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Broccoli and Swiss Chard Salad

I started off the morning thinking I would make us one thing but then Lucas and I ventured out to check on the garden…
Where we ended up with a basket full of Swiss Chard, herbs, beets and one carrot.
The menu changed after that.

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Broccoli and Swiss Chard Salad

Ingredients

    Salad
  • 4 cups chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 4-6 thin cut swiss chard leaves
  • 1 shredded carrot
  • 1 handful of fresh chopped parsley
  • Handful of walnuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds (your choice)
  • Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard seed
  • 2 teaspoons ground Ginger
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Can't get any easier than this...throw the salad fixings in a big old bowl.
  2. Make the dressing in a jar and pour over top.
  3. Enjoy!!
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Nature never forgets…

Remember that part of life where the story left off with our Spring involving a thyroid surgery and survival of the fittest for this family?
Well something was forgotten in the midst of the chaos.
The Winter/Fall wreath on the door.

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Truth be told our neighbors were just lucky we managed to get down the Christmas decorations this year before April;-)
There was that one year where the wire reindeer doubled as the “Easter deer” but it was just that kindof year.  Hopefully we have lived that down in the hood…but doubtful.
We are probably still “that house that had a reindeer in their yard until April that one year!”

Right now you are thinking “what’s the big deal?  So you left a wreath up past the correct season…”
Well….when your front porch looks like something from a Snow White movie (I kindof LOVE flowers in a big way) you end up living like Snow White.  Literally.
Birds flying around your head and all.

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And come on birds!  I have THREE houses out on that darn porch…pretty little homes.  They NEVER use.

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I have this one family of birds that come EVERY year to my porch.  To be honest I have a FLOCK of birds these days.
Birds love it here.  There are four nest going on around the front porch area alone right now.  Heck, I think they are brilliant.
A house in a neighborhood that has tons of flowers, doesn’t treat with chemicals, has a garden with worms (ok several gardens and even a worm composting bucket and compost pile), lots of hay to use for nests….did I mention the chemical free?
These birds are like “We be living in the Whole Foods for birds!”
My backyard is pretty mosquito free this time of year for sure.
But the wreath….
Well this family thinks the wreath makes a wonderful home each year if I don’t get that wreath down in time…and I didn’t this year.  Years past they got me twice in one year!  The first round and the second round that year.
Ugh.

They know I am a sucker.  They also know I will be saving their baby birds every. single. day.
There will be storms that blow the wreath off and I will gather them before the cat gets them and put them all back.
I will rebuild the nest as the babies get to big for it.
I will use duck tape to hold it to the door so that the whole thing doesn’t go tumbling to the ground with the weight.
I will make everyone down to the UPS man use the backdoor or garage door once they hatch.
I will have to repaint the door….again…because of the tape.
But most of all we will watch them grow and keep them all safe.

Oh to be an animal lover.
They must have read the sign below the wreath perhaps?
“If you don’t like animals you should probably leave…”
I have gone to great lengths to teach my children a strong respect for ALL nature.  If that means showing the example by keeping this batch of poorly placed babes alive….then I will.
The only thing that has me worried this go around?
She laid 6 EGGS!!!!  What the heck?  Where in the world are they all going to go?  I have not a clue!
Perhaps she was giving a shout out to six humans who live in the house.  Kindof a “Well you guys have 6 in your family and seem quite happy…we shall do the same.”

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The last few batches have always been 3 and they squish in there.  But 6!!!!
It’s going to be interesting around here for a few weeks.  I will be working hard to keep them alive and not on the ground or in a cat belly.
This should be fun!  I will keep you guys posted.
Now back out to the garden!:-)

 

 

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
~Gary Snyder

Cilantro Lemon Vinaigrette

Garden season!!!!! YES!!!!!!
Ok well you guys know I have been waiting for it…
Most normal moms are probably hanging with their families right now for Mother’s Day.  Me?
Every year the one thing I ask for?  A day off.  Kid free.  All to myself.
Maybe it’s that I am a closet introvert…
Maybe it is that I am just about NEVER alone…
Maybe it is just that getting ANYTHING accomplished with a three year old by your side is impossible.  Or exhausting.  Or just….twice as hard as it should be.
So Yes, being alone for a day is my glorious gift.  Spent in the garden and now editing client images and finally getting somethings finished that are impossible with a crew like mine.
Not complaining…because I love my crazy life….I truly do.  Sometimes a gal just needs a “day off”.
No worries….we will have dinner together and some family time in there.
But for now a glorious, quite day.

I actually have a minute to make a blog post!  Shocker:-)
Since all the thyroid, food sensitives etc… a salad will ALWAYS be at least one meal of the day.
Jill (my bff) and I have taken to calling them “KK salads”.  Why?  Confession…Jill and I watch the Keeping up with Kardashian’s (insert your loud gasp and “FOR REAL!”)
I admit it…I like watching them.
Holding head in embarrassment and pretend shame.  It’s our dirty little secret (that is no longer secret…Jill may just kill me now;-))
Moving on…the Kardashian girls are ALWAYS eating these ginormous (think horse trough size) salads just about every episode.  Trust me, now that you know, all you fellow “secret” watchers will now notice.  You just can’t “un-see” them now.
Since living the KK life now ourselves we have lost a ton of weight so I guess there is something to it.  Jill and I are both down to looking like we did in high school….ok maybe just “close” and a little “older” looking.
This is what you should know about “living off of KK salads”…throw away the idea that salads are to always have tomatoes and store bought salad dressing.  BLUCK!  You will last about 1 week trying that method.
Variety is the spice of life!    Your body and taste buds will thank you!

When we make salads we try to throw in things like:
Micro greens
Berries
Apples
Any type of lettuce or green you can find….thrown together
Nuts (any)
Seeds (any)
Citrus (oranges in and lemons/limes squeezed on them)
Chives (both flowers and stems)
Herbs (all kinds)
Radishes 
Cooked beets (could do raw but I prefer cooked)
Garlic
Onions
Crumbled cheeses
Avocados
And anything else you can dream of…and yes I purposely left off tomatoes, carrots and boring old cucumbers (although I still use fermented carrots and regular cucumbers because they are yummy).  
I love them all but I live for adventure and something “other than”.

Salad dressings.  My dressings almost always have a base that involves a quality Olive Oil and Bragg’s fermented Apple Cider Vinegar.  I try to steer clear of dairy and anything processed.
I need to start sharing them because my friends are getting on me to….because they are YUMMY…and make eating a KK salad every day not so boring and actually something to look forward to.
Share I shall.
First up….Cilantro Lemon Vinaigrette (because Cilantro is in  my garden big time right now)

 

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Salad ingredients:

(for those who are clueless on how to break away from boring American salads…no worries I still love you.)  :

Multi colored lettuce, handful of micro-greens and a handful of Arugula 
Blueberries
Celery
Cucumbers
Orange slices
Pine Nuts
Walnuts
Chive flowers (plucked apart)
A few pitted black olives
Gorgonzola crumbles
Throw them all in a bowl…add or take away anything you would like

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup of Apple Cider vinegar
1/2 of a lemon
2 garlic cloves
Handful of fresh Cilantro
2 tablespoons Honey Mustard
1 tablespoon Honey
Salt and pepper

Throw everything into a blender/mixer and blend until smooth.  This one actually comes out a bit creamy.  You can add more or take away less..that is the beauty of dressing.  Don’t feel like you have to “follow measurements” above.  Dressing is all about making it the way YOU like it.
Be brave.
Be a salad adventurer.
Step away from the hot house tomatoes…if they are “in season” then it is “game on!”
You got this!
Oh and I keep this one in the fridge just because of the fresh Cilantro…not sure how long it is “good for” because it will never make it past a few days around here;-)
Enjoy!

Getting back to a “new normal”…

What a stinking month!  I mean really…living with half a thyroid isn’t for the faint of heart.
Did you know that the thyroid controls…EVERYTHING?!  I sure didn’t.
The good news first…always.
The scar is fantastic!  Dr. Amelia Grover did such an incredible job.  She has to be the best thyroid surgeon in VA.  I am convinced.  Granted my super model days are clearly over (bahahahahaha!)

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Add to her surgery skills, people skills (something very lacking within health care as a basic whole these days) and kindness and you have a fantastic doctor there.
Seriously.  They just don’t make them like her anymore…or at least you have to really hunt them down!  Which I did;-)
I have also come to the conclusion that having a scar across your neck leads to worse stares than guys and boobs.  Yep I went there.
But honestly I can totally understand the stares while holding a conversation with someone with a slit on their throat…of course it is human nature to want to know what the story is behind such a scar.  I have no problem sharing my story but I do find that I wear a scarf on the days I am just not in the mood to answer the questions or deal with the stares.
I really don’t hold it against folks…it’s just some days you don’t feel like gabbing about it….again.

About 10 days after surgery we went in for the follow up visit, thinking the pathology report must be a “no news is good news” scenario, well we were way off on that one.  We had the wind knocked right out of our sails when we heard the news that MCV’s pathology department couldn’t come to a solid conclusion on whether the nodule was Benign, Papillary or Folicular cancer so they sent my cells/removed thyroid onto Massachusetts General for a second opinion from a thyroid pathology specialist.  Our journey may not be over.
THAT. WAS. A. LONG. WEEK.
I don’t think I have ever felt more joy as when Dr. Grover called back on Good Friday to tell me that it came back as “Benign with abnormal cells”…I heard “benign” and then “abnormal cells” and instantly thought “Thank the good Lord we ripped that thing out ASAP!!!”
I lost both parents in their mid-50′s…I will be fighting heredity tooth and nail and I shall put up one heck of a fight to keep healthy from here on out.  Trying to eeck out at least another 20-30 years over here!
It came  just a tad bit to close to the “C” word for my comfort zone.
So now comes the maintenance part of the show…and the healing.

It truly hasn’t been too bad.  Granted I have to give credit to my amazing friends.
Can I just say how they spoiled us with meals, scarves and even a scarf hanger.  These woman amaze me.
If I have learned nothing else that will stick with me forever it is the gift of a simple meal, an “I am praying for you!”, a “Hugs and positive thoughts!”, a silly animal video posted on my wall (do those EVER get old?) etc….
They seem like little things but when you are deep in the midst of a health crisis there are no such things as “little things” or kindnesses.  Every kindness lifts the family up and gives the person a second wind and positive attitude to heal and get better.
Feeling loved is huge.  Knowing my family and kids would be taken care of by my nurturing friends meant the world to me.  Isn’t that what every mother worries about?  Will my kids be ok while I am down?  What will they eat?  How will the house run without me?
What if something goes wrong?  Daryl will be a mess who will catch my kids?  Who will take care of Daryl?
Being a mother with young children during a health crisis is HARD!  HARD I tell you…it’s hard when they are older too but extra with a little in the house.
I now know for sure that my family will be just fine without me or if and when something goes array.  I have surrounded myself with some pretty incredible friends and acquaintances and I am in total and complete wonder at the love everyone shared.
So much so it has taken me a month to write this.
How does one “thank” someone for such things?  The answer is….it’s hard to come up with a response that equals the love and joy they shared and really convey your gratitude.
A “thank you” card just won’t cut it.  It’s a wonderful starting place but since I am not good at thank you cards all my peeps who shared food went home with a little reminder of how much it means to someone to take a meal and go the extra mile.  If we missed any of you there are a few more over here I need to give out to the folks who brought meals in the beginning because I made these a few days after surgery.  (free printable can be found here)

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So now my new normal…
I seem to live at the doctors office.  Vampires all of them I tell you.
If I relay nothing else from this whole experience it is to be your own doctor!  Be proactive.  Read. Read. and then read some more.  Know exactly what you are walking into and an idea of what can “fix” it.
I have found fantastic doctors that are willing to work with me and we have wonderful conversations.  I have even been told how wonderful it is to work with a patient who knows what may help and is willing to do it (such as change my entire diet…most would not).
The “finding fantastic doctors” part is tough.  I won’t lie.  I have had to “fire” several along the way.
I don’t hesitate.  If you aren’t on board with nutrition as important and just want me to take a pill you shall be gone.  Not that I don’t like them as people but we would never mesh on a medical standpoint.  Also not that I won’t take a pill…you just have to give me real information on “why” I must and I want to know what the side effects are and the impact of taking this pill long term.  I also want to know alternatives.
Listen folks, there are ALWAYS alternatives.
Popping pills should be your LAST option.  Not the first.  It may “fix” your immediate issue but it typically leads to a side effect that will require another pill of some sort.  Slippery slope those pills are.
All that being said…I am well on my way to being put on Armour Thyroid hormone.  My T4 is not converting to T3 and boy can I feel it.  It was crappy before the thyroid lobectomy so I really didn’t have much hope that it would be better minus half.
I am exhausted by mid-day and my hair is still falling out in heaps.  I am well on my way to needing hair extensions or a wig if it keeps up at this rate.  If I don’t take a magnesium supplement at night there will be no sleeping.  God bless Magnesium (and yes…I figured that one out on my own.  Reading is my friend.)  My hands are always cold.
Weight…because that is the FIRST thing every gal who has her thyroid messed with worries about (remember your thyroid controls everything…seriously.)  Haven’t gained a pound.  Still down the 25 I lost prior to surgery from the diet change.

I gave up Wheat, Gluten, dairy, sugar (except fruit and some honey), coffee, cut meat down to 2-3 times a week.  I know it sounds extreme BUT I have never gone hungry a day.  I simply eat a TON of veggies and fruit.
The weight FELL off.  I have continued to eat this way for the most part.
I have added back a bit of sugar, an occasional bit of cheese once or twice a week, coffee (with coconut milk) a few times a week and have added in limiting my nightshade foods (think tomatoes, peppers etc.) since they are a major contributor to arthritis like pain.
We cheated for our birthday weekend last week. When I say “cheated” I mean we ate out.  I tried to stay on it as much as possible but that is hard when traveling.  Within two days my carpal tunnel,  shoulder pain, planters fasciitis and tennis elbow had ALL returned.
It was a big eye opener to just how extreme what we eat can effect how we feel.  My body was ANGRY.  I didn’t even fall that far off the wagon!  Inflammation from food is clearly an issue for me.
So here is the thing.  When you KNOW that a food you put into your mouth is going to cause you to be in pain you really don’t mind NOT eating it.  You may miss it but you think twice before eating it.
Add in the size 6 pants and it’s even easier;-)
I will NEVER be able to thank Kelly over at Guerrilla Wellness enough for those simple words years ago when talking about my pains “Have you tried food?” .  Wise woman and I can’t recommend highly enough ANY class she teaches.  She was my life changer.

Work…
I get asked this one alot as well.
I am back up and running with the photography.  Granted exhausted by noon but better each day.
Tumbled into real estate/architecture and farm images…loving this genre!  Who knew?
I guess it was just a natural progression to fall into architecture and design work after blogging all these years.  My crafty side LOVES getting to see all these lovely homes decorated beautifully!
I will be sharing more soon but for now the fan page, Instagram, Twitter will be reflecting more and more of this work over the Summer for sure!
Home and garden…my loves.  Who wouldn’t love getting lost behind a camera at sunset on a farm?  WHO!?
Oh and I purchased my first “mirrorless” camera.  I need to post on that soon!

My own garden…
Hot mess.  Poor neglected garden.  Dear garden, I am sorry.  I promise to tend to you soon.  For realz.   Until then I am living at the farmers markets and my friends farms (thanks farming friends!).

Catching up…
It’s endless.  Miss a month of your life (ok really three with the illness before hand and millions of doctors visits) and I promise you it will take you three additional just to catch up.
I have let balls drop and it’s like playing dodgeball.  You run as fast as you can to pick up the balls you have dropped, picking them up and throwing them back as fast as you can.
It’s exhausting but I am NOT complaining.  I am just thankful I am here to try and clean up what I let drop.  It could have been different and I know this.
Boy do I know this.
Thankful.  That is all.

I think this whole life event has changed me in some pretty huge ways.
Huge.  Actually I don’t “think it has”, I know it has.
Health crisis can bring out the best or worst in a person.  Me?
I am definitely more  humble…thankful…not taking a THING for granted….kinder…gentler…more forgiving (was that even possible?)…did I mention thankful?…even more of a “hugger” than I was before!  Hugs for all!…goofier (because laughter truly is the best medicine and life is truly too short to take too much seriously)…
I am just better.  All around.
Don’t sweat the small stuff folks.  If you are still kicking you are still winning.
This may indeed come back again at any point.  The first sign of ANYTHING suspicious and they will be ripping out the remaining half of my thyroid but here is what I know…illness is just part of life and living.
I will be fine.  Just fine:-)
Now back to life…with a big old smile and thankful heart.

My thyroid went “rogue”…

Well I should have known it was going to smoothly around here….

It had been a dreary sort of Winter.  I had been feeling exhausted everyday, all day.
No real reason.  I had a hunch something was “off” but just wasn’t sure what.
Then I went to get my hair highlighted and the wonderful hairdresser says “You need to get your butt to a doc ASAP!”
And I am all “Why?!”
And she simply says “You have thyroid hair….normal people don’t lose hair in this amount.   Only my thyroid folks.  GO!”
That was all it took.  I immediately set an appointment for the next day with my general practitioner.
The doctors visit started off normal enough…
“What’s your concern?”
“I am exhausted ALL the time…I wake up and I could go right back to bed.  My hair is falling out in heaps and I still have that neck pain I saw you for back in June.  Now I feel like a I have a lump in my throat when I swallow.”
“I am sure it’s nothing.”  Until she gets to feeling my throat…then it jumped to… ”Oh yes you have a lump right there.”
How had I NOT noticed this huge lump on the side of my neck?  How?!

The end of Jan. was the beginning of some not so fun months.
Countless vials of blood and many ultrasounds on my throat, and one (not so fun) biopsy (it came back benign) later and here is the list of what “I know”:
~I was low on Vitamin D…which is apparently a pretty big deal.  Who knew?
~I was a bit low on Iron and Vitamin B
~I have a lovely case of reactivated Epstein Barr (mono) which a few days after that first visit in January sent me straight into full on mono with huge glands and just plain miserable to boot.
~I had a 4.8 CM complex single nodule (that’s huge by the way…your thyroid on each side is only 3-4cm to begin with)
~I am neither Hypo or hyperthyroid at this time.  But now that I am minus a half a thyroid I will possibly fall into Hypo.

 

I am that annoying patient who READS everything.  I learned a very long time ago that doctors make mistakes…alot.
I also found right off the bat that my food allergies could all be related to my stupid thyroid.  My thyroid could be related to the stupid food allergies….
So I immediately stopped eating high allergen foods.  Especially gluten and dairy.
Within a day the lump started to go down a bit.  Within another day of adding in the Vitamin D it’s went down a bit more.
I think the mono was what really brought the lump to the light and am thankful for that.

Any way around it this battle was not how I was expecting to be spending my Spring.  I have a garden to get in….and children to watch grow up.  They need their mother.
I will do anything to be here.  I know what it is like to have a mother pass well before you stop “needing” her…do you ever stop needing your mother?
I don’t think so.  Hence why the “get it out NOW!” route seemed best.
We met with a surgeon last Wed. and by Friday morning I was in the hospital having my right thyroid lobe removed.
It was FAST and took us off our feet…..but our friends quickly stepped in and took over.
God bless them!  They quickly circled the wagons and called in the troops.
Meals have shown up on our door every single night.  THIS is such a God send.  With such a quick toss into surgery we were soooo unprepared.
But it needed done and done fast.
Now we are waiting on the cancer pathology report to come back.  The hardest part of this whole surgery is this wait.
If the pathology comes back with even a single cancer cell they will call us back to the hospital to put me under immediately and remove the remaining thyroid lobe.
Nerve wracking.
If I HAVE to do it again…I will.
Right now I am just telling myself it’s all clear and we are done with the biggest chunk of this.

Right now I swear I could also sleep 23 hours a day….for real.
But I am getting stronger and back to my old self a bit more each day.

So you know you want to see what it looks like….you know you do.  Nothing like having a slice across the throat as a conversation starter…lol!:-)
This is it on day 5.  I am planning on making a little timeline post eventually with the whole story for those who are going through this right now.  Sadly just about ALL the online stories are unhappy endings and well…folks need to hear some happy endings to these stories.
The thyroid (lobectomy) removal surgery, while not fun, was not that bad.  The scar will be there forever but what’s one more scar?
No biggie and nothing a scarf won’t hide;-)

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Sorry it took so long to post about it…
Sometimes when you are in the middle of the storm you fall into the “I don’t have a clue what to say?” even when it is happening to you.  I kept thinking “I will write about it when I know something…”
But the “knowing something” just doesn’t always happen when you are talking about health.
I do know that I am thankful we did share our story in the end and opened up to friends and said “this is what’s going on and well…help!”
Sometime God likes to keep you humble and this was definitely a very humbling experience.
Thanks again for all the love, support and even funny pet videos;-)
Lesson learned is that a supported and loved patient heals much faster.  True story.

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