Crazy, crazy week that has kept me from posting because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in the crisis-of-the-day. From my netbook revolting on me (and subsequent transfer, as we speak, of irreplacable files to a new computer) to my stove almost killing someone (and the subsequent replacement, delivery and installation of all new appliances), to a full of medical appointments past week, I’ve barely been able to sleep let alone blog. Stay tuned in the next few days for new posts along with extra ones to make up for the ones I missed. Thanks for understanding.
Excuse me if I’m bit distracted today. I’m profoundly sad because we had to put our 13-year old Beagle Sadie down last night – we woke up in the middle of night to let her and our Shih Tzu out for a potty break, and Sadie was fairly unresponsive to being woke up – she did eventually awaken, but was crashing into everything, yelping, and seemed totally unaware of her surroundings. Needless to say, a middle-of-the-night emergency vet visit was in order, and the veterinarian she saw agreed that Sadie was incredible distress, that it was likely a stroke, brain tumor, or aneurysm, and that given her age and a similar, less serious but still not normal episode a few months back, that the most humane thing we could do was to end her suffering. In a way it was a difficult decision (as it is for any pet owner), but in a way it was not. We just wanted her to not be in pain anymore. After being given a sedative to calm her down, the vet gave her the euthanasia shot, and she passed away peacefully around 3am.
Sadie came into our lives in a most unusual way – we came home from running errands in October of 2005 to find her chained up to our light post out front. We brought her inside (fully intending to take her to the SPCA), but her sweet disposition won me over in seconds. She had a collar on that had a phone number listed, but the number had been disconnected. After asking around the neighborhood and trying to find out who she belonged to, we found out she had been wandering around at large for over a year, and that her original owners had moved away without taking her with – that she essentially was homeless. She was part of our family within a week. After taking her to the vet, we found out she was 6 or 7 years old. Even though we knew we’d only have a few years tops with her (life expectancy for a Beagle is usually 11-13 years), we welcomed her with open arms. We were rewarded with the pleasure of her company for the last 6 ½ years.
We knew she was on the decline when she started developing cataracts, and then eventually, was stone deaf. In the past year, it was getting increasingly more difficult for her to get around. We were preparing ourselves for the inevitable – even though I feel an empty place in our hearts and our home right now, I know she’s better off. Hopefully you all will know the love and loyalty of a special pet in your life. I know my life was better because Sadie was part of it.
I’ll get back to posting regularly tomorrow, but for today, I just want to reflect on her and my time with her.
I moved to Ohio from New Jersey in 1995, but part of me will always consider Jersey home – the whole South Jersey area holds so many memories, and it’s sad to see the landscape change (for the worse, with lots of big box stores replacing Mom & Pop indies) – I used to go back because the area drew me there, but now when I go back, it’s to reunite with friends and family.
Tony and I have been friends since 1991 or so – in the time since I’ve moved, we’ve communicated occasionally. I remember going back to visit him when his dad was still alive, shortly after I got married. Still, it seemed if time and distance had taken us in two separate directions.
That is, until we met up again in person on my last visit back to New Jersey over Thanksgiving 2010. It was as if no time had passed at all, and our friendship picked up where it had left off. We talked for hours, caught up and filled in the blanks. We reminisced about old times. We confided in each other, knowing that each one of us had the other’s back. It was also the weekend of my 20 year high school reunion (more about that and the rest of my trip to NJ later – meant to write about it much, much sooner but ended up getting sick before I could)
It seemed as though I was going to spend Thanksgiving alone – I had made plans to meet up with family, but (no surprise to me) I wasn’t invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. I shrugged it off as if I didn’t care, but I felt hurt and alone. Tony and his partner John included both me and my sister Amanda in their holiday celebration. They fed us and welcomed us with open arms and made us feel like family. My family is really dysfunctional – more often than not I’ve been estranged from my parents. But I think that biology shouldn’t dictate family, relationships built on mutual love and trust and inclusion and communication and actions that speak louder than words should. He and his family were there for me in a way that my own family often is not, and for that reason alone, Tony will be always dear to my heart.
This is one of the recipes that he made that day. It’s a little bit different than any other version of deviled eggs I’ve had, but in a good way. These would be great for a spread at any family function, including the upcoming Super Bowl Sunday. I wish I could get him out here to Ohio to celebrate with us – reliving this day to write this entry has me missing him like crazy.
Tony’s Deviled Eggs
12 eggs, hard boiled
4 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. brown mustard
3 tbsp. relish
1 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp. bacon bits
1 tsp. basil
Separate yolks into a separate bowel, and mash. Add remaining ingredients and spoon or pipe yolk mixture into egg whites. Refrigerate and serve.
Here, in the final hours of 2011, I’m taking a few minutes to reflect on how the past year diverted from my expectations. In many ways, it was the year from hell. A few stupid nutritional decisions on my part started an avalanche of medical nightmares that almost ended up with me losing my life. While I recognized that I was getting weaker, I never suspected it was because I wasn’t getting enough protein. Still, despite my medical battles and the steep climb back up from the brink of the worst case scenario, I learned so much that I wouldn’t trade for the world – learning to let go and trust, learning who really mattered to me and learning who was there for me when the chips were down and things were the most bleak, learning how to advocate for myself and what I needed, learning that I could push myself physically far beyond what I thought I was capable of, and learning not to take life for granted were a few of the many lessons I learned in the six months or so I was in the hospital in the past year.
Recognizing that I needed to make my recovery a priority meant that the blog took a backseat to just about everything else this year. Many of you moved on, many others have stuck around and sent me emails of encouragement when I’ve needed them most, despite the infrequent updates. I can happily say that physically, mentally and emotionally, I’m in an even better place than where I started last year. I can do everything (and more) that I was doing before. It’s a miracle that the only real permanent damage from the whole ordeal is just a few scars. Losing all my hair taught me humility and how really not important vanity is to me. Being stuck in the hospital taught me to appreciate the little things in life – a meal out here, a farmers market there, going grocery shopping, driving a car, a nice hot shower, for example. I met so many awesome people – nurses, doctors, therapists, aides that made an unbearable situation bearable.
Today, in the beginning of 2012, I’m making a renewed commitment to this blog, which I’ve missed more than you know. Sometimes it was a matter of having to choose between attending an event or writing about it, because I didn’t have the energy for both. I’m slowly working my way up to doing a lot of the cooking again (I did a lot of the work putting holiday meals together). I’m far, far behind (even more so than usual) but will get caught up eventually. For those of you still reading, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have no idea how much you all mean to me.
You all may have wondered where I have been for the past three months. Many of you had a vague notion that I was sick but weren’t quite aware of how sick I was. Truth of the matter is that I was so sick that they didn’t think I would make through alive. I had a raging case of ARDS so bad that I was on a
ventilator in ICU for over 30 days. They transferred me to the current hospital
to wean me off the ventilator and tracheotomy. Unfortunately, while I was under sedation I sustained major nerve damage in my right arm (which is my dominant hand) which means that I’ve had to learn how to type, eat, and function all over again. After this, my next stop is an acute physical rehab so that I can learn to walk again.
While I am back doing Columbus Foodie full-time, it may be a little slow going
in the beginning until I’m fully recovered. I’ve bought a copy of voice
recognition software that will make things easier but it may be a while until
you hear my voice regularly. In the meantime, Paul has been picking up the
slack by being my photographer, proxy at events, and all-around great partner
in more ways than one.
While in a medically induced coma, I had some vivid bizarre dreams that caused me to confuse fantasy with reality. Maybe I will tell you all about that in a separate post, so detailed that it makes for a great story. Expect new content soon. Thanks to all for the well wishes, phone calls, and visits; they did more than you know to lift my spirits and keep me optimistic.
Hello all. It’s me, Paul. Columbus Foodie’s husband.
Becke’s been in the hospital for several weeks now, and likely won’t be out of the hospital for quite a while. She’s currently unable to update columbusfoodie.com, so this blog will remain in archive mode until Becke’s able to begin posting again. I might post some articles she’s got in the queue ready to go, and I’ve got a couple of articles that I sent to her which were ready for publishing. We’ll see.
I’ve got a CarePages webpage up which has been tracking Becke’s condition since April 11th. It is located here.
Please keep Becke in your thoughts and prayers for her complete recovery.
Wow – that was a longer hiatus than I planned for. The truth of the matter is that I’ve been really, really sick. There was even a hospital stay in the midst of my time off. It all started at the end of October/beginning of November when I went to San Francisco and found that I was unable to maneuver on steps. At the same time, I was dropping weight like crazy, and in my mind, I thought this was a good thing. I must have lost 30-40 lbs from November-end of January.
The past few weeks have been crazy – I took 3 major spills in as many weeks, each one worse than the one before it. This latest fall had me hitting the garage door rail with my face, and busting my lip wide open. Needless to say, eating was the last thing on my mind.
Around Christmas, I started having major problems with getting up from chairs that were lower than knee level. Luckily P. was around to give me a hand so we worked with my limitations the best we could. I was getting weaker by the day, and we had no idea why. I just had no energy at all, but we still managed.
Fast forward to last week, where I was so weak that my legs went out from under me completely when I tried to stand. P. insisted that I go to the ER, and I was in no shape to argue. I got there, where they admitted me immediately because I was so dehydrated and malnourished that my condition was critical. They spent the next few days pumping me full of saline and strong antibiotics (because they thought I had sepsis as well).
One of the diagnosis codes was anorexia, probably because in many ways, my eating is disordered. I may not count calories, but I had many of the same things going on as a late-stage anorexia. Just goes to show that any person at any weight can eat in a way that can be harmful.
I was released from the hospital later this week, and am extremely bloated (I’d say 30-40 lbs of water weight, easily), and now I’m trying to eat and drink the way I’m supposed to. I keep on being told I’m not eating enough, not getting enough water, so I’m struggling with both of those things. Part of it is that my lips still have open cuts on them and it burns like hell when I eat anything the least bit acidic or super spicy. For the most part, we won’t be making any new recipes this month, but I’ve still got a ton of older entries I have yet to post. And P. will be posting a few entries. Just wanted to give everyone a heads up on what’s going on with me.
Hey, if my neighbors across the street can still have their Christmas lights up and on near the January, then it’s not too late for me to blog about it. Starting this year, I’ve officially passed the gauntlet of hosting the family holiday get-together to my younger sister Maurya, because my health the past few months means that I have neither the stamina nor pain tolerance to do it anymore. The degenerative nature of my health problems have reared their head in an ugly way this past year, and I’ve felt more like a spectator to my life than an actual participant.
I love my sister’s pot roast – she changed it up a bit this year, but it was excellent nonetheless and fall-apart tender. I used some Wondra and it ended up with a great gravy. I’ll really need to get the recipe from her so I can post it here. It may not look like much but it’s the best I’ve had in a while, flavor-wise.
The mashed potatoes were just your basic butter-cream-salt types. Insert your own family recipe here.
What I really liked, however, was this recipe for candied carrots – it brings out the best of the vegetable’s sweetness. She used crinkle cut fresh carrots to save time.
recipe from AllRecipes.com
1 pound carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter, diced
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1. Place carrots in a pot of salted water. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to a high simmer and cook about 20 to 30 minutes. Do not cook the carrots to a mushy stage!
2. Drain the carrots, reduce the heat to its lowest possible setting and return the carrots to the pan. Stir in butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, until sugar is bubbly. Serve hot!
She also made some green beans with jowl bacon – tasty, smoky wonderfulness.
P. and I made some appetizers and desserts that we brought with (more about those in separate posts), but honestly, my sister worked her butt off putting a wonderful meal on the table.
But as much as I love food, I think Christmas is all about the kids – they always have such an excitement and curiosity for the world that we sometimes (hell, nearly all the time) set by the wayside as we get older and purportedly wiser. We got my 9 year old nephew Brandon his very own digital camera, an upgrade from a V-Tech kids model we got him a few Christmases back. He loved it, and has been nonstop been taking pictures of himself and food. We may make a food blogger out of him yet.
Autumn, as the middle child (7 yrs old), is the most fiercely independent of the trio. She has an endless source of energy, and is a joy, but one heck of a handful. She’s going to be a reckon to contend with once she gets older. Hopefully she’ll contain some of that energy in athletics – we’ll see. She loves Littlest Pet Shop, so we got her a few collections plus a storage case. She’s probably the hardest to shop for, since she’s at that “in between” age.
Amber, the youngest at 5 years old, is probably the most sensitive of the bunch. Also probably the one with the most amount of empathy and the sweetest disposition. We got her a Leapster 2 along with a few programs.
My mom came along, too – so it was the closest we’ve come to having the whole family together at once in years. How did you all spend your Christmases? What did you have to eat? Do you have any interesting family traditions?
At the end of the year, I’ve realized that I’ve done so much, and rarely posted about any of it. The end result? A “drafts” folder with well over 100 entries in it. I’m going to use January to get all caught up, so you get the information when it’s still fresh and useful.
In the meantime, you may see some posts that are out of season (summer farmers markets photos, for example), but bear with me – my resolution this year is to make blogging a priority.
Will start posting from the drafts soon.
Here it is, very early on Christmas morning and I’ve been thinking about our families’ traditions through the years – Christmas has always been a pretty big deal when I was growing up, and fortunately, we’ve continued that trend through our generation and the next. But I thought it would be a nice time to get away from talking about food, and taking a moment to talk about the sense of family and togetherness that is behind the holiday.
As long as I can remember, and even before, Christmas Eve was a bigger deal than Christmas Day, because it was when we’d go and visit family. Even baby me was taken around to see the relatives. I love this picture, because it show the tree that my Oma and Opa put up for Christmas. Yes, that’s the Christmas tree – even as a baby, I towered over it. This is me with the tree on Christmas Eve 1973.
I spent my first couple of years with my maternal grandmother (Edith Mama was what I always called her) because my mom was taking some time away to get her life together so she’d have a suitable home to bring me up in, and my grandmother and my maternal great-grandmother (Oma) were inseparable. Needless to say, that meant I spent a lot of time over there, including the holidays. She died when I was very young of a heart attack (at age 46), but I still think of her often, especially during holidays – I wish I had the opportunity to get to know her better.
At 6, I still believed in Santa, so needless to say I thought it was the real thing. This is me and Santa during Christmas 1978.
From my earliest memories, I remember that we had a tradition every Christmas Eve, to visit all of the relatives in the same order every year. The first stop on the trip was to my Grandmom Jones, my paternal grandmother and to my Aunt Doreen, who lived with her.
Grandmom Jones always had milk and cookies, coffee or tea for the adults, and a kind word for everyone. And she was an equal opportunity Grandmom to everyone – even though my sister Maurya was not her granddaughter by blood, she treated her just like she was. What a wonderful woman. She died a few years ago, and I regret not visiting her more often.
My Aunt Doreen always had a child-like excitement about Christmas, and her excitement was contagious. I think she enjoyed the holiday most of all.
This is a picture of me, my Grandmom Jones and my sister Maurya in like 1983 or so.
After going to my Grandmom Jones’ house, it was off to visit Nana and Puh, my great-grandparents on my mom’s paternal side. They lived in a trailer in South Jersey part of the year, but also lived in Massachusetts (or was it New Hampshire?) as well, so they had these really cool Bostonian accents. Here is my sister Maurya at 2 or 3 years old with Puh.
Nana, as a Christmas gift every year, would knit or crochet some of the ugliest hats, scarfs, etc. ever. But since it was your Nana, and since you know that she put love and care into it, would thank her profusely while thinking in the back of your mind that you’d never been seen in public with it on unless you were going to visit Nana. I’m sure all of us have gotten that kind of Nana gift. Here’s Nana with Maurya.
I believe that they passed away sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s in their eighties, and again, they are sadly missed. My mom could pinpoint the dates for sure, since she’s really into genealogy, a hobby that Puh got her started in by gifting her with a family tree that he had started and that she later on seriously expanded.
My mom has many of the same Christmas memories that I have, because they spanned generations. Here she is with Opa at Christmas when she was a young child.
And here I am with Opa, on Christmas Eve, almost 30 years later. Notice that my right eye is almost swollen shut. Nana and Puh had 2 Siamese that I had a severe allergy to, so all pictures of me at Christmas at Oma’s and Opa’s have that same oh-so-flattering look.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate a picture of Oma and me during Christmas, because she was usually the one behind the camera taking pictures of me and Opa. And they took TONS of pictures. I don’t think a week of my childhood went by where there wasn’t a picture taken. This is Oma and me (as a baby), but it’s a great representation of how to age gracefully. To me, my Oma was the most beautiful person in the world. Quite literally, she *was* my world growing up – the person who kept me centered, who was always supportive, and who always wanted the best for me. She died in 1995, and I still miss her like crazy. Each milestone of my life, I get a bit sad that she couldn’t be there. In many ways, I live my life now as a tribute to her – I always try to do the right thing that would make her proud.
But the Christmas Eve festivities at Oma’s and Opa’s rocked. They would transform my playroom in the attic into a magical Christmas wonderland, with decorations, homemade cookies and other goodies, and presents out the wazoo. Oh, how I always looked forward to that day. Even Maurya got in on it, when she was old enough to understand what was going on. Here she is at all of 2 years getting a present from Opa.
Afterward, we’d head back home and go to sleep, so we could get up at the crack of dawn in the morning to open presents. By then, I didn’t believe in Santa, but I wasn’t going to spoil the magic for my little sister. Here is a pic of me, my sister Maurya and my mom in front of the Christmas tree.
Mom, like most Mom’s, always locked herself into the bedroom to wrap presents so we wouldn’t walk in on her.
In morning, we’d tear our presents open like little bandits. This particular year, I got a Sony Walkman. I spent the next few months with it as a permanent attachment.
My sister, I think, was more interested in tearing the paper to pieces than what was inside. Although, if it was something Smurf related, she’d let out a squee.
We’ve kept a few of the traditions (opening a gift on Christmas eve, doing Christmas baking, etc) but we’ve ended up making many new ones of our own too. Here’s our tree this year – our old tree’s lights went belly up last year so we replaced it with a white one, which is kind of retro. Every year we get a commemorative personalized ornament for our tree listing the names of us and our pets. Since we don’t have kids of our own, we end up spoiling our nephew and nieces. I honestly get more pleasure out of giving than receiving. I’ve been blessed in so many ways, and love to pay it forward for the handful of people I care deeply for.
Tomorrow, we’re going to my sister’s for Christmas dinner. I’ve decided to hand it off to her after doing it the last decade or so. And tomorrow we’ll create new memories, and new traditions. And afterwards, I can take you vicariously through how our family celebrates the holidays.
What traditions does your family have?