Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired

This post is my way of holding myself accountable for the health journey I’m finally ready to start.

I’ve been on a sixteen-year journey with autoimmune disease. In the last several years, the inflammation in my body increased, my joints started swelling more, and my pain increased along with the inflammation. The fatigue got worse too. Sometimes I think the fatigue is the worst part.

We’re not just talking tired. We’re talking complete and total – hard to function as a normal adult – exhaustion. This is the kind of exhaustion that is overwhelming and life-altering.

With a busy career, that sometimes required long hours no matter what was happening in my own life, all of my energy went toward being able to succeed at work. When I came home, there was nothing left. I often talk about being an introvert as the sole cause of my not getting out, making new friends, dating, etc.

The truth of the matter was {and is} that I couldn’t function. I only had enough energy to get through my work week. My evenings and weekends? I was running at a deficit. There was nothing left to give. There is nothing left to give.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

– Hippocrates

As a result of the constant struggle to be healthy and get in remission, I started taking a series of “biologics.” I started with injections at home and then when I was at my worst, I started receiving infusions at an Infusion Center near home.

There was one drug that seemed to work and work well – within 48-hours of every infusion, remicade made me feel like a million bucks. But continuously throughout my treatment, as my hair fell out and I read about what is in that drug & the others like it, I grew more and more uncomfortable with them.

The longer I’ve been on them, the sicker I get when I catch bugs from my son. My last cough {we are talking scary, hacking a lung cough, here} lasted three months until I could get a nebulizer at home. The stomach flu, respiratory infections, etc. hang on and on.

And yet, inflammation markers don’t decrease and in multiple cases, they’ve continued to increase, as have questions and concerns I have about other test results that indicate active disease. In the last round of tests this week, one particular result that’s always high – is even higher now.

If I read up on how that test is used, it can demonstrate current disease activity {i.e., I’m not in remission} in autoimmune diseases like mine. I know, I know. I’m not a doctor and neither is the Interwebs.

But guess what is not doing me any good at all? Doctors and traditional medicine. So I’ve decided to figure this out on my own. My immune system is being suppressed by these biologics {one famously made out of mice “protein”}, I’m getting sick with every little bug, and yet they do nothing for the pain and inflammation.

So guess what? I’m done.

Done.

Done.

Done.

Over time, I have read about many others in my situation. They were sick and tired and not getting better – all the while, they were being pumped full of awful drugs that in some cases, made them sicker. I’m in several Facebook groups with folks like these. Folks like me.

But there are also some within these chronically ill communities that I follow, that fight back – for their health. They find healing and remission, without dangerous {aka “high-risk”} drugs.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading, watching, and following along. I’ve toyed with a few ideas – like the keto diet. But a full blown keto diet is not for me. I’ve settled into a belief that the Paleo “diet” is, however. Though much of what is at the heart of keto, stripped down, is right on {we need good fats to survive & thrive}.

About eighty percent of the food on shelves of supermarkets today didn’t exist 100 years ago.
― Larry McCleary,

The new drug I’ve been on is doing very little for me. I’m not surprised. Honestly, neither is my rheumatologist. So why? Why am I taking this serious medication that is doing me no good?

I’ve seen no benefit. But I have seen a benefit to the therapeutic levels vitamin D I’m taking, thanks to Rodan + Fields. It isn’t helping my pain levels, yet. But it sure has helped my fatigue & energy. My energy levels are dramatically improved.

So let’s get this straight . . . dangerous meds are not working and cause me to get random viruses. Vitamin D has increased my energy level causing me to get more done in the last four weeks than I have in nearly a year.

This is my public way of holding myself accountable. I’m making some changes which include going off of the immune suppressants. I’m going to be cutting out grains & legumes, reducing my dairy intake, and cutting out processed, refined sugar. I have been mostly gluten free since 2009. But I’m fully committing now, after a nice chat with my new GI doctor.

I’m going to take my supplements daily. Which ones? All of them. Ha. Probiotics, fish oil, enzymes, vitamins, iron, magnesium, etc.. I’m going to drink more water. I’m also going to be using CBD oil. My GI doctor has recommended a specific brand but I’m going to do a little research before purchasing.

I’ve wanted to try CBD for some time, because I’ve heard great things about the way it impacts inflammation and pain levels. On a recent trip to Asheville, I purchased a cream from the Asheville Salt Cave, made with CBD, essential oils, Himalayan sea salt, and a couple other ingredients. Using it on my hips, on my trip, I was able to get in and out of the car on my long drive home, with zero pain. None. I got out of the car like I was a kid.

Wait . . . isn’t that what these “high-risk drugs” are supposed to do?

Getting home without pain & stiffness in my hips? That might as well be a miracle. Since getting home, when I use it, my hips are in great shape. When I don’t use it, I have a lot of pain and stiffness getting up from my desk, in and out of the car, etc.

I’m so done with this traditional medicine nonsense. It’s getting me nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place. But the truth is, I don’t believe modern medicine wants a cure for what ails us. They want to treat symptoms – not cure disease.

If you take any time at all to watch any food documentaries out there these days, they are powerful reminders at how our first world life in America, has caused us to change and manufacture what is supposed to be food – into something that resembles it – but is not actually food.

I’m going to make changes. I’m going to eat actual food. And I’m going to hope and pray for a total transformation of my health.

If you’re a Paleo {or keto, or AIP} person, I’d love to hear your favorite tips, websites, and recipes. Care to share? I’m not sure how I’ll often I post on my blog, but I hope I’ll find time to share some of this journey. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your experiences.

What is Romance, Anyway?

johnny cash, elaina avalos, romance, coffee

Dear Future Husband,

It’s Valentine’s Day. It’s a day I like to make fun of since I’m here alone and you’re . . . there doing whatever it is you’re doing (torturing me with all this waiting).

Though I am a true and sometimes hopeless romantic, I hope we’ll find romance in the normal, nothing exciting days.

You should always know I love you. I should always know you love me. Why do we have to wait for a specific day to do something special for each other?

Romance looks a little different to everyone. For me, romance is in the quiet, nothing exciting moments like when you bring me a cup of coffee on a day I’m not super excited about getting out of bed.

Or maybe while I’m upstairs giving the kids a bath, you do the dishes – your least favorite task because you love your tired wife. When I find you there doing the dishes, I won’t feel quite as tired because you’re doing this sweet thing for me. I will know you treasure me, even when I’m at the end of a long day.

I love flowers. But a dozen red roses on Valentine’s Day seems like a waste of money. But a pretty bunch of gerbera daises on a random Monday would be amazing. Or daffodils or wildflowers sold at the grocery store – maybe because I had a bad day. Or maybe there’s no reason at all.

Sitting by a fire in our backyard, the white lights you hung up for me (even though you thought it was dumb) twinkle while we sit. With adult beverages in hand we talk about nothing and everything – our norm. And of course, there’s the whole laughter thing. You make me laugh. And making you laugh is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. For real. It makes me so happy. That’s romance to me. Why? Because you’re my best friend and the love of my life. There is no one I enjoy spending more time with, than you.

Cooking a meal together with candles burning and music playing is romance. I hope you’re a good eater (haha) because I love to cook. 

There are countless ways to show our love and respect for each other. I want to date you for the rest of my life. And that means working toward finding new ways to show you how much I love and respect you. I don’t need a date on the calendar to do it.

More from Beaufort North Carolina!

Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, Beaufort, Beaufort NC, NC Maritime Museum, Beaufort Food & Wine

I recently started a series about Beaufort, NC. You can catch up on the first couple of posts here & here. I haven’t written in a couple of weeks because I have quite literally spent nearly all of my free time working on an update to my book, Chasing Hope.

I switched the way my book will be printed & distributed. When I did, the old cover of the book would no longer work due to a variety of requirements from Amazon. But the process of updating was much harder than I anticipated.

So . . . I am behind. But back to post three in my series with more from Beaufort, North Carolina! The last two years I’ve attended the Beaufort Wine & Food Festival. I had said for a while that I wanted to go. I have a bad habit of talking and not doing.

Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, Beaufort, Beaufort NC, NC Maritime Museum, Beaufort Food & Wine

As my 40th birthday approached {yes, I’m admitting how old I am} in 2016, I knew that I had to start making changes. So rather than just talk about going someday, I needed to do it.

The first event I bought tickets for in 2016 & 2017, was the Wine, Bread, Cheese & More seminar. I know! What could possibly be better? Not much, I tell you. Not much. If you’re a wine person, my guess is . . . you’re probably a food person, too.

This year’s seminar was even better than last years. The setting for the seminar is the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center. It’s on the water, just across the street from the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Though held in late April, the humidity has already started to seep in. But even still, it could not be a more beautiful setting. I mean . . . look at this . . .

Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, Beaufort, Beaufort NC, NC Maritime Museum, Beaufort Food & Wine

I also attended the Vin de Mer Epicurean Village both years. There is a lot of wine and food happening up in there and it’s awesome! They describe it as organized chaos which is a great description.

Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, Beaufort, Beaufort NC, NC Maritime Museum, Beaufort Food & Wine

Beaufort, Beaufort NC, NC Maritime Museum, Beaufort Food & Wine Festival, Vin de Mear Epicurean Village

Beaufort, Beaufort NC, NC Maritime Museum, Beaufort Food & Wine Festival, Vin de Mear Epicurean Village

Along with all of the food and wine, there are also cooking demonstrations. My first year, Clarke Merrell, the Chef and owner of Circa 81, did a live cooking demo. I saw most of the live cooking demos in 2017, too.

It even prompted me to try oysters with cucumber sake. I was proud of myself because that has not exactly ever been high on my list of must-try foods.

Though Beaufort is a tiny town on the southern Outer Banks, this event has not disappointed. Next year, my goal is to attend a wine dinner along with my favorite seminar and the Vin de Mer.

Good Wine & Great Chow

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My first event at the Beaufort Wine & Food Weekend was awesome — the Wine, Bread & Cheese seminar. The second, “The Truck Stops Here”? Not great. The majority of the food was fried which is a total non-starter when you can’t eat gluten. There were simply not enough “food trucks” providing food to make the price of admission worth it for me, taking into consideration the fried thing.

As a result of my frustration from Friday night, I’m not going to lie . . . I was not even a little excited about Saturday. But I went to the Vin de Mer Epicurean Village {at Front Street Village} anyway. I’m happy to say that it was awesome. It was much more organized than the food truck event. There was simply no possible way for me to try every wine {although I’m sure there were some there that tried}. And while I was a little overwhelmed at where to start, I came up with a sort-of-ish plan to start with the whites, working around the tent and sampling the awesome food in between.

Here’s what I did enjoy {that I remembered to write down or snap a photo of}:

Charcuterie, Charcuterie Board, Cheese, Southern Foods

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My favorite eats were:

  • Sesame Seared Tuna from the Channel Marker
  • Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream and Caramelized Onions {and ugh…I can’t remember where this came from}
  • Asian Pulled Pork Taco with soy-ginger slaw and sour cream from Circa-81
  • Spring salad with strawberries, feta & basil-peach vinaigrette (Olive Oil & Vinegar from Beaufort Olive Oil Company made by Chef Merrell from Circa-81.
  • The fish & shrimp stew from Sammy’s Seafood House & Oyster Bar
  • The Charcuterie board from Southern Foods

Circa 81, Clarke Merrell, tapas, cocktails, Beaufort Wine and Food Weekend

I only saw one cooking demo – from Chef Merrell of Circa-81 {And Dank Burrito. And Beaufort Olive Oil Company.} but it was fun. I learned a few things from the demo. Like for instance, did you know that when you buy extra virgin olive oil from the grocery store, it may have as little as 15% extra olive virgin oil. The rest could be . . . anything. Eww. Kind of annoyed about the olive oil I purchase at the store. I also learned that clear bottles should be avoided which is a shame since I bought clear glass bottles for my olive oil and vinegar.

Chef Merrell made a spring salad that we were able to sample. I had a taste of a really good Sauvignon Blanc, with it, that I cannot remember the name of, for the life of me. Nonetheless, it was a fun demo and like I mentioned, I learned a few things. One of the things I enjoyed about the chef’s presentation was his advice to try stuff out when you’re cooking taking a “no rules” approach. I like that.

Before I forget, I also loved the Gin &  Tonic from Mother Earth Spirits out of Kinston. P.S. I’m a cocktail fan but I had never had a Gin & Tonic before. I’m a new fan. I bought a bottle of Crude Bitters – Rosemary, Grapefruit & Peppercorn. I can’t wait to try it. I also had a sample of their Orange & Fig. So good!

bitters, Crude Bitters,

Overall, it was a really awesome experience. I had a ton of fun. I have been to quite a few wine dinners, tastings, etc., over recent years. But this was the first time attending a wine & food festival of this type. There are things I would do differently next year for sure. But mark my words, at the very least I’ll be back for the Vin de Mer Epicurean Village next year!

Drunken Mushrooms? Why not?

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I’ve lost my cooking mojo. I really have. I hate that. But it is what it is. Last night, I was alone in my kitchen {Pandora serenading}. That was glorious. Wonder of wonders . . . I cooked. I’m so glad I did.

I haven’t had a mushroom dish in a while so while in Morehead City on Saturday, I found a mushroom mix (oyster, portobello, shiitake) from Harris Teeter that was perfect.

As usual, I used a recipe {found here} as my starting point but deviated from it to fit my tastes and what I had on hand otherwise.

Before I get to the recipe, I have a confession . . . I’m scatterbrained sometimes. I have 50 things going on at once and since I’m not a very good recipe follower, my distraction level when I’m cooking is high. Really.

I used to think prepping beforehand – my ingredients measured out and ready to go – was a waste. But it honestly makes life so much easier for me in the long run. I highly recommend it if you are easily distractible as I am. 🙂

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What could be better than olive oil {and butter}, garlic, onion, sherry & mushrooms? Nothing I tell you.

Ingredients: 

2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon of Butter {actual butter, dude}

Wild Mushroom mix {or whatever you have}

1/2 Half Red Onion

2 Garlic Cloves

1/2 Teaspoon sea salt

3-4 Tablespoons Cooking Sherry {If you’re going for drunken mushrooms, go all out.}

2 Teaspoons of Fresh Thyme

Fresh Parmesan {See recipe above for goat cheese option which would also be DELISH. I just didn’t have any.}

Reserved 3/4 Cup of Pasta Cooking Liquid

Pasta of your choice {I use Barilla’s Gluten Free pasta.}

  1. Heat a skillet over medium to high heat. I have a very hot gas stove and tend towards medium.
  2. Start heating water {with olive oil} for pasta.
  3. I added 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet, once hot. This differs from the recipe linked to above. Julia cooked her mushrooms in butter and olive oil. So yeah. I do too.
  4. I thew in my mushroom mix. IMG_1735
  5. Saute until they start to brown slightly. Don’t move them around much.
  6. Add onions, garlic and salt to the mushrooms. Continue cooking for 5-7 minutes until onions soften. IMG_1738

7. Add the sherry to the mushrooms and then cook until it’s evaporated. I added a squeeze of fresh lemon. I don’t know. It’s a thing with me.

8. Drain pasta {except for the 3/4 cup}.

9. Add thyme to mushrooms and then toss pasta, water from pasta, and mushroom/onion mix.

10. Add fresh Parmesan and toss again.

11. And then . . . eat, ya’ll.

This was so good. It hit the spot. Maybe I’ll cook again tonight?

 

Honey Lemon Chicken with Pasta {Gluten Free of Course}

Honey Lemon Chicken, Chicken,

Listening to: No music for me tonight. Fixer Upper was my soundtrack.

Drinking: La Vieille Ferme Luberon Blanc 2014

It’s been a crazy few weeks, dudes. My house still isn’t in order even though I moved two months ago. I’m not a huge fan of the set-up of the living room or kitchen so I’m not feeling super motivated to cook. Or to do anything for that matter (#realtalk). But I cooked. And it was good.

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As for my house, I love houses with tons of light. My house is very dark. I feel like I live in a cabin in the woods. The yard has trees everywhere. I LOVE this. I really do. But everything is so dark and I have sucky cameras or my iPhone so when I’ve taken photos  . . . well, they’re not looking so hot. Don’t let my photos keep you from trying this. It really is quite good.

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The recipe needs some tweaking for next time, but it’s still a winner overall. I slightly adapted a recipe from Averie Cooks, after finding the recipe on Pinterest today. I will probably do some more tweaking the next time. It was much sweeter than I anticipated. Here is my adapted recipe. You can find the original at the link just above.

honey lemon chicken with pasta, gluten free

Ingredients

1/2 box of your favorite pasta. I used Barilla Gluten Free spaghetti noodles.                                                                         1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced

Directions

Mix the honey, lemon juice, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt/pepper to a bowl and whisk. Once ingredients are combined, set aside.

Heat water for pasta and then add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a pan to cook the chicken. In addition to the salt/pepper in the sauce, I lightly seasoned the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Cook chicken about 6-7 (these chicken breasts were quite thick – less time may be needed) minutes per side. Mine had such a nice color to it – perfect. Once the water is boiling for the water, add your pasta. I added olive oil to the water as gluten free pasta can be clumpy.

After about 10 minutes, add the sauce to the pan. Boil the sauce with the chicken, until it thickens. Stir often.

Once the pasta was done, I drained it and then tossed it slightly with a pat of butter and squeezed more lemon onto the pasta. At this point, I thought it was sweeter than I expected so I was looking for something to cut through the sweetness a bit.

Add the sauce and chicken and then toss! I sprinkled some parmesan on, in addition to the extra lemon to even out more of the sweetness.

While sweeter than I expected, this was delish!

I don’t buy lemon pepper seasoning which is an ingredient in the original recipe. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’d add that next time. What I will do is cut down the honey and add some more lemon.

Try it!

Fried Green Delish

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I know! It has been awhile. Shortly after my last post, I made a scrumptious Easter dinner. Of which I intended to post about. But it started what ultimately turned into several weeks of being sick and/or having no appetite. Horrible, no?

Anywho. I’ve taken photos of a few other recipes but I thought I’d get back into the game with what I made tonight.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk, Chipotle Dressing!
Oh. My. Holy. Heck. Were these ever good?!
I’ve made fried green tomatoes before but this version was the best yet.
The goods:
1lb Bacon {I used Hormel Old Smokehouse Bacon – cured with sugar. Because it’s amazeballs.}
Fried Green Tomatoes – Ingredients:
2 green tomatoes, sliced
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1/4 Cup Masa Harina (corn flour)
1/4 Cup Corn Meal
salt and pepper for seasoning
oil or bacon grease for frying {I way prefer bacon grease, dudes.}
Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 Cup Buttermilk
1/4 Cup Mayonaise
1 TBL Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Teaspoon Chipotle powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
For the tomatoes:
Slice tomatoes and place in 1/4 cup buttermilk. Soak for thirty minutes. I flipped them over after 15 minutes. If you’d like, you can double the buttermilk. That’s what I did.
In a separate bowl, mix the masa harina, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Masa harina is a staple in my mostly gluten free home {I’ll explain the mostly later.}. This is the cornmeal I buy. I’m fond of the packaging. Yeah, I don’t. It just makes me feel southern. Even though I’m not even remotely southern. I’m fond of buying products from my own area code.
While your tomatoes soak, fry up your bacon. I place on plates with paper towels as I go, letting the bacon fat and drippings stick to the pan.
Once I was about done with the bacon, I dredged the tomatoes in the the cornmeal mixture.
Sometimes, the way I cook isn’t pretty. And sometimes, I don’t take perfect photos. And sometimes, my hands are caked with cornmeal and masa harina and my tomatoes are lumpy. But I don’t even care.
Once the bacon is finished, I immediately started frying the tomatoes. Each side should be done in three minutes. I did have to add a smidge of vegetable oil to finish. But I did use the same pan I fried the bacon in. So delish, yo.
While frying the tomatoes, I made the dressing. Combine the buttermilk, mayo, salt and chipotle in a bowl. I actually doubled the buttermilk and mayo {but not the other ingredients}. You don’t have to. If you don’t, there will be a bit more bite to yours and you may not have any leftovers.
As I finished the tomatoes, I placed them on a plate with paper towels to soak up some of the oil. After finishing the tomatoes, I did this . . .
Oh goodness. This was so good. I need people to cook for. I simply cannot cook for just myself any longer. 😉
You should try it. You’ll like it. Tart, spicy, savory. Mmm…DE-lish!

Drinking: Margaritas. I don’t know. I’m in a mood. I had one last night too. This ain’t yo’ mama’s margarita though. It’s super low-cal and not even remotely sweet. Me likey.

Listening to: Coldplay station on Pandora. I’m sort of addicted.