Thursday, December 29, 2011

Problems - Title edited due to spam contents

The New System
Edit note 1/12/12:  I changed the title of this post because of the amount of spam comments it generated. If you ever have a problem of this nature, do NOT name it in the title of the blog post. Idiot spammers.

On to the blog.
If you've been reading the blog, you know that on Christmas Eve, we woke up to the furnace not working. Fortunately, it was a simple problem quickly and easily fixed by our HVAC guy. Thank you, Roy!

Well, in addition to the on-again, off-again HVAC, our plumbing problems reached "You Gotta Fix This" proportions this month. The toilets had been running slow for quite a while; every now and then you had to grab the plunger and race to plunge before the bowl ran over. A couple of weeks before Christmas it began to get really bad, and I procrastinated wanting to ride out the holidays. So, of course, by Christmas it was almost unbearable.

I finally got a reference for a local licensed plumber, and Max gave him a call. He got here this morning and began working on the plumbing. When Joe put the bathroom/laundry room in place of the spare bedroom, of course he didn't hire someone to do it. He saved money and did it himself. Okay, so he saved money for a few years. We're now spending at last count $1500 to fix what Joe messed up.

Joe didn't know diddly about venting and running pipes. The plumber has rerun all the pipes that Joe put in at wrong levels for venting. He's also fixed all the junctions that Joe put in backwards. Yes. Backwards.

Cutting the old cast iron pipe that the original plumbing ran through was more of a task than the plumber looked forward to. I feel for the guy. In addition to it being so heavy that it crashed upon cutting, it was full of sewer water. The plumber and his son had to go change clothes. Enough said.

After the plumbing inside was finally fixed, it created a problem with the pipes running to the city sewer lines. Seems the fixed indoor pipes run too much water for the pipes running to the sewer. So now we're going to have to rotor rooter them out. Oy. It never ends.

As of tonight, however, we now have toilets we can flush as long as we don't flush them 3 times in a row. Tomorrow we'll get the lines to the sewer scoped or routed out, and hopefully there will be enough time to fix the leak under the kitchen sink. Oh, and the fallout from the cast-iron pipe catastrophe was the vent for dryer. It and a stored chair from the dining room set bit the dust in the run from falling cast iron pipes and sewer water.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Great Fake Wine Experiment Update 12/28/11

Very frothy after moving.
Here are a few pics of the wine experiment. In these, you can see the bubbles and that I replaced the glove with a balloon. It's not blown up very much, unless you see it right after the jug has been moved. That shakes things up and releases quite a bit of gas. Initially I was keeping the jug in a closet in a bedroom that stays closed off. However, worrying about the temperature being too cool made me move the jug to a different room. It hasn't seemed to increase off-gassing, though.

Normal size of balloon.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Closing Doors

The newest thing for Lola is to close every door in the house that she passes. If she goes to the bathroom, she closes all three bedroom doors on the hall. It's only a bother in that one of rooms is a pass-through room, and I pass through it often. Have to open the door every time.

Yesterday, I was sitting here in the den at my computer when the door to the den slammed shut. Talk about jumping out of your skin! After I peeled myself off the ceiling and opening the door, I commented to her on closing me out. Her response? "Why, I didn't know you were in there." Sigh. Interior door with glass almost top to bottom. Me not more than 3 feet from it.

This morning the TV came blaring on at 8:30 a.m. Since Mom had for once gone to bed about 11:00 p.m., it was a perfectly acceptable time to her. Since I'd stayed up until my normal 2:00 a.m., it was an ungodly hour to be awakened to the blaring TV. She's lost the fact that I sleep on the sofa in the living room, and that it's cruel and inhuman punishment to me startling to me to be awakened by the TV.

It's sad to watch your parent wander around like a mindless child. Mother keeps getting up and going to the presents under the Christmas tree and looking at them. They're new and unknown every time she looks at them.  Max gave us both a box of candy, and we had to take them out of the living room to keep her from eating a whole box in one day. She's started wiping her silverware off and placing it in her basket instead of leaving it on her plate for me to pick up and return to the kitchen. She doesn't want it to get lost.

It's worse than caring for a toddler. At least a toddler grows up and gets smarter. Your well-spoken, intelligent parent just gets, sigh, dumber. I have to admit that I really don't like this death taking years and years to happen stuff. Sometimes it doesn't bother me as much as other times. Right now I'm really very tired of it. Ah well, life is what it is, and there's no getting around it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lola's Getting Along

and doing pretty well. Most days lately she's been getting herself up at a decent time, sometimes even very early. Saturday morning I awoke to the TV blasting away at 9:30 a.m. BTW, it will take a pretty amazing movie to make me ever turn the Classic Movie Channel on again. The timing had Max laughing as I had told him there was a new law passed in Arlington against letting Jola Gayle sleep to 10:00 a.m. Now, since I rarely ever go to bed before 2:00 a.m., I don't think sleeping 8 hours until 10:00 a.m. to be beyond the pale. This puts me sooo off-schedule with the rest of the population around here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Great Fake Wine Experiment

The Great Fake Wine Experiment has begun. Stay tuned for future updates on the results.

Lemme 'splain here. I call it "Fake" for a few reasons. Foremost is that it uses not real grapes but frozen grape juice concentrate. Almost foremost is that it's incredibly simple and doesn't putz about with things like actually knowing what you're doing and having a goal of a particular type of wine. Another is that it doesn't use wine specific equipment like, say, a glass container and a real airlock.

For some reason, about 30 years ago, my normally teetotaler dad decided he wanted to make wine. The basement is still full of wine he bottled no telling how long ago. Some of his wine actually didn't have a bad taste, and some of it was only good for pouring down the drain. Through the years, he got concerned about his body's sugar levels and started making drier wines. Those are the ones that make me shudder. Then, again, I'm not a big wine aficionado.

Max's Visit 12/18/11

Max was in this weekend, which was wonderful. We watched TV and visited Friday night. Saturday we went shopping, came home, put stuff up and did "chores." Sunday morning he left in the early morning, so it was a short visit.

While he was here, Max ran cable into the kitchen so I can watch the little TV in there. The kitchen is in the far back of the house, very isolated. Usually I listen to books while I'm working in there. Variety is nice,too. I'm not tied to the telly, but there are shows I'd like to follow that aren't on Mom's Classic Movie Channel. I'm also a product of my generation in wanting audio input almost constantly. Since it's just Mom and me here most of the time, and she doesn't move or talk much, it's gotta be electronic input.

Max also hooked up a new telephone set so we actually have more than one working phone in the house now. Yay! The parents' old phone didn't have voice messaging on it, and the new ones do. I don't know whether that will be a blessing or a curse.

We got some new mini blinds for the kitchen and Joe's old bedroom. Hopefully they'll help keep out some of the cold air this winter and lower the electric bill. There has also been a big privacy issue in Joe's bedroom. For someone essentially very private,  in the last decade Joe had lost his concern about dressing in a room with open windows. The curtains Mom put on both the windows are extremely difficult to open and close - there's a desk in front of one and a bed in front of the other. Over the years, the ties she'd used have aged, frazzled and come apart on use.

Since I've been told there's a known Peeping Tom in the neighborhood - Eek! - having the windows covered will make me feel a lot better. I sure don't look forward, though, to climbing the desk and straddling the bed to get these things put up.

I got a couple of loads of washing done. Hohum, mundane, I know. On the front of cleaning the basement, though, I washed the curtains Joe had hung over his wine rack. You can see the very orange curtains in the pic on the left. OMG, I bet they hadn't been washed in 20 years. Max took them down for me as that was the corner where he was working to run the TV cable.

Slowly, slowly, we're working on trying to get the basement cleaned up. Oh, and I bought some face masks to wear down while I'm cleaning up. It's taken me all week to recover from the 4 hours I cleaned down there at the beginning of the week. Don't want a repeat of that.

Celery Salt

Last night while unloading the celery from the dehydrator, it seemed like a good time to do a little experiment making celery salt. When I was refreshing my memory on dehydrating the celery, I had seen several comments on making celery salt from the dried celery. I wanted to see how it would turn out.

To make celery salt this way, you combine ground celery with salt. Doh, eh? My grinder takes 3 tablespoons of "spice" as a maximum to grind well. That ended up being about 1 tray from the dehydrator. I ground that to a fine powder and added 1/2 teaspoon salt.

In the top photo, you can see how much celery was on one dehydrator tray. The little pile of celery on the left is three tablespoons. You can see my grinder with three tablespoonsful in it.

The end result was far different from store-bought celery salt. First, the color was much lighter.  Second, it was a finer grind. Third, I controlled the salt content; thus, it was far less salty. Fourth, it didn't have as much celery flavor.

In the bottom photo, the spoon on the right is a commercial celery salt. The spoon on the left and the bowl contain my ground dried celery

I was unhappy with losing the robust celery flavor and wonder if using some celery seed with it would impart more celery flavor. I actually liked the lighter color. I'm unsure about the more powdery texture and will have to wait until I use it to decide if that matters.

If anyone with experience in doing this would like to jump in with their opinions, please feel free to comment below.  If you're viewing this on the home page, you can comment by clicking on the word "comment" where it shows how many there are. If you click on the title of the blog post, you will go to a page with only this post, and there is a link to click on to "Post a Comment."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Things You Never Know

Once you get to be about 35 or older you begin to realize that your parents were actually, gasp, young themselves at one time. That's if your parents have turned into rather straight-laced grown-ups who seemed to never want to allow you to do anything when you were a teenager. You begin to realize this, but it's a vague concept. Not one you spend a lot of time contemplating.

Until you find something like this old jacket.

It's likely pretty safe to assume this was something done by Dad or a buddy when he was in the Navy during WWII. Makes me wonder where on earth he wore it, if he actually did.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lola's Incontinence

On Sunday Lola had a really bad case of incontinence. When I awoke, it was to the TV turned up to full volume on the Classic Movie Channel. I guess she thought I'd slept long enough. Anyway, Mom was dressed, which was mind-boggling. So I said, "Good Morning." She didn't reply. So I said, "My, you're wearing clothes." She didn't reply. So I said, "You look pretty." She said, "Thank you."

I got up and went about the morning - making coffee, breakfast, and eventually getting dressed. The coffee and breakfast went as normal. The getting dressed produced some surprises. I found Lola's pajamas in a heap on a tray she has in her bedroom. They were soaking wet. So was her bed and bedding.

Ah, so. She had actually put on clothes purely because she had peed in her pajamas in the bed and didn't want to be wet anymore. Okay. So Mom had an accident. I'd put her in "Depends," or the generic equivalent of adult diapers, some time ago when drips and a dirty bottom had become a problem. Actual incontinence had not been the problem on an on-going basis. Gulp. "Maybe it's going to be," I thought.

There weren't anymore adult incontinence "panties" in the house, but I wasn't very concerned. It wasn't a huge problem. How wrong we can be. By the end of the afternoon, Lola had wet three pairs of pants, and I was scrambling to get to the store to get "Depends."

It had become a habit to remind her to go to the bathroom a few times during the day because it was apparent she was having trouble controlling things. Normally, keeping up on this kept accidents from happening. About every three hours or so, I'd  remind her to go. That would take care of things. On Sunday, it was a total fail.

I've watched her all day on Monday for this, and it hasn't happened. Unless the Depends are full and she's just not admitting it. You hate to feel your mom up for a full diaper. So at this point, I don't know whether Sunday's incontinence was a harbinger or a fluke. It will take keeping an eye on things to monitor kidney function.

Cleaning Up

<Rant On>
If you have reached your 70's, please start going through your stuff and getting rid of it.

If you have reached your 80's, for crying out loud, get rid of STUFF.

If you truly have some valuable things - coin collections, Ming vases, Van Gogh paintings - by all means, keep them and will them to someone.

If you have anything from the Bradford Exchange, get rid of it; it's a scam. My parents have at least 15 "collector" plates they probably paid $30 for each, which now can't be sold on ebay for over $10.00 each. That's if anyone in the family "wants" to try to sell them, pack, pay shipping and collect on them.

If you collect nails, hoses, flower pots and things you haven't touched in 10 years, throw them the hell away.

Your children DO NOT want to have to weed through a house full of things you might need one day.

</Rant Kind of Off>

Can anyone guess what I've been doing this evening? Um, I've been trying to  clean out the basement of my parents' house. Here, let me show you what an episode of "Hoarders" looks like.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Shelling Pecans

Uncle Charles gave us a wonderful gift a couple of days ago - two sacks of pecans. I hadn't planned on shelling pecans, but, hoo boy, who's going to turn down pecans! He said his son, Kevin, had 6 trees, which turned me neon green with envy. Here I'd been pondering planting a pecan tree out back. Now I'm trying to figure how to beam one of Kevin's trees from his place to this one.

Unk said Daddy had a pecan sheller around here, and I had a dim memory of seeing one. So I went on a hunting trip around the house. I finally found it high on a shelf in the garage. Eek! Could I get that thing down without cracking my skull? It finally was down, and my skull was unscathed. It was covered in a quarter-inch of garage dust and inside were Dad's old Braun razor, sideburn trimmers and a set of clippers. Sigh. Anyone know why all the hair-care tools ended up in the pecan sheller? I sure don't. Max was tickled, though, to learn the Braun razor still worked.

As usual with all things done by Joe, this pecan sheller is mounted in one of the best, over-engineered bases one can imagine. I nearly laughed myself silly telling Max about it. I laughed so much because it brought home the reason for one big trouble Max and I had at the beginning of our marriage. Max is more of the kind to slap it together, not worry if things fit, not give a rat's ass if it look wells, and only make sure it minimally does the job. And I was raised by Joe Lindsey.

It took quite an attitude adjustment and review of my world perspective for me to get over it. It took about 10 years for Max to be willing to try to do anything around the house again. Deep at heart, I'm still more like Joe, but have hopefully come to better cope with things not having to be perfect.

I'd never used a pecan sheller before. Now I don't think could live without one. Using the old fashioned tools had made shelling pecans so much of a pain that I had given up on ever buying them in the shell. After two days I have this big bowl brimming full of pecans. Amazingly, they're mostly whole halves and not teeny little pieces. I'm in heaven.

Thank you, Uncle Charles and Kevin.

mmm, wonder how many trees you'd have to plant to make Pecan Butter?

Dehydrating Celery

Since celery was at such a good price during Thanksgiving, I took the opportunity to stock up on it for my dried foods storage. There are as many different ways to dehydrate celery on the internet as there are to cook chili.

While doing this batch, I saw quite a few websites that talked about grinding the celery and mixing with salt to make celery salt. That's something I'd like to try in the future. I need to get a new grinder for spices before I can, though.

Edited 12/18/11 to add permalink to celery salt post:

After trying a few different methods, this is the one I've settled on as liking the best. It gives the best color, although it takes a longer amount of time.

  1. Wash celery well.
  2. Cut off leaves and wide root ends
  3. Slice celery into 1/4" slices (crosswise)*
  4. Put slices into bowl of cold water if processing a lot.**
  5. Just before loading dehydrator, soak celery in 6 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda for 5 minutes.***
  6. Drain and load dehydrator trays.
  7. Dry at 110°F  until celery breaks easily, 16-18 hours. 

*This is the size with which I like to cook. I've seen directions for 1" slices and have considered doing that for putting under roasting meats; however, I've not done it so far.

**How much you process depends on the size of the celery, your stamina and dehydrator. It took 3 bunches of medium celery to fill 6 trays for my Nesco dehydrator.

***Do this in batches if you don't have a huge bowl.

Lola Sleeping and Conversing

On Wednesday, about 10:30 p.m., I nudged Lola to go to the bathroom. She can't seem to get it together to go before she's nearly or does go before she gets to the bathroom. She's begun to associate going to the bathroom with the last thing she does before going to bed.

Tonight, I kept an eye on her chair, which she never returned to. Sometimes that means she's having trouble with a bowel movement. Shudder, I really don't like those times. Tonight it meant she'd simply gone to bed. After 15 minutes, I finally went to make sure she was okay, and found her in bed. Sigh. So I went and got her nightly medicines and gave them to her. Normally she takes these about 11 p.m. and goes to bed at 1 a.m.


Sometimes one of the hardest things about caring for Mom has been the loss of her ability to have a conversation. When people come to visit, she can converse with them somewhat, especially if they stick to days gone by. Usually when I walk through her room, I try to find something to say, believing that keeping her engaged and keeping isolation at bay are good things. This is indirect conversation, and she simply can't do that anymore.

The problems with it are multiple. First, everything I say I have to repeat. It simply never sinks in the first time around. Unless her ears have quit working in the last two months, she's not deaf. Talk simply doesn't get processed by her brain well. Second, she doesn't know anything anymore. So quick quips and questions are exercises in frustration for both of us.

Examples of this today include not remembering foods or how to do things. This morning I asked her if she liked the cream I put on her oatmeal yesterday. She didn't remember anything about it. She can't remember if she likes Tuna Salad for lunch. This afternoon I jokingly asked her if she wanted to help me shell pecans. She said she didn't know how.

She never instigates conversation anymore. I usually have to prod her to respond to good morning, how are you doing, and things like that. Gets kinda lonely, and I'm thinking about serious talking to myself.

Today she is doing as well as usual for her. She's sitting in her chair watching old movies, bundled up in the soft, warm robe her sister Jeanne gave her. She never asks for anything - a drink or food or anything.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lola and Her Chair

There's one chair in the living room that Mom has turned into her little nest. You can't get rid of any of the tables or trays with which she's surrounded the chair. She asks for them back. She stacks her photos on them, along with all sorts of stuff she's forgotten about and/or can't use anymore. She keeps a tray on her left side that is her table. She has a foot stool in front of it that seems to be more of a tripping hazard than a place she props her feet. She only does that if I get onto her because her ankles have become swollen.

She's become fairly bad at eating without making a mess. Cereal, which she loves, particularly gives her problems. She's gotten bad at getting things on her fork, and a lot winds up on the floor.

I've gotten a hand towel out for her to put on her lap because so much falls off the fork on the way to her mouth. Lately, though, she's taken to throwing the towel in the trash can on her right side. You never think that you have to begin going through the trash once your parents become feeble to make sure they don't throw away something needed or valuable.

Speaking of valuable, last week Max found one of Dad's good hearing aids, that I thought he must have thrown away, in the garage on the counter top in the midst of the junk. At least Daddy didn't throw it away. He just, for some unknown reason, took it out while in the garage and laid it down. In the middle of 500 hundred nails, bolts, screwdrivers, bird feeders, light bulbs and pounds of dust. Wonder where I'll eventually find the other one.

In the last week, Mom has begun to cough and get a little choked. One of the gals in the nursing home was talking about that being something that happens to the elderly. They begin to have trouble swallowing. Guess that's beginning to happen to Mom now. Otherwise, she's doing well. She got up on her own at 11:00 this morning.

December Trivia

Bed Trivia: My parents' house is a lovely three-bedroom ranch with a full, unfinished basement. Howsomever, a couple of decades ago, my dad converted my bedroom, or the spare bedroom as it were, into a combination laundry room and full bath. I've written about it before here. It's a large space that's wonderful, not the most efficient floor plan, nor blessed with closet space due to the basement stairs ruining that idea, but still large. You can dress in it without tripping over a bed or other furniture. You can actually set the ironing board up in there, and you can shake out and fold sheets without whacking a wall.

The biggest problem with the room, though, is that it effectively deleted a spare bedroom in the house. With all the people that used to come visit them and stay overnight - me and my family, Mom's sister, Mom's niece, and just friends from out of town - Joe got rid of the spare bedroom. God forbid he spent a little money and just added either another bedroom or bathroom. No, let's make sure no one ever comes and visits again, unless they're willing to sleep in the unfinished basement.

Well, since the basement has leaked for years, and Dad didn't consider that important enough to fix, it's damp and full of mold. It's probably why I've been sneezing like crazy since I've been here. The leak caused the carpet they put under the bed down there to become something you wouldn't walk on barefoot for fear of your health. Not to mention that after Dad became crazy he let a cat have kittens down there, and said kittens used that carpet as their personal bathroom. Shudder.

The point of my windy complaint? This picture is of my bed.  Joe's been out of the house long enough I could use his bedroom, but, OMG, the mattress on his bed is, as I said, like a slab of concrete. One of these days I'm going to have to rent a truck and actually go buy a mattress. I hate doing that. I always choose wrong. Sometimes I think I'd rather just buy the bed that slept great from a good hotel.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

WalMarts, Christmas Decorations and Changing Clothes

Joshua finally got on google talk, and we had a great chat this evening. It's nice to have him a second away. My husband, Max, was at a company Christmas party, which I missed, pout. Josh's wife was at a fraternity Christmas party, which he missed. So we yammered at each other for a while.

This afternoon I took a WallyWorld trip and went to the WalMart in Fulton, KY/TN. I'm not clear enough to know which state it's actually in. We needed a few things, and I made an executive decision and decided I needed a small TV in the kitchen.

To my friends who don't watch TV :-P sorry. The kitchen is isolated, and I'm sick of my own mind. I've listened to every book I own so many times I'm becoming able to quote them as much as kids Josh's age can quote "Big Trouble in Little China." Word by word instant replay.

WalMarts in little towns (Fulton, pop. 6, 855) are different from WalMarts in Oak Ridge or Memphis I've discovered.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December is Here

It's hard to believe: December is here already. We've even had an early-for-us snowfall. A couple of evenings ago, Max said it was snowing in Memphis and that 1-3" were predicted. Since it was just drizzling here, I quite shook it off. Lo and behold, I woke up the next morning to a winter wonderland, well, almost. Today, 2 days later, there are still patches of the stuff left in shady spaces, but the temp is already up to 42.

Yesterday I had on one of Dad's sweaters, and while putting Mom to bed she noticed it. She asked if it was one of his. Then she asked me where he was. I had to tell her again he was dead. She didn't cry this time, just asked about his funeral. I told her we had a graveside service and that he is in their plot at the Arlington Cemetery. That seemed to satisfy her.

I can't remember what day it was, but a little bit ago, when I walked into the kitchen one morning, nearly every cabinet in there was open. Mom was looking for something I suppose. Later, I asked her what she was looking for, and she had no clue what I was talking about. She had no memory of being in the kitchen. She'd picked things up and placed them on the counter, moved things, and generally made the counter a mess.

Max and I have been discussing what to do now. For so long we believed we'd end up losing the house to Medicaid to care for Joe. With that looming, it seemed best to move Lola to Memphis with us and sell the house while we could. Since Joe didn't have to apply for Medicaid, and it's unlikely Lola will need to (please, please), we've come to the decision to stay here as long as we can.

Now that Joe isn't here to throw a fit, I can clean out the 40 years worth of crap in the basement. We can move some of my "crap" in there allowing Max to downsize in Memphis. He can get a studio or 1-bedroom apartment there and cut some of our expenses. He'll stay there until he can find a job in this area. If he can't, he'll still stay there during the week. That's the general plan for now, anyway.

I've been going through Dad's clothes and cleaning his closet out. He had some nice clothes. All of them are so very old, though. I hate to throw them out, yet they're so old I wonder if anyone would choose them if donated to a charity. Even the majority of needy people around here want to look up-to-date rather than wear something 10 years old - dress shirts and suits. I'm so out of it I have no clue what lapel size is in style now.

Well, Lola's been on a spell this week of getting up early and staying up late, so I haven't been able to sneak the suits out of the closet anyway. If I save them, it'll mean driving to Paducah to find a place to donate them. Aunt Agnes said there was a place in Clinton to donate them, but I don't know where it is. It's not like there'll be a sign pointing to it, and I don't know Clinton. The bad thing about being here is that you have to drive miles to get to most things.

Dad has 13 shelves of paperback espionage and suspense books. I've started going through them and pulling them, too.  I've got a call into a local auction house to see if they sell them. Sheesh, throwing books away is like pulling teeth - it's something you just hate to do.