Sunday, June 29, 2008

What I've been reading...

I love to read. I've always said I could sit and read the phone book if there was nothing else available. So, here's what I've been reading lately:

I recently finished a good novel called Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers. As I mentioned in a post awhile back, my favorite book in the whole wide world is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. So when a friend asked me if I wanted to read her copy of Leota's Garden, I didn't hesitate. It's a sweet and somewhat sad story of an elderly woman (Leota) who is pretty much estranged from her adult children and grandchildren. She's all alone and her world has closed in around her, keeping her inside her small house, afraid and depressed. It's a story of redemption and hope, but also loss and pain. I cried when I read it, which is always a mark of a "good read" for me. :-)

I also read a novel within the last week or two called Covenant Child by Terri Blackstock. I enjoyed it a lot; it was a page-turner for me.

Speaking of Terri Blackstock, she has a series of books out, called the Restoration Series, and book #4, which I believe is the last book of the series, came out recently. I bought Dawn's Light off E-Bay, and am expecting it this week. The other three have been FABULOUS, and I'm sure I'll enjoy this one as well. If you enjoy Christian fiction, check out Last Light, which is book #1. It has such an original and unique story line.

Okay, so moving on from the Christian genre......what else? Oh, I bought the new "Stephanie Plum" book (Fearless Fourteen) this week, but haven't read it yet. I love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. They are funny, irreverent, and I absolutely adore them. I never laugh out loud while reading a book so much as when I read the "Stephanie" books.

I'm waiting to start Fearless Fourteen until I finish my current book. It's called Alice's Tulips and it's by Sandra Dallas. It's letters written by a young (Civil) war bride whose husband has just joined the Union Army, leaving her on his Iowa farm with only his mother for company. The letters are all written to her sister and are filled with accounts of her daily life on the farm, making quilts for "their boys" (along with descriptions of the various quilting patterns they use,) and the all-too-occasional get-together of young women. She's a sassy girl, but you can tell the War is wearing her down. (I'm almost half-way through.) Anyway, it's a good read thus far, and I'm enjoying it.

I've started The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden, but I confess, I have not gotten very far into it. It's not the book -- I love his writing style. I had let Steve read it first, because he was interested in it, so I just haven't had an evening to really sit down and devote time to it. Maybe later this week...

So that's what I've been reading lately. I like Chick Lit, some Christian novels, and hate romance novels...
How about you? Any good books to recommend to me?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A follow up re: this week's food

So, last Sunday night I posted about what I had done to get ready for this week and how I hoped it would help me to have a better week, food-wise and stress-level-wise. I had made meatballs and sauce in the slow cooker, roasted some skin-on chicken quarters, and prepped some low carb snacks and a nice big salad to help me for the week.

As a result, I think it was a pretty good week -- much better than the week before. I had dinner for Sunday night and three weeknights basically done - I only added some veggies or a salad to the what I had. Lunches at work were not an issue; I had everything on hand to make what I wanted each day.

Then, one night we had salmon fillets that I had picked up at Sam's. They're seasoned in sort of a "blackened" rub and frozen into individual shrink-wrapped packages, so I just put a couple down in the frig the night before to thaw, added a drizzle of olive oil on top, and popped them into the microwave for a couple minutes. So easy and really good, too. Costco also sells their version of seasoned salmon fillets, which I like even more.

So, all things considered, it was a good plan to cook ahead and avoid having to turn on the oven this week. I hope I can do the same thing this weekend, but it's shaping up to be a busy one, so I'm not sure. I got some Walden Farms sugar-free barbecue sauce the other day, so I'd like to try barbecued chicken in the slow cooker, and see how that works... Then, my creative friend Vikki ( has a recipe for Mexican-style chicken in the Crockpot that sounds so yummy, and I really want to try it too. So...I need to get cracking!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mindful Eating

I was talking to a friend the other day about our respective low carb eating plans, and we were sort of comparing notes on what works well for us, what is particularly tempting to us ... that sort of thing.

Anyway, I told her one major difference in my eating over the past year has been that I am now very mindful of everything I eat -- what nutritive value it has, the approximate (if not exact) carb count, and where it falls on my personal "low carb scale." I believe each low carber has to find their own way to some extent, with regard to what works best for their body and what they can live with comfortably and healthily. What works best for me might not be optimal for you, and vice versa. But in my personal journey of doing that -- figuring out what I like, what I don't, what promotes weight loss, what causes a stall, what I just can't live without -- it has made me very conscious of everything that passes my lips.

I can't tell you how many years I went, eating mindlessly. No idea what was really coming into my system. Furthermore, I truly did not want to know! I'm such a "comfort eater," and I have eaten so many times in my life just to make myself feel better!

So, to me, a big blessing of this way of life is just being mindful of what I eat. Even if I choose to indulge in a higher-carb food, I do it fully aware of the approximate (or exact) carb count and the consequences of eating that particular item. I think that's a gift.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today's food

So, here's the line-up for today:

1 cup of caffeinated coffee, and 1 cup of decaf, with Sweetzfree and SF Coffee Mate

1 cup chocolate Hood

handful of peanuts

Joseph's pita, stuffed with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo

1 SF mini York Peppermint Pattie

Dreamfields Pasta with meatballs (yep, the slow cooker meatballs I talked about a couple days ago - they're still yummy!)


unsweet tea - several glasses, with Sweetzfree

And that's it. My eating has been really good the past few days. Weighed this morning and I'm at my lowest weight in many, many years. WooHoo!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A fantastic book...

I recently read a really good book, The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth, by Jonny Bowden. It's chock-full of natural treatments and what conditions they can help -- including vitamins, herbs, minerals, foods, plants, "designer" nutrients, acupuncture, stress reduction, image therapy, and reflexology.

In the introduction, he talks about the "rule of thirds" that one of the doctors whom Bowden interviewed for the book (Joseph Brasco, MD) believes: "One-third of the people I treat with natural medicine (like diet and supplements) will get 100% better -- effectively "cured." One-third will improve considerably--they may be able to go off meds or reduce meds substantially...or they'll have measurably less pain and suffering. And one-third, unfortunately, won't be helped very much at all." Bowden agreed with his analysis but added that even for the one-third of the population who might not be very responsive to a given treatment, chances are that some area of their health would be improved by following the "natural prescription" for their condition...which could make a big difference in their overall well being.

I like those odds.

Bowden has done a ton of research for this book. Every natural "cure" he offers is backed up with studies. He offers a very long list of resources at the back of the book for follow-up study if you want.

He talks about how the average doctor has a "limited tool kit, and that tool kit consists exclusively of drugs. Asking the average doctor to recommend a natural treatment or supplement is like asking your piano teacher to recommend a tennis racket." However, Bowden goes on to warn, "Natural medicine is rarely quick and easy and doesn't always bring instantaneous relief." He compares natural care to a long-term 401(k), rather than an "impulse purchase on your maxed-out credit card. But like all long-term investments, it pays off in dividends much greater than the temporary 'high' of dealing only with the immediate."

Bowden says Western medicine is very bad at treating chronic conditions -- ongoing states of unwellness that are not emergencies, but last for months, years, or asthma, fibromyalgia, diabetes, hypertension, fatigue, allergies, depression, low libido, heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease, indigestion, constipation, and muscle pain. (The ones in bold are the ones I am dealing with, and therefore, particularly interested in. Additionally, Steve has asthma, so I was very interested in reading about that.)

Bowden talks at length about many faulty "studies" that have been done, to support a pharmaceutical and to debunk the effects of food or supplements. It's so aggravating to know the truth behind some of the advertising and the "proof" they report.

Bowden divided the book into six main sections:

Pure Cures -- single nutrients or herbs that can be used by themselves to produce an effect. Examples would be melatonin for jet lag and B12 for anti-aging.

Plant Cures -- herbal supplements as opposed to vitamins and mineral supplements.

Combo Cures -- combinations of nutrients, treatments, and/or foods that, when taken together as a natural prescription, have the best and most dramatic effect. For example, magnesium, vitamin B6, and evening primrose oil for PMS.

Food Cures -- foods that have medicinal or curative powers on their own. Like celery for blood pressure.

Natural Treatments -- healing modalities like acupuncture, chiropractic, exercise and others.

Desert Island Cures -- the supplements Bowden would want if he were stuck on a desert island. (He said making this list was really hard, and he could have added dozens more, but if you held a gun to his head and told him he could only choose a few, these are what he would pick.)

Under each "natural cure", he gave the science behind how and why it works, as well as lots of additional information. For example, I was very interested in the pages dealing with B12, since I'm chronically low in that vitamin. I read this and was hooked: "Without enough B12 we start to act and feel old and show more prominent symptoms of aging: ataxia (shaky movements and unsteady gait), muscle weakness, spasticity, incontinence, slowed reactions, memory loss, disorientation, and depression..." Let me just say that I've experienced every single thing on that list and my favorite saying seems to be "I'm too young to feel this old." Another thing I learned is that you must always take B12 with folic acid. Oops. Why did I not know that?? Also, anyone over 40 is at risk of B12 deficiency because they lack enough of a protein that is secreted in the stomach called "intrinsic factor," which you need to absorb B12. I bet I don't have ANY intrinsic factor!

One thing that struck me was the difference (vast difference, in some cases) between the "RDA" (recommended daily allowance) and the amount Dr. Bowden recommends as a therapeutic dose, in pretty much all of the supplements I'm interested in. He talked a lot about that disparity...and how that in many cases, if you're taking what the bottle says is a dose, it can be way under what your body truly needs. Therefore, people many times will stop taking a supplement because it doesn't seem to work, when in fact, it may be that they simply haven't taken enough of it.

Can I tell you how much I enjoy his conversational writing style? It made this book very readable, and very enjoyable.

I love this book. I've learned a lot reading it, and it's going to be one of those "go-to" books that I refer to again and again. I've placed my order for some supplements that I want to try, to see if I can improve my health and well-being, and at last, I feel like I have a handle on what I might need, and why.

So...that's my long version of why this is a great book.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday evening check-in

So, today I have rested and tried to get ahead for the week, cooking-wise. There were several days this past week that I just did not have the energy to cook after work, so I'm trying to plan ahead. Didn't make it to church this morning. In fact, I went back to bed around 10 a.m. and slept for about an hour and a half, which felt great.

So, with next week's dinners in mind, first of all, I made meatballs in the slow cooker this morning. It was really easy.

First, I chopped a few cloves of garlic and heated them in a small skillet in a little olive oil - not long, maybe a minute - until they were fragrant and starting to cook. I put the garlic and oil in the bottom of the slow cooker.

I added 2 14-ounce cans of tomatoes (I had one can of Kroger diced tomatoes and one can of Del Monte tomatoes with peppers and onions in the pantry, so that's what I used). I also added a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, to thicken it a little.

I threw some ground oregano, dried parsley, Italian Seasoning, and a little salt into the tomato/garlic mixture.

I mixed about a pound and a half of ground chuck with about a cup of parmesan cheese and an egg. I didn't put in any bread crumbs. I didn't want the extra carbs. Made fairly large meatballs (maybe 2 - 2 1/2 inch diameter) and dropped them into the sauce as I finished each one.

When they were all in the slow cooker, I spooned the tomato mixture over each meatball, so it was coated, and turned it on high. My slow cooker is very old, so I start everything out on high. Once I could hear it "simmering" inside the pot, I turned it down to medium. Cooked it for about 3-4 hours.

I made some Dreamfields pasta to go with, and it made a lot of meatballs and sauce -- enough for several meals. Hubby liked them, so I think they were a success.

Then, tonight after it cooled down some, I took four chicken leg/thigh pieces, added kosher salt and cracked black pepper and roasted them - skin-on - in the oven. I won't use my oven when it's very hot outside; it just heats up the house too much, and I can't stand it. Made steamed broccoli to go with. I've got a big bowl of spinach salad made as well.

So, we've got dinner for a few nights this week. I'm really happy about that. And I'm very thankful my sweet husband will eat leftovers. I can take salad to work for lunch, with some sliced turkey breast meat. I've got celery sticks cut up and my low carb yogurt, so I think I'm good to go for most of the week.

I'm just hoping all this prep work will help me have a better week than last week. I think it will.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hitting the wall

I've had a couple of really hard days. Yesterday I ended up working until after 9 p.m. This was after my getting a pounding headache in the middle of the day. I went into a lawyer's office (he's out of town), closed his door, and crashed on his couch for an hour instead of eating lunch. It helped my headache, but I was still really tired.

So today was another incredibly busy and stressful day. I broke down in tears no less than five times during the day, as well as when I finally got home and cried on my sweet hubby's shoulder. I just feel like I have no resources left. I can do okay if it's a "normally stressful" sort of day, but when it's like it has been the last couple of days ... I just feel like I have nothing to help me deal with it all. My emotions are absolutely raw; everything seems just so hard ... I've just got to get a grip, somehow.

I took my second B-12 shot last night (can't remember if I blogged about it, but I'm on a weekly regimen of B-12 shots for 4 weeks to see if my fatigue will subside). Anyway, for a day or two, I honestly thought things were better -- I saw a shadow of "the former self" and was able to do things around the house in the evening after working a full day. That feeling is absolutely gone.

My feeling of desperation just grows with each passing week. I have GOT to find out what is wrong with me. I tried to make an appointment with an endocrinologist the other day, so I can get some thyroid tests that go beyond the basic screening test. However, the office I called does not take "walk-in" appointments; my PCP would have to call and set up the initial visit. It was very discouraging, especially since my NP said she would not pursue thyroid tests unless the basic one came back abnormal. And it did not...

I feel very frustrated, because I feel like am not in charge of my body and my medical treatment. I'm supposed to go back to my NP after the four weeks of B-12 treatments, for follow-up blood tests. I think I'm going to call the office, though, and request an appointment with the MD instead of the NP. I don't know if he will help me, but I sure hope so. I can't go on like this, that's for sure.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back to the grind!

Today was our first day back to work and I have to say, it was a little hard to get back in the "groove". We had such a wonderful time and were able to really relax and unwind, which was great!

We went to Mountain View, AR and stayed at a lovely Bed & Breakfast there. I've posted a picture of where we stayed. It was our first B&B experience, but it definitely won't be our last. We met some really interesting and nice people during breakfast each morning. And the breakfasts! We were impressed by the variety of things they offered. The house and grounds were so pretty -- flowers everywhere, and a fountain and pond in the back yard, with lots of swings, Adirondack chairs, benches...lots of little nooks custom-made for relaxing.

Here's a shot of a little portion of the back yard:

Mountain View is a beautiful, very scenic town, sort of "small town America". There's a courthouse square, an old-fashioned pharmacy with a soda fountain, and lots of neat little antique/junk shops. The pace is slow and leisurely, and it was a perfect place to get away from the craziness of life.

It's also a mecca for "pickers" of mountain music. Right outside our room there was sort of a little park, with three gazebos set up in different places, with benches and seats spread around. Guys would show up with a guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass fiddle, or whatever, and sort of form an impromptu group. Every now and then someone new would just walk up, sit down, and start playing. Then when they got tired, they'd get up and go home. It was great.

We also visited the Blanchard Springs Caverns while we were in the area. It was really impressive. Our guide told us they have been named the prettiest caverns in the United States. I thought they were great. So much bigger than I ever dreamed they would be. A lot of my pictures didn't turn out inside the caverns, but here's one:

Of course, it doesn't do justice at all to how beautiful and striking it really was. We took the easiest of the three tours; it was an hour long. Steve wanted to take the "Wild Cave Tour", which included knee pads, gloves, helmets, and head lamps and went to the more unexplored areas. The guide said, if you survive, you even get a t-shirt! Yeah, right!

Anyway, it was a terrific trip and it whetted our appetite for our week's vacation to the mountains coming up in October.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A quick check-in

I'll be out of town and off-line for a few days. We've been looking forward to our long weekend to the mountains, and I'm really excited about getting away from work and just our normal life. A change of pace sounds wonderful!

I'm woefully behind in blogging all the things I've been dealing with, as well as some neat things I just want to it will be my priority next week to sort of catch up.

Here's a quick rundown of today's food:

2 cups coffee / sf Coffee Mate / sweetzfree

homemade breakfast burrito (low carb tortilla filled with scrambled egg, sausage, green bell pepper and onion) served with sour cream and salsa

hamburger patty with cheese, lettuce, pickles, mayo and mustard

lots of iced tea


Joseph's pita with turkey, spinach, shredded carrot, cucumber, a little onion, and mayo

1 cup Hood Calorie Countdown (1/2 white / 1/2 chocolate)

And that's it for today. I'm planning on allowing myself some leeway during my weekend away, but I'm taking some sunflower seeds and flax bread to give me something low carb to snack on. I'm also taking Water Sensations to put in my water bottles.

I'll check in again next week!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday evening check in

It's been a whirlwind few days and I am very, very tired! Working backwards...I worked today, for 9 1/2 hours. Did not stop to go to the bathroom or eat lunch or ... anything! I ate two string cheeses and a couple sugar-free chocolates. Sheesh! I hate days like that ... especially Sundays!

Yesterday (planning ahead, thankfully) I had made a roast with celery, onion, and a few carrots in the slow cooker, so dinner was not an issue when I got home today. Although I've been wanting to get in the kitchen and make some stuff ... I'm not sure when that will happen.

We took Steve's dad out for an early dinner last night, his choice. He's Italian, so of course, he chose Macaroni Grill. I did great with dinner - had the salmon with broccoli and asparagus. But I did have some of the bread dipped in their yummy olive oil before the meal came ... darn that Macaroni Grill! Oh well, olive oil is r-e-a-l-l-y good for you, right? :-)

On Friday, after working all day I raced home and changed clothes so we could meet our Sunday School class for an outing to the baseball stadium downtown. We watched a Memphis Redbirds game and it was a lot of fun, but very tiring. It was a late night...after midnight, which is rare for us.

So ... it's been a hectic few days. This week is sure to be just as busy, since we're heading out of town this Friday to the mountains in Northern Arkansas. For a girl whose days usually consist of work, then home, fix an easy and quick dinner, then rest, it's a lot to deal with. I've got a list for this week -- get the oil changed, get my hair cut, go to the vet's to get Chance's food, so my evenings after work will be busy.

Still haven't heard from my NP. I need to talk to her office and see about getting in there for more tests, if that's what she recommends. I don't see how it can happen this week, but I am truly desperate to feel better. I guess I'll find out what she's thinking, then go from there.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Today's food

Here's the line-up for today:

3 cups coffee with SF Coffee Mate and Sweetzfree

Low carb tortilla with sunflower seed butter and SF jelly (Jok'n Al's), rolled up

Whopper with cheese, no ketchup, no bun

Iced tea / water

cheese slices, 1 strawberry, 2 1-inch cubes of watermelon (went to an art show tonight)

sunflower seeds

And that's it. I missed veggies today. I made a cucumber/tomato salad tonight and I'll have that tomorrow with my spinach salad.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Okay, what gives?

I have been feeling bad for quite awhile now...several months...and the pain and swelling in my right index finger joint finally drove me to see the doctor last week.

I told her about my finger, my knees (which hurt every day now), my lack of energy and general fatigue. She is a wonderful Nurse Practitioner and very responsive. She ran a battery of blood tests and I got the test results back today.

Everything is normal. That's a good thing, right? Then, why do I still feel so bad? Why is my energy through the floor? What am I doing wrong? She wrote a note on my test results that basically said if the fatigue persists, we can go ahead with a referral to a rheumatologist for more tests. But I'm just not sure what to do. I just want to feel better...

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