Showing posts from 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.........

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…

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?

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...............


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 p…

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 a…

Ah, Knitting.................

The dream:

How I look in Reality:

 .......but it does keep my face almost warm when I'm out walking.

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 fri…

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 li…

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!

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 he…

And We're On To Christmas!

I am not going to gloat or anything, because it was this week last year when I managed tosprain 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 …

Happy Thanksgiving!


No! Not Monday Again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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................"

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

Over the weekend, I was actually the one doing the best here at the Château.  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, …

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 …

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..........................


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 yea…

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.

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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 Small.  Every 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 …

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 unti…


....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 re…

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.

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"

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 guar…

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..........

Seven Happy Years and Counting

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


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...........

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.........

What a Creative Spouse Does When You're Not Much of a Cake Person


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 peppe…


* 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?????

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…

"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 pai…