Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Back to Work

I went to work for four hours today- the first time I've worked since I went out on disability six months ago. It was... less than successful, at least from my point of view.

Two hours in I was already checking the clock, wondering how much longer I'd have to be there. By the end of the day I couldn't believe how angry and aggressive I was feeling. I walked in feeling positive and ready to get back into the swing, and I left feeling like I wanted to strangle something.

I know it's incredibly ungrateful in this economy to feel this way about a job, and it's especially silly to feel this way about a job with excellent insurance considering my health situation. But after four hours I know I don't want to be there anymore. I just don't know what the heck I'm going to do about it yet.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The bread dough that ate New York

I decided to take another whack at crockpot baking. I tried a blueberry bread about a month ago, and it was a bit of a disaster- the bottom and sides burned before the center finished cooking. This time I mixed up a batch of Whole Foods brand gluten-free sandwich bread. I love this stuff. The texture is similar to regular wheat bread, and the mix runs about $3.50 a box. Pricey, but nothing like the $7.99 (!!!!) a loaf they charge for the ready baked loaves in the refrigerated case.
My one problem with this mix is that it doesn't fit well in my bread machine. It's supposed to be a 1.5 lbs loaf. Back in my gluten-eating days, when I made a wheat loaf that size in my machine it was big, but not too big for the machine. When I make a loaf with this stuff it grows up over the edge of the pan. One memorable loaf, meant as my contribution to a Thanksgiving dinner I'd been invited to of course, grew over the edge of the pan, down the side, and onto the heating element at the bottom of the machine. I set the smoke alarm off with that one.
So, I was very excited to see that the Crockpot Lady, my personal hero, made a loaf of this in her crockpot. Problem solved! I though. Maybe not so much. As you can see from the picture above, the dough grew to completely fill my 4qt crockpot. Fortunately, it stopped before pushing off the lid, but it was a close thing. It's smelling nice and bready in here, and the edges have pulled away from the sides and have browned up nicely. But the top is still raw. I just hope it cooks through before the bottom burns again.
Why does this mix get so humongous for me? Is it the level of humidity here in Houston? Bad luck? Am I going to have to give in and start using my oven? If so I'm going to have to make two loaves at a time. There's no way all that bread dough is going into one loaf pan.
This baking stuff is getting complicated. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meds on TV

I've learned a lot about medications in the last two years. One of the unexpected side effects is that sometimes I recognize the names of drugs on TV shows. It gave me a chuckle last year when a couple of characters on CSI were all freaked out about a coworker taking zolpidem. Uh, zolpidem is Ambien, folks. There are only about a bajillion Americans on that stuff.

The one that made me smile tonight was Eleventh Hour. (Yes, I know today is Tuesday and it runs on Thursday. I'm a little behind on my Tivo watching.) Toward the end of the episode Hood found a bottle of pills. He rattled them and then said it was anti-tumor necrosis factor. Sounds fancy, huh? Know what that is? Remicade, Humira, or Cimzia. Know what's even funnier? To the best of my knowledge, anti-TNF doesn't come in pill form. Remicade is administered by IV and Humira and Cimzia are both injections. After watching the episode I deleted it, like most everything else. I tried to recover it to watch that scene again, but it was gone. I wanted to double check, because the character had pancreatic cancer. According to a quick online check, anti-TNF would not be used as a treatment for that. It's TNF that's used to treat cancer. It's still given by injection, though.

I haven't watched it in a couple of months, but I've also noticed that the same characters throw out the same possible diagnoses every week on House. And they like to prescribe Imuran (azathioprine) and Prednisone. Been on both of those, too.

I'm not sure what it says about me that I recognize so many meds on TV. Either I take too many medications or I watch too much TV. Or possibly both.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

DS Lite as ebook reader?

I just heard that you can use a DS Lite as an ebook reader. $150 for an ereader? Sweet! (Kindle, for those who don't know, is $359, and the new Sony 700 is $399. And then you have to buy the actual books.) Does anyone know anything about this? I have many questions.

1. What is the screen like? I've rejected the idea of reading ebooks on a cell phone because the screen is just too small. I want something more substantial, closer to the size of a real paperback book. I know DS Lite has two screens, so it's supposedly visually more like reading a regular book. I'm just worried about how big those screens are.

2. Can I buy books anywhere? I've compared prices for a couple of books I want, and the Kindle prices were better than Sony or Fictionwise. Can I buy a Kindle version and put it on a DS Lite? Am I limited to certain sources of ebooks?

3. How hard is it to get the books onto the unit? I am techno-deficient. Some days getting this blog to post properly is beyond me. I don't have the knowledge, time, or patience to fiddle endlessly with formats, trying to get the text to play nice with the unit. Is it simple or am I going to have problems?

As I said, I'm pretty ignorant of this technology stuff. I'm sure there are things I should ask that I haven't thought of yet. If anyone can share some info about using the DS as an ebook reader, I'd be really grateful.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Living for Today

I like reading other people's blogs. That's probably why I have one of my own. I enjoy the little snapshots of people's lives- the things that make them happy, the things that make them sad, that new and exciting (or annoying) thing their kid/spouse/boss/other did yesterday. I like to check out the patterns they're knitting and ponder the philosophical questions along with them. Sometimes I comment, sometimes I just think. This time it's inspired my own blog post.

I came across a couple posts on different blogs tonight about taking life one day at a time. Focusing on solving today's challenges and leaving tomorrow's and yesterday's challenges alone. There is a certain wisdom in that. But it doesn't work so well when you've got a chronic illness.

The only reason I made it through today is because I planned for it yesterday. The only way I'll make it through tomorrow is by I laying the foundation today. Before I got sick I could fly by the seat of my pants if I had to. Sure, the day always goes smoother if the laundry's done and the meals are planned. But in a pinch I could get up early and run a load of laundry, and if I had to run through the drive through to pick up dinner, no big deal. I can't do that anymore. I always have to be prepared. I need that hour of sleep in the morning. I literally cannot function without it. And yes, I could go through the drive through if it was that or starve, but I'll pay for it big time afterwards.

I understand that they were perhaps talking about bigger things than the day-to-day necessities. I don't have time for the big problems. The small problems take up too much of my energy. And anyway, I know that some day my Crohn's is going to land me back in the hospital, possibly with major surgery. If you know it's going to happen, you don't have to worry about it anymore. It'll get here when it gets here. But the small things can back up on me quickly, and suddenly I have major problems that could have been prevented. If I wear myself out too much I end up stuck at home, in bed and in pain, for days at a time. If I don't make sure that I have gluten-free food that's full of nutrients and easy to digest I get even more tired. Or worse, I end up sick in the bathroom, which causes other problems that you don't want to know about.

I've had memory problems for months that I now know were caused by the Fibromyalgia. (Mom and I have affectionately named it "swiss cheese brain".) I forget stuff. All the time. And even if I remember something, I have a hard time applying that knowledge. For instance, I'll know that I have a doctor's appointment on Thursday. I'll remind myself every day that week of this appointment on Thursday. I can know that it's Wednesday. And yet, my brain doesn't make the next logical connection. The appointment is Thursday. Today is Wednesday. Therefore, the appointment is tomorrow. I can't tell you how frustrating that is. I've always considered myself a reasonably intelligent person. It's disheartening to have "duh" moments on such a regular basis.

It may not seem like such a big deal, to not realize you've got an appointment tomorrow, until you factor in all those little details. I have to figure out where the appointment is. I have to be sure there's gas in the car. I have to be sure I have appropriate clothing to wear. A list of current meds. Food for breakfast. Cash for parking. Change for tolls. Each of those perfectly ordinary, every day items is a discrete event, requiring thought and planning (and energy) on my part. I have to think about all of it, and plan it, before I can do it. It's exhausting.

Actually, now that I think about it, it's probably like having a baby. You have to pack for any eventuality. The only difference is, there's no sweet little baby cooing up at you as pay off. You're reward for surviving the day is- to twist one of my favorite author's lines- another day to survive.

So that's why "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" doesn't work for me. If I don't plan for tomorrow's evil it comes along and smacks me in the back of the head. And my poor old noggin can't take much more abuse.

Is this making any sense? I feel like I'm not expressing myself well. Time for bed.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I have a killer toothache right now. I'm trying to distract myself so that it won't hurt so bad, but it's not working very well. Ouch, ouch, ouch!

I talked to my boss this afternoon, and we've picked a day for me to go back to work- Feb 24.

I went to the hair dresser this afternoon and got my hair done. The last time I went was October, so it was getting pretty desperate. I had her put some copper highlights in with the blond for a little more pop. She decided to flatiron my hair (when I'm in her chair I pretty much let her do anything non-permanent she wants to my head), and I walked out of there looking a bit like a member of a 80's era hair band. It'll be back to it's usual frizzy/curly state tomorrow.

Sorry, I can't concentrate tonight. My tooth hurts too damn much. I'm about 5 minutes away from tracking down a pair of pliers and taking care of it myself. I've been told the tooth needs to come out, but the earliest they could get me in to see the oral surgeon was the 24th. The day I'm supposed to go back to work. And that's just for a consultation. I'm going to call and see if there's any way they can squeeze me in on an emergency basis. I can't take this for another two weeks. And anyway, if they wait that long it might screw up my Remicade schedule.

Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tortilla Stew

I converted my first conventional recipe to a crockpot recipe tonight, and it was goooood. I took my Uncle Gov's tortilla soup recipe, made a few changes, and threw it all in the pot. One of the changes was to add a cup of rice toward the end of the cooking time. The rice soaked up a lot of the liquid, so it's not particularly soupy anymore, so I'm calling it Tortilla Stew instead. Here it is if you'd like to try it.

Becky's Tortilla Stew

1/2 onion
2 heaping spoonfuls of chopped garlic- maybe 3 cloves or so
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1- 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
2 cans chicken broth
3-4 skinless chicken breasts
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup uncooked rice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder

Cut chicken in approximately one inch cubes. Finely chop the onion. Heat fry pan and melt butter. Saute onion and garlic until tender. While that's cooking, pour the chicken broth and tomato sauce into crockpot. Stir to combine. Rinse beans and add to crockpot. Add corn to crockpot. When the onions and garlic are done add to crockpot. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste and brown in fry pan. Add to crockpot. Add spices and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. In the last half hour add the rice, stir, and cover. When rice is tender serve, topped with chopped cilantro, avocado, grated cheese, or sour cream.

ETA: It looks like 1 cup of rice is too much, at least if you want something soupy. There was some liquid the first night, but it was totally absorbed by the time I broke out the leftovers the next day. It made a flavorful rice dish, but there's no way you could call it soup. Next time, if I want soup I'll try 1/3 cup uncooked rice and see how that works.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


As you can see if you've ever been here before, I've made a few changes to the blog. I've been bopping around reading other people's blogs lately and decided it was time to blow the dust off around here. I was sick of the green. This is much cleaner. I'll probably make a few more changes- maybe add some pictures if I can figure out how. If you've got any suggestions I'd love to hear them. Blog design is most definitely not my area of expertise.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Yummy, yummy yogurt

So, Wednesday night I made another batch of yogurt. This time I tried a slightly different method- I heated the milk to boiling on the stove top and brought it back down to temp in a cold water bath before adding the starter and wrapping it up for the night. The resulting yogurt was much milder than the crockpot version. The milk itself might have made a difference, too. When I went to HEB they had half gallons of organic milk on sale for $2 a piece (when I bought milk for my last batch of yogurt they were $2.99 a piece), but they were out of skim so I had to use 1%.

Whether it was the method or the fat, this batch of yogurt is gooood. The flavor is so mild that there's no need to add any honey. I just mixed in some diced apple and homemade granola and breakfast is served.

I will probably use the crockpot to make yogurt again at some point, but for right now the stove top version is my method of choice. With the crockpot it was hard for me to be available to start it, stop it, stir it at the right times. Even being off work, I'd be napping or at a PT appointment or I'd forget to start it and then I'd have to stay up late to finish it. With the stove top version, as long as I've got a half hour to spare I can do it and be done.

In the meantime, I found another use for my crockpot- chicken nuggets. I made the Crockpot Lady's chicken nugget recipe for dinner tonight, and they were yum. http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/09/crockpot-chicken-nuggets-recipe.html
I will definitely be making these again. I used tortilla crumbs for the breading, seasoned with onion and garlic powder and seasoning salt. They were a little tortilla-ee, so I may consider trying a different gluten-free bread crumb option. Maybe I'll crush up some Glutino pretzels and make a pretzel crust. Although at $6 a bag, the Glutino pretzels may be a little pricey to use in cooking.

It's only 9:30 but I'm getting tired. I think it's off to bed for me.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


My yogurt. It did not yoge. I got it started as usual last night, but this morning instead of waking up to a batch of tangy delicious yogurt I found a crockpot full of slightly weird smelling milk. I ended up eating leftovers for breakfast instead. I suspect that either it was too cool in the apartment for it to "take" or there wasn't enough live culture left in the yogurt I used as a starter. That'll teach me to wait until I'm out of yogurt to make more.