Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Whoa kids. Last night's new recipe (recommended by my friend Diana) was PERFECTION-- and by perfection, I mean it successfully contained all elements of a Recipe Trifecta: Easy. Delicious. Cheap. Ready for it?

Source: thekitchn.com via Erika on Pinterest

Gnocchi with Squash and Sweet Corn

It was amaaaaaazing!!! Look-- mine even turned out to look pretty much like theirs!
I used whole wheat gnocchi, that's why it's darker than the "real" picture. This was my first experience cooking AND eating gnocchi, and it definitely won't be my last-- it was super FAST and easy and delicious! This recipe was totally a winner, and you need to go make it immediately. Like now. Go. Seriously.


Other exciting happenings of late?
 Stocked up on my (mostly mindless) reading materials for post-surgery entertainment. If you suspect that I choose books based on their covers, then you would be absolutely correct.

Found a new visitor in my flower bed. Seriously, I should go work for Animal Planet...I am out of control with the animal videos these days! (Iguanas, bears...yeah.)

Current favorite Olympic sport: Synchronized diving (WOMENS, please...cannot handle the mens' banana hammocks...ick). I am currently accepting applications for synchro diving partners. I am looking to win the 2016 Games (WATCH OUT, CHINESE), so let me know if you're interested in being on my team. Oh, I'm also looking for a coach, because HOW THE HECK DO THEY DO THAT??!

Favorite thing about the Olympics (other than...ya know, the Olympics...): the way that everyone comes dragging in to work in the morning because they were all up late watching the Games. And how you can talk about them all day long and everyone can participate in the conversation, because EVERYONE LOVES THE OLYMPICS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, and because it breaks up all the ridiculous political rants on Facebook. So many reasons to love!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

oh how they grow

I've been sneaking in a lot of extra "flower walks" this weekend. One, because I missed my plants while we were on vacation and I feel like they grew and changed and got all grown up while I was gone. Two, because after surgery, I might not be up to doing a lot of walking, and so I want to "store up" lots of flower time to tide me over. I'm not sure if it really works that way, but I'm hoping so. Three, because incidentally, the gardens were all in serious need of weeding...which isn't nearly as fun as just looking at the flowers...but still lets me spend time with the plants outside.

 Anyway. So you know how I'm like your go-to garden guru...no, seriously. I am. For some of you, anyway. Can I just say that that's been one of my favorite things this summer?? I've gotten maybe five tons of emails (plus in-person questions from real-life friends) asking for garden/flower advice and diagnostics (some of you even send pictures!!!) and this has tickled me to no end. Then you had to go be all encouraging with my "Plants 101" post (lecture) last month...so I've decided to give you yet another unsolicited helpful lesson in gardening...don't worry, though- it's a quick one.

Today's lesson: Don't be afraid to start small. The great thing about plants is that THEY GROW.

Case in point: Last summer we decided to dig up a new flower bed along the side of our house. Up to that time, all that was happening over there in that side yard was that our unruly weeds would grow up really tall and tacky (and stood out nicely against our tan siding) and...yeah, that's all. And since every single person who leaves our neighborhood had to see that hot mess every time they drove by, I felt like I owed it to the world to give them something better than dandelions to look at. Here's the thing about me and Matt and gardens and such: we pretty much just play things by ear. First we spent a day or two digging and tilling up the ground (because it was a lonnnnnng and rocky patch). Then we had to go find plants...but we didn't really have a plan for what we wanted to plant, we just wanted to...play it by ear. We wanted some bush-type things that would grow tall eventually. We wanted some color. And...we didn't have a lot of money, so all of the above would need to be cheap.

So we went to the store, we read plant-tags and got some cheap-but-hopefully-pretty flowering bushes (variegated weigela), a knock-out rose, a few random annuals (so that we could change them out year to year as the other bushes grew and filled out), and transplanted one of the INFINITY Rose of Sharons my mom gives me (seriously, I probably have 30 of them. At least they're gorgeous!). It was a lot of work, and at the end of the weekend, our new bed was...extremely underwhelming:

I mean, it was better than weeds...but...wow. That was a lot of work for a few teeny tiny plants that you could barely see unless you were 2 feet away. But it was all we could do-- bigger plants cost more money, and since we "needed" so many of them...smaller was what we could afford. So this is what we ended up with.

But remember the key point here: PLANTS GROW. And if you live in Georgia and you do a half-assed job of taking care of your plants...they'll grow FAST.


I mean, would you look at the difference there??! Those are all of the EXACT SAME PLANTS-- I haven't done anything to them (other than water them)...there are some different annuals, sunflowers, etc. in there now, but you can't see them in the far-off shot...all those bushes and flowers are the very same weigela and rose plant I planted last summer. They're HUGE!!!

So let this be your encouragement to just try planting something-- and even if it's a little less than WOW at first...it will probably grow and grow and grow and be super awesome in the future. And now class is over. You are dismissed. 

Unless you want to see a few more flower pictures, that is. Then you can stay for our after-school club.

 We have okra!!

 This is a new bed along the back of the house...we dug it and planted it in mid-June...exhibit B for DAGGUM THESE THINGS GROW FAST!!!

This knock-out rose plant we rescued from the discount rack at Lowe's in June. At the time of purchase, it was basically two half-dead sticks in a pot (we seriously debated whether it was worth the $3 gamble)...and now it is growing and blooming and GORGEOUS!

In conclusion: I love flowers.

PS. Can you tell I had a love affair with making collages on PicMonkey this weekend? The time-lapse garden pictures, the new header...I blame it on needing to feel like I'm doing SOMETHING while watching Olympics non-stop...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

the to-do list

Now that vacation is over, all of my attention is focused on my upcoming surgery (next Friday, 8/3). Because I am a control freak through and through, I am keeping myself quite busy (mentally, anyway) with a self-imposed "to-do before surgery" list. Let's take a look at what all I have on the week's agenda, shall we?

1. Find out everything imaginable about what to expect during/after surgery from tell-all bloggers. This is actually proving to be extremely enlightening and useful, as the information the actual DOCTORS give me is...lacking, to say the least. My hat's off to the girls willing to over-share EVERYTHING about their own experiences with this surgery...I feel like I'm a lot more aware of what to expect (and worry about) because of their openness...and I certainly plan to pay it forward by doing the same thing after my surgery is over. Here's a few of the helpful blogs I've come across: SIF's Post-Op TipsLap for Endo Diagnosis & Treatment Advice; Anne's Lap Tips; Lap: Before & After Tips; My Lap to treat Endo.

Now that I know what to expect, I have to follow the advice of these ladies and make lots of preparations, which brings me to the rest of my to-do list.

2. Prepare and freeze meals. I've been prepping and shopping and planning to do this for a few weeks now, but now that the time has come to actually cook and freeze...ugh. Who wants to do all THAT work? But it needs to be done, so I shall do it. Eventually. Maybe later. (Or not-- my parents are going to come stay with me for the weekend after surgery and Mom said something about cooking a bunch of stuff for us...so maybe I will do NO preparations, and leave that to her? Yes?)

3. Collect proper entertainment/things to pass the time. I've read almost all the books I have on my Kindle, so I need to find new stuff to download. I think I'll go to the library, too. As for TV-based entertainment, I think the Olympics will keep me pretty occupied. I was also thinking about grabbing a season or 2 of a good show to start watching...we don't have Netflix, but if anyone already owns DVDs of a great show and wants to lend them to me, that would be totally accepted. Ditto goes for good books you're dying to lend.

4. Clean the house. I am TERRIBLE at the 'lay there and heal' thing (remember, I had over a week of this in April after that episode, plus many smaller (one or 2 day) experiences over the past few years after regular ruptured cysts), and nothing will get me hopping (however painfully) off my couch/bed faster than spying dog fur tumbleweeds rolling across the floor, or a layer of dust on the mantel, or spaghetti-sauce-stains on the stovetop, or grass flecks on the rug. Although I (and my house) am normally quite orderly and clean, apparently the desire for cleanliness goes into MAJOR OVERDRIVE the longer I am laying on a couch with nothing to do but look for imperfections in my environment. Thus, I must preempt this desire to clean by making sure everything is SUPER CLEAN before the surgery. The good thing is that I did some major deep cleaning last week before vacation, so there isn't THAT much to do now.

5. Weed the gardens. REALLY WELL. Let's be honest-- they haven't been weeded in far too long anyway (before vacation, we were getting rain almost every single evening, so I could never do anything outside)...so the lack of weeding PLUS abundance of rain (totally unheard of, btw) means that the weeds are mile-high. This is the sort of thing that will majorly stress me out as I'm bed-bound, and give me constant temptation to run outside and fix things up. And I have a hunch that the physical stress of weeding (bending over, pulling, etc) is NOT going to feel awesome after abdominal surgery, so...yup, time to take care of that now. Yesterday I knocked out two beds really well. Only about a million to go...

6. Find a multi-outlet extension cord thingy. The couch I prefer to lay on is in the middle of the room with no outlets nearby. This will cramp my style and limit my electronic-device-using. I know we have several of these things around the house...just need to find one that can be temporarily (and tackily...haha, it's going to be laying across the middle of the floor, sick!) relocated.

Okay. I think that's everything on the list for now. Now that you see how much I have to do (as well as full-time work all week, of course, in addition to another trip to Atlanta on Wednesday for pre-op), it should make sense that instead of doing ANY of those things right now, I've spent the morning making and eating pancakes and watching the Olympics. Obviously.

How about a few random vacation pics before you go? Perfect.

 Most scenic (and RIDICULOUS) mini-golf course ever!! Plus it was SO WINDY the balls kept getting blown away, ha. But I beat Matt anyway, so that's all that mattered.

 This was an AWESOME giant swing in the lobby. Seriously, it was the coolest thing ever. I want one in my house. Add it to my list!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

vacation observations

Well...we're back. Back to America, to our non-vacation reality, to boo-hiss-regular-life. You can probably guess how I feel about that situation:

We felt like this as we sat in the lobby of our resort, waiting for our shuttle to come pick us up this morning. Boo. Vacation is over. BOOOOOOOO. Thankfully, our travels home went off without a hitch, so at least there's that. Am I the only one who has Brokedown Palace-inspired nightmares about international travel? I swear that movie scarred me for life. Anyway, instead of complaining (you know, the only thing I'm truly great at in life), I thought I would share with you a few observations and tips I gathered on my trip this week. Ya know, in case you were thinking of traveling (especially to a Mexican resort) anytime in the near future...maybe this will come in handy. Or at least enlightening/humorous.

1. You can leave your Big Girl Camera at home. Now THAT was a depressing realization, but here's the thing: the temperature/humidity change that occurs when you take your camera (in its case) from your extremely air-conditioned room (more on that later) out into the extremely hot and humid outside air causes all KINDS of fog to appear on all KINDS of lenses that you apparently can't reach (to clear them) unless you care to completely dissemble your camera (which you won't, since there is sand everywhere). I saw other people with their DSLRs outside and asked how on earth they were able to get any pictures that didn't look like this:

 ...and they all agreed that it was the sudden temp/humidity change causing the problem, and the only solution is to give your camera a long, long time (like an hour) of just sitting outside, and it will adjust to the temperature and the fog will clear. So unless you just feel like sitting outside with your camera for an hour (trying to avoid all water and sand)...then don't bother. Therefore 95% of our (non-foggy) pictures are from my phone. I was particularly bummed because we hauled our dang TRIPOD all the way there, just KNOWING we were going to have such fantastic beach shots...no dice. We did set up the tripod once, in our room, because I refused to NOT use it. So we took some pre-dinner shots.

 Not sure why Matt busted out the pregnancy/prom hand for that last shot. Read nothing into it.

2. The iguana situation is out of control in Cancun. For real now. Those things are running as wild as squirrels and deer run in Georgia. Only they're a lot more dragon-like. Oh, and Erika-like...as in, they can normally be found basking in the sun and/or checking out plants. Hopefully Matt did not break any laws by taking it upon himself to feed them:

3. This one is a biggie, yall. We need to discuss the BATHING SUIT BOTTOM COVERAGE NORMS I observed in Cancun. Here in the good ol' US, most women at beaches/resorts/public places where people wear bathing suits stick to, shall we say, a more full-coverage bottom? Even if it may have string ties on the sides, or be of the low-rise persuasion, the SEAT is...covered. NOT SO, my friends, in Mexico. NOT SO. Matt and I had our eyes assaulted MANY times with buns of all shapes and sizes (and degrees of cellulite). And I'm not JUDGING the buns of all types...because I can go ahead and tell you, if MY buns were out there on display, they would not be winning any prizes (except maybe the one for "whitest", or "greatest color contrast with the rest of her body", or "least cute") but...well, possibly that's why I keep 'em covered up with a nice piece of fabric on my ol' bikini bottom. I haven't heard myself singing Thong Song this many times since my senior prom (thank you, band at the senior prom for that lovely 45-minute-long rendition, by the way. It was awesome.). And the funny thing was that the demographic of the bethonged was as wide and varied as the asses on display: in addition to the expected early-20s, looking-for-attention-type-girls, there were moms playing with their kids...grandmas playing with their grandkids...oh Lord help us all. It was equal parts scary and hilarious. Just sayin'. If you're headed to Mexico, be prepared to see something special.

4. Since #3 would be a scary note to finish on, let's throw in one last observation/tip before you travel to Mexico: Figure out Celsius temperatures before you go, lest you FREEZE TO DEATH trying to guess what temperature you might like your room to be while you sleep.
Hello, arch-nemesis.

 I'm sure I learned a formula to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius at some point in my illustrious educational career, but obviously I don't remember it. Therefore, when presented with the thermostat pictured above, I figured that somewhere in the middle would be just fine...since I'm all about the moderation. Unfortunately, that would be wrong, since setting it somewhere in the middle means that you wake up with frostbite. What the heck, dude? Why can't we all just use Fahrenheit? Sheeeeesh. Also, I just LOOKED UP (because I'm all about furthering my own education), and 10 degrees C would be 50 degrees F...who in the world would set their thermostat at 50 degrees???!!?!! Like...Santa and the elves, vacationing in Cancun, wanting a taste of the Motherland?? What the heck, dude??!

And with that, you should be allllll set for your own upcoming trip to the best place on Earth, the Caribbean. And if you don't have an upcoming trip there (like me, now)...then we can all mourn that fact together. And yet silently rejoice in the fact that at least we won't be assaulted by unsolicited buns in our faces tomorrow...so, at least there's that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I'm sure you're already aware that in an "all-inclusive" resort such as the one I'm at, everything (food, drinks, services) is unlimited. This is actually as awesome as it sounds, and I can see myself have a hard time going back to my old LIMITED lifestyle when this trip (sadly, horribly) ends. Especially after last night. Because last night...they busted out a cotton candy machine.

GAME OVER. Are you KIDDING ME??! Cotton candy is only my favorite thing in the whole world slash reason for living slash impossible to obtain unless you're at a fair or circus!!!! I almost died on the spot. And then ate 2 bites of dinner and spent the rest of the night devouring cotton candy. And took an extra stick of it for the road. BEST. NIGHT. EVER. Enjoy some pictures of my dream night unfolding.

Monday, July 23, 2012

diagnosis: watermelon

Photo taken 7/6/12
Remember this guy? The mysterious and possibly redemptive spontaneous squash vine?

Well, he's been doing some growing. Here we have him last Friday:
Photo taken 7/20/12

 And what's more is that he's growing some FRUIT! Or...vegetable. Or something. But lots of it!

I'm going to have to hazard a guess that it is not squash, since a) it doesn't remotely resemble squash, and b)...ummm...it just definitely is not squash. All of the little 'growths' are round and green, which also makes me think it's not cucumbers. My friend Diana immediately suggested watermelon, and I think she probably is right. But then I couldn't figure out how on EARTH watermelon would be springing up. And then she asked if we ever threw watermelon rinds/seeds in our compost. And I said...duh. Yes, of course we do. Of course that's a perfectly logical explanation for why watermelon would now be springing forth from the compost. I am so glad my friends are smarter than me!!

So! We'll be calling it watermelon until we receive any evidence suggesting otherwise. I must admit-- I'm pretty pumped about some spontaneous watermelon taking over the backyard! Although it's going to look pretty tacky once the grass really starts getting tall, but we can't mow due to...watermelon vines...obviously...but, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

Some people have unplanned pregnancies. Some people get unplanned watermelon crops. Something for everyone, I suppose! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Hope your weekend's going well. Mine sure is. :)
A few pictures from yesterday and this morning to get your day started off right. We're about to head to the marina for some kayaking, followed by plenty of swimming, lounging, eating, and drinking. Happy Sunday from Cancun!!


Friday, July 20, 2012

blogger 411

I came across this "get to know you" link-up and thought I'd participate...since I have Vacation Brain (official diagnosis), I can't make any cohesive thoughts anyway (other than __ MORE HOURS UNTIL VACATION....IN ___ DAYS WE WILL BE DOING ____). So I figured I'd play along here, rather than rubbing it in your faces that my life is about to be so awesome when I am on vacation. Because that would just be rude, wouldn't it? Exactly.

1. How long have you been blogging? And what got you started on blogging? Has your blog changed?I started this blog in February 2008. I had blogs during high school and college (Open Diary and Xanga, what what!), but had been blog-less for a few years. After we'd been married a few months, I decided to get back in the game...ya know, before we started popping out all the kids...or so we thought. I didn't exactly anticipate this becoming a depressing infertility blog, but...it's just how life goes sometimes.
2. Did you go to college? If so where, and what did you study?
Yes, I graduated from the University of Georgia in 2005 with degrees in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Good times...useless degrees.
3. Where have you traveled?
All over the US (but not California, the Pacific Northwest, or anywhere northeast of Washington, DC); Guatemala (twice); Mexico (3x); the Cayman Islands; Germany; Holland; Belgium.

4. If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would buy?
A good accountant. And a pedicure.
5. What are your 3 biggest pet peeves?
Chronic unpunctuality; consistent misuse of spelling/grammar; failure to "pooper scooper"

6. What is your favorite movie?
Tough question. Love Actually or Moulin Rouge.
7. What is your drink of choice?
Usually water, but I do love lemonade, good beer, and fruity mixed drinks.
8. What is something you enjoy doing when you have me time?
Blogging, of course! Also- taking care of my plants, reading by the pool, or getting mani-pedis.
9. If you could have a $10,000 shopping spree to one store, which store would it be?
Whoa. That's a lot of shopping. If Amazon.com counted as a "store," I would pick that. Otherwise...Target.
10. Share with us an embarrassing moment of your past.
In college, some friends and I were talking about different body piercings that people we knew were getting/wanting. One friend was telling about a friend who'd gotten a labret piercing, which is the area right below your bottom lip/above your chin. As the conversation went on, I apparently got a little mixed up with my anatomy terms and started referring to that person's labia piercing. And the person was a boy. And everybody laughed, and I didn't understand why. NOT THE SAME WORD, ERIKA...I still turn red thinking about that! (I wonder what kind of interesting Google searches will bring people to me now that I've used that word?)
11. What day would you love to relive again?
The day I met Matt. I wonder if we spoke, what we said, if I had any thought of him, etc. (We met as new co-workers)
12. If your life was turned into a movie... what actor would play you?
Zooey Deschanel, of course! We have the same hair. And she's almost as cute as me. Duh.
13. What are the jobs you had in high school/college/the early years?
Loads and loads of babysitting/nannying; working as a church 'steward' (sort of like evening secretary); private music lessons; research assistant for PhD student with disabilities; church nursery worker; party attendant/manager at Pump it Up
14. Show us a picture from high school or college.

Elizabeth and I before Georgia-Florida (The World's Largest Cocktail Party) 2004
 15. If you could travel anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, where would you go? Umm...maybe Fiji, or some other really awesome island place. Where I would stay in one of those huts over the water. And dive off my back porch into the clearest, bluest water...
16. Show us the most current picture of you or you, or your family, or anything of meaning to you. 

Matt and I on the 4th of July
17. Where do you see your life 5 years from now?
  With Matt, and for all of our sakes, there'd better be a kid of our own in the picture. I don't really care about anything else.

Well, that was fun...and distracted me from re-folding the clothes in my suitcase for the 300th time, so that's probably a good thing...but now I need to get back to my regularly-scheduled FREAKING OUT ABOUT ALMOST BEING ON VACATION!!!!!!!!!!! So we'll have to chat later. Bye!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

winner winner pinterest dinner

Okay. I mentioned yesterday that I made five successful Pinterest recipes between Saturday and Monday. Chalk up another success with last night's, and I am on a dang ROLL!! Then my friend Sloan inspired me today by posting a recap of some of her recent Pinterest successes, so I figured I'd copy her!!

Saturday morning, breakfast:

Hootenanny!!! Or, if you'd like to be boring about it, I've also heard it referred to as a German pancake or oven pancake. But who would choose those names when you could call it a HOOTENANNY? Exactly. Anyway, to be honest, we've been making these since the weekend I joined Pinterest (like...last September, maybe?)...so this wasn't a new one by any means, but definitely a favorite.

Saturday- to take to a cookout with friends:

Crescent rolls with spinach, feta, and mozzerella. So easy. So good.

Saturday-- to take to Sunday's Bacon Fest

Source: thekitchn.com via Erika on Pinterest

Goat Cheese Pops with Herbs, Pecans, & Bacon. We've already discussed how awesome these were.

Sunday- for Bacon Fest

Maple Pecan-Crusted Bacon. Again, I think I've already informed you that this was INSANELY DELICIOUS. And easy. But fair warning: your oven will smoke so much (while baking), you will worry your house is about to burn down. But it probably won't, so...cook away!

Monday night- for this week's breakfasts

Baked oatmeal to-go. This totally had the potential to flop, but I must say-- it's pretty darn good. I did have to buy things I normally do not use (unsweetened applesauce, flax seed meal), but overall it was pretty easy to make these, it made a lot (22ish, and we've been eating 1 each for breakfast, so...that'll last awhile!), and they're quite good!

Wednesday night-- dinner

Summer Corn Fettuccine. Technically I didn't get this one "from Pinterest"-- I pinned it myself from a blog I read (Matt & Kara Adopt), but...whatever, I'm counting it. Made this one last night and it was SO GOOD and VERY easy. Seriously, the hardest part was cutting the corn off the cob. And that's not very hard. And it turned out fantastically. I subbed in whole wheat spaghetti for the fettuccine (because I had it on hand) and I will DEFINITELY be making this again in the future...especially in the summer, when fresh corn is dirt cheap and I grow practically all the rest of the veggies/herbs in my own garden. MAJOR WIN!

So there's a week of solid successes. I just can't believe it because I feel like half the time Pinterest recipes do NOT go according to plan...so I think I'm not going to make any more for awhile so that I can bask in my string of successes for a little longer. Although honestly, it might be more FUN if a few of these had crashed-and-burned, because then I could have a WAY MORE HILARIOUS blog like Pintester and...yeah. Love. Her. Slash am jealous I am not nearly that funny. Oh well. (Warning: Pintester contains lots of not-G-rated language. If that offends you, I'd recommend not checking her out.)

So...go cook (or read) now!! Let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

midweek confessions

It's been awhile since I've done some quality confessing, yall. Not counting my TV confessions of last week, of course. But since I can't think of anything more comprehensive or intelligent to blog about today (yesterday's scientific dissertation really wore me out), I figgered it'd be a good time to get a few things off my chest.

--I am actually really excited about surgery. This is probably super strange, but it's true. Maybe it's really just that I'm excited about the post-surgery bedrest/recovery time. Mainly because a) I will be missing the first weeks of school, and b) the Olympics will be on. Therefore I am looking ahead to a marvelous few weeks of rest, relaxation, and live Olympic-watching. I am choosing not to think about the pain, actual surgery, etc.

--Our air conditioning has broken had issues TWICE in the last week (completely separate, non-related issues). The AC fixer guy has been here TWICE in seven days. That is not okay with me. Luckily, neither problem was super complicated/expensive (not to mention, Matt's parents paid for the first visit...), but still. Not. Cool. (Literally.)

--Between Saturday and Monday of this week, I made FIVE recipes from Pinterest. And every single one of them was good. I'm a little worried that I'm due for a bomb somewhere in the near future here...and it better not be what I'm planning to cook Thursday.

--I want to be at the airport 2.5 hours early for our flight to Mexico. That is approximately 1 more hour than what the airport recommends. But I'm of the "better safe than sorry" mentality and I can't see myself only getting there 90 minutes before the flight. Am I a total worrywart?

--Yesterday at work, one of my co-workers mentioned that during lunch, she and another co-worker had been talking about me. They were admiring that I had my life/myself "so together." I had to laugh in her face and tell her that obviously they had never met me. She said they based their opinion on the fact that I always show up to work on time, looking cute, and I bring really wonderful and elaborate lunches. I said that they might need to get some more stringent criteria for their "got your life together" rating system, and also I have nothing to do with my awesome lunches-- that's all Matt. But I do take full responsibility for my timeliness. It is next to godliness, after all. Secretly, though, I'm a little bit happy that I don't appear to be quite as hot a mess as I really know I am. Tricking people left and right!  

--I have been cleaning house like a madwoman in anticipation of my friend house-sitting for us while we're on vacation. To be honest, some of these thing probably haven't been cleaned since...oh, the last time she house-sat for us. Last July. :)

--I hate having two posts in a row with no pictures, so I'm throwing in a completely random and unrelated (is anything 'related' in this post, anyway?) photo just for the heck of it here:

Me, about to go snorkeling in Mexico on our honeymoon. In not too many more moons, I just may be taking another picture jussssst like this!! YIPPPPEEEEE!!!! Hopefully this time I will not be attempting any ridiculous kissy-faces, though. Not cool, Erika. Not cool.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

the scientist speaks!

A few years ago, two of my co-workers (all of us being educators, of course) were discussing something as they stood a few feet away from me. I wasn't part of the conversation, so I can't rightly say what they were talking about, but I was brought into the conversation when one of the girls spoke up more loudly, and in my direction, to say "let's ask Erika, maybe she'll know. She is a scientist, you know." This was said in complete seriousness.

"Who, me?" I asked, as though there might be several other Erikas hanging out in the room. I'm a lot of things, but I don't really count 'scientist' among them.

"Yeah!" the same girl replied. "Didn't you get your degree in science?...or something?"

"Um...well, I got a Bachelor's of science..." I replied.

"Yeah, exactly. So you're a scientist..." she broke in.

"...in psychology." I finished.

We all three busted out laughing. Because if you've ever obtained a Bachelor's in psychology, then you're probably well aware of how that definitely fully qualifies you to be referred to as a scientist, what with all those rigorous science classes I was taking. It qualifies me call myself a scientist in the same way that my Bachelor's of Arts degree (in Criminal Justice, in case you were wondering) lets me call myself an artist. Scientist, artist...who can really say what qualifies one to call himself by that title? So for today's post, please keep in mind that you can trust me: I am a scientist.

 Because so many of you (and by "so many" I mean, of course, I think...4?) begged for more information, I thought today I would share some of my new-found endo knowledge with you. This is all stuff Dr. S explained to me at my appointment last Friday, and it is his personal 'philosophy' (I guess you could call it that?) regarding treatment of endometriomas in order to preserve maximum fertility. For your viewing pleasure, I am even going to include some sketches and notes from Dr. S himself that he made to illustrate his points. I know. Get excited. Never mind-- that was my plan, but despite saving and re-saving the pictures right-side-up about 15 different times, Blogger will only upload them upside down. Instead of slitting my throat or throwing my computer through the window (both tempting options after 20 minutes of trying to figure this out), I am just going to paint a picture for you with my words.

If you have no idea what endometriosis even is, then you should probably read up on that first, because I don't feel like explaining everything. Google can lead you to lots of different sources of information, but here's one decent explanation I found when I looked.

Alright. Let's start with a discussion about ovarian reserves, first. Basically, females are born with as many eggs as they are EVER going to have, each one hiding inside a little follicle. Your body will never, ever make MORE eggs. Once a female hits puberty, eggs start releasing, one-ish at a time (although multiple follicles/'future eggs' die off each month)...that's your 'cycle.' So from the time you start your period, you're depleting your egg supply with each cycle (unless you suppress the release of eggs with hormones, birth control, or pregnancy...or probably some other things). As the years go by, your eggs are aging just like you are. Younger eggs are more likely to result in healthy pregnancies. Older eggs...well, they're older. That's why older women tend to have more trouble getting/maintaining healthy pregnancies, even if they're still ovulating regularly. Okay. So. 'Ovarian reserve' is basically a measure of how many good eggs you've got left-- eggs that are likely to become fertilized. They 'measure' (and by that, I mean 'guess at') ovarian reserve by assessing the levels of various hormones in your body (FSH and AMH, primarily).

So what does ovarian reserves have to do with endo? "Not much" would have been my answer prior to last Friday. But "much!" would be my answer now. Well, "much" in terms of how you're going to treat endometriomas on an ovary, that is. 

Dr. S drew a picture of the endometrioma (cyst) on a piece of paper. Picture the cyst as a balloon inside a balloon, with the inner balloon being just a tad smaller than the outside balloon. That's the endometrioma sitting on my ovary--THE PLACE WHERE EGGS ARE STORED. Apparently a long time ago, this cyst started life as a follicle(s) that contained egg(s). Over the years it has grown and filled with fluid and endometrial tissue, but trapped between the two layers of the 'balloons' are a bunch of microscopic eggs. The eggs are STUCK there-- they cannot be released (to be fertilized), but chances are-- they're good eggs. After all, they are ones that got "called up" however long ago by their follicle(s)...but then got hijacked (and trapped) by the cyst.

So now let's think about ovarian reserves again. If I have a GOOD ovarian reserve, then that means I probably have lots of good eggs hanging out in my ovaries...making these guys trapped in the cyst not quite as important. But if I have a BAD ovarian reserve, then these guys are suddenly of extreme importance. It's like...when you have a head full of thick, glorious hair, you don't care about the strands pulling out in your brush every day. But if you're a male in your early 40s, starting to notice a little thinness up top...you are very concerned about 10 hairs vacating the premises during your shower. You really can't afford to waste any of them.

The most effective way to halt the spread of endometriosis is to remove the ENTIRE endometrioma during surgery. Leaving any endometrial cells behind will mean that most likely they will just start growing a new endometrioma in the near future...so typically you want to cut out as MUCH affected tissue as possible. If your primary goal for treating endometrioma is pain management, this is the best method. This was what I thought (up until Friday) to be the only philosophy behind endo surgery: get it ALL OUT. In severe cases (and depending on where the tissue is growing, of course), women have various organs removed-- appendix, sections of intestines/bowels, ovaries and Fallopian tubes (or complete hysterectomies). Leaving a speck of endo behind is leaving a seed for future endo to grow from. And if you have severe endo with debilitating pain...you'll do whatever it takes to prolong the pain-free time (and put off your next surgery) for as long as possible.

BUT. Dr. S explained that if preserving/maximizing your fertility is your primary goal for endo surgery, then this might not be the best way to do it. Because if you have low ovarian reserves and you then cut out the whole endometrioma (if it's growing on your ovary), then you lose the (possibly many and good) eggs trapped between the walls of the cyst. And that could seriously hinder your chances of having a good egg available to be fertilized in the future. So in that case, Dr. S prefers to basically drain the inside of the cyst as much as he can-- getting rid of as much endometrial tissue and fluid as possible, without destroying the eggs that are trapped between the walls or banging up the rest of the ovary too much. He said it's a really difficult thing to do, because you can't SEE the eggs, so you're just doing a guessing game about how much more you can keep removing before you're infringing on their territory...but he'll do whatever he can to make sure those eggs are left intact, with a fighting chance to do something important. Now naturally, this method will probably leave more endometrial tissue behind, which means you will probably experience a re-growth of the endo more quickly...but if it gives you a shot to get pregnant first, then it just might be worth the gamble.

So he was saying...it all kind of depends on the ovarian reserve (AMH levels). If you are young (which he graciously still considers me to be) and you have a great AMH level (greater than 3), he'll probably go more aggressively with removing the entire cyst-- after all, you have plenty of good eggs left, so it's worth it to lose a few if it will buy you more time without endo. But if you have very LOW AMH levels (1-1.5), then he would proceed much more cautiously, choosing to drain the cyst rather than remove it entirely. As he said, "we can always treat the endo again (and more completely) later...but you don't have the same luxury of time with trying to get pregnant."

So that was the 'new learning' that blew my mind pretty good. Obviously, he said, it's a woman's choice how she'd rather her endometriomas be treated: if you're not WANTING to preserve/maximize your fertility (because you don't want kids or are done having them, or, I suppose, if your endo pain is SO AWFUL that it is more important to you to slow the growth than to maintain fertility), then there's no reason to bother with any of this at all--just cut those suckers out. But if you DO...then this could be really important. And I'm just a little floored that with as much endo research as I've done, I've never heard anything like this before!    

So like I said at the beginning of today's dissertation: I am a scientist, so you can definitely trust me on this one. In fact, if you have endo yourself, I suggest you name-drop my name a little as you propose your own endo treatment plan based on this new information. I'm sure your doctor will immediately recognize me as a leading authority on the topic and fall in line accordingly. Or...not...which is to say, I'm not a doctor and please don't get mad if all of this information is wrong or mixed up. I did the best I could to catch what he was saying, but ya know...I have a couple of useless liberal arts degrees and I teach four-year-olds, so take all of my science lectures with a large grain of salt. I'm just passing on something I thought was was interesting.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bacon Fest 2012

 Warning: If you are vegetarian, or don’t eat pork for any reason, you may as well move on to the next blog on your list. There’s just not going to be anything here for you today. As for the rest of you, you may need to grab a napkin. To sop up the drool that’s about to be dripping down the corner of your face.

Bacon Fest 2012: The Re-cap.

Bacon Fest started about four years ago, unbeknownst to me. Our friends Catherine and Spencer started it in Gainesville (because they lived there at the time) with friends of theirs. When they moved to Athens, though, so did Bacon Fest. Last year was the first time Matt and I got to participate. And ever since then, I’ve been waiting and scheming and dreaming of the next Fest. Because if there’s anything in life I love, it’s bacon. With more bacon. And a side of bacon. And in the company of friends? Even better. Especially if they bring bacon.

The basic premise of Bacon Fest is this: bring food/drinks that have bacon in them. I know, brilliant, right? I can’t figure out why there aren’t more Bacon Fests going on all over the planet every day. Because every person I mention Bacon Fest to is like “OHMYGOD I AM SO JEALOUS I WANT TO COME” (for evidence, see the comments on this blog!) and it’s like…dude. Bacon brings people together! Today I decided that if Matt and I ever decide to do an adoption fundraiser, it’s going to be Bacon Fest-esque…because I think lots of people would have paid good money to be there today. I think we could have charged a cover and made a pretty penny. Let’s move on to the pictures and you can decide for yourselves.

First up, we have Goat Cheese Pops with Herbs, Pecans, and Bacon. I made these. They were awesome. You should make them, too, and then invite me over.

I also made Maple-Pecan Crusted Bacon. It was insanely easy and delicious. Again—make it, invite me over. Go ahead and picture me saying that after each of these pictures, okay?

Catherine repeated a recipe from last year due to popular demand: Salted Caramel-Bacon Brownies. The chocolate-bacon combination was HOT this year...and for good reason. BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME.

Ian brought his version of my favorite dish from last year: Onion Pie (with a bacon lattice top, natch.) If I could eat one dish for the rest of my life, it would be this. Jot it down. Remember it on my birthday (or any time you want to make me happy).

I didn't get a picture of the finished product, but here's an action shot of Timmy combining two Really Good Things to make One FRIGGIN AMAZING THING. That would be: Bacon topped with Nutella and sprinkled in cayenne pepper. Holy. Crap.

Nicole made these and they were CRAZY good (and healthy, if you can believe it!): Watermelon topped with goat cheese, a tiny bite of bacon, basil, and a drop of balsamic. AMAZING flavor combo...very unexpected and fresh!

Chloe made Maple Bacon Cupcakes. Oh yes she did.

Kristin made this ridiculousness. She called them "mallowmars," which is apparently some Yankee thing. We refer to them as "kind of like smores." She made a HOMEMADE graham crackers (seriously, who knew you could do that? I actually spent some time trying to figure out what a graham cracker is made out of, and all I could come up with is "graham cracker crumbs," which then got me started on a chicken-or-the-egg type train of thought...) and then HOMEMADE marshmallows (with bacon in them), and then stacked them up and dipped them in chocolate. To say they were amazing falls shamefully short of describing them. Oh. My. Gosh.

See how the light of heaven is shining down on Kristin as she arranges food on the bar? That's because God heartily approves of Bacon Fest. In fact, it's the primary reason he created pigs. Or so I am led to believe.
Let's see...you can see here a few more dishes I didn't get a chance to take individual pictures of: Bacon-Beer Dip (for the pretzels), Bacon-Blue-Cheese Ravioli, a loaded salad (with bacon, feta, eggs, tomatoes, spinach, etc.), homemade cheese biscuits with Bacon Jam...

...and then we ate. And ate and ate. And people kept showing up and bringing more bacon-y goodness: Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies! Bacon and Cheese-stuffed Jalapenos! And somehow we kept finding room in our bellies to take it all in. Because we are committed like that.
And when all of the bacon is gone, we feel sad, but also happy...since it is in our tummies. And because we're still in the company of friends, all experiencing that blissful fullness that comes from eating WAY too much good stuff. And while we're STILL SITTING THERE ON THE PORCH, we're making plans for the NEXT Bacon Fest, and we are all in agreement that we can't wait another year. Therefore the next one is already planned (and Facebook event created) for our January 2013 'Fest. Because we thought having it in the winter would open up a whole new realm of bacon-y goodness (Chilis! Warm things!! Bonfires for Bacon Smores!!) And here's the thing-- Bacon Fest is open to ALL!! So if you feel a hankerin' in your heart...COME! We're trying to find a bigger venue, because we can no longer fit in a house, so great is the love of bacon. So put it on your calendar and start pinning recipes, because Bacon Fest '13 is not so very far away. And go ahead and plan to start your New Years Diet a few weeks late, okay? Because you're going to wreck it if you come. And then you'd just feel bad...so let's avoid that unpleasantness. 

Well, we're done here. Go ahead and mop up your puddle of drool and go about your Monday. Your pitiful, sad, bacon-deprived Monday. :( Oh Bacon Fest '13, come quickly!!