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It has been a busy week; a tiring week; an exhausting week.

On June 26th, Sunday, we held a (F)UN birthday party to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday.  Her birthday is actually in January but no one wants to travel in January.  It was quite a success, with my sister flying in from Arizona, my neice and two daughters driving down from Michigan, my daughter from South Bend, along with one of her sons and his adorable girlfriend, and nephew and his fantastically funny wife coming down from Wisconsin.  The rest were from all over Indiana.  Mom was dully surprised.  When daughter brought her down from her apartment, to the building’s common room, she couldn’t figure out why I was taking a picture of her and who was that woman who looked like her granddaughter standing next to me also taking her picture, until she realized it WAS her granddaughter from Michigan.

Picture of my daughter, mom, greatgrandson and his girlfriend.

It was fun watching her wheeling around in her power chair going “Oh, you too!” as she spotted her sister-in-law, sister, and old friends.  Some of the food (mostly that made by my husband) was a big hit.  My potato salad needed doctoring.  The cake from Sam’s club was great.  People didn’t just eat and leave and that made it nice to talk with everyone.

Sheryl, Mom and sister, Eve.

Sheryl, Mom and sister, Eve.

I, and my daughter from So. Bend, had been planning the party for three months.  We even had blue grass music compliments of Dan Cantwell, of Travis Creek Band, from Nashville, Indiana and our boy, Jacob Wells, who sings with the band occasionally and threw in some country music. My family is an artistic family and used to my uncle playing guitar in the background, so it reminded the relatives of him. I have movies of Dan and Jacob up on Youtube. My Youtube name is SAVanVleck. You could also search for Jacob Wells. He gets good feedback on his singing. I’m trying to link it but ……. haven’t got that down.  I think I have to upgrade to link a movie?

I would love to say that the band in front of the window was a wonderful cinematic affect, but I’m afraid the shaky camerawork and the one place of missed lyrics will make that a true lie.  I plan on rerecording this song when I can and have my tripod with.  I am afraid I am developing a family tremor.  I used to shoot 35 mm photos at f-stop15 with nary a shake, now I can’t hold it still at any speed.

Now, the bad of the week: A few days before the party we found out that my mom is in Stage 3 heart failure. With that, and other problems, the doctor has decided to have Hospice come out to her apartment. It is really a blessing. It will help ensure she is getting the best of care and take a load off of me. I suspected last month, as I purchased only a small amount of food for her that she wasn’t eating right. This month, it didn’t seem as if she was eating at all. Turns out, she is too tired to eat and they will figure out what to do about this, and send people out to help her with her personal needs and her house cleaning needs.

Today, when I went to her apartment to give her a shot (of blood thinner) and take her for blood work and meet her new Hospice nurse, she met me with: “I’m not stupid.” I told her I knew that and asked what was wrong. She decided that she only had six months to live and I was trying to hide it from her and that was why we had the party and Hospice coming out. While it is true she could only have six months, it is also true that she could have only one week or she could have two years, and we started planning the party months before I found out. I think she finally believes me but I am pretty sure that I will have to settle the matter several more times before she moves on to something else.

I have always wondered at older people saying they have no one left alive (no mate, no children, no friends) and so they are ready to die. I miss people who have died, but I do feel that life is a blessing to be lived to the fullest. Yet now, as I look at the photo of my dad’s family that I posted two months ago and realize that there are only two people left alive in that picture: my cousin, Richard and my sister, Evelyn. There is something that sets you adrift when you realize you are so close to being that alone. I mean, I have a family other than dad’s family; husband, daughter, grandsons, but not so many of those people who were there when I was born. It’s just strange.

I’m limping from sciatic nerve  leg pain, tired from everything, including taking steroids for the leg,  and probably boring, but meeting all the Hospice people makes it all so real.  Thanks for listening.

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I have always had a problem with following the crowd.  Where other teens would wear the “in” styles, I fought to do my own thing.  My love for the Beatles did not develop until well past the time all the other girls were screaming at them.  I liked Elvis until he got popular.  So, while I have had a blank mind lately for posts, and I find myself checking out the Daily Post at WordPress, I am loath to use their ideas.

It seems to be less loathsome to scroll back a few days and use those ideas.  Like eating.  Which is always on my mind, lately.  So, here I go again. 

What food would I eat if I could have anything I wanted?

lobster tail dripping with butter

Photo from konocook.blogspot.com

I am not sure how much of this craving is the melted butter but I have not had lobster tail in over twenty years.  I do not like shrimp at all, but I have loved lobster tail.

My second choice would be prime rib but I have to tell you that the longer I am on the Vegan diet the less appealing a slice of medium rare prime rib is to me. 

Who would I eat it with?  That’s is just too easy.  I would like to say the Dahlai Lama.

A happy fellow

He looks like a jolly fellow,  but I think that I would be tongue tied around him.  It would be a quiet meal.  So, my choice:

Viggo Mortensen from the Observer

Now, that was just too easy to pass up.

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I’ve been plant based,  no-oil, eating since November 14th.  The first two weeks were hell, but it gets easier.  One thing is to find things that are familiar to you, yet within the constraints of the diet.  Take potato chips.  But, do so carefully as I may bite your hand.

I have not added salt to food, minimally in cooking, for years now, yet I reached a point in this diet where I would have killed for a potato chip.  I would stick to plant based eating all day, then the lights would go down and I would eat two bowls of oatmeal, just to fill up.  We have a box of small bags of chips, for the boys.  They love taking some downstairs when they watch movies and destroy things on the computer.  But, those little bags of potato chips were like a siren song to me, as I lay down.  And, before I knew it, I was in rapturous joy over a 100 calorie bag of chips. 

I finally found out that I can minimize that craving by slicing potatoes very thin and frying them in a skillet.  I love pepper and I have done it since I started this diet, but when I added pepper, I was able to reject the chips.

Then there is the matter of pizza.  I now realize the men in this house eat pizza about 60% of their meals.  Do you have any idea how good melted cheese smells?  So, I got out my trusty cookbook and decided to make a plant based pizza.

Polenta Pizza

This  is Polenta pizza.  Looks good right?  How can anything look that good and taste that bad?  Now, to be fair, maybe I did it with the oregano I added to the tomato sauce.   I don’t always have the right ingrediants.  I would also like to mention that there must be some trick to making polenta firm up.  It did finally.  The crust wasn’t that bad but put it all together and blech!

breakfast

On the other hand, this was great.  I was tired of eating oatmeal for breakfast and just wanted something hot and delicious.  I have gotten in the habit of spraying pam in my cast iron skillet and then seeing what I have to throw in.  For breakfast, it was potatoes, a bit of no-meat sausage (yes, I read, it has oil.  You can’t trust husband to read labels.  The other day he mailed the electric bill without a stamp on it.  I had told him two days in a row that he had to buy stamps first, but—-), onions, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, and my spicy hummus.  It was soooooo good! 

So, there are ups and downs.  I may have to buy a slicer to make my potatoes thinner, but this is working.  It is hard to measure the affect on my heart but I have lost seven pounds and I do feel better.  My body just seems to work better on plants.  Gee, bumper sticker anyone?

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Since I have begun a healthy heart diet, I have become obsessed with food and am eating, fortunately small amounts, about eight times a day.  It was pointed out to me, by a snarky grandson/son, that animals who are herbivores, graze.  So, like a cow, I am grazing.  This was as we were sitting at Steak N Shake and they were eating juicy hamburgers as I ‘grazed’ a salad.

Literally, I have not cooked in years.  Disabled husband feels like it is his contribution to the household and has fried up a storm of meat for twenty years now.  This has paid its price on my hips and heart ; a price that I am actively working to reverse.  But, boy is it taking my time.

There are all kinds of new groceries that our refrigerator has never seen and I’m taking up a third of the room with my meals and small containers of stuff.  I have kept the five pounds off (even though THAT is NOT the point of this, just a nice added benefit).  And, that is also despite the fact that day before yesterday I ate: potato chips and pizza.  These are my two Waterloos.  Next time they cook pizza, I’m going to go in my room and shut my door.  Because, once you have smelled melted cheese, all hope is lost.

I swear that I am eating a meal and within twenty minutes of finishing it, I am getting my Reverse Heart Disease cookbook out and starting the next meal.  This usually wraps up by 2pm, when I find I have enough leftovers to finish the evening. 

My blog searches are also centered around food blogs.  I just found Everybody Likes Sandwiches, via salad on the go: chopped waldorf wraps | Everybody Likes Sandwiches.   This had a great idea for using the no-oil corn tortillas I can eat and wrap them around lettuce and apples, etc. 

Gotta run now and eat.

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Snow is here. I woke up to about an inch and a half which is now up to about three inches. Since no one had to go out today, it was a good day to read the paper.

We live in a small county with a weekly paper. It isn’t very large; two to three sections with maybe a total of seven pages.

As I learned today, our town has won $2,500 to do a survey of trees located in town right-of-way “last winter” and the survey is almost complete. Our town is three to five blocks long; depending on how you could classify the property that has a liquor store, pharmacy and Subway. Which may be the single most important section in town. You can have dinner, get drunk and get aspirin for your hangover in one stop shopping. So, when they told me that they were just now finishing up, I was a bit amused, to say the least.

Okay, they aren’t just counting them, they are noting locations, species, ages, conditions and other pertinent information; and all in an effort to prioritize aged and dying trees for removal. Since this is a tourist town, I suppose it is cheaper than a tree falling on a tourist. THAT is definitely not good for business. But, that’s only an aside (and perhaps the longest one on record).

The fun part of our paper is called THE FINE PRINT: It’s the Sheriff’s log.

When my grandson went in the Army, I tried to write him once a week and always included items from the Sheriff’s log. Now, grandson/son is in the Army, in Germany. When he was in basic, I sent him items from the Sheriff’s log too and he read them to his fellow soldiers. But, it seems that with the economy the way it is, the crazies have gone underground (looking for work?) and the crime rate has gone up. This is just not near as funny as it was, until today.

This one could have had serious consequences, so I don’t mean to laugh, BUT – What the **** was the woman thinking?

911 caller on * Road advises she fell down three flights of stairs under a refrigerator a few hours ago. Subject advises she did lose consciousness a couple of times then and has been throwing up since. She wants to know how long before ambulance arrives.

Why, in the world, would anyone, man or woman, try to move a refrigerator up three flights of stairs alone?

The other one that caught my eye was a 5 p.m call:

Caller advises a man is selling her son marijuana and he doesn’t need to do that.

You tell him, mama!

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Hope you all had a tremendous food fest, that is called Thanksgiving, here in the U.S. 

TV is on and I just HAVE to say this.  Just how sick is Bridalplasty.  The whole idea makes me sick.  What a sad state this country is getting itself in.  Enough digression.

My fond memories of Thanksgiving are from my childhood, when we traveled to my grandmother/aunt’s house and I spent the day being hugged and kissed by comfy aunts and spent time with my sister (she lived with my grandmother). 

My grandmother was a quiet woman.  I really wish I could remember her voice, but I don’t.  I do remember her whispery reading (something my dad did also) and her piano playing.  I also remember that, if she knew you had a favorite dish that was just a bit different from norm, say the lemon filling in lemon cream pie but without crust (Now who in the world would want to do without homemade pie crust?).  I’m just saying, that if that was what you liked, Grandma had it there waiting for you.

Grandma’s house was full of people and conversation and laughter; especially when the ladies went out to do the dishes while the men slept on the couch.  They were mostly laughing about the men, I think, but they were sure having a good time.

Then, came the time when dinner was at mom’s house and I was one of them helping  with cleanup (when mom would allow anyone to help) and laughing.  It was always extra good when unexpected relatives arrived to crowd the table.

This year, Thanksgiving was particularly quiet.  It was just five of us and we catered it from Cracker Barrel.  After two weeks on my Vegan heart diet, I decided to join in and eat just regular food.  The best was the pizza and chips we had for lunch.  But, they weren’t quite as good as I remembered.  Everyone enjoys Cracker Barrel’s cooking, but I was actually wishing I was still eating Vegan.

Surprised me!  Something about this diet makes me feel lighter inside and like all my insides are working properly.  I know that isn’t a very scientific way to put it, but I’m glad to be back on my diet. 

STATS:  By Wednesday (that’s actually a week and a half) I have now lost five pounds.  Thursday’s meal put it to four.  Since I cannot see inside my arteries, I cannot tell you but I imagine little blocks of them floating downstream.    I made a great three bean soup and adjusted the War Cake recipe (follows).  It is one of the most moist cakes you can make.  It is from World War I and has no eggs, milk, nor butter in it.

This recipe is from a Dear Heloise column, when someone asked for the “eggless, milkless, butterless cake her mother made around 1918.  It is dark and heavy but ohhhh so good.

Mix 2 cups brown sugar
2 cups hot water
 and 2 teaspoons shortening (I used 2 teaspoons of apple sauce) in medium saucepan.

Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup raisins (I used chopped up dates). 

Add 1 teaspoon each of salt, cinnamon and cloves.  I RARELY add salt and did not for this cake.

Boil the above for five minutes after it first bubbles.  Remove from the stove and let it cool.  Let it cool completely.

After it is cool, add 3 cups of flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat but was then out of whole wheat so had to use 2 cups of white.  I would normally at least do 50/50 on that but am now going heavier on the whole wheat.

And, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons of hot water.

Mix well

Pour into greased bundt pan

Bake 1 hour at 350 to 375

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Never mind that I have only cooked on holidays during the last twenty years.  Never mind the fact that I do not have a dishwasher.  I am cooking and have found a dish that will be a staple.   Excuse the storage container.  I could have made it much more appealing in a regular dish but then I would have had to wash one more dish, by hand.  Forget that!

This is Butternut Squash & Black Bean Chili.  Anything I tried to do with these winter squashes has been sweet, when I was going for regular meal food.  But, in this recipe, the Butternut Squash took on the chili flavor, like tofu does.  I took one bite and felt so satisfied. 

I found the recipe by googling for winter squash and, sorry to say, did not keep the link.  I did not have all the ingrediants they wanted, so I will post the altered recipe here.  I am also cutting every recipe in half now so that I am not throwing out as much food when I don’t like it. 

So, here is my version of Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili for VEGAN NO OIL

1 medium onion diced and sauted with
1 clove garlic
1/2 cubed butternut squash
When browned and soft, add:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can tomato sauce
1 T chili powder
Vegetable broth to thickness you want
pepper to taste
Simmer 15 minutes.

You can even serve this in a mini pumpkin.  That would have made a great picture.
What I did not have was cumin or smoked paprika. 
They used 2 cups vegetable broth, but I like thick chili and used maybe 3/4 cup.

I am happy too that eating this way has resolved a gnawing feeling that I often have, at night, in my stomach.  Day one and two were agonizing and by day three, it seemed relatively easy.  Anyone have a dishwasher for sale, cheap?

Here, also, is my “Simple No-Tahini Hummus.”  It’s not as spreadable as it should be, but grandson said it tasted good.  I just have to figure out what to do with it.

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