My AMAZING Upside Down Shepards Pie Recipe

Shepherd's Pie Recipe

I just wanted to make good on my promise of sharing recipes with you all. And this recipe is a KILLER one!! Cooking is one of those things that I love to do because it relaxes me. However, since I got sick over a year ago, I’ve come to HATE food because it can be the cause of a flare up for me. Which then means excruciating pain, constant nausea and vomiting, and a trip to the hospital in an ambulance which is traumatic in itself!

Soooooo… without further adieu, here it is. I hope you all LOVE it like my family does.

P.S. It’s actually 2 recipes in one because it includes my homemade mashed potatoes!


MASHED POTATO RECIPE (yields just enough for the pie recipe)

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 or 7 large YUKON GOLD potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 of a stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 to 1 whole cup of heavy cream (depends on how creamy you like your potatoes)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sour cream (depends on taste)
  • A handful of salt
  1. Get a big pot of water on the stove but don’t turn it on yet.
  2. Peel and chop potatoes into big chunks and throw into water.
  3. Turn stove on high to get water boiling. The trick to boiling potatoes is letting them come up to temperature slow and adding them to cold water does that. Once the water starts boiling, add the handful of salt to the water.
  4. Let boil for 20 minutes, stirring every so often. You want these potatoes as soft as you can get them. Once they’re done, drain them in a colander and then put them into a large bowl.
  5. Start off by adding the next ingredient on the list, the butter. Next, take a potato masher and mix the butter in by mashing and stirring the potatoes.
  6. Next, switch from the masher to an electric hand mixer. Start mixing in the heavy cream on medium speed, bits a time up to a whole cup depending on how creamy you like your taters!
  7. Once the heavy cream is mixed in, add the sour cream, again to taste. This is also where you can add however much salt and black pepper you like.

 

SHEPHERD’S PIE RECIPE (feeds up to 4 people)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 lbs ground beef (85/15 blend)
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cups carrots, diced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp sherry vinegar (could substitute balsamic or red wine vinegar)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp butter
  1. Dice onions and carrots and get them into a saute pan with the butter over medium low to medium heat. Season with a little salt and pepper. You’re looking to caramelize these veggies a bit so saute them for about 10-15 minutes, until they’re nice and soft and golden brown.
  2. Next, add the ground beef to the pan with the veggies. Cook until meat is browned.
  3. Add tomato paste, italian seasoning, salt and pepper to the beef mixture and stir until paste is totally combined and melted.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the beef stock with the flour and stir into beef mixture.
  5. Next, add the sherry vinegar, honey, and brown sugar. Let simmer for 3-5 minutes or until it starts to thicken to your liking.
  6. Once thickened, take a taste and make sure it doesn’t need more salt, pepper, or even more brown sugar or honey. After that, it’s done.
  7. Now to assemble. LOL! There’s no assembly other than taking some mashed potatoes and plopping them on your plate. Then you just spoon over as much of the meat mixture as you like! The sauce created is DELICIOUS and it’s such a warm, comforting meal for a cold day (like today where it’s snowing like crazy here in MA, uggh)!

 

DISCLAIMER: The photo used on this post is NOT my recipe. I found this on https://www.latteslifeandluggage.com/blog/2017/11/upside-down-shepherds-pie-classic-twists.html which btw, their recipe is amaze balls too!

Codependency is REAL, people, and it’s just like addiction

picture of codependency of man and woman

Google’s definition of codependency: excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

 

My fiancé and I have been together going on 10 years this coming March… and we love each other with a specialness I’ve never experienced before him. And he just moved out. Clearly we hit a rough patch in our relationship and when everything came to a head and the intensity level was turned up to 200, we knew we had to act. I don’t mean our relationship either because we are still very much together. We just couldn’t live with each other for a while so we’re taking a temporary break.

 

We have a very crazy history and are in recovery together from heroin addiction (him also from alcoholism). So we not only used together for many years, we also got sober together and have had to relearn how we are together as sober people. We met in high school and our group of friends was tight. But we both started doing drugs and drinking heavily at very young ages. For him, his first sip of beer came at 9 years old after his dad sat him on a kitchen counter and offered the malty libation to him. For me, I was 12 when my dad offered me my first hit of crack so neither of us really ever had a solid chance to stay AWAY from drugs/alcohol!

 

When he and I got together, I was 21 and he was 27, we were so madly in love with each other that we both fell in love while in other relationships. Say and judge how you will but you can’t help who and when you fall in love! We were both still so young and ended up continuing the addictions we already had before we got together while we were together! It was not pretty, but it was LOVE! We stuck by each other through HELL and back and no matter what happened, we always ended up together. Finally, we both got on methadone about 6 years ago (after many other failed attempts at getting on and off methadone) and something clicked because we’ve both  been sober ever since! But ok… now we’re sober together.

 

AHHHH!!! Who are “we”? Who am I? WHO IS HE? Oh my god, it was terrifying! We just didn’t know each other sober and our relationship also didn’t know “sober”! So we had to get to know each other all over again. And THAT wasn’t easy. Like at ALL!

 

It was in this time that we came to realize just how codependent we were on each other. For the last 5 years, we had used heroin together; we did EVERYTHING together; we split EVERYTHING we had; we kept each other alive (figuratively and literally when we were homeless together). We could barely spend 5 minutes without each other without feeling like we were both going to die! This is when we knew we needed to figure this thing out… but it wasn’t that simple.

 

We are still, 6 years later, fighting codependence (click here for a link on a great explanation of codependency and codependent relationships from Mental Health America). Even though we’ve spent vacations apart from each other, and other random nights apart, this break we’re taking has truly been one of the toughest things we’ve gone through as a couple. Sometimes you need a reminder of just how much you need and love someone and taking a break is a good way to do that… but it doesn’t make it any easier! That is where my relationship is at right now and I’m learning to become ok with that… to accept it completely and not let the sadness and codependency run my life. A couple years ago, I’d have fallen to absolute pieces if this happened because I’ve grown so much in recent years. Thank the gods for recovery, man! I mean that wholeheartedly!

 

Does anyone else have or has ever had a relationship like this or experienced codependency? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a significant other. It could be a parent, a sibling, or even a friend. I’d love to hear what you guys think about this!

 

Here are some great links to check out about how to overcome codependency:

  1. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/terry-gaspard-msw-licsw/overcoming-codependency_b_4179666.html
  2. https://psychcentral.com/lib/recovery-from-codependency/

Let’s Get Serious & Talk Chronic Illness, Shall We

As I’ve alluded to in previous pages and posts, I live with two debilitating chronic illnesses. The first is Type 1 diabetes which I was diagnosed with at age 24 (8 years ago). The other chronic illness I have was caused by the diabetes and that one is called Gastroparesis (GP). GP is a very rare, disease that hardly much is known about. In fact, it is part of NORD (National Organization of Rare Disorders).

 

WHAT IS GASTROPARESIS?

What the hell is Gastroparesis, you ask? I’ll tell you… According to the NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases), GP “is a disorder that slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. Normally, the muscles of the stomach, which are controlled by the vagus nerve, contract to break up food and move it through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Gastroparesis can occur when the vagus nerve is damaged by illness or injury and the stomach muscles stop working normally. Food then moves slowly from the stomach to the small intestine or stops moving altogether”. If you’re interested in learning more about this rare disease, Click here for more information about GP.

 

 

Diagram of Digestive System

 

There is no cure and hardly ANY treatments! The only treatments are a cocktails of meds or a gastric pacemaker (aka a Vagus Nerve Stimulator). Even though my diabetes is bad… like really bad, it’s the gastroparesis that puts me in the hospital for 5-6 days at a time MANY times a year! With diabetes there is no cure… but at least there are many treatments for it. Like, for example, doing manual insulin with a needle wasn’t working for me because I have a brittle form of diabetes (which means I have uncontrollable blood sugar highs and lows). So I had to get an insulin pump to make sure I have insulin going into my body at all times. With gastroparesis, there is no treatments left after the gastric pacemaker. What do I do if it doesn’t work?

 

HOW DOES ALL THIS MAKE ME FEEL?

Living with one chronic illness is bad enough, let alone two! There are days that I am so weak I can’t move from the couch. And of course depression kicks in when you’re stuck on the couch. Then there are days when I have flare ups and I’m so sick that I can’t stop vomiting, I’m dizzy and delirious, and those are the days I get to take an ambulance ride to the hospital. This past year has been the worst for my GP. I’ve had 6 hospital stays, all that lasted longer than 3 days. And when I’m really sick with a flare up, I can’t even explain to you how debilitating it is for me.

 

I’m on SO many medications and most are 3 times a day and it’s the most frustrating thing to have your life rely on medications! It all makes me feel like a BURDEN! It’s also very embarrassing to be on a first name basis with the EMT’s in your town because you’v ridden in their ambulances so many times… or knowing all the nurses on your unit because they’ve taken care of you so many times. And don’t even get me started on the nurses and doctors who think of me as a “frequent flier” and hate me because I’m on methadone. I’m just being honest! My fiance and mom have to basically do everything for me when I’m sick (which lately has been more often than not) and they have their own lives to take care of. But that is just that evil little voice in my head telling me I’m a loser and that I burden everyone around me. I have to remember that it isn’t the TRUTH!

 

And I haven’t even mentioned what a day in the life of a type 1 diabetic looks like! Pricking my finger 8 times a day, constantly engaged in a battle of highs and lows. For example, I am NEVER hungry because of my gastroparesis but as a diabetic on insulin, I have to eat because if I don’t I’ll get a blood sugar low. This creates a total catch-22 for me because every day I get lows. So to treat my low I take glucose gel and eat some carbs to bring me back up. Then within an hour or two, I’m back up to 500. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with healthy blood sugar levels, that’s very high! So then I treat the high by taking some insulin and then the cycle starts all over again. Going to sleep not knowing if I’ll get a low while I’m sleeping and slip away and die is probably the scariest thing about having BRITTLE type 1 diabetes. But we deal with it and we go on. Because we’re fucking survivors… we’re WARRIORS of chronic illness!

About My Struggle with Addiction

black and white portait

I could write an entire memoir on my struggle with addiction… So I’m going way back now. Way back and way personal. But these are my truths and I refuse to not speak them.  I grew up with a dad who was a recovering heroin and crack addict. And when I was 11, my mom couldn’t take it anymore and she left him… but unfortunately she left me too. This caused my dad to relapse once again and since he was now my sole caretaker, I was forced to grow up in an instant. He was shooting heroin and smoking crack all day everyday and didn’t make much of an effort to hide it from me. After that, I became a wild child and did everything I could do to rebel against the world. I drank a LOT, did every drug I could get my hands on, and all the while still going to school, still taking care of myself as an adult would, and still watching my dad slide into the abyss of heroin addiction. I saw my mom here and there throughout those years until I was 16 and moved in with her temporarily. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I tried heroin for the first time and I was instantly in love… wondering where this drug had been all my life. So began my love affair with the demon called heroin and that love affair quickly turned to hate as I lost everything little by little. By age 21, my dad was dying from liver disease (a complication of hepatitis C that he contracted in the 70’s) and I was at my worst phase of addiction… shooting heroin and smoking crack all day everyday. It was not a pretty life. And sadly, my dad slipped away and my mom and I had to make the decision to turn the breathing machines off because he was gone. After that day I tried to get sober and I did that by getting on Methadone Maintenance treatment. It was like a miracle drug and took all my withdrawals away… however, I wasn’t ready to stop yet and I was grieving the loss of my father so I kept using. It took me many stays in detox and rehab and periods of treatment on methadone before I finally, in 2012, got back on Methadone and was ready to get sober. And I’ve been sober ever since!

Now, I’m a HUGE advocate of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opiate addiction which, for those of you who don’t know, is the gold standard for treatment of opioid use disorder. Addiction is a DISEASE and as such, heroin is unlike other drugs in that it literally changes the brain and receptors and causes chronic relapsing (click here for an article explaining this in more depth) With MAT, such as Methadone or Suboxone, it helps repair those things. In fact, it binds to the same receptors that heroin does without causing euphoria and it takes every bit of withdrawals and cravings away. This gives the person time to get their shit together, so to speak. And whether someone is on it for the rest of their life or for only a couple of years, it’s ok. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Now I know there are a lot of people who feel strongly against MAT because they consider it “substituting one drug for another”, or they say the person on MAT isn’t actually sober, and so many other negative hurtful things. I’m here to tell you that all of those things are FALSE!

In fact, in 2015 I was part of a campaign that the mayor of Boston put together called “StateWithoutStigMA”. It’s goal was to obliterate the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction. It was amazing because I got to tell my recovery story to the WORLD and how stigma has affected me throughout my life. The picture you see at the top of this post was actually taken specifically for the campaign and was used on banners and billboards throughout the state. It was one of my proudest moments and what I consider, one of my biggest accomplishments. That’s one of the reasons I created this website because the more people who see me coming forward and telling my story without shame, the more people will do the same. I’m not ashamed of my past anymore and I refuse to be quiet about how stigma equals death!

I will be writing a lot more about this topic throughout this blog and I would love to know YOUR thoughts on the subject. And please know I am 100% non-judgemental and even if you disagree with me, you still have a voice here!

Goodnight, my lovelies! And remember, you are LOVED, you are LIGHT, and you are BEAUTIFUL!

First Blog Post Ever… and a little about me!

Here I am! Writing my first blog post EVER! I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t do this years ago but past is past right? So you all have to bear with me while I figure this shit out, ok?

If you read the Who Am I page of my blog, then you know what this whole thing is all about. What you don’t know is why I’m doing this, how I got sober, what I do for work, or how I learned to become an artist. So I thought I’d share a little bit about my background with all you beautiful, wonderful souls.

First of all, I created this blog for a couple different reasons. One was to spread as much info and love on the healing power of art and then show people simple tutorials so that they can create beautiful pieces of art, even if they have no art experience at all! I wanted to make things simple for people to create things that make them feel good…. things that make them happy… things they can give as gifts…

The other reason I created this blog was to show people that RECOVERY IS REAL! No matter what addiction, mental illness, etc… you may have, people can and DO recover. And art and creativity in general can sometimes facilitate that recovery! I want people to see how creativity has affected my life in a positive way. I’m all about sharing as many skills, techniques, strategies, as I can to help people realize their creative potential and to also get and maintain their sobriety!

We’re all beautiful fucking rock stars! And I’m here to help you see that!

Now… the big question… how did I get sober? That’s a very loaded question.  After almost a decade of heroin use, I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired (the old adage) and decided to seek treatment through methadone maintenance (Medication Assisted Treatment). One of the things you’ll learn about me through this blog is that I’m a huge proponent of harm reduction and multiple pathways to recovery. There is not a one sized fits all route to recovery. It’s different for everyone and for me that route was MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment). It literally saved my life. I’m finally, after 6 years of sobriety thanks to MAT, ready to get off the program and start living without methadone. So I am tapering currently and will officially be off of my medication in May and I am so excited!

My work… I do something that not many people in this world can do. I tell my story of recovery and of my days in active addiction for a living. I am a Certified Peer Engagement Specialist for the homeless and mentally ill population in my area. This means that I use my lived experience as someone who has dealt with addiction, mental illness, and homeless in many points in my life as a way to help others in similar situations. I help connect them to services, housing, benefits, etc… Basically, I help the forgotten ones.

And finally, how I learned to become an artist? I didn’t! I’m 100% self-taught! I enjoy all kinds of art including collage, mixed media, watercolor, acrylic, encaustics, and so much more! Art is absolutely my drug now! In fact, I cannot go a day without sketching or creating some kind of art, even if only for 10 minutes, everyday. If I don’t, I have massive anxiety! Does anyone else feel like that? It has become the ultimate wellness tool for myself. And if I don’t take good care of myself, bad things tend to happen. I also have an Etsy store and as soon as I figure out how to link that to my blog, I will! LOL! I’m still so new to this stuff! Ok… It’s getting late and I’m hungry.

So goodnight… and just in case you haven’t heard it lately, you are loved, you are light, and you are BEAUTIFUL!