Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Control, or lack thereof

Life has felt a bit out of control lately.

G has not been feeling well, so has not been willing to do the things
that will help him get better or keep him from getting worse.
(Just a little bit of brain exercise, a little physical exercise.
Please? Please?)

Our Quincy has not been feeling well, either,
which means coaxing him to eat,
giving him extra medicine,
helping him get down the stairs to the back yard.
(Come on, Poochy-Boy, eat some of this - so delicious!)

My friend Pat is home from the hospital, and is doing OK,
to everyone's surprise and delight.
(And thank you all for your prayers.)
Her time is very limited, but she is still with us.
I organized our caregiver group to meet at her home
instead of our usual place last night,
but we got snowed out and had to reschedule.
Finding a new time and getting people to respond
with their schedules was,
as one said, like herding cats.
Many emails and phone calls later,
we have set Wednesday night to go see her.

I realized as I was shoveling snow (yet again) today,
that there was no small measure of comfort in it,
as it gave me the illusion of control.
Here is the snow, I have a snow shovel,
and I have the time and energy
to clear the driveway and sidewalks.
There was a predictable outcome.
Blessed relief.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband

This was, according to my mom,
one of my maternal grandmother's
favorite cook books.
The subtitle is
"The Romance of Cookery and Housekeeping."

Inscribed to my grandmother and my grandfather,
Virginia and Carl,
in 1921 by a family friend.
(I said to my mom, "They were married in 1924.
Were they engaged for three years?")

It was published in 1917 and is written like a novel.
It is the story of newlyweds Bettina and Bob,
with a month by month account of their first year of marriage
beginning with their arrival at home in June after their honeymoon.

Each chapter begins with a poem and picture
suitable for the month.
Cupids clad only in chef's hats and aprons
are part of each drawing.

One of the things that fascinates me about the recipes
is the limited use of herbs and spices
compared with how we cook today.
Garlic never shows its face.
Onion, bay leaf, pimento, clove, salt, and pepper
are the only flavorings used in savory cooking.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice are limited to desserts.

There is much advice from Bettina about
setting and decorating a table,
putting on a meal when unexpected guests arrive,
finding and dressing up second-hand furniture, and
how to put together a picnic.
And focusing on fresh foods, in season.

My mom says it was my grandfather
who taught my grandmother to cook.

Age 17, in 1917

He did a great job - she was a wonderful cook.

Age 10, in 1909

And today, February 21st, is her birthday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Community Supported Goodness

Years ago, G's older daughter K, who lives in the Netherlands, told us about getting a box of vegetables every week from a local farm via a subscription. She said she never knew what was going to be in the box, though there were often potatoes. And while she thought it was a good concept, it wasn't as convenient as buying what she wanted from the grocery store. This was long before our national debate about local foods and seasonal foods, and I thought it sounded interesting, and fun, but a bit odd. I mean - getting what they send you instead of what you want? And anyway, we didn't have anything like that in the US. K lives in Holland, and I thought it was just another cultural difference between us and the Dutch.

Then two years ago, I found out that we had something similar in our area, called community supported agriculture. (Of course it's been around longer than that - I just didn't know we had it.) So last February I signed up with a local farmer and had a wonderful time getting a box of vegetables every week, from June to December. Yes, it was more work in some ways, and yes, sometimes something went bad before I got around to figuring out what to do with it or working it into a meal. But I've had grocery store stuff get lost and forgotten in the fridge, too. And I have to say that everything we got from the farm had a much longer shelf life than what I was getting from the grocery store.

Getting vegetables from Peg and Matt Scheaffer at Sandhill Organics (the photo above is from their website, with permission) turned out to be so much more fun and satisfying than I imagined. Part of it was working with vegetables I'd never tried before - in some cases, things I'd never heard of before. The variety, the freshness, the flavor - all were beyond my expectations.

On top of that, G and I spent the month of June in Wisconsin, and since I already had my mind set on working with a farmer, I found an organic farmer near where we were staying, and arranged to visit the farm once a week to pick up a box of whatever he was harvesting. Visiting with Leo Sances at Prospera Farm each week made working with the vegetables that much more fun. It was educational, entertaining, and enriched our whole experience.

I've signed up again this year with Sandhill Organics and have the first week of May, when the Spring Share begins, circled on the calendar. And the weekends that we're in Wisconsin this summer, we'll be calling on Leo.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Morning Sun

I love the contrast
between the freezing temperature and snow outside,
and the delicate blooms of the lily of the valley
in the early morning sun.

And the fragrance is heavenly.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Valentine

Ours was a long distance courtship.
We lived in different countries.

He wrote from wherever he was traveling.

Our phone bills were astronomical.

We wrote to each other a lot.

I looked forward to seeing her smiling face in my mailbox.

Included in the letters was G’s first attempt at a Valentine.
He was on a business trip to Portugal.

“No Valentines to be found anywhere over here,” he wrote.

“Personally I have no experience
with this piece of American culture.”

“I don’t know whether such cards should be
funny or romantic or what?”

“I hope that you will forgive me sending you
most probably
the most misplaced Valentine card ever,
but remember it comes straight from my heart.”

How could I resist?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Silver Keepsake

Swirling silver leaves.

Engraved with an “F”
French was my grandmother’s maiden name.

Open, it reveals a coin.
Liberty head nickel, 1899

And is imprinted with these words:

22 SEP 1902

It holds coins for the trolley fare.

A nickel is the perfect size.

Was it made for the American market,
or is there an English coin the same size?

The silver six pence is a bit too small.

Minted for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, 1887.
Purchased at a shop in Canterbury.
Worn in my shoe on my wedding day.

Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Prayer Request

My friend and fellow caregiver is gravely ill.
Pat has been fighting cancer for years.
She has just taken a turn for the worse and is now in the hospital.

I ask your prayers for this courageous woman.

Please. Thanks.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


G has always had a talent for art and has dabbled in
a variety of mediums.

pen and ink of his maternal grandfather
drawn from a photograph

oil painting - Dutch landscape

Creating images is a lot more difficult for him these days.

For the last couple of months,
he's been playing Brain Age, a Nintendo game
that includes math and word exercises,
as well as a drawing exercise.

"Here's what I want you to draw: Violin"

Evidently, drawing from memory is good for the brain.

I think it's time to get out his old art supplies
and see what happens.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Latest Developments

I'm getting so much pleasure
from the progress of these plants
and sharing it with you.

Started here; then there was this; then last week this.

It helps make up for our mostly gray days.

Half a Dog is Better than None

A down throw was dropped carelessly onto the floor.

Quincy found it a nice place to nap.

It doesn't take much to amuse us.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Victory Garden

Looking south

I have made a commitment to Angie at Children in the Corn to start a vegetable garden. She has taken on five of us novices to offer advice and counsel and has already given us a list of what she planted in 2007 (yikes!).

Mine won't be a big garden: about five by seven feet. Right now it has a few perennials in it: Sedum Autumn Joy; Black-eyed Susan; some very very tall asters that were a gift from a friend who thought they were dwarfs (not) that keep reseeding and I keep pulling; a lot of grass. I'll transplant the Sedum and Black-eyed Susan to other garden beds. And dig up the grass and the asters (and keep pulling them all summer, I'm sure).

Looking west

Right next to the future Victory Garden is a small plot with a rhubarb plant and some chives (so that's a start).

I'm thinking plum tomatoes, bell peppers, maybe some radishes, carrots, and green onions, and butternut squash. And garlic. And spinach. I don't know if all that will fit or not. But I'd like to have something I can harvest early, tomatoes for canning, and a good storage vegetable.

Next week is an organic gardener's meeting at our public library. I didn't know we had a group like that here, but a few weeks ago I saw a posting on one of the village billboards.

Last spring I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle, a thought-provoking and entertaining book. What I learned from her book will make the gardening a more enriching and interesting experience. And having a personal coach in Angie will make it very special. (No pressure, Angie - honest!)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What Happens Next?

The members of the early stage memory loss support group that my husband G used to belong to wanted to do something to help others who are just getting a dementia diagnosis.

The group facilitators asked the members of the support group what kinds of information they would like to share, took notes on what they had to say, helped them organize their responses into categories, and collected pictures of positive aspects of their lives: family, friends, hobbies, pets.

A sponsor was found to underwrite the booklet, and it finally came out late last summer. I think everyone in the group who participated was really pleased with the result.

Somewhat amazing to me is how little information like this there is: information and help for the person with the disease. Most of the information and the support groups are for the caregiver. Dementia is the only disease I can think of that has almost no support groups for the person suffering from the disease. (We live in a very large metropolitan area, and when G got his diagnosis four years ago, there were two support programs for the person with dementia - and probably fifty or sixty for caregivers.) That is not to say that family members who are providing care don't need support - far from it. But imagine if you had some disease, and your family could get help for themselves - and there was nothing for you. No place where you could share what you were going through with other people going through the same thing.

Only recently has the Alzheimer's Association, which traditionally has focused on research plus support for the families, created a position in their organization to be in charge of resources and programs for people with early stage memory loss. That's 28 years after their founding.

High time.

Monday, February 4, 2008


It's very early.
We had another snowfall last night.

It's very quiet.
Just the sound of the eaves dripping
and the occasional swish of a passing car.

I'm so thankful
that I can be outside
to shovel the snow
and appreciate the beauty.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Good Day for Bread

Nine inches of snow yesterday and overnight
(this is kind of a lot for us).

It was a good excuse to stay in
and try the recipe younger sister sent.
(Thinking of Angie and Alice.)

I forgot to take a picture
before I cut and buttered the first slice.
What I cropped out of the picture
was the part of the slice
with two huge bites missing.
It just didn't look Ladylike.