Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Change: It's a Comin'

Change is scary.

You'd think I'd be used to change and "going with the flow" by now, considering I've been an Army wife for 3 years, but I'm not. Change still terrifies me.

Yes, it can be exciting, but mostly it's just scary and anxiety-inducing.

Dad's cancer is the #1 change on my mind these days. So many questions, not enough answers. It scares me to think how this new diagnosis will change things. The way he is, the way he feels, the way he enjoys life, etc.

Will he need chemo? Will he need another surgery? Will it be a hard recovery? Will he lose his hair? Will he need to stay in the hospital for a long time (he is so NOT the hospital type)?

Come to think of it, I don't think I ever updated the blog on his change of diagnosis. The last time I posted we thought it was Plasmacytoma but the official lab reports of the biopsied tumor came back and said it was something totally different...

Medullary Thyroid Cancer.

We still don't know much about it and the extent of it because he's still undrgoing testing but it's pretty much just as scary of a diagnosis as plasmacytoma was. The good news is that he feels great and the doctors seem hopeful. (Can I just say how surreal it is to see your dad looking and acting totally healthy but really you know that he is "sick"?? Odd feeling.)

Lots of other changes are coming too! Within the past couple weeks Alex got his orders to PCS so we are officially moving to Fort Huachuca, Arizona in t-minus 4 months!

Our official report date is early January but we plan on being totally moved out of our house here by mid-December so that we can celebrate the holidays with family.

I told my work this week that my last day would be December 3rd. I'm really not too torn up about this one because I'm definitely ready for a working break and a change. :)

The saddest thing about moving will be leaving all my amazing friends that I've made here. I can't imagine Army life without my Deployment Sisters. :(

I'm also getting a lot of anxiety about moving far away right in the midst of my dad's cancer treatment. We're lucky to only live 3 hours away from him right now so I can easily pick up and be there in no time if needed. Living in Arizona will change all that. Plane tickets, time and $$$ will be required.

I'm hopeful that all this change will result in something wonderful and I know that I just need to stop worrying about the "what-ifs" and focus on the positives.

Are you good with change or are you like me and shudder at the thought of it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

3rd Anniversary

To celebrate our 3rd anniversary we spent the night in Austin and enjoyed a romantic night out. We had a Groupon for Jeffrey's, which is a highly rated (and rather expensive) restaurant in Austin. We actually ate at Jeffrey's last year too when Alex was home on R&R so it's becoming an anniversary tradition!

We started off with cocktails at the bar while we waited for our reservation time. I had a Strawberry Basil Mojito, which was good but a little odd.

Then we sat down at our table and ordered a bottle of red wine.


A lot of these pictures aren't the best because it was super dark in the restaurant so I had to use a flash. I apologize in advance...

First Course: (shared)

Steak Tartare*

Diced Filet Mignon with Onions, Dijon Mustard, Quail Egg,

Chilis d’Arbol, & Lemon Oil with Pommes Souffles

and hand-cut Gaufrettes


Yes, as in raw steak. :) We've had it before at one of our favorite restaurants and actually really love it. It's not NEARLY as weird as you'd think! If you like raw tuna you'd probably like this. It doesn't taste raw at all and is full of flavor. It was yummy and a great way to start off the meal!

Second Course: (Ashley)
White Sesame Scallop

Sesame-crusted Puget Sound Scallop with Herb Salad,

Cherry Tomatoes, Texas Peach, and compressed Watermelon,

in Tomato-Sanbaizu

(picture taken after I had already eaten half. :)

This course didn't impress me as much as others. It was pretty bland. But it was definitely light and fresh tasting so it's not a total failure.

Second Course: (Alex)

Crispy Oysters

Octavia on house-made Sea Salt Potato Chips

Bacon Royale with “Overnight” Tomato Vinaigrette

or

Original on Yucca Chips with Habanero-Honey Aïoli

and Pineapple Pico de Gallo



Horrible picture but REALLY tasty food! Alex ordered the "octavia" style crispy oysters but they accidentally brought us the "original" style so our waiter very kindly let us keep the original style AND brought out the octavia style. So we basically got a whole free course!

Both variations of the oysters were TO DIE FOR. Perfectly fried and crispy oysters, tangy sauce, fresh garnish. Love love love this dish!!

Third Course: (Alex)

Quail Under a Brick

Pressed Quail with braised Boggy Creek Farm New Potatoes,

seared Long Beans, & local Eggplant Purée




Alex gave this entree two thumbs up. He really enjoyed it and said the quail was perfectly cooked and very moist.

Third Course: (Ashley)

Braised Rabbit on Black Pepper Biscuit

Honey & Black Pepper Buttermilk Biscuit topped with braised

Countryside Farms’ Rabbit and Five Pepper Jelly



This was "fancy" comfort food at it's best! Warm, filling and SO tasty! The rabbit was literally falling apart it was so moist which was a huge plus! I just don't like thinking about the fact that I ate a cute little rabbit. :(

Fourth Course: (shared)

Valrhona Chocolate Intemperance

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Valrhona Dark

Chocolate Mousse & Double Chocolate Ice Cream



We actually didn't order a dessert because we were STUFFED after all that food, but the waiter felt bad that we had to wait for a while on one of our courses so he brought us a (FREE!) dessert anyway. How nice, right??

And although we claimed to be too full to eat dessert we managed to polish off this DELICIOUS flourless cake. It seriously tasted like a mix between chocolate fudge and cheesecake. So good!


If you're ever in the Austin area and looking for a delicious meal, I highly recommend Jeffrey's! It will not disappoint! Just be prepared for a rather hefty pricetag along with it. I still get a little sweaty thinking about how much we spent, even after we had the Groupon take off a significant amount. But then again, I'm super cheap so it probably isn't as big of a deal as I'm making it. :)

And now for some wedding photos of our big day, August 18, 2007.

It's kind of a pain to upload photos for me and I don't have a lot of patience today so these might seem sparse. Maybe someday I'll take the time to upload enough to really give you a better idea of how it all went down that day. :)

Waiting for for my entrance in the back of the church with my dad. I was cool, calm, collected and ready to go!


Here we go!!


The church.


Exiting through the sabre arch


First Dance as husband and wife. We danced to "Feels Like Home" sung by my BFF.


First Dance with Dad. We danced to "I Loved Her First"


Cutting our gorgeous cake with Alex's sabre.


Our dance floor was PACKED the entire night. Nobody wanted the night to end!


Ending our amazing and memorable evening.

It was truly such a special day and we were so blessed to have everything go off without a hitch! I can't believe three years have already come and gone and I can't wait to spend the next 75+ with this man I love.

Farmer's Market Pasta

Hubs and I are no longer Farmer's Market virgins!

Unfortunately there are no Farmer's Markets in our area but we spent a night in Austin this past weekend to celebrate our anniversary and there ARE Farmer's Markets in Austin. So we decided to check it out!

I didn't take any photos at the market, which I'm seriously regretting now, but we LOVED it! We got tons of fresh vegetables, free range eggs, grass-fed beef, and this...


In case you can't read the label, that would be fresh Arugula-Black Pepper Pappardelle pasta!!!!

I was really excited about this purchase, if you can't tell from all the exclamation marks. :)

I just wasn't sure what to do with it that would do it justice. I wanted the pasta's flavor to shine and not be masked by a ton of sauce.

Not marinara...too flavorful. Not cream sauce...too heavy. Hmmm....

Then browned butter sauce popped into my mind. Light (well as light as butter can be...hehe), not too heavy, mild....PERFECT!

So I googled "brown butter pasta" and found this recipe for Penne with Vegetables and Browned Butted Sauce from a newspaper article and it looked exactly like what I was wanting.


All we did to tweak it was add some chunks of chicken to the mix to make it a bit more "substantial" (aka to get my husband to eat it).

Oh and added some grated parmesan to the top because cheese makes everything better.


Good news: The hubs gave it two huge thumbs up! I was a little concerned about how he would like it and I think he actually was too, but he LOVED it!

Trying this fresh pasta also made us realize how much we really need to bust out our Kitchenaid pasta maker attachment soon and make our own pasta. Fresh pasta is SO much better than dried!! So keep an eye out for future pasta making adventures.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Houston we have a Dinner

I'm still not completely back to my normal cooking self, but I did finally take the time to cook a little something tonight. Not something ready made from the freezer. That's a step forward! :)



This is really just Cod drizzled in a bit of olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with Mrs. Dash baked in the oven until cooked through.


I'm not going to lie, it wasn't great, but oh well. It was a spur of the moment type thing.


The potato/green bean side dish was one of the Green Giant Steam Bag things. They're the BEST for quick and easy side dishes!


In other news, yesterday was our 3rd anniversary!


It's been the most wonderful 3 years of my life (even despite a year long deployment thrown in the middle) and I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful man in my life.


I don't have any photos from the wedding to share right now BECAUSE I'M TYPING THIS ON MY BRAND NEW MACBOOK PRO LAPTOP (!!!) and I haven't finished moving all my pictures to it yet.


The MacBook was an anniversary gift of sorts from the hubs...but really he was just tired of me stealing his laptop all.the.time so he broke down and bought me my own.


I was semi-expecting to get a laptop sometime in the near future but I was NOT expecting a Mac. I was shocked when I opened it!


See? I told you I was lucky!


I was messing around with the cool photobooth and video recording capabilities this evening and being EXTREMELY silly recording some "test videos".


I never planned on sharing these but they make me laugh at myself really hard (and laughing is something I need to do more of these days). Don't judge the dorkiness or the workout attire! :)



video

(Sorry about the chest shot there....I was turning the computer over so I could read the back of it. I had a blonde moment!! :)


And the silliness didn't stop there...


video


:)

Edited to Add: Apparently the videos aren't working now. They seemed to be working fine last night so I don't know what happened. Oh well! It will probably save me some embarrassment that way.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Numb.

I'm ready to explain what's going on with my dad.

My dad had been having a lot of excruciating back pain so he went in for a MRI to try and diagnose the problem. The results of the MRI shocked us all....he had a large tumor on his spine that needed surgery immediately. That was about a week and a half ago.

Last Wednesday was the surgery. Spinal surgery is extremely risky, for obvious reasons since the spine is the backbone (literally) of the body. We were so nervous going into the surgery because we didn't know if removing the tumor was going to require major spine rebuilding and a long recovery.

We sat around for hours on Wednesday in a crowded waiting room and eventually got word that the surgery went well. They were able to remove most of the tumor without any major spine damage and should help relieve a lot of the back pain he was having.

Then came the scary news.

They took a piece of the tumor for testing and found out it was cancerous.

Plasmacytoma to be exact.

What the hell is plasmacytoma? Basically it's a malignant plasma cell tumor growing within soft tissue or within the skeleton. Luckily, it's easily treatable with localized radiation therapy, which my dad is going to start receiving next week.

The problem with plasmacytoma is that in 70% of the cases patients with plasmacytoma later develop multiple myeloma within a 10 year period.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow and can affect many parts of the body. Chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant are the most effective treatment. {Can you say deja vu??? Here we go again.}

At this point my dad still has to undergo a bunch of tests this week, including a bone marrow aspiration, to determine whether he already has multiple myeloma or if it is only plasmacytoma. Obviously we are hoping for the latter.

So that's where we stand right now. It has all happened so fast and unexpectedly that it's been really hard for me to come to terms with that scary word: CANCER.

I think the best way to describe how I've been feeling is numb. I really don't think it's fully hit me yet and I'm still trying to come to terms with it.

The good news is that my dad is a fighter and he certainly won't let a little thing called cancer take control of him without a fight. Plus, he's got an army of prayers raining down on him from all of the people who love him.

So as you can see, I've been dealing with a lot of emotions lately and just haven't felt up to blogging. I guess I sorta lost my mojo, if you will. Plus, I spent Tuesday night through Sunday afternoon in Houston with my family so I've been away from home for a while.

I was feeling very overwhelmed by returning to work today and acting like everything was normal when everything felt completely abnormal to me.

Luckily my friend Connie brought Alex and I dinner for tonight which was a HUGE relief since I just couldn't muster up the energy to go grocery shopping.

So I present to you my first What's for Dinner post in about two weeks:


Delicious lasagna, salad & garlic bread a la Connie.

Food never tasted so good. Seriously.

Thanks, Connie!

And thank you all for still reading my blog and not giving up on me. I promise I'll try to get my mojo back ASAP!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Excuse My Absence

You'll have to excuse my absence over the past couple of days.

On Thursday I found out some scary news about my dad's health and needless to say I've been pretty distracted.

I'm sorry I'm being vague but I don't think I'm quite ready to "put it all out there" yet. At this point it's just a whole lot of questions and not a lot of answers.

I hope to have a recap post up tonight of the past few dinners but I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself to get it done. If it happens, it happens. If not, oh well.

If you're the praying type, please pray for my dad's health. I would really appreciate it.

Thank you!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

{Mostly} Wordless Wednesday

I'm going to participate in my very first {Mostly} Wordless Wednesday! Pretty much only because I'm feeling lazy and like I don't have much to say, but I'm too wordy to have a completely wordless Wednesday. :)

Here we go:



What's for Dinner? 8/4/2010

-Alex's Turkey Meatloaf Muffins
-Mashed 'Taters
-Steamed Broccoli

Comfort food at it's best!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lazy Girl's Peach Cobbler

So this is my latest dessert obsession:


I like to call it Lazy Girl's {or Boy's} Peach Cobbler.

On the way home from the Ranch we made another stop in Fredricksburg, TX to buy some of their amazing fresh peaches. When we were there we also decided to sample their ice cream, which they served with fresh syrupy peaches on top. It was sooooo good.

The following night my sweet Hubs surprised me by bringing home light vanilla ice cream and trying to recreate the peach sauce.

And I have to say, I think his version was BETTER than the one we bought! Plus, I spruced it up into a cobbler-esque dessert by adding a few simple toppings and then it was REALLY out of this world delicious!

The Ingredients:

1 fresh peach, peeled and diced
1 packet of Splenda {or other sweetener}

vanilla ice cream
sprinkle of cinnamon
granola

To make the "peach sauce" just mash up the peaches and the sweetener with a fork or a potato masher until the juices start to come out.

Scoop ice cream into a bowl. Top with the peach sauce, sprinkle with some cinnamon, and then top with granola.


OMG. Sooooo good! And really not all that horrible for you...especially if you use light ice cream or yogurt.

Ohhhh yogurt. This would make a really delicious breakfast concoction too by subbing greek yogurt for the ice cream. Mmmmmm. Now my gears are turning again!

Not Fooled

Tonight I am in RELIEF mode.

Today at work we had one of our major bi-annual events at my job and I am SOOOOO relieved that it's O.V.E.R. Every time it stresses me out and is a huge task to coordinate and keep track of everything that needs doing.

I seriously breathed a huge sigh of relief at 3pm today when it was over. Woohoo!! No more of that stress for another few months.

And in another a few months I could possibly be leaving my job to PCS (a.k.a. move) to another state for the Hubs' job.

Soooooo perhaps this was my last stressful/least-favorite event at this job EVER?!?! That actually makes me really happy to think about. Is that bad?!? I think I'm ready for a change.

Anyway dinner tonight was one of our favorite fall-backs:


BLTAMs! ! ! ! !

Deeeee-freaking-licious. I can't get enough of these.

I think I could survive on pizza, BLTAMs, and Mexican food alone and be happy as a clam. Healthy, no?


I planned to bake up some sweet potato fries for a side dish but ran out of time because I spent some time on the phone catching up with a really great friend tonight.

So instead of the sweet potato fries I tried to "trick myself" into thinking I was eating fries by throwing some raw carrots on a plate and drizzling them in light Ranch dressing. Raw carrot fries, if you will.

I'm not gonna lie, it wasn't nearly as good as sweet potato fries would have been. I only ate a couple sticks and then fed the rest to the Libs. She seemed to enjoy them thoroughly, so at least they didn't go to waste!

Do you ever try to trick yourself? How does it work out for you?

Also, what's your favorite fall-back meal?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ethnic Love

I didn't take any food photos at the ranch. It was just the last thing on my mind as we were celebrating such a profound moment for our family. I'm sure you'll all understand.

So let's skip ahead to Sunday evening, shortly after we arrived back home.

I busted out some of these that I stole from the pantry at the ranch:

TastyBite Madras Lentils

I feel a little bad about stealing them but I couldn't help it! They looked interesting and delicious and who knows how long they had been in that pantry all lonely.

Basically it comes in a pouch and you just squeeze it into a bowl and heat it up in the microwave or the stove.

The consistency of it was a bit more soupy than I expected. I would have liked more thickness and more lentils/beans.

Then I dumped in some cooked brown rice and chowed down.

My overall review: Eh. Just okay.

Honestly it reminded me a lot of canned chili, which isn't necessarily a good thing when you're wanting an Indian dish.

I ate all of it though, which goes to show you that I didn't hate it. And by all I mean the whole box (plus rice)...which is supposed to be "2 servings".

I would probably buy it again but I might try a different variety next time to see if it's less "chili-like" and more "Indian-like". :)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tonight we made Peanut Shrimp for dinner:


I bookmarked this post over at Carrots 'n Cake when she blogged about making Peanut Shrimp.

She basically just made this Rachael Ray recipe for Peanut Chicken with shrimp, which is what I did as well.

When we finished cooking it I realized that there was a ton of extra sauce so we stirred the steamed broccoli that we were planning on eating on the side right into the dish. It was a great addition!

We also added about a teaspoon of this to up the flavor and spice:

Almost out! Need to restock.

I thought it was really good but Hubs actually said he thought the peanut buttery-ness was a little overwhelming (which is saying a lot since he is a peanut butter FREAK).

He said next time he would decrease the peanut butter to about 1/2 cup. Fair enough.


Oh one more thing, I have no idea why Rachael calls for 1/4 cup of oil to cook the chicken/shrimp in. That seems a little ridiculous. So we decreased the oil to about 1/8 cup or 1-2 tablespoons.

We served the Peanut Shrimp over brown rice, which is a must with all the extra sauce that this recipe made!

I just realized that the past two dinners have been very ethnic. First, Indian....then Thai. Probably my two favorite types of ethnic foods! I think it's the spice.

Do you enjoy ethnic food? What's your favorite kind?

Blessed

This weekend was a blessed one, to say the least.

We marveled in the beauty of some of God's creatures:



We admired the nature that God created:




We danced:
My aunt teaching my cousin to 2 step


We cherished God's children:
My two youngest cousins, also known as the TWINS! How adorable are they??

My grandma reading to two of the baby cousins


There were some tears!


We cherished the time spent with our family members:
Cousins hay bail jumping

My dad getting a (loving) right hook from my cousin




But most importantly, we celebrated LIFE.

The life of one of our family members...

Ryan, the bone marrow donor, on the left; Thomas, the marrow receiver, on the right

...and the 21 year old who gave selflessly to a stranger to save his life.


Thomas, his parents, and his siblings with Ryan


Blessed really is the only way to sum up the weekend in one word.


I know I promised you a recap of Ryan's experience as a donor so here it goes:


Ryan, a 19 year old (at the time) Clemson student, was swabbed for the bone marrow registry when his ex-girlfriend's family member was fighting leukemia, hoping that he would be a match for her. He wasn't.

But 2 months later he got a phone call saying that he was a potential match for someone else...a stranger. They asked him to come in for further testing to determine if he was indeed a match.

At this point I asked Ryan "So did you hesitate at all?"

His response: "No. Why would I? If I could give someone something that I didn't need that would help them survive, why would I ever NOT do that?"

Amazing, right?

So he went in for the testing and had TONS of blood drawn.

Then a few weeks later he got another call. This time they said that he WAS a match for a leukemia patient.

He immediately agreed to go through with the procedure and donate his marrow.

For the procedure, Ryan was put under with general anesthesia and then the doctors inserted large needle-like things into his lower back/butt area over and over again, harvesting his bone marrow.

He was able to leave the hospital that evening without being admitted overnight. He said the only pain was his lower back/butt felt like it got kicked really hard for about a week.

He even returned to college classes the following day after the procedure, although he didn't recommend this. :)

And that was it. Immediately after they harvested Ryan's marrow it was flown to the hospital where Thomas was and they started pumping it into his body.
And that was the beginning of Thomas' new cancer-free story.

I truly don't think Ryan realizes just how selfless he really is. His laid back personality seemed to think it was no big deal at all. It was really amazing.

I loved getting to know him and I loved hearing his story.

Don't forget to order your kit and get registered.

You never know when you could be the next Ryan for some other family.