Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Easiest Homemade Tomato Sauce. Ever.

There's really only one reason I always hope for extra tomatoes in my garden. Okay, make that two. One is salsa. Two is homemade tomato sauce. I don't usually have much of a bumper crop, so I've only tried the tomato sauce thing once or twice before. This year, between my garden and our CSA, I did have an overabundance of tomatoes, and I was on a mission. You see, I wanted to make homemade tomato sauce that I could use in lasagna and spaghetti and other Italian dishes, but I wanted it to be simple. The recipes I had tried before involved boiling the tomatoes in hot water, followed by a cold water bath so you could remove the skins, and then removal of the seeds...just to then put it all back on the stove to cook for an extended period of time, only to end up with water, soupy sauce, unless I added extra tomato paste. Whew. After some thought and some research, I began to wonder about using my Crock Pot and immersion blender to make tomato sauce, without peeling and de-seeding. I figured if I blended it up, I wouldn't care if the tomato skins were in there, and I don't notice any off-flavor from the seeds. The results of the experiment were delicious, and the method was unbeatably simple!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall Harvest Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

fall harvest salad with maple vinaigrette dressing recipe

I'd really like to say that this salad represents a fall Michigan harvest, but I used avocado, so I can't. Instead, it represents what I had in my possession as far as produce goes and wanting to make a salad for company at the last minute. However, it does have apples and toasted pumpkin seeds and maple dressing -- so I'm going to call it Fall Harvest Salad anyways. Whatever name you want to give it, you will be calling it delicious.  I was a little skeptical of my own creation on this day, but I pleasantly surprised myself -- and some of our family! The salad part is really easy:

Naked Burrito Slillet

naked burrito enchilada skillet recipe with chicken and black beans

Sometimes you just need some easy and delicious comfort food. I had made something similar to this before, but I needed to use some particular ingredients. I had grilled some chicken the night before and had a lot leftover. I also had tomatoes and jalapeños from the CSA that I had to use. Looking for easy, I decided on a skillet dish served over rice for a "naked burrito" type dinner that was simple yet tasty. It's not quite one-pot cooking, because I did make rice separately...but still, easy cleanup!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Onset of Rheumatoid Disease & How I Cope


**This post is a part of the first annual RA Blog Week, spurred on by RADiabetes. For more information and the full list of prompts, click here.

RA Blog Week Day 6 Prompt: "tell us your stories about your diagnosis, what were you thinking, feeling or when did you first know something was wrong?"

Oh, college days of yore...
It was a sunny spring day in 2004.  I was 19 years old, and a happy, healthy college student at Cedarville University in Ohio.  Or so I thought.  It was almost the end of the semester when I noticed that a finger on my left hand was sore -- almost as though I had somehow jammed it.  I didn’t recall doing anything to it, but who knows--I was fairly active.  I ignored this symptom for a while, until I realized that it had been a few weeks and it had still not gone away or gotten any better.  My mom prompted me to make an appointment to see my doctor and find out what she recommended.  Nothing much was accomplished at my first doctor visit.  She simply referred me to a hand specialist.  By this point, I believe college was done for the semester, and I had moved back to Michigan.  I spent the summer living with my dad and babysitting my cousins, while taking courses at the local community college and preparing for a more permanent move to West Michigan.  At some point early in the summer I had my appointment with the hand specialist.  Based on my symptoms, he believed that I had tendinitis.  He prescribed some Naproxen, told me to take it for a few weeks, then he’d see me back.  

Friday, September 25, 2015

To Move Or Not To Move, That Is The Question


**This post is a part of the first annual RA Blog Week, spurred on by RADiabetes. For more information and the full list of prompts, click here.

RA Blog Week Day 5 Prompt: "Exercise and RA – write about your favorite exercise. What do you like about it, and what keeps you going? Maybe you like to run marathons or do finger exercises. Perhaps you love to walk, or maybe stretching is your cup of tea. Maybe you are tired of being told to exercise? Give your readers the rundown on what does or does not move you."

I call this my "conquering RD" photo - a
successfully pain-free backpacking trip on
Isle Royale National Park
I've seen the issue of exercising with Rheumatoid Disease hotly debated. There's a huge push from most health organizations to exercise because it is good for your joints and will ultimately help you move better. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. I know a lot of people with RD who say exercise helps them tremendously. I also know a lot of people who say if they try to do any real exercise, they will end up in bed for a week reaping the repercussions. According to a survey of over 1,400 RA patients, conducted by the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation, 67% of respondents said that physical activity actually caused their RA pain to increase. Only 18% said physical activity caused their RA pain to decrease. So, what's the deal with exercise?

Here's the way I look at it: exercise is good for the body in so many ways, and an active lifestyle is of course healthy -- if your body is in proper condition to do it. But you have to listen to your body. For me, I can usually tell the difference between various types of pain caused by rheumatoid disease. There's the stiff, achiness that sometimes infects my joints and makes it difficult to move. In this state, I find that moving and stretching does, in fact, loosen up my joints and help me feel better. This is like the traditional "morning stiffness" that many people with rheumatoid disease experience (though not always in the morning!). Moving around and just getting on with everyday tasks often helps loosen me up and get me to feeling better. Unless...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

5 Things I've Learned Through Life with Rheumatoid Disease


**This post is a part of the first annual RA Blog Week, spurred on by RADiabetes. For more information and the full list of prompts, click here.

RA Blog Week Day 4 Prompt: "Five things I have learned – write about the five things you have learned about yourself, or RA. Perhaps you have learned what things like physical pain, injections, or morning fatigue are like? Perhaps you have learned new things about yourself?"

I think it's often true that the difficult times in our lives are the most formative and provide the greatest opportunities to grow and learn as a person. Life with rheumatoid disease certainly provides ample trials, but it is up to me to learn something and somehow become a better person because of them. Here are five things that I have learned from and/or about rheumatoid disease:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rheumatoid Disease Update: The Eyes Have It

Rick Phillips of RADiabetes has put out the challenge to participate in "RA Blog Week" this week. While I'm not sure I can commit to writing a post per day, I figured I should at least get something published! More about RA Blog Week and the list of prompts can be found here. I have a few posts that I will be recycling, and today (Day 2) I'm opting to do a "wildcard" post and choose my own topic: a health update!

It's been a while since I have written a rheumatoid disease update. There's a *good* reason for that: there hasn't been a whole lot of change the past couple of years! My pain and inflammation have remained steadily low on the Hydroxychloroquine and weekly Humira treatment combination.  I do still take Naproxen as needed - but it's about once a day or every other day.  I am very grateful for the time I've had without much pain. My wrists are really the only thing that have still bothered me, and I'm pretty certain most of the pain there is from permanent damage. Actual, active disease activity is pretty low. Praise the Lord.
I was going for a picture that focused on my
eyes, but I think what I got was: Bobblehead.

However, I have had a new development in Rheumatoid Disease (RD) symptoms this year: the eyes have it. This is just one common example of how rheumatoid "arthritis" is a misleading term -- you can't have arthritis of the eye, as it's an organ, not a joint -- but RD can still affect it. I have known for some time that many people with RD also develop Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body's moisture-producing glands, creating symptoms like Dry Eye. I had never had eye problems before and while I think the symptoms slowly crept up without me noticing, eventually it hit hard and strong. 

My husband and I were enjoying the company of some friends, eating dinner and playing board games. In the middle of the game I had that very distinct feeling of something (like an eyelash) in my eye. I kept going to the bathroom and looking in the mirror, but there was nothing there. But there had to be. I could feel it. Come to find out, dry eye can cause that same sensation. I was due to have my eyes checked since I'm on hydroxychloroquine anyways, so I scheduled an appointment. In the days leading up to my appointment, my eye symptoms continued, though not as severe. The ophthalmologist was confident that it was the rheumatoid disease attacking my tear ducts and causing the problem. He told me that the symptoms must have come on slowly, because both eyes were very dry, and if it had come on suddenly, I would have been extremely uncomfortable. Instead, it was more of an irritation -- my eyes felt strained and tired, sometimes they hurt slightly, and occasionally I would get that sensation of a foreign object in the eye.  The ophthalmologist prescribed Restasis eyedrops for me, which I immediately began taking -- meanwhile the dry eye symptoms were becoming more prominent and now I could feel it in both eyes.

It took a few months for the Restasis to fully kick in, and I developed some other problems along the way. Just as my eyes were starting to feel better during the day, I kept waking up with what felt like my eyelids glued to my eyeballs. They were SO hard to open. I mentioned my eye symptoms to my rheumatologist while I was there, and I now have a Sjogren's Symptom diagnoses added to my medical chart.

And then, my eyelids got inflamed. It looked and felt like dermatitis and my top lids swelled up around the bottom edges. After trying to combat that on my own for a while, I finally made another trip to the ophthalmologist who confirmed that I had blepharitis: inflamed eyelids. I was then prescribed a treatment regiment of eyelid washing, hot compresses and an antibiotic/steroid ointment. Whew. After a couple of weeks of that, my eyes are finally back to mostly normal. I am continuing the Restasis, though don't always take it twice a day anymore, and I am keeping eye on those lids! Er, a lid on those eyes? You know what I mean.

While the eye issues have been an annoyance, I would take that any day over the joint pain I've had in the past.