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. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's Good!

Last night Andy made a modified chicken Parmesan using the leftover basil simmer sauce, and it was REALLY good.  Thank heavens!!!  We have 13 half-pints and two pints of the stuff--glad we like it!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Let The Canning Games Begin!

It's impossible to say yet whether this will be a good or bad year for tomatoes as it's still early and a few of the plants missed the first fruiting, but I have been washing the early tomatoes and popping them in the freezer until I had enough for
This is a tomato-basil simmer sauce, which I don't think I've made before, and which had the same problems all the BHG canning recipes and I have:  even if I go way over the supposed "cook-until-thick" time, I still end up with more sauce than I'm supposed to.  In 80 minutes of simmering, it was supposed to cook down to around 11 cups.  This is what I ended up with after 95 minutes.  Oh well.  It's perhaps a bit thinner than I wanted, but the recipe said a variation was to add some chopped dried tomatoes right before canning, so I did, which should absorb some of the extra moisture.  And this time I had extra jars prepared--which is probably a first for me. 

I have my first follow-up appointment with the physiatrist today, then I hope to have enough time to can a few pickles tonight.  Canning season is underway!

Friday, August 16, 2013

And Today's Mystery Plant Is......

The world's most phallic pepper:
Even though this is a plant I grew from seeds, I haven't the faintest idea what kind of pepper it is, but judging from the small size, I'm guessing it's a rather hot one.  I do have a few recipes for pickled vegetables where one puts a whole red chile in the jars, so I guess I have something I can do with them, but I'm rather chapped about this plant.  I'm used to squash doing whatever it wants to do and just generally being a pain, but I thought peppers and I had a bit of an understanding--they grow well, they don't need a lot of work, and until this year were pretty predictable.  If the cucumbers turn on me, I think I'm going to need therapy..............

Friday, August 9, 2013

Physical Therapy - Day Two

Oh my--it's a good thing I didn't go into espionage. 5 more minutes of therapeutic massage and I would have sung like a canary...............

Thursday, August 8, 2013

And Round Three Is Underway

Two weeks ago I went to see a physiatrist for my back/hip, and he has sent me to a different physical therapist.  Tuesday was my first appointment, and I really feel good about her.  One thing I've learned over the years is to be deeply suspicious of people who make quick judgments and don't change them, though usually doctors and medical people are outside of this.  But it cheered me to no end when she out-lined a few things that were happening, explained that it wasn't clear yet what were the cause and which were the effect, and said we would change the treatment as we go along.  The first thing she addressed was a big sore knot in my lower back, which has probably been there for some time and would be tied up with the constant pain of the last two years.  She worked it out quite gently, but it still hurt and I haven't been able to sit comfortably since, but I haven't been able to sit without hurting in a year and a half.  It was a much less intense pain, and my movement has been better and less painful.  I had a busy and tiring day yesterday--I didn't hurt but couldn't sit, so I was in motion almost all day.  A big change from Monday when I was in so much pain that I was in tears and Andy made an emergency run to the store to get Tylenol, which is the only pain reliever I can currently take because of the ulcer. 

I know it's only day two, but I am really, really hopeful that this long saga will finally be over.  I have been very fortunate to have Andy's support--and that of my friends--during all this.  And I'm also fortunate that I have the strength to avoid those people who aren't supportive--those who think I should just magically feel better and be able to drive 4 hours round-trip because they want me to, never mind if it might cripple me for a week.  The reality is, not everyone can see outside themselves or think about what someone else is going through, and those are the people to keep at a distance.  The people I have chosen to be around have been marvelous--they understand, they're supportive, they know I may or may not be able to do things, and they really have helped get me through this.  While I hope I stop needing it, I will never forget their support. 

And now we're off to Day TWO!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Squash Wars - The 2013 Version

I did not plant squash this year.  However,
we got squash anyway.  I kept up with weeding out the "volunteer" plants pretty well, but these got a head start because they were right where I planted cucumbers and I initially thought they WERE cucumbers, and then when I couldn't get the beans growing, I thought I'd just leave them until the squash bugs hit or we got some squash.  BUT, in the perversity known around here as The Squash Wars, the squash bugs have left these along AND they're some sort of unidentifiable mutants.  We think the top one is a cross between patty-pan and pumpkins or butternut, but the bottom one is a bit of a mystery.  It looks like a watermelon, but we haven't grown watermelon and the only watermelon we've eaten for several years now are the seedless ones, so it has to be some sort of mutant squash.  Zucchini and spaghetti maybe?   

 I may get my ass kicked by squash every year, but thankfully peppers love me:
Gypsy peppers are my new favorite.  They're sweet and are terrific raw, but also stand up to cooking, and are early and prolific.  I even saw them in the grocery store yesterday, so they must be growing in popularity.  They're much less bitter than regular bell peppers, but don't take as long as sweet red peppers.  AND, most importantly, they're the pepper I actually planted.  Always a cause for celebration in my garden..........

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-...