Friday, June 26, 2009

The Uncancery Future

Two moths since that last post, huh? We've been so busy, in the eloquent words of David Wooderson, 'L-I-V-I-N.'

I do intend to keep writing here, but for now I think the best update is more photo-centric.

My mom has a new portrait commission. He's a fox.

Harvested the Brussels Sprouts! Official Plant Friend Update to come.
Nieces & their Mama at Freestone during our first NorCal visit of the year.

Mark's birthday meant scratch bbq sauce.

Mark and Steve take over pizza duty.

Visiting friends at the Chula Vista Nature Center.

Peony season.

The little & big of the new exhibit at the World Famous San Diego Zoo.

Visit number two to NorCal included Santa Rosa pool time, Bodega,

and the Mission in San Francisco.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

MRI Results

Wednesday morning, Dr. So swept into the room we were waiting in, big smile spreading his chubby cheeks, and said, "Great news!"

He handed the radiology report to Mark to read for himself, but he developed a sudden, very damp, optical condition. Strangely, the same thing happened to me, so Dr. So read out this beautiful stanza himself:

"Status post bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, no MRI evidence for malignancy."

With the added treat of " . . . essentially no parenchyma [that's breast tissue] identified," that means that there's essentially no place for any new breast cancer to grow.

I don't know that I can put into words what this means to us yet. Even though all of my doctors suspected this was my outcome, I never really felt safe until now. I had a nice chance to talk to Dr. So about this, and he totally understood. I was spending so much time trying not to let this suspicion and unease drive me crazy. I don't have to do that anymore. I don't have to lay awake at night, charting my lymphs. As Mark pointed out, I can pop in a Jane Austen movie, or read my favorite Kipling or Hemingway, not because I'm semi-desperately needing to be soothed at night, but just because I feel like Austen or Kipling or Hemingway.

It means a lot, in essence. I'll work on figuring it all out, in between dancing, giggling, and smooching Mark, in my uncancery future.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Almost There

So the MRI is on Monday, and I just want it to be over. Looking forward to this test has been really reminding me of this period of testing last year, which was arguably the worst in this whole process. It's been a challenge to stay in the present and remember that my situation now is very different than it was a year ago. I don't want to waste this weekend, but I really would like it to be Monday, with me inside that clanging, banging machine, getting things done.

Things have been pretty happy and lighthearted around here, however. On Thursday I had my pre-scan labs done, and since Mark was almost done with a very light day at the hospital, he came over and met me with snacks. Still in his white coat, stethoscope and all, I had to laugh as he walked back with me. I told the phlebotomist that I hoped she didn't mind me bringing my own physician. To which Mark added, "I don't even know her that well."
He then proceeded to his chief occupation during blood draws; distraction. He swung the pastry he'd brought me from side as he said, "Looook into the danish . . ."
Which may well have knocked me out, if the danish hadn't been cherry, and reminiscent of, um, what was coming out of my arm.

We finished off the week with turkey stew, a lovely lunch with a new friend, a clean house, a lovely visit with old friends, and all the lilacs Che Bella had.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Nap Was Fantastic

And if you know me well you'll know that I'm an authority on naps.

My appointment was fine. He did a little prodding (all good) and set up my MRI for later this month, the 20th, I think (it's in my planner, not my brain. That's how I work.) So that will be good. I think getting IV contrast MRIs for the rest of my life will maybe get me over my abhorrence of IVs. That would be nice. And I do really well at things that require no movement, so the test should go well. Dr. So told us he'd call us when he got the results, but I think we'll schedule an appointment with him anyway.

That's another thing. Visiting the oncologist while you're trying to beat up cancer is very different from visiting the oncologist after you've supposedly beaten up cancer, and I haven't quite figured out the latter yet. At the beginning, for me anyway, fast and decisive is good. I really wanted action. Now that I've got a little more time, I'm wanting . . . meticulousness. On a level that some would find annoying, I want to be sooo examined. Sometimes I still don't understand why I'm so assuredly healthy, and I'd like to work on that. And it would be great if it didn't always have to be Mark that reminds me patiently why sentinel node biopsies work so well. I'm hoping to not resort to that piece of information as the new tattoo I joked about to disguise my radiation markers. Also, it's not really fun to lay awake at night and try to feel every discernible lymph node for 'normality.' Because there are hundreds.

Luckily, Dr. So understands this. He praises my vigilance but also knows that it can make a person a bit nutty. He also encourages vacation. If only there were a country that heartily embraced naps . . .

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Back to Dr. So

Oh, it's been a while. I haven't seen Dr. So, apart from a friendly parking lot run-in, since May, after my last radiation treatment. Tomorrow's the day we resume our tumultuous acquaintance. I'm not sure our visit will go beyond the usual armpit poke and a little more scheduling, but we'll see. Surprises abound and all that. Mainly I just need to make sure my follow-up imaging is on-track. Hopefully all of my surgery inflammation will have calmed down enough to make it MRI time. And while I still hate IVs and the clanging is no fun, the situation of my not having any conclusive evidence of health makes me really eager for this. But all of my memory of these visits being so negative. . . yeah. I'm struggling to not go back to the scary/sad places. So far I'm mostly winning, and I think one clean MRI would do me a world of good. Wish me luck, kids. And a glorious nap in the afternoon - I'll need them both.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm Back! With Salad Dressing!

Hi, everyone. I don't know why it's been so hard for me to get over here and write lately. A few out-of-town trips and apparently I'm all wackadoo. I do have lots to write about, but I thought I'd start my comeback with something I know a few of you want, and that I'd been working on for quite a bit. Salad Dressing!

I don't have a name for this. It's just the everyday vinaigrette that I use when I'm not celebrating a seasonal acid (lemons, blood oranges, etc.) This is pantry food at it's best. You can use it as you would any vinaigrette, but I like it best in a salad with whatever good fruit we're getting (apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, grapes, grapefruit, persimmon, pomegranate, and pretty much all types of orange have been tried with success), a little cheese (parm, pecorino romano, goat cheese, feta, and mozzarella are all good), and nuts (pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, especially glazed spiced walnuts, etc.) It's fun to try out different combinations, and you can certainly also add any of your favorite salad ingredients. I love thinly sliced fennel bulbs and fresh herbs, and I can see red onions working well also if you like them.

So, a word on a few ingredients, and we'll begin. I've been futzing with this dressing for at least 8 years and it's gone through two rounds of official recipe testing, so rest assured that everything's there for a reason before you start experimenting. I started using organic Raw Agave Syrup for the dash of sweet because of the sugar-sensitive people in my life. It's got a clean flavor and a really low glycemic index, but I kept using it because it's great at emulsifying the dressing, too. You can pick it up at Henry's, Jimbo's, Whole Foods and the like. For the curry powder, I can't emphasize enough that a quality product is important. Whatever you do, don't use the curry powder you'd find in the spice aisle at a big grocery store. It's awful. Go to an Indian market. There you'll find quite a few varieties which you can play around with if you like, but I'd recommend a nice bright red blend. You'll save a buck, too. So.

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
5 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed or smashed (depending on whether you like a lot or a little)
1 tbsp. raw agave syrup
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. + small pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cardammom
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a jar. Shake well, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. Shake again before pouring. A little goes a long way. Leftovers can be kept sealed in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

All Good in the Scherensnitte Hood

I haven't been working on very many art/craft projects around here. All of this walking & making sure there's always milk in the house, I suppose. I'm not used to doing it all. I have several projects that are sort of stalled right now. Promise to share when they're done. But I was looking around blogland today and found (thank you, Extreme Cards & Papercrafting) a German site filled with Sherensnitte patterns of all sorts. Balsten mit Elisabeth has a lot of really pretty designs of varying difficulty, and a lot of text I don't understand. And then there's this:

Image from Balsten mit Elisabeth

I'm officially cutting paper tonight.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What It's All About

A year ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, I'm fighting with the bad sinuses I'm so used to. I suddenly love my bad sinuses! And I'm procrastinating with stuff like this:

Wordle: slowhome

Now I'm off to play with the plant friends and make today positive, between shower steamings.
Also! 100th post! I'm sorry it's not more substantial but I'm happy it's here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Spicy Pumpkin Soup - SlowHome Style

I'm not going to lie, kids. This recipe I'm about to share was adapted from this one, over at Epicurious. But I have to say I like my version better and judging by the several happy dinner guests, you may too.

So did I blog about pumpkins last year? Mark and I always look forward to picking out pumpkins in October. We select very carefully, ride in wagons, drink cider, and our pumpkins usually end up with names by the time they get home.

See? I'm even wearing my favorite shirt. A friend and I were talking (waay back when things started getting nippy in her part of the country) about looking forward to pumkiny foods. But we noticed that you can't even find the most basic recipe that doesn't call for canned pumpkin. It's odd that we still handle this gourd every year, but the food part of it is completely removed from our homes. It pretty much only comes from a factory, even for people like me that cook from scratch 6+ nights a week. So this year we also got an eating pumpkin. And even though I still remember it's name, I did manage the butchering just a few weeks ago. I'll tell you how I did it, but before you think, "well, that must be a nice thing for a stay-at-home lady of lesiure to do," know that I was just a few months out from boob surgery #2, in the middle of physical therapy, and getting ready for an evening out while I broke this sucker down.

The Incredibly Simple Steps to Prepping a Pumpkin for Cooking:

1. Make sure your pumpkin is quite clean (nooks, crannies, etc.) and split him in half. Don't be intimidated. Go slow, use a sharp, large knife. Again, physical therapy girl did well here.

2. Scoop out seeds & fibers. Most eating pumpkins have very low seed-to-flesh ratios. It's a lot easier a job than with jack-o-lanterns. You can toast the seeds if you like. My pumpkin had about ten, so it wasn't worthwhile.

3. Place each half, skin side up, on a jelly roll sheet or roaster (a lot of juice may render, you need something to contain it well) and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 1 1/2 hours or until skin is very darkly burnished & bubbly. Your house will smell divine.

4. Scoop pumpkin out of skin. If it's completely cooked, you shouldn't need to mash it at all, but you can if you're on the cusp.

You can then use it straight away just as you would canned pumpkin. I divided mine up and froze half. Also, if you keep your pumpkin around in the fridge for a few days or so, you may notice additional liquid separating from the cooked pumpkin, yogurt-like. Totally normal. I just poured it off as all my recipes had their own liquid.

The Incredibly Tasty Spicy Pumpkin Soup:
Serves 14

1/2 c. whipping cream
1/2 c. sour cream
1 tbsp fresh lime juice

6 tbsp butter
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalepeno peppers, seeded & diced
5 2/3 c. (45 oz.) pumpkin
2 c. whole milk
1 1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
2 tsp. nutmeg
9 c. vegetable broth

3/4 c. toasted pepitas and a few dashes sweet paprika, to garnish

Whisk first 3 ingredients in small bowl. Cover & chill.

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and jalepenos and saute until garlic is just starting to turn golden, stirring frequently. Mix in pumpkin, milk, and crushed red pepper. A little at a time, puree the mixture in a food processor or blender. Return puree to pot and add broth, stirring well. Add nutmeg and simmer 10 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Ladle soup into bowls and drizzle with cream. Sprinkle with pepitas & a little sweet paprika, if you like.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An Odd Interval

So here I am, now. Healthy, able to concentrate on lots of new and exciting things. But my recent past is chockablock full of heavy, scary junk. Stuff that new people do NOT want to hear about. I was prodded to test this by a particularly adorable friend last night and, um, I was right. As funny as I tried to be, those two nice young men were praying for a trapdoor to open under them when I said the c-word. Oops! Perhaps this is all feeling a little heavier a monkey on my back because of the ominous anniversary coming up on Sunday. Diagnosis Day. Ugh.

I'm also gathering information on the Three Day for November of this year. Very positive stuff. Exciting and challenging, and I will keep you posted. But there's this funny thing that happens sometimes when you see a snapshot of your emails, before you open the full in-box. For instance, Mark frequently gets emails from "Abraham Lincoln." I get all excited until he opens the email and I see that he's really being contacted by the Abraham Lincoln Book Store. Which is a cool bookshop, but not, you know, Abe. Today I logged into gmail and saw:

Breast Cancer - Let Us Help You Take the Next Step -

Okay, ha ha, no thank you, Breast Cancer! Apparently you're not over our break-up yet. Which I understand, I'm pretty awesome. Let me make myself perfectly clear then, we're through! No Mas! Basta! Get lost!!!

Oh, right. It's an email from the Breast Cancer Three Day, which I asked for. Must remember these important details.

And now, a birthday picture.

P.S. I do realize that Abraham Lincoln is not technically "alive" in a way that would be conducive to emailing. But maybe someday ghosts will learn to use computers? Or maybe Lincoln had a premonition about the interwebs and built a time-capsule to be opened in eight score???

Friday, January 30, 2009

Answers for Steve and Lacey

1. What's your favorite color? Orange.

2. Why isn't 11 pronounced onety-one? Too long. Besides, if it were we wouldn't have your favorite number, eleventy-threeve, or mine, eleventeen.

3. Mark - Boxers or briefs? Boxer-briefs.

4. What was the best thing before sliced bread was invented? Germ theory and the advent of regular bathing.

5. Can you post that recipe if the super yummy salad dressing you made last we had dinner at your place? I will, but I always make it on the fly, so give me some time to measure it all out for you. It's true, though. Everyone likes it.

6. Why do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway? Shouldn't you ask some of your engineer friends?

7. Can you tell me how to reprogram my sprinkler system? Absolutely! When the green light is flashing, pres and hold the program button until, "Steven!!!" appears on the screen. Actually no, I can't.

8. What's your favorite food? Cheese.

9. Are you supposed to rinse herbs before you use them or does that make the flavor go away? Definitely rinse them. Dirt's on the outside, flavor's on the inside.

10. Why won't these voices in my head stop arguing? Maybe you need to distract them with a shiny new toy. Like beer!

11. What are the numbers for the next lottery drawing? I'm not telling, but if I win you'll get a present.

12. If you were travelling in a ship going the speed of light, what would happen if you turned the headlights on? I don't know, but I would be compressed to a pancake, right? So I don't think I'd notice the headlights.

13. What's another word for thesaurus? Lexicon would work. Actually a dictionary can be used as a thesaurus.

14. Am I annoying? No, you are lovely.

Also, nobody asked me any more boob questions but Lauren did call to my attention a fact that I failed to mention here. Fake boobs don't last forever. Great ones that work as they should still need to be replaced around every ten years. Doesn't that suck?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Open for Questions

So, I haven't gotten any comments for a month now, but I know you're still out there. In fact, I'm getting visits from new cities every day. So let's make sure you're getting what you want. Can I answer any questions for you? Do you want to hear more about my plants? Curious about something I've neglected to mention on my new body? Something nagging you about skin transplants, the scintilating business of home-making? Speak up, readers.

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLKJ Day of Service

Somehow I ended up tossing logs up a steep hill today. I'm sure I'll be sore, but I loved every minute of it.

What the Body Can Do

I've spent a fair amount of the hours in 2008 marveling at the human body.

My mom made the doctors' jaws drop when she basically did a pull-up in her hospital bed a few days after her 2nd hip surgery. It was easier to get the linens sorted that way.

The men's gymnastics at the Olympics this year had me googling "Iron Cross" late into the night.

And by most measures, I've healed pretty quickly. I've already mostly forgotten more pain than I think I'd experienced cumulatively up until this year. Last week I finished physical therapy. Although I'll count it as a very positive experience, I'm looking forward to overhearing very bad pickup attempts at 24 Hour Fitness instead of anecdotes of being shot 8 times. Just the therapists words, though, "I have no restrictions for you. You can do whatever you want to." still make me giddy. Whatever I Want To! To quote my friend Kristin, what will that look like??

Tomorrow, at least, it will look like planting, pruning, and clearing at Balboa Park as part of an interfaith MLKJ day of service. I hope to take a few photos of this enormous treat that right now I'm too excited about to sleep.

In the future, who knows? I think I've missed a few too many crucial years of training to get close to the video below, but seeing Streb vs. Gravity tonight kicked my wonder at the human body up about a bazillion percent. I highly recommend.

As a modern dance performance, I most appreciated the performers sense of fun and irreverence throughout and the utterly fearless falling. You can find out more about the company here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Into '09

I don't think it will come as a surprise that I'm ever so happy to welcome an officially New Year. I'm excited to see what Mark and I will create in the year ahead. What our home will look like, the decisions we make about what's important in our lives, and the experiences we choose this year will little by little create a memory of '09 that is unknowable right now, and that's very fun to think about. Then there's the looking back. I feel drawn to do a lot of that lately, and I'm working on a list of Good things that happened in '08. Because while I am kinda glad to close the door on that year, fantastic things did happen, and I don't want to remember it as a giant black spot. So that's to come.

For now I have a few holiday highlights to share.
I didn't get very crazy with the wrapping or decor this year. In fact, in a lot of ways our holidays were about keeping things simple. So we enjoyed a couple of seasonal changes in our home, but mainly we upped usage of the warm and cozy things that are always here. We played more music, spent more time sharing blankets, and lit a lot more candles.

Hanukkah was great this year. We took a look at our presents all lined up the night before and Mark said, "You know, all our lives we've had this night before things start, and we stare at the presents and get all amped up, trying not to peek. Do you want to just go for it?" And I said "Yes." Then we celebrated the real eight nights which fell across Christmas and my birthday.

Christmas was wacky. At my parents house, as usual. But we celebrated a lot on Christmas eve, which, growing up, was strictly reserved for wrapping presents until midnight and freaking out about trinkets that we hid too well. Hey, everyone has their family traditions. Once I convinced myself that I wasn't doing the verboten by opening presents early, it was quite lovely. My mom lost no gifties (we think) ate a fantastic meal, and were ready for bed in normal diurnal fashion. Dad even helped with dinner and made some of the best ever biscuits. Beer biscuits, of course.

Christmas day was the usual with more family and the absolutely essential breakfast sandwich. We pumped that up this year with free range bacon and raw Oregon cheddar from Homegrown Meats. A big new favorite around here.

A quiet few days ensued, and then it was my birthday. We went to dinner, took a lovely drive, had a smooch,

and went to one of my favorite places in San Diego the next day for a small hike.

The 30th, we took in the Holiday Bowl, which is always great football. We got wonderful seats and managed to stay warm with some very careful layering.

Surprisingly, New Year's Eve exceeded our expectations. We had dinner with the lovely Kelley and Steve within walking distance of their place, and worked in games, bubbly, and a few fireworks by midnight. Which struck, and amen!

So that's it. Now I'm tasked with getting in a little bit of exercise so that I don't get too too chastised when I go back to pt next week. Let's hope for a very productive week?