Monday, October 17, 2011

Wow man.  How long has it been since I've typed on here??  I apologize to whoever is reading this that already knows everything I'm going to talk about.  I have decided that because I am feeling very frustrated about everything, a little venting and perhaps an attempt at humor will make me feel better. 

Step One:  Semi-sudden crash into severe depression.  I say semi because there were warning signs for several weeks.  I simply (and mistakenly) chose to ignore them.  This denial resulted in one of the worst two episodes of depression I've ever experienced, from which I am still trying to recover. 
Step Two:  I spent a full weekend immersed in nonstop crying and irrational guilt and anxiety over normal everyday things, especially social situations.
Step Three:  Out of desperation, an entirely honest email about what was happening had to be sent because I wouldn't be able to fulfill my responsibilities at church the next day.  This began, I am sure, the trickling of information being passed from one auxiliary leader to another.  (See anxiety over social situations in Step Two).
Step Four:  An immediate phone call to the Dr was placed at 8 am that Monday morning.  Mercifully, they scheduled me to come in that afternoon. 
Step Five:  Dr says, "How are you doing?"  I say...nothing for a couple of minutes because I'm already crying again.  After a long discussion and a brief once over, Dr says, "You have severe depression." And in another act of mercy gives me a prescription for new meds.
Step Six:  Appt with my orthopedic surgeon that I'd already scheduled due to pain in a shoulder that is totally screwed up.  I get a really uncomfortable cortisone shot in my shoulder joint.
Step Seven:  Two weeks of crazy side effects, including nervousness, a jittery inability to sit still, nausea, foggy feeling in my head, big headaches, lots of yawning and even feeling just plain high.  I mean, weird high.

I'm gonna have to stop Step numbering everything now, cause I think you'll get tired of reading them.  During those first two weeks, I had to ask for an honorable release from my church stuff because I couldn't even get myself to go to the grocery store.  We also went on a week-long trip to the mtns in WY for a family vacay that we'd already planned for.  It was good timing.  I needed the peace and the time alone with my family, especially my husband.  He immediately became my literal security blanket.  Our relationship suddenly morphed into this incredibly close attachment.  He has never been more tender, patient, helpful or understanding in the 16 years we've known each other.  I am very lucky to have him and I love him very much for loving me anyway. 

My awesome Dr ordered some blood work, just to rule out some things and also because I hadn't had any done for years.  The results come back telling me that I am really healthy except for two things:  extremely low Vitamin D and slightly elevated Iron.  Their recommendation:  a prescription dose of Vit D combined with an otc version, equaling 67,000 mg per week; and since I wasn't taking any iron supplements or vitamins they told me to go donate blood to bring my iron down.  I actually got up the next day and went to donate blood for the first time in my life. 

Three weeks after 'the crash' I returned to my Dr for a checkup.  She takes a little bit more blood to rule out something called Hemochromatosis.  Yeah...whatever.  Nearly a week passed with no news and I felt pretty good about starting to feel like a normal person again.  But, since my luck was already down, I guess, the phone did eventually ring and I spoke directly to my Dr.  She informed me that I was positive for both genetic mutations, meaning I had to inherit it from both my parents.  And told me I needed to schedule an appointment with a Hematologist. 

Hemochromatosis (hereafter HM), I have learned, is a genetic chromosome mutation that causes my body to absorb too much iron.  There are several different kinds of mutations that cause it.  The particular one I have only occurs in 4 out of every 100 people with HM.  The gene also predisposes me to be 3-4 times more likely to someday have a stroke.  Luckily, of the different strains, mine means I only absorb just over 6 times the iron that I should.  Some of the others are so much higher.  Apparently it's more common in people of Scandinavian/Northern European decent.  Anyway, this is a problem because the body absorbs too much iron, and then has to find places to store it.  Like the liver, pancreas, heart, etc.  Immediately it's not a problem.  And in fact it's rarely discovered in women before the age of 50 because having a period keeps it under control until then.  After years of this excess storage, it can cause liver cancer, cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc.  This also means I can't ever donate blood.

So to make a long story just a bit shorter, I visited the hematologist.  He ran some more of my blood.  (yay!!) and called me the next day.  Long term iron stores or Ferritin, should be somewhere between 20-50.  Mine was 89.  So they said I needed to come in and have my first phlebotomy.  It's the same process as donating blood, but only 1 pint instead of 2, and the blood is tossed in the trash. 

Day one:  They start a line in my left arm and use a large syringe to suck out what looked like a couple of tablespoons.  He then injected a little bit of some liquid which I can't remember the name to keep the vein open.  The 2 T got separated into two different vials for testing of ferritin and tbc.  He then walked me into a little cubical with these nice comfy chairs.  Despite that liquid, whatever it was, the little catheter thingy in my arm got bent and he couldn't get it to work.  So out it came and in went another line into my right arm.  The other end was stuck in the top of a glass jar.  The jar looks just like the ones they bottle vinegar.  My blood just zipped through that tube and filled up the jar in a matter of minutes.  But upon standing, I nearly passed out.  So the chair got laid back, and in came a bag of fluids, some chips and a drink of water. 

Day two:  I return for my second phlebotomy a week later.  This time I tell them just to start with the right arm.  She followed the same process, sucking out that 2T and moving me to the comfy chair.  This time though, the blood doesn't seem to want to come out.  After about 1/2 a jar, it just isn't moving.  So out comes that line and in goes a second to my left arm.  That side didn't work very well either, but she managed to eeek out another half of a jar and then I was done.  Before I could even think about standing up, the blood drained from my face and the room started spinning.  And yep, you guessed it.  Another bag of fluids, etc. 

Currently, 3 days later, I still feel a bit weak.  I get a head rush if I get up too fast.  The day after, I could hardly walk up the stairs, I was so tired.  I'm trying to guzzle water (in between rt 44's) and I'm trying to have a protein shake here and there.  I have a large bruise on my left arm and soreness in that bicep.  Annoying.  My parents think my doctors haven't diagnosed me correctly and that they're being too radical.  I've read that if they can get the iron down to normal before it has a chance to damage any organs, I will have less than a 1% chance of developing liver cancer or cirrhosis.  That seems like a good thing, right? 

Oh but if that were all I was dealing with right now.  The cortisone shot made my shoulder feel better for about a month.  But it's right back to hurting again and my ortho guy said if that happened I would need to get an MRI so we could decide what kind of surgery to do.  The choice is either a second arthroscopic temporary fix or a full shoulder replacement.  I wish you could see the completely sarcastic smile on my face.  I am just dealing with the pain right now because I don't have the time or the patience to start something else.

I also have this weird thing in my legs, where sometimes I will have a large blood vessel just spontaneously burst.  It always leaves a very large, very ugly bruise.  I had one burst the same day as my first phleb.  I've asked two or three friends who are nurses, a friend who works as a PA in the ER and even my hematologist and nobody seems to know why it happens or what it means.  ::hands up in the air and a shoulder shrug::

Then a week ago, I had to take my dog to the vet and have her put to sleep.  She was so sick and so old.  I know it was the best decision.  We sure do miss her though.  We had her for over 13 years.  I got to see her when she was only two weeks old and I got to look into her eyes as they gave her that injection.  It was very strange watching them change, in a fraction of a second, from being here to being gone.  Just like that.  It seems like such a cliche' for me to add, "And dog died!"  But really and truly, she did.

 The final straw: About 4 weeks ago my lower back started hurting me.  I just ignored it and pushed through.  It even felt better for a few days and I thought I was in the clear.  Until this morning.  I'd been half awake all night because it hurt.  But this morning, I could hardly get out of bed.  I discovered that I couldn't put any weight on my left leg.  Somehow I made it to the bathroom anyway, but almost passed out on the way back to the bed.  So Honey found me lying on the floor in the dark in excruciating pain and unable to move.  I have spent a very long day sitting on a heating pad and taking a large dose of ibuprofen every 6 hours.  How I wish I had some stronger pain killers.  How I wish I didn't have to go see yet another Dr to get them.
I give in.  Fhs, someone come in and call off the dogs!  I am completely destroyed.  What else could possibly happen?  My poor, poor husband.  He has to deal with so much crap.  And I feel like I'm a senior citizen in a 37 yr old body.  Seriously.  What the crap is going on, anyway?  Hey, sorry about all of the 'poor me' stuff, but how could I possibly be feeling anything other than sorry for myself?  I'm dreading bedtime.  I'm afraid I won't be able to get comfortable.  I'm afraid I won't be able to sleep.  And I'm afraid that tomorrow morning I will be just as incapacitated as I was today. 

At least I had my diet coke today.  I did drop a full one on my coffee table this afternoon, and it broke and spilled all over the place.  So super sad.  Luckily my super hero husband came swooping in and got me a fresh one.  I must be in need of a huge shot of humility.  I'm waving my little white flag and I'm crying 'Uncle.'  I hope I can get over the back thing quickly.  I hope my ferritin will drop rapidly so I won't have to do phleb more than one or two more times.  Even though I know the lifelong treatment of HM is periodic phlebotomy to keep my iron in a normal range.  It's this initial every week thing that's tiring.  After that, it'll just be a few times a year. 

Send up a prayer for me if you think about it.  I think I've been put on hold.  I even told Honey this morning that when all of my bullcrap is resolved and over, I want him to take a trip to Vegas so he can do something fun for himself.  "Stay in a fancy hotel and play poker for a couple of days."  He deserves it, I think. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pet Guilt

This isn't an unfamiliar feeling for me, feeling guilty about my pet. Although, not something I ever felt growing up. We had cats in our house. I remember my mom showing me, even when I was just 3-4 years old, how to be gentle with the cat and explaining that she could feel things, etc. I grew up to love animals, but I also never felt any fear or guilt over a pet dying. In our rural town, the vet was really no-nonsense and pretty straight forward. At least, that's how I remember him. If you felt like the better choice was to put your pet down rather than to extend their life with expensive or complicated treatments, then he was fine with that. I appreciated that - especially when somehow the task of taking our long time siamese cat Sam to the vet for that express purpose became my responsibility. I had insisted for weeks that when it was time, I had to be there. And then I found myself being the one to take him. I wasn't happy about it, you know. But he was old and sick and it was just time. You know? I know I was pretty sad and I may or may not have made him some promises in the car on the way there - cause I believe I'll see him again someday - and I cried. It was hard. But it's just life, isn't it? May 22, I'm pretty sure, and my brother wrote on the fridge in the kitchen, "May 22 - Sam Day."

When Bailey was about 6, she hurt her back. We tried the slow and cheap way to fix it. Meds and lot's of rest. But it didn't work and finally we had to decide. Surgery or...not. She was only 6. So we went for the surgery. That was 7 years ago. I believe it was worth the cost. When Sammy was 9, she messed her back up. This was harder. We had a very long talk about what to do and had essentially decided we weren't going to fork out all that cash again. But let me tell you - there is something about that vet standing there looking at you waiting for your decision and you can just seeeeee it in their eyes. They'll hate you if you don't go for it. Then they start rationalizing why it would be a good idea, why it would be worth the money, why you should give them a chance. I hate pressure like that. It irritates me. But then I went over to see the dog and I couldn't stand it. And we caved. Now I'm very glad that we did. She has lived a full and happy life, healed up great, can run like crazy and everything. Her only issues are a little arthritis, but she's 11 now. Like, 70-something years old. Quite appropriate.

So now - at 13 1/2 - my dog Bailey has been diagnosed with Cushing's Disease. It causes a variety of problems and is very likely caused by a tumor on her pituitary. This is not operable. It is also not cureable. Treatment is simply to make them feel better. But treatment is very expensive. We've already spent $200 to get the first bit of news. It's another $500+ just to get her the blood and ultrasound diagnosis. Then, the medication is $6.99 per pill and every few weeks, she would need another blood test ($260 repeated 2-6 times). The medication would be permanent, especially since the tumor causing the problem can not be removed or changed. So here we are, with the news from the vet and the guilt. The guilt that tells me we'd be cruel horrible animal haters if we don't do whatever we can to make her feel better.

Let me be clear though. The vet was very kind on the phone when she gave me the news and told us about our treatment options. She was fairly straight forward about the costs. I had to search online to get the cost of the medication. But I almost felt an anxiousness from her for us to do something about it. "We need to do the blood test and get the ultrasound done." Those two things are the initial $500. Another piece of the puzzle is Bailey's liver. I hope you don't mind some technicality. Results were:

Alkaline Phosphotase. Normal 150. Typical Cushing's Dog 1500-2000. Bailey....4210.
ALT. Normal 107. Bailey....937.
Another one I can't remember the name of. Normal 55. Bailey....92.

Don't ask me what those numbers mean. Just that her liver enzymes are freakishly out of whack and the vet even said she's never seen numbers as high as her 4210.

My fear is that we'll fork out that $500 and they'll do an ultrasound and discover that her liver is dying and we can't do anymore for her. My fear is that we'll fork all of that out and 4 months from now, she'll die anyway. This could happen various ways. A seizure, congestive heart failure, kidney and/or liver failure, a blood clot to her lungs, or rarely the pituitary tumor could be growing rapidly and she'll lose brain function and her behavior will get freaky. In the meantime, she shows nearly all of the symptoms of Cushings, save a couple. Panting for no reason and peeing all over the house. I can handle the panting. I can handle her drinking tons of water and acting like she's starving all the time. I can handle carrying her up the stairs because she's losing muscle mass and it's getting really hard for her to get around. I can handle all kinds of things, but peeing all over the house? But does our choice to not fork out the money mean we don't care about her?

So maybe we're terrible horrible animal haters, but we are simply not going to treat her Cushings. We're going to let it run it's course for a few weeks and see what happens. As it is, she sleeps nearly all day. Her happiest moments are mealtime and when we come home from somewhere. As long as she still gets happy about dinner and still gets up and wags her tail for us, I'm pretty satisfied that she's still happy enough to be here. I know she's uncomfortable in some ways. I can see it. I guess we'll just have to play it by ear as to whether or not we have to make that hard decision for her, unless it happens quietly on it's own.

Thirteen point five years is a very decent and typical lifespan for a dachshund. My gut says that she will probably make the summer. But for some reason, I don't think it will be much beyond that. I'll have to write some post with pictures of her as a baby and stuff - tell you about the cute things she would do and why I always called her honey. Why we always thought she would have been a fabulous mommy dog, but never had the chance. How I think she would have been a perfect pet - if Sammy hadn't come around and showed her how to bark at everything. Yes. I blame Sammy. This is morbid and weird. She's not gone yet.

I did sit my kids down and explain it all to them. There is a definite chance that one of them could find her gone one of these days and I didn't want to feel guilty that I hadn't warned them. I also wanted them to be aware so that they can be more careful of her and kinder to her. And so they could help me keep an eye on her. I know they will let me know if they see anything unusual. Sweetly enough, George spent the time during the discussion wiping at his eyes. Not crying or bawling like he always does about everything else. Just very quietly clearing a few tears from his eyes before they could go anywhere. Link didn't do much or say much, but it's more like him to keep that to himself until a later time. Sassy didn't say much until about 20 minutes later. We were in the car going somewhere and she started to sob. Awwww....the tender hearts of my children. I love being able to tell them that Bailey won't be gone forever. That we can see her again someday. That I fully believe that God would not give us these animals that we love so much and then never let us see them again. And I told them that she'd be perfectly healthy there, happy and running around. And it really made my kids feel better to know that.

As for me, it's all I can think about right now. I find myself saying the word Cushing's in my head a hundred times a day. So explains my post. I had to write it down to make myself feel better. Honestly, I don't feel surprised by it or dreadful about it. But last night I was petting her and listening to her breathe and wondering what she felt like in that little dog body of hers and in the middle of her steady breaths, she stopped. What would have been 3 or 4 breaths, and felt like an eternity, passed in silence and I felt this horrid feeling creeping up into my throat and bang....she was breathing again like normal and it was like it never happened. That tells me that it's going to hurt a little more than I'm preparing myself for.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Tasty Discovery

Ever had Stacey's Pita Chips? The cinnamon ones?

I hadn't until today. Actually bought the bag a couple of weeks ago because George asked. But we came home from the store, put everything away, and they got shoved to the back of the cupboard and forgotten. Until today. So I found them back there and decided to give them a try. Worst case, I figured, the kids could eat them up and we'd be done with them. Uh.....hello? These babies are tasty! Like super crispy and toasty cinnamon toast. Who doesn't love some cinnamon toast? Or 'sugar toast,' as Sassy calls it. So I ate a few and then realized all I could think about was cream cheese and I wanted to dip them. Dip dip dip.

Here's what I used:

8 oz cream cheese
1 T packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 salted caramel cream sauce*

Mix all together and... dip dip dip. Hooooooo-mama!! A word of's dangerous. I could eat the stuff with a spoon. But on the chips, it balances out the sweet of the chip so nicely. I can't imagine it wouldn't be good with apples or a blob melted on the top of french toast or really, just use your imagination. The spoon is a pretty decent option though. Try it. I know you'll love it.

*I just happened to have this caramel sauce in my fridge. But you could use any kind of caramel or even butterscotch ice cream topping. If it's been in your fridge, warm it up first.

Oh my goodness, I was just picturing a couple of pieces of cinnamon bread with this stuff spread in the middle like a sandwich - then dipped in the egg/cream mixture just like french toast and cooked on a griddle. Topped with some sliced bananas, a little powdered sugar to make it pretty and a couple of slices of crispy bacon. Sorry. It's been way to long since I went out for breakfast. It's one of my favorite things, you know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today I delivered 11 plates to 11 people. I can't even tell you how much I enjoy that. I'm tired, for sure. But it's just awesome to make someone smile. And although I get a lot of enjoyment out of just learning, trying, making it pretty and all of that, how could I possibly do all of that and not share it??

The best thing that happened in my kitchen today was making my first successful batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. My arm is a little worn out. But it really wasn't that bad. I think I will post my own version of a tutorial for that soon. But for now, a recap of the cupcakes, and my feelings about the results.

(this is where I wish Landee were sitting here so she could show me how to do those totally cute pictures
with the captions in the adorable fonts and all of that cuteness - some day soon)

Rosewater & Raspberry Cupcake

Everything about this cupcake was easy - well, except for finding the rosewater and the edible flowers. But the batter was simple and they baked up nicely. The glaze needed quite a bit of tweaking from the
written recipe, but luckily glazes are totally easy. And can you believe how scrumptious those raspberries look? Actually, the only thing about this cupcake that's raspberry is the two sitting on top. But the name definitely sounds better with that thrown in.

Honey gets all the credit for the photos, btw.

They tasted exactl
y the way I was hoping they would. It's like inhaling the scent of a home-grown rose while you're eating. I was hoping the cupcake would be a little more moist, but I think if I made them and ate them on the same day - they'd be perfection. Perrrrrfection.

Coconut-Lime Cupcakes

These baked up nicely too, with only the slightest divot in the middle. No big deal, cause I had to punch out a piece of the center anyway. There's a small amount of coconut in the batter which I think gave them a nice texture. If you like that, of course. Honey enjoys the flavor of coconut, but doesn't like actually eating it. The center is filled with a creamy, tart lime curd. Like so....

The lovely buttercream called for some coconut extract, but I must say, it needed more than the recipe called for. It was barely noticeable. That's a very easy fix, however, and I totally enjoyed eating it.

Salted Caramel Cupcake

You remember the problems I had getting this one to bake up right, right?

Yep. There they are. All sunken in. Let me tell you, though, they are dense, a little sticky, and the brown sugar in the batter really adds some good flavor. Especially after they're filled with the caramel swirled buttercream. Granted I could have used more caramel, but I was a little nervous that it would interrupt the delicate texture of the buttercream. I was short the pretty salt flakes that I needed to just garnish the top, but oh well.

There I am - taking a pic to text to my sister. Mmmm mmm mmmmmmmmmm.

So, here are today's spoils...

They are definitely eat'em-with-a-fork cupcakes. Yikes. I have no idea which direction I'm going to go next. Like I said, I am very tired. But very, very satisfied and I really learned a lot.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ohhhhhhh Help!

Three kinds of cupcakes made. Check. Lime curd for filling. Check. Caramel drizzle sauce. Check. Ok. I have now tried the buttercream recipe from the cookbook twice. No dice, my friends. I'm very frustrated. Step two is whipping the cooked egg whites/sugar mixture until it's all light and fluffy. The book says it should take about 6 minutes. I whipped. I tried two different whippers on my hand mixer. Twenty (20!) minutes later, still thick and soupy. Well, like melted marshmallows really. And quite tasty - but so not what it was supposed to be. See?

Frankly, this is annoying. I'm pretty sure I stomped my foot too. So off to Google, cause what would the world be like without it? Wait. I know what it's like without it. Lame. Anyway, first I searched for 'cooked buttercream,' but I kept finding a recipe for the Italian Meringue version. In that recipe, the egg whites are whipped alone, and then a hot syrup is poured into the egg whites while continuing to mix, followed by butter. Oh I know I could switch to something else. But I'm gonna figure this out, man. So I got more specific and typed something about buttercream from cooked egg whites and sugar. And lo and behold, there in the list a little ways down I see Wikipedia with this. A listing of different kinds of buttercream, how they're made, etc. And there it was! It's called Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Thank you!!!

Back to Google and I typed that in. Which led me to Youtube and this fabulous, amazing, happy, instructional video. Differences? Salt added to the egg whites first. Thanks cookbook lady for leaving that out. Sugar added to the egg whites gradually. Nope. Not in the cookbook either. Plus a handful of very helpful tidbits that I am thrilled to know.

Oh my gosh. I'm totally turning into a baking freak, aren't I? No really! I learn stuff like this and I just want to tell people. I guess you don't have to read this if you want. I mean, I did only get one comment on my last post. Nevermind that some people are overflowing with followers/comments. :) Totally kidding!!! That isn't really why I'm blogging anyway. It's like in You've Got Mail, when she talks about sending her questions out into the void. "So, goodnight dear void." One of the best. movies. ever.

I'm gonna do it, you guys! I'm gonna make it and it's going to work and I'm going to feel like a super hero for figuring it out. In the meantime, people who've volunteered to be tasters, I appreciate your patience. And hopefully you'll feel rewarded when I have some decent results.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Headaches and Cupcakes

Literally and figuratively. I'm just a headache person, I think. I just love waking up with a headache, like I did today. Oh wait...what? What does this have to do with cupcakes?

Well, since you asked, and since it's a much more enjoyable thing to read about, I will tell you. This is where we get into the figurative headache. You see, I'm finally digging into that cupcake cookbook I told you about here a long time ago. I'm not starting in the front. I didn't think you'd mind. But I'm making a trio of cupcakes. Recipe titles are: Rosewater & Raspberry Cupcakes, Coconut-Lime Cupcakes and Salted Caramel Cupcakes. (I envision one of each on a long rectangular plate. Wouldn't that be a lovely display?) The first headache came when trying to find the rosewater and the edible rose petals. Granted the rose petals are simply a decorative garnish for the top, but I was determined (at first) to make mine look exactly like the picture in the book. After going to Whole Foods, King Soopers and Sprouts without any luck, I resigned to the fact that finding organic roses, especially in March, is near impossible. And I'm annoyed that it's only March because I would have full access for free in my front garden come sometime in June. I mean, you really don't want me to make sugared rose petals from the normal ones at the store than might have pesticides on them, right? I didn't think so.

The other annoying thing was that I called three stores and asked them about rosewater and they all said, 'Oh yes...we have it.' But I suppose I wasn't specific enough. Well, actually - when I got to the first store, the sales lady said, "The bottle used to say it was edible, but it doesn't say that anymore. I'm pretty sure you still can though. It's totally fine." As she walked away, I started looking at the bottle and found this glaring statement on the back, "Do Not Ingest." Chaaaaaright! Like I'm going to
even use it and hand out the cupcakes to other people. No way. Aren't you glad that I'm looking out for you? Store number two had the same stuff. Store number three had nothing. And the thing that bugged me is every time I asked someone about it, they looked at me like I was crazy. "Rose....water? Um.......for baking?? I - don't - think we have that." Even the french-accented behind-the-bakery-counter lady at one of the more snooty stores. They have a decent display of fancy desserts. Seriously? You've never heard of it? Lame. You can imagine my joy and relief when I walked into Vitamin Cottage. At first, I kind of felt like a secret agent because I couldn't stand to get that 'we don't know what you're talking about you crazy lady' look again. But after a lot of walking around, I finally asked and the lady smiled and said, "Rose water? For topical use or for food?" I could have hugged her. Not only did she walk right to it, but another lady in the store got in on the discussion and they showed me a second, concentrated option. Elation, I tell you.

It should only be fair then, that when I baked the cupcakes last night, they turned out like so:

They smell really good, you guys. The rose is really subtle - just wonderful. It reminds me of the Rose Geranium Macarons from Miette. A lovely patisserie in San Francisco.

If you ever have the opportunity - I highly recommend stopping by. Try their Macarons and then peruse their beautiful selection of fancy candies, even things like Lavender Marshmallows. Dreamy, I think. What's a Macaron? Not macaroon. Macaron. Check it out here and here. I might have to mail order some from Miette for myself for Easter. Just might. They also offer them in grapefruit, pistachio, vanilla, hazelnut, etc. If I were 20-something, single and had lots of money - I would move to France and live there for months learning how to make all kinds of fancy pastries and stuff. I digress....

After such a successful ending to an annoying day, I decided to just jump right in to the next recipe. So I whipped together the ingredients for the Salted Caramel Cupcakes and tossed them in the oven. Alas, this was the result:

Ahhh, man! What now??? Now I have to do it over. I'm not saying those little crispy edges aren't super yummy, cause they are. This recipe has a decent amount of brown sugar in it too. Oh so yummy. So, because I have to make this work and for the sake of learning, I have done a lot of research online about sunken cupcakes and I think I might know how to fix it. I will let you know how the second attempt turns out and when I finally do the full posting of these from beginning to end (including the frosting and fancy garnishes) I will fill you in on all of the details.

Oh, and I hope you're excited. I mean,
I am. Because yesterday I made my first batch, with success, of Lime Curd (which is going to be the filling for the Lime-Coconut Cupcakes). I also made a batch of Caramel Drizzle. This will be lightly swirled into the butter cream frosting that tops the Salted Caramel Cupcakes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Some-more Tidbits

Some downsides:
  • The downside to having a wall painted a chocolate brown is that you can eventually see that dust collects on the wall. Especially next to the television. Dust. On. the. wall. Have you ever considered that? Maybe I'm displaying my lameness by admitting that I never had. And now I'm very sad that I know. It makes me look at my house and wonder just how much dust I'm not seeing.
  • The downside to having a darker carpet is that every little white spec of paper/things that kids are constantly leaving behind are really obvious.
  • The downside to having a coffee table is that everyone leaves their stuff on it. All the time. All kinds of stuff. Doll clothes, scout books, papers, controllers, chargers, hair things, legos, nanos, paper airplanes and so on. I find that I really wish the coffee table weren't here.
  • The downside to having a large island in the kitchen is that it collects even more than the smaller one in our last house. I remember being annoyed with our last kitchen and now I wish I still had that little one. So much less to clean up.
  • The downside to baking a cake for someone and having extra layers leftover is that I then find myself compelled to have some. And may I just say that my last chocolate cake was a.mazing? Well, it was. And then days later, I miss the cake that I finally had to throw away because I knew I would just keep eating it. This is one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy giving cakes and treats away. I know it will make someone smile, I get to feel happy for creating it and I am then saving myself from consuming more sugar.
And some other stuff:
  • I've had a headache for days. Like, 6 whole days. I think I'm going to go crazy. It makes everything annoying.
  • I've been feeling a little nostalgic/sad over the age of my children. Like, where in the world did the last 11 years go? I remember so many times my Dad telling me to enjoy their little days because someday I would really miss them. And you know how it is. In the middle of the diapers and the tantrums and the up all nights it seems like that could never be possible. And yet here I am with my youngest just months from starting Kindergarten and I feel like the best part of my life is ending. I know once I embrace the next stage of my life it will then become a best part too, but right now it doesn't look that way.
Ok. So that was fun. Lot's of bummed out information, huh? On the other hand, I get to spend a few days alone this weekend and I'm really looking forward to it. In addition, I will be on a plane in 36 days on my way to Oahu. Wow. It will be the first time I've flown over the ocean, the longest flight I've ever been on and the first time I've ever been to Hawaii. Time for a hardcore slim-down, followed by some clothes shopping.

Monday, February 28, 2011

This's and Thats's

I am better. I mean, like someone flipped a switch over night better. The first day I thought I was better only lasted a couple of hours. Getting up, showering and driving to Sassy's ballet class was all I could handle. After that, I felt like my body was going to collapse. So I spent some more time laying on the couch and took it very easy for the rest of that day and went to bed early. Again. The next day when I woke up the difference was amazing. I feel cheerful. I can taste food. I can actually run up the stairs and zip around the house the way I like to zip around the house. Thankfully I did get better. I did help myself to, I think, three different trips to the smoothie place for a protein shake with added immunity and a shot of wheat grass. I think it helped.

I currently have 3 stars in every available level of Angry Birds. And it took me FOR EVVVVVER! And now I'm annoyed that I'm at the mercy of the Angry Birds people, waiting impatiently for an update so I can keep going. COME ON!!!!

I haven't baked a thing in too long. Having sick children and being sick and now being completely behind in every possible way because of the sick people has made me less motivated to start something new. However, I get to do a baby shower cake this week. I'll post you some photos.

My dearest friend Miss Landee of Landerson Estate has finally awakened to the wonderful world of Jane Austen - or more specifically, Pride and Prejudice. All is right with the world. Not only did she try it, she loved it. And I'm loving every minute of it. We very giddyingly watched the BBC version with the handsome Colin Firth (as the handsome Mr. Darcy) all afternoon. A glorious way to employ our time, I dare say. I then watched the Kiera Knightley version. Again. I've seen it a countless number of times. There are things I like and things I dislike about each version, but the tension and the joy and the wittiness never fails. Never ever ever. Today I started listening to the audio book. I'm so tired of hating to get my things done around the house, so I'm employing the assistance of my ipod to keep me from dying of boredom. Or to save me from a complete lack of self-discipline. Perhaps this increase of exposure to Pride and Prejudice will assist me in becoming a more accomplished young lady. Yes. Young. Okay?

I'm very annoyed that my kids aren't done with the school year until June 4 and that the following year begins on August 1. What the heck is going on around here? And that leaves me annoyed that we have an entire two weeks off for spring break. Can't we just have a 4 day weekend or something and get a longer summer? Dumb. But after a weekend of crazy children who couldn't stop flopping around, giggling, running, arguing, misbehaving and the like - I dread spring and summer break.

I have decided to try WEN for hair. I have a freaky, unnatural attachment to my hair, and it's been looking a little sad lately. Dry, dull and split on the ends. I like my hair to be shiny and touchable and - I told you it was freaky and unnatural. Anyway, I am reserving my verdict for now. I've only used it for three days. Not only do I have to figure out if it's worth the effort, but I still have to determine how much it's going to cost in the long run. You know. I will say that immediately it is softer. It's so much easier to comb out when I get out of the shower. It takes longer to dry. It's fuller, my color looks better and I can't see as many splitty ends. Just sayin'. However, I know that sometimes things work really good for a week or two and can then suddenly become not so great. So we'll see. I have also decided to try Bare Minerals makeup. My mom and a couple of my sisters have been using it for a long time. My dear friend, Miss Landee of Landerson Estate, uses it. Her skin always looks luminous and healthy and shimmers just the right way in the sunlight. So after months of mulling it over, I pulled the trigger. Just got it this afternoon. I will obviously have to reserve my judgment on that as well until I've used it for a while.

Anyway, so that's the deal. Not too exciting. Not too lame either. See you around.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Will I Ever Get Better?

About a week after New Year's, I was running around the house, picking things up and thinking about 500 million different things like always. I noticed that when I bent over, there was a pain in my chest. Weird. I paid attention to it sort of, marked it in my brain and moved on. A couple of days later, I had this cough starting. A 'reactive' cough as they call it. Then a low fever. I'm very commonly sick in my sinuses, so to be sick in my chest was really weird. I don't have anything in my house for chest congestion. I took myself to the dr (which ended up being the PA) and found out that I had bronchitis. She gave me an inhaler and some cough syrup. I hate that prescription cough syrup. It never helps. It never does anything. It's like the doctor knows there really isn't anything they can do, but it's the standard 'go to' prescription. She told me it could take a month to get over it. A month later, the cough was almost gone. I was still running a low temp (alllll that time). A couple of my kids had a one night bout with the throwups. Sassy transitioned immediately into a fever/cough/sinus infection. A few days later, Link got the fever/cough/sinus infection. And then I started to get sick. My bronchitis took on a whole new life, like someone had given in vitamins or something. But this time, I was all congested in my head too. After a few more days, George came home from school with a fever and 5 days later he was on antibiotics for, yes, the third sinus infection. Geez. Me however? I'm tired. My body hurts. My head feels like it's going to freaking explode. I'm so congested. My sinuses are throbbing and my chest hurts so bad when I cough. Which comes in waves that I can't stop. And even though I can only cough so hard physically, my body wants me to cough harder than it's capable of and then I sound like I'm dying or something. Gross.

So back to the PA who says, literally, "Well, I think what you have going on in your sinuses is viral. But let's put you on an antibiotic in case you have something else going on that we can't identify." You have GOT to be kidding me. I think she was offended when she asked me if I had been using the cough syrup and I said no. I told her the night-time theraflu was doing just fine and I hadn't felt like I needed it. I hear tales of these doctors who test for influenza. They must be out there somewhere. Mine doesn't. I've never even heard anyone suggest that it can be done other than my friends or family who've experienced it. So I have decided that's what I have and the PA is an idiot. Since I've been under-the-weather since the beginning of January, I decided it was time to throw in the towel. I canceled everything for the week. I made arrangements for children and I've spent the last three/four days in my pajamas doing almost nothing. I feel the tiniest shred of a hair better this morning. I could actually taste my breakfast. I ate out of habit more than anything though. I still don't feel hungry or desire to really eat. Not so bad, right? Today is the first day that I will be home alone. George finally went back to school today. Landee will be here in a minute to pick up Sassy for gymnastics. I will need to take her to dinner or something after all this blows over.

Worst of all, I'm supposed to be making this big, gorgeous cake for my friend's 40th birthday this weekend. Do I cancel on her? Or do I muscle through it? What would you do?

Friday, January 21, 2011

First Hurdle

So my self-imposed cupcake challenge has found it's first, uh.....challenge. The cookbook truly does it all from scratch. The cake, the glazes, frosting, etc. Hooray, I say. Bring it on. Except that sometimes it doesn't always work out. Like now.

See, Link asked me to make one of the cupcakes from the book for his birthday. The peppermint ones. A vanilla cupcake with a bit of peppermint mixed into the batter, peppermint butter cream and crushed candy canes. Now seein' how I came down with bronchitis and didn't feel all that hot, I decided to cut a few corners. Cake mix cake. Easy and dependable. I didn't have the energy to deal with an unknown batter. I can tell you one thing I learned; I made two different brands and they were quite different from each other. Very interesting.

So even though I decided to cheat on the cake, I didn't want to cheat on the frosting. So I ventured into the unknown world of this butter cream that I'd never seen before. It started with egg whites and sugar in a stainless bowl over boiling water. I had to whisk it continuously until it reached at least 160 degrees. This ensures the safety of the eggs, I believe. After which, the mixture is removed from the heat and you add your hand mixer on high until the mixture forms stiff peaks. The recipe said it would take about 5-6 minutes. After 10 minutes, I still didn't have stiff peaks. It was pretty droopy. So I figured, well even if this doesn't turn out, I need to see what will happen when I start to add the butter. So, one or two tablespoons at a time, I started dropping in softened butter. Not to bad for the first 2/3 of the called-for butter. And then all of a sudden the mixture changed into this thick, not very smooth looking something-or-other. So I tasted it. It was just like a really soft, really whipped up butter that had been sweetened a little bit. Nothing like what I imagined a butter cream frosting should be. Obviously, I had to make a run to the store for premade frosting, which I whipped up to make it fluffier, added some peppermint extract and piped it all lovely onto the cupcakes.

So there it is. Aside from the few recipes that call for a glaze, the rest use that basic butter cream, flavored in different ways. Strawberry butter cream, chocolate butter cream, almond, banana, caramel swirl, chocolate malt, coconut, white chocolate, chocolate mint..... I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Probably try the recipe again. Probably do some internet research. Maybe send a few food network emails begging for help. Who knows. But, hang tight. When I get it figured out or come up with a different plan, I will let you know.

Friday, January 7, 2011


I got a cookbook for Christmas. That one. ^^^ I have officially decided that I am going to systematically, from front to back, bake each and every cupcake in the book. I think I will learn a lot in the process. About new recipes, about cakes from scratch....may get better at the over-all appearance. The idea is that I will eventually have just the right recipes for scrumptious, moist and delectable cupcakes that will make your mouth sing! Sing, I tell you. The kind of cupcake you need to eat with a fork. Slowly. The kind that leaves you feeling entirely satisfied, enough that you don't have to eat two or three. Although you might want to.

I will let you know when I begin. As of now, I'm running a low fever and I don't feel so hot. Anyway - eventually, my neighbors are either going to love me for all of the free treats or hate me and wish I would just throw them out and stop it already. Especially because there are ::gulp:: 46 different recipes in the book. I might combine some into one project. For instance, the vanilla cupcakes are used six different times in the book - just dressed up in different ways. Sneak peeks, please?

  • Lime Meringue Cupcakes
  • Grapefruit and Buttermilk
  • Rosewater and Raspberry
  • Sour Cherry Almond
  • Coconut Lime
  • Mexican Chocolate
  • White Chocolate and Raspberry
Just a few tidbits to come.

P.S. If you'd like to sign up as a taster...I will be more than happy to bring the results over for you to try. Unless they don't turn out. Which is most certainly going to happen along the way.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I don't have to explain friendship to you, right? I know you already get it. I hit the friend jackpot, I think. I feel a little bit silly writing this, but I'm sure you'll humor me and forgive my silliness. I had a 'friend' once who said to me, "The best friends I ever had were in the same time of life and stuff as I am. Same age of kids, maybe the same number of children," etc. I don't remember everything she said. That part of it stuck in my head, and then later I realized that she and I didn't have those things in common and it seemed she was telling me that I needed to look elsewhere. Hmmmph. Whatever. It stung a little bit and sort of hurt my feelings. But eventually life moved on, we moved, they moved. On to better things.

About 5 years ago, I met this cute girl with a baby girl the same age as mine. And it was her first girl too. And it was her third child too. And her boys were born in January just like mine. Same years as mine. It took about two and a half years after that before she and I started getting to know each other better. Our little girls are the bestest of frienemies, like sisters. They go to school together and gymnastics together and ballet together and they play babies and doll house. They sing and giggle and dress up and argue and compete. It's adorable. I'm fairly certain that my daughter will not get a biological sister. It's just the best that she has this little friend.

And her mother is the best too. I trust her implicitly with my children. I trust her with anything. I can tell her anything. She makes me laugh every day. She is the most cheerful, happy person I've ever known. She can be tender and funny and completely real all at the same time. She's beautiful. She can put down a large sweet pork salad like no one I've ever seen. She is amazingly talented in 5 million ways. Writing, crafting, decorating, baking, blogging, video making...takes awesome photos.... She's a great mom. She loves to laugh with her kids. Our girls at church adore her.

She has friends all over the country, it seems. Her friendships last and they span distances. I count myself blessed to call her my friend. I'm excited to watch our kids grow up together. I hope that they will always be close in school and in activities and all of that stuff. But I know that it won't matter where our lives may take us.

Love ya, m'lady! Hope you're not embarrassed. I may be too embarrassed to say this stuff to you irl, but somehow I wanted you to know. Big squeezy hug times ten.