Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Living it Up!

I took my new stovetop popcorn popper for a test drive this evening. I had found popcorn glaze at Target in kettle corn and caramel corn flavors a little while back. It's granulated sugar and flavoring that you put in the popper with the popcorn. You have to stir it continually or the sugar will burn but the popper has a crank that turns a blade in the bottom of the pot and it worked just great. I did the kettle corn glaze and Mama loved it. It was delicious and of course the best thing is... no sodium at all, yay! So yeah, we are living it up on New Year's Eve here at the Feedin' Mama residence with our popcorn and sparkling grape juice. It's all good.

Mama and I wish you all a ridiculously happy
and blessed New Year.
Things are gonna be just fine in 2009!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Growing Plans

I just found the greatest web site (thanks to Mr. Ted!) about square foot gardening. It's a great concept about creating gardening grids that have square foot sections in them. They can be built right on top of your regular soil but they can also be built as raised beds which is really good news for folks like me whose arthritis keeps them from doing as much gardening that they'd like to do. It's also good news for folks on low sodium diets. Everybody knows that home grown produce tastes a gazillion times better than commercially grown so you don't have to put salt on those tomatoes, peppers and beans - they're perfect right off of the vine or bush. Also, the grid sections are filled with what they call "Mel's Mix" which is a blend of equal parts compost, peat and vermiculite and it seems that by using this mix you can avoid using weed killers and such which is even better. I'm already itching to start shopping for seeds, planting season starts early here in Florida! I just have to figure out how to start a compost bin that won't cost me anything.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Remember YOU!

My apologies for the lack of posts lately, for "professional religious people" (or am I semi-pro? who knows...) Christmas time means packed schedules and we've had an uptick in pastoral care stuff to boot. We are all extra busy trying to get it all done and then sometimes you get nailed by the inevitable cold and/or flu germs that seem to love the holidays too. That's been my life for a few weeks now - busy with lots of church events and planning, I had a head and chest cold that laid me out for a while and trying to shop and bake and clean... oy! I had not been to my water aerobics class for I think almost a month and boy did I feel it. I was not sleeping as well, feeling sluggish and a little bit crabby even. (I know, that's hard to believe!) All that just melted away when I hit that wonderful warm water in the pool today. I didn't over do but I got a good workout and it did me a world of good. I'll be back on Monday and hope not to have to miss that much pool time again.

So what is your point Betsy, you may be asking. The point is that the busier you get the more important it is to remember to take care of YOU. I preach it all the time but I need to remember to put it into practice. Everyone benefits when I take time to care for me. And that is true for you too. Get out, go for a walk, crank the radio up and dance like a fool... whatever it takes. Just do it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Going Global on the Networking

I just joined the Eldercare Entrepreneurs group on facebook. More connections means more great information to share!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Support Your Local Business Community

Feedin' Mama just joined up with Buy Local Jacksonville - a website that encourages support for local businesses. Although we have blog readers and website visitors literally from all over the world I still think it's important to support your local businesses, especially new start-ups and small businesses no matter where you live. If you don't live in the Northeast Florida or Jacksonville area then I encourage you to patronize the local businesses in your own community. That's in addition to the Feedin' Mama Store, of course!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holiday Snack Mix

I got an e-mail from Mrs. Dash... well, probably not directly from someone named Mrs. Dash but that's not important now... with a recipe for an Extra Spicy Holiday Mix. I am a big fan of the Chex Mix, especially when it's home made but of course that is just chock full of salt. This recipe looks pretty good. If you're going to a Christmas party where you or other folks who may have sodium issues are attending make up a batch of this to take along. They'll love you for it.

This is one of my favorite recipe sites, there are lots of great ones to try. Or you can let us here at Feedin' Mama try them for you... "We'll experiment so you don't have to!" and let you know how they turn out. I'm doing some Christmas baking and cooking later this week so I'll test drive this one and get back to you.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The More You Know

I just came across the niftiest online health information site. It's from The National Insitutes of Health so it's trustworthy, that's one of the first things you need to do always... check the source of the information you find online. There's an awful lot of junk "science" and "information" out there. Anyhow, this is an interactive tutorial on Medline Plus that covers an impressive array of medical conditions. It allows you to choose from 3 presentations on your topic of choice - an interactive tutorial that asks you questions as you proceed to help make sure you are understanding the information, a straight tutorial with no input required from you or a text version of the information you're looking for. Something for everyone! The tutorials are narrated so those with vision difficulties can hear the information. They cover anatomy, symptoms, treatments... very thorough coverage of illnesses and conditions. I'm not always thrilled with the way government does things and spends money but this is first-rate, educational and very interesting. Go check it out... you may even find a disease or condition you didn't know you had! Just kidding.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The word is getting out

I just read this article (via Instapundit) from the New York Times about people re-discovering home cooking to accommodate leaner budgets. We've been singing that song here at the Feedin' Mama blog from the beginning although not due to budget restraints but rather to encourage people to eat real food that isn't loaded up with sodium. I hope people will begin to realize that cooking at home with real ingredients is not hard, doesn't have to take a lot of time, is better for you, less expensive and just flat-out tastes better. Maybe it will catch on.

Getchyer discounts here!

Belk is having a Senior Day in their stores on Tuesday, December 2nd. If you’re 55+ you get 20% off with a Belk Card or 15% off for other forms of payment. I’m all about the senior discount – take every one you can find. Other than being able to eat ice cream for dinner if you feel like it, senior discounts are one of the best parts of getting older. I think I’ll add a page to the Feedin' Mama web site and post what stores have discount days for seniors and when they are.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey Tortilla Soup - Ole!

I just couldn't get excited about the usual recipes for using up the turkey carcass - turkey rice or turkey noodle soup so I did something completely different and made turkey tortilla soup. I simmered the bones from the turkey breast I had cooked in a big soup pot with water and low-sodium chicken broth along with carrots & onions. For spices I used pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and a new blend from McCormick - cocoa and chipotle pepper that added a nice kick. After a couple of hours I took the bones out, took the rest of the turkey meat that hadn't already fallen off to put back in the pot and tossed the bones out. Then I added a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes and a can of low-sodium chili beans.

For the tortillas I sliced some whole grain flour tortillas into strips with a pizza cutter, sprayed them with butter-flavored Pam and sprinkled them with garlic and onion powder. I baked them at 325 for about 15-20 minutes until they were crisp and put them on top of the soup. It was a pretty good way to jazz up the leftovers. It's supposed to be rainy tomorrow and soup is always better the next day. Now if somebody could figure out a way to get the Jaguars jazzed up for Sunday football...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reading List

Here are some books I've been reading lately. The first one on the list, Happiness is an Inside Job, will be required reading for all of my subjects when I become Queen. Or perhaps I'll just recommend it to everyone I meet instead. It is a life-changing book. The others are all excellent reads as well.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

We here at Feedin' Mama wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving Day. We are joining the extended family for dinner at 1 so all I have to make is German sweet 'n sour red cabbage with apples. Low sodium of course.

Remember to Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:18]. Easier said than done sometimes but I know that when I gratefully leave my life in God's hands it works out so much better than when I try to work things out on my own.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Time to Stand and Stare

Some great thoughts over at the High Calling Blogs. We don't value taking time out to think or to just be. We are called human "be"ings, yes? We should do more of that.

It's a small, small world...

I was just over at the Feedin' Mama site looking at the reports on how many folks have visited and where they're from (geographically speaking, I don't have the capability to track you down in case you're concerned about that) and I am just amazed at how this whole interweb thingy works. Feedin' Mama has been live for one month and two days and the traffic has been amazing considering I haven't even started doing any official marketing other than mentioning it at a couple of local networking events and lots of word of my big mouth to anyone who will listen. Over 850 individuals have stopped by the site in that short time and have viewed an average of 2 pages each. I think that's pretty awesome but what's even more fun is looking at where they're coming from. The majority are naturally from NE Florida but there are two separate cities in California that have very high numbers of visits and someone in Amsterdam is hitting the site hard. There are folks from all over the US, probably 20+ different ones and even a couple from Russia, China and Japan. This is just awesome! Now if I can get some of these people to use the sound off form or send me e-mails it can get even more interesting. But it just goes to show you... older adult issues and caregiver issues are of interest to just about everyone at some point. I just hope my visitors are finding help, inspiration and encouragment while they're here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More from Frito Lay

Here is the second response to my wailing and gnashing of teeth about the discontinuation of the Flat Earth fruit flavored chips:

Response from Frito-Lay RE: one of our products, Reference #010381042A

Hi Betsy,

Thank you for writing to us.

I, too, share your disappointment regarding our discontinuing the fruit crisps. Though the products were delicious, we were unable to get enough consumers to switch to sweet-tasting snacks.

Have you visited the "For Your Health" section at There you can get information on ingredients, nutrition and healthy snacking as well as a list of snacks that are lower in sodium.

Should you have further questions or comments, please click on this link to send a reply: Please do not hit reply in your e-mail.

Best regards,

Frito-Lay Consumer Affairs

I did go take a look at the list of the sodium content in their snacks. You'll notice that the 2 Flat Earth chips are right up there on the top of the list and there's not much else on that list that has as low sodium content that they had. It's a darned shame. Those things were awesome.

Sad, sad news

Oh the humanity! I have not been able to find any of the fruit flavored Flat Earth chips at Publix or Target for weeks and weeks. Mama & I just love those chips especially the Wild Berry and Peach Mango flavors, they are especially good crunched up in yogurt and they are one of the few snack-type items that are low enough in sodium for Mama to eat. They have veggie flavors but none of them are within the allowable sodium range and while they're tasty, they're nowhere near as good as the fruit ones. Anyhoo... I contacted Frito Lay to find out what's up with that and got this very disappointing reply in the Feedin' Mama e-mail box today:

On Nov 18, 2008, wrote:

Response from Frito-Lay RE: Flat Earth, Reference #010380261A

Hi Betsy,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us. I'm right there with you, loved the Wild Berry. We’re sorry to report all fruit varieties of Flat Earth are being discontinued because of slow sales. While there are no plans to reintroduce this product, please know your comments will be shared with our sales and marketing teams for any future consideration.

When you take into account the tremendous variety of consumer preferences, not every product does equally well, and occasionally one is discontinued. The decision to discontinue a product is always a difficult call and is made only after considerable market research has shown that sales and interest in the product is too low to keep it on the store shelves.

Thanks again for sharing your comments with us. We hope that one of our other snacks or perhaps future offerings will satisfy your taste buds.

Best regards,

Frito-Lay Consumer Affairs

If we here at Feedin' Mama had had any idea that this was coming we would surely have mounted a campaign to put a stop to it. I wonder if it's too late? We want our Wildberry Chips!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Now that's initiative

I am very proud of Mama's investigative skills and initiative. She's been feeling exceedingly puny over the past few weeks and getting progressively more fatigued. Other symptoms were a rash that looks like shingles and her weight was up 4-5 pounds over a short time which is a concern because of her congestive heart failure although she has no edema and her lungs are clear, thank goodness. We were just at the cardiologist for a routine check on Friday and he ordered blood work thinking the fatigue might be thyroid related or perhaps anemia.

She had a cardio ablation done several weeks ago to fix an arrhythmia and that doctor who keeps up with her pacemaker put her on a medicine that helps regulate her heart rate in addition to her pacer. Now Mama has a history of intolerance for many medications and there seems to be an ongoing struggle between the cardio guys and her primary care physician over her meds. Her primary care doctor is an internal medicine doc and gerontologist and he understands Mama's physiology so he we have a lot of confidence in his judgment in managing her meds. It should have occurred to me to be aware of any reactions to a new prescription but it just didn't. (In my defense, though, her cardiologist didn't consider it either.) So Mama took it upon herself to research the new drug and its possible side effects and guess what she found? Fatigue, rash, sudden weight gain...

Anyhoo... I'm very proud of Mama's initiative in researching that information that we can bring to her primary care doctor whom we will call first thing Monday morning. And the moral of the story is to remember that we need to be active participants and partners in our medical care. Fewer and fewer physicians these days, especially the specialists, are able to take the time to understand the histories and the individual idiosyncracies of all of their patients so we need to speak up and ask questions about the medicines and procedures that are prescribed, especially when the unexpected happens. And if you're very lucky, as we are, you will find an old-fashioned doctor who still makes the time to really know his or her patients and their histories. But even if you don't you need to be a working partner in your health care and take some initiative when neccessary.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blessed are the flexible...

Anyone who has known me for very long knows that my own personal beatitude is, Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape. Life has been messing with me lately and I've had to hold on to that pretty tightly. I have so much going on in just trying to keep up and make a living as best I can while nurturing some of these projects that I expect to become fruitful and we know that when you're juggling chain saws you don't need any monkey wrenches thrown into the mix. So things like exploding chicken casseroles and realizing that my car keys are sitting on the seat of my locked car while I'm running errands way on the other side of town have been tempting me to cry, get angry and frustrated and otherwise wallow in non-productive space. Thank goodness for that beatitude which has been doing double-duty as a mantra to keep me from going totally bazonkers. Sometimes you just have to stop and take a breath and make sure your priorities are in place. Most of the things that bug us aren't worth the energy and don't impact the things that are truly important in our lives. It makes my life a lot more pleasant when I can keep that straight.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bring it on!

A very interesting article via Instapundit:

THIS SOUNDS PROMISING: Fountain of Youth: Drug Restores Muscles. "A daily dose of an investigational medication has been found to restore muscle mass in the arms and legs of older adults and improve some of their biochemistry to levels found in healthy young adults, suggesting an anti-frailty drug has been found." I hope this pans out.

Betsy says: This is very hopeful for those of us who have the longevity gene... my family tends to live into their 90's with their minds still sharp. The thought of retaining physical strength and mobility in addition to mental stability is mighty encouraging.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A chicken in every pot

The budget at the Feedin' Mama household is mighty tight these days as it is in many homes and I have gotten pretty good at stretching a chicken into many meals. Today I made another one of Mama's favorites, chicken and rice using Italian Arborio rice which has a creamier texture and is used for risotto. We had eaten several meals already from a baked chicken so I put the whole carcass with the remaining chicken on it into a pot with some onions, celery seed, sage, pepper and a couple of packets of Herb Ox sodium free chicken boullion and water and let that simmer for a couple of hours. Then I took the chicken out and set it aside to cool off a little bit so I could pick the meat off to put back in the pot. I added some more water to make about 3 cups total in the pot and added a cup of rice. After that boiled I put the lid on and turned the heat down to low for about 20 minutes. Then I picked the chicken, put the meat back in the pot and cooked the extra liquid down for a few more minutes. It was delicious along with some frozen corn and green beans and that little chicken can rest assured that it was used to the full extent of its potential.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Some good german cooking!

Publix Supermarkets have a nifty program called Apron's Simple Meals. They create meals, have someone prepare them right in the store and hand out samples and recipe cards. Everything needed to prepare the dishes is available nearby. I have always just assumed from looking over the ingredients that it was all too high in sodium for me to use any of the meals until recently when I was tempted by the wonderful smells of the recipe for that day - Pork Schnitzel, German Potato Salad and Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage. I took one of the small plates that held samples of all three dishes and it was so delicious. I picked up the recipe card and yes, there were ingredients that were out of the question for the Feedin' Mama dinner table. But with a few adjustments I thought I could make it work. The schnitzel was easy, I just left out the salt completely and used Progresso Panko bread crumbs (plain). Some bread crumbs are high in sodium so you have to watch that. The potato salad wasn't hard either, I left out the bacon and used 1/4 packet of Goya ham flavoring and used more than a pinch of pepper. Instead of canned potatoes I sliced fresh and parboiled them. That just left the sweet & sour cabbage. Instead of prepared sweet & sour cabbage from a jar I sliced a half a head of red cabbage instead and added about 1/4 cup of cider vinegar and 1/4 cup of sugar in the bowl before cooking it.

The results were fantastic. It wasn't that much extra work and it sure was worth it. Mama loved it and I did too. I was so pleased that the next time I was in Publix I picked up some more recipe cards with meals that will lend themselves to a little adaptation and I'm starting a new binder of meal ideas and recipes. I have to say it one more time - a low sodium diet does NOT have to be bland and boring. Do some experimenting and enjoy a good meal.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Another great product for cooking

In case you didn't know it, you can find a lot of spices and such in the ethnic food aisle at the grocery store and they are almost always a lot cheaper than the ones in the spice aisle. You can find some interesting and exotic items there as well. You know I'm always on the lookout for ways to make Mama's low-sodium diet taste better and I found a winner while poking around in the ethnic cooking area at Publix. It's from Goya and it's called Sofrito - Tomato Cooking Base. I'm using it tonight in a pot of black bean soup and it smells delicious. It has 45 mgs of sodium in a teaspoon full but I only used about 2 tablespoons for the entire pot of soup. I used my favorite Pomi tomatoes in a box that are practically sodium free and I actually found some organic canned black beans with a very low sodium content at Target so along with some onions, shredded carrots, water and Herb Ox sodium free beef boullion I have a pot of black bean soup that Mama can eat without worrying about the salt content. Oh, I sprinkled in some cumin and black pepper for good measure as well.

You know, it just takes a little extra time to explore alternative products and you can avoid the bland and boring side of a low sodium diet. It's well worth the time.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Great Caregiver Link

I just found a great link on the Medicare site that's got lots of other links for caregivers information. The links are all to national programs but many of them have links you can follow for more specific local information. It's a great place to start when you're looking for helpful information.

Friday, October 31, 2008

New Recipes

I got my bi-weekly e-newsletter on Low Sodium Cooking from Dick Logue today. Here are a couple of the recipes in this edition that looked particularly good to me since the weather has cooled off:

Black Bean Soup

A flavorful Latin style soup that's low in carbohydrates and fat. Use homemade salsa if you have it. If not, look for a brand like Enrico's no salt added, which is just as low, or Newman's Own that has around 120 mg of sodium per serving. This will add about 30 mg per serving.

1 1/2 c Dried Black Beans
4 c Water
2 T Olive Oil
1 Onion,Finely Chopped
1/2 Green Bell Peppers,Finely Chopped
2 ea Garlic,Minced
2 Carrot,Finely Chopped
2 Celery,Finely Chopped
1 t Cumin
1/4 t Cayenne
1 T Lime Juice
1/4 c Salsa

Soak beans in water overnight. In a large Dutch oven, sauté onion, pepper, garlic, carrots and celery until almost soft. Add spices and sauté a few minutes more. Add beans, water, lime juice and salsa and simmer until beans are beginning to fall apart, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Yield: 6 Servings

Per Serving:
130 Calories
5 g Protein
5 g Total Fat
1 g Saturated Fat
1 g Polyunsaturated Fat
3 g Monounsaturated Fat
18 g Carbohydrates
5.7 g Fiber
24 mg Sodium
360 mg Potassium
0 mg Cholesterol
Diabetic Exchanges
1 Starch
0.5 Vegetable
0 Lean Meat
0 Very Lean Meat
1 Fat


Easy No-Crust Apple Pie

Subscriber Kate originally sent us this recipe for an easy apple dessert It's as good as she said it was. And as she pointed out, for those of us who don't like to peel apples it doesn't take as many as a "real" apple pie.

4 Apples,Peeled And Sliced, 2 Golden Delicious And 2 Macintosh
1 T Sugar
1 t Cinnamon
3/4 c Unsalted Margarine,Melted
1/2 c Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 t Sodium Free Baking Powder
1 c Flour

Slice the apples put in a bowl. Add cinnamon and tablespoon of sugar and mix well. Dump into a greased (I use the Canola spray) 10" glass pie plate. In the same bowl beat the egg, add: melted margarine, 1/2 Cup sugar, baking powder and flour. Pour over apples (it'll be thick, so I actually put little spoonfuls all over to make sure it all gets covered). Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 mins until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Yield: 8 Servings

Per Serving:
306 Calories
3 g Protein
18 g Total Fat
3 g Saturated Fat
6 g Polyunsaturated Fat
8 g Monounsaturated Fat
36 g Carbohydrates
1.8 g Fiber
15 mg Sodium
153 mg Potassium
0 mg Cholesterol
Diabetic Exchanges
Other Carbohydrates
Lean Meat
Very Lean Meat
Don't forget you can sign up for Dick's free e-newsletter yourself at by e-mailing him at These recipes and more are also available online in Microsoft Word format at
He also has a cookbook available at here:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Low Sodium Menus

I added a new feature to the Low Sodium Living link over at It's called On The Menu and I'll be periodically posting the menu from that night's dinner at the Feedin' Mama household. I'm always working on new ways to cook things by using fresh or frozen foods as close to their natural state as possible and by using other flavorings in place of salt. I'm going to work on figuring out how to archive them also. The site and this blog are works in progress and I'm learning a lot by trial and error so I just hope you're all bearing with me as I go along.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Reality Check For Caregivers

Carol O'Dell, author of Mothering Mother: A Daughters Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, has written an excellent article over at The Caregiver Blog that is a stark reality check for caregivers who are too invested in their caregiving experience for their own good. She has a list of questions that all caregivers need to ask themselves and answer honestly and follows with a wonderful list of "permissions" letting them know that it's okay to not be perfect or have it all together. Read the whole article and pass it on to anyone you know who could benefit from it - which is pretty much anyone who is charged with caring for another human being.

Thanks for the link from Carol Bradley Bursack over at the Minding Our Elders blog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We're growing!

I have begun to feel some frustration in not having the ability to organize information and topics in this space so I decided that the natural progression of things should be an official web site for Feedin' Mama. So I am happy to announce the birth of my new website Feedin'Mama. I thought about coming up with a brand new name but the goals and mission of the web site are the same as the ones for the blog so it seemed right to keep the name going. I hope you'll drop by and watch the construction as the site evolves. And, as always, feel free to share your knowledge and insight with us either here on the blog or via e-mail. I look forward to seeing you there soon and often!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dementia and The Right to Vote

I just read a very interesting article over at on the dilemma over whether older adults with varying degrees of dementia should be allowed to vote. With all the stories in the news today about voter fraud and about certain areas of the country that apparently don't deny access to voters just because they are dead or because they're only 7 years old, there is this issue that is quite a bit more difficult to address. Would you help your elderly parent or friend fill out an absentee ballot even if you weren't totally convinced that they understood the issues? What if they couldn't clearly express their choice but you, having known them and knowing what they would have chosen in the past, went ahead and filled it out with regard to their historical record. Conversely, if you believe that they are unable to make an informed decision, would you help them fill out the ballot and then not mail it? Where is the line that tells us that our elder's dementia has progressed too far for them to cast their vote? Who decides that? Can you take away a person's right to vote, a right that so many have given their lives for, without deliberate and thoughtful consideration and setting some sort of standard to be met, some specific criteria? People are living longer, the boomers are aging and finding answers to these questions is going to become increasingly urgent. The author, Carol Bradley Bursack, raises the million dollar question: Add the right to vote to the list of issues the tsunami of aging boomers will be shining a light on. Where do dignity and rights stop and the ability to make an informed decision end? It's a lot to think about.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A great find for caregivers

I heard about a new source of caregiver information today. Our local Aging Resource Center, ElderSource is developing a series of podcasts designed to provide timely and helpful information to those of us who care for older adults. You can find them at Informed Eldercare. I just listened to the podcast on disaster preparedness for seniors which was excellent. There is also a 2-part podcast on end of life issues. Stop by and take a listen and don't forget to leave your comments and suggestions, they want your input to help guide them to the topics you want and need to know more about.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Seniors on the Superhighway

What a strange and interesting world we have become. I'm sitting here on my front porch, posting on my blog about caring for older folks on my laptop, listening on my iPod to a ska band (Cake) that my grownup son turned me on to from his younger days. People say that our world is becoming smaller and less delineated by technology and I think that we as individuals are becoming broader (in a good way) and less delineated by technology as well.

So here's what I'm thinking about... how can we put all this technology to use to help keep our elder folk connected on this big superhighway of information and a dizzying array of gizmos and gadgets. I checked for geezer blogs online and found the Geezer Brigade, a humor blog for geezers "and their attorneys!" and also found a great blog by a guy going by the nom de plume Geezer about Northern Michigan on Geezer's Blog. A search for "older adult online" finds "Older, Wiser, Wired" on the AARP website, an article from way back in 2005 that estimated at least 50% of adults over 50 go online regularly and I'm sure that has increased exponentially since then.

I know that Mama has benefitted from being "connected" online - to my sibs through regular e-mail, getting pictures of her great-grands and keeping up with their growing years. She also laments regularly finding herself falling into the time-sucking abyss of online solitare and maj jhong games (although she gets mighty cranky when the cable internet goes out... might be time to look for a 12 step program?) She keeps up with her banking and bill-paying online, manages her mail-order prescriptions and can google search with the best of them. I know that the ability to do these things has helped prevent her from becoming alone and isolated even if she "doesn't get around much anymore" as the old song says. Her life is enriched by having the world and its information at her fingertips.

Perhaps nursing homes and in-home caregivers can begin finding ways to connect the elders in their care. It doesn't cost anything to set up a blog and if the links are bookmarked most seniors could probably manage their own blogs without a whole lot of assistance. Shared insights and experiences are vital to staying connected as well as to finding solutions to obstacles and difficulties. - it could begin a whole new community for our older loved ones!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Whose business is it anyhow?

Someone asked me today about what to do about an elderly friend who lives alone but clearly should not. And that is a tough question. If it were a family member who asked I would determine what the financial situation is and then make appropriate referrals; if the friend has no assets and a low enough income there are a number of long-term care diversion programs that are government funded that will assess the situation and bring a reasonable amount of resources into the home if that would enable the person to remain independent. Those programs operate on the principle that it is more cost effective to bring the resources to the person rather than to place them in a long-term care facility. Or the assessment may show that the person is not capable of living alone even with some assistance and then a referral to a facility would be the better option. If the elder has adequate assets, income and/or good supplemental or long-term care insurance then I would suggest that the family and their elder investigate the many home care agencies available and get all the help that their plans will cover and their assets will allow. Many elders have been diligent about saving for a rainy day and now is the time to start spending that down.

That is all well and good for families but in this case someone who is truly concerned about a friend's well being and obvious needs is hesitant to get into that person's business even though it appears that the person obviously needs help in a big way and there are family members who would be involved in those decisions. I think that the only thing one can do in this situation is to voice your concerns to the elder and to someone in the family and offer to assist them in navigating the maze of agencies and programs that are out there. If that doesn't work contact your local Area Agency on Aging for advice. Here in NE Florida that would be ElderSource or call toll free 1-888-242-4464.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Big 9-0

Well today is actually the day - Mama is officially 90 years old today. Brother Tom and his wife Susan are still here and they took her out to breakfast this morning. This afternoon we'll be going out to Harpoon Louie's - a local restaurant where a cousin is part owner and the only place Mama trusts the kitchen not to put salt in her food. We're eating late afternoon because I am helping to officiate a memorial service that starts at 6. Thankfully, Mama is flexible about things like meal times.

The party was a great success - good food, good music, good company. Lots of folks came to wish her well and she enjoyed herself immensely.

Happy 90th birthday to you, Mama!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


It's been a busy week, getting the house ready for company and preparing for a party. Mama will be 90 on Tuesday and we're throwing her big birthday bash tomorrow (Sunday). It's going to be quite the party and we hope she enjoys it. I'm off to the farmer's market to look for some nice red peppers and to see what I can find in the way of fresh fruit. Got to watch that sodium even when we're celebrating.

Mama and I both got pedicures yesterday and she also had a manicure and got some face waxin' done. Now we'll have twinkly toes so we can kick them up at the party. We are blessed and grateful that she is in such good health and looking so awesome at this great milestone she is celebrating. I just hope I've inherited those genes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Recipe Success!!

I mentioned in a previous post that I subscribe to a newsletter about low-sodium cooking and was especially pleased to get some recipes for several varieties of pickles. I tried one out this weekend and made some truly awesome bread and butter pickles and onions. The recipe was actually just for bread and butter onions but I had been to the farmers' market and bought some pickling cucumbers so I used both. (It's the last recipe on the list.) It was my turn this month for the Tool Time Girls workday at my house so I served the pickles at lunch and we ate the whole batch they were that good! Rave reviews from all the girls and they had a hard time believing that I had not used any salt in them at all. They were really easy to make and best of all I was able to add something that she really had missed back into Mother's diet. I'm taking on the dill pickle recipe next so check back later to see how that works out.

Friday, September 19, 2008

In community

I have found a site called High Calling Blogs that is a community of Christian bloggers and I have put in a request for Feedin' Mama to join the community. There are a great many specifically Christian/Spiritual blogs but there are blogs on lots and lots of other issues and topics as well. I believe that communities such as this one can be immeasurably helpful, supportive and a source of encouragement and we all know that care givers need all of that sort of thing that they can get. I hope that Feedin' Mama readers will follow the link to The High Calling and take a look around. I'll bet that they will find one or more sources of interest and perhaps be blessed by a word or thought that they find there. Drop me a comment and let me know if you find something useful and/or encouraging for your caregiving journey. If your care receiver is computer and internet savvy (my 90-year-old mother definitely is) help them link to it as well, I'm sure they will enjoy and benefit from it also.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Gold Mine of Information

In my internet wanderings I came across a veritable gold mine of information at the Family Caregiver Alliance that has general information and also lets you search by state to find resources in your area. I followed that path and found CAPS, (Children with Aging Parents) a national organization and online support group for people involved in the care of their aging parents. Another great link from this site is to yet another helpful site Aging Parents and Elder Care.

Caregiving can be an overwhelming task in itself no matter the particulars but caring for your parents is a leap to a whole 'nother level. A lifetime relationship brings its own communication and ingrained idiosyncrasies that are driven by a lifetime of family dynamics. When we can come together, even on a relatively anonymous level such as an online support group, we are strengthened by the support and encouragement from folks who are walking in the same moccasins as we are.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A really good day

Today I did something that I have always wanted to do but never have for whatever reason. I went with a friend to the county extension office and attended a workshop on growing herbs. There was a very informative talk on growing and caring for herbs and then we got to plant our own herb dish garden. It has chives, thyme, tarragon and parsley in it plus some alyssum for color and I just love it. Then we watched a cooking demonstration of some recipes using herbs and then we got to eat some really good food. So for $15 and two hours we got an herb dish garden, some great recipes, a tasty lunch and inspiration for more great ways to cook healthy and low-sodium food. So I'm back up on my soapbox - when you have great herbs and spices you don't need all that salt. When we left we went to the farmer's market to buy some fresh produce to test-drive our new recipes.

As an added bonus I found information on other classes and workshops offered at the extension office. We're thinking about signing up to make rain barrels next. Check with your county's extension office, it's a wonderful thing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Nutrition Data

Sometimes it's not easy to figure out the sodium content, especially when you're using fresh food. God bless the Inter webs because you can find just about anything. I found a site that will give you the nutrient values of almost any food right down to the micro nutrients as well as the usual calories, fat, sodium... It will also track your daily intake which is a big help when you're trying to stay under a certain number of calories, mgs of sodium, whatever. And the best part is that it's my favorite price... FREE! Fabulous! Check it out for yourself and get to tracking that nutrition data.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


So I received an e-mail from the folks at Local Harvest (see previous post) to let me know that they only accepted members who are directly involved in growing and selling food so Feedin' Mama can't join. I can accept that although our common interest in promoting the benefits of eating fresh locally grown food. There's still a lot of good information on their site and I'll continue to link from them from time to time. Once I get over the whole rejection thing... just kidding.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Eat Fresh, Eat Local

I keep harping on the need to eat fresh or frozen "real" food in keeping Mama's diet low in sodium. Today I ran across a site called Local Harvest that has tons of great information about eating locally grown food. I became a member (well, Feedin' Mama became a member) because there is a symbiotic relationship and I think we can learn from each other and you just can't have too many resources available. There's a lot of interesting reading over there so stop by and check them out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Make room on the band wagon...

... because more and more companies are climbing on. I found 2 new sodium free marinades on the shelves at Publix this week - Ken's Steakhouse (the folks who make those tasty salad dressings) has come out with a new line of marinades and 2 of them are sodium free! One is lemon pepper and the other is sesame ginger which I tried on shrimp last night and it was extra good. So thank you to Ken's for recognizing the need and putting a little more variety in our menus. They are so new that they're not listed on the company's web site but I intend to send them a thank you note for sure.

I have been disappointed in almost all of the new "Lower sodium" offerings from canned soup to frozen meals and more. Lower sodium doesn't always mean that the sodium content is low enough to be safe for folks like CHF patients. I'm still wary of giving Mama something that has 700+ mgs of sodium per serving and actually I won't usually use anything that has more than 3-400. It's just not that much more trouble to make it from scratch with fresh or frozen ingredients that have little or no sodium. I wonder sometimes what they're trying to hide with all that salt. And it makes me just that more appreciative of the companies who do offer truly low sodium or sodium free alternatives.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Well TS Fay, the tropical trollop, has finally left town although we do still have a bit of rain here and there and the wind kicks up periodically. Feedin' Mama Central was very fortunate especially compared to some folks we know who have been without power for days or have had property damage. And I've located or spoken to most of the older folks from church and everyone is good so that's a relief.

I got some new low-sodium recipes in my inbox and wanted to share them with you. I love pickles. A lot. But they're a no no for Mama so I don't buy them very often. I'm thinking that a trip to the farmer's market is in order so I can test some of these recipes. Thanks to Dick Logue and his Low Sodium Cooking Newsletter! He has even been so kind as to make it available as a Word document here. I think I'll try to make the Bread & Butter Onions first... if you try any let us know how it works at

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Should I stay or should I go?

We here at Feedin' Mama Central are currently in the midst of a long drawn-out encounter with a tropical trollop named Fay. We are in good shape, lots and lots of rain and wind but we still have power and all the trees in the immediate area are still standing. Just got a call from my son Joe to say they have been without power for about 3 hours. That's no fun with a 2-year-old boy and a 3-week-old baby girl. Unfortunately they live on the other side of the St. Johns River from me and the Buckman Bridge at the south end of Jacksonville that runs between their side and mine has been closed by the sheriff's office due to the high winds. We have plenty of food, water, batteries and a plethora of flashlights and other battery-operated lanterns and such so we're fairly well prepared I think.

There are shelters open, especially for special needs folks and that's something to always keep in mind. Shelters for seniors are, in my opinion, a last resort except for those who are oxygen dependent or have other such medical needs. I'm glad they are there and would be grateful for one if I had no other option but I know for sure that Mama would be miserable if we had to do that. I've seen too many news reporters standing in gymnasiums and cafeterias with cots lined up all over the floor and kids running amok and I'm pretty sure that they don't have low sodium options on the menu. There's no possible way Mama could get any sleep in those conditions and when she doesn't sleep she is beyond miserable. So we stay hunkered down unless we were to get an order to evacuate. Even though she's on oxygen at night, we do have an emergency tank for a backup if we did lose power.

Speaking of losing power, we're in another band of squalls and gusts and the lights are flickering so I think I'll post this and come back later as long as I'm able.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Couples and Illness

In my web wanderings I came across a blog post about couples dealing with illness. This part was especially poignant:

They have been each others' salvation for so long that they do not know how to take care of themselves as separate individuals. When the stress of illness is so severe and prolonged, it is critical that each partner put in place a support platform for him or herself. When being together pulls each partner down into a vortex of fear, depression, and uncertainty, each person needs to create a separate safety zone that can provide some nourishment. That zone can include friends, work, activities, therapy, meditation, time in the woods or by a river.

Sometimes, in desperate circumstances, partners have to stand alone in order to hold each other up.

Wow. That is some great insight right there. Follow the link above to read the entire post.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Newspaper Articles

There is an article on the front page of the Florida Time's Union entitled Helping Hands Make It Possible which caught my interest, especially in light of yesterday's post about creative problem solving. It was about two area women who are fighting significant health problems and two things they have in common as they deal with live and illness are their faith in a higher power and in their caregivers. One of the women has a network of caregivers that are managed and scheduled by a friend and her church. The other is being cared for by family members.

The article is the first in a series. Tomorrow's article will be Juggling Caregiving and Work. I look forward to reading it. And I'm very happy that the issue is getting some attention because caregivers need all the help and support they (we) can get.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

I said in an earlier post that I would tell you more about the Tool Time Girls. While they are not directly pertinent to this blog, they are an example of finding creative ways to deal with life. And Heaven knows, caregivers have got to be creative in order to handle whatever issue that is presenting itself on any particular day. So here's the story.

One day I was contemplating my situation - a single, female homeowner without a whole lot of DIY-type skills despite an ongoing fascination with HGTV and TLC on television. Also without a lot in the way of financial resources. There was a group of couples at my church who had formed the "Honey-do Club" and they would meet at one of their houses once a month to do home improvement projects. I tried weaseling my way into the club but found it was couples only and you really do have to limit membership or your house might never get any attention. So I rounded up five friends from church, all female homeowners, mostly all with shoestring budgets and proposed that we start our own group and so the Tool Time Girls came to be. And we have done some projects that are hard to believe; we've hung dry-wall on a ceiling, laid flooring, ripped out carpeting, laid new flooring and a sidewalk, installed ceiling fans and plumbing fixtures and painted, painted, painted. In our second year, it became apparent that it wasn't just all about the projects but the fellowship was just as valuable to us. So we decided to take a weekend every August and get away for a retreat and to have some fun. We've been very fortunate to have beach-front condos donated so we just all pitch in with groceries and cooking and go out a time or two if we can afford it. Bringing this group together started with a need I didn't think I could meet but with a little creativity we have found a way to not only accomplish tasks to difficult to do alone but we have also made a unified connection of true friends who work and worship, pray and play together and that, my friends, is priceless. And it came to be because instead of fretting over the obstacles, we were open to a little creative thinking.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another great link

I just found another site with a lot of excellent and helpful things - Agenet. It covers a pretty comprehensive range of topics. One link in particular is for caregivers and I read an article submitted by a caregiver that was full of good suggestions and ideas. The author summed it up at the end with this list of questions every caregiver should ask him or herself regularly:

  • Am I taking care of myself?
  • Am I assuring there is balance in my life?
  • Am I trying to establish a workable schedule?
  • Am I learning where and how to ask for help?
  • Am I investigating support groups for my family and myself?
  • Am I working on developing patience?
  • Am I learning about the disease and its long-term ramifications?
  • Am I learning from others about how to be a balanced caregiver?
  • Am I able to retain my sense of humor?
  • Am I journaling?
  • Am I aware of my limits?
  • Am I trying to learn how to live elegantly under these trying circumstances?
It's easy to get so caught up in the day to day business of living that we ignore or forget to consider how we are doing and to ensure that we are plugged in to all the resources and support available to us.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Spice of Life

While on the aforementioned 2008 Tool Time Girl Retreat we visited an open air market in the St. Augustine Outdoor Amphitheater last Saturday morning. I stopped at a booth selling spices and discovered a treasure. A Palm Coast based business called Simple Specialties was represented by some very friendly and informative people. I had a great conversation about getting creative with low-sodium cooking and bought a bottle of dried vegetables (made a tasty dip when we got back to the condo) and some dill weed. They have good quality herbs and spices at very reasonable prices. What a find! Their website is nothing fancy and you can't order online just yet but you can download an order form to mail or fax. I'm making a shrimp & pasta salad right now and will use both of my purchases to spice it up and add great flavor. Check them out, they have a great selection so you can get funky (in a creative sort of way) in the kitchen and spice things up!

Friday, August 1, 2008


One of the most important things a caregiver can do is to keep themselves healthy both mentally and physically. And the best advice is to be sure you get time away for yourself on occasion. This is just such an occasion for me as I am headed to St. Augustine Beach for a weekend retreat with my work group, the Tool Time Girls. I'll tell you more about them later, it's a great concept. God bless Sister Mary who is coming up from Gainesville/Trenton to stay with Mama, leaving Bob at home to care for their goats Madam X and Trouble, the dog Buddy and the psycho cat Ashley. Have yourself a great weekend and I'll be back posting on Monday. Maybe with pictures even. Grace and peace to you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

For the technology challenged... (that would be me)

Dear sweet James over at velocityunlimited called to tell me that the upload picture icon was right there on the toolbar. Well, duh. I would have found it eventually, I hope. No matter, because here is a picture of a little girl who already loves her daddy who loves her right back. Precious. The word is that big brother Sean seems quite pleased as well.

The Circle of Life

I spent all of yesterday at the hospital awaiting the birth of my granddaughter Aubree Lynn. She is gorgeous and if I can figure out how to upload a picture I'll do that. That makes 11 great-grands for Mama!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

DASH for a healthy diet

I found this great site called Health and Age for older adults that included this article saying that you need to do more than avoid salt to avoid hypertension and other age-related conditions. Nutrition plans like the DASH diet are low in sodium and fat but are also high in potassium and calcium and other nutrients deliver the health benefits older adults need. This means lots of low-fat dairy foods and a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. So get thee to the farmer's market and stock up, you'll feel better for it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is Sea Salt the Answer?

Is sea salt the answer to a low-sodium diet that tastes good? Depends on who you ask. I've been surfing around the Internet (so you don't have to!) in search of the answer to this question. Not surprisingly, the folks who are selling sea salt say yes, that it's lower in sodium and has all manner of trace minerals and nutrients that regular table salt doesn't have. Those who are marketing salt substitutes say that sea salt and table salt are both equally harmful. I was totally confused after a while so I headed to a trusted authority, the Mayo Clinic. Here is what I found on their website's Ask a Food & Nutrition Specialist section:

"Sea salt and table salt have the same nutritional value. The real differences between sea salt and table salt are in their taste and texture."

Read the whole article, it goes on to explain the different methods of mining (table salt) and evaporating sea water (sea salt), how they're both refined and some more interesting tidbits. Sea salt seems more "exotic" to me but I'll just continue keeping an eye on the total sodium milligrams from all sources in Mama's diet unless a reputable study in the future finds otherwise. I'm finding that fresh "real" food is plenty flavorful without so much added salt anyhow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Unintended Consequences

It happens all too often. Science and results from studies will lead to big campaigns against the latest lifestyle or health-related "crisis" and the public obediently follows directions and changes their diets and habits accordingly. But the consequences that follow are often not the ones that were expected. A case in point is Vitamin D. A lack of Vitamin D has been found to result in quite a few unwanted conditions. It's not just about avoiding rickets any more. Low levels of this fat-soluble nutrient have been associated with osteoporosis, bone fractures, some cancers and autoimmune diseases and a strong link has been found between Vitamin D deficiency and significant levels of depression, especially in the older adult demographic. It has been suggested that by diligently avoiding exposure to sunlight in order to prevent skin cancer, we have ended up with a widespread population who are vitamin D deficient.

I'm not suggesting that we toss all of our sunscreen in the trash. Skin cancer is a very real problem and we should take appropriate measures to avoid it. But as little as 15 minutes exposure to unprotected skin on your face, arms and/or legs 3 times a week can boost your body's ability to convert that sunshine into much-needed Vitamin D. That, in addition to a diet that includes foods fortified with that nutrient can provide enough to ward off the previously mentioned conditions and diseases. For those who take calcium supplements to keep their bones strong and healthy, it's important to take Vitamin D supplements to facilitate absorption of the calcium by the bones. You have to be careful, though, with supplements not to overdo the Vitamin D. There is a risk of Vitamin D toxicity which can result in nausea, confusion and weight loss among other things but the only risk of reaching dangerous levels that would lead to toxicity is through overconsumption of supplements. A few short exposure to sunlight a week, a diet that includes Omega-3 fats found in some fish and foods that have been fortified with the vitamin such as milk, some cereals and breads and a trusted supplement that combines calcium and vitamin D in proper balance like this one can ensure that you're getting the optimal amount that will help you stay healthy both physically and mentally.

One expert
says that in addition to a good diet, “Many people may need to consider supplements, especially in winter. And one thing we would say is, don’t be afraid of getting at least a little sunshine. It’s good for you.”

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Quick and tasty

I made one of our favorite dishes for Mama tonight. It's quick, low in fat and sodium and very, very tasty. Here's how it's done:

  • Marinate some peeled and de-veined shrimp for 10 minutes in Mrs. Dash's garlic-lime marinade.
  • Soak some rice sticks (noodles) in very hot water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Saute the shrimp in a skillet - add a little more marinade and a splash or two of Paul Newman's Light Lime Vinaigrette dressing.
  • Steam a package of Green Giant vegetable blend or any combination of veggies that you like. I prefer the one that has sugar snap peas, edamame, carrots and black beans.
  • Add the steamed vegetables to the shrimp and saute a few more minutes to blend the flavors.
  • Drain the rice noodles and put them in a serving bowl.
  • Pour the shrimp and vegetables over the noodles and chow down.
You're gonna love it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Splish Splash

I may not be officially old enough to qualify as a "senior" but when it comes to exercise I may as well be - arthritis and too much weight prevent me from doing a lot of what I would like to do and even walking is a chore at this point. My feet get very offended and shake their angry little fists at me when I try to get them to hit the road for a walk. Rebellious and uncooperative things they are. But last week I went with two friends to a local pool that offers classes in deep water aerobics 3 days a week. We LOVED it! My swim buddies are no spring chickens either, bless them, and we are all thrilled to have found this program. It seems that water is the great equalizer - I would not last 10 minutes doing calisthenics on dry land but an hour just flies by when we're working it in the pool. And we are getting quite a workout, every morning after I've had a class I feel pains in muscles I didn't even know were in there. We wear flotation belts to do the deep water exercises and use styrofoam dumbells in the shallow end for upper body work. Some of the experienced ladies in the class have some nifty little gloves with webbed fingers. They told us that they increase the resistance so their arms get a better workout. Got to get me some of those babies.

There's lots of literature on the benefits of water aerobics, especially for older folks and others who can't take having their joints pounded. Here's one good article I found. The Arthritis Foundation also promotes water exercise as one of the best forms of exercise for those with arthritis because it is so much easier on damaged and hurting joints. Check with your local chapter or a local YMCA. Most of them have classes or information on how to find one in your area. I know from past experience how much better I feel if I am getting regular exercise and I'm already feeling more energetic after just 3 classes. I am so happy that my swim buddies are just as excited about this program as I am. It's great motivation to have others expecting you to show up. They say that it's never too late and you're never too out of shape to do some kind of physical activity, you just have to find one that fits. As for me - I'll be in the pool if anyone wants to know.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Nutrition Helps

I just found a link on the Publix web site that has some very helpful things for folks with dietary issues. There are several shopping lists targeted to specific needs. Of course, I went right for the low-sodium list and it's a 20-page pdf file listing every grocery item Publix carries that is 140 mgs of sodium or less. I don't know about you but I can get in a real rut sometimes, cooking the same things over and over. A list like this one helps inspire me to change things up a bit. More fun for me and I think Mama appreciates the variety. There are also lists for low fat foods, foods that are 4 grams or lower in sugar, gluten-free foods and foods that are 100 calories or less per serving. That's a whole lot of ingredients for some culinary inspiration!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More adventures in cooking

Not all of my trials and efforts in the kitchen produce stellar results but the latest one sure turned out well. I was again cruising through the Manolo blogs (- not the one who makes the shoes but the one who really loves them) and found an intriguing recipe from Mr. Henry on the Manolo Food link for what turned out to be a very tasty potato salad. Mama and I love balsamic vinegar and I learned about white balsamic vinegar on that blog. White balsamic is sweeter and less acid than the regular kind and I am in love with the stuff. Following Mr. Henry's directions I chopped some onion (sweet vidalia for us, naturally) and poured a liberal amount of the vinegar on them and set that aside to let those onions soak it in. Then I peeled and sliced some red bliss potatoes and put them in a pot of water to boil. When they were done I drained them and put them in the bowl with the soaking onions while the potatoes were still hot. I added some chopped celery, dijon mustard and low-fat sour cream and a few shakes of black pepper. I mixed it all together and the result was one fine dish of very good potato salad that was very low in fat and sodium. We loved it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Keeping your guard up

As we age our immune systems age right along with us. That's why the medical folks always emphasize that older adults take care to do things that can help in the fight against viruses and bacteria, like getting flu shots and eating well. Our immune systems get worn down and the buggies that most people just shrug off can be devastating or downright deadly for an older person. Here is a site from the US FDA with information that can help you keep food borne illness out of your kitchen. There's even a special section, Food Safety for Seniors on how to shop, cook and store food safely. Let's be careful out there this summer.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Having had quite a lot of experience being a tour manager with groups of older adults I know how difficult it can be for folks with disabilities and mobility issues. It's hard enough to navigate airports, tour buses and tourist locations when you have all of your physical abilities in good working order. For the older person or any person with physical limitations it can be frustrating at the least and oftentimes just plain impossible. Recently I was perusing the AARP web site where I ran across an excellent article about resources for travel specifically targeted toward those with limited and/or assisted mobility. You can check some of them out here, and here, and here. There is even an organization, the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, that has a wealth of information on all aspects of disability-friendly travel. Don't let mobility issues keep you from exploring this great wide world of ours, get out there and have a ball!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Everybody has days when they just can't figure out what to cook (unless you're Paula Deen or Martha Stewart) and need some extra inspiration. This is especially true when you have to provide low sodium meals but our good friend, Mrs. Dash has over 170 recipes from Appetizer Meatballs to Zucchini casserole. God bless her. Some of them look really good and I'm sure I'll be adding more than a few of them to my culinary bag of tricks. Follow the link above and get some inspiration of your own.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

More great information on low-sodium cooking

I ran across this site for congestive heart failure patients when I was looking for new recipes. This one has some good ones and a whole lot more in the way of information. Check out the link to the basic tips page, it has very useful tips and things to stir your creative cooking thoughts.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

For the Spouse

It's included in the wedding vows, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health... and it very often happens that one spouse will end up being the primary caregiver for the other who has a chronic illness or disability. These spouses need support and encouragement by the truckload but they don't always get it. Here is a site where they can find information and support targeted directly for them and their common issues, the Well Spouse Association. Although they do not have a support group in my area, they do have many across the country and in Canada. But the web site itself has some very helpful information and they have a newsletter for their members as well. Here is a sample newsletter they have available to download. Go take a look around, if you don't need the information for yourself at present, you may have a friend who does. Pass it on. And then offer to do something nice for them. They deserve it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


According to social analysts, Northeast Florida's senior population is expected to grow by 66 percent in the next fifteen years. This population boom will bring with it exciting opportunities, but also challenges with regard to the increased demand for services. - United Way of NE Florida.

I read this recently on my local United Way web site. The ramifications of this growth spurt in the older adult community are going to be huge, especially for the family caregiver. The resources available today are limited as it is. There are waiting lists for long term care diversion programs, for beds in LTC facilities, Meals on Wheels, you name it. The time to start addressing this is now (or yesterday?) and I'm happy to find that the United Way is addressing the issue with a program called Life - Act 2, a council made up of corporate, private and public entities that fund senior service programs. The council has established three goals to begin addressing the issue:

  1. To elicit a culture shift in the way the Northeast Florida community views and values seniors.
  2. To integrate medical admission and discharge processes with our community's social service system.
  3. To strengthen the continuum of services available to our community's seniors.
Some of the accomplishments of the council since it was established in April of 2002 are:
  • The number of frail seniors on a waiting list for home delivered meals has been cut in half
  • Over $1 million new dollars have been leveraged to invest in senior services
  • Over $200,000 have been invested in community intergenerational activities
  • Over $50,000 have been invested to create or expand 10 neighborhood projects designed to engage seniors in meaningful community activities
It's a good start but it's going to take dedication and effort from public, private and corporate entities as well as faith communities working together to find solutions. I get really bugged by the way every little thing is portrayed as a crisis by politicians and the media, but I'm afraid that this lack of programs and services to help folks care for their aging loved ones might actually become a real crisis.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ha ha ha ha ha....

My dear sister Mary finally solved the mystery of why ads for breastfeeding kept coming up on this site. What in the world, we wondered, did breastfeeding have to do with aging parents? It was a puzzlement. Then she figured it out.... feeding mama... the ads are targeted toward the name of the blog rather than the content. Oh well. That makes sense now.

Workin' for a Living

Just as working parents face a continuous juggling act trying to maintain a family while working full time jobs, working adult children who provide care for their aging parents must work at keeping it all in balance. Or trying to at any rate. Here is a site that will help those folks with suggestions and referrals to help them keep it all together. Bravo to the creators of a very much needed place for them to find what they need.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Is this bad or is this good?

While shopping for groceries this week I discovered that Lays has a new line of chips advertised as Pinch of Salt, A Low Sodium Choice. I bought the Frito's and one serving (about 34 chips) has 160 calories and only 75 mg sodium. Now I can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand it's wonderful that food manufacturers are finally getting on board with the whole sodium level thing, I mean my goodness, the sodium content in processed food is insanely high. I'm glad they recognize the need to do something about it. But. On the other hand, once you've gotten processed food out of your diet, is it a good idea to add it back in just because there's less salt? Yes, they have zero trans fats and truly low sodium. But they're still Frito's. It's a quandry.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Information Motherlode

I found out about this site that is absolutely chock full o' great information for older adults and those who care for them. The downside is that it's specifically targeted for Florida residents but there's still a lot of mighty good information for seniors in general. Check it out, you may find just what you're looking for.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Comfort food

One of my favorite things is a good old-fashioned tuna fish sandwich but it has to have celery, onions and dill pickles chopped up in it or it's just not right in my opinion. My mom likes it that way too but there is way too much sodium for her in pickles, especially those of the dill variety. Unless I want to make two different versions we get no pickles in our tuna fish. But McCormick spices has a blend called "It's a dilly" made with dill weed, dill seed, onion, garlic, lemon peel and jalapeño peppers. It works great in tuna salad, giving it a good dill flavor and you still get the crunch from the celery and onion. Add some chopped egg and mayo and there's some good tuna salad. It's very good on sauteed fish too.

Now you may like something completely different in your tuna salad but the point is that you don't always have to give up everything you like when you have dietary issues. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity and taking the time to read labels in the grocery store.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Drug Run Frustration

So... Mom has a chest cold. When she started coughing up phlegm in various hues of doom she calls Dr. G. her awesome internist who calls in some antibiotics. Seems like a reasonable response. A little while later I hit the drive-thru at the drugstore of the national chain variety to pick up the drugs. Mom is on auto-pay at this store so it should be a quick and painless exchange. But no. The clerk goes to fetch the prescription and comes back with the news that the pharmacist wants to know if Mom is taking her Warfarin. Well, yes she is and I tell her that the doctor wants her to take the antibiotic anyhow. Clerk goes back to the pharmacist and returns saying the pharmacist is asking if the doc knows she is on Warfarin? Well, again, yes. He knows. Just give me the prescription for the love of Pete. And reluctantly they did finally send it out after a few more rounds of intermediated conversation.

The reason I found all this so frustrating is because we have been here before. Just a few months ago we were in the same situation. Mom has chest congestion, coughing up the telltale colors of phlegm that are a sign of infection. Just like this time, the doctor is called and the prescription is called in. When I get there, the pharmacy refuses to give it to me. Apparently her blood thinning medication is contra-indicated with the antibiotic. So I ask the pharmacist what our other options are and he suggested an over the counter decongestant. Long story short, that made her worse and she ended up in the ER with CHF and pneumonia. I discussed the issue I had had with the pharmacy with her doctor who told me there are NO antibiotics that aren't contra-indicated with blood thinners. Gah.

At least this time I knew enough to stand my ground with the pharmacy, got the antibiotics and my mom is on the mend. Like they say on those public-service ads on TV, the more you know...

Friday, May 16, 2008


No, I didn't just make up a new word. Visitability, or visit-ability is a concept that promotes access to the elderly and disabled in residential housing. They make the excellent point that new construction should bear in mind how a person with limited mobility might find it difficult or even impossible to enter a home. They stress accessible design not only for the homeowner in their present state of physical health but also for visitors who have mobility issues as well as looking to the future for the homeowner. Just because a person is fine now doesn't mean they always will be and forward-thinking home design may just be the thing that allows a person to age in place and avoid having to leave a home they love due to mobility issues. It's a lot easier to design a home to be accessible from the start than to have to try to retro-fit it as that becomes necessary.

Visitability is more than simply installing a few grab bars and no-skid flooring. Can a friend's wheelchair fit through the front door much less the bathroom door? Could your mother-in-law take a bath or shower while she visits? These are the types of issues you will find on this website. Very interesting stuff.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Be prepared!

June is not far away. I can always tell because hurricane season starts in June and our local weather folk start talking about what they expect this season to be like and about being prepared. The Red Cross is the go-to agency for information on disaster preparedness. You should also contact your city for the location of senior-friendly shelters in case you ever have to evacuate. Your city may also have a service you can register for to provide you with evacuation assistance in the event of a disaster.

For the Red Cross chapter closest to you or someone you care about, visit

For the Red Cross preparedness information, visit

Here, you will find links to the following topics:

Food and Water in an Emergency
Shelter-in-Place in an Emergency
Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes
Family Disaster Planning
Preparing for Disaster
Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Other
Special Needs
Animal Safety
Emergency Preparedness Kit

So, like the boy scouts always say, be prepared! It's better to have the information already in hand than to try to scramble to find it in the midst of an emergency.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Barley Salad Redux

I made this salad the other day after I posted the link to it and it was surprisingly delicious. Seriously, I almost lived on it for a couple of days that's how much I liked it. Barley and vegetables and rice wine vinegar - chock full 'o fiber, very low in calories and sodium and my mom liked it a lot as well. I'll probably make some more tomorrow.

Anyhoo... for those of you who need more details in a recipe than you got from the previous link I'll tell you how I made mine. But the beauty of this recipe is that you can use whatever you want in the way of veggies and have it as a vegetarian meal or a side dish, or add some form of protein to make a complete meal.

Betsy's version:

Cook 1 cup of barley according to package directions (one cup dry makes over 3 cups cooked). Let it cool while you chop the veggies. I used carrots, cucumber, summer squash, tomatoes and edamame. Mix the vegetables with the cooled barley. Add 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 packets of Splenda, black pepper, basil and tarragon. Mix well and chill. Enjoy!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Keepin the Faith

I belong to a small local clergy group made up of folks who minister to older adults and we had an event yesterday on Spirituality and Aging with a wonderful priest friend of mine as the speaker. There are opportunities galore for older folks for health screening and information opportunities, seems like everybody and his brother has a health fair at some point. Likewise for recreation opportunities - churches have senior group meetings, go on trips and such and our city has a huge senior program with centers in most communities that are open all day five days a week for classes, games and things. Our community college and our state university have programs for continuing education for senior adults. But there are very few opportunities for spiritual growth specifically for older adults despite the fact that for many, it becomes the most important aspect of their lives. As our physical capacities wane with the passage of time our spiritual lives can stretch and grow, increasing in significance and helping us make sense of our lives. We come to realize the truth that our spiritual lives are, in fact, the most important aspect of our lives and pursuits that enhance and promote our personal spiritual selves are most helpful.

Having said all that, it was a great morning. Father T. was entertaining, inspiring and brought a powerful message about finding purpose and encouragement through our faith practices. I hope we provided something special and spiritually nourishing for the folks who came.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Recipe to try

I found this recipe for Twistie's Barley Salad of Mystery over at the Manolo blogs. It's just my kind of recipe - the free for all, add what you like, leave out what you don't kind. I've never had barley in anything other than beef barley soup but I'm going to give this one a try, leaving out the salt of course.

We get by with a little help

I just ran across a site that could really come in handy for a lot of folks called
It's not fancy but it has product information on hundreds of items designed to help folks who have trouble with some of the activities of daily living. There are links for everything from carrying bags to wheelchair ramps to devices that help fasten buttons. Often times the only thing keeping someone from living at home is an inability to do some things unassisted that could be corrected with the appropriate device(s). If someone you love has difficulty with tasks they used to be able to do, check out this site and you may find just what they need to help them retain some independence.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday dinner winner

I'm really happy to find that more and more products in the grocery store are available with really reduced sodium. For example, Mrs. Dash now makes four or five really tasty marinades. I marinated some shrimp kebobs in the garlic and lime flavor today and they turned out great. I also used a new frozen product, can't remember which brand but one like Bird's Eye. It had white rice with lots of peas, corn and carrots in a microwave steamable bag all with virtually no sodium. I made a sauce with fresh pineapple chunks and brown sugar and a little bit of lower-sodium teriaki sauce to go over the rice & veggies and served it with the shrimp. It was mighty tasty and there were no leftovers! Well, there was a little of the tossed salad left but all the rest got eaten up by Mother, my elder son and daughter-in-law and myself. It was quick and easy for after church and we all enjoyed a nice meal together. Good food, good company and good conversation, things that make life pleasant.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A little self-promotion

Caregivers have to do all they can to take good care of themselves. You can't let your reserves get depleted. In fact, most everyone should consider making some positive choices in regard to things like diet, nutrition and exercise. Our fast-paced lifestyles very often can keep us from eating well and can benefit from adding a good supplement to their diet. Here's a site that has not only quality vitamins, minerals and other supplements but also protein bars and drinks, meal replacements and other great stuff to make it easier to get all the fuel your body needs to work at optimum capacity.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is a personal website of mine and I do benefit from a portion of its sales. If I didn't believe in the quality and value of these products I would not associate my name or this blog to them. I use these products myself every day. And a girl has got to do what she can to pay the bills and keep the home fires burning so I truly appreciate the support.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Twinkle Toes

I saw a segment of the NBC network news tonight about a recent medical discovery. Apparently, dancing can overcome, if only temporarily, the effects of Parkinson's disease. It was a very sweet portrayal of older couples dancing and interviews with some of them who had experienced relief of their Parkinson's symptoms after having danced. The researchers aren't certain whether the brain activity during the act of dancing somehow short circuits the Parkinson's signals or if it has more to do with endorphins produced by the act of dancing but there will be further study on the issue. Fascinating stuff. I'll be interested to see where it leads.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Teach your children well

I just read in the book Eldercare for Dummies that 80 - 90 percent of help provided to the more than 10 million older folks who require some level of assistance is provided by family members. Even though spouses are usually the first primary caregiver, adult children (mostly daughters or daughters-in-law) will shoulder more and more of the caregiving duties as both parents age and/or become overwhelmed.

I have joked that by helping to keep my own mother at home I am setting the example for my sons (and their wives) of how these things are done. Even though they joke about putting me in a $2 a day home at the first sign of trouble I am sure that my kids will do whatever they can to ensure that I'm well cared for if and when I lose the capacity to care for myself 24/7. I am particularly fortunate because both of my sons had the good sense and good fortune to marry awesome wives that I just love and who love me back. In any case, it's a good idea to be nice to your children, like the bumper sticker says because they will one day be choosing your nursing home!

Friday, April 25, 2008

The magic button

There has been a trend over the years to help seniors remain in their homes rather than placing them in long term care facilities. Generally speaking it's better for an older adult to remain at home for as long as possible and there are several long term care diversion programs that provide services in the home. Sometimes it only takes one or two changes or adjustments that you can arrange yourself to make that happen. In my opinion, a personal emergency response system is invaluable for prolonging independence for the older person. There are several companies who provide them and, as with anything else, you will want to investigate all the options. We have had a Lifeline system for my mother for several years and I can tell you it has really helped give my mother and me a great sense of confidence that should something happen in my absence she only has to press the button on the pendant she wears to call for help.

We are fortunate that Mother is still able to manage quite well on her own for short periods of time but if we didn't have the "button" I would not be nearly as comfortable going out to do some shopping, going out to dinner with friends or keeping my Friday night date with my grandson. Mother has a cell phone but she doesn't keep it on all the time and if she were to fall may not be able to reach it or turn it on. But just a push of the button on her pendant alerts the folks at Lifeline and they are on the speaker with her in minutes. If she were unable to respond they would begin calling for assistance immediately and they would also notify me as well as our neighbor.

Before making a decision to move to a long term care facility be sure to investigate ways to enable your elder to remain at home. It might just take something as simple as some grab bars in the tub, advance meal preparation, or a personal emergency response system.