Recipe: Oatmeal “Bread”

A friend of mine recently shared an interesting sounding recipe with me. And I thought I’d share it with all of you.

I’m not posting the recipe on my page. Please click on the link to go check it out. The original recipe is called 1 Minute Oatmeal Bread and it is done in the microwave. However, I don’t have a microwave, and I don’t have any food intolerances. So I used  regular, full of gluten, all-purpose flour. I also used a whole egg (lately I find my eggs don’t crack nicely. Ok, the truth is I was too lazy to separate the egg). I used brown sugar instead of maple syrup (I wanted to save my maple syrup for putting on top). Oh, and I used coconut extract instead  of vanilla (vanilla extract is on my grocery list for this week). And I didn’t measure anything. I eyeballed all the ingredients into a bowl, stirred it together, patted it into a greased baking dish, and popped it into a 350F toaster oven for 10 minutes.

What came out of my oven was a delicious breakfast cookie. Or an oatmeal pancake. Whatever you want to call it, it sure was tasty! I topped mine with blueberries, walnuts, and a little drizzle of maple syrup.

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Blueberry and Walnut-topped Oatmeal “Bread” – this will definitely be part of my breakfast rotation. It was delicious!

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Wrestling the Black Beast of Depression and Anxiety

When I sit down to write a blog post, I might touch on a tough topic or two, but overall I try to keep things light-hearted. I post recipes, I try to be funny and positive. But lately I have been thinking about tackling a much tougher, harder-to-deal with subject.

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This resonates so much with me. As I’m sure it does with a lot of people.

The other night I was chatting with my friend, A.D. in Montreal, and we got talking about my blog. She asked if I had considered writing about my experiences with Anxiety and Depression. I told her I had been, but wasn’t sure if anyone would really want to read about them. And then I realized what a load of utter bull crap that is. Because as someone who is dealing with both of these illnesses (and I’ve been suffering from them for years), one of my biggest struggles is that I feel so alone in all of it.

Attention Sufferers of Mental Illness: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

So before I begin, I want all of you suffering from either condition, or any other, to know: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I know that you probably feel that way (I really do, because I feel so alone most days). But know this: your brain is lying to you. Because that’s what your brain does. It’s what my brain does. It lies to me every single day. My brain tells me that I’m alone, that I’m a burden, that I’m a failure because I can’t function properly.

I have been dealing with my illness since 2002. At least, I was officially diagnosed in 2002. But I’m sure I was suffering for several years before that. It was in 2002, after I thought about swallowing a bottle of pills, that I went to see my doctor. At that point, I was diagnosed with Severe Clinical Depression and put on anti-depressants. I hated being on them. I hated how they made me feel: empty, hollow, like a shell of myself. While I didn’t feel quite as sad anymore, I also didn’t feel particularly happy. In fact, I didn’t feel much of anything. I constantly fought with my doctor to go off the medications. Against his wishes, I stopped taking them. I convinced myself that I was ok. That if I just learned to relax and breathe, that everything would work out.

I wish I could say that was what happened. Instead, I continually find myself on this roller coaster of ups and downs, of times when I feel great and others when I feel like I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up. In those extremely low times, I am certain that nobody would miss me if I was gone. Because I feel like I am a burden to everybody and I don’t matter to anyone. See what my brain is doing there? It’s lying to me again.

Depression AND Anxiety? Great…

As I’ve gotten older, my depression has evolved to include General Anxiety Disorder. I find it harder and harder to function. And it gets harder and harder to explain to people. People think I do this to gain attention or sympathy. The truth is actually the exact opposite. I end up in these episodes because I am trying to hide it. Because I don’t want people to know that I have these illnesses. I have been treated like an outcast because of my depression and anxiety. Employers don’t understand, and if I try hiding it, hoping that this will all just go away, I end up in a vicious cycle of crippling panic, fear, and dread. I constantly worry that I’m going to let everyone down. Which inevitably results in me letting everyone down. Because I hit my breaking my point and then I can no longer cope.

This latest episode has been really bad. And when I emailed my boss to explain, her response was “well, I’m going to go ahead and hire someone else, and maybe you should just think about whether you even want to bother coming back.” Which leads back to the thoughts of why bother. I wish people would understand that I don’t like feeling this way. I am, by nature, a very hard worker. I was always the person that would take on extra shifts at a moment’s notice. If a colleague was sick, I’d gladly cover for them. I like to help people. I like to be busy. I like to work. When I was at university, I went to school full-time and worked two part-time jobs. I’m not afraid of working hard.

But now, it’s like my brain and my body are conspiring against me. Depression and anxiety aren’t just illnesses of the mind. They affect a person’s physical well-being too. There are days when my body hurts so much I can barely move. Other days I am so gripped by nausea that even the thought of food makes me vomit. I deal with headaches on an almost daily basis. And don’t even get me started on the exhaustion and fatigue. If I manage to have the energy to be productive one day, I am completely wiped out the next.

I have tried all the usual techniques for dealing with these illnesses: meditation, writing in a journal, mindfulness, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, various anti-depressants, exercise, healthy eating, cutting out alcohol and caffeine. And while these techniques usually have limited, short-term success, eventually the GREAT BLACK BEAST comes storming back into my life. Chewing me up and tearing me apart.

The black dog will let you go eventually. You may be covered in gooey saliva, but you will be whole and stronger. – from my friend R.K.

For anyone going through their own struggles with the Black Beast, remember this (and I am totally including myself in this reminder): You can get through this. You most likely have made it through many episodes before. And while this one may seem like it’s the worst one ever, you can succeed. I have to believe that we all can.

If this blog post resonated with you at all, I’d love to hear from you. You can comment here, or email me: 161daysinparadise (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Posted in illnesses, Mental Health | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

My first Tattoo

So, this happened today.

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My first Tattoo

Bringing together Barbados and the partial lyrics of a song by the Rankin Family, I have a tattoo that reminds me of my family. And the location means that they have my back.

Pain? What Pain?

I will be the first to admit that I hate pain of any sort. I am usually quite wussy. However, this was barely even uncomfortable. I kept waiting for it to hurt. Of course the placement has a lot to do with it, and I apparently chose a VERY good place for my first tattoo. But still. No pain at all.

Posted in day-to-day life, In Memory Of, Show and Tell | Tagged , | 3 Comments

In Honour of my Mom

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My Mom, Linda

Yesterday marked seven years since my Mom died. I still remember it as if it were yesterday. It was all so sudden, and my sisters and I had to make the decision to take Mom off life support. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Remembering Mom

My mom loved to cook, and she was very good at it. She could open the fridge, look at the leftovers and throw something together that was amazing. But I think one of her favourite meals was Roast Lamb, Asparagus, and Red-Skinned potatoes. So to honour Mom, that’s what I made for dinner last night.

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Rosemary Garlic Roasted Leg of Lamb, Asparagus, and Roasted Mini Potatoes

And now it’s confession time: There’s no recipes involved here. The lamb was a boneless leg from the New Zealand Spring Lamb product line from The Lamb Company. It was pre-seasoned with rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. All I had to do was cut open the package and put in a 375F oven. Easy-peasy!

And another confession: my Hollandaise sauce comes from a package. Now, I know how to make it from scratch, and I CAN make it from scratch. But growing up, Mom always used a package. Specifically the McCormick-International Hollandaise Sauce. And since that’s the flavour I got used to, homemade Hollandaise doesn’t taste right to me.

As I enjoyed my dinner last night, I knew my Mom was with me in spirit. And I think she enjoyed dinner as much as I did.

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How Great Customer Service Keeps Customers Happy

I’m going to imagine that some of you probably want to know what is happening with the bank thing. After being given the run around from two different telephone customer service reps, and being made to feel like I wasn’t important enough because the amount of money taken from me was so little, I am pleased to report that today I got a resolution that goes above and beyond what I expected.

Problem Solved

I went into my branch to get some cash for the weekend and I was greeted by the same teller who gave me my new card on Monday. She asked if I’d gotten things resolved yet. She was flabbergasted to find out it hadn’t been dealt with yet. “Wait here,” she said. Off she goes to the branch manager’s office. The branch manager comes over and is absolutely horrified at the way I’m being treated. “We’re going to refund you the $19.95 right now. We used to do this as a rule, but recently changes were made and this service was taken away from us. We were told to refer everyone to the Dispute Department. Obviously that isn’t working.” I watched as the teller reversed the fraudulent charge and put the money back in my account. After getting hugs from both of them, and thanking them profusely, I walked out to do the rest of my errands.

Going Above and Beyond

But wait! What happened next has blown me away. When I got home, I noticed I had a voice message on my phone. It was from the teller at the Scotiabank in Arnprior. “Kathleen, I have been feeling really awful about what you’ve gone through this week, and that you were made to feel like you didn’t matter to Scotiabank. You do matter, not only  to the bank, but also to me. I really like seeing your smiling face in the branch and I would hate for this incident to cause you to leave us. So I am refunding 2 months of bank fees for you. Have a wonderful weekend.”

Bank Teller

Bank tellers still provide a great personal touch

Posted in day-to-day life | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Recipe: Red Lentil & Black Bean Soup

Even though spring is just around the corner, the weather lately has been definitely not spring-like. We had another snowstorm on Tuesday and it has been windy and cold. For lunch today, I decided I wanted something warm, soothing, comforting, with just a bit of spice. I decided that a Red Lentil & Black Bean Soup would be perfect! With cumin, cayenne, coriander, and a hint of lime, this Mexican-inspired soup is great for warming you up on a cold day.

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Red Lentil & Black Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • pat of butter and 1 tbsp or so of olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 generous cup of dried red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1  cup or so of canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp or so of ground cayenne pepper (use more or less to your taste)
  • 1.5 tsp or so of ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp or so of ground coriander
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1-2 tbsps of lime juice
  • For garnish, I used a bit of grated old Cheddar. And if I’d had some, I would have sprinkled fresh cilantro on top

Directions

  1. In a deep pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook until they are caramelized (it took my onions about 20 minutes). If your onions start to stick a bit, add 1 tsp of water just to loosen them and get all the flavour bits off the bottom of your pot. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
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Mmmm….caramelized onions and garlic

2. Add the tomato paste and cook until the oil starts to separate. Add in your spices and stir to combine. Cook for about a minute. Add your red lentils, and stir, ensuring they are well coated.

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Red Lentils join the onions. This soup is starting to come together.

3. Pour in the 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook until your lentils are soft, about 25 minutes. If you feel your water is evaporating too quickly, you can add a bit more. I didn’t have to.

4. Once your lentils are cooked, you can use an immersion blend to puree the soup. If you don’t have one, you can carefully use a blender, or you can leave the soup as is.

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An immersion blender makes it so easy to have smooth soups!

5. Add your black beans and simmer until the beans are heated through. I probably should have used more black beans, but I only had a cup or so left from the can I opened last night.

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See? There are black beans in there!

6. Stir in the yogurt and 1 tbsp of lime juice. Taste and adjust seasonings at this point. I went ahead and added the rest of my lime juice.

7. Ladle soup into bowls or big mugs and garnish with cheese and cilantro, if using.

Enjoy!

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Planting Seeds of Hope

Because of the fraudulent charge in my bank account, and having to deal with the bank, I unfortunately have spent a lot of time in my head. And it is not a good place to be. I have gotten comments and “advice” that are less than helpful, and sadly, have only resulted in me feeling even more anxious and worse about myself than I have in a few weeks.

Planting an Herb Garden

In an effort to try and bring some joy into my life and my apartment, I decided to plant some seeds that I was given. Since I love to cook, it only makes sense for me to have home-grown herbs to use in my kitchen. I took an empty egg carton, cut it up, and used it as my seed starter pots.

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Starting a variety of herbs from seed…

I planted 2 egg carton cups of each seed, so if it works, I will have Mammoth Basil, Oregano, Sage, Italian Parsley, Rosemary, and Lavender.

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Along with parsley and lavender seeds, I have a Christmas cactus, and two avocado plants

I then tended to my other plants. Don’t worry, I took those dead leaves off that poor spider plant.

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Two spider plants, a shamrock, and another Christmas cactus

I hope that I get flowers and usable herbs. By the way, does anyone else talk to their plants?

Posted in day-to-day life, Indoor Gardening | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments