Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Have To Show You This

We have lots of friends we exchange Christmas gifts with, but we have some special friends who are always First Priority when thinking of cool gifts to make, and it's really the excitement of coming up with great gift ideas and the excitement of giving them to our friends that really makes Christmas for us--and I am sure for them.  I have to show you one of the things they made for us this year:
It's a calendar!  And of course it features Theo, my little sidekick, "helping" me--this time to block a lace shawl that was probably cat hair-free for 12 seconds after I finished it. 

They added pictures from our trip to Colorado:
 our cherry-picking excursion:
 and even canning!
The canning picture REALLY made me laugh, as we do refer to August-October as "canning season" around here.  (I think others call it "fall?")  I just thought that was SUCH a clever idea--sort of a memento of previous years to mark the new one.  And we get to enjoy it all year!!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


When you break the rubber band they gave you for physical therapy, you're probably ready for a little more resistance..............

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Day After........

Sometimes one has such a great Christmas that it is just too difficult to really describe.  Thanks to the back injury, I let the stressful things go.  The Christmas cards did not get out before  Christmas, but that's okay because I can still send them out after Christmas.  I didn't bake the cookies I always think I want to bake and never do, but we received better cookies than I could ever dream of making AND there were no dirty dishes to be cleaned. Some decorations I wanted to make didn't get done, but I'll get to them before the next time we use the music theme.  I didn't get parts of 2 gifts made, but they were gifts for the 2 least-grateful family members we have, and the gifts for the really NICE people did get made.  When I hosted the book club Christmas get-together in my pajamas, my friends understood because we've already been through marriages and divorces together, and we'll go through health problems together as we age.  The Christmas party, Christmas Eve party, and the Christmas night party probably weren't as elaborate as they might have been, but they were spectacular evenings.  When I couldn't drive, the Secret Santa carpool picked me up, and was WAY more entertaining than driving alone could ever be.  When I couldn't move to decorate, friends came around to help, and the house has never looked better AND every time I see the decorations it's a reminder of my friends and how much fun it was to decorate together.  When two back-to-back parties left me sore and in need of extra pain pills, Andy and I declared today the first annual Fleece Jammies day and had a quiet day of reading and knitting.  This might actually be one of the best Christmases I've ever had.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

Season's Greetings from Château Sutton-Goar!

In case--after the year of the cat in a cast, the year of the broken toe, the year of bronchitis, or the year of the pantry moths--you were beginning to think that the holiday season is a bit eventful here at the Château, I can only say, "Why break such a perfect record?" Thus we are enjoying the holidays here during the Year of the Injured Back.. And let me just say, being rescued from the floor of the bathroom clad in crossword puzzle pajamas by eight paramedics really kicks off the holidays nicely. Since they brought along the ambulance AND the firetruck, it actually was a lot like our own personal Macy's parade. What could be more "holiday" than that? We are happy to report that the patient and her dignity are recovering nicely.

Square Foot Gardening
This year we decided to try the square-foot gardening method instead of whatever one would call my regular "shove plants in anywhere" method. It really maximizes our limited garden space, which provided even MORE opportunities for me to lose the squash wars. I planted spaghetti squash and got zucchini. I planted patty-pan and got acorn. I planted yellow zucchini and actually GOT yellow zucchini, but a squadron of squash bugs arrived to remedy the situation immediately, lest I start to think I had successfully mastered something in the squash family. As if.

This spring, some good friends invited us to be part of a monthly music club. People sing, bring instruments, or both, and we have a really fun evening and occasionally perform at little "house concerts" held by members. Since so many people in the group are learning instruments, it has been the perfect time for Andy to learn the mandolin I gave him for his birthday about 4 years ago, and he has progressed so much that his flute/mandolin trio just played what might have been the world's fastest "Carol of the Bells" rendition ever. Everyone enjoyed the song so much that after the flutist was given oxygen, they played a slower version as an encore.

Year of Free Events
As we always enjoy new yearly challenges, this year we decided to explore the many free events Boise has to offer by attending something new each week. We attended films, art exhibits, clubs, lectures and book sales for several months, but finally had to desist when we became too busy.

Exploring Eastern Oregon
To celebrate Andy's birthday, my cousin Dustin joined us on a 4-day weekend exploration of Eastern Oregon. We caught the Walla Walla Onion Festival, Baker City's Miner's Jubilee, a street fair in Pendleton, a chainsaw carving contest in Milton-Freewater, enjoyed some fantastic museums as well as the old Union Hotel, though I think we'd all agree that the highlight of the trip was the Pendleton Underground Tour and the ability to spend the night at the old brothel the Tour runs as a hotel. Andy still enjoys telling everyone that his wife booked him a night in a brothel for his birthday. When he's feeling a bit less mischievous, he includes the part about it no longer being in operation.
This year I have learned.....
  • Trying to downplay the level of pain to the paramedics is silly--they have good drugs and they are willing to share.
  • If the ER nurse fails to listen to you when you mention you are getting dizzy, fainting in the wheel chair will make her MUCH more attentive
  • Apparently in medical paperwork terms, getting one's tail kicked by a turkey doesn't count as an "accident."
  • There are times in life when putting one's own socks on can make one's entire day
  • Being thankful to have lots of homemade soup available while one is unable to cook because of a back injury when canning the dang soup helped contribute TO the back injury is a lot like living in an O. Henry story.
  • When the doctor prescribes Valium for after physical therapy appointments, it's best not to dwell too much on why he thinks you might want to be unconscious after them. You'll find out soon enough
  • A fast way to add a bit of mystery to one's gardening is to label seedlings with permanent marker on masking tape, which is only permanent when it isn't exposed to sunlight.
  • I was only willing to try the "humane" route the first time we had moles attack the garden. I am now in the "death through smoke bombs" camp
  • I can kill any plant that someone says is really, really hard to kill, though in my defense, I will also have plants normally considered non-invasive try to take over the entire yard.
  • Even in Idaho, it is possible to harvest fewer potatoes than you planted
  • Finding out that the old electric guitar that you've had for 25 years and dropped on the gym floor at least once is suddenly a pretty valuable, much sought-after "vintage" instrument is a lot like finding out that your grandfather is actually a rock star.
  • It's really helpful to have at least one sedentary hobby, like knitting, that one can do while recovering from a back injury, but if pain pills are involved, one does risk ending up with a hat large enough to fit a walrus
  • Camping with friends is indeed a lot of fun, but I'm still really glad to return to plumbing
  • When canning recipes say silly things like "cook until reduced by one-third," it would be wise to prepare several more jars than the recipe suggests. No matter how hard I try, I cannot do fractions in cooked mustard.
  • Theo, my little side-kick kitty, takes his role as get-well kitty very, VERY seriously and does not appreciate being laughed at when he flops down on his back beside me as I'm doing my physical therapy exercises.
  • All the smugness of being smart enough to buy a restaurant-sized stockpot to use for canning season will be completely obliterated when one realizes one forgot to buy a spoon with a restaurant length handle.
  • When you have to check the dates to verify that it is already your 5th wedding anniversary, things are going well.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday and a healthy 2012,
Toni & Andy

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oh, The Irony............

It has occurred to me that since this is Christmas Eve, this would be a good day to review my gift list and make sure everything is hopefully made, accounted for, wrapped, and sometimes even delivered.  Yesterday would have been an even BETTER day, of course, and last week completely fantastic, but for the last month I have been completely positive that when the doctor said that 90% of back pain was better in one month that A) he meant one month literally, B) that by "better" he meant "all and totally better and not just better by comparison, and C) that I would be in that 90%.  Being ALL better on the 20th - exactly one month later - was still going to leave me 4 days to finish sewing the gifts I had started in November, and this seemed totally reasonable considering the nifty drugs I'd been given.  Being just a lot better is nice, of course, but I would like to be able to sit again at some point.  Not just the "I-have-taken-two-pain-pills-to-get-me-through-this," sort of sitting, but REAL sitting.  Like practicing the guitar sitting, or eating dinner at the table sort of sitting.  Or being able to stand car rides longer than 20 minutes sort of sitting.  Or sewing sitting.  Going to the occasional (okay, once a year) movie sitting.  Flying somewhere warmer sort of sitting.  Not having to lay on the floor to write Christmas cards sort of sitting.  Finishing the Christmas presents sort of sitting.  It's all rather ironic, really, since my back went out because of all the STANDING I had been doing, which I am now free to do to my little heart's spine's content.  That's all well and good, but since the cold really bothers my back the "standing activities" options are sort of limited, and I might be underestimating myself, but do I really want to be canning in January??????

Friday, December 23, 2011

For That Split Second...............

Possibly the world's most fleeting sensation:  the brief euphoria when the physical therapist tells you that you've made enough progress to add a new exercise..........then adds the new exercise.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

You Have To See This

Remember how I mentioned that after the Christmas of bronchitis, last year's broken toe, and throwing my back out this year that a friend has offered to bubble wrap me on Halloween next year?  Well..................
I now have a shirt and skirt made from bubble wrap--THE very latest in packaging wear this year.  It has bows and everything. 

I love my friends.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Note To Self:

If one remembers to but cards that say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" it's much less weird when one is still mailing them out on Valentine's Day...................

Monday, December 19, 2011

Inexplicable Stranger Moment of the Week

Stranger in the grocery store parking lot as she is loading 3 gallon jugs of milk into her car:  "Do you drink milk?"

Toni:  "No, actually, I don't.  I'm allergic to it."

Stranger:  "Me neither."  Drives off--with at least 3 gallons of milk.

Do you think this might have made more sense if I had said "yes?"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Have To Show You These

Over the last three weeks, I have been finding these
stashed around the house (thankfully in quite obvious places, as much of that time has been spent under the influence of pain pills).  They're little bottles of perfume, and usually when we hide such things for each other, we try to be really tricky so it will take a long time to find, but Andy said that the Perfume Fairy thought I needed a little cheering up during all of this.  How sweet is that?

Of course, since the whole back saga has meant Andy has been doing double duty with work and nursing and hosting parties, I recently ordered this,
for some knitted socks as a big THANK YOU for everything he's done.  It would have been a sweater if that wouldn't take so long (though I admit it's still tempting).  As soon as I am back to fully functional, I think we'll need to arrange a week with NO chores for Andy as well. :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Note To Self:

No matter how dedicated and determined one is to do their physical therapy exercises every day, it would be best to do them AFTER one has taken the pain medication.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Things I Have Learned From My Back Injury

*  Sneezing is your body's way of saying "the pain could be SO much worse."

*  My feet are much farther away from my hands than I thought

*  Fainting is much different than I thought it would be.  You're just suddenly in a different place than you were a second ago and can't figure out how you got there

*  Whatever type of pain pills people get addicted to, they certainly aren't the ones I've been given

*  When doctors give you prescriptions, it appears they actually intend for you to take the pills

*  When the doctor says that 90% of back injuries get better in one month regardless of what one does, it doesn't mean that 10% get better faster, no matter how optimistic one is.

*  Theo takes his get-well kitty duties very seriously, and does not appreciate being laughed at when he flops down on his back with me as I'm doing my physical therapy exercises.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Have Joined A Club!

As it turns out, back pain is second only to common colds for work days missed, and for the most part, those who have experienced back pain seem almost manically determined to help their fellow sufferers.  Friends have been sharing tips, giving me doctor referrals, offering any and all help one could imagine, and making any and all efforts to make sure I can attend parties and functions in comfort.  Of course, there are always one or two people who only ask how I'm doing in order to tell me about their own back pain, their own therapy, or somehow turn the conversation back around to themselves, but that only happens with the people who do that in all conversations whatever the topic, so it's only to be expected.  But for the most part, it's just been overwhelming how zealous everyone has been about trying to help me.  I know some very, VERY nice people.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

And How Many Thought It Would Take Less Than 24 Hours For Toni to "Over-do?"

In my defense, I think it's just a wee bit too much, and I am now resting.  My first physical therapy session yesterday went really well, and it's already helping.  It turns out the cause of the whole problem is in my hip, not my back--my back is just getting the brunt of the issue.  Aside from the part of the therapy that involves a strong young man yanking on my legs, I think is a really good thing as the hip seems a lot less fragile than the back, and the therapy is all about fixing the actual cause of all the problems, so I think this is the best possible result I could have ended up with.  So, I am going to be ALL better soon.  Probably not even the pesky small back issues that had been leading up to this episode.  Can you blame me for being a tad bit over-exuberant?

Friday, December 2, 2011


I start physical therapy on Monday!  I am SO excited to have the solution to this back saga scheduled.  I'm trying not to focus on the part where the specialist renewed the Valium prescription because he said I would need it after therapy.  I'm a huge advocate of physical therapy, but the idea that I would want to be knocked unconscious after it is a bit unnerving.

Everyone continues to be wonderful--calling and dropping by to help.  And, of course:
My little sidekick barely left my side (or chest) for the first entire week.  This week we've both been able to move about a bit more, and unfortunately ONE of us thought a get-well mouse was a good idea.  But it's the thought that counts--which I can say as Andy caught the mouse before Theo lost it or brought it up to me.  I'm much more charitable about rodent gifts I haven't had to see.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things I Have Learned This Week

* Sweep the floors regularly--you never know when you're going to have to spend some extended time on them.

*  Always wear the most interesting pajamas one can find.

*  Having lots of people who are there to help you is AMAZING.

*  Having back pain is like joining a new social organization.  You're one amongst many.  And it's probably the only time that it truly makes sense that everyone coming to your assistance is older than you are.

*  Having a pantry full of soup is coming in VERY handy now that I can achieve enough of an angle to eat soup.

*  Coffee through a straw is much hotter than it is just from the cup

*  Have someone in the emergency room with you who HASN'T  been given a bunch of drugs on the way there so someone can remember what the doctor says.

*  It's okay to let people help you when you actually really need help

*  Celebrate the little things.  I am more excited than I can say to have been able to put my own socks on this morning!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Good Day

If I have ever forgotten to be thankful for friends, things like hurting one's back can be a GREAT reminder.

Today two friends (one old, one a friend of just a few hours) showed up to help finish putting up Christmas decorations.  And do you know what I learned?  One can have a really fun day even when in pain.  It was fantastic, and now each time I see the decorations it's a little reminder of great friends and a great morning.  I think it's the most I will ever enjoy the Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Day You Realize You Might Be Aging

*  Wake up at 7:00 after a long Nyquil-induced night that you hoped would relieve the back pain from having thrown your back out the day before.

*  Make your way to the bathroom, only to realize you are about to pass out.

*  With as much grace and speed as one can muster with a sore back, get down to the floor before actually passing out.

*  Realize now that you're on the floor, you can't get back up

*  Have husband hand you 3 Advil tablets to see if you can numb the pain enough to get off the floor, which you now wish you had swept over the weekend.

*  After a while and repeated examinations by both cats, realize it's rather hopeless.  Consider spending the entire day on the floor.  Wish part of the bathroom was carpeted.

*  Admit defeat and allow husband to call for paramedics.

*  Give the neighbors plenty to talk about as both an ambulance AND a fire truck pull up outside your house.

*  Surrender any last trace of dignity you were pretending you might have had when you greet 8 strange men while you're laying on the floor in your crossword puzzle pajamas.

*  When two young men have helped you to your knees, scare them by fainting from the pain.  It's best not to have warned them that you tend to get dizzy if you want to achieve the full effect.

*  Come to on the bathroom rug in time to hear the paramedics discussing how to carry you down the stairs.  Try not to think about how often the furniture got bumped when it was being brought up.

*  Scream loudly in pain each time they move you a bit to get you strapped onto a very cold metal frame--this will help them appreciate what growing old is like.

*  Pray none of the neighbors are around to see you being wheeled out of your home on a stretcher.

*  Enjoy a long ride in the ambulance as it strives to hit every single bump and pothole on the way to the emergency room and wonder why ambulances are constructed without shocks.

*  Realize that trying to downplay how much you are hurting is stupid as A) the paramedic has pain medications he is willing to share, B) he can see you flinching in pain, and C) you have already completely parted company with all your dignity anyway

*  Scream repeatedly in pain as the doctor examines you, which will result in you finding out that the number one thing people show up in the emergency room for is indeed back pain, and that there is little they can do except give you prescriptions for drugs.

*  When the nurse tries to move you to a wheel chair to discharge you, warn her you're feeling dizzy.  When she doesn't really take you seriously, faint in the wheelchair.

*  Wake up back in the bed with an I.V. now in the opposite arm, and many new wires attached to you.

*  Enjoy a full battery of tests that go on for several hours, only to be told that the body's response to pain is often to slow down the heart beating, which is probably an okay response except when one already has a naturally slow heartbeat.

*  Take several hours before one can get into the wheelchair without fainting.  This time the nurses leave the I.V. in until they're sure they will be able to get rid of you, as you have run out of arms.

*  Make it home with very funky drugs and where you finally get food almost 24 hours after your last meal.

*  Enjoy a drug-induced sleep, interspersed with wake-up head bumps by a very worried kitty.

*  Find out that the drugs might limit your consciousness, but certainly help with the pain as well.  Wish you'd taken a few less spills on your horse as a child--especially the ones involving splatting into the pole arena fence.

*  Decide aging might beat the alternative, but that is still stinks all the same.......

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just 9 To Go

Yesterday I finished TWO audio books, so now I just need to read or listen to 9 more books for the year and I'll have reached my goal of 100 books for the third year.  It probably seems quite ridiculous to many, but I enjoy it AND I strongly suspect that I spend about as much time listening to audio books as many people spend watching television, so it isn't like it's a big time-consuming thing. 

What I have discovered is that by reading more I am much more open to new authors and new books.  When I was only reading a few books a year, a bad book really stood out.  Now, unless it is truly a stinker, it's merely a blip.  Audio books make it even easier as I can listen while doing other things, so the book just has to be more interesting than, say, canning.  I won't say there aren't books that I have abandoned as audio books (because I have), but an average book that might not be worth my time to read is usually entertaining enough while cleaning. 

So today is cleaning & working on switching decorations from fall to Christmas (yes I know it's early, but we aren't having Thanksgiving here and it's a big house) and listening to Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England.  Boy, if THAT doesn't put one in the holiday mood, I don't know what will.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Almost There!

Yesterday (thanks to Theo, the wake-up kitty), I got an early start to my day and these
were converted to 15 pints of curried green tomato sauce.
 which leaves me with just these left from our insane green tomato harvest:
I'll give the tomatoes a few more days to see how many more turn red, then do one more round of canned tomatoes, then freeze,dry, or launch any others.  I am SOOOOO ready to put away the canning equipment!

And--even after swearing not to do anything so foolish--I was carrying out some empty vinegar jugs to store in the shed, but I thought I'd first get them ready for their future mini-greenhouse role:
 and then since I had them and lettuce is really a cold weather crop.......
I planted lettuce yesterday.  I have no idea if these will withstand the really cold temperatures we're about to get, but it sort of doesn't matter.  If it works, it works--if it doesn't, it doesn't.  If I had the zipper repair finished on the greenhouse, these could be in there, but that has to wait until the canning/cleaning/decorating is done.  Maybe what I need are 8-day weeks.........

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Think I've Earned It

If paying bills, gardening, and cleaning TWO bathrooms doesn't earn one a chocolate martini at the end of the day, I don't know what does.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Think I Have Discovered A New Life Form

Yesterday I took all of these,
 converted them into this,
and still have all of these left:
Personally, I think they have discovered a new way to multiply without the use of an actual tomato plant.  I don't know whether to be excited that I have stumbled across a way to cure world hunger or chapped because there are still tomatoes to be dealt with.  I wonder if Einstein ever faced any tomato-related dilemmas?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

All Mixed Up

Today I am canning red tomatoes.  The green tomatoes we picked a couple weeks ago have been happily ripening here in the kitchen, so I should be able to put up another 10-15 pints.  As I cook with a lot of canned tomatoes, this really, really is a good thing--even if I have no greater desire right now than to take the canners outside and beat them into pancakes with a sledgehammer.  With only one income, one of the reasons we tell ourselves that gardening is a good idea is that it saves us money.  I think it actually might even do so--my future therapy bills not withstanding.  In all actuality, because jars can be reused and we eat a lot of salsa and I eat a lot of pickles, I think the garden pays for itself with just those two items, but now every additional jar of tomatoes I get from the garden saves us about $1.25-$1.50.  So while today's $15 or whatever doesn't seem like much, it's all extra now.  We've spent all we're spending on the garden for the year, and every extra can of tomatoes is pure "gravy" right now as it were.  This sort of thinking is what saves me from running down the street screaming and throwing tomatoes at passing cars.

Because the climate has changed so much, I am still canning while it would be very helpful to be able to eat some of the things I have made.  Usually, this overlap doesn't happen as there's still fresh stuff.  Unlike past years, so far I haven't flipped out entirely at the mere mention of OPENING a jar, and we've even enjoyed some lovely chicken soup.  Today I am using some of the basil pesto that has basically overrun one of the freezers.  The fact that I need the freezer space in order to freeze the extra vegetable broth might have something to do with it.  But being in an opening AND canning mode is very, very weird.  I think it would be wisest, however, for no one to go near those darn jars of canned tomatoes just yet..........

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lessons Learned Today

*  Celebrate the small things.  Having solved the problem of cornmeal and polenta being mixed up is an achievement.  That the new corn-products-all-over-the-floor-of-the-pantry-problem has not been resolved yet is an entirely separate issue.

*  Being proud of oneself for finally thinking to buy a restaurant-sized stockpot for canning would make a lot more sense if one had thought to buy a spoon with a restaurant-sized handle.

*  Making a double batch of vegetable broth to can would make far more sense if one figured out ahead of time how to strain broth if its volume exceeds everything you own except the stockpot it's already IN, and whether or not the subsequent number of jars also exceeds the capacity of the pressure canner.

No matter how many problems one encounters, it's hard to have a bad day when there is chocolate-peanut butter ice cream involved.

*  The fact that I'm always surprised when the lawn-care program we signed up for notifies me that something else needs to be done to the lawn is probably the best illustration of why we NEED a lawn care program.

*  Ignoring the green tomatoes hasn't made them go away, but at least it makes them turn red.

*  No matter how this vegetable broth turns out, the fact that it is the last thing I'm making with the pressure canner this year makes it my favorite canned thing EVER!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Good Thing They're On Top of This!

Yesterday we received a letter saying we are part of a class-action lawsuit over the refrigerator we own because there may be a defect that causes the light not to go off when the refrigerator doors are closed. What I want to know is: How do they know??????

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Couldn't Have Summed It Up Better Myself

I personally am not a religious person, but have no problems with anyone's chosen beliefs or how they personally choose to live or worship, but I am tired of the extremism of the so-called "Religious Right" and the people for whom religion is all about what OTHERS should do and not what they themselves should do.  Fundamentalists of any religion are dangerous, and I do not believe any of my truly spiritual or religious friends have anything in common with the fundamentalist "Christians" who cannot and DO NOT respect the rights of others to their own beliefs or lack thereof.  (Nor, of course, do I actually think the Religious Right has anything to do with all the positive, caring things that the Bible credits Jesus with saying, for that matter) I think this:

sums up the Fundamentalist problem quite nicely.  Thank you to Atheist Eve for putting it so clearly.


You know you've reached a whole new level of gardening when you receive a wholesale catalog.....