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Dr P (my neurosurgeon at OSU) called me Friday. He said he had received the report from the radiologist in TN where I had my MRI on 12/12/12 & the cd with the copies of all the MRI images that I mailed him. He said that the report said there was some residual tumor, but he said when he looked at the images that it didn’t look that way to him. He said it often looks that way after surgery due to the way the nerve & vein are/look. He said everything looks great to him & that I would need to have another MRI to monitor it in 2 years. Said to call him if I need anything or have any problems.

Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!

I feel like I have permission now to think ahead. To consider adoption again. To consider where God has the rest of our family’s children. Would you join our family in praying over this?

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I couldn’t find the Christmas gift tags that I was sure I had leftover from last year, so I decided we’d make some from stuff we already had. The inspiration for these came from a craft night with my local MOPS group. It ended up being a great activity for my 7 & almost 5 year olds.

1. I traced a gift tag shape several times onto an old paper shopping sack.
2. My 7 year old cut them out & punched a hole out near the top for the string.
3. I cut 1 length of twine (could also be some kind of string or ribbon) & my 7 year old cut enough lengths to match for all the tags he cut out. Then he gently tied them all after lacing them through the hole.
4. My 4 year old sorted through the jar of old buttons for sets of 3 that could make our snowmen. (She did this while the 7 yr old was busy with all the previous.)
5. I tied little bows out of embroidery floss we had. You could again use something different that’s small in scale. Make one for each tag.
6. My 4 year old glued on the buttons & bows in proper succession.
7. On tags that had small snowmen due to small buttons, we filled some empty space with a “Merry Christmas” stamp.
8. When they were completely dry, I flipped them over & wrote “to:” & “from:”
There you have it. β›„

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I don’t have a picture, but we also made some simple tags that my 4 year old & I stamped with various Christmas stamps, then when dry she colored with colored pencils. πŸŽ„

We go through quite a bit of toast at our house & thus, spread butter. We sorta got in the habit of liking the good stuff. For whatever reason, we aren’t really into margarine. We like butter. So true “whipped” butter that I have purchased at the store is quite difficult to spread if not set out for some time before use. So we started getting the butter with canola oil. It’s more expensive. Enough more expensive that I decided to try it on my own. Once again-the Kitchen Aid stand mixer earned its keep on my counter top. This is what works for us:
A 1 lb package of light butter like this:

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(The back looks like this for label readers):

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Unwrap the butter sticks & place in kitchen aid stand mixer bowl. Allow to soften/come to room temperature. With the beater attachment, beat the puddin out of it. Then, while the beater is at a low speed, slowly pour in a cup of canola oil such as this:

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Next, slowly turn up the beater speed to a high speed. Stop once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Return to high speed. It should not be so fast that the stuff is flying out of the bowl, but really fast. Let her go for a while. Be thankful that God invented the kitchen aid stand mixer & that your arm is not doing all that work. When it is sufficiently blended, turn it off. Pour your product into a plastic container that seals well. It will be fairly runny/liquid state at this point. Place sealed container in the fridge & allow to chill & firm. Pull out & use as needed for toast, etc.

Try it & see if you don’t find it tasty & feel yourself more frugal.

Snow man pretzels are a favorite at our house & everyone wants some to take to school when it’s their turn for snack. These are not too difficult or too time consuming, but I will say they get faster/easier the more times you make them.
You’ll need white chocolate or candy coating like this:

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Pretzel rods:

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Mini chocolate chips for eyes & “buttons:”

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Peach rings or other gummy rings for hat brims:

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Gum drops for top of hats:

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Fruit roll up type candy for scarves:

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And finally a tube of orange gel “icing” for the noses:

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Begin by melting some of the white stuff per package directions. I chose to do mine in the microwave in a 2 cup liquid measuring cup as I’ve found it to be the best size for coating my pretzel rods. I like to use a plastic spoon to stir & coat with for easier clean up later-one less thing to wash! After your white stuff is melty, dip one end of a pretzel rod into it & using a spoon or spatula, bring it up on the pretzel to cover most of it, just leaving a small part at the end to hold onto. Then remove it from the white stuff & after most drips are done, carefully lay it on a piece of wax paper. I like to do about 3 (so it starts to thicken/dry, but not too much so the choc chips won’t stick either) & then place 2 mini choc chips near the top for eyes & 3 down lower in a row for buttons. Like this:

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When you’ve done all that you desire, gather some shortish glass cups if you have them handy as they’ll help you out for the next step. Next, fit a peach ring around the very top of the pretzel. Put a little dab of the white stuff on top in the “hole” of the ring (on the snowman’s head) then place a gum drop on it. Hold it for a couple seconds to let become slightly set, then carefully place in one of your glasses to let dry completely while you continue your fun. Like this:

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Next make scarves. I used regular fruit roll ups. I unrolled them & then using kitchen shears, I cut each fruit roll up into 6 skinny pieces. Take one & wrap around the snowman’s “neck”- twisting at one side & apply slight pressure to the “knot” (twist) to sorta smoosh the fruit roll up & cause it to stay in place. Let the 2 ends sorta dangle to the side. Gently lay the snowmen back onto the wax paper as you dress them in their scarves. Finally, put a little dab of orange gel icing on as a nose & let dry. Like this:

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And you’re done! Snowman army. Ready for first grade!!

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Special thanks to Stef B for the inspiration for this snack a couple years ago! Brilliant woman-especially, but not limited to all things kitchen… & all things math! πŸ˜‰

My mom {you could say} is a baking genius. She’s pretty good. Here are 2 recipes that I love from her.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake
2c. Sugar
2c. Flour
1/2 c. Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
Dash Salt

3/4 c. Oil
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 1/2 c. HOT WATER

Combine first 6 ingredients. Then add last 4 ingredients. Beat. Bake at 350 degrees. 9×13 pan – 30-40 min & regular Cupcakes 20 min; minis 15 min.

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cupcakes
8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 egg
Dash salt
1/3 c sugar
16 oz pkg mini choc chips

Make a chocolate cake batter. (Can be a mix or one like One Bowl Chocolate Cake.) Mix all cream cheese ingredients. Fill cupcakes 1/2 full with chocolate cake batter. Drop 1 heaping teaspoon (for reg cupcakes & 1/2 teaspoon for minis) of cream cheese mixture into cupcakes. Bake according to cake recipe.
No need for icing. These are delicious enough as they are!

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Well. It’s over. And I’m glad. πŸ™‚
It all was fine. Not terribly long. Did take 4 sticks though to get the IV in for the contrast. That part was a lil icky, but I survived. They have me cd copies of the images. I looked. Can’t tell much. No more big white shiny golf balls in there though so I guess that’s good. (Though this type of tumor is very slow growing so any re-growth is guess would be quite small.) So now we hang out & wait to hear from somebody about how it looks.
2 things-
1-my head looks funny shaped on MRI because of where the plate was put in, surgery, etc
2-I’d love prayers for it to be a “clean” report. We have hoped for a while now to be able to adopt children into our family. A clean bill of health would be a great step in the right direction for this.
Thanks for your prayers! Hope to have more to come on adoption.
Sweet dreams!

So tomorrow night I am scheduled to have a follow up MRI of my head to check on things. It has been almost 6 months since my initial surgery to remove my acoustic neuroma. I have only had one other “conscious” MRI ever & that was the diagnostic one that I had in May of this year. I guess I had one at the OSU hospital after surgery, but I don’t remember it. Anywho…the one in May is not necessarily a fond memory. It went well, I just didn’t like it. I was surprised because I really didn’t anticipate that it would bother me. So I’m trying to “keep my cool” about the one tomorrow night. My mother would say “be proactive not reactive.”

Thought I’d share with you a couple photos. This one is of my left index finger/fingernail. If you look closely you can see a small ripple in the nail. It’s gone now, but this picture showed it right before it grew out. It was a physical reminder of the time that had passed since the initial surgery, July 2nd. The pulse ox machine that was taped to my finger must’ve been a lil tight. πŸ˜‰ Crimped my nail bed, then grew out to show a ripple. My finger was actually numb for quite some time, but feels “normal” now. I am grateful for God’s grace to me. Reminded by a lil ripple.

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This is supposed to be a picture showing my hair re-growth. You can see some pieces sticking out below/to the side of my pony tail. This was taken by Nick after an early morning run. So thankful for my running girls. 5:45 sure comes early, but I’m always glad when we are done. We ran 6 miles last Friday & that is the farthest I believe I have ever run. Those girls are crazy! Love them! πŸ˜‰πŸ’—

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I would really love any prayers for the MRI to go well tomorrow night. (Wed 8:15 pm) And that the MRI report would be “good” & “clear” of any re-growth, etc.

Will share any news/reports as I receive it.

Tried a new soup last week. I was really happy with it. Most of “my people” weren’t thrilled with it as they mostly prefer chicken/noodle soup…especially Campbell’s. πŸ˜‰ So lucky me, most went into the freezer which means I have many yummy lunches to look forward to.

Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Fennel
(Taken from Real Simple magazine Feb 2010 issue…& I just got around to trying it.)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks (white & light green parts), chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 8oz bottle clam juice (I substituted about a cup of white wine here because I like wine in soup & clam juice just sounded icky to me.)
3 c whole milk
1 pound potatoes, peeled & cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 pound cooked peeled & deveined medium shrimp (I used more like a pound & sautΓ©ed mine in a lil butter/olive oil after peeling-let it cool & then cut into small pieces)
1 10 oz pkg frozen corn
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add leaks & fennel, season with salt & pepper & cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 4-5 minutes(my vegs took more like 15-20 minutes). Stir in the flour. Add the clam juice (white wine!), milk & potatoes & bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes. Stir in the shrimp & corn & cook until the potatoes are tender & the shrimp & corn are heated through. Stir in parsley & lemon juice. I had to add more milk to get the thickness where I wanted it to be then at the end.

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This is another of Nick’s favorites.
Start with equal(ish) quantities of yellow, red, purple potatoes & yams. This is what I had on hand from our garden:

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First scrub them all very well. Then peel them if you must. I chose to peel the yams. (We call ’em sweet taters) Next chop them into bite sized pieces. Dump them into a pot of cold water as you chop to keep the taters from browning. When all are chopped & in the pot, boil them for about 12-15 minutes or until a fork slides into a potato piece easily. Drain well. Melt “some” butter in a skillet. Depending on your amount of potatoes, I usually use 1/2 to a whole stick of butter. A skillet with sides works best. After the butter is melted & starts to bubble, carefully dump in your boiled taters. With a spatula, gently turn them over several times to coat with butter. Let them sit for a few minutes, then turn occasionally cooking for about 15 minutes-allowing the edges of the taters to get somewhat browned & crispy. When they are to your crispy liking, season with garlic salt & pepper. Sprinkle on some fresh grated Parmesan just before serving. Mmm. Delish.

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For Nick’s birthday, I made these for him to take to work. These cupcakes are a coffee lover’s dream! With a hint of cinnamon & some chocolate…they are scrumptious. Original recipe was taken from The Pioneer Woman’s website maybe 2 years ago?… The only things I changed are that I put half the Via called for in the frosting & I thought the frosting needed chocolate. I mean everything is better with some chocolate (in my book,) right?! So I put some cocoa powder in the frosting too. I know some may be annoyed, but I didn’t measure it. I just took the canister & shook some in. Maybe 1/3 cup?… Whatever works for you! πŸ˜‰

Via Cappuccino Muffins

For the muffins:
2 pkgs Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
1/2 c warm milk
1/4 c melted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 c flour
1/3 c sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon B pwdr
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c chocolate chips

For the Icing:
1/2 c butter, softened
2 c pwdr sugar, or more as needed
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 pkgs Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
1 tablespoon boiling water

Instructions:
Dissolve Via in warm milk. Combine melted margarine, egg, & vanilla with Via/milk.
In another bowl, combine flour, sugar, B pwdr, cinnamon & salt. Pour wet ingredients into a well in the center of dry ingredients & stir well to incorporate completely. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.
Fill muffin tins or papers 2/3 full & bake at 375 for 17-20 minutes.
Cool completely.
To make frosting-start by beating together the butter, powder sugar & vanilla. In a small bowl, mix the Via with the boiling water until coffee is dissolved. Add it to the butter mixture and mix until fully incorporated. (Here’s where I dumped in some cocoa pwdr & a tiny bit of milk to get the right consistency.)

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Just for fun I put one Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillow on each cupcake because I happened to have some.

There you have it. Grown up cupcakes. πŸ™‚

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