Monday, December 31, 2012

I Feel Great!

There was a time in my life when I might have hesitated to publicly admit that I was home on New Years Eve.  BUT that was long before the back issues started, and in case I wasn't having enough fun, I came down with a cold Friday, so slept much of the weekend. 

Today, however, I felt like a human.  For the first time in about 6 weeks, my back barely hurt and I was able to do a full PT workout AND it didn't land me back in bed with a heating pad!!!!!!!!!  This is very exciting!  Just last week I was excited over lasting on Christmas until just when my parents were leaving, and it still put me flat in bed all the next day.  I have been up!  I have been human!  I have seen other rooms in our house besides the bedroom!  This is VERY exciting!

Of course, this also removes my excuse for the holiday letter STILL not being done, but as we call it a "holiday" letter, I'm thinking Martin Luther King Day is looking like a nice holiday.............

Monday, December 24, 2012

Not A Creature Was Stirring.......

Okay, maybe not exactly, but we are having our very first quiet Christmas.  Normally, Christmas is amazingly busy, which is fun.  We've spent most of our married Christmases traveling to see family, but a couple years ago I finally put my foot down and said we wanted to spend Christmas in our OWN home, and I have been a Christmas maniac for the last couple years--hosting friends on Christmas Eve, Christmas night--even one year throwing in a Christmas brunch as well.  It's tiring, but great fun.  But this year even I had to admit that my back was not going to be up to it.  I made it to a Christmas party Saturday night, but in order to get there I had to rest most of the day and not do too much physical therapy in order to get there, and I think I just need to be able to do what my back needs to have happen, so for the first time EVER, we're having frozen pizza and watching movies for Christmas Eve!  I don't think I'd want to do it very often but knowing it would be a quiet night, I could brave a rematch with my new toy this morning:
When I was in physical therapy, the "carrot" at the end of the session was called "e-stim," (presumably for electronic stimulation, but I wouldn't swear to it).  It sounded terrible, but was marvelous for pain control, and this summer when my back was starting to hurt more and more, a friend of mine who has chronic pain mentioned she had her OWN estim machine and could do it at home.

I had sort of wavered on the idea, but over the last month my back has gotten worse rather than better until I switched back to last year's exercises which are helping, but I am still very sore.  So, I decided it was worth a try and orderedthe one my friend recommended.

Saturday morning I had Andy help place the electrodes, plug in the wires, and I was ready to roll, so I flipped it to ON.  And this would be a good time to mention that if one is combining the "on" switch with the "intensity" setting, it might be best to make it not too sensitive.  Basically, I turned the knob FAR too much and tasered myself in the upper back.  To be fair, it probably gave those muscles quite a workout considering how sore they have been for the last couple days, but it made me a bit hesitant to try it again until I was sure that I could just rest the remainder of the day if I did it again.  Worst case scenario, it could be PJs and Valium by noon.

This morning went MUCH better, and even after zipping myself a bit when I was adjusting it, I was pain-free for hours.  And I'm feeling even more disinclined to steal cars than ever, so a win-win really...............

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Being a Girl......

As a female, I really like having groups of close female friends.  Women are wonderful (which I can safely say now as I finally married in my mid-30s and my marry-extremely-early family can stop wondering if I am a lesbian--not that there's anything wrong with that........), and I actually feel sorry for American men that they just don't form the close friendship bonds that women do.  Only this week I met a girlfriend for coffee and it hasn't exactly been a great year for either of us, but just knowing that and still being able to pause for a bit to relax together makes it easier.  Another girlfriend and I were recently talking about the "yeah, whatever" approach to the holidays so many of us have had to take this year.  We each normally host Christmas parties, but this year she had surgery and I'm having back problems, so we each scrapped them.  The funny thing is we both have the reputation of "dropping" people from parties, so we were joking about ways to let people know that they had not been dropped and that there just wasn't a party without hurting the feelings of those who HAD been dropped but weren't aware of the fact.  Life has so many ups and downs, but when you have people to ride them with, it's much easier to just hang on.

My closest girlfriends locally are sort of in circles.  The oldest circle is my book club--because as a female I'm almost obligated to be IN a book club--and it's a lovely group of women and I enjoy it every time we're together.  The problem is: 

I do not have enough estrogen for chick-lit books.

In fact, I hate them.  So much so in fact that I will no longer borrow library books from unknown female authors unless I know that they've been dead at LEAST since before Bridget Jones was published.  Men can still be lousy authors, but mercifully they don't generally write about 30-somethings recently divorced, trying to put their lives back together, probably with a close group of friends--one of whom is almost certainly to be struck down by cancer.   Not that chick-lit is bad--it's just past my "girl" line.

With every circle of girlfriends I have, I always know there's a line where we don't connect--which we've sort of dubbed the Touchy-Feely line.  It's probably this line that one needs to cross in order to want children, or to have played with baby dolls as a child.  It's definitely the line one needs to cross for yoga.  I have tried it, but when everyone else is getting "in touch" with their center or whatever it's supposed to be, I am planning knitting projects or my mind decides to smack me with something hideous like a continual loop of "Copacabana" or the Gilligan's Island theme song.  If that is truly my "center," we're better off staying out of touch.  

So I am trying to figure out a way to remain in the book club without having to read any more chick-lit books AND without hurting anyone's feeling because I can't stand their book choices.  The back problems have sort of helped as I ended up being too sore to even attend last month and was saved from discussing a book I couldn't even stand to listen to, but it's not a long-term solution I like to contemplate.  I suppose it's too late to claim latent illiteracy problems...................

Friday, December 21, 2012


So glad they were out of the Mayan calendar tablecloths when we went to Mexico for our honeymoon so we got the Aztec one instead:
because the Mayan one would have only good for 1500+ years before expiring today.......

Happy Not-The-End-Of-The-World-Day

Did anyone actually know people who believed the world would end today?
And why is it that I strongly suspect that the only people who honestly believed the Mayans correctly predicted the end of the world for today were the people least likely to know who the Mayans actually were?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I spend most my days knitting right now.  This would be a more enjoyable state of affairs if it wasn't because my back is fried, but as weird as it sounds (considering I've spent most of the day laying flat), I think I'm finally on the mend.

What I have is called "sacroiliac joint dysfunction."  I'd provide a link to something helpful if I could, but while it is the first thing I've ever looked up on Web MD that didn't say death was likely or even eminent, I don't recognize anything they describe.  In layman's terms (and thank heavens I was referred to a specialist who speaks Layman fluently), this is the most common cause of back pain for women.  If you look at your pelvic bones (which is sort of impossible, I realize, so maybe visualizing the bones would be better) there's not really anything to hold them in place except muscle.  Because women often have children, our pelvic bones are designed to be more prone to movement.  It makes sense for childbirth, but doesn't always work for the rest of life.  They think that my problem probably dates back to my surgery 3 years ago, because it would be the best chance to have lost my core muscles, which would be the only thing holding my hips where they were supposed to be (which is contrary to the general female opinion that hips are SO wide that NOTHING could change them).  What happens is your pelvic bone (the big plate looking one that you can sort of feel) moves a bit, and your muscles very nicely compensate.  "Want to be here?  Fine!  We'll adjust accordingly," they cry.  Then it moves a bit more, and again--because they are just out to please--your muscles adjust again.  "More turning?  Even better!  We'll make it happen!"  This little routine goes on for a while, until either the turning is caught and stopped (smarter folks than me) or it goes all the way to the point where it can't go any farther, it has now made one leg shorter than the other, the little tiny gap that is supposed to be in your back has been squashed, and you take up fainting (the option I chose) and landing in the ER in crossword puzzle pjs.  For mild cases, there seems to be a belt that can hold your hip in place.  For severe cases, there are scary surgeries.  For people like me in the middle, there is physical therapy.

I landed back in physical therapy this fall because I got my hip twisted back out of place this summer, then with all the stuff with my father and work, I didn't get back to the doctor for help until October.  By then I had managed to irritate the daylights out of my back muscles by exercising them while I was all out of whack.  One of the things the therapist I saw this time has tried to do (besides teach me "moderation"--I love her optimism) is to change some of the exercises to blend them in to real life a bit more for me.  This all makes sense, of course, but at least some of the new exercises seem dependent on me actually practicing moderation.  This of the woman who WALKS so aggressively that I threw out my darn hip walking to my car in the PT office's parking lot.  I try.  I really, honestly try, but if I truly understood "moderation" I wouldn't have 46,000 yards of lace weight yarn in the house.  I think the change she made to one of the exercises would work for most of the population, but my back has been getting more and more sore, which is worrying since there is technically nothing wrong with my back.  It's not my back's fault that it hurts when it gets squashed by my wonky hip.  I think the rest of me would hurt if squashed as well.  But it seems to have reached the end of it's rope last week, when I had done all my other exercises then decided to try the hard one again.  OH MY.  If you haven't experienced it, a back that has finally reached it's limit can swell quite substantially for a spot that looks completely devoid of muscle in the first place.  I'd have almost be impressed if it hadn't hurt so much.

I've been icing my back as much as I can stand, have been resting for several days--and REALLY resting, not just the sort of "not-really-doing-anything-of-the-kind" resting one would expect from me, and the muscles have calmed down a great deal.  In the mean time, I have gone back to the versions of the exercises from last year--just the ones at the very beginning--and have been building up muscle strength slowly and gently.  While it may sound daft to announce that I'm making anything even remotely resembling progress while I'm spending days flat on my back with regular icing events, I really feel like I finally am rebuilding the muscle strength to stabilize my hip and put an end to this once and for all.  And, how could I possibly not be getting better with my get-well kitty in constant attendance?
He makes it a bit hard to knit (or play on the computer but he's very firm about REST.  He's ambivalent about knitting unless he gets to play with the yarn, but there's even been some amazing sock progress:
I had hoped to try pool walking again today, but Theo found my lack of "moderation" completely appalling:
so I decided to wait a few days.  Who am I to question Get Well Kitty?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Language of Flowers

My book club is currently reading The Language of Flowers.  I've always found it interesting that Victorians used flowers and plants to convey secret messages--or maybe not so secret, depending on who saw your flowers, I suppose.  I'm not very far along in the book because I keep falling asleep while listening to it, but so far I have discovered:

*  Right now one is greeted at our front door by "refusal" and "resentment."  And there I was, just thrilled that some flowers were still alive

* "Innocence" is really prone to aphids

*  We have been overrun by "wisdom" and have been pawning it off on anyone who has come to our house recently

*  I felt stupid enough when I killed off an arborvitae shrub at my old house because they're so low-maintenance. Now that I know it stands for "everlasting friendship," I feel guilty as well

*  I lost "conviction" a few years ago because I forgot to dig it up at the end of summer

*  Our herb bed has been overrun by "suspicion."

*  Bringing someone a green salad might mean you're contributing to dinner OR it can mean "cold hearted." 

*  One probably had to hope that the object of one's message had the same flower dictionary you did.  Basil means "hate" in one, "love" in another--possibly depending on one's personal feelings regarding pesto........

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Random Update Thursday

*  When advice differs between last year's physical therapist and this year's, follow the advice that doesn't result in muscle inflammation.

*  It's a bad moment when your cat has been playing with a dead mouse by flinging it up in the air and catching it, and you turn around to find him looking up at the kitchen table.  Even when you know you're about to find a dead mouse on the kitchen table, that still doesn't mean you're prepared for it.

*  Just in case it takes me a while, I have started the January book for book club, The Language of Flowers. Victorians assigned every flower a "message," which is a cool idea, though knowing MY gardening luck, I'm probably about to find out that my front flower bed is shouting obscenities to the neighborhood......

*  Normally, I would be getting stressed about getting gifts mailed off on time right about now, but between knowing most people will understand, some of the gifts won't even generate a thank you note, and the rest are as far behind as I am really takes the pressure off.  

*  Recovering from an injury gives one lots of time to catch up on reading--often making one unable to do much else--but it doesn't work for all types of reading.  I had intended to listen to Little Women, which is one of the classics of literature I've never read, but it's really hard to be in pain, read about a bunch of girls sitting around complaining about not getting Christmas gifts, and thinking of them as anything but annoying whiners.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The King's Speech

I don't usually do book reviews, but this one I thought was special.
The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy
We saw the movie, of course, and I was rather doubtful about the book because
     1. it was written after the movie
     2. it was written by the grandson of the speech coach
     3. it has the idiotic subtitle of "How one man saved the British Monarchy."

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful book.  I borrowed the audio book from the library so I got to hear King George VI's actual speeches, and knowing everything he went through just to give them made them especially touching.  Personally, I think everyone should read this book--not necessarily because it is great literature or that everyone should care about the British Monarchy--but because it is a great portrayal of a man struggling with the most public speech impediment of all time.

Perhaps I identify with him more than most, because I have a slight speech impediment involving the letter "s," and could readily identify with the humiliation he experienced.  I can only imagine what the future king went through before finding Logue because one is always surrounded by the well-meaning but horrible "helpful" people just waiting to correct your speech, showing you how to to it "right" without caring at all if it embarrassed you at all.  Imagine trying to just talk and having people constantly interrupting and pointing out what you're doing wrong--one of the reasons I never correct anyone's grammar or spelling unless they ask.  Nagging might boost the ego of the person doing it, but it doesn't help anyone else, and only makes them self-conscious/angry/hurt or rebellious.  In my case, out of self defense I started avoiding any words likely to be problematic--a habit I continue to this day.  I was fascinated to discover that one of the ways the King and Logue dealt with the speeches and radio broadcasts was to scan the speech ahead of time for similar "problem" areas.  It  reinforced to me that no one ever "cures" a speech problem--one just learns to work with it or around it.   For me, any string of words with too many "s" sounds can be hard, especially if I am tired.  It got better when I got braces because it was partly a tooth alignment issue, but has never truly gone away.  When I worked for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, we were actually supposed to answer the phone as "Cystic Fibrosis Foundation," which I could do early in the day or if there weren't too many phone calls or if I wasn't tired or if I hadn't been speaking a lot already.  But I often resorted to just "CF Foundation," for which I was always yelled at by my supervisor, but since she was pretty much just a viper anyway and would have had something to be mad at, I just let her yell than explain.  One is hardly likely to admit something that makes one self-conscious to someone like that.

One of the reasons I've been thinking about this book since listening to it last month is the "War on Christmas" rhetoric that we go through every year.  Besides there being more than one religion in the world, lots of holidays this time of year, and even the most extreme "Christian" must recognize that there are THREE federal holidays in the span of 6 weeks and that makes "Happy Holidays" far more appropriate simply for the fact of it being plural, "Merry Christmas" is fairly hard for some of us to say.  Not quite as horrific as "Season's Greetings," but the girl going through speech therapy with me who had a MUCH bigger problem than I do, couldn't pronounce the letter "r."  As her family moved away, I have no idea how far she got with her speech therapy, but if she did get it under control, it was with a LOT of hard work, and things like "Happy Holidays" would be a good cover-up for her as well.  So in addition to being just pompous and bigoted, the arrogant souls going around insisting that "Merry Christmas" could be making a lot of people even more self-conscious about what they're already self-conscious about to begin with.

So, with all that said, if I could have my own personal Christmas wishes this year, they would be:

1.  Don't nag anyone about anything.  Nag them to exercise and they won't.  Nag them about their weight and you'll make the problem worse.  Nag them about their speech and you'll make something humiliating even worse.  No one is on this earth to go around "correcting" everyone else, and no one will ever thank you for it.  Just give them kindness.

2.  Don't make assumptions.  People may not be doing things for the reason you think they are doing them.

3.  Be joyous.  If anyone wishes you a happy or merry ANYTHING, take it in good spirit.  I may struggle with "Merry Christmas" at times, but I could say "F--- you" without difficulty.  Accept kindness as it is offered and let it go at that. 
A kind wish in any wording is still a kind wish...........

Saturday, December 1, 2012

And Today............

In today's spam filter: 
       a senior citizen dating site
       a viagra ad
       and a life insurance come-on. 

 I think my spam folder has been taken over by the ghost of Anna Nicole Smith.........................

Friday, November 30, 2012

What I Have Learned From My Spam Filter

*  Most of the world is either looking to get something implanted into their bodies or looking to sue over getting things implanted into their bodies

*  There are many bored, married women looking to have an affair with me

*  People all over the world are just waiting to send me money in order to shelter it.  Obviously, they've never heard of banks in the Cayman Islands.

*  I may have fathered an illegitimate child when I was about 5 years old, and she now wants to get in touch with me

*  The most important thing to look for in buying a watch is that it is a replica.  Not sure of what, though.

*  There are hundreds of banks just waiting to loan me $1000 and this is something I'm supposed to get excited about.

*  A good chunk of my friends have been mugged and are stranded overseas without anything except, inexplicably, internet access

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Great Greenhouse Experiment

More things are sprouting!  Even though we have a heater in the greenhouse, everything is still sprouting better with my high-tech seedling insulating system:
(a.k.a. "grocery bags.")  I have some spring greens and broccoli sprouting here:
 we have spinach sprouting everywhere, and our little rose is surviving:
Technically, it probably would have survived being put outside, but I didn't take the time to harden it off, and thought the shock of moving outside after being a houseplant most of its life might kill it.  Not that I don't stand a good chance of doing that anyway, but this gives it a fighting chance. 

We're pretty excited, and trying to ignore the fact that the weather is still so mild that we could probably be growing spinach outside right now......

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Random Tuesday

*  One of the few drawbacks to being married is that when one gets a cold, one has passed it on to one's spouse before any symptoms even start.

*  We have spinach sprouting in the greenhouse!  Without a doubt, this is the most excited I've ever been about spinach

*  It doesn't really help to find out just after that maybe my back isn't ready for something

*  That I've finished my 100 books for the year a month early STILL doesn't qualify as a perk of the hip/back thing

*  I'm hoping to be able to do the elliptical machine next week.  I can't believe I'm looking forward to that.

*  I roasted a turkey today, and I am happy to report that NO ONE has needed to visit the emergency room

Monday, November 19, 2012

One Year Ago Today:

*  Wake up at 7:00 after a long Nyquil-induced night which 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 totally parted company with 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 you 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.......

No matter WHAT happens this week, I'm already having a better Thanksgiving than I did last year.  And I will be thankful that I am just a bit sore from overdoing it this weekend and NOT in the ER.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Good Pain v. Bad Pain

My physical therapist has turned me loose, though I have 30 days to go back without having to get a prescription for it.  (Which I find it really odd to have to get a prescription for physical therapy, but that's another story)  So, my assignment now is strength-building and exercise, but without overdoing--which I managed to do in less than 24-hours.  I'm allowed to push a bit, and we discussed "good sore" versus "bad sore."  "Good sore" is just tired muscles or stiffness.  "Bad sore" is swollen back muscles (which I've only managed to do once) and/or strain or sharp pain.  Yesterday I sort of fell between the two, so if one looks at it a certain way, I've only half overdone.  That's something. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Little House On The Prairie, The Play-At-Home Version

My day:
pressure canning my first original canned soup recipe: curried beef soup with vegetables.  Also known as, "we need the freezer space" soup.  The pressure canner continues to scare me just a bit, but I basically combined two "approved" soup recipes and used the longest of the processing times required, so we're still on the safe side.  My back is sore, but not in the "uh-oh, shouldn't-have-done-that" type of way.  Just in the "this-is-really-exhausting" sort of way, which is progress, especially since that's probably how I'd feel if I weren't injured anyway.  18 pints of soup are now cooling and I'm feeling ready for winter.

Andy spent his day working on:
a permanent greenhouse!  After the fabric one had the fatal rototiller accident, we decided that we really would like a permanent one, even though we actually never got to use the fabric greenhouse.  Mercifully, there isn't a zipper anywhere near the new one, so nothing can get ripped apart by big winds.  The damage I can do while actually growing things, of course, remains......

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Little Farming Humor............


I think I speak for most people--
 and cats--

when I say THANK HEAVENS THE ELECTION IS OVER!!!!!!  In their election night speeches, both Romney and President Obama called for a joining together and moving forward, but I am not too optimistic, largely because of this:

Snopes articles about President Bush
Snopes articles about Romney
Snopes articles about President Obama

Not counting anything listed as "half true" or anything except false, there were

9 untrue rumors circulating about Romney
17 untrue rumors about George W. Bush, even though he spent 8 years in office
85 untrue rumors about President Obama

That level of hate that it takes to generate so many false stories and to circulate and believe them is just not going to go away or compromise.  Whether or not one likes a candidate, to automatically believe anything no matter how "out there" is really just a matter of determined hate.  I remember when the rumor first surfaced that President George W. Bush knew about the 9-11 attacks ahead of time but let it happen anyway, and while I didn't care for him as president, I still didn't believe it and sent out the Snopes links to people who did.  There can be dislike without hate, but I think when one opens their heart to hate, I don't know that one can ever stop, and I don't know that our nation will ever heal--and it makes me even sadder because so much of this is because President Obama tried to help the uninsured in America, which is a cause I truly believe in and a cause I firmly believe humanity requires.  Since Obama was elected, I have been called a lot of names for supporting him, and have chosen to not put an Obama sticker on my car because here in Idaho, it's a fast way to get one's car keyed or otherwise vandalized, I firmly believe that helping others is something we should fight for, not against, and I will never believe otherwise. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Just as I was starting to enjoy NOT being flooded with election emails, the Black Friday ones begin.  Why yes, after the one day a year truly dedicated to stopping and appreciating everything in our lives, getting up at 4:00 AM to trample others to buy myself cheap electronics made by people in foreign countries who cannot possibly be earning a liveable wage and which I don't need REALLY is how I would like to kick-off the season of giving and good will toward all.  On what other day of the year can we completely trash the meaning of TWO holidays simultaneously?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Whatever--I'm Moving On To Christmas

This has been a long, looooonnng year.  Between my hip/back problems, Dad's illness, and the divisiveness of the election, I'm ready for some serious happiness and goodwill.  I didn't put up fall decorations this year and I'm sort of missing them.  A friend very sweetly offered to come put them up for me, but this year I have decided to move on to Christmas early.  Usually, I'm not a huge fan of Christmas before Thanksgiving, but this year I think ALL of the U.S. could stand to move on to the spirit of giving and goodwill (or at least those who believe that Christmas isn't about the stampede of greed), so I am going to wrap gifts today and there may WELL be a tree going up this weekend.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I'm Making A List..........

Since I'm supposed to be taking it slowly with my back and I'm pretty much incapable of that most of the time, I'm working to find activities that I'm generally sure are safe.  Today was updating our gift list--which I think even I am safe with.

It sounds like I'm a complete dweeb, but I keep our gift list on a spreadsheet.  I didn't used to do so, but once in a while I'd forget whether I'd already given someone something or not, so I resorted to a list.  Usually it helps keep me on top of things as well, though this year I think almost every gift so far has been late.  It really just hasn't been my year. 

This is the BIG overhaul--adding people to the list, bumping some of them off.  Call me a grouch, but I demote people pretty quickly to "just a card" when they can't bother to thank us for a gift.  You can chalk that one up to my mother (who has now sent us TWO thank-you gifts for her stay here during Dad's illness) who was very insistent on thank-you notes.  As an adult, I can certainly see why.  If someone is thoughtful enough to send you a gift or acted as hosts or done something nice for you and you can't be bothered to say "thank you," you really don't deserve their kindness.  Call me a grouch, but maybe I just know enough terrific people to be spoiled on this point, and I'd rather spend my time and energy on those whom I know appreciate the effort versus the ones who are too lazy to even EMAIL a thank-you.  So the Gift List Overhaul happens every year, and honestly makes me very excited about gifts for the people who remain on the list--or who have just been added.  I love gift-gifting, and it's nice to know that it's appreciated.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dear Back Muscles:

Dear Back Muscles:

I realize I was perhaps a bit over-exuberant yesterday with the exercises.  I can see know that double the number of the new exercises was, indeed, maybe a mistake, and that maybe starting with just half an hour of pool walking might have been a better way to start than a full hour.  I see that.  But in the future, when I'm overdoing it a bit, if you could just let me know at the time so I could cease doing whatever it is rather than waiting until 3:00 in the morning, it would be greatly appreciated.


Toni and the newly taken half tablet of Valium

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Since it's fall and we recently received a side of beef from my parents, the freezers here at the Chateau are rather filled.  I blame it on the pain medication that I managed to forget this little problem when I bought these:
Fred Meyer often has "red-band" bananas, which are 10-20 cents cheaper per pound than the others, and most of the time I just peel and freeze them.  I used to always sprinkle a bit of lemon juice on them to keep them from browning, but now I've just opted to live with the browning.  It doesn't seem to make much difference in smoothies.

This year I came up with the rather brilliant idea of making and freezing smoothies to have for a fast, no-processed-food breakfast:
which worked really well while the weather was hot, though after trying one this week and shivering for several minutes thereafter, I'm thinking that will be the last batch until spring.  And it didn't use up nearly as many bananas as I had hoped, so Andy dug out the dehydrator for me.  One can dehydrate foods in an oven, but I've dehydrated food for so long that having a separate dehydrator has been a good investment for us.  Oddly, dehydrating food has been one of THE biggest challenges for the no-processed-food diet.  It isn't the preservatives--it's trying to keep the food from sticking to the trays.  You may not be aware of this, but a dried banana is a fiercely sticky object, and when it gets attached to something, it's quite determined to STAY attached.  Finally, a very helpful soul introduced us to this idea:
We keep a bag of the papers butter cubes come in, so they're ready in the refrigerator for:
 It doesn't really look like it does anything, but it works like a charm and honestly works better than nonstick cooking spray because I don't have to find a place to spray the screens where I won't mind everything getting coated with spray that goes through the holes. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Toni Flirts With Reality

I don't think I'm going to be making a habit of being reasonable or anything, but for this year I have decided to not bother with the end of the tomatoes.  

That's right--this year there was no mad-dash out to save every green tomato before frost.  No frenzied after-harvest canning, no green tomato curry, no relish, no salsa.  It helps that we still haven't used everything I canned last year, but the final straw was that I'm back in physical therapy and the therapist has stressed above all else that my back needs to rest until everything calms down.  I do still plan to make a bit more soup when I'm more certain of my back, but for now--nothing.  No fall decorations, no scurrying around for parties or events.  I am just taking it easy.  ME. 

It's an odd idea to come to terms with.......

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This is What the Market Looks Like Since the Last Election

I know that those who choose to watch Fox News are not likely to let facts or graphs get in the way of a good prejudice, but this is a 5-year graph of the market.  That free-fall?  2008, during Bush's administration. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Meet Plantzilla

is a nasturtium seedling. The zinnia seedling right next to it sort of makes sense, as I can't seem to get rid of the things since I planted them in this bed.  But I've only planted nasturtiums in the BACK garden beds.  This little monster is in the FRONT flower bed.  Never mind the cosmos or the zinnias--nasturtiums can actually LEAP a two story house!

Be very afraid...........

Friday, October 19, 2012

Morning Funny

Really, if you can't even master your native language, you are going to get laughed at.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Do You Think There Are REALLY Any Undecided Voters Left?

I've been working as a political consultant (campaign coordinator on a Congressional race, then campaign manager on a state senate race), and I'm one of those weirdos who rather enjoys politics, but even I am sick of the election.  How bad is it for those who didn't find it fun in the first place?

Early voting opened this week, and I went yesterday after my physical therapy, and I am pleased to say there was a line.  The part of me that isn't sick of the whole thing was thrilled to see people eager to vote, though the thought occurred to me that we were all waiting to vote early because we're all sick and tired of the election.  I know the debates have only just started, but there isn't a thing in the world that Romney could say that would make me vote for him, and every Romney supporter I know would say the same for Obama.  So who on earth are these "undecided" voters?  I don't think the US has been so polarized since the Civil War or the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, so who are these nice, persuadable people still somewhere in the middle? 

Presumably, I guess, they are in Ohio.  Forget representational government, forget democracy--the state of Ohio seems poised to be the group that elects our next president because of our electoral college system and their number of electoral votes.  I think I might be speaking for the residents of the other 49 states when I say that this is a terrible system.  Whichever way it goes, there are a whole lot of taxpayers and voters who won't agree with Ohio.  And with the BILLIONS of dollars corporate interests are funneling into the election, what is to stop them from relocating workers into Ohio to swing the election?  The amount an INDIVIDUAL can donate to a campaign is limited--Political Action Committees (PACs) can spend all the money they want, so the chances for corruption seem unlimited to me.  With all the money, I think even fewer voters believe in our system and certainly don't believe their vote counts, and in most states (like mine), it doesn't.  

No wonder we're all so sick of the election.  


Though frankly, if my binder came with Ann Coulter, I'd just burn it.............

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Waiting For 1:00

At 1:00 PM today I have an appointment with a physical therapist, who will yank my hip back into place and I will be able to:

1. Cut back on the pain pills, which make me nauseous
2. Cut back on the muscle relaxers, which make me unconscious
3. Get back to my exercises, which will save me from going through this nightmare again.

5 hours to go!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Getting Back to "Normal"

Dad is still home and definitely improving, but he'll have a LONG way to go before he's back to his usual self, and they're still keeping an eye on several things, but when he was here in Boise for his first follow-up appointment Monday, he got to wear jeans for the first time in 6 weeks and actually got to go to a restaurant, so that was exciting. 

We all keep talking about getting back to "normal," but it turns out, I don't know what that is.  I'm seeing the back specialist today because the stress and disruption of my exercising has completely fried my back, so I'll probably be back in physical therapy next week.  That's not really "normal."  We covered our garden every night over the weekend as it dipped below freezing, but much didn't survive anyway, so I may not be doing much more canning this month.  That isn't "normal."  I'm still supposed to be the volunteer campaign manager for a state senate race (which isn't normal) though my activities have mostly been curtailed because of my back/hip problem, which isn't normal either.  I didn't bother to put up fall decorations this year, so that isn't normal.  After coming back from a walk on Tuesday almost unable to move, I'm holding off on exercise until I can see the therapist, so that isn't normal.  So, I keep looking around and wondering, "exactly what is it that I thought I would be doing right now when things got back to 'normal?'" 

And I haven't the faintest idea at all..............

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thought For the Day #2

I actually had a fun time shopping at Costco this morning. Too bad they couldn't have released Dad from the hospital before my brain snapped............

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Things I've Learned During All This

*  There will always be people who assert that heart disease isn't linked to weight, but the size of the furniture in the cardiac ward proves otherwise.

WebMD exists to scare the bejeezus out of people and should not be accessed by anyone actually sick

*  There are people who immediately think one should sue if one gets sick for any reason.  They make exhausting hospital visitors.

*  The food on the cardiology wing is designed to make sure one knows there are worse things than being hooked up to bunches of wires

*  Moving up 2 flights in a hospital wing gets one a much better view, but walking those extra 2 flights of stairs REALLY make a difference.

*  After walking up all 7 flights of stairs to the new wing, I keep ducking into the bathroom to hide until I breathe normally.  I don't know what the admission process is really like, but being red in the face and panting when surrounded by cardiologists can't end well

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Six Years And Counting

Sunday was our 6-year wedding anniversary.  Obviously, this is kind of a tough time for us, so we had gone shopping for our annual perfume/cologne exchange early this year so we could do it one of the days my mother was in town as a break for all of us.  This year, I got THE most elaborate bottle ever:
The clerk said that some people bought it just because of the bottle, which sounds spontaneous but risky as there are scents I truly dislike.  Because this is our 7th exchange (one for the wedding), we were looking for things very different than what we already have, and I had narrowed it down to this one or another one in a much tamer bottle--both were sort of spicy, which I don't already have.  I think the clerk thought I picked the cutest bottle, but in reality this one was $30 less than the other one, and considering 6 years ago we were only having to spend $50 each in total, there was no way I was picking such an outrageously overpriced scent.  We are going to be tweaking this a bit for next year, but in the meantime, I think I might need to display this baby somewhere.............

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some Of Us Carry Warning Labels.......

I am--and always have been--extremely squeamish, so I keep having to explain myself to medical personnel during all of this (and any time I'm around a hospital in general).  I was saying to Andy this morning it would have been nice if they had sent Dad to the same floor as before so I wouldn't have to explain myself to an entirely new group of nurses, so I found this on my car as I set off:
Is that love or what?

And Week 5 Begins......

I am proud of myself today.  My father is back in the hospital with a secondary infection, which probably could have been prevented if the [wretched human beings] at Blue Cross of Idaho hadn't booted him out of the hospital against doctor's orders because they're greedy jerks who don't give a damn about people--only money.  Today I sat through a homophobe's rant about how this is all Obama's fault without punching anyone in the nose.  I this is a new level of personal growth.  I even kept my cool over this person insisting that someone the person didn't like had to be gay just because this person didn't like the other one (who has a wife and kids by the way).  I realize that the kind of person who can hate another one because they are born differently probably hates people for being of a different skin tone as well, as they seem to go hand-in-hand, but usually I manage to not associate with any such people.  For the record, this kind of for-profit insurance abuse of patients has been rampant for years here in the USA.  It's just the racists in the country who need to blame the black guy who think differently. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

And We End Week Four.......... the emergency room.  The night before last, Dad started not feeling good and throwing up, then got a fever.  He's on such strong antibiotics, he shouldn't even be able to get an infection.  We consulted his doctor, who said we're not taking any chances, and they took Dad to the emergency room last night.

The hospital did lots of tests in the ER, then admitted him at 3:00 AM to keep him for observation and more tests.  If Blue Cross had followed the doctor's wishes instead of their own, he would still have been in the hospital Thursday night and this could have all been avoided.  I hope they enjoy paying for the ER visit and all the subsequent tests. 

Dad is doing better this morning, but we're not sure if he's in the hospital for another day or going back to the care center.  At least since it's a new admission, the doctors have some say for a while.

Monday, September 17, 2012

And We Begin Week 4.....

The doctor wanted to keep my dad in the hospital another week, but America's healthcare system isn't about healthCARE--it's about health INSURANCE, which puts companies like Blue Cross in the middle, and it is their sole aim to charge as much as legally possible for a service that they fight tooth and nail against providing.  So the INSURANCE company decided--Dad's health be damned--that he had to move into a different facility, and that he had to move on Saturday or nothing.  Nice. 

America spends 50% more per person on health care than the next-highest nation, and we get nothing in return.  The most generous studies show that life expectancy in America is 12th in the world.  AND all the countries ahead of us are on socialized medicine.  Two years ago we had a chance to do something about the atrocious state of our health care system, but instead of looking at the real problem--(for-profit insurance machines with unlimited lobbying budgets)--Americans were dumb enough to let the dialogue be dominated by fools like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann.  And in this election, we have vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who proposed a Medicare "voucher" program which would take Medicare--the only socialized medicine we have and the most efficient one because it's not about PROFIT--and basically turn it over to the insurance companies, which would deliver zero benefit but would then shave off an additional percentage of money available because those insurance machines are there to make MONEY, not to do what is ethically or medically necessary.  And I know a lot of damn fools who depend on Medicare who will actually vote for Romney & Ryan.  If the American health INSURANCE system isn't scaring the hell out of every American right now, they just simply aren't paying attention.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Things I've Learned This Week

*  When the going gets tough, the tough ignore the zucchini

*  Even if one is the favorite aunt, understandably, the first-time hatching of lizard eggs STILL takes precedence over one's birthday

*  There isn't a mother in the world who can compete with the worrying level of a 91-year old "mommy"

*  I've always known armchair quarterbacks, but thought that armchair political campaign managers might be the wost wide-spread unqualified experts.  That still might be true, but armchair doctors run a very close second.

*  Sarah Palin might have been right about those "death panel" things after all, only they actually already exist and they're called "Blue Cross Insurance."

*  Even if you have to chase it down and catch it in the bedroom yourself, a live mouse birthday gift from your cat really probably is a token of affection

*  One of THE best problems I have ever had is trying to keep up with the calls/emails/messages from friends to see how I'm doing and how my father is doing and seeing if we need anything.  Not that anyone ever wants to go through a crisis, but it's a whole lot easier to do it when one has friends on one's side.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Or Not So Much

Okay, Dad will not be going home this week.  He had surgery this morning to drain the spinal abscesses, but there is a new one that they found, so they'll aspirate it maybe tonight.  We thought he would be having surgery 2 weeks ago, but he was just so very sick at that point that he wouldn't have survived any surgery.  Knowing he's improved enough in two weeks to be able to have surgery does sort of make me feel better, but I still had a nervous night, and when they moved Mom and I to a private consultation room instead of just using the one in the main waiting area and the only handouts in the room were "How to handle the dreaded call" and one on the hospital chaplain services, the hospital almost gained two patients for heart failure or stress.  It was the longest 20 minutes of my life, and several hours later, I'm still shaking.  Dad came through the surgery just fine, but I am going to suggest to the hospital that they add a few more brochures to that room.  The surgery went fine, but that new abscess and just the fact that he has been so sick and needs to be close to medical attention in case there are more problems means he's probably got two more weeks in the hospital.  BUT, considering what I thought we were going to hear while we were in that room, "still very sick" is an okay thing to hear today.  We can work with that.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


They think Dad will be able to be released from the hospital a week from today!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where I've Been

Well, it's been a wild week.  My father was taken to the emergency room last Sunday with what turned out to be a staph infection, and last Tuesday Andy drove me up to the hospital so I could stay with my mother for a while, but that was the day they did an MRI, discovered the staph infection had caused a spinal abscess, and sent him down here to the care of a neurologist and infectious disease specialist.  So we all ended up back in Boise, and while it's been a VERY long week and we came very close to losing him, my father is actually going to be fine.  It's just going to take a while.  So, life has been put on hold for a bit--or it was until I caught a cold from all the stress and now can't go anywhere NEAR the hospital until I'm not contagious. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Two And A Half Days of Canning Later.....

12 1/2 pints of salsa
3 1/2 pints of tomatoes
10 pints of beef stock
3 1/2 half-pints of lemon-sage mustard
6 half-pints of zucchini pickles

............and such a big mess in the kitchen that if I wanted to make it bigger, I would need to borrow dishes from the neighbors!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's The First Weekend of Canning!

*  I must remember to check the seed packets to figure out what the heck the itty-bitty miniature bell peppers are supposed to be.

*  Nothing makes me forgive the garden quicker than finally getting enough cucumbers to make pickles.

*  I do think our no-processed-foods diet will make us live longer.  Of course, I'll be spending that extra time canning.

*  Next time I say I'm giving the zucchini Miracle Grow, I expect my friends to stage an intervention.

*  It would probably be a good idea to decide while planting whether or not I'll be working during canning season.  I am foreseeing some very cranky/exhausted Sunday nights.

*  It might be much smarter to start harvest season with an empty freezer, but having one bursting at the seams is so much more challenging..........

*  I have learned to kick off canning season with the things I really want--salsa and pickles.  I don't know anyone who would really get excited about more relish.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Meet the new non-processed summer breakfast of choice here at the Chateau...
 Frozen smoothies!  I don't know why this didn't occur to me at any time PRIOR to this summer, but at least it finally did.  I use soy milk because of my milk allergy, which could be technically questionable on the "no processed foods" rule, except that that rule is trumped soundly by the "cause no allergic reactions" rule.  Soy milk, nuts for protein, then whatever frozen or fresh fruit is on hand, throw it in the blender, then fill the little freezable cups and freeze.  Perfect!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Things I Have Learned This Week

* Making French toast in the refrigerator overnight works MUCH better if one remembers it the next morning.

*  Facebook is there to remind us why the people of our past are NOT always those in our present.

*  Boise does NOT have traffic cameras to stop people from running red lights.  Boise has "live" cameras that allow the highway district to see just how far they have managed to back up traffic by putting road construction on 3 successive streets.

*  When one of the laziest people I have ever known starts posting jokes about the work ethic of we liberals, it's time to declare the election season craziness officially begun.

*  Right now would be when I start wondering why I went to all the trouble of saving the zucchini from the squash bugs

*  Someone at Burpee seed company really cannot tell the difference between acorn and pattypan squash, and this person works in the seed packet division

*  Hummingbirds love yellow zinnia.  Now I just wish I knew how I got them--I think they're where I planted the whirligig ones.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

We Just Picked Our First Cherry Tomatoes!

And the fact that they were from what was supposed to be a full-sized tomato plant is entirely beside the point.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Last week I received a spam email with an offer for McDonalds.  This week it was about free lobster.  Glad to see my spam filter's tastes improving.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Daisy Time

I just cut down all the daisies in the front flower bed. I'm sure I was supposed to let them "die back naturally," but in my gardening world, anything THAT smelly and prone to aphids is going to be pretty hard to kill.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Once And Future King

Done!  All 29 discs (minus a little skipping of a few tracks on the last disc) have been listened to.  33 hours.

If I had been smart, I would have tried the books one by one, as the 5 books are broken out separately in some versions, though in all honesty I would never have made it through the fifth one, The Book of Merlin.  It seems to have been published posthumously and is often (and in my book, wisely) not included in The Once and Future King.

I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would.  Having been forced, while in college, to read bits of Le Morte d'Arthur by Mallory, I have given all Arthurian works a very wide birth in self-defense, I was delightfully surprised by the humor of T.H. White's version.  The first book, The Sword in the Stone, was fun and actually not too distorted by the Disney version.  Parts dragged a bit, but the first 4 books are certainly worth reading--though a reasonable library might give someone an extended period of time to listen to a 29-disc book compared to a 5-disc book, or break the books up into smaller segments so the listener can listen at leisure rather than in a maniacal bent, but borrowers can't be choosers...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Are You Sitting Down?

This year I planted yellow zucchini and got,
 Yellow zucchini!!!!   I planted patty pan squash, and this morning saw the tiny start of a spaceship squash:
I planted sugar pumpkins, and it looks like I'm getting:
 sugar pumpkins!!!!  I planted red Hubbard, and am getting:
Fair enough, it's yellow right now, but I think it's going to turn red.  It's at least a Hubbard.  Granted, I did plant some that didn't  come up, but I actually seem to be getting squash I planted!!!!!!!!!!

My garden believes in equilibrium, so  
I can't decide if this was supposed to be a striped zinnia or a Whirligig, but I didn't even have seeds for a yellow zinnia.  It's bright and cheerful--but it's not what I planted.  Nor, actually, is this:
which really was supposed to be striped.  These fared a bit better on the striping front,
 though this one seems to have not seen the picture of how the stripes were actually supposed to look:
 It's interesting, and still a flower, so in MY garden I'd better count this as a "win."  At least it didn't come up as a potato or something.  I think I can live with "close enough."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Good News And the Bad News

The good news is, we now have 17 pints of home made beef stew canned and ready for winter:
The bad news is, it was supposed to be 14 pints, and when the dreadfully unhelpful recipe said to "add enough boiling water to cover" the other ingredients, I covered them too much so we have more of a soup than a stew.  Not to mention leftovers that didn't fit into the canner, and what better way to round off a 91-degree day of canning when one has forgotten to close the windows and turn the air conditioning on than with a nice hot bowl of stew? 

I need this no-processed-foods thing to extend my life--I need the extra time to can.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thyme for Andy

Yesterday some of our more optimistic friends gave Andy two thyme plants--one for the garden and one
for inside.  Now Andy normally just does the heavy gardening stuff, and has never been allowed to be in charge of houseplants, but this time we have made an exception.   Last year I planted thyme and TWO different friends gave me thyme--and I killed it all.  I couldn't have killed them faster if I had some sort of herb vendetta impulse.  So, in the interests of these poor plants having any chance AT ALL, they belong to Andy.  We figured if these poor plants knew they had been assigned to my "death zone" care they would give up the will to live immediately, so we'll see how this works out.  We have nowhere to go but up!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Where There's A Will...........

I think I've mentioned before that I grew up on a cattle ranch, which my family still operates.  This means that I grew up eating beef.  LOTS of it.  I don't think many people made a really decent living at it, but one does eat well, and there's a lot to be said for knowing where one's food is coming from.

However, there are things that are very, very different living this way.  For one thing, one doesn't just "order up" food as one would like it.  One deals with things as they come.  For instance, if a cow gets hit by a car, one calls out the mobile butcher and gets 700+ pounds of very lean ground beef.  It's either that or take a $1000 loss, which would be silly.  However, it's a rather big adjustment to suddenly have a whole bunch of meat one didn't expect and wasn't planning on.  As you can imagine, my family owns some REALLY big freezers.

This year when selling the steers, 11 of them got turned back for improper marking.  That was a bit of a surprise.  The ranch has started keeping a few steers to sell directly to consumers, but 2-3 is a lot different than 11.  Since there are 4 kids from the ranch (my sister and I and two cousins), the ranch very generously gave us each a side of beef (one half an animal) and we just had to pay for the cutting and wrapping.  This is a fantastic deal, but the ranch didn't have adequate feed set aside for 11 1000-pound animals which it wasn't expecting, so there was a time crunch involved.  I had been diligently cleaning out space in our freezers and had waited as long as we could before picking up our meat, but when I picked it up on Monday and brought it home, we discovered it was MUCH more than we expected.  I spent the rest of Monday cleaning out the freezers, digging out things we could use immediately, and improvising a "frozen vegetable du jour" crock pot soup (which turned out REALLY well, I might add), and rearranging everything.  I found room for everything except 4 big 4-pound packages of soup bones, so:
 it was time to learn to can beef broth.  Thank heavens for this big stock pot, and I have some great canning books which walked me through the whole process, but I do wish they might have found a nicer way to walk me through a key step than "skim the scum off the top."  I realize I need to be much tougher for this lifestyle, but who wants "scum" on something they're going to consume?  Of course, it turns out that was the good part, because the next step after letting the stock chill overnight was to "defat" it:
Now that term I like, and if given the chance I would "defat" my thighs in a nanosecond.  It took a while to figure out a good way to do this, but finally I found a way to work it:
The huge stock pot is really great, but it would be even better if my kitchen utensils were long enough to straddle the thing.  Oh well--this worked, and I was really pretty shocked that this:
is all I ended up with from a quadruple stock recipe.  Not all of that is fat--most of it is actually sediment.  I guess the whole point of a soup bone (which I'm thinking is actually leg) is that is really from a tough, well-exercised part of the steer so it wouldn't have much fat, but I was thankful all the same.  I'm not quite tough enough to face an entire block of just chilled fat--not even if it's butter, no matter WHAT Julia Child says

After a two day process (one to make the broth, overnight to cool, then canning the next day), we have beef broth!
I think the final count was 6 quarts, 9 pints, and some that needs to be frozen into ice cubes.  I have six more packages of soup bones to deal with, but I think that sounds like a project to start tomorrow..............

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Do squash bugs normally mate in broad daylight and on top of plant stakes, or are mine just getting cheeky?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Not Yet

There may be a day when I can use the pressure canner without fear of blowing up my kitchen, but I'm not there yet.  I do, however, no longer yearn for protective gear while canning.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Some years I have really enjoyed gardening..........but this isn't one of them.
The extreme heat here (combined with my delay in planting) has stopped the tomatoes in their tracks.  Usually, we get huge plants, but this year I think this might be as tall as they get.  Obviously, I'm not being overly zealous about weeding--though I do some--and this year I'm not using cages because I've read that shading the roots helps retain water, and I think they'll need all the help they can get.

Luckily, the "godetia monarch dwarf" flower seems to not mind the heat AND continues flowering,  
so we have a new "keeper."   The cool new Starlight Zinnia is pretty uneventful in person:
 The "stars" are pretty hard to see on some of the flowers, but at least they're bushy and prolific and can survive the heat.  I was getting a bit concerned about my cool striped zinnias from last year, as the first flowers from the seeds were not striped at all:
and I was worried that the striping was a hybrid sort of thing, but the striped one are kicking in now--you can see one poking out of the leaves there.  No sign of a Whirligig Zinnia yet, but I'm sure I planted some somewhere. 

The zucchini are finally getting going......and I found squash bug eggs on them this morning.  So much for nasturtium repelling the darn things.  I've bombed all the squash with pesticide.  Organic be damned--this is war!
 I think we can finally say we're growing pumpkins:
 and "red" hubbards, which seem to be yellow. 
The seed packed doesn't say if these get as big as the green ones, and it seems inconceivable as this plant is just COVERED in squash.  I don't really see how one (or maybe two--always possible) plant could grow 10 or more 35-pound squash, but if they do.........I'll have to ask Andy how he feels about consuming 350 pounds of squash in one year.......

And our more elusive kitty, Calisto, was in her element this morning:
She is our garden girl, and while she doesn't actually like to have her tummy rubbed like Theo does, she has noticed how much attention he gets with the cute tummy trick, so she has thoroughly adopted it--and even chirps and mews at you until you see her.  The ham..........


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