Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Day 2014

Christmas Day was lovely.  Just the two of us.

Dom attended Mass in the morning.  I didn't go, as I wouldn't have enjoyed it....I'd be thinking about preparations for dinner, etc.  As much as I love to cook, I work myself into a tizzy on holiday dinners.

I thought that this was a great picture.  Quite symbolic.  It was taken on Christmas afternoon.  The sun was reflecting off of Dom's windshield, through our front door, bounced off of a mirror across the room, and illuminated this manger scene.  I loved this.  Especially on Christmas!

Dinner was great.  I cooked a 5 pound standing rib roast using a cast iron skillet.  It turned out divine.  That's the only way that I'm going to cook them from now on.  It also made a delicious au jus, which I added mushrooms to.  As I like my beef rare, and Dom doesn't, I overcooked it a bit for him.  He had a great idea....next time, I'll cut it in half and throw mine in later!

Cast-Iron Skillet Prime Rib Roast and Gravy


1 (4.5 pound) beef prime rib roast at room temperature
 coarse sea salt, or as needed
 freshly ground black pepper, or as needed
 1 onion, quartered
 1/4 cup unsalted butter
 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
 1/4 cup red wine
 1 (32 ounce) carton beef stock
 4 sprigs fresh thyme


Preheat oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).

Rub beef roast with sea salt and black pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; sear roast on all sides in the hot skillet, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Turn roast so the ribs and fat side are facing up.

Roast prime rib in the preheated oven for 45 minutes; scatter onion quarters around roast and continue cooking until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 130 degrees F (54 degrees C) for rare, about 2 more hours.

Remove roast from skillet, wrap meat in aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes to let juices reabsorb into the meat. Leave onion pieces in skillet.

Pour drippings from skillet into a bowl and skim off excess grease. Return degreased drippings to skillet with onion pieces, place over medium heat, and melt butter in the drippings. Whisk flour into mixture to make a paste, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir red wine into flour paste until smooth. Mix beef stock into pan gravy until smooth; stir thyme sprigs into gravy.

Reduce heat to low and simmer gravy until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Strain gravy, discard onion pieces and thyme, and serve with prime rib.

***Roast until the desired doneness is reached, according to the readings on your meat thermometer, inserted into the center of the beef: 125–Rare 130–Medium rare 140–Medium 145–Medium well 150–Well done

Served this with some decadent potatoes.  Absolutely delicious!  (I cut the recipe in half and didn't bother with the bread crumbs)

Gratin Dauphinois

4 large potatoes (about three pounds), peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 large cloves garlic
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 pint whipping cream
2 egg yolks
White pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop the potatoes into it. Cook for five minutes. Drain and cool.

2. Crush the garlic cloves, and use them to wipe the inside of a 12-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Discard what’s left of the garlic.

3. Layer the potato slices all the way across the bottom of the dish, sprinkling the cheeses and a little salt and white pepper between the layers.

4. Beat the egg yolks and mix them into the whipping cream. Pour the mixture over the potatoes. It should come up about two-third of the way to the top. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake in the oven for an hour.

5. Remove the foil. Combine the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle in a thin layer over the top of the potatoes. Return, uncovered, to the oven. Continue baking until the crust browns. (If you have a convection oven, set it to convect.)

6. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool for at least fifteen minutes before serving.

We both enjoy fresh pearl onions on the holidays....alas, I was unable to find them in this area.  Had planned on doing a cheesed onion dish.

Instead, I popped a Stouffer's Spinach Souffle in the microwave.

Dinner was a great success and the bubbly flowed all day long!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

The house is decorated for the first time since 2008.  For years, I've spent several weeks in Ohio with my family, Dominic joining us for Christmas.

Unfortunately, it was not to be this year.  Dragged out the decorations and got jiggy with it!

My, how things have changed in 8 years.  Back then, I'd remove all of my other "stuff" in the house to make room for lights, nutcrackers, santas, reindeer, etc.  I was too lazy this year.... just squeezed everything in.  :)

This afternoon, I'm going to make us a couple of lovely Antipasto Salads.... Butter lettuce, garbanzo beans, baby corn, marinated artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, chunks of mozarella, pepperoni and black olives.

Tonite will be a homemade pizza.

We hope that all of you have a wonderful time!  Remember the "reason for the season".  Keep Christ in Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

5 Shocking Facts About GMOs

One alarming aspect of the whole GMO debate is the fact that so many Americans are going about their daily lives completely unaware that they are consuming genetically modified organisms at just about every meal. The reason I know this is because I used to be one of them.

So what are GMOs and why should we be concerned about them?

A GMO or genetically modified organism is created by merging the DNA from different species to create an organism; plant, animal, bacteria or virus which cannot be produced in nature or through traditional crossbreeding. It can bring about the production of foods that taste better, have longer shelf lives, or withstand harsh growing conditions.

Sounds harmless enough right? And even a good idea. But this isn’t the whole story, much as big food companies would like you to think it is. There are reasons why we should be extremely wary of consuming any food that has been genetically altered. Here are five of them:

1 GMOs are unhealthy: Since the introduction of GMOs in the mid-1990s, the number of food allergies has sky-rocketed, and health issues such as autism, digestive problems and reproductive disorders are on the rise. Animal testing with GMOs has resulted in cases of organ failure, digestive disorders, infertility and accelerated aging. Despite an announcement in 2012 by the American Medical Association stating they saw no reason for labeling genetically modified foods, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has urged doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for their patients.

2 They increase herbicide use: When Monsanto came up with the idea for Round-up Ready crops, the theory was to make the crops resistant to the pesticide that would normally kill them. This meant the farmers could spray the crops, killing the surrounding weeds and pests without doing any harm to the crops themselves. However, after a number of years have passed, many weeds and pests have themselves become resistant to the spray, and herbicide-use increased (both in amount and strength) by 11% between 1996 and 2011. Which translates to – lots more pesticide residue in our foods – yum!

3 They are everywhere! GMOs make up about 70-80% of our foods in the United States. Most foods that contain GMOs are processed foods. But they also exist in the form of fresh vegetables such as corn on the cob, papaya and squash. The prize for the top two most genetically modified crops in the United States goes to corn and soy. Think about how many foods in your pantry or refrigerator contain corn or its byproducts (high fructose corn syrup) or soy and its byproducts (partially hydrogenated soybean oil).

4 GM crops don’t ensure larger harvests. As it turns out, GMO crop yields are not as promising as some projections implied. In fact, in some instances, they have been out-yielded by their non-GMO counterparts. This conclusion was reached in a 20 year study carried out by the University of Wisconsin and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thus negating one of the main arguments in favor of GMOs.

5 U.S. Labeling suppression: Many of the companies who have an interest in keeping GMOs on the market don’t want you to know which foods contain them. For this reason, they have suppressed recent attempts by states such as California and Washington to require labeling of GMO products. And since they have deep pockets, they were successful – for now. The companies who spent the most on these campaigns are Monsanto (who produces the GMO seeds), and Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nestle and General Mills, who produce some of the most processed foods in existence. Incidentally, most other developed countries such as the nations of the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and China have mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. Food for thought!

So, if you don’t wish to partake of GMO foods, what can you do? First and foremost, buy organic. The USDA has strict guidelines for producers of organic foods which restrict them from using any GMO products in their foods.

If a food is not organically grown, look for a Non-GMO Project Label which certifies that it has been tested and found to have less than 0.9% GMO-contamination.

At Viance, we are convinced that eating a clean, contaminant-free diet is essential in achieving good health and vibrancy. That is why we do not allow any genetically modified organisms in any of our products.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Monsanto Is Pretty Much Eliminated From Russia After Country Officially Bans GMOs

Monsanto, the “most evil company in the world” that is notorious for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is regrouping after a monumental loss against Maui, Hawaii. Monsanto will have to abide to citizens’ decision to ban GMOs in their county.

The results come from a lengthy battle, starting when Monsanto filed suit against the Hawaiian county after the GMO ban was voted in. Speculation of corruption arose when news of the judge overseeing the case was connected with Monsanto, mostly through his wife.

Nevertheless, Monsanto lost their case, therefore any more “bad news” to business would be annoying at this time. Unfortunately for them, they will not receive such a reprieve, as Russia officially banned GMOs in their country.

According to an article by RT and followed up by Collective Evolution, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently announced that Russia will no longer be importing any form of GMOs into Russia. Furthermore, Medvedev showed favor to organic farming.

“If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.”

Russia joins the ranks of others countries listed by the Examiner, including Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and New Zealand, in the banning or partial-banning of GMOs. However, it should be noted that Russia didn’t just ban GMOs because they have space and opportunities. Following the urges of Russian scientists, they are considering at least a 10-year moratorium on GMOs to thoroughly study GMO influence on human health.

Irina Ermakova, the vice president of Russia’s National Association of Genetic Safety, made a huge statement pertaining to the aforementioned study.

“It is necessary to ban GMOs, to impose moratorium (on) it for 10 years. While GMOs will be prohibited, we can plan experiments, tests, or maybe even new methods of research could be developed. It has been proven that not only in Russia, but also in many other countries in the world, GMOs are dangerous. Methods of obtaining the GMOs are not perfect, therefore, at this stage, all GMOs are dangerous. Consumption and use of GMOs obtained in such way can lead to tumors, cancers and obesity among animals. Bio-technologies certainly should be developed, but GMOs should be stopped. We should stop it from spreading.”

Prior to their overall ban, Russia completely banned GMO corn back in 2012, as reported by Fox Business through Nation of Change. They utilized a study done by the University of Caen, reported through the Telegraph, in which they found feeding rats a lifelong diet of GMO corn resulted in huge breast tumors and severe damage to liver and kidneys.

Now that you know Russia has joined the growing list of countries permanently banning GMOs, what are your opinions? Do you think the United States should follow this path as well?


Friday, December 19, 2014

Multiple Myeloma Can Cause Kidney Damage

What is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer. It affects plasma cells that produce antibodies to fight infections and diseases.

Healthy plasma cells are found inside bones in the bone marrow. Abnormal plasma cells can grow out of control and form tumors in the bones.

A single plasma cell tumor is known as an isolated plasmacytoma. A person who has more than one plasmacytoma has multiple myeloma.

The antibodies made by plasma cells are special proteins that circulate throughout the body in the blood stream. Multiple myeloma causes affected plasma cells to create large numbers of abnormal proteins that cannot be used by the body.

Multiple myeloma can also damage bone tissue and cause it to break down or dissolve. Hypercalcemia is the condition that results when dissolved bone results in abnormally high amounts of calcium in the blood.

How Does Multiple Myeloma Affect the Kidneys?

Kidney failure is a common complication of multiple myeloma that affects approximately 20 percent of patients.

The kidneys are organs in the abdomen that act as filters to clean waste products out of the blood stream. This waste is passed out of the body as urine.

Multiple myeloma can damage the kidneys’ ability to filter waste.

Kidney failure results when the kidneys are no longer able to function and they shut down. Kidney failure must be treated with dialysis in which machines take over the work of the kidneys to remove waste from the body.

If multiple myeloma results in excess calcium in the blood, the kidneys can be damaged due to overwork as they try to remove the extra calcium. This can cause permanent kidney damage.

Multiple myeloma can also damage the tubules inside the kidneys that allow blood to flow through the kidney to be filtered. Abnormal proteins created by cancerous plasma cells travel through the blood to the kidneys.

Normal proteins are small enough to pass through the tubules without causing damage. But chains of abnormal proteins can sometimes link up with other proteins in the kidney that are a normal part of urine.

Jump for MUCH MORE

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stem cell transplant can be outpatient treatment for some

Before I cut and paste this story, I must give my own views on this.  I'm not convinced that this is safe for the patient.

Although Dom's transplant was over 5 years ago, it was SO MUCH DIFFERENT.... for the better, I believe.

Firstly, after living in this home for 25 years, there was no way that I'd bring my husband home to 25 years of "stuff".

Instead, we moved into an apartment a few weeks prior to his procedure.  I hired a guy to come in and "sanitize" the apartment. (A fog and a spray).

After the transplant, he was in the hospital for several (?) weeks.  Once he returned to our new home, he was not permitted to eat ANY fresh vegetables or fruit.  Canned, only.... as long as the cans were washed with warm soapy water and opened up by hand.

It was a couple of months before she allowed him to go out for pizza and a movie..... the movies were matinees, and the meals would be during "off hours", so as to pretty much have the restaurant to ourselves.  (MASK)

His mother was in poor health in her mid-nineties.  NOPE.  Finally, our doctor allowed him to put on his mask, park in her driveway to allow her to visit her only child.

If we had to do it all over again, we'd choose the same method.  He's worth it.  *winking and smiling*
Bringing a major medical treatment home. Patients once spent weeks in the hospital. Now they can get a stem cell transplant and go home. It means tackling a lot of hurdles, but this new idea is offering tremendous relief to patients.

She passes the time with a little knitting … and a visit with her doctor. Then there’s a quick flush of the central line in her chest, placed this past summer before Rebecca Zoltoski began a four-month course of chemotherapy to fight myeloma – cancer of her bone marrow.

Rebecca Zoltoski, stem cell transplant patient: “You do what you have to do.”

But this is not a doctor’s appointment. This is day three of Rebecca’s stem cell transplant. Her doctors are ready to infuse a batch of new cells – her own – with the hope they will grow into healthy bone marrow.

Dr Michael Bishop, University of Chicago Medicine, medical oncologist: “Think of the stem cells as the seeds of the bone marrow. It takes time to start growing and maturing and appearing in the peripheral blood, and that’s about a 10-day process.”

As the cells grow, patients wait. It’s an intense process that typically requires a 21-day stay in the hospital. But Rebecca is an outpatient. And after her daily check in – she’s ready to head out.

Dr Michael Bishop: “We would take her and monitor her blood counts, monitor her kidney and liver functions and make sure she’s doing ok. If everything looks cool, we send her on her merry way with very strict instructions that in that interim, before we would see her the next day, if she developed signs of infection, fever, cough, diarrhea, that she immediately gives us a phone call.”

It’s a new program at University of Chicago Medicine – the outpatient stem cell unit has been up and running for about three weeks.

Rebecca Zoltoski: “This afternoon I hope to get out and get a good walk in so I can try to get some of my energy back because I find that helps me a lot. I wouldn’t really be able to be outside if I were here as an inpatient.”

Dr Michael Bishop: “Knowing you are going home every day, that’s the psychological advantage. They have the comfort of their own home, own bed, foods they are used to and like.”

Rebecca Zoltoski: “I did have some concerns about things that could happen, negative things that could happen.”

And there are risks. Patients undergoing a stem cell transplant have weak immune systems and extremely low blood counts – their ability to fight infection is severely compromised.

Dr Michael Bishop: “Most of the time, 75% of the time the patient is going to be fine. One in four will have to be admitted to the hospital primarily for signs and symptoms of an infection.”

That’s why doctors place constraints on outpatients.

Dr Bishop: “Limited to no crowds, wear a mask, strict hand washing.”

Still, the outpatient process appealed to Rebecca.

Rebecca Zoltoski: “I have an 11-year-old at home, and it’s nice to be able to see her. And it’s nice for her to be able to see me, and know I’m doing ok. That’s been the positive of it.”


Monday, December 15, 2014

Dom's December Numbers- 65 Months COMPLETE REMISSION!

This will be a truly wonderful Christmas for us.  No M-Spike, Light Chains are normal and coming down.  All is well with our world.  We sincerely thank you for all of the prayers and well wishes.

WBC:   6.2

HTC:   40.1


ANC:  56


Kappa:   17.6

Lambda:   18.7

Ratio:   0.94


Thursday, December 11, 2014


LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- One of the most common drugs used to fight multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, can cause platelet cell levels to decrease. Now, researchers have a way to help those patients by finding a new use for a drug that already exists.

Lizzy Smith learned she had multiple myeloma during a routine blood test in 2012.

"So when a doctor tells you, 'You have cancer,' I couldn't think of anything more dreaded than that," Smith said.

Smith got chemo, stem cell transplants and Bortezomib. It put her disease in remission but depleted her platelet count and her blood's clotting ability.

"I felt like I was fading away, that I was maybe just kind of phasing into death, and I was so fatigued that I didn't really care," Smith said.

Dr. Dean Li, a cardiologist at the University of Utah, School of Medicine, found that in mice, Fasudil kept platelet counts normal. Fasudil is used in other countries for constricted arteries.

"We're not coming up with a new drug to treat the side effect of this cancer drug. We're trying to repurpose known drugs to treat this side effect," Li said.

Smith said Li's findings gave her hope.

"Absolutely. And hope is a very powerful thing. It gives us strength to keep fighting," she said.

Now, Li is searching for an FDA approved compound like Fasudil hoping to get similar results.

Fasudil is in U.S. clinical trials for treating high blood pressure and other health issues.

Since it's already in use, experts think it could get approval for multiple myeloma within a shorter time frame.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

SO much to be thankful for, and SO much fun!

We were joined by cousin Joe, (Ping was in China for a month), Wendy, Bubby, and later Dennis.

We did a lot of everything-  Shooting guns, shooting pool, feeding raccoons, drinking beer, Beaujolais Nouveau, and bubbly.

I had a beautiful 23 # turkey....cooked “Martha Stewart Style” using a lot of butter, a bottle of wine and cheesecloth.

Also my signature cornbread/pecan/sausage/cranberry stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, lima beans, my niece’s corn souffle, pecan/sweet potato/brown sugar casserole, and a mess of my balsamic pearl onions.

Dessert consisted of Pinnacle Pecan Pie martinis.  Ahhhhh!

Joe, Wendy and Bubby spent the night.  Dennis had to get home to his critters.... horses, donkeys, geese, chickens, etc.

The “party” lasted well into the weekend.