Tuesday, July 28, 2015

time to relax

We had the family picnic this weekend.  Everyone had a great time:  good food, good company, and only a few minor issues.  We had a perfect day for the picnic.  It was barely 80 degrees, sunny to party cloudy, and no humidity.  Couldn't have asked for a better day.  And now it's all over. Seems like so much work and then it's all over in a few hours.  Actually, it went longer than a few hours, more like 11 hours, but you know what I mean.

Luckily we had all the major cleaning, shopping, and yard work done because of the anniversary party a couple weeks ago.  Because of that it was more relaxing than the last one and I wasn't a zombie the next day.  I was able to do some clothes shopping for an upcoming wedding (Pics this coming weekend! Wait until you see the little black dress I bought!) and sit and watch movies with my favorite cousin.

I had a great visit with the family.  My cousin came up from PA on Thursday and went home yesterday.  The kitties were very happy:  she brought the nip!

Bailey trying to get the cat nip toys.

Bailey after the nip.        

Lou after the nip.

Max after the nip.

Other family came in from NH. Counting a few people too drunk to drive, I had 13 people staying at my house Saturday night. Some of which actually camped in my yard.  But that's why we bought this house - we have plenty of room for everyone. I love it.

Here's a couple pics of my garden.  Looking nice ever since my niece mulched it for me.

And finally, this is how we all felt yesterday after the family left.  

The cats finally came out of hiding in the afternoon.  Some of them, like Leia (above) and Lou, were social and stayed around all weekend.  Actually, Lou was the social butterfly.  He sat at the patio table with everyone.  But most of them ran for the hills.  I have no idea where they were in the house, but they were there somewhere.

So, it was a great weekend.  It was work, but it was worth it.  I'm so happy to now have a house that people actually want to visit.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

time for the next party (and brownies!)

I'm preparing for another party at my house.  This time it's the family picnic so it's a bit more relaxed.  I don't have to be a maniac about cleaning the house.  Although, to be fair, it's all just maintenance since I cleaned the house top to bottom for the anniversary party.  My house is usually fairly clean, but with having my washer and dryer in the family room now, there's usually a lot of clean clothes there that haven't made it to the bedroom yet.  And I have 10 cats, so they can always be counted on to puke up a hairball on the rug (never on the kitchen floor!) or leave their fur all over the place, especially the Persian.  The hardest thing I have to do tonight, which is actually easy and quick, is to shampoo the dining room rug.  Cuz, you know, 10 cats....

I like to do as much ahead of time as possible.  For example, I made the macaroni for the macaroni salad already. I tossed it with a little olive oil and put it in the fridge.  I'm hoping that will help it to not absorb so much mayo.  (That's annoying, isn't it?  You make the macaroni salad and you go to pull it out of the fridge and it's dry.  Almost all the mayo is absorbed.  So then you have to add more, which dilutes the seasoning.)  Last night I cut up all the cheese for the cheese and cracker platter.  If I had the veggies, the veggie platter would be ready to go by now.  I made the brownies already and they're in the freezer, ready to be thawed and cut. 

Tonight I'll do my last-minute cleaning before my cousin arrives tomorrow.  Friday I'll do the yard work and finish the shopping. Then I have to thaw the chicken, hot dogs, and burgers.  (Can't forget this!!  I almost forget to thaw the burgers for the anniversary party.)  Then Saturday morning I'll grill the chicken and finish it in the oven (my sister's awesome idea!), do the last-minute vacuuming (because 10 furry cats!), and set up. 

By the way, here's my awesome brownie recipe, which is actually from King Arthur Flour.  They're not very sweet and they're more on the chewy side. This is really the best recipe I've found and it's the only one I use.  It never fails me.  I've tried others, but they're just not the same.  You'll see the weights listed, as well as volume measures.  I've found this is really useful.  It's more accurate than volume measuring (cups).  Plus, it's a pain in the ass to measure cocoa powder with a cup; it gets all over the place no matter how careful you are.  Oh, and these brownies freeze really well.  And taste great microwaved and topped with ice cream.

A note about these brownies for post-ops:  Be careful if you decide to eat these - they're loaded with sugar.  I have to limit myself to just a couple bites.  Otherwise, I feel sick. (10g of sugar at one time seems to be my limit.)  Try a bite and see how you feel.  Then maybe another bite if you feel OK.

King Arthur Flour's Ultimate Chewy Brownies


3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) vegetable oil
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Spread the batter in a greased 9" x 9" pan.
  3. Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with some moist crumbs clinging to it, but doesn't show any trace of raw batter.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven and cool the brownies before cutting and serving.
King Arthur Flour's Ultimate Chewy Brownies

Sunday, July 19, 2015

more shopping options!

Today I went to the store to find some summer clothes for my upcoming business trip to Huntington Beach, CA. I have some summer clothes, but not many.

I went to The Avenue first.  I got there around 11:30 am.  Their website said the store opens at 11 am, but it turns out they open at noon on Sunday. The Gap is right next door and I had a half an hour to kill, so I figured I'd look around. The "50% off clearance items" sign in the window lured me in, too. I didn't seriously think I'd find anything - I almost didn't go in - , but was hopeful. 

I've been resisting going to "regular" clothing stores, because I just don't want to deal with walking in, discovering they don't have my size, and then having to turn right back around again; I've been through that many times in my life and it's embarrassing. 

So, I headed into The Gap and prepared myself for disappointment. It took me a few minutes to figure out the store layout - all the clothes looked the same. And I felt so out of place, like everyone was staring at me. The whole time I kept thinking,"They all know I don't belong here. They know I'm a fat person trying to pretend these clothes fit me." I know it's my own self consciousness talking, but I've had a lifetime of these thoughts, so it's hard to undo In one shopping trip.  Everything looked so tiny! Even the XL sizes looked like Barbie doll clothes. But I grabbed a few things and headed for the dressing room.

The first shirt I tried on, an XL, fit, but it was way too form fitting for me (below).  I don't want people looking at my back fat. (I really hate when people wear clothing that's too small and I don't want to look like that.)  

This is a little too tight for me. It shows my rolls.

The next shirt, same size, was more my speed.  It was soft, comfy and roomy. I bought it. I later went online and got one in white.

This shirt I really liked. So soft and comfy.

I tried on capris also. I passed by them a few times, because they looked so tiny sitting there on the table.  I thought they couldn't possibly fit me, but they did!  Misses 16!! I think they look pretty damn good. I bought them because I just couldn't resist. And they were on sale (50% off the clearance price!) so I didn't feel bad about it.

I then went over to The Avenue. I needed a swimsuit for California and luckily I found one on the clearance rack. I got a few t shirts on clearance, too. 

I'm at the point where I can still buy from The Avenue if I get a 14 in pants and a 14/16 in tops, but I think it's time to move on.  I know I can now go to regular stores, but it's still a little scary. I still have the fear that they won't have "my size."  But they do. And it's so exciting!

Friday, July 17, 2015

more caprese salad!

I'm on a kick with this stuff lately. I used to be such a tomato hater and now I want this all the time.  A couple weeks ago I cleaned out the entire bin at the grocery store's olive bar.
I got this at whole foods today. I didn't have anything to bring for lunch agony I didn't want to buy a sandwich from the cold case again. So I drove down through the congested downtown area so I could snag this stuff. I bought some extra tomatoes to put in it, too.
I live the fresh taste and I don't feel lethargic after eating it. Makes me feel healthy.
A monster has been created.
Note:  No, I didn't eat this whole container.  It's my weekend supply. :)

Monday, July 13, 2015

the week in review

The past few weeks have been so busy for me.  We were preparing for my in-laws' surprise 50th anniversary party, which was Saturday.  So much yard work, shopping, and house work to do.  Not to mention baking and decorating a cake, and also creating a photo book on Shutterfly.  That involved scanning tons of photos from all the old photo albums, uploading them, arranging them in the book, adding borders, etc.  But it all got done and the party was a success.  I did absolutely nothing yesterday.  Zero.  I sat on the couch all day while watching TV and switching back and forth between my iPad and phone.  More Candy Crush lives that way.

The next two weeks will be spent preparing for the family picnic, which we're hosting.  I don't have as much to do for that one, though, since we already got the yard in order.  We also left the tables and tent up so we don't have to deal with that.  No cake to make, just some food shopping to do.

Work is getting incredibly busy, so that's causing me some stress.  I'm hoping things let up soon.  We just have so much to do in a short amount of time and not enough people to do it.  But I love where I work and I enjoy my job.  Such a huge difference from my last job.

Hopefully I'll get back to cooking more once the next party is over.  With being so busy we've either been eating out more or just grabbing whatever we can find at home.  Not good for my diet, but I haven't gained a pound. (That's such a novelty to me.  That's never happened in my whole life!)

I guess that's it for now.  Have a great week!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

50th anniversary cake...done!

Here's the finished cake for my in-laws' 50th anniversary party.  It's banana cake with vanilla buttercream.

Friday, July 10, 2015

so busy today!

Tomorrow is the surprise party for my in-laws' 50th anniversary. So, of course, today is being spent on getting the house in order, prepping the food, and mowing the lawn.

The lawn mower decided to die today in the middle of mowing the lawn. Actually, the sit-down mower. That's not good considering we have a very large yard.  Bob is out there now trying to mow really thick grass with the push mower and it keeps stalling on him.  But he's getting it done so I'm happy about that.

I tend to get really obsessive about getting the house in order for a party. I always think that people are examining my dusty baseboards or feeling repulsed by the stray cat hair.  In reality, I'm pretty sure people don't even notice those things. Although there are some who do, I guess.  It reminds me of a former friend and co-worker. We went over to another co-worker's house and, while in the spare bedroom, wiped the dresser with her finger and came out to show our hostess that she "missed a spot."  Her defense was that she was "helping her clean."  That didn't go over very well.

I've done pretty well with getting stuff done.  I just have some miscellaneous cleaning to do and a little food prep and that's it. Oh, and I have to spread a little mulch in the garden and fill the bird feeders.  I got the cake done and the ziti is ready to be baked tomorrow.  But I'm sure tomorrow morning I'll notice a bunch of things I forgot to do, just like usual.

Time to go do some more work...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

today's lunch

Remember how I said as a post-op gastric bypass patient it's really important to be prepared?    It's true.  When we're not prepared we end up having to buy lunch from the cold case at work and rather than choosing a salad, we choose what we used to want.  On Monday that was a turkey and brie sandwich on cranberry bread.  By most people's standards that would be a good lunch, but as gastric bypass patients, we really shouldn't be eating that.  Not only because it's loaded with carbs and we should be sticking to protein, but because it can awaken all those old feelings that go along with living to eat.  But Monday that was the choice I made because I didn't put my lunch together the night before like I usually do - I was emotionally and physically drained from having to put my 16-year-old cat down - and I was rushed for time the next morning.  I grabbed a handful of animal crackers on the way out the door and that was my snack for the day.  I didn't beat myself up, though.  It's not like I sat down to a whole pizza.

I had to buy lunch again today, because I was busy last night and didn't get around to packing lunch; I didn't have much in the house anyway.  Today I chose better:  Caprese salad.  For some reason I love Caprese salad all of a sudden.  I used to be a tomato hater, but recently I've begun to appreciate grape and cherry tomatoes.  I'm definitely not ready to eat a big slice of tomato - I think it's the texture - but I can handle the little grape and cherry tomatoes.  It sound weird, but I feel good when I eat tomatoes, like I'm being all healthy and stuff.  It's a good feeling.

So, this was lunch today.  Yummy!  And it's a good lunch for a gastric bypass post-op.  Low in calories (as long as you don't drown it in oil) and satisfying.


Monday, July 6, 2015

power crunch protein energy bar: triple chocolate flavor

I tried a new protein bar today:  Power Crunch Protein Energy Bar, Triple Chocolate flavor.  I found it in Walmart yesterday morning.  It was less than $2.00, which is a good price for protein bars;  some can run to almost $3.00.

The package says it's an energy bar, but I can't figure out where the "energy" comes from.  I don't see caffeine listed, or anything else that would tell me it's supposed to give me energy.

It has 13g of protein and 5g of sugar, which means I won't have an upset stomach from too much sugar.  It has 205 calories.  Considering I get such limited calories (about 1,000 per day), this would have to be a meal replacement for me.

I'm not wild about it.  It's basically a take on the crème filled wafer bar.  You know, the mega sweet ones they sell in the cookie isle?  I really liked the texture and the size of it, but the taste just wasn't that great.  It had kind of a weird finish, which I can't describe.  But it's crunchy, which is a nice change from most other protein bars.

I don't think I would buy this again, although if I were in a pinch I could deal with eating it.  I'd like it better if it was just a tad sweeter.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

today's breakfast

Today's breakfast was one fried egg and three crostinis.

I got these crostinis at the grocery store.  It's become A Thing for me.  I seem to be hooked on these things. I guess since they're crunchy, I don't think of it as eating bread.  I never even had a crostini until last year.  The house we moved to is very close to a Stew Leonard's store and they have prepackaged crostini. I picked some up to serve with my artichoke dip for a get-together.  They were so good:  crunchy, buttery and garlicky.  I assumed that no other store would sell these, but I was wrong.  The local store has them. Unfortunately, they vary in taste and quality.  Sometimes they're rubbery and have only butter.  Other times they're crunchy and have butter and garlic.  The ones below turned out to be the former so I popped them in the toaster over for 10 minutes to crisp them up.

As you can see, I like a lot of pepper on my eggs, just like my dad.  I recently found a little gadget in the store.  It's a peppercorn cracker.  I've been looking for a fresh pepper grinder, but they're so damn expensive.  But then I found this.  I believe it was $6.99.  It looks like a bunny.  You squeeze the ears and it cracks the pepper onto your food.  And it's got a magnet so you can attach it to either the fridge or the range hood.  I bought it mostly because it looks like a bunny, but it's handy, too.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

gardening teamwork

So, my friend and my niece came over to help me with my gardening this weekend - my friend yesterday and my niece today.  I've got two parties coming up and wanted to get the yard in order. I'm so happy they came over, because it gave me to kick I needed to get out there and do it.  I was doing good on my own for awhile, but once the rain started, the weeds came out in full force; I just felt overwhelmed every time I looked at it.  But they came over and we knocked most of it out over the last two days. My niece will be back again tomorrow to finish up.

During my first stab at gardening I was told by several people that I didn't have a prayer of controlling weeds unless I put down mulch.  But in order to do that, I would have to pull out all the weeds and grass first, then mulch.  That's the part that made me feel defeated before I even started:  having to pull out all the grass that had come in.  But my niece was a machine and got it all cleared out (she does landscaping as part of her job, so that helps!).

What I found interesting was that yesterday my friend and I spotted a hummingbird, the first one I've seen since moving to this house a year ago, and today I found a garden plaque buried in the weeds, presumably left behind by the previous owners, which had hummingbirds on it.  So, what's interesting about that? My mom loved hummingbirds and gardening. I felt like maybe she was watching over us while we were gardening.  Hopefully she approves!  I took the plaque and put it in the garden, up where all the new mulch is.

Here are the results.  Looks great! As you can see, my husband got the pond fountain in.  I've also had lots of nice plants come in.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

two kitties crossed the rainbow bridge

Today we had to say goodbye to George.  Unfortunately, old age kicked in; he was 16 years old.  My sister had his litter mate, Autumn, and Autumn had to be put down a few weeks ago due to old age.

It's so hard to know when it's the "right time" to say goodbye to our furry friends.  They can't tell us how they're feeling and whether or not they're suffering.  We're left to figure that out on our own.  In the last two cases where I've had to make the decision to euthanize a cat, it was easy to make the decision.  Both were were sick.  One was in the end stage of feline leukemia and it was time; there's no coming back from that.  The other had a tumor that caused full paralysis.  We could have had surgery to remove it, but it was highly likely to come back.  He was already 13, so why put him through all that so we could have an extra year or two with him?  It felt selfish. So, we made the decision to avoid any unnecessary pain and suffering.  In George's case, he simply started slowing down a lot in the last few months, lost weight, became hard of hearing, and slept a lot more than usual.  But in the last two weeks he really declined.  He was at the point where he couldn't get into the litter box easily; pretty much stayed in one spot all day whether he was sleeping or not; didn't come around for meals, although he would eat if we brought him to the food; and last night he started stumbling a bit.  I had been reading articles online about how to know it's the "right time." They said that it's especially tough with a cat, because they're masters at hiding their pain.  But one constant theme was that one has to assess the cat's quality of life.  If there are more bad days than good, it's time.  So, last night we decided it was time and made the appointment.  I'm glad we did, because today he could barely move at all.

Obviously I spent most of the night and most of today upset and I have a whopping headache because of it. Even though I knew this day was coming and I know I'm doing the right thing, the humane thing, it's still really hard.  I've had him for 16 years.  Even though he was a territorial cat and ruined so many things due to marking, he was still my baby.  One of the original cats I had.

What makes it even harder is that he's the third cat we've lost since moving to our new house last year.  Riley passed away in November from possible hemophilia and Prince was, we believe, the victim of a coyote last month.

I remember the day we got Prince.  He was in a cage with a bunch of young kittens; they were about 3 months old and he was about 6 months old.  It was a long cage and he was all the way at the end, by himself, as if to say he's too mature to be in a cage with these little rugrats.  We had already picked out a cat, Oscar, but I just couldn't leave Prince in that cage with a bunch of "kids."  So, we took him, too.  He was such a great cat.  He couldn't hurt a fly and didn't have a vicious bone in his body.  He never once scratched or bit anyone, or any of the other cats.  He just wanted to be pet.  We kept him inside for years, but he escaped several times. We finally gave up and let him out.  All was fine until last month when he didn't come in one night.  And that was it. We think a coyote got him, because he wasn't one to wander from the yard.  He always came in when we called him, and most of his time was spent sleeping on the patio furniture.  

So, goodbye George and Prince.  We will miss you both terribly. I'll try to think of you both at the Rainbow Bridge with Riley and all the other kitties we've said goodbye to over the years.  I'll imagine George walking over the bridge with no pain and his hearing restored.  And I'll imagine Prince trotting along beside him.  We'll meet again some day.

George (left) in better days.  Oscar is on the right.