Saturday, March 31, 2012

Retail therapy

The family drama has continued here in the Middle of Nowhere. Nothing we can do about it except hope and pray for the best possible outcome, and none of the choices are particularly good.

In order to distract ourselves, my husband and I decided to go to the nearest retail mecca to look for a truck (him) and a smartphone (me).

We're going back today to sign the truck deal, and I'm syncing my contacts to my new Droid right now.

The situation is still, of course, ever present and almost always on our minds, but at least we each have something else to focus on. My husband hasn't driven a stick shift in decades. And the Droid? Well, it's just plain fun.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Blogger's being cranky

I don't know what's been going on with Mr. Blogger this morning, but I've been trying to log in for about an hour and a half and this is the first time the template has opened. Let's see how much I can say in the next 15 minutes, because beginning at 8 a.m. I'm scheduled. Sigh.

Onions from the garden, destined for Kung Pao.
Our little dinner get-together went very well. As I think I mentioned, the local Chinese restaurant, um, SUCKS, so I made hot-and-sour soup, spring rolls and Kung Pao chicken. Except I used beef instead of chicken and I jazzed it up with lots of vegetables. I served brown rice, an item rarely seen in Asian eateries, at least it's rare here in the Middle of Nowhere.

My [purchased] fortune cookie said "You are on your way to perfection," or something like that. My fortune definitely got the biggest laugh. At our ages – 60 to 68 – we know there's no such thing.

Guess what I did for exercise yesterday. Go on, guess! Okay, I'll tell you. I j.o.g.g.e.d. It's been many moons since I've propelled my body at a speed greater than 3 mph, unless I've been on a treadmill. For some reason, I just felt like moving a little faster yesterday, and conditions were perfect: high 60s, low humidity, a simply gorgeous day. It reminded me so much of many days when I was training for a half-marathon.

The smartest way to pick up the pace is to run a little and then walk a little. I didn't stick to anything too strictly, though I tried to keep the intervals the same: two minutes jogging followed by two minutes walking, or 1/1s if I couldn't manage to jog for two minutes straight.

I had a lot of trouble the first half of the route (I turned around after 1.5 miles), but the last complete mile is all downhill (and now you know why that first part was so hard) and I jogged continuously for eight-tenths of it. My final average speed was 3.75 mph. I'm pretty happy with that.

It's hard to call what I did high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but I guess if the intervals vary in intensity it could at least be called highER intensity. What it really did was give me a huge sense of accomplishment early in the day and that feeling lasted all day long.

Tomorrow is the last day of March (duh) and my last day of daily blogging for a while. I'll probably go back to Monday through Friday, but I might even – gasp! – skip a weekday here and there once I start working. I've been posting daily for five months. I can hardly believe I've been able to maintain my streak.

But wait! I'm moving the daily photo post to this blog April 1! So I won't break my posting streak, just my writing streak. (My photo captions can hardly be called "writing.") Heh.

Okay, gotta go … if I don't make mozzarella RIGHT NOW, it will not be ready for the chicken pesto pizza we're having for dinner. The more time it has to chill, the easier it is to shred. Have a fabulous Friday!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A quickie

The post cards came and have been distributed to the members of our Democratic women's group. We're trying to increase our membership. We obtained mailing labels from the state Democratic party of all the registered Dem women in our county (913 names). The next step is to label and mail and hopefully welcome some new members!

One of our newest members will be among our dinner guests tonight. She's lovely and energetic and bright and she hasn't met another of our guests, but I know they'll hit it off. I feel like a matchmaker.

I also feel like I need to shut down the this machine and get busy, baby! Hope your day is a good one.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Making a list and checking it twice

It's times like these when I wish I lived closer to a big city. I'm having a little dinner party tomorrow night and Tiny Kroger won't have everything I need. The biggest missing ingredient will be fresh bean sprouts, and I totally could have grown my own, but I would have needed to start them, oh, probably a couple weeks ago.

Besides, I've never had much luck sprouting beans.

So canned will have to do (they'll be used in hot and sour soup and in spring rolls).

(I never used to be able to make good homemade yogurt, either, but have finally figured out the formula and I NEVER want to eat commercially made yogurt again. So perhaps I have a future with bean sprouts.)

The Chinese restaurant closest to us sucks, so I've learned to make my own Kung Pao Chicken (I healthy up my version with a lighter sauce and I sautée the chicken in a pan swirled with oil, rather than fry it in an inch of oil). We eat it fairly frequently here in the Middle of Nowhere. Since we're having guests, I'll also serve the soup and spring rolls, but I don't usually go to that much trouble for a weeknight meal.

So the list I'm making is, of course, for the grocery, and it's not a long one. That's the beauty of a well-stocked pantry. I'm turning into my mother: She never seemed to run out of anything.

Then again, she never made spring rolls or sweet and sour soup, either.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Back in the gym

I only made it to the gym once last week, opting to work outdoors here at home since the weather was pretty perfect. Yesterday, though, the ground was still too wet from the weekend rain, so I went to town.

Even though I used a lot of back, shoulder, arm and leg muscles digging, weeding and hauling dirt, I can feel a difference in my muscles this morning. It's a good feeling, I'm not complaining.

When I got back to the weight-training area, there was one muscle-bound man back there. He looked like Big Bad John – "kinda broad at the shoulders and narrow at the hip, and everybody knew you didn't give no lip to Big John."

Of course I was intimidated, 'cause that's how I roll, but I decided just to be up front about it and admit my insecurities. He was so nice. Very encouraging, everybody's gotta start someplace, free weights are better than machines, blah, blah, blah. We ended up talking about baseball movies and then baseball teams and he even admitted that he's not a complete Yankee hater. But he thinks Jeter is overrated.


I did 75 crunches on the stability ball, with no discomfort at all. I also did two sets of rows, curls and kickbacks with 15-pound dumbbells. Next week I'm going to try three sets, but two just about kills me. I'm definitely out of my comfort zone when I'm finished, and I guess that's the point, right?

I didn't get on the scale this morning. It's not been a good week as far as eating goes, and I just don't feel like feeling crappy about the lack of progress. Again.

South Beach works when you work at it, and I haven't been. I'm not a low-carb kinda gal when you get right down to it. I've been listening to Jeff and Russ a lot lately, and thinking that their philosophy – a wide variety of high-quality whole foods – makes more sense for me. South Beach pretty much follows the same process, but in my mind I'm doing something "bad" whenever I eat a whole-wheat English muffin.

I start work April 1, and my hope is that three days' work per week, along with all the yard and garden activity I'll get here at home plus keeping up with the inside stuff will a) be enough additional activity to jumpstart the weight loss again and b) will take up so much extra time I won't even think about eating.

Because honestly? When I'm at loose ends, I think eating is a perfectly acceptable activity. I wish it weren't so, but it is now and always has been. Where did I learn this? And how do I unlearn it? You'd think I'd have figured it out by now. But if I had, what would I have to write about? Heh.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our favorite soup

In fact, this might just be our favorite meal. It's quick to fix, it's full of healthful ingredients, it's delicious, it's better the next day (but we usually gobble it all up) and I usually have everything I need to make it. And if I don't have what's called for, substitutes taste just as good.

Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 asiago-spinach chicken sausages (or other flavorful low-fat sausage), sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 four-ounce can mushrooms, pieces and stems, drained
  • 4 cups low-fat chicken broth
  • 2 cups cooked white beans
  • 1 large bunch kale, rinsed, stemmed and torn
In Dutch oven or large saucepan, swirl oil to coat bottom of pan. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage pieces and cook two to three minutes. Add chopped onion and celery and continue cooking until onion is translucent and celery has softened. Add the rosemary, mushrooms, chicken broth and beans and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the torn kale and cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

You can garnish with shaved Parmesan and serve with crusty bread, but we usually don't.

If you can't find a chicken sausage to suit your taste, you can use chopped cooked chicken breast pieces. You could add zucchini ribbons or sliced carrots if you have them on hand. Black beans, or a mixture of black and white beans, is an interesting variation, too. And certainly, feel free to sub fresh spinach or escarole for the kale. There's something about the kale, though, that really boosts the flavor.

So there you go … next time you need dinner on the table in a hurry, TRY THIS SOUP. I predict you'll love it.

P.S. Mad Men was great, and I had the den all to myself (my husband would probably LOVE this show if he'd just open his mind enough to realize that there's more to television than NEWS). I also got a lot of knitting done. My sleep for the next few months will probably suffer, as the one-hour regular episodes don't start until 10 p.m. Seriously, I thought 10 only came once a day. Sigh.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Three words


Oh, okay, more than three words. Do you know how hard it would be for me to do a three-word post? You guys are the only people I talk to all day, other than my husband. And the dog. And they get pretty tired of my chatter after a while.

This was yesterday's Project 365 picture. The prompt was
An Animal. Had to snap something quick when I got home,
because it's hard to take drive-by pictures of cows or turkey
buzzards. Hershey was, um, bored with it all.

Yesterday was a good day to travel. It rained and/or was cloudy and grey all day, and I didn't mind being cooped up in a hotel conference room with a couple dozen other Democratic women. And one clearly outnumbered man, who didn't appear to mind being outnumbered at all.

I've been appointed to chair a committee for the group (our state Democratic women's organization) and I volunteered to be on a planning committee for the 2013 national convention, which will be held in West Virginia. You'd never know I used to be a Republican. But I make no secret of it, and they all seem to like me anyway.

It's raining now, and looks like it might continue to do so most of the day. I hope it clears up long enough to go for a walk, but if it doesn't I can and should will hop on the elliptical. And I will definitely be taking a nap. Rainy days are good for that, and I will need one, because the Mad Men season premiere doesn't start until 9 p.m. Eastern.

Which is usually past my bedtime.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lack of progress photo, and more!

Without further ado, here's the January-to-March comparison. I've got arms! And legs! Because it's so freaking hot! Heh.
Even though I'm nine pounds lighter in March than I was
in January, I think having my limbs exposed makes me look
bigger now. I'm not! Swear!
I ended up not going to the gym yesterday after all. Recalling the sage advice to "make hay while the sun shines," I decided to "finish the herb bed while the weather was nice and my husband was willing to help." Three hours working outdoors surely equals half that time in the gym, right?

At one point during the process, my husband asked if I intended to finish all the sections yesterday. I looked at him like he'd grown a third arm. Of course I intended to finish, otherwise why even start? (See OCD post from a couple of days ago.)

To answer Mindy's question from a recent comment, I'm not following a formal plan, unless dividing the circle into eight sections counts as formal. Taller plants will be in the center; everything will gradually get shorter as I plant from the middle toward the outer edge. Each section will not necessarily be dedicated to one plant. At least that's how I'm thinking right now. I might change my mind about that.

(Also, Diandra's comment about my pregnancy dream maybe being about coming up with a new idea is intriguing. Thanks for your insight!)

So what did we do yesterday? Here you go …

Rock and roll! My husband loves moving rocks, and I love that
he loves moving rocks, so I let him. He let me place them
around the edge of the circle.

I never used that old hula hoop anyway. It was the perfect tool for defining
the very center of the area. This photo shows the crop circle pie divided into
fourths. We eventually split it again, ending up with eight slices.

We covered the cardboard paths with dead leaves free mulch. I sprinkled
the inner circle with dill seed and dumped compost over it, but didn't plant
anything else yesterday. Each of the leafy paths got watered down with
the hose to keep the leaves from blowing away and to help them decompose.

I'm getting a truckload of mulch delivered later this spring and intend to mulch between the slices, to further keep weeds from growing there and to make it look a little nicer. All in all, I'm very pleased with the progress so far. By August, it should be lush and gorgeous and full of herby goodness. And to think, last August it was just part of the field we call the "front yard."

It started raining shortly after we finished. Good timing! It will continue to rain off and on today and probably for the next day or two. Since I also planted more onions, more snow peas and a row of mixed greens, I'm glad to see a little rain come through.

Also? When it rains, I'm much more enthusiastic about going to the gym. Hope to get back to my Mon/Wed/Fri routine next week. I have to go to a meeting in Charleston, WV, today, an all-day Democratic women's thing. I'm wearing a hoodie. Not that one old woman wearing a hoodie will make a difference, but maybe it will make a statement.

One more thing: I recently removed the word verification process from the commenting procedure here and have gotten at least one spam comment per day. So I'm going to turn it back on again. Sorry … making it easier for you to comment also makes it easier for unwanted random computers to invade my space. Not cool, unwanted random computers. Totally not cool.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What a nightmare

I dreamed I was pregnant.

I'll be 61 in a couple of months, so you know it was a nightmare to dream about being "in a family way." (Don't you just love those old-fashioned euphemisms?) I can barely stay awake after 8 p.m., any infant depending on me for sustenance at 2 a.m. is going to starve.

Several things have come together recently to create this line of subconscious thought. In theory, anyway.

  • My husband found a box of his baby clothes in a closet at his mother's.*
  • I saw the cutest pattern for baby booties that look like little Uggs yesterday.
  • The gardening marathon lately must have me thinking fertile thoughts.

Really, what more do you need to conjure up images of diapers and sounds of babies cooing than that?  Heh.

My husband is a shrink, but I don't think I'm going to request an analysis of this dream. Best to let sleeping babies lie. Or lay. I always did confuse lie/lay.

Today is a gym day, and then I'm dropping off what I hope is the final proof of the design-by-committee project I've been working on for the last two weeks but am charging them for only three hours' time. Non-profits get a break, but this will be an especially big one. Sigh. If it doesn't rain this afternoon, I BET THERE WILL BE MORE GARDENING AROUND HERE.

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my husband stopping smoking. He's still chewing way too much nicotine gum (by his own admission), but his lungs surely are clearer now than they were when we found out he doesn't have lung cancer a year ago. Nothing like a miraculous diagnosis to get you to quit smoking, eh?

Speaking of the husband, he put this note by the coffeemaker several months ago:
Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe.
~ Thomas Berry
(I'll help you next year.)
And he's following through! All the work I've been doing this week has been in tandem. He's not crazy about weeding onion beds, but he doesn't mind raking dead leaves or moving rocks. Whatever works. I just wish he didn't mind cleaning bathtubs.

* Also in the baby-clothes box was his Little League baseball uniform, which he last wore more than 55 years ago. He tried on the shirt last night and it fits! He was as proud as any woman still fits into her wedding gown on her 10th anniversary. What it really shows is just what a big kid he was in Little League, because he's a perfectly normal-sized man.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Because I'm OCD like that

Okay, I'm going to start posting photo-a-day here beginning April 1. (No, I'm not joking.) Thanks for your input and I'll be sure to clearly label the photo posts with a date and subject so you don't have to look if you don't want to.

I do like things to be tidy and neat (usually, I'm having a little trouble finding time to clean my house lately), which is why I'm going to switch on the first day of the month.

The tidy-and-neat-and-wanting-to-finish-things-in-one-session character trait flaw got the best of me yesterday. It was another beautiful day here in the Middle of Nowhere, a perfect day to work on the new herb bed I'm putting in this spring.

Clicking on the link will take you to the beginning stages of the project, where we laid out the area and covered it with a kill mulch. We used a layer of cardboard, a layer of compost and a layer of straw, and then we used the area for composting over the winter. We stopped adding vegetable matter to it a couple months ago.

The herb bed yesterday morning at 11:30 a.m. The white things
are coffee filters, and there are several large dandelions in there.
My mission was to spade the entire area.

I knew I would be lightly tilling it when I was finished turning it over with a spade, so I got the tiller out of the shed and let it sit in the sun while I worked. A warm tiller is easier to start than a cold one. That's your gardening tip du jour.

One way to tell if you have decent soil is by noting how many worms turn up as you dig. The true worm test is to dig an area one foot square and one foot deep and place that soil on a piece of cardboard. Sift through the dirt and count how many earthworms you find – 10 is a good indication that your soil is healthy.

Since I was digging such a large area anyway, I just decided to see if I saw any worms at all. And I did! In every spadeful of turned earth I found at least one and usually three or four worms. Decomposed cardboard must be especially tasty to worms.

Two and a half hours later my crop circle was done. The next step is to ring it with rocks and create individual pie slice-shaped beds for various culinary, fragrant and medicinal herbs. There will be LOTS of basil, that much I know for sure. I've opened my next-to-last jar of frozen pesto.

Next step: Rocks!

I also tilled the vegetable garden again; weeded another row of onions; really, really, really thought about uncovering the strawberries, and mowed another big part of the lawn field.

I came in around 4 p.m., dirty, exhausted and wishing I had a cook. Oh! Right! I'm the cook. Here's what we had for dinner, and it was DELICIOUS. Sounds wacky, but the combination was really, really good; I had all the ingredients (except I subbed asparagus for the carrots), and it was easy to throw together. I rested after dinner and didn't stop resting until … this morning!

So that was my second day of spring, which is totally coming in like a lamb. How was yours?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's my blog and I can do what I want to

But I also want to know if I'll be driving you away.

I currently have three blogs. The first was the Shrinking Knitter, which I no longer update. It morphed into Knit. Run. Repeat., which was renamed Knit. Run. Reap. Eat. after I caught the gardening bug.

The third is my Project 365 blog. To make my life a teensy bit easier, I'm considering publishing my picture-a-day posts here instead of there.

What say you? Will it be annoying or does it not bother you in the slightest?

In other news, I got a little more of the garden tilled yesterday, weeded one row of onions and planted another. I'm very tempted to rake the straw off the strawberries and pull the weeds that have kind of overtaken that area of the garden, but it's still March, fercryinoutloud. Kinda early to expose them to nighttime temperature still in the 40s.

The daytime temperatures have been quite summerlike, lovely and energizing. The asparagus stalks are plentiful, even this early, and I pulled some of them and some onions to add to our pesto pasta (whole wheat, thankyouverymuch) last night.

I think sticking with South Beach will be easier once the garden gets going, because I would much rather prepare vegetables I harvest myself than the ones I buy at the market. I'm like a six-year-old in that respect. I keep thinking every year that the magic will wear off and that gardening, especially vegetable gardening, will be a Big Chore and Something I'd Rather Not Mess With. But it hasn't happened yet.

I'm predicting it will happen the same year we decide to sell this place and move to a condo in the city. Heh.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eleven weeks, nine pounds

Slow and steady wins the race, right? Well, unless you're running a marathon. Then you'd probably better pick up the pace.

So. On the last day of winter, I mowed the lawn. Seriously, I'm pretty sure I've never cut the grass the first time in the season before spring actually arrived.

After yesterday's slow start, I ended up getting a LOT done.

  • Client meeting
  • Workout
  • Grocery
  • Weeding a flower bed
  • Mowing the front lawn field
  • Tilling a little bit of the vegetable garden
  • Digging up three plants
  • Moving one of the plants to a new location
  • Fixing dinner

Not a bad day after all. And seeing that I'm down a pound this morning from last week makes me think the first day of spring is starting out pretty well, too!

Except for the little bit of chest pain I had about half an hour ago.

It was scary, but it's gone now – completely gone, no worries, my husband's a doctor and believe me if he thought there was anything to worry about we would already be at the hospital. I've made an appointment for a general check-up because, well, it was scary. It's been a couple years since I've been to the doctor for anything, so it just makes sense to go in and let Dr. C have a look.

Lots of things can cause the symptoms I had: stress, acid reflux, hiatal hernia, heart disease. Pick one! I'm going with acid reflux until I find out otherwise.

Happy first day of spring to you. May your heart always be joyful. And may it not hurt.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A lazy Monday morning. So far.

If I don't get my ass in gear pretty soon the day will have completely slipped by and I will not have participated or accomplished a darned thing.

I scheduled a 10 a.m. client meeting three blocks away from the gym. That was a very good idea. Heh. Because I could easily, easily make this a pajama day.

I rewarded my hard work pulling weeds with a bouquet 
of daffodils. Cheerful, sunny, happy, and there are still 
dozens of them brightening up the edge of the pine grove.
I spent 90 minutes yesterday pulling weeds from the flower bed at the end of our driveway. I only quit because it started raining. And I'm not done. Which is frustrating and annoying, because I don't know when I'm going to have another 90 minutes to finish the job.

I'm the kind of person who wants to finish a project in one fell swoop. It's why I don't often sew. In fact, it's why I tend to collect supplies for a variety of crafts and activities rather than work on actual projects.

I'd love to be able to start and stop and start up again, but that's just not my nature. (I had to really really really rein myself in at the Democratic women's work party last week. I could have stayed until we finished, but they all wanted to go watch a basketball game. Harumph. Heh.)

The exception, of course, is knitting. Somehow I've put knitting into the "enjoy-the-process" category instead of the "finish-the-project" one. I'm still slogging away on the blue sweater I started last summer. Sigh. Although I'm not sure that "slogging" and "enjoy-the-process" are compatible at this point.

The family drama has been reduced to a dull roar. It's so very difficult to watch someone put up his own roadblocks and not want to insert myself right in the middle of it, pointing my finger and telling him what to do. I've shared my opinion. All I can do now is stand back and hope that he will receive his moment of clarity before it's too late. I've had to accept that my will cannot be done. People are gonna do what they're gonna do, and that includes me. I'm choosing to be graceful and centered and calm and serene and at peace with whatever the future holds.

Most of the time. Heh.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

50 years ago

Bob Dylan released his first album in March of 1962. I was 11. I didn't start listening to Dylan then. "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" got me started a couple years later. I still have that 45 RPM. Somewhere.

I imagine some of you are clicking away right about now. Dylan is underappreciated by many, because of his nasal vocals, his notable unwillingness to sing the same song twice in the same way, his moodiness and lack of discipline.

But I like him and it's my blog. So there. Heh.

When I got divorced the third time I decided I would take a little bit of my money that I was earning and begin collecting everything Dylan had recorded on CD. I had a lot of vinyl, pretty much skipped 8-tracks, only had a few cassettes. I much preferred listening to records but when CDs came along, well – I was hooked. I remember marveling at how simple it was to skip to my favorite track, without having to peer down and count the little stripes and then hope I didn't scratch the record when I put the needle back down. (Most of our grandchildren have no idea what I'm talking about.)

My, my, my, I do love technology!

I bought one CD every payday and eventually I collected all but one, a live album that was universally panned. I'm not as much a fan of live albums as I am of studio recordings. But I love going to concerts. Go figure. I've continued to buy new releases as they come out. As I age, I wonder which of my heirs is going to be the keeper of the Dylan?

Amnesty International has released an album called "Chimes of Freedom," an homage to Dylan's music covered by scores of other artists. AI has been doing its good work for 50 years, as well. There's a movement afoot to make Pete Seeger the oldest vocalist to top the record charts (Tony Bennett currently holds that distinction). Seeger's rendition of "Forever Young" (my favorite, favorite, favorite Dylan song, partly because my maiden name is Young but mostly because it's such a beautiful piece) with The Rivertown Kids is well worth your buck.29.

(So is Adele's "Make You Feel My Love," for that matter. But that's a tangent I hadn't intended to take here.)

Anyway. I'm writing about this because I listened to a lot of the album last night and it's all fresh and beautiful in my mind. And if this Sunday morning starts out fresh and beautiful because of some Dylan tunes, then that's worth writing about. I'm going to crank it up and hope the whole day stays like this.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fresh from the garden. And the gym.

Seven spears of asparagus made it from the garden into our quiche for dinner, along with a couple of Egyptian onions. I'm anxious to plant some red and regular onions, but the earth is still too heavy and wet to work in. The quiche was delicious – whole wheat crust, fresh shrooms (from the market, I haven't gotten into growing my own. Yet.), Swiss cheese and cream from the cow down the road.

The gym was really crowded yesterday morning. I was following a couple of women around part of the circuit and ended up doing way more sets and reps than I usually do because they were chit-chatting more than they were working out. Oh, well, I think I'm the one who will end up benefitting from the workout.

The free-weight area also was busy. I'm very self-conscious back there. It's tucked around a corner from the main part of the gym, and I'm usually by myself. Yesterday there were three guys and another woman all working with weights and pulleys and stability balls. I managed to do 50 crunches on the ball – first time I've gotten that many done.

I have an incisional hernia from gallbladder surgery more than 20 years ago. Crunches usually make it hurt like HELL, but maybe the work I've been doing has been making that area stronger.

For cardio, instead of the treadmill I chose to ride an exercise bike, after reading Jen's post yesterday morning. I was a puddle of sweat when I got done. My perception of exercise bikes is that since you're sitting down, you're not working as hard. Of course it all depends on the amount of resistance you choose to use, and I decided to make it challenging enough to bust my theory into pieces. It wasn't the same as a spinning class, but it was much harder than the treadmill. And, I hope much more effective.

Thanks, as always, for your comments. Diandra, we made our pins with pin backs and small squares of wood, to which we decoupaged the printed designs. No machine necessary, just a willingness to get your hands sticky! It really was pretty fun.

My ginger-haired friend hit the nail on the head when she reminded me to accept others' good opinions. When I was newly sober, there was one person who really, really, REALLY didn't like me. The other 99 people in the room thought I was just fine, thankyouverymuch, but you know who I worked on, don't you? I bent over backwards trying to justify my existence to the one percent who wanted me to go away. I thought I was so done with that. Progress, not perfection.

Darn it.

Have a great St. Patrick's Day, and if you drink, have a green beer (or a Bailey's Irish Cream!) for me. Mmmm.

Friday, March 16, 2012

4 more

Both of you know I'm kinda crafty. My favorite hands-on hobby is knitting, of course, but I also like sewing, making jewelry (although I don't wear much), and creating handmade books, cards and stationery. I came up with an idea for a fundraiser for our county Democratic women's group, and last night was a work party.

I demonstrated the various steps to complete one of the little pins we're making, and then let each member choose which job she wanted to do. 'Cause that's the democratic way. Heh.

It worked out surprisingly well. Some were better with scissors, some didn't mind getting their hands dirty (ModPodge was involved) and everyone seemed to have a good time.

It was good for me to get out of the house for an evening, to not think about the CRAP that is ever present in my real life. It was fun to just hang out with these decidedly non-crafty women and watch them take ownership of the project, solve problems, work together.

I learned from that two-hour meeting that I have to own what's going on and do what's right for me. I can't fix anyone else. I can't solve anyone's problems. I can't change the way things are into the way I want things to be. I need to back off  in order to gain some perspective.

In other words, I'm not in charge. Except for once a month, the third Thursday, for a Democratic women's meeting.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Many thanks ...

for your comments and concern. I really just need to get over myself and not get so caught up in what others are doing, thinking, saying and especially HOW THEY ARE BEHAVING.

The fact that someone else has been rude and hurtful doesn't mean I deserve it.

Clearly, sometimes criticism is warranted. There's no doubt about that. But I don't have to buy into it as Truth.

Is that obscure enough for ya?

I planted snow peas yesterday. Just one row, because I couldn't get the tiller started and had to dig the row with a shovel. And by tomorrow there will be enough asparagus to throw in an omelette or a quiche. I can't wait! But of course I will, because I want the amount of asparagus to be generous.

I saw this on Facebook this morning. Perfect. Thank you all again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Out of balance

I was driving home last night from the AA meeting at the prison. The meeting was well-attended and the discussion was insightful and positive.

As I rounded a curve next to a steep drop-off, I saw my car veering off the road, tumbling down the hill and coming to rest on the train tracks below.

Obviously, it didn't happen or I wouldn't be here telling you about it this morning.

That's not all, though. I hit a nice, even straight stretch of road and visualized a deer bolting in front of the car. That's actually happened before, but I was able to avoid direct contact. The deer grazed off the front passenger side, leaving a few tufts of fur behind to remind me that night driving in West Virginia can be hazardous to a deer's health.

There are things going on I can't write about. No one in my family knows about this blog, but it could be discovered and I wouldn't want any of them to read about what's making me want to drop off the edge of a mountain. My husband has his own stuff going on. Life is wacky and crazy. I'm being pulled in a dozen directions and at the same time feeling like it just wouldn't matter if I just wasn't here.

And sometimes I really wish I wasn't.

Wow, this is really a downer of a post, isn't it? On the bright side, there's sun and warm temperatures and I managed to fill a wheelbarrow with weeds from the front landscape bed yesterday. And there's a few more stalks of asparagus reaching for the sky.

And on the other bright side, I know things could be much worse. I need to find my attitude of gratitude and move on.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Decisions, decisions

Tuesday. Weigh-in day. I woke up this morning with "will-I-or-won't-I" going through my head.

(Before I go on, may I just say I would much rather wake up with nothing in my head, or with something pleasant in my head, but waking up with "will I get on the scale or not" in my head is just WRONG.)

As both of you regular readers know, this past weekend included three-too-many restaurant meals, and none of them were good choices. I neglected to tell you that our Saturday lunch with family was at a – get ready – Mexican restaurant! (Not the whole, fresh, fabulous venue I'd assumed my daughter-in-law would choose.) My least favorite cuisine (dieting or not) for two consecutive meals (because I skipped Saturday's breakfast).

We also had a restaurant meal on the way home, and by that time I was tired and in one of those who-gives-a-rat's-ass moods anyway, so it was fast food all the way.

Which explains why I've felt so bad the last couple of days. It hit me this morning, after digesting the comments, that the only allergy I really have is to processed food. I ate far too much salty fried CRAP. Even choosing a salad for Saturday's lunch didn't make up for the damage from the sweet potato fries someone ordered as an appetizer for the whole table. And don't even talk to me about chips and salsa.

So anyway. To sum up: I could have eaten better and I know it. It's not the first time and it won't be the last. Knowing the relationship I have with my scale, I debated about assessing the damage.

In the end, I decided to go for it, because that number is information, not judgement. RIGHT? Also, my wedding ring has been very slippy-slidy lately (my favorite non-scale weight-loss indicator) and my workouts have been pretty consistent. I'm doing things right most of the time, even meals, when you consider that three out of an entire week adds up to a cheat day. Except I spread mine out over two days.

Ten weeks into the year and nine since I started South Beach, and I stayed the same as last week. Eight pounds in 10 weeks. I'm certainly not the poster child for Dr. Agaston's plan, but I'm okay with this week's result. Staying the same feels like a huge victory to me.

It also makes me think I'm boring and shallow for spending so much time thinking, worrying and writing about whether I should get on the effing scale or not. Aren't you glad I limit this kind of silly talk to Tuesdays? Heh.

Monday, March 12, 2012

If I only had …

The characters in The Wizard of Oz knew their limitations and got just what they needed when they entered the Emerald City: courage, a brain, a heart.

All of the situations, issues and problems which are nearly crushing me these days would be less crushing if only I had more energy. I'm beginning to wonder if there's some kind of deficiency going on beneath the surface. 

I spent most of yesterday recovering from the previous day's eight-hour drive and visit with the youngest grandchildren. It shouldn't take a day to do that. It was such a beautiful day, the perfect day for pulling a few weeds, taking a walk, just being outdoors.

I'll give myself a little credit for laundering the bed linens. It was warm and sunny so I put the sheets out on the clothesline to dry. Boy, did I ever appreciate that extra effort when I went to sleep last night! The only other "work" I did yesterday was cutting back the dead asparagus fronds and frying eggs for my husband's dinner. I wasn't hungry enough to eat (which, in and of itself, is kinda weird, because normally I don't even need to be hungry to eat).

So what did I do to fill up the 23 hours of March 11, 2012? Called my sister to wish her a happy birthday. Called two other friends and left messages. Wrote a couple of e-mails, took a couple of pictures, made a couple pots of coffee. And sat on my ass playing computer solitaire.

Because when life gets to be too hard, too much, too draining, solitaire has always come to my rescue. If there are cards (or computers) in the Emerald City, I'm booking a trip.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

So, so tired

Four toddlers will do that to you.

About an hour ago I started to perk up a little bit, so I went out to cut back the asparagus to make room for the new stuff which should be popping up soon. Imagine my surprise when I found this!

 And this!

It was April before we ate the first stalks last year.

The daffs are doing well, and the sedum looks great. I planted tons of creeping sedum last year and it's all come back. The lilacs are budding out, as are the apple trees and the redbud I planted in memory of my dad.

In other words, spring isn't tired at all! Yay!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It is what it is

You can't clean your plate at a Mexican restaurant and expect to see good results from the scale the following morning.

Also? If you're me, you can't not step on the scale, no matter how much you said you wouldn't.

That number is information only, reflecting one highly salted and, truth be told, not very delicious meal. The company was much better than the carne asada.

I will MOVE ON.

My husband and I are headed out to spend the day with his grandchildren and their parents. Once your children have children, the little ones are the focus of the visit for all the adults. We old folks want to play with and read to and delight in the little ones' antics, while the middle generation beams with pride and the babes love showing off for all of us.

We can't wait.

We're taking them out for lunch, and I'm sure the restaurant choice will be more healthful than was last night's. Their mama is very tuned in to fresh, whole, organic food, and we've always been well-fed when she picks the restaurant.

It will be a long day, with plenty o'road time. I'm planning to, hopefully, gracefully, go with the flow. It's something I've been working on lately. The family drama and water issues have been good practice.

Oh, and we're leaving in 35 minutes and I haven't even showered yet. Gotta run!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Workin' for a living

I worked yesterday. I mean really worked, at the greenhouse, moving tiny petunia plants from plugs to flats filled with larger pots, then moving the flats to protected benches in another greenhouse. Standing, bending, lifting, walking, carrying … happy!

The view through the greenhouse window looks out on a storage shed.
Oh, and I'm having fun with Photoshop Actions, too. Heh.

I wasn't there long, maybe four hours total. But it was certainly enough to get my mind off my troubles and put a nice ache in my shoulders. Just what I needed.

The really real part-time job begins in April, but I love doing production and said I'd be happy to help out until the garden center opens for the season. I also love the opportunity to get out of my own head for a few hours.

On tap for today: Laundry, a gym workout, cleaning the house, dinner out at a Mexican place. Not sure how that will work for South Beach but I've decided to follow Gingerzingi's lead – eat now and complain later. The couple we're meeting chose the venue, and since restaurants are few and far between in the Middle of Nowhere, I'm just going with the flow.

Which is probably a good way to live the rest of my crazy-assed life, as well.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My heart hurts

Not literally, of course, or I'd be in the hospital and I'm not sure our hospital has wi-fi.

Without going into a lot of detail, one of the situations which is weighing heavily upon me (and yes, I know the South Beach lackluster results fit perfectly here!) is that someone I'm close to has hurt me.

She's going through a tough time right now. She doesn't have all the facts. She lashed out at me, I've accepted responsibility and apologized and I haven't heard a word since.

This is so reminiscent of the friendship that was lost a year ago. Except last year I was so speechless and I really had nothing to apologize for. This time I did.

This is a time to chant to myself: WWCD, WWCD, WWCD. "C" was my AA sponsor, who died last May. She would tell me that this person is going through a tough time and doesn't have all the facts. She would tell me I've done what I was supposed to do. She would tell me to Let It Go.

So I will.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wiki Waterleaks

I would love for life to just even out for a while. Each individual issue my husband and I are dealing with would be manageable on its own, but there are so many piled atop one another that we find ourselves wanting to sell everything and run away.

That water drop should be a dollar sign.
Unfortunately, the issues are not appropriate blog fodder. Except, maybe, the water.

We have spent So. Much. Money. making sure water is both potable and available here in the Middle of Nowhere. In addition to money, it has cost me a friendship, which ended almost exactly a year ago.

Our water pump is located nearly half a mile from our house, down a steep hill or mini mountain, take your pick, in a cow pasture. You have to duck under an electric fence to get to the meter.

The bill for said meter has always been less than $10 a month. This month it was more than $200.

Houston, we have a problem. If the pump is running that much, there must be a leak, right?

The thing is, usually when we have a leak there's some evidence of it, and the evidence has always been low water pressure. The pressure has been fine, so we didn't suspect a thing.

The power company has tested the meter which, of course, is fine. The man who has been our water expert for the past three or four years came yesterday and ruled out all the dire possibilities. He temporarily adjusted a pressure switch which finally got the pump to shut off. But the key word here is "temporarily." There's still a leak, somewhere along the line, and we have to wait for it to show up above ground. After which there will be equipment and mud and lack of water until repairs are made.

Oh, the joy and anticipation.

Wars have been fought over water. If your water works, you can add one more blessing to your day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

But enough about politics

Thanks for your comments yesterday, as well as the previous day. Bloggers love comments (hint, hint)! I left a reply, but I guess if you don't subscribe to the comments, you wouldn't know unless you came back and read the post again later. And who has time for that?

It looks as if the social-media pressure on Rush Limbaugh is working, in so many ways. Advertisers are bailing, stations have begun to drop the program and he continues to apologize. More importantly, President Obama's poll numbers are rising, particularly among women voters.

If only we could pressure Congress and get similar results.

My congressman is a Democrat, but he votes carefully so as not to upset the Southern Democrats who've kept him in office for 35 years. Don't get me wrong: I like him. I've met him, talked with him, visited his offices in West Virginia and in Washington, D.C. and will work hard to keep him in Congress. But he and the other moderates could and, in my opinion, should take advantage of the current huge lean to the left.

Don't get me started on our junior Senator.

Okay, moving on! It's Tuesday, and that means weigh-in day around here. Nine weeks in and I'm eight pounds down. I was able to get back on track this week but I gotta tell ya: Taking it off is so much harder and so much less fun than packing it on.

You've probably already figured that out, right?
Although navigating Other People's Cooking wasn't really fun at all, now that I think about it. I was anxious and peevish and hungry. I'll probably never get to the point where I can just tuck into a big plate of forbidden fruit with joy and pleasure, but I hope I can get to the point where food is fuel. Not pleasure, not entertainment, not something to look forward to, not a battle, not a drag. Just food.

I'm guessing if you're reading this you might be hoping the same thing for yourself.

Eating lots of vegetables certainly turns food into fuel. I've been in a cooking slump lately, and it would be good to get that "I love to cook" mojo back again. Because I really do love to cook. The chopping and prepping is part of the cooking but lately it's Just Another Chore. I guess it comes down to making the decision to do whatever it takes to further my goal of once and for all getting rid of this lard.

So simple. And yet so hard.

We had lots o'snow yesterday morning so I worked out on the elliptical here at home. It's melted quite a bit already and it's going to be in the 60s today – spring in the Middle of Nowhere! – so look for a photo on Facebook later from my outdoor walk. And maybe tomorrow there will be one here from some fabulous South Beach-friendly new recipe I've found.

Better start looking …

Monday, March 5, 2012

What we've got here is failure to communicate

(I can't even type that subject line without hearing the Captain's slow drawl from Cool Hand Luke.)

Thanks so much for commenting yesterday. Your input reinforces my core belief that there are some savvy women out there who could whip this country into shape in a heartbeat, if only you were in charge.

I could barely tear myself away from Facebook yesterday, where the comments continued to mount up regarding what I am now calling The Limbaugh Incident. The amount of misinformation, beginning with El Rushbo himself, is staggering.

For instance, he apparently thinks birth control works like the little blue pill – you need to take one every time you have sex.

Many, many Facebook comments went along these lines:
I don't care if you take birth control, but don't make me pay for it!
No one is saying birth control should be free, or paid for using taxpayers' funds. The issue is, as LG commented, whether insurance should cover it. As someone who has not used birth control for 37 years, I didn't even realize contraception was not covered. (Can you believe my doctor agreed to perform a tubal ligation when I was 24 years old? Would a doctor do that now?)

If you don't have a prescription plan as part of your health insurance coverage, you will be paying out of pocket. But if you don't have a prescription plan, you're paying for all your prescribed medication with your own money.

This is the lastest of many (every) health care issues that leads me back to the idea that single-payer should be the law of the land. PPACA doesn't even come close to guaranteeing universal coverage.

My problem now is that I pretty much surround myself with like-minded people who agree with me. I've no one to convince that I'm right. Those with whom I associate and interact already know I'm right, because they're right as well. Heh. And honestly? I don't like to fight, or even cajole.

I like to be a good example. If I can state my case simply, calmly and clearly, and if I can back it up with credible sources, then I'm done. If one doesn't wish to listen to reason or if one would rather make up the facts, I might as well move on to someone with a more open mind.

Which is why I won't be calling in to talk to Rush today.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

In case you missed it …

I don't always agree with Maureen Dowd. Usually, but not always. Her column in today's NYT is a great analysis of The Limbaugh Incident.

Question du jour: DIscuss

If you're against abortion, how can you also be against contraception?

I just read a Facebook comment and subsequent conversation which began with a woman saying she's suffered guilt and shame because abortion was "too easily accessible" when she was "young and vulnerable."

Well, I remember when abortions were illegal. You had to go undercover to a shady practitioner to get one, or travel long distances and spend a ton of money to find a reputable doctor willing to perform the procedure. You risked your future fertility and your life when abortion was not accessible.

No one is in favor of abortion. It's a gut-wrenching decision. Preventing abortions is a good idea, so should we encourage drug companies to develop "treatments" for raging hormones? Should we spend more research money to develop cures for the conditions that drive couples to terminate wanted, planned-for pregnancies?

Adoption is a good idea, too. I know several couples who have adopted children but they all traveled long distances and spent a ton of money to bring their children back from foreign countries. Where, apparently, abortions aren't performed. (Here's a rundown of abortion policy around the world.) If U.S. law prohibited abortion, would there be more adoptions here? Or would there be more back-alley, coat-hanger abortions?

Doesn't it make more sense to make contraception accessible? Of course it does.

This whole political storm about women's rights comes down to this: It's a man's world. Still. After two generations of fighting for our rights, and a Supreme Court decision, men still want to be in charge of our bodies. They want to say who, when and how to have sex, and they want us to shut up and like it.

Okay, it's not just men. There's Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter. And the woman who wrote that Facebook comment.

So. Now you know where I stand. How about you?

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Friday night used to be pizza night here in the Middle of Nowhere. Because of my new schedule, I'm going to move it to Thursday. This week, however, it's tonight.

Last week I tried a 100% whole-wheat crust to which I added wheat gluten, ground flaxseed and wheat germ. It tasted good, but it was heavy, dense. And the recipe only made enough for one crust.

My old recipe ( a combo of white and wheat flours) made two crusts, one for now and one to freeze, and the frozen one always had a better texture than the fresh one. Really, I should probably just spend one morning making pizza dough and freeze lots of them. That's how organized women do it, right? REALLY, I should probably spend THIS morning making pizza dough. Hmmm. Y'all are so good to help me plan my day. Heh.

©Debora J. McNeer
Mmmm, pizza, pizza!
I broke down and bought a bag of King Arthur White Wheat Flour – at almost $1/pound, it's pretty spendy, but it will work well in my favorite crust formula. I have onions, peppers, 'shrooms and olives for toppings, along with a little bit of sausage. Add a big salad, and a Phase II South Beach dinner is served.

I had a good workout at the gym yesterday. I've been using the machines for lower body – leg press, adductors, abductors – and free weights for upper body, with the addition of a couple of the pulldown machines for back and shoulders. I joined the gym January 23 and have progressed from NO dumbbells to 15-pounders. I'm amazed at myself. I hope to walk today, weather permitting.

I'm still posting daily photos using prompts from FatMumSlim. Today's is "neighbourhood." Since FMS is in Australia, she's already posted hers, and it's a real 'hood, with houses right next to each other. I don't even think of where I live as a neighborhood. I truly live in the Middle of Nowhere, I haven't been kidding about that. I hope to be inspired when I walk today to come up with something. I guess that's the point of the prompts, right? To inspire your creativity?

And speaking of prompts, this month's theme at BlogHer is "Whether." So far I've chosen not to use the prompts. But after four solid months of daily posts, the well is beginning to run dry, despite the rain we've had lately. I feel stale and tired and repetitive. How many times do you need to read about dumbbells and pizza and the weather, oh my?

As I might have said previously, however, the prompts feel like homework. I've been out of school for decades now, and I don't need no stinkin' homework. I do need some inspiration, however, so I might just step out on that limb, take a risk, live on – gasp! – the edge. It's been a while.

Friday, March 2, 2012

And we're back

After 20 hours without power, everything started humming again. I wasn't here to celebrate; I was at a client's. A client who had power.

Another client meeting this morning, the gym afterward and then I need to really, really, really work on getting organized. Meal planning and decluttering are high on my list. You see, I will soon be employed.

I've worked part-time at a local garden center the last two summers, casually and only one or two days a week. But this year I'll be suiting up and showing up three days a week, doing both production (which I love) and sales (which I will learn to love). I'm excited! I've previously bartered my labor for their plants, but I'm officially on the books this year.

(This decision was a direct result of the raccoon incident. Had I been the bite victim, it would have been a horribly expensive Big Deal for the owners.)

Look what's up. I took a stroll around the garden yesterday and popping up above those winter weeds are two rows of Egyptian onions. It's so cool to see real food growing this early in the season. These onions develop "sets," which then fall over and replant themselves, giving them their other name: the walking onion. Four short rows of garlic also are developing nicely. My hope is to have enough garlic left this year to plant my own, rather than ordering new stock, which I've done for three years. We love our garlic around here.

So what else. Oh! The Blunt amendment was tabled yesterday, no thanks at all to West Virginia's junior senator, who crossed the aisle and voted with the Rethuglicans on this one. He's been called a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) and this vote truly proves it. A side note: a movement is afoot to rally in every state capitol and in DC on April 28, 2012, to protest the War on Women. If you're interested, more information can be found here.

Back to my organizing dilemma: If you have developed a meal-planning strategy that works for you and your family, and don't mind sharing it, I'd love some ideas. Pinterest has been helpful, but your personal experience would be moreso in determining if a plan will work for me. There are two hard parts to my oh-so-lovely days here in the Middle of Nowhere:

  1. Figuring out what to have for dinner
  2. Answering my husband's daily question: "What's for dinner?"

(He doesn't cook, yet another favor his mother never did for him. I absolutely cannot understand his unwillingness to learn, however, considering how much he loves to eat. I used to worry about his meals when I went out of town without him. Not any more. He's certainly smart enough and old enough to navigate the kitchen; the fact that he refuses to do so is not my problem. So there, honey!)

Thursday, March 1, 2012


If you're in recovery, you know what powerlessness is.

And if you live in the Middle of Nowhere and a tree falls on a power line, you *also* know what powerlessness is.

Today is an excellent time to practice the Serenity Prayer.

Also? It's hard to type a lengthy, bitchy post on a smartphone keyboard. You can thank me now for not trying to compose one. Heh.

Sent from my U.S. Cellular BlackBerry® smartphone