Halibut for Supper

Dave, Mom and I met Kittye and Winston at the Cracker Barrel in Opelika, Alabama this past Saturday.  Tropical Storm Lee was spitting a bit of rain on them as they drove north on Interstate 65.  We had sunshine driving south.  The Cracker Barrel allows us to make an easy restroom stop with Mom in the wheelchair and she enjoys shopping and eating there.   She grinned from ear to ear when she saw them and waved her hand in the air.  She was happy to be going home for a little while. The break refreshes all of us.

When we arrived home from Opelika, I was eager to prepare a package of halibut that I had thawing in the refrigerator.  I enjoy cooking for Dave.  He is the easiest person to please in the whole world.  I am truly grateful, because I have tried many a new recipe out on him.  My favorite comment when he is eating a meal I have prepared is, “We’ve been married 41 years and we have never had this meal before”.   It is a wonder.

Our dear friends, Maria and Luiz, who live in San Francisco, but spend summers in Alaska sent us a box filled with frozen halibut, salmon and clams that they caught this summer.  Maria says she has caught the most fish.  I have no doubt.  Dave and I can’t wait for them to take us fishing.  Maybe, next summer.  We hope to have a visit from them before then.

The halibut steak is about an inch thick and 4-5 inches wide.  I applied a generous portion of salt and pepper, cut it into four pieces and dredged it in plain flour.

I put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and of butter into the pan.  The ceramic frying pans get hot and stay hot.  I miscalculated and let the butter get a little browner than I would have liked, but it did not affect the flavor.  I enjoy how beautiful the food looks in my white pans with the red handles and bottoms.  Dave gave them to me, a set of three, small, medium and large.  I used the medium size. The fillets cooked about 3 minutes on each of the four sides.

I removed the halibut from the pan and added a clove of chopped garlic from Loganberry Farm and cooked it for about a minute.  After pouring in 1/3 cup of Kendell-Jackson Riesling, I added some capers and about a half pint of cherry tomatoes that I got out of the garden.  The tomatoes cooked until their skins popped.  I put Organic Girl Super Greens (green and red swiss chard, tat soi, arugula and spinach) onto the plate, topped them with a piece of fish and spooned the sauce, capers and tomatoes over the lovely fillets.  Pure perfection, flaky and delicious.  Thank you, Maria and Luiz.

And you know what, we have never had that supper before………


Fran’s Beauty Salon

Mom is sitting on the back deck watching the birds coming to the feeders this morning.  Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are tanking up from the glass ball feeder before making their way across the Gulf of Mexico.  She points to each one when she spots it, making sure that I see it when I am out there with her.  In three days she will return to Florida.  I’ll miss her pointing to the Hummers.

My mother decided that she wanted to become a beautician when I was 12 years old, so she went back to school.  It was quite intense.  At the time, she had to go to Tallahassee to take a final exam, if I am remembering correctly.  I went as her “head of hair” to show off her skills.  Finger waves, which are quite difficult, were part of the exam.  She passed and Fran’s Beauty Salon was born.  It was located in what eventually became the master bedroom on the back corner of our house.  Customers would drive up to the sliding glass doors and park on the grass.  It was a place of laughter, tears, stories and love.  There was a well stocked chest type Coke machine in one corner and a jar of Lance cheese and peanut butter crackers on the station with the sink.  A large hooded hairdryer on a green vinyl chair accommodated a head filled with the largest of rollers.  The smell of permanent wave solution wafted down the hallway everyday that Mom worked.

I learned some skills watching Mom.  I have been cutting Dave’s hair for forty years.  Sometimes, I have had grand successes and sometimes, my daughters wished that I had kept my scissors in the bag.   I decided this past week to give Mom a perm.  Maybe the smells of her beauty shop imprinted on my brain.

It is getting harder for her to maneuver in a beauty salon, these days.  The footrest on the chairs is almost impossible for her to get over.  So, I went to Sally’s Beauty Supply and purchased the rollers, papers, perm–One ‘n Only, Shiny Silver for Grey Hair, and a “funnel” that wraps around her head and directs the water to the sink.

Rolling her hair on the rollers was not an easy task.  More skill is needed here.  The hair kept slipping out of the papers and the paper would stick to my fingers.  We giggled, but I had to work hard to keep a few expletives from slipping out of my mouth.

Forty-five minutes later, we were ready for the solution–the stinky stuff that makes the hair curl.  I mixed the activator in the little bottle with the solution in the biggest bottle.  The bottle became warm to touch after shaking it.  I put it on all the curls and Mom dabbed her face to keep it from rolling in her eyes.  I forgot to get the cotton rope to go around her face at the beauty supply store.  I cut strips of towel and tried to use it instead, but it did not stay put.

Fifteen minutes later, I squeezed Mom’s head with the funnel and secured it with the Velcro tab.  It did stop the flow of solution.  I rolled her up to the kitchen sink, in order to use the sprayer.  By the time we were finished with the first rinse she was soaked and more water was on the floor than in the sink.  I needed an extra pair of hands to keep the funnel in the sink.  The weight of the water pulled it out.  Using the transport wheelchair would have helped.  The wheels are smaller and would have gotten her closer to the sink.  Next time.


After the first rinse, I covered each curl with the neutralizer and waited five minutes.  Then, the second rinse and the relief of taking out all of those tight little rollers.  If anyone reading this has had a perm, you know what I am talking about.  I added the leave-in conditioner and happily rolled her hair with Velcro rollers–so easy.

She looks gorgeous in this picture with her new curls.  I was relieved and pleased with the results. As caregivers, we often have to step out of our comfort zone.  The journey may be the dickens to get through, but arriving at our destination makes it all worthwhile.

Pretty in Pink

My sister-in-law, Carol, asked me to make a Napkinection for her mother-in-law, Angie.  I have known and loved Angie for years.  I was honored to make a Napkinection for her.  Carol emailed that Angie loves pink and flowers.

Pink beads had been purchased the week before I got Carol’s email.  I rolled Mom around in JoAnn Fabric and Craft Store looking for the perfect fabric for Angie.   Mom pointed to various fabrics for me to check out.  She nodded yes to two designs of 100% cotton fabric that were pink with flowers.  Balancing the bolts of fabric on the handles of the wheelchair, we proceeded to the cutting station and requested 1 1/3 yards of each fabric.  I sent pictures of the fabric to Carol for her to choose the one she thought Angie would like. She choose the pink with white flowers.

I made three napkins that were 23 inches long to go with the Napkinection that was made of pink beads, pearls and pink crystals.  Jim, Carol’s husband, delivered the set to his mom in Florida.  Carol sent this message:  “Just wanted to tell you Jim’s mom loves her Napkinection.”  In her next email, she sent a picture of Angie smiling, wearing the pink napkin attached to the Napkinection.  She looked happy and dignified.  No demeaning bib.  Tears unexpectedly spilled when I saw her picture.  Her joy touched me and made me joyful.  I am grateful for that moment for both of us.

Making the Napkinection seems like such a small thing.  Most of the time, I think I am nuts for continuing to do it.  But something deep inside me drives me forward even if it is a slow go.  In Issue 53 of Heron Dance, Roderick MacIver quotes Frederic Back who did a film, The Man Who Planted Trees, about what he thought was the most important message of the story.

“Many, many people understand that the most important thing in this story is doing something that you know is good, and you don’t look for any kind of big result.  The reward is in the doing.  You do what you feel you have to do.

If you make money, that is fine.  But you don’t have a reward.  If people are blind around you, don’t see what you are doing, that is okay.  The objective is not to be rewarded.  It is to be doing something that you feel is important.  Your reward is in feeling good.  Your life has had a value.”

Golden Friendships

Friends stopping by to visit this past week enriched my life.  Helen came on Monday.  We laughed together.  Laughter is definitely good medicine.  My spirits are lifted by her presence in my life.  I took her on a tour of the Napkinection workshop in my basement.  It is a great space that meets my needs.  I can close the door, keep the grandchildren out of the beads and the rest of the world  out of my space when I want to retreat.

Helen and I put together this turquoise Napkinection.  It has two silver metal spacer beads between each turquoise bead.  Mom is happy to be our model.

Dave’s dad, Minter Westfall, was an entomologist, specializing in dragonflies and damselflies.  Carol, his daughter made these dragonfly napkins for us years ago.  We continue to enjoy using them.  The colors complement this Napkinection.   On Thursday, Ivy came for lunch.   She suggested that all of us wear Napkinections to show support for Mom.  I like that idea.  Next time she comes, I’ll have one for each of us.  Ivy inspires me.  She is an artist, poet, photographer, and writer.  Her book of poetry  and photographs will soon be published.  It is touching and beautifully done–The Fleeting Moment.  I can’t wait to have my copy in hand.

Isolation is a problem that caregivers have to deal with as their lives are consumed with their daily task of caring for another.  Good friends who stick by you through thick and thin are worth their weight in gold.

Blogs are another way friends can touch friends.  My friend, Kathy, writes on her blog, www. sharingshaymont.com about decorating ideas.  I love her Fourth of July hat.  She found it in her basement, painted it red, wrapped it with red, white and blue ribbon and placed it on her door.  It looked very festive for the holiday.   Her daughter has a blog about saving money, www.thepurposefulpurse.blogspot.com.  Both blogs have useful ways that caregivers and families can boost morale and savings.

Tomatoes and Salvia

We have had a week of ups and downs.  Mom’s blood pressure spiked to 194/106 Saturday morning.   Usually she is sitting on the side of the bed when I go into her room to get her up for the day.   She was hanging onto the sheets like she was afraid she would fall out of the boat.   Dizziness kept her from sitting up.  Nausea rolled as I tried to lift her up.  After her dose of blood pressure medicine, Emetrol and Tylenol, she felt a little better, but opted to stay in bed until mid-afternoon.  After her medication, her blood pressure leveled out at 144/74.  The dizziness continued throughout the rest of the day.

On Sunday, she was sitting on the side of the bed smiling when I went in check on her.  It had been a sleepless night for me, checking on her several times throughout the night, watching her covers move up and down as she breathed.  Her blood pressure has been down since Saturday, thank goodness.

She has some skin breakdown that we are struggling to conquer.  Moving from lift chair to couch to wheelchair to lawn chair with cushion on the porch isn’t enough to disperse the pressure.  So, I bought a do-nut cushion which she sits on, but she doesn’t like it.  I am applying a thick layer of  Calmoseptine four times a day on the area of breakdown.  This is the second day in the battle.  The areas appear to be drier.

Caregiving is not for the faint of heart.  I want the very best for Mom.  I want to fix her, make her better.  Sometimes, I have to let go and sometimes, it is full steam ahead.  It is a fine line we walk.

Mom and I had a pleasing drive to Cleveland, Georgia on Tuesday to say good-bye to my sister and her husband who went back to Florida on Wednesday.  It has been a treat to have them close-by.  We stopped at the new Honor (roadside) Stand at LoganBerry Heritage Farm and purchased two bags of flavorful heirloom tomatoes, $5/bag, $10 into the locked box.  You can find out more about the farm at http://www.loganberryheritagefarm.com.   The tomatoes make a finger licking, chin dripping, leave you wanting more BLT(bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich.    Last night, Dave and I added applewood bacon from Whole Foods, tomato bread and whole grain bread (1/2 sandwich of each) from Country Bake Shop in Cleveland, Georgia and Kraft Mayo.  Incredible.  I also made salsa with heirloom tomatoes, Vidalia onions, cilantro, 1/2 jalapeno pepper and a good squeeze of lime juice and about a teaspoon of kosher salt.  Scooped into Tostitos multi-grain chips, it was pretty and satisfying.

Mom has enjoyed watching ruby-throated hummingbirds buzz the back deck.  They seem to be attracted to the Lady in Red Salvia.  It is an annual that produces red flowers until frost.  I break off the flower stalks when the blooms drop off and the little cups that are left turn brown.  They are full of seeds.  I put them in a plastic bag and scatter them into the pots in early spring.  Very easy gardening.

The purple flower on the deck is from a Ruella plant that is behind the Salvia.  Their blossoms bloom and drop each day.  Mother Nature gives us moments of reprieve from the mundane, difficult experiences of living.  The potential birth of something new comes as the flowers fade.

Figs and Peaches

Mom has been here a little over a week.  She adapts very quickly to our routine.  It takes me a little longer to get back in the caregiving swing.  Constant scrolling of my mental list keeps me on task: Mom’s bath; underwear before pants; socks; shoes; undershirt; sweater; breakfast; pills; brush teeth; situate in lift chair; turn on Good Morning America; take Mom to the bathroom; get Mom a drink and snack; change channel to Let’s Make a Deal; bathroom; lunch and the beat goes on…..

Yesterday, I made fig preserves from figs picked from my neighbor’s tree (with permission) across the street from my house while Mom watched morning TV.  It is the biggest, healthiest tree I have ever seen and it is loaded with figs.  There are figs for the blackbirds, the deer, friends, family and Alyce, my kind neighbor.  She is very generous with her figs.

The recipe I used is from The Classic 1000 Italian Recipes.  Conserva di Fichi begins by combining 3 cups of sugar, 3/4 cup of water and 1tbsp grated lemon rind in a large saucepan and cooking it for 5 minutes.  Then, I added 3lbs. of sliced fresh figs and lemon slices from 1/2 lemon.  The figs and lemon simmered for 20 minutes.  The pan was covered and allowed to stand overnight.  The next day the mixture simmered another 20 minutes until thick.  The citrus scent from the lemon made my mouth water.  The balance of sweet and sour is perfect.  1/2 cup of Cognac and 3 cups of sliced almonds, which I toasted in 350 degree oven, were added and simmered one more minute.  Yum, yum!  I filled 7 jelly jars and sealed them in a water bath for 15 minutes.  The recipe reads “Serve spooned on Milk Sponge Cake, topped with cream, or spread on Ciabatta bread for a snack.”  I think it will also be wonderful served with goat cheese or Brie and on ice cream.  Alyce was happy to received the first jar.  The succulent figs will be enjoyed for the rest of the year.  The preserves with almonds and Cognac are a nice departure from the traditional southern fig preserves.

Mom’s health has improved over the past few weeks while she was in Florida.  She had two badly decayed teeth filled.  She is even enthusiastic about food.  Helen, my good friend, gave her some peaches when we stopped for a visit on our afternoon ride.  She said “Oh, boy!”  Just to hear those two words made me very happy.  Aphasia leaves many gaps in our conversations, but delight can be read on her face.  The flesh of the “Lauren” peach is white.  It is the one in front of the picture.

Being in the kitchen, working with the fruit of the earth, is meditative for me.  It is a journey down a side road that holds new adventures.  I can be a better caregiver if I can participate in activities that provide diversion while accomplishing my mental list.


Mom comes today.  I slept great last night.  Her room is arranged.  I’ll bring in a vase of Black-eyed Susans that popped up in a flower bed down hill from where they were originally planted.  She will smile when she sees the flowers.  I will smile when I see her.

Her huge yard was full of bright pink Azaleas and various colors of Day Lilies.  She had some deep yellow Day Lilies  that my sister used for her wedding flowers.  Mom and other ladies from Chumuckla Methodist Church arranged them in white wicker baskets on a stand.  They were stunning behind the bride and groom in 1972.

When she can, Mom spends much of her time outside.  She sits on our deck or out front in the driveway.  Lately, she has wanted me to park in the drive facing the woods, while she stays in the car for a little while after we arrive home from our errands.  I leave all the windows down, find a shady spot and take her a glass of ice water.  Though she cannot speak, the look of contentment on her face tells me she is enjoying looking at the trees, shrubs and flowers.  I wonder if she is thinking about her garden, all the years of digging in the dirt, pulling the weeds, watering all that was in need.

Coming from Florida today, she is like the Black-Eyed Susans, transplanted from her original home there to another area.  As always, she will make the best of it, smiling and blooming where she is planted.  I hope I can remember to be as gracious as I journey down the garden path.