Champagne-vinaigrette magic

Stepping up

So I made this dish for my mom when she came to visit, and she could not stop raving! I don’t know why. I learned my cooking from her, and the sauce I used is similar to her balsamic vinaigrette-same basics, just change a few ingredients. Needless to say, it’s a light meal with food my body can process, which really counts.

First things first- make the vinaigrette! I used 1/3 champagne vinegar to 1 cup evoo. I also used orange zest, the juice of said orange, basil, honey, and ginger. Honey is the trick here, as it cuts the tartness of the vinegar. Once well blended, I poured over the chicken. Heating the pan to medium, I seared off the chicken in this sauce, placing it in a baking pan and cooking it at 420 for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I boiled angel hair pasta (no whole wheat for me- bad for belly!).

Whilst that was going, I chopped carrots and cooked them over medium high heat until they began to soften , turning the heat down to medium low. I salted, then added brandy and honey, allowing it to cook on low for the rest of the time.

I drained the pasta and cooked French cut green beans in the pan, adding the pasta back in and mixing all of it with the vinaigrette. I served onto plates, placing the chicken on top and drizzling with some more sauce. I put the rest of the dressing in a dish and placed on the table in case anyone wanted to add to their plate. Some of my kids love this, but some aren’t fans so I toss lightly. Et voila! Bon appetit!

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Wine rack #wino

Stepping up

We collected this piece during our scavenger days. For some reason we catch a thrill when discovering a rare find or weathered piece that can be restored just sitting, abandoned, in someone’s trash pile. The kids dragged me to the site with unbridled eagerness to show me a sturdy, decent looking wine rack. It’s light brown finish curdled my insides, nothing elegant to be found in its exterior.

With a shrug we loaded it up, forming plans to transform it into a bow shelf. Yes, that’s right, a bow shelf. This was also our sharp shooter phase- the summer of target practice, and we needed a place to store all five of our bows. I couldn’t stand that brown, so I did a quick sand to strip the first layer, then covered it haphazardly with an ebony stain. A few hooks later, and we had ourselves storage!

But then we upgraded to a larger house. We could store our bows in our own closets, and we also had room for a nice sized wine rack. And with a little TLC, it could really pop!

Removing the hooks, I got to sanding and staining. But this layer dried unevenly, with stripes of shiny silk black and dull finish. Discouraged, I sanded again. When it looked even, I took a damp towel, wiped it across the surface, and wet sanded repeatedly. My kids quickly got bored and ditched me while I continued to slave away.

Finally, I added the next coat,this one gleaming and shining with perfection. Once it was dry, I finished with a clear lacquer to protect the stain. Et voila! C’est magnifique, n’est-ce pas?

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Any excuse to buy more wine!

On the Brink

Crohnically Ill

I muscled my way through school today with minimal issues. As I shut the last car door for first graders to go home, I actually felt quite chipper. No belly ache, no bathroom urgency, no headache… Had I reached the other side? Was the worst over?

I visited my puppy who, to my chagrin, can NOT come home today as previously promised! Seriously? “Well, if his levels drop too quickly tonight he could seize and die, so unless you plan to stay up with him all night to bring him here if he starts seizing, we need to keep an eye on him.” Really? He’s been fine for 3 days. I think he’s in the clear. Poor guy gave me the saddest eyes when I left.

I pulled into my driveway, and the stomach ache hit hard. I shook it off. Maybe it was a fluke. Five minutes later it got worse, accompanied with a headache. A quick temp check showed a low grade fever. Again??

I’m still plugging away at my antibiotics, but if this doesn’t turn around soon my poor nurse will have another lengthy voicemail from me.

I must say, this disease is one for mind games. It’s incredibly unpredictable. I can take all the observations on myself possible, follow all the rules I think necessary for my health, and still have problems. And even then I’m wondering is it a flare or something else? Will my doctor have me committed for calling once again? Because I used to never call, which was my one way ticket to surgery. Should I miss a day of work to rest? Will that even do me any good and be worth the trouble? Should I go on a liquid diet? Should I take NyQuil and give up the evening with my kids to sleep?

Like I said, mind games. At the end of the day, this disease is not only different from person to person, but different FOR each person. Over time my body changes, and with it my learning curve for what I need. Fingers crossed this is all nothing and I will be all better in a few days. *twiddles thumbs nervously…

Sick Day

Crohnically Ill

To be fair, this is my first Crohn’s related sick day in about a year, so I guess I’m overdue. My husband think me writing this blog has made me relapse. Yes, because Crohn’s is mental! No, he’s kidding, everyone. He’s seen this thing up close and personal.

Since recovering from my surgeries, my new doctor (will update with separate post) put me back on Cimzia, but added methotrexate to prevent my body from building antibodies to the Cimzia. I picked methotrexate as the counter drug over Imuran, since Imuran makes me feel like an empty shell of a person. I don’t ever plan on being pregnant, so the only risk with methotrexate is nausea. So far, so good. *fingers crossed

My Crohn’s hasn’t flared since then. But since my ileoceceal valve was removed, I struggle with bacteria overgrowth developing and causing issues. But I have a great doctor, so when symptoms arise I call in for the antibiotic and other medicines that keep me comfortable.

Now, about last night. At school yesterday, the nurse clocked my temp at 99.5. Fever is not sympomatic of bacteria overgrowth. Which leaves me going wth.

Am I catching a bug from my students? I do teach first grade.

I tell my crowd to eat left overs and go to bed. I’m asleep by 8, but awake again at midnight. Here come the runs!

Seriously, all night long. Could not physically sleep because of the bathroom. Now medicine kept me comfortable, otherwise I would’ve been a miserable wreck. Not 100% comfortable, but I’m thankful my dr doesn’t mind giving me prescriptions to take the edge off.

A miracle happened at 3am. A sub texted me back saying she could work for me! And on spring picture day no less! I was so relieved to not have to spend the rest of my night stressing over work. I was stressed enough already!

My amazing team got copies, etc. together for me, lifting the weight of that responsibility off my shoulders as well. I got a bit of a nap finally, but the stomach awoke me and the fever is back. Time to medicate again I guess.

I’m worried. I don’t normally get low grade fevers and I don’t feel sick. Not virus sick, anyway. More like Crohn’s sick. Left the poor head nurse a long voicemail about it and how if I don’t get better by next week I’ll call again. It’s just a nagging voice in the back of my head; faint alarm bells whining that it’s happening again. Another flare. Please oh please don’t be another flare.

Well, I can’t possibly know right now. Back to basics for me! Gatorade, you should give all us Crohnies a stipend for 60% of your business:)

Crispy Flounder, cucumber salad

Stepping up

Much to my daughter’s dismay, I made flounder for dinner. While it no longer induces gag filled sobs, she still treats marine dishes like a cat does water.

Thankfully, the rest of my crew loves fish, and like any loving brother, find great entertainment in watching her stomach each bite.

I find my fish to taste quite delightful, and hope that one day she may come around as it contains many health benefits. For this dish, I seasoned flounder with salt, pepper, coriander, and basil, pan seared it, then baked it at 420 degrees for 20 minutes. I could have done 30 for a crispier dish, but my “army” was starving (save Charli).

For the potatoes, I diced, seasoned with garlic salt, basil, and thyme, and baked in the oven at 420 for 30 minutes (I started them before the fish).

Finally, for the cucumber salad, I peeled and de-seeded one large cucumber, then diced. I know skins are healthier, but they are more difficult for my body to digest, and I’m pushing it even eating fresh vegetables. I halved yellow cherry tomatoes, and tossed both with feta and a red wine vinaigrette.

To make the vinaigrette, I blended 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1 cup of olive oil, drizzled some honey and added salt, ginger, and basil. Once well blended, I tasted and adjusted with more vinegar, oil, or honey as needed. When the fish was done, I drizzled some vinaigrette over it and crumbled feta on top. Bon appetit!

Herb encrusted steak

Stepping up

For a fancy Saturday night dinner, I decided to cook herb encrusted steak with a brandy cream sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and brandy/honey glazed carrots. Since I feed an army of teenagers, I purchased top blade steaks (sorry, no fillets in our house), Yukon gold potatoes, and baby carrots. I prepped a mixture of herbes de Provence (or whatever you fancy-basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, etc., but I also added coriander to the mix). Now, I only prepared what I needed per steak, with my bottles of seasonings at the ready for the next one.

Once the seasoning was prepped, I salted the steaks and set them aside. I took one steak, pressed both sides into the seasoning, then set it back on the plate. I continued this rhythm of season, press, set aside until all the steaks were done. I let them sit out to cure while I fixed the potatoes and carrots. Once potatoes were peeled, cut, and sitting in boiling water, I started on the carrots.

I sautéed diced carrots in olive oil, adding honey and brandy when they started to sweat. As they softened, I turned the heat back down to low and focused on the steaks.

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I drizzled olive oil in the pans and turned the heat to medium. I cooked the steaks five minutes per side, but we have an electric stove top, so the times would be different with gas. Also, I wasn’t going for medium rare as my crew doesn’t prefer this.

I used chicken stock, Italian cheeses (was out of goat, my go to), some butter, and seasonings for the potatoes.

As for the brandy cream sauce, I found it delicious, as did Matt, but it did not receive rave reviews from the rest of the family. They’ve requested a Gorgonzola cream sauce for the next round, so I will post that on the next menu.

I put a 1/2 cup of brandy in the pan and set it on fire. Woohoo! The most fun part of cooking! Shaking the pan gently, I watched with gleeful amusement as the flames died. Then I added a cup of cream, put the pan back on the heat (right, take it off when you set it aflame), and let the cream boil until it thickened up into a sauce. Et voila! Bon appetit!

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Sick Buddies

Crohnically Ill

The two of us lay strewn across each couch, the coffee table serving as our pharmacy. We were miserable, and we were miserable together. As I continued to improve, I had to face facts. I would need to ween myself off the pain meds. After taking them since I received diagnosis for my stricture, I knew this would be daunting. I expressed my concern with my surgeon, who gave me a step down plan to follow. It would have me off medicine in two and a half months.

I weened myself off in one. I know, I had been through a lot, but a dependency on pain killers worried me. I could tell when I didn’t take them that I felt gross. Not because my stomach hurt, but my entire body hurt, like it had caught the flu. Although I was over being in pain, I was also over drug dependency. Discovering the show Mad Men for the first time, I spent a weekend in my room watching every season. Maybe it was longer than a weekend. By the end of it, I was done with taking a regular dosage if pain meds. I didn’t need them every four hours on the clock. I remained realistic, however. After my ordeal, I knew I wouldn’t be completely off them so quickly, but I also didn’t want to take them like clockwork. Every four hours turned into twice a day, which turned into once a day, which turned into every few days, which turned into never. But it took one weekend of legit, miserable cold turkey to break myself of the dependence. I don’t write this to set unrealistic expectations for others. And for those with drug addictions I’m sure experience a different ball game.

Michael had to have surgery on his leg, with two plates and seven metal screws in, he was set for a long recovery as well. But we were on the mend, and headed back to a normal life. Well, not normal. But is anyone’s life ever normal?

Reversal Surgery

Crohnically Ill

My strength returned day by day. I began to gain weight. With the weight gain came ostomy trouble. The bag would pop off every few hours, making a full night’s sleep impossible. I got sick of changing it constantly. How does anyone live with this? Seriously?

My family took me on outings. I didn’t have enough strength yet to walk around a store, so my husband would drop me off at the front; my kids would get me a scooter, and I would ride around with everyone. I got the nastiest stares from people. I’m sorry. I know I look quasi normal (minus my skeletal face), but I’m not one of these lazy people who rides in carts because I don’t feel like walking. I physically can’t walk through the store! I think it irritated my husband more than it did me. If anyone had anything to say, I would just lift my shirt in response. It never came to that, but I was prepared to do so.

Soon it was time for the final surgery. At long last! By this time, I could walk around quite well. I met my friend Sydney in downtown Charleston, and we walked to Starbucks. My bag popped off right there in public! We had to rush home to change it. Frustrated, I was thankful again that this was temporary, and surgery was a day away.

Surgery came and went. They couldn’t close the incision in order to prevent infection, so I had a hole that would slowly close over time. I had to pack it daily with gauze. Yuck. I’ll include a photo in this post, but I must warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart, so don’t scroll to the bottom if you don’t wish to see!

Finally, FINALLY I was discharged! Michael brought the kids and we planned to make a weekend out of it at my grandmother’s beach house. We seriously deserved some family R&R. Four hours later, while I was dozing comfortably in bed, the gentle salty air breathing over me, John knocked on the glass door.

“Kat! Kat! Come to the beach! Dad broke his leg!”

No. No, no, no, no, no, no, NO! This had to be a joke. A prank to get me on the beach with them and have a good laugh. Surely. SURELY.

I walked down the white, sandy path to the beach. Michael had his arms around the two oldest boys, hobbling out of the water. One glance at his swollen ankle, and my heart sunk to the ground. The man had jumped off the sand bar into shallow water, snapping his leg in 3 places. I seriously had been out of the hospital for 4 hours. Even though I was on the mend, this wasn’t over yet…

Outing

 

 

 

 

 

Battle Wounds

 

 

 

The Kink

Crohnically Ill

Honestly, out of everything I went through, I consider this the worst experience.

Two, heavenly weeks at home went by. Two whole weeks. One night, after binge eating on cherries (why? I wanted to gain weight so I ate what I fancied. And I fancied cherries), I got stomach pains. They started small, but over several hours increased. It was a rolling, intense pain that wouldn’t let up. Michael insisted I go to the hospital, but I did not want to go back there! Surely this would go away soon.

Bad call on my part. I was out of time to be driven the 2 hours to Charleston. Well, in retrospect, we could have, but Mike was afraid I would die, so we went to a hospital in Columbia. Oh Palmetto Health, how I loathe thee!

I had to wait two hours in the ER to even go back (by then we could’ve been in Charleston). I started puking, the nurses freaking out when it came out red. Nope, just cherries. Finally, when they took me back, I was in a hallway bed without an IV placed. I could see nurses walking around. One nurse asked the other to place my IV, and she said she would once she made a bed. Seriously? Making a bed takes priority over my IV? There were also gang members with bullet wounds handcuffed to beds with cops around. I shouldn’t have been surprised when they wouldn’t give me proper medication.

Once the IV was placed, I begged for proper pain pills and nausea meds, which I wasn’t administered. I had to suffer through X-rays (no CT scan-odd), continuing to hack and hack with nothing coming out. It was nonstop. At one point, the nurse finally gave me Hydromorphone, but my breathing slowed (duh! It’s called oxygen women!), so she refused to give me more. When I woke up, they said I had a kink in my bowels that required surgery. Michael about flipped.

“Have you contacted MUSC?”

“No, we will when they open.”

“They are open! I already told you it’s a 24 hour hospital. There will be a surgeon on staff who knows her medical history. Call them now!”

After fighting with the knife happy surgeon for a while, he told the doctors to discharge me and let him drive me to Charleston himself.

“No, she has to ride down in an ambulance, that way they can administer medicine to her during the trip.”

“Fine! Order the ambulance!”

Which meant waiting until morning…

Meanwhile, they wanted to place an NG tube while I was AWAKE! Seriously?! Wasn’t living with it for weeks enough! Now I had to have it placed while awake! I knew, from asking nurses, that if I ever experienced this to ask for water. The sipping motion would help me swallow the tube down. I demanded a glass.

“No! You can’t have any liquids in your stomach.”

“But I’m about to have the tube placed. It will help me swallow it and the tube will suck it right back out!”

We continued to argue. I’m a lover, not a fighter, but I was getting seriously pissed. The doctor walked in on our argument, heard both sides, then yelled at her to get me a cup. She brought me a minuscule glass that was mostly ice. This is the same nurse that made the bed before my IV and refused to administer hydromorphone.

The water wasn’t enough, so I had to suffer as the tube was forced down my throat. This erupted another round of hacking. Alone, I couldn’t stop vomiting up nothing. I heard doctors pass by, asking the nurse if I was ok.

“She’s fine. We just placed an NG tube.”

I wanted to yell or scream after them. No I’m not fine! I need medicine! Please! But I couldn’t. So I stayed there, alone, miserable. When Michael returned from checking on the kids, he asked the nurse to give me the right medicine. She said the doctor wouldn’t order it because I had stopped breathing. Michael asked to speak to the doctor. The doctor explained he had ordered it, but the nurse was refusing to administer because she didn’t want to be held liable if I stopped breathing and died. Or, you know, maybe you could give me an oxygen tube? Just a suggestion? My husband flipped out, and I was mercifully given more medicine.

The ambulance arrived; I was still comfortably drugged. But the road to Charleston was packed with traffic, and halfway through the 3-4 hour drive, I got sick all over again. I begged for medicine. The drivers said they couldn’t give me any while we were moving. Really? REALLY?! Then why was I in this godforsaken ambulance in the first place? I could have been to Charleston by now!

Finally, once in the safety of MUSC’s walls, they delivered the proper medicine, and I was comfortable and asleep in ten minutes.

No joke. Ten minutes. My nurses were so mad for me! Since I was well known by now, they grabbed the doctors, got the orders, and gave me what I needed, when I needed it. My surgeon told me that I DID NOT, I repeat, DID NOT need surgery. At all. I needed bowel rest, and the kink would resolve itself in a matter of days. And guess what? You’ll never believe it. He was right! In a few days I was all better! The tube was out, and I was eating again. Surprise, surprise.

There was finally an end in sight! I just had to hang in there for the ostomy reversal surgery…20 pounds lighter