Thursday, November 27, 2008

Do Something Nice for a Soldier

What a wonderful way to say thank you to our soldiers in Iraq!! Go to this website,, where you can pick out a thank you card. There's a bunch to choose from.

Xerox will print the card and send it to a soldier currently serving in Iraq. Though you don't get to choose who gets the card, it will go to a member of the armed services.

It's quick - took me less than 30 seconds total start to finish - and even better, it's free. Please do this for our guys and gals in the military, and if you can add it to your blog or website, so many more people will add their cards to yours.

Doesn't matter if you are for or against the war. Our servicepeople are away from their families and loved ones during the holidays, and we need to let them know they are important and that we care.

Please take just a few seconds to send a card. You'll feel good afterwards. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TDP - Overdoing It

We returned last evening from Ann Arbor, where Tom had a bone biopsy of his spine. They're pretty sure it's cancer, but want to be absolutely certain before custom designing his treatment. Results won't be in until the middle of next week due to the two-day holiday this week.

Procedure took about an hour and a half, with them shifting him in and out of a CT scan to help them determine the exact site of the biopsy. He even has these black Sharpie marks on his back showing where to take the biopsy. He assured me before his morning shower that the marks were made with non-permanent marker. Hah! He has lovely black very-permanent dots in the center of his back! Not a problem, said pragmatic Tom - "I can't see them anyways."

Tom was given what they call "conscious sedation," meaning that he was almost asleep but could be wakened if the doctors had questions. He remembers falling asleep completely during one of the CT scans (they do several), but that's normal for Tom - he can fall asleep almost anywhere.

The doctors' instructions told him to limit his activity to zero for 24 to 48 hours, but he was feeling okay this morning and did the stuff he would usually do - walk down to the mailbox, vacuum the living room, last minute grocery shopping for Thanksgiving. But by early evening, he realized he'd overdone it and has headed off to an early bedtime. He never was good at listening to instructions . . . but I love him anyways.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

TDP - Still Trying to Be Normal, and Getting Better At It!!!

The radiation oncologist's appointment we had last Tuesday didn't give us the good news we were hoping for - we walked in believing that Tom would be having radiation, chemo and surgery for his cancer. We've been digesting the news ever since.

We looked at Tom's MRI to see that Tom's esophageal cancer has spread to lymph nodes and most likely his spine, and - just in case that wasn't enough - his MRI is also showing a suspicious mass in his colon. The doctor believes that it too is probably cancerous, but not necessarily related to his esophageal cancer, and thinks it may be in early stages.

More tests are scheduled - this upcoming week a bone biopsy of his spine, and later, a colonoscopy to figure out exactly what's happening there.

What all of this translates into is that Tom is no longer qualified for the study trial we had hoped he'd be in, due to the movement of his cancer. The doctor is being thorough by ordering both the bone biopsy and the colonoscopy, and both are out-patient procedures in Ann Arbor. With the results of these tests, a treatment plan can be designed specifically for Tom.

So onward we go, and we're okay with it. We have definitely not given up. God's just taking us in a different direction, and we can handle it. As our friends Lori and Robert said, "Be strong!" and we are so thankful for their encouragement. We are strong.

We've been trying some different things. Tom's been taking lots anti-oxidants, both in natural fruit and veggies like blueberries and fresh carrot juice. We're very fortunate that we live in blueberry country, and can buy 10 pound boxes of frozen berries at very reasonable cost. And I'm thankful that Tom really likes blueberries, because he's getting more than anyone should ever have to swallow.

He's also taking high-dose anti-oxidant drink supplements. And he's upped his caloric intake to 2500 to 3000 calories/day. That's a bit of a struggle for him as his stomach only accepts small amounts of food and drink at any given time, but he's adjusting.

That means he's eating or drinking something every waking hour, which generally sounds like heaven until you realize that there's many, many foods he cannot eat. At the moment, he's able to handle Ensure, well-cooked veggies, rice, pasta, beans, eggs, soups, small amounts of baked fish, ice cream, mashed potatoes and gravy, jam sandwiches, and lots of cheese (one of his favorites). Eggnog is a great high calorie treat for him, but he's definitely very sick of all the dairy products.

He can't eat anything hard like nuts or raw veggies, anything tomatoes or citrus, definitely no pizza, nothing with coatings, no meat in general (but once in a while he can eat tiny bits of chicken), nothing fried or cooked with oil or butter (including pie crusts - but he's getting a piecrust-less pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving!), and even peanut butter has been giving him problems lately.

But he's mentioned that when he gets his calorie counts up, he feels physically better the next day. I've noticed that he has a bit more stamina and strength since he's been at the 2500/3000 calorie range. Today we went out for 2-1/2 hours of errands, and went to five different places - quite a bit of running around for my sick man, but he did it with almost-ease (well, he was planning on a nap when he got home anyways, which is where he is right now).

The more often he does it, the easier it is to get more calories in - and he's learned that it works better to get the majority of those cals in before 1 pm. He can still eat and drink up to about 6 pm, and then he quits - he needs a few hours of digestion time before he hits the sack, and that's usually around 9 pm. (We are just such party people!!)

We've decided not to weigh him until the next doctor's appointment. Last Tuesday at his doctor's appointment, we found he had only lost 1 pound in the previous two weeks. That was really great news, as he'd lost 20 pounds in the previous month. His eating efforts are paying off, and I couldn't be happier!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quick and Easy Biscotti

For my foodie friends, this is a quick to make, easy biscotti.

If you want something other than cranberry nut, you can add whatever other ingredients you wish - I've made this base with lemon juice-lemon zest-candied ginger (after cooling, topped with a lemon juice & powdered sugar glaze), and in another version with chocolate chips and nuts.

Cranberry Nut Biscotti

1-1/2 cups pecan halves, toasted (any other nuts can be used)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries (more is okay if you like cranberries)
Zest of one lemon

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Finely chop half the nuts, leaving remaining nuts in halves. set aside.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine baking powder, flour, sugar, salt. (If you don't have a stand mixer, use an electric hand mixer.) In a separate bowl, beat eggs, yolks, and vanilla quickly with a fork.
3. Add wet mixture to dry, mix on medium low until sticky dough is formed. Add nuts, cranberries and zest.
4. Turn dough out on well-floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and knead slightly. Shaped into two half-inch high logs, slightly flattened. Transfer to prepared baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or a Silpat). Bake until golden brown, about 25 - 30 minutes. Reduce oven to 275 degrees.
5. Remove biscotti from oven, let cool about 10 minutes until you can handle them. On a cutting board, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2 inch slices. Return pieces cut side down to baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes. Turn over and bake until slightly dry, about 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container - they'll last about a month - but I bet they won't make it that long. :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

TDP - Back to Ann Arbor

Last Friday we were in Ann Arbor for Tom's MRI scan. It's a two hour drive each way, and we decided that since the scan wasn't scheduled until 6:45 pm, we'd just drive both ways rather than stay in a hotel.

We arrived early, and that worked out well since Tom also had to have an orbital xray to determine if there were any metal fragments still in his eye from a metal shop accident 30 years ago. The fragments were taken out at that time, but the MRI staff wanted to be certain, hence the orbital xray. They then gave him the all-clear, as no metal was found, and he was able to get his MRI a few minutes earlier than scheduled.

If you haven't had one, an MRI is "interesting" (rolling eyes). They slide you horizontally into a huge machine, and they make extremely loud pounding noises for 30 to 60 minutes. If you didn't have a headache when you started, you probably will by the end of the scan. They do several scans, taking a few minutes break between, but it's still seems like a very long time listening to that pounding noise, even though they give you earplugs to wear. Tom's was a full body scan, so his MRI would take about 60 minutes,

In Tom's case, there was an additional concern. He's claustrophobic, and they had to take him out of the machine twice because of that. Since he was part-way through the test, he was allowed to slide out of the machine, but had to lay perfectly still. No sitting up, no movement of any kind - otherwise his test wouldn't come through clearly enough for the doctors to read the scan. Movement meant re-taking the MRI, so he was very good about staying perfectly still and recouping from his claustophobia, then finishing the MRI.

Originally, he felt he could do the MRI without medication, but now he knows that doesn't work well for him, and he's decided that next time he'll ask to be sedated.

We have an appointment with the radiation oncologist tomorrow, so tonight we're going into Ann Arbor and will stay over. It's so much less stressful than trying to drive over early in the morning, especially since the weather is turning colder and the roads icier. This morning both expressways near our home were shut down due to accidents involving semi-trucks and black ice. But by this afternoon when we leave for Ann Arbor, the road conditions should be much improved and we'll have a nice easy drive, plus a good dinner at an Ann Arbor Thai restaurant we want to check out (Tom can still eat some soft foods like well-cooked veggies and noodles or rice).

And then there's the Whole Foods Market just down the road from our hotel - since we don't have one within 100 miles of our home, it's a treat to go to WF so we're looking forward to that. Treat-time, here we come!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Different is Good!

Looking for a different style of decor for your home or office??

Try this.

Creativity rules!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tagging - Helping Your Fellow Bloggers

What a great idea - you can tag other bloggers to bring attention to their blogs. And by doing so, you will be bringing more readers to your own blog!

I first learned about it from a blog by Arty Allsorts , a photographer selling affordable fine art prints and notecards on Etsy.

It's a really cool way to introduce yourself to other bloggers, so I'm going to 'tag' her blog and then add to the Tag List six other bloggers you should meet.

Here are the rules (pretty simple ones, too):

1. Link your original tagger, and list these rules on your blog.

2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.

3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.

4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

So here's my Seven Facts:

1. We have four cats, all adopted strays who needed someone to care about them, except for one Ms. Sophia, a half-Persian we actually bought because she was just too adorable to let anyone else have her.

2. I've been a freelance writer/photographer for 30 years, and sure wish we'd had blogs and digital cameras way back then.

3. Antiques have been my vocation and true love (right behind my husband Tom) for nearly 30 years - I've exhibited at antiques shows in 28 states, from Maine to Texas.

4. Love cooking good simple food, especially anything Asian . . . and really enjoy baking all those things sweet and sinful that I'm not supposed to have but can't live without.

5. Learning about Twitter has really improved my networking with other photographers, small biz people and a whole lot of new friends around the world. I highly recommend it to everyone.

6. Weird?? Nothing really comes to mind, except my obsession with my husband, who is very tolerant of me while I'm driving him nuts.

7. One of my favorite photographer forums is The LooneyBin, where an active group of us stock photographers share info, kid around a bit, and generally have a really good time. If you like photography and enjoy being around really nice people, join us at the LooneyBin.

Here's the Seven Bloggers I'm tagging, and I'm not giving you any clues about any of them - they are all worthwhile reading:

1. Artsy Allsorts Twitter: @artyallsorts

2. Jim Connolly Twitter: @Jimconnolly

3. Creative Wisdom Twitter: @Creative Wisdom

4. Cars 4 Causes Twitter: @Cars4Causes

5. Darren Rowse Twitter: @twitip

6. Robert Gebbie Photo Twitter: @RGebbiePhoto

7. Sharlyn Lauby Twitter @sharlyn_lauby

Now that you've seen how tagging works - make it work for you, and share with us 7 of your favorite blogs!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TDP - A Glimmer, Just a Glimmer . . .

One week ago, we met with the trial oncologist, Dr. Urba. Actually, we spent quite a bit of time with her staff - answering questions, going over previous tests, etc. The staff then briefs the doctor, who then eventually met with us. It's a somewhat different system than we are used to, but allows the doctor to efficiently use her time to see patients and answer their questions in quick order, while at the same time having prior feedback from her staff about the patient's mental status and attitude.

It was quickly determined that Tom needed a PET scan. We were turned down two weeks before for a PET scan with the local cancer center because we didn't have insurance and we didn't have $7,000 to pay-in-advance for the scan. They told us that when we had the money, Tom could be scheduled for the scan.

The University of Michigan Hospital sees it differently. They scheduled Tom for the first PET scan available, feeling that his care and treatment came before dollars. We are so grateful for that wonderful, uplifting attitude. Tom could not be treated without the PET scan, because it's that scan which tells the doctors exactly how far his cancer has gone, and therefore allows them to identify the specific treatments he'll need.

So we stayed over in Ann Arbor for an extra night so he could have his PET scan the next day. Driving 5 hours roundtrip from the hospital and then back again didn't make any sense. That evening, knowing that we were finally getting started in this road to recovery, he was feeling pretty good - so we spent the evening at the biggest, baddest testosterone retail store in the world - Cabela's.

All you men probably know about Cabela's - but for my female friends, Cabela's is a world reknowned giant hunting and fishing store. As you wander through it, you'll see live trout in indoor man-made streams, more live fish in gigantic aquariums fifty feet long and ten feet tall, and hundreds of wild animal taxidermy mounts. That's all scattered amongst the hunting, fishing, gun, watercraft, furniture, clothing and snack departments. After an hour plus of strolling down the man-aisles, we were ready for a quick snack and back to the hotel.

Tom had his PET scan on Wednesday, and we were home that evening to await the news. By Thursday we were told that his scans were being reviewed by a board of oncologists and radiologist, who would discuss and decide what the best action was to be. Not just one doctor makes this decision, and it's comforting to know that a team of the best U-M oncology specialists were working for Tom.

U-M Hospital is rated by US News & World Report as #9 in the best esophageal cancer hospitals in the United States, and the care and compassion we've experienced there is the best. Speed is U-M's middle name - they scheduled his PET scan within 15 minutes after his meeting with Dr. Urba, and today they called to give us the results and request that he have one more test.

He'll need an MRI to answer some questions for his doctors that came about because of the PET scan. Within 30 minutes of today's phone call, they'd scheduled him on the "urgent" list, so within the next two days Tom will be back in Ann Arbor having an MRI. After waiting for nearly five months for Tom's illness to be identified and for treatment to begin, U-M managed to get it rolling in ten days. They are super-heroes to us.

So, we're on-call, waiting for the MRI call. And then we'll know the game plan.

It's a much-welcomed glimmer of hope . . .

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Reactions - A Blogger Tool

Just today I learned about the Blogger tool called Reactions.

It's an easy way for a blogger to get feedback on posts. We'd all be driven by the responses we get from our readers, if we knew what those responses were.

By using Reactions, you can find out if your readers find your posts funny, interesting or cool. Those are the default choices when you sign up for Reactions, but you can change those options to suit your own needs. And you don't have to limit your Reactions to just three choices - you can have more if the need is there, or maybe you have a yes-or-no question you want answered. It's up to you, and you can change it as often as you wish.

With Reactions, your readers can give you feedback with just a click, allowing you to fine-tune your blog to attract more readers.

To get your own Reactions, just log into your blog's Dashboard, then go to Layout > Page Elements, and then to the Edit in the Blog Post element. Check the box next to Reactions, then add the specific Reactions you desire as a comma-separated list.

Click Save and you've added a really nifty tool that will give you the feedback you need to make your blog even better!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Do you Twitter?

I've learned to Twitter, and am having a ball with it. Twitter is a free social network-style service founded in 2006 in San Francisco, California. It allows us Twitterers to micro-blog - to send and to read other users' tweets (that's the 140 character updates we Twitterers post).

You sign up for free - then the goal is to have other Twitterers "follow" you. Many of us use Twitter for letting others know about our blogs, our websites, our politics - you can say whatever you want to say, as long as it's under 140 characters. If you have more to say, just post the first sentence and then start another!

Although I can usually manage to complete a tweet in under 140 characters, I do sometimes run through several tweets before I get everything said. I've used Twitter to refer my followers to my Red Moon Antiques website at Ruby Lane, but just as easily I might Twitter about what I'm having for dinner.

Major companies use Twitter to promote their products and services, including Whole Foods Markets and Jet Blue. Even NASA uses Twitter! Most recently, Barack Obama used Twitter to get out the vote, and had more than 120,000 followers.

It's amazing to see the responses from other Twitterers. Many of them have posted about tweets I've posted, and from them I've learned about some really helpful websites. It's an interesting community of people - professionals, politicians, charity volunteers, small business people, college kids, just about anyone from just about every walk in life.

Twitter has caught on in a big way - you can tweet from your computer, but you can also tweet from your phone. Facebook has an application for Twitter, which opens a huge number of doors - many of my Twitter followers found me through Fb. I also have Twitter on this blog - you'll see it in my right sidebar.

Although currently Twitter itself doesn't offer advertising, you can stilladvertise on Twitter, or you can get paid for posting tweets on Twitter, both through Magpie. You can also advertise through TwittAd, which allows for website promotion and product placement.

Twitter is definitely a place to try your own style innovative marketing, whether for your business or your personal blog. Take a look at my own Twitter, and you'll see how much fun it can be!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Great Pet Photography Tutorial!

Happy Furry Friday! by Buntekuh.
While wandering through the website of digital Photography
, I noticed their tutorial on photographing pets.
Besides the great shots like this one by Buntekuh, also
known asSabine, her series of nearly 400 shots of cats on
her Flickr page is spectacular.

The dPS tutorial had several other excellent examples of
pets, and offered nine different ideas on how to achieve
great pet photos. This guest post on Pet Photography was
written by Antoine Khater at All Day I Dream about

I've found a tremendous amount of great photo information
at dPS, and signed up a while ago for their daily updates.
Hardly a day goes by that I haven't found something fun or
useful - it's one of my favorite sites for quick and easy
photo info.

Photo of the white kitten (below) is by Jose' Luna. You
can click on this photo to see more of his work.