Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The floors are done! See:

Typically, today would be a day of moving furniture back into the house and beginning the process of settling in. However, we're still in limbo, because the house is being painted next week, so there's no point in getting everything situated only to have to move it all over again.

Cooper's not going to like it. He had a rough couple of days. Alice, on the other hand, adored the installers and was practically puppy-like in her devotion to them. They were very kind to her. They couldn't figure out what the deal was with her -- most cats are like Cooper and freak out with all the commotion -- until I explained that she's deaf, which explains a lot. She likes a lot of movement and visual stimulation, whereas Cooper was overwhelmed by all that, plus the noise of the saw and the air compressor. Poor baby.

Thank God they've gone away!

Still, both cats are enjoying the smooth, cool floors. Eventually it will be hard for any of us to remember what it was like with the carpet.

Alice doing her best Jawa imitation. Cooper can't stand it when she makes her eyes fluoresce like that.

floor's done... to follow. It looks smashing.

Now, though, we have to figure out which furniture we're moving back where; it doesn't make sense to re-arrange completely because the painters will be along shortly.

Even before that, we have to finalize our paint color choices. And then buy some area rugs and curtain-y things.

Sometimes I think if I'd known what a hassle this was all going to be, I would've said forget it -- but it really needed to be done, and when it's all over, then I can be happy about it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

flooring install, day 1

We spent surprisingly little time this weekend having to move furniture, because I tried to get as much done as I could before the weekend hit. So Friday I tackled the bookcases.

The big one: children's books and dvds (post-move)

The smaller one: the vertical equivalent of a junk drawer (pre-move)

The hallways now house our extensive library.

Friday morning, Lowes delivered the materials:

Kronotex laminate, top-rated by Consumer Reports, plus underlay, quarter-round, and all the other assorted materials needed for the installation.

By Friday evening, the family room was significantly bare.

What a mess!

Saturday morning, we pressed the children into work moving their toys upstairs, along with various cubes and cushions. Then we moved the biggest things -- the bed from the guest room, the futon mattress, the sectional sofa from the living room -- out into the garage. This morning, I moved the last few things out (like Nina, I come from hearty Polish peasant stock; it's not often I'm reminded of that.)

You can see why we're getting rid of the carpet. After 9 years, 3 chilren, and one very sick cat, it doesn't owe us anything.

And now I'm cosily typing away at my new office in the breakfast nook.

It's a good thing I'm not claustrophobic.

The installers arrived around 9AM this morning and very quickly removed the carpeting from the family room. Since the floor was nicely level beneath, they only had to do minimal work to prepare for the new flooring to go in. In less than two hours they've already put down a significant amount of laminate.

Rain Forest Mahogany

I'm very impressed with these guys. They are doing all the cutting outside, so there is no sawdust, or any mess at all, to deal with in here. Even better, the noise from the saw is minimized. The cuts are small so the noise wouldn't be that big a deal anyway, but not having it echoing in this cavernous room is a major bonus.

It's hard to believe this is happening. While we had kicked the idea around a few times, it had always been a "some day" project. I'm still not clear on exactly why we're doing this now, other than that we got a huge tax return and so we had the cash on hand to pay for it. I think it is some combination of carpe diem -- we're living here now, we might as well enjoy it -- as well as financial optimism, since I haven't needed any surgery or treatment in nearly two years now, and I was able to skip going to Houston altogether. It is such a great thing to be able to spend money on things we want rather than on paying doctors, hospitals, and medically necessitated airfare and hotel bills.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

stop, chef --

I am enjoying season 3 of Bravo's Top Chef enormously, even though I don't talk about it much -- but I had to write something tonight, because Tre was sent home.


I really had thought that Tre was a contender to take this whole thing. He seemed ultra-competent, imaginative, and above all, he wasn't a jerk. At all. He just was a great guy and really great chef... who totally blew it this evening.

When I heard the description of the dish, raw salmon with pesto, I thought to myself, That's just wrong.

As Colichio said in judging, pesto is basil, garlic, nuts, olive oil, parmesan cheese -- why would you put those with salmon? That's just crazy talk. Salmon always needs some acidity to cut the richness; pesto can't provide the flavors that will highlight and complement the fish.

On the basis of that dish alone, Tre deserved to go home. But then he totally blew the bread pudding! Bread pudding is one of the easiest dishes of all time, here's a recipe. Well, not really a recipe; call it a method:

Bread Pudding

Figure out how much you want, and find the pan you want to bake it in. Roughly tear whatever bread you want into chunks (you can dice, but tearing helps the texture smooth out, I think) to fill that container about 3/4s full.

Dump the bread pieces into a large mixing bowl.

Wipe the crumbs out of the baking pan and butter it; set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, break 1-2 eggs for about every 2 cups of bread. So if you're using an 8x8 pan, you can use 1 egg, or 2 eggs if you like it more eggy. Don't skip the eggs, they are the glue that's holding this thing together. Beat the eggs, then add them to bread pieces, and stir to combine.

Next, add milk, half-and-half, or cream until you've got a slightly soupy, squishy mixture of bread and liquid. Don't worry about over-mixing, it's not possible. You have to make sure there is enough liquid here; err on the side of too much rather than too little.

Next, add your sweetener of choice to taste. Maple syrup might be nice; Splenda works fine if you're trying to watch carbs (although bread pudding is not the most obvious place to do that), sugar is fine, too. How much depends on how sweet you like it, and the type of bread you used. I do not like mine too sweet, and so would maybe add 1/4 cup sweetener to an 8x8 pan, more for a larger pan.

Last, add your extras if any. Raisins were always traditional in our house. Tre's bread pudding suffered from having crunchy, unpeeled apples -- remember, bread pudding is all about the creamy smoothness. A little chewiness is OK, but if your dried fruit is very dry, you may want to pre-soak it (in rum? mmmm) before you toss it in. If you're going to use fresh fruit, make sure to dice it small enough so it will cook, and for heaven's sake, peel it! (What was Tre thinking? Casey and/or CJ could've peeled those apples!)

You might want to sprinkle the top with some cinnamon, or dust with nutmeg, or flavor with any other herb or spice you like. (I think a savory bread pudding with rosemary could be really awesome as a side dish with something like a pork or lamb chop.)

Pour the whole mess into the buttered pan, and bake it in the 350 degree oven until it's cooked: a knife inserted into the center will come out clean. This is not rocket science, and while I suppose it is possible to overcook a bread pudding, it's not easy. A deep-dish pudding can take up to an hour to cook; even and 8x8 pan is going to take at least a half-hour. Puddings with more liquid will take longer too cook than dryer ones; dryer ones will have a stiffer texture, while more liquidy puddings will be creamier.

When it's cooked, let it cool a bit, but you can definitely eat it while it's still warm. It's great with whipped cream or creme anglaise or just plain cream, It's great just plain. I recommend it for breakfast.

* * *

Bye, Tre. I will really miss you, but given your missteps in this episode, the judges really had no choice. But I'll be keeping an eye out for you -- I expect great things. Best of luck, man.

handy with a wrench

After very little sleep last night, I spent the day, until about 1:00PM, wandering around in my pajamas, eating various things directly out of the packaging, and bouncing around online. In other words, wallowing.

At about 1:00PM, I got so sick of myself that I put on some gym clothes and cleared out about 85% of the living room/dining room. DH had said something about putting stuff out in the garage, but it's 120 degrees out there on a cool day, and that's no environment for a Mission curio cabinet, or any of our other wood furniture.

My favorite piece of furniture; contents currently a jumble of trophies, dolls, and little crystal and glass sculptures... hardly anything in there is actually mine.

Recalling my plan (mentioned yesterday), I moved it. The CD rack, and all its contents, went upstairs into the playroom, one of the few rooms that won't be disturbed in the coming weeks. The curio cabinet is now nestled where the humongous CD rack used to be, and we're thinking that will become its permanent home. (Who needs access to all those CDs when they're all loaded up on the iPod already?) The coffee table, piano bench, side tables, and dining chairs all went upstairs in the playroom, also. All the books and photo albums are up there now, too.

The dining table itself was a pip to disassemble: took out the leaf, made sure the top was securely fastened, and flipped it over; taking off the legs took about 2 minutes. Getting the top into the closet was a bit of a hassle, but there was no way that was going upstairs -- it was the heaviest thing I wrestled with all day.

Now the only real work to be done in there is emptying the china cabinet and moving it into the kitchen; with DH to help (that's one job I will not tackle alone), it'll be a snap. I may get started on some family room tasks tomorrow, but there's no point in disrupting our entire lives so early. We'll finish up over the weekend.

The couch stays until the installers say it needs to go... everything else? Fair game.

Two hours, solid, of hauling things up stairs and running back down -- quite a workout, and it didn't wreck me. Now that's a miracle, but one I'll attribute to my recent cultivation of a consistent exercise habit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

no sassafras, either

You don't find beech or pin oak in southern Arizona.

Struggling through my annual end-of-summer, left-the-beach, damn-it's-hot-here funk.

I've watched a ton of movies and some other stuff, some of it quite good, and some of it that makes me think that the critics who recommended it (yes, all 92% of them) must have been smoking crack when they wrote their reviews.

The most substantive thing I've written lately is an email, but maybe that will have primed my writing engine so that tomorrow I can actually write something. Maybe I will, or maybe I'll go to the matinee of "Hairspray."

Flooring install starts Monday, painting the week after -- consequently, there is a ton of work that must be done around here, moving furniture around and out of the way. Not to worry, I tell DH: I have a plan. Will the plan survive contact with reality? Stay tuned.

On a positive note, I passed my eye exam today with flying colors, as usual.

There's nothing wrong. I'm just spoiled and lazy. (I could say I'm busy, but that would be a complete lie, and an easy one, since people are so quick to believe that a mother-of-three must be constantly running around and cleaning the house and all that -- but I'm not, so I won't say I am. What I am is insufficiently motivated, even as a good half-dozen projects are in constant circulation inside my head. Will they ever get done? God only knows.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


The lab results came in the mail today -- sample date, 8/3/2007; Tg: 1.1.


well --

I called the endo's office today, and the doctor's assistant read me my thyroglobulin (Tg) results. Supposedly, my Tg, with TSH elevated all the way to 159, was only 1.1. I'm having a hard time believing that, so I asked her to please mail me a copy for my records. Last year in Houston, my Tg elevated to about 4.5, which is quite a difference from 1.1 -- and I haven't had any treatment at all since then, except of course for my daily dose of thyroid medication. The stupid/stubborn part of me is thinking, "That can't be right."

But I guess I can believe it, because the endo didn't want to speak to me or schedule an appointment -- so I'm tentatively believing that, for all intents and purposes, I'm CURED.

I won't really believe it until I hold the lab results in my own hands, though.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"how to sleep more"

I'm cracking up -- there's a huge GoogleAd in my sidebar, "How to Sleep More" in approximately 14 point typeface.

For me, it's not really that complicated: Go to bed.

Here's the Monopoly version: Go to bed. Go to directly to bed. Do not check your email. Do not update your blog. Do not watch yet-another-repeat of Sex and the City. Turn off the damn TV, put the computer to sleep, and Go. To. Bed.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Alice lounges behind the computer...


... snacking on the cable modem's power cord. She'll take what she can get; it was the only thick cord not already encased in half-inch plastic tubing (Home Depot is cheaper). I remedied that and replaced the cable:

Ha! Plastic tubing won't stop me!

At least now she won't electrocute herself.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I had my follow-up appointment today, and it was more or less a waste of time, because my thyroglobulin test results are not yet back from Dr. Spencer's lab out at USC. I can call and get those results on the 14th. Yay.

I did get copies of all my other test results, though -- the ultrasound, the whole body scan, and the before-and-after TSH tests. After the two Thyrogen shots, my TSH went up to an astonishing 159.

It's no wonder I'm still feeling pretty whacked out. I can't imagine how long it's going to take to bring that down to the 0.20-0.10 that it's supposed to be.

Now what? In the near term, nothing, as long as my high-TSH thyroglobulin comes back less than, say, 10. (Last year, it was around 4.5.) That means I can cancel my end-of-month appointments in Houston, too; next up will be an ultrasound in January.

If the Tg does come back elevated, I'll go for a PET/CT scan, and we'll see what happens from there. I'll be speechless if it's elevated, though. I am so done with this disease, and the stress of these follow-ups.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

trust but verify

There's faith, and then there's gullibility.

Yesterday, I made some cornbread from a recipe in Julee Russo's Great Good Food cookbook, more or less. (I skipped the herbs, and baked it as muffins instead of as a single cornbread cake in a cast-iron skillet). One of the things that appealed to me was the carb count given for each serving (one-twelfth portion), 6 grams.

Now sometimes I am naive but that number looked suspiciously low to me, and so after dinner, while I continued the reconstruction of my ingredient nutrition information database, I looked up a few types of cornmeal -- there was a whole cup of it in this bread.

Typical supermarket cornmeal, degermed and enriched, has 107 grams of carbs per cup, and about 10 grams of fiber, according to the USDA database. Fancy-pants whole grain corn meal from Bob's Red Mill has about 94 grams of carbs, with 9 grams of fiber. I'm pretty good at math, and spotted right away that both 107 and 94 (or 97 and 85, to go with the net count) are both substantially greater than 72, which is 6*12. And that's not even counting the cup of whole kernels, which clock in with another 32 grams (net fiber) of carbs. If we throw in the carbs from the yogurt (used in lieu of buttermilk) and the honey, it adds up to more like 12 grams, which isn't that big of a deal to me, but to someone who's really counting every gram, is quite shockingly far from accurate.

But still quite tasty with butter and jam this morning. Made a nice breakfast.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

images of summer

Fenway Park, so far my only visit to a ballpark this summer. We'll be going to a Cubs game later this month at Chase Field, though, with the entire brood in tow. I'm looking forward to it (really -- that was not sarcasm!)

The kids and cousins, on the T, that day up in Boston.

This guy was the boldest of all the gulls we saw this summer.

Beach creatures... they want... snacks!

The biggest hermit crab ever, one of DD's greatest finds.

Blueberries, washed and spun dry, for awesome blueberry cake.

Lobster, lobster, lobster.

Evening in Mystic, CT.

DH and I, after ice cream at that place right by the bridge in Mystic. (Yes, this is the kind of photo you get by holding the camera at arm's length and randomly snapping.)

Full moon peaking out through the trees in my in-laws' backyard.

Kids and cousins in Connecticut, obsessing over WebKinz.

Back home again, junior scientists finally, finally getting to play with DS2's birthday present science kit.

And this is what comes of allowing children to amuse themselves with the camera!

Monday, August 06, 2007

DIY birthday

I ended up having a delightfully low-key birthday.

DH bought me some beautiful roses -- this one bloomed in a matter of hours. It's good I took this shot because later the cats started snacking on the whole affair, and now they're all a bit raggedy looking as a result.

The family seemed a bit distraught that I wasn't going to have much of a birthday dinner or a "something we can stick a candle in, so we can sing you Happy Birthday," so I picked up some nice strip steaks for dinner, and pan fried them while the cake baked: I made the LID-friendly "mix-in-the-pan" chocolate cake from my favorite, The Fannie Farmer Baking Book.

One candle sufficed:

This cake is 1) delicious 2) incredibly quick to put together and 3) compatible with the Low Iodine Diet. Here's the recipe:

Mix-in-the-Pan Chocolate Cake
one 8-inch square cake -- from The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

1+1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 C granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 T white or cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 C water

for topping
Confectioner's sugar

Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, or cheat and line it with foil, and then spray it with non-stick spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, and then sift them into the pan. Spread the mixture out so it is more or less even in the pan, then make three small wells in the dry mixture. Pour the vinegar, vanilla, and oil into the wells, one each; pour the water over all. Using a fork, mix thoroughly so that only small lumps remain. Be sure to scrape up the dry mixture from the bottom and corners of the pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Dust with Confectioner's sugar before serving.

We got 9 generous servings, and the only reason why it lasted until Sunday was because we forcibly restrained ourselves from polishing it off on Saturday.

I made this cake exactly according to the (high carb) recipe, and it was very interesting to see the texture, which was very good, but altogether different from a more traditional cake with eggs. At the same time, this was definitely a cake and not brownies, not even cake-like brownies. In any event, I think it can be ported over to the low carb world very easily, but it may take some extra tweaking. Any recipe with an entire cup of sugar for such a relatively small cake is relying on that sugar for structure as well as taste. I could easily boost the cocoa powder and add almond flour, use erythritol instead of sugar, bump up the baking soda... hmmm.

Almost forgot: ended the day watching 300, and am only half embarrassed to admit that I dozed off repeatedly. It was gorgeous, but, on the small screen and without an audience, sadly tedious -- the book's better. It was interesting seeing this after finally finishing Victor Davis Hanson's extraordinary A War Like No Other, about the Peloponnesion War, knowing that not long after Sparta's glorious stand at the Hot Gates, all of Greece would be embroiled in a mess of a war that stretched on for nearly 30 years.

that was quick

Today was the first day of school -- navigated successfully all around, with hopes that we'll settle into a new routine very soon.

I had my whole body scan today, and it was completely clear -- so much so that they didn't even bother doing the two small-field scans of my neck. There just wasn't anything to look at there, so they let me go. I was there for barely an hour, and it seemed shorter because I kept dosing off.

That was a good news, now I just have to wait until Thursday to find out what my thyroglobulin (Tg) was to see if there's anything going on that might necessitate something like a PET/CT scan to ferret it out. You'll forgive me if I don't put too much stock in negative scans, since I've had negative scans at the same time as a boatload of cancer. Last year my Tg elevated to around 4.5, it would be nice if it just stayed there. We'll see.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


Happy bday, me. I did manage to blow out all the candles eventually. The Manhattan probably did not help that effort.

That was weeks ago, when I was still on the Cape -- Mom wasn't about to let me leave without acknowledging the upcoming event somehow. Back then I was just about stress-free and sleeping like a baby every night.

Can I blame the Thyrogen shots for this recent insane inability to go to bed? The Thyrogen shots combined with the stress of the upcoming scan? The shots, the scan, the lumpiness in my throat? It's scant comfort that I went through exactly the same thing last August, and everything was fine.

I expect to hit the wall eventually. For now I amuse myself by noticing that my scar is nearly invisible in these pics, and those blond highlights? Completely natural. So, 44. The discrepancy between my mental age and physical age is not large enough to mess with my head yet. The combination of good genes, young children, and an aversion to frumpy clothing allows me to pull off a 30-something vibe, but I'm not sure how much longer that will last.

I'm nowhere close to saying that getting old sucks, because I don't find the alternative at all attractive (now) -- but I will say I haven't figured out how to age gracefully. I'm clutching at every possible straw short of plastic surgery to prevent physical decay... so far, so good. Good enough for me, anyway.

If I can just get through this latest round of tests without making myself sick from lack of sleep, that would be great.

lyrical fragments (Talking Heads edition)

Well, how did I get here?

[Staying] up all night

[I'm] looking at [myself], and things [are] looking like a movie

this is not my beautiful [life]

no doubt about it

Home -- [strange] as it ever was

Same as it ever was, it's where I want to be --

this must be the place.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

latest LID staple


The kids adore the oatmeal pancake recipe from this book; they've become our family's default pancake recipe. DH likes them better than any other. A few tweaks gave me these delicious, highly portable LID-compatible breakfast cakes.

LID Oatmeal Pancakes
Makes about 6 substantial pancakes (I always make a double batch)

1 C coconut milk
1 C quick-cooking (not instant) oats

1/4 C maple syrup
2 egg whites (large or extra-large eggs)
1 T vegetable oil

1/2 C AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Combine coconut milk and oats in a large mixing bowl. Microwave on high power for 4-5 minutes to soften the oats, or allow to soak for at least an hour. Allow the oat mixture to cool for a few minutes, then stir in the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the maple syrup, egg whites, and vegetable oil and stir well to combine all the ingredients.

Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes before cooking. I've found that if I'm using a non-stick pan, I'm better off not using any grease at all to cook them. I use a 1/3 C measure to ladle out the pancakes into the preheated (about 325-350 degrees) pan. They'll brown nicely. Because these are very dense they do take a while to cook through; wait until you see a lot of bubbles on the top before you flip them, and let them cook for at least 3-4 minutes on the other side.

I've added the maple syrup to the batter because I love the maple taste with the oats, and building it in makes these deliciously portable. If you want a more traditional approach, increase the coconut milk to 1+1/4 cups, and add 3 T of sugar (or Splenda) instead of the maple syrup.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

it's that time of year, again --

I've entered the Annual Cancer Test Gauntlet.

Happy to report that phase I is going well so far, with a negative ultrasound on my poor mangled throat. The lumpy-stickiness is so far explained by a lot of fibrous tissue the doctor saw today. The only vaguely troubling thing she saw was a separation of my carotid artery and jugular vein, which are normally close together; she said sometimes recurrence can pop up there, but she didn't see any signs of it. So: yay!

Today also featured my first of two Thyrogen shots; second shot tomorrow, then dosed on Friday, then the scan on Monday -- which is also the kids' first day of school. So Monday I'll have an idea of whether or not anything's going on, but frankly I'll be astonished if the scan doesn't come back clean. My scans always come back clean... the problem is they've been clean when I've had cancer, so I don't put a tremendous amount of stock in clean scans. The number that really matters is the stimulated Tg (thyroglobulin), which I could theoretically get on Monday, also.

Whatever. I just want it to be over so I can get on with a) my life or b) plans to go to Houston for treatment. Of course a) is much preferred over b), and I'm 99.5% sure I won't be going to Houston... just imagine me figuratively drumming my fingers and checking my watch approximately every five minutes to see if the current round of this too-familiar ordeal is over yet.

When this is over, I'll have to schedule my eye exam, and I'm pretty sure I have a dermatologist appointment already. The one I really have to check is the mammogram, after last years' lumpectomy adventure, I'm not sure whether I can just go for a regular mammogram, or have to have the ultrasound as well.