Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Frankfort for the Wedding

Tonight I'm sitting in a hotel in Frankfort, Ky., the Capitol Plaza, for Josh's wedding tomorrow. The hotel is a block from the wedding site and has turned out to be a very nice hotel. It's modern, light, airy, well-furnished, with largish standard rooms, which are clean, at least on the surface.

On the trip up, we left Memphis and traveled to Nashville, then caught I65 north. It was a road I've never traveled before, so it was at least interesting for that. We passed the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. It has a vaguely disturbing modern sculpture outside which consists of a huge, as in 2-3 stories high, bee/sunflower yellow cone with its top cut off on a slant and topped by a bright red spike. Since I'm unsure of copyright issues, if'n you're interested you can see a pic by clicking here.

On the way here, we passed three things I wanted to remember. I've listed the Corvette Museum, and have totally lost the other two things. A mind is a terrible thing to lose.

We played find a Taco Bell for lunch. Not having had a taco for ages, I've been dreaming of them for the last week so I declared at the beginning of the trip I wanted to stop at Taco Bell for lunch. Amazingly, Max managed to drive through Nashville without getting off for a Taco stop. As we passed the last exit, he said, well, there was a Taco Bell. He didn't believe me when I said we'd have to travel into Kentucky before we passed another one. Ain't it grand sometimes knowing what you're talking about?

He kept believing any exit that had a Mickey D's and Wendy's would also have a Taco Bell. Wrongo. We did discover that Taco Bell really doesn't advertise on the Interstate food signs like the other fast food places. Missed marketing opportunity there, Taco Bell.  He kept pulling off at exits sure he'd find one. We did finally, in Bowling Green.

Sadly, after craving for weeks, I discovered that Taco Bell changed their meat recipe after the recent bruhaha over their ingredients, and to my probable shame, the new recipe just tasted off. I find I really liked the dubious meat in the original recipe. Grade D? Mebbe. Mostly not meat? Mebbe. It still tasted better.

And on a final Taco Bell rant, what is WITH putting all the sour cream on one end of the taco?  Are their workers so physically challenged or mentally that they can't lay a stream of even sour cream across a taco shell? No one wants to bite into a mouthful of only sour cream.

We arrived in Frankfort and got checked in by about 5:15 p.m. Called Josh to let him know we were here  and were informed they changed the rehearsal time from 6:30 to 6:00. Gah. No time to unwind. Rush to change travel clothes and put on make up.  Fortunately, the wedding location is just a bit over a block down the road from the hotel. It's a delightful historic setting with a beautiful old house surrounded by a large lawn and gardens.

The rehearsal was fun and hopefully ironed out any problems with a smooth ceremony happening tomorrow. After the rehearsal, they were yanked around a bit by the restaurant hosting the dinner not having their reserved room cleared until 8:30 p.m. Like the kids needed more stress added to their plans. The food was Italian and pretty good. The company was fantastic, and all was well in the end.

So now I'm back in my hotel room with my bra off, getting my nicotine levels back to normal and enjoying a nice gin with a coke chaser.

We're all keeping our fingers crossed it doesn't rain tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Update on Joe 9/27/2011

Joe has been moved to Room 1002 at Parkview Nursing Home in Paducah. He's giving the nurses hell and being a general pain in the butt to them. They had to put an ankle bracelet on him today because he tried to escape. He apparently argued with the man in his other room so they moved him, but that may be hearsay according to a nurse's assistant today who passed on a bit of gossip.

He still has his nights and days turned around. I had a meeting with the staff today, and couldn't visit him because he was asleep.

The floor nurse told me today that he did have a urinary tract infection while he was in the hospital. The hospital didn't tell me that; they speculated he had a swollen prostate, which could cause the incontinence. The nurse told me the prostate problem could have cause the urinary tract infection. The importance of the infection is that apparently it can trigger the cascade that Joe went through, turning him totally incompetent in a few days' time.

Tomorrow I'm leaving Arlington to go to Memphis. We have one day to get tags for my car, which expired in, huhum, July. Then we go to Frankfort KY for my son, Josh's wedding. I plan to turn brainless once I'm in Memphis. I will let Max point me in the direction to go and go there. He better not lead me down the primrose path.

If anyone in the area can visit Joe, it would make me feel better about leaving him alone without a visit from family in the days I'll be gone. I didn't visit on Saturday or Sunday because I wanted to give him time to acclimate, and, frankly, I needed a break. Since he was asleep today, he'll think no one has ever visited him.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Update on Joe 9/24/11

For the time being, Joe is in Parkview Nursing Home in Paducah in Room 1004, bed 1 (out of 2). Anyone who wants to is welcome to visit him. I was there today, but I will not be going on Saturday. He has his nights and days mixed up. He is roaming the halls all night via a wheelchair. During the day, they are trying to readjust his time clock by keeping him in the chair and as awake as they can by doing that. Whenever I visit, all he does is plead to go to bed. The nurse told me they would start sedating him at night if it isn't turned around by the end of the weekend.

I understand what they're doing, but it's excruciating to see. My dad has turned into an old man sitting in a wheelchair in a hall in a nursing home. He doesn't know where he is. He doesn't know how to get back to his room. He doesn't know he has a room. In 10 days he's gone from a kinda whacky old man with obvious dementia to nearly witless and unable to finish a sentence. He's nigh onto immobile.

I bawled in the car after I left today. It is heart wrenching. No other solution is available. I cannot care for him at home. I cannot pick him up when he falls. At least if he falls in the nursing home, there are plenty of young people experienced in picking him up. If I were to bring him home, he would require someone sitting with him every minute, which I cannot do.

It is absolutely astounding how he went from being able to ambulate, speak, and live to nearly immobile, incapable of finishing a sentence, and practically unable to feed himself and enjoy life, if limited, in just 10 days.

There are no words to express my dismay. He exasperated the hell out of me, but I would rather that than what is now. It is nearly unbearable.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Update on Joe 9/20/2011

I was simply too tired to post last night and sad. Yesterday Joe was in bed when I arrived. He seemed to be asleep. I had brought him a banana and some sliced ham. The banana because he was eating 3 a day and the ham because his first desire in a meal is the meat. When he came around he wanted the banana but only ate about 2 inches of it. He didn't even touch the ham.

He was fairly lucid, lethargic but lucid. While I was there a therapist came in to walk him, and he made his way down the hall, back and partway the other way before wanting to go back to his room. He was bright and interested in his surroundings. He got the therapist tickled nattering on about the fans on the roof and asking her who was doing that. He paused to let people in wheelchairs go around him.

We got him shaved up a little. I took his electric razor in. He wouldn't let the aides shave him. His beard had gotten pretty long, so it was rough going. We made a basic pass; then he complained of it hurting his face, so I quit. It was sad that he didn't know what the razor was when I handed it to him. He had no clue how to turn it on. This is his razor that he has used daily.

His medical condition is stable, so the hospital wants to release him NOW. They were unsuccessful at finding a place yesterday but expect to do so today. I couldn't get them to give me a release time, so I doubt I'll be there since I'll have to arrange a sitter for mother. I plan to take him some clothes when I go. He's shivering with cold in the hospital gown, and he needs to be dressed in the home in my opinion.

His being more lucid yesterday made it emotionally very hard. He asked me not to go when it came time to end the visit. That took me by surprise and bushwhacked my emotions. Although he wasn't talking to me, I suppose my presence was comforting to him. It also increased my feelings of being a traitor by placing him in a home. He's not lucid enough to understand I can't care for him; yet he's lucid enough to be very hurt by it. When he was whacko and combative, it was easy to be so worn out dealing with him to only feel relief of the burden of care. When he's not fighting everything and passive, it is hard not to feel you're abandoning him to a strange place full of strangers. Ripping away his whole life as he knows it tears you up.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Update on Joe 9/19/2011

The visit today was a pleasant surprise. He was sitting up in a chair and unrestrained. He was asleep when I arrived and was fairly quiet even when he came awake. They changed his BP meds around which seems to be working so far, and his face wasn't flushed for the first time in days. He's still on a catheter, but they were talking about removing it in the near future. He keeps asking to go the bathroom for other reasons but so far has just had gas. Since uncontrolled bowels was such a problem here at the house, that's a bit of a surprise. Being in the hospital does yank the system around, though.

Lola still hasn't asked to go visit him. She has never spoken to me about him. I tell her when I get home how he's doing, and she's interested at that time. All other times, she's content to watch the TV and doesn't seem to question or worry. This whole event hasn't even set off the shakes from her Parkinson's Disease. I had to give her an extra 1/2 pill the day we took him to the hospital. After that, it's required no modification at all.

Aunt Agnes sat with Mom today long enough for me to go shopping for a dress to wear for Josh's wedding on the 30th. I wasn't frantic about it yet, but was beginning to fret a bit. Other than that, we're going with the flow and waiting to see what happens. I keep getting surprised at how tired I'm ending up being by the end of the day. I can barely sit up until Lola finally gives it up at midnight. I can barely drag myself out of the bed in the morning. I don't have a brain to speak of until after noon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Update on Joe II

Joe is about the same as the last few days. I visited him about 3:30 this afternoon. Sadly, he was back in restraints. He'd woken up last night and stayed awake most of the night giving the floor staff hell trying to get out of the bed. When I visited he wasn't the most lively thing going, but he was awake. He hadn't eaten much, and I took in a fish meal to try to entice him. He ate a bite and didn't want much more than that.

I did talk them into lengthening the restraint on his right arm so he could at least reach his water glass. While I was there, they unhooked it without removing it, and he was almost didn't even realize he could move that arm. I understand the need to restrain him from getting up and yanking out an IV, but I swear they could put it on his right arm long enough to allow him to drink, reach a tissue, etc., without the ability to unhook the other arm, and he'd be okay. I'd be miserable if I were sitting there with a parched mouth, a glass of water in front of me, and I couldn't reach it.  Especially if that was all the sense I had - enough to see the water but not enough to call the nurse to tell her I needed a drink.

I'm worried about his eating because I know he won't eat what they're trying to feed him. First, they won't allow him any salt. Second, anyone who's followed the blog knows he won't eat anything healthy anymore. So they're going to starve him trying to feed him healthy food he won't eat. He's 90 for crying out loud - give him all the salt he wants and chicken nuggets, burgers and pizza.

It's just 10:30 p.m., and I am absolutely whupped again tonight. I'm not used to being this sleepy at this time of night. Lola will still want to be up until midnight. Right before Joe went whacko, I had bought a bunch of cheese to can. It was going hard around the edges, so I canned it up tonight before I lost it. It took a bit of time, but I couldn't stand to lose it. So shoot me; I probably should have just thrown it away, but it cost $13.00. Waaahhhh.

Tomorrow Aunt Agnes is going to sit for me so I can try to find a dress and shoes to wear for Josh's wedding next weekend. Could Joe have gone whacko at a worse time? Of course not.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Update on Joe

I keep thinking I'll write a more detailed post about what's happened and happening with Joe, but I find at the end of the day, I'm whupped and just can't do it. I'll see what I can get out tonight.

The news is that Joe will not be coming home again. He needs more care than one nearly 60-year-old daughter can give him, much less split between him and his wife. He will go straight from the hospital to a facility. It had been hinted at but not really confirmed until today. I have to admit that when they finally confirmed it today, I cried in pure relief. Sorry that it wasn't sadness at the time, just a flood of relief. I was terrified they would have to send him home again, and I absolutely knew I could not care for him.

When I was at the hospital today, he was actually calm and unrestrained. He had his supper in front of him, but the brilliant person who delivered the meal didn't care to check that the patient had dentures in. He couldn't chew it. Doh. Admittedly, since they didn't give him any salt, he likely wouldn't have eaten much of it anyway. Squash, potato casserole of some kind, and pork. Applesauce as a side and a sickly sweet pink drink, tea without sugar. This will have to change or he will starve. They have him on restricted salt, and for a salt person like him, that makes food inedible. He's become so picky he won't eat healthy, which they'll insist on. When they have to resort to Enfamil or something, perhaps they'll ponder their ways, or just shrug and condemn him a diet of liquid pap.

He got up once today for the toilet, but required two men to keep him upright. The doctor wants him to start getting up tomorrow, scheduled for 4 times. However, the nurse said she figured they'd actually go for 2 times.

He has a confirmed diagnosis of Alzheimer's. Plague is showing on the CT scan of his brain. The nurse explained the progression varies between individuals, nothing new there. There are periods of good times interspersed with bad times -good mobility and thinking between bad mobility and confusion. The level of good gradually decreases as each bout of bad comes along.

His blood pressure isn't too high now, but his heart rate is too low. They're trying dropping the BP med that slows heart rate tonight and will see how it goes. He's still on a catheter but has controlled his bowels enough to request going to the bathroom. They have his bed alarmed to alert when he tries to get up, because he doesn't have enough sense right now to ask for aid. He can't even figure out how to raise or lower his bed or turn the TV on much less find the button to call a nurse.

At least they've given him a bath, for which I heartily thank them. He stunk. They're keeping mouthwash by him because his breath is terrible. That's due in part because your breath goes to pot in a medical crises and in part because he let his teeth rot. Hygiene was one area of his care I was totally incompetent. He wouldn't let me. He wouldn't do it himself, but he absolutely would not let me do it.

Once they've got him a little more stable, if they can, they will have representatives from various facilities come by to evaluate him and give me a list of three to choose from in which to place him. I am absolutely NOT going to inform him of this. If anything would stick in his wandering mind, that likely would. We will place him where he can get the best care. He will likely be terribly unhappy if or when he regains enough sense to realize it. As of right now, he can't remember where he is. He asked me 3 times in one hour where he was. He can't realize he's even in a hospital, much less remember it's in Paducah.

Through all of this Lola has remained remarkably calm. I've wondered just how much she is processing of what is happening. She has never asked me question one about him. However, tonight Aunt Agnes let me know that Mom realizes that he's in the hospital and needs to be placed in a nursing home. Whenever I learn something new about him, I let Mom know the news. After that she never says a word; nor has she asked to visit him. Frankly, it makes me wonder if I never mentioned him again whether or not she would realize it.

I'm in totally unchartered territory here and flying by the seat of my pants. I can only hope that the decisions I make are ultimately the best ones. Ya never know until it's too late whether or not you've done well.

Let me please thank my Aunt Agnes for her help in staying with Lola. She has made things so much easier the last 3 days by sitting with my mother. Mom can be left alone for 30 minutes or so, but after that, she doesn't need to be alone. I cannot thank Aunt Agnes enough for helping me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Joe in Hospital

Quick update to let everyone know that I took Joe to the hospital Thursday afternoon. It's very late, so this is short. He fell 4 times by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday.  He would not quit trying to get up and go work on the yard. If I couldn't get him somewhere contained, I feared he would break a bone.

His blood pressure was exceedingly high. Otherwise, nothing else out of line. It and his behavior was enough for them to keep him. He will be there through at least Saturday. It took until 2:30 a.m. before they finally got him settled into a room in CCU on the 3rd floor of Western Baptist Hospital and told me to go home.

I left him still trying to get up and go. He was restrained because he kept ripping his IV out. He had a catheter but was yelling for help every few minutes because he had to pee. He was going to kick my ass, and I was going to pay because he was there. He didn't know where he was - maybe Bardwell, maybe Paducah, what year it was or what month it was.  Today was the first time he called me by name in over 6 months, but he sure as hell was pissed off at me.

I won't get to the hospital before noon on Friday. I have to get 8 hours of sleep. I have to stop by the attorney's office to check on a living will. I have to keep sitters scheduled for Lola. I'm sure regular CCU visiting hours will apply. Don't anyone be surprised at what you find if you visit. He may be totally with it, know who and where he is, or he may be totally off.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Tuesday night when getting Joe in bed, he had wet his pants. He wasn't one bit worried, "They're just a little bit wet." Do you think I could talk him into dry underwear? If you think not, you're exactly right. So I pulled his wallet, change, etc., out of his pants to put the pants in the laundry basket. That ticked him off. He grabbed my wrist, with a "Wait a minute. That's not fair. Looking at my bills and laying them out there." Do you have any idea the grip a frail, senile old man can have! Especially when they're in the midst of a delusion you're not privileged enough to be part of.

He'd wet his pants last night, too. He's pulled some boxer shorts out from somewhere, instead of wearing the depends. I thought I got rid of all of those bloody boxer shorts. Rats. How many does he have squirreled away somewhere! Where the heck does he squirrel them away???? Likely the same place his working hearing aids are.

There's a huge VA facility in Memphis. If I can get Joe in Memphis, his care will be 10 times easier. A 30-minute trip to a local facility far beats an hours' long drive to Marion, Illinois, which I don't know and have to drive around lost. Of course, I'm lost in a lot of Memphis, too; but GPS works fairly well in Memphis.

I've decided that the time has come that I absolutely cannot give Joe the proper care he needs. It's been two years that I've been caring for my parents in Kentucky. It's been one year that I've lived up here every day. I need to get them both in Memphis. Joe needs to be in a facility where he can be contained. I cannot contain him on 7 acres. Tonight I had to bully him back into the house at dark. He was raking leaves under a tree, in the dark, by the street light. He wouldn't quit. I had to physically take the rake from him to get him to quit and walk back to the house before he tripped on a gopher track and fell. He'll want to burn the stupid leaves tomorrow. Criminy.

Neither of my parents have a clue that I have lived with them for two years, paid their bills, cooked their meals, washed their clothes, put them to bed, given them their medicine or done any of the things I do daily for them. Neither of them have a clue they depend on me for their daily living. Neither of them have a clue I have a husband with whom I am not living, or might, gasp, miss. My entire life is totally non-existent to them. I can't get to my own doctor for my own health care - to refill my own blood pressure medicine. I can't get to my dentist to get my own teeth cleaned.

If you're lucky enough to have your own family and work in the same area your elderly parents are, these things aren't a huge hurdle. I'm not that lucky. My husband's family is from east Tennessee. My son is in east Kentucky. My husband took a job at a considerable cut in pay to come to the west end of the states so I could care for my parents. The closest job he could get at anywhere near his salary range was Memphis. That's 2 1/2 hours from my parents.

I 've struggled for two years to  give my parents their hearts' desire - to die in their home. I cannot keep it up. I can't continue to be away from easy medical care for them, to drive hours to get them to needed appointments, to live away from my own husband. I can't leave one at home unattended whilst I take the other to an appointment. I can't leave Joe alone anymore to get groceries or run errands. He's too likely to take off or too likely to fall while I'm gone. They can't afford to pay for any more additional people to help than they're already doing.

My goal from this point forward is to find a facility to care for Joe,  to sell their property, and to find a rental house with enough room to keep Lola with Max and me. Then I have to clean out their house and move their stuff out. I have barely a clue where to begin. May I have the grace to die before my son has to do this for me.

Falling in the Night

Well, I'm worn out today. Joe fell in his bedroom about 3 a.m. last night. I'd been asleep for a bit and didn't hear him. Gah. Fortunately my mother did. I heard her going out to the den for who knows what reason. When I asked her where she was going, she told me to get help for Joe who'd fallen. Well, for as much as I heard him fall, I guess I am next to the nobody she apparently thinks I am since she totally ignored me to go who knows where for help.

He was laying on the floor between his bed, dresser and desk. Again, he hadn't broken a bone, thank you, thank you. He had hit the top of his head on something going down and scraped his scalp. He couldn't get up, nor could I get him up. So I ended up calling the next door neighbor at 3 in the morning.

Larry was sleep stunned when he came in the house about 2 minutes later, but I was never so glad to see someone. Of course, Joe was arguing as Larry got him up. We got Joe back in bed, and Larry went on back home.

It's very plain that I can no longer care for Joe. He will not quit going, and he is beginning to fall frequently. I cannot get him up when he falls. Jill says her husband's mother had fallen and broken both of her arms - both were in slings - and she still wouldn't quit trying to get up and go. I can see Joe being the same way.

Lost Hearing Aids

Tonight I called Mom "Goggie" (Goe-gie) It's a nickname given to her by her brother's children. She asked me who told me she was called that. She asked like she was really thunderstruck that I knew that was one of her nicknames.

Sometime today while giving Joe privacy in his bedroom, he exchanged his new hearing aids for a pair of old ones. Of course, the old ones were replaced because they needed to be, and also because they didn't work anymore. Why he kept them, I don't know; maybe the same reason he kept the 9 broken coffee pots in the basement.

I remember seeing them and having the thought flit across my mind that I needed to get rid of them because he'd screw things up with them. There's still this reserve I have over "managing" my parents possessions. I've hated to just barge in and throw their old personal possessions away. Let me say, I'm over that reserve. It was a problem with my mother and her dentures - she kept using the old ones instead of the new ones. I finally had to throw away the old ones. Now it's a MAJOR problem because Joe has put his working hearing aids somewhere and replaced them with old broken ones.

Intuition and paranoia make me think he threw the new ones away. There may be a saving grace somewhere, and we may find them eventually, but I fear not. On Sunday night, I asked him not to take the trash bin out to the street because it really wasn't full. Sunday evening and Monday morning both, he was futzing around in his closet and his drawers. Do you watch every single thing they do? Well, yes, you should. Because when I looked out at the street, there was the trash bin for the garbage pick up. His working hearing aids are missing.

I've looked in every single drawer in his den and bedroom. I've checked every single pocket in every pair of pants. The only place they could be is outside in his workshop. I discovered this too late to check out there today. I'll check tomorrow.

I kept asking him to find them this evening. The reason is that he may find them in the place where the old ones were, which I really can't remember. But he got wrapped up in finding coins he's squirreled away in every drawer he has. Screw the coins; find the hearing aids.

It's been amazing, however, what he's heard without a hearing aid stuck in his ear. Especially when he doesn't have a clue whether or not he has it turned on or off.

The main question you have left is:  What is with a person that cannot tell the difference between hearing aids that work and ones that don't and will replace working ones with ones that are dead?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Playing Flashlight and Hard Hats

Lola gets on and off binges where she plays flashlight. She picks it up, looks at it, looks at one end, turns it over, looks at the other end, turns it on and shines it all over the walls. She's taken to shining it in Joe's room at night after he's gone to bed.

Joe was a pest Sunday morning because he couldn't find a preacher. I know the Paducah church broadcasts at 11:00 a.m., but he was on me at 10:30, and complained 3 times between then and 11. It's not like I can make a show come on on-demand for him. Then when it finally came on, he was dismissive because the choir did a bunch of singing at the beginning.

At one point he sat on the sofa beside me and wanted to know if he could help me in the other room. Then when he started to say what he wanted to help with, he stopped, opened and closed his mouth a few times, shook his head and said, "It's terrible." "Not that you're terrible; I am." I think he meant it is terrible that he can't complete a thought in words. He got over it quickly and went on into his den where I turned church on the TV for him.

Sometime Sunday afternoon Joe found a hardhat in the yard. He had gone outside to putter around, and I had seen him wearing the hard hat. He keeps coming up with stuff I have no clue he has, nor where he keeps it. He happily wore the hard hat all day long. Finally at near 8 p.m. he came in the kitchen and sat down. I laughed and asked him why on earth he was wearing a hard hat. He told me he found it in the field and had gotten the dirt off it, and it was a dandy hat. Sigh. Okay, he picked up a hard hat in the yard and plunked it on his head. He has no clue whose it was, whether they had lice or some awful scalp condition or anything. No washing it, no letting it air for days, no sanitizing it, no nothing. Let's just plunk it on our head. Well, if anyone reading this lost a hard hat with "IC" on it, you can claim it here.

Otherwise, Joe was unbelievably calm today compared to yesterday. Oy. Yes, please.

On another note, last night Lola showed me a photograph. It's her hobby. She shows me photographs everyday of the same people, the same photos, but each time they're brand new. She showed me one of my dad when he was young. I said, "Yep. That's my father." She looked at me like I was absolutely nuts and proclaimed, "No! It's not. It's my husband." Gobsmacked, I couldn't keep from spouting back "And that's not my father?" No, was her instant reply. Curious beyond control, I asked her, "Well, if that's not my father, who on earth is?" Okay, so she finally conceded he might be my father.

If any of you out there have not become convinced that once the elderly have become senile they make no sense, get over it. You and your parents will eventually not make sense, unless you have the fortune to die first. Personally, I'm praying for a massive stroke or heart attack that takes me out in a split second. It sure the hell beats living and torturing my son with my care if I'm like my parents are.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Burning, Escape to Town and Falling

Thank heavens, Joe is almost in bed. He has been more than a handful today. He was on me this morning at 10:30 a.m. because he wanted me to go out back and burn. Huh? Gah! I didn't get to sleep till 2:00 a.m. For crying out loud, at least let me sip my first sip of coffee of the day.

Point of fact, it's pretty dry here. Not as dry as Texas and Oklahoma. The Gulf and the Northeast have been getting all the rain. Point of fact, it's still a bit breezy from Hurricane Lee. Not a lot breezy, but enough that coupled with dry grass, it could be very dangerous.

"No, Dad," I moan. "There's a No-Burn Order."
"You can't tell me what I can and can't do!"
"It means the Sheriff says you can't burn. It's too dangerous."
"The hell it is. Give me some matches."
"No." Sigh. "You couldn't put an accidental fire out if your life depended on it. You can't stomp. You can't shovel. You can't even move the hose. There's a No-Burn Order."
"Gimme some matches!!!"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Making Hominy III

At the beginning, please let me say that I absolutely detest blogspot's interface for posting photographs. It's unstable and and nigh on to impossible to handle. I have never been able to place photographs exactly where I want them using blogspot. Yes. I've tried to edit the html, which I used to be fairly good at doing. No more, apparently.

I've cried uncle and given up to their terrible interface and accepted the pics will be put where blogspot wants them to be put no matter what I try. I apologize for the crummy placement of the photographs in the post. I tried. I lost.

Here's to another attempt at making hominy and an almost success! I finally found real lye and used the recipe in my Farm Journal book; said recipe is very close to the recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Canning. 

At the beginning
The main difference in the recipes is the handling of the rinsing after cooking in lye and rinsing the lye off. I'm so happy to find that using lye actually gets the dark nib off the kernels. The Mexican method of using pickling lime may make it suitable for grinding for masa, but doesn't make a product without the dark nib, which we Southerners are used to as our hominy.

After about 5 minutes
I didn't follow the cooking recipe exactly, and got voted down for it. Uncle Charles came over today with a bit of okra. He tasted one of the jars of hominy and declared it "grainy" and opined it likely did need that bit of cooking I didn't do.

What I did was to cut out the last step of cooking between making and canning. The recipe called for cooking for 40 minutes or so until soft and then processing in the canner for 60 minutes. I had thought it was pretty soft and decided to can it without the 40 minutes of cooking.  I needed another opinion beside my own, and Uncle thinks it needs the cooking. So I'll try that on the next attempt.

This post will mainly be a pictoral showing the process. Whenever I finally decide I've got it down pat, I'll write a recipe post.

After 10 minutes
After 20 minutes
The lye:  It used to be that there was a brand called Red Devil that one could buy in most grocery stores, and that was the brand most Southerners used in making hominy. Either Red Devil went out of business or was swallowed up by another company, and it can't be found anymore. In my little town, my local grocery store sells a brand by ComStar called "Pure Lye."  All of the recipes say use a food grade lye rather than a drain cleaner. Although that might be considered an oxymoron, it actually means to use a lye that is 100% lye. According the ingredient list on the container and its own website, the ComStar lye is a "drain cleaner" lye, but it contains no other ingredients than sodium hydroxide. Some other lyes do. This is the brand I used.

The first step is to mix 4 tablespoons of lye to 8 quarts water for processing 2 quarts dried corn. I used 1 quart corn and mixed 2 tblsp lye to 4 quarts water. I stirred the lye into the water in a stainless steel pan. Once dissolved, I added the corn and turned the heat to high. Your'e supposed to cook this "30 minutes or until the hulls start to come off."

Okay. Doesn't that sound simple? It really wasn't. It's not like you can see the hull sloughing off the corn. It took me two tries to decide that when the solution begins to get thick and you can detect a rather gelatinous glop in places that that's the hulls coming off. The first time I just cooked for 30 minutes. The stuff in the pan turned into the texture of a thick chowder. The second time, I cooked for 20 minutes and decided that gelatinous stuff I saw was actually the hulls coming off and quit cooking it. That's the key.

When you first start, everything is clear  and bright. Then the corn begins to turn dark. The solution begins to turn dark. The wooden spoon begins to turn dark. It darkens continuously through the cooking. If you cook 30 minutes, the solution is opaque, and you can't see through it; it's also terribly thick. When I cooked 20 minutes, the solution was mostly opaque, but it wasn't quite as thick.

At this point you let the corn and solution sit for "about 20 minutes." Then you begin the rinsing. I was all cool with this until I started to dump the solution through a strainer and realized the drain pipes were PVC. Well, bull hockey. Was I going to eat the PVC out? Since I don't dare eat the drain pipes out, I drained the first rinse out into another pan and dumped it outside. Luckily we have a good place to dump it. Then you keep rinsing the corn in fresh water until you have the nibs out.

After 30 minutes
How thick the solution is
According the Farm Journal recipe, at this point, you cover the hominy with 1 inch of water, boil it for 5 minutes and rinse. You do this 5 times. What a royal pain in the patooty.  The first time I did this I got sidetracked by first Joe needing supper, then Lola needing supper, then deciding I'd faint myself without supper. So the pot sat for about an hour before the boiling 5 times. Originally I decided this helped turn the hominy to mush. Yet it's at this point the Ball Blue Book diverges from the Farm Journal and says to let the hominy sit in fresh water, changing it 4-5 times for 2-3 hours. This will take further experimenting to decide what's best. If I do let it sit, I'll at least change the water every 30 minutes or so.

Hominy after rinsing

After this, you're supposed to boil the hominy 40 minutes or so until soft. This is step I didn't do. I immediately went to processing for 1 hour in the pressure canner. What I discovered is that the corn kernels still suck up an incredible amount of water and swell considerably. I ended up with no head space, jars only about 2/3 full of water, 2 out of 5 pints didn't seal, and opinion is that it wasn't cooked enough. Okay. Cook the hominy 40 minutes at least before canning.

The hominy is a bit more translucent than store-bought hominy. It wasn't in perfect kernels like store bought. There were more smaller bits floating around than I wanted. Using a slotted spoon to put in the jars helps a bit with this. Also, I decided that using a separate pan of boiling water rather than the water you boil the hominy in makes a pretty, less cloudy product.
Canned Hominy

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Canning Pickled Banana Pepper Rings and Okra

The last thing I've done this weekend is to make some pickled banana pepper rings to eat with pizza. Huzzah! I was amazed I got 12 half pints of pickled rings from the peppers Jill brought me, in addition to making white bean soup, eating a few with meals, and I've still got a bit I'll dehydrate.

Before I did the banana peppers though, I did up the okra Uncle Charles brought me. They turned out lovely. I've been sitting on pins and needles hoping I'd get okra to pickle. I used a recipe Jill gave me that comes from her husband's family. They've used it for decades. It's been a long time since I ate some of Joe's pickled okra, but I remember it was good. Well, if he wouldn't have put the red peppers in it (ducking and running.)

Following is Joe's Pickled Okra recipe. It can be used for all sorts of pickling. I used it on the banana peppers, and Jill says they've done Giardiniera (carrots, cauliflower, celery, peppers, onions, zuchinni). This IS NOT a USDA-approved canning recipe. It is a very old recipe from before the days of food scientists and litigation. One can't assume this recipe is absolutely safe for use, especially for people who live in states with high loads of botulism spores (west of the Rockies.)

1 quart white vinegar
3 quarts water
1/4 - 1/5 cup canning, pickling or kosher salt
1/8 tsp alum per pint jar

Optional: add garlic, dill or hot peppers to taste
  1. Sterilize jars. 
  2. Mix vinegar, water, and salt in pot and bring to boil.
  3. While waiting for solution to boil, pack sterilized jars with fruit or vegetable of choice.
  4. Pour boiling solution over packed jars and let cool enough to handle.*
  5. Pour liquid in jars through a strainer back into solution in pot on stove and return to boil.
  6. Do this four (4) times. According to uptake of solution by produce, 3 times may suffice.
  7. On the last time, add 1/8 tsp alum to each pint jar.
  8. Top with canning lid and ring.
  9. Let seal and cool overnight. Remove ring and rinse jars. Date and store.
  10. Let jars sit for 1 month before eating.

*When I can handle the jar this way, it's cool enough. I don't want to get burned doing this.

Making Vinegar I

Since I had so many cores and apple peels from canning the apples, I decided to give making vinegar a try. I found this video on, and it seems simple enough. We'll see what happens.

Here's a picture of the first jar I had going.

Day 1
Day 2
You can see the foam at the left.

Below is the juice from combined of two jars I started using the peels from the apples Lola eats each night. It's in a quart jar. I was a bit surprised at how little juice I got. Perhaps you can use less fruit and get the same bang. I poured the juice off the jar when it foamed. Then I poured water over the apple bits and went for a second round.

Here are pics of the two jars I started using the cores and peels from the apples I canned. I don't know what size the jars are. 1/2 gallon maybe. They're too big for me use for canning but seem to be perfect for this. I discovered that if I cut the plastic disc about the size of the jar there's no need to weigh it down with a jar. That works better for me because the kitchen is so small there's really no place to set this with a cloth draped over it to keep fruit flies out of it. I covered the jar mouth with a paper towel and screwed a canning ring on it.

Now I just have to wait a month or so and hopefully have apple vinegar.

Two jars of hopefully apple vinegar

Close up of plastic disc.

Canning Apples and My New Dish Pan

My friend Julia gave me a few apples, and I canned apples for the first time yesterday. Jill and I talked about dehydrating them, but since Lola likes cooked apples so much I decided to try canning them. I did them without any sugar, in just plain water. I figure when I warm them up, I can add a bit of sugar, some butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. They were a bit soft (old), and after canning I decided it might have been better to dehydrate them. We might have applesauce by the time they're warmed up for eating. They look pretty anyway.

You're going to think I'm nuts getting excited over a dish pan, but I just got a great one. On my way back from Mayfield, I stopped in a store in Fancy Farm, that I thought was a hardware store. Of all things, it's both a hardware store AND a grocery store. I'm so glad I did since our local hardware store closed, and it's nice to find this one almost as close. To make it sweet, they had a ton of canning jars, and Granite Ware brand enameled dish pans. These are the ones you can cook in and wash in. My grandmother, Ninny, had a couple of these, and I've wanted one for years. Now if anyone chips my new dish pan, I'll be out for blood! It was just perfect to slice the apples in. Nice rim and handles make it easy to use. It fit right into the sink at a good level. I love it.

Below are the steps I used to can the apples. My Farm Journal of canning says to use water or thin syrup for canning. The Ball Blue Book says to use thin/light or medium syrup and doesn't even mention using only water.

  1. Wash, drain, core, pare and slice apples into water with either citric acid, lemon juice, or 2 tblsp each vinegar and salt to 1 gallon of water to prevent darkening. 
  2. Drain, boil in water or syrup for 5 minutes.
  3. Pack hot apples in hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  4. Cover with boiling liquid, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  5. Put on lids and rings.
  6. Process pints 15 minutes and quarts 20 minutes in boiling water bath. (Ball says 20 for pints.)*

*Adjust for altitudes above 1000 foot.

Lola Can Be Funny

My mom can be so enjoyable sometimes. Friday night when I was tucking her in bed, I kissed her on the forehead. I told her she had to clean her face because she tasted like a salt lick. That got her so tickled. It's always nice when she gets pure enjoyment out of something.

It's sad to watch some of the things they do. Some of the actions may be inevitable as an offshoot of me trying to stop them from doing dangerous things - walking so unstable with knives, Dad eating too much ice cream, Mom putting half a tube of denture glue on her dentures, taking Dad's medicine in addition to her own, etc. Dad just came through the living room with a banana in his hand, stopped and walked over to me to show me the banana. It was as if he were running it by me for an okay. He sure knows how to sneak through when he's got an ice cream bar in his hand, though. He tries to keep it by his side and hide it with his body.

Yesterday, after days of asking him to bathe, I finally wrote it on the whiteboard, "Please wash your hair. It smells." I laid it on his desk beside him. When I walked through to go to the store, I noticed he had turned the whiteboard over. To my delight, when I got back from the store, he had showered and washed his hair. He held his head over and asked me, "Is that okay?" Sigh. It was wonderful. I did have to go turn the shower off, which was still running, however, and I was extremely glad he hadn't fallen in there while I was gone.

Joe's again taken to going outside to the garbage bin and dumping off his plate what he doesn't eat. I just hate it when he does this. It makes it impossible for me to monitor his food intake, to know what not to feed him, and it makes the bin nasty and get maggots. Yuck. He's also taken to putting food on the floor for the cat. He'd stopped that for a while, but he's back at it again. Saturday I walked in to see the cat merrily scarfing up a meatball, grinding hamburger into carpet with glee. Grrrr.

Canning Beans

White Bean soup
 Whew! We'll have to get out our gas masks sometime in the future (grin) as I've been on a jag of canning white bean soup and dried beans. I wanted to go about it 2 different ways to see which one I like best. Oh, and this can all be blamed on my lovely cousin, Jill, for bringing me a brimming full sack of banana peppers. As she handed it to me, she started in on the deliciousness of white beans with banana peppers.

For the first batch, I made a white bean soup with, of course, sliced banana peppers, onions, carrots and celery. Once it was cooked up, I canned it in quart jars. The jar on the right has been shaken to mix up the soup. On the left is how it came out of the canner.

Dried White Beans
For the second batch, I followed the directions found on the gardenweb forum, click here to see it, and canned beans not really cooked fully. I took a package each of white beans and pinto beans, sorted, rinsed, and put each in a bowl, covered well with water, and soaked them overnight. The next day, I started with the white beans. They were boiled for 30 minutes and ladled hot into quart jars; I added a small handful of the sliced banana peppers, carrots, celery and onion after the first cup of beans went in. I filled the rest of the jar with beans to the shoulder where it begins to turn in. Then I topped with the boiling water they were cooked in, leaving 1 inch headspace. They were processed for 90 minutes in my pressure canner.

Since my canner is very small and only holds 3 jars, I had to do them in two batches. All in all, I got 5 quarts from a 2-pound bag of white beans. Aren't they pretty! You can see quite a bit of difference between the cooked soup and the dried beans. The cooked beans have a thick soup. The dried beans have a watery soup and have held their shape.

Dried pinto beans
For the third batch, I did the pinto beans. I put them up in pint jars, without adding any additional veggies, and got 7 pints.

For my own information, following are the steps for canning dried beans adapted from the Ball Blue Book.

  1. Sort, stone and rinse dried beans.
  2. Cover well with cold water and let stand 12-18 hours in a cool place.
  3. Drain, put in pot, cover well with water, bring to boil and boil 30 minutes.
  4. Pack hot beans in hot jars, leaving 1-inch head space.
  5. Add 1/2 tsp salt to each pint or 1 tsp salt to each quart.
  6. Cover with boiling water, leaving 1-inch head space. Remove air, add additional water if needed.
  7. Top with lids and rings.
  8. Process pints for 75 minutes ad 10 pounds pressure below 1000 ft above sea level.
  9. Process quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure below 1000 ft above sea level.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hallucinations and Delusions

To start with, when you walk in Joe's den, you can smell his dirty head. I suggested he take a shower and wash his hair. Why, he wanted to know. Okay, frankly, you stink. He told me he'd never heard nothing like that in his life. At least he changed shirts today. The last one he wore for 4 days and slept in it also. His nails are too long and filthy. I keep asking him to file/trim and clean them. He's gonna.

Well yesterday was one wild ride. Lola was delusional, irrational and combative. The worst part is, I think it was my fault. Her prescription of Xanax ran out, and I only realized it was gonna on Saturday. Come Monday, hanging head, I forgot about it. On Tuesday, Jeanne and Jill visited, and I didn't get to doc's office before they closed. I got there Wednesday.  So Lola went 4 days without Xanax, which isn't a class of medicine that should be abruptly stopped.