Back and Feeling Better!

Wow.  What a roller coaster ride the last few months have been.  I’m not even sure where to begin!!  After my endoscopy in February, I was plagued with persistent abdominal pain after eating.  I thought it had to do with the polyps that were found in my stomach so I blew it off for a while.  Well, in April the pain was getting worse and worse and would no longer be ignored so, off to the doctor I went.  Again.  My doctor was noncommittal and really didn’t offer any insight as far as what the culprit could be but he did order some additional tests.  The results showed that I had gallstones, something I suspected when I went to him 3-4 years ago and he flat out said couldn’t be a possibility for what was causing my indigestion.  With that, he referred me to a surgeon and I got a date of June 13th for gallbladder removal.  Let me tell you, that was a LOOOOONG time to have to wait but apparently our town is busy with folks getting surgery.

After the surgery was over I immediately felt better.  No more pain (aside from surgical recovery) AND bonus, no more indigestion.  Well, the indigestion still flares up from time-to-time but it is SO much better than it was I cannot even begin to tell you!  If you are faced with having the surgery and are on the fence about it, I can say from my experience that it is a life-changer.  I can eat pretty much what I want, as long as I stay away from extremely fatty, greasy foods.  It is AMAZING to finally feel this good!!
It has taken me a while to get back into the swing of things but I am finally getting my ass back on track and making my own meals.  Tonight in fact, I made a homemade version of Tuscan Bruschetta and will let you know tomorrow how it is and how I made it!  While I was on hiatus, my weight got back up to 177lbs so, I’ve got some work to do.  It’s ok though.  I’m not going to punish myself over it.  My focus now is just eating healthier, feeding my family healthier meals and snacks, and developing a healthy relationship with food.  That may sound silly to some but, I know for me, most of my issues are mentally based.  I know what kinds of things I should eat but, like any kind of addict, I feel compelled to do something else.  That is what I’m working on these days.

Looking forward to posting about the bruschetta tomorrow!  It sure smelled amazing when I was putting it together!!

Christina - Glad to hear you’re feeling better! Sending lots of positive vibes that all those health issues are long gone (three people I know who had their gallbladders removed ended up having more health issues pop up within a year or so after)!

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Joie de Vivre

After the reading the depressing account captured by Karen LeBillon the other day, I really needed to read something more inspiring and uplifting.  On days like that, I turn to something that I know will make me feel happy so yesterday I pulled out my well-loved copy of, “Joie de Vivre”, by Robert Arbor.  Arbor is a French export who came to America with his new wife and, after attending the French Culinary Institute in New York, opened a couple of restaurants there.  It was important to him to maintain his zeal and appreciation for a simple life so he introduced those ideals through his restaurants.  After seeing how much his patrons enjoyed those simple things, he decided to share them in a beautifully written book.  In a stark contrast to Le Billon’s book, Robert Arbor does a fantastic job of making the French approach to life and food enticing.  I have no personal experience with France so I have to rely on authors to paint a portrait for me and I must confess, Arbor’s paintbrush illustrates ideals that are incredibly appealing.

Feeling heady with inspiration just a few pages in, I decided last night to start the morning off with a simple breakfast of a baguette, tea, and homemade jam.  Not jam in the congealed sense of something like Smucker’s but this jam is something Arbor refers to as “Instant Gratification”.  It has a runnier consistency than the jam purchased at the store and only keeps for about a week but it is truly delicious!  I had to adapt his recipe a bit in order to utilize the fruits I had on hand and because of that I made a couple of discoveries.  First off, Arbor’s recipe is simple.  One pint of fruit (your choice), one cup of sugar, and enough water to come halfway up the fruit in the pan.  You basically combine all these ingredients in a saucepan, bring it to a boil then let it simmer for 10 or so minutes.  Honestly, it tasted delicious in the pan and, if I’d had a slice of pound cake this “jam” would have been spooned over the top of a slice.  Divine!  Anyway, I didn’t have fresh fruit on hand but I did have a bag of frozen mixed berries that I had thawed in the refrigerator.  It was nearly a pint of fruit so, I took that, all the juice that developed from thawing it out, and a cup of sugar and added that to a saucepan.

I brought it all to a boil then turned the heat down to a simmer.  While it was simmering, I tasted it to see if it needed anything else. Oh have mercy, it just tasted amazing!  No more sugar needed at all!  After about 10 minutes I placed it into a container and then moved it to the fridge so it would be waiting for me this morning.

In the morning, the beautiful La Brea Bakery baguette that I had purchased the day before was just begging to be paired with my scrumptious homemade jam.  The oven quickly heated up, allowing me to toast my baguette sections in record time.  My mouth was watering in anticipation.  I pulled the baguette from the oven, the hot and crusty loaf was so ready for butter and jam!  I spooned the jam on top of the bread and dug right in.  Yum!!

As good as my rendition of this jam was, I did have a couple of thoughts about it.  First of all, the texture of the thawed fruit left something to be desired.  In this case, fresh fruit is definitely more appropriate because it will still have some bite to it after the cooking process.  Second, although the runniness of the jam was fine, I did wonder what it would have been like to add some ground instant tapioca to it. I’m going to try making this again using fresh fruit and some tapioca to see how it turns out.  This version is still quite good!!  The fruit is just extremely soft but, it worked out just fine on the toasted bread.  I also thought some lemon zest or lemon juice added might be nice and add a touch of brightness to it, too. Maybe even a 1/4 tsp of almond extract?  Do you have a favorite fruit that you think would work well in a recipe like this?  I’m imagining a peach version during the summer months when fresh peaches are plentiful!!

Here is the recipe, adapted from “Joie de Vivre” by Robert Arbor:

one pint of fresh fruit (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apricots, or a mix of some of these)

water (enough to come halfway up the fruit in the pan)

one cup sugar

Add the fruit, water, and sugar to a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and let it cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  It should keep in the refrigerator for a week, if it doesn’t all get eaten before that!

Please have a wonderful weekend and try to find some joie de vivre in your world while you’re at it!

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An Interesting Read

It is still Camp Germ over here.  A couple of days ago my youngest was felled by this crud that just keeps circulating like a Christmas fruitcake and so we’re all just kind of hanging out and taking it easy.   Anyway, I can’t remember how I came across this book but, last night I read something called, “French Kids Eat Everything”, by Karen Le Billon.  Based on my history of reading Will Clower’s, “The Fat Fallacy” and “Joie de Vivre”, by Robert Arbor, you had to know that this book is something I was going to want to read.  The French lifestyle and relationship with food is fascinating to me.  Scratch that, I think it is the European attitude in general that I find fascinating it’s just that many authors focus on the French.  “Joie de Vivre” though is one of my all-time favorite books and it made me want to immediately pack up and move to the French countryside.  After reading Karen Le Billon’s book though, my feet are firmly planted on the ground.

Ms. Le Billon’s book is the story of her family’s move to France to be closer to her husband’s family and how it affected the relationship she and her children have with food.  They were living in Vancouver (and eventually move back) so they experienced quite the culture shock upon their arrival.  Interestingly, one of the things that I focused on the most was the way she described her husband’s family and the people in their tiny village.  I have always heard that the villagers in France are much more friendly than the folks living in big cities there but, based on her experience, I’d say there seems to be no difference.  She makes them all seem extraordinarily harsh and judgmental.  There is one scene in particular that really stands out in my mind.  Her husband came down with a terrible virus and ran such a high fever that he had a seizure.  Terrified she called an emergency number, only to be told that they don’t send ambulances out their way for that kind of thing.  She called her husband’s mother who told her to call her husband’s sister because she was nearby at a restaurant having dinner with a friend.  The sister came over and off they went to the hospital.  After many hours, they were finally sent home and her husband, thankfully, was all right.  As Ms. Le Billon was catching her breath after this stressful, emotional ordeal, her sister-in-law approached her and told her that she had upset them all very much that night.  Ms. LeBillon assumed (as I would have) that she was referring to being afraid for her husband but no, that was not the case.  The sister-in-law was referring to the fact that their lovely dinner was interrupted by them having to drive her own brother to the hospital.  She told Ms. LeBillon that she needed to send flowers and chocolates to the sister-in-law’s dining companion in apology.  Say what?!  And really, much of the book has stories like this, so much so that I didn’t find this book enjoyable to read at all.  My stomach was in knots for this woman who was in a strange land surrounded by seemingly rude, harsh people.  Was this supposed to be my takeaway from this book?  No, I was supposed to want to emulate the French style of introducing children to good food at an early age and, indeed, I’d still like to do that for my children.  After reading this book though, I certainly don’t feel like going to France anytime soon.  😉  I’m kidding, a little.  It did leave me with a terrifying impression of French people though.  How much of what she said is true and how much is hyperbole?  I have no clue but, it was not a kind portrait of the French!

After reading all of that, you may be wondering if I recommend this book.  After writing all of that I’m wondering about it myself.  I gave it 3 stars on Amazon because there was some helpful information in there about how to introduce these complicated flavors to children.  But I’m not sure you will enjoy the extra stressful parts of the book.  Instead of buying it, perhaps check it out from the library first.  Sometimes I’ll read something and emphatically feel like it’s something you could buy with confidence but, this book does not fall into that category.  If you do read it, I’d love to know what your impression was so please be sure to come back and share!

My relationship with food has always been quite complicated.  It is fraught with familial connections, guilt, control issues, addiction.  All things that I battle in my mind on a daily basis.  So, I have decided to relax my thinking, a religious person might say, “Let go and let God”.  Instead of focusing on minutia and calories, etc, I’m going to eat fresh food, good food that I prepare at home, and live an active life.  I truly feel that approaching things this way can be healthful and people can lose weight.  It won’t be as fast as it is when reducing calories and fat but, I do believe it will work.  The proof will be in the pudding!  🙂  Perhaps I will spend this day getting reacquainted with my copy of Fat Fallacy or Joie de Vivre and gain a little inspiration from their pages.  It’s a good day for that.

Hope all is well with you!


Joie de Vivre » The Incredible Shrinking Whimsigal - […] the reading the depressing account captured by Karen LeBillon the other day, I really needed to read something more inspiring and uplifting.  On days like that, I turn to […]

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A Test and the Results – All Clear!

Last week, I had an endoscopy.  Nothing major had happened to trigger the interest in such a procedure but my doctor just wanted to look around and make sure all was well.  After being on medicine for GERD since 2007, I was ok with that.  The procedure itself was no big deal at all.  The rest of the day is a foggy blur but I didn’t suffer from any discomfort as a result of the test.  Some people have a sore throat but luckily I was spared that!  Especially since I had that fierce-ass cold brewing.  After the test, my doctor came in and said everything looked good (YAY!) but they found a few polyps that needed to be biopsied.  He said they were probably benign, caused by the meds I take, but they were going to test them to be sure.  Well, today, they finally called with the results and confirmed that they were indeed benign.  Happy day!!!  My only question now is, will I continue to get these polyps if I have to be on this medicine for life??  I REALLY feel a major sense of urgency about getting off this medication now.  Already it was something in the forefront of my mind and now, it is even more so.  Guess I will be making a call to them this week.

In other news, I have totally fallen off the wagon over the last couple of days.  We attended a birthday party where I ate pretty much anything not nailed down and then, my husband went out of town which always makes me want to eat out.  It feels like I have a gushing wound and I need to stop the flow before things really get out of hand!!  I’m in that mode where I keep saying in my mind, “Tomorrow I will eat better”, which is just the lie I tell myself in order to permit me to eat badly in the moment.  Very dangerous thinking and I know it has to stop.

I do try to start the day out right and lately have been trying to incorporate more comforting things in the hopes that starting off with something soothing will help me feel good all day.  Ever since we went to Ireland in 2011 I have loved having a hot pot of tea in the morning to relax and greet the day with.  I had to take a break for a while because of some inflammatory issues with my skin but lately I’ve been able to reintroduce it without any problems.  It’s very nice and I’m kind of a snob about the tea I drink.  It has to be Bewley’s loose tea because, for whatever reason, it just tastes better to me!  Growing up all we ever had was Lipton, which was great, it’s what I knew and loved but when I tried Bewleys’ tea in Ireland, there was no looking back.  It is smooth and a truly beautiful color.  It makes me happy to see it in my tea cup.  Now when I have a cup of Lipton tea, it has a bitter bite to it that I just don’t care for anymore.  Bewley’s is the tea for me!!

The next couple of days are going to be busy, filled with homeschooling activities for my boys so I don’t anticipate cooking anything new.  BUT I did get a new Cooking Light cookbook called, “Crave” and it is teeming with amazingly delicious looking recipes that I’m planning to try.

And because I know every post is boring without a picture here is one of my breakfast from yesterday morning.  A cup of tea, an English muffin topped with strawberry jam, alongside a link of chicken breakfast sausage.  Hey, don’t knock it til you try it!!  Alfresco Chicken Sausage Country Style is DELICIOUS!!  It’s a great healthful replacement for pork links!!

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What’s Going On ‘Round Here

This blog has been less about what I’m eating and more about what I’m doing lately.  Sorry about that!!  I just haven’t been doing any interesting cooking to share with you all.  Most of my meals have been of the frozen variety, Lean Cuisines, because they’re easy and fast.  I will tell you that my faves in the Lean Cuisine lineup are Salisbury Steak w/mac & cheese, Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes, and the Tortilla Crusted Fish with rice.  I pair those with one cup of frozen broccoli and have a pretty satisfying meal.  Another thing I’ve been eating a lot of lately is Gorton’s frozen fish entrees.  They are really quite good – low calorie, low sodium, yet tasty.  Fish is something that I am not confident about buying or preparing so these little frozen entrees have been such a life-saver.

Last week I came down with what must be the ass-kicking cold of Winter 2013.  Good GRAVY it laid me low!!!  Fever, chills, cough, aches.  Oh it was HORRIBLE.  Today is the first day I really feel human again.  You know how when you have a cold you really don’t want to eat “healthy”?  You really want comfort food.  Well, I totally gave in to each and every whim because I just felt like crap and didn’t care.  Luckily, it doesn’t seem to have affected my weight at this point but may take a couple more days to really let itself be known.  Fingers crossed that I made it through that bump in the road unscathed!

One thing I mentioned previously was how our new table really has brought us together as a family.  It sounds ridiculous on the face of it because how can a daggone table do that?  But we really do connect more over our meals now that we’re in the dining room, away from the TV.  The other night we all sat down and ate by fire and candlelight and it was just great!  Here are some pics of my family:



This is my teenager.  He is so totally over having his picture taken.



This is my tween.  Here he is wearing his self-composed Doctor Who outfit.  🙂





This is my hubby.  I just love him.  🙂

I know by eating together, we’re making memories that our kids will take with them long after they grow up and have their own homes and families.  I have many wonderful memories of dinner with my parents and sister growing up.  Hopefully my boys will treasure these meals as much as I do!

Well, that is all the news from me right now.  I hope all is well in your world!!

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