The Eye Of The Storm

7 Jan

Hi friends! It’s late Sunday night and I’m coming to you from the comforts of bed. Today was largely uneventful for everyone, which was actually incredibly pleasant. I spent most of the day snoozing, lounging in bed and doing an occasional chore around my house. Abha did the same thing at their house and Mark scuttered about doing various chores and hanging around the house. Last night was especially rough on Abha, although I’m not sure she was lucid enough to realize/remember it. We, along with the doctors, are still figuring out the balance of painkillers to anti-nasuea to “dailies” to anti-anxiety pills and yesterday proved we haven’t got it down quite yet. Yesterday evening she was super dopey and kept getting out of bed and wandering around asking the cat why he had so many pockets and telling the dogs she would pop their balloons. It was humorous but verged on scary as she was so out of it she was totally in her own world and dozed in and out of sleep/consciousness for hours. I went back to my house later that night but my dad said it continued through the night and at one point or another, while still dopey, she was feeling short of breath and uncomfortable. So, back to my original point -Today felt like the eye of the storm, calm and seemingly still, with a lucid Abha living in the same reality as the rest of us.

So that’s the update on the family and the Big C. Now, onto today’s Pinspired creation! Decided to go with food again because *here’s a teaser for tomorrow project* Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays. Dinner, to be more precise. What’s on the menu you ask? Meat spaghetti pulled from this pin, garlic knots discovered on this pin, and my own personal spinach salad. As per usual, I adjusted the recipes slightly to our liking and everything turned out pretty bomb-diggity! OH – it is important to note that I halved the spaghetti recipe and it still yielded a ridiculous amount of food!

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Fire-roasted tomato and red pepper meat spaghetti:

1 lb (roughly) ground beef *at least 85% lean!

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 red pepper, coarsely chopped

5 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press – yum!

1 8 oz. can tomato paste/puree

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 14 oz. can Italian-style diced tomatoes

1 28 oz. can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes

1/2 carton fresh mushrooms

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

ingredients

DIRECTIONS:

Chop all of your veggies and press your garlic first and just leave them on the cutting board for when you are ready to use them.

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Go ahead and put the chopped red pepper along with half of the chopped onions in the food processor and blend until smooth.

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Heat olive oil over medium  high heat. Add the rest of the onions and saute until translucent and slightly browned. Add garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute. Break up beef and add to pan, cook until no red is showing. Drain most of the grease from the beef. Add the red pepper/onion puree to the beef mixture and stir until combined. Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper and all of the spices, stir until combined and cook for a minute or two. Add both cans of diced and crushed tomatoes, the brown sugar and mushrooms and stir until everything is combined. Add the bay leaves, bring sauce to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer with a lid for one hour, stirring occasionally. Fifteen minutes before serving, stir in the balsamic vinegar.

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Ta da!

Now, onto the garlic knots. I looked at a couple of different recipes and ended up doing this:

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1 tube Pillsbury Grand buttermilk flaky biscuits (8 count) – although next time I may not use the flaky kind.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press

1 teaspoon italian seasoning

1 tablespoon butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add the garlic and italian seasoning to the olive oil and stir until blended. Break up the biscuits and roll them into 12-inch tubes. I put a little bit of the oil mixture on my hands to keep the dough from sticking and keep it easy to work with. Tie the tubes into a knot and tuck the ends under. Place the knots on a greased cooking pan about 2 inches apart. Spoon oil mixture over the knots and use a brush to spread over entire knot. Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes. Melt butter in small dish and brush over knots directly after pulling them out of the oven.

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Spinach Salad:

salad

2 handfulls fresh washed organic baby spinach

2 small tomatoes (fresh from the garden)

1 slice from a white onion, quartered

1 avocado, sliced

1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced

as much fresh grated parmesan on top as you’d like!

DIRECTIONS:

Add all of the ingredients together, toss, and add dressing of your choice! I use raspberry vinaigrette and think it pairs nicely with everything in the salad.

So, here you have our recreation of the Pinterest-inspired dinner we had tonight. And the critics agree, it was delicious! And better still – we have so much left over, it will make a quick easy-to-make meal for future lunch and dinners.

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I’ll be in touch tomorrow, friends! Goodnight.

Cookie success!

6 Jan

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It couldn’t get any simpler or easier than a chocolate chip cookie. We’re starting slow remember? So I found a pin with some tips and hints for making the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I pulled the recipe from the post and we started our recreation. We modified it slightly, using butter-Cristco instead of butter and double-strength vanilla extract instead of regular extract, eyeing the chocolate chips, and adding a tad more baking soda than the recipe called for.

Keely and Abha’s Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies:

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup butter-flavored Cristco

2 large eggs

1 tsp (double strength) vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (ish) chocolate chips

1 cup (ish) chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine and stir flour, salt and baking soda in small bowl and set aside. In mixing bowl, combine Cristco, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. (This is awesome when you have a Kitchen-aid mixer as my parents do!) Scramble the eggs in a separate bowl. Add the eggs to the sugar and butter mixture one at a time. Slowly add the flour mixture and make sure to mix it well! Add the chocolate chips (and pecans if you want).

cookie dough

I read somewhere that putting the cookie dough in the fridge right before it goes in the oven will make your cookies fluffier, so I tried it and it works. Although I’m not sure that’s exactly why they were so fluffy, but I’ll do it again next time I make these cookies!

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Put small spoonfuls of cookie dough on a cookie sheet about 2-3 inches apart and bake for 7-10 minutes depending on how done/underdone you prefer your cookies!

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Voila! The perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Seeping in…

5 Jan

Hello friends! Dropping in to post an update. It’s Saturday afternoon and my fingers fly furiously as I type away, while everything else lay still and the house rests quietly. I am coming to you from the couch in the main house (my parent’s place). Mark is in the man-cave reading a book or polishing a gun or buying shit on Amazon or doing whatever. Abha is out cold in the bedroom, surrounded by sleeping dogs and a snoring Siamese. It never ceases to warm my heart when I see animals concerned for their ailing masters. This morning we all went to Abha’s radiation appointment. It seems that the treatments take it out of her, so we loaded her up on her daily medications (or “dailies” as she has lovingly nicknamed them) and set her up in bed for what we hope is a long and restful nap.

That being said, I have some time to update my blog. And you guys. I’m starting to understand there is no normalcy when it comes to dealing with Cancer. Just as it consumes your body, it consumes your entire life. You need to go to work? Sorry, you have to go to six hours of chemo today and three hours tomorrow. There will be 20 rounds of radiation, but you only know when your next two will be. You will need to go back in for new scans sometime next week. It’s hectic and busy and feels never-ending. I feel wrong for saying the word “lucky” but I guess we were lucky that my mom wasn’t working at the time we discovered her illness. However, the rest of us were. So, my dad is going back to work on Monday and I’ll be taking over as caretaker and house mouse since I’m a recently retired bartender. This weekend will be spent organizing medications, creating charts, practicing procedures and preparing for my take-over.

Thus far, everything has been seeping into my brain so slowly… and a lot of the time it still feels unreal. I have a feeling Monday is going to be like a kick to the chest by a mule. I am struggling to fully grasp what’s happening here and still haven’t decided how exactly to process this news and how to cope with it. Do I research it to death and scare the shit out of myself? Do I remain ignorant beyond my immediate requirements to be a caregiver? Do I prepare for the worst? Do I refuse to consider the worst? I have yet to even entertain the idea that she may not survive this and I think it is the best way to deal with this disease. I have to believe, our family has to believe, that she will beat this and come out on the other side stronger and better. Positivity breeds positive things. Being part of this cancer thing first hand, I realize there is no room for negativity. It is hopeless energy. Wasted and lost. This is not to say I want to parade around with balloons hooting and hollering – I definitely let myself feel sad and feel the hurt of this disease, but I don’t want to let that sadness overcome and spread beyond me and seep into others.

One thought I keep going back to when I need to giggle or laugh is my mom’s stylish new tattoo. If you know my mom, you know she absolutely despises tattoos and all things related. She can’t stand any of my tattoos and totally disproves of me getting any more. So, when I heard she had to get little x’s permanently tattooed on her back to line her up during radiation, I literally laughed and laughed. Its little things like this that you have to enjoy when you’re dealing with a shitstorm like cancer.

Ok – enough of the introspective, sullen ramblings. Abha is awake and feeling better! Good vibes! This sunny Saturday calls for our first Pinspiration project. We’ve decided to start off with training wheels, and go for something simple like baking. I’ll leave you with Bill, chewing on a piece of the fence – little darling that he is.

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The Beginning

3 Jan

Howdy friends! We’re three days into January and seemingly life goes on. Worst apocalypse ever, right?

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Anyway, it’s 2013 and time for a fresh beginning. However, 2012 managed to bring much of its baggage into the new year. Seeing as this is my first post, let me catch you all up.

Long story short. My name is Keely. I’m Austin grown and still reside here in a house on a lane with my faithful canine companion, Loki, and two felines, Bali and Kitten. I attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a degree in public relations a little more than a year ago. As with most college kids, I worked in the service industry through school serving tables and bartending. Recently graduated and feeling just as lost as confused as ever, I tried to start the next chapter in my life. In this case, it was job surfing on Linked in, Access UT and Craigslist while simultaneously helping out with some of the public relations efforts at the lounge where I bartended most nights of the week. Pretty standard story, the young adult trying to establish her place in the world and start existing as a real-life grown up.

Well life, as it tends to do, slapped me in the face out of nowhere this past month. My mom went in to see a specialist for lower back pain (the same doctor I saw nearly four years ago for my injury) and her scans revealed a mass that Dr. Yaniv suspected may be lymphoma. Of course, this happened over the Thanksgiving holiday and things moved slowly. More scans were taken, the list of doctors grew, and within a couple of weeks we were at The Texas Oncology Center. A biopsy was scheduled at Seton and everything seemed surprisingly easy. They’d go in with a scope and take tissue and the pathology would hopefully reveal if this was lymphoma or not. If we were lucky that’s all it would take, but on the off chance the pathology came back inconclusive, they’d (excuse the graphicness) cut her open and dig deeper. The scope didn’t work. In fact, all of the tissue came back inconclusive with the freeze scans. They put everything back in its place, closed her up, and sent her into a week-long hellacious visit at the hospital filled with uncontrolled pain, annoying nurses, bad hospital food and long nights. On day six, the pathology finally came back and confirmed my mom had an indolent Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. CancerOff to the oncology center to formulate and execute a plan to stop this cancer in its tracks. Chemo was an absolute, but Abha (my mom) wanted to wait until after the Christmas holidays to start. So the end of 2012 was spent at appointments and scans and doctors visits to prepare for her fight against the disease. The new year came and went and on Wednesday, January 2nd, Abha started her chemotherapy treatment. It went well and she didn’t have a bad reaction to the drugs (thank god, because this asshole cancer hasn’t cut her much slack yet) and as of today, she is done with this round of chemo as well as her scans. Remember how I said she hasn’t gotten much slack yet? Well, although she started chemo, we found out yesterday that it may be further along than originally believed and require a more aggressive treatment. For now, we know it is stage four and she has a tumor near her spine that will require localized radiation to shrink. Tomorrow, she will start radiation and we will find out her prognosis. Sometimes, I feel like holding my breath until then.. but then I remind myself to exhale.

I quit my job temporarily to help take care of my mom and the house and pets while my dad (Mark) works full time during the week. Things feel incredibly chaotic and ever-changing but the next week or two should bring some normalcy back into our family’s lives. In an attempt to create some kind of structure amongst the chaos, Abha and I have decided to embark on a journey and start a project. Six months of Pinspiration. Every day, we will find something on Pinterest, whether it’s a recipe, a cleaning tip, craft instructions, decorating idea, shopping hint or the like, and we will do it. Together. or as a family when my dad isn’t working. I’ll blog about it here, and I’ll create a board on my personal Pinterest account dedicated to our recreation of our Pinspirations. The kick-off starts tomorrow. Links and Updates to follow!

Oh yeah. Fuck Cancer.

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