29 May 2009

Oh, the vicissitudes of life!

I have written about my car before.
I do love driving my convertible. I do not want to look for a new car.

Yesterday whilst we were at the farm, my car and the fence out by the entrance to the farm decided to share the same physical space. I was not in my car at the time and no humans were injured during this space sharing. The fence and my car were not so lucky.

When notified of what had happened, I drove my Mom's car out to the entrance. (It's a quarter-mile gravel road.) Didn't think to take my camera and it looked worse then with all the broken pieces about. I made the determination to drive my car up to the house. It made strange and unusual noises, which clued me in that it would not be a good plan to drive it back to town. So I called the Chrysler dealership. They have no body shop, but the same guy owns the Chevrolet dealership and they do have a body shop for both businesses. Having gotten the name of the body shop guy, I called him and discussed the problem. Then I called AAA and had my car hauled back to town to the Chevy dealership on a wrecker.

What my car should look like:

This afternoon the body shop guy called me. They have ordered all the parts, which should be here on Monday. He is expecting that I will get my car back as good as new toward the end of next week. I hope so! Besides wanting to be fixed, my car misses its deco lady ~ both of them.

P.S. Until my car is repaired my Mom has loaned me her car. It was most kind of her.
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I am deteriorating...

in the platelet department. On Tuesday afternoon I got a transfusion of platelets at Vanderbilt. Back at home on Wednesday morning my count was 3000, so I got another unit of platelets then. This morning my count was down to 1000. (For those of you who don't know, platelets should range from 150,000 to 450,000.) I look like someone took a bright red fine point marker and literally made hundreds of dots all over my skin (petechiae or petikiai). Normally those show up on the lower legs, but I've got them all over. Now I love red, but this is a bit much! And then there are the various bruises that just appear while I'm looking at them.

A platelet transfusion was first thing on the agenda today after I saw my doc's PA. And I asked if I would be waiting till Monday to get more platelets or did I need to get them over the weekend. He said I would wait till Monday. I just have to be careful. Very careful. And you know, I am actually feeling better than I have in a long time. If I just had some energy (I'm getting 2 units of red cells today), I could do some stuff - like cooking! But I can't take any kind of chances, much less by wielding a knife at veggies and such.

Donna, my CRNP at Vanderbilt, called yesterday to check on me. When she found out about how much my platelets had dropped between Tuesday and Wednesday, she said we really need to get the transplant going as soon as possible. Now haven't I been telling people that since the beginning of March? I was ready to have it by the end of May. But bureaucracy and paperwork have added another month to the timeline.

I am trying very hard to keep with the thought that "the universe is unfolding as it should", but sometimes that gets a little hard. I have to think about all kinds of things I never had to consider before. Little things like rubbing my eyes. That's a no-no. Especially since I had the retinal hemorrhage last month. (Go back to get that checked this coming Tuesday.) And big things, like no cooking. Except for the MDS, I am very healthy. Hopefully that will help me get through the transplant and back to a normal life without any significant setbacks.

My doc here thinks I might have gotten to the point where what little immune system that I have identifies the platelets as invaders and is attacking them. I only need to be able to maintain a few more weeks. Any and all positive healing thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

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27 May 2009

more medical stuff

I had a full day at Vanderbilt yesterday. First up were labs, then the pulmonary function test. The pulmonary department is in the basement. There are numerous elevators in the Vanderbilt clinic. No one told us the best way to get to the basement, so we went down on elevator D. Well, elevator D opens into the service section of the basement.
It was spooky. Lots of weird noises and not well lit. We walked around a bit, then finally ran into a FedEx delivery man who directed us to the right place.

For the pulmonary test I had to sit in a contraption that reminded me of the driver's car in the monorail.

I had to put something that was kinda like a scuba mouthpiece in my mouth and do various breathing things that the technician would describe. And the technician was an interesting person. She was about 4 1/2" tall, round, looked about 80, but I'm sure she had to be younger, had yellow white hair and talked like a typical southern grandmother stereotype. But she really knew what she was doing and I passed those just fine. :-) She even gave me printouts of the results. Then we went back upstairs on elevator F, which was a much more civilised section.

We were ahead of schedule, so they paged both the social worker and the study nurse to see if one of them happened to be free. The social worker showed up first for my socio/psycological exam. She wanted to know things like what kind of support system did I have, was I worried about anything financially, what kind of education I have, what I majored in at college, what were my hobbies, what was my biggest worry, how was I coping, how many countries had I been to outside the US, what medicines was I taking, etc, etc, etc.

Well, I one thing I told her was that I didn't really consider it coping. It's just life. You play the cards you are dealt to the best of your ability. She also seemed rather surprised that I'm only taking one med (Exjade) and a multi-vitamin daily, and that I've been to 14 other countries. When she got to the hobbies I told her about cooking, travel, photography and Photoshop. And Mike told her I collected dishes. Lots of dishes. LOL. When it was over I asked her did I pass. She laughed and said sure. That I had really passed last Tuesday when she met us at the Caretaker's Class. Sheesh! All this time I was thinking she might fail me, since I wasn't sure I could pass for normal!

I also met with the study nurse and agreed to participate in three different studies that are going on at Vanderbilt now. I don't have to be stuck any extra for any of them, and what they find out will help others in the future.

When the meetings were done, I got a unit of platelets. Then Mike & I went to lunch at The Tin Angel and headed for home. Now I am just waiting for the transplant doc to sign off on all the tests and Blue Cross's final OK. The transplant coordinator seemed to think that we might be able to activate the donor next week. And, btw, I have FOUR, count them FOUR, complete matches. That is wonderful news! Three of the donors are 22 and one is 38. I was pretty much assured that one of the 22 year olds will be the donor of choice for me. Once the donor gets activated DD#2 and I are going to have our hair cutting day. I still haven't decided whether to go curly or straight, but I'm still set on true red highlights.

Today Mike left early this morning to go to a meeting in Virginia. DD#2 and I left shortly thereafter for my doc's office, where I was set up for an appointment with him, labs, picc dressing change, B12 shot and platelet transfusion. All that should have been done by 10:00 or 10:30, but my file got misplaced and I waited nearly 2 hours just to see my doc! My platelets were back down to 3, even after getting the transfusion yesterday. Neutrophils were 0.6 and my hemoglobin was down to 8.1. Friday I will need more red cells in addition to the platelets.

DD& I went to a nice lunch at Wild Flower Bistro. Then I slept all afternoon and woke up about an hour ago now. We're having lots of loud thunder and the power has blinked a couple of times. Luckily we know where all the flashlights and candles live.

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25 May 2009

Monday Medical Update and other stuff

Things really got on a roll this past week.

Last Monday I was at my doc's seeing him, getting labs and platelet transfusions. Platelet transfusions have moved up to three times per week, as my counts are staying dangerously low. I hope I can put off getting them daily, but it's going to be iffy. It seems I get a transfusion one day and the next my count is still down under 10. Lately it has ranged between 2 and 4 with transfusions every other day. I just look at myself and bruise. :-( So I got done with the transfusion and Mike and I went off to Nashville. After checking into the hotel and having a drink we went to dinner at The Tin Angel. We really do like that place!

Tuesday morning we over at Vanderbilt at 7:30. First there was the caregiver's class. Mike was in that all morning, but I left at the break to go get tests: labs, chest x-ray, bone density scan, and muga scan. I was supposed to have a bone marrow biopsy, but there were no openings in the schedule. However, I was NPO since midnight. We got done around 2:00 and went to lunch at PF Chang's before heading home. I had been wanting some lettuce wraps. Then we shared Orange Peel Chicken, Cashew Almond Chicken, Sichuan Asparagus, and brown rice. It was great.

Wednesday, (Mike's Birthday!) I went early to the blood lab for a platelet transfusion. Then it was off to my OB/GYN to make sure all that stuff was OK. Then back to the lab for blood tests. My neutrophils were 0.7, but my platelets were only 4. :-(

Thursday we got up early and went back up to Vanderbilt. NPO again, because this was bone marrow biopsy day. I also met with Donna (my CRNP) for several hours, had labs, met one of the transplant doctors, got a platelet transfusion (they were back under 10) and got the bone marrow biopsy. Lunch was at The Tin Angel where I had some of the best trout I have ever eaten. Then we headed for home once again. Thursday was also Upper School Awards Day. DD#2 got a silver medal in Latin for her scores on the National Latin Exam and she also got the award for Stagecraft.

Friday, back to my doc to see his CRNP, get labs and transfusions of both red cells and platelets. My platelets were down to 2, despite having gotten a unit of them the day before. My neutrophils were down to 0.4 and my red count was also quite low. I got transfused with 1 unit of platelets and 2 units of red cells, with instructions to be extremely careful on Sunday and Monday. The 0.4 neutrophils mean that I am neutropenic again. Have to wear the mask when I go out and not eat uncooked veggies outside my home. DD#2 took my car and went off to spend the weekend with Abbey as they have both been so busy with school that they haven't seen much of each other lately.

Saturday: My new desktop computer got ready right before closing time at GigaParts Saturday evening. Yea! It is very spiffy and extremely fast. 6Gb ram, 64bit processor and Vista. We were right next door to TerraNova, an Italian restaurant we've been wanting to try. It was a little earlier than we normally eat dinner, but went anyway. We shared shrimp for an appetizer, then I got Chicken Marsala and Mike got Pecan Crusted Tilapia. It was a good experience and if we are in the neighborhood again we will go back.

Sunday: Spent most of the day loading things on the new computer. First up was CS4 Master Suite. Oh I'm excited and boy do I love this version of Photoshop! Next was my Palm software. I am so irritated with Palm. It was a super major hassle to get Palm software loaded on the laptop a few weeks ago for the Tungsten E2, but with Donnie's help I finally got everything going. Now I found out that USB HotSync is not supported on the 64bit system. I have to buy a bluetooth device for the desktop! Amazon to the rescue. One is on the way and should be here Wednesday. Also discovered I have to update all my AutoFX plug-in software that goes with Photoshop. Some of that is downloadable, but at least one is coming on CD. Hopefully it will get here this week.

And here we are today. I know I need platelets as my gums are bleeding and I look like I have a bad case of the measles. Will get labs and transfusion first thing tomorrow at Vanderbilt. I also have to have pulmonary function test, TB test, meet with the financial counselor and the social worker (who will give me a socio-physcological exam). Then it's back home again to wait.

After all my test results get back (hopefully tomorrow or Wednesday) the transplant doctor will review everything to see if I pass. (So far, so good, btw). Then Vanderbilt sends the go-ahead info to Blue Cross. Someone there reviews it and approves it. That usually takes a couple of days. If all goes very smoothly that approval could get back to Vanderbilt by Friday, but that's probably wishful thinking. As soon as insurance approval comes, the transplant coordinator will activate my donor.

As of last Thursday, I have two who are perfect matches and two more who's tests results weren't final. Should find out about those two tomorrow. I asked what other criteria are used if there are multiple perfect HLA matches. Age (younger is better), CMV (I am positive, so a positive donor is better), sex (Male is better than females as with pregnancy different antibodies are developed that may not show up. Better chance of no graft vs. host disease if there are no weird antibodies.) and other things that the coordinator did not get into detail about.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the donor will get activated next week. Once activation happens, the timeline is up to the donor. He will have to get a physical, have several days of neupogen shots, and then have his stem cells harvested.

If all goes well, Mike and I may be moved to Nashville by our 31st wedding anniversary - 20 June. We are planning to look at some apartments tomorrow afternoon before we come home. There is a complex right across the street from Vanderbilt that rents short term and will wind up being less expensive than an extended stay hotel. It is a fully furnished one bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and separate bedroom. The only extra we would need to buy is high speed internet service. All other utilities are included. So I hope this works out. I like being right across the street from the medical people. Particularly since I am not slated to be in the hospital more than four days as long as all goes well.

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Peach Cobbler

Fresh peaches rank right up with fresh tomatoes as food that tastes enormously better freshly picked in season. This week's veggie box was a bounty of summer goodness. Besides the wonderful tomatoes, peppers and onions, it had three bags of peaches!

When I was growing up my best friend's grandparents had a peach orchard ~ Phil-Lora brand peaches. Every summer her grandad would hire a bunch of us kids to either pick peaches or man the peach stand out at the highway. Trish and I always opted for peach stand duty. Summer in Louisiana is HOT and we got to work in the shade. During peach season my Mom and grandmother put up lots of peaches - mostly frozen and in preserves. We also ate lots of fresh peaches, sometimes cut up in a bowl with cream. But one particular treat that I just loved was Peach Cobbler. And I still do.

In the South, cobbler uses a pastry crust. It doesn't have to be rolled out pretty like a pie crust. As a matter of fact, it can be put in pieces on the top so that it resembles cobbles. Sometimes cobbler has a bottom crust, and depending on how tall the pan is and how many peaches you have, it can have a layer of crust in the middle. My grandmother typically made cobbler in a 9"x13" baking dish. She didn't have a recipe that was written down, so I had to watch her carefully to learn how to make it. And she used basically the same technique to make blackberry cobbler, as well as peach cobbler. Both fruits were plentiful as we also spent many hours picking wild blackberries, often eating more than we put in our buckets.

So to make cobbler, first we need fresh picked peaches.

They need to be peeled and cut up in chunks. If the peaches are properly ripe, the skins will easily peel off.

Tomorrow Mike and I have to go to Nashville and then he will be in Virginia the rest of the week. Therefore, I decided to make a small cobbler. One quart Betty Bowls, made by Homer Laughlin for General Mills and glazed in Fiesta colours, are perfect for many things in our family. Cobbler is just one way I use them. So, I lined the bowl with pastry, going for a rustic look.

Cut up peaches get put into the pastry lined bowl.

Peaches are topped with some sugar, butter, flour and a bit of lime juice and grated nutmeg.

And then I just put a whole crust over the top, not sealing it as you would pie crust.

Top the crust with some sugar and a little cinnamon.

And here is the cobbler after being baked. I could hardly wait for it to cool down enough to taste it.

But I restrained myself and later dished some up in a small juniper Fiesta fruit bowl. Yum.


2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup cold water

1 cup coarsely crushed sugar cubes (about 40), or use about 2/3 cup granulated sugar

5 (generous) cups fresh sliced peaches
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch or 3 Tbsp Wondra flour
pinch salt
4 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp half and half, optional

For Pastry:
Sift together the flour and salt. Cut in butter to look like cornmeal. Sprinkle on cold water and mix quickly with a fork. Divide into 2/3 and 1/3. Cover and let stand 5 minutes.

For Cobbler:
On floured surface roll out the large piece of pastry and line a large Betty Bowl or Fiesta pie plate. Sprinkle with 2-3 Tbsp of crushed sugar. Cover with wax paper and refrigerate. Preheat oven to 450°F. Roll out rest of pastry to form top crust and set aside.

Mix peaches with lemon juice. Mix sugar with cornstarch and sprinkle over fruit. Add the pinch of salt and fold gently to combine. Fill pastry lined pan with fruit mixture and grate on a little nutmeg. Dot with butter.

Fit on top crust in one piece or in several smaller ones. If your edges are nearly sealed, cut slits for steam to escape. Can brush generously with half and half (do not brush edges) and sprinkle with remaining crushed sugar. Can also sprinkle on a bit of cinnamon. Place cobbler on baking sheet in oven. Immediately reduce heat to 350°F. Bake 50-60 minutes or until crust is a deep golden brown.

*If you don't want to make pastry, you can use 2 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts instead.
Note: To make blackberry cobbler, substitute blackberries for the peaches (use about 6 cups) and omit the lemon juice, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Think I could get away with eating cobbler for breakfast? LOL
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24 May 2009

Weekend Meme ~ Beckyology

This has been going around on Facebook and on blogs. Feel free to lift.

1. What is your salad dressing of choice?
Vinaigrette or bleu cheese

2. What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
Mezza Luna

3. What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
fresh garden tomatoes

4. What are your pizza toppings of choice?
cheese, basil, tomato

5.What do you like to put on your toast?

6. Any vegetables you don't like?
not that I can think of

7. Do you eat seafood?
Oh yes!


1. How many televisions are in your house?
I believe there are six.

2. What color cell phone do you have?
It's a Krzr that's sort of a pearly white.

3. How long would it take you to look up who invented the Rubber Band?
On Google, less than 30 seconds.

4. Have any idea how may Megahertz your computer has?
When I click on properties, it says 920 @ 2.67GHz 2.79GHz
What is that supposed to mean? It's a brand new computer and I haven't figure out all the bells and whistles yet.


1. Are you right-handed or left-handed?

2. Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
My dear darling daughters.
Assorted splinters.
Gall bladder.

3. What is the last heavy item you lifted?
Probably a plant in a large pot.

4. Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
Yes, one time when I got thrown off a horse.


1. If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
Not especially.

2. If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
When I was a little girl I was most upset with my parents that they had not named me Cinderella. But I got over that and I like the name I have.

3. Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?


1. How many pairs of flip flops do you own?
One, and they are Crocs.

2. Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
I got a ticket when I was in college.

3. Last person you talked to?

4. Last person you hugged?


1. Season?

2. Holiday?
All of them.

3. Day of the week?
the weekend

4. Month?
March for the spring flowers


1. Missing someone?
Yes, my dear darling daughters.

2. Mood?

3. What are you listening to?

4. Watching?
the computer screen


1. First place you went this morning?
kitchen for a cup of coffee

2. What's the last movie you saw?
The third Pirates movie.

3. Do you smile often?


1. Do you always answer your phone?

2. It's four in the morning and you get a text message, who is it?
a wrong number

3. If you could change your eye color what would it be?

4. Do you prefer cold or hot?
weather - hot
drinks - cold

5. What's your favorite gossip magazine?
Don't read them

6. Have you ever had a pet fish?
I have had bettas and a salt water aquarium.

8. What's on your wish list for your birthday?
Hmm. I want my transplant to be doing well.

9. Can you do push ups?
No, and I have no desire to do any.

10. Can you do a chin up?
Same answer as push ups.

11. Does the future make you more nervous or excited?
Both right now.

12. Do you have any saved texts?

13. Ever been in a car wreck?

14. Do you have an accent?
I'm sure I do.

15. What is the last song to make you cry?
I can't remember.

16. Plans tonight?
Pack for overnight stay in Nashville.

17. Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom?

18. Name 3 things you bought yesterday.
cellphone battery charger
cellphone battery
bread tray

19. Have you ever been given roses?

20. Current worry?
More of a concern. I really hope I don't get too sick from the chemo.

21. Current hate right now?
Hate is not currently in my vocabulary.

22. Met someone who changed your life?
Of course!

23. How will you bring in the New Year?
Hopefully at the farm with my family and lovely fireworks.

24. What songs represent you?
High Hopes - Bing Crosby
Forever in Blue Jeans - Neal Diamond
Accentuate the Positive - Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters
Margaritaville - Jimmy Buffet

25. Name three people who might complete this?
No idea

26. Would you go back in time if you were given the chance?
I don't think so.

27. Have you ever dated someone longer than a year?

28. Do you have any tattoos/piercings?
I have three holes in each of my ears for earrings.

30. Does anyone love you?

31. Ever had someone sing to you?

32. When did you last cry??
Not sure.

33. Do you like to cuddle?

34. Have you held hands with anyone today?

35. What kind of music did you listen to in elementary school?
Whatever was on our little local radio station.

36. Do you like pulpy orange juice?
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23 May 2009

Cracker Salad

Some foods are only meant to be eaten seasonally. At the top of that list are tomato sandwiches. Not far behind is Cracker Salad. Cracker Salad is a rather southern version of Italian panzanella. It's quick and easy to fix. Also tastes great on a warm or hot summer day. We have it for both lunch and supper. It's also one of those forgiving things where you can add cucumbers, olives, and garlic or not, and use whatever peppers you have on hand, etc.

Today we had our first cracker salad of the season! This week's veggie box was loaded with fresh juicy tomatoes, green Vidalia onions, and cubanelle peppers, among other things. My basil is growing like crazy, so Cracker Salad was the perfect thing to make for lunch. It was just Mike and me today, so for the two of us I used 2 tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 cubanelle pepper, 3 sprigs of basil with crackers, mayo and seasoning, to taste.

Lovely tomatoes, green Vidalia onions and cubanelle peppers from the veggie box and basil from my garden:

Crackers, good mayonnaise, and seasonings:

Chopped veggies and basil in a sunflower Fiesta mixing bowl:

Crackers crumbled in a Harlequin blue Harlequin individual salad bowl:

And our lovely salad, ready to stir and eat:

It was so good, that I would eat it again for supper. Except I have a dinner date with my spouse!

Cracker Salad

fresh basil
cucumber, optional
olives, optional
garlic or garlic scapes, optional
good mayonnaise (I normally use Hellman's Lite, but the olive oil version is good, too.)
saltine crackers
salt, pepper, Creole seasoning, etc., as desired

Peel tomatoes; cut up, juice and all in a bowl. Chop up onion into bowl. Add chopped cucumbers, olives and minced garlic, if using. Shred basil leaves and stir into veggies. Fold in mayonnaise (should be pretty juicy). Divide between individual bowls and let everyone crumble crackers on top. Season as desired.

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...or summertime in the South.

Magnolia grandiflora, aka Southern Magnolia is the state flower of Louisiana. The tree is native to the southeastern United States and produces beautiful velvety white flowers. It's fragrance is sweetly unique and quite strong. Magnolias are evergreen with dark, shiny green leaves. It is very common to find these trees growing in cemeteries in the south. At Christmas time, everyone who didn't have magnolias growing in their yards would go gather magnolia greenery from the cemetery to decorate their houses.

My parents had a huge magnolia tree in their yard in Louisiana, and my children spent many happy hours playing in and under the tree. It was a playhouse, gym set and magical wonderland for them.

In our elementary music class I remember we used to sing the Louisiana State March Song:

Kissed by the Gulf's mighty stream,
A lovely state, LOUISIANA,
Where sweet magnolias, so rare,
Perfume the air
With fragrance that's supreme.......

Magnolias are in full bloom in north Alabama now. When passing anywhere near the trees we are blessed with their wonderful fragrance. Here's a photo of one on a tree yesterday.

And here it is, along with two others I picked as buds, in a chocolate Fiesta vase today:

We definitely need to plant some magnolias at the farm!
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