Saturday, May 31, 2008

Here at Uno Acres, when there is grilling to be done, it's a job for the man of the house.

On Memorial Day, we grilled steaks and ate outside on our deck. It was a beautiful day, and it was nice to share one of our first meals on the deck with Jesse since he worked so hard to help us build the deck.

In honor of the master chef here at Uno Acres, I am sharing our special marinade for steaks.

Uno Acres Steak Marinade
Teriyaki sauce
Brown Sugar (sometimes I substitute fresh honey)
Cilantro (sometimes I use this and sometimes I don't, so add it if you like)

Directions:Mix together and marinate meat for at least one hour.

Yes, it's really just that easy to turn your steaks into something memorable without all the artificial ingredients that bottled marinade contains.

Oh, and it tastes even better when someone else does the cooking.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bye Bye Birdies

Yes, I'm almost sad to report that our little hobgoblin robins have flown the coop.

I got up early on Wednesday morning and went outside for a quick check on them. I was lucky enough to find just one little hobgoblin left in the nest, and he was perched on the edge ready to leave. As soon as he saw me, he hunkered back down.

Seconds after I snapped that photo, he popped up, jumped down, and hopped away.

He's been back to visit us a few times though, and we have seen all three baby robins at one time so we know they all made it out of the nest and are flying, even if it is a little unsteady.

Bye Bye Birdies. See you next year.

Except please don't build your nest right on our deck and outside the back door. It was sort of inconvenient.

Who Says Old Dogs Can't Learn New Tricks?

Oh yeah, we know how to work the Internets.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Holy Hole

(Warning: This post does contain a photo involving a surgical incision. It is fairly mild on the scale of surgical photos, but just issuing a warning if you are the squeamish type and don't want to see it. I will post it last in the post and space down a little so that it doesn't catch anyone unexpectedly.)

Note: The opinions expressed below are solely those of the author. Her husband has no comment because he is a way nicer person than she is. Don't take it up with him if you feel guilty or want to defend yourself. Take it up with me. I dare you. This is MY opinion, stated on MY blog. You can agree, disagree, or make all the excuses you want, but it doesn't change the hurt that I feel over the situation.

I've waited to post the results of Vern's surgery for a couple of days, hoping that the family would call to see how he came through, but since they haven't called after this surgery or any of his other surgeries, I will share it with the family and friends who have expressed an interest in knowing. I'm sure something has come up with the rest of the family that they couldn't call to check on him - someone probably had a hangnail or something urgent like that and they just haven't been able to check in with him since this all began.

Oh, did that sound bitchy? Sorry. Good. It's not like we're asking them to come and finish our house or loan us money, but a little bit of moral support would be nice from the people you are supposed to be closest to.

There, now that I have that off my chest, on to the important stuff.

We finally had good news with this surgery. Finally. The one goal, the ONLY goal, of this surgery was to finally get the safety wire into his kidney, around the stone, and down into the ureter so that when they start to break the stone into large pieces they won't go into his ureter and damage it. The doctor just didn't feel like he could safely perform the surgery without it. For those that are keeping track, this was the fifth surgery and third attempt at getting this wire inserted. They just weren't able to do it the conventional way and had to finally resort to a series of larger tubes so that the doctor could work with a scope rather than with an x-ray.

Here's an x-ray that was taken during the surgery.

The larger tube is the nephrostomy tube that drains into an external bag from his left kidney. He's had that pretty much since this all started in March.

The smaller tube/wire is the safety wire that they have had so much trouble getting inserted because of the massive size of his stone. The stone is basically a cast of the inside of his kidney and fills all of the lobes and crevices too.

The circle shows you not only the main stone but also all of the smaller, more hidden stones. The doctor hopes to get about 60% of the large stone out with the next surgery (June 6) and then get the remainder out in one or two more surgeries a few weeks later. They have to proceed slowly with this so that they don't tear the kidney.

In the meantime, he's still off work (since mid-March) and will continue to be for a couple more months at least. He's not able to do anything, especially now since they have finally gotten the safety wire in place. He also isn't physically able to do anything that involves much more than breathing in and breathing out because of the wires, tubes, and bags. He's going to apply for disability coverage from work because his leave is almost over but he is not able to return to work for a while longer.

This has been much more of an ordeal than we ever imagined. It's getting harder and harder to cope physically and emotionally with all of the "side effects" - the pain, the repeated surgeries, and the lack of income. We do appreciate those family members (you know who you are) and friends (you also know who you are) that have given us such moral support during all of this. It will be over at some point, and we will remember the kindnesses and support offered during this time.

And finally, the photo that some of you scrolled right to the bottom to see (you sickos!), I had to change Vern's dressings on his surgery site so I snapped a photo so that he could see what was going on. The larger blue tube drains his kidney into an external bag. The smaller, light blue tube is the safety wire that runs through his kidney and down into the ureter. The black stitches are an attempt to hold it all into place so that we don't have to start all over again. The remaining tape is just securing it all to his leg so that it doesn't dangle - because nobody likes a dangle.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

MISSING. Reward Offered.

We're off to the hospital again today for what is the 6th? 7th? 100th? attempt at this stone.

I've known Vern for almost 30 years, and I never thought I would hear him say what he said last night.

"I think I'm losing my happy."

Anyone who knows him knows one thing about him - he's terminally happy. He's so positive and happy that sometimes you want to punch him. But as far as I know, he has never even come close to losing his "happy."

Until now.

I'm sure it's not permanently lost. In fact, I'm pretty sure I know where it is hiding. It's right behind some huge, nasty kidney stone.

So we're off to the hospital again to have yet more tubes and more scopes and more surgery so that he can finally get his happy back.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Let's Play "One of These Things Is Not Like The Other"

Can you spot the intruder?

Someone apparently decided that this was the line for free meals.

And he wasn't happy about being evicted.

Not. Happy. At. All.

Friday, May 23, 2008

It's Probably Not a Good Sign

when your doctor tells you that you have a black cloud hanging over you, is it?

Unfortunately, that's exactly what Vern's doctor told him about this whole kidney boulder situation. The stone is not only so large that his kidney has expanded around it, but it is also seriously impacted in his kidney. They just cannot seem to get a large enough access into the kidney without risk of other serious complications.

He's had a couple more procedures and is getting a series of larger nephrostomy tubes put into his kidney so that the doctor can eventually get a scope into his kidney and use that to manipulate his tools to remove the stone in large pieces. He's so full of drains, tubes, and holes that he looks like a salt shaker.

He's scheduled for more surgery next week and then again following week and will be an inpatient at least part of that time. At this point, I'm not sure whether to run a "Help Wanted" sign for the doctor or a "Most Wanted" sign for the stone.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hobgoblin Goblers

They are growing so much every day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Fond Farewell to Flat Stanley

Our time has come to send Flat Stanley back to his class so that he can be there for the end of the year.

Here are a few more photos from Flat Stanley's stay with us.

We enjoyed having him and even learned a few things ourselves about the area we live in. It's funny how you can live in an area and yet not enjoy the unique things about that area.

Birds of a Feather

Look how the little hobgoblins have grown! Their eyes are open now and they are getting their wing feathers.

Meanwhile, we had some more feathered friends visit us.

And then away they went.

. . . and back down into the creek.

And what, you ask, were my Labrador Retrievers doing while all of these birds were invading our yard?

Good thing we don't hunt with them. One is too lazy to care and the other one would rather play with sticks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood

Our good friend Jesse, who helped build our deck last fall, has arrived with all of his worldly possessions. He's moving to Indiana, but he is stopping at our place for a while before he makes the move.

Vern is excited to have a friend to play with while he's off, the dogs are excited to have someone who never tires of throwing the ball, and I'm excited that I may not have to mow the grass while Vern is trying to get through his surgeries.

It's always good to see an old friend, but it's even better to know they will be there to help out when you really need them.

I'm filing this one under "Family" because sometimes "friend" just doesn't cover it all.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Curb Appeal

We spent most of the weekend working on projects outside since the weather was sunny and warm (but not too warm). I may have mentioned . . . I'm not a big fan of outside. Or dirt. And unfortunately, most of the outside projects pretty much require you to actually BE outside to work on them. And a large number of them involve dirt.

Nevertheless, I pitched in. After all, I can't let my ailing husband do all the hard labor.

In addition to the Topsy Turvy Upside Down plants we planted, we also did a little bit of improvement to the front of the house.

We added some geraniums and new mulch to the front of our porch. We had geraniums here last year and they added such nice color to the front of the house.

We also removed all of the rock around one of the trees in the front yard and planted some hostas.

The former owner of this house had a thing for rock. Lots and lots of rock. Everywhere. Removing it is going to be a job. For someone else. I'm pretty sure we'll hire some strong college guy to schlep this rock away from the entire perimeter of the house and around most of the trees.

Lincoln also pitched in and added some moral support.

If only we could actually get him to dig where we want to plant hostas instead of where he wants to plant bones.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's a Topsy Turvy World

I want a garden.

But there are two problems.

1. I hate dirt.

2. I hate being outdoors.

Not necessarily a good combination if you want to be a master gardener.

Intrigued with the As Seen On TV commercials for the
Topsy Turvy, we decided to try our hand at upside down gardening. It eliminates a lot of the "digging in the dirt" aspect of gardening and minimizes the "being outside" aspect since we can virtually put them right on our deck. I barely have to get my hands dirty or leave the house. Awesome.

We did a little research and decided to make our own version of the Topsy Turvy.

You will need:

Plants - We purchased fairly large tomato and pepper plants since I am the kiss of death to anything green it seemed like they had a good start on life. (If I were to do it again, I might get slightly smaller plants since the larger plants were harder to feed through the hole in the container.)

Hanging Containers - We purchased containers that were ready to hang, but you can use anything from a 5 gallon bucket to a fancy pants planter from your garden store.

Coffee Filter or Newspaper - To keep the dirt from falling through the hole in the container.

Step 1 - Drill a hole in the bottom of the container for the plant to grow through. (We drilled a hole 2 1/8" in diameter)

Step 2 - Insert plant upside down through hole (this is where a smaller, more flexible plant would be easier)

Step 3 - Put coffee filters/newspaper around the base of the plant and over the hole so that the dirt doesn't fall through

Step 4 - Break up the roots of the plant a little so that they can grow into the shape of the container

Step 5 - Fill with potting soil. I planted herbs in the top of my containers but you could also plant flowers for a colorful touch.

Step 6 - Hope that the birds, dogs, and bugs don't get to them before you do.

I hardly even had to get myself dirty.

It's a Dog Day Afternoon

The park district in one of our neighboring towns sponsors a special dog event every year in May. We've managed to miss it for one reason or another since we moved to this area, but this year, we took a break from the house, the medical stuff, and life in general and made it a priority.

These pictures don't really convey how many people - and dogs! - attended. I think it may be one of the most well attended events in our area.

There were big dogs, small dogs, fat dogs, skinny dogs, and even a dog that hated dogs (which, if you ask me, wasn't the best choice for that owner to make).

Lincoln and Jackson were well behaved and almost a little overwhelmed with all of the things to see, treats to eat, and display booths to sniff.

And then to top the day off, we all went to Dairy Queen on the way home.

If this is a dog's life, I want it.

Posted by Picasa

Robin's Hood - Growing Like Weeds

The hobgoblin robins are growing like crazy and screaming for food all the time. (You can only clearly identify two of the little hobgoblins in this photo, but all three are healthy, growing, and hungry as heck.)

Robin the robin is spending less and less time sitting on the nest and more and more time finding food for these little monsters.

They are already getting their wing feathers, and it will be only a matter of a week or so before they start to leave the nest.

I'm sure that Robin the robin is looking forward to that as much as I'm looking forward to getting our deck back.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 16, 2008

Robin's Hood - Lunch at Red Robin

I'm happy to report that we have three healthy baby robins.

And they are hungry. All the time.

Robin the robin leaves the nest to feed the little hobgoblin robins every 10-15 minutes. The minute she comes back to the nest, they pop right up with their little beaks ready and waiting.

Robert the robin has also been visiting the nest and helping Robin out.
He's a little bit of a nest hog.

But at least he brings food when he comes.

And it's nice to see that he takes a hand (or beak) in helping care for the little hobgoblin robins.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Robin's Hood

I had a thought all ready to post this morning complaining about how Robin the robin has taken over our deck and we can't sit outside and enjoy the nice weather and we can't cook on the grill.

But then this happened.

How can I be mad at a new mother?

Flat Stanley Goes to the Hospital

Monday was a big day for Flat Stanley. He got to go to the hospital with Vern. He even had some x-rays taken and got a cool stethoscope that he's going to bring back to share with the class as a souvenir.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Welcome Back Old Friend

Oh, how I have missed you.

Speaking of welcoming back old friends, our good friend Jesse (who helped us build our deck last fall) is moving from Louisiana to Indiana this week. He'll only be a couple of hours away from us, so we hope to see more of him. Well, not exactly "more" as in "I'd love to see more of him *wink* *wink*" but rather as in "We hope to see him more OFTEN."

Because the other way is just wrong.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'd Love to Share Our Good News With You!

Unfortunately, we don't have any.

Vern's surgery today was, yet again, unsuccessful.

The doctor and the radiologist worked for hours to gain access into the kidney but were simply unable to because of the size of the stone. The stone is impacted so tightly in his kidney that there is absolutely no room for the insertion of the necessary tubes and tools to remove it.

So he is home again and waiting for the next effort. The current plan is two-fold. Vern is going to return to the hospital over the next two weeks for insertion of a series of tubes, each one larger than the last, until the entry into his kidney is large enough for the doctor to reach in with his fist and haul out the stone (okay, not really quite that large, but you get the idea.)

The other step is that the doctor is going to consult with the various university hospitals in Chicago to see if they have input into the situation and it is possible that we may have to transfer his care to one of those facilities.

Meanwhile, he has returned home with a series of tubes, bags, and drugs.

This sucks rocks. Literally.

(We would like to thank our friends and Vern's coworkers who have called to check on him and offer help. Your calls and support have meant a lot.)

Friday, May 9, 2008


I don't know whether I'm an overachiever or just hopelessly out of touch with reality. But when it comes to projects, it's a classic case of "my eyes are bigger than my stomach." Or rather "my big ideas are greater than my time and talent."

Regardless, I've got a few things on my needles - both the knitting needles and the sewing machine needles.

First I should probably introduce you to JoAnn. She'll be my stand in for those bloated and bad hair days. You'll probably see a lot of her.

My first project is one that is from Interweave Knits magazine and is called the Bonsai Tunic.

This is what it should look like when it's done.

I have most of the back completed so far, and I'm hoping to finish this by the end of May.

(JoAnn looks like she needs to lose some weight - her butt looks a little big in this sweater.)

I love this little vest because it can be worn with a short or long sleeve shirt underneath it so it should span pretty well across the seasons. It is also my first attempt at charted knitting, so now I'm one step closer to being a "real Knitter." With a capital K. (I did take quite a bit of teasing from Vern for making it in almost the exact same color as the model in the magazine. What can I say? It looks good in that color. . . ).

A couple of knitting projects that I'm dying to start are the Waterlily Top (also from Interweave)

and the Soleil tank top from

On the sewing side of things, I'm doing a Trash the Stash project and plan to use, sell, or otherwise eliminate all of my fabric stash. I have my fabrics divided into summer and winter fabrics, so I'm working on the summer fabrics right now. I figure if I use it all up, I can buy more of the new fabrics out there and actually have room for it! My goal is to use it with patterns that I already have or that I find online so that I don't have to buy more "stuff" in order to get rid of the old stuff.

The sewing projects are mostly quick projects, so I'm actually hoping to have all of them completed by the end of this month also.

The first project is to make an apron out of this vintage tablecloth. I'm planning to use a pattern from In Stitches by Amy Butler. I love wearing aprons - they make me feel all Holly Homemaker.

I'm also going to participate in a sew-along from Sew Mama Sew and make a vintage style smock.

This is a 3-week long sew along, so I'm going to try to do a little each week as it is presented. It's a pretty easy pattern, so I shouldn't have any problem keeping up with this one. I've got a couple of cute fabrics in my stash that I have in mind for this.

(Gee, with all the apron/smock talk, you would think that I cook and clean a lot. Not true. I just like to look like I do.)

Finally, I ran across a super easy tunic in the most recent issue of Threads. It's simply made from rectangles. I'm going to make it in a basic black stretch fabric so that I can wear it with all my t-shirts this summer. This one should whip up in no time.

Whew. I'm tired already and I haven't even cleaned up my sewing room so that I can get started.
If you don't hear from me for a few days, send help. Or Martha Stewart.