Heads up: No real recipes this week. I managed to stave off the severe effects of the cold I’ve been fighting for a good month now, but over the past couple of days, the cold has hit me super hard. All I did was throw together a couple of meals to eat during the next week.

What we’re eating this week:

  • Lunch: I’ll be drinking my Total Soy meal replacement shakes when I’m by myself, and when my husband’s home, we’ll have some chicken enchilada soup (recipe courtesy of Paleo Grubs; I just added some black beans).
  • Pastalaya by Budget Bytes: Instead of using andouille or other smoked sausage, we opted for hot Italian-style turkey sausage, and we got a great deal on some fresh onions and bell peppers. And because we’ve been eating down the family pack of penne that we bought, we opted for rotini this time. Turned out great.
  • Portabella burgers: Super easy. Clean some portabella caps, making sure to scrape out the gills, throw them in a 350F oven for 25 minutes. Eat them on Sandwich Thins with some goat cheese; it’s perfection. We’ll roast some potatoes and rutabagas to eat on the side.

In other news, the holidays are over. Boy, was it a whirlwind.

Here’s how we travel over the holidays

Because we live on the East coast, and because traveling from this state involves layovers every step of the way, we figured out last year that it’s less stressful to just drive. The amount of time that we’d spend from beginning to end (with travels to each state, layovers and everything) is about the same, and it’s a lot more relaxed.

Our route is usually this:

  1. Upstate New York to somewhere around Cleveland, Ohio (5 hours of driving)
  2. Cleveland to north-central Indiana (5 hours)
  3. North-central Indiana to southern Indiana (2.5 hours)
  4. Southern Indiana to Northern Indiana (Grandma’s), then back down to southern Indiana (Christmas day) (5 hours total)
  5. Southern Indiana to somewhere around the Ohio/West Virginia state line (6 hours)
  6. Ohio/West Virginia to the Baltimore area (4.5 hours)
  7. Baltimore to upstate New York (5 hours)

It looks stressful, but it’s really not that terrible.

Trying to see Grandpa

I’ll start with the time period around Thanksgiving. My grandfather had an appointment to see his cardiac specialist, and he had some slight fears that his medications weren’t working as intended. His cardiac specialist wanted to switch things around a bit, but they needed to run more tests, and he needed to see another specialist to make sure it wouldn’t do any damage to his kidneys. After a ridiculous amount of time in the hospital (he missed Thanksgiving, and he was told more than once that he could go home on that day), he was sent home with a new prescription for a blood thinner.

About a week and a half later, I received a message from my mother, informing me that my grandfather had been rushed to the hospital overnight after he had pains so severe that he needed immediate assistance. Again, he was hospitalized, and this time, despite having seen a kidney specialist during his last stay, they apparently discovered cancer in one of his kidneys. The pain was apparently due to the blood thinner he’d been placed on, and without that pain, apparently no one would have thought to, you know, actually look at his kidneys, despite one of them being a specialist in that area.

Don’t ask me how they missed it the first time around. I have no idea. So there’s one big failure on their part. Strike two. Strike one: Constantly changing his date of release, postponing it until long after Thanksgiving passed.

Given strikes one and two, you’d think I’d have understood that maybe they didn’t have a good grasp on every aspect of patient care, including scheduling of transfers. Of course they wouldn’t understand that, around the holidays, patients still have families that want to see them, so not having a good grip on when he was going to be transferred to a physical rehabilitation unit wouldn’t be very helpful to said patients and families. So of course he didn’t get transferred when we expected him to, and it came very close to messing up my plans to see both my grandpa and my father before my father moved out of state.

It didn’t mess it up, but it came close enough for me to mentally curse the ridiculousness that is this hospital. Pretty sure they hire coordinators. If they don’t, maybe they should.

Unfortunately, the cancer he has is apparently inoperable. He wouldn’t survive surgery to just remove the kidney (and if he did, he’d be on lifelong dialysis), and any biopsy would apparently spread the cancer.

Dinner with my dad

Before we left New York, my father suddenly retired and sold his home in north-central Indiana in favor of moving to Tennessee. Thankfully, though dinner ended up later than usual, we still got a chance to see him before he left the state for good. Chances are, I won’t get to see him as often, because adding Tennessee to these plans is sort of out of the question (I physically can’t handle it), unless he decides to visit my brother in southern Indiana at the same time that I’m there.

He and his wife enjoyed the gift of homemade vanilla extract that we made for them, and here’s to hoping they make a lot more with it, eh?

Southern Indiana: Considerably less stressful

Last year, my husband and I discovered a cute little cottage that offers better amenities than any of the other motels and hotels in the area. Best of all, it’s quiet. The trip down was uneventful, and we got a day off before spending Tuesday babysitting my sweet 4-year-old nephew.

He was obsessed with the movie The Year Without a Santa Claus, and he constantly wanted to play as the Heat Miser. My husband got the privilege of being the Snow Miser, and apparently they were both trying to melt and freeze each other all Tuesday afternoon. In addition, apparently the Heat Miser’s bedroom was a jail, where my husband was banished to repeatedly. My job was to go and find the Snow Miser (he only had two places to “hide” in jail: under the bed and in the closet), bring him to the Heat Miser, and watch helplessly as the Snow Miser was banished to jail again.

That kid did his best to tire out his uncle. And his uncle is thankfully a big kid, himself, which is very cute to watch.

The rest of the time in town was pretty close to what I just wrote. Very uneventful, and quite fun with a 4-year-old kid.

Christmas day

On Christmas day, my husband and I got up fairly early to allow ourselves a bit of time at the rehabilitation facility that my grandfather was staying at. At Thanksgiving, our family draws names for a Secret Santa exchange, and my husband and I drew Grandpa and my soon-to-be uncle (by marriage to my aunt). I wanted Grandpa to receive his present in person. Even if it weren’t Christmas, the man was just diagnosed with inoperable kidney cancer. I’m not passing up a chance to see him. I gifted him a couple of DVDs of musicals that he will hopefully enjoy when he gets home, and I included an IOU for two others that didn’t arrive in time. He seemed grateful for the visitors, and I wish I could have spent more time there.

After seeing Grandpa, we made our way up the road to Grandma’s. Lunch was lovely, and I snuck a couple of treats that I knew were safe for me and my food allergies. We all exchanged presents, and I received a copy of the Oh She Glows cookbook from my cousin. I was thrilled to receive it, and I’ve thumbed through it a few times while looking for inspiration. I can’t wait to cook my first dish from it…I just need to make sure that I give myself enough time before making up the grocery list for the week to make sure one of the dishes makes the list.

At some point, we had to make our way home. Driving down south, we had the sun in our eyes until we reached Indianapolis, but the drive itself was uneventful.

Have I mentioned how much I like that cottage? We had a full kitchen, which means that we had leftovers from earlier in the week waiting for us: Roasted chicken breasts seasoned with Cajun seasoning and some brown rice. Awesome blondies for dessert.

The day after Christmas: Nature’s wrath

After spending the morning with my brother, his wife, their son, my sister, and my mother, my husband and I started the first leg of our trip to Baltimore. We left the remaining leftovers with my brother, who appreciated having a little less work to do.

Somewhere across the Ohio border, some nasty weather started moving in. Unfortunately, it stuck with us for most of the drive to St. Clairsville. We stopped for a quick sushi dinner in Zanesville (surprisingly good — check out Mizu Sushi & Grill if you’re ever in town) before driving the rest of the way to St. Clairsville. We settled into our hotel and slept pretty hard. That drive was constant stress — rain band after rain band, just an utter downpour the whole way, it seemed. I’m sure my husband was more tired than I was.


By this point, the low-level cold I’d been fighting for the better part of a month started to sneak up on me. It was definitely better than last year, when I missed out on most family events thanks to a really nasty cold. This time, I was able to keep myself healthy enough to only miss one family gathering.

Baltimore was fun. We stay at my husband’s grandparents’ home, which is situated outside of Baltimore, and it’s completely surrounded by sprawling lawns and an unspoiled view of rolling hills where the horse farm next door takes their horses out to train. The day after we arrived, my husband went off to go play board games with his cousins, and I stayed home to rest a bit. His sister and her husband also arrived that day.

On our second day, my husband’s grandparents hosted the big family gathering with all of the grandchildren (and their parents). I observed a game of Gloom (definitely fun to watch!) while eating snacks. And while I did my best to Google the ingredients in the crackers that they served, apparently some of them changed, which my digestive system did not enjoy. I still survived, though. After the game ended, we all sat down to a lovely dinner of brisket, potatoes, green beans, and sauteed spinach. Dessert was a massive chocolate cake. Afterward, everyone generally mingled until the grandparents decided to finally go to bed sometime around midnight.

The rest of the time was spent largely resting. The past two Christmases, my husband’s family has wanted to go sightseeing in Washington, D.C., which is a bit difficult for me to sustain, but this year, we were able to stay at home. My husband got work done. I got to decompress from a busy trip. We all got quality time with family.

And my cold let me get all the way home before it kicked up the symptoms. An eventful (but lovely) trip, and for the next 18 days, I plan to soak up all of the free time I can…because my first official class of graduate school is about to start!

Happy New Year, everyone. If you’ve made a resolution, good luck making it a reality. This year, I have a couple of weddings to attend, so here’s to hoping I can drop even more weight and help my loved ones celebrate in style. I hope you’ll join me as I continue down this path to wellness and happiness. More recipes to come, I promise!

Leave a Reply

Post Navigation