Saturday, June 22, 2019

Garden to Kitchen ~ Bread and Butter Pickles


I used to be a pickle snob.  I'd only eat dill pickles...Kosher dill pickles.  Anything else was trash in my opinion.  Until one day when I had some bread and butter pickles on a hamburger and my life was changed! Ever since then, I've made these sweet little gems with my home grown summer cucumbers.



Bread and Butter Pickles

4-5 cups of thinly sliced PICKLING cucumbers
1/2 of a yellow onion thinly sliced
1 cup of white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 clove of smashed garlic
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional if you like them spicy)



Add cucumbers and onion to a quart sized canning jar.  In a saucepan over medium heat, add the rest of the ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is almost to a boil.  
Pour mixture over cucumbers, seal, and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  You'll want to eat these on everything!
Enjoy!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Garden to Kitchen ~ Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

The garden is in full swing now and daily I'm harvesting a few thousand, er I mean dozens, of beautiful little cherry tomatoes.  And if you have an over abundance like me, here is a quick and easy recipe to use them up.  These are so delicious in salads, tossed with pasta, or as a topping for grilled chicken.


Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

4-5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved 
1/2 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar 
2-3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Black Cherry and Reisentraube tomatoes

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning and parsley. Gently stir in cherry tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a covered container and marinate for at least 2 hours. Refrigerate if marinating longer than two hours. Bring to room temperature before serving (as olive oil solidifies when refrigerated).



And when you've eaten your fill of these, share a jar with your neighbors or coworkers, they'll love you for it!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Artist in Residence

It's no secret in our household that our John Paul is a talented artist, so it's really nice when other folks recognize his talent, too!
This weekend John Paul competed in the El Campo Art Association art show and I'd say he did pretty well!


Second place ~ Best In Show for his watercolor painting, "Corgi."


First place in his division for, "Papillion."


                  Second place in his division for, "Good Boy."


And the award for Most Blessed Parents in the World 
goes to Doug and I!  
Because art is not just a hobby for John Paul...it's how he lives. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Why Does The Universe Hate Me?

Murphy's Law should be renamed JoAnn's Law because if something can go wrong in my life, it will go wrong.  
Why should my recent surgery be any different?
Since I started walking on my own two months ago, I have been walking on the outside of my foot.  Even with physical therapy, I have great difficulty taking a step with my right foot flat on the ground.  My PT and I just thought it was a matter of re-training my muscles and my brain to walk normally.  

I have recently found out that that is not the case.

A few days ago I went to my surgeon to get clearance to go back to work.  I told him that I just couldn't walk flat footed and that my foot always rolled to the outside.  I walk on the outside of my foot so much that my first two toes don't even touch the ground!  
It was after I got a CT scan that I learned that my surgeon over corrected my arch.

You read that right...he OVER corrected my foot.  

Surgery is the only possible cure.  
And when you have no medical leave left and haven't gotten a pay check in four months, you kinda have to go back to work.

I am sickened and devastated.
I feel like the last four months of pain and suffering 
were a waste of time.
I am in more pain than before my surgery.
And I won't be able to do anything about it until after the new year.

For now my job is letting me be on light duty, but that won't last forever.  I may have to find a new job...a desk job, because walking is more painful to me than eating glass!  
I really am lost, anxious, and scared to death that I will never be able to walk again normally and without pain.  Also that I will not be able to support my family.  I try to put on a happy face and tell everyone that "I'm fine."  It's just easier than explaining this all over and over again.

So if you see out and about, please don't ask how I'm doing.
I'm tired of lying.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Garden to Kitchen

We've had tons of rain here in south Texas and the garden is exploding!  And while we don't have full on harvests yet, we are still able to gather small baskets from the garden on the daily right now.  Always just before the cukes ripen, there is a huge dill harvest.  I dry most of it to use all year long but I really love using fresh dill in recipes and I thought I'd share my favorite dill dip with you.

A basket FULL of dill and cilantro for the dehydrator.  We'll use these herbs all year long!

Fresh Dill Dip

1 Cup of sour cream 
1 Cup of mayonnaise 
1 Teaspoon onion powder 
1 Tablespoon garlic powder 
 4 Tablespoons (or more!)of fresh dill
1 Tablespoon of fresh parsley 
Salt to taste


Just put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times until combined.  Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.


I also use that fresh dill in a marinated cucumber salad that I eat during this growing season.  Just make your brine once and keep adding garden vegetables all summer long.


Marinated Cucumber Salad

1 Cup of white vinegar
1 Cup of water
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
2 Tablespoons of sea salt
1 Tablespoons of chopped fresh dill
1 Tablespoon of mustard seed
1 Teaspoon of celery seed
1 Tablespoon fresh dill

This is a basic brine, feel free to adjust to your taste!


Mix brine into a large glass jar and then add whatever you have from the garden.  I love the combination of cucumber (use the pickling kind or otherwise they'll get soggy), bell peppers, and red onion.  When my tomatoes are ripe, sometimes I'll add them (once seeded and extra juices squeezed out), or even thinly sliced zucchini or squash.


This little salad is great on sandwiches, salads, burgers, or eating straight out of the jar...which I may or may not have done!

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Home Stretch - 12 Weeks and Beyond

I made it!
I made it to my 3 month post op visit and got the OK to start walking without any aides as well as being able to drive when I am comfortable.  Even though I was cleared to walk on my own, I'm not there quite yet!  Still using my cane/crutch to get around because my ankle still feels a bit unstable 
and any uneven ground is hard to navigate. 

 But we are working hard on those issues in Physical Therapy.


So I'm starting to sell off all my mobility aides.  
I sold my knee scooter this weekend. 
 I had mixed feelings about that because 
I depended on it for so long.  
But in the end, it was good to let it go.

Let it go and move on, that's my new motto!


My plan is to return to work June 1st, less than a month away!

I'm scared, ya'll!

But I'm in the home stretch.
They say that the home stretch is the toughest part of the race.  
I must finish well for everyone who has shared this journey with me... as well as for myself.

Thank you for your prayers and kind thoughts through this journey.  We're almost there!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Garden Therapy

To be honest, I had absolutely NO intention of having a summer garden this year.
I thought maybe I'd start some herbs or flowers from seed, but that would be it.  The surgery and subsequent recovery had been tough and I felt that I had to devote all my energies to healing instead of planting.

But then I realized, planting IS healing for me!


So in February I started some seeds.
I wasn't really sure that I could give them the care they needed.
Some died, but most lived
And as they grew, I found myself dreaming about putting them out in the garden...
But I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to do that with mobility issues.
But I shared my vision with my boys and before I knew it, 
I had this beautiful tomato patch with an arched trellis for beans.

My dreams were becoming reality!


And then every morning and evening 
I was hobbling out to the garden in my walker.
Weeding, planting, even just sitting there soaking up 
the glorious sunshine!

It was becoming my therapy.

Something to look forward to every day.  
I truly think I was becoming depressed just sitting in the recliner all day watching TV day after day.
  The garden was making me move, think, and most importantly WALK!


It's still a challenge for me to move about the beds.  
The uneven ground seems to be my biggest enemy with my new bionic foot!  But I've learned to slow down, take my time and enjoy the process which is something I never really did before.

So for a garden that shouldn't have been this season, 
it has turned into my biggest garden to date! 
 I am so thankful for this little piece of earth 
and the healing it has given me!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Weeks 8-10 In My Recovery


I thought that physical healing from my surgery was tough, and it was, but entering into the rehabilitation phase of my recovery has been even tougher.  At 8 weeks post op, I had my Physical Therapy evaluation done.  My ankle could barely move, was crazy swollen, and two of my six incision sites had not yet healed.  
I was so scared of doing ANYTHING with my foot! 
But I was given a set of exercises to do at home and appointments for twice weekly therapy sessions.  If I was going to walk again, I had to suck it up, endure the pain, and follow through.


One of the first goals they set was getting me back into a shoe.
Pretty basic, right?
It actually took three sessions to get the swelling down enough to get my foot into the shoe.  And as you can see by the picture above, I got INTO the shoe but wasn't able to lace it up.  
It was still a HUGE accomplishment for me!  
I hadn't worn a shoe on my right foot since October!



The next goal was to be able to walk with my shoe on (still using my walker).  This was a scary step for me (no pun intended!).  
My boot keeps my foot and ankle stable.  It protects my still fragile suture lines and allows me very good mobility.  Having to give it up is very stressful and somewhat physically painful. This is the focus of my therapy to date, to gain greater strength and flexibility and to learn to walk with a shoe again. 
I am happy to report that as of yesterday, I was able to do these "hurdles" pictured above.  I still had to hold onto the counter to the left for support and use a cane for balance...but I DID IT...TWICE!
Two weeks ago I could barely even move my foot in any direction, and now I can step over obstacles.

It's a BIG DEAL, y'all!

I still have a little over a month in my immediate recovery.  I am hoping and praying that I am able to walk without any assistive devices by the end of May so that I can return to work.
Heck, even if I need a cane I'll still consider it a success!

Thank you, God, for blessing me
much more than I deserve!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Six Week Check In


Compared to my last two posts, I am a whole new person!
Somewhere between the five and six week mark, I finally made the turn in my recovery.  I no longer needed pain medication other than Motrin, my range of motion increased, and the constant "pins and needles" feeling went away except when something was touching my foot...especially my toes.

At my six week check up, the X-rays showed that I had healed well enough to have my cast removed.

CAN I GET AN AMEN?!?!


I got fitted with a tall CAM boot 
and received my orders for physical therapy.
And for the first time, in what seems a very long time, I have hope.
Hope that I will actually walk again normally and without pain. 
This six week mark was huge and life changing for me and it is only by the grace of God and the love of my family that I have made it this far.


The next six weeks of learning to walk again promise to be grueling, 
but the end is in sight.
And I'm going to RUN across that finish line!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

One Month Update


I have some energy so I thought I'd come to this space and write a "one month" update on my progress since triple arthrodesis surgery. 

What a hellacious month it has been!

Pain is front and center of each day.  It wakes me up each morning and I fight it to sleep each night.  There is always a dull ache from mid foot to heel with occasional shooting sharp pains through the inside of my foot.  The numbness has worn off a bit and has been replaced with near constant "pins and needles." It's starting to feel like my foot is waking up and I know the pain is actually healing taking place and nerves re-routing.  



I also had my stitches removed at my one month follow up.  The incisions healed very nicely and I had no bruising.  After a few X-rays, I was moved to a hard, fiberglass cast that feels much better and more stable than the surgical splint I had been in.


Yes, that's me shoving a pair of chop sticks down my cast to scratch an itch.
NO REGRETS!  It's divine!
My mobility is getting better.  I absolutely don't know what I would do without my knee scooter.  Some days I'd like to scrap that scooter for a wheelchair, but I know I need to keep my strength up.

Some things that I've learned this past month:

I've learned I can compromise on cleanliness.
Never in a million years would I think that I wouldn't shower daily...even in the midst of this recovery!  But let me tell you, I have gone days and days without bathing and I've been ok with that!  Thank goodness for baby wipes and dry shampoo!

Little things mean a LOT!
A text from friends, a hot meal, get well cards...
all of these have blessed my heart so much.

As I have surrendered all control of my life,
and it seems as if everyone has survived!
Nobody died because I didn't cook dinner or clean the house.

I raised some pretty awesome human beings!
The kids have really stepped up and taken up the slack I created.
They didn't complain when they've had to miss activities and they've taken such great care of me.

I am truly blessed.

I am making progress day by day, but the progress is slow.
The recovery time on this procedure is about 10 months.  There are good days and bad days.  Today is a pretty good day and I'm thankful for it...and so very thankful that I can come here and vent it all to you!

Pray for me!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

FrankenFoot


 IT IS DONE!


Here I finally sit TWO WEEKS after my surgery.
It's been a really rough two weeks, and quite honestly, I was not prepared for the severity of the pain I endured post op. 
Also, mobility was a way bigger issue than I anticipated.  
Just getting to the bathroom was a monumental task requiring my own personal team of assistants!
So basically, what I've been doing for the past two weeks:
Wake up in pain, hobble to the bathroom, take a hand full of medication/pain pills, sleep for hours, repeat.

The surgery itself went very smoothly.  
Technically I had a:
Triple Arthrodesis
Bone Graft
Achilles Lengthening
And a Realignment of my Hindfoot

In layman's terms:
Fusion of the bones in the top of the foot with a
grinding down of my heel bone to use for "grout" 
as my surgeon would call it.
Cutting my Achilles tendon to lengthen it
And putting a gigantic screw through my heel bone to realign my foot.

Sounds like fun, huh?

Here's what it looks like:

This is NOT my actual foot but this is a picture of the exact surgery I had.

It has taken me this entire two weeks to clear my head of the strong narcotic pain relievers I had been prescribed and to finally be able to be mobile without any assistance. 
Can I say,
may God bless the inventor of the knee scooter!

So that's where I'm at now, slowly getting into a new routine of self care and managing the household as best I can.  Doug and the kids have been AMAZING and I am so thankful they love me so much.

In another week, I get my stitches removed and a fiberglass cast.  
I will remain in the cast until the fusion has healed 
which will take 6-8 weeks.

Now don't feel sorry for me!
I planned for lots of diversional activities 
while on this forced "vacation."

Danny has started baseball season 
and we have a full calendar of games and events.
I have seedlings to start and gardens to plan.
Lent is right around the corner...
suffering might be this year's theme.
And I'm going to teach myself to paint in watercolor.

And of course, I have this space to talk about it all with you!

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Most Important Surgery Prep of All!

 My surgery is happening in just a few days 
and I feel like I'm pretty well prepped.
The house is cleaned, meals are ready in the freezer, 
furniture rearranged for easier mobility, and everyone is clear on their upcoming responsibilities....
ESPECIALLY my seven year old.

She has the most important job of all.

She's in charge of my morning coffee.


Coffee IS life.
And my brain doesn't function until it's adequately caffeinated.  


The nights are going to be long during this recovery.  
I never sleep on my back, much less on my back with my foot elevated in the air.  So this morning cup of coffee will be essential in waking me up, helping me mimic socially acceptable behavior, 
and keeping me out of prison.


And I've taught my girl just how to make the perfect vanilla latte!


Who needs a milk frother when you have an 
energetic seven year old?


We'll work on her "milk art" later...


And VOILA!
Mama's perfect cup of coffee made with a LATTE love!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Nesting...It's taking on a whole new meaning!

My posterior tendon transfer and bone fusion surgery is just a little over a week away.  I find myself constantly thinking about how I'm going to function when this is all done.  I've been cleaning, organizing, rearranging furniture, and now cooking in preparation for being pretty much useless for a few weeks!

They call it "nesting" when a new mother gets ready for a baby.  
I clearly remember doing it in preparation for my little ones. 
 But this time, "nesting" is a whole other monster!  
With having new babies, I very much wanted and needed help and to be taken care of in the first few days.  But with this surgery, I'm frightened by my loss of independence and lack of control.  
Not to mention the literal 'World of Hurt' I'm going to endure. 

BEHOLD THE NEST!
 It's going to be tough, y'all.

So today, the control freak in me prepared some meals for the freezer.  They are inexpensive and easy comfort foods that I quite literally chopped up and put in freezer bags.  They can be dumped into a crockpot to cook all day and I can have a little peace of mind knowing I can still feed my family. 
 Plus, making dinner will be one less burden on Doug.


So how about some recipes?
Pinterest is littered with crock pot recipes that can be frozen ahead of time.  These are just a couple I picked out for our family.  They are super easy, inexpensive, and the prep time was less than 20 minutes!

SOUTHWESTERN HAMBURGER SOUP
2lbs very lean ground beef
2cups beef broth
1 can black beans rinsed and drained
1 can Rotel
1 can sweet corn drained
1 can pinto beans rinsed and drained
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 cup elbow macaroni
Combine all the ingredients except the macaroni in a one gallon zip lock freezer bag.  Remove air and flatten.  Freeze.
To cook, place in crock pot on low for 8 hours.  In the last hour of cooking, add macaroni and cook on high.  To serve, top with cheese.


CHICKEN STEW
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 medium onion chopped
2 cups baby carrots
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 Tbs seasoned salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1.5 lbs red potatoes cut
3 Tbs cornstarch
1/2 cup milk
Combine all ingredients except last two in a one gallon zip lock freezer bag.  Remove air, flatten, and freeze.
To cook, place in crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.  
At the end of cooking time, whisk milk into cornstarch 
and add to stew and cook for 15 minutes on high.


And keep those prayers coming!