Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31 - Toothbrush

Ummm, not sure what, if anything, there is to say about a toothbrush.

A quickie

Hmmm, looks like no one is interested in winning four big chunks of 100% cotton yarn in really pretty colors. That's okay. I'm not offended.

Becca has contacted me and her kit will be leaving West Virginia today. Thanks again for playing, Becca!

In a continual quest to reduce my computer's girth (in case you haven't noticed, I've pretty much put my personal girth-reduction quest on hold. Eating is a little easier but the constant headache remains and I've not been very active. I will get back to regular walking. The question is when.), I ditched Google Chrome today and am going to learn to use Safari. I just upgraded the operating system to Mountain Lion and there are supposedly some cool new features which I will stumble upon one of these days.

I'm hoping that a browser is a browser is a browser. Chrome is a pretty large application, but I still have a long way to go to recover more hard drive space. I've gotten rid of all the duplicate photos, now it's time to edit what's left. Then it will be on to the music.

I went through a period around Christmas time where I was downloading a free .mp3 from amazon.com every day. And, of course, I never listened to them. They were free! Why not snag them and listen later? Well, here's why: I'm at an age where new music just doesn't move me as much as old favorites do. The recent exceptions have been Adele, Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers and Amy Winehouse (gone far too soon).

So that's the quickie today, which turned out to be not-so-quick. We're having company later this week, and my acre of flooring needs attention. The cleaning of which will also be not-so-quick.

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30 - Calm

The beautiful Greenbrier River, Summers County, West Virginia.

And the winner is …

Becca, who wrote: "I'd love to snag this yarn!" Well, Becca, snag it you did. E-mail me at shrinkingknitter AT gmail DOT com (you know the drill) with your snail-mail address and it will soon be on its way to you.

Thanks to all of you for playing.

You need only know six basic maneuvers to knit anything you want, from the simplest dishcloth to the most amazing and intricate lace shawls you've ever seen. Those six techniques are:

  • casting on
  • knitting
  • purling
  • increasing
  • decreasing
  • casting off

That's it. Once you learn those, you're off and running on what could be a lifetime love affair with sticks and string. All of these moves are available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube, or you can borrow knitting books from the library. Most books include instructions for beginners, and many are written specifically for those who want to learn.

I learned from my grandfather's stepmother when I was nine, and I only met her that one time. We didn't plan for me to learn to knit that day, but she – like so many knitters I know – had her "car knitting" with her when she arrived, and I was fascinated by the process. Neither my mother nor my grandmother were crafty in any way, shape or form. I'd never been exposed to the domestic arts, other than sewing on buttons or repairing the hem of a skirt.

But that first lesson from a woman I'd never met before and would never meet again was pivotal. I joined a knitting 4H club and modeled my first sweater at the county fair. I made caps and blankets and sweaters for my children, and their children. I've taught knitting classes, designed knitting patterns, joined knitting groups and bought more yarn than I'll ever be able to knit in my lifetime.

Prior to the internet, knitting was a solitary activity, but once I got online I found knitters (and knitting supplies!) all over the world. I met one of my dearest friends, who has since died, because our AOL profiles were so similar: We were on an Atkins diet listserv, we were both recovering, and we were knitters.

So. If you don't knit (yet), this week's Summer of Yarn Giveaway is designed for you. Sometime this week, go back to the top of this post and download that dishcloth pattern. Check out the YouTube instructional videos. Stop by a Michael's or a Hobby Lobby or a local yarn shop and pick up a pair of size 9 or 10 knitting needles and a small package of ring markers. Then leave me a comment and get ready to win four balls of Paton's Cotton Chunky.

The rules are: U.S. residents only (sorry, rest of the world, but shipping has gotten crazy-expensive!). This week's giveaway begins today, July 30, and ends Sunday, August 5, 2012, at 5 p.m. EDT. Winner will be chosen using random.org's random-number generator. Only one comment per reader will be tossed in the ring, but that doesn't mean you can't comment every day.

'Cause you know how much bloggers love comments!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29 - Last thing you bought

Bought the last two containers on the shelf. We'll see how it works on two
of the four pine stumps we have. Aren't I an exciting shopper? Heh.

Nine hours to go …

According to the rules, the first week of the Summer of Yarn Giveaway ends in nine short hours. How do you get in on the action? Leave a comment. (Or, as my friend Shauna, in her sweet Aussie accent, used to say – pop a comment. Shauna, I miss your podcast!)

You can say anything in your comment – how you never win anything, how you love to knit, how you think a pink felted bag kit would be perfect for boys as well as girls (I felt kinda old-fashioned promoting the kit for little girls after I did it, so I'm making amends for that now).

You can comment on the weather, the Olympics, the unrest in Syria, politics (I'm a Democrat, so be nice) or Chick-Fil-A.

In short, you can pop a comment on any topic at all and if you live in the U.S. and it shows up before 5 p.m., you might win some yarn! Skweeeee!

Tomorrow morning I will reveal the winner, and then there will be more yarn. From the state of the closet where I store my stash, there could be yarn for a year. But there won't be. This is a limited-time engagement, four weeks tops. Perhaps another round in the fall, when knitting something other than socks or dishcloths actually feels like something one wants to do.

The perfect comment would be the answer to this question: What would you like to win next?

Okay, go.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 28 - Cup

My favorite coffee mug, handmade by a friend who has her own pottery
shop. Oh, and who also is blind. I love her work!

Fuh-REAKY weather

Am feeling even worse this morning for you who are drought-stricken and tomato-less. The rain gauge had three-quarters of an inch in it, after a freaky storm that lasted less than half an hour.

The sky got bluer and then greyer and then darker the closer I got to home when I left work yesterday around 2 p.m. By the time I unloaded the car and ran into the house, the rain had started and the wind was whipping up. Within five minutes we were seeing hailstones (tiny, but still ...)! I kept waiting for another pine tree or two to fall.

I also kept waiting for the electricity to go out. It blinked a few times, but came right back on. However approximately 9% of my county's residents are currently in the dark. Or they would be if it were nighttime.

More rain predicted for today. I wish I could send some to you, if you need it.

My husband and I watched most of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics last night. Since my normal hit-the-sack time is about 8:30, staying up until 10 p.m. was a stretch. (I'm a lark, he's an owl, it's how we get along. Heh.) He's not nearly as interested in the games as I am, but tolerated the spectacle just for me. And switched over to CNN as soon as I turned in.

So I missed Sir Paul and the torch lighting, but I certainly applaud the London committee for choosing young athletes to represent the games. And I've watched it on YouTube. Quite spectacular! Honestly, though, I would have loved whoever they picked because I love the Summer Olympics. My great hope is that the track and field events will inspire me to start moving my butt again.

Today I'll be moving it in a car, mostly. I have to go to a three-hour luncheon and it takes three hours to get there. And, naturally, three hours to get home. There are very few places in West Virginia that are easy to get to. Except for the length of the trip, this one actually is interstate all the way. But still. Six hours of driving for lunch?

I'm one dedicated Democrat, that's all I'm sayin'.

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27 - On the road

On the way to work earlier today ... was trying to work in a Kerouac idea or
a Willie Nelson reference, but I think the fact that I was actually on the road
and headed to work was a pretty big accomplishment this morning!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26 - Sunshine

Didn't even look at the preview screen. Not a bad composition, if I do say so myself!

All of our diet dilemmas … SOLVED!

It's not what we eat, nor how much we move. It's not low-fat, no-carb, sugar-free. It's not going to a gym, a yoga studio or a track. It's simply this:
WARNING TO US ALL!!!Shampoo Warning!
I don't know WHY I haven't figured this out before now.
I use shampoo in the shower!
When I wash my hair, the shampoo runs down my whole body, and printed very clearly on the shampoo label is this warning:
No wonder I've been gaining weight!Well, I've gotten rid of that shampoo and will now start showering with Dawn dish soap instead. Its label reads:
Problem solved!
I saw this on Pinterest the other day and had one of those Oprah aha moments. Or maybe it was a haha moment. At any rate, Dawn dish soap is a staple of all the make-your-own-cleaning products blogs, and it's frequently recommended for felting wooly things. And now: A weight-loss aid! (Would love to know how their PR people positioned the product to be so perfect for so many things.)

The first batch of yarn auctions on eBay ended yesterday, so I'll be busy-busy this morning getting packages ready to mail. All but two of them sold. My PayPal account is fattening up, and that's not something I plan to remedy by cleaning it with Dawn. Heh.

So many of you have commented about the drought you're experiencing; I feel kinda bad for posting a photo of my ripe tomatoes. The drought is a lead story in today's New York Times. It's affecting the majority of the United States – even West Virginia is characterized as "abnormally dry." I think the saving grace here has been the late-afternoon pop-up thunderstorms. We don't get one every day, but we've been blessed with a little bit of rain every other day or so for the past couple weeks. It got pretty dry the week after the derecho hit us; the remainder of July has been tolerable. I've only had to water the container plants, not the big garden. But there's no such thing as climate change. Just sayin'.

The NYT story points out that drought conditions will most certainly affect food prices next year, with an increase of four to five percent on staples like milk and meat. This would be a good time to stock the freezer – and then hope the electricity doesn't go out again. If it ain't one thing …

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25 - Heart

Bleeding hearts, still blooming beautifully at the garden center today.

When it rains …

the tomatoes grow!

Most of my crop is the Amish Paste variety, an indeterminate that produces over several weeks. I started picking a couple weeks ago and expect to be stuffing green ones in paper bags to ripen indoors in October.

Yes, there are that many. The photo shows only a few of the staked plants. There are four dozen altogether. We've eaten tomatoes in something almost every day since I started plucking the fruit. Not bragging OR complaining, just reporting.

I'm not weighing the harvest this year, nor am I even too concerned about putting by enough tomatoes to last until next summer. That was my goal when I planted the seedlings, and if it happens that would be great. But if not? Well, it's been kind of nice to not be slaving away in the garden every day this summer. Between the storm and my dental issues, it's been good to be less tied to food production.

Keep those comments coming … there's plenty of time for you and your knitting friends to get in on the Summer of Yarn Giveaway action. It's fine for you to enter if you're outside the U.S. and have the yarn shipped within the U.S., as one commenter hopes will happen for her.

I think I'll dig around in the yarn closet to see what looks good for next week's giveaway. There's a TON of cotton in there, and lots more wool. Some coned yarns (no ends to weave in!). Any requests?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24 - A stranger

I hated taking someone's picture who a) I didn't know and b) didn't know I
was taking it. I could have asked, but I'm too shy. And it was raining, obviously.
The stranger part about this photo is that immediately after I took it, I watched
a scared dog wriggle out of a partly opened car window parked near me.
I went into the store to report it; the manager made what was surely the strangest
announcement he'll make all day. We helped the woman bag her groceries and
then she went out to find her panicked pup. She said he was afraid of everything.
Including rain.

So what am I knitting lately?

A combination of things have happened lately which have contributed to my being a little more sedentary than usual.

  • Garden fatigue set in really early this year, mostly due to the storm.
  • Our road was off-limits for a week while it was being blacktopped.
  • My head hurts. All. The. Time. (Because of my, um, dental procedure.)
  • We upgraded to the top-of-the-line satellite package, with all the movie channels.

So my physical activity has been curtailed (temporarily, I promise) and I'm parking my ass in front of the tube, watching movie after movie after movie. (Most recently Crazy. Stupid. Love. and now I want to see every movie Steve Carrell has ever made. And I want to marry him, too.)

Both of you know how hard it is for me to just sit without knitting something. So I started a Clean Slate Tote. I'm not going to link to the pattern because it's on a website (mine) that needs to be completely revamped. Suffice it to say it's an original design by moi, it's almost mindless and it makes a darned cool tote bag.

As I was pawing through the yarn closet, I found a bag of Obama-blue wool and immediately snagged it for the bag project. I'm going to the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women convention next month, and each county chapter is supposed to bring something for a fund-raising auction. I'm going to fill the bag with local products, decorate the outside with some campaign buttons and hope it brings a decent price.

(Obama-blue clothing/accessories are hard to find. Navy, baby, sky, turquoise, slate – all readily available. It's very important at this convention – and at all Democratic events – to wear this particular shade of blue.)

And apparently I have yarn on my subconscious mind, as well, because I dreamed about knitting a scarf for my daughter. I found two balls of shiny silver ribbon and two balls of black/grey/silver mohair. The plan is to provisionally cast on about six feet of stitches and knit a striped scarf sideways, alternating the ribbon and the mohair and leaving a tail for fringe, which will be knotted together when it's finished. I have no idea if this will work or not.

But we have all those movie channels now, so I might as well try it. Heh.

Don't forget about the Summer of Yarn Giveaway! (Rules are here.) If you haven't already commented, leave one to be in the running. And even if you have commented already, I still love hearing from you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23 - Mirror

Trying to take a photo of a mirror without being in the photo is a little, um, awkward.

Rules of the road …

It appears I should have been a little more, um, explicit in setting parameters for the Summer of Yarn Giveaway. I'm actually (technically, legally) throwing a sweepstakes (who knew?), and sweepstakes have RULES. So here goes:

The prize has been described in today's previous post. Click here for details.

The first giveaway begins July 23 and ends July 29. Entries received after 5 p.m. EDT July 29, 2012, will not be considered.

Participation is limited to U.S. residents only. Apologies to the rest of the world.

All comments received at my blog, Knit. Run. Reap. Eat., between July 23 and July 29 will be pooled and a winner chosen using random.org's random number generator. You may leave as many comments as you like (because you might want to comment on something every day!), but only one comment per reader will be considered for the drawing.

Okay, does that clear things up for both of you? Heh. I hope so. If anyone has any questions or concerns, please contact the manager.

Um, I guess that would be me.

The Summer of Yarn Giveaway Begins!

I was serious yesterday when I said I needed to purge my yarn closet. When we built our two-story garage, we designed it with two cedar-lined 5-foot by 10-foot closets for storage, one of which was to be dedicated to yarn. Well, you knitters know how it goes. Little by little the yarn has "growed like Topsy," migrating to the other closet and taking over one shelf of a closet in the house.

I started working on the mess Friday. Each wall is lined with wire cube shelving, about six feet tall. Every cube is stuffed. There are were four three-drawer plastic drawer organizers, also stuffed, and two huge plastic tubs on the floor, one stuffed with sock yarn the other with various and sundry odds and ends of cotton yarn. (I'll never make that many dishcloths. I'll never need that many dishcloths!)

I pulled the tubs out so I could walk into the area and started looking for the acrylic first. I stockpiled washable yarns when I was knitting for the grandchildren who lived in Wisconsin and Ohio, but they've all moved south and would rather warm up with a sweatshirt than a nice handknit sweater. The beneficiaries of SIX TRASH BAGS (so far) will be the inmates at Alderson Federal Prison Camp, where I volunteer.

Alderson has a voluntary program where the inmates knit or crochet sweaters, scarves, caps and mittens for needy area schoolchildren. Since we're in Appalachia, there are always needy schoolchildren who need warm clothes. It's a win-win for all: I free up space in the closet, the inmates do something good for others, the kids get new made-just-for-them items.

If you'd like to donate some of your excess stash, you can box it up and mail it to:
Alderson Hospitality House
P.O. Box 579
Alderson, WV 24910
Then I started going through what was left, pulling things I don't have a use for at all to list on eBay. I came up with 15 lots (so far) and there will be much more to come. My eBay rule is to start the bidding at $1/ball or, if there's a huge amount, $1/50 grams.

One of my husband's cousins knits and just moved into her first house, so I'm going to send her some yarn, as well, so she can start filling up her closets.

And you? What about you? Well, I certainly have enough left to give some away. (And there will be more auctions, as well.) In fact, I'm going to give away yarn for oh, let's say once a week for the next four weeks.

Beginning NOW! If you have a young daughter or granddaughter who loves pink (and what little girl doesn't love pink?), then this is the kit for you. Would a cute little felted bag make her happy? I thought so! Included in the kit are four balls (375 yards total) of self-striping wool yarn in shades of cream-to-pink, along with both knit and crochet instructions, a circular knitting needle (size 10-1/2), a size J crochet hook, a yarn needle, sewing needle and thread, and sequins and beads for embellishing the bag.

How do you win? Leave me a comment. That's all, no liking me (or anyone else) on Facebook (although you can if you want to), no following me on Instagram or Pinterest (although you can do that as well). No hoops to jump through, unless you count the word verification. Just give me some comment love and you're a potential winner. I'll use a random number generator to announce the winner on Sunday, July 29. Spread the word! Tell your friends! I love comments! Heh.

And next Monday … more yarn to give away! It's the Summer of Love Yarn!

(I think I've just used up my annual quota of exclamation points. Maybe.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 21 - 9:00

Was in the garden at 9 a.m., picking today's ripe tomatoes.
Enough here for another batch of salsa!

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20 - Eyes

A picture of a digital picture, thus the moire. But I kinda like it anyway.

Mission accomplished!

I may not have read every single word, but I scrolled and swiped through all 243 unread blog posts in two marathon sessions yesterday, using the Google Reader app on my phone. Yay, me! Didn't mark any as 'read' without at least skimming them, either.

I'm astonished at how very easy it is to read anything on such a small screen, but there you go. It really isn't hard at all. Which makes me wonder why I still read e-mail on the computer. I have the phone set up to download my e-mails throughout the day, but I usually wait to deal with them until I'm at the laptop. Probably because it's easier to type replies on a keyboard.

(Even typing on a keyboard is difficult right now, however, because I just accidentally touched the heating element of the coffeemaker with the tips of three of my left-hand fingers. OUCH! I'm icing them while typing with my right hand. awkward!)

One of the Android features I like a lot is Swype, an input method that lets you 'type' on a touchscreen by drawing a continuous line between the letters of a word. Lifting your finger between words creates a space. You don't have to be super accurate; Swype is intuitive and gets the words right most of the time. It's always a good idea to proof before you publish, however.

I didn't like it at first, because I didn't understand how it worked. But I'm teachable (thank goodness) and eventually, with enough practice, I've gotten so accustomed to using it that I keep trying to Swype when I'm on the Nook. (It might actually work on the Nook; I haven't checked to see if it will.)

That said (or typed, whatever), I still prefer replying to e-mails from a keyboard rather than a touchscreen. So there.

Reading a couple hundred blog posts in one afternoon was a good way to rest my weary head(ache) for a while. The one blog I read every word of (because she has such a good way with words and because her posts are short and mostly photos) was Better After. I wish I'd known about her when I was in my makeover frenzy a couple years ago. I transformed an ugly gold curio cabinet into a handsome wine-red accent piece, and an icky green secretary into a lovely piece of ivory-painted furniture that I use every day. (I also painted the green base of an oil lamp black, which was quite a dramatic before-and-after.)

I keep hoping the makeover mood will strike again, but I think maybe I'm over it. But I can live vicariously through Better After, and now, so can you!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 19 - Animal/insect/pet

I love my Hershey girl.

Still playing electronic catch-up

I have finally gotten through all the e-mails which backed up following the electrical outage, and I've managed to keep up with them (and even unsubscribe from some 'meh' newsletters) since the grand purge.

What I haven't caught up on are blogs. There are 270 273 unread blog posts in my Google Reader. The alcoholic in me doesn't want to miss anything (and if you, too, are similarly afflicted, you might be able to relate), but the practical me thinks 'marking all as read' is the thing to do. I'm just not sure I can.

Work yesterday was great: It was hot and I worked hard for four hours, deeply watering every plant at the garden center. I then cleaned up the area where we toss unused pots and trays. There is some potting to do, but I didn't have time to start on the list. I'm working again tomorrow, and hope to get my hands dirty then. Good thing I found the nail brush. Even wearing gardening gloves, your nails are a mess when you repot plants.

(I'm letting my nails grow a wee bit, hoping before summer's end to give myself this manicure.)

Back to the electronic backlog … if I didn't have solitaire on my phone, I'd probably read those posts. A little searching and, lo and behold, there's a Google Reader mobile app. Since the phone is somewhat permanently attached to my person, I installed it and put the icon on the same "page" of my phone as the solitaire icon. Problem solved. (I hope. Film at eleven.)

The bigger problem is my husband's resentment of the somewhat permanent attachment phone. His mobile phone is the simplest unit available. He'd like it better if it didn't have a camera. Mine is a mini-computer in my back pocket, and I use it all the time. He's an absolute Luddite when it comes to electronics. He's never used the computer, and prefers to write longhand and use stamps and envelopes and paper, ohmy! He brings his phone to me when he sees a missed call or (rare) voice mail notification.

He's appreciative of the ability to look up news about current events, but he still uses the encyclopedia. He's often said if he were 10 years younger he'd be a total computer geek, but technology seems to have passed him by, and he doesn't mind a bit.

I just wish he could live and let live about this. I must remember to point out, next time he's being cranky about my electronic addiction, that I don't mind at all that he reads books made out of paper, printed with ink. Why should he mind that I read mine on a Nook? Heh.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 18 - Plate

Almost heaven … most of the time.

Back to work

I ventured out of my comfort zone (not wanting to be seen in public) last night and went to the AA meeting at the prison. I feel very self-conscious around people, because I can't speak clearly with my upper teeth gone. But practicing in front of the inmates was a good thing to do. They are completely non-judgmental, and several also had denture stories to share. One woman, while in a blackout several years ago, carefully wrapped her dentures in tissue and threw them away. She can't afford to replace them and remains toothless to this day.

So today I'm working at the garden center. We haven't been busy – most people are gardened out by mid-summer – but the anniversary sale ends today, so we might get a few customers. (The anniversary sale was extended and changed to a "Gale Sale" following the storm.) I think I'll just deal with the public in a matter-of-fact manner and not worry about how I look or sound.

The denture diet has been an interesting experience. It's too hard to eat most anything except very smooth foods – applesauce, ice cream, cottage cheese. Everything I eat requires a dish or plate and utensils. There is no snacking on almonds or crackers, no tasting this or picking at that. I've been eating three times a day and having a half-cup of ice cream with a spoonful of peanut butter after dinner. It's not hard to watch portion sizes, either, because I have to eat s-l-o-w-l-y, and I'm really quite satisfied at the end of a serving.

In other words, I'm doing some of the things the weight-loss experts have long recommended:

  • Sit at the table to eat.
  • Use dinnerware and flatware.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Eat only when hungry.
  • Stop before you're full.

Now I could be loading up on mashed potatoes or puddings or other soft-but-not-very-healthful dishes, but I really don't much like those things anyway. If I'm only eating a little bit, I should make the most of it and enjoy what I'm consuming, right?

In the same way I hope to be matter-of-fact when dealing with customers today, I'd like to just routinely continue eating three small meals at a slower pace after I'm back to normal.

Whatever that is.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17 - Your addiction

Both of you know my for-real for-real addiction is alcohol. But I think after
21 years of abstinence I can get away with posting a photo of the current
compulsive activity. The other option was solitaire. I will say drinking alcohol
was a more exciting pastime than playing silly games on a handheld device.

Cut off

When our electricity went out late in June, my husband was forced to stop watching the news. I haven't regularly watched cable or network news for several months now, and am much happier for it, but he missed it.

At first.

And then he didn't. As the hours stretched into days and then into more than a week, we found ways to keep busy and entertain ourselves that didn't include television. We got up at sunrise, worked on clearing trees most of the day, took naps, read books and magazines, ate simple meals and fell into bed as darkness fell.

A comment yesterday from Kathy kind of slapped me upside the head: While we suffered from the storm, we have absolutely not suffered from drought this summer. The big weather story prior to the derecho was the Colorado wildfires. Had I not been cut off from the outside world, I would have learned that rain hasn't fallen in many other parts of the United States in far too long. This map shows the location and severity of dry conditions throughout the country.

I feel so badly for those of you with withered gardens. One of the great joys of my day-to-day life is putting a meal together from vegetables I've picked that day or preserved and stored in the pantry. I'm not a survivalist, not by any stretch of the imagination. But growing some of our own food is one of those self-sufficient skills I really appreciate. (Today's agenda includes making more pesto and canning some salsa – I rarely have tomatoes, peppers and onions ripen all at the same time, but this year it's a summer miracle!)

The other "cut off" subject around here is our trees. The four pines are just stumps now, thanks to Simon, our Amish neighbor, and his chain saw. There's still a lot of hauling to do, but the big job is done. We're debating about whether to have him take down a couple more of the standing pines, to open up the view, but I think we'll leave well enough alone. The remaining trees block the late-afternoon sun fairly well. Being cut off from that heat source is truly a blessing this time of year.

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16 - Sign

Couldn't get out and about today, so you get yet another view of the
"welcome" sign on the wall opposite my front door.

Pulling and dumping and sweating, oh my!

Well, I took the before-and-after pictures, but when I started weeding I did a different bed entirely. It is of equal size to the first set of pictures, but didn't have nearly as many weeds. I didn't take an "after" picture. Oh, and I couldn't figure out how to have the date/time show up on the photos, so you'll have to just trust me that the "before" ones were taken around 9 a.m. and the "afters" were taken sometime between 2 and 2:30 p.m. (Clicking on each picture will make them larger.)


This bed is about 20 by 35 feet. It's a section I covered with horse manure, but I didn't have enough cardboard or straw to kill mulch it. The weeds will pull out easily, but the same area to the immediate right also needed weeding and wasn't quite as, um, thick. So I started with it and am happy to say the sweet potatoes and basil now have plenty of room, and the sugar snaps have been pulled out. Along with half a dozen barrels full of weeds.

By the time I got done with that area, I was tired, but I promised you I'd work on two sections, and I'm a woman of my word. I didn't finish, however. It's just too hot by mid-afternoon to keep on going and I know when I start feeling dizzy that it's time to quit. But progress has been made!


This section is about 15 by 15, and has rows of onions and edamame. The edamame didn't germinate very well this year (note to self: buy new seed next spring), but there will be a little bit to enjoy. I think these onions are spring or green onions, not the big slicers I've been pulling for the last three or four weeks.

At any rate … I feel good about what I've done, and I feel good that I felt good enough to do it! (I hope that makes sense.) I just haven't felt like doing any kind of physical activity at all for several days. This is real progress, in more ways than just weeding a garden.

Getting soft

The teensy bit of weight I've lost recently is due entirely to limited consumption of food. I'm hungry a lot of the time, but it's just too much trouble and too uncomfortable to eat. It's a good thing my husband likes me because I'm sure it's not pretty watching me eat. He says I'm too self-conscious and it's not as bad as I think, but of course I'm right about this!

I've done next to nothing as far as intentional activity. Unless you count knitting! I watched two movies and The Newsroom yesterday, and both of you know I can't sit in front of the television without my knitting. (I'm still slogging away on the blue sweater. I hope it will be finished by election night.)

So to ease back into getting physical, I'm making a commitment right here and right now to weed at least part of the garden (I'm going to try to do half of it) this morning. It's a mess and overwhelming and I really don't want to do it, but I will. And I'll post time-stamped before and after pictures this evening to prove it's been done.

I just wish you could come help me because believe me when I say IT'S A MESS! Weeding, though, is one of those soul-satisfying chores that provides immense satisfaction when you're done. And, of course, if you don't get started, you'll never get done. Duh. Here I go …

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15 - Finger

Weird prompt today. Since I'm the only one here (except for the dog, who
doesn't really have fingers), I had to put the phone on its easel, set it for a
front-facing shot and to take multiple photos and then pick the best one.
Not my best effort, but it's done. That's the trouble with photo-a-day projects.
Sometimes you just shoot for completion, not for anything worthy.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

July 14 - Building

A view of the garden sheds through what's left of our pine grove.

Are the Amish healthier?

Jen commented that the Amish seem to be pretty healthy. But are they? Apparently so, depending on what health factors you're looking at. According to a study done a couple years ago in Ohio, the Amish have lower incidences of cancer. They don't smoke or drink, and are generally not promiscuous, all factors associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. They grow most of their own food (although I've seen them drinking soda and eating Subway sandwiches, and when I go there for milk I often see cereal boxes on the kitchen table).

I tried to find specific research about dental health, but most of what I read was anecdotal. Some communities, like my neighbors, believe in pulling teeth and replacing them with dentures at a young age to avoid the expense of lifelong dental care. (And part of the cost of care is finding and paying someone to drive them to a practitioner.)

Sometimes a member of a community will act as a dentist, pulling diseased teeth for a small donation. (Being unlicensed, he would not be permitted to charge for his services.)

My experience with the 13 families who live near me is that the men and most of the younger women appear to be fit and healthy, while the older women are quite fat. That doesn't, of course, mean they're not healthy. The gardens are tended by the women and children, and I know from experience that hoeing and chopping weeds is good physical exercise. I tend to think that their additional weight is an accumulation from multiple and closely spaced pregnancies. (One family has 13 children, aged 4 to 25!)

The specialty at the bakery is donuts – huge, doughy, fried, glazed yeast doughnuts, for 85¢ each. We only buy them when we have guests. Our normal weekly purchase is a couple loaves of wheat bread, one of dill (my husband loves their dill bread, which is made with cottage cheese) and a couple dozen eggs from their flock of 60 chickens.

The owner also stocks natural health remedies and cleaning supplies (Shaklee products), dry goods (flour, sugar, salt, spices, herbs), homemade dried noodles, cookies/fried pies/slicing pies, jams, jellies and sorghum syrup. Oh, and they've added pepperoni rolls to their "menu." Pepperoni rolls are a West Virginia food group – a cheesy yeast roll studded with chunks of pepperoni. You can buy them just about anywhere in the state.

Our neighbors seem to be happy here, and we're happy to have them as part of our community. The clip-clop of horses' hooves on the blacktop road is a gentle sound, one that always sends me running to the window to watch the buggy drive by. The baker's husband will be here Monday morning to chop our fallen trees into manageable pieces, which he and his wife will use for firewood. He wanted to pay us for the wood, and we were willing to pay him for removing them from our yard! So neither of us is paying the other and we both feel we're getting a good trade.

And the denture diet appears to be working. I've lost two pounds since Tuesday. Not at all remarkable, considering how little I'm able to eat and how long it takes to eat it. I used to finish my single serving of dinner while my husband was working on his second helping. Night before last I was still eating a small bowl of pasta with tomato sauce and ground beef after he'd finished two big bowls and the rest of the sauce! Same thing last night: He finished two and a half grilled cheese sandwiches and two bowls of gazpacho before I finished half a sandwich and a bowl of chilled soup.

Whatever. It's a helluva way to lose weight, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Unless you're Amish.

Friday, July 13, 2012

July 13 - Open

The storm knocked one branch full of buds off the hibiscus plant, but there
are four more, and two of them have blooms opening up. The hibiscus might
be my most favorite plant in the landscape garden. Lots of bang for the bucks.

I think this is kind of sad

I spent part of yesterday morning driving an Amish neighbor to a nearby town so she could run some errands. She had wanted to go Tuesday, but I told her I was having dental surgery, and why, and so we made the trip on Thursday instead.

When she got in the car, she asked how I was feeling and volunteered that the Amish don't think a thing about having dentures. It's pretty routine, actually.

She said, "We don't have insurance, and dental care is pretty expensive. It's just more practical to have them pulled and replaced with dentures."

She was 33 when she got hers three years ago. The woman helping out in her bakery was – get ready – 20, and had had hers for a couple of years.

I tried to hide my dismay, but I'm sure it was evident. They're fine with it, no regrets whatsoever. They have a completely different attitude about preserving natural teeth than we "English" do.

I don't have dental insurance either, but it never occurred to me to not spend thousands of dollars over the past 30 years to save my teeth, only to end up spending more to get rid of them.

Here's the sad part: Citizens in other industrialized nations can go to the doctor, dentist and optometrist when they need to, for check-ups or treatment, without thinking about what it's going to cost. Most of the rest of the world enjoys health care courtesy of their governments. Yes, they pay higher taxes than we do, but it seems to me they get something that's pretty darned valuable for their taxes.

For out tax dollars, we get Congressmen and women who vote to strike down a health reform law that keeps profit-driven insurance companies in the loop.

HR 676 is perennially introduced into each new session of Congress. It is a bill that provides for Medicare for ALL. It covers dental and optical treatment. It is NOT free. It is NOT socialized medicine. It IS the right thing for this country. The ACA is a step toward true reform, but we won't get there until no one profits from the illness of another.

Physicians for a National Health Plan has been advocating for 25 years for a single-payer healthcare policy in the United States. Visit their website to learn more. Join the group (non-physicians can join for $40/year). Urge your Congressional representative to sign on as a co-sponsor.

Getting off the soapbox now. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12 - Texture

Knitting, of course. But it makes me hot just to look at it!

July 11 - Letter

M is for McNeer.

After the storm

Before I get started, D left a comment about her dentophobia. I, too, suffered from that particular fear and it kept me from going to the dentist for years. Of course those also were my drinking years. Coincidence? I. Don't. Think. So. At any rate, if any of you are afraid of going to the dentist, please consider what I'm going through now and make an appointment. Believe me, you don't want to cross "getting dentures" off your bucket list. Heh. (And to address D's concerns, local anesthetic, nothing to relax me prior to the extractions. It was over in half an hour. And did I mention it was TRAUMATIC? I think I did.)

Okay, back to the present. You've heard about the pine trees, right? The four pine trees that snapped off in front of our very eyes almost two weeks ago? Those pine trees? Here they are:

And here they are today, after endless hours of sawing and lopping and raking and moving and dumping, oh my:

My husband did most of the work. I was trying to salvage food in the first few days, and then I was able to pitch in with the clean-up effort. As he trimmed branches, I loaded them into the truck, then he drove them to our pond (about a quarter mile away) and dumped them there. (We decided it was better for one person to divest the pickup truck of its load after we nearly decapitated one another throwing limbs on the pile.) We're going to have one helluva bonfire this fall!

I tried to find things to be grateful for during our nine electric-less days:
  • a good family friend who was able to take my mother-in-law into her home until MIL's lights came back on.
  • that my mother-in-law's house had water. (And I'm completely puzzled as to how city water supplies keep running without electricity. Must look into that.)
  • a smartphone and a car charger.
  • Virginia Mahan, our retiring Delegate to the state legislature, who is continuing to provide updates for restoration of service.
  • Faith for pointing out that we had power, we just didn't have electricity. What a great distinction; she really boosted my spirits.
  • I don't need a hair dryer to style my hair.
  • I didn't give myself a manicure Friday, June 29, the day this all began. I had gone to town and almost bought nail polish, but decided, in the end, that I didn't need it.
  • our propane-powered grill and the old aluminum coffeepot I kept in the garage. I'd always thought that coffeepot was too good to toss. AND I WAS RIGHT!
  • a garden that began producing tomatoes and zucchini and onions just when we needed them.
  • my sobriety, for I surely would have cracked open a couple cases of cold beers to beat the heat, back in the day.
  • our local volunteer fire department, which began distributing drinking water and ice after it became evident that we were in this for the long haul.
  • my husband, who kept his sense of humor and encouraged me to not cancel my trip to NC to spend time with my family.
  • gasoline. It was impossible to get the first couple days, and then one gas station began operating on a generator. We were allowed to buy $25 worth of gas. Even after all the local stations opened up again, they ran out of gas on the 4th of July.
  • disposable tableware and antiseptic wipes. With apologies to Mother Earth.
  • a carpet sweeper and a broom. I felt rather Amish, cleaning my floors the old-fashioned way!
I wasn't panicked or worried during those nine days. I knew we would eventually have lights and air conditioning and water and all the comforts we're so very used to in our cushy society. And I knew I would survive until we did. The heat was nearly unbearable, but we obviously managed.

We've decided a generator wouldn't have helped all that much (our water pump is on a separate meter, several hundred yards from the house, so we would need two generators and two fuel supplies and, well, it just gets to be pretty impractical after a while). We would have saved about a hundred bucks worth of food, but it would have cost many hundreds of bucks to buy and operate a generator for nine days.

We could have packed everything up, including the dog, and gone somewhere, but I think staying was the right thing to do. We cleared as much as we could of the trees, we learned what we were capable of and we're making plans to make the next outage (and there will be a next one) safer and more comfortable.

In the end, it was one of those one-day-at-a-time experiences, magnified a thousand times. And we did it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Don't you think 7-Eleven stores should be giving away free Big Gulps today?

My big gulp was yesterday. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I needed upper dentures, and yesterday was extraction day. Quite possibly THE most traumatic experience I've ever gone through.

Nobody ever talks about having their teeth pulled. IT IS NOT PLEASANT. I'm not sure I even can talk about it. What I can talk about is the feelings I've had since the decision was made.

I feel guilty for not taking better care of my natural teeth. I thought I was taking good care of them, but really? I was trying to make them look good. I got braces on my upper teeth when I was 29, which involved two extractions I don't even remember and then a couple years of smashing my teeth together and moving them back to correct an overbite. Upon removal of the wires, I could no more slip a piece of dental floss between them than I could walk on water.

Over the years I've visited periodontists regularly, and had the painful-and-slightly-less-traumatic-than-an-extraction scaling and root planing procedure done several times. I've had my front teeth – the ones you use when you smile – replaced by a bridge, after years of trying to save them. (And those extractions were only slightly less traumatic than yesterday's.)

I feel ugly this morning. I'm not ugly, and I know that, but all the images of toothless old women are naturally going to be conjured up after you have your teeth pulled. (Do a Google image search and you'll see what I mean.) No way am I going to smile or laugh, and it's difficult to speak clearly. You need teeth to form the "f" and "v" sounds, while "s" and "x" sound like hisses. My husband will probably enjoy the sound of silence for the next couple of weeks.

I feel regret. As a recovering alcoholic, we learn we will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. But, still … I regret this years-later consequence of my alcoholism. In my 21-plus years of sobriety, I've known plenty of people who've dealt with dental problems. Long-term alcohol abuse and poor dental hygiene tend to go hand-in-hand. Or mouth-to-mouth, if you will. My own sponsor had implants; I should have seen this coming years ago and started saving for them myself.

I'm not, however, a good candidate for implants, because on top of these contributing factors is hereditary bone loss. I've been moving toward this day since I was born. My parents, my maternal grandparents and my siblings all had dentures when they were much younger than I am now. My dentist was astonished that I've kept my natural teeth this long. He reassured me that I've been doing everything right, and after examining my lower teeth he even complimented me on my good hygiene practices.

I know I'll feel better in a month or so, both physically and emotionally. I'd love to be loud and proud about not having upper teeth (as some of the inmates I've met are, bless their hearts), but that's just not going to happen. Instead, I'll be quiet and regretful. And maybe even lose some weight! I'm not sure whether I should write The Denture Diet or The White Diet. Yesterday's menu consisted of vanilla ice cream and cottage cheese.

That electrical outage came at the perfect time, now that I think about it. The only meat left in the freezer would have been inedible for me – T-bones and porterhouse steaks, a pork tenderloin, chicken. It's all in the landfill now.

And I'm having oatmeal for breakfast.

P.S. If you're a Facebook friend, you can ignore the dated posts I'll be publishing today. I want to make sure all my photo-a-day pictures end up on the blog. Please indulge and forgive the coming onslaught!

Monday, July 9, 2012


Update on the water: the circuit breaker tripped, either due to a power surge when the electricity came back on last night OR when lightning struck in the area. My neighbor's electric fence control box got hit in the same area. He was able to reset the circuit breaker for us and we have WATER! I think I'll go do a load of laundry. Heh.

You can't always get what you want …

but you get what you need.

I'm not exactly sure why the Universe thought I needed nine days without electricity. During a heat wave. With four huge broken pine trees littering my front yard. And in the midst of all of that fun I broke my glasses.

Yeah, if it ain't one thing it's another.

And I'm not exactly sure why the Universe thinks I don't need water. Our water pump may be on a different trunk line that the linemen haven't gotten to yet, or lightning might have struck the pump or maybe I just need to trot down the hill to reset the circuit breaker.

But I'm grateful for electricity and air conditioning and even television, something I rarely watch but enjoyed for an hour last night.

We're very fortunate that my elderly mother-in-law was only without electricity for a couple days and that her water was on during the entire outage. We've been able to shower and do laundry at her house, and we're carrying water in to drink and flush toilets. She lives 12 miles away, and stayed with a friend the first couple of days, until her power was restored. 

[Note: I've resisted using the words "power" and "electricity" interchangeably this week. They don't mean the same thing. But you will get very tired of reading the word 'electricity' so I am going to mix it up a little. Many thanks to Faith and Faith's mother for making the distinction.]

We had no property damage, other than the pine trees. It could have been much, much worse, and many are still without electricity in my tiny little blip of a town in the Middle of Nowhere. I'm grateful for so much, especially my smartphone and its 3G connection to the outside world. And a car charger. The landline went out the second day.

I continually got updates on restoration of service from the FirstEnergy website, stayed in touch with family and friends through Facebook, e-mail and text, found out where gas, ice and water were available and so much more. All from the little gadget in the palm of my hand.

Right now, even though I have much more to say, I have to go figure out the water. This post, therefore is …


July 9 - Big

And we have lights! And water!
This is probably the photo that best represents the weeklong ordeal.
This used to be a huge, towering pine tree, one of a dozen in a little
grove on the other side of our front yard. Four of them fell in the storm.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 8 - Lunch

Cold coffee, red beans and rice from a can, my finest disposable dinnerware.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

July 7 - Garden

The first ripe tomato in my granddaughter's sweet little garden.
And I head home to face the heat and lack of electricity again.

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 6 - Chair

My granddaughter received a tiny table-and-chair set –
the perfect subject for today's photo prompt!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 5 - On the floor

July 5th found me leaving the oppressive heat and heading
to my son's to celebrate my granddaughter's birthday. Here's
my shoe on the floor of my car.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Still powerless

My experience in AA for the past 21 years has probably saved my sanity this week. I take no credit, that's for sure.

As I write this, we've been without water or electricity for 108 hours - 4.5 days. At first, fueling up the car was an issue, but the town nearest to ours (Hinton, 12 miles away) got power back Monday afternoon, and the gas stations are back in business. Big business!

Hinton has city water and my MIL's home is there (she was safe with friends in another, unaffected town), so we've been showering at her house and hauling water in buckets so we can flush our toilets. Once a day. TMI? Sorry. Heh.

My freezer and refrigerator are completely empty - and spotless - and I've given up trying to keep food cold in coolers. I salvaged a few things that are in my husband's mother's fridge - cheese and butter - and we have stocked up on peanut butter, crackers, bread and canned food you can eat without heating. Beanie Weenies, anyone?

I'll let you know if it's safe to refreeze pesto. It was easier for me to toss grass-fed T-bone streaks than my homemade pesto.

I've heard we might have power by Friday night, but the power company website says probably Sunday night. Temperatures for Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be in the low to mid-90s.

I will be leaving tomorrow for a long-planned visit with my son and his family. My daughter and her children will be there, too, and my husband is insisting I go. He doesn't want to close up the house, and he and the dog can always go to his mother's to cool off. I'm coming back Saturday.

We are cutting smaller limbs off the downed pines and hauling them to our pond to burn later. A friend with a chainsaw has offered to help cut up the trunks. We have lots of support, and much to be grateful for.

Like grills. And smartphones. And car chargers.

Just saying.

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July 4 - Fun

As I said yesterday, meals were really something to look forward to.
My Independence Day breakfast was grilled bread spread with peanut
butter topped with trail mix. Pretty fun, but it sure didn't seem like 4th of July.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3 - Best part of your day

The best part of just about every day of the electrical outage was mealtime.
The exception, of course, was the final day, when the lights came back on.
I made good use of the gas grill, and everything in this grill pan came from
my garden except the olive oil and spices. And it was delicious!

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 2 - Busy

Part of the mountain of dirty dishes I did at my mother-in-law's
house on the third day of the electrical outage. She had cold and
hot water during the interruption in service. The lights came back
on at her house as I was standing at the sink.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1 - Self-portrait

Oh, how I hate seeing pictures of myself. This was Day 2 of the outage,
outside and it was hot, hot, hot. And I think you can see I was worried,
worried, worried. 

Shelter from the storm

I wish.

The storm that hit northwest Ohio Friday afternoon arrived in southern West Virginia that evening. We had already lost power at around dinnertime due to power surge; the 70 mph winds sealed the deal. The electric company is estimating we will be restored on Friday, July 6.

Out here in the Middle of Nowhere, no power means no water, and that's the big challenge, soon to be followed by no food, and no gas in the car (and no place to get it).

My MIL, who is 91, is safe with friends nearby who weren't hit by the storm. My husband and I will begin cleaning up the yard today. We watched four huge pine trees fall onto our lawn. You've heard people talk about trees snapping like matchsticks? Tru dat.

I'm grateful for our former delegate, who has been posting frequent updates on Facebook. And for a smartphone and a car charger.

We could use your prayers, if you're so inclined. And some cooler temperatures. 98 degrees with no air conditioning is no fun.

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