Cooking, eating, grocery shopping.

Nov 292010

Teddy Roosevelt had it right. He said “speak softly and carry a big stick”. Well, I speak softly (due to weak muscles caused by IBM) and I carry several big sticks to compensate for my weak hands and fingers.

In an earlier post I showed a simple hook for opening drawers and lifting soft drink cartons. My next most used tool is a ” hook on a stick”. It also takes advantage of muscles I still have to overcome the loss of others.

An all purpose stick made from a dowel and hardware store hooks.

An all purpose stick made from a dowel and hardware store hooks.

Here are some of the ways I used it yesterday:

Guide my shorts over my feet and up to my knees.

Pick up the towel I dropped outside the shower.

Push dirty clothes into the washer.

Pull clean clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer.

Pull dry clothes out of the dryer.

Pull open the bottom drawer of my dresser. (Lift out a pair of underwear and a pair of shorts.)

Open the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

Pull out a pan from the cupboard.

Push open the lid of the trash can.

Pull the trash receptacle out from the wall.

Pick up a 12 pack of Cokes.

Rearrange items on the shelves of my studio.

Pull the front door closed.

Release the parking brake on my van.

Engage the parking brake on my van.

Besides pulling on pants, my stick is great for closing doors.

Besides pulling on pants, my stick is great for closing doors.

Obviously a tool this valuable can’t be limited to just one. I have nearly a dozen of them throughout the house and in my van. Fortunately they are quick and inexpensive to build:

A dowel and 2 hooks.

You can make a valuable stick with just a few dollars in materials.

Materials: A dowel (3/4 to 1 inch), and two hooks.

Cut the dowel to the desired length.

A dowel with a pilot hole slightly smaller than the hook threads.

Drill a pilot hole slightly smaller than the hook threads.

Drill a hole at each end.

Screw in the hooks. Even in my weakened condition, it takes less than half an hour, and saves a lifetime of aggravation.

A dowel with a hook screwed into the end.

Tighten the hooks in each end of the dowel.

Oct 282010

OneTouch Can Opener on top of a can.

I used the OneTouch® Can Opener on my favorite soup - albondigas.

Preface: The day after I posted this, my can opener really jammed. I’ve seen other reviews about this problem, but I chalked them up to operator error. Now I’m not so sure. I still like the product, and it’s opened dozens of cans for me, but my endorsement is no longer so glowing.
If you have weak hands and fingers, you may have shared my frustration with can openers. The ones that sit on the counter have a major flaw: they expect you to hold up the can with one hand while you press down a lever with the other. Unless I was opening a 6 ounce can of tomato paste, I found that an impossible assignment. So when I found the OneTouch® can opener on Amazon I just had to share it with everyone. I have included a video, because it is almost impossible to describe in a believable fashion how easy it is to use this device. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that once or twice it seemed to grab hold of a can and not want to let go even after it was through cutting. But after a little fussing with it, I managed to persuade it to let go.

Sep 262010

Make some accessible lemonade!

Mike picks lemons using a basket picker

Picking lemons from a wheelchair takes a long reach.

When disability forced us to leave our condo and buy a single story home in a “seniors” neighborhood, it came with a large lemon tree in the back yard. Now we all know that famous cliché that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However, when you’re in a wheelchair, it’s not that simple. You need tools! To begin with the lemons are 10 to 20 feet overhead, far out of my reach. Fortunately, our gardener recommended that we purchase a basket style picker with a long, extendable, handle. I have used it for the last four years, but this past season I have found it difficult to reach high in the tree because my arms and shoulders are too weak. So that means I needed something else: a good neighbor. We are very fortunate to have a couple next door who will drop whatever they’re doing if they see I need help. Good thing, because the rest of this article wouldn’t have been written. (Not enough lemons.)

The next thing you need is a way of cutting the lemons in half so they can be juiced. I don’t know of any miracle devices, but I do know that a very sharp knife is much safer than a dull one. It is also good to have a handle that won’t slip in your hand when you have weak fingers or a weak grip. For me, the answer has been the Professional series of Good Grips Chef Knives. The one I used was a 6 inch model. It cost more than the regular Good Grips knives, but it holds an edge far longer and can be sharpened to a keen edge. (Use a steel, not a “sharpener.”)

Finally, there is the really hard work of juicing lemons and then stirring them together with sugar and water and ice. Once again, technology comes to the rescue.

Presto lemonade maker

An all-in-one lemonade maker.

Our Presto all-in-one lemonade maker takes much of the work out of the process. I just put water ice and sugar into the pitcher. Set the mechanism on top, apply the lemon and the juice goes into the water below. At the same time, a paddle extends to the bottom of the container and spins. By the time you have juiced all the lemons, the lemonade is ready. Unfortunately, I coldn’t locate this model at Amazon (internet shopping is another energy saver for the disabled) but they sell a similar product – the Salton Lemonader.
A big pitcher of lemonade.

Accessible lemonade - tastes great, less stirring!

Here you see the results. I had to take the picture quickly because I drank three glasses of lemonade immediately afterward. Delicious!

Sep 182010

From time to time, I will review products that I have personally found to be useful. A long-time aggravation for me has been trying to open jars. When you have no grip strength, mechanical clamp style gadgets don’t provide much help. On the other hand, I have been skeptical of so-called “miracle” products that you see advertised on television.

But this one, the “One-Touch Jar Opener” was just too tempting not to try it. I ordered mine from Amazon and was very happy to find that it was a well-built and powerful item. I have watched it open dozens of containers over the past few months – everything from pickles and olives with very wide mouths, to small cap items such as liquor bottles (for medicinal purposes only of course). The instructions say that you should not use it on plastic bottles, but I have opened many a juice container made of plastic with no problem whatsoever. Since it is battery powered, it requires only enough strength to place it on top of the container. You press the button for a couple of seconds to get it started and then let go and it does the rest on its own.

I’ve provided a link here if you want to check out the item on Amazon.

Sep 072010

Welcome to Life! (disabled). And note the emphasis. Despite having a difficult disabling illness, I still find a lot of pleasure in living. Much of that pleasure stems from finding – and sharing – new ways to cope as my illness progresses. In this blog I will share some of the things Inclusion Body Myositis has taught me. I am not a medical professional, so please regard this information as personal observations and not medical opinion.