Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Broccoli Salad

I'm having fun chopping anything I can find with my new  chef's chopping knife. Tonight I made a broccoli salad.

The recipe below is the one I've used for years, but tonight I used grade B real maple syrup instead of sugar and I sweetened less than called for.  It was still deee-lish!

It has a number of things that Rudy is supposed to eat right now - broccoli, walnuts and raisins are all on his list.

We sure hope his blood test on Friday looks good.  He's had to miss chemo 2 weeks in a row because of low counts.  :-(

I don't always do the "refrigerate overnight" bit.  It still tastes good.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Major Life Changes

Update:  I have moved our cancer journal posts over to a new blog - Rudy and Denise.  It will be easier to keep organized having all of this on a separate site.  

It's been ages since I last posted.  I looked at my last post where I was whining about being stressed and how crazy life was.  OMG!  Let's just say I didn't know what trouble was when I wrote that post.

My husband has been diagnosed with lung cancer.  That changed EVERYTHING and at the same time seems to have clarified my priorities.  We have been too close to the trials of cancer twice now with loved family members.  One did well.  The other didn't make it.  We know all too well what we're facing.  We're at the beginning of what I call the roller coaster ride.  Treatment will get underway soon.

I have hit bottom several times - so low I felt bizarrely numb.  It was a very odd feeling (or rather non-feeling) that I'd never experienced before. Looking back I think I had literally scared myself into some kind of mind-numbing state.  But I seem to have come out of it and am feeling stronger and more positive than I ever suspected I could.  There are MANY people praying for us and that is the only thing I can attribute my strength to.  My husband is being an absolute rock.  He's not afraid for himself.  He only gets emotional when he thinks of others, especially me.  So, yeah, I NEED to be strong.

All in all, we are being positive.  When riding this roller coaster, there are very few things you can control.  One thing that is under our control is nutrition.  Instead of researching the disease itself, which scared the hell out of me, I have researched things we could do to compliment medical treatment.  The biggest thing is nutrition.  We've dropped all sugar and cut out almost all processed foods.  Some people may think I'm imagining things, but it seems like it's already making a difference.  Or maybe that, too, is prayer.

I have created a new page on this blog with information about the food we are eating.  I have IBS and my husband has cancer.  Our meals are meant to nourish and heal us both.  The page is definitely not complete, but you are welcome to peek.  Eating for Cancer and IBS

Also, I have created a "Rudy and Denise" Facebook page to keep friends and family updated along our journey.  Join if you like.  I hope it will be positive and filled with tips I discover along the way.  We are SOOOOO determined to be a success story.

Monday, April 7, 2014

When it Rains, It Pours

It's been raining really hard today, but my title isn't actually referring to the weather.  Life is overwhelming right now.  There are too many things demanding attention.  Anyone who knows me personally, knows that Rudy and I are completely nuts over our pets.  They are our children.  We have 6 cats and 5 dogs.  When something goes wrong with one of our children, our world stops.

Sadie gets her nails painted pre-surgery - to make sure they operate on the correct knee.

Our world has spun off it's axis.  Our largest dog, Sadie, had surgery last week.  We thought it was to be hip surgery, but it turned out to be a bad knee.  She was our first dog to go off to college.  :-) The surgery was at Auburn University.  She's home and doing well, but life is complicated.  She has to stay in a cage for a month.  She has to wear an e collar for 10 days.  She only comes out of her cage for brief walks outside to take care of business.  She is most unhappy about her situation.

Cocoa thinks having a bed in the floor of the living room is a grand idea.
When she loses sight of us she whines.  If we don't respond she panics.  Her cage is too big to be moved, so for now, there's a twin mattress set up for me (her designated sleep buddy) in the floor in our living room. The whole room had to be rearranged to make this work.  It looks  terrible and feels chaotic, but that's just how it has to be for now. And who cares, since the whole house feels messy right now.  I'm behind on everything.  Since Sadie is getting better day by day and we have figured out how to make this work, it's not a huge worry.

However, while our attention was focused on Sadie, one of our sweet kitties (Little Bit) got very, very sick.  It must have been coming on for a while, but she hid it well.  Her kidney's are failing.

We have notes like this all over from phone calls with vets.
She went to the emergency clinic for the weekend and is now with a specialist.  She's responding well to fluids and I'm waiting to hear from the specialist now.  I've been waiting all morning.

We've dealt with this before and it's not pretty.  Our other cat that had this (Spooky) lasted a year more than anyone thought he would and was quite happy for most of that time.  We had to inject him with fluids every day of his life.  I guess we'll be doing that again for Little Bit.  I hope we can get her back to feeling well.  Giving fluids can be a challenge.  I learned some tricks over time to make it easier and more comfortable for the kitty.  I hope I can remember all the tricks.  I know one had to do with getting the best needles possible.

Update:  We've talked to the vet a number of times since I posted yesterday.  Little Bit's numbers keep coming closer and closer to normal.  She's acting like she's feeling great.  We're picking her up tomorrow.  :-D  Not sure what we'll be dealing with after that, but things are not looking so bleak.

Our two sick babies are the most worrisome thing going on, but our lives are little over-complicated right now in general.  Rudy is absolutely overwhelmed with work. I do his bookkeeping, so when his work picks up, mine does, too.   I have to watch every little thing I eat or I get sick. Gluten and more are off limits.  Thinking so hard about every meal is exhausting.

I also recently started promoting another antique mall on Facebook.  Now I have two malls.  It's pretty time consuming, but I enjoy it.  The main challenge will be figuring out when to go take photos since Sadie can't be left alone.

Our problems are small.  I am well aware of that.  But it sure is hard to feel peace when everything around is in a state of chaos.

Bach's Rescue Remedy is good for stress in a nice subtle way,
but the way things are going,  I may need to pull out something with a bit more kick.

I wish that specialist would call.  :-(

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vintage Mantel

I bought a new mantel this weekend to go around our new gas heater.  When we built this house, we decided we didn't need a fireplace.  That was one of our many mistakes.   Doing without a fireplace was not a big deal, actually, til our recent ice storm.  We were without power for several days - long enough for the house to get quite cold and long enough for hubby and I to decide that we would make a few changes asap.  

I wasn't all that keen on having a ventless gas stove, but it was our best option for electricity-free heat.  It turned out well.  We really like it, actually.  Once it was installed, it pretty much demanded a mantel.  One thing leads to another...

Mr. Dream secured the mantel in place.  He plans to make two sections for the bottom of the surround on each side.  We didn't want to cut the baseboard.

I haven't made up my mind what I want to in the area behind the stove.  It doesn't get hot there at all (all the heat goes forward) so I only have to consider looks.

Even though the mantel is quite large, it needs something more above it. Our ceiling are 10 feet, so there's plenty of room to work with.  I'm hoping to find an interesting vintage sign to go there.   I would prefer to have a metal one that's truly vintage.   If I don't find any I like soon, maybe I'll  make a wood one.


As for mantel decor, that's going to take a bit of playing.  If this were a standard mantel with a wide open areas above, I'd be full of ideas.  I could do those all day long.  Decorating a mantel with two shelves is requiring me to think a little harder.

I have some ideas.  For instance, I'd really love to hang a small wreath over the mirror.  A wreath would be easy to change out, too.


I may include some branches as well.  Lots of things are bursting into bloom around here.  And I have several great pitchers that are just begging to be used.
I'll likely try to include a bit of color.  As pretty as neutral mantel vignettes are, they just wouldn't look right in my near bohemian home.  Give me some color, please.  (But don't let me cross over into the tacky zone!)
I don't know how much color I'll actually need.  I might need to play around with that.  I really love the look below with the assortment of bottles with greenery.  There's not a  lot of color there, but it might still work.  And those bottles sure would look great in front of the mirror.


This travel themed mantel is very different from the other inspiration photos I saw today.  It's super casual and colorful.  It doesn't use common mantel decor rules at all. There's no rhyme or reason to the height of objects.  It totally took me by surprise in a good way!  It's refreshing and fun.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Pure Escape Book Project

A few weeks ago, I went to the bookstore and overhead two ladies talking about a book in such a way that I interrupted their conversation to find out more.  I ended up buying the book.  If I had read the description, I would have passed it by, but on their recommendation alone, I went for it.  I'm glad I did.  I spent a great deal of two snow days lost in it and was sorry to see it end.  The book?  Where We Belong by Emily Giffin.

I wish I had good friends with me whenever I went to a bookstore or whenever I browsed through a list of Kindle titles to download.  Sure, I can read the reviews, but I'd rather have someone closer at hand.  Someone who'd say, "Seriously?  You haven't read this book?  OMG!  You have to read it!"

It occurred to me that it might be fun to create a list on my Facebook page - in the photo albums section - where books could be uploaded and anyone with an opinion could comment.  I started the album off with some books that came to mind.  I'll add more as time goes on - books I've read and books that others recommend. If YOU have a suggestion for other books to add,  just let me know!  Leave a comment here on on my Facebook page.

Here's the link to the Facebook album -

What kind of books I hope to see in this album?  

  • I prefer light fiction, but it won't be limited to that.  I started the list with everything from fluff to classics.  
  • Books on this list would be the kind that you'd take to the beach or read on a plane - books you can really escape into.  Not the ones you push yourself to finish because you know you SHOULD.  Let's make this list books that you read til your eyes are strained.  You know you should quit, but you don't want to.
  • The books may be ones you'd proudly show off to strangers or they might be guilty pleasures that are so light and fluffy that you are embarrassed to admit you loved them.  No judgement here!
  • The books here are the ones you'd insist your friends read if you found out they hadn't.
  • Sex? Blood and guts?  Hmmm.  I say I don't like those kind of books, but looking thru the list of books I started with, there's some of each.  If there's a lot of either in a book you suggest, just give a little warning.

Hopefully, it will one day be honed to around 100 titles.  I just pulled that number out of the air with no idea how many will end up being here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Day in Georgia

I just uploaded snow day photos onto the First A Dream Facebook page.  You can see all of them there.  Here are a few of my favs -

It's after 5 and the snow is still coming down hard.  I'll bet it will be even prettier tomorrow.  Hard to imagine because it looks beautiful now.  However, back in 2010, I took my favorite snow photo ever on the day after the snow.  The sun came out.  The sky was an amazing blue and the view over the pond was postcard perfect.  I'd love to take more photos like that!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Adventures in Eating

Learning how to eat without grains and corn and dairy and legumes and more has been a challenge.  Since I feel really gross when I eat those things, I don't have the urge to cheat and go back to my old way of eating.  I'm not going to lie - I miss lots of things, but the cravings seem to be disappearing and I'm finding joy in new things.  I have found help along the way, first online, and then from a few books.

The Well Fed books - both 1 and 2 - have been very helpful.  You can find out more about these books on the authors web site - Clothes Make the Girl.  You can buy the book there or on Amazon or at local book stores.  The books have lots of recipes and also, some great time saving tips.

I'm still reading It Starts with Food.  I have just finished the science-y sections and am about to start on the fun stuff.

By the way, the Toss and Chop in the photo with the books is a gadget my friend Shirley introduced me to.  It simplifies making chopped salads and I am using it often when cutting up greens for sauteing.

One other book I have, which is not in the photo, is Practical Paleo.

I chose these particular books because they focus more on real food than many paleo/clean eating books.  There are plenty of paleo books out there that teach you how to make substitutes for what you're used to.  I don't want to cook that way.  I just want to cook simply without a lot of pretend pizzas or pretend pies or pretend anything.

Well Fed got me back into stir frying and sauteing.  I have been doing lots of that lately.  I prefer not to include meat in the stir fry so I generally cook that on the side.  Whatever meat I cook generally lasts me several days.  Then for vegetables, I choose a combination from what's in the frig and I saute away.  It's been so good. I haven't even started experimenting with sauces.  Once I do that, it will be even more fun.

One interesting thing - I used to use olive oil in cooking pretty often.  Turns out that's a no-no.  Olive oil is great for salads, but it's not good to use for cooking.  What do I use?  Coconut oil!  And boy is it good.  Don't worry about a strong coconut flavor - the taste is quite subtle.

Another oil recommended for high heat cooking is ghee, which is clarified butter.  It's the one and only dairy exception in the Paleo eating plan.  Apparently the clarification removes all the something or other and is fine for even lactose intolerant folks.  I've used it twice so far and even though many rave about the wonderful flavor, I don't like it any better than the coconut oil.

Thanks to the books and online resources, I'm discovering new foods.   I have made myself branch out.  Some are things I thought I didn't care for - like radishes.  I avoided those.  But now, I've discovered I like them after all.  I love the crunch they add to salads.  And parsnips.  Oh my, I love those in stir fries!

There are some foods I've never tried that I'm finding I like.  The jicama is actually really good.  So far, I've just had that in a salad.  It's really unattractive on the outside.

But once you peel it, it looks like a potato.  In fact, some call it the Mexican Potato.

Each meal I cook tends to be colorful.  I love how pretty and colorful the vegetables look.  In the photo above are my new friends, baby bok choy and diced jicama.

It's still a bumpy ride.  I don't have all my issues figured out.  I recently had to drop nuts, which I thought I was OK with.  And I have eaten something that doesn't agree with me the last two days.  I have no idea what it could be.  Whatever it was kept me up last night and here I am again feeling a little icky.  Not bad, but annoying enough that sleep is eluding me.   That's frustrating because I've gone several weeks feeling really great.  Sigh.  I'm determined to figure it out.  This whole deal is quite an adventure - one that will surely have great benefits.

One more thing.  My friends all want to know if hubby is eating this way.  The answer is no.  I'm mostly cooking separate meals or separate sides for him right now.  He' not ready to give anything up and I'm still experimenting like crazy.  Hopefully, that will decrease as time goes on.  I hope so.  I can't keep up all this cooking for much longer.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Loft is Looking Better Already!

I have the loft looking better already.  It's still a work in progress, but it's pretty functional already.  If you missed the before picture with everything a mess, see this post.

I really do love my loft.  My curtains are vintage tablecloths.  Notice the shadow pattern on the floor.  I love that.  I need two more full lace tablecloths - this is a big room with 5 big windows.  I have round lace trimmed tablecloths folded in half on each end.  I want to replace those with the full lace rectangles like on the 3 center windows.  That idea started as a temporary solution, but I liked it so much that I can't imagine anything different now.

The big shelves that I didn't need for this room have been shoved into the attic space.  My attic space is fabulous.   I just walk through a doorway right off the loft and I'm there.  It's now a big ole mess with those shelves and more stuffed any ole place, but there's no way I'm working in an unheated space right now.  When I woke up this morning, it was 4 degrees outside.   In Georgia.  My attic isn't anywhere near that, but it's still too cold to start organizing.  My loft is nice and toasty.  My windows are passive solar.  On a sunny winter day, the sun shining in those windows warms the whole room without turning on the heat.  In the summer, the sun doesn't shine in at all.  It's nice and shady.  I don't understand why more people don't work with that idea.  It doesn't even cost more.  BTW - right after I took the photos, I opened the curtains again to let all the sun in I could.  It's still in the 20's outside.

Here's the other side of the loft -

I have a mad jumble of rugs up here.  I love the floor, but the rugs sure do absorb sound.  I've had great luck finding interesting barely used rugs at yard sales.  The best ones are mostly downstairs.  Except... the floral hooked rug at the left of this photo is a big favorite.  It wouldn't withstand our dogs, so it's upstairs.  The dogs don't spend a lot of time up here.  My main company up here is my kitty, Sissy.  Do you see her in this photo? She's right in front of the turquoise file cabinet, soaking up the sun.  

So, now you've seen my loft. It's not the prettiest craft room online by any means, but I have fun up here.  I'd be willing to bet that it will look different this time next year.  There are pieces that work for me in this room and there are pieces that I want to replace.  Really, I could say that about every room in my house!  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Loft-y Ideas

My loft is my everything space.  It's my office, exercise room, sewing space, craft room and more.  For the last 3 years, it was gradually taken over by things having to do with my booth.  Now that my booth is closed, I have been redoing the whole space.  And when I say the whole space, I'm serious.

This isn't a before and after post. It's a work in progress post.  This room will likely be in transition  for some time as I figure out what things I want conveniently close at hand, what things I want to store away, and what things I want to get rid of.

I sort of have my desk area looking decent.  It's certainly not finished, but it's at least fairly tidy.

Notice my sweet furry helper on the desk.  How many people are willing to allot valuable desk space for a cat blankie?

The shelf is one that my hubby built years ago.  I've used it all over and still love it.  I wanted it to be higher and a little off the ground.  I bought some larger rollers and mounted them on the shelf.  Unfortunately, the shelf wobbled after that.  I took them off and for now, the shelf is sitting on blocks of wood.  I plan to find some legs or build something more permanent later.

The shelf isn't organized properly yet.  I'm still trying to decide what I really want there and what fun containers I want to use to store things.  I decided to go slow with that process and think carefully about what I use most.

What struck me as I was working on the room is that this is exactly the kind of blogger thing that I always find hilarious.  We so often show one view, which we've worked hard to make nice and neat, and we think to ourselves... "Oh, if they could only see what the room looks like behind me."  More and more bloggers are beginning to show those reality shots and I'm all for it.  In fact, I'll join in.

Behind me is my work in progress and it's a complete mess!

It's not even as bad as it was earlier in the day.  Some of the things are from my booth and I plan to use them to help organize my attic space.  I decided to keep the extra shelves and tables in the room for a day or two more because they are so handy as I sort - piles to store away, piles that I will use in my desk area, piles that I want near my sewing station, piles to take to Goodwill, etc.

Without all the stations I had created for booth things, I am feeling like I have so much room and so many options.  It's a really great feeling.  I loved having a booth, but I sure am happy to be getting my house (and time) back.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Allergy-Free Meatloaf Ingredient Ideas

For New Year's Day, I wanted to serve meat loaf along with the traditional collard greens and black-eyed peas.  Food allergies are definitely changing this meal for me.  I'm not eating black-eyed peas, but I made them anyway.  I cooked sweet potatoes so I'd have an extra side dish.  My previous meat loaf recipe included eggs, which I'm still avoiding.  And tomatoes, which I've been avoiding.  I felt fine omitting the eggs, but the tomatoes were another thing altogether.  Meat loaf is just sad without a bit of sauce on top.  I've never been one to overdo the sauce.  I hate the thick tomato-y globs that many people love.  On the other hand, naked meatballs are just sad.
I went browsing on Google and Pinterest for ideas.  I found a ton of possibilities.  Instead of copying any one recipe, I gathered the ingredient possibilities that would work for me.  I plan to experiment with different combinations in the future to see which ones we like and which ones we don't.  I know others have food intolerance issues as well, so maybe this post will prove helpful for someone else.

Experimenting with these combinations requires a little past experience with making meatloaf.  When you just start throwing a bunch of things together, you sort of need to know how thick it should be - not too dry, not too wet.

Without further ado, here are the ingredients I plan to try out over time -

  • 2 lb. ground beef, ground turkey, or ground bison

Traditional recipes usually include eggs and/or milk.  The eggs act as sort of a binding, but many bloggers said they had fine results with no eggs or egg substitutes.  
  • 1 tbsp. potato flour (or almond flour) with 2 tbsp. water = egg!
  • increase the amount of sauce - this helps bind it all together without eggs
  • broth (chicken, beef would be best, and veggie ok)
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  •  unsweetened applesauce
  • Maybe?  Ketchup, mustard  I need to face facts.  I can't use these.
  • Almond milk
  • water

Veggies are easy to hide in meatloaf as long as you grate or chop them well.  They add extra moisture and flavor without overpowering the meat.    I can't eat onions or garlic, but if you can, they sure are good in meatloaf!  Note: since chopped veggies also add moisture, you need to factor them in when working with the consistency.
  • 3 celery stalks chopped
  • Grated carrots
  • ½ cup peeled & grated sweet potato
  • ½ cup zucchini
  • finely chopped kale, spinach or other leafy green

To tell the truth, I don't feel that good about using any of these, except maybe the flaxseed, which I may try out soon.  I'm avoiding most grains, not just gluten.  
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Gluten free oats
  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 1/3 cup Minute Instant Brown Rice
  • Gillian’s bread crumbs
  • Gluten free oats
  • quinoa

I saw lots more but didn't write them all down.  I'm not ready to start experimenting with herbs yet. For now, salt and pepper are about it. :-(  
  • Celtic SEA Salt - we no longer used regular salt.
  • pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. parsley

I couldn't find many alternatives for this.  Still looking.   This was the riskiest part of the recipe for me.  And no surprise, I reacted to it.  I spent the afternoon sitting still and sipping Reeds Ginger Ale (the real stuff).
  • This stuff is fantastic for times when I have had a food reaction!
    At my grocery store, it's in the organic section.
I cannot use these -
  • ⅓ cup ketchup, mustard, and the optional Sriacha and palm sugar if using
  • Ketchup, mustard and brown sugar
Better Options -

After today's meal, my genius husband had an idea for the glaze. He suggested pineapple with a tiny bit of maple syrup.  That's something that always pairs well with pork or even chicken.  I hadn't thought about it with meatloaf.   But I plan to try it.  

In fact, maybe a fruit glazing of some sort is my answer.  If I can't eat tomatoes, I might be able to find a fruit that compliments beef and see what I can do with it.  The maple syrup may not even be necessary.  The longer I go without sugar, the sweeter natural foods are tasting.   It might be interesting to blend the fruit really well when making the glaze (as opposed to chunks of fruit.  
  • pineapple and maple syrup
  • a glaze made with some other fruit???  If the fruit is tart, I could try blending with dates for added sweetness.

Slow cooker  - just make a mound at the bottom of the slow cooker and cook on low for about 8 hours or high for about 4.   Putting it in the slow cooker helps the consistency of the meatloaf so much. It always comes out fantastic!

Meatloaf pan or for extra crispiness all around, a casserole dish or cookie sheet, form into a loaf. Bake at 350 for an hour to an hour and a half!

Little mini loaves as opposed to one giant loaf.  I prefer more crunchy edges and less cook time, but you could of course modify the cooking time for a large loaf (about 45-60 minutes)  Can also divide into muffin tins and cook for same amount of time.

I prefer to make meatballs (slightly larger than golf balls) and cook them in the slow cooker, usually on high for somewhere around 3 hours.  The time varies depending on which crock pot I use, how large the meatballs are, and how big a batch I make.

If you have any suggestions or tips, please leave a comment!!!

P.S. - I have posted way too much about food and recipes lately.  I guess that's because I am having to focus on that in order to figure out a new way to eat.  But this blog is NOT just about food.  I hope to get back to some other topics soon!  If the food posts are boring for you, don't give up on me!


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