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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So much for that….

So….the other day, I’m all like “WHOO!! I’ve lost 6.6 pounds by changing my diet in this first month of eating whole foods!!”

I have so much trouble losing weight that those 6.6 pounds are definitely an accomplishment. But tonight I noticed that Quinten’s pants were hanging on him and also noticed that those pants were the pants that were really tight a couple of months ago. So I had him get on the scale. Since his last appointment, he has lost 20 pounds! I’m trying to figure out why. I make sure he’s getting three meals plus snacks every day and that his portions are quite a bit bigger than mine. Besides cleaning up our diet, the only other thing is that we’ve stopped the Axona shakes…..but that’s only been for this month.

I’m searching google right now for suggestions but many of the articles talk about weight loss and late-stage Alzheimer’s. He definitely isn’t late-stage. I have, however, found several articles mentioning the fact that weight loss is common. Several of the articles have mentioned the increased caloric needs of Alzheimer’s patients due to their constant pacing. Definitely something to consider as I’ve noticed that he is pacing more.

I feel that I’ve done well in cleaning up our diets, now I just need to make sure I pack as much nutrition into Quinten’s meals as possible as well as increasing his meals and/or snacks. We haven’t had nuts in the house for the last couple of months and he was eating those like crazy for a while. Maybe I need to make up a trail mix for him.

Looks like more food changes for us!

 

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Menu Plan 1

I spent a good part of yesterday planning a menu for the week and making a corresponding grocery list. The plan is so pretty but so, so expensive! There is a good chance that I’ve overestimated costs by quite a bit but–for food only–it came to $494. That works out to be $70 a person a week, which isn’t too bad when you figure it’s for 21 meals and 7 snacks–it works out to be $2.50 a meal per person. But it’s still $144 over what I have to spend for food per week. So, it’s back to the drawing board. This plan may not work for me but here it is in case it will work for you.

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First month

So….here we are nearly at the end of the first month of our attempt at 100 Days of Real Food. How did I do?

  • I am down 6.6 pounds. Wasn’t really the main focus but I am thrilled to finally have the scale moving in the right direction.
  • We officially made it to Thanksgiving before it all started to unravel. It unraveled because:
    • we got so busy in town that we made poor choices (ie, fast food nastiness)
    • we ran out of grocery money before the end of the month

What did I learn?

  • My family eats *a lot*!! Looking at 100 Days, I was feeling bad that just doubling her amounts for groceries wasn’t giving my family enough food. But I started thinking about it. My teenaged girls are in sports and burning through everything they eat and need additional fuel to keep them going. Two of my boys (21 and 20) work physically demanding jobs with long hours and are also burning through everything they eat. And my youngest boy (18) is working full-time as well as going to college full-time and is also burning through everything he eats. In fact, all three of the boys ended up losing weight this month which wasn’t something they were intending to do–one of them has even had to replace his wardrobe!
  • I need to cook more.
  • I need to actually plan menus instead of winging it.
  • I need to start packing everyone’s lunches again–bento style
  • I need reevaluate my grocery spending. I tried to do nearly all organic this month but I’ve run out of money and we still have a week to go. True, it was a holiday month with higher than normal grocery spending for T-Day. True, my washer broke and we’ve had to use grocery money to pay for the Laundromat. Also true, I would have had grocery money had I not had to come up with money for a sports physical as well as for basketball shoes ($110 total there). But that is true any month–the grocery budget is my only flex category which takes up the slack for other spending I need to do. For the next 3 months, it will be for eye exams and contacts for those of us who need them. It’s just how it is and I need to plan for that.
  • I need to reevaluate how I spend money at the health food stores. I had been ordering through their special ordering system where I can order cases of whatever, which saves money. However, I am finding that there isn’t enough grocery money to do that *and* eat well for the week. Ordering this way kept our  fruits and vegetables to a minimum with little variety.
  • I need to start ordering from Bountiful Baskets again. I’ve ordered through them a lot over the past year but it has been their conventional produce baskets. Last time, I ordered their organic basket. It works out to be $26.50 for a box of produce but I think it will provide the variety we need at a good price. This last basket had:
    • an avocado
    • bananas
    • apples
    • pears
    • kiwi
    • potatoes
    • sweet potatoes
    • onion
    • celery
    • carrots
  • I need to figure out when I have the best chance of getting Great Harvest’s whole wheat bread. The last few times we’ve gone in there, we’ve not been able to get the whole wheat. The white bread is tasty but isn’t as filling we’ve found. And I need to keep my people full.
  • Since I’m going to be ordering Bountiful Baskets again, I need to change my shopping days. Pick up is on Saturdays and what’s in the basket isn’t known until you actually pick it up. Not a big deal…in fact, I like that it’s a surprise every week. But in order to use everything, I will need to pick up the basket, bring it home, and then plan meals around what’s in there.

Today is a new start and I’m glad that we’re back to eating healthy. The last few days made me feel gross. I still won’t have grocery money until the 1st but I’m going to try my best to make this week ‘real food’.

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Alzheimer’s Recipe: Green Smoothie Mix

Another of Quinten’s neurologist’s suggestions for possibly slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s was to increase the number of green leafy veggies into his diet. I have not been great about getting him to eat them. I’ve found that salads seem to bother him and he’s had such awful belly issues anyway that I haven’t been as diligent as I should be. We took a break from the smoothies for a long time but I’m trying to get them back into our diets now. Here is how I do them:

Green Smoothie Mix

2 5 oz packages kale

2.5 cups frozen blueberries

5 medjool dates, seeded

3 bananas

Fill a blender (I use a Vitamix) with baby kale and about 1/2 a cup of water.

Blend, using tamper to push the kale down toward the blades. When you are finished it will look like this:

Continue adding kale and blending until you have used both packages of kale. At this point, I turn my Vitamix up to high and blend for a few seconds to make sure the kale is well blended. Pour kale into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Peel and freeze the bananas in chunks placed on waxed paper. The waxed paper is important. If it’s not used, you will end up chiseling the bananas from whatever you’ve frozen them to.

Once everything is frozen, it’s time to assemble the smoothie mix. Remove the kale from the ice cube tray. You may need to warm the tray up a little under warm water.

Divide the kale ice cubes, banana chunks, frozen blueberries and dates between 5 sandwich bags.

Place each of these baggies into a large freezer bag and freeze.

To use, place contents of one baggie and 1 cup of milk (we’ve used coconut and regular whole milk) and blend until smooth. One serving per bag.

What I really like about these smoothies is the amount of greens I can get into one serving since they break down so much. I’ve also done other greens instead of the kale such as spinach and leaf lettuce. I think I’m going to keep ordering a variety of greens to replenish my freezer stock.

Here are a few links to articles which talk about the importance of leafy vegetables for the prevention of Alzheimer’s:

Livestrong

ABCnews

Science Daily

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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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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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