Monday, December 7, 2009

Deck the Halls

As far as we cats are concerned, there are few times more thrilling than when the adults pull out our favorite toy for us. You know, that tall prickly one they cover with all the beads and ornaments for us to bat about and try to remove? Well, yesterday was that day at our house.

Between the beads and the bows, the ornaments and the lights, there was a lot for me to play with. The only challenge was where to start.

But I did my part and made sure I played with all of them. It's a tough job having that much fun, and by the end of the day, I was pooped!
In fact, I think Rudy was zonked just watching me.

Not to worry, though. There's plenty more fun to be had, and I fully intend to go back for more...just as soon as I finish my nap.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In the Words of Gloria Gaynor

A few weeks ago we learned our beloved Ru Dog had a cancerous tumor on her elbow. She had surgery last Monday to remove it and is recovering well.

Overall, she's been a very good patient, but we have learned our lesson not to underestimate her tenacity, or her need to lick EVERYTHING. The night we brought her home, we made the mistake of assuming it was safe to leave her alone for only a short time. Upon return, we were quite surprised to find she'd been very busy while we were out.
Time elapsed without constant supervision: 1 hour.

Damage: Bandage removed, completely in one piece.

Time it took to purchase and outfit her with this ridiculous cone contraption: 15 minutes.

Sorry, dog, but it's for your own good. The irony of this particular accessory is that they call it the "Elizabethan Collar," clearly because it resembles the high collars the British monarch sported as her regal attire. But tell me, does this poor dog look at all regal to you? I think not.
So Rudy has to wear the cone when she's alone for a few more days just to make sure she doesn't lick her wounds. Until then, she is working up a full scale Pity Party. Big sad eyes, droopy head. It's certainly doing the trick to make me feel guilty.

The test results came back and revealed that the type of cancer Rudy has is the kind likely to spread, but so far, there don't appear to be any signs of metastasis. So our next step is a visit to the doggy oncologist to learn our options. We've heard that chemo for animals is much less debilitating and painful than it is for humans, so we're hopeful we can take some steps to keep the cancer from spreading without decreasing her quality of life (read: ability to romp in the woods, fetch and swim). If anyone has any experience with doggy cancer, please let us know.
And in the meantime, thanks to everyone for their love and prayers. We are keeping our outlook positive and are confident that Rudy's tenacity will make her a survivor!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lazy Woman’s Stuffed Cabbage

As the weather has gotten colder, we’ve been craving comfort food, but are trying to keep things pretty healthy. Fortunately, I recently figured out how to recreate the fantastic flavors of my mother-in-law’s amazing stuffed cabbage recipe without all the work. As someone who never really like stuffed cabbage before I had hers and who now makes it often, I can attest that this is some good stuff!

Several of my friends have asked for this recipe, so I’m posting it here for anyone interested.  Thanks, Mom, for sharing your recipe!

Crock Pot Stuffed Cabbage

28 oz. of your favorite tomato sauce
6 tbs brown sugar
7 tbs lemon juice
7 tbs water, plus extra if needed
1 package uncoooked ground turkey breast
1 package french onion soup mix
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice or bulgur wheat
½ large head cabbage (or one small cabbage), cored and chopped into large chunks
2 egg whites

Whisk wet ingredients in medium bowl. Put thin layer in bottom of crock pot, reserving the rest.

Mix turkey, rice/bulgur, egg whites and 1/2 of seasoning packet into mini meatballs and put in crock pot.

Add chopped cabbage and the rest of the onion soup mix. Pour tomato mixture over the whole mess and mix all ingredients, adding additional water if necessary to ensure all ingredients are adequately covered with liquid. Crock it up on low for 6 to 12 hours. Serve with mashed potatoes* for maximum goodness.

Note: If you don't have time to do the crock pot version, you can boil the cabbage for 10 - 15 minutes and layer everything in a casserole dish to bake at 350 for 1 - 2 hours.

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 6-12 hrs
Yummy comfort food at the end of a long day: Priceless

*We’ve been making a reduced fat/lower calorie version of mashed potatoes by using roasted cauliflower and 3 small potatoes. Chop 1 head cauliflower and 3 small potatoes (with skin on) and wrap in foil sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Dump everything into a food processor, add about ½ cup warmed chicken stock and ¼ cup instant potato flakes, salt and pepper to taste. We find this to be quite delicious!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quite the Operation

Hey, folks. Kooks the cat here. I thought you might be interested in the latest activity here at our house. Not that I let all of the excitement get to me, though (yawn). Mostly I just watch my parents’ frenzies with one eye open, because, let’s be honest: I’m just not that interested and can’t be bothered to give up my nap. Unless it involves food or partying with the other neighborhood felines. But that’s another story for another day.

If you’ve read previous posts, you know I was accused of bringing fleas into the house…and reminded almost daily that I was responsible for the corresponding itching and scratching. So this explains why I took such an interest in “Operation Flea Removal.” That mom of mine is nothing if not entertaining when she gets a bug in her bonnet (pardon the pun!), so this latest adventure was quite the production.

She’d been yammering for some time about how she was not living with critters anymore but she and Dad are always hyping what they call “natural” and “organic” alternatives. (If you ask me, this organic crap is hooey, as the “presents” the dogs leave in the basement are about as “organic” as it gets, and yet these don't make them happy. Don’t tell Rudy this, though, because she hasn’t yet figured out why our parents get so mad when she craps in the basement. That rube still thinks she’s giving them a loving gift! Lucy the wiener dog sure has her hoodwinked, and I’m certainly not going to be the one to ruin the charade. It’s just too darn funny.) But I digress…

So, anyway, mom found some stuff that’s supposed to be safe for pets. It’s made from algae or fossils, or some other weird substance, so she naturally figured it would be a great idea. She decided to apply it in the basement one afternoon while daddy went somewhere to watch a football game, as he usually does on Sunday afternoons.

What followed was one of the more entertaining productions this cat has witnessed in a while. Mom read somewhere that the particles in the powder are really fine and dry out human skin and lungs so she shouldn’t come in contact with any of it…so she SUITED UP! This outfit was really something to see: Daddy’s socks pulled up to her knees, a breathing mask and rubber gloves! Talk about looking foolish.

But after about an hour of applying this crazy powder with a flour sifter and then vacuuming it up like a mad woman, all the while muttering about how she could imagine the tiny cries of fleas screaming in surrender, she seemed pleased with the results. And quite pleased with herself, I may say. Apparently those fleas that were biting her are gone, so for now I’m off the hook. Good thing, because if anyone’s going to this “farm” they keep threatening to send us to, it’d better be the dog. I was here first!

I found this photo mom took of me and am posting it because I look so dang cute. Does anyone know what that sign says?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Is the feral cat to blame?

How exactly do you know whether your cat has fleas?

The past week or so, I noticed a few ugly red bug bites on my calves and ankles. At first I figured it was the new razor I was test driving, but then it occurred to me that they actually itch.

And our cat keeps sneaking out on stealth missions. It doesn't seem to matter how hard we try to keep her in, she always finds a way to shoot past as I'm struggling in with my hands full or Dave's letting the dog out (Unlike my hubby, I have so far outwitted her when it comes to this task, as I either close the door to the back room or employ a rather complex move involving kicking the air behind me as I stretch to attach the dog to her run so the cat can't streak out the open door. Ahem...Dave, perhaps you should try one of my methods).

So that leaves me with strange bug bites on my lower legs and a cat who keeps sneaking out. Did either of us remember to apply her flea medicine last month? I know we gave it to the dog, but whether Kooks sat still long enough for us to apply it is not exactly ringing a bell. I do know we gave it to her yesterday, and it took two of us to wrangle her.

While I worry I may be a hilljack if I'm forced to admit to having fleas in my house, I suppose I ought to get myself out on the ol' Intraweb to do some research on the critters. And believe me, if I have to add "flea bag" to the list of transgressions our feral feline has committed recently, the burrito farm is definitely in her future!

If any of you animal lovers out there can offer any advice (or words of solace) on fleas, please do share.

Post Script: I should add that Dave hasn't gotten any of these bites. I have no choice but to take this as further proof that the cat is out to get me. It's personal, Kooks, and! It is so on...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bad, Bad Dog

"Who? Me???"

The Scene:
Our house. Last night. Dave and I are enjoying a late dinner, when it occurs to me I don’t know where the dog is.

Me: Honey, where’s Rudy?

Dave: Oh, I let her out a while ago. But she’s awfully quiet. I wonder why she’s not barking to come in. She’s been out there a while…

(Opens the back door.)

Dave: What the…??? Oh…My…GODDDD! Disgusting!!!

Me: What is it, honey?

Dave: Oh holy mother of God. Bad dog! Bad dog! BAD, BAD dog!

Me: Do you need me?

I take the lack of answer to be a yes and find Dave outside by the garage muttering loudly to himself while he cleans remnants of garbage Rudy has been quietly but happily rooting in while we enjoyed our dinner in blissful ignorance.

And then I am practically knocked over by the stench coming from my otherwise adorable dog.

Me: What IS that? (gag reflex kicks in briefly) Oh wow. Whatever it is, she’s got it all over her face! Good Lord!

(An aside: This isn’t your ordinary, everyday garbage. This is garbage comprised of “compostable materials” that Dave makes me save when I cook so he can go through the 20-some steps of composting it for use in the garden. It’s a great system, except, unfortunately, this particular batch never got composted, so the egg shells, egg yolks, vegetables and other miscellaneous kitchen waste have instead, well, rotted. And this was the mother of all rot. The big daddy voodoo of all doo doo. Words cannot explain how gross this was.)

And this is exactly what my dog got into. With aplomb. She is of course at this point looking at me with smiling eyes and a wagging tail, as if to say, “Isn't it fabulous?”

Bad, bad dog.

So we round up the doggy shampoo, hose her down in the driveway and scrub off the nastiness. And yes, this would be the second time this summer I’ve been outside at odd hours washing stench off my dog.

But of course the story doesn’t end here, because we’re not sensible people, after all.

An hour later Rudy paws at me to go out again. Figuring she may have actually ingested some of the rotting garbage, I hurry to let her out. We certainly don’t want an ugly accident in the house.

And, like déjà vu, we go through the whole cycle again.

Dave: Where’s the dog?

Me: I let her out.

Dave: Did you shorten her run? We don’t want her getting back into the garbage.

Me: Wait. You left the garbage where it was? Oh crap!

(Sounds of me running to the back door, stubbing my toe on an errant dog bone lying in the path of my mad dash and then yelling about the stench being there. Again. I mean, seriously, it took her less than a minute).

Yep. As if on a loop, the scene repeats:

Me, Dave, Rudy.




Utter amazement at our own stupidity.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

Shh…they’re sleeping. I know this because Daddy’s snoring and Mommy keeps mumbling, “Oh, hush, honey, for the love of GOD!” in her sleep. My sister Kookai is on the corner of the bed cleaning herself. She does that a lot.

So anyway, I figured now would be a safe time to check out this blog thing Mommy keeps saying is so much fun. I also heard that she's been telling stories about our escapades lately, but who better to tell you what we’ve really been up than us pets?

Leaving presents in the basement. I know where I'm supposed to go to the bathroom, but my aunt Lucy, the wiener dog, told me that our parents like it when we leave them presents on the carpet every once in a while. So when she comes over to visit she shows me where to go so I can do it too sometimes. Lucy’s really bossy but she knows a lot of cool things, like how to steal food and hide it for later. Plus, she’s kind of scary, so I usually do what she says. The weird thing is, I don't think my parents have noticed my presents yet. Every time I leave them one, they start yelling about something so I figure they're just distracted when they go down there. I will probably just keep at it until they notice my good work.

Bunny hunting. Do you people even realize what prime bunny hunting time it is right now?! They’re everywhere, just everywhere! Hiding in the grass. Peeking out from the bushes. And they taunt me non-stop. When we go for walks, all I hear is their squeaky little bunny voices singsonging, “You can’t catch us, slow poke…nah nah nah nah nah!” Mommy and Daddy don't appreciate my obsession with the bunnies. Though, I don't think they're happy about it because they get all loud and there’s usually some tugging on my harness, but it’s really a bit of a blur, because with all the smack those furry little devils are throwing down, I can't help but focus on the bunnies, bunnies, bunnies…

Sneaking out. Well, Kooks has been doing this a lot. She’s mastered the art of streaking past Daddy when he lets me out. For such a fat cat, she’s pretty quick. She tells me she’s been having a blast partying all night with the neighborhood cats. Personally, I think she’s getting kind of a “reputation.” I also know she takes particular pleasure in waking up Mommy and Daddy at 4 a.m. by positioning herself under their bedroom window and meowing incessantly until they let her in. I have to hand it to her, she’s gotten really good at this. She doesn’t even take a breath in between meows, and if they ignore her, she just follows them to whichever room they go to and meows under that window. She says that after a long night out on the town, she’s hungry and thirsty and the only reason our parents are here anyway is to feed her, water her and basically cater to her every whim. She also says I'm stupid for trying to please them all the time. Well, all I know is that Mommy is not happy about the crack-of-dawn wake up calls and keeps threatening to take Kooks to this place called a “farm” so she can "make herself useful instead of gallivanting around with all the neighborhood Toms." I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I bet Kooks would have fun with the barn cats.

And speaking of farms, Daddy keeps telling me he’s going to send me to a special place called the “Burrito Farm.” Usually this follows one of his fits of bellowing. Something about there being more crap in the basement (I think this is what keeps distracting him from finding my presents). But I bet a Burrito Farm would be fun. I wonder if they have bunnies there. That sure would be great.

Swimming. I just love to swim at the doggy beach. Last week as I was running around in circles showing off my fetching skills, this lady I passed told my Mommy that she didn’t like dogs. Mommy made me get away from her but I heard her say, “What kind of person doesn’t like dogs?” Well, I figured I could win the lady over, so I made sure to run past her again and show her how awesome my orange fetch toy is. I mean, it’s really cool and I swam really far out to get it. But the lady didn’t seem to like that either, and then Mommy yelled at me and put me back on my leash and I couldn’t even swim out to the deep end anymore. It was kind of a bummer. But I hope we get to go back soon and maybe the mean lady won’t be there.

Camp. Mommy and Daddy went away for a weekend and I got to go to Lab Camp. My doggy mommy Sadie, my brother Norm, sister Lulu and niece Callie all live there and it’s super fun. We play a lot and there are a TON of good bones for me to chew. Callie is kind of a spazz, but the rest of us usually just gang up on her and try to steal her toys. She seems to like it, though, so I guess everybody wins. And Mama Lee Ann spoils me a lot. But don’t tell Mommy because she always says I come back from camp five pounds fatter. What’s wrong with that?

Ice cream! Forget about bacon; ice cream is where it’s at. Last night Mommy and Daddy took me for a walk to the ice cream place. A walk AND ice cream! Life sure was good, even if I didn’t catch any bunnies. I got my very own cone, and you can bet I didn’t take my time scarfing down that yummy goodness. I don’t know why Mommy and Daddy take so long to eat theirs when it’s really easy to get it all down in one chomp. You’d think they’d know better, because they eat kind of a lot of ice cream.
So that’s the real scoop. Kooks and I have been enjoying the summer and we hope we get to do some more fun stuff.
Oh, and that hoopla about the skunk? Frankly, I was a little surprised at all the fuss Mommy made about that. I mean, when I found that patch of strong smell in our backyard, I thought to myself, Hooray! Mommy and Daddy sure would be proud if I could cover myself in this stuff. So I gave it a good roll, making sure to really root around in it. And what did they do? They completely freaked out and then washed it right off. Huh. But I got to play in the water in the front yard, which was pretty fun.

Well, bye for now. I asked Kooks if she wanted to contribute anything but she told me to leave her alone because she's napping. A late night and all that. Typical.

Lots of licks,

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fat Guy in a Little Coat

"Fat guy in a little coat...fat guy in a little coat...fat guy in a leetle coat..."

If these words bring to mind visions of Chris Farley swaying in a teeny tiny sport jacket before finally ripping it to shreds, you should have been with us last weekend for Tommy Boy Night at the "Drive In" in the courtyard at our friends Katie and Nate's house (or "Natie" as I like to refer to them as a couple). Having been obsessed with this classic comedy since high school, Katie and I thought it was time to relive the fun of evenings spent quoting along with the characters by throwing with a theme party. It also was a great excuse to get together with our lovely friends and enjoy a summer evening and refreshments.

So Natie rigged a wicked set up that included a projector on the garage roof and a big screen on which to view the flick. And in case you were wondering about our commitment to the purity of the theme, I can assure you that our menu was 90% movie related. Which meant it was the most disjointed, unhealthy party food ever. Here's a sampling:
  • Shrimp cocktail ("Looks like we caught this guy right after Thanksgiving dinner.")
  • Chicken wings ("Tommy like wingy.")
  • Pizza ("If we didn't get the wings, so what? We still have half a meat lovers pizza in the trunk.")
  • Peanut M&Ms ("They have a thin candy shell. I'm surprised you didn't know that.")
  • Doughnuts ("I have what doctors call 'a little bit of a weight problem.' I used to take bear claws two at a time, and they'd get lodged, RIGHT in this region here.")
  • Whiskey sours ("Eight whiskey sours and I can still sell the son of a b****! [Darn], I'm good!")
  • Mints (" want mint for pillow?")
  • French fries and ketchup packets ("I can actually hear you getting fatter.")
  • Hummus, blue cheese dip, veggies and bruschetta (not movie related, but we were thankful to our friends who ensured we had a least something healthy on the menu)
In addition to appropriate decorations and artery clogging fare, we had a mix of great folks, many of whom loved the movie, and some who'd never seen it, but by the end of the night, I'm pretty sure everyone there was a fan. And who wouldn't be? This movie offers quotes for all occasions.

Let's just say, for instance, your husband breaks the door knob while letting the dog out. What do you say? Not, "Honey, how can I help?" Oh, no. Instead you can take a line from Tommy Callahan and go with, "What'd you doooo?" (Sadly, this is a true story).

Or, and this one really is a hypothetical, you're driving home late at night and see the dreaded flashing police lights behind you. Do you pull over and politely hand over your licence and registration? No, you start to weave your car frantically all over the road and exit the vehicle screaming and swatting yourself while yelling, "Bees! Bees! They're everywhere. They're huge and sting crazy! Save yourselves!" Seems to me this should work pretty much every time.

And on those hot summer days, what can be better than sitting in front of the swivel fan, mouthing, "La la la la, Luke, Luke, I am your faahther, la la low lay la..."? It's from Star Wars, after all.

Ok, so not all of us have the happy-go-lucky demeanor of a rather large but lovable, clutsy, slightly slow Midwesterner. For those who lean to more sarcastic behavior, there's plenty of content fodder for you as well.

What do you do when your classically flakey buddy stands you up? When he says he left a message, you ask, "Really, what number did you call?...Did I catch a 'niner' in there? Were you calling from a walkie talkie?"

Or how about when you catch your spouse lollygagging or daydreaming as you attempt to complete a complicated household project? Simply utter, "I see I've interrupted happy time. I know you'd like to sit there and continue being not [insert adjective], but the rest of us have work to do." (Note: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, use the original movie line of "not slim" on your wife or girlfriend. Not wise, and if you are not soon single as a result, you will, at the very least, spend many nights in the dog house.)

And when someone calls you out on your snappy attitude, indicating they're picking up on your sarcasm? All you need to say is, "Good, because I'm laying it on pretty thick."

So there you have it. So many useful lines from such a simple movie. I highly encourage you to cultivate your own favorites. And in the the meantime, we'll likely be planning the next theme party. I believe "Office Space" was I just need to find myself a red stapler, a printer and a baseball bat.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Own It!

If you're going to be "That Guy," then you'd better be ready to own it.

Dave and I finally made it back to Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio's Rollercoast, this past weekend, and we were delighted at the spectacular people watching it once again delivered. For those of you who have experienced it, you know that while the coasters are record-breaking, the beach is beautiful and the 360 degree views are panoramic, Cedar Point has another, much more lofty, credit to it's name: It's always a mecca for the fashion backward, including people decked out in matching couple outfits, fanny packs and big 80s hair. Chances are, that's one of the reasons you enjoy going. In fact, Dave and I are so enamored with the fashion displays at CP that we dressed as a Cedar Point couple a few Halloweens ago. Let me just tell you that had we worn our costumes last weekend, we probably wouldn't have gotten so much as a raised eyebrow. How awesome is that?

This year's fashion theme was dominated largely by extreme short shorts, though we did see our fair share of fanny packs, man tanks and even a banana clip or two. But two of our most memorable outfit sightings were actually ensembles we admired. Yes, we were shocked as well.

The first was a guy wearing a "Callahan Auto" tee shirt. The other was a fella whose shirt sported the words, "More Cowbell." As we are obsessed with the movie Tommy Boy and pretty much all things Will Ferrell, both shirts got us a little excited. OK, so the Tommy Boy obsession is more my thing, but Dave knew he had to hop on that train if he was going to marry me. And he has lived up to my - high - expectations ever since. (For the uninitiated, Callahan Auto is the fictional Sandusky, OH auto parts company from Tommy Boy, and "More Cowbell" is from the infamous Will Ferrell/Christopher Walken SNL sketch. If you haven't seen Tommy Boy, RENT IT! If you've never experienced the cowbell, GOOGLE SEARCH IT NOW! You won't regret either decision.)

While I was pleasantly surprised to see such ingenuity - and surprisingly appropriate humor - in Cedar Point garb, I was shocked by the complete disparity in the reactions of the two fellas wearing the shirts.

When we approached the guy in the Callahan Auto shirt (we just HAD to know where he got it, as we're co-hosting a Tommy Boy theme party and were eyeing that sucker up as a possible prop), he was gracious and didn't seem particularly put out by our enthusiasm. I should note, though, that it was somewhat obvious we were the first people ever to actually stalk him over his tee shirt. But I'm sure he was flattered. Who wouldn't be?

Well, I'll tell you who wouldn't be! On the exact other end of the spectrum was the reaction we received from the guy wearing the Cowbell tee. As we passed him, I excitedly demonstrated my enthusiasm for his cult tee shirt choice by giving him a little "More Cowbell!" whoop, and pumping my fist in the air. It would be an understatement to say he didn't not react with the expected affirmation. In fact, the dude looked at me like I'd threatened him with bodily harm from a grapefruit spoon! So herein lies my point: If you're going to be That Guy wearing the tee shirt, YOU'D BETTER OWN IT! You do no justice to the shirt, the comic geniuses that spawned its existence, or the loyal (and cultish) audience said comic genius has amassed. You really should be ashamed of yourself.

Because That Guy was so clearly not one with his inner funny, I have to assume someone gave him the cowbell guy that shirt. Chances are he was not even aware of what it meant.

Sigh. It's such a tragedy when good humor is wasted on the humorless.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Viva La FemJocks!

If there's anything I've learned in the three years since taking up tennis again, it's that sports can really destroy a girl's pedicure. All of that running, stopping and starting is great cardio, but it sure takes it's toll on your pretty little digits. It doesn't matter how many pedicures I get during the summer: One good singles match and my toenails are chipped and snagged like a hobbit's.

As a life long non-jock, it never occurred to me the sacrifices those talented gals made in the personal pampering department. Yes, I knew they were dedicated, staying after school to run many, many miles (horrific!), getting up at the crack of dawn and jumping in a pool when it was 10 degrees outside (absolutely unthinkable!), not shaving their legs for weeks on end to build stamina and resistance (OK, so this wasn't unique to my swimmer friends. Most of my fellow all-girls school classmates passed on shaving too, until it was necessary for their date that weekend. Why bother shaving every day when you can instead sleep for 10 minutes longer and cover your gams with tights? It's really all about getting your priorities straight, ladies). I just never realized these fit and dedicated athletes were also giving up pretty feet!

Because I was blatantly terrible at sports as a kid, I never thought I would ever be so dedicated to something that could affect how cute I looked in the fabulous shoes I can't resist purchasing. I mean, for as much as my parents tried to find something for me to latch onto, I quit just about every activity I tried when it wasn't immediately obvious I'd be the next superstar. I gave up on swimming lessons once I could float, tread and motor around the pool because it was entirely too early and too cold to be jumping into a pool. This explains why attempting to do the freestyle or any other formal "stroke" just results in my running into the pool walls.

I passed on more than one session of tennis lessons because running laps around the courts in 90 degree midday summer heat just plain sucked. (As an aside, was it really necessary for the instructor to make a bunch of 10 year-olds run laps in beginner tennis lessons? Shouldn't we have been more concerned with HITTING THE BALL?)

I was not coordinated, rhythmic or graceful enough to keep up with the ballet or tap (though I did LOVE the costumes!). After a summer or two of getting stuck playing catcher in the local recreation department's softball league, I became one with the fact that NOBODY SHOULD HAVE TO CROUCH DOWN FOR THAT LONG! I mean, really. And my abilities during my short stint at basketball and volleyball were limited to the fact that I was tall.

Now that I've developed a love of certain sports as an adult, I realize that passion comes with some sacrifices (my days racing on sail boats created so many bruises a woman once conducted an impromptu intervention in an Old Navy dressing room because she thought my explanation of my bruises as "boat bites" was a blatant demonstration of denial).

So I feel it's only fitting to give a shout out to all my girlfriends who rocked their inner jock, getting up early, staying late, going on dates with furry legs or bruised appendages and just generally busting their cute butts in pursuit of competition. You go, my sassy sistas!

And now you all deserve a little pampering, so get yourself to the spa already. And call me when you make that appointment, because now that my tennis season is over, I fully intend to schedule a pedicure that might actually last for more than a couple days.

Viva La FemJocks!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bountiful Goodness

Sometimes a challenge is just the thing to get you out of a rut.

I love to cook, but summer is always a time when I tend to revert back to my quickest, easiest go-to recipes because it seems we're always on the run. Between playing as much tennis as possible, keeping up with the chores and just enjoying the extra hours of daylight, we're rarely home in time to make a big meal. All of this summer fun means I've been cooking less, which is such a waste now that all of nature is exploding with fresh fruits and veggies.

Fortunately, we have our very own garden to sow and Dave took initiative this spring to sign us up for a local CSA (community supported agriculture). Basically, you buy a share of produce grown at local farms and every week you pick up your portion of whatever they harvest. We get ours from LEAF in Lakewood and once a week get a surprise bounty. It's an amazing way to gain access to fresh fruits and veggies and the benefits are numerous:

1. It's inexpensive.
2. You're supporting local farms and businesses.
3. You're reducing your carbon footprint by buying local.
4. You're exposed to all kinds of new produce you might not normally try (consider kohlrabi, celeriac and kale, for instance).
5. You reduce exposure to pesticides and other preservatives because whether it's certified "organic" or not, your food has fewer miles to travel to your kitchen.

And this brings me to my final point: You're forced to use what you pick up. Not only must you "clean out the fridge" as is my hubby's constant goal, but you also need to be somewhat creative about it, particularly if you've never prepared that week's items.

Now, in the interest of fair disclosure, I must admit I haven't been very good about using up our produce in creative ways so far this season. In fact, for the past few weeks, I've been pawning off our half of the share we split on our friend Kristine because we just haven't been home. Fortunately for us, she's quite the cook herself and has been kind enough to invite us over for several delicious and nutritious meals made from the bounty (note that the hubby shamelessly invited himself over to enjoy the beets because, as he said, "Kelly doesn't like them so she won't make them." Insert the sad Dave face and you know why Kristine invited us over. Her beet and goat cheese salad was delicious, by the way).

But this week I'm turning over a new leaf (pardon the pun!). I vow to use our share of the bounty and to try out several new recipes. To do this, I've consulted one of our favorite cookbooks, Farmer John's, which quite handily was compiled by a CSA farmer in Illinois to help his shareholders learn new ways to use their produce (great to know I'm not alone in my quest, or in being unfamiliar with how the heck you're supposed to use celeriac!).

And let me tell you, our share this week was bountiliicious. We have zucchini, summer squash, pickling cucumbers, kale, beets, romaine lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, onion, green tomatoes and eggplant. And that's not even taking into account the massive amounts of herbs just harvested from our own garden, including basil, dill, lemon balm and mint. So here are a few of the recipes I have in mind to use up this week's hooch. I'm also sharing the delicious dish Kristine made for us last night using the previous week's bounty. I will definitely make it myself sometime soon.

Whether or not you're signed up for your local CSA, you should definitely consider taking advantage of the fresh, seasonal produce to create new levels of yumminess in your own kitchen!

Kale and White Bean Soup
with sundried tomatoes and saffron

(adapted to from Farmer John's Cookbook)

3 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 cups leeks
1 medium potatoes, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups peeled chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
6-7 large kale leaves, stems removed (3-4 cups)
3/4 cups cooked or 1 can (rinsed, drained) white beans
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
pinch saffron
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and fennel seeds, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add onion and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add potato, carrot and parsnip and cook, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.

2. Add fresh or canned tomatoes. Pour in stock. Stir in bay leaves and oregano. Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce heat so it continues to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the kale, beans and sun-dried tomatoes. Simmer until veggies are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pot from heat; add saffron.

Marinated Cucumber Dill Salad
(from Farmer John's Cookbook)

3 large cucumbers, very thinly sliced
1 tbs coarse sea salt or kosher salt
2/3 cup white or apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
2 tbs finely chopped fresh dill

1. In a large bowl, use your hands to thoroughly but gently mix the cucumbers and salt. Place a plate on top of the cucumbers, then place a 2- or 3- pound weight on the plate (helps release salt). Set the cukes aside to marinate at room temp. for several hours or in the fridge overnight.

2. Drain the cukes thoroughly in a colander and pat dry on a clean dish towel. Rinse and dry the bowl, then return the cukes to the bowl.

3. Mix vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper in small pot over medium heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 mins. Remove from heat.

4. Our the hot vinegar mixture over the cukes. Sprinkle with dill and mix to combine.

Baked Zucchini Halves with Wild Rice and Quinoa
(from Farmer John's Cookbook)

1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise
1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
½ cup wild rice
(note, I may substitute bulgar wheat for one of these grains)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ tsp. olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 rib celery, chopped
¾ cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
Butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut out the center from each half of the zucchini with a paring knife, being careful not to puncture the bottom or the sides; reserve the centers. Transfer the hollow halves, cut-side up, to a baking dish.

Coarsely chop the zucchini centers and put them in a large bowl. Add the quinoa, wild rice and Parmesan. Stir until combined.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery, cook for 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the bread crumbs are well mixed in and heated through, about 1 minute.

Add the bread crumb mixture to the quinoa/rice mixture and combine well.
Stuff hollow zucchini halves with mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 40 mins.

Remove foil. Continue baking until zucchini is very tender and the filling is golden brown, 10 to 20 mins.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan
(My own concoction, so consider the measurements just "guidelines"! I never measure unless I'm following a recipe)
Serves 4

1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into thin strips lengthwise (make them thin if you like crispy eggplant and thicker if you like yours meatier)
1 cup bread crumbs (you can use any kind: regular, whole wheat, panko, cornmeal)
1 tbs Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
2 egg whites
jar or homemade marinara sauce
whole wheat pasta
Optional: 1/2 cup fresh shredded Romano cheese or mozzarella

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Add dash water to egg whites and whisk with fork in wide bottomed bowl. Pour bread crumbs, Italian Seasoning, salt and pepper into separate wide bottomed bowl or plate and mix. Dip eggplant in egg whites, covering both sides, then use same dipping technique with bread crumbs.

Lay coated eggplant strip onto baking sheet (if you have a wire rack to put on your baking sheet, this will work best. Otherwise, be sure to spray it really well). Bake for approximately 15 -20 minutes until bread crumbs brown, turning once and checking often. Note: The thinner the eggplant, the faster it will cook). If you like, sprinkle the tops with fresh Romano or mozzarella cheese. Or both if you're feeling spunky! Put back in oven until melted.

Serve with pasta and marinara sauce.

Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans
This is the recipe Kristine made for us last night! Yum.
(from Eating Well)
Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 16-ounce package shelf-stable gnocchi (see Tip)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup water
6 cups chopped chard leaves (about 1 small bunch) or spinach
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
¼ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until plumped and starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and onion to the pan and cook, stirring, over medium heat, for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and water. Cover and cook until the onion is soft, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add chard (or spinach) and cook, stirring, until starting to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the gnocchi and sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan.

Cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 3 minutes.

Tip: Look for shelf-stable gnocchi near other pasta in the Italian section of most supermarkets.

Nutrition Information
Per serving: 325 calories; 7 g fat (2 g sat, 3 g mono); 8 mg cholesterol; 55 g carbohydrate; 14 g protein; 6 g fiber; 616 mg sodium; 360 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (50% daily value), Vitamin C (40% dv), Calcium & Iron (19% dv).3 Carbohydrate ServingsExchanges: 3 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 lean meat, 1 fat

Zuppe Toscana
(This is one Kristine's sister Ashlee created to mimic one of her Olive Garden favorites. It's extremely tasty! Check out her other recipes at Thanks to Kristine for making this for us when Dave invited us over for dinner.)

1/2 lb. Italian turkey sausage
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. yukon gold potatoes, quartered and sliced
4 c. chicken stock
2 c. 2% milk
2 c. shredded kale (or spinach)
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

In a soup pot, saute sausage over medium heat. Lightly brown, drain, and put back in pot over medium-low. Saute in garlic and onions, season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
After 5 minutes, add in potatoes and stock.

Cover and bring to a simmer, cook for 10 minutes. Add milk and spinach, bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with a salad and crusty bread.

(Just pick your favorite herb! Basil, Lemon Balm and Parsley all work well. You can also used cooked kale or spinach)

1/2 cup herbs
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
6 tbs olive oil or chicken broth if you want to reduce the fat (another trick from Ashlee)
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 2 tbs fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Optional: toss in a few sundried tomatoes add a different twist

Combine ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Use on pasta, toasted bread or sandwiches.

Note: Pesto freezes well, so it's a great way to use up your herbs. Put spoonfuls into an ice tray, let freeze and transfer to freezer safe bags. This is great for winter nights when fresh herbs are more scarce/expensive. Just add to skillet with veggies and pour over pasta or defrost in the microwave.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Early this morning, just as we were just heading out the door to work, we noticed a somewhat familiar, completely horrible odor toward the back of the house. It smelled suspiciously like...skunk...and the dog was out in the backyard!

When I went to let her in, the noxious fumes got worse, and yep, there was gunk on her head and it looked wet. After conferring with the hubby, we had no choice but to conclude that our pooch got skunked. Several of our friends have experienced this same horror, but I couldn't remember exactly which potions they'd used or how well they had worked. Fortunately, the last time we went to the vet, I happened to pick up the handy instructions on de-skunkifying a pet that were kindly displayed on the counter top.

So that's how I ended up in our front yard this morning (long story, but the other, more inconspicuous, hoses weren't an option) in my grubby clothes and full make up, scrubbing my wayward pooch with cold water. In the rain. And yes, there were witnesses.

The vet's special brew called for peroxide, baking soda and dish soap, which I liberally applied to the dog. It seemed to neutralize the smell on the furry beast, but her breath, the backyard, and consequently the back of our house, still carry a faint odor. Having experienced a house-skunking in the past, I can only hope it doesn't take weeks to dissipate.

Since telling this story to our coworkers this morning, my husband and I have learned of several alternate de-skunking recipes, many involving tomato juice, and one of which has a "secret" ingredient I cannot - in fact, will not - repeat here. But I will share two versions that were offered up. One I tried this morning and another I wish I had...

De-Skunkifying Potion #1 (provided by our vet)
1 quart peroxide
1 tsp Dawn or Palmolive dish soap
1/4 cup baking soda

De-Skunkifying Potion #2 (provided by my coworker)
1/2 cup tomato juice
1 1/2 ounces (1 jigger) vodka
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Worcestershire sauce to taste
Tabasco to taste
1 celery stick for garnish
1 lemon wedge for garnish

Clearly, Potion #2 is more suited to the skunked animal's parents. And after the morning I had, I sure could use a serving of this stuff!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Can Your Waistline Survive Your Vacation?

Vacation. Sigh. Just typing the word brings to mind rest, relaxation and overindulgence. It's fantastic for your mind and spirit, and everyone needs a break where they can just check out for a bit, leaving the stress of work behind. But while vacations are the best thing for our state of mind, they're not always the best for our waistline. Whether traveling to the beach where the fruity drinks flow freely and slothing on the beach is number one on the list of To Dos or eating the road trip diet of fast food, snacks and beef jerky (but only if you're a guy - seriously, why do men love beef jerky so much?), we all steel ourselves for the inevitable weight gain the comes with end of a vacation.

As we embarked on our annual trip to Florida this year, my family and I considered this reality. We've all been good about eating well and exercising recently, and we told ourselves we'd stay true to our regimens. But who were we kidding? We knew we wouldn't be able to resist Publix's famous key lime pie (if you're ever in Florida, get some. Trust me on this), the daily happy hour margaritas or the Easter candy. And while I'd like to report that we kept our resolve and our will power in check...sadly, we did not. Yes, we went down the road of excess at full speed, indulging in all of the aforementioned goodies.

Fortunately for us, we indulged in a whole lot of activity as well. If you've read my previous post, you know Dad has a compulsive love of walking, and he did not disappoint this year. While we neglected to hook him up to a pedometer to chart his mileage, let me tell you, that man was a walking machine. Up early to power walk increasingly long distances, then back to grab Mom and Grandma for their morning walk, asking every five minutes once we were settled on our "land loungers" on the beach "When are we going to walk to the inlet? Now? How about now? Are you ready now?" and finally, the after dinner jaunt. All in all, we each logged at least three miles a day. For Dad, it was probably double that.

As for me, I didn't stay true to my desired calorie intake limits, but I too pushed myself on the exercise front. I figured that as long as I kept burning as many calories as possible, I could justify that piece of key lime pie or ice cream cone.

Still, I was convinced the scale would admonish me upon return to reality. But, amazingly, the walking, tennis and workouts seemed to do the trick. I managed to go on vacation without seeing the scale move up even an inch. Frankly, I was shocked. But it does give me hope. So here's a rundown of what I learned from this year's trip:

1. Walking is, in fact, the best thing for ya. Doesn't matter if it's to the pier, the inlet or just along the Intracostal. You just gotta walk.

2. Playing tennis every morning is the best way to start the day (it is actually required on the Florida vacation, unless you want Dave to get cranky). I wish we could continue to the tradition now that we're home, but sadly, there's that pesky thing called work getting in the way again.

3. The laws of exercise physics don't seem to apply on vacation. Or maybe it's just Florida. I found I could push myself even harder than I can at home. Maybe it was seeing the ocean while I sweated, or perhaps it was just thinking about the pie I planned to have for dessert (yum!).

4. Happy hour drinks on vacation have negative calories. Same goes for Easter candy. OK, they don't, but they definitely SHOULD.

So the next time you're on vacation, consider this: It seems that as long as you keep active, you can actually enjoy local delights. So live a little. Just make sure you take a walk after your meal!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Worst Thing for Ya

My dad is known for many things, but one of his quirks that we love most involves frequent and arbitrary proclamations of which things are the "best" and "worst” for ya. Because he usually cites his sources as "They" (as in "They say"), we wonder whether "They" are just the voices in his head or if perhaps there really is truth to what we perceive as his made up musings. After all these years of speculation, I thought it would be fun to do some research and test out two of his most prominent and longstanding theories:

1. Walking = The Best Thing for Ya

2. Peanuts = The Worst Thing for Ya

This walking bit is particularly relevant as we near our annual vacation in Florida, which involves a great deal of glorious walking. Walking on the beach, walking in the morning, walking after dinner...the man will walk upwards of three to four times a day. Now, the rest of us are active and may even walk a few times each day, but when it comes to sheer volume of the activity, he does circles around us. I may just have to strap a pedometer on him this time to log his total mileage (what do you say, Pops, are you up for it? Think about the bragging rights it would give you!).

And as for the peanuts, that one cropped up when I was in high school, abiding by the current fad that all food must be fat free, low fat, low cal, synthetically enhanced with chemicals if necessary, etc. But when it came to indulging in a good old fashioned sundae, made of course with fat free ice cream and fudge, there was just no substitution for the peanuts. Which leant itself to Dad's now infamous proclamation one day as a friend and I were exiting the kitchen, about to enjoy our delicious treats. "You know what They say about peanuts, don't you? [pause for effect] Worst thing for ya." And then he wandered off to eat a rice cake, or perhaps take a walk.

1. Walking: Best Thing for Ya
Part of me would love to debunk this one just because "They've said" it so many times, but how could I possibly try? There's very little to debate when it comes to the health benefits of walking. The Surgeon General recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous activity a day, and research shows that regular exercise reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, injury, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. And the list goes on. (Source: AARP) So we know that exercise is good for us.

Further research even suggests that regular cardiovascular exercise is good for the brain as well. As for walking in particular, two separate studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2006 reported that walking regularly may help preserve mental sharpness (is it possible that Dad's six Florida walks a day are making him smarter than the rest of us who only walk once or twice a day???). Like other forms of exercise, walking has been shown to contribute to improved mood and sleep patterns and prevent depression. And unlike other high impact sports, walking is less likely to earn you a trip to the ER or require extensive knee or hip surgery down the line.

So, the verdict on walking? Walking is good - in fact great - for you. Is it the Best Thing for Ya? Well, that might depend on a variety of factors including how how regularly you walk, the duration and pace at which you do so, etc. But, yes, it appears that it's definitely up there in terms of the best things for ya. This one goes to you and the voices, Dad.

2. Peanuts: Worst Thing for Ya

Let’s ignore the recent product recall of certain peanut products and focus instead on the most obvious insults slung at this tiny but delicious legume. "Peanuts can kill you!" It's true that peanuts are tied to serious allergic reactions, which can even result in death for the most severely allergic. Peanut allergies certainly seem to be on the rise, and while it’s unknown yet exactly why, many schools, hospitals and other public institutions have banned all peanut products for safety reasons. But what does this mean for those of us who aren't allergic? Are there risks in our indulging in a few peanuts on our sundaes every once in a while? Which brings me to the second major allegation…

"Peanuts will make you fat!" Yes, peanuts are high in fat, but research seems to point to the fact that the kind of fat in peanuts may actually be good for you, in moderation of course. In fact, there is evidence that nuts may be useful in improving cardiovascular health, preventing cancer and providing essential nutrients. Because of their nutritional content, peanuts may even be a healthy choice because they offer a high percentage of monounsaturated fats (the good kind).

Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture also shows that peanuts may help fight heart disease because they contain resveratrol, a chemical also found in red grapes that has been linked to lower blood sugar. Taking the list of potential health benefits one step further, peanuts can be a good source of energy. Their protein and calorie content - compared to other options - make it a reasonable choice for athletes. And many trainers and nutritionists recommend small amounts of peanut butter for appetite control under certain weight loss programs.

So the verdict on peanuts? Given all of these benefits, can it be possible that the Worst Thing for Ya is actually one of the best things for ya? It seems so. Wouldn’t it just boggle “Their” minds if They knew!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recipes: Homemade Catsup, Heaven in a Cookie and Oat Pancakes

As I mentioned, some of the recipes I stumbled upon while abiding by the allergy diets are still among favorites in our house. Here are a few completely unrelated such recipes:

Homemade Catsup
Not your average bottled catsup - it has a little more kick and "flair"

6 oz. can tomato paste
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup sucanut sugar (you can use white sugar)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 ts allspice
2 tbs apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients in bowl and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Heaven in a Cookie
Adapted from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Food
This has been a hit with non-allergic folks as well. Note that the naming credit for this recipe actually goes to my friend Dan, who has added the "heaven in a ..." nomenclature to my vernacular. This designation is also used to refer to really comfy pants and other such wonderful inventions.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your mixer combine brown sugar and peanut butter (If you have a standing mixer, you'll definitely want to use it for this one. I actually broke a handmixer on this recipe - the peanut butter makes the dough very thick!). Add eggs and mix to blend. Add baking soda and vanilla and mix for 1 minute. Pour in chips and combine by hand.

Drop cookies on baking sheet 1 tbs at a time, allowing for spreading. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Notes: You can make these fluffy or mushy, depending on how you like your cookies. I like mine slightly mushy, and use older baking soda. For fluffy cookies, make sure it's fresh.

Nutrients per cookie: Cal. 80, Fat 5 g, Cholesterol 35 mg, Sodium 25 mg, Carbs 8 , Fiber 1 g

Oat Pancakes
Adapted from Carbs from Heaven, Carbs from Hell
High in fiber, with a great texture, these pancakes are a fun take the the usual flap jacks

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup soy or rice milk (you can use cow too)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp pumpkin spice (optional)
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 individual sized carton of natural applesauce (about 2 -3 tbs)
1 tbs cold/expeller pressed canola oil (or one spray of aerosol version)

1. Grind oats in electric grinder or blender until well ground, but not pulverized.
2. Combine oats, cinnamon, pumpkin, salt, milk and applesauce.
3. Spray griddle pan and preheat over medium temp.
4. Pour about 1/3 cup batter for each pancake. Cook about 1 minute, or until the tops are bubbly and the edges are dry. Flip and cook other side for an additional minute or until brown.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Food Allergies Cured!

One of the reasons I originally wanted to start this blog was to share recipes, restaurant and product recommendations for those also living with wheat and dairy allergies. Well, life got crazy and by the time I was able to set up this site, my allergies were cured. However, some of what I'll likely share here will be at least rooted in my "allergy journey," so I'll go ahead and give you the story.

I have been plagued by ear, nose and throat issues my whole life. As a baby, my parents suffered through numerous ear infections and the corresponding howling that went with them. By elementary school, strep throat was my sickness du jour. After I graduated high school, I also graduated to the ultimate knock-you-on-your-butt supremacy of the mighty sinus infection. In my late 20's, it seemed I was always sick and I would get a sinus infection at least once a month.

At about this time, my mom was battling fibromyalgia, a debilitating chronic pain disorder, and was at her wits end. The drugs just weren't working anymore and she didn't want to be medicated for the rest of her life. She tried a new holistic doctor recommended by a friend, and within several months, her pain was dramatically reduced. While she'd previously been unable to get out of bed, sleep through the night or even take a walk around the block, she now can do all those things and more. All of this was accomplished through chiropractic adjustments, holistic remedies vs. drugs and an allergy elimination process.

The theory is that many people are allergic to foods to which they'd never expect, usually the foods they most commonly consume. And unlike allergies that are recognizable because they create life-threatening reactions such as anaphylactic shock, most allergies do much quieter damage over time. When I finally decided that I'd had enough of living with the sinus pain and visited this doctor, I learned that my allergies - most significantly to wheat and dairy - had been the culprit of my ENT issues most likely from a very young age. And my favorite foods were behind it all.

So, once I cleansed my system of all wheat and dairy based products as instructed (you'd be AMAZED at how much of what we eat contains at least one derivative of wheat or dairy), there was a very clear correlation: If I ate wheat or dairy, the result was always a sinus infection; if I didn't, I was sinus infection free.

While it was life-changing to take control of whether or not I got sick, you can imagine that avoiding all wheat and dairy products is not easy. It means no bread, no pizza, no ice cream (Oh, the horror!), etc. and makes eating out very challenging. I found a number of great wheat and dairy free products and learned to make my own versions of old favorites, and some of them were even quite good. But, still, it's just not the same. (As a point of clarity, I did not have Celiac disease, which is a much more serious intolerance to all gluten that requires a diligent avoidance of any contact with gluten-containing food.)

I lived life virtually wheat and dairy free for almost two years, at which time my aunt, a nurse, recommended another holistic doctor she knew had cured her friend of allergies. As anyone who loves bread and cheese knows, you will consider just about anything to get them back in your life. So I made an appointment.

As they described the process, I had to admit it sounded out there - the concept is that the things you're allergic to (allergens) set your body's energy out of whack, creating any number of reactions. The healing process involves the combination of three techniques: kinesiology (muscle testing), homeopathy and acupuncture/acupressure to determine which allergen you are sensitive to, identify the organ or meridian system involved and introduce what the body needs to recognize the allergen as normal vs. foreign. The analogy they used was this: In order to read a pdf file, your computer needs to download Adobe Acrobat Reader. What they do is "download the right program" to allow your body to accept the allergen, and therefore end the reactions.

Sound like voodoo witchery? I thought so too, and I'm actually a believer in holistic medicine. But all I could think about was the fact that maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to eat pizza and ice cream again one day, so I figured I'd go for it. The treatments are painless, and are actually very relaxing. I am now officially a fan of acupuncture - I love it! But still, at the end of each treatment I'd report home to my hubby and we'd marvel at whether any of this could work.

Well, it did. I can now eat anything I want with no reactions. Even now, a year later, it is sublime every time I eat a "real" bread product. Pizza and ice cream and pretzels, oh my!

Now that I'm back on wheat and dairy, life is much easier. Eating out no longer involves a complex questioning process about the menu ingredients with an unwitting server, and my fabulous friends and family don't have to create alternative dishes for me at gatherings. But I have stuck to the concepts I learned along the journey: eating whole grains, healthy oils and lots of veggies, avoiding highly processed or synthetic ingredients, and using holistic remedies instead of taking medications. And I continue to make many of my former allergy-free recipes, some of which are still my hubby's favorites, so I'll share those here.

Now, I recognize that holistic medicine isn't for everyone, and for many, allergies are just a minor annoyance in their lives. But for anyone suffering from chronic conditions, these treatments can make a huge difference in quality of life. Just make sure you do the research, ask for referrals and ensure the provider is reputable. And then, keep an open mind...and have a little faith.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Welcome to my blog! I'm new at this, but wanted a place to share ideas, thoughts and resources for others looking to live a healthy lifestyle, or those who are already enjoying one.

So, let me start with this: While I like to consider myself a fairly healthy individual, I'm by no means a health nut, compulsive exerciser, vegan or vegetarian. I've just always loved to eat well - I love my fruits and veggies - and live a fairly active lifestyle. That doesn't mean I don't eat junk food or have to force myself to work out sometimes! I'm just as challenged to do all the good things you're supposed to do as anyone else. But I love how empowering it is when you know you're doing the right thing for your body, mind and spirit and you get to share with others who do too.

A few years ago, I learned I had food allergies to wheat and dairy, which explained my near constant state of ear, nose and throat discomfort. I had the good fortune to find some wonderful holistic doctors who gave me great advice and survival tools, and ultimately, cured my allergies. But more about that later.

Along the way, I discovered a love of cooking (you pretty much have to make your own food when you're allergic to wheat and dairy), and learned how to cook with different whole grains and substitute healthy alternatives. In the process, I came up with some decent wheat-free recipes that I always planned on sharing, so you will see a few of those here.

I also plan to share links to helpful information from other like-minded friends on how to live healthy and "green." And I can't promise not to share a few random thoughts, rants and shout outs as I go.

A few disclaimers: I am in no way qualified to give medical or nutrition advice. I am not a doctor, homeopath, nutritionist, trainer or any other form of reputable health or diet information provider. All I have to go on are my own past experiences and the wonderful expert sources I've found along the way. I hope some of them are interesting to any readers who may find their way here. And let's face it, it's probably going to be just my friends and family reading this anyway, which is completely fine with me!