On Making Pies

Perhaps if one would choose, a bit more experience would precede making a pie for company.

About Thursday of last week, something she saw on television or read in the paper caused her to decide that she would make a pie for dessert on Sunday.

In her mind’s eye, it was no big deal. In her mind’s eye there is no Parkinson’s disease. In her mind’s eye she has plenty of stamina. On the way home from dinner at Through the Garden Restaurant on Friday evening we stopped at the grocery and bought some apples. On Saturday she cut up and peeled three of the four apples and had to sit down. I peeled and cut up the last one and another for just-in-case.

She took her meds and laid down for a bit. When she felt a little better, I made the crust under her tutelage. We (I) rolled it out and started over about a dozen times. I quit to put on shoes and gather my stuff for a trip to the store for a premade crust. On the way through the kitchen I stopped to try just once more with a twist.

My twist worked and we (I) assembled the pie.

Today we will take it to my son’s house to see how it turned out.

My other son’s wife is an expert pie maker. I probably should have subcontracted the pie to her and they live pretty close by. Maybe next time I will do this or maybe next time I will practice making crust.

Martha Stewart has a website full of ideas.

My pie – ready for transport

Carpe Diem!

Parkinson’s Awareness Month

This is Parkinson’s Awareness month but for me it is just another month. I have expanded these thoughts and comments specific to Cheryl. In the comments below I have added information that she might say but these days Parkinson’s has robbed her of language. She can speak fine but words can be hard to retrieve and occasionally some severe confusion about what is coming, where she is, or, for that matter, what happened moments ago.

Nevertheless

To the Ones That Love Me…This is what you need to know about me and my Parkinson’s Disease.

This is not a death sentence, PD can be managed. Encourage me to exercise daily, it is MY MEDICINE. – It is remarkable how much a few simple exercises can help Cheryl. Many of the exercises are simply vigorous movements or stretches. At her Parkinson Community Fitness the class exercises are tailored to folks dealing with PD. She cannot do all of the motions that the instructor asks but she tries her best to do them. The exercises can pick her up in a way that acts on her body like an extra dose of meds. Many times afterward we will have a late lunch somewhere because she is feeling good.

Early on she recognized how much exercise helped her to feel good. When her mom was still alive she spent a great deal of time at Bridgeway Pointe helping Elaine with various things. Elaine regularly exercised on a recumbent bicycle-like exercise machine. Cheryl did this as well with her mom and occasionally with me at the YMCA. She sought out an exercise regimen at the Y with one of the trainers there and developed some exercises specific to her particular inabilities. Later when PCF opened we joined. It has been and still is perfect for a non-athletic person such as Cheryl.

Don’t make assumptions about my PD, every case is different. – For many years Parkinson’s symptoms for Cheryl were mainly physical. This is no longer true. Hallucinations, delusions, mental confusion and memory loss have added to the morass of physical symptoms.



A meditation – serenity and peace comes to me when I can see that Cheryl is safe and unafraid. Most things that occur with PD cannot be changed. It is very hard to accept that fact. It is a degenerative disease. In my manliness I can see, or think I can see, ways to mitigate and ease her mind, life, anxiety and worries. And when I have done that I have removed any small bit of independence that she still has. In Cheryl’s mind oft times her disability does not exist. She has yet to capitulate. A confused mind does not recognize its confusion.

My meds have to be taken EXACTLY on time everyday. Spontaneity is no longer, please help me plan ahead. — This is complicated by the fact that what is eaten either before or after greatly affects the usefulness of the medication. The primary treatment of PD is a combination of carbidopa and levodopa often referred to as Sinemet. PD is a result generally of a dopamine deficiency. Absorption of this chemical occurs in the gut and the presence of other proteins inhibits absorption. So, “Hey. I’m hungry let’s go grab a burger somewhere!” spontaneity is gone from our lives and has been for some time. We often forget that and opt for spontaneity anyway.

That being said, Cheryl greatly enjoys the company of others (friends, siblings, past acquaintances) during dinner or lunch and she easily loses track of time and pills, food and drink get out of sequence. Her body’s reaction to this is twofold; she becomes exhausted (but not always) and she may develop severe indigestion (but not always). She may have either, none or both reactions.

My health comes first. I need to put myself before other’s needs and responsibilities. – but Cheryl is unable to do that easily. it is not part of her personality. It never has been. She is the oldest of six children and as they were growing up, her mom gave her more and more things to do and help with. I tell her often that what we do and where we go is really up to how she feels. She knows that she needs to put herself first but she would rather be with family and friends even when she is feeling not so good.

The other aspect of this is that she may feel perfectly fine until we are somewhere for a bit and she will crash. After she recovers she will become apologetic and worry that she has ruined everyone’s experience.

Anxiety is real. Don’t overwhelm or over plan me. – I have over time gone behind Cheryl’s back, so to speak, and have suggested to organizations that Cheryl is involved it that they find another to perform whatever little task she has been doing for them. She was the go-to person for anything computer related. It was her career for many years. These days it is merely a source of anxiety and confusion for her. It has reduced her anxiety level and in some cases has made me the bad guy.

I am okay with being the bad guy if she sleeps better at night.

Sometimes l am exhausted, especially late afternoon and evening. – This happens most often after she has taken her medication. It seems the meds can overwhelm her body but not always. “Always” would be easier to plan for.

How I feel changes by the hour. I can feel good in the morning and terrible an hour later. I am not the old me who can multitask and go-go-go… – It seems that any sort of multitasking activity is gone from Cheryl’s life. I however like to whine about how many new things I take care of in our life now. Cheryl no longer drives. I am her driver (whiny voice).

Be patient and don’t overwhelm me. – two questions in a row overwhelm. If that happens with me nearby, I will answer for her and slow the conversation so that she can keep up. This can include repetition.

Apathy is real! – And sometimes attention deficit is real also. It is easy for her to start one thing and be distracted by some other thing.

Sometimes l just can’t do a task and need your encouragement. – Like puzzles.

Communicate with me on your concerns and help strategize new ways of doing things. – This is a constant activity in our house. It is easy to use up days thinking about and trying new ways of doing things. It has also taken some time to train the care giver (me).

Help me to eat clean foods and drink lots of water. – Cheryl really does not like vegetables of any different variety that was not fed to her as a child. I do not know if this has any truth to it but there are many things she will not eat or even try. Her idea of lots of water is two or three sips. These are my observations from my experimentation with Hello Fresh meal kits.


As a caregiver it is hard for me to explain how frustrating some of these nuances can be. Resistance of personalization of this disease is very hard to do. I mean this two ways – projecting my feelings, what I think she is feeling, onto Cheryl and dismissing what she tells me that she feels. One of the comments above is that every case is different. This is not unique to PD. Scientific medicine would like the mechanism of disease causation and progression to present as a commonality to all humankind but that simply is not so.

There is a lot of discussion of phases of Parkinson’s disease in medical texts and websites. From my narrow view that is mostly crap. Literally everyone is different. It serves no purpose to relate current symptoms to some list and determine were one is in the dance we all have with death. It is best to look for and act on the feeling good times. There will be plenty of time to consider the feeling bad times after one has passed from this life.

Carpe the Diem!

I want to make Mac and Cheese

It is a Friday in Lent. A favorite throughout our married life, all fifty of them, has been Macaroni and Cheese. Often through the years this recipe was trucked out on Fridays in Lent but it is an enjoyable dish, pretty basic, so we eat it at other times also. The Betty Crocker – Dinner for Two cookbook – has been beat to death over the years so about three years ago it was taken apart and slipped into page protectors and a brand new binder. Hopefully some grand child will appreciate the effort their grandmother spent saving this classic cookbook from the 1970’s.

Over time I have taken over most of the cooking duties. Some of that is driving the car to the restaurant or diner but many times I have selected some favorite of ours that I hope will not give her indigestion. My experimentation with Hello Fresh was all about getting new ideas. The Parkinson’s medications have made her stomach sensitive to some foods and spices. We have discovered some of those as we experiment. She lost her sense of smell long ago. Simply old age has made my stomach sensitive to some things and I suspect Parkinson’s disease has merely complicated matters for her.

In this Lenten season the whole covid thing has stifled the church fish fries somewhat. One can still drive through but it is not the same as going and hanging out with friends in the school cafeteria and socializing for a bit. This year our pizza Tuesdays have morphed into Frisch’s fish sandwiches with mac and cheese. The last couple Fridays I have made the mac and cheese.

This afternoon when I got back from school, she said, I want to make the macaroni and cheese. Okay, I said.

I am staying near to help if need be but I suspect I can be smotheringly helpful. So, I am backing away a bit to see how she does. Carpe the Diem, baby!

She is sewing on the never ending chair arm cover project and working on mac and cheese. I am doing laundry, drinking Miller Lite beer, listening to Flo-Rida (Oh, my lord, the light’s going down and the weekend’s here…) and writing this unimportant blog.

Carpe Diem I suppose also can mean do the laundry and back away from the mac and cheese.

Bernard Clayton’s Bread Book

Potato bread

This book is a favorite of mine. If I remember to do it when I make mashed potatoes and something for dinner, I save the potato water and leftover mashed potatoes to make bread a couple days later. Two nights ago I remembered. I saved the water that I boiled the potatoes in. In his recipe he strongly suggests not adding anything to the potatoes.

Having gone through a couple of recipe cards from Hello Fresh recently I have decided that I like mashed potatoes made with sour cream and butter. Some of these were left over. I have about a cup of mashed potatoes. I used these. I am interested to discover how that modifies the flavor.

I have made this recipe with plain potatoes and with mashed potatoes in the past. Baking bread is intriguing for me because it seems very small changes to a recipe can make very large changes in flavor. Try it – grease one loaf pan with Crisco and grease another with lard. The flavor difference is noticeable. Very subtle but also very different flavor in the type of release agent used.

The round loaf goes to a neighbor who made a tuna noodle casserole out of the blue and gave it to us. She supplied it in a large ramekin bowl so I used it to bake the boole in. I hope she likes it. Potato bread makes hearty french toast.

If you can, bake something every week. Life is a one time deal but better with fresh bread!

Spring is here — FINALLY!

Some Days are just Slow

Some days are in fact slow days and if all goes well they stay that way. It is a good winter Saturday to look for a new chicken recipe.

From Campbell’s Soup:

  • 1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked long grain white rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Hmm. In the comments – …made this dish for 25 years, I double the recipe, only I use 2c instant rice, 2 family size cans of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, and instead of paprika I use Lemon pepper. I also rub my chicken with the Lemon pepper. It’s a family favorite.

I am pretty sure I have lemon pepper. I am, however, unsure of the vintage.

From https://iowagirleats.com/one-pot-chicken-and-rice/ One-Pot Chicken and Rice is part soup, part risotto, and wholly comforting. Your family will ask for this easy yet irresistible gluten free dinner recipe again and again. Maybe so, but there are only two of us so I will see if it is modifiable.

  • 4 – 6 Tablespoons butter or vegan butter, divided
  • 1 heaping cup chopped carrots (from 1 cup baby carrots or 2 large carrots)
  • homemade seasoned salt and pepper (see notes)
  • 2 scant cups long grain white rice (I like Lundberg White Jasmine Rice)
  • 1 Tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 8 cups gluten free chicken stock
  • 2 small chicken breasts (14oz), cut into bite-sized pieces

From https://thesaltymarshmallow.com/creamy-parmesan-one-pot-chicken-rice/ Creamy Parmesan One Pot Chicken and Rice is a creamy chicken and rice recipe made easy! The best chicken and rice full of juicy chicken and cheese! Could this be the winner?

  • 1.5 Pounds Chicken Breasts, Cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Large onion, Diced
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced (3 Teaspoons)
  • 2 Teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • ½ Teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 ½ Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup long grain white rice
  • ½ Cup Heavy Cream
  • ½ Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Parsley for serving, Optional
  • Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until beginning to soften.
  • Add the diced chicken to the pan along with the Italian seasoning, pepper, and salt.
  • Cook and stir for 5 minutes until chicken is golden on all sides.
  • Add the garlic and cook for one more minute, stirring constantly.
  • Add the chicken broth and rice to the pan and stir.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low.
  • Cover with a lid and simmer for 17-20 minutes, until rice is completely tender.
  • Stir in the heavy cream and parmesan.  Serve immediately topped with parsley if desired.

One half of a cup of heavy cream? None of that in the fridge, perhaps I will substitute sour cream and a couple tablespoons of milk. I will probably garnish with mozzarella cheese. For two I ended up with:

  • 1 Chicken Breast (about 7 oz. – chickens are big these days.) cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • Garlic, minced (1 1/2 Teaspoons – I buy this in a jar which is really handy.)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (or Herbes de Provinence)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 Cup long grain white rice
  • 1/4 Cup Sour cream
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Garnish with shredded mozzarella

Or pea soup could be a substitute for all of this. I made pea soup with ham two days ago. We had some for dinner with an excellent dessert, blueberry pound cake and fruit. There are two more bowls of pea soup in the fridge waiting patiently to be eaten as left overs. Pea soup like lasagna only gets better with age in the fridge.

So maybe pea soup and sandwiches for dinner. Perhaps I should pick out a dessert first.

The best part about slow days is shopping for dessert and dinner. Parkinson’s disease can enable one to appreciate the small things.

Carpe diem and Dessert

An old recipe that she really likes.

A simple batter cake dessert will perk up any parkie’s day. The last few times that I have made dinner I have taken the time to make a dessert. If that is a cake or anything other than ice cream and cookies, I start it first. Today I suggested another pound cake. Last time I bought any pound cake box mixes I bought four of them. I probably bought them at Walmart or on line from Amazon. I do not remember but this time when I suggested that and was holding a can of cherries thinking about how to jazz up the dessert, she says – I could make the cobbler recipe.

In our early days of marriage I was a student at Miami University. Neither Cheryl nor I was much of a cook so the Betty Crocker Dinner for Two cookbook was a bible to her. At the time I was less interested in cooking but more interested in eating. (and beer if someone else was paying for it.) College life as a married student was great. In addition to Betty Crocker we gathered recipes from friends and other sources. Some were disasters.

There was a spaghetti and hot dog recipe out of a church recipe book which was particularly offensive. Made more so by the fact that it made a lot of stuff so we kept trying to dress it up and make it more palatable when we reheated it as left overs. It is a fond remembrance of a disaster. We were young and poor. We did not throw food out unless it fell in the dirt and was unrecoverable.

The easy cobbler recipe came from the wife of a fellow married student. There were few of us on campus. Looking back it is remarkable that we found each other. But we did and they invited us to dinner one evening. They had a house in a nearby town. Janet made this recipe for dessert and Cheryl liked it and asked for the recipe. That was fifty years ago and she has made it many times since. Over the years she typed it into some word processor and printed it out. The original hand written recipe is stapled to the back. It works with any canned pie filling but we usually make it with cherries – Cheryl’s favorite. (Except if our grandson Gavin is coming for dinner. See grandma’s note above.)

I am unenthusiastic about this particular dessert. I do not know why. It is not bad it merely does not excite me as it does Cheryl. But it is simple to execute. I should have taken a picture of it before it went into the oven but I did not. Find your favorite mixing bowl and put in all the dry ingredients. I used a whisk to mix the dry ingredients first. I then made a depression in the middle and added the melted butter (or margarine.) I poured a bit of the milk in and mixed it with a handheld mixer and added the rest of the milk as I went along to make a medium runny batter that poured easily into the greased (Crisco or lard) 8″ x 8″ aluminum cake pan. The pan in the picture is of the same vintage as the recipe. (smiley face here)

We are having this dessert with spaghetti and meatballs, except I substituted pasta shells for spaghetti. As you can see below right, some of us like whipped cream on our dessert. I can personally attest to the great improvement by the addition of whipped cream. Vanilla ice cream, however, is even better.

It is February in Ohio and the birds are really attacking the feeder. We are safe and warm inside with comfort food and her favorite dessert. What could be better?

Parkinson’s may suck but there is always dessert.

More Food Therapy

Her plate

Pork chops breaded with bread crumb mix; one teaspoon of Frank’s Red hot spice mix, one teaspoon of paprika mixed with 1/4th cup of plain nothing special bread crumbs. Sauteed a minute or so on each side in olive oil. Baked in the oven a 350F for twenty minutes to complete.

Mashed sweet potatoes mixed with Sticky Pete’s maple syrup, brown sugar and butter. Boiled about twenty minutes, drained and mashed in the pan. Two medium sized sweet potatoes about three tablespoons of syrup and about a teaspoon of brown sugar and tablespoon of butter. I held back some of the water that the sweet potatoes were boiled in but I did not use it. I did not add salt to the water.

Mixed veggies from frozen. 1/4 cup water, a drizzle of honey, salt and pepper. Put in an oven safe pot, covered for about 20 minutes at 350F. These were “so so” but I am not a big fan of frozen veggies. With the pandemonium though, I have a lot of frozen veggies. Some work well some do not. I am still experimenting with flavors.

Blueberry pound cake drove the whole show. It hogged the oven for about 45 minutes at 350F. Everything else is subservient to dessert. As it should be! The blueberries are experimental. The IGA had them fresh from Mexico or wherever. I added about 3/4 cup rinsed to top of the batter after I put it in the tube pan. Powdered sugar on the top finishes the cake.

She ate two pieces. Sometime the best end to a day is a good meal and a good dessert.

When Parkinson’s disease sucks, let her eat cake!

Bake or Cook Something Everyday

Edie and Tommy’s visiting nurse’s pound cake

I have almost completed my experiment with Hello Fresh. As we have traveled down the Parkinson’s road I have taken on the duties of chef as well as the laundry and other housekeeping activities. I have outsourced some of the cleaning duties to my niece because dust does not bother me but Cheryl likes no dust or fuzz anywhere. I have sort of honed in on baking. So with a little imagination we can center a whole meal around – What’s for dessert? I am embarking on a new twist on an old hobby, make a cake, bread, cracker, cookie or whatever each day that I have never made before.

It can be a mix, scratch or special adaptation. Tonight I have made a standard pumpkin bread mix and added raisins to the mix. Recently I read “Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook” by Celia Rees. In it the main character becomes a reluctant spy and she and another woman concoct a code of sorts by exchanging recipes. Some are detailed enough to try.

I have acquired some new baking equipment to accomplish this. One recipe requires a tube pan. Miss graham makes reference to a Sally Lunn recipe. Or more specifically she is talking about a German bread recipe and says it is much like a Sally Lunn. A quick review of the internet of all knowledge (IOAK) and several sally lunns popped up. I have selected the one linked to here to try with my new tube pan. I am unsure of what to make of the comment to split the cake and fill it with custard. I will probably make it and not do that to see how it turns out.

Code at the beginning of the new chapter

At some future time I will tell you how it turned out. As a caregiver I am always looking for ways to improve the experience of what can be a debilitating disease but does not have to be. Some of this is food. Cheryl lost her sense of smell early on. It was the loss of smell that in part led her to the doctor to ask the question – is it normal to lose your sense of smell when you get older? It is not, of course, but it does change how food tastes. Her smell sense is not completely gone but it is diminished to the point where salty, bitter, sweet, sour and savory (umani) jump to the fore. I do not know what umani tastes like. I keep trying new things.

What do you think? I could make bangers and mash. Ugh was the response. I might have to sneak up on that one.

Every day is a winding road – Sheryl Crowe

Perhaps a New Activity

Cookies. Everybody likes cookies. Cheryl likes to make them. It doesn’t take the mental capacity to operate a seventeen year old access data base to make cookies. The hardest part is tracking down the chocolate chips that migrated to the back of the fridge under the leftovers. And you get to eat them. Even if they are not the best food, who cares. Cheryl is skinny as a rail and I am excited to get her to eat anything.

Everything is a big production. First we have to find the Toll House cookie recipe printed onto the back of the chocolate chip bag. Way back in the beginning of the pandemonium I had purchased a different brand of chocolate chips. Alas and woe is me — I had to return to the store to purchase the correct brand with the recipe.

What about this one I found on the internet from Betty Crocker? It looks like the low calorie version. See, only one cup of butter.

Go to the store and get the yellow bag she replied.

I left.

Here is the bag. There is even a bonus recipe for FAMOUS FUDGE. I do not care for fudge. My daughter does and when she makes some, I eat it. Perhaps I prefer that someone else does the cookies and fudge. I do bread, english muffins, bagels and coffee cake and other baking things. Cheryl does cookies.

Perhaps this is an Aha moment.

We also had rigatoni for dinner. Parkinson’s sucks but you can always make cookies unless you would rather make fudge.

Food Therapy… More

As I find things that Cheryl will eat I try to add them to my repertoire of recipes. If I was a better planner and shopper my larder wouldn’t get stocked with random stuff. As it is random stuff is what I have, although, I have become better at shopping the freezer and the pantry and then looking for a nifty recipe. Thank the Lord for Pocket, Kitchen, Cooks Country and Betty Crocker.

Lately I have tried a meal subscription service called Hello Fresh. The first three meal kits – set up for two people – were Shepherd’s Pie, Buffalo Chicken and Flautas. The shepherd’s pie uses common ingredients put together in an entertaining way. The flautas do also. They could be paired with rice and beans which would make them appear as they would in a Mexican restaurant. The buffalo chicken breast was a more normal dish with mashed potatoes and roast broccoli as sides.

Over time dealing with PD we have settled into a weekly routine. Tuesday night is pizza night. Pre-pandemic we would go to a specific small locally owned pizza restaurant. During the pandemonium we carried out from the same place. Often Wednesday night is cafe night. We have a couple local restaurants – diners actually – that we spread our business amongst. We have added several over the years and are always on the hunt for new local restaurants. Sunday if we are not with family is a toss up. The other days not mentioned, I typically cook something.

It is not a rigid schedule. Remember the motto “Carpe Diem” or in a parkie’s case carpe momentum — I try to seize any good time that Cheryl is feeling and we might take a walk in a park somewhere and find lunch. Or we might just go find ice cream at a dairy whip soft serve. In either case the mid day calories will kill off any formal dinner idea I might have had. Sometimes we have breakfast for dinner.

The initial results of our food experiments have been good. Buffalo Chicken, Flautas, Shepherd’s Pie from HelloFresh.com — So far a good experience.

Life is an experiment in many ways. It is also short and one can find that when you get to the end of it, all that crap you were so passionate about really was not that important. Be kind and try new things. Parkinson’s disease is what it is. It does not have to be debilitating. With a little bit of spice here and there it is actually edible. It doesn’t have to suck, sometimes it is chewy.