Drowning… in Plums

It’s unbelievable how many plums one tree can hold. Saturday I girded my loins and braced myself for an adventure. I made plum jelly. I have canned a bit in the past; long past.  It’s been a decade or two since I’ve even thought about it, but I couldn’t let all these plums go to waste.  Or to the birds, that then poop purple poo all over my white van.  Ugh.   So, jelly it is.

It was, of course, the first hot day we’ve had. Though I’m glad I did it Saturday, because Sunday was even worse.  I didn’t quite plan it out as well as I should have, so I had a few minor glitches, like starting the canner on the wrong side of the stove, (would have been easier on the left side) but overall it went well.  Best of all; it set up! I have twelve lovely jars of actual jelly.

About a sixth of the plums we have went into that batch. I’m hoping, if my body recovers ( I am beyond sore and exhausted even still today, Tuesday, from doing this Saturday) to do another batch tomorrow; then the rest will have to get used in other ways.  I will have run out of jars.

Just cracked open the first jar, to make sure it’s edible.  Yum! It’s pretty good, if I do say so myself.  It’s set, but thin, though that  might have to do with it sitting on the counter in this heat.  Will see if refrigeration helps; I expect it will.  It’s got good flavor, not too sweet, which I was afraid of.

I feel like pioneer woman.  It’s a good feeling.  While I was doing this, I was talking to Murphy about how people had to do all this stuff for themselves every day, the things we take for granted, and how good it feels to know how to be self-sufficient if I have to be.

Now that I have one batch under my belt, the next will be easier, though if I could find my REAL canner, it would help.  I had to use a dutch oven and a pressure cooker to can the jars, both too small to do enough jars and the dutch oven is too short.  I’m thinking (oh, how the  brain spends currency the body doesn’t have) that while heating the water to warm the jars, I’ll use it to blanch the veggies I want to dehydrate.   How’s that for efficiency?

This week’s update

Well, the big news is that I saw my new doctor on Tuesday, and got back the results of the labs I had drawn the week before.  TSH was normal, so Ms. New Doc did not want to discuss thyroid one word more.  She said, lets start fresh, tell me your symptoms.  So  I did, and her diagnosis is Fibromyalgia.  She wants to start me on Cymbalta, ,which is (three guesses and the first two don’t count….) an antidepressant.  It is indicated for pain and a few other things beside depression but the side effects are horrific on paper.  Her directions to me?  “Take one every night for a week, and if you tolerate it, if you’re not suicidal, take two.”  Uh…. really?

I haven’t filled the prescription yet.  Part of me feels like they’re just dumping me again, not treating me as a person.  The Fibromyalgia diagnosis is sketchy; the two criteria for diagnosis are 1.) Generalized body pain (check!) and 2.) Eleven of eighteen “tender points“, which are specific points on the body, bilaterally, which are literally tender to touch.  I have Zero. I counted.  Twice.

My labs were basically fine; Vitamin D is still low despite mega supplements so I’m going to take mondo doses daily now, along with Calcium, Magnesium, B12, and C.  Antibodies were positive, confirming my theory about the last month or two, that I was having a Hashi’s attack.

I asked about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome vs Fibromyalgia; she said “they’re the same thing.”  Which they’re not really, but yeah, they’re in the same group of diseases.

She wanted me to have a Head CT to rule out MS. Which I did; results pending, but I don’t expect anything amiss.

So where does this leave me?  Pretty much where I started; nowhere.  Murphy is rooting for Fibromyalgia, since then I can stop messing with the diet.  The gluten free thing is really hard, much harder than veg*nism.

Other things this week:

The 23rd was the Anniversary of Dorothy’s passing.  It was a little hard, but much of the time it feels like she’s still in Las Vegas, until we go to send

A Plethora Of Plums

that cute picture of Murph and realize again that she’s not there to receive it.  On a spiritual poetic justice kind of level, we are having an absolute banner year for our plums, which Dorothy loved.  The first year we moved here, there was a huge harvest, but since then most of the time there’s been very little.  We blamed it on our Black Thumbs, as I kill everything.  This winter, one of the storms knocked down a tree right through the middle of one of the plum trees, and we thought it was a goner.  Instead, this year the harvest is ridiculous.  Peru picked a huge boxful, and said it was only about one third of what’s left.  Today, we sorted cleaned, and gifted bags to the neighbors and I’m cooking the rest now down for jelly.  I haven’t canned in years, so this should be interesting.  So now you all know what you’re getting for Christmas, right?

On the way to take Eric to a JOB interview (whoo hooo) we stopped at the hardware store and with our dwindling funds bought canning jars, sugar and pectin, so tomorrow, I go wild.  Tonight, I might even try making some plum ice cream.  The house is filled with the smell of simmering plums; yum!

I’ve had a chance to connect a little with my eldest, who’s been a little absent lately, even when he’s here.  Several nice long chats, like we used to do. It felt really good.  I have missed him a lot.

Tomorrow, Peru’s “Band-In-Training” is playing for the Solstice Festival in Mira Monte. Should be fun!

Squeee!

Just  a bit of girl giggles – “Jeanette’s Healthy Living” is a blog I’ve been following for a while; she has great recipes and resources for making healthy choices, and beautiful pictures.

Jeanette, herself, just commented on my Jicama Quinoa salad post.

SQUEEE!!!!!

I feel star-struck!  =]

Gluten Free Bread

So after a month of not posting, today you’re getting a bonanza, a virtual shower of posts!

Going gluten free is challenging.  Sometimes, you just want a sandwich. Peanut butter and jelly, though in my case, without the jelly (eww.) I’d resorted to rice cakes, which is okay, sometimes, but not really satisfying when you want a sandwich.

Then I tried Gluten free bread.  Which is mondo expensive.  And has the taste and the texture of  styrofoam made out of lead, somehow.  Horrendous. Heavy, beyond dense, flavorless, crumbly to the point of idiocy.

Then I found this bread.  Udi’s White Sandwich Bread.

Udi’s is well known for it’s line of gluten free products, and has the gratitude of millions of people because of it. But…

Okay, there’s still problems.  It’s over five dollars a loaf, and the loaf is the smallest loaf I have ever seen in my life.  The bread is three and a half inches square at the highest point.  I actually measured.  And much of the loaf has HUGE holes in the middle.  See? 

That said, there are good points.  The bread is lovely and light, holds together well, and actually tastes rather like homemade bread.  I was able to make sandwiches with it, and even eat the sandwich without it falling apart (if I covered the holes with pickle slices.)

If I had an income that allowed me such extravagant purchases on a regular basis, it would be worth it.  It’s definitely the best gluten free bread I’ve tried yet, by miles.  As I’m an unemployed chronically  ill poor person, I bought two loaves and froze them, and will be using them VERY sparingly, while I search for cheaper homemade recipes.

My next review will be Bob’s Red Mill, which carries many gluten free items and mixes. Watch for it!

Food! And a new Recipe

So, as I said before, I’m changing my diet again to be gluten free.  As the elimination of soy, gluten, meat and dairy from my diet leaves not a heck of a lot I can eat,  I’m relaxing my standards a bit, out of necessity.  Gluten and soy seem to be major problems in thyroid disease, so those are non-negotiable.  Eliminating dairy has helped me loose a lot of weight and my digestive system seems better, so dairy goes to the “very rare cheat” list.  Which leaves meat as the most flexible “cheat” area.  So last night we had hot dogs and potato salad, and I must say, boy, did they taste GOOD!

That said, I still want to stay mostly with a plant based diet.  So protein sources are mostly beans and quinoa.  Yesterday I came up with a salad  that’s high in protein, cool for those hot days, and actually yummy!

Jicama Quinoa Salad

  •  1 cup Quinoa
  • 2 tbl sesame oil
  • 1 cup grated Jicama
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can mandarin oranges
  • ½ lemon, Juiced
  • ½ c Peas ( use frozen peas, thawed)
  • ¼ c dried cranberries

 Soak quinoa in water to cover for 15 minutes.  Simmer on low, covered, in enough water to cover about 30 minutes. Drain, and allow to cool.

 Open can of mandarin oranges and drain, reserving about half of juice.  Fold into quinoa. Add Jicama, onion, peas, cranberries, sesame oil, and toss lightly.  Season to taste.

 I served on a bed of raw spinach.  I flirted with the idea of making rolls with the spinach leaves, but I was too hungry!

 This recipe lends itself well to experimentation and substitution. I plan to try cooking the quinoa in broth rather than water, trying with other fresh fruits (sliced strawberries, blueberries perhaps) keeping with the savory/sweet theme.

Knitting

So much of what I’ve been doing whilst incommunicado over the last month is fiber related.  It’s meditation for me, and I can feel productive even if I can’t do housework or so much of what I expect to be doing.  I rediscovered Ravelry and actually started entering my projects and my stash, which seems an impossible task, but I’ve gotten more done than I expected.  For those of you not knitting obsessed, Ravelry is a social networking group for fiber people to share patterns, tips, stash, info, and waste a boatload of time.  There have been times I’ve spent hours a day on Ravelry, and times when months go by and I forget my log in.  You can use it as much or as little as you like, but it’s a great resource for finding patterns and getting help if you get stuck.  It’s free too, always a good thing.

I’ve always knitted from patterns before, not having a ton of skill, experience, or imagination.  But I wanted to make a gift for someone that was unique, and couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I decided to try to make one up.  I’m really pleased with the result!  They’re fingerless gloves, but entirely for decorative purpose.  Here’s the first version.

They came out okay, but I wasn’t happy with the rolled cuff.  I didn’t want ribbing, as it seems less elegant.  So here’s what I came up with for the second version: a picot edge.  Much better.  I envision beading as well, but haven’t quite gone that far.

If anyone is interested in the pattern, it is available for sale on my store site, Homespun Dreamings.  The website is being revamped, so if it’s not there, or you have trouble with it, email me directly and I’ll get you situated.

Eventually, I hope to be selling the finished gloves as well.  If you’re looking for fiber of any sort, check out the website or send me an email.  I’m trying to contribute somehow while unemployed to the fiscal health of my family through sales in the store.  I still have buckets full that I haven’t managed to get listed on the page yet, so if you’re looking for something that isn’t there, email me and I’ll see if I’ve got it!

Baby booties, adult hats, socks, mitts are being churned out constantly; so often in fact that I forget to take pictures!  I’m trying to rope the more experienced and talented photographer into helping me out (Pretty please, Peru?) so I can get them on the site ASAP.

I have another design in the works that’s a tad more complicated but AWESOME; both sons have asked me to make one for them already.  Imagine something that pleases a ten year old and a twenty-three year old both!  Pictures soon, when it’s a bit further along.

Easter Eggs

So, this year we dyed Easter Eggs.  It’s been one of our favorite family holiday activities over the years.  Now, being the artsy-crafty sorts, we can’t just do the dip the eggs in food coloring thing; we have to do it over the top.  So, we dye our eggs with ties.  Yep.  Men’s ties.  Silk ties, specifically; if they aren’t silk it won’t work.

So to do this, you need the following:

  • White eggs
  • Silk ties
  • Cotton fabric scraps
  • Scissors
  • Yarn or cord
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Large pan

When choosing ties (which I got at the local thrift store) there are several things to keep in mind.  First, they MUST be 100% silk – check the labels if you’re not sure.  Polyester will not transfer dye.  Also, dark colors work better than light, and ideally, several dark but contrasting colors.  Wide ties fit better than thin. 

To begin, prepare the fabrics. I did this the night before, while watching  TV.  Turn the ties over to the back, and using a seam ripper or scissors, open the back seams.  Remove any tags and the lining. You can save the lining to use as the fabric wrap, but it’s a lot more unwieldy than cotton strips.   For  the cotton strips, I used old tee shirts; cut off the seams and ribbing, and then cut the fabric into strips, wide enough and long enough to wrap around an egg, leaving room for ties on each end.  The good news is that all of this fabric can be used again the next year.  Cotton, being a cellulose fiber, will not absorb the dyes from the silk, which is a protein fiber.  If you use the lining from the ties, they are generally polyester and will not absorb dyes.

So the next day, gather the family around the dining room table and start wrapping!  Remember, the eggs are NOT cooked at this point, so they will be fragile and handled carefully. We did have one casualty each year we’ve done it.

Choose your tie and your egg. Right side of fabric should be against the egg shell. Start wrapping the egg from the wide end towards the narrow. Wrap once around, then cut any excess. Generally, you only need a big chunk of the bottom of the tie; you don’t need the extra bulk of using the entire tie.

Carefully tie yarn or string at either end of the egg to hold the fabric in place.  You want the fabric snug around the egg, to have as much contact as possible, but not so tight as to crack the egg.  Honestly, tying the yarn is the hardest part, especially for kids.

Now wrap the egg in a layer of cotton.  This cushions the egg to protect it, but also helps hold the silk close to the egg for good dye transfer.  Tie as you did previously.

Once all the eggs are wrapped, place them in your pot and cover with water.  Add a good slug of vinegar, maybe a half a cup for a 5 or 6 qt pot.  The vinegar helps the dye set.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool.

Carefully unwrap your eggs, and be amazed at the gorgeous textures and colors!  To me, they seem almost marble. You can make them shiny by rubbing them with a bit of oil on a paper towel.

They’re almost too pretty to eat!

Roller Coaster Ride

So, the more I learn, the more I need to know, and the more complicated it gets.

Over the last two months or so, I’ve been through a bad cycle that I believe was touched off by starting the Armour Thyroid and not being dosed appropriately.  According to the “Stop The Thyroid Madness” website, staying too long at a low dose of NTH (natural thyroid hormone) causes a feedback loop:

STAYING ON A STARTING DOSE TOO LONG. The key to understanding this mistake is with the word “starting dose”. When first starting on any natural desiccated thyroid product, it can be wise to start on one grain or less, which is lower than you will ultimately need. Why? To help your body adjust to the direct T3. BUT, patients have found it UNWISE to stay on that low dose much longer than 2 weeks without raising. Why? Because hypothyroid symptoms can return with a VENGEANCE due to the feedback loop between the hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid gland, i.e your hypothalamus gland senses the addition of desiccated thyroid (thinking the thyroid sent it), then sends a message to the pituitary gland, which in turn sends a message to the thyroid gland to stop producing, making you even more hypothyroid than you began.

Additionally, I never checked my adrenals or my ferritin.  Adrenal fatigue would explain some of the other bizarre symptoms I’ve been having. Again, per STTM:

THINKING YOU ARE ON TOO MUCH BECAUSE OF HYPER-SYMPTOMS Yes, a doctor can guide you to  go too high with desiccated thyroid and you’ll have hyper symptoms. You would then want to decrease your amount. But even more common is having hyper-like symptoms (anxiety, shakiness, fast heart rate, etc), especially on doses lower than 3 grains, because of underlying low-functioning adrenals (i.e. not enough cortisol), or even a low Ferritin—-each and/or both of which can be quite common in hypothyroid patients.

That sure sounds like the episodes I’ve been having.  It’s so hard to determine what’s going on, since so many of the problems have the same symptoms.  So now I’m stuck in nowhere land.  My last lab showed a low TSH and a high T3 which told my doctor I was on too much, and he told me to stop taking it.  I’m not seeing him til the 18th.  I’m exhausted, in pain everywhere, my brain isn’t working well, my throat is sore and I can’t swallow well, and my hair is falling out like crazy, and feels like straw.

I wish I could afford another doctor, but Medicaid limits me to only a few doctors in my area, none of which seem to have any open-mindedness about treating by symptom rather than the almighty TSH.  I’m gearing up for one more fight with this doc, to get the labs drawn including a salivary cortisol test, and maybe if I sign a waiver he’ll dose the Armour the way I ask him to.  If that fails, well, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Anyway, that’s enough about my health; I”m tired of talking about it, worrying about it, thinking about it. Next posts will be on more pleasant topics; the promised Easter egg dyeing, a bunch of knitting, my new website, and family stuff.  Might even get them posted before next month…

Feeling Bad, Easter Eggs and Mother’s Day

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted in a while.  I’ve been too miserable, too overwhelmed, to brain-fogged to muster the energy to post.  I save every bit of energy I can come up with to spend time doing things with my family. I am determined not to let this thing interfere with being there.

I do have to, occasionally. I did miss one baseball game because I was just in too much pain, dizzy, nauseous, etc, that I just couldn’t see how I could do it without making everyone around me miserable.  So I stayed home and napped instead.

I seem to be coming out of it a bit; the pain and exhaustion hasn’t been as bad the last week or so, and I recover a bit faster than I have been.  I still have moments of strange though.  On Tuesday, I got so dizzy and nauseous I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to drive home.  I did, barely, and fell into bed and didn’t move for the rest of the day.  Last night, I was so happy to have worked a bit in the morning and not feel like death warmed over that I tried to help wash dishes while dinner cooked, and I had a sudden bout of weakness; my arms and legs shook, didn’t feel like they’d hold me up, I got diaphoretic and winded and had to sit down for about twenty minutes.  I have no idea where that came from.  Those types of episodes are really frustrating; at least with the pain I can function if I have to, and of course, there’s medicine to help.

Anyway, we have had some fun since I last posted.  One of the most fun things we do for Easter is coloring eggs.  We don’t do it with dye tablets or food coloring; we dye with ties!

Much later…. I drafted this post and never got back to it. So will be continued in the next…