Friday, November 7, 2014

Food Friday: Roya Afghan Cuisine | Quabili Pallaw

I'm coming out of my self-imposed blogging hiatus to tell you about something very important: food. It's always food.

After about 6 years of wanting to expand my ethnic food horizons and eat some Afghan food, but always deciding instead to get Indian or Thai or Ethiopian or what-have-you, I finally committed and forced Jonathan and my mother to check out the highly-rated Afghan restaurant, Roya, in Downtown Livermore.

And that's why I'm here. To tell you that you need to go to Roya immediately—run, don't walk—and order the Quabili Pallaw (elsewhere often spelled "pilau" or "pallow"), pictured above. What you're looking at is a mountain of sweetly cooked carrots, juicy raisins, and browned basmati rice. What you don't see, because it's nestled snugly underneath, is the most tender lamb I have ever eaten, ever.

It flat out tastes like Christmas on a plate. This time of year, you better believe I'll be eating copious amounts of it whenever I'm feeling particularly chilly. It's possible I'll forget about other kinds of food forever, and sustain myself solely on this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What My Summer Looks Like

You would think that I'd be bragging that my summer looks more like this, but the truth is, I've had a BLT or tomato-and-mayo sandwich every day this week at least once, if not twice, and it seems to be 2nd best decision I've made recently. (The first was, obviously, marrying this guy. Whoops, sorry, I mean this guy.)

Summer means tomatoes on and in everything. Also copious amounts of good coffee.

Lunch has been a bit more ceremonial than normal the last few days. I have less than two weeks until my last day of working from home. I've given my notice at work and have accepted a new job. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I will no longer be able to make fresh bacon for sandwiches on my lunch break. Taking advantage of it while I can.

After my last day of work, and before I begin my new job (in an office! with other people! where I have to wear a bra!), I am spending 5 days with my girl Jessie on Whidbey Island -- easily my favorite place to go and do virtually nothing. Maybe I'll even catch up on some things, like finishing that book I've been lugging around for months, or posting about that little ol' wedding of ours that's come and gone...

But until then, I still have 7 more at-home lunches to enjoy and I'm thinking it might be good to branch out from my BLT / tomato / mayo dedication... so tell me:

What is your favorite summer lunch? Snack? Dessert? How about drink? I've been enjoying my cocktail staple a lot these days, but feeling the itch to try something new. Share your foodie secrets with me!

Happy Hump Day, friends!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Food Friday: Haven Gastropub | Lamb Burger

I know I've posted about Haven Gastropub before, but I could not resist posting about one of my all-time favorite gourmet burgers (and my #1 non-beef burger) which I have eaten innumerable times and spent way too much money on--but it's so worth it. And it's appropriate that I am posting this today, because this is the very last time I will have this burger as a resident of Orange. It's pretty much the only thing I will really, truly miss when we move back to the SF Bay Area.

So. If you are one of those people who think they don't like lamb, then the Lamb Burger at Haven is the thing that will change your mind. Aside from the fact that they are trés généreux with their french fry portion, the lamb in this burger is juicy and sweet, and with the light and lovely addition of sprouts, caramelized onion, and tzatziki, the quality of the meat stands out as nothing short of spectacular.

At $18 (it used to be $14!), this is most definitely a special occasion treat for most people. Though trust me: you won't be disappointed.

Also: two perks:

1. If you decide to be somewhat healthy, ask for a salad instead of fries and you'll be happy to see they are quite generous with that, too.

2. This place may be known for its rotating beer menu, but they also make out-of-this-world Old Fashioneds. And considering their "well" bourbon is Four Roses, it's no surprise!

Peter Dean's Birth [One Year Ago Today]

It was one year ago exactly, but the experience of seeing my best friend give birth is still quite vivid. Very vivid, in amazing and spectacular ways, coupled with somewhat horrifying ways. Overloaded senses, which was highly unexpected. Childbirth is serious business.

I planned on writing about it right after it happened in mid-July last year, but the whole event occurred in the middle of a blogging slump, and then it all felt overwhelming, because it's about my best friend and a major first in my own life, and I feared (even as I'm writing this, I fear) that I just wouldn't/won't do it justice. Or it would just sound hyperbolic and typically "Johnstone" in its long-windedness. The more intense my emotions are about something, I've found, it's become harder and harder to write about it. This is something I want to change; I don't want to lose the ability to immortalize my most vital experiences into words, as the reality of starting a family draws ever-nearer... as my life prepares to turn some major corners into uncharted Life Territory. I don't want to forget, and I know that no matter how vivid a memory is, time and distance is not on my side.

So. This is a story about the birth of a baby named Peter.

But first, let's back up a bit.

Cassie had asked me when she was around three months pregnant if I could be present for the birth. I was so incredibly honored to be asked. She knew that Jonathan and I plan to have kids sometime in the not-too-distant future (hopefully), and -- aside from the fact that she wanted me to be there, because, hello, BFFs -- it would be such a valuable learning experience. Here's your front row ticket to "Baby Coming Out of a Vagina": Watch and Learn: One Night Only! 

Even better: Cassie asked Kim to be there too, which meant I'd have some sisterly company!

Leading up to that July, I knew the first half of the month would be dedicated to this baby please come out now waiting-game, since everyone was hoping that the little man (then unnamed) would be coming into this world of his own accord with absolutely no help from any drugs or machines or nurses.

He was due on July 9, so I planned on being in the Bay Area for the 4th of July and would stay through his birth. Easy. Except this is childbirth and, silly me, little baby-inside-belly had plans of his own -- like making his poor mother wait another eight days with a bump the size of a summer watermelon. Tiny torso = outward growing baby. Science, as they say.

Luckily, being able to work from home (or in this case: Cassie's dining room table) made it so that I could feasibly wait for the baby to come, though I was in a constant state of panic for two full weeks, every time I made plans with my family to go somewhere or do something, that I would get a call that IT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW and I would rush over, but miss it.

When it came down to it, despite our efforts of eating spicy food and taking all the walks and doing other things that are said to induce labor (MORE SCIENCE, only not), Cassie wound up in the hospital to induce labor anyway.

It... well... Guys, it was time.

When we finally got into the hospital room at Kaiser, this was actually the second day we'd tried to get in so Cassie could be induced. The day before, the rooms were all full, so we were turned away. Kim, who had had to return to work down in Los Angeles after the baby refused to be punctual, came back and we were all able to spend the night together in preparation for the little man to arrive.

The most notable thing about our time in the delivery room was the waiting. I know, I know -- Captain Obvious -- but really. If you're not the one giving birth, then you're just sitting there. And if you're not the husband (or designated "Support Me" person) of the woman giving birth, then you don't have much to do. Other than wait. And in Cassie's case, be very, very quiet every time a contraction came along, because she will cut you.

Or, if you're me, you take pictures of things. That was my One Job, after all. Document the event. So I did.

I know, man. Hospital rooms. Super riveting. And damn it if you don't need a sign to remind you where the step stool goes.

For quite a while, all we could do is keep Cassie company, and then pretend we weren't there whenever a contraction hit. She walked, she leaned, she groaned, she chatted, she visited the restroom, the nurse came in with a hook-y thing (technical term) to help break Cassie's water. It was all very low-key.

Then the contractions started getting a lot worse. On top of that, her nurse informed her, she wasn't dilating at the rate they wanted. This news was obviously not ideal, particularly with the level of pain she was experiencing. 

She decided to get an epidural so she could finally relax, and -- hopefully -- dilate faster. Spoiler alert: The epidural was a very good idea.

By this time, it was late, maybe around 10:30 PM or so, though the exact time isn't clear to me. All time ceased to make sense after a while. My sister and I had to leave the room while the anesthesiologist came to do the epidural, so it was a good time to have my dad come over with fresh clothes/underwear (I'd been in the same clothes for more than 2 days) and bring a snack for us and Matt.

When we returned, Cassie was hooked up, if you know what I mean.

She wasn't thrilled with me sharing this pic, since it involves a fancy pee bag, but THIS IS LABOR PEOPLE. The body does things. On top of that, I couldn't believe how many things were attached to her. It was somewhat mind-boggling to me. However, on the flip-side, she was a new person with the epidural: totally serene, fairly comfortable, and basically high.

So she napped, if you can call it napping when you have to constantly adjust due to pressure you can only kind of feel. We ate our burgers.

We waited.

After an hour or two or ten (TIME? WHAT IS TIME?), Cassie's groaning got seriously intense. Matt went to sit with her and hold her hand, while Kim and I sat there totally useless. She insisted the pressure was getting crazy, and rang for the nurse. When the nurse arrived, Cassie informed her of what she was feeling, and the nurse checked her dilation progress. I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was almost 10 cm, maybe 8 cm on the verge of 9. The epidural had sped the process along insanely fast. The nurse got the midwife, who admittedly does not become my favorite person in the half hour to follow.

As a bystander, watching all this go from a very quiet room to a chaotic circus in the blink of an eye was strange. The midwife was in absolutely no rush, which contrasted heavily with Cassie's insistence that the pressure was WHOA, like really.

The midwife and team of nurses were slow to assemble. Some other woman had the audacity to also be giving birth right then. The midwife said she could see the baby's head way up there, and they could expect things to progress soon. Cassie, on the other hand, was basically like "NO BITCH. THIS IS HAPPENING, RIGHT NOW."

But the midwife didn't seem all that quick to action. She began the process of putting on a basically a hazmat suit and setting up the birthing area with various "essentials" at the rate of a damn snail. Nurses were trickling in, also seeming to take their sweet ass time. I think I would have done a lot more swearing if I were Cassie, so her patience in the face of something so painful and, um, urgent absolutely astonishes me.

Oh, while we're here, fun fact: Redheads need more anesthesia and pain killers than other people do. Did you know that? Yeah, that fact came into play when Cassie admitted that -- unlike when the contractions were happening, she could feel EV. ER. Y. THING. from the cervix, down.

Yeah. So, moving on...

At this point, the pressure and pain was overwhelming, and Cassie began insisting that she had to push. Like, now, not later.

The midwife then said something seemingly innocuous yet totally infuriating, I wanted to literally shake her:

"No, wait."

Wait? Like, "Wait, I'm not ready with my SPACE SUIT and CATCHER'S MIT"?? My girl was ready, and this midwife made me want to scream. But Cassie tried to do what the midwife said, screaming and panting and near-tears all the while. The baby was coming, and fast. Of course, the whole time, she could feel every little thing.

(Side note: Obviously there is nothing wrong with natural childbirth, and of course it can be way less traumatic than I'm making it seem here. I only mention the pain and horror because girl is not mentally or physically prepare for it since she got the epidural, so it was a not pleasant surprise for her -- and us.)

I'm next to the bed with Matt's camera in hand, snapping pictures of the whole thing (NSFW or public consumption at any time, so not included here). Kim has positioned herself near the right leg, ready to assist, and Matt is up near Cassie's head, holding her hand through the pain.

FINALLY, the midwife tells Cassie to push, all in time with her contractions. The baby's head is right there, and she is so close. It was incredibly exciting and emotional to see that little crown, but at the same time, I was upset by the unexpected reality of having to watch my best friend deal with that level of pain.

At one point, while the baby's head was almost there, she screamed "I AM RIPPING IN HALF!" and all Kim and I could do is say as sternly as possible, "You're not. We can see you. We can see everything. You're OK. You're not ripping. You're so so close." Even though that was all very true, what I really wanted to say was, "HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS?!?!" but I didn't think that would comfort her.

Everything was a rush and blur as I snapped pictures, the midwife instructed, Kim held that right leg as though her life depended on it, and Cassie became my absolute hero.

The baby's head was out. We could see his squishy face.

Nearly there.

Another push, two pushes, and the shoulders came through... At 1:17 a.m. on July 18, 2013, Peter Dean Rosenbrock wiggled into this world and quickly found himself in the arms of a pretty awesome mom. Oh, and his dad is pretty amazing too.

These pictures were taken immediately after he was born and placed on Cassie's chest. It was such an amazing moment and such an honor to have been able to capture it, let alone share it with them.

Sure it was emotional for them, but this is also about me, and I was an emotional W. R. E. C. K. underneath my calm/quiet exterior. But I was taking photos, as many as possible, so I choked back the feels and focused on my amateurish photography skills to get the clearest pictures I could.

After a few minutes of holding the baby, the nurses scooped him up (they asked first) and began to take vitals and measurements, etc. That was all fine, but soon I started to think, "God this is taking long," and noticed that -- AGAIN -- these nurses were taking their sweet ass time. Peter was crying and Cassie was getting more and more anxious to hold him, do skin-to-skin, and start breast feeding. I can't be sure exactly how long it took, but it was kind of ridiculous. Cassie was getting emotional, particularly in the moments when the nurses would walk away and Peter was left lying by himself.

I about bitch-slapped some nurses, I'll be honest. This was the first time I spoke up, only after Cassie had asked way-too politely if they could please bring him back, I sternly said, "He needs to come back over here now. Like, immediately." I'm pretty sure I was channeling my mother at that moment, though she would have been notably less kind about it.

They still took their time with it, but soon, he was back with his parents and they fell into a blissful quiet while he began feeding. It was late and Kim and I were both exhausted, so we said our goodbyes and gave our kisses before stepping out so other visitors could come inside the room.

And then it was over. Just like that. We were zombies driving home, and it all kind of felt like a dream. The labor had lasted many hours, but the pushing and actual delivery went by in a flash.

It was one of the greatest honors of my life to be given this opportunity. I learned a lot, and dammit do I love my friends so much.

This guy is pretty great too.

Happy 1st birthday, Peter Dean! This world is a crazy place, but your baby blues and ginger hairs make it a whole lot brighter!

** Final portrait courtesy of Cassie Rosenbrock
** All other photos used with permission by the Rosenbrocks

Friday, February 21, 2014

Food Friday: Pitfire Pizza | Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

Last Sunday, Kim and I had a "sister day" in North Hollywood. We got manicures and pedicures, and decided to spend the day eating/drinking/relaxing in what we hope will be our neighborhood, come summertime/post-wedding.

After our pampering, we headed over to Pitfire Pizza, on the corner of Lankershim and Magnolia in NoHo. There are several locations around LA, but this is the only one that matters, because it's within a few blocks of where we plan to move. I've been to the area a handful of times before, but never to Pitfire, so we each ordered a pizza (and, full disclosure: a pitcher of sangria big enough for a party of five), and soaked up the perfect Southern California weather on the patio.

I ordered the Brussels sprouts and bacon pizza, which is easily the best decision I've so far made this year.

Brussels sprouts seem to be the new hot vegetable, based on nothing other than the fact that suddenly every restaurant is serving them -- blackened and salty -- and grocery stores care them in various packaged forms for all your roasting and salad needs.

We roast Brussels sprouts at least once a week, and nothing can compliment the earthiness of sprouts quite like salty bacon. This pizza merged two of my favorite things into a mouthful of crunchy, salty goodness, and the pizza itself wasn't too shabby either. The crust is crisp and thin, with just the right amount of salt-kick. Not overly cheese-y, garlic and chile added for kick, and just the right amount of cream to balance out the heat. The only way they could improve this pizza is if their crust had a bit more chewiness (like Delancey: crispy outside, chewy inside). Otherwise, I wouldn't change a thing.

Seriously, my new favorite pizza topping combination.

Sadly, the "sprouts n' bacon" pizza is a winter special (scroll down on the menu page to view the other mouth-watering offerings), so it likely won't be around come spring time. I can only pray that when I'm living two blocks away and next winter rolls around, this will be back on the menu.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Honeymoon [Re-]Considerations

*Warning: I've re-read this post after writing it three days ago and it's possibly the whiniest, White Privilege-y, and entitled thing I've ever written, because shit -- I have it really great, and I'm so lucky, but I make it sound like everything is so hard. So here we go... you've been warned...

After Jonathan and I got engaged, we (OK, mostly I) spent a good amount of time researching all-inclusive beach resorts in Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and the Caribbean islands. We were fairly convinced that after planning a wedding for over a year, and Jonathan finally finishing grad school a month and a half before the wedding, we would want to relax, with no worries, on a beach somewhere drinking Mai Tais.

Then, in May last year, we went on a lovely vacation to Puerto Vallarta with my parents, where we used their timeshare and stayed at a resort with all-inclusive amenities. All the food and drinks we could want.

Halfway through the week, Jonathan and I knew that an all-inclusive, beach honeymoon was not for us.

Aside from the fact that my fair, freckled skin burns like a Scotsman's, I absolutely abhor excessive heat and humidity, and swimming in the ocean isn't really my thang, the primary concern became that sitting around wasn't how we wanted to spend our first 1-2 weeks of marriage. Because when the bulk of your budget is going towards your resort, food, and drinks... you end up mostly sitting around, gaining weight and feeling bored.

So we regrouped. Just like when we shifted away from a Santa Barbara wedding to one in the California Sierras, we had to reassess our priorities.

  • city/metropolitan area -- with museums, theatres, shopping (things to do)
  • walkable -- someplace where we can easily, and safely, walk around
  • good public transport -- renting a car in a city is not an option
  • $2000-$2200 flight budget -- this limits our options significantly

Within an afternoon, we agreed on an ideal location that would give us everything we wanted:

London, England.

My parents offered to let us "put in" for an exchange using their timeshare. I'm not entirely sure how it all works, but it goes something like this:

Since my mom and dad own a timeshare in Puerto Vallarta, they have the option to exchange it for other affiliated properties around the world. In order for us to get an exchange in London, it means that someone who owns their timeshare in that city needs to want to exchange their spot for one in Hawai'i during the same time period that we need. Unfortunately for us, the timeshare property in London is very small, and June (summer) is the busiest time of year.

Simply put: demand is high and the odds are against us.

But we put in the request anyway for London, and to open up our options, we requested Edinburgh, Vienna, and Paris, all of which have super high demand demand as well. But hey, since the timeshare is already paid for thanks to the yearly fee my parents pay, then that means -- if one of our exchange requests is successful -- we could stay in one of these cities for one week, essentially free of charge.

Back in June, when we put in our requests, this sounded like the perfect solution to our "super expensive flights to Europe" dilemma.

Jump ahead eight months to now, February, and we are still waiting on word about the exchange. In my estimation, it isn't looking good and I'm definitely disappointed, because I was starting to get really excited about seeing King's College again...

You see, originally -- leading up to January -- Jonathan and I decided that London was definitely where we wanted to go for our honeymoon. Both of us have been there, but I spent literally one day in the city when I studied abroad at King's, and Jonathan was so student-poor when he studied over there, that he couldn't afford to actually do anything. So we knew that, even if the exchange fell through, we wanted to spend the first weeks of our married life in the UK, experiencing the food, booze, museums, parks, tourist sites... day-trips to Egham and Cambridge to visit our schools... just taking time to walk the city together, and explore. It would cost us more than if we used the exchange, but it would be worth it. We had the money in our budget, we could make it work.

Then I got really sick.

After seven months of having London (and Europe) on the brain, getting sick and racking up $2600 (that's my deductible, so I'll be paying at least that) in hospital/doctor bills put a major damper on our lofty honeymoon plans.

One of our pre-wedding goals was to get out of debt (not counting student loans; that will take years), and this unexpected medical fiasco was just not factored into our saving / get out of debt plan. Even though $2600 is a drop in the bucket compared to what it would have been had I been uninsured (I have anxiety just thinking about it), it completely eats into the money we planned to set aside over the next few months for the wedding. More money going into paying off our credit card means less money into the wedding account.

Super bummer.

Over this last weekend, we went back to the drawing board. The easiest and most painless way of cutting down on our honeymoon budget was to take international airline flights out of the equation. Additional thoughts and considerations, after eight more months of prioritizing:

  • domestic -- drivable or cheap flights have to be possible
  • someplace we haven't visited before (as adults)
  • city/metro isn't a requirement, but an ability to go to good restaurants, be outside and explore, bar hop is still a necessity
  • option for some luxury, maybe -- saving $2200 on flights means we can stay in a nicer place, or maybe enjoy a spa treatment or two (you know, YOLO and such)

There are so many options in the US that fit this description, but being the picky-priss that I am, it was easy to rule out mostly every option that came up... Inevitably, thinking about the United States, there were few places that I've been eager to visit that aligned with what we were looking for, and even fewer that we could possibly afford. But in the end, we kept coming back to... 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park. Yellowstone.

Truthfully, back in our initial honeymoon discussions -- before London was even on the radar -- we discussed Jackson Hole. I liked the idea, but Jonathan thought, "Well, it'd be nice, but maybe not special enough for a honeymoon? Plus, we could vacation there in the future, with children." I agreed: traveling to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone would be totally doable with a gaggle of kids, whereas foreign travel would be a little more of a challenge, and pricier. So we put it on the back-burner and it was quietly replaced with dreams of international travel as a duo.

Jonathan visited all these places as a kid, but I've never been near Wyoming. We've always loved road tripping together, and talked four years ago about going to Yellowstone. It just never happened. Plus, my aunt/uncle/cousins have regularly vacationed in Jackson Hole, and they love it. When my dad's close friend found out we were considering Jackson Hole, he got very excited and insisted on talking to me about it -- apparently he also spends a lot of time there, and can't speak about it highly enough.

Needless to say, I'm intrigued. I like the idea of continuing our mountainous, outdoors-y wedding theme, and getting a chance to do some outdoor activities together. We love hiking (though this time I would stick to easier trails), and it'd be so fun to raft down a river, stargaze, rent some mountain bikes, and explore the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone together. Plus, Downtown Jackson Hole seems really fun, with great restaurants and bars, but not so big that we would need more than a week to scratch the surface of it.

A road trip is not the kind of honeymoon I would have expected to have, but there's something about it that really fits our style.

I'm warming up to the idea.

We're still trying to find out if there's even the slightest chance that the exchange will go through, but I can tell you that saving thousands on plane tickets and using that money to rent, say, a convertible, stay in a fun/more luxurious accommodation, and enjoy a bit of fine dining once or twice sounds appealing. (Plus, no stifling dollars-to-pounds exchange rate to worry about!)

Definitely a major shift from our original plans, isn't it? I think we covered all possible landscape options, except maybe the desert. But hey, there's still time.

Anyone ever been to Jackson Hole as an adult? In the summer? Thoughts or recommendations? Things to be wary of? Stuff we can't miss?

Dominican Republic photo credit | London photo credit | King's College, Cambridge photo credit | Jackson Hole photo credit

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Remembering Shirley Temple

Shirley in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, via

Late last night, I was sitting on the couch talking to Jonathan and randomly noticed A Little Princess (the book) sitting on my bookshelf, buried amongst the other books I've saved from my young years. I got so excited suddenly, and burst out to Jonathan that, "Oh my god, in the doctor's office waiting room last week, they were playing Shirley Temple's A Little Princess and I was so upset that I couldn't stay and watch it -- it's been years, and it was always one of my favorite versions of the story, and one of her best films." I even pulled Heidi (again, the book) off the shelf, another great adaptation of Shirley's, and then started talking more about how I adored her films as a kid, and how much watching them shaped my childhood.

Then Jonathan (the graduate student in Film Studies!) revealed that he had never seen a single Shirley Temple movie, and I was aghast! I vowed to him that I would now be dropping everything and dedicate myself to educating him on one of the most iconic (and adorable) film stars in Hollywood's history.

And then, this morning, he woke me up with the news that she had passed away.

I don't think it's a coincidence that she came up in my mind so vividly last night. I grew up watching Shirley Temple; her films are some of my earliest memories, and I have my parents to thank for recognizing the value of old movies, and trusting that Generation Y minds would have the patience to sit and watch movies that we could never get our young friends to watch with us, but that Kim and I cherished and have continued to cherish as we've grown up.

With her passing, I will celebrate by forcing Jonathan to watch whatever movie of hers I can get my hands on. (May I suggest A Little Princess, Dimples, Bright Eyes, The Little Colonel, or Heidi as great starting films to watch, in case you're looking to remember her, or delve into her work for the first time.)

We'll also be drinking some Shirley Temple Blacks, because we're grown ups now, and rum makes most things more enjoyable.

To Shirley: You won us over with your curls and dimples, but kept us watching because of your talent and charisma. You've done amazing work for film and the world, as a diplomat, and we have a better Earth because you lived on it.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Things Worth Sharing

Emily Jeffords, From the Valley

The last half of the year, I really went out of my way to avoid writing here. Typical excuses were that I was spending 98% of my computer time on my work laptop, and therefore didn't have access to any photos. Also, my camera that I took with me to capture certain events (you know, ones too important to document with a cell phone camera) was always, like, way over there on the bookshelf, and nowhere near where I was sitting at the time. And not only that, but, like, the chord to connect it to my computer? Lost, I'm sure of it, since I can't find it without moving so much stuff.

But the truth is, there was and still is a lot of stuff I want to write about.

My best friend had her 2nd baby in July, and my sister and I were the luckiest ducklings and got to be in the hospital room when he was born. And I got to take pictures of the whole shebang.

Jonathan and I got to spend five days on Whidbey Island in Washington, and got to do lots of things, but most importantly we saw our friend (and wedding photographer) Joe propose to one of my best friends, Jessie -- surrounded by around a dozen of their nearest and dearest.

Lots of wedding stuff is done. Dress and rings are purchased, vendors are booked, Save the Dates have been sent out, the booze for the open bar is starting to get acquired, music planning is coming along, I'm starting to freak out a little... I mean, the wedding is only 4 months away! I can't even. Where did the time go? I'm already kicking myself for not documenting every detail.

I've developed some serious baby fever, and it seems only fair to write about it publicly.

I'm planning to write about all these things, if for nothing else than for me to just remember and document. This blog has no focus other than, maybe, Stacy's life and stuff she digs, so I don't want to be that person who acts like it matters if I don't write. But hey, if my sister and my best friend tell me enough times that they're sad I don't write more, then I guess it's worth the trouble, even if -- by contrast -- my mother doesn't even know my blog URL. Because I like it. The writing, that is. I do. Especially knowing that, as years go by, I'll be ever-so grateful that I took the time. Future Stacy will be happy to relish the memories. The more, the better.

For the 26 of you that actually read this blog when I write something new (two thumbs up for Google stats!) -- thank you for indulging my over-sharing tendencies. I hope to share much, much more this year, since it's gearing up to be a doozy.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sick Days: A Quick Rundown

Pinkie Pie making me smile while I'm imprisoned in the hospital

It's Saturday morning, February 8th, and I'm realizing that it's been just over three weeks since I first got sick with [what I thought was] the flu. This is my first weekend of freedom from sickness and hospitals in what feels like ages. It's overwhelming and depressing to think I actually lost three weekends and two full work weeks of my life.

It's not all that interesting of a story, though it was all wholly unexpected. Never in a million years -- when wracking my brain before Christmas about whether to pick the PPO or OAP (HSA) on my company's medical plan -- did I think that I would end up meeting my $2600 deductible before February even rolled around. Especially since I haven't been sick enough to see a doctor (save for a urinary tract infection) for probably 10 years. Maybe more.

What started Friday, January 17th, as a simple case of a nasty flu (headaches, chills/sweats, fever, fatigue), developed into a week-long sickness so unbearble that I actually felt I was going to die, at times. Hyperbolic, I guess, but when you're dealing with consistently high fevers of 104.9, it can get a little scary. Monday took me to Urgent Care. (They were useless.) Wednesday took me both to an internal medicine specialist, then the ER to get a spinal tap, since my doctor was suddenly very concerned about meningitis.

Hours of waiting in the ER left me face-to-face with Sexy Doctor, who insisted that we were not dealing with bacterial meningitis, because (essentially) after this many days, I'd be dead already. And if it were viral meningitis, there was nothing they could do anyway; it would take care of itself. May as well go home.

More fevers, severe headaches, not eating anything but half a banana (maybe) each day, my mother came down to spend the following weekend with me. My doctor, one week after the fevers began, put me on a 5-day antibiotic which, surprisingly, helped me feel a lot better by the time the weekend was over. I was relieved; finally in the clear, maybe?

After having already missed 5 days of work (using my carefully-saved PTO that was meant to be used for my honeymoon in June), I was eager to get back to work. So Tuesday, feeling lightyears better than I had the previous week, I returned to my computer and got back to it.

Unfortunately, over that weekend, I'd still been dealing with minor fevers and headaches, and developed a bit of blurry vision and hazy "floaters" in my eyes. So I took some time on Wednesday morning to see an ophthalmologist.

To my surprise, upon looking into my dilated eyes, the ophthalmologist -- with the DEADEST EXPRESSION I'VE EVER SEEN ON A HUMAN BEING -- told me point blank, "This isn't an infection in your eyes, it's in your brain. I'm very serious. You need to leave here immediately and go to the ER to get an MRI of your brain."

And that was that. Jonathan took me to the ER. Both of us completely terrified by this point, we waited. Then we got a room in the ER. Then waited. Then I was moved to get the MRI. It was freaking scary, that machine is crazy small and confined, and I'm not even claustrophobic. Then I waited some more.

The doctor came and told us that, even if the MRI came back negative, they were going to prepare a room for me and admit me to the hospital for more tests. My fever was still consistently climbing to 102, and after 12 days, that just wasn't acceptable.

After more waiting, the nurse told me -- GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE -- the MRI was clear. No apparent tumors or major swelling to be found. PHEW!

But they moved me to a room in the hospital and admitted me anyway.

More tests. Lots and lots of blood work. A spinal tap scheduled for the next morning. A blast of antibiotics, as a precaution, just in case.

I thought maybe I'd be out by the next evening, after they'd done the spinal tap. I ended up being in there for four days, Wednesday through Sunday.

Consistently, my blood work came back negative for everything they tested. (At one point, my potassium was a little high. No big deal.) The spinal tap revealed a higher level of white blood cells than they ideally want to see. (Normal is 1-5, mine was 18, a really really really sick person can be as high as 80-100.) It was obvious that whatever I had, I was recovering from it, because my WBC count appeared to be on its way down.

By Sunday morning, I'd completely had it. I told them I no longer needed these antibiotics (all bacterial tests for four days had come back negative, plus my veins had been completely pulverized thanks to the IV drip) and I felt great now, thank you very much, time to go home. They agreed, even though we were still waiting on tests.

Discharge approved.

So I went home. And it was glorious, because I got to see my dog and lay down in my own bed. And shower.

All of the doctors that I spoke with that last day in the hospital, and since, have "hung their hat" on this being viral meningitis. There are still tests out (apparently they don't test for West Nile every day -- surprise surprise), so I probably won't know the results of every test until my follow-up appointment next Tuesday.

But all signs point to viral meningitis. I don't know how I could have gotten it; I never see people or go anywhere -- I'm a hermit. But hey, the important thing is that I'm feeling nearly 100% again, save for some minor haziness still clouding up my vision, and a few unfortunate side effects from the antibiotics. Ah well, c'est la vie.

To everyone:

Thank you for your well wishes while I was in the hospital. I felt a little silly, since by this point I was feeling so much better than when I was really, deathly ill the week before (and subsequently not updating Facebook all that much), but your thoughts and prayers really made me feel loved. I can't tell you what it meant to me.

To Jonathan:

I honestly don't know how I would have made it through the last few weeks without you. You gave up so much of your time, and committed so much energy to taking care of me. I can't imagine what I would have done if I'd been living alone. You're my absolute hero, and your selflessness will not be forgotten. I love you more than I can say.

And I'm just so damn grateful that it's all over.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

4 Years Today

Some of our many selfies together, at various degrees of hairy and adorned with an exciting array of spectacles

Today, you and I have been together for four life-changing years, and exactly 5 months from now, we will be married.

Yay us!

Darling, I am constantly amazed at what we've been through over the last several years, since the first moment I opened that loooooooooong Facebook message you (my dear friend) had bravely composed, divulging the depth of your feelings for me. The decision to leave our strong friendship behind and move forward into romance was something out of a song. I'm thankful every day that when you asked, I said yes. (Twice!)

I marvel at the amazing things we've celebrated, the difficult times we've pulled ourselves out of, and the day-to-day normalcy that is the foundation of our simple, happy, bickering, smoochy, animal-hair-filled, human life together.

We aren't perfect, and darling, I wouldn't want to be, because those people are so boring. You know me at my best, but still love me at my worst, and the latter is what's important. It has kept us grounded. It is what keeps us checking our comfort at the door, and continuing to build a stronger love, a more beautiful place in this world that we can share, and into which we will grow.

Jonathan: I shudder to think of my world without your kisses, your stupid jokes, your beard, your wicked smart brain, your warmth. I love you, every day, and cannot wait to be your wife.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Food Friday: Big-Ass Sandwiches | The Richwich

The last four months have passed so fast, it's a blur. A mix of business and boredom, travel and stasis... I'm just now re-acclimating my brain and body to healthy thinking, movement, rest. I've been awful at updating even though I've had loads to write about.

To make up for it, I'm bringing you a peace-offering: a sandwich so comfort-food-delicious, its innards filled with roast beef, bacon, grilled onions, Bechamel cheese, habanero sauce, and overflowing with salty french fries, I'm having a hard time even looking at this picture and not throwing all my diet resolutions out the window. See that gooeyness taking up 70% of the sandwich insides? Yeah, that's Bechamel-drenched-but-still-crunchy french fries. I know. Take a breath; it's going to be okay.

This is the Richwich from Big-Ass Sandwiches food truck in Portland, Oregon, voted the #1 Sandwich in the Northwest by Travel Channel when they featured it on "Best Sandwich in America." Adam Richman ate this sandwich on television and I vowed to one day try it for myself.

Just after New Years, Jonathan and I found ourselves in Portland for our dear friends' wedding, and it seemed like the perfect excuse to eat everything we could. Big-Ass Sandwiches was our last stop of the trip. With a half-growler of cider, we braved freezing temperatures and sat at a picnic table next to the food truck, shamelessly shoving salty sandwich simplicity down our gullets. Looking at the ingredient list, it may not seem all that simple, but it is. It's the Every Man's sandwich, the sandwich for the picky-eater. I have a hard time imagining anyone who eats meat NOT loving this sandwich.

My only regret is splitting the damn thing with Jonathan. If you go, get your own -- just don't eat anything beforehand.

* Image property of The Sleepy Peach