Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Good Read

One of my favorite things about our fall "retreat" in Sunriver is uninterrupted time to read. I usually bring a stack of books and so far I have finished two. It seems like each year at this time Richard Paul Evans's newest Christmas book is released and is at the top of my Sunriver reading stack. And I was not disappointed! It is a story you do not want to put down.
Evans was inspired to write this book after recalling a seventh-grade assignment of writing your own obituary. Thus begins the story ... James Kier reads his obituary in the Tribune only to discover what people really think about him. With three weeks before Christmas he has no idea what this article is about to set in motion. It is a great story of redemption, forgiveness and our legacy.
Now it's time to get back to "Gone With The Wind" and the rebuilding of Atlanta : )

Friday, October 23, 2009

Living As A Desert

Not many people I am acquainted with have heard of Sjogren's Syndrome (pronounced SHOW-grins) but it affects 1-4 million people in the United States. Women are nine times more likely to have this than men.

Sjogren's Syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease in which people's white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. The most prominent symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth but it can also cause dysfunction of other organs -- kidneys, gastrointestinal, blood vessels, lungs, liver etc. It can also cause extreme fatigue and joint pain.

On average it takes about seven years to get a diagnosis for this disease and that is exactly how long it took in my diagnosis. For years I went to doctor visits with various symptoms only to be told I was suffering from depression, fibromyalgia etc. It wasn't until Ron, a Physician's Asst. investigated a little further. After I shared a strong family history of autoimmune disease he ran tests and sent me to a Rheumatologist.

Over the years I have had some ups and downs with symptoms, remission, medications but I have been able to tolerate most of it. However, in June I started having mouth sores and tongue cracks ... my mouth burns all the time. I find it hard to eat most foods and have difficulty talking for long periods of time. My mouth and eyes are so dry that I feel like my body has turned in to a desert!

Right now I am trying several remedies, medications etc. but so far all of this has had no impact on the cracks and burning. The Dr. says stress aggravates this disease and suggested I reduce my work hours / workload. This week I had two days off work so we rented a house in Sunriver for four nights. It has been so nice to rest, read ... relax. Hopefully, this retreat will be the perfect Rx to get this Sjogren's thing turned around.

Fall Family Fun

Sunday the family gathered at Lee's Farm for a fun fall day together. We were a bit concerned about the potential weather and bundled up in warm coats and boots only to be welcomed with patches of blue sky and warm temps. The perfect pumpkin patch day!
Our first order of business was to grab a bag of their delicious fresh pumpkin donuts. They melt in your mouth. Colin and Calleigh wanted to visit the face painting booth and each sat patiently while waiting to see the artists' creations. Colin chose aliens and Calleigh wanted to be a kitty.
We ventured over to the jumping castle where Calleigh had little interest ... her eyes were on the giant slide. Daddy was her first co-pilot and then grandma offered to go with her. I think the slide may be a tad bit too waxed because toward the bottom we were "airborne" and my head hit the slide pretty hard. Uncle Tim even got a turn at Calleigh's request. Our next adventure was riding the horses. I think Calleigh nearly fell asleep in the saddle. She is at the point of wanting to give up naps but still gets a little tired in the afternoon. The ride was much too relaxing!
After picking up a few pumpkins and gourds we drove back to our house for a meal of homemade soups and snacks. Of course, our day wouldn't be complete without our annual cookie decorating. There were some very creative designers this year ... after several decades of doing this, we are getting quite good at it : )
It was a very full, fun day ... LOVE spending time with the family. I hope you are enjoying some fun fall traditions at your house!

Oregon Culinary Institute

Last Friday evening we had the pleasure of sharing a new dining experience with Donna and Pierre at the Oregon Culinary Institute.
The dinner offering is a four-course meal from their Autumn menu at a cost of $18 per person. For a starter I selected the Smoky Lentil Soup and the Roasted Beet Salad from the salad choices ... both fabulous selections. With four choices in the entree section I chose the Maple-Brined Pork Chop that included roasted acorn squash, creamed brussels sprouts and chestnuts. I am not a big fan of brussels sprouts but these were delicious. To top off our meal I selected the Chocolate Dream Torte. It was hard to narrow it down with so many wonderful choices. Soft drinks, coffee and tea are only $1 with free refills and glasses of wine start at $4.
The Oregon Culinary Institute is open Monday through Friday. Lunch is served at noon and dinner at 7 pm. Reservations can be made at 503.961.6200. They are located at 1701 SW Jefferson in Portland.
We will definitely go back again. The staff was very courteous and attentive, the food was fabulous ... and of course, our dining companions are the best : ) I highly recommend giving it a try!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blubel Studio

Last Saturday was probably the last window of opportunity to have our 35th anniversary pictures taken before the weather turned to the rainy season. In May Michelle arranged a photo shoot with photographer, Kim Harris (Blubel Studios) for our 35th anniversary. It seems like we started a tradition of posing for pictures in my wedding dress on our 25th and 30th anniversaries. However, for our 35th anniversary we wanted someone to take them with a professional eye.
It seems like the summer was overly hot and busy so we leaned more toward a fall date ... and then I got sick and had to cancel. Last Saturday Kim had an opening @ 4p.m. and it was the perfect day ... blue sky, gorgeous fall colors etc.
Our photo backdrop was the Nike campus ... what a beautiful place! Kim is so organized. She had a list of poses, location for photos ... so many great ideas -- even a bouquet! If you ever want a family photo taken, you will definitely want to consider Kim. She is also very fun to work with and puts you at ease.
Here's a link for a "sneak peak"-- That girls does wonders with her camera and photoshop skills. Also, check out the other photos she captured over the weekend ... just below ours. Fabulous!
Thanks, Kim ... you're the best : ) We loved working with you!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Goal ... Complete

A wonderful gift of a day off and I have spent all morning working on my scrapbook album. I just sent the last seven 12x12 pages to Costco for printing ... 2006 is done Yikes ... the album contains 132 pages! Let's not calculate the cost ... to me, each page is priceless : ) Now on to 2007 which includes big events ... our cruise and Calleigh's birth. New experiences ahead.
I would like to work on getting current so that I can concentrate on deepening my Photoshop Elements and photo editing skills. It would be fun to do a little designing someday. I am looking forward to the new PSE version coming out soon.
Well, now on to my to-do list. Closet organizing is at the top of the list. Time to move those summer clothes out and make room for sweaters.
I love days like this!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Soup = Medicine

Brian and Michelle gave me a Rachael Ray Everyday magazine subscription for my birthday this year ... a gift that I will use year round. I love the recipes, food ideas etc. As soon as it arrived in the mail, I started making a list of recipes to try. One that stood out as an addition to my weekly menu planner was Chicken and Orzo Soup on page 105 in the October 2009 issue. It's in her 30 Minute Meal section so it is very doable time-wise. Since I've been sick Walt helped with some of the chopping and ingredient prep. I have to say it is THE best soup I've had in a long time! Each bite felt like a healing medicine.

Chicken and Orzo Soup
One 32-ounce container (4 cups) chicken stock
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound chicken tenders cut into small pieces
2 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated or finely chopped
1/3 lb mushroom caps, quartered
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup orzo pasta
2 cups arugula, chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded or torn
1 tsp grated lemon peel
Grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, for passing around the table

1. In a medium soup pot, bring the chicken stock and 2 cups water to a low boil.
2. Meanwhile, in another soup pot, heat the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes Add the thyme and bay leaf, then stir in the onion, carrot and mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook the vegetables until softened, 6 to 7 minutes.
3. Pour the hot stock over the vegetables and bring to a boil. *Stir in the orzo and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the arugula and basil to wilt. Stir in the lemon peel, discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Serve with lots of grated cheese at the table.
Serves 4

Even though I am still running a slight fever, Walt took me out for a drive in the country between Wilsonville and Sherwood this afternoon. With the warm sunshine filling the truck and the relaxing view of the countryside ... I came home feeling a bit human again.
Now ... back to the couch!

*Revised 10.10.09 Michelle pointed out that I forgot to include instructions for adding the orzo, arugula and basil. Sorry about that ... it must have been the fever : ) Thanks, Michelle!

Flu Season

Friends have commented that when they see big gaps between posts they are worried that I am sick. Well ... that is exactly the reason this week. I went from having allergy symptoms ... to getting a flu shot ... to being very sick. I had to leave work Wednesday and stayed home Thursday and Friday. I have had quite the "laundry list" of symptoms! I went to Urgent Care Thursday and the Dr. gave me an antibiotic for a sinus-eye infection and that has helped. I have spent many days on the couch reading and sleeping. I did try to read the blogs I subscribe to but the ones featuring food and recipes made me ill to look at.
I have had many disappointing cancellations ... a long awaited Rheumatology appt., our 35th anniversary photo shoot, our Friday night dinner date with friends, and the annual Englewood reunion. Even though I am sad to miss so many fun events, I'm sure all appreciate that I have kept my germs to myself : )
I guess this is the first "welcome back" to school bug of the season but with my new schedule ... sad to say ... I think this may become a more common lifestyle until June.
On the road to restored health ....