Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Home Sweet Home: Succulent Window Garden

Like just about everyone else on the internet, I am crazy about succulents!  When it comes to houseplants...  I have a very particular set of skills... skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for plants that require regular care and water.  I am the Bryan Mills of house plants.  I will find them... and I will kill them.

Credit: IMDb
But succulents!  They PREFER it if you forget to water them!  And they come in all kinds of varieties... a bunch of colors and color combos, all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Love it!  Also, I'm fascinated by the idea of propagating them (baby anything is on my mind lately, go figure), and I love that one plant (as if you could buy just one) could eventually turn in to a whole garden with its offspring. :-)  

We have this big window ledge-type-thing on the landing of the steps to our basement.  It's big and wide and empty, and it gets quite a bit of light, so I've been daydreaming of filling it with succulents since we moved in here.  I've had a Pinterest board for several months with a bunch of inspiration, as well as information on planting, caring for, and propogating them. 

When we got back from Barbados a few weeks ago, my wonderful inlaws gave us a big planter of several succulents, which really put the bee in my bonnet to fill up that window sill! Then about a week later, the tiny little succulents at Kroger went on sale for $1.79 (and $1.99 for slightly larger plants), and I had to snatch some up.  And by some, I mean... a lot.  Here was my haul from Kroger that day (for under $16!).

My mother-in-law had also been rooting some cuttings from one of her Christmas cacti, so I picked those up.  I had a few vases and other glass things I'd been hoarding to be succulent planters, so I grabbed some cactus dirt fom Lowe's (about $4-5), and two little bags of river rocks from the Dollar Tree ($1 each), and got to work.  I put a layer of river rocks in the bottom of each bowl/vase for better drainage (since none of my planters have holes in the bottom) and put a nice loose layer of cactus dirt on top. I gently pulled each succulent out of the pots they came in and shook off the (notoriously low-quality) dirt as gently as I could before repotting them in the fun, clear containers I'd prepared.  

The Christmas cactus cuttings are in a vase that I used to use when Ethan picked up flowers on the way home from work.  It was pretty crowded for even a modest bouquet, BUT I recently dug out the larger vase that we had full of glads on the altar at our wedding and promoted it to "because he loves me" flower holder.  My aloe still doesn't have a permanent home, but as soon as I can find the low square vases that held our reception centerpieces, it will live in one of those :-)  Some of the other containers came from clearance racks, Goodwill, and the Dollar Tree.  This was a really fairly inexpensive project - AND one of the succulents in the planter from my inlaws had already "had a baby" that I was able to fish out from under it... one of the ones from Kroger had THREE tiny babies that are currently in my succulent nursery, and some of the plants from the planter had leaves that were ready to remove and propagate, so I'm waiting to see how they do.  I love that my sweet little plants are already starting to "give back."  :-)

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

5th Anniversary Date - Atlantis Submarines Barbados

Ethan's and my 5th wedding anniversary was July 11, 4 days after my egg retrieval.  We went out for dinner that night, to a delicious restaurant called "Tapas" that was right at the end of the alley our cottage was on - just a stone's throw, since I wasn't up to much that day.  Dinner was great, and the ambience was stellar - sheltered, but kind of outdoors, right on the boardwalk, so we could watch the waves crash in and people strolling and jogging by.  It was exactly the change of pace we needed from the several days we spent more-or-less confined to the cottage.  :-)

But our big anniversary date was the night before we flew home, and it was EPIC!!

We went on a night-time submarine tour of some of the reefs off the coast of Barbados, with Atlantis Submarines.  Coolest. Date. EVER!!  

A shuttle picked us up from right in front of our hotel, and took us to the dock.  We gathered in the gift shop/reception area, then Ethan and I got to go to the transfer boat ahead of the crowd, since we had paid for a VIP upgrade.  I am NOT a big fan of water, typically, so the boat ride was a tiny bit nerve-wracking for me.  :-)  Because of our VIP status, we got to be the first to board the submarine, too.  So we walked across a little bridge between two rocking watercraft, and I was TERRIFIED!  Once across, we had to fight some pretty strong breezes to make it to the hatch with the ladder down into the sub... may I recommend, if you ever take an excursion like this, that you do NOT wear a breezy skirt?  Your modesty will thank you.  

The inside of the sub was smaller than I expected, and there was one long plastic bench down the middle, with molded seats on either side, facing porthole on each side of the sub.  Ethan and I had the front seats, so we could see out both sides, as well as the captain's viewport.  Best seats in the house!

We saw several kinds of coral and sponges, some cool fish (including one that wears snot pajamas!), a couple of sea turtles (I spotted the first one!), and even a (purposely) sunken ship!  :-)  Our lowest depth was 152 feet... it was surreal and incredible!  On our way back to the surface, the captain turned off all of the lights, and we experienced how dark the ocean is, even at that relatively shallow depth... then we saw the bioluminescent plankton glowing all around us... they looked like a billion tiny stars, but almost close enough to touch, streaking past our porthole.  Kind of like jumping to hyperspace in Star Wars. ;-)  On the ride back to the dock on the transfer boat, we were both awed and peaceful... very romantic!  The sub followed us back in, so we got some neat pictures of it.  

We both would highly recommend taking the night cruise with Atlantis Submarines.  Someday, when we're back on the island, we'd love to take the day cruise and see more of the critters that weren't out at night.  It was an amazing date - despite the few terrifying moments - that I am so glad we had the opportunity to take!  
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Friday, August 1, 2014

Recipe Review: Lazy Day Lasagna (Picky Eater Approved!)

So, funny story...  I hate lasagna.  I mean, I think I do.  Or I did.  

On the last day of my high school internship, I attended our senior scholarship banquet, which was a LOVELY evening of food, family, and celebrating good ol' fashioned academic achievement.  I was so proud to have been part of the school community that nurtured these kids, even if it was only for a couple of months.  But I digress.

We worked hard all day, ironing out logistics of this first-ever event at a facilty none of us were familiar with, and schlepping heavy stuff all over the place.  So when dinner time rolled around, I was HUNGRY!  And the only choices: lasagna or starve.  So I ate the lasagna.  And it was the best thing I think I'd ever tasted!  I came home gushing to Ethan about how it wasn't gritty and weird, and he said that they must've used cottage cheese instead of ricotta.  I'd never heard of this, but I put it on my mental to-do list to find a recipe like it.

Then, in Barbados, while I was dealing with OHSS and eating, like, 300 calories a day, the cravings started hitting.  (Because each of my 35+ follicles started releasing progesterone, and my trigger shot was hCG, these hormones mimicked early pregnancy symptoms. Like, all of them.  I almost hurled when Ethan brought scrambled eggs - one of my favorites - into the room where I was.  Food aversions are weird.)  Lasagna was one of my top cravings, but we didn't want to chance a frozen version that would've cost an arm and a leg there, and may have been gritty... plus, I couldn't have eaten more than a few bites of it.  But my wonderful husband scoured the internet until he found a simple recipe using cottage cheese... I made it about a week after we got home.  :-)

So, check out this recipe from "Life in my Kitchen...and beyond", especially if you have picky eaters in your house!  Odds are pretty good that I'm pickier than they are ;-)  I can't stand tomato chunks, so we picked a jar of relatively smooth spaghetti sauce, and I used extra meat. The recipe is a little strange, in that it calls for 1.5C browned ground beef, instead of a specific weight.  I browned 2 pounds, and it was definitely more than 1.5C... I didn't measure it, but I'm guessing it came out to to somewhere between 2.5 and 3C.  So, maybe try browning a pound, if you'd rather err on the side of less meaty, or a pound and a half if you like a meatier lasagna.  The tons of extra we used was delicious, but JUST barely fit in the pan.  :-)   I also topped it with more shredded cheese when it was fresh out of the oven, because there's no such thing as too much cheese!  

This recipe DEFINITELY earned a spot on my "Recipes I Love" Pinterest board!  Hop on over and follow that board (or all of them!) to see what else is making the cut in this picky-eater's kitchen :-)  
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BarBABYdos: The Aftermath

Ethan and I have been home from Barbados for a couple of weeks now.  He went back to work (and I went back to housewifing) a week ago today... life is mostly transitioning back to normal.

While in the middle of OHSS, we were told that everything would be better when my period started, and we fortunately found this to be very true.  However, the second full day was a bloodbath.  Seriously... terrifying, horrifying, slasher-film stuff!  Emotionally, it was pretty brutal, too.  A large part of that was probably hormones, because my emotions swung wildly and without warning.  But another part was definitely that we had to go buy pads.  I had all but run my supply out with my last pre-IVF period, blissfully thinking that it was perfect timing - I wouldn't have to store them for a whole pregnancy!  It hurt... a lot... to pick a pack up off the shelf at Kroger.  I'm actually lucky I got the kind I wanted, because I could barely bring myself to look at them enough to make sure they were the right ones!  Just grabbed them, tossed them in the cart, and started daydreaming about chocolate chip cookies. ;-)

Leaving Barbados was heart-rending.  I cried like a baby on takeoff, until the island disappeared from sight.  When we landed there, we were so full... of eggs, of hope, of confidence... as we were leaving, I felt so empty of all those same things. Now, we're focusing on our return trip in a couple of months.  There's a little less planning and logistics involved, but still enough to keep us busy and mostly distracted ;-)  

I'm back on BCPs (birth control pills) for our FET cycle, and as usual, they're making my moods swing a little worse than usual.  I haven't noticed weight gain again yet, but it's only been about a week ;-)  I think that week of not being able to hold more than a few bites of food every several hours helped get rid of some of the old BCP weight... not that that is a pleasant/safe/advisable way to diet at ALL, but hey - silver linings. :-)

In other non-fertility news, we're keeping my in-laws' pup, Dixie, for a week.  She is SUCH a funny little critter, so we're having a blast.  It IS an interesting glimpse into life with a baby and a toddler, though... I'm thinking we'll try to space our future FETs out a bit... ;-)

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Friday, July 11, 2014

BarBABYdos: Day 7: Egg Retrieval

I woke up as late as I could the morning of my egg retrieval (since I was fasting and tend to get “hangry”), got ready in no time flat, and we called a taxi to take us to the clinic.  I was super-nervous, but I also felt determined.  I had made it this far, all that was left was to take a nice, drug-induced nap while Dr. Skinner retrieved eggs from my hugely swollen ovaries.  Piece of cake!

Once there, we were taken back to curtained pre/post-op area, and I changed into the all-too-familiar, even in a foreign country, surgery garb: a blue gown, blue hair net, and blue mesh booties.  Good thing blue is my favorite color!  Of course, I was also wearing the earrings I’ve worn to every appointment down here… my sperm and egg. 

The theatre nurse, Emma, kept us in stitches while she checked me in and took my vitals.  Dr. Skinner did a quick check of (I’m guessing) my lungs to make sure I was safe to sedate, and told us what to expect as far as how long I’d be in, when Ethan could see me, and how long I’d be in recovery.  

I wasn’t separated from Ethan until I walked from my curtain to the operating room, which I really appreciated.  Lynn was the surgery assistant, and she kept up a pleasant stream of chitchat while she made sure I was comfortable on the table and in the stirrups (the ones that you place your calf in, instead of your heel… love that!).  Dr. Skinner came in and took up the conversation, keeping me smiling and otherwise focused while she slipped an IV into my vein faster and smoother than ANYone EVER has.  Lynn placed an oxygen mask over my face, Dr. Skinner started injecting into the IV, I got a really weird taste in my mouth, coughed a little bit and cracked a joke about it, and the last thing I remember is chuckling with my doctor. 

I cannot stress how different that was from every other surgical experience I have ever had.  I told Ethan I usually feel more like a surface being prepped than a human patient, like the counter a cook wipes down before they start chopping ingredients.  But everyone at BFC from the moment I got there answered questions, joked, encouraged and did whatever else needed done to make me feel absolutely comfortable and valued.  

I woke up a couple of times and remember little bits of each time, just enough to feel like déjà vu when I woke up for real :-) Apparently I told Ethan each time how great Dr. Skinner is!  I guess I also read my texts like they were new each time, too.  When I woke up for real, I was hurting.  Quite a bit.  It felt about as bad as one of my worst cysts popping, and I mostly spoke in whimpers and asked repeatedly when I could have pain medicine.  It came soon enough, and I woke up enough to be able to converse semi-intelligently. 

That’s when Anna came in, which delighted us, because we love us some Anna Hosford!  She incredibly gently explained to us that our transfer would have to be delayed, and gave us enough information to start processing it as a couple.  She came back a little bit later, when we had talked and processed and had some questions articulated, and did one of the things we love her for… she gave us a plan.  She gave us a plan to get through the night, then scheduled an appointment for us the next morning to come up with the rest of the plan.  The compassion for our heartbreak from both Anna and Emma was unbelievable, and I choke up a little thinking about it now, four days later.  

We knew ahead of time that my ovaries were hyperstimulated, and that it had the potential to get worse.  I knew from my time on the internet that cycles were sometimes canceled because of it.  We are so thankful that our cycle was not canceled before retrieval, because while I deal with immense bloating, shooting pains, cramping, nausea, and shortness of breath, I can comfort myself with the fact that we have 23 beautiful, mature eggs frozen at the clinic, waiting for us to return for an FET.  

We have stayed in Barbados for additional monitoring, as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) can get extremely serious and require draining or even hospitalization in the most severe cases, and we will be returning home when we were originally scheduled.  I have stayed in bed most of the last four days, and am on strong pain killers to deal with the OHSS.  (I am fairly sure my procedure pain was almost gone by the next morning!)  I have had one ultrasound follow-up, and my OHSS is still considered mild, as I do not have much fluid free-floating in my abdomen.  She could find my massive, fluid-filled ovaries almost up to my belly button… they’re definitely not supposed to be up that high!

All things considered, I’m okay.  We are planning a brief return trip to Barbados when my body has had time to heal.  A silver lining is that my body will not have been through such a recent trauma like stimulation and retrieval when our precious embryos are transferred back into me.  

So, this chapter of the BarBABYdos story is ending.  The next one begins in September.  Stay tuned :-) 

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