Category Archives: MS and Healthy Diet

Lessons from a Junkaholic

Tips for an unfun MS diet

bombeck writers workshop

This early blog post of mine was recently featured on the website humorwriters.org, a website out of the University of Dayton inspired by one of their most famous students, Erma Bombeck.  To have my picture on the same web page as Ms. Bombeck was a huge honor and I can’t thank them enough!!!

First came the diagnosis; which was terrifying enough.   I had multiple sclerosis. That information was overwhelming.

Then I was told something that was meant to be encouraging but instead, added more horror to my world.  I could help control the severity of my fatigue and other MS symptoms, as well as my overall health, by committing to a healthy diet.  I am shaking right now just thinking about it.

You see, my name is Yvonne and I am a Junk-a-holic.  Sweets, meats, salty things, starchy things, and all things processed were my main food groups.

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Monday’s meal plan, drive-through.

Tuesday’s meal plan, dinner with my best buds, Ben and Jerry.

Wednesday, a healthy night- frozen dinner.

Thursday, processed pasta, the cheesier the better.

Friday, a social outing, dinner out with friends.

Saturday, takeout pizza of course.

Sunday, combo night, leftover takeout pizza and leftover takeout from Friday.

I was not completely hopeless. I knew that my five foods groups were not the food pyramid the experts recommended, but it worked for me.   But the people in the know, (everyone), insisted that I get serious about my diet.

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I am, but it has been a long and bumpy road, fraught with many nutritional errors and setbacks.  I thought maybe I should share some of the shocking things I learned along the way to help all of you on your path to a healthier diet.  If you are struggling with the same issue of incorporating a healthy diet into your world, please learn from the following mistakes I made.

  1. Reading Shape magazine is not enough.  You actually have to do what the articles tell you to do.
  2. Reeses Chocolate Peanut Butter Pumpkins are not actually made from pumpkins and thus, are not good for you.
  3. Similarly, a Mounds candy bar does not count as two servings of fruit. If you get the king size bar however, and eat the whole thing, it does count as half of one fruit serving.
  4. This one is really confusing. Just because you buy something at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market, it does not mean it is 100% healthy.  Some of their items may actually be only 60% healthy.  I know right, what’s the point?
  5. Also frustrating, not everything in the yogurt section of the grocery store is good for you. For some reason, adding flavors, candy and cookies to various yogurts greatly diminishes their nutritional value.  Doesn’t seem fair but there it is.
  6. Some spices can add health benefits to your diet. Cinnamon is a classic example.  Cinnamon is good for you.  Yet, the experts don’t suggest sprinkling cinnamon on ice cream and puddings as the best way to reap the cinnamon benefits.
  7. You need protein in your diet and hamburger has protein. But big, fat juicy hamburgers are not that good for you.
  8. You need dairy in your diet and ice cream is full of dairy. Yet a big, fat ice cream sundae is not good for you.
  9. You need grains in your diet and bread is made from grains. But for some insane reason, fried bread dough is not good for you.
  10. Finally, it turns out, and this one broke my heart, raw cookie dough is bad for you and the calories do count. I thought the calories didn’t register until you actually baked the cookies.  It is a cruel, cruel world we live in friends.

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Try not to be too overwhelmed with these lessons. Basically, what I have had to train my Junkaholic brain to do is accept that if doesn’t look super delicious, it is likely good for you.

To offer some encouragement to my MS friends, allow me to end on a positive note.  Once you start eating the not so good looking things, you do start to feel a little better. 

And before you know it, they aren’t that bad…

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1st awesome image courtesy of humorwriters.org

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Just another Weird, Weird Day

“My MS is not your MS and your MS is weird.”

Brilliant, semi-famous quote written by me

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Your MS is weird.  And sometimes, I suppose, mine is too.  Life with MS is certainly weird.  And then there are weird people and weird circumstances.  Recently, all this weirdness converged on what should have been a relatively normal, unweird day.

I dropped my mom off for a doctor’s appointment and then left to run an errand.  When I returned to the office and she wasn’t ready I made myself comfortable with an engrossing book. As I sat my throat grew dry and I noticed a water cooler in the corner of the waiting room. I kept meaning to drink some but just couldn’t leave my compelling read.  After this sentence, no, after this paragraph, definitely after this chapter, I will get up and get some water.ID-10056064

But my mom poked her head into the room and nodded at me, which caused the nurse behind her to motion me to follow them.

This was concerning. My mom is very private and hates medical stuff.  If I was needed in her appointment it could be a bad sign.  Turns out, it was simple miscommunication.  Her wave was meant to tell me that she wasn’t quite done but the nurse took it as an invite and insisted I join them.

“Well, you’re here now so you might as well stay,” my mom said.

I sat in a chair opposite the doctor’s desk and my mom sat on the table.  The doctor entered and my mom introduced us. I was surprised by his strong Greek accent as my mother had never mentioned it before.  I could barely understand him but it didn’t matter- it wasn’t my appointment.

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Since I was stuck there I thought I would listen even if I only understood one out of twenty words he said.  I managed to grasp that he was talking about sodium; ie salt, ie the stuff that makes fast food taste good.  He wanted my mom to cut down on sodium.  He wanted this so much that he kept talking about it, a lot.

At least I think that’s what he was talking about.

But he seemed to address most of his talking to me.  So what if I happened to be munching on potato chips- again, it wasn’t my appointment.

(Kidding.  I wasn’t munching on anything but was completely regretting not grabbing that water when I had the chance.)

He told my mom he had something for us.  He left and came back holding a loaf of bread.  He manipulated the plastic bag the bread came in so that a slice was near the opening and he insisted I take it and split it with my mom.  It was an order and I guess the reasoning was to suggest we now eat this particular brand of low sodium bread.ID-100151613

I gave my mom half the slice but didn’t know what to do with my half.  I nibbled on it because that’s what the doctor seemed to want but it was like sawdust in my mouth.  I was trying not to choke.

There was a trash bin in his office but throwing my half away seemed rude.  Without salt it didn’t seem very crumbly. Should I scrunch it up and shove it into my pocketbook?

The whole thing seemed odd.  I’d never had a doctor, even one of my own, offer me a snack before.   I thought of how when I go to church and my priest offers me bread he’s polite enough to also offer some wine to accompany it.  Could I ask this doctor for wine?  What’s the sodium level in wine?

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He then said that we should only get 150 mg of sodium a day.  While he was stating this he was also pointing to a chart that recommended 1500 mg a day.  I was more confused than ever and was now super afraid of salt and hoped he knew the Heimlich as I tried desperately to finish my half slice of bread.   This seemed like major medical weirdness to me.

Outside his office, it was past lunchtime and despite the snack my mom and I were both hungry.  But I couldn’t think of a single place to go for lunch that wasn’t a salt trap designed to suck us in.  My mom suggested a place and I agreed to go there but was firm.

“Mom, we can go there but I’m going to tell the waitress that we don’t need menus as we will have water and plain lettuce for lunch, no dressing.”ID-100182547

“Good for you,” she said.  “I’m getting a menu.”

I stopped in front of the placard that said “Please wait to be seated” and read the specials board looking for anything that wasn’t filled with evil sodium.

My mom made her way into the restaurant and chose a table.  What was she doing?  We were supposed to wait to be seated as the sign clearly stated when I read it again.  I scolded her and she came back.  She also read the sign which in her reading said, “Please seat yourself.”

How did the sign change its wording in the seconds between my reading it twice and my mom reading it?    Since I’ve been able to read since 1st grade, I decided that the sign changing itself was a clear case of multiple sclerosis weirdness.

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After errands I dropped my mom off and headed home.  Thinking about health issues and my MS lack of reading skill issues had me wiped.  But I just had to go to the post office before I rested.  Who knows what was waiting for me in my mailbox- the Publisher’s Clearing House notice of my one million dollar winnings?

An invitation from Bradley Cooper to be his date at the premiere of his new movie?

Free tickets to the dream vacation of my choice?

Fatigue was not going to keep me from missing such important mail!

I collected my exciting mail- the water bill- and then got back into my car which refused to start.  Try as I might, I absolutely could not turn the key in the ignition.

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I struggled.

I forced.

I whined.

I took deep breaths and tried again.

And again.

There were many strong looking males in the parking lot, the type that looked like they might know a lot about cars, but I was too tired, too shy, too independent, too WIMPY to ask for help.  I preferred to sulk instead.

After about 20 minutes of this I called AAA.  I answered all the nice agent’s questions.

“Did you make sure the car is in park?”

Of course I did.

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“Did you jiggle the steering wheel?”

Of course I didn’t.

I jiggled and turned the key and the car started.  It was then that I remembered this same thing had happened to me twice before and jiggling the steering wheel was the mysterious answer.  But I had forgotten this trick.  Automotive weirdness.

Back at home I figured I had earned myself a snack, something crunchy.  I was proud that I had recently purchased something from Trader Joes that was sure to satisfy AND be healthy.  It was a bag called Crunchy Curls– a potato and lentil snack.ID-100132490

I checked the sodium, just to be sure.  And the nutrition label said that while this snack had no sugar, it had 380 mgs of sodium!  That’s more than regular potato chips.

But it’s made from potatoes and lentils?  How can this be?ID-100180475

And that, my friends, is unfortunately called life weirdness.

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What was the book that had me so involved I couldn’t even break to get some water?  It was the newly released Something on Our Minds, Volume 3– an anthology of writings by people living with multiple sclerosis.   The works are as varied as the writers and MS itself. Best of all, all proceeds from the sale of this edition will be given to the Accelerated Cure Project, an excellent non-profit determined to cure the MS beast.

Something on Our Minds, Volume 3 is available on Amazon and is totally worth checking out!

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Star Wars is Coming Back!

The return of an MS smoothie master

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When I first started bloggin,g one of Montel William’s peeps sent me a free Healthmaster Elite in the hopes that I would blog about using it.  I did and the result was this blog post from July of 2012.  I’m reposting now because I have vowed to get back to making healthy smoothies a regular part of my routine.   

And because I’m not above using the current Star Wars craze to promote my own writing. ID-10079450

So the Banana Peanut Smoothie was actually pretty good.   It wasn’t as incredibly super delicious as say, a Cookie Dough Nor’easter (the Cape Cod version of a DQ Blizzard), but it wasn’t bad.   Strangely, the recipe said it made four servings when it actually made ten.  Why is that?

I think people who put together recipes and serving sizes have no idea that they are doing.  It’s like when you open a container of something really good and the label says the container contains eight servings when it barely contains three, maybe four.   Somebody is doing something wrong.

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So while I did like the Banana Peanut Smoothie, it was a little too banana-ie/peanut-ie for me and I moved on to the next recipe I was bravely going to check out.  But first, I noticed something really cool.

Before I tell you what that was, allow me to say that I truly appreciate the Healthmaster Elite way more than the Ancient Warrior blender thingy I had tried before.  The Healthmaster comes in cool colors, is easier to use and much easier to clean.  There is no removing of the blades in the Healthmaster so it is likely I will keep all of my fingers while using it.

As I gathered the ingredients for my next smoothie, the Strawberry Banana Peanut Smoothie (I chose this one as I still had some of the ingredients hanging around and those bananas were just crying out to be used again), I really looked at my Healthmaster.r2dr2

I noticed how much it resembled a robot.  Then I grabbed this cool tool that comes with the Healthmaster Elite (and was badly needed and DID NOT come with the Ancient Warrior) called the tamper.   I don’t know why it’s called the tamper as it’s really a smoothie maker’s lightsaber, used to duel the ingredients of healthy stuff into an actual smoothie.Picture 10

Since I was really impressed with this tool, I couldn’t help noticing that the Healthmaster Elite kind of looked like one of R2-D2’s cousins.  I don’t know why everything in that day’s smoothie making experiment was making me think of Star Wars.  Perhaps it was because the last time I didn’t have to worry about my weight was when I saw the original Star Wars in 1977.

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Oh Obi-Wan, I could use your wisdom on my ‘get fit’ plan.  Yes, I am fortunate to have Montel’s recipes but Obi-Wan could send in the force.

The lightsaber fascination lead to actual exercise as I dashed around my living room fighting off imaginary Stormtroopers.  Then it lead to even more exercise as I moved around the room again, this time cleaning Strawberry Banana Peanut Smoothie off the walls.

Perhaps next time I should play pretend Star Wars BEFORE actually using the lightsaber to make the smoothie.

Admit it- you want to do this-you’re making the lightsaber sound right now.

The point is, as silly as it might have been, I had fun and enjoyed my Star Wars smoothie maker more than ever.  As for the Strawberry Banana Peanut Smoothie, it was really good.   I know because the recipe said it made eight servings and I only came up with five and a half, the half being on my walls.

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So my ‘get fit’ friends, take it from me.  If it works for you as you’re trying to get healthy, do it.  If childhood memories cause you to fly around your house like an idiot, at least you’re moving.

If you, like me, have a plan I can only say to you, “may the force be with you!”

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Friends- are you so excited about the upcoming release of the latest Star Wars movie that you want even more Star Wars humor?  If so, I suggest checking out My Odd Sock’s (another funny MS blog-can never have too many of those) latest post.  My Odd Sock and I will have you Star Wars ready in no time!

My Odd Sock

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Other images courtesy of my own private webcam

Loopy Fruit

Multiple Sclerosis and breakfast collide

 

I grew up as a child of the late seventies/early eighties.  What that means is that my Saturday mornings were spent in front of the TV, with a bowl of the best sugary cereal possible, watching classic cartoons.

And by classic, I mean good cartoons; Scooby Doo, Schoolhouse Rock, Fat Albert, the Jetson’s and Bugs Bunny.

My favorite was The Flintstones but they were on in syndication.  Yabba Dabba Doo five days a week!

 

I would spend these joyful mornings getting amped on processed sugar until my mom would start vacuuming, thus making the TV inaudible. The threat of having to help clean forced me outside.

Because of this, I understand what “Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids” means.

Trust me; I’ve actually been “CooCoo for Cocoa Puffs.”

I understand the difference between “they’re great” and “they’re GGGREAT!

I know that it’s not possible to say the words, “magically delicious!”  They must be sung.

 

My favorite breakfast was Froot Loops promoted by the amazing Toucan Sam. Ahh, what could be better?

I’m an adult now and I’ve learned a thing or two.

  1. Good cartoons are now actually movies and they aren’t even accurate. I met Aladdin at Disney once and he was a total tool!!  Disney lied when they made him humble, sweet and brave in the movie.
  2. 2.Adults aren’t supposed to like good cereal. We’re supposed to appreciate the “good for you” stuff instead.

Multiple sclerosis has made my adulthood confusing and frugal.  For example, I’m not sure if milk is considered good for you anymore.  And if it is, which kind- whole, low fat, almond, goat, soy- I can’t keep track.

 

And since life with MS is expensive and I’m on a tight budget, I can’t afford the good ‘good for you cereal.”  My favorite healthy cereal costs twice as much as the others and doesn’t even have fruit in it!

How healthy is that??

I’ve tried the cheaper healthy cereals but they taste like cardboard.  So let’s be honest, I can buy them and tell myself that I will eat them but the reality is that I will come up with some excuse why I shouldn’t-like that I’m bummed out that there are no good cartoons on so I need to comfort myself with sugar, etc.  At which point the healthy cereal will sit in a cabinet getting stale and will turn into stale processed cardboard and need to be thrown away.

How frugal is that?

Luckily, Cheerios seemed like a good compromise.  They’re affordable and made with whole grains and thus somewhat healthy. I’m still confused about the milk issue but hey, you need to take things one step at a time.

As I explored my breakfast options, I discovered that Cheerios come in different flavors now.  And, what do you know, they have a fruit version!   The box even looked like the beloved Froot Loops box of my childhood.

 

I understood that since it was Cheerios, they couldn’t be as good as the real Froot Loops but maybe they were close and at least they had fruit in them-yea!

I brought some home and they were delicious!  They tasted just like the favorite cereal I remembered.  Oh joy to adulthood.

But then I began to think about this.  How could this be?  How could Cheerios steal Froot Loops and not get sued?

How could Cheerios make a healthy version of my cereal and yet still taste great?

As I munched away, the question refused to leave my addled brain. As an adult, we have the internet now and so I thought to solve the issue by comparing the ingredients.  And I was shocked!

 

Brace yourself friends-it turns out the Fruity Cheerios are not that much different in ingredients and nutrients than Froot Loops!  And the real devastating shocker NEITHER is made with fruit!!!

Fruity Cheerios has a slightly better nutrition report than its predecessor and includes something called pear puree which makes no sense as I don’t think there are even pear loops in the box!

How was I supposed to process this? How could Cheerios and those heart healthy commercials deceive me this way?

I felt betrayed.

I felt that everything I knew about life was a total lie.

I felt totally amped on sugar.

It occurred to me that I should go run around my neighborhood and tease the boys next door.

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Plus, the real frustrating part was that I had two coupons for $1 off three boxes of Fruity (I feel corrupt just typing in the word fruity after my discovery,) Cheerios and thus I had six boxes I needed to consume before I went on to the plain, not so bad for you, regular Cheerios.

The whole thing seemed awfully loopy to me….

I suppose the next disappointing thing someone will tell me to ruin my childhood was that the Flintstones weren’t real either.

See how paranoid this cereal nutrition issue is making me?  Of course the Flintstones were real- they were even historical!

 

Yes friends, this getting healthy thing is hard.  This getting older thing is hard. This getting poorer thing is hard.

What’s a confused, money conscious girl to do?

I couldn’t waste the boxes and so I did the only thing I could think of.

I pulled up old episodes of Superfriends on YouTube and ate my breakfast.

I felt comforted by the fact that at least I can get some nutrients from my new gummy vitamins.

And before you argue about vitamins that taste like candy being nutritious, I can prove that they are.  They say ADULT right on the label!

 

PS  If you can’t find any good cartoons on TV but want some giggles to go with your breakfast, pick up a copy of MS Madness!  A “Giggle More, Cry Less” Story of Multiple Sclerosis!

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Portuguese Soup with an MS Twist

A multiple sclerosis culinary event

 

It was a privilege growing up Portuguese, especially when it came to Portuguese food.  Portuguese delicacies are awesome.

What?  You don’t believe me?

Trust me.  I have way too many extra pounds on my 5’3 frame to prove it.

We Portuguese folks have our own veggie soup and even I, the self proclaimed arch enemy of vegetables, love it.

Of course, my ancestors taught us right; we load our veggie soup up with sausage so it doesn’t taste like a veggie soup.

But it totally is!  It has carrots, potatoes, onions and kale, the super food of my people.

For more information on this please see my prior post titled, Kale, the New Frontier.  

 

Some people put tomatoes in their soup to make it even healthier and the soup also has lots of beans which offer protein and fiber.  I’m telling you, this soup is good stuff!

And depending on how involved you want to be, there are many different ways to make it.  Some people go all out, growing their own veggies, raising, slaughtering and smoking the sausage themselves and soaking the beans for days.

Before MS, I actually learned to make this soup and I must say, it came out pretty good.  (I personally didn’t slaughter anything though..)

But no matter what the experts say, cooking with multiple sclerosis is hard and shortcuts are often needed.

So I was thrilled to discover a recipe that made the soup process much easier.  Instead of using salt pork for flavor, (I have bought salt pork before but don’t know what it is and am not sure I want to know,) it uses bean and bacon soup.  Soup for your soup?  How incredibly convenient!

 

Many Portuguese people I know would disown me for using this version but we just won’t tell them.

The problem was, I needed even more shortcuts.  Chopping and peeling are particularly hard for me and so I dared to wander down the canned veggies aisle of the supermarket and was thrilled to discover that potatoes and carrots come in cans!  I scooped them up.

That meant I would only need to wash the kale-take it from a Portuguese person, you really have to wash the kale well.  It’s so good that bugs just can’t resist it.  Now if you are cooking broccoli for some strange reason you probably don’t need to wash that at all.  It’s so gross even dumb bugs stay away from it- chop the linguica (mine is a linguica family, I think the chorizo people are from the islands,) and chop the onions.

Well, one onion.

 

Chopping onions was really hard for me and so I only use one in my version.  I knew I was saving myself a ton of work.

Mid-afternoon I started washing the kale.  Washing kale should not be that tiring but when you have MS, everything is tiring.   Since I needed to stand at the sink, my legs started to ache during the washing process. I set the kale aside to dry and then rested for a bit.

Next, I opened my cans of veggies.  But with weak, achy fingers, that was an exhausting task too.  And so I rested some more.

Next I started to slice the linguica which wasn’t hard at all.  And since by then I was pretty hungry, it was a fun chore. Slice, snack, slice, snack-oh this slice is uneven, better just munch on it now.

I hadn’t even started cooking the soup yet and it felt like I had been working on this recipe for days instead of an afternoon.

 

I saved the worse task for last- the onion.  I pulled out the sharpest knife I could find, which is incredibly dangerous even in the best of circumstances.  Not the wisest move when being used by somebody whose hands have a tendency to randomly drop stuff and throw things across the room.

I sat at my kitchen table and carefully started to chop.  I have never been good at chopping onions the right way and have even watched cooking shows for tips.  Nothing has ever worked.

Soon my eyes stung and wouldn’t stop tearing and drastically uneven pieces of onion were scattered all over my table.  There had to be an easier way.

 

This soup was good for me, mostly- the sodium and the sausage not so much- and I was making the easiest of the easiest of versions and yet I was still struggling.

Why does everything with MS have to be so damn hard???  Even a recipe I have been making for years and watched my mother make for years before that.

As I whined about the miserably chopped onion and felt sorry for myself, my phone rang.  It was my dear, supportive friend Heather who asked what was going on.  I told her my frustrating plight.  She had good advice,

“Yvonne, there’s no reason for you to chop onions if they give you such a hard time.  You can buy them frozen, already chopped.”

Her advice was spot on.  So spot on that I remembered hearing it before.  My mom had told me that many times.  So many times that it occurred to me that I might just have bought……

Sure enough, with Heather on the phone I opened my freezer to find a bag of frozen chopped onions, lying on top of a bag of frozen, prewashed kale; bags I had bought when the cooler weather had first started me craving my favorite soup.  Now my MS frustration was no longer about how I am not even able to chop an onion and get exhausted just rinsing fresh kale, but how it’s hard to even remember the shortcuts you have already designed for yourself.

 

But, ahhh the soup was good, even with the canned veggies.

And the next time I make it it will be even better with canned and frozen veggies.

That time for sure, it won’t take too much out of me.  And, well, if it does, luckily kale soup goes great with Portuguese wine.

Even luckier, my dear, supportive friend Shannon bought me an electric wine opener!

 

Friends, as a special gift to you I have included a link to Yankee Magazine where a Portuguese woman named Ruth O’Donnell published her version of the easy way to make kale soup,  Don’t let the Irish name fool you, she was of Portuguese descent. I swear that I put carrots and extra beans in my version- you can too.

And don’t be fooled by the part that says prep time is 20 minutes; it took me almost 20 hours!

 

H2O a Go, Go

Multiple Sclerosis Advice

You may think today’s blog is another one that has me whining about my obnoxious bladder.

Well, it’s not.

Although, to paraphrase my sister Laurie, “my bladder issues do still piss me off!”

When you tell people you have a chronic illness you find yourself on the receiving end of a ton of unsolicited advice. Most of that advice comes from well meaning people.  Because they are well meaning, the polite you grins and bears it even when it’s useless, clueless and ridiculous.

“Just tell yourself, ‘I won’t get stressed, I won’t get stressed…’”

“Breathe…”

“You need to get more sleep.  Oh, you got nine and a half hours?  You must be sleeping too much…”

“You may not have MS, it could just be an allergy…”

The thing is, sometimes you may actually get something helpful out of the advice so it’s worth listening too.  (Yes, that advice could be construed as unsolicited advice directly from me.)

 

Imagine my shock when years after someone told me I should eat bee pollen, I discovered that bees are actually helpful and if we don’t take better care of them, they are going to go away and then the world could end.

As someone who has written a book about multiple sclerosis that I am desperately trying to sell to the masses, (MS Madness!  A “Giggle More, Cry Less” Story of Multiple Sclerosis in case you’ve missed it the 10, 000 times I have mentioned it before-more unsolicted advice-buy, buy, buy…) I am even more open to advice.  I travel my area talking about my book and people want to tell me things that they have heard might possibly be helpful.  And again, that is a great thing.  I appreciate it, I really do.

But every once in a while, not so much.

Please allow me to briefly digress. I swear there will be a point to this digression; I think.

I am very proud that after many people suggested that maybe I didn’t have MS but actually had aspartame poisoning, I looked into it and discovered that they were right.  Well, not really.

My excellent neurologist says I still have MS and I believe him.  But I looked up aspartame and discovered it really is bad for you and sure wasn’t helping things.  I switched from artificial sweetener to Truvia, an expensive alternate, and completely gave up my beloved fountain diet cokes in favor of water.

 

I drink water all the time now.  Plain water; no enhanced sugary flavors.  I tried diet coke again once and didn’t even like it anymore.  I thought I was doing great.

At one speaking event I foolishly forgot to pick up some bottled water. A friend offered to get me some and came back with SmartWater which I hadn’t seen before but thought would be great as maybe it would help me be smart.

After the presentations by many authors, a woman to approached me.  She asked if she could tell me something and of course, I agreed, hoping she was going to tell me that my book looked amazing and she couldn’t wait to buy it.  Instead she informed me that the SmartWater I was drinking really wasn’t smart at all.  I was quick to appease.

“Oh really?  I’ve never drunk it before.  My friend got it.  Is it filled with sugary additives or something?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said.

Hmmmm……

It was a chilly day in May and she was wearing socks with sandals.  I know it’s not right to stereotype but my first thought was the bottle; she must be Earthy Crunchy green and worried about the planet.

 

“Oh, don’t worry, I recycle- I won’t throw away the bottle.”

That wasn’t a lie.  I really do recycle but turns out that isn’t enough anymore.  Don’t even get me started about the dangers of water bottles, that’s a whole other blog post.

“That’s not it either,” she replied.

Turns out, what she was referring too was the alkaline content in bottled water and how it does something really bad that could be making my MS worse or does something really good that could make my MS go away.  I couldn’t figure out which.  The only thing I know about alkaline has to do with batteries.

Maybe I should ask the Energizer bunny what this woman was talking about.

 

Then she mentioned something about acid levels, which was really upsetting as I’ve never done acid in my life-not even in college.

Here I thought I was being so healthy!!!!   No diet coke for me!  No juice at this event-too much sugar.  No milk- now some say milk is bad.  No lemonade or even iced tea.  No beer or margaritas either.    No chemicals, poisons, GMO’s, alcohol or aspartame.  I was drinking what I thought I was supposed to be drinking, what everyone told me I was supposed to be drinking.

This woman then went on a 20 minute scientific diatribe while I stood there dumbly watching the custodian fold the chairs and empty the sods cups.    I couldn’t figure out science even before MS attacked my brain. I heard the word alkaline a lot and acidic.  And inflammation, that one was kind of familiar.  But I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about.

I’m all about good advice and being polite though so I stopped trying to figure her theory out and just figured when she was done, she would tell me what I should do stop the water epidemic.  She finally stopped talking and so I asked her what I should do? How do I solve this problem of bottled water that I didn’t know I had.

I was eager for a solution that would circumvent me going back to school to take a science class.  I didn’t even know what kind of science this was.   Biology?  Chemistry?  Earth Science?  Yes, water lives on the earth so it must be an Earth Sciences class I should take to sort this out.

 

Her response to my question of what should I do now that I know bottled water can be bad, was straightforward.

“Oh, I don’t know.”

What??

See friends, I swear this is all true; you can’t make this stuff up with or without an MS brain.

I pressed her a little and she told me that she had just moved to the area from California which had the best water in the world and where she knew which bottled water was safe to drink.  Now that she was in MA, she had no idea.

I pressed her more and she then told me her best advice was to buy litmus strips (what?) and then take them to all of the Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and health food stores in my area where I should buy up all the bottled water they had and then bring it home to test each of them with the Litmus strips and then only drink the bottled water that tested well.

For one month.

Then, as companies can change their manufacturing processes and their water sources, I should repeat this test every month for infinity to make sure I was constantly getting the best water.

It was at this point that I began to peek around the corner of the empty room looking for the Candid Camera dude.  He never showed up.

 

I was more confused than ever.

About the only thing that seemed clear after the woman and I finally said goodbye was that there must have been something in her water.

There just had to be…

Twice Bitten

Multiple sclerosis nutrition woes again….

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Yes, I’m trying to get healthy for summer.  And yes, this blog is a repeat, originally published spring of 2013.   But I figured it was ok as my menu issues continue…..

I swear that I really am taking this whole healthier diet thing seriously.  Yet, I just seem to falter at every turn.  And the most frustrating thing, (although with multiple sclerosis it is hard to list frustrations in order,) is that when I think I am on to something good, it gets proved to be wrong.

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Earlier in April I was munching away on an apple; supposedly a very healthy snack. I was telling myself how delicious it was and how many vitamins I was consuming when out of nowhere, I bit out a bite of the inside of my cheek.

It hurt, a lot, and the apple got a little bloody and so I gave up. I didn’t realize that my teeth were that sharp and that a healthy diet could be dangerous.

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And if I am being totally honest, I was totally lying.  It wasn’t delicious at all, before or after the blood.

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Luckily, my social media friends informed me that it was free cone day at our local Ben and Jerry’s.  Once the blood stopped, I headed there and the cold cone helped numb the area.  The servers were super friendly and said that customers could come back as many times as they wanted as long as they waited in line and weren’t too obnoxious about it.

The cold helped but I didn’t want to use my earlier healthy eating incident as an excuse to fall off my ‘get fit’ plan.

So I only went back three times.

Kidding. I suffered through my pain and only had one free cone. I paid for the other two.

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I take comfort in the fact that at least I start my day on a fiber filled, all things healthy note.  I have a favorite cereal that is pretty nutritious.

I hesitate to name it here in case someone is able to burst my bubble and tell me that Fruit Loops aren’t that good for you.

Kidding again; the cereal is not Fruit Loops.

After hearing a neurologist speak on the benefits of flax seeds (see my prior blog post Not Working It Out,) I bought some and started adding them to my cereal.  They provide extra crunch and make my breakfast extra filling.  And I was losing weight so I felt this was finally a good breakfast choice.

THEN, I was informed that the body does not really digest whole seeds and it is better to get your flax in the powder form!   There went my extra crunch and now my cereal is just powdery and gross.

It is enough to make an MS’er pull out her Fruit Loops coupons- at least there would be fruit.

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Finally, in the scope of consuming more veggies, I made a wonderful, good for you recipe.  It is a casserole made with kale, whole wheat pasta, onions, diced tomatoes and ground turkey.

The diehards might argue that any type of pasta is not really ideal and casseroles are not the best choice, but I have to find something edible and since there was a lot of good in this recipe, I felt it was a great compromise.  I had made it once before and loved it.

Unfortunately my MS brain got a little cocky in the kitchen and also got a little lazy about measuring things.  This time it came out way spicier than intended but still not bad.  Hey, crushed pepper is also good for you, right?

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I ate my dinner and had a ton left over so I gave some to my sister and her boyfriend for their dinner.  Then I watched the news.

Turns out a recent report found that A LOT of ground turkey contains antibiotic resistant bacteria, fecal bacteria and E-Coli!  I won’t tell you what fecal bacteria is, but if you want to be grossed out, look it up.

The news didn’t say which companies they tested or where they bought the ground turkey leaving you to wonder and panic all on your own.

To make matters worse, this report wasn’t even a recall but a warning.

What does that mean?

It means that it was up to my indecisive MS brain to decide how disgusting this news was and what to do with the rest of the casserole.

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It also said that if you heated the turkey to 165 degrees, you probably killed all the bacteria and E-Coli.  How the heck did I know how much I heated the turkey?

It was hot, I know that. I could tell when I dropped some on my foot after transferring it from the pan and my foot stung a bit.  Does turkey need to be 165 degrees before it stings?  Or does it sting at 150 degrees? 160?

The folks who make ground turkey came out with their own report where they stated that the results of the first report were misleading; but I have heard that they are all just a bunch of turkeys.

What is a committed MS’er to do?  What would you do?  And what if a pizza joint and a burger place where within a ten minute drive from you????

Yes, healthy eating with MS truly bites.  And as in the case with the apple, I say that literally!

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Looking for some fun, lighthearted reading for the summer?

Do you enjoy a book about the antics of someone crazier than you?

If so, might I suggest one of my favorites-

MS Madness!  A “Giggle More, Cry Less” Story of Multiple Sclerosis

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Image courtesy of Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you were a Sesame Street Monster, which Monster would you be?

Multiple sclerosis brain fog muSings

The latest rage on Facebook these days seems to be the fun little quizzes that tell you the inner secret of what you actually are.

For example, if you were a classic rock band which classic rock band would you be? (Fleetwood Mac- I can deal with that but I was hoping for the Stones, of course)

 

If you were a US state, what state would you be? (Kansas- how did I possibly get Kansas?)

If you were one of Jesus’ disciples, which disciple would you be? (St. Matthew.   Well it’s better than Judas, I guess.)

If you were a European country, which European country would you be? (Malta, really?  I don’t know a thing about Malta.   I didn’t even know it was in Europe.)

I indulge myself in these little quizzes not because I trust them to find my true identity-I’m still floored by Kansas.  Nothing against Kansas but I am SOOOOO not Kansas.

And I don’t take part in them for fun necessarily either.  I take these quizzes as they are the perfect way to procrastinate my MS brain fog away.  While I am taking the quizzes I have an excuse for not being productive, yet I am actually doing something more than staring blankly out the window and drooling.

 

I have yet to see a quiz asking if you were a character on Sesame Street, which character would you be?  Even if I did, I don’t think I would take it.  I have previously answered this crucial question and I don’t need any more confusion in my life.

Back in September during a particularly bad MS bad mood swing, I wrote a blog called Call Me Oscar, as in Oscar the grouch.  And on that day it was true, all I wanted to do was hide deep down in my trash can and be grouchy.  Some days are just like that.  When you have MS, lots of days are like that.

 

But I’ve decided that I am not actually Oscar, at least not on a daily basis.  What I have discovered is that I am and will always be, Cookie Monster.

Even as I try to get healthy and yank out my sweet tooth, I can’t get away from cookies.

 

A couple of weeks ago I was in the grocery store where I had purchased lots and lots of healthy things.  At the register I paid for my groceries and then set money aside for the church basket for the Mass I would go to later that day.  I had exactly four dollars left.

It was when I was leaving the store that I was greeted by these insidious corrupt beings out to destroy me.  When I tried to pretend I didn’t see them, these mini demons began to stalk me. Yes, you guessed it, girl scouts.

 

They had cookies for sale and as if I wasn’t tempted enough once they forced me to make eye contact, they proceeded to tell me all the new cookie varieties.   When I was a scout I think there was only Thin Mints and chocolate chip- nice and simple, no elaborate, adorable sales folks needed.  The scouts had me cornered and before I knew what hit me, they also had my last four dollars.

And in an even crueler irony, they had given me new cookies called Thanks-A-Lots; as in thanks a lot for supporting our cookie sale even as you try so hard to consume healthier things and save money.

It wasn’t just this one incident convincing me that I am a cookie junkie.  On a family trip a couple of months ago my sister bought cookies that are actually breakfast!  They claim to be somewhat better for you than other breakfast choices like say danish, donuts or red velvet pancakes.  These breakfast cookies have good things in them like blueberry flavoring and oats.  Some of them even have chocolate.

 

How can I NOT be Cookie Monster when I can feel good about starting my day with a nutritious breakfast of cookies?   I had given up on Cookie Crisp cereal but breakfast cookies made with oats?  I’m in!

Also on this trip my sister once again expressed her concern for my insisting on consuming raw cookie dough even though the warning labels tell me this is very dangerous.  She finally got to me and I vowed to try to limit my cookie dough consumption.

And then, two women appeared on Shark Tank promoting their product of healthy raw cookie dough!

Ok, maybe I got that confused.  Maybe it wasn’t that it was healthy exactly but that it was no longer dangerous.  Their product was made to be consumed raw!

And while they do not sell their dough online, it turns out there was a store only 80 miles away from me that sells safely edible cookie dough. As soon as I get my car an oil change and those squeaky brakes looked at I’m going!

 

The other night I was talking to a friend about our various computer techna-phobe issues and she asked me if I had gotten rid of my cookies.  I keep trying to get rid of them but they keep hanging around!  Hence, I am Cookie Monster.

Is that really so bad?  I mean, he’s a lovely shade of blue and he never seems to gain or lose weight.

Life is too short.  If the true me is Cookie Monster, than so be it.  And I don’t need a Facebook quiz to clear this up for me.

On this foggy brain afternoon I am relieved to at least have answered one important life question.

Please excuse me while I now try to figure out if I was a Broadway musical which Broadway musical would I be???????

MS Madness!

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Speaking of monsters, have you gotten a chance to pick up Myron, the myelin munching monster on the cover of my new book?

I promise, this MS monster is way more fun than the MS one that lives with you!

 

Gonna be a DOOZY…

An MS’er tackles a NOR’easter that could turn into a blizzard

I was going to start 2014 off healthy, I swear, I really was! But in the days leading up to the new year, the weather folks started talking about Hercules-a massive NOR’easter about to attack my area. And EVERYONE, even super healthy people, know that the only way you can weather a storm is with the three C’s- chocolate, chips and candy.

What is a healthy, fit, svelte MS’er, stuck in a not so fit, not so svelte, not so healthy body to do? You have to be storm ready.

The only appropriate thing seems to be to plan on re-starting my ‘get fit’ plan after the storm. Actually, Farmer’s Almanac says it is going to be a stormy winter. Best to start the plan in April. Or maybe May.

 

Seriously friends, holidays, storm planning, brain fog, fatigue and possible power outages have made it necessary for me to release today’s blog one day early. And while I don’t exactly know what Hercules will bring, it seems likely that it will look like the blizzard of 2013, which I have already written about.

So for this week, please allow me to re-post what was originally titled Could Be Minutes, Could Be Days.

For the record, a second blizzard is upon us and I STILL haven’t bought vinyl toilet seat covers!

 

Could Be Minutes, Could Be Days

An MS’er tackles a blizzard

In my world, cold is better than hot (as long as cold includes a nice cup of scalding hot tea,) and snow is better than humidity. Seems I remember in the past, losing hot water and having to take an ice cold shower before heading off to work. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t hell.

More recently and AMSEML (after MS entered my life,) I lost hot water again and attempted the cold shower. It was summer and so while I was not looking forward to it, I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. It was.

The icy water was not refreshing. It felt more like sharp edged icicles stabbing me all over. It hurt so much that I wasn’t able to breathe. I kept telling myself to breathe, what was wrong with me that I wasn’t breathing? It was too much and I burst from my shower covered in soap.

 

Flash forward to storm prep for the blizzard of 2013- the storm that was to arrive only two weeks after a previously predicted snow storm never showed up. I love winter and had eagerly awaited this one, the winter the Farmers’ Almanac promised would be cold and snowy.

The reality is that what I love about the season is being toasty warm and drinking tea while watching the lovely snow fall from my window. I didn’t doubt the blizzard predictions and even enjoyed monitoring them on the nightly news. But no one, no matter how prepared you are, seriously appreciates what a lack of power means on a 20 degree day, at least for more than a few hours.

 

I bought the batteries and bottled water. I watched the weather reports. As the wind kicked up late in the afternoon before the blizzard, I plugged in my electric blanket to warm my bed up before the expected power outages. Just before nine it happened; the power was gone and so was the immediate future of further electrically generated heat. Since I had pre-warmed my bed, and was exhausted as always, I drifted off to sleep.

Morning and frigid air came quickly. When I awoke, I buried deep under my covers and rested there for another hour. I tried to flood my brain with positive self talk.

You knew power outages were likely.

It’s not like you are going to die from the cold, you’re still inside.

So it will suck for a bit, so what, that’s life.

There’s no way to know how long this will last. It could be minutes, it could be days.

Get up and get moving, you’ll have to at some point.

 

When I accepted that cold or no cold, I couldn’t justify lying in bed all day, I crawled from my cocoon and began to layer up. Me, the girl who has never, ever worn hats since rapidly removing the ones my mom insisted I wear on my walk to grade school, (removing the hat as soon as our house was out of sight-hopefully enough time has passed that I won’t be grounded for admitting this,) put on a hat.

It was a miracle I even found a hat in my house. (I think it must have come in the pretty scarf/glove/hat Christmas gift set several holidays before, the scarf and gloves I do use).

I layered on anything I could possibly think of; undershirt, turtleneck, sweater, sweatshirt, sweatpants, three pairs of socks. Where oh where did my leg warmers from the eighties go?

 

I layered up so much that I looked and walked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

Then I realized I had to pee.

My vow to all those reading these words is to never, ever again silently make fun of people who have those soft, vinyl padded toilet seat covers. I may even buy one, if only to use during cold weather power outages.

 

Once I recovered from that shock, I wobbled my padded self and my blankets to where I could be productive in spite of the circumstances, the sofa. Wrapped in my Boston Bruins thermal blankie (still one of the best Christmas gifts eva!), I tried to decide how to spend the arctic day. I was determined not to use the blizzard as an excuse to fall off my “get fit” plan.

I could exercise. But no, I needed to save the treasured batteries on the Wii Fit board and there was no tv anyway. How about outside to shovel? No point, the snow was still coming down and there would be no way to warm up when I was done. I could just move around my house but hauling all those blankets and layers seemed dangerous.

I insisted I would at least eat healthy and hydrate properly. I had even prepared for that- buying produce and rinsing it before the storm so that I could make myself a salad and eat fruit so as not to falter on my plan.

But that wasn’t happening. Everything was so frosty there was no way I was sinking my teeth into an ice cold apple or orange or even attempting to put together a salad. And the water was ice cold too. I did manage a banana for breakfast but that was the end of eating healthy.

 

After that I went to the snacks; easy to open, not cold to bite into. One may wonder why I had snacks in the house in the first place. Remember, there was a blizzard coming and my ‘get fit’ plan is taking the baby steps route.

Still trying to be somewhat productive, I thought I would use my laptop battery to get some writing done. But no, between MS and the freezing air, my fingers were not inclined to cooperate.

 

What I missed most was that scalding cup of tea I so treasure. So much so, that when due to a dangerously low amount of wax I needed to blow out one candle, I fell into a dangerously euphoric state. Picking up the glass covered candle, I realized how hot it was.

As I tightly grasped the bottle with both hands, I almost felt it was a mug of tea I was holding. I popped out of my reverie before I gulped the wax itself and made the best of the situation by cuddling the bottle against my face, neck, hands and arms until its warmth was gone.

 

Soon the MS aches ramped up and the cold went from being unpleasant to excruciating. At some point it turned dark again and I shuffled back to my cocoon of bedding, hat and all.

I was luckier than most. By the next morning, the power was back, 36 hours after it went out; much, much better than what some folks were dealing with.

Here is what the storm taught me. The best of intentions can often go awry if something bigger than you has other plans. Like say, God, or storm fronts, or multiple sclerosis.

 

Sometimes you just have to give in and wait out what is holding you back, even if it could be minutes or could be days.

Controlled cold is better than uncontrolled heat. Controlled heat is better than uncontrolled cold. And, in spite of this frigid, miserable Saturday, I stand by uncontrolled cold being better than uncontrolled heat. This way, I can still whine in August.

And lastly, what I learned most, I need to start looking for vinyl toilet seat covers…..

 

 

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

An MS’er acknowledges autumn, again

 

******This blog was first published last year.  But the sentiment is so relevant, I had to post it again.  Plus, it was a busy week.******

I have said it before and I will say it again, I love fall!  And again, I really, really love fall!  It is my absolute favorite season by far!  When I tell grouchy people this they say, “ya, well, fall means winter is coming soon.”

To me that is ok; winter is my second favorite season!

I love fall so much that, MS fatigue aside, I don’t even bother to sweep up the dead leaves that blow into my front doorway every time I go in or out- they are just awesome fall decorations!

Here are some reasons why I love fall- cooler weather, cool breezes, barely any humidity, cooler weather, no bathing suits, cooler weather, and pumpkins.  Pumpkins are definitely a great part of fall.

 

I am not very artistic, so carving pumpkins has never been my thing.  But I like looking at carved pumpkins.

Mostly, I love the essence of pumpkins.   So much so, that I have pumpkin room deodorizer and a vanilla pumpkin scented candle.

I thought pumpkin was a vegetable but it turns out it is actually a fruit.  The confusion comes from the fact that it is in the squash family but it is still just a fruit.  That’s ok.  It is a healthy thing I actually like.

Come fall I seek out pumpkin everything.  Do you know that Dunkin Donuts makes pumpkin coffee, pumpkin munchkins, and pumpkin donuts?  I don’t even like coffee but throw some pumpkin in it and it is yummy!

 

Recently I discovered that Dunkin’s also offers pumpkin cream cheese.  It is beyond describable in its deliciousness. Then I learned that you can buy pumpkin cream cheese in the grocery store and have it at home whenever you like!  I considered this but reasoned that the nutritional benefits of the pumpkin paled in relation to the calories in the cream cheese and thus, didn’t buy it.

The grocery store also had pumpkin ice cream but the container was huge and that was just a bizarre mix.  Pumpkin is a fall food and does not belong in combination with ice cream, a summer food for when it is super hot out.   Pumpkin belongs with hot things, like my beloved tea.

I learned from Facebook about Hersheys Pumpkin Spice Kisses but told they were hard to find.  I went on a quest to find them that took me two and one half hours away from home and employed the assistance of a friend.  We didn’t find them.

 

Truth be told, I was in the area anyway and didn’t make the long drive just for the kisses.   Lucky for me, two weeks before Halloween, they appeared in a local pharmacy and they were scrumptious.

I have heard that Pringles will be releasing Pumpkin Spice potato chips soon and if the Pringles factory were nearby, I’d be waiting at the door!  I wonder if the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory has any direct links to the Pringles factory?

Reese’s even makes chocolate peanut butter pumpkins but I must admit, I’m not sure how much real pumpkin is in them.

 

Please don’t think I have fallen off my ‘get fit’ plan, I am just trying to incorporate my favorite fall flavor into it.   I hadn’t used my Montel Williams Healthmaster Elite in a bit and thought maybe I should see if Montel had a recipe for a Pumpkin Smoothie in the recipe book.

He did not.  BUT, he did have a recipe for Pumpkin Yogurt Pancakes and Pumpkin Zucchini Muffins.  I was in!

First up, the pancakes.   I think they might have been super delicious except for the one fact I forgot- I totally stink at making pancakes.   Is that an MS thing?  If not, it should be because part of the problem was flipping the floppy things.   Usually I am a good flipper (see prior post- Flipnastics) but the problem is, I can’t flip on demand.  Plus it was hard to know when to flip.

 

The bottom line was that while I sampled the few bits of cooked pieces I came up with, and they tasted pretty good, mostly I had a mess of burnt cakes on the outside, raw pumpkin yogurt batter on the inside.

Next up were the Pumpkin Zucchini Muffins.  I was able to use many of the same ingredients so I only needed to go back to the store for zucchini which was puzzlinging as all I could find was something called green squash. I asked a healthy looking person in the store for help and she informed that green squash was the same as zucchini.  So why the two different names?  Is it just to confuse the already confused like me?

 

Whatever it is called, I brought it home and made the muffins and score- they were awesome and healthy!!!  They were easy to make and each muffin was filling and had a vegetable and a fruit in it!  I have got the healthy eating thing down friends!

Fall is here and everything pumpkin is good for you.   The world is a happy, smiley pumpkin face, place!

 

*Note #1   This year my local Dunkin Donuts is not carrying pumpkin cream cheese.   Thought I would warn you in case you don’t find it at your local Dunkin’s either.  Why do they take away something amazing?  I had no choice- I was forced to double my order of pumpkin munchkins.

 

*Note #2  Our guy Jack danced a sexy rhumba (yes, rhumba is a dance, not a vacuum cleaning robot,)  to make it to round 3 on DWTS!  His family was there to cheer him on although I am not sure Ozzy knew where he was.  Does Ozzy ever know where he is??  Don’t worry Ozzy, I can relate!

 

MS ironic comment of the night came from Head Judge Len Goodman, “you do weird things with your hands.”

Please keep voting.  Interestingly, I heard from cyberspace that some clueless person has actually challenged an MS’er with the expected “if Jack Osborne can do DWTS then you must be fine.”  The MS’er responded.  I don’t think I can legally print her response here but I say hey, at least they were talking about MS!

(Somewhere in between the bleeps and $%&&$#@@’s of course.)

Talking is awareness friends so let’s keep Jack in.  Turns out, the guy is not only one of us, but a pretty darn good dancer!

Vote for Jack and his partner Cheryl Burke by calling 1-800-868-3402 up to 60 minutes after the show on Monday nights or by logging onto ABC.com or Facebook.com/votedwts up to 24 hours after.