i managed, but i also got sick in the middle of the sit, likely due to being rundown from lack of sleep and just overdoing it.)

i might not ever get back that last 1/4 to 1/3 of my capacity, but that’s ok. i just have to adjust and be careful about taking care of myself. it’s a very strange realization to have that you might not quite be the same person you were before a major surgery, but i guess it’s a realization that many people have over the course of their lifetimes, about various kinds of surgery. and really, i’ve bounced back pretty well and i have a lot to be grateful for.

speaking of which, i’m in the middle of sending out handmade thank you cards to everyone who helped me through surgery in any way. it is a very long and laborious process, as my spreadsheet has 350+ people on it to thank! and there are a lot of folks i don’t have mailing addresses for. so if you are reading this and you don’t think i have your snail mail address, please do send it along. i will eventually ask you for it when i get to your name on my list but free free to volunteer it.

not much really to report otherwise. it’s starting to be the dead of summer here, mid july. we’ve been spared the extreme heat/humidity combo through most of june thanks to daily rain but it looks like it’s setting in now, and it is more draining to me than it ever was before. i’m grateful i only walk dogs half the day now because i don’t think i could handle much more. i literally have to come home and lie down in the AC every afternoon when i’m done to recuperate… and that’s from only 4 hours of walking.

i did manage to schedule some vacation for myself in august around my birthday though, and i’m greatly looking forward to it. i haven’t gotten out of town since december 2019 so vacation is long overdue. and great to have 10 days off work in august which is usually the most miserable month of the year.

so that’s it, that’s my update. hope everyone’s having a good summer!

mikkeller – raspberry limbo series

i think it’s been established over these almost 60 NA beer reviews i’ve done since november (!!) that i’m not the hugest fan of sours, but i’m willing to try them and under certain circumstances, i do in fact enjoy them. i just kinda have to be in the right mood and pair them with the right food. (or no food.) so this limbo series “malt beverage with raspberries” from mikkeller has been sitting in my fridge for a few months waiting for the right moment. and apparently it’s today!

i just got home from work walking dogs all morning in the heat and humidity and intermittent rain of summer in new orleans. it’s only in the mid 80s (feels like 90 with the humidity), which is frankly cool by summer standards here, but it’s still kinda gross sticky weather for physical activity. i’ve logged 10.3K steps already and it’s only midday. i drank nothing but water all morning in the car in between clients (sometimes i bring some NA brews along with but i didn’t today) so by the time i got home i was really craving something more thirst quenching, and something fruity and tangy sounded good to go with my cauliflower veggie frozen pizza that’s in the oven right now.

as you can see, it pours a pretty orange-red color – not quite the color of raspberries to me, but it’s still pretty. nice head, sparkling carbonation, fruity aroma. the first sip was a little puckering, but my palate quickly adjusted. it’s clean, crisp and packs a delicious raspberry punch. as with a lot of the sours and fruitier beers, i’m not sure it really reads “beer” to me, but i don’t care because it’s really delicious. and went nicely with my cauliflower pizza! i didn’t even feel like i wanted or needed to mix it with ginger ale, which is what i did to salvage those untitled art florida weisses that were just way too sour for me. this one is great on its own. very refreshing!

mikkeller lists this as a “flemish primitive ale” and it is of course, like all their NA beers, brewed with their proprietary mikkellensis yeast. ingredients listed on the can are: water, barley malt, hops, raspberry, and mikkellensis yeast. it clocks in at .3% abv but i can’t find any calorie/carb info anywhere on their site or on the can.

there hasn’t really been a sour that i’ve tasted so far that i felt like i would want to purchase again but i think i would buy this again if it was more readily available in the US. i dream of a day when all the NA brews i love are easily purchased somewhere close to me at retail or at my favorite bar or restaurant. i got this one from NA brews, if you are interested to try it – remember to use my code MARGARET893 for 10% off! sadly, mikkeller’s online shop ships from overseas and the shipping is $50+ so i guess until distribution is better around the US it’ll be via NA brews for me!

how did it get to be july?

i seem to have run out of steam writing regularly on this blog, now that work has picked up (it’s been a month solid of back to back overnight dog sitting) and also now that i’ve sampled over 60+ NA beers and have settled on a handful that i rotate between regularly. but i thought i’d offer a few news tidbits and a quick review of something new-to-me i picked up this week.

first, did you know it’s dry july? i’d never heard of it before but started seeing other NA beer bloggers writing about it, so figured i should investigate. well, turns out what started in july of 2008 by three guys in australia as a motivation to abstain from drinking for a month and buy their local hospital a new waiting room TV has turned into an annual fundraiser “aimed at challenging social drinkers to change their habits for a month and make some healthy lifestyle changes” while raising money for cancer patients/charities. over the years they’ve raised more than $60 million for various organizations across australia and new zealand!

there does not appear to be a similar foundation set up in the U.S. (yet), but nothing is stopping you from taking a pause from alcohol for the month and donating to your favorite cancer charity and/or asking your community to support you in your efforts by also making a donation. if you decide to do it, definitely drop a comment on this post and i’m happy to boost your efforts!

did you also know that today is national independent beer run day? yeah, me neither. it seems to be just a marketing ploy by the brewers association to promote and sell craft beer, “calling on beer lovers to seek the independent craft brewer seal and purchase craft beers produced by small and independent breweries for their independence day festivities” – buy hey, why not?

of course i’d love to support a local indie craft brewery today (or any day), but sadly none in my area are brewing non-alcoholic brews yet. (skip down below for an update on that topic.) so i will just have to participate by stocking up on some independent craft NA beer from out of state – perhaps a run out to total wine is in order?

i feel like i have already done my part this week though by finally receiving my second order from athletic of their pride month beer rainbow wall (i managed to score a 12-pack when it was briefly restocked last week – it’s gone again); i really love that beer! and i also made another between-clients pitstop in to elio’s uptown to pick up a 6-pack of untitled art’s NA juicy IPA. since i seem to be enjoying the fruitier NA IPAs on these hot summer days, i thought it was worth a try.

i kinda love it! it’s so smooth and has a great mouthfeel, good body. and though it definitely has some grapefruit flavor and a bit of a bite, it’s not super bitter. the combo of citra and mosaic hops is delicious and at 90 calories/19 carbs it has some substance but not too much. i had one yesterday in the middle of my dog walking day and it was a real rejuvenator! once again thanks to pelican craft brands for distributing UA’s NA offerings around town. now if i could just find their watermelon gose!

on the local front, second line brewing is neighborhood brewery and when i was drinking alcohol, their beers were my favorites. though they aren’t brewing an NA… yet, i did manage to ask them about it on an IG post and their response was at least encouraging: “you’ll often see larger breweries making NA beers because they have the infrastructure in place with the necessary equipment to filter out ALL the yeast before packaging – otherwise, you risk continuing fermentation. unfortunately we’re not there yet – just means we have to keep growing so we can make some tasty NA beer :)”

so that makes three local breweries who’ve given me a positive response about potentially brewing NA in the future – second line, zony mash and faubourg. and nola brewing has their NA hop’d teas, which i need to check out. i still maintain that urban south seems the most likely to be equipped/positioned to try NA brewing, but they’ve never responded to my queries about it. maybe i just need to drop in one day and ask.

regardless, we here in NOLA have come a long way already in the 7 months or so that i’ve been drinking NA and documenting my journey. the selection continues to grow at total wine all the time, local groceries and liquor/wine stores are carrying more varieties of NA and keeping them stocked, and you can much more frequently find at least the macro breweries’ NA options at local bars and restaurants. it’s not as much progress as in some other parts of the country, but new orleans is always behind the times on most trends, so i guess it makes sense for this one too. until we catch up, i guess i will just continue to sample the ever-widening array of craft NA available from around the country via beer mail!

enjoy your 4th of july holiday weekend! and tell me what NA brews you’ll be drinking in the comments. cheers!

untitled art – florida weisse

i posted on my IG about this beer a while back but forgot to mention it here on the blog, so i’m writing a long overdue review and recent revelation.

my original sampling of this beer, after finding it at elio’s uptown – now that pelican craft brands is distributing untitled art‘s non-alcoholic brews around town to bars, restaurants and retail – was a bit off-putting. i knew it was a sour going in but wow, i didn’t realize just how sour! the first time i tried it i brought it out to sunset at the lakefront but stupidly drank it while eating a burrito from felipés – not a great pairing. i could appreciate it for what it was, a very tart and full-bodied sour NA beer, bursting with passionfruit purée and other mouth-puckering fruity goodness. but it wasn’t really my kinda beer. just a little too sour for me. i could appreciate the craft and the quality from untitled art, but had a hard time imagining myself wanting to drink more of them.

so the rest of the six pack has been sitting in my fridge ever since. (i did give one to my friend audra to taste, as she both loves beer and sour things and is into kombucha, so as i predicted, she enjoyed it!) but this morning i had what has turned out to be a brilliant idea: mix it with some ginger ale! i had some reed’s in the fridge, as i caught it on sale recently and do enjoy a little ginger ale from time to time (really the only soda-like drink i will consume), so i thought perhaps it would cut the sour a little and make the florida weisse more enjoyable to me.

and i was right! omg that is delicious! it adds just enough sweet to cut the sour a little, but not too much, and doesn’t really affect much else about the brew. i thought it would make it seem more soda-like but it really didn’t. it just made it easier for me to consume and enjoy. so now i know what to do with all the sours i end up trying and not liking! just add ginger ale! (reed’s ginger beer would probably work great too.)

for those of you who still drink alcohol, this would also probably be great with some vodka or other clear liquor in it. the idea of using an NA beer as a mixer is funny but i think for some of the fruity and sour NAs it would likely work. i won’t be trying it, but just a thought.

regardless, i’m thrilled because now it means i won’t waste the rest of these rather expensive craft NAs! thanks to untitled art for making a very unique non-alcoholic option that i’m sure sour-lovers will enjoy. i need to try their juicy IPA NA and their latest watermelon gose NA next.

athletic – rainbow wall IPA

in general, i don’t enjoy rainbow capitalism during pride month. because usually it’s a straight up marketing technique with no give-back to the LGBTQI+ community by so many companies and corporations. it’s just a way for them to cash in on looking woke/PC without actually being accountable to that community.

but i’m happy to give props to initiatives that DO give back in a significant way and to support companies that show year round what their values are. athletic brewing is definitely a company that lives its progressive values and so here we are with their latest limited edition batch of NA beer called rainbow wall, with an appropriately and pleasingly rainbow-colored graphic for the can for pride month. the name and the image come from a particularly challenging climb in the red rock canyon national conservation area outside of las vegas, nevada. it was brewed in collaboration with LGBTQI+ pro climber alex johnson and 100% – yes you read that right – of the profits from the sale of this beer will go to athlete ally, a national non-profit whose mission is “to end the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sports and to activate the athletic community to exercise their leadership to champion LGBTQI+ equality.”

this was enough to make me order a 6-pack in my monthly subscription box, even though it’s an IPA. (i know you are tired of me saying i don’t typically like IPAs but just in case there are new folks reading… i never liked leaded IPAs but am finding i can tolerate some NA IPAs depending on how they are brewed and with which hops.) it’s a blood orange IPA, and i’ve enjoyed quite a few blood orange beers in my life, so i took the chance.

it pours a beautiful orange hue that is slightly hazy with a decent head. it has a clean hoppy aroma and a very bold citrus flavor that combines the blood orange with something more tart, perhaps the lemon peel that is referenced in the ingredients list. but it’s very crisp while also being very smooth thanks to that organic vienna malt, and though it has a bit of a bite, the bitterness doesn’t linger, which i like. goes down easy and clocks in at only 70 calories and 16 carbs. i surprised myself that i like this so much!

i’m late in reviewing this as it took longer than expected to receive my shipment and then a few days to get it chilled and have time to write about it because i’m dog sitting and my work schedule has been very hectic. sadly, when i went to order some more of it, it was already sold out. (if i’d have realized it was sold out i would have not bothered to write about it. sorry if i got your hopes up!)

i love that athletic is creative and does a lot of small batch/limited release beers, but i hate when i find ones i really love and they are gone too soon. i’m feeling that way about the peanut butter porter i recently reviewed (i have 2 left in the fridge) and trailblazer, the women’s history month hoppy lager that i’m now out of. oh well, i guess that’s how it goes with most breweries, and how they keep you coming back for the next one. i just wish it was easier and faster to get my hands on them.

speaking of which, i will quickly mention that athletic updated their store finder map on their site and it now shows, in addition to total wine (which i had to tell them to add!), that you can find some athletic brews at cochon restaurant and bywater american bistro. hopefully more venues will start carrying their beers but i guess two restaurants are better than none!

athletic – nature nut peanut butter porter

i’m realizing i never did post my thoughts about this beer. i’m on my second six pack of it and frankly my opinion keeps changing. sometimes i think it’s just OK and not very exciting; one time i even poured half of one out; but most times i feel like it’s the best dark NA i’ve had yet. i can’t decide. (the one i’m drinking right now as i write this review i’m enjoying a great deal.)

i’ve had mixed results with my pours; most of the time there’s not much head at all (none in this picture), but i don’t know if that’s the beer or my glassware. (apparently some detergents leave a residue that kills the head. but other beers i pour at home seem to have a head and i hand wash all my glassware exactly the same way, so i’m not sure what’s going on.) it pours a dark brown almost black. pretty decent mouthfeel with good tight carbonation but i wish it was a little creamier. it’s a little thin.

the nuttiness is there in both aroma and taste – that peanut flour definitely does the job. it’s got a nice level of sweetness to it – not too much but just enough. (i tried it with some vanilla ice cream the other night and i highly recommend it!) there’s a nice roastiness going on, and some subtle chocolate notes too, due to cocoa nibs. you can taste the vanilla too. there’s a lot going on in this brew.

sadly, it is no longer for sale on the site, as it was a limited release. but maybe they will bring it back at some point. i love that it raised funds for the two for the trails initiative to help maintain and rehabilitate trails, walking paths, and green spaces, and that it was a joint project with justin’s nut butters. (each six pack you ordered came with some squeeze packs of justin’s almond and peanut butter! but no, there was no nut butter in the actual beer.)

I would probably buy more if it was available, as i’m finding it much harder to be satisfied with any of the NA darks on the market that i’ve tried.

quick thank you!

hey i don’t know who keeps using my 10% off code from NA Brews (MARGARET893) but thank you! the kickback to me is tiny on each order (5%), but hey, it adds up! there have been three orders so far which together have amounted to almost enough to cover the cost of one six pack of NA beer! given how much i spend on NA beer, i’ll take it!!

i’m a little behind on reviews but i’ll get some new posts up this week. happy memorial day relaxing everyone!

settling in with my NA beer choices

i haven’t much felt like sampling new beers lately. i still have a few from that last delivery from NAbrews that i haven’t gotten to (the raspberry limbo from mikkeller and brew dog’s wake up call), but most of the time when i open the fridge to grab a beer, i find myself just wanting the ones i already know i love. so after about six months of intense NA beer sampling my rotation has come down to this short list at the moment, in no particular order:

i do really enjoy dark beers but so far i have to admit to not really being satisfied with many of the NA options i’ve tried. many of them are ok, not awful, but i don’t find myself craving them in the same way that i do the lighter and brighter beers. i think they just don’t hit the same “i’m drinking a beer” feeling that the lighter NA brews do – many of them just make me feel like i’m drinking a sweet malty chocolate soda. maybe there’s a dark NA out there for me yet but for now, especially since it is summer, i’m happy with the lighter options i’ve got. and at least athletic’s upside dawn, ceria’s grainwave, and wellbeing’s amber can be bought locally at total wine so i don’t have to wait a week to have it shipped if i run out.

(i did join the athletic subscription club and have received a few monthly shipments but am re-evaluating that since i mostly want upside dawn and it’s cheaper locally. but since i can pause my membership, i will do that for a little while until i see if it’s worth it to get the cerveza or other limited run beers occasionally.)

there are still many brews i haven’t sampled yet that i’m interested in trying but i’m not going out of my way to find them now and i’m definitely not paying crazy money to get them delivered anymore, including:

if any of these should find their way to me or for some reason go on some kinda great sale i can’t refuse, then maybe. but until then i will be happy keeping my faves stocked at home and might even try an alcoholic beer sometime soon to see how it makes me feel. i don’t envision ever keeping real beer in my fridge anymore but would like to feel like i can have one or two occasionally out with friends. though honestly, if athletic or one of my other NA faves was available at bars or restaurants locally, i probably wouldn’t ever drink alcoholic beer again.

all this being said, i should mention that i did sample the heineken 0.0 last week. i figured since it was likely to be one of the only options on bar/restaurant menus locally, i should know what it tastes like and if it could work for me in a pinch. but sadly, it was awful and i could only drink a few mouthfuls before pouring it out. the first whiff took me back to my childhood, to smelling my dad’s and uncle’s cans of some kinda shit beer i can’t remember. it was slightly sweet and malty but just really unappealing to me, in the same way that penn’s best was. i never liked regular heineken so this isn’t surprising to me but i do like to try to keep an open mind about the macros. but so far i haven’t found one i can make due with. i guess i’m just a craft beer snob at heart.

bravus – amber

it has taken me a long time to figure out how i feel about bravus‘ NA beers. at first, i really liked the oatmeal stout, the very first time i tried it. then i had some really off ones, returned them, received a sampler pack from them them to help make up for it, and realized there’s just a lot of inconsistency with bravus’ beers. (the replacement oatmeal stouts were fine, i liked the peanut butter stouts they sent, but did not enjoy the blonde at all. i have since then bought a case of oatmeal stout and peanut butter stout and after a few that again tasted weird to me, haven’t touched the rest of them and am now not sure i will.)

all of this backstory brings me to a recent total wine excursion when i bought this single of their amber – one of the only flavors of their beer i hadn’t yet tried and one i’d heard a lot of positive reviews about. so i just cracked it open, feeling a jonesing for an amber-like beer.

it certainly is the right color. didn’t have much of a head or aroma – a little caramel, a little malty, but once again that weird sorta sweet smell all of their beers have. i crossed my fingers and took a sip. it does indeed have that same sweet kinda flavor all their beers do too. great mouthfeel and the rest of the flavor is pretty good (caramel, nutty, malty) but i just can’t get past that weird taste. it’s not necessarily bad but it’s just not what i want. and it leaves an aftertaste that’s akin to an artificial sweetener, not what i want lingering in my mouth after a beer.

it’s a pity because without that weird sweet flavor, it would be really great. i am just still so perplexed about what it is. some in the facebook groups say it’s diacetyl; some think it’s a proprietary yeast strain or malt producing this taste. i don’t know what it is but i think i’ve now decided i won’t be buying anymore of their beer because i am clearly sensitive to it. (it apparently does not bother some people. some don’t notice it at all.)

i think this is one of those things that everyone will have to figure out for themselves. give a few of their beers a try – maybe they will work for you. maybe you will be one of the people who don’t notice this weird taste that a lot of us do.

(and if anyone wants a six pack or two of their oatmeal stout or peanut butter stout, just holler.)