Monday, February 28, 2011

Banana Nutella Mini-Muffins . . . It's Never Too Late!

Despite the fact that I completely missed World Nutella Day on February 5th, I figure better late than never, right? I must have been sequestered in a remarkably secluded cave, or just not paying any attention that day to current baking-and-blogging events, because I heard nothing about it until after the fact.

Shocking, I know.

This was unfortunate, because an unopened jar of Nutella--that divinely spreadable combo of hazelnut and chocolate--had been haunting my basement baking cupboard for a quite a few weeks. No ordinary storage space, this small pantry on wheels is a repository of unusual and/or pricey baking ingredients that I'm loathe to let into the general population of food items in my household.

It's where I hoard cocoa nibs, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla beans. Where I protect super-premium chocolate, jars of really good imported jam or citrus curd, and hard to find honeys from the prying fingers of my kids.  It's also where I store exotic and breakable bottles of orange flower water, rosewater, extracts, oils, and sweet liqueurs to use as flavorings. It's just one of several spots here and there in my kitchen, dining room, and basement that house the many and varied accoutrements of my baking obsession--but that little storage spot is the most rarified of them all. It's a wonder I've never thought to padlock it . . . or maybe booby trap the doors . . .

Anyway, I know Nutella's hardly rare and not especially costly, but that lone jar of Nutella was down there because it wasn't quite safe anywhere else. The only options, as I saw it, were to keep that chubby brown jar under house-arrest in the quiet darkness of the cupboard or force it into the federal witness protection program. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you're a fellow Nutella fan, I know you understand.

About this recipe . . .

This muffin formula was inspired by or, if you prefer, adapted from, a recipe for peanut-butter banana bread found in Cooking Light magazine's October 2010 issue. The original PB banana bread recipe can be found online by clicking here. I made a number of changes to the original, resulting in these incredibly moist and tasty muffins. To say I was pleased with how these turned out would be an understatement. My family loved them--especially Nathan, the 14-year old. He's brutally honest about anything I bake and never sugar coats his opinion (pun intended). I know I've produced something good if he gives it a thumbs up.

Among my alterations to the original recipe: I used sour cream instead of plain yogurt; I substituted Nutella for crunchy peanut butter; I used 1/3 of a cup of fresh hazelnut meal (finely ground hazelnuts) instead of 1/4 cup of ground flaxseeds; I omitted the spices entirely (cinnamon and allspice were called for), and I added in a modest splash of vanilla extract; I also dabbed a little bit of Nutella onto the top of each muffin before baking, and topped some of the unbaked muffins with a single, toasted, whole hazel nut. This recipe could easily produce 48 mini muffins, or up to 24 regular size muffins.

Before we get to the actual recipe, I wanted to mention that I used two different pans for this batch. The cork-shaped muffins were made using a Nordicware mini-popover pan--a sturdy piece of bakeware that I am pretty darn happy with; it has 12 cups.

I bought that pan about three weeks ago, for myself, as a 50th birthday present. Every girl should buy herself a few well-deserved birthday presents when she hits a milestone year like that, don't you think? (Those are, of course, in addition to gifts received from friends and family!  :)  I haven't tried using the pan yet for popovers, but they're on my to-do list. I also used a regular 24-mini-cup pan, and I ended up with enough batter leftover after all that to make one jumbo muffin (I tossed the singular jumbo into the freezer as soon as it cooled off--can't be too careful). Since these muffins lean toward the richer side of the muffin spectrum, the smaller size seemed just right.

Banana Nutella Mini-Muffins

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using baking spray or muffin liners to make 48 mini muffins, or 24 regular size muffins, or about 13 jumbos.

1 and 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup Nutella, slightly softened (Heat it for just a few seconds in the microwave if need be.)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, large
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 and 1/2 cups All Purpose flour (I used unbleached.)
1/3 cup ground hazelnut meal (I made this using 1/4 cup whole, unblanched hazelnuts; since it's such a small amount, I used my mini-coffee grinder to do it.)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (I used coarse kosher salt.)

About 1/4 cup softened Nutella, to dab on top of the unbaked muffins.
A few dozen whole unblanched hazelnuts, if you'd like to top the unbaked muffins with them.

In a large mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment on medium speed, blend together the banana, sour cream, 1/3 cup Nutella, melted butter, and eggs until very well combined (at least a couple of minutes).

Add in the sugars, beating until well blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, hazelnut meal, baking soda, and salt. Stir this into the liquid mixture, or blend it in using your mixer's lowest speed, just until combined. Don't overmix.

Using a small portion scoop, if possible, fill the muffin cups about two-thirds full. Dot the top of each with a dab of softened Nutella; use less than 1/2 a teaspoon for each one. If you like, add a single hazelnut to the top of each muffin.

Bake the muffins for about 12 minutes or so, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in their pans, on a rack, for a few minutes.

Remove the muffins from the pans and let them cool further on the rack.

   (If you'd like to comment on this post, or to view any existing comments, please click the purple COMMENTS below!)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

17 Years of Motherhood, and counting

Quote of the Day:  The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.  from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

My first born son turned 17 this weekend. He recently read "Catcher" and posted this quote on his facebook page.  I think he really liked the book.  He said that he plans to post a quote from good books that he reads.  Hmm. That sounds familiar. 

He once asked me if I had posters of rock stars on the walls of my bedroom when I was a girl.  I said, "No, I wasn't in love with rock stars.  But, Nancy (my sister) had pictures up of all the stars.  Her room was wall-papered with ripped out pages of Teen magazine."

"What did you have you your walls, Mom...horses?"

"Well, yes," I said.  "How did you know?"

Bobby rolled his eyes.  "There's two kinds of girls.  Those who are in love with rock stars and those who love horses."

He had it figured out by age 14.

He's a scholarly fellow, this first born son.  He likes good literature, thinking games, deep discussions, historical films, and technology.  We went to The King's Speech together.  I thought it was more of a gift to me, but he really liked it, and we talked about it afterwards.  It's a great movie about a man who never thought he'd be good enough to be king, or give inspiring speeches, or appear strong.  But, he did.  In making himself vulnerable to a commoner with great instincts and caring, he conquered fear.

Seventeen years ago, I was a new mom.  He was born at noon on a Saturday, 9 lbs. 3oz. and ready for lunch.  Both of us opened our eyes to new life and all the possibilities.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What posters or decorations did you have in your childhood bedrooms?  When did life take on new meaning for you?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Our new baby

Brian has been wanting a trailer for us to be able to go on more vacations. We have had several years where we have been working on the house, and now it's time to venture out as a family. First trip? My family reunion in Missouri. We are also hoping to camp at the Ozark's if Brian and I can get the extra time off.

After looking around, I started to get excited. No more windy days blowing through the pop up camper. Now, I loved my in-laws pop up. It allowed us to go camping when the boys were small, and it was a lot of fun. As the boys are getting bigger, however, we are on each other with every step. Having a 6'4" tall son makes this even more important. Gotta spread out! This unit allows us to move around a bit. It's a Jayco 29BH which means it's 29' long and has bunks in it. A bunk in the back with twin on top and double on bottom. A large couch that folds out to a bed and the queen on the other side. Comes with shower, toilet and sink along with a kitchen. Could sleep 9 if really needed. It had everything we wanted except an outside grill, which I am sure Brian will be looking at soon. :)

I AM SO EXCITED!!! We get to bring her home on Friday! These are the dealership photos. I am sure I will be taking more. lol

Letting Joy In

Quote of the Day:  a poem
by Linda Pastan

No angel speaks to me.
And though the wind
plucks the dry leaves
as if they were so many notes
of music, I can hear no words.

Still, I listen.  I search
the feathery shapes of clouds
hoping to find the curve of a wing.
And sometimes, when the static
of the world clears just for a moment

A small voice comes through,
chastening.  Music
is its own language, it says.
Along the indifferent corridors
of space, angels could be hiding.

Joy comes to me in the form of children and music.

In planting and watching things grow, the trees, the boys, relationships.

Joy happens when you let your silly out and your playfulness in.

Joy comes from trying a recipe just because it's in your math homework.

Did you know that inspiration is contagious?  I've been inspired by the students and people that I've let into my life.  From your comments here, and in person, I've learned that from my inspiration, you felt more empowered to become your authentic selves. 

One night, I woke myself up as my hand rose above my covers, playing air piano.  I smiled to myself.  I heard the music that I've let into my house.  I remembered the laughter.  Laughed out loud, to myself, my happy dream, and went back to sleep.

Go. Create. Inspire! And, dream happy dreams filled with inspiration.

Journaling Prompt:  Write about a dream, a night dream or a day dream, that made you smile or laugh.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Update Doc #2

Sorry for taking my time to post. I was very fortunate to have my hubby home for four days in a row and made the most of it.

Mom and dad went to meet with Dr. Mary Jo and although a scary meeting for mom, it did shed a little more light on the subject. To put it frankly, surgery is out of the question right now. With the cancer ready to attach onto anything, it's better for it to stay with the lymph nodes rather than move on to other places like lungs and such. of surgery.

Mom will continue to stay on the pill she is taking. We can pray that that will work. How wonderful if she gets her scan and the cancer has diminished!!

They also heard of certain chemo plans that might work better or have less long lasting side effects. Again, a lot of decisions to be made, but as time goes on we fear less about the cancer being back and are now just trying to calm mom's heart about the upcoming chemo (if needed). We worry of neuropathy as mom already has issues with her MS and numbness in fingers and feet when it rises.

I still ask for constant prayer for my mom to not only be healed, but to calm her anxiety. She is really struggling with it. The medicine she is on doesn't seem to be helping all that much. I will be calling her later today and hoping it has curbed a little. Those that deal with anxiety know how it can take over.

Not much more to update than that.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mountaintop Feeling

Quote of the Day:  You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Last April I signed up for Scriptfrenzy where your goal is to write a script in a month.  I wore the above t-shirt for the first time, packed up my laptop, and made myself a table top office at a coffee shop in downtown Brainerd, MN.  I did not complete the script in month, but I got a good start.  I typed "The End" on it last week, made copies, and invited a few talented and supportive friends over for breakfast and script reading.  It was one of the best days of my life!

I served an egg bake with ham, cheese, and hash browns, and made my famous fruit pizza.  I'm showing the readers the pizza because it has a star fruit theme.  I told them, "You are all stars.  I feel like I'm launching my career as a playwright today, and I'm so glad that you are here for it."  And, for those of you who read my blog and know me, you have also been here for it.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I feel your encouragement and creative energy every time I sit down to write.

After much blood, sweat, tears, and coffee, the play is ready to be released to the world.  I had just finished typing "The End," when Janet, a writer friend in Grand Forks, wrote that they were having a theatre opportunity for women writers in Grand Forks, called She Speaks, on March 5, and would I be interested in submitting a 10 page cutting of my script.  Whoa, I thought, I just finished it.  I'm having the first read-through on Sat. morning, but YES, I am interested.  I made the cutting this afternoon and sent it off to the director. 

The story and characters came alive in a new way as my friends read this script.  Several times during the reading, that was often interrupted by commentary, the people reacted to the words as themselves, then realized that it was script, and went back into character.  That's how natural it read.  Oh, my heart was beating fast.  Can you tell from the photo how flushed I am?  I'm still coming down from this Mountaintop feeling.

Here they all are:

Joey, my photographer friend who played Lolly.
Lisa, my neighbor and freind who brought the cream cheese coffee cake and played Jewell.

Laura, my friend with enormous gifts and talents in theatre, played Laura.

Matt and Beth live over two hours away, but just happened to be coming through town, read Nick and Roxy.  Beth was my student back when I was an English teacher.  She starred in the one play that I directed in her high school.  She's also writing a play.

Ed, the coffee drinker sweet dad guy who played Sam.  He's a retired elementary school teacher and a musician.

And, Denise, the birthday girl, who said this was a great way to start out her birthday celebration.  She played Aubrey.

I could go on and on, but I'll save some things for a later post.  We laughed.  We cried.  We shared stories.  Denise said it felt like we were surrounded by a white light of positive energy.  I'm telling you, folks, it's still here.  I'm still glowing.  And, the view from this Mountaintop is spectacular.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Promt:  Describe a mountaintop experience, one you've had or one you dream of having.

Margarita Cupcakes

Saturday night was another book club evening, and this one was special. It was the one year birthday of the book club. Why all the excitement you ask? For this group of women, the one year mark is a big deal. You see, we are busy are women who have families, jobs, spouses, and significant others; women who take on more than they should, do more for everyone than they do for themselves and forget the importance of “me” time.  But, one day a month, we put all of that aside and gather together with great food, great cocktails and great stories.

At the beginning of our club Michelle, the founder, explained she had experienced many failed book clubs because life just got in the way. We all vowed it wouldn’t happen to this club, no it would be a success! And it has been. For twelve months we have gathered together to talk about the book choice, share life’s journey and support one another. And it was for this happy occasion that I had to make something tasty to eat and that also felt like a celebration….CUPCAKES it was!

These cupcakes…THESE cupcakes are the dessert version of a margarita. A lime flavored caked with tequila baked in, piled high with lime cream cheese frosting and topped with green sugar--Oh. My. Goodness! Say it with me….YUMM!

As many of you know I am not a huge supporter of the boxed cake mix, however I have still not found that perfect homemade white cake recipe that carries over into a cupcake with the light texture I desire. Because of this, I will submit to a white cake mix when necessary and in my book Margarita cupcakes are NECESSARY! So, implore you all to make these for your next grown up gathering and ENJOY!

Margarita Cupcakes with Tequila Lime Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe Source: A Cook's Quest with the help of multiple online recipes


**Cook's note-I used margarita mix that included tequila.  If you prefer to use non-alcoholic that will be tasty too!**

1 white boxed cake mix
2 limes zested
juice of two limes
10 oz. margarita mix with tequila included
3 egg whites
1/4 c. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl combine all the cake ingredients and mix for 30 seconds.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 3 minutes.  Pour into prepared or lined muffin tins until 3/4 full.  Bake 16-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from pan and allow to cool completely


**Cooks note-this will make a lot of frosting.  I had plenty left over after decorating my cupcakes.  It could easily be cut in half but I like to have too much frosting rather than too little so I plan on using it on a cake or cookies in a few days.**

1/2 cup margarita mix
zest of one lime
juice of one lime
8 oz cream cheese
8 T butter softened
4-6 cups powdered sugar

In a large mixer bowl (I used my kitchen aide) combine the margarita mix and 4 cups of powdered sugar.  Once sugar is dissolved the mixture will be very thick.  Add the lime zest and lime juice.  Mix well using the whisk attachment on your mixer. On high speed add in the cream cheese 1 oz at a time, then follow with the butter the same way.  Continue mixing on high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy.  If needed, add more powdered sugar to tighten up the frosting.  This is important if you want to decorate with your frosting.  At this point it can go into the refrigerator until needed.  Just make sure to remove it about 10-15 minutes before you plan to frost your cupcakes and mix with your mixer to fluff it back up.

Place frosting in a piping bag fitted with your desired tip.  Frost the cupcakes as desired and sprinkle with green sugar or lime zest.  Enjoy!

**Cook's Note-It will be much more cost effective to use the non-alcoholic mix (off the shelf or frozen concentrate) but I wanted the real deal to celebrate :)

Dear Readers...

No I have not forgotten about my little blog.  Though I haven't been cooking much, I HAVE been thinking about cooking and all the delicious recipes I want to make.  My husband has been doing a HUGE amount of cooking lately which allows me to study in the evenings.  I have a pile of recipes ready to try and many hopes that they will be on the computer soon.  There will be a few changes coming though.

First, I will not be doing price break downs anymore.  Most of you know that I buy flour, sugar, yeast and spices in bulk, and most of my butter, chocolate chips, and other baking items on sale or free if the timing is right.  I have a freezer stocked with chicken and beef thanks to great sales and the generous Christmas present from my parents.  I only buy fresh fruit and veggies that are on sale and make our snacks at home.  With all that said  you know that what I prepare is at the best price I can get.  The breakdowns are the most time consuming part of my recipe posting so alas, it has been cut. 

Second, during times that I am too overwhelmed with family, school, and work, I will have guest bloggers filling in for me or highlight a food blog.  If anyone is interested in doing a guest post or simply having their blog featured let me know!  I am all about helping and supporting my fellow bloggers. 

I look forward to spending more time here as I can and thank everyone for patiently waiting for me to re-organize.

P.S. I updated the photos of the Chicken Corn Chowder recipe. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blackberry & Blueberry Kuchen . . . The Simple Comfort of Coffee Cake

What I choose to bake on any given day usually depends on four things: how much time I have; which ingredients are already in my cupboard; what I'm in the mood to prepare; and, whether or not my family members are likely to show enthusiasm for the dish I'm contemplating. Even with those limiting factors in play, the inherent freedom of home baking and the creative liberties that it allows make up an enormous part of what I love about the whole process.

It's encouraging to know that just about anyone can combine a bunch of seemingly disparate ingredients and be rewarded with a tasty, and often impressive, result. Taking into account all of the customizing and occasionally fool-hardy recipe tweaking we chronic bakers tend to engage in, that's comforting knowledge, don't you think?

I suppose it's sort of like one's faithful acceptance that a car can be driven to its intended destination even if  the windows have been tinted purple, the radio's been replaced by a waffle iron, and the interior's been  reupholstered in pink crushed-velvet. Baking is similarly flexible, at least to a certain degree. Just remember, figuratively speaking, not to remove the car's engine and everything should be okay.

When the yen to bake strikes, I try to zero in on a recipe that satisfies that familiar quartet of requirements, yet still leaves room for interpretation. This coffee cake provides an uncomplicated case in point.

About this recipe . . . 

Last weekend, with a grand total of about two hours available to me--start to finish--I assembled this yeasted coffee cake (or kuchen, for those of you who prefer to sprechen zie Deutsch!) without any stress or strain.

Adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson (lots of good stuff in this beautiful book), the original formula called for three cups of red raspberries and cherries. I had neither of those in my fridge, but I did have a few handfuls of blackberries and blueberries that were almost overripe, so I subbed in a scant two cups of those. The recipe called for turbinado sugar; I didn't have that so I used coarse, moist Demarara sugar instead. (If neither of those happen to inhabit your pantry, just use our old stand-by, brown sugar). The instructions also called for active dry yeast, as most home-baking cookbooks tend to do, but I opted for instant yeast; though harder to find in stores, it's easier to use than active dry (no proofing needed) and, in my experience, more reliable overall.

This baby was thrown together without the aid of a mixer, all in about 20 minutes--no kidding. The dough rose in its baking pan for almost an hour, then it was topped with the berries, sparkly golden sugar, and finally it was drizzled with melted butter. When it emerged from the oven about 40 minutes later, looking like a dream, I knew the planets had aligned perfectly once again.  I love it when the world works like that.

Blackberry and Blueberry Kuchen
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Lightly grease and flour a 9" x 13" baking pan, or use baking spray.

For the batter:
1 and 1/2 cups whole milk (I didn't have whole milk on hand, so I used 1 and 1/4 cups of  2% milk mixed with 1/4 cup of half-and-half) 
1/2 cup of light brown sugar, packed
5 oz. unsalted butter (That's 1 stick plus 2 Tbsp.)
2 tsp. instant yeast (Or, 1 Tbsp. active dry yeast.)
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 and 1/2 cups All Purpose flour (Sifting not required, but I always fluff it with a whisk before measuring.)
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt (I used kosher salt.) 

For the topping: 
1 cup clean, ripe blackberries
1 cup clean, ripe blueberries
1/4 cup Demarara or Turbinado sugar (Regular light brown sugar, loosely packed, can be substituted.)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Vanilla Glaze:
1 cups confectioners' sugar (Helpful if it's sifted, but not critical. Good idea to have more than 1 cup on hand in case you want a thicker glaze.)
Heavy cream or half-and-half, at least 2 Tbsp. (Have more on hand so you can adjust the thickness of your glaze.)
1/2 to 1 tsp. vanilla extract (The more you add, the more beige your glaze will be.) 

In a medium saucepan over a low flame, stir together the milk, brown sugar, and butter until just warm. (If you're using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, proof it now by adding it into this mixture--once the pan is off the heat--and let it stand for about 10 minutes until it begins to look bubbly.  If this mixture is above about 115 degrees when you add in active dry yeast, you might murder it, so be careful. Shoot for about 110 degrees.)

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs just to break them up. 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and instant yeast. Pour the eggs and the milk mixture into this, stirring gently, just until combined. 

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and cover it with plastic wrap. 

Place the pan in a warm spot and let it rise for about 1 hour, until it's doubled. (Don't expect drama; the batter will be pretty flat to start with so even when doubled it won't look that much higher in the pan.) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the batter has risen, scatter the berries over the top evenly. 

Sprinkle the Demarara/Turbinado sugar all over the top and drizzle the melted butter over that. 

Bake uncovered on the middle rack for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees; then decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. The cake is done when it's lightly golden on top and darker golden near the sides. 

While the coffee cake is baking, mix together all of the glaze ingredients in a small bowl, stirring until completely smooth.

Let the kuchen cool in its pan, on a rack, for five to ten minutes. 

Then, invert it onto another rack or onto a sheet pan, then invert it again so it's right side up on the cooling rack. 

Place the cake, on the rack, onto a sheet pan with sides, and drizzle the glaze all over the top with a spoon or whisk. 

Really good when served warm, and definitely best when it's extremely fresh. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wanted: Real Men

Quote of the Day:  I am who I am today because of Her Voice.  Not just the magazine, but the daily call and connection to her wife, Erin.  She, and most women for that matter, understand relationships. Hans Anderson, co-author with me on the article in Her Voice, titled "Real Men Read Her Voice"

Hans Anderson at the Brainerd Ice Fishing Extravaganza

Hans and I met at the Y during the Group Power weight-lifting fitness class.  Whenever the magazine came out, Hans would lean over, talk out of the corner of his mouth and say, "Hey, I read your article in Her Voice."  He confessed that he read the whole thing every time it came out.  Then, he started confessing that he likes to write, too.  Finally, I asked him if he'd like to write an article with me.  He said, "Yes," and you can read all about it here.  Click below the picture of the cover where it says, Open Publication. Click on the words to enlarge them. Our story is on pages 14 & 15.  You can find a couple more pictures of me on the table on contents and editorial.  Joey, the photographer, had me laughing during the photo shoot.  It's actually pretty funny that I'm even holding an ice fishing pole!  This is a great publication with local flair, and also global appeal.  I hope you enjoy the articles!

When men first started confessing to me that they read Her Voice, I was surprised.  When they complimented my writing, I was flattered.  When they asked about my writing, I felt honored and respected.  Thanks to all the Real Men who connect with women and aren't afraid to talk about it.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  When have you been surprised by a reaction to your writing, art, or accomplishments?

Update for doc #1

Mom and dad met with the oncologist yesterday. Not a lot of info was gleaned from the conversation. We found out there were several lymph nodes enlarged (15-30%). None of them are on vital tissue, organs or any other place. Which makes it easier if mom chooses surgery to remove them.

Mom now has decided NOT to do the IP. I talked to dad briefly, and not mom, so I don't know what happened there...if the doctor didn't think it would be more beneficial, or if the doctor said it was extremely hard on the body. Doesn't matter...she's not doing it.

So now, dad and the doctor are looking at a clinical trial in Denver to make sure the medication mom is currently on won't keep her out of the trial. It looks like we still have to wait until 3 months for the pet scan, and for more time in between the chemo treatments. However, mom and dad will meeting with another doctor on Friday, and we might hear more from her. There are other clinical trials throughout the country, too, that dad is looking at. It all matters what is most beneficial and what could yield the best results. Avastin was brought up, because her oncologist has seen good results from the usage of it.

I talked to mom yesterday before her appointment and she sounds good. I tell you people, prayer works. Her spirits were a LOT higher. She wants to fight, she doesn't want to die. She said she needs to hear positive thinking. I would suggest to NOT have the words, "I'm sorry" come out of your mouth if you talk to her. I know it's easy for it to spill (because you ARE sorry!!) but focus on what's next...and keep her busy. She's going to have a few months to have to sit and wait.

I am most sad that it sounds like mom and dad's Scotland trip has been temporarily put on hold. It's all in the timing. Last chemo, the last two treatments were very hard and took longer to bounce back. If she starts in June, it's getting close to the September mark for her final treatments.

As for me and how I am dealing...need to go to the doctor for anxiety. My stomach is upset all of the time. Just anxious and not feeling all that great. As time goes on, I am hoping it will get easier. I just don't know.

Keep praying!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dog Days

FINALLY! Found a woman's voice that I love. I don't know if you were able to watch the Grammy's last night, but Florence sang with four other women a tribute to Aretha Franklin. Just an incredible voice, and I haven't been able to stop listening to this song since last week!! Florence + The Machine "Dog Days Are Over" The video is a LITTLE strange, but I sure enjoy her voice!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seizing the Day

Quote of the Day:  Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears. - Kudyard Kipling

Do school lockers make you afraid?

Do they evoke memories of bad school days, junior high angst, powerlessness?

I decided to take a photography class through community ed.  The classes are held at the former junior high school which has been converted into art space and studios.  Our first assignment was to figure out how to set our cameras to manual mode and read the lighting. 

I'm not exactly a Kindergartner in a photography class, but I'm still in elementary school.  I'm hoping to unlock the mysteries of creative photography in this junior high setting. 

Our homework is to take pictures, duh, and share them this week.  Since we have a glorious day that is above freezing - actually around 40F out there, I took a walk with my camera.

My first photo was of my neighbor's house.  I had thoughts of knocking on the door to see if my friend was home, but thought I might be tempted to drink tea and visit instead of doing my homework, so I kept walking.  My first photos of her place were bright white.  I still had my camera set to indoor lighting.

Signs of melting, and things that are revealed caught my eye. 

Soon kids will be playing here.  My boys like being the first to clean the slide off with their bottoms.

I find beauty in nature, not the straight and perfect, rather what is broken, decaying, and yet, showing new life.

When I got home, I discovered broken dishes and a cat who had seized the opportunity to climb on the counter to lick my plate.  I'd had salmon on my toast, and I should have known she couldn't resist the smell. 

Reason number one for doing your dishes right away.

What? Me? I've just been lying here, napping all afternoon.

This blog has been a bit quiet lately because I'm preparing for the read-through (unveiling) of my first full-length play this coming Sat. Feb. 19.  Wanna talk about fears?  I've been pushing down negative thoughts for at least two weeks.  But, I've set the date and called my talented friends, so there's no backing down, now.  Eeep!

I'll have one more post this week when my latest article in Her Voice is available online.  It's titled "Real Men Read Her Voice."

Turn and face your fears, my friends, and
Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  How do you celebrate warmer weather and feelings that spring is in the air?  What fears are you pushing down right now?