Saturday, February 1, 2014

George

I started writing this on November 14, 2013:    

Just a little more than five years ago, a very hungry, pretty long haired black, white and tan kitten meowed piteously at the dining room window. He was starving. His eyes were being turned up at the outer corners he was so hungry! Annie gave him some milk, then he came back several times for food and soon he was adopted into our home, though he really belonged to the whole neighborhood.  She named him George. We figured he was 4 or 5 months old;  had him fixed a few months later.

George was very friendly but also very brave. Once he stood down two big dogs in the back yard!  His bravery earned him some scars. Last year (2012) he tangled with what we figured must have been a squirrel who did such damage to his face we had to take him to the vet to get help for it to heal. He had way more moxie than sense and used up several of his nine lives when he was quite young. But all his scrapes healed each time till he looked good as new. Just this summer, we learned he was a Maine coon cat when a friend who came over met George.

He did not endear himself to Shasta, our older female cat, since they both wanted to be #1, but in time they got used to each other and mostly got along. His only other fault was scratching the carpet after every meal. He got really good at begging for more food and getting what he wanted. He would just sit in the kitchen and stare at me until I got the idea!

Sometimes when Arthur would let him in the door, he would leap in and gallop to his food dish. Arthur said he was a horse when he did that. George loved to jump over Shasta, which, of course, she did not appreciate!

He was such a good friend to us all. Whenever anyone went to work or play outside, he was out there too nearby, either watching or participating. He closely observed the ping pong games when the grandchildren came and they were delighted with him.

He would wait for us outside in the yard to come home, kind of like a dog would. He would lay on his belly with his hind legs splayed out behind him. Often he would sleep on his back with his paws in the air above him, right in the middle of the walkway! He'd often sleep on Arthur's bed during the days-- such a buddy he was.

Dennis found that George loved to have his back rubbed. George wasn't much of a cuddler but he would crawl up in Dennis' lap when he was cold. His purr was immense!

Sunday, November 10, 2013, he did not come in for the night as was his habit. The weather was warm so we didn't think much of it since he'd stayed out before occasionally. (He was great roamer, tried to go on long walks with us even!) The next morning our neighbors across the street, Karin and Scot, rang our doorbell about 7 am. Karin had noticed George across the street from their house, laying at the edge of the road. She and Scot brought George to us in a cardboard box. George was crying. We thanked them and brought George inside in the box, not wanting to think he wouldn't get better like all the other times before. We covered George's body with a towel to keep him warm. Dennis sat at the table and petted George's head, and cried and prayed for him for quite a while, then he got ready for work. Arthur prayed for George too and said he was good. I soon moved George's box under a light to keep him warmer. He would cry every once in a while; didn't move much at all.

Later we fixed lunch and took it and George in the box over to work with us. I told Andy about George, and right away when he saw him he was concerned that George should be in bigger box. When he moved him into a bigger box, he saw how stiff George was when he picked him up. Andy then encouraged us to take George to the vet in Pasco, the same one whom we'd taken Rita to years before, a no-nonsense type vet. So Arthur and I drove George over to the vet and waited about an hour, watching all the other pretty pets come and go, holding George in his box. The kind vet checked to see if there was any feeling in George's paws and there was none in any of them. He showed us how squeezing George's paws hard did not make him cry, and said George's spine had been broken. So I quickly said goodbye to George, but Arthur kept saying everything was good and didn't say goodbye. We paid the vet office to put George down and dispose of his body, then went back to work. I cried with Dennis there and at home later. Karin came over and cried with us too.  She loved him too.

That was three months ago now. Dennis still deals with his loss of George by not thinking of him-- that's how much that cat had gotten into his heart and what deep loss he still feels since George is gone. Arthur never seemed to go past his denial though he knows George is gone and seems accepting about that fact. Shasta is happier and easier to care for since George is no longer here to threaten her domain. Never before experienced a cat like George. He sure knew how to make us feel loved.






Almond Coconut Kuchen

Gotta tell the story on this one first. Even before we married nearly 37 years ago, Dennis would sing the praises of the kuchen he had as a boy in North Dakota and would describe it to me. Sweet yeast raised crust filled with fruit, covered with custard. Problem was, his mother, even though she was of German descent, wasn't the one who made it. She learned from her mother-in-law how to make wonderful treats like rhubarb custard pie, which he loved too, but no kuchen. He discovered kuchen and would buy slices of it in a store after school on his way home. He didn't even know how to spell it-- the word sounded like "kugen" to him.

Since I've always loved custard, I would try to make a yeast raised crust, lay fruit on top, pour custard over all and bake but it would always turn out as an under-done mess. Then, we had years of no wheat or dairy in our quest to keep everyone healthy.

Year before last, we discovered that wheat acts much like sugar in the body so if you have problems with your blood sugar, it is best to stay away from wheat (and most other grains for that matter) which quickly turn to sugar upon digestion. This past year we discovered the concept of low carb high fat eating, which makes sugar the villain destroying our health instead of butter and cream, lard and marbled meat. So I've learned to bake with coconut flour, almond flour, stevia for sweetening, and coconut oil, butter and cream for fat.

Then, just a few weeks ago on FaceBook I noticed an article by a woman who had stopped being ashamed she was from North Dakota (people just couldn't believe anyone could really live there!) and had begun to embrace all the oddities of her heritage. She had a link to another woman from ND who makes 70 varieties of kuchen like Dennis had as a kid! I learned how to spell it, saw pictures of it, found the basic recipe! You see, kuchen is just the German word for cake, which can be made a zillion ways, but at last I knew what vintage North Dakotan kuchen was!

What I have adapted here is not low carb, but it is high protein and high fat and has no added refined sugar. The high protein and high fat content more than balance out the carbs so that eating a slice will not spike your blood sugar. Of course it is different from real ND kuchen but it looks the same and tastes creamy and sweet. We plan to eat some during the Superbowl tomorrow. And Dennis said to make a lot so we can either celebrate with it when the Seahawks win or comfort ourselves with it should they lose! It makes a great special breakfast too.

Almond Coconut Kuchen    4 pie pans    325 degrees F    Total prep & bake time: about 50 min.

Butter bottoms and sides of 4 pie pans, glass or metal, 9" or 10"

In medium bowl, add each of these ingredients one at a time, whisking after each addition:

4 eggs
1/2 cup plain full-fat yoghurt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tsp real vanilla
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 tablespoon xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt crystals
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp stevia powder (after this, switch from whisk to spoon)
1 and 1/2 cup almond flour

Spoon one fourth of this stiff crust mixture into the center of each pie pan. With buttered spatula, spread mixture in thin layer over bottoms of pans and up the sides. Spread evenly over each pan:

1 cup fruit such as canned apple slices, canned peach slices, blueberries, strawberries, etc. (4 cups total)

Bake in oven 20 minutes. While the fruited crusts are baking, mix the custard on the stove in a medium pan over medium heat:

4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water
1 cup half and half
1 tsp real vanilla
1/4 tsp stevia powder

After the fruited crusts have baked 20 minutes, take them from the oven and pour one fourth of the hot custard over the fruit in each pan. Bake them for 20 more minutes, or until the custard is set.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Arthur in school and remodel work

After nearly two months of paperwork, meetings, testing, emails, evaluations, observation and detailed IEP, Arthur started high school last Thursday. He attends from 8:30 to 10:30 each day. Today, his third day, his teacher walked him out to meet me at the gate and got him to tell me about the origami paper boat he had made. Later, he told his dad about it! The word "origami" wasn't quite understandable till I explained it, but already we've seen an increase in the words he is initiating and using, with an effort to say many of them more clearly.

This past weekend in the lovely weather he helped me carry the sawhorses and a piece of plywood out from the garage to the backyard to set up a work station for sanding the trim boards for his room. We often remembered to get him to say the words of what we are doing or the tools we are using. He got to man the electric sander that is shaped like a baby clothes iron to sand the wide trim boards. Then Dad would sand the edges and tack cloth off the dust before I rubbed the stain on them on top of the covered ping pong table on the porch. Arthur's had a big part in remodeling his room, from pulling staples out of the floor to rolling paint on big areas of his walls and closet, to laying out the wood floor puzzle pieces to sanding the trim! His new blinds are installed so when his trim goes in, his room will be the first all the way finished room of the remodel!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Arthur's Education

Last Monday, the day came for Arthur and me to observe and experience the classroom #418 from 8:30-10:30 am for Special Needs high school students at Kamiakin. Upon entering the classroom, the first person we saw was Eser, Arthur's best friend from Vista Elementary School, 6 years ago! They both remembered each other and shook hands.

After the class preliminaries where 2 teachers and 5 adult aides help 19 students read and mark their calendars with the day's news, Arthur and Eser and three other students walked across the sidewalk with two aides to room #348 for academics with me along, observing. They read a story about Cloudy 2, the new sequel movie to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs just coming out. Arthur sat near Eser, taking his queues from him on how to follow the handout. (On Thursday at the SmartMAp trade show, Dennis won a $30 gift certificate to the theatre, so on Friday we all enjoyed watching Cloudy 2 together the day it came out!)

When the group returned to Rm #418, they were divided into teams for life skills. Eser and Arthur were assigned to sweep the kitchen floor and unload the dishwasher, while the two young women stacked and tied up bundles of newspaper. (The other young man went to choir). In the half glass kitchen room, Eser showed Arthur how to hold the broom properly. Soon Arthur and Eser were outdoing each other in dramatic sashaying across each row as they took turns sweeping the grid marked on the floor. As they (and the aide!) were laughing, Eser snorted, which sent Arthur into spasms of laughter so that he rolled on the floor. After they got it all into the dustpan, they moved onto the dishwasher. Eser handed Arthur each dish, and with a flourish and a wiggle, Arthur put each one in the cabinet across the room. Their good humor helped them get all the work done in quick time!

When the teams switched, Eser threw a huge stack of papers together hastily, so had to start over to make a small, neater stack, just up to the line taped on the wall. Arthur and the aide watched him, then the aide had Arthur tie the first bundle before he stacked up the next one for Eser to tie. Arthur was very deliberate and precise, wiggling at first with each added paper, then just steady work. Soon it was time for lunch (at 10:30!) so time for us to go.

Dennis has given Arthur three music lessons in the past couple weeks. He's getting him to count to four over and over in an even rhythm, and hold down and pluck one bass string in that same, even rhythm. Keeping it even is the hardest thing for Arthur at this point. It's as if he thinks, once I know how to do this, why can't I do it faster and faster! But Dennis is very patience. When I tried to teach Arthur a few years ago, I was not able to get him to repeat 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 over again, he kept trying to go to 5-6-7, so we have real progress. He is also now using the same song sheets we use at church, cognizant of the titles and words, whereas before he wanted to use his own songbook without regard that the words were not what we were singing.

Yesterday, Arthur and I were sitting at the computer ready to Skype with Bethany and her children. I was going to read everyone a story called Love You Forever. (If I have ever read this book to Arthur, it was only once and quite a while ago.) While we waiting for them to call, I asked Arthur if he would like to read the book out loud to me.  He did just that! Before they called, he read the first two pages, following each line, nearly every noun understandable, the other words made with sounds not understandable, ending with the word, "crazy", which was the last word on the page! I was amazed!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

3 eggs
1/2 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons coconut flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons erythritol
2 packets plain stevia powder

Whisk the eggs, then add and mix the above ingredients together in a medium bowl while melting

2 tablespoons coconut oil
3/4 cup peanut butter

Stir in the c. oil and p. butter, then add and stir in

1 cup almond meal

Bake 12 large or 24 smaller cookies at 350 for 15 minutes (less for small cookies) on buttered cookie sheet.

These puffed up nicely. A good snack low in carbs and sugar, high in protein and enough fat to satisfy for hours!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A year ago . . .

A year ago, Chuck and Mimi were here reconstructing our bathroom along with Dennis. Today, I found a picture of that event to post!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Eating high on the hog!

Dennis and I have been venturing out into a new paradigm. For years, we've all been told over and over that two reasons we have an obesity epidemic is because people eat too much and do too little, and that most fat, especially saturated fat, is bad for you. Not only will fat make you fat, it will clog your arteries, kill you early, etc. Therefore, plans to lose weight nearly always severely limit fat, except Atkins, which touts high protein and low carb with some fat.

Then we had a neighbor down the street try a new way of eating called low carb high fat (LCHF) who posted on FB about it. Wanting to avoid diabetes that runs in his family, he lost 60 pounds and his wife lost 40. Both of them brought their high triglycerides and blood sugar levels down to low, healthy levels. We had started experimenting with eating less carbs and more fat, and found a great cookbook at Barnes and Noble by a guy in Sweden who lost more than 100 pounds with LCHF and gained a much healthier heart and circulatory system.

Since we still felt like we didn't know enough, we had our neighbors over to see how it all worked for them. Besides sharing how they did it, they told us about the Diet Doctor online who has explanations for why and how to do LCHF that we are just beginning to explore. He also interviews other doctors on videos who explain their research and experience in the realm of how and why LCHF produces better health. They explain how and why the two reasons given above for the obesity epidemic are not true.

Today we came home from church to face a package of thawed hamburger, two zucchini and a bunch of kale. Usually I make a kima with the burger and zucchini, adding onions, garlic and curry seasonings. But then Dennis recalled my sister saying you could make pizza crust with zucchini and eggs and we were off! He discovered we had bacon we could use for bacon bits in the kale salad plus bacon on the pizza. He started on the salad and frying 4 slices of bacon while I worked on the zucchini pizza crust (from an online recipe) and browned the hamburger into an italian spiced tomato sauce with onions and mushrooms. Dennis sauteed the sliced mushrooms first in the bacon fat (very tasty!) before they went into the sauce. Arthur came out and grated two cheeses. Dennis added red onion and sun ripened tomato to the kale and bacon bits,  I added some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and s&p, then he added feta crumbles and a tad of stevia. We built the pizza with the italian meat sauce and the cheeses with pepperoni slices in neat concentric circles by the aproned Arthur. The pizza baked for 15 more minutes and we were ready to eat!

Because I hadn't baked the zucchini crust long enough to make it hold together for handling before adding the toppings, it was more like a layered dish we ate with forks that tasted great, as did the kale salad. Since we just learned that to lose weight with LCFF you need to keep your carbs under 50 grams for the day, we have to learn to track our carbs and the pounds should start coming off. In the meantime, we are eating high on the hog, enjoying a great variety of meals and feeling full, with less need to snack and less achey joints.