Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pics from the New Camera



I can tell a definite difference between my old snapshooter and Mike's new fancy-pants camera.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Jalousie Fondants


Forgive the terrible photo: I refused to turn on my flash in the Plantation House Restaurant at the Jalousie Plantation in St. Lucia.

This was one of our favorite desserts in our favorite spot in the world. Order it when you order your food because it takes about 20 minutes to make. They do them one by one, and I learned the hard way that that's the only way to do it. I'll make up the batter in one glass bowl: use it as a double-boiler over a pot of hot water and just dump the rest of everything in. The batter will keep in the fridge for up to 10 days. But it never lasts that long.

8 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I prefer semi-sweet.)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons Triple Sec (let it run over the spoon a little for extra orange flavor)
Vanilla ice cream
Whipped cream (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or glass bowl over boiling water (be careful! I always steam burn myself doing this!)
  • Remove chocolate mixture from heat.
  • Add the flour and sugar to the chocolate mixture.
  • Allow the chocolate to cool slightly.
  • Carefully and slowly stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. (If the chocolate is too hot, you'll scramble the eggs when you add them. It might help to temper the eggs by adding a spoonful of chocolate to the eggs before stirring them in.)
  • Stir in the vanilla and Triple Sec.
  • Liberally grease and flour your ramekins. I use the small 3 ounce size because this dessert is so rich.
  • Fill the cups to about 1/2 inch to the rim with batter.
  • Place the cups in a baking pan for ease of handling.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 14 minutes for the 4 ounce ramekins, 10-12 minutes for the 3 ounce ramekins.
  • The edges should be firm but the very center will be slightly wobbly.
  • Run a knife around the edges and a fork up underneath to loosen.
  • Carefully invert onto dessert plates and serve with ice cream, mint, and/or raspberries and almond whipped cream.

This recipe was derived from the recipe used in an episode of Paula's Deen's Home Cooking: Girl's Night In, and I was thrilled to tweak it and take home a souvenir from the Jalousie's signature dessert. Now if we could only figure out the Scorpion Sting and Cupid's Arrow rum drinks!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread


I always buy too many bananas. And there's nothing I dislike more than an overripe banana in my breakfast. Yuck. So once they develop the tiniest hint of overripeness, I peel them and stick them in a baggie in the freezer so I can make this recipe whenever I want!

1 cup sugar
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
5-7 ounces buttermilk
2 bananas, mashed
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups baking mix
3/4 cup chopped pecans

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease 5x9 inch or 4-6 mini-loaf pans.
  • Cream sugar and cream cheese in bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in buttermilk, bananas, and eggs.
  • Add baking mix and pecans, do not overmix.
  • Stir until just moistened.
  • Pour into prepared pans, and bake for 1 hour or until done.
This is one of the first recipes I ever came up with when we got married. It's a variation on the recipe below from a cookbook entitled Rebul Recipes 2006 our good friend Laneita gave us.
1 cup sugar
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 bananas, mashed
2 eggs
2 cups baking mix
1/2 cup chopped pecans


Follow the instructions from above. I think I developed my recipe because I wanted a fluffier bread (from the buttermilk) and I like lots of pecans. The variations go to show just how forgiving banana nut bread is. Try other stuff in there, like cinnamon or chocolate chips!

Photo courtesy of the Monkey Blog.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Camera


Mike bought a new camera over Memorial Day weekend. He has always been interested in photography, and now we have a great tool to pursue that interest. After spending 4 days trying to figure it out from the manual, I've enlisted a good friend to show us the basics of stuff like F-stop and aperture. Right now I look more like a monkey with a math problem when trying to figure it out.

The photos that we HAVE managed to eek out are, however, absolutely GORGEOUS.

Once we learn how to download them to the computer, I'll be sure to share!

Photo courtesy of dphotojournal.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ribs in a Hurry


This weekend was meterologically frustrating. Mike's training as a pilot taught him to respect volatile weather, and boy was it volatile! The system was tropical, so storms would build over the warm water of the Rez, resulting in terrible ski conditions, both from choppy water and the potential to get wet unintentionally from rain.

Usually we smoke ribs, but I really wanted ribs this weekend, and we didn't know if we were going skiing or not. I didn't want to get the smoker started and then leave it unattended, so here's what we did:

The night before, I rubbed the ribs down with cinnamon chipotle rub.
Then I wrapped them tightly in foil and baked them in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours.
I let them cool completely, then stuck them in the fridge overnight.
The next day, Mike basted them in BBQ sauce, fired up the grill, and grilled them enough to finish up cooking.

The result? Very good, but not as tender as if they had been fully smoked.

Chicken Ka-Bobs


We had the best time Saturday night with Liz, Asher, and Jim - thanks for coming, guys! I don't know why I was hell-bent on sishkabobs, but I think the end product was fabu. The menu was artichoke dip, biscuits, the 'bobs, Liz's crunchy romaine salad, and Asher's hash browns, with key lime pie, our wedding Bailey's Irish Cream cake, or chocolate ganache cake for dessert. Damn, it was good!

So here's how we did the chicken:
- 4 BIG chicken breasts
- 2 purple onions
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 orange bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 package button mushrooms
Marinades.

The night before, we cut the chicken and vegetables into 1 1/2 inch pieces, and Mike decided on the marinades: chicken was in spicy- and cherry-teriyaki, vegetables were in lemon garlic and Caribbean jerk, and the mushrooms were marinated in soy and Worcestershire sauces. We sealed them up and stuck them in the fridge.

Then the next day, we skewered them (Mike did this for us for one of our first dates, and I remembered how much fun it was), heated up the grill, and grilled them until done, about 15-20 minutes.

It served a LOT more than we expected it to serve! I'd say about 8 people.

I won't mention how Mike thought the grill was filled up with gas, went to check on it, and realized he had run completely out, so he had to go pick up some more before we could cook them. He said it was so embarrassing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

SQUEAKY SQUEAKY SQUEAKY

video

Dante's modus operandi when it comes to squeaky toys. He'll do this for HOURS and HOURS and HOURS.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Contentment


Two years ago on the 19th Mike and I pledged our love to each other in front of God and everybody. It was a lovely wedding and has been a great marriage in every aspect I could imagine.

A good friend once told me that the first year of marriage was, so far, her easiest, and that the third year is really the most tough. I can understand that - the first year you're so busy being polite to your spouse and trying not to hack them off. By the third year you wouldn't have that kind of energy anymore. So I began to dread what was around the corner.

But I've found it's different with Mike and me. Sure, we have our bad days and conflict. And with my temper, "conflict" is a nicer word for World War III. But wouldn't life be boring without that? And what's that proverb about rainy days making you appreciate the pretty ones? Sure, the trip to Europe that we're taking in September might have something to do with how happy I am right now, but I know there's also something deeper. Something more simple, more Mayberry, here.

As I grow up, I'm learning to appreciate contentment much more deeply than I appreciate happiness. Being happy is great, but it's fleeting. And like being polite to a spouse in the first year of marriage, really, who has the energy for all that happiness? I'm growing to appreciate the satisfaction of getting Dante all excited and greeting Mike when he comes home from work. And digging in the dirt. Reconciling a bank statement to the penny and folding fresh laundry. There's nothing wrong with manual labor, but I never dreamed I'd find such pleasure in it. Ten, no, five years ago, I'd look at someone like me and feel sorry for somebody so boring. I guess that's age for you.

Deep thoughts by Fran Peacock.

Indulge me in a trip down Memory Lane with some details I remember about our wedding. I really should write more down so I can remember in years to come:
- That first look I had of Mike in the church. It felt wierd - I'd never seen him in a tux before!
- Getting a spider in my dress before the ceremony and not really caring. But Mike's sweet cousin Lyndi helped me get it out at the reception.
- I was late to get dressed and whipped my clothes off so fast I lost Nancy's sixpence. Mom found it in time - it was slung across the room. She spotted it while on the phone with Beverly to see if she could bring a spare.
- During pictures, Mike bit my neck and tecnhically gave me a hickie (little red spot - no bruise though) throughout the wedding.
- Dad took my pulse during the ceremony. Dad, Jim White (the only man who could have ever married us), and Mike all thought I was going to pass out. I started snuffling, so Jim passed smelling salts and a handkerchief across the communion table. I didn't want to reach that far, so I whipped a handkerchief out of my bra. I'm classy like that.
- After he walked me down the aisle, Mike grabbed my purse on the table in the vestibule and whisked me into his car and on the the reception - nobody realized we had already left!
- We were early to the reception, so we just made an impromptu receiving line at the door. That worked out best because that way we were able to be sure to speak to everyone.
- After everyone went inside, Mike and I slipped in and cut cakes under the radar.
- A full moon has followed us until this anniversary: it was a full moon the night he proposed, the night we married, and the night of our first anniversary.
- Even though it's not a full moon this time, it still feels special. The night we married was the most magical night of my life.


What have we done this past year?

And just in case you were wondering, here are a few pics from our first year:


Happy Anniversary, Sea Urchin. Sure do love you.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sweetest Wedding Ever!



Forgive me for this being the only picture that came out from Jessica and Ben M.'s wedding yesterday! I was so busy taking it all in - the beautiful setting, the good times, great music, sweet, laid-back atmosphere, that I forgot to take out my camera. And when I did, it was on such low battery that THIS was the only pic that wasn't blurry. I'm sure more will come up on FaceBook, and we're eagerly anticipating their being posted!

The service was just exquisite. In a big pretty white church, the bridesmaids wore a rich chocolate brown with matching shoes and carried boquets of ivory and pink roses tied with Tiffany-blue silk ribbon. Excuse my lapse into wedding-planner mode, but the colors really were to die for. And shazaam at how hot all the groomsmen and ushers were in their classic black tuxes. I love a man all dressed up like that.

The reception was at the Cedars, and I have to say the food and cakes were absolutely delicious! I'm still dreaming about the shrimp & grits - it was inspirational! Jessica and Ben were so laid back and relaxed and just a joy to get to visit with. We sat on the front porch and caught up with good family and friends. A great time was had by all.

And to think, right now, as I type this post, the happy lovebirds are on their way down to St. Lucia for their honeymoon. Have a great time y'all - we sure did. Can't wait to see pictures! Watch out for my buddy the Rastafarian with one flippy-floppy on and one missing. And when you get back, you'll have to come over to Clinton for supper and to tell us all about it. Bring Callie too! I know she'll love married life!

Funny side note: yes, Mr. Peacock was packing heat. But I made him leave it in the car for the wedding and reception. After an 18-month long engagement, "shotguns" of any sort were rendered unnecessary. (tee hee)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How to Peel a Tomato

It's another beautiful spring weekned, and I wanted to suprise Mike with his favorite side: homemade salsa! It's also known as ugly dip, but I figure when I individually chop the ingredients it's salsa, instead of when I get lazy and just throw it all in the blender/Cuisinart.

These are early vine-ripened tomatoes, so they're pretty small. I didn't want to peel them with a knife because 1. it takes so long and 2. it inherently takes some of the tomato meat with it. So I figured I'd blanch them. You have probably already heard of this process, but it was my first time, and I was really pleased with the results.

You'll need a pot of boiling water, a bowl with ice water, tongs, and tomatoes.


Core the tomatoes by just removing the little hard patch at the top where it connects to the stem. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water for 15-25 seconds. Suprisingly, it does not cook them! Watch carefully, and you'll see the skin begin to split. That's when you dunk them in ice water.

You can use a knife to get the skin started, but really, it pulls off suprisingly easily.
This tomato has no peel! Check out how much meat was saved versus knife-peeling. Voila - peeled tomatoes, ready for the salsa!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Back to Normal

I detest squirrels, but this one makes me giggle. This is his favorite spot outside the window over our kitchen sink. Usually he chillaxes with all four feet hanging down. His name is Norman.

He's probably just waiting for my tomatoes to turn. We have interesting holes in the backyard. I think Mike's inspecting one here.




Two of my cilantro plants are flowering: the seeds of cilantro are actually coriander.

Or as normal as we can be. First off, a very happy birthday to my dad! We're looking forward to seeing you this evening!

Meanwhile, I'm glad to be back home and have everyone once again settled where they're supposed to be. I have a world of things to do at the house today: the floors and putting stuff away have been neglected. Oh! And I think I'll make a special trip to the grocery store. The warm weather has me in a smoothie kind of mood. But before I do any of that, I've promised Dante that we'll go for a W-A-L-K. He hasn't been in almost a week.

I really missed our backyard.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Headed home!

Thanks to you for your prayers, help, and thoughts.

Mom's still having a few little problems here and there, but at least she can deal with them in the comfort of her own home. She's most looking forward to seeing the dogs!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Twice in as many weeks

Everything's OK now, but I'm on a first-name basis with too many emergency room nurses down at Baptist Hospital.


Mom had Rituxin and Fluderabine last Monday, followed by Fluderabine Tuesday-Friday. Dr. S. expected her to react to the Rituxin on Monday, so she preceeded it with a drip of Benadryl and Decadron. Sure, Mom had a few hives Monday afternoon, but another dose of Benadryl fixed her right up.

Mom had an OK day Saturday. She didn't feel like going to work, and she didn't have much of an appetite, but it was expected from the chemo this past week. Saturday night she developed a few hives too.

By Sunday around lunch, Mom itched all over. Around 5:30, she finally let me take her in due to trouble breathing. I'll spare you the rest of the details. They admitted her to the hospital; she was in a room by 10 PM. I'd like to think I'm good in a situation like that, but when it's your mom, that's a scary thing.

Right now she's sleeping soundly on Ativan, Atarax, and Solu-Medrol. Through the night, the Benadryl just wasn't working, and by noon today Mom wanted to cut off her feet so she could scratch them better. Dr. S. decided to bump it up and knock her out. Now the hives look much, much better, and her normal color is coming back.

I'm hoping we'll get out of here soon, but we've received no word from Dr. S yet. Sure, she LOOKS much better, and she's getting to sleep, but I'm a little worried about what she'll do when the antihistamines and steroids wear off.

The doctors and nurses here at Baptist are lovely people. A nurse in the ER caught my eye on my way to the bathroom to ask how Mike's ear was. We were in the ER two Tuesdays ago with his very infected ear, and I was suprised that she remembered me. If you can make it to Baptist, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Good Husband


Mike knew I would have a hard week this week, so he sent me these on Monday. I'm amazed how great they still look! To give me even more happy things to think about, he's in the front yard, cranking up the boat. I love this man.

One Week Down.....

So far Mom has tolerated this round of chemotherapy rather well. We were in the hospital for about 8 hours Monday, then about an hour and a half Tuesday-Friday. The timing was actually a lot easier than we expected it to be, but both Mom and I were suprised how much it took out of both of us.

Monday was rough. The nurse had a hard time accessing Mom's port, which really hurt. Even though they started with a drip (not a shot - a DRIP!) of Decadron and Benadryl, throughout the day Mom intermittently broke out in hives from the Rituxin. When she broke out badly enough, the nurse would stop the Rituxin and pump Mom full of more Decadron and Benadryl. Between the high from the steroids and the low from the Benadryl, Mom's body couldn't decide if it was wired or woozy. Baptist has WiFi access, so most of the time we watched Carol Burnett reruns on YouTube.

Something I've learned from long-term healthcare: PAY ATTENTION, and sometimes you can keep from getting stuck all the time. The nurse took Mom's port access needle out at the end of Monday before I could say, "wait! You're going to have to access that again tomorrow!" In the end it was just as well, as Mom really didn't like how that first port access needle was seated. But once they accessed her port Tuesday morning, the nurses were able to just leave that needle taped in (with a gentle reminder from me) for the rest of the week. Therefore, next time Mom starts a week of chemo on June 1st, she will only have to be stuck once!

Tuesday Mom was ready to fight tigers from all the Decadron. Her cheeks were rosy enough for her to look slightly drunk all day, and she felt really great. Port access was much much easier. Wednesday-Friday she has been falling off the Decadron high, and by last night, she was feeling rather punk. Her white blood cell count is currently taking a nose-dive, so she'll feel pretty bad next week.

She will also be highly susceptible to infection, so if you have the sniffles, please stay away.

Remembering her pain from last chemo, even though she's taking different drugs this time, I made a point on Wednesday that we wanted some pain pills for this weekend, just in case. Mom was sent home with SIXTY Lortab! So she's set for a while. That kind of makes me worry about what we should expect. We know that since this is the first round of three, it will hit her harder than the next two will. She's not in the Vincristine-induced bone pain, but she is having trouble getting comfortable, and she rarely sleeps more than one hour at a time, but the Lortab should fix that.

And we have some good news: Monday's report from Mom's PET scan was a positive one. Previously, she had some cancer cells on the right side of her neck, but the PET scan showed that they were gone. I'm reluctant to believe it, but the cancer might actually be going away. Dr. S won't yet use the R-word. We've lived with it for so long, I wouldn't know what to do with a cancer-free mom!

I've felt pretty crummy lately. Maybe I've been exposed to something at the hospital or maybe I'm getting older or just a little run down. I have a new appreciation for healthcare providers. Guess I'm just not as young as I used to be.

She's going back in on Thursday for bloodwork to be sure her counts are OK and that she's not becoming anemic. Then we'll report back to the hospital on Monday, June 1st for the second round of three.

Meanwhile, Mike's ear is still stuffy and bothering him. We were in the ER two Tuesdays ago with an ear so infected that it almost ruptured. He's on his third round of antibiotics. The good news is that now he is almost consistently able to pop it, so we're hoping it'll get better every day.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Quite possibly the most sane person I know

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This is the infamous Bush Man. He sets up shop every morning in the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco. I think here he was just outside of Pier 37, on The Embarcadero.

You might not be able to tell, but he's sticking his tongue out at me at the very beginning. Sometimes he cracks "his own self" up. He obviously loves what he does, even if it IS compltely off the wall.

 

Made by Lena