Thursday, December 31, 2015

Neuroplasticity - How much can you change your brain?

Have you heard of the word ‘neuroplasticity’? It used to be believed that once the brain develops in childhood, you maintain that same brain (thought process, etc) for the rest of your life without much change. Now it’s believed that the brain can be changed, grow new brain cells even after you grow up.

By training, it is thought that the neurons in the brain can form new connections. This is significant in the sense that people with brain injury or stroke MAY be able to relearn and adapt to the injury to a certain extent (most likely not totally recover). The word and concept of neuroplasticity have been around a while but there are still a lot that is unknown. What training, at what time, and how much, are still unknown and are investigated using rats and monkeys. ()

Currently, scientists are trying to figure out how trauma rewires the brain in hopes of finding a way to treat PTSD . Clinical trials are done for ADHD and depression. And I’m sure there are more application.

It’s still new science. So we don’t know how much this science can actually work. There is some suggestion based on rat studies that training at wrong time may actually make things worse. But it’s an exciting field.

I cook most of the meals but I don’t create recipes. I rely on recipes on the web and books. So to pay tribute to all the food bloggers and people who contribute recipes out there, I’m  posting recipes that I’ve recently tried and liked.
In the past few days I’ve made:
Peruvian Roast Chicken: A simple but flavorful dish

New York Pretzels: My husband like pretzel dogs. So I use this recipe each time I make them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Failure of Criminal Justice System

I worked in a prison for a while. While there, I saw many men in their 20s incarcerated. Most of them already have been in and out of juvenile court system. I found many of them as pleasant, appreciative, respectful ‘kids’ (given my age). It disturbed me.

One day my co-worker advised one of them that he needs to get a work and straighten out his life. His reply was that once you have a criminal record, it’s hard to get a job.

It is most likely true. 

So what are we doing with these children? They must have done something wrong to end up in the juvenile system. But are we branding them as ‘criminals’ for life so they get no chance to lead a better life? Is this the purpose of incarcerating them? How can they right their lives if they can’t get a job?

I cook most of the meals but I don’t create recipes. I rely on recipes on the web and books. So to pay tribute to all the food bloggers and people who contribute recipes out there, I’m  posting recipes that I’ve recently tried and liked.
In the past few days I’ve made:

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Ways I Am Thankful For My Mother-In-Law

After reading this post, I remembered thinking around Thanksgiving in what ways I’m thankful for my mother-in-law.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes she is scary. I think she is like my mother in that, most of the time she lets us do what we want but there is a line you really don’t want to cross. If you cross that line, you better be ready for a thunder and lightening to strike you.

National Museum at Warsaw

But here is a list of things I’m thankful for my mother-in-law:

  1. Being frank - After I got married, she told me what relationship she had with her mother-in-law and that she liked it, letting me know what to expect. And at any point in time, she will tell me what she is thinking, even if I might not necessary like it.
  2. House-keeping tips, especially cooking tips - I should have learned from my mother when I could but did not. Hence, small questions like ‘how do I dissolve the buttermilk powder without clumps’ can be texted to get a quick answer.
  3. Since my father-in-law and my husband are alike in many ways, we can share laughter and eye-rolling at their expense.
  4. I tend to shield my own mother from bad news. I don’t want her worrying about me on the other side of the earth, not being able to do anything. But I can let my mother-in-law know and get the weight off my chest.
  5. When I stay at their (in-laws’) house, I can go back to being a kid, meaning I don’t have to worry about what to do next, what we should eat next, etc; I can be carefree letting her take the reins. I just need to voice which options I like and help out. It’s really relaxing.
So I am very thankful for my mother-in-law.

I cook most of the meals but I don’t create recipes. I rely on recipes on the web and books. So to pay tribute to all the food bloggers and people who contribute recipes out there, I’m  posting recipes that I’ve recently tried and liked.
In the past few days I’ve made:

If you have a husband like mine who does not like bitter greens, you might want to try these, my husband liked them:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Brain Fog - Afterwards Clarity and a Clean Kitchen

After starting treated for depression, I started noticing when I am depressed. Until then, I had pretty much no insight. Although I can’t change the depressive episodes that much, at least I can warn my husband that ‘I’m not doing good’ if I know. Then he won’t have to tip-toe around me, not knowing what is wrong (he may even interpret my mood as a manifestation of something he did wrong. He’s that kind of a husband). Also, I can be a little easy on myself.

If I were to say my normal mood would be 80 to 100%, the depressed episode will be about 50%. But there are slight depressive episodes, around 60 to 75% that are difficult to recognize. Those days, I feel tired and something hanging over my head, like my brain is fogged up. But I will be thinking that I’m just not getting enough sleep or I’m just being lazy. So I am fighting most of those days to keep moving, to be productive and berating myself for not doing much. I wish I knew what part of is actual depression and what part is laziness.

Sometimes when the ‘brain fog’ clears, I realize how foggy-brained I was for the past few days. I also see a cluttered kitchen counter. I’ve just noticed recently, like in the past 2 to 3 weeks. When I’m doing well, the kitchen counter is organized and not much things are on there. On the other hand, when I’m having my brain foggy days, I seem to just start piling things up and not putting them away. I don’t see my brain fog manifests anywhere else so obviously.

By Thermos via Wikimedia Commons

I am now wondering if I will be able to realize that I’m at 60 to 75% when I see a cluttered kitchen.

I cook most of the meals but I don’t create recipes. I rely on recipes on the web and books. So to pay tribute to all the food bloggers and people who contribute recipes out there, I’m  posting recipes that I’ve recently tried and liked.In the past few days I’ve made: 

Chicken Adobo with Yellow Rice Pilaf: This was a very nice combination.
Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies with Sea Salt: A nirvana for the chocoholic with hankering for hazelnut.

Monday, December 21, 2015

So Was The Death Accidental?

In the past year, some of the news have made me question this.

By Ryan McGuire from

A person dies. If that person did not commit suicide, die of natural cause, or from illness, some other element must have caused it. If no one was held responsible, even for accidentally causing the death or self defense, or let the death occurred due to negligence, what are the remaining possibilities?

Few years ago, I slipped on an icy road. My car fish-tailed. A car in the next lane ended up hitting me. But (off course) I was the one held responsible for the accident. I, though totally unintentionally, caused the crash, therefore I took the responsibility.

So did all those deaths occur by total accident? Is the deceased being accused of accidentally causing the death?

I cook most of the meals and I rely on recipes on the web and books. So to pay tribute to all the food bloggers and people who contribute recipes out there, I’m  posting recipes that I’ve recently tried and liked.
In the past few days I’ve made:

Orange Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread: Very flavorful. I loved it (and this comes from a chocoholic)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Arthritis - Glucosamine/Chondroitin

Last spring, we saw him limping every time he stood up after sleeping in one position, our dog, that is. Since glucosamine/chondroitin is said to work on ‘some’ people who have mild to moderate arthritis, we started giving him treats with them in it. It seemed to work. We haven’t seen him limp for about a year and a half.

But recently it started back again. I think it partially has to do with the fact that because it is winter, when he sleeps, he curls up instead of stretching out. But what puzzles me that he always has trouble with his right leg, yet I find him a lot of times on his right side. Is it like humans who have a favorite sleeping position?

Anyway, one day I found myself going to the grocery store and getting ‘human’ glucosamine/chondroitin tablets and a pill crusher. I always wondered how much the treats actually include. I’ve heard of other people using the treats and now I see more brands with them. But quantity of the substances are never labeled. And with all these companies making similar products, I wondered if some were not actually truthful in their claims. Therefore I thought I’d try him on human ones. They at least have the quantity indicated. And I bought one from a brand that I trust. 

The next morning, I found myself taking his bed apart and stuffing it with more cotton. He actually has two beds. I bought a bed with cushion walls on three sides first. Although the construction itself looked sturdy, it did not have enough cushion. So I ended up getting an orthopedic flat cushion and laying that in the former. But now when I checked, cotton in the walled cushion had flattened and shifted away from the place he always puts his weight on. So I took out three lines of stitches, padded the bed with a lot more cotton, and put three lines of stitches back in. It took me until mid afternoon.

Then it later dawned on me. ALL animals get joint problems as they age. It is inevitable. I maybe able to slow the process down a bit but at one point, I’m going to have to give up and accept that he is going to have joint problems.                            

But until then…….., at least I’m going to keep trying the human supplement for about 2 weeks. Am I a silly ‘mom’ for doing all this? But he is my ‘baby’.

I cook most of the meals but I don’t create recipes. I rely on recipes on the web and books. So to pay tribute to all the food bloggers and people who contribute recipes out there, I’m  posting recipes that I’ve recently tried and liked.
In the past few days I’ve made:

Red Velvet Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze: My husband is a red velvet cake fan

The Best Homemade Dinner Rolls Eve: Took this to a Christmas lunch party

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What if…. Triggering Depression

What if I chose the right coping mechanism…
What if I went on believing people….
What if I chose not to bottle up all the feelings …..

I’m just going to cite the Mayo Clinic website: We don’t exactly know what causes depression. Most think that it is a combination of biology (genetics, hormones, brain construct, etc) and environmental trigger factors such as illness, abuse, death of loved ones.

As far as I know, the only person in my relatives who had depression was a cousin of my mother. It’a tenuous connection at best. But I’m pretty sure what had triggered it. I’d say it was pretty much self-inflicted.

In my early teens I had a troubling episode in school. I wasn’t outright bullied. But I did let myself get manipulated and I listened in disbelief to the comments around me after the incident. But more than anything I’m ashamed of myself enough that I still don’t want to talk about the incident.

The outcome was that I decided that I’m not going to let anyone manipulate me anymore. I decided not to talk about myself much. I decided that I wouldn’t show much emotions. The less information I give out about myself, the less chances that people will use it to take the upper hand, was my idea. I built walls around me.

I even went one step further. I thought, if I become a logical person and rejected emotions, I’ll be strong enough not to be taken advantage of.

I can probably praise myself for being so efficient, so strong enough to do that (I’m saying this with a wry smile). I wasn’t going to be afraid of being alone. I did have a relatively safe home environment to fall back on.

So I bottled up all the emotions. You can see how a person can get depressed?

So what if I didn’t chose such a coping mechanism?

But, hind-sight is 20/20. Would people suffer less from depression if they were told that thinking positively is the way to go when they were young? Can we train people to think positively, use good coping mechanisms to deal with troubled situations from the time when they are young?

I cook most of the meals but I don’t create recipes. I rely on recipes on the web and books. So to pay tribute to all the food bloggers and people who contribute recipes out there, I’m  posting recipes that I’ve recently tried and liked.
In the last few days I've made:

Strawberry Pecan Bread: fluffy and fragrant. Can taste the strawberries well. Using almond extract in a pecan bread was a twist but it worked well.

Pork with Peppers and Greens: this is a one pan meal that’s quick and easy to put together. Seasoned with herbs and eaten with Turkish Almond Sauce, it’s very good. I’ve done this multiple times.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fleeing for Life

Recently I started meditating. I use ‘Stop, Breath and Think’ because it has short 3 to 9 minute guided meditation that I’d thought would be easy for me to start with. I think I’m getting used to it. But on the other hand, because I’m getting use to the meditation, my mind is starting to conjure up the next thing that would be said on the recording (not good, I need to silence my thoughts and just follow).

Among the programs are ‘compassion (to people suffering)’ and ‘commonality of suffering’. One day, when I was told to imagine someone who is suffering, my mind came up with a photo I saw on the news of a Syrian refugee family being restrained from wherever they were trying to go.


By Mstyslav Chernov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

But you know, I couldn’t imagine their suffering. Have you ever been so scared of being raped, being killed, your house being destroyed that you left everything you had, left a place where you were familiar with, left a place with a steady job, that you just fled? Have you ever been desperate enough that you would let your child out of your hands into the unknown because you were worried that they would be killed or made a child soldier that you handed them off to a shady smuggler since you can only pay for one person?

At this time, I don’t think I can fully appreciate the fear they feel.

I cook most meals at home. But I don’t create recipes. I rely on recipes out there. I might adjust oil, salt, or sugar but that’s about all I do. So to pay tribute to all the food bloggers and people who contribute recipes out there, I’m going to be posting recipes that I’ve recently tried and liked.
In the past few days I’ve made:

: I had a pork shoulder but was tired with regular BBQ. I looked up Asian flavored ones and this was what I came up with. Very flavorful and delicious.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Reason Behind My Pseudonym (and my dog’s photo)

Recently I came across a person who says they don’t like people who use pseudonym. This is not a post to argue against that person. That person might not even come across my post.

I’m just going to explain myself, my reason for it.

If you had read about me on my profile, you will know that I am a nurse practitioner. But I also, in the past several years, found out that I had depression all along (probably from early teens but that will be another story to write a post about).

In this day and age, I AM afraid of being stigmatized. I think I am a competent healthcare provider. I’ve actually been told by one caregiver that ‘there should be hundreds of nurses like you’. In my years as a nurse practitioner, a person has specifically mentioned that that person is grateful because I take time to address problems that other clinicians might ignore. 

I’m not trying to say that I’m a ‘super’ nurse/nurse practitioner that is greater than anyone. What I’m trying to covey right now and hopefully through future posts is that a person can have ‘mental health’ problems and still lead a rather ‘normal’ life. Even the ones who are taking medication like myself, to live life more fully.

By the way, what’s definition of a ‘normal’ person? Everyone has a character quirk or two that is going to be disliked by some people or annoying to some people. Unless you are mother Teresa or the likes, nobody is perfect or beloved by everyone. And mental health ranges from severest to the rather more closely normal level. One person might have depression so bad that they need electrostimulation therapy once in a while (it is not something of the past. For really depressed people, it does seem to help). Another person might have a situational depression for a few months and then never have another symptom for life.

Photo by Ryan McGuire at

To get back to why I’m using pseudonym, I am afraid, worried that I’d be stigmatized. I’m not ready to give up my profession yet. Nursing/nurse practitionering gives me three things:

1. Another meaning for my existence; I get to give back to the society
2. Satisfaction of helping people heal, helping people lead a healthier life through education
3. Income, which enable me to live and keep adopting dogs

Once I retire, I might come out and say ‘guess what? It’s me!’ Until then I am using my pseudonym and am hiding behind my dog’s photo.

And you have the choice to read or not read my posts/comments.

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Mother’s Magical (________)/Superpower

I don’t know what noun would fit in there. It’s not touch, not aura. I’m not sure what I’d call it but my mother has magic. Maybe it’s her superpower. Let me explain her mysterious magic.

My mother loves animals. I grew up with cats, dogs, and ducks. My mother would even long of getting goats or sheep on top of that.

So while I was living with my parents, I had four cats and three dogs in total. Only but one was a rescue. But the thing is we never (or my mother never) went out of her way to adopt any of them. They always seem to find her.

Evidence one: the first cat had just lost her owner. Her neighbors were looking for a new owner and one of them called my mother.

Evidence two: the first dog. My parents went on a walk in a field. The dog was there. No collar, emaciated, and sort of unkept.

Evidence three: our second cat. She was found hiding under a cover of a ditch that ran through our yard. She was able to use human toilet bowl. That had to mean that she was owned by someone. We put out signs but no one came to claim her and we ended up with her.

Evidence four: second dog. My mother came home late at night only to find him huddling in front of our entrance. He was scared but tired. My mother took literally about twenty minutes disarming him, talking to him. Somewhere in the middle she called me from outside to stick out just my hand from the door to give him a handful of dog chow. Nobody claimed him.

Evidence five: third cat (kitten): my parents went boating. They found her by the river side. No mother or siblings seen around. She was little enough that my mother had to bottle-feed (actually she used a syringe) her for a while. The second dog adopted her and took care of her.

Evidence six: fourth cat. Just started following our second dog and my mother when they went out for a walk.

Do you see what I mean? She seemed to be like a magnet for strays. It’s almost if the animals came to my mother, to our house sensing that they would find a safe haven. My mother’s magical (______). What would you call it?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Beautiful Smile

I still use the laundromat. When we were living in an apartment without the facilities, it was a given. But even after we moved into a house, I still do so. It’s so easy to take all the clothes, use multiple washers and driers at once, and get it all done in less than two hours a week. And while I’m at the laundromat, I can even use my time to journal or read. I won’t have to worry about leaving the clothes in the washer and getting everything wrinkled (which I’m sure I’ll do if I had the washer and drier at house). It does help that it’s only me and my husband in the household (dog, too but I wash the coat he wears all-year-around in the bathtub with him wearing it).

The laundromat I use has attendants most of the time who take drop-ins and keep the place clean. I end up knowing their names and chatting with them. About a month ago I saw a new attendant. I will use the word ‘saw’ because unlike other attendants who walk to the back office making eye-contact with everyone and greeting everyone, she, with somewhat sullen face, walks back looking straight ahead or down. Still, I’ve made effort to say at ‘hi’ when she walks by sweeping or wiping tables. She does return my greetings, even though with a mute expression.

But last week was different.

She came in as usual walking straight to the office in the back (I usually do my laundry first thing in the AM even before the attendants show up). Some time past without me having a chance to greet her. Then when she came around, she bent down in front of the laundry cart that I was folding clothing from. She came up with a sock that I must have drop in her hand … and a beautiful smile! Something between a grin and a smile. I was mentally blown-over in astonishment.

It was one of those moments when you suddenly ‘click’ with someone.

Later I was even able to say ‘have a good day!’ and she returned with ‘you, too!’ with another beautiful smile. I carried that smile with me that day.

We may never get to the point of chatting like friends but that ‘click’ing was really. It was a special moment that you sometime get with a fellow human being.

I don’t create recipes. I’ll usually look up couple of recipes on the web, pick one, and cook. I might decrease oil or sugar but that’s about all I do. So to pay tribute to all the food bloggers and people who contribute recipes out there, I’m going to post recipes that I’ve recently tried and liked.

In the past few days I’ve made:

Buddha's Delight - It’s nothing like what you get from a take out place

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Time I Made My Dream Come True

Do you have any, ‘when (_______) happens, I will do (_______)’? My husband and I have quite a lot of those. They pretty much all start with, ‘when we finally settle down in a part of the country that we like, we will (________).’

We both grew up in the northern part of the U.S. and after living in the south several years, we both yearn to go back. The culture is shockingly different. We don’t feel like we fit here and the possibility that we would fit eventually feels pretty slim.

Anyway… I was reaching my 40th birthday. And one day I thought, ‘wait, what if we end up settling down in our 50s or 60s? What if by then, I’m physically incapacitated? What if we end up in a big city in a small apartment?’

It was an eye-opener, or maybe it was part of my mid-life crisis. At the time, we were in the process of looking for a new apartment. The apartment we were living in was becoming noisy and uncomfortable. Our plan was to look for another apartment to rent. We didn’t think it was worth our time taking care of a yard that we can’t alter freely and grow things we like.

But with my eye-opening thought, my plan (at least, at the time not my husband’s) changed. We NEEDED to move to a house or at least a place where we can have a dog, pronto. I ended up convincing my husband. We looked for a house and I searched for a dog to adopt.

Source: Widimedia

That’s how we ended up with J, our dog. It was a great decision if I may say so myself. My husband also seems to think so because he often says, ‘I’m glad you brought J into our life.’ Our only regret is that we didn’t meet him sooner. He was a 7 or 8 year-old mutt who had been living in a no-kill shelter for at least 3 years. We could have met him sooner.

I think I did read somewhere that you can’t wait for something in your life to happen to make yourself happy. There’s not much of a ‘right time’ for anything. You have to make whenever your good time.

It reminds me of a classmate in graduate school. The program was two years length. She got pregnant twice during that time, taking one year off in the middle and giving birth to her second child right after graduation. Others, including myself wondered how she can handle all that, working part-time, studying, and raising children. But in her case, too, waiting for a ‘right time’ might have not been realistic. If she waited until after graduation, she would have had to juggle getting use to her new role as a nurse practitioner with pregnancy and child-rearing. If she waited until she was established as a nurse practitioner, that would be another few years later, who knew what her situation would have been like then?

Sometimes, you just have to make the present moment, not a future, your ‘good time’.

Do you have a dream you are hopping to carry out? Did you have a future plan that you just ended up carrying out without waiting for the ‘right time’?