The Right Stuff

When it came to holiday cooking, I’ve always been a little spoiled.  Not as in the “brat” kind of spoiled, but the well-loved kind of spoiled. My mother was a great cook and a great baker — and holidays were her specialties. It was unusual for Mom to let us help in any way. Occasionally I’d get to make a dish or two, or maybe a dessert, but she always did the vast majority of the cooking. In fact, I think she did ALL of the cooking the last few years.

So here we are… with the holidays barreling down upon us… and we the cooking is all on us. All. Of. It.

My sister-in-law has graciously agreed to cook the turkey (thank you, Sandy!), and we have split up the usual dishes for Thanksgiving. I’ve made most of them over the years, with the exception of one: the stuffing. This one is tough; everyone loves the stuffing that they grew up eating, and our family is no exception. What would Thanksgiving be without my mother’s stuffing?

Gratefully, about 8-10 years ago, we made a cookbook of all my mom’s best recipes. I was sure that we had NOT included the stuffing recipe in her book, but I was mistaken. As I leafed through the pages of the book, I was relieved to find the ingredients all listed on the bottom of one of the pages. (Creating this book was one of the very best ideas I have ever had… There are a number of copies circulating, and we are all so appreciative to have these recipes documented. I highly recommend that you all do the same with your favorite family recipes! I used Shutterfly to make Mom’s book, but any form of documentation will do.)

I had the list of ingredients, but no actual instructions.  Apparently you just whip it up and know what do to with it! I read through a bunch of different recipes on the internet to get a sense for how to make it, and I set to work. I halved the ingredients for the trial run, in case it came out poorly. I had watched my mother make it 100 times… boiling the celery and onions, mixing it all together with her hands…so I did my best to channel her through the process. I could feel her looking over my shoulder, helping me determine if it was moist enough. We had done that so many times with cookies… too wet, too dry, too sticky? I could just feel her there, and it brought a tear to my eye.

So I did sort of whip it all together and then popped it in the oven. The moment of reckoning came 45 minutes later when I took it out of the oven. Success! It was great, and we ate almost the whole pan with dinner. The only thing I would do differently is maybe use cow’s milk… I used almond milk and I could taste the difference. It’s not vegan, but I’m willing to make an exception one day out of the year — for a memory.

*****

IMDb: The Right Stuff (1983)

The Story Teller

Today I got to attend a leadership session on “story telling”. It was pretty interesting and we got to pair up and practice telling stories, as well as listening. We learned to focus on the back bone of the story… what’s the most important message you want people to walk away with. We learned the importance of creating spaces where other people can share their stories, and the positive impact on relationship building. And one of the key messages: stories aren’t heard the way you tell them.  Every person listening brings their own experiences to the interpretation of the story. It was a really cool class, and I couldn’t help but think of my own story telling here in this space. I hope that my stories resonate with you. And I have enjoyed hearing your stories…I’m glad you have felt some “space” to share them.

*****

I’ve had a new observation of my own health this week. In “the old days” (meaning pre-whole food plant based eating), I would crash in the afternoons. It was very hard for me to sit through a meeting in the afternoon, particularly if it was a few hours long. But the past two days I have had late meetings (well, late for me… I’m an early bird in the office). And I found myself still alert and engaged in those meetings. Granted one was the story telling event, but I couldn’t help but notice that I didn’t yawn. I wasn’t sluggish. I was an active participant. It was somewhat enlightening. I’m sure it’s been happening for a while, but this was the first time that it really hit me. Gott love having energy!

*****

Some recipe reviews for you…

I got a new cookbook… the Engine 2 Diet. I didn’t read the whole book but thought I’d find some more “manly” recipes from those firefighters in Texas.  We tried the Ann’s Panini with Hummus, Mushrooms, and Spinach… We ate it, but didn’t love it. It looked so much better in the book.

Ditto the non-fried onion rings from the Happy Herbivore Holidays and Gatherings. I guess some foods do taste better with a little oil…  :)  I would probably not make either of these two things again.

However, also from Engine 2… Black Beans and Rice.  So very simple and yet this was one of the best things I’ve eaten. With a bunch of different toppings, it was a little different for everyone. Mine was topped with organic corn, beefsteak tomatoes, water chestnuts, avocado, green onions, and a tiny bit of salsa. I wish I had taken a picture… it even looked beautiful. Ethan enjoyed his as well, liking some black beans that didn’t have any onions in them. This one will definitely be a go-to recipe for me.

IMDb: The Story Teller (1925)

Into Temptation

“Don’t sacrifice what you want most for what you want in the moment.”

This was the message at church today, focused on temptation. I could really relate to it, especially when it comes to eating. So many times I am tempted by something that isn’t good for me. This past week at work, for example, I stopped by someone’s desk daily for two pieces of red licorice. I am good about limiting it to two, but as I am eating it, I am scolding myself because there is really nothing of nutritional value to red licorice. Corn syrup, sugar, red dye 40, caramel color, natural flavors… all suspect ingredients and none doing anything to heal my body. I justify the licorice by saying “it’s only 2 pieces”, but I know all the reasons why I should not be eating it.

And, as a two-time cancer survivor, that 30 seconds of sugar and enjoyment (is it really even enjoyment???) isn’t worth the long term goal of remaining cancer free and being at optimal health. I think I need to post this phrase on my computer monitor and remind myself of the message continually.

I do know that an occasional sweet now and then isn’t going to kill me. But it truly needs to be “every now and then”. Daily does not fall into that category. And I need to make a better choice than red licorice! There are some desserts that actually have some nutritional value (see yesterday’s blog on the black bean chocolate truffles!).

I was reminded of this quote after thinking about today’s message:

Poison

Two messages to think about for motivation to always put the right things into my body!

*****

New recipe: FOK’s Lentil Vegetable Soup
This made a HUGE pot of soup!  We are set for the week for lunches! It said it makes 6 servings, but it is much more than that. I would probably only make 1/2 next time. I’m not good about freezing and remembering to use it, but you could do that if you are so inclined. I did add a teaspoon of turmeric since there wasn’t much by the way of seasoning in the recipe. (Turmeric has lots of anti-cancer properties, so benefits to adding it.) And I think I would add more carrots next time. In general, it’s a very flexible recipe, so you can add whatever you have on hand.

*****

IMDb: Into Temptation (2009)

For Better or Nurse

The weekend is flying by and I am grateful at least for the end of Daylight Savings Time.  I could use the extra hour! The next two months are chock full of activities and there is so much to do to prepare for the holidays and our December vacation. I was looking forward to a quiet weekend at home, while David recuperates, and I am managing to get some things done on the list, but there are not as many things crossed off the list as I had hoped.

David is doing pretty well in his recovery, although I am reminded that I would have made a terrible nurse. Too much eye rolling at the wincing and groaning. I don’t mean to be unsympathetic, but well… It just happens. And for those of you who know David well, a little ribbing is usually justified.  :)  We got his bandages off today; I thought the incision would be covered with one of those clear bandages, but nothing be steri-strips under all the gauze and tape. The incision was bigger than I expected, so I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on the guy.

I got a lot of chores done today and did also manage to spend some time in the kitchen. My favorite Isa soup, Potato and Leek Soup, some Black Bean Dark Chocolate Truffles, and Forks Over Knives’ Cranberry Orange Pumpkin Muffins. The truffles were delicious and but the muffins didn’t thrill Ethan. David and I thought they were “ok” but definitely not something I would make again for the work involved.

I spent some time perusing the Forks Over Knives recipes online today and have identified several recipes for this week’s menu planning. I needed to get some new recipes in the rotation, and with the cold weather starting, soups and stews seemed to a good place to look.  Look for reviews next week!

IMDb: For Better or Nurse (1945)

The Hospital

Today my husband went in for a routine hernia repair surgery. It was a long day — 7 hours just hanging out at the hospital. I wish they had used a short stay procedure facility, but we ended up at the hospital, where they all move quite slowly. All went well with the procedure, although he is definitely feeling some pain. Thank you, Tylenol 3. Hopefully the pain subsides quickly.

I spent most of the day pacing the hallways trying to get some steps on my FitBit (This led to numerous people asking me what I was looking for… apparently just walking around is viewed suspiciously!)

Anyway, some observations from the day…

  1. Wait times. We got to the hospital at 9:15, a bit earlier than we were advised (9:30). But they didn’t get David ready until 11:45. So for 2 1/2 hours, we just sat and waited. In my experience, this is the rule, not the exception at hospitals and doctors’ offices. Why not let you sleep in, or let you stay relaxed at home for all that time? Heck, I could have gotten a few loads of laundry done. (I am not a fan of non-productive time.) History shows they (hospitals) are NEVER early, or even slightly ahead of schedule. I find this practice to be disrespectful, and not in the patient’s best interest.
  2. Instructions to the patient were too fast and confusing. I have been very fortunate to have had excellent nurses in all of my care but today I was disappointed with my husband’s initial nurse.  She spoke too fast and half the stuff she said confused the heck out of me. She just threw some papers at David regarding hand sanitizers and how to have a good surgical experience.  Um, what? And then she made some odd comment about me hitting my head on the hand sanitizer dispenser and how it would come spraying out if I did. What?? I wasn’t even near it and certainly wouldn’t use my head for dispensing!  I wasn’t sure if she was implying I should move my chair or sanitize my hands! I’m guessing because they took so long to attend to David, they then had to rush to get him ready and good communication was lost in the process.
  3. Medical professionals who are clearly unhealthy… I think I would have a hard time taking medical advise from someone who is morbidly obese or a smoker, as examples. I’m not judging their lifestyle choices, but when it comes to health, I’d rather get my medical advise from someone who walks the walk. I was amazed at the number of people in white coats who looked like they were ready to have a heart attack.
  4. Hospital cafeteria food. Outside of the salad bar, there were very few healthy dishes to choose from. Chili (with cheese). Bacon and cheese pizza? Cold cuts. Fried chicken… I was worried that I wouldn’t find anything good to eat. Ultimately I chose a bowl of tomato soup with orzo. Or as it is called on Halloween, vampire blood with maggots. (Yep. Really.) Shouldn’t a hospital be held to higher standards for healthy food? (Of course, it could be their corporate strategy. After all, there are no profits in healthy people.)

*****

When I got home, Ethan decided he did want to go trick-or-treating after all (after speaking to his friends at school), so we had to throw to get a quick costume, remnants of costumes from Halloweens past.  He called it “Last Minute Decision Man”. From what I could see of the other kids, there were a lot of those!  He caught up with friends and had a great time, so it was worth it. Happy Halloween, everyone!

*****

IMDb: The Hospital (1971)

In the Mouth of Madness

Time for a quick medical update…

Last week I had my semi-annual check up with my radiologist.  All was great there. The nurse was happy with my 5 pound (intentional) weight loss since last visit, as well as my outstanding blood pressure (100/60). As always, the doc and I had a great conversation about food and natural healing. He totally supports my seeing a naturalist and he even had his son to Aimee years ago.  I spoke to him about my mouth pain and he suggested my husband watch me while I sleep — to see if perhaps I am clenching. (He hasn’t done that yet, but maybe one of these nights.) Anyway, doc said he was confident that I would figure it out and he wanted me to let him know once I solved the mystery.

Speaking of the mystery, today was my follow up at the ENT regarding the mouth pain. He showed me my CT scan which yielded… absolutely nothing!  So a big “yea” on that (yep, in the deep dark recesses of my brain I needed to know it wasn’t cancer), but we are no closer to resolving. I have tried the neti pot, antibiotics, steroids, dental exam, Mucinex, Claritan, and now a CT scan. Nothing worked, although Motrin did lessen the pain.

Next step? Psychiatrist, perhaps? Anyway, the ENT said I should call if it gets worse and he will send me for a brain MRI to see if the “trigeminal nerve” is causing radiated pain on the roof of my mouth. (In case you were wondering, the trigeminal nerve connects your face to your brain.  Trigeminal neuralgia can cause face pain if something is putting pressure on the nerve.)

Not rushing off to the MRI… Hoping it goes away as fast as it came!  Stay tuned…

IMDb: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

That’s Entertainment

It’s been quite a busy week for me. I had a lot going on at work, with days of back to back meetings, added to a host of appointments for me and Ethan.  Luckily, the crazy week was also filled with a whole lot of fun and entertaining activities…

A week ago today was the 8th Annual Ladies in Pink Party ~ my third year in attendance. In 2012 I was a recipient of their generosity. In 2013 I was a guest speaker. And this year I got to relax and enjoy the day with 24 of my close friends and family. We were amongst 600 women in attendance, as we ate, drank, danced, and raised money to support local women who are fighting breast cancer. It’s a program I am honored to support as it directly benefits the recipients. Here’s this year’s photo. Clearly, a great time was had by all!

IMG_1069

Band on Monday night… Appointment with our financial advisor Tuesday night… and then Wednesday night was happy hour with my boss, his boss, and our management team. It was a great night of laughs, good conversation, unhealthy bar food, and team building!

Thursday night… Out again! A great night with a friend, representing our company at the local Dress for Success charity event: Wine, Witches, and Wardrobe. (Ethan said “I see what they did there…a little play on the Narnia title…”) I bought myself some earrings and perfume (from a great local place called Note Fragrances…this perfume was actually featured in this year’s Emmy’s goodie bags!). More good food, good drinks (can you say pumpkin-tini??), and more laughs.

Saturday… I got to spend the afternoon with one of my favorite people, my cousin Stephanie. She treated me to an afternoon at the theater… Mamma Mia! I’ve seen it 3 times now and it always makes me happy. Such energizing music. And, if course, quality time with Steph.

And to round out the week? Seussical the Musical at East Stroudsburg University where my niece played woodwinds in the pit band. She was awesome on flute, piccolo and tenor sax! The show was fun and all the performers were excellent! Thanks to my sister-in-law for the treat! And the 8 of us enjoyed dinner together afterwards. Olive Garden, and more good (bad) food!

There is only one downfall to all this fun (ok, maybe two)… I drank more alcohol than usual, and I didn’t make all the healthiest food selections. But it was fun and tomorrow starts another week. I need a quiet week ahead to recover.  (And hopefully I haven’t let my weight loss team down TOO much!)

*****

IMDb: That’s Entertainment (1974)