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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

It’s blazin’ hot here…

Living On O2 for Life

For the past two weeks or so it’s in the upper 90s and in a few days the forecast is 105 degrees. What that means for me is: Stay indoors with the a/c cranked. Well, that’s what I would usually do but life has a way of creating drama. You know, the kind of drama like your “Check Engine Soon” light coming on when I least expected it. Then there’s the strawberry plants that stopped producing! What? I know… I was nearly devastated. haha! There’s more drama that happened but I don’t want to bore you. I want to tell you about the fun stuff!

K and I were fortunate enough to be able to visit with one of my cousins and her family while they were here with their church. There was a choir event that we went to and wow were the kid who sang good! We had a great time catching up. I hadn’t seen them in over 18 years.

You know from the last post that I’m slowly increasing my experience in yeast bread. Well… I experimented with making Honey Oatmeal Wheat rolls. Unfortunately, K doesn’t like wheat or oatmeal in his bread. Lesson learned! So, I shared them with his mother. See picture in the right column under Instagram. If you scroll down you’ll see them. It was a lot of fun! We also ate our first two ears of corn that K grew. Our experiment with growing corn has been successful thus far. We have 7 more ears left growing from a separate, later planted seeds. Whew.. they were delicious and I hope we plant more next year. I’m making quite the farmer out of my man. I’m SO proud!

Unfortunately, one of our pond goldfish kicked the bucket. He was floating belly up one day and we still don’t know why or what caused it. Rest in peace little man… But, we still have 7 left… so… HOORAY Goldfish! haha! My newest Need a Hug afghan is coming along nicely. I already have the recipient in mind to ship it to. I’m hoping to get it finished within a month. *fingers crossed*

This past week has been terribly hot and humid. It’s been trying to rain but in our area it’s only coming down in the lightest sprinkle occasionally which is making it HARD for me to breathe and tired a lot. I want to try to get that yummy Cinnamon Swirl Bread made today. K said, “Double to the cinnamon swirl!” So, if I’m not too tired, I’ll make it today and increase the swirl! haha! I’m going to share half of it with K’s mom. She really liked my first loaf. YAY!

Be well and be careful with this heat. *hugs*

The Weekend with Company

Living On Oxygen for Life

I had my older sister and her family in town for a visit this last weekend and had a great time. However, I could tell almost right away that my health has drastically changed since the last time they visited. It was a real eye-opener for me and quite discouraging too.

Thankfully, I was already in the habit of preparing in advance a meal or two to be able to pull out of the fridge or freezer and heat up. Mostly, these were for dinner. I have found this to be extremely time and energy efficient for me. Well, really, for everyone. My sister now knows that I can’t help her much in the kitchen and still have energy to talk with her. I get pretty short of breath. So, after dinner, she would have me go sit down and she would take over to clean the whole kitchen.

One thing I’ve learned about both of my sisters is that when they do something at my house for me, it’s because they want to. Mainly because they don’t want me to wear myself out just because they are there to visit and because they actually WANT to do it.

It’s just like my older sister to bring me her special Christmas cookies as part of my Christmas gift from her. Before I was even able to get one, everyone started eating them. I was like… Heeeyyyy… *pout* They are that good. I was willing to share but gee wiz. So, she went to the store to buy all the ingredients that I didn’t already have to make another batch for me. Yay!!! As she’s whipping up another batch of sugar cookie dough, I was amazed at how easy it was for her and she wasn’t even tired! I had to go sit down after a little bit of watching, help with cleaning, and holding the cookie pans so that my niece and sister could place the cookies on each pan. I helped Frost some too but my niece did all of the Sprinkles artwork!

Christmas cookies

After they left for home, I was so tired but I had stuff to do Monday and we ended up having to take Rocco to the vet on Tuesday because he tweaked his back and we wanted to make sure he hadn’t damaged anything. He’s going to be ok. No jumping for a while.

So, today is recovery day. I’m resting all of today. I already told K not to even ask me to do anything or go anywhere because I just needed one whole day of quiet rest. I’m going to post the recipe of one of the dinners I premade for my sister’s visit in case you want to try it. It will be under the In the Kitchen link of my blog’s menu. Beef Tips is what I made and my sister asked for the recipe. I’ll try to get my enchiladas recipe on here too but I’ll do that in a few days. Take care everyone.

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.

2017 A Year’s Review…

Living On O2 for Life

Life during 2017 sure has been interesting. K and I have found ourselves confronted with many challenges that mostly were unexpected, which usually is the case for us. However, there were a LOT of good, fun, adventurous times throughout the year for us too. Thank goodness… because we really needed them.

January 2017 started with a visit from BOTH of my sisters at the same time! It was shockingly fabulous because it’s difficult for the both of them to have the same time off with their work schedule and then they’d have to drive down to see me now. I don’t travel well anymore and they are starting to understand that a little better now. It’s one thing for them to know their sister’s health is declining but it’s another thing to actually see it first hand. January brought the gift that I’d been waiting for… Christmas cookies made by my older sister and frosted by me and my sister and decorated (little kid style) by my very adorable niece.

February 2017 brought all kinds of exciting fun planning of my vegetable garden. We tried growing new things this year, like broccoli, squash, and tomatoes. I tried to keep up with the garden but with my health and the Texas heat, it started to get me way too tired just trying to keep it watered. A couple of times, K would tell me to just go inside because he would see me struggling with my breathing. So, he took over the garden for me. He’s my hero!

If you haven’t ever grown your own vegetables, it’s a sight to see and it’s actually very therapeutic. No, really… I swear! In March, the potatoes and our two tomato plants were growing like crazy due to amount of rain we’d keep having! Yay!!

In March, K and I were shopping in Home Depot and my liquid oxygen tank flew out of the cart and landed on the cement. What a scene that was! K was so worried about me but I handled it amazingly well after I realized it still put out oxygen. Whew, right? By the end of March, I was harvesting my first strawberries! Yummy! In fact, K was so interested in my strawberries that he filled two hanging baskets with strawberry plants to grow some of his own. Wow. I’m slowly turning him into a farmer! haha!

In April, K’s Aunts and Uncles came down to visit but stayed with his mom and his aunt here in town. By May, I had a lot of tomatoes I didn’t know what to do with them. I mean, we could only eat so many slices of tomatoes on sandwiches and for salads. So, I looked up on Pinterest how to make homemade tomato sauce. The process was tedious and it felt like it took forever but it sure was a success. I even had to call my mom for advice.

I didn’t get to go to my niece’s recital or birthday party because I can’t drive myself that far alone anymore. It just wears me out being the driver for that long. In between the missed trip to my sister, to the time I got to go see them later in the year, K and I went to 2 concerts. We saw U2 and then we saw Roger Waters (think Pink Floyd). Those concerts were a gift from me to K for his birthday and Christmas of last year. We used my wheelchair and I a bought a cup holder that I could attach to the arm of my wheelchair from Amazon. It was SO handy.. so convenient and affordable! Yay.. we all love affordable, right? Going to the concerts with K reminded me of the old days of dating K. We had a good time dancing, singing and acting goofy back then as we did for these two concerts.

In August, my older sister road the train to my city and drove me in my van to her house. I stayed with her for 10 days and then she drove me home and caught the train home. How sweet was that??? I know, right? I have to admit that I missed K something fierce. After I got home and rested up, K and I went on an adventure to South Padre Island for our 25th anniversary. We hit every art gallery and tried various restaurants and did all kinds of fun things. It was a great 10 days but on the way home, the front grill of my van flew off and went over the top of the van. I’m just thankful that it wasn’t me driving because it sure was scary. We didn’t see where it landed and thankfully no one was behind us. I knew we should have taken Klondike, my rubber chicken (road trip mascot). We got an estimate to replace the grill but it was an outrageous price. K and I had an idea but we didn’t realize that we were both thinking the same thing until we started talking about Plan B. We’d the grill replacement part on Amazon, order it, and K thought he could put it on the van himself. So that’s what we did for so much less! I’m so impressed with K’s skills! Though, he’s not much of a car guy but he can fix simple things. My MacGyver, he was! *wink*

From October up to now has been rough, K has had a lot of trouble with his eyes that scared the ever-lovin’ bejeebers out of us. He’s had to have 2 surgeries and I needed to take care of him while he recovered. It reminded me of just how much he actually does for me with my health needs and all done willingly and without complaint. I’m so lucky. I have to mention that he’s got some great ophthalmologists. One of them has the most awesome waiting room filled with jigsaw puzzles that anyone can work on and even a blanket rack that has CROCHETED afghans! *shock* Wow! K said his doctor wanted to meet me. Apparently, K had been telling him about me and the doctor has a daughter with scoliosis like me. So, without giving names, I’d like to give a shoutout to her! “HEY! If you are reading this, here’s a big hello to you and hoping that you are doing well.” *hugs*

Christmas was great! I got to help K decorate the house with new creative ideas this year. We try to add new ideas every year to the decorations! This year we added 5 wreaths we decorated together, 3 hung in our family room windows and one for two large mirrors we have. I had to go at a really slow pace hanging Christmas bulbs, wrapping ribbon around trees, and creating my 3 wreath masterpieces but we got it all done in about 5 days. Hooray! And now it’s January 2018. We’re ready for a better year. *fingers crossed* We’re already planning some exciting things to look forward to which is how we stay optimistic during the tough times.

You can see the pictures I take if you look in the right column of this blog under the Instagram heading. You don’t need to have an account to see my pictures. I just didn’t add them to this post because it’s already so long.

Crazy Awesome Weekend with Family!

Living On Oxygen for Life

I had a very long but fun weekend. First was the Pulmonary Hypertension doctor appointment and an Arterial Blood Gas drawn. Then we ate lunch at McDonald’s because we had other things we needed to do. We had to run to Walmart to return some stuff and pick up some forgotten thing from the grocery trip K did the previous day. Plus we picked up a new inhaler at the pharmacy. That was all on Friday.

When we came home from the errands, we got busy finishing up with cleaning the house because family was coming!!!! Yay!

After I made it to bed feeling exhausted, I knew I had to get up way early again for another appointment on Saturday that was a little over an hours drive away.

While we were at the appointment, my sister & her family already arrived at our house (we call it The Chateau), and we finally got home around 2pm. Yay! 

We got to babysit my niece for 4 hours, which was super fun but by the time they got back, K and I were wiped out.  My niece must have some sort of super-charged mega-battery that keeps her pumped up with energy.  I asked to borrow it but I didn’t think it’s transferable. Darn! 

We had so much fun but I’m glad we didn’t go to lunch with them today. It’s time for this girl to crash. I need sleep or at least down time. My niece is 7 and she asked me lots of questions (even taught me a two person hand-slapping song that was called Lemonade. I think?!) about my bipap mask that I was using when she snuck in my room to see if I was awake yet yesterday during my very short nap. She wanted her own cannula. She also wanted to see what it felt like with it connected to the oxygen. 

So, like a fun Auntie that I am, I used it as a learning experience for her. I got her a 7 foot cannula (like the ones used with portable tanks), connected it to one of my oxygen tanks, and I turned the oxygen on to 2 liters first. She wasn’t really impressed. So I told her, “Ok, now this is was it feels like at the amount that I have to use which 6 liters.” Her eyes got really wide when she felt it in her nose and she said, “Whoa! How do you do that?” “Baby girl, I do it because it helps me breathe.” 

I always want to make sure that she knows it’s ok to ask questions about me or my equipment. Curiosity can be a good thing when paired with learning about something that will expand her mind. We had a great time this weekend and I feel happy as I always do when I get to see one or both of my sisters. It’s like medicine to my soul. Sounds a little corny but it works for me.