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images-1I have to confess I loved the alliteration of the title, but this post is actually about fiscal fitness for the cared-for person — a parent, grandparent, spouse, even sibling. It’s not easy, and in many cases not a welcome responsibility, but it’s one that can keep a loved from financial disaster if accomplished with attention, knowledge and care — usually and most effectively in collaboration with others. The ‘collaboration with others’ piece is not just to alleviate stress and burden on the person who becomes financial manager for a loved one who is no longer able to manage on their own — or at all. It is also a protection for the manager.

Having other people who see how decisions are being made in conjunction with available resources helps to prevent unfounded accusations of mismanagement. Additionally, having other people in the loop can help spread the research load — is there a resource for day-care that won’t bankrupt the loved-one that the primary manager didn’t know about?  Are there people in the community who help with financial planning at low- or no-cost? Others may have great ideas and knowledge that will make the job simpler. Once supplied with additional information, the point person/manager may make better financial decisions on behalf of the loved one. Of course, he or she needs to have the proper paperwork in place (OK Now What? A Caregiver’s Guide to What Matters, available at amazon.com, includes a list of needed documents).BookCover6x9_BW_130-05

As a starting point for fiscal fitness, the article (link below) offers a quick view of what you need to consider to help you help your loved one.

caregiver.com

 

 

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I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions since I knew I could never keep the most stringent ones, and the lax ones are things I already do ( like flossing, and scrubbing the bath tile). BUT the list on Caregiver.com offers a pretty compelling and doable list (which happens to corresponds to our own experience-based suggestions in OK Now What, A Caregiver’s Guide to What Matters BookCover6x9_BW_130-05available at Amazon.com ) .

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Friends are a huge help

One of the most important is: Take care of yourself! If you’re not OK, it’s unlikely you can manage to keep your cared-for person, (and everything else in your life) OK.  Even if you’re an anti-resolutionist, at least give it a look — if not for yourself, then for the caregiver you love.

caregiver.com

Winner of the Mom’s Choice Award for the novel

Abigail Adams would have been proud to see a whole month devoted to Women’s History — and thought that it is no more than millions of women deserve. Abigail was one of the original feminists, though she would have been loathe to attach that term to herself. She viewed herself as individual, strong, intelligent — and a fully-realized partner in her husband’s life, despite the fact that women were at that time essentially owned by men. Even so, she let nothing stop her. She  ran the farm, bought and sold property, bartered for her children’s’ tuitions and raised their children while John was away — for weeks, months and in one case years on end. She advised her political husband on politics, personalities and more via letter – and he often took her advice.

She was one of the first women to demand the vote for women — her insisting that John ‘Remember the ladies,’ he was in the process of hammering out the new constitution. She knew that many women were just as intelligent, informed and politically astute as men. She wanted legal equality in this new nation. Like many men before him, John responded that they didn’t need the vote; they had influence on their husbands and so had a virtual vote.  She wasn’t satisfied.

She didn’t win, but still she persisted. As we all must. Her determination and her challenging, heartbreaking yet ultimately rich life remains an example and encouragement for us all.

A Love Like No Other: Abigail and John Adams, A Modern Love Story reminds us of the struggles of Abigail and women like her, and calls us to keep going. A winner of the Mom’s Choice Award.

Available in paperback or Kindle at amazon.com

 

allno-front-cover-jpeg-copyIt’s not food, OR garden, not really, although both figure in the book, but I’m thrilled to post two things here:

The fact that my novel, A Love Like No Other: Abigail and John Adams, A Modern Love Story  has won a Mom’s Choice Award!

moms-choice-award

AND The Kirkus Review of

 

a-love-like-no-other-review

Garlic cloves shoved into a grid in the prepped bed

Garlic cloves shoved into a grid in the prepped bed

Two days ago, I planted half of the hardneck garlic I intend to put in this year. I had chosen a bed that hadn’t held any last season and yanked out the desiccated tomato plants (we picked our last green ones, which are turning red on the porch as I write, about five days ago) and the defunct peppers. Loosened the soil with a fork, weeded what needed to be weeded and planted the cloves that I’d chosen from among the largest bulbs I’d grown this past year.

Since I first learned about hardneck garlic from Colchester CSA manager and grower, Theresa Mycek, probably ten years ago, and started planting it in my own garden, I’ve come to depend on it. Hardneck garlic is terrific because it’s delicious, beautiful (those tall green tops with the curlicue scapes are such a nice visual counterpoint to the clumpy greens and beans), and like a culinary Double-mint gum: it’s two, two, two garlics in one.

The first one is the scape.

Scapes before clipping off arrowhead tip

Scapes before clipping off arrowhead tip

Wait; let me back up a little. First, sometime in late-October through November, you sit outside on a nice autumn day, separate garlic bulbs into cloves and plant the cloves about 8 inches apart – I plant in a grid, others do it in rows – in a prepared bed. Tuck them in gently beneath straw or some other light but effective mulch. In spring when the earth wakes up, the green shoots start coming through the mulch. In about May, you notice that the shoots have grown rather tall – knee high at least. In maybe mid-June, when the tall stiff shoots have continued to grow and are now curled around themselves a bit (i.e. turned into true scapes), you clip or break them off – it’s kinda like asparagus; you snap them where they are happy to be snapped – bring them in and cook them any one of a number of ways. We sometimes tempura them, or grill them for a great snack/ hors d’oeuvre/side dish, chop them into omelets, sauté them with other veggies, quick-pickle them in the fridge in a vinegar-and-herb-and-peppercorn bath or hang them by the kitchen door to ward off vampires. Whatever.

Hardneck bulbs - notice the central hard neck

Hardneck bulbs – notice the central hard neck

 

Siberian, Russian Giant, Music and Keith's Garlic cloves

Siberian, Russian Giant, Music and Keith’s Garlic cloves

In July-ish, when the green tops have browned and died back sufficiently, you dig – or pull, depending on how soft the bed is – the now cloved-up bulbs, wipe off the earth, and hang them up to dry. (I clump them in bunches of about 6-8 bulbs and hang them on the back porch). Then you use them. They go into the spaghetti sauce I can during tomato-and-pepper harvest, into chicken cacciatore (which is ONLY truly delicious when made in season with fresh garlic, fresh basil and fresh parsley plucked only a few minutes before chopping into the red-wine-soaked braising liquid), into the oven to spread on homemade bread with good olive oil, into salad dressings, well, you get the idea. But if you’ve planned right and the fates have shined on you and your little bed of hardneck garlic, you will also have enough to save, separate into cloves and plant to continue the whole cycle. The miracle of gardening and life perpetuating itself.

This year, I prepped one bed, but the second bed I wanted to plant was a knotted thicket of wire grass, wild aster, which has determined root systems, and the bind weed just to put a topping on it all. My husband volunteered to dig it all for me, bless him, so this afternoon I’m going to sit outside with the dog, separate six more garlic bulbs into cloves and plant that bed.

garlic-in-misty-garden

Scapes beginning in late April-May

When I’m in prayer position on my knees stuffing the cloves – or anything for that matter – into the ground, I think about a little garden plaque a friend gave me years ago that said: Who plants a seed beneath the sod and waits to see believes in God. It’s an acknowledgement that while we can become really good gardeners, we are all at the mercy of so many other elements in life beyond our own control. But I have faith. And I keep on planting.

My latest essay in The Christian Science Monitor’s Home Forum:

My husband is outside our office, splitting wood. In between the rhythmic thwack! of the splitting maul, he’s singing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Except, he’s not singing words. He’s buzzing the melody. Buzz buzz buzz buzz (whack) buzz buzz buzz buzz (whack) buzz buzz buzz buzz buuuuzzzz bz bz. It must have something to do with the bees.

After 40-plus years as captain of oceangoing tug and barge units, Gary retired last summer – and took up beekeeping.

To read more go to:

http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/The-Home-Forum/2016/1102/A-captain-finds-a-new-crew

 

Red ruffles and butterhead

Red ruffles and butter head on June 20th

This was a hard spring for many of us – we had frost over here on the upper Eastern Shore of Maryland in May with plenty of rain and cool, overcast days – all of which put most of us into something of a funk and at least two or three weeks behind in planting. In fact, while the rule of thumb around here is: Put tomatoes in on Mother’s Day, we were lucky to get them in by Memorial Day, which is the rule of thumb way up in the Adirondacks!

But the LETTUCE!  It’s the best lettuce year I can remember having. I had started red leaf and butter Bibb in my little greenhouse late (due to a greenhouse disaster, which also set me back), then brought ‘em out to harden off, hauled ‘em back in several times to prevent getting trashed by the cold and critters (it’s been a blowout bunny year — while writing this, I heard a ruckus in the flower bed outside my office window and had to chase — yes chase! — a rabbit out).  In about the middle of May, I finally put the little lettuce plants in the ground under row cover, as both protection and camouflage. It woiked! as Curly (of Larry Moe and…) would have said.

Lettuce , kale, pak choy and garlic

 Lettuce , kale, pak choy and garlic (Plus chives, magic evening primroses and rhubarb)

I only began cutting heads of lettuce a maybe three weeks ago, a time when it’s usually starting to bolt around here – and have almost finished as of this morning. Maybe one or two more days and this first flush will be gone.

I’m going to shove some seeds into a partially shaded patch in the veg garden in another day or two and cover them with row cover in hopes of getting some salad greens despite the young rabbit that let me accidentally step on him (scared us both to pieces and we both screeched) while putting a couple of wizened cuke plants along with some cuke seeds into a patch on the north end of the peas, some of which I had for lunch with shallots and prosciutto for lunch – hooray! We’re actually having a garden this year. Food glorious food!

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