Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My dear Ayn Chee

Ayn Chee, my lovely little terrier, has not been feeling well for several months. It seemed to start with her stomach becoming a bit distended. Then I noticed that she was no longer cuddling with me, seemed to need to be by herself. I took her to the vet. She was put on a short course of antibiotics due to an inflamed bowel, most likely from eating something she shouldn't have in the yard.

She continued to distance herself from me, and she began to fall asleep on her feet. It was funny, but it wasn't. She would start to sway, her eyelids would get heavy, and occasionally she would fall over. Sometimes I would hear a thump in the other room, would run into the room forgetting the "problem" and there would be Ayn Chee, standing already and shaking herself, and I would know the thump was because she had hit the floor.

I did a Google search on "my dog falls asleep standing up" and got about 10,000 hits in the first few seconds. As Ina would say, "Who knew?" I thought it might be Addison's disease, and made an appointment to take her in for testing. That is an easy test, one quick blood test, and it came back negative. The vet, Dr. Hoeffler (my hero, the best vet in northern Indiana) of Parrett Animal Clinic in Plymouth, suggested doing an abdominal ultrasound. He also wanted to do an EKG while she was sedated, since there is a heart problem called syncopy that causes the blood pressure to drop, lowering oxygen, which could cause her to faint.

When I picked her up after the tests were complete, I learned that her heart was fine, but there was a mass in her liver. All tests pointed to cancer, but without a biopsy, that is just an educated guess. They also found a tumor in her brain stem. He said that tumor, malignant or not, would not explain the fainting or her withdrawal. The EKG was normal, so by means of elimination, that leaves dementia as the probable cause of the odd behavior, the way she has distanced herself from me, no longer sleeping with me but spending the night on the sofa downstairs by herself, occasionally standing halfway down the stairs staring at the wall. And she has become very sensitive to any kind of stimulation, whether it be a gentle petting on her back, a light pat on the head, or talking to her. Noise in particular bothers her. But she still loves to take her walks. I forget that there is anything wrong while she is tugging on the leash, tail wagging, smelling a little bit here, a little there, and squatting to leave her mark.

I have been doing a lot of research while waiting for a last test on her elevated calcium levels. If it was ionized calcium, it could be causing her odd behavior, including the fainting. It can be controlled in some cases with a shot of prednisone. I was so hoping! It wasn't going to make the liver problem go away, but it could make her more comfortable and give me back my cuddling pup.

Due to the holiday, the lab was a week late with the test results. While I waited, I learned that a low carb diet is helpful for cancer in dogs, just as it is with us humans. So Ayn Chee is getting a diet of Hiatt's turkey - broth and meat - in several small meals each day to prevent the vomiting that had begun. Her mood seems to be better, and I took a selfie a couple of nights ago with her actually lying against me on the sofa - first time in a month! She stayed there for more than 40 minutes, a real gift. The change in diet seems to be agreeing with her.

I have started doing healing touch on her at least twice a day. It can't hurt. At first she squirmed away, but now she lets me hold my hands over her liver and neck for a minute or two. Who knows what good it might do, even if it is just good for me.  I continued to hold out hope that there might be something that would make it all better. I think that is called denial.

Last of the tests came in for Ayn Chee today. It wasn't good news. In a nutshell, the calcium isn't an issue, and there is no treatment short of chemotherapy that will do anything for her. If I want to go that route, it would first require a biopsy to confirm that it is indeed cancer. The chemo would make her very ill. Liver cancer is one of the least treatable, and the most it might give her is a few more months. Quality of life would not be good.

And so we are just riding it out, Ayn Chee and I. Dr. Hoeffler agrees with me that she is in no pain. She wags her tail when we go for a walk, and she loves each bowl of broth and turkey. Occasionally she blesses me with some snuggling.

Given the comparative life spans of humans and our pets, I know I am going to have to face this again and again. And yet I don't regret it, not even now when the pain is so intense. I love her, I love them all, and I will deal with it when I need to. Now Ayn Chee, Tashi and I are going to take a walk to the end of the block and back. There will be much tail wagging and sniffing, and if I'm lucky there will be some cuddling before we all go to sleep.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Silent Supper - you're invited

Invitation to a
Silent Supper

Celebrate Samhain by partaking in a Silent Supper Sunday, November 1 at 5:00 pm at the First Unitarian Church, 801 East Washington, South Bend.

Guests are welcome. Bring a dish to share.

We partake in this supper with a special invitation to our loved ones who have left us for the other side. A potluck begins at 5:00 pm, and silence is held while we eat. There is a place set at each table for those who might join us. It is appropriate to put a bit of food on the plate for any who will come, maybe something special that a loved one liked.

After eating in silence, it is broken by the heartbeat drum; then we will take some time to share any experiences with one another, or just to share a special story about someone we care about who is no longer with us in this realm.

All who will respect the silence are welcome to join us.

This event is sponsored by SPIRAL, Supporting Pagans In Ritual And Life

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Today is the dinner party . . .

I have already done all of the pre-work in the kitchen that I can do.  This morning it's cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  And I'm still at it.  One of the guests is allergic to cats and has asked that I put the cat outside.  I will have to take off her magic color, which allows her to come in through the Solo door in the basement whenever she chooses.  Knowing cats, she will want to find this guy and plop down on his lap and stay there!

As for dinner, at noon I will take baguettes out of the freezer and then make the apple pie.  While the pie is in the oven, I'll get the dining room set up.  Just enough mismatched chairs to go around my mom and dad's first dining room table.  I feel so blessed to be the kid who got it!  It's a gate-leg table, and fits against the wall taking up very little space.  But it will easily seat the seven people who will be here.  In fact, last Thanksgiving it seated eleven.  Practical and beautiful, just like my parents.

So once the table is set up and the bar is laid out, I will commence with making the main course dishes.  My favorite line in the braised sauerkraut recipe is "saute the chopped bacon in butter."  Oh, yes!  Then there are sliced carrots added to the saute pan, and finally white wine.  Then herbs, fresh ground pepper and two to three cups chicken or vegetable broth.  (I made vegetable broth Thursday, throwing all of the vegetable and herb trimmings into the soup pot while I made the veal stock.)  Then add the sauerkraut and turn into a Dutch oven.  Into the oven it goes for a slow braise.  Potatoes are added about half way through.

About an hour before dinner, the rabbit gets put into the oven with a gazillion shallots.  During the last 20 minutes, it is basted with the veal stock.  Eventually it becomes a glaze on the rabbit.  The sauerkraut, some sauteed zucchini and leek toast round out the main course.

Well, back to the vacuum cleaner.  Gotta get that cat hair cleaned up!

Stock to use for today's meal

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I love to cook

Bouquet garni on cookbook

Six of my friends are coming over Sunday, late afternoon, for a Harvest Moon Feast.  I have been toying with several different menu options, but as of now, this is it.  It is getting too late to change my mind again!

Bar opens at 5:00

Dinner at 6:00

French lentil salad in Boston lettuce cups

Rabbit with shallots and pickles, basted with brown stock
Sauerkraut with bacon, potatoes and white wine
Courgettes in olive oil and butter
Leek toast

Apple pie with 7-year old white Cheddar or vanilla ice cream

I am just starting the brown stock, and I went outside with a flashlight and scissors to harvest rosemary, thyme, basil and parsley.  I tied them together with some bay leaves tucked into the bundle.  The scent of the bouquet garni is about to make me faint with hunger!

Are you hungry yet?  I haven't had supper, but who wants to eat plain food when this is on the horizon?  Think I'll just have some homemade chevre on rye crisp to go with my Martini and call it a day.  .

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Apples, apples, apples!

Since I follow a low carbohydrate diet, I limit my apple consumption to a slice or two when I am baking a pie for someone else.  That is not a slice of apple pie, but rather a slice of apple.  Even the tart, crisp baking apples have way too much sugar in them.  If I were to eat a whole apple, it would be akin to handing a beer to an alcoholic.  There is no stopping me once that sugar hits my brain.

Each fall, we have an apple pie contest at the market.  I submitted my favorite apple pie last year.  It looked beautiful, but I was having trouble with my oven, and it didn't taste nearly as good as it looked.  I didn't win a prize, no surprise.

This year I feel like I have to redeem myself.  I have found some workarounds to get the results I want from my oven, and I'm trying again, this time with a new recipe.  I've made this pie once to rave reviews.  But can I repeat it?

Is it a winner?
I baked the first pie with organic Gravenstein apples.  They are very hard to find.  When I got such good reviews, I went back to the store for more Gravensteins.  They were not to be had.  But lo and behold, there was a flat of organic Cox's Orange Pippins.  They are even harder to find, and some believe them to be THE best pie apple in the world.  So I bought enough for two pies, one for the contest at the market and the second one for a dinner party I am having the day following the contest.

Then I got an invitation to a dinner meeting for Purple Porch shareholders, and they are having an apple pie contest.  So I thought, why not?  I went back to the store for more Cox's Orange Pippins. But they, too, were not to be had anymore.

I started reading labels, and what did I find? Be still my heart --  Roxbury Russets!  Too good to be true, but there they were, staring up at me in all of their russeted beauty!  So I bought enough for another two pies.  Mixing the two apples in each of the pies will only make them better!

If you live around Mishawaka / South Bend, it is worth the trip to Martin's.  I'm not sure if they are carrying these antique apples at all of their stores.  Call first, or mosey on out to the Martin's just east of Capital on Lincoln Way East.  But you had better get there fast.  There are people in the "apple know" snapping up these flavorful fruits.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A local artist

On Sunday mornings at church, if I am sitting anywhere near Fern Hamlin, I watch her stitching away on her quilt squares.  She recently brought several of her quilts for display in our foyer and the worship area.  If you love to quilt or appreciate such handiwork, it is worth the trip to First Unitarian Church at 801 East Washington, in South Bend, Indiana to view her work.  Church is open for services from 10:00 am to noon every Sunday.  No need to attend the services to see the quilts, but while you are there, we'd love to have you join us for services as well.

Here are some pictures I took with my phone.  To appreciate her work, you need to see them up close and personal. Some squares are only 3/4" across, and every last one of them is hand stitched.  If you love what you see, they are for sale.  Prices range from $50 to $450, a real bargain!

Oh, one more thing - we are celebrating First Friday from 6:00 to 8:00 on October 2.  It's game night - bring your own or join in with someone else.  Or just wander around and look at these beautiful works of art.  Here is a preview.

My hand is in a few of these just to give perspective on the size of these squares - each one hand stitched!

I bought this one.  Fern is putting a sleeve in the back so that I can run a dowel through it and hang on the wall above my bed.

This is just breathtaking!  

My friend Jim bought this one.

We get to look at this one during services.  It's a good thing Rev. Chip's sermons are interesting, or we might lose focus.

The artist - Fern Hamlin.  Brava!!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Paleo snacking at its best!

I just can't leave well enough alone.  I always seem to need something new to keep me interested in my business.  Right now, one of my biggest sellers is soaked and dried organic nuts -- walnuts, almonds and pecans.  They sell 10:1 against the plain organic nuts.  Why soak and dry?  It's a process that removes phytic acid from the nuts and makes them healthier.

So I got to thinking.  What if I mix them with some organic blueberries from our local market?  I can dehydrate them in my Excalibur dehydrator, which I use to dry the nuts after they are soaked in salt water.  Why not keep it busy - and BUY LOCAL?

Why stop there?  I have found an excellent (albeit not cheap) source of quality organic nuts and organic dried fruit.  So here's the lineup, all USDA organic:  Soaked and dried almonds, walnut halves, pecan halves, pepitas and sunflower seeds; local dehydrated blueberries; dehydrated sour cherries (mmmmm, I keep sneaking those from the package!) and sultana raisins; unsweetened coconut flakes; and yummy dark chocolate chips.

Then the ingredients are loaded into boxes, each box individually filled ingredient by ingredient, carefully weighed, so that each contains exactly the same amount of each ingredient.  Then a nice snap-on lid so you can dip in and munch, and then keep it covered (if you can) until the munchies hit you again.  This is paleo snacking at its best!

Stop by Purple Porch Wednesday night market or my booth at the Farmers Market for a taste and to purchase!  Available by mail as well.

Paleo Trail Mix - all organic ingredients