Sunday, August 31

Faux-sagna and Bean Bread!

Well, I am toodling along the South Beach Diet and I am really loving it.

I've got week one under my belt, and true to my nature, I did cheat a few times, but overall, I rocked it pretty hard. One of my favorite meals this week had to be the faux-sagna. Yep, lasagna sans noodles. And what pray tell was the noodle substitute? Why, broiled eggplant strips of course!

I sliced the eggplant thin, put it on some parchment paper and put a little parmesean on it:
I broiled it for about 10 minutes. It didn't get a crispy, lasagna plate like consistency like the recipe said it would, but what-ev.

While that was a-broiling, I whipped up a tasty marinara with lean ground beef and lots of veggies:

Then I just put it all together like you would any 'real' lasagna. Sauce, faux-noodles, ricotta egg mixture, mozzarella, repeat:
Another thing that has been a life saver is a little gem I discovered called 'Ligurian Farinata'. As the name implies, it is from the Liguria region of Italy and it is a common street food. It's a flat bread made out of chickpea flour! I have experimented with chickpea flour in the past when I have made previous efforts to control my blood sugar. It works great in casserole type dishes, like my diabetic enchiladas. I have never thought to make a flat bread out of it until I found this recipe on Recipezaar.

It was so simple and I must admit to being really impressed by the end results:
It was light and crisp around the edges and really satisfied my bread craving!

Between the Ligurian bean bread and the faux-sagna, dinner was a hit:
Even the skeptical hubby gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up!

But the best part about the South Beach Diet so far?

My blood sugar is the lowest it's been in recent memory. Well within the recommended ranges from the American Diabetes Association.

I am psyched!

Tuesday, August 26

The leaf has been turned

Admittedly, I have been a bit of diabetic daredevil in the past. Yet fresh off of my cancer scare, I have a new passion for my health.

The threat of potential blindness or amputation 20 years down the line wasn't enough to get me going.

But the threat of cancer? Yea, that works.

So, after doing a lot of research and talking to a doctor, I am kicking it South Beach style.

In a way, I wish the South Beach diet wasn't so trendy, cause then it would feel more legitimate and less like a 'fad'. So, I just want you all to know that the diet was originally created by a certain Dr. Agaston in Miami (hence the catchy name) for his cardiac and diabetic patients. It worked wonders for his patients, improved cardiac function, cholesterol levels, dramatically lowered blood glucose levels.

Oh yea, and people lost a lot of weight. The media caught on, and the South Beach craze began.

It is hard for me not to focus on the weight loss aspect of the diet, I constantly remind myself that I am doing this for my HEALTH.

So, let the body rehab begin.

I started my first day on South Beach with a bang. For dinner I grilled marinated pork tenderloin, made homemade refried beans and a fresh salsa with my very own tomatoes, spinach and avocado:
I discovered pinto beans a few weeks ago here in Norway and boy was that an exciting day! I made a big pot of pintos and then mashed them into some gorgeous refrieds:

The salsa was really tasty as well. Something about growing your own tomatoes that makes it taste so good:
But, the best part about dinner last night had to be the dessert! Ricotta cheese is very popular on the South Beach diet and this was simply cocoa, ricotta, cream cheese, vanilla, eggs, evaporated milk and splenda mixed together and baked in a water bath. 45 minutes later I had this gorgeous number:

It tasted like a chocolate cheesecake to me. I was a happy girl.

Getting healthy is tasting good:

One day at a time.

Monday, August 25

Majesty, pure majesty

So, my friend Tonya came to visit from Germany this past weekend and after several conversations that went like this:

"what do you want to do?"
"I don't know, what do you want to do?"
"um, I am open to anything, what do you want to do?"
"really, we can do anything. What do you want to do?"

Clearly, we needed assistance making our decision.

So, we went to the train station to peruse the various trips from Oslo leaving Friday morning and returning Saturday evening. Miraculously, we somehow made a decision about what we wanted to do and decided to take a train from Oslo to a place called Flåm.

The west coast of Norway is known for spectacular scenery and this is a place I like to take 'out-of-towners' because, frankly, Flåm is a bit of a show off. When it comes to jaw dropping vistas, Flåm delivers in a really big way. The name "Flåm" means "little place between steep mountains," and it sits at the foot of the longest fjord in the world, Sognefjord. If you are blessed with good weather, I guarantee you will be amazed by what you see. Here is the view from our hotel room:

That is an amazing vista to wake up to and I cannot tell you how excited I was when we woke up and saw that it was going to be a GORGEOUS day. So, after another round of 'What do you want to do?', we decided on a fjord safari! ! The safari started at noon and promised a unique experience on the fjord. But the BEST and most exciting part was the cool outfits they made us put on! You would have thought we were going on an artic expedition:

Check us out!!

Once on the boat and in our 'all weather gear', we saw amazing things.

The smallest stave church in Norway, built in 1147:

And views like this around every bend:

Just majestic. It's stuff like this that makes me feel very small.

Simple. Pure. Beautiful.

It was a perfect day.

Wednesday, August 20

A kind, nice cancer

It was just a mole.

It had been there for as long as I could remember, nestled in the hollow of my lower back, minding its own business.

But then, it started to change. About 3 years ago. It started growing. It had always been pink, still was.

It started to give me trouble and I thought it was because of it's location. Right in a place where it interfered with fashion. Waistlines of pants and smack in the middle of belt highway. Sometimes it would bleed.

I never worried.

At the doctor, as an afterthought, I had him look at it. It didn't look like cancer, but if I was worried, he would refer me to a dermatologist.

I declined.

Months went by.

One day, A coworker had a look and said 'That doesn't look good, I would have it checked'.

For some reason, his words scared me. I saw my doctor. I got a referral. I waited for them to schedule an appointment.

Months went by.

The letter came and I had an appointment on June 30 at 2pm.

I went to the doctor, he looked at it and said, 'This is NOT cancer, I am 99.9 percent sure! BUT, I will take it to confirm that my instinct is correct and to give you peace of mind'.

Within 10 minutes a full square inch was missing from my lower back and I left with 4 stitches holding the square together.

A month went by.

A letter came last week.

My husband read the letter to me over the phone and in a nutshell it said 'The recent biopsy of the mole showed that it was cancer. Basal Cell Carcinoma'.

In that moment, my heart started pounding and fear began to inch in. Then my husband read the next line:

'This is a kind, nice cancer and we consider you cured'.

A kind, nice cancer.

In those moments all I could think about was the EVIL, VICIOUS cancer that chewed my dear father up and spit him out and left him to die a horrible death less than 2 years ago. The UGLY, MEAN cancer that ravaged my friend Kat's dad and killed him last week. The RUTHLESS cancer that took my grandmother when my mom was only 5 years old. The cancer that so many of my friends have fought against for their very LIVES and have won.

Yet, I had the KIND, NICE cancer.
If ever there were an oxymoron, this was it.

It was sobering and it was terrifying to hear the word 'cancer'.
I googled 'Basal Cell Carcinoma', to verify that it was indeed a kind cancer and to ease my fears of imminent death. I found the Wikipedia page and began to read. It is the most common form of skin cancer and is usually due to a high cumulative exposure to UV light via sunlight.
I am not a tanner. Never have been.

But when I read this: 'As with squamous cell carcinoma, the incidence of basal cell carcinoma rises sharply with immunosuppression', recognition rang loud and clear.


Can I say for sure that diabetes gave me cancer??


I do know that the mole began to change shortly after my diagnosis of diabetes 3 years ago.
I do know that since I was diagnosed with diabetes, I spend more time sick than I do well. I am NOT a sick person. Never have been.

Until Diabetes.

There is strong research that links high blood sugar (mismanaged or unmanaged diabetes) to development of cancer. Like this one that followed 1.29 MILLION South Koreans. The results? Sobering.

Researchers analyzed data on 1.29 million South Korean men and women ages 30 to 95 who received health insurance from a group that covers government employees, teachers and their families. Participants were followed for up to 10 years starting in 1992.
About 5 percent of the participants had diabetes. A total of 26,473 participants died of cancer during the follow-up.
Participants with diabetes were roughly 30 percent more likely than those without to develop and die from cancer. The highest risks were for cancer of the pancreas, the organ that produces blood sugar-regulating insulin. Diabetes involves inadequate production or use of insulin.

Again, was my cancer caused by diabetes?

I don't know.

But I do know that it has scared me enough to finally take drastic steps to get it under control. To take RESPONSIBILITY for my disease. To finally acknowledge that it is as serious as my Long QT Syndrome, if not more so.

It comes down to this:

So many people cannot control whether or not they do get cancer, but if there is even a REMOTE chance that I can PREVENT it...

Shouldn't I???

Monday, August 11

My first harvest!!

These are truly exciting days! It has been awhile since I have given you a garden update, and boy, what a difference a month makes! We have had a less than stellar summer here, which translates to alot of rain, pretty chilly and only about 12 days of full sun and heat. So, I have been concerned that things in the garden wouldn't have time to ripen before fall swept in with a vengence.

Well, my little garden is a garden of TROOPERS! I went out tonight to inspect things and I was thrilled to finally see that a few tomatoes were turning into COLOR:
Now, it seems pretty clear to me that these are yellow tomatoes. I planted both yellow and red, but in my excitement, I forgot to label everything. Christopher thinks they may turn red, but I am fairly certain that the red tomatoes don't go from green to yellow to red. They just turn red. Aren't they PRETTY??? I can't wait to pick them!

Next to the tomatoes I have the tomatillos and I did such a happy dance when I saw this:
Look at that little tomatillo husk!!! The husk appears first and then the tomatillo grows inside of it!! It's looking like I may get TWO tomatillos! We'll see.

Then, winding it's way up the balcony we have these babies:
They are called Cranberry beans! They better be good, cause they killed all the peas and they have a lot to make up for.

The jalepenos are flourishing:
Look at that BAD boy!! Only problem is he turned out not to be so bad after all! It WASN'T HOT! What is up with that?? Parts of it were, but the majority of it tasted like a green bell pepper. Hmmmm. It's a mystery.

If you remember, I have a bag that I am growing potatoes in and a large pot containing carrots. Both of these projects drive me crazy cause I can't SEE what is going on under the soil. Because of this, I tend to dig things up that aren't ready to be dug up. Tonight that happened in the potato bag. I just decided to dig down a little and see if there was anything there. And look at what I found:
Isn't that precious?? It is about the size of a marble. It's the only one I could find, so I hope he had lots of brothers and sisters down there. I guess we'll see in September.

My impatience and curiosity has also led to the premature pulling of at least 3 carrots well before their due date. But tonight, I was moving all the carrot 'hair' around to see if the soil needed water and I suddenly saw the TOPS of a bunch of carrots poking up above the soil!!!

I had such a surge of excitement course through me!! The last time I had pulled a carrot, it was about 2 inches long and, consequently, I had received a stern talking to from Christopher about how I needed to not pull anymore carrots until they were good and ready! Well, I had NOT pulled any carrots since then, but tonight I could see their tops peeking out and they were about as round as a nickel.

I think we all know what happened next.

I pulled.
And pulled.
And pulled.
And pulled.
And pulled.

5 times. I was suddenly holding the most beautiful baby carrots you have ever seen:

Then, I took them inside and gave them their first, and last, bath:
Check out the one on the far left! I clearly planted 3 seeds to close together as the one big carrot is growing 2 little ones! The carrots I planted were a 'grab bag' of orange, purple, white and yellow, tonights harvest yielded 3 white, 1 yellow and 1 orange! I haven't seen any purples and alot of the tops I can see in the pot are orange. So we will see!

Then we ATE them! They were so SWEET and good! I'm not a lover of carrots, but I so enjoyed these! I think just the knowledge that they were something I actually GREW, from a tiny SEED, made them taste delicious!

Can you believe we have made it this far????


Sunday, August 10

I miss Courtney

August 10, 1999.

That was the day my amazing little sister Courtney died.

She was 24.

She was compassionate and funny.

It's been 9 years today and I cannot believe how time flies. I remember so clearly the day it happened. It is one of the most vivid memories I have. That is probably because the shock was so great and so profound.

Each year it comes and each year it goes, and it just doesn't seem to get easier. It doesn't take my breath away like it used to, but I still get that knot in my throat and that dull ache in my heart.

So, today, I just want to remember her. I am grateful for all of the memories I have of her, but oh how I wish there would be opportunities for new ones.

Here are just a few pictures...

Easter egg hunt, rocking some awesome outfits:

Courtney was an identical twin:

Here are the twins all grown up:

Courtney, you are missed. So much.