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..........

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-...