Thursday, August 17, 2017

funny cat story

This story is back from when we moved to the new house in July 2014. I told the story recently, and thought you'd all find it just as funny as I do; I still laugh every time I tell it. (And I need a good laugh after the last several months...)

I moved a few years ago, 45 minutes away from the old house. My sister and I transported my 12 (at the time) cats using two vehicles and nine cat carriers. One carrier held two sisters, Thelma and Louise, and another held the two brothers, Max and Bailey. They travelled in her car.

When we got to my new house, my sister complained that 10 minutes after we left it started to stink really bad in her car. Since this was July, she alternated every 10 minutes or so between closing the windows to enjoy the AC and get relief from the heat, and opening them because she couldn't stand the stench.

We started unpacking the carriers and found that the two brothers had both had an accident. Bailey was facing one way and Max the other way, so basically each cat's head was next to the other's butt. Well, apparently Max had an accident...diarrhea...and Bailey threw up, presumably because his head was Right There next to the muck and he couldn't handle it. Or maybe he was just car sick. So, we had to clean them off, clean out the carrier, and spray some air freshener in the car. And that particular carrier was, of course, one I'd borrowed from the rescue I volunteer with and I had to be back down there that afternoon to do some volunteer work. Thankfully the water had already been turned on so I could hose it out and disinfect.

Max's new nickname (which I still use)? Poopers.

Although I know the ride wasn't fun for my sister or the two cats, to this day I can't help but laugh my ass off every time I think about it. Sorry, sis!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

a year of loss

Unfortunately, I have yet another sad blog post to write.

It's been a year of loss for me.  Since October I've lost three cats, my father, and now my brother, Chuck.

My brother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer last November. At that time he was given three to six months to live if he didn't do any treatment. Nine to 24 months with treatment.  Chemo was initially successful in slowing the spread and growth of the cancer; however, the side effects were rough. He then switched to a different treatment, which, unfortunately, was not successful and the cancer spread and grew quickly.  Although he underwent treatment, he ultimately lost his battle this past week. He was 60.

Towards the end, I mailed my brother a card to let him know I'm thinking of him and to share with him the life lessons he taught me:
  • "Don't get caught!" Anyone who knows him and his past will understand this one without another word.
  • "The Walking Dead is an awesome show!" It's not about zombies, but survival and rebuilding after most human life is wiped out by disease.
  • "Top 40 music sucks!" When I was growing up he would ask me what kind of music I was into at the time and when I would say Madonna or something similar, he would tell me Top 40 music sucks and that I should be listening to bands like Metallica. It took me awhile, but I got there. I now appreciate bands like Five Finger Death Punch and Iron Maiden.
  • "Get off the couch and LIVE!" This is the biggest and most important one. During the last nine months it dawned on me that he's done more living in the past 13 years than I have in my entire life. While I was sitting on my ass on the couch watching TV, he was kayaking. While I was playing around on the computer, he was travelling.

(BTW, I challenge you to find a card that is suitable for this type of thing (terminal cancer) and doesn't imply or state outright that everything will be OK; it wasn't easy. I finally found one, but it wasn't what I really wanted.)

I'm very thankful that he found a woman, Barbara (above), who loved him for who he was. Through her, he experienced many new things, gained six stepchildren, and 14 grandchildren. He traveled to Alaska, Maine, and Wisconsin, all places he had never been before. He also learned to take great pictures, as his wife is an avid photographer. They would have been married 10 years next month.

So, what can I say about my brother? Given the large age gap and other factors, we didn't grow up together; however, I know he was the kind of person that welcomed everyone with open arms. It didn't matter who you were, you were welcome.  He was opinionated and had no filter most of the time. He told it like it was, whether you liked it or not. Although it could be cringe-worthy at times, I really admired that about him. He was always open to trying new things.  I never thought I'd see him kayaking or developing a love for bird watching (he can name many of them on sight)!  Also, he loved kids and animals, and they were absolutely drawn to him. We always joked that he was a kid, chick, and animal magnet.  He also loved fireworks, especially firecrackers--he was a big kid at heart. We gave him a big sendoff the night of his memorial service with a fireworks display (they're legal in his state).

Through the years he fed my love for reading. Whenever I wanted to read something new, he would recommend books or authors, which I then promptly devoured in short time. Authors such as:  Ken Follett, David Baldacci, Stephen King, Douglas Preston, and Lincoln Child, among others. I'm going to miss getting my book recommendations, but every time I read a book I'll think of him.

With that, I say farewell to my big brother. You're now with mom and dad again.  Although your time and our time together was much too short, I love you, I'll miss you, and I'm glad I got to know you.

Here he is with my dad, cruising the Connecticut River in Vermont/New Hampshire on my parents' boat, about 12 years ago.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

FlapJacked Mighty Muffin with Probiotics

So, I saw this in Walmart this weekend and decided I needed to try it.

I was standing in front of the protein bars struggling with whether I should buy some or not. They're good for after my workout, but I tend to eat them like candy bars and they rarely make it until after my workout. I've come to the realization that it's just one of those things I can't keep in the house anymore.

Anyway, I spotted these protein muffin mixes. It's a muffin that you mix with water and microwave, all within its own container. They looked interesting and I liked the idea of a muffin in its own container that I could microwave at any time. I checked the nutritional information and saw that it has only 7 grams of sugar, which isn't bad. The calories are a bit high at 220, but it has 20 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. The cost, if I remember correctly, was $2.39. That's about the same as a Quest protein bar. There were a couple different flavors:  Chocolate Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter, S'mores, and Double Chocolate. I bought the Double Chocolate flavor.

I have to admit that I wasn't able to save the muffin for when I was actually hungry or wanting something sweet. (I'm not a delayed gratification-type girl; I want it now!) I opened it up and stirred the mix around. I noticed there were some nice chunks of chocolate in it. I mixed in 1/4 cup of water and stirred with a fork until smooth. I then stuck it in the microwave uncovered. I started at 35 seconds, since I couldn't find the wattage on my microwave. It wasn't quite done, so I stuck it in for another 22 seconds.

This is what came out. It looks a bit inconsistent, but it was cooked all the way through. I ate it with a fork. Mainly because I didn't want to wait for it to cool and didn't want to burn my fingers. As far as texture, I wouldn't call this a muffin. It's more like cake. There were melted bits of chocolate in it and it tasted like warm chocolate cake. It was pretty good.  It was very filling and definitely would satisfy me if I was wanting dessert.

If you want to read up on them, there's the website:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

fried cauliflower rice with bean sprouts and edamame

This recipe came about because I had several ingredients in the freezer to use up:  riced cauliflower and edamame, both from Trader Joe's coincidentally. (I seem to find myself in this predicament quite often...) I had also bought a bag of bean sprouts at the store that I needed to use up.

I just have to say that the riced cauliflower at Trader Joe's is super convenient and inexpensive. I recently read an article that talks about Trader Joe's implementing a limit on the number of bags of this stuff people can buy. Scary! It's not nationwide, but of course it applies to my state.

I also have to say that I love Trader Joe's.  They have a lot of unique items and their prices are usually really good. I buy all my goat cheese there.

This was very bean sprout-heavy, but I was OK with that. I had to use the whole bag, because I knew I would end up tossing it out if I didn't.  If you don't like tons of sprouts, just cut the amount listed below to 3/4 or 1/2 of that.

I'm not sure of the number of servings, since I didn't measure it out. I'd say a WLS post-op will get probably 8 to 10 servings if I had to guess. Since it's veggie-heavy, that could be less, as many post-ops are able to eat a larger amount when there's no meat or grains in a dish. Recipe below.

This coloring in this picture is kind of awful, but you get the gist of it I'm sure. 😄

Fried Cauliflower Rice With Bean Sprouts and Edamame

1 12 oz. bag bean sprouts
1 12 oz. bag riced cauliflower
5 scallions, sliced, whites and greens separated
1/2 an onion, diced
1 cup shelled ready-to-eat edamame
2 whole eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced (I use the stuff in the jar since I hate mincing garlic)
3 TB soy sauce
1 TB oyster sauce (not necessary; leave it out if you don't have it)
2 TB sesame or canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put 1 TB of the sesame oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Scramble the eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook in the oil until done. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the remaining oil and cook onions, scallion whites, bean sprouts, and garlic for about one minute.
  3. Add the riced cauliflower and stir well a few minutes to heat through. (If using raw cauliflower you riced yourself, you might need to cook a little longer. Cook until tender.)
  4. Add cooked egg along with soy sauce, oyster sauce, scallion greens and edamame, mixing well and cooking for about 3 to 4 minutes. 
Note:  If you don't want the extra calories that comes with using oil, you could use cooking spray if you want. Coconut oil cooking spray would likely add a nice flavor to it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

chocolate almond protein balls

For the last couple years I've been buying protein powder, only to let it go to waste . I keep buying it because I get into a funk about my diet--I get tired of eating X food, grocery shopping, trying to decide what to eat, etc., or I start overeating just about everything--and then decide I'm going to go back to something similar to my pre-op diet: two protein shakes per day, plus a meal. So, I spend some money on protein powder, make one or two shakes, quickly realize that they don't fill me or satisfy me the way they used, and then stop making shakes. Then the protein powder sits in the cabinet forever, until such time I toss it or either give it away or resell it. Then I start the cycle all over again. And now that I'm 3.5 years our from gastric bypass surgery, I really don't need protein shakes anymore anyway; I typically get all my protein from food with little effort.

I finally decided that I'm going to put the protein powder, as well as some ingredients haunting my cabinets, to use by making protein balls.

They're super simple to make and you don't have to bake them, either. You can use pretty much any kind of protein powder, nut butter, and mix-ins you want. Just keep the same measurements I stated below. I used chocolate protein powder, almond butter, and rolled oats to make these.  If you like a strong, more traditional almond flavor, you could add a little almond extract. Otherwise it will taste more like almond butter. I also added some cinnamon.

Chocolate Almond Protein Balls
Make 12 protein balls

1 cup rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (my scoop is 80 cc)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 TB almond butter (or another nut butter--up to you!)
4 TB milk (more or less, as needed)
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
  1. Put the rolled oats, protein powder and cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Add the almond butter and mix it up. (You could use your hands, which will mix it better, but you might want to spray your hands with some non-stick cooking spray first; it's gets messy!)
  3. Add the almond extract if you're using it. This will give it more traditional, sweet almond flavor, but you might prefer the natural flavor of the almond butter.
  4. Add the milk and mix. You may add more or less. It depends on how dry the mixture is and how well it hold together.
  5. Scoop out some of the mixture. Press it together in your hands and then roll it into a ball. How well it holds together will determine if you should add more milk or some water. It should hold together and be a little sticky, but not runny or crumbly. In other words, it should hold its shape.
  6. Store these in the fridge in an airtight container for about a week.
This recipe using almond butter from Aldi and Syntrax Nectar Sweets Chocolate protein powder is about 73 calories and 5g protein per protein ball. This will vary depending on the type of nut butter and protein you use.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

homemade flavored goat cheese

I think by now everyone knows I LOVE goat cheese. I spread it on toast and top it with a fried egg. I put it in my sausage and goat cheese egg muffins. I spread it on crackers. I even make paninis with it.

Recently I found myself with three (THREE!) 11 oz. logs of plain goat cheese. What to do?

I also recently started growing herbs outside:  parsley, rosemary, sage, lavender and basil. While the others are growing nicely, the basil plant has pretty much exploded with leaves. That's normally great, but I typically only use basil when I make caprese salad. Since my tomatoes aren't ready yet, and I don't want to spend a small fortune on buying grape tomatoes and mozzarella (and there's really only so much caprese salad I should be eating--very caloric because of the oil and cheese), I decided to Google and see if there are any recipes for making flavored goat cheese. Of course, there are many.

I found a recipe similar to the one below; however, it's supposed by be a coating for the goat cheese log, not really a mix-in. (I prefer the cheese to be flavored throughout.) But I wanted to use this one, because I could use up some of the lemon I have in the fridge as well as some of my basil. It calls for fresh oregano, though. I loathe buying fresh herbs, because I never use them all before they wilt. However, our neighbors up the road, who moved in last year, have a huge garden and are selling their harvests. Guess what they have this week? Fresh oregano! They also have dill and cilantro; I bought both.

I made two goat cheese spreads with the herbs I got today. One is based on a recipe I found online and the other I just made up and totally guesstimated the amount of lemon and dill. You'll need to taste and see what works for you. I'd say there's a strong lemon tang in both of these, so if that's not your thing just use less lemon. Also, if you want to use dried herbs instead, that's fine. Just use roughly 1/3 of what the recipe calls for below and let the finished spread sit longer in the fridge.

Goat Cheese with Basil and Oregano

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 to 12 oz. of plain goat cheese, room temperature
(if you like the herb flavor really strong, use 6 oz. of cheese; if you like it less potent, add more cheese)

Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for a bit to develop the flavors. Spread on crackers, crusty bread, etc.

Goat Cheese with Lemon and Dill
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 TB chopped fresh dill
6 oz. plain goat cheese, room temperature

Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for a bit to develop the flavors. Spread on crackers, crusty bread, etc.

Lemon and dill on the left (make sure you chop your dill a little more than I did.); basil and oregano on the right.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

my workout progress

Today I thought I'd give you a glimpse into my workouts.

I've started keeping a workout log so I can see my progress, but it's also so I can send it to my trainer. He often asks me what I did for my workouts during the week, and, since my memory sucks, I probably sound like I'm making it up as I struggle to remember. So, I decided to create an Excel spreadsheet, which I then email to him before my training appointment. I've been keeping it since June 12.

I started working out again at the beginning of May, but didn't start keeping the log until a couple weeks ago; however, I posted back in May that my first workout went like this:

And this is what I'm doing now.  It varies from day to day, but this is a good representation of how far I've come in two months. I've left the blank rows to show you what I might do on any given day. Now that I'm done with the surgery, I tend to mix things up, which helps me stay motivated and interested. I'm not breaking any records with the weights, but I've been able to gradually increase the weight over the last two months, which means my abs are healing and I'm making progress.

My trainer had me do the plank last week and I was shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to see that I was able to hold it for a full minute. Prior to surgery I'd gotten up to about 1:20, so that was really good. Was it tough? Yes. Did I want to give up? Yes, during the last 10 seconds or so. Was there pain in my healing abs? A little, but nothing I couldn't handle; that's improving. Did I accidentally spit on the exercise mat because I wanted to collapse during those last 10 seconds and I refused to and was breathing like a maniac? Maybe...

My trainer says he will be introducing some new exercises over the next month or so. I'm excited, but nervous, too. Mainly because he keeps warning me there will be burpees in the my future. I can't imagine being able to do this. But I said that about other things and I've done them. This will be just another thing to conquer.

Friday, June 30, 2017

my garden is growing!

I'm a recovering plant killer, so I'm pretty excited that my vegetables, which I've never planted before, are starting to grow and bear fruit.

My first two tomatoes of the season.  These are going to be cherry tomatoes. I keep trying to find grape tomatoes to grow, but no luck. I'm not good at growing from seeds, so cherry will have to do. I have roma tomatoes in the raised bed garden, although no fruit had come out yet.

Flat-leaf parsley, basil and rosemary. The basil and parsley seem to be exploding with growth, so I'll have to start using them. Basil is easy:  caprese salad!! Parsley...I'll have to figure that one out.

My first peppers. Look how tiny they are!  They popped out fast, though--I just planted them last Sunday.

Here's the raised bed garden Bob built.  I'm thinking next year I'll add one or two more. Much easier for me that digging a garden; I'm lazy.  The plants in front will be planted in my other garden. The ones on the left are something I wouldn't normally plant, but they're perennials, have a lot of color, and like full sun, which they'll get a ton of in the garden! The yellow flowers in the middle will go against the rock wall that's in the garden. I love the country look to them. My house is old, so they should look natural. They like full sun, too. The pansies I'll likely put near the house. They were half price and I couldn't resist.

And, finally, our new neighbor behind us was kind enough to have his landscaping guy use the big...whatever giant machine it clear out the area next to the barn.  For free!  He also cleared behind the barn.  There was a ton of weeds and brush there--stuff you'd find in an overgrown field--and an invasive species of tree. I believe it was Tree of Heaven, but he thinks it was poison sumac. Anyway, it's gone now.  (Don't mind the mess in the yard. We did some weed-pulling and haven't cleaned it up, plus Bob is working on the fire pit.)

So, what do you all think I should plant here? Keep in mind it's next to a barn and have only about 30 feet to the side of it (to the other side of that bush on the right) and about 30 feet behind the barn, and it's in the sun most of the day. Also, the house was built in 1735, so I'd like something that fits with the property. I'm thinking rhododendron, as my childhood home had one and I absolutely loved it. The big fuzzy bumble bees loved it, too. It would also be nice to obscure the house behind it, so maybe something that grows fast to about 20 feet tall maybe?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

meet Emily and Arlo

So, this happened Sunday afternoon. 

 Here they are in their cage before we took them home. 
Emily is on top of the condo and Arlo is in it.

Meet Emily and Arlo, the newest additions to our little family. They're four months old and, as you can see, kind of hard to tell apart.  There's a total of 4.5 pounds of cuteness there.

Bob and I had been thinking of getting a kitten for a few months now, mainly because we feel Marty needs a friend to play with to take his focus off of Leia and Louise; he likes to stalk them and just looking at Marty gets the two girls all in a tizzy, which has caused some frustrating behavioral problems with Leia.  Once we lost Thelma, that's when we got a little more serious about getting a kitten.

This weekend was tough:  we had my father's burial service. There were a few snags with the service, but it got done. We had a good time afterwards hanging out with the family, eating pizza and s'mores dip (marshmallows and Hershey bars baked together in the oven, served with graham crackers; yes, it's as delicious as it sounds!), and sending my dad off with lots of fireworks we shot off in the yard (they're legal in his state).  But it was an emotionally tough weekend overall, both because of the burial and other reasons.  We drove home late Saturday night and got home around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday morning; I was drained.

Sunday we spent some time doing yard work before we had to go somewhere. I finally got all the garden soil into the raised bed garden that Bob built for me (thank you!) and got my plants planted.  I planted three pepper varieties:  red bell, pimento, and jalapeno. I also planted three tomato plants and two lavender plants. I then planted one little corn plant.  (Oddly enough, I found a corn plant growing in my parsley plant. I think it came from some bird seed spilling near the pot. I'm going to see if it grows.)  As you can see, there aren't a lot of plants in here. I wanted to start small, since I'm not too good at keeping plants alive and tending a garden.  Also, the tomato plants need a lot of space to grow.

We then left to drive down to our old town. We stopped by the Stratford Cat Project to check out two kittens. We didn't plan to leave with them the same day, but since they're four months old, they were all set with shots, testing, and spaying/neutering.

Their first meal at home.

Having kittens in the house again is awesome! They're full of energy and love to play; they're a riot to watch. Arlo is the more affectionate one and loves a good belly rub. Emily is a little more diva-like, but likes some attention, too. It's only been a few days, but they're already running up to us and rubbing all over us when we go upstairs to visit. I've made few introductions to the other cats and it sent reasonably well. Tiffany was curious at first, but quickly got used to them; she was playing in the same area as them within 10 minutes. Max was cautiously curious and sniffing everything, but eventually turned tail and ran (interesting, because he's the biggest one in the house). Baily wasn't thrilled. He growled and fluffed his tail, then ran into the other room. Leo seems mostly indifferent. Marty is afraid of them (or mad). He hid under the bed in the other room. Once all the introductions are made--by way of bringing the other cats upstairs to them--we will open the bedroom door and let them explore. Should be interesting to see if Marty comes around quickly, considering he's the main reason we have them. But either way, I'm glad to have them. They're cute, fun, and there's the added benefit of having been therapeutic for me the last couple days.

I interrupted their playtime in order to get this picture. I had to make a weird noise in order to get them to look at me.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WLS enables you to break into your house. No, really!

Don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating for weight loss surgery so you can break into a house or otherwise break the law. I'm saying that it helped ME break into MY house last night.

Last night after work I dropped a book off at the library, went to Home Depot to buy some garden soil for my new raised bed, which my husband built for me (thank you!), then to Stop & Shop for a rotisserie chicken--I was craving it for some reason--and a few cold items.

When I got home I drove up on the lawn so I wouldn't have to carry five 50 lb. bags of soil across the lawn to the bed. I took all the soil out of the car, but in the process I heard my keys drop into the trunk. (Not sure why, but I was trying to hold onto them while wrestling with these 50 lb. bags, rather than just putting them down.) Forgetting that I heard my keys drop, I closed my trunk...and then realized my mistake when I heard the trunk hit the keys (they dropped in the well between the trunk and the trunk lid near the trunk hinge). And of course, my trunk release, which is on my car door, doesn't work anymore and hasn't in a couple years.

I tried texting my friend, who has my spare key, but no answer back. I then texted Bob just as an FYI. I thought about breaking into the house through a window, which Bob has had to do it few times. He mentioned trying the seat release (my back seats fold down), but the release is in the trunk, which I couldn't open. I was going to call AAA to have them break into my trunk, but then I figured I'd try the window.

Up until recently, it was difficult to get this window closed 100% (very old house with old windows), so Bob was always able to get in easily. Well, this window wouldn't budge because it's suddenly closing all the way like it should. I got the screen open, but not the window. I had the garden tools out, trying to pry it up, but no luck.

Bob then suggested a different window. It's near the back door and my desk is in front of it. By this time, the cats were gathering at the window, wondering what's going on and why mom isn't using the door. One in particular, Bailey, I knew would be a problem: he's an indoor cat, but once got a taste of the outside and now runs for the door when we come in or go out. My plan was to open the window enough to grab ahold of Bailey and then put him in the car, which I did. But then I realized the hot rotisserie chicken was in there. With a hungry cat. Alone. I promptly grabbed it out of the car and put it on the car roof. Bailey had his paws on the window and looked like he was trying to break out. I then popped open the screen, raised the window (it's old and doesn't lock), and climbed in over my desk. Within five minutes I was in, door unlocked, kitty and chicken safe in the house. It was very easy. A little too easy: it's a bit scary that I was able to break in that easily.

I had to wait until Bob got home to get my keys. He has the spare set and because he works an hour away and was on a double shift, he couldn't come home. But at least I got into the house.

Had this happened before my weight loss surgery, I'm not sure I would've been able to get into the window and climb over everything. I would've had a hard time getting myself up into the window, which was less that waist-high; been in pain from kneeling on the hard surface; and would have worried about the weight-bearing capability of my desk. Last night I was able to move easily, get into the window, kneel on my desk, and not knock anything over. Plus I didn't worry that my weight would break my desk (it's more of a table than a traditional desk). So, yeah, weight loss surgery enabled me to break into my house. 😁 (I wonder how many Google hits I'll get from people searching "how to break into a house"??)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

what kind of plants are these?

Due to the surgery, I really haven't gotten outside to do any weeding in the garden so it looks like a jungle out there. Some of the weeds come up without any difficulty, but some of them are hard to pull up, and the pulling motion irritates my healing abdominal muscles. As a result, I have a few plants that I don't recognize, because I normally pull them out before they grow into anything.

Any gardeners out there who can help me identify these plants? I have flowers that came up at the edge of my garden this year and I have no idea that they are. I also have a bush in my garden that produces beautiful magenta flowers every year.

These are about two feet tall right now, maybe a little taller, and they have purple flowers on top of long stems with long, skinny leaves. I think last year I pulled them up before they got this big, thinking they're a weed. I've been Googling, but I haven't had any luck yet.

Here's a closeup, in case the other pic is hard to see.

This is the bush. It's probably about six feet tall and produces these gorgeous flowers in clusters. I'm thinking it's some sort of azalea. It's part of another bush, which I was able to identify:  scentless mock orange. They look very pretty when they're in bloom, as they bloom at the same time.

So, does anyone know what these might be?  I'm keeping a log of the plants and shrubs as I've been able to identify them, either by myself or with help from readers or friends.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

small victories

As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm having a very hard time getting back to eating right after the tummy tuck surgery. For some reason, I've been buying a lot of candy the last month or two. Pretty much any chance I get, I buy it. Typically Peanut M&Ms or Justin's Peanut Butter Cups (dark chocolate). Yes, I've had gastric bypass and that usually means sugar affects me. But, as with anything else, I found a way around it:  I eat it in small portions over an hour or so, since I know how many grams of sugar I can handle at once. Not good, since that keeps me in the mindset that eating all this candy is manageable and no big deal. So, I decided to stop buying it. I have other things to work on, too, but I figure one small step with get the momentum going. After all these years I've learned that I can do All The Things at once. It's too much and I get overwhelmed and then just stop altogether.

I'm happy to report that it's been one week and I haven't bought ANY candy! Has it been tough? Most definitely.  Every time I was in the store this week I was browsing the candy rack. But I didn't give in.

Next step?  Possibly moving to grocery delivery so I can't make any impulse food buys. This is another thing that's a big problem for me and always has been.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

weekly cookbook project: blueberry muffins

Surprisingly, I've never baked a blueberry muffin in my whole life. Not sure why, since it's probably the most common muffin out there.  I'm thinking it's the high price of blueberries, or maybe always opting to make something with chocolate. That changed this week, though, when I made my first blueberry muffin ever.

I dipped into my King Arthur Flour cookbook again and made their Classic Blueberry Muffin recipe. (I tried to find it online so I could post it, but couldn't.) They have an all-purpose basic muffin recipe that calls for sour cream and a classic recipe that doesn't. Since I didn't have sour cream--no surprise there--I went with the classic recipe.

It was really very easy. Just a matter of rinsing the blueberries and then mashing some of them, then mixing all the ingredients together. These are made like a cake batter, where you cream the butter and sugar first, then add eggs, then alternate flour and milk. I topped each with a little table sugar. The other option was cinnamon sugar, but I didn't feel like making it. I opted for cupcake liners for the pan so I wouldn't have as much cleanup. I was thwarted, though, by all the runny blueberry juice. Oh well. I tried. Actually, the mess isn't that bad--I'm just being lazy. I'm thinking next time I'll spray the whole pan with Bake Easy spray and then put the cupcake liners in. Double protection.

I have to say, it was insanely hard to not grab a hot muffin right from the pan. They were quite delicate because they were so hot and I didn't want to damage them, so I put them on the cooling rack without grabbing even a crumb. I was strong--I made it a whole five minutes before I gave in and grabbed one, which I promptly slathered in butter. They were absolutely delicious and so soft! And they were jam-packed with blueberries.

The sugar content in these was about 16g of sugar according to the recipe. I don't know if that's supposed to include the optional sugar topping, but I thinking not. One whole muffin was a bit much in the sugar department, as I felt a bit queasy for about 20 minutes afterwards (fellow WLS post-ops know what I mean...) But oh man, it was SO worth it! I took another one later on; however, I cut it in half and took about a 10 minute break in between halves. That helped me to not feel queasy.

Just a note:  I realize that I can alter recipes to include more protein, less sugar and carbs, etc., and as a gastric bypass post-op I probably should.  But I'm not super creative when it comes to that. (Kudos to those that are--there are some great websites out there!) I also don't like buying a bunch of alternative ingredients that I may use only once.  Plus, I want to feel that I'm like everyone else. That I can eat regular foods, just in smaller portions. I don't want to alter something that's going to trick my mind into thinking I can eat double because it has half the sugar. Kind of like those 100 calories snacks. They make you feel like you're being virtuous because they're only 100 calories, but then you eat two portions because, really, is one usually enough? Not for me.  

Sunday, June 4, 2017

today's breakfast: fried egg on grain toast

As I've mentioned in a couple other posts, I'm really struggling with eating right and not overeating lately. Mostly due to my mindset after surgery, but also due to several losses and other things going on. I've made up my mind that I have to just suck it up and do it, and stop whining about it.  I'm an adult, I can do this.

So, today's breakfast, which is basically my favorite and is very quick and easy, is a fried egg plus one egg white on buttered grain toast. The grocery store had Arnold bread buy-one-get-free, so I grabbed a loaf of Extra Grainy. It makes great toast and grilled cheese, although I try to not make grilled cheese very often--it's very caloric and full of carbs.

As part of getting myself back in the "eating right" mindset, I made a promise to myself that I would not buy any candy while out shopping today. Lately I've been buying peanut M&Ms or Justin's Peanut Butter Cups (these are much better than Reese's--you can get them in dark chocolate, they have a lot less sugar and they just taste better) just about every time I go to a store that has a candy rack.  Not a good thing. I'm happy to say that I went out today and didn't buy any candy AT ALL! I did, however, make a few impulse purchases, but it wasn't junk food.

I'll probably take it easy most of the day, as I'm recovering from some awful lower back pain. I had multiple muscle spasms last Monday and my back is still hurting. But today I can actually walk around without much pain. Most of the week it was a struggle just to carry myself upright. I couldn't work out, because I couldn't walk on the treadmill for more than 10 minutes, and even that was a big struggle. Muscle relaxers, Tylenol, Advil, and even dilaudid (narcotic) didn't help the pain. Dilaudid took the edge off, but that was really it. Last night I pulled out the heating pad. Maybe that's why I feel a little better today. Hopefully I can get back to working out this week.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thelma: the newest Rainbow Bridge resident

I'm getting really drained having to write these sad posts; this is the third one in eight months. Actually four if you count my dad's passing in March.

After having some recent health issues, which were ultimately diagnosed as kidney failure, we made the decision to say goodbye to Thelma, sister and bookend to Louise.

We adopted Thelma, along with her sister Louise, from the Stratford Cat Project in 2011. SCP had rescued the two of them, along with a few others, from a hoarding situation several years prior. They were about six years old when we adopted them.  (I remember feeling like a rock star when we went to the first SCP event after we adopted them; everyone was thrilled.) The two of them were always together and were very bonded. They slept together, groomed each other, and when we pet one, we had to pet the other one, as they typically came over to us as a pair.

Thelma recently had major dental work, as did Louise. Up until that point--maybe it's just a coincidence--the two of them were still very bonded. After that, however, the bond was broken. They no longer slept together or rubbed on each other. And no longer did they both, together, run up to the back of the sofa to greet us. Thelma retreated to the kitchen, usually hanging out on the counter next to the sink. This is where she spent nearly all of her time, even to eat. Pretty much every morning we would walk into the kitchen to find she had peed on the floor. We're not entirely sure if it was related to her dental issues, or if it started back when we moved into the new house, as we had several cats with behavioral issues the last few years. (With multiple cats, it's sometimes very hard to track down the culprit; I've since discovered that a wireless security camera is great for this.)

The dental work led to a diagnosis of Bartonella, which required 21 days of antibiotics, followed by testing six months after the last antibiotic dose. About one week into the antibiotic cycle, Thelma started acting mopey, didn't seem to want to eat, and started losing weight again. I brought her back to the vet, where they gave her subcutaneous fluids to re-hydrate her.  The vet felt that it was likely related to the antibiotics. When she went for her re-check, she again had to be re-hydrated. At that point, the vet thought she may have kidney issues, as her urine was very diluted, but wanted to wait until Thelma was done with the antibiotics before doing further testing. Thelma went home again and started to improve, but then last week she stopped eating, became very skinny, and was very lethargic. We isolated her in an upstairs bedroom, where she hid under the bed most of the time. I noticed, also, that she hadn't used the litter at all during her time in the bedroom. Unfortunately, she was doing her business under the bed. But that's not her fault.

I took her to the vet again and got the call a couple hours later that her kidney panel showed she was in kidney failure; there's no cure for that. I was given the choice to do immediate treatment, followed by lifelong home treatment, or euthanasia. After taking into account her age, anemia, and current condition, as well as all the information and odds provided by the vet, we decided to euthanize her. Not because we didn't want to deal with lifelong home treatment, or the cost, but because the odds were not good that immediate treatment would even help. And if it did, her home treatment would only prolong her life a bit. We didn't want to put her through that.

It was really heartbreaking, as usual. Everyone at the vet's office was great. We took her home with us and she's buried out in the garden next to Thomas. I'm now looking for a nice little cat statue or memorial stone to place on her grave.

Thelma (AKA Daddy's Big Girl) was a wonderful cat. Although she came from a rough background and never warmed up to being held, she was quite the affectionate kitty. And so, so soft! Every time Louise comes over to visit, I keep looking to see where Thelma is, since two used to be inseparable. She will be greatly missed. I'm glad she got a chance at a normal life and I'm glad that life was with us.

Monday, May 29, 2017

tummy tuck update: three-month anniverary

(Note:  Ignore the funky spacing and off-center pics. Not sure what Blogger is trying to do to me today, but it's being a PITA.)

It's been three months since my tummy tuck. Three long months. Or three short months, depending on how I feel on a particular day.

I went for my almost-three-month checkup with the surgeon on May 19. That went well. She was happy with the results and said it had healed "beautifully."  She took pictures for the file and asked how my workouts were going. She noted that on each hip where the incision ends, I have little puckers of skin. This gets annoying, as they can be sensitive. I'm always on edge when Bob goes to hug me or run has hand down my hip. It bothers me when I wear certain pants, too. It's pretty common for this to happen, though, and she will be able to fix it quickly in an office visit. She told me to come back at the end of the summer and she'll fix it. If it bothers me a lot, I can come earlier, but later in the summer would be best since my healing will be complete by then.

As for my workouts, I'm working out. I went back to my trainer several weeks ago. He took it easy on me, but he's ramping it up now. I started working out on my own also. I started at two days per week on my own, plus one with the trainer. I'm now doing three days on my own.  Soon I'll be back to four days on my own. It's getting easier, although I find I'm winded faster these days. But that will improve as I build up my endurance more.

Weight. weight.  My weight has gone up about 10 pounds since surgery. There are a few reasons for that.  Most of all it's because I'm just having a difficult time reigning my eating in after pushing so hard prior to surgery. Afterwards it was basically a free-for-all and it's hard to break that mindset.  And some personal things going on have made that harder than usual.  But I'm working on it. If I can stick to somewhere around 1,700 calories a day, I'll lose the extra pounds and get under 200. Although I don't visibly look like I gained weight, the scale doesn't lie and I can feel the difference a few pounds makes.

Clothing has been a bit of a pain. After surgery the only things I could wear comfortably were pajama pants and leggings, provided the elastic waist was loose, stretchy elastic. For a long time I couldn't wear much else because part of my incision was still open and very sensitive, but I can now wear some of my button-and-zipper pants. Jeans are kind of iffy, as they feel scratchy and tight to me. I still wear my compression garment when I wear certain pants, as it helps to eliminate the irritation pants cause my belly button and the ends of my incision on my hips. I really don't need it for anything else. I still swell a bit from time to time, but not so much that I really need the garment. As far as my pants size, I'm still a 16. My waist measurement didn't change; however, with all the extra abdominal skin gone, my pants look and fit better. Do I wish I'd lost a couple sizes? Sometimes. But I'm OK with the fact that I didn't.

Here's the new belly button. It's weird looking to me still, but everyone tells me, "It looks like a belly button." I guess because it's not frowning anymore, it seems like it's weird looking. I've started using scar gel, so it should start looking less red pretty soon.

How do I feel about my new body? I love it. For the first time in my life, I feel confident and not self-conscious. I feel like it looks like a plus-sized model's body looks (although, I think it's pretty stupid that a size 16 is considered plus-sized, and I'm not saying I actually look like a model). I like my shape and my flat belly. I love that I can actually see my feet for the first time. And I can see my whole body when I look down, not just my huge belly. I find, though, that I still act as if my extra skin is there. When I'm washing dishes, I'm usually a little farther away from the sink. When Bob hugs me, I tend to lean in with my upper body only. When I bend over to get something, I tend to spread and bend my legs as though I need to accommodate my extra skin, kind of like a squat. It's weird, and it's taking my mind a little while to catch up.

And as for how I feel physically, I'm almost 100%. It's a long process. I feel like I was over-prepared for the pain during the first week, as it wasn't quite as bad as I thought, whereas I feel I was under-prepared mentally and physically for the long haul.  I feel as though I shouldn't be feeling any weird sensations in my abs, or certain areas shouldn't be sensitive anymore. My trainer keeps telling me, "You're still healing!" I know he's trying to manage my expectations and wants me to go slowly so I don't hurt myself, but it's tough. I want to stop feeling the pulling sensation I get in the same spot in my abs all the time when I turn over in bed, or when I sneeze or cough. I don't want to get tired out so easily when I workout. I'd like for the surface of my skin to not feel so sensitive all the time. But I'm getting there. Before long, I'll start to feel like me again. I just have to remember that I'm only three months out from surgery. In another few months, it will all be just a blip on the radar.