I Feel You, Tom

If you’re a baseball fan, or just a general sports fan, you’re probably watching the baseball Playoffs right now. As a fan of baseball, I watch the Playoffs regardless of what team’s playing, but being that the team I grew up cheering for is in the hunt for a championship, I’m much more vested. Although, as I write this, my beloved White Sox are losing 6-1 in an elimination game. But I’m not giving up hope.  They can definitely make a comeback. Right?

Pretty please?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

A couple nights ago, social media lit up as Tom Cruise made an appearance at the Dodgers – Giants playoff game. Cruise was captured on camera, sitting in the stands amongst other fans, looking a bit…. different.  Cruise probably has one of the most recognizable faces in the world, so when something in his appearance seems a little off, people notice.

And social media makes sure everyone knows about it.

I wasn’t watching the game, but when I jumped on my Twitter account, I saw the explosion of tweets asking what the heck happened to Tom Cruise’s face. I saw the camera shots of a smiling Tom Cruise, enjoying a night at a ballgame with his son, and immediately thought…prednisone. 

Yes, Tom looked different. He had, what I unfortunately have come to know very well, “Prednisone Face”. His face was looking quite puffy – a common side effect of taking prednisone – a steroid used to decrease inflammation in one’s body.

Obviously I don’t know what medications Tom Cruise is or isn’t taking. Most people on social media jumped to conclusions that his swelled face was the cause of some botched cosmetic procedure.  But me? I looked at the pictures of Cruise littered all over social media and thought, “I feel you, Tom. I got the puffy face, too.”

I’ve written a little here about the flare-up in my health I’ve been dealing with for some months now. In August, when I wasn’t showing signs of improvement, my doctor put me on my most dreaded drug, prednisone.

Fourteen years ago, I was put on that drug and had spent about five years on it, at adjusting doses, but gaining over 70 pounds, dealing with mood changes, insomnia, and anxiety and constant shakiness. Finally by 2013, my doctor put me a new treatment plan and I was completely off prednisone…until now. 

What I remember most about finally being off the preds was enjoying taking pictures again with friends and family. I finally looked like myself again. My smile was my familiar smile again. My hair was no longer thin, and dry and frizzy (yes prednisone messes with your hair too). I looked healthy again, and I loved that. I missed me, and I swore that I would never be on that drug again…but here we are. 

Though it’s only been about two and half months, and we are already tapering, which I’m grateful for, I’m feeling the effects of this hell of a drug. Yes, it has helped ease some of my ailments, but it has done so while also destroying me at the same time. 

Almost from the start of taking the drug in August, I experienced muscle wasting in my legs, so walking, even up a flight of stairs, was exhausting. Then the insomnia and shakiness came, and of course, the puffiness. 

But I did make the conscious decision to change my diet. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve been eating a more plant-based diet. When I started the steroids, I decided my diet had to be especially clean. Prednisone raises your glucose levels, so I eliminated sugar from my diet, as well as most processed foods. And I drank a lot….a hell of a lot… of water. Water helps with fluid retention. 

Luckily, I learned a lot from my first stint with prednisone, and with my cleaner eating I’ve been able to stave off the usual prednisone weight gain, but I can’t seem to control the puff in my face. My smile is not my smile. And I think that’s what people noticed about Tom Cruise. The world knows a Tom Cruise smile. Is there a more perfect smile in Hollywood? But just a little puff in the cheeks changes everything. 

The good thing is, it’s only temporary. That’s what I keep telling myself. As we taper and I get off this drug, I will be myself again, and it’s not just about looking like myself. It’s about feeling like myself again. 

Here are some of the plant-based meals I’ve been eating to not only keep the calories low, but to also help feed my immune system.  I’m hoping that in the future, if I’m eating a plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet, that will give my immune system the boost it needs to get through flare-ups without needing prednisone. That’s my hope. And what do we have if we don’t have hope?

On the Mend

It’s been over two months since I last wrote. Health issues had put my life on hold for a little while, but after some hard months, I am finally on the mend. It’s a slow, snail-paced mend, but it’s something. And when you’re knocked down, you cling to any help to get you back up.

Unfortunately for me, that help comes in the form of medications, and lots of it. I know I’m lucky to be living in a time that modern medicine and technology keep me alive with a disease that has ‘gravis’ in its name, derived from ‘grave’, but side effects are a real bitch.

Because I have an autoimmune disease, I know my immune system attacks itself. I became a vegetarian about eight years ago after my neurologist at the time told me about a book by Dr. Joel Fuhrman called Eat to Live.  She said her sister-in-law has lupus but had been able to get off most of her medication after following the book’s diet. This was in late 2012. I bought the book. It recommended a plant-based diet.

At the time, I was not at all familiar with plant-based anything. I was eating the standard American diet consisting of mostly meat, dairy, and some vegetables and salads. I didn’t know what inflammatory foods were, but I would come to learn that animal protein is a huge culprit in inflaming our immune system. And for people like me who are already battling a compromised immune system, we don’t need any help wrecking the part of our body that is integral in fighting off viruses and infections, and keeping us healthy.

So I gave up meat. I wish I could say I did it cold turkey, but I am by nature a gradual person. I phased out red meat and pork, but ate chicken and fish. It took about five months to completely be off meat. I also ditched dairy milk for almond milk. That was an easy transition because almond milk is delicious.

Eliminating animal protein completely from my diet was hard. I hate that it was so hard for me. I hate that I didn’t read Dr. Furhman’s books and immediately change my diet, especially after what my doctor had told me. But diets are hard to change, but I eventually made the change. I went vegan, but would eventually eat cheese again. This back and forth happened three or four times. It was a vicious cycle.

About a year ago I again went vegan, with an emphasis on eating a more plant-based diet. For a little while there I was consuming way too much vegan junk food. With the rise of more people ditching meat or just eating less of it, companies have taken notice and grocery story shelves are filled with vegan pizzas, vegan burgers and sausages, vegan chicken nuggets and patties, vegan mac and cheese, and vegan ice cream and doughnuts.  I indulged in all of them and I loved them all — a bit too much.

I’m not saying I’ll never eat those foods anymore, but they are no longer stocked in my fridge the way they used to be. It is definitely a ‘once-in-a-while’ thing. All that processed food is not the optimal diet in fighting inflammation. I admit, before this flare-up happened and when I was feeling good, I got lax, and I ditched some veggies for  vegan corn dogs and fries and other tasty and convenient vegan products.

Earlier this year around March, something triggered my immune system to get all wacky and now, in September, I’m still trying to make it right. Things are getting better, but it’s been a journey I never want to be on again. I do wonder if I were eating a more anti-inflammatory diet would my immune system have responded better? Had I stuck to my plan of eating mostly plants and whole foods would I been able to beat this flareup? Maybe. I don’t know, but my diet now is based around whole foods, as close to its natural state as possible.

It’s easy to eat extra healthy when you’re not feeling well, but making it your lifestyle even on days where you’re feeling great and just want to splurge a little, nd then it turns into a lot. That’s the challenge. But if I ever get tempted to go back to my old ways, I have about six months worth of reasons not to.

My Failed Plant-Based for Thirty Days Challenge

My plan to eat completely plant-based for thirty days lasted about seventeen days. Though I’ve failed to eat 100 hundred percent plant-based, doesn’t mean I completely gorged myself on junk vegan processed foods, although I did over-indulge a little. A couple weeks ago, a local Chicago-based fast food restaurant, Buona Beef, that specializes in Italian beef, debuted its Italian “beefless” sandwich.

It tasted just what I remember an Italian beef tasting like. Even my omnivore neighbor couldn’t taste a difference. It’d been awhile since I’d had one. Italian beefs were one of my faves. For me, an Italian beef sandwich is more “Chicago” than hotdogs and deep dish pizza. But Veganwise, there was nothing comparable to the real thing…until now.

In the last few weeks I’ve had three of them. Don’t judge. I’m making up for lost time. At least I’d found the will to steer clear of my favorite vegan ice creams — and there are many. Still, despite my affinity for all things Beyond Burgers and Daiya pizzas, I do have my limits to the amount of delicious vegan processed junk I consume on a regular basis. I enjoy many simple vegan meals too, based around foods that were grown in the ground and not in a lab, but if those lab-grown foods replace animals from being torturously slaughtered, then I’m all for it…with some consumption limitations.

Although I failed the challenge I made to myself, one habit I’m going to make permanent is not filling my freezer with all of my favorite vegan junkfoods – pizzas, burgers, sausages, corn dogs, and ice cream. If it’s not in my house, I can’t eat it.

Plant-Based Living

I’ve been eating plant-based for about eleven days, as part of my thirty days of plant-based eating. I had decided I’d been consuming way too much processed vegan junk food, and decided to give my body a break from the manufactured foods, and instead, fill it with whole foods as close to its natural state as possible.

Most of the the recipes I made came from a cookbook written by Dr. John McDougall. He preaches a low fat/high carb vegan plant-based diet, consisting mostly of potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, and multigrain breads. Although my previous diet did consist of plenty of fruits and vegetables, my snack choices– chips, ice cream, pastries —  were counter productive. The past few weeks my snacks consisted of raw nuts and sliced veggies with hummus. To satisfy my sweet tooth cravings, I turned to fruit, smoothies, or fruit in plain yogurt. (Okay, I cheated one night with a piece of vegan dark chocolate, but I didn’t need nearly as much chocolate as I usually do. That’s progress, right? Please say yes :).

The recipes I’ve made so far have been easy and convenient and very healthy, but there hasn’t been much of a change in how I look or feel, except to say that a couple days ago my face broke out in acne I haven’t seen since I was thirteen. I’m hoping it’s a result of all those toxins exiting my body. Maybe? Could be?

It would be unfair for me to judge the impact this plant-based diet is having on me thus far, because I am currently experiencing a Myasthenia Gravis flare-up that began before I started this diet. In fact, it was because of the flare-up that inspired me to clean up my eating to help give my immune system a boost.  I am sure if I wasn’t experiencing muscle weakness that is limiting my physical abilities right now, and I was able to exercise while eating this diet, I’d no doubt see a more physical change in me.

I have over two weeks left to go. I definitely am not going to ever abandon eating plant-based. I think from now on it will always be the majority of my diet, with just a splash of the vegan processed junk I love so much.

Here are pictures of some of the meals I’ve enjoyed eating so far.

Continue reading “Plant-Based Living”

Day One of a Plant-Based Diet

Today’s the first day of eating nothing but plant-based food for thirty days. I’ve been a vegetarian for about eight years, and then turned to veganism not too long ago. So although I eat a lot of fruit and veggies, I am sure that I indulged way too much in my favorite vegan junk food. I’m looking straight at you Beyond Meat! Though I’d always tried to balance the amount of processed foods I ate with more healthy foods, I no doubt overdid it with the delicious brands of vegan ice creams, vegan pizzas, vegan burgers, vegan sausages, vegan corndogs, vegan chicken nuggets, vegan….I think you get the idea. 

In 2006, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis. The first seven years were pretty hard, but the last eight years have been quite bearable, without any serious flareups, until recently. I believe food is the medicine that could keep our bodies in optimal health. I’m hoping the negative effects I’m feeling from my disease will motivate me to stay on course and eat strictly a plant-based diet. I didn’t weigh myself before I started. This is more about feeling better than losing weight, but yeah, I’m hoping for that one too. 

I have a pre-planned list of recipes I jotted down from a plant-based cookbook written by Dr. John McDougall, The  McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook, I have that should cover me for a couple weeks. The fridge is stocked with all the healthy deliciousness of natural and unprocessed foods.  The key is staying organized and having a meal plan. 

Today’s meal was a simple carrot, celery, kale, and noodle soup, and black bean sloppy joes over roasted potatoes.

One day down. Twenty-nine to go. Easy peasy. 

Author, Chris Pavesic, Visits my Blog

Please welcome author, Chris Pavesic, to my blog. She is sharing a Butternut Squash soup recipe that can easily be veganized with plant-based butter and vegetable broth if, like me, vegan is your thing.  Chris is also talking about her books, Starter Zone and Traveler’s Zone. 

from Chris Pavesic  My sister-in-law Breen loves to cook and occasionally works her magic in my kitchen. Just the other day she prepared one of our family favorites. We thoroughly enjoy a bowl or two during winter as lunch or dinner. For me the pepitas make this dish a hit. I love scooping them out one at a time with a spoonful of soup! Roasted Butternut Squash Soup 4 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-in. cubes 2 tbsp. olive oil Salt and pepper to taste 2 tbsp. unsalted butter 1 onion, roughly chopped 8 cups chicken broth 1 tsp. dried thyme Pepitas (Shelled pumpkin seeds) Preheat oven to 400° F. Place squash on baking sheets; avoid overcrowding.  Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Pour in the chicken broth and add thyme.  Bring to a boil. Remove the squash from the oven and add to the broth.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Using a regular or immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.  Serve warm.  Top with pepitas if desired. Why not read a good book while you enjoy your soup? May I suggest one of the books from my LitRPG series The Revelation Chronicles?  In Starter Zone Cami kept herself and her younger sister Alby alive in a post-apocalyptic world, facing starvation, violence, and death on a daily basis. Caught by the military and forcefully inscribed, Cami manages to scam the system and they enter the Realms, a Virtual Reality world, as privileged Players rather than slaves. They experience a world of safety, plenty, and magical adventure. In the Traveler’s Zone magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as Cami continues her epic quest to navigate the Realms and build a better life for her family. But an intrusion from her old life threatens everything she has gained and imperils the entire virtual world. Time to play the game. Traveler's ZoneAbove the tree line floats an airship close to three hundred feet long with a slightly rounded wooden hull. Ropes attach the lower portion of the ship to an inflated balloon-like aspect, bright white in color with an identification symbol, a red bird with white-tipped feathers extended in flight, inside a round yellow circle in the center of the canvas. The deck is manned with archers and swordsmen. There are two sets of fore and aft catapults. What I don’t see are cannons or any other type of a gun large enough to account for the sound of the explosion. The ship pivots in the air, coming around to point directly at what looks like an oncoming flock of five large birds. Or creatures. They are too big and too strange looking to be birds. They drift closer, flapping their wings. A moment passes before I realize that they are not creatures either. They are some sort of gliders. A person hangs below each set of the feathered wings, which flap and move with mechanical precision in a sky washed out by the morning sun. The archers nock their arrows and aim at the flock. The gliders draw in their wings and dive toward the deck, covering the distance in a few heartbeats. Most of the arrows fly uselessly past the attack force and fall like black rain from the sky. The archers aimed and released the volley too late. The forward catapult releases a torrent of small rocks at the lead glider. It is a scatter-shot approach that proves effective. There are so many missiles that it is impossible to dodge them all. But at the moment the stones strike, the other four let loose with fireballs. Spheres of crackling flame spring from their hands, glowing faintly at first and then with increasing brightness. The balls of fire shoot from their hands like bullets from a gun and fly toward the ship, exploding. Pieces bounce off the hull and fall to the ground, throwing hissing, burning globs of magic-fueled fire in all directions, setting everything they touch aflame.

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Starter Zone

Traveler’s Zone

Chris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends. Learn more about Chris on her website and blog. Stay connected on FacebookTwitter, and her Amazon Author Page.    

Going Vegan

I’ve been a vegetarian for over seven years, a change in my eating habit that was fairly easy to make. Especially since the last seven years have brought many new meatless products so good they make giving up the real thing feel like you’re not giving up anything at all. But making the change to go completely vegan was more of a struggle for me.

For a long time I thought it was good enough that I ate “mostly” vegan and that the cheese pizza or grilled cheese I occasionally ate wasn’t incredibly harmful because I wasn’t eating meat. What a ridiculous thought.

Even though I’ve watched pretty much every vegan documentary available, Forks Over Knives, What the Health, The Game ChangersCowspiracy, and a few others, it wasn’t until I watched Earthlings that everything changed. I could no longer make what I thought were harmless exceptions to my diet. I was going full vegan, and I was going all the way. I bought a vegan leather jacket, as well as vegan leather handbags, and cleared my closet of anything that was a result of animal cruelty. I was thankful that my favorite pairs of Converse Cons were vegan. 

Going vegan, you are consciously deciding to no longer take part in the torture of the living beings, brutally slaughtered to end up on someone’s plate. 

Eating a compassionate diet, a diet not comprised of the suffering of any life, has helped me to find my inner calmness, even during these unstable times of a deadly global virus and thousands of domestic terrorists trying to overtake the U.S government.

As I watch these disturbing and violent clips, I turn to veganism and the vegan community to remind me that there are people who empathize with the pain and suffering of others, and are activists in trying to stop it. We need a world filled with more people like that. 

If you’re interested in giving veganism a try, since 2014 there has been a non-profit organization that encourages people to go vegan called Veganuary where people pledge to go vegan for January and longer. Veganuary | Home | The Go Vegan 31 Day Challenge

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is going to be a strange Thanksgiving for a lot of people. For those of us who have decided to spend this day of thanks apart from the very people we are most thankful for, I know it’s hard, but hang in there. This is all temporary and soon we will again be joining our friends and family at the dinner table, sharing good food, good conversation, and lasting memories. 

The key is to live to see another day. Survive until we have a vaccine. I write those words as I am in day 13 of having Covid. I was one of the lucky ones who suffered only mild symptoms, and during this time I’ve been thinking about all of those who lost their lives to this virus. Why do some survive while others don’t? I wish that weren’t so. 

So although this Thanksgiving I’m not with all of my family, I do have much to be thankful for. I’m still here.

Since I didn’t get to shop for my usual Thanksgiving favorites, I will celebrate and give thanks this holiday as I tear into a delicious vegan pizza. Because why not choose cruelty free when you can?

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone. Stay safe. 

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Buying Cruelty-Free

Since I’ve become conscientious of my diet and have implemented a more plant-based way of eating, I decided to change some of the daily products I use so that they also fit a cruelty-free way of living. Now I check labels before I buy anything from lip balm to detergent and deodorant. It wasn’t difficult nor was the difference in costs substantial.

I found a lot of cruelty-free products at Trader Joes for very reasonable prices. I bought their hand soap and toothpaste. Once I finish up with the shampoo and conditioner I’m currently using, which I mistakenly thought was cruelty-free, I’m going to give their hair products a try.

 

 

The Trader Joe’s bar soap comes in a two-pack and cost $1.67. Although the product is not tested on animals, it is not vegan because it has honey. I haven’t tried the toothpaste yet, I’m currently using Tom’s. Tom’s is another great cruelty-free brand, as is Seventh-Generation and Ecos. I bought Ecos detergent and dish detergent that are plant-based and contain no animal ingredients and are not tested on animals.

 

Below are some products I found at TJMaxx. These are all vegan products. Even though the lotion and shower gel say honey, they are vegan as there is not real honey in the product.

 

Nutri-C has become my favorite face lotion. Trader Joe’s also has their own cruelty-free lotions, but I have yet to try them. For make-up I use E.L.F cosmetics because their entire line is vegan and is available at a variety of stores.

These are just a few of the animal-safe products I use. I’d love to know some of your cruelty-free favorites.

A Vegan Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving I am forgoing my usual vegetarian turkey roast from Quorn for a homemade vegan roast I saw on YouTube. There is nothing wrong with the Quorn meatless turkey other than it is made with milk and eggs, two ingredients I am trying dutifully to keep off my plate.

Since most of the pre-made vegan Thanksgiving turkeys out on the market have gluten in it, I am left with making my own “meat” this year.  I searched YouTube for vegan thanksgiving meals, aiming for the ones that didn’t include any gluten ingredients and found one that looked delicious and seemed pretty easy to make.

I usually like to do a practice run with new recipes before I make them for special occasions, but since I’ll probably be the only person eating my vegan dishes (no one else has expressed an eager wiliness to eat my vegan roast made of lentils and mushrooms), so I’m okay if things don’t come out perfectly.

If you’re interested in this dish, I’m posting the video below. The only thing I will need to alter is instead of layers of puff pastry, I had to buy a gluten-free pie crust mix. Hopefully it is just as delicious.

 

 

There are three other vegan dishes I’m making – garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, and mac-n-cheese. The mashed potatoes and stuffing don’t taste too different from their non-vegan counterparts. With regards to the stuffing, I have to substitute for gluten-free and egg-free bread, which I found at Aldi. And for the potatoes, I bought unsweetened Almond milk and vegan butter. I may throw in some nutritional yeast otherwise known as, nooch, for the vegans out there down with the lingo.

I had found a good garlic mashed recipe on YouTube about a year ago. It’s a dual recipe that includes a lentil loaf. I have made the loaf many times, and my non-vegan family members love it. I would make the loaf tomorrow, but I’m kind of sick of it because I make it so much.  I want this meal to be food I don’t eat very often. My sister always takes home the leftovers for “meatloaf” sandwiches the next day, so she may be disappointed.

Sorry sista, next time.

Here is the recipe I am going to use for the garlic mashed potatoes, but you should really give the lentil loaf a try too.

 

My mom makes my gluten-free stuffing for me, so I don’t have a recipe. I think it’s the same as she makes for the regular, she just uses my bread, and it is delicious.

I’ve tried many different vegan mac n cheese recipes, but the one I am sharing is probably the best, but it will take some trial and error for you to figure what’s best for your taste buds. This recipe calls for cashews, but I don’t have any on hand and really don’t feel like going to the store to get some, so I will be making this dish without the nuts, but it should taste just as good.

The other thing I will be doing differently is baking this dish at the end after adding a package of dairy-free cheese to the top. I bought a package of Daiya shredded cheese. I am picky about the way I cook this cheese. I feel it tastes best when it is cooked slightly longer than it states. This goes for the Daiya frozen pizzas, too. I cook those for 17-18 minutes instead of the 10-15 minutes recommended. To me, the cheese consistency is better when cooked longer.

So I’ll put a package of cheese on top the macaroni and bake it at 400 degrees for maybe twenty minutes or so. I’ll keep an eye on it until I see the cheese at the texture I like.

Here is the recipe for the mac n cheese.

 

I was going to make vegan gluten-free brownies for dessert, but instead, decided on buying a Daiya dairy-free chocolate cheesecake. I’ve had their cheesecakes before, and they are delicious.

 

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There it is.  My Thanksgiving feast. No living beings were harmed or tortured for me to enjoy a nice meal, and for that, I am sure the animals are THANKFUL.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!