Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Blessed By The Beauty

EZ and I recently spent a week in our cabin over in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. The leaves were definitely peaking and we were so blessed each day as we took excursions to soak in the beauty that surrounded us. In the midst of whatever you might be facing, it is so refreshing to just stop and rejoice over the good in your life. Many people always seem to see the cup half empty, but we seem to see the cup half full. Why not count your blessings, be positive, smile and hold on to hope for a wonderful tomorrow? Enjoy this road trip through the Appalachians and have a great day!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Eat More Fruit and Veggies

Seems like I am always on a quest to make better food choices, but "will power" gets in the way. As the holiday season approaches, what better time to TRY to commit to eating more fruit and veggies. We all know processed food, way too many grains, and tons of sugar are the staples of the American diet, and I am the first to admit I love to bake and sweets are my greatest weakness! But I am reading, learning from others, and trying to change the way we eat, slowly but surely. The Paleo lifestyle makes alot of sense to me, but actually making the change is difficult, so we are taking baby steps. My mother is insulin diabetic, and with EZ's compromised immune system, we need to give ourselves every advantage by making better food choices. There, I said it, now I have to be held accountable. I'm not saying there will never be another Monkey Bread in our future, but we will try to do better on a day to day basis. 

My niece, Sarah, is an excellent cook, or should I say chef, and she has started a blog that can really encourage anyone who wants to make a change in what they buy and how they eat. She is especially vigilant about what she feeds her children, in order to establish better lifestyle choices from an early age. Her blog is called My Paleotastic Kitchen. I encourage you to go take a look at what she has to say.  In the meantime, here are a few things we have enjoyed lately. Have a great weekend everyone, and eat more fruit and veggies!

 P.S. Contrast these foods with many of the new offerings at the NC state fair here in Raleigh this week:  Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joes, and deep fried Red Velvet Oreos.We will NOT be sampling these...heart attack waiting to happen!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Getting Crafty - Burlap Wreath and Drop Cloth Curtains

My daughter, Leah, has inspired me to get back to DIY projects and crafts. She recently made a burlap wreath and gave me a one-on-one lesson as to how it's done. I also watched a few tutorials on Pinterest which were a big help. I ended up using twice as much burlap (2 full rolls - 20 yards!) as Leah did, but I wanted a thicker appearance. It is easy to do, requiring only a little time, burlap, accent ribbon, and a wire frame. It makes a large wreath which is perfect for a big front door, or you can scale it down if your door is smaller. 

Here is a simple tutorial you can look at to see how its done, and there are many others on Pinterest:

I took a few pictures of mine as I worked on it one day at our cabin and believe me, it isn't something you can easily mess up. Just make your loops look pretty uniform, scrunching them together as you go, and before you know it, you are done! (I made a different bow after these pictures)

Here is another fun wreath I found on Pinterest that I might have to try next, along with some really pretty burlap flowers I would like to make.

And hey, since it's Fall, look at this great idea for embellishing plain pillar candles...anything with cinnamon smell is fabulous to me!

My other project was making drop cloth curtains for our new screened porch. The morning sun is pretty intense shining in, and curtains would filter that, and give us some privacy on both sides of our house. Again, my daughter, Leah had made some for her family room, so I followed her lead. I simply headed out to Lowes (or Home Depot), purchased my drop cloths, broke out my sewing machine (which I hadn't used in about 9 years), and got started. I pre-washed the cloths, laid each panel out on the family room floor to measure, cut and pin, then stitched the hem, ironed them, and hung them up. We found the perfect rods at Lowes that had the clips on rollers in a built-in groove, so they slide open and closed very easily.

There you go! Don't expect them to be perfect...after all they are drop cloths and the edges won't always be straight, but they are very natural, fairly inexpensive, washable and easy. Let me know if you have any questions or have made either of these projects yourself!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Recipe for You - Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Shortly after we moved, our new neighbor, Darlene, surprised us with a warm, delicious coffee cake. We enjoyed it so much all week, that I decided to bake one myself and take it to the kind folks that bought our house. Easy, pretty foolproof, and scrumptious...especially if you love all things cinnamon like me. For those of you looking for a sweet breakfast treat to go with your coffee this weekend, here ya go! I would say it serves 16-20, so it's a good recipe to keep in mind for a family gathering at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups flour

Topping ingredients (mix together):

¾ cup chopped nuts
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter, sugar, eggs and sour cream together with a mixer, adding one ingredient at a time for a fluffier cake. Beat in dry ingredients. In separate bowl, stir topping ingredients together. Grease an angel food cake or tube pan. Pour more than half the batter into pan. Spread with half the topping. Pour in remainder of batter and cover with remaining topping. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool a bit (20 minutes), then remove from pan keeping topping side up. Make your favorite vanilla glaze (confectioner’s sugar, milk and vanilla) and drizzle it over the cake when cool. Enjoy!

Have a great weekend everyone! I'll be back next week.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Our First Light the Night Walk - Team Walking with EZ

We are so very grateful to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for many reasons, but especially for their Co-Pay Assistance Program. Honestly, I don't know what we would do without the yearly grants we have been approved for, that help with insurance premiums and co-pays. Below is a description of the program from their website, and you can click here for more information.

Co-Pay Assistance Program

Dealing with cancer is hard enough without having to worry about its financial burden. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Co-Pay Assistance Program helps you pay your insurance premiums and meet co-pay obligations. We'll also help you find additional sources of financial help.

Their mission is to "find a cure for blood cancer, and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families", and they work mighty hard at it! They are also dedicated to funding research, which is critical if a cure for blood cancer is going to be found. Time is of the essence.

We were pretty excited about our first Light the Night Walk and an opportunity to give back in support of the LLS. We got on board late, so only our son, Nick, was able to walk with us, but next year we will be there in full force with lanterns shining! It was a wonderful experience to celebrate life with the many survivors, friends, families, corporations, and LLS volunteers and staff. Thank you to those who gave in support of our team!

It was a beautiful North Carolina Saturday night with an awesome band, delicious food, and great people. Survivors were treated to dinner and a t-shirt, and carried white lanterns. One gold lantern per team was carried in remembrance of those we have lost to blood cancer, and there was a wonderful Remembrance Garden and Ceremony. Red lanterns were carried by the friends and families of those surviving blood cancer. What a sea of beautiful colors lit up the night sky in downtown Durham! It was an honor to walk with such an amazing group of people...especially my survivor. Team Walking with EZ will be back next year for sure. Hope you'll join us if you are local!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Three Years Post Transplant Appointments...All is Well!

It has been a busy couple of weeks with doctors appointments, but it makes it all worthwhile when the news is good! Both our local oncologist and the team at Duke continue to be pleased with EZ's stability, numbers and undetected M-spike. For now, he continues with visits every other month to the Cancer Centers of North Carolina to see Dr. Alan Kritz, and the Duke ABMT Clinic to see Dr. Cristina Gasparetto (only once a year now). They both agreed he should stay on 10 mg Revlimid as maintenance.

Why not take a little snooze while you wait?

Here is the happy patient with Dr. Gasparetto (sorry it's blurry!). She is such a wonderful, caring oncologist and spent real quality time with us:

After EZ's appointment we took a victory lap down and around the clinic hallways. How well we remember being in the position of so many we saw that day... no hair, feeling so weak and sick, sleeping, receiving stem cells, or harvesting stem cells all hooked up to that amazing aphresis machine! (For a look back on our journey, you can click on the "Stem Cell Transplant" label.) I was deeply touched by a nurse hugging and comforting a wife/caregiver who was in tears in the hallway, out of her husband's sight. We saw them walk into the clinic, and he was so weak that a staff member followed along behind him with a wheelchair fearing his strength would give out. It brought back memories of a day I felt exactly like her...scared to death! Hopefully EZ can give others hope that they too will be taking a victory lap one day. They certainly are in good hands at Duke!

Below is a look back on what I wrote the day EZ's stem cells were harvested for transplant on August 17th of 2010:

What a day of celebration this is for us as we look back on all the steps it took to get us here...23 chemotherapy treatments, 22 radiation treatments, 8 months of doctor's visits, 31 days hospitalized at Rex, 26 days unable to get out of bed, 5 months of walking with crutches or a walker, surgery to have a port put in, surgery to have the port taken out and a Hickman catheter put in, echo-cardiogram, EKG, chest x-rays, 3 bone marrow biopsies, a failed intrathecal pain pump, 2 great physical therapists, brilliant oncologists, long bone x-rays, MRIs, CTscans, and Neupogen injections. But most of all, we are here because of the power of your prayers and a mighty God who loves us and has a perfect plan for us, all in His perfect timing! Here is Ernie with his stem cell harvest after 6 hours of aphresis.

We always have to take a picture of EZ beside his pic on the Hall of Fame in the Transplant Clinic. It is encouraging to see so many survivors on that wall!!

So very thankful that, for now, all is well.