Thursday, December 17, 2009

NYC Pics

Here are some of the pics we took in NYC:

Bella helped me pack the night before!

The Jackie O Reservoir in Central Park

It was a cold cold day in Central Park! We were so bundled that we would start sweating anytime we went inside!

A pretty and (miraculously) people-free bridge in Central Park

Loved this tunnel in Central Park - it reminded me of tiled tunnels and walkways in Italy. Can you tell the park was my favorite part of the city?!

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller - so pretty!

The craziness of Times Square on a Friday night - eek! This was around 11:00 p.m. after seeing the Lion King (wish I could have taken pics of that, but, sadly, it's prohibited)

Just a small part of the Santa herd at Santa-Con!

A few more of the VERY jolly Santas

We just had to try some Magnolia Cupcakes. Bit of wiki trivia for you: Magnolia is the bakery credited with really starting the "cupcake craze" that began in the 1990s and still continues!

A Lego Chewbacca at FAO Schwarz! This store was pure insanity - case in point: a $1200 stuffed giraffe at the entrance. We saw piano dancers perform a show on the giant floor piano from the movie Big, and we LOVED the muppet workshop where you can make your own can customize everything from the color and style of hair to eye shape to clothes to fun! Too bad we didn't have time to make one!

The ceiling at Grand Central Station had a very festive greeting for us.

Trinity Church is one of the oldest churches in the city. When the twin towers fell, debris rained down on it, knocking over a giant sycamore tree that somehow managed to avoid destroying any of the old headstones, some of which date back to the 1700s.

Alexander Hamilton is buried here at Trinity Church.

Ground Zero at the World Trade Center. They are clearing the way for the memorial, which will someday look like this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Concrete Jungle

Hey all, happy holidays! I can't believe Christmas is right around the corner...I feel so unprepared! I have only done a tiny bit of Christmas shopping, all of it online. I went to the mall one day in early December and now absolutely refuse to go back until after New Years!

Jeff and I just returned from a long weekend in NYC!! It was my very first time to visit the city, and it was a great experience! Jeff was the ultimate tour guide since he lived there for a bit in the early 2000s. We stayed in a hotel near Times Square, so we were right in the middle of all the holiday action. The tree at Rockefeller Center was gorgeous...I was amazed that it was actually a real tree, I have never seen a tree so huge! Being up there during the holiday season is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. All the windows and storefronts were bursting with decorations - there were literally lines that you had to stand in OUTSIDE THE STORES just to pass by the larger stores' Christmas window displays. Craziness!

Jeff and I are not "touristy" people. You'll never catch us on a tour bus, and we rarely find anything worth standing in line more than half an hour. So we spent our weekend as if we were NYC residents, which is how we love to travel. We would rather spend a day poking around on our own than being swept into the masses of tourists frequenting all the usual sights. Since it was in the 20s and very windy,the last place I wanted to be was on top of the Empire State Building or crammed onto the top deck of a wind-whipped ferry on the way to the Statue of Liberty! We happily admired both of those sights from afar. Of course we couldn't get away with doing absolutely NO touristy stuff since it was New York at Christmas! So we gawked at the lights and chaos of Times Square, saw a Broadway show (more on that later), and took in the holiday cheer at Rockefeller Center.

~Here are a few of the highlights~

Animals and Quasi-Animals

We saw some wildlife in Central Park. We were some of the only idiots crazy enough to wander deep into the park on a day with a wind chill of 18, so it was actually very peaceful and quiet. They have jet black squirrels there, which was so cool! Never seen the likes of that before! Also some beautiful mallards and cardinals. And a very strange guy thrashing around in the leaves while his friend photographed the incident...and a guy having a one-man dance party on top of a rock - I think those count as wildlife too!

We saw the Lion King on Broadway, which was spectacular. I totally geeked out and teared up during the first scene because it was so visually amazing. The woman who plays Rafiki should win whatever award goes to stage performers a million times over.

We saw NYC Subway rats...actually pretty cute for rodents who run around in wet subway refuse all day!

Food & More Food:

We ate in Little Italy our very first night in the city. As many of my friends know, I have a small obsession with the mafia, so I was super excited to go to Little Italy, even though that really makes no sense because it's not like you just walk around and see "the mob" loitering on the corners (thank goodness)! But I guess I just watched too many episodes of the Sopranos! Mostly I was super excited to go there for the food. And rightfully so! We ate at a little place called Pellegrino's, and it was delish! Jeff had the best veal dish I've ever tasted, and I had some awesome hand-made ravioli. Although we were totally stuffed after that meal, we couldn't resist stopping in at Caffe Palermo with its signs boasting "Best Cannoli in NYC." Inside we found out that the claim wasn't empty. There were pics of celebrities (largest pic was Ryan Seacrest) with the pastry chef and tons of awards on the walls. I had a chocolate cannoli and oh-my-gah it was AMAZING! Literally, I will be thinking about this cannoli experience for years to come.

We ate at an amazing restaurant called ilili (cute, a palindrome); it was Lebanese and awesome! It was a lot like other Greek/Mediterranean food, but with its own unique flavors. It was also served mezze style, which is basically like Spanish tapas - small dishes to share. Warm eggplant, chicken shish taouk, duck shawarma...why oh why don't we have anything like this in Dallas?!

We ate not once, but TWICE at a lovely establishment called 53th & 6th Halal Cart. Street Meat at its finest! This cart has become famous among online food bloggers, and Yelp writers raved about it. So, naturally we had to try it. We stood in a line about 25 people deep in the freezing cold after seeing the Lion King to try this place. You get the choice of a "plate" or a "sandwich". Plate = foil bowl stuffed with lettuce, rice, lamb, chicken, and white sauce (basically tzatziki sauce). Sandwich = choice of meat with lettuce, wrapped in a giant pita and drenched in white sauce. It was definitely not healthful and totally made us feel like bloated sacks of dung after eating it, but it was worth it! The experience was half the fun anyway. We visited the good ole cart again after a LATE night out with one of Jeff's friends who lives in the city...several cocktails later, the cart suddenly seemed like a good idea again!

Checking off the Must-Dos:

We visited Battery Park, the tip of the island, where we were able to view the Statue of Liberty and look out at Jersey and the tunnels connecting the cities.

We walked to the financial district and looked at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center. It is still a huge wreck, though not with debris anymore. Now they are clearing the way for new buildings and a memorial. It was mind-blowing to see the work still being done to repair the buildings surrounding the place where the towers fell. Very sobering, and a very necessary part of my visit to the city.

We ran into a gaggle of drunken Santas that lightened the mood after the World Trade Center. It was a happy coincidence that we were in NYC during Santa-Con, which can only be described as a disorganized, hilarious street parade and pub crawl of idiots dressed in Santa suits, elf costumes, wrapped up like packages, decked out with tinsel, etc. We died laughing when about 75 Santas emerged from a Subway tunnel in the financial district and started heading for a strip of bars to meet up with their bretheren. We saw Santas wearing no pants, Santas peeing in alleyways, Santas on stilts, and, randomly, a fat dude dressed in a giant panda suit (no idea)! Hilarity!!!

We took a walk through Jeff's old neighborhood and saw his old apartment building, wandered into his old grocery store, and ate at his favorite corner pizza place. Wish I could have lived there with him - we would have had a blast!

We strolled through the Village and window-shopped at the many artsy boutiques in that part of town. I loved this area of the seemed to move at a less frenetic pace. We also stumbled across Bleecker Street Pizza, which was voted by Food Network to have the best pizza in NYC. Since we only ate pizza twice on our visit, I can neither confirm or deny this claim, but I can say that it was very tasty! On that same afternoon, we braved the line at Magnolia Bakery to try their famous cupcakes. We sampled a chocolate and a red velvet, and they were definitely yummy, although I do rank them below my favorite Dallas bakery - Society Bakery (way to go, Society!)

In all, it was an awesome trip! I love exploring new places, and although I could explore NYC for years and years and still find new things, I felt like I got a great overview in the few days I had there.

Pics coming soon in separate post...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Decorating for Christmas

Last night we put up the tree in our big front window...isn't it lovely?

Our tree is 9 feet tall and VERY heavy! We got it two years ago at Target about a week before Christmas. It was the floor model, so we got it for only $60 since it had been used as a display and came without a box!! It has some minor issues, such as a few strings of its pre-wired lights that refuse to come on, but considering how cheap it was, we think it's pretty awesome! It took both Jeff and I to haul it into the house. We had to go down the driveway with it and through the front door so we didn't have to dodge furniture. Bella was very excited for the tree to come out; she likes to snuggle up under it and pretend she is in the wilderness. As soon as we took the tree out of its storage bag and before we could even put on the tree skirt, she crawled under it!

Today we're going to put lights on the outside of our house for the first time. We'll have to borrow our neighbors' extension ladder because our Tudor-style roofline is pretty tall and steep. Hopefully we won't have any Chevy Chase-like least the roof isn't icy! It's actually so warm that we will probably be wearing short sleeves - some Christmas weather!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Our First Thanksgiving!

I realize that I am a horrible blogger and most people have given up on checking for new material on here...I've been so busy lately that I haven't even thought about it. No excuses! I will get better.

Anyway, this year Jeff and I did Thanksgiving at our house for the first time! It was just us and Jeff's parents, who came in from Austin. Jeff and I did all the cooking ourselves, so we were hoping that our first foray into Thanksgiving food turned out OK. And it was MORE than just OK...everything was delicious! Here's what was on the menu - I'll link to the recipes I found online:

Spiral Ham cooked on the grill
Cornbread Dressing (Jeff's family recipe)
Mac & Cheese - not a diet dish, but I can't explain to you how good this recipe is!
Green Bean Casserole - a healthier version, no canned goods!
Cranberry Salad - recipe courtesy of my friend Erin
Pecan Pie (Jeff's family recipe)
4-Layer Chocolate Surprise (my family recipe)

Needless to say, that was WAY too much food for four we ate to the point of misery then complained about it. Then it was time for the A&M-UT game, and we gave them a great fight! I was alone in a room of UT fans, but Jeff switched sides for me since he has no alliance to Texas other than having lived in Austin a few years ago.

Today I'll set up the Christmas tree with Nicole (my mother-in-law) while Jeff and his dad go fishing. As much as I like shopping, there's just NO WAY I would go to any of the Black Friday sales. I don't like people nearly enough to deal with that...things could get ugly!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and took time to truly give thanks. I am so thankful for my amazing family who I missed very much this year (but will see at Christmas). I am also very thankful for Jeff's family who have become part of my family - I couldn't ask for better in-laws! I am SO thankful for my fabulous group of friends - near and far - who I am so lucky to have in my life. And of course I am indescribably thankful for my wonderful husband. We've been married over a year and a half now, and every day we become a better team. He's taught a headstrong, independent girl that it's OK to actually need someone else. He makes me laugh every day, and I am thankful that we share the same weird sense of humor!

Now let's get ready for Christmas!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Return of the 1980s Toys!

I recently saw a survey on Facebook that asked you to name your favorite childhood toys. A friend of mine had done it and posted her answers. I noticed she had a Chubble on there, which I found hilarious! I had a Chubble as well and loved him dearly! He was a little Star Wars-esque creature wearing a hooded robe, and he made a silly electronic giggling sound and his eyes lit up. It sounds maniacal, but really it wasn't.

Anyway, the point is that it got me interested in all my old toys that I used to love as a child. I was quite sure somewhere online I could find people buying and selling all the things I used to play with when I was a kid. In particular, I wanted to see if I could find a stuffed dog that is quite literally my most prized possession. If my house was burning, I would immediately run to my closet to grab Sweet Puppy (yes, this is his name...I was a creative child). He is an adorable, cuddly stuffed dog with brown fur, chocolate colored ears, and thin felt eyebrows above hard plastic eyes. I must have gotten him when I was tiny because I can't remember ever NOT having him. He went everywhere with me when I was a kid. Once I set him down and accidentally left him in a Mervyn's (ooooh, Mervyn's, the classiest of department stores). After my mom and I had left, I panicked and cried, thinking I would never see my Sweet Puppy again. Of course my mom, being the awesome mother that she is, immediately raced back to the store so we could search. SP was safe and happy in the store's lost and found, and I never misplaced him again!! And when I got too old to tote him around, he never got shoved up into the attic with all my other toys; he has always held a special place of honor somewhere in my room or house. Currently he resides on a shelf in my closet with Jeff's Kermit the Frog.

ANYWAY, long story short...I found him on eBay by searching "1980s stuffed dog"! Apparently the brand name is "Dakin Drooper," and there is quite a market for the little guys online. I saw some upwards of $60-$90!!! They all looked to be in great shape, too. It made me wonder - do people just buy up random toys to keep for decades, never allowing their children to play with them, thinking they may one day be valuable? I can see that with some toy that was all the rage, like the ridiculous Furby or Tickle Me Elmo, but a random brown stuffed dog? Strange!

I am glad I held on to Sweet Puppy, but I would never EVER sell him. For one, he would only fetch about 50 cents. His eyeballs faded long ago, and I colored them on with a permanent marker. But to me he is perfect.

Here is the e-Bay version of my little friend and a link to the page in case you just can't resist owning one yourself:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Boot Camp Weeks 1 & 2

Over the past 2-3 years, I have noticed subtle changes in my body composition that I am not particularly fond of. My hips are wider than they used to be, and it is harder for me to keep the flat, toned abs that seemed to be effortlessly present throughout high school and college. I have never loved my somewhat shapeless legs, but recently I've been downright hating them...jeans just don't look right and shorts are not even an option. Well, enough is enough! I am too young still to feel like I have a frumpy, unattractive figure! Now, it's not like I am a huge fatty or anything; I won't be filling out my application for The Biggest Loser just yet. But I probably have 15 pounds that I could drop to get to my ideal weight, and my body could use an all-over tightening up. I just want to be able to throw on an outfit without worrying about finding something that will make me look thinner or emphasize the good areas.

So, two weeks ago, I decided to fight back against age and slowing metabolism. I joined a boot camp called Camp Gladiator after doing some research on various boot camps in the area. Between my 3+ years as a fitness instructor and my frequent attendance in group exercise classes, I do have some experience with classes like this and wanted to find one that was just right for me. I definitely think I've made the right choice because I am loving this camp!

It kicks my ass four nights a week. We run a ton of drills that improve agility and stamina, and we perform a variety of strength training moves using resistance of our own body weight or light hand weights. Each day the trainers come up with different ways to challenge us. One thing I've figured out by taking this class is that I am very competitive with myself. Even if something we're doing makes me feel like my legs will just give out and I will collapse, I push myself through it. I have a hard time allowing myself to take a break or do something half-heartedly if I am tired - I am like "no way, don't be a freaking can do this!" Which I guess is a good thing since it means I don't give up. The more miserable I am during a workout, the better. Sprints? Fantastic. Mountain climbers followed by push-ups followed by planks? Bring it on. I love the soreness permeating every inch of my body. Masochistic, I know, but true.

Luckily I also have a couple friends who signed up with me - Lolly and Nicole. We laugh at ourselves and good-naturedly complain about the torture we endure in each class. It's way more fun to work out with a friend by your side, so I am very glad they decided to join with me.

Aside from having an absolute blast, I am pretty sure it is going to give me some great results. After just two weeks, I can already see a difference. My stomach is flattening out, and I am beginning to see a hint of the vertical lines on either side of my abs. The disgusting jiggly skin under my arms is tightening up, and my butt is well on its way to being rock hard (or at least not mushy).

I am keeping a journal that chronicles my progress. I have a soft tape measure that I use to take the measurements on several areas of my body each week. I'll let you know how many inches I've lost after my first 4-week session.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Read me on Yelp!

Most of you who know me know that I love to write. LOVE it. My blog posts are more like novellas, and if I've ever sent you an e-mail, you've probably stopped reading it before you get to the end. I have a lot to sue me (not really).

Luckily there are tons of places online where I can just write about stuff...and the best part is that other people actually read it! For instance, this blog. Well, actually, not so much - I am pretty convinced nobody reads this, but they COULD if they wanted. Another thing is - have you been there? You should go. It's a great site where you can search for restaurants, services, hotels, etc in your area. Real people who live in your city (or have visited) write reviews of pretty much everything you can imagine. And the thing is, they are super helpful! If I want to try out a new restaurant, I just go to Yelp and see what others are saying about it.
I always make sure to give good press to my favorite places. The hilarious part is - they actually notice! I have been called out at a couple different places - they will say "hey, aren't you the person who wrote X, Y, and Z about us on Yelp? Why, yes I am. It actually led to a very awkward moment in my favorite sushi restaurant where I became confused at a friend's proclamation that his sushi had cheese in it and I yelped about that...oops! The point is, restaurants actually read these things! Hopefully they take tips so they can offer their customers the best service possible.

I have written about 50 reviews on here over the past year. They recently made me an Elite member (pretty cool if I do say so myself) so I have been trying to write reviews more often. It is really funny because every time I am in a restaurant, I am constantly thinking of how my review is going to go. So watch out, businesses of Dallas - you better give me good food/service or else I'll knock a few stars off on my yelp review!

Friday, March 13, 2009

And the bad service award goes to...

Let me start out by saying I appreciate the inner strength of our food server friends. Waiters must utilize a ridiculous amount of self-restraint on a daily basis to keep from going postal on the many difficult people they encounter every single day. HOWEVER, I am not one of those difficult people - I do not think I have ever sent an order back, complained about the number of ice cubes in my glass, or anything of the sort. So when I have a bad waiter experience, I must assume that it is them, not me. Sensible, right?

OK, so last night I went to Cuba Libre to catch up with an old friend from college - Farah. The plan was to have a leisurely dinner and some drinks for a couple hours so we could catch up on everything that's happened over the past few years. We arrived around 6:15 and got seated immediately. As the waiter showed us to our table and we began to sit down, he asked for our drink order. Since we hadn't even settled into our booth yet, we asked for some water and a couple minutes to peruse the drink list. He was back almost instantly with our water, which is something I would normally appreciate. However, his abrupt tone of voice when he asked if we had decided on drinks yet turned me off just a bit. He also asked at that point if we were ready to order our dinner, but since we had been seated approximately 3 minutes we said we would have to take a bit more time to look at the menu. We ordered a pitcher of sangria and began to look at the menu. A couple minutes later we got our sangria, courtesy of the sourpuss waiter, who asked us if we were now ready to order. Thankfully we were, because I am pretty sure he would have physically injured us had we said no. Our food came in record time, which again is something I would typically appreciate. However, throughout the course of our dinner, the waiter came to our table pretty much every five minutes. He would stare at us and then walk away when I assume he figured out that we had not yet inhaled all our food. I finished my meal before my friend, and the waiter appeared promptly to take my plate. He also asked Farah, who still had her fork in hand with half a meal left, if he could take her plate as well. She said no, she was still working on it. He stalked off, clearly annoyed. Five minutes later he was back to see if she was done, and again she said no. He stomped away. Five minutes get the idea. Eventually Farah just let him take her plate. At this point we still had some sangria left and were contemplating ordering another pitcher. But, it was not to be - our waiter appeared and gave us our bill without ever asking if we would like another drink or some dessert. Farah and I discussed his attitude and then looked around the restaurant to see if it was a particularly busy night. It wasn't - there did not appear to be any parties waiting to be seated. I looked at the clock - we had been there only an hour. So, we figured that there was no reason we should be forced to hurry. We poured our last sangria and continued to sip and talk for another 20 minutes. During that time, our waiter lurked around our table every five minutes, as usual. Finally we just decided to pay the bill and walk over to Old Monk, where we would hopefully encounter a more positive vibe from the waitstaff. When Farah asked our waiter if he could please split the bill evenly, he all but rolled his eyes and uttered a very condescending "yeah" as if she was an idiot for not assuming that he knew exactly what to do with our credit cards without being told. Needless to say, we wasted no time getting the heck out of there. We continued our night at Old Monk and had a lovely time. But, WTF, dude? Is it SO hard to be polite to your customers and allow them to enjoy their meal without force-feeding them and pushing them out the door? Apparently so!

Has anyone else had a terrible waiter experience at Cuba Libre? Anywhere else?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Hey all, I have decided to take to my blog to discuss my recent encounter with melanoma. I think the best thing that has come out of this situation is that now all my friends and family are much more aware that it is a very real possibility for people of any age!

A couple weeks ago, I got a mole removed at the dermatologist's office. He thought it would turn out to be nothing, but unfortunately he was wrong. The derm called me a week later to say that to everyone's surprise, it was melanoma. Of course I had heard of melanoma - I knew it was skin cancer of a pretty serious variety. So naturally I went to Google to learn more about it. Let me just tell anyone facing a health scare that Google is NOT the is a terrible idea that will only freak you out even more! What pops up is always the worst case scenario stories and articles written with dramatic proclamations. Eventually I found a more sane government-related health website discussing melanoma. I found out that it is the most severe form of skin cancer. It is also an incurable cancer because radiation and chemo do not work on it. As scary as that initially sounds, it is not a death sentence. In an early stage, it is simply removed surgically , and typically there are no future problems. If it grows undetected for a long time and advances to a higher stage, that is when the prognosis is poor. While that is scary stuff, it just highlights the importance of awareness and regular check-ups. Like my derm said, my check-up that led to the removal of the mole was a life-saving event.

Luckily my melanoma was very thin and at an early Stage 1, which carries a great prognosis. I had an excision surgery (photo below of the incision) to remove a wider margin around the area. I'll have a scar, but who in the world cares about a scar when you're dealing with a potentially deadly disease?! A plastic surgeon who frequently does these surgeries for my dermatologist performed the operation to minimize scarring. It was a disgusting process, mostly because I am such a wuss when it comes to icky stuff like needles and blood. I had local anesthesia, so I didn't feel any pain. It would be inaccurate to say I didn't feel a thing, though - I could clearly feel the tugging during stitching and a pressure as the skin was cut away. It didn't hurt at all, but it was a surreal feeling that made my skin crawl! I had my head turned so far in the other direction that I actually got a crick in my neck! But, I didn't want to see ANYTHING that was going on during the surgery. Jeff was in there with me, and he was a huge comfort. Jeff and the doctor and I talked the whole time to keep my mind off it, and I made faces at Jeff whenever anything felt gross.

Anyway, the doctor called me the next day after surgery to let me know that the first round of pathology tests had gone well. For the second round of tests, which take an additional day and are ordered if the pathologist thinks they're needed, the tissue is dyed so that any worrisome cells will be highlighted. The doctor called me today and told me that the pathologist had examined the results and decided not to order the additional dye-tests because he could confidently say the margins were clear. So, now I am officially a melanoma survivor! Yay!

Everyone reading this, please tell your friends and family how important it is to get regular skin checks at a dermatologist's office. You may think that you're too young and healthy to be susceptible to something like this, but I am proof that it can happen to anyone. The doctor said I have great skin and that I should NOT have had this melanoma; he couldn't understand why it had happened to me. It is no big deal to get a mole removed and tested (it takes like 5 minutes and doesn't hurt at all), but it could literally be a life-saver! From now on, I'll have to be more careful in the sun, which is something that everyone should do anyway. I'll stay out of direct sun during the day's hottest hours and make sure to wear adequate sunscreen. It goes without saying that I will never ever enter a tanning bed again (and will always encourage my friends to avoid them as well). I don't have to make drastic changes; I just have to be aware of my skin and monitor any changes from now on.

Thanks to everyone who sent me good vibes, prayers, and thoughts during the past couple weeks! It was a scary experience, but once I got over the initial shock, I realized that it takes way more than this to slow me down!

Here are a couple pics of my stitches - let this be a warning: wear sunscreen!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bella Update

So, the vet called on Monday to tell me the results of the lab testing done on the knot they removed from her leg last week. Results: not cancer or anything remotely scary! HOORAY! Jeff and I were so happy that our furry child is safe and healthy. Turns out the lump was caused by an inflamed tactile hair, which is essentially an infected ingrown whisker hair. Who knew cats also had whiskers on the underside of their front legs?! I sure didn't, until Monday that is. Anyway, one of them somehow got infected, and I guess it was bothering her enough that she chewed the hair off around it. Now that the whole lump has been removed, she should be good to go. She is definitely looking forward to having her stitches removed on Saturday so she can take the horrible cone off her head! Even though she has been such a good girl and adjusted to it so well, we will ALL be very happy when she is completely back to normal!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bella's Boo-Boo

A couple days after arriving home from Hawaii, my mom brought Bella back since she'd been keeping her for us. Bella really loves the rug in our living room, so as soon as she got home, she flopped down on it and rolled over onto her back. I noticed something on her right front leg; it looked like a small wart or growth. She had chewed all the hair off around it, so I knew it had to be bothering her. My mom was surprised that she hadn't seen it, but she couldn't remember Bella really turning over on her back very often at my parents' house (and that is the ONLY way you could possibly see it).

So, I scheduled a vet appointment for the next day, just to be on the safe side. Let me just point out that Bella HATES going to the vet's office. As soon as we walk in the door, she turns into this hissing, growling gremlin-creature. After trying to calm her down, the vet finally had to roll her up in a towel, burrito-style, so she could get a good look at the lump. The vet wanted to do a biopsy, so she took a small tissue sample with a hollow needle. I felt so bad for Bella because she had no idea why she was being held down and stabbed with sharp objects! The vet went out and looked at the sample under the microscope, then came back and told me that she didn't like the look of some of the cells and wanted to do a full removal. So I am barely holding it together at this point - I hate to think that something might be wrong with her and that it could have been growing there unknown for months. I scheduled the next available surgery, which was on Wednesday.

All day Wednesday I was terrified that I would get a call saying something had gone wrong and she didn't make it through. (As Jeff can tell you, I often adopt a worst-case scenario mind-set)! Luckily I got a call that afternoon saying she had done great and could be taken home after 4:00. At 4:00 on the dot, I was there waiting to take my baby home. She looked so pitiful with her shaved and stitched leg! Worst of all, she has to wear an Elizabethan collar (e-collar) for the 10-14 days it will take the incision to heal! I know it is for her own good becuase otherwise she would chew her stitches, but she is so incredibly miserable! She is depressed and never "talks" to us like she used to. She mopes around and sleeps all day, barely eating unless I force her. I know it is only temporary until she heals, but it is killing me to see her like that.
The picture above is of my sweet kitty in her "sick box" that I made for her. She loves to hide inside boxes and under blankets, but she can't fit right now because of the e-collar. So, I made her this box with some soft blankets so she can feel safe.

Next week we will get the lab results telling us what the lump was. I hope and pray it isn't cancer and that it is now gone for goood. Please send Bella nice, healing thoughts for the next week or two!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Holiday Recap

OK, I know I have been terrible about keeping this updated! Here's a recap of our winter holidays. I know it's long, but there's some funny stuff in there - true to form, we had several minor crises. That's what the holidays are for, right?!

A couple months ago, our friend Mike asked us to go with him to Hawaii in December-January. His parents have a timeshare condo on the north shore of Kauai as well as a house on the island. So basically we were offered a great place to stay for next to nothing! Since Jeff's brother and sister-in-law now live on Oahu and just had their first baby, we figured we had more than enough excuses to go. So on the weekend before Christmas, we went to Tyler for Christmas with my family. It was a small affair with my parents, grandparents, aunt and cousin. We had a white elephant gift exchange and a yummy Mexican dinner. Jeff and I were excited to get Slankets from my mom! If you've never heard of the slanket, you are seriously missing out! It's a cuddly oversized fleece blanket with sleeves, yes SLEEVES! You can bundle up without losing the use of your arms. Now I can read a book or type on my laptop while staying warm - in fact, I am wearing my slanket right now! After our Tyler Christmas weekend, we said goodbye to my family and Bella (thankfully my parents are willing cat-sitters) and headed home to pack. If Bella had known what was in store for her when she got back to Dallas, she would have certainly chosen to stay with my parents. More on that later though in a special post about Bella.

Two days before Christmas, we flew out to Oahu. Jeff's brother Mike picked us up at the airport and took us back to their cute bayside condo. Jeff's parents were also on the island to visit Mike and Amy, so we stayed at a hotel on the Marine base to avoid overcrowding the condo. We got to meet our new nephew, John Robert Prudhomme, and he is adorable! I even held him SEVERAL times, which is a huge accomplishment for me since I am terrified of infants and their fragility. We had a great time on Oahu for the most part (notice I say "for the most part" - this is crucial later in the blog). We even got to work out with Barack and Michelle Obama. No lie! They were vacationing nearby, and the Marine base gym was where the presidential family went to work out. Since we were staying on base, it is also where WE went to work out! On Christmas Eve morning, we were greeted by the Secret Service at the gym entrance. They ran their wands over us to make sure we weren't toting any weapons. Once inside, we saw Barack on the cardio machines. Michelle stuck to weights. We didn't approach them because we figured they would probably prefer to work out in peace. That sentiment wasn't shared by the majority of the gym-goers though; the poor man had to spend his entire time on the stationary cycle shaking hands and meeting people! Anyway, it is kinda cool to say that I've worked out with two presidents (Old George used to come to the A&M campus gym all the time).

Here's Jeff and I on Christmas Day at the beach on base.

On Christmas Eve, Mike (brother-in-law) and Les (father-in-law) cooked an amazing traditional Hawaiian pupu platter. We liked it so much we decided we might have to keep the tradition of the Hawaiian Pupu Christmas alive even after Mike and Amy leave Oahu! Unfortunately, we rounded out our trip to Oahu on a dismal note. The day before our departure, we decided to drive around the island to check out the scenery and give Amy some peace at home with the baby. Too bad it was raining, so we didn't get to wander around on any of the beaches we planned to see. Instead we pretty much drove by all our landmarks, looking out the window and saying "man the weather sucks, let's stay in the car." By the end of the day we were all a bit on the nutty side - probably because we squeezed 5 people into an OLD Pathfinder! It was comical only because it sucked so much! But at least we all laughed about how miserable we were. Then our day got even more ridiculous, as if that was even possible. On our way out of the cluster of madness known as Honolulu and Waikiki, all the lights went out in the city. I am talking instant, complete blackness. Great, a power outage. We soon found out it was an island-wide outage. It lasted about 15 hours. Which was lovely since we were supposed to be flying out the next morning to Kauai. Naturally, we had washed a load of laundry before leaving the condo that morning. So the power outage left us with a full load of soaking wet laundry to somehow dry before a mid-morning flight. Classic! Luckily the power came back on around 5:30 a.m. We called the airline to make sure the flight was still a go, and they said it was only delayed 45 minutes. NICE! But of course it was not to be. After arriving in plenty of time for our 11:45 flight, we were told by the airline worker that the flight was already closed despite an even larger delay than we were informed of on the phone. Apparently they did "the count" way early even though the flight was now delayed until 1:15. It is still a mystery to us as to why they could not simply add 2 to their ever-important count when the flight was a good 2 hours from take-off. Oh well...needless to say, we didn't make that flight. We were booked on the next one, set to takeoff around 2:00. We camped ourselves in the cocktail lounge, ordered some hot dogs and drinks, and whipped out the laptop to watch There Will Be Blood. A 2-hour delay turned into 3, then 4....we ended up sitting in the airport for about 5 hours! Such fun! But, we did eventually get to Kauai, where we were greeted cheerfully by a barefoot Mike exuding the relaxed island vibe.

A beautiful Kauai sunset - we ate our shave ices and watched it sink into the ocean!

Our time in Kauai was so much fun (again, for the most part). Sadly, it was the rainiest of rainy seasons, so we got soaked pretty much every day. We did get about 3-4 nice sunny beach days though. We didn't let the rain slow us down too much. We still hiked, snorkeled, body surfed and kayaked - all the activities we were hoping to squeeze in anyway. Since it was rainy season, the surf was a lot stronger than usual. So, the visibility for snorkeling wasn't great, but we still saw some super cool fishies and it was fine. Our hikes were significantly affected by the stormy weather, though. We still hiked several great trails, or what would have been great trails if they weren't inundated with slippery boulders and ankle-deep mud. It was an experience to say the least! Mike is an adventurer, so he naturally picked the hikes with higher difficulty ratings. We slipped and slithered in and around bamboo jungles, rushing whitewater rivers, tall mossy volcanic rock, and staining red mud. Fortunately Jeff and I both love trekking through hard terrain, so we made it through with relatively few injuries. My left knee/shin took a hit when my legs weren't quite long enough to bridge the gap between a couple of steep rocks, but it there was only minimal blood and bruising! We were rewarded with some beautiful waterfalls at the end of a couple of our hikes. My favorite was the 300-foot waterfall at the 4-mile marker on the Kalalau trail. We walked right up to it and were surrounded by the sound of crashing water. Of course we decided we needed to swim to the middle to take a picture under the falls. So Jeff and I, along with Mike and his friend Assad took the plunge. Assad's girlfriend Erin wisely decided to stay on shore and take our photo. It was the coldest water I have EVER felt and hopefully will ever feel. I have to imagine it is what the Polar Bear Club experiences on their Arctic swims. It literally knocked the breath out of me the instant I hit the water. I had to gasp to try to breathe, and Jeff asked me if I was going to drown! It was so much fun though, and now we can say we swam under a 300-foot waterfall.

Here we are after our 4-mile hike to the waterfall - muddy and tired!

Half our time in Kauai was spent in the timeshare condo, and the other half we spent in Mike's parents' beautiful home. The Moraths were very hospitable, and we felt like we got 5-star resort service (including chocolates left on our pillows by the lovely Toni)! Jeff and I also found out that we rock at Pictionary! No matter what kind of crappy drawing one of us comes up with, the other can always guess what it is fasther than anyone else! I guess it is some kind of freakis husband-wife brain waves. At the condo, we watched whales swim by right past the cliff outside our window! We spent New Year's Eve cooking out on the cliffside BBQ grill and letting the boys recover from their deep sea fishing nightmare. Let's just say the fishing trip did not produce the desired result. Jeff says it was the worst day of his life!! Essentially he paid $125 to puke for 4 hours. Their trip was unfortunately on the morning after a hellacious storm that produced 15-foot swells, repeatedly swamping the 24-foot boat. Jeff likened it to the movie The Perfect Storm, the only difference being that they didn't die (though wished they had)!

So there you have it - our 2008/09 holiday recap. We had tons of fun (and only a little misery), so all in all we deem it a success!

The breathtaking Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"