Bloody Hell, It’s Hot

It’s been sweltering here in the UK over the past few days. OK, I know if you’re living in the Midwest of the US at the moment, you’re thinking, “you have no idea what we’re going through right now,” but you have to understand that this is NOT normal for the UK. Living in Wisconsin, I expected stretches of hot spells where it was 90°F (32°C) and the heat index exceeded 100°F (38°C). Whereas here in the UK, I never really expect the temperature to exceed 80°F (27°C), let alone get that hot and be really muggy.

I guess the hot spell wouldn’t seem so bad if I was in a hospital that had air conditioning. I guess the people building the hospital also didn’t think the temperatures here would exceed 30°C too often, and did not see air conditioning as a necessity. I’m happy I have some experience dealing with this, as it doesn’t seem that many of the natives are coping as well as me. And I can only imagine what the nurses are going through with all the running around they have to do.

At least this isn’t Geneva, Switzerland. I spent a few weeks there last summer when my boyfriend lived there, and there was quite a heatwave the second week I was there. There is virtually no air conditioning anywhere in that city (not even the mall was air conditioned!). The best bets for relief were the trams, some buses and McDonald’s. Luckily, McDonald’s had the Cornetto McFlurry at the time, which is probably the best McFlurry ever, aside from maybe the Oreo McFlurry they have during the “Tastes of America” campaign in the UK. The worse I’ve had was in Amsterdam, some horrible Dole fruit cocktail McFlurry (or so it seemed, I think it was branded as Chiquita, which I thought meant banana and chocolate). Sadly, McFlurries in the US pale in comparison to those offered in Europe, as do the speciality burgers. Anyway, I digress, the McFlurries in Geneva and the special “snack” burgers (they had one with mozzarella, basil and roasted tomato) gave us plenty of excuses to escape the heat.

At least Britain is finally getting a taste of summer. Before we know it, tomorrow probably, it will be gone again.

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Me at 40 Kilos

 

I’ve made some progress on the weight-gaining front over the past few weeks, and thought I would celebrate my return to 40kg with a photo. Actually, I’m a bit over at 40.55kg, which brings my net gain to .55kg since I was first admitted to hospital, and total gain to about 4kg (my lowest was 36.5kg a few weeks ago).

I’m still looking rather thin, but I am starting to fill out a bit. I’m hoping in the next week or two that the jeans I’m wearing in the photo will actually fit. At this point, I can’t really walk more than a few feet before they start sliding down. Too bad the jeans-around-the-ankles look isn’t in fashion.

The IV I’m hooked up to in the photo isn’t actually my TPN, but the last dose of antibiotics used to treat the infection in my Hickman line. As you can see, the beauty of my line is that it is fairly unobtrusive, and isn’t too noticeable under my clothing (unless, of course, I’m actually hooked up to an IV at the time).

I survived eating the piece of roast chicken breast at lunch yesterday. I did feel a bit uncomfortable in the evening, but I think it is more a matter of my digestive system getting used to an increased volume of food. It’s a bit of a struggle to eat much after you’ve not eaten normally for more than three months! The important thing is that everything seemed to settle fine in the end, and I really enjoyed that piece of chicken.

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Making a Run for It

The past few days have been quite good for me, and I’m starting to feel increasingly positive about my current course of treatment, and life in general.

On Friday, I managed to make that bit of a runner I mentioned in my last post to the Asda down the road. I tried to be strategic about my journey which meant walking the 1/2 mile there, and once I acquired my shopping, take the bus back. This turned out to be a better idea than I initially thought because I had not realised how weak my leg muscles had gotten until I tried to run across the road to catch the bus back. As I was trying to run, my legs just seemed to stop working and I nearly fell over in the street. Luckily, I managed to quickly regain my balance and still made it to the bus stop in time. Now I’m determined to focus on taking walks everyday to regain some basic level of strength in my legs, and perhaps try some squats and lunges next week once my legs start feeling a bit stronger. Ultimately, I want to ensure I’m in top form before the surgery.

The shopping trip itself was quite successful, even though I’m certain every chav (white trash in American English) in Kingston was there. I picked up a box of Coco Pops, some fixings for peanut butter and jelly (jam) sandwiches and Skittles. Since I’ve been eating a bit again, I wanted to have a few options other than mashed potatoes and gravy available, so I figured PB&J always went down well in the past when I had flares, so why not try that now? And I have to say, those sandwiches have been quite tasty.

I’ve also been trying a few more foods from the food trolley here in hospital. Friday I had the macaroni cheese which was not only tasty, but seemed to settle quite well. Last night I had the pasta bolognese, but because I’m still a bit weary of eating meat, I really only ate the pasta. At least I still got some flavour from the sauce. Today I am going to try a bit of chicken at lunch. Hopefully it will settle well OK. It’s been ages since I’ve had chicken, and because I’m not really eating meat, my food options are quite limited when it comes to the food trolley!

Other than making runners and fighting through crowds of chavs, I’ve been keeping myself busy with my current knitting project, which is a little more than two-thirds of the way complete, and a bit of reading. I recently finished a book called The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga which is about an Indian fellow who is writing a letter to the prime minister of China, telling him about his rise from a nobody in a small Northern Indian village to a successful entrepreneur in Bangalore in the south. What makes the book interesting is that the path he took to get there isn’t what one might expect. The book is quite strange at first, but that’s what really drew me in and made me want to download the full version.

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to read next, but I have plenty of samples on my Kindle to get me started, and I still have about 100 more rows left on my cowl before it’s complete.

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Pole Dancing

After a four-day hiatus, I was finally restarted on the TPN last night. I was actually kind of enjoying not being hooked up to the IV overnight. It wasn’t until I restarted last night that I remembered how nasty the TPN itself smells, which I’m pretty certain starts seeping through my pores after a few hours (lovely, I know). Regardless, I’m happy to be getting my 1600 calories, and 80 grams of fat (which is what makes the stuff smell) and all the other vitamin and mineral goodness that is coming through my line.

As a result of the break, the dietitian advised that we resume the drip over a 20-hour period so it wouldn’t spike my blood sugar too high. We had managed to taper down to 14 hours by this past weekend, and I believe the plan is to go back to that this evening. I don’t mind be tethered to the IV pole all that much, other than it means I can’t really leave the sixth floor of the hospital. I guess it also means I have to drag the stupid thing around everywhere which can be a pain when trying to get washed. At least the line is in my chest and not my arm. Cannulas in the arm can be a right pain when you want to wash, but are hooked up and can’t remove any of your clothing.

Yesterday was a rather good day for me. Not only was I feeling really good, but I managed to straighten a few points out with the doctor regarding my treatment as of late:

  1. When was the TPN actually resuming? There is a lot of miscommunication between the doctors and the nursing staff on this ward lately. It kind of makes me anxious to either get moved within hospital or moved to St. George’s sooner. One of the doctors had told a nurse that the TPN could resume Tuesday, however, they had not written an order for it, and without the order, the nurses could not administer it. I do have to credit the nurse, though, she did ring the on-call doctor to see what they thought, but because they were not too familiar with my case regarding the TPN and infection, they thought best to hold off. Then Wednesday when the doctors stopped by, they had mentioned that TPN would be resuming that night. Well, I don’t think the dietitians were on the ward at all that day, so there was no feed ready for administration. Then yesterday, I confirmed that because the blood work had been gathered in the morning and the dietitians had been round that it was, indeed, going to be administered. The doctor confirmed, but again, I think they forgot to write the order. Luckily, one of them was on-call last night, and that was sorted out (otherwise, I would have gotten a bit cranky, I think!).
  2. Why was my IV anti-sickness switched to oral anti-sickness? This just didn’t make sense–to me, the nurse who was administering the drugs, or even the doctor when I enquired about it. I told the doctor that I didn’t feel I needed to have the Cyclizine regularly any more, and she agreed to add it as an as-needed drug via IV. That will be more useful when I’m feeling really sick and unable to keep pills down (fingers crossed I’m getting past that point!).
  3. When could I have the cannula in my arm removed? I had to have this placed Monday to administer the antibiotics and give my Hickman line a rest. While I don’t necessarily mind cannulas in the arms, this one was placed in the crook of my elbow and made it very uncomfortable to bend my arm. As a result, I had not even attempted to wash my hair for several days, and had joked with the doctor that I was worried about forming dreads soon. I struck a deal with the doctor that I could have it removed after I received a bag of IV fluids (I don’t think she was too keen to see me with dreads).
  4. What was the source of the infection in my Hickman line? This one wasn’t answered, but at least I asked, and I will ask again next week when they actually have the results of the cultures. I’m interested to know whether it was from the site or within the line itself, so if needed, I can question any dodgy action taken by the nurses or anyone else when they are near my line.

Today is shaping up to be another good day. I’m thinking about doing a bit of a runner to the nearby ASDA (British equivalent of Wal-Mart) to pick up some snacks that should be safe for me to eat. I think it will be nice to venture outside the perimeter of the hospital, even if it’s not all that far, and only for a short time.

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Slowly Making Progress

Not a week goes by without some excitement in my hospital stay. Last week it was the 10 days of feeling completely rubbish, this weekend, it was an infection that developed in my Hickman line–the line used to give me my TPN. Luckily, this was caught reasonably early by one of the nurses that was looking after me Sunday. The other good thing is that I caught a fairly mild staph infection, and didn’t have any real symptoms other than a fever on Sunday.

Unfortunately, my TPN feed had to be put on hold whilst I was treated with antibiotics, so I have not had any proper nutrition since the weekend. I was eating a bit at the weekend, but started getting a bit of tummy pain and vomiting which I wasn’t sure was from overindulging at the weekend, or from the infection. Regardless, I’ve taken it easy over the past few days, and only started eating mashed potatoes again this afternoon. From what I understand, the TPN is supposed to resume this evening, so I should be back on track soon.

My consultant stopped by this morning and said they were going to try to move me to another ward within the hospital where the nursing staff are more used to dealing with Hickman and other central venous-access lines. This will hopefully keep me from getting another infection in the future. The problem is that while the nurses on this ward are really nice, and good at what they do, not all are trained on how to deal with this type of IV. Most always where sterile gloves when dealing with the TPN, but when administering IV drugs (mostly anti-sickness and now antibiotics) use regular gloves. Unfortunately, I’m not sure of the protocol, otherwise, I would be willing to question things a bit more.

Hopefully in the next week or so I will be transferred to St. George’s in Tooting where they can get me prepared for at-home treatment. In a way, I think I should be a bit nervous about eventually dealing with this at home, but my parents and I managed when I had PICC lines (another type of central venous-access IV that is placed in the arm) in the past, so I think I should be able to deal with this once, if ever, I go home. And as long as I learn the proper techniques/protocols for dealing with the Hickman line, I should be able to minimise risk of future infections. At least the Hickman line will be easier for me to deal with on my own than a PICC line would have been because it comes out on my chest, so I have both hands free to deal with it.

On a good note, despite being sick most of last week, I did manage to gain about two kilograms. I think most of it was water weight as I was getting a bit dehydrated from being sick everyday, but I’ll take any weight as long as I’m gaining at this point. I’m sure being off the TPN for two days this week will set me back slightly, but I should be able to get back on track soon enough. I’m just happy to be making some progress (my engagement ring even fits on the correct finger again!).

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A Rough 10 Days

The last week and a half has not been so good, hence no updates in that period.

I started the TPN 8 July, and after a visit from my GI consultant earlier that day, he seemed happy for me to go ahead and eat whatever I liked so long as I did not make myself too sick. Of course, after not eating any solid food for nearly a month, I was keen to try eating something. So I indulged in some mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner, Rice Krispies and bread with jam for breakfast, and more mashed potatoes and a yoghurt (if I was feeling hungry enough) for lunch over the course of the weekend. As far as I remembered, none of these types of foods had really bothered me prior to my admission to hospital, and I thought they would be OK. But I was wrong. By that Sunday afternoon, I was fighting some intense nausea that even the oral Cyclizine wasn’t helping to quell. When I’d asked for it previously, it’d worked surprisingly well, especially compared to other oral anti-sickness I’d tried in the past. When it came time for another dose of anti-sickness, I smartened up and made sure to ask for intravenous Cyclizine. Not only was I hoping it would be stronger, but I had just been sick when I rang for the nurse, and I didn’t think I could keep the pill down long enough for it to work.

Intravenous Cyclizine is amazing. Not only does it work well on the nausea, but when it first hits my bloodstream, I get the weirdest high from it. It’s like everything in my body relaxes, and I could just blissfully fall asleep for a bit. It also makes it incredibly difficult to concentrate on a task for about the first 30 minutes it’s in your bloodstream. Things like trying to message friends via phone, read emails or even talk to other people become a bit more work, and the falling asleep for a bit becomes the best option. Actually, spacing out and staring at the TV is also good, especially with some of the mind-numbing things that are on during the day.

After asking for Cyclizine pretty regularly for the past week, the doctors finally ended up prescribing it as a regular drug for me this past weekend. Yes, that’s right, even though I’ve not touched any solid food since the weekend of 9 July, I’ve been fighting nasty abdominal cramping/pain and nausea ever since. Today is actually the first day in that time I don’t feel horrible (touch wood!). Fingers crossed things will stay this way.

My GI consultant met with some colleagues at the Royal London Hospital to discuss my case and essentially get some second opinions on my behalf. The consensus is that I  need to have surgery. However, I need to get my nutrition under control and start gaining weight first. Since this could take time, he is looking into transferring me to another hospital that is part of an NHS trust that has a program for administering TPN at home. He said it is also likely that I would have my surgery at the same hospital since they are more specialised in treating patients with digestive problems. I think I’d just be happy to leave this hospital for a bit to see some of the outside world; getting treatment to get on with life would be icing on the cake.

As an aside, and getting back to the original intent of this blog, the BBC recently published an article titled Americanisms: 50 of Your Most Noted Examples. Essentially, readers submitted American words or phrases that have seeped into British culture that really annoyed them. This was my favourite submission:

14. I caught myself saying “shopping cart” instead of shopping trolley today and was thoroughly disgusted with myself. I’ve never lived nor been to the US either. Graham Nicholson, Glasgow

Disgusted with yourself?! Really? Perhaps I should be disgusted with myself for adopting British-English spellings and using mostly British-English terms for things, essentially giving up my identity as an American? At least I’m holding onto my American pronunciations for words like “aluminium” and “laboratory.”

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Things are Looking Up

Yesterday, I had the line placed that will be delivering my parenteral nutrition, which is called a Hickman line. It’s a type of IV that has a tube which goes directly to the heart, and the other end comes outside the middle of my chest. I had the line placed under local anaesthetic, meaning I was just numbed in the appropriate places and fully conscious for the entire procedure. There were points during the procedure where I kind of wish I opted for the general anaesthetic, namely the bit where the guy placing the line said something about a knife and the next thing I knew he was going for my neck. Luckily, I didn’t feel any pain during the procedure, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it’s a bit concerning when someone is cutting you with a knife in the neck and chest!

The procedure went fine, and I now have a suture in my neck from where they guided the line to the appropriate places, and of course the bit that actually comes out so that I can be hooked up to an IV. It’s all a bit sore today, but I’ve been given a prescription for IV paracetamol which was been pretty good for the pain, and I’m hoping as the small incisions heal, the pain will go away.

I’ll be starting the TPN itself this evening. Hopefully this will get me well on the way to finally gaining some weight back, and helping me feel a bit better. I no longer have to drink as many of the Modulen drinks, just one or two a day to keep my digestive system active, but that’s it. Once I start gaining weight back, I will have a better idea when we can get onto the next step of surgery to finally fix the strictures have been causing me all these problems over the past few years.

Finally, it feels like we’re making some progress.

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Something Has to Change

I’m not sure whether 16 consecutive days in the hospital is starting to get to me, or whether it’s the fact that I feel worse now than I have since the beginning of this most recent stay, but I’m finding if difficult to stay optimistic.

As mentioned previously, I’ve lost 3kg since last week. Yesterday when the doctors came round, they seemed convinced that it was a problem with inconsistency in the scales, rather than me losing weight. So they had me try a different scale, and want me to use that one going forward for weigh-ins. Turns out that it registered roughly the same weight (actually about 1/2kg less than my Saturday weight), so now they realise that this treatment isn’t working.

Despite this, they seem to have no concrete plan to start me on TPN yet. They felt because of the problem with the steroids over the weekend, the Modulen didn’t get a fair chance. OK, fair enough, but even before the weekend I wasn’t convinced it was helping me gain any weight. Not only that, but I’ve been struggling with abdominal pain since Saturday as a result of the steroid cock-up, and I’ve been unable to down more than five of the drinks a day, which amounts only to 1250 calories.

This has left me feeling incredibly tired and weak. It’s a struggle for me to get washed in the mornings, getting cold water to mix the drinks is a chore, and yesterday after heading outside to get some sunshine and read for half an hour, I had to nap for 45 minutes because I was so worn out. I don’t think I’ve felt so exhausted, day-in, day-out, in my life.

Not only that, but I got the most pitying look from one of the ward sisters this afternoon. After living here for most of the last month, the nurses here realise I’m not getting any healthier, and the ones that have actually looked after me (i.e. the ones I’ve talked to) realise I’m actually feeling worse. Unfortunately, they are fairly powerless, and can’t do much to help other than provide me with anti-sickness medicine when I need it.

My partner, bless his heart, is involved and tried calling the doctors today to see what they are going to do for me. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get a hold of anyone today, but hopefully he can talk to one of them tomorrow. I’m too exhausted to yell at the doctors myself, so his help is greatly appreciated.

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A Bit of a Setback

Yesterday was what I’m going to call “weigh day” on the ward where all the patients have to sit in this funny chair and get weighed. A few days ago I was starting to suspect that while the Modulen seems to be settling better in my stomach, and some of my other symptoms seem to be improving, that it wasn’t quite doing it’s job in terms of helping me gain weight. I guess things like my engagement ring sliding off my finger and generally feeling bonier are what led me to believe this, and I was a bit sad to have it confirmed yesterday. Turns out that I’ve lost a little over 3kg in the last week alone, going from 41.25kg down to 38.5kg.

Obviously, I’m a bit disappointed to learn this, as it’s certainly a setback in my recovery. However, I’m going to keep my chin-up and look forward to having a chat with the doctors and dietitian tomorrow to see when they will start the TPN. It seems pretty obvious to me that is the only viable solution to get me to gain some weight while my gut heals. And I’m sure I will get to continue with my delicious Modulen in the meantime as a supplement. I mean, it’s not really causing me to gain weight at the moment, so I see no reason why they should be worried about it causing me to gain too much (like that even seems possible given my current, skeletal state).

In other news, I’m turning my partner into a drug mule. When I had a chat with the consultant on Friday, we agreed to reduce the amount of steroid I am taking from 50 to 40mg per day. Turns out the ward doctor forgot to actually prescribe the new dosage! So yesterday, after enquiring with the nurse (who obviously has not authority to just give me the medicine), she tried to get a hold of the on-call/weekend doctor. Unfortunately, she was not able to get it sorted out, and after writhing in pain for the better part of the day as a result, I asked my boyfriend to bring some of the medicine in from home. It was a little too late, and I still felt pretty crap most of the day, but I am feeling much, much better today. I just cannot believe that happened though.

For those who’ve never been on courses of steroids, it’s very dangerous to go from a high-dose to nil. In fact, I have a nifty, blue “Steroid Treatment Card” I carry in my purse that states:

I am a patient on STEROID treatment which most not be stopped suddenly
  • If you have been taking this medicine for more than three weeks, the dose should be reduced gradually when you stop taking steroids unless your doctor says otherwise.
  • Read the patient information leaflet given with the medicine.
  • Always carry this card with you and show it to anyone who treats you (for example a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or dentist). For one year after you stop the treatment, you must mention that you have taken steroids
  • If you become ill, or if you come into contact with anyone who has an infections disease consult your doctor promptly. If you have never had chickenpox, you should avoid close contact with people who have chickenpox or shingles. If you do come into contact with chickenpox, see your doctor urgently.
  • Make sure that the information on the card is kept up to date.”

Suffice to say, I am going to have a few words with the doctor tomorrow.

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Things I Look Forward to Eating

In the weeks leading up to trips back to America, I always make a mental list of the different places I want to go out to eat, and various food products that I want to pick up that I cannot get easily (or cheaply) here in the UK. This most recent trip home, I wanted to visit a few restaurants (in order of preference):

  1. The Log Cabin: true to Midwest living, these guys serve up oversized portions of delicious Midwest comfort foods (things like roast turkey with the trimmings, open-faced sandwiches, traditional breakfasts, etc.). This is one of my favourite restaurants back home, and I was really disappointed that I wasn’t feeling quite well enough to make it during my most recent visit.
  2. Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream: two words: blue moon. A mysteriously bright blue ice cream that has no discernible flavour other than delicious. Chocolate Shoppe serves up some incredibly rich, creamy ice cream made of only the best local dairy ingredients. It’s a perfect treat any time you find yourself wandering State Street in Madison, Wisconsin.
  3. Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry: burgers are better in America. Period. And some of the best burgers I’ve ever had were served up at Dotty’s. Favourite burgers here include the Runnelstone, California Burger and the Heart Throb. Again, this was another restaurant I didn’t manage to visit during my most recent trip, and during my Thanksgiving trip when I did make it, I wasn’t feeling well enough to enjoy one of their delicious burgers (but I can say the corn dogs are pretty good!).
  4. Pizza Hut: OK, this may seem like a strange one since Pizza Hut actually exists in the UK. But, there is a difference between American Pizza Huts and UK Pizza Huts. Actually, there is even a difference between Pizza Huts in different states, as I learned when I lived in California. Wisconsin is lucky enough to have Pizza Huts with all-you-can-eat (how gluttonously American of them) lunch buffets. I remember telling my partner only days before the trip about these, and my dad actually suggested visiting one after the three of us did some touristy stuff one day. While I did make it to a Pizza Hut buffet, I wasn’t feeling up to actually eating too much, which was highly disappointing. It’s hard to pass-up all-you-can-eat pizza, pasta and bread sticks!
  5. Library Mall Food Carts: these are a bit difficult to explain unless you’ve actually spent time on the UW-Madison campus. Essentially, there are a number of food-truck type carts that set up shop outside Memorial Library from spring to autumn serving a variety of different foods including African, Jamaican, Mexican, Thai, etc. My favourite while I was in uni was the Cuban food cart called Guantanamera. Unfortunately, he seems to have gone out of business since, and my partner and I went to the Buraka cart during out most recent visit instead. I’ve never been disappointed by Buraka’s take on African food, and really enjoyed the coconut chicken curry I had on my most recent visit. An added bonus of the food carts is that you can take your lunch and enjoy it at the Memorial Union Terrace when the weather is good.
  6. The Eagle Inn: I always enjoyed the hot beef sandwich here, but their breakfasts are really good too. Oh, and the pies, those are fantastic. This was one of the restaurants I did manage to visit, and I had an awesome short stack and sausages here, and the food is such great value-for-money!
  7. Original Pancake House: I’ve not been here for years, but damn, I have dreams of their bacon pancakes. If you’re and American who’s been in Britain on Pancake Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday a.k.a. Fat Tuesday), you know that British pancakes are not the same as American pancakes. And if there is one breakfast food I desperately miss, it’s a nice stack of pancakes (which used to be one of my standby dinners when I was too lazy to make anything else).
  8. Lao Laan-Xang: I first tried this place recommendation of a co-worker at the coffee shop I worked at during my last year of uni. The curry squash here is absolutely phenomenal, and it’s one of those dishes that’s made to the level of spiciness you prefer. With two locations, one on Willy Street and another just down the road on Atwood Avenue in Madison, you have some choice in where you can enjoy your delicious dinner (though you’re more likely to get a table at the Atwood location).
  9. Culver’s: a home-state fast food chain that delivers some deliciously unhealthy burgers, and equally unhealthy frozen custard. I managed to get one of their turtle sundaes in just before I left on my recent trip. This is a sundae consisting of frozen custard, hot fudge and caramel sauce, topped off with some salty pecans and a cherry. Ooh, that combination of salty-sweetness is making my mouth water at the thought. The burgers are really good too, with the Wisconsin Swiss Melt being my favourite because it is most like a patty melt (and I have a weakness for patty melts).
  10. The Old Feed Mill: I worked here for five years from high-school through uni. I wanted to go here more or less to see how much has changed since I stopped working there seven years ago, but I was also interested in showing my boyfriend where I spent my younger days working. Even though this is one of the only restaurants actually in my home town, we’ve never actually made it there for lunch or dinner. Perhaps on our next trip we will.

In addition to visiting local restaurants, there are always a variety of foods that I either ask my parents to pick up, I pick up myself at some point during my trip, or we make at home. These include (in order of preference):

  1. Hostess orange cupcakes: my boyfriend will tell you I am absolutely crazy for these things. When we were in Wisconsin over Thanksgiving last year, we literally would drive to every convenience store within a five-to-ten-mile radius to see if they had these delicious morsels. Luckily, I found one could buy an entire box of eight at Wal-Mart, which saved us many unnecessary trips during our most recent visit.
  2. Waffles/pancakes: as I mentioned above, I absolutely LOVE pancakes, and waffles are a close second, if not tied. My family usually has what we call a “big breakfast” during each visit home where we all gather and have pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, etc., but because my stomach was not cooperating, we never had a chance to do this during my last visit.
  3. Pumpkin bars: my mom makes some amazing pumpkin bars. I tried making these myself when I lived in California, but they never tasted quite as good as my mom’s. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until Thanksgiving to have some of these, unless I am prepared to spend an arm and a leg buying canned pumpkin here, and face the frustration of trying to use British ingredients.
  4. Reese’s Pieces: similar to M&Ms, but filled with sweet peanut butter rather than chocolate. I would have actually put down Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but I’m lucky enough that the local Waitrose now stocks these at only 60p for a package of three cups.
  5. Cream of fruit instant oatmeal: I do not care whether I get the Quaker brand, or some generic store brand, but I absolutely love eating this stuff for breakfast.
  6. Bagels and flavoured cream cheese: in the UK, it seems one can only get two flavours of bagels: 1) plain; 2) cinnamon and raisin. Where I grew up, there is a place called the Bagels Forever and they had a great selection including my favourites bluebarry (that’s how they spell it), cranbarry oat, hole wheat and standby cinnamon and raisin. Not only that, but you could get some really nice flavoured cream cheeses including strawberry and blueberry. While I did not make it to Bagels Forever, I did pick up some delicious blueberry bagels and blueberry cream cheese (blueberry overload? I think not; it was delicious).
  7. Corn dogs: how could anyone not love a hot dog dipped and coated in cornmeal then deep fried to a light, golden brown? I’ve not really found a place in my family’s area that serves up really good corn dogs (like Hot Dog on a Stick on the West Coast), but I have been known to buy the frozen ones at the supermarket and eat them at home. Sure, they’re not the same, but they’re still all right.
  8. Home-made cookies: yes, you can make cookies in the UK, but I’ve not bothered trying after some other disasters I’ve had with British ingredients (let’s just say British flour–even the plain stuff–isn’t the same as American flour). Not only that, but the concept of chocolate chips does not seem to exist! As it turns out, my partner is really good at baking cookies. We used to spend crappy afternoons baking cookies when we lived in the Bay Area, and on our most recent visit home, he made a really nice batch of chocolate chip cookies; even my parents had a hard time resisting them.
  9. American cereals: these includes ones like Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, and Froot Loops. Choosing one of these cereals is always a tough decision because I only ever have a week or two back home at a time, and I usually prefer to eat the oatmeal mentioned above for breakfast. Since I thought the oatmeal was causing me a bit of intestinal distress this last time, I opted for Fruity Pebbles, and I even had enough to bring back and enjoy in the UK for a few days. Interestingly, I learned last summer that one can purchase Froot Loops on the Continent. However, they lack the unnatural colour of the American cereal, and don’t quite taste right (i.e. not as sweet).
  10. Hamburger Helper: minced (ground) beef mixed with pasta in a cheesy sauce, how could one not love it? I managed to smuggle two boxes back to the UK with me, and learned that British beef isn’t quite as tasty as American beef. Regardless, I look forward to enjoying my last box of Hamburger Helper once I’m able to eat solid food again.

So there you have it. A list of places and foods I like that show how truly American (i.e. gluttonous and unhealthy) I am. I’m certain if it wasn’t for my Crohn’s, I would be the size of a house.

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