Friday, November 30, 2012

Yummy Easy Coconut Cake & Other Ideas

Wednesday night, I was browsing Pinterest, and I came upon a picture that said, "Eat me!"  OK, so a picture cannot say that.  But have you ever seen a recipe that looked so good and so easy, you knew you had to fix it?  That's what happened to me.  I wanted to put a picture of it on my blog, but I haven't cooked it yet, and I do not have permission to use the picture on my blog.

By now, I suppose you are wondering what this wonderful recipe is, and why I don't fix it and take a picture.  The reason is that it probably has more carbohydrates than I should eat in a week, and I plan to make it for a party.  It is definitely group food, not food for a twosome.  Now, for the name -- it is called 
Bloomin'  Gooey Cheese Bread.  You use a round loaf to get the look, which is reminiscent of Bloomin' Onions -- another decadent treat.  You have to cut into the bread deep enough to let the seasonings get in, using a criss-cross cut.  It has wonderful herbs, butter, spring onion, and mozzarella cheese on it.  And there are variations on the recipe:  they all sound yummy!  Most of the time, I can live without bread, but I think this would be a hit;  moreover, I described it to my husband, and he thinks so too.  

If you use Pinterest, I have some other recipes on my board that sound good for the holidays.  If you look at my Recipe board and my Christmas board, you should see them.  Just click at the top of the blog to go directly to my Pinterest board.  If you are not a member of Pinterest, it will take you to the home page.  

Easy Coconut Cake  (Good make ahead recipe)
Here is an easy cake to make.  It is moist and gooey around the edges, which makes it my favorite Coconut Cake.  
Ingredients
1 Yellow Cake Mix
1 Can of Cream of Coconut (It is in the section of the grocery store that has wine and mixers.  It has a lot of   
                                                sugar in it.)
Frozen Imitation Whipped Cream (defrosted) or Make your own Whipped Cream with real cream
Sweetened Flaked Coconut

Mix yellow cake mix according to directions and pour into a 9 X 13 rectangular pan or glass dish.
Bake according to cake mix instructions.
While warm, poke holes all over baked cake.  Leave it in the dish you cooked it in.
Evenly pour Cream of Coconut over the cake.
Let the cake cool.
Spread whip cream over cake, then sprinkle flaked coconut on top of the cake.
Keep in the refrigerator.  
I like this cake better on the second and third day.

Merry Christmas!






Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Easy and Make Ahead Recipes

It's time to think about recipes.  I'm going to suggest a few that can be made several days ahead of your get-together.  And if I think of any others in the days ahead, I may add a few more.

The following is easy to make and guests go back for more.  If you have any left over, they are good for a main dish.

Easy Appetizers / Hors d'oeuvres


Easy Slow Cooker Barbecued Meatballs

2 -16 ounce packages of frozen meatballs (about 60)
1  20 ounce can of pineapple chunks undrained
1  regular sized bottle barbecue sauce (1 to 1-1/2 Cups of Sauce) I think I  
                                                         used Bulls-eye BBS) 
1  sliced or diced green bell pepper

Cook for 5 - 8 hours on low.  Slow cookers can vary in temperatures, but it would be very hard to cook these too long.  Also, if you are a creative cook you could spice these up according to your taste.  However, this is one of the easiest appetizers I have ever made.

Layered Mexican Dip

Buy a large bag of Tortilla Chips to serve along side this recipe.
All you have to do is layer the listed ingredients in the order given, then
put it in the refrigerator to heat up later or put it in the oven right away, then serve.  This is a really yummy dip.  I like it much better than the cold bean layered dip.  I put this in a 9 X 13 inch glass baking dish.

1 Can of Refried Beans (Regular Size)
Brown 1 pound Ground Beef with 1/2 Cup Chopped Onion
8 ounces Taco Sauce
1 1/2 or 2 Cups Shredded Cheese
Small Can Chopped Green Chilis (4 oz.)
Small Can Chopped Black Olives
1 Cup Sour Cream (a little tight spreading 1 cup, but can be done)
Optional:  Chopped green onion if desired

Bake at 350 degree f. for 25 minutes.  Serve with Tortilla Chips.

_____________________________________________________________

Make Ahead Dinners or Suppers

Menu

Ham, Roast, or Poultry  
      
Ham can be served cold after it is cooked.  
You could buy Whole Cooked Chicken from the Grocery Store Deli.
Or you could cook a Roast, Turkey Breast or Chicken in a Reynold's Oven Bag.  I have never had  dry meat when cooking in one of these bags.
See the directions in bags for oven temperature and cooking times.
Another choice would be cooking the meat in your slow cooker all day, but it
may be falling apart.  Remember, this is supposed to be easy.  Do what is easiest for you.  Oven Bags make clean up easier too.

Suggested seasonings:
Pork:  Garlic, Rosemary, Salt, and Pepper (Can cook this in a cooking bag too)
Chicken in the Bag:  Season inside and out.  Garlic Salt, Celery Salt, Pepper, 
                             Onion Salt, Paprika.  You can substitute Powdered Garlic
                              for Garlic Salt.  Shake seasonings on the whole chicken.
                              Follow directions for Cooking Bag.
Turkey or Turkey Breast:  You could put a cut onion and some cut stalks
                                    of celery in the cavity.  Don't fill it full.  Leave 
                                    room for heat to circulate.  Rub with butter.
                                    Salt and Pepper Turkey.

Bake sweet potatoes in oven with the main meat or poultry dish.  Serve with
butter, salt, and pepper.  Let guests butter, salt and pepper according to taste.

Or you could have Yellow Rice.  Note that most packaged yellow rice contains
MSG. 

Serve with chilled jellied and/or whole Cranberry Sauce.  Open both ends of cans for sauce to slide out in shape of can.

Possible Make Ahead Casserole for This Menu - this recipe tastes better if it sits in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  It is quite rich.

My Version of Spinach Madeleine (this is a tripled version which will fit in a 9 X
13 glass rectangular baking dish or a 3 quart casserole.  Bake without a cover. 

Ingredients
--large version for 15 to 20 people 
4 - 16 ounce bags chopped frozen spinach 
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1/4 Cup of flour plus 2 Tablespoons
1/3 finely chopped onions
1 1/3 Cups of Spinach Liquer (Juice drained from cooked Spinach)
1 - 12 ounce Can Evaporated Milk
1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt or Rounded 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Celery Salt
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
3 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 3/4 Monterey Jack Pepper Cheese, cut into small chunks
1 Cup Sharp Grated Cheddar Cheese
Cayenne pepper to taste
Butter, and Breadcrumbs made with whole wheat or white bread, for topping

--regular version for 5 to 6 people fits in a 1 1/2 quart casserole
1 1/4 bag of chopped frozen spinach or 2 - 10 ounce boxes frozen spinach
1/2 stick of butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
1/2 cup spinach liquer (juice drained from cooked spinach)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt or 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces monterey jack pepper cheese
1/3 cup sharp grated cheddar cheese
cayenne pepper to taste
Butter and Breadcrumbs, for topping


Cook spinach as directed on package; drain in strainer, reserve spinach liquid.
Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.
Whisk in flour until smooth.
Add onion; cook until soft but not brown.  Stir while cooking.
Slowly add milk and reserved spinach liquid 1/2 to 1 1/2 Cups of liquid 
     depending on how much you are making.  Stir as you add liquids.
     until sauce is smooth and thickened.
Stir in garlic salt, celery salt, pepper, Worcestershire and cheeses;  
      continue stirring until smooth.
Add Drained Spinach to Sauce, or Combine in Large Bowl.
Pour into Casserole Dish.
Make your bread crumbs with bread by tearing into small pieces. 
      Melt some butter in a saute pan and stir your bread crumbs 
      around in butter.
Spread bread crumbs over mixture in casserole dish.

If you are chilling, cool before putting in refrigerator.  Cover and leave in refrigerator one or two days.  This also freezes well.  If you use a glass casserole dish, make sure you let it come close to room temperature before putting in oven, or it might crack.  

Bake at 350 to 375 degrees for 35 minutes to 40 minutes, until bubbly.

If you are cooking in oven right away, use the cooking time below.
Bake at 350 degrees f. until heated through and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes.  (This recipe always tastes better after it sits in the refrigerator for one or two days.) 

Salad and Rolls could be served with this meal, but our family did not find rolls necessary.

Light Dessert  such as, Sherbet, Sorbet,  or Key Lime Pie -- delicious versions
can be bought in the grocery store.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Did I Promise a Party?

Extended Family Enjoying One Another
It is a busy time of year, so I am going to make a bare bones blog post for you to read about types of parties.  I have a feeling that I am only skimming the surface, so feel free to comment and suggest ideas.  The first ideas I am choosing for the ease of getting it together.

First things first:  forget about comparing your home to someone else's.  Some of the best parties I have been to were in small, very modestly furnished trailers or apartments.  I have also been to some wonderful parties in beautifully furnished, large homes.  There were three key components that made these parties enjoyable:  fellowship, sharing the work, and creativity.  About creativity:  if you don't feel you are a creative person, borrow ideas from me, from Pinterest, or from magazines.  Above all, keep it simple so you can have enough energy to enjoy yourself.



1.  Impromptu Parties
    . Invite some friends home from church for soup and dessert.
    . Have your neighbors over for coffee and dessert, or wine and cheese.
    . Call a couple of friends and say, "Do you have any plans for tonight or 
      tomorrow?  I'd like you to come over for  ___________."
2.  Cookie Exchange
     This takes a little more preparation, because you will have to have coffee
      or tea, or both.  Also, you could have punch.  Some easy protein such as 
      cheese squares, which you can buy already cut up and a deli-tray with  
      the celery, carrots, dip, etc. might be nice, because it offsets the   
      sweetness of cookies.  Also, it is a nice thing for the carbohydrate 
      sensitive folks you know.   You could even ask someone who has a 
      problem with eating sweets to bring some of these items, instead of 
      cookies.  Ask your guests to make their favorite Christmas cookie, 
      perhaps a couple of dozen if you invite 10 people.  It would be nice
      if everyone made enough cookies to take some home on a paper plate,
      in one of those pretty colored boxes that look like Chinese carryout  
      (can buy these at a craft store, like Michaels), or in a small plastic
      container from the  grocery store.  Ask each person to bring 10 copies
      of their recipe, which is part of the exchange.      
3.  Cold Cut Trays from the Deli, a Variety of Breads, a Variety of Mustards, 
     and Mayonaisse & Beverages. Good for a small crowd or a large crowd.       
4.  Soup, Salad, Bread, and Dessert
     Good for a crowd or a small dinner party.
5.  Finger Food Buffet
     Have your friends bring their favorite party food.  You provide paper 
     plates, plastic forks, napkins, cups, and beverages.  
     If you don't like to use throw aways, be prepared to wash dishes or let 
     some friends help.
6.  Pot Luck
    This is the same idea as Finger Food Buffet.  If you want a little more  
     control, you could ask your friends to bring a vegetable, dessert, 
     beverages, or bread.  You could provide the meat.
7.  In addition to the various kinds of parties you can have, you could also do 
     a white elephant exchange.  Each guest brings a funny, yummy, or unusual 
     gift.  Each person draws a number:  #1 goes first, unwraps his/her gift,
     then the next person #2 goes.  #2 has the option of picking a gift to 
     unwrap or take the gift  from #1.  If  #1 gets his gift taken away, he 
     chooses another gift and unwraps it.  Play the game until everyone has an   
     opportunity to choose a gift.  One of the funniest gifts I remember seemed 
     very uncharacteristic for the person who unwrapped it.  She unwrapped a 
     toilet seat with sixties' type flowers painted on it, then proceeded to set it  
     on the couch and sit on it.  We were all young married couples,  and we
     could hardly stop laughing.  What I remember about that party is the 
     fun and fellowship.  Also, my best Texas friend brought either winter     
     squash or sweet potatoes with apples in it.  That party was over thirty
     years ago, and I still remember. 

     
I hope this gave you some ideas.  Tomorrow, I will give you some ideas and recipes for a make ahead menu.

By the way, do not forget the power of deli-cheesecake, frozen pies, and cakes from the bakery.  Also, for those who are on a frugal budget: there are some delicious bean and hambone soups that I have never seen anyone turn down.

P.S. Did I remind you?  Let friends and family help.  And it doesn't have to be perfect, whatever that is -- maybe, imperfect Is perfect.

What's Important

Image Courtesy of [dan] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Before I go any further on the subject of entertaining, I want to talk about our focus.  If our focus is on how beautiful our home is or isn't, than our focus is skewed.  If you are a Christian the focus of the season is the birth of Jesus Christ and how blessed we are that God loves us so much, He sent His Son to save the world.  Many people do not understand, nor care about this.  They just love the festivity of the season, the thoughts of peace and good will.  The thing is that we would not have those without Jesus Christ.  

I know there are religions that celebrate at this darker time of the year to bring light into their lives, but I know of no light that is stronger or more real than the one true God, His Holy Spirit, and His Son.  This is not a politically correct statement, but I told you I would be honest.  There is no way I can leave this out of the equation, because this is why I celebrate year round, not just at Christmas. Jesus was not born in a palace, but a stable:  He comes to each one of us regardless of our station in life:  rich and poor, sick and well, young and old, aristocrat and commoner, CEO of a company and CEO of a home (homemaker), whoever you are -- He came for your salvation.

I would be remiss if I did not tell you, you can be joyful and celebrate the season without decorations and fancy feasts.  You do not have to decorations, even though they are enjoyable.  If all I have is the energy to straighten up my house and do the everyday normal, I am still going to be happy.  Can you do that?  Can you take joy in what you can do, not focus on what you can't do?  What we can do is going to be different for all of us.  For many of us, this differs from year to year.

I want a Christmas tree.  I want decorations.  However, I do not know if I will accomplish this or not.  As it draws closer to Christmas, I can see that just a touch of festive decorations may be all I can manage.  I will be joyful if I have none and joyful if I have some.  I will do what I can do, and I am going to focus on why I do it.  I do it to celebrate the birth of my Savior Jesus Christ.  Now, I will go eat my late breakfast and be glad I got this straight in my own mind and heart.  What's important for you?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Getting Ready for Entertaining

Image Courtesy of [Ventrilock]/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Another suggestion is hanging Christmas Balls
from a Chandelier at different levels or hang them
inside a window or over the headboard of a bed.
So you want to entertain this Christmas season or for New Years?  First, smile, because it is fun to decorate and plan;  moreover, it is nostalgic to sit in a room with just the Christmas lights, candlelight, and music.  If you are dreading entertaining, you need to rethink the whole thing;  because it will stress you and draw the energy right out of you.  Just visit friends and family, or go to a restaurant if the idea of having a party seems crazy at the stage of health you are in.

However, if you are going to have a party or dinner:

1.  Make a checklist of things you need to do and buy.
2.  Plan, Buy, and Cook ahead of time.
3.  Hire a decorator and a caterer.
4.  Barring the ability or desire to do number three, get the parts of your house you are going to decorate ready this week and decorate on the weekend.  Also, I have an anti-FlyLady suggestion.  If you have things sitting around that you do not have time or energy to take care of until after the holidays -- box them up and put them in the garage, attic, closet, or trunk of your car.  If you can afford it, you can always rent a storage pod or shed.  However, the danger is you will leave the things you put in the box and not unpack it.  There is a tendency to ignore stored boxes, whether stored at home or otherwise.  The box idea is a desperate measure.
5.  Make your decorating simple, not elaborate.  Candles and greenery, such as ivy, holly, or cedar looks nice on mantles and the center of tables.    Another simple and cute idea for decorations is wrapping some different sized small boxes and stacking them on dressers in the bedrooms.  This looks very festive.  In fact, you could possibly let some of those boxes contain real gifts for  Christmas Day.    Also, glass Christmas balls in a  bowl or glass containers look beautiful.  
6. Spread decorating your tree over several days if you have many ornaments.  Some day, I want to get a tree that already has the lights on it.  I love real trees, but I have not bought one for about 15 years.  The fake tree is definitely easier and it never turns brown.  Moreover, there is nothing wrong with having a small tree.  It does not make your Christmas Spirit less, because you have a small tree.  Just the fact you want to entertain, shows you have an enormous amount of Christmas spirit.  It is the fellowship that is important.  By the way, have you ever thought of putting small inexpensive Christmas presents in a wicker basket with Christmas bows on it?  That would be very cute.
7.  Your house or apartment does not have to be perfect.  You do not have to clean the oven and mop all the floors.  Your company is going to walk on those floors, and if you have children over, the floors will definitely be dirty when they leave.  I am seriously thinking of buying some antibacterial wipes for quick clean ups.  They are something I don't usually buy, but they would be nice to have for quick cleanups in the bathrooms and in the kitchen.

During the next couple of days, I will write about some easy party and menu ideas.  Also, I will try to come up with some simple last minute ideas for a spontaneous party.  Perhaps, you have some great ideas you would like to share on  my facebook page:  I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Grandmother's Adventure

I wanted to come home after three and a half days of being with my daughter, son-in-law, and seven grandchildren and tell you I feel great, that I paced myself so well I got all the rest I needed.  I told my husband that I had always promised to tell you the truth;   and I want to give you a glossy, spiffed up me instead of the truth that I am exhausted.  By the time I got out of the car in our driveway, I could barely walk.    After sitting in the car for two and  one half hours, I could barely move my knees.  It's a good thing I took my cane with me.  I needed it for going up steps and down steps, also for getting out of chairs.

The knee thing is a little more than my regular fibromyalgia.  I sat down in a chair Monday to put on my socks and shoes, and I felt something snap on the outside of my knee.  Of course, because I am favoring my right knee, now my left knee hurts too.  Since I am home now, I can rest and have some quiet, but I still miss the pitter-patter of little feet around me.   So this afternoon, I have watched Christmas movies, tried to write, and also almost fallen asleep several times.  Right now, we are watching The Canadian Tenors on PBS, and I have tears in my eyes.  The emotion that wells up in me as they sing in my super-fatigued state is almost too much, but how can I not listen to the glorious music?

So what can I tell you about balancing your life and pacing yourself?  Do the best you can;  but sometimes, you have to be the yourself and live with the consequences.  When special moments come to spend with children or grandchildren, it is almost impossible to hold back, unless you are already totally exhausted.  I planned as much as I could, giving myself plenty of time to cook my casserole and pies.  I was totally unstressed the day we left.  I do not remember any time in my life I have felt less stressed, than when we left on Wednesday.    However, my body thought differently.
I had decided to work in my art journal, and all of a sudden
I became the center of interest.  It started with our 3 year old
grandson joining me and painting with markers, then switching
to my watercolors.  A couple of the older children wanted a
demonstration of automatic drawing, which was not what I
had planned at all.   You can guess what happened.  Coloring the
automatic drawing became a kind of free for all.  Know what --
it was absolutely wonderful.  We had fun!

Even though my daughter has quiet times for the children everyday and even though I took naps everyday, the seemingly constant motion of family in and out and around tired me out.  I enjoyed all the special times with them.  We read, we walked  outside, we played with the dog, played basketball, and made Christmas decorations. They even helped me paint in my art journal after some of the children did their own pictures.  We did spread these activities out, and my basketball playing was limited to throwing a few baskets.

One thing that made me really happy was I could not have done the things we did a year ago.  That seems to be the nature of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia;  therefore, I plan to pace myself in my daily life and enjoy the special moments.  Right now, I am saying it is worth the way I feel now, if my grandchildren have good memories of our times with them.  Also, they know that I put out extra for them, that I cannot do the things I did several years ago.  When knees and other parts of the body do not work right and one is using a cane, it becomes an obvious picture of ill health.  Love covers many of the downsides of too much activity, and this was one of those times.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Prepare to Entertain


Decorating and entertaining during the Christmas Season can be tiring for even healthy people.  For those of us who have chronic illnesses, it is more of a challenge, but not impossible.  I will be posting ideas to make this easier for you if you are determined to do this during the holidays.  I was especially inspired by a recent comment by a fellow blogger, IlanaNovember 18, 2012 12:19 PM who wrote,
Hi Deborah! Great post, I'm really looking forward to your advice on dealing with the holidays. This is really my first year in my own house celebrating Christmas and Hannukah and I really want to be festive, have parties, and be able to bring treats to all of the gatherings--but the fatigue is a real barrier and I want to be able to enjoy and really contribute! So I do get how you're feeling! 

Since I have been married 41 years and I have had very active Fibromyalgia and other illnesses for about 18 years, I think I can come up with some ideas for you.  

1.  Write down your plans.  After you have set a date or dates for whatever kind of gathering you are going to have in your home, you should begin making a list of your theme, what kind of food you are going have, etc.

2.  Consider what you are going to be invited to:  family, friends, and business functions.  I would plan according to that.  Depending on the extent of your illness, you will probably have to pick and choose what you go to, or even leave early.  Every year since I have been ill, I end up with the January blahs.  The last few years it has taken two or three months to recover.  That is what I want to avoid this coming year, and I hope you can too.  Don't try to be wonder woman or super man.  Realism is an important element to preserving our health.

3.  If you are entertaining, enlist some help in cleaning the house and decorating.  You don't have to do it all.  In fact, the decorating does not have to be elaborate.  If you are in your first home, people are not going to expect you to have a collection of ornaments to put on your tree.  That is something that builds over the years.  And let me tell you, it is tiring to decorate;  so spread it out over two or three days or longer if necessary.  I know it is fun, but it is not worth making yourself sicker.

I can't wait to see my grandson's faces,
 when they see their decorated pictures.
Yesterday, I made them cards on the  computer.
  I am sure that must have been good craft therapy.

I am planning to share some ideas for easy parties and meals.  So check in later.  I am almost ready to go.  All I have to do is pack.  The birthday presents are wrapped -- we have two birthday boys.  The pies were made yesterday and the casserole was made on Monday.  I can hardly believe Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  

I didn't get all my little projects done, and that is OK.  I knew I had to rest and I am glad I stopped.  In the past, I would have pushed myself, even stayed up all night.  So maybe, I have learned a few lessons well.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sidetracked or On Track?

All I need is one small thing to sidetrack me.  My mind can really get going on that plant I have been meaning to clip out of the gardens for months or that drawer that needs to be cleaned out.  Does that happen to you? Do you ever walk by something and after 20 to 30 minutes, you realize your body isn't used to what you are doing, but you want to finish the job?  That happened to me, because I told my husband I would take the dog out, because he couldn't come home for lunch.  One thing leads to another.

When I started clipping those weed plants, that you can't pull out, I just kept going.  I am semi-glad I stood up and got sugar water poured on my head and back from the hummingbird feeder.  At least, it slowed me down.  To top it off -- those plants have absolutely nothing to do with getting ready for Thanksgiving.  Urgh!!

Speaking of Thanksgiving for those of you who live in the USA, are you having to prepare food or the house for family and friends to come over?  If you are I hope you have already done your shopping.  It is amazing how certain items seem to disappear from the shelves.  Are you like me?  Have you always known your pie tastes better than store bought, so you would put yourself in extra fatigue and pain to make it?  Is it a matter of pride?  I can only ask these questions, because I have been there so many times.  Next question:  is it worth doing that to yourself at this late date?  Homemade pumpkin pie tastes good at Christmas time too.  And I don't know if you can have pumpkin pie at Hanukkah and some of the other religions.  That just happens to be one of our family traditions.  Have you ever bought a smoked turkey?  Ummmm... Ask other people to help.  Buy rolls that you just stick in the oven, instead of making them.


If you are beginning to feel stressed and overloaded, give yourself a break.  I have learned there are times I can't have my pumpkin pie and eat it too.  I enjoy being with my family more when I have saved some energy for being with them. This year we are going to our daughter's house for Thanksgiving;  and I am taking pie and a casserole, but they can both be prepared a couple of days ahead.  So today, I will cook the casserole.  It tastes better after it sits a couple of days anyway.  However, if I run out of steam, I  will not hesitate to send my husband to the store for pumpkin pie.  Also, as a good friend reminded me today, I don't have to clean my house before I go.  The mess is not going to go anywhere:  it will still be here.  I sure do love my friend.

Incidentally, did you know you do not have to go to the store on Black Friday?  Isn't that awful?  We have a wonderful holiday to thank God for our blessings;  then, the day after is Black -- yuck --why couldn't it be white or green or red or Family Friday?!  Some stores are opening on Thanksgiving.  I feel so sorry for employees that have to work on a family holiday, unless, they are in the travel industry or medicine.  My dad had to work if it was his day to work, so we always timed our family celebrations when he was going to be home.  That was an aside -- back to shopping.  

Since I have been ill, I have been letting my fingers do the walking on the computer more than I ever did before.  I have to admit to having been an Amazon.com fan for several years.  I even get most of my purchases delivered for free.  It is worth a Prime Membership, because it saves on shipping.  My grandkids love getting a box in the mail from Amazon.  They will even put a message in there for you.  We would love to be there for all their birthdays, but sometimes my husband's work schedule doesn't allow or I am too sick.  

Speaking of stores, I hope the ads on my site do not offend you.  I don't work outside the home anymore, so I thought this would be a way I could save money for my next computer.  Unfortunately, computers don't last forever.  I just want you to know that I started my blog to help other people with chronic illnesses, not to make money. Moreover, I love having the ability to post things that have helped me or I think are cool.  I am full of asides today.  I just wanted you to know, the blog is for you.  That is the important thing. It is my heart's desire for you to be blessed.  I am praying for a happy and healthier holiday for you.  God bless!

Gentle hugs, 

Deborah

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Holiday Color, Speaking of Hair

Last week, I not only felt sick:  I wanted to look good with the least amount of effort.  I was tired of having wet hair hanging on my neck from going into sweats -- not perspiration, ladies and gentlemen -- but out and out sweats that made my hair feel like I had poured water over it.  So with much trepidation, I asked my husband to drive me to the hair salon to perform the dastardly deed. Yes, I let the stylist cut my hair short.  It took me a week to tell anyone I had it done.  I am blessed to have a husband that tells me to keep things simple.  If I was happy with short hair, so was he.

Please don't think I am telling anyone this is the answer to simple.  We all have our own answers to what hairstyles work best for us according to hair type and face shape.  I had just come to that moment I had to have a different hairstyle.  I felt sick, old, and frumpy;  and I know all I had to do was  fix my hair.  However, wet hair on the neck ruins the hairstyle and makes me cold. Plus, i didn't feel like fixing it.  Maybe, it was one of those woman things:  I needed a change.  And hair does grow, so I could let it grow again if I got tired of it.  I also have to admit to having browsed wigs on the internet.  Cutting my hair was an adjustment:  having another option sounded good too.  

My head felt like it had lost 5 pounds.  Woo hoo!  It felt good.  But was I satisfied with that?  Of course not, so yesterday, I bought a highlighter kit.  I was not paying forty dollars to pull a few pieces of hair through a cap, especially if my husband would help me pull strands through the holes.  I knew I would be stressed if I did it by myself.  So you know who helped me.  True love has got to be your husband of 41 years or any amount of years agreeing to help you color your hair.  This was a first for us and it was actually kind of fun.  Did I mention we are on a tight budget?  He was all for saving thirty-five dollars.

Now, for the warning:  read your directions first.  If you haven't colored your hair for a long time and you are having brain fog, let your husband read the directions too.  Or check off each item as you do it in addition to reading the directions first.  Why am I telling you this?  I read the directions through, mixed the Frosting Developer and the Lightening Powder in the little tub.  Then, we put it on my hair and left it.   After the time was up, my husband helped me rinse and shampoo in the kitchen sink.  Then I put the conditioner on and it felt strange.  My brain went into oh-oh mode, I put my glasses on, and I realized i was supposed to mix the "conditioner", which was Protective cream in with the developer and powder.  We both mildly panicked and my DH said nervously, "We better get that stuff out of your hair fast."  So we shampooed again.

The stories we all have about Brain Fog could probably fill volumes.  My hair looks fine  (whew!), I like the highlights, and I feel one step closer to making the holidays easier.  Also, I made it to our Worship Services this morning, without feeling stressed, hurried, and nervous.  An hour ago, I emptied out another moving box:  it felt like early Christmas.  Life is Good, even with brain fog.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Finding a Way to Survive the Holidays

What is special about this tree?  Not the perfect placement
of ornaments or the symmetry of the branches.  The special
thing about this tree is my grandchildren helped Grandpa
put it up and they opened the Christmas boxes and placed
the ornaments on the tree for Grandma.  It was a joy watching
them have such fun, hearing them ooh and ahh over the
ornaments,  and not worrying about whether the tree was
decorated like I would do it.  Sure, I changed a few around
after they left and I added more.  But seeing this picture
reminds me of the joy and love we have for one another.
Is there anybody else out there having a love-hate relationship with the holiday season?    Please understand, when I say hate, it is not the holidays themselves that bring that word into my vocabulary;  because I have always loved everything about them--the true meaning of being thankful to God for blessings great and small, for the fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus being born for the sake of mankind, and celebrating with friends and family.  

I suppose it is the changes in my life that have made each year more of a struggle.  Maybe, it is because I am reminded that I cannot do things the way I used to do them.  Sometimes, I wonder how I ever prepared the great feasts for my family, sang in the choir, volunteered in the community,  baked cookies and pies, wrapped presents, and not only cared for my family--but I played with them too.  Any time I could think of a way to make a special day and meal, so they would feel loved and we would spend time together I found a way.  How often I have thanked God for the creative mind He gave me, because it has been so helpful in my life.

Actually, last night I felt like something was eating at me, but I didn't quite know what.  I tried to write and there was a barrier there;  but now, I know the barrier was my feeling of inadequacy.  And I felt guilty, because I have sat  in my recliner so much the past two weeks.  In fact, after I finished working on the new background and header for this blog, I felt almost like I was waking up from a dream.  I am sure that is from a mixture of the brain going to another place during the creative process;  moreover, my routine has been decimated from being sick.

I would like to have my house at least halfway shipshape before Christmas.  It doesn't have to be perfect, only almost perfect -- just kidding.  However, I can only do what I can do, and I am not going to let myself get in a tizzy over what I cannot control.  I cannot help being fatigued:  that's a major part of the illness of FM and CFIDS.   I have to take care of myself first, or I cannot take care of anyone else.  Is there anybody reading this, who has already had the struggle of which I write?  Are you already wanting to do the fun things like decorating that take so much energy, but you dread being more tired or giving out entirely?  

My advice is to be careful to do only what you can do, because it is the spirit of the season that is important, not making our houses look like a magazine page.  I am hoping to listen to my own advice, as well, because I would love avoiding the January Doldrums, which is what will happen if I overdo.  

Therefore, I have a proposal, which may work for some of us -- I will write a day to day account of how to do some of the enjoyable holiday things without going into meltdown. Today is a new day and I am always ready to find a way to do things better with less energy, or at least save some for later.  So get ready for a new series for those of us that haven't finished all our Christmas cleaning, shopping, baking, wrapping, and decorating.  Intertwined will be honest accounts of how things are really going in my life.  Our bodies often are nervous, panic-ridden, and in pain under pressure;  however, the goal is to enjoy a season filled with peace and joy, regardless of our circumstances.  If you can find the time, perhaps you can go to my Facebook page, Balancing Life Changes / Living Better With Chronic Illness.  I am setting a goal for myself to have one useful idea added to it each day to make our holidays easier to deal with, no matter what your age, your faith, or your circumstances are.   

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Simplifying, A Process

Is there anyone out there that has ever been good at multi-tasking?  I used to be, but I look at that as a thing of the past now.  Occasionally, I seem to manage it on a one day basis, but my brain doesn't seem to work that way anymore.  My mother used to say, "I have a one-track mind."  It seems I have inherited that with all my wisdom and maturity.  I'm writing this with a smile on my face:  it is true, and I have to smile and know I am not beat.  So I am tackling one space at a time.  Today, it has been the guest bedroom.  I am emptying a file cabinet, so I can move it or get rid of it. 

I did all those days with FlyLady and I am still dealing with clutter, less, but it is still here.  However, it takes time to organize and go through things.  I am not going to let it spoil the holiday season, which is oh so close.  I can hardly believe Thanksgiving is next week. I wanted to have it here, but I know I can't because I have been sick on top of the chronic illnesses.  I am finally starting to have more energy and my joints are not aching like they were.  It is hard to believe a simple infection could have affected so many parts of my body, but so goes life with fibromyalgia and CFIDS.  I am glad I got the UTI, because the antibiotic is clearing up my sinusitis too.   I honestly think the sinusitis is what began my downhill spiral.

For some reason, I am also dealing with an unusual amount of itchiness, which makes wearing a bra uncomfortable.  I can keep it on for a while, but then it has to go.  I might have to consider changing detergents:  I just thought of that one.  Anyhow, I never cared a whole lot for bras, but the girls look better when I am wearing one.  I am sure you know what I mean.  Ooh!  That was private.

Yesterday and today I have been cleaning out a file cabinet.  Sometimes, it is hard to believe I didn't do this sooner.  Simple is my goal.  And I plan to enjoy the process as much as possible.  So with a smile on my face, I return to some of the necessities of simplifying and also sticking some fish in the oven.  I think my husband would enjoy supper tonight.  God bless you all and good night!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Dichotomy of Fibromyalgia and Dreams

Saturday, November 10, 2012
While I want to encourage all my readers that have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction, I have to be totally honest too.  That is one thing that I feel is important, so we can be realistic about what we can and can't do.  I don't want to be a bubble buster or a dream stealer;   but I know how it feels to have false expectations, and then fall flat on my rumpus.  If you see some unusual spelling or grammatical errors today, part of it is due to my fibro-fog or brain fog. My Brain Fog is really bad today.  I am having trouble reading and comprehending.  I can write, but there has always seemed to be a connection between my fingers and brain.

I have had my share of ups and downs the last few months, but it seems to be part of my landscape -- having to live within the parameters of feeling Kinda OK or Tired Of Being Tired.  Since I won't ever feel Really Well again, unless someone comes up with a miracle cure, it would be nice to feel KO (kinda ok).   However today, I just had it with feeling TOBT (tired of being tired).  I am tired of being achy, burny, hurty. I am tired of sinusitis and having a urinary tract infection.  And I am tired of me.  Ugh!  Ever felt that way?  So at least you know I am a real person, and I have my fragile times.  I suppose this is one of them, and I know it has been building, because I want to be able to push past my tiredness.  However, that does not work for people who have FM and CFIDS.

Sunday Nov. 11, 2012
For those of you that have been following my FlyLady 31 Days of Beginning Babysteps, I can honestly say that I have made progress because of doing the baby steps;  however I have not been able to do every step every day.  Between flares and illness, I feel like I have done the best I can.  Somedays, I have been able to do all the steps and other days, just a few.  I am seriously thinking about exploring other ways to be successful in continuing the steps--perhaps modifying or coming up with my own schedule.  I  may not be able to have complete control over how my body is going to react and be everyday, but I am convinced I can find a way to improve on how I manage housekeeping.  I also realize one of the main ingredients is getting rid of clutter.  FlyLady is right about "clutter attracting clutter."

I guess you noticed the dates.  Yesterday was tough, but I survived.  My night was restless:  I could not get comfortable, and I am staying away from pain meds, because of the warnings on my antibiotic.  The brain fog is better and the shaky feeling I had last night is gone.  My blood sugar went up to 194 last night.  My body notices those kinds of changes right away.  Today, I started my day out right, with the mindset I am going to pay better attention to my moderate low carb way of eating.  However, I am still trying to make up my mind about splenda.  Splenda was helping me to follow this way of eating, because I could still have my homemade chocolate balls.

God bless you all.  Have a wonderful new week.

Love,

Deborah  

  

Friday, November 9, 2012

My New Pet Peeve

I don't usually muse on my pet peeves.  In fact, I usually get over them;  but today, my Fibro-brain had more than it could take.  I found a blog I really liked, and it shed light on an illness I don't know about, as well as being very interesting on different things we encounter in life.  I decided to comment and I never could get the darn thing for commenting to work right for me.  Was it the too many words I put in and took out, or was it the thing that wants you to prove you are not a robot ?  After six tries of trying to comment, I still don't know.  Maybe, it had an anti-Deb device in it.  "De-bor-ah here, don't let her in, Warning, Warning. (read this in a robotic monotone.)"  

After I took a deep breath, I decided to do a little more research, because I was looking for a blog on a certain subject that I am thinking about adding to my blogging vista.  I won't say which one, because I don't want to give it away.  I wanted to see if anyone has spent much time writing about this subject.  And when I browse,  I usually get pulled in -- that's the danger of browsing, being in a library, or going through old papers:  I just have to start reading.  So, I went to another blog, and I enjoyed reading it.  So, I looked for a like button or the equivalent.  I found one, and I might have known:  I had to sign in or join the platform host.  It just irritated me.  Why did I have to join?  All I wanted to do was say, "I liked your blog post."

Please spare me all the reasons for this.  I know it keeps the robots out, but I am discovering that it is pretty easy to spot the robots; and blogger is doing a great job of spam detection.  Thank you all you smart blogger  platform people for making Blogger easy to use.  I don't even have much trouble with your robot detectors:  it doesn't usually take more than one or two tries for me to post a comment.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Turning the Volume Down


Image Courtesy of [stockimages] /
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Today, I thought of how I have been feeling lately:  it was as if someone had turned the volume of a TV and radio up very loudly.  It was so loud I could not shut it out.  My nerves began to prickle and I wanted to rest, but I couldn't rest, because everything was so overwhelming, I could not focus on one thing.  I was picking up the sounds of the radio, the TV, the kids outside, the dog barking, the phone ringing, and someone wanting to talk to me all at the same time.  Now, this is not what was happening to me literally, but that is how my brain perceived everything -- the things I wanted to do and the things I needed to do.  My body was not cooperating:  actually it still isn't.  The cold, damp weather was making my joints hurt two or three times more than usual.  And my sleep wasn't restful.  I still woke up tired.  My skin hurt and itched from the erythema annulare centrifugum.  If I added up all my symptoms I have been having, which I'm not, I would definitely say the FM and CFS has been kicking my behind.


Image Courtesy of [David Castillo]/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
When living our lives, sometimes the volume becomes clamorous and nerve-wracking.  We have projects we want to complete,  families to take care of,  shopping to do,  work,  deadlines,  school, sleepless nights,  sickness, and the holidays.  Some of you reading this have almost all those things in your life right now;  and some of you may be to a point in your lives where you have had to slow down.   Living life anywhere near a normal pace is impossible.  Wherever you are in your life at this moment, you can probably relate to the things I have mentioned.  



Image Courtesy of [Nutdanai]/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image Courtesy of [Stuart Miles]/
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The lives we love and live can be stressful:  mentally, emotionally, and physically.  We could write about all the things in our lives that affect us and it would fill a book;  so in the interest of brevity, let's just say that good stress, bad stress, daily living, viruses, hormones, the physical conditions of our brains and bodies -- everything that happens to us affects us.  If we have Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,  we do not have the ability to manage everything that happens in our lives in the same way a healthy person does.  It has nothing to do with whether we are emotionally able to handle life:  it has everything to do with what our physical condition causes our hormones and the other chemicals in our body to do.  It really is as if someone has turned up the volume on how we perceive pain and stress;   because the cyclic activity of the hormones in our body are out of whack, and affecting the chemicals in our brain and nervous systems.

What I figured out yesterday was I needed to turn the volume down in my life.  It was up too high and I needed a break.  The great thing is that it is working.  I had my hard to get to sleep routine last night, but I did get to sleep.  As usual, I was slow getting up, but it was not as difficult as it was on Monday; and I felt well enough to fix my breakfast.  I started doing my other routines after I ate, and I was amazed at what I was able to accomplish.  Best of all, I felt peace.  Because I had dressed, fixed my hair, and put on my makeup, I felt comfortable asking my husband to take me out for supper tonight.  When he got home from work, I was ready.  I had to wait for him.   He wanted to know where I wanted to go:  I said, "Surprise me." The thing is I was too tired to fix supper, and we enjoyed going out for our hamburgers.  We don't always go out when I am tired.  Sometimes we eat leftovers or cook a frozen meal;  however, the point is I usually am not ready to go out when I am tired, but because I took care of myself first today:  eating and dressing in nice casual clothes I could work in, I had that freedom to go out.  And the noise in my life was turned down, because I have been making a point to take all my medication and supplements, as well as rethinking my priorities.  And I am thankful.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Example of Cognitive Dysfunction/Need for Renewal

If you have already read today's post, you would have noticed several errors in agreement or I left a word out.  I read it when I wrote it, and I did not see the errors.  However, I have also noticed that I have read a couple of things wrong today that I did not write, but when I glanced at them again, I saw the right words.  For instance, I wanted dried cranberries from my pantry today, but all I saw were the words cherries on both packages.  I turned around and looked again, and I saw cranberries on one.  I think this is an excellent example of cognitive dysfunction, which can happen when someone is more ill than usual or stressed.  I have had to be very careful to focus on one thing at a time, because my thoughts feel scattered. It is disconcerting when it happens, because I don't always have this symptom as strongly as I do now.  

I hope you know that even though I don't know all my readers, I deeply care that in some way your lives are affected for good by reading this blog, which I consider my home blog--or that you are blessed by one of my other blogs.  I love writing the blogs, which I consider not only a ministry, but also fulfillment of one of my dreams.  However, I am finding they do take a lot of time and energy, so I'm trying to learn to be more efficient in this area, but I am not there yet.


Most of you know I undertook my own challenge to try to do  Flylady's 31 Beginner Babysteps.  I knew it might take longer, and I thought I would be able to finish by Wednesday;  however, I have made the decision to go back to Day 24 today, and try to work on this everyday until I am finished.  Of course, one is never "finished" with housework:  the repetitive stuff of daily living always reoccurs.  Therefore, I am going to leave my blogs until last everyday this week.  There may be some days I don't write.  I do not know.  However, I know I need to have order here in my household, which is better than it was; but, I have not had energy to do what I was doing during the summer and early fall. 

I need to explore why I don't have the energy.  Is it the blogging?  I like to get them right, and I feel I owe it to you to give you a quality blog.  Is it because I am sitting too much?  I wasn't too successful with timing myself on blogging.  My mind has felt almost overfull at times with the needs of things to do.  Is it because I have forgotten to take all my supplements sometimes, even though I took the time to put them in a container for the week.  Am I being lazy sometimes?  Yes, I that thought still occurs in my mind sometimes.  Maybe, it is the insecurity that comes with chronic illness that breeds that question.  I have a highly developed sense of commitment, and it has been difficult coming to the realization I cannot do everything I think is important.  

Therefore, I can understand why people that do not understand the nature of my illnesses cannot understand why I have difficulty doing things that I once did.  For instance, even though I have tried, I cannot seem to get back into going to church every Sunday.  I believe this is an important thing for Hebrews 10:25 tells believers  not to forsake assembling together.  Corporate worship is an important element in the Christian life, as are teaching, preaching, and the ordinances of worship.  It makes me sad to miss this.  I have always wanted to be at worship, since I was a young child.  In fact, I have always been in a choir since I was 6 years old.  However, my sleep problems, the fibromyalgia, and the chronic fatigue syndrome have severely interfered with this part of my life. Moreover, I also believe that being a Christian is not just a Sunday exercise.  There should be communion with God in my daily life, wherever I am, so I do that.  But I am missing being active in my church and community.  If you would like to pray for me to be able to be able to worship and fellowship more with believers in my community, I would greatly appreciate that.

I will try to write one blog everyday this week, but I am not sure which ones are going to get the attention.  Maybe, I will spread it out.  However, I am not making any promises for this is going to be a week of spiritual renewal and concentrating on my household.  I think next Monday, the 12th of November will be day 31 on my babysteps.  I am going to have to take this one day at a time.  I am praying for strength and wisdom.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lost Days (Cognitive Dysfunction)

Image Courtsey of [Evgeni Dinev] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 
Do you ever feel like you have lost days, because it seems like a week has gone by, but it has only been two or three days?  When the realization comes that you have to look for documentation of where you have been  when, and what you have done, it almost feels like waking up from a dream.  Maybe, that is one of the reasons I like writing things down. Even if it is just a list, I can see what I have done, whether I went into much description or not.  However, I don't always have intense brain fog.  I have found that energy levels, pain, and stress all affect my cognitive abilities from being very good to being dysfunctional.  Today, I first noticed it in this sense of having lost days.  I was trying to remember what day I was on for Flylady's 31 Beginner Babysteps.  I slacked off reading them for a couple of days, although I was still doing the routines.

Cognitive dysfunction is a problem for people with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  I think forgetfulness must run the gamut from mild to intense.  After having read many accounts of forgetfulness and having dealt with my own, I know that it seems to partially involve short-term memory problems.  It affects life daily from forgetting words to forgetting how to get home.  Many people who were formally very sociable become less so, because they cannot hold a conversation without forgetting what they are going to say, while waiting their turn to speak.  Sometimes, I see faces of people I know, and I have a hard time putting  names with their faces;   or I feel like I probably know them, but I am not quite sure.
Image Courtesy of [dan] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For those of us who start feeling confused at the store, because of the lights, the people, and having to make decisions about what to buy;  it can be very disconcerting and impair memory, even if we felt fine earlier in the day.  For some people this leads to panic attacks.  When this happens to me, I may actually have the panic attack after I get home.  I may have a physical reaction and feel like I am trembling all over.  My hands might actually be shaking.  Moreover, my head may feel cloudy:  I feel like I am slightly off and it is harder to focus.

It would be wonderful if you would respond to this, and give some feedback on how cognitive dysfunction affects you.  It helps to know you are not alone;  and for so many intelligent people to have the same symptoms could not be coincidental.  For more information on cognitive dysfunction, you may find  the following link helpful:  Cognitive Dysfunction Finding in Fibromyalgia by Adrienne Dellwo.

P. S.  I would like to finish my Flylady 31 Beginner Babysteps by Wednesday.  It has taken me longer than 31 days.  If I had done it without skipping any days, I would have been done by October 29;  however, I knew I would probably have to skip some days, because of my flare-up.  The point is I am determined to pick up and jump in.  I even find myself doing some up the steps on the Routines automatically now.  However, I have to rest often, especially lately.  So I would say the experiment has worked, because I am improving my habits.  The thing is, I know I am not done.  I will have to continue the job.  My house was an absolute mess before I started, and I still have boxes and items to put away, throw away, or give away before I am at the point of having "My Own Home - Bed and Breakfast."  I figure, although slow, it is definitely worth it.