Monday, February 23, 2009

Lazy Sunday Banana Muffins

Banana muffins have become a recent Sunday staple in our house. It works this way: we go to the grocery store on the weekends, and by the following weekend there are inevitably a few stray, overly ripe bananas. Either Matt makes banana pancakes or I bake muffins. Either way, we always find a caloric (and delicious) way to dispose of that speckled fruit.

After a myriad of muffin Sundays, I've found the perfect banana muffin recipe (with or without nuts). They are spectacularly moist, and are topped off with a sensational streusel. Enjoy while watching
CBS Sunday Morning (honest - this combo is complete bliss).

Lazy Sunday Banana Muffins

- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1/2 t. cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 1 t. vanilla
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 4 medium overly ripe bananas, mashed


- 1/4 cup sugar (use 1/8 cup white sugar, and 1/8 cup brown)
- 3 T. flour
- 1/2 t. cinnamon
- 2 T. butter

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Meanwhile, beat eggs, vanilla, sour cream, butter and bananas (should be slightly lumpy). Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or paper- lined cups.

For the streusel, combine sugars, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter. Sprinkle over muffins and bake at 375 for 23 -25 minutes. (Inserted toothpick should come out clean.)

Now you just have to gobble them up.

Makes 12 full-size muffins.

***Note: Feel free to add toasted walnuts!!

This is how I spend my Saturday morning.

...On a doggie photo shoot. (But isn't she glam?)

(Update: Matt saw this post and said I'm bordering on "dog obsession". But people take photos of their kids, right?! Well - she is my dog daughter!....I guess that's sort of weird.)

She's ready for her close-up.

Dog pillow and real dog - with bandannas. How artsy.

Cuteness personified.

The model needs her beauty sleep.

Look how the sun glistens off her fur.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Go Entocort!

A big, heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed to the Crohn's walk. As I write this, Team Gutsy just surpassed $500, which I think is simply amazing.

I think with these things - these chronic, nagging diseases - the best thing you can ask for is a team of medical professionals who will go to bat for you: who follow your case, and think about your case after you leave the office, and who consult their colleagues for a second opinion. I have that. My GI compassionately listens as I breathlessly spout-off lists of medications and alternative treatment options. I've tried several so far - and at this stage - as I wrote below, I'm at a crossroads. We're trying a last-ditch effort: Entocort, a steroid I haven't tried in the past (I've been on the lovely Prednisone before). I'm also giving Probiotics another go. We'll give it a few weeks, and if the pain persists, I will have surgery.

I didn't come to this decision easily, but once I made it, I've been delightfully at peace. It was a lot of nights filled with me, looking at Matt, saying "What should I do?" and him really not knowing what to say. Since I haven't been feeling well, we've been spending a lot of our evenings in bed, he on his computer, and me curled up watching nightly sitcoms, content under my covers.

Thank you again for contributing.

Swoon-Worthy Song

One of my favorites. Prettiest and sweetest song - and video - ever. (What can I say; I'm no romantic cynic. And a special shout-out to the dog in the middle of the video!)

Bright Eyes: "First Day of My Life"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Avocado Salsa - The Sophisticated Sister of Guacamole

Mexican is big in the Hopkins household. I even mentioned my husband's penchant for twice-weekly enchiladas in my wedding vows. So, it's only natural that we are ardent fans of the avocado. Below is my favorite rendition of guacamole - it's not your traditional smooth and creamy variety, but a fresh and zesty chunky melding of summertime flavors: fresh tomatoes, cilantro, lemon and, and of course the star of the show, the avocado. (It's super-excellent on fish tacos, fresh from the grill.)

And now, a little reprieve from these wintertime blues, I present:

Avocado Salsa

- 2 ripe avocados, diced in 1/4 inch cubes
- 2 tomatoes, diced in 1/4 inch cubes
- 1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, stems discarded, and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 3 T. fresh lemon juice (or lime juice, and please, none of that preserved stuff in the fake plastic lemon)
- salt and pepper to taste

If you're a garlic lover (as we are - breath be damned!), feel free to add, but I recommend trying once without it. Most important thing: quality ingredients (I know the tomatoes during this time of year may present a challenge).

Monday, February 16, 2009

New URL:

I feel so official now! Our new URL is (Special thanks to Matt for setting this up.)

Happy (belated) Valentine's Day

I was going to write a Valentine’s Day post. An ode to my love. And, look…there are some things I have no problem elaborating on. With Crohn’s, my bathroom habits are fair game. Matt even asks “How was it?” after I’m finished in the bathroom (ah, young newlywed bliss! And to which I retort, like a grizzly old man, “How do you think it was?!”) My generation holds nothing sacred. So I’m taking a stand. I may comment on his endearingly nerdy habits (nothing comes between him and his Saturday badminton get-togethers), but for now, I don’t see the need to go any further. (And really, do you even care about all that lovely-dovey stuff?) So, for this belated Valentine’s greeting, I simply just want to say: Matt, I love you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nighttime musings on a crowded train

There’s something intrinsically beautiful about riding a train. I think it’s something about being a part of the collective and witnessing the human experience in front of you, behind you, and beside you.

I’m writing this on the 6:30 pm Amtrak from Penn Station, as I’m shakily barreling down the long torso of New Jersey toward Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. I was in the Bronx at Fordham University’s Spring Career Fair, where I spent three hours gently dancing around the fact that my company – amongst so many others – had already filled our few internship positions. Crest-fallen finance and accounting majors shuffled from table to table – a venerable sea of black, grey and navy suits. (As a liberal arts major, I had to hide a very sadistic half-smile.)
Now I’m somewhere in central New Jersey. Towns from a train track all look the same. The same stop lights and barren nighttime office buildings. The same lights sprinkled about commuter parking lots that are still two-thirds full – how late do they all work?

And there’s the usual coterie of train mates. The businessman beside me – in a suit and tie – stroking his Blackberry. I hope he cannot read this. Then there’s the woman clucking loudly behind me. I gather she’s in sales and is very, very angry with a member of her team. His name is Dave Murphy. I know this because she spit it out at least a half-dozen times. I’m just glad I am not Dave Murphy. The older man in front of me is reading an Einstein biography; the type is reflected and illuminated in our shared window. The aging ticket agent walking the aisles knows many of the passengers. He bends over their seats as they joke about trivial newsmakers and unimportant time wasters.

All of this happening as the train nears Princeton and then Trenton, and finally home to Philadelphia.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The heartache of a belly ache

There is little that is more frustrating than feeling well for several weeks and starting to become hopeful, and then once again experiencing pain. I thought that just maybe I was in the clear for a bit. A nice little reprieve from the belly aches that left me in a fetal position on the bed. On Tuesday night (the same Tuesday where I proclaimed to my GI I was feeling “great!”) the pain came back. Each night since it’s been there, taunting me, bullying me and reminding me what it feels like to be sick.

And every night it's a series of the same questions and half-answers: "If I go on Remicade will I be able to afford it if something happens with our insurance coverage? (As one doc put it, "Remicade is hideously expensive.") What happens when we want to have a kid and I can't stop the medication?" And then there's surgery, which, frankly, often only buys you so much time until you'll need another surgery.

Remicade is a biologic infusion drug. You get it in two-hour IV infusions at your doctor's office and the drug shuts down your hyper immune system. If you stop the drug, you often cannot take it up again as your body produces antibodies to it and rejects it. There has been no long-term testing on Remicade, and certainly none on pregnant women.

Resectioning surgery is when they remove a diseased part of your intestine (anywhere from five or six inches to several feet) and attach the two good ends back together. Crohn's sufferers often experience problems at the resection site (infection and inflammation) and often need repeat surgeries. This becomes a real problem when you run low on bowel.

So what can you do? I choose the very un-heroic path and wallow in a sad bath of self-pity. "What about my MBA?! How can I live with this for 60 more years? What will work think? What if we can't have kids? What if we do have a kid and he or she has Crohn's?!" and all of that.

I have come to the following conclusion: I do not have best disposition for a chronic disease. I can't "look on the bright side." I worry. I'm sometimes morose. I eat all the wrong things (delicious Chinese last night - chicken with string beans and house lo mein - cinnamon-y oatmeal raisin cookies Matt made today). A true Crohnsie would eat like a carbo-loading good girl: all low-residual boring foods and all a shade of white or brown (rice, potatoes, pasta, bread).

So Matt and I are deciding what route to take: go for the super-duper meds with scary side-effects (cancer?!) even though I want to have a child in the future or go for the surgery (which will hopefully buy me a few years -- uh em, child-bearing years -- before it all goes to shit again), and then try the souped-up medication. I don't want a gaggle of kids (don't get me started on that mother of 14 in California) - just one. But - I'm barely 27. I don't think it's selfish to put me first, instead of a child who isn't even here. But the wrestling with it never ends. And there is no right decision, nor wrong one. There are only choices fraught with uneasiness.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Matt shovels as I take out-of-focus, silly pictures.

Our backyard.

Front yard and street.

Penny enjoying the snow.

Penny VERY angry at me for:
1) throwing snow on her face, and
2) making her sit on the cold snow as I snap annoying photos.
(This is the angriest I've ever seen her!)