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Great timing.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Timing is Everything.” Something I live by, yet, something you can’t force.

Today was one of those “great timing” days. And, it certainly happened at a great time.

Today my brother and sister-in-law flew from a small regional airport in southeastern Washington on a direct flight to Minneapolis, MN. Then, caught a shuttle to Rochester, MN.

This morning, before boarding the plane in WA, my brother told me he was a little nervous about the flight and getting connected. I said,  “Direct flight, Right?” , “Connection with the shuttle, Right?”, “Everything will work out fine.” And… just as I assured him, their trip turned out fine. Direct flight and connection with the shuttle was made. Timing was great. They arrived at their hotel, ready for the rest of their adventure.

They decided to head out for some lunch.

Meanwhile I had called the hotel they told me  they were going to stay at just to confirm that I had the correct one. I did.

Then, I googled florists in Rochester, MN. Google delivered. And what a great one. I always read the reviews and usually take them with  a grain of salt. I read about the top florist, it was near the hotel and so I decided to call to talk about what I wanted to do.

My plan was to order a bright, colorful bouquet of flowers to send to my brother and sister-in-law since they will be gone away from family on their 32 wedding anniversary. I wanted this to be a total surprise – I told no one, but the florist, until after I placed the order. The florist customer service rep was so helpful and offered to expedite the order so my brother and sister-in-law could enjoy their flowers longer. All with no extra charge. She told me they would do their best to deliver the flowers still today. Keep in mind that where I was calling from is the Pacific time zone, two hours behind Rochester, MN.

Later, when my brother and sister-in-law returned to their hotel, the flowers had been delivered. Tears where shed. Flowers were brightening up their room and their adventure.

You see, the flowers I ordered were not only to celebrate their 32 wedding anniversary, since we can’t be there with them – that surprise bouquet of beautiful flowers were there so show love and support for a couple we care about greatly.

My brother has been battling thyroid cancer for nearly a year. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Papillary Thyroid Cancer. Early last October he had his thyroid and some lymph nodes removed. In December he went through a pill-form radiation treatment. Monitoring and more testing showed that not all the cancer was gone. It was hiding and smoldering. More monitoring. More scans. More blood tests. Recent scans and blood tests showed the smoldering cancer becoming aggressive.

Now at Stage 4C, the absolute worst,  his local DR recommended treatment at a better equipped facility, more specialized care. The Mayo Clinic was the choice. She holds the Clinic in high regard, trained and worked there. My brother listened to her, listened to his options and made the easy choice to travel to Rochester. Easy because of treatment options, not so easy because of his family being based in Washington and Oregon. He and his wife are the only ones to travel back to the Mayo Clinic. Not another family member with them to be with there for whatever news or treatment options (such as surgery) that the specialists determine beneficial. We are all at the other end of our phones waiting for news. Praying for good news.

A bright, colorful bouquet of flowers seemed like a great reminder of the love and support our family has for my brother and his wife. Was the one thing that I could think of that we could do that would make some difference and let them know WE are with them.

Tomorrow is his first appointment at the Mayo Clinic. Tomorrow more prayers, love and support.

Today, timing could not have been better.

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Breakfast Experiment

My husband considers himself lucky…. some may consider him tortured.
To be subjected to my cooking experiments…. poor man.

I ‘dreamed up’ another recipe that I thought I’d try. I bet there are recipes like this somewhere out there on the internet, in some great cook’s blog; after all… that is how I learned of Baked Oatmeal. Here I had thought I had ‘dreamed it up’ and yet I found it later that morning in a blog.

This recipe is a cross between baked oatmeal and apple pie… sans sugar.
I don’t have a name for it just yet, may never. But here goes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place purchased pie shell on counter to warm up, to become flexible.
OR… make your own pie shell from your favorite recipe.
Place all ingredients as they come in a medium-sized mixing bowl – keep in mind, I made this up as I went.
2 medium apples – peeled, cored, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts – toasted and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup whole grain old fashioned oats
1 egg – beaten
1/2 cup milk – or cream or soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pinch sea salt – freshly ground
Stir well — let set for five minutes while you prep pie shell in your favorite pie pan
Add
1/2 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen
1/4 cup oat flour
Stir gently to combine
Place one half of the mixture in prepared pie shell
Dot with 1/2 tablespoon butter – not margarine – butter
Place the other half of the mixture on top
Dot with another 1/2 tablespoon of butter.

Fold up and in the sides of the pie shell for that rustic look.
Brush folds with milk and sprinkle on a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, amount to your liking. 
Keep in mind there is NO sugar in this recipe, merely the natural sugars of the apple and blueberries and the sweet spices.

Granted I have been trying to cut down on sugar, but truth be told, I actually FORGOT to add any. We’ll see how it turns out.

Bake. 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
Crust will be golden brown when done and you’ll hear bubbling coming from the filling. Apples will still have structure and not be mushed. (in other words… apples could be done a little more… depends on what you like)

This was an experiment and I may need to adjust it for another Sunday breakfast… but for now, We Eat!

two apples chopped

two apples chopped

toasted walnuts chopped

toasted walnuts chopped

add sweet spices

add sweet spices

add whole oats

add whole oats

add beaten egg and milk

add beaten egg and milk

stir to combine

stir to combine

add oat flour

add oat flour

place mixture in shell, dot with butter

place mixture in shell, dot with butter

fold in crust and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar

fold in crust and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar

bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes

bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes

cool

cool

get ready to enjoy

get ready to enjoy

Okay… we ate it… and lived…. Yes, it would have been better with a little bit of sugar… maybe even a bit more moisture… but it was pretty good and it looked great. Was good enough for Jeff to have seconds…. yet, he could have merely been starving. Hold the phone… he just admitted he had thirds… that’s what I get for blogging while he does the dishes.  🙂

I tried to create something healthy. It is somewhat healthy without the added sugar, the fiber of the apples and blueberries, the nuts and the oats – the omega3s of the walnuts and the benefits of the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are added bonuses. Next time, I may simply add more blueberries as they added the sweetness we wanted. I had also previously thought about cubing up some cheese to bake in it…. maybe we can add some cheese to it as we warm it up… but next time for sure (unless I forget).

a slice for Jeff

a slice for Jeff

the results

the results

a slice for me

a slice for me

Rock Tober

I know the radio stations usually use this phrase as ROCKTOBER… but this Rock Tober has been different. Way different.

October rocked our family’s world. And this was after a tormenting second half of September.

In September we were cruising along, nicely. The first few days, Jeff and I were putting the finishing touches on planning our Canadian vacation to Nelson, BC in honor of our first wedding anniversary. We had a good Labor Day weekend, the next weekend a great celebration with some family and friends to note our anniversary. Then, we had an amazing trip!!! We made it back home in time to attend our niece’s wedding and celebrate.

Things started to unravel.

On our anniversary, a friend’s husband passed away. We were on our anniversary vacation and friends told us the next day.

The Monday following our return from Canada, my brother went to see his DR for a lump in his neck and sore throat combined with an overall tired/crappy feeling he’d been dealing with. Primary DR sent him to an ENT specialist for further review. Testing ensued. This DR did not like what he saw. Not one bit.

The DR told him he thought it was thyroid cancer. My brother not only had to deal with this himself, process the news, but… he had to tell his family. And…his daughter was still in Hawaii on her honeymoon. Thankfully, her husband is a great guy and would be there with her when she got the call from her Dad. The man who walked her down the aisle just a few days earlier. The man who walked her sister down the aisle just four months earlier… and their older sister, six years earlier.

The next weekend, we attended Sarah’s husband’s funeral. This was the very day, five years prior, that Jeff lost his first wife, Tina, to the ravages of diabetes. He was of great support to me and my friends. He knew of Sarah’s pain and anguish.

My brother had surgery so the DR could biopsy the tissue, survey the area and get more testing done and formulate a plan. Test results came, another meeting with the DR. A meeting with another DR. Decisions made. Thyroidectomy scheduled.

Meanwhile, on the other side of our family, Jeff’s Mom, my mother-in-law, had suffered a stroke. She and her husband were traveling near Eugene, Oregon when it happened. Thankfully, they had stopped at a friends’ home. He, being an EMT, knew something was wrong and urged her to let them take her to the hospital. She refused. He was persistent. “You can either go with us now, or wait for an ambulance.” She took them up on the ride to the ER. She was admitted with a stroke. At first she could still speak, garbled, yet she could still speak. The next day no words. She could understand the other side of the conversation, but could no longer formulate her words to hold up her end. Jeff and I both left work to go check on her. We were met by family. Luckily, she had been headed to where a majority of family members live when the initial stroke happened. We stayed with family. We were all blessed to learn that she had been accepted as a patient in one of the best rehabilitation hospitals in the state, when she was to be released from the hospital. The morning came and we went to help transport her from one facility to another. We got her admitted and got a tour of the facility and met with DRs, Nurses, Therapists and a Social Worker. A quite compassionate, caring, professional place. With her in good care, we left for home.

Back home, my brother was to be the guest of honor at a fundraiser. Firefighters and EMTs from the surrounding areas had gotten together to support him and his family. The rural community where he lives, works, volunteers and supports those in need all came together to support him. We wanted to be there too. Not only to support my brother and his family… but to personally THANK those involved.

The next Friday was the surgery. Our younger brother and his family had come to offer support. In-laws and cousins had also come. My brother had a great DR and lots of support. He was going to get through this, but it would be a long time healing.

My dad was not unscathed by my brother’s cancer scare. Dad suffered a lot of anxiety. His health suffered because of it. He could not sleep. He was more irritable. He was more sad. This was HIS kid and his kid HAD to be okay. Dad had told us that this had scared him. Of course it did. He was scared of losing his son. He was scared of the unknown. Dad has had severe health issues himself, including prostate cancer. He had helped Mom battle leukemia…. was right along side her all the way. He had seen his father and mother both battle cancer. He knew the odds. Yet, he knows of determination and good health care professionals.

Just a few days ago, my Dad called me at work…. he was not feeling well at all and had called the ambulance. We spent six hours in the ER waiting for tests to be run, to be analyzed and results determined. I finally got to take Dad home.

Here at the end of October, my brother is healing… yes, it has been a painful time for him, but he’s still around. My mother-in-law is making some progress and is out of the rehabilitation hospital and is now living with my sister-in-law. My dad is able to relax, so he can feel better… and I can too.

Prayers and hopes for all my family members. Me, I simply hope I did my Mom justice…. with her help I was able to help my family get through this Rock Tober.

Whatever October 2013 brings us, we’ll deal with it.

Helen Blessings…

WOW……………. I totally got a “Helen” Blessing the other day.

I’d had another crappy day and another headache. Yes, I was at work… at a job where we’re short-handed and unfortunately at one of the two busiest times of the year… fiscal year end. I left for lunch to get away from the office and run an errand at Home Depot…along the way I saw a Swallowtail Butterfly…. aka Mom…. At Home Depot, I got the paint I wanted (NEEDED) and saw my friend’s husband Carl… Carl told me that Sue was in the Garden Center… so I went to surprise her and soak up some laughter and healing vibes…

AHHHHHHHHH, turned around my day…………….
all I have to say is..
“Thanks Mom!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Just had to share … I was so in need and I received.

You see, my Mom, Helen, loved butterflies, dearly loved them. So much so that they are a fond reminder of her gentle spirit. I think that she may have had them as a guardian… now, I do. My husband Jeff also sees them as a guardian spirit and counts them as “Helen blessings” too.

The first actual “Helen blessing” I remember experiencing was when I had taken one of my nieces over to the Oregon Coast. This was in summer, after Mom passed away in January 2003. We had stopped at a lighthouse to take a tour. While taking photos, out front, a butterfly – a swallowtail butterfly – followed us around. She even landed on the seed head of some tall grass, pausing just long enough for me to take a good photo. Then she floated away, yet never far from us. I had a calm feeling as if Mom was right there enjoying our day with us. I still get these feelings ….  a great calm …. such a peaceful feeling that all will be okay, things will get better. Mom is nearby not about to let anything bad happen. And thankfully, more often she’s just floating by to say “Hi” and enjoy some time with me.

Regardless of why, I am always happy to receive a “Helen blessing.”

This particular day, what felt like a lousy day, ended to be a good day… thanks to the “Helen blessing” and the opportunity for me to see my long-time friend Sue.

Mom always knew exactly what I needed and she still does. I know I was directed to Home Depot on that day and so was Sue…. seeing the “Helen blessing” on the way is proof enough.

Another way to look at vertigo

WOW!!!

What a feeling.

I have been dizzy…… that kind of rush you get when you have rode the merry-go-round a bit too long and tried to walk away after you hopped off…. or that whirling in your head and your tummy when you’ve been spun around far too much for whatever reason…. and there’s that bewildering feeling when you get some bad or sad news that will hit you upside the head and disorient you…. or the time you are just plain sick.

This, was different.

Way different!!!

A couple months ago, I suffered through vertigo. Not only once but twice. This was not the first time though. I had first experienced the severe whirlies of vertigo a few years ago. At the time I made an appointment with a doctor to be checked out.

Out of the blue it starts. No apparent reason. Not much in the way of a ‘cure’ from what I have read. You can go to a doctor who can manipulate your head and reposition some crystals in your inner ear but that is about all. Possibly surgery if necessary, but even that may not last.

Thanks to that first vertigo episode years ago, I KNEW what this was. The room was spinning all around me. All I had done was turn over in bed. OMG, how did THIS happen?

I KNEW to stay in bed!! What else could I do? I felt as if I even tried to do anything, such as walk to another room that I’d fall over on my face… and soon. I only hoped the whirling would not get worse, so bad that I would have to go to the doctor. I could not leave my bed.

I laid as still as I could, trying to force the room to STOP SPINNING.

I could not believe this was happening. All I did was turn over, in bed, onto my side and then everything moved and kept moving. It even got so bad a few times that I put my hands over my face and repeated….STOP…. ….STOP…. ….STOP…. PLEASE STOP!!!!!!!!!!!

Thankfully, I remembered what my Mom would do to comfort and calm me when I was sick. You see, I had migraines from the time I was a little girl. Sometimes they hurt so bad and I was so sick that I’d get hysterical. Mom would help me to calm down, to breath easier. So…. that’s what I did for myself. I did my best to calm myself down. I laid still with my eyes closed, did some deep breathing, did some muscle relaxation techniques all in hopes of falling asleep … just so I could get some relief. If I had to move I would move ever so slowly…. slow and deliberate. No fast or sudden moves.

I have no idea why I had these vertigo episodes, but I did realize one thing. The difference between a dizzy spell and vertigo.

Being dizzy means I am spinning around. Vertigo means the world is revolving around me. 🙂 … the ONLY thing amusing about vertigo.

Personally, I’d like to have neither. I’d prefer to have the comforting calmness that my Mom would help me achieve.

Birthday Celebrations

I remember that our birthdays were made extra special because of Mom. She would ask us what we wanted for dinner and then she’d prepare a dinner with our wishes in mind. And… Oh, the birthday cake. She’d always make our favorite.

She always made our birthdays special. She always celebrated us. She loved birthday surprises, another chance to spoil the family she loved.

My husband is very similar in this manner. He loves me. He loves to surprise me. He loves to spoil me.

This year, on April 6th,  there was quite a surprise celebration waiting for me when I got home from work. Streamers on the outside of our home. Streamers and a Happy Birthday banner inside. And balloons. A cake made from a stack of Twinkies (apparently my birthday coincides with the birthdate of the Twinkie) complete with candles. A beautiful hydrangea, the flower of our wedding.  After all this… a delightful evening out, a beautiful necklace, a wonderful dinner and an evening walk. Most precious gift of all…. Love and Laughter. A birthday that Mom would have approved.

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Lemon Pepper Pancakes and Marrionberries

Mom made good pancakes.

Basic pancakes that we ALL enjoyed. Sometimes she’d add a side of bacon and eggs to these good pancakes. Sometimes just pancakes with butter and syrup or sugar. A childhood memory of mine is when she’d add things into the pancake batter as they were on the griddle. Bacon, ham, berries – you get the idea. Good pancakes.

Mom also made GREAT pancakes.

YEAST pancakes or SOURDOUGH pancakes. As you might envision… these were the next best thing to HOT FRESH HOMEMADE BREAD…. ultra yummy.

Again, sometimes with just butter and syrup or sugar (and cinnamon). Other times, a side of bacon and eggs. GREAT pancakes.

While I do like pancakes, I don’t care for boring, average or less than average pancakes. Mom spoiled me that way. For that I am thankful.

When I make pancakes they are NEVER ordinary. I always put extras in the batter, add to the recipe in some form….. or, I don’t make pancakes at all.

I always add something…. chopped nuts, oatmeal, berries… something.

And I do not use white flour as the only flour ingredient. Many of times I don’t use white flour at all. I usually use a combination of oat flour and whole wheat along with the other additives.

Last Friday I had planned to make banana pancakes for Sunday breakfast. Thanks to a couple of spotted bananas that I won’t eat unless they would be cooked in something (and not too often then). Yet, my husband had other ideas for those bananas. He ate one with his breakfast on Saturday and one for a snack later in the evening. OOPS… there went my new experimental pancake idea. Yes, I would have simply made up the concoction based on an average pancake recipe.

Mom always knew how to ‘adjust’ so I took a page from her book. “What type of flavor will complement the Marrionberries?” Jeff had not eaten the frozen Marrionberries…. he knows better… he can have ALL the spotted bananas he wants, but don’t eat all the Marrionberries!!!  🙂

Earlier last week I had spied some recipes putting lemon and blueberries together. That sounded like a GREAT idea. Yet, a couple of weeks ago I had made blueberry pancakes. Besides I had my taste buds set on Marrionberries. I had thought of the lemon flavor…. then it hit me. Recently I had made some Lemon Pepper Cookies. So off I went.

Basic pancake recipe – omit white flour, substitute half oat flour and half whole wheat flour and add a tablespoon of yellow cornmeal. Add 1-2 teaspoons of Lemon Extract and some Fresh Cracked Black Pepper. Griddle ’em up. Assemble. Enjoy!!!

Lemon Pepper Pancakes

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