Monday, December 31, 2012

No Resolution

I finally got my present for winning Novel Writing Month.  I really wanted a Wesley Crushers t-shirt.

I have never liked making resolutions, but as I planner I do enjoy setting practical goals for the New Year.  For 2012 my goal was simple-

Have surgery and feel better.

I am happy to say that the goal was achieved.  I had my surgery in August of 2012 and now that I no longer have an ovary and tube wrapped around my intestine I feel much better and I am no longer having terrible bouts of stomach issues. 

For 2013 I decided to set several fun goals.

-Complete the second draft of my 2009 Nano novel The Dream Artist- Starting this year I will be participating in a Writers of YA/middle grade fiction critique group so they will be keeping me accountable and ensuring that I complete this goal.

-Continue to Practice Knitting- I am hoping that practice makes perfect because thus far I am a pretty terrible knitter.

-Get Canning- One of my Christmas gifts was a book on small batch canning (Food in Jars) and I am looking forward to preserving some yummy things.

-Make Mozzarella Cheese- I have already successfully made my own ricotta cheese (super easy) and now I’d like to move on to something a smidge more challenging so I am going to attempt homemade mozzarella.

-Feed my new Dr. Who obsession- I only started getting into The Doctor starting with the 11th/current Doctor (season 5).  I plan on spending time going back and watching the seasons containing the 9th and 10th Doctors this year.  It is a truly awesome show if you are nerdy, geeky, creative, or a lover of witty British things I highly recommend Dr. Who (on BBC America).

As you can see I didn’t make any goals regarding adopting because since we are still unsure how that is going to go I hold that goal lightly and feel that I am more open to whatever God wants to do in our lives whether it involves us being parents or not.  I did give my rheumatologist the information on writing my medical letter.  My doctor seemed quite enthusiastic about completing it but I think with all of the holiday stuff and end of the year stuff it may have gotten put aside.  I am hoping that a friendly and pleasant reminding phone call at the end of this week will cause the letter to be ready for pick up by the end of next week.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I am intrigued by traditions.  I’m always interested in learning how they start, how they perpetuate, how they morph and how they die away or are replaced by new traditions.  Holidays are a particularly fun time to start new traditions or to cherish the old ones that have continued sometimes for generations.

Our first Christmas together as a married couple filled me with both excitement and a small degree of sadness.  My parents had sold the house I grew up in and I knew that year I would never again pull into my driveway to see the hand painted wooden manger scene on the front lawn or the tree glowing in the same window it had always stood throughout my entire life thus far.  The ceramic nativity my mom had hand painted years ago had crumbled into disuse and although I inherited my mom’s ceramic house display, there was nowhere in our small apartment to display them. That year I packed up a box of ornaments from my former home and brought them to my new home to be hung on my newlywed Christmas tree.

That first year my husband and I decided that we preferred a real tree to an artificial one.  We were living in Pitman at the time and there was a little tree lot not too far from our apartment complex.  It seemed as good a place as any to pick up a tree and since it was close by we wouldn’t have to spend too much time driving with a tree strapped to the roof of our tiny Toyota Corolla.  After the always difficult task of selecting the perfect tree we decided we needed some sustenance before completing the next task of setting said tree up in our living room.  There was a Chinese restaurant close to the tree lot so for convenience sake we stopped there, had dinner and then went home to enjoy our very first Christmas tree as a married couple.  The next year we did the same.

The first Christmas after we moved from our apartment into our house (not near Pitman) we stared at each other blankly trying to figure out where we were going to get our tree now. We finally decided that since we were so comfortable with that little tree lot near our now former apartment we would take the drive there, purchase our tree and stop for Chinese food and so a tradition was born. Although we don’t reside near that particular Christmas tree lot we return each year, pick out our tree and reward ourselves with some yummy dinner afterward.  It is something we both look forward to and Christmas wouldn’t seem the same now if we did anything else, though like all traditions I am sure this too has the potential to morph, die away and/or be replaced by something new in the future.
We arrive at the lot.

So many trees.  They always look smaller at the lot and bigger in the house.

We found it! Our 2012 tree.

The tree gets a trim.

The Element makes driving the tree around a piece of cake.

Time to eat!

I have pad thai.

2012 Christmas Tree is complete.

Not only does Emma insist on hanging out under the tree, she insists on hanging out under the tree skirt.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Raw and Uncut

Ernest Hemingway has a famous quote, “write drunk, edit sober.”  Given Hemingway’s proclivities many people believe this to be literal.  Others believe that it is a metaphor meaning, when you write your first draft write with wild abandonment and save your intelligent critical analysis for the second time around.  That is pretty much what novel writing month is all about; giving your imagination permission to run wild; throwing caution to the wind when it comes to punctuation and grammar; not caring if your dialogue is cheesy or if your plot is cliché.  What I’m about to do is extremely difficult for me.  First because I am a perfectionist and second because I believe that my fiction writing is rubbish.  That is why I rarely let others read my fiction, but in the spirit of Nanowrimo here is what I have been working on this week, wild, untamed and…absolutely unedited.   

“You really can’t see the door?  It’s rectangular and green.  There is a round ivory handle and the lock is shaped like a flower.”

“I really can’t see it Brannon.”  It was first time she had ever said his name. There was sincere disappointment in her voice.  “I guess we are not meant to destroy the world or have riches after all.”

Brannon approached the door once again.  He looked at the mark on his palm.  He wondered if he touched the door if his arm would burn again.  It did.  Then he had an idea.  It was a crazy impulsive idea.

“Annick,” she was busy unpacking both of the bags trying to extract all of the cooking utensils.  The fire light bounced off of her face; her brow was furrowed with concentration.

“Annick!” he yelled trying to break her concentration.  She looked up.  “Annick come over here for a minute.”

“I’m trying to find something for us to eat.”

“Just for a minute, I have an idea.”  Annick stood up; brushing dirt off of her skirt.

“Come on,” pleaded Brannon.  She came over, her arms folded over her chest.

“Fine, I’m here, what is your idea?”

“Hold my hand.” As soon as the words escaped his lips he realized that he should have chose his request more carefully.

“Huh?” replied Annick

“No…it’s not like that.  I just want to see something.”

“Oh, like I haven’t heard that before.” Annick kept her arms firmly folded.

“I’m serious.  Please, just give me your hand for one minute.”

“Fine,” huffed Annick, stretching out her left arm toward Brannon’s right hand.  Brannon intertwined his fingers with hers.  It felt awkward.

“If it burns or hurts, try not to let go.”

“What?” Annick tried to pull her hand away, but Brannon gripped it tightly. He stretched out his left palm and pressed it again the door.  The same burning pain ran up his arm.  Annick gripped his fingers so tight he thought they might break.  She must have been feeling the pain too.  Then the pain faded giving way to a comfortable warmth as though someone had wrapped his body in a blanket that had been warmed by a fire. 

“Brannon…Brannon!”  He hadn’t even noticed that he had closed his eyes.


“Brannon, I can see the door.”




Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Do these tickets make us look old?

“This is how we know we are old,” my husband declared as he showed me our tickets for the Cape May Trolley Tour.  On October 26th, the date of our anniversary, we decided to take the day off to spend some quality time together.  A few weeks ago we visited the Physick House in Philadelphia.  During our tour we learned that there was a Physick Estate in Cape May and we decided that it too would be an interesting place to see.  You can take a tour of the house and grounds or you can do a combination with a historic trolley tour and an Estate tour and we thought…why not do both?

When everyone was assembled on the trolley we were handed brochures explaining the architecture of Cape May. 

The tour was interesting and I learned a lot so I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys history, architecture and/or just learning in general.  The trolley dropped us off at the Physick Estate and our tour guide Barbara escorted us around the massive Victorian home telling us bits and pieces of information about the time period and the family.  I wouldn’t recommend visiting the home during the month of October because it was decorated like a haunted house and the decorations really distracted and often covered up some of the interesting and historic décor of the home.  It seems that it would be beautiful and spectacular at Christmas.  We felt a bit rushed through the house tour and we were not able to spend any extra time looking around, examining and soaking up all of the Victorian Era fun. Despite this it was still worth the visit.


The Physick House grounds were decorated with scarecrows.  This was our favorite.

The trolley picked us up after the house tour and returned us to the originally departure point in downtown Cape May.  I have never been to Cape May in October and found it quite charming (even more than it usually is).  There were plenty of sweet smelling hay bales, tall cornstalks, bright colorful mums and roly poly pumpkins.  Each shop had their own scarecrow dressed to match the wares or theme of the shop.

We stopped at our favorite natural handmade soap shop to stock up on bars of soap that smelled of pumpkin spice, fall harvest and orange ginger.

After our leisurely stroll we felt that we were ready to finally eat something post our eating extravaganza the night before.  We have always passed Lucky Bones and now it was time to finally walk through the door and give it a try.  The food was great and it was interesting to see, instead of the usual sports on TV, everyone around the bar glued to the weather channel watching the approaching storm.  We started out with the small nachos, I had the crab cake and shrimp sandwich and for dessert (one of the main reasons for eating at Lucky Bones) we shared the Costa Rican coffee ice cream sandwich.  After I housed more than half I realized I never took a photo.

      “It looked so good, there just wasn’t time,” rationalized my husband. 

It ended up being a fun and relaxing day, just what we needed, and we look forward to taking the trolley tour and perhaps seeing the Physick Estate (not decorated as a haunted house) again in the future.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ten Years! Let's Eat!

On October 26th my husband and I celebrated 10 happy years of marriage.  A few years ago we had grand plans of celebrating our first decade of marriage with a trip to Argentina and Uruguay…but life got in the way and time and money were needed elsewhere.  We did however make certain that we did not miss our yearly anniversary dinner at Amada in Philadelphia.  We always opt to do the Chef Tasting which consists of lots of surprise courses.  For us it is like Christmas with food.  Each dish that arrives to the table is like unwrapping a different unexpected present. They do ask you ahead of time if you have any allergies or other food restrictions so the meal can be tailored to your preferences.

The restaurant keeps dibs on you when you make your reservation so they knew that this was our fifth year returning and when making the reservation my husband mentioned that is was our ten year anniversary dinner.  To offer their congratulations our server (who reminded me of actress Kristin Davis) brought us two complementary glasses of champagne (as a note if you go to any of Emeril’s restaurants for a special occasion you will also receive a complementary treat).

Instead of bread, Amada serves a tuna-caper dip with tasty crackers.  It is very good.  We also ordered a pitcher of white sangria.


Our first course was a meat and cheese platter accompanied by cherry fig preserves.  This was followed by a spinach and cheese empanada.  Empanadas happen to be one of the foods we are connoisseurs of and this was one of the best we have eaten. The crust melted in my mouth.  


The next three courses arrived together.  One we have had in the past and were super excited to revisit.  It was the short rib flat bread.  We also enjoyed a plate of grilled pulpo (octopus), and the thing that looks like a meat log was actually a spinach salad wrapped with Serrano ham.  All three dishes were delicious, though the short rib flat bread was my favorite.
The final four courses were lamb chops, sea bass and a variety of sauces to spread on top of pieces of bread spread with goat cheese. We were also treated to a serving of artichoke hearts in a parmesan sauce that made us so excited I forgot to get a picture.  Every dish was excellent and was enthusiastically enjoyed.


Finally dessert was served.  One dish consisted of tiny Concord grape cakes with a Concord grape dipping sauce; they tasted like little mini pancakes.  Our second dessert was a rice pudding matched with a chocolate sorbet.  They were accompanied by pine nuts and the cherry fig preserves we encountered at the beginning of our meal.  The rice pudding (which I got all to myself since my husband doesn’t like rice pudding) was amazing, especially with the pine nuts sprinkled over top.  Trying to fairly divvy up the chocolate sorbet almost resulted in some fork stabbings.


Even if you don’t order dessert, your bill is accompanied by a thin crispy almond cookie.  I was stuffed by this point but I couldn’t help taking just a few bites.

Most of our conversation revolved around the food but we did do some reminiscing about our wedding and our “apartment days.”  I mentioned that back then I disliked having to go outside and into the shared basement to do my laundry and am happy to have a house with a laundry area which inevitably led to discussing the future possibility of purchasing a new washer and dryer.  That conversation made my past overly dreamy tween self groan at the idea that a washer purchase could ever be fodder for romantic anniversary dinner conversation but the thirty-four year old current me found the conversation and new washer prospect thrilling.  In all it was a wonderful evening and I hope we will find ourselves sitting here discussing another decade of marriage someday.


Getting Prepared

After prepping for Sandy I spent Saturday prepping for Nanowrimo.  I made sure I had all of my essential supplies, including my Hufflepuff mug cozy to keep my hand from being seared by the hot beverages in my mug that came all the way from the café where J.K. Rowling wrote some of her Harry Potter books.

I also worked on setting up my writing nook.  I use it when I need a place to escape that is completely free of distractions.

I did visit with my rheumatologist this week.  She thought that my low cell counts could be due to my intestine having chronic inflammation even if I don’t have symptoms of it all of the time.  She placed me on a medication called Asacol (the name makes me giggle given the nature of its use).  I’ve been on Asacol before but my G.I. doctor took me off of it because she felt that it could have been the reason my liver enzymes were high in the past.   It is more likely that the enzyme issue was because of the IVF drugs so my rheumatologist though it would be safe for me to take the Asacol again.  I have to have more lab work in four weeks and then return to her office in six weeks to see if my cell counts have improved.  If they don’t improve, her next step will be to have me begin taking a Flintstones vitamin with iron (because it causes less stomach upset than iron pills).  She didn’t want me start just yet because 1) it wouldn’t make a difference if I am not absorbing things properly due to the inflammation and 2) if you start two interventions at the same time you aren’t able to know which actually worked.  I’m sure with 50,000 words to write in November six weeks will fly by.    

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Stewing-in a good way

I am grateful that despite growing up in a fairly strict Christian home I was allowed to participate in Halloween.  There were some ground rules of course.  I wasn’t allowed to dress as anything that was perceived to be scary or evil.  Given my Anne of Green Gables colored world this was never a problem.  I wasn’t permitted to partake in activities that were considered evil or scary.  This included haunted houses, hayrides, forests etc.   I’ve never been a fan of such things because they usually involve a general invasion of personal space.  I cherish my personal space.  I was not allowed to watch evil or scary movies.  Not a disappointment at all given my overactive imagination; that rule has saved me many sleepless nights.

 I remember inventing, designing and making my own costumes.  My mom did try to talk me out of my “runaway orphan” costume when I was eight because she feared that no one would know what I was, but I simply used the inquiries as an opportunity to enlighten people on the plight of orphans everywhere.  I can still recall the feeling of running around with my friends; being as loud and as silly as we wanted because on that day we could.  Crunching leaves beneath our feet; our cheeks growing rosy in the brisk fall air as we pandered for candy that would be unceremoniously thrown away by Easter. My most fond memory however, was coming home at the evening’s end. As soon as I walked through the door the comforting aroma of my mom’s beef stew infiltrated my nostrils causing my stomach to growl for something more nourishing than peanut butter cups and snickers bars.  She would ladle it out into a big bowl accompanied by several slices of crusty French bread slathered with butter.  I would wolf it down while regaling her with my trick –or- treating tales.  The stew whispered comfort, love and home.

After my mom passed away I searched and searched through recipes to find that post trick-or-treating stew and was saddened to find that it appeared that it was a recipe that existed in her head.  Several years later I was lamenting to my Aunt about my unfulfilled quest to find the recipe for my mom’s beef stew and to my delight she said that she had the recipe.  She made a copy and passed it on to me.

Since I have to work on actual Halloween and the stew takes roughly four hours to make, I decided to make it on Columbus Day since the discovering of America affords me a day off. 

The first hour was prepping.

Then I did the preliminary cooking and simmered the stew for two hours.  I was nervous when I took my first tentative bite.  Would it taste like the stew I so fondly remembered?  I’m happy to report that it did.  It tasted exactly how I remembered and it transformed me into that skinny, freckled, frizzy haired little girl; comforted and thankful to be home.