The Bake Shop Ghost

Who knew baking was such an emotional activity?

Today was a planned day off — primarily for grocery shopping and baking cookies for Easter. I have learned that baking, at least for me, is not a solitary activity. I am used to chatting with my mom, discussing everything imaginable while we baked, including baking stuff.  Is the dough too sticky / wet / too dry?  Should we add a little more of… something…?  Do they look like they need a few more minutes in the oven?  We were also a tag team on the rolling out of cookies and getting them in and out of the oven.  We worked side-by-side, each picking up where the other left off — seamlessly.  Being a solo act was tough, and my early morning baking was not without tears.  Eventually I got myself together and made some good progress.

First: Two batches of peanut butter blossoms.  These I have made a hundred times but today they came out a a little flat for some reason (old baking soda?).  They otherwise looked good and tasted great.

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Next up: Two batches of sugar cookies…this is first for me, at least in terms of the dough. These came out great and the best compliment of all?  When the kids (my son and niece) came in after school and said “oh!  the house smells like Grandma’s!!”.  The cookies passed their muster, so I was pretty happy about that.

Lastly (at least for cookies): One batch of shortbreads.  These are my sister-in-law’s favorite and, since she took on the pierogies, I thought it was the least I could do.  Those came out great also, with only one casualty:  a tray of cookies that got too brown because I was multi-tasking and missed the timer.

Then it was on to decorating the sugar cookies.  The kids helped for a while, but they eventually got tired and quit. Thankfully, my aunt came to visit and she helped me finish the decorating.  I also got to enjoy looking through lots of old pictures with my aunt (she was able to identify a lot of people I didn’t know), and we shared a few more tears.  It felt good to talk about Mom, walk down memory lane, and spend some quality time with my aunt.

When all was said and done, the sugar cookies looked beautiful and I know my mom is smiling down on us.  She would be so proud!

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After clean up, I baked my first lemon pie.  Feeling pretty accomplished today!

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Oh, and in case you are wondering, there isn’t anything healthy about any of the above!  (But, hey, it’s the holidays!)  :)

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IMDb The Bake Shop Ghost (2009)

Empty Chair

How is it that Easter has suddenly crept up on us?  It seemed so far away and yet, here we are. Holy Week. I must admit that I am totally not ready. Not physically, and certainly not emotionally. This is it: our first holiday without Mom.

We are doing our best to keep up all the traditions, but I have no idea how my mother did it all. True she was a stay-at-home mom most of her life, but even in her later years, she did a tremendous amount of work.  In fact, she did pretty much everything.  And so we go about trying to split the work between us.

I made the seasonal pickled eggs for my Dad, and my sister-in-law, Sandy, made her second batch of homemade pierogies.  (I got off easy on that one.)  Friday, we will have to hard boil our own eggs for coloring (yes, Mom even did that for us… including getting all the supplies ready for us), and we’ve got things covered for our fish dinner Friday night.

My Dad decided that he still wants to do the tradition of getting a basket blessed on Saturday, even though he has never gone to do that in my memory.  It was always me and Mom.  But I will indulge him this, although I will not be making a second ham to include in the basket.  We will make do with a few simple items: kielbasi, eggs, bread, butter, horseradish.  But we will honor this tradition.

Sunday dinner.  Sandy and I have split the tasks on this one, evenly splitting the dinner items, as well as desserts.  I’ll be baking (or at least attempting) Mom’s world famous sugar cookies.  Of course, we do not remember the recipe for the icing, so we’ll have to see what Google can come up with.  I’ll also be baking the peanut butter blossom cookies, and also attempting a lemon pie. I guess I’ll do a practice run before the weekend arrives.

I understand that many of you reading this are thinking “big deal”.  I am sure so many of you tackle the whole dinner thing on your own, and then some. But we have been spoiled rotten by many years of Mom doing all the work. She loved every minute of it and she was the focal point of every single holiday. It’s not so much her cooking we’ll miss, but her presence.

I am grateful that my church sent me the book “The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions” by Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge, RN, Ed.D., and Robert C. DeVries, D.Min., PhD.  I am working my way through it this week, and am appreciative of the reflections.  The book speaks to my heart and it is nice to see my feelings put into words better than I could do it myself.  It’s going to be a difficult week, but I pray that we can find some peace in the joy that is the Easter season. Mom would have wanted it that way.

empty chair

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So in my pickled egg adventure, I Google’d how to make the perfect hard boiled eggs. Historically, I just boil the hell out of them, not really timing them.  I thought this method, from our dear Martha Stewart, was much easier, and very effective:  Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

But you already knew that, didn’t you?  :)

So what are your Easter traditions?

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IMDb Empty Chair (2015)

The Winning Team

I have the best team in the world!  They really are awesome for lots of reasons, but today we came together for a “build a salad” day.  Everyone signed up to bring an ingredient, and we had the best salad bar I have ever seen! We all enjoyed a healthy lunch together and there was even a banner to congratulate the 2013 healthy team winners.  It was very enjoyable, and healthy to boot!  We even have enough left over to do it again tomorrow.

Since I was a late-comer to the sign up sheet, all the easy stuff was taken.  I wanted to bring a unique item, so I searched for something I could do with quinoa.  I found a recipe for Zesty Quinoa Salad, and I thought it was great.

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I was looking back at my blog from a year ago and it was this time last year that I went “scarf-less” for the first time.  It was a huge step for me, since my hair was still SO short, but I was just so sick of wearing them.  Hard to believe it was this short just a year ago.

april 2013

Although I have to say it hasn’t grown quite the way I’d like.  The bangs, which I want to grow fast have not been cut in 15 months and are creeping finally to a decent length. The sides and back, that I don’t want to grow, needs to be cut every couple weeks.  I’m not complaining — I always said I’d never have another bad hair day!  I guess I’m just happy that I have hair and that it came in pretty much the same as it was pre-chemo.

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The days continue to fly by.  I’m glad tomorrow’s Friday, but I wish the time would slow down just a bit so I can get caught up.  Next week is Easter and I am not ready.  It’s also my hubby’s birthday.  Um, nope.  Not ready for that either.  (Sorry, David!)  I’m trying to just breathe and take it one thing at a time, but that’s easier said than done.  I guess at some point I’ll catch up.

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IMDb The Winning Team (1952)

 

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama

Just kidding!  It’s really 10 questions for me!

My friend and co-worker, Steve Albert, who blogs on “Not Cease from Exploration”, asked me if he could interview me on his blog.  I was honored by his request and accepted the challenge (I didn’t really know what kinds of questions I would get…)  The questions were fun and interesting, and I had a blast answering them.

You can catch the full post here:  10 Questions from the author of Lights Cancer Action!

Many thanks to Steve for his interest and continued readership!!  While you are there, feel free to check out Steve’s blog.  You can find a link also under my “Friends” tab.

IMDb 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama (2006)

Lullaby

I was listening to the Billy Joel channel on Sirius radio this past weekend and he was talking about his song, “Lullaby”. He said that when his daughter was young, and he was going through his divorce, she asked him about death: what would happen to her if he should die? He explained to her that any time she sang one of his songs, he would always be there in her heart, and that he would live on through her (paraphrased since my short term memory issues don’t allow me to remember the exact words!). Of course, I’ve heard similar stories before, and certainly everyone talks about how our loved ones are always with us. I totally get that, but for some reason, this story really struck me, and I thought a lot about it these past few days.  Maybe it’s because it was paired with this beautiful music.  (By the way, there are so many songs on this Billy Joel channel that I have never heard before!  Was I living under a rock??)  Anyway, since it’s bedtime, here’s the link to Lullaby.

Goodnight, my angel
Now it’s time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry
And if you sing this lullabye
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of me

Someday we’ll all be gone
But lullabyes go on and on…
They never die
That’s how you
And I
Will be

And so with my mom, she does live on through us with every recipe, with every picture.  With every tradition, every memory.

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Some quick notes on my blog… In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been trying to work on the format.  Since I only slapped it together when I started in August 2012, I thought it needed a face lift if I was going to stick around a while.  So you will notice the new tabs across the top.  I still need to go back and categorize 350 or so posts, but I will do a little at a time.  This way it will be easier if you are want to peruse recipes or are looking for something a little more specific. Additionally, I’ve created links to some of the best resources I have used (and will continue to add), and links to a few of my favorite blogs under “friends”.

For those of you with a Facebook account, please “like” my new FB page “Lights Cancer Action”. And lastly, thank you to my new book “WordPress: the missing manual”, I have finally figured out how to do hyperlinks.  omg.  I’m an idiot and can’t believe it took me this long… but it works differently than I have used the functionality elsewhere, so I am going easy on myself.  But really.  :)

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IMDb Lullaby (2008)

Girl on a Bicycle

Before I had breast cancer, my husband and I would periodically take mountain bikes to the local state park and ride the trails. It’s obviously been a while since we rode, but we are determined this is our year to get moving again. (Ok, I really mean MY year… David exercises almost every day; I’m the one who has been too inactive this 1 1/2 years…) David even bought new bikes for us both for extra incentive.

This morning, despite temperatures in the high 30s, David got the bike rack mounted on the car and the bikes loaded. Off we went. In retrospect, we should have started with a flatter trail, but no. We picked a trail with some pretty decent hills. In fact, it starts with a hill, and after about the first quarter mile, my legs were on fire!

It got a little better after that, for a while anyway, and it was quite fun. Like swinging, biking is one if those activities that takes me back to my childhood. So as I coasted down a giant hill and the cool (cold?) wind whipped around my face, I thought a lot about my mom when we were young. And I thought about riding bikes in the driveway and through the yard. I remembered the bikes with the banana seats and skidding to a stop in the dirt; of dropping the bike to run into the house for a drink of water. I thought of all the valuable baseball cards we ruined in the spokes. And my favorite bike memory: the time my dad ran over my bike because we had been playing cowboys and I had hitched my “horse” to the back bumper of his car. Oops! I remember that bike so well. It was blue with a white wicker basket with pink flowers on the front. I even remember picking it out at the store with my parents. Nice memories.

We managed to bike about an hour, with us both needing to walk the bike up some of the hills. I was doing some serious deep breathing!  It was a lot of fun and great exercise! Yes, I will be sore tomorrow (I’m actually starting to feel it NOW), but it was just what I needed. After all, diet AND exercise reduce your cancer risk.

I can’t wait until we go again–I love my new “horse”. :)

bike


By the way, I had to include this photo… it’s just like the basket I had when I was a kid!

basket

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Girl on a Bicycle (2013) - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1686042/

The Motivation

As I have mentioned previously, a group of people I work with (across 4 states) comes together once a month to support each other with our health goals.  Our “healthy team”, you may recall, won the annual award for health results, beating out teams from across the country.  We were super proud of that, and we are striving for a repeat in 2014.  We continue our monthly meetings and support of each other’s new goals.

Yesterday’s meeting included a discussion around “motivation”, as requested by one of our newest members. It was an interesting conversation and, after a few people spoke, it was clear that there was a catalyst in all cases — something that prompted us to start making some changes.  For most, it was a high cholesterol score, family pushing for their loved one to get healthier, or a major health scare.  The latter was clearly the case for me.  My first cancer didn’t prompt enough change, but the second one surely did.  I really am trying my best to not get a third cancer, and I think of that with every bite of food that passes my lips.

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but eating right feels like a life-or-death scenario for me. I need to nourish and care for my body if I have any hopes of seeing my son grow up or of growing old with my hubby. It struck me, though, that it is usually a scare of some kind that moves us to action.  We know what we should be doing to be healthy… eat right, exercise more, get sufficient sleep, limit alcohol, don’t smoke… and we know what constitutes “eating right”.  It isn’t rocket science.

So why does it take a health scare before we are motivated to healthy activities?  Is there a belief that “it won’t happen to me”?  Do we have so much faith in modern medicine that we trust someone will bring us back from the brink, that we can just take a pill and it will be all better? Wouldn’t it be great if we made the changes before we got sick? That we avoided the worry, the expenses, the treatments, the drugs?

What changes are you going to make TODAY?  Let good health and energy be your motivation. Don’t wait.

(Thanks to my “healthy teammates” for today’s topic!)

motivation

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The Motivation (2013) – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2755016/