Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 Recap

Pictures from our enormous Thanksgiving celebration:
traditional photo of hubs with the turkey
new tradition? funny shot of hubs with the turkey
Couldn't get Christmas Ale this year - it sold out too fast! My brother was there before they opened too.
new tradition? C02 for the keg
this is what 20 pounds of peeled, chopped potatoes looks like. T was a big helper!
my attempt (from Wednesday) to map out where everyone would sit

Before dinner, trying to get everyone seated. Thanks to my cousin Greg for this shot.
Everyone seated, pretty much. People as far as the eye can see. We ended up with 46.
This picture and the one before were taken by hubs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


(my father-in-law was diagnosed with this disease on Wednesday. He's only been sick for a few weeks but his health is declining quickly. If you are friends with hubs, please don't email or facebook him about this. Thanks.)
"Small Cell Lung Cancer - makes up nearly 20% of all Lung Cancer cases. It is associated with cancer cells smaller in size than most other cancer cells. These cells may be small, but they can rapidly reproduce to form large tumors. Their size and quick rate of reproduction allows them to spread to the lymph nodes and to other organs of the body. This type of Lung Cancer is almost always caused by smoking or second hand smoke. 

"Small cell lung cancer (stages): 
  • Limited stage means that the cancer can only be seen in the lung,  surrounding lymph nodes or in fluid around the lung. 
  • Extensive stage means that the cancer has spread outside of the lungs to another area of the body. Typically, the chest, liver or brain. Because small cell lung cancer is comprised of tiny cells and not a solid tumor, it is usually inoperable, except in rare cases in the early limited stage. (3)

    Regardless of the stage of small cell lung cancer, the prognosis is unsatisfactory even though tremendous strides on treatment and diagnosis over the past 15 years have been made. Because of this, all patients diagnosed with this kind of cancer are eligible to participate in ongoing clinical trials. For more information on clinical trials, you can visit the National Cancer Institute's website ."
(quotes courtesy of The Beverly Fund)


Because SCLC spreads quickly throughout the body, treatment must include cancer-killing drugs (chemotherapy) taken by mouth or injected into the body.
  • Chemotherapy may be combined with radiation therapy of the lungs in people who have limited disease.
  • The most commonly used drugs in the U.S. are etoposide with either cisplatin or carboplatin.
Because the disease has usually spread by the time it is diagnosed, very few patients with SCLC are helped by having surgery. Surgery is only considered when there is only one tumor that has not spread. Chemotherapy or radiation will be needed after surgery.
Combination chemotherapy and radiation treatment is given to people with extensive SCLC. However, the treatment only helps relieve symptoms. It does not cure the disease.
Often, SCLC may have already spread to the brain, even when there are no symptoms or other signs of cancer in the brain. As a result, radiation therapy to the brain may be given to some patients with smaller cancers, or to those who had a good response in the first round of chemotherapy. This method is called prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI).

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do depends on how much the lung cancer has spread.
Without treatment, the average survival is 2 -4 months. Treatment can often prolong life to 6 - 12 months in patients with extensive disease. About 10% of patients with limited spread will show no evidence of cancer at 2 years.
This type of cancer is very deadly. Only about 6% of people with this type of cancer are still alive 5 years after diagnosis.
(Treatment and Prognosis information courtesy of the National Institutes of Health)

Supportive Therapy The importance of supportive therapy in the treatment of lung cancer cannot be overemphasized.

Quite clearly, malnutrition results in a bad outcome in patients with lung cancer. Patients must be served a palatable meal and attempts must be made to work with patients to determine food likes and dislikes.
Pain control is of critical importance, and the tools to achieve control are available even for the most advanced cases. These include the use of pain-relieving (analgesic) drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, mild narcotics, strong narcotics, continuous narcotics and narcotics delivered into the spinal canal (epidural). Pain control can generally be achieved without interfering with mental competence. Nausea can be controlled with a variety of drugs
Physical therapy will help maintain muscle strength to keep life as normal as possible.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hundred Dollar Holiday

A little something to think about on Black Friday:
Hundred Dollar Holiday
Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For A More Joyful ChristmasThis book came out when T was a baby. When he got to be a toddler, we looked for ways to make the holiday season less about presents and more about family and traditions, and found this little gem. The premise is you can get more out of the holidays by spending less money, or as the title says, just $100.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Preview

We are full of Thanksgiving traditions in our family. Note the following appear in the order in which we encounter them during the big day (not necessarily the order of importance).

Tradition 1: the giant turkey. This beast is locally raised by 4-h kids. We brine it over night and then stuff it on Thanksgiving morning.

Corollary to Tradition 1 is the ceremonial photo with the turkey. We appreciate all of hubs' hard work to make us a great turkey for dinner!

Tradition 2: the extra (little) pumpkin pie. We start eating this little one right after breakfast. If you get to Mom's early enough there might be some left for us to share with you. 

Tradition 3: Great Lakes Christmas Ale. This one is relatively new (for a family that has been doing the same thing every fourth Thursday in November for 30+ years) but it's a popular addition to the day.

Tradition 4: We all sit down to eat together, family style. Yes, all 30-40 of us. Sometimes we have a smaller group, say 28. Mom is forecasting as many as 47 this year. It'll be a full house! Everyone has a job (either bringing things like side dishes, appetizers or desserts, or chores like counting people, setting up tables and chairs, or setting the table. Or doing dishes... no paper products for us (outside of napkins).)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
What are your traditions?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Baking Preview

I'm inspired by Lexi over at Dishin with Edna to think about holiday baking a little earlier than usual. We have a couple special traditions at our house that revolve around baking (there are more, but really how much baking do you want to hear about? lol)

Cookie Party

On the last Friday of the school year, we host a Cookie Party for a few of T's friends and their families, and then later on, Chris' lab joins the fun. We make two, sometimes three types of cookie dough, along with soup and sandwiches to balance out all the sugar. The kids (and grown-ups) can roll out dough, cut out cookies and of course (the best part) decorate the cookies. Or, perhaps the best part is eating the cookies!

Last year we served sloppy joes and Chicken Chowder. I try to mix it up a little with the soup, and not serve the same thing every year. This might be a good year to make Baked Potato Soup... Also the three rolled cookie doughs we like best are White Velvet Cutouts, Mom's Sour Cream Sugar Cookies, and Cut Butter Cookies.

Here are some pictures from the past few years

Bri taking a picture of himself eating a cookie

menorah decorated to be a martini glass (including a green m&m olive!)

Trucks for the UPS and FedEx drivers and Charlie, our mailman postal carrier
We usually set up a table in another room for crafts, so if you are tired of cookies and frosting, you can make a card or ornament to take home. Some sample creations:

Parade of Cookies

The Parade of Cookies started when we lived in Houston. I would bake cookies for Chris to share with his co-workers and he would ration them out, sharing just one type of cookie a day. Soon his friends were bringing in cookies too; it didn't take long to get an official name and a reputation. Now it's a celebrated tradition at the Reading Center. Some of our favorite cookies to share are Chris' favorite Peanut Butter Kookies (the kind with the chocolate kisses on top), Brownie Cream Cheese Bites and Triple Orange Pecan Biscotti.

As the events get closer, we'll share recipes and photos!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rearranging Rugs (Kitchen Progress)

I had a brainstorm to move a rug from another room into the kitchen to get a better idea what size rug will look and fit best in there. A fun project for a Sunday, and it turned out better than I expected. I thought the rug would be too small, but it's a good size and we may actually leave it in its new spot. The funniest part about the rug is I picked it up when one of neighbors (not friends) in Pearland, Texas, threw it out. When I saw it out on their tree lawn, I figured it had to have something wrong with it. I took it home anyway and discovered it was in great condition. It was a big win for me, and may have ruined me for rug shopping; now I expect nice ones to just fall into my path!

Before (The super scary really before):
taken in January 2010
Before (As in before the rug, best one I could find, when I had it set up for our July "Lab Lunch"):

After (Part 1, with the rug):

After (Part 2, with rug and furniture):

The sad room that lost its rug... still a store house for things waiting to move back into the kitchen:

The room is less sad now with the addition of this Ikea rug we had rolled up in the back:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Clementine Candles

Thanks to Jessica for sharing this on Friday: How to Make a Clementine Candle. My photos are not as beautiful as the ones in that blog post, but it is a fun and pretty easy project.

First thing you need is Clementines. I had brought this box home on Friday. L-O-V-E.
Next you slice through just the peel to separate the top (left)  from bottom (on right), and remove the fruit, one side at a time. Can you see the natural wick sticking up out of the bottom section? I used the star cutter to make the hole for the top; but it wasn't sharp enough to cut through the rind - had to use a knife to finish the job.
Next you put some olive oil in the bottom as fuel for the fire, being sure to soak the wick. It takes a few tries (ok, 10) for it to light, but once it gets going it stays lit for a good long while. 
As Ina Garten would say, "Who wouldn't like that?" 
Note the instructions Jessica sent me (see them --> here) are much more detailed than mine, with step by step (20+ steps) photos so be sure to check that out before attempting at home. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cognitive Surplus

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age is on my to-read list. Here's a description (via amazon):

"For decades, technology encouraged people to squander their time and intellect as passive consumers. Today, tech has finally caught up with human potential. In Cognitive Surplus, Internet guru Clay Shirky forecasts the thrilling changes we will all enjoy as new digital technology puts our untapped resources of talent and goodwill to use at last. 

Since we Americans were suburbanized and educated by the postwar boom, we've had a surfeit of intellect, energy, and time-what Shirky calls a cognitive surplus. But this abundance had little impact on the common good because television consumed the lion's share of it-and we consume TV passively, in isolation from one another. Now, for the first time, people are embracing new media that allow us to pool our efforts at vanishingly low cost. The results of this aggregated effort range from mind expanding-reference tools like Wikipedia-to lifesaving-such as, which has allowed Kenyans to sidestep government censorship and report on acts of violence in real time.

Shirky argues persuasively that this cognitive surplus-rather than being some strange new departure from normal behavior-actually returns our society to forms of collaboration that were natural to us up through the early twentieth century. He also charts the vast effects that our cognitive surplus-aided by new technologies-will have on twenty-first-century society, and how we can best exploit those effects. Shirky envisions an era of lower creative quality on average but greater innovation, an increase in transparency in all areas of society, and a dramatic rise in productivity that will transform our civilization.

The potential impact of cognitive surplus is enormous. As Shirky points out, Wikipedia was built out of roughly 1 percent of the man-hours that Americans spend watching TV every year. Wikipedia and other current products of cognitive surplus are only the iceberg's tip. Shirky shows how society and our daily lives will be improved dramatically as we learn to exploit our goodwill and free time like never before.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tomato Lentil Soup

This is a really easy, very healthy (almost fat-free) soup with a nice mild flavor and lots of protein.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/3 cups water
2 1/3 cups dried red lentils (masoor dal)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
5 1/2 to 6 cups chicken broth (low-sodium, fat-free preferred)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute 3 minutes or until tender. Add turmeric, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper; saute 1 minute. Add water, lentils, cilantro, broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 1 hour.

Reserve 2 cups lentil mixture. In batches, puree the remaining soup in blender. Put the pureed soup and the reserved mixture back in the Dutch oven and serve. Garnish with chopped fresh tomato and a sprig of cilantro, if desired.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kitchen Progress!

6 more doors were installed today plus 3 of the 4 panels on the sides of refrigerator/double oven box.
Nice, right? These four went in first, and you can see the panels on the right hand side there too.
Hopefully in this pic, you can see the side panels a little better. Too much flash? Too little?
From the other side, shown now with the knobs installed.
Center doors installed on the far side of the kitchen (this is the bright "flash" version)
Same photo as above but taken without the flash. This is closer to the actual color.
Exciting day in the kitchen, and now we are that much closer to being complete!

Baby Shower Fun Recap

We had such a great time Sunday at the shower for Heather and Dan and baby Peanut!
Parents-to-be Dan and Heather
The party was a tribute to teamwork with all five of us contributing. Lindsey brought baked goods and this adorable cake:

Britain and Tara brought the drinks, Tara shopped for the group gifts and Jenn, Marc and I cooked. Check out Marc's beautiful fruit salad:

I meant to take pictures of all the food. The grits casserole turned out great, and at the end of this post I'll share the recipe for the Crustless Quiche (it was yummy!). Jenn made Chicken Dorito casserole and this amazing Krispy Kreme Donut Bread Pudding (from Paula Deen) to go with bacon and other goodies. 

Britain made this adorable diaper cake for Peanut:

Didn't the favors turn out cute? They are Hershey bars. Jenn is so clever!

We had to have a group picture of all the Alpha Chis, of course.
Kristen, Britain, Lindsey, Heather, Tara with me and Jenn in the front
Thank you Marc and Jenn for hosting us at your house!

Crustless Quiche
Adapted from this recipe

1 8-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed with all the liquid squeezed out
3 large tomatoes (I like Ugly Ripe tomatoes), seeded and chopped
2 1/2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup Gruy√®re cheese, grated
3 cups milk
2/3 cup flour
8 eggs
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Prep chopped tomatoes by laying them in a single layer on a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture.
3. Butter a 9"x13" baking dish.
4. Place flour in a large bowl and add 1/2 a cup of milk at a time, stirring completely after each addition to guard against lumps. When the mixture is smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, whisking each in completely.
5. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well.
6. Pour into the buttered 9x13 baking dish.
7. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
8. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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