Saturday, June 30, 2012

Rosemary Onion Bread

I have a wonderful little garden outside my backdoor, my kitchen garden.  I have basil, thyme, rosemary, chives, lemongrass, parsley, lavender, dill, and sage.  I love stepping outside my door and snipping the herbs I am going to use in that days cooking.

Like most things in my life, it is a little haphazard and not planned out very well.  I like the randomness of it.  I like how it doesn't really need me to survive.  When I do dishes, I throw the rinse water out the backdoor.  When I water the other area of the garden, the water generally sweeps across, but otherwise I don't water it on purpose.  I weed when I go out to snip and see a stray weed.

I like to use herbs in my cooking, but especially my bread making.  I have several bread recipes using rosemary.  Here is one.  I love the smell and taste of the onion and the rosemary together.  I hope this becomes a favorite of yours too.  Please let me know if you enjoy it.

Bread Machine Rosemary and Onion Bread

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 2/3 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup stone ground whole wheat flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Add ingredients according to bread machine instructions.
I use the dough setting on my machine.  Then I take the dough out and add a little flour if too sticky.
Shape into 1 oval shape loaf.  Place loaf on oiled baking sheet or stone.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size about 40 minutes.  While loaf is rising, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  
I sprinkle flour on the loaf for a rustic finish.
Use a serrated knife to slash 2 or 3 times on the top of the loaf.
Bake bread until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when thumped, 25 to 35 minutes.  Makes a 1 1/2 pound loaf. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In a blink of an eye

Five years ago, even though we had a few mystery symptoms that were going on with my husband (we blamed it on stress and depression) my life was pretty easy going, until that moment, that "blink of an eye moment".   We were visiting friends, having an ordinary life, my husband grabbed his head and slid down the wall.  After he started talking nonsense and walked, dragging his leg, we rushed him into the hospital.  Within the next few months he was given a diagnosis of dementia.

It has taken trial and error, grieving, soul searching, friends, family, professionals and God's strength to guide me along our journey.  I learned that God has prepared me for the tasks ahead.  My professional training,  I am a special education teacher who works with students with emotionally disturbed students, works well when applied at home.  My students have a difficult time communicating wants and needs and sometimes use aggression to get what they need. It took me a while to understand that what I was trained for at work could help me at home.

All has changed from that moment and continues to change as his Alzheimer's takes away his functioning piece by piece.  I love this man, whom I have shared my life.  This disease does not change that.  I want him to be able to live out his life in dignity.

We recently had another blink of an eye moment.  We almost lost him to an infection.  He had a kidney infection, pneumonia, and now congestive heart failure.  He fought hard to survive and our family and friends battled along with him.  They arranged for meals at the hospital for me, took care of our pets, mowed our yard, washed my clothes, prayed, and helped get the house ready for his return.   

I wasn't ready to let him go and I don't think he was ready yet either.  While in the ICU, I played his favorite music, brought sunflowers from his garden and declared his room a "no cry zone".  Everyone was only allowed to celebrate his life with joy and laughter.

This last "blink of an eye" moment has again changed everything and I am again learning to adjust.  We had found our new normal and were comfortable in that.   This moment in time has moved me closer to the realities that are coming. 

He has lost a lot of his abilities due to his infection.  He may get some of them back, that does happen with dementia.  Now things are different again.      

I am determined that when the time comes, that "blink of an eye moment", I will do it bravely, do it without tears and again fight for his dignity.  In a disease that takes all, we are determined to give our all.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hospital 101

Before my husband began the Alzheimer's journey he was really healthy.  He rarely needed to see doctors.  Now, we are regulars.  Since I make the medical decisions, I worry a lot about my responsibility.  Should we have this procedure, should we wait?  Is it necessary?

I have found that if I have a standard way to deal with his health issues, I don't have to worry as much about what to do when something new develops.  Is it Alzheimer's, is it something else?  I don't assume the new development is due to the Alzheimer's .  We check out the symptoms and make sure there is not another cause.

Last week we started noticing more and more confusion and sleeping much of the day. He also had a fall that ended in stitches.  I asked the doctor to run several tests.  Often confusion is caused by urinary infections.  Nothing showed up and I was afraid that the disease was progressing.  Then he started running a temperature.  Again we could not find the cause when I took him to the emergency room.  They sent us home.  The next day the temperature was even higher.  This time he had symptoms that pointed to a kidney infection and pneumonia.  His blood pressure was really low and his kidney out-put was really low.

He was admitted to ICU.  I like to stay with him when he is admitted since he gets so confused.  We find that if someone stays with him they can help him make sense of what is going on, even if he doesn't totally make sense of things.  Also, he can be comforted by our familiarity.  He has been really sick and I feel really sad when I see him this way.  

We have a pretty strong support system, but since he is in ICU, only immediate family is allowed in.  My daughter has been coming in to sit with him while I go home and take care of my puppy and his cat and take showers and get cleaned up.

I know what the ending is for Alzheimer's Disease, but my goal is and always has been to keep him comfortable, productive and as safe as he can be.  So we are trying our best to get him through this.  Even though unpleasant and definitly not table conversation, I have spoken to my family about his wishes and what our plan will be if something major happens, so things will go smoothly at the end.

I hate the waiting and I dread the results.  Will they find something?  What if they can't take are of his new ailments or he doesn't respond to the treatments.

Due to the fever, medications, and change of routine,  he is terribly confused and agitated.  He looked at me the other night and said he thought Debbie was here.  I told him Debbie was here.  He seemed to be okay with that answer.

Here is some lessons I have learned from our numerous emergencies, procedures and hospital stays.  These work for me.  Of course, I am continuing to learn.

1.  Keep a current medication list in my purse.  Update as needed.
2.  Keep a cheat sheet of medical history in my purse as well as current symptoms or current notes.  I can add questions that were asked that I did not have answers to.  That way I can try to find the answers and add them to my cheat sheet.
3.  Keep a small note book in my purse to take notes of anything I want to ask the doctor or what he/she says.
4.  Grab the phone charger and stick in purse as I am getting ready to go to the hospital.  I try then, to continue to carry it in my purse so I should have it when needed.
5.  Have a Plan A and B in my head of what I would need to do about my dog and cat's care.
6.  Constant updates on the phone to friends and family makes my ear hurt.  I am grateful we have so many caring folk, but in the middle of crisis a plan to follow is helpful.  I ask one of my children to start the phone tree.  Facebook has been an asset.  I can just put his status up each day.  There are, of course web sites that you can post to so each friend or family member gets the same updates.  I envisioned I would use this as his disease progressed.

Having clean underwear has been a problem on the last 2 medical stays.  Somehow when things begin to get out of wack at home, I get behind on laundry.  This time I just stopped by the store and bought new ones when I went home to get our overnight stuff.  My daughter stays with him when I need to go home.  She also brings me meals.  This time because of the length of stay, my church helped set-up complimentary meals for me since I stay with him and help with his care.

None of this is easy, but it is part of the Alzheimer's journey.  I am a firm believer in making a plan and knowing as much as I can about the disease so I can make good decisions.  I also have a local support group that I learn a lot about how to prepare for what the future will bring.  In the middle of crisis, I have friends and family that I brainstorm with.    Of course, I pray and ask God to help guide my decisions and to give me as much wisdom as I need to get through this.

Currently my husband is on day 10 of a hospital stay.  He had a kidney infection and pneumonia.  He was in ICU 4 days.  Normally, any illness will affect the dementia.  Sometimes they get back some of that functioning.  He is doing pretty well.  Of course, we are hoping for a full recovery, but we will shall see.

Please share how you get through the hospital stays.  Thanks, Debbie

Monday, June 18, 2012

Easier than Grandma's Noodles

My church holds an annual Mother's Day tea each year.  This year we had a small gathering of women and their children. My third daughter and her 3 year old daughter attended with me.  My husband came with me so he could help with the dishes and clean-up.  We had a really nice time.

When I got home I realized that I had a sore throat.  I rested for a while and then decided our tea and tea sandwiches probably would not hold my husband all evening.  I had soup broth made up from my vegetable scraps so I heated it up and threw in some onions, carrots, and mushrooms.  Then I made noodles for the soup broth from my mom's recipe.

When I was little, my grandma Grunder made noodles.  When we would come to visit, the noodles would be hanging over broom handles and such, to dry.  This recipe is really a lot easier since you don't need to dry the noodles.  

If I have left overs, I freeze them and then can add them to soup at another time.  This is a single recipe.  I usually double it.  If you double add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder with the floor.

Homemade Noodles
1 beaten egg          2 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoon salt       1 cup flour

Add a little yellow food coloring to the beaten egg
Combine egg, salt, milk and flour.  Roll on floured surface (a pasta machine comes in handy about now, but not necessary.  Slice into noodles.  A easy method is to roll the noodles like you would for cinnamon rolls and slice through.  Drop the noodles into boiling soup or broth.  Cook 10 minutes or until done.  

This was so soothing to my thoat and so nurishing.  This recipe is great for chicken and noodles, also.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Blueberry Season

Blueberries are so inexpensive right now and we have been really enjoying them.  I have been tossing them into a mixed fruit salad.  Sometimes we just wash and eat them right out of the container.  

I have been busy all week with Vacation Bible School at our church.  Our VBS is in the evenings, but I have needed to go and set up in the afternoons.  I am only working mornings at school for summer school this month, but it makes for a pretty full day.  I have been trying to get a meal prepared for us before we go.  Something fast and easy is nice for this kind of schedule.  I fixed Blueberry Whole-Wheat Pancakes and sausage for one of those meals.  What a great way to eat blueberries.

Light-as-a Feather Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour              1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder           1 1/3 cups buttermilk
   1/4 teaspoon salt                               1 tablespoon brown sugar
   1/4 teaspoon baking soda                 1 tablespoon oil
   1/2 cup fresh or frozen 

In medium bowl, stir dry ingredients together.  Beat egg, buttermilk, brown sugar and oil together.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Add blueberries.

Pour 1/4 cup batter for each cake into a well-seasoned hot griddle.  Turn when bubbles appear on surface.  Turn only once.  Makes 12 4-inch pancakes.

When I don't have buttermilk, I put a tablespoon of lemon juice in a measuring cup and then add milk.  


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

For Me

My son came home recently and was surprised to find a new puppy.  "Who's puppy," he asked?  "Mine," I answered.  "Yours." he questioned.  You see I am not as fond of 4 legged creatures as he and his dad are.  In fact, I am always kind of neutral to them.

I decided I wanted a puppy last winter.  I wanted a sweet cuddly puppy that would grow up to love me.  How desperate does that make me sound?

I got my husband a kitten when he first got sick.  That cat hates everyone but him.  She curls up on his lap.and snuggles in at bedtime.  When he has bad spells, the cat seems to sense it and stays close to him.

I know how much time, effort and money a puppy costs.  I am a caregiver to a husband with Alzheimer's Disease.  I don't have time to care for anything else or so it seemed, but I needed someone/thing to care back.  Don't get me wrong.  I have a great support system: family members, a best friend from forever, church family, ect. but I wanted/needed just a little bit more.  When everyone else goes home to a loving family, I am sometimes lonely.  I'm not sure I should say that, because it might be misunderstood.  My husband was and most of the time still is kind and caring.  He still tries to remember to put the coffee on for me before we go to bed so it is ready for me in the mornings.  But Alzheimer's is not a kind and caring disease.  It takes so much of our loved ones that sometimes there is not much leftover.

My puppy is eating my house up, but I got her some chew bones so hopefully she will stop.  We put our shoes up so she won't eat them up anymore.  The dirty clothes basket can not sit on the floor any more or our clothes are chewed up.  Even though she is a handful, I am so glad I have her.  I chat to her in the mornings and tell her what my plans are for the day.  In the evenings, she curls up and I tell her the events of the day.  Due to his disease, my husband has difficulty following simple conversations, so we keep verbal conversations simple and to the point.

Being a caregiver is a demanding job.  The ongoing grief of loosing my husband piece by piece is very difficult to handle.  I do not want to think of myself as a victim because I am not.  So much care is needed and will continue to be needed as the disease progresses and he will be unable to take care of him self at all.  Neither my husband or I would have chosen this path, but we are on it now.  

I think having a puppy helps me deal with my new reality.    A puppy helps to keep things light and easy going.  She doesn't add to my stress, she helps me deal with the stress.  Yes, I have added to my workload, but so do my favorite pastimes of gardening and quilting.  Just as I get something good from the them, I get something positive and rewarding out of caring for the puppy.  I think that this positive and rewarding experience brings a positive outlook to my care giving.

So the surprising answer was, "That is MY puppy."  I take care of her.  I pay for all of her needs, but I get so much more.  She brings a lot of joy to this house and to me.  And I got her - for ME.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Meat Loaf

I was pretty young when I got married.  My skill set in the kitchen was baking bread, pies and cookies.  And as they say, "Man can not live on bread alone", so I had to scramble to figure out the rest.  Looking back I might have been ahead of the game, but knowing a frugal main dish or two would have been a good idea.  
I didn't even know how to cut-up chicken.  I had to follow a diagram in a cookbook.  When I was growing up we had a home cooked meal every night.  Where was I?
I found a recipe on the back of the oatmeal box for meatloaf.  I guess I was too young to question oatmeal in my meatloaf, because it seems to be an unlikely ingredient when I think about it now.  Had I been watching, I would have figured out my mom uses bread crumbs.  I am a great fan of finding ways to use leftover bread.  I like this meatloaf so much that I will have to continue to discover ways to use up that stale bread.  Anyway, this is my favorite meatloaf.  I hope it becomes yours too.  


1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef (you could use
ground turkey)
3/4 cup Quaker® Oats 
3/4 cup finely chopped onion 
1/2 cup catsup (tomato sauce or BBQ sauce works just as well, especially if you find a great coupon deal) 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in large bowl; mix lightly but thoroughly.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until meatloaf is done (160°F for beef, 170°F for turkey), until it is not pink in center and juices show no pink color. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.  

That is where my meatloaf recipe stopped.  I would sometimes spread some catsup on top and call it done.  A couple of years ago, I learned to put a sauce on the top (thanks Rita G.)  Twenty minutes before the meatloaf is done, drain the grease/liquid.

In a sauce pan put in 1 cup of ketchup mixed with 4T of brown sugar, 4T vinegar, 2T Worchestershire Sauce.  Bring to a boil.  Spoon over meatloaf and finish baking meatloaf.  Now it is finished.

Any extra sauce can be served on the side.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oh the Unexpected!

I know that unexpected stuff is going to happen with Alzheimer's, but somehow I never expect it.   One evening, my husband was getting ready for bed and was fixing a dish of food for the dog.  He put the food into a glass bowl. 

I gave up a  long time ago having rules for things. Once upon a time the rule was; soup was eaten from bowls, silverware was put back into the silverware drawer, and dog food went into dog dishes.  Simple rules, actually.   Now days anything goes. 

In this house the Alzheimer's rule is foremost, stay safe.  So putting dog food in any dish in the cabinet works, as long as you don't get hurt.  So the unexpected - my husband fell, the dish crashed to the floor and his hand slammed down on top of a glass shard.

We have plastic dishes for the dog.  How do I get him to use the plastic?  I don't, unless I follow him around or hide all of the glass.  Of course this is probably a one time event.  Not the falling.  He has fallen before since he has been sick and I know he will fall again.

Can I keep him safe from everything?  How can I keep him safe?  I don't have the answers.  

He likes to help out.   Do I take every shred of independence from him?  I strive to keep him as involved as I can.  I want him to feel as productive as he can, for as long as he can.  His desire through all this has been to continue to take care of our family.

I still think some independence is okay.  I think it is my job to keep him safe, but I can't  always control the outcome.  The unexpected will happen.  I think the way I respond is the key.  

He fell.  There was a lot of blood and the cut seemed pretty deep.  I helped him up, wrapped his hand, helped him put his shoes on, and tried to help keep him calm. We had a quick trip to the ER.  He had stitches.  This wasn't a fun evening, but it seems to be a part of our new normal.  

Expect the unexpected!