Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Big Scary

I did it. It took me 6 months, but I did it: I made an appointment to have a "swelling" in my neck looked at. First step is an ultrasound. Then, I suspect, will be a biopsy. Naturally, the imaging center was all set to take me immediately, but I still am not quite ready to face reality, so I scheduled the ultrasound for March 11. Enough time so I don't feel panicky right away, but soon enough that I can feel as though I'm Taking Care of Business. Business I should have taken care of in August, when the doctor first made note of it, but I'm trying to not beat myself up or let my mind wander to those dark places so familiar to a hypochondriac. For those of you who have normal patterns of thinking, I'll illustrate what I mean by that "dark places" bit.

The Scene: Medical office. Doctor is sitting somberly behind his desk, shaking his head sadly as he reviews my test results. I am perched on the very edge of a chair in front of his desk, sweating profusely and about to either faint, vomit, or both.

Sad Doctor: "Ms. CrankyPants, Ms. CrankyPants, Ms. CrankyPants...why, oh WHY didn't you get this looked at 6 months ago? We could have saved you!'s far too late." [more sorrowful head shaking]

Panicky Ms. C-P: "Blkhjkdbgysnph!" [inarticulate mumbling, vomiting, or both]

Now-Annoyed Doctor: "Assistant! Remove Ms. CrankyPants from my office at once! See to it she doesn't soil the carpet. And be sure to get her co-payment!"

If I don't do something to stop it (like watch a trashy TV show or read gossip sites online), my terrifying little fantasy gets a lot more involved, but I don't want to totally depress you. So I'll switch to something cheerier:

I'm going bald! Yes, folks, there is an alarming patch of thinning hair that I'm seeing the dermatologist about next week. (Clearly, vanity propels me to the doctor a lot faster than a possibly life-threatening Suspicious Swelling.) Hopefully, the hair loss is caused by something delightful like a fungus that can be cleared up with a smelly and scalp-stinging shampoo, but I'm certainly open to other, deadlier, reasons for this latest addition to Things Wrong with Ms. CrankyPants. Even Capt. Nap is concerned disgusted.

"I can't look at your fungus-covered scalp! It's hideous!"
I'll keep you updated as these medical dramas unfold. In the meantime, I'm watching crap TV, wishing desperately that Dr. Swank's damn diet allowed chocolate, and trying not to touch my hair.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

5 Things I Wish I'd Known Then

Lots of you* have asked if I have any words of wisdom they can pass on to their best friend, cousin, coworker, etc., who has just been diagnosed with MS. The newly diagnosed are, as I was, probably  worried, angry, confused, and overwhelmed. So I came up with a Top 5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Knew I Had MS, As Well As Things I Wish I'd Known Immediately After Being Diagnosed. The title needs a little work, yes, but let's move on.

Now, this list contains tips I wish someone had given me and relates only to my experience, of course. In no way does it speak for everyone or cover every Important Thing. In fact, it covers a few of the less-critical items, since there's a good chance everyone will tell you (or you'll already know) obvious things like: pick a respected neurologist. Oh, and a quick disclaimer: I'm no doctor, so none of the following should be construed as professional (or even necessarily good) advice!

Onward ho:

"Okay, I'm going to read my list now."
1. Bring someone with you to your appointments, if possible. You'll probably get a lot of information, much of which, if you're anything like me, you'll promptly forget. Your companion can help recall important details, as well as prod you if you forget to ask something. If you can't find someone to haul with you, bring a notebook and, ahead of time, list things you want to discuss.

2.  Prepare to be annoyed during your MRI. Technicians have told me they've known patients who fell asleep during an MRI. All I can say to that is: my ass! The MRI, for me, was alternately semi-soothing (bip, bip, bip) and then, suddenly, jarring (baCRANK, baCRANK, baCRANK!!!!) If you have a thoughtful technician, she will tell you, "Ms. CrankyPants, this next one's going to be loud and last for 30 seconds." That's happened to me about twice. Usually, I just have to lie there stiffly and be hugely irritated at the preposterous notion that anyone could actually sleep through this. Oh, yeah: you'll be in there a while. Don't drink lots of liquid beforehand. You'll regret it.

3. Act like a colossal baby about getting a lumbar puncture. My first neurologist, at the very beginning of this whole saga, tried to trick me by saying she wanted me to have a "lumbar puncture." It took me a second or two, but then I burst out with one of my many nervous, near-shouting, bleating laugh-comments: "Oh, that's a spinal tap, isn't it? Can't get anything past me!!!! HAHAHAHA!!!!!" Inside, I was horrified. SPINAL TAP? That was going to hurt like a mother. She kept trying to move on. I kept trying to get her to reassure me that it wasn't, in fact, going to hurt like a mother. Finally, she realized the only way to shut me up was to tell me she'd personally talk to the doctor who was giving me the procedure to be sure he knew what a huge braying ass fragile lamb she was sending his way and would he please be extra gentle? Now, to get this special treatment, you have to be persistent. Don't be afraid of losing your dignity entirely, or repeating, as often as necessary, "Will it hurt? How bad will it hurt? Do I really have to have it?" If you're extra babyish, your neurologist might even prescribe you a little something to take the edge off before the procedure. Mine did, so the loss of dignity was well worth it.

4. Heed the post-lumbar puncture instructions! Before I go any further, allow me to say that my spinal tap wasn't that bad. I believe my neuro did indeed talk to the doctor ahead of time, because he made some "I see we're to take extra good care of you"-type comment, while referring to my chart. That was probably code for the other medical personnel in the room that "We've got a real ass here; let's get this done quickly and easily for all our sakes." Whatever. At that point, I didn't care. Remember: I had already lost my dignity. As I lay facedown on the table, my fragile lamb-like spine pale and exposed, I did some more bleating about not wanting it to hurt. And, it really didn't. It felt more like a firm, persistent pressure. But wait! The entire experience wasn't rainbows and unicorns. I was so buoyed by how darn OKAY I felt afterward, that I went back to work. Bad, bad idea. I had been told to expect a headache; possibly a severe one. To help keep it at bay, it was recommended that I lie down, flat on my back, not bop back into work like Jiminy Cricket. I was sitting in a meeting, congratulating myself for being such a brave little soldier and not only triumphing over the trifling lumbar puncture, but also RETURNING TO WORK when my head began to ache. In a very short period, it was far too painful to remain at work. Or sit up. This erstwhile self-congratulating little soldier somehow managed to drive to my parents' house and lie flat on my back. Every time I moved it hurt. Never before or since has my head felt pain like that, and I've had many a headache. So -- go straight home and lie flat on your back. If you can arrange for a TV on the ceiling, even better. I got quite sick of watching the smoke detector light blink.

5. Find a support network of people in the same boat. The instant you are diagnosed, you'll hear from every other person that their Aunt Mildred had MS and...oh, dear; or how they once knew someone whose cousin died from MS and...oh, dear. In other words, you'll hear from a lot of (mostly) well-meaning people who probably don't know what you're going through, unless you happen to know someone with MS. I knew only one person who had MS. He was a friend of my ex-husband's, and the last time I saw him he was bedridden...oh, dear. So that was what I had to work with when imagining my future. Not so awesome. I also had a coworker, who was a bit of an oaf, go on and on about an old friend who had MS and, guess what?, was bedridden. I finally asked this man to stop telling me the story, because it wasn't even remotely helpful. Back to my point: there are many ways to find support from others with MS. I regret only that it took me as long as it did to find this way: through a blog. You don't have to write your own blog to feel the support and kindness of others. Read a few (or a lot!) that you like and "connect" with. You'll hear so many stories of people living their lives, taking beautiful pictures, making amazing art, writing inspiring words, or, in the case of especially infuriating bloggers, doing all of the above! (I say that only because I'm envious, mind you.)  The blogosphere might not be your bag, baby, but there are many other ways to connect. Here in the U.S., the National MS Society lists local chapters, where you can find details about support groups (Find a Chapter). There also are a wealth of online chat rooms (e.g., National MS Society Online Community). Reach out, in whatever way you feel comfortable. MS can be scary, but you don't have to face it alone. I'm here. Lots of others are, too.

Ms. CrankyPants

*Okay, none of you.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Third Time's a Charm? Welllll...

We had our neighbors over for dinner last night. (Yes, the same neighbors who forced me to stray from Dr. Swank, detailed here: I Cheated on Dr. Swank.) In the pre-diet days, we'd been to each others' houses a few times, usually for pizza. Since starting on the Swank Diet, which forbids dairy products unless they're fat free, I have struggled mightily to find a Swank-friendly pizza. I've recorded my dismal experiences in this blog, but if you are a new reader or just want a refresher (hamster droppings, anyone?), please see the following: What the (&$^ Did I Just Eat? and No-Cheese Pizza: A Public Service Announcement.

I wanted to dazzle our neighbors with some gourmet food, but I was pretty limited by my pal Dr. S., so I had to be content with merely ensuring they didn't vomit or run away screaming. I'll spoil the end for you right now: they did neither. That's not to say there weren't some, er, exciting culinary moments. I'll start with the menu:

  • Pizza (incredibly, yes, I was trying this AGAIN)
  • Salad
  • Cratercakes  Cupcakes (incredibly, yes, I was trying this AGAIN) (you can read about the first time I made these here: Something Looks Very, Very Wrong)

Fortunately, our neighbors are adventurous eaters, and very forgiving people. Plus, I had an ace up my sleeve! My savvy husband said if we drizzled a little oil on the fat-free cheese, it might melt. (One is allowed limited portions of certain oils on this diet.) Did I mention I planned to top one of the pizzas with my old friend, Tofurkey "sausage"? No? Well, yes, I was. (See: "adventurous" and "forgiving" neighbors, above.) The other pizza was going to feature plain old vegetables, in case the Tofurkey-topped pie proved too alarming for our guests. I also made a gigantic salad, figuring we could always eat lots of that if it came down to it. Oh, yeah, and cupcakes. We'd have those tasty gems to finish off the meal. Incidentally, I informed the neighbors of my dinner plans and suggested they either do some serious drinking beforehand and/or bring alcohol with them.

I embarked with a feeling of great dread enthusiasm. I started with the dessert. A fellow blogger suggested a few tips after reading about my two previous battles with the cupcakes (lost in the most recent battle was a lovely food processor). The batter did not turn into a rock-like ball as it had the last time I made the cupcakes, but it still had an odd spongy consistency:

It just hung on the spoon, like a wad of brown Marshmallow Fluff. Ominous. 
Okay, so things weren't entirely promising at this stage. Undeterred, I crammed spoonfuls into the awaiting pan, under the watchful eye of Wee Squeaky.

"Ha ha! No way these are coming out properly!"
Damn that mocking Wee Squeaky for being right. They started out in the oven looking like cupcakes. But, midway through the bake time, I saw the craters beginning to form. And, when I took them out, here's what I had:

Okay, yes, this is the same picture I used the first time this happened. I was too dispirited to take a picture of the third cupcake failure. Plus, Wee Squeaky was laughing at me, which angered me greatly.
Once I finished weeping, I decided that I'd tell the neighbors the cupcakes were SUPPOSED to look like that, and that the craters were in place to hold a heap of fat-free frozen yogurt. If everyone was sufficiently drunk, this excuse might fly.

Moving on to the pizza. I drizzled oil onto the shredded cheese and mixed until the little shreds were lightly coated. I had purchased pizza crusts that did not contain anything Swanky would frown upon (e.g., no tropical oils). While assembling everything, I felt a little better about the dessert; things were looking pretty good! After baking the pizzas, I felt much better about the dessert. My husband was right! The cheese melted!

The round, brownish bits are Tofurkey and there are some sauteed onions on there too, plus a sprinkling of sweet basil. 
The pizza triumph even shut up Wee Squeaky, who was duly impressed.

"I'm sorry for laughing at your dessert."
The neighbors arrived and one of the first things I did, after ensuring that they had drinks, was to blurt out that the cupcakes were NOT supposed to have holes in them. So much for trying to trick them. Oh well. They were fantastic sports, and their young son even said it was the most delicious pizza in the world, bless him.

So, to answer the question at the top of this post: will the third time be a charm? Yes and no. Dessert remains a challenge (STOP LAUGHING, WEE SQUEAKY), but the pizza, I am beyond thrilled to report, is a big, massive, huge, happy success!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Bad Trip, Man

I'm going to take you on a little trip. A little trip somewhere bad. For those of you trying to guess, no, it's not Chuck-E-Cheese, the grocery store on a Sunday morning, or the women's bathroom at my former workplace. Please see below for proof that the aforementioned women's bathroom was, indeed, a disaster and likely biohazard:

I'd expect this in a men's bathroom, but ladies, come on! 
Instead, I'm taking you INSIDE MY BRAIN. I was inspired to write this after reading a column in the New York Times by Woody Allen, which was referred to by Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post. I'm assuming most of you know who Woody Allen is. (Oh, dear, this reminds me of something I had blocked: a coworker once told me I reminded him of Woody Allen. I think it was Mr. Allen's mannerisms; God help me it if was his looks. I chose not to seek clarification.) Gene Weingarten, for those of you who don't know, is a writer -- a very funny writer -- who happens to be a hypochondriac.

Reading about hypochondriacs this morning made me realize I have a special little section of whack-o in my brain that's different from what Mr. Allen described. He mentioned racing to the doctor at the first sign of something amiss. I have the exact opposite reaction: studiously avoiding the doctor until either (a) something becomes physically unbearable or (b) I am worrying about it so much that I'm a hot mess, as the young whippersnappers say these days. At least, they were saying it the last time I checked. Word!

That I have freakish levels of doctor-related fears is a given. But I'm curious about you. Some of you have said you relate to my panic at noting a new symptom. When you experience something weird, do you go to the doctor right away? Or do you stew, bury your head in the sand, and worry like I do? I hope not, as it's an incredibly unproductive way to respond, especially when you have MS and a new symptom practically every other day. But since this blog has introduced me to so many people in my boat, I'm very interested in learning how you, my new friends, cope.

To your physical and mental health!
Ms. CrankyPants

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Valentine's Dinner Debacle

I am never, ever eating crab-stuffed mushrooms again. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me backtrack to Thursday night, Feb. 14. My husband and I thought we'd crack open the Swank Diet book, which has a section on "The Cocktail Party," and pick out a few tasty-sounding items to have our own mini cocktail party (minus the cocktails, which was Mistake #1).

We chose the crab-stuffed mushrooms and shrimp balls (hahahahaha), and I secretly bought some heart-shaped aluminum pans to make, yes, heart-shaped cornbread. I also planned a reprise of the cupcakes. (You can read about my first experience with the cupcakes here: Something Looks Very, Very Wrong.)

Sounds adorable, right? Well, not so much. I made the cupcakes first. That is to say, I tried to make the cupcakes first. The batter was stiff and unyielding. I could barely stir it. Foolishly, I crammed the thick wad into our food processor. The machine made some alarming groaning noises while I stood and stared at it. Yes, it occurred to me that I should hit the "off" switch, but somehow I kept thinking if I let the processor noisily grind on, the clump of cupcake batter would start to liquefy. Instead, I noticed a smell, followed very quickly by smoke. "Huh," I thought. "That is bad."

I laboriously scraped out the heavy wad of dough, which in no way resembled anything I could cram into the 12 small hollows in the cupcake pan. I eyed the heart-shaped aluminum pans. A ha! I could use one of them for the cupcakes, which I had now decided would be more like a large brownie. Problem solved! I spread the dough into the tray and popped it in the oven and turned my attention to the cornbread. This recipe has quickly become a favorite, so I had no problems with it. The brownie took a long time to bake. Like, twice as long as the recipe said it would take. When the center was finally not raw, the edges had stiffened to a rock-like consistency. I was hopeful that a liberal application of fat-free frozen yogurt would help.

"Hey, this isn't fat free!"
Except, as Wee Squeaky helpfully points out above, I had neglected to BUY fat-free frozen yogurt, so excited was I at the prospect of the peanut butter cups and graham cracker bits. Blast!! So much for rescuing the rock-like brownie with yummy yogurt.

Let's move on to the main courses: the shrimp balls and crab-stuffed mushrooms. My husband and I made these together, which was fun. We turned on some music and chopped and sauteed away, enjoying the experience and the smells of what was sure to be a delightful dinner. Well. The shrimp balls were a bit bland, but with a heavy dose of seasoned salt, they were edible. The mushrooms were an altogether different story. Maybe the crab was off. Whatever the case, they made a rapid trip down the garbage disposal. It is important at this part of the story to note that they were large mushrooms I had bought. Like, golf-ball size. In my haste to be rid of the sight and smell of them, I crammed about 15 into the disposal and turned it on. (I should have learned a lesson after ruining the food processor.) But all seemed well. Until this morning.

I had noticed a vague odor in the basement, but that's where we keep the litterboxes, so I assumed one of the cats had recently paid a visit. I did my daily scoop, but the smell was still there. It was quite gross.

"Did one of the cats refuse to use the box?" I wondered. I followed the bad smell into the bathroom. The scene that followed is as horrible as the shower scene from Psycho. You've been warned. I pulled back the shower curtain to reveal THIS:

Something smelly exploded in the shower.
Capt. Nap? Squeaky? Who is responsible for this? More importantly, who is going to clean it?
I shrieked and called over my husband. We stared in appalled horror. Naturally, I thought one of the cats might have crept into the shower and, well, vomited, but whatever was all over the shower floor had a familiar smell. Like CRAB AND MUSHROOMS. I reported this to my husband, who then asked what had happened to the remains of our dinner. I told him about jamming the entire mess into the garbage disposal. He sighed. Apparently, there was some kind of backup and it's bad to do what I did. Ugh. He left to get some drain cleaner and I just left the house. No, not really (although I was sorely tempted). I hauled out a sponge, some gloves, and some Comet and began scrubbing.

This episode was as revolting as you probably are imagining. And that's why I am never, ever eating crab-stuffed mushrooms again. Ever.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

This Is a Post About Love

"I love you." Three simple words, taken individually. Put them together and they can become very hard to say. I have a husband, family, and friends whom I love. And cats. (Just two; don't be alarmed.) I don't tell most of them "I love you" nearly enough. In the case of friends, maybe not ever. Why? What's the worst that could happen? Hearing those words from me, a rather non-expressive person, some of them would probably laugh uncomfortably and wonder if perhaps I had a brain tumor. If I accompanied this outburst of feelings with a lurch forward for a hug, I'd be whisked to the hospital for a comprehensive physical at once (and God knows what THAT exam would reveal. Horrors!).

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I want to share some of my most prized possessions. They are drawings made by my niece, K., and nephew, R. I've had them for years. (The drawings, not my niece and nephew.)

K and me. I'm the taller one.
This is on my fridge and makes me smile every time I see it.
A lovely birthday card from K.
And an equally lovely (and remarkably similar!) card from R. 
I don't have kids of my own, unless you count the cats (and, yes, sometimes I do). K and R are the closest I have, and I treasure the homemade cards and presents they give me. Especially the ones that say "I love you." So don't call the doctor, friends and family, but I love you too. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! I'm lurching forward for a hug...

Ms. CrankyPants

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Suspicious Mole

I recently had a Highly Suspicious Mole (HSM) on my back. I was 99% sure it was cancerous (and had spread to distant organs), but I successfully avoided having a doctor look at it until I accidentally scratched it and it started bleeding. Somehow, the Highly Suspicious Bleeding Mole became an item I thought needed professional attention.

Now, I had given the HSM plenty of unprofessional attention in the form of:

  1. Craning my neck to peer at it in the mirror every time I got out of the shower to see if it had changed color or gotten bigger. Or, perhaps it had vanished overnight! (This never happens, by the way.)  
  2. Asking my husband to examine it and provide his assessment. He said it looked weird and that I should see a doctor. I stopped asking him after that.
  3. Studying pictures on the Internet. (Tip: unless you want to give yourself nightmares, I strongly recommend against Googling "suspicious mole." There are many terrifying pictures.)
  4. Poking, picking, scratching, prying, and prodding at the HSM in an effort to determine changes to its texture. 

Readers, I know what you're thinking.

"Gee, I sure hope she took a picture of this Highly Suspicious Mole!"

These are hushpuppies. But one of them could have passed for my mole.
It grieves me to report that I did not take a photo. I did, however, find a picture I took of some hushpuppies, which I think you'll see resemble a disagreeable mole. They resemble mine, anyway.

So there I was, a revolting bloody mole on my back. I called the dermatologist's office. I was displeased when they said they could see me that very week. Aren't dermatologists supposed to be fully booked for months on end? Because it would have seemed odd if I'd asked for a much later date so I could, you know, prepare myself for crushing news, I accepted the appointment and glumly hung up the phone.

Yes, I realize that this approach makes zero rational sense. Intellectually, of COURSE I know that it's better to get things checked out right away, blah, blah, yeah, yeah, but the irrational part of me vastly prefers the "ignore it and it might go away" approach (please see Item 1 in the list above), even though it never, ever works.

Back to the bloody mole. The day of my appointment was upon me in no time and I found myself hunched in the waiting room, which felt entirely too hot. No one else seemed to be perspiring. And why was everyone so calm? I covertly checked out my fellow patients. Did anyone have anything that appeared contagious? I detected no open, weeping sores, and there weren't any patients engaged in frenzied scratching, so I went back to trying to focus on my book.

I'd read the same paragraph four times when a nurse called my name. I fumbled around, grabbing my book, purse, coat, scarf, phone, and water bottle and shuffled along behind her. We exchanged some pleasantries:

"Hi, Ms. CrankyPants, why are you here?"

"Oh, just to have this mole looked at."

I showed her the mole. It is at this point in almost every appointment that I lapse into full-on sweaty, panicky, jokey Ms. CrankyPants. My most recent appointment went a little something like this:

[as nurse was prodding at HSM]

Me: "SO! Bet you wish you had taken today off, huh? HAHAHA! This probably isn't too pleasant, is it? HAHAHAHA! See how it's bleeding? Yeah, I accidentally scratched it. Now it keeps bleeding! HAHAHAHA! That's a bad sign, isn't it? Does it look bad to you? Have you seen ones that look like this before? Hey, where are you going?!"

[as nurse was fleeing the room to get the doctor]

The doctor entered, brisk and businesslike. He was probably warned by the nurse that there was a manic 10-year-old girl in Exam Room 2 who seemed on the verge of some sort of fit.

Me: "SO! HAHAHA! I guess..."

Dr.: "Ms. CrankyPants. We're going to remove that mole and have it biopsied. You'll have the results in less than a week."

Me: "HAHA...Wh...?"

[as doctor was fleeing the room]

The nurse came back in with the scalpel and giant needle to numb the area around the HSM. She whisked it off. I bleated out a few more pathetic HAHAs, and finally she took pity on me, saying it looked to her like a skin tag. A skin tag? Gross-sounding, yes, but far better than the deadly alternatives I'd been imagining.

I wasn't going to rest easy until I heard the results, though, which I was told would come in one of two ways. If the biopsy was normal, I'd get an email. If it was cancer, I'd get a phone call. So I did what any irrational hypochondriac would do: I turned the ringer off my phone for a week.

And I got an email. The mole was benign. Did I learn a lesson? Next time, will I confront a suspicious mole, persistent cough, or sporadically bleeding scalp head on? I likely will not. That's just not how I'm wired. But I'm working on it, honest. Every non-death sentence at a doctor's office inches me closer to the place where I know I need to be: facing my medical fears without delay. At least, without too much delay.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Something Looks Very, Very Wrong

Let's play a game. Games are fun! Games that allow you to laugh at other people (in this case, me) are even more fun than games where you do poorly and stalk off in a huff, or overturn the board, or shout at other players. I am not thinking of anyone specific.

Back to the game at hand. It's called "Can You Guess What THIS Is Supposed to Be?" Please see the picture below:

Take your time; this is hard. 
Okay, it was such a marvel, I took numerous pictures. Here's one with a wee Squeaky lookalike popped in. I don't know if it will help you identify the Mystery Object, but it amused me:

"Don't eat me!" (As IF.)
This next shot may give it away:

Got it yet? If you guessed, with some bewilderment, "Cupcakes? Good God, are those supposed to be CUPCAKES?" then you are absolutely right! And that is exactly what *I* said when I opened the oven door last night to reveal what I have since named "Crater Cupcakes." This recipe is from the Swank Diet book. That comment is not meant to malign the Swank Diet book. With one exception, all of the Swank recipes have been good. Rather, it's meant to illustrate that on this diet, you can eat yummy sweets; you just have to know how to follow a recipe. I've retraced my steps and am nearly positive I added all of the necessary ingredients, including baking powder. If anyone has a clue why the above would happen, I'm all ears!

The burning question is: did I toss them straight into the trash? Certainly not! I haven't had anything resembling chocolate since December. I gobbled one in straightaway (as did my husband), and they tasted mighty fine, crater or no crater. (Yes, I removed Wee Squeaky before I commenced shoveling them in my mouth.) In fact, on my shopping list: fat-free frozen yogurt to pop right into those craters, which I will warm in the microwave first.

Here they sit in their container, ready to be attacked after dinner. (Note attention-seeking Wee Squeaky lurking in the background.)
To prove that I can follow recipes and make edible-looking things, below are two other items that I made last night (both also from the Swank Diet book). Behold the Skillet Scallops!

I wish you could have heard me trumpeting, "Behold the Skillet Scallops!" FOUR separate times as I attempted to rotate this picture. Finally, I got sick of hearing myself trumpet and gave up. So, there, above, are the sideways Skillet Scallops. They still look pretty good, don't they? And, another triumph (fingers crossed for proper photo alignment): CORNBREAD!

"Hey! Where's the crater?"
Ah ha! Success! (Both the recipe and the photo.) We ate very well last night, the appearance of the Crater Cupcakes notwithstanding.

For those of you wondering -- and I know you're out there -- yes, I did wash Wee Squeaky, both pre- and post-food posing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why I Can't Do Housework

The answer in three words: Squeaky the Cat.

A disproportionate amount of space on this blog has been devoted to the adorable and occasionally gross Capt. Nap (see: "Poo Paws: Capt. Nap's Cure for Fatigue" and "Thank You for Vomiting, Napoleon").  Today, I will begin to remedy that apparent show of favoritism by devoting an entire post to blaming some stuff on Squeaky.

In fact, I will let pictures tell the story. Below is a collage of our friend Squeaky, which I believe amply illustrates what I'm talking about:
"Want me to move so you can unpack your really important medicine and get it into the fridge? No can do! This is a nice perch!"
"Trying to get some writing done? Fuggetaboutit." (I was later told that, charming as this pose is, it is NOT good for the laptop.  Any damage: Squeaky's fault.)
"Oh, you want to make the bed? Check me out! I'm too cute to move. Plus, I'm warm and comfortable. Begone with you!" 
"Planning to, er, recycle these trashy magazines? Sorry!"
"This trashcan stays RIGHT HERE! I'm looking at something." 
"Hey! What are you doing now? Want to play? Is it dinnertime yet?  Is it dinnertime yet? What about now?"
So, there you have it. If I am slow to update my blog or comment on yours, you now know who's to blame.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

No-Cheese Pizza: A Public Service Announcement

Pizza without cheese is an abomination. There, I said it. As you may recall from my post "What the $(&^ Did I Just Eat?" I had a minor meltdown and major bout of self-pity after eating a Tofurkey pizza.

I was too busy having a tantrum to take a picture of the real thing when it came out of the oven.
"Okay, okay," I thought, last Thursday night. "The Tofurkey pizza sucked. But maybe it was because of the fake meat and cheese. I've heard pretty good things about cheeseless pizza (Note to readers: No, these reports did not come from institutionalized friends). Maybe that will be the happy end to my quest for Swank-approved pizza!"

My husband was having dinner with a friend, so this was the perfect time to try the cheeseless pizza. He had expressed grave misgivings about this particular menu item, and since he wouldn't be home to witness me collapsing in a sobbing heap if the pizza turned out to be revolting, the time was nigh.

It LOOKED pretty good (well, the picture on the box looked pretty good):

Hey! That looks pretty darn tasty! 
Another selling point was the absence of any text on the box that might later prove to have been misleading. I know it's not easy to see, but on the Tofurkey box, there were promises that it was MEATLESS AND DELICIOUS! That the CHEESE REALLY MELTS! By contrast, the all-veg pizza box was simple, elegant, and tasteful. A good start.

I removed it from the box ('cause that's what the directions told me to do) and popped it in the oven. It was at this stage that I felt the first glimmerings of dismay. The pizza was roughly the diameter of a pita (little did I know this later would prove to be a blessing). I set the timer and trotted off to do something important for 10 minutes.

I skipped back into the kitchen after 10 minutes and the hell am I supposed to tell if the pizza is done? Ordinarily, the way one gauges the done-ness of a pizza is by the yummy bubbling ever-so-slightly browning cheese. I stared at the baseball-sized piece of crust in the oven, atop which rested some limp vegetables. It had been 10 minutes, but the pizza looked exactly the same as it had when I put it in the oven. The sauce still looked like someone very stingy and in a great hurry had painted a thin coat of ketchup beneath the vegetables. Oh, dear. The glimmerings of dismay turned to strobe lights.

"I know what will help," I thought, somewhat desperately. "I'll put it on a jaunty blue plate! That will add some cheer to this rather dismal-looking pizza."

Judge for yourself:

MMMMM! That jaunty blue plate really did make it look better! 
I regarded my dinner with great sadness. To my credit, I did not throw a tantrum. (There was no one to witness it, which is half the fun.) Instead, I shuffled to the couch and glumly ate it, grateful that it was so small. It could have used cheese, of course, but perhaps with a generous -- REALLY generous -- application of spices, it would have been better. The vegetables were soggy, but what can you expect from a frozen pizza? I suppose the thing to do is make one from scratch. There is a recipe in the Swank Diet book for pizza crust, and with my new cooking skills, I just may try it.

I haven't given up hope on frozen pizza entirely, though. I still have an Amy's Roasted Vegetable cheeseless frozen pizza that's big enough for two (lucky, lucky husband!), so I'll try that before abandoning the frozen pizza route forever.

In the meantime, next time you eat pizza, savor every bite. In the immortal words of '80s rock sensation Cinderella "You don't know what you got 'til it's gone."

What? You don't know the song? Well, here it is, for your listening/viewing pleasure: