Make, contain and freeze meals… our new adventure!

Living On Oxygen for Life

Hello everyone! Breathing easy, I hope! On this blog, I have written so much about so many things that it’s actually hard for me to remember not to repeat myself! I’m assuming you are like me and want to read about new things from your favorite author. Am I right? Did I just call myself your favorite author? Hmm.. do I even qualify as being an “author?” Well, I do write this blog but I’ll let you decide on if I’m your favorite. HAHA!

On Monday, K and I dove into a new adventure. Before I start anything new, I research the heck out of it. Pinterest is one of my favorite places to go for information. Then, I move on to Google search! Though, SIRI (on my phone) could find me the information I need faster, I’m the type to do the work myself. I think I learn more that way.

K and I decided, after months of me suggesting we should try this, to prepare a bunch of meals to throw in the freezers for the days where neither one of us are up to cooking. I do most of the cooking in our house and sometimes.. ok, a lot of times, I just don’t have the energy to make a great meal. Since I switched from using an inhaler to using a nebulizer recently, I’ve rediscovered some lost energy. I’m slowly starting to get more done around the house.

Word of warning: Don’t try this until you have one full day of time to cook and make sure you have everything you need before you start. I made a simple list of the order of cooking I wanted to accomplish and stuck it where it would always be right in front of me (on the face of the microwave!) We started with a half empty freezer out in our garage. Yes, we have a separate upright freezer. K bought me an upright freezer because he knew it would be difficult for me to bend over and search through a horizontal freezer. I also did an inventory of what can goods we had for the recipes that I chose to make to fill the freezer. By doing this, I could make a grocery list to make sure that we had all the food we needed. We only wanted to use fresh ground beef and fresh chicken because you shouldn’t thaw meat to cook and then refreeze it. You only want to freeze it once for quality sake.

I knew I had to save K some running around because he spent the day before at his mom’s house helping her with her yard work and her pond. I ordered all the food through Walmart’s Grocery pickup service. All K had to do was pick it up on Monday morning before we started cooking. I had already ordered and received from Amazon.com the foil pans that come with foiled cardboard lids (5 lb containers) and the Reditainer Extreme Freeze Deli Food Containers (with Lids, 16-Ounce, 36-Pack) to store our prepared food. We were ready to rock!

The beginning of our meal prep adventure!

Once K unloaded the food, he proceeded to tell me that he was going to take a shower, which he did, and then he took a 30 minute nap. I was like, what? Wait a minute! I kinda panicked but he reassured me that when I truly needed help, he’d be there. I knew he was tired. It’s the beginning of the holiday season and he really needed the sleep. So, I got started with cooking the meat. I bought 15 lbs of ground beef and 2 packages of 6 large chicken breasts. I think my brain didn’t register how much ground beef could actually fit in my largest frying pan because I had to cook it in 3 separate batches. I had to cook the chicken in two batches. For the chicken, I just boiled them with 2 chicken bouillon cubes, salt & pepper. I used the broth from the first batch of chicken (added a little more water) to cook the second batch of chicken. I also reserved the broth for use in a few of the recipes we were making. Don’t let it go to waste. We ended up freezing the remaining 2 cups of broth! You could use it in chicken enchiladas!

Cooking the meat!

Half of the cooked beef!

By the time I was done cooking the first wave of chicken and beef, I woke K up from his nap in the family room recliner. He’s my heavy lifter and chopping guru. He use to be a Sous Chef in his former career. So, he’s fast with a knife. Really fast. So fast that I’m kinda jealous. I’m too accident prone with sharp things to even attempt to compete with his skills. He was in charge of chopping the onion and all the chicken. Thankfully, I kept the empty milk jug gallon I just finished and used that to funnel all the ground beef grease into. NEVER pour that stuff down the drain.

Beef grease!

By the time the second batch of ground hamburger was finish, I was started to get tired. Unfortunately, as I dumped the cooked beef in my jumbo mixing bowl, I dumped some of it on the kitchen floor. Guess who got to clean up that mess? Yep, my dog.. Rocco to the rescue. Ugh! It’s ok, I had plenty of beef to share. K decided to make the leftover cooked hamburger (about 2 pounds) into taco meat to freeze into 2 separate quart sized ziplock bags. Once we had all the meat cooked and the onions diced and sautéed in a little of the beef grease (K’s idea!), it was time to start preparing the marinara (in my largest fry pan that I used to cook the beef in) and the chili (in the crockpot). It was 2 hours later when K went to stir and taste test the chili, that he told me what I forgot to add… yep, the chili powder. Oops! Where was my brain at THAT moment? I’m not sure how good the chili will taste but I’m hoping by the time we thaw and eat it, I can tweak it to taste better. haha! I may just stick tater tots & a ton of cheese on the top of it and bake it in the oven on the days we thaw some out. Chili is so versatile, isn’t it? *wink*

Marinara for the Lasagna!

Packaging up the lasagna in 4 foil pans! SIDE NOTE: Yes I crocheted those pot pads!

BONUS NOTE: Make sure you pre-cook enough lasagna noodles for the pans you’re preparing! I cook mine to where they are just pliable because I’m freezing the pans of lasagna. I don’t want the noodles to be mushy when they thaw. I don’t prebake the lasagna before freezing either. I definitely misjudged how many noodles I needed. So, it took two batches. Overall, I think we did pretty good. We worked well as a team without killing each other. K let me be leader in this adventure which was nice. I really wanted this to work. By the time we were done, I was super exhausted. My legs & lower back hurt. We started at 10:30am and finished around 3:30pm. I think I shocked K. I don’t think he thought I would be able to pull this off. I showed him, huh? *wink* And then, I realized I had to get up at 8:30am the next morning for a doctor appointment. UGH! haha!

I was in charge of making space in our freezer. I was able to free up 2 shelves because the freezer was already half empty (or half full!). K was in charge of carrying all the prepared food to the garage and loading the freezer. He only sent me out there because we had to squeeze in one more larger pan of Impossible broccoli pie. I love that stuff. So, I made sure to fit it in the freezer without blocking the vents in the freezer. You have to have enough room the freezer for the cold air to circulate to maintain proper freezer temperature. Overall, we spent $135 on food for this project. We already had about half of the canned goods we needed. The meat alone was about $65. Then the containers cost about $33. The plastic containers are reusuable. Here’s our freezer now:

Lots of meals in our freezer!

The list of meals we made on Monday is as followed:

Impossible Broccoli Pie – 1 big pan made
Broccoli, Chicken & Rice Casseroles – 4 9×5 pans made
Lasagna – 4 9×5 pans made
Taco Soup – saved in 16oz bowls (didn’t count)
Chili – saved in 16oz bowls (didn’t count)
Burrito Pie – 3 9×5 pans
Taco meat – 2 1-quart ziplock bags
The remaining diced cooked chicken breasts in several quart-sized ziplock bags to make chimichangas or chicken quesadillas.

Overall, this adventure was a success and it proved to me that I can do something this major as long as I have some help. Yes I was very drained and I had to sit down a couple of times while I spooning food into containers or writing labels. Would I do this again with help? Yes I think so. I may try a few different recipes though. I don’t think I would try to make so many recipes at once again but K thinks we could do just as much next time. There are somethings I would PRE-MAKE ahead of time the next time we do this. Like, precook and then refrigerate the beef and chicken the day or night before. That would save a lot of time if I could get at least half of the meat cooked ahead of time. I’ll try to get some recipes that I used on my blog later this week.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of This is Christine’s Life! lol! Stay warm everyone. It’s getting cold down here in Texas.

Advertisements

When I have a surprise burst of energy…

Living On Oxygen for Life

Happy November everyone! I’ve been busy the past week. For the last 3 days I’ve had a burst of energy. I took advantage of it and did some cooking everyday. I started the first day with my trusty crockpot and cooked 2 whole chickens at once! The peeling & chopping of carrots, garlic cloves, & celery took a while but it was the chicken pickin time that took the longest and wore me out. I saved the broth and cut up the rest of my carrots and celery and put those in the fridge for later.

img_9603
The next day, I decided to make a Canadian Bacon and Swiss quiche that my older sister had made for us when K had his eye surgery and she came down to help me. She told me she used the Betty Crocker recipe for Quiche Lorraine but used Canadian Bacon instead. I tweaked that recipe by using 5 eggs and only 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream. Plus I used dehydrated onion flakes. My stomach handles the dehydrated onions better than the fresh onions sautéed. Don’t use pre-shredded Swiss cheese. Get an 8 oz block of Swiss and shred nearly half of it. Prepackaged shredded cheese has an additive in it to keep the cheese from sticking together. The quiche was awesome. I believe the secret ingredient is the 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper.

img_9606

The next day I made homemade chicken noodle soup with the chicken stock from my crockpot. I skimmed off the solid fat from the top of the jellied stock and used about 2 T of it to sauté the carrots and celery that I had already chopped up. I then heated back up the stock to a liquid state in the microwave to strain through a fine mesh strainer. I used the stock plus a 32 oz carton of Swanson’s chicken stock and one can of Swanson’s chicken broth. No water added! It really turned out excellent with egg noodles (thrown in during the last 10 minutes of boiling), salt, pepper, cumin, & thyme.

img_9612

Today I was hoping to make something easy I have a recipe from a friend that uses a carrot cake mix and one can of pure pumpkin to make muffins. Sounds yummy! But I feel extra tired today. Boo… I’ve been on such a roll!

I’m freezing half the chicken noodle soup in 2 separate serving sized containers and I already froze the crockpot chicken in 2- 10.3 ounce packages for later when I feel the urge to cook.

I’m starting to think of cooking as what can I make for tonight’s dinner that I can make extra to freeze for the days I’m not up to cooking. Meatloaf is handy, chicken enchiladas or just the meat mixture prepared and froze that can be used for tacos or burritos. Beef tips and gravy freezes well too (see below) and K loves it with rice that we make the night we eat it. On the days that I know we have leftovers to eat for dinner, I’ll sometimes prep a meatloaf to freeze before baking and that way it saves me time and energy when I just don’t have a lot of on bad breathing days.

img_9514

So, maybe later I’ll get up from my nap and make those muffins which will be baked in my mini muffin pan OR I’ll make Rice Krispie treats. Either way… yum!

Remember… November is PULMONARY HYPERTENSION AWARENESS MONTH. So, Be Aware for those of us who have PH that we are RARE! For more information about Pulmonary Hypertension go to Pulmonary Hypertension Association Organization

The Beast Within… (repost)

Living On Oxygen for Life – a repost from 2016 because this is so important to read if you are dealing with anxiety and control issues.

Over the past 10 years or so, this beast inside me has grown and mirrored the decline of my health. It all started with what I thought was constant worrying. You know… when you have to time how much your oxygen will last? Well, that can make you worry about checking your oxygen tank a LOT when you are out having fun. Then I would worry about how long my energy will last while I was out having fun. Can I walk that far in the mall or in the hospital for doctor appointments? Will K get upset if I need to stop to sit down for a few minutes. I know the last one is kind of an irrational worry. Of course K wouldn’t get upset but he did try to push me to walk a little further before stopping which only made me feel like he wasn’t taking my need to stop seriously. My health wasn’t as progressed as it is now. So, pushing me a little bit further was a good thing that K was doing. It’s just when I was tired and felt like I needed a break, no knows how I felt except me.

I turned all this worrying about so many things in my life into trying to control everything around me. I felt like I needed to manage everything so that I had enough energy for things that I had to do around the house and the things that I wanted to do with K. I wanted to know where we were going when we were out of the house, what route we were going, and even how K drove. I needed advanced warning when K wanted us to go out to have fun so that I can be sure to rest up during the day. But all that wasn’t working. Trying to control everything turned into Anxiety because there is no way that I could control everything, be happy and not irritate those around me.

It’s taking a long time to learn to let go of the control issues. K reminds me by saying that he “Gets it.” and “I will always take care of you. I always have your best interest as my priority.” It has helped me a lot with him saying this to me. I have to remind myself of what he said over and over because my memory doesn’t retain information as well as it use to. So, when I get into my vehicle with K, I will remind myself that he has my six. *wink* Giving up the control and learning to trust is a very hard thing to do for me because I feel as if I’m losing more of my independence. However, as long as we have fun in our lives, all will be ok.

The Hair Dryer’s other danger…

Living On Oxygen for Life

I had a thought the other day about hair dryers. You know the ones that are handheld. Not the one’s that my mom use to sit under with curlers in her hair. I can still see her in my head sitting there with her rollers in waiting for her hair to dry. Wow.. She was a patient woman for beauty. She would while her time away painting her nails. She was skilled at that. Me? Not so much. *shrug*

My thought that I had was about a danger that I hadn’t thought of before. Mostly people know about the danger of not using or leaving a plugged in hair dryer near or in a bathtub of water. Yikes! Electric shock would ruin anyone’s day (or should I say life?). No, I was thinking about people who use oxygen while trying to dry their hair with that handheld hair dryer. It has a danger to it. Did you know?

Have you ever seen a hair dryer spark when you turn it on? I have. That in itself is dangerous because most people don’t clean the lint out of the vent of the hair dryer until it’s coated in the stuff. Now, we also need to remember about the heating element of the hair dryer. It glows red when you have the dryer on warm or hot, right?

Imagine yourself and how you use your hair dryer. Is it close to your face as you dry the underneath parts of your hair? Are you wearing your oxygen while drying your hair? I have to use my oxygen all the time. The thing is… I don’t dry my hair using a hair dryer but once in a blue moon (mostly in the Winter when I don’t want wet hair if I have to go outside). So, naturally, I didn’t really think of the danger that could happen if you mix a spark from a hair dryer and the oxygen that I or you use. In fact, at the website: Consumer Product Safety Commission, near the bottom of the page, it says not to operate a hair dryer where oxygen is being administered.

As for me, I air dry my hair. Using a hair dryer to dry my thick, long hair takes forever and makes me tired. Plus, I don’t like how it treats my hair. I end up looking like a fluff ball most of the time. Now that I have had this thought about the danger of using hair dryers with oxygen in use, I’m very cautious. I’ll admit that I still use one on RARE occasion but I know I shouldn’t. I hold the dryer as far from my hair as possible just to add an element of a buffer zone. I clean out the lint too. I make sure it’s in good working condition. I certainly don’t want a fire on my head!

Now, I’m not saying that you should use a hair dryer but if you still want to, I can’t stop you. Do it with extreme caution. Keep your hair dryer in peak condition and away from your oxygen. If it sparks, you’re gonna have problems.

Going the extra mile…

Living On Oxygen for Life

I know I’m a lucky person. I have a husband who loves me and takes care of me in ways that I have no idea that he’s doing it. May 26, 2017 was one of those days.

Last year, K found out that U2 was coming to Dallas, Texas in 2017. It’s rare that they come here and they are one of K’s favorite bands of all time, next to Pink Floyd, of course. So, he asked and then begged and told me how important this concert was to him. He said he’d consider it his birthday AND Christmas present if I’d buy these tickets for him. I’m the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of this family. Anything spent, that’s over $100, should be cleared through the CFO. That’s what happens when you’re living with someone who is disabled and has to go to the doctor often and take expensive medicine.

I knew how much K wanted to go to this concert and I won’t lie to you and say that I was really excited about going to the concert at first. I hadn’t been to a concert in YEARS. I didn’t know if I’d be able to last through a whole concert. I mean, how long do concerts last nowadays? That question was the most important question we faced going into planning for this night of fun. Yes, I bought the tickets. In fact, for the first time ever, I bought a seat for the disabled and a companion seat ticket. We decided to use my wheelchair.

The closer we got to the date of the concert, I started getting more and more excited. I asked my younger sister how long concerts last and she thought about 3 hours. So, we thought 2 liquid oxygen portables would be enough. We didn’t want to leave before the end of the concert. Two portables would give me about 4 hours of time safely. Though, when you least expect it, things don’t always go as planned. Do they?

On the day of the concert, I dressed up in my retro dress. It took me a while to figure out what shoes to wear and how to tie the belt around my dress. I’m not a fashionista. At all.. but K kept saying that I looked beautiful. So, how could I NOT wear a dress? How sweet of him!

We finally departed our house and drove to the DeathStar (the new Cowboys stadium) and there was a lot of traffic. I whipped out my handicap placard once we got close to the stadium. I told K to slow down and I rolled down my window. Well, I just pressed a button and it rolled down on it’s own. I stuck my head out the window and waved my handicap placard (like I knew what I was doing!) to a cop directing traffic. Yeah, I’m not shy AT ALL. The policeman walked up to my van and I asked him directions on handicap parking. That’s right. We were going in style! We ended up paying just a little extra (ok.. a bit more than I was comfortable with) to park at the building (a sidewalk away) in the handicap. It was right up there near Valet parking. A parking attendant poked his head in K’s window to scope the inside of our van. I don’t think I need to tell you what they were looking for with what happened in Manchester, UK a few days prior. There were police dogs walking the crowd and police with automatic rifles. Texas is serious with security. No purses allowed unless it was no larger than 5″x8″ in size. I actually took my PH International Conference name ID badge that I got in June 2016. It held my ticket, driver’s license, credit card, insurance card and my cellphone. It was the perfect size!

We got in the building and had no idea where to go. However, we quickly found out that if you are arriving in a wheelchair, not only do you jump through the line to enter the building quicker than anyone else. You get some incredibly friendly help from the Event Staff. It was nothing short of AMAZING! We only had to say we weren’t sure where to go and the Event Staff person we asked not only told us where we needed to be but also, TOOK us there personally. It was awesome! I was all smiles and “Thank YOUs!” I have to say the handicap seating was excellent. We were fairly close and not a single person was in front of us.

U2 concert 2017!

Now the scary part. As K would say, we “GROSSLY” underestimated the amount of oxygen we needed for the concert. I use 6LPM of oxygen 24/7 and my 2 portables would last roughly just over 4 hours. It was already 7pm which was when the concert was scheduled to start. It didn’t start until almost 8pm and it was the Lumineers, not U2. K and I talked about what we would do. I told him that I could turn my oxygen down to 5LPM if I just sit here in my wheelchair but I’d have to turn it back up to use the restroom or if I started feeling bad. He had left me for a little bit to find out about souvenir concert shirts. At least that was part of what he was doing. I didn’t realize he was going down to the police or the Event Agent at the door to see if he could later exit the building to refill my oxygen. He said no. He couldn’t let him back in he building if he left. Well that sucks! Right? So, he next went to the fire department personnel and explained our situation to him. He asked if they had oxygen with them and they said not to worry. If we have problems to bring me straight to them and they would help. Wow! (yes, they had oxygen!)

K came back to his seat without even telling me he had setup a backup plan in case we needed it. He even packed a picnic to leave in the van for after the concert in case we were hungry. We had a lot of fun, with my oxygen turned down to 5LPM, I was able to watch the whole concert from start to finish. We even stayed a little longer to watch some of the breakdown of the stage. That was cool too. It was just after 11:30pm when we finally got back to my van but all was well and we had a great time. Quite a number of the event staff and a police officer asked if we had a good time. I’d like to think this kind of hospitality happens everywhere but being Texan, I’m kinda biased. *hugs* haha!

Waiting for the U2 concert… Lumineers will be first!

Lots of love to y’all!

Sleep Study Time

Living On Oxygen for Life

There are different reasons for a person who may require a sleep study. Sleep Apnea is one of them. I’ve had quite a few sleep studies dating all the way back to 1993. Even though I was already on oxygen at night only, my lungs couldn’t work well enough while I slept to blow off the CO2 that my body was retaining. My breathing was too shallow. I would have really bad dreams and I’d stop breathing while I slept most nights and the problem was only getting worse.

I was seeing a Pulmonologist in Dallas, TX, in 1993, who realized that my scoliosis played a large role in my breathing problems. Because my ribs are so deformed from my scoliosis-curved spine, it reduced the lung capacity that I had to breathe. Twenty-four years ago, my lung volume was approximately 25% of what a normal, healthy person my current age back then. Today, it measured at 16% at my annual physical. So, over the span of 23 years, my lung capacity has lost about 1/3rd of it’s former volume. Now, if you add the complication of Pulmonary Hypertension to the mechanical difficulties of Restrictive Lung Disease (from my deformed ribs due to Scoliosis), my health becomes difficult to treat. Now, add heart complications. I was born with an ASD (closed on its own) and an VSD (surgically repaired at the age of 10 years old) but also currently have trouble with Ventricular Tachycardia & SupraVentricular Tachycardia. This is the challenge my doctors face. How do you treat one problem without it affecting the others? The answer? Very, very careful trial and error. I make myself heard and understood. I carry test results from one doctor to all my other doctors. We are a team.

So, when I was starting to have a noticeably difficult time breathing earlier this year, I decided to systematically figure out what is causing this large step back in health. I started with my PH doctor. Then went to my Electrophysiology-Cardiologist. After that, I went to my family doctor to bring him up to date. Next, I went to my Pulmonologist who follows my bipap machine. We set up a sleep study. Not my favorite thing to do. I hadn’t had a sleep study since 2009. Maybe I just needed my bipap setting tritrated and that would solve everything… but I don’t think it will. I’m still thinking it has to do with Tikosyn.. the new cardiac medicine I started taking in place of Cordarone.

Next week… I see my normal cardiologist for an ECHO and to ask for a second opinion about this Tikosyn. I’m not giving up until I’ve tried everything to figure out what triggered this breathing setback. I don’t want this to be my new normal. Sure, it’s nice that K does all the grocery shopping on his own but sometimes we have fun together doing it. It just makes me too tired now.

If you’ve never had a sleep study done and you’re curious about them because you have been told you need one, well, wonder no more!

SleepStudy

Here I am all wired up for my sleep study. There are a LOT of wired that are attached to your head, arms, upper chest, and legs. Don’t forget a few weird places like under your chin and next to your eye. Those get a little itchy! You also get an upper chest band and an abdomen band that monitors your breathing. I was able to bring my 3 pillows that I use and my own bipap mask because I already use a bipap. There is a dress code for pajamas. Some sleep studies are done in the hospital and some are done in a stand alone building. If you are to have a sleep study and you use oxygen 24/7, be sure to mention that and take a tour of their “bedrooms.” If you are doing a sleep study outside a hospital and you use a high flow of oxygen 24/7, like me, make sure they can accommodate your oxygen needs. I had to bring my splitter so that I can use two oxygen concentrators together; each set at 3LPM to be able to have enough oxygen while doing my sleep study.

Once you are in your sleep study, if you are having trouble breathing or with the mask they gave you to try, speak up. Let the technician know what’s going on. They’ll try to help as much as they can according to the doctor’s orders. Make sure you understand what your doctor wants to try during the sleep study before you have your sleep study. They really want you to be comfortable so that you can sleep as best as you can. Tell them how you sleep in bed. They’ll want you to try to sleep on your back for a while but my tech let me roll over (which was pretty hard to do with all the wires!) onto my stomach to try to fall asleep.

Seriously, I’d love to hear your comments, experience and advice for future sleep study patients. I know that the Bipap or Cpap machines can be a challenge at first to get use to but, once you do, they can help by improving the quality of your life… at least your sleeping life. *wink* My bipap machine has kept me alive for the last 23 years. I’m glad I didn’t give up on mine.

October Means Flu Shots

Living On Oxygen for Life

A little nervous. I have a doctor appointment tomorrow (Monday) and should be getting my flu shot. I’m nervous because last year when I got the Prevnar13 shot (a different Pneumonia shot) it nearly kicked my reared, leaving me feeling sore and wiped out. I told K that I wasn’t ever getting that shot again. He said, “Yes you will.” That shot is what stands between me and a stay in the hospital if I get sick and it progresses into pneumonia. I just hope the flu shot won’t hit me as hard as the Prevnar 13 shot did last year.

The flu shot usually gives my arm & joints achy pain as well an achy body with a mild sore throat and low grade temp (99 degrees) for a day maybe two. But that’s normal for me. It’s natural for your body to respond in such a way, to a degree, when it detects a foreign body. It tries to attack it and then it builds up antibodies to it to prevent future similar infections of that kind.

I hope if you haven’t yet gotten your flu shot and are not the few who have an allergic reaction to its ingredients, please get the flu shot. It can really help if you get a cold. It will help prevent that cold from turning into the flu or even pneumonia.

Here’s some information about Prevnar 13. Click on the picture to enlarge and read. This is the information my doctor gave me last year. You can also search my blog using the search box for a post I did about Prevnar 13.

PCV13