December 28, 2007

Day 10

I have been able to wear my sleeve and glove for a few hours each of the past two days. Now I am at about 18 hours bandaged (down from 23). However, last night I got so frustrated at how tightly I had wrapped it that after tossing and turning for several hours, at 3 AM I tore it all off in a tizzy. Then I did finally manage to fall asleep, as did Rik. I think there will be a nap in our future this afternoon.

And for those who were curious, I do still remember how to use chopsticks with my right (non-dominant) hand. You should try it some time!

December 25, 2007

One week of bandaging

Finally there is some improvement in my left hand. I can see my knuckles again! My wrist and forearm are still thickened, so clearly I'm not done bandaging just yet.

However, friends are coming over this afternoon, so I plan to wear my sleeve and glove this morning to have full use of my hand while baking a cake and straightening up the house. Then I will bandage for the rest of the day and overnight, in time to go our for Chinese food. I wonder if I remember how to use chopsticks with my right hand? (I learned in Japan, when I had to bandage for a couple of days during our trip.)

December 23, 2007

Bandaging day 6

Still no real change. I had decided to stay home all day Saturday and have a pity party but was rescued by my friend G. 

We went to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma and later met up with another friend for a ladies' night out at Smash in Wallingford. I had a pomegranate martini and we shared a number of appetizers (potato cakes, green salad with dried cherries, flatbread with feta and olive spread), split an order of artichoke ravioli with pink vodka sauce, and finished with a cheese plate (Port Salut, Valdeon bleu and Manchego). The Valdeon was particularly amazing when drizzled with honey.

My hand is not improved by my attitude definitely has!

December 21, 2007

Bandaging day 4

I saw the physical therapist again today and she had some new padding ideas. Hopefully the hand will be a little less bulky, permitting me to do a little more. So far no change....I still have a lot of swelling in my hand and wrist. 

December 20, 2007

Bandaging day 2

I tore off the bandages at 5:30 AM after being wrapped for about 17 hours. My arm and hand swelling had decreased dramatically. Then I went back to sleep. But by the time I got out of bed three hours later, the swelling had returned.

The bandaging clearly works, especially when done in combination with the manual lymphatic drainage. But I think it will take more than a couple of days of wrapping to get back to normal.

December 19, 2007

Lymphedema update

I saw the physical therapist today for lymphedema control. It took calling three different providers until I could find someone who had availability now instead of in a few months! Can you imagine waiting months to be able to use your hand normally?

The therapist said that I have edema in the chest, along the ribs and across the back. She did some manual lymphatic drainage and I scheduled five more appointments. Hopefully that and the bandaging 23 hours a day will bring this flare up under control.

In the meantime I will use my right hand more and hopefully not overuse it to the point of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. I'll make lots of mistake when typing. I'll try not to cut myself when using a knife. And I'll be wearing Rik's shirts -- only men's shirts have sleeves large enough to cover the wrappings!

December 16, 2007

Lymphedema rears it's ugly head

For no clear reason I woke up this morning with pain and swelling in my left hand. I have lymphedema on my left side, a hold-over from the axial node dissection with my lumpectomy that removed several lymph nodes from under my arm.

Usually I can predict when it will flare up -- taking an airplane ride, overuse of some kind, an insect bite -- but I can't figure out what might have triggered it today. So I am wearing my compression glove as well as my sleeve. Because I am left-handed, this limits my flexibility, not to mention my typing accuracy and ability to use a computer mouse!

December 12, 2007

Chocolate truffles

Today I made 95 chocolate truffles with a friend. She had tasted them at a party and wanted to learn how, so we experimented together. There was a haze of chocolate over the kitchen by the time we finished.

We made halvah truffles, Amaretto rolled in hazelnuts, chocolate caramel with sea salt, Lapsang Souchong tea, vanilla bean and Kahlua with cinnamon. Dunava rehearsed here and tasted them all. The biggest hits were the halvah and caramel.

If you try any of these, be sure to use the best-tasting chocolate you can find. The truffle flavor depends almost exclusively on the chocolate. We used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate.

We made the more generic truffles from a basic ganache:

Heat 1/4 cup whipping cream with 1 tablespoon liqueur until gently simmering. For vanilla bean, heat bean in cream, remove and scrape seeds into cream. For tea, heat loose tea in cream, then strain out tea leaves.

Melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and stir into flavored cream. Transfer to a bowl and chill until set and thickened, about 2 hours.

Scoop by small teaspoonful, form into balls and roll in cocoa or finely chopped nuts and chill. To cover in chocolate, melt a few ounces of finest quality chocolate. Working over a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, dip each truffle into chocolate. Chill on lined baking sheet. Transfer to small paper cups to serve. Keeps about 1 week in the refrigerator and 1 month in the freezer.

I found the halva truffle recipe online:
Crush 4 ounces of halvah into powder and heat with 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Stir in 4 ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate, one teaspoon of vanilla and a tablespoon of dark rum. Chill the mixture for an hour, roll into balls, and chill for at least two hours, and then coat with melted chocolate as above.

For chocolate caramel truffles, I adapted a recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine:
3/4 cups packed golden brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 ounces melted bittersweet chocolate

Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, water and salt in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium eat until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to boil, then boil 2 minutes without stirring (mixture will bubble up and thicken slightly). Remove pan form heat. Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously) and stir until smooth. Add melted chocolate and stir until completely smooth. Line an 8x8 inch pan with foil and grease. Pour caramel into pan and set 3 hours until firm. Turn out onto a cutting board and cut into squares. Cover with melted bittersweet chocolate and sprinkle lightly with sea salt (an idea I stole from Fran's Chocolates. Yum!

December 11, 2007

Last night of Chanukah

Tonight is the eighth night of Chanukah. My 10 year old nephew sent us this link to Adam Sandler singing his "Chanukah Song". I think you'll like it!

A little pain

I've awakened several times recently in the middle of the night with pain. Not a lot of pain, but the kind that makes you restless, then wakes you up. It takes me a few moments to figure out why I am awake. Then my brain kicks on and I sit up, grab my handy glass of water, and take some pain meds.

A while ago I got smarter about things like this, and I started taking a glass of water with me when I went to bed. That way I don't have to get up in the cold and dark... unless of course the dog wants to go out, which is what happened at 3:37 this morning. An unusual occurrence, true, but meant that I didn't get a full night's sleep again.

December 09, 2007

My latke recipe

For those of you who have not experienced a latke, here's how I adapted my dad's recipe.

To serve 2 hungry people:
4 potatoes, peeled
1 onion, peeled
1 egg
salt and pepper
Matza meal
Oil for frying

Grate the potatoes using the small holes on a box grater. OR use the grater disc on a food processor and then pulse the grated potatoes for a few seconds using the "S" blade. Working over a bowl, squeeze all the water from the potatoes. Pour off the liquid that accumulates and scrape the potato starch that remains into the grated potatoes.

Grate the onion or chop it finely in the food processor (pulse for a few seconds using the "S" blade). Add to the squeezed potatoes. Mix in 1 beaten egg and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a little matza meal or flour to thicken the batter.

Heat about 1/2 inch of canola or olive oil in a skillet (I use both mixed together). Drop large spoonfuls of latke batter into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and fry the second side. Add more oil as needed.

Serve with applesauce and sour cream -- yummy! Can be doubled, tripled etc. to feed a crowd.

(If you want to fry latkes in advance and enjoy visiting with your friends instead of standing over the frying pan during the party, my sister recommends freezing cooked latkes on a metal baking sheet. Reheat in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes until heated through. Be careful not to burn the latkes. This works better than refrigerating because freezing dehydrates the cooked food slightly. The latkes retain enough oil to crisp up in the hot oven and the cook gets to enjoy the party!)

Oy Chanukah Oy Chanukah a yontif a freydl

Tonight is the sixth night of Chanukah. We've had a whirlwind holiday with LOTS of fried potatoes. On Chanukah it's traditional to eat foods fried in oil to recall the miracle of the single cruse of oil that lasted for eight days.

On Tuesday (first night) it was just Rik and I so of course we had to eat latkes. On Wednesday I had choir rehearsal. On Thursday we both had evening meetings. On Friday night we went to friends for Shabbat dinner and I ended up frying latkes for 30 people. On Saturday night we went to other friends for soup and three different kinds of latkes: traditional potato, spinach (looked like green construction paper but tasted great!) and sweet cherry with cheese.

Tonight we had a close circle of friends over for soup, salad and yes, more latkes! I feel like I've been frying for days, and does our house smell from oil.

December 05, 2007

Rain has finally gone away

On Monday we woke up to a flood in the basement. Ankle-deep water and more flowing in through a hole (!) in the foundation. Rik tried to remove some water in the early morning. You should have seen me with my jeans rolled up past my knees, barefoot in my rain boots. Of course my feet were immediately soaked through. I pumped what I could but had to give up soon. I really didn't feel safe using electric equipment while standing in 4 inches of water! We finally learned that we could put the wet vac outside, use an extension cord to get power form upstairs, and run a longer hose into the water to get rid of more water faster.

Later in the afternoon one neighbor loaned us a larger wet vac and another neighbor came over to help unclog the floor drain. He even helped relight the pilot light on the hot water heater. Another neighbor told me that they had a similar experience a few years ago and would recommend someone to seal the basement. We live on a great block and I know what our summer home improvement project is going to be.

It took hours but the basement is finally drying. Thankfully it's not finished, just storage and appliances, furnace etc. on a concrete floor. Everything is up on risers (except the hot water tank), so clearly this has happened before in the house's 86 year history.

In the middle of dealing with the flood, I found myself scratching. I'd woken up with some bites. I don't know if they were fleas or from a spider hiding in the extra blanket we pulled out this weekend. So I spent the afternoon doing multiple loads of laundry at a friend's home. (Couldn't use the washer and dryer in the basement, not with a flood.) In case we really did have a flea issue, I had to wash all the blankets, sheets, pillowcases, comforter covers, pajamas, AND the dog beds in hot water. Plus flea-treat the dog again.

Seattle got 2 inches of snow on Saturday and 4 inches of rain on Monday, an amazingly large amount in a very short period. No wonder the ground was saturated.

Last night Rik and I both realized that compared to the flooding that destroyed people's homes, what we experienced was just a (relatively easily dealt with) inconvenience.

December 03, 2007

Raising more money

Yesterday was the culminating event in fundraising for my synagogue. Following the model proposed by Benevon (used to be called Raising More Money), a cycle of introduction to the organization and cultivation of relationships culminates in a one-hour free event. There's no obligation to give, no minimum and no maximum. If we do our job right, you'll want to give.

The program is simple:
Opening emotional hook (music from 2 young men who grew up in the community)
Short time to eat and socialize
Visionary speech by the rabbi
7 minute video highlighting three families
Personal testimony from a couple who've been around from the beginning
Asking for money

We ask for a multiple-year pledge to the general operating fund. We ask for $1000, $5000 and $10,000 a year for 5 years -- or you can give any amount for any length of time. And the whole thing is done in one hour!

This year's brunch had the most pre-registrations (227 out of a congregation of only 400 families). Three of the 24 tables were made up entirely of new members. All of the board members who were in town attended. And the snowfall on Saturday night did not seem to deter most people from attending.

210 people were there and pledged $45,000 for the current fiscal year. Over $23,000 was pledged for future years as well. Our congregation is so generous!

By the time we finished counting the money and sending out the good news, it was almost 5 PM. A long day, but a very worthwhile one!