Monday, January 26, 2009

Good-bye "T" You Were A Great Lizard

Here is a picture of "T" and my son. Yes, that is a lizard on his shoulder. About 7 years ago the kids wanted to get lizards for pets. I wasn't dead set against it, but I wasn't crazy about it either. I told them to do their research and then educate me. Then I'd decide whether or not we'd be bringing lizards into our home. My number one requirement was that I'd NEVER have to do anything in regards to these critters like touching them. Both kids to my amazement actually did research and decided on a Leopard Gecko. Reasons: They are easy to take care of, live well in aquariums, not expensive, stay in their aquariums as not being able to climb out (no suction pads on their feet), eat meal worms (not as gross as having to feed them a baby mouse), clean living critters. I was convinced.

Off we went to the reptile show, which just happened to be going on that month in our town. We bought two baby geckos. One had a letter "T" shaped on it's head with it's spots and the other the letter "C". So, their names became "T" and "C". We've had them for about 7 years. They've been the nicest and most interesting aquarium type pets. They don't need a lot of care like a hamster. Leopard Geckos have a potty spot in their environment. Both used the potty spot. Making it very easy to clean up after them. Unlike Hamsters who poop all over and smell to high heaven until you change their cedar chips. Leopard Geckos having claws they can't climb out. Unlike my brother's hamster that got out pretty regularly.

Anyone who came to the house wanted to see the lizards. For quite a few years we knew the lizards shed their skin, but we'd never see a trace of it. I know it sounds gross, but they'd eat it deriving nutrition from it according to the books. They got calcium from it. When we hit the 4 year mark they were quite a bit bigger and we started to see pieces of their shedded skin. That was interesting too. Trying to figure out where on their body it came from. The whole adventure seemed even educational. We'd examine the skin deciding if it was from the head or tail or foot for example. We even looked at it under a microscope. Just for fun. What I didn't know was the small box sitting next to the lizard cage was where the kids were keeping these bits of skin.

Not until some new company came to the house did I find out about it. The kids were very excited to have the new friends over and their parents. The aquarium being right in the foyer first question is "What's in there?" Next question, "Can we see them?" Our company was busy ogling the lizards when my daughter grabs the small box and says loudly, "Want to see our box of skin!?" Thank goodness these were very good friends and ones that love critters. Anyone else might have run from the house screaming thinking something like "Silence of the Lambs" was going on here. I was still in shock my kids had a box of skin when our company started laughing their heads off at such a funny thing to say and to have. I still tease the kids to this day about them being creepy kids. When they deny it I remind them that they own a box of skin.

Now for a bit of sad news. About 6 weeks ago "T" started looking not well. It seems silly to take a lizard to the Vet, but seemed cruel not to. I didn't even discuss it with the husband. Off the kids and I went to the Vet with our poor sick little gecko. To our amazement the Vet was very helpful and didn't find us silly at all. She put little "T" on antibiotics. Notice that both geckos needed a calcium supplement. My daughter wants to be a Vet some day and she went into doctor mode. She revamped the gecko enclosure with the suggestions the Vet made. She made sure both geckos got their vitamins and most importantly that "T" got her medicine. After 2 more vet trips and force feeding from "T's" personal doctor my daughter "T" succumbed to whatever was ailing her. Oddly enough we had thought she had started to turn the corner. She was perkier and seemed to be putting on a little weight. Monday morning before school my daughter did her morning check on the geckos and found that poor "T" had expired.

My daughter woke me up to tell me and I could tell she was trying to keep a stiff upper lip. I sat up and said, "Oh honey I'm so sorry." I held my arms out and she came over stiffly then burst into tears and fell into my arms. Part of me wanted to say "Stay home from school." Another part said, "She's not missing school because a lizard died." So, I met myself in the middle. I told her my idea of burying "T" under the big oak tree and making a decorated memorial concrete stepping stone to put over her grave. This seemed to give her something to think about. How to decorate the stone. It let her know I knew how dear "T" was to her and really to the rest of us as well.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Toying with Vegetables

In an effort to be more healthy I cracked open my cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld called "Deceptively Delicious." I decided to do a recipe my family already loves Macaroni and Cheese. I had a butternut squash all ready to bake. One of the vegetables called for in the recipe. I first thought butternut squash might be too flavorful to disguise. I went on with the recipe after I had baked my butternut squash. I used sharp reduced fat cheddar. Also a slight change in procedure as my butternut squash wasn't moist enough to puree by itself. I added half the milk from the recipe and it pureed up nicely. So, when the recipe said "add milk" I ended up adding the butternut puree too. It didn't seem to effect the outcome.

As I was coming to the end of making the sauce I got a spoon and took a taste. Anxious to see if it was over powered by butternut puree. It tasted fantastic. Then the aftertaste kicked in.... a very strong strange butternut aftertaste. I was SO disappointed. I thought I can't feed my family this. They'll know I'm trying to pull one over on them and not very successfully! I got to thinking I'd season it up like I do my own homemade Mac N Cheese. My seasonings wouldn't add any calories or fat and it might just disguise the butternut aftertaste. I added a sprinkle of onion powder, a sprinkle of dried mustard and small squirt of Worcestershire sauce. I'm guessing about a 1/4 tsp of each. Viola, it did cover up the butternut after taste! Now to serve it.

Keeping dinner simple I steamed up some broccoli and served. Everyone liked it. Everyone knew it was a new recipe and a more healthy recipe. The only comment was that the sharp cheese was a little strong. Maybe use medium next time. Not one word about leaving out the butternut squash. Evidently, I did fool them as they didn't know it was in there.

Macaroni and Cheese 1 (with Butternut Squash or Cauliflower)
Created by
Jessica Seinfeld

Ingredients:Serves 4
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nonfat skim milk
1/2 cup
butternut or cauliflower puree
1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
4 ounces (almost 1/4 cup) reduced-fat or nonfat cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander.While the macaroni is cooking, coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the oil, then the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture resembles a thick paste but has not browned, 1 to 2 minutes.Add the milk and cook, stirring every now and then, until the mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vegetable puree, Cheddar, cream cheese and seasonings and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the macaroni and serve warm.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm Alive!

No I haven't turned into Frankenstein, but I do feel like I've been brought back from the dead. You can see my last post was December 10th. I was all full of feelings of Christmas cheer that week. I got almost all my Christmas errands done that week. Christmas cards addressed and mailed. Christmas packages packed and shipped. Gifts for family and friends purchase or made.

THEN December 12th came and I got SICK! The worst flu I've ever had. For 14 straight days I just wanted to curl in a ball, but it was too painful to do so. It started with extreme body aches, severe headaches, and a foggy feeling in one's head like you'd never be able to think straight ever again. No amount of Tylenol, Motrin, and/or Napricin would even take the edge off. There were 3 days when my head hurt SO bad that I couldn't open my eyes. I couldn't open my eyes, because the streaming in of light, color and activity was just too much for my poor aching brain. It would make me feel like something had to give like maybe my brain would just turn to a liquid and pour out of my ears. I have children, so I couldn't wish myself dead. I would literally lay completely stock still wishing... willing any pain killer in my system to please please please take the edge off. Nothing until day 4 when at least the killer headaches went away.

The fogginess, muscle and internal organ pain continued on. And a new item joined the list... coughing. Not to mention the general feeling of lethargy. Was it due to the 102 fever I had off and on for over a week? Probably. I went to the doctor twice mainly, because I thought my kidneys were in distress from the pain I was having internally. The doc said, "Does it hurt when I TWIST your kidney." Actually no. It just sounded bad. She had me touching my toes and doing deep knee bends and nothing was painful. Just a constant pain in my groin that started out on my right side actually waking me up it hurt so badly. Then it moved to the left side and stayed there. All blood tests came back saying everything was functioning fine thank goodness, but why the pain? Was it the flu?

I'm on day 29 since I got sick and though I generally feel pretty good my energy is still not up to where I'd like it to be. The coughing continues, but does seem to be a tad less. Believe it or not I do have something to be happy about during all this... I had no nasal congestion! Not one tissue was needed. Never had to blow my nose. No red sore nose! No nose that was stopped up during the day when one wants to breath through it, and then it runs all night when you're asleep. Knock on wood!

I fortunately have teenagers. I don't know how I would have bucked up and taken care of young children. I would have done it, but it would have been really really really hard. I had my teenagers cooking dinner, wrapping presents and they even made the Christmas Biscotti.
P.S. Yes, I did have my flu shot this year. Better luck next time.