On My Own

Well, the financial situation being what it is, I can’t go see my TCM practitioner anymore.  No more herbs, no more needles.  It’s so hard to know if it was helping or not, because my symptoms are so cyclic.  I’m going to keep the diet recommendations, at least for a while, to see if I notice any change with just the herbs gone. Then maybe I’ll try going back to my old diet (true vegan.)

Right now, I’m sort of back to baseline; knees hurt but mostly everything else is relatively pain free, itch died to an occasional flare, abdominal pain just barely starting its upswing, tired but not exhausted, brain fog minimal. This is the optimal time in my month; the one week that I feel fairly normal, functional.

I’ve been working on my plants;  discovered an infestation of caterpillars that ate all my arugula and watercress and is now attacking my kale.  At least now I know what’s happening.  So every morning now I’m out picking caterpillars off the undersides of my cauliflower and kale.  And combing the internet for organic solutions to pests.  I find it’s a case of too much information; every website has a different recipe.  I  may have to rely on good old fashioned hand removal.

My cukes have a ton of flowers; and the squash does as well.  I really hope to get some squash; it’s one of my favorite veggies.  The heat this week has been hard on all my plants; a lot of these fall veggies aren’t used to triple digit heat.  That is the advantage of having them in pots though; I can move them into the shade when I need to.  One of my tomato plants doesn’t look like it’s going to make it; the other seems ok.  I’m not sure what happened; it’s not the caterpillars; the leaves just wilted and died.  I can’t ever tell if it’s too much water or not enough.  It was right beside the other tomato plant, so they got the same; not sure why one is ok and the other isn’t.  If anyone out there has any advice, I’d love to hear it…

I washed some alpaca fleece, which surprisingly did not dry in the heat yesterday.  It feels soft and lovely though; I can’t wait to spin it.  I’m a little concerned about how I’m going to prepare it though.  I have combs, which I’ve never learned how to use, but I’m not sure they’re suitable for alpaca.  I got this fleece directly from the shepherdess, who treats the animals like her babies.  It’s so cool to know the name of the animal that gave the fleece.  She gave me three bags, one of which I am dying  to get my hands on, but I wanted to practice with the white first, since I’m a bit rusty.  Lucien has the most amazing fleece, fawn-reddish color, and the loft is just amazing.  Right now, he’s tucked away til I get my mojo back.

I’m still job hunting.  It’s very discouraging. Most of the time I don’t even get the consideration of a rejection, I’m simply ignored. I do have an interview tomorrow, so cross your fingers.

What’s wonderful is that after an initial meltdown over finances, I’m finding that trial is bringing us together as a family.  We’re focusing on what we can do, how we can help each other, appreciate each other,  and I have taken a few more steps learning to trust.  Personal growth, and all that jazz.  It’s still scary to be unemployed in this economy, but I love my family so much, and it’s so good to know how strong we can be.

Time to go check Craig’s List for jobs again; and plan dinner, which is going to be Greek Lemon potatoes, brussels sprouts, and tofu, I think.  Gonna get creative… uh oh!

The Big Five-0

No, I’m not talking about the remake of the TV show.  Or even about the dreaded birthday coming up way too fast.  I have, as of this morning, lost fifty pounds.

For visual thinkers; picture a one pound box of butter from the grocery store.

Now picture fifty of them.

Or, think of 200 of these:

It’s pretty amazing to me.  Especially considering I normally binge and gain weight when I’m stressed.  I’ve been more stressed this year than I can remember being, at least for a decade or two.  This gives me hope that this time I’ll keep it off.

I really think a huge portion of this is due to giving up dairy.  No cheese, no ice cream, no cream, whipped cream, etc.  I don’t think I realized how much of it I ate.

I’m really happy that my family is eating healthier too.  Since I was laid off, I’m doing most of the cooking, so they eat what I eat most of the time.  I get a few complaints, especially from Murphy, but even he likes some of the things I cook.  And I don’t mean just the baked yummies, either!

Tonight we’re caving in to the 110 degree heat here; I’m making Murphy some horrible packaged mac n cheese stuff; the adults will have a pasta salad and hot dogs (tofu dog for me), and a huge fruit salad.  With some surprises; I hope to get a pic and post it later.

For anyone who cares, my store site is up (still under construction, but up.)  You can buy some yummy vegan treats or warm and cozy things to wear, for yourself, or for gifts.  The site is www.homespundreamings.com.  Drop by and have a look!

We can haz Eggroll!

After taking a nap this afternoon, I was feeling a bit better, so I decided to try to make dinner.  I was feeling uh, creative (that’s when Murphy starts asking for a pot pie…)  I had a package of rice mixture that Eric gave me a while ago, and I decided to start with that.  It was a blend of white, red, and  black rice, along with whole oats.  Really pretty in the package, it cooked up entirely lavender.    Tasted fine, but it was a little strange to eat purple rice.  Then I had a package of korma sauce that didn’t really make enough for the family, so I knew I’d need more than just that for the main dish.  I heated the sauce with a bit of fake crab and kale, and let it simmer down.

I’ve always wanted to make spring rolls but have always been a little afraid.  I figured this was a good time to give it a shot.  So I pan-fried some tofu crispy, added some spinach, nori, carrots, avocado, and rice noodles, and rolled them all up in a spring roll shell.  Awesome.  They were really delicious. And much easier than I expected; I will be making them again.  They’ll make great lunch fare.

I’m exhausted now, and sore, but it was worth it.  YUM!

This Week Sucked

Pain wise, at least.  I pretty much hurt every where, all the time, this week at a fairly high level.  Doesn’t really inspire me to  post to the blog, when all I have to say is how much I hurt.  I haven’t been able to cook much, so we’ve been eating frozen stuff and leftovers most of the time.  I haven’t gained any weight back which I’m surprised and thrilled at.  I think giving up dairy has really helped in that vein.  I did make “Sloppy Steves” which is a vegetarian version of Sloppy Joes, and is Murphy’s favorite post-soccer practice meal.  It is pretty yummy!  I soak TVP in hot water with a touch of Kitchen Bouquet, add a ton of finely chopped spinach, grated carrots and whatever other vegetables I have around, chopped into really tiny pieces, add tomato sauce, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a touch of chili powder, onion, etc. and simmer for a really long time.  Serve on whole wheat buns.  Add one of my husband’s famous fruit salad and presto!  Yumminess.

Yesterday I was feeling a bit better than I had been, and made it to Murphy’s Soccer game.  This year soccer has been a little off; he started on one team with too few kids, and after several weeks of trying to add kids from other teams without success, they finally disbanded the original team and farmed the kids out to other teams.  Murphy ended up on the Silver Bullets, which has a great coach.  They did lose their first game, but they played really well.  It was a fun game to watch.

I want to try to do some cooking today, but I don’t want to push it.  Sometimes it’s hard to find the line at which discomfort turns into Pain with  a capitol P.  We’ll see how it goes.

I had been starting to do some Yoga but had to stop because of the pain.  I’ll try again as soon as this cycle winds down.  ‘Cause it will, right?

Pain as a friend

My TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner told me today that I should think of pain as a friend.  My initial thought was “friends like this I don’t need.”  But I get his point, sort of.   Pain is a message from your body that something is amiss.  It is telling you to pay attention, learn, nourish, listen to the pain.  I said that I could manage thinking of it as a teacher.  I’m not sure I’ll ever get to friend status.

So today’s session was long, almost two hours.  We discussed old symptoms, prior to treatment, how they’ve changed and evolved, and discussed some newer symptoms I’ve had.  Not specifically diagnosing, he said that my symptoms presented similarly to chronic fatigue syndrome, and said this bears out my “deficiency in heart and lung blood.”  He reformulated my herbs, which I am about to go cook, and told me to relax a little about the diet issues.  I tend to be all black and white; if he says limit onion I try to eliminate it completely, and therefore get frustrated with cooking.  It seems that moving in the right direction is enough; if I was eating onion at almost every meal before, then cutting down to once a day is a huge step.  This seems reasonable.

I’d forgotten the purpose of the blog.  Madhyatmika; the Middle Way.  Balance.  Moderation.  Can’t say as I’ve ever been very good at it, but it’s time to learn.

Tonight we had sesame peanut noodles, which I had batch cooked last night; they were pretty yummy.  Along with that I made a huge salad with romaine, spinach, craisins, chia seeds, avocado, cucumber, and I made a dressing with Yoshida sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and peanut butter.  Proportions were a little off, and I should have used a blender for better emulsification, but it was pretty decent.  I had homemade hummus for lunch, and a little peanut butter on rice cakes for breakfast. Now it’s off to cook the herbs!

Happy Birthday!

September is a bountiful month for birthdays in my life.  My friend Doug and my brother Keith both were born on the second, my best friend’s husband the fifth, my son Murphy the seventh, my mother the tenth, my husband’s son Bill on the thirteenth.  As usual, I neglected to celebrate most of these special days in the way they deserved.  I’m sorry for that, and hope that telling you here how much I love you all and hope your day was wonderful makes up for it a bit.

We did try to do well by Murphy; he hit double digits this year, so it’s sort of a momentous day.  He asked for a few video games for his birthday, which he received, and we went to dinner at Carrow’s so he could have a “pancake pile up” for dinner.  The staff was really nice and sang happy birthday to him when they brought a sundae for his dessert unexpectedly.  Despite being a bit rushed for reasons we couldn’t change, it was a fun evening and he loved his presents.

The job hunt goes on.  I will be doing some fill in work for one of the consultants at my last job, so that will help some.  Mostly, I can’t wait to start school.  I’m getting more and more excited about it, and have really worked hard at arranging my home and my life so that I’ll be able to have space and time to study in peace.

Mmmmmm… I’m making West African Groundnut Stew for dinner, and the smell is starting to fill the house.  Delish!  Peru came home from school for lunch today, and I made us all falafel sandwiches for lunch.  With homemade hummus.  My recipe is getting better, but it’s still hard to get used to not having garlic in hummus.

I seem to be heading into a pain cycle again.  I did do a little bit of exercise yesterday (and when I say little, I mean LITTLE!) but ended up having pretty major pain all over from it late evening.  Made the stew and lunch today and had enough pain that I needed to sit and blog a bit before I could get up again.  It’s so hard to decide whether to just power through and hope my body gets stronger, or take it easy so that 10  minutes of exercise doesn’t hurt for two days.  My intuition says that the benefits of exercise on health, mind and spirit is worth it, in moderation, so that’s what I’m trying to do.

And my gardening!  It’s coming along.  I’ve killed one plant that was entirely my fault; three more have died that I think was animals (arugula and watercress), but everything else seems to be reasonably healthy.  I have four tiny tomatoes (two are cherry, two are not) that are growing and look healthy.  I have a squash and a cucumber that are thriving, but no flowers yet.  And a lot of potted herbs that are doing well.  Here are some pictures:

More Sadness

This has  been a year.

Our Yorkie terrier, Rocky, who is almost fifteen years old and has outlived his two original owners,  his younger sister, and our puppy, and who we thought would never die (too ornery!) yesterday started whimpering.  And then crying.  He was obviously in pain; it looked like he might have injured his front paw; but more than that, he seemed to be in severe internal pain as well.  We gave him some pain meds, which didn’t really seem to help except to sedate him, though he still cried in his sleep. We were up all night, stroking him,  reassuring him, trying to  help him be comfortable.  Nothing worked. He stopped eating.   So this morning, we took the long road to the Humane Society.

For the first time in twelve years, we are pet-less.  Not so much as a goldfish to keep us company.  We’ll adopt again, in a while, but we need a while to mourn (and clean up Rocky’s area!) before we take someone else in.  It’s very odd though, not to hear the bark or scratch or footpads of a tiny creature in the house.  No “feed me NOW!” barks.  Kind of lonely.

So how goes  the rest of life?  Muddling on.  I’m still job hunting, and it’s discouraging; I don’t even get the chance to be turned down now; most resumes I send out go completely unanswered.  I’m meeting with a lovely woman on Monday to see about helping her out; it sounds very informal, which is nice.  I’m looking into going back to school; a distance learning program where I can do it on my own time.  I’m still researching and figuring out how I can make it work.

I’m still seeing Nathan for acupuncture and herbs.   A little less often, due to the lack of job thing.  He’s very patient and understanding about my situation.  It does seem to be helping.  I do need to start working a little harder on the exercise though.  I would like to do some yoga to strengthen my back, so this week’s mission is to clear a spot in my room where I can do yoga along with the TV.

The diet is still very trying.  I haven’t gained any weight back, which is a miracle considering I eat when I’m stressed, and right now I’m about as stressed as I’ve ever been. I haven’t really lost any in a while though either.  Exercise will help.  While I’m not actually bingeing, as I normally do when stressed, I am eating more junk food than I should, even if it is healthier junk food than what I used to eat.  I’m still finding it very hard to do the no onion and garlic thing.  Some recipes do okay without them, some not so much.  I guess this part is a process of training my tastes, so eventually I’ll do better, but really, it is the hardest diet modification I’ve ever tried to make.

My little pots of green are mostly doing ok; I have a few little tiny green tomatoes growing, and my squash and cucumber look good.  The leafy veggies (watercress, arugula) not so much, but they’re hanging in.  I will try REALLY hard to get pictures tomorrow of my little babies. I need to repot the basil, and soon!

The good news of the month is that our freezer is finally fixed.  It hadn’t been working well for a long time, and we’d had the repair guy out a couple of times to fix it.  Wasn’t looking good.  But finally, it seems to be working completely well.   So I can start batch cooking again.  At least, I can once the current heat wave ends.

Today it was ONE HUNDRED AND NINE DEGREES.  First day of soccer; poor Murph looked so wilted and bedraggled at half time!  I was sweating profusely just sitting down watching; the sun was so overbearing.  The team Mom took pity on me and invited me to sit under their umbrella.  She was very kind as I had been preoccupied with Rocky and lack of sleep and had not packed for a day in the sun, simply bringing one water bottle for Murph (no sunscreen, no drink for me, no snacks, no shelter from the sun, etc.)  Next week I’ll be a little better prepared (and hopefully, it won’t be triple digits!)

Next up?  The Murphster’s birthday is in three days, as he has been announcing countdown daily for over a week. I wonder what bounty that event may bring?