Thursday, April 28, 2011

Biomaterials & Birthdays with Mickey

Last week I was in Orlando, Florida for the Society for Biomaterials Annual Meeting.  I'm starting to realize that work conferences are the best way to travel!  In January, I went to the Orthopaedic Research Society Annual Meeting in Long Beach, California and then extended the stay with a few nights in Sequoia National Park where Jason joined me.  This time, Jason wasn't able to join me, but I stayed an extra night in Orlando to spend some time at the theme parks.  Can't beat a few days of work, followed by a few days of play!

I stayed at the Contemporary Resort with two friends, just a 10 minute walk from the Magic Kingdom!  Here's a photo of the sunset right outside our room.  I was on my way to an early morning conference session when I snapped this shot. 

Every year, the Society for Biomaterials has a Bash at their Annual Meeting.  In 2008, I went to the meeting in Atlanta and the Bash was at the Georgia Aquarium.  This year, the Bash was at EPCOT.  We were bused to the park where we had drinks and appetizers.  Then we were treated to the nightly light show and had access to the park until midnight!

Spaceship Earth, the ride inside the EPCOT ball, has been updated a bit. At the beginning the ride,your picture is taken, and at the end you answer a few questions on a computer screen to determine your future.  I rode with my boss Tim.  Below are some of the photos from the computer screen.  I was laughing too hard to even follow the story.  All I know is that it was set in space.

Saturday was the last day of the conference, and my birthday.  So a few of us went to the Polynesian Resort for cocktails and dinner before heading to the park. 

Birthday Cocktail in a Pineapple...note, that is NOT an artichoke on the top.  I tasted it to be sure.

All you can eat meat!

Birthday Dinner at Ohana!

The best bread pudding I have ever had!

Surprise Birthday Cupcake!

After dinner we made our way to the Magic Kingdom.  Our first view of Cinderella's Castle!

We are Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear at Splash Mountain!

It's a Small World!  I had that song stuck in my head for the rest of the night.

Space Mountain!!

Celebrating my birthday with Mickey and Walt

I stayed an extra day to spend some time at the theme parks with some other post docs and grad students from Boulder.  We decided to spend the day Sunday at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, with the main goal being the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I've never read any of the books and have only seen 2 of the movies, but I figured the rides would be fun.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  The ride inside the castle was amazing!  It was a combination rollercoaster, virtual ride.  Amazing!  Since I was with a group of engineers, we spent a good part of the day discussing the novelty of the ride and how it worked to make you feel like you were actually in the movie.  I know, we're geeks!

Waiting in line the for the Dragon Challenge Roller Coaster

At Universal Studios Islands of Adventure on the Jurassic Park River Adventure

The Hulk Roller Coaster!

Before Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barge...they warned us we would get wet.

After the Bilge Rat Barge...SOAKED!

Sunset from Pleasure Island on our last night.

What a great trip!  Can't wait to go back with Jason!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My First Surgical Experience

I've observed a number of surgeries; open heart surgery, gastric bypass, total knee and hip replacements, pediatric cosmetic surgery, and spine surgery.  They were all so exciting and interesting to watch.  The human body is an amazing machine!  But when it came time to have my own surgery, my nerves were just crazy.  Granted, I don't think I would find watching oral surgery as exciting as all the others that I've seen.  Actually, I hate teeth and I think it would just make me cringe.

Yesterday, the day that I've been avoiding for at least 10 years finally came...getting my wisdom teeth removed.  The dentist and oral surgeon say I was lucky I only had 2 and even luckier that they were on the top and fully erupted.  Apparently it's the bottom wisdom teeth that are notorious for severe pain and dry sockets.  The oral surgeon explained that it has to do with the difference in bone densities between the upper and lower jaw.

So yesterday morning came and I was pretty nervous, but not too bad.  Then of course, I am escorted to the back, to sit in the chair where I'm going to have my surgery.  I'm not really sure why they make the procedure rooms look so sterile, plain, and uninviting.  It really does make a patient feel even more nervous, well, it did me anyway.  It would really just take a few photos on the wall or something.

Thankfully, they were pretty quick about getting the IV inserted.  Considering the issues I usually have with having blood drawn, that didn't bother me one bit.  I was happy to have my husband there holding my hand to keep me somewhat calm.  I vaguely remember the nurse or doctor telling Jason to head to the waiting room as they pushed the versad...and then I was awake again.

From what Jason tells me, it was a lot like "David after Dentist".  And if you haven't seen this video, you must watch it.  I really don't remember anything for the first few minutes of being awake.  Jason tells me I told the surgeon I was so confused.  I kept asking Jason if he was sure they took the teeth out.  And I asked him about 6 times how long he was out in the waiting room.  It's pretty amazing how being sedated makes you lose time.  I really felt like there was no time between Jason leaving me and seeing him again, even though it had been about 25 minutes.

They had me stay for another 30 minutes or so while they monitored my heart rate and blood pressure.  I was slowly starting to lose the drowsy feeling when I just started to feel horribly nauseous with terrible sweats.  And to me, nausea is the absolute worst feeling in the world.  So I frantically told Jason to go find someone.  The nurse and doctor came back in, lowered the chair back, and told me to wiggle my feet.  My heart rate had dropped to 40 and my blood pressure was something like 90/60.  I guess I was pretty close to passing out!

I have to say that my nurse, Alecia, was wonderful!  She was comforting and attentive and answered all of our questions.  As for the doctor, I don't even remember seeing his face yesterday.  He was there, he put my IV in, and he put a damp towel on my forehead when I was feeling nauseous, but I don't think he ever made eye contact with me.  It just felt odd.  And I did get the feeling they were trying to get me out of there as soon as possible.  I suppose they are running a business and I was technically fine, but still.  The ride home was fine, but having to climb two flights of stairs almost made me pass out again.

All in all, it wasn't a half bad experience.  The pain was minimal.  After the numbness wore off, I took one vicodin, then switched to aleve.  If there had only been something to help with the nausea for the whole day.  Didn't help that I could only eat pudding, smoothies, applesauce, and ice cream.  All I wanted was real food!

It's pretty amazing I was able to go through 29 years of life without ever having had surgery, being sedated, or losing consciousness.  Here's hoping it's another 29!  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Car Bomb Cupcakes

Who needs a birthday cake when you can have Car Bomb Cupcakes?! First, I have to give credit where credit is due. My mom found this recipe for me. I divided this project into three nights after work, since it seemed like quite the undertaking. But it didn't end up being as difficult as I had imagined. I started by making the Bailey's Buttercream Frosting, which was actually pretty simple: butter, powdered sugar, and Bailey's. Yum!

Then came the Guinness cupcakes. I simmered Guinness with butter and cocoa powder, then added that to the standard cupcake ingredients. I must thank the sales person at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for finding this lovely contraption for me. I was pretty skeptical that this pink plunger like device would actually be able to remove the center from a cupcake. But it worked perfectly!

After testing out a few different tips, and getting the frosting to the right temperature to actually be able to pipe consistently, I was able to make these tasty treats! The mini chocolate chips were my addition, I thought they would add some nice texture. And there's nothing wrong with adding more chocolate!

After two batches of ganache (one with unsweetened chocolate, eww!), three batches of frosting, and two nights and one morning of's the finished product!

...and then I forgot them for the trip to we now have 24 cupcakes to eat! ;-)

30th Birthday Surprise

Now that the surprise has passed, I can finally talk about it! Phew, what a relief! I spent the last few months constantly worrying about letting the secret slip. Somehow I managed to keep the secret and I think everyone had a fabulous weekend! Many thanks to Lori Fox for finding us a fantastic house! I thought I was a pretty stellar planner, but she just blows me out of the water! She knows where to find all the great deals!

We left Westminster around 12:30 to meet up with the Foxes at Dillon Dam Brewery for lunch, to initiate the surprise. We got 20 minute into the mountains when I realized we forgot the cupcakes!!! Jason was sweet, offering to turn around, but he had no idea we were on a schedule. So I insisted we trucked on.

We arrived at the house in Steamboat around 5PM. The guys were so confused by the huge six bedroom house. So we finally gave in and told them other people we knew would be coming. People started trickling in as Jason prepared chili for dinner, which everyone loved. (Thanks for the recipe Grammie!) It wasn't long before a group made it outside to the Christmas-light-decorated hot tub.

Friday was our first day on the mountain. The views were just breathtaking! The snow near the top of the mountain was nice and powdery and since it was Friday, it wasn't too crowded.

We ended our day of skiing around 1ish so we could spend a little time in the hot tub and rest our legs for Saturday. It was about 55 degrees at the bottom of the mountain and the snow was getting quite slushy and sticky. So we packed up our stuff and hopped on the bus back to the house.

Silly me, I lost my gloves somewhere. But turns out it worked out perfectly because Jason and I went back looking for them just as Mike (Jason's best friend from VT) was arriving from California. It was the final surprise of the weekend, so I was nervous about how it was going to go down. We returned to the house, without my gloves (bummer), and everyone was sitting in the living room. I noticed Mike in the kitchen, but Jason didn't. It took me a few tries to convince him to go grab me a drink instead of heading right upstairs to take a nap. When he finally noticed Mike, his face was priceless! I'm so glad Mike was able to make the trip.

After some much needed rest for everyone, we started the party at Mambo Italiano. The appetizers were just amazing! Yum! I could totally go for some little garlicky bread bites right now!

Lori got a mini ice cream cookie sandwich for dessert, on the house! Don't mind the creepy guy behind the bar. He was staring at me all night as he was flipping pizza dough.

Day 2 on the mountain! The boys posing on the gondola, ready for the first run of the day.

After another great day of skiing, we called it quits around 2PM to rest up, get a snack, and get ready to head up to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The picture below is a view of Steamboat on the drive up to the hot springs.

An old school, possibly home made, ski lift! Cool!

In line to pay the entrance fee to the springs. I can't wait to get into that hot water! It's a little chilly out here, especially since we're all wearing flip flops!

A view of the natural hot springs as we're on our way down.

The whole gang posing for a quick photo.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of our adventurous trip home. It started snowing in Steamboat around 730AM, and by the time we left at 10AM, there was 2-3 inches on the ground. Getting over the pass out of Steamboat was tricky. There were times we couldn't tell where the road was, so we were thankful to have a car in front of us. The mustang we saw stuck on the road, blocking our whole lane wasn't so lucky. Guess you shouldn't have sports cars out on the road in the winter, let alone trying to drive one in a blizzard. Who woulda thunk it?

We got more than halfway home, only to find out the main highway through the mountains was closed due to severe weather and multiple accidents. At first, I was not happy, but Lori turned my frown upside down by suggesting shopping at the outlet mall. Since there were 12 people, and 3 dogs, we also decided to get two dog-friendly hotel rooms to relax or spend the night in, just in case.

After 5 hours of shopping and watching random movies in our hotel room, the highway reopened and we made our way. Our perfect weekend ended with Asian takeout from our favorite place, and car bomb cupcakes!

Thanks to everyone for a great weekend! I think it turned out to be a memorable 30th Birthday Weekend for Ryan and Jason.