Category Archives: Holidays

01/07/13

I have been MIA. Between the craziness of the Christmas season and being sick for most of the month of December, I just didn’t post here. Hopefully now that we are back to school and attempting a normal schedule, I’ll be able to post more frequently. No promises though. 🙂 I just started my final two classes–one of which is a massive capstone project–and I may not have as much time as I’d like.

To Do list for January:

  • Finish posting the pictures of the Alzheimer’s Advent calendar. The books turned out nicely and my big tough 20 yo made sure he took it with him when he left for a job several states away.
  • Get the sugar back out of the house.
  • Make another menu plan–and stick with it!

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Filed under Alzheimer's, Holidays, Misc

Alzheimer’s Advent Calendar: Days 5 through 8

I am a bit behind in posting these. By about day 5, I was streamlining the process for Quinten. He is having so much trouble with these but there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that he wants to do this for the kids. He is often frustrated (and doing a unique card for each kid was simply too much for him) but he is able to do at least 2 per day. We are up to day 18 (pics will be posted soon) so by Tuesday, we should have the rest of them completed and we can focus on letting him hand them out each night.

Day 5

Day 5. Chapstick and a small chocolate. Note from Dad: “I am thankful that you…”

Day 6

The lighting in my room sucks much of the time so the pictures sometimes turn out crappy. Day 6. Note from Dad: “You are smart.”

Day 7

Day 7. Hot chocolate packets and the note from Dad which says, “I am so thankful that I am your dad. Love, Dad”

Day 8

Day 8. Organic honey hard candies and the note from Dad. “You are handsome/beautiful.”

By now, you may be questioning/judging the amount of sugar in these packets–especially from someone who purports to be changing our diets to combat early onset Alzheimer’s. Again, it’s about balance. I have successfully, except for these presents, gotten rid of most of the sugar in our diet (the little bit that we do get mostly comes from the sugar in semi-sweet chocolate chips). And this whole idea is a way to give my kids something special this Christmas season. No matter how you spin it, their daddy has a terminal disease and is getting worse every day. They are dealing with so much right now and handing them baggies of carrot sticks just doesn’t send the message I want to send right now.

Balance.

We can go back to our sugar-free lives in 2 weeks.

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December is here!

I love the Christmas season!! The tree is up, decorations are placed, and Christmas music is playing.

Today’s post is going to be a little different from what I normally post. I love blogging about our switch to a healthy diet and posting recipes that we are using to help Quinten combat Alzheimer’s. But first and foremost, I am a mom and caregiver. And as such, I spend a lot of time making our “good” time count. I work hard to make sure we are creating memories for the kids.

So, the other night an idea came to me that excited me so much I couldn’t sleep! Of course, it’s not working out quite as wonderfully as I’d imagined…but still….

The idea I came up with is something I’ve been calling The Alzheimer’s Advent Calendar. When the kids were little, we would purchase chocolate advent calendars from the Commissary. Of course, being the absolutely unorganized mom I am, the kids would often find them and devour all of the chocolate well before Christmas actually got here. My goal is always to have an Advent calendar. Maybe this year, it’ll actually work out. ;)My thought for this calendar is to have Quinten write out a card for each of the kids each night (5 times 24 is A LOT of cards!).

The first thing we did is head to Michael’s for crafting supplies. I found cheap little journals for $1.50 each after discovering my planned photo books were well over $10.

advent book

On each book, I found vinyl lettering for their names. I wish I’d gotten letters that were more pronounced since it’s hard to see the kids’ names.

And since each journal page was so flimsy, I am pasting a sheet of card stock into the books before attaching the notes from Quinten.

sample page

As you can see, Quinten  is having trouble with sentences.

With each book, I also added this:

note

Since we were on a roll, I decided to do a few more days’ worth.

Day two:

blog advent Day 2

These were boozy chocolates which are a tradition in our house. 🙂 They do resemble moose droppings in this picture though. 😉

Day 3

Day 3

Slim Jims. Yeah. Not healthy. But I am trying to live my life in balance (and not stress about every little thing) and this was something the kids traditionally liked. Funny thing though, they weren’t impressed by them AT ALL last night (one kid has figured out that nitrates are bad news for him and one of the girls was actually gagging after eating one) and requested the Paleo jerky that I’ve gotten before. I love that they are realizing these things on their own.

Day 4:

Day 4

This one is all wrapped up but inside is a Keurig cup. My kids love the Keurig coffees but we rarely have enough grocery money left over to justify a purchase since I can get a 5 pound bag of organic, free trade coffee from the health food store for a little more than the price of a box of the cups from Amazon. My sons who work early in the morning do buy their own so that they can have coffee before they leave for work. I am not sorry for raising coffee snobs. 😉

We’ve made up a couple more since then but I haven’t had a chance to retrieve them from my phone. I will post them as I am able to. Quinten is having a very, very hard time with these cards and I’m worried about the rest of the month. One of my kids has totally called me on the cards, saying that these are things that *I* would say instead of what Dad would and that he’s never gotten affirmation from Dad like that. 😦 So today, I am googling ‘words of affirmation for kids’ and printing out lists. I will then help Quinten choose the words he wants to say.

I am so, so sad that he is having such a hard time with this. I’ve been told that depending on where the damage from Alzheimer’s occurs, you will get different symptoms of the disease. For Quinten, it definitely is language and abstract thinking. It’s been such a long time since we’ve had a real conversation (probably pre-2008). This makes projects like this insanely difficult and makes important talks (like living will, etc.) difficult, if not impossible.

But for now, I will gladly help Quinten complete this for the kids. He may not have ever said these things to the kids (as evidenced by one child’s comments), but I know at one point he definitely did feel these things. And maybe my kids won’t appreciate the finished Advent book now but I do hope they will someday. And I hope that they can see past the hurt and realize that this horrible disease took Dad from them–it wasn’t Dad *choosing* to be this way towards them. And most of all, I do hope they know they are loved.

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Thanksgiving Prep: Dressing

I absolutely refuse to stuff my dressing into a bird. Even typing that sentence makes me gag a little. The resulting stuffing is a big pile of goo in my opinion–and not food. Yeah….I really do have texture issues. So much so that even regular dressing made with bread is too soggy. My solution is to make dressing with brown rice instead. Celery would be a good addition to this dish and if you want to add it, I would do about a cup or so of chopped celery but I’m allergic so you will find it missing in my recipe. This recipe freezes well.

Brown Rice Dressing with Cherries

1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped (Craisins also work well here and are small enough you can skip the chopping)

1/2 large onion, chopped

4 TB butter or bacon grease

2 cloves garlic, minced

12 oz chicken broth

1 tsp sage

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

Bring 4 cups water to boil in saucepan. While you are waiting for the water to boil, pour the rice into a mesh strainer and rinse the rice under cool water. Once the water in the saucepan has come to a boil, dump the rice in, stirring until it comes up to a boil again. Once the rice is boiling, cover and turn down the heat to low. Cook, covered, for 45 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, chop the onion and cherries, and mince the garlic. When the rice has finished cooking, remove from heat and set aside.

In large skillet, melt the butter and cook the onion until it just starts to brown. Add in the minced garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Finally, add in the cherries and spices and cook for another couple of minutes (by now, it will smell amazing).

Remove from heat and stir in the rice, adding in enough of the chicken broth to moisten to taste. Adjust spices  to taste and pour mixture into a greased 2 quart baking dish.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until heated through.

To freeze: allow dressing to cool to room temperature, then cover and freeze. Remove from freezer the day before you want to bake it and allow to thaw in refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator about an hour before you plan to bake it and bake as above.

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Filed under Diet, Holidays, Recipes

Thanksgiving Prep

I thought that I would share my Thanksgiving plan with you over the next few days instead of documenting what we ate. With a family this size, planning and cooking as much as you can ahead of time allows me to enjoy the holiday instead of being locked away in the kitchen for the entire day. Granted, there’s still lots left to do on the big day but it is so, so much better.

My friend, Anne, has a terrific make-ahead recipe for mashed potatoes that I used last year and plan to do the same this year. My only changes are to skip the parmesan cheese (I have parmesan haters here) and to use organic ingredients.  These really are terrific mashed potatoes and I love having the potatoes crossed off the list ahead of time. I seriously suck at making gravy (consistency is never right—it’s either jello or soup) but can get her recipe to turn out each time I’ve made it—and it tastes good.  Again, my only changes are to use organic ingredients and homemade broth from the freezer. I plan to make both of these recipes after my next shopping trip on Friday.

Today, however, I am going to make the cranberry sauce. Homemade cranberry sauce is super easy and tastes so much better than the crap from a can. I also love the color of homemade cranberry sauce.

Cranberry Sauce

Begin by picking over the cranberries and discarding the super smushy ones. Rinse the berries and pour into a saucepan. I had 2 7.5-oz containers of cranberries and ended up picking out about 1/2-3/4 cup of berries.

To the cranberries, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2-3/4 cup honey and bring to boil over medium heat.

While I waited for the cranberries to boil, I filled a pint jar with boiling water. As the cranberries begin to get hot, they will start to pop. Once boiling, continue cooking and stirring over medium heat  for about 5 minutes, or until the cranberry sauce is nice and thick. Remove from heat and smash with a potato masher to make sure all of the cranberries have popped.

My kitchen is freezing this morning–as you can tell from all of the steam in this picture!

If the sauce is too tart at this point, add additional honey to taste. Pour into jar(s). I ended up with a pint jar plus a little.

Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

Honey-Sweetened Cranberry Sauce

2 7.5-oz. containers organic cranberries

1/2-3/4 cup honey

1/2 cup water

Begin by picking over the cranberries and discarding the super smushy ones. Rinse the berries and pour into a saucepan. To the cranberries, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2-3/4 cup honey and bring to boil over medium heat. While waiting for the cranberries to boil, fill a pint jar with boiling water and set aside. As the cranberries begin to get hot, they will start to pop. Once boiling, continue cooking and stirring over medium heat  for about 5 minutes, or until the cranberry sauce is nice and thick. Remove from heat and smash with a potato masher to make sure all of the cranberries have popped. If the sauce is too tart at this point, add additional honey to taste. Pour into jar(s).

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Filed under Diet, Holidays, Recipes