Friday, June 14, 2013

Change is good and scary and I should make muffins or something but I can't swallow.

I've been offered two amazing new jobs for next year.  I have chosen one.  I hesitate to release the information because contracts have not been signed.  I have not quit my current job yet, but I may be fired anyway as they are firing 100 people.  And I am a squeaky wheel.

It's all amazing.  The new school is wonderful, peaceful, high tech, accessible, high achieving, cares about students.  I was chosen from 40 candidates.  I feel very proud.  I have to keep reminding myself of how amazing this is.  I keep thinking it will feel real any day now.  I think once I sign contracts I will feel the completeness.  Years of working somewhere where there is always a possibility of bait and switch has left me feeling wary.  I still feel like I won't actually get the job, but it looks promising.  The only thing keeping me interested in staying in my current job was to teach a new course next year and they dropped it (budget).

My body experiences all this new change as ACK WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? WE CAN'T DO CHANGE. NO, WE CAN DO CHANGE.  NO, WE CAN'T.  YES, IT WILL BE GOOD.  WHAT IF IT'S NOT GOOD? WHAT IF NO ONE LIKES ME? WHAT IF IN A HIGH PERFORMING PLACE, I AM A LOUSY TEACHER?   AND SO ON WITH THE SELF-DOUBT.  And so, I can't swallow and I have heart burn.  I so quickly manifest things in my body, it makes everything really simple to figure out.  We also need to move closer to my husband's school and my new school.  MORE CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, I'd like to take a minute to talk about eating for esophageal spasm disorder.  Not my usual baking routine but hey, maybe someone needs to know how to eat for this.

1.  Mixed frozen berries defrosted, cooked lightly served over brown rice
2.  Steel cut oats with apples.
3.  Ensure shakes.  Hey, don't be a hater.  When you aren't getting many calories, these suckers are easy to swallow.
4.  Strawberries and nectarines.  For some reason, these fruits do not bother me.
5.  Fresh veggies and salad are out.  Throw spinach in a smoothie with almond milk, frozen berries, spiruteen powder.
6.  Toast.  Dry toast.  Sometimes works.
7.  Yogurt.  No.  Sadly no.  Thinned down, maybe.
8.  High protein pasta plain with salt.
9.  Bananas  chopped small.
10.  Turkey burger went down okay.  Small bites.

This all sounds bizarre unless you have been there.  The GI recommendations are to eat whatever will go down without spasm.  For some that is more liquid, and for others it is small bits of solids.  Very cold water is universally bad.

Of course, I recognize the trigger here, and I am working that through.  In the meanwhile, I need to gently feed my body.  No baking.  Just healing.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Where have I been? And Challah

My last post was December and I think I have done some baking since then.  I will try to catch you up on some good discoveries.


Have you seen the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook?  I have made her lemon ricotta cake, potato frittata, cheddar biscuits, and challah bread so far.  My favorite of these was the challah.  I can't share the recipe here as I did not alter it enough to call it mine.  Her challah has a fig filling.  In the gourmet store, I found quince paste and filled the challah tubes with that instead.

The only problem I had was that it browned too quickly.  Her recipe smartly recommends to cover with foil if that is happening...  I was out of foil.  Foiled again!  So mine was a bit overcooked on the bottom which I scraped off.

I think the author Deb would appreciate that in my 6 X 9 foot kitchen, there is little room for letting things cool - hence the radiator as cooling spot.  

The real beauty of the recipe is that her measurements worked out exactly right.  I have been making bread for 20 years and have always just started with some basic level of flour and added as I kneaded it (I mean needed it).  I may have just reached my pun limit for the day.  Oh wait - when it came out of the oven, I boasted "Can I get a holla for my challah?" I mostly kneaded it in the kitchen aid with the dough attachment and then finished it off on the counter.  I made the dough the night before, let it rise once, refrigerated it, and then shaped it in the morning.  After its second rise in the morning, it was really nice and big.  

It is probably in very poor taste to post challah during Passover but I am in the mood to blog about it today.  

I have loved many of Deb's (Smitten Kitchen) recipes over the years on her blog.  Lemon spaghetti!  Sour cream chocolate cake! And lots of other stuff I can't think of right now!  A friend of mine also made the mushroom bourguignon and roasted chicken and love them both.  Wow, I just spelled bourguignon right without looking it up or anything.  (lying)


My last epidural injection for my leg pain was in the beginning of January.  I was able to go three weeks with almost no pain medication.  It is just starting to get bad again but I would like to wait as long as I can.  I have become so weirdly accustomed to the pain.  The other day, a colleague and friend said, "Are you in pain?  You look like you are in pain."  I said no, but then I realized I was in pain.  I just thought I was unhappy.  It was such an odd sensation for me, as I used to know the difference between my emotions and pain.  Of course, once the pain is really bad, it is no longer a problem noticing the difference.  It was a real heads-up for me to realize that sometimes my inner compass cannot distinguish emotional and milder physical pain.  

My latest visit with my primary, we discussed depression at length.  She has a chronic illness and had some interesting insights.  She said that the research says that almost all (98%) of patients with chronic pain or illnesses which cause pain also suffer from depression.  I guess that probably seems obvious but I have previously been able to manage my inner landscape of emotions more than I am currently able.  Small stressors can throw me right over the edge into tears these days.  It's interesting.  

I have been listening to Jon Kabat Zinn's mindfulness series for chronic pain.  It's really good.  I started meditating with his stuff in my 20s so his voice is a comfort, and I connect his voice with deep meditative states.  This and some of his other recordings are available as an app for the ipad and iphone.  

I'm writing today to get to this point where I can explain that I feel like my pain and MS really suck, but I don't know what I really want to say about it.  I'm grateful that I can still walk, read, work, and enjoy my life.  I just keep finding little ways that I don't function well anymore, and it bothers me. There is this underlying THING that is changing me.  It is slow and insidious.  If I think of good times over the last few years, I don't think of them as things I did while I was in pain.  Alternatively, I don't remember what it was like not to have the pain either.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chocolate covered coconut mint thingies

I originally got the idea for these from a teacher friend, Tasha, who made them with her students.  Yesterday, on Christmas, I decided to give this a go...

I apologize in advance that I measured nothing.  I will make again with proper measurements and add them to this post, but if you are adventurous, give it a try.  Perfectionism be gone!

Using unsweetened coconut gives you the option to sweeten it the way you want to and the texture is quite different.  It will really change the way you think about using shredded coconut.  I usually claim to not like coconut, but I realize now, that it is the sweetened stuff that I don't like.


1 bag unsweetened coconut (I got organic at Down to Earth)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Peppermint oil (not mint flavoring)
Semi-sweet chocolate
Umm.... leftover vanilla frosting from package of organic cinnamon buns (optional) with green food coloring and some peppermint.

Start with about half a bag (2 Cups-ish) of coconut.  Mix in about 1/3 of the can of milk and 2 T of honey.  Stir.  You want a consistency that will form a ball.  If too loose or dry, add more honey and milk.  Too wet does not seem to matter.  Add 4-6 drops of peppermint oil to taste.  Mine is Young Living Brand and is very strong.

Form balls and put on parchment.  I used a small cookie baller to form them and place on sheet.  Place in freezer while you make more coconut balls or start melting chocolate.  I froze them for about 15 minutes.

Melt semi-sweet chocolate in double boiler.  I used Trader Joes brand baking chocolate that comes in the giant bars.  I used about 20 squares to make 24 balls.

Roll the bars in the melted chocolate and place back on parchment sheet.  Drizzle green topping.  If you are going to make a green topping - you could melt white chocolate, add 2 drops peppermint and color it green.  Or, you could make a mix of confectioners sugar and water, color green and add peppermint.

I'm not very experienced with making candies so mine were not that pretty, but everyone raved about them.


I have always struggled with getting sick around the holidays.  Like most people, I tend to overdo it before the holidays and am susceptible to whatever suspicious little germ that walks by.  I started getting sick on the 22nd quite predictably.  This year, I slowed myself way down.  I conserved my energy.  I rested.  I slept.  I meditated.  I talked to my inner child.  I healed without major intervention.  I'm quite proud of myself.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Orange Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ayla's sister Anthea is staying with us while Jeanine is on her honeymoon.  Ayla is loving having the company even though Anthea will not play with her no matter how hard she tries to entice her.  Still, they sleep with their little heads touching and walk the park shoulder to shoulder showing everyone that they are the coolest.


Right now, a hurricane is gaining force and heading up the coast.  So, we have no school.  A few years ago, Nate and I had a snow day and walked to the health food store to get cookie making supplies.  We wanted chocolate chocolate chip.  While we were making them, we realized we had no vanilla, but I have all sorts of other flavors.  We chose orange, and the best cookie ever was born.  Since then, these are the official cookies for snow days.  While this is no snow storm for us, being housebound in comfies with cuddly pets sure feels like a snow day.  I asked Nate if he wanted gingerbread or pumpkin bread, but he scoffed.  It had to be the cookies.

Recipe (adapted from All Recipes)

2 sticks of butter
1 and 1/3 cup sugar
Cream in mixer bowl until light and fluffy.
Add 2 eggs and beat until even fluffier.
Add 2-3 t of orange oil.  Depending on the strength of the oil, you may need more.  You can tell by smell or taste the batter at the end (I know - raw egg, yeah yeah, whatever).

Slowly add the dry after mixing the dry ingredients:
2 C flour
2/3 C cocoa powder (use a good organic cocoa)
pinch salt
1t baking soda

After well-mixed, stir in 2 C of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  The key to these cookies being over the top is getting good chocolate chips.  I use the organic ones, and they really taste superior to the others.

Scoop onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  Cook at 350 for 9 minutes.  They might not look done to you, but trust me, they are.  You want them just done so that they are moist.


I am continuing to do fairly well after my last injection.  I am finally getting a handicapped tag for my car which feels extremely odd.  I got a new primary doctor (love her!), I mentioned it and she rushed off and came back with everything filled out and ready to go.  Somehow, I thought she would say I didn't really qualify.  It will be nice to walk when I can but use it when I don't have the energy.

The thyroid medicine transition is interesting.  I can no longer go a long time without eating.  I actually get shaky and dizzy.  Perhaps that is a sign that I am actually metabolizing my food?  I don't know.  Overall, I do have more energy and am losing weight.  They cautioned me not to lose more than ten pounds.  Which I don't think will happen given that my appetite is significant.

Physical therapy is continuing to make me stronger and more flexible.  I love being in the pool.  Such freedom!  And always less pain.  The PT wants me to give up working or have a wheelchair at school, but when I am feeling decent, that seems silly.  I realize, however, that if I want to stop having shots (the last one was the most painful 10 minutes ever!) I have to figure out how to do less.  I need to sit my butt down more at work but it's so counterintuitive to me.  I think I might bring my rolling kitchen chair to work or get a stool with wheels so I can move through the room to help kids without being up.  Good idea?

Anyway, I hope all my friends and family are safe and sound for the storm.  Sending light and love to all of you for safety and peace.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friday, one of my closest friends, Jeanine got married.  It was almost a year of planning culminating in a beautiful event.  It was so gorgeous and romantic.  I have never been to a wedding where everyone was so overjoyed to see these two wonderful people finally find a partner who will love them the way they deserved to be loved.  Jeanine and Joe are a romantic and loving couple.  It was a joy.

For me, I loved every minute of it, but the tired did catch up with me.  So yesterday, I hung out in my pajamas and took it very slow.  Today, I went for a walk first thing but my body is still stiff and struggling a little.  Then, it hit me.  It's time to get in the kitchen.

I have been craving cookies and it is the season of all things pumpkin.  I had oatmeal and chocolate chips, and the answer was obvious.  Raisons might have made them even more perfect, but my husband loves raisons, and it's hard to keep them in the house.


5 T of butter
1/2 C cane sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 C pumpkin puree
2t vanilla

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add egg, then pumpkin, and vanilla.
Mix dry and add dry to wet :

1 C flour, 1t baking soda, 1 t baking powder, dash salt, 2 t cinnamon, 1/2 t cloves, 1 t pumpkin pie spice.

Then add 1/4 C honey to the mixture.  Add 2 C rolled oats and 1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips.

I used a cookie ball drop thing and put 8 per cookie sheet on parchment.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  They won't look totally done, but they are.  You want them just done so that they are chewy.


I have been in aqua physical therapy for 5 weeks.  It's awesome but quite tiring.  It's not changing the pain at all but I am getting more flexible and strong.  I had another epidural injection last week which is helping as always.  

I had a bunch of nodules on my thyroid.  After a thorough examination, the nodules seem fine, but my thyroid functions haphazardly.  So, I've been on medicine for it for about a week.  It's crazy.  I have more energy and then it collapses at the end of the day.  I'm guessing I'm not quite at the right dose.  Regardless, as always, it takes me days to recover from busy days.  It's taken two days to recover from the wedding and I still feel like I could sleep a few more days.  

I am overdo for updating you all on my various health issues, but ironically, I am too tired to tell it all.  Suffice to say that I am holding steady, trying to take it slow, and deal with various aspects of pain management.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

No baking Only Healing

I'm still not back to baking but these crisper mornings are starting to get the pumpkin thoughts going in my mind.  I haven't had a lot of energy lately.  I have to nap a lot.  Like every day.  Sometimes twice.  So I broke down and got a new primary doctor near by to pull every thing together.  In going over things, I have quite the lump on the thyroid.  My thyroid has probably not been pulling its weight for a while which explains tired pretty well and the 10 pounds I gained while not cooking sweet things in my kitchen.

My thyroid has to be ultrasounded and then biopsied.  I am currently awaiting a cervical biopsy as well.  I'm kind of freaking out.  I think I can manage it all, but then it feels huge.  Just when I feel like I have a handle on the loss and pain of my leg, there is more.  I have had many cervical biopsies, all negative, so that feels less major.  Thyroid feels like something I'm going to have to deal with.  On the bright side, maybe it is a contributing factor to swallowing problems and those will be easier after it is removed or whatever.

I joined a pool.  The surgeon and the pain doctor urged me to get swimming. I went on Friday for the first time and wow!  My whole body was sore from head to toe.  Nate pointed out that I haven't had a good whole body workout in years.  I really loved it.  The pool at Healthtrax is super warm and inviting.  And there is a hot whirlpool in the ladies locker room - fantastic.  No dudes in the whirlpool.  The pool was essentially empty and I swam laps alone.  I bought new nice goggles because I was worried about swimming crooked (My name is Jess and I swim crooked) but there was no one there to bump into.  I am planning on going Monday night for Zumba in the pool.  I loved Zumba - I'm ridiculously excited to do it in the pool.

I have worked hard to reel in all extraneous spending to afford the pool and some other changes and I think it will all be good for me.  The gym puts your membership on pause if you have surgery or anything that stops you from coming.  Sigh of relief.  And they bought out my other gym membership, gave me a discount for my insurance, and my insurance gives me money back at the end of the year for going.  Win-wins all around this gym process.  God/Universe/Everything made it very simple for me to join and enjoy.  I'm thinking swimming will give me back my strength that I have lost over the past 6 years.

I started a teaching blog too because writing is the main thing I seem to be wanting to do with my time and energy at home.  It's great having two different worlds to express myself in.  I was asked to guest blog on an education blog so I am psyched to do that.

I'm writing completely stream of consciousness because I need you, invisible audience, to witness my slow and steady freak out about my thyroid.  Can't I just swim off a thyroid nodule?  You never know. Maybe I need to eat kelp and have seaweed shakes for lunch.  You know seaweed is not a plant, right? I didn't know until I was a teacher.  They are protists.  Little green animals.  So can you eat seaweed if you're a vegetarian.  Fine lines, folks.

Namaste and blessings to you and me and all of us.  And you know, if you are physically able to move and exercise, please do so.  Enjoy the luxury of that ability each and every day.  It's precious.

I promise high protein little "cakes" are coming for breakfast soon.  A couple cool afternoons and a little more energy and I'm all about getting back to baking.  I promise.  Not really. I promise nothing.  I can only promise that I am in this moment thinking fondly of anyone taking the time to read this stream of my thoughts tonight.  Love.

(The picture is me and my friend Emma who is adorable and snuggly and has the cutest feet.  I got to babysit for her and her big sister recently and I hope they ask me again and again!)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Magical Future Board

I haven't really been cooking much.  The heat makes the kitchen completely unbearable.  The sun shines in my kitchen in the afternoon making it about 2 million degrees above my comfort zone.  We've been eating out a bit (don't ask about why you may or may not have seen us at IHOP eating pancakes at night for dinner).  Beyond pancakes, I also love eating fruit salad for dinner or yogurt or ice cream or plain spinach.  In other words, food has been a bit hap hazard.  If you come to visit me these days, I'm likely to suggest going out to eat, especially with the early bird group.  And then, I'll talk you into going out for really good ice cream at Acushnet Creamery, where I always have coffee oreo.

I have, however, been cooking up plenty of ideas.  I have been drawing on the ol' toolbox and using meditation to chill my anxiety and to invite new stuff into my future.  I decided to make a future board.  I don't think this is an official title or anything, but I wanted to do a deep meditation followed by creating a collage.  The intent was to invite my future, to invite possibilities, to invite change, and to have a concrete product to look at to remind me of the intention.

The Recipe
1 to 2 Cups of meditation - any type will do:  deep prayer, mindfulness, guided meditation with a tape, speaking to your higher self, journaling - Get yourself in a quiet place where your doubts and anxieties are gently put to the side for the moment
10 or more magazines
Rubber cement or other easy to use glue
Canvas paper or another type of firm paper or poster board
Clean table to work upon

After meditating, set your intention to invite your best possible future - not pushing for specifics, just asking for ideas of what's best for you, and always I add "this or better."
Cut out all the words and images that call to you.  Don't over think it.  Just cut them out.  If your brain starts to spin out about something, just notice where it is going and then bring yourself back to the task at hand.  You may want to sort words from pictures or just make one big pile.  Find things of beauty that call you.

After you have a nice pretty pile of intentions, start to arrange them on your board.  If you notice you need more images, go back and get more.  Arrange and start to glue.  It's usually easiest to do pictures then words but it depends.  Try the best you can to stay in the meditative place, keep bringing yourself back there.  It may help if you have a lot of stress to write your intentions down and keep repeating them to yourself.

Continue to cook your ideas and images until done.  How will you know you are done?  You will think of adding something and it will feel wrong.

I recommend looking at it every day.  You may want it out in the open in your bedroom or keep it private and spend time with it daily.  It may reach a time when it is done and the wheels are in motion.  Or it may be time to make a new one.

I've been working with mine for a few weeks now and I am ready to share it with you.

I love this board so much, and I have to tell you that my life has shifted in so many ways since I made it.  I was thinking that it might be fun to get a bunch of people together and all make one.   Would you like that?  Please say so in the comments and maybe ideas about time?  The whole thing will take about 4 hours.  It's the most magical thing I have done in a long time.


I am so frustrated with things with my health I don't even have the energy to explain right now.  Suffice it to say, I'm working on it, but it is a LOT to manage.  I'm too grouchy to discuss it tonight.  Maybe tomorrow will bring bright sunny perspective and fresh muffins in a basket at my door.