Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back in LaLa Land in September and Jeanne's Visit

Whew, the first few days I got back, I didn't have much patience with Joe. Monday morning he wouldn't put his teeth in with his breakfast sitting in front of him. He said he didn't have any teeth to put in. He was being particularly thick and not understanding I meant his top teeth. How he could do this when I was pointing at his top gums, I have no clue. I had to go get them and put them in front of him. Finally he put them in and ate breakfast.

Since I've been back, I've had to force him to take his hearing aid out and put a new battery in it. Doh! He could hear after that. But he fought me all the way on taking the blasted thing out of his ear.

Monday morning I awoke to him asking Lola for matches so he could burn. Shudder.

Powerful Words on Disaster Lessons Learned

The words in this section of the Rachel Maddow Show are so powerful that I wanted to preserve them. So I'm posting this embedded video. The subject is about what kind of lessons Americans have learned from disasters we've endured.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Restaurant SOB and Allison Krauss Concert

A catch-up post about my few days at home in Memphis. It was lovely. The respite from constant care-taking is always so welcome. I left KY on Wednesday afternoon, spent Thursday and Friday there, and drove back to KY on Saturday evening. That drive back was one of the easiest I've had; there was next to no traffic on the roads.

While I was home, we combined my birthday, our anniversary, and Max's birthday for a little celebration that took us out to eat and to a concert by Allison Krauss and Union Station. All of our events are about a week apart starting August 21st.  This time the weather cooperated - not blistering hot nor raining cats and dogs - and we had a lovely evening.

We started off by going to a "gastro pub" named South of Beale in downtown Memphis.
It was an okay restaurant. The decor wasn't anything to write home about, a little dark for me, but I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't like to be surrounded by black and dark colors. The height of the tables was perfect. Being a shorty, I'm continually battling tables whose tops are at boob level and make me feel like I can just shovel the food into my mouth straight off the plate.

We ordered an appetizer of assorted meats and cheeses which was wonderful. The meats were salami, pepperoni and andouille sausage; the cheeses were caramelized onion, sage, and "Red Dragon." Everything was made in-house. The andouille and pepperoni were too hot for me; although, they tasted good. The salami was delicious! The cheeses were creamy and delicious. The Red Dragon was as suspected, a hot cheese, but I saw no pepper flakes only small round seeds. I'm stumped as to what they were.

Max got fish and chips, and I had duck breast and bok choy. His fish was perch, and he enjoyed it but said it was fishy tasting; so I wouldn't have enjoyed it. Shaking head at myself - as long as it doesn't taste like fish, I quite enjoy fish. His chips were cajun chips, so too hot for me. My duck and bok choy were delicious. There were little slices of duck and braised, halved, baby bok choy. Sad to say, I couldn't chew either. Damn denture. The duck wasn't tough; it just wouldn't chew down. And those of you with dentures know how hard it is to chew greens.

I got butterscotch mousse for desert, and it was fantastic. However, right after it was served, Max froze in his seat and exclaimed he'd left the tickets at home. So I didn't get linger over the mousse. We dashed home and back and made it in plenty of time for the concert.

The concert was absolutely fantastic. I think they were the best musicians I have ever seen. The dobro player was jaw dropping - Jerry Douglas. You can check him out in wikipedia by clicking here. He was the singing voice of George Clooney in O, Brother Where Art Thou. I was stunned at the amount of notes he could coax out of that dobro.

The Orpheum in Memphis
The organ at the Orpheum in Memphis

The concert was at the Orpheum (click here to check the wonderful old theater out,) and our seats were perfect. We sat on the first-level balcony in the last row in the center section. With a wall behind us, we had no worries at all about blocking anyone's views. I was lucky, and no tall huge person sat in front of me; so I could actually see the people on the stage.

The rest of the trip, I relaxed and recuperated. It was great.

Updated 9/5/11 to add pictures of the Orpheum

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A/C and Salsa for Jill

Hallelujah! The air conditioner is working. OMG, it is the best thing in the world today. The HVAC guy arrived Monday at 7:00 p.m. Again, the problem was a fuse. Argh, this old house and it's buss fuses. The last time it was a fuse outside of which I had no knowledge. Being a little wiser, this time I tried to check all the fuses.  I flipped the outside switch to no avail. Went into the basement and looked at all the fuses. None were broken, except there was one double one that I couldn't tell because you couldn't see an obvious failure device. That little fellow turned out to be the evil culprit. You have to have a meter to tell if those have failed. Wahhh! I want an electrical system with little switches that pop off and all you have to do is flip them back.

So the HVAC guy hosed the A/C down to clean it a bit and put a new fuse in. The $85 house call and half hour of work hurt a bit, but, hey, I'm glad to pay for his knowledge. You have to remember it's not the ease of the work you're paying for, it's the education and experience that you just don't have that you're paying for.

Uncle Charles tried to kill me Monday by offering a mess of purple hull peas if I picked them. Of course, I couldn't turn that down. I think I sweated a bucket and was just about sick to my stomach by the time it was done. However, I got about 2 cups of lovely peas for supper, and my fingers aren't purple today.

Then he made up for the assassination attempt by gifting me a lovely mantle clock. The spring is wound too tight, and it needs a visit to a clock shop. We have one only a block from the house in Memphis, so that's no problem. He strapped it in the back seat of the car, and all the way home I kept thinking my cell phone was getting messages until I finally figured out it was the clock lightly singing to me. Lovely sound.

He'd just pulled all the cucumber vines from his garden, and declaring they had all the pickles they wanted, gave me the last of the harvest. I hope you're okay with that Aunt Agnes.  He opined that some of the pickled squash and green tomatoes I'd given him had too much vinegar. I agree that the first batches did. However, I've reduced the amount I use to about as little as I dare. Maybe the last of the ones I've made won't have too much vinegar for him. I suspect they will, but I'm not sure about reducing the vinegar anymore than I already have. Today before I go home tomorrow, I'm going to put up the last of the cukes. That will end the pickling season.

We also picked some okra while I was there. I was going to pickle it, but decided instead to do an experiment with a way of canning it I'd seen on the internet. It calls for 6 tblsp of vinegar and 2 of salt to a gallon of water, boiling for 6 minutes, sealing, and mentions no processing time. That makes me a bit nervous, but I wanted to try it. They said you could even bread and fry it. The jar sealed well, looks lovely, and the okra stayed a bright green. It doesn't appear to be at all soft. They said the okra stayed good for months. That said, I wouldn't at all trust it for long-term storage, but doubt it would be terribly unsafe for a season.

I also made a batch of salsa. Jill and I were talking about different salsas, and we both opined we liked the watery kind you get in the restaurants. I've always made that kind fresh, but she hadn't. So last night I made up a batch of salsa and canned it. I couldn't find any fresh jalapenos, but substituted 2 cans of chopped green chilies. Since I despise cilantro, I used fresh chopped parsley from the patio planter. Mine isn't nearly as hot as Jill would like, but it's about as hot as I enjoy.

Falling Down Stairs and The Girls

Ah, ha! I remembered what I wanted to document and forgot. Saturday when I asked Mother how she slept, she told me she walked in her sleep and fell down the steps. Okey Dokey. The only steps in the house lead down to the basement. They're pretty bad steps - wrong width of risers, partially enclosed, and end on a concrete floor. In other words, dangerous, and for the life of me I can't figure out why Joe didn't have them redone as soon as they moved in this house.

Soooo, considering Mama wasn't lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, didn't have any broken bones, and didn't have massive bruising, she had to have either dreamed this or gotten it confused with a childhood memory. She bruises if you look at her hard. No bruises mean no mishap in her case.

When Dad was walking out of the kitchen with his lunch Sunday, he called to the cat, "Come on little doggie." He wasn't being funny or joking. About half the time he calls the cat a dog, and he also calls him "her."

On Tuesday, Dad sat beside me on the couch and proceeded to tell me how he was confused about the weather and rambled into thinking it was 2:00 hours ago. No word in there about the weather. He couldn't come up with the word for clock. Then he went on to tell me he didn't think much of what I call a lunch. Oy. If his mouth will get well, and we can get his partial back in, he can actually eat something that's more than soft. He sure doesn't like the limited stuff I've been trying to feed him. Monday I gave him a tuna sandwich and a bowl of bean and bacon soup. He ate half of the sandwich and none of the soup.

He knows the girls (sitters) are coming but he keeps expecting them to arrive now. I told him Sunday I was going home on Wednesday and that the girls would be back on Wednesday. He's asked me daily since why the girls aren't here.  See, Sheila does things with him outside. She'll help him with the raking he's obsessed with right now.  Joe can barely wait for Sheila to be here.

I won't help with that; I shudder at the thought of working outside in the sun. My pale purple skin crawls when the sun beats down on it. It actually hurts. I can become blistered in 15 minutes flat. I've always blistered easily and never tanned well. As I've aged, it's gotten worse, and now I just turn more red and purple. I despise my skin coloring. Also, about 10 years or so ago I was put on a medicine to help with arthritis, and that medicine reacted to exposure to the sun. You weren't supposed to be in the sun while on it. After I discovered a food allergy was the cause of the knarly joints, stopped eating that food (potatoes, of all things), and stopped taking that medicine, I still can't endure the sun. I think the medicine toggled on forever an already sensitive reaction to the sun.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pears in Honey

Last night was another canning pears night. I took a page from my friend, Debbi's, method and substituted 1 cup of honey for one cup of the sugar. Have to say, it was the darkest honey I've ever seen. When I first picked up the bottle, I thought it was molasses. That's pretty dark for a honey named "Golden Honey." It's from Michigan, and I'd love to find a local source, or at least Kentucky. I know a beekeeper in Oak Ridge, and my friend Carol has two hives, but she just gets enough for her own use. I don't know any beekeepers around here; I figure there have to be some. Will look in the Beekeeper Association's member list and see if I can find one.

Edited 8/21/11 to say that, as usual with almost everything, west Kentucky doesn't seem to have many beekeepers. Per the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the closest beekeeping association is Lake Barkley Beekeepers Association based out of Mayfield. I sent an email to the president asking for info on local beekeepers. We'll see what turns up.

Searching further, I found Broyles Apiary in Paducah from the Buy Kentucky page of the KY Dept of Ag.  Here's one that's a bit too far to travel to, 12 miles east out of Mayfield - Honey Hill Apiary. Apparently, they sell at the Trading Post, 127 W. Broadway (between 7th and 8th on 80.) The Kentucky Nut Corporation in Hickman comes up as selling honey on the KY DA page, but not on their website. I'd still probably get lost trying to find it. You can buy their pecans online, but I didn't check out the shipping. Their prices seem to be pretty good if they're updated.

The Tennessee Beekeepers Association has a bit more information than the Kentucky Assoc., and has a map showing a few bee colonies just south of the Kentucky state line. Click here to see that. While you're looking at that, you can note that I lived for more than 20 years in Anderson County, in the upper center of the red, east, district, where I was used to seeing local honey for sale all the time.

Friday, August 19, 2011


To my great delight, I discovered one of the trees in my dad's yard is brimming over with pears. Since there was no pruning or spraying done, I really didn't expect much from any of his fruit trees. The apple trees produced little knotty things that I didn't even try to do anything with. But the other day while sitting on the patio talking to Cuz Jill, I looked out and beheld a tree dripping pears.

Since I've never done anything with pears, I hopped onto the internet and learned that pears should be picked green and allowed to ripen in a cool dark place to discourage the seediness (I forget the name) that you find in the center of the pears. The description of when to pick the pears says that they should break easily off the tree and also that whenever they start falling off, they're ready.

Okay. I feel the pears, and they feel like rocks, so I have my doubts. However, I harvested 4 sacks and sat them in the basement. After 4 days they hadn't changed much, but a few were beginning to have a little give when gripped. That was the point the internet said you should start canning them.

Lemme tell ya, peeling, pitting and slicing those babies didn't go quite as quickly as I'd dreamed about. They still feel pretty hard to me. My hope is that the canning process softens them up. I did a batch of 7 pint jars in a thin syrup, and they sure look pretty. I left one in the refrigerator overnight to check the next day. I just went and opened it, and by golly, it worked. There's a little bit more tooth than commercially canned pears, but not much, at least not in the pieces I tasted. Yay!

So now I guess I've got my work cut out for me. Aunt Agnes? You want some pears to can? You're welcome to them.

Because these are homegrown and unsprayed, they're not the largest pears in the world. Certainly not up to what you'd see in the grocery store. I figured about 4-5 pears per pint and added an extra jar's worth to make up for bad spots cut out and variable sizes. That came out just right for the 7 jars that fit in the water bath canner. That makes about 32-35 pears per batch. Now I just need to find a personal pear peeler to work for me for free, yeah.

The Latest Canning - Okra, Dill Relish

Uncle Charles gave me a sack of okra the other day. I was looking forward to pickling some, but these were a tad too large for that, so I canned them for gumbo. Yum. The seed pods turned brown, and I wonder if I had added a bit of vinegar or lemon juice that wouldn't have happened. Anyone know?

Okra is such a funny vegetable. So many people are turned off by the slime and won't try it or only eat it fried. Yet there are ways to get rid of the slime, and it helps with thickening a good gumbo, which I absolutely love. I also love popping the little seeds.

This is the way I got turned onto eating okra that wasn't fried, because I was a slime avoider, too. When I was in the Air Force, my best friend was a teeny petite gal, with white blonde hair, named Dove. Perfect angel material you'd think. She actually could beat a sailor in a cursing contest. Anyway, one day Dove declared she couldn't wait to get home and have some buttered okra. Stopped me dead in my tracks. Dove wanted to eat slimy okra in butter? So she drug me to her house after work and showed me how to lightly steam it to just barely done, bathe it in butter and lightly salt it. I was a convert and haven't looked back. Delicious stuff, that okra.

Another thing I made was a batch of dill cucumber relish. I like dill relish on a hot dog better than sweet relish. I found a recipe to adapt and made this by shredding the cucumber and onions on a grater. Right at the end of cooking it, I added a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch and thickened it a bit.

You'll likely notice some glaring things the USDA would have cows over with my dill relish. First thing is that I used non-approved, previously-used jars and lids. This is another one of those things that "my mother did for years and none of us have died" that sends the food scientists into fits. DO NOT get the idea that I am encouraging anyone to do this. It's my own personal choice.

Shredded cucumber and onion
The second thing I did was add a little thickening by adding cornstarch. There are density issues in canning thick foods that can cause problems down the road. I also think cornstarch is not supposed to hold up well in the long run. I didn't add more thickening than I've seen in recipes vetted by the Ball Blue Book.

I'll just have to wait and see how well the cornstarch holds up since this is the first time I've tried it. The author of the recipe I mostly followed didn't make any comment about thickening breakdown, but I have no clue as to his/her experience with the recipe. Too many times people post things on their first try and never follow up if they realize later it was a flop. Since the relish tasted so good, I really hope it does age well.

Another batch of canned goods I've done courtesy of Uncle Charles is a batch of garlic dill pickle spears. They are so pretty in the jars my mouth waters just looking at them. I added a handful of green pepper and onion slices to each jar. These are the treat of the jar. You never add enough to take away the joy of getting some. There should always be a skirmish over the rare treats in pickled things, ya know!

Skills and the !@#$ Air Conditioner

Lately the morning schedule around here has changed a bit. Joe has been getting up and getting himself a banana and a pudding rather than me trying to make him a breakfast. He seems perfectly content, and I'm happy too. I can then make him a lunch after noon, and it's easier on both of us.

Lola's mental skills have declined so much it's startling. She can't even answer the phone, much less dial it. She has trouble operating the TV remote, barely able to handle turning the volume up and down. Yesterday she accidentally muted it, and just sat there watching a mute TV. It finally dawned on me there was no volume, and I saw the muting notification in the bottom of the screen. I asked her if could read that, and she said she couldn't. She claims she can see and doesn't wear her glasses more than she does wear them, but she can't read large print on the TV screen. Those are just a few things I can think of at the moment.

Joe's verbal skills are sad. The words and names for things are slippery little demons for him. Mostly he can't come up with them and just points or says "those things." The things of import to him are centered around what he can physically do, which is next to nothing. He spends his day obsessed with mowing or raking the yard, sweeping the porches, and emptying the little waste cans in the house.

He's taken to coming in and sitting down beside me on the couch. I suppose he wants company. Yet, conversation with him is about impossible, so mostly he just sits there and eventually nods off.

The friggin air conditioner has gone off again. This time I checked all the fuses, and they all seem good, so I'm going to have to call in a HVAC repairman. Dammit. Just when I think I've got things to where we can repair the plumbing, something else with a higher priority comes up. At least it isn't in the triple digits now, and I've proven to myself that I won't die living in 85°. I simply go into a fog and can barely move from in front of a fan.

This bag of lids got thrown out the other day. They are lids to little plastic containers I bought to put pudding in. They were perfect for one portion, easy to handle, easy to get, and something Joe could recognize. The only problem? He couldn't grok they weren't disposable. So the only thing left from the last six months were the lids, and I don't do that anymore.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How We Protect Our Government

Here's a link I found to a National Geographic documentary on the US's preparations for protecting our government officials in case of disaster.  It's pretty interesting. Having read enough Tom Clancy and spy novels, it piqued my interest, and satisfied my curiosity on quite a few of the places. Having been in intelligence in the USAF mumble years ago, part of me hates to see this stuff documented and aired, even if most of the places are out of commission. I'm of the school of Keep It Secret Stupid, but, that's just me.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dentures and Mowing

On Sunday Lola went  to the bathroom at least twice an hour all day. I'm pushing her drinking, but she resists that. I'm keeping an eye on whether or not she might have an infection or if it's just the dropped bladder. Neither of us have ever been prone to urinary tract or bladder infections; I don't really think it's an infection. I don't recall ever having one, nor her having one.

On Monday I forgot to bring her a spoon for her breakfast cereal. After getting bushwhacked by Joe to start the mower and going into the basement to clean a shelf, I came back by Mom. She and her bowl of cereal were just sitting there. She doesn't have enough mind left to get up and get herself a spoon from the kitchen. At suppertime, I brought her meal and sat it on her tray. About 5 minutes later, I walked by and realized she hadn't started eating. I said, "Mother, eat your supper." She shook her head at herself, picked up her fork and started eating.

 Joe has been happily mowing the yard Monday and today. Monday morning, Uncle Charles came by and helped Dad bag up a bunch of grass clippings. Dad had raked and raked them (the results of letting the back go for so long) into little piles, then spent Sunday marrying the piles. Thank you Uncle Charles for all that you do.

At one time, Dad would have gotten his golf cart, attached his big wagon/little trailer to it and taken care of this in no time flat. Now I don't dare let him do things the easy way because I can't let him drive the cart. If I, myself, or Uncle Charles were to drive the cart, then I'd have to go round and round with Joe on a daily basis over the golf cart. Just saying the key is lost for so long has mostly ended that. Joe can't be allowed to run the golf cart anymore. His driving skill is so poor he was running into trees, buildings and porches, and I was scared he was going to tip over on some slope. At one point, he was driving it with one roof support broken and flapping around and was totally oblivious to it.

This morning I wanted to see if Mother would ask for a meal. Finally at 2:30, I couldn't stand it anymore and got her lunch. I wonder if she's not feeling hunger or what. I wonder how long she would have gone before either asking me for something or thinking of getting up and getting something.

I don't dare fix her dentures before I bring the meal, because she'll suck the glue out before I can bring the meal. Today, I brought the meal, got her bottom denture and fixed that. I went to the kitchen to get her a straw, and when I came back, she'd tugged the top denture out, so I had to take that to the bathroom and brush it. When I came back, she'd taken the bottom denture out and was wiping off all the fresh glue I'd just put on it. Oy, vey.

Actually, I wonder if something major has recently broken in her brain.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Making Hominy II

So far, my experiments in making hominy are big flops. The first batch might have eventually turned to hominy, but I had no clue it was going to take hours and hours of cooking. It looked like a big glop, and it was 2:00 a.m. I abandoned it.

Boiling the corn in the lime solution.

Making Hominy I

First attempt and it seems
to be starting to become hominy.
I'm giving making hominy a try. I almost feel deprived growing up in the South and not having had any relatives that made it. Alas, I didn't; therefore, I'm having to do research on the internet. I've found quite a few recipes for making it with lye or potash. Lye seems to be something that is rare in stores around here. I remember buying it once for soap making, but Uncle Charles says they don't sell it anymore. Likely I could get it online. Nor do I think in this heat I want to start a fire and putz around making woodash/potash lye.

There are relatively fewer recipes on the internet for making hominy with lime, but in my search I stumbled across another method for making it using baking soda, which they claim was done a lot in the South. Since I've been making lime pickles and have a lot of pickling lime on hand, I'm going to start off using that.

Searching on the internet has led me to a lot of interesting sites and much more chemistry than I really want to remember. I had more success searching on nixtamal or nixtimalization, which is the name of the process of making hominy, and the Mexican word for it. They are the ones, ya know, who invented the process. However, here are some links to various sites I thought were helpful or just plain interesting.

The Blog, Garage Door and Becoming a Child

Things are going well here in LaLa land. I've been incredibly busy this last week, and with things going pretty well haven't done a lot of blogging about Joe and Lola. They're going on as usual. Also, I don't really want the blog to be only a place to vent my irritation, and it seemed I've been doing a lot of that lately.

It's easier to sit down at the keyboard and pound out a rant or vent your feelings than it is to sit write a nice cheery post. To that point, let me say that not every hour of being here is awful; nor is every interaction with my parents fraught with bad juju. Occasionally my dad actually makes sense, and for the most part, even his seeming incoherence usually has something valid, at least to him, fueling it.  He occasionally jokes and is pleasant. On the other end of the spectrum, my mom is usually pleasant and not hard to care for. She occasionally is grumpy but rarely is truly irritated and hardly ever finds anything important enough to make a fuss about.

My goal in blogging about my parents is to document things as they happen. I can look back over older posts to check out timelines, note behavior changes, drug additions or deletions. I need this. A line from one of  Tom Clancy's books comes to mind. Jack Ryan's wife wrote everything down. She claimed, "If you don't write it down, it never happened." That is life for me.

Lately I've been finding the garage door unopened a lot. That used to be the first thing Joe did every morning. It was the sign for neighbors that everything was okay at the house. I can't figure out if he's not opening it now because it's gotten too physically hard for him to do or whether he can't remember how to operate the manual lock on the door.

My mom is becoming increasingly childlike. It's difficult at times to deal with a sophisticated, intelligent woman reduced in capacity as she is. You take joy where you find it; yet, it's heart wrenching at times to watch her smiling and giggling over simple things. It's difficult to have to put Fixodent in her bottom denture 10 times a day because she starts sucking the glue out the minute you put it in, and she can't handle a tube of Fixodent to run a line along the denture herself.

I usually give Lola an apple every evening around 9:30. Last night on my way through the living room, I reglued her denture and went on into the kitchen and peeled and sliced the apple. I brought the apple to her and returned to the kitchen. I was busy making salsa. In about an hour I popped back in to check on her. The apple was uneaten, and the denture was in a tissue sitting beside it. Somehow, she had sucked all the glue out of the denture in the time it took me to peel and slice the apple. Instead of yelling for me, or getting up and coming to me to fix it. She had simply continued to sit there.

Later on at 1:00 a.m. I finally asked her to go to bed. She got up and stopped at the bathroom along the way. I got her bedside glass and went to the kitchen to make a fresh glass of ice water for her. I found her sitting back in front of the TV having completely forgotten that she was on the way to bed. I rounded her up and on the way to bed again. It irritated her. But I have to sleep on the sofa, and have to get some sleep. Immediately on getting into her room, she pulled her pants down and sat on the porta potty. Sigh. She has a dropped bladder that makes her feel like she needs to go, even when she has no urine left. She'll sit there and sit there. It irritated her when I went into the dropped bladder spiel. Because the urge to go is so intense, she resents being told about the bladder condition, doesn't accept it, and dislikes you for telling her, even though you know she can't go because you've been monitoring it.

This lovely Sunday morning Joe slept till about 10:00 a.m. and I got up, too. He was sitting in his den, and I went into the kitchen to get him orange juice and his medicine. By the time I'd done that, he was gone. Found him in the garage with his work gloves on trying to move the push lawn mower out. He didn't have his hearing aids in, either. I got him back in the den and got the dry-erase board. Wrote on it that it was Sunday. Oh, my, he reacted. He thought it was Saturday. No mowing today then. I got him to dig his hearing aids out of his pocket and in his ears. That helped. Then I got him a banana and a pudding, and he was happy.

I look forward to a pleasant Sunday. The temperature is actually below 80 degrees right now. Joy. There's a full bag of okra in the refrigerator just begging to be pickled. Joy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Squash II and Pork Taco Meat

I'm so excited to have some more squash canned. The other day I used a jar of the first batch and made soup from it, yum. It was a simple soup, yet, so delicious. I simply heated the squash, drained the water, added butter and put it in the food chopper. I pureed it until smooth and returned it to the pan. At that point I shredded a small bit of cheddar cheese in it and mixed that up when melted. It made a thick, creamy, beautiful yellow soup with a good aroma and crisp taste.

Squash for Soup

Here is a pic of the pork taco meat mix I made while in Memphis, carted back here to Arlington and canned right after I got back this month.

Something for Aunt Agnes and Canning

I've run across a product that may be of interest to my Aunt Agnes. I don't know for sure if she cans things like this, but I wanted to post the link here just in case she's interested. It's a product called Clear Jel which is for thickening things to be canned.

It's recommended not to home can things that have flour in them because of issues with density, thus food poisoning, and separation - the foods end up separating and being icky when you try to use them down the road. I've recently learned of a product called Clear Jel, which is a modified food starch, I think corn, that's becoming available to the home canner that is supposed to solve this problem.

So just in case Aunt Agnes wants to can some Sweet and Sour Sauce or other things, I thought I'd post this link from imstillworking on youtube.com.

Thank You Uncle Charles

My Daddy's brother, Charles, has been a blessing beyond belief this summer. He has visited my Dad, putzed with things worrying my Dad, fixed lawn mowers, recharged batteries, mowed yards, and delivered garden produce beyond belief.  I cannot thank him enough.

Tonight I finished canning 10 pints of squash that he left with us this morning. There's a slew of cucumbers curing in lime tonight to be put as lime pickles tomorrow. This batch will be solely for Uncle Charles.

He also left us a bag of tomatoes today, and Joe will be happy because he has tomatoes. I was worried about tomatoes this season as one of our sitters' mother-in-law has reported that hers are not doing well at all. She's having a problem with them rotting before they ripen.

In another bag were a few peppers and a handful of okra. Lola and I will enjoy a serving of okra for dinner with supper on Tuesday.


Lola's Confusion - Makeup

I can't remember what day this happened, Saturday or Sunday, but I needed to get it  documented.  Ah, it was Sunday. At 3:00 Lola left the living room. I could hear her rooting around in another room. What a position to be in - having to monitor your parent like a toddler. You don't want them doing something dangerous, and at their stage, that is something to worry about as they don't have a clue anymore what is dangerous. Yet, you want to give them privacy, and to let them do things.

In a few minutes, Mom came to the door and asked me to "Come here." I followed, and she led me to the bathroom. She stood in front of the cabinet and spreading her hands in dismay, said, "There's all this makeup here." I said, "Yes." She got her disgusted look and said, "Well." "Well, what?" I asked. I told her it was her makeup, and we didn't touch it because it was hers. She told me she didn't use "all of that stuff."

So I told her that it was perfectly okay to move it or to throw it away, whatever, as it's her stuff to do with as she wants. I asked her if she wanted me to throw it away. No reply, just staring at the floor. I asked her if she wanted me to move it. No reply. I lifted her head so she'd look at me and said, "Mama, what do you want?" With disgust she said, "I don't know what I want," and then she said she needed to use the bathroom. I just picked up the basket the makeup was in left her alone.

The magnitude of this Southern woman not being cognizant of her makeup is about like the San Andreas fault going. Add to that a Goin woman not being cognizant of her makeup. The Goin matriarch set a standard of always being perfectly powdered and groomed that is still commented on to this day. For my mother to not be cognizant of her makeup is like the ultimate concession that this woman has lost her mind.

I stashed the basket under the cabinet in the other bathroom. There's no way to know if she'll remember it, wonder why it's missing, or never even notice it's gone.

I've noticed the last two days that her head has been bobbing at times. That's not happened in months. It's a sign she's upset about something. I've wondered if she was missing the sitters as they engage her so much better than I do.

(On Sunday) Well, darn, the electricity just went off. Our substation goes out more often than any around us. Ours will frequently go off while there are lights on in houses across the street and 2 doors down from us. Sure hope they get it fixed before it starts to get hot in the house.

I commented to Mama about it, saying we'd just have to find something else to do besides watch TV and wondering what people did before electricity (I was just trying to make conversation.) In reply, she wondered what went on before Columbus discovered American. A train went by, and she told that her daddy used to be a signal man for the IC railroad and they used to get passes which was fun.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Playing Hair

Okay. So I had just gotten Mother to bed and was sitting here spending a little time to myself when at 12:15 a.m. I heard Joe up and moving around. I put a curtain over the backdoor, which cut my nose off to spite my face, because now I can't check up on him by watching his reflection in the windows. I peeked in, and he was in the back bathroom/utility room sitting on a stool at the vanity. I couldn't tell exactly what he was doing, but he seemed okay, so I left him to it.

In a few minutes he came into the living room, slowly sat down on the sofa beside me, and started rubbing his hands through his hair. Then he looked up at me and began a long rambling conversation about "playing hair." He'd done it. The women had done it. He expected it was different with the women than the men. He got it started, and we needed to do it for a few days, and he was just telling me about it. The phrase he kept using was "playing hair."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Eating Primitive

I'm doing a little research on foraging. I'd love to be able to forage a little, but right now my foraging experience is limited to poke in the spring and dandelions. Pretty poor skills there.  I think I'm going to have to break down and buy, gasp, a real book with pictures.

Anyway, in my research I ran across this video on youtube.com about primitive bark plates, ash cakes, and hemlock tea. I'm linking it because it is fascinating. His youtube name is gotrocksinhead which I bet a lot people think is appropriate. I don't think I'm going to run out and make some ash cakes tomorrow. However, seeing it done confirmed I could do it, and that's always good. I loved the drinking cup he made and watching him peel bark for plates. I'd likely pass on the evergreen/hemlock tea, but if you're starving, nutrients are good things. Now I'm just pondering what acorn flour tastes like.

Just Catching Up in August

Tonight I was finishing up canning some taco meat and working on learning how to make jelly. It took me a while. I had 2 loads of meat to do in the pressure canner. The last one came out about 1:30 a.m. I was also working on learning the stages of jelly - cooking until the juice/jelly reaches the right stage, the stage where it drips off the spoon just right.  

I had just taken the last batch of meat out of the canner, and had also just finished cleaning up from the jelly learning, and realized  there was a lot of grumbling going on - weather grumbling. Then I turned around and there was Joe up creeping into the kitchen. He was in his sweats and had  his shoes on. Damn how'd he get into his shoes and all that while I was in the kitchen and missed it! Well, he calmly accepted something to drink and a gentle shove back to his bed.

So I'm in here at 2:00 a.m. with a lot of thundering going on writing a blog post on what's been going on since I've been back. Basically, since I arrived back here on Thursday evening, things have been going well. Joe has been focused on the few piles of grass clippings he's raked up. It's been raining a bit, thank heaven! The gardens and farmers need it, and it's kept Joe confined. Lola has been focused on The Classic Movie Channel.

Sandy talks about talking and joking with both of them. That gets me because neither of them will talk or joke with me. Occasionally Joe will joke, and that's freaky because he never did do that with me before. Lola used to talk and joke all the time, and now with me, she's just silent. Even when I try to engage her in conversation, I have say everything twice. It's like she doesn't hear the first time. It's like she's totally locked into her own mind and world. It bothers me that the sitters can engage them and I  can't.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Squash - Canning

Tonight I canned a few jars of squash. If you are a person who likes your veggies crisp and barely cooked, canned squash definitely doesn't fit that bill. Canning squash does cook it thoroughly and makes it soft.  However, if you cut it up chunky, it doesn't turn to mush in the jar.

If you are a hardcore locavore, or just someone who tries a bit to have local food, canning your own local squash solves the problem of variety out of season.  And talk about soups! Canned squash is perfect for smooth, creamy soup. It reduces both the prep and the cooking times. These recipes have my mouth watering:

Summer Squash Soup with Parsley Mint Pistou (which is a French version of pesto) from Epicurious.com

Creamy Summer Squash Soup which sounds delicious with a lemony, creamy taste.

Thai Red Curry Squash Soup which has me drooling, although personally I'd likely go easy on the red curry paste. For Max, I'd have to cut back on the ginger.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dill Pickle Recipe Tweak 1

On Tuesday, I worked on tweaking my dill pickle recipe. I got out a jar of my favorite dill slices and worked on getting my recipe's vinegar and salt content as close to the bought pickle juice as I could. It took 3 tries and nearly choking Max on it as a taste helper before getting it as close as we could. Additionally, I didn't want dill spice in the jars, so I steeped the dill seed in the vinegar solution and strained them out prior to using the solution.

 I'll taste test them in a week and see what the conclusion is about this tweak. I'm pretty confident of it, which is why I am posting the recipe. I do know that pickling slices takes a lot of time. Whew. I have a mandolin, but it's almost more trouble than it's worth - getting out, setting blade, test, reset blade, avoiding cutting a finger off, and cleaning up. Facing that, I just sharpen the knife and start slicing. Maybe finding the perfect setting on the mandolin should be a test for another time.

Here's a picture of the finished slices and following that is my tweaked 1 recipe.

Dill Pickles with Garlic
All slices except for 1 lone jar of whole cucumbers.
Ain't they pretty!

August in Arlington

I just spent a lovely couple of days at home with my husband. Well, they were lovely because I was home. If the temperature hadn't been 106 degrees yesterday, they likely would have been lovelier. I had some vague plans to do some shopping for spices and things I have trouble finding here, picking up some shorts, and stuff like that. It was so hot I barely left the house.

On Monday before I left, Uncle Charles brought by a sack of cukes and squash. So I stopped by Kroger that evening to pick up some spices. I'd wanted to go to a tienda as they sell them in larger quantities and for less money, but Kroger is just a block from the house.  While there, I caught a bunch of pork on sale. So while home, I tweaked the dill pickle recipe, canned dill slices and made pork taco meat. I'll get that canned tomorrow.

The first night back, Max took me to Thai Bistro, my favorite Thai restaurant. I had Panang Curry, which still has my mouth watering. I was a bit disappointed over a menu change. Since the last time we were there, they've stopped serving a small bowl of soup with the meal. That soup they served had the most delicate delicious broth I've ever had. It used galangal and lemon grass, which I have a bit of, but really don't know how to use. That particular soup wasn't on the menu anymore. Pout. Max got a wonton soup, and that broth was just about as good.

On getting back, I've set up the computer. Tonight my internet connection is about as fast as molasses. Wonder if that has anything to do with the ridiculous temperatures and the entire midwest likely being inside and half of them on the computer?

01/21/16: Edited to add that galangal is frequently called a mild ginger. That may let you know the taste of  that ingredient.