Friday, January 29, 2016

Meal Plans Do Really Help

I’ve never really had a meal plan. I couldn’t think of planning a meal a head of time and shopping based on it. My thought was, ‘I buy what’s on sale, what looks good and buy so how can I plan ahead?’

But I was wrong. I can still do what I do and still use a meal plan. A lot of times vegetables, proteins, and starches are swappable. 

And a great benefit of meal planning that I found: I use ingredients a lot more timely. It used to be that I might buy an ingredient and let them just sit in the fridge or cabinet and forget to use them for months on end. Now if I buy an ingredient that looked good and was on sale but not on my list, I can go ahead and plan a meal using it, for maybe the week after or even next month.

The result, an organized shelves. There are less ‘stuff’. I can see what is leftover = I’ll be able to plan and use whatever that exists = Less waste.

Another benefit: I cook a little more. Some days, it used to be that I came home tired from work and having to think of dinner was just a drag. It was easy to rely on frozen pizzas and take-outs. Now I can plan ahead and do somethings ahead (like cutting vegetables or cooking the protein). Just knowing what I needed to do to prepare for dinner just makes me that much ready to cook, too.

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:
Swedish Meatballs: Kind of like stroganoff. 

Big Sur Carrot Tangerine Bread: With also nuts in it, it felt pretty healthy. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Remission and Residual Symptoms of Depression: How much of depression can be treated?

I think it was only about a decade or two ago, the prevailing idea for depression treatment was to put someone on medication for 9 months then stop. 

But then, people realized that
  • Some people need longer treatment
  • For some people, antidepressants won’t work or they need more than one

Now, it is found that even people who are ‘successfully’ treated or thought to have gone into remission a lot of times still have ‘residual’ symptoms.

Still, I’d like to think that hope is not all lost. There are newer treatments coming out; three new drugs in the past year or so; transcranial magnetic stimulation; vagus nerve stimulation. It is true that none of these are ‘silver bullets’ either. It works for some people, it doesn’t seem to do much for others. And yet, combinations of these treatments, including psychotherapy, might still work.

By Nina Aldin Thune, via Wikimedia Commons

The residual symptom that I really struggle with is fatigue. Some days I am willing to do, wanting to do things yet I’m tired, not necessarily sleepy. I have to really push myself to do things. The more I get treatment for depression, the more I realize the gap between my (hopefully) baseline self and the being dragged by depression self. So it is really frustrating on days that I’m tired because I know that I can do more, that I can be a lot productive if it weren’t for these symptoms.

The last medication I tried seemed to do good for me. I was excited. Then after few months on it I realized that the side effect were not worth it. I had to give it up. By then I’ve already tried several medication and was sick and tired of dealing with side effects. So for the last 9 months or so I’ve been on the same two medication still fighting the fatigue. But I think I’m ready to try another now.

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:
Orzo & Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta, Olives & Oregano: I did make it a warm meal because it was cold outside

Lemon Mascarpone Blondies: not your typical blondies 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Everyone of Us is Responsible for What's Happening in Congress

This is not just about voting. We are not finished when we cast a vote. We need to keep an eye on what our representatives are doing: 
  • What they are voting for and what they are opposing;
  • Are they being influenced by money, lobbyists, big money-contributing industries instead of really doing something for US the regular people?;
  • Are they just making a grand stand and opposing everything because it was proposed by the other party?
We need to let each one of the representatives know that they are being watched and that we did NOT give carte blanche to everything that he/she believes in. For example, if you voted for a candidate who is pro-life. But if you find that he is against gun control and you do not agree, you can send a simple letter, e-mail, saying, ‘I voted for you but I am FOR gun control.’ Getting their e-mails is so easy. You’ll probably get a stamped response from their office but YOU ARE making your voice heard.

There are many organization out there that even collects signatures to congress, companies, industries to deliver the voice of us simple citizens. You can just put your name on the list. It takes less than a minute. The downside is you’ll get more e-mails from them but YOU ARE making your voice heard.

There should be NO disparities between what the majority of the public think/poll results and what goes on in the congress!

By Harris & Ewing, via Wikimedia Commons

This is a rant of sorts because I’ve been angry since reading an article about Senator Reid of Nevada allowing a big loophole in tax BECAUSE he was most likely influenced by industry lobbyists which pumps in money to his election campaign. The result: one billion dollar loss in taxes. What can you do with one billion? Can we make schools better? Can we use it for cancer research?

I am just SOOOOO mad!

Each one of us needs to keep an eye on what OUR representatives are doing. In the end, they are also humans. Self-preservation, money, power can lure them to the dark side.

By NASA, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sibling Bereavement

When someone dies, the parents or the spouse are the ones who seem to attract the most sympathy and support, which is what they deserve. But I hope also that the siblings get their support, too. Even if they seem to not understand or even if they seem like they are not affected. They will understand in their own way and grieve in their own way. And there are organizations that can help by giving information and a place to connect with peers who can uniquely identify with what they are going through.


Below is my story. It does get a bit long but bare with me. I cannot talk about my loss without talking about my brother.

I lost my older brother, my only sibling in my teens. Or, I should say my brother died when he was 22 years old. I correct myself a lot because the former statement seems like it’s about me when my brother was the one affected.

Anyway, he was several years older then me. But …
  • He was my best friend - we lived in few different countries growing up. He was my one constant companion. Despite the age and gender differences, I have tons of memories playing together. Once we even boiled leaves from a backyard tree while my mother took a nap (I remember it tasted horrible!).
  • He was a kind brother
    • He didn’t get annoyed with me tagging along and wanting to do whatever he did (there are a lot of photos in which I sit next to him and am drawing or sewing as he does; he let me tag along to school for summer vacation exercises)
    • He was patient when I went into tamper tantrums (the only time he really got angry at me was when I got so frustrated losing a card game and started hitting and kicking him)
    • He pretty much helped me with all the craft projects that came with a monthly kid’s magazine that I couldn’t do.
    • He always teased me and insisted that he should get twice the amount of snacks since he was bigger. But he never actually asserted his rights. I always split them equally between us. I only gave him one extra if there were odd numbers of things.
  • I was proud of him in many ways 
    • He was tall (close to 6 foot while I was less than 5 foot tall); 
    • He was athletic (played tennis well and skied among other things)
    • He was a class leader
    • He studied hard
  • He was the best teacher in my family (my mother was too impatient; my father, if I asked him a level 5 or 8 problem, he always had to start explaining from level 1 taking forever)
  • He was the emotional pillar of the family. He was my protector. He made part of the environment in which I could be myself freely and safely without any constraints. (My father being too busy and pretty much non-existent in our day-to-day lives. Even my mother relied on him at times)

I might have idolized him after his death but he was indeed a good person. And I couldn’t have had a better brother even if I came up with a list of characters that I wanted in one. He was the prefect brother for me.

He was totally ‘normal’ growing up. But when he turned 18, things started going wrong. At first he complained that he couldn’t see well. He got glasses but that did not completely solve the problem. He ended up getting bounced from one medical speciality to another, till he landed in neurology. There he was diagnosed with a type of dystrophy. He was also told that he will deteriorate and at most have only 3 three years to live.

It was a quick decline from there: he started having trouble walking straight; having trouble climbing stairs; having trouble writing on a straight line; he lost balance (fell once on train tracks); started crawling; got bed-ridden; became unable to construct coherent words or chew well; and the day before he died, he was no longer able to chew his food at all. He did not last three years.

My mother took care of him at home till the very end with advise and help from a visiting nurse and later a bathing company who brought a tub and helped his stiff body into it. I was at a boarding school then but came home frequently on weekends. I remember only once being at my brother’s bedside when my mother had an engagement that she could not cancel. 
I’m pretty sure, I was in denial that he was sick and failing. It probably didn’t help that I was losing touch with my emotions (that process was mentioned in a different blog post), either.

His death didn’t sink in. I thought I should be feeling sad more than I actually felt said. At his funeral I told my brother in my mind that I will not think of his death because it will make me sad. And I promised to him that now I, in my brother’s place, will ‘take care’ of my mother who was in deep grief.

My life went on as if nothing happened. I told none of my friends. I hadn’t even told them about his illness. Since my family home was far away from school, I’ve never invited anyone home. None of my friends knew my brother face-to-face. And I didn’t want pity. I didn’t want to make my friends uncomfortable.

One day, more than a year after my brother’s death, I was at home alone. I was listening to a song and along came the lyrics ‘we will meet again someday, somewhere.’ And it suddenly hit me. I realized that I was never going to see my brother again. Tears gushed out and I was knocking everything from the desk and hurtling anything within reach at the floor and walls.

It was as if, until then, I was acting on a stage with props unknowingly. And when reality hit me, I was standing alone in the middle of rubbles.

I was in despair. I was angry that he had to thus suffer. I was angry at the world, the injustice for letting him die while bad people, ‘less worthy’ people lived on. I was angry at myself for not doing anything for him when he needed the help, despite all he had done for me. I felt survivor’s guilt: I, the lesser one, less smarter, less athletic, less reliable should have gone instead of my brother. I was angry that he was torn away from me and I had to thus suffer. 

But I kept all that emotions to myself. My mother was the one who lost a child, a deeper loss. When she doesn’t express that much grief often how can I? The despair was felt so dark and deep that I didn’t think any of my friends could deal with it if I confessed. In the end, the pain and anger was too great to carry on, I just wanted to end my life, to follow my brother. Clearly life has not much meaning. A good person like my brother can just die one day and nothing happens, nothing changes, the world goes on.

Ultimately, my self-preservation instincts were too strong. I didn’t want my mother to experience another child’s death either.

I was in college by then. I had vague future plans, or more like fuzzy dreams. But those now felt totally meaningless fluff. I wondered what I can do to live until the day I can go to my brother. Nursing, was the answer I came up with.

It probably had to do with the fact that I hardly helped with his care and felt really guilty. I wanted to make amends by helping others. Another big incentive: after the diagnosis my gentle brother became sullen, especially among family members. He was probably angry that he was dealt a bad card. I also think, and it is most likely that the disease eventually eroded his thoughts. From then on, I never saw him smile except just once. 

This was soon after the diagnosis. He was in a hospital for about a month. Either the doctor wanted to do some more tests or was trying to see if they can slow the symptoms, I just don’t know. One day when I was home from the boarding school, my mother took me to visit him in the hospital. As we went up the stairs I caught sight of my brother and he was smiling. It was so shocking that the scene burnt itself onto the back of my eyelids forever. What he was doing at the time: having a conversation with a nurse. And I realized that nurses are always there. Even when there is not much a doctor can do, a nurse can stay with the patient and support a person to the end of life. That nurse was able to make my brother smile. I wanted to be that nurse. I wanted to be able to do that to someone since I couldn’t do it for my brother.

Until then, I’ve never thought of going into the medical field. No one in my family that I knew was. I didn’t think that math and science were my thing. I liked history and reading books. But that was that. I changed my course. I went back to studying high school math and science. My only wish was that I would do good as a nurse and that if/when I see my brother again, he will great me with a smile, a word of acknowledgement at what I’ve done. 

It has been years since then, and I still hope so.


Sorry for my story getting so long. Thank you for letting me write this all out. I’ve never been able to put it all into words like this. But the bottom line is a child can grieve about a sibling in their own way. Their age and understanding, sibling relationship, circumstances of death, etc. will affect how they uniquely grieve. They might need a hand to get over it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Depression and Bing Eating

I’ve lost about 10 lbs in the past two years. Did I go on a diet? No. Did I increase my activity level? No.

As the title probably cued you, I used to binge eat. I don’t remember when I started doing it. I know I definitely was doing it when I started living on my own. I would buy tons of snacks and eat till I’m physically uncomfortable. 

I used to go to the gym because I loved to swim and my employer offered it as part of the benefits. When I’d go, I’d always swim 1 kilometer or just over a thousand yards. I just loved to swim. I went when I could and I think I went at least twice a week. But that did not lead to a weight loss. Because of my regular binge-eating.

In those days, I don’t think I even wondered why I binge eat. I just did. When I felt the urge I just went to buy whatever I wanted to.

Even after I got married, it continued. While my husband was at work, I’d go to grocery stores, pharmacy, or gas station to get snacks.

By Maria Raquel Cochez (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

But when I started therapy for depression, something changed. Without trying to do so, unconsciously, I lost the pounds. I just don’t feel the urge to binge-eat as much. I would confess that their are times that I eat a little more than I should behind my husband’s back. But a lot less than I used to and very infrequently. And now I know that I eat when I am stressed out about something.

I’m not quite sure if it’s simply because I’m less depressed. It could also be that I’m now able to acknowledge my emotions more and deal with it instead of just bottling them up. Or it could be both.

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:

Twisted Almond and Nutella Bread Loaf: Easier to make then I thought it would be and tasty.
Grilled Marinated Pork: Great spice combination.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Thank You and Happy Birthday

Need I say more, no I don't think so.

By Phil Stanziola, NYWT&S staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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:
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Almond Herb Sauce: If you like anchovies, this is for you.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Ability to Read Non-Fiction = Maturity ?

I have trouble finishing non-fiction books. In fact, at this time I have seven non-fiction books that I’ve started reading (and that I know of) but have not finished:

Can A Darwinian Be a Christian? By Micheal Ruse
FDR By Jean Edward Smith
Our Endangered Values By Jimmy Carter
Paper Trail By Ellen Goodman
Awakening to Race By Jack Turner
The Next American Revolution By Grace Lee Boggs
Half the Sky By Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

I start reading with, off course, the intention of reading them. They are interesting to say the least. Some, I’ve even finished about 2/3 of them. Yet I cannot finish them.

I know what one problem is. When I’m tired, I just want to read fiction just for pleasure. Some books, I just have to pay real attention to to understand. It probably doesn’t help that English is my second language (though people won’t realize it if they just talk to me on the phone). 

Or am I making too much of them? Maybe I should just read them when I want to read, no matter how tired I feel. If they are interesting enough, I might be drawn into them.

Do you have similar problems? What do you do then?

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:

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs in Cumin Coriander Spiced Tomato Sauce: It’ll be hard make regular meatballs after this.

Chicken Fried Rice: Simple, yet delicious.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Medications Side Effects and Finding the Right One

Every TV commercial for a medication comes with a drone of possible side effects. Some people will think, ‘why bother taking something that can make you ill?’ and turn to ‘natural’ remedies.

The fact of the matter is, there is no way to prove or disapprove that these side effects are caused by these medications. They test these medications before marketing. One group of people will get the actual medication, while another will get a medication that looks like the real thing but has no active ingredients in it (placebo). Side effects are always reported by people in both groups, most of the time, more in the actual drug group. 

I always thought that there are people who are prone to be swayed by suggestions. That if some people were explained that there are possible this, this, and that side effect, they will end up complaining about them. I am not discounting their experience. I just thought that because these people believe they will get the side effects, that they will attribute every bad feeling that happened to manifest itself during the testing to the medication. So as a prescriber I was really cautious about explaining possible side effects.

But I was more worried about people not taking the medication because of the side effects. So my explanation always ended with the fact there are multiple alternative medications, some in a different chemical group, that can be tried if one did not work. If I decided that a person is better of taking the medication then risking possible consequences (future stroke, heart attack, etc), I’d  am willing to take the time to find the right medication for that person. I just don’t want people to stop taking the medication and not tell me about it. Unfortunately, at this time, we don’t know which medication works the best for each individual with the minimum or no side effect. It is, unfortunately, a trial and an error.

What I didn’t realize was that sometime it can be REALLY difficult to find the right medication. This is about me and my depression/anxiety. I don’t know how many medications I have tried. Paxil, Remeron, Ability, Latuda, Geodon….. All had side effects that affected my normal functioning capacity and were not worth taking them, whatever good effects they also had. I can’t say that I’ve found the perfect combination, still. But after trying several, I am currently taking a hiatus from trying yet another one.

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:
Blueberry Barley Muffins: I had barley flakes I wanted to use. Great texture!

One Pan Sumac Chicken Thighs: It uses oranges but it is a subtle taste in the finish.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Football Hall of Fame and Terrell Owens

As a football fan, I visit the website quite a lot during the season. But usually I don’t play much attention to who was inducted in the Hall of Fame. This year articles regarding the selection caught my eye. Simply because I’m a Brett Farve fan and he is thought to be a definite inductee for this year. But it also said that wide receiver Terrell Owens was among the last players to be considered. I’ve never really followed his play but in the past what I’ve heard friends having negative opinions about him. Sure enough, there are people who question his attitude and behavior. And if teams were hesitant to hire him due to his behavior, that says a lot about the person he is.

So he is not really a player with good sportsmanship. Does that kind of person need to be inducted in the Hall of Fame? He might have had a hard childhood but would that totally excuse him? I’m kind of doubtful.

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:

Easy Homemade Yellow Curry Paste: I couldn't find a jar of yellow curry paste and ended up making it. It's so worth it. I used what I need and froze the rest for later use. 
Thai Yellow Chicken Curry with Potatoes: Made this with the above paste. 

Friday, January 8, 2016


My husband spent New Years at his parents’ house. I needed to stay home to take care of J, our dog.

My husband informed me just now that while he was there, his brother asked him if my husband wants to go with him to buy marijuana for the parents.

O.K. In my in-laws’ state recreational marijuana is legal. But why would you want somebody to start using it ?!

My in-laws are not in pain.
It took them time to quit smoking cigarettes when they were young parents.

I want to grab my brother-in-law by his neck and shake him viciously(although it most likely won’t help getting sense into him).

Studies show that short-term, light use probably does not cause lung problems. But effects of long-term, heavy use is still unknown.

Would you recommended use to someone who has no health/medical problems of any kind? Yes, it might help you relax you but there are other known less harmful ways to do that.

This news is really bothering me for some reason. I had to let it out.

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:

Dan Dan Noodles: Vegetarian version using tofu. 

Wild Blackberry Lemon Quick Bread: With tons of fruits. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Why Do You Have/Own a Dog?

This is a question I want to pose to some of my neighbors. Are some of the dogs just guard dogs? Are they like ornaments of the yard?

I know there are variety of reasons to have a dog. I shouldn’t be judgmental because what life I give my dog may not be for his best interest, or his liking, or the best life he can have. But…

One neighbor has a dog without collar running around freely. She is quiet, hardly barks. I’ve seen the inhabitants of the house come home in a car few times. The dog runs to them but I’ve never seen on those occasions, them petting her or talking to her. Then, they got another dog, a smaller one. This guy has a collar and spends most of his time inside the house. I don’t like seeing dogs being treated differently.

There is a house with two dachshunds in the yard. They are outside even when there’s frost on the ground (here it doesn’t snow). And I’m sure there are kept outside all day because I see them around 6 am and 8 pm. Aren’t those lap dogs to be kept in the house?

A black lab kept out alone in the yard. Wait, aren’t labs known for friendliness and playfulness? Why is it out there at all times? Didn’t the owner get it for companionship?

This is the one of the most puzzling and distressing situation: a neighbor has at least 3, if not 4 medium sized dogs in their back yard. Each is kept in their, maybe 4’x3’ cage. The only time I’ve seen them out in the general back yard area is when the owner is spraying water to the concrete floor of the cages for cleaning. 

By Richard Ansdell - The Gamekeeper

These are just examples of what I see that frustrates me. On the other hand, there are dogs in our neighborhood who seem to be getting good care, too.

Also, leash law seems to mean nothing here. My husband several years ago was bitten by a dog, called animal control, and had to get rabies prophylactic treatment because the dog was not vaccinated. And in the past year, my dog and I have been each bitten by different dogs on different occasions. It’s not the dogs’ fault. It’s the owners’ fault. They just let them run around all day long. And most of them seemed not be be spayed because female dogs get pregnant sooner or later and have puppies that don't look like them. It's a bad situation.

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:

Dan Dan Noodles: Vegetarian version with delicate taste. 

Wild BlackBerry Lemon Quick Bread: My husband likes black berries and this recipe was approved by him.