17 April 2013

An empty spot

The last week has been a difficult one for me.  I realize that my hurt doesn't compare to that of the people who have been injured and traumatized in Boston this week.  But heartache is heartache no matter how it comes to you.  And my heart has had an empty spot in it since last Wednesday when Byron and I had to put our beloved kitty, Oggy, to sleep.

Last I talked about Oggy, here, I was hopeful about his health, and he was doing better.  Although he was a bit thinner than before, after we put him on medication in January Oggy returned to his normal self -- catching rats (argh), waking us up in the morning by walking on us, sitting on laps, jumping up on tables, and hanging out on Herman's bed and chair whenever he could get a chance.  He had even learned how to beg since we had started giving him treats in the afternoon . . . it didn't take him long to figured out how to manipulate us to give them to him morning and afternoon.  In any case, he was doing quite well and was his old self until the beginning of April.

At that point, Oggy seemed to quite suddenly fall sick again and seemed to be failing fast.  He became more vocal, his appearance began to change dramatically with his abdomen sagging and looking bloated at times and his back looking less muscular and more bony.  All of a sudden he stopped jumping up on laps and tables (we know something was really wrong at that point).  He saved all his strength for getting drinks in his favorite location -- the toilet (despite the bowl of water by his food).  Soon he only nibbled on his wet food, ignored dry food altogether, and refused treats.  On Sunday he wouldn't take his medicine easily . . . by Monday he didn't eat much at all.  He looked pale.

I took him to the vet on Tuesday, and she found a medium-lemon-sized mass in his abdomen adjacent to or in his intestine.  The vet was confident that it was lymphoma.  She thinks that probably it was beginning to develop in January when Oggy had his other troubles, but the steroids held it at bay for a while.  She said the disease becomes resistant to the steroid treatment eventually and begins to grow aggressively again.  It seemed that's what was happening. 

Byron and I were heartbroken to learn that our time with Oggy was so quickly and unexpectedly coming to an end.  Of course we didn't want him to suffer any more than he had already, and since he had quit eating and had begun going off by himself a lot, we knew he was trying to hide his condition (as cats do, apparently) and be stoic as he met his end. We didn't want him to just wither away, to be in pain, or to be alone when he passed.  So we made the hard choice to help him along.  He died very peacefully at the vet's office, last Wednesday afternoon, April 10, with us petting him (and crying) until the end.  He was almost exactly 14 years old.

He spent most of his last day sleeping downstairs or in a sunny spot at the base of the spruce tree in our back yard.  He didn't eat, but he came around to check on Wyatt and me now and then, he got a lot of petting and love, and a dozen or more drinks from the toilet. 

Yesterday, Wyatt found Oggy's collar, which was still in my purse.  "Need to find Oggy," he said.  "Oggy needs the bell."  Of course I had to explain, again, why we can't find Oggy . . . 

Thinking about it later I realized that Wyatt was saying exactly what we are feeling.  We miss Oggy.  We notice his absence.  Unconsciously we attribute random noises to him.  And we still irrationally find ourselves expecting a fluffy orange cat with a big tail, furry paws, and a thundering purr to greet us when we get home or, better yet, to brush our legs with his tail while we are eating breakfast.

06 April 2013

The first Easter basket

Photo by D. Mutz
I grew up looking forward to getting a little basket of chocolate treats on Easter and hiding homemade Easter eggs in the yard for my sister and parents to find.  As little girls, my sister and I would hide the eggs we had dyed, camouflaging them as well as possible -- pink eggs in the blooming pink phlox, yellow eggs in the daffodills . . . you get the idea.  I think one year we hid some so well we didn't find them until they started stinking like sulfer days later! These days, my sister and I still exchange the obligatory peanut butter eggs on Easter (although this year I also got socks, which was lower calorie and quite nice).

Wyatt is just over two now, which seemed old enough to get into the idea of an Easter basket, so we gave it a try this year. His first basket included the obligatory Easter candy, but wait . . . there was more!  He got a Nerf football, toy cars, a spy glass, and stickers. Then he got an Easter basket from his friend Arlo . . . and a book from Aunt Becky and Uncle Darren. We were right, he liked it a lot.

Wyatt was primed to know something was up.  The whole week leading up to Easter included opportunities to celebrate spring with traditional egg-related activities -- plastic eggs and treats to enjoy all last week at his grandparents' house in Corvallis, a pre-Easter egg hunt at a friend's house complete with a real Easter bunny (Wy wasn't so sure about him), and an egg hunt with his buddy Arlo in our backyard after brunch on Sunday. Wyatt has gotten to be a pro at finding eggs and gobbling down the treats inside them.

Last Sunday, which was Easter, we once again gave a nod to Spring with friends and family.  Our brunch menu has become a bit of a tradition (if two years of the same makes a tradition, that is) -- a blintz souffle with blueberry sauce, an eggy-potatoey dish, and fruit, pastries, and good drinks.  I recall promising a recipe for the delicious blintz dish last year when I posted about it, but I never delivered.  A year later, I am making good on my promise.  I have procured the sought-after recipe and here it is -- a favorite dish in my brother-in-law's family.

Photo by D. Mutz
Photo by D. Mutz
Photo by D. Mutz

Blintz Souffle with Blueberry syrup
from Darren's kitchen

The batter

1/4 butter, softened
1/3 c. granulated sugar
6 eggs
1 1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 orange juice (or orange juice concentrate)
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder

The filling

8 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces
1 pint small curd cottage cheese
2 egg yolks
1 Tb. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Butter a 13 x 9 baking dish and set aside.  Combine batter ingredients in a mixer and mix until well blended.  Pour half the batter into the prepared pan.

Combine the filling ingredients together in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until well blended.  Drop the filling by heaping spoonfuls over the batter in the pan.   Spread with a knife of offset spatula to even out the filling.

Pour remaining batter over the filling.  Bake uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until puffed and golden.  If not baking immediately, cover and refrigerate as long as overnight.  Bring to room temperature before baking.

The blueberry syrup

30 ounces frozen blueberries
1/2 can frozen apple juice concentrate

Combine above ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat just until it begins to boil.

2 Tb. cornstarch
2 Tb. cold water

Mix cornstarch and water, then add it to blueberry mixture.  Bring back to a boil stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving.  The syrup may also be made a head and refrigerated.  Warm before serving.  Makes about 4 cups.