Friday, September 28, 2012

Baking Soda Shampoo

For the past few weeks, I have been experimenting... again. It has been with my hair. It has not been a vanity thing of trying to get more beautiful hair. Simply put: I was trying to find an all natural shampoo (that was easy on the budget). The more natural, less chemicals, the better. There are too many parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and other chemicals in hair products (which have been found in breast cancer tissue and urine in adults throughout the U.S.). My system doesn't need any more of these types of chemicals.

The last time I experimented with natural shampoo/conditioner products, I tried natural soap shampoo and apple cider vinegar as a conditioner. I made some mistakes and ended up stopping. The soap was too drying for my type of hair and the apple cider vinegar... well, let's say that I used too much. I forgot to dilute it. Me and my memory again. It just wasn't pretty...smelling.

This time around, I tried baking soda shampoo. Yes, the stuff that you bake with or deodorize your refrigerator with. I had read about a lot of people giving up shampoo and using this instead. Basically, you put 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda in a jar with one cup of hot water. You shake it until it is mixed and then you pour it over your hair. Then, you massage it into your scalp and rinse.

For a conditioner, I use apple cider vinegar... again. It is supposed to restore your hair's pH levels. This time around, I put 2 tablespoons in a jar with a cup of hot water. I swirled it, poured it over my hair, waited a minute or two before I rinsed it out. Yes, after a while, the smell dissipates. This "conditioner" actually amazes me because it detangles and makes my hair soft. Please make sure (if you give it a try) not to get it into your eyes. Not pleasant. Just keep your eyes tightly closed.

I do still shampoo my hair with the 365 brand shampoo from Whole Foods. It is paraben and sulfate free and $4.99 for a 32 ounce bottle. I use the baking soda/apple cider vinegar in between. Sometimes, I use the baking soda a few days in between. I am still having a hard time psychologically letting go of store bought shampoo. I have been trained that that is what I need. And to not use it... would be total weirdness. But, it is not. It works minus the cancerous chemicals.

I really encourage people to read up on these issues. I rarely did in the past. I thought that it was "hippie" stuff. Getting sick changes things. You start to read up on things that you never questioned. Why would you when you're not sick? Please don't wait until you are sick. You will regret it. I do.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

FYI on Comments

Now, you can leave a comment without any red tape. Just type and publish. Hope this helps.

Rotisserie Chicken and Hummus Sandwiches

My friend's daughter was eating this on an ice skating play date. It looked really good, and she told me that it was really good. Couldn't stop thinking about it. I was curious to see how the chicken, hummus, and radish would come together. So, I grabbed a rotisserie chicken and the other ingredients and made it for my family. And it was really, really good!

A3 happened to come by as I was typing this post. He saw the picture of the sandwich and commented, "Mom, that was really good." My kids loved this sandwich. We didn't put as many radish slices on their sandwiches, but they still ate everything up.

Rotisserie Chicken and Hummus Sandwich
adapted from Barefoot Contessa


1/2 rotisserie chicken (deboned, shredded the night before)
1/4 cup minced celery
2 tablespoons onion
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sourdough bread, sliced
Hummus (store bought or homemade)
Fresh radishes (thinly sliced)


1. Place chicken, celery, onion, lemon juice, mayo, mustard, salt, and ground pepper in a bowl. Mix together.
2. Refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors soak in. Or, just eat.
3. Toast bread.
4. Spread a generous amount of hummus.
5. Layer radish slices over hummus.
6. Spread chicken salad on bread.
7. Serve.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cry Baby

Spent a lot of Saturday trying to get a grip on my hormones. Wanted to cry. Didn't want to do anything. But, we had to go somewhere and I baked mattcha rice flour cupcakes.

[I want to clarify that the majority of times (95% or so) that I want to cry are NOT because of my cancer. I have cried that 4% for my children and husband because of my cancer, but I don't really cry for my cancer. Hope that clarifies. Doesn't seem true, but all I can say is that it can only be God.]

This past Saturday, the hormones were doing their thing. Just wanted to cry... to cry. The physical act of crying. Just wanted to get them tears out. Don't know why. Just wanted to cry. Can't explain it. Maybe, if you have gone through menopause or have hormonal issues, you might understand. Just pray for me. I hate when this happens.

Well, I did cry. This day happened to require a lot more crying than usual. I cried and cried and required tissue to blow my nose. I pretended to wipe my nose on my husband's shirt. Got him grossed out. Got a kick out of that. Anyways, I cried and cried and cried some more and finally, I was fine. As if nothing had happened. Split personality? Psychotic? No, just hormonal, menopausal. What can I say?

If you relate, leave a message. Leave a, "You're not alone, sister!" message. Leave a, "Hormones are like that!" message. Leave a, "I don't think you have a split personality!" message.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Watermelon Juice

Some things are so simple that we often overlook them. This is one of those things. I had some cut up watermelon, and I wanted to make a snack for my kids. I put everything in the blender and served it to my children. It was so refreshingly good! My kids wanted more and more, but I had to save some for my hubby. Naturally sweet, no sugar, freshly made, and no added anything. What else can you ask for?

I also had a variation of this when I went to my friend Judi's house. She packed the blender with watermelon, ice, and a slice of lime. She blended everything and gave me a glass! It was so refreshing! I never would have thought of that combination, but it was a winner! Try it for yourself!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

One of the things that I had wanted to do for very long time was bike riding. I would watch people riding their bicycles in the neighborhood or near the forest preserve trails and sigh with envy. There was always the temptation of pushing people off their bikes and taking off with the bicycles... just kidding... I would never do that... I think. Anyways, I longed to just ride and ride and ride through those forest preserve trails. Maybe it was all those triathlons that I had watched?

I couldn't believe it when the opportunity arose for me to fulfill this wish of mine... at South Carolina. The coooolest part was that we could ride on the sand! Yes, that's right! On the sand! The beach at Hilton Head was like one that I had never seen. The sand was packed into the ground. Unfortunately, this made it difficult to build sandcastles and bury the kids. Digging required some heavy duty shovels. But, we could ride on the beach! And it was allowed! Every morning and night, we could see people riding bicycles on the beach.

At first, I was a bit afraid to ride because I had not ridden a bike in a very long time. If you know me and remember a time, tell me because I forgot. Well, actually, I just remembered that I had tried to ride my children's bikes. It wasn't too easy because the bikes were too small for me. So I guess I have ridden a bicycle. Oh yeah, and the time I rode one of the church kid's bike at the church parking lot. Well, I hadn't ridden an adult bike. I think.

There I am riding the bicycle in the picture above. If you look at the middle, top part of the picture, you can see a slight shadow. No, it's not a smudge on your computer screen. I think that it is a dolphin (my husband does also). Oh yeah, we saw dolphins there. It was so neat to see them so close to shore. My brother saw them one morning while out riding a bicycle. A few mornings later, I was looking out the window when I saw 2 - 3 of them.

So thankful for that time...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Forks Over Knives

If you have a Netflix account, I highly recommend watching a documentary titled Forks Over Knives. Before I found out about my cancer, I probably wouldn't have watched something like this. Why would I? I was healthy... or so I thought. I had put great effort into choosing healthy things for my family. After getting my diagnosis, I started to read a lot of books on health, nutrition, and the connection to many illnesses. A lot of my basic beliefs about what I ate and fed my family were shattered. There is a lot more than mere health that drives what we are told is healthy for us. Read up or watch documentaries like this. Stay informed. The truth can shock you.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Four or so years ago, I lost a considerable amount of weight. I had not been dieting. I had not been trying to lose weight. The weight just came off without my realizing it. In retrospect, I think that it was my thyroid and stress.

I didn't realized how much (didn't own a scale) until I weighed myself somewhere... don't know where... but I weighed myself... somewhere. I had dropped down to my early high school years weight. I remember being afraid to tell my husband how much I had lost... didn't want to worry him.

People made comments about how thin I looked, but I thought that I had lost my 3 children baby weight. Most people had only seen the after-having-huge-babies-Moni (A1 had been 9 lbs. 7 oz). They hadn't seen pre-huge-babies-Moni.

Fast forward to menopause. I don't believe that having the monthly menopause-inducing shots put me into full-blown menopause. Having the oophorectomy did. Right away, I noticed a lot of changes in my body. The one that I hated the most (besides the mood swings and hair loss) was the added padding around my stomach area. It kept getting squishier. Or, as A3 said, "Mom, are you pregnant again?"

A few months after my oophorectomy, I noticed that I had gained 2 pounds (we had a scale in our house then). I saw it as something good. Some pants started to fit better. Then, we went on vacation.

During our time in South Carolina, I tried to eat healthy but also ate what everyone else was eating. There was nonstop eating and rationalization that it was okay to eat a huge portion because we were on vacation. Doesn't everyone do that on vacation?

There was a lot of laundry going on during that time. With a house full of 17 people, there were many loads tumbling in the washer and dryer each day. I would get pants back and they would be a bit snug. I assumed that it was like that because it had just been washed. I would do a few squats to loosen the pants, but they wouldn't loosen. I was a bit puzzled, but with my short-term memory issues, I quickly forgot.

On my last oncology visit, I was weighed, as usual, and that is when it hit me. I had gained 5 pounds. For four years I had been the same weight. Now, within an eight month period, I had gained 5 pounds. I am now at my before-I-got-married-weight. People have made a lot of comments on how my face looks more filled in and healthy. I hope it fills in my wrinkles. Just don't tell me that my head got bigger because that taps into my complex about having a big, Asian head that some members of my family gave me...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Super Simple Homemade Lotion Redo - If You Want...

I really enjoy making and using the Super Simple Homemade Lotion recipe. I used this lotion throughout the summer. It was super hot and humid outside, but my skin would get really dry (when I didn't put on lotion). Didn't understand, so I tried to keep lotionizing (Julia L., don't know if you read this blog, but this is a term I picked up from you at CCA).

One thing about this recipe was that the lotion had a bit of grittiness. It was due to the shea butter. But, let me tell you, as soon as you rubbed it onto your skin, the little, shea butter "grits" would melt into your skin. No problem. But, it could turn someone who has anal tendencies off.

The other day, I had to make more lotion, so I experimented. I took the coconut oil, shea butter, sweet almond oil, and aloe vera and melted it in a double boiler. Then, I let it cool on the counter until it was warm to the touch. I added the essential oil, and then mixed it together with the whisk attachment on my immersion blender. When everything cooled, I tried it out and the "grit" problem was solved.

So in conclusion, if you don't mind grit and don't like to be bothered with extra steps, just mix it together in your immersion blender. If you don't like those little grits and want them to go away, double boil, cool, and then mix. Hope this helps.

Super Easy Homemade Lotion Redo
adapted from

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon shea butter
2 tablespoons sweet almond oil
2 teaspoons aloe vera gel
15 drops essential oil

1 dark colored glass container
rubbing alcohol
paper towel

1. Sterilize jar or bottle in boiling water or spray and wipe with alcohol.
2. Put coconut oil, shea butter, sweet almond oil, and aloe vera gel in a heatproof bowl.
3. Place on a double boiler.
4. Once all the ingredients are melted, take the bowl off of the double boiler.
5. Let cool.
6. Add essential oils.
7. Mix with whisk attachment in immersion blender.
8. Store in dark glass jar or bottle.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Round

It has already been three months since my last round of tests. Today, I am getting another CT scan and bone scan. I have to drink many, many ounces of that CT drink. I have to have a port placed in my arm. I have to be injected with radioactive material. I have to be injected with an iodine contrast. I have to lay still while the CT scan machine scans my body. I have to lay still (and hopefully sleep) while the bone scan machine does its job. Please pray that God will protect my body from all of these factors.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Appa and Umma

These are my parents. They have been through a lot together. They left Korea when they were in their 30's to pursue a better life for their children. They left Korea with very little money and ventured to Argentina. They worked different jobs there. Working their hands to the bone. They knew no Spanish. They had very little money. They knew only two other people: my uncle and aunt. But they had determination.

When the opportunity arose, they moved to United States. They worked the immigrant life. They cleaned offices, worked in factories, saved money, bought a business, worked 12 hour days. They would wake up in the darkness of the early morning, go to the early morning prayer service at their church, drive an hour into the city to their dry cleaners, work twelve hour days, drive home another hour, cook, eat, sleep, and start the day again. That was all they knew, because they wanted their children to live a better life.

I cannot tell you how happy I was the day that they retired. They could rest and do the things that they wanted to do. They didn't have to drive into the city. They didn't have to deal with difficult customers. They could just enjoy their hard earned retirement.

I am forever grateful to my parents, even though I don't always show it. Not only did they work tirelessly to give us better lives, they also prayed over our lives. When they came to the United States, they went to church, met Jesus, and their lives were transformed.

They prayed for my sister, brother, and I. Everyday. They bathed us in prayer. Those prayers are what brought us out of difficult circumstances. Those prayers are what kept us following Jesus. Now, 9 grandchildren later, my parents still pray for us. Everyday.

Thank you, Jesus, for showing me Your love through my parents.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Survival Remedies and Shows

During our vacation in South Carolina, I got stung by one of these harmless looking blobs. I was in the water with my niece, when I felt a stinging on my leg. It didn't feel right. Then, I felt it again and again and again and the sting wasn't going away. THEN, it finally hit me: I must be getting stung by a jellyfish! So classic Moni. That is when I shouted to my niece that I thought that I was getting stung by a jellyfish and that we needed to get out of the water. We got out of that water: pronto!

Let me take a short break to describe a jellyfish sting. It feels like you got stung by a bee and it keeps stinging you and doesn't stop. I could see how a small fish doesn't have a chance. When I got out of the water, bumps started to form where the tentacles had wrapped around my leg. Couldn't look at them, can't... stand... looking... at little, red bumps... another story for another time.

When I got back to the house, I told my brother and sister-in-law what had happened. They told me about the survival skill they had learned on one of those reality, survival shows. See, there is a lot to learn from those shows! They told me that I needed to use a natural remedy that they had seen. It involved urine. Enough said.

Well, let me tell you, it worked! The stinging stopped almost immediately. The bumps started to go down also. I couldn't believe how well it worked. I was truly amazed. So the next time you are watching one of those survival shows, take some notes. Those tips might save you a lot of pain!

The next day, my nephew and brother got stung. My nephew got stung the most, and he was in a lot of pain. The tentacles had wrapped around his foot. He went into the shower in bad shape and came out smiling. Same with my brother. Who thought of this? Amazing!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Homemade Chocolate Almond Energy Bars

There are times (like breakfast) when I force myself to eat because:
  1. I need energy for the rest of the morning.
  2. I need to eat my vitamins and I can't on an empty stomach.
  3. It is the healthy thing to do.
  4. It gets my system going.
There are also other times in the day when I need an energy boost but I don't have time to eat. I might be driving my kids to an activity or in between errands. A mom's job is never done. This is when I need something that I can eat quickly but is healthy for me. I came across this recipe and I had to try it.

All the energy bar recipes I came across had dates as the "binder." I like dates but I wasn't sure how it would taste. I wondered if the taste of the dates would overpower the recipe. I was surprised to find that that wasn't the case. The dates add a sweetness that is balanced by the almonds and almond butter. 

I do recommend that when you measure the dates, you press them down in the measuring cup. This will ensure that the bars have enough "binder" to keep them from falling apart. If they do seem to be falling apart, add more dates or almond butter.

When I made this recipe, I made half a batch because I wanted to make sure that I liked the taste. I did like the taste, but I did make the mistake of not adding enough dates (didn't press them down into the measuring cup). Add enough dates and make sure that they are pitted! Just wrap these bars in parchment paper/plastic wrap and keep them in the refrigerator. Grab one when you are going to be out and about and in need of some energy.

Homemade Energy Bars
adapted from

4 cups whole, pitted dates
2 cups raw almonds
1 cup dark chocolate
2 tablespoons almond butter

1. Line a 9" x 13" pan with a piece of parchment paper.
2. Add almonds to a food processor and pulse until they are uniformly chopped.

3. Chop chocolate bar into smaller pieces.
4. Add the chocolate into the food processor and pulse again until the chocolate is finely chopped.
5. Pour mixture of almonds and chocolate into a bowl and set aside.
6. Add half the dates into the food processor until a paste forms and clumps together.

7. Add 1 tablespoon of almond butter and half of the almond/chocolate mixture into the food processor.

8. Process until combined.
9. Place mixture into prepared pan.
10. Repeat with remaining almond/chocolate mixture and almond butter.

11. When all the ingredients have been processed, use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the         mixture down into the pan. Make sure to press down firmly until the top is even and smooth.

12. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
13. Slice and serve.

14. Store in an air-tight container and place in the refrigerator.

I have one of those mini food processor attachments, so halving the mixture in the food processor worked for me. If you have a large food processor, I think that it might be okay to place the whole mixture in. You know your food processor better.

I ate mine with my green drink. Felt really healthy. The mixture of almonds, dates (for sweetness), and dark chocolate, blended well together. I also liked that this bar wasn't overly sweet. I am becoming my mother...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Veggie Water Tales

My name is Monica, and I am not a gardener. I don't like bugs. I don't like getting in contact with green, grassy plants because they make me itchy.

BUT, we do have a small garden area in our back yard. My husband likes to plant things for the sake of our children. It is something that they can observe from beginning to end. In the end, they can pick the fruits of our collective effort.

This year, one of our green thumb, church members helped plant some vegetables for us. We can't do it, we don't know how. Usually my mother gets us started, but this year she was in Korea when it was time to plant. And when it is time to plant, you have to plant. So, our green thumb, church member helped us. Her and her husband actually even came (early in the morning) and cut the branches off of one of our neighbor's trees because it was blocking our garden's sunlight. We woke up with a huge branch in our back yard.

They planted sesame leaves (don't know the exact English translation), grape tomatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, and zucchini. The church member made it so nice that it was hard not to water it. We didn't want to disappoint them. We would try to water the garden everyday, especially on those crazy, hot days. I even went out and watered the garden - a lot.

Throughout the summer, we were able to eat a lot of tomatoes, sesame leaves, and green peppers. The past month, we have had 5 different zucchini grow. The plant grew huge and we had lost hope in any zucchini growing because we couldn't see any. Then, one day, they started popping up. The first two we picked were cute little zucchini. This week, we got some huge ones. My children picked the one above. They had so much fun.

One humble observation I made was that the vegetables grew a tremendous amount after it rained versus us just watering it. It was amazing how much the plants would grow after a good rainfall. I said something about this to my father and he said, "Of course it grows more when it rains. There aren't any chemicals in that water."

Makes you wonder...

Oh, about that middle one. Add some eyes and a mouth to it. Who do you see? Is it Jimmy or Jerry?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Watermelon Sorbet

A while back, I had asked my husband for an ice cream maker so that I could make some non-dairy ice cream. Ice cream has always been a part of my life: winter, spring, summer, or fall. It made sense to me that we should have one, but it didn't make sense to him. He said that we had no room in our home and that we didn't need one. Unfortunately, he wouldn't budge.

And then, one day this past summer, an ice cream maker fell on my lap, and I had nothing to do with it! Really! Really! Since it was free, my husband said that it was okay. That began my quest for a simple sorbet or ice cream recipe.

When someone gave us two homegrown watermelons, my husband chopped them up and we ate a whole watermelon in one sitting. But, we still had a lot of leftover watermelon so I decided to make some sorbet.

I also made some mango sorbet with this recipe. Sorry, but I forgot to take pictures. This is a really simple and delicious recipe. The original recipe called for 1 1/4 cups of sugar. I added 1 cup, but it was a bit sweet for us. Depending on the sweetness of the fruit, I wouldn't add too much sugar. Maybe none at all.

Watermelon Sorbet
adapted from Alton Brown

1 pound, 5 ounces watermelon cut (approximately, one large, Corelle bowl of fruit)
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons vodka (keeps mixture from freezing into one large popsicle)
3/4 cups sugar (or less if fruit is really sweet)

1. Place cut watermelon in a blender or food processor.

2. Blend until smooth.

3. Add lemon juice, vodka, and sugar, and blend until fully mixed.

4. Place mixture in the freezer until it reaches 40 degrees (one hour or so).

5. Pour chilled mixture into ice cream maker.

6. Process according to manufacturer's directions.

7. Transfer into airtight container and place in freezer for 3-4 hours.

My children couldn't wait for the sorbet to set in the freezer. We ate it as soon as it was done in the ice cream maker. It was a bit sorbet, granita-like and refreshingly cool and delicious. Hope you enjoy!

Another way to make this recipe without an ice cream maker:
1. Place mixture in an airtight bowl in the freezer.
2. Every hour, break up the ice that forms and mix.
3. After a few hours, you will have an icy treat.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New School Year

Today, our family will be starting our new homeschool year. I am so excited! Really! We had a Labor Day weekend retreat at our church, so I waited until after Labor Day to start. Just like when I lived in the city of Chicago!

For the longest time, I had been wanting to start a new school year with my children. Last school year was filled with many disruptions. Those disruptions included two major surgeries that had me bedridden for a long time. Much of that time, my husband would get the kids started with their homeschooling, and then they would work on their own, while he went to work. I was so thankful for A1. He was a such a great help in leading and helping his siblings.

I feel like last year was so fragmented and broken. As a mother, I want to bring stability. I want things to get back to normal... for them and for me.

We received all but two of our children's workbooks (which were the vocabulary books that we could wait a few weeks to start), so we are set to go. Please pray that God will bless us with His presence as we begin this new school year. Please also pray that God will continue to bless my relationship with A1, A2, and A3.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Shoulder Woes

It has been three months since my cortisone injection. After 6 weeks, the effects of the steroids started to wear off. It was like clockwork. Just like the doctor said. During that time period, it felt like I had been cured. I still couldn't raise my arms 100%, but I didn't feel any discomfort. I could move and not get that jarring pain in my shoulders and upper arms-as often. I still don't want to get another cortisone shot but I do miss the effect it had on my life. 

I have been dreading nighttime, again. I don't like nighttime. Nighttime means that I have to sleep. Sleep means that I have to lay down. Laying down means that I am very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to wake up multiple times during the night. 

Please pray that God will relieve the frozen shoulder symptoms in both shoulders. Please also pray that I can get full range of motion in both arms again.