28 September 2008


where all good hippies want to go when they die. I read that somewhere years ago. LOL.

Woodstock, like the Summer of Love, helped define a generation. There was a commercial on a few years ago (for laundry detergent, I think) where a little boy goes up to his dad and says with great awe, "Hey Dad! Did you know that Mom went to Woodstock?" The father, looking much chagrined answered, "Yeah, but I married her anyway.". My children always loved that commercial as they thought the idea was so apropos.

When I was looking at our driving route for this trip, I saw that we would be very near to Woodstock. Told Mike we would have to go by there so he could make my photo with the city limit sign or something. (Kinda like all of us getting our photos made "standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona"). Today when we leave Owego and drive through Catskills State Park on the way to the Omega Institute, we pass right through Woodstock. Our children are gonna love this photo! And now Mike can truthfully say, "Yeah, but I married her anyway!"
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going to The Omega Institute

We will leave Owego and drive through Catskill State Park on our way to the Omega Institute. We've got a cooler packed and plan to picnic. It should be a gorgeous autumn day and hopefully it won't be raining the whole time. For my foodie friends, with whom I discussed this before leaving, our road food includes:
Mozzarella wrapped with basil and proscuitto
Purple Haze Goat Cheese
Cambazola Cheese
Smoked Cheddar
Smoked Gouda
Dolmas (from Fresh Market)
Assorted olives (from Fresh Market)
Roasted Red Peppers
Table Water Crackers

It will make for a lovely picnic, even if we have to eat in the car in the rain. It won't be the first time that has happened either.

Once we get to Omega, I do not know if there will be any internet access. And even if there is, I don't know if I will be signing on or not. Seeing John of God is supposed to be a very powerful experience and intent is considered extremely important. I really intend to be focusing on healing, and will write in my journal. But I likely won't blog again until we leave. Not sure what we will do on the way home. It all depends on how the week goes and how I feel when it is over. So far, I am doing pretty well.
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Owego, NY

This is our Saturday night stop. And what a gorgeous view we have from our room. The hotel is right on the Susquehanna River. It's raining a bit now, but hopefully will let up so we can walk down to the water before we leave. There are manicured grounds right up to the river's edge.

Yesterday was mostly cloudy, but we also had periods of both sun and rain. As we got farther north, the leaves became even more BEAutifully coloured. While the trees would have been more brilliant had it been sunny all day, I got quite a few lovely photos. Here's a sample of the leaves in northern Pennsylvania.

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Starbucks & the price of gas

Yesterday we got a late start and didn't want to take time for a full breakfast somewhere. How fortuitous that Starbucks was right across the lane from our hotel. Venti Anniversary Blend with Cream and a Blueberry Scone make a great on-the-go breakfast. Mike got a Blueberry Muffin instead of a scone. I do think that scones are some of Starbucks' best baked products. The lite blueberry muffins are pretty good, too, but they were out of those.

We're also paying attention to fuel prices. When we filled up yesterday morning at home, gas was $4.05/gallon. We refueled in Kentucky @ $3.75/gallon. $3.58/gallon was the price in Columbus, OH. Is it just because we've gotten away from the southeastern gas shortages or does fuel normally cost this much less in the midwest?

...time passes...
In Ohio, just before crossing into PA, fuel was $3.69. And in Muncy, PA $3.54 was the cost for regular.
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27 September 2008

Paul Newman

26 January 1925 - 26 September 2008

A great man. He will be sadly missed.
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Saturday Morning Confusion, Bob Evans, Debate aftermath, etc.

Anybody remember that song from the early 1970s? Saturday Morning Confusion? No confusion here this morning. Mike & I were a little later than intended getting off yesterday morning, but we had a beautiful day for driving. We are slightly north of Columbus, OH. And this morning we have slept late and are having a leisurely wakeup.

We got here just as it was getting dark last night. As we drove up to the hotel (Holiday Inn Express) I noticed there was a Bob Evans next door. Now we do not have Bob Evans in our part of the country and I was curious about a particular dish I've read about on food boards - Deep Dish Chicken and Noodles. So I asked Mike if he wanted to go try this out and he was game.

Bob Evans Deep Dish Chicken and Noodles is basically carb heaven. I've never seen anything quite like it. First there is a biscuit put in the middle of the dish. The biscuit is topped with mashed potatoes. Then the chicken and noodles are ladled over the top. Truly I've never seen such a carbohydrate ladened dish before. And the serving size was huge. I think I ate about a quarter of it. I really did like the homemade noodles. They were thicker than noodles I am used to eating and cooked just right. I won't order this particular dish again, but if I could get a bowl of just the noodles and broth, that would be good. We both ordered a piece of pumpkin pie to go and got back to our room about 5 minutes before the debate.

Ah, the debate. Who do you think won? I thought Obama came off as cool under fire and very presidential, while McCain sounded like an angry old man still stuck in Vietnam.

So yesterday's trip was all interstate. As we have gotten farther north we have noticed some leaves are beginning to turn. Today we plan to take off on some more scenic routes, go through some small towns and enjoy the ambiance. It would be better if were were in the , but it will still be nice. I'm planning to make photos.
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26 September 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

I'm so excited to officially be a member of Barefoot Bloggers! The recipe this week is Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup. It was chosen by Chelle of Brown Eyed Baker and can be found in Barefoot Contessa at Home.

I started out with the search for wild mushrooms. Fresh Market yielded these:

Mostly I use portobellos that come in my CSA veggie box, so I was somewhat surprised at the prices. No fresh Cremini or Porcini were to be found so I had to use dried porcini. Costs were:
Dried porcini - $7.49/ 1 oz. carton
Fresh shiitake - $12.99/lb
Baby Bellas - $5.99/lb
I used the full carton of porcini and reconstituted them in warm water.

The veggies, mushroom stems, and thyme made a lovely start to the broth. Carrots came from the veggie box and thyme from my herb garden.

Friends on some other websites had mentioned that the soup didn't have a lot of flavour and the consensus was to use broth instead of water for the liquid. I used the soaking liquid from the porcini and made up the remainder of the 6 cups with organic free-range chicken broth. The house smelled fabulous while this was simmering. I could see using this broth in other soups, too.

My leeks were not huge, so I just sliced them rather than chopping.

And now the mushroom caps are added to the pot.

Here we are with the delicious homemade broth added. For the wine, I used Kendall Jackson Vintners' Reserve Chardonnay.

And finally: THE SOUP. Served in a Fiesta jumbo mug.

This was actually my lunch the next day and I forgot to add parsley to it then. I thought the soup was even better after letting the flavours meld overnight. The recipe made a large amount. As I am the only one at my house who would eat it, I sent some of it home with my Mom. She thought it was some of the best mushroom soup she ever ate. And while I liked it, I'm not sure how often I would make this again. Probably not unless I were having friends over who like mushroom soup. And then I'd probably serve it in a small cup as an appetiser. I think my favourite thing about this soup is the memory of Mel Brooks enjoying it on the show.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
Ina Garten
5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
5 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms
5 ounces fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups water
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.

Click here to see what other Barefoot Bloggers think of this recipe.
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25 September 2008

I Can't Work Today

Received in e-mail today:

I can't respond to any e-mails today, something has crashed on my computer, and the mouse is missing. . .

I love baby kitties.
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Thursday transfusion 9-25

My psyche is much better today. Yesterday's pic line held up fine, so I avoided having to be stuck for that again. I did have to get a CBC, though. After 2 units of red cells and another unit of platelets, my counts should be better now than at any time since before we went to Italy. After the transfusions I had my Vidaza treatments. I'm a bit tired so plan to rest a bit before I finish packing for the trip tomorrow.

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24 September 2008

extra platelet transfusions

I have to say I was not excited to get the phone call yesterday afternoon telling me my platelets were so low that I had to come get some today. But I don't want to bleed to death and my gums were in pretty bad shape yesterday, so I did what I was supposed to and showed up at the blood centre today at 1:00p. When I got there they were all excited because the blood bank had sent TWO units of platelets for me. There has been a shortage lately (almost didn't get any last week!) so this was great news! I put on a hemi-sync meditation and the line went in with no trouble. I did ask if they could give me a pic line that would also do for the transfusions tomorrow. As I am running a slight fever, there was some concern about that, but since I'm on antibiotics they left it in. The line is in the top of my left hand, so it's kinda hard to use it much. Good news = my gums are better and I can actually brush and floss my teeth tonight. (Been having to use a soft cloth to clean teeth and avoid the gum area.) Now I just have to check-in at the blood centre before 8:00a in the morning so I'm within the 72 hour deadline between type & cross and the transfusions of red cells.

I had wanted to bake my Peppery Cheese Cookies this afternoon, but will do that and finish packing tomorrow after the rest of the transfusions. Life is good.

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23 September 2008

Peppery Nut Cheese & Cornmeal Cookies

As I mentioned earlier on one of the food boards we have started a Christmas Cookie Bake-Along. I was selected to choose the first recipe for the year. And as I was starting us off, I chose a starter cookie, rather than a sweet cookie. The recipe comes from The Jimtown Store Cookbook, Recipes from Sonoma County's Favourite Country Market. I had not made these before, but I loved the idea of being able to make ahead and freeze both the dough or the baked cookies. Always a handy thing at holiday time!

"This savoury icebox cookie...will earn you a reputation as a stellar hostess. ... The yield is large, but since both the raw dough and the baked cookies freeze well, there's no reason not to stock up." Makes about 100 cookies. Serve as an appetiser, snack, or along side soups or salad.

2 1/2 cups (approximately 9 oz) pecans
8 oz Asiago* cheese, finely grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz sharp Vermont white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Toast pecans on a baking sheet, stirring a couple of times, for 8-10 minutes. Immediately remove from pan and cool to room temperature. Chop finely and measure 2 cups. Save any extras for another use.

Combine Asiago, butter, cheddar, flour, cornmeal, black pepper, salt and cayenne in food processor bowl and pulse to mix. (Can mix by hand or in mixer if processor not available.) Turn dough out into large bowl and scatter the pecans over the dough. Knead to mix in the nuts until the dough is smooth. Give the dough several whacks to remove any air pockets.

Divide dough into four equal pieces and roll each into a 12" log, 1" in diametre. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm.

(At this point the dough can be frozen for up to two months. Thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before baking.)

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Line sheet pans with parchment.

Slice chilled dough into 1/8" thick rounds and arrange on prepared pans, spacing about 1 1/2" apart. Reshape to round if they flatten during slicing. Put two pans in the oven at the same time and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Change positions of the pans on the racks from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking time. Transfer to cooling racks and let sit till they cool to room temperature.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for at least a week and develop more flavour if they sit for a day or two after baking. Alternately the cookies can be frozen in an airtight container for up to a month.

*If you can't find Asiago cheese, aged Parmesan or Pecorino Romano can be used instead.

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Surprise dish gift

Have I mentioned that dishes make me happy? I got a package in the mail today from a dear friend and it was such a surprise. A new Fiesta Christmas ornament. A very special Fiesta Christmas ornament.

I think it would be quite nice to make history!

This will have to go at the top of my ornament tree. Here is a photo from last year.

I've gotten a few other Fiesta ornaments since then so the bottom of the tree will be more filled in when it gets decorated this season.

Happy dishing,
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Tuesday of treatment week

Treatment weeks are currently the least favourite days of my life. This week I'm participating in a Christmas Cookie Bake-Along on one of the foodie boards. The recipe is for a savoury appetiser cookie and I needed the cheeses to make it. So yesterday I stopped by Fresh Market on the way home from treatment. I managed to get the pecans toasted, but then the nausea got to me and I had to go lay down. Didn't wake up till family got home around 5:30. I was still kind of out of it and never did eat dinner. (And my platelets have tanked again! )

Woke up this morning still feeling somewhat ill. Thank goodness for compazine. Went over and got my second treatment, then stopped on the way home to get some lingere. Only to have a friend tell me she'd rather get a root canal than have to go bra-shopping. I finally felt hungry, so leftovers from PF Changs were lunch. Now I'm thinking I actually feel like going and making the cookie dough for the bake-along. It has to refrigerate for a couple of hours, so I can bake tomorrow morning.

The other bad news about my platelets is that my gums started bleeding again last night. So the nurse just called and said I have to get a platelet transfusion tomorrow, as well as the one already set up for Thursday with the red cells and platelets. Good thing I've been drinking a lot of water this afternoon so I'm well hydrated.

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21 September 2008

Canning Tomatoes

Canning tomatoes is something I love to do. When I was a kid I helped my grandmother do this every summer. Tomatoes would be spread out all over the utility room, One side of the sink would be filled with hot water to quickly blanch the tomatoes so the skins would slip off. Then we'd pack them in the jars and put them in the water bath canners. She always had two canners going at the same time. I haven't been able to can tomatoes this year, though I was able to put up a few jars of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes earlier this summer.

So Maria, one of my Italian friends from upstate New York, shared her recipe for Crushed Tomatoes with me. Her Mom developed this method to eliminate the peeling step. Between the tomatoes that came in this week's veggie box, and some that are still surviving in our garden, I was able to put up four quarts of these yesterday. It might not sound like a lot, but I was thrilled. And I know they will be delicious this winter. Not only that, the recipe is one of the easiest I have ever tried. Now Maria normally uses plum tomatoes, but I used what I had on hand. This did include a couple of Romas and some Orange Banana tomatoes.

Maria's Crushed Tomatoes

Sterilise quart jars and keep them hot.

Wash tomatoes, slice in half, and squeeze out seeds. Place tomatoes in food processor and pulse a few times (just enough to break down the tomatoes to your preferred texture).

Into hot sterilised quart jars add:
3 basil leaves to the bottom of the jar, along with 1 Tbsp salt (can you use less salt if desired). Fill jar with crushed tomatoes and top with three more basil leaves, leaving 1/2" headspace.

Wipe the rims of the jars and top with sterile, hot lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes to seal jars. Store and use as desired.

Notes: Don't use iodised salt as it alters the colour of the food. I use Diamond Crystal Kosher. And I used fresh picked basil from my herb garden.
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19 September 2008

Shopping therapy

It was so nice to wake up and feel like I could go out and do something! So I did. And it's the first time I've driven myself anywhere in two weeks. First stop was to the appliance store to look at red washers and dryers. I think I'm going to give up on the LGs and get something different. I've now had three different places tell me that it is too hard to get parts and support for those. So now I am considering Bosch, GE, Maytag and Whirlpool. Whirlpool and GE both have the steam feature. And GE has that pedestal that you can fill with detergent, fabric softener, and bleach and you are set for six months. But the GE red is an orangy red and not nearly as pretty as the others. The GE also has a connection between the washer and dryer so you don't have to set the dryer. It gets the load info from the washer. All you have to do is move the clothes and push start. Decisions, decisions. I'm going to wait until we get back from Fall Break to actually purchase. Have to wait almost that long for the gas dryer to show up anyway. But it was fun looking at new appliances.

Next was going to Fresh Market. I don't remember the exact last time I was able to go grocery shopping. And I like grocery shopping! I got the ingredients to make Ina's Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup that is the second September recipe for Barefoot Bloggers. Also got some things for easy eating this weekend at the farm. I think I'll do appys for Mike and me to have on the pavillion tomorrow night.
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18 September 2008

Thursday transfusion 9-18

Warning: don't read if you are squeamish. Today did not start out well. My mouth & gums kept bleeding all night and big gloppy clots kept forming. That's pretty disgusting. Plus I don't have enough blood to spare. So I slept off ond on last night, propped up on the sofa. In the wee hours you wonder stuff, like, could a person bleed to death like this? So I was somewhat stressed by the time we got to CCI this morning. They had a hard time getting a needle inserted. First on the inside of my arm, I kept bleeding out under the skin because my platelets are so low. And that spot was really burning a lot. They finally got a line in my inner elbow, but it didn't feel right either. The saline ran OK, but when they started the red cells, it bled out, too. Mike told them don't talk to me about what was going on, because I didn't want to hear it. And he was absolutely right. I never want to hear any of that stuff. I'M SQUEAMISH. So I got a Hemi-Sync meditation going on my iPod with noise blocking earbuds and disassociated myself from reality. Another nurse came to try to redo the line and she was able to get it in the top of my hand after a few minutes. From some other state I knew that one was going to be OK.

Mike normally goes and stays with me the whole time when I am getting transfusions. But he had meetings scheduled today before we knew I'd be getting blood. He wanted to change the meetings, but I told him I would sleep and be fine. Of all days for the line to have trouble. After the hand stick and I knew it would be OK, I got him to go ahead and go to his meetings. I went to sleep from the Benadryl and no other problems came with the red cells. He got back just after they had started the second unit. But then it was time for platelets and there were no platelets. Lots of times the main blood centre holds platelets till the afternoon because of surgeries scheduled at hospitals and such. The CCI people were calling afternoon appointments, telling them not to come because there weren't any platelets today. YIKES. Platelets were what I really needed most. They were getting ready to turn me loose, but Mike told them we weren't leaving till I got some platelets. (Nicely, of course.) There must have been some kind of mix-up or mis-communication. When they went and checked my blood counts from yesterday and found out how low mine were, the main centre did finally release some platelets for me and sent them over. That was a delay of about another hour.

But now I am happy to say that I am home, safe and sound. My mouth is still sore, but not bleeding. That's a wonderful improvement. And The DISH came in today's mail. I'm about to go enjoy reading it.

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Just some followup stuff

Re: all the lost keys. Yesterday my car keys and remote got replaced. All the keys, remotes, and the car have to be there at the same time to reset the computer code. I think that was the last that needed to be done to get life back in order after the stolen purse.

Re: my computer hard drive. The computer is off with the techie guys. They're supposed to call today or tomorrow. New hard drives now come in terabytes. Wow! That should hold a lot of pics. The malfunctioning one is only 400GB. Looks like I will be using the laptop for several days.

Re: new laundry appliances. Our local appliance store that I like does not carry the LG Wild Cherry Red. My niece told me another place to try. I will try to call them tomorrow.

Re: transfusions. I had trouble with bleeding during the night, so I hope platelets are up first this morning. Will take the laptop with me, but I'll likely sleep most of the time. Benadryl knocks me out.
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17 September 2008

Wednesday medical update

So, I saw the doc this morning and the news could have been better. My counts are all super low again, so I have to get a transfusion of two units of packed red cells and one of platelets tomorrow. He's also putting me on a different antibiotic - a Z Pack. First time I will have ever taken one of those.Transfusions will now be weekly, rather than every other week. :-( The local doc is also not sure he wants me to do Vidaza treatments for a year, even though the NY doc said I should give it that long. He's now mentioning six months. We're going to gather all my records since February and fax them to the NY doc. Then I'll have a telephone consultation with her. Of course, Mike and I are planning to go see John of God at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY at the end of this month. We had not intended to go through the city after the energy/spiritual healing, but if the NY doc wants to see me, we might have to adjust the route. And on the bright side, Chelsea Market is right across the street from St. Frances, where the NY doc practices.

So dear family and friends, I ask you to keep thinking positively and send whatever good vibes, prayers, healing thoughts, etc. in which you believe.

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16 September 2008

Technology is great...

when it works. When it doesn't, WATCH OUT. A few times in the last month or so I've gotten a message about a fan malfunction. It was random, so I haven't worried much about it. Earlier this morning my computer was running REALLY slow so I decided to turn it off and start anew. Going through Microsoft's ridiculous method of choosing things half a dozen times to actually turn off your computer, I sat and waited half an hour and the computer never turned itself off. I finally had to just hold the power button to get it to shut down. So a few minutes later I turned the computer back ON. After a few I get a black screen with this message:

IDE Channel 3 Master Hard Disk S.M.A.R.T. Status bad. Immediately back up all data. Replace the hard drive. Failure may be imminent. Press F1 to continue.

So didn't that make me feel good? Not a message I ever got before and Failure may be imminent got my attention!

Many of you know I make mass quantities of digital photos. (e.g. 6381 during our trip to Italy in June.) After that crash five years ago where I lost a couple of years worth of pictures, I keep multiple copies of My Pictures folder. I haven't backed up in about two weeks, so the first thing I did was start copying My Pictures. It takes about three to four hours to do the transfer to the external hard drive. Thankfully that has finished and I'm now copying all my documents. When everything is done I will call my local geek guys who built the computer for me in the first place. Hopefully they can transfer all the programs, data etc. so I don't have to reload those. I really do like having a locally built computer instead of a stock brand. It is so much easier to upgrade or replace parts as necessary without buying a whole new system.
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So yesterday DD#1 turned 21. Lots of people were asking me was I sad that my baby was now a grown-up. Emphatically, NO. I am delighted to see she has grown up into a wonderful young lady. She's kind, compassionate, loving, smart and beautiful. What more could a Mom want? Mike and I certainly talked about what we were doing 21 years ago, but I look forward to the future, rather than wishing back past times.

A couple of weeks ago DD#2 had her purse stolen. Besides two iPods, her make-up, pens & pencils, she had my car keys, her house keys and her insurance card and her drivers permit in the purse. We've replaced the permit, the writing instruments, the make-up, the insurance card and the video iPod. But we only realised this weekend that the keys were there.

Now that some thief has our address and keys, we called a locksmith. He just arrived and will likely be here most of the morning. We have 12 doors. All have deadbolts. Most of the doors have glass, so on those the deadbolts have to be opened with a key on each side. The locksmith just told me that those actually have two cylinders so will take double the time to change. Whew! Who knew there was so much to this?
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15 September 2008

So is Tina Fey great or what? Live from New York...

It's Saturday Night!

"And I can see Russia from my house." That's got to be the best line in the skit. And Amy Poehler continues to excel at Hillary.
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14 September 2008

Dinner tonight

One of the things I've found hardest to do in pacing myself these days is not being able to cook everything from scratch. I just don't have enough oxygen to do all the preparation. So today at Costco, Mike & I bought fresh wild-caught salmon fillets that had been topped with dill and herb butter. Those were easy to put in the oven to roast. To go with it, we had parsley new potatoes and sautéed onions & bell peppers where all the veggies were from the CSA veggie box. All in all a delightful dinner, even if it was partially semi-homemade.

And when DD was setting the table, she even got out the fish knives. How cool is that?
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Appetizers on the pavillion

I adore having the pavillion out at the farm. While we were based out there this summer, the Guy and I enjoyed it nearly every evening. We'd sit out, drink some Prosecco, have some appetizers and watch and listen as day turned into night. Birds came home to roost, bats came out for the evening and fireflies flickered everywhere. Some of our favourite appys are fresh figs, Manchego and local honey. So delicious.

And I love these glasses I gave the Guy for his birthday.

Although he maintains he's a realist, I always tell him that he's the pessimist and I'm the optimist. With these, our glasses are always half full.

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Shopping is an adventure

As I am low on blood these days, shopping becomes an adventure. Today Mike took me to Costco and Home Depot. Costco to get some food items, flowers, and a new iPod to replace DD's that got stolen. Home Depot to check out these:

We need a new washer here in town and a new dryer at the farm. I am intending to get this set for in town, have them carry away the washer from here and take the dryer from here to the country. I'm also intending to get the pedestal drawers for the new laundry equipment. It was so nice not to have to bend over to move the clothes. And that's particularly important to Mike as he's doing most of the laundry these days. This set will make us both happy. He won't have to bend over so much and I get Wild Cherry RED.

I am planning to get them from our local appliance store rather than the big box store. Prices are the same and service is much better.
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13 September 2008

Sweetie Jars

Inspired by my friend Martha on her Lines from Linderhof blog, I thought I'd share my two sweetie jars.

DD#1's godmother has been my dear friend since 1982. She is British and has often brought something back for us from her trips "home". Twice during the 1980s she brought jars of Roses Chocolates. I saved the jar each time and have always used them for holding pasta. The jar on the right was the first one she brought me and I used to have it sitting behind my corner cooktop. After several months I noticed the heat and humidity from cooking were messing up the label, so I moved it to another location. The jar on the left is only a year or so younger than the first jar, but it never sat behind the cooktop and its label is in much better shape.

Now I'm thinking I should peruse eBay and see if I can find some additional sweetie jars. They are indeed wonderful to use in the kitchen!
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vintage kitchen wares

While I love modern appliances and the latest gadgets, I don't think I could cook nearly so well without my vintage kitchen wares. My great-grandmother's cast iron skillets were the beginning of the vintage kitchen collection. A while back a dear friend offered me his Mom's set of Hall Radiance Canisters. And they were RED! The only condition issue was with the sugar. It had a hairline and was missing its lid. After searching for some months on eBay I was lucky enough to find one in perfect condition.

While I don't use "The Set" everyday, I repurposed the original sugar to be a spoon holder. Can't cook without my wooden spoons, so this sits by my cooktop and gets used pretty much on a daily basis.

Another way dishes make me happy.
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12 September 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Grown Up Mac & Cheese

I've been wanting to try this recipe from Ina Garten for a while now, but the other people in my household don't care for bleu cheeses. So tonight we had this with some variations (posted below recipe). To start out, we've got the pasta and cheeses:

Now the pasta/cheese mixture is just waiting to be topped with breadcrumbs before putting in the oven:

Here is the Mac & Cheese out of the oven. It got left in a little too long as my DH and DD went to fill up our cars as we have gas rationing due to Hurricane Ike.

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
Ina Garten

4 oz thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
3 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 oz blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 Tbsp freshly chopped basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.

Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

1. I cooked the bacon in a cast iron skillet on top of the stove as I didn't want to have to deal with grease splatters in the oven.

2. In place of
4 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
3 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 oz blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
I used
4 oz Hoop Cheddar cheese, grated
3 oz Gouda cheese, grated
2 oz Sage Derby cheese, crumbled

3. For the pasta I subbed the one in the photo. I'd gotten it a while back at a gourmet food store and thought it was time to use it.

4. We did not have any white bread, so the crumbs were made from whole wheat.

5. Because of using the Sage Derby cheese, I chose not to add nutmeg and I used some fresh sage instead of basil in the breadcrumb mixture.

My review of the recipe as I made it.
I was wondering if the Sage Derby would turn the mixture green, but that did not happen. And I baked this in a shamrock Fiesta pedestal bowl, instead of individual bakers. All that worked out really well. All of us thought this recipe tasted too salty. And I have to say, this is the first of Ina's recipes where that has ever happened to me. Like Ina, I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, which by volume has less sodium than other salts. I attribute the excess saltiness to the cheeses I used. DD nor I really cared for the addition of bacon, but we lean toward being vegetarian. Sage and no bacon make this an excellent side dish with chicken.

Bottom line, I would definitely make this again with the cheeses and pasta I used tonight, but I would leave out the bacon and the salt. All in all, a keeper recipe.

Click here to see what other Barefoot Bloggers think of this recipe.
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11 September 2008

playing with tablesettings

One of the most wonderful things about using Fiesta is that you can mix and match colours to match your mood, your food or your tablecloth. Tonight we dined on shamrock and tangerine from the p-86 line. The tablecloth is a vintage one I found on eBay that features daylilies.

As this is the first time I've felt like making dinner in a while, I thought we should go all out and celebrate with candles and such. The centrepiece is made up of some of my dancing deco ladies on a stacked hostess bowl and salad plate.
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digital photography & my broken lens

I love making photographs. My current camera is a Nikon D50 and my favourite lens to use on a daily basis is the Nikkor 18-200 F 1:3.5-5.6 G ED DX VR.
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When we were at DisneyWorld over Christmas the front glass fell out of the lens. So that was a real pain. The lens was less than a year old! And it has a 5 yr. warranty. Came home, took the lens to my local camera store and they sent it off to Nikon for repair. It took about a month, so it was about mid February when I got the lens back. Right away I noticed that every so often, the autofocus didn't focus. If I turned the camera off and back on, then it worked. This was very sporadic at first, but gradually happened more often. Near the end of May, the AF was not working right at least a third of the time. But we were getting ready to leave for Italy and I didn't want to send it off.

You know what's coming now, right? Second full day in Italy and the lens was hardly working on AF at all. by the next day I could only get manual focus to work and then in only a small range. Thankfully I had also taken my 50mm lens, so I could at least use my camera for the rest of the trip. With everything that's been going on healthwise since we got back, I haven't been able to take the lens back to the camera shop.

Today my sister took my lens to the camera store to see about getting it sent off and repaired again. I called ahead to tell the shop about the problem. So now my sister just called and said the lady at the shop told her that the warranty only covered one repair. HUH? What is that supposed to mean? I'm off to research it now, but a 5 year warranty should be a 5 year warranty. And actually, I really wish Nikon would just send me a new lens. I did not do anything to the glass to cause it to fall out at Christmas. And the lens has been having this focus problem ever since it came back from that repair.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will at least fix the lens. From what I have read online, others have had similar problems with their 18-200 lenses. I really expect better quality from Nikon.
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10 September 2008

Pat Paulsen for President

He was such a funny guy. And I continue to write in Charles Barkley's name for Governor of Alabama.
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not such a bad day after all

For a transfusion day, it's worked out pretty well. I got my iPod going and listened to a hemi-sync meditation, so I never even noticed the stick. Then I took a Benadryl and slept through most of the day. Afterwards Mike and I went to a late lunch at one of our favourite places (Wild Flour Bistro) where we got to talking with the owner and did some on the side wine tasting. Found a new red I really liked - Malbec from Argentina. Apparently there isn't much middle ground on this one. People either love it or hate it. I thought it was nice, crisp and clean. The taste is not exactly what you expect from the bouquet. After that we went by the bank to update some signature cards. Now I'm back home and wonder of wonders, didn't feel like I needed to go flop in the bed. Not ready to run a marathon, but it's certainly an improvement.
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dish comparison

The dollhouse dishes are a great colour. The coffeepot (marked: Made in Germany) is less than 2" tall. To give a better sense of scale, here it is with a Harlequin spruce toy/individual creamer.
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09 September 2008

dishes make me happy

I love vintage colourware. It makes me happy. My most favourite dishes are Harlequin, by Homer Laughlin, and my favourite glaze colour is Harlequin blue. But there are plenty of other dishes around here, too. Just recently I got these doll house dishes in the mail. They were made in Europe, but the coffeepot and creamer have an amazing resemblance to American Modern. It makes me wonder if they copied Russel Wright or if he copied them.
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Well shoot!

Just got back from CCI and my blood counts are the lowest they've ever been. No wonder I have to do heavy breathing just to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen. The nurses wanted me to get my transfusions today, but I'm already scheduled for early tomorrow morning. I'm not likely to get desperately worse before then. Back on Levaquin as my NE# is 0.0. And it must've been old home week over there because I ran into one of DD#2's teachers and the mom of one of the girls in her class. Neither of them knew I was sick, so I had to do that explanation twice. The mom is a former nurse and her husband is one of the doctors in the practice. She has very kindly offered to come drive me anywhere I need or to drive DD to and from school and school events. That was quite nice of her.
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MDS, whining, needles, stem cell research, blood donations & such

I freely admit I am a wimp about seeing needles (the medical kind) and blood. Particularly my own blood. This stupid MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) has become quite active this year. I have a local doctor and have been getting the shots he recommended for increasing my red count, as well as a number of different alternative and energy healing modalities. After consultation with the world's specialist in this disease (Dr. Azra Raza) in NYC in February, we decided it was best for me to plan to start Vidaza treatments. And because of our family trip to Italy, I decided to wait till we got back from there to start. The first round of treatment began 27 June.

Vidaza is a chemotherapy drug. I get 2 shots a day for five days, skip three weeks and do it again. During the treatment week I also get Aranesp shots for the RBC, B12 shots and Neulasta shots. Neulasta stimulates the bone marrow to produce more white cells. Vidaza is supposed to kill off the abnormal bone marrow cells, allowing healthy cells to regenerate in their place. This can take a long time. I have committed to a year of this treatment to see if it works. Because of which ones of my chromosomes are messed up, I have a 75% chance that it will, as opposed to 50% chance for the overall population. If it works, I keep doing it forever as long as it works. Or until they come up with a cure. Stem cell research is desperately needed here. And we all know how that has been tanked in the USA during the last eight years.

The side affects from Vidaza are mainly nausea. When they say Neulasta makes your bones ache, what they mean is you feel like you have the worst case of the flu ever with particularly bad aches radiating from your largest bones. Interestingly, Zyrtec can help with that. And they give me pills for the nausea. The first few months of treatment, because so many bone marrow cells are being killed off, my blood counts drop accordingly. This disease has always affected all of my counts, so red, white and platelets have all dropped.

Now we are getting to the whining and needles part of this post. I have had to get blood tests every two weeks for a year or so now, but that's not a problem as long as I don't look. And the Aranesp shots are once every two weeks. Since the end of June there has been alot more stuff with needles. There are the shots (13 or so during treatment week and other assorted ones along the way), blood tests, and now blood transfusions.

Before a transfusion I have to be typed and crossmatched. (That means they take more blood.) I still don't know why I have to do this before every transfusion, but those are the rules. For blood transfusions they use a large needle. I take time to get my iPod going and go off in the zone with some meditation music before I get stuck for those. Each unit of packed red cells takes a couple of hours to get. Platelets normally take less than an hour. Right now I am having to get two units of red cells and one of platelets every two weeks. One week my counts got so low I had to get 4 units of red cells and two of platelets in three days. And on the day in between I had to get IV antibiotic because I had a fever. I do not like the needle things on transfusion days at all. When I go, I am pretty much there all day. OK. So I am done whining now.

At the last transfusion, the doc ordered Tylenol and Benadryl before the process got started. I have to say, that made it a lot better as I slept through most of the day. And the next day I could actually do some things. This morning I have to go get typed and crossmatched for the transfusion tomorrow. I found out I can request the Benadryl so that is what I plan to do. And also on the bright side, the blood centre has wireless internet, so I can take my laptop with me. If I'm not taking a nap, perhaps I'll have a chance to blog from there.

I encourage everyone who can, to please go give blood. It helps more than you can possibly know.

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