Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Leah's Pumpkin Apple Bread

Couldn't help but share this recipe from our daughter Leah's blog today. She got the recipe from a friend at work and made it for Thanksgiving...it was delicious! I think it would be tasty for Christmas as well, and the apples put a little twist on the traditional pumpkin bread. Spread a little cream cheese or butter on a warm slice and yum...pure pumpkin heaven!

Pumpkin Apple Bread


Baking Soda
Ground Nutmeg
Ground Cloves
All Spice
16 oz can Pumpkin
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 apples, peeled and chopped


Sift together in large bowl: 3 cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1.5 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp all spice.

In seperate large bowl whisk: 16 oz can pumpkin, 3/4 cup oil, 4 eggs slightly beaten, 2 1/4 cup sugar.

Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture. Stir well until combined. Fold in 2 apples, peeled and chopped (approximately 2 cups).

Make topping: 1 T flour, 5 T sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 T butter crumbled into coarse meal). Set aside.

Divide batter between two, 9"x5"x3" butter loaf pans. Sprinkle with topping. Bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool in pan on racks for 45 minutes. Remove and cool completely. Can be kept chilled in fridge for 1 week or in freezer for 1 month.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Difficult, but so very thankful!

As we look back on the past 11 months, many of our memories are difficult...the day we learned that Ernie had "abnormal cells" in his sacrum, the day we learned those cells were a plasmacytoma, the day he was terminated from his job, the day we learned he had multiple myeloma, the day he was taken by ambulance to the hospital because nerve pain down his legs from the damaged sacrum prevented him from walking, 26 days bedridden in the hospital unable to sit and get to standing, pneumonia, a failed effort at using a pain pump administering insane levels of morphine, 23 chemotherapy infusions, 22 radiation treatments, and a bone marrow transplant (high dose chemo, hair loss, nausea, isolation, weakness).

Yet, in spite of all of that, we can honestly say that the past 11 months have held some of the best moments and memories of our lives...and for that we are so very thankful. What a blessing to welcome two new grandchildren this year, with another one on the way! Our family has rallied round us, loved us, cried with us, prayed with us, supported us, cheered for us, and most of all, walked with us every step of the way. Our kids have shown maturity beyond their years. We have always been very close, but we can honestly say that cancer has brought us even closer. We really can't adequately express what they mean to us. We just love them beyond words.

Samantha and Samuel arrived in February

Natalie, Tara, Samantha,Samuel, Jamie and Nathan...now a family of 6!

Kyle (Tyson) and Leah - parents to be

Our "undercover" granddaughter due in March

"Uncle" Nick

Mom Stout  

Dad Baker
Mom Baker
Milo and Abby - forever faithful!

Our extended family, church family, neighbors and friends have also supported and loved us in ways we never even imagined. We are blessed beyond measure. Travel back to our post entitled Love Is to see what we mean. Thank you all for everything you have done for us!

This Thanksgiving we pray you enjoy your family, friends and food, count your blessings, love one another, have a grateful heart, and choose to be an encouragement to others. Don't wait for a holiday to get started.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Amazing Allison...Our New Curtains!

Some of you might remember that while we were in the apartment for Ernie's transplant, we arranged for some changes to be made to our bedroom...new paint and faux wood blinds. All of this was an effort to make it cooler and darker so Ernie could rest. It also sounded like a good idea to make the colors and decor more masculine (previously yellow and floral) since he now spends quite a bit of time there working and sleeping. The plan worked a little too well as we often find ourselves opening our eyes at 9:15 in the morning!!

Well, some of the final touches to our "bedroom re-do" arrived this week when Allison came over with hardware and curtains! A couple of years ago Ernie worked at her house converting a bonus room into a master bath, walk-in closet, and a bathroom and closet for her daughters. She has been wanting to do something special for us, and actually had a set of drapes she had made for a show, that would frame our windows perfectly! She made an additional panel, ordered the rods and rings, and came on over last week. Here she is at work, with Ernie happily assisting:

We feel so blessed to have such beautiful custom curtains, with gorgeous rods and rings, to add a touch of color and warmth to our room (these are definately more for me than for Ernie!). So often our bedroom is the last room we pay attention to, and I am so happy to have a place of rest, relaxation and beauty. Thank you so much Allison for uisng your resources, time and talent to do this for us! We love you!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Fall and our first CSA experience

Fall has come forth with gorgeous harvest colors and bountiful winter vegetables. In an effort to eat more organic and support a local farmer, we signed up for our first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) experience with Brinkley Farms in Creedmoor, NC.. We order our food by Sunday evening, based on what they have available, then we pick our box up every Thursday at the farm. So far we have tried buttercrunch lettuce, butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, delicata squash and pie pumpkins. I've enjoyed trying new recipes and learning more about how to prepare these veggies. Our favorite, by far, is Caramelized Butternut Squash by the Barefoot Contessa!

Pork has also been available, so we have ordered thick pork chops as well as ribs, brats, breakfast sausage, hot Italian sausage and Boston butt roast. Everything we have tried so far has been delicious!

We look forward to new vegetables, chicken and beef in the future, and are committed to trying new things as we enjoy our Winter CSA!

I think Fall is quickly becoming my favorite season. The leaves this year look brighter than ever with reds that are so vibrant, yellows that just glow, and oranges that light up like fire. Perhaps we have slowed down enough to notice, or perhaps we just don't take things so for granted anymore. Whatever the reason, we will forever marvel at God's beautiful handiwork and be grateful. Here are a few pictures taken right in our yard...looking at them every time we walk or pull into our driveway never gets old!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kyle's Half Marathon - He Dominated!

Our son-in-law, Kyle, just ran his first half marathon in Nashville, TN this past weekend and did awesome! We are so very proud of him and all the training and planning that went in to this race. His sister and her husband ran in the race as well, and it turned out to be a wonderful weekend celebrating their accomplishment and spending time together. You can read a full re-cap of the events here.

What made it even more special was the fact that unbeknown to us, Kyle ordered "Dominate" t-shirts for all of them to wear. Thanks to Phil Brabbs, this has become a powerful mantra as Ernie battles myeloma. His desire is to dominate his myeloma and as Phil would say, "kick it to the curb!".

Ernie in his dominate t-shirt a couple of months ago!
Kyle looking strong!

Kyle, hydrating and showing how he dominated that race!

Leah (and G-Baby of course!), Kyle, Kerry and Brad, after the race.

"Daddy, this is for you!"
Kyle's IT band flared up around mile 11, and on top of that his right leg started cramping about half a mile from the finish line. BUT he pressed on! He said at one point he looked down at his dominate shirt and thought "A half marathon is nothing compared to what cancer patients go through... I've got this".

Myeloma has been a tough pill to swallow, but having a family that has rallied around Ernie has made all the difference. Many, many thanks to team Guenther/Cress for dominating the Nashville 1/2 marathon...we sure do love you guys!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Good News!

We received the results of Ernie's latest bone marrow biopsy yesterday and there were NO DETECTABLE MYELOMA CELLS! We are so very grateful. It's been a long year, but we know the outcome could have been much different as bleak as things looked to us in January! During this season of Thanksgiving, our hearts overflow with love and gratitude to each and every person who has prayed for us, helped us, supported us, visited us, sent cards to us, and called us. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!!!

They started Ernie back on Aredia to strengthen his bones and he will have this infusion once a month. They are also beginning the process of starting Revlimid, a daily chemo pill for maintenance. Hopefully the side effects are manageable.

That is it for now. We will be spending Thanksgiving in Boone with our family and though we always love this holiday and time together, this year will certainly hold special meaning.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Hair today...more tomorrow!!

That's right folks....the locks they are a-coming in.   No more Mr. Clean!!
 A big thank you to Jay Humphrey for totally shaving his chrome dome in support of me since September.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Laughter is Great Medicine!

This post appeared on our daughter's blog today. What fun times we have with the grandkids! Check it out: Fun With Grandpa and Grandma.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bed Potato?

In the year or so prior to my diagnosis, my Multiple Myeloma decided to not only go the normal route of attacking the 'long bones', creating the normal bone lesions and holes in fun places like femurs, ribs, skull, etc. , but also go the plasmacytoma route. It vigorously attacked my sacrum (that triangle shaped bone that connects our spinal vertebrae to our pelvis). Weight carried by the upper skeleton is transferred to the pelvis and on to the legs bones via the sacrum. This seemingly innocuous bone also houses all the nerve roots that transition from the spinal column to the legs as well as connects the tailbone to the lower vertebrae.   In other words, when it works well, we don't even know it's there. When it has been attacked, and as one report stated 'obliterated' by the MM, things don't work as designed and it's painful!       

In my case, the upper part of the sacrum is still functional....as I can walk. However, the lower part that shielded the leg and foot nerves is MIA (missing in action).  Any upward pressure from the tailbone (sitting), bending, or twisting, and those nerves get stretched or pinched making sirens go off!

So I have two positions:  Standing or reclining. Going from one to the other often causes some wincing and whistling. At night I  "sleep in the big bed with Grandma" (I stole that quote from my grandson Nathan), then move to the hospital bed for lounging/computer work, or to the leather bed (lift chair) for some TV time.   The mobile bed (automobile with front seat fully reclined) transports us to and from the doctors and on other outings and the movie/book bed with the grand kids..

So the surveys went out, the votes came in, and I was awarded:

 How lucky can one guy get?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Visit With My Mom and Dad

My folks live on an old 300+ acre hunting preserve on top of a "hill" south of Black Mountain, NC. Dad is 87 and Mom 86, and although traveling is not a strong suit for them now, they remain in great health and stay very active on their mountain. The last time they saw me was in April, when I was hospitalized and bedridden, unable to bear weight on my legs without excruciating nerve pain...not the last image I wanted them to have of their oldest son. Since that time (7 months), though we talk every day and send email/pictures back and forth, I had not been able to travel the four and a half hours from Wake Forest to be with them, and they were unable to make the drive to see me. We deeply missed each other.

Mountaintop views, old roads and walking trails on their property
Beautiful mountain scenery full of Fall color, right outside their front door
Finally, this last Thursday Linda, Ginny (Linda's mom), Nick and I piled in the car with Nick at the wheel and my seat reclined, and headed to the mountain for four days. Leah and Kyle drove up from Georgia and we all enjoyed a beautiful weekend at "Grammy and Pop-Pop's".

Dad and I with our canes
Giving my mom a bear hug
Linda and I with our moms

Charlie, their "guard dog".
Leah, Tyson and I out for a walk
I truly love to visit the homestead, as dad has all the play toys like tractors, tools and 4-wheelers, and the beauty of the mountains with the fresh air and stillness is just a super place to replenish one's body, mind and soul. My family loves to get together every Fall as the men help restock dad's firewood supply for the coming winter. There are lots of roads and trails for walking, and we are all drawn outside to enjoy God's handiwork.

Nick and Kyle stacking the firewood
Fruit of their labor
Dad's tools on a very uniquely crafted stand.
Dad on the 4 wheeler bringing back the mail (about a 2 mile round trip down the mountain)
Pop-pop teaches the 'young-guns' about chain saw repair.
Three generations of Baker men...getting progressively taller!
I have many reasons to be thankful for my mom and dad. Though they have worried about me ALOT since I was diagnosed in January, they have also loved and supported me in whatever ways they could...be it long distance for most of the time. I feel blessed that they are still a part of my life, and 'by my side' in this battle with cancer. I am grateful to God that I could finally make the trip over to their mountain once more. Perhaps next time I can  resume my role as my dad's #1 helper and the "Chain Saw King"!