Thursday, April 30, 2015

Yarnophiles

My friend and fellow yarn lover Miss S came for a lovely lunchtime visit today . . . and brought along a wonderful gift from her yarn stash!

After she left, Mojito, Yarn Cat, conducted quality assurance.  Mojito loves yarn and has his own crocheted blanket downstairs, under which he sleeps (we've never seen how he gets perfectly tucked under it, but he does.  Mama is going to Go-Pro it!)

I got to work with the yarn right away, making a Granny Square lap blanket.

And Mojito helped.

Cooking Again

I'm cooking again!

Last night, I put together a really wonderful chicken tortellini soup.  In fact, because of a happy accident, it was better than I supposed.  See, there was frozen homemade stock in the fridge and I used that.  But it smelled like bacon.  I was worried that it was somehow chicken stock that had gone off, but serendipitously it was smoked ham stock from earlier this year, as Sis reminded me.  Mama had been saving it for some homemade Chinese soup, so I feel bad about using it, but it was delicious.  The soup turned out to be this bacony, chicken, cheesy tortellini thing with a smattering of kale.  Lovely!  And completely un-reproduceable unless we buy another fancy smoked ham.  Makes my regular chicken tortellini soup (just chicken cooked in broth, plus frozen tortellini and any frozen veg and seasonings you like) seem kinda boring now.

Today, I'm trying my first eMeals recipe.  It's similar to one a friend brought recently but made in the slow cooker instead of sauteed on the stove.  Sis is especially excited because cheesy or creamy sauces like Alfredo are some of her favorites.

I feel very accomplished.

UPDATE:  We really liked this--the kids inhaled it!  And there is barely a single serving left.  We ate it with pasta.

-=-=-=-=-=-=

Creamy Parmesan Chicken in Slow Cooker
2½ lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1½ Tbsp Montreal chicken seasoning (not sure what this is, so I used seasoned salt, garlic powder, some Italian herbs)
3 green onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 (8-oz) container sour cream
1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Pound chicken to an even thickness, and sprinkle with seasoning. Place in a greased 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add green onions and garlic; pour in broth. Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker, reserving liquid in slow cooker; shred chicken--use half and save half for something else.  Whisk sour cream into mixture in slow cooker. Stir in Parmesan and remaining shredded chicken.

emeals

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Outlandering

Oh, have I enjoyed the last three days:  I binged on all the available episodes of "Outlander," a STARZ series based on the fantasy/romance/time-travel novels by Diana Gabaldon set in post-WWII England and the rough Scottish Highlands of the mid-18th century.

While bodice rippers are usually not my preferred genre (for fiction, I love a history mystery), I do like bodices and was first drawn to the show because of its costumes, delectable heavy, woolen, tartan get ups, with lots of leather and knitware.  The main female character, Claire, even had a stomacher!  (But, wait, no separate pockets??)  In fact, the show had me at the scene where Claire is dressed by Mrs. Fitz, all the layers added in the correct order (though, again, no detached pockets??)  The clothes aren't that far from what colonial Americans wore, and mainly differ from my own get up in richness and historicity (I don't have wool or linen, only cotton.)  Though, fie on the producers--there's just no way you could rip sassenach Outlander, get all of the outfits at the drop of a hat, unworn and fitting perfectly?  Just no way.   Regardless, I love watching for her very outfits, and those around her--I think I even like the workaday woolens better than the prettier gowns, though the wedding dress was beautiful.  Makes me ready to add some embroidery to something . . . and some plaid!  And I want to get a bum roll for my skirts!    I just recently found a whole blog by the costume designer and can't wait to read it!
open a bodice that way, corset and all.  No way.  But that's Hollywood for you.
The other fantasy part:  clothes were a huge expense; people had few sets, sometimes only two or three. Where does Claire, the outsider

(Oh, yes, and if you are someone who likes men in kilts, well, there's lots of that.)

(On a side note, one of Mama's coworkers, who notices it as one weakness in many action or adventure films, would ask, where do they get the shampoo out there in the Highlands?  It's true--they always have lovely, clean hair!)

The setting--amid Scotland's prettiest scenery--was also enticing. Those castles, those stones, those mountains, those streams.   I can quite imagine being there in that untouched landscape . . . more than imagine, plan--because now I want to add Inverness to our dream plans to visit Scotland next June!!   (Ideal itinerary right now includes London, Winchester, a stop off to the Pudding Club at Mickleton wherever that is, York and environs, Edinburgh, and now Inverness!)

I've even found a blog about foods inspired by the show, Outlander Kitchen.  I might have to try my hand at bannocks.  And I'll bake them while listening to the soundtrack, plus other music by Julie Fowlis, Tartanic, MacTalla M'or (a local bagpipe rockband), and general bagpipe music.

Of course, I'm not new to Hibernophilia, having learned that my own ancestors are from Scotland and were (probably) at the court of Mary, Queen of Scots (rumor has it were related to someone she ordered beheaded.)  We go to the Highland games here, took a Gaelic lesson, bake shortbread, watch caber tosses, like bagpipe music, enjoy the Sailor's hornpipe--mercy, Mama has even eaten haggis.  And we all like the movie Brave!  So, casual, recreational fans of things Scottish.

So, yep, I'm enjoying "Outlander."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cooking Again

Our last meal provided by a friend--after 3 1/2 solid weeks of wonderful meals from friends--was Monday.  Which means Mama and I are in charge of the cooking again.

I'm a little apprehensive.  I can't lift much and, because of the painkillers, am not driving yet.  So Mama will have to do the shopping in the evenings or weekends; or we'll get PeaPod.  I can't do a lot of chopping, or stand to saute or stir fry for long and I can't get heavy things into or out of the oven or lift heavy pots (even draining pasta requires scooping out the noodles instead of pouring the big pot into a colander), so I'm thinking slow cooker meals will be best.  But even a lot of my slow cooker meals require a lot of the above, so I'm looking for new recipes.  Dump recipes, essentially, one pot.

I've asked friends, got out a couple of light or healthier slow cooker cookbooks, and even signed up for a 2-week trial of emeals.com, which has a "clean eating" family crock pot option.  I'm thinking the "clean" part means no condensed soups.  We'll see how it goes.

Coincidentally, my Whole Food Kitchen workshop with Heather Bruggeman focused on meal planning earlier this week.  So I'll be spending some time thinking of meals that I already know how to make and looking for new easy ones that we might like.

As for tonight, we had pizza!  I had forgotten I had a doctor's appointment.  The surgeon says I look good, though I had to have some granulomas that had to be treated with silver nitrate--they're these bubbles that form when there is inflammation while healing, harmless but annoying.  And so I didn't want to cook and we got pizza, salad, and chicken fingers for Sis.

Here are some of my thoughts for the next few weeks:

From my own repertoire:
Veggies are the challenge.  Three of us eat salad, but Sis won't.  Roasting vegetables is ok, until I have to get them out of the oven.  Maybe stir fry or saute will work, especially green beans and spinach which are pretty fast.


Recipes suggested by FB friends:

  • Miss JG:  Rice or mashed potato with cooked ground meat covered in a Campbell's chunky soup. Rice works well with the jambalaya, my dad loves the sirloin and Brendan the bacon baked potato. If you microwave bake the potatoes in a casserole dish while you brown the meat, and then add everything to the dish, and microwave the whole thing for 2-3 minutes, you can get away with ten to fifteen minutes standing and a really fast dinner. Just have someone help make salad and/or add some canned or steamed veg to the concoction.
  • Mr. KW:  Grill or pan fry thinly sliced pork chops. Add a little salt and pepper. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top. After about two minutes (for thinly sliced pork chops) turn over on grill or in pan and repeat the above steps. Easy and very tasty.
  • Miss LS:  Do you have a rice cooker? Want to borrow one? Really simple and you can even add stock for flavor. Just dump and turn on. Add your favorite frozen veggies when it's done and they'll thaw/cook in the rice. Also, easy baked chicken: Lightly oil or grease baking dish, use any cut of chicken you like (thighs are inexpensive and stay juicy, but boneless breasts work as well) and cover with a single beaten egg and seasoned breadcrumbs. No need to be fussy, just quickly do it all in the baking dish, turning each piece once in first the egg, then breadcrumbs. Leave any excess in the dish. It won't hurt anything. Sprinkle a little oil on top if ck is boneless. Bake for 30 -45 minutes at 350. Baked eggs with veggies and cheese is simple, too. Grease the dish, use frozen veggies and top with shredded cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Jarred marinated artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, etc, can be used as well, and they add lots of flavor. Bake time depends on quantity, so check after 30 minutes. Beans and greens slow cooker soup: any beans (cans are easy) and greens (store washed, cut) combined with a few teaspoons oil, store minced garlic, parsley and stock. It's like escarole and beans. You can also add sausage midway through cooking. Salt and pepper to taste. Needs about fours to cook on medium. Good luck and happy (easy) cooking!
  • Mr. CP:  Add equal parts cubed chicken breast, black beans (canned), and frozen corn to your slow cooker. Add about a half part salsa. Cook on low for 6-8 hours stirring occasionally. When done, stir in an 8oz brick of cream cheese. Serve over rice. Super easy and leftovers freeze well.
  • Mr. BN:  Simplified sweet potato soup: Throw stock, sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, basil, ginger in pot. Boil. Puree. Yum. My kids love it.
  • Miss JS:  Easy crock pot pork chops: 4-6 thick chops in slow cooker, slice 1-2 onions over. Mix onion soup mix with 1c water and pour over. Cook all 9 hours







Monday, April 27, 2015

Thoughts and Prayers

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nepal and the climbers on Everest.  It is horrifying to see the pictures and read of the disaster, both for the people and the historic monuments.

Touched by Mama's short descriptions of the disaster, the kids donated money from their reserves--all of their Chinese New Year money plus some.  So sweet and generous.  I was very proud of them.  We donated it to Save the Children.

More than any other natural disaster, earthquakes terrify me with their sudden, unpredictable occurrence and complete and total destruction--if you can't rely on the ground, what can you count on?  I laughingly joke that I won't go to California until after the "big one."  But I'm only sort of joking.

Purple Volunteers

I like that all of the plants that surprise us by popping up in the yard are purple!!
Glory of the Snow
Crocus
Grape Hyacinths
Wild Violets

Our Wonderful Weekend

What a weekend!

I'll have to rest all week!  No harm done; feel pretty good, considering the level of activity--nothing a bunch of watching "Wolf Hall" and other things won't fix.

I hadn't been sure about this weekend.  With a church banquet to celebrate the buddy program (where adults and kids secretly exchanged treats), a play on Saturday, and the recital on Sunday, it was too much.  But I wanted to do it all.  Except I was nervous about doing any of it--long car rides, walking a lot, and, of course, playing "Finlandia."  So, we narrowed it down.  We skipped the banquet on Friday, sending a treat along in our stead, and made arrangements for Saturday and Sunday to be easier.  And in the end, it worked really well.  I'm so glad it it worked.

Saturday we went to see Camelot, in a touring production in Hartford.  I love Camelot.  I first saw it, with Gommie, around 1980, with Richard Harris in the lead.  It was my favorite musical as a child, at least before Phantom of the Opera came along.  I sang it for weeks afterwards and even decorated my room as Guinevere's!  I even hid my alarm clock, lamp, and stereo under cloths because, of course, there was no electricity in Camelot.  I saw it again in a high school production . . . and then I haven't seen it in 30+ years.  (Because I don't like the movie with Vanessa Redgrave.)  But I sing the songs weekly and it's still one of my top ten.

So I was so excited to hear it was touring, buying the tickets last fall.  And it was pretty good!  (Especially considering it was a touring, non-Equity performance.)  The actors were credible and strong singers (definitely stronger than those in Joseph), the staging had enough period flare, the costumes were rich, and I love the music--though, they cut my favorite song, "I Loved You Once in Silence."  The cast had been pared down so there wasn't the full stage during "Lusty Month of May," but I liked it all.  And so did the kids.  We even all (mostly) got teary at the rather depressing end.  Well worth the journey up.  And even though all I did the whole day was sit--in the car, in the theater seat, in the car again--I was tired.

A little bonus:  we picked up Tibetan food to take home for dinner!

And then Sunday.  Ah Sunday, the recital.  The recital I've been practicing for these last four months.  I was nervous and then I'd be okay, but at least all of the tiredness of Saturday had left me.  And so we went to the place where it would be.  I was playing fourth, behind one child and then my two.  Bud played "Gigue" and "Forth Eorlingas" (from LOTR) beautifully.  And Sis played "Grand Old Flag" and the theme from Star Wars better than ever--sounded wonderful!  Then it was my turn.  And, well, I never knew my hands could shake so hard.  After playing the first few bars just fine, I lost all control of my fingers and hit so many wrong notes.  We had practiced everything else, but I didn't know how to calm them down.  I barely made it through the piece, even dropping two bars in desperation.  It was awful!  But I didn't flap my arms or make bad faces (I think I made one, which a friend's husband noticed!) or squeal.  And everyone clapped when it was over and I got hugs from the kids.  I heard the rest of the marvelous pieces--the children of two other friends played their pieces beautifully and there were so many talented kids whom we've watched over the last few years.  A few even played complex pieces by the Piano Guys.  And all the while I listened and marveled at their skills and noticed that almost everyone made little mistakes, I thought about my performance.  And you know what?  It was okay.  Better than that, it was wonderful!  Not my piece, but that I did it under all these crazy circumstances.  And I was the only adult who played.  Well, there's always a first time and it's over.  Everyone was very gracious afterwards, saying how well I did, and maybe I covered my mistakes better than I thought, though I doubt it--maybe they don't know "Finlandia."  Sis presented me with flowers afterwards and I got a medal from the teacher.  It was a lovely, lovely day (made even more so with potato chips and Ben & Jerry's afterwards!)   But perhaps I'll leave recitals to the young from now on.  (Or not, because I could only get better from here!)

We have nothing big on the calendar for several weeks, if any, and so I'll rest, relax, and recuperate, with lovely memories and a real feeling of accomplishment.  Definitely adding this to my list of affirmations!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New Affirmations

I posted a list of Affirmations I use to buck up my confidence back in March, actually a week before my surgery.  I realize I could add several things to it.  So, here we go, my recent list of accomplishments:

I can walk.
I can even walk around Target for a little bit.
I can ride in the car for awhile.
I can sit on the couch.
I can take a shower.
I can put on almost all my own clothes (socks are hard and I'm wearing slip-on shoes.)
I can unload the top rack of the dishwasher.
I can wash a few dishes.
I can help pack school lunches.
I can blog.
I can crochet.


I include my older list, with some edits, to keep me going:

I have not had severely debilitating back pain in almost 4 whole years.
Last Memorial Day 2014 when I had back pain, I still functioned and did things.
My surgery was four weeks ago and I am much better.
I can walk longer and faster than before (well, beforehand.)
I can drive longer than I have in years (I drove the furthest, 25 miles, the day before my emergency!)
I know how to cope with pain.
I know how to cope with fear.
I know there will be pain and fear and I am ready.
I can be calm in a crisis.
I can accept that I am not in control.
I have compassion for myself.
I have the tools I need--meds, heat pack, brace, stretches, rest.
I have great support and understanding in Mama and the kids, my parents and my sister.
I have the time and resources to take it easy.

I've survived and thrived:
  • On trips to
    • ENGLAND! and Cardiff!
    • Girl Scout overnight, on the floor, at Old Sturbridge Village!! (this one gets forgotten because it was three days before my emergency)
    • Disney World (even though EPCOT was hard, I got through it)
    • Washington DC
    • Boston
    • Philadelphia
    • Houston and environs
    • our nano-honeymoon in NYC (and all those stairs at the Merchant House)
  • Experiences such as
    • sitting at a hospital bedside and visiting for hours.
    • lighting a fire and cooking over it.
    • going swimming
    • taking GS outdoor class Food, Fire, & Fun.
    • taking archery and becoming certified as an instructor.
    • passing First Aid and CPR--I can give mouth-to-mouth and use an AED.
    • riding on parade floats and giving a lecture on costuming in full corseted costume.
    • sitting at the piano and play "Finlandia."
    • learning ASL
    • going on retreat by myself for two nights all alone--including sitting at length, creating art, taking yoga
    • winning 4 stars on Just Dance, dancing to "Bang, Bang."
    • playing basketball with the kids
    • playing water basketball with the kids at the Y
    • going to long movies
    • going to Lion KingPhantom of the Opera, Les Mis, Wicked, Vagina Monologues
    • wandering around museums
    • eating in restaurants at night
    • walking in the snow
    • making snow angels
    • going canoeing
  • I can do (before my surgery . . . and I will again!)
    • laundry
    • baking
    • unloading the dishwasher
    • walking on the treadmill
    • sitting on the floor with the cats
    • taking a real bath
I did all that.  I can do what comes next. 

A-Ok

Saw my doctor about my bloodclots today--all good on that front.  Will take the Xarelto for six months instead of four.  Fine.  He reassured me about some of the aches I've been having.  (Some days I feel like I could become quite the hypochondriac!  The days are long; the pangs are sharp sometimes.)  He was amazed at how much better I looked, said I was a totally different person.

My surgeon's appointment has been moved to Tuesday, but I'm not worried about anything.

Feeling pretty good, all things considered.

Yarn Therapy


Working something for me!  It's my favorite Lion Brand yarn, though I don't actually know it's name.  I lost the labels years ago (I thought it was Tudor, but it has too much of the whole rainbow in it perhaps; wonder if it is Pacifica or Ocean. )  I had made it into an awkwardly-shaped shawl, which really was going to be a small cat blanket, but I had more yarn than I thought and so it got bigger.  I didn't use it though, so I decided to make it into a blanket, not long and thin but more twin-bed shaped.  It won't be that big, though.  I love the colors, makes me happy just looking at it.  

Chasing Rainbows


Yesterday evening, we rushed out of the house when we noticed the rain falling through the sunshine.  And look what we saw!  Of course, it's not the quadruple rainbow seen in NYC recently, but we always like finding a rainbow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Practicing to Fail

Perhaps I should say "practicing to falter."

I had one of the most interesting piano lessons yesterday.  As you know, my very first piano recital is on Sunday.  After seven months of lessons, having not been able to read much music or play more than "Good King Wenceslas" (the easy version) when I began in September, I had said I would play at the spring recital alongside all of the kiddos; I've been practicing my piece, "Finlandia," for three months.  And then, well, emergency.

I have debated whether I could play since having my surgery.  Everyone, family and piano teacher included, is encouraging and understanding--play if you can, don't if you can't, but don't stress about it.  I've practiced the transitions where I move my hands so that they are smoother; I've practiced the timing because sometimes my count is just a bit off.  I've even practiced in front of people--the kids, Mama, Gommie in-laws, friends--so I get used to playing for others. Some days, I get through my song just fine; other days, I hit so many wrong notes.  Pain and narcotics usage definitely has an effect.

So yesterday, my teacher and I practiced how to mess up.  No faces, no squeals, no waving my hands in frustration.  Play through.  Pretend you didn't mess up.  Slow down if it's a part that troubles you (or speed up right through it!)  If it's an egregious mistake (several wrong notes in a row), start the phrase over.  If it's the first few notes, start the whole song over.  She says that everyone messes up, that oftentimes only the players notice.  It's a very forgiving audience.

And you know what?  Recognizing that I knew how to fix a mistake--acknowledging that I was going to make a mistake and should therefore not aim for perfect (which, my teacher called a "crapshoot!")--freed up my playing immensely and I made fewer mistakes!  Some of the paralysis left.

So, for now, I'm definitely playing "Finlandia" on Sunday, mistakes and all.


(Because I know people like an update, yesterday was really good.  I stayed on top of my pain meds and had a good, useful, relaxing day.  I have follow-ups with cardiologist on Thurs and surgeon on Friday.  Expecting it all to be fine.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Purring Cat....

....heals all wounds.
My cats have been great company these last weeks.  Mojo, in the photo, sits with me in the middle of the day.  Hermione visits while I shower--she likes a svitz and even sits in the damp, warmed porcelain tub afterwards.  Albus meows constantly and follows me various times of day.  And Mr. P welcomes me with motor-like purrs and a warm belly when I venture downstairs. 
Who says cats aren't social?

Monday, April 20, 2015

How To Get Through Abdominal Surgery

A friend recently posted that she has to have laparoscopic abdominal surgery this summer and asked for advice.  I realized we've had some experience with this, from my c-section, to Mama's hysterectomy and complications, and then to my emergency small bowel obstruction and re-section.  Smaller than those procedures, we've also had a few D&Cs and two abdominal hernia repairs.  So, we've had some experience.  Which I thought I'd impart here.  But I will write that in no way does this post constitute medical advice.  You should listen to your doctor.

Beforehand (*if you know, of course!)
  • Sleeping Arrangements:  Figure out where you're going to sleep in the days after surgery.  Stairs can be a challenge; couches might not allow real rest.  I have found it easier and better, for me, to climb to my bed and stay on the second floor for a few days.
  • Ativan:  if you are at all prone to nerves, ask for a prescription for Ativan or the like for the night before and drive to the hospital.  It just dulls some of the often considerable anxiety.
  • Groceries:  Depending on doctor's orders, you might have a special diet.  We always have easy snacks on hand because sometimes your appetite is small and it's easier to eat lots of little things.  Crackers, granola, bananas, peanut butter, white bread for toast.  I also like to have my favorites on hand to tempt me--I like Cream of Wheat when I don't feel well.  And eggs over rice with soy sauce.  And marmalade on toast.  Also, drinks.  I like iced tea, homemade or other, also coconut water.  Kefir and yogurt are also good for the probiotics.  We keep some of these in the bedroom, especially the high-protein ones, to go with medication or late-night snack needs.  See Eileen Behan, Cooking Well for the Unwell, for recipes and ideas about nutrition--protein seems to be very important to healing.
  • Prescriptions:  Some doctors give you your pain meds Rx beforehand so no one has to rush out to fill it right after surgery.  Ours never did.  It would have been helpful, though.
  • Medical supplies:  
    • Because you'll do wound care at home, it's good to have supplies of gauze, paper tape, bandages, whatever, plus an antibiotic cream, if suggested.  Follow your doctor's orders for how to take are of it (mine wants me to use baby soap to shower!)  
    • If the surgery is gynecological in nature, you might need extra-absorbent pads.  The ones from the hospital are super bulky and don't stick well.  Have a supply of your favorite brand at the ready.
    • The hospital will give you a surgical binder; if not, Amazon sells them.  It helps to have two, for washing.  
    • You'll want pillows:  to hold onto when you sit or sleep, to give pressure, especially if you cough or sneeze (oh, awful.)  Also protects you from overly excited pets and little people.   A small stuffed animal would work as well--and be cuter!  (Like the lop-eared bunny ISMITE that my family brought.)
    • From my back injury, I love my little bed rail, which helps me turn over at night and get up in the morning.  Probably not necessary for a single surgery, depending.  But I LOVE mine.   
    • I also have a temporary suction handrail in the shower, which helps me stay balanced and get in and out.  You can get these at Bed, Bath & Beyond.  It's more for peace of mind.  And again, with my back injury, my healing was long and slow and these things were necessary.  Now that we have them in the house, I find they are doubly helpful post-surgery.  I'm not sure I would have bought them just for surgery.  Well, maybe the shower rail.  
  • Clothing:  Check your wardrobe for loose, baggy clothes that won't bind in the days and weeks afterwards.  I wear yoga pants and men's pajama bottoms with ties that can be tightened or loosened.  I also wear layers because my sense of temperature changes.  I also like having pockets.  Wear what is most comfortable to you.  
  • "Phone Tree":  Choose someone to be your point of contact to get the word out to loved ones when you're ok.  Cell phones and FB/email really speed this along.
  • Other helpful ideas:  
    • a tray table:  for eating on the couch or in bed; also very useful to protect your abdomen from pets while you're lying in bed.  The cats so love to sleep on Mama that she slept under the tray table for weeks to keep them from jumping on her tummy.  
    • a box or basket:  we both were always losing the telephone, cell phone, tv remotes, pens, etc in the bedcovers.  A little basket or box helped us keep track of things.
    • drinking cup with straw:  it helps to have a spill-proof cup with a straw, especially when you're still in bed.


What to Expect in the Hospital
Depending on the doctor and hospital procedures, your experience might be very different.  Of course, do what your doctor and hospital staff say.  In planned surgeries, there is usually a pre-admission appointment, with blood tests, maybe heart checks.  Often, you're assigned a day but not a time; you often get the time the day or two before . . . and even then there will almost always be delays.  You go, check in, and eventually they take you back.  Sometimes your partner can go with you; sometimes they have the partner wait until you are enrobed and on your gurney.  In the ER, Mama and I were only separated during my x-rays and my CT-scan.  There is always a lot of waiting and time moves so oddly in the hospital.  Eventually, they'll start an IV and then you're off.  For my recent surgery, I was unconscious before the gurney left my room to go down the hall (or at least that's how I remember it; Mama says I'm missing parts of my timeline.)  And then at some point, you'll wake up in recovery.  Often they don't have your partner with you until after you wake up.  I think I woke up and fell back asleep a few times in recovery--I don't even remember being transferred to my room.  But eventually you'll be transferred to your room.

Depending, you'll be on a catheter for a day or so, with an IV.  I wasn't allowed anything by mouth, but Mama was allowed liquids almost right away.  Liquids includes jello, broth, juice, etc.  You'll then progress to regular food.  Best. Meals. Ever.  Order whatever you like from the menu.  I always seem to crave the roast turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans or corn, and a roll, with chocolate pudding or rice or tapioca, and hot tea and gingerale.  That's two hospital stays now . . . but then, it's hard to mess that up.  Mama herself had a dozen or so meals of baked potatoes!!

They'll wake you up in the night to check blood pressure and temperature.  This is when people complain about not getting any rest at the hospital.  I didn't mind the visits, maybe because I always fell back asleep.

TV in the hospital is an odd thing.  I kept it on all the time, day and night, as did Mama (though, not when we had the babies.)  It is distracting background noise so you can't hear other people and all the beeping machines.  It's company when you're alone.  It keeps your mind off pain and worry.  I think it even helped me keep track of time--I could mark that an hour had gone by.  I always seem to watch the stupidest stuff that I'd never watch at home (and I definitely can't watch cooking shows in the hospital.)  Mama watched "Deadliest Catch," "World's Most Dangerous Roads," "Ice Road Truckers," something about Arctic gold, pawn shop stars, was there storage locker wars?  I watched "Ancient Aliens," "Swamp People," and others.  And there's always the Weather Channel!

I was shocked at how quickly they got Mama up and about after her robotic hysterectomy--that night, even (but only once the catheter is out.) Anyway, don't be surprised if they are constantly encouraging you to get up and walk, sit in the chair, even shower, pretty soon afterwards.  And the walking, while slow and painful at first, even with the binder, is so important, especially to getting your bowels working again and also to help break up gas pain, which can be very uncomfortable.  You'll need to either pass gas or have a bowel movement for them to discharge you--apparently, the colon is the last part of the body to wake up, so it's function proves that you are healing relatively normally.  No doubt they'll be giving you a stool softener and fiber in the hospital, with instructions for more at home.  Suffice it to say, the first few bowel movements are difficult, regardless.  But you'll get through them.

A note about nurses:  BE NICE.  I'm always confused about the hierarchy (tech, RN, APN, nurse manager, charge nurse, and others) of nursing staff in hospitals and the shift changes, even who is in charge of me; it's all made harder by narcotics!  Recently, our hospital has put up these great white boards where your tech and nurse sign in so you know their names.  Use their names.  They are people, taking care of you at one of your darker hours; they have to stick you and wake you up, even stick an NG tube down your throat, not because they want to but because you need it and it's their job to do it.  They have amazing resources--compassion and knowledge--that most will willingly demonstrate.  But if you are mean, rude, or even indifferent--trust me, because I see it weekly in nursing homes--your care will be less . . . careful.  I don't accuse nurses of hurting or punishing people who aren't nice--they're professionals after all--just that, well, trust me, you'll feel better if you're nice.

While they'll have so much of what you need at the hospital, including toothbrush and paste, soap, shampoo, and towels, you might be more comfortable with some of your own things.  When Mama was in surgery, I had her overnight bag in the car and I fetched it before I could go see her, after she was in recovery.  When I had surgery, she rushed home in the wee hours of the morning to throw some things in a bag, though I didn't need them until much later.  Some things we liked to have:
  • robe, for walking the corridors in comfort
  • slippers or shoes, also for walking the corridors.  Slip-on Merrills were great--supportive and non-slip, also easy to get on without bending over.
  • extra pillow (see above) for coughing and support, etc.  
  • cellphone and charger (longer cords that reach the bed are great, at hospital or at home!)
  • a set of clothes to wear home, plus extra underwear and socks
  • deodorant--there are always your own bodily smells in hospitals (earthy, sick, unfamiliar, distressing smells) and I like to lessen some of it
  • hand lotion and lip cream--it can get so dry in hospitals and I like the scents of my own products sometimes (funny, I didn't need my own soap and shampoo, though.)
  • if you have long hair, consider a scrunchy or hair band to hold it back.  

Miscellaneous
  • Mama was wonderful to bring me pens and notecards so that the kids had something to do while they visited.  Then we decorated my wall with them.  Goo also brought me a notebook to write in when I couldn't comfortable talk with the NG tube in.
  • I usually leave behind whatever flowers I receive with reception on my ward, a small thank you.  The kids also brought a big plate of Italian cookies as a thank you to the staff (I think I brought cookies to Mama's ward, too.)  And we had filled out numerous positive comment cards.  
  • There is just no predicting when doctors make rounds, though it can be really early.  I missed them on many of Mama's days and vice versa.  But they often answered our pages quickly, when we had questions.  It's amazing what the staff can do with email these days.  


Afterwards at Home
  • Discharge instructions:  Discharge always takes longer than you think it will, to get the doctor's sign off that you can leave and then have the right person come and give you instructions.  I was surprised that I could walk out of the hospital if I wanted to, but since it was a long walk, I opted for the wheelchair.  It reminded me of being wheeled out with the twins--I told them how two people handed me money for them ($20 and $50, I think it was) and wished us luck.  Mama took down my bag and fetched the car, while the kids walked beside me in the wheelchair (which they thought was odd.)
  • Walking (or that uncomfortable discussion of bowels!):  If you're home, your bowels have returned somewhat to normal.  But it doesn't really feel normal, especially after bowel surgery.  I'm sticking to a bland diet, no raw stuff (to avoid food poisoning and excess gas, which is awful), no gassy stuff even well cooked (cabbage, broccoli, beans), no oily or fried things which also cause gas, and food only from people or places I trust--I can't even bear the thought of food poisoning.   I have also found that several small meals are better than three regular ones, if only because a full stomach presses in odd places.  I also try to have yogurt or probiotics everyday, to repopulate my gut well.  But when I chose poorly or ate too much and didn't feel well, walking was my lifesaver.  Walk, walk, walk.  It moves things along, keeps me from being too sedentary, keeps a few muscles going, gets me outside in the sunshine, even helps me be social with neighbors.  Walking has been really really helpful.  Yes, I started slowly--just around my room, then once around the hall, until I could do 3-4 circuits of our ward.  Now I do 15-30 minutes up and down the driveway or sidewalk near the house (so I don't get too far from home) at least three to five times a day.  Not fast--I call it my "surgical shuffle"--just one foot in front of the other (I always carry my cellphone in my pocket, outside or even in the house, just in case . . . . )  I didn't do it enough after my c-section and Mama didn't do it enough after her surgery, but oh, it is such a help.   Both the nurses on my ward and even my surgeon commented how well I was doing with walking. Not just for bowels, but for everything.  I would say it's my number one recovery advice.  
  • Reflux:  speaking of food, it's good to have some kind of treatment for indigestion, especially in the beginning where I'd be napping or lying down after eating, which contributes to reflux.  Now I try to sit up for an hour or so after eating and not eat too close to my afternoon nap or bedtime.  
  • Pain meds:  I'm a firm believer in pain meds, in staying on top of the pain.  I don't worry about addiction, but then that's never been one of my challenges (my addictions are digital and edible, separately of course.)  I've been told that if you really need the pain meds, you can't become addicted, but I don't know.  I find it's best to keep a list of the times I take pills; otherwise, day in and day out, I forget when and what I took (I also sometimes just email Mama so that we're both keeping track.)  In the beginning, I took them as often as I could.  Then, I got the heavy dosage of Percocet down and switched to something less powerful, Vicodin (which I didn't know was less potent than Perc.)  Right now I'm on one a day, midday, when I'm tired and achy, to get me through the evening hours with the family so I don't hibernate upstairs in pain.  When the Vicodin is too much, I'll move to Tramodol or Tylenol with codeine.  Interestingly, I don't always recognize that I am hurting; I do notice that I get grumpy or snippy or sad or anxious, and THEN I notice that I've been hurting.  I try to take the minimal number of painkillers I need to stay comfortable, but sometimes I figure incorrectly (take too few) and hurt anyway.  It takes a lot of awareness.  I find I move more and do more when I'm properly medicated so it really is a major part of my recovery.  (When I was under-medicated for my back pain, I didn't/couldn't move much at all and that was a disaster.)
  • Meditative Tools:  To supplement painkillers, utilize your own familiar, personal technique for relaxing, being mindful, etc., be it a "happy place," meditation, or the like.  I found Toni Bernhard's How to Be Sick to be the most helpful thing I've ever read regarding pain management and mindfulness.  (See also here.)  Counting my breaths, acknowledging that all things change, focusing on the present and not worrying about the future, have gotten me through so much pain and, I truly believe, actually lessened my experience of the pain because I've minimized the suffering.  (Pain being the physical sensations, suffering being the mental thoughts about pain.  But others explain it better than I do.)  When I am not mindful, my mind goes to my deepest fears and anxieties about loss, illness, and death.  It is best to stay in the present.  But it takes practice and you will have days where it is hard to stay present (I'm having one of those days today, hence posting on my blog!)
  • Meals and errands:  Some people find it very hard to ask for help.  I've gotten better at it over the years and realize how much it really does make a difference.  I cannot begin to tell you how helpful it is to have people bring meals.  We have been on the receiving end of meals now maybe six times, beginning with the birth of the babies, and it is amazing.  Not only is it physically nurturing, it is emotionally uplifting to be embraced and enveloped by generous friends.  Even if you get a lot of pasta!  Besides, pasta is versatile, easy to reheat, and almost everyone eats it.  I've organized meals for others several dozen times, first using clumsy old email lists and now beautifully streamlined with my favorite site, Food Tidings.  There are other sites, some that even do errands and such, but I like this one, probably mostly because of my familiarity with it over dozens of uses.  But I have already written about organizing meals.  Being on the receiving end just helps immensely.   
  • Distractions:  Books might be too heavy or require too much concentration, though the heft  problem can be fixed with an e-reader or magazines.  I had fun going to the store to choose magazines for Mama before her surgery--lots of different titles she would otherwise never have read--civil war history, photography, cats, British travel, etc.   I also opt for constant internet contact--I can lose myself in Facebook and Pinterest for hours--as well as television.  Nothing like bingeing on Netflix.
  • Visitors:  Long recoveries reveal some uncomfortable truths:  some people just are not comfortable with illness or injury.  I won't say I've lost a friend over my back injuries or surgery; I've just noticed which ones aren't bothered by it and which ones are.  I like to have visitors and am thrilled that I can sit downstairs and receive friends.  It helps when I can be honest with them, if I need to keep it short or need to lie down in the middle or run to the restroom.  I'm usually tired afterwards, but with spirits lifted, it is worth it.  Friends make getting better so much easier.
That's all I can think of now, but I will add to it as more comes to me.  If you face similar circumstances, I wish you the best of luck, with quick and gentle healing.  Get well soon!

A New Class

It's time for another Heather Bruggeman class:  Whole Food Kitchen!  Yes, I've taken it before, plus several of her other ones, including Vegan Workshop, Hibernate, and summer camp.  But the activities and ideas vary, as does the community that gathers around her.  While I am not doing any cooking or shopping right now because of my surgery, the class will be an inspiration.  And a distraction.

And when it's all over, I'll have some new recipes to try!

Monday Blues

It's chilly and blustery here, pouring rain, more like New England spring than yesterday's 70F.  But we need the rain.

I also think of it as the weather sympathizing with the kids being back in school!

I'm home, my first full day at home alone, though I had practice doing several hours alone already.  Fighting some mental boogeymen today.  When I start to have normal aches and pains that come and go, I begin to worry that something bad is happening all over again, though I don't meet any of the criteria set forth by the doctor:  no vomiting, no nausea, no fever, no pain (meaning persistent or unresponsive to meds), no lack of gas or bowel movement.  I'm healing, doing well. Even the infection is drying up. But I still feel relatively mediocre, some days more than others, depending.  I think I've been undermedicating.  I was trying not to need pain pills--perhaps proof that I was healing--when instead it just overwhelmed me to be uncomfortable.  So I'm going to be more diligent about them, to recognize when my body is tired.  And, no, Lambeth, I'm not overdoing it.  No carrying, just walking, can't bend to pick stuff up, no cleaning, no cooking, no chores.  But, even so, it was major surgery and I still hurt sometimes.

It takes some getting used to.

And sometimes, like today, it taps into my deepest fears and anxieties.  Then I have to use all my mindfulness training not to fret about an unknown future, to stay in the present . . . . and sometimes I'm better at it than others.  Which is why I watch a lot of tv!  (Right now, AMC's Revolutionary War show, "Turn.")

"Keep calm and carry on," one breath at a time.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Spring Break Saturday

My in-laws, who returned from Thailand about 10 days ago, came to see us today.  They took Sis to skating and then everybody (well, not me) went for lunch at Bud's favorite sushi restaurant.  I stayed home, eating leftovers and watching the AMC series about Revolutionary War spies, "Turn."  When they came home, we spent the afternoon hanging out, very subdued.  Everybody was pretty tired.  Though, we did gather enough energy that Sis, Bud, and I performed our piano recital pieces for practice.

After my in-laws left, we decided to get pizza and watch a movie.  So with cheese pizza, Hawaiian pizza, chicken fingers, and salad with ranch dressing, we settled in for Transformers: Age of Extinction, a long, loud, violent, fast-paced show.  Perhaps a little too much.  We've let the kids see lots of PG-13s, but Bud took the death of one of the characters very personally this time.  I suppose, circumstances being what they are, that's not surprising.

Tomorrow, we'll probably be even less structured--no lessons, no visitors, just hanging out.

Friday, April 17, 2015

On Her Way, with My Thanks

Gommie is on her way back to Texas this morning.  It has been quite a two weeks, from her arrival just days after I got out of the hospital, through Easter and then spring break, and a lot of good and bad days in between.

Almost five years ago, when Gommie and Pop had stayed with us for several weeks after my initial back injury, I wrote a thank-you post about the gift they'd given me.  In subsequent thank yous--for their help in April/May 2011 for my second back injury, in August/September 2012 for Mama's surgery and infection--I've referenced that post.

And I'll point to it again because it's true.

But I'll rephrase it.

Being a mom is tough.  Watching your kids hurt is hard.  Being helpless is so difficult.  And my mom willingly waded into all of that when she came up here to help us post-surgery.  I'm spoiled by her constant love and support because I never doubted she would come and help; but it has become clearer to me how many people don't have loved ones who will drop everything to help them.  And I know how lucky I am.  I felt that luck every time she packed a lunch, washed dishes, loaded the dishwasher, did laundry, took out the garbage, entertained the kids, tried to cheer me up or distract me, made a few meals, even fed the cats.  She did everything and more that she could do so that Mama could go back to work and not have to do everything on her own, as she had been doing before Gommie arrived.   And she did it all in a house that is more cluttered, smaller, and differently-organized that her own, with two grandkids underfoot who wanted her love and attention.  And not even a room to call her own, sleeping on a bottom bunk with Sis on the floor next to her, all of us sharing a bathroom upstairs.

And with that all, she watched me grimace in discomfort, heard me make difficult phone calls about clots and insurance and prescriptions, knew that I was tired, in pain, totally grossed out and upset about my incision, and sometimes just grumpy because major emergency surgery sucks.  Even last night, just hours before she was leaving, she woke up and saw our light on at 3 am and worried (I was wide awake and very uncomfortable, not pain, just awake and unsettled, and having a major emotional panic.  It happens.  I'm much better this morning.)    She had her own discomfort, too, sometimes, in her knees and back.  We laughed as we shuffled along together.  'Cos what else are you going to do?

But with all that going on, we still had lots of fun.  There was Scrabble and Sushi Go and Camp games, doodling on tiles and shells, making bubble gum from a kit with Bud, playing American Girl doll salon with Sis, early morning cuddles, late night reading, trying Just Dance moves to "YMCA,"  Mario Kart hilarity, watching Battle of Five Armies, watching Neil Degrasse Tyson's "Cosmos," scrambled egg breakfasts, watching "Switched at Birth" and "Little House on the Prairie" with Sis, watching Grey Gardens, "Mr. Selfridge" and "Wolf Hall" and "Miss Fisher's Mysteries" with me, going to the rope obstacle course, going to the coastal bird refuge, going to the natural science museum, dyeing Easter eggs and celebrating Easter, building fairy houses, eating hibachi and then frozen yogurt, eating at the fish restaurant.  And lots more that I'm forgetting this morning, I'm sure.

So, we send you home to Texas with our love and gratitude for these last two weeks and for being you, Gommie, my mom, who gave me yet another gift, or lesson, in generosity, determination, dedication.  In love and motherhood.

Thanks, Mom.  I love you.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Further Adventures of Gommie and the Kids

Today, the last full day that Gommie is with us, she took the kiddos to a coastal preserve, to walk the shore and see some birds.  Sis took her birdwatcher's book and Gommie took our binoculars.  They saw osprey and piping plovers, neither of which Sis had on her lifetime list.  On a down note, the staff said they'd seen the snowy owl a week or so ago--I'd given up at least a month before that.  Oh, well, hopefully next year.  Besides, I saw the real Hedwig, which has to count for something.

And then they all went to hibachi!  Yum!  The kids love "herbachi," as they used to call it and got their usual favorites--chicken with noodles and fried rice for Sis, shrimp with noodles and fried rice for Bud. They picked up frozen yogurt on the way home and brought me a bowl--I love it with almonds, coconut, and raspberries (though, the tart plain which I usually love is non-fat at this place, new to me, and was pretty disgusting.  Oh, well, the toppings made up for it some.)

It was such a busy day that they only had time to drop off my yogurt before heading to haircuts, which they desperately needed.  Though, now they look like newly shorn spring sheep.  Sis looks much younger than her age for now and Bud looks more his age and no longer looks like a tween with floppy Bieber hair.

Gommie got a well-deserved break (though, she spent it doing laundry and packing) while the kids played zombie attack in the yard for hours.

And so ends our last full day with Gommie.  Always bittersweet.

Treetop Adventures

Yesterday, Gommie took the kids to a rope course, which they'd been to on a GS family outing before.  They were so excited to try it again.  Gommie watched from below as they climbed, zipped, balanced, and navigated all the clips and tweezles, etc., sticking together as a team the whole time.  It was a beautiful day, with lots of sunshine and a stiff breeze, and Gommie enjoyed both watching and enjoying the outdoors.




Meanwhile, I stayed home alone and watched "The Fall," with Gillian Anderson sporting her British accent (she is bi-dialectal, having lived in both London and the midwest US as a child.)  And then I walked to the local deli down the street--just about half a city block--to get my lunch.  All.  By.  Myself.    So excited, so proud.  Best.  Lunch.  Ever.  So a pretty good day for us all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Still Doing Well

I'm doing pretty well.  Another good day yesterday and a full night's sleep.  A rough bit at bedtime--I'm still redefining bland, non-gassy food--but walking and gingerale helped.  

It's a beautiful day and I'll get lots of nice, short walks in.  The kids are off doing another fun thing with Gommie.  Yesterday, they went to a Samurai exhibit at the science museum, even wrote "sword" in Japanese kanji.   But, I heard more about the gift shop! Bud got Gommie a little purple "amethyst" geode.  Sis got some quartz and some little plastic animals.   And then they had lunch at the fish place.  

We're so glad Gommie can be here to help the kids have a fun and relaxing spring break (because I'm pretty boring!)

More Fairy Houses




And this one is Gommie's . . . .

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Beginning Blossoms

I love that I went into the hospital when it still felt and looked like winter and that I came home to spring!  We have snow drops, crocuses, new-to-me glory of the snow, and the very first stalks of tulips and daffodils.  Plus, my favorite, favorite hyacinths!!!  I love these flowers, with their bubbly blossoms and amazing scent.  I'll buy the old past-peak ones on discount at the store and then plant the bulbs for the next year. (See, I have to enjoy my flowers outdoors because the cats will eat them and many plants are toxic.)  I think I have 15 coming up in the yard right now.  And even though it is a dreary day, it cheers me to see them coming.  Soon, I'll be able to sit on my favorite bench, after my "surgical shuffle" driveway walk, and breathe in the lovely fragrance.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Kidbits etc.

Today was the first day of Fairy House season 2015!  The kids were up and at 'em by 8:30 this morning.  What is it with not sleeping in during vacation??  Anyway, it's the second or third day in a row that they've spent significant time outside--swinging, running across the rock wall, playing with a homemade bow and arrow (Sis), swordfighting, biking, and now building fairy houses.  Gommie was outside, too, but didn't build one.  Pretty soon--once the ground temp stays at 50F, which isn't quite yet--Sis will plant some bulbs that my friend Miss D, also our ASL teacher, gave me as a gift for my recovery.




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Another gardening thing:  I learned a new flower.  This is a Glory of the Snow, according to my FB friends.  Ours have appeared randomly in a few parts of the yard, not planted or planned by us at all.  Very pretty.


-=-=-=-=-=-=-

A big THANK YOU to Granny Q who sent a lovely Edible Arrangement to the house on Friday.  That was so sweet of you.  And we really enjoyed it--ALL of us, as you can see in the picture of Albus eating the ribbon--it was gone by the end of the day!



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Gommie and I watched "Wolf Hall" episode 2 today, enjoying the characterizations and especially the lovely period details.  Of course, we know how it all progresses (having seen "The Tudors," A Man For All Seasons, Anne of a Thousand Days, etc.), but I'm absolutely caught up in it all.  Really fantastic television.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Which reminds me that a year ago, we were in England having the trip of a lifetime.  I think of that trip pretty much everyday, in some way or another.  Thank you, Lambeth and Mrs. Lambeth, for hosting us to the most wonderful of visits.  I'm trying heartily not to be too down that we won't be returning this December, instead recalling all the great times we had.

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Today was rather an "eh" day.  Achy, tired, tight.  Not terrible just not great, kind of like last Wednesday (but not quite as much.)  So, if I have a mediocre day every five days or so, I'd say I'm doing pretty well.

-=-=-=-=-=-

This morning, Miss D, my friend and ASL teacher came for a visit.  Not a lesson, just a chat.  We had a great time talking about our kids, contact lenses, Zentangling, our visit to the British shoppe yesterday, baking, even teaching Gommie how to sign "good morning" (which she kept doing with more of those f**k you gestures, accidentally, making us all laugh.)  She asked me if I had ever talked with a deaf person before her and I mentioned the deaf camp counselor I knew as a teenager 30 years ago.  She was shocked then at my skills when she met me last year and said my signing was amazing, essentially for someone who hadn't signed much at all.  Wow.  That felt SO wonderful.  Sometimes I feel so bumbling--trip up my fingerspelling, confuse signs with one another, can't always follow what she says--but, in total, I'm actually doing really well.  I can't say how happy that makes me.  And how happy I am to have made a new friend.

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As you know, Sis and I like to watch "Switched at Birth" together, the story of the two teenage girls, one who is deaf, who are switched and whose families come together when they discover it 15 or so years later.  We watch it for the ASL (and Marlee Matlin!), though there are definitely bits that are too old for her.  With Gommie, we also started watching "Little House on the Prairie," beginning with the two-hour pilot movie.  It's been so long since I've watched that show . . . and in many ways, it's so dated--the pacing is very slow, the drama more low key than dramas these days, even some of the 1970s hair peeking through.  But I love the history, period details, and wholesome moral tales; and I'm much more interested in what Ma is up to in the show than I ever was before.  Sis, who has read all the books (except Farmer Boy--me neither!) countless times, is enjoying it, too, even if it's not exactly like the books.

And now I've found a show to watch with Bud:  BBC's "Merlin," which I'd watched a few years back.  It's definitely a family tale, with sympathetic teenage Merlin (or maybe early 20s??) finding his path, a monster/crisis of the week, and all those wonderful faux fantasy medieval trappings.  Bud seems to really enjoy it and I like watching it with him.  Plus, he likes identifying all those British actors who were also in "Doctor Who!"

-=-=-=-=-=-

The basement boys aka NYCats are becoming more bold.  Mojito has been "knocking" to be let out of the basement in the late afternoon almost everyday for a few months.  He even slept on the couch with Mama for a couple of hours yesterday!  But now Mr. Big Tabby is also coming up, ostensibly to eat the upstairs cat food, but also to poke around.  It's very heartening to see the boys come up.  (And since we always quietly lock the Connecticats up, it's a stress-free visit.)  The time-share is starting to work out.

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Gommie leaves on Friday and the sad countdown has already begun, but she has some plans for the week to distract them.  We are so very grateful to her for her help and support these last two weeks.  While we could keep her here indefinitely, I'm gaining strength everyday, can be left alone without any trouble, and can do minor house things with the kids' help (like getting them out the door in the morning.)  It means the world that she's been here, though.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Delicious Dinners

Our friends have been so generous with meals.  We have been gifted with more than 21 weekdays of dinners!!  That's more than four weeks that we don't have to worry about shopping and cooking, which take so much energy.  It's so very kind of my friends--friends from old and new church, the neighborhood, Girl Scouts, and my old playgroup; knowing they're thinking of and helping us means so much.

And the food has been pretty good!  Sure, it's a lot of pasta, but we really like pasta and it's easy because it reheats well and can last for a couple of days.  I've taken batches of baked spaghetti or ziti to dozens of people myself (for the last 8 or 9 years, beginning when all my friends started having second children!)  And they're bringing dinner in disposable or non-returnable dishes which makes it so easy (otherwise, I'll inadvertently never return the right casserole dish.)  It's funny how many vegetables we're NOT getting.  A bag salad once or so, and a few roasted vegetables, but otherwise, we get a lot more bread and dessert.  I usually take a bag salad (plus bread and dessert, sometimes a bag of oranges or clementines), unless I make the pasta with the broccoli in it, but I'm starting to rethink that--I'm not sure people really eat bag salad.  I wonder what else I could take?  My roasted vegetables (green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, kale, butternut squash, or brussel sprouts) just don't travel or reheat well.  Hmmm, will give it some thought.  


So a HUGE thank you to all of my local cooking friends, especially Miss B who organized the meals through the meal-sharing website our group always uses.  


For my own meal sharing tips and recipes, see here



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I'll add meals as they come.  This week:  meatloaf, French lentil stew, a TBD slow cooker meal, and a lemon chicken bow tie pasta dish.


Miss BA's Turkey Meatballs
It’s my chicken meatball recipe & I think I put one piece of pork sausage in yours, (took it out of the casein).
It differs every time, but here is the basic recipe.

1 lb of chicken
½ cup of parmesan cheese
½ cup of bread crumbs
2 cloves of garlic
½ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. grape seed oil (or olive  oil)
2 tsp. oregano (I usually use Emeril’s Italian  dry mix)
1 egg

And a trick my father in-law taught me to keep the meatballs round, roll them lightly in flour before putting them in the hot oil.


Miss LS's Turkey and Fixin's
"As to the gravy, I use lots of herbs on the turkey itself, so the drippings make amazing gravy. Sometimes I use apple or lemon in the cavity, but I used celery this time. Also sage, rosemary, and paprika on the turkey skin. I can take no credit for the stuffing--it's the only one we could find without chicken stock, organic, too. The veggies were cooked together with butter and basil paste from the produce section. It comes in a tube and is expensive when not on sale, but a great time saver and the kids love it, so we stock up at sale time. The trick to them is all in the size of the cut on each one. Squash has to be pretty large to avoid the mush. We like them close to raw, so I tend to err on that side. I'm sure you'll be cooking again soon!"


Miss JD's Lasagna
 "For the sauce I just roast tomatoes, garlic, onion, with some seasonings...salt, pepper, basil, oregano,  for about 45 min at 375...then I just mash all together with a potato masher...I like it chunky but you can certainly puree if you like it creamier.  
The lasagna is just ricotta and mozzarella and I added spinach ....I always wing making lasagna...never comes out the same.  Sorry I don't have a "real" recipe."

Miss RZ's Butternut Squash Soup
coming soon

Miss PD's Ricotta Dumplings

Miss LL's Quinoa Stuffed Peppers 
In Freezer Bag:
3 large carrots, grated (about 1 ½ cups)
2 tbsp Wildtree Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil
1 ½ tbsp Wildtree Cajun Seasoning Blend
1 tbs Wildtree Garlic Galore
1 package fresh spinach (or frozen), 10 oz
2 cans black beans, 15 oz, drained and rinsed
¾ cup quinoa, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz, drained
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 cups water

At cooking time:
4 large (or 6 small) bell peppers, any color, halved lengthwise, ribs and seeds removed
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients in a gallon size freezer bag, “smush” to allow seasonings to distribute.  Place bag in freezer.
To prepare: Thaw in fridge.  Pour bag contents in large skillet, cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 – 25 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Preheat oven to 350. Stir in 1 cup cheese, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Fill each pepper with quinoa mixture, and place in a baking dish with ¼ cup water in the bottom of the dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, sprinkle each pepper with remaining cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes. 

Miss R's Meatloaf
She uses the pre-made meatloaf from the Big Y butchers!!!  And bakes it with sweet barbecue sauce.  Yum!

Miss Jen's Turkey Meatball Orzo Soup
  • ground turkey
  • egg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) orzo
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 4 cups loosely-packed spinach
  • salt and black pepper

Combine ground turkey and egg.  Make into little meatballs by hand.
Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes, until soft. Add carrots, celery and garlic and saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add meatballs, chicken stock, orzo (pasta), thyme, oregano, rosemary and stir to combine. Bring soup to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
Stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until it is bright green and wilted. Season with salt and black pepper to taste (if needed). Serve warm.
adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Miss LC's Creamy Lemon Chicken Bow Tie Pasta
  • 12 oz dried pasta
  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced into small strips (uncooked or precooked)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried Basil
  • 1 lemon, juiced (or if you use bottled lemon juice, use whatever is equivalent to 1 lemon.  I originally recommended 1/2 cup, but different lemon juices may be more concentrated...)
  • 1 cup of half n half or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus a bit more to top the dish after cooking
  • Salt and pepper
  • additional adobo and sazon, for flavor
  • 1 cup of reserved pasta cooking liquid
  • 1 tsp of cornstarch (if needed)
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water.  When draining the pasta, reserve about a cup of the pasta cooking liquid.  Keep pasta warm. (To keep the pasta from sticking together after cooking, you can mix in about 1 tsp of olive oil.)
  2. While the pasta is cooking, season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium high and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, chicken, garlic to a saute pan with. Cook until chicken is golden and completely cooked. (If using precooked chicken, saute the garlic about 3 minutes before adding the chicken, then cook a minute or to longer until the chicken is thoroughly coated and hot.)
  3. Add about 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and cream to the chicken mixture.  Cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened.  If you want a little more cream sauce, add the rest of the reserved pasta cooking liquid.  (If you want your cream sauce thicker, add a tsp of corn starch to 2 tablespoons of water and mix into the sauce.  Continue cooking until desired thickness is achieved.)
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and turn heat off.  Mix everything together until pasta is thoroughly coated.  Top with dried basil, cracked fresh pepper and additional Parmesan cheese.
Serve and Enjoy!


Miss KMc's Chicken and Broccoli Pasta
I'm so glad they liked it! It is a huge hit in my house too
Ingredients: a lb of chicken,3/4 lb of pasta, 1 tablespoon of oil, 2 tbsp of butter, garlic to taste (I don't use too much as my kids will get suspicious if they smell it), 1 chicken bouillon cube, chopped onions (again I only use a little- not even a quarter of onion),1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 3/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, scallions and 2 bunches of broccoli crowns.
Heat the oil and butter with the garlic. Add the cut up chicken and cook on medium until browned.
Remove the chicken but leave the oil.
Add the onion and cook for about 3-5 minutes.
Add the crumbled up bouillon cube and water.
Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
Stir in the cream, milk, finely chopped scallions and Parmesan. Simmer until heated through and thickened then add the chicken back to the sauce.
Cook the pasta- I add the broccoli in the last 5 minutes. Then drain and mix all together!
Enjoy!!