Monday, April 20, 2009

The Verdict

The spot on Mom's face has changed, but Dr. S isn't going to do a biopsy of it. She didn't schedule a bone marrow biopsy either. From Mom's symptoms, Dr. S has decided it's time to try chemotherapy again.

Two weeks from today, May 4th, Mom will start a protocol of Fludarabine and Rituxin. Dr. S says Mom won't lose as much hair as she did on the Cytoxin, Rituxin, and Vincristine, AND Mom won't have to take Prednizone (yay - no grumpiness!). Dr. S doesn't expect Mom to get as physically ill as she did the first go 'round. Mom will take Bactrim, an antibiotic, for about 6 months to help her fend off infection and Allopurinol to help her body handle the toxins.

In preparation, she'll have a tooth fixed on April 23, as this kind of chemotherapy will drastically reduce her white blood cell count and make her susceptible to infections. Then she'll have a PET scan done at the Colonades a week from today, Monday, April 27th, to see what the cancer's doing and to get a benchmark against which to compare any progress.

This chemo is once a day for five days. We'll do that once every four weeks. The first day will take about 8 hours, and each day after that should take 2-3 hours, depending on Mom's bloodwork.

So we'll do a PET scan, 3 rounds of chemo, and then another PET scan to find out if it's making a difference.

Photo courtesy of Corbis.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book Report

I recently read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It's a very good book. I love her prose, and her characters are some of the most vivid I have ever encountered.

It's set in 1962, and it surrounds the lives of three women in Jackson, Mississippi: Aibiline, Minny, and Skeeter. I hestitate to say it's about relationships between black and white women during that time because to me, it's really more about the power of relationships than the colors involved.

Yes, some very bad things happened during the Civil Rights Movement, and I'm not going to act like there aren't terrible people in this world. I have a fair idea of who every character in that book is in Jackson society, and frankly, I'm glad their transgressions are printed in a bestseller. No bad deed should go unpunished.

But I am also thankful to have had the women in my life about whom that book was written. Mattie came to us when I was a babe in arms, and she has always been an integral member of our family. She was in our wedding, as a family member, listed right along the grandparents and siblings. I remember when she and Sister came to our house to show us her dress. She said she wanted our approval, but I wouldn't have cared what she wore; as long as she was a part of it.

And of course our families wouldn't have been complete without Daisy and C.J. Daisy came to work with my grandmother when my mom and uncles were little. She was actually 50 years old, but Daisy decided that nobody would hire a 50-year-old woman, so she told Cha-Cha that she was 45. When we celebrated her 55th birthday, Daisy suprised us all by revealing that she was actually 60!

I distinctly remember one year when we were picking up a birthday cake for Mattie. I had a school friend over that day, and she said, "I don't see why you're making such a big deal about this. She's just a MAID." But Mattie is so much more than a maid. She's a good friend, a confidante, someone to share life with and somebody my whole family loves. Black, white, or any other color doesn't mean anything when you're talking about family.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sausage Balls

I almost never put these out so neatly on the pan when I'm cooking them, but they were kind of big, and I woke up in an orderly mood this morning. Usually I just dump them in a sausage-cheesiness free-for-all.

This is one of my favorite breakfast-for-overnight-company dishes. You can make them up to 3 days in advance, and they'll keep in the fridge until you're ready for them. I believe I've even frozen these before.

3 1/2 cups Bisquick
1 pound sausage (hot or mild, depending on taste)
10 ounces "coon" or sharp cheddar cheese, grated

  1. Find a good show on TV.
  2. Take off your rings.
  3. With your hands, thoroughly squish all three ingredients together.
  4. Roll about a tablespoon between your palms to form a ball.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Repeat.
  7. Repeat. (etc. until it's all balled up)
  8. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and cook for about 25 minutes.
If you want to make these into hors d'oeuves, take some green olives, pat them dry on paper towels, and mold the sausage mixture over each olive. You can use almost anything - bleu cheese, spiced pecans, anchovies. Be creative!

A note about the spiciness of the sausage: I use the bulk sausage that says "HOT" on it. Then again, I like Thai that's evil-priest-of-the-jungle spicy. The cheese and Bisquick will dilute the hotness considerably. But if you don't like spicy, try the mild first.

Happy Easter!

When was the last time you dyed Easter eggs? It really took me back.

My favorite part of the project was Mike very subtly, in Mike's way, taking a white egg and writing a special secret something to me on it before I dunked it. How romantical!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Wonderous Cross

Last night Mom, Nash and I went to Easely Amused for another lovely lesson. This one was different because everybody could pick out their own colors for everything! I was in a Springtime/Eastery mood, so here's what I did. The most fun was looking around at all the very different crosses!

Somebody asked if it was like a "paint-by number." I love that every Easely Amused project starts with a completely blank canvas - everything on that cross is 100% Fran Peacock. Both the good AND the bad.

Several of my neighbors in the class asked me if it was going into a nursery. As I'm currently firmly in a phase of "not-right-now," I had to grit my teeth and bear it. But maybe one day I'll use it that way.

As I was painting, I became kind of deep about it. The yellow to me represents Christ and His joy: there's a big block of it on the right side to symbolize how He sits on the right side of God. Also, the pink of course is blood. It's at the top, where His crown was, and it flows down to forgive us and pools at the bottom. The purple is our grief over losing Him here, and the green is renewal and rebirth.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Come Go With Me

Hey Asher, guess what I did!

Mike and I are toying with the idea of a trip to Italy. In that spirit, I've been trying for a week to find a really authentic recipe for tiramisu (literally, Italian for "come with me"), but so far, no luck. This is my very own recipe, garnered from three separate ones. If you want to know the theory behind the technique, I'll be happy to tell you, but for now, I'd better write this down before I forget.

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1 pound (16 ounces) mascapone cheese
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 packages savoiardi (lady fingers)
1/2 cup very strong coffee & chickory at room temperature
1/4 cup dark rum (I used Meyer's, but I bet plain old Bacardi would do)
1/4 cup Marsala
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

  1. In a glass bowl, combine egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/3 cup Marsala.
  2. Set the bowl over a pot with simmering water.
  3. With a hand mixer, whip the egg mixture until frothy, light yellow, and roughly double in volume.
  4. Add to mascapone in mixing bowl and mix with paddle attachment until very well combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, whipping cream, 2 Tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until stiff peaks form.
  6. In a measuring cup, combine the coffee, rum, and Marsala.
  7. Spread lady fingers flat out on a cookie sheet, and drizzle coffee mixture over them to soak.
  8. Gently fold the whipped cream into the egg and mascarpone mixture.
  9. In a deep casserole dish, lay half of the soaked lady fingers along the bottom of the dish.
  10. Top with a layer of cream mixture.
  11. Add another layer of lady fingers.
  12. Top with final layer of cream mixture.
  13. Sift cocoa powder on top.
  14. Seal very tightly and keep refrigerated for 2 days.

This dish must sit for 48 hours before the flavors develop and it's really ready to eat. So I'll let you know if it's edible after time is up. It's also definitely a 2-mixer-bowl recipe, so thank you Judy for making this much more easily accomplished with my Christmas mixer bowl!

Because I added Marsala wine, this egg and cream part of dish is technically a zabaglione.

Two ingredients might seem odd to you: mascarpone and Marsala. The mascarpone (pronounced mas-kahr-POH-nay) is basically just an Italian cream cheese, but I wouldn't necessarily substitute Kroger cream cheese for it. You can find mascarpone at Fresh Market and some Krogers in the cheese section.

Marsala is easy: go to a liquor store and ask for it. It'll probably be next to the sherry, port, and liqueurs. It can be used in a lot of cooking dishes, including brownies and chicken marsala, so you'll use the bottle before you know it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oh to be a Designer....

Summers as a child at Papa Doc and Cha-Cha's house in the country were long and hot. The days had their own rhythm, the highlight of which was usually walking among the locusts down the dusty quarter-mile dirt driveway to the mailbox. Daisy was in the kitchen, Big Willie in the yard, and I was their satellite, helping whenever there was a task that I could accomplish without being in the way.

One afternoon's mail included an envelope from a local museum. They were teaching how to make silver and semi-precious stone jewelry; I was so excited and interested in it that I memorized the flyer. As soon as I had my mother's permission, I called about it, but I was too young to attend.

That class has stuck with me. I truly adore jewelry. But once I was old enough, the class was no longer offered, and I haven't been able to find one like that since.

Soonafter, my allergies developed, and I was told to stay indoors as much as possible. So my creative talents grew in the kitchen with Daisy, or so I'd like to believe (hence this blog!). But I'm so glad that there are people in this world like Barbara Polinsky who let their imaginations fly in such a beautiful form of artistic expression.

I love her Twig/Organice Collection, but I especially like her Beauty in Imperfection collection. When I first read Leigh's entry, it made me think of one of my favorite phrases, "Perfectly imperfect;" these rings exemplify that idea. It applies to so much in life: the worn-down rug, the kettle with the dent in it, the friend who drives you crazy, the husband who works on Sundays. I was the kid who took home the three-legged puppy because that's how he was supposed to be. And perfect diamonds are never as pretty as ones with flaws: it's often the flaw that reflects light and makes it sparkle more.

None of us is perfect, and while surrounded by perfectly airbrushed beauty, it's nice to have a reminder that perfection isn't necessary. Imperfection gives us the qualities that make life real and interesting.

To read more and enter Leigh's giveaway, check out Marvelous Kiddo.

Photo and artist courtsey of Marvelous Kiddo.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ladies, eat your hearts out

Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. Knocked every one down!

We had a great time at Turcotte today. It was the first time we've ever been out there, and man, is it nice! I have three new boyfriends there: Jim Brown, the head guy, Dudly, a charming retired sherriff, and Andy, a regular. Andy even let me fire a clip from his .45 1911! The guys said I looked like a pro, but I felt like a cartoon character.

Mike and I were about to pack it up and get some lunch, but the lovely Boy Scouts of America were having a hamburger cookout after a morning of working on their rifle merit badges. They invited us on up, and that was the best damn grilled burger and baked beans I've ever put in my mouth. While we were eating, the Scout Master asked me where I "learned to shoot like that," and that he "Never wanted to make me mad." He was probably just making conversation, but it sure was encouraging.

Refreshed, we decided to keep on going until we ran out of bullets. It was such a pretty day that we went thorough 350 rounds before we knew it. And now we're home, getting ready to clean. Not nearly as exciting as the other part.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Little History

This past trip to Arkansas has really made me start thinking of history, especially my family's history and geneaology. Maybe it's because I'm growing up, but the word "geneaology" to me has taken on a different meaning, from dry old boring pieces of paper into stories and certain truths about my history.

My paternal grandparents met while attending the University of Arkansas. Grandmama knew Grandpapa when he went to fight in World War II. What an experience that must have been. How nerve-wracking, character-building, and joyous when he came home and they decided to marry; her experience while he was away explains why we fondly call her a worrywart. I definitely inheirited that: silly as it is compared to war, I worry about Mike on his daily trek down to Port Gibson. We kid about having inheirited those kinds of traits, but what does that really mean? Nature vs. Nurture or a combination thereof? Can you really inheirit a worry gene?

Furthermore, I suppose there is some truth to the adage that history repeats itself. My great grandmother, for whom I'm named, Leila Frances Pullen Nixon, and who died when I was inutero, married an engineer. She was college-educated at Judson, but she loved cooking and domestic duties. Here I am, two generations later, married to an engineer, college-educated, and maintaining that my favorite client is my husband and household. You get the point.

But Leila and Forrest aren't the only example of a college-educated homemaker in my family. Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers went to college and loved the house. My mom has degrees in both fashion merchandising and accounting.
And I know what you're thinking: what a waste to have so many college degrees issued that are not in use! But Leila was widowed when she was 28 and still managed to put all three of her children though Auburn with multiple degrees. Cha-Cha, my mom's mom, used her home economics degree every day of her life. You never know when something might happen, and all that education was definitely used well.
There's a word out there that I used to know but have long forgotten. Its definition is that all artwork has already been created; everything new is simply a variation on various themes. I wonder if that's true when it comes to humans and relationships. Not to become religious or ideaological, but how did I know, just KNOW when I met Mike that he was the one? Was it my subconscious pointing out, "Hey, he's an engineer?" Or are we just destined to repeat what we've observed and ultimately become our parents and/or ancestors?

If that's the case, I hope my granddaughter answers the door to solicitors like I do: with a pistol in her hand.

Photo courtesy Arboresque.


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