Monday, October 31, 2011

Greener Halloween

Treat bowl designed and produced by my sister Amy.

I heard a story on the radio this morning,
suggesting that Trick-or-Treaters try to be more ecologically responsible.
Use reusable pillow cases instead of disposable plastic or paper bags
to collect treats.
Don't litter the streets with discarded candy wrappers.
Yadda yadda yadda.

So I'm feeling quite self-righteous in my choice of treats.

Each will be dropped into the trick-or-treater's pillow case / plastic pumpkin / grocery bag / sans wrapper. Naked. Nothing to throw away.

As well, there will be no discussions of what kind of sugar,
how much farm subsidy it got,
whether the chocolate was fair trade,
types of nut allergies,
or how quickly the treat will rot one's teeth.

Vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist; all will be satisfied.


The naked truth: I can't be trusted with bags of candy on hand.
So, if those kids want a treat, it will have to be money.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Flowers for Carlie

Chrysanthemum koreanum ‘Sheffield Pink’, aka Dendranthema morifolium*
Feverfew - Chrysanthemum parthenium
Perovskia atriplicifolia, Russian sage

Today is my sister Carlie's birthday.

I'm in the midst of family visitors,
so her card will arrive late.

I'm so lucky to have her for my sister.
She is smart, funny, kind, tolerant, beautiful,
and oh-so-talented.

Love you, Car.

*Dug up from my neighbor’s garden last fall, planted in mine,
then totally forgotten until 2 weeks ago when the first blooms opened.
They are a beautiful apricot pink and, if they do as well for me as when in my neighbor’s garden,
should bloom through the first frosts.

I'm so happy with these.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


K and M, G's older daughter and youngest granddaughter,
arrived Saturday from Amsterdam.

We are having a WONDERFUL time.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Labor Day weekend Arleen, who is our "going to the cottage" caregiver, brought us a plastic grocery bag full of onions from her garden. Or at least that's what she said they were. She had planted them in the spring and now had many, many more than they could use, so she thought we might be able to use them. Or, plant them, she said.

What I could see sticking out of the bag looked like very robust green onions - so I said, sure, we'll take them along with us.

When we got to the cottage and were preparing dinner, I opened the bag, expecting to see bulb onions. But - they were shallots! Shallots are expensive at the grocery store. And Arleen was growing them in her garden? And giving them away?

Evidently shallots produce a flower head that then produces lots of little bulblets, and those can be planted. She said we could also replant the shallots she pulled from her garden. She had some of the flower heads with her as well as the shallot plants.

So - now we have shallots planted at the cottage.

And the next time Arleen came, she brought more, so we have them planted at our house.

As does my sister and my nephew.

Who knew shallots were so easy?

Though I probably should wait to see if they survive before I make that statement.

Our out of town guests (out of country, actually) arrive tomorrow. G's older daughter K and her daughter M are coming to visit for almost a week!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Adapt, adapt, adapt

from the back door to the kitchen

Life with a degenerative disease poses some interesting problems. G's journey with dementia has significantly affected his mobility, and the continuing damage to his brain means he needs more and more help moving.

His first walker came after some surgery five years ago; the hospital sent it home with him. It was used once and put in the closet for a few years.

Then a couple of years ago we got an additional walker, this with a fold-down seat, because his endurance had begun to wane. If we were walking somewhere and he got tired, it gave him someplace to sit if there was nothing else available.

Then he needed a walker for most of his walking, though around the house he would manage to get around holding onto furniture or placing his hands on the walls. The first walker stayed upstairs and the newer one on the first floor. But frequently G would end up at the opposite side of the house from wherever the walker was, because he had walked without it from one place to another.

At the beginning of 2010 G began having trouble standing up from the couch without assistance, so I found risers to add three inches to the couch. That fixed that problem, at least for a while.

In April of last year he was stricken with an unidentified and unfriendly virus which put him in the hospital and then 4 weeks in a rehab facility. He lost a lot of his previous walking ability, so I had small grab bars installed in a couple of spots around the house, and that proved sufficient.

from the kitchen to the second floor landing

A year ago he began to have problems getting out of bed. More specifically, sitting up in bed so he could swing his legs over the side and stand up. I found a small support bar that installed easily on his side of the bed, and that worked well for a while, although now he needs help (usually from me) to sit up, as the bar is not quite enough.

Over the winter we remodeled the first floor, replacing a tiny under-the-stairs powder room (originally a closet before we turned it into a powder room in 1989, it's now a closet again) with a full, handicap-accessible bathroom and converting a little-used den into a potential bedroom. The bathroom has been well used, the bedroom not yet. If we never have to use the first floor bedroom (it's only big enough for one so would mean a big change in what normal life is), that will be fine with me.

landing prior to the next 10 steps to the second floor

In April, when the restlessness started, G had such a compulsion to move that nothing would stop him. He got out of bed without assistance, off the couch, out of the recliner - all things he had not been able to do (most of the time) without help. He still asked for help, but he didn't actually need it. He was miserable, but at least I knew he had the strength to do some of the things that challenged him before.

June and July were much calmer due to higher doses of the anti-anxiety med, but G started having more and more trouble walking. Strength was not the problem; it was his brain not telling his feet to move. It required many effective but irritating prompts like "move your left foot - your left foot - YOUR LEFT FOOT!" I finally decided it was time to have a transport chair for when G is tired. And that has helped a LOT. He still uses the walkers but the transport chair is always an option.

Now the latest. Going up and down the stairs has gotten more difficult. And because G is going to an adult day program three times a week, he is going up and down our short flight of stairs to the back door more often than he used to. And still going upstairs to bed at night, and downstairs again in the morning.

We already had a handrail on one side of the stairs to the back door and up to the second floor. A week ago we had a second set of handrails installed on the other side, as well as handrails in the upstairs hallway.

The horizontal bar just inside the back door is awesome

This horizontal bar is used when G gets in or out of the transport chair
on his way either out the door or up to bed.
When it's up to bed, then it's also a great help to starting up the stairs.

And then he can reach the small white grab bar,
and then the horizontal bars on the landing.

The home stretch.
Not pictured - more horizontal bars in the second floor hall,
leading to our bedroom.
And heading down all these stairs is also much easier.

Much, much better. He is pleased. I am pleased.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wedding day

My parents on their wedding day
October 18, 1947.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Autumn reunion

We had dinner last night with a friend of ours from Belgium. She works for the same company that both G and I did. G knew her when he worked in the company's Belgian office, and I got to know her when we started work on a global initiative in the 1990's.

She is a dear person, and we would see her during our trips to the Netherlands to see family and friends. But we haven't been back in more than 4 years, and we missed seeing her our last trip.

She was here in the States for a meeting and was staying about 10 minutes from our house, so getting her to come to dinner was about as easy as it could be. We picked her up at her hotel and brought her to our house. The earlier rain had blown away, and the late afternoon sun was brilliant (shining through our clean windows!). I was so, so happy to see her.

We talked and talked, and when I had to tend to dinner in the kitchen, she and G would switch to Dutch/Flemish and reminisce about old times and old friends.

I wanted to serve something typically American, so I made Susan Branch's chili from her Autumn cookbook. Green salad, Trader Joe's ciabattini rolls, and homemade applesauce with maple-syrup-sweetened yogurt for dessert.

And guess what our friend brought us?


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunny days

Saturday I got together for lunch
with friends I made during a research project
for people with early stage memory loss and their caregivers,
and it was so good to see them.
The drive to the city was beautiful.

A tour group on Segways about to cross Jackson on Lake Shore Drive.

And since I got the camera out to take the tour group's picture,
I thought,
"I'll take a few more to show you."

A blurry shot of Navy Pier.
(It's hard to drive, watch the road, and take a picture.

Wait 'til you see Oak Street beach.)

Oak Street beach. (I know, right?)

Out on the horizon, one of the water cribs.

The friend hosting the lunch has a condo with beautiful views.

The north view from her living room.

Looking east

And that?

Is a flying trapeze school.

Then back to suburbia to our parish Pumpkinfest,
to help man (woman) the bake sale table for an hour.

Pumpkins are for sale on the church lawn through the end of October
to raise money for PADS.

Then home to a house with sparkling clean windows.

Because Friday my wonderful mom came for a few hours
to help me wash windows.
Isn't she nice?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Weekend reprise

Last weekend was another pretty-much perfect couple of days spent at my parents' cottage. G continues to be mostly positive and cheerful, a trend that started mid-August. No idea why, but we appreciate every day of it.

The rest stop where we made our last get-out-and-stretch before the final hour of driving was full of color.

Oscar in the backseat, ready for us to start the last leg of the trip.

My mom, who happened to be at the window as we were pulling in, later told me G was smiling as we drove in the driveway. He greeted my parents so warmly, saying how glad he was to see them, how happy he was to be there. Usually there is more about how stiff and sore he is and activity around getting him out of the car and into the cottage.

After lunch I told G I was going to the orchard to pick up a bushel of apples to make appelmoes (Dutch for applesauce), and did he want to come along. To my surprise, he said yes. He almost never says yes to an outing. Besides being happy that he wanted to go, it meant Arleen, our lovely "going out of town" caregiver, could come, too. She is enthusiastic about nature and plants and gardens, so I was very happy she could be included. (If G doesn't want to go, Arleen doesn't get to go.) We had a transport chair so we could wheel G around the driveway when we got there. The orchard belongs to a family who planted apple trees around their house. They also have beautiful gardens. Lots of monarch butterflies on the asters. Can you see how many are in this picture? At least 4. Click for a bigger view.

After we got home, I asked if G wanted to go for a walk with me and Oscar, and he said yes, another surprise. This is the first time he has said yes to a suggestion of a walk, and we've had the transport chair since mid-August. (And no, I don't think the transport chair is the reason for his lifted spirits, though it does make life easier.)

G and Arleen, coming along the walking path. The big boulders are still in place - see them back there? And that big glare on the left is sun sparkling on the water.

We haven't been bringing the footrests for the chair, because G never wanted to go anywhere in it - we just use the chair when he's tired to go from spot to spot inside the cottage. So he just picks up his feet or shuffles them along as one of us pushes. Which created a snowplow / leafplow. Can you see the path he plowed?

Before dinner we sat on the porch with my parents and got hysterical listening to my mom tell a story about riding with friends who constantly (and annoyingly) call out the gasoline prices of every gas station they pass. She said, "And now your father is doing it!" This made us laugh harder, and I haven't seen G laugh like that in a long, long time. If laughter is good medicine, we all added some months onto our lives.

Arleen had brought a little bouquet of zinnias from her garden, and we added a spray of bittersweet from the edge of the woods.

Saturday was spent making apples into appelmoes.

Wash and cut into pieces. Don't core or peel.

Steam until tender.

Put through, if you are lucky enough to have one,
a 1930's KitchenAid with foodmill attachment.

Fill jars and process in a hot waterbath canner.

Also spent some time hanging laundry. It's something I enjoy, and even nicer when there is something beautiful to look at. The golden trees? Shagbark hickories I learned later...

...after Arleen found some small nuts and we had a discussion about them with my mom.

Checking out the gardens around the yard.

Monkshood (Oscar patiently waiting in background)

Blue gentian

Asters (don't remember what type)

Hydrangea we put in last fall. A bit disappointing on the flowering front.

Wood asters

It was such a warm, beautiful day, that I decided I might go for one last swim for this season. But by the time I was done with the applesauce (about 16 quarts' worth), it was late afternoon and I had come to my senses. (That and my mom saying, "Yes, it's been in the 70's and 80's during the day, but the 50's at night.") So instead I took my glass of wine down to the pier, climbed down the ladder, and cooled my legs in the water (right nippy!) while Oscar stood guard. (A fat lot of help he would be if I fell in.)

Sunday morning my parents, younger sister, and I went on a house walk. Another gorgeous day to see some beautiful homes on the lake and out in the country. The only place I took pictures was in the house where a bedroom for the grandkids had been painted by a local muralist. Is this cool, or what?

Such happy days.