Monday, October 31, 2011

"What's in Your Oven?"

Thought I'd share because actually finding a decent Low-Carb Coconut Custard recipe seems to be a loosing battle!

What I did find by Googling "low carb Custard" was a forum post that included "Josie's Egg Custard"...though, I quickly printed out the recipe and forgot to mark or save the page info (bad blogger!), I'm sure a search for the two would lead you right back to it.

What got me going on this "Coconut Custard" idea?  Well, tonight's dinner, of course!  I have, in my slow cooker, chicken breasts (half frozen, but the recipe called for thigh meat, so I suppose it'll even out the cooking time a bit?) for Curried Chicken with Coconut Milk!  This delight came straight out of my Slow Cooker cookbook by Dana Carpender (have I mentioned how much I love her books yet today?), page 70 if you're reading along!  6 hours until yummy food goodness!  All I'll have to do closer to actually eating is grate some Cauliflower and microwave it to become Cauli-Rice!

Dinner called for 1 cup of Coconut milk and as luck would have it, a regular sized can has 1 2/3 cups of coconut-ty goodness within!  First though, I want to talk about the brand I bought this go around...Golden Star.  I found this at Wal-Mart of all places!  Normally I buy the Thai Kitchen brand, it's widely available and is "Okay" as far as carb counts go at 3 net carbs per 1/3 cup.  However, seeing this "new to me" bright green can with a picture of coconuts staring back at me, I picked it up to check it out (other store brands have shocked me with the added sugars in coconut milk).  Only 2 grams per 1/3 cup!  Okay, so 1 gram isn't a huge deal...but it all adds up!  Using the Golden Star brand, I shaved 3 grams of net carbs off of dinner tonight and 2 grams out of the entire dessert recipe!  That is a savings of almost an entire meal's worth of carbs if you're sticking to the 20g a day limit!  (Assuming 5 grams at each meal and another 5 throughout the day in snacks.)  How's the taste and texture though?  One word, awesome!  I find it easiest to shake the coconut milk vigorously prior to opening it, this helps to "re-mix" the solids and the liquids before opening the can.  That being said...this one felt solid and resisted all of my attempts to pre-mix the contents!  So, I took the can opener to it and was met with a solid block of Coconut fat/oil yumminess!  I resisted the urge to grab a spoon...  Instead, I grabbed a whisk and a spatula!  At first, it looked like the whole can was solid, but I eventually found the liquid portion, hiding in the bottom 1/3 of the can!  I ended up having to dump it into a bowl to recombine it before measuring, it was so thick!

Now, I had 2/3 cup of coconut milk sitting in a bowl...what to do?  Freeze it or make something yummy?  Yummy won today, I have been contemplating a Coconut flavored custard for a while now and today seemed to be a good day to test my theory!

So, here is "Josie's Egg Custard":
  • 4 Large eggs (5 or 6 if you are using medium eggs)
  • 2 cups Hood's Low Carb 2% Milk beverage
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Splenda (to taste)
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg (she only uses 1/4 teaspoon)

  1. Combine all ingredients and mix by hand.
  2. Strain mixture to remove any "chunks from the eggs".
  3. Pour into shallow baking dish.
  4. Set dish in large water bath (cake pan with about 1 inch of hot water).
  5. Bake at 300-325 degrees for approx. 30 minutes or until knife in center comes out clean. (She said it takes her 35-40 minutes at 325.)
Now, here's how I changed it up to make "Marcy's Coconut Custard":

  • 4 Large eggs (the girls are on strike, so we had to actually buy eggs yesterday!)
  • 2/3 cup Coconut Milk
  • 2/3 cup Heavy Cream
  • 2/3 cup Water--A note on the liquids want 2 cups of "milk" for the 4 eggs, any combo should work, you could even use half & half rather than the cream & water, just don't make it too thick or thin!  You want milk consistency!
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt (approx., I used my 1/2 teaspoon and guesstimated 1/4 of it)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons Splenda
  • 2 Tablespoons Stevia in the Raw
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg (in the mix)
  • 1 Tablespoon Unsweetened Coconut
  • Nutmeg (to taste)
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Start your tea kettle, I have a 1.7 liter electric kettle that, from full, filled my pan exactly as full as i needed it.  If you don't know how much you'll, need...try it with cold water and empty ramekins first.
  3. Put all of the above in your blender and sens it for a spin until it is well combined.
  4. Place 1/2 cup Ramekins into your shallow(ish) pan, I use an old metal cake pan.  I can fit 7 ramekins in if I squash them together.
  5. Now, fill your ramekins...this is where I strained mine.  There were no "chunks" but it does keep the foam that the blender produced out of the finished product.  I just used a tiny strainer I have that came in a wire-mesh strainer set.
  6. Top each Ramekin with 1 Tablespoon Coconut, the stuff I get in the bulk section of WinCo is cut really tiny, if yours is bigger pieces, use what you see fit.  Then whisk or mix this in.  I used the pointy end of the 1/2 teaspoon I used for the Vanilla, salt, and Nutmeg...why dirty another spoon?
  7. Top each with a dash of Nutmeg.
  8. Once the oven is preheated, carefully place your pan of full-ish ramekins on the center rack.
  9. By now, your tea kettle of water should be ready, nice and boiling hot!  Mine clicked off just as I reached for it.
  10. Very carefully pour water slowly into the pan already sitting on the oven rack, it'll be too full to move around much until the water cools completely, so don't go trying to do this before you set it on the rack!
  11. Again,  very carefully, slide the rack into the oven, moving slowly so the water doesn't slosh and burn you or mess up your custards!
  12. Set a timer for 25 or 30 minutes and go read or write a blog post!  (Because that's what I did.)
  13. When your timer goes off, stick a butter knife into the center of one of your custards, of nothing comes out on the knife (a few flakes of coconut from the top are okay), you are done!  If not, set the timer for another 5 minutes and come back again and test a different one.
  14. Remember, that water bath is going to be even hotter now that it spent 30 minutes in a hot oven!  Do not touch the water and be very careful when moving the rack in and out!  Using a pair of tongs that you can grip your ramekins with, carefully lift each out of the hot water and place on the stove (or counter) to cool, these will end up  in the fridge after they reach room-temp.
  15. Carefully slide the hot water bath back into the oven and turn it off.
  16. When the water is cool, you can deal with that pan, for now, just be sure you don't get hurt sliding it back in the oven!
I actually forgot the Coconut until after I topped them all with Nutmeg, but I like Nutmeg and the straining strained all of the previous Nutmeg out, so we'll see how "Nutmeg-like" they taste!  Also, coconut extract, emulsion (it's like extract but you don't use as much), or even subbing in some Coconut DaVinci's for part of the sweeteners would add to the Coconut flavor.
 This treat is currently cooling on top of my's gonna be a Coconut kind of day around here!

Happy Halloween!

As October comes to a close, I just wanted to remind everyone to stay safe and warm tonight!  Also, if the porch light is off (and all the rest of the lights too), just leave that house alone and keep walking.  We leave the light off for a few reasons, first, all those scary kids drive our dog absolutely bonkers and scare her to death...nothing worse than trying to calm down a 75-pound dog after one too many ghouls (or pretty princesses)!  Also, we don't have any tricks or treats for you.  As a low-carber, I choose to not have that sort of thing in the house and really don't want to make your kids fat(ter) either.

I apologize in advance to the little girl and her Mommy that I know will be on my doorstep between 3:30 and 4 this afternoon, but after 4 years, you should just know I still don't have any candy!

Now on to the "normal" stuff...

I found a crochet pattern a few weeks ago that I have been dying to try out.  Okay, I found two patterns, but after starting the first one (which I found two versions of for starting this one), I decided I really didn't like the pattern.  The second one, the one I settled on and decided I liked it enough to make 4 of them (long story there) is titled "Crochet One-Skein Lap Throw", one skein?  Say it isn't so!  That is my kind of project!  So, after healing enough to be able to leave the house and ride in the car relatively pain to Wal-Mart I went !  (They have Red Heart Super Saver skeins for $2.33, awesome price!)  I picked out some variegated shades in "Watercolor", "Chery Chip", and "Purple Tones".  Basically, the first one is a mix of purples, blues, greens, and a little yellowy cream color...very pretty!  Cherry Chip is a Maroon-y red, pinks, light and dark browns...another pretty one, but the color change is so frequent that I think I'm going to have to use it in a different project, it was way too "busy" for this one.  The purple tones is just that, two to three shades of purple!  Now remember, I did say 4 projects up there...since the other half was with me and generously letting me paw through the yarn section (with absolutely no complaining about it!), I asked him if he saw one that he liked enough for me to make him something with.  To my shock, he picked out a color for himself!  He started looking at the different shades of blue...but ended up settling on Pumkpin!  Yep, bright Orange is the color he picked out! 

I laugh a little every time I glance at this skein of yarn, now sitting next to my right arm as I type...when I was little, my Mother sewed a giant quilt for my had cars and trucks (I think) in large quilt squares (which if my memory serves, she also painted using Tri-Chem paints) and then she sewed little squares al around them to make it large enough to fit their bed.  That's not what makes me laugh though...the backing she used was a giant piece (or pieces) of a bright Orange fleece (or similar fabric)!  Over the years, it yellowed a lot, but it was bright Orange at one point.  Every time I see this yard, I think of that blanket and it makes me smile.

Back to the project I'm now working on (in multiples of three currently) though.  I should have known something was "up" when it called for one skein of Super Saver yarn...especially in the varieagteds, those are kind of small!  Looking closer at the pattern (and it's 49 rows), I realized that it was, in deed, one skein....a Jumbo skein!  (Oops!)  With my first throw going, I got 12.5 rows in before my skein ran was back to the store to purchase 3 more skeins (I should have read the pattern better, they were out of the dye lot I used in the first skein, but the other three all match now) along with a fourth skein to use on the edging rounds (it's only two rounds of basically single crochet)...for this and the variegated purple, I got a skein of "Orchid", which is a lighter purple, it matches a shade in the purple variegated and is "close enough" for the Watercolor one to look decent.  I still need to get three more skeins if the Purple Tones and at least two of the Pumkpin (solid color skeins are a few ounces larger than variegated ones), but will wait on those until after another payday.

The other day I also talked a little about a cooking project I had decided I wanted to try...I did it too!  After a week and a half or so of being unable to really function, my pain has subsided enough for me to be almost back to my "regular activities"...although I have been avoiding driving the Automatic like the plague and so haven't done any actual driving still.  At any rate, while we were out getting yarn the other day, I also picked up a smallish head of Green Cabbage to go with the head of Red Cabbage (another small head) I had hiding in the back of the fridge (uncut, this stuff keeps for what seems like forever, but use it quick once you cut into it!).  Now, the recipe I linked the other day says to "grate" the cabbage...yuck!  I quartered my heads, removed the core, and got to slicing!  I did keep the sliced "ribbons" under about 4 inches in length, but this was all by eye, so use your best judgement.  If you like the store-bought Sauerkraut, everyone raves you'll like this even better!  We shall see come New Year's!

I can remember seeing jars of Red 'Kraut as a kid, when my relatives (Aunts, Great-Aunt's, Grandmother, and even my Mother) were canning...back then it looked like a purple jar of "yuck"....but being older and now knowing that those jars held the hard work of the women (and men) who made them really makes home-canned goods taste even better!  Not to mention the fact that you can control the amount of Sugar and other ingredients that go into your food better if you "put it in the jar yourself".  When I first started looking for Sauerkraut recipes, the first few I found all called for Sugar, the more I looked though, I found that the sugar was optional and you can, in deed, make it without any sugar at all!  So after slicing all my cabbage (we'll pretend here, I really did it in little batches and filled one jar at a time), I packed my jars with the "slaw" like mix.  I am seriously running low on glass jars!  Again, this recipe called for Quart canning jars...I have one of those left out of a 12-pack!  Most of these have been given away over the years full of Pear and Apple Butter I made...homemade jams and jellies make awesome gifts!  So, I took my one quart jar, paired it with a Large glass jar (and lid) that I purchased from a store full of Sauerkraut many months ago, and then added two pint canning jars and two empty (glass) pickle jars.  If it comes in a glass it!  These can be reused many, many, many times!

When it says to pack the jars tight...they mean it too!  I started by making a quart jar of "regular" 'Kraut (all green cabbage), but I apparently did not get it packed tight enough!  After adding the brine, it was painfully obvious I didn't put enough in the jar, but was too late to add anymore.  See all that empty space at the bottom of the jar?  That's about three inches of brine!  I'm hoping that as it ferments, the cabbage will sink to the bottom...but only time will tell.

The red cabbage was really fun to work with and experiment with.  The other quart-sized jar was filled with just the red stuff.  Since this whole batch is my "test batch" for presents for next year (when I can get the really good cabbages at a farmer's market and have these actually ready to eat when they're given), I played with the cabbage combos a little in two of the four smaller jars.  The third and fourth I did straight green cabbage and straight red cabbage.  In this first photo of the smaller jars, the canning jar on the left is straight red cabbage, on the right was evenly layered red and green cabbage.  The natural color of the red cabbage quickly overwhelmed the jar as I poured in the (near) boiling brine!  I suspect that this jar will be indistinguishable from the full-on red cabbage jar when they are ready to eat.

The last jar I put together, I used a very small amount of red cabbage at the bottom of the jar, about 3 Tablespoons maybe (it was the leftovers from what I had cut for the previous jar).  Then, I filled the  jar with Green Cabbage and ended the jar by putting another small amount of Red on top, however much it took to fill the jar to the top, maybe 1/4 cup.  In this one, you can really see how the color seeps out of the red cabbage!  I expect this jar to come out in the end a mild pinkish-purple far, it is my favorite jar!

Now for the's an easy one, but the amounts in the recipe are way off!  Hopefully you're a good judge of what you need to fill your jars, luckily, I am.  After starting off with a batch using exactly what the recipe called for (1 pint Vinegar [I used White], 1 quart water, 1 cup Salt [I used Coarse Kosher Salt, it comes in a large box on the shelf above the normal salt]), I ended up with a quart and a pint jar left with no brine!  So, I quickly made another half of a brine batch.  Everything goes on the stove in a pot (use a big one), bring it to a simmer (a few bubbles forming) and pour in (use a funnel!), it's really that easy! 

As for the lids...take a pot big enough to simmer water in and fill it with your lids.  Then, add enough water to cover all your lids!  Set this on the back burner of your stove and let it come to a gentle boil (small bubbles here, not a rolling boil!), leave it steaming on low while you cut your cabbage, pack your jars, and pour the brine into the first jar.  A canning lid magnet is an awesome tool to have at this's a magnet on a long plastic handle made so you can fish your canning lids out of the near boiling water without getting hurt!  For the canning jars, proceed as you would normally do...put the flat cover on and then semi-tightly screw on the ring.  For the saved jars bought from the store with food stuffs in them in the center lid here, just screw the lids on tight, but not so tight you'll need a body builder to remove them later in life!

Now we play the "I hope they seal" game!  If you have ever canned anything in your life, you know this game...if you haven't, Welcome to Round One!  In this game, you patiently wait for the "pop" sound as the "norm", but since there's no boiling of the filled jars here...we won't be playing by the audio-rules.  As you fill and seal your jars, put them on a tray with at least some sort of lip (I used my big roasting has handles) after lining it with paper towels or newspaper (I went with paper towels, they were closer to me).  Now go empty out space in a closet somewhere!  (What, you did that before you started cooking?  Show off.)  Once you have the space you need for your tray, pop it in the closet, close the door and forget about it for a few days!  Now go check your "win" if all the centers are sucked down (like when you bought them with food in them last time)!  Don't worry if they didn't seal in this recipe though...I read a note somewhere that said to simply "eat those jars first"!  This recipe is all about the fermentation of the really won't "go bad" over the course of the few months they sit in the closet, but don't plan on giving those jars away or keeping them in your cupboard for years on end!  I checked on my jars last night and all six sealed!  So now, we wait....and wait....and wait...until December 28th (two months) before we can crack a jar open and see how successful this attempt really was.  Remember when eating your homemade 'Kraut to rinse it in a strainer under some cool tap water before cooking!  It's been sitting in a salt bath for 2 months!

I bought a bottle of White Vinegar in the pint size specifically to use in this recipe because I wanted to re-purpose the bottle when I was done.  Do you remember back when my Mother was here and we made all those chicken dishes?  One of the dishes we made was Chicken in Raspberry Cream sauce.  Well, we had a chance to try it out of the freezer a week or so ago and it's really good!  So, I wanted to have a batch of Raspberry Vinegar on hand for this recipe (which takes an entire batch of the Vinegar) as well as trying my hand at a Raspberry Vinaigrette with it.  This is another super simple recipe...White Vinegar, Splenda, and Raspberry DaVinci's (my own modifications here because the original recipe called for Raspberry cake flavoring which I don't have).  I made a double batch (next time I'll quadruple the batch and use a brand-new bottle of Vinegar), started by pouring vinegar from another bottle I had in the cupboard into the freshly emptied bottle (see where starting with a fresh bottle would be handy?), added my Splenda via funnel, and followed that with the Coffee Flavoring.  Shake to mix and store in the cupboard!

Let's see...what else is new?  I changed cell phones (again).  With the release of the Iphone 4s at Sprint, my other half upgraded his phone from the Android he had (the Samsung Google phone), leaving it sitting around the house looking lonely.  After a recent system "upgrade" on my HTC Arrive, I could no longer receive photos via text message!  No amount of research and trying all the different suggestions helped...I spent a week getting "Get Media Content Now" messages that would never download.  So, yesterday, we took both phones in and had them "flip-flop" the numbers (we currently have a fourth number that no one is using, but we can't do anything with it until the contract expires in a few months, it is cheaper to just keep it around at this point anyway).  The gal at the Sprint store couldn't get the phones working, so she sent us away telling us it could take up to 4 hours for the swap to go through, leaving me with two "bricks".  Five hours later...we went back to the Sprint store and another employee got the phones working, but somehow my Data stopped working (on my number)!  My other half turned around and took the phone back to the store where they finally got everything working on my line.  (Sounds a little reminiscent of last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas where I went through 5 phone replacements because each replacement had a new "something" wrong with it, huh?) 

So now, I have the Google phone up and running and am finding all sorts of things to do with it.  First, there's a Blogger app!  I need to figure out how to get that working (it needs a code or something I haven't figured out yet), but that means I can still blog when I'm not at home (like Christmas and again in January when we go to Vegas)!  My new favorite app though has got to be the Starbucks one.  Have I mentioned I really like the way their gift cards work?  You can reload them, add to them if you get a second, third, fourth, fifteenth card, whatever!  Not only that, but they have a reward program attached to the buy "x" number of coffees and they give you free coffee!  They also give you a  free cup of joe on your birthday (or rather within a few weeks of it)!  Yup, I said coffee!!!  But, back to the out your card number in your connects to your account...and then, whether you have your card with you or not, you have your card with you!  You push the button to "pay", it pops up with a bar code, you hand your phone to the cashier, and they scan the bar just paid for your coffee (or tea) with your cell phone!  I haven't tested this app yet...but I am so jazzed!  It also gives you your card balance at a need to find the website, log in, yada, yada, yada....or do what I usually do and say "I don't know how much is here, but let's start with this"!  I have enough left on my card for one cup of coffee (Sugar Free Vanilla Breve with a splash of Heavy Cream, if you want to get all technical about it) before I will be down to cents only and need to refill my card.  I found recently (several month ago) that I really like Starbucks over other coffee shops, even if their sugar free flavorings are boring and very few, first, they make all their whipped cream with heavy cream, so I can ask for it in my coffee.  Also, they have no problem with my ordering a Latte made with half and half (that makes it a Breve by the way)...if they aren't super busy, I ask for just a splash of the heavy cream...I find this is easiest and actually gets done if you go to one that does not have a busy drive-through.  The one at the Safeway near my house is awesome at following the request perfectly!  You also get to chat with the person making your coffee!  Last time I made a trip out of town I had a chat about keeping chickens inside city limits with my barista (whose boss is also low-carbing life and raised chickens, but did not live in the city)!  Because her boss (I believe it was a previous boss) low-carbed life, she understood the order and was fascinated that I had chickens as pets. 

The "bookshelf" app will come in handy in a few weeks when my sister has nephew #4, I have pre-loaded Sherlock Holmes and Grimm's fairy tales on it so that I have something other than movies the other three have seen hundreds of times to keep them occupied.  I'm hoping to wind down their evenings with a half hour (45 minutes) of reading to them rather than the standard half hour of watching a movie.  Here's hoping she puts off "popping" until her due date and then I won't have to really worry so much about bed times since the boys will be out of school for the Thanksgiving holiday!

Also over the weekend, I finally got lights hung up in the Chicken coop!  A little late though it seems...the girls have been on an "egg strike" for well over 3 weeks now.  AT first I was getting one or two eggs a day, which seemed about right since Henri decided she really wanted to be a Momma in November!  She went broody and spent about 4 days insisting on sitting on the fake egg in her nest box.  We finally broke her broodiness by pulling the fake eggs out of both nest boxes (she tried swapping nests one day).  With the fake eggs back in the boxes (no fake egg confused the hell out of the other two), we still aren't getting any eggs!  To make matters worse, we are now getting zero eggs each day.  So, the theory of the Christmas lights in the coop was put to the test.  Several years ago we were given two 18-foot strands of white rope lights, but we really have never had a good place to use them.  We do now!  I loosely strung one set up inside the coop, over the nest boxes, to simulate is no where near as bright, but it does wake the girls up a while before sunrise as was evident by the fact that they were up before we were this morning, even if it was still too dark in the run for them to leave the coop!  They paced back and forth at the door until sunrise, it was amusing to watch!  The second strand of lights, when I relocate them, will go out into the run to provide them with enough light to get to the feed and water...not enough water could also be an issue in the slowed egg production.

On my "to-do's" this week....cook up the two pie pumpkins I bought, fresh pumpkin just tastes better than the canned stuff!  That being said, I may try my hand at Pumpkin Butter again...low-carbed, of course!  Cooking up Pumpkins means I'll also have Pumpkin seeds to roast!  I really enjoyed the sweet batch I made several weeks ago...tossed in EVOO, Splenda, and Pumpkin Pie Spice...then roasted in the toaster oven (my new favorite kitchen appliance) at 350 for about an hour, they were so yummy I ate the whole batch the night I made them!  Good thing it was a batch for a tiny "decorative" pumpkin!  Find the rope lights that are "lost" in the garage somewhere!  Then, of course, get them hung in the run and attached to the light timer.  Which leads me to "fix the light timer" so that it turns the lights off a while earlier, but also turns back on a few hours before it is set to now.  Also for the chickens, we need to purchase a "Pail and Bird Bath De-Icer" unit, $34 at Aslin-Finch, but $40 if I order it online!  Guess where I'm going to get it from?  I also need to purchase a beefier chain for the water/nipple system...the plant chain I have it on now isn't strong enough to hold a full 5-gallons of water, but once I get the de-icer unit, I'll need to keep the bucket fuller as to not burn out the unit!  I also need to clean out the coop again.  It would seem that the older the girls get, the more "full of it" they are too!  We bought a big bag of "Western Orchard Grass" to put in the nest boxes to replace the Alfalfa Hay that is in there now, it's getting a bit "dirty" looking, so fresh boxed are in order!  I also need to get some plastic (in the form of an old shower liner) tacked up near the large air vent (big hole in the side of the coop) before the snow flies, according to the weatherman (Dave Law), we have a good chance of that "four-letter word" flying this week, yuck!  Winterizing of the coop needs to be done ASAP!

We bought the girls some Suet cakes while at Aslin-Finch yesterday too...they're on sale right now for $0.87 each, but check your dates!  It wasn't until I got home that I noticed it, but one of the cakes I bought expired over a year ago!  Rather than making another trip out, I just fed that one to the girls yesterday was a chilly day so I figured the cracked corn and beef fat were a good treat to help them stay warm.  The current "favorite treat" though is a simple dish of water...they go bonkers over a coffee can of straight water!  Clyde dips her entire head under the water!  I guess they really aren't as fond of the nipple system as I am, but since I'm working with the "cheapest possible way to keep them fed and watered", they won't be changing back to a watering dish this year!  The heated poultry watering fount is nearly $50!  I'll give them the warm water after I boil up a package of Spinach for them..."Chicken Tea"!  That way I can also sneak in some "good for them" Apple Cider Vinegar too.  Speaking of giving them treats...I think they have seen the last Cantaloupe from me!  The other day I gave them the rinds, with lots of flesh still on them, of two slices of the melon.  Last time I did this, they left the outer rind behind and I picked it up and tossed it away (behind the shed in our pseudo-compost heap)...this time around though, they ate the whole darned thing!  And then proceeded to have bright blue-green poos for two or threes days after the fact!  Other than the brightly colored poo piles everywhere, they are all behaving as normal, it was just a real shock to see it!

Up there a few paragraphs, I mentioned cleaning out the a general rule, we have one closet (a coat closet that is nowhere near a door) that we don't use for much.  I do however use it for boxes when I start collecting them around September for wrapping Christmas gifts in.  This means that at the moment, my "normally near empty" closet is packed to the brim!  Not only do I stash my boxes in there, but gifts I buy throughout the year (I love clearance sales!) also get stuffed in there!  As does the "junk" I don't want to deal with or am not sure where to put it just yet (this includes a table leaf to a big table that we are currently not using, the ironing board, and three, count 'em three, mirrors that need to find places to hang on the wall still!)  The ironing board actually goes in this closet, as does the iron if I could ever find a good spot for it to sit.  What also "lives" in this closet are my arts & crafts supplies specifically for when our nephews are around (once a year)...foam craft pieces, a weaving loom, glitter paint pens, construction paper, a drawing "kit" that has markers, crayons, and colored pencils in it as well as a set of water color paints, and a 4-pack of Play-Dough and set of small cookie cutters to go with the Play-Dough!  When there is room, the set of "small" Lego's also goes in here, but at the moment they are downstairs with the rest of the toys in the toy box.  I did say this is a mostly unused closet didn't I...I think I lied!  At any rate, I got my empty boxes "neatly" stacked on one side of the closet now with the fermenting "Kraut on the other side.  At some point in the near future, I need to condense all my craft supplies into a single box and get the whole thing moved into the closet in my "office", where my yarn and fabric crafts now reside (with the expectation of the office part being moved to the planned spot in the basement and this room actually becoming a "craft/guest room" full-time).  At the moment though, a large portion of that closet is occupied by crocheted and knitted gifts awaiting the proper gift-giving occasion (mostly Christmas).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Warning, Graphic Photos Below!

Okay, you have been warned!

This is where I'm going to do a little "show & tell" about my recent surgery, 'cause I know you're just dying to see what the inside of me looks like (mostly because I want to share what fascinates me), I am adding photos taken of my innards.  If I could figure out how to share the videos, I'd do that too...but since I can't, for now I'll just describe them.

First, let's start with the pretty flowers my Aunt sent me!  Everyone likes flowers right?  (This is your opportunity to see a pretty picture while you decide if you really want to see exactly what my Liver, Uterus, and Ovaries look like...if you are squeamish, don't go past the pretty flowers!)  Sadly, as of today, they all need to be thrown out, but for about 5 days, I have enjoyed this lovely bouquet sitting next to my monitor on my desk in my office.  Now that I actually own a vase...I may buy myself flowers from time to time, since no one else does, lol.

Also in the photo...see that corner of computer screen?  That's a recent gift from my other half, he bought me a second monitor, which I am now completely in love with!  I spent a total of 18 hours over 2 days fishing in Dalaran (World of Warcraft city for all you non-WoW players) in an attempt to finally fish up my Giant Sewer Rat pet (1 in 1000 drop rate, I have cast my line well over 5000 times since the pet was released, still no pet for me).  In that time, someone popped in, sat next to me for about 20 minutes and fished up my pet dab-nabbit!  I have also watched all 2.5 seasons of Seaquest DSV (2032 for that last half season), the entire series of Earth 2 (another TV show that only lasted part of a season, but I realy liked it then and now), and the first 45 or so minutes of Meet Joe Black...all streaming through Netflix to that second screen.  Still no freaking pet, but I got a lot of really old TV watched in the process, lol.

The 'Pass the Pigs' game is there...still unplayed, but someday we'll get to it.  And down there in the very bottom of the photo...Sims3 Pets!  My other half (better half this past week or so, since I have been barely functional) went out and got it for me while I was in the hospital, he's so sweet (even if it wasn't flowers)!  I am now completely re-addicted to playing The favorite activity at the moment in that game is "anything to do with the horses"!  I'm in the middle of building a horse breeding/rescue lot...but back to what I'm supposed to be writing about!

So, the surgery...we arrived at Sacred Heart bright and early (before the sun woke up) at 6:20am, earlier than the 6:30am check-in which the check-in nurse felt the need to point out to me.  I was banded with the first in a series of plastic/paper wristbands, handed a plastic folder with paperwork in it and told they were "full downstairs, so go sit in the waiting room up here, but don't pee and don't leave"...cause I guess they thought I looked like I'd run away and hide in the potty?  About 5 minutes later, the entire group of us (my Honey and I along with  two sisters and their elderly Mother) were told to go ahead and headed downstairs...apparently we were supposed to know that meant to walk over to the elevator and go to level "L1R", not that anyone had told us that...we got told to "go" and that we should already know where we were "going" to!  That plastic folder I was handed?  It was labeled "L1R", but that hadn't been pointed out when I was told to go wait on the bench.

Once down in "L1R", we walked down a short hallway to another nurse's station, better to call this a "check-in desk", since I don't think the gal in scrubs sitting behind the desk was an actual nurse...  After checking in (for a second time in under 10 minutes), I was sent to wait in yet another chair.  Soon after my "pre-op" nurse came to get me and we were whisked away into a little room with a giant glass wall, the pre-op room where we would wait, I would get naked, and they'd do everything they needed to do in the next 2.5 hours before my surgery.  Blood Pressure first, it was high (imagine that!).  Then, I was led to a bathroom and told to pee in a cup, since I'm under 52 years old, I run the "risk" of being pregnant (even though the fibroid was keeping that from happening along with the fact that "Aunt Flo" was here for a visit).  Not that I mind peeing in a cup...but what I do mind is the inevitable "peeing on my hand"!  It would be so much easier if they just had me pee in a "pee hat" (actual name for the plastic bucket looking thing they can put under the seat to collect everything in.  Funny story here...when I was 16, I participated in a drug trial for IGF-1, a drug that would have been awesome, if it didn't also speed up Diabetic Retinopathy.  I had appointments every 4-6 weeks and for 24 hours prior, I had to pack around a pee hat and a jug to collect all my urine in...not only could I fill the 1-gallon jug in under 8 hours, but I routinely overfilled the pee hat!  I have a very healthy bladder system...the second visit, they gave me 2 jugs, assuming I couldn't possibly fill 2-gallons over a 24-hour period...they were wrong by the way, so they went back to one jug and just had me collect first thing in the morning and once or twice more throughout the day...I still filled the jug for them.)  Back in the glass room, I got my "uniform" for my visit...a backless "dress", a pair of what they called "underwear", and blankets straight out of the oven.  The underwear are not a normal part of the "uniform", but I needed something to put a pad on...  Then it was all blood draws, IV lines, and waiting for everyone else to be ready.

I have deep and rolling veins, what this equates to is lots of needle sticks when someone wants blood from me, or in this case, access to my bloodstream for drugs.  I warn them now, it usually means fewer sticks in the end.  The nurse thought she found one, numbed the area (ie the vein itself) to try and make it "hold still", and lost it...a few minutes of digging around and then she gave up and moved on to my other arm where she finally got a vein to hold still long enough to get the IV the back of my hand, those are very painful by the way!  See all that tape in the photo?  I still have tape residue on that hand, as well as on every other bit of skin they decided to tape or bandage in some way...

I'm not sure if you caught it (or can see it now), but the red/white striped band around my wrist is there because I'm allergic to Hydrogen Peroxide.  It is one of those "weird things about me" that is very uniquely weird to does very, very bad things to my body!  Sure, it cleans wounds and such...but it also has a chemical reaction with my body that actually eats away the skin!  First, it hurts like a S.O.B., then the entire area turns bright yellow (I'm talking bright yellow, not a little jaundiced looking), after that, any skin the Peroxide hits turns white and dies (I use a Peroxide based contact cleaner...if I'm not extremely careful with it, and I get some on my fingers, I lose a few layers of skin off where it hits...the Peroxide there gets neutralized overnight and makes it safe for me to use though).  So, I try to stay as far away from it as possible...also, I didn't want to get a bath of it thinking they were cleaning my wounds...they could have done a lot of damage thinking they were helping.  I ended up with 3 wristbands for my stay...the red/white allergy band, the plastic and paper one I first got when I got there (this one had my bar code on it so they could pull me up on the computer and make sure I was getting the meds I needed to be getting and not the ones meant for my roommate or someone down the hall.  The last one, I really have no idea what it was for...It was hand-written with my name, the date, and some numbers that I believe are the code for the hospital (there are several hospitals all tightly packed into one area here).  When they were originally put on, they were put on very tight...the anesthesiologist, maybe it was the surgery nurse, told me they would be removing them during surgery and would make sure to put them on looser when they were done.

While waiting for everyone to get ready, they started me on an IV bag of "Electrolytes"...I think this is just a fancy cover-up for having something going in you so when they add they "knock you outs" you don't notice it right away.  When the anesthesiologist came in to give me a once over, he declared me to have a Heart Murmur...this is something I need to talk to my "regular" doctor about, but I haven't called her yet to make an appointment...yes, I'm procrastinating.  Sometime after 8:40, the last time I can remember looking at the clock, he came back in, put a syringe full of something in my IV, and that is the last thing I remember until I was waking up in recovery at 3:25pm (I asked what time it was and got an amazingly accurate answer back).  Apparently though, I was chatting away as they wheeled my bed out of the room on the way to surgery, for all I know, I got myself onto the operating table after "meeting" the robot!

Post surgery, there are a few things I remember with vivid recollection.  First, my "magic button"...the transport dude called it that...this was the button that fed me my pain killing Narcotics!  It was like Morphine, but apparently much safer to use.  The nurse in recovery asked me what my pain was on a card with smiley to not-so-smiley faces on it and then reminded my to push the button..."what button?" I asked, evidently, she had handed it to me and I kept dropping it.  Before leaving recovery, the "dude" (I don't remember seeing his face, I remember his face being where I could see it, but I have no idea what he looked like...his partner was an older guy though) made sure I got to push my button one last time before he unplugged it and they started wheeling me through the hospital to my room for the night.  Once there, he plugged me back in and tied the "magic button" to the bed rail for me...I had dropped it several times while he waited for his partner to arrive to take me.  Though, I assume the tying the button to the bed thing is "SOP" for his job, I really appreciated it!  The second thing that I was in absolute love with (the first being that magic button) was the "knee-high intermittent compression device" other words, a leg massager!  If only they hadn't been plastic...I had been sweating up a storm since walking into the hospital that morning, so the plastic against my skin wasn't all that great once the "knock me outs" really started wearing off.  The nurse I had once my other half left though decided the noise was annoying her and so she turned them off!  Luckily, she wasn't my nurse for very long, and when the overnight nurse came on and I told her they hadn't done anything for a while, she turned them back on for me, they really made my legs feel better!  They also are there to help prevent blood clots from forming in someone who has spent hours not moving her legs...yup, I really didn't like that nurse, but more on her later....

As far as managing my blood sugars go...the hospital SUCKED at it!  I understand wanting me to run a little high during surgery, but I was told they'd be managing it by keeping me right around 200, which in all honesty, isn't that high.  However, the first test I can remember after that was 280!  The lowest I ever was throughout the evening, overnight, and into the next morning was 263...  The nurse I was talking about before that turned off my leg machine?  Here she is again...she walked into my room, shoved a needle in my arm, and turned to leave.  Before she got too far I asked her what she had just put in me (my right to know before it went in dammit)...Novalog (woot!  Insulin!), "how much?"...3 units!  I told her that was going to do nothing for the blood sugars, I need 1 unit to bring me down 10 "points"!  The answer I got as she left the room was "well, we'll see." (I'm going to cuss here) Bitch.  But, let's fast forward to my savor in nurse's clothing who came on duty somewhere between 8 and midnight...when I asked her for insulin because my blood sugars were still very high and it was making it harder for me to breathe (not an easy task due to the pain I was in anyway), she tried calling my Endo to get an order to increase my insulin (because apparently, I am not able to decide that on my own), except, my surgeon wrote down the wrong they kept telling the hospital staff "no one here by that name" and hanging up on them!  Hours later, she finally came and told me that they were trying to find someone in the field that knew me because they didn't have the right office...I gave them the right name, they called back and got put through to the partner that was on-call that night...not my doctor.  Unfortunately he was a tool...he claimed to have never heard of me (well, duh, I'm not your patient nimrod!) and therefore was not  going to even suggest they veer away from the standard procedure that the hospital has in place for all diabetics (types 1 and 2) when it comes to insulin.  The nurse did "bump me up" to the next level of care, which doubled the amount of insulin she could give me (I got another 6 units somewhere around 12am), but still did nothing for bringing me down.  At this point, they were refusing to give me any Lantus too because I wasn't eating's the kicker though...the kitchen is only open 8am to 8pm!  Want something to eat between there?  Tough!  I finally begged a sugar free jello out of the fridge the nurses keep snacks in...everything else was full of sugar, what a great thing to give someone who already has high blood sugars and is on a low-carb diet!  Apparently though, Jell-o didn't count as actual food...  In the morning, the surgeon finally made it around to see me about 7am, he okayed a dose of Lantus for 35 units (I was asking for my full 54 that I normally reasoning was that (duh) my Lantus is what helps regulate my blood is a 24 hour, long acting insulin and it imperative to not interrupt it!), but I had to eat my breakfast before they'd give me any insulin...someone really needs to educate the hospital on Diabetes Care!

Some time after 9am, a Type 1 Diabetes advocate showed up at my bed...the hospital has an oversight group that specifically watches over the care of the type 1's all over the hospital...sadly, this is a 9 to 5 group.  Because my sugars had not been below 260 all night, I was near the top of the stack of patients who needed help that morning.  I was given another scale to rate what level of care I thought I got was...with 10 being "I'm calling a lawyer when I get out of this place", I gave them a 9...besides the one nurse who couldn't do anything without a doctor's approval, the rest had really not given a flying flip about my diabetes and what I was saying needed to be done about it.  The advocate got me a little more insulin, but since I was "checking out" at Noon, she was a little late in getting there.

Because of this surgery, if we ever do get pregnant, I'll need a C-section to deliver...which means another stay in the hospital.  Next time though, they will not be managing my Diabetes beyond the operating room...I'll get my other half taught how to manage it (he really should know this anyway for if/when I get sick...) and he will be doing it for me until I can manage it myself again.  I played nice this time around, even though I had my meter and insulin sitting right there by my bed all night, concealed in my little black suitcase looking box...they thought my toothbrush was in there.  Next time, I'll be giving myself insulin whether they like it or not!  I was miserable all night...granted I probably would have been anyway, but I could have at least been miserable and been able to breath better!  It is really hard for a non-diabetic to understand the weight you feel on your chest (specifically on your lungs) when sugar levels get too high...but stack an entire set of encyclopedias right on top of your chest, up high so they're crushing your ribs against your breath in....that's kind of what it feels like, but not really...I think that would be easier to do.

Last, but not least on my rant of things I do remember from my surgery...the food!  Yes, I realize it was hospital food and it really isn't supposed to taste "good", but come on, at least get the diet right!  First, remember how I said I "came to" around 3:30?  At 5:30 they brought me dinner!  I promptly sent it away, not only was I not hungry, there wasn't one damned thing on the plate I could eat on my low-carb diet!  Chicken, noodle casserole of some sort, corn, dinner roll (or something), fruit cup, skim milk, a few other odds and ends...all loaded with carbs.  The first nurse on duty even tried to force feed me Cranberry Juice mixed with 7-Up!  I did except her offer of a Diet Lemon-Lime soda took me all night to drink the 8 ounce can, my preferred beverage was ice the gallon! I drank 4 or more of those 32-ounce pitchers throughout the course of the night.  When they finally brought my breakfast (which I could not special order because I couldn't find the freaking phone to call them from), it was scrambled eggs (1/3 cup, so I'm assuming it was actually some sort of "fake" eggs or egg beaters type)..they were worse than chewing on cardboard...even with the little packet of salt and pepper I was allowed, along with another pile of items I could not eat on my diet!  God forbid they put a little meat on the scone, bowl of Cheerios, another fruit cup, more skim milk...that's what they sent me!  The saving grace of the while plate was the little 6 ounce cup of coffee they also sent...however, the sweetener was an off-brand blue packet (which they gave me 2 of)...and if I wanted to put anything other than that nasty skim milk which I had already told them I couldn't drink, the nurse could "slip" me some powdered creamer!  Why not just give me a mini moo or two???  Yes, there are 10 calories in one, but 0 carbs!  The entire "menu" is centered around carb counts these days...a packet of powdered creamer has 5 grams of carbs (no joke!), but that was my option?  Needless to say, I drank my coffee black with 1/2 a packet of "Sweet Thing" in it...I am still craving a giant mug of something from Starbucks...
 Take a look a the carb counts for this single meal at the hospital...this is what they consider "healthy" in the kitchen!  Oh, I forgot about the OJ completely...  That's a meal with 86 grams of carbs!  That is more than 4 days worth of carbs for me!  And on any given day, I eat a heck of a lot more food than that!  I choked down the eggs and drank my coffee (which wasn't even hot by the way) and called it got me the much needed insulin at any rate!  Check out the carb count on the scone Ipod touch is bigger than that thing was...if you cut it diagonally though and laid the two halves together, that's about the size of that "pastry"...  Even with refusing to eat what they called food...I gained about 6 pounds from my overnight stay.  Somewhere along the line someone admitted that the electrolyte solution they were using had added glucose to it!  I had Google'd the specific electrolyte solution prior to going in for surgery...there should not have been any sugars in it!  As of today though, I am back to what I weighed the morning of my surgery.

The parts I don't remember but have been told about...vaguely:

Here's where the squeamish should really stop...

So here is what my tummy looked like within hours of surgery...four cuts, plus one hidden in my belly button, along with the "anchor" wounds from the kickstands that hold the robotic arms in the holes cut into me.  What's missing here are the bruises that formed after the it looks all pretty and "nice".  The other thing "missing" is the small scratches all over my tummy and chest that I gave myself throughout the night that followed surgery.  The pain meds made me itch terribly!  I actually took a chunk of skin off with a fingernail on my's healing along with everything else but ouch!  The pain meds also made me nauseous and I actually vomited a little overnight.  The nurse (the one I liked) gave me something that made the nausea go away, but it gave me gas and hiccups!  Both of which really hurt...  Technically the med didn't do either, they were both a side effect of being blown up like a balloon for the operation, the gases have to get out somehow!

A few days later and I'm black and blue all over...  As a side note, I have all my bits covered, it just doesn't look like I do..  That deep purple bruise doesn't actually hurt (the bruise doesn't anyway), but just under the edge of my ribcage on that side has been the source of 90% of my pain since Tuesday afternoon last week!  I'm guessing that that is the side the had the majority of the fibroid listing into it, as well as the side that my Ovary was actually attached to my Uterus via some Endometriosis.  Yup, lotta "fun" going on in there...  There is loads of dissolving sutures (stitches) and Super Glue holding me together still!  Though, the gobs of superglue have fallen out of my belly button and all that remains there is a bright red line were they cut into me.

My innards:

I have no idea why, but the surgeon provided us with a photograph of my "beautiful" Liver...yes, it looks to be nearly encased in fat, but imagine what it must have looked like a year ago when I had nearly 40 extra pounds of the stuff floating around in there!

He couldn't get my entire Fibroid in one photo...but remember, he did say this was the size of a volleyball!  That big round thing the robotic arm is resting on is the fibroid, totally encased within the wall of my uterus!  It was between layers of the wall, to the inner wall but not through it, so that meant he was able to leave the interior wall intact, bettering the chances for successful pregnancy once everything has healed back up.

In this last photo, the stuff that looks like snot is the Endometriosis, it's Uterine lining growing outside of the Uterus.  This is something I have been "checked" for twice in the last 4 years and been told I didn't have!  Not only did I indeed have it, but it was so thick on one side that my Ovary had become attached to the outer wall of my Uterus!  The Fibroid didn't help anything either, on that same side, the fibroid had smashed my Fallopian tube flat and was smashing that Ovary too.  I have a few more weeks of healing before I get my period again, but here's hoping for something closer to what I'm told is a "normal" period this time!  The whiter glob is the Ovary here, the pink floppy looking thing is my Fallopian tube and the red (bloody) stuff on the white is the tissue growing where it doesn't is gone now.

I believe I have mentioned that I have video clips of the surgery as well...I still can't watch more than a few seconds of any of them without getting ooked out myself...but they are very interesting!  They range from the first incision into my Uterus clear through to the vacuuming out of the Fibroid!  Which is gross and cool all at the same time...imagine a round version of a "Flow-bee"...kind of like a vacuum tube that got it on with a blender...this would be their love child.  They basically twirl the fibroid around in circles while this tube cuts it into a giant ribbon  to be pulled out of the body through that "tiny" slice in the center of my belly.  However, in watching the 4 minute video..."I" clogged the vacuum!  It was like watching a cat vomit up a super long hairball...they had to stop the suction of the vacuum/blender love child, and pull the ribbon back out and start again!  It was very gross...but if I can get it figured out, I'll share it with anyone interested in watching!

But, here I am, a little over a week since my  surgery and feeling "better" every day!  Last night, I even spent the night back in my own bed!  This, I am sure, peeved Baby off to no end.  Since Frappy made her way upstairs to join the family (she spent months refusing to come upstairs when we first brought her home), she has replaced Baby on the bed at night.  When both my boyfriend and I are in bed, Baby and Frappy won't share the bed...although, when the boyfriend isn't there, the cats share the bed with me just fine.  At any rate, my not being there and having my office door open (and therefore access to the spare bed available), Baby has spent the last week in the spare bed with me.  Some days he didn't get out of bed until 4pm!  The spare bed is rather comfy though, I really can't blame him.  He was a very good kitty too, he only tried to step on my belly once in the whole week!  He spent the first few nights at the foot of the bed while I was using a giant mountain of pillows to elevate my head and keep me in more of an upright position...once I was laying flatter, he took over the unused pillow pile!

I'm still in the process of healing (as well as taking Advil and Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen), but am getting there.  Pants are still an issue for me...they hurt to wear so I am still basically "stuck" in dresses, unfortunately, I own a whopping 3 dresses that aren't "fancy dance" type dresses (which I own 2 of, one that now fits me and one that is still too small).  Of those three, one is way too big and the other two don't fit right (or look very good on).  I do have plans for leaving the house this evening...we tried it a few nights ago, but the pain of the pants I was wearing coupled with a bout of digestive issues made the evening very painful...also the bouncing around in the car due to our sucky roads put me near tears before we got to the restaurant.  I'm going to attempt another pair of loose fitting slacks again tonight...besides not really wanting to cook (again), I have a cooking and craft bug going pretty bad and it is really hard if not impossible to talk the other half into going to buy me 3 or 4 skeins of yarn and a vegetable that he hates with a passion...  It also gives me a chance to test and see how much "better" I really am feeling!  I am going to have to drive myself to the 2-week post-op appointment on the 2nd of November (Can you believe next week it'll be November?)...and I really need to be weened off the narcotics by then...they really make my head fuzzy!

As far as the Diabetes management is feeling much "lower" now.  As soon as I got home (I took a pain killer as soon as we got them from the pharmacy...the nurse who took me out to the car hit every bump in the hallway she could, I was crying because of the pain she inflicted on the way out of the hospital...they stopped feeding me pain killers at 9:30am and it was 1pm before I got to leave the hospital, I was already in a lot of pain) I took a large dose of Humalog to bring my blood sugars took 2 doses of 20 units to bring me under 200.  Since then though, it's like the Fibroid was requiring it's own insulin supply...I have had to cut my bedtime Lantus dose from 26 units to 15 units to prevent middle of the night low blood sugars.  I may have to adjust this down even more as I was awoken at 5am this morning by yet another low blood sugar!  However, we had a bit of an issue last night with the needle on my Humalog pen, so I may have double dosed and not been aware of it.  We shall see what tonight/tomorrow brings blood sugar wise.

I will eventually get my "regular" doctor called about the murmur the anesthesiologist heard, but it won't be this month, mostly because there are only 4 days left in the month.  However, November and December are very busy months this year!  I have the post-op appointment on the 2nd, sometime between the 10th or so and Thanksgiving (early December if my sister had things her way) the latest baby is due, then I have another post-op on the 30th of November.  Then we get into the December mess...I have dentist appointments on the 5th and 7th to have some cavities fixed.  Mid-month we leave to go visit both sides of the family that live on Oregon, only to be home by Christmas morning.  Home for a few weeks and then in mid-January, we fly to Las Vegas on vacation!  This will be our second "real" vacation that we have ever taken together...I don't count going to visit family as a vacation...there is usually work and/or stress involved there!  Take our trip in December...the week before Christmas...I have to worry about packing foods that we can eat while staying with the other half's brother and his family...that means buying a box of Mini Moo's at Cash & Carry (no refrigeration needed), baking snacks we can have, preparing a recipe list of sides I can easily make us without dirtying every pan in their kitchen (no cook options are best), making sure there is still room in the SUV for the presents for everyone, and room for the dog, because she is going to spend a few days with "Grandma" while we visit them (she'll stay in the hotel with us while visiting my side of the family).  Eating at "my side of the family" will be less Mother is now following the Atkins diet as well and my sister plans to start after the baby is born.  So, most if not all things edible there will be things we can eat without worrying too much about it.  For the Vegas trip, we are worrying less about taking food and such...mostly because we are flying, but also because we do plan on "cheating" a bit while we're there.  Meals aren't so much of an issue, we can always eat the guts out of a burger or sandwich...but I don't see them offering too many low-carb drink mixer options!  And, we do plan on doing a bit of drinking while there.

I mentioned farther up that I gained 6 or so pounds...tomorrow morning is my "official" weigh-in for the week, but this morning's reading was 258.2, right where I was "unofficially" the morning of my surgery.  That is a step in the right direction anyway.

"Cooking" Bug...

Why, oh why couldn't I have thought of this a month ago?  I was on the phone this morning with my Mother, discussing her newest obsession with low-carb cooking, Cabbage.  It's a passion for food that we share, most likely because she loved it when I was a kid, so I got to eat a lot of it!  My favorite meal, even to this day, is Kielbasa in Sauerkraut with Potatoes.  These days though, I have replaced the Potato with Rutabaga or simply skip it and have Kraut and Kielbasa, a little pepper when it's hot and it is the perfect meal!  I have posted my version on here a while ago, so I won't go rehashing that one again.

This is still a pretty "carby" meal though because of the Sauerkraut...there is typically a lot of sugar used to make it!  This got me thinking this morning...there has go to be an easy way to make my own 'Kraut that removes a few carbs!  And there are many ways of making your own, as i found!  My favorite, and the one I'm gonna try to make, came from, though I did take note that several people found they needed twice as much brine as the recipe says to make...easy enough to accomplish, use half the cabbage or double everything else!

Why do I wish I found this months ago though?  Well, you make Cabbage into Sauerkraut by stuffing it all into a jar, putting it in the back of a closet, and letting it ferment for several months!  No real cooking involved here, except bringing the brine to a boil prior to putting it over the Cabbage.  So, if I calculate it with the minimum time of 2 months...and if I got it made first batch won't be ready until December 27th!  No time to test a batch if I wanted to give it as gifts this year.

So, no 'Kraut for Christmas for the Cabbage lovers in the family...which I believe is just the two of us anyway, but maybe next year?  That gives me about 10 months to decide if I like Red, Green, or a combo of the two best!  I think I have a head of Red Cabbage in my fridge...these things tend to grow legs and run to the back of the fridge when my other half is around. 

But, even if I don't, I'm making an effort to be ready to leave the house when he gets home tonight.  This will be the second time I have left home since my surgery, the first time didn't go so well, but I will post all about that a little later.  I'm on a mission tonight though, I have at least two crochet projects that are in desperate need of yarn so I can start them!  I chose the patterns for a few reasons...first, they call for Red Heart Super Saver yarn (the cheap stuff at $2.33 at Wal-Mart!), and secondly, both patterns call for a single skein!  Now that is a project I can get behind!  I'm hoping to pick up three or four skeins of yarn tonight, so while I'm out, the plan is to also get a couple of heads of lettuce too.  I'm going to size down the first batch for a few reasons; color options (I'll make some red, some green, and a jar or two of mixed), I'm not sure how I'll like it (and don't want to be stuck with 500 jars of yuck should my experiment fail), and I'm just weird that way (but you knew that, right?)!

It's a good thing I reread the recipe, I also need to buy more Vinegar!  Doubling the brine, I'm going to need a pint of Vinegar for 3 heads of Cabbage!  I also need 1 cup of Salt...better buy more of that least that I can buy in Bulk from WinCo!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Curtains and a Review!

As you may remember, I am a BzzAgent!  This means I get in on "campaigns" to try out new products (or older ones) and help the company advertise by word of mouth (or "word of typing?").  I am in my third campaign now, following StyleFind (great if you have lots of cash and are a size -2) and Bil-Jac dog food (Rosie loves this food, but it is nearly $50 for a 20 pound bag!).  The latest campaign is for Burt's Bees Sensitive facial products!

In my campaign package, I received a full-size bottle of the Daily Moisturizing Cream (morning use only) and the Facial Cleanser.  I'm not the world's best at remembering to put moisturizer on, so I have only used this a few times...mainly because when I do remember to put lotion on my face, it is right before bed (I've recently started using the Winter Solution day and night creams available from AVON).  The facial cleanser is easier to remember, I keep that in the shower next to my Shampoo!

When I first got the opportunity to try this product, I was especially excited because two of my nephews have mild to serious skin issues, as does their father.  I really wanted to get involved in this so that they could try the product!  But, what I have noticed in using it myself is that my skin feels softer!  I don't know that I really "like" either product though...the cleanser is "soap free" and therefore does not lather when you rub it on your is more of a mask and is also just as difficult to wash off!  Luckily, I have a mirror in the shower, otherwise I would come out of the shower with half the cleanser still on my face!

These products claim to "moisturize without redness or irritation"...well, that's mostly true.  While I don't get any "redness" from using this, the first several times I used either product, I got a mild burning sensation on my face!  Not the "oh, get it off!" kind, but it was there...I do not have that sort of reaction normally.  I did mention a while back about my brush with the newest AVON product in their Anew line...the irritation wasn't nearly that bad, but it did make me question whether I would continue use, luckily the burning sensation was completely gone after 3 or 4 uses.

What do I have to offer then?  Well, samples and coupons!  I have little samples of the Day cream (0.10 ounces, enough for 3-5 days of moisturizing, a little goes a very long way!) that also come with a $1 off coupon on them, as well as stand-alone $1 off coupons if you already know and love the Burt's Bees name!  All the products in the Sensitive line run around $15 each...not bad considering how well they work!  I was expecting to go to the store and find that they ran in the $30 range!

If you want to give them a try, let me know and I'll get a sample or a coupon to you!

Now, on to the curtains!  We have lived with the curtains that came with the house for the last 4 years...we finally cracked and went out and bought some of our own "cheap curtains"!  For my other half's office, we got black (his choice).  We were looking for decent and affordable blackout curtains, which we found at Wal-Mart for $9.87 a panel!  Not only that, but they aren't "drag the floor" curtains either!  Since the window in his office is behind his desk, he was constantly kicking the curtains that were there!

For my office (aka the guest bedroom), I went back yesterday and bought a set of Maroon curtains (they match the carpet)...I could have gotten longer ones for in here, but then I'd have to deal with keeping them away from the heating vent under the window.  If and when we ever get around to replacing the carpets, I won't mind replacing the curtains of these don't "match"...for now, they are blocking the light and they also have an "energy smart" coating to help keep some of the heat in the house (or out of the house during hot months).  The bedroom also got a short set of curtains, but the ones in there are a light beige color...I really hate the blue carpet and didn't want to add the blue anywhere else either!  They really do block out the light!  I stumbled around the bedroom early this morning in total blackness!  Normally, there was enough light coming in through the old curtains that I could see my way to where my bras hang behind the door, I ended up grabbing the "too big for me" sports bra this morning!  The house feels cooler to me, but we did just readjust our heating/cooling system to the "cold months" setting, we don't heat the house any higher than 69, but during hot months, we only cool it to 74...that 5 degree difference is really noticeable!

While I was on the curtain isle...I glanced through the kitchen sets.  Here again, we had the curtain (well, the lower one never survived getting washed) that came with the house.  The kitchen is Blue...horrible, horrible color for a kitchen!  Did you know the color blue actually suppresses appetite?  At least that's what "they" any rate, I'm not fond of it, but, the counter tops are blue, so I'm stuck with it.  Finding curtains to look good are a challenge...however, I did manage to find a 3-piece curtain set!  The top valance is a frilly little number with sides that dangle down and the other two "pieces" are the straight cut curtains to go below thew valance.  The picture looked great!  Got it home, tore down the old valance, moved my smallest Avocado tree a little, and put up the valance!  Here's where it gets sad...the wind is so short, that the valance ends a mere 3 to 4 inches above the window sill!  That is with the valance up as high as I can go in the window!  It looks "nice", but I was really hoping for the finished look of the photo!  For now, I am keeping the straight pieces in the package...I don't think they will ever fit together in the window, but should I ever not have plants there...I could switch them out or even use them in the small windows downstairs (assuming I'd rather get new curtain rods down there than find curtains to fit the rods...).

Also of note in that kitchen photo...see that little yellow chick (planter) poking its head up?  That was a gift from my Grandmother to my Mother when I was born (or very near it)!  Isn't he just the cutest?  The other side of the Avocado is an Ivory Bell Pepper I have been trying to get to grow since's surviving, but not growing!  Next to that is my Burning Love Bush...also not growing, but staying green!  The Aloe plants (the 2 that are left) are also not growing, but they aren't dying either...  I have no idea what is up with those plants!  My Avocado trees, all three of them, are doing great!  The one still up in the kitchen really needs to go downstairs, it is outgrowing the window!  I have a larger planter, but still need one more to move the two smaller Avocado trees in to...then I can start planning the next "thing" to go into my little planters!  I'm thinking herbs for the winter, but we shall see...

Now the search begins to find panels to fit the tall, skinny window on the staircase!  I'd really like to replace the mini-blind with an actual curtain...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Major Catch-up! (Everything Else!)

 For whatever reason, Photobucket and I have different opinions on how this first photo should be "standing"...but, anywho...this is a photo of a photo...the original is a 5x7 photo of my Mother with her parents and all her brothers and sisters.  The only photo of the 12 of them that I know of!  At least the only one where all 12 where present...from left to right (top down) there is Nancy, Pat, Mary (aka Mom, my sister is in there too), Joe, Gail, Dan, Elizabeth, Dick, Donna, and Wayne, Wally and Marg (my grandparents) are the two sitting in front.  This was taken back in 1985 at their 49th wedding anniversary (celebrating their 50th because they fudged the year many moons ago when it wasn't "okay" to be pregnant before marriage...

Now, the reason for the photo of the photo!  We got this fancy new print/scan/copy/fax machine...I tried to scan some photos so that I could enlarge/shrink them to fit in the picture frames I have.  Turns out, they put something in the professional photos to keep you from doing this!  So, smart cookie that I am, I took photos of the ones I wanted to make fit in the frames and then cropped them down to remove the "table" from the background.  Then, I was able to print 4x6 "copies" to fit the frame!  They aren't "perfect", but from a distance, they don't look half bad either!

The picture frame thing is a project I have had in the back of my mind for a long time now.  We've lived here over 4 years and still had no photos on the walls!  So, I went to town purchasing $3 and $4 plastic frames at Wal-Mart, I like the look of having all black frames.  Then, I spent a few days pouring over all the photos we have of all the nephews (we currently have 4 nephews and come Thanksgiving that number will grow to 5) and both sides of our family.  I even refrained from putting pet photos up!  They're going to need their own wall I think anyway...
In the end, I got 2 groupings of photos hung on the wall and I have one more collage-type frame left to fill still.  See that frame with 4-openings in the top right corner?  The top right photo in that frame is the one of the 12 I posted first here, in a neat little 4x6 package!  We get lots more pictures of my sister's kids than we do of our nephew on the other half's side, so the number of photos is a bit lop-sided as this set, there are 3 photos of him, all in a frame together on the right side.  The 8x10 here is one we special ordered of the oldest nephew last Spring...we are the only ones that have a copy of that photo!

The second group of photos turned out harder to snap a photo of...but I did manage to capture a semi-decent look at it behind the other half while playing a game last week!  Here we have space in 5x7 frames for the boy's school photos, the two that are in school right now anyway...and room for three more frames in the coming years (the boys are 7, nearly 6, nearly 4, 2, and almost born), we have a while yet though...

The look I'm getting in this photo was due to the game...we got our copies of Quelf and The Logo Game a few weeks early, so while Mom was here, we played a game of Quelf!  I had a "showbiz" card that required me to "pretend" to take photos of the other players while saying things like "Work it, move it!" and "Who's a dirty bunny?"!  I got extra points by using a real camera...  The game is pretty fun, but would be a lot more fun with more people.

Other than the photo project, I got a few other things done around the house.  My Pothos had outgrown its location on the stairs, even I was bumping into it, so I'm sure it was really getting in the other half's way!  My solution came when I found the "Plant Pulleys" on clearance for $5 at Winco (for a 2-pack)!  It's a pulley with carabiners on either end, the pulley has a locking mechanism in it so you can safely raise and lower the planter for watering and such.  We already had a plant hook in the ceiling overlooking the downstairs right at the top of the staircase.  So, with help (I'm terrified of heights), I was able to get the plant hung over the open area upstairs.  Since we hung it here, it has grown at least another 6 inches too!  The great thing about Pothos plants is that you can cut off an end if it gets too long and just stick the cut end back in the dirt and a whole new plant will grow!  For now though, I'm letting this one grow has maybe 8 feet to go before it starts getting in the way downstairs!  I have since pinched the S-hooks on the black chain was making me nervous when I moved the planter up and down to water it.

Sunday and today we bought new curtains for all three bedrooms (two of which we call offices) and the kitchen.  The bedrooms all got "smart energy" blackout curtains, though the light beige colored ones in the bedroom don't block much of the light there.  For the kitchen I found a "3 piece set" for under $8!  But, my kitchen window is tiny...the top tiered piece dangles down to about 4 inches above the window sill!  For now, I will save the other two curtains that came in the set...I may find a use for them somewhere else!

Last but not least on the whole "3 weeks of catch up thing"...last week when I took my Mom home, everyone at her house was sick.  Since I have surgery coming up next week (okay so not the "last" thing...), I stayed in a hotel overnight before driving home, to avoid getting sick.  Trying to find a "cheap but good" room at the last minute led me to  The "cheap" rooms ($45/night) were in hotels and motels that have been seedy dumps since I was a kid, so I opted to skip those.  Our usual favorite, The La Quinta, was $95 a night plus all the taxes and fees, more than I wanted to spend for a single night...especially when I didn't have the dog with me.  So, I ended up booking a room at the Shilo Inn, $80 plus taxes came to just over $88.  The room came with a ticket for free breakfast as well as a free beer or wine that evening in the lounge...I didn't use either though, breakfast alone just didn't appeal to me when I could get a sausage patty, folded egg, and a slice of cheese at McDonald's 2 hours down the road.  As a side note...don't get coffee at McDonald's...I ordered my cream and Splenda on the side...I got it mixed in and I'm pretty sure from the taste, that the creamer is powdered and full of carbs!  I wanted Starbucks...I have a gift card and I want to earn my free coffee darn it!  That being said, I've been spoiled by the drive-up Starbucks and the "Starbucks on every corner" aspect of living in a larger city...the only drive-up I know of in Central Oregon meant a trip in the wrong direction across town and so I opted to go toward home...4-6 small towns later, I finally gave up my search for Starbucks coffee and got it at McDonald' blood sugar was over 300 withing an hour of drinking my coffee!

But, back to the hotel room I did get!  Not knowing exactly what I was getting was sort of fun in a nerve wracking kind of way...I got the cheapest room available, a queen bed with kitchenette and sofa bed!  The room was huge!  The sofabed was in a living room are the size of my bedroom at home!  The kitchenette was tiny, but there was enough room to stand between the bar (with 2 stools) and the mini-fridge.  It had a 2-burner cooktop, a toaster, and a small set of pots/pans/dishes.  I took advantage of the fridge for all my "road snacks" (cheese and veggies), I even added a slice of sugar free pie from the Shari's across the street where I ate dinner.  I was glad to have that along too, I went low in the middle of the night and didn't really have anything with me to treat it!  In addition to all this "space", there was a standard "hotel room" attached too (bed, TV, bathroom)!  The living room even had a second TV and a fireplace!  Yep, I get psyched about stupid stuff...

Sadly, the cable was acting up, so no hometown TV for me...I watched movies on Netflix taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi instead!  I also drank a beer...but not the free one, I had brought my own from home...a single 12-ounce bottle of Michelob Ultra!  2.6 grams of carbs and a welcome drink after a 7 hour car ride (8 if you count taking my Mom home and driving back to the hotel) with another 7 hour trip planned for early the next morning!

Dinner that night was an Ala Carte order of Bacon, Eggs, and Cottage Cheese at Shari's.  It was free pie night, which we usually avoid, but it was close to the hotel (literally across the street) and we had been talking on the way down if it was worth eating the center out of the Marion berry pie or not.  As for the pie filling isn't worth it!  But, I did eat the whole slice, carb-y crust and all, when my blood sugars dropped below 50 around midnight!  I also ate a protein bar (free sample with our order from SDC, I love those guys and now my Mom does too!) that was full of "natural sugars", and a cup of coffee with 3 packets of sugar in it as well!  Being low and not at home is always rough, but it's especially scary when you are away from home, it's late, and you're alone!  Also, I only got cell phone reception if I stepped out into the grass off the patio of my room...

Okay, now the last fibroid "saga".  I have surgery scheduled for the 17th of this month, just 6 short days from now!  They'll be doing the surgery with the robot (which is awesome), so I should be home and back in my own bed by the evening of the 17th as well.  I have a pre-op appointment with my surgeon on Monday, then Surgery on Tuesday, the other half's birthday on Wednesday...then we get into the time frame when our 5th nephew is due!  For that, I'll be driving back to Central Oregon to help take care of my sister's other 3 boys.  Depending on when she has the baby (if it is by C-section it could be as early as the second week in November), we are talking about inviting her current youngest to come spend a few weeks with us here in Spokane.  She is due on Thanksgiving, and we will be back for Christmas 3 weeks after that (the week before Christmas), so we may have him for 3 to 4 weeks, it also depends on how long I stay in Central Oregon after the baby is born too.  But, for now, I am looking at renting a large car/minivan for a week.  I'm looking for a better deal than what I can find right now, which is just over $200 for the week!

The surgeon guesstimates that the fibroid is about the size of a volley ball right now...and I should see an immediate size change after surgery!  The last time I was pants shopping, I got into a size 20 comfortably...that is down from a tight size 28 a year ago!

Okay, I lied again...this is the last thing...  It has officially been 1 year since I started low-carbing life again!  So here are lots of snips from my weight loss Excel spread sheet!  I have talked about my extensive spread sheet before, but here is the overview...the really light grey (hard to read) bit is min/max total loss weights ("healthy" BMI range for my height) and a "sample" weight so I could work out kinks in the system.  All the pretty colors on the right is my color-coding "key", green ones are in the healthy BMI range, red is anything in the "overweight or obese" BMI range!  Orange is when I thought I'd reach a given goal...  On this one you can see my official start weight...297.2 pounds!  What is worse is that that weight is down from the 316 pounds I hit (on my scale at home) when I decided I needed to do something drastic!  I essentially lost over 20 pounds just prepping to start this way of eating!
And here is 1 year later...258.6 pounds!  I've dropped my BMI from 47.96 to 41.73 (using the calculation I found on the doctor uses a different one and says my BMI is still in the high 40's)!
Here are a few more things I keep track "mini goals", because one giant goal is hard to keep up on, especially when it is "loose half you mass, fatty!".  So, I have myself on a reward system of sorts...every 25 pounds I loose I buy myself something I wouldn't normally spend money on, even if I really wanted it.  My reward to myself for losing 25 pounds was a set of patio chairs!  Semi nice ones even...the bigger reward here is that my butt actually fits into the chairs now!  I can't even remember how long it has been since I didn't have to wonder "can that chair hold me?"...that is a nice one not to wonder about anymore!  I am nearing the 50 pound goal now...I just realized part of this part of the chart is "lbs to next goal" are actually 11.something pounds!  My average weight loss is just under 1 pound a week, perfect for what the doctors and health professionals call "safe weight loss"...the kind that stays off forever!  I have lost a total of 38.6 pounds in 1 year and am averaging 3.22 pounds lost each month.  This is my "see how good you're doing" section of my spread sheet!
This section actually sits above the section I just talked about...this has my starting weight, "end goal", my monthly goals (I don't pay this one too much attention anymore), and my actual monthly gains/losses.  These weights take my weigh-in on the first date of that month and subtract it from the first weigh in of the next month.  There is ups and downs between each week, but this doesn't count anything but the first and last weigh-in each month.
This is my favorite part of the whole spreadsheet, the graph!  I admit to changing the values on the left side...originally I had the min/max values set at 140/305, to encompass my whole weight loss journey.  Since it became obvious it wasn't going to happen in the 15 or so months I thought it would take, I dropped the min value to 230, a 75 pound difference in the min and max values.  This graph is a representation of what has been going on with my weight in a week by week glance.  The important thing here is really the overall trend (not pictured), that equals weight loss that is staying off!

As long as I stay at a semi-steady pace, I should be able to reach my "end goal" in about 3 more years, give or take a few months.  I think the pace I'm losing at is a little more realistic than my original goals, but nearly 40 pounds in a year is awesome in my book!  I wonder though, how big this fibroid could have gotten if I hadn't lost so much weight (or even just the inches) and noticed it...I really have no idea how long this could have been growing for (I suspect it's been there for a very long time...)!