Monday, March 28, 2011

Healthy Cooking: Panini Day

"Healthy Cooking Day" at SAM (Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba) is really being a success.

We are becoming such a great group and our friendships are really growing as well as a sense of teamwork. We all bring a variety of skills to these lunches. Candace, for example brings a dedication to making healthy food choices, Dave in organizing and cheering us on, Jim has experience in the food industry and is full of practical ideas for making these things actually work. Then there are a few like me that are all for social events and especially food related ones!

Today's plan was "Panini Sandwiches".

Jim offered to bring his Panini maker and told us about enjoying Havarti cheese and luncheon meat Panini sandwiches at his house. We wound up deciding to bring a variety of ingredients and to experiment a bit.

We served this with a purchased veggie platter. I actually picked up a premade tray at Safeway. I had originally planned on preparing the platter myself, but I got too busy and too tired. If our plan is healthy eating made easy for stroke survivors; prepared fruits and veggies from the supermarket can save a lot of energy, time and stress. I was thinking it was going to be kind of an expensive decision, but I found the package was actually on sale today. I also think that by time I bought all the different veggies and dip separately there would be so much wastage and trimming that it really would not have been that much of a saving after all.

            Panini Variations

7 grain bread
low fat margarine (butter would have been a good idea too)
4 or 5 kinds of deli sliced luncheon meats such as shaved ham and smoked turkey
2 tomatoes
bag of washed fresh baby spinach
Havarti cheese slices 
light Italian 3 cheese blend

Heat the close topped grill or panini maker and it will tell you when it is ready. Butter two slices of bread. Put in what ever you want -- but keep the buttered side out to help it toast and keep it from sticking to the grill!  One hint is that cheese is good to include because it helps stick it all together.  One of us liked having a mix of different meats and cheeses, and another liked making a veggie and cheese only option.

It was so good that most of us had seconds and tried out a different combination of ingredients.

Next month will be "wraps".  We talked about what kind of wraps are out there and we will be doing a grilled chicken based wrap. We also agreed that we want to taste a Heart Smart Granola Cookie. We are also looking forward to Carol's Famous Chocolate Brownies.  We think Healthy Cooking and eating can include reasonable portions of yummy treats.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Been a Long Road

This song and bits of its lyrics have been going through my head all week.  I think it is reflecting a more positive and optimistic attitude on my part.  Yup.. "It's been a long road" and there is still a ways to go, but we need to celebrate our successes along the way.

  The version above is  the theme from the Star Trek: Enterprise TV series. The original was sung by Rod Stewart for the movie Patch Adams.  It is amazing that the lyrics can cover space exploration, themes for athletic competitions, and a story about a social activist doctor.  

Interestingly there is a conference, The W Conference: Wellness, Workplace, Winnipeg,  coming to the city with Patch Adams as the featured speaker.  I think it sounds really interesting, but the cost is way too high for me to attend.

I have been working on memorizing the lyrics below; there is always some opportunity of cognitive therapy. I have a lot of trouble with remembering things like this now, but since I am humming it anyway I might as well try to get the words right.

Faith of the Heart
written by  Diane Warren

It's been a long road
Getting from there to here
It's been a long time
But my time is finally near

And I can feel the change in the wind right now
Nothing's in my way
And they're not gonna hold me down no more
No they're not gonna hold me down

'Cause I've got faith of the heart
I'm going where my heart will take me
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything
I've got strength of the soul
And no one's gonna bend or break me
I can reach any star
I've got faith, I’ve got faith, faith of the heart

It's been a long night
Trying to find my way
Been through the darkness
Now I've finally have my day

And I will see my dream come alive at last
I will touch the sky
And they're not gonna hold me down no more
No they're not gonna change my mind

'Cause I've got faith of the heart
I'm going where my heart will take me
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything
I've got strength of the soul
And no one's gonna bend or break me
I can reach any star
I've got faith, faith of the heart

I've known the wind so cold, and seen the darkest days.
But now the winds I feel, are only winds of change.
I've been through the fire and I've been through the rain.
But I'll be fine.

Cause I've got faith of the heart
I'm going where my heart will take me
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything
I've got strength of the soul
And no one's gonna bend or break me
I can reach any star
I've got faith

I've got faith of the heart.
I'm going where my heart will take me.
I've got strength of the soul. And no one's gonna bend or break me.
I can reach any star. I've got faith, I've got faith, faith of the heart.

It's been a long road.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bowling is Fun!

Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba goes Bowling

Our little planning group at SAM realized that some of our members were interested in having a bowling event.  I don't think we had a very clear idea of what all a bowling afternoon for stroke survivors would entail but we jumped on in and started planning. I called the alleys and found and booked an accessible bowling alley and I made name tags. April and her husband arranged for prizes and a few giveaways,  and Dave and Murray worked out the teams and advertising. Sherry called the bowling alley and got them to donate soft-drinks for our event. Dave also did a bit of video recording of the event.  The price for our event was very reasonable too because we were bowling in the off time between 4 and 6 pm.

We had a total of 19 people attend this past Monday, and everyone seemed to have a good time. We arranged for the bowling alley gutters to be filled with a rubber bumper so there were no gutter balls for us. The alley has a wheelchair ramp and they have a metal gadgets that lets you release and roll the ball down the bowling lane from a chair. We grouped into teams and then we played bingo bowling teams. The objective is to fill a bingo card.. throw 2's 3's 5's and spare and strike. Because we were playing as a team and not looking for a high score there was very little stress and lots of fun and "team spirit". 

There were a few problems for sure and we will be talking about it in the next few weeks.  One thing we found out was that as a group of stroke people we don't have a lot of endurance and we should plan for shorter events when they are active like this. Part way through the event a kids party started on the other side of the room, and the lights were dimmed and we found that we were now playing "glow bowling". In a way it was fun to see us and our shoe laces glowing.. but it made it a bit more difficult for a few people with vision problems. The disco ball and some moving lights also pretty much did in me and one other lady. I had an almost instant headache and started having trouble staying upright.  So now I know that .. bingo bowling is a ton of fun and absolutely no glow bowling for me!

There was a trophy at SAM from a decade ago that was just collecting dust. We are going to have the "team name" of the winning team engraved on a little plaque and we will award it officially to the team members at the upcoming Annual General Meeting.

I think one of the nicest things to come of this event was that several people said they didn't know that bowling was an option for them anymore.  They are now confident that this was a form of recreation they can enjoy with friends and family in the near future.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blackbird Fly

One of my early visits to the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba turned out to be a Karaoki Day.

Dave brought his Karaoki machine in and set it up and then he  passed around the book with about a thousand songs to choose from. Different people were taking turns singing, groups, pairs, solos and it was a lot of fun. I was still having some trouble tolerating very much sound but I wanted so badly to be in there with everyone and to be laughing. I looked in the book and tried to pick our a song to sing and was so overwhelmed. I found it hard to read still and I had trouble identifying which song was which just by the title and artist. My memory was failing me once again. Then there was the whole issue of trying to make a decision.. as in "just go ahead and pick one!" really ? decide? how?

My eyes landed on the Beatles song "Blackbird".  I had sung it at home with my kids years ago.  I remembered my son singing it so beautifully that it could break your heart.

Frankly .. I remembered most of the lyrics for it and I wondered how well a song about broken wings was going to go over in a room filled with a bunch of disabled people that I had barely met. The thought scared me.

I just closed my eyes took a shaky breath, tried to forget the fact that I had a microphone in my hands, and I sang my little heart out. People were silent for a moment. I though "Oh no! I have done it this time".. and then they cheered me and applauded. I think that was the moment I realized I had found a new place where I can belong.

The song was featured on the hit TV series Glee last week, and I understand that the Glee rendition of my beloved song is rapidly climbing the current music charts. I love the Beatles original best, but the quality of this Sarah McLachlan version from youTube was the nicest one I found to share with you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bike Accident

My son fortunately will be okay.

This afternoon my 27 year old son was cycling to work and he was hit by a car. He called from the hospital to ask if we could come and drive him to his house and informed us that he has a broken bone in his lower leg. It is in place and the other bone is sound and recovery is expected to be straight forward. He is in pain but we picked up his prescriptions for painkillers and hopefully he will get some rest tonight.

He was hit by a car that turned at an intersection when the car driver just didn't look over and turned into him. He wears a neon orange safety striped jacket when cycling so I don't know how you could miss seeing him. Thank goodness he always wears a helmet because that got bashed in too, but his head and neck are fine. It could have been so much worse.

The other guy's insurance should take care of my son's costs, but my son's bike is pretty fancy customized one, and his only means of transportation, so he will have to wait and see what the insurance does to help about repairing or replacing the bike. Some kind men in a service vehicle stopped, called an ambulance and offered to be witnesses. They gave him their business cards and kindly took his bike out of the middle of the road and will store it at their warehouse until we can take a vehicle to pick it up.

I think we will have our little grand kids for the weekend.. so their Daddy can have a good rest and keep his foot elevated. I hope I can find the energy.

Usually I think the cycling is such a good idea; it is great for fitness and for the environment. At this moment, even though it sounds ridiculous, I am really mad at that car driver and mad at my son's bike.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day.

This the 100th anniversary of the first celebrations of Women's Day. In 1975 the United Nations celebrated International Women's Year and at that time they established March 8th as International Women's Day.

My province held a special event at 11:45 am at the Legislative Building today celebrating the accomplishments of disabled women. I had wanted to go but didn't think it was going to work out, mainly because of transportation issues and a reluctance to go to a crowded location all by myself. My friend Betty was so thoughtful! She was interested in going too, and she knew I wanted to go, so she went ahead and called and reserved us a spot and drove me to the event. I know it wasn't easy for her to arrange her day around this. Even finding parking space was a major effort. It was so kind of her to make it happen for us and I really do appreciate her efforts.

We started by viewing a display area with about 20 or so groups or agencies booths displaying information about resources and organizations in Manitoba. I picked up many pamphlets and talked to several very helpful individuals and I think the information will eventually prove very helpful to me. Next we went to the second level and we were provided with a sandwich lunch as part of the celebration. Next there were a couple short but interesting speeches. The room was very crowded and I was lucky someone gave me their chair.

One of the primary functions of this event was to act as a book launch for a new free Manitoba Government Publication called "Living in Manitoba: A Resource Guide for Women with Disabilities". It is a comparatively easy to read 200 page guidebook with lots of suggestions and resources available in the province. It covers material by topics such as education and training, employment, income benefit programs, housing, human rights, parenting and family life, transportation and travel and recreation and leisure.

It is available on line HERE or in other formats upon request.

Labour and Immigration Minister, Jennifer Howard, stated in her speech that:
“We are privileged to benefit from the immense contributions women with disabilities bring to the social, cultural, economic and political landscapes of Manitoba,” “We celebrate their successes and support others in the disability community who are facing and meeting the challenges life has set before them with dignity and determination.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Turkey Chili

Our monthly "Healthy Cooking Day" at SAM (Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba) was once again a lot of fun.

It is amazing how much fun it is to share in making healthy lunches for ourselves and it is exciting to see some growth in the number of people attending. We are at about 6 to 8 people attending now.

We try to find healthy food options that we can enjoy together and trying to figure out easy ways to prepare it. This is especially tricky without a stove so we are really working on using what is available to us.

We decided at the previous lunch that this month would be Turkey Chili. We thought we would do it as low fat as possible and we also tried to make it fast and easy. One of our members, Murray, brought a hands free can opener for us to use. You just set it on top of the can and push a button and the can gets opened. It is such a great option for people with limited use of one of their hands. It worked just great and we really would recommend it. I was going to take pictures but I forgot my camera this time so you will just have to use your imagination.

I brought my larger non-stick electric frying pan and we got to work chopping.

The menu this time was Turkey Chili on Whole Wheat rolls. Jim was kind enough to bring homemade muffins. "Mrs Jim" is a wonderful baker!

Turkey Chili

0.75 k of lean ground turkey
1/2 large green pepper chopped fine
1/2 large red pepper chopped fine
2 ribs of celery chopped fine
1/2 large white onion chopped fine

1 28 oz can of tomatoes
1 12 oz can of kidney beans drained
1 12 oz can of black beans drained

Add chili powder, salt & pepper to taste. (Easy on the salt, after all we are trying to be healthy here)

We chopped the vegetables and fried them up. We fried up the ground turkey meat. The non-stick surface made oil or fat unnecessary and it was fine, but a bit might have been a good idea. Next we added the tomato, beans and spices and we stirred it up carefully. We brought the mixture to a boil while stirring frequently, then we lowered it to a simmer, put the lid on and let it cook for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally. We sampled it part way through and decided to add some more chili powder to "heat" it up a little more.

It was delicious. Honest!

We discussed options for next time and the final choice is Pannini Variations. The plan started with Havarti cheese and turkey on rye but we are now planning on using different cheeses, different deli meats and a few different add ins for us to choose from. We will also have a raw veggie platter with dip. YUMMM

Tortoise and the Hare

Once upon a time....
well I used to be a hare.

A few weeks back one of my daughters drove me to my physio appointment and came in with me. My new therapist asked her what some of her concerns about me were--- he actually phrased it "What are some of your mom's deficits now as compared to before her illness?" and the word deficit hit her really hard.

After sputtering a bit she came out with the fact that it upsets her to see her previously speedy mom doing everything slow. Now, I would never have been classified as the high energy, cheer leader person in a group, but once I got going I was very efficient. When cooking dinner I would procrastinate at first but once I got started the chopping was happening, the water boiling and I was running top speed. Rachael Ray could have learned a thing or two from me about speedy meal preparation.

I really struggle with this business of moving slowly too. I tend to forget that my life has changed and start off at top speed and trip and wipe out the first time I try to turn around. I also forget to allow enough time to get items completed and I wind up in a crisis with stuff not getting done promptly or being done very poorly.

The physical issues were what the daughter was referring to, but what gets to me personally is how long it takes to do the thinking skills. For the most part I think I do pretty well now with some mix of real recovery and "tricks of the trade" I have learned from my wonderful Occupational therapist and other sources, but it all is so very slow and laborious. I need to check and recheck everything. Reading is still hard and I now have to look things up over and over again that I would have remembered at one viewing. I have to make a plan for almost anything new I try to do and even some of the old challenges and then review my plan and then plan even more details.

There is no more just jumping in with both feet ... sprooooinnng off the diving board. I have to stick in one toe to test the water and then go back to get the bathing suit I forgot and then figure out where to leave my cane. Then, once my little swim is over and I get out of the water, all I want is nap time and I am no longer eager to hop off to my next event.

I am trying to embrace my new life as a tortoise. I do hope that the old fable is correct and the tortoise really can win the race.

I went shopping by myself!

Doesn't that sound so basic? "Oh I just went shopping."

I left my house last Monday, got on the right bus, shopped for the few groceries, and then I came home again all by myself. It was the first time I managed a shopping trip by myself in 33 months!

I can not begin to tell you how freeing an experience this was. I knew I was close to being able to do it- I have done a ton of prep work with my occupational therapist recently, but I also have had a few horrible travel and shopping experiences in the past 6 months and I felt pretty scared. Transit systems and icy sidewalks are beyond challenging for someone with balance, dizziness and nausea issues, let alone dealing with visual problems and a challenged short term memory. I screwed up earlier in the week and forgot to buy some needed groceries for my stroke group's Healthy Cooking Event so I felt especially motivated to just go ahead and do it already.

First --- I reviewed everything we had talked about at therapy and I made a plan because "winging it" is no longer an option for me.

I made a written grocery list of what I had promised to take to (SAM) later in the day. Ummm ground turkey, green pepper, red pepper and celery. Sounded doable so far.

I got my backpack so I could carry the groceries home. Do I have what I need to take with? wallet, watch, cell phone, keys, bus tickets, money... oh yeah and the list I just made of what I need to buy (darn short term memory problems)

Next was to get on this computer and look up the bus schedule. I wrote down the next three times the bus could drive me the short distance to the mall. I closed my computer. I next opened my computer again and looked up the times to get me home again.. duh.

I got dressed warm enough in case I wound up waiting at the bus stop a long time in our freezing weather, and I remembered to lock the door on the way out. The bus got to my closest bus stop only a few minutes after me and I was walking into the mall only 15 minutes later.

Now of course something had to go wrong, but for once it wasn't stroke related. They had a whole lot of flowering plants in the floral department and I had a mild asthma attack! I got the heck to the other side of the store, and used my inhaler. I almost called my husband to come home from work and rescue me but after I sat down for a while I felt a whole lot better ... so I got my groceries, paid and got on the correct bus for home.

An hour after I left the house I was back home, dumping my grocery laden back pack on the floor by the front door, and collapsing on the sofa. I rested until my friend Dave came to give me a ride to SAM (Stroke Recovery Association) which is located on the other side of the city. I was exhausted and excited all at the same time. My little outing had zapped all my energy.

It turned out that Dave had to stop at the grocery store on the way to my house to pick the items too that he had promised to bring for our health cooking lunch at SAM. I briefly regretted not calling Dave earlier and asking him to just pick up the items for me, but if I had called him I would not have had my little adventure or have this huge sense of accomplishment.
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