Getting to the Core

By: Katie Austin

Today was the day that life would take me on a detour.  I had been procrastinating for some time, waiting for the perfect “tomorrow” to start working out and eating right.  To think, almost two years ago I was battling breast cancer and struggled to keep food down as I battled nausea from my chemo treatments.  Now, I love the taste of food and my body is paying the price.  It was time to take action to become the healthier version of myself.

My intentions were good that Thursday afternoon as I took off across the Lake Murray Dam the stretches from Lexington to Irmo.  I parked my car, took a swig of water and told myself that today was the day.  I felt good as I walked and at times, I ran as far as I could, then walking fast to keep up a good pace.  I made it to the other side in Irmo (approximately 1.7 miles) and was motivated to travel the same distance back to Lexington.   I have to admit, a motivating factor was that my car was parked on the Lexington side of the dam so if I wanted to drive home, I would have to walk back 🙂

Lake Murray Dam sidewalk facing Lexington

I made it to my car and as I sat drinking the rest of my water, I was feeling pretty good about starting my exercise program.   I was already thinking about what I would do the next day to keep myself moving in this healthier direction, but when I woke up the next morning, things would change.  I would spend the next three weeks trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

I awoke the next day with pain in my upper-right back like I have never experienced before!  I had a lot on my plate that weekend and chalked things up to soreness coming from starting a new exercise routine.  I ignored my back pain and didn’t seek medical attention until the following Tuesday.  What would follow next was a series of doctor appointments, scans and tests to rule out whether or not my cancer was back.  Talk about stressed out as I felt like my life was spiraling out of control again!  They ended up ruling out a cancer recurrence (thank goodness!!) and determined that I had pulled or torn a muscle in my back.  I found myself extremely relieved that it wasn’t cancer, but at the same time frustrated, worried and one big ball of stress as I just wanted to know how I could make the pain go away.

I really pondered how a simple brisk walk with short sprints over a 3.4 mile stretch could cause the pain that I was in, but then it hit me – I didn’t take baby steps to get back into shape, but a full leap forward which stressed my body out.  Since completing my breast cancer fight, I haven’t really taken the time to get my strength back, ensuring that my “core” is where it should be to support my new workout.  Did I really think I could jump back into life, doing my normal routine and playing sports without taking the time to ensure that I was physically ready?  I have since relieved my back pain after seeing a physical therapist and reversing my bad habits that weakened my back to begin with.

Sometimes mind over body needs to be the reverse.  If I can give any advice to those beginning their workouts, take it slow, listen to your body and set reasonable goals.   My mistake was that I was trying to accomplish a lot in a little bit of time, which ended up setting me back several weeks.    Now, I have a new focus and direction which gives me hope that I will continue on my path to better health.

“He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”

I wanted to share this recent personal experience so that if there are readers going through something similar that it gives you hope that no matter what comes your way that, in time, things will get better.   I am feeling better, healthier with each passing day and I know that I will reach my goal in due time even if it takes many baby steps to get there.

If you have a suggestion for a health program that works best for you, post it here!   I hope to see some of you during my walks on the dam.  I wear pink in honor of my breast cancer sisters, so I am sure I will be easy to spot 🙂

Running for the Colon Cancer Challenge …

By: Summer Brons

On Saturday, March 24 I participated in Lexington Medical Center’s Colon Cancer Challenge.  Held at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, the event offered 65-mile and 25-mile cycling races, as well as an 8k run and a one-mile fun run/walk. With the race practically in my backyard (and with a modest registration fee!), I signed up for the 8k, happy for an opportunity to run my favorite distance for a great cause.

The 8k didn’t start until 8:45am and it was probably after 8:15 by the time I arrived. I’d intended to show up earlier, but I found myself in a bit of a battle with my iPod Shuffle, having determined that the morning of a race was the perfect time to completely erase everything on the device and begin anew. Multiple syncing issues later, I gave up the fight and decided to run with my iPhone since it was already in my hand and I knew it had music. I can’t run without my tunes, I just can’t. Kudos to other runners who can pound out the mileage without a soundtrack…I am simply not one of them.

I’ve digressed.

I made my way over to Dutch Fork High and was pleased to find that the event was extremely well-organized.  I was parked within seconds and able to walk straight up to the registration tables and pick up my race packet with no wait, no hassle. All that was left to do was sit in my car and compile a suitable playlist. (Shameless plug time: A premium membership with Spotify is totally worth it.)

As the clock ticked closer to 8:45 am, I made my way to the starting line with the other runners. It was a small field and everyone seemed to be in good spirits as we listened to the speakers touting the importance of colon cancer awareness prior to the start of each race.  As the horn blew and we set off, I went out entirely too fast and found myself tired within the first half of a mile…oops. I don’t run with other people very often, so when I’m in a situation with other runners around me, the excitement tends to push me beyond my typically manageable pace and I’ll burn out quickly.

Luckily, I was able to settle into a reasonable clip and particularly enjoyed the downhill stretches throughout the five-mile route. The course was great; a nice mix of flat, downhill and uphill terrain as we looped back to Dutch Fork High.  My Garmin clocked me at just under 48 minutes for 5.03 miles. Solid! As long as I’m under a 10:00 min/mile pace, I’m happy.  9:40 or under is grounds for excitement in my book.  According to the results posted by Strictly Running, I came in at 47:52 for an average pace of 9:38 and finished 10th out of 24.

The race was a great way to kick off my weekend and I’d like to give a huge thanks to Lexington Medical Center, Strictly Running and all involved sponsors for pulling the event together!  Cancer awareness is so important; it’s great to see folks getting involved with the community to help spread the word and raise funds for continued research and treatment.

Be Prepared: Not Just for Boy Scouts

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

“To be prepared is half the victory.” — Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Spanish writer

Mary Pat Baldauf

When asked the secret of my success for the healthy lifestyle change that resulted in a 90-something lb. weight loss, I’d have to say preparation, hands down. Don’t get me wrong.  It took a village to transform my life:

  • A nutrition counselor to educate me on healthy eating, challenge me to try new things and coach me through the rough spots.
  • Personal trainers who carefully guided my workouts, helped me to know my potential (and limitations), and kept me motivated to exercise at 5 a.m.
  • Friends, family and co-workers who cheered me on, encouraged me on rough days and tolerated my newly found soapbox.
  • My employer, the City of Columbia, who not only introduced me to the Doctors Wellness Center program, but also paid for the first 12-weeks and a follow up maintenance period.

But the thing that tied all of those things together? Planning and preparation.

Here are five tips that made a difference in my journey.  In one way or another, they all go back to being prepared.  Any of these tips could really be a post on their own, but for convenience, I’ll give you the “Readers Digest Condensed Version:”

  1. Make a Weekly Menu Plan and Cook Ahead for the Week: To eat healthy, you can’t fly by the seat of your pants. Unless you’re superwoman (or have a chef), you can’t cook every day either. On Friday, I look at the coming week, make notes of special challenges and plan several items I can prepare ahead of time. Over the weekend, I make several dishes, pack one-serving portions and pop them in the fridge and/or freezer.  Soup, chili and bean dishes work especially well.
  2. Do Prep Work Ahead of Time: Let’s face it; some things just don’t lend themselves to pre-cooking and freezing. For that, I do as much as I can ahead of time – that cuts out quite a bit of time in the kitchen. One of my favorite recipes is Glazed Tofu. On Sundays, I mix a large batch of the sauce, divide it into portions and freeze it. The night before I want to cook it, I drain the tofu and pull out a sauce from the freezer. When I get home the next day, it’s as easy as throwing it on the stove.
  3. Expect the Unexpected: Ever pack a healthy lunch and leave it on the counter?  Or get stuck at your desk when you’d planned on eating healthy at home?  Keep healthy, non-perishable food in the car, the office and in your purse.  Bring several lunches for the work ‘fridge at the beginning of the week.  Eat something healthy before going to special events. At first, it’s hard to hone those clairvoyant skills, but soon it becomes second-nature.
  4. Take Your Show on the Road: Traveling for work or pleasure? With a little planning and creativity, you can do as well on the road as you do at home. Look at your itinerary and plan accordingly.  If some meals are provided, check the menu and don’t be afraid to make special requests.  Use the Internet to research area markets and grocery stores, restaurant menus and hotel amenities.  Pack non-perishables like peanut butter and raisins, as well as non-breakable containers and a set of utensils.
  5. Schedule Activity: Make exercise a priority. Schedule time on your calendar for it, and don’t let anything keep you from it. My job often requires me to attend evening meetings and events, so the best time for me to exercise is in the morning. Most weekdays, I’m at the gym between 5 and 5:30 a.m., back home in the shower by 7 a.m.  I’m not a morning person by nature, but with a little preparation, it’s not so bad. Don’t do mornings?  You don’t have to; just find your best time and work through the challenges that might stand in your way.

What changes have you made to accommodate a healthier lifestyle? Do you have a particular challenge you’re facing when it comes to improving your health?  How have you (or could you) prepare to meet that challenge?

A Rather “Sticky” Situation

By: Roshanda Pratt

There is a debate going on at my house, a quandary of sorts if you will.  While the world is focused on a Presidential campaign, Occupy Wall Street and March Madness, my husband and I are debating who makes the better peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Before I begin, let me state this disclaimer:  In no way am I making fun of rather serious topics happening in the world right now, however, this is my attempt at some humor.

For some time we have gone back and forth about how you should make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Our girls love PB&J for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They are PB&J groupies!  However, here is where the debate comes in:  When I make peanut butter and jelly, I am more of an equal opportunity gal. You know, spreading peanut butter on both sides of the bread liberally and adding grape jelly evenly on both sides of the bread.  Now that is a sandwich, the jelly seeping out the side with each bite, Yum!

Now, my husband is not so liberal with the condiments.  He makes his sandwiches by spreading peanut butter on one slice of bread and jelly on the other slice.  Really?  When I saw this I joked with him that there is no love in his sandwich making.  And the children like mine much better.   My husband’s argument; spreading peanut butter and jelly on both sides of the bread are a waste.  I was appalled he would state how I make a sandwich is a waste!

In order to back my claims I did some research on “Google” of course.  According to Smuckers, no one really knows when or where the salty meets sweet sandwich was first created.   Bread and jelly have been around for millennia, but as for peanut butter, that wasn’t invented until 1890.  This spreadable creation took off at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, and during the 1920’s and 1930’s, commercial brands of peanut butter such as Peter Pan and Skippy were introduced.  Food historians discovered both peanut butter and jelly were part of the U.S. military’s rations during World War II.  This lead to the speculation that American GIs may have added jelly to the peanut butter to make it easier to eat.  Way to go guys! The National Peanut Board reports the average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he or she graduates from high school.  Wow, that’s a lot of PB&J!

To also further my support that I am the best peanut butter sandwich maker, I took to YouTube.  Seriously, there are videos about everything else, right?  Now ,I will have a video of a “professional” proving I was right.  Well, I was completely wrong.  Most of the videos claiming to show how to make the “best” peanut butter and jelly sandwiches showed his method. (GASP!)  How could this be?  Peanut butter on one side and jelly on the other! This is a conspiracy!

Oh well, I will continue laying it on thick with the hopes that the rest of the world will get with the program (insert laugh here).  Meanwhile, I think I will go and make my husband a sandwich as a way to say he was right and I may be wrong (wink wink).

Now it is your turn how do you make your PB&J?

Here are some more tasty tidbits: (source:

  • It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • Americans were first introduced to the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in 1928.
  • Woman and children prefer creamy, while most men opt for chunky.
  • Peanuts have more protein, niacin, folate and phytosterols than any nut.
  • Dr. George Washington Carver researched and developed more than 300 uses for peanuts in the early 1900s.
  • Did you know April 2 is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day?

The Power of Music

By:  Shannon Shull

A bit odd to think of music being powerful, heh?  If you really stop and think about it though, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Music has the ability to strike emotions in us humans that are indescribable.  Have you ever listened to a particular song and it moved you to tears?  Have you ever listened to a song and it literally causes you to move your body?  Have you ever listened to a song and instantly a specific memory is recalled? If you answered NO to any of those questions, then I’m terribly sorry, but I’m afraid you’re not human.

Seriously! There is great power in music. And different styles of music speak to us individually on many different levels. Some of us love all kinds of music, some of us only love very specific kinds of music.  But either way, for each of us, there is bound to be a song out there that fills our hearts, ignites a special memory or fantasy, or just causes us to rock it out and experience sweet release of some sort.

In my case, my collection of tunes is very broad. I’m a lover of everything from Bach to Bon Jovi, Ella Fitzgerald to Enigma, Gavin DeGraw to Guns-n-Roses, Florence and the Machine to Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr. to Heart, John Legend to the Jackson Five, Katy Perry to Keane, Led Zepplin to Lady Gaga, Louis Prima to Luciano Pavarotti, Mary J. Blige to Meatloaf, Otis Redding to One Republic, Powerman 5000 to Peter Gabriel, Queen to Queensryche, Ray Charles to Rihanna, Sade to Shakira, Tenacious D to t.a.T.u, U2 to Usher, 30 Seconds to Mars to 311…..  and that’s barely scratching the surface of my range of musical tastes!

I don’t know about you, but there are times in my life when music literally fills my soul.  It sometimes can be an out of body experience for me.  My life would be devoid of true living, I’m afraid, if music did not exist.  No matter what mood I’m in, it comes to my rescue, whether I want to grieve, celebrate, remember, release anger, feel sexy, groove or simply rock it out!  Music is a great power in my life.  It inspires me on more levels than I could begin to describe.

I hope that there are some of you out there that can agree with me. Does music captivate you?  Does music take you places?  My playlists range something fierce – one week it may be all dance inducing Zumba type music, one week it may be a playlist that I sing my heart out to, another week it may be emotional and sentimental taking me places in my head… you get my drift.  What’s your latest playlist? I would love for you to share the playlist that is currently inspiring you – the songs that lately have been captivating your heart, mind, body and soul in some way…

The latest playlist rocking my world is…

  • LA Woman – The Doors
  • Pictures of You – The Cure
  • Can’t Get You Off My Mind – Lenny Kravitz
  • Crazy – Seal
  • Put Your Hands On Me – Joss Stone
  • Deep Inside of You – Third Eye Blind
  • Sex is on Fire – Kings of Leon
  • Mystify – INXS
  • Strings – Young the Giant
  • My Body – Young the Giant
  • Never Gonna Leave this Bed – Maroon 5
  • Heartbeat – The Fray
  • I’m on Fire – Bruce Springsteen
  • The Sweetest Taboo – Sade
  • Faster – Matt Nathanson
  • Animal – Neon Trees

A Glimpse Into My Kitchen …

By: Brady Evans

As you may know, I run a food blog.  I’ve had more than one email asking for a glimpse into my kitchen along with my recommended pantry staples.  I recently had a lazy Sunday morning and decided to take a few shots of the kitchen and comply with your requests.  So here we go!

I have no shame in admitting that we’re not living in our dream house and I’m not cooking in my dream kitchen.  We bought our home for so many wonderful reasons, but the kitchen wasn’t necessarily one of them.  Nonetheless, I use it on a daily basis with no complaints.  It works well for us.  We have an electric stove, which was a change from our last house where we had a gas stove.  One key to using an electric stove effectively is high quality tri-ply stainless steel pans.

The house did not come outfitted with this custom horse themed back splash.  This was a touch we added ourselves shortly after moving in.  The design and the labor all comes courtesy of my mother, Lee Malerich.  Having a custom touch like this really makes a difference to me in our kitchen.  What’s even better is that she was able to incorporate some of my favorite dishes that I’d clumsily broken (but saved) throughout the years.  The mosaic is made of mostly tile, but interspersed are subtle kitcheny aspects like edges of fancy plates and coffee mug handles.

One of my favorite parts of the kitchen, however, has more to do with the outside than the inside.  We’re surrounded by the most beautiful views and tons of natural light come through the many windows.

Cooking in a kitchen that is not your dream kitchen isn’t so bad when you’ve got beautiful horses outside your window.  In the picture below you’ll see Lucy and Cinco and a small corner of the reason we ended up here in South Carolina: our stable.

Okay!  So there’s my kitchen.  Now let’s talk about the goods.  Here are the appliances I use most and recommend:

Pantry staples for a healthy lifestyle:

  • whole wheat cous cous
  • whole wheat pastas
  • quinoa
  • oatmeal
  • whole wheat flour
  • whole wheat pastry flour
  • all purpose flour
  • vital wheat gluten
  • nutritional yeast
  • red lentils (they cook up in 5 minutes!)
  • brown lentils
  • black beans (canned, dried)
  • kidney beans (canned, dried)
  • onions
  • garlic
  • sweet potatoes
  • tortillas
  • eggs
  • frozen peas
  • frozen corn
  • canned tomatoes
  • various spices (salt, cumin, chili powder, curry powder, cinnamon, dried oregano, dried basil)

With these ingredients I can pretty much whip up a delicious and healthy meal on a whim.  Keeping your pantry well stocked keeps you from sacrificing your health by eating fast food options on an impulse!

Here are some of my favorite meals that come right from the pantry:

Guest Blogger: An LMC Nurse’s Colon Cancer Story

Please welcome guest blogger Jennifer Warren, an ER nurse at Lexington Medical Center. This month, she was diagnosed with colon cancer at the young age of 41. She shares her story here.
As I write this post, it’s March — Colon Cancer Awareness Month. I’ll get back to that in a minute, but first a little background. I’ve been meaning to write an article for months about Lexington Medical Center and the quality that is inside the walls of this place with this name. I’ve worked for LMC in some way or another since January of 2000. The last 7 years I’ve worked as a Registered Nurse.

LMC nurse and colon cancer patient Jennifer Warren with her husband, son and family dogs.

During my time working at LMC I have also completed travel RN contracts at places like Stanford University Hospital and Clinics in Palo Alto, CA and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, which are considered top ranking facilities nationally for a number of things. I am an Emergency Room nurse and I love what I do. I have flown home from California, or wherever it was I was on assignment, to work so I could ensure I did not lose my employment status at LMC.

About 6 months ago, I began having a very localized pain on my left side under my left ribs. It started out pretty infrequently, and I had no other symptoms. I checked a few things, but I thought it might be a kidney stone due to the location of pain, and didn’t think much more about it – I am 41-years-old and have no health history. The pain started occurring more frequently, but again I really had no other symptoms. I participated in PATH, the LMC employee benefit called Positive Attitudes Towards Health, and all of my lab work was what I expected in December. At the end of February I had two nights where I was so uncomfortable that I could not sleep, which prompted an Urgent Care visit. On March 1, at LMC’s Urgent Care in Lexington, I was told I may have colon cancer and I needed to follow up. March 1 – the beginning of Colon Cancer Awareness month.

I was able to schedule an appointment the following Monday to meet with a GI doctor to set up my colonoscopy. The colonoscopy was on Tuesday, and at that time I was told that he was more certain than not that I had colon cancer. During my colonoscopy they had also discovered that my colon was almost obstructed so regardless of the pathology results, whatever was there had to be removed. Pathology results at the end of the week confirmed his thought, and luckily I already had an appointment with Southern Surgical Group. Last week I had my surgery – 2 weeks to the day after the initial diagnosis. I still have a long road ahead of me, but am so very thankful to have a resource like Lexington Medical Center as my guide. I have been contacted by a Nurse Navigator and will be able to use the knowledge and understanding of the Navigator as I go through all of these new steps.

I wouldn’t have chosen any other place to go to for care, and my experiences as both an employee, and now as a patient, have assured me that this was the right decision. I cannot encourage others more to listen to your body, be aware of signs and symptoms, and follow through with medical screening guidelines.

Note from LMC: Join Lexington Medical Center’s Colon Cancer Challenge this Saturday, March 24th at Dutch Fork High School to raise awareness about colon cancer! The event includes 65-mile and 25-mile bike rides, an 8K run and a 1-mile family fun run/walk. Learn more here.

The One That Got Away

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

Growing up, I loved animals so much that my grandfather, “Pop,” nicknamed me “Ellie Mae” after Ellie Mae Clampet on the Beverly Hillbillies, mainly because I always had some cat or dog with me everywhere I went around their farm.  I loved looking at the baby pigs they raised and cherish memories of helping to feed calves from galvanized buckets.  My Granny still tells of my particular love for my old tomcat, Snowball, who had a broken, crooked, tail, and always looked like a ragamuffin from numerous fights, his ears permanently folded over and pretty much hairless, but love that old cat, I did.  I would try and save baby birds that had fallen from their nests, and, even a few times, successfully captured field mice in the chicken houses on the farm.  I guess as long as it had feet of some kind, I loved it; hence, you realize quickly that I have no fondness in my heart for snakes.  Give me a furry little four-legged creature and I’m a goner.  Not good for a mother of boys.  Not good at all.

I say that I’m a mommy to two wild, crazy, but precious little boys, but it’s not completely the truth.  I’m also the human mommy to one dog and three cats, all of whom reside in the house for the most part.  We’ve tried fish, snails, and frogs, with little success ~ I’m guessing it would be hard to survive being caught, played with, and then tossed back in to the tank.  So, although I had a particular fondness for rodents in my younger days, my parents put their foot down on that one.  Never had mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, or hamsters growing up.  I guess, now, I’m making up for it.  Pierce and his sweet polarizing blue eyes sweet talked me in to getting a hamster about two months ago.  Then, since Pierce had one, well, Smith had to have one as well.  So, we have added two dwarf Russian hamsters to the mix as well; Sassy and Stormy.

These hamsters are supposed to be sociable creatures.  Well, maybe not.  Sassy is a biter, but will gladly allow you to hold her with no problems once you actually get her in your hands.  She will happily roll her little clear ball down the hall in an effort to torment the aforementioned cats; especially the youngest, Scarlett, who passes the majority of her days perched in one of three locations – behind, in front of, or on top of the hamster habitats – just waiting on what I have termed, her “hamster-burger.”  Stormy is the younger of the two and isn’t quite as vicious as Sassy, but he moves freely and quickly, and is a little more difficult to catch from that aspect.  But, once you have him, he gladly will crawl all over you with few cares in the world.  For the most part, we have not had much craziness with these little creatures (unlike my Every Woman Blogger Cohort, Shannon Shull, who should be enticed, now, to share her family’s hamster tail, pun totally intended), until this past Sunday night.  You know, luck doesn’t last forever, and at some point, it always runs out.

This past Sunday evening, I was multitasking, talking on the phone with my mother-in-law, putting away clothes, and hanging up clothes when I noticed that Sassy was standing on her back legs, scratching on the side of the habitat.  Remember, I love animals and am a sucker for what I take to mean a desire to interact.  So, I open the cage, get her out, and pet her for a few minutes.  Then I open a different section of the cage, put her in, and go about my business, which includes a trip to the grocery store, getting the boys ready for bed, and spending some time with them.  As we walk into their bedroom, I immediately notice something amiss ~ the hamster habitat is open and I see only 1 hamster, not two.

My first thought moves towards the cats and that Sassy has now become a late night snack.  I try not to get worked up and scare the boys, but I’m frustrated with myself because I am 100% completely at fault.  I search and see nothing that tells me that she could still be alive.  I go to bed feeling pretty badly and sleep fitfully until 3 a.m. when I am awakened by a squeak and the cats chasing something.  She’s alive, I know it!  I grab a flashlight and catch a glimpse of her little eyes and nose peering out at me from the leg of the loveseat in my bedroom.  I shoo the cats and dog from my bedroom and shut the door, thinking maybe I can trap her in my room and catch her.  I lie on the loveseat thinking I might hear a squeak and the ordeal will end quickly.  No such luck.  I, again, sleep fitfully, oversleep and am late for work.  At lunch, I go by my house and check to see if any of the food or cheese I left out before heading to work has been nibbled.  Nothing.  Doesn’t even appear to have been sniffed.  UGH!  I go back to work, feeling defeated by a hamster.

I get the same answers after work.  We search for half an hour, to no avail, finding only a juice pouch that had been left out had been nibbled on.  I leave the door shut and just forget about it, figuring I will deal more with the situation after the boys are safely in bed.  Bedtime comes and after finally getting them settled down, I hear a noise in the hallway, a noise that sounds like a cat after something, something alive.  I jump up and tip toe into the hallway where I am greeted by the sight of Scarlett with Sassy in her mouth, dangling by the scruff of her neck, much like a mother cat would do her kitten.  Scarlett knows that this is forbidden territory and takes off into the den where I begin to close the gap on her, but she does a U-turn in the middle of the den, right over a stack of clothes and shoots straight into the playroom, which can aptly be compared to the 9th circle of hell, or the abyss.  If it goes in, it may never come out of there!  The last thing I need is for Sassy to be loose in that room!

I follow them in, running as fast as my short legs and nightgown will allow.  Obviously, the cat has an advantage over me in that she’s smaller and can clear the amounts of junk piled in the room like a professional hurdler.  Me, not so much.  I hear the crunch of toys beneath my feet, but it’s on and I’m determined that I’m going to rescue the hamster.  I corner the cat in the bottom basket of a rolling cart, but she’s dropped the hamster.  Oh, hell!  I see Sassy shoot quickly toward some stacking file crates and I, immediately, grab Scarlett’s tail in an effort to delay her if only by a second to give me a head start.  I grab the hamster, expecting to see blood and death, but no, all I see is the largest pair of teeth I have ever seen in my life being flashed at me.  She nips me once, twice, and tries a third time, but I hold on tight and carry her, triumphantly, into the boys’ bedroom where I turn on the light to try and rise them to see that I have won.  I have conquered the enemy and saved Sassy from the evil clutches of Katie Scarlett Kirby.  They don’t hear a thing and there is no acknowledgement from them at all that I have just saved their dear little pet.

I release Sassy into the habitat and make sure that is firmly locked.  She walks to the food bowl, sniffs, picks up something and eats.  A minute later she runs to the wheel and begins to run, around and around, and around.  I’m guessing, like humans, that she’s got some extra adrenaline from the chase that she needs to burn off.  I see Stormy waltz to the wheel and squeak at Sassy, much like a parent would do to berate an errant child.  I leave her in peace and head off to deal with my own adrenaline rush ~ I open Facebook and play a few rounds of Bejeweled Blitz and Angry Birds and waste a little more time on Pinterest.  Alas, I finally give up and snuggle into bed with my Kindle and try to make peace with Scarlett who is pretty peeved about “the one that got away.”

Help Feed the World with Feed Bags

By: Staci Rutherford

When I’m not researching the latest “it” bags, trends and designers, I enjoy finding handbags that are designed for a good cause.  I discovered FEED Projects a few years ago, and constantly feature new FEED bags on my blog.  Today, I want to introduce you to FEED, because these meaningful products have a tremendous impact on different parts of the world.

FEED Projects’ mission is to create good products that help FEED the world.  The merchandise mix includes eco-friendly FEED bags, t-shirts, and other accessories, with a set donation factored into the cost of each item.  FEED believes that everyone has the right to basic human necessities, such as healthy and nutritious food.  Every product has a stenciled number that signifies the actual impact of your purchase.  Here are a few of my favorite bags available at




The FEED 5 Africa Bag was designed in honor of FEED’s 5th anniversary.  It is handmade by artisans in Kenya.  The outside of the bag is made from burlap material, along with the “FEED the Children of the World” logo from the first-ever FEED bag, the FEED 1 Bag.  The bag is lined with traditional African kitenge fabric.  Each FEED 5 Africa bag provides 5 children with micro-nutrient powder for 1 year through the FEED Foundation’s Nutrients Fund.


The FEED USA Bag includes a $5 donation to the FEED Foundation’s FEED USA program to improve school food and nutrition education in America through  After purchasing your FEED USA Bag, use the 8-digit code provided on the hang tag and visit the FEED USA platform to choose the initiative you want to fund.  The bucket shape bag is made of 100% organic cotton.




The FEED LOVE Bag was designed in partnership with (RED).  The purchase of the (FEED) RED LOVE 30 Bag will provide approximately 30 days of ARV treatment through the Global Fund and 30 nutritious school meals through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), thus providing one month of life-saving assistance.  Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment not only helps people live with HIV/AIDS, but also helps prevent the transmission of the disease from moms to their babies (RED)-supported Global Fund grants deliver this treatment to some of the countries hit hardest by the disease.  The (FEED) RED LOVE bag is made of natural burlap with signature PRODUCT (RED) logo, faux suede bottom and large back pocket.


In January 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti.  The FEED Haiti bag was created to help raise funds to maintain local school feeding operations during that critical time. Today, FEED continues to support Haiti’s school feeding operations as the country slowly rebuilds and faces challenges in nutrition, health, and education.  Each FEED Haiti Bag will provide 50 meals through the UN World Food Programme (WFP).  The tote is made of 100% organic cotton and uses the red and blue Haitian national colors.

As you can see, FEED bags are making a difference in helping feed the world.  The next time you are looking for a gift for a loved one, consider showing your support in the fight against hunger, and invest in a FEED bag.

In A Cooking Rut? Can I Interest You In Pinterest?

By:  Elizabeth Webber Akre

As much as I love to cook, even I get in a rut from time to time.  Most recently, I was so bored and burned out on chicken, I actually put out a call for help and inspiration on my blog,  I got some suggestions, but it still took about 2 weeks before I could even get interested in chicken again.

In the midst of this bird boredom, I finally jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon.  At first, I was just interested in checking it out so I’d know what everyone was talking about, but then I started paying attention.  What I learned was, “Wow!  This is really pretty cool!”  Quickly, I discovered how many other cook-a-holics are out there and they were sharing all kinds of awesome recipes, techniques and smart hints that I didn’t know.  (For instance, I now know how and am in the process of growing my own scallions.  As God as my witness, I’ll never pay for or run out of green onions again!”)  But, oh bliss, all the creative and innovative recipes I’ve found.  My enthusiasm for cooking returned with giddy excitement.  One of the first recipes that caught my eye is simply titled “Sour cream & bacon crockpot chicken.”

First, I love my crockpot.  Second, I love bacon.  And third, I love sour cream.  How could I possibly pass this one up?  I made it last week and I was in love.  The chicken was fall-apart tender; in fact, next time I may cook it a little less time just for the sake of presentation (the breasts will hold their shape better coming from the crockpot to plate.) The bacon was crisp and added nice flavor to the delightful sour cream sauce.  It was kind of stroganoff-like with a little spike of smoky bacon.  In fact, next time, I’m going to use two slices of bacon per breast just to add more bacon flavor.  After all, I’m a bacon devotee.

One of the main reasons I love to cook so much is to impress and satisfy my family and friends.  My husband is a great person to cook for because he’s so appreciative but he will tell me if I miss the mark.  This dish got his “thumbs up.”  Now, any of you with kids know that they can surprise you and eat exactly what you don’t expect them to and then shun the ol’ kid stand-bys.  This dish not only got my daughter’s “thumbs up,” but she elaborated … “I really like this mommy.  You should make this a lot.  I love it.”  WOW.  That is the sign of a winning dish, if you ask me!

This recipe came from a “pin” from a blog entitled “Moms with Crockpots.”  Sometimes when I read other people’s blogs, I wish I could jump on a plane and go meet him/her in person.  Of course, that’s not realistic, so I read, I comment and let them know how much I appreciate them sharing what they know.  My hat’s off to the creator of this recipe.  I most definitely will be making this dish again and I hope you’ll try it too.  Click here to see the full recipe from “Moms with Crockpots.”

For more, visit me at Gastronomy by a Wanna-be Chef.