Thursday, December 31, 2015

eggs benedict with pesto

Last month I went to Whole Foods in the morning.  They had their hot food bar filled with breakfast food, which I love because this particular location usually has a couple of selections that are different.  One week they had a breakfast pizza, which was a crispy flatbread topped with scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese, with a touch of olive oil.  Another week they had their take on eggs benedict:  sunny side-up fried egg on top of an English muffin with Canadian bacon and cheese, and then topped with a little pesto.  This is what I've been wanting to try at home, and I finally had the opportunity.

Last week I attempted to make an appetizer for the Christmas potluck at work, but I ended up leaving it at home.  I made antipasto skewers, which consisted of grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, and marinated mushrooms.  Each skewer was then brushed with some jarred pesto sauce.  However, the skewers kept splintering and I didn't feel good about bringing them to work; I didn't want to chance someone getting a splinter in their mouth.  I ended up eating them at home throughout the week.  I then wondered what to do with the half-used jar of pesto sauce.  Then it came to me:  I'll replicate Whole Foods' eggs benedict!

What prompted me to decide to make it was that I fried bacon Monday morning. So, why not make my own version inspired by Whole Foods' version?  I, of course, didn't have any English muffins.  I improvised and used half a hamburger bun.  Not the same, but perfectly workable.   I toasted it and then spread some goat cheese on it.  (I didn't want to use plain old American cheese; it just tastes so...generic...these days.) I put the bacon on top.  Then I fried the egg sunny side up and put it on top.  I wanted to make the yolk somewhat congealed and not quite as runny, so I wrongly thought that broiling the sandwich would make that happen.  Wrong!  It just cooked the egg white on top. When I took it out the yolk was too runny, so I put it back in the frying pan to cook a little more.  But, of course, the yolk broke.  I put it back on the sandwich, and topped it with fresh ground pepper and some pesto.

It didn't look at pretty as I had hoped, but it tasted good! Unfortunately my Photoshop software is acting up, so I couldn't adjust the brightness or anything.

As you can see, my yolk broke and the pesto started weeping olive oil.

This kind of looks like a snail under a blanket.


Monday, December 28, 2015

how am i doing?

So, how am I doing two years later?  I'm doing pretty good.

I'm still a size 14/16.  I wish it was lower, but I've maintained that for a year and I can't complain about that.  I've never maintained my size for that long. Or a weight loss, for that matter.  I love being able to find clothing that fits and I don't need to search high and low, or just settle for whatever is on the rack.  However, it's still sometimes hard because many times I can't find a 14/16; it must be a popular size.  And buying pants is tough, because I have a lot of loose skin around the abdomen.  I eventually want to have it removed, since no amount of exercise will ever get rid of it, but it's quite expensive and it's just not in the budget in the foreseeable future.

I'm up about 10 pounds and that fluctuates up or down 5 pounds.  I'm NOT happy about that, but I'm working on it.  I'm still fighting the snack demons, which I suspect will stay with me until I can get it out of my head that just because I'm bored, it doesn't mean I need to eat.  I will say that even though I'm under 220, at the moment I feel like I'm 343 and feel like I look like I'm 343.  I know that's not logical and it's not true, but there it is. I now understand why thin people complain about how terrible they feel when they gain 5 pounds--it's totally true!

I don't really struggle with any food issues.  Nothing makes me sick.  There's really nothing I can't eat, although I do stay away from pasta.  That's just my choice, really, as I was never much of a pasta eater and it just doesn't do it for me.  I do eat bread once in while, but it's usually toast or a crusty bread.  I do need to limit sugar to about 15 grams at a time. Otherwise I feel sick.

Overall, I'm doing well.  I just need to get back to the basics and get myself back on track.  It was easy to feel like once I lost 130+ pounds and many dress sizes that the work was "done."  And that's where I fell down this year.  I'm slowly realizing that I will never be "done."  I will always have to work at it.  And I will. (And it's not as if I didn't know that ahead of time; I did.  But I guess I just didn't think too much about that at the time.)

Friday, December 25, 2015

merry christmas!

Hope everyone has a nice Christmas!

Here's a gift from me to you:  Max and Bailey under the Christmas tree. ;)


Thursday, December 24, 2015

one project done...finally!

Before Bob and I got sick last week we had started the process of refinishing our dining room floor.  Originally there was a rug in there, which I loved, but one of our cats ruined it and it had to be removed.  I think the cat was traumatized by the move last year and chose to take it out on the dining room, unfortunately.

A couple months ago, while I was in California on a business trip, Bob ripped out the rug.  (I love when I go away and things like this get done; it's like magic!) What was underneath was 1920s hardwood.  Very nice normally, but our house was built in 1735, so it's not exactly period-correct.  Eventually we will pull up the hardwood and expose the original wide-planked floor underneath.  But for now, the hardwood will do.

Before sanding. The floor was in much better shape than we thought it would be.

A few weeks ago Bob sanded it down to the bare wood--a tedious, dirty job for sure!  Even though the room was blocked off, there was still dust everywhere.  Such is the nature of the job. 

After sanding. I like the unevenness of the coloring. (Don't mind the mess!)

We had a hard time deciding what to do with the floor:  paint, stain, wax, or just polyurethane?  We wanted to do something that would match the age of the house, but to do that really meant doing nothing at all, or just a few coats of wax, as most floors in 1735 were not finished.  Wax would give us the look we wanted, but if it got wet, those spots would turn white.  With cats, though, that wasn't an option.  We could have painted the floor either plain or with a pattern, which was done sometimes, but we were a little leery of painting the floor, even though we knew we would eventually rip it up.  We just couldn't picture how it would look and didn't want to have to live with it for however long. We eventually decided on stain.  It was a hard decision as to what color to use.  I wasn't sure if we should go natural, go darker, go light, gloss, semi-glass, satin, etc.  We settled on MinWax Polyshades in Pecan with a satin finish.  It's polyurethane and stain in one, which eliminates the need for a separate coat of polyurethane.  I didn't want a glossy finish, since it would likely show scratches more readily.  Also, it would call to attention the fact that the flooring isn't really period-correct.  A satin finish would give it a nice glow without the shininess.

We put the first coat on last week.  It looked nice at first, but when it dried we noticed some dry spots.  I don't know if the stain didn't take, or it just soaked in more than other parts of the floor.  I was hoping to do only one coat, but it wasn't meant to be.  But then we both got sick and work stalled.  This week I was able to get in there, sand the first coat, vacuum it, and tack cloth it.  Surprisingly, it didn't take more than a half hour for each step.  The other night we put the second coat down and now it looks gorgeous! 

I love the glow!
Now we just need to do something with the molding.  Either we paint it, or put in another strip of molding.  Apparently all the molding was bright blue before they painted it--and everything else in the house--white.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

two years ago today: surgery day!

Two years ago today I had my surgery, which changed my life for the better:  I'm much healthier, I eat better (for the most part), and I feel good in my skin.

My surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am, so I had to get up very early that day.  I think I was up around 4:30 am or so, since I had to be at the hospital about an hour and a half before the scheduled time.  That's so God-awful early!  I made it, though.  Probably because I was excited.

I remember feeling incredibly hungry, a feeling which stayed with me all weekend prior due to the all-liquid diet. I was grouchy, tired, and a little nervous that morning.  Not about having the surgery necessarily, but that I would wake up during the surgery; that's always a fear of mine. I also remember wanting to be put under as soon as possible so I wouldn't feel hungry anymore.  I longed for some solid food to make me feel sane again.  And it didn't help knowing that Bob would be eating breakfast shortly after I was wheeled off to the OR.

While I was waiting to be wheeled in, several people came through to insert IVs (took two people to get it in for some reason), take my vitals, etc.  One of them was talking about being intubated for the surgery.  That's something I fear, because I had a terrible gag reflex at the time.  (And because giant tube down the throat!) I mentioned that I was so glad I'd be out for that, because of my fear.  She then tells me that no, I will be awake for that because I need to be able to follow commands so they can insert it.  AND I would be awake when they removed it, too!  That  launched me into a panic, needless to say.  When they came to wheel me away I asked the nurse about the tube and she yes, I would be awake, but the drugs they give me would cause me to completely forget it.  And it was true.  I don't remember any of it.

When I arrived at the OR, they got me up and the minute they did, I had to go to the bathroom.  I told them I needed to go back and they said, "Oh, don't worry.  You'll be getting a catheter soon."  I then had to tell them that I didn't have to pee, I had to go to the bathroom.  So, the nurse walked me all the way back to the bathroom, and then all the way back to the OR. Coincidentally, her name was Dawn, also; that explains why she was so nice. ;)  I was excited once I got to the OR and they got me on the table.  I knew I'd be fast asleep in a couple minutes.  And it was actually nice in there. They had the stereo going and everyone was friendly and smiling, just having a good time.  Last thing I remember is being on the table and asking if they had any Def Leppard tunes to play.  Then I woke up in the recovery room.

I spent the rest of the day sipping water from a one-ounce medicine cup and trying to get comfortable with the IV, catheter and leg pumps all hooked up to me.  Not easy.  Bob came up to stay with me for awhile, which was really nice.  Then I spent the rest of the night surfing the internet, texting people, and playing around on Facebook.

Here's another recount of that day, which I posted on my one-year anniversary:  happy one-year surgiversary to me.

And here's a cute picture of Bailey. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

two years ago today: december 22, 2013

This was a very rough day. 

I woke up extremely hungry, and pretty much felt like that all day long. I remember being in the kitchen and thinking about having to cook breakfast for Bob.  I started tearing up and before long, I was having a meltdown.  That's how hungry I was!  Poor Bob, he didn't know what to do with me.  I got over it and got on with the day.  From what I can remember, I think he made his own breakfast and ate it in the other room; he was great about not eating in front of me that weekend.

I went over my sister's house later on in order to kill some time and keep my mind off the hunger.  I made a really big batch of bouillon--at least two cups, maybe more--and drank it; it didn't help the hunger.  Nothing helped the hunger that day.

**TMI Warning**  One thing I will say about a liquid diet:  just because you're not eating solid food, it doesn't mean you don't have bowel movements.  You do:  they're frequent and unpredictable, just like diarrhea, but pretty much clear in color.   I remember dreading the 20 minute drive home from my sister's house, because I didn't think I could make it without needing the bathroom.  I made it home, though.

I had Bob take some "before" pictures of me that day.  I posed in my bra and underwear.  It's weird:  even though he's seen me naked--in the daytime!--, there was something very embarrassing about him taking those pictures of me.  Maybe because it was to show how fat I'd become over the years. I don't know.  (I recently stumbled across those pictures a couple months back and I was absolutely floored at how big I used to be!  I never realized it until now.)

Later that afternoon I was required to take a dose of milk of magnesia in order to induce even more bowel movements.  The reason was that they would be cutting into my intestines and it needed to be squeaky clean in there.  So, yeah, that was pleasant that night:  I was in the bathroom even more than I had been during the day.

As you can tell, this was a very rough day for me, but I got through it.  And I swear I lost 10 pounds that day!

Actually, my final weight after the diet was 323--I'd lost 20 pounds in two weeks!

Monday, December 21, 2015

two years ago today: december 21, 2013

Another installment...

This was Day One of the liquid diet, which was a final push before surgery to shrink my liver just a little more and clean out my system.  I was allowed to have only Isopure, sugar-free Jell-O, fat-free broth, water, decaffeinated tea or coffee, and that's about it.  I remember drinking lots of broth, which tasted like the best thing on earth that day, choking down Isopure, and waiting for the misery to end.   

I went shopping that day in an effort to keep my mind occupied.  Since it was very close to Christmas, and I would be incapacitated for a bit, I finished up Christmas shopping and anything else that had to be done before my surgery on Monday. 

I got through the first part of the pre-op diet relatively easy, since I still had some solid food, but this liquid diet was tough.  No amount of water, Jell-O, and broth will fill you up when you're used to eating large meals. Sure, it might fill the void for a bit, but you never feel quite satisfied.

It was rough, but I got through the first day OK. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

two years ago today: december 17, 2013

Two years ago today I was in the second week of my pre-op diet, and was feeling pretty good about it.  That second week was SO much easier than the first week.  It's amazing how much time and effort went into food before that: thinking about food, shopping for food, preparing it, etc.  Leaves lots of time for other more important things, like watching cat videos and taking pictures of my cats.

I was preparing for the second phase of the diet:  clear liquids only.  I shopped for more bouillon and Jell-O, staples for that phase.  I was getting pretty excited, because surgery was less than a week away.  But I was also a little nervous; I'm always nervous before surgery, because I worry I'll feel the throat tube being inserted and removed, and worry that I'll wake up during surgery.

I was also enjoying being in between jobs, which is something I've never had before.  I spent my time decorating for Christmas, doing my shopping, and wrapping gifts.  And playing with the cats, or course!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

sickness go away!

I have a wicked cold for the first time since my weight loss surgery.  I love that I haven't been sick since then, but I've forgotten how miserable a cold can be.  I actually stayed home from work today.

Most people say, "Oh, it's just a cold. Take medicine and go to work!" But getting sick nowadays is a little more complicated. Sure, I can take something, but what?  Pills don't seem to be very effective on me, which is why when I have a headache I'm often suffering for a few days.  I can take Tylenol, and it works for a bit, but it seems to wear off pretty quickly. Unless my headache is bad, which doesn't happen often, I just don't bother taking anything.  I'm nervous about taking anything that would make me drowsy, since there's a very fine line these between the right dose and an overdose.  I don't mean overdose as in I need my stomach pumped.  But, rather, it will make my stomach hurt, or I'll feel dizzy or nauseous. And getting the "right" is trial and error.

So, last night I tried DayQuil. I wanted NyQuil, but I wasn't sure how that would effect me.  I took 1/4 dose of DayQuil and that helped a lot.  So, before bed I took 1/2 a dose and I was fine.  I'm thinking tonight I'll try 1/4 dose of NyQuil--a friend who had the same surgery says it works just fine.

One good thing about getting sick nowadays:  it's not nearly as bad as before I had the surgery.  I haven't had any bouts with the stomach bug.  I've gotten close to having a cold a couple times (headache and sniffles), but never a full-blown cold until now.  

Time to go rest....

Friday, December 11, 2015

two years ago today: december 11, 2013

I was on Day Three of the pre-op diet and was struggling.  I remember feeling a bit bloated and I was having a lot of headaches.  Some of it was the drastic change in my diet and the near-constant hunger, but another part of it, I believe, was consuming so much milk. I had to have three protein shakes per day.  In order to bulk them up a bit, I mixed them with skim milk. I decided to start mixing them with half milk and half water, which seemed to help me feel a little better.

I went to visit my cousin in PA for a few days, which helped occupy my mind,  Plus, I enjoy visiting her anyway.  On the way there, I stopped at the Wendy's drive-thru for lunch.  I got a garden salad, which seemed minuscule, with fat-free dressing.  No croutons or cheese, or anything that might resemble Life Before.  I cheated and got a child-sized diet soda.  I wasn't supposed to have it, but I very badly wanted one last soda.  Also, I felt that it would help fill me up a little more.  And it did.  I didn't finish it, because I felt so guilty for being weak and buying it to begin with.  And I felt like somehow the surgeon would know I had that soda.  As if he would open me up and there would be some telltale sign that soda had passed through there.  I know, that sounds crazy.  But I really felt he would know and he would just close me up and refuse to operate.  That was my very last soda.  Since then I've take just a tiny sip a few times a year and that's it.  I still enjoy the taste, but I don't ever want to get back into the habit of having soda with every meal.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

two years ago today: december 6 through december 9, 2013

In honor of the two-year anniversary of my weight loss surgery, I decided to make several posts over the course of the next two weeks that commemorate the two weeks leading up to my surgery, which was two years ago on December 23.  I figured it would be interesting to recount what was going on at that time, as well as how far I've come.

(Yes, I forgot to publish this yesterday.)

  • December 6, 2013:  I officially finished all my pre-op testing.  Over the course of six months, I had an upper endoscopy to look for ulcers (I had one, but it would be fixed when I had the weight loss surgery); I had an ultrasound to search for gallstones, among other issues (I had gallstones and had to have my gallbladder out before I could have the weight loss surgery); I had lots of blood work; a stress test; a physical; an EKG; and I also had a sleep study (it was found that I had severe sleep apnea).  I also had to go for psychological counseling to make sure there were no issues there, and that I was ready for the drastic life change I was about to undergo.

  • December 8, 2013:  I was preparing to start my pre-op diet.  I had to go shopping for salad mix, fat-free dressing, fat-free and sugar-free pudding and Jell-O, Isopure, skim milk, and bouillon mix.  I was nervous about being hungry, but was excited that I would be starting the final process before surgery.

  • December 9, 2013:  This was the first day of my pre-op diet and I was 343 pounds.  I was full of hope...and dread.  Hope for a successful surgery and a life of not having to worry so much about my weight, being comfortable in my own skin, and just enjoying life in general.  Dread for the coming two weeks, knowing that I would likely be really hungry; I just wanted to get it over with.  But it was something I had to endure in order to get to the other side.  They way I saw it--and the way I see unpleasant things, in general--is that the time will come and go whether I want it to or not.  No amount of being miserable, worried, or upset is going to stop the passage of time.  I might as well just do it and get it over with.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

odds and ends

Just figured I'd write a few words today, since it's been a few days.

I'm out of town visiting my favorite cousin.  We did some Christmas shopping yesterday, watched some movies, and tomorrow we're going to see Straight No Chaser.  We saw them last year and it was a great show.  We both love a capella singing, so we really enjoyed it. On my way home I plan to stop at Wegman's; I'm extremely excited that there's one on my way home.  It's like Whole Foods, but not as expensive and the store is HUGE!  Big variety, too.

When I get home, Bob and I will be headed to a dinner honoring volunteers of the local cat rescue, the Stratford Cat Project.  I used to volunteer regularly when I lived in Stratford.  Now it's just occasional. I'll be helping to set up for the annual Open House on Sunday, December 13.  If you're local, stop by.  There will be food, Christmas items for sale, music, a raffle for gift baskets (made by our volunteers, which are always a hit), and special appearances by several of our adopted kitties. We also will be accepting donations of all cat-related items, like food and toys.

The two-year anniversary of my weight loss surgery is looming (December 23), so I'm very conscious of the fact that I've gained a few pounds over the last six months.  I haven't changed clothing sizes, so I'm not too upset, but I've noticed that my stomach looks a little fuller and not quite a saggy as it did.  And I'm definitely scared of not being able to lose the rest of the weight in order to make my weight loss goal. The struggle to get back on track with my diet rages on, although I have to say I'm doing quite well this week while I'm away.  I'm mainly trying to stop snacking; it's a very bad habit I got into last year when I accepted a job I ended up hating. I stopped at the grocery store when I arrived and stocked up on things I should be eating instead of junk:  cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, celery and hummus, yogurt, and a bag of pretzels.  Some might argue that I shouldn't have bought the pretzels, but they're not something I'm susceptible to binging on, so I feel OK buying those.

Next week I need to start decorating for Christmas.  We normally get a real tree, so we try to wait until the second week of December.  We've brought some of the boxes down from the attic, but there's more up there.  I've looked through a few boxes already, and it amazes me how many lights I bought after Christmas last year; they we're more than half off and I couldn't resist!  I'll have to make a new Christmas stocking for Leia--she's the kitty we adopted earlier this year.  I have a mini stocking for each of my cats and I hang them up every year.

I'm still working on my book.  Unfortunately, I didn't reach 50,000 words yet, but I'm getting there.  I wrote every day for a couple weeks, and then I ran out of material.  Plus, I went out of town twice and also had some back problems that prohibited me from sitting at my desk to write. But I'm starting to work on it again. I enjoy it, but I don't think I'll ever be someone who can sit and write everyday for a specific period of time.  I have to wait until I'm in the mood and I have something to say.

Well, time to get off my ass and get moving for the day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

cranberry, chicken, and wheat berry salad

Awhile back I bought some wheat berries.  I'm always looking for something different to try and these were inexpensive, so I figured I would give them a shot.

What's a wheat berry?  Basically, it's the entire wheat kernel, minus the hull.  They're nutty tasting and chewy in texture, and take anywhere from 30 minutes to 50 minutes to cook.  You can use them in salads, main meals, or in breakfast dishes. 

So, this weekend I decided to finally try making them.  It was easy to do.  All you do is put them in a pot of water and bring it to a boil, then put the lid on and simmer for at least 30 minutes.  After that, you check them every 5 to 10 minutes for doneness.  Then you drain them and use them for whatever recipe you're making.  If you want to learn how to cook them, try this article from The Kitchn:  How to cook wheat berries.

I decided to make a chicken and wheat berry salad.  I found this recipe on the Cooking Light website:  Cherry, Chicken, and Pecan Salad.  Of course, I adapted it because I either didn't want to use an ingredient (arugula:  I'd heard it can be bitter and didn't want to waste my money if I didn't like it) or didn't have the right ingredient (goat cheese:  all I had on-hand was wasabi goat cheese; it actually worked quite well).  I also replaced the cherries with reduced-sugar dried cranberries; cherries aren't in season.  I wanted to substitute strawberries, but they were quite expensive, since they're also out of season.  Instead of fresh thyme, I used 1 tsp of dried thyme.

I was happy with the results, although I feel it would benefit from using either regular dried cranberries or fresh fruit, as it was a bit lacking on sweetness.  It needed a little more salt, too.  But overall I was happy with it and would make it again without hesitation.

Cranberry, Chicken, and Wheat Berry Salad

Serves 4 people


3 TB olive oil, divided
2 TB apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups cooked wheat berries (see link above for cooking the wheat berries)
1/4 cup pecan halves and pieces, toasted
6 ounces shredded skinless, boneless chicken breast
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp thyme
1/2 cup dried cranberries   
1 ounce baby spinach leaves   
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

  1. Combine 2 1/2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add wheat berries, nuts, and chicken; toss.  
  2. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and thyme; cook 3 minutes or until tender. Add to wheat berry mixture; toss. Stir in cranberries and spinach; toss. Sprinkle with cheese.