Madame President and Me

Oh my Madame President. We have worked so hard with you. We had a rough start (think colic, reflux, eeeek!) but we have really come together. You have been amazing lately. All you say is “Hi Mommy! I love you!” It makes me feel so good.

Sure, we have our downsides. But I am learning to be more patient and empathetic. When baby is happy, mama is happy. You get frustrated when pieces don’t fit. You are the pickiest eater in the world (which is just so ironic because I love to cook). You are a spirited little thing (like me). But oh man, you make my heart melt with your sweetness and your love for play and other people.

I hope we aren’t spoiling you. But I want to make sure all your needs are met during this time of family crisis. You truly are my bright shining star to get me through this dang thing called cancer.

I love you my Ella Mae, and I am here for you forever. You even have your own e-mail address so that I can write to you when my heart is full. Fancy girl.

That’s all for now, hug your littles and have a good Tuesday. Only two more days left of radiation and hopefully we’ll hear from U.C. Davis soon to arrange my chemotherapy.

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More of Mama’s favorite Pinterest things.

Cooking and eating (relatively healthy — with the exception of cupcakes!) have really been helping to keep me calm.  Oh. My. Pinterest.

I wanted to share a few more blogs/cooking ideas as they are too delicious and helpful not to!

(1)  The first being these divine pretzels, I have already made them twice to rave reviews.  You actually may want to make a double batch.  I could eat these ALL DAY LONG.  Use coarse salt and butter (I always use a healthy dose of mustard too when consuming), and I would check on them baking after 7 minutes or so.  Also make sure the pan is nice and greasy.

http://fifteenspatulas.com/2011/12/12/hot-buttered-fluffy-pretzels/

(2)  Basil Chicken in Coconut Sauce

Just plain and easy and yummy for dinner.  Even Ryan likes it.

http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2009/09/basil-chicken-in-coconut-curry-sauce.html

And (3) an easy chocolate cupcake recipe to fall back on.  I love recipes that just WORK.

http://bakingbites.com/2007/06/easy-chocolate-cupcakes/#comments

So happy baking and cooking, more updates on how I am doing next blog entry, just wanted to share some goodness this time around.  Enjoy the long weekend!

Goodness gracious.

Let’s start with some fun news first.  Sweetie Cheeks (yes, my baking business is still up and running) will now be offering a selection of four cookies at a new, local East Sacramento ice cream shop called La Bombe http://www.labombeicecream.com/.  Yay.  La Bombe will be offering Sweetie Cheeks’ well-known flat macaroon cookie with coconut ice cream, a crisp chocolate chip cookie, a chewy peanut butter cookie, and a new Sweetie Cheeks shortbread cookie creation with sesame seeds, coconut, and pecans.  I am really excited.

This is perfect because I have been looking forward to something like this for a while and it is an excellent distraction from all the challenges I have been recently given.

So, a little health update in addition to my fun baking news.  Yesterday I had my Pet Scan (which is basically the scans of all scans).  It was crazy.  I have had one before but this one was a little different as they found an issue with my lung due to the recent lung biopsy. Ouch. I am on oxygen now and require a couple more x-rays to make sure I am breathing correctly.  I am assuming I will be fine, I am not really short of breath and the oxygen does help.  I am still walking, cooking, eating, typing, etc. so that is all good.  I am pretending I am one of the old Italian guys in GoodFellas.  It’s been hard to be away from Ella Mae though.  I can’t wait to see her tonight.

We also got a more comprehensive review of what is going on in my body.  So we are obviously dealing with the 5 brain lesions and are using radiation to hopefully rid my head of these horrible things.  The Pet Scan showed cancer in both lungs (not too much of a surprise — this is an extension of my breast cancer) as well as in my spine (sigh — new news) and left scapula (another surprise).  I definitely wasn’t expecting that.  A lymph node looked ok so that’s good and they are still uncertain about a spot on my liver.  Another sigh.  This is just so much to retain.  I just want to be better.  I can’t believe a body I have been taking care of has done this to me. I am not perfect, I like to eat and drink and have fun, but I do exercise and love healthy food.  Blah.

So.  Treatment.  We are getting a second opinion at U.C. Davis and I will do anything possible to get better.   Chemotherapy is definitely in my future and I am praying for strength to get through this.  Chemo is hard.  It makes you feel so sick and helpless.  A strategy that was brought up is that chemo may be administered once a week for two weeks, and then off for one week.  They aren’t sure the duration or types of drugs as it seems like I will have to do a clinical trial.

So that’s all for now, I just want to share a bit of good news and provide status on what’s going on today.  Thank you readers, I appreciate everything so much.  Please take care.  xoxo CP

To a sweet Sunday.

So ….. We are actually doing ok. I’m very proud of myself. I am still scared, but managing it in a way I can handle and am starting to find small joys again in things I used to like before (Pinterest, clothes, etc.) Not being able to exercise has been very hard but that just would not be the most comfortable choice for my poor little head right now. I have been trying to take walks which can be extremely rejuvenating (but not the same as Zumba).

So, I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday as to why/how I’m doing ok (god I don’t want to jinx it). I just never felt 100% safe after I was given the all- clear from breast cancer last year on July 25. I kept waiting for the other ball to drop. Waiting for something to come back. I’m not sure why, I was trying so hard to function and live my normal life, but I just never felt good. I was tense, worried, and doing my best to fake it. It was awful. Not a day went by when i wasn’t struck by the fear that my cancer had returned, even in the smallest capacity. So with all these new developments, it just happened. The cancer came back and I have to be strong. I can’t control it but the other shoe has dropped and we are forced as family and friends to deal with it as tearfully and as gracefully as possible.

Sigh. Thank you my readers for listening. The outcome of support is so overwhelming and beautiful. I could not make it through the days without you. xo CP

Now what just happened????

Wow. It’s been a horrible two weeks to say in the least. But I’m here, so that is good. My breast cancer seemed to have come back, and not in any nice way. I had a terrible headache for weeks and it got so bad I had to go to the ER. It turned out cancerous lesions (5) made it onto my head and was causing all the pressure and suffering. Sad face. I had a shunt put in by a very nice neurosurgeon to relieve the pressure (thank goodness) and started brain radiation immediately. It’s actually going well, I’m just a nervous nelly a lot of the time. Radiation will be done in about a week but I think this might be the easy part.

So they’re not quite sure what they are going to do with me yet, my oncologist is out of town (well-deserved, he’s great) just because there are a few different things going on. I’m up for another PET Scan which scans your whole body radioactively and this darn lung biopsy. There may be a spot on my liver but they’re not super worried about so I can let that go. A lymph node in my right arm may be wanting to cause a problem but as my dad says, we probably have most of the bad information, and the doctors are going to collect it as to be able to research and make the best choices for chemo and I can get this junk out of my body!!!!! Dang my body is mad right now. It is begging for a Zumba class. I will be getting a second opinion at UC Davis and I keep reminding myself this is not hopeless, even if we don’t have a treatment plan yet. There seem to be a few options.

Each day is different. I’m tired. I try to be happy I have been given another day with my daughter. But shit, this is unfair. The weather is gorgeous and my wine is waiting for me! And wine sounds terrible! My job has been so supportive. My friends are truly angels. I have not been left wanting.

Thank you for listening. Life is so complicated yet so beautiful. I want everyone to do one fun thing this weekend cause its spring and everyone deserves it!!!!!! Seriously, I could not find the light of these past days without everyone’s continued support and love. It makes my heart full so I can pull through another couple hours and find a smile again. xo

The New Jones’

Your kids just need YOU. There could not be a statement more true. They don’t need fancy, they don’t need anything elaborate/complicated. They don’t need anything special, really. They just need you. Their wonderful, loving, warm-bodied, crazy-eyed, frazzled, mom.

I recently skimmed an article that was posted on Facebook regarding this topic (Your Children Want YOU!). With the explosion of sites like Etsy, Pinterest, and several knock-offs, there has been an ongoing struggle to keep up with the new Jones’ – the DIY-ers and the craftsters. OMG indeed.

Take for example birthday parties. Now, these aren’t your traditional, simple, parties with just family and cake anymore. These are serious events. We are talking major spreads with themes and coordinating everything. Not to mention the DIY factor. There is DIY everything nowadays, from party edibles to hand-sewn decorations. Thanks to the original DIY-queen, Martha, there are a million and one ways to personalize your party. My daughter’s second birthday party was an ice cream social complete with coordinating invites, tablecloths, and every topping you could imagine. Sheesh.

But seriously. My kid doesn’t care about this stuff. (Of course not – she’s two.) Ella Mae’s idea of a perfect party would be some fun music to dance to with mom (preferably in her princess nightgown), a giant chocolate cake, and, well, that’s about it. She doesn’t need much. She just needs me.

I am so very guilty of trying to emulate the craftsters. I admit it. I have a serious addiction to Pinterest and I love it.

I bake for fun (Sweetie Cheeks shameless self-promotion!) and craft to relax. But. And there is a huge BUT. I can get carried away. Homemade soap. Homemade play-dough. Pretzels from scratch. Don’t even get me started on my baking business. There are dishes for miles in my kitchen and my husband is left to clean them, scratching his head wondering how he got into this mess. Literally!

But, I have started to take a step back and make sure with each new project I take on that I am doing it for the right reason. Is it fun? Am I smiling? Am I completely ignoring my kid just so that she can have a perfectly coordinated/creative/ room/party/etc.? Am I trying to too hard to make something perfect and look just like the picture when it doesn’t need to be? If something is more frustrating than enjoyable, or if Ella Mae is crawling up my leg because I have been immersed in a project for the past 12 hours (a gross exaggeration), I admit I have to let it go. It’s hard because I love to create, but there is a limit and my toddler’s desire for me trumps all things Jones.

No recipe (gonna read a book with missy instead), but the promised salted caramel cupcake tutorial is to come next time! Thanks for reading.

Oh. My. Pinterest.

Oh my Pinterest.

Yes.  You all have seen me.  I met a new friend Pinterest this year and I cannot get enough of her.  I pin.  I comment.  I post.  It’s wonderful.

Pinterest has become my source of creative inspiration for all things baking, cooking and crafting.  [Insert sigh of happiness.]  I have even learned a few organizational tips that have been very useful in keeping my darling but (very) cozy 1,100 square foot home well-kept.

I’d like to spread the Pinterest love this weekend and share a few of my favorite links.  All have been tried, tested, and husband/Madame President-approved (and I even managed to post pictures this time).  These are pins where if you make what they tell you, it looks like the picture.  And who doesn’t love that.

Mama’s Top 5 Pins:

 (1)  Blackberry Pie Bars (to make your family and co-workers swoon)  – courtesy of the Pink Parsley.

http://www.pink-parsley.com/2011/05/ppq-blackberry-pie-bars.html

(2)  Buttermilk Roast Chicken (the best chicken you will ever eat) – courtesy of the Smitten Kitchen.

http://smittenkitchen.com/2012/01/buttermilk-roast-chicken

(3)  Homemade Liquid Soap (to finally get rid of all those bars of random soap you get for gifts during the holidays) – courtesy of the Burlap Bag.

http://www.theburlapbag.com/2011/11/diy-making-a-gallon-of-liquid-soap-for-4/

(4)  Chicken Pot Pie (so good your husband will offer to do the dishes) – courtesy of The Girl Who Ate Everything.

http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com/2009/06/chicken-pot-pie.html

(5)  Pink black-bottomed cupcakes with icing – courtesy of iheart2stamp by Jen Muro.

http://iheart2stamp.com/2010/06/

Next time . . . . . Salted Caramel cupcake tutorial.  After the caramel started behaving and turned into a gooey glob of heaven, I somehow managed to not eat all of them.

Sneak peak (pictured with their Classic American cupcake counterpart) . . . . .

Oh. My. Facebook.

Okay, I admit it.  I am a Facebook fiend.  It’s pretty bad.  I have hundreds of friends and I post status updates almost daily.  I comment on and like almost everything.   I connect with old friends, commiserate with other moms, and use my page to gain readership for this blog.  Facebook is now something that I absolutely cannot live without.  But, man, like any relationship, my Facebook can drive me crazy!

The source of my craziness are the “Omg, you have got to be kidding [insert eye roll].” posts.

You have read these posts right?  About dreamy sunsets, husbands sending flowers on a daily basis, marvelous dinners out seemingly every night of the week, and the non-crying children who love to pose peacefully in wine barrels (in black and white of course)?  These people must be lying.  I can barely get the dog to listen to me, much less get Ella Mae to sit still for a picture.  Any picture.   Of course these nice things do happen.  They have even happened to me.  But your life being perfect all the time?  Come on people.  And it’s not just the girls constantly posting about their oh so glorious days/nights of the week.  Guys do it too!

These posts are the posts I am talking about:

“I have the most perfect husband.  He built me a new house, bought me 16 pairs of Jimmy Choos, and did all of our grocery shopping for the year today.  Without asking.  He just did everything because he is the most resourceful and wonderful man.  I love you baby.  I just can’t wait until you come home.”  Omg.  Gag.  Ryan is wonderful and resourceful but would expect me to serve him dinner in only an apron for the rest of my life should he perform any of the previously mentioned tasks.

“I just gave birth.  My child is so perfect he/she is already sleeping through the night.  I am rested, relaxed, and even had time to bake cookies.  From scratch.”  Really now.  My two-year has suddenly decided our bed is the place to be.  So we don’t sleep much anymore.  And I do bake cookies, but they end up being our breakfast.

“We just traveled around the world.  We don’t need to work, our money grows on trees.  Life is good.”  Enough said.

So you have three choices when you see these posts.  You can either turn a lovely shade of green (which I admit to have done in the past), be happy for your “friends” that are experiencing such good fortune (boring), or you can make fun of them and then write about these people on your blog.  (He he.)

I am not a hater.  I promise!  I even like hearing about everyone’s fancy lives most of the time.  But it would be so cool if people used Facebook every once in a while to talk about how imperfect (read: real) their lives are.  Spice it up a little.  Make those of us who are just grateful that they got an semi-uninterrupted shower this morning feel a little less bad for eating frozen waffles for dinner.  With their wine.

My life is chaotic, colorful (a fancy word for disorganized), and not always pretty.  In fact, it can get downright ugly.  But it’s mine.  I am proud of it and I will never, ever, be accused of being boring.  So I will own it and live it, and will post as such on my Facebook status for the world to see.  And maybe someone will comment and say they feel the same way I do.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Since we are all being honest, I am tired and am going to eat ice cream in my bathrobe instead of posting a recipe.  I will give you really, really good one next time.  Promise.  xoxo

Do you really heart boobies? Or are you just saying that?

So.  I am just going to come out and say it.  I am a breast cancer survivor.  Ick.  I really don’t even like typing that.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am VERY glad to be here.  I just hate being associated with the disease.  And I don’t heart boobies right now.  At all.

My boobs have seriously let me down.  What once were my most prideful assets (they looked good, people) are now the source of so much pain and stress.  One now looks WAY different than the other.  They used to look great in a bikini, fed my kid, and were the source of well-received compliments.  And now I wish I never had them.  (Sigh.)

I have been cancer-free since July 25, 2011.  Six months out.  So I am a newbie to this whole breast cancer thing.  It still hurts, but day by day I am getting through it.  My hair is growing back and I am slowly losing the weight I put on from treatment.  It threw my seven-year relationship with my husband through a massive loop but we are slowing putting our lives back to together.  Happy hour is in my vocabulary again and my two-year old likes me (today).  So life is good.

But.  I need to address the t-shirts.  Oh the t-shirts.  I feel like there are so many!  I Heart Boobies, Boobies are Rad, Save the Ta-Ta’s.  I get it.  Don’t mess with the boobies.  No one knows this better than me.  These shirts were designed as a way to positively communicate about breast cancer to young people and to create awareness about the disease.  Funds from shirts purchased go to independent scientific research and grants to be awarded that conduct such research.  I’m okay with these shirts.  They’re funny and  do good things.  I just want to be sure that people understand what they mean as it’s very easy to make light of something that has the word boobie on it.  Just sayin’.

This post was inspired by a conversation with a teenager I saw in line at Target.   This was at the end of my chemotherapy treatments, and before radiation.  He looked like your typical teen hipster youth, probably not older than 15 years old.  He looked like he had something better to do than be at Target.  I looked terrible.  He had an I Heart Boobies wristband on so I commented on how I liked his wristband and that it was good that he was supporting such an important cause.  Let’s just say the conversation wasn’t fruitful.  He looked at me like I had a disease (well, I did), mumbled something, and then turned the other way.  (Another big sigh.)

Granted, this was a young kid and I am probably being too hard on him.  Bald grown-ups probably don’t talk to him that much.  So I probably startled him.  My point is, to me, as a survivor,  these t-shirts and wristbands make a powerful statement.  So much that I need to know the story behind it.  If I see someone wearing one, I wonder, does their mom have breast cancer?  Does their Grandma have breast cancer?  Does their best friend’s aunt have breast cancer?  Do they really just like boobs?  What’s their story here?  Why are they wearing this shirt?

Bottom line is, if you wear one of these popular shirts or wristbands, please do so with purpose as they were created to serve a very important cause:  Boobies are nice and we need to take care of them.  We also need to remember to  take care of someone whose boobies weren’t so nice to them.  They would really appreciate that.  Also know if you are wearing one of these shirts, someone will probably want to talk to you because it does have the word boobie on it.  So you should probably know what that means.

In the spirit of being pink, here is a recipe for some delicious pink lemonade (courtesy of Ina Garten).  We can pretend like it’s spring, right?  Helpful hint:  Don’t forget the vodka.  Add as much as you would like.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (5 to 6 lemons)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup superfine sugar, to taste
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons grenadine
  • 6 maraschino cherries
  • Vodka

Place the lemon juice, sugar, ice, water, and grenadine in a blender and process until completely smooth. Place a cherry in the bottom of 6 glasses and pour the lemon juice mixture in the glass.  Add vodka. (Insert sigh of happiness.)

Why I love work, and why work (hopefully) loves me.

The alarm goes off.  I remember when this used to make me scrunch even deeper into my nest of covers and groan.  But instead, I roll over, feed my Facebook addiction (I mean, something could have happened during the 7 or 8 hours I have been asleep!) and get out of bed, not a complaint to be heard, near nor far.  I tame my nest of curls, wash my face, get dressed, and, if I am super organized, make a nice hot soy chai to drink in the car during my (gasp!) 10 minute commute.  Madame President is usually still asleep at this time, another bonus.

So why all this compliance?  Why do I never experience a lame-ass case of the Mondays?  Because I work part-time.  And I don’t work Mondays.  Hah.

Yes.  I have it pretty good here.  And I am not writing this to brag.  I am writing this in the hopes of sharing what works for our family.  I work 3 1/2 days a week, instead of the usual obligatory 5.  The thought of working 5 days a week  now makes me shudder.  Does this make me a bad employee?  I think not.  This actually makes me a GREAT employee.

I now LOOK FORWARD to going to work most days.  I get to the office with a dang smile on my face and I am happy to be there.  I have an annoying bounce to my step and am productive with my work assignments.   I can focus on my tasks at hand and not worry constantly about my mommy to-do list.  Why?  Because I am not burnt out.  I am not tired (most of the time.  And if I am, it’s usually my own fault because I had one too many at happy hour. Or Madame has given me the rare 5 a.m. wake-up call).  I have had an extra day off to spend with my kid and get my shopping done (usually).  I have been able to have a playdate with a friend without cramming everything into one Saturday.  Being able to work 30 hours a week with a young child has given me enough time at home (although I would like more but let’s be reasonable), and enough time outside of my house to make me feel like a productive member of society.  And I really like it.

I realize that this is not  a possibility for most working moms (or dads).  Which sucks.  Many organizations do not offer part-time employment or parents have to work full-time because of financial obligations.  My employer has supported my need to work a reduced time-base and as a result, I can be at my best in both my worlds.  But, my husband and I have made sacrifices to make this feasible for us.  We live in a modest house (no McMansion for us!) and drive modest cars.  We take our lunches most days and I have become no stranger to the Grocery Outlet and other bargain venues I never dreamed I would be stepping foot in.  But to me, the small sacrifices are worth my sanity.  And my family and place of work reap the benefits.

To keep with the theme of busy families, I would like to share a great recipe that can either be prepared the night before and popped in the oven right when you get home from the office, or put together very easily about a 1/2 hour before dinnertime.  (We even had this tonight.)  I usually serve with rice pilaf and green peas from the freezer or steamed ready-cut broccoli.   And a bottle of  delicious $5 wine from Trader Joe’s (no more $15 weeknight bottles for us!).

Parmesan Dijon Chicken

1 cup bread crumbs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup melted butter

2/3 cup Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons Vermouth

4 whole chicken breasts (cut in half)

In a shallow pan, combine bread crumbs, cheese, and butter.  In another shallow pan, mix mustard and wine.  Dip chicken in mustard/wine mixture, and then in bread crumb mixture.  Arrange chicken pieces slightly apart in a greased (cooking spray is fine) baking dish.  (At this point you can cover and refrigerate).

Bake, uncovered at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center.  You can garnish with parsley and lemon if you are feeling fancy.

Serves 4-6.  Great leftovers too!