Try

My new mantra

This is a ridiculously long post about a dessert. But it’s also a eulogy to a dream and rise-from-the-ashes-type of self pep talk for me.

But it’s mostly about a cake.

Recently I was wasting investing time on Pinterest looking for new recipes for Thanksgiving. We are hosting in our new house this year and this fact has awakened my inner Martha to clean, decorate, and cook ALL THE THINGS.

Then I repeated my new mantra, realized that I cannot do everything all the time for everyone and accepting that will make my anxiety disorder a little easier to manage.

BREATHE.

Still, I want this year’s dinner to include warm, seasonal flavors with a mix of traditional and unexpected dishes. Pleasing people with food is what I do and golly gosh darn it, people will be pleased on my holiday watch.

The first experiment was caramelized bacon wrapped sesame asparagus as a side dish. Total win. The second was an apple sangria with cinnamon. Again, a definite keeper.

The third was a decadent dessert with a complex recipe but it just screams holiday cheer: an eggnog cheesecake cake.

A spice cake with an eggnog cheesecake filling and eggnog icing. Yeah, baby. Recipes like this are what keep Santa fat and happy.

Click right here and see the link with the gorgeous photo and tell me you wouldn’t want this on your holiday table. Then scroll down and see the list of ingredients and the multiple processes required to make it and tell me you wouldn’t think, damn, can’t we just buy a really good pie?

The answer screaming in my brain was NO PIE!! MUST MAKE CAKE!!

So I made the cake. And? I screwed up a few steps. One mistake was epic (more on that later.) And the resulting pastry was merely “meh.” The flavors were there, but the texture was not what I’d hoped for.

And then there was the “I Love Lucy” type of error that could not be undone and meant this subpar dessert could not be pawned off on co-workers (I’ll ‘splain, I promise.)

Husband and I shared a couple of slices. The rest ended up in the trash.

And this bugged the ever-loving shit out of me all week. Admittedly, I think I was fixating on this cake as a metaphor for what I now see as my failed career in journalism. I took a risk, I gave it a shot, but it just didn’t work out.

Many of my waking (and a few of my sleeeping) hours were obsessed with devoted to what went wrong with this cake. And I waffled on whether to just give up (like I did at being a journalist) or try again.

Do I say “oh well” and cut my losses, save time and money on expensive ingredients and just trudge over to the bakery section and pick up perfectly acceptable pies?

Or do I say no, I am not a quitter and I can make this work?

I may have bombed spectacularly with my mid-life career change, but I’ll be damned if this cake would reinforce to me that I am a failure at life.

This cake, I decided, needed to be seen as an opportunity to apply my problem solving skills. If I approach it like a college-educated professional and not a self-pitying lunatic, I knew I needed to objectively identify where the missteps happened and design strategies for improvement.

I studied the recipe, which I followed (almost) verbatim the first time. Cooking is an art; you can be recklessly creative. Baking is a science; creativity must be done with with great care. My conclusion is that there is nothing wrong with this recipe. The problem was my execution.

I toyed with using a different cheesecake recipe. But the cheesecake portion of this recipe is perfectly proportioned to produce a thin single layer that will fit snugly between two layers of cake. I’ve baked cheesecakes before (this one is THE BOMB, trust me) but I have never used a water bath like this recipe stipulates.

I considered skipping this step but the purpose of a water bath is to keep the cake from splitting and, indeed, my first attempt at this cheesecake did not split. So I had that going for me.

However, despite wrapping the springform pan with two layers of foil as the recipe indicates, water got into the pan. This resulted in a slightly soggy cheesecake.

To remedy this, I quadruple wrapped the pan in foil all the way up to the top of the pan the second time around. I also made sure the foil was very snug at the bottom of the pan and I used less water in oven sauna.

This time the cake was not cracked AND not water-logged.

I baked the cheesecake yesterday, wrapped it, then put it in the freezer until today, when I finished the rest of the cake.

Put this liquid heaven in your coffee. You're welcome.

The first time I made the spice cake, I did make two substitutions in the original recipe. I used ground ginger instead of fresh because that’s what I had on hand. I also used Southern Comfort brand vanilla spice eggnog instead of buttermilk because my Kroger was out of buttermilk and I thought the eggnog would add more flavor. I know I can make buttermilk with lemon juice or vinegar mixed into regular milk but JEEZ-O-PETE why?

Also? We’d drink the leftover eggnog.

Buttermilk? Not so much.

I stuck with my choices the second time and used powdered ginger and eggnog again. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts.

Texture was the problem with the first spice cake. It was a little dense and kind of crisp. Since the flavor was spot on and the inner cake was moist, I think I may have over-baked it. When instructed to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, I opted for 30.

Second time around, I checked at 23 minutes. Cake done and not crusty.

Here’s a photo of the first set of cakes and the second set:

Now let’s talk about the frosting. This is where the EPIC FAIL happened the first time.

The back story: I have a canister of powdered sugar in my pantry, which was full. I also had a partial bag of powdered sugar that would not fit in the canister. For this cake, I purchased Swan cake flour, which comes in a plastic bag stuffed in a box. Cake flour, in case you wondered, is super fine.

Any recipe that has you pouring rum in the morning is full of WIN

To be able to portion out cups of flour without spilling it everywhere, the bag must be removed from the box. This is like releasing smoke from a bottle. It’s never going back in.

So now, I had a bag of super fine flour, which is white, and a bag of super fine sugar, which is also white. I think we all see where this is going now.

As the first set of cakes cooled, I grabbed the plastic bag from the pantry to make the icing. The bag did not contain as many cups as the recipe called for, so I also used powdered sugar from the canister. After adding in the rum and the eggnog and the nutmeg, the icing had great flavor even if it was a little, well, pasty.

It wasn’t until long after I had frosted the cake and we had sampled a disappointing slice that I discovered the bag of powdered sugar was still in the pantry.

Huh. But I used the rest of this bag in the icing…OH HOLY SHIT!

Sugar on the left, flour on the right. I now use a Sharpie to mark the bags.

Yeah, I used cake flour in the icing. But in my defense, look at these bags! They are almost identical (and they sort of look like they belong in the evidence locker of a drug bust.)

Anyway, today’s cake was MUCH more successful than the last one, mostly because the icing was flour-free and full of powdered sugary goodness.

This is the glamour shot of the cake after it was assembled and sliced (we had to sample it for quality control purposes, of course.)

Did making this cake successfully after failing the first time redeem my soul? Yeah, it kind of did.

I had to prove to myself that I can learn from mistakes, that taking calculated risks are worthwhile even if they don’t pan out, and that I can look at a failure objectively.

I invested a lot of time, sweat and tears to chase a dream to be a journalist. My timing, however, was off. The profession is in flux and it just didn’t work out for me. My legacy at the newspaper where I worked for seven years isn’t my bylines. My legacy is that I ordered better catering than pizza for election night dinners. But I can make peace with that.

I can also make peace with using my education and perseverance to find a new career path. To use a sports metaphor, I may be in the fourth quarter of my working life, but there’s still time to score a few touchdowns before I retire.

You never know what you can do if you never try. I tried. I failed. But I regrouped. We’ll see what happens next.

And gosh golly darn it, we are going to have a hella good dessert for Thanksgiving.

The heat is on

As promised, today’s post is about soup.

The last post was about something that rhymes with soup. But we’re done with that topic. Moving on.

Soup is good food, especially with good beer. Someone should use that as an ad slogan.

Today, I decided to make a pot of the heartiest, earthiest, warmest soup I could think of, because apparently all those years living in the South has made me wimpy and, with the temperature dipping below 50, I am cold.

Not cool. Cold. As in we fired up the furnace today. My inner Midwesterner is soooo embarrassed.

But here we are, furnace blazing and a pot full of soul-warming goodness that I just have to share.

My husband found this recipe in the Crave restaurant guide that arrived with our Columbus Dispatch yesterday. It was featured in an ad from Great Lakes Brewing Company, and of course it calls for a bottle of Great Lakes beer because it’s an ad and it’s intend to sell beer.

It worked, so well played GLB ad company, well played indeed.

And what’s better than a beer soup on an NFL Sunday, I asked myself.

Nothing’s better, I answered myself.

That’s where I’m going to leave it because the rest of my inner head conversation isn’t noteworthy.

Any hoo, I simply CANNOT follow a recipe verbatim. I wanted to make this recipe lighter in calories but still rich in flavor, so I left out the cream and added in mushrooms, and I subbed out the sausage for lean, organic ground beef that I seasoned myself.

So what I will post here is the recipe as it was intended with my substitutions in parentheses.

The soup, by the way, is wonderful. But what’s great about soup is that it’s nearly impossible to mess it up. You can substitute, you can omit, you can add, whatever. As long as you find the consistency and flavor you like, you have some good food on the table — and even better leftovers in the fridge.

Soup, like wine, gets better with age.

Oktoberfest Sausage Soup:

  • 1 potato, cubed (I used one russet and I roasted the cubes because I just think roasting adds flavor and makes for a better texture)
  • 1/8 cup celery
  • 1/8 cup onion (I used more like a half cup because we like onion)
  • 2 cups of cremini and shiitake mushrooms (not called for in the recipe but I’ll add ‘shrooms to damn near anything savory)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth (I used 2 cups because that’s used a whole can so I didn’t have to store leftover broth)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (see the note above and repeat)
  • 1 bottle Great Lakes Brewing Oktoberfest beer
  • 8 cups water (I used four since I doubled the amount of broth)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp water (for thickening; I omitted this because we prefer more of a brothy soup)
  • 1/4 lb. German sausage (for less fat and calories, I used a full pound of 90/10 Simple Truth organic beef and seasoned it with smoked paprika, roasted garlic powder, cumin, black pepper and leaf oregano)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese (we used less and as a topping)
  • 1 cup half & half (totally omitted to save fat and calories)
  • 1/4 Tbsp. ground white pepper (I used black pepper when I seasoned the meat)
  • chopped green onion for garnish

Roasted potato and a skillet of meat and veg, all bound for the slow cooker. Warms my cold, cold heart.

I sauteed the veggies while the potato roasted in the oven. I added the broth, water and beer to the slow cooker to get it warm and set the timer for 5 1/2 hours.

I added the meat and seasoning to the skillet of veggies and cooked until brown. Once the meat was cooked through, I tossed it and the roasted potato into the slow cooker.

The soup was ready in about two hours, but the flavor gets richer the longer it steeps in the slow cooker.

As far as toppings, you can go crazy with this one.

Black-bean-corn salsa? Hell ya.

Cilantro for a little bright flavor? Go for it.

Bacon bits? Damn right.

When it comes to soup, you be you. Stay warm and thirsty my friends.

Yesterday

This photo is of our fireplace decorated for fall/Halloween. It has nothing to do with the subject of the blog entry, but there was no pleasant way to illustrate this entry. So here's a nice fall photo for you. You're welcome.

If you are easily grossed out by medical procedures, bodily fluids, etc. then this post may not appeal to your delicate sensibilities.

Come back tomorrow for a post about soup.

This post is about a contrast of experiences that feed into my perception that my husband rolls blissfully through his life almost untouched by adversity, where I slog through my existence on this planet slamming into every possible obstacle.

If being lucky enough to have only the best possible experiences were a super power, my husband would be in the Justice League.

My latest example of this is colonoscopies.

Five years ago, my husband had this routine medical test because, well, let’s just say he had some concerns. Yesterday, I had this routine medical test because I am halfway to being featured on one of Willard Scott’s Smucker’s jar labels.

Five years ago, my husband had his test in Virginia. He’s often described it as one of the most relaxing days of his life. He did the necessary prep work the night before, which involves swallowing a handful of laxatives followed by fluids laced with stool softener. He:

  • didn’t have any significant issues with the pre-op
  • was the first patient of the day
  • was placed under anesthesia and has no memory of the process
  • was done before lunch and felt great the rest of the day

Fast forward five years and it’s time for my first 50,000-mile-check up, so I’m more than willing to do what I perceived to be necessary to ensure my continued good health.

My scope, however, was done here in Ohio. And here in the Midwest, we pride ourselves on being hardy stock. This would be no Southern-hospitality walk-in-the-park test like husband did a few years back.

I also did the necessary prep work the night before, including taking the laxatives and drinking a half-gallon of Powerade Zero loaded with stool softener. I then:

  • endured the worst night of my life due to the pre-op concoction
  • was one of the last patients of the day
  • was given only a mild sedative and thus vividly remembers every second of the procedure
  • still feel wonky almost 24 hours later

My gut has always been the weakest link in my personal health system. I guess it really shouldn’t have surprised me that the pre-test protocol would be rough.

It did surprise me to know how fast a short, fat woman with arthritis can sprint when properly motivated. And I was motivated about 99 times over the course of 18 hours from the time my pre-op started to the time the doctor went over the results.

My husband, as I recall, took care of business efficiently and then slept peacefully most of the night before his test.

It also surprised me that I would NOT be getting a dose of propofol like my husband did. Just before the doctor was ready to begin, the nurse told me she would be giving me a sedative, to which I said, “Um, yeah, or I’m jumping off this table like right now.” She laughed.

Then I realized she didn’t mean she was giving me a sedative before I got put to sleep. The sedative was ALL I would get.

The next 40 minutes was like being in one of those bad sci-fi movies where the aliens probe the poor test human.

Adding insult to injury, the doctor said, during the test and at the results chat, that my colon is “tortuous.” Who in this scenario had the right to speak of torture? I think that would be me.

By tortuous, he means that my colon is more twisty and bendy than usual, so the camera had a difficult time getting clear images. Nothing Instagram-worthy, I guess.

The results were OK. I have diverticulosis, but that’s pretty common. I have small hemorrhoids, which I suspect was the result of the 99 ass-plosions I had over the prior 18 hours.

He also said my colon still contained stool, which I found damn near impossible to believe since at several points during the night I was sure I was expelling internal organs. It’s now medically confirmed that I am really full of shit.

The doctor recommended I have another test… in five years. Um, yeah. Only if I have serious symptoms or if I can selectively have the memory of yesterday removed from my brain.

I was talking to my husband this morning about how really dreadful the whole thing was for me compared to his test, and he credits the lack of anesthesia as the biggest difference.

Me: I was sedated, but I was totally aware of everything that was happening. It wasn’t painful at all, but it was uncomfortable. I was just too stoned to care, I guess.

Phil: Yeah, that’s because all they did was slip you a mickey.

Me: You mean I had the medical equivalent of a roofie?

Phil: Yeah, for you it was like date rape. When I have to have my test done again in five years, I don’t care where I have to go or what I have to pay, I’m getting knocked out. OUT.

And that, I believe, is the difference in walking through this life as a mere mortal (me) and a super-hero (him.)

The weight

I put on a few pounds this summer.

I had reasons: Stress eating and drinking from the move and the car wreck; inability to exercise while there was a bulging pool of blood on my leg that turned into a gaping hole the size of a golf divot; difficulty finding rewarding employment, etc.

The result of all these perfectly understandable reasons was my not being able to fit into clothes that I loved. That made me cringe, because I know all too well that “buying the next size up until you lose the extra pounds” is the first step on the road back to a place I never want to be again.

As I’ve said many times: Bariatric surgery is a TOOL, not a CURE, for ending obesity.

So, with the help of an online support group of wonderful ladies who are all paddling the same boat I am, I am happy to report that this morning that I easily glided into a pair of pants that did not fit a month ago.

And my knee-high boots from last season? No problem zipping them at all.

Also, as sad as I am to see summer go and to pack away all my sandals, can I get a HOLLA for boot season!

I still need to drop some more weight, and more importantly I need to maintain the healthy eating and exercise habits that got me where I was in the first place, but this was a wonderful feeling.

Too wonderful not to share with my tens of readers.

Happy hump day!

I love LA

This week my handsome husband and I joined a new gym. LA Fitness is a national chain and we hooked up at the one near my favorite shopping mall.

A place to work out close to a place where I can buy the clothes that keep me motivated to work out: Heaven’s gates open, cue choir singing.

What I like most about LA Fitness is that it’s not a family-centered gym. I know that will sound like heresy to all parents with young families, but I don’t want to share my water aerobics space with happy little kids being happy little kids in a pool.

When my daughter was young, we joined the YMCA for all it had to offer for kids and adults. Now? I don’t want to dodge toddlers on the running track.

There should be options for everyone at every stage of life and this is the one for me. The place is full of young singles and empty-nesters.

Last night we had our obligatory meeting with a trainer because selling training sessions is part of the business of a gym. While this fellow was very nice, his pitch basically broke down like this:

“See all these cardio machines in here? They won’t do anything for you. Sure, you’ll burn some calories, but as soon as you step off the machine your metabolism — which is already in the negative numbers, amiright? — will plummet and you’ve wasted your time.

See all those resistance machines? What do they all have in common? Seats. You sit while you work your muscles. Sure, you will build SOME muscle on them, but they limit your range of motion and in the end don’t really accomplish anything except making your already hefty ass feel productive.

All those classes you like to take? Yeah, those cater to the lowest common denominator of fitness and don’t really challenge you. Sure, they are fun and you might make friends and work up a sweat, but who needs that, really? You’re here to get ripped, right?

The pool? That’s great…for cooling down after a real workout.”

So what’s a real workout?

Training with a trainer, of course.

After noting our height and weight, he put us on a pair of treadmills, jacked the elevation to mountain-climbing range and let us walk for about 15 minutes. This allowed him to do the math and tell us what we should weigh. Which is, of course, less than we weigh now.

Calculating shit is hard work, yo. If he needed 15 minutes for that, clearly, he wasn’t a math major in college.

Then he had us do squats. In the nicest way possible, he told us we both suck. My hamstrings are too weak and Phil’s are too tight. Our form is all wrong. We clearly don’t know squat about squats.

The we went to a couple of mats where he asked us to do planks. Now I can plank. For a woman with a marshmallow core, I can plank like…someone who can hold a plank for a really long time.

Every instructor I’ve ever had told me to keep my hips low when I plank — that the spine should basically be a straight line, which is not easy when your have round mounds of glutes back there.

This guy wanted my hips higher, which actually makes the plank easier. What? Maybe he just likes middle-aged women with big booties, I don’t know. I’d bet we’d find some interesting sites if we check the browser history on his computer.

TRX: this is what it's supposed to look like. If your face meets the floor, you are doing it wrong.

Then we went to the TRX, which if you never seen or used one is basically straps bolted to the ceiling or to an immovable apparatus. I’m pretty sure was inspired by some S&M porn movies.

He asked me to assume plank position with my feet in the handles. So I did.

I then slipped out of the handles, crashed my face into the floor, crushed my right hand under my considerable body weight, and knocked all the wind out of my lungs.

Good times!

While I scraped my dignity off the floor and reassured myself that neither lung had collapsed, he had my husband do normal stuff on the TRX — like pushups and bicep curls.

Then the session was over and it was time for him to sell us on personal training for an extra $260 each month. We said we’d think about it.

I’ve thought about it.

No. I’ll spend that $260 at the mall, thank you very much.

But I still love LA (the city and the gym) and I will be there several times a week to waste my time, energy and sweat on cardio machines, resistance machines, group classes and the pool.

And I will wave enthusiastically to this really polite, really sweet lunkhead every time I see him.

Saturdays

We are nearing the end of the summer drinking season — where diet cranberry juice, citron vodka and a big squeeze of lime is my refreshment of choice.

We are now in the tailgate drinking season — where cold beer and the above mentioned Nona-style cosmopolitan pair perfectly with all the grilled meats and homemade brownies one can munch in three hours of pre-game festivities.

In just a few short months, we will officially be in the holiday drinking season — where wine will flow like water and Bailey’s will be added to coffee for all gift wrapping sessions as that has been my time-honored holiday tradition for 30 years.

The problem is that, even with a tiny tummy, liquids go down very easily. And it’s very easy to lose track of how many liquid calories have been consumed.

So if this continues, by New Year’s Eve I will be a lush that cannot fit into any of her clothes.

I am in the second week of a 90-day challenge to improve my fitness. This is mostly focused on exercise, but also includes healthy food and beverage choices. I know I am up to this challenge six days a week.

College football Saturdays, however, are proving problematic.

We have season tickets to not one but two football programs. All but one weekend (when both teams are on the road) for the rest of 2014 will include tailgating. Not only is there wonderful food to eat — and tiny tummies can eat a lot of food if nibbled over a three-hour period — there’s the booze.

These days also tend to be my least active of the week. We have to travel three hours for Ball State games, so of course we are sitting in the car the entire time. Tailgating is a social experience, so we stand or sit in lawn chairs for that. Then we mostly sit for the game.

Lots of calories + lots of sitting = more pounds than will squeeze into my American Eagle jeggings and tall boots.

So, besides cleaning up my habits Sunday through Friday, I have to start watching what I send down my piehole on Saturday (mmm, pie.)

This Saturday, instead of hamburgers and hotdogs, we are grilling chicken tenders. I’m also planning on bringing veggies instead of cheese and crackers.

Just as good without the Vitamin V.

And I am not bringing any of our home-infused vodkas to the party.

When the Ball State Cardinals (chirp, chirp!) taking on the Fighting Trees of Indiana State this weekend, I am sticking to my favorite mocktail — diet cranberry with a squeeze of non-caloric lemon-lime flavoring and my traditional lime wedge — and water.

I can’t say I will do this every game day, but I’m determined to do it this weekend.

And I swear I will let myself get dehydrated at ALL Ohio State home games because, as beautiful as the Shoe is, the bathrooms are DISGUSTING.

Seriously, I’ve been in port-a-johns at NASCAR tracks that were more sanitary than Ohio Stadium’s bathrooms.

OSU alum: Y’all need to start a capital campaign to upgrade those facilities. Knowing how much you collectively love the Buckeyes, it should only take about 15 minutes of phone calls to season ticket holders. Make it happen.

Drive

It’s been a topsy-turvy, wave-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you-don’t-care kind of week here.

Last Friday, when almost three months after it was savaged in a wreck, my once beautiful, practically new car was returned to me in practically new condition.

The first few minutes I sat in the car were an emotional slurry. For a second I felt the fear and numbness of the last time I sat in the car — damaged on the side of a busy interstate. Then I felt relief that this is one step closer to ending this ugly chapter of the summer. Then there was a rush of excitement to actually drive my own car again.

That’s a lot of the feels to have in about a two minute period.

Monday I had a doctor’s appointment with my new GP. I made this appointment in April. It took until September to see her, because when you relocate and start over with doctors, you are not a high priority in scheduling.

After a long chat about my arthritis, bariatric procedure, etc. we talked about my prescriptions. She told me she couldn’t refill my Klonopin prescription because she has a personal policy not to prescribe benzodiazepines.

I beg to differ, Words with Friends wordsmiths. This is PERFECTLY acceptable word.

This was after I explained to her I had suffered from anxiety since kindergarten and that being on Klonopin has effectively ended the panic attacks, waves of helpless terror and crippling migraines. This drug has treated my mental/emotional illness effectively with no side effects.

Deaf ears. She’s going to wean me off of it she said — because stopping cold turkey could cause seizures — and if I still feel like I need it, I can see a psychiatrist.

Did I mention that when you are a new patient, it takes MONTHS to get an appointment anywhere? And I already wasted months waiting to see her only to get shut down because she personally doesn’t view mental/emotional illness as something that should be treated like any other chronic illness.

She then insisted I take a urine test to screen for drugs.

As I sat there digesting what this medical professional was telling me, the panic started to creep in. Then I started to weep. I told her I didn’t want to go back to that emotional place of living in fear every day of where and when I would lose my collective shit.

But she did NOT give a collective shit. No Klonopin. Nope. Not on her watch. She did, however, make the big move of writing me one script for a lower dose with instructions to take less and less of it each week until it was done. And she told me she doesn’t do this for ANYBODY. So I should be grateful.

I can understand she may not feel comfortable treating mental illness if that’s outside her wheelhouse. But, had I presented her with any chronic PHYSICAL illness, I have no doubt she would have written a script to tide me over until I could see a specialist.

The stigma of mental/emotional illness is alive and well and harbored by medical doctors, apparently.

For the first time since we moved to Ohio — and Ohio has been kicking my ass since I got here — I wished we had never moved here.

I do have an appointment to see an intake counselor at a mental health practice in October. Then I can probably get an appointment with a shrink in December. In the meantime, managing stress will be up to me.

That shouldn’t be difficult at all, considering I may or may not be starting a new job on Monday.

Despite wanting to crawl in a hole until the holiday season, I decided to do the only things I know that can help me feel good about me. I’m back to clean eating — even during tailgate season — and Phil and I joined a cool new gym yesterday.

Purple rain (pitbull approved)

I bought a new pair of workout kicks to replace my well-worn New Balance shoes that have logged a thousand miles in the last two years.

I am going to do my best to keep myself from falling down the rabbit hole of anxiety and depression with a positive attitude, healthy food and lots of sweat. I have to fight to stay in the driver’s seat and not let anxiety take the wheel.

If I just keep moving, maybe the panic won’t find me.

 

These are the days

My precious

You know those mornings when you awaken from a dead sleep to find you are spooning with a snoring dog that smells like stale corn chips but you are just happy to have something to snuggle because the evening before you attended a fantastic dinner on the most humid night of the summer where you drank chilled white wine like someone told you Jesus turned it back into water while trying not to sweat to the point you looked like you accepted the ALS ice bucket challenge?

You know those mornings?

You know those days when you really have so much to do — like hit up the farmer’s market before all the organic cheese and the best sweet corn is gone, somehow try to burn off the gazillion calories you consumed the night before because you have job-interview clothes to squeeze into on Monday and steam mop the floor because apparently 12 muddy paws held a Zumba class on your dark hardwood last night while you were getting your drink on and hoping that the sweat between your thighs didn’t leave a puddle on the chair and everyone would assume you need Depends?

You know those days?

If not this post probably meant nothing to you.

If you do, will you be my BFF? Come over later and we’ll have some cheese made from happy, grass-fed cows, open yet another bottle of wine and I (might) even share the parting gift from last night’s soiree.

False advertising! There are not 1782 sea salt caramels in this box. There are only 10. OK, seven now. Stop judging me!

 

 

Days go by

For an unemployed person, I am crazy busy.

Lately there has been short trips for a book signing and for a concert.  We’ve made new friends. We’ve bought new furniture.

I have been concentrating on exercise in a big way and dropped a couple of the pounds I put back on while rehabbing my leg. I still see the wound care doctor every other week.

I also give my elderly cat with hyperthyroidism two oral doses of meth every day. The fun? It just never ends.

My days are busy and they fly by. I am still actively looking for work, but I am being very picky to make sure the job is a good fit for me and my family.

I have also been cooking. Since I consider myself a food writer, I should be blogging about it, but since it’s summer, the food I’ve been making has been very simple.

Grilled fish. Fresh salads. Roasted new potatoes. All delicious and nutritious, but not really recipe-type food.

Last night, however, I took on a big challenge for me: turkey burgers. I’ve made them before and been less than impressed with my results.

Turkey is lean, so the lack of fat tends not to make it bind easily for burger patties. It is also not big on flavor without putting some serious seasoning into it.

I am not usually one to add veggies to the burger mix — for beef burgers I prefer veggies as toppings — but for turkey I thought that veggies would add moisture and flavor. So the first thing I mixed in the pound of ground turkey was minced onions and bell peppers.

Then I liberally seasoned the meat with garlic powder (not salt — that’s coming later) steakhouse seasoning and curry powder. Then I added a couple of drops of stir-fry sauce (seriously , just a dash.)

The salt (turkey needs some salt) came from low-sodium soy sauce, which I used to marinade some chopped mushrooms. I let the mushrooms absorb the soy sauce for a couple of hours before I mixed the pieces in the meat.

I like to make my beef patties thin, but my husband — the grillmaster — said turkey needs to be a little plumper to make them hold together. He’s absolutely right.

While he grilled the burgers, I sauteed the rest of the mushrooms with some yellow onion (I prefer shallots but I didn’t have any) as a topping for the burgers.

Healthy tip: Back in the day I would use about a stick of butter to sauté mushrooms. Now I use a non-stick skillet, less than a tablespoon of olive oil and a generous shake of Worcestershire sauce. The ‘shrooms are just as good and a fraction of the unhealthy fat and calories.

The end result: The best turkey burger EVER. The patties didn’t fall apart, they were juicy and the seasonings added layers of flavor to turkey’s blank canvas.

Next time instead of mushrooms as a topping, I think I will try an avocado slice.

We served it with roasted new potatoes (an easy side and a very low-cal alternative to fries.) The big calorie indulgence was King’s Hawaiian hamburger buns. Because, damn, those soft, eggy buns are worth every carb and calorie.

Every. Single. One.

Of course you can always cut the bun calories in half by eating it open faced. If you can do that, you are a stronger person than I am.

Recipe bonus:

Here’s a link to a recipe that I am anxious to try. I met this blogger in Miami, he’s terrific and this dish looks amazing.

Human

I came back to the house from a walk last night when my husband told me Robin Williams died. I gasped.

He followed that with the suspected cause of death: suicide. Then I felt a little part of my soul retreat, looking for a safe place to hide.

Robin Williams, beloved actor, comedian, and genius, died from depression.

It hits you hard when you know you walk around every day with an illness that, while treatable, could eventually be fatal. It hits you hard when it claims yet another victim.

I’ve done as much as I can to document my struggle with depression and its BFF anxiety on this blog because it is an illness, just like cancer, and the stigma attached to it has to stop.

Depression, being the sneaky liar that it is, would love to remain shrouded in shame so that it can go unabated.

Like cancer, depression is an invading organism that disrupts body chemistry and causes physical symptoms. Like cancer, it lives inside the host and wreaks havoc on the healthy cells.

For my part, I suffer more from anxiety than depression, but all that worry just adds kindle to the fire of depression. So the little bastards are co-conspirators.

As far as I know, there is no cure for depression or anxiety. There are plenty of treatments for the symptoms, but nothing that makes it all better. When you suffer from depression, you will never be able to take a test that shows you are now depression-free.

I’ve tried everything. Talk therapy? Check. Books? Check. Prescription drugs? Double check.

And I’ve self-medicated most of my life. Food was my drug of choice. And abuse of that perfectly legal, socially acceptable drug led to obesity, which is the kind of sick joke that depression enjoys, because that made things even worse. Just to add another smack down, obesity not only made me more depressed and anxious, it led to potentially fatal health problems.

Depression and anxiety are sinister assholes.

The best treatment for depression, in my case anyway, is emotional support, positive self-talk and medication. I don’t know if Williams had any of that. Being a celebrity, it might be hard to know who really wants to help you because they care about your well-being or who wants to help you because they need something from you.

I’m sure his family loved him and tried to help and my heart goes out to them. Sometimes the hole is just too deep for anyone’s love to reach.

I have a rock of support in my life. I can’t rely solely on him for my survival, but it helps to know that when I want to retreat, when I forget to tell depression “Fuck off, you liar!”, he’s there to remind me and he doesn’t judge. He has helped keep me from going too far down the hole more times than he knows.

One of my favorite Robin Williams movies — it’s hard to choose just one — is “Good Will Hunting.” In his role as Sean, a psychiatrist treating Will, a troubled genius (ponder that irony for a moment) he told a story about his late wife.

The fact that it came directly from Williams — according to IMDB it was unscripted — makes it all the more profound to me:

“Sean: My wife used to fart when she was nervous. She had all sorts of wonderful little idiosyncrasies. She used to fart in her sleep. I thought I’d share that with you. One night it was so loud it woke the dog up. She woke up and went ‘ah was that you?’ And I didn’t have the heart to tell her. Oh!

Will: She woke herself up?

Sean: Ah…! But Will, she’s been dead for 2 years, and that’s the shit I remember: wonderful stuff you know? Little things like that. Those are the things I miss the most. The little idiosyncrasies that only I know about: that’s what made her my wife. Oh she had the goods on me too, she knew all my little peccadilloes. People call these things imperfections, but they’re not. Ah, that’s the good stuff.

It lacks the eloquence of quotes from “Dead Poets Society” or even “Mrs. Doubtfire”, but for me it demonstrates real love. I am so lucky I have someone on my side who knows all my flaws and loves me anyway.

No matter what depression tries to tell me, I hold on to that love, and then I know I will be OK.

We both fart in bed and blame it on the dog. That’s the good stuff.

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