New Year New Adventures

I’ve been away from writing for awhile. To be honest I had come to associate my blog with my cancer treatment, and it had become difficult to write once I was better.  Also, as part of my post treatment recovery, I really needed to work hard physically to regain mobility and lose weight, and that left me feeling pretty wiped out most days. It’s all been worth it though. I’m now regularly commuting to work via bicycle, and I participate in hour long boot camp work outs twice a week, which I love. When I started boot camp I could barely do 2 pushups, now I can do thirty in a minute, and my fitness just keeps improving.  I no longer have even a slight limp, and I feel really good again, but I kept thinking about coming back to my blog as I really did enjoy writing, so with the New Year dawning, I’ve decided to dedicate more time to writing again this year.

I still cook a lot, and I’m a serious DIY’er, but I think a lot of my blogging will be about my explorations of Brisbane via my new main mode of transport, my 2011 Trek FX that I purchased second hand; officially, my best buy of 2013.

Five Years On – Cycling to Raise Money for Childrens Cancer Research

It’s been awhile now since I’ve posted, but I’ve been very busy getting back some measure of fitness and putting myself together again after losing  my kitty.  I wanted to celebrate hitting the five year mark on my remission, and decided to do it by participating in the Great Cycle Challenge, sponsored by the Children’s Medical Research Institute.  Essentially it’s a participatory challenge where you commit to a certain distance that you’re willing to ride during the month of October, and you have the entire month to complete that number of kilometers.

I wasn’t sure how well I’d do riding since one of my sitz bones had suffered multiple fractures due to my tumor, so  I initially only committed to 100 km, but as is usually the case, my body never fails to amaze me, and after one week I went ahead and doubled the number of kilometers I would do. I’m now 25 km from reaching my goal, and I’m so pleased.  Anyone interested in sponsoring my ride can use the link below:

Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream)

I actually have several recipes for pastry cream. I use one that’s thickened with flour and egg yolks only as a base for soufflés or even ice creams or other desserts where I want a stable but soft custard. I use one thickened with a mix of egg yolk, flour and cornstarch for a firmer custard that I might lighten with a bit of whipped cream as a filling for cream puffs.

The quantities on the first type of pastry cream are as follows:

3 egg yolks
50g (1/4C) sugar
20g (2.5T) flour
250ml (1C) milk
1 tsp vanilla paste

For a firmer pastry cream:

3 egg yolks
50g (1/4C) sugar
15g (2T) flour
10g (2T) cornstarch (corn flour)
250ml (1C) milk
1 tsp vanilla paste

The directions for mixing both are the same. Beat the egg yolks with half the sugar until thick and pale and ribbon consistency. Add the flour and or cornstarch (aka corn flour) and continue to mix until smooth and well combined.

Heat milk and remaining sugar until steaming. Temper the yolk mixture with some of the hot milk mixture, then add the yolk mixture back to the milk in the pan and cook until thick and smooth stirring constantly to prevent the egg from scrambling. (I use a piano whisk because I find it’s the best for making a perfectly smooth sauce). I also like to test the temperature of the custard made without cornstarch because if it goes above 180°F/82°C it will curdle, I usually cook it to about 170°F/76°C to 175°F/80°C. The one thickened with cornstarch must actually come to the boil in order to thicken properly, the cornstarch protects egg mixture from scrambling.

After I remove it from the heat I add the vanilla (or about 30g/1 oz of chocolate if I’m making a chocolate flavored cream). If I’m adding a liqueur I might add it earlier to allow the alcohol to cook off.

You can also make a pastry cream using only cornstarch as a thickener, it does tend to make the resultant custard a bit more translucent, and much firmer than a flour or flour / cornstarch mix custard.  Never add cornstarch without first mixing it with a small amount of liquid into a paste because it’s nearly impossible to keep it from clumping if you just toss it straight into a larger quantity of liquid. That being said you can always strain the clumps out of a lumpy custard, but I’ve found that mixing the yolks first with the sugar and starch really prevents most of the trouble you might find with any clumping.

More Fun with Iron Deficiency Anemia

Last year when I was diagnosed with lymphoma I was severely anemic, and that continued throughout my chemo, but my oncologist told me to stop taking iron supplements because my body couldn’t use the iron during treatment, and I might build up a toxicity. Anyway, I never resumed supplementing my iron intake after finishing chemo. Continue reading More Fun with Iron Deficiency Anemia

Key Lime Pie (or Tahitian Lime Pie)

Key Lime Pie

I don’t know whether this recipe is an entirely traditional key lime pie (I guess it can’t be if you’re using Tahitian Limes), but it’s still very tasty. If you want to be more true to tradition, find key limes (or Mexican limes), don’t add the beaten egg whites before cooking and reduce the cooking time to 15 – 18 minutes; that will give you a denser filling, but I find it a bit too sweet for my taste. This pie filling is lighter and some of the sweetness of the sweetened condensed milk is lifted by the whipped egg whites.

Key (or Tahitian) Lime Pie

4     tsp   grated lime zest
1/2 c      lime juice from 3 to 4 limes
5              large egg yolks
1              can sweetened condensed milk (395g/14oz)
3              large egg whites
Graham Cracker Crust
125g           Graham Crackers/ Marie biscuits , processed to fine crumbs (1 1/4 cups)
3     tbsp    sugar
5     tbsp    unsalted butter , melted

Filling:  Whisk zest and yolks in medium bowl for about 2 minutes,  until pale green and ribbon consistency. Beat in the sweetened condensed milk, then the lime juice; set aside at room temperature and allow to thicken.

Crust: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 325°F/160°C. Mix the crumbs and sugar in medium bowl. Add butter and stir with fork until well blended. Spread the mixture into 9-inch pie pan and press over the bottom and up the sides of pan to form an even crust (or line a 9″ springform cake pan with parchment, and press evenly to the bottom of it). Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer pan to wire rack, and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.

While the crust cools, whip egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold through the lime filling. Pour the mixture onto the cooled crust and bake about 20 minutes, until center is just set; it should still be slightly wobbly when jiggled. Return pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled (about 3 hours). It can also be covered with plastic wrap sprayed with oil, laid directly on the filling and refrigerated for up to 1 day.

Garnish with freshly whipped cream and slices of sugared lime.

Goodbye to My Baby, K

K by the Pool

February 20, 2009, I had to put the love of my life, my beautiful cat, K, to sleep. Last year around this time I learned that my he had an inoperable nasal adenocarcinoma (shortly thereafter I learned I had a primary bone lymphoma too). K and I both went through chemo-therapy for about 6 months (6 for me 8 for him).  Anyway, his tumor returned sometime around December of 2008, and things have been a bit up and down with him for the last few months.

His breathing would seem to be blocked, then it would clear up. When he has trouble breathing he’s not much for eating, but when it cleared again, he’d be back into his food and begging for extra. Anyway I’d been lulled by the up and down nature of his illness into a kind of denial of what I was going to have to do, even as I was preparing to have it done. I’d notice the Sunday before I had to put him down that he’d lost about a pound of weight, and I found that worrying, but then Tuesday of that week when I got home from work he was waiting for me at the door, just like old times, and he raced me to his food bowl. His breathing was cleared, and he was a hungry boy. We cuddled on the sofa for a good part of the rest of the evening, and he came to bed with me for a bit before begging to be let out to roam the rest of the house. Wednesday was the same, and I was feeling pretty relieved that he was doing better, and maybe his tumor was even shrinking again.

Thursday though, I got home from work and there was no one waiting for me. I didn’t think to much of it though because sometimes he likes to sleep with my hubby (he works nights so he goes to sleep in the afternoon and my kitty generally naps all afternoon anyway). Anyway, I made myself a snack and sat down to do some computer stuff. When I finished my snack I noticed about 40 minutes had passed, and I was able to complete an entire snack with no visitor. So I popped into the study where he sometimes like to sleep under the desk and was confronted with my baby sitting in the middle of the floor dripping blood from his nose and mouth. The corner that he normally naps in was covered in blood, and he looked like he was in shock. That was the start of a horrible night.

By Friday morning at 8:00AM I made a call to Dr. Amy the Housecall Vet .  K always hated going to the vet, and when he started getting sick in December and I realized I would most likely have to have him euthanized, I had started searching for vets who might perform that service here at our house. I honestly just didn’t want his last moments on earth to be that horrible combination of a terrifying drive to the vet’s office, followed by the trauma of being in a vets office with strange dogs and cats, followed by a lethal visit with a strange vet who thinks he’s feral.  Luckily for me and K, I found Dr. Amy who comes to the patient.  She had been over to visit him earlier in the month, and she was acquainted with his circumstances. I told her I thought it was time, and she came over shortly thereafter. She didn’t have an assistant who could help, but I was comfortable with helping her look after him. Still it was so hard. I was hoping she’d tell me she didn’t think it was time yet, that she might have something that would help, but I guess I always knew better.

My -inlaws came over to provide some moral support, and K didn’t even get up to do his normal inspections (even at his sickest in the past he’s never let a guest get by without a serious once over). He was similarly disinterested when the vet showed up, in spite of her having a big box full of stuff he could get into. He didn’t want Dr. Amy messing with his forearms too much (she shaved one to examine the veins), and she said there was no need to rush anything we could just take things slowly and let him adjust. I took him outside and walked him around the yard, because he always loved being in the yard. The doctor didn’t think we’d be able to get the needle in his veins without sedating him, so after he’d wandered around a bit (and been sick again) she gave him a sedative. When he started to get a little woozy I picked him up and cradled him on my shoulder, and he drifted off to sleep there. Shortly after that he was given a lethal dose of anasthetic and passed away with his little face cradled in my hands.

I’m so shattered by the loss of him, I just realized today that it’s been nearly 3 weeks since his death, and I still cry for the loss of him. My husband has been great, everyone has really, but I would do anything to have his sidle up and try to wedge himself into the nook between me and the sofa arm again. It was truly horrible having to euthanize him, still I’m relieved I could put a peaceful end to his suffering. I’m very greatful for Dr. Amy’s services, but it just breaks my heart that it had to come to that. Other than the tumor he was in great health, a really strong and vital little guy. His oncologist had told me last year that it would be like this, that the tumor wouldn’t kill him, it would just leave him in misery, and I’d have to make the call to end his suffering, but even with a year to prepare; I still feel so devastated. I miss him so very much, and I just pray that he’s at peace. Much love to you my sweet beautiful boy, you were such a blessing in my life; you’ll be loved forever and never forgotten.

Getting Better With a Jiggle

I’ve been feeling guilty about not writing lately, but I’ve made a commitment to myself to eat home cooked lunches and work out twice daily, and that takes a lot of time; I seem to always be full of good ideas that take a lot of time. Anyway, I’ve kept to my commitment, and I feel good about it, but the site has really suffered for it. I even had some time off around Christmas, but I spent that time away from the computer, mainly in the pool. My pool has really become one of my best friends. I can have a massive sweaty work out when I get home from work, and then jump into the pool to cool off… being able to actually jump into the pool for the first time was a real treat for me. My pelvis has been in various stages of brokenness since we bought the house, and I’ve always been afraid to jump into the pool with a mess of a pelvis. I was feeling so good around Christmas though, I figured I’d give it a go… what a blast :) Continue reading Getting Better With a Jiggle

Fractured – Print

is Karin Slaughter’s latest gift and I thought it showed a growing maturity to her writing style. The story kicks off with a wealthy Atlanta housewife strangling an intruder in her home. I won’t give away more than that, as there are a number of twists, typical of Slaughter, that really make the story. This book was not a continuation of the Grant County series, but is a continuation of Triptych. Further the story isn’t as over the top gruesome and viscerally confronting as her previous works, but she hasn’t lost that edge that makes it difficult to put her books down. I for one don’t miss some of the more gruesome elements, and I think I enjoyed this book more than any of her previous works.

Because one thought just leads to another…