Bella Rum

Life on the Pasture

Category: Videos

The Fall, Scarborough, Kushner

Petunias Go Before A Fall

I put some pots of flowers on the front steps this year. The front of the house has a southern exposure (you can tell by the over exposed photo below), so I have to water them every day. There’s a railing on both sides. When going up and down the steps, I keep my hand on the one not visible in the photo. There are no obstacles.

Photo taken a while ago, before they all started blooming.

Earlier this week, H came out while I was watering. When I turned to come back up the steps, he took my hand. I got to the top step, and we dropped hands. He started for the curb to get the garbage can and recycle bin. I started into the house. I thought I was on the landing, but I was still on the top step. Should’a looked down. I took a nose dive onto the landing. It felt as hard as brick… um… that would be because it is brick… all brick. I only abraded the pads of my hands, bruised my left elbow and scraped both knees. Brick is very unforgiving, but I escaped practically unscathed. It was not lost on me that I’m always worried about H falling off a ladder. It appears that I should worry ’bout myself.

Trump Makes Strange Bedfellows 

Joe Scarborough, co-host of Morning Joe, served in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001 as a Republican. Tuesday night, on Stephen Colbert, he announced that he’s changing his party affiliation from Republican to Independent. So he’s in the same club as Bernie Sanders now. I can’t put my finger on it, but I know there’s a joke here.

Short-Term Memory Loss

It’s hard to imagine that a 36-year-old man forgets a meeting with an attractive Russian-based lawyer, which happens to take place only a few weeks before he is required to disclose said meeting on a government disclosure form that explains at the top of the page that less than full disclosure is a felony, punishable up to five years. (I wonder what the punishment is for a run-on sentence)

Now, if he was older, I could sympathize with Kushner. I’m sure I’d give some vague answers if I had to list several people I met at a Pampered Chef party two weeks ago: there was the one with the great pixie cut, the tall girl with the cute shoes, the woman with one green eye and one blue (I worked with that woman at Aetna). These days, I would probably remember two out of three, maybe three out of four on a super, good day. But if I was 36, and if I knew that failing to disclose a meeting was a felony, I think I could conjure up a meeting I had a few weeks prior, or, here’s a thought, get the information from my brother-in-law. Hey, Jr., shoot me an email with the name of that hot Russian lawyer, would ja?

Kushner has now added over 100 foreign contacts to his disclosure list. I’ll have some of what he’s taking for memory enhancement.

I just realized I still remember seven out of ten of the items on my short-term memory test that I took over six years ago when applying for long-term care insurance: glass, mother, paper, captain, silver, rope, orange. There should be a trophy for that.

Weather Report

Hot as Hell



Merry Christmas

100_2138It’s 4:00 a.m. and the rain is steadily falling. The unseasonal thunder we had last night abated, but the rainfall continued through the night, and will probably continue through today. I am in here where it is warm and dry, and I feel lucky.

I hope this Christmas finds you filled with love and good cheer. I wish you happiness and peace and calorie-laden meals that result in no excess fat around your waist, thighs or buttocks.

Seriously, though…

I hope you can let your heart be merry this holiday. Release it from any woes it may have. That is my fervent wish for you. Merry Christmas to us all, and pass the gravy.


Coq Au Vin

IMG_9123Jeanie gave me Ina Garten’s recipe for coq au vin. First of all, it has a lot of ingredients, but don’t despair, they are all normal things that you can readily find at the market, except for the cognac. I can already hear some of you saying, “Too much work!” H took one look at the recipe and said, “Let’s make it.” I was like, “Look at all those ingredients. And there’s chopping and cutting up of chicken and top-of-stove cooking and in-the-oven cooking and then top-of-stove cooking again!” “Wuss.”

I still have a wick, but it burns quickly, and it’s barely ignitable at night. So we did all the prep in the morning. We washed and pared the veggies, fried the bacon and even browned the chicken.

I bought a whole chicken and cut it into pieces, which was kind of fun. I hadn’t done that for awhile. Back in the day, I used to always buy the whole chicken. It was cheaper. Do you remember how cheap it was?  46¢ a pound. I looked that up, but I swear I remember getting them for 39¢ a pound and even cheaper. You could feed a family of four for less than $2.00 and even less than that when on sale. We’ll never see that again. My mother and H’s used to fry chicken every Sunday. I guess that’s Southern. Neither of them would ever have bought one that was already cut up. At some point, I must have fancied that we were rich, and started buying them already cut up – never looked back.

All that was left to do last night was add the liquids, bring it to a simmer and put it in the oven. When it was done, we added the remaining vegetables and the beurre manié (a simple and quick thickener made of butter and flour blended together), and let it simmer for ten minutes. Easy peasy.

The Verdict

It was worth the prep work. Really delicious. Will I make it again? Definitely! But I’ll do it the same way – all the prep in the morning.  Last night was a breeze. I served it with small red potatoes. I like Jeanie’s idea better, a loaf of good bread and a salad. I give it four stars. It would be five if I could do it in ten minutes. 🙂 So good. Thanks Jeanie.

Yes, I saved the back and neck for stock. Between FoodNetwork and Martha, I’m becoming my mother. I found this tutorial this morning for anyone who has never cut up a chicken and wants to give it a try. It isn’t difficult. Really.

Edit: Oops, I forgot. I omitted the olive oil and only ate one piece of chicken.

Scottish Independence

I’m always late to the party, but I’m posting this anyway because it’s witty and informative. Anytime I can find both of those qualities, I’m in. I found it over at As Time Goes By.

how to peel a head of garlic in less than 10 seconds

You gotta see this.

I Owe My Soul To The Company Store

I have a swell post for you – Owned at Harper Faulkner. If I didn’t know better, I’d think Dad wrote it.

If you see this guy in your neighborhood…


He may look innocent enough, but don’t be deceived. We’ve barely survived a biblical-like infestation of cankerworms (inchworm), but how many of our poor trees will survive? These innocent-looking creatures have defoliated (at least partially) trees for miles around. I don’t believe a single deciduous tree in our area has gone unscathed. When you stand back and look at the trees of the neighborhood, you can see the damage. Some of the younger tress have been completely defoliated, but the larger ones have not escaped entirely.

Cankerworms are extremely destructive and can completely strip a tree in a day or two. I didn’t do any research for this fact. I looked no further than my backyard. They completely stripped two of our maples in less than twenty-four hours, and did untold damage in the woods at the back of our yard. It happened while H was recuperating from the surgery. He couldn’t spray them. He could never have sprayed all the trees in the back anyway, but he’s convinced they mocked him as they chewed away with no inhibitions. This, of course, was only in his mind. I think.

They are remarkable eating machines, neatly packaged in about an inch of greenness. They swing from slender threads like daring trapeze artists. Their sole purpose in life is to voraciously defoliate as many deciduous trees as possible in their lifetime. They’re in a hurry.

When we tried to enter our garage one day, a chorus line of them danced in the air as they dangled on threads all the way across the garage door. They covered the house, deck, porch and driveway. You could not walk near or under any tree without becoming entangled in their strings. You’ve probably had the same problem where you live.

I remember standing in front of our half-finished house when I was eleven-years-old. My mother spied an inchworm making his way around the ample waistline of our contractor. She liked the man very much.  Dad did not. I knew this because she always said, “He’s such a nice man.” And Dad would reply, “He has to be nice, he’s stealing our money.” When she noticed the inchworm, she told the contractor, “He’s measuring you for a new suit.” Dad grumbled, “Or coffin.”

My poor trees. Will they survive? Most will refoliate, but defoliation stresses the tree. I’m concerned about two trees that were completely stripped. We haven’t seen any signs of new growth yet.

I guess we can look forward to an abundance of moths.

This is a fall cankerworm chomping away.

More info here and here.

the last to know…

Now you know how uncool we are. We must be the only people on the planet who own a television and haven’t watched Mad Men. I’ve heard all the chatter about it over the past four years, but we never watched it. After listening to someone rave about it for the umpteenth time, I finally set the DVR to catch it. The first season is running back-to-back episodes now. Since H can’t do anything but lay around, we decided to see what all the fuss is about.

Of course, you already know that Mad Men are high-powered advertising executives. The rest of the cast is fleshed out with fetching secretaries and repressed wives. They recreate a fairly believable version of the sixties and all its social woes and inequities.

I must mention the smoking first. Holy cow! Everyone smokes. All the time. Even the women. I find this interesting because my mother NEVER smoked in public, and she wasn’t what I’d call a “real” smoker. In fact, I’ve seen very few people who smoked the way she did. My father hated smoking (probably because it was her vice and not his) so she didn’t smoke until he went to work. Isn’t that so mid-century? He worked the night shift and she smoked  one cigarette after he left the house. That was it. He knew she smoked. She just didn’t do it around him because he didn’t like it.

She also smoked around friends who smoked, but only when they were actually smoking. It was clearly a social thing for her, and there was no addiction, or – and this is the first time I’ve ever thought of this – maybe it was a passive aggressive way of pricking Dad. Why does that make me smile? I guess because, like many men in the fifties and sixties, he was “The Man” of the house. Golly, this is a revelation as I’m writing it.

Mad Men smoke all the time and talk about cancer as they’re doing it. Of course, “the studies” are new and inconclusive and they choose to whistle past the graveyard. After all, Lucky Strike is one of their biggest clients. They drink, too. At work. Don Draper has a fully stocked bar in his office. I’d have to take a nap.

A child of the fifties and teen of the sixties, I’m intrigued by the sets and wardrobe and hair styles. Even the ring tones of the phones sound exactly as they did back then. I haven’t heard that exact sound since the sixties. Divorce is a rare animal and a pretty divorcée who moves in down the block is looked at with curiosity and wariness. And the way the kids are treated? One guy slapped a child who didn’t belong to him. Oh, my. The wives are repressed and the men are sleeping with the “girls” at the office who hope to snag a catch and are devastated when plans go awry. Pass the Valium, please.

Apparently they didn’t know about suffocation by plastic bags yet.  My favorite scene in the first season is when little Sally and her friend are playing spaceman.

David Beckham Goes Undercover on Ellen

If I only had a brain…

Image: Mark du to it

It’s that time of year again. I had my annual physical on Monday. I can’t believe a year has passed since I learned that I have A-Fib.

You’re not going to believe what they made me do …. again! As soon as the nurse closed the door to the examining room, she asked me how old I was. I told her 61, and that’s when she informed me that I would be taking a Mini-Cog test in a few minutes. Yes, cog stands for cognition. A short-term memory test is standard procedure (at least in my doctor’s practice) for patients over 60. H’s doctor has never mentioned a short-term memory test of any kind.

Is there no end to this? Only a few months ago, during the process of applying for long-term care insurance, I was forced to take a ridiculously lengthy and exhaustive version of a cognitive test, not a Mini-Cog but the BIG DOG version of cog tests. You might say the English Mastiff version of cog tests. It took about twenty miserable minutes. I had to solve math problems without benefit of pencil and paper and answer all kinds of questions. I had a major mini anxiety attack during the process. Remember?

Yesterday’s Mini-Cog did not compare. It turned out to be as simple as eating French apple pie á la mode, but how was I suppose to know that? So I just had myself another panic attack. What is that all about?

When faced with one of these tests, I can’t seem to manage my anxiety. When the nurse took my blood pressure, her eyes widened and she asked, “Did you forget to take your medication.”

My blood pressure was a whopping 210/100! I was in the throes of a monster panic attack. How ridiculous is that?

I believe this is all rooted in the fact that atrial fibrillation can increase the risk of dementia. I know what they’re looking for, and I suddenly feel pressured to perform – performance anxiety. And no matter the size of the audience, I do love to please.

The nurse was very sweet, unlike the robot-like nurse from the LTC insurance company.

Nurse ~ I’m going to say the names of three unrelated objects. I want you to repeat each one and try to remember them.

Bella ~ *wide eyed* Okay.

Nurse ~ Watch

Bella ~ Watch

Nurse ~ Apple

Bella ~ Apple

Nurse ~ Penny

Bella ~ Penny

Bella ~ imagines an APPLE sitting on her kitchen table WATCHing a PENNY doing back flips… and tells herself to remember that scary (Stephen-King-type) apple watching that acrobatic penny

As you can see, they are unrelated objects, but it’s easier to remember them later if you make them relate to one another. Is there something a little sick about teaching people how to cheat on a test for dementia? What ever happened to the days when getting a cute boy to do your algebra homework constituted cheating? Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Nurse hands me a sheet of paper with an empty circle on it.

Nurse ~ Draw the numbers in this circle exactly as they appear on the face of a clock, and draw the hands so the clock is at 10:45.

Bella ~ 10:45 ?

Nurse ~ Yes.

Bella ~ That’s easy. I’ll just look at my watch.

Nurse ~ …..

Bella ~ Okay. I won’t.

Yes, I know it was simple! But after I gave her my rendering, I sat there obsessing about whether I made the clock look more like 9:45 than 10:45. You know the difference. The big hand is in the same place, but the small hand should be between the 10 and 11 at 10:45. What seemed like a child’s exercise suddenly carried some weight.




The way mine should have appeared.


The way mine actually appeared.

I drew the long hand perfectly, but the small (hour) hand pointed almost directly at the 10 – at the top side of the ten… but still… it should have been precisely in the middle of the 10 and 11. Oh, and I forgot to put a smile on mine. *SIGH*

Forget Alzheimer’s. They should have tested me for OCD. H said he was surprised I didn’t ask for a fresh sheet of paper to start over.

Yes, I obsess about perfection (big surprise). Which is why I felt like buying a package of brand new number twos with fresh erasers when the doctor told me I’d passed with flying colors. I recalled all three words and they liked my clock! *I* was the only one who realized my clock wasn’t perfect. What is wrong with these people? Are there no standards left?

Instructions for the Mini-Cog Test

The Mini-Cog test (video to follow) is a 3-minute instrument to screen for cognitive impairment in older adults in the primary care setting. The Mini-Cog uses a three-item recall test for memory and a simply scored clock-drawing test (CDT). The latter serves as an “informative distractor,” helping to clarify scores when the memory recall score is intermediate.

The Mini-Cog was as effective as or better than established screening tests in both an epidemiologic survey in a mainstream sample and a multi-ethnic, multilingual population comprising many individuals of low socioeconomic status and education level. In comparative tests, the Mini-Cog was at least twice as fast as the Mini-Mental State Examination. The Mini-Cog is less affected by subject ethnicity, language, and education, and can detect a variety of different dementias. Moreover, the Mini-Cog detects many people with mild cognitive impairment (cognitive impairment too mild to meet diagnostic criteria for dementia).


1 point for each recalled word

Score clock drawing as Normal (the patient places the correct time and the clock
appears grossly normal) or Abnormal

Score based on number of words remembered

0 Positive for cognitive impairment
1-2 Abnormal CDT then positive for cognitive impairment
1-2 Normal CDT then negative for cognitive impairment
3 Negative screen for dementia (no need to score CDT – clock drawing)

The CDT – Clock Drawing Test

There are a number of scoring systems for this test. The Alzheimer’s disease cooperative scoring system is based on a score of five points.
1 point for the clock circle (That’s if you’re asked to draw the circle. My paper already had the circle on it.)
1 point for all the numbers being in the correct order
1 point for the numbers being in the proper special order
1 point for the two hands of the clock
1 point for the correct time.

A normal score is four or five points.


I just realized that I’ve mentioned Alzheimer’s and dementia several times over the past few months. All kidding aside, I guess it’s a little scary to me now. I know that I’m fine, but I feel a little vulnerable every time a professional wants to test me (this is the third time). It may be unwarranted, but it feels kind of like the reins could drop at any minute and I would no longer be the one in control. Who would? Oh, crap. I can’t give H the keys to the farm. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll write about it again because it will be on my mind – as long as I have one.

Here’s a video of the Mini-Cog being administered.