Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks

It’s Thanksgiving week! Anything that involves carb-loading and a shortened work week is right up my alley.

This year I’m hosting Thanksgiving for a small group and am making the turkey. I never made a turkey but I’m a relatively adept cook so I didn’t think it would be an issue. Then my mom sends me this email about gravy (remember – we eat meat but not frequently so any talk about “gizzards” and “necks” raises a few eyebrows):

“You don't need a special recipe, just put the neck, wing tips, gizzard, (all this stuff is in a paper pouch in the cavity where the head was) and any fat trimmings in water to cover with a bit of onion, garlic, and celery and simmer covered until neck meat shreds off the bones. Drain the broth, discard everything else, but pull the neck meat off the bones and add to the broth and refrigerate, any fat that solidifies on top can be discarded.”

I forwarded this email to Matt saying, “Ummm....I’m not doing this. Your job!!!” That’s essentially how I get out of doing unsavory things, like boiling turkey tidbits. We are also brining our turkey as I will NOT STAND for dry white meat. I watched an Alton Brown video no less than three times on his technique and I think we’re up to the challenge.

In addition to the wonderful gluttony that is turkey week, I got a call today from the clinical coordinator at my fertility practice. If I participate in a mini-clinical trial I get $1000 worth of free meds and a $100 gift card. The drug company running the trial simply wants the follicle sack and proteins that are extracted with my eggs (I refer to this as “goop” and it is usually discarded anyway). They want to analyze women’s’ goop to see if they can ascertain better quality egg sacks from others. It only requires one extra appointment on my end for consent and nothing else – not bad! For $1000 of meds they can have all the goopity goop they want! That will be a nice discount on meds as they run from about $3,000 to $4,000 per extraction. Also, Matt can now put this extra money toward my Christmas present. JUST KIDDING!

I’m getting excited about IVF. This will probably last until the second day of the cycle when I realize I have to give myself multiple stomach-fat shots a day, but I think even a (delusional) positive attitude can only help. I’ve just had some really quiet, beautiful moments in the last couple of weeks – with friends, on a long walk with the dog – that have infused me. And when that doesn’t work I just eat some chocolate.

I hope you’re feeling well and you have a wonderful holiday, too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Going the Distance

Driving back to the office, the city ahead.
23W to 202N to 76E to 676E to 95N to 73E. That is my route to the fertility practice. Through a national park, into Philadelphia and then out, and then over the Betsy Ross Bridge to New Jersey. The ride is a solid hour on the weekends with no traffic and up to an hour and 45 minutes amidst the morning rush. And each month, in tandem with my treatments, I accelerate and break, accelerate and break until I am there.

I drive for a good doctor and above all, a good price. I am priced out of a fertility practice around the corner in Philadelphia’s tony Main Line area. Matt and I have been preparing for this: all our money – our meager nest egg, scrutinized by me again and again – will go toward IVF. And for this I know we are fortunate.

The practice I frequent is always busy, always moving new women and more women, but all with the same problem. At first I was overwhelmed because there is a protocol for everything: a blood line and times to meet the blood run. Ultrasound sheets. IVF and Non-IVF call-back sheets. Call-backs listing Estradol, Progesterone, LH and FSH. The endocrinologist, the techs, the billing department. All the injectables: HCG, Lupron, Braville and it goes on and on. The nurses’ names: Carol and Karen, Jackie and Jacelyn, Diane and Deandra. And then there is me: “Kathryn H.?” They call my name.

I spent the last six months getting to know the practice. I’ve had two months of monitoring, four IUI’s, and if my count is correct, I’ve made at least 30 blood runs. And in the fertility game, I’m a neophyte. A newbie. Six months is nothing and I haven’t been even had IVF. So many woman have moved from one practice to another, with disappointment after disappointment in tow, wants and yearnings that never cease. That is not for me. Fertility treatments become your morning, noon, and night – and I have a little, quaint life – a husband, a dog - I want to get back to.

And that’s what I told our doctor during our IVF consult yesterday. I want to be aggressive because I don’t know if I want to be here six months from now. We will be going all-in, and with my age, she hopes to harvest 15-20 eggs, and if we’re very lucky, maybe 12 of those will fertilize. Every IVF cycle requires four mature, fertilized eggs and they pick the best two to place in my uterus. And then the others are frozen and we wait. That is a good scenario. They may harvest only two, or perhaps no eggs will be viable, but it’s time to try.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to sharing the journey.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Potato Soup

Here's a classic potato soup for a blustery day. Don't forget all the fixins: cheddar cheese, scallions, and crumbled bacon. Is there anything better than soup, salad, and bread?

Potato Soup
  • 8 (6-ounce) red potatoes
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup prechopped onion
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups 2% milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated hard cheese (parm, romano, etc)
Optional toppings (bacon, scallions, cheddar cheese)

1. Pierce potatoes with a fork. Microwave on HIGH 13 minutes or until tender. Cut in half; cool slightly.
2. While potatoes cook, heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth. Combine flour and 1 cup milk; add to pan with 3 cups milk. Bring to a boil; stir often. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream, salt, and pepper.
3. Arrange bacon on a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a paper towel; microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes. Crumble bacon.
4. Discard potato skins. Coarsely mash potatoes into soup. Top with cheese, green onions, and bacon.

Don't these nice people look like they're enjoying some soup on a chilly day?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I’m so happy to announce it here: Pink is pregnant. Yes, as in the singer. One more thing: damn her.

Matt and I have been talking about the jump to IVF, and have been wishy washy about whether to try a couple more rounds of IUI (artificial insemination) before we moved on. IUI is affordable. It’s easy – a few shots here and some pills there and wham bam thank you ma’am. He’s been hemming and hawing like a regular ol’ horse when it comes to IVF, but last night I opened an email from one of his family members about Thanksgiving, and it detailed five (five!) births with photos that occurred over the last year. It really was lovely, but we were watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and my laughs became sobs (and I think blubbery snorts, but frankly that’s a bit embarrassing).

We decided then and there that yes, it was time to bring out the big guns.

It’s little things like that, that get me: simply being around others' children, discovering a Facebook “friend” was pregnant (two minute cry) to sitting around a table with women who are talking about their children (and they all – all – have children). That warrants a couple more minutes on the woe-is-me-ometer. I even got mad at Celine Dion when she announced she was pregnant with twins. I know: I’m horrible. But I don’t hate any of these women – I’m just plain old envious. Women who say “it just happened” or “we weren’t even really trying” are a giant enigma to me: who is this breed of woman? What do they do that I don’t? How can I be like them?!?! I can only hope their fertility will rub off on me.

In December it will be 1 ½ years of trying. I don’t think I’ve ever tried so much or so long for anything: I mean, I’m an inherently lazy person. Recently I’ve found it hard to sit down and even watch a movie, so you would think this has been trying, and it has – but hasn’t. My doctor appointments are so routine to me. I also see the same two ultrasound techs and I love them as we gab and investigate what, exactly, is going on in there: we both giggled last week when she said it looks like I have a good egg reserve and I exclaimed, “Well; we gotta get those babies to HATCH!” This is all down as I’m naked waist-down and she has her, uh, instrument, in me. (I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have an ailment that didn’t require me to undress from the waist down. Doesn’t an allergist appointment sound pleasant? Or an ear, nose and throat doctor?)

One thing that does scare me is knowing that IVF may not work, and we have finite chances. Getting my monthly “negative” call after an IUI is one thing, but after you put all your eggs (HA! LITERALLY! God I kill myself sometimes.) in one basket – that must be the lowest low. I already thought-out a plan for Matt to execute if it is negative that I conveniently entitled, “Babies Are Stupid, Anyway.” It will involve Chinese take-out. Lindt chocolate, and some jewelry (I’ll leave the picking out for him, but lord knows I want it so bling-y and shiny that it blinds me from my sorrows). Just kidding. Well, mostly. You know me: I’ll probably just settle for the take-out.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Funnel Cakes and Friends

I very fortunate to have people in my life who lift me up and say, "Kathryn - it will happen - one way or another."  From the wonderful ladies who read this blog to the girls I see in morning at the gym to my coworker, amidst her own struggle, whom I cry to monthly when I receive the "It's negative" call.  Thank you all.

I had one such friend for over for dinner on Friday, and no meal could have done this girl justice: she has listened to be bitch endlessly on work and health, and is one of the few people who makes work....well, doable.  She is also one of the funniest, brightest and most insightful people I know.  Oh, and she also accessorizes really well.  It goes without saying I had to make a yummy meal for this friend.

I thought long and hard about make-ahead meals because we were both getting to my place at the same time.  The only thing I could come up with lasagna, and I just wasn't feeling it.  That week Matt had harvested the last of our basil from the garden - a good two-hands full of summertime sweet and green leaves.  A new batch of pesto was born.

I cook with my dog and with music.  Matt (brilliantly) installed speakers in the kitchen this summer and now I sashay with my spoons.  Penny just waits for food.

I have learned the best pesto is made with roasted (in questionable amounts of olive oil) garlic.  The garlic mellows and an enticing sweetness is added to the dish.  And I admit: I plucked multiple cloves from the oil and ate them just like that.

Like a said, a lot of pesto was made.  And even though you'd think this batch was positively PUNGENT with garlic, I swear, it was, if garlic can be, mellow.  

I have no exact ratios: a large handful of basil, maybe a half cup of grated cheese (I used parm and romano), loads of garlic and, of course, the garlic-infused olive oil.  

To save time, I roasted bell peppers, grape tomatoes and zucchini with the garlic and mixed everything the night before, having only to make the pasta the day of.  I was a bit afraid things would get "mushy" but shrimp and roasted veggies are already mushy to begin with (right?), so I was good to go.

I thought it was only right to add MORE cheese to the already cheese-laden pesto dish.  Because that's just what I do.

I marketed the get-together as a "Harvest Party" - the only thing harvesty about this summertime meal was my fake leaves and gourds strewn about the table.  But, hey, I tried.  And aren't these two dears?  Yes, I really like them both.

I put Matt in charge of dessert and he came up with funnel cakes.  I was awe-struck with his genius and I think Danita was just as smitten.  Oh, this one sorts of looks like an intestine, no?  Thought it was a bit apt.

I debated over whether to include this photo because I look damn freaky, but thought it really just encapsulated the mood of the evening.  And my serpent tongue.

Did I mention we ate three of these babies?  It's sad but true.  Another friend was supposed to come for the evening but had romantic plans with her boyfriend.  When she found out we were having funnel cakes it presented a big quandary for her: long-planned big night out with said boyfriend, or funnel cake with us freaks?  She chose the former, and I think it's fair to state Matt, Danita and I would say she chose wrong.

So, here are the tips: always roast your garlic for fabulous pesto.  I buy a container of pre-peeled cloves at my local produce place.  It's great for us lazy folk.  Pre-peeled garlic is also great for mojo de ajo, Matt's favorite Mexican accompaniment (great on fish, veggies, anything).  It's a good thing we both adore garlic and don't mind morning garlic burps. (Yes - this stuff really sticks, uh, with 'ya.)

Matt's Funnel Cakes (really from www.allrecipes.com)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the eggs and the milk. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture, and beat with a mixer until smooth. The consistency should be thin enough to run through a small kitchen funnel. Test it, and if it is too thick beat in a little more milk; if too thin, beat in a bit more flour.
  3. In an eight inch skillet, heat the oil to 360 degrees F (182 degrees C).
  4. Put your finger over the bottom opening of the funnel, and fill the funnel with a generous 1/2 cup of the batter. Hold the funnel close to the surface of the oil, and release the batter into the oil while making a circular motion. Fry until golden brown. Use tongs and wide spatula to turn the cake over carefully. Fry the second side one minute. Drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with sifted confectioners' sugar. 
 One last thing: don't look at the caloric content of this dish.  That just ruins all the fun.