Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for November 2013

The people were Sue L. (the roomie), Marc G. (the ex), Joanne C., Mark B., and Claudia R. The dinner went off without a hitch, and a plate was made to send home to Marc’s wife, Donna C. (who has marginally less mobility than me). Donna rates a plate any time I make a social dinner, because for years she die the same for me, and even invited me over to join them for feasts she made (and she is a most excellent cook). We never got to the cookies Mark B. brought, because – in the spirit of Chanukah – he also brought Sufganiyot, which were more traditional.

Claudia got here first, and helped me get the last of Naomi’s bookcases set up and get stuff transferred from the half shelf that had stood in the spot before we got this one set up. So all of Naomi’s bookshelves have now found a home.


2013-11-28 16.27.51Sue’s matzo ball soup was a huge hit, as always. She has totally mastered the art of making matzo balls that seem to be fluffy, but have enough substance (while not sinkers) to be really enjoyed. The turkey and the brisket drew raves, as did the green bean casserole (straight from my Betty Crocker New Cookbook, which had been a gift from Spencer Love & Persis Throndike). The stuffing was good, the rice dish Joanne brought was good, the pumpkin pie Claudia made was delicious, and the two pies I made were enjoyed by everyone.  Needless to say, we were all pleasantly stuffed.  After Everyone pitched in to help clean up, Marc G. gave rides home to Claudia R. and Mark B. The only things that need cleaning as of this moment, are the rack from the turkey, and my plates from breakfast.

And, yes, I am up way too damned early. I had to get up and eat before 5:00 am, because I need to eat with some of my meds, and I can’t eat for three hours before the MRI (according to the message the hospital left for me yesterday), which is at 8:30 this morning. My sister is driving me in, and then driving me home, which I really appreciate, since I am not ready to use the rollator for public transit, and I can use my cane for the distance from the hospital door to the MRI section.

The truth is, I’d much rather crawl back into bed and stay there. The MRI, and a possible CAT scan at some point, are precursors to a pacemaker being put in. The MRI is necessary because I am not presenting in a standard way – the amount of distortion the echocardiogrm picked up is way short of what they would normally see in someone who has become as immobile as I am. In a rare fit of common sense, I have removed all my jewelry already, and will leave it at home.

Anyway, I have now had breakfast and meds, and have called my sister to make sure she’s awake and on schedule, so I should go and get myself washed and dressed.

I hope everyone’s holiday was as pleasant as mine was.


First, and let’s get this over and done with: I will not use that cutesy advertising term for the coinciding of the two holidays. I don’t do cute, as a rule, and cute fueled by people trying to get me to spend money I don’t have is even more annoying.

That said, I have much to be grateful for this year. The thing that should have killed me decades ago didn’t, and  – while my mobility has lessened a lot – at least we now know what is wrong, and are fumbling toward a solution. I have good friends who have kept me from eating my own tail over the situation, and who make themselves available when I *am* up to going out for a bit. Thirdly, my sister has been trying to be genuinely helpful, and I really do appreciate that.  My roommate has kept a roof over my head when work has been scarce, and never said a word about how or when I will be able to pay her back. She has also run all sorts of errands for me when I cannot do them easily.  My ex has been crazy helpful, schlepping me shopping when I have the energy, and either taking the roommate or picking up stuff for us when I don’t have it. I have good doctors, who I trust. They continue to exercise caution, even beyond what I would, given my druthers. I have yet to meet the surgeon that my cardiologist favors, but I do know that if it doesn’t feel right, I will tell him to find someone else, because I have learned what the consequences of not doing that can be.

I have had almost steady work since getting out of the hospital in February. Pretty much the only days I haven’t had work were the days I was not physically up to working.  And I’ve ended up with some good new colleagues out of it.  I also have my writing website almost ready. The last thing that remains to be done is to figure out how to get my grammar blog to appear on that website (and if any of you can help me with that, it would be much appreciated – please email me, call me, or Skype me).

I have, with the help of various friends who have either worked at Social Security, or who have gone through the process themselves, started the process of filing for disability, since it will take at least a year before I am capable of working to my normal capacity.

My roommate came to me last week, and asked how many people we should figure on for Thanksgiving dinner. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do it this year, since it meant moving some bookcases so we can get to my big table, and that’s the kind of energy sink I don’t need right now. However, she helped me move two of them, and we need to put one more in its place, and temporarily relocate the wicker shelving unit I inherited from the ex’s mother. At any rate, we figured we could fit a couple of folks around the double gateleg table my grandfather had made, which resides in my kitchen. We invited my ex, two friends who are having severe Landlord problems, and my sister and my oldest friend (who both declined for various reasons involving mourning). So, we are currently five definite for dinner, with a possible sixth (depending on how mobile she is feeling today).

The thing is, until I started the cooking for the things I’m making, I didn’t realize just how much *I* needed to do this. There are damned few things I have control over right now, and being able to feed friends has always been one of those things, and – possibly – the one I enjoy most.

The food I’m making is the brisket and veggies I posted the recipe for the other day, a mince (fruit) and walnut pie, a lemon jello and mandarin orange tart, cranberry sauce, and a green bean casserole. The roomie is doing the turkey, matzo ball soup, dressing, and garlic mashed potatoes. One friend is bringing a homemade pumpkin pie, another is bringing a rice dish with craisins and cashews, the ex is bringing some yams (in case anyone wants them), and another friend is bringing cookies. I know we should have latkes, but none of us feel like scraping our fingers.

Anyway, I’m feeling tremendously accomplished this morning. The only things *I* have left to do are move the bookcases and make the cranberry sauce. The jello tart is setting properly; the mince/walnut pie has cooled enough to cover and put in the fridge, and the green bean casserole is cooking (that will get the French-fried onions when it gets reheated before serving).

Whatever seasonal holiday, or holidays, you celebrate around this time of year, I wish you a good one! If you think of it, express to your loved ones how much they mean to you – life is short enough, even if we are lucky enough to be long-lived, and it can go away in moments. Be grateful for being above the ground; no matter how big your problems are, there is always hope that you will find a way through while you are alive. If you still have your health guard it. I found out this year just how easily that can vanish, and I know that I had always taken it for granted.

Whether I’ve met you in person, or only on these pages, I hope you know that you have made a tremendous difference in the quality of my life.  I can only hope that I have, in some small measure, given back in kind.




Okay, I had planned to do a braise of some brisket in the oven, but while chatting with some friends online, one mentioned she did her braising in a crock pot. I figured, “What the heck, I’ll give it a try.”

I used the 6 qt. crock pot, and cut the brisket in half (it was a huge whole brisket – cut in half it was four lbs).


  • 1 can new potatoes, drained
  • 4 medium carrots, washed
  • 2 parsnips, washed
  • 3 stalks celery, washed
  • 4 lbs. brisket
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • Auntie Arwen’s Opa! Greek Lamb Seasoning (this is the only seasoning with ginger in it where I can tolerate the ginger)
  • 1 cup red wine of your choice


  1. Put the new potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot.
  2. Cut the carrots, parsnips, and celery into pieces about 1 inch long. Add to crock pot.
  3. Rub brisket with spices, then add to crock pot.
  4. Add red wine to crock pot.
  5. Set crock pot to low and let cook for eight hours, stirring very occasionally.

The meat should be tender, but firm enough to cut without making a hash of it.

It was delicious.  We got two days’ worth of dinners out of it, plus a couple of sandwiches apiece, so I’d say it was a really good deal for the money. The brisket cost about $21 for just under 8 lbs., the veggies were about $3 in total, so four dinners and four sandwiches (plus a taste for a dear friend who happened to drop by the next day) cost under $25.

I haven’t done recipes in a while, so here are two I did recently that came out really, really well.

Green and White Soup

The basis for this recipe was a discussion of fennel and zucchini soup I half overheard on television (it may have been on an episode of Rachael Ray’s morning show).


  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small or 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 or 3 tsp of chopped garlic
  • 1 large box or can low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth (College Inn seems to make a couple of gluten-free broths, although not chicken)
  • 2 zucchinis, peeled and sliced
  • 1 head of fennel, chopped
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and sliced into chunks
  • 1 small package of mushrooms, cut into quarters or halves
  • 1 can corn kernels
  • 1 can chick peas
  • coriander to taste
  • cumin to taste
  • turmeric to taste
  • 1 bag fresh spinach


  1. Put olive oil in stockpot; add onions and chopped garlic, let sautée for a few minutes.
  2. Add broth, zucchinis, fennel, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, chick peas, and spices.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add spinach, cover, leaving the lid a bit askew to vent steam, and simmer over medium heat for an hour or so.

Serving Note: I sprinkle a bit of parmesan over this then stir it in when serving.

Note: I had some leftover cauliflower, so I threw that into the mix this time.  You can use pretty much any veggie that is white or green in this soup.


Sandra M.’s Salmon Chowder

I had mentioned having some lox ends in the one of the women I’m on a writing team with, and she started telling me about a chowder she made out of salmon tails and fins (which she referred to as “fleegles,” a term I had not previously heard).


  • Lox Ends, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Onions, cut into thickish slices
  • Milk
  • 1 can Corn Kernels
  • 3 Potatoes, cut into cubes
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Auntie Arwen’s Fisherman’s Treat – Really Good Fish Rub


  1. Cook the whole fins in milk with onions until tender, pull out and strain the milk. (Straining the milk is only necessary if you use tails and fins — the scales come off while cooking).
  2. Shred the salmon.
  3. Add in the shredded fish, cooked onions and maybe potatoes or corn.
  4. Simmer. Do NOT let boil or the broth will break.


Tomorrow, if I feel up to it, I’m thinking of doing a brisket and root veggies braised in red wine.

Okay. Just got back from the cardiologist, and here is the latest.

I am not the ideal candidate for open heart surgery, or even for the ablation.  We already knew that. My age, my weight, yadda, yadda…

The other problem is that I am presenting oddly. For one thing, my heart’s septum distortion is 15. Normally, people with the amount of disability I’m having present with a much higher distortion. For another, the relatively small amount of drugs I am getting are slowing my heart down to 55. So they cannot presently give me greater amounts of drugs because there is a risk of slowing my heart down too much. Dr. S. has found a surgeon for me, but the surgeon has the same issues that Dr. S. and I both have about me undergoing surgery at this time.

The current plan, therefore, is to set up an MRI to doublecheck the amount of distortion, because there is a possibility that the echocardiogram under-represented that. Dr. S. is also changing out the 25 mg of carvedilol (twice a day) for 50 mg of Metoprolol (twice a day). After we get the result of the MRI, he will possibly schedule a CAT Scan of the head, neck and chest to see what is going on with my voice. Once we have those ducks in order, he will likely have a pacemaker put in, so that he can give me larger doses of some of the meds. My next few weeks will clearly be filled with doing some internet research, and making up some more questions to add to the list I’ve been keeping.

I know that caution is warranted. I know that I’m really glad my doctor is conservative in his treatment plans. But, dammit, I really want my life back. The problem is that, given how un-ideal of a surgical candidate I am, the big risks with open heart surgery are that a) I might not survive the surgery, and b) I might not be incredibly functional afterwards because of the issues that make me a less than ideal candidate.  Dr. S. and I both agree that if stubborn were the major thing I need I have that in spades, but we also know that open heart surgery — especially when it means shaving off some of the heart wall as well as fixing the valve — is a big, damned, risky thing.

Meanwhile, I’ve been dealing with it about as well as possible. Marc, Abby, and a host of other folks make sure I get out of the house at least once a week, so I don’t just sit and obsess about how little I can do. I have been taking on as much work as I can, because work is always a good distraction. I’ve been reading, and even logged back into a couple of social games on Facebook, so that I’m not becoming too isolated.

I know I need to lose weight, but I am having trouble getting over myself and doing what I know works. I’m really resentful that I have to do it all over again. It took me two years to do it last time, and I was healthy and could walk a lot then. The gods know how long it will take without my being able to walk the way I used to. Honestly, the weight depresses me more than the heart issue. I was born with the heart issue and could not have done anything about it, because – until it triggered – no one even knew it was there. The weight – well, I’d lost most of it before I crashed and burned, and then, when I couldn’t go walking anymore, it all came back. So now I have to do it again, without the one exercise I love best in the world. I really need to get over myself, and go back to Weight Watchers, or at least start doing it at home or something, but I am just so frustrated about the whole issue. It’s the one whole part of this thing that makes me want to run away and hide. I’m trying to figure out how to get myself back to doing Weight Watchers, because I know that if I don’t go into it committed to doing it and doing it right, I will half-ass it and just be setting myself up for failure. And that’s the one thing I don’t have the option to fail at this time.

So, that’s where things are at right now. If any of you who know me well enough have ideas on how I can get over myself and get my ass back in gear, please let me know. Every day I can’t manage to do it makes a real difference at this point.

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