23 September 2016

Feline Friday: Casual Friday

 I walked around the corner to find Lily on the back of the couch (a regular hangout) but in a most interesting pose. Of course, I ran back up the stairs to grab my phone so I could capture this most unladylike position.

 Huh? Whatz da big deel?

Lily went on with her "baffing", seemingly quite unbothered that I was laughing hysterically at her Casual Friday pose.

At least that's what I thought...until she stuck her tongue out at me! ;)

18 September 2016

Giant Cat!

Our neighbor kitty has been a frequent visitor of late. HE IS AWESOME. Such a friendly kitty.

The girls have decided they don't want a boyfriend right now :) so whenever I see him, I spend time chatting with him. He's easy to entertain!

 But he is GIANT! The above photos don't show his size, so I added my foot for scale. My feet are of average size. Look how long his body is! I'd guess he weighs close to 20 pounds. He is a giant cat!
He has a good home right across the street, but I'm happy when he makes his way over to visit us. He is welcome any time!

16 September 2016

Feline Friday: Nature Watching

Our two kitties love watching nature...ON NETFLIX!

Tinsel especially recommends Flight of the Butterflies, a documentary of the annual migration of monarch butterflies. I highly recommend this, too! What an amazing process.

Lily recommends Wild Madagascar. This documentary focuses on the many kinds of lemurs that make the island their home.

She was impressed with how some lemurs spend all of their time jumping from tree to tree, and when they do spend time on the ground, all they can do is hop!

 Now this might actually be a squirrel. :) Lily is also impressed with squirrels. She would give squirrels a THUMBS UP...if she had thumbs!

Oh, and this is a bug. Lily highly recommends bugs, too.

 Heck, Lily recommends most anything with animals on Netflix! Enjoy some "nature watching" with your kitties this weekend!

15 September 2016

Easy Recipe: Thai Basil Chicken

 I've been growing a few herbs this summer, but none has done better than my Thai basil. It grows crazy fast and smells AMAZING! 

My basil recently got ahead of me and managed to set blooms. In theory, you don't want to let your herbs do that because the flavor can be compromised a bit at that point, but I didn't let that stop me from using this beautiful plant. When I brought it inside to cut off what I needed, I just cut off the blooms first.

A good -- and easy -- recipe for using up Thai basil is Thai Basil Chicken from Skinnytaste.com. Click HERE for the website and more about this delicious recipe, including a printable version.

This recipe calls for 3 cups of basil leaves. You'll think that sounds like way too much basil, but as soon as you put the leaves into the hot pan, they wilt. It's actually sort of amazing to see that wilting process! In no time at all, you have just the right amount of basil leaves. AND THE SMELL OF THIS COOKING...you'd almost think you were in a Thai restaurant -- if it weren't for the cats standing at your feet hoping for a sample!

This simple dish is SO good and SO easy to make! If you have basil you need to use up, this is definitely a recipe to try!


14 September 2016

Let's Talk About Bladders!

Hey, ladies! I realize this might be an awkward post, but I want to share what recently happened to me in the event that it might help someone else. Remember (as if there were any doubt!) that I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, and this is not intended to be medical advice. I'm just sharing my experience with you!

Everyone knows that your bladder can be affected by things you DRINK, but did you know that it can also be sensitive to things you EAT? I certainly had never considered that fact...at least not until recently. Here's what happened to me, and maybe it's happened to you, too!
Last fall I was suddenly hit with what I thought to be a bladder infection. If you've ever had one, you will never forget those uncomfortable symptoms! It hit so hard that I sent Spouse to the grocery store late at night on a cranberry juice run. I knew from past experience that with enough cranberry juice, I might be able to stop this bladder infection in its tracks.

Long story short: The cranberry juice didn't work. By the time I went to the doctor a few days later, I was a miserable mess. 

When being tested for a bladder infection, the doctor's office will require you to provide a urine sample. I was 100% confident that as soon as the test results came back, I'd get my antibiotic and be on my way to recovery. 

But there was no sign of infection. My urine, they said, was perfect! On a different day, I might have been excited to hear that news but at that moment, I WANTED MY ANTIBIOTICS! I was sent home with nothing. No answers, no medication.

Even longer story short: This story repeated itself over the next few months. I went back to the doctor's office two more times with what I KNEW to be a bladder infection, each time testing negative. In between visits, the symptoms would improve, then get worse again, at which point I would drink more and more cranberry juice.

In spite of the negative test results, I still believed I had some kind of Secret Undetectable Bladder Infection. Since I couldn't get antibiotics to fix it, I was sure that if I could just drink enough cranberry juice, that would eventually solve the problem. 

Remember the Blueberry Girl from Willy Wonka? I was headed in this direction...turning myself into a CRANBERRY!

Then I discovered cranberry supplements. I decided I'd add these to my cranberry juice regimen. (NOT THE BRIGHTEST IDEA I'VE EVER HAD)
You may not be surprised to learn that after a few weeks on my Extreme Cranberry Program, I developed shooting pains in my bladder. I went back to the doctor who recommended that I go to a urologist to rule out REALLY BAD STUFF.

As the doctor talked me down from my panic attack, she mentioned a condition called interstitial cystitis. So before making an appointment with the urologist who I knew would tell me I was dying, I thought I'd look it up. 

BINGO. Every symptom matched. This condition mimics bladder infection...without the infection. And it can be managed in most cases by avoiding acidic foods and drinks.

Here's the gist: In women of a certain age, fluctuating hormones produce changes in the lining of the bladder, making it thinner and more "irritable". Foods and beverages that didn't irritate the bladder before can suddenly begin to do so. Anything acidic -- coffee, grapefruit, CRANBERRY JUICE, tomatoes, yogurt -- can cause the bladder to feel irritated and painful. Even bananas can cause irritation, not because they're acidic but because of the potassium they contain.

 The list of food culprits includes just about everything I was eating! On a daily basis, I was consuming coffee, yogurt, at least two bananas, many glasses of cranberry juice, cranberry supplements, and a variety of other acidic goodies. Cranberry juice really DOES work for bladder infections, but it's one of the worst things you can drink if you're suffering from an irritated bladder.
No wonder I was in such a mess! My poor bladder was obviously in a state of high irritation.

I decided to modify my diet to see if that would help. After eliminating or reducing these foods and increasing my water intake, the shooting pain subsided and my symptoms improved substantially. After several weeks of modifying my diet, they completely disappeared. Of course, too much coffee can still cause a bit of discomfort, but I've found that drinking plenty of water will generally help.

Do I think I actually have interstitial cystitis? I don't know, and only a urologist could tell me that. But reducing my acidic food and beverage intake solved the problem, and that's really all I cared about! I reported this happy outcome to the doctor on my next visit.

I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only woman "of a certain age" who has experienced this. If you've had the symptoms of bladder infection without the infection, try reducing your intake of acidic foods and beverages. It worked for me!

As for the cranberry juice, I only use a splash of it now and then to make a cosmopolitan! :)


10 September 2016

Violets: Intervention Needed

 A couple of years ago, inspired by my daughter's success with violets, I got one of my own. It was not my first foray into the world of violets but my previous violet experiment ended badly, so I didn't expect much. Luckily, my violet lived and this little bit of success inspired me. Now I have five!

 This one just started blooming, and I love the color! To think I found it in a clearance cart at the grocery store, ready to be thrown out. Poor thing just needed a little TLC!  

 The ruffly violet at left was a cutting from one of Bailey's violets in Texas. It started out very small but has done quite well. When she was home recently, she made a cutting from this plant to create the smaller one at the right. The baby now has blooms of her own!

My original violet has done extremely well, now that I've figured out the proper light (east or north windows are best). We divided this one, too. After that, I trimmed off some of the leaves so it's a bit lopsided, but it is looking a little more balanced over time.

 Violet leaves should be stiff and sturdy, like this...

...not like this. Although this cutting from my original plant has sprouted new leaves, they're always limp.

If the soil is dry and the leaves are limp, that's when you know to water it, but if the leaves STAY limp after watering, there's a problem. According to the violet websites I checked, limp leaves are often a symptom of over-watering or root rot. The only way to determine this is to un-pot the plant.

I did as directed and immediately found the soil to be pretty wet. Obviously I have over-watered this plant, thinking the limp leaves meant that it needed water. NOPE. Too much of a good thing, I guess! I shook the dirt off the roots and did not see any signs of rot.

I re-potted it in new dry violet potting soil, this time setting the plant a bit lower so it would not be so wobbly. I will wait to water it until the soil REALLY dries out and that moisture on the roots has a chance to get absorbed. I'll give it a few days and see how it looks.

Here's hoping this intervention does the trick!

09 September 2016

Feline Friday: In Which Lily Wishes for Thumbs

New food haul! Lily immediately jumped on the table to take inventory. I watched with amazement as she sniffed the air. Somehow she could SMELL RIGHT THROUGH THE CANS! DIS BEE OUR NOMS!
The wheels are turning: Now to figure out how to open them!
(She hasn't...not yet, anyway...)

07 September 2016

Life: Making Better Choices

I started taking blood pressure medication this summer. I've suspected my blood pressure was high for some time. Years, in fact. I've ignored it, blamed it on circumstances, made excuses for it. I didn't want to take medication. In some twisted way, I considered taking pills a failure. Choosing to not take them meant that I was in control.

I believe that we all see life through a filter of the events that have affected us. Those events shape how we view the world and how we make decisions. And although my mom would not be pleased that I'm sharing details of her story, it illustrates how making the wrong choices can ultimately hurt not only you but those around you, in ways you would never have anticipated.

One of my my most vivid childhood memories is of standing at the kitchen counter and watching my mom carefully slice pills with a paring knife. At first I didn't understand what she was doing or why she was doing it. Over time I watched as she shaved more and more from those pills until eventually there were no more pills to cut.

You see, when I was in first or second grade, my mom had had open heart surgery to close a hole between the chambers of her heart. She was one of the first two patients in our area to have the surgery, and I later came to understand that it had been a very risky operation. There were even newspaper articles written about it. Although she never verbalized it to me at the time, when I discovered her funeral plans tucked into the family Bible, I realized that my mom had not expected to survive that surgery.

But she did survive. She thrived, in fact. The only downside was that she had to take one pill each day for the rest of her life. 

At some point, Mom felt so well that she decided she no longer needed to see her cardiologist, the one who had saved her life. And those pills? She would wean herself from them by slicing off a little bit at a time. To her, that meant taking control.

Many years and many heartaches later, I have my theories as to why my mom didn't want to take her medication or see a doctor. But the truth of the matter is that Mom did just fine without her pills -- or at least it appeared that way -- until the last year of her life.

Mom's breast cancer diagnosis came as a huge shock to me. It wasn't a shock to her, but that's a story for another day. Unfortunately, her tumor could not be removed until reducing it in size through chemotherapy. We found some relief in learning that her cancer, while considered "locally advanced", was the type that typically responded well to chemo. Although the situation was grim, at least there was a treatment plan. In fact, her prognosis looked promising.

Sadly, it was at that point that all those years of neglecting her health caught up with her. Tests revealed that failing to take her medication had caused her heart to enlarge and weaken significantly. Chemo, they said, would be too much for her heart to endure. 

I was shell-shocked to hear those words. My mom could not receive the very treatment she needed to save her life. In one sickening moment, I realized the horrendous impact of failing to take those pills.

After consulting with other oncologists, her doctor came up with an alternative treatment plan which proved surprisingly effective in reducing her tumor in size. In the meantime, she was started on medication to strengthen her heart, with the hope that it could tolerate the chemotherapy which would eventually be required following surgery. 

But that day never came. On a Friday before her scheduled surgery date, she received a call from her surgeon, hung up the phone, and suffered a massive heart attack. All those years of neglect had weakened her heart beyond repair. When push came to shove, when she needed the emotional and physical reserves to get through the stress, her heart just couldn't handle it.

There's a lot more to this story, but it's not for today. Did my mom -- or God -- take ultimate control to avoid a surgery she didn't want to have? Who knows. It's taken a good deal of painful therapy for me to unravel -- and re-ravel -- all of those conflicting thoughts which make grief so complex and move past the anger I feel toward my mom. On most days, I've come to terms with it, but occasionally those feelings bubble up inside me. I loved my mom dearly, but I believe that if she had made different -- better -- choices, we would still have her here today. Oh, how I wish she had chosen differently.

After all these years grappling with how we lost her, I have come to one very sad conclusion: How easily she might have prevented so much heartache -- saved herself, even -- by taking that one little pill each day. ONE PILL.

So back to this summer. Once again I found myself sitting at the doctor's office, my blood pressure sky high. It occurred to me that by continuing to neglect my heart, I was guilty of the same behavior that ultimately killed my mom. I am my mother's daughter, that's for sure.

 But that's where it stops. I can -- and will -- make better choices. I looked at my doctor and said, "I need to do something about this." 

I took control of my health in a different way. I made a better choice -- for me and those who care about me. After years of angst, it turned out to be a simple solution.

I take the pill. 

Missing you, Mom. 

02 September 2016

Feline Friday: Bathroom Battles

My apologies for the lack of blog posts in recent weeks. 
I should be back to more blogging soon!

 Not too long ago, I shared that Tinsel is my daily Bathroom Buddy, nearly always sitting on the counter while I get ready for the day. Of course she receives lots of attention during this time, including plenty of scritches and conversation. It's strangely the only time she's social, so I have to make the most of it!

But Lily, ever the "annoying little sister", knows where the action is and often infringes on Tinsel's fun. Look at Tinsel's expression as she notices Lily has jumped up on the counter! NOT HER AGAIN! she's thinking!

Tinsel turns to Lily to give her a pointed "get off of my counter" stare. 

Lily turns slightly, as if she's going to move away, but Tinsel is clearly annoyed. Look at her ears in the mirror!

The usual scenario would be for Tinsel to leave and Lily to weasel into her place, but on this day the normally meek and mild Tinsel turns and swipes at Lily! (Tinsel was front-declawed when we adopted her, so no worries about injury!) Check out Lily's ears, as she is clearly surprised by this move! WHOA, DUDE!

But Lily fears nothing and braces herself for the spat. She secretly celebrates her victory as Tinsel hops down and runs away.

Immediately after this, Lily also hops down, sauntering away to find a sunny patch of carpet for a nap. The truth is that Lily doesn't ever want to be on the counter. She just doesn't want Tinsel to get all the attention! :)

26 August 2016

Feline Friday: Anything for a Treat!

 I've created a monster. 

Actually two monsters. 

I've started giving the girls treats at bedtime. They know that I keep a small stash in my nightstand drawer, and now they wait at my bedside each night!  If you ask me, it's very sweet. Just don't ask Spouse for his opinion on the matter! :)

In order for Tinsel to have her treats in peace, I have to fling Lily's treats across the (still-messy-because-we're-not-finished-with-the-space) bedroom. While Tinsel daintily nibbles her treat, Lily runs, jumps, and dives for hers, wherever they may land. It's more movement than you see from Lily on most days!

  I watched while a treat rolled under the cedar chest, and Lily managed to flatten her ample body enough to fetch it. Her back legs were in full SPLOOT position! :)
Anything for a treat!

25 August 2016

Yoga: A Very Good Idea

The last time I blogged about yoga was back in January. All the credit goes to my daughter for suggesting I try it (hadn't done it since elementary school so yeah, it had been awhile...). She bought me a mat for Christmas and set me up with a couple of free online classes.

I've been doing yoga ever since and can absolutely attest to the difference it has made for me. I feel more flexible and stronger, and I now have a host of stretches and relaxation techniques available to me at any time or place. Just the other day when I was freaking out (as usual) at the doctor's office, I used my yoga breathing to relax.

For the first month, I did yoga twice every day, along with going to the gym every two days. That turned out to a (very) bad idea, as I pushed myself too much and hurt muscles I didn't even know I had. After that, I scaled back to once a day and completed a couple of additional 30-day challenges.

Since then, unfortunately, I've struggled to keep up with it on a daily basis, as is often suggested. I do yoga several times a week but I have yet to figure out the best time of day for me for me to do it (morning or late night), so it's easy for me to miss a day. I think the best way to keep up with a regular practice is to make it part of your daily routine.

Doing yoga at home with an online instructor seems like the perfect set-up to me. I would be completely intimidated to do yoga in front of anyone but the cats! We have several yoga studios near us and I'm sure there is much more to be gained by going to a class but I just don't see that happening. I'm happy with what my yoga "home practice" is doing for me, so I will continue on with it!

Bailey suggested two different online instructors who offer free classes. My favorite instructor is Adrienne of Yoga with Adrienne. 

There are many free yoga videos in her library, plus some free 30-day yoga challenges. I like the 30-day challenges because of the repetition and consistency. Adrienne has a calming style and makes it easy for a novice like me to jump in and get started. If a particular position is too hard, you just skip it or try an easier variation of it. Adrienne is great about suggesting modifications for people working at different levels.

If there is anyone out there who wants to give yoga a try, all you need are comfortable clothes, an elastic band to pull back your hair, and a yoga mat. Click on Day 1 and get started!
 Cat is optional. :)

24 August 2016

Treadmill Running: 5K Done!

-- The blessing is outside of your comfort zone. --

 author unknown

Awhile back, I shared that I was starting (or re-starting) my C25K program for the umpteenth time, with a goal of actually mastering it this time. I am super happy to report that, after considerable time getting there, I've now done the 5K treadmill run eight times!

At each level along the way, I've repeated days until the run length has become more comfortable for me. Then I move on to the next level. This always pushes me just outside my comfort zone, but I just repeat the run until it becomes easy. So now I've been repeating the 5K run each time I go to the gym. That 5K timer always seems a bit daunting when I start but sure enough, it gets easier each time.
Being able to run 30 minutes (the length of time it takes to reach 5K) is one of those "personal victory" things for me.  My elementary school gym teacher drilled it into my head that I was "physically unfit" (yes, he actually told me that) and made me believe I would never be able to do anything remotely athletic. Only in the past few years of going to the gym have I started to think otherwise.

I'm going to keep going with this 5K thing because I like the way it feels. Sure, it's good for my body but I believe that it's even better for my mind. And yep, I noticed that there is also a 10K app. I might just look into that, too.

So take that, Mr. Gym Teacher! It only took me 45+ years to remove the negative label you saddled me with and prove you wrong. :)