Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day +250

We've been swamped this past week with doctor's appointments, scans and tests, but I just wanted to let everyone know that everything came back clear and Sam's still doing great.  I don't think that news will ever get old!

Monday, December 3, 2012

on the farm

Another fun morning at Peterson's Groves. Jack loves it out there. Have you been? What a wonderful local business to support.

Peterson's Groves
3375 66th Avenue
Vero Beach, FL 32966

Friday, November 23, 2012

post thanksgiving pumpkin muffins

What a fantastic Thanksgiving. This year was actually our first Thanksgiving together as a family, since Sam was in the hospital last year getting chemo. I remember I tried to make it special by having take-out delivered so we didn't have to eat cafeteria food, while Jack had his first bites of turkey and gravy with my parents at a corner diner. Neither of us even saw him that day since he wasn't allowed at the hospital. It's hard to believe how much your life can change within the course of a year. Obviously, we have much to be thankful for.
     Though there were many amazing dishes from last night, I just wanted to quickly share these muffins we baked up this morning. They're a great way to use up any leftover canned pumpkin and easy for small hands to help mix since they require no more than 2 bowls and a whisk. A sweet little morning after Thanksgiving tradition.

Pumpkin Muffins

Dry Mix
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Wet Mix
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare a regular 12 cup size muffin tin with liners.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together dry mix ingredients. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, whisk together all of the wet mix ingredients until smooth, then mix in the flour mixture just until combined. If you overmix, you're going to have tough, rubbery muffins.

Stir together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping.

Divide batter among muffin cups (each cup should be about 3/4 full), then sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon-sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer muffins out of the pan and on to a cooling rack.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

funeral grits

So simple. So good. Virginia Willis calls these "funeral grits" because they are the perfect sort of thing to take to the bereaved after a funeral. I love them because they can be made ahead of time and kept in a low oven while still retaining their creamy texture. Keep in mind, these cook for nearly 1 hour on the stove top and then bake for another hour in the oven, so plan accordingly.

Funeral Grits

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 cup stone-ground or coarse-ground grits (not quick cooking)
salt & pepper
1 1/2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese (about 6 oz)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and very finely chopped
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a large casserole dish.
     In  large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the water and milk and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Stir in the grits and return to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until creamy and thick, 45 to 60 minutes. (I needed to add a bit more milk to keep them from scorching.) Remove from heat. Add the cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Add the eggs, cayenne, jalapeno and green onions and stir until incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the casserole dish. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 1 hour. Cool slightly before serving.

recipe source: Bon Appetit, Y'all by Virginia Willis

Saturday, November 10, 2012

easy to read. harder to practice.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

pumpkin stuffed with everything good

This comes from Dorie Greenspan's, Around My French Table , and it's the perfect sort of thing to make right now while all of those post-Halloween pumpkins are on sale. You basically cut the top off of a small pumpkin (jack-o'-lantern style), scoop out the innards, and stuff it with a mixture of bread, cheese, bacon, herbs and heavy cream. I served this with a simple roast chicken to make a lovely little Sunday supper. Dorie stresses these quantities are guidelines, and depend fully on the size of your pumpkin. I used a 3 lb pumpkin and it was just right.

Stuffed Pumpkin

1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
   salt & pepper
1/4 pound (4oz) stale bread, cut or torn into small pieces
1/4 pound (4oz) cheese, such as Gruyere, cheddar or any combination, cut into small chunks
2-4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 strips of bacon, cooked until crisp and chopped
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
about 1/3 cup heavy cream
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

     Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and center your racks so that your pumpkin will fit nicely, without the stem touching the top of the oven. You can bake this on a parchment lined baking sheet, or place in a pot or pie plate that's slightly larger in diameter than your pumpkin. I used a 9-inch pie plate.
      Using a very sharp knife, cut the top off the pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds and strings, and season the inside liberally with salt and pepper.
     Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper and pack the filling into the pumpkin. At this point, the pumpkin should be well filled. Stir together the cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and pour over filling.
     Put the cap back in place and bake for about 2 hours, though you may want to check after 90 minutes. Mine took the full 2 hours. You want the filling to be bubbling and the pumpkin to be tender when pierced with a knife. Dorie suggests removing the cap during the last 20 minutes so the top of the stuffing can brown a bit.
     I suppose there are two ways to serve this. You can cut slices (the prettiest) or scoop it right out, mixing some pumpkin in with the stuffing (the yummiest).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

i heart ny & nj

You all are constantly in our thoughts and prayers. We love you!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day +211

It's been a full month since Sam's last visit to Moffitt, and he's still feeling great. His blood work revealed a decrease in antibodies, so they decided to keep him for a second dose of IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin). His first dose was back in August and he responded very well. It's made by extracting antibodies from thousands of healthy plasma donors, and administered with the hope of boosting his immune system. It takes awhile to run, 6-8 hours in Sam's case, but Moffitt has a great facility where we have a private room (with our own bathroom!) and a patient/caregiver pantry stocked all day with free coffee, soda, juice, pudding, soup, ice cream, and sandwiches. That's right, MaryShannon. free. sandwiches.

Right before the benadryl kicked in. I tried to convince him to wear his Mr. Incredible costume from last Halloween to the clinic today. No dice. He's still pretty incredible to me.

$15,000 worth of medicine

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Monday

I'm not a big fan of Halloween, but a baby costume parade in the park is just too hard to pass up. We went to the event last year which turned out to be one of our last family outings at home before relocating to New York. It was incredible to be back again this year, meeting new families, seeing old friends and moving on.

 I know, I know. Not much of a "costume". Pretty much looks just like his dad.

Monday, October 22, 2012

gainesville weekend

What a great weekend! A big thank you to Mike and Cathie Ziegler for letting us stay in their beautiful Gainesville home and basically making the whole trip possible. Tailgating with a toddler was definitely a new experience, but it was such a blessing to reconnect with old friends and share places we love so dearly with Jack. Seeing him tot around the DZ and AGR houses was just too much. Thank you to all of our friends who went out of their way to come visit us. We hope to see you all again soon!

go Gators!


Finally! A play date with Emmett McCready

He loves his Aunt Nikki

Having fun on CB's farm in High Springs

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

chicken enchiladas

These are by no means authentic, but Sam loves them so I thought I'd pass them along. I don't take the time to fry the tortillas, and I skip the butter in the filling. Really. They're perfectly fine without it. If you're a small family like us do yourself a huge favor and split the recipe between two smaller pans and freeze one before baking. (click the link for the recipe)

Friday, October 12, 2012

whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

Don't be put off by the whole wheat flour. These cookies are seriously good. Even Jack, who pushes away most everything I bake, will gobble them up.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dry Mix:
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Wet Mix:
8 oz (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 oz chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate)

Line baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 F.

Sift together the dry ingredients, pouring back into the bowl any residual bits of grain.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter and sugars. Mix on low speed until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing just until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and blend on low just until it's all combined. You don't want to over mix the dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the chocolate chips all at once and mix on low speed until the chips are evenly distributed.

At this point I prefer to chill the dough for about 30 minutes, to get smaller, thicker cookies, but you can certainly scoop your cookies out and put them straight in the oven. Scoop tablespoon-sized rounds of chilled dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 14-16 minutes. This can vary depending on the size of your cookies. Like most chocolate chip cookies, these are at their very best when eaten warm, but they will keep for a few days stored in an airtight container.

recipe source: Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce (slightly modified)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

abide with me

For our friends facing incredible challenges, who may be feeling a bit worn and weary. There were many times in New York I would set this hymn on repeat and pray for the strength to make it through the day. I hope it brings to you the same comfort and peace it has brought me.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

jam jar balsamic vinaigrette

Believe it or not, the one thing Sam missed most while going through chemo and transplant was a big, crisp, cold salad. Since fresh fruits and veggies can carry all sorts of bacteria that could wreck havoc on a compromised immune system these had to be eliminated from his diet. When he was recently given the OK to eat salads again I wanted to elevate it a bit from my usual bowl of lettuce and tomatoes topped off with a few boring drizzles of bottled dressing. I found this balsamic vinaigrette in Tyler Florence's Family Meal cookbook, and haven't purchased the bottled stuff since. It's become our house dressing, and though Jack has yet to give it a try, Sam and I are enjoying more salads than ever.

Jam Jar Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 small shallot, finely diced (or 1 fresh garlic clove, minced)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese (kind of optional, good with or without)
salt & pepper to taste

Put everything in a small jar. Shake hard. Lasts at least a week in the fridge.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

butternut squash & apple soup

This is one of my favorite fall soups. I found this recipe in college, and whenever I make it I'm always reminded of carving pumpkins at the little stone cottage behind Swamp. A very happy memory amidst the drudgery of grad school. It shouldn't be hard to convince your small one to take a bite since, let's be honest, it's not much more than a glorified baby puree.  enjoy!

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

3-4 lb butternut squash, peeled and seeded
2 yellow onions
2 McIntosh apples, peeled and cored
3 Tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
3-4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth (or more for a thinner soup)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Preheat the oven to 425.
     Chop up the squash, onion and apple in 1-inch cubes. Place on a large baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Divide the mixture between 2 baking sheets and spread everything into a single layer. Roast for 40 minutes, occasionally stirring, until everything is very soft. (You must stir to prevent scorching)
     When the vegetables are done place them in a large soup pot and add 3 cups of chicken broth. Use an immersion blender to puree to a desired consistency. (You could also use a food processor to coarsely puree the mixture with just a bit of broth.) Over a medium-low heat, add the remaining stock depending on the desired thickness of the soup, followed by the curry powder and more salt and pepper to taste.

serves 4-6. freezes great.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

a joyful heart

"You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever." Psalm 30:18-19

Friday, September 28, 2012

Maple-Dijon Roasted Veggies

Sam was on a low-microbial diet after transplant and during most of chemo which meant fresh fruits and veggies were off the table. I was constantly on the lookout for new recipes that everyone would enjoy, and this one has become a family favorite. Even now, after he's been given clearance to add some fresh food back in his diet, I still find myself roasting vegetables all the time. I chop everything up the night before (or even a few days in advance) so I can pull dinner together quickly when Jack is having a life crisis on the kitchen floor.

Maple-Dijon Roasted Veggies

3 Tablespoons real Vermont maple syrup
3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3-inch sticks (like fat French Fries)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3-inch sticks 
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch sticks

Preheat the oven to 425.
     Lay out your vegetables on a large baking sheet. Mix the maple syrup, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the veggies and mix all round with your hands to evenly coat. Roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Serves 4.

recipe source: my father's daughter by gwyneth paltrow

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beef Stew

I came across this recipe in Ann Hodgman's Beat This! cookbook. It's a funny little book, filled with lots of really great recipes. This beef stew could not suit my current life more perfectly. I chop everything up the night before, dump it all in a dutch oven the next day, pop it in the oven, and forget about it for the next 5 hours. It does use a can of Campbell's Tomato Bisque soup which, I know, will send some of you into a tailspin. I strongly advise against trying to sub something else in. I've tried and so has Ms. Hodgman. Take a deep breath and get out your can opener. It's going to be OK.

Beef Stew

2 pounds of stew meat (I cut up a chuck roast)
6 carrots, cut into thick slices
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 large baking potato, cut into large cubes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can Campbell's Tomato Bisque soup
1/2 soup can water, dry red wine or beer (I use wine because, well, have we met?)

Preheat the oven to 275 F.
     Combine the beef, veggies and bay leaf in a lidded casserole dish. Sprinkle the seasonings over all and mix well. Combine the soup and your liquid of choice in a small bowl and pour it over the stew ingredients. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and then with the lid.
     Bake the stew for 5 hours (she recommends checking to make sure there's still liquid halfway through, but this has never been an issue for me).

Serves 6

Monday, September 24, 2012

Officially Back to Work! Day +174

Today was Sam's first official day back to work since October 2011! To say he's excited would be a ridiculous understatement. He's been pacing around like a caged lion for months. His doctor has recommended he move to monthly visits since he is doing so well, and his medications have continued to decrease every week.

Praise. the. Lord.

Always. And most definitely today.

some after dinner fun

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day +155 Still Doing Great!

The results of Sam's most recent PET scan and bone marrow biopsy have come back clear! His bone marrow appears to be fully comprised of donor cells, an indication that the donor cells have successfully engrafted. As if this day couldn't get any better, he's also been given the green light to return back to work soon. For those of you who know Sam, you know he's been going just a little bit crazy not being able to work. His work family at Helena Chemical Company has been absolutely incredible through this whole process. From his initial diagnosis, never once has Sam had to worry about his job. When we set off for New York, Sam was given one assignment- Get Better.  We are excited and proud to be part of such an amazing company.

Jack is doing great. Growing big and keeping me on the run.

Life is so good.

Friday, July 27, 2012


We. Are. Home!

 I'm finding it very hard to convey to you all just how grateful and happy we are to be back in our home, together again as a family. I've been desperately trying over the past few days to post something, anything, to let you know how we're doing. We are great. Thank you all so much for the continued love and support as we settle in back home.

We had an appointment at Moffitt this week to meet our new doctor. Everything went very well. We will be driving over once a week for follow up care. We may be going back to New York for a few days during the end of August to give Sam a boost of more cells if his counts don't increase. Have I told you his donor agreed to give more cells? This time harvested from her hip bone. Incredible, right? They want to play around with his medication first to see if that will bump things up.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day +101 More Good News

We just met with Dr. Sauter. By this time next week, we will be home!! We have an appointment at Moffitt for follow-up care on the 25th, and we may have to temporarily relocate to Tampa for a short while, but if that's the deal, we'll take it. We are beyond excited to finally be coming home.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day +76 Moving Forward.

We spent the majority of last week sorting through the apartment. Pack? Donate? Toss? We made our way through seven months of stuff. It was far more emotional than I ever imagined. The cake pan used to bake Jack's first birthday cake? Pack. That winter coat that kept him toasty in Central Park all winter? Donate. reluctantly. A small forgotten bag of breast milk in the freezer? Deep breath. The last ever? Toss? God give me strength. It went on like this for several days. A necessary downsizing and reorganizing of our temporary city home. We had been putting it off for too long. Each delay in our departure date would lead Andy and Alison,our NYC angels, to cancel potential renters. Renters who write checks for a 4 day stay that equal 5 months of mortgage payments back home. Their compassion and kindness is extraordinary, but we couldn't keep letting them do this. It's just the two of us now, and tying up such an expansive space seemed silly. There were whole rooms we no longer ventured into.

Besides, we really don't know how long we're going to be here. Sam's counts haven't rebounded like they should have since his last hospital stay. They've talked about possibly giving another dose of donor cells. From the same donor or wait for a new one? We're not sure. It's out of our hands. The endless worrying, grasping for control, and yearning to be home with Jack have left me exhausted and miserable. My prayers have changed. When I hear a new departure date of sometime after the 4th, I breath in. I give thanks. Thanks for my worn, but still breathing husband sitting next to me. Thanks for the highly skilled and very cautious medical team keeping him that way. Giving thanks keeps me present. Giving thanks keeps me grounded. Giving thanks keeps my hands from lunging at the doctor's neck.

Sam has a PET scan scheduled for Wednesday. Until then we're settling into our new home across town at Hope Lodge. It's a different world over here. Definitely not the upper east side :) More posts to come.