Menu Monday: KALE CHIPS

So I joined in on the trend and tried KALE CHIPS, which were quite delightful! They were flavorful and satisfied my need for a healthy salty snack. I seasoned them with two different seasonings, and then I combined them on the last baking sheet. The flavor of the kale was not bitter, as some people complain. My only complaint is that the chips are rather fragile, but I've read that you can stack the leaves upon each other before baking; basically, you reinforce them in this way.

I never had anything against kale--I had just never had it before. (At least, I don't think I've had it.) I really don't know much about kale; I've heard its flavor is similar to that of turnip greens and mustard greens, but it is actually in the cruciferous family (along with broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts!). I used to love Southern-style greens when I was a wee lass, but then, either my taste buds changed or I picked up bad kid habits, I turned my nose up at them. Actually, I turned my nose at anything green except for iceberg lettuce (which is more pale than anything)...and that usually had to be on a hamburger or in a very meager salad. I remember my mama and Aunt Grace would also make something called "poke salad" or "polk salad," and they would go hunting for these greens in our yard. Apparently, the proper name for these "poke/polk" greens is phytolacca, and they are actually quite toxic unless properly prepared (!). I can't remember if I ever had these, but I am assuming there are among the properly prepared...

I'm glad there are safer greens to eat!
(There is also a song called "Polk Salad Annie," which proves to me that this was just not a family eccentricity but one of the Southern cuisine...)

Before I get to the recipe for KALE CHIPS, here is a photo of Dinah a.k.a. Dinahmite attempting to get the kale. She thought it was a teaser, I suppose, with the leaves on the end. She love to sit on this ledge and watch me cook!


-This is what kale looks like. The first Walmart we hit up was out. When I first checked, the bin was completely empty; when I returned, the grocer had restocked, but it was not kale. So I had to go to another Walmart the next day. I hate Wally World. : / Begin by preheating your oven to 300.

-Wash the kale throughly and begin tearing it into chip-sized pieces and place them into a salad spinner. It's very important that they are dried well before baking, or they will wilt and steam rather than bake (so I've heard).

-Use the salad spinner to dry them. I love it...and so do our cats (at least the tiny one)!

-Once the kale is dried, place it in a bowl and add 3 Tablespoons of olive oil. Stir, toss, or whatever you need to do to lightly coat the kale.

-Lay the kale out on a baking sheet in one layer and sprinkle with your desired seasoning. I like:

(from our favorite BBQ joint--it's in Hot Springs and is a favorite of former Pres. Bill Clinton!)

(seasoned salt)

-Bake for about 20 minutes or until crisp. (I suggest checking at 16-ish minutes.)

And there you have: KALE CHIPS! One of my friends warned me that they could be kinda smelly the next day after storing them, but I didn't find that to be a problem. (Maybe my sense of smell is off...every day I have a sinus headache if that tells you anything.) You want to make sure you store them in a dry place and that your container is dried; I also heard the best place to store them is in a brown paper bag, but we were out. So Rubbermaid it was!

Menu Monday: Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

You win some, you lose some. I've said this before. I'm not quite sure if I would count this recipe for SPICY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER a loss. The spices on the cauliflower were so enjoyable with our chicken and rice, and the spices improved the chou-fleur (French for "cauliflower"--a pet name in French is "petit chou," which I call our cat Hobie who is a big ball of white fur ;).

But the cauliflower itself was not improved upon in itself, if that makes sense. I mean, I don't know anyone who enjoys cauliflower by itself. (If you do, let me know.) It's always aided by something, whether ranch dip if its raw or a host of other ingredients if its not. I will not quite give up on cauliflower yet. I want to try mashed cauliflower eventually (because I have heard raves over this) and maybe some other recipes. The thing is so many people raved about ROASTED CAULIFLOWER, and I was slightly let down. I liked the flavor, but I don't know if I would want to make this recipe again using cauliflower. Maybe another veggie like potatoes. Potatoes fix anything, right? I mean, a lot of the mashed cauliflower recipes call for potatoes, too. And while I LOVE broccoli, the broccoli-smell the cauliflower gave off when I was cutting it (and then when I went to reheat it the next day) turned me off a bit. I still ate quite a bit, and it was still tasty the next day, but the cauliflower was not like the Brussels sprouts--taken from blah to beautiful. Still, the SPICY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER does look mighty pretty--the spices look like I battered and fried them! (I didn't--though that might improve the taste of the cauliflower, too. We do like to fry our veggies in the South! *haha*)


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Here is what a cauliflower looks like whole. They were priced at one rate rather than being priced by pound, so I bought the biggest one I could find! (I had no idea what to look for in a cauliflower, so I thought that bigger might be better--or provide more eating!)

-Begin prepping the chou-fleur by trimming the stem core down (I had to slice it off in pieces as some of the leaves got in the way) and cutting the leaves off. They curve upward and over the vegetable in an attempt to protect it, and some of the leaves get in between the florets, so you have to dig for them. Here is a picture of my knife and hand attempting to cut off some leaves.

- Go in a clockwise fashion around the core to remove all leaves until only the florets and their stems remain. Then start cutting them off and pulling them apart into bite-size pieces. (You can also cut them into pieces, but I found it just as easy to use my hands.) Be sure to cut off and discard any pieces that are turning brown.

-Gently rinse; dry in a salad spinner.

-Place the cauliflower in the bowl and add four Tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon each of chili powder and cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Be sure to sprinkle the spices around as you are adding them to the bowl as the spices will cling to the florets they land upon; this means if you dump your spices into one spot in the bowl, those floret there will be HEAVILY spiced. (I know--I had a few killer peppered pieces!)

-Toss lightly to coat and pour onto a cookie sheet. Spread them out and bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping the pieces two or three times while roasting.

Well, there you have it! I hope you find this recipe even more enjoyable than I did. :)
Next week, I hope to have tried kale chips. It was on my list, but the Walmart we hit today was sold out, so I will have to try the one down the street. We bought our salad spinner rather recently from T. J. Maxx because I told Zach it would get our veggies much drier...and would mean I could finally try kale chips. It was $8, which is a steal! After all, the one I had found before was $30-ish. (I am too lazy to try to try to wash and dry kale by hand. I've heard it's essential they are rather dry for chips.)

I am really enjoying this whole new-vegetable/fruit-a-week thing. I have been itching to write more, but I don't know what to say. It would be fun to post a recipe everyday featuring either a fruit or vegetable though I wouldn't be able to do new ones seven days a week. I would like to write about more serious topics and other enjoyable ones like movies and books and clothes, but food is inherent to the majority of my moments, so...we shall see what I come up with. ;)

MENU MONDAY: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The last time I had BRUSSELS SPROUTS was in 2003 right after I was released from the hospital following my first flare-up and diagnosis with Crohn's Disease.

I had always been a picky eater growing up. Though not as picky as some--I had a friend who did not try pizza until fourth grade!--I was very picky when it came to vegetables. I stuck to the trusted, kid-friendly ones such as potatoes and corn, but I also liked fried summer vegetables like squash and okra. I loved raw celery and carrots, and I often tried to eat cooked carrots that were boiled, but, of course, the boiling killed all the flavor, and I ended up not eating them. I liked lettuce and onions on my hamburgers (actually I could eat an onion like an apple), and I liked tomato sauce in things.

And I think that was it when it came to vegetables.

In August 2003, I was started on a low-fiber, low residue diet that required I avoid fried, greasy foods, raw fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, and other items. Slowly, I was allowed to reintroduce the items--and I only rarely had problems until this flare-up--but, at first, I strictly adhered to it. I was allowed to eat fruits and vegetables, but they had to be cooked. As I had been on TPN (total parenteral nutrition) for three weeks, my taste buds, stomach, and such had changed. I felt I needed to retrain them, and inspired by Genesis 1:29, I decided I needed to try things that I had not liked or thought I disliked previously.

I believe that, on the afternoon I was released, my mama and I had dinner at the hospital cafeteria where I tried sautéed mushrooms for the first time. I didn't like mushrooms before I was sick, and we never had them when I was growing up--which may be why I never liked them!--so I thought I would give them a go. (I didn't like them. I still don't. But I am going to give them another go with this little project.)

Before I get to the BRUSSELS SPROUTS, here a few pictures right before I was diagnosed in 2003. I started having initial symptoms about a year before I was hospitalized, in 2002 (ten years ago!), but in the months leading to my diagnosis, I had more and more trouble and turned more and more pale. One thing I remember is that I had a cyst on my face that would not clear up no matter what I tried. I must admit that I did "photoshop" a few of the photos sometime ago because that wasn't something I wanted to remember...

Designer of the Year, April 2003

Prom, April 2003, with Tasha and Brandi

Bryant High School Graduation, May 22, 2003

En route to Florida via Memphis with Aunt Tay and Savannah, June 2003
I had been to see my gastroenterologist by this time and had had a colonoscopy. They only did colonoscopies through her clinic on Thursdays, I believe, and as a senior in high school, my schedule had been crammed those last months of school. I did not have a colonoscopy until the Thursday before we left on this trip though I believe I first saw Dr. Helen Casteel in March; I think this was just two days after. Following my colonoscopy, I had been put on a Prevacid, an antibiotic for H-Pylori, and two other medications I don't recall. I wasn't quite faithful in taking all of my medicine on the trip. I didn't realize how serious my situation was.

Man, I thought those yellow-shade glasses were sooo cool.

Panama City Beach
We were trying to dress like twinkies!

on a ferry

one night out

at Hooters

We went through Biloxi on our way home to view the damage from recent storms. It was very much changed then, so I can't imagine how it looked after Katrina two years later. (Our family went to Biloxi last May for Erin's wedding, and much has been rebuilt, but you can still see the scars.) I was getting very sick this time; I was running a fever, and my throat was so sore. (I picked up some kind of infection from the ocean, which was made worse by my condition.)

We thought we were getting a picture on the Biloxi sign. After all the trouble it took to climb up there and get Savannah satisfied, we said screw it--we'll take the Gulf Coast!

So I had BRUSSELS SPROUTS for the first time in 2003. In the fall of 2003, I was strictly adhering to my low-fiber, low-residue diet, and I started eating cooked green beans and peas happily. (Well, I wasn't so keen on the peas, but I have started to like them much better of late.) One week I picked up a bag of frozen SPROUTS in a butter sauce. The directions said to steam them in their sauce, so I did. THEY WERE AWFUL! They were mushy and bitter, and I just did not care for the sauce that came with them. I never tried them again.

Until now.

These ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS are amazing! I seriously cannot wait to make them again. They are crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside and salty but slightly sweet. I love them--I could just pop them in my mouth like mini pretzels or kettle chips. They are also adorable. What I previously thought looked like alien brains now look like these charming little cabbages that I could use to play with my American Girl doll Samantha.

And the best thing is that BRUSSELS SPROUTS are cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli or cauliflower), which are some of the healthiest around!


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. This is what the stars look like. :)

-Cut off the white stem end from each sprout and remove any yellowed leaves. Then cut each sprout in half. (This makes it easier to roast them as well as eat them.)

-Rinse sprouts well. Here are all of my tiny cabbages split and ready to go!

-Mix together 3 Tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Then add sprouts and toss to coat well.
I originally felt this was a tad bit too much salt, but they really were seasoned perfectly!

-Place sprouts on a nonstick baking sheet. (I would suggest using one that is not stained or one that is too dark. I think they brown/blacken too quickly otherwise, but I didn't want to stain my nice Wilton ones. *lol*) I started by laying them cut side up. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes. I flipped them halfway through the cooking time, but since they browned on the bottom so quickly, I wish I had flipped them more than once. This may not be the case for your oven/pans...or for mine the next time. :)

Here they are in all their glory! I served them with mashed potatoes and this yummy roast my mama made while she was still visiting this last week. It was such a tasty meal! And I really cannot wait to make them again...maybe next week? ;)

And here are a few more pictures of me with Tasha (and Steph and Brandi). These were taken at Tasha's graduation in May 2004, the spring after I was diagnosed. I was still on prednisone and azathioprine at this time, but I think the prednisone may have been tapered at this point. My face is a little rounder than normal in these photos, but it's really not that bad. (You always think its worse in person and when you are growing through it.) As of now, I am down to ten milligrams a day when I started at 30 (40 back in November). My face is still puffy, but I don't think it is as puffy as it was (moonfaced), and my appetite is more normal. My hair, however, is still doing crazy things. As I was on prednisone for a much longer time and at a higher dosage, my face seemed to gain weight and stayed puffy much longer. I could literally feel when it would puff up after I took my medicine. It was a crazy feeling! My friend Brandi in these photos joked that people would see me driving down the street and think I was much heavier than I was...until I stepped out of the vehicle. (The rest of me was a normal size; only my face swelled although some people's hands and feet also swell.) I could show you some more interesting photos from that time--I seriously look like Gwyneth Paltrow from Shallow Hal in the face--but I have never scanned them onto my computer. Probably because they are so frightening...and I wouldn't want them to pop up on our Apple TV!

And I am not trying to make fun of anyone--I just think I look crazy when my face puffs up but the rest of me is normal (or as normal as I can be! *lol*).


I have decided to try a new vegetable every week in an effort to get healthier (and hopefully break my dependence on Cheez-It's). Veggies, you say? Aren't you, a person recovering from Crohn's Disease and colon surgery (initially, I typed "sugary," which is true, too *lol*), supposed to stay away from veggies? Well, to hell with that. Vegetables are good for us; they are not bad for us. Disease is bad for us, and you know why? Because Satan is the author of disease. God promised me the food of every seed-bearing plant and every tree that has fruit with seed in it (Genesis 1:29), so, by golly, I'm going to have them as food because He keeps his promises. I am, however, starting off with cooked veggies...though I did try a bite of raw carrot with this recipe. I'm a rebel. (It didn't cause me any issues. I also had pineapple on my pizza. And, yes, I had pizza. ;)

I tried doing this little project last fall...or summer, maybe? But obviously it did not last. I remember I tried beets...and some other things. I honestly only remember the beets...and now lima beans because I went to my blog to see. I included fruits, too. Maybe I should include fruits again because I know there are some I haven't tried. I think in the summer I had blueberries as a "new" fruit, not because I had never had them but because I never liked them previously unless they were in muffins. (I made Ben and Jerry's blueberry ice cream recipe, so I guess that doesn't count as trying to be healthy. *haha* BUT the fresh blueberries were so tasty in it. I can't wait for the Farmer's Market this year!)

Anyway, I've technically had this veggie before, but I LOVED it and haven't had it in almost a year.

What is this you ask?

Since I'm still "sick" and it's winter, I thought, POTATO-LEEK SOUP would be perfect to make! After all, the leeks are cooked and potatoes (and carrots) are easy on the stomach. The picture above was taken at ICASI in Cleveland last March when we visited Holly (and the culinary school at which she works). Every Saturday the students prepare several courses and serve them; it was AMAZING, and this soup was one of my favorites. Now it was a creamier POTATO-LEEK SOUP than the one I'm sharing, but the flavors were still amazing (and you didn't have to worry about blending it together). This recipe also calls for quite a bit of onion, but I haven't noticed it giving me any issues either (as long as it is cooked...and I love onion! I can't give it up.).


-Wash and dice two leeks (the white part only...though I cut it below the green leaves and diced away so some light green snuck in. I wish I had taken a picture of the leeks. Zach couldn't find them at the store, but, when we went back, I found them right away--and I've never seen one! ;).
-Peel and dice a medium onion. (Do you wash your onions? I just realized I never do. I think I read somewhere that water is bad for them?)
-Melt four tablespoons of butter in a large soup pot or Dutch oven, add leeks and onion, and sauté until tender for 5 to 7 minutes.

-Add three and 1/4 cups of chicken stock or broth to the pot. Because we're poor (or cheap), we use a chicken base from Sam's and mix up some water with it. I would, however, like to start making my own stocks because they offer some great health benefits. (That's why we eat chicken soup when we are sick!)
-Peel, wash, and dice four carrots and add them to the pot..

-Peel, wash, and dice three large potatoes (or, in my case, five small to medium potatoes) and add them to the pot.

-Add 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of thyme, and 1 bay leaf to the pot.

-You may need to add a bit more stock or add some water to cover all the veggies. Heat to boiling, then cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes. Be sure to remove the bay leaf before serving!

Voila! You have easily made POTATO-LEEK SOUP! I prefer to eat my soup with hot bread most of the time, but, as I was trying to get dinner to my semicolon, I just had a few saltines, my go-to soup cracker. This was just delicious, and the seasonings were just perfect in it. Thyme has become one of my favorites to use, and I am so happy we finally got some bay leaves because I have been using them a lot lately. I think adding some kind of protein (probably chicken since chicken stock is used) would take this soup over the top.

I can't wait to share my veggie for next week. I hope I like it because I never have before...!

I feel like a science project...

So, this is probably not going to be the most optimistic post, but forgive me. To err is human. Then again, it may turn out to be more hopeful than I think as I am just starting to writing...

Yesterday, my home health nurse Tina came to check up on me. Things were good, the big news being that my heart rate was finally below 90 (!). She said she was pleased with how I was doing, and barring no complications between now and then, she is going to discharge me after next week's visit.

Before she left, we were discussing how I was handling things, including my colostomy, and she asked if I had had any breakdowns. I have, including one in the hospital the night before I was discharged; I actually had to take some Xanax to calm down and go to sleep. (It was the best sleep I had had in a long time.) A lot of that meltdown was actually from having not had any sleep the night before, but it did have to do with my emotional state as well. Then, I was mostly upset over the fact that I could have died rather than dealing with the colostomy. At that point, I still felt disconnected from it. I've had some emotional breakdowns here and there, but mostly I have been trying to be strong and positive and take-charge. Then again, I still don't think I have fully processed everything that has happened to me.

Tina said she thought I was also doing so well because my colostomy is only temporary. Then she told me the story of one of her patients who discovered she has advanced colon-rectal cancer and had to have emergency surgery to get an ostomy...all the while she was in her 40s, had just moved to be near her fiancé, quit her job to be a stay-at-home wife, and was planning her wedding. (I do believe it was her first wedding, too.) In her case, her ostomy was permanent, and she struggled to deal with this new "normal."

I admitted that one of my fears is that someday I will have to have a colostomy again...and that it will be permanent then. Now, I know having an ostomy is not the worst thing in the world and that they save lives (including mine) and that plenty of people have full, happy, active lives with ostomies. In many cases, they give people back their lives. But they are...gross. And awkward. And weird. I feel like a science project.

I don't feel pretty.
I know that is silly and shallow.
But I think it is important for women to feel beautiful, and these days I don't.
And it's not just the colostomy--so much has to do with my health and feeling trapped in and disconnected from my body in so many ways.
I know things could be so much worse. Much, much worse. But I still think my feelings are valid and understandable. And, no, I'm not doing this to fish for compliments. I'm usually fairly confident, but my self-esteem has taken a beating over the last few months, and I am just being honest.

When I was in the hospital and when I first came home, I couldn't even lift my legs onto the bed. I had to get someone to help me sit on the toilet and change my clothes and wash me off. I hadn't really noticed how skinny I was until I got home and stood in front of my full-length mirror. I've always had chicken legs, but now they are so much worse. My arms seemed to be the same width from wrist to shoulder--and I have very skinny wrists. (They often had a hard time drawing blood from me.) My chest reminded me of being in middle school again, and I think even my butt got smaller. I was skin and bones; I had lost, at most, more than thirty pounds. (The good news is that I've gained at least twelve back.) Many times when I was in the hospital, I didn't brush my teeth or wash my face because I just didn't have the energy to stand up and do it. I didn't wash my hair for weeks because I was too weak to take a shower...and I would have to have everything taped up anyway to get into water. My hair started coming out then. It's still coming out. I spent so long growing it out and keeping it trimmed every six to eight weeks (usually six), and now it's coming out. I didn't get to shave my legs for weeks, and though I don't shave every day, I do at least once a week. I kept apologizing to the nurses for my hairy legs and how chipped my toenail polish wash. My skin is dry in several places and flaking off; Tina says that is probably because I won't absorb as many nutrients or water as I did before. Because of the prednisone, I have a moonface, and my skin is breaking out, and I know it will take months to go back to normal because it did the last time this happened; Zach says he doesn't notice, and I believe him, but I do notice. Plus, my appetite has returned with a vengeance, and I'm afraid at some point, between all the eating and the Boost/Ensure-drinking, I will surpass my pre-sickness weight. (I know, I know, there is still a lot to gain before that, but I will be on the protein shakes for weeks.) I have this scar down the center of my abdomen that is still somewhat swollen and indented and red with healing, and I am sure I will always have it. My belly button is not the same belly button I had when I was born--BUT, at least, I still have one because a lot of people lose theirs. I've worried about being dehydrated and my heart rate and eating the right things so I don't upset my already fragile semicolon. (Thankfully, my tummy has only been grumpy twice--both times I tried a legume.) My clothes don't fit the same because of my weight loss and the ostomy, so even the clothes that typically would make me feel better don't. And then there is the ostomy and all the issues that come with pooping in a bag.

Because that's what I do right now: I poop in the bag. I guess it's not much different than a baby's pooping in a diaper (something I have told myself), but it isn't the most pleasant situation when you are used to going the normal way. (I am so thankful to God to have normal stool now and no pain or passing of blood, but it's still weird and I am glad I won't always have this.) I mean, part of my intestines is on the outside of my body (my stoma a.k.a. Mr. T. Brixby, Attorney-at-Law, the silly name we gave it because I read this is part of the coping process). And it passes when it wants to pass. See why I feel like a science project? At least it is not as noisy as it once was, but I do worry about that when I go back to work and am around other people; I don't want other people to know I'm passing gas or pooping right then. I also have to worry about emptying it and its leaking and people's noticing it under my clothes. I've only had one leak and that was my first night home, and it happened because I didn't get the clasp fully closed. It was horrible and embarrassing, and I ruined a pair of pants I've had since ninth grade. Thankfully, I've since learned how to empty it directly in to the toilet and to get the bag cleaned up more quickly and fully sealed. I won't even get into dealing with intimacy. I also have been walking a bit more hunched over because the appliance (that is, the wafer and bag that cover my stoma) makes me feel heavier at my abdomen, so my back has been having spasms since I usually stand up very straight. (The spasms are also likely from having been on bed rest in a hospital bed for so long.) The wound nurse at the hospital showed me how to change my appliance, which was a nerve-wracking experience in itself, and she ordered me a trial pack of supplies that arrived shortly after I got home. At first, I really liked them until I got to my third changing and noticed that I had a odor coming from the bag. So then I was concerned about being smelling and leaking, so I changed everything to be on the safe side. Then the fourth bag was smelly. Turns out, it was a defect with the lining/thickness of the bags and their interaction with something in my poo--nothing to do with a leak/hole though it was still somewhat stinky. (My mama and Zach said they didn't notice any odor, but, once again, I did.) Tina provided me some supplies until mine came in from Liberty Medical (which ended up not being in my network, so I had to cancel), but I realized that after she left that they didn't fit my stoma. Thankfully, I got in some samples from another company, so I switched brands since they worked much better. It also hasn't helped that I had to go through the ringer to get supplies because no one explained the process of ordering them, and now I am worrying that our insurance isn't going to cover everything I got because I requested a prescription for enough to last me until my reversal surgery rather than a month.

I just feel weird a lot of the time and not like myself.
I feel more like myself now that I can do things on my own and shower and wear normal clothes and cook and drive.
But I still feel like a science project.

And I am still not well.
And I worry that I won't stay well and will have to go through all of this again.
I'm afraid it will be worse next time if there is a next time.
I'm afraid I will still have a reaction to the Remicade or that it will stop working or that something will go wrong with my next surgery.
I'm afraid of my reconstruction surgery. (I didn't have time to think about this one. A thing I am really dreading? Having a tube down my throat again when I wake up. I don't even know if I will.)
I'm afraid all of these drugs on which I have been/will be will cause me worse trouble down the line.
I'm afraid I will have to have a permanent ostomy someday. Most people who have had one colon surgery end up having another. I guess I am afraid that I won't have as many options as I had just one year ago.

I know I have to keep holding onto the belief that God will heal me and heal me for good even though the world says Crohn's Disease is incurable. Nothing is impossible with God. He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20). What does this mean to me? I don't even have to ask or imagine what He will do though I have and others have on my behalf (THANK YOU!); it's all been decided; He has planned out my days and promised me hope and a future; I just have to surrender and trust and believe and let God go to work in me. He didn't save me a month and five days ago for funnies. If anything, my fears will stand in the way of my health and thus accomplishing my purposes in life. It's something I am still working on: to not worry or stress or fear. I need to find my confidence in Him. I just need to believe.

"Baby, You Can Drive My Car..."

our 2012 triathlon grey Hyundai Veloster that we got the last week of December
The big news today is that I went driving for the first time since November 15 or so. :)
I didn't drive our new car though; Zach takes that baby to work; I drove MY car.
It's definitely not something you forget how to do.
I enjoyed being able to get out on my own. My mama came with me to help in any way I needed, so that was nice.
I even popped into Hobby Lobby to look at the little Christmas clearance they had left, and I found part of Zach's Valentine's gift AND I used a 40% off coupon.
(I'm buying presents EARLY this year!)
Then we went to Walmart, where I actually got some (more) Christmas clearance: two stocking holders for $1.50, boxes of candy canes at 24 cents each, Pepperidge Farm cookies at 69 cents each, and Febreeze at 62 cents each. Yeah, baby.
(Zach has sent me back tomorrow for more cookies and Febreeze. Priorities, people.;)


I've been eating a lot of soup in the past few months, not just because it's been colder and soup is an autumnal/winter food, but one gets a lot of soup when sick or there are just a few things one can tolerate. I've had chicken stock, chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable soup, beef stew, many variations on chicken noodle soup, potato soup, broccoli-cheese bisque, vegetarian chili, tomato soup, etc. I would say that chicken and dumplings is soupy/soupish/soupesque too. (Oh, those are fun words: "soupy" and "soupish" and "soupesque!") I had this wonderful beef-barley soup when I was in the hospital--something I had never had. Barley is mighty tasty. I also had some chicken and rice soup and some cream of tomato soup in the hospital; the chicken and rice soup was passable, but the cream of tomato soup had no spices, and I have been accustomed to tomato-BASIL soup. (Progresso is the BEST.)

I love trying new foods (hence why I have Menu Monday to showcase new recipes I have tried :). But I am also picky. I usually am not willing to try any food--only those that fit within my palate and repertoire of recipes. When I am sick and begin to recover, I am absolutely inspired to try things I normally wouldn't. When I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2003, I remember trying sautéed mushrooms at Arkansas Children's cafeteria because I had never liked mushrooms before (along with peas and green beans--but suddenly I liked those, so I thought, "Why the heck not?!")

I don't like sautéed mushrooms...or mushrooms of any kind, though I will try stuffed ones every time I have a chance because I always think my opinion will change. And I LOVE cream of mushroom soup.

So as I was planning out what meals to make, I came across a recipe for SPLIT PEA SOUP and thought, "Hmmm...that sounds good." Never in my life would I have thought SPLIT PEA SOUP to be good. (I also craved meatloaf when I was in the hospital. I do like to have meatloaf every now and then, but is it not sooo weird to crave it?!) I will eat English peas now and somewhat enjoy them, but they aren't my favorite, and I doubt they will be my first choice for vegetables for a long time. (I won't say "never.") Of course, split peas are a whole other ballgame...a ballgame to which I have never attended.

But the soup has some of my favorite things--carrots, celery, onion, HAM--so I thought, "Why the heck not?!"

It is mighty tasty...AND inspired by Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage!


-Rinse and drain two cups of dried split peas. Soak in six cups of water overnight. Rinse and drain.
-Chop up a 1/3 of a white onion, two peeled carrots, and one stalk of celery.

-Add peas, onion, carrots, and celery to a Crock Pot along with some cooked ham or a ham hock.
-Add a bay leaf, six or so peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

I served the soup with a baked potato sprinkled with McClard's seasoning--so good.
Easy peasy!
See what I did there? ;)

2-0-1-2: A New Creation

our first picture of the New Year at Christmas with Zach's family yesterday
I have moonface from the prednisone--I'm like Gwyneth Paltrow's character in Shallow Hal! ;)

It's a new year, a new beginning, a new creation. I have been debating whether I want to make New Year's Resolutions (which are usually abstract goals) or not. I've already made them in my head anyway, but if I write them out, I am afraid I will set myself up for failure. Then again, if I don't write them out, I won't be challenging myself to follow through on them. Hmmm...

If I were to write them out, at the top of the list would be to get healthy/fully recover. This would be an ongoing goal as I have been working on this for the past year since that terrible stomach bug during Thanksgiving 2010, and, more seriously, the past two months. I'm being a good little soldiering patient, taking my medicine and supplements like clockwork, eating as much as I can, drinking three protein shakes (Boost/Ensure) a day, walking as much as I can, and breathing into this little device to strengthen my lungs further. I even wear a facial mask when I go out to public places to avoid germs. The good news is that I am down to twenty milligrams of prednisone today, so I only have a month left on it! It's actually the only prescription drug I am currently on, but I believe that, in a few more weeks, Dr. Stagg will put me on Imuran, an immuno-suppresant drug. (Dr. Kwon wanted me to heal six to eight weeks first, I believe, because Imuran can slow healing. He also felt the same way about the prednisone initially, but Dr. Stagg put me back on that because you HAVE to taper off of it.) I was on this when I was first diagnosed with Crohn's and had no issues; it is supposed to help the Remicade along to get me and keep me in remission, which it did back in 2003. It's hard to say if the Remicade is working or not since I am still getting used to having a colostomy...and the rest of my colon is just chilling. I haven't had any issues--but I don't know if that is because of the Remicade or the colostomy. Speaking of Mr. T Brixby, Attorney-at-Law...that's the name Zach and I gave my stoma...I am getting more used to having a colostomy. I still haven't gotten any supplies though (except what one company shipped after I was released, a few samples I got by mail, and what my home nurse supplied); no one explained I had to order from a third party and that it takes forever to get them shipped. After ordering with Liberty Medical, getting them to fax my prescription for the second time because Dr. Stagg's office never received it, and getting it signed off, they let me know that they were not in my insurance's network. I finally found a supplier in the area, but I have to get a prescription from my doctor, so I am getting that tomorrow. Dr. Kwon said I may be able to get my colostomy reversed as soon as February or March depending on how well I am doing, so I am thankful for that! But I don't want to get back to the state in which I was before I got very sick--I want to be healthier. I got two books for Christmas, Body Heal Thyself and The Maker's Diet by Jordan S. Rubin, that I believe will guide me in this effort. Illness and weakness does not come from God; those are consequences of our broken world. God wants us to be healthy and whole, in His image as He created us. I have been eating very healthy since I have been home, and I want to continue that as well. I LOVE food, and I LOVE cooking--I am very passionate about both, and I am starting to return to them. As a result, I'm bringing back Menu Monday! Since I've been home, I've already tried a few new recipes. We've been eating more meat and poultry because I need as much protein as possible, so it has been fun to experiment with them. (I'm going to enjoy them while I can because I still don't want to eat too much meat.)

If I were to give a second resolution, it would be to grow in my faith and in my relationship with God. God saved my life a month and a day ago; He spared me from death. I have become a firm believer and living example of the power of prayer. I truly believe that if we had not asked for prayer and had not joined together and believed that God would hear our prayers and heal me, I could not be here today--and I definitely would not be healing as fast as I am. And all the glory is God's! People keep talking about how strong I am and how they admire me and such--and I was trying to be strong, but not for myself--for those around me. I just wanted the pain to end; I didn't care how. I just couldn't handle it and turned it over to God and let Jesus carry me through. It was definitely the best decision I ever made. I want to remember what peace and joy I felt knowing I didn't have to worry about my life; it has all been decided. I worry too much and stress too much--all that is bad for your body and mind and soul. I've gotten back into journaling and praying and reading Scripture. I feel a great need to pray for people who are in trouble, and I am thankful for social networks that allow me to see those needs in a new way. I want to be able to serve and love God and others freely now, and I think the best way I can do this is by encouraging people. It has been on my heart for a long time to start a card ministry, and I think I am finally going to do it. I LOVE sending cards; I am so upset I missed many of my friends' birthdays and anniversaries while I was sick. I keep all of my cards I get. I know what an encouragement they can be when you are sick or down or been disappointed. So this is another one of my big plans for 2012.

If I was to write down another resolution, it would be to write more--so the blog is back! I've missed it, and I've learned I don't care if anyone reads it because it is an outlet for me! It became stressful to keep up with it, but, as I won't be teaching this semester, I hope to have more time to do something that will help me heal and grow.

Finally, I just want to be happy and to enjoy life as much as possible. I learned that it can all be gone in a minute, and there is no reason to worry or stress over things because I am not in control! I want to spend more time with my husband and our cats and our family and our friends. I want to be a better wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I want to do all the things I/we have discussed--whether that is eating out at places we haven't been or traveling to places we would love to visit or trying new activities like ballroom dancing--rather than talking about them. We are already planning things and doing things, and I look forward to having more strength to do even more things.

I go in for my second Remicade treatment tomorrow at one, so I would appreciate any prayers and good thoughts sent our way. And to keep Parker Purifoy's family in your prayers. Thanks! I also have to list a praise: Easton Begoon is still in remission!

I hope you all had a blessed New Year's! I have a lot more to say, but that will be coming in the coming days and weeks. :)