Thursday, June 23, 2016

Blackberry Buttermilk Pie with Cinnamon Raspberry Meringue

Several of my friends have asked for this recipe after I posted a photo of the pie on Facebook. It is truly YUMMY so go make it and adapt to your own tastes! This is my recipe, which I adapted from a buttermilk recipe long-forgotten. I'll be baking or cooking various old favorites of mine throughout my long, boring recovery from last Friday's hysterectomy. 
Final result = delicious pie and who doesn't want that?

Pre-heat your oven to 350 for a cooking time of 45 minutes. 
* Be warned that your cooking time will vary according to your oven and the pie's viscosity and temp going in. 

INGREDIENTS for the pie
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup seedless blackberry jam (or 1/2 cup blackberry jam and 1/2 cup pureed blackberries) *You can sub ANY jam flavor here and add more or less, according to the strength you want
1/2 cup unsalted butter MELTED
1/4 cup flour
5 large egg yolks (keep the whites in another bowl for the meringue)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
Dashes of salt
Pretty much any pie crust. I usually use one that's partially baked.

INGREDIENTS for the meringue
Egg whites (since you have 5, you'll have plenty of leftover meringue to bake some little meringues on the side, see last image.)
Sugar - I just add until the meringue looks and feels right.
Dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg
2 teaspoons of raspberry flavoring
A few blackberries or raspberries to top the pie itself (after it's baked!)

DIRECTIONS for deliciousness
Whisk together the buttermilk, sugar, blackberry jam, melted butter,  flour, vanilla, dash of salt, and egg yolks and have fun doing it.
Pour this lavender mess into your pie crust and try not to spill it.
Bake yonder gooey filling for 45 minutes OR until only the middle is wobbly.
Take out of hot oven and spread the meringue over the hot pie. Make sure to seal it by spreading it to the edges of the crust/filling line.
Put back in oven and bake fr another 10-20 minutes.
You don't have to add meringue at all. You could just bake it for 45-60 minutes and top with blackberries or whatever. 
Now, NO EATING! It's time to cool the pie for at least a few hours.
Enjoy and share!

Above are little raspberry cinnamon meringues that I made with the leftover meringue. The trick to baking them is a high temp for short time (to make them safe to eat) and then a long, slow bake so they're harder on the outside and chewy in the middle. Mine didn't come out completely right, but they were safe to eat and tasty :-) If you need help, THE GOOGLE is your friend. Making meringues.

FINALLY, the Hysterectomy

So, I FINALLY did it, after three docs (beginning when I turned 32) told me I'd probably need a hysterectomy. The only reasons I waited were because of costs and not being really sure that was the answer. As it turns out, I now wish I'd done it YEARS ago!

I returned from our diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land last Wednesday afternoon/evening. Last Thursday held a half day or pre-ops and errands and then Friday morning, I was at the hospital at 5:00 AM. One of the pre-ops was actually a surprise and I only found out about it because I returned a call (again) from one office saying that I had just had my pre-op and they were like "no, you have one here too". I was thinking "where exactly is here?" and the rest is history. Seriously, communication is KEY, people. get with it. Both docs and places seemed oddly surprised that I actually had a list of questions to ask. DUH.
For me, if you don't have questions, you're missing out on opportunities - not only to find out what the heck is going on with your own health, but to learn.

It was FREEZING cold there at the hospital and soon after I showed up, about 5 other women did as well, with their families. I was the first one to go in, with these words " Alright ladies, let's get this party started, I'll see y'all on the flip side", hahaha. For the last two years, I have basically been ready to throw my uterus as far away as humanly possible. Seriously, I went into my gynecologist in January and said "I'm done. And by done, I mean D-O-N-E, DONE. I'm not leaving here without a shot or a pill or WHATEVER needs to be done AND a date for surgery because....I'm DONE." She heard me and gave me something...I think it was dimethylprogesterone. It's a hormone that gave me nonstop headaches and by week two numbness in my arms which was causing massive anxiety and I thought I was going to stroke out. So, I stopped that and suffered until my surgery. I had/have three cysts on one ovary, one on the other, a big fibroid, and some little nabothian cysts. I almost forgot to mention the endometriosis which was growing in thickness and probably pathology. As a result of this, my fallopian tubes had to be removed as well and I'm not sure what they did to one of my ovaries, but I'll find out tomorrow at my follow-up. I do remember hearing (while I was still coming out from anesthesia) that something was on it and something about pathology.

I KNEW that leg warmers would eventually come back! Actually these puppies were put on my calves to keep me from getting clots in my legs. Filled with air tubes, each leg alternated with a rolling pressure and it was like a massage. They felt kind of weird, but also kind of cool. 
I woke up and had a bit of doubly / hazy vision, but it wasn't too bad. I had negged for NO narcotic pain meds as they mess with my breathing and I like to breathe. Breathing is good.
So, they gave me Tylenol3 (Codeine) at some point and something else which they shot into my IV. They shot it so quickly that within 4 seconds, I had double vision again and felt weird. After that passed, I declined all medicine and was fine. Since last Friday, I've only had a bit of general discomfort and soreness and a bit of actually soft pain when I've coughed or sneezed. In fact, the worst pain I've felt at all was from the IV sites and the gas pain that was expected (they fill your abdomen with CO2 when you have abdominal surgery). 
I'm afraid I was a wee bit annoying when I got in my room and on my phone
Out of surgery (the procedure went very well), resting, and dining on gourmet ice chips and a bowl of the blackest soup I've ever seen. And there's a lemon thing that looks promising. Thanks Fr. Rob for coming by! In addition to anointing, he was an expert witness so I could get my stuff back. The poor officer! I told him I had $20 in my bag I case I needed to pay off a nurse to bring me a soup I could identify.

Be jealous -"House Made" Lemon Juice! I'm assuming the Sodium Benzoate and Bisulfate are also homegrown... ;-) ~ at Touro's House of Fine Lemony Dining.
Spent one night in the hospital and from what my surgeon had said the day before, many do not, but he likes his patients to stay a night. The worst part about that was asking each nurse to please take out the unused IV on my right hand because it hurt and not having that done until RIGHT before I was discharged. Ridiculous. You know what else was ridiculous? Hospital waste. 
It's a thing.
I did not realize until when I had gone to the bathroom by myself a couple of times that EACH time I had asked for water/ice refills (6-7 times), the nurses had brought me a new container and thrown the old one away. No one had touched in the inside of any containers and it was just for pouring water. I get it that catheters cannot be reused, but what about those fancy leg warmers that only touched my compression-stockinged legs? Tossed in the trash. When I was about to walk out, one of the nurses told me to take the bin of stuff that had been on my desk near my IV. It had been out of reach the whole time and was covered by a garbage bag and no one had mentioned it to me. Inside: Kleenex (which I had badly needed), toothpaste & brush, lotion, dry foam cleanser, and more. Again, communication would be nice, people.
So, where are we?
Right, I'm DONE and in recovery. My actual procedure was the robotically assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy. My recovery period looks something like this:
- Boring....just kidding...or maybe I'm not
- 1-week no driving, but my doc called me yesterday and said driving would be fine for small distances. Of course, one block could kill me in New Orleans with all of these potholes and road issues.
- 4-6 days rough times
- 2 weeks to start feeling "back to normal"
- 6 weeks no lifting anything larger than a gallon jug of milk, swimming, or sexual activity
- avoid bending, pushing, pulling and things like jumping and working out (I avoid working out already). I'm wondering how to stick to that when I have to push/pull myself up
- avoid stairs if possible (yeah, right) or take them slowly, one at a time.
So far, so good! Wish me luck and if you found this and have questions, feel free to email me. If you're in line for a hysterectomy, good luck and godspeed!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Bethlehem, The Christmas Church, Lunch at the Bannoura FamilyHome, and The Herodium

Sunday, June 12

Today, we drove to Bethlehem in Palestine and attended morning worship at the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church
We arrived a bit early so decided to walk through the old part of town and the open air markets. It was a beautiful morning!

The market was bustling, but perhaps not as much as it normally would because of it being Ramadan and almost all of the cafes and restaurants being closed down. Still, we had a great time and saw a ton of interesting things! There was such a friendly atmosphere and everyone smiled or waved as we smiled and walked by.
When it was time for the service to begin, we arrived back at the church. The service was in Arabic, but the minister did summarize his sermon for us in English. We sang both familiar and unfamiliar tunes and the music was both contemporary and traditional. The church itself is the oldest Lutheran Church in Palestine and one of the six Lutheran churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan. It was built 1886-1893 and the 1890 Berlin organ was restored in 2000.
After the service, we stayed for the coffee hour and made some friends. Then, we drove to the Bannoura family's home where we had a delicious lunch and a super fun time together. It was the young son Jiha's eighth birthday today so we all sang him "Happy Birthday" and he was SO EXCITED and HAPPY! 
We observed the seasoned chicken and potatoes being put into the family's hot stone oven.

Fr. Rob and Ed sealed the oven with wet mud. David got to unseal the stone oven when it was done. It seemed that it was only in the oven fr 20 minutes and it was amazingly delicious when it came out. Traditional salads were served wile we were waiting on the chicken to cook and a cool refreshing drink which was a mix of lemonade, bergamot, and mint. 
There is so much to be said for forming a community and this trip has really done that for our pilgrims. In addition to making new and lifelong friends with the St. James Episcopal in Hendersonville group, our own Louisiana group has bonded well and deepened relationships with each other. Helping each other, laughing with each other, seeing each other's amazement and/or emotional reactions to holy sites, these things have all sown our threads of friendship together. It is such a blessing to be with one another. Here we are pictured with our guides and the Bannoura family.
After lunch, everyone was full and sleepy/goofy as we drove to the Herodium. Once there, most in the group hiked up to the top of the mount to see Herod's structures and then hiked via extremely steep steps through the system of cisterns to the level of Herod's tomb. The mount provides a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside and gives one a sense of how wealthy and strong Herod was. He had built a fortress, a palace, and a small town here, 2487 feet above sea level. 
Herod was considered one of the greatest builders of his time and was not afraid of geography so a small mountain was just fine. We saw ruins of a Roman bath house with the separate rooms (caldarium, tepidarium, and frigidarium) and a theatre which Herod used to entertain his guests.
It was extremely hot and everyone seemed quite spent so we headed back to St. George's Cathedral. The NC group leaves tonight and the LA group will walk the via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) tomorrow morning. We will be leaving at 5:45 and there will not be any photos or videos from that event. It is purely a worship experience. 
Above: Woman holding taboon bread
Below: The figs here are GIGANTIC

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bethphage, Dominus Flevit, Gethsemane, St. Peter's in Gallicantu, the Dead Sea, and Gathering Together

Today, the North Carolina pilgrims got up and left very early to pray the Stations of the Cross in the Old City while the Louisiana pilgrims gathered a little later to walk the "Palm Sunday Walk" from Bethphage (Beth = house / Phage = figs) on the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane.
We began as close as we could to where Jesus is said to have mounted the donkey to ride into Jerusalem. It was a walk of mixed emotion from jubilation intermingled with the anxiety and coming doom of the cross. The present Bethphage church was built in 1883 on the remains of older churches – a Byzantine church and above it ruins of a church from Crusader times. Inside the church is the Memorial Stone of Bethphage. 
Starting at the Bethphage Church, Steven Roberts blessed our olive branches and we read scripture, prayed, and sang "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" as we walked.
There is a beautiful painting inside the church depicting Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.
Next, we walked downward toward the Old City past the Mount of Olives cemetery, an extremely large Jewish burial area. 
It was a steep descent towards Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley, but everyone was able to manage. We stopped at the Dominus Flevit (Our Lord wept) Church or the "Tear Drop" church.
There are tear bottles at each of the four corners to represent the tradition of gathering tears for the departed.
There was a super wonderful panoramic view of Jerusalem from this church and one can see the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount from here.
Continuing our walk, we headed down to the church built over the Garden of Gethsemane. While the word Gethsemane means "place of the olive press" and the actual garden is the entire huge area, there was a smaller garden full of olive trees, giant roses, bougainvillea, hollyhocks, and more. 
Some of the olive trees in the garden are the oldest known to science and have regenerated after 800-900 years. So, the trees we see there may be the grandtrees of the ones in Jesus' time. They are noble and reverent in their silent peace. 
Next to this garden is the Church of All Nations, also known as the Sanctuary of the Agony of Jesus Christ and The Basilica of Gethsemane. 
Inside, there is a lage slab of bedrock that is said to be where Jesus prayed before he was to be arrested. Many pilgrims were on the same path as our group today and many knelt at this rock and prayed earnestly.
Our final pilgrim site of the day was to the Church of St. Peter's in Gallicantu. Gallicantu means "cock's crow" and the weather vane is a rooster. It is a lovely church set on top of ruins of caves and dungeon areas and beside lengthy steps leading down into Jerusalem. Jesus walked these steps. 

The church location is also associated with the High Priest Caiaphas' palace. The church belongs to the Assumptionist Fathers, a French order established in 1887 and named for Mary's Assumption into heaven.
Now it was time for lunch and our pilgrims had a quick meal at the Notre Dame Center before dispersing to either walk in the old city or have a two hour break before heading out to the Dead Sea. 
In reading ahead about the Dead Sea, I found the following post interesting:
"Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Dead Sea"
It was 43 degrees out at the sea and this equals 109.5  It's safe to say it was HOT.
Half of our pilgrims waded in the water and several more floated (they tried to swim) in the sea. The other half enjoyed cool beverages and some social time. As Earth's lowest place of elevation on land, the shore is 1388 feet below sea level. Did I mention it was hot?!
After this exciting adventure, we gathered at Iyad Qumri's house in Jericho for a fabulous dinner and some down time! What amazing and generous hospitality! At the beginning of our pilgrimage, during our first meeting together, we selected a prayer partner from folded papers and prayed for them the entire trip. Since the NC group leave early, we revealed out partners tonight. 
Gifts were exchanged between prayer partners and gifts were also given from the whole group to Iyad Qumri, Omar "the Magnificent" (our driver), John Peterson, and Canon Mark Stanger.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Burqin, Nablus, Jacob's Well, Taybeh, Kanafe, and Beer

Friday, June 9
This morning, the Sisters of Nazareth made us a great breakfast and we set out early in separate groups (NC / LA).  Our Louisiana pilgrims drove through the region of Mt. Gilboa and mountains of Gilboe.
Gilboa means boiling springs or bubbling springs.
It was an unusual ride. Today being Ramadan and a Friday, all of the streets were empty and almost everything was shut down. An Israeli checkpoint had also been closed so we took a slightly longer route to reach our destination. No tourists were anywhere in site except our group. 
Our first stop was the village of Burqin in Palestine. It is a small, picturesque, and hilly townlet of about 7,000 people. It is said that Jesus passed through Burqin from Jerusalem to Nazareth and on his way, he heard cries from ten lepers who were quarantined in a cave. The first church on the site was built in the 4th century by the Byzantines. Only a handful of Christian families still live in the town. 
We walked up a very steep hill to the Burqin church (also named St. George's Church.) It is a Greek Orthodox Church and considered to be the 5th oldest Christian holy place. In addition to Jesus' miracle of healing the ten lepers, another miracle is said to have taken place by St. Georagios (George) involving the saint's appearing to a badly-behaved schoolboy awaiting his teacher's forgiveness so he would not longer be mute.
Our next adventure was a drive through beautiful Samaria and to the city of Nablus. Nablus (nea-polis / new city) is also known as Shechem. This is a large Palestinian city (originally founded by Vespasian) and holds one of the largest universities in the Palestine areas. 
Here we visited another gorgeous place: St. Photini the Greek Orthodox Monastery. 
St. Photini is remembered as the Samaritan woman at the well who drew water for Jesus. She accepted the "living water" from Christ. Photini means "The Enlightened One".
This church is also the home of Jacob's Well underneath the main sanctuary. One can still draw and drink fresh water from it, though it does involved a bit of heavy lifting.Think of the people who go to wells daily and wait in lines to draw water they must walk back to their homes. It is not easy.
Our group got to hear how long it takes (4-5 seconds) for water to fall down the well and learned that it is 133 feet deep. Scripture was read and then we drew water from the well and enjoyed a cool and refreshing drink of it.
Fr. Justinian, the priest, is an elderly man who has been responsible for restoring and maintaining the church. He is an expert iconographer and the church is filled with his beautiful work alongside Byzantine era mosaics and more. He is a very sweet man.
Fr. Justinian walks by his own tomb every day - he says it keeps him humble - and will be at rest one day underneath his artwork and the church he so dearly loves.
It was time for dessert.....wait  BEFORE lunch?! 
Of course! We stopped at a kanafeh shop and got to see it being made. Large machines separate shredded wheat into long strings which are then rolled together with a slightly sweet mixture of goat and cow cheeses and then baked, soaked in honey water, and topped with pistachio ganache. One can rarely say no to kanafeh. 

Next we continued through the West Bank to Taybeh, the last all-Christian Community in the West Bank and home of the Taybeh Brewing Company
Not only do they make great beers, wines, olive oils, and soaps, but they are the first Palestinian brewery and export to many places around the world. They have 15 people on staff and must endure unpredictable electrical, water, and other shortages - all out of their control. They also have tough times exporting their beer but we saw firsthand their resilience and positive, hopeful outlook. They use malt from France, yeasts from England, and hops from the Czech Republic. They use local fresh spring water and they put back energy and hope into the local community. "If we were to get up and leave, there would be no hope for the future." said our host. 
Everyone enjoyed tasting the beer and learning about the process of making it and the community of Taybeh. Taybeh basically means "delicious".
Speaking of delicious.... now our lunch was served and WOW - today's delicacy was Musakhan. 
It is a small chicken roasted slowly with caramelized onions, sumac, olive oil, a few spices, and is laid on top of a lightly toasted pita. Here is a recipe! You're welcome in advance! :-)
Our last stop today was the St. George's Orthodox Christian Church at Ephraim. It was in ruins, but is still used by the local Orthodox Christian community. The community is one of two existing Christian churches that still really do make sacrifices as offerings of thanks to God. We saw evidence of this. When they want to give thanks to God, they sacrifice a lamb and take 1/4 for themselves and give 3/4 away to the poor in the local community. 
We are now back at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem and will meet for dinner at 7:00 PM. After such a busy and physically active few days, it is nice to have a few hours of rest before gathering again!
HERE is today's video collage!