Sweet Potato Casserole

I got this recipe from my beloved Aunt Jenny in 1988. Where she got it, I don’t know. It’s a fabulous recipe for those who are tired of the marshmallow-sweet tater combination you usually see. And my father-in-law, who doesn’t care for coconut, even likes it!

Notes in parentheses are mine.

AUNT JENNY’S SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE

Filling
3 c. cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (you can eyeball it based on the size of the fresh sweet potatoes you’ve bought)
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. milk (we use canned evaporated milk)
1/3 c. margarine (we use salted butter)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (get the good stuff; Mexican vanilla is best)
2 eggs, beaten

Topping
1 c. flaked coconut
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar (we use light brown sugar)
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. margarine (butter again), melted
1 c. chopped pecans

Combine first six ingredients, mixing well. Spoon into a lightly greased 8″ inch square (9″ x 13″ works better) baking dish.

Combine remaining ingredients; sprinkle over top of the sweet potatoes.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: six servings.

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Martha Stewart, you are not invited for Thanksgiving this year

I have absolutely nothing to say to Martha Stewart and she has irked me for the last time. Never mind the fact that I don’t know her, will probably never meet her, and have never spoken to her in the first place, you can be sure I will snub her if given the opportunity.

To be honest, I doubt this will be the last time she irks me. (I love that word–irk, irk, irk. It’s nearly as good as being miffed.)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. My house is a mess, dusty, and in dire need of a good vacuuming, my laundry is wet (remind me when we are through here to go put that stuff in the dryer or plan to go naked tomorrow), and my favorite maroon tablecloth is–gasp!–not ironed. I’m pretty sure I know where my cookie sheets are (process of elimination; I’ve looked everywhere else and how do you lose cookie sheets in the first place???). My beloved husband and sister-in-law (who doesn’t even like to cook) have foolishly–foolishly–volunteered to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, but the chic yet cozy decor decisions belong to me.

On top of that, I have not, pitifully, completed making the hand-cut, hand-stamped thank you notes I need to get into the mail like YESTERDAY to my wonderful friends and family who have spent time and energy and thoughts and prayers on me and my well being lately.

Martha set the standard way too high. And so did Rachael, and all the rest. Not only can I not keep up with them, I don’t even know who is on the A-list for celebrity lifestyle coaches. Joanna Gaines, of course. Everybody knows the Queen of Shiplap.

I, alas, am shiplapless. And custom cardless. And cookie sheetless. And I am okay with it.

As we were coming home from another of the myriad doctor’s appointments I’ve had lately, I was lost in thought: If people don’t get thank you notes until after Thanksgiving, can I still go with a fall theme or should I do something snowy, but not necessarily Christmasy, because it’s by gosh a thank you note, not a Christmas card, or should I go with something altogether different and holy crap I’m still a newbie and do I have anything that isn’t red or green on hand to use anyhow? And did I order envelopes? Because if I didn’t, then I probably definitely need to go with something less fall-like since I will have to find my postage stamps, or buy more, after I make sure I have envelopes. Just because I had them three days ago does not mean I can find them today.

Here is what I presume another person in my position would have been thinking: Gosh, I’m glad I’m progressing so nicely after my mastectomy, and so thankful I have some energy and no pain, and it’ll be nice to be at home relaxing here in an hour or so.

What am I doing to myself? When did my obsession with All Things Adorable begin?

To be honest, I’m a late bloomer. Other than the occasional granny square and that whole run-in with homemade soaps and candles a few years back, I pretty much limit my artsy craftsy side to purchasing hundreds of dollars of supplies that will never get used. I’m good at it; I have a discerning eye. But, as I pondered actually cutting paper and inking stamps, I also pondered (co-pondered?) why there is such a craze for DIY Heaven nowadays? Who started all this in the first place?

Martha did. Martha Stewart, the First Lady of the White-on-White House (the subtle use of textures is so elegantly understated when one uses color-on-color.)

But in my quest for a more relaxing, fulfilling life now that I don’t fight traffic on a daily basis to get to work (because of telecommuting, not illness-related) , I have determined that our quirky, quaint Folk Victorian home must be the epitome of Adorable. Dammit, Martha, leave me alone; I’m doing the best that I can.

This year, though, Thanksgiving will be small but heartfelt. My in-laws are visiting the siblings in California this year, so we will be few. No need to break out the Artfully Mismatched dishes and linens. No need to set up a drink-and-dessert station, or set out hors d’oeuvres since dinner won’t be three hours late this year (I hope). This is the year for a pre-cooked turkey, the ever-popular green bean casserole, store-bought pies, and dressing that comes in a box (and I won’t look at the sodium content on the nutrition label). This is the year I will relax and let my beloved husband and his sister feed us and it will be delicious and amazing and even Adorable.

And the tablecloth will be wrinkled.

And the thank you cards may or may not be completed before tomorrow. (Who am I kidding? I’ve already put them up for the day.)

And there will be love.

And thankfulness. Lots of thankfulness.

I’m cancer-free.

 

Still hangin’ in there

Well, I came home yesterday, Saturday, the day after surgery, both exhilarated and exhausted. I spent Friday afternoon, post-surgery, drunk Facebooking and texting and it was totally awesome. Luckily the meds made me a happy drunk, not a sad or menacing one, and for once in my life I had an appropriate excuse for being a smart aleck. It felt so good that it continued well into Saturday. I even held an informal contest for people to guess how much Lefty Lucy weighed.

Now, before you go judging me for being heartless, understand that Lefty Lucy’s alias could have been Hefty Lucy, because I am somewhat amply endowed. (I guess Righty Tighty’s alias would be Righty Rotundy. I never had to worry about what to call them besides The Girls until just a few months ago.) Between the fact that everyone who knows me knows I have Bodacious Tatas, as a friend dubbed them, my friends also know I’m on a quest to lose some weight. I must say now I don’t recommend a mastectomy as a weight-reduction option, but, hey, you take it where you can get it. So…3.3 pounds. Not what I’d hoped for, but then again if I’m being honest with myself I knew I wouldn’t shave 35-50 pounds off with this surgery. And a 3.3 pound loss in a single day is nothing to sneeze at.

So far the uneven boobelage has been…ah…interesting. I’d been warned to get some front-opening sports bras to wear for the duration, and that I’d be sent home from the hospital wearing a compression bra.

I do most of my clothes shopping online, more so now that I live in a small town with limited resources. Online purveyors of fine support undergarments lump sports bras into a category with leisure bras. This is a bit ridiculous. Sports bras keep The Girls from wandering around unsupervised while you exercise; leisure bras keep The Girls from sliding completely off your chest and filling your armpits when you sleep on your back. Leisure bras are readily available in my size; sports bras, not so much. But I found one I liked–a dashing fuchsia and black that I envisioned had a future of coyly peeking out from under a fashionable, but functional, tank top as I sweat to the oldies at the gym, wiping my brow, and guzzling water. Sexy. Like a commercial. Not like a middle-aged morbidly obese woman, but it’s my vision so let me enjoy it.

Which I did, until the bras arrived and I attempted to try one on.

Now, sports bras are snug. They are, in many ways, nothing more than elastic bandages with cute designs and shoulder straps. They have to be snug around your rib cage so The Girls don’t look like they are bungee jumping while you jog. One, however, has to consider what to do with The Girls while one is actually getting the sports bras fastened around the rib cage. They won’t stay in the bra without it being already fastened–they either ooze out or flop out. They are in the way if they hang outside of the bra while you are trying to fasten it. And they certainly cannot be shoved in as the last step because once you get a sports bra on, it takes on many tourniquet-like qualities, and there is no amount of finesse that’ll get those babies in there.

So back in the package, not for return, but to wait until I can get that sexy tank top to go with them, and I ponder getting a larger size for post-surgery.

After all of this bra-wrestling and anticipation, I was a but surprised to wake up after surgery without the promised compression bra. I thought maybe they’d “assign” it to me before I went home. But I was wrong. As the name indicates, compression bras do just that; they compress. Like sports bras. And my surgical team was unable to contain Righty Tighty as they tried to get the compression bra on me so…no compression bra.

One thing you must know about my surgeons–they are young, attractive, vibrant women with sparks of wit and intelligence in their eyes. These are the kind of people you trust upon meeting them and want to hang out with because you are so certain that their “polite conversation” is going to be interesting. I adore these two women. They are not-however, well-versed in chasing large floppy boobs around and trying to contain them. I will forever carry an imaginary vision of these young, dynamic medical professionals trying to corral Righty Tighty, diligently protect the sutures where Lefty Lucy used to live, and get the dadgum band fastened around my midriff. There is a certain dignity in knowing when to retire gracefully from the struggle. They, thankfully, possess that dignity.

I must say, though, that I can understand the need for a compression bra, so if you are offered one, take it and take it seriously. If I were able to wear one, it would hold up the remaining Girl as well as offer some firm support for my surgical site as we wait for the next step. Truly it will aid not only your healing, but also your comfort and self-esteem. I’m going to go with a leisure bra, I think, and hope for the best. At least Righty won’t be hanging out in my armpit while I sleep.

Say what?

After over a dozen appointments with Medical Professionals over the past two months,  I feel qualified to say that preparing for breast cancer surgery is, at best, confusing and exhausting. At worst it is an absolute nightmare for Type A personalities and people suffering from anxiety disorders. Did I mention I’ve recently started taking Prozac? I can officially say my over has been whelmed.

Here are some of the things I have been told:

INITIAL PAPERWORK:

  • New primary care physician: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, then create a login for our patient portal.
  • Breast Imaging Center: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, then create a login for our patient portal.
  • Oncologist: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, then create a login for our patient portal.
  • Breast surgeon (same office as Oncologist): Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, because we can’t use the ones you filled out yesterday for the Oncologist (I asked).
  • Plastic surgeon: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, then create a login for our patient portal.
  • MRI Imaging: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications.
  • Hospital: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications.

ADDITIONAL PAPERWORK AND INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Let me tell you what to do and then send you a copy.
  • Let me tell you what to do and then you must download a copy.
  • Do you want a copy of the thing we told you to download?
  • Here is the paperwork for you to fill out that we told you to fill out before you got here. Oh, you’ve already filled it out? Great!

TAKING CURRENT VITAMINS, SUPPLEMENTS AND HERBAL REMEDIES:

  • Seven days before surgery.
  • Two days before surgery: “If you haven’t stopped taking your supplements yet, please do so now” while reviewing a piece of paper specifically stating the last day I took said supplements.

TAKE NOTHING BY MOUTH BEGINNING AT:

  • Midnight the night before; nothing the next morning, not even water.
  • 11 p.m., but you can take your Prozac in the morning.
  • Midnight, and we highly recommend you take your Prozac in the morning.

SHOWING WITH HIBICLENS BEFORE SURGERY:

  • Go buy HibiClens and shower in the morning, and the night before as well if you’d like.
  • Go buy HibiClens and shower in the morning; no need to also shower the night before.
  • After we’ve purchased HibiClens: Here is a free bottle of HibiClens and you absolutely must shower both the night before and the morning of surgery.

ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Prescriptions for post-surgery medication: Fill the first four right now (two weeks before surgery and including the one that I won’t need based on the information sheet and the info they provided on how they’d suture the wounds, and also including the prescriptions for non-prescription items), but also take the fifth prescription to the pharmacy so they can special order it because they won’t stock it as it’s expensive and rarely used, then if we decide you need it, fill it. (I hope the pharmacy has a money-back guarantee.) Oh, and we’ll give you your prescription for painkillers while you are in surgery and you’ll need to fill it before you leave the hospital.
  • Somebody will give you one post-surgery bra. Be sure to wear a bra 24 hours a day and change into a clean one daily.

PRE-LYMPH NODE BIOPSY INJECTIONS (rendering Lefty Lucy radioactive until tomorrow mid-morning):

  • It’s gonna hurt really bad.
  • It’s gonna sting a little like the Lidocaine  you got for your biopsy.
  • Some people say it’s the worst pain they’ve ever felt (oh, great!) and some say it didn’t hurt at all.
  • NOTE: For me, it hurt like a BIG DAWG for about two minutes, and then went away.

ARRIVAL TIME:

  • You’ll need to arrive at about 5:30 am.
  • You’ll definitely need to be here by 5:00 am.
  • You’ll need to be here at 5:00 am but as long as you are here by 5:30 am it might be be okay.

POST-OP EXERCISE:

  • Don’t raise your arms over shoulder level.
  • Raise your arms until it hurts, then don’t raise them any higher.
  • Do all of the exercises on the sheet we gave you except the ones that require you to reach higher than shoulder level. Do those later. But we’re giving them to you now.

POST-OP WALKING:

  • Walk 150 minutes a week five days a week.
  • Walk twice daily.
  • Walk four times daily, 5-15 minutes each time.

POST-OP DRAINS:

  • If is imperative that you empty your drains every eight hours around the clock and log it.
  • You must make sure you don’t produce less than 30 cc of drainage every 12 hours when you empty your drains.

ADDITIONAL POST-OP INSTRUCTIONS:

  • We will give you one post-surgery bra. Be sure to wear a bra 24 hours a day and change into a clean one daily.
  • Use your pillow. (Turns out it is for my arm to rest on, and I thought it was to put in front of my surgery site to protect it from Brigid the Demon Puppy. I wonder why it had a handle/strap on it.)
  • Get plenty of rest, but each day take  your meds every six hours around the clock except the as-needed meds which you take every four hours and every eight hours, respectively, and do your exercises and remember to walk. But get plenty of rest. (I have 11 daily reminders programmed into my phone right now, plus a calendar reminder for unscheduled daily things, plus two additional reminders for the first three days, plus a reminder three months out.)

And, on a more positive note…

COMMENTARY ON MY SURGEONS:

  • I’m sending you to Dr. S. She’s the best.
  • I’m sending  you to Dr. P. She’s the best.
  • Oh, good, you got Dr.  S! She’s amazing.
  • Dr. P’s work is excellent, you are gonna be very happy with the results.
  • Oh wonderful! you are in great hands with Dr. P. and Dr. S. You are going to be fine!

I can’t wait for my surgery tomorrow morning. Being knocked out and on that table for about four hours is going to be the only rest I’m going to get in the foreseeable future.

Cleanliness is next to impossible

One of Chuck’s uncles was in Texas last weekend, visiting Chuck’s dad and stepmother. The really cool thing about this is that it’s his mother’s brother. I love it when a family can stay family even after a divorce.

But I digress. Chucks’ father (also named Chuck; it makes for interesting conversations with my mother-in-law sometimes) and Uncle Allen dropped by on Sunday. Thankfully I suspected that might happen, because I was way behind on housework and needed at least eight hours to get the house presentable enough so that I could say, “Pardon the mess” with an air of confidence.

Presentable, not actually clean.

I am an excellent housekeeper, which is why my house is always at least a bit unkempt. You laugh at this? Let me explain.

When I really truly clean house, I operate under the theory that, if things started out in pristine condition, they can–and should–be restored to that condition. I absolutely despise burnt-on spots on pots and pans, grunge in any cracks and crevices, coffee stains on grout (kitchen counters; I’d have completely different issues if I had coffee stains in the shower). My cleaning supplies include wooden toothpicks and cotton swabs (I’m serious) in addition to three kinds of rags (terry, microfiber, and “floursack”), two mops and a floor brush, and four dusters. I keep my toilet brushes (one for each bathroom) soaking in pine oil cleaner at all times. I have owned as many as three working vacuum cleaners at one time.

With an arsenal like this, even my carpet should be squeaky clean. But one thing–the most important thing–is missing from my arsenal.

Motivation.

It takes a freakin’ HUGE amount of time and energy to clean a 1900 square foot house with toothpicks and cotton swabs. The results are fabulous, of course. Run a toothpick around the seam of that metal rim thingy around your kitchen sink and you’ll see what I mean. (If you don’t have a metal thingy, try the toothpick on the edges around the hinges on your toilet seat.) But after about four hours of this self-abuse, you get to where you start asking yourself if the floors really need to be clean enough to eat off of when you have a perfectly serviceable dining room table (we actually have three, but who’s counting?) so you quit. To be honest, I rarely get in four hours of this but I can go for about two as long as there isn’t something more interesting to do. Two hours = one room. On a good day.

At this point I switch to Plan B cleaning.

Step One: Hide things. For us, this includes empty boxes from online purchases, clean clothes that are folded but still sitting on top of the dryer (usually my underwear),  full trashcans, crochet and crafting projects, receipts (don’t ask), and the potty pads we keep down for the dogs (one is a puppy with an attention span of milliseconds, the other is an old and irascible chihuahua; we need potty pads). This can be fun, since the trashcans and recycling bin both live down a four-foot flight of stairs and across two driveways. Extra steps mean extra seconds. And there is only one closet in the house (in the office) and it doesn’t have a door, so there is no hiding stuff in it. Oh, and as you are picking up unused napkins and taco sauce packets from the coffee table, use the napkins as makeshift dust rags, but only on surfaces where the light might show the fine layer of “memories” (aka dust).

Step Two: Make the floors look like they might be clean. This involves picking up the fiberfill that Brigid (the puppy) has eviscerated from her indestructible (ha!) toys, hitting the high spots of the carpet with the vacuum (hoping the bag isn’t too full), and running a broom or dust mop around the edges of the rooms that have hard surface floors where the whatever-that-stuff-is gathers. Definitely not clean enough to eat off of, but then again, I’m now in panic mode prepping for guests and I doubt I’ll have time to go get anything to offer them to eat, anyhow.

Step Three: Bathrooms. Unless I have an ironclad agreement that states nobody will ask about using the facilities, or opt to hang an Out of Order sign on every bathroom door, I just suck it up and go to town, sans toothpick. I’ve tried using those pre-soaked disinfectant wipes, and they do work, but they also pick up any stray hairs that you might not have gotten on your preliminary  wipe-down. We are a family of two people with glorious manes, two dogs, and two cats. We have stray hairs. In any case, I generally spend more time trying to get the &!@*(^)^ wipes to let go of the )(%#^@!* hair than it would have taken to break out the rags and spray bottle.

Step Four: Empty trashcans. This is actually a part of Step One, but I always forget it. I suspect my in-laws and quite a few of our friends think Chuck is a fanatic about emptying the trash because they usually knock on the door mid-empty. And I’m usually in the bedroom frantically finishing the toilets or else attempting to put on my bra without taking off my shirt (to “save time”) so he has to get the door, trash in hand.

All in all, while I love a clean house, and I am quite capable of having one, it just doesn’t happen. The flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak. Or maybe, in this case, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. So I spit-shine my way through, knowing that, if cleanliness is next to godliness, I took a wrong turn somewhere and am not quite able to get back on the right path. Even for Uncle Allen.