Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mini-Trees Are Delicious!

It's that time again!  Wednesday Lunch Post!
March Break is over, and things have returned to near normalcy.  Horray!

Peanut and Pumpkin's lunches matched again, so only one is pictured:

Tri-colour cheese tortellini (tomato, spinach and beet), with raw broccoli (mini trees), pepper rings and snap peas.  The blueberries are in a silicone mini-prep bowl.  I was able to use the flower cutters (intended for fondant) on the orange pepper with some success.  They cut through the fleshy bits quite nicely, but a sharp paring knife was required for the skin.

I really like the idea of decorating the girls' lunches with pretty veggies, but haven't been able to locate dedicated veggie cutters here in Canada yet.  Granted I've not been looking that hard. carries them, but they will not ship up here. doesn't carry them.  Suggestions?

Coming Friday: April Fool's Day Lunch

Want to see more neat-o lunches?  
Check out What's for lunch Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Does The Sherpa Pack For a Trip to The Chemo Ward?

The short answer is: it depends.  The long longer.  And starts with 'it depends'.

It depends on who is going, and for what.  It depends how long it is going to take, and the length of your journey.

It starts with the bag:
Something light, yet strong.  Something that will allow you to have at least one hand free at all times.  Something you will be able to carry or drag or pull when you are very, very tired.  Something that won't fall off your shoulder at the worst possible time.  Something that is the right size to hold your stuff, plus the chemo patient's stuff.

Backpacks and across the body bags are good.  I'm sure a wheeled bag of some kind would also work, but you have to consider terrain.  How are you getting to the hospital?  Cars? Buses? Trains? Subways? What about stairs?

What stuff do you take to Chemo?  
Below is a list, based on stuff I've packed while being a cancer sherpa, and what others have packed when they were sherpa-ing:

1.  Directions and maps.
To the hospital.  Or, in some cases, to the part of the hospital your patient is going.  Sometimes Hospitals are HUGE complexes of buildings.  Know where you are supposed to be going.

2.  Change.
Change for parking (although folding money will probably work, too), change for vending machines.  Change to toss into a wishing well, maybe.  Carry coins.

3.  Kleenex.
Hospitals tend to have those tiny KimWipes thingies.  I have disliked those since the early nineties.  Sadly thin, half-width approximations of facial tissue.  Bah!

5.  Something to write with.
Two pens, one mechanical pencil and a black fine point sharpie.  You never know when you will have to fill in a form, do math or label something.  They don't take up much space.

6.  A Swiss Army knife. 
You can use one to trim the dangling end of a hospital id bracelet, or open a packaged 'sandwich' from the cafeteria, or put the tiny screw back into your glasses. Just don't try to get on an airplane with one.

7.  Reading material.
Yes, hospitals have magazines.  Hospitals also have drug resistant bacteria outbreaks.  No one sanitizes the magazines.  Bring your own.  Your patient is on Chemo, and as such, has a weakened immune system.

8.  Something else to occupy your time.
A deck of cards or a portable DVD player (or smart phone) with a headset.  Or two. Cross words.  Sudoku.  You and your patient are going to be in the Chemo Ward for a while.  I don't recommend bringing knitting, crochet or cross-stitch.  Again, germs.  Yes, the chemo ward will be nice and clean, for the most part.  It's the people who wander through the hospital who are the problem. 

OK, yes, I just said DVD player up there.  Here's the thing;  at some point, you will need to go to the bathroom.  Part of your job as Sherpa is to watch the patient's stuff.  If it's not something that you are comfortable leaving unattended, don't bring it.

10.  A beverage or two.
Water, juice, ginger ale, what ever.  Your patient may have special stuff that you will need to carry, or perhaps the hospital will provide water or juice for them.  You will need to carry your own provisions.  Be aware that you might not be allowed to consume food or drink in the chemo ward.  If this is the case, be nice and take your snack outside without fuss. 

11.  Breath mints or gum.
Some people are very sensitive to scents when on chemo.  If your patient is one of these people, you the Sherpa should be aware of how you smell.  Ask.  Encourage a blunt reply.

12.  Travel Eye mask and ear plugs.
This one really depends on your patient.  Perhaps they will want to nap.  Perhaps not. 

13.  Lip balm and hand cream.
Hospitals are dry.  You will wash your hands a lot. 

14. Hand sanitizer.
Yes, Hospitals have the stuff everywhere.  But what if you stop at a coffee shop on the way?

15. Large plastic zip-top bags, like Ziploc.
I always pack at least one.  You never know. 

This list is not complete.  Or maybe it is.  Or  maybe there is too much stuff on it.
It is a starting point.  Pack what you think you will use.  If you don't need it, don't take it next time.    Revise as you go. 

I do recommend keeping the support pack, or chemo-bag ready with the stuff you'll need for the next trip to the ward.  Top off whatever's depleted when you get back.  Get in the routine of having the bag always ready and you won't have to rush around at the last minute.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Why should you care?
It’s a form of cancer that can be detected early.  And stopped.
It is, in fact, the second highest cause of death from Cancer in Canada. (Source: Canadian Cancer Society)

Think it doesn’t affect you?
One in 15 women will likely get colorectal cancer during her lifetime.
One in 31 will die from it. (Source: Canadian Cancer Society)
For men, the odds are pretty much the same:  One in 14 will get it, one in 27 will die from colorectal cancer.

But, I eat the right foods/am vegetarian, so I’m safe, right?
Short answer: No
Want the longer answer?  Read this page.

Are there things that make me more likely to get it?
Well, the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada has excellent information on that.  The full page is here, but to summarize:

-You are more likely to develop it as you get older, but young people get colon cancer too.
-Having had polyps before
-Having inflammatory bowel disease
-A family history of colon cancer
-A genetic disorder
-Growth hormone disorder
-Race and Ethnicity
-Having had certain other cancers before
-Having had radiation therapy for certain cancers before
-Type II Diabetes
-Sedentary Lifestyle
-Poor diet
-Heavy Drinking
-Working the night shift

OK, so what are the symptoms?
-Constipation or Diarrhea.  Occasionally, everybody gets them.  But if it persists despite changing your diet or drinking more water, see your doctor!  It may not be the big CA, but definitely indicates something is wrong!
-Narrow stools.  Consistently passing ‘pencil poo’ or ‘ribbons’.  Again, not a normal thing.
-Abdominal cramping.
-A feeling that you ‘still have to go’ even after you’ve finished on the toilet.
-Bloody stools.  Passing blood is never a good sign.  Again, whether or not it’s CA, see your doctor!
- Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite.
-Nausea and vomiting.
-Gas and bloating. (Yes, this means burping as well)
-Unexplained fatigue and lethargy.  Again, not always a sign of CA; can indicate other things are wrong, too.

Great, so, what should I do?
You should, at your next regularly scheduled appointment, talk to your doctor about colon cancer, and the screening method that is best for you, and when to start it.
UNLESS you have reason to believe something is seriously wrong, in which case you shouldn’t wait, you should phone your doctor.

Don’t die of embarrassment.

Want to know more?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's a busy day here.  March Break continues, so there are lots of children's activities.  Things to make, places to go, things to see....and none of us dressed in green.  Well, except for some shamrock headbands the girls wore at breakfast.

I like to make something a little bit special on St. Patrick's Day.  Last year I tried a new brisket recipe and was delighted with the results.  This year the girls have asked for Spinach Linguine for supper.  With a white sauce. 

No school means today's lunch was served hot.  And on plates!  

No, it's not corned beef and cabbage.  I honestly can't remember ever eating that combination growing up.  

Here we have a baked potato (cooked in the microwave),  topped with yogurt and cheddar, sliced roast pork with just a little BBQ sauce, peas, sliced baby carrots with ranch dip (neither of which was hot, actually) and a blackberry. The blackberry doesn't symbolize anything, but the plate was calling out for another colour.

(More fruit was consumed separately at snack time.  And there may have been cookies in the afternoon.  And possibly cocoa.) 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lunchity Lunch Lunch

It's been quite a week.  Lots of activity.  Not a lot of posting.  

It's March Break, which means the usual schedule is out the window.  So much so, that the photo below is from Thursday.  Sigh.  I have been making lunches.  I've even taken photos.  
 They will be posted....later.

Here we have a kebab of meatballs and red pepper in lettuce, with cucumbers, more red pepper slices and blueberries.  The crackers are tucked in as a starch because I forgot to take the mini-pitas out of the freezer in time. 

Did I mention it's been busy?

Want to see more?  
Check out What's for lunch Wednesday!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Food Flattery

This week's Wednesday lunch post is what the girls took to school on Friday.  Their lunches got some pretty fantabulous reviews at school.

Peanut's teacher commented that it looked cute, and wished she had a lunch like it.  Another teacher said her own lunch didn't look as good either.  [blush]

Pumpkin's lunch was photographed by 'some school lady' as an example of what a healthy lunch looks like! This made Pumpkin feel pretty darn special.  It made me feel pretty darn good too.

And here I was worried someone would complain that I was clearly endangering the children's lives by putting toothpicks in the lunch.  Not to mention possible nitrates in what looks suspiciously like a hot dog.

The lunches:
Sliced all-beef dogs sitting in romaine lettuce cups.  Yes,  romaine lettuce again.  We like it. The girls also have blueberries, yellow pepper slices, carrots and the always popular grapes. It looked rather plain, so I skewered a blueberry with a frilly toothpick, and planted the pointy end in a hotdog slice.   

More great lunches at: What's for Lunch Wednesday

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Beige is Not Slimming

It can be very hard to look svelte in beige.   How many stunning beige bathing suits are there?  How many women can pull off a beige ensemble on a red carpet?  How many men can wear a full-on beige suit and wear it well?

 And the foods that are beige? 
Have you ever noticed when someone is on a reality show, having their diet examined, the unhealthy ones are…beige?

You Are What You Eat – beige
Supper Size vs Super Skinny – beige, usually for both, oddly enough.  Just different quantities.

And the fad diets?  The ones that have some success, even if only initially?  What do they tell you not to eat?  Brace yourself-


Do you have a pantry?  What’s in it?

Beige?  Really?  Why is that?

The shelf-stable, long life things are beige.  Prepared foods?  How much of that stuff is beige?  I like to stay away from prepared foods mostly because I don’t like the taste.  But there’s a ton of salt and other yuckies in them, too. 

Still, my pantry does have beige.  I’ve got whole wheat pasta (beige), and several kinds of rice (brown, which is beige; Arborio, which is white; wild, which is white and black).  Rice noodles.  Three different widths, all clear/white, so they will get lumped into beige.

Oats.  Beige.  Flour.  Beige.  Massa.  Yellowish, but still beige.  Taco shells.  Yellow, but may as well be beige.  Crackers.  Also beige.  Potatoes?  Assorted starchy beige.

Breads tend to be beige.  Or worse, an unnatural looking, gleaming white.  And yes, eating lots of it is definitely not good for you.  But neither is eating too much of any one food.

But are all beige foods bad?

I don’t think so.

Lentils?  Chickpeas?  What colour are they? Barley?  Quinoa?  Parsnips?  Ruddibegga? Turnips? Oats?  Rice?  Whole Wheat flour?  If you eat a varied diet, you should be fine.

Look at Canada’s food guide.  Or the food pyramid.  Or the eat a rainbow plan. It’s not news.  Its not rocket science.  Its not something you have to run out and buy the latest diet book for.  

It is common sense, or it should be.  It’s actually listening to scientists and trained medical professionals, who’ve been saying this for years.   Eat a variety of foods, including the colorful ones.  You don’t have to banish beige entirely, just eat responsibly.

And buy well fitting khakis.

Avoiding a beige bathing suit is probably still a good idea, though.

(Note:  While I do believe eating responsibly can help someone be healthy-ish, I don’t subscribe to the ‘perfect diet will keep you free from all illness’ philosophy. )