Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the coast

Isn't this gorgeous?

Last week G's older daughter K arranged a day off for herself
and took a day hike along the Zeeland coast,
near her home in the Netherlands.
Her walk was along 16 miles of beach.

She said the weather was beautiful and sent us pictures from her day.

K and her daughter M
are coming to visit us next month.

We can't wait!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Walkin' & Rollin' to End Alzheimer's

Sunday morning we walked and rolled in the Walk to End Alzheimer's.

G and I participated the first time in 2004
when it was called the Memory Walk,
and his diagnosis of vascular dementia was just 6 months old.
He got a T-shirt.

The next year we were out of town and couldn't attend.

The subsequent years
he either wasn't interested in going with me on the walk,
or wasn't able to handle it.

A few years ago, when he was having difficulty walking
and had begun to use a walker,
I suggested renting a wheelchair so he could go with me.

He wasn't interested.
Perhaps being in a wheelchair didn't fit his self-image.
Or maybe it was the apathy that has been the hallmark
of his journey with the disease.

But now we have a transport chair at home for when he needs it,
so riding in a wheeled chair is not so foreign.

And when I told him a few days ago
that thanks to the generosity of our family and friends,
he and I were currently the top fundraisers for our local walk
and would he like to join me this year,
he said yes.
That he thought it was important that he be there.

I thought it was important, too.

Weather in the low 50's and cloudy,
so we are bundled up in multiple layers for the walk,

G in a borrowed wheelchair.

P.S. It is someone special's birthday today,
but she told me last week she didn't want a fuss made.
So we'll keep it low profile.
Happy Birthday, dear one!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One of the fine ones

Freshman year, Brown University

Today is my dad's birthday.

His mother would tell people she had "four fine boys."
With no irony.

The wives of the four fine boys loved that phrase,
and we kids grew to love it, too.
There was always a lot of teasing about it.

The four fine boys with their parents, wives, children.
My dad is the tallest one in the back row.
(I'm the deer-in-the-headlights one standing at the right, holding my aunt's hand.)

We think we got very lucky,
being the children of one of the four fine boys.

And, of course, I think we got the finest of the lot.

Happy Birthday, Dadder. We love you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Good deed

On the way to pick up G from the day program
I passed a pedestrian crosswalk sign.

It's a new spot for a crosswalk,
so drivers are still getting used to it.

The problem was the sign was turned
so it was easily readable by pedestrians
but invisible to drivers.

I made a slight detour to the police station
to ask someone to fix it.

On the way home, voila. Fixed.

In other news, we have happy bees again.

Can you see the bee inside the unfurling blossom?

Laundry fluttering in the breeze doesn't disturb them.

Oscar's happy, too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Angry Birds Bees

About 6pm I was standing at the kitchen sink
and noticed a lot of activity
in the air outside our windows.

Uh oh.


Our neighbors have beehives that they started a year ago spring,
but I have not seen angry bees before.
So...are these their bees?
The hives are along our south lot line
but rarely interfere with our lives.

Then I caught sight of our neighbor Chris,
outfitted in his beekeeper suit, hat, veil, and gloves.
Must be their bees I'm seeing buzzing around so angrily.
They were even lighting on our windows.

I called the neighbor's house and found out
the residents of one of the hives
were a little agitated.
So, best not to go out the back door just yet.

The front of the house was safe, though,
so Oscar and I went out for a walk.
While we walked,
I thought about whether I would be able to go to my exercise class,
since the bees were buzzing madly over our driveway
and in front of our garage.
I might have to stay home.

But, no.
By the time Oscar and I returned to the house,
all was quiet in Beeland.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Tying the knot

The wedding invitation with Chicago skyline - the bride & groom love the city.

The daughter of my dear friend (both of whom helped me tear up oak flooring for the house we never built) had her wedding Saturday night.

The wedding program was deep pink.
The bride loves pink. And sparkles.
No sparkles on the wedding program, but her dress met all her expectations:
ruffles, flounces, sparkles.

I didn't take any pictures of the event, but it was so much fun to be there. G went with me to the wedding. His going was a bit of an uncertainty until the morning of - I never know when he's going to decide he's not up to doing something, often after elaborate arrangements have been made. It worked fine, and I was glad he could be there, as he's known the bride since she was a little girl.

Having him go to the reception was too big a gamble - in the city, cocktails starting at 7:30pm, lots of people and noise - so I didn't give him the option of going to that. I had one of our caregivers meet us at the church after the ceremony to ride home with G and the driver & handicapped accessible van I hired. Then my parents and I headed to the city to the wedding reception at the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower.

Security! A first for me for a wedding reception - all the guests had to present photo ids at the security desk in the Willis Tower, which were compared to the guest list.

Then up the the 66th floor - beautiful views of the city at night, to say nothing of the happy bride and groom and their families and friends. I hadn't seen my friend's mom or sisters in years, as they live far away, so that was a special part of the evening for me.

The place cards were mini Chicago White Sox pennants.
Guess who loves the White Sox?
Yes. The bride and groom.

What a joyous occasion. And So. Much. Fun. I was very glad to be able to go.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A response to the boulders

We all had a wonderful time during the choir retreat last weekend. The group managed to find their way to the cottage despite the closed road.

Along with the schedule of anthems for the first few months of the season, our choir director Charles usually composes a faux Bible verse, written in the style of the King James version, complete with reference to an imaginary book.

When we arrived for choir rehearsal Thursday night, the schedule awaited with this verse (which has been edited to protect the.. er... innocent).

And lo, it came to pass that the [nonprofit entity] laid siege yea even unto the sacred lodge in the Land of the [redacted] Lake, building up ramparts round about it so that the Righteous of [our home town] were thwarted in their attempts to assemble for the sacred gathering during the new season. But the Righteous, knowing that the LORD was on their side, and strengthened by the consuming of the Most Holy Breakfast Sausages of the Silver Creek, did taunt and mock the [nonprofit entity] with mixed nuts, crudité, finely chilled wines, and pre-made Margaritas, which confounded the [nonprofit entity]and threw them even into a panic so that they fell headlong into the [redacted] Lake, and were heard from no more. And seeing that the [nonprofit entity] were thus consumed by the waters, the righteous resumed their sacred work, drank coffee, and were refreshed in the faith.

Inebriations 12:36-39

Friday, September 16, 2011

From the ridiculous to the sublime

I get a daily news digest of all-things-dementia from the good people at Ageless Design.

Sometimes I find something I can use or feel encouraged about, other times there is nothing of interest for me.

In yesterday's digest ... the bizarre story about televangelist Pat Robertson offering advice on his television show to a man whose wife has Alzheimer's Disease to divorce her rather than just fool around on the side. Such idiotic advice, and why he thought he was qualified to answer, I can't fathom. Followup news stories on the revelation, which include the fact that Mr. Robertson declined additional comment, quote a representative of the Alzheimer's Association who states that divorce is rarely employed by those married to people with dementia. If you want to watch Robertson's entire comment, about two and a half minutes, start at 0:50:42. Prepare to be irritated.

In much more positive news, an electromagnetic brain stimulation system has been developed in Israel and is showing reversal of symptoms for Alzheimer's patients in cognitive skills. It's coupled with simultaneous cognitive training, and the effects, so far, are long lasting. Clinical trials are supposed to start in the US next year. Don't know if G would qualify, as he has vascular dementia rather than Alzheimer's. But I'm putting a call in to his doctor.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Tuesday night when I watered the newest plantings, I depleted all three rain barrels. We've had promise of rain for days, but nothing of any significance, so the rain barrel levels were low when I started filling the watering cans.

Yesterday afternoon when I came home from work, it had just started raining lightly, and the noise from the water filling the rain barrel by the back door was surprisingly loud. I haven't heard the barrels filling before, because when it rains...I stay inside.

Nice to have Mother Nature watering the plants and filling the barrels.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sometimes less really is more

The last few weeks, G has had some very groggy mornings and/or inexplicable behavior. So last week I delayed the morning dose of the anti-anxiety med from first thing in the morning to breakfast time, and that helped with some of the behavior problems. When he was put on this med in April because of extreme restlessness, we were told the condition could eventually go away, or it might be a new, permanent (and unwelcome) feature.

Friday I talked to the psychiatrist who had set the dose and schedule and told him I thought G might now be getting more of the drug than he needs, and is this possible? Yes, it's possible. So yesterday I stopped giving him the morning dose. No negative repercussions, and more alertness than in the last few weeks. Same thing today. The psychiatrist said a couple of days will tell if that's OK or not.

We'll stick with this for another week just to be sure and then think about whether one of the other 3 doses can be reduced or eliminated.

(Oh - and the picture has nothing to do with this topic. I just bought these stamps at the post office and really love the way they look. Very serene. Not at all restless. Wait. Maybe there is a connection.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I was attending a conference in Boston when the towers were hit.

That those two flights originated at Logan airport in Boston, where I had just flown in, added a particular horror to an already incomprehensible horror. I knew no one who was hurt or killed, but as with millions of other strangers, felt as though it were happening to people I knew.

Today our church, as part of the morning services, will be praying the Litany of Reconciliation.

No matter what religion or absence of religion we may be, it seems most appropriate that we ask forgiveness, of whatever deity we put our faith in and of all our fellow human beings. All of us have fallen short. There is no corner on that market.

(excerpts from) The Litany of Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral

The People and Leader pray responsively

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father Forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father Forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father Forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father Forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father Forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father Forgive. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Amen.

Edited to correct the source.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I ❤ Susan Branch

It's true. I heart her.

I've been a fan for many years, ever since my cousin Jean served Rainbow Jello at a family party. When we all exclaimed over the jello (really, you have to see it to believe it), Jean brought out the Heart of the Home cookbook, and we were all amazed at the beautiful artwork and hand lettered recipes.

First I bought myself a copy of her original cookbook, and then the Christmas one. Then I found Susan's wall calendars, and as a thank you to my cousin for introducing me to SB, I sent one to Jean for Christmas - and I haven't stopped since. (Except for that one year when there was no calendar. That was a dark year.)

I've enjoyed reading Susan's email newsletter, which is full of beautiful art and wonderful ideas and irrepressible joy.

And now - she has a blog! I can't believe she finds the time to do this, but I am so glad she does. Interesting, entertaining, funny, beautiful, inspiring. I look forward to every post.

Wednesday night I baked Ginger Crisps from the Autumn cookbook, in heart and leaf shapes.

And look what I found when I opened the book:
The book was a gift from one of my other cousins,
and I had forgotten she had it autographed for me.
How could I forget something like that?

Friday, September 9, 2011


The non-profit entity that owns most of the land surrounding my parents' cottage (and several dozen other private cottages) recently closed a section of the one-lane road that runs along the lake. Now it's just for pedestrians and bicyclists. That's nice.

Oscar doesn't care about boulders blocking the road

The closing was supposed to start at the east end of my parents' property, so we would still be able to reach our driveway from the west. It's the only way to get to the property other than driving through the neighbors' land behind us to get to ours. Makes sense, right?

Evidently not.
The boulders have been placed just west of our property.
Leaving no legal access.

This is not a closure that will easily be thwarted.

So, for now we take a deep breath and wait, because we feel that we have legal standing and that patience will out to get this odd situation resolved. And in the meantime, to clarify for our visitors which way to turn (through the neighbors' land) to get to our place, we have a sign of our own.

Most of the church choir members will be arriving tonight after dark,
so this is what will greet them:
A large sign with our family name, and below that...

Signage by my older brother and my darling niece.

We know the choir members will feel, as they do every year, right at home.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Galettes R Us

I seem to be in galette mode lately. Rustic tarts.

Last weekend my assignment was to provide dessert one night
for the group at the cottage.
Seasonal fruit would be nice, and do-ahead would also be nice.

Therefore, Plum Galette, by the oft-mourned Abby Mandel,
who wrote the most wonderful food column
in the Chicago Tribune for many years.

Sliced fruit with a streusel topping in a buttery crust. A la mode.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Saturday morning we were on track to leave for the cottage for Labor Day weekend. Arleen, our caregiver, arrived at 8:00am, and I was feeling pretty good about us getting on the road by 8:45. She took over helping G get dressed while I headed downstairs to cook the oatmeal. A bit later I could hear the two of them coming slowly down the stairs, and then, nothing. For some reason, G got stuck on the landing, just 4 stair steps away from being in the kitchen. It took almost 30 minutes to convince him to come down those last stairs so he could have breakfast.

After breakfast we tried to get G to go down the 5 stair steps from the kitchen to the back door so we could head for the car and start our trip. He kept wanting to sit down on the stairs, and nothing we said dissuaded him. He was insistent that he stay there, that he couldn't stand up, that he couldn't move. 45 minutes later, he finally stood up and came down those last stairs and out to the car. All three of us were worn out.

All the while this was going on, I was trying to understand what might be causing this change in behavior. Nothing new/different in meds, in foods, in amount of sleep the night before. And wondering, should I keep pushing him? Is this the right thing to do, or should we abandon the weekend?

When we arrived at the cottage, the first thing he said to my mom was, "I'm glad I'm here." And he enjoyed himself all weekend.

I still expect logic to rule in our house. And then I'm reminded it doesn't.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Three colors of sweet bell peppers, peaches, apples, cucumber

From our farmer, an especially colorful assortment this week.

Two kinds of eggplant, potatoes, purple basil

Forgot to photograph the orange cherry tomatoes.
And brown eggs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The search

Assemble ingredients

In two weeks we will host the annual choir retreat for our church choir.
It's always fun to plan the menus for that weekend at the cottage
and try to balance some old favorites with something new.

Prepare leeks

This year I decided I wanted a vegetarian entree
for Saturday night's dinner.
I've been looking for recipes that appeal to me
and that I can do part or all ahead of time.

Melt butter

Last week I made a Baked-Eggplant Parmesan
from Martha Stewart as a test run.
Good, but not great.

Add leeks and cook until tender

A Squash & Leek Lasagne from Eating Well looks delicious,
but reader comments point out how labor intensive it is.
Maybe I'll try it sometime when I'm not feeding 20.

Add wine and heavy cream.

Epicurious has a Butternut Squash & Hazelnut Lasagne that looks good.
And a Wild Mushroom Lasagne.
I love mushrooms. But does everyone?

Prepare pastry

Then I remembered a recipe from the Tribune that I made last year.
Leek Galette, from an article by Leah Eskin
(whose writing is always witty,
whether the recipe is something I'm interested in or not).

Half of the filling and half the tart pastry are in the freezer,
being tested for their willingness to be prepped ahead of time
and united at a later date.

And the other half: put together for dinner.