Sunday, December 23, 2018

Thirteen years already - liver transplant

There are times in our lives when we know life is going to change but it isn't until looking back you realize just how much.  13 years ago my life changed and a lot of lives changed.

My husband at the time, Tom, was just given a life saving liver transplant - on this day, Dec 23, 2005. My sister was in Daytona Beach, Florida and my mother was coming into town on Christmas Day to spend the holidays with us.  Tom had a car in our driveway that was supposed to be picked up by a car transport service and dropped off to a guy that bought it from Tom. 

Tom with his favorite Post Transplant Coordinator

Nothing in that crazy Christmas time of 2005 worked out as planned.  My mother and sister stayed in a hotel in Jacksonville instead of at my home in Daytona Beach and Tom's parents flew down the day or two after Christmas, to be with their son after transplant.  

 The guy who paid for the car and didn't receive it when he wanted,  was sure we were Craigslist scammers.  I mean who receives the call for a liver transplant the exact time as he's supposed to be preparing a car to be delivered?? He did finally get the car but it was a few weeks later. 

Oh and did I mention that we closed on a condo in Jacksonville while Tom was in the hospital?  Yep, Dec 28th.  The folks came up to his hospital room and had him sign everything.   

Since we couldn't move into the new place immediately, we had to rent a furnished condo for a month in Jax while Tom recuperated and had appointments at the Mayo Clinic nearly every day. 

At this point in the story we are only to day 5 post transplant.  


Tom really came through transplant and recuperation remarkably well.  He had several complications through the year - an emergency surgery 6 weeks post transplant, unexpected,  debilitating pain about six months later and other assorted things, but now I see it is not out of the ordinary. I said then and say now, that it was the hardest year of my life. I was beat emotionally and physically.   We had it easier than some and harder then others. It's a journey for sure. 
Tom and Stamer at a potluck dinner.

Tom received a life saving transplant and in so many ways, so did I.   We moved to Jacksonville,  purchased some rental properties,  fixed them up, I started going to the Liver, Kidney, Pancreas Support Group and made a lot of friends. I learned so much more about transplant, recovery, patience,  love etc., and found a real calling with those support group folks.  I rented my condos to transplant patients,  got to know most of them very well and went along for several years just being a part of the group. 

A dinner with friends - I'm standing next to Steve, who wasn't yet my husband!  I hadn't even thought of it yet. Tom is in the blue shirt, back row. 

One day (or a month or year) I decided that I had a voice and wanted to change up some things, get more people to move to Jacksonville,  have lunches be an every week activity after group, make potluck once monthly ever month, and more.  I realized this group was 100% where I belonged and damn it felt good!

A typical scene - us sitting chatting and having a meal.

At some point, (not in order) I managed to get several families to move to Jacksonville, became one of the leaders in our group, divorced my husband, moved into one of my rentals, was the caregiver to a friend (Steve) who was in need of a kidney transplant,  traveled all along the East Coast staying with friends and transplant recipients,  blogged for many years and became a pretty decent photographer along the way.  Then I married Steve and the love bubble was formed. 

If Tom hadn't needed a liver transplant and received it at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville I would not have the life I have now.  I am so very grateful to the donor family that said yes to donating their son's organs.  In their grief they saw life in others.  Tom is a pretty healthy, active, man in his post transplant years.  He thinks I am a pretty awesome wife and that Steve is VERY lucky!   I believe I'm the lucky one to have helped two people through transplant as their caregiver and to have found my best life with the transplant family.

Happy Liverversary, Tom

Merry Christmas everyone

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Getting a flu shot

I have never had the flu, or if I have I didn't know it.  I've been told though that I would know if I had had the flu.  I've had colds, bronchitis, allergies, hay fever, you name it, but not influenza.

In the past I've heard that the flu shot only protects from the very specific strain that the vaccine was made for.  The chances of getting that specific flu was rare.  So why in the heck would I going to get a flu shot?  I don't like shots.  I doubt anyone does, but that's my first reaction.

I'm a Type 1 Diabetic.  Do you know what that means?  That means I give myself 5 or more shots a day.  I don't think avoiding shots can be an excuse for me anymore.  Also diabetics, both Type 1 and 2 are naturally more immune deficient.  This means that a cold or flu can more easily take root in our systems because we aren't as able to fight them off as the regular folk.

Did you know that last year (2017) over 80,000 died from the flu?  and that was just in the United States!  That is an outrageous number and if you were to think of that being your community or town, that's everyone you know or have met...

I've done a little research.

Each year the flu vaccine is made to help protect against 3 or 4 different strains.  If you do happen to get the flu, the vaccine, even if it isn't the exact kind that was in your vaccine, it will help you not have the flu as bad and can protect you from a more severe reaction. 

Did you also know that it takes about 2 weeks for your body to develop the antibodies to fight the virus? So get that flu shot before anyone around you gets the flu.  Don't wait.  Flu season is from the end of October through May.

You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.  The shot is not a live virus, so all that's doing is getting your antibodies fired up to fight the flu if it happens to come near you.  The vaccine that is a nasal spray is a live virus but it is too weak to actually cause the flu, once again, it's just enough to get those antibodies started. 

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to share diseases.  All that hugging and kissing and sharing the tasting spoon.  Families who haven't seen each other in ages come together under one roof and share their germs.  I know, it sounds awful, but it's true.  Wash your hands a lot when you are with family.  That can really help keep those germs from spreading.

I have been reading more and more about the herd immunization and how important it is for the majority of us in a society to have the immunizations or vaccines to keep the others that can't have those shots from getting sick.  A lot of my friends are immune suppressed because they are transplant recipients or are in need of a transplant.  If they are unable to get a flu shot, for whatever reason, I don't want to be the one to pass it along to them, that's for sure. 

Dr. Alan Taege, an infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic gives a nice succinct reason why those of us who can should get the flu vaccine.
“The more people who get the vaccine, the more chance that we can avoid an epidemic,” Taege said. “It’s called ‘herd immunity’ —- the more vaccinated means less chance for widespread influenza.” 
Flu Shot Facts...source

I was fortunate enough that my medical insurance paid for my flu shot. You know it's kind of strange to go into a Walgreens and be behind a little room divider screen and sit in the chair and have a Pharmacist give me a shot and then walk away past the people picking up their prescriptions.  You know I'm used to those types of things being held in a real doctor's office. But hey it's a lot easier running in there than it is to make an appointment at a doctor's office and wait to get call back and all of that.

Yep, I got my flu shot on Wednesday.  My arm is still a little sore and I got a headache.   That's about it folks.  In this case I'm part of the herd. 


Have a great day!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Christmas at KNS Gear and KNS Transplant Gear

It's always Christmas at KNS Gear and KNS Transplant Gear, because we work on it all year.   I know, I know!  It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but we sell through Zazzle and they are having so many deep discounts that I feel like we need to get the word out that we have Christmas items available.  Today Zazzle had 60% of bunch of categories and if you sign up for Zazzle black you only have to pay shipping once and then get free shipping for the next 365 days.  That's such a great deal. 

SO!  I am excited to present to you a scant few of the awesome products that we have in our KNS Christmas Store

We have a lot of watercolor designs, but this is by far one of my favorites.  The car with the Christmas Tree on top is such a fun design.  It's pretty popular, too.  I get a kick out of this design because the tree already has some decorations on it.  I can imagine it being taken to a friends house or someplace in public to brighten up a dark corner. 

Steve's awesome design of the black kitty with a sour look on his face is just a hoot.  The Santa hat is the kicker.  You know that hat didn't last long on that cat.  We have this mug with a green background, red background and plain white.  You can also choose a mug with an interior color as well.  So many options!

Naughty but Nice is a common phrase, but this graphic has a few iconic elements included.  Christmas lights, Santa hats, mittens and the traditional red and green.  I like the mug with the red interior and handle, too.

We have a lot of Christmas Cards both Christmas Themed and Secular.  They all can be customized to include any sentiment that you'd like and of course your name can be printed on it as well. 

front and inside views

We have printed the inside of many of our cards specifically to make them very different from the usual cards.  Still with lots of room to write or have a custom message printed.  

If you like to add a sticker to the back of your envelope, we have those too.  This specific one has one of my favorite sayings - Snowflakes are unassembled snowmen falling from the sky.  This particular sticker has a watercolor background that sort of looks like Jack Frost has stopped by. 

Shirts, long and short sleeved, hoodies, leggings, hats and about any other kind of apparel is available on Zazzle.  We have a nice selection of Christmas shirts and leggings, but always feel free to see what is also available - there are so many deigns out there! 

Yoga pants, leggings, not pants but comfortable coverings for your legs - whatever you want to call them, these leggings are a lot of fun to design.  We have these with snowflakes, some with clouds and sky and even transplant designs.   Go ahead, take a look!

The very end of Guardians of the Galaxy Peter says something like, what do you want to do next?  A little good, a little bad, a little of both?  That's kind of what this shirt is all about.  A little good, a little bad?  Definitely a little of both! 

Steve had been working on increasing our holiday pillow section.  They are so easy to display, buy, ship, give as a gift and store until next year. Here are a few of our newest designs.  

Feliz Navidad pillow 

This pillow, with Santa holding a sign, can be customized to say anything you'd like!  It can be your name, some sarcastic remark or keep it as is.  It's up to you.  

Santa's sign throw pillow - Reindeer

I haven't purchased these bathtowels yet, so I honestly don't know how they look, feel, dry, etc., but they are adorable!  You also don't have to buy the whole set - you can get just hand towels or wash cloths or bath towels.  I may have to get the hand towels.  

Snowflake bath towel set

I like this set.  I thought the candy stripe was quite festive with the large floral design on the bath towel.  It brings festive into the bathroom without having everything be matchy matchy. 

The Kissing Clauses, my photo of the pair that I found a few years ago.  I love the Santa and Mrs. Clause pair, so much so that we have this photograph on about everything Christmasy that we could think of!  Here they are in a lovely little heart shaped ornament. 

My life revolves around organ donation and transplant, so it only makes sense that I HAD to have one Donate Life reference in this list.  The retro sign design is a Steve original and I couldn't be happier in how wonderful it turned out.  The silver snowflake ornament is one of the most popular sellers.  


Most of the items sold on Zazzle can be customized with your own photo, but here's one we made that has a fun string of lights around the outside.  Find a photo you love and see how it looks!
 Christmas Lights ornament 

A great stocking stuffer would be this magnet with one of my original photos of a vintage Santa Clause.  This Santa is a Christmas Tree Stand - I wish I could have purchased it for my own collection, but all I could do was get a photo of it.  
Finally for today is a doormat.  The iconic car with Christmas Tree - customizable with your name or whatever you wish.   You can even change the color of the text or the font.  So much in Zazzle is customizable and you can make it yours.  

If you would like to see almost all that we have created for Christmas, below are the different collections.  You can click on the link and be taken right there.   We have apparel, cards, mugs and decor.  We also have stuff for transplant recipients, caregivers and those that like to spread the word of organ donation.  (But that will be another post!) 

Festive Mugs
Festive Mugs
by Kristin 'n' Steve

Thank you so much for looking at our stores. 
Have a great day!
Kristin (and Steve, too)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Roasted Green Beans with Parmesan and Panko

Roasted green beans with Parmesan and Panko bread crumbs was a new recipe to me, but no more.  (I changed the recipe just a little from what I used in the photo.)  The absolute ease in preparing this delicious smelling and tasting side dish was so noticeable.  I had almost zero dishes to wash and I had everything in my fridge already.  The longest it took was to clean the beans, but having had that job since I was a kid, it hardly seems like a chore. Snap, toss in bin, snap, toss in bin, snap, toss...

The cast of characters.  Green beans, panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt and a sheet pan with sides.  I purchased fresh green beans today and the remaining ingredients were already in the house.

I broke off the stem end of the green beans, no sense breaking off the other as it's just fine to eat that little tail.  I washed them thoroughly and laid them out on the sheet pan with a dishtowel over the top and dried them as best as I could.   Drying the green beans makes sure the beans roast and not steam.  It also helps the oil stick to them.

Here's my Parmesan Cheese, I always keep some handy as it's a versatile ingredient and it keeps such a long time in either the fridge or freezer. I have shredded, ground up (like above) and whole wedges.  A shape for any purpose!

 I recently purchased an Oskar chopper.  I used one when I lived with a boyfriend and when we went our separate ways, in 1994, he gave me Oskar.   When I separated from my husband in 2013 he asked for Oskar and I thought, Sure!  It's from an ex-boyfriend, I might as well have the soon-to-be ex-husband take it.  Maybe it will be good mojo to pass it along.

HOWEVER, I really, really missed him!  Oskar, that is.  I was really regretting giving him away.  When I started having to cook more and more at home I was almost in a panic that I didn't have the versatility of Oskar.  Since giving Oskar away I had used several different kinds of small electric choppers and for me, they didn't work like I wanted them to.  When I met Steve he had a Cuisinart Food Processor, the large one, the awesome one and I really enjoyed using it, but I really missed having a smaller version for smaller tasks.

I went on a mission.  I did a little research and you know what?  Those Sunbeam Oskars are very much sought after.  The Oskar hasn't been made in quite awhile probably because these devils don't die!  Seriously, how many appliances have you had for several decades? There's one on eBay that's over $300.  I certainly wasn't going to pay that price.  Searching wasn't too difficult as there were several online for sale, as well as a bunch of parts available to fix old ones.  When it was all said and done I paid about $60 for the whole shebang including shipping.

 All of this talk about Oskar was just to say - the Parmesan that's in the bowl was chopped in the Oskar.  I didn't do anything but chunk it up and put it in and whirl.  Small little pieces of parm, easy to use, store, refrigerate and freeze.

before roasting
after roasting

Back to the roasted green beans.  I roasted them and then  immediately plated them for us.  I wanted them right off the sheet pan.  No waiting.

The Panko was a little salty and crispy because the Parmesan melted right into it.  The green beans were still a bit crunchy and roasting always brings out such a different flavor than just plain boiling.  Roasted, rustic, nutty flavor with some crunch.

You have to try this.

Come back and let me know what you thought of it.

Roasted Green Beans
with Parmesan and Panko

1 lb fresh green beans, stemmed and washed
1 T olive oil
2 T grated  Parmesan Cheese
2 T Panko bread crumbs
½ t salt
½ t garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400° F

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl; toss to coat. If you need more olive oil, add in just enough.  You don't want the entire dish to be too oily.

Spread green beans on a large baking sheet with sides.

Roast for 15-20 minutes; turn the beans halfway through.

Eat as soon as possible, they cool off quickly but don't worry, they are good cooled off, too.

Have a great day!

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Individual Quiches made in a muffin tin.

It's Potluck Day! 

And I am making Individual Quiches that are made in a muffin tin.

I love our monthly potlucks and this month's theme is Appetizers. Mini foods and smaller portions so that more food can fit on your plate!  This happens to be one of our most anticipated theme months.  Appetizers seem easy or maybe just sound easy and everyone really enjoys all the different foods that show up.  

My quiche is becoming epic - if only in our own home - but it is so good!  I wrote about our quiche making project about 3 years ago.  If you are looking for a full sized deep dish 9" quiche, Click Here to see that post. 

I've made mini quiches before and then made even more and froze them.  Oh my goodness, 2 minutes in the microwave straight from frozen and they are nearly as fabulous as when they are pulled out of the oven.  Those frozen muffin sized quiches have been one of my favorite go to morning breakfasts.  

Now that I am having to eat real whole foods with very little if any additives, it's very nice to have something quick.  It's also pretty awesome that so many others like it as well.  That is why all of the recommended cheeses are white or are white in the photos.  No added colors to help keep me well. 

I have to admit, last month I brought the muffin sized quiche for potluck, but I wasn't feeling well, so I was only able to make 12.  Not too many people were able to try them and those that did loved them.  For this month's potluck I prepped everything the day before, so I just had to mix the liquids and fill the muffin pan.  

Now that I have made the mini quiches a few times I have learned a few tricks.  
1. Fill each of the muffin cups up to the top with ingredients.
2. Pour the liquid in slowly and stop just before overflowing.
3. Make sure you have the muffin pan on a level surface and then fill each muffin up to the very top.
4. If done correctly, a the liquid egg mixture should fill all 12 muffins to the very top. 
If everything is prepared in advance, it should only take about 15 minutes to fill the 12 muffin tins and get it into the oven.  They bake for 35 minutes and you can eat them right away.  

Here are the layers I used for this particular batch.  You can use any combination of items that you'd like.  I just sprinkle the portions into each well.

-chopped spinach and mushrooms on the bottom
-a layer of sharp cheddar cheese
-green onions and bacon
-monterey jack cheese - I put a good amount in there.
-Then mix up the liquid egg and cream and pour that in
-top each of the wells with shredded parmesan cheese
-pour remaining egg mixture to the very top of each well.

As you can see, I don't stuff the quiches with ingredients.  I like there to be a cheese layer between and I want to make sure that the egg mixture can really bind everything together.

I add in dried dill, some garlic powder and onion powder into the eggs.  A pinch or two of salt if you'd like as well.

This is the first pouring of the liquid and the topping of each one with parmesan.

 This is the final pour and I got every drop of the liquid into those muffin tins.

Right out of the oven those quiches are an inch or two above the muffin pan, but even just a few seconds later they have already deflated.  I tried to get a photo of them really tall, but they deflate quickly! 

In this batch of quiches I added more spinach to the top layer, just under the parmesan.  I had extra spinach, so I decided to use it up.  I think it made the quiche look a lot prettier.  

We took 23 quiches to the appetizer potluck tonight.  (We ate one as a tester!) 12 will fit in a 9x13 baking dish and ours has a lid, so I put that lid on right away - an hour later those quiche were still warm.  Now that's potluck GOLD to have warm food.  I have 2 of those 9x13 baking dishes, so I used both to transport the whole shebang.

I have an electric skillet that I could have used to keep these warm, but I didn't want to fuss with trying to plug it in at our venue.  The quiche are good both hot and cold.

We came home with 3.

Quiche - Muffin sized
yield: 12 quiches
350 degrees F
35 minutes

The Filling
- as many of these as you'd like
10 - 20 oz frozen spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed nearly dry
*fresh mushrooms, sliced, sauteed
*sliced green onions
*onion, sliced, sauteed
*sundried tomatoes, chopped and patted dry
*chopped fresh dill (or dried dill)
*minced garlic (or roasted garlic or garlic powder)
*bacon cooked and crumbled

The Liquid Mixture
10 large eggs
2 cups whole milk - (or Half and Half and 2% milk) (or heavy whipping cream and 2%) all of these are good combos.  
salt and pepper, to taste
the dried spices if you chose to go that route. 

The Cheeses
shredded cheese - Use 2 if you'd like  (Cheddar, Gouda, Mozzarella, Swiss, Moneterey Jack)
grated Parmesan cheese or Dubliner

Slice, dice, thaw, squeeze dry, grate and crumble everything that you want to go into the quiches.

Spray your muffin tin with a nonstick cooking spray.
Fill the tins, making sure to leave each layer airy so the liquid egg mixture can seep through everything.

I like to use a hardish cheese (sharp cheddar) near the bottom, put my melty cheese like Mozzarella or Monterrey Jack in the middle and then top with the hardest cheese, Parmesan on the top.

Fill each well with the liquid egg mixture and fill each one to the very top.  I found that my 12 pack of quiches bakes for 35 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  I do not have a convection oven, so I do not know how they they would take in one of those fancy ovens.

Please be sure to read the step by step above with the photos.  It's easier to explain with pictures, but once you've done it once or twice you won't need anything but the numbers for the liquid egg mixture.  That's all I have on a sticky note on the inside of one of the cabinet doors.

That's all she wrote for tonight.
Have a great day!