Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas 2011

Welcome to those who have stopped by for the first time. So happy about Christmas time. Trying to drink in the moments of family today. Just the four of us.

So there it is.. the fake tree. I grew up always having a tree we cut as a family event, that my parents would leave up for weeks and weeks, and then finally we would have a burning party. Decorating the tree was an event with my mom.. pulling out each ornament, one at a time for my brother and I to place. I still have a lot of my childhood ornaments. I remember my dad with some version of saw... cutting off a few branches at a time to put in the fireplace until only the trunk was left and could be put in the garbage. I was well into adulthood before I saw how dangerous it is!

Now we have an artificial tree. (Artificial seems like the PC term.) Doesn't have an odor of freshness, but is convenient. The heavier ornaments are secure. No one has to remember to water it or worry that it gets too warm. No one has to vacuum around presents to keep it looking nice. No pets this year means no monitoring the lower branches for slobber or missing items.

I expected this week to be relaxed and quiet. Work was that way... Home was not exactly what I planned. But no matter the circumstances, we are here at home. We have all the things we need (and probably several that we want under the tree). . The sun is even shining. Merry Christmas to everyone!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


November is full of reminders to be thankful/grateful and it almost seems overdone to me. I'm blessed to have a family, a home, 2 working vehicles, good health, a good job , food in the cupboard and friends who care about me. So why does the canned Thanksgiving thankfulness irritate me this year?  I think it's kind of like Valentine's Day.

Don't get me wrong, I love hearts, romantic dinners with Mike and mushy greeting cards. But it's the idea that one particular day (or month of November) is the time to remember it all. This year "thankfulness" seems to be in my face on Facebook and other blogs. It's that moment of guilt that says "Oh, I should be doing that and publicly thankful for that too". My heels just want to dig in and say NO!

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving Day. It will be just the boys and me. Mike will be working a shift that is not conducive to having a big sit-down feast. I'm looking forward to making their favorite foods, the smell of roasting turkey and stuffing, and the to eating until WE are stuffed.

I am thankful for Mike, Seth and Brandon... because each brings something to my life that I could not get anywhere else. God knew that I needed each of them to make my life complete.  Thank you Father, for the gifts you have given me. And when I seem ungrateful, please give me that poke in my brain to remember what I have been given.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Spring and Fall are my favorite times of the year... I guess it's the transition to something new. Strange to see myself liking the transition since I often don't handle change well. I am enjoying the cool mornings and comfortable afternoons. The colorful trees and brown corn stalks.

This is my wallpaper at work.

Although the more I look at it, it looks like a trail I wouldn't really take unless I knew where it led. Too much chance of spider webs to the face... and maybe something scary that could jump out at me.

Midwest sunsets are a thing of beauty. Spectacular a couple of evenings ago, but couldn't get my camera out quickly enough.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

10 Year Milestone

Our 10th wedding anniversary was May 27, 2011. We didn't really do anything too exciting... pizza with the boys. It's the milestone that makes me happy. The boys were 5 and 8 when we got married. Now they're both taller than me. I think Seth is about 5' 10" and Brandon about 5'8". Seth probably has a few more inches in him since his grandpa, uncle and dad all grew after they were out of high school. I'm just glad his feet stopped growing! Brandon keeps stretching and stretching physically... the sky is the limit I guess. He has an uncle who is about 6'4" and a cousin who is 6'5".
Five years ago we couldn't have imagined moving 2300 miles away from everything familiar. Now we're hear and settled. Shortly after getting married we got a dog, and then had multiple pets until just a few months ago... very strange to be pet-free.

Ten years ago I was pretty healthy and Mike was strong and muscled from a physical job. LOL It seems so long ago now. I cherish the pictures of our early months. The picture below was taken by our neighbor, and then she gave it to us when she found out we were moving. Note that Brandon is standing on his tiptoes to seem a little taller.

We had only been married a few months when the morning of 9/11/01 became infamous. Seeing all the news coverage this month has got me thinking more & more about how things changes, and yet how they stay the same. Not sure if I'm ready to think about how the next 10 years will change for us. The most obvious is that the boys will move out and be on their own and Mike and I will have a quiet, boring life. Ha!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hmm how did I make it through the summer without posting?

We didn't vacation during the summer. The tall one got a job that lasted a month, and then spent the days lounging.  The slightly shorter one spent as much time at the homes of his friends as possible. He came home to shower & change clothes about twice per week, and to try to get in some driving time now and then. All is well health-wise. Mike got a bit of a promotion at work in late August so that's been nice.

We have been living with road construction about 50 yards from our apartment. Literaly construction of a new road. And with construction comes the death of the swamp and then the invasion of various horrible insects.  The ants have been the most persistent. We have spent the entire summer battling various sizes & colors of ants. They like the poison so we keep putting it out. Theoretically the bulk of the construction on our street will be done by December... not holding my breath for that.. but it would be nice. Today they poured a new driveway for our parking lot. Would have been helpful if they had used any extra cement to fill the hold in the middle of our parking lot, but of course the landlord corporation would have had to pay for it.

In August we decided to shake things up a bit and rearranged furniture. Partly this was in hopes of getting rid of more bugs & ants. It did help, but we did such a good job of moving things around, we are still putting away... a bit more every day. I have thrown away so much junk! There is something so freeing in realizing that you have no need for paper piles.

I did realize at some point that I really haven't prayed much in a long time. Not really a reason for this, but I confess that it did take me a long time to realize that I missed it. I am working on being thankful and praying for my boys.

Friday, May 20, 2011


From, they credit Family Circle magazine.
Forgot to take my own picture so here is the website version.

18 Ritz crackers
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
4 tilapia filets (about 1-1/2 pounds total)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Oven at 425. Crush crackers in a zipper sandwich bag, then add basil, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Zip the bag shut and smoosh everything together.

Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray and place filets on it. Brush a thin layer of Dijon on each filet, then press a handful of cracker mix on each filet. Bake 12-15 minutes. Check fish with a fork to see it the thickest parts are flaky - and it's Done!

We've had this twice to rave reviews. Most of my guys don't care for Dijon mustard at all, but they don't mind the little bit in this recipe. I didn't use salt, but substituted some lemon pepper sprinkled between the Dijon and the cracker mix.

The interesting thing is that the mustard must do something to the fishy smell that you normally would have. There is ZERO smell, and of course clean up is easy. I plan to try this on halibut and trout.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April Drama

Usually I love April... It's officially spring and even though there is usually a lot of rainy days, there are peeks of sun that keep getting more frequent. Except this year...

It's been a busy month. Let's see, starting April 4th, Mike started a round of doctor appointments that hasn't ended yet. In fact each appointment seems to spawn 2-3 more! Being insulin-dependent for 40+ years does take a toll and we knew this time would come eventually... but knowing that in the back of your head doesn't do justice to hearing the doctor say "Hmm.. we need to explore..." this or that possibility.

In January Mike had 2 doctors... a general primary care doc and an endocrinologist. Now he has at least 7! Now - I am NOT complaining - actually just the opposite. I want him to be healthy and to be with me a very long time.

So.. here it goes. Back on February 1st Mike's PCP (primary care physician) recommended having an updatd echocardiogram to see how his heart murmur was doing. No big deal, happens every few years. But, due to an impending blizzard, they wanted to do it ASAP - meaning that same day. As always, nothing remarkable is said during the test.

Winter continues. 5 weeks go by and Mike goes back for the next appointment. Dr. PCP says "When is your appointment with cardiology? I don't see it in the system." Mike says, "Don't know what you're talking about. I don't have an a cardiologist." Dr. PCP says, "Didn't they call you with results of your echocardiogram? You need to be seen by a cardiologist." Dr. PCP is very flustered and leaves the room. Mike broke the cardinal rule of doctor appts. and used his cell phone while the doctor was gone. He called me to say that Dr. PCP seems a little frantic and I'll let you know as soon as I find something out. Dr. PCP comes back and tells Mike he has an appt. scheduled for April 4th, a few weeks away. Okay.. so not too urgent...

We spend the rest of March waiting for spring weather to appear, go on a fabulous vacation for Spring Break to Washington DC and Virginia, and return home to the beginnings of spring thunderstorm season. Somewhere in there he also acquired a dermatologist and a podiatrist. The appointed day finally rolls around and we go to meet the cardiologist, Dr. P. She reviewed some records and asked some questions... and says she suspects the source of the heart murmur, the aortic valve, needs to be replaced... likely within a year.

Hmm... lots to think about. First order of business is a series of 4 tests to see more specifically how damagaed the valve is. Another echo, a Holter monitor, a Doppler on his legs, and a catheterization with dye. the first 4 are non-invasive and really don't entail anything on Mike's part except showing up for the appointments. The "cath" is planned for one day, outpatient procedure scheduled for Tuesday, April 19th. We know that if "something" is found during the procedure, they will attempt to fix it. All the pre-requisite worst-case scenarios are discussed and paperwork signed. Mike and I both were a little nervous, but my biggest prayer was that they would find something and be able to fix it.

Chalk that up to the "Be careful what you pray for" category. They did both halves of his blood vessels.. veins and arteries. Ultimately the dye showed that his aortic valve is not as damaged as feared, but the left descending artery was 80% blocked. The LAD is also sometimes called the "Widowmaker" as it feeds most of the blood to the lower heart muscle, and if 100% blocked there is too much damage to the heart muscle... that is, death is immediate.

They give me an update at the 90 minute mark to say that this is what they've found and per our signatures on the paperwork, they will be fixing it, which usually takes about 30 more minutes. I find my way to the cafeteria and back (without too much getting lost) and right at the 30 minute mark, the doctor comes to tell me Mike is in recovery and doing well.

Eventually I am shown the way to his room on the cardiac care unit. The procedure was done with wakeful sedation, so he was just a little bit tired. The surgery people weren't completely happy with his blood's ability to clot at that time so they left an IV sheath type thing in his vein for the cardiac nurses to take out. I wish I had a picture of how funny it was... Nurse 1 with her intern, Charge Nurse with another intern, and 1 more intern watching from the foot of the bed. Nurse 1 tests his clotting ability.. sample doesn't have enough blood. Intern #1 had watched and now begins to take sample #2. She does fine and the blood has cooperated... time to remove the sheath. However, there is some question as to whether this hole is the vein or the artery, and if it is the artery, it could spring a big leak and cause some problems. Mike points out that he remembers that they did the arterial portion first and it is the upper hole.. and the one in question is the venous one marked with V on the tape, which they have now removed & discarded. None of the nurses really believe him... "better safe than sorry" they say.

Now, 4 sets of nurse hands converge on Mike's groin to make sure there is enough pressure to cut off blood flow if indeed this is the apocalypse and Mike's femoral artery should burst while taking out the sheath. Mike looks at me and laughs... "If I were younger and SINGLE, this might be fun!" His slightly groggy brain finds this highly funny and he giggles to himself, which causes his whole body to move around and the nurses have to wait for him to be still... 20 minutes of lying perfectly still with 4 sets of hands pressing down along his groin & leg "just in case." All is accomplished without incident and he was adorned with those lovely plastic bandaids.

I brought the boys to see him Tuesday evening and we spent an hour together. Wednesday morning I got the boys to school, and then spent the morning with Mike, just waiting to be discharged. He decided the bed was not comfortable enough so he was in the recliner and I was in the bed watching House on tv. Kind of a strange show to watch while you are in a hospital.

They let him out after lunch and we drove carefully home. He missed 3 additional days of work on doctor's orders. On that Friday, Apr. 22nd, he sees endocrinologist Dr. K, who wants him to be on a continuous monitoring system with his insulin pump (read that as additional dollars per month). We are considering this and will likely do a 72 hour trial of it soon... but not sure we are ready for another expense.

On Wednesday, April 29th he saw a vascular doctor (who is in league with the cardiologist), who will work on the apparent lessening blood flow to his legs. She explains that the Dopper tests from earlier in the month show that he has a problem in both legs, but wants a little more detail... so more tests. Lo & behold they schedule him for the next day! I'm more nervous this time because of the immediate nature. It's supposed to take a month to get scheduled. However we finally now have a 3 week break from doctor appointments. Mike's next visit is May 19th for 1 month follow up on the stent. Here's to a quiet 3 weeks!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cooking up a storm

I've been in a cooking whirl since last fall. Trying new recipes, new ways of doing old standards... and the best part is that it has been well-received.

This is one of our new favorites: Double Onion, Kielbasa & Potato Roast with Mustard Sauce

I am a fan of quick easy dinners, and generally speaking we're not picky eaters. I saw this one in a Woman's Day magazine email and printed it out last September. What could be better than meat & potatoes?! I've made it 4 times so far and it just keeps getting better.

Here's the recipe - and then my comments in color.

First, the sauce....
1/2 cup of reduced-fat sour cream
2 Tablespoons of country-style Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon of little water.

Stir together & chill. I have found that a little less mustard, or a little more sour cream is a better fit for my guys.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Takes a longer time so make sure to get it heating up. Position oven racks to divide space into thirds.

2 leeks, chopped
1 large sweet onion, cut into ½ inch thick wedges. Don’t worry about separating the layers as the cooking process does this.
4 teaspoons oil (I use olive oil)
4 large carrots, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces (I use whatever is on hand. If I have baby carrots, I just cut them lengthwise)
5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut lengthwise in quarters, then halved crosswise
¼ teaspoon each of salt & pepper
1 turkey or beef kielbasa (14 oz.), cut in 2 inch pieces, then halved lengthwise
2 rimmed baking pans

I use 15 x 2 cookie sheets/jelly roll pans, lined with foil to make cleanup easier. My local stores tend to sell leeks in bundles of 3 so I use all three. Chop the leeks and onions & combine in a large metal bowl with half of the oil. Toss together and then dump onto pan #1. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Chop carrots and potatoes and combine in the large bowl with the remaining oil. Dump this onto pan #2. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Place onions on top rack, carrots & potatoes on bottom rack. Roast for 15 minutes.

While this is roasting, cut up kielbasa. I have found with 2 teen boys and a husband who all enjoy meat that it works well to double the meat. Last time I did 1 beef kielbasa and 1 polish sausage.

When the timer rings, remove the pans and toss ingredients around each pan. Add the meat to the carrot/potato pan and arrange as flat as possible. Recipe says to put them both pans back in the oven but I find that the onions are getting crispy and seem pretty soft so I don’t put them back. Put the meat/carrot/potato pan back into oven on bottom rack for 15 minutes longer, or until vegetables are fork tender.

Once this is done, everything goes back in the big bowl and is tossed together. Everyone serves himself, sauce is available, and usually we have enough for seconds for everyone.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I am happy to report that I successfully crammed all the Christmas stuff back into the boxes and tubs from whence they came in December. The tree was carefully taken apart and put into its box, and now it's all back in the storage unit.

It feels like I've done a major clean-up/cleaning out of junk, but really it's just the extras that I put out for a month, and then put away. And now I'm left with the same dingy carpet, piles of laundry and pantry-with-lots-of-random-items-that-don't-go-together that I had in late November.

I think I'm ready for a major clean-up/purge event... or at least I'm mentally preparing for one.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 - The beginning

Our holiday season is modified a bit due to Mike's work schedule on weekends & holidays so today is our "New Years Day" celebration of relaxation & junk food. We are watching old movies (1980's) on Netflix, and munching homemade chex mix & cheese dip & cookies.

At the end of 2010 I spent several weeks in a stressed-out knot of emotion & frustration. I am working on letting it go and working toward enjoying a few specific moments each day. Less expectation = much less stress!