Monday, December 30, 2013

because aunt motherfucking becky said so.

according to aunt motherfucking becky, i'm apparently supposed to do things like this near new year's day.  i'll do it now, and i might even post something serious and introspective later.  

or not.  or maybe photos of my cats.  maybe.  we'll see.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
worked for free.  as an intern.  i love the experience, but i really really miss the paycheck.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
i don't do resolutions.  i think it's setting myself up for failure.  
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?'s hard to define 'close'.  family or close friends?  nope.  
4. Did anyone close to you die?
let's see... 2013.... nope, no one that close to me died.  
5. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
a job in my chosen career field with a paycheck.
6. What countries did you visit?
new jersey.  wait.  i didn't leave the country this year.  
7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:
ummmmm...... hmph.  maybe the day i quit my well-paying desk job to make no money in my chosen field?  maybe the day i was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis?  maybe the first day i took chemotherapy.  that might be it.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
not going back to a paying desk job and staying in school.  
also, completing another year NOT seeing 'two girls, one cup'.  regardless of how many time awesome husband @_antgas tries to get me to see it.
9. What was your biggest failure?
fuck failure.  i try to look at everything as a learning experience.  but i did fuck up a dozen cookies.  i tried to make them bigger.  not a good idea.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
hahahahahahahaha.  yes.  
11. What was the best thing you bought?
i just treated myself to my second coach bag of the year.  i spend money on dumb things.  but i also bought myself a heated blanket.  yum.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
mine for not killing stupid fucking asshats?  does that count?  also, awesome husband @_antgas for putting up with my shenanigans for another year.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
people in general.  they are quite often asshats.  also, men who think women dressing a certain way means she should be raped.  that kind of reddit crap.
14. Where did most of your money go?
i don't make a lot of money.  awesome husband @_antgas shares with me.  most of it goes to rent and food and car payments... you know. living expenses.  and some to cats and medication.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
that one of my oldest, bestest friends lent me her citi card to get billy joel tickets for next march.  
16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
meh.  'summertime sadness' by lana del ray because i still can't get it out of my damn head.  
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? ....happier?
ii. thinner or fatter? no change.
iii. richer or poorer? poorer. see: 1, 5, 7.  poorer.  
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
stayed positive?  i don't know.  
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
worrying.  worrying and being anxious and whatnot.  crap.
20. How will you be did you spending Christmas?
woke up earlyish and made waffles, brunch squares (like quiche), bacon, veggie sausage, and cinnamon rolls for awesome husband, my dad, my brother, sisterfromanothermister, and her mom.  they came over to open presents and whatnot.  then we went to my inlaws for a couple of hours where people coughed near me and i lost my damn mind, then went to my dad's brother's house and visited with that side of the family where no one coughed near me.
21. There was no #21. I don’t know why there was no 21.
i'll answer the 21 that aunt becky came up with.
21. Why does the term “designer drugs” conjure up an image of a bunch of pills hanging out wearing tiny Chanel and Prada clothing and snappy accessories?
it really doesn't to me.  i think more of ecstasy and club drugs and the like.  but i like the idea of pills wearing prada.
22. Did you fall in love in 2013?
i've been married for almost a decade and banging the same guy since 1997.  i don't know if this is an appropriate answer, but this is what you get.  
23. How many one-night stands?
really?  see above.
24. What was your favorite TV program?
the walking dead maybe.  i really like bob's burgers too.  and cartoons in general.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
hate is a wasted emotion.  i'm not going to waste my energy hating people.  stupid.
26. What was the best book you read?
'dad is fat' by jim gaffigan.  hahaha.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
ergh, what?
28. What did you want and get?
i mostly get what i want.  that sounds bitchy, but if i really want something, like REALLY, i work to find a way to get it.  like playstation 4.  we wanted it, we found a way to get it.  boom.  QED.
30. What was your favorite film of this year?
harry potter?  does that still count?  i have no idea when it came out.  but i haven't seen a movie in the theater in a long time.  we did see 'jurassic park 3d' when it came out.  i think that might have been this year.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
i think maybe we went out to dinner?  no idea.  and i was 32 and 33 on my last birthday.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
not sure.  i try to be happy with what i have.  it's not easy but i'm trying.  so stop asking annoying questions like that.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
my what?  i don't know.  i'm not 15.  or a model.
34. What kept you sane?
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
well i still quite fancy nigella lawson.  she's HAWT.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
37. Who did you miss?
my mom.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
i don't really know.  trying to think of new people i met this year.  it's kind of a blur.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
life.  loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it.  
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (because this Meme is apparently written for tweens):
really?  i'm not a 16 year old girl suffering her first broken heart.  i'm starting to regret ever listening to aunt motherfucking becky and doing this. 
good thing i'm done.  so, do this if you want and link back to me or whatever.  or don't do it.  i'll live with the rejection.

Friday, December 27, 2013

burning my candle at both ends

but i usually have yankee candles in jars, so they don't have two ends.

i've run myself ragged this holiday season.  monday - interned, shopped, went wedding dress shopping.  left the house at 8:30, got home at 9:30.  tuesday - finished up a bit of shopping, cleaned the apartment, left at 5:30 to go to the family xmas eve.  home by 11.  xmas morning - up at 8am, had family over for breakfast, went to my in-laws, went to my aunt's, home by 10:30.  yesterday - interned, did a bit of shoe shopping, went to my in-laws for leftovers (a christmas tradition), home by 8.

i had planned for today, friday, to be a day of rest.  i didn't set an alarm and planned on sleeping until i woke up naturally, then taking it easy around the house (it's almost noon and i'm still in my pjs with no bra on).

what i DID NOT plan on was hellish indigestion that woke me up three times during the night, requiring a total of 10 tums and it barely helped.  around 4am, i finally got out of bed and dragged an extra thick pillow out of the closet and spent the next three hours sleeping sitting up.  then i snuggled back down and slept for another hour or so.

so my long, luxurious night of sleep turned into tossing and turning, interrupted sleep, lots of tums and yucky indigestion.  horrible, horrible.  so angry.

which is why i'm still in my pjs watching television and relaxing.  and planning on doing so for most of the day.  with intermittent napping.

i started on enbrel last week.  i inject myself with this biologic medication once a week; my second injection was on christmas morning.  i haven't noticed any improvement yet, but i haven't noticed any side effect either.

my internship is going well.  i've started sitting in on assessments and groups, and helping write up group notes and things like that.  i'm still in the hiring process for the other per diem counselor job, the one i get paid for.  hopefully by the second week of the new year i'll be ready to go there.  and making a few extra bucks on the side.  it's nearly impossible to be a single income household on long island and do things like eat.

forget about the fact that my medical care, even with insurance, is starting to take a toll on our finances.  i started getting my methotrexate and folic acid prescriptions filled by my insurance company's mail order pharmacy, which cuts that cost in half easily.  i got three weeks of enbrel samples to start with, and will be filling that prescription through my insurance co's mail order speciality pharmacy.  no idea how much that will cost.  already nervous about that.

but life moves on.  as marvin says in hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, 'life.  loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it'.  i mean, i like it.  but whether or not you like life, or appreciate life, or hate life, it goes on.  and you can be either a human BEING or a human DOING.  so, you know.  get on that.

Monday, December 9, 2013

sorry, i've been napping.

i wish i could tell you the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of not slowness.

but, you know i'd be lying.

last week i started my internship!  exciting.  i have my own office (which i may have to share with another part timer, but still).  it's a CORNER office with a big desk and chair and whatnot.  it's pretty bad ass.  it's a private catholic organization (and i didn't even burst into flames) and the part i'm working with is the chemical dependency unit.  the location only handles outpatient substance abuse issues - some are from dwi/dui, some are mandated by probation, some just need help.  i sat in on my first assessment on tuesday and it was a 24 year old kid who had an opioid problem.  his mom told him either he had to leave or get help - he chose to get help.

i'll be interning for 12 hours a week.  the new new york state rules for mental health stuff that went through june 30th of this summer mean that my 300 hours of intern experience must be spread out over SIX DAMN MONTHS.  stupid crap.  so that's about 12 hours a week.  we were hoping to bang out my 300 hours in a couple of months but the state stopped that.

but it leaves me time to work a job that will actually pay me.  i had been working with my dad a day or two a week out in queens (a two hour commute each way) which i love doing but i do not love the commute.  especially since my ra diagnosis and starting the medication i'm on.  the fatigue is horrible and more than once i've been afraid i might fall asleep at the wheel.  in the middle of the day.  damn it.  last week i interviewed for a per diem counselor job with another non profit here on long island where i'd work in houses for mentally ill adults who are working towards independence.  i was offered the job and now will be starting the long-ish road of getting hired.  the new york state office of mental health has really tightened their standards for hiring, which is good, but annoying when you're trying to get hired.

school is driving me slightly nuts.  it's not that i don't have enough time to get my schoolwork done, it's that i'd rather spend that time napping.  i do not know how to quantify the amount of time i want to sleep.  it's more than 10 or 11 hours a day.  if i don't have to move, i don't want to.  i get tired enough and just lying on the couch staring at a cat is restful enough for me.  it's disgusting how much i don't want to do things.  i mean, i do - i cleaned the apartment (with some help from awesome husband).  we went holiday shopping.  i cooked.  i keep wanting to be more productive and get things done, but my body is like NO WE ARE TAKING A DAMNED NAP AND YOU ARE DOING NOTHING.

we decorated for the holidays over the last two weekends.  we're not christian so we don't 'celebrate' christmas as, you know.  the birth of jesus.  which it isn't.  jesus wasn't born in winter.

ANYWAY.  we bought a little 4" tree and put our fave ornaments on it.  we put some lights on the porch and got a 3.5" inflatable santa yoda.  it's nice.  i like to call christmas 'traditional american familial holiday' because that's how we celebrate it.  i like seeing family and giving people gifts and enjoying time with people i love.  i've done a lot of my holiday shopping online.  i REFUSE to give any of my holiday money to any shops that are open on thanksgiving.  (i do not include grocery and pharmacy stores in this because they have always been open on t-day.)  it's mostly about the other types of stores - macy's, kohl's, target, kmart, sears are all on my no-no list.  i was bummed that macy's was open on thanksgiving - i did a huge portion of my holiday shopping there last year because they were closed on turkey day.  not this year.

we decided to give 'the kids' cash.  the kids are my 17 year old twin sisters and our nieces and nephews (age range is like 10-24).  i saved a bit of money each week from like october to cover them.  and then i've been trying to buy something every week to cover the stockings and whatever.  i'm always in charge of stockings since my mom died.  chocolate marshmallow santas, bits of candy, tiny gifts - i get all types of shit to put in the stockings.

the biggest issue i'm having is finding a damn playstation 4.  i told awesome husband he could have one and made him trade in all his xbox crap (he has two games to hold him over) so we could put it towards a new ps4.  and now i can't find one.  fuck fuck fuck.  and remember, i can't buy it certain places - i'm planning on buying it from gamestop because they didn't open until 12am on black friday.  yes, it's practically opening on thanksgiving, but it's technically black friday.  they do midnight releases all the time, i'll give them that one.  they haven't had them in stock for weeks.  the other day awesome husband called one store and they were like, order it online - they're shipping by december 16.  i got on the website and - nope.  so today i'll be calling a fuckton of gamestop locations to figure out what's up.

and i'll be cooking.  napping.  watching american dad.  gathering info needed for my new per diem offer.  you know, just steph gas being steph gas.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

happy thanksgiving

today is thanksgiving and i do have a bucketful of crap to be thankful for.

  • i have an amazing, supportive, understanding, loving husband 
  • i have three amazing and ridiculous cats
  • i have a wonderful brother and sister-from-another-mister
  • i have supportive and caring family members
  • i (usually) have enough money to pay my rent and bills
  • i am able to eat three (or more) meals a day
  • i am able to afford the medical care that i need for depression, anxiety, and rheumatoid arthritis

of course, right now my leg still hurts from the cellulitis (i'm able to walk on it, though), two of my three cats are fighting while looking at the birds outside, my awesome husband is in the bathroom trimming his ridiculous beard, and i have way more grey hair than i should.  my roots are pretty bad, but with the medical crap going on this past week or two, i haven't had time or energy to have sister-from-another-mister touch me up.  these are minor things.  

will my family care that my roots are bad and i have visible grey?  nope, they'll be happy that i am able to come to thanksgiving this year.  last year i had my gallbladder removed laparoscopically two days before thanksgiving, so i was laid up all weekend.  two years ago, i don't know what was going on but i think it was a pretty lame thanksgiving because three years ago, thanksgiving was horrible.

three years ago on thanksgiving, awesome husband flew up to new york early in the morning to visit mom in the hospital.  that morning, i mentioned to a nurse in the icu that i lived in florida and wanted to fly home to check on things - i was asking when mom might be moved from icu or allowed to leave?  

that nurse quietly told me she wouldn't plan on returning to florida.  she said she'd wait.  and then she called for our doctor.

the doctor took my brother and i aside and explained about the cancer that mom had.  we knew it was lung cancer, we knew it was stage four.  we knew it was in her lung, brain, spleen, liver.... everyfuckingwhere.  we knew it was about treating for comfort, not curing.  we thought we had a few weeks, we thought we'd have christmas.  

the doctor took my brother and i aside and explained that the cancer my mom had was super aggressive.  small cell or oat cell, if i remember correctly.  i could dig out the paperwork, and i will one day, but not today.  the doctor told us that radiation or anything for comfort wouldn't get her out of bed.  this doctor spoke to us gently and kindly, but very matter-of-factly.  

i don't remember his name.

but three years ago on thanksgiving, after leaving the hospital, we went to my mother's brother's house, the house my mom grew up in, and gathered her brother, sister, and their families into a back room.  we shared the news the doctor had shared with us: there was nothing we could do but keep her comfortable.  we were working on getting her into a hospice.  i apologized for dropping in and delivering bad news, but i couldn't stay.  my aunt's extended family was there - i couldn't deal with sitting there and having everyone know my mom was dying in a hospital a few miles away.

we went to my dad's brother's home.  it was just me, awesome husband, my brother, sister from another mister, my dad, my uncle and aunt, my aunt's mom, and i think my cousin was there for a while.  these people all grew up with my mom; even though my parents divorced years before, these people all loved her.  i stayed there and drank way too much with the people who cared about me.  we commiserated, we cried a little, we laughed a lot.

i don't remember the next thanksgiving; i'd assume it was about the same.  thanksgiving will never be the same to me.  the holiday season will never be the same for me.  i still put on the holiday music today, i still try to keep some of our old traditions alive.  but this year, i feel ready to start new ones.

i'm thankful for one more thing today: i'm thankful that i had thirty amazing years with my mother. 

happy thanksgiving.

mom and i on our first cruise - november, 2008

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


it sounds a lot more glamorous... well, not really.  it sounds kind of gross.

but it's what i have apparently.

so remember the last time we spoke? i mentioned my new tattoo.  i'm now twelve days post-tattoo. the swelling has gone down dramatically - it's really not too swollen most of the time.  if i haven't elevated it for a bit, or do too much walking (like on saturday), the swelling is really concentrated around my ankle and a  bit around the tattoo itself.


ugh.  yesterday.

i kept my foot up just about all day and then went to an appointment at school.  putting my foot down was still painful - still a bit of that searing, burning pain as the blood drained back into my calf and foot.  but then the pain like actually behind the tattoo was still there.  over the past week, it was hard to get started walking, but once i started it was pretty painless.

not yesterday.

so when i got home i had a complete nervy b and lost my rag.  i was crying and having bad thoughts and considering a drive to the hospital.  it's not like i'm going to kill myself over a painful tattoo.  but if you're crazy like me and know depression lies, sometimes the lies come out of nowhere and ruin everything.

luckily i have an awesome husband and he helped me stay calm(ish).  i woke up early this morning to go to work and omfg my leg.  my ankle was ridiculous.  my calf, the area behind the tattoo, was killing me.  like really painful, even if i didn't have weight on it.  i thought it would work itself out, so i got ready for work and hobbled to the car.

i made it about 30 minutes down the highway and realized something was not right.  pressing on the accelerator was hurting my ankle.  my calf still hurt.  the pain was pretty bad.  like, bad enough that i was fighting tears.  i decided i had to turn around and do something.  i didn't want to go to the emergency room alone, so i thought i'd try a local urgent care center that just opened.

it wasn't open yet.  it opened at 8am.  it was 7:01.  so i drove home.  and spent probably the longest 50 minutes of my life waiting.

i did not elevate my leg because i didn't want it to feel better and then have to put it down and OMFG SEARING PAIN.  but leaving it down hurt.  that didn't happen yesterday - once it was down and the blood returned to the area, it didn't really hurt at all.  so i was very uncomfortable.  i hobbled back to the car and drove to the urgent care and filled out their paperwork and saw the nurse.  she said, oh, looks like cellulitis.  i was like, what's that?  super nasty swelling?  she was like, basically.  the doctor will be right in.

the doctor came in - he was very nice.  i told him that the actual healing of the tattoo seemed normalish for me - a bit slower than usual.  but the redness and scabbing seemed pretty normal compared to what happened last time.  he poked a bit at the area and started manipulating my ankle.  he said what i was saying almost sounded like a sprain - there shouldn't be that kind of pain, especially this long after the tattoo and considering how much the swelling has already gone down.  he felt the swelling and listened to what i said and considered my RA and the meds i'm on.  he decided it sounds like cellulitis.

so according to webMD and my sister-from-another-mister's mom (who works for her dad who is an amazeballs surgeon), cellulitis is a skin and sub-cutaneous tissue infection.  from the bit of dr. googling i've done since coming home, it seems that my RA medications lowered my immune system more than i expected.  i've never got an infection following a tattoo (it's not very common if you take care of your new tattoo) so what follows is all conjecture.

the swelling was more than normal, but it was a big tattoo and caused a lot of trauma.  i followed my normal after care routine but i think my suppressed immune system meant the tattoo wasn't healing as fast as it usually would, leaving more opportunity for bacteria to infiltrate.  once that happened, my suppressed immune system was not only unable to keep healing my tattoo well, but it couldn't fight off the bacteria as expected.

now i have an infection.  i think it is definitely sub-cutaneous now that i've read some symptoms and what not.  the pain i'm having in the area like behind my tattoo and towards the ankle sounds like it's more than just a skin infection.  and the absolute fuckton of antibiotics the doctor put me on makes me feel like it's way more than just a skin infection.  apparently, cellulitis can become bad enough that one needs to be hospitalized for intravenous antibiotics.

so, does this count as my first RA-related secondary illness?

the urgent care doc said that if it gets any worse OR does not get any better over the next couple of days, i should go to to emergency room.  so if it doesn't get better, i'll be spending black friday in the emergency room.

happy thanksgiving.

Friday, November 22, 2013

a continuing whirlwind of slowness and crap

i know, it's a stupid title.  i can't always be witty and awesome.

well, i can.  and i am.  but i'm just not really putting in the effort right now.

my leg is *still* swollen, but i've been able to like, you know.  walk around.  a bit.  it still hurts.  i'm shocked that a damn tattoo can cause this kind of problem for this length of time.  i've put myself on prednisone to see if it helps (it really hasn't) so i'm going to taper off that again.  it hasn't really helped my RA either.  hmm.

now tuesday i had an appointment with my rheumy.  she said my hands and fingers were A LOT more swollen than last time.  oh, okay.  i guess because i see them every day, i don't notice it.  she said that means the RA is progressing.  i told her the pain and everything was still there.  so she decided to up my methotrexate (the chemo medication) and prep me to add a biologic next month.  you see the commercials for biologics on television: enbrel, humira, etc.  that's freaking me out a little.  but we'll figure it out.

then my paid job turned to an unpaid internship.  the organization that hired me is willing to let me do my internship there but internships are not paid.  it's good that i'll still be working there and getting my hours in and whatever, but i kind of wanted a job.  i do have an interview for a per diem counseling job, so that might help.

i really wish i had funny or insightful things to say.  i don't.  i've been pretty lame for a couple of weeks.  i've been really headachy and still fatigued and tired and now this past week my leg has been, ugh.  just horrible.  so i don't want to do anything.

awesome husband @_antgas and i have the entire weekend off together with minimal plans - dinner with his parents one night.  that's it.  i'm really looking forward to that.  just a bunch of down time.  hopefully my leg stops hurting and we can snuggle or something.

Monday, November 18, 2013

the slowest whirlwind ever

my whirlwind week/week and a half has been slow.  i've spent a large part of it sitting on my ass on the couch, some time at my desk, a few hours in the car, and two days at work with dad.  but a lot has happened.

well, not a lot.  it just feels like a lot.

so, at our last meeting, i had received my flu shot and met with my advisor.  i had no adverse reactions to the flu shot - just like a little knot under the skin that was a bit sore for a couple of days.

and then i reached out to the woman at school who sets up the internships.  and apparently in june new york state changed EVERYTHING in the mental health systems.  so now i can't take all three 'classes' for my practicum in one semester.  it's 300 hours and now we have to take them spread out over six months.  so two classes in spring and one in summer.  IF i can get into an internship.  because apparently it's hard to get into one.  fuck.  FUUUUUCK.

now the big problem here is the job that i accepted wants me to have my training certification ASAP so i can do billable work (like actually counseling people).  i can't get that certification until AFTER my practicum is complete.  so even if i can start right away in january, i won't be cert'd until june.  now i don't know what is going to happen.  but if you remember, i had turned down a full time reception job at another substance abuse center for this part time counseling job.

i'm trying not to stress about it, but part of my feels like dropping out of school and just getting another desk job.  it's like, why bother?  it's so expensive and it's such a hassle and, to be honest, i'll probably make more at a good desk job than as a counselor.  compared to my last desk job (data entry, customer service, reception) the counseling job is like a $5 an hour pay CUT.

yeah.  so i'm going to be making less money when i have to pay back all of my student loans.  excellent.

now on friday i had a tattoo appointment with one of my artists who moved to north carolina.  he does guest spots up in new york a few times a year, so i got in on that.  i had a small fairy that i wanted covered up because i want my right calf to be all traditional style tattoo work.  he got to work with a handful of sharpie markers and drew something up.  right on my leg.

this is just sharpies.  he drew it freehand.  and you can kind of see the black fairy with blue and purple wings that we covered up.
 now, i was 'in the chair' for three hours (i wasn't actually sitting.  i was lying down on my stomach with my leg out.).  it took a little short of an hour to do the outline and then about two hours for color.  he kept talking about putting a color splash behind it, but about 2:40 into the session i was hitting my wall.  this is what i ended up with...

follow my artists' awesome work on instagram @jonronzka

 i'm very, very happy with how it came out.  i still want to put a lighthouse somewhere on that leg, and i'm considering a compass and/or an anchor and/or a ship's wheel too.  but considering what happened the next day, i'm not too sure now.

some swelling is normal.  but omfg i am swelling A LOT.  it is so fucking painful to put my foot down after it's been up; all the blood rushing down is like a searing pain.  and then walking on it is horrible.  it's all the swelling.  here's what my feet look like today....

pretty easy to see which leg was tattooed.  i like how my right foot has absolutely no definition.  but i have a sweet ass cankle going on.  so, there's that.
generally, you don't ice tattoos.  some people think it's bad for the healing, some think it's bad for the ink.  it's just not usually done.  and seriously, on a tattoo this size with this much swelling, i don't think it would help.  i kind of feel like i want to prick holes in my foot and ankle.  it actually feels like it's full of crap and it's pressurized.  i still have redness around the tattoo itself - totally normal for me.  my last calf tattoo had redness for almost two weeks.  i have sensitive skin.

my inner calf tattoo took about 1:45 and i didn't have this much swelling.  none of the smaller tattoos i have on my calves swelled much at all.  so i think the moral of this story is 'don't have more than about an hour and a half of work done below the waist at a time'.  it's just too much trauma and irritation to my skin.

i was very interested to see how the healing process went since i'm on methotrexate (chemo).  my tattoo artist on long island did some touch up work almost three weeks ago and the healing seemed to go pretty normal for me.  maybe a teensy bit slower than normal, but my normal is so fucked up anyway.  i think it healed well.  which is nice because that was her test spot - hopefully now she can finish up my forearm.  we just have some touchups to do, a small starfish, and then background.  i'm very excited for it, but it will probably wait until after the holidays.  maybe.  we'll see.

i'm starting to get a bit nervous for the holidays.  we've saved up money each week to give to the 'kids'.  we have my twin sisters, two nieces, and two nephews who we still give gifts to.  they're getting cash.  so now i have to focus on buying something each week for one of the remaining people: my brother, my soon to be sister in law, my dad, the in laws.... oh, and maybe a little something for awesome husband @_antgas :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

what is happening to me?

it's like i'm turning into a monster.  or something.

i'm so depressed most of the time.  i'm not sure i remember the last time i laughed.  all i do is stare at the television, stare at the computer.  think about how much my ankles hurt.  my wrists.  my fingers.  my hips.  my shoulders.  i goof off on pinterest.  i don't really want to cook.  go food shopping.  anything.

i did homework today.  i went to work with my dad on tuesday.  i went to the doctor tuesday night and let him give me a damn flu shot because my immune system is suppressed.  i went to a meeting with my advisor about school.

i guess that's some good-ish news.  i currently have 91 credits (meaning i am a senior. yay.).  after i pass my three classes this semester, i'll have 100 credits and be 28 away from graduation.  next semester i am hoping to do my practicum (300 hours of interning worth 10 credits) and taking one class.  meaning this summer, i'll be a mere 15 credits away from graduation.  that's 5 classes.  and she told me about these DSST tests - like challenge tests.  they cost $130 each and can be worth 3 credits each.  she's recommending i see if there are three or four i think i'd like to take and seeing if the registrar will allow it.

then i'll only need one or two classes.  boom.

i think she recommended it after we talked about my RA for a few minutes.  she said i can ask for extra time to complete my current classes - up to 40 days.  i told her that won't be necessary.  i'm barely working now - i can power through this semester.  then next semester will be homework-and-studying light, and then i might cap myself at two classes a semester.  i'll have to check with financial aid to figure out what the best way to do that is.  but that can wait until summer registration.

i keep thinking i shouldn't even bother.  i mean, i'm already over $40k in debt for school.  i basically have my practicum left before i finish my CASAC (for alcohol and substance abuse counseling) and then just the handful of classes to finish my bachelor's degree, so i might as well finish that up.  i guess.  but then going on for my masters?  what's the point?  who knows how much longer i'll be able to work.  and then how will i pay back the loans?  i don't mean like in a year i'll be unable to work.  but what if i'm disabled by the time i'm 50? 45?  i don't know.  everyone tells me i should go for it.  just finish school and go for my masters and do what i've planned on, what i wanted to do.

but why bother?

and then there's the fact that i feel like no one cares.  and i know people do.  i guess they do.  and this is so stupid to write and i sound like such a baby but i want someone to be sad.  i want someone to be sad with me and mourn the life that i'm losing.  i want someone to realize how much it sucks that my life trajectory has to change so much.  i want someone to commiserate with me, to cry with me, to be horrified with me.  i have one girlfriend who gets it - she was sad with me, she wanted to talk about it, she asked me questions.


so apparently i'm just back to crazy.

Friday, November 1, 2013

adjusting to a new 'normal'

i don't know that it will ever happen.

i've had a rough week.  i took my third dose of methotrexate last sunday.  i didn't experience much nausea at all this week - which is nice - but pain.... oh my.  i have numerous joints involved today:

  • toes
  • ankles
  • hips
  • shoulders
  • wrists
  • all knuckles
and some kind of pain on my right side.  like my rib cage.  i'm not sure if that is RA related or medication related or whatever.

it's a special kind of pain.  not that i've experienced every kind of pain there is.  but i smashed the bones in one of my toes, ripped a tendon off the top of one foot, had my gallbladder try to kill me, herniated a total of 5 different disks in my back and neck...  and some of those hurt a lot.  the smashed toe after a car accident was pretty bad, but it also included three herniated disks, whiplash, bruised my entire foot and ankle, my face was attacked by an airbag, and i developed PTSD.  so there was a lot going on there.

this pain, the joint pain from RA, it's different.  like, if i lie down on a comfy bed, properly supported and with a pillow under my head - everything hurts.  just sitting hurts.  standing hurts,  the act of typing doesn't seem to make anything hurt more.  i can clean the house and although the act of cleaning may cause some pain in joints (i.e.: hips while vacuuming), i don't feel any worse after doing it.  

the other 'fun' thing is the sudden OW that occurs.  my ankles weren't bothering me that much yesterday.  i stopped at a couple of stores, spent maybe a total of 25 minutes on my feet or walking. i get to the grocery store, do some food shopping, and BAM.  halfway through my shopping trip, my left ankle was like HOLY FUCKING GOD STOP WALKING OR I WILL EXPLODE.  

so i came home, unpacked shit, and took a nap.  which is about the story of my life.  i do something, something hurts me, i find a way to take a nap.

i'm supposed to clean the house today and go to school tomorrow.  i don't know if either of those things is going to occur.

apparently, this is 'normal'.  this will be my new normal.  i will be achy.  i will be tired.  i will get pain out of nowhere.  and i'm 33 years old.

and i'm fucking angry.  why is this happening to me?  why do i have to put up with this?  it is not fair.

i sound like a kid.  'it's not fair!' 'i don't wanna!'

i believe in karma.  and i know i wasn't always a good person.  but i don't necessarily believe that being a bitch gains one RA.  my maternal uncle and cousin (who is younger than me) have RA.  so much of it is genetic.  one of the most annoying things (to me at least) is how healthy awesome husband @_antgas and i had been living.  we eat meat maybe twice a week (unless it's bbq time - yummy) and once is usually fish (sushi).  we cut out SO MANY processed foods.  i still like morningstar veggie burgers because they taste good and are an easy dinner option.  but i didn't buy the damn cheeze its after reading the ingredients.  we started juicing and incorporating more fresh fruit and veg into our diets.  aside from white sugar (which i'm almost out of and am planning on replacing with a better option) we barely have any white food in the house - we very rarely buy anything with white flour (read: bleached and enriched, a process that steals all the nutritional value from the grain and then chemically adds the nutrients back).  we work very hard to ensure we don't eat anything with high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils (both are heavily processed ingredients).  fucking hell, i STOPPED DRINKING DIET COKE.  

giving up diet coke was the ONE thing i always said i'd never do.  i stopped smoking.  i stopped doing drugs.  i stopped cutting/self injuring.  i stopped drinking alcohol.  

and then i gave up diet coke.  i have drank a couple of cans of diet dr. pepper in the past couple of months because it's what dad had at the office.  but i used to drink like 2 liters of diet coke a day.

i try not to buy things with fake sugar because it's processed.  but that's very hard - so i try.  and then i'm eating extra calories because replacing fake calorie free sugars with real sugars means more calories.  it's a game of balancing - would i rather have more natural calories, or fewer chemical-laden calories?  i choose more natural calories.  and i haven't gained any weight - but i have not lost a pound.  so everyone who says 'drinking diet soda makes you fat' can kiss my fat, no-diet-soda-drinking ass.

i had already adjusted to that 'new normal'.  working on eating healthier, more whole foods.  and now this.

what the fuck am i supposed to do with this?  

i guess the positive is that my pristiq is still working.  as upset and negative as i get, i'm not as crazy as i used to be.  some of the obsessive thoughts have come back - something i haven't told anyone yet.  i have thought about killing myself, but that's part of obsessive thoughts - not something i would act on.  which is the most annoying part about my obsessive thoughts.  it's stuff i know i wouldn't act on with my rational mind.  i know it.  but my crazy, irrational mind gives me these great reasons to kill myself, or hurt myself, or whatever.  the pristiq has really, really, really helped that.  that used to be my 'normal': listening to part of my brain try to convince me to kill myself.  and i would just try to ignore it or block it out with recreational drug use.  a bit over a year ago the obsessive thoughts started again and we increased my pristiq.  i don't think i want to do that again because i'm pretty sure that the reason the obsessive thoughts are back is the stress with my recent diagnosis.  so i'm waiting it out and trying to stay positive. 

it's not easy.

but i'm working on it.

today's issue: cleaning the house.  i'll attack that posi posi posi and maybe treat myself after with something yummy.  maybe like zucchini chips.... hmm, maybe i'll make them and share the recipe!

in the meantime, check out my instagram @stephgas to see photos of the cats in their halloween garb.  follow me on pinterest @stephgas.  and follow me on tumblr (guess what my handle is there?)

Saturday, October 26, 2013


today has been an interesting day.

i woke up early to drive awesome husband @_antgas to the airport.  he's in florida for a couple of days.  my brother and sister-from-another-mister are on a family vacation there (with her family).  i had a bucketful of jetblue points and halloween horror nights are going on at universal studios.  i hate scary things, but the three of them love shit like that.  so being the best wife EVER, i sent him to florida to go to the gym with his friend, smoke a cigar, and spend tomorrow at universal studios.  he'll get to go to harry potterville and drink butterbeer (damn him), see the new simpsons area, and spend the night getting scared.  the themes this year are 'the walking dead', 'the cabin in the woods', and 'evil dead'.

that's important.  'evil dead' is his like favorite movie.  and he loves 'the walking dead'.  and he made me watch 'the cabin in the woods' the other night and now i get why he liked it so much.  but seriously, 'evil dead'?  that's really what it's all about.  @_antgas loves it, loves it, loves it.

so after waking at the ass crack of dawn (actually, it was before dawn) and getting my vanilla soy latte on, i dropped @_antgas at the airport and turned around.  i also made my best time yet from queens county to my house waaay out in suffolk county.  i spent the morning cleaning at a leisurely pace.  i dusted the bedroom and living room.  i vacuumed the carpets and the couch and the cat beds.  i washed the kitchen and bathroom, including floors.  i cleaned the litter boxes and changed the towels.

i also made my first bottle of homemade all-purpose cleaner.  i used an empty spray bottle and filled it half with white vinegar and half water.  then i added like 40 drops of tea tree essential oil.  the vinegar smell fades and the tea tree is antibacterial, antimicrobial, and all around cleansing.

what did i not do today?  shave.

i'm married (read: have no one to impress) so i really only shave my legs once a week.  my hair is very fine, so even my stubble isn't like, really stubbly.  but i shave every friday or saturday (underarms are shaved as-needed).  the other day, i checked my under arms and they didn't look like the needed to be shaved.  i thought that was strange but whatever.

so yesterday i went to the city to work with dad and showered at like 5fuckingAM.  so no shaving done then.  but i realized that my leg hair was not growing.  i even had @_antgas feel my leg for stubble - nothing there.  which means that in eight days, i haven't grown any leg hair.  and i checked my under arms again, really checked.... nothing there, either.

i started researching why chemo drugs (like the methotrexate i'm on) make you lose your hair.  it's not that they make you lose your hair - your hair stops growing.  methotrexate stops certain types of cells from splitting and regenerating and whatnot (like ho cancer grows).  hair also grows like that.  so methotrexate stops your hair cells from splitting and growing.  when a strand of hair falls out of your head, it's falling out of the hair follicle.  methotrexate stops a new hair from forming and growing in that follicle.

so your hair doesn't fall out from chemo.  your hair falls out naturally (we all lose like a thousand hairs a day).  on chemo drugs, your hair doesn't grow and replace those fallen-out-hairs.

if my leg hair isn't growing, and my armpit hair isn't growing, doesn't it follow that the hair on my head is not/will not be growing?

in addition to spending some time researching that kind of shit, i spent some time freaking out and worrying and wondering and wishing that this didn't happen to me.  RA is a lot bigger than i thought it would be, and it's affecting me in more ways than i anticipated.  especially emotionally.

on top of that, i'm breaking out and nauseous more often than i care to admit.  and i'm not really hungry very often.  on one hand, that's good because maybe i'll lose some weight.  on the other hand, it's not that good because eating is important to staying healthy.

fuck.  times like this i wish i still drank.

instead, i'll take another pill or two like a good girl and go to bed to let my body rest.  tomorrow will be better.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

wool dryer balls!

i know! it's exciting!  i've been working on these for a few weeks and i think they've finally felted.

it's okay, i didn't know what 'felting' was either.  until i made wool dryer balls.

sounds strange, right?  i stopped using dryer sheets and static cling was becoming an issue with some items.  adding plastic balls (shaped like hedgehogs) helps dry clothes faster, but it's possible for chemicals to leach out.  wool dryer balls help both: they tumble around and help your clothes dry faster, and they help cut down static.  because they absorb some of the moisture and release it into the dryer, they help keep the humidity higher, which reduces static*.

*or so i'm told.  i'm not a scientist or whatever field would understand this.  it just is.

it cost me $7 to buy enough wool for six dryer balls (wool yarn was on sale!).  you can also use a secondhand sweater or afghan - be sure it's 100% wool yarn and unravel it.

it's going to be photo heavy.  mostly because there's not, like, real instructions.  so enjoy!

start with a skein of wool yarn.  or however you have your wool yarn.  it has to be wool.  i chose this multicolored wool yarn.  i think it's purdy.
wrap it around your fingers a few times, as shown.
take the yarn off your fingers and wrap some yarn around the middle, making it look like a little bow!

fold it in half or smash it together or whatever and start wrapping the yarn around to make a teensy ball.

guess what - keep wrapping.  it makes a bigger ball!  keep going and going....

apparently, cartoons are correct.  cats do like yarn.  jake was very interested in what i was doing. 
he was enjoying the yarn.  he got his fang stuck in it.  it was cute.

so this is about the size you want.  i got three balls from each skein of wool yarn.  stick the end of the yarn back in the ball, or secure it under a few strands.  whatever you want.

get an old knee high or the leg of an old pair of pantyhose.  put the finished ball in the toe and tie an knot.
make three more balls (or however many) and add those to the knee high/pantyhose.  tie a knot after each, so each dryer ball has its own little nylon coat.  or whatever. 
i made three dryer balls in this color too.  very fall.

so here you see all six dryer balls in my old knee high.  the knee high/pantyhose helps keep the yarn together for the next step.

continue to allow a cat to play with the wool yarn dryer balls.  jake was confused.

so at this point, you'll have your wool yarn in balls.  like a little smaller than a tennis ball, i would say.  once the balls are in their nylon coats, you're going to want to wash and dry them.

i hear you - you can't wash and dry wool!  that's the point here.  we're trying to felt the wool yarn.  wash the knee high full of wool dryer balls in HOT water (i washed with my towels and sheets) and then dry them on HIGH (dried them with my towels).

some reviews online said you only had to wash/dry them once to felt them.  felting them kind of makes the yarn melt into itself, so each strand is like attached to another strand.  it won't unravel (ideally).  and that's why each ball is in a knee high - to keep it intact and from unraveling during the felting process.

now, i didn't think they had really 'felted' after one wash.  i ended up washing them three or four times in hot water and drying them on high heat.  each strand of yarn is kind of attached to another strand, but they're not totally felted.  i have washed/dried them with clothes already, and there was no unraveling.

after three or four trips through the laundromat, i have new dryer balls!

you can still see each individual strand of yarn, but if you felt it, it feels pretty smooth.  like, if you really wanted to, you could dig your fingernail under a strand and separate it, but don't do that.  the more they are washed in water and dried in the dryer, they will felt more.

you can kind of see on this one that the strands are more melded together.  

the more i use these, the more they will felt.  online comments from other bloggers show that these can last YEARS.  if you like some scent in your dried clothes, some people add a few drops of essential oil to the wool dryer ball.  i'm not doing that because i have scent added to my HOMEMADE LAUNDRY SOAP!  which you'll learn about soon enough.  it's almost time to make another batch.

so now you can stop using dryer sheets.  they do nothing but coat your clothing with chemicals, coat the inside of your dryer, and fill landfills.  these are economical and green and fun.  now, i still have a little static with some poly-blends, but i've taken to line drying most of them (i don't have a lot of stuff like that).  oh, and instead of using fabric softener - vinegar.  i just dump in about 1/8 of a cup of white vinegar into the softener compartment for each load.  it helps rinse out the soap and other contaminants and, if you own your washing machine, it will help keep it clean and fresh.  and your clothes will not smell at all like vinegar.

let me know if you make them and if you love them! and please, feel free to pin the hell out of any of my DIY or recipes.  follow me on pinterest!  i'm on tumblr now, too.  i haven't added buttons about that yet.  because.  i just haven't.

Monday, October 21, 2013

cleaner oatmeal

i don't even like oatmeal.  yuck.

awesome husband @_antgas decided that he wanted something else for breakfast.  oatmeal.  and of course i'm not going to shell out money for the man in the hat's tiny instant envelopes of crap.  have you read the ingredients?

so i got on teh interwebz and started my research.  i ended up finding out how one makes oatmeal (because i didn't know how).  i learned the difference between instant and quick cook and steel cut omfg i hate oatmeal.

awesome husband requested cinnamon raisin (holy shit i hate raisins too.  what goes on?).  i trekked to to the store to get the necessary ingredients (for this AND a cold salad that he requested.  expect another fucking post on that.  i promise, i don't intend for this to be a recipe/craft blog.  i just keep doing things.  no photos on this one.  because i'm not making the oatmeal.  because it's disgusting.  (no, really, i'm sure this tastes delicious if you like oatmeal.)

cleaner eatin' sorta-instant cinnamon raisin oatmeal

  • 6 cups of quick cooking oats of your choice (check the ingredients to make sure there isn't any added shit.  the entire 18oz canister is 6 cups)
  • 6oz raisins (i just bought a 12oz box and used like half)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (break it up, put it through a sifter, whatever you need to do)
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
i put this all in one big glass bowl and mixed it all up.  i had to touch the raisins and break some of them up because they stuck together.  is that a thing?  hmph.  

then i portioned out 1/2 cup of the oat mixture into a baggie.  it made 15 baggies.  i wrote the instructions on each one.  for 1/2 cup of oatmeal mixture, add 1 cup of water or milk.  microwave for 2 minutes (maybe try 1.5 minutes first?  it might vary depending on your microwave).

conversely, you could boil said milk or water and then mix in the oatmeal.  cook for one minute.

i hope it's good.  i'm told it's good.  so, you know.  enjoy it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

super easy stir fried vegetables

i know, i know.  too many recipe posts.  but i keep making things and dug out my old olympus that i love taking photos with.  so here we go.

i make it really easy by using a bag of frozen vegetables.  i know, right?  i use this birds eye green been stir fry blend to be ultra lazy - it even has some noodles in it.  you could really use any frozen veggie stir fry blend and some noodles.  if you use pasta or noodles that need to be boiled, i'd cook them to al dente and then mix them in at the end.  check the directions on your chosen noodles - some noodles like rice noodles only need to be steeped in hot water, not boiled.  and i guess you could serve this over rice if you prefer.  remember, i'm not a big measurer, but i try.  it's so important to measure when your'e baking because that's all chemical reactions, but i cook by smell and taste usually.

super easy stir fried vegetables

it tastes pretty damn good, and even better because it's so simple to make.  i assemble all my spices and what not first, and then get to cooking.  i serve the entire bag for awesome husband @_antgas and me.  it's a decent sized, not too heavy dinner. 

  • coconut or olive oil (like a tablespoon)
  • 16oz bag of frozen veggie stir fry blend (or approximately 16oz of your chosen frozen veggies.  think carrots, broccoli, peppers, onions, asparagus, water chestnuts)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 4 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • grated fresh ginger (like, 1/8tsp?)
  • sesame oil and sesame seeds for finishing
a bunch of the ingredients are really for the sauce.  i use better than bouillon organic veggie base.  i take my pyrex measuring cup and heat up 1/4c water in the microwave, then add 1/3tsp of the veggie base to combine.  then i can use that measuring cup for all the liquid stuff.

  1. put the coconut or olive oil in your pan over medium heat.
  2. add in your veggies - i toss them all in at once.  cook over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  since the veggies are frozen, it should take 5 or 6 minutes.  BUT halfway through this, i add in the garlic.  i don't like to add it at the beginning because i'm afraid it will overcook.
  3. while your veg are cooking, take your 1/4c of broth in a small bowl (or pyrex measuring cup) and add in the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes.  mix that up.
  4. once your vegetables are cooked (i usually want them just not frozen and warm through) add in the liquid.
  5. keep simmering - probably medium/medium-low heat - for a couple of minutes.  the liquid should reduce by about half, maybe a little more depending on your preference.
  6. grate on some fresh ginger.  or add a bit of dried, powdered stuff.
  7. remove from heat and splash about 1/2tsp of sesame oil on top.  mix in and plate.
  8. once your veggies are plated, sprinkle some sesame seeds on top - just a bit.  i use both white and black sesame seeds because i love the look of black sesame seeds.
yum.  just enough heat in the sauce coating the crisp veggies.

yummy and pretty darn easy.  the hardest part for me was getting the damn jar of better than bouillon open.  i have a big jar and it's hard for me to open.  luckily awesome husband @_antgas is stronger than i am.  you can play with the sauce recipe too.  don't like ginger?  don't add it.  like it hotter?  add some sweet chili sauce.  want more protein?  marinate cubes of chicken or firm tofu in a mixture of hoisin sauce and brown sugar.  then dredge in flour and fry.  play with it and make it your own.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


it's so hard to remain positive sometimes.

you may remember in one of my recent blog entries i talked a little about being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis - RA.  i was happy and sad about being diagnosed.  happy because now we know what's wrong with me and can try to treat it to alleviate the symptoms.  sad because i don't want to be on an immune suppressor forever.  or even not forever.

now that my rheumy knows how advanced my RA is thanks to the ultrasound, she wanted to start me on medication.  we discussed it on friday over the phone.  i'm going to take methotrexate and a folic acid supplement.  she also warned me to use two forms of contraception because you do NOT want to get pregnant on methotrexate (i let her know that isn't a problem any longer).  dr. rheumy called in the prescriptions and i figured i'd pick them up on saturday.  just didn't feel like it on friday.

of course, i started googling things.  and i probably shouldn't have.  but i found out that methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug.  it's used to treat people with cancer.  it's a cancer drug.  do you get it?  because i didn't at first.  i kept checking other websites, thinking that one must be wrong.

it's.  a.  chemo.  drug.

i started checking some RA message boards to find out people's experiences with methotrexate.  people on a lower/similar does than i'm going to take have lost their hair.

i kept searching for info.  i found an excellent website called RA warrior.  with an info page that says the day you're diagnosed with RA, your mortality risk doubles.  it also says that studies show people with RA have a 10-15 year SHORTER lifespan.

so, i was starting to get a little depressed.  i mean, more than normal.

i knew that RA was a serious disease, but i thought it was just, like, a disease.  like you take pills and you exercise and everything will be fine.  i didn't think that it was this far reaching.

i should have.  it's an AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE.  yes, RA specifically seems to attack the joints.  but it's your own immune system attacking your body.  other body parts can be involved; it is a whole-body disease.

i'm terrified of taking my first dose.  i was thinking about putting it off indefinitely.  i thought about going and getting rip roaring drunk tonight and then taking the pills another day (i haven't drank in almost 9 months).  i thought about saying 'fuck it' and just dealing with it.

until awesome husband @_antgas said something along the lines of 'and be in a wheelchair by the time you're 40'.

oh, well then.  good point, i suppose.

so after the walking dead premier tonight (if i make it through it because i've been quite sleepy) i'll be taking my first dose of methotrexate.  i'm trying to stay positive and trying to focus on the good, but it's been pretty hard.  most people say the first day or two (or four for some people) after taking the methotrexate are bad - it's hard to get out of bed, eat, bathe, anything.  here's hoping it's not too bad for me.  maybe the worrying will be worse than the actual side effects.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

vegetarian potato soup

today i'm making potato soup.  it's a recipe that i modified from cara at pearls, handcuffs, and happy hour to make vegetarian so my brother could eat it too.  to give many of my vegetarian dishes that meaty, umami flavor, i add better than bouillon vegetable base.  it is the 'meatiest' flavored vegetable base/broth that i've found.  they also make a no-beef beef flavored base and a no-chicken chicken flavored base.  i prefer to use the vegetable base.  i use it anytime chicken or beef broth is called for in a recipe.  i've had great success using it in risottos, with portobello mushrooms to make cheesesteaks, and in stir fried meals.  (i have not received any special stuff for mentioning better than bouillon... but would love free samples if they want to share!)

i used 42oz of filtered water and about 4 teaspoons of vegetable base... give or take.  it smelled meaty and good.

i've tried to find a balance between cost, organic ingredients, and accessible ingredients.  i don't always have time to order shit online or drive all over the place to get good stuff.  ore ida is a brand i trust, and they add minimal ingredients for preservation.  i'm using an organic cream of mushroom soup for the first time (i tried making this once with an organic cream of cheddar and broccoli - everyone else liked it, i didn't love it).  as for cheese... well, the amount of cheese awesome husband @_antgas and i eat makes it very cost prohibitive to shop all organic and whatnot.  we usually use stop & shop brand cheeses but really... cheese is pasteurized milk, enzymes, salt, and sometimes color.  i'm comfortable enough with their ingredients, even though they are not organic.  and for this recipe, i purchased the onion down the road at a local farmstand.  i've been trying to get as much produce as i can there.  but i have actually used frozen diced onions before with excellent results - and they're very convenient because you can just grab a handful and add them to whatever.

Vegetarian Potato Soup

delicious.  and it reheats rather well - we reheat it in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring regularly.


  • one bag of frozen shredded hash browns (30oz bag)
  • 42oz of vegetable broth (or 3 14oz cans of your chosen broth)
  • 1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup (or other cream based soup - cream of chicken, cream of cheddar)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese - use a full fat brick (low fat or whipped seem to melt funny for me)
  • 1/2tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • shredded cheddar cheese (a small handful/big pinch to top each bowl)
  • a handful of scallions/green onions, chopped (appx. 1tbsp per bowl)
  • bacon bits to your heart's content (seriously, check the ingredients of most bacon bits - there is NO BACON, NO MEAT in most of them)
BOOM - you're ready to go.  get your shit together and clear a spot on your counter top - remember, most slow cookers get pretty darn hot on the sides, so you want a few inches of space on all sides.  plug it in and set it to low!

  1. dump in your frozen shredded hash browns.
  2. pour in your 42oz of broth.
  3. pour in your condensed cream soup (do not add extra liquid).
  4. dump in that chopped onion.
  5. crack some pepper.
  6. put the top on and leave it the hell alone for 6-7 hours.
    mix it all up good.  cover and leave it alone.  if you're like me, you can peek/sniff/stir a couple of time.
  7. at hour 7, add in the cream cheese.  some people leave it out to get to room temperature before adding.  i cut it into little hunks and drop them in, stirring to combine.  
  8. cook on low for 1 more hour. 
  9. if your cream cheese is not completely combined, taking a whisk to the soup should help combine it.  you want it all mixed in to achieve a nice, smooth, creamy consistency.

    add in the cubed cream cheese.  whisk it up if needed.
  10. put in huge ass bowls; sprinkle with a bit more fresh cracked pepper, some cheddar cheese, scallions, and bacon bits like woah.  some people report adding a dollop of sour cream too.  i hate sour cream, so fuck that.
  11. eat the hell out of the soup because it's really good.

    a bowl full of deliciousness.  that's a bit of extra sharp new york cheddar cheese, scallions, and mccormick bacon bits - vegetarian friendly!
pop any leftovers in a plastic storage thingy and stick it in the fridge.  leftovers are just as yummy.