Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Colonoscopy Replay!

Today I had my colonoscopy. It was all sorts of blissful, except for the anesthesiologist who quite possibly wanted to give me a bit too much of the meds after he was done with me (Me: "So I'm going to be asleep right?" Him: "Well, it's variable - it depends on how much you can take. We monitor you throughout the procedure." Me: "Oh, well, I'm really big, you can give me tons!" Him (starting to get annoyed): "It really doesn't go by size, it's more age and health." Me: "Oh, well, I'm young and strong! (flexing my arms) So - I won't feel anything, right?" Him (now visibly annoyed): "We'll see about that." Me: "What do you mean?" Him (having the gall to roll his eyes in front of me!): "I told you, it's variable - I will make it as comfortable as possible for you. And you know, people in SOME countries get no anesthetic for colonoscopies!" Me: ..... Silence.) This is when my GI walked in and I promptly told her the anesthesiologist hated me and she replied he was like that with everyone and I signed some waiver, laid on my side for ample butt access, and then I woke up with Matt snickering beside me. Then we went for delicious gyros at our favorite diner. Like I said, the whole thing was pretty blissful.

The upshot:

I do not have colonic Crohn's! Meaning, the disease has not spread, and is still isolated in my small intestine. Yay! This was excellent news. She couldn't peak into my small intestine because it was, of course, way inflamed / full of scar tissue. But bonus!: I also got some really nice photos of my rectum and colon that I can shove in Matt's face when he annoys me.

The double upshot:

We still do not know next steps. I am very weary of another CT Scan. This will be my sixth or seventh CT Scan (see, I lost count!) since November. Under some sort of sonic ultra-violet light, I'm sure my abdomen is glowing from all this radiation. But, I suppose I have no choice. We have to see about that dang abscess. If the abscess is still there, I am most definitely a surgical case. If not, well, then it gets tricky.

Before I went under, I told my GI that I was starting to really lean toward surgery (of course, this was after the sweet, sweet nothings the laproscopic surgeon told me, and another GI backed up). I said I read that only 30% of Crohn's patients who have surgery have to have another surgery. "Look at those odds!" I said, very proud of all the research I have been doing. She tilted her head and looked down at me (I was laying on the stretcher at this point, and the evil anesthesiologist on my other side): "I don't know if I agree with that," she said. "Maybe I'm more biased. Maybe it's because those who do well don't come back to me. But my patients - and my friends who have Crohn's - they've had many surgeries." This shut me up.

When I woke up I took a different route: I told her I'm now leaning toward a biologic med in lieu of surgery. (Being so easily persuaded doesn't work well when making a major health decision.) "The other GI told me that Cimzia 'theoretically' doesn't cross the placenta and is 'theoretically' safe for pregnancy; I think that is the route to go!" Again she did the tilted head thing, breathed out, and said, "I don't know if I agree with that." (Here we go...) "There is just not enough information on these drugs; I don't feel they're safe for pregnancy."

So here's the count:
--I have exhausted the "safer" meds - they just aren't cutting it anymore
(although I am feeling a bit better.....hmmm.....)
--Surgery may be a slippery slope and result in a lifetime of surgeries (or awe-inducing relief! who wants to roll the die?)

--Biologics will make any baby I have, have four heads! (sorry for being so glib)

So, until they develop some faux-uterus/female reproductive system so guys can have babies, I'm stuck. (Please don't email me and say I have no respect or reverence for the beauty of the female miracle of birth. "Blech!" I say to that. And to further my argument: "Baby smaby, birth smirth!")

There is one bit of information that really excites me: there are a few different FDA-approved biologics. If I start taking one, but then stop upon conceiving and hence develop antibodies to it, there are a couple of other drugs I could try post-baby. Just because you throw one drug out, doesn't mean the others are no longer options. Or, to continue the baby theme: don't throw the baby out with the bath water! (Did I use that saying correctly? Who knows.)

And no, I am not baby-obsessed. If you spoke to me six months ago, I would of said (and I quote): "Baby smaby! We'll get around to that in our thirties!" Back then, it was all about going back to school to get my MBA (remember how getting a B in statistics was the biggest challenge in my life?), getting ahead at work, and taking silly photos of my dog. Now only one of those things remain (ask Penny). An illness makes everything more urgent; I don't know what the future holds, so I figure the best I can do is get healthy, and take full advantage of my time in remission. It's funny what circumstances can do.

P.S: Don't you just love that above illustration?!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Crohn's Resource Library

Special thanks to Bright Side, a fellow Crohn's blogger, who pointed out that the website Everyday Health has a virtual library of Crohn's resources, detailing treatment methods, the emotional side of Crohn's, quality of life, and alternative therapies. Now I have some "light" reading to do after I relax from my colonoscopy tomorrow!

Crohn's Webcasts at Everyday Health

Main Crohn's Library at Everyday Health

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hot Areas of Crohn's Treatment Research

Of course, lately I've been ravenous for Crohn's info and middle-of-the-night Googling of my docs is not unheard of. Here's a comprehensive interview about Crohn's with that "second opinion" GI I saw this week, Dr. James Lewis, who is a colleague of my primary care GI at the University of Pennsylvania. You can listen or read the the transcript. He discusses anti-TNF drugs (aka biologics) that I am considering, along with surgery. He also talks about the new argument to begin treatment with the most aggressive meds (biologics) upon diagnosis, instead of the traditional "step-up" method (which is how I am being treated).

Thank you for taking an interest in my disease and treatment options. I sometimes feel very alone in all of this, and these past six months have been the most trying of my otherwise very fortunate life. It feels wonderful and reassuring knowing my friends and family are reading and backing me up!

Hot Areas of Crohn's Treatment Research, via Everyday Health

Crohn's Update

On Tuesday afternoon I went to downtown Philly to meet with my second-opinion GI. For the sake of brevity, this is the upshot:

He, unlike some of the other docs, is not convinced my pain isn't related to the abscess that got me hospitalized in the fall. My last CT scan was done in January, and at the time the abscess was a tiny little mass that had almost resolved itself...but not quite. He is glad I'm getting a colonoscopy next week; this will determine if my disease is still just in the terminal ileum (small intestine just before it connects to the colon), or if it has spread (which may explain some of my recent "constipation-like" symptoms). He said he hates to radiate me again, but he thinks I need one last CT scan, too, to determine the state of the abscess. At this point, I feel if Crohn's isn't my downfall, cancer surely will be, as this is at least my sixth CT scan! On a more immediate note, I'm not keen on drinking even more barium for the CT scan. It would not be hyperbolic to say I've chugged gallons of the stuff in the last six months.

Here is his assessment, based on the colonoscopy and ct scan (both I will be getting in the next week or so):

1) If the disease has not spread and is still just in the terminal ileum, and the abscess has not resolved itself, he thinks I should have surgery.
2) If the disease has spread to the colon, surgery isn't as clear an answer because of the amount of bowel that would have to be removed. He would suggest an immuno-suppressor drug first, even though I would like to get pregnant at some point. He recommended one that "theoretically" doesn't cross the placenta (I just love the theoretically part).

Then there are other scenarios (like if the abscess is gone, but the disease has not spread), and frankly, without looking at his notes, I sort of forget. The upshot is there is no upshot. Everything is still up in the air.

All I know is that it's 2 am and I'm awake because I'm in discomfort. I'm trying to relax, as I know a stressed body isn't a healing body. But it's not easy when your body jerks you back to reality in the middle of the night.

Animals Who Hate Baths (or, Why Cats Scare Me)

For more freaky photos, visit here.

Images courtesy of Best Week Ever.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Californian Tent Cities

There is nothing my silly, and pithy, commentary can add to this.

Go to slide show

Published: March 26, 2009, NYT
Reminiscent of the Great Depression, encampments of homeless people are growing in such cities as Fresno, Calif.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vampire Neighbors

Matt and I live in a quintessentially suburban neighborhood - a older development plotted and built in 1955 with two-story colonials and split-levels that quietly mimic one another. Our immediate neighbors are original owners, but most the neighborhood has middle-aged couples or couples with young children. Every other family has a dog, and I've counted no less than six black labs on the two streets that comprise our immediate vicinity (because I am very doggie-astute, I can tell that our black lab, Penny, has a crush on Bear, an older and more grizzly lab, although the affections are not returned for he is enamored with Abby, a Spring Spaniel down the way. It is no surprise then that Penny and Abby do not get along.)

Although Matt and I are probably the youngest in the neighborhood, there is another couple who have the corner lot perpendicular to ours, and, for the lack of a better phrase, I am in love with them (Matt would err on "obsessed"). We heard about them before we ever saw them. "Your dog looks exactly like that dog Bella on the corner!" or "From the distance I thought you were that other young couple on the corner! And your dogs - they look exactly alike!" Now, this excited me in a two distinct ways: 1) They are close and young, and in turn (and in my mind) viable friend material to cure my Netflix Fridays, and 2) they obviously have superior taste since they have a dog identical to Penny (and now Penny has a friend, too). See, perfect, right? So I set off to meet this young couple.

Well...it's been two years and I've really made big strides. I mean, I've spoken to them twice and waved from my car once, and for extra kudo points, they sported an Obama sign during the campaign. Swoon, I did.
You see, they're never out. Furthermore, their lights are never on. You know how I'm really astute when it comes to dogs (well, just go with it), well, I feel I am the same way with people too. So, the other day, as Matt and I walked Penny past their shade-drawn house, I told him my very scientific hypothesis: "They are obviously vampires."

They shun the sun! And they were awfully pale when I met them those two times. I don't really know too much else about vampires. I did read an Anne Rice book once (mass paperbacks never really agreed with me, though), and I did see the movie adaptation of "Interview with the Vampire", too. And just last week I put "Twilight" on my Netflix queue to further my vampire knowledge. So, obviously, I feel I am coming at this with certain expertise.

Maybe it's better that they stick to their vampire ways. She is an assistant law professor and previously clerked for some big names in D.C. (read: SMART, as in too smart) and he is some software engineer (this got my blood pumping until I - don't be too scared here - Googled him, forwarded his bio and company profile to Matt with "So you guys have a lot in common, right?" not really knowing anything about computers, of course, and was supremely let down when he responded with, "Not really; I don't really understand what he does." WHAT?! I wrote back how could that be, he's a computer nerd, you're a computer nerd, our dogs can be sisters, and THAT, my friend, IS THAT! Matt really didn't see if that way.

And thus ended my very rehearsed attempts to "casually" meet them in the street. So now, I just slow down the car as I drive by, longingly looking up at their darkened windows.

Note: The pictured house is obviously not theirs. It's not the graveyard in the front that should tip you off, but the light in the upstairs window. I told you; they never have their lights on!

A Buff Crohnsy

Gettin' misty listening to a football player....oye.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Buddy, I've got a sob story to tell you!

Today I broke down at work. I know this is corporate no-no 101, but I am just so exhausted. Thank god it wasn't in front of my boss (which I have done before, sadly enough - now that I think about it TWICE, in my five short professional years - please, give me an award!).

I am emotional. I cannot deny it. Any thoughtful, high-level disagreement I have is ruined by emotion. Maybe it's all the bad news about the economy I'm reading, but, when I was looking at my riddled-with-appointments Outlook calendar, I broke down. The last thing I would want, is for my manager - and my team - to think my work is compromised because of my disease. How can they not notice six appointments / PTO requests in three weeks?

The thing is, they are nothing but understanding - sublimely gracious and thoughtful - but who wants to be the girl who's out all the time? At least I don't look sick - I am strong and confident at work (well, except when I'm crying, of course).

Being realistic, my job is (currently) safe, as is Matt's, but who wouldn't get paranoid with these sensationalist headlines? So, with the current sleeplessness and pain, I've become a ball of stress. I keep pestering Matt about his company's pipeline (he's a consultant) and I've told Penny she can have no more Pupperoni's (her favorite, second only to Snausages) because "Mommy and Daddy cannot afford it". What have I become?!

Matt is his quiet, stoic self. At least I like to think he's stoic when he's standing there, looking off into the distance, silent. He may just be zoning out when I start complaining about the economy or how expensive pistachios are - who knows.

So I cried at my desk. It was a good, five minute ditty, and then I was done. I dried my eyes with paper napkins in my drawer, fixed my mascara (my mother says I wear too much mascara and have raccoon eyes - whatever) and went back to work. And you know what? It felt good. And that was that.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Crohnsy Update at 5 am

I asked my new surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania what he sincerely recommended for me if, I, say, where his sister. After going through my medical records (which I beautifully collated into three Xeroxed bunches with cover pages: "CT Scan History", "Colonscopy and Small Bowel Series History" and "GI / Surgeon Dictated Letters" - I am the perfect patient!) he said he would go on Remicade. "We want a child in the next couple years" I counter. He breathes out, looks at us, and says, "That really puts a wrench in things, doesn't it?" Well, duh, yes.

And that was yesterday. Two doc appoints down, three to go in the next two weeks. I met with this new surgeon because he does bowel reconstruction surgery laproscopically (though there still is about a 4" incision but not nearly as ghastly as the vertical cut of an open surgery).

On Tuesday I met with my GI. I'm having some new symptoms (constipation-like symptoms) which is, to say the least, very odd for a Crohn's patient. Pushing to have a bowel movement is something very foreign to me. "We have to see what's going on in there," she said. "I can fit you in for a colonscopy in two weeks." "Great!" I say, and I mean it. Who says great when they have to get a colonscopy? In truth, I don't really mind colonscopies. I mean, the day before is a real bitch, but the procedure itself is sleepy bliss. (Heck, after weeks marred with countless bouts of insomnia some sleep sounds lovely!)

She's worried I'm not feeling better. "I'm worried about a blockage. I don't like that you're having trouble having a bowel movement." I don't like it either; I all of the sudden understand all those Metamucil and FiberOne commercials.

I also learned I gained 15 pounds in my insomniatic, immobile state. I mean, I know my muffin Sundays didn't help, but COME ON! GIVE ME A BREAK HERE! I swear I am the only person with Crohn's Disease alive who gains weight. I silently curse at God: if he's going to give me Crohn's, can't he lighten up on the other stuff? So now I have to be fat AND have a chronic disease? I think back to all my sleepless nights when I was so hungry I had to eat an extra meal at 4 am. I know I'm half to blame, as I firmly believe there is nothing better than tortilla chips and salsa. But, conversely, I can't have copious amounts of fruits and veggies: my body can't process them well, so yummy carbs have become a dietary staple.

And my gym membership has been "frozen" since the fall. I went back for a very short stint in February, but even after the low-impact elliptical, my abdomen radiated achenes, screaming at me to stop. Even taking Penny down to the trail for a 3-mile walk hurts (I know this because that was exactly what I did after I was told I gained all this weight). I told myself I'd walk it off; easier said than done. (Walking on the trail was delightful, though. It was the first nice Springy day we've had; a crisp 62 degrees and sunny. Penny was exuberant as she pulled on her leash to go further and I listened to Hem as I happily obliged.)

Next week I'm meeting with another GI for a second opinion, and the week following I have my colonscopy and a meeting with my current surgeon, whom I implicitly trust but who doesn't practice laproscopic surgery. I feel awfully stuck; I am having pain, but for the past week or so it hasn't been curled-up-in-bed, "oh kill me now" pain. My GI said on Tuesday maybe I am not a surgical case yet (again, unlike many other ailments, with Crohn's you want to avoid surgery as much as possible). But then we're back where we've started; I have pretty much exhausted all the other meds except for the real big "bad for baby" guns. Suddenly I wished Matt and I got pregnant years ago and had a shot-gun wedding (I know, I know, totally white trash but it would solve a lot of our problems right now).

So my GI did the only thing we could at the moment: she upped my Pentasa dosage. We both don't think it's going to do too much, but who the heck knows. (New total current daily pill count: 12!).

I never thought that my first year married would be like this. (Not that I thought it would be bodice-ripping passion or anything - and what is a bodice really anyway?) I just never thought I would eat Crohn's, sleep Crohn's, breathe Crohn's, think Crohn's, all day long. It's been a long and slow realization that this is chronic. I will have this forever, and I have to suck it up and deal.

"This must be very stressful for you and your husband," my GI said as I layed on the examination table and she pressed on my abdomen. "Yes," I said. "It definitely is."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

AIG did WHAT?!

Whenever I can't sleep - which is often these days - I read. It's often cathartic and soothing (I mostly stick to the softer news stories). That is simply not the case today. Check this out:

Published: March 15, 2009, NYT

Lead paragraph:
The American International Group, which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, plans to pay about $165 million in bonuses by Sunday to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.
The bonuses will be paid to executives at A.I.G.’s financial products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed in many cases by subprime mortgages.

The senior government official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the administration was outraged. “It is unacceptable for Wall Street firms receiving government assistance to hand out million-dollar bonuses, while hard-working Americans bear the burden of this economic crisis,” the official said.
So the article goes on to say, that, essentially, the Obama administration was pissed, Geithner was all, "You can't do that you arrogant SOBs!" and AIG responded, "Dude, we are going to do it because we're contractually obligated, and we want to keep and retain top talent and you can't stop us" (bullshit) and then millions of Americans were all, "Well, these 'top talent' folks were the ones who brought AIG to its knees and then got rewarded with a bailout to the tune of $170 BILLION and now you wankers are getting six-figure bonuses! AS IF!" Well, it goes something like that.

But in all seriousness, why aren't we taking to the streets and demanding reform? I'm as much to blame as the rest of us; here I am, sitting with my little computer comfortably in bed, and blogging about it. Some good that is doing. Maybe now I'll log onto Nationwide to look at my 401(k)...and weep. Seems to be the theme this morning.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Get yo' appetizer on!

My work is having a cook-off. These cook-offs (or bake-offs) have become an HR traditional that I have happily arranged because I love the pseudo-work associated with them. Why do real, honest-to-god work when I can make a bake-off flyer with corny clip-art? In the past we had the "potato challenge" (I made a far-too-fatty baked potato soup - loads of bacon and cheese and cream, and oh god was it heaven). I got first place. (Nevermind there were only two participants.) Then there was the "berry challenge" this past summer, where participants could make anything, but a type of berry had to be an integral part of the dish. I made a fantastic strawberry peach pie. Apparently, no one else saw its fabulousness and I didn't even rank in the top three (out of about 15). In the fall, I concocted a new challenge - the apple and pumpkin face-off, where, you guessed it, apples or pumpkins took center stage. I made my caramel apple pie and I won first place (out of 20). (There was a lot of uproar about this since I organize the event and count the votes, but I swear, I am nothing but honest, and anyway, my colleague Mary audited me as I counted the incoming votes. Oh, and my pie was freakin' terrific.)

Which brings us to now. In two weeks we will have the appetizer challenge in celebration of March madness. The problem is: I don't have any appetizer recipes! There are also a lot of constraints. It's all very Top Chef-esque: you have to work with what you've got, and here, at work, we only have a toaster oven, a myriad of microwaves and some refrigerators. So, I either have to make something cold or haul the crock pot out (or something).

I am asking you, dear readers, to help me out as I'm in a quandary here. Do you have any stellar appetizer recipes that can pounce the competition? I particularly want to beat our receptionist, Hannah, who eggs me on every day and says she's going to sabotage my entry by sprinkling cayenne pepper over it (I'm not sure if she's joking). Don't kid yourself - it's a tough competition.

If you have any good recipes, I invite you to post them for everyone to see. (Disclaimer: I cannot guarantee I will not shamelessly steal them and call them my own.)
Photo courtesy of "Cooking Mama: Cook-Off" game for Nintendo Wii.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Black Bean Salsa Dogs

Goes down nicely with a nice Chilean shiraz.

Alex: A disgusting treat particularly enjoyed by lovable computer programmers. Me: What is a black bean salsa dog, Alex?!

Matt has very fine taste. So exquisite ,so high brow, in fact, that he is the sole aficionado of....drum roll please.....BLACK BEAN SALSA DOGS. Matthew makes a hot dog, and instead of topping it with, say, something the hoi polloi would (you know, like mustard) he tops them with beans. He swears this is absolutely delicious and nutritious (they are turkey dogs and low cal buns). You may think this is something he concocted out of sheer desperation - like we were out of all pantry staples except for beans and hot dogs - but no, he loves them. The following is a typical instant message conversation at work (this can be any given day):

Me: What do you want for dinner?
Matt: black bean salsa dogs!!!

Me: No, really...what do you want?

Matt: black bean salsa dogs!!
Me: I'M SERIOUS. What do you want, for real?!
Matt: I told you! BLACK BEAN SALSA DOGS!!!!!!!

Please enjoy these photos of Matt eating a bean dog IN THE ACT! This is a particularly sorry sight, as he was out of 1) black beans, and 2) salsa. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dog of the Week: Stains!

I only go on YouTube for a few reasons, but namely, it's to watch my dog-idol Stains, who is being hypnotized by the deliciousness of those vanilla cupcakes on "It's Me Or The Dog" on Animal Planet. Don't look into his eyes!

Throw the dog a bone! (Or a cupcake, for goodness sakes!)

What a pain in the gut!

(Bingo! That's where the pain is!)

Well, Entocort totally blew it. I think we all suspected this was going to happen, though. The pain has worsened, and I fear surgery is now inevitable and soon. For the last couple days the pain has been to the point where I just have to focus on breathing to get through it, and anything to get my mind off it (which is really impossible, but my "cheap" list helped). It's the worst at night.

About a month ago my GI gave me a script for Percocet and I lost it (smart move). I'm on something else for pain but it's no longer getting the job done. I miss the Dilaudid! I hate to say this, but I think I have the (smallest) glimpse into why people develop narcotic addictions. When I was in the hospital and they shot that through my IV, it was in complete and utter bliss. A warm wave of soothing relief; I just closed my eyes and bathed in that. Next week I see my GI again, and the following Tuesday I have an appointment with another GI for a second opinion. And I can't stop thinking about work. A team member is going on maternity leave next month, and so they will already be short-staffed. When I mentioned surgery is a possibility, I said, "Oh, yeah, two weeks, three at most" but now I'm reading about it more and I think I was a bit too cavalier. This is major surgery! I'll be having almost a foot of my small intestine cut out! That gives me the willies.

Matt and Penny have been very supportive. Although they hate spending their evenings in the bedroom, they keep me company as I lay in bed (well, Penny whines occasionally....and now that I think about it, Matt does too), although right now they're both sleeping peacefully.

I hope you have a good night, too.

"In a Charmed Life, a Road Less Traveled" - NYT

My mom sent me this essay from the NYT and I thought it was probably one of the most simple and beautiful things I've ever read about marriage. Let me forewarn you: this is NSFW (not safe for work) - not because of any objectionable content, but because you may cry. On another note, I hope everyone who reads my blog (all 10 of you! and thank you!) knows that although I poke fun at Matthew, it is only with deep love that I do so. I am incredibly humbled that he chose to spend his life with me.


In a Charmed Life, a Road Less Traveled

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

Okay, here we go. This is a list of obtusely obvious (very obvious, as in "duh"-inducing) dough-saving tactics Matt and I have employed. I'm looking to go five steps further. Please let me know of anything you can think of! I'm talking full on, money saving tips (like even making our own detergent!).

No cable (but oh, how I miss Bravo, I mean, no Top Chef, no Project Runway…what’s a girl to do?!)
No landlines (I was even going to ask my work for a Blackberry, but then I rethought it since they’ll be getting more cheap labor out of me, and I’m all about dodging additional work.)
Always generic – or cheapest available (Nutty Nuggets in lieu of GrapeNuts, anyone?)
Limit restaurants/bars (This is easy because we don’t have much of a life, but we only go out to a restaurant once a week at most, and unfortunately, Matt now considers Panera Bread fine dining.)
Stay at home more – board games / internet / reading (We just made a very smart investment in Scattergories – no game library is complete without it, I dare say!)
Books – library / used books on Amazon (Why buy new? Even with the $3.99 shipping on the used books on Amazon, books often run below $2!)
Drugstore and generic beauty projects (Don’t even get me started on that zany La Mer cream.)
Target (NO Wal-mart) (I am a huge advocate of Target. When I go to career fairs to promote my own company, I often salivate when I spot the Target table. They’re always SO HAPPY as they joke and jostle one another in their bright happy red sweaters. But I digress…I buy 2/3 of everything at Target. Home stuff, clothes, personal hygiene products. One word of advice, though: avoid the cardigans. They always lose their buttons.)
Limit take-out to no more than 1 x / week (We only do take-out if we haven’t actually had dinner out that week. I should add that, in addition to Panera Bread, Matt also fancies Panda Pavilion down the street. He is a man of fine taste...and after my own heart.)
Take lunch to work 4 out of 5 days (YUM! A ham sandwich…..again.)
Cheap, fuel-efficient cars (Don’t approach me if you own a luxury car or a SUV. Yes, I’m exceedingly judgmental. Do you have somethin’ to say ‘bout it?)
Wait for movies to come on Netflix (Okay: Matt and I don’t go to the movies too frequently. It’s always full of 14-year-old girls. But, if we do go, we go in the afternoon and….wait for it…..see two. As in sneak into the second. I’ll come clean…we once had a very close call at Ratatouille. (Again, we’re bad asses.) The theater was filling up fast and we were afraid it was sold out, meaning we stole two seats from two paying patrons! But, like good little petty crooks, we sweat it out and ha! If there weren’t only a couple remaining seats in that theater. Yes, we are THAT BAD. And I won’t even go into all the sugary contraband I’ve stuffed in my purse throughout the years.)
Make baked goods for gifts (My parents are almost 60. Hi Mom! What the heck do they want that they didn’t already get for themselves? I mean, they’ve had almost 120 years between them to accumulate all the material desires their brains could concoct. So, since I’m “po” (see last post) and I think they have everything their hearts could desire, I often just bake them something. Usually this works out well, except for last time when my mom said our gourmet cookies were “hard”. Umf!!)
Boxed wine (Like we can even tell good wine from bad wine. Pah-leeze.)
Buy only used video games (I do not condone video games, but Matt is under the impression he has his own free will or something, so often buys them. Thank god the lad only buys used.)
Make soup and freeze it (My god is soup cheap. I wish I followed this more, actually.)
Install CFL lightbulbs (If only the lighting could be more flattering.)
Low temperature at all times - and shiveringly low when we’re not home (I mean, that’s why a dog has a fur coat, am I right?! Poor Penny…)
Almost always use our credit card on purchases to get “cash back”, which tops out at a respectable $600 a year between us (The only downside? Looking at my startlingly huge statement. Which is weird, since I’m cheap and all.)
Moderately-sized home (Please see previous post.)
Ditch red meat (This is easy because I never was a huge advocate of red meat. It rarely agrees with me and again, it’s pricey and I’m cheap. It’s also positively atrocious on the environment. However, that doesn’t mean a girl can’t enjoy the occasional burger and spaghetti and meatballs, right?)
Making own beer (Matt makes and bottles his own gross beer. You know how Guinness is a dark stout? Well, Matt’s beer is an uber, uber stout. It’s the real deal. And a heck of a lot cheaper than the mass-produced stuff.)
Low-key vacations (I’m going to a work conference in Las Vegas in June. Since I am nothing but an opportunist, Matt decided to tag along and we’re flying into Arizona and visiting the Grand Canyon before heading to Vegas. You know, see the awesomeness that nature made before seeing the tackiness that man made.)
Online bill pay (Stamps are gettin’ up there.)
Magazine subscriptions - a few - to avoid the temptation at the checkout line (Not that I subscribe to anything remotely frivolous. No, not me.)
No printer at home (I don’t have a kid doing school projects, so why do I need a printer? We just print the few things we need at work. SHHH…)
Limit dry cleaning (This comes naturally to us since 2/3 of our clothes are from Target, and well, Target clothes do not require fancy smancy dry cleaning.)
Online news sources (I do feel guilty about this one since I’m contributing to the downfall and all of print journalism…and I was a journalism major. But a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do! Why buy a newspaper when it’s free online? And the print won’t smudge on your fingers to boot!)
Mull over all pricey purchases (Matt bought a $130 keyboard that he mulled over for TWO MONTHS.)
My father-in-law cuts Matt’s hair (and who are we kidding? Guy hair is guy hair, it’s all the same.)
Adopted our dog (We saved her life and she was free; can it get any better?!)
Always check for free shipping online (In this economic climate, every retailer is offering it. Google online free shipping or promo coupons before hitting the electronic check-out.)
Cheapo wedding (I will, never ever EVER understand brides who want a “fairy tale” wedding that is fifty or a hundred grand. Your wedding is over in mere hours! I mean….WHY?! Matt and I went totally cheap on our wedding: my dress wasn’t a wedding dress and it was $120 (and totally appropriate for our garden-style intimate soiree), and we really took full advantage of the sweat equity Matt’s parents and aunt graciously provided. (Thank you Hopkins!) And it was beautiful and simple and above all, affordable.)

Now it's your turn! ;-)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Two dumby DINKS

There is only one positive to our current economic crisis: My cheapness is now considered responsibly chic! Call me Recessionista Kathryn.

My cheapness does have a few drawbacks. Matt and I spoke about possibly going to the Camden Aquarium (recently watching Plant Earth's "Deep Sea" episode inspired me to connect with my inner fish) but after I looked at the price ($30 per person) I resigned myself to another lazy Sunday. But then - conversely (and I'll use a "fish" theme here) - we'd throw down that much for sushi at our favorite struggling Asian joint (Jasmine House in Trappe, PA - they know our order when we walk through the door and last time we scored free sake and dessert from our regular patronship!). I'm not a girl without hypocrisy, what can I say?

And I sometimes have absolutely no dignity about my "frugality". When at my parent's home I often rummage through their pantry when my mother is out-of-sight, stashing jars of Thai simmering sauces and cans of corn. My mother always spots me (someone my size isn't the most stealthly) and would admonish my behavior as she grabbed my purse and seized the hot goods. I'd protest and say, "Mom! We are PO'!" (So poor, in fact, I couldn't apparently afford the remaining "-or" in "poor.") Needless to say, she ignored my protests.

Most recently she called Matt and me "DINKS". I think she may of gotten this from my sister, who thinks she's the foremost authority on everything. (Hi Kristen!) So I asked my mother what the heck is a DINK and she said, "You are not poor, Kathryn; quit it! A DINK stands for Dual-Income, No Kids." Well, excuse
Me for not popping out money-grubbin' babies in my early twenties! Because of this, I am chastened and not allowed to steal canned goods from you?!

In reality, Matt and I are not poor, no matter how much I belabor the point to my mom. We both still safely have our jobs (fingers crossed), are paying off our mortgage early, and socking away a healthy sum to our (now pathetically-dwindled) 401(k)s. But that doesn't make me any less worrisome about what could be. My mind often dwells on healthcare - if I had to buy my own healthcare, well, I couldn't. No one would cover me because of my Crohn's, and that makes me positively sick (well, sicker). I won't get on my soapbox but I will say this: It's disgusting that healthcare in this country is a privilege and not a right. Amen.

So I've been thinking a lot about our consumer culture. A friend once saw our home and said it was a great "starter house". Whaaa??? When did a four bedroom, two and a half bath house become a starter house? (No, it's not terribly big - we have one eating space and one family room - no formal dining room and no "den" - and why would we want to decorate, heat, and cool all those extras?) So, I think that comment totally encompasses our consumer culture.

Thinking about it even more, I started jotting down what Matt and I do to save some bucks, and started thinking what we could do to further our thrifty habit. (I dream of the day we no longer have a mortgage - whenever that is!) Tomorrow I'll share some random (and obvious) things we do, and please let me know of anything I may have missed. Share your ideas with two very eager cheapskates!

Now I must go, as I think there is a stinkbug crawling on me.

Friday, March 6, 2009

There he goes, swoonin' again...

Matt has a gigantic man-crush on David Brooks (famed columnist of the NYT and commentator on PBS). While I respect this manly crush, it doesn't come without its own set of concerns (namely, Brooks is a moderate conservative and I feel Matt is quietly tip-toeing to the dark side). Whenever there is a White House address, or during the debates at election time, there Matt is, gazing at Brooks's greying temple and 80's eyeglasses with complete and utter lust. I tried to argue with Matt - I mean, Brooks positively raved about Palin's performance after the Vice Presidential debate - but he was adamant that Brooks was his political god (and, drunken on his adoree's commentary, once even mentioned his "Brooksy" is "kind of cute" - cringe).

But today, I saw something in David Brooks. I thought his column was even-toned and (mostly)fair in this piece on the Obama administration's initiatives, and I wanted to share. (Although my woman crush will always be with Gail Collins, a fellow NYT columnist, who often warm-heartily trades witty repartee with Brooks in print).

See for yourself:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fishy Delight

I was somehow coerced into guest posting on the blog for Kathryn. Continuing with the blog theme, here is a recipe for panko encrusted salmon. I've been making this for a few years, and there's a lot of leniency, so you don't have to follow everything exactly. I can however tell you from personal experience that while substituting the flour with confectioner's sugar may sound like a good idea, in practice Swedish Fish should remain the only sugared sea life.

Panko-Encrusted Salmon Delight
  • 2 Salmon Filets
  • 1/4 c Flour
  • 1/3 c Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 T Melted Butter
  • Oregano (or your favorite mix of spices)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 c Milk
Preheat oven to 350. Set up two plates on the counter. In the first plate, place the milk. In the second plate, place the flour and mix in some oregano (or other spices). Saturate filets with milk, then coat with the flour mixture. Beat an egg into the plate with the milk, then transfer the filets back to the plate with the milk, and flip them to cover both sides. Mix the panko bread crumbs into the plate with the flour. Move the filets to the plate with the flour and bread crumbs, and flip them a few times until both sides are covered. Next, place the filets into an oven safe dish and drip the melted butter over top, trying to cover as much of the top of the fish as possible. Transfer the dish into the oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until fish flakes. Eat.