Wrap It Up

Here’s a secret about me: I’m really, really messy.

Oh, wait. That is actually the opposite of a secret – as anyone who has ever been to my house can attest to. Whatever, no one’s perfect.  At work, I do just fine. My space is usually clean, I can use the requisite two towels per shift (most of the time) and I always clean my sinks and sweep the floor on my way out.

But yeah, I tend to be a bit of a hurricane… especially in the kitchen at home.

So here is one very small trick I employ in order to keep some of my home kitchen equipment clean… Plastic wrap! Cheap, fairly durable and easy to peel off and toss when you are finished. I wrap the bottom of my hand mixer with it, poke the beaters through and go to town. When I’m done, I peel it off and tada! A nice, clean mixer. I use this wrapped around the underside of my stand mixer as well and it works beautifully.

Just make sure it isn’t blocking any necessary air vents or anything. That might be bad. Not that I would know anything about that.

 

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The Best, Fastest, Easiest Side Dish Ever

I know, that is a lot to live up to. But it’s true.

Go to your farmers market or grocery store or fruit stand or wherever you get good produce and buy some greens. I’m talking hearty greens, the kind that will stand up to some heat. Kale, Swiss Chard, Collards, Endive, Arugula or even some good old Spinach. Tonight, I used Kale, Chard and Chicory from the garden. You can throw in some dandelion greens if you are feeling adventurous! Next, heat some olive oil in a saute pan. When its nice and shiny throw in a bit of pine nuts… they get all toasty and delicious. Now add your greens. (You can leave the leaves whole or tear them up a bit if you want.) Fill your pan up & add a pinch of salt and pepper. Don’t be scared if you think you added to much, it’s going to wilt. Stir it up  and add just a bit of minced garlic. Stir it up some more and add a handful of golden raisins. Once its all wilty and mixed up, take it off the heat and drizzle a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Soooo good. And easy. Taaaa-Daaa!

Medullary Sponge Kidney Disease

Hey, long time no see. I thought I would share the timeline that I am now taking to every new doctor’s appointment. Warning: It’s probably a bit TMI. But, I’m kind of proud of it.

I’m seeing a nephrologist today. I’m not getting my hopes up, at all. But here goes:

 

I have had reoccurring UTI & kidney infections from a young age. My mom said I was around 5 the first time I got one. When I was 33 weeks pregnant in 2003 my left kidney swelled, causing extreme pain and pre-term labor. I was given pain medication and put on bed rest and the problem seemed to resolve upon delivery.

December 2010- I woke up with back pain, definitely more on the left than right side but as I have had issues with back pain in the past I contributed it to just that. I went to work and throughout the course of the day the pain got more and more intense. I also felt like I needed to urinate constantly and at some point went to the bathroom and had a lot of blood in my urine. I went to see my family doctor who sent me across the street to the ER. Once I was seen & after the doctor confirmed I had blood in my urine, the doctor brought an ultrasound machine in the room and confirmed kidney stones. He did not say how big they were or how many of them were there, just gave me pain medication, told me to drink lots of water and to contact my doctor if I felt any worse. A few days later I passed a stone, which I assumed was the only one in there. I continued to have intermittent flank pain, but thought that I was just having back problems.

 March 2011- The intermittent flank pain has intensified and I am constantly nauseous. I also have bladder spasm on and off.  I pass out twice at work and can barely get through the workday, pick my kids up from school and then crawl into bed. My primary doctor refers me to a local urologist and sends me for a CT scan. The scan shows I have a very large stone, along with some smaller stones, in my left kidney and several small stones in my right kidney. The urologist schedules me for lithotripsy on my left kidney and starts me on a course of antibiotics as I have an infection. The lithotripsy is preformed, but the surgeon explains to my husband that it was not entirely successful and will probably need to be done again. They place a stent in my kidney and I am discharged. Two days after the procedure I am in uncontrollable pain, feverish and nauseated. I cannot get relief, so my urologist suggests going to the emergency room. While there they perform another CT scan and confirm that the large stone is now several large stones. I go back to the urologist twice and he leaves the stent in until I have another lithotripsy. The pain & nausea is unrelenting and the pain of the stent is now compounding it. I do not pass anything more than some sand.

April 2011- I am scheduled for a second lithotripsy procedure. I am told that the stone is broken up into passable pieces and the stent is replaced. I continue to pass nothing more than sand. When the stent is removed I pass several large stones all at once.

June 2011- Within a few weeks the pain, nausea and bladder spasms return, mild at first but rapidly becoming severe. I increased my water and tried to pass the stone on my own. After a few weeks I contacted my urologist and he sent me for a KUB which shows I have a stone stuck in my left ureter. I am advised to drink lots of water and go to the emergency room if the pain becomes unbearable. I wait some more and then decide to go to the ER when I begin to not be able to urinate much and the pain becomes unbearable. I am admitted to the hospital and my urologist performs an ureteroscopy the next day, as well as placing another stent. The recovery from this procedure is much more difficult than the lithotripsy’s. After around 3 weeks the stent is removed, even though I still have stones in my kidney. I am told to come back in 3-6 months, even though I have explained that I am still having burning pain in my urethra/bladder and sharp pain in my left kidney. I am told that my stone is a calcium oxalate stone.

July 2011- Present

 I have continued to have pain and nausea daily. I also continue to have infection and blood in my urine. I switched to a new urologist in April 2012, who suggested that I may have Medullary Sponge Kidney Disease but did nor order any additional tests or follow up to confirm. I have been told that the remaining stones in my kidney are very small, should pass easily and that they should not cause me pain- except that it does. And with the exception of the very first time, I have not been able to pass a stone on my own.

In the last few months the nausea and vomiting have grown steadily worse. Whereas before I was often nauseated, I am now having sudden and violent vomiting- often without much of a warning. It often coincides with a deepening of the flank pain and bladder spasms. I have tried to change my diet to eating small meals throughout the day, adding lemon to all of the water I drink (80+ oz per day) but it has not seemed to help. I was referred to Stanford Urology Clinic in May 2012, who confirmed the diagnosis of Medullary Sponge Kidney Disease but discounted any pain I am having, stating that it must be completely unrelated. I was told that there is nothing that can be done to manage the condition besides drinking more water and waiting until they are big enough for surgery.

At present I am experiencing the following:

A deep, burning pain along the left side of my back, which sometimes develops into sharp stabbing pains in the same spot. I have problems sleeping because I am never comfortable.

A constant feeling of the need to urinate. Sometimes, even though I have drunk a large amount of water, I can only produce a small stream.

A painful burning sensation when I urinate & frequent bladder spasms.

Accidentally urinating- especially when having bladder spasms. Mostly during the day, but a few times at night as well.

A feeling of achiness and heaviness in my pelvis. This often progresses to the point that walking, sitting or really any activity becomes unbearable.

Nearly constant nausea with vomiting.

Fatigue, a constant “flu-like” feeling. I have always been a very high energy person, now just getting through a normal day is difficult.

A worsening of symptoms right before my period. My cycle has become somewhat irregular (I was always every 28 days before last year.) The irregularity is not extreme, a week early/late at the most with occasional spotting in between, but I have had a definite worsening of cramps and migraine headaches and my period lasts 5-9 days with very heavy bleeding. Before it was 3-5 days with only a day or two of heavy bleeding. The migraines are not new, I have had them since I was a child. I did have a CT scan earlier this year to rule out any brain/sinus problems and everything was clear.)

Brioche

Do you like butter? I do. I really, really do.  And this bread? Its got a ton of butter. Its almost obnoxious.

This recipe is super versatile. It makes a fantastic loaf, delicious rolls and with a few additions can be an awesome base for coffee cakes & pastries. (Um, filled with sweetened ricotta and roasted pineapple? Oh. My. Gah.) And it is pretty easy to make… with a mixer. If you don’t have one, well, this is a great opportunity to work on your biceps. The full recipe makes a big batch. But, you may just want to have extra around anyway. It does make a killer french toast.

Brioche

(*1/18/2011 I played around with this recipe and scaled it to a more home kitchen friendly size.)

3/4 c milk, warm

1.5 oz yeast (I prefer fresh yeast, hands down. But, it’s expensive and hard to get sometimes. So regular active dry will work perfectly fine if that is what you have.)1/3 c sugar

Place milk in a saucepan and add sugar. Heat until warm, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle yeast over the top and let proof until bubbly, about 7 minutes (I usually stir it about halfway through to make sure it all proofs).

2 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk (reserve the white for washing)

Add eggs and mix with yeast and milk.

3 c flour (I use half unbleached all purpose and half bread flour to get a nicer crumb… but it works pretty well using just straight AP flour. If you do use all AP, you can always add a tablespoon or so of wheat gluten to help with texture.)

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Add to yeast mixture and mix with paddle until dough comes together.

8 oz butter, softened and cut into small pieces.

Add to mixer one piece at a time. Paddle until dough is smooth and shiny and the gluten is well developed. (How do you know when the gluten is well developed? First, the dough should come away from the sides of the bowl and begin to climb the paddle. Second, pinch a small amount off the dough off and roll into a flattened disc. Now gently stretch it. If you can stretch it out tissue thin without breaking it, its ready. If you can’t, keep going.)

At this point your dough just needs to rest and rise. If you want to eat it that day, simply place it into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled (about 40 minutes, this stuff works fast!) then punch it down, shape it, let it rise again, wash (egg white and water for a shiny crust, milk for a tender crust) and bake @ 350 until golden brown. 

Now, I’m a big fan of the slow, cool rise. (Hold on, my inner baker nerd is about to come out big time…) An overnight rise means complex flavor. And texture. It means the dough will just hang out in your fridge, going through a whole bunch of chemical changes that ultimately mean less work for you and a serious return on your finished product. With an enriched dough like this? Not exactly crucial, but it will take your bread to a whole different level.  So. Oil up some (big) bowls. Put your dough in, cover and pop it in the fridge. In the morning, or whenever you are ready, pull it out. When you lift the cover off, it will probably deflate on its own. Perfect! Leave it out at room temp for 20 minutes or so. Then shape, let rise, wash and bake. 

 

2012 or “The Year I Get To Explain To My Kids That The World Is Not Going To End. Probably.”

Its a new year! Last year was… eventful. Stressful. But, still good. And ended on a high note.  I got sick, my husbands work dwindled, my job sucked. My niece was born, I got better, my husband picked up a new client and business boomed, I got a new job.

My kids got older. We faced some motivation/follow through challenges with Ozzie and watched him begin to mature into a responsible, thoughtful human being. (That is, and will remain a work in progress, I have no doubt.) Ivy’s best friend moved away. I’m still trying to figure out how to parent them without turning into a shrieking harpy most days. Sometimes I lock myself in my room. Sometimes they astonish me by how caring and funny and amazing they are.

My cat had kittens and then got hit by a car. We got to go to my cousins wedding in Sand Diego… which was seriously the most beautiful wedding I have ever been to. I got to dance with my husband. My brothers and I took intentionally awkward photos for my parents Christmas gift.

My grandfather died, horribly. My grandmother got dementia and my relationship with her changed… I am learning a lesson in what it means to get older, what it means to watch someone lose themself and be powerless to do anything about it. And to love them anyway.

I spent too much money and not enough time outdoors.  I got a kindle. I made new friends and got reacquainted with old ones. I realized it may be nearly impossible to run a business and work full time and raise children and have anything resembling a moment of down time.

I put my thrifting/yard sale habit to good use.  I forced myself to talk to strangers. I tried to be good.

And now its on to the next.

Animal House

After this I washed them. In the washing machine.

Our kittens, Monkey and Leo. You might think Leo is short for Leopard. It is not. It is short for Leoben. Yes, I named my cat after a cylon.

Leo destroys some humanity.

Monkey spends roughly 87% of her life unconscious. She is kind of my hero.

Red. Probably thinking about a ball. Or a round object of some kind. He’s pretty diverse in his interests.

In Case You Haven’t Noticed, I’m Kind of Terrible…

… at keeping up with things I start. I am terrible at other things too, a lot of things. In fact I’m kind of good at being terrible at things. Now my head hurts.

So yeah. The rest of the kidney stone story. I’m honestly so sick of it all and it makes me feel powerless and hopeless. Suffice it to say, after 3 surgeries I’m mostly better. I have a lot of my energy back. I am able to work and have begun exercising again. I have pretty much constant kidney pain, but its more the “grin and bear it and take some ibuprofen if it gets really bad” than climbing the walls awful pain.

I also have three stones in my right kidney and one in my left, just hanging out and scaring the bejeezus out of me at every twinge. I have no idea when they will come out, if they will come out or if I am slowly turning into a Golem. My doctor is not great, but through all of this I have unfortunately experienced that most doctors are complete asshats.  The nurses? Most of them were awesome. I have to go back in December and see if anything has grown/moved and then I suppose we will go from there.

Mostly, I am  just enjoying being functional and not throwing up all the time.

So, I am going to try and remember to write here, about far more interesting things. Like how my husband and I watched a wasp paralyze a giant spider for over an hour last week.

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The Nightmare Begins

On December 23, 2011 I was at work, busy as a bee. I’d woken up that morning with back pain, but since I’m the lucky inheritor of my families sucktastick back problems, that was nothing new. Pop a few Advil, go about my business and pray that I’ll still be able to walk in the evening… this routine is all too familiar to me. But this time it just kept getting worse. And I felt like I had to pee, constantly. At first I would be able to go, but not much was coming out. Ok, I’ve had bladder and kidney infections before. No biggie. Drink a bunch of water and plan to pick up a UTI test kit on my way home.  An hour or so later, the pain is getting wicked. I’m doing Lamaze breathing and debating telling my boss I need to head home. I take a break, use the bathroom and am greeted by a toilet bowl full of blood. Well. That’s new.

I call my Dr. who says to come in as soon as I can. I leave work, make it to the doctors office and give them a urine sample that looks like koolaid. At this point I’m starting to sweat, I’m nauseous and I would do terrible things for some pain medication. My doctor finally comes in and tells me he thinks I have a kidney stone. He offers to give me something for the pain, but really wants me to go across the street to the emergency room where they can send me for a CT scan and manage my pain better. At this point I’m starting to feel like I might be dying, and the sight of all that blood has me a little panicky. I call Jason and head to the ER.

Getting into a room at the ER was about an hour long wait. Not terrible. Except that in the meantime I’m writhing around, trying not to groan and moan and scream  and visiting the little girls room every few minutes to either pee blood or puke. Good times.

I finally get into a room. Another hour or two passes before one of the Dr’s has time to see me. We will call him Disco Doc in this story, because the dude was wearing his scrub top pulled down low enough so everyone could bask in the glory of his sparse chest hair and the shiny gold necklace he had on. Disco Doc was immediately “concerned” about me. 1. I have no insurance. 2. The lab has told him that I do not, in fact, have any blood in my urine.  And 3. The pain and sensations I am describing are not in the right areas to indicate kidney stones. (I mentioned before I have problems with back pain right? So for me, any pain in that area seems to trigger all the muscles in my back to go “woohoo! pain partaaayy!” and start spasming up willy nilly. I was having flank pain, it was just hard to differentiate at the time. And not to mention I AM STILL IN HORRIBLE PAIN.)

In order to address number two, I asked to doctor to stay in the room, grabbed a sample cup and my husband and went to the bathroom to fill that sucker up. (I can’t really address number one with going into how completely screwed up our medical system is and well, that is a whole other post.) I brought it back to Disco Doc, who looked at it and decided that maybe the lab had made a mistake. And that maybe they could go ahead and give me something for the pain now.

Which was nice, since I was to be waiting in that room for another 3 hours before he came back to tell me yeah, I might have a kidney stone.  Another hour passes and he brings in an ultrasound machine and indeed finds stones. He doesn’t mention how big they are, but says he thinks they will probably pass… drink lots of water, here’s a few pain pills, call your doctor is you have any complications.

Knowing what I know now, I should have asked for a CT scan. But honestly, Disco Doc gave me the creeps and I really just wanted to go home.

A few days later I passed a tiny stone. I felt better, so I assumed the other ones had passed but were too small to see. I saved it, thinking it would be a souvenir of the one time I got kidney stones.

Ha. Ha. BWWWAAAAHHHAHAAAHHAAAHHAAAA!

Stay tuned for my next installment: The Evil Returns

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Hello world!

I wanted to kick this blog off with something warm and fuzzy, perhaps a kitten video to gently ease a new reader into the mayhem of my life. But, no.

Because right now, my life is not a place for kitten videos. (Ok, sometimes it is. often.)  No. Right now I want to write about kidney stones. Stupid, meaningless kidney stones and the mayhem they have wrought in my life.

But,  it’s 11 o’clock. I’m tired. So come visit me tomorrow and enjoy a wonderful tale of intrigue, adventure, madness and KIDNEY STONES!!!

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