Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And a Week Later....

Christmas was wonderful, even though it finished up with the obligatory post-Christmas sickness.  I have bronchitis, which I have been dreading ever since I first hurt my back.  The good news is, my back is healed enough that the coughing can't throw it out.  The bad news is, the coughing still really, really hurts.  And I passed it on to Andy.  And another friend.  Hm, I think the "good news" side needs some work.........

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays – finally!

As you probably noticed, there was no 2012 holiday letter. So a brief recap on the last TWO years:

In 2012, Andy took up the bass guitar, painted the sewing room and built some seriously beautiful shelves for me, and designed and built us a greenhouse. In August my father was hospitalized with an advanced staph infection, he spent 5 weeks in hospitals here in Boise while my mother lived with us, and he not only fully recovered from the infection—he survived Blue Cross of Idaho, which is even more remarkable. I began the year attempting to get my back/hip straightened out, joined a congressional campaign for a few months, spent 5 weeks trying to cope with my inability to cope with hospitals, due to all the stress ended up back in physical therapy as soon as my father was released, managed to sprain my back while doing physical therapy, and ended 2012 even less mobile than at the start.

This year has continued to be dominated by my back problems, but in June we were able to travel to Indiana to Andy's family's farm for a reunion and last “hurrah” before the farm was auctioned. We had a great time, and I got to meet the rest of Andy's family AND saw my very first fireflies. Thanks to GPS, we also got to see a great deal of Indiana farmland, which was interesting to me because the thought of farmland that needs drainage to cope with too much water is a bit hard to fathom—especially this year. The huge lawns still have me a bit baffled, but I can only guess that riding lawn mowers are very, very popular back there.

In August I started seeing a physiatrist for my back and acquired my third physical therapist. This time I am being treated less for the initial injury and more for the subsequent injuries and the effects of 2 years of pain. It turns out that, while my body has made no effort whatsoever to adapt to the increase in summer temperatures over the last few years, it cheerfully changed my walk and stance to accommodate the hip problem, which actually compounded the problem. So, in addition to therapeutic massage and some new core-building exercises that are a lot harder than my old ones, I have to relearn to walk and stand and am still learning “body mechanics”--usually the hard way. The hardest thing to get used to is how important it is to avoid pain. This probably sounds sort of self-explanatory (unless one played high school sports and constantly heard “no pain, no gain”), but when muscles have been knotted from pain for two years and the therapist has just worked those knots out, they knot back up VERY easily and getting into pain can wipe out two to six weeks of therapy in one shot. So, I'm trying to learn to rest frequently, avoid sitting and any travel for a while, and every week discuss with my physical therapist what I have done and what I think I will be doing the following week, and she tells me either what I have already done wrong or what I am about to do wrong. They aren't as obvious as one would think, as the latest thing-I-do-wrong was to wrap gifts while seated on the floor. As I had just spent the week decorating the house for Christmas and been very careful about the stepladder and reaching and lifting, I had honestly believed wrapping was an easy thing. But it turns out it's quite bad for anyone with hip or back problems. It's like an ongoing pop quiz for which one doesn't even know what book to study, but I do progress. While there are things I will never be able to do again and I still have a very long way to go, I am down to once-a-week appointments, which will continue into the next year, and I am finally starting to have a few normal days again—or as normal as we get around here.

Andy is still telecommuting, with occasional trips to the main office in California—usually during the coldest periods here which he swears are just purely coincidental. Following his sister's lead, he's training to extend his twice-yearly half-marathons to a full marathon, and is making great progress but isn't quite there yet. As souvenirs, he made wooden pens out of walnut from the Indiana farm for all his aunts and uncles, has learned to turn wooden wine goblets, and made a wooden music stand with the opening notes of “As Time Goes By” inlaid in stone for me. His latest woodworking project is building an electric mandolin from a kit, which looks like a miniature electric guitar. The trio he's been playing with each Christmas has named itself for the song they played last year, “Trio de Schlittenfahrt.” While it really means “three German dances,” things sound much funnier in German.

We continue with our gardening adventures (a.k.a vole wars), and after they finished off the fava beans and most of the cilantro, I finally got so desperate to get rid of the little monsters that I dreamed up the brilliant idea of boarding our cats while we were in Indiana so I could put down poison without risk to the cats. It does seem to have cut down on the voles, but so stressed out one of our cats that Theo is on permanent medication for stress-related urinary problems, and had to be on anti-depressants during our entire trip. So far, every time Andy travels for work, Theo requires a trip to the vet for pain medication, even though he largely ignores Andy's existence when he is home. All things considered, just letting the voles have the garden would have been a lot less stressful for everyone concerned. 
Things I've learned in the past TWO years:
  • There are basically 2 gardening seasons: “Please grow” and “Please die.”
  • There will always be people who assert that heart disease isn't linked to weight, but the size of the furniture in the hospital's cardiac ward proves otherwise
  • Sadly, doing one's physical therapy exercises faithfully is a really good way to surprise one's physical therapist
  • I don't know which pain pills are the addictive ones, but I am quite an expert on the ones that cause nausea and give one ulcers
  • A good way to get ALL your tomatoes to grow is to expect half of them to die
  • Nothing unsticks a stuck sprinkler faster than giving it a human target
  • When a doctor tells you “no running” on a treadmill, it seems he also means “do not increase the incline and go at the fastest pace you can.” Go figure.
  • If it's in a new greenhouse, even spinach is exciting
  • I was rather proud when I broke the “unbreakable” therapy band the first physical therapist gave me, but by the time the third one broke, it was just about getting flipped by a 6-inch wide rubber band and a huge bruise
  • Cats may sleep 18 hours a day, but this doesn't prevent them from developing stress issues
  • Nothing makes one more popular with one's gardening friends than to be the only one who didn't grow zucchini
  • Just because there are places that specialize in boarding cats, it doesn't mean it's a good idea
  • While killing off the voles would be nice, I am willing to settle for driving them into the neighbor's yard
  • It's a good thing I didn't choose to go into espionage. I don't know how I would fare with actual torture, but an extra 5 minutes of therapeutic massage alone would have me singing like a canary
  • It's easy to underestimate the perversity of cats until one has to get them to take medication twice a day
  • When doing exercises against a door, the smarter thing would be to make sure it's against the direction that opens
  • I was so tired of unsuccessfully battling squash bugs that I planted NO squash of any kind this year—and ended up with 3 types of volunteer squash...........which the squash bugs ignored completely
  • Even though some people were barely able to pass high school, given a Facebook or Twitter account, everyone is an expert on everything from medicine to economics
  • Sprinkling garlic water in the garden might get rid of some voles, but not ones that are actually eating the garlic in the garden
  • My parents didn't participate in the drug scene of the 1960s, but I think the hallucinogenic drugs they gave my father during his first week in the hospital topped anything the counter-culture ever tried.
  • Even after planting a whole crop of them, we still don't know what fresh fava beans taste like, but the plants are some sort of vole delicacy.
  • You know you've stayed in touch with your inner child when you have to set a house rule to NOT jump on the beds because you've stored the empty canning jars underneath them.
  • When one has to approach canning in moderation, one cans much less weird stuff
  • A vet who prescribes anti-stress meds in pill form for a cat has never had to GIVE pills to a cat
  • At some point in medical school, they probably need to instruct doctors to check what medications a patient has been given BEFORE asking the patient questions. Not that it wasn't funny to listen to my father's answers to their questions—especially the discussion about Shetland ponies outside the 5th floor window—it wasn't exactly medically accurate nor extremely helpful.
  • I was out of bed for Thanksgiving for the first time in two years! I absolutely love Thanksgiving, and it was so nice to participate in it again. Besides the wonderful spirit of the holiday, I love the idea that America's greatest culinary tradition started with someone looking at a piece of stale bread and saying, "Hm, I wonder where I could put this................"

Wishing you a wonderful holiday and a healthy 2014,
Toni & Andy

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gettin' Ready For Christmas

What says "Christmas" more than a pot of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove
while building a snowman in the back yard?

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Snowing!

The good news is, my back is surviving the cold fairly well.  The bad news?  After having a really painful day last time it snowed, my physical therapist very nicely explained that muscle injuries can be aggravated by snow and rain--I forget why, exactly, because to be honest I scoffed at the very idea.  Not aloud, of course, because that would be rude, but I will admit that I didn't really believe her.  I've heard old people say they could feel rain in their joints or knees or whatever for much of my life, but as I live in high desert, they are almost always wrong, so I had chalked it up to an old wives' tale or superstition.  It turns out, it is of very little consequence whether or not I believe her.  It's whether or not my back believes her, and it definitely does.  From about noon onwards my back has just ached.  Maybe they aren't Old Wives' Tales after all--maybe they're Old Wives Tails...............

Monday, December 16, 2013


Or at least partly. 

Saturday, I attended not one but TWO Christmas parties.  This is quite exciting for me, as I haven't been able to do anything of the kind in two years. 

The early party was a Christmas ornament exchange party that a friend of mine has been hosting for about 15 years.  I missed it last year, and was really sorry to miss all the fun and wonderful ornaments.  It's an all-girl party except for,
my friend's two little Havanese dogs.  Tango and I made friends pretty quickly--Cash paid more attention to those with potential food to share.

I love this party, and having so many ornament to remember so many years.  This is the ornament I got this year,
and it not only plays the Charlie Brown song, the record actually spins.  I almost lost it to one of my friends with children, but in the end she decided that it would take too long to explain to her children what records were and how they actually worked.  Sometimes age pays off.

Then I met Andy at the second party, which was fun all on its own and lots of new people, but one of the hosts is a professional musician around town, knows lots of other professional musicians, and had them bring their instruments.  Luckily, it was more of a jam session and playing around than Christmas carols, so we could REALLY hear them play and do songs they had written or played for years.  Seriously, they could have charged a cover charge for that party. Fun times.

Sunday I wasn't too sore, but I was thoroughly exhausted and had to rest most of the day, which is okay.  Sometimes I have to rest without having done anything fun, so 7-8 hours of attending fun things is okay if it's exhausting.  Progress is progress.................

Friday, December 13, 2013

Better Late Than Never

Every anniversary, Andy and I exchange perfume and cologne.  Some years we've picked it out separately, some years we've gone shopping together.  The scent industry seems to have survived the economic downturn without a hiccup, as last year our selections cost almost twice what the ones we bought in 2006 for our wedding.  I understand inflation, but not even gas and oil have increased at THAT speed.  So we've been kicking around ideas for a new place to shop or a new way to pick out scents, and time got away from us.  As it is now the Holiday Season, the mall and just about every retail establishment has descended into crowded and obnoxious trials of patience for both of us, so this year we decided to pick out scents on-line.

That was more fun than we ever dreamed.  We started looking up scents we already had, then looked at things that people had also bought.  The reviews were almost worthless, but the descriptions were delightful.  I was sorely tempted by one described as "a sexy fruity fragrance you wear at your discretion," but eventually picked Amarige by Givenchy, which has notes of "Neroli, Mandarin, Violet leaves, Rosewood, Gardenia, Red fruits, Ylang-Ylang, Acacia Farnesiana, Tonka Bean, Woods, Ambergris."  I have no idea what most of those things actually smell like, but I liked the sound of "ylang-ylang."  I don't know how it is actually pronounced exactly, but it looks fun.  

For Andy we looked up some of the male versions of perfumes we've bought for me.  One of our favorites has always been "The One" by Dolce and Gabbana, which has a male version.  We thought we were ordering the original, which was described as "The One for Men perfectly reflects the Dolce Gabanna man: charismatic and seductive, elegant and sophisticated, he loves taking care of himself. A modern hedonist who never passes by unobserved."  Without realizing it, however, we ended up ordering "The One Gentleman," which is for "a man who is multifaceted and knows how to treat a lady,"  I have no idea what either of those descriptions have to do with smells, but I love the descriptions. We've never gotten odd descriptions of fragrances at the fragrance counters--just a lot of cards with scent on them.  They're nice in themselves, but the descriptions are less prone to giving headaches.

Our new scents arrived this week,
and quite wonderfully, we like both scents and yet they are quite different from anything either of us already have, making it a total surprise.  No free gifts with purchase, of course, but last year's umbrella doesn't work very well, the matching scented deodorants tend to give Andy a rash, and we already have at least 5 or 6 free bags piled up around the house.  And we're celebrating another year of smelling absolutely fabulous...........

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Decorations Tour

I promised Andy's mother pictures of the house as decorated this year because she's been following my 365-ornament experiment, so we're doing a little tour this morning.

In past years, I have done both upstairs and downstairs, but this is where the decorations stopped this year:
I didn't want to overdo and then end up struggling to make it through the party, so I did exercises some restraint this year.  However, this:

was FUN. I hadn't originally intended for one tree to be The Homemade Tree, but as this was the first tree that went up and I was so excited to see how all the new ornaments looked on it, it is almost entirely homemade ornaments. There are some new ornaments that Andy made this year:
which we got to keep because he isn't entirely pleased with them.  We also included the beautiful,
and pretty intricate, ornaments made by Andy's cousin Mindy, who is obviously a woman of infinite patience. We also have several very unique ornaments made by a friend who studies native crafts, so this
is a miniature birch-bark canoe.  How cool is that?

It turns out, as I was digging through the ornament boxes, that we have LOTS of homemade ornaments from all sorts of people--past coworkers, nieces and nephews, friends--so they're all on here,
 I didn't add any garland or anything but lights and ornaments to this tree--it hasn't seemed to need it, especially since I'm still finishing up some of the ornaments. I didn't realize how far behind I had fallen in soaking the stabilizer off the lace ornaments, which actually takes a couple days, so more ornaments keep popping onto the tree.

We also have a cool new addition in the coat hall this year:
I've had this candle holder for years, but I never light it as I don't like candles that close to the wall or that can be bumped easily.  So one day I asked Andy if he might be interested in making decorations for it, and these are the result.  I love it, and I was surprised how quickly he could make them.  I added the bows for a little color and to make them a bit less likely to get bumped.  Just a fun new addition this year.

I love variety in decorating, so as many of you know, I have several Christmas "themes" we can use.  This year I went back to the original red and gold,
which worked out well as
the red lights were the only other ones I could find.  One Christmas box is still somewhere in the garage, but by the time I got to this tree, the party was coming up pretty quickly and there wasn't really time to clean the garage.  There goes the theory that I think about these themes well in advance....

This tree was fun to do as well, as the ornaments are mostly ones we've received as gifts or bought as souvenirs from trips.  I've been collecting ornaments for a very long time--technically,  this
is my very oldest ornament, which I received in second grade.  I started collecting ornaments from trips long before I met Andy, 
so ones like this wonderful little lunar landing module from NASA pre-date him, but we've continued the tradition on all of our trips together.  This one from a weekend in McCalll is especially cute,
though they're all fun.  And,  while many of our ornaments come from a girls' ornament exchange party that I've been attending for the past 15-20 years,
we have some ornaments Andy has been given from the kayaking & canoeing club as well.   I don't think there's a single year that I haven't put up a tree.  My first year in college it was rather more of a stick than a tree and had to be suspended from the window frame with dental floss to keep it upright, and I did abandon real trees after an episode involving my pocket knife and a trip to an emergency clinic for 5 stitches, and two years ago my friends did put up the decorations for me, but I just can't imagine not having one.  Or two, as the case may be............

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Things I Have Learned This Week

*  If one is going to go overboard when making appetizers, it's best to make them healthy enough that they can be lunch, breakfast, and dinner for the next few days

*  Normally the cats consider me a bit of a dim bulb, but it doesn't stop them from thinking I can make it warm enough for them to go outside if they just ask often enough.

*  It turns out that I'm not yet that motivated to know if my back muscles can take our recent miserably-cold temperatures or not.  Anything below zero, or even in single digits, is just going to be ignored right now.

*  When you can be made the Bad Guy for setting limits on how often people can use you for their own convenience, it's not much of a relationship to begin with and certainly not a healthy one.

*  Just because you've made a tradition out of watching as many version of "A Christmas Carol" as you can find, it doesn't mean that you have to include "The Smurfs Christmas Carol."  All traditions need limits.

*  I used to think I could figure out pretty much anything on the internet.  Then I met the latest Yahoo Mail upgrade.

*  I am not a good guesser.  When I am being careful about being on ladders and stools and reaching and lifting, I'll STILL manage to find something that is hard on one's back.  This week it was wrapping gifts while sitting on the floor.  In my defense, however, doesn't that sound like an EASY thing?

*  While being strong enough to make it to ALL the holiday parties would be great, after last year it's nice to be able to attend MOST or even half.  Even slow progress is progress.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Back With a Bang!

Finally! We were able to have an actual party!  I've had a Christmas party almost every year for the last 20+ years, so going two full years without a party was really strange.  And we rejoined the human race in style,
albeit a really ugly style. Andy wasn't the only one sporting lights--our contest winner
had both lights AND a singing hat, and is seen here trying (quite unsuccessfully) to get everyone gathered for a group photo.  It was hard enough to get people for individual shots--there was no stopping the party for a group shot.

We had some wonderfully creative sweaters,
front AND back:
and I'd love to show you pictures of all the fun stuff, but even taking shifts with the camera didn't capture all the creativity.  But we did have a MARVELOUS time!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Day By Day..........

Yesterday was a bad back day again, which is REALLY frustrating as I thought I was being really good this week AND it meant missing a Christmas party last night.  It turns out that there are lots of things that can cause my back to freak out while I'm trying to heal, including changes in the weather.  I won't know for about a year if the weather problem is permanent or not, but for right now, it is possible that snow combined with a zippy 4 degrees can throw my back for a loop.  Fair enough--the rest of me doesn't care for that kind of cold either. 

So today while getting ready for our party, I am taking regular breaks to sit on my new massage cushion.  The therapist told me that when muscles knot, one essentially has to re-injure them to get them to relax.  Fortunately or unfortunately, my new back massager believes in this program as well.  The packaging calls it "Shiatsu action," which sounds much more friendly than "back pulverization with heat," but it does work.  I think it's the same principal as those mallets for tenderizing meat, but I try not to thing about that too much...............

Friday, December 6, 2013

And We're On To Christmas!

I am not going to gloat or anything, because it was this week last year when I managed to sprain my back while doing physical therapy, so there are no limits to what I can do, but we are hosting our FIRST party in two years on Sunday.  I almost feel human again.  Or I feel like a human who still has to take muscle relaxers, take breaks, and who can still have random days of pain.  So maybe I need to work on my concept of "human," but as it's now been over two years, it's exciting to just be mobile.  AND GETTING READY FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!!!

I love spending Christmas in my own home.  We're always invited to different relatives' homes, of course, and for the first few years of our marriage all we DID was travel all over for Christmas.  But I'm 43 years old, Andy will be 50 next year, and frankly we are old enough to have our OWN Christmas traditions in OUR OWN HOME.  The thing is, I don't like to travel for Christmas.  Your house is more likely to be broken into, it's harder to find someone to take care of our pets, everyone on the planes are spreading cold and flu germs to everyone else, flights are expensive, weather conditions can cause delays and flights are overbooked, and December is so busy with parties and events and everything else that I'm tired by the time Christmas rolls around. I don't want to have to be gearing up to travel anywhere.  And, while I appreciate it when people DO invite us for Christmas, until I got married I never ONCE hosted or had Christmas in my own home because of family expectations, but now we're married, we're adults, and have a life together to create. So, we have big plans both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and an Ugly Sweater party on Sunday.  Let the holiday season begin!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanksgiving is Coming!

I love Thanksgiving. Besides the wonderful spirit of the holiday, I love the idea that America's greatest culinary tradition started with someone looking at a piece of stale bread and saying, "Hm, I wonder where I could put this................"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

But I WAS In The Lead.........

Over the weekend, I was actually the one doing the best here at the Ch√Ęteau.  Was I just a wee bit smug over being the healthiest one for a change?  I must have been, for the Evil Back Fairies struck hard and fast Monday night in their worst attack in quite some time.

I don't know exactly what started it as I swear I didn't do anything that I wasn't supposed to do, and even when I went out to plant garlic, I did just 2 rows and worked very hard at everything the therapist said about body mechanics.  But all day I was having on-and-off pain, which is relatively new.  Dull aching can actually be because of the cold because there is still a lot of muscular healing to happen, but that doesn't come and go and is pretty dull.  This was a more intense pain, and I decided to try the stretches that usually take care of most pain.

............and made it 10 times worse.  I have no idea what was going on, but after a pain pill and the amount of Valium that usually knocks me out, I was still miserable, so I decided to risk the return of the bleeding ulcer and took the full dose of pain pills and upped the dose of Valium to the full amount.  It didn't exactly get rid of the pain, but finally knocked me out.

Yesterday was pretty much a haze as the intense pain had ceased but it was right on the edge of coming back, so I stayed on the medication and was faithfully nursed by Theo all day.  Today is better, and aside from being completely nauseous and dizzy from all the drugs, I would probably be feeling okay.  I have no idea what I actually did to set this off, but I'm hoping it was stress combined with not taking the rests I'm supposed to take.  I'll find out what the therapist says tomorrow.............. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Slow Motion Weekend

To recap last week:

*  Theo, another round of stress-related bladder issues, trip to the vet for shots
*  Calisto, unknown but VERY smelly problem. Trip to the vet and 10 days of bubble-gum flavored antibiotics to be given twice a day
*  Andy, business trip to be topped off with a really bad cold and cough
*  Toni, still coping with the recent back set-back and 2 related doctors appointments

Let's just say that if there is a mouse somewhere in the house, it wins for having had the best week last week. 

Everyone is running at about half-speed, though Andy managed to get one of the garden beds dug up for the garlic before the cold beat him back into submission, and I got one row of garlic planted and
13 pints of crushed tomatoes canned before I was flattened by my back.  It seems bizarre to say that we were pretty well wiped out after such a small amount of activity, but it's true.  The Chateau residents were all well-zonked out by the time 9:00 pm rolled around last night.  If we're feeling wild, we might try for 9:30 tonight.................

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Almost Done!!!

Okay, there may be a few POUNDS of tomatoes in the freezer, but at least the garden has finally died and most of the tomatoes are used up.  I'll take another stab at canning tomorrow and we might be able to use the freezers for something besides tomatoes soon..........................

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Still no idea what actually went wrong with my back yesterday, but after lots of drugs and the heating pad, I am better today.  Still very tender and not overly mobile, but nothing like the pain of yesterday. 

At least I had already gone to the library before the store, so I've been listening to audio books while resting.  Aren't they just one of the best inventions ever?  I had intended to listen to them while canning today, but that would not be a good idea.  While I can now GET downstairs, I certainly can't stand for hours.  Or sit, for that matter.  Basically the cats and I have spent the last 24 hours sprawled on the bed.  Personally, I don't know what they see in it.

One thing the back pain has prompted me to do is to deal with annoyances that can be fixed.  I can't always control my back, but I really do have control over other things.  I've been in a book club on and off for 10-15 years.  It formed, went on, fell apart, took a hiatus, reformed a few years ago, and I've been only sporadic about being able to make it (or anything else) in the last couple years, and had been debating about dropping out for a while.  I don't know exactly how to have a successful book club, but I can tell you a few ways to have a book club fail:

*  Fail to read each other's books.  This is what killed off the book club earlier, and when the group reformed, for about a year everyone made the effort.  Now, I think less than half the members ever read the book, and when I last hosted, absolutely no one bothered to read the book.  It was still a fun night, but I can host parties without having to do any homework, and for the last couple years, I had stopped bothering to read books of anyone who didn't read everyone else's (with the exception of our new mommy, who probably barely has time to sleep but who almost always picks books I like), so I wasn't a very good member either.  Either it's a book club or it isn't, and that has to mean respect for everyone's books.

*  Fail to use common sense in book choices.  Unless you have chosen to BE a religious book club, or you know that every single member of your group is of the same faith, do NOT select religious books.  Unless you have ever heard someone open the door and say, "Oh yippee!  It's Jehovah Witnesses!" (and a friend of ours who was a Jehovah's Witness for years assured me this never actually happens), I think it's safe to assume that people just don't enjoy someone proselytizing.  I could, of course, be wrong, and there might be a Catholic book club that reads Mormon literature and a Mormon one that reads Catholic literature, but I've lived most of my life in Idaho, which is sort of North/South split of those two religions, and I have certainly never seen either.

*  Don't bring in new members.  Members are going to drop out, and if you don't bring in new members pretty regularly, you're going to dwindle in numbers.  New members keep you going, inject new ideas, generally keep you focused on being a book club, and can help prevent cliques.

*  Be sure to have conversations that exclude other members.  It's probably inevitable that one is going to bring in one's friends, and most book clubs do have a time before things "start" in which to chat, but once everyone is around the table or living room or whatever, to be discussing people the rest of the group doesn't know or things that only a few people are involved in alienates everyone else.  Once you're in the "group" setting, it should be a group-friendly conversation.  Maybe even about the book.........?

One of my friends has been in a book club for at least 15 years, if not 20, so obviously they can keep going, and the one I just left is still going and will continue quite happily without me, I'm sure, so I think they can work.  I just don't think I'll join one again.  We recently had dinner with friends and spent quite a bit of time swapping book recommendations and discussing great things we've read, which I've found is a wonderful way to get new things to read.  In fact, while recuperating I have been listening to one of those recommendations, Dog On It by Spencer Quinn, and found it completely delightful.  And I like Goodreads, which allows me to get all sorts of new reading ideas from friends, and especially if we like the same book can chat about it.  But having a frustrating book club experience in order to see people I genuinely like seems silly--why not read what I want and just have a non-book party?  See, now wasn't that an easy problem to solve?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Toni's Universal Law of Back Pain

If your back is going to go out, it will be in a humongous when you are at the very farthest point from the door, your car will be in the farthest spot, and you will have Valium in your purse but no pill cutter.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Almost There

18 pints of fresh tomato soup are cooling off in the pressure canner now, which is almost the end of the tomatoes.  And frees up a box:
I think the wink is because now I'm wondering if he also felt the need to be in there when it was full of tomatoes.  I wash them and peel them, of course, but after spending all day making tomato soup, the last thing I want to think about is a cat sitting on them.

I still have a few green tomatoes, and at least 30 pounds of frozen tomatoes, but I could use another 20 pounds to make tomato soup later in the week and be done with canning for the year, or I could just can tomatoes in the pressure canner which could take up slightly more than 20 pounds of tomatoes.  The end is in sight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013


In spite of the 100 books-a-year goal, I rarely post about books.  Possibly because I'm pushing so hard to get through 100 books a year.  This year, thanks to the back, I hit my goal pretty early, so now I can pick anything. 

Interestingly, I thought reading (or listening to) more books would make me more tolerant of "lesser" books, but it didn't.  It has made me more willing to explore new authors or genres, but actually MORE intolerant of bad writing.  I have even stopped canning in order to rip disks out of our new 5-cd-changer because the book was so bad.  But occasionally there is one that surprises or delights me, and a few of the latest:

All Creatures Great And SmallEvery guy I ever dated in the 1990s seemed to have this book. I don't know why exactly, but it's true.  And when EVERYONE is reading something, that has generally meant I'm not going to like it, so I had ignored this book.  Then Andy and I watched some of the old British TV series of the book and I was enchanted.  I'd found a copy in the clearance racks meaning to get to it, then I ran across it as an audio book in the library...........and I was enchanted.  It isn't every author who can allow you to chuckle at the interesting personalities one encounters, but not in a mean way, but James Harriot (James Wight) does.  You laugh with him--at himself, the animals, the characters, the situations--and you care about every single one of them.  Of course, as in everyone's lives, there is the occasional lout, but I found it even more charming than its purported reputation supposed.

Hunting EichmannI love history, even when it's rather dry.  This was well-researched and even though I knew the outcome, had me on the edge of my seat.  In spite of all the books I've read on Hitler and the holocaust, I still learned a great deal from this book.  Did you know even General Patton vomited when he saw the survivors in the extermination camps?  I know next to nothing about Patton, except that he was probably even tougher than George C. Scott who plays him in the movie, and that very fact has always scared me just a little.  That even HE was overcome with the horror of the camps says both a lot about the camps and I personally think about the innate goodness of most human beings. If you can still be that appalled after a lifetime in the military and war, don't you think that means people believe in an underlying basis of decency?

Lost for Words.  One of my favorite authors died this year--Deric Longden.  He wrote simple stories about his life and made people laugh--sometimes at things that were hard to live through.  This is the book he wrote about losing his mother, and while it was a sad event, she was such an interesting character that the book is truly happier than sad.  There was a movie done in England with Pete Postelthwaite and Thora Hird based on the book and using the same title, but so far the only way I know to see it in the US is on YouTube.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

And We Have.....

a SECOND batch of green tomato salsa, to follow up on Monday's canned tomatoes and double batch of chunky basil pasta sauce.  Unfortunately,

there are still lots and lots and lots of tomatoes.  I keep telling myself that the overabundance is really a GOOD thing because between my father's illness and my back issues, I didn't do much canning last year, and our summers are only going to get hotter and hotter, making it harder to grow a garden every year, but I am still getting a bit tired of the tomatoes.  Most of my tomato plants are actually still alive, but we're not discussing that. 

Since I canned yesterday and had a miserable back day on Tuesday, I'm not canning today.  I have physical therapy at noon, and I'm guessing it will be one of those painful working-out-the-kinks sessions.  So maybe the tomatoes and I will spend some time together over the weekend.  Or maybe I have enough room in the freezer for more red ones and can ignore the silly things until Monday...............

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


....and I don't have jury duty!  The jury system is a great thing, it's even an interesting process, but it still doesn't mean I want to be there.

I did have to go in yesterday, and I have to say that I was impressed with my fellow jurors.  No one WANTS to be there, but aside from two people who sounded like they were trying to get removed, during the questioning everyone really did take the process very seriously.  I was lucky enough to be at the end of the line for my particular panel--which meant that for me to be impaneled as a juror would have required the dismissal of 41 other jurors, which I think might have resulted in a mistrial--so I got to watch the process without really being involved.  Unfortunately, it meant two hours of sitting on the hard benches in the back, but at least I was saved from two additional hours on that bench by some sort of hiccup in the trial while we were on break, and we were sent home shortly before noon, and I spent the rest of the afternoon on the heating pad.  I have to call in the rest of the week, but it's unlikely I'll have to go back.  Civic duty or not, that hurt my back.

This morning I am using my free day to can green tomato and lime salsa, then will do my therapy and go for a few laps around the block to see if things loosen up.  Then maybe a few ornaments....................?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Things I Have Learned From Facebook

*  One may have barely been able to pass high school, but given a Facebook or Twitter account, everyone is an expert on everything from medicine to economics.

*  Only the most foolish "news" stories get "buzz" on Facebook.  Miley Cyrus is STILL all over Facebook, but I had to check the BBC to read about the death of one of the last remaining SS officers.

* Something called "Breaking Bad" is ending or has ended, and this has some sort of huge impact on people's lives.  We, the unaware, seem to be able to carry on, though.........

*  The only way to continue to like some people is to NOT be connected to them on Facebook.

*  Being related is no reason to maintain a relationship with anyone.  People who make your skin crawl are people who make your skin crawl.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

You Know You've Gotten Obsessed With the Garden When......

*  You have to take a picture of the perfect red bell pepper you grew before you can eat it:
* You check the weather more for the sake of how warm the garden will be than for how warm the house will be

*  Your spouse understands completely when you explain you can't buy any refrigerated groceries right now because the pepper harvest has taken up all the space............
* Finding a new green tomato salsa recipe is a cause for serious celebration.

* It isn't "fall" or "autumn" at your house but "canning season"

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Things I Have Just Learned To Live With

*  Just because everyone else's garden froze last week doesn't necessarily mean mine isn't still going strong.

*  When trying a new canning recipe, it's always a good idea to have a few extra jars ready.  Especially when the recipe says idiotic things like "cook until thick."

*  There are times when I will use TWICE the number of jars a canning recipe says I will.  While it may indeed be a time for rampant cursing, it isn't a cause for panic.

*  If I had decided to plant only part of my tomato starts, I would probably have had very few actually producing.  Deciding to plant ALL of them seems to inspire a competitive streak in them for overproducing.  There is nothing in between. 

*  NOT planting zucchini has made me very popular with my other gardening friends, and has landed us with more zucchini than when we grow the silly stuff.

*  A refrigerator is much bigger in the store than it is during harvest season.

*  Living in Idaho doesn't actually guarantee that one can grow potatoes easily

*  No matter how dedicated I think I'll be, I am always ready for the garden to die when October rolls around--which seems to invigorate the garden.  Dang it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

An Early Frost Predicted.....

An unexpected frost warning tonight combined with high winds meant the garden couldn't be covered, so after physical therapy, I harvested what was left.  Even after our friend picking on Tuesday and me picking yesterday, there were still an amazing number of ripe tomatoes, which are just sprawled all over the counters or in the freezer now.

Oh yeah--I'm ready for the garden to die..........

Monday, September 23, 2013

Seven Happy Years and Counting

Today is our seventh wedding anniversary.  Time flies when you're in love and having fun.........................:)

Friday, September 20, 2013


I have decided that my Spring Self must have it in for my Fall Self.  My Spring Self sees nothing wrong with 8 poblano plants, or planting every single tomato seedling I get to sprout because my Spring Self won't have to deal with the consequences.  That is for Fall Self, who is now picking tomatoes daily and wondering what kind of glue Spring Self was sniffing when she decided to let Mystery Squash live and who thought this year's tomato harvest should both make up for last year AND put one ahead for next year. It's probably best they actually never meet--my Fall Self would punch Spring Self in the nose right about now...........

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fingers Crossed

Canning hit a bit of a snag this week when I was flattened with a cold, but I'm hoping to tackle those tomatoes again tomorrow. 

is one of this year's most hopeful experiments:  Roasted Poblano Salsa.  Like most canned salsa, it was quite nasty to taste before it went in the jars, but I'm hoping that those roasted poblano peppers will live up to our expectations after this has time to mellow for a bit.  Poblano peppers are my favorite hot peppers--probably because they are the least hot of the "hot" peppers.  That gives them lots of flavor with less eye-watering.  Dried, they're called "chile ancho,"  though I haven't tried drying any yet.  With 8 poblano plants, this might be the year to try.........

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Holiday Weekend

So, my theory was that if I canned one thing a day, I'd get caught up with the garden.  So Thursday,
I made pickles.  I'm getting enough cucumbers to make small batches, but with the number of plants I put in, I should be overrun with cucumbers.  I think the severe heat stunted them.

 I made zucchini barbecue relish.  I did not grow zucchini this year, which makes me incredibly popular with all my friends who did.  I didn't even think I liked relish until I met this one.  And a double batch used up THREE zucchini, which is saying a lot. 

And today's canning is...........................not happening.  It turns out, two days in a row of canning is exhausting.  But maybe tomorrow.............

About the time I really hate the garden,
the terrific food kicks in.  The large peppers are Gypsy peppers, which are almost as sweet yellow as they are when they turn red, but are much faster to grow than the red peppers we see in the stores.  For the TRUE sweet red pepper lover, the tiny red peppers are called Red Popper.  They all come on at once, and they're a bit of a pain if you want to chop them, but Andy put them on kabobs last night, and they are AMAZING.  One of the perks to raising a garden is getting food one simply can't find in stores.  Gypsy peppers have shown up in a local store recently, but grocery chains are never going to go for something like the Red Poppers. Too bad--I'm thinking they'd make great appetizers with a little filling -- maybe feta or goat cheese?  Once we quit gobbling them up raw, of course...............

Friday, August 30, 2013


* Gave cat morning medication
* cleaned cat boxes
* fixed breakfast
* walked for an hour
* did load of laundry
* did physical therapy stretches
* made lunch
* made and canned double-batch of zucchini BBQ relish
* washed dishes
* cleaned kitchen
* physical therapy exercises
* cleaned cat boxes

Holiday weekend?  What?????

Saturday, August 24, 2013

We Think We're Still Better.........

My little sidekick seems to have gotten back to his usual self,
including one of his favorite games, which we refer to as "trip the human."  He's still on a de-stress medication and the glucosamine blend for bladder health, but the longer he can go without a relapse, the more likely it is that it won't reoccur.  So I keep a close eye on him, but it's harder than one thinks to de-stress a cat.

Monday I had warned him that this
was a bad place for a nap.  But you know pets--you can talk until you're blue in the face and they just won't listen.  So Tuesday, he fell off.  He did actually land on his feet, which I thought was just an old wives' tale, but I wasn't sure if it was stressful for him or not.  If I fell 3-feet out of bed while asleep, I don't think MY stress level would be great, so we had an extra petting session.  All seemed fine and then..

Wednesday, he got locked in the garage.  

Not realizing how much we would regret it, when we first moved into the house we installed cat doors in the kitchen and garage doors so the cats could come and go freely.  Two years of nocturnal bedroom gift adventures was put to an end with Theo's broken leg, and the cats are locked in at night.  Calisto, our little Houdini kitty, can unlock the cat doors, so we have a big sliding panel with screws for the outside door that finally stumped her, but they can get into the garage at night.

The problem is, the lock on the cat door wears loose, and can sometimes just end up on locked, in-only, or out-only.  Tuesday morning, Andy was amazed (and, frankly, delighted) to not get Theo's regular 5:00 AM wake-up call.   Sensing trouble, I went looking, only to find a very irate Theo trapped in the garage by "out only."  Not sure if "angry" and "stressed" are related in kitty world, I groveled a lot, gave Theo his medication, and crossed my fingers.  A bad week, but so far, so good.

Thursday night, we had thunderstorms.  

No matter how often we get them, thunderstorms terrify the cats.  For Calisto, it's either under the bed or buried in my closet--to possibly not come out for a day or two.  For Theo, for reasons best known to himself, it's the pantry.  As soon as the lightning started, I went rushing downstairs to make sure the pantry doors were partially open just like he likes them, and sure enough--he was already there.  Just to make sure he was perfectly comfortable, I moved some green beans out of his way.  

He still seems to be doing okay, but I'm checking the litter boxes regularly just to make sure.  I had no idea how much stress was involved in a kitty's life in a week!  No wonder he's on drugs..........

Friday, August 23, 2013

"No Pain" Is Harder Than It Sounds

So the new physical therapy includes soft tissue work, and for something that is "soft" it hurts like crazy.  Basically after two years of being in almost constant pain, I have created a knot of muscles in one of my butt cheeks that is now possibly causing the original hip problem, or at least contributing to it.  Either way, it has to be dealt with before we know the original problem is ironed out, so twice a week I go in and she works those muscles over.  It's helping, but it really, really, REALLY hurts as well, and quite often I'm pretty much through for the day afterwards.  I have some killer exercises to do as well, but the therapist has stressed over and over and over that I am not to do anything that hurts.  And, in my defense, I haven't.  But Monday while driving to my appointment with the physiatrist, it started to hurt a bit, and now I understand why I'm not supposed to do anything that hurt.  Pain is now a spiral--it went from a little bit of pain to ultimately winding up those sore muscles, and by Monday night I hurt like crazy.  Tuesday's therapy session showed a big set-back in getting those muscles unwound, and if I'd have known any state secrets, I would have turned them over within 5 minutes of her starting on me.  I spent most of Tuesday with the heating pad and Valium, and felt good enough Wednesday for
canning!  It's hot and tiring, but I find it just supremely satisfying to have control over so much of our diet.  I made my favorite pickle recipe,
 then a mixed-pepper salsa:
It's supposed to be all jalapeno peppers, but that would be much hotter than I could stand, so I mixed Anaheim, poblano, and jalapeno peppers.  Two of my poblanos had matured to red, which might explain why the salsa is red instead of green this time.  It's basically a mix of half peppers and half tomatoes, but in the past it's turned out a bit more green than red.  Oh well, I swear I double- and triple-checked the recipe, and for a double batch it came pretty close to the estimated jar count, so I'm not too worried.  I was even able to pick enough tomatoes to can that I didn't need to use any of the frozen ones, so that's an increase from last week.

Yesterday, of course, I hurt again, and today is very sensitive, but at least I'm getting some good days.  The doctor warned me that this could take months, but as it's already taken almost two years, a couple months to get better beats the daylights out of two years of NOT getting better. 

Fall! Finally!

Even without extremely hot summers, I've always loved fall.  A little coolness in the air, leaves starting to turn, sweaters coming out-...