The Disgrace of Infertility- by Nate Pyle

The Disgrace of Infertility- by Nate Pyle

Click the link above to read his article first.

Nate Pyle is a man and a pastor, two qualifiers that surprised me in reading his thoughts/experience on infertility. It’s not often you hear about the male perspective on the subject. This article was refreshing to me on several levels. One, it reminds me that men suffer too from infertility, directly and indirectly. Two, he gives me pause on my relationship with God vs. The Church for support which don’t always jive in my mind’s eye. Thirdly, he recognizes that infertility struggles come with two counterparts: hope and other feelings. Other feelings including discouragement, frustration, resentment/jealousy and despair but after each of those hope comes again.

My husband is the most supportive man and will do ANYTHING I need through this process of IVF and adoption. Helping me helps him and my suffering causes him pain. He is an eternal optimist and a devout Catholic, he prays for me constantly and, I’m sure, for the baby he is certain will arrive. On Sundays he readies himself for church and he offers for me to join, though by now he is used to my shrugging reply. Going to church is a comfort for him, it gives him strength and hope. Sometimes I feel like because it does not give me the same feelings he thinks I’m ungodly and a bad Christian. What Nate wrote about the church being ” a good place to find support, but it isn’t always a tower of refuge” rings true for me. We have all of our friends and family sending us constant prayers, even prayers coming from people who I’ve never seen set foot in a church but count just the same to me. Their prayers do not fall on deaf ears. I am so thankful for their well wishes, concern and upwardly requests to higher powers. Attending a church service and communing with the general “Christian” populous does not give me the same warm fuzzies and sense of understanding or commonality. In many ways it can feel quite alienating.

“The American church is one place in our culture where marriage and kids is an expectation. Singles are constantly met with questions about when they will get married, and unnecessarily pitied or prayed for when a potential spouse isn’t in the picture. Young marrieds are bombarded about when they will start having kids, as if their marriage doesn’t really matter until a child validates it.”

I don’t need to go to church to be guilt tripped or to be pitied. My failing is that I know going to church is to give God thanks and should only be about God and not the rest of the judgmental and flawed congregation who attend it. People will always ask assuming and ignorant questions inside and outside of church but somehow when they come from straight-faced Christians it fills me with anger. Again, my issue, not theirs but these are occasions I just assume avoid. Some may find this terribly ironic given that I so openly talk about these issues on my blog. Somehow it is different though. I can type and you can listen. You can respond of course and that is ever-so-exciting on this blog. I can respond or I can delete. It’s kind of awesome. I feel no guilt deleting the thousands of robot comments, well actually WordPress does that for me…super awesome. This is my kind of place whereas in church someone will take you from left field and throw a curve ball at your chest and while you are trying to catch your breath, you just nod along and continue with the game. You never want to be a bad sport in church.

Going back to Nate’s article I find it reassuring somehow that even a pastor feels some contempt for the church body’s attitude. I think I would even enjoy attending his services. In the end I suppose it’s important to find the places you are comfortable sharing your story, your truth, your human condition. There are so many (too many) places where people can’t share who they are, explain without recourse why they hurt and how they feel. I am so lucky to be surrounded by those who can simply let me say what needs to come out. They can accept it is what is and don’t even necessarily have to put a band-aid on it. When God speaks to me he is telling me that he is sorry I am hurting but there is need to feel things intensely. There is need for struggles and there is need for great loss. There is need to feel these things in order to hope, in order to feel joy more immensely and love more completely. I’m listening too when I’m not lost in the weeds or playing defense in the game.

 

Foodie Feasts Recipe Club: Guilt-Free January

I posted a very long while back about the first meeting of the Foodie Feast group I started and how much fun it was. Since then the group has gotten larger and we’ve had 6 awesome meetings with great people and amazing food. Each event there has been more and more food, almost so much that you can’t even try everything. Some of our themes have been: Best Food Memories, Food on a stick, Brunch, White Hot, Summer Favorites and Fall Fresh. I’m really sad I didn’t have time the last few months to blog about them but they have been documented and well photographed so later on I will have to share some of what I’ve made with y’all for those themes. (and other members creations too if they give me permission).

We all decided it would be best to take a break from the club through the holidays since everyone has a million parties and obligations with family. I’m so excited for tonight and our first Foodie meeting of 2014! This guilt-free theme is a welcome one after the garbage I’ve been eating the last few months.

I’m always a bit excessive and obsessive when it comes to parties, planning, creating and eating. I made a list of considerations to make. I thought of raw dishes, eating clean dishes, low-sodium and healthier versions of comfort food. What was decided on was completely random. I am marinating some english cucumbers as a fresh side dish and am doing a slight variation on Rawmazing’s recipes that you can find here.

I made a couple of changes to her recipe. I like to cut my cucumbers in cute u-shapes and used 3 large English cucumbers. See picture below. I omitted the onion because I’m a cucumber purist. I used 1/4 cup light agave nectar instead of coconut sugar. I also added dill because cucumbers and dill are happy together.

It has a wonderful crunch, a little sweet, nice tang from the vinegar and a slight kick with the chili flakes.

20140111-164415.jpg

Chris thought stuffed cabbage sounded good so we are also doing a turkey and brown rice stuffed cabbage.

20140111-164505.jpg

20140111-164528.jpg

20140111-164543.jpg

20140111-164559.jpg

20140111-164617.jpg

20140111-164633.jpg

20140111-164650.jpg

20140111-164709.jpg

For dessert I am making a tofu chocolate mousse adapted from the Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno. I know it sounds gross but I promise you would never a million years know there was any tofu in it! It’s chocolately deliciousness with a good punch of protein and my version is dairy free. I like dark chocolate but you could use semi sweet chips too.
Tofu Chocolate Mousse
Ingredients:
1 Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate bar, broken into squares
1/2 bar Ghiradelli 100% cocoa chocolate bar, broken into squares
16 oz organic silken tofu, at room temperature, drained
3/4 cup warm vanilla coconut milk (soy, rice and almond milk can be used)
1 tsp best-quality vanilla extract (I use homemade, so easy and cheap!)

Directions:
1. Melt chocolate in double boiler.
2. Heat milk to warm, do not boil.
3. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
4. Pour the mousse into individual sized containers and refrigerate to thicken, at least 1 hour.
5. Optional: Serve with fresh raspberries garnished on top!

Served On A Silver Platter

Happy 2014! Merry new resolutions and half-ass attempts at healthiness to you all. I for one have not really made any resolutions because they are made to be broken. I just can’t do that to myself this year, it’s exhausting. On the the other hand I have plenty of crafting projects, home upgrades, family events, a back log of recipe testing and last but not least the deepest most pertinent desire to have a little one running around this house! While I have many diversions and tasks to keep my mind from drifting off into the sea of sadness and “why has no one picked us??” thoughts; I am fueled to wholly focus on what needs to be done to become a mom.

Leading up to the fantastic moment I get to become a member of the mommy club and spend my life catering to another beings every need and wish…I decided it’s going to be all about me for awhile. Yes that’s right I’m just gonna do things for me, cook things for me, read things for me, buy things for me and serve everything to myself on a silver platter…literally.

After this last year of waiting to adopt and the pain and the losses and the depressing-ass-shit that all went down we decided (my husband and I) that we have nothing to lose in trying to conceive through IVF. This is a bit of a 180 from exactly one year ago when I was so certain, so very sure that adoption was THE WAY to start our family. I have always felt like we are meant to adopt, that not getting pregnant naturally was a sign. I still feel that it WILL happen but it just won’t happen in the way I romanticized it in my head. I’ve had my reality check. So we are doing this thing backwards, a reverse order of steps that most people take I suppose. We are not putting our adoption plan on hold but we are concurrently doing IVF and waiting to adopt at the same time.

This is how my first cycle of IVF meds came delivered with a cooler pack for the HCG and Gonal-F Injections
This is how my first cycle of IVF meds came delivered with a cooler pack for the HCG and Gonal-F Injections

It’s all happened pretty quickly once we decided IVF was a go. We got our financials lined up to do a multi-cycle plan. Basically we will have the option of up to 2 fresh and frozen embryo transfers that we paid for up front to get what I would sum up as bulk discount. We decided it was wise to plan on multi-cycles since my doctor will only be implanting one embryo at at time due to a condition I have called unicornuate uterus. With this condition I have half the size of a normal one. Carrying one child is already high risk, having twins is not an option and therefore implanting only one embryo. This is combined with my husband’s 1% normal morphology issue and my PCOS…all contributing to the ineffectiveness of natural conception.

IVF meds 002

The week leading up to my trial embryo transfer, sonogram and consent form signing I was completely freaking out. I had started birth control which they use to take control of the hormones. My first day of the pill was the day I flew home from California after Christmas, the 27th. The nurse has instructed me to continue taking it until the 6th of January which is today, woohoo. Of course for me, birth control drops my estrogen levels and is a sure-fire way to a migraine. I endured a 3 day hell in which I had a hormonal migraine and had gotten a flu/cold from my family while visiting. Nothing like your head pounding to make you second guess everything you had set out to do. That was a fun pity party and no I was not excited about starting IVF. I was just plain terrified.

IVF meds 003

Then I joined a group of women through my fertility med website. http://www.freedomfertility.com There are forums and monthly “cycle buddies” so I can talk with other women going through the same thing as me at the same time. Several of these women have already done multiple cycles and some it’s their first like me. I can not say how thankful I am to have these women, total strangers, to bring me out of my cloud of negativity. They shower each other with wishes for “lots of baby dust”, they are hopeful like me, nervous like me and having lots of emotions like me. It’s so easy to think things are only happening to you when going through such a difficult time. It’s so easy to believe absolutely no one understands what you are going through and you are alone in this crazy, isolating journey while the whole world is happy and couples make babies just looking at each other. It’s so much easier to just not try, I’ve thought, because trying and failing over and over again will break me into a unglueable amount of pieces. These women are doing it though, THEY are trying and they are EXCITED! I’m trying to be excited with them and to let myself believe that this WILL work. We hope for the best and plan for the worst, it’s excitement tempered by self-doubt.

IVF meds 004

And so here are all these drugs and needles before me, staring me down. I will serve them up to myself on a silver platter because during this time I want nothing but the best. I want everything around me to be aesthetically pleasing, to be a stress-free zone, a zen sanctuary. I will take them and be thankful that we have a chance to try and try our best. Bring on the 4 times a day stabbings in my stomach, the steroids, the catheters, IV’s and probes. I’ve made up my mind and I’m doing it, despite my intermittent terror. No one dare tell me they know it will all be fine and all work out because the truth is it might not be fine and it might not work out and for a lot of people it doesn’t. It’s life and it’s reality. People just can never think of anything else to say. The point is for me that I’ll give it all I’ve got and there is nothing else that can be done.

Waiting in our Hearts: Our open adoption search begins!

Waiting in Our Heart- Love Shutter2

Dear Friends,

As many of you know Chris and I are growing our family through open adoption. We have finally completed our state approved home study and can now actively search for a birth mom in any US State.

Check out our online profile at http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/chrisandkendra.

Here’s a quick run down of what is going to happen next:
We are working with a nationwide nonprofit adoption agency specializing in open adoption, Independent Adoption Center. To learn more about the IAC, visit their website at http://www.adoptionhelp.org. Their toll free number 1.800.877.6736 is available to call 24 hours a day for expectant women in search of options and they can speak with an intake counselor who can answer their questions and provide free counseling. We also have an adoptive parent counselor who acts to facilitate our communication and meetings with a birth mom once a match is made. A birth mom may be in any term of her pregnancy when she makes her plan for adoption and when she matches with us. She may pick us for any number of reasons but it is by her choice, not the agency or anyone else who makes the match. It is then akin to dating and after getting to know each other we must both choose each other to finalize the adoption once the baby is born. There will be a period of time, varying by state, after the child is born and the paperwork is signed to wait. This is called the reclaim period. In North Carolina it is 7 days and in Florida it is 30 days for example. During this time the birth mom could reclaim the baby and void our match. If the baby is out of state we must wait in that state until this period has passed. Once that time is over we would be the legal parents of the child permanently.

The beautiful thing about open adoption is that we would make a plan with the birth mother, based on both of our wishes to continue a relationship with the birth mom. She may not wish to remain in contact but she has the options to receive letters, emails, phone calls and in person visits. All of which we are open to for the benefit of the child. There are no secrets in open adoption and our child will know they are loved by everyone and that every decision made was one made out of love. This is why we chose open adoption because it is the highest good for the birth mother, for us and most importantly our child.

We need your help to find women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy to let them know about open adoption and to know about us.
You may not think you can be of any help, but a surprising number of adoptions take place through networking: about 50%!!! You may not think you know of anyone experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, but it could be that a friend of a friend, someone through work or distant relative you may come in contact with someone who is considering adoption. Many women do not announce what they are going through but they need to know about their options. They need to have the information that there are people who will love their child like their own and provide what they are not able to in the present time.

our nursery- Love Shutter3

Help us spread the word. If you are inclined, here are 4 easy ways:

(1) Send Emails To Your Contact List
Tell everyone you know, in case they hear of someone considering adoption, that you know an awesome couple ready to adopt a baby. Email specifically people who may work with young women considering adoption for an unplanned pregnancy. Email generally everyone you know and ask them to do the same. At the bottom of this email I have provided some paragraphs you can copy and paste into an email to send to your contacts.

(2) “Like” our Facebook page and share the link on your facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ChrisandKendraAdopt . Share this note. Encourage others to Share.

(3) Distribute our printed brochure and/or business cards
I have attached our PDF of our Dear Birth Mother Letter. You can print this and distribute (we had it professionally printed on glossy folding brochure paper) or Email me and I will get copies to you. Take them to places where young women might receive health care or health care education, to people who may work with young women considering adoption for an unplanned pregnancy. For instance,
– Your doctor, or doctors’ offices near you
– Hospitals and community health centers
– Your church, bible study, or friends churches. Churches have large outreach and support groups.
– College campuses, especially college health centers
– Pregnancy crisis centers and Planned Parenthood. Sometimes they will keep Birth Mother letters on hand.

(4) Pray and actively talk to others about open adoption
We believe in the power of prayer and the law of attraction. This process could take a few months or a few years. There is plenty of time to help spread the word and to support our intent with prayer or blessing. The more positivity we can surround ourselves with the better!

We are excited about open adoption because we can become parents together, and we can know the birthmom (dad, other family members) and form relationships that serve her, us, and most importantly our child.

We are endlessly grateful to you all. Whether or not you choose to act on this invitation we very much appreciate your support throughout this journey.

Thank you and warm wishes!

Chris and Kendra

=== PARAGRAPHS TO PASTE INTO AN EMAIL TO YOUR CONTACTS ===

Dear Family and Friends,
My friends Chris and Kendra are seeking to adopt a baby and have asked me for help networking. If you are inclined, take a moment to read their message below and then help spread it by passing it on to your network. Your help may bring them one step closer to the contact they need to realize their dream of starting a family.

** Message from Chris & Kendra **
We are creating our family through open adoption. This means a pregnant woman making an adoption plan will choose us to be the parents to her child and maintain a relationship after birth if she chooses. Check out our online profile at http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/chrisandkendra. We need you to get the word out to everyone you know because we want women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy to know about open adoption and to know about us.
You may be wondering why we asked our family and friends to forward this message to you. After all, you probably don’t think you know of anyone making an adoption plan. However, you would be surprised to learn how many adoptions come about from networking with family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. You might know a friend who knows a friend who knows someone who is looking to make an adoption plan. This is why we have asked all of our family and friends for help.
We would be so grateful if you could pass on our information. To learn more about our family, see our adoption profile http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/chrisandkendra.
You can email us at LarsenAdoption@gmail.com or call toll-free 1-800-951-2996. We are happy to answer questions and provide more information.

With much gratitude,

Kendra and Chris Larsen
Kendra and Chris- Love Shutter1

Dear Mom of a…

Dear Mom of an Adopted Child,
I met you in adoption education class. I met you at the agency. I met you at my son’s school. I met you online. I met you on purpose. I met you by accident.
It doesn’t matter. The thing is, I knew you right away. I recognize the fierce determination. The grit. The fight. Because everything about what you have was a decision, and nothing about what you have was easy. You are the kind of woman who Makes.Things.Happen. After all, you made this happen, this family you have.
Maybe you prayed for it. Maybe you had to convince a partner it was the right thing. Maybe you did it alone. Maybe people told you to just be happy with what you had before. Maybe someone told you it simply wasn’t in God’s plans for you to have a child, this child whose hair you now brush lightly from his face. Maybe someone warned you about what happened to their cousin’s neighbor’s friend. Maybe you ignored them.
Maybe you planned for it for years. Maybe an opportunity dropped into your lap. Maybe you depleted your life-savings for it. Maybe it was not your first choice. But maybe it was.
Regardless, I know you. And I see how you hold on so tight. Sometimes too tight. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it?
I know about all those books you read back then. The ones everyone reads about sleep patterns and cloth versus disposable, yes, but the extra ones, too. About dealing with attachment disorders, breast milk banks, babies born addicted to alcohol, cocaine, meth. About cognitive delays, language deficiencies. About counseling support services, tax and insurance issues, open adoption pros and cons, legal rights.
I know about the fingerprinting, the background checks, the credit reports, the interviews, the references. I know about the classes, so many classes. I know the frustration of the never-ending paperwork. The hours of going over finances, of having garage sales and bake sales and whatever-it-takes sales to raise money to afford it all.
I know how you never lost sight of what you wanted.
I know about the match call, the soaring of everything inside you to cloud-height, even higher. And then the tucking of that away because, well, these things fall through, you know.
Maybe you told your mother, a few close friends. Maybe you shouted it to the world. Maybe you allowed yourself to decorate a baby’s room, buy a car seat. Maybe you bought a soft blanket, just that one blanket, and held it to your cheek every night.
I know about your home visits. I know about your knuckles, cracked and bleeding, from cleaning every square inch of your home the night before. I know about you burning the coffee cake and trying to fix your mascara before the social worker rang the doorbell.
And I know about the followup visits, when you hadn’t slept in three weeks because the baby had colic. I know how you wanted so badly to show that you had it all together, even though you were back to working more-than-full-time, maybe without maternity leave, without the family and casseroles and welcome-home balloons and plants.
And I’ve seen you in foreign countries, strange lands, staying in dirty hotels, taking weeks away from work, struggling to understand what’s being promised and what’s not. Struggling to offer your love to a little one who is unsettled and afraid. Waiting, wishing, greeting, loving, flying, nesting, coming home.
I’ve seen you down the street at the hospital when a baby was born, trying to figure out where you belong in the scene that’s emerging. I’ve seen your face as you hear a nurse whisper to the birthmother that she doesn’t have to go through with this. I’ve seen you trying so hard to give this birthmother all of your respect and patience and compassion in those moments—while you bite your lip and close your eyes, not knowing if she will change her mind, if this has all been a dream coming to an abrupt end in a sterile environment. Not knowing if this is your time. Not knowing so much.
I’ve seen you look down into a newborn infant’s eyes, wondering if he’s really yours, wondering if you can quiet your mind and good sense long enough to give yourself over completely.
And then, to have the child in your arms, at home, that first night. His little fingers curled around yours. His warm heart beating against yours.
I know that bliss. The perfect, guarded, hopeful bliss.
I also know about you on adoption day. The nerves that morning, the judge, the formality, the relief, the joy. The letting out of a breath maybe you didn’t even know you were holding for months. Months.
I’ve seen you meet your child’s birthparents and grandparents weeks or years down the road. I’ve seen you share your child with strangers who have his nose, his smile … people who love him because he’s one of them. I’ve seen you hold him in the evenings after those visits, when he’s shaken and confused and really just wants a stuffed animal and to rest his head on your shoulder.
I’ve seen you worry when your child brings home a family tree project from school. Or a request to bring in photos of him and his dad, so that the class can compare traits that are passed down, like blue eyes or square chins. I know you worry, because you can protect your child from a lot of things — but you can’t protect him from being different in a world so intent on celebrating sameness.
I’ve seen you at the doctor’s office, filling out medical histories, leaving blanks, question marks, hoping the little blanks don’t turn into big problems later on.
I’ve seen you answer all of the tough questions, the questions that have to do with why, and love, and how much, and where, and who, and how come, mama? How come?
I’ve seen you wonder how you’ll react the first time you hear the dreaded, “You’re not my real mom.” And I’ve seen you smile softly in the face of that question, remaining calm and loving, until you lock yourself in the bathroom and muffle your soft cries with the sound of the shower.
I’ve seen you cringe just a little when someone says your child is lucky to have you. Because you know with all your being it is the other way around.
But most of all, I want you to know that I’ve seen you look into your child’s eyes. And while you will never see a reflection of your own eyes there, you see something that’s just as powerful: A reflection of your complete and unstoppable love for this person who grew in the midst of your tears and laughter, and who, if torn from you, would be like losing yourself.
-Kathy Lynn Harris

A friend of mine who has gone through open adoption sent me those words to my facebook page. I thought it was so beautiful and captures so much. It captures many things we have already gone through and so much we have yet to experience. It gives me a picture to hold onto of what life will be like on the other side of the waiting.

I have not posted much relating to our adoption on this blog. You could say we are still early in this process of navigating ourselves through this mapless journey. We are six months into the waiting to wait…6 months of gathering reports, getting physicals, taking tests, having background checks, having home inspections, thinking about our expectations, writing about our life story, reading about other people’s experiences, doing photo sessions, more reading, more writing, some crying, some impatience and anxiety, a lot of questions…6 months into the active waiting to wait and we are moments away from the “official waiting” when we get approval from our agency and go into what is called circulation. We now have a facebook page for our adoption, a letter to potential birth moms about us a couple (basically a brochure of how awesome we are), a website we will be featured on and a 1-800 # for birthmoms to contact us. As soon as we are “live” I will be posting all this wonderful information to this blog.

We can use all the support we can get. I hope you stick with us as everything unfolds!

Hilton Head

A draft of this post has been waiting around for well over a month. It is time. Let us venture back to Mother’s Day weekend, so I can tell you all about my lovely weekend getaway with Banana Man and his mom. From Charlotte we drove 4.5 hours Southeast to Hilton Head on a Thursday morning. We spent most of the day Friday in Savannah and then the rest of the weekend back in Hilton Head and returned to Charlotte late Sunday. I feasted heavily and shamelessly all weekend long. It’s all in the name of research so you my friends will have all the needed info for Hilton Head dining, wink wink.

I’m feeling out of order so with that we shall work our way backwards in time from Mother’s Day. It was Sunday and we were afraid everything was going to be crazy packed in Hilton Head given it’s relatively small size and limited dining choices in the area. We had reservations at the recently remodeled Westin Hotel for their touted buffet. When we arrived they sat is in a very cold dining room when it was beautiful outside. We looked at the buffet and promptly left. The Westin was not Mother’s Day material. We headed out, disappointed and hungry. Our new destination was Skull Creek Boathouse where we had dined previously in the week for dinner.
20130515-221852.jpg

I had an amazing seafood quiche smothered in sinful hollandaise sauce. We shared a baskets of beignet-like donuts and tons of peel-and-eat shrimp. The weather was glorious on the patio by the bay. I was so lucky to have immediately pounced on a high top table as a couple was leaving. There was well over an hour wait on the hostess list inside.

20130515-221940.jpg

Chris had a bloody mary on multiple occasions this trip, it is after all a great excuse for early drinking in the day on vacation. The Skull Creek Boathouse is on my top 3 restaurants in Hilton Head. It’s location is awesome, the vibe is so relaxing, the servers are super friendly, and the food is overall pretty darn great…especially considering the volume of food they are pumping out.

20130515-222037.jpg

The most original/authentic low country restaurant we went to was hands down Roast Fish and Cornbread…yes that is the name of the restaurant. Chris said that our meal that night was the best of his life! I didn’t have quite the gusto he did but there is no arguing it was the best food we have had in Hilton Head.

20130515-222127.jpg

This place was eclectic and kind of “out there”. It’s the kind of place that they just close the doors if they feel like going fishing and very may run out of several things on the menu. It’s about as casual as place can possibly be. It’s like going to your aunt and uncle’s house for dinner, and it’s ready when it’s ready. The servers feel like family too. They’re all just kinda hangin out but workin at the same time.

20130515-222154.jpg

Chris had a seafood platter which included a plethera of choices which could be prepared various ways. He chose “Blackened style” for a trio of scallops, local trout and shrimp. You can also choose your sides which was a very difficult task. He got sweet potato corn bread, gumbo and black beans. We heard that their collard greens and macaroni and cheese are epically delicious but that night the collards were overly salted and the macaroni was out. 😦

20130515-222231.jpg

I apologize for the dark and blurry photos. It was not good lighting for documenting food and I never think fried things photograph that well. I rarely order fried things when dining out but when you are in Gullah country there ain’t no way you are getting out of place without eating something fried. The Gullah people have mastered the art of frying and it is not the same as the greasy spoon dives you’re familiar with.

20130515-222302.jpg

I had a fried catfish sandwich and a cup of the gumbo. I would like some of that gumbo shipped to my house by the bucket, please and thank you.

20130515-222324.jpg

One of the most interesting things you may or may not have ever had: Conch fritters. These were really tasty. Apparently conch is frequently eaten in the Caribbean but it’s all new to me. It was like a hush puppy with seafood in it. The aioli with it was the perfect combo.

20130515-222402.jpg

Another restaurant of note was the Black Marlin. We dined there twice: once for dinner and once for breakfast. Both times we sat outside on the patio. Both times we loved everything about it! I had some eggs benny, they were good but not the most memorable thing in the world.

20130515-222439.jpg

What made us come here was the bloody mary bar. This set up was genius. When you are seated you choose your vodka or tequila (bloody Maria) and they bring you a glass to go concoct your masterpiece. I love that they had pickled green beans. I am obsessed with dilly beans, and had Chris bring extras back for me. For me an awesome bloody mary is all about the garnish so this had the “Wow” factor.

20130515-222458.jpg

20130515-222555.jpg

20130515-222612.jpg

For dinner at the Black Marlin we ordered this appetizer they called Ahi Nachos. I’ve had versions of this before but this is the best I’ve had. Maybe it was the atmosphere and feeling of being on vacation that just makes food taste better. Basically it’s just wonton wrappers with avocado slices, sashimi grade ahi, a little wasabi drizzle, pickled ginger and siracha. I wanted to order more for my entree! I ended up getting a scallop entree with walnuts and side of sweet potato fries. I know that sounds weird but that’s what I wanted! Chris ordered an unmemorable entree but he got collard greens as a side. He had never had collards before and it was a revolution for him. It was southern food nirvana. He may not remember anything else about that meal but he will forever remember his first bit of collards.

20130515-222647.jpg

Back to Skull Creek Boathouse…this is a terrible photo but worth posting since you can sort of see what an enormous pot of food Chris ordered. It’s one of things Skull Creek is known for and it’s called a “Boil”. This Boil has clams, mussels, shrimp, crab legs, andoille sausage, corn…everything but the kitchen sink.

20130515-222745.jpg

Check out our amazing sunset view from the deck!

20130515-222815.jpg

Just so you don’t think our entire trip was spent eating, although those were the highlights for me…here’s a photo of the pool we hung out at the hotel. Our room had a huge balcony looking over it. The slide was pretty sweet and banana man loves his pool slides. The beach in Hilton Head is one of the best flat white silky sand beaches in the country. It’s great to ride your bikes on and the water was surprisingly warm. (It’s always a surprise to me since I come from Monterey where you have to wear a wetsuit to put your toes in year round)

20130515-222906.jpg

Our very first stop on our way into Hilton Head was for a late lunch at Low Country Backyard Cafe. I would not have had it any other way. This is truly a hidden gem…as pretty much everything is Hidden in Hilton Head. All the buildings are tucked behind trees and any signage must be neutral/earth tones that blend into the environment. This fact is both the beauty and an initial frustration with the environmentally friendly town. You must have a good GPS to get to know the place and rely heavily on tripadvisor, Urbanspoon, yelp, etc. Otherwise, you will be LOST LOST LOST.

Me being me I did my research and thus the decision for low country back yard. 2:30PM was the perfect time to be seated there since we missed the lunch time rush. We sat by a cute fountain in the “backyard” which was covered in gravel. Our server was so Southern I could barely understand her. She embodied southern hospitality.

20130515-222939.jpg

I have to talk about this pie. This is Root Beer Float Pie!!! I had to have it since it was their special and because I have never before had a root beer float pie. It delivered. I am going to do my best to recreate this pie at home and hopefully provide you with a recipe some day soon!

20130515-223023.jpg

Chris had a meatloaf sandwich on flatbread. This is not surprising since he is a meatloaf loving freak. He orders it almost every time he sees it on a menu. I loved how they did this with flatbread. I’m not a sandwich person but I’d totally order it.

20130515-223104.jpg

Even though Chris’s meatloaf was good I think I ordered the real winner of the day with my BLT salad with grilled shrimp. It had fried green tomatoes, candied bacon, goat cheese, corn and a killer home made dressing. This is the kind of food that inspires me to be creative in my own kitchen. It’s something homey and comforting but totally easy to replicate without being boring. These are my kind of eats!

All in all I’m completely Over The Spoon for Hilton Head and it’s food scene, even though it had the potential to be a complete tourist trap I was surprised to find great local and unique eats. So if you are planning a trip anytime soon Low Country Backyard, Roast Fish & Cornbread, Skull Creek and Black Marlin are all reliable places to really enjoy your vacation. My final advise: wear loose fitting clothing and do not go here on a diet!

Making Time Stand Still

Let’s talk family. My family is pretty awesome with a good sprinkling of crazy for added interest. I would encourage  you to celebrate the crazy in your life in all it’s glory. Take a deep breathe in and say “Thank you God for the people you have blessed with me with however different, silly, loud, eclectic, batty, nutty, off-color..without them life would be so dull. Without mine I wouldn’t have this amazing post. Thank you family for being so uniquely you!
Yes, I’ve been absent from this blog for another month but that’s because I’ve been busy living it up, going on trips and visiting family! After my last post from Cincy I almost immediately left for California for a couple weeks. My sister flew back home with me and brought little MacDizzle with her and they stayed for a fun-filled 8 days. The last week or so I’ve been finishing up adoption documents but that is all for another post.

Let’s just focus on my first few hours after I stepped off the plane from SFO in this post. I arrived around noon and my Sis picked me up so we decided to FINALLY go visit my Grandpa Lee  at his house in San Mateo. I probably hadn’t seen him in a couple of years and he had never even met little Macaroni girl! He always has an excuse for us not to come but we were determined and so we did. This post is all about the mausoleum which is his home. My dear Gramma Lillian, whom he called ‘Doll’, died when I was nine. The house is almost exactly the same as the day she passed away and there is a gold mine of conversation pieces my friends. I truly feel like this house was and is well loved. It’s contents are authentic to the people who inhabit it. They were not pretentious or buttoned up tidy people. They were an animated couple who loved to eat and drink and have their good friends over to do both all the time. Politically correct was not a term they were familiar with and swearing was as comfortable as the full length night gown my gramma lived in.

The very first photo with Mac and her Great Grandpa upon their first meeting!

20130417-003603.jpg

When we first arrived she was looking around so confused and somewhat terrified. I don’t blame the kid…you’ll see why when you scroll down. I wish I would have taken a better photo so you could see the giant tapestry hanging above my sister with a life size California bear.

20130417-003643.jpg

These photos have been above my grandpa’s fireplace since 2000 when I graduated high school. All things considered, relative to the rest of the house, these are still very new. Don’t know what’s up with the coat of arms

20130417-003831.jpg

Ok, so here’s a good one! These scary wall-mounted heads are located by the full bar set up in the family room. They spit at you when you walk by…yes that’s right, they spit. There’s a string you can pull and it makes the eyes roll back even more creepily and it laughs at you.

20130417-003903.jpg

I’m not sure which one is worse? I call them Hanzel and Gretel. They are so awful I kinda love them and I grew up with these bad boys so they are sentimental eye rolling, spitting mounted heads. I think they are from the 70’s.

20130417-003935.jpg

There are, shall we say, very eclectic signs posted all around the bar area and family room. I think of my 8-year-old self reading these signs like it ain’t no big thang.

20130417-004014.jpg

Martini time is the Hughes and Hankins family honored tradition. When my brother, sister and I were small we called it “olive and onion time”.  Skewering all the cocktail garnishes was a fun game and thus cementing my love for all things pickled and garnished. I still snack on those damn onions.

20130417-004041.jpg

My grandpa must have been playboy of the year in the 30’s? Haha. Parents today would probably not let their children set foot in this house filled with phallic things and foul language. Those were the days.

The “Oh Shit” cat has always been one of my favorites.

20130417-004110.jpg

20130417-004127.jpg

20130417-004158.jpg

20130417-004248.jpg

Look closely…didn’t think this blog was X-rated did you?

20130417-004312.jpg

Their yard is quite the departure from the inside. It’s lush with fruit trees like these oranges. He also has a really cool cherry tree that we would get sick off of eating so many.

20130417-004400.jpg

We picked an orange for Mac but she wasn’t a fan. I think she is too used to canned mandarins.

20130417-004447.jpg

20130417-004535.jpg

20130417-004612.jpg

20130417-004703.jpg

What I think I’m really fond of at their house is the humor. Everything is an opportunity for a joke, especially the bathroom!

20130417-004756.jpg

This is a photo of my great grandmother who was a Zigfield Folly girl. That’s about all I know about her. I just let my mind run wild of all the Great Gatsby stories she must have had.

20130417-004856.jpg

And here’s my Gramma Lil. She was a woman who did what she wanted and loved what she did until the end. Smoking and drinking I’m sure were the direct cause of her young departure from this earth but it made her happy. At least I can thank her for being the reason today I neither smoke or drink. She would definitely call me a party pooper.

20130417-005013.jpg

My mom is the naked baby in this photo. What a happy family!

20130417-005044.jpg

20130417-005127.jpg

Some how she got away with wearing kimonos and night gowns as legitimate day time wear.

20130417-005159.jpg

Everyone needs this kind of bathroom accessory don’t you think?

20130417-005310.jpg

Gramma loved everything Asian. All these figurines are still on display in the dining and living room.

20130417-005351.jpg

20130417-005429.jpg

 

20130417-005554.jpg

20130417-005658.jpg

20130417-005720.jpg

Moving on to the kitchen area: My grandpa said I could take all the cookbooks I wanted! I was so happy at this offer I practically started to cry. I’m obsessed with cookbooks as you know but doubly obsessed with my grandma’s cookbooks and anything that has old notes in them. I shipped a huge box of them back home and it cost a pretty penny but so worth it. I even shipped boxed sets of recipe cards that I’m pretty sure were subscription based. There are tons of them but I need to come up with a creative way to put them to use.

20130417-005800.jpg

Well, hello there random thing hangin on the door which has no purpose at all…are you a pot holder? Stop staring at me!

20130417-005819.jpg

And hello there Mr. Chicken hanging upside down above the sink.

20130417-005840.jpg

Everyone should have such a potholder collection! A good mix of cute and inappropriate brings balance in life.

20130417-005907.jpg

Hmmm, the better to eat you with my dear? This is sitting underneath his coffee maker and it scares me, a lot.

20130417-005929.jpg

This scares me too….I think my mom made this in the 80’s. Can’t be too sure. It could have also been one of her fabulous garage sale finds.

20130417-005954.jpg

You know I want all of this stuff for my house because it’s all so awesome and weird. Some of these Asian pieces are probably worth quite a bit.

20130417-010045.jpg

Yes! An elephant flower pot!

20130417-010109.jpg

These zebra, snakeskin or whatever chairs are the bees knees.

20130417-010147.jpg

Ceramic cat, bowl of plastic fruit and a floral sofa. Genius.

20130417-010227.jpg

Jonathan Adler has nothing on this lamp.

20130417-010253.jpg

My grandpa still sleeps in this bed. The ruffles make it.

20130417-010340.jpg

These hanging fake plant things must have been all the rage because they are in every room!

20130417-010431.jpg

Hey look, that’s me. Aren’t I cute? I was 4 in that picture.

20130417-010517.jpg

Another hangy thing. What is this? It’s made of shells and in the spare room/office.

20130417-010600.jpg

Oh look what time it is! Olive and onion time! Actually I’m just holding my dad’s martini for the photo op. Wa wa wa.

20130417-010620.jpg

My Uncle Ronnie, yes he is wearing a shirt with Mickey Mouse on it. Ronnie still lives with Grandpa and will until the end of days. I have extra prayers for Ronnie.

20130417-010651.jpg

Ronnie killed this fox (I think he said it was a fox) which is lovingly adorning my grandpa’s vintage slot machine. Those two things totally go together.

20130417-010735.jpg

Oh, too much sharing? Sorry.

20130417-010759.jpg

Mac is afraid to venture down the hallway…

20130417-010853.jpg

so we went outside for a quick roll down the hill out front. That hill always entertained me as well!

20130417-010932.jpg

While the men of the house enjoyed some more martinis. Cheers!

20130417-011211.jpg

Then we got hungry and there was only one place to go: Fernando’s! This is a Mexican restaurant that my grandparents went every Wednesday to drink with friends at the bar and eat chile rellenos. My grandma loved them, my mom loves them and I also completely love chile rellenos. It must be hereditary.

20130417-011253.jpg

When we were little and picky eaters we always got tortillas with butter on them and rolled them up into little cigars.

This is the free happy hour plate….they gave us three of these!!! I almost couldn’t fit in my chile relleno.

20130417-011411.jpg

Then for dessert I went into this place which as been there a very long time but I never went to before. Their cannoli’s were the best I have ever had and I got a a whole box to take back to Monterey with us and ate one for breakfast over the next 3 days with my morning coffee.

20130417-011436.jpg

20130417-011508.jpg

How’s that for a walk down memory lane? I hope you were entertained by my quirky family. That was only Day 1 of my trip, there’s so much good stuff to write about that I can hardly write anything at all! Check back in soon!

My family to yours,

Kendra