Archive for March, 2013

Time for some green I suppose!


I (Xan) haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, Not Dabbling evidence to the contrary. I’ve been swamped by a major life crisis (not ready to share in a blog post yet, but I will eventually), the usual “March madness” of my job (every deadline in fundraising happens between Feb 25 and March 15) and the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, where the Peterson Garden Project has a major exhibit.  So despite the grey outside, I’ve been seeing lots and lots of green and growing things, which will always put a smile on your face.



So, apart from the lovely green eggs my ameracaunas are laying these days, there just isn’t much green in my life! The world around us is sleeping in this year and I have yet to start my seeds. It’s almost like mother nature hit the snooze button at the beginning of March. Hopefully she’ll wake up soon! I’m getting desperate for some green!

Still, it is Saint Paddy’s day, so I’ll leave you with this:

Bailey’s Irish Cream crème brûlée! Did you know you can add a shot of Bailey’s to pretty much any crème brûlée recipe by simply removing a little tiny bit of the cream? Mmm… (For those of you who don’t like to drink, you can add Bailey’s Irish coffee creamer!) Enjoy!


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This past week has been Spring Break in my area of South Texas. Everyone has been making plans, going somewhere or just planning to relax at home. “Spring Break” doesn’t really mean anything to me. No kids, no one heading to visit us… it was just another week on the calendar. Well, that was what I thought. From my post last week you learned about my many limitations.

I really need to back up to the end of January when this all started. I had a complete hysterectomy. It was necessary and unavoidable. There was no way I could leave either ovary because of tumors (happy to report they were benign!) I can get real technical and use all the medical explanations, but I will keep it simple for now. Complete hysterectomy. Done. Most of us know that there is always a risk with any surgery; big or small. Most of us know that sometimes there are complications. For me, those things are always in the back of my mind.

I am in tune with my body. I always have been. I can tell if something just isn’t quite right and I am not afraid to go have it checked out. I grew up in a household with a doctor (my mom) and I was always interested in things so when someone would get sick, I payed attention and learned. If someone I know gets sick or diagnosed with something, I tend to do research and learn more about it. When I head into a doctor’s appointment I come with a notebook and questions.

I was just starting to get out and do things over the past two weeks. Starting to do a bit of grocery shopping and able to push a lightly–loaded cart. A week ago Friday was a busy day for me. I had several stops and errands. Spring Break week was to be busy. A friend and I were doing a presentation on the Herb of the Year – Elder (sambucus or elderberry) to a group of Master Gardeners. I had a field trip and lunch arranged for the garden club I am in. My friend and I were doing our Elder presentation for the local Herb Society. Busy week. Samples to make, etc. Friday I was wrapping up loose ends with all these stops and errands.

Just a short walk to the truck was hard. I was short of breath and having chest pain. I knew it wasn’t my heart, it was my lungs. My mind thinks; blood clots or walking pneumonia, but I don’t have other symptoms other then the shortness of breath and lung pain. I ran a few more errands and I didn’t feel any better so I headed home. Saturday there was no change so I headed over to the local Urgent Care. They didn’t do any scans of x-rays, they suspected the same thing I did – blood clot. Again, since I only a few symptoms, they basically gave me two options – to head to the newly built ER or head down into town to the hospital where I had my hysterectomy to that ER because it would be one less transfer if I needed to be admitted. They stressed that the hospital ER might be my best choice because all my information was in their system including my medical insurance and it would save time. Down the road to the hospital I went (you guessed it, I drove myself)

I was quickly ushered into triage. After they listened to my “story” (hysterectomy, shortness of breath, etc) they asked me if I worked in the medical profession. Nope, that’s just me. They were all taking bets that it was a blood clot (I just didn’t know that at the time) and off for a CT scan I went. Then all the commotion started. The scan showed that I had a very large pulmonary saddle emboli (really big blood clot hanging out between both lung at the heart.) That is not good! Then I had ultra sounds of both legs where numerous more blood clots where found. Just then my husband arrived. They were sending me off to have a filter installed (an IVC filter – Intra Vena Cava -a filter put in below the lungs and heart above the kidneys to catch and break up the additional clots that were traveling up.) The staff that had not seen me were looking for my husband to sign on sent forms. The doctors said I could sign my own forms because I was “conscious and alert” (because for the size of the clot, I really shouldn’t have been – just another symptom I didn’t have.) Filter installed smoothly. Time to head up to ICU and settle in.

From the reactions of the doctors and nurses in the ER and every doctor I met and checked in with me and followed me in ICU, there is a consensus that I am lucky to be here. Once the ER docs saw my CT results they couldn’t believe I was conscious and coherent because I didn’t have any other symptoms and haven’t had any of the other symptoms like:

  • Swelling in my legs
  • Heat in my legs from the clots
  • Pain in my legs from the clots or when they examined them
  • dizziness,

So my Spring Break was an unplanned trip heading towards the big city, a room with a view on the 5th floor (ICU), room services three times a day. Amenities and bonuses are just too long to list so here are just a few (and of course not free for charge)

  • Bed Pan – because I am not allowed out of bed at all! (by the way, those things just DO NOT work at all. Not at all!)
  • Blood pressure cuff going off every 15 minutes all day and night (I know it is important, I can live with it)
  • 6 electrodes stuck to my chest with all the wires going everywhere
  • IV (Intravenous/drip) catheter – for me, this hurts alllll the time.
  • Blood thinning medications
  • A low-sodium, low vitamin K, cardiac diet (ahhhh my garden is full of vit. K –  KALE, SPINACH, BROCCOLI – that’s not on the coumadin list)*
  • A adjustable bed (wow, they did let me move enough to operate that one on my own!)
  • Cable TV (a treat – watched the Food Network mostly – what a surprise)

Adjust bed

I have a long recovery ahead of me. I can walk about as fast as a snail’s pace fairly well right now. Anything faster and I am super short of breath and have terrible pain in my lungs. Walking and talking around completely out of the question, my oxygen saturation drops below 90 (not good) and I need oxygen (which I have at home and use as needed during the day and use all night.) Since I can’t walk and talk at the same time, you can see how how chewing gum is completely out of the question. I haven’t chewed gum in years so that is good! I can barely do anything in the kitchen, just too much exertion (I can make toast! but I can’t make bread) I will be on blood thinners for a minimum of 6 months and the filter (Intra Vena Cava) will be kept in for that period of time too. It will take that long for my lungs to heal and get back to taking a normal, pain-free breath of air.

Right now we are linking the pulmonary saddle emboli as a complication from my hysterectomy because we do not know if I have a family history of clotting. Once I am off coumadin I will go through a full hematology work up to find out.

My spring and summer and fall look pretty bleak in terms of a garden (no, this isn’t a “poor me” post.) There is no way I can plant a garden. Even if my friends and neighbors plant it, I can’t water it, weed it, harvest it. Hopefully by June I can drive and hit the framers markets. Again, this isn’t a “poor-me” post, this was more about sharing my recent turn of events in hopes that it spreads some awareness and could bring up some discussions as I go through the healing process.

What do you think this is?


*Also, eating foods high in vitamin K (kale, spinach, broccoli and more) is a big topic of discussion when it comes to blood thinners. If you are interested, I would like to incorporate that into a post(s) as I go through this process. Comment and let me know.  I am just starting so it is fresh and new to me.

Sincerely, Emily

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So I believe that Pinterest is evil… Like seriously evil. At least, for hyper-manic people like me it is.

A lot of people can use Pinterest and just walk away. They go “Oh, look at this new idea, how cool! I’m sure I’ll find time to do this eventually!” and then within minutes it is pinned, filed away for a rainy day and left to accumulate dust for a while, until eventually they get around to pulling it out, budgeting for it, setting aside time for it and working on and completing it.

Or, they are even more rational and they go “Oh, look at this new idea, how cool! Wish I had the time to do this!” and they pin it at look at it a few more times before forgetting about it.

I, however, am never still. This is a trait that I seem to have picked up from both of my parents, seemingly amplified by their combining genetics. While showing Pinterest to my mother this past week (now that I think about it, I may have created a monster by introducing her to the site…) I stumbled across a photo:

This photo, which has unfortunately been cached on Pinterest so I have no idea how to find out where it came from, sparked something deeeeep inside me. That something was a complex feeling of inspiration, restlessness and intense desire.

Now, my kitchen is nothing like the one pictured here, but the thing that struck me most were the open shelves on the cabinetry. Cooooooool… So I found myself pinteresting things like: “kitchen open shelves” and “DIY kitchen cabinets” which led to things like “DIY kitchen counters” and “paint kitchen counters” and even “DIY kitchen lighting”!

Oh boy.

So without a real plan, or much of a budget, I launched in. I tore off the cabinet doors and started ripping off hinges and tearing out contact paper…

This was my kitchen counter and cabinets before the madness began…

Here are two early in-progress shots…

And here is where things have finally started to come together. I still have even more planned, and I’m sure I’ll post some more photos as soon as I can get to it, but less than $200 later and only probably about 8 hours of work into it this is what I have!

Now, are there other DIYers or wanna-be DIYers out there who would be interested in a series on how I did the cabinets and how I plan to do the counter? I’m never sure how much folks enjoy reading the DIY posts, but I am happy to go over the tools and the work and plans that went into this to share what I’ve done.

Have you ever taken a wild idea from Pinterest (or a similar site) and just run with it? Were you happy with your results?

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Last week we shared some photos of our 4-legged friends. This week is a whole ‘nother animal! 2-legged friends.


When I (Sincerely, Emily) was thinking about two-legged friends, I was mainly thinking of chickens and ducks. but I have neither of those. At times we have a revolving door of visitors (humans) in and out of our house. The only two-legged friend around our home right now is my husband.


What two-legged friends do you share your life with?

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For those of you that are used to doing your own things (working the garden, around the house, around the yard, trimming your own trees, hauling your own dirt) you completely understand me when I tell you how frustrating the last 7 weeks have been for me. My mind, for the most part, is working normal (ok, normal for me), but my body is under strict limitations. My limitations have not been lifted yet, but I have been given the go ahead to walk a bit. I can’t get too excited and head off on a mile long, flat road walk, I am able to just bump up my walking a bit.  I am still under strict limitation to only carry 10 lbs. Mind you, I can’t lean over to pick a 10 lb object up or lean over to put a 10 lb object in the oven.

The time has passed when I normally would have started my vegetable seeds. It is time, if I had started them, to get them up into gallon pots and start setting them outside weeks ago to start hardening them. Instead, I headed out to a few local nurseries and bought my veggies this year (and someone carried them to by truck for me.) I also picked up the peppers and tomatoes that my neighbor grows at the same time.

potting plants

I am unable to even pot up those purchased vegetable plants into gallon pots… so, I get by with a little help from my friends. I took all the plants over to my neighbors and they did all the work and got them potted up into gallons pots. Not only did they do all the work, but they kept my plants to oversee them and move them in and out to harden them off and make sure they get a nice dose of sun and wind.

One of the plants I hadn’t found was Anaheim peppers, so we were both keeping our eye out for them. I found them just the other day and delivered the plants next door for more potting.

I wasn’t real sure how I was ever going to have a garden this spring if I can’t start seeds or even plant the actual plants. I am grateful for my neighbors friendship and I am grateful for their help getting my plants ready right along with theirs. This puts a little bit of happiness in my day.

Next step will be actually getting the plants into the garden. It is very frustrating for me not to do my own things. Frustrating having to ask for help. Frustrating to rely on others. I find that I have to take many deep breathes throughout the day, write something down on a list so when someone comes along I can ask them to do it. As I heal and recover I have to rebuild basic strength and energy. I have to be patient and build up stamina. Dang I get tired easy! But what I look forward to the most is doing things myself again.

Until then, I get by with a little help from my friends!

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.


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Many of us have 4-legged friends around our homes. Some of them keep us company in the house, while others are outside in the yard, barns or pastures hanging out.


The 4-legged friends that I have around our (Sincerely, Emily) house are cats. Cats, cats, cats.

Tiger Tail Dec2012

For now, cats are all we have for four-legged company. I am glad they are around (even though they sleep the day and night away)


Do you have 4-legged friends around your house?

*2-legged friends to follow on a Sunday soon.

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LemonI am starting to see posts around blog-land about lemons coming into season. Lemon is a favorite fruit  and used in so many different ways for many people for so many reasons. Lemonade on a hot summer day. Lemon cakes. Candied lemon peels. I could go on and on and on.

For a recent cookie exchange with an herbal culinary group that I am involved in I thought long and hard about what I was going to make. Last year I had the brilliant idea to make cardamon peanut brittle, which didn’t work and it forced me to regroup and come up with something else. The day before I needed to have 12 dozen herbal cookies I fell back on a basic Mexican Wedding cookie and added the cardamon to it. They turned out great.

This year I made rosemary lemon cookies. Man-o-man were they good.

RosemaryRosemary-Lemon Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter – soft

¾ cup sugar

2 tsp snipped fresh rosemary

2 tsp finely grated lemon peel

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

Rosemary-Lemon cookies

Line cookie sheet with parchment.
Beat butter, sugar, rosemary, lemon, baking powder, salt and vanilla in electric mixer until completely combined.
Beat in flour, one cup at a time until it is all combined.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls.
Flatten balls with the bottom of a glass that is buttered and dipped in sugar.
Bake at 400F for approx. 8 min, or until lightly browning on edges.
Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute.
Transfer to cooling rack

Makes approx 40 cookies

You will taste the lemon right away and after a few seconds have gone by the rosemary flavor will come through ever so slightly. I loved that.

I also loved the thinness and crunch that these cookies had, and I can see myself using this cookie base for other herbs and spices like ginger and cinnamon.

Do you prefer a crunchy, crispy cookie or one that is soft?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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