Sunday, October 30, 2011

Zut Alors!

I fell all over myself when I had LadurĂ©e macaroons ("macarons", depending on how French you're feeling) in Paris last year.  Initially, I was cynical, because I thought it was just a cookie--butter, flour, sugar, eggs--with a flavored filling sandwiched in the middle.  Uhhhhhh, thanks France.  I'm holdin' it down in the sandwich cookie department with my Oreos.  You can't mess with my Double Stuf. 

Oh, how good it is to be wrong.

Get them in my mouth!
French Macarons are actually tiny meringues made mostly from egg whites and almond flour.  Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, they are like cake, a cookie and candy all in one.  The colors and flavors are amazing (salted caramel just about made my brains fall out) and they can be popped into your mouth with a ridiculous ease.  Your eyes will cross.  You'll probably moan and grunt with delight.  And before you even know what's happening, you're scheming ways to move to Paris with nothing but your pastry bag and a smile.

Is that just me?  Weird.

People go to culinary school for years to learn how to make these delightful things.  Nevertheless, I was inspired by my recent Christmas ornament purchase to attempt French macaroons in my own kitchen.

This will make my Christmas tree VERY happy.

So, uhhhhhhh . . . here's mine.

Almond orange with chocolate ganache filling.

There was no puffing and nary a frilly edge to be seen.  Honestly, this trio was the most photogenic of the bunch.  Safe to say that LadurĂ©e will not be calling me anytime to soon.  That said, they are pretty scrumptious.  D.R. says they taste like a giant Froot Loop.

I'm OK with that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Blip Is Back

I delayed writing this post until I was a bit further along in the process.  Today, I met with the man who will splay open my neck for a second time and go hunting for some diabolical sons o' bitches--my lymph nodes.

That's right, the blip is back.

Actually, it probably never left.  I distinctly remember the look on my surgeon's face and the tone in his voice when I visited him for a check up after surgery.  As I explained that I was feeling well and adjusting to my hormones, he slowly nodded his head and made a face that, simultaneously, wrinkled his forehead, puckered his chin and made his lips disappear in a weird frown.  He nodded, sighed and slapped his knees as he stood up from the spinning exam stool.  "Well, I'll be interested to see what happens with you in the future."  At first, I was flattered.  I mean, it's not like I was going to see him again, right?  What a sweet guy to be interested in my recovery and subsequent trajectory to awesomeness.

But . . .

As days went by, there was something about his voice during that meeting that left me unsettled.  Something knowing.  Something he didn't know how to tell me.  Did I say something inappropriate while waking up from anesthesia?  Did I have a gown malfunction?  What did my mother say that I did not expressly authorize as acceptable mother/surgeon conversation?  Shit.

Now I know. 

Along with my thyroid, he took 20 lymph nodes, 8 of which were cancerous.  His "interest" in me was his way of saying I did the best I could.  I scraped out as much as I could find, but I can't guarantee I got it all.  

The good news is, there is not much left to get.  4 lymph nodes lodged in the right side of my neck that were probably too small to see the first time around.  I'll be in the hospital overnight and have a spiffy new neck scar for my collection.

The great news is, I now have the benefit of working for some of the best surgeons in Los Angeles.  I would be a jackass if I didn't use my resources, so I rolled into my boss's office and said, "Say a girl needs a good surgeon.  Any idea where I could rustle up one?"  As only someone who chooses to slice people open for a living can, he was down right gleeful to set me up with his favorite scalpel wielder.  In the time it took me to walk from his office back to mine, the email was written.  15 minutes later there was a reply, and 15 minutes after that I had an appointment.  Boom.

The really amazing news is D.R. will be there when I wake up.  Alice B. will rest her head on my chest while I recover on the couch.  My family will call incessantly to make sure I'm alright.  My friends will stop by, bring food, send messages and ask if I need anything. 

I am, and will be, love smothered. 

I just need to give my new surgeon fair warning about my mother.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Tomorrow, D.R. and I will celebrate 5 years together.  We wanted to do something special to commemorate the event but we just couldn't land on the quintessential thing that encapsulates 5 years of D.R. and Samantha Awesomeness.  A big blowout dinner?  A weekend away? 

Thankfully, Alice B. came to the rescue.

She had to have a lump removed from her side and D.R. and I scrambled the money together to make it happen.  She came home from the vet sporting a large, somewhat Frankenstein-ian incision, the dreaded plastic cone, and a week's supply of pain pills.  She was in the cone for a couple hours--whining, falling asleep standing up, running into walls--before we could stand it no longer.  We MacGyvered an old t-shirt into a bandage/kimono and Alice B. is officially on the mend.

Today, I looked at D.R. and said, "So, what are we doing for our anniversary?"
He glanced at Alice sitting lopsided on the floor, coming down from her latest dose of pain pills and giving us the big brown googley eyes.  "Uhhhhh, saving our dog's life."

At least our anniversary fund is adorable.

Do you think dogs get the munchies?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dunnshine's Favorite Things, #3

Ta da!

I have emerged from the last two months which I am dubbing Oh, Now I Remember What It's Like To Have a Job With Real Responsibilities.


I do love that the universe continues to remind me that I must actively seek and maintain balance.  It is not something that will always be there once it is achieved.  It must be loved, nurtured and cultivated . . . saucey minx though it is.

With that in mind, I make my triumphant blogging return with a few more of my favorite things.

1. Intention. 
I don't know about you, but there are days that I wake up . . . do stuff . . . go to bed and think Wow, I didn't actually DO anything today.  I believe those days are necessary and mentally beneficial, but since starting my job, I realize I may have gotten a little too comfortable in my free time.  An actual task that probably would've taken all of 17 minutes to complete would be put off, and put off, and put off--I've got time, and those reruns of Nigella Feasts! ain't gonna watch themselves--to the point where it became this insurmountable, dramatic thing.  You want me to change the BRITA filter?  That will take foreeeeeever.  Yeah, I'm 31-years old and still a second-grader at my core--I need structure, I require challenges, and I must apply myself.  Otherwise, I get feisty for no reason and start shit by the monkey bars.

Knowing this about myself, I can honestly say that I love having a job because it requires me to be intentional with my time for 40 hours a week.  This, in turn, requires me to be intentional with my free time so I can avoid having the things I love (blogging, maybe?) go the way of the BRITA filter.

So, I feel like I'm getting more of handle on the job and a handle on my free time.  I appreciate both of them even more. 

Mrs. Asti would be so proud.

2. Red Heels 
As part of Intention Quest 2011, I am enjoying my business-casual dress code and putting forth a bit more effort in the fashion department.  Left to my own devices I am an average fashionista, but I am always looking for some inspiration or finesse.  Tina Fey pretty much nailed my fashion dilemma in a Vanity Fair article a few years ago.  "Because of the Greek-girl thing, I have, like, boobs and butt.  I only have two speeds – matronly or a little too slutty. I have to be steered away from cheetah print."  I am about 5'9" and have my share of lovely lady lumps.  Much like Ms. Tina, I have two speeds--Dorothy Zbornak and Amazon/dominatrix.  I embrace my height and build, but certain items have no business in my closet:  spaghetti straps, neon, cap sleeves, fringe of any kind, "bralettes", 5" heels, mini skirts, pleated pants, and those dresses that highlight the sternum/ribcage (when did counting a woman's ribs become attractive?).  I keep my clothes pretty neutral and structured and add color with scarfs, blazers, a print here and there, and now, these lovelies . . .

Aren't they fabulous?!

I found them at ROSS, tossed under a rack in the clearance section.  I knew they would put me a little closer to the Amazon/dominatrix camp, but when I slipped them on--oooooooo, girl!--I knew I had to make them mine. 

Oh, the power of the red heel.  They comfortably handle my daily trek around campus without making my toes feel like they're stuck in a vice.  They are instant mood and confidence enhancers.  And, I don't feel as if people are staring at me like I'm dragging a stripper pole.

Ladies, get thee to a pair of fabulous colorful heels.

3.  Alice B.'s Oral Fixation
Two and a half years ago, D.R. and I made the decision to rescue a dog and off we went to a Los Angeles Animal Shelter.  I, of course, wanted all the dogs and broke down crying no less than three times.

Then, we found this face.

The day we became her humans.
Would you have been able to walk away from those wonky ears and the soulful brown eyes?  Neither could we.

When she gets anxious or excited, she soothes herself by carrying things in her mouth.  Recently, this fixation has gotten a little--uhhh, skewed.

Started off harmless with the fuzzy blue cow.

Moved onto the fuzzy orange bone.

Clearly my peanut butter obsession has been a bad influence.

A train ticket?  Really Alice?

We should probably intervene at some point, but it's so fun to see what she brings us.

4.  Anthony Bourdain
Used to be a whole pig.  Try not to think of Charlotte's Web. (source)   

My liking of Anthony Bourdain was a slow burn.  I knew him mostly for his judging on Top Chef--fine and astute commentary, but did he need to be so snarky?  Then, I found myself with nothing to do on a Saturday (see item #1) and a No Reservations marathon on the Travel Channel.  I was sucked in by his morphing hair styles, his gangly swagger that is half Please accept me, I only want your love, and half I will punch you in the neck if you say anything about my leather jacket in 80 degree weather.  The man has a somewhat dark past, but his love for food comes from a good and pure place.  For all his foul language, quick and biting wit, and less-than-high-regard for Food Network personalities, there is a true respect for food and its place in a culture.  Bourdain wants you to get riled up when he shoots his mouth off about Paula Deen because then maybe you'll also get riled up about the food your eating.  What are you eating?  Why are you eating it?  Where did it come from?  I cringed during the "Cajun Country" episode when he shot a pig in the head (he is from Jersey after all), but I have also never seen such loving documentation of the breaking down and flavoring up of meat.  I mean, they film the whooooooole process.  Bourdain is making a point--you gotta respect the animal that gave its life for your pork chop.  Bourdain loved that pig.  Every last bite of it.

5.  The Breakfast Cookie
With the start of the new job, leisurely morning coffee and nursing a bowl of oatmeal is a thing of the past.  Now, my mornings have to flow as smoothly and efficiently as possible.  This little beauty really helps.  Wish I could take credit for it, but I can't.  I can, however, take credit for my tweaking.

Dunnshine's Breakfast Cookie
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 scoop of vanilla protein powder (about a tablespoon, maybe a little more)
2 Tbsp. of peanut butter (I'm sure any nut butter would be fine here, but I just can't part with my Skippy Natural)
2-4 Tbsp of milk of your choice (I've been using vanilla almond milk)
1 Tbsp of flaked coconut
1-2 Tbsp of raisins
Sweetner (I've used agave syrup, Splenda and honey.  Depends on your taste)

Mix the oats, protein powder and peanut butter.  Add enough milk until it comes together and is no longer crumbly.  Mix in the coconut, raisins, cinnamon and sweetner.  Spread onto a small plate and flatten into a "cookie".  Leave in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, the oats will have softned and it will taste somewhere between a bowl of oatmeal and an oatmeal cookie.  Get your coffee in a travel mug and off to work you go!

I promise I'll be back sooner than two months down the road.  I've figured out my priorities in life and I'm renewing my commitment.  Let's spend our lives together.