Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fruit Pizza

My 11 year old daughter made this "fruit pizza" and M & M Milk Dud brownies for her Daddy's birthday about two weeks ago.  Here is how to make the fruit pizza:

The birthday boy serves
his fruit pizza

  1. Make a batch of sugar cookie dough, enough to cover a pizza pan thickly.  You do not want a thin, brittle base for your fruit pizza!  Score the edges with a fork. Bake (according to package instructions) until lightly golden but still moist.  Do not overbake!  Cool the crust, but do not remove it from the pan.
  2. Blend 8 oz of cream cheese with a cup of powdered sugar until very smooth.  Add red food coloring if you wish.  Spread on baked cookie crust.
  3. Slice your fresh fruit (strawberries and cherries here) and arrange on top of the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Slice like a pizza and serve!

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Here is a picture of the M & M Milk Dud Brownies.

This post will be linked at:

Food on Fridays

Raising Homemakers 

Domestically Divine Tuesday


Friday, August 24, 2012

Many Ways of Coping with a Fractured Hand and Arthritis

Dear friends,

As I mentioned three weeks ago in my post Weekend Gratitude: In Every Situation, my left - and dominant - hand was injured by one of my {rowdy} children pulling back on my pinky finger.  (Said child is very, very sorry for hurting me!  No hard feelings.  At least not much.)  

Anyway, my hand was still so swollen and sore a few days later that I went in for a visit to my doctor and then an x-ray at a nearby radiology clinic.  At that time, they didn't find any fracture or dislocation, but I still kept it in a combination of some sort of splint and or brace because I knew it needed it.  

Well, long story short, two weeks later it was still not improving much, though some of the swelling had gone down.  It hurt horribly whenever it was bumped.  Worse yet, my finger is a bit crooked and tucks under the adjacent one, which is rather annoying and disconcerting.  My son-in-law, who was over for my husband's birthday dinner, looked at it and recommended talking to his dad, Dr. Tindall.  His dad, in turn, offered to get me in to see one of the top-rated hand specialists in our area.  It usually takes three weeks to get in for an non-emergency appointment, but I had one within two days at a fraction of the normal cost.  Sometimes "it's who you know"!  I am very grateful.

Improvising with a
thumb brace to support
the litttle finger instead
Looking at the original x-rays, this doctor called me over and showed me the hairline fracture on my 5th metacarpal bone along the edge of my left hand.  He said the fracture will take only a few more weeks to heal and that I should keep wearing the hand brace and supporting the pinky. (I have since found a way to twist the brace around even more so that the metal bar lines up with the broken bone, the "thumb" loop holds up the pinky instead, and the finger strap loosely tethers the pinky to the ring finger. No tape or gauze needed! I line it with a terry cloth wrist band to keep it from itching so much.)  Unfortunately, the hand doctor also told me I have a sprain that will take several more months to heal.  When the bone and sprain heal, the ligaments should straighten out and my finger might not be crooked any more.  Here's hoping.

Soothing lavendar epsom salts make my hands smell like flowers
He also recommended soaking in Epsom salts and warm water three times a day to help reduce the swelling and pain.  

Even before he saw the x-ray, this doctor took one look at both of my hands and started showing me the bone spurs on my knuckles.  He confirmed what I already strongly suspected from the pain: that I have arthritis.  My right hand has been quite uncomfortable in recent months and even more so in the past few days, especially my pinky and where the thumb meets my wrist.  Yes, I am only 48 (at least for two more weeks!), but my mother got arthritis at about the same age.  My grandmother and aunt have it, too.

So far, I've only been talking about cut-and-dry physical details.  But there is always much more.  Both the sudden excruciating injury and finding out I really do have arthritis have been quite emotionally traumatic for me.  It doesn't help that mothering 10 children has been quite difficult on my whole body, especially on my joints.  Not having full use of either of my hands to care for my family and home for the past few weeks has been really really disheartening.  I feel so helpless at times.  Looking ahead to a potential lifetime of pain and reduced productivity has been an intense mixture of frustration and sadness for me.  As I noted on my Facebook status, "I am not a happy camper."   I do believe that it is healthy for human beings to take the opportunity to grieve their losses and not just pretend everything is OK when it is not.  

At the same time, I believe that there are ways to (eventually) come to terms with aggravating circumstances, both by learning a foundational life contentment AND by doing what can be done to alleviate (or better yet, prevent) the miseries that come our way.  I guess that goes along with Reinhold Niebuhr's famous Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

I have accepted the reality that I will never be truly pain free in this earthly lifetime, either from arthritis or injuries or anything else.  I have the hope of no pain or sorrow in heaven.  I also try to remember those who are suffering much more than I could ever imagine.  Hurting even a little gives me at least a small measure of compassion for them.  I don't want to be a chronic complainer either. I have better things to do with my life than whine all the time.  (This is the attitude I have tried to take with my Attention Deficit Disorder, too: ADD and Me? We'll Manage!)

And now I need the courage to change.  This is harder by far.

There are easy things to do for arthritis, like using topical pain relievers.  (I am trying to avoid much ibuprofen because of some of my other health issues.)  Right now I am trying out the brand new Icy Hot arthritis pain relief lotion in a pump bottle.  It seems to help some.  So does the Equate generic "brand" pain reliever ointment from Walmart, but that has a more intense odor.

The more difficult changes are in my diet, but those are the most important, not just because of my hand pain but for the rest of my body.  I keep saying I am going to try to eat differently and lose weight, but I haven't stuck to it yet.  In the case of arthritis, it is more a matter of avoiding certain foods that tend to cause inflammation.  These are smaller, more specific changes, so maybe I can ease into healthier eating that way.

I had already checked out a library book called Food Cures by Joy Bauer, which has a chapter on arthritis.  Then my son-in-law's father, Dr. Tindall, who has studied nutrition for decades, gave me some more pointers.  Today, my daughter Rachel, a nursing student, gave me some pages of information she had typed when she was studying arthritis and nutrition.  These included the web sites: and  I came up with the following lists by combining the information from all of these sources.

Things that help:
  • Water: Drinking lots of it keeps the cartilage working.
  • Foods and spices: carrots, ginger, turmeric, leeks, garlic, pumpkin seeds, extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish, salmon, whole wheat, brown rice, tart cherries, fresh pineapple, papaya, green tea, green herbs, raw almonds, honey
  • Supplements: glucosamine chondroitin (not the cheap stuff), Boswellia, alfalfa, Omega-3 fish oil, vitamins C & E
  • Other: heat, ice after exercise, stretching, moderate exercise (walking, swimming, etc.), tools like door grips and bottle openers, topical pain reliever ointments or lotions 
Things to reduce or avoid:
  • Foods and beverages: cow's milk, beef, pork, citrus, coffee, fried foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, refined grains (white flour, white rice, etc.) milk chocolate, sweet tea, Coke, shell fish, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, alcohol
  • Activities: anything that put pressure on the affected joints, such as weight lifting or jogging

The biggest immediate change for me is cutting out the protein bars I have been eating almost every day, both because of the chocolate and the soy protein isolate, which probably isn't good for what remains of my thyroid.  Another change is switching back to brown rice from the white rice that my kids prefer.  I will not give up fresh spinach or broccoli, since they are my favorite vegetables and their other health benefits outweigh the risk of inflammation.  And yes, I will need to cut back on sugar, potatoes, and red meat.  That will be most painful.

I should note that today my hand has felt better than it has in a while.  I had the brace off for a couple of hours and I could type somewhat comfortably without it.  Yay!  But I may be paying for it with pain in the middle of the night.  Boo.  So I put the brace back on after my Epsom soak and I'm back to hunt-and-peck on the computer keyboard.

I hope that this post has been helpful, whether you suffer from arthritis or some other challenge in your life.  If you have any helpful ideas or favorite resources for the rest of us, please leave a comment below!

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

This post will be linked at:

Food on Fridays


 P52 Photo Project Week #33 on August 25, theme "Heat"

P52 with Kent Weakley

Raising Homemakers 

Friday, August 17, 2012

One Sky

One sky
Bluest blue peaking through
Gray storm clouds hovering over
Blazing gold sunset 
One sky

One life

Bluest blue peaking through
Gray storm clouds hovering over  
Blazing gold sunset
One life

In my one life, we always need groceries.  In my one life, we are on a tight budget, so I buy most of said groceries at Aldi, where you put a quarter into a slot to release your cart and where you bag or box your own purchases.  The lightning flashed while I waited at the checkout, and in my anxiousness to get home, I forgot to put my food into the empty boxes I had collected from the warehouse style shelves as I shopped.  I realized it when I got to the car, and debated going back to fill them, but like I said, I was trying to beat the lightening that might soon be directly over me.  So I threw the loose groceries in the back seat, and then went to return the cart to the store.  That's when I grabbed the boxes and hurried back to my car. 

And that's when I looked up at the sky.

I don't think I'd ever seen it like that before: a band of dramatic dark gray storm clouds with a sunset down below at one edge, and bright patches of clear blue sky above.

One sky.  So many different "conditions" in my one sweeping view.  I wish I'd been able to back up further to catch more of it -- a bigger perspective -- or to turn around and try to snap the elusive lightning bolts.  But alas, my iPod battery died, and that's all I had.

So like my life.  Such a metaphor.  One sky.  One life.  So much variety.  So much change.  Joy and grief all at once.  And I'm trying to catch the grander significance of each moment, to try to fit it in to the jigsaw picture of what I know or thought I knew.  Fleeting moments.

But I also think of "one sky" in the sense that it is the same one here as it is over my family and friends in the metropolis of Beijing or a village in Malawi or farm in Missouri or in suburban Maryland or just down the road here in the Orlando area.  Our lives may be so completely different, but somewhere there is common ground, or in this metaphor, common sky.  People on this earth.  People whom One God created.  "And it is good."

Enjoy your moments with the people who love you and/or whom you love.  Even if you can't see them or talk to them as often as you'd like, they dwell in your thoughts and prayers.  And at night, they look up at the same sky.

Much love,
Virginia Knowles

P.S. You like?  More cloud pictures here: 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Weekend Gratitude: In Every Situation (Featuring: Right to Sight)

Dear friends,
I've been looking forward to this weekend ever since I found out my second cousin Jean would be coming for a visit.  Jean is one of my very best friends and we talk frequently on the phone.  She and her mother, sister, and brother have been amazingly kind to my family with encouragement, prayers, care packages, hospitality, teaching me to make scrapple, and blessing us in many quiet ways over the past several years.  Jean's son Alex is starting medical school at UCF here in Orlando, so she flew down yesterday for the White Coat ceremony this morning.  I'm so honored that she chose to hang out with me while she was here.

But before Jean arrived, I had a lot of other "stuff" to do! 

One son's school supplies 
For starters, five of my kids return to either home school co-op or public school next Monday, and I had to buy school supplies and clothes (during the tax-free weekend on these items in Florida) and order the rest of our curriculum from Christian Book Distributors.

Our main supply shelf, after organizing
I checked all of the markers and
threw away the ones that had dried out.
I also sharpened dozens of dull pencils.
I also needed to organize the books, papers, and supplies in our dining room, which doubles as our school storage area. It took hours to weed out old papers, sort through through the bins to make sure colored pencils, crayons and other supplies were in their correct bins, and put books away.

On Saturday afternoon, I had to run some errands, and on the way back, I stopped at some yard sales.  I found this pretty recipe box for 25 cents!  I love cherries, one of my favorite fruits.  We've been eating them a lot this summer since they've been on sale a few times at Aldi.

Unfortunately, my left hand got injured that day!  One of my kids was being rowdy, grabbed my hand, and accidentally pulled my pinky finger back.  Ouch!  You can see how swollen it is.  I had a thumb brace that I twisted around to use as a pinky brace instead.  Works for me!  I'm glad I keep a bin of splints, braces, Ace bandages, and other medical supplies in our storage room.  Unfortunately, I am left handed, so it's been hard to do so many basic things around the house.   Another disappointment: finding out that the warranty on my eyeglasses expired several days ago -- just when I was about to bring them in to get a scratched lens replaced.

Fortunately, due to my sore hand, my husband took over the cooking for the entire weekend.  When he made spaghetti for Saturday dinner, he also made burritos for Sunday.  On Sunday morning, he made eggs for breakfast and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.
Before church on Sunday, I flipped open my Bible and landed on Isaiah 45.  Verse 3 jumped out at me: "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by name."

I thought of my cousin Jean.  She and I have comforted and prayed for each other through so many difficult times, trying to discover the riches of the secret places.  She is always encouraging me to read my Bible, so I decided to make a Scripture encouragement box for her, writing some of my favorite verses and putting them into the pretty recipe card box I had bought at the yard sale.  I couldn't write out many cards because of my hand, but I already had a whole bunch of them that I had copied out many years ago.  I also tucked in a small New Testament, some blank cards and a pen so she could copy more of her own.  (Want to see what verses I included? Click here: Words of Promise, Comfort and Encouragement)

Jean's gift to me: chocolate mints!
I shared with my husband and kids...

I also gave Jean two bags of nice clothes a neighbor had passed along to me, and she said whatever she can't use she will give to Afghan refugees that she serves up in NC.  She has such a heart of kindness.

Jean took me out for dinner at Peking Buffet in Casselberry.  The buffet was around $10 per person, and they had a huge selection of entrees and sides, as well as several desserts.  Yummy!  

I did not have any frogs legs!

After dinner, we went to Big Lots to pick up a pot and pan for her son, and then stopped in to see my daughter's family for a little bit.

We finally made it to her son's apartment and met his roommates.  I really enjoyed our time with them.  They are all really nice guys and I know they'll go far in life and make this world a better place with their talents.  After a late night run with the boys to Walmart for more apartment supplies, Jean and I finally made it bed just after 1 AM, tired but very happy.  We got a whole lot of chatting done in the car!

I am thankful for my weekend, even if it didn't always go as I planned.  My hand is still pretty swollen and sore, and I've still got a ton to do before school starts (can we spell o-v-e-r-w-h-e-l-m-e-d?) but my week is already off to a bang with a really good planning meeting for our home school co-op moms this morning.  I can't wait to get back into the classroom next Monday!  

I also took one of my sons to the eye doctor this afternoon.  Coincidentally, the optometry referral I got from his doctor was for the same place (Optical Outlets) where I bought my glasses last year.  When we went in, I asked them if they would please still cover my glasses under the expired warranty.  The manager said he would be glad to do that, so I just had to pay the deductible on the warranty.  I'm really thankful for that.  I have progressive lenses, which I absolutely love, but they can be really expensive to replace, especially with anti-glare and everything that I need to see well.  I am grateful for the gift of sight, and so thankful for eyeglasses.  Yet I realize for every blessing I have, there are some people who have to go without.  I asked the manager, Johnathan, if there is an eye care charity he recommends.  He enthusiastically told me that he has been working with the Lion's Club Project Right to Sight program that gives eye exams and glasses to the homeless here in Orlando.  He has seen lives transformed and made productive with the gift of good eyesight.  If you have eye glasses you aren't using anymore, Optical Outlets has donation bins in every store so that the frames can be fitted with new lenses for someone in need. So that's my entry for the Worthy Cause series this time!

(Another worthy cause is donating clothing and household goods to refugee immigrants, migrant workers, or recently arrived international students.  You can find charitable organizations who offer these services in your area on Google.)

Philippians 4:11b-12a
Sunday School project

I am trying to learn to be thankful and content "in every situation" like in this verse my daughter worked on in Sunday school yesterday. I can't control everything, but I can try to make the best of it.

What are you thankful for this weekend?

Leave a comment!

Virginia Knowles

This post will be linked at the following blogs:

Food on Fridays on August 10 


 P52 Photo Project Week #32 on August 11, theme "Summer Favorites"

P52 with Kent Weakley

Raising Homemakers on August 8


Simple Design's Share Your Thrift Haul on August 13

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