May 26, 2013

Brrrr. . . it's cold out there!

Things to do on a super soggy and unseasonably cold long weekend - delve into your next armchair adventurer book, spend countless hours getting your next vacation's itinerary well under way, remove every single item from your refrigerator and freezer to do a deep cleaning and reorganization, remove all of the camping totes from the closet and go through each and every item in each and every tote, watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (again), build a huge pile of items to bring out to the road for a Craig's List Curb Alert as soon as the rain passes, even more greatly than usual enjoy Body Sensing and Yoga Nidra knowing you don't have to bust your butt later in the day getting ready for work and school the next morning.  :)

Things to NOT do on a super soggy and unseasonably cold long weekend - dust, clean the sinks, scrub the toilets, shine the showers, vacuum, change sheets, wash clothes.  :))

May 12, 2013

I admit it. . .

I hate Mother's Day.  If I could abolish it, I would - because frankly, it seems to me like it's some sort of cruel joke.  Every single Mother's Day, I get to do all of my typical "chores".  There's no celebration, there's no day off, there's never been a breakfast in bed or even a special trip out for breakfast.  Nope.  I get up and make breakfast for others, clean up, do laundry, get groceries (and carry them all in and put them away without help), pick up the house, prepare food for the upcoming week, do some more laundry, make dinner, clean up again, etc.  

I'm going to say it.  

It sucks.  It really truly sucks. 

Should I be thankful that I have this blessed opportunity to be a mom?  Sure, and in general I am.  But on one stinkin' day of the year, it sure would be nice if my family were thankful for what I do day in and day out - and actually showed it.  

The only good thing about it used to be talking to my own mom on the telephone, and this is the third year now I haven't been able to do that.  

So there you have it.  All this day is to me now is a very painful reminder that my mother is no longer here and a reminder of how many unappreciated tasks I still have to attend to.  Which I'm going to go do right now.

May 4, 2013

My other autoimmune ailment. . .

Guttate Psoriasis.

guttate-psoriasis

Ugh.  That's one of the most non-disturbing pictures I was able to find of the lesions, and I can still hardly stand to look at it.  Brings back a lot of terrible memories.  Guttate is from the Latin word mean "drop", and apparently it was decided to call this type of psoriasis "guttate" because someone (or someones) a long time ago thought it looked like the person was out in the rain and got a lesion where every drop of water fell.  Something like that anyway.

One to three percent of the population has some form of psoriasis, and guttate is a rare form of psoriasis, with only about 2% of psoriasis "sufferers" having this particular type.  Most of us are familiar with the more common chronic plaque psoriasis.  This is the same general disease manifested quite differently.  The lesions aren't as thick and large but tend to be much more widespread on the body.  The plaque lesions are usually in patches; the guttate lesions are in "drops".  The plaques lesions tend to be chronic; the guttate lesions tend to appear as acute outbreaks.

While it can certainly be considered a skin disease, it's actually an autoimmune disorder.  The immune system gets messed up and starts having the body produce new skin at a much faster rate than the body can shed the old skin, and the new skin stacks up on itself causing lesions.  
 ". . . special white blood cells called T-cells become overactive. These T-cells "attack" the skin and set off a cascade of events that make the skin cells multiply so fast they start to stack up on the surface of the skin. Normal skin cells form, mature, then are sloughed off every 30 days. But in psoriasis the skin goes through this whole process in 3-6 days." (http://dermatology.about.com/od/psoriasisbasics/a/psorcause.htm)
 Sounds nice, huh?  Yeah.

I experienced my first acute outbreak nearly eight years ago.  At first, I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something in the shampoo I was using because I started to get itchy sores on my head.  I didn't think much of it, assuming it would self-correct after discontinuing use of the shampoo.  It didn't.  I ended up having lesions covering almost my entire body, head to toe.  The ones all over my head started to bleed.  To categorize it as awful would be quite an understatement.  It was hell. 

Unfortunately, that first case took a good six months to get under control, and I was MISERABLE.  Every night, I would lie awake feeling the terribleness of new lesions forming.  Literally, in the morning, I knew without even looking where I had new lesions.  My life consisted of cool vinegar soaks, coal tar oil baths, severe headaches from the strong vinegar and coal tar smells, and multiple times a day slathering my whole body with sticky icky steroid gel.  I hated going out and when I did, I covered as much of my body up as I could.  I now have a generous supply of turtlenecks.  

At some point, I started going to the dermatologist's office five times a week for UV therapy.  (It's kind-of like a megastrong tanning unit with none of the "harmful" rays blocked, and the light is SO strong I was never able to stay in the "box" for longer than 1 1/2 minutes a visit without burning.)  Any slight irritation or stress to my body (even being in too warm of a room) would cause the lesions to become more inflamed and irritated.  I remember at one point going to the dermatologist and his breathing an audible sigh of relief when he saw me.  He said he had been worrying all morning and was nervous about seeing my condition; he was so relieved that I was actually starting to show some improvement.  I had some mixed feelings that day - thrilled I WAS starting to show improvement but sad that even my doctor had been nervous about looking at me.  :(

Quick, funny story.  The first time I got my steroid gel, the dermatologist prescribed a large quantity for me.  When I went to pick it up, the dermatologist was quiet for a moment and then looked up at me from his glasses.  He said slowly "this is a very big tub of steroid treatment".  Without hesitation, I said "that's good because I have a *very* big problem".  Hee hee.  I always smile when I recall that exchange.

Definitely the first outbreak was the worst, but I've had a couple other pretty bad ones since then as well.  The big difference is now that I'm aware of my own triggers and always keep an eye open for the very earliest signs, I feel like I have some control over it and at any sign of lesions whatsoever, I start treatment immediately.  It doesn't get resolved immediately, unfortunately, because the lesions seem to need to go through some sort of full cycle (which takes at least a month), but these days I'm pretty adept at keeping it under control.  At one point, my dermatologist and I had talked with each other and with my health insurance company about installing a medical UV treatment "box" in my home (that's how frequently I've needed to go to his office for treatment!), but so far, so good.  Things haven't gotten *that* bad *that* regularly.

Instead, nowadays I spent quite a bit of time sunbathing.  With no sunscreen.  At first, I thought my dermatologist had lost his mind when he suggested I do that because we are always told to use sunscreen, limit our time in the sun, keep our skin covered, etc.  I was, of course, concerned about getting skin cancer.  He said that the sun's damaging effect on most people is that it thins the skin, which is precisely what my body needs because it produces too much skin.  He said that instead of the sun's causing my skin to become abnormal, that I'm so far out on the other end of the spectrum it brings my skin back to normal.  So during the warmer, sunny months I'm pretty much fine because I make sure to spend a lot of time in the sun.  Every year, though, I muscle my way through the last half of winter, becoming increasingly desperate for strong sunshine as I slowly have to work harder and harder to keep this beast at bay.  If you see someone downtown laying out in public view in a small 2-piece bathing suit during lunchtime on the year's first real warm days, there's a good chance that's me.  Yep, I become that desperate.  If in the future, the struggle to make it through the winter becomes overly difficult, I'll probably end up moving to a warmer climate just so I can have enough sun year round.

Why am I mentioning all of this now?  Well, because after the trip to DC that proved to be somewhat of a stress to my system, I had an acute outbreak of the guttate psoriasis covering my entire back.  Remember I came home, slept a ton of hours, and then could barely function the next day?  It was that next morning I woke up with it, and it was quite depressing.  Being the end of winter, I was already fussing with a few relatively mild lesions starting to make their appearance, but the stress on my body of the trip apparently put those T-cells over the edge.  

I doubt it's a coincidence that I have both of these guttate psoriasis and colitis issues, but I'm very intrigued about how they may be related.  Is there an actual connection between them or is my immune system just so inherently messed up that I'm going to keep becoming inflicted with weird ailments and having to figure out ways to deal with them?  It's one of my top "I wonder. . . " questions.

April 24, 2013

We have a winner!

We went down to NYC for a couple of nights to hang out a little bit, go on a tour of the Brookdale Dorm, and attend the Macaulay at Hunter Accepted Students Day. It was, eee, okay. The dorm was in worse shape than we had anticipated, and since it's scheduled to be demolished in two years, I'm assuming they're not going to be worrying about it too much - so the way it is now is likely as good as it'll get. We loved *everything* Macaulay, but we didn't quite love much about Hunter. The general facilities are just a bit sad looking, and we were disappointed (and surprised) that they didn't show us ANY of the academic facilities. We didn't get to see a single classroom, they brought us to and talked to us outside of the library door but wouldn't let us even look in, and when asked even about the Macaulay Lounge on campus we were told it was "under construction" and that we couldn't see it. We were concerned. Hmmm. . . They also didn't have department rep areas at the event, so we didn't get to talk with any of the professors he would theoretically be taking classes with. We did like all of the students we heard from and met. They were very nice, and I kept thinking what good role models they would be for Julian. Unfortunately, though, he didn't feel any real connection to them and I concur that he seemed very "different" than the rest of the group. Not that I don't think of Julian as a good kid, but they just all seemed like REALLY good kids in a different sort of way (if that makes any sense). We happened to spend some time talking to the Macaulay advisor who interviewed Julian, and she was very sweet, so that was nice. 

So the next week, we had two visits scheduled - one up in Saratoga Springs at Skidmore (Thursday) and one down in Annandale-on-Hudson at Bard (Saturday). 

On Wednesday night, completely out of the blue, Julian and I each got an e-mail from University of Vermont (where he had back in December been accepted and invited to join the Honors College) saying the president and senior staff had committed more merit money to a select group of first year students and that Julian had been selected for one of the additional awards. Oh my goodness - what a surprise! I knew I was supposed to be delighted, but I actually felt like crying because the process was already overwhelming enough without this twist thrown in at the 11th hour. We loved UVM but it was just too expensive, the most expensive of the entire bunch, so we had put it in the "definite no" bucket. With the extra merit money, though, the cost was brought down right in between Skidmore and Bard. They only had one more Accepted Students Day planned - for FRIDAY! - so we signed up last-minute for it! 

On Thursday, we went up to Skidmore, and Julian didn't like it at all - thought it felt "too refined". I thought it seemed like a pretty pleasant place, but he put it at the bottom of the list (not of just the finalists but of ALL the colleges). Yikes! 

We went home, quickly packed, and headed up to Burlington - didn't get in until after 10 PM and were at UVM's registration at 8 AM the next morning. (Starting to feel pretty tired by this point!) Spent the day there and we loved it as much as the first time we visited. The faculty were terrific - very bright but seemingly laid back at the same time. We got to spend almost an hour in the Philosophy Department with two of the professors, and Julian really liked them a lot. We also spent some time learning about the Honors College and what that all entailed, and we liked that too. We ate in the little cafe nearest where the honors kids live, and he was thrilled to be able to order a fresh made-to-order fruit smoothie and to pick up a few locally-made baked goods to bring home for his siblings. We also walked into the downtown area, which is a real delight. (And of course, being sandwiched in between the Adirondack Mountains on the west and the Green Mountains on the east right next to Lake Champlain doesn't hurt!) 

We drove home after the UVM events and were ready to hit the road again at 8 AM the next morning to visit Bard. (I was seriously starting to wonder if this madness really did have an end!) It was so sad. We had absolutely LOVED Bard when we visited in the fall, but we weren't feeling so much love on this second visit. They had a faculty panel, and we also got to meet personally with a couple philosophy and music professors. They all seemed nice enough and were clearly very bright, but there was just an air of intellectual arrogance that we neither appreciated nor enjoyed. Julian is totally laid back and extremely modest, and that is something he doesn't identify with at all. Halfway through the day, he said that we may as well go home because he had decided he wanted to attend UVM!! 

Can you believe that story?! It's like we went full circle. He'll be attending a college we loved but had definitely ruled out due to cost. UVM was the first campus we visited, the first he applied to, and the first one to accept him! I cannot believe it, but it feels very right. I definitely think he's making the best decision, but it's just so bizarre how we ended up at it!

April 14, 2013

Macaulay at Hunter -

 

So on Wednesday, DS(17) Julian and I took the Megabus down to New York City.  It was an inexpensive and pleasant ride, and we'll definitely keep it in mind for future trips we might take down to the city.  The bus drops all of its passengers off in mid-Manhattan at 7th Ave and 28th Street.  It was dark and raining when we arrived, and we were slightly discombobulated at first, especially since the area was very crowded, but we quickly got our bearings about us and started heading in the right direction.  If it had been earlier in the day and not raining, we likely would have just walked the nearly two miles to our hotel.  But since we still needed to eat dinner and since our luggage and J's guitar case (yes, of course he brought his guitar with him) were getting wet, we opted to take a taxi.  There are approximately a zillion taxis in NYC, right?  So hard can it be to hail one?  Harder than you might think if you're not used to doing it!  We tried peering in all of the tinted back windows as the taxis drove by to see whether or not they might be available, and not surprisingly, that didn't work very well.  In the meantime, we kept walking briskly in the direction of the hotel (which was over on Lexington between 50th and 51st Streets), trying to avoid rolling our suitcases through big puddles, and *finally* I remembered how to tell whether or not a taxi is available.  The light - pun intended! - went on.  If the taxi's number is lit up (on the vehicle's rooftop), it's available.  When passengers are picked up, the driver turns the light off so you know it's not available.  Well. . . that knowledge certainly made getting a taxi a lot easier!  Yeah, yeah, we could have just stood out in the street with an arm raised high, but if you know me and J, you know that's not in our introverted nature!  :)

Settling into the hotel and dinner and all of that went fine.  The next morning after breakfast, we headed down and over 25 and 3 blocks, respectively, to the Brookdale Residence Hall he would live in if he were to accept the Macaulay at Hunter offer of admission.  I don't know.  I really don't know.  Some things about it are great, but overall it just isn't in very good condition.  One of the biggest highlights is that he'd have a single room, which is amazing - and the rooms looked to actually be in good shape.

Student Dorm Room

It's a cute little room, and the furniture can be moved around so the space can be individualized.  The bed can also be lifted up so there is more storage space underneath it.  Personally, I would find it comfy and cozy and pleasant.  J found it a little on the small side, but I assured him we could help him to make it a fantastic space.

One of the other particularly great things about the dorm is that it has a really neat courtyard out front that is blocked off from the road.  So in a fairly large area between the street and the building itself are sitting benches, picnic tables, tennis courts, and just open space.  It would be neat to be in Manhattan but still have a protected outdoor area right outside your building's door to hang out in.

The biggest downside is that the building itself feels pretty run-down, and I don't think that's a misconception.  They only plan to keep it open for two more years, and then they're going to demolish it.  That leads me to assume they're only going to be doing minimal upkeep to simply ensure it's operational.  Each floor has a lounge and a kitchen, but they're truly not nice at all.  I'm not worried about where he would live afterward because his acceptance into the program comes with guaranteed housing, and I'm trusting they'll work it out. 

While we were on the dorm tour, DH was driving down to meet up with us.  He ended up totally missing the dorm tour, and so we met up with him at the hotel.  By that point, it was pretty much time to head straight up Lexington to 68th for the formal Macaulay at Hunter accepted students event.  Hunter is located in a fabulous part of the city.  It's in a relatively quiet area and only a few blocks away from Central Park.  The college president talked to all of us first, and I think she did a great job making us all feel terrific.  She talked about how Hunter has quite a few gems but that Macaulay is its very top gem and that it is a special program that is VERY well taken care of.  She also shared that they only accepted 15% of the applicants this year.

At some point, they separated parents from prospective students and we had our own agendas.  We parents got to hear from a faculty and administrative panel and from a student panel.  The current students on the panel as well as those we met informally during other times that evening were delightful.  They were all bright and inquisitive and seemingly hard-working.  I came away thinking that the kids in the Macaulay program clearly serve as good role models for each other.

Every single aspect of the "Macaulay" portion of the program sounds fabulous.  It's the "at Hunter" part of the program that gives us a little concern.  A few of the students talked about having classes with a couple hundred students.  Yikes!  We were not expecting that because all of the literature stresses the intimate nature of the program.  I think I'm going to call this week and try talking to one of the advisers to get a sense of just how many classes we could expect to be that large.  Also, most of the Hunter buildings in general felt almost shabby.  Some aspects of them felt downright depressing.  And. . . on the parents' tour, they didn't show us ANY of the actual academic facilities.  We didn't get shown one single classroom.  Why?  And they took us to outside of the library and told us what was in it, but they wouldn't open the door and let us actually see it.  Why?  They're supposed to have a special Macaulay Lounge on the campus, and again they told us about it but didn't show it to us.  Why?  Do they not think it would make a difference or do they purposely not want us to see these things for some reason??? 

After the Macaulay at Hunter event ended, we on our own walked across Central Park to the lone Macaulay building, which is right on the other side of the park.  That building is simply lovely.  Inviting, comfortable, and clearly well taken care of.  As a Macaulay student, he would be able to spend as much time there as he wanted, and as a Macaulay at Hunter student, it would be very convenient for him to go there every day if he wanted.  He could easily head over there to study in between his classes, and it would be a thousand times more pleasant of an environment to be in than what we saw in the Hunter buildings.  Of course, maybe there are equally pleasant environments at Hunter.  We don't know.  But if there are, why wouldn't they have shown them to us?!

(Macaulay stock photos)
    
hallway 02  Macaulay Honors College students  working on a project last year at the  Manhattan campus.

So it was a good trip.  It was an important trip.  But I don't know that we're any closer to having a final decision made.  Skidmore's acceptance was the last that came in, and they gave him a pretty generous financial aid package.  I really, really, really like the feel so far of Skidmore for him, and we're planning to spend a day up there this week.  We'll see how that goes, and then we're scheduled to visit Bard again on Saturday.

As is J's style, he's thinking he won't make a final decision until the very last day possible.  I love this kid, but sometimes he drives he a little nutty.

April 13, 2013

My first real travels with this new ailment of mine

Have been super busy lately.  Last week, I was in Washington, D.C. for a work conference.  I went down by myself (i.e. with no husband or children - woo hoo, right?!) and envisioned that it would be a nice, relaxing week, but the conference was mentally very tiring!  I did get to spend some time the first two evenings with a very close friend of mine, so that was a very nice bonus.  And on my lunch breaks as well as in the evenings, I would scoot down to the mall (walking kind, not shopping kind!), museum, and memorial areas to check things out.  It's a nice city but definitely very hectic!  

I brought a huge suitcase with me for four nights, and my friend asked why I would need such a large one.  To cart all of my special food, of course!!  Yes, I brought my chicken feet broth with me!  A colleague and I spent some time brainstorming how I was going to pack everything up, and we did a great job coming up with a solution that worked beautifully.  I put the broth into plastic containers (an empty seltzer bottle and a Tupperware freezer container) and then put them in the freezer here at home before the trip.  When it came time to pack, I put them in plastic bags wrapped tightly around them and tied shut.  I used those containers as well as those little freezer packs to keep my other perishable food cold during the trip down.  I ended up packing the food and freezer packs into lunch packs and then those in a small soft-sided travel bag and then that in another large plastic bag.  (Okay, so maybe I was slightly paranoid about leakage, but seriously, can you imagine the mess of broth leaking all over your clothes during a flight?!)  Worked like a charm.  So I had my broth, goat's milk probiotic drinks, raw milk cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, coconut water, green tea bags, honeycomb, crackers, granola bars, bananas, clementines, super probiotics, and digestive enzymes.  (This was the first time I've tried the digestive enzymes, but I've read a few places that if you have GI issues and need to travel, it's a good idea to take them along.)  The only staple missing was the super-incubated homemade yogurt.  Since homemade yogurt doesn't like to be fussed with, though, I hoped that with the goat's milk probiotic beverages and the mega probiotics, I'd be fine for one week.  I had contacted the hotel in advance about my medical/dietary issues, and they very nicely provided me with a microwave in my room for the week.  (The rooms already came standard with a refrigerator.)

I even brought epsom salts with me and one night took a long hot bath with them before bed.

Can you believe that I still actually ended up having some problems?!  I don't know if it was due to anything in particular or if it was just a bunch of little things that added up.  I do get motion sickness from flying, I did add Bonine to my system, I did eat out one meal every day, I did sit on a relatively uncomfortable banquet chair hour after hour after hour, I did rush around at a very non-leisurely rate when I had free time, etc.  Anyway, most of the week wasn't that bad, but on the last day I went downhill rather quickly.  When I got home, I slept for a sound 10 1/2 hours, and then I spent the entire next day on the couch - without changing my clothes, combing my hair, or brushing my teeth - just lying as still as possible.  All.  Day.  Long.  Altogether, it took me about three days to get feeling back to my new normal.

So was that a successful trip or not?  I think it was, just not one with flying colors.  In any event, it was important because I really do need to figure out how various things are going to affect me now.  My dream would have been for me to not have any problems whatsoever, but alas, it confirmed that I really do have a problem that may well be with me for longer than I'd like.

And just a couple days after arriving home from that trip, I started packing up for the next one.  This time to New York City, but I'll write about that tomorrow because right now, I need to go to sleep!

March 31, 2013

How the college crumbs fall

Well, the good news is that we're done with the college selection, application, and notification process!  YAY!!

The bad news is that we're still figuring out which college J will be attending in the fall.

Here are the options (even if they're not REALLY all options) in alphabetical order:

Bard College  ::  Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Bennington College  ::  North Bennington, VT
Goucher College  ::  Towson (suburb of Baltimore), MD
Hampshire College  ::  Amherst, MA
Macaulay Honors College at Hunter (CUNY)  ::  New York, NY
New College of Florida  ::  Sarasota, FL
New Paltz (SUNY)  ::  New Paltz, NY
Skidmore College  ::  Saratoga Springs, NY
University of Vermont  ::  Burlington, VT


Bennington, Hampshire, and UVM are pretty much out due to net cost.  Goucher is pretty much out because the net cost, even with a $20,000/year merit scholarship, doesn't seem worth it over the others left on the table.  (Sorry, Goucher - we still love you anyway.)  It's hard to believe that even with that big of a merit scholarship, the price still doesn't compare favorably with some of the other "better" schools.  For sure, this is a wild ride!

We have one piece of the puzzle left, and that's the financial aid package for Bard.  Ugh!  They're not sending the packages out until the week of April 8th (that's SO late!).  He got accepted way back in December, and this long wait for the financial info is frustrating.  Bard has always been at the very top of J's list, so the long wait is especially frustrating.  <sigh>

So who does that leave?  Macaulay, New College of Florida, New Paltz, and Skidmore.  

Macaulay would offer tremendous opportunities that not a lot of kids get and it's a terrific deal financially, but one has to admit it's also a little intimidating - moving down to Manhattan at 18 years old and meeting the requirements of the program (honors courses, minimum GPA requirement, community service hours).  We're going down for a few days in a couple of weeks to spend some time meeting students, touring the campus, looking at the dorm, taking the subway between the dorm and main campus, etc., so that should either make him feel much more comfortable or freak him out.  LOL

New College of Florida is totally awesome and is quite a deal for what it offers.  Unfortunately, it's farther away than J would like to be, so it's having trouble competing against the viable options closer to home.  

New Paltz is one of the better and "hotter" SUNY schools, but it's always been far down on J's list.  Unfortunately, that Open House last fall just didn't leave the best impression.  In hindsight, sometimes I wonder if we should have picked another one or two SUNY schools for him to apply to, but I still can't really envision another one being a better fit for him than New Paltz. 

And Skidmore.  Skidmore has a great academic program and a fabulous location (who DOESN'T love Saratoga?!), but we have a bit of concern about the student mix - <ahem> that he'd be thrown in with a whole lot of really rich kids.  I don't know how big of a deal that is, but I don't think I'd love being thrown into a round-the-clock environment where the vast majority of folks around me had significantly more wealth.  It just seems like it might not be the best fit.  I don't know though.  Maybe that doesn't matter so much???

Realistically, it seems to me that we're for the most part looking at either Macaulay or Bard, contingent on the financial aid Bard offers, and that Skidmore and New College of Florida are still in the picture but for the time being off on the sideline.

One thing I DO know for sure?  I will be so relieved when the final decision has been made!  Hopefully soon, hopefully soon, hopefully soon. . .

March 30, 2013

My chicken feet and bone broth. . .

This post is also for Kristi and for anyone else interested in what exactly is in this broth I think is miraculous.  To give credit where credit is due, the original recipe for it is from Rubin and Brasco's book "Restoring Your Digestive Health".  I started out following the original recipe, but over time, I've developed my own method so that's what I'll share.  

For the most part, I wing this one now too.  If you don't feel comfortable winging it, buy the book and follow their specific instructions.  :)

a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 whole chicken or carcass - I use what happens to be available at Greenmarket (a.k.a. our local farmers market), what I have on hand, and/or what I simply feel like using given the situation of the day
chicken organs (if available)
2-4 chicken feet (if using a carcass, I'll use 4; if using a whole chicken, I'll use 3; I'll only use 2 if my stash is running low)
several spoonfuls of coconut oil 
4-5 inch long piece of ginger root
2-3 onions
the equivalent of ~6 medium sized carrots
5-6 big cloves of garlic
1 bunch of celery
2 zucchini squash

NOTE:  I believe very deeply in eating organic foods as much as possible.  All of the ingredients I use besides the apple cider vinegar and ginger root are organic. I also believe very deeply that if one is going to eat animals and animal products, that every attempt should be made to ensure the animals that had their lives taken were at least treated humanely while alive.  As an aside, I also believe that those animals are healthier and, in turn, better for OUR health if we are going to eat them.

*********************

I've learned that roasting the chicken first adds a very nice flavor to the broth.  A huge bonus is that we can eat the chicken for a meal, and there's still plenty left to make great broth.  At first, I followed the recipe instructions and was putting a whole, raw chicken into the soup pot, but it just seemed like a very inefficient use of the chicken.  I buy my chickens at the Greenmarket.  They're not given drugs, they're free-range, they're well-fed, they're treated humanely, they're healthy.  The roasting chickens also happen to be quite expensive.  Roasting chickens are the best because you get a great meal out of the chicken, but the farmer will sometimes have available inexpensive stewing chickens (meat would be too tough to eat) and/or inexpensive carcasses that can be used for making the broth.  I don't think a purchased carcass gives the broth the same flavor as a whole stewing chicken or the carcass that's left over from a roasted chicken (maybe too many bones missing??), but I try to keep a couple carcasses on hand in the freezer because they're easy to use and they don't take up too much room.

So. . . I will roast a roasting or stewing chicken at 375F until it's done.  If it's a roasting chicken, we eat the meat we want as part of a meal and then use whatever is left for the broth.  If it's a stewing chicken, I use the entire bird for the broth.  I typically don't roast a purchased carcass first, but that's because if I'm using one of them it's typically because I'm short on time anyway.  Ideally, I think I'd roast that first too though.

To prepare the chicken feet, I bring a pot of water to a boil, and then I boil the feet for about 5 minutes.  I'm not sure what that actually does, but I've read in several places to do it, so I do.  I assume it kills any germs that may be in the foot crevices since I'm guessing chickens don't spend a lot of time making sure to avoid stepping in their own and their buddies' poop.  It also seems to release any stray feathers or other things you probably don't want in your broth.  I've also read about cutting off the toes at the first knuckle and removing the skin.  Initially, I did those things, but I don't anymore.  I've learned that after a couple hours of cooking, the feet become so tender that all you need to do is use any old utensil to press the toes against the side of the pot and break them apart.  I also don't really know why you'd need to skin them.  It seems to me that the skin must offer even more collagen that we want in the final broth, and again, after a couple hours of cooking, it easily falls right off.  And besides all of that, the process of cutting off all of the toes and skinning the feet is not a particularly pleasant one.  Boiled chicken feet smell - and not very good.  Cutting off the toes isn't so much of a problem, but skinning those feet really seems to release their odor.  Take my advice - just don't worry about it.

While all of the above is happening, I leave the organs sitting on a plate waiting patiently.  If I were using a typical grocery-store chicken, I would NOT use the organs.  Actually, I don't think I would make this with a typical grocery-store chicken at all because of the treatment-of-the-chickens issue, but if that's all you have available to you, I would never recommend using the organs because of the level of toxins potentially concentrated in them.  

By this time, all of my veggies have at some point been chopped.  For efficiency's sake, I will often chop all of the veggies the night before and keep them overnight in a huge mixing bowl in the refrigerator.  Don't worry about how they look!  It doesn't matter!  These days, I don't even wash any of the vegetables.  They're all organic, so I know they don't have any toxic chemicals on them.  And any bacteria and such will be destroyed during the cooking process.  If I weren't using organic for some reason, I would either scrub the hell out of them or peel them all.  It takes a while to chop this many vegetables.  My friend and neighbor says that a big food processor can do the job quickly, but I don't have one and I don't have interest in buying one.  Oh well.  Anyway, I expedite the process as much as I can.  For the celery, I don't even break the stalks apart.  I just put the entire bunch on the cutting board and start slicing them all at once, leaves and all.  For the carrots, I don't peel them.  I just cut them in half or fourths lengthwise (depending on how fat they are) and then slice them up.  Really, it doesn't matter.  Just get everything cut up into pieces however is most convenient.  

The original recipe calls for grating the ginger root.  The first couple of times, I painstakingly peeled the ginger root and then grated it.  Now I don't even peel it.  I just score the outside and cut the root up into as many small pieces as I reasonably can.

So finally we're ready to get the broth started!

I put the chicken feet and the chicken into a soup pot and cover them up with water.  Then I pour in a little bit of apple cider vinegar.  Apparently, when the bones soak in vinegar, they more readily break down and will release more minerals and collagen/gelatin.  I've read to soak them anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.  I usually soak on the low end simply because I can only plan to stay awake and work on this for so many hours in one day!

After 10-15 minutes of soaking, I add in the organs, all of the vegetables, and several spoonfuls of coconut oil (which is supposed to have "amazing" health benefits).  I add enough water to cover it all.  (The original recipe calls for 3 quarts of water; I measured it out at first, but especially since I use the same pot every time, I know to simply fill mine up to the tippy top.)  Time to bring it to boil for a minute or so.  I don't know for certain, but I'm guessing that the reasoning is the same as with the yogurt - to kill any bacteria that may be lurking around.  And then it simmers for about 12 hours.  The original recipe calls for it to simmer for 12-24 hours, but I don't feel comfortable leaving the burner on when we're sleeping, so I usually only get 12 hours in.  I've read that some people put it in a crock pot so it can cook longer and when no one is at home, but I haven't tried that yet.

During the next 12 hours, I stir the pot every once in a while.  After a couple of hours, as I mentioned above, I easily with any utensil cut the toes into pieces, leaving the claws right there in the pot.  I also start stripping skin off and maybe cutting the organs into a few pieces.  Several hours in, I start fishing bones out and breaking them into pieces.  THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROCESS!  Look at the picture below.  Do you see all of that bone marrow?!  It's very healthy!  The more you can pull out and into the broth, the better!  I break the little bones as well as the big ones, and if I find a lot of marrow, I might try splitting the bone down the side and scraping out as much as I can.


After 12 hours, I have a pot of "something" that smells awesome but that, truthfully, doesn't look all that appetizing.  The veggies are super squishy, claws and swaths of skin are floating about, and feet are shriveled balls.

The original recipe calls for removing the bones and feet and eating the rest as soup.  So the first two times I made this, that is what I did.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Do you have any idea how long it takes to try picking out everything that isn't edible after it's all been cooking for SO long?!  (Of course, it was a little bit easier than it would be now because the original recipe doesn't call for breaking apart the toes or bones and it doesn't specifically call for the organs, but it was still QUITE a process.)  So pretty quickly, I decided that wasn't going to work for me.  What DOES work for me is to strain the soup, throw away all of the solids, and save the broth.  I store it in various sized glass food containers, putting some of them in the refrigerator and some of them in the freezer.  

 http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-qMdpIxUF-Xc/USq4XYgK5SI/AAAAAAAAAD8/b6x1SfEVFWo/s1600/IMG_2140%5B1%5D.JPG

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-MKxcUyPanbE/USq41pf_z1I/AAAAAAAAAEE/rwx4ldqV294/s1600/IMG_2139%5B1%5D.JPG

The fat will separate and settle into a thick layer at the top.  I do not, would not, could not ever throw this part of the broth away.  

 http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hUSpVMiumoY/UTVX1jCrZrI/AAAAAAAAAEc/5-KoFuqvIqs/s1600/IMG_2141+(2).jpg

And ta-DA!  Every day, at least once a day, I put some of the broth in a mug, heat it up, and drink it just like a cup of tea!  Delicious!  Nutritious!  Soothing!  Energizing!  HEALING!!

**************

UPDATED:  What a silly girl I am!  I almost always make my broth on Sunday, and timing is critical.  Everything needs to be done before we start the work and school week on Monday morning.  This weekend, though, I started it on Saturday.  I was able to cook it all day, put it in the refrigerator overnight, and cook it for several more hours when I got up.  So I guess that's one way to get in more than 12 hours of cooking time without leaving the stovetop on all night or using the crock pot!

March 21, 2013

My yogurt. . .

This one is for Kristi, and she'll get another one soon too!  ;-)

This is how I go about making yogurt, and it works ridiculously well.  The neat thing is that I've become aware of a number of different ways to do it, so I guess you just have to figure out what works best for you.

I have a Euro Cuisine yogurt incubator that comes with 7 individual-size glass jars.  When I first got it, I also ordered an extra set of jars and am glad I did.  The maker also comes with specific step-by-step instructions for how to make the yogurt and a variety of recipes.

I use local cream-top milk for my yogurt.  I'm not afraid of naturally occurring fat in my food.  I happen to actually be quite fond of it.  If I don't have any cream-top on hand, I use whole milk (organic, of course).  I don't know what it would taste like using low-fat milk, and frankly, I don't have any interest in finding out!

I measure out 44 or so ounces and pour it into a medium-to-big pot.  I bring the milk up to a boil (it'll start to climb up the side of the pot), stirring regularly, and let it simmer for several minutes.  Almost all instructions will tell you to take it up to a specific temperature using a thermometer.  I don't.  Instead, I just wing it.  Then I leave it alone to cool down to lukewarm.  Again, almost all instructions will tell you to let it cool down to a specific temperature using a thermometer.  And again, instead, I just wing it.  I test it with my finger, and that's that.  As it cools, a skin forms on the top, and I use a big metal spoon to gently but swiftly in a circling motion gather it up and scoop it out. 

Then I use a soup ladle to put a little bit of the lukewarm milk in a bowl, and I stir in the starter.  The starter refers to the "good bugs" (i.e. beneficial bacteria) you want to have in the finished product.  You can buy starter in powder form, use a high quality plain commercial yogurt, or use some homemade yogurt from the previous batch.  I usually use the middle option, and again I pass by the low-fat varieties in favor of the cream-top or at least whole milk ones.  After that's nicely mixed together, it gets put back into the pot, where it's stirred gently into the rest of the lukewarm milk.

I use the soup ladle to fill up my little yogurt jars, I put them in the incubator, and I turn it on.  Easy!  I used to follow the pretty standard 8-10 hour incubation period, but ever since I first got so sick, I've been incubating for up to 24 hours.  It's yummy, and now I can't imagine not super-incubating.  When the yogurt is done incubating, the jars go into the refrigerator so the yogurt can set.  I used to like adding local, homemade jam to the yogurt right before eating it, but again ever since I got so sick, I only add a teaspoon of local honeycomb (that I'm able to find at our greenmarket).

So that's the step-by-step process from beginning to end.  But. . . I found that understanding the "whys" behind the process is very helpful in making better yogurt.  It also increased my appreciation for it.

There may be living "things" in the milk.  Because we want the very particular "good bacteria" in our finished yogurt, we need to make sure we start with a clean, pure medium.  Bringing the milk up to a boil kills any organisms that may be living in it.  Once I understood that, I didn't worry any more about not having an appropriate thermometer to use for taking its temperature.  Bring it up to a boil, and you know you're good.  Let it cool to lukewarm.  Why?  Because if you add the good bacteria when the milk is too hot, it'll kill them just like it killed everything else.  I don't worry about bringing it down to a particular temperature, probably because I've made bread approximately one zillion times in my life, so I feel comfortable with being able to tell by touch when it's ready.  If it's just a little warm to the touch, it's fine.  So now you've got a bunch of good bacteria introduced into a clean, pure medium - a medium that contains lactose, a.k.a. sugar, which happens to be a perfect food for those little bugs to dine on.  But they do like to be warm and cozy as well, and hence the need to incubate in order for them to multiple.  I don't worry about this temperature either because I have the special incubator that worries about it for me.  These bugs are fickle and don't like to be disturbed.  Therefore, it's important to put the incubating yogurt someplace it won't get jostled.  

One of the benefits of super-incubating the yogurt is that the bugs keep multiplying and multiplying and multiplying.  There ends up being more of them, and they end up devouring nearly all of the lactose.  That's a beautiful thing in particular for folks who are lactose-intolerant, whose bodies won't need to worry about breaking down the lactose.  The job has already been taken care of.  I've ready that historically all yogurts were super-incubated and that today's commercial yogurts are only incubated for a few hours and hence cannot be considered "true" yogurt.  Who knows?  That's just what I've read.

So there you have it.  That's how I make my homemade yogurt.

Now, a few other things I've heard about people's doing in place of using a special yogurt incubator.
  • Pouring it in a big container, wrapping it up in a blanket, and putting it overnight in a closet.  (An acquaintance does this and she swears it's perfect every time.)
  • Putting it in the oven with the regular oven light bulb temporarily replaced with a 60 watt bulb.  Apparently, that keeps the oven at the perfect temperature.  Just don't forget to change the bulb back afterward!
  • Using an electric heating pad (though I can't remember at what setting, but I'm assuming it must be low).
  • Using a crock pot filled with some water (again presumably with the crock pot set to low??).
I don't know.  Maybe I'm spoiled, but the specially-designed incubator didn't cost that much, especially considering how much use it gets, that I can't really imagine using one of the other methods.  It's true, though, that yogurt is pretty much an ancient food, so people have been using an array of incubation methods successfully for a long, long time.  (And hey, they did fine without that thermometer too!!)

I would love to hear about what yogurt-making methods others use if anyone is so inclined to share!





March 20, 2013

I've taken a time out

trying to deal with, well, my life!  I have another long post drafted about college strategies and suggestions but I'm not done with it yet.  Boy, I feel like I could write a book about it all!  

MUCH stress was relieved last Friday afternoon, though, when J got accepted into CUNY's Macaulay Honors College at Hunter.  It's a very selective program, and it took a few days for me to process that his acceptance was actually real.  The program itself is very unique and comes with lots of perks - free tuition for all four years, free housing (a single!) in mid-Manhattan for the first two years (then we'd have to pay for the last two years), free laptop, $7500 to use towards study abroad or internship experiences, priority class registration every semester, special interdisciplinary seminars that revolve around the culture of NYC, and a "cultural passport" that provides free or low-cost admission into over 100 places in NYC.  Especially with his being a musician, what an amazing, incomparable opportunity for him!  We're going down in a few weeks for accepted students day and a dinner hosted by the college president, and I'm super excited!  It seems to me like his going there is a no-brainer, and I hope he ends up seeing it that way too.  Oh, yeah, and the dorm he'd live in?  In addition to the standard kitchen facilities and lounges, it has a snack bar, gymnasium with basketball court, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, courtyard, and tennis courts!

Health-wise, things are remaining stable.  My days continue to revolve around chicken feet broth, super-incubated homemade yogurt, and raw honey, but I usually eat one "normal" meal a day and I've been doing pretty well with that.  One funny thing has happened though.  The kids are discovering the glory of my special foods!  I used to be okay with making one batch of yogurt a week, but now I need to make two because J(17) and S(7) love it so much too.  And of course, now they also add the raw honey to theirs.  But the most hysterical thing is that B(9) and S(7) are really into the broth now!  They want to drink a cup of it before school each morning.  Why?  Well. . . because they say it gives them energy.  Hey, that's what I said!  Remember?!  It really is amazing.  Try it, and you will see too!  I love that they're drinking it because I think it is SO healthy but at the same time am a little concerned about how much of it I'm going to have to start making if THREE of us are drinking it on a daily basis.  It is super time-consuming to make!  And making double batches is going to take up A LOT of space in the refrigerator and freezer.  Oh well - I'm tickled pink that my kids are so into eating well!

March 4, 2013

I wish I had more suggestions

for those of you who haven't yet hit the time when your children will be getting ready to graduate from high school and move on to college.  The biggest suggestion I have is this - be prepared to be stunned.  Stunned at how much more difficult it is to get into colleges now than when we went to college.  And stunned at how much you'll be expected to pay for your child to attend one of those colleges s/he does get into.  It's a crazy world out there in higher education.  And as a parent of a high school senior, I feel like navigating him through the process is equivalent to having a second full-time job.

I think I'm going to throw a few random thoughts and tidbits out there in no particular order.

These days, there's a thing called the Common Application, which nearly all colleges participate in.  In fact, most colleges ONLY accept applications through the Common App.  Most SUNY schools accept applications through their own app or the Common App.  CUNY accepts only their own.  I don't really know much about other state systems, but we did apply through the Common App to UVM (University of Vermont) and New College of Florida (which is part of their state system).  The Common App is an interesting phenomenon in that it certainly has made applying to colleges easier.  All of the applicant's information is stored in one place online, and it's ridiculously easy to keep track of the various applications.  To differentiate themselves from everyone else, most of the "better" colleges require special custom-designed supplements.  This may include a simple "why do you want to come here?" or having to share thoughts about a selected phrase from the college's mission statement or it may include something a bit more obscure like "pretend you're looking through a window and tell us what you see".  Some colleges (like Brown) really make their applicants jump through hoops by making them write numerous supplements.  That's a great way to weed out people who aren't *truly* interested in attending the college.  Which brings us to a particularly interesting result of the Common App - students are applying to more schools than ever simply because it's so easy to do so.  Which brings us back to the first stunning fact - it's much more difficult to get into colleges now than it used to be.  As a general rule, many, many colleges' applicant pools have increased so much that the acceptance rates have been driven down.  Hence, students apply to even more colleges and so continues the cycle.  Off the top of my head, I think J ended up applying to fourteen schools.  That sounds crazy to me, and while I think maybe most kids stick to around ten, fourteen is certainly not crazy in today's world.

Especially when you consider the current college costs.

Our strategy included casting a wide net in hopes that we end up with at least a few schools to choose from that seem relatively affordable.  We selected from three main groups - more elite colleges (small, liberal arts ones) that have relatively large endowments and are reputed to be relatively generous with how they define "need", "one- or two-steps down schools" that award merit scholarships to their best applicants and whose 75th percentile academic stats are below J's, and a SUNY school to be the financial "safety".  Unfortunately, the financial safety happens to be J's last choice and the only one he'd really rather not go to - not because it's a bad school by any means but because compared to all of the others we ended up selecting (very non-traditional, just like him!), it seems very rigid to J (and comparatively speaking, it is).

Hold onto your hats, friends, because here we go.

The typical annual cost of a private institution these days is running up to - brace yourself - $60,000.  $60,000!!!  I think at least four or five of J's selected schools are between $58,000 and $60,000.  Crazy.  And they've been increasing by a couple thousand dollars every year.  What you'll read and what you'll be told is not to worry so much about the "sticker prices", that what you really need to worry about are the "net prices".  What you may not read or be told is that for middle class families, those net prices are still remarkably high.  How high?, you might wonder.  Well, for our family with four children, our average expected contribution is running about 20% of our PREtax annual income (and that includes loans; without loans, it's higher).  How about if you don't have four children?  Well, my virtual parental peers indicate that for a couple of kids, the expected contribution runs 25%  - 33% of PREtax income and up to 40% of net income.  I don't know many (if any) middle class families that can part with up to 40% of their income without making very major sacrifices, and I don't know many (if any) middle class families that have been able to save enough money to pay for these costs that have been spiraling out of control.  

But, what about those merit scholarships?  Well, J was very fortunate at four schools so far to have received the "biggest and most prestigious" merit scholarships offered.  Um, guess what?  They hardly make a dent in the overall cost, and so far, it's likely that the balance of aid (or at least most of it) is offered up in the form of work study and student loans (unsubsidized, even, for us comfy middle classers).  I don't know about you, but I don't much consider work study and loans any real sort of "aid".  It's still us paying.

So what's a middle class family to do?

<sigh>  I'm not quite sure yet what the answer is for us.  Many families take out parent (PLUS) loans, but with four kids there's no way we're doing that, especially for the first one.  An increasing number of middle class graduates are staying at home for a couple years, commuting to a local college.  An increasing number are also attending a state school (um, that's why many of the state schools are tripling their double residence hall rooms).  Some kill themselves getting extra jobs, but we can't do that - I'm already wiped out as it is.  And some cut back to the bare bones, which doesn't seem like it's all that fair to younger children.

We're in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment because while J has received all of his EA (early action - there's a lot of lingo to learn!) decisions, he's still waiting on his RD (regular decision) ones.  We've just recently started getting estimated FA (financial aid) packages (an entirely different discussion that involves FAFSA, PROFILE, and iDOC) and are just starting to make sense of them.  J has two schools tied for top choice, and we've already appealed one of their FA packages.  I have no idea how that will turn out, but the worst they can do is say "no", right?  We're not even talking to any other FA offices until we hear back from this one because if we end up being able to work things out with them, we might well call it a day.  A very wonderful non-SUNY school actually would be doable, but it's farther away (a lot farther away) than J wants to be.  It's still on the table though.  It has to be.   

We'll see how all of this works out.  What I DO know is that we spent a significant amount of time choosing colleges we believed were genuinely the best fits for him, so my hope is that while he may not get to attend his first or second or even third choice, he will end up being just fine wherever he ends up.

This past weekend, I said to DH that an easy scenario to envision is this:
J attends Bennington College 
C attends FIT (SUNY school down in Manhattan)
B lives at home and in his own used car commutes back and forth to the local state university
S lives at home and takes the public bus (route 70!) back and forth to the local community college

Oh, how I don't like that vision - and our job right now is to try to prevent that from happening!

To end this post on a totally unrelated note, take a look at this cooled stock.  Are you kidding me?!  Look at this stuff!  I'm learning more tricks, which I'll save for another day to share.  :)


And I actually DO have some suggestions regarding this whole college adventure.  I'll save them for another day too.  Too much venting has made this girl tired and needing to go up to bed.  LOL!

February 24, 2013

Okay, so I'm probably a little obsessed. . .

but this stock has become such a critical part of my life it's hard for me to NOT be slightly obsessed with it!  LOL

The not-so-appetizing what's-strained-out
(look closely and find a couple toe tips with nails and a lovely swath of ripped skin,
and this isn't even half of what gets strained out -
there were three more feet (or feet remains, at least- ha ha) and a partial carcass!)

And the oh-so-appetizing finished product - just like liquid gold, I tell you!

Perhaps it's clear why I now just drink the broth rather than try to salvage as many of the solids to eat as I can.  It's quite time-consuming to sort through all of the solids and too easy to miss some of the things I'd really prefer not end up in my bowl, much less in my mouth!  The only things I pick out are the large chunks of chicken, and those I save for the big 4-legger.

A good week ending on a good note

A few people have asked me this past week how I'm doing, so I thought it would be good for me to write up a quick update for the record.  This past week, in particular, has been wonderful in that for most of it, I've actually felt close to normal.  It's amazing how easy it is to take feeling normal for granted!  But for me, for now, feeling close to normal and feeling relatively healthy again is simply spectacular and something I am cognitively extremely grateful for. 

My days still revolve around that funky chicken stock (a new batch is simmering as I type), super-incubated homemade yogurt (made using local, cream-top milk from grass-fed cows), as-raw-as-possible honey (I even found some that is an actual slice of the honeycomb itself - beautiful!), hot green tea, and mega doses of probiotics.  I continue to focus on using as many organic, local, and/or fresh foods as possible.  Every day, I add a different food or two to the mix, and so far, it's gone very well.  I haven't had a negative reaction to anything I've added back in, not even that giant dark chocolate peanut butter cup I couldn't resist getting on Friday!  It's been over two weeks, probably close to three, since I've had any of that severe abdominal pain, tissue loss, or bloody mucus.  And while I can still feel the inflammation flare up from time to time and while that can be quite uncomfortable, I've found ways to alleviate it.  Pretty regularly now, I'm eating cottage cheese, vegetable quiche, bananas, and applesauce.  I've also had some cherry tomatoes, cooked snow peas and asparagus, pizza (yay!), raw milk cheese with crackers, naan, and a turkey sandwich (on a soft kaiser roll).  I've snuck in a few cheez-its, chocolate squares, and pita chips.  And last night, I had a whole vegetable samosa!  I'd really like to try a tuna or carrot slaw sandwich on 12-grain toast, nuts, or an apple, but I'm still a little nervous that too much fiber will be hard on my system right now.  And I haven't even started considering yet chia seeds, ground flaxseed, or beans.  Hopefully I'll get there though.

When I write it down, it sounds like my diet has been pretty limited, and I suppose it has been.  But it hasn't really felt that way at all, especially compared to not being able to eat anything!  Even if I were to stay like I am (knock on wood, I really hope I don't get worse again), I think I'd be able to accept and be fine with it - in large part because I feel absolutely nourished again.  I swear that broth has been nothing short of a miracle.  I feel as if it literally feeds life and energy into me.  Made with the chicken feet, it contains a ridiculous amount of collagen and gelatin.  When it cools, it becomes almost solid and you could cut it with a knife if you wanted to.  I don't keep any chicken or veggies in it anymore; I strain them out and drink the hot broth from a mug.  My nails have become so thick and strong that I had trouble getting the big nail clipper through them the other day!

When this first started happening, I was terribly dismayed and couldn't even comprehend it.  I could have been a poster child for what to do to have a healthy colon.  How could mine be diseased?!  The thought of my having to see a digestive disease specialist seemed pretty ridiculous.  After a while, though, I realized that if seemingly wacky foods and diet can help you get through it, I'm your girl.  I already had enough experience in the kitchen to tackle anything that needed to be tackled in that regard.  Sometimes I feel happy and guilty about that at the same time.  Happy that I I'm in a position to do as much help for myself as I can but guilty realizing that not everyone, for whatever reason, can do the same.  I fully understand how some people could be too overwhelmed to even try (make my own yogurt - what? who does that?! what's wrong with the yogurt in the store?!; chicken feet - seriously?  where in the world does one go out and get chicken feet?! and then I have to boil them and cut their toes off?!; prepare this soup/broth every week - do you know how incredibly long that takes?  that would take an entire day!; hot green tea - I don't want hot green tea, I want my coffee!).  I truly believe they would find the effort SO beneficial though.

I have not yet rescheduled my tests, and I'm not sure when I'm going to do so.  I have to admit I'm in no hurry as I am still very, very worried they'll end up throwing my system back out of whack, and I'm terrified of going back to being as sick as I was.  Not sure what to do about this one.

So I don't know who all reads this blog of mine besides my small circle of safeties (as I like to call them!) , but my hope is that someday, someone experiencing similar GI issues as I have will stumble upon it and perhaps benefit from some of the same things I have benefited from.  These are the two books I'm using as my primary guides.  Restoring Your Digestive Health is the one that has the broth recipe.  Oh yeah, and yesterday I made a batch of peanut butter cookies using a recipe from the Breaking the Vicious Cycle book - peanut butter, butter, honey, almond flour, baking soda, and vanilla.  They are so good!

  
Heading upstairs now to take a long, hot bath with epsom salts and lavendar, start reading a new novel, and enjoy a nice hot cup of green tea with honey.  :)