Rainy. Sunday

We’re getting a nice soaking of rain today , and tahoe is getting snow!!! Yeah! I’m sure all the ski resorts are very happy.

we walked ING rain and it was nice. Not a pounding rain just a nice gentle rain.

Today, I’m sorting thru Christmas lists. Mostly done. We’re giving money to our son, as he buys everything himself. My daughter is getting an electric guitar. Our budget for her $250, so she’ll,have to ante up the balance. We’ll add in some from my $ and dads $ as there’s nothing we need or really want. Plus we just spent $600 on gravel for our driveway, so merry Christmas !!

We don’t have much family. A brother I give $ to and my sister a few little gifts. That’s it. No parents etc.

we don’t really gift and friends . When I was at the library I gave some little things as gifts like homemade jams etc, but that’s it. So our holidays are pretty stress free. We also love to celebrate Hanukkha ( no we’re not Jewish, but atheists) but I love lighting the candles and the meaning of the lights.

Weird but that’s us.

November budget and other miscellany!

So, November is a little tight on the budget. With ynab, i was almost a month ahead ,now its more like 2 weeks. Most of it is the extra medical bills and Invisalign payments of $500. But with this check everythings covered till mid month. Also, we have property taxes due. I had wanted to start overpaying on the Santa Fe, but that will have to wait till December or even January.

I know the medical will be done this month and my one cc that has the last Invisalign payment will be paid. After that the Invisalign will be more like $200 a month or less. It was the first $2000 they wanted fairly quickly.

Also, christmas money will be available and the extra is our property taxes I put in there. It was a great way to budget it since you can’t withdraw from your Santa fund. i will definitely do that next year.

B hopefully will get one more bonus this year but I don’t want to count on anything since his last one paid for the tree removal.

It always seems money is needed for something and honestly its a little scary thinking of retirement. But I shall preserver as always.

On to my doctors appointment. Geez, since I got the Pomalyst much later than I expected and just started yesterday , thats day 1. So the cycle is 21 days. that puts me at November 17 to finish and my appt. is November 18. So that is so not going to work as I won’t even had a blood test yet. So the complication is the following week is thanksgiving and the week after is too long away and my husbands out of town anyway. So, I did the best I could and my appt. is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. And I need to have the Zometa IV. So, its kinda a drag as sometimes I never know how I will feel from the Zometa. But its the best of all scenarios.

Anyway, Ive been busy washing the couch covers and switched the white for the tan for winter. Plus I did get thru a few magazines to give to the thrift store.Plus there’s a little pile of other stuff to go.

Christmas Day 2014

Christmas Day was lovely.  Just the two of us.

Dom attended Mass in the morning.  I didn’t go, as I wouldn’t have enjoyed it….I’d be thinking about preparations for dinner, etc.  As much as I love to cook, I work myself into a tizzy on holiday dinners.

I thought that this was a great picture.  Quite symbolic.  It was taken on Christmas afternoon.  The sun was reflecting off of Dom’s windshield, through our front door, bounced off of a mirror across the room, and illuminated this manger scene.  I loved this.  Especially on Christmas!

Dinner was great.  I cooked a 5 pound standing rib roast using a cast iron skillet.  It turned out divine.  That’s the only way that I’m going to cook them from now on.  It also made a delicious au jus, which I added mushrooms to.  As I like my beef rare, and Dom doesn’t, I overcooked it a bit for him.  He had a great idea….next time, I’ll cut it in half and throw mine in later!

Cast-Iron Skillet Prime Rib Roast and Gravy

Ingredients

1 (4.5 pound) beef prime rib roast at room temperature
 coarse sea salt, or as needed
 freshly ground black pepper, or as needed
 1 onion, quartered
 1/4 cup unsalted butter
 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
 1/4 cup red wine
 1 (32 ounce) carton beef stock
 4 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).

Rub beef roast with sea salt and black pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; sear roast on all sides in the hot skillet, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Turn roast so the ribs and fat side are facing up.

Roast prime rib in the preheated oven for 45 minutes; scatter onion quarters around roast and continue cooking until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 130 degrees F (54 degrees C) for rare, about 2 more hours.

Remove roast from skillet, wrap meat in aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes to let juices reabsorb into the meat. Leave onion pieces in skillet.

Pour drippings from skillet into a bowl and skim off excess grease. Return degreased drippings to skillet with onion pieces, place over medium heat, and melt butter in the drippings. Whisk flour into mixture to make a paste, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir red wine into flour paste until smooth. Mix beef stock into pan gravy until smooth; stir thyme sprigs into gravy.

Reduce heat to low and simmer gravy until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Strain gravy, discard onion pieces and thyme, and serve with prime rib.

***Roast until the desired doneness is reached, according to the readings on your meat thermometer, inserted into the center of the beef: 125–Rare 130–Medium rare 140–Medium 145–Medium well 150–Well done
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Served this with some decadent potatoes.  Absolutely delicious!  (I cut the recipe in half and didn’t bother with the bread crumbs)

Gratin Dauphinois

4 large potatoes (about three pounds), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 large cloves garlic
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 pint whipping cream
2 egg yolks
White pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop the potatoes into it. Cook for five minutes. Drain and cool.

2. Crush the garlic cloves, and use them to wipe the inside of a 12-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Discard what’s left of the garlic.

3. Layer the potato slices all the way across the bottom of the dish, sprinkling the cheeses and a little salt and white pepper between the layers.

4. Beat the egg yolks and mix them into the whipping cream. Pour the mixture over the potatoes. It should come up about two-third of the way to the top. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven for an hour.

5. Remove the foil. Combine the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle in a thin layer over the top of the potatoes. Return, uncovered, to the oven. Continue baking until the crust browns. (If you have a convection oven, set it to convect.)

6. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool for at least fifteen minutes before serving.
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We both enjoy fresh pearl onions on the holidays….alas, I was unable to find them in this area.  Had planned on doing a cheesed onion dish.

Instead, I popped a Stouffer’s Spinach Souffle in the microwave.

Dinner was a great success and the bubbly flowed all day long!

Some Festive Cheer

It is Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve happens to be one of the best days of the year, if like me, you happen to love Christmas. I am Kevin McCallister, such is my love of Christmas, it’s traditions and the pure wonder that can be a nicely decorated Christmas tree. This Christmas, more than the last two I have with the disease they call myeloma, I have planned and longed for a ‘normal’ Christmas. By ‘normal’ I mean ‘special’. I had meticulously planned something so much better than the 12 Days of Christmas, so that I could enjoy every single moment of Christmas commercialism. I wanted to gorge on Bing Crosby and Jimmy Stewart until the leftover meat fertilises next year’s tomatoes.

By today, according to my plan, all I should be doing is some elective baking, some constant film watching and some smiling. That is not what I will be doing today. Instead, I have all my presents to wrap, one present to buy and copious amounts of rest to fit in where and wherever I can find it. The need for rest is making me act like Scrooge at the beginning of the Muppet’s Christmas Carol. I do not have the time for it, and all it does is remind me what I was supposed to do.

The reason for my childish want of a normal Christmas will become more apparent as 2015 progresses.

I should have known that my plans would have gone wrong. I should have known that instead of coming back to my parents’ house early to enjoy my nieces’ festive excitement, I would be coming home to my parents’ house to get into bed, via A&E with some antibiotics. I have been a good girl this year; I did not need coal. I have been unwell every Christmas since my diagnosis, so I suppose I am just carrying on with the new tradition.

Now, I would be the first person to put my hands up in the air and wave them around to confirm that I have been displaying the sort of behaviour that shows that I care very much about Christmas and the more I care, the more option I give the myeloma to deviate from it.

Over the last few weeks I have been slowly tying myself in emotional knots in festive anticipation. I have a wonderful example of this. Much to his dismay, and my own surprise, Housemate recently incurred my mighty festive wrath after showed some initiative by taking the Christmas tree out of it’s box and put some fairy lights on it whilst I was out galavanting at 16:00hrs one afternoon. My initial reaction and then the one 24 hours after the deed was done, were ones that some, if they were being polite, could describe as ‘an overreaction’. As I concluded the following day, there is a lot of emotion connected to that Christmas tree. I do not want to be morbid, so I shall not type why it upset me, but if you add a failed bone marrow transplant to future Christmases, you’ll get somewhere near my reasons for wanting a saccharine Christmas.

I do tell myself that I have to be stronger and that I should not complain about my situation. Indeed, I do not want to complain about my situation. Myeloma and Christmas just do not go together and I know that despite what will follow in this blog, there are other families who will feel more pain than I this Christmas. To them, I apologise for my self indulgence…

That said, as it is Christmas Eve, I want to find the festive cheer that left my loins five days ago. In the lead up to Christmas I dragged myself North, South, East and West in order to fully embrace, as fully as my body would allow, the festive good times. There was a voice in the back of my head as I typed the last sentence telling me that I just lied to you. I should have added that as much as I wanted to do everything I did in the lead up, I knew that doing it all would be bad for my body especially when my hospital added five appointments last week. The bespectacled voice also says I probably should have shown more strength and stayed in when I needed to and I should have worried a little bit less about letting people down and had the confidence to think my friends would understand that me needing to stay in and lie on my sofa is not a reflection of my love for them, but is in actual fact, much needed medicine that would have got me to Christmas Day without a temperature of 38.6.

Alas, whilst I will still make it to Christmas Day, I will not make it in the way in which I had planned. I will not have the time to watch the films I wanted to watch nor will I bake the things there are a not enough people in the family to eat. I might not be able to rubber stamp my own wrapping paper for Ebenezer’s sake.

This illness crept up on me at my cousin’s fabulous wedding at the weekend. Not particularly unwell with anything drastic, but I had a fever, a cough and the things that usual accompany fevers and coughs. An annoyance if one is healthy, something a bit more if you are receiving treatment for myeloma. I do not have the resilience to battle it. True to form, to A&E I went on Monday for four whole hours for IV antibiotics. The general public out there with their bugs do not have to do that. They might complain like I am right now though.

Anyway, Mamma Jones says I have to try and get out of bed now. I just watched Die Hard 2: Die Harder. I only added that so you know that I am trying to find some good in a bad situation. I just wish, given the importance of this Christmas, I could do it without factoring myeloma into every single task.

If George Bailey has taught me anything it is that one should be thankful for what they have, so that is what I am going to try to do today and with that in mind, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Santa’s Little Helpers

The kids were anxious to get the show on the road. They’d waited all year for Christmas to come back around, and they were nagging about all things Christmas. “Let’s hang the stockings!” they shouted. “Put a wreath on the door! String up outdoor lights.” They cried. “Let’s get a Christmas tree!” the screeched in union.

“Hold on, hold on.” I said, making a patting gesture with my hands. “You know how this works. We decorate the outside then inside and we don’t get a tree until Christmas is five days away. ”

“Can we get the decorations, Daddy? Pleeeeease!” they begged.

“Ok, we can get the decorations out, but let me do it. They’re all in the garage stacked up with and behind lots of other stuff.”

“Woo!” The yelled and then followed me like lost dogs as I made my way into the garage. I carefully climbed up on stacks of boxes and pulled out the ones marked XMAS and handed them down. The kids would each grab a box and go tearing into the house to stack their box in the living room. Before long, all of the stuff was ready to be opened and inspected. Bad bulbs would be replaced, icicles would be added to and plastic evergreen sprays would be washed off.

I moved on to the lights and turned their box over and dumped them on the floor. The children started screaming and I stood is shock as  hundreds of large brown spiders darted out of the piles of coiled light wires. In three seconds my wife, my children and I were outside, the door slammed behind us. “Holy crap!” I exclaimed. “Where did they all come from?”

“They probably nested in there through the year, breeding and growing.” replied my wife. I stomped back to the garage and searched the shelves for every can of insect and spider killer I could find. Determined to kill them all, I let myself back into the house while the children clung to their mother, wide eyed and fearful for me.

I stepped in the door and was immediately amazaed at how far they’d scattered. There were spiders on the walls, the ceiling, and I could see their shadows moving in the overhead light fixtures. They were perched on all of the furniture. As I stood there taking it all in, a spider dropped from the ceiling and landed on my head. I furiously brushed it off and stomped on it as it tried to skitter away. I aimed my can of poison at a few trying to camouflage themselves in the carpet and was rewarded by a slight drool from the spray nozzle. I dropped that can and grabbed another and again sprayed the carpet spiders. A bright red mist whooshed out of the can and I realized I had grabbed a can of paint in my panicked shelf search for insect spray. “Dammit!” I yelled. Four bright red spiders hot across the room and zipped under the couch.

I went to claim my phone from the kitchen and as I walked there, gingerly stepping and looking for arachnid ambushes, I discovered that I had three spiders on my pants. I jumped up and down, trying to dislodge them. It didn’t work. I grabbed the closest weapon I could get my hands on and began slapping my legs with a spatula, still greasy from breakfast eggs and bacon. I managed to kill the unwanted hitch hikers and grabbed my phone from the counter. A smartphone, I asked it for pest control companies nearby. It listed a few and I tapped the first one in the list.

“A-1 Pest Control.” said a bored voice on the phone.

“I need someone to come right away. I have about a zillion spiders in my house.” I said, breathlessly.

“Ah, they were nesting in the Christmas decorations, right?”

“How did you know?” I asked.

“We get a few of these every season. What kind of spiders are they?” asked the pest guy.

“I have no idea. They’re brown and aggressive. The damn things are attacking me.” I looked down and saw that a few more spiders were trying to ascend my pant legs. I whacked them with a spatula while I shouted some impolite words.

The guy on the phone was laughing now but asked me for my address. I gave it to him and he said he’d be along in fifteen to twenty minutes. Shoving the phone in my pocket I ran from the house through the back door so I wouldn’t have to pass through the infested living room. “The pest control guy is coming right away,” I reassured my family. The children started screaming and pointing at me. My wife’s eyes opened wide and she grabbed the spatula I was still holding from me and began beating me on the back, shoulders and head with it. With each blow an eight legged corpse fell from me. The kids took great delight in stomping on the fallen spiders, making sure that they weren’t just dead, but completely and irrevocably dead.

We stood shivering in the front yard for nearly twenty minutes before the man from A-1 Pest Control arrived. He got out of his van and moved lazily to the back doors, opened them, and pulled out a tank with a hose to a pumper handle. “This is great stuff. It kills them instantly and will kill spiders who walk across it. I don’t even have to spray them directly. You don’t have any pets do you?”

I said no. My daughter explained that we were getting a dog soon, that maybe Santa would bring one. My wife interrupted to say that right at the moment, all she wanted for Christmas was to have the huge population of immigrant spiders eradicated from her house.

Mr. A-1 nodded and then suggested that we might want to go somewhere for a few hours. Once the pray had settled it was okay to be in the house, but so long as it was airborne, it could make us sick. We were about to hop in the car and go visit friends when I realized the car keys were on the hook in the kitchen. Mr. A-1 said he’d go grab them for us. Sliding a respirator into place he stepped into the house. Even with the respirator on him and him being indoors, I heard him say “Holy shit!” A minute later the front door opened and he tossed me the keys. “Man, you have a serious lot of spiders in here!” he said, closing the door again.

We came back at three o’clock in the afternoon, giving the spray five hours to dissipate. With great trepidation, I opened the front door and peered in. There were still a lot of spiders everywhere, but none were on the walls or ceiling. All of them were on the floor, table tops, the fireplace mantle and shelves. They were unmoving.

It took my wife until 9 at night to vacuum up all of the spider corpses. She did the kid’s rooms first so they could watch television or use their computers. At six we sent out for pizza. I spent the time before dinner shoving boxes of decorations into garbage bags -outside, of course. I took the garbage bags into the kitchen and microwaved them for 15 seconds before taking them back outside to inspect them for spiders. I found some, but they were done in by the microwave, which also had a negative effect on some of the decorations. The angel that sat atop the tree had been turned into a hunchback and other plastic goods suffered as well.  The following day we made  a trip out to buy some new decorations.

When the day came to buy a tree, the kids gleefully ran around the lot inspecting the trees. They had it down to a choice of about twenty when my daughter shrieked and ran to me and held my leg. She was shaking and wide eyed. She had discovered a spider in one of the trees she’d looked at. An hour later, we carried our brand new artificial tree into the house to set it up.

These days we pack our decorations carefully sealing the boxes we store them in completely. We also spray them with insect spray before we close them up. It makes for a much merrier Christmas that way.

 

Aunt Nan’s "Pig Tail Party" (New Years Day)

Firstly, let me tell you about pig tails.  I grew up on ’em.  Very German.  As hideous as they sound, they’re delicious if they’re baked to a crispy crunch!  If you enjoy cracklin’s or pork rinds, picture them with meat attached.

Two years prior to this batch of pictures, the 4 kids wanted NOTHING to do with them.

Finally, Jen’s daughter Lauren, saw Ric and I enjoying them, and was the first to indulge.  Within minutes, the other 3 were racing into the kitchen to eat ’em!  I figure that my maw was smiling down from heaven!

I picked up 7 pounds of them this year.  They went quick (with a little bit of help from their Grandad and I)  This year, the “Pig Tail Queen” was Jill’s Brooke.  The kid lost a mouth full of baby teeth, but still managed to proclaim, “Look Aunt Nan!  I picked it clean!”.  She was one determined little girl.  (pictured)  Man, she put them away this year!

Also cooked a center cut pork loin, country ribs (I think that maw always cooked spare ribs, but we like the meatier country style), sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, lima beans, baked apples, and finally another “hit”…….  I had gone to a client’s “Filipino/American” Christmas party years ago.  They had a fabulous angel hair pasta dish.  When I inquired about the ingredients, she said, “PORK DRIPPINGS with a little bit of salt”.  (I cook about half of the pork with kraut, and the other half without for the pasta).

Christmas Eve at Jill and Tony’s Home

This was a fun-filled day.  The girls put on quite the spread of food.  Beer, wine and bubbly was flowing throughout the day.

The 4 kids were very well behaved and loving towards each other.  Jill home-schools her two little ones…..thus Ryan’s WAY COOL Mohawk!  (Grown men compliment him on his haircut when they’re out and about)  *smiling*

Tony didn’t get home from work until early evening.  Richard was at home with his sons and grandchild from a prior marriage.

I’m going to split these pictures up.  Here are my favorites of the kids: