Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Morning has broken


Until my friend Wendy got her new iPhone, I didn't realize my Samsung Galaxy S4 had a panoramic option on the camera. I'd never even explored all the camera modes.

When I looked outside this morning as the morning light overtook the darkness, I saw the perfect vista for trying it out.

And the coolest thing is, the camera goes back to Auto Mode on its own … so I'm not taking a panorama the next time I snap a photo.

We had lovely weather yesterday. I did laundry and took a walk. On my way back from the walk I started feeling ill, and all I could do for the rest of the day was … rest.

But I'm back to normal this morning and the plan is to walk and mow. I'll be out of town for a few days – my husband and Hershey will be holding down the fort – but might get a chance to check in while I'm gone.

One thing I MUST do today is put the remaining spaghetti and butternut squashes in the garage. It's supposed to go below freezing one night while I'm gone, and I'd hate to lose them. I'm cooking one of the spaghettis today, to add to a pot of chicken soup.

And, that's it … enjoy your day.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nine

I voted last Wednesday, West Virginia's first day of early voting for the general election this year, but there still are nine days until Election Day and another six days to vote early. There's really no excuse not to vote. Yes, Summers County is a large area and yes, there's only one early voting location – the county courthouse in Hinton – but I'm thinking nearly everyone needs to go to Hinton for something in the two weeks prior to November 4.

I could be wrong, of course. Now that I write that, I know one self-sufficient couple who studiously avoids Hinton, choosing to drive much farther to the next county for their few purchased necessities.

At any rate … early voting has probably been going on in your state, as well, and I hope that – if you're not able to take advantage of it – you'll show up on Election Day and exercise your fundamental right to have a voice in your governance. As money continues to buy politicians and sway the political process, I'd like it even more if you'd vote for candidates who will eventually be part of the process that will overturn Citizens United, which upheld the notion that corporations are people.

We're all tired of the negative commercials these shadowy "people" are airing. It's almost a pleasure to see an ad for a new prescription drug nowadays. (Those were my previous mutable moments.) There's a group here with big money telling out-and-out lies about candidates. They truly are slanderous, and I hope prosecutions are forthcoming.

Nine more days.

Today is the last day of the last weekend of Railroad Days, and it promises to be beautiful – sunny and mild weather and, I hope, sunny and mild people to talk with about the future of this state, and what lies ahead if the Koch Brother-backed candidates are elected. It's been an uphill battle so far.

November 5 truly can't come quickly enough.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

On my wishlist

I pretty much have everything I need and want. I'm not pining away for any kind of new this or that stuff. But I would like for a few things to happen, preferably without my having to work too hard at it.

First, always first, is to achieve a weight-loss goal and then maintain it.

I was sooooo close last year. Within 12 pounds. And now it's back to 20+. Which is better than 50+, to be sure, and I'm catching it earlier than I did a couple years ago. Those of you who struggle with weight loss know how much easier it is to put it on than to take it off.

I feel like I'm heading in the right direction, and the election season is almost over, which will help free up my time and energy to get back to basics. And to get back to walking daily.

Next … about that election … I really hope the Democrat message has been strong, persistent and positive enough to retain our majority in the state legislature, add a seat in Congress and keep retiring Jay Rockefeller's seat in the blue column.

Could we be doing better? Always. And there's still time, it's 12 days until Election Day. But now that early voting has begun, it feels like time is running out. I noticed a distinct reduction in the number of political commercials while watching Jeopardy last night. Like two instead of 12.

Finally, it would be great if there were some way to block those commercials completely after you've early voted.

We mute them, unless it's a new one we haven't previously seen. And there actually are a couple we really like, so we watch those with the sound turned up. But mostly the commercials this year have been driven by negativity and funded by buckets o'cash from out-of-state billionaires.

I did a commercial for my Congressman, way back in May, that never ran. It was about insurance, and of course anything that smacks of Something Good President Obama Has Done is off the table here in West Virginia. I'm sad about that, in so many ways.

I also wish …

  • my commercial had run.
  • my fellow citizens could look past the color of his skin and get to the heart of his character.
  • God, guns and gays – and coal – weren't the operative campaign issues for Republicans.
November 5 can't come quickly enough.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Somehow or another

I don't push this blog much. Most of the time I post a link to it from my Facebook page, but sometimes I forget to do that. I try to comment on others' blogs – a known way to steer traffic to one's own – but I'm not very good about that, either, especially lately.

I use the blog to brain dump and to remember stuff. I've been able to find the exact date something happened (derecho, anyone?) or a minor detail (was it 9 or 11 days we were without electricity and water?) in seconds with a targeted search.

Might not be as good for my brain, but it's great for my patience!

Need socks? Make some!
I also don't check my stats very often, because I'm not working too hard to be the world's most popular blogger. But I checked this morning and for some reason my knitting page is suddenly very popular. The majority of yesterday's referrals are from Ravelry.

Knowing where the starting point is doesn't answer the how or the why, though. Someone out there must have mentioned those patterns somewhere. I'm happy to share the few designs I created, years ago, and wish you many happy knitting returns.

Whoever you are, and however you got here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You never know

When you're planning a large public event, you never know how many people will show up. How much food should you buy? How much coffee do you need to make? How many plates, cups, napkins, bowls? HOW MUCH FOOD?

We ran out of mac & cheese, slaw and chips last night at our Get Out The Vote Rally and Pig Roast, but there was plenty of pulled pork and soup beans for the latecomers. People just kept showing up, from 5 p.m. until well after 7.

All of us who helped plan it are very pleased, this morning after, with the turnout, the donations, the enthusiasm and the promises to vote for Democrats.

Actually I haven't talked to any of the rest of them, but I feel certain they're happy with the outcome. And I guarantee they're happy it's over and I double-guarantee they're happy (as am I) that Election Day is two weeks from today.

Early voting in West Virginia begins tomorrow. I plan to be there.

What's wrong with this picture?Women in WV make 68¢ for every dollar men make doing the
same job. The national average for women is 15 to 20 cents higher.
We had a lot of fun with a Gender Equality Bake Sale, too, and made our point: As long as women earn less than men for the same work, they should pay less. LOTS of men got it, and paid the men's price for their wives' dessert.

Yes, it was a friendly crowd, but I think some people there had an opportunity to make up their minds after talking with the candidates and hearing a) what the Democratic incumbents have been able to accomplish during their years of service, and b) what the Republican opponents haven't done during their time in office.

We'd love to turn Summers County blue this time. We'd love to keep West Virginia blue. Two more weeks.

Time will tell.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Early adapter

Well, Apple updated its OS again. I wouldn't have known about it, probably, because I certainly wasn't looking. But since I saw the notice – somewhere, I don't even remember where – I OF COURSE immediately downloaded the update.

Immediately, of course, being a relative term, since millions of us were all downloading it at the same time. It literally took more than A DAY to update the OS and all the other applications that were affected.

So far, so good, even though my MacBookAir is pretty old. (The general rule of thumb is if your hardware is more than two years old, a new OS may not work all that well.)

The best best best thing, so far, is how much more hard drive space I have! Installing Yosemite reclaimed about 8GB. Once I find time to go through and delete the obscure, never-played, get-it-free songs on iTunes, I should have at least that much more.

I like to think my hard drive has a food baby, and once we get that digested it will get back to its slim and efficient self.

I wish it were that easy for me, but it's not and I'm busy and at this point I'm just waiting:

  • Until the election is over.
  • Until I have more time to walk/cook/plan.
  • Until I can stock up on the foods that work for me.
  • Until my mojo comes back.

I'm not going crazy, but I'm definitely feeling like not much is working for me right now. I know, I know, I just bragged about dropping six pounds. And that was fun! But I have to be so, so vigilant, and I just haven't had time to continue the effort.

Holding on is as good as it gets right now. Two weeks and a day ... let the countdown begin.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Still here …

Still busy.

Still walking.

Still on track with the eating plan.

Still sleeping well (early to bed, early to rise).

AND LOSING!

Astonishingly, I've lost SIX pounds the last couple weeks. I reset my goal on my little weight monitor app and am starting anew. Again. I may never make my high-school weight again, but I can get close and I'll be much more fit than I was then.

One thing that's really been helpful is that rack of spaghetti and butternut squashes on my back porch. It's so great to have them "in stock." It's what I love most about gardening – not having to go to the market. When I had that huge, fabulous garden four years ago, I was able to preserve enough food to last four or five months plus eat my fill during the summer.

My garden is half the size it used to be and the deer ravage it every year. I was warned they would, as time went by, so my challenge next spring will be to container-garden the tomatoes and peppers and use the garden space for cucumbers and squash – vegetables for which the deer apparently haven't acquired a taste.

Being busy is helpful, too. Sometimes I just don't think about eating. Sometimes I literally can't stop. It's kinda cool to feel real, actual, honest hunger and to know I'm not going to die if I can't drop what I'm doing to eat something.

In case you haven't heard, there's an election coming up here in the United States. I'll be doing Democratic things for the next couple weeks, as much as possible, trying to counteract the Koch Brothers' influence here in West Virginia. The ground game will make the difference.

This campaign season has been negative from Day One. Every candidate has thrown mud, both sides, and the pleas for money never stop. Right, Jen?

The Koch Brothers are really going for low-hanging fruit by coming to West Virginia. Ten counties voted for a convicted, incarcerated felon over the incumbent President in the 2012 primary. I just hope our phone calls and outreach will get Democrats to vote for Democrats. We're reminding people that the President isn't on the ballot. Some people seem to not know that. SERIOUSLY.

We may or may not have company this weekend, depending on the health status of the four children and one adult who were coming. Everything is ready for them, or will be by this afternoon, and if they don't come that just leaves more time for campaign work.

Yay.

And … that's all for now.

Monday, October 13, 2014

This soup is the BOMB

My husband's birthday was yesterday, and I usually make him the copycat version of Outback's Walkabout Soup. It's a cheesy onion soup and takes a lot of prep work (All. Those. Onions.), but he loves it and deserves something special on his special day.

He asked me this year if we could have butternut squash soup instead. I'm not sure why he wanted to switch, but squash soup is much easier to make, so I said, "Sure, honey. Whatever you want!"

I wanted to do something different from our usually curried version, though, and came up with THE best soup we've ever eaten.

Seriously!

Who doesn't love a thick, creamy, savory soup on a dreary, rainy day?

From memory, here's how it went down. Best made on a lazy day when you're not in a hurry.

Squash Bomb Soup

Ingredients
1 large or 2 small butternut squash
1 pound mild ground sausage
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 Tblsp dried sage
1 can full-fat coconut milk

Rinse the squash before you stab it with a knife a couple times, place it on a cookie sheet and pop it in a 350° oven for an hour or two. (Smaller squash will take less oven time, but don't rush it. You want the squash to be VERY soft.)

Go take a nap while it bakes.

Remove the baked squash from the oven to cool a bit.

In a large Dutch oven, brown the sausage over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon into bite-sized chunks. After the sausage has released some fat, reduce the heat to medium and throw in the onion and garlic. When the onion is translucent, stir in the sage and stir to mix thoroughly.

Cut the squash in half crosswise and scoop the seeds out of the blossom end. Remove the skin from the flesh of the squash and add the flesh to the sausage mixture. Pour in the coconut milk and stir well.

Let it cook for half an hour to 45 minutes. If you can't get to it right away, lower the heat and just let it simmer until everyone's ready to call to the table. The longer it simmers the more the flavors will meld and the better the finished soup will taste.

No need to blend it with an immersion blender. Just stir until it's thick and creamy and then DIG IN.

Best. Soup. EVER. Did I already say that? Well, it is!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Soaker. Or not.

Looks like another all-day rain today, and I will definitely be hitting the rowing machine. There's enough water out there I could probably row through some of the ditches around here, if the ditch was wide enough. And if I had a rowboat.

I cleaned the garage yesterday. Didn't really de-clutter it much, but moved things around and swept. It was quite Halloween-y at times. I would move, say, a box and a dozen of those big black spiders would leap around, indignant at my disturbing their sleep! They are TRULY CREEPY, especially when a dozen of them start skittering around in front of you at the same time.

ICK.

Actually, another look at the radar shows it will probably stop raining, but it doesn't seem like the clouds are going to disperse. A cloudy-day walk is fine, though.

Either way, I'll be doing some kind of intentional activity today and I will enjoy it. Not for what will happen eventually, but because I truly do like how I feel when I move and use my limbs and muscles. Working in the garage yesterday was most satisfying. The amount of pine straw and dirt and dead bugs in there was disgusting, and each swish of the broom made me feel good.

Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV03). AND ME!
Last night was fun – West Virginia's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Charleston. Three of my very good friends received awards and I swear I knew half the people there. SO DIFFERENT from my first 10 years of living here in the Mountain State, when I didn't know a soul and couldn't figure out how to meet anyone.

My gratitude to our local group of Democratic Women knows no bounds. The woman who was president in 2009 had to step down and the group voted me to be the new leader of the pack. I went to district and annual meetings, got to know women at the state level and was elected to a state board position last year. Being a small cog in this wheel of Democratic politics in West Virginia is rewarding and gratifying and gives me purpose.

Believe me, Democratic women get things done. And I know it's the same in your state, as well.

Check them out. Plug in. Get involved. Change America, one county/parish/district/state at a time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

So how's that workin' for you?

My tea experiment is over. Done. Finished. OVER!

Yesterday was the third day, and I grazed all.day.long. I don't think I ever wasn't eating something. Some of those foods were on-plan, but most of it was completely ridiculous.

Here's the thing: I like coffee. And I was feeling left-out and deprived by limiting myself to one mug a day, and then switching to herb tea. I wasn't enjoying making it, and I wasn't enjoying drinking it.

If you're not enjoying what you're doing and you're eating all day to make up for it – well, it's just not working. I don't feel a bit bad about myself for throwing in the tea towel after just three days.

My first-thing-this-morning decision to drink as much coffee as I want comes on the heels of reading a magazine article before I went to sleep last night. I don't subscribe to Paleo magazine, but I was given an issue last year and keep going back to one piece, by Adam Farrah, in which he writes:
It's the same with training and moving. If you learned to love the drive to the gym, the warm up, the workout, and the drive home, you'd find the future you want naturally comes into being - or at least a reasonable approximation of it. 
Doing something we don't love and value in the present so we can have what we want in an imaginary future - the imaginary future being "the fruits" - is how we trick ourselves and make things harder than we need them to be.
Now for someone who's been sober as long as I have, you'd think I'd have figured this out by now. Living in the moment, being present, is a key component of my recovery. But I guess it's more key for my recovery from alcoholism. I haven't applied that principle to food or fitness.

Toward the end of my day of destruction – I didn't even enjoy all the snacking, I just did it – I decided, since it had rained most of the day and I hadn't walked, to hop on the rowing machine for a bit. I took the iPod with me and listened to part of a podcast. I stopped after 20 minutes and gave myself an E for effort.

I read the article later, after I'd done that short workout, but I was able to see that I'd enjoyed doing something good for myself. I didn't think of that rowing session as punishment, but as nurturing. I wasn't trying to make up for doing something "bad," I was simply yearning to work FOR myself, and not against.

And I woke up this morning feeling back on track. Good, if you will, although not in a "good-girl" judgmental way, but in a feel-good-ready-to-keep-on-keepin'-on way.

I'm so grateful I have this blog for dumping my brain like this. I don't know if it made any impact on you, but it did for me. Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A little breathing room

Last night my husband and I and several friends hosted a reception and fundraiser for a House of Delegates candidate here in our district. I've spent a lot of time this week thinking, planning, preparing, and putting things together for it, and now that it's over I'm left with … ungodly amounts of crackers.

It's a darned good thing I know and don't like how eating grains affects me. The prospect of stiff, aching hip and shoulder joints should keep me out of the supply. Besides … crackers? Meh. They're easily procured, should we run out and I decide I absolutely have to have one.

We brought lots of cheese home, as well, which my husband enjoys but which we don't often have on hand. Most of it went into the freezer. Dairy doesn't bother me in the same way grains do, but since my weight has decided to stay where it is, instead of going down – as I'd like it to – I'm going to avoid it as if it were a rare, disease-causing bacteria.

Also? Cheese, like crackers, is pretty easy to come by.

The next political event will be a Get Out The Vote rally and pig roast a week from Monday. (I'm making macaroni and cheeeeeeeese. With, perhaps, a seasoned cracker-crumb topping. Heh.) But a week from Monday is great. There's nothing really hanging over my head that I have to do. Except:
  • Design and distribute a flyer for the pig roast.
  • Go to the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Saturday night.
  • Make phone calls for three different candidates.
  • Work on newspaper ads for the candidate for whom we hosted the reception.
  • Pump up the social media volume for WV Federation of Democratic Women.
But at least the party's over. Heh.

Other parties, however, are just beginning. West Virginia's Attorney General has decided not to continue fighting same-sex marriage here.

Knock me over with a feather.

It's quite remarkable and rather unbelievable that this state, which might as well the the buckle of the Bible belt, has moved forward in this area. Couples have already been granted marriage licenses and officiants are ready to pronounce them married!

So. A little breathing room for equality here in the Mountain State, too. One love.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Doing WELL

I've missed one walk this week, when I really needed a down day. Burning the candle at both ends really takes it out of me and a recent rest day felt good. But I've MADE time to walk every other day and I know it's good for my body and my mind.

And because we're having such a beautiful fall this year, it's good for my soul, as well.

I'm still running behind on reading others' blogs and I apologize for that. It won't be long until life returns to whatever normal looks like.

I read yet another article a couple days ago suggesting caffeine might inhibit weight loss. Since I'm doing everything else by the book and the extra pounds aren't budging, I'm going to cut back gradually with the idea of switching completely to herb tea within a couple weeks. I don't have time for withdrawal headaches right now by going cold turkey.

The thing I love most about coffee is that it's right there, hot and ready to pour. Tea is a process: heating the water, putting the tea mixture into a tea ball (what I'm using now is loose tea, not tea bags), steeping, then getting rid of the tea leaves. It isn't a big deal, truly, but it certainly takes more time and thought than pouring coffee into a mug.

Oh. Well.

The decision has been made and I've share the commitment here. We'll see how it goes. I had two mugs (which is about four cups) yesterday morning. I cut that in half this morning. One of my hopes is that drinking less coffee will open up the possibility of drinking more water, which is something I just don't do at all.

It's all habits … and if a good one can replace a not-as-good one, then … that's GOOD!