Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Pantry: Plan B

Well my brilliant brick-and-board idea didn't work because the bricks were too long to allow the inner door to close on the back shelves. Pictures say a thousand words, or so I've heard, so I'll throw a couple up and see if they can tell the story better than I.

This is what the pantry looks like when you open the outer doors. This shot is the right side of the pantry, the left was identical, except that behind the shelves of canned tomatoes there were no shelves, just storage space. (Probably should have taken a "before" photo of the propped-up ironing board that used to be in there.)
This is the view of the new shelves, in place and stocked. I ended up having to use traditional hardware to install the shelves. It looks much nicer, there's more usable space and the interior door closes.
After I put all that food on the new shelves, I decided I'll probably – soon – take everything out and organize it more efficiently. The interior door shelves are deep enough to hold one can, while the new shelves can handle two. Or, better yet, the wider items I've had trouble finding space for, lo these many years.

At least one of you should be pleased that I actually got a weight-training workout done yesterday. I moved 42 bricks, three or four at a time, from behind my garage to my back patio, a distance of 30 feet or so. After I rinsed them and they were dry, I moved most of them into the pantry, another 18 feet or so. (Incidentally, this is the kind of workout I really love: using my muscles to actually complete a task,  rather than simply repetitively lifting heavy pieces of metal. And yes, I realize that there is a goal in mind with weight training, but I haven't made the mental leap I need to make to accept that I'm the task that needs to be complete. Hmmm.)

I didn't try to close the inner shelf until I'd put every brick and board in place. CALL ME STUPID! So I then had to move all the bricks back to their starting place behind the garage.

Fortunately the local (12 miles away) hardware store had the materials I needed to finish the job. If you were looking for me yesterday afternoon I was stuffed into the inner recesses of the dark pantry cupboard installing shelf rails.

I'm much happier with Plan B. It looks very professional, it matches the other side of the pantry and there's more storage room than there would have been with the [free] bricks. To sum up:

One long Aspen board, cut into five pieces: $23
Four shelf rails, 24 sheet-metal screws, 24 shelf clips: $21
New storage space in kitchen pantry: Priceless!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spreading the word

My friend Faith wants to help someone whose life has been turned upside-down by Hurricane Irene. Read her post here; if you have been affected or know someone who has, I hope you'll get in touch with Faith. She's a great young woman, and a wonderful example to us all.

Pardon me while I drop off the face of the earth for a while

A package was waiting on the front porch when my husband and I got home from a day trip yesterday. (Nothing exciting. In fact, may I be the last of many to say financial planning is quite boring?) I knew what was in the box, but I dutifully fed the dog, opened the mail, made some coffee, yadda, yadda, yadda, before I opened it. Because I knew when I opened it I'd be, um, busy.

As my husband napped, I pulled my new NookColor (or is it NOOKcolor?) from its overpackaged nest. (Seriously, there were three or four pieces of thick cardboard under the retail box and several more atop it, all of it inside a thick corrugated box. Many trees die to ship Nooks, but the resulting compostable material will be good for the garden.)

I have a few things to figure out, but was able to do the initial set-up easily and smoothly and downloaded all the books I've been collecting in my Nook Library, in anticipation of this day. I subscribed to two new magazines (one cooking and one knitting) and read about transferring my recipe and knitting pattern collections from my computer to the device.

Now all I have to do is move them.

Too bad it doesn't take any physical effort to do so. My husband noted that my reaping and eating duties take up a lot of my knitting and running time in the summer, and he's right. I'm feeling sluggish, like I need to get out and do something.

I have a project in line, easy to execute but one that will take a great deal of lifting. I'm making old-fashioned, on-the-cheap brick-and-board shelves on one side of my pantry.

Our pantry cupboard is as big as wide as a refrigerator and a good 18 inches taller. Double doors equipped with shelves open onto folding shelved units revealing twin deep recesses. One side is equipped with shelves. The other has an ironing board in it.

Who irons these days? I can slip the ironing board under the guest-room bed and use that space for pickles and tomatoes and jam, oh my. Which will be ever so much handier than trotting out to the garage for a new jar of something.

Since it's going to rain today (at least it looks like it is), I think it would be a very good day to move the pile of bricks from behind the garage out to the driveway to be rinsed by Mother Nature.

I think I'll play with the Nook first, though. And if you don't hear from me for a day or two ... well, no need to send in the authorities. Heh.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm just about sick of tomatoes

I can't quite believe I just wrote that. Vine-ripened, fresh tomatoes are fabulous and wonderful and a real treat. I won't even buy a fresh tomato from the grocery store, that's how much of a tomato snob I am.

But after eating and processing about 90 pounds of tomatoes in the last two months, I'm tired of dealing with them.

The latest tomato product is dried. The fruits are smaller and smaller as the summer drags on, and small tomatoes are perfect for drying. I cut off the stem end, halve them lengthwise and zip out the seeds with a fingertip. Arrange them skin side down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and let them dry overnight in a 160°-ish oven.

I found a method for further preserving them in oil. I now have two four-once jars and one eight-ounce jar of canned-in-olive-oil dried tomatoes, and three ounces of dried tomatoes which I will simply bag and freeze.

And since I had the canner going anyway, I went ahead and made four pints of dill spears with my paltry cucumber harvest.

Yesterday was an on-my-feet, in-the-kitchen day, from morning 'til evening. (I totally vegged with my knitting in front of the television last night.) I made:

  • Tomato confit
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Dill spears
  • Pizza dough and, for dinner, pizza

The kitchen was a wreck, the dishwasher is jammed full (and needs to be unloaded) and I was one tired puppy at the end of the day. Thus the major TV time.

We watched a documentary about sixties folksinger Phil Ochs, who committed suicide when he was just 35. (It's a new addition to Netflix.) Thirty years later, as his daughter points out in the film, we (society) are still dealing with the issues Ochs sang about and fought for.

We then watched part of a movie about Ken Hechler, a former West Virginia Congressman. (I could only find it on YouTube.) My husband met him once, back in the day, and said he was quite a colorful character in West Virginia's history. I became interested when I saw a billboard with his picture on it, along with the message that he's fighting to stop mountaintop removal. (Most of the billboards having to do with coal around here are in support of the coal industry. There's one with a map of WV and the surrounding states with the message "Obama's NO-job Zone," blaming the EPA for the loss of coal jobs.)

Coal is a complicated subject here in the Mountain State. The bottom line for me, however, is that those making money from coal are not the workers. They're making a living, but the coal operators/owners are the ones making huge profits at the expense of the environment and worker safety. There must be a better way. And nonagenarian Hechler agrees.

I wrapped up my couch night with a peek at MTV's VMA Awards, tuning in just in time to see Lady GaGa (in drag, looking very much like Fonzie) receive the Best Female Video award. (Not sure if Phil Ochs to Lady GaGa is the ridiculous to the sublime or vice versa.) Yay! She also received the first-ever award for Best Video with a Message.

'Cause you were born this way.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Quote Day

Conquering any difficulty always gives one a secret joy,
for it means pushing back a boundary line
and adding to one's liberty.
~Henri Frederic Amiel

I do believe there will be difficulties to conquer this weekend, for millions of people along the East Coast of the United States, as Hurricane Irene makes its way north. I pray for the safety of all those affected. Power will surely be knocked out, debris will be flying about, services everyone depends on will be unavailable. I hope the acute effects will be short-lived.

We're probably not going to get a drop of rain from the outer fringe of the storm here in southern West Virginia. I have to admit, a drop or two would be a good thing. It's hard to remember how much rain we had in May, now that the August drought is upon us.

In other news, my hibiscus finally bloomed and it's unbelievably gorgeous. There are dozens of buds on the plant. Two are fully bloomed, and a third should come out tomorrow. I can see the plant from the kitchen window in front of the sink, but it's more fun to watch it from the porch, sitting on my ass.

(Apologies to Facebook friends and those who keep up with my photo blog, as you'll see this shot, as well as a close-up, there as well.)

In other other news, I've been listening to an audiobook called Fat Girl: A True Story. I'm having trouble getting past the food porn in it. The author lists foods she's eaten and foods her obese father ate over and over and over again. I wonder if she just needed words to fill up pages the way she needed (needs? I'm not finished with it.) food to fill up the hole she felt when her parents divorced. (It's only a five-hour listen; most of the audiobooks I've "read" have been in the 10- to 12-hour range.) I feel like a voyeur, but I can't stop listening.

Also tying in with today's quote: Women's Equality Day. (How come this special day didn't get a Google doodle?) The 19th amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote, was passed on this day in 1920. The holiday was created in 1971. Many thanks to the women who fought for this no-brainer early in the 20th century. Hard to believe this was ever an issue. But the Tea Party unbelievably wants to make voting rights an issue right now; there's still a lot of justice to go around.

Finally, I started knitting a sweater for myself. Of course I changed the yarn and therefore had to change the numbers, but it's a very simple project. I'm using Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece at a normal gauge, to make a solid pullover that I won't have to supplement with a tank top. The pattern is a free download from Berroco and would be perfect hurricane knitting, if you happen to be in Irene's way.

Have as good a weekend as possible, won't you?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Running out of titles about produce

I picked the first spaghetti squash day before yesterday, and prepared it for dinner last night, along with tomato sauce from just-picked tomatoes and basil. Ran out of just-picked onions a long time ago, but the garlic came from the back yard.

My husband is not a spaghetti squash fan, so he sauced plain old pasta. For someone who eats as much as he does (and manages to stay thin, damn it!), he can, at times be a very picky eater.

Anyway … I give you, dinner!

Prick the top in several places with a metal skewer, bake in 350° oven for about an hour.
Cut in half crosswise (you'll get longer strands that way). Scoop out seeds and guts. 
With a fork, pull strands of squash from shell. 
Top with sauce, or eat it plain with salt, pepper and a little butter. Delish!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I seriously thought this was sponsored by a drug company

My gingersnapping friend posted results of an online personality test, which clearly indicate she is in need of some serious therapy. Since I'm extremely well-adjusted and my psychiatrist husband hasn't pointed out any of my defects (lately), I decided to take it, as well.

Personality Disorder Test Results
Paranoid |||| 18%
Schizoid |||||||||||||| 58%
Schizotypal |||||| 30%
Antisocial |||||| 26%
Borderline |||||| 30%
Histrionic |||||||||| 34%
Narcissistic |||||||||| 34%
Avoidant |||||| 26%
Dependent |||| 18%
Obsessive-Compulsive |||||| 30%
Take Free Personality Disorder Test
Personality Test by

Whew! At least I'm not paranoid. I was really worried about that. Heh.

Similar tests on the internets are sponsored by drug companies. (This one apparently isn't.) They want you to be sick so you'll ask your doctor for their drugs. There are quizzes for disorders that you can physically test – blood pressure, diabetes – and for symptomatic conditions – pain, depression. Since I'm not a drug pusher, you're on your own finding those links.

In other news, did you hear about the earthquake that affected the east coast of the United States yesterday? And if not, what rock have you been hiding under? I live slightly more than 200 miles from the epicenter and didn't feel a thing. Friends felt it just 40 miles north of me. I feel cheated. All the cool kids – from Toronto to Columbus to New York to Washington, DC to Charlottesville to Raleigh to Charlotte – got all shook up and I didn't feel a thing.

Looks like we'll miss the hurricane, too. To be fair though, not many hurricanes hit southern West Virginia. Heh.

The only weather news I can report is the same thing I said yesterday: The temperature and humidity have both come down in the last week or so and it's pure pleasure to spend time outside. I can ditch the AC and open all the windows.

Dusting Needing to dust more often is a small price to pay for all that fresh air.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A hint of fall

My husband and I walked together yesterday morning, four miles in 77 minutes. Cutting three minutes off our usual 20-minutes/mile pace means just one thing: cooler weather!

According to, it's 52 here in the Middle of Nowhere this morning. I don't think we'll be using the AC today.
The leaves on this maple are turning gold and orange. Already!
I worked in the garden yesterday. Not that there's anything new in that, but this is the earliest I can remember actually pulling out plants and grabbing the last of anything. The edamame plants are all out of the ground, except for three which are drying so I can save the seeds. Ditto the green beans. I picked enough for one more meal.

There are three big green tomatoes, which will be perfect to fry. Maybe tomorrow. You can't let them go too long or they're mushy. I'm making gumbo for tonight, to use up the last of the okra.

I continue to be delighted with the process of gardening, in all its forms. I love gathering what's ripe from the back yard and figuring out what to do with it. And when it all gets ripe at the same time – corn, for example, since I only seeded once – I love blanching and packaging it for the freezer. This is the kind of processed food I can really endorse!

I also planted some pink coreopsis, tall garden phlox and a clump of sea grass in the landscape bed, and transplanted a Meyer lemon from its little plastic pot into a larger clay pot. (Martha says clay is better for Meyer lemons. Who knows?) I'm thinking it will be several years before I get a lemon; in the meantime the lime tree is loaded with fruit.

Do any of you have Meyer lemon plants, either in your yard or potted? I've had great luck with the lime tree, but I know Meyer lemons can be picky. I need to get some more citrus fertilizer, I'm nearly out of it.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Well after four long and faithful years I'm getting my second $100 check for the ads which decorate my blog. (Yeah, ad revenue has totally changed my lifestyle. Heh.) I've combined it with a couple freelance checks and ordered a new gadget. Of course I searched around for the best price, because two freelance checks and ad revenue didn't quite add up to retail.

I'm so excited. I love gadgets. I've started packing one of those surge-protector multi-outlet thingies when I travel, just so I can plug all the chargers in neatly and in one contained area. (The building code for hotel room electrical outlets must be very different from homes, because there are never enough outlets in hotels.)

Do I need an ereader? Absolutely not. I've been reading treeware books since I was in kindergarten. I have Kindle for Mac loaded on my laptop and have even used it to read a couple publications. I would, eventually, get used to it. The problem with the laptop is that it folds; it's a little unwieldy for reading books. I can do it, but the most comfortable way to do it is sitting in a chair at a table. Which isn't really all that comfortable.

As both of you know, comfort is my racket.

I like to read in bed. And the thing I like to read in bed the most is magazines. That's why I bought the Nook Color.

Several of my favorite magazines are available for the device, and that was the tipping point. I think the list will get longer as time goes by, and I can already envision a day in which my nightstand will resemble one from a decorating magazine, instead of the cluttered mess it is right now: ripped-out recipe pages and ubiquitous subscription cards, along with the stack of publications. Oh, and a lamp and a phone and a box of tissues. I should have a coffee table beside my bed instead of a nightstand.

In other news, I worked this weekend at the garden center. The owners and regular employees were off on a field trip, but the plants still needed to be watered. It was tiring, for sure, dragging a heavy rubber hose around for five hours each day, but I got to see every single plant in the nursery, something I don't  get to do standing at a potting bench.

I have planters on either side of my front porch, with hostas and rhododendrons in them. The one to the left of the porch slopes down to a point, beginning at the edge of the house. I want to put something showy at the beginning of that slope, and there are so many options! Butterfly bush? Lilac? Crepe myrtle? That thing with all the orange berries in the fall? (I'm not good with names, heh.) I have to clean out what's in there now before I plant something new, but the wheels are turning, so to speak. Just being at the garden center again was inspiring.

I picked more tomatoes last night after dinner, bringing the yield up to 75 pounds total. The deer have found the garden. First they ate all the beet greens, then the edamame leaves and yesterday the okra was gone. I don't much care at this point. I need to get the cabbages shredded and salted for sauerkraut. I've already picked and frozen all the corn. There's more green beans and edamame to harvest (funny that the deer don't like the pods, just the leaves).

After that, all that's left are squash, and deer don't care for squash. I could take the fence down and start putting it to bed for the winter.

I wish there was an app for that.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

So wrong.

On so many levels.

Click for the grossest pizza you've never wanted to eat. (The person who created liked it, and you might, too. But seriously? I doubt it. 'Cuz I know you guys.)

Me? I'm making mozzarella to top my whole-wheat homemade crust and sliced fresh tomato. I'll throw on some pepperoni to keep my husband happy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Quote Day

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another
with no loss of enthusiasm.
Winston Churchill

I love this quote! To me it says live life large! Or live it up! Or live la vida loca! I realize we start dying the day we're born, but we sure don't need to act like it, right?

In honor of World Photography Day, I give you … [drumroll] … pictures! Of the beginning of the new herb bed!

I had my husband stand in the center of the space with his foot on a piece of twine, while I walked in a circle with a can of spray paint. It's probably not a perfect circle, but it will work just fine. I didn't want an irregularly shaped bed because it's too difficult to mow around. (Learned that lesson with the recently installed landscape bed, which undulates prettily but requires weekly weed-whacking.)

"Drawing" the perimeter circle with spray paint.

We then began tearing down my cardboard box collection and covering the inside of the circle. (Too bad I haven't bought any major appliances lately, one refrigerator box might have done the whole job. Heh.) Cardboard is an effective weed/grass killer, adds no chemicals to the soil and is free.

Never throw away boxes. They might come in handy.

I ran out of saved boxes before we were finished, but I remembered I had some cartons of Priority Mail shipping boxes stored in the garage for future eBay yarn sales. My husband said using these qualified as a government subsidy.

Once the space was completely covered with cardboard, he started soaking it with the hose while I started filling the wheelbarrow with compost.

Soak, soak, soak.

I gathered all the compost from two open piles and two bins and it still wasn't enough to completely cover the cardboard. It will be late September before I can get manure mixed with sawdust from my neighbor. I figure now I have one big open compost pile, except ...

Not quite covered, but close enough.  

I thought it best to go ahead and cover most of the circle with straw. There's a little space in the middle where I can throw coffee grounds and tomato peels. We'll put all the fallen leaves there, as well. A final layer of straw will go down as winter settles in and the whole thing will slowly decompose until spring.

A layer of straw finishes it off. For now.
Creating a garden in this manner is called "no-till," because when spring does finally come again, the area will be easily turned with a shovel. And I can continue to keep weeds at bay with cardboard and mulch, which will further enrich the soil. I did the cardboard-and-mulch thing in the asparagus bed and it's working extremely well.

So there you have it. If I keep this up there won't be any front yard left to mow. And I have several months to decide what to plant where, whether it will be all culinary herbs or a mixture of medicinal and culinary, and maybe even to start some plants. I'm going to try to save my one little rosemary plant over the winter (it didn't work last year, but go back up and read the quote. I'm enthusiastically going to pot the rosemary!). The current perennial herbs, which are in a planter in front of my house, will be moved to the new bed.

Today also is National Aviation Day, in honor of Orville Wright's birthday. I wish I could take you all for an airplane ride, but photos to celebrate World Photo Day seemed like a better option.

Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Too close … for a picture

When you are groggily searching for your favorite mug and wishing you'd put the coffee on auto-start, the last thing you can wrap your brain around is setting up the camera to take pictures of THE TWO DEER IN YOUR FRONT YARD!

Hershey, our eight-year-old part chocolate Lab, was on it, though. Not taking a picture, but chasing them off the property. They're getting bolder and bolder. They ran into the field adjacent to our yard and stopped, not even bothering to hightail (hah! That's exactly what they do!) it into the woods.

My coffee and I took a perfunctory walk around the landscape bed to make sure they hadn't nibbled anything, then walked around the vegetable garden. All that corn and they didn't even touch it.

I think I'll put the electric fence up next year, though.

Deer don't like squash, so I always plant that along the perimeter. I also have marigolds at the far end, where deer are most likely to enter. They don't care for the smell, and marigolds also keep other pests away.

You could look it up. I'm too lazy this morning. But my primitive deer-proofing is working so far. And Hershey, of course, is the best deterrent of all.

Or tired, maybe. Yesterday's workout was brought to you by HERBS. As in, I laid the foundation for the most awesome herb bed in the county. I thought this was going to be an hour-long job; it ended up taking two and a half hours.

I'll post all the details – with pictures – tomorrow. Right now, I need more coffee.

So glad y'all like the meat-and-three post yesterday. Here's the "three" we had last night. It almost qualifies for the raw-food plan. (I've linked to my favorite tabbouleh recipe.)

From front to back: Chunky Gazpacho, Black Bean and Corn Salad, Tabbouleh

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meat and three

If you're a Yankee, you may never have heard of "meat and three" meals. Popular in the south (U.S.) and in Australia, they are exactly what they say they are: some kind of meat with three side dishes, usually vegetables. Should you be traveling and need to find a meat-and-three diner, this website would be helpful.

We had our own version last night for dinner.

The meat was more of a condiment, however, as I just added some bits of country ham (maybe four ounces) to the pot of green beans, potatoes and onions. Fresh corn and red-cabbage/carrot slaw were the other two sides. Delish! (Not, however, terribly filling: Three hours later I was nibbling a piece of cheese.)

I picked more than a dozen ears of corn and froze all but three of them. I'm making a black bean-and-corn salad for dinner today, along with gazpacho and taboulleh – a summertime soup-and-salad meal. I hope the additional protein in the beans will keep me feeling full throughout the evening.

I think the only way I could be a good vegetarian would be to eat all day long. Not only do I really like meat, it really does satisfy. Eating all day long wouldn't be very good for weight control, unless I were eating, oh, tomatoes all day long.

Not likely. Sometimes I think I need an appetite transplant. Do they have those yet? Is anyone working on that?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This just in …

Rainy days and Mondays

A quarter of an inch of rain fell yesterday, and it sprinkled or showered off and on nearly all day. Is that two Mondays in a row we've had precipitation? I believe it is. Gardens need rain, and my thirsty pumpkin plants have perked right up. The second carrot crop hasn't germinated and one entire row of walking onions haven't done a thing, rain or no rain, but crop failures of some kind are to be expected.

I'm astonished the deer haven't had their way with all that produce, as I have yet to electrify the fence. And I use the word 'fence' loosely, as it's merely plastic-coated wire strung on flimsy plastic poles. So attractive, I know, but apparently effective even without the battery-powered fence charger.

We see deer in the field beyond our yard every morning and every evening and sometimes even in the middle of the day now. There's plenty of vegetation for them to eat, we're not in a drought, so all I can figure is they've gotten all they can from the woods and need to venture further out for food. I hope I get all my corn in the freezer before they find it.

Each season I tell myself I'm going to plant a fall crop of greens or beets or radishes or something that will go from seed to produce in a short period of time. But I don't (well, except for a short row of yellow onions). I'm a little tired of the garden at this point, and ready to move on to knitting again. I've not tired of picking dinner from the back yard, however. Tonight will be green beans, corn and cole slaw.

I picked about 12 pounds of tomatoes yesterday, so will have to wait a day or two for more of those. There are six more pints of seasoned tomato sauce in the freezer, ready for spaghetti dinners this fall and winter.

I should have planted more okra, I'm not sure there will be enough for even one jar of it pickled. I love okra. I know some people are turned off by the gelatinous slimy quality of it, but it doesn't bother me. I never ate it growing up. The cook (my mother) must not have cared for it. That's one advantage of being able to navigate the kitchen on my own! Another is I never have to eat liver again. Ever!

I have some graphic designing work to do today, and a slightly muddy floor to clean, and my volunteer gig at the prison tonight, and maybe putting some of that corn in the freezer. Pretty typical day around here lately.

Pretty nice.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back to work

I'm so silly. I don't work a regular 9-to-5 job, but I still like to take the weekends off. Heh. Now that Monday is here, I feel like I need to work on my to-do list. Yesterday, when I had an equal number of free hours? Not so much.

I picked up a free app called Wunderlist, just to jot down projects as I think of them. I could use pencil and paper, I have plenty of both, but I'm really moving away from a paper-based life. Recipes get filed as .pdf files or saved to Pinterest, as do knitting patterns and other design/style/inspirational ideas. It's working well, as the information is at my fingertips and I have less to throw into the burn barrel.

I recently pinned this, and used it to make a locker magnet for my older granddaughter, who just started high school.

(She's not really OCD. Her mother watched her organizing something or other recently and she looked up and declared, "What? I don't have a diagnosis or anything.")

Anyway, that's just one way I've used Pinterest for something other than recipes and patterns.

The to-do list has been reduced slightly since I started using Wunderlist. What I'm working on now are lists and a newsletter for Three Rivers Democratic Women, our local club of which I am the Democratic woman in charge. I spent Saturday at a district meeting and got all inspired to improve my communication skills and increase our membership.

It appears, upon reading this post before publishing, that I might need to work on my blog communication skills. This one is all over the place and doesn't really say a whole lot. But I'm OCD (or CDO) enough that if it's Monday, I need to blog. (My spices are arranged in alphabetical order, I always thought that was for efficiency and ease of use – am I wrong? Do you store spices in order from Allspice to Turmeric?)

Friday, August 12, 2011


My husband insisted I take photos of the roasted vegetables we had for dinner tonight. Here they are, ready for the oven:

Half an hour later, on the table and ready to serve:

I told him many people who roast vegetables make a big pan (like the first photo) and reheat it for several meals the following week. (Hint, hint – he's a big eater and could easily have polished off the entire bowl. After I took my single serving.) We might have enough left for a side dish tomorrow. Fortunately, we have more vegetables in the garden.

Friday Quote Day

Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.
Full effort is full victory.
Mahatma Gandhi 

Last week was more of a full-effort week than this has been, but I'm getting back on track. I walked Wednesday and yesterday, but couldn't pick up the pace to a jog at all. In fact, I was slower this week than I've been in a long time.

I'm not in a race, though, and just getting out there and Doing It is a victory. It certainly helps that the humidity has come down, along with the temperature. I even opened up the house yesterday and turned the AC off. Bliss!

The garden is producing like cra-zee, and is taking a lot of time. One thing I really love growing is edamame. Throw a bean in the ground and it'll grow, and each plant produces dozens of pods. They're fussy when it comes to shelling, and I suppose I could just freeze them in the pod, but I like getting the work out of the way now, rather than later.

I've learned my tomato lesson, for sure. Last year I tried to squeeze as many plants as possible into a tiny little section of the garden. The plants ended up shading each other and they had no room to grow. This year I put in twice as many plants and spaced them properly and I'm easily going to have a year's worth of tomatoes for soups and chili. I'm already out of canning jars; the remaining tomatoes will be cooked, puréed and frozen.

Tonight for dinner we're having some kind of chicken – grilled, most likely – with a big pan of roasted vegetables. I'm going to toss tomatoes, eggplant (which hasn't done very well this year), a red pepper, onions, garlic, zucchini, corn and celery together with olive oil, herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Twenty minutes at 450° and dinner is served.

And to round out this post, since I've mentioned running walking, reaping and eating, I'll confess that my cute little Elefante knitting project has been neglected for a week. I put it away when our guests were here and haven't opened the knitting bag since. Just like harvest time, though, the holidays will be here before I know it, and Elefante is going to be one of several tiny stuffed-animal gifts for our youngest granddaughter. I need to start making my gift list and putting yarn and patterns together. Football Knitting season is right around the corner!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just breathe

I woke up super-early this morning and have been going through scores upon scores of e-mails which have piled up in the last couple of weeks. Entertaining, traveling and gardening have eaten into my computer time. Heh.

I was intrigued enough by one of Real Simple's lists to click through to their "Six Diet Trends You Should Never Try." I wanted to make sure I hadn't missed something, since I've tried everything.

I was surprised to find the raw-food plan topping their list. What could be wrong with eating real food straight from Mother Nature's package? Turns out not much is wrong with it at all, nutritionally, but if you're purchasing your raw meals from Whole Foods, then it's expensive. Not much of a reason, if you ask me, since I live in one of a handful of states that doesn't even have a Whole Foods. The writer is correct in that heating food doesn't affect caloric content, so I'm going to disagree with this one: If you don't feel like cooking, eat raw food. Personally, I like to cook and would have a hard time not having soup once in a while. Or pie.

The usual suspects are on RS's list: master cleanse and hCG and single-foods (i.e., cabbage soup), oh my. They mentioned ear-stapling as a new fad, one that has no scientific leg to stand on and could cause infection and deformed ears, but I think it's been around the block a time or two. I could be wrong about that.

The one plan I'd never heard of (and, if you know me at all you know I won't be adding it to my weight-loss arsenal [I said 'arse!']) is the Breatharian Diet. Also called Inedia, followers claim to not need food or water to survive. They live on air and sunshine. And glitter. And unicorns.

Just kidding about the glitter and unicorns.

Inedia is more than just fasting. Fasting I understand. I've done it, and if you've ever had a colonoscopy you've done it, too. I've fasted because of toothaches, the flu, and even because I thought it might help me lose a pound or six in time for a high-school reunion.

Fasting for me has always been short-term and definitely not associated with permanent weight loss. The Breatharians might have found a way to make it work. Too bad they won't be around long to enjoy their new thin bodies.

Have you ever heard of this? Is my isolated life keeping me away from new lard-busting opportunities? Do any of you – gulp – live on air and sunshine? How about glitter?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Listen up

Both of you know I'm a fan of audiobooks. I don't, however, lounge around the shanty wearing earbuds and eating bonbons. When I'm listening to a book, I'm either driving or walking. Not sure why that is, lounging around the shanty eating bonbons sounds like a good way to spend time, and listening to a book would only enhance the experience.


Anyway. I was a member of for a while, and have enjoyed using my credits for The Paris Wife, Room: A Novel, Cutting for Stone and The Help, among others. I've just started listening to Water for Elephants, which hasn't quite got me hooked. Yet. But I eventually decided was a budget item I could live without.

When I finished The Paris Wife, which is the story of Earnest and Hadley Hemingway's marriage, I wanted to read some Hemingway. Surely Hemingway ought to be in the public domain, thought I. Alas, I was wrong. But there are thousands of classics which are in the public domain, books I've wanted to read but just never got around to picking up.

Here, then, are a few sources for free audiobooks.

If you use iTunes, some books have been turned into podcasts. Each chapter is an episode. I have so far found Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (a contemporary of Hemingway's), Middlemarch by George Eliot, Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence, and several more. Search for Librivox in the podcast section of iTunes to find more goodies, or just search for audiobooks. The well is deep. Deeper than I thought when I started writing this post.

Librivox also has its own website and catalog of recorded books. Their mission statement reads:
LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.
Project Gutenberg, which is steadily releasing public-domain ebooks, also has an audiobook section. Some of their titles have been in collaboration with Librivox, so there is some duplication of titles.

Another resource is I haven't downloaded anything from this site. Yet. But I'm glad to know it's there. Looks like many of the works are short stories, but I could be wrong about this; I haven't really explored the site in depth. offers similar titles to the other sites I've noted, but there might be something unique there, as well.

Your library may also offer downloadable audiobooks. Check the website for your state's library system. We will again have that service here in West Virginia by the end of this month. I've borrowed digital audiobooks previously, but that option is undergoing some virtual renovation. The advantage of library downloads is, obviously, more current titles.

Until I get a Kindle or a Nook, I plan to enjoy more audiobooks on my iPod. With thousands of titles available, and miles to go before I sleep, well, one things just naturally leads to another.

I may even start lounging around the shanty, listening while I knit. That would be better than eating bonbons. Well, maybe not better in the pleasure sense of the word, but certainly better for me!

How about you? Are you an audiobook fan? How'd you get started? Do you listen at home or on the road? Details, details!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Music to my ears

Er, well, to the ears of corn, anyway.

It's raining!

We've only had passing sprinkles a couple of times this past week. Not enough moisture to make a difference in my wrestling-with-the-hose watering regimen at all. This morning, though, we're enjoying a nice, steady drizzle. Perhaps the expanse of dry, brown, crunchy grass will perk up a bit. (I don't water the "lawn," since we live in a field, basically.)

Busy day today, after a busy day yesterday, after a busy weekend, after a busy week. Yesterday's busy-ness can be seen here. Yum!

Today's busy-ness is taking me to town to take care of some business. Heh. For now, though, I'm just going to wrap myself in the sound of rain.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday, Monday

Man, what a busy week I've had! I'm not used to all this activity and sensory input.

I live a somewhat isolated life as far as face-to-face contact goes. I don't work outside my home, so I have no colleagues or co-workers with whom to interact. I volunteer at a federal prison one night a week, and see 100 inmates and my co-volunteers then. My husband and I visit his mother, who lives nearby, a couple times a week and I will occasionally stop at the grocery on one of those trips.

Most of the time, though, I'm here, at home, knitting, running walking, reaping and eating.

Last week I left on Tuesday for North Carolina and got home Thursday afternoon to greet weekend guests, who left yesterday. Today a friend is coming over to make pickles with me.

I might be morphing into a social animal. Heh.

I was able to feed our company from the garden – edamame, celery, onions and snap peas in a stir-fry on Friday; zucchini bread Saturday morning, and green beans, tomatoes, red-cabbage slaw and corn Saturday evening. The barbecued chicken seemed like a side dish with all those fresh vegetables!

After they left I spent Sunday afternoon turning 17 pounds of tomatoes into seven quarts. Total harvest so far is 29 pounds, and there's probably another 29 still on the vines. It's hard to say.

Everything seems to be ripening at the same time, keeping my hands busy (and dirty). Just the way I like it. I have a canner full of peach preserves on the stove right now, Virginia peaches I bought on the way home from North Carolina, and I expect by the end of the day there will be another dozen jars of pickles in the pantry.

Summer in the country.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Quote Day

The bad news is time flies.
The good news is you're the pilot.
Michael Altshuler 

Five years ago this morning, I got married. Again. You can read all about it at my old blog, if you like. If you've been hanging out with me for the last five years (and some of you have! Thank you!), then you already know the story.

I came home from this week's little getaway (did you miss me?) to find a vase with five red roses in it, and a beautiful card, and I didn't give him anything. I feel like crap for not, but we usually don't, so I didn't think a thing about it while I was gone. He can be, um, trying, at times, but also can be very, very thoughtful.

Time flew this week, and while I had good intentions – I packed running gear for my little trip – it was just too, too hot to even think about sweating on purpose. All you had to do was walk outside – heck all, you had to do was look outside  –and you were dripping. How do you Tarheels stand it!?! (You know who you are.)

Food was out of my control, as well, but not too calorific: meatless lasagna one night, ground turkey tacos the next. I chose small servings and enjoyed every bite.

However, after two good days here at home, two days off target has me wishing for a Monday – and a do-over – again.

The good news is, there's another one coming up. Heh.

We're having guests for the weekend, I hope they like tomatoes. And rain. 'Cause we're going to have plenty of both. I hope your weekend is a good one!

Denise, I'm mailing your book today. I didn't have the opportunity to get to a post office the whole time I was gone. Thanks for being so understanding, and thanks, too, for playing. I always enjoy your comments.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Do you Pinterest? And other random thoughts

Have you heard of Pinterest? It's bookmarking in the cloud and it's great! You can create boards related to your interests (like organizing your bookmarks in folders) and it's all based on visuals, so when you go back and look at your page you can instantly see each pin. I'm still new to it, but have (so far) found it very useful for saving recipes and knitting patterns.

My inkjet printer is located in our second-story office, above the garage. Air conditioning is available, but to save money reduce our carbon footprint we don't use that space much when it's this hot. I have folders of .pdf patterns and recipes on my laptop, and – when I need to use a recipe, for instance – have learned to put the computer out of the way of drips and flour and spatters, oh my. Having recipes and patterns stored in the cloud is even better. A hard drive crash won't destroy the files and they're always gonna be there.

Oh, and Pinterest is free. And you can follow other peoples' boards to help you populate your own. It's quite useful.

Denise, Denise, where are you? I have to leave town for a couple of days, but I'll take your book with me, ready to address, and mail it from wherever I happen to be. Thank you, BlackBerry, I love, love, love being connected virtually all the time. (Drives my husband batshit-crazy!)

Yesterday was a great day. When I let the dog out, the cool, clear morning whispered, "Wanna go for a walk?" So I did. Three miles, half of which were jogged. I'd love to say I ran, but my running speed is slower than some people's walking pace, so jog it is. I did half a mile on the way to my turnaround point and jogged the entire third mile. It's amazing how little fitness I've lost the past month, when I only walked two days.

I tracked everything I ate (I use Calorie Counter by FatSecret, a free BlackBerry app), and I ate healthful meals that fit into my calorie goals. I don't intend to weigh, measure and count for the rest of my life, but for the first day of August, I did just fine. And as I wrote yesterday, I want to continue this trend for a month, to get back in the groove. One day at a time seems to work very well for stopping drinking, do you suppose I can use it to encourage a more positive food-and-exercise regimen?

I felt so good at the end of the day, knowing I'd been true to my goals.

As for the rest of the day, it was food, food, food, capped off after dinner by mowing the yard. As I mentioned earlier, I'm leaving town today and when I get back I'll be getting things ready for weekend guests. I was able to cross "Mow" off the to-do list by just sucking it up and getting it done last night. It was nearly dark when I came in, but at least I won't have to fit it into the 24 hours from Thursday noon (when I get home) to Friday noon (when our company arrives).

The food, food, food was:
  • Picking green beans, tomatoes, celery, peppers and zucchini
  • Prepping zucchini, peppers and celery (and more!) to make zucchini relish (which I will do this morning)
  • Canning a few jars of tomatoes (so they wouldn't rot while I'm gone)
  • Making pesto (second cutting of basil, should have a couple more before the first frost)
  • Baking bread (because we didn't have any for bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches, which was on the dinner menu)
So I was busy all day, a very satisfying start to what I hope is my turnaround month. How about you? Was the first day/Monday of the month a good one, or was it just another day?

Monday, August 1, 2011

And the winner is …

Denise! Who doesn't have a blog! Denise, you know who you are, please send me your address, either through Facebook or directly to me at shrinkingknitter AT gmail DOT com, and I'll get your book out to you ASAP.

That was fun, it lightened my load and, I hope, blessed everyone who won a book. We'll do this again sometime. I like how this giveaway ended on the last day of the month, leading up to the second-best day of the year for someone wanting to make some changes, and that is when the first day of the month falls on a Monday. (The best day, of course, is January 1st.)

It's better than a blue moon.

I wrote a couple weeks ago that this would be a good day to stop eating sugar. I still don't think that's going to happen, mostly because I haven't been overdosing on sugar. A spoonful (50 calories) atop my yogurt and granola hasn't let me to eat unlimited quantities of ice cream or cookies. And a Tootsie Pop (60 calories) falls into the low-calories range for treats. I acknowledge they are empty calories, but sometimes ya just gotta have a lolly.

The older I get, the younger I get.

The week before the stop-eating-sugar post I wrote that accepting how things are opens up possibilities for change. And while I was looking for those posts, I ran across one from late last September, right after my father died, in which I wrote about my genetic heritage – my entire immediate family's struggle with weight, and how obesity directly contributed to my dad's death. (I didn't say so then, but it certainly contributed to my mother's death, as well.)

And here I am, coming up on that anniversary, weighing exactly one pound more than I did then. (The beauty of record-keeping …)

On the one hand, gaining one pound in a year isn't too bad, you could almost consider it maintaining. On the other, of course, I was obese to start with, so I haven't made much progress in reversing the damage that could lead to my early demise.

Fortunately all my other health markers are good. My annual check-ups have never shown problems with sugar or cholesterol or thyroid (darn it!). When the weather is a little cooler, I walk almost every day. During this hot spell, I've been working in the garden almost every day. In other words, I'm moderately active, and that's a good thing.

The one thing that has been proven in study after study to help with weight loss is tracking one's daily intake. I'm sure I've gotten a little sloppy in both eyeballing my portions and remembering what and how much I eat every 24 hours. Therefore, on this first day of August, which falls on a Monday, the only first-day-of-the-month Monday of the year, I will commit to weighing and measuring my food and journaling every bite. I will do this until the first day of September, at which time I will decide whether to continue the practice.

A month of it might be all I need to get back in the weight-loss groove. Not that I've been in that groove for a long time, heh. But maybe this "break" I've been on will be enough that my body will recognize a calorie deficit and respond appropriately – that is, releasing pounds, rather than clinging to them desperately.

Hope springs eternal. (This is the fourth time this year I've written that phrase. Just call me Pollyanna. Or naive. Or hopeful. Just don't call me late for dinner. Heh.)