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My Parkinson's Journey

In which Terri shares a humorous look at her journey with Parkinson's disease and Dystonia:

For me, illness and health are not opposites but exist together. Everyone has something that is challenging to them. Mine just simply has a recognizable name. My life will take a different path because of this but that's okay. Everyone has changes in their lives that create their path.  I'm learning how to enjoy whatever path I'm on.

Filtering by Tag: cooking

Stuffed, Roasted, or Boxed?

Terri Reinhart

It was a rare moment when I was home alone. Chris had gone to pick up Emma at the light rail station. I had just returned from delivering mail to my parents and picking up our grandsons from school and taking them to their home. Time to sit down and make up my menu and to do list for Thanksgiving dinner. Then the phone rang. The caller thanked me for filling out his questionnaire and sending it back in and wanted to know when he could come over to talk to my husband and me. I didn't remember filling out any questionnaire, but the man was persistent. Perhaps it was my husband who sent it in. Whatever it was, we got it all sorted out and a few days later had our sit down talk with a friendly young man about preplanning (and prepaying) for our funerals.

It's one of those should do things that I'd rather not. At least this young man didn't ask questions about our health. Considering their payment plan included insurance, which means if you die before paying it off they won't make you continue paying, I wonder what they do if they find out you have a better than average risk of croaking before the last $ comes in? Not that I do. Parkinson's isn't a fatal disease, but the mere mention of a chronic progressive health condition can make the most enthusiastic insurance salesperson suddenly uninterested in you. The last one compared me to a racehorse with a broken leg.  

It has made us think. Planning ahead would be helpful to our kids, save us money in the long run, and ... what else do we need for our holiday dinner this week?

Going whole hog (or turkey) and having a casket funeral and burial is unbelievably expensive. I had no idea the average funeral costs $8000. 

Should we go with the Simple Roast Turkey recipe by Melissa Clark? Fix something more gourmet? Go to a restaurant? 

Maybe we should go the easier route and be cremated. My cousin died of ALS seven years ago. At his request, his ashes were put in a cardboard box and buried. Hid grandkids drew pictures which were then taped on the box.

Make it simple - concentrate on the side dishes. I especially like a Sassy Cranberry Sauce and yams baked with apples, raisins, and brown sugar. We'll have a big salad and, just for fun, some Bacon Wrapped Dates. For dessert, maybe I'll try something new and have Molly Ritter's Purple Sweet Potato Pie. Molly was one of my kindergarten students. Now she's a model and she enjoys cooking. All our bread baking obviously paid off.

Oh man, even a simple cremation is expensive. It's tempting to do what an old friend did and donate our bodies to science. This, however, might discourage anyone in our family from going to medical school. That cadaver they're working on just might be Grandma. We teased our friend unmercifully about her decision, even though we knew it was an extremely generous and noble thing to do. One friend suggested when the medical school was finished with her, we could have her stuffed and set her in the corner. How silly we were....

Oh, that reminds me... what are we going to do for stuffing?

 

Christmas Pudding - A Holiday Adventure

Terri Reinhart

Cornelius, let's arrange a signal for you to give me.

If it's really an adventure, give me a signal. Say a word.

Say, like 'Pudding'.

All right, Barnaby. For adventure, 'Pudding'.”

(from the Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder)

 

“So, what are you making?”

I was caught by surprise and didn't even look around. I didn't have to. It had been some time since Mo, aka Marshmallow the Opinion Fairy, had come to visit, but I would have known her voice anywhere, anytime. I wasn't going to answer, but she had startled me and I'd almost dropped the pot of rice.

“Horchata. Don't talk for a minute, okay?!”

I heard a small hrrumph sort of sound and miraculously, it was quiet. I made Mo sit while I buzzed the rice mixture up in the blender then poured it through the sieve. Only when it was done, did I turn around and greet my old friend.

Mo: Old friend? Come on, I'm not so old.

Me: Don't get huffy, you know what I mean.

Mo: So, what's up with the horchata? It's not your usual Christmas treat.

Me: I know, but it sounded really good this year and I wanted to try making it.

Mo: Meaning, you've never made it before? What time is everyone coming over?

Me: Not till 4. You're welcome to stay.

It was nice to see her again, even though I knew she'd be challenging me at every turn. Already she was questioning my horchata. Really.

Mo: Thank you. I think I will stay. What else is for dinner? It smells good.

Me: Vegetable soup, chili, salad, squash and apples, carrots and green beans.

Mo: Sounds awfully healthy.

Me: Well, there's pumpkin pie, too. I made it with coconut milk and gluten free cookie crumbs in the crust.

Mo: What about your truffles? You always make truffles for Christmas.

Me: Not this year.

Mo: What? Why?

Me: We've been busy. Emma and I have been to Chicago twice in the last five weeks, we had lots of parties to attend, and then everyone got stomach flu. Besides, I'm trying to keep to a healthy diet.

Mo: And making your family and friends suffer along with you.

Me: I doubt they'd want truffles right now. Anyway, I'm kind of on my own here. Everyone else is still recouperating. Got to keep it simple.

Mo: Which means making horchata?

Me: I want something special and a nice cup of hot, spicy horchata sounds really good.

Mo: Hot? I thought it was served over ice.

Me: I know. All the recipes I've found say to serve it cold, but I've only had it hot. It can't be too difficult, can it? All I have to do is heat it up. I'm going to put it in the crock pot and keep it warm.

Now, if you wouldn't mind stirring the soup, I'll pour this into the crock pot, then start getting the dishes out.

We worked together for awhile. I was grateful for the help and the company. To be fair, my family had helped with a lot of the preparation earlier in the day, cutting up vegetables and such, but for the last hour or so, I had been working alone. Now, with Mo's help, everything was coming together. She even dusted the living room furniture.

After another hour had passed, we decided to give the horchata a taste test. I lifted the lid of the crock pot and dipped the ladle into the creamy hot mixture. The ladle came up out of the depths with a “gloooop” sound and what was inside looked like congealed oatmeal. I almost cried.

Mo: Uh, oh. What happened?

Me: I don't know, but I certainly can't serve this up to anyone.

Mo: Which is too bad, considering you've got about 3 gallons of it.

Me: There's got to be something we can do. Any inspirations?

Mo: Sorry. Wrong fairy. The Inspiration Fairy is my 3rd cousin. If you want my opinion...

Me: I'll ask for it. Until then, unless you have something nice to say or can work a miracle, don't.. say... anything.

Mo: !

No, she didn't start swearing. Something started to escape, but she clapped her hand over her mouth just in time. I was pleased. I still have an effective teacher look.

A few minutes later, she crept quietly up and tapped my arm. The next thing I knew, she had flown through the air backwards and had landed on top of the dog. I turned my teacher look on the dog and Mo escaped with only an affectionate lick. I helped her up.

Mo: What did you do that for? I didn't even say anything.

Me: I'm sorry, Mo. My meds are wearing off. It's not safe to surprise me right now. I never know what my arms will do when that happens.

Mo: Okay, okay. Give me a towel. Is it okay if I suggest something?

I handed her a washcloth and nodded. It was the least I could do.

Mo: Make rice pudding. It's congealing anyway, and it smells really good.

Me: Brilliant.

So, together we looked up a recipe for baked rice pudding. My mixture was congealed to the point where it wouldn't pour into the baking dish. I added a little bit of almond milk and a couple of beaten eggs. This was going to work!

We were ready. Dinner was done, the house was clean, the buffet table was set up, and the pudding was in the oven. Time to rest a little. I poured some Bailey's into a thimble sized cup for Mo and we sat back and chatted for awhile. When everyone came, I turned to introduce Mo, but she had vanished. Maybe she was afraid of my grandchildren.

Mo: I am NOT afraid of your grandchildren, I'm just not feeling very social right now.

Her voice had come from the direction of the Christmas tree. I looked over, but couldn't see where she was hiding. Once everyone arrived and was served, I put some dinner out for Mo on the fork of one of the branches. We had a wonderful evening. The little ones played and opened presents, and the rest of us talked together.

All too soon it was time for our evening to end. We said Merry Christmas and hugged and watched everyone as they went out into the cold night. When the door was locked and my family had drifted off to their various corners of the house, Mo came out from the tree.

Mo: How was the pudding?

Me: Pudding?

Mo: You know, the stuff you put in the oven to bake?

Me: OHMYGODIFORGOTALLABOUTIT!

After startling, Mo began to laugh and laugh. I went in, turned off the oven and opened the door, fully expecting to find a rice loaf, a rice brick, or just simply rice hardened onto the baking dish. I took it out and did what the recipe told me to do. I checked for doneness with a knife. For some reason, Mo collapsed in giggles again. To my surprise, the knife didn't bounce off, but it didn't come out clean, either. I dipped a spoon in the pudding and it came out with a glooop noise and the stuff inside the spoon was the consistency of congealed cream of wheat.

We were making progress.

Not deterred, I spooned some into dishes for Mo and me. Then I added a little Bailey's. I think we just invented something new. It's not bad.

Just don't ask me how to make it.

 

Brunch for a Bunch or Growing up with the Reinhart's

Terri Reinhart

A couple of girls in my high school class were arguing one day about who is included in one's immediate family. One insisted on only including your parents and siblings. The other just laughed. No, she said, your immediate family includes your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and all your cousins, and everyone comes to every family gathering.

My mother-in-law, Natalie, was even more inclusive. Family gatherings included all of the above plus a few neighbors, several of her teacher friends, friends of her children, and maybe a family or two from the school where she taught.

I think I fell in love with my in-laws as quickly as I fell in love with my husband. Chris was smart. He took me to meet his family very soon after we met. It was a Saturday or Sunday evening and everyone had come home for dinner. I learned, over the next few months, Chris and his 5 siblings were free to invite friends for dinner and they frequently did.

Natalie loved to cook. She had been a nutritionist in the army during WWII, stationed in England. She was used to cooking for hungry crowds. This was good, because during the next year, three of her children married, including Chris and I. As our families grew, the family gatherings grew, too. Before long, all of us were married and bringing our children along. You'd think with 6 children and their spouses and 18 grandchildren, this would be enough immediate family for anyone, but Natalie found people endlessly interesting and there would often be someone new to meet, in addition to a few old friends, colleagues, and neighbors. If anything, the gatherings became larger and included more people as the years went by.

Natalie passed away in November of 2006, five years after her husband, Paul. Chris and I visited her the day before she had the seizure from which she never awoke. She dozed on and off, but whenever she was awake, she asked about everyone in our family. Just before we left, she woke up to say goodbye. Looking up at us with bright eyes and an even brighter smile, she said, “It's been fun, hasn't it!” On the way home, Chris told me he felt she was speaking more of her life than of the moment.  It wasn't until later, we learned these had been her last words.

We still get together, but not as much. Natalie was the matriarch and truly, I believe people came together to be with her. She left us with memories of warm meals, large family gatherings which never felt crowded, and a gentle sense of humor which occasionally included novelty eyeglasses (with eyeballs on springs) and an umbrella hat.

She also left her recipes, organized in cardboard boxes, some typed, some handwritten, and some with the unmistakable purplish blue print of the school mimeograph machine. On the recipes, she kept a diary of sorts; notes on doubling the recipes and how much was left over, who came to each gathering, and how they set up the tables and chairs. Our son, John, took some of these recipes and created a lovely recipe book, which is available online.  Take a look!  He included copies of some of the original recipes, notes and all:

Easter Brunch and a Bunch More

Now, our own family is growing. Our third grandchild is due to arrive any day now. Just having our kids and grandkids together makes for a full house. Lately, however, both Chris and I have been missing the large Reinhart family gatherings and this year, we invited everyone we could think of to join us for Easter. It was wonderful!

We plan to continue this tradition, though I would never try to take Natalie's place. That would be silly. For one thing, those would be big googly-eyed glasses to fill.

clicking on the photo will take you to the online store where one can purchase googly-eyed glasses & other novelties

clicking on the photo will take you to the online store where one can purchase googly-eyed glasses & other novelties

The Truck - or How to Write a Bestseller

Terri Reinhart

When I started to take my writing seriously, our son cleaned up his old laptop computer for me to use. This way, I could still write when our daughter was doing her homework on the family computer. The old laptop was perfect. All I really needed to use was the word processor and fortunately, that was one program that still worked.

There were a few challenges. The top of the laptop, namely the screen, was attached to the bottom of the laptop, ie: the keyboard, by two wires. Setting it up required having something large and heavy right behind the computer so the screen wouldn't fall over. I eventually solved this problem with lots of duct tape and a couple of large “L” brackets, putting one leg of each bracket under the keyboard so that the screen could rest against the other leg. True, the brackets were marring our wood table, but this was solved quickly by putting a towel under everything. It was a ritual I repeated several times each day.

The biggest advantage to using this computer is that I couldn't be distracted by the internet or other fun ways to procrastinate. Nothing else worked. The disadvantage to this computer was that, even after I set it up, it took another five to ten minutes to warm up enough so I could open the program. I was never quite sure that it was going to come on. Needless to say, I saved everything to my flash drive. Not having the internet helped keep me from getting distracted, however, there were times when I needed to research my topic and this would entail running over to the other side of the house, kicking our daughter off the computer for a few minutes, looking frantically for the information I needed so I could let her back on again, and then going back to the dining room to type some more.

It was okay. I could handle it. In fact, there's some precedent to using old beat up writing equipment in coming out with a best seller. J. K. Rowling typed the entire manuscript for the first Harry Potter book on a manual typewriter and look how well that one did.

I was on a roll with my story, too. One night I sat for forty-five minutes working when my husband came in to ask how it was going. I replied that it was going very well, thank you. He looked over my shoulder to see what I had written. “The truck. That's what you've written?” I could tell he was impressed.

Maybe he thought I could do better if I had a computer that wasn't held together by duct tape. The possibility must have occurred to him because a few days later, he gave me an early anniversary gift. It was, and still is, a little Toshiba notebook computer. I'm typing on it now. It's amazing! In next to no time, I was not only able to write, I was also able to access the internet! Now I could write, do my research, check my email, play hangman, and look up new recipes for dinner!

The last one is a nice benefit that the whole family enjoys. My cooking has improved greatly since I can set up my tiny computer on the kitchen counter. The other night we had cheese stuffed hamburgers. Tonight we had Curried Chicken Penne with Fresh Mango Chutney. This is great except my family is starting to expect good meals. With the old laptop, I would get into my writing and fail to realize that it was time for dinner. We had lots of spaghetti, chili, and tacos. No one complained.

I'm not complaining, either. Things are so much better now. If I get stuck with my writing, I can always play a game of hangman, or two, or three. Our daughter is undisturbed in her homework. My writing is coming along quite well. Having a more efficient computer may have knocked me out of running for the next bestseller, however, I am soldiering on. This afternoon I sat writing for nearly an hour. When my husband came out, he looked over my shoulder and read what I had written. I had gotten much farther. He read, “The truck is green.”

He's not complaining, though. He's looking forward to dinner.

 

 

Training – Day Three: A day of rest

Terri Reinhart

Well, theoretically it was my day of rest between workouts.  I did get in a couple of short sprints, however.  The first one was getting up and taking our daughter to school, in the snow.  It wasn’t a major workout, just a short sprint.  The next one was the sprint over to check on my parents.  Once I arrived there, my pace slowed down considerably.  I think I was matching their pace pretty well.  It was also unbearably hot in their house, especially as I had dressed in several layers of clothing, mostly wool, as would any good Waldorf kindergarten teacher.  I got very hot and very sleepy. 

Once I was home, the need for rest had to be taken seriously.  I took a nap then later sat down to look at some of the details and history of the NYC Marathon.  I’m afraid I didn’t get very far.  I got sidetracked while I looked at the website belonging to Daniel’s wife, Melissa Clark.  If this name sounds familiar to you, I’m not surprised.  She is an excellent cook and writer and she puts these talents to use writing articles about food for publications such as The New York Times, Bon Appétit, Travel and Leisure, Forbes.com, Real Simple, and many others.  She’s written cookbooks and there are even YouTube videos featuring Melissa!  I was technically resting, but I was getting hungrier and hungrier.  We ended up going out to dinner to Patsy’s Inn, a lovely, fun, and funky Italian restaurant in Denver. 

As this is my rest day, I will not write much.  Tomorrow, I think a few more short sprints will be in order, just enough to make sure I’m in proper shape for Sunday. 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to Daniel’s efforts so far!  And thank you to Daniel for running and to Melissa and Dahlia for always cheering him on. 

G’night!