Saturday, January 30, 2010
The big girls bundle up to play in the snow.
And the little girl wonders where they went.
Ella has had lots of fun in the snow, running around, "shoveling," and sledding. She never built a snowman, and we didn't get the snow ice cream made, but she has definitely not let this snow go to waste. And Emilia has spent a lot of time looking out the window. Poor baby.
Friday, January 29, 2010
I finally relented and decided she could play outside. She didn't enjoy getting bundled up.
But playing outside was another matter.
(The bowl in the background was Ella and Alex's attempt to collect snow for snow ice cream. But collecting snow for snow ice cream requires patience, and little girls don't have much patience. They kept scooping snow off the ground, the trampoline, and the picnic table and bringing the bowl inside...and we kept sending them back outside because I refuse to make snow ice cream with dirty snow.)
Emilia didn't want to come inside.
Her cheeks turned bright red, but she loved it. Guess she's a snow baby!
And here she is enjoying the blanket. (Sorry about the terrible lighting.) I love the blanket, too, because it's big enough that I can use it to cover myself up, too, when I rock Emilia.
I also ordered Emilia a hat from one of my school friend's Etsy Store. Isn't it cute? And Emilia loves it! (Please excuse her dirty face. She's one. And she loves food.)
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Ella continues to love AR reading at school. She got her Ready Reader certificate this week, which means she's earned 5 points. We told her she could have a party when she got 10 points. She has 6.9 points now, so she'll probably be there pretty soon. I think her party ideas might be a little grander than ours....we'll see. The only problem Ella has with AR is that she's so obsessed with getting points, she doesn't want to read anything that's not an AR book. And I think she might have a tendency to read a little too quickly just so she can take another test.
Her class did a reader's theater version of Tacky the Penguin on Friday, so the kids dressed up for Wacky Tacky Friday. Here's Ella in her wacky tacky getup. I had to talk her down from going really wacky. At first, she wanted to wear shoes on her hands. I got her talked out of that, we picked out an outfit, and then she announced she wasn't dressing up at all. I came up with a back-up plan of her just taking her tie-dye dress in her backpack to put on if she changed her mind, but then she decided to dress up after all.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Peanut Butter Patties
Peanut Butter Sandwich
Thanks A Lots
Daisy Go Rounds
Who can resist Girl Scout cookies? If you want some, and you know you do, leave a comment or shoot me an email and I'll hook you up. And if you really have super human will power are able to resist ordering cookies for yourself, through the Cookie Share program, you can purchase cookies to be donated to charity (troops overseas or our local food pantry, for example). Help a Girl Scout out and order a box (or 20) today.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
This essay is being submitted to the James Rhio O’Connor Memorial Scholarship Essay Contest. At age 61, Mr. O’Connor was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma as a result of an asbestos exposure in his youth. Doctors gave him a year to live and no options for treatment. He chose to take their year and multiply it by eight. He did this by formulating his own plan for treatment and the belief in a greater power. Putting myself in his shoes, this is my story.
“I’ve given your labwork to a doctor in oncology. Things aren’t looking good, many people with this type of disease only survive a year.” Dr. Williams says soberly.
“But oncology, isn’t that like, cancer,” my mother asks, ringing in my ears more like a statement rather than a question.
At twenty-two, with a grim prognosis, words like aspiration, promyelocytic, and radiation fall to the ground like meteors from the sky. The drive home is long and silent. As we pull into the driveway of my college dwelling, I have realized that my immediate family has arrived and probably taken over the couches in the living room. Walking into the dimly lit room, I see blank faces of pity. Not a word is spoken; nothing needs to be said. I spend the night alone searching the Internet, finding the best doctors, reviewing the cases, comparing the different treatments and relating to the blogs.
“Hey, we didn’t expect to see you here today. Are you sure you don’t want to stay home a few more days?” Professor Riley urges.
“I need things to be normal,” I reply shortly.
Attending class between chemo treatments is only a problem on days when we are working in the lab. For some reason, the smell of formaldehyde encourages my gag reflex to stand at attention. Everyone expects me to reach out. Everyone expects me to break down. Nobody seems to understand the importance of me attending class, doing homework and putting in hours at the clinic. Don’t I have better things to do, like sulk at home after treatment watching soap operas? Nobody seems to understand; yet it is a common reaction. When the Holiday season is over and the hustle and bustle has everyone cranky, does a mother not wish everything back to normal? When the rainfall is low and the crop yields are lower, does a farmer not wish the weather back to normal? When an aspiring doctor falls to her knees upon hearing her cancer diagnosis, out of habit she wishes her life back to normal. Maybe it is in the search of normalcy, that we find peace in our situation.
“He’s heartbroken, sweetheart,” my father pleads, “he wants more than anything to give you the wedding of your dreams. Call it, something to look forward to. For all of us.”
“Dad, before the cancer I had plans, I have dreams – mile markers to reach before turning down a different road. I will marry him when I finish school.”
Neither of us mentions the obvious. Like an elephant in the room, both of us end the conversation on the thought that I won’t live long enough to finish school.
Turning down a marriage proposal is nothing I ever expected to do. I especially did not expect to do it from a hospital bed. My family thinks that a special day devoted only to me will make everything all better…that if I accomplish some of my goals in life, then it won’t be so hard to realize that I never got the chance to accomplish the rest. What they have failed to realize is that my goals were set in a deliberate sequence. They have failed to realize that I wanted to graduate before I married. They can’t convince the dean but my boyfriend, now there’s a sucker we can persuade.
I wish I had started this whole journey differently. I would have sat down my family and explained to them how I would deal with my cancer. There are principles that I would need to cling to, and having their support would mean they needed to agree with those principles. Being the hardheaded, driven person that I am, my first principle would be to do my own research. Knowing that doctors are also human, I would want to know as much about my disease as they do. Going along with treatment plans would not be easy for me. I am the kind of person who needed to be immersed in the process of writing the plans. Secondly, I would cling to normalcy. Going about my life in a normal way, would help me to keep focused on fighting rather than overwhelmed with a prognosis. Finishing school and even excelling at it would be one of my top priorities of leading a normal life. Finally, I am goal-driven and my passion to accomplish my goals keeps me going. My goals are deliberate and follow a timeline. In the darkest days, I would need to remember the importance behind this drive and not cut corners for my future.
“Looking around the group of graduates at our commencement, with everyone dressed identically, a girl in the front row stands out among the homogenous class. It’s not that I am bald beneath this mortarboard, or that a shiny solitaire is fixed on my left hand. I stand out because I should’ve been absent from this special day. Science says I shouldn’t have lived to receive my diploma,” I say to my parents in between smiling for the camera.
“Yes, but it wasn’t in your plans to give up,” my father replies as a tear runs down his cheek.
For more information on Mr. O'Connor and his cancer, http://www.survivingmesothelioma.com/
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Now that Ella can take AR tests, she's even more serious about her reading. She's taken three AR tests since Thursday, racking up 1.5 points. She's already plotting the quickest way to accumulate points. Little Miss Competitive she is. And of course, wherever Ella is, Emilia has to be, too.
Because Ryan loves a Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha, I decided to make him cupcakes inspired by the drink. I very loosely followed this recipe over at The Sweetest Kitchen. I used Grandma Burrows' chocolate cake recipe (posted below) for the cupcakes. I made 12 regular cupcakes, 24 mini cupcakes, and one 8-inch round cake (because Ella wanted me to...not sure what we'll do with it yet).
For the ganache filling, I used decaf instant coffee instead of the Starbucks Via (because that's what I had in the cupboard). I also doubled the recipe, but other than that, I was actually pretty faithful to a recipe for once. Well, the ingredients at least. I didn't exactly follow the directions, but it still turned out. I didn't think the coffee flavor was too pronounced, but I like my coffee a little on the strong side (that's what we call understatement, my friends), so I might not be the best judge. I discovered that filling cupcakes with ganache is a lot messier than it sounds, especially when your one year old locks her legs around your waist and refuses to be put down.
The frosting in the original recipe was a Swiss meringue buttercream. I've only made Swiss meringue once (about ten years ago), and it was a total flop. Since then, I've had a meringue phobia. I decided this was not the morning to conquer that phobia, so I made a simple white chocolate buttercream by pouring hot cream over white chocolate chips to make a ganache and then adding it to the whipped butter in my basic buttercream recipe. It was yummy!
The cupcakes were delicious! I usually like my cupcakes (and everything else, to tell the truth) slightly underdone and gooey, but since I would be filling the cupcakes with ganache, I went ahead and baked them all the way, which I think was the right thing to do. I usually only fill my cupcakes about 2/3 of the way full of batter. I probably could have filled them even a little less full to allow more room for the ganache, especially the mini cupcakes. I think the cupcakes would be super cute garnished with a chocolate covered coffee bean, but alas, I didn't have any on hand. Maybe next time.
Emilia gives the cupcakes her seal of approval. Here's a picture of the cupcakes she got a hold of. Guess that means she's tall enough to reach the table now.
Even though my tablecloth and Emilia's shirt are now covered in ganache, I'd call this experiment a success. Here's what I did:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk (I use the powdered kind, or you can also substitute milk soured with lemon juice)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
Pour one cup boiling water over the top. Mix well. Pour into desired pans. Bake at 350 until done. (Do you like that specific time? That's how I roll.) Cool on cooling rack.
This recipe makes a lot. Like I said, I made 12 regular cupcakes, 24 mini cupcakes, and an 8-inch layer. I've gotten 40 cupcakes out of this recipe before. It makes a very moist cake.
2/3 cup whipping cream (I really used more like 1/2 cup)
8 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons instant coffee
2 tablespoons butter
Warm the whipping cream in the microwave until close to boiling. Pour over other ingredients. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir.
When the cupcakes are cool, use a bismark tip to pipe ganache inside cupcakes. Prepare for messiness. Having your seven year old stand next to you and tell you each time you drip and offer suggestions for improvement is especially helpful.
White Chocolate Buttercream
Warm 1/4 cup whipping cream in the microwave. Pour over 4 ounces of white chocolate. Let sit, then stir until smooth. Let cool.
Beat 2 sticks softened butter with mixer. When fluffy, add white chocolate mixture. Beat until well combined and fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar until it reaches desired consistency. I used about three cups. Keep beating until it's nice and fluffy. Pipe onto cupcakes and enjoy.