Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30 - Glasses

The rose-colored variety, courtesy of an app.

The heck with giveaways

Who knew all I had to do was CHANGE MY DIET to get tons o'comments? Heh.

Thank you all for weighing in (sorry, couldn't help myself on that one) on my adventures in paleo eating. If you haven't read gingerzingi's rant from a couple days ago, it's well worth reading and it was yet another piece of evidence convincing me that I'm doing what's right for me. I'm still at the convincing-myself stage, but I certainly agree with her that no one can or has or, probably, will agree on what causes obesity and what we as a nation can do about it. As Forrest Gump's mama might say, "Healthy is as healthy does."

And I'm certainly NOT trying to convince you that you should do this, as well. I'm a "live-and-let-live" kinda gal.

My favorite gingerzingi quote is "I think you DO have to be your own science experiment," which she wrote in a comment after I whined about not wanting to be one. That really made me think. Following the conventional wisdom of calories in/calories out (without restricting any food groups) for nearly four months netted a seven-pound loss. Any loss is better than none, I'll grant you that, but that was a heck of a lot of work for very little reward.

Vickie wondered what I used to eat that I now don't eat. Um, dairy, legumes, grains and sugar, which is pretty much what Whole30 prescribes. What I do eat that I didn't used to eat are nitrate-free bacon and fried eggs for breakfast. Almost. Every. Day. Would I love slapping it on a big slab of whole-wheat toast smeared with avocado? You betcha. But I've been quite satisfied without the bread.

(I eat avocados occasionally, when Tiny Kroger stocks the not-quite-ripe ones. I don't buy mushy avocados, which is what's usually available.)

I eat protein and vegetables, and more fruit than I did before. Wearing dentures makes it very difficult to snack on crudités, so I'm glad the cavemen invented fire. I wouldn't make it on a raw diet, that's for sure. I've been keeping it pretty simple so far, but I bought a cookbook called Well Fed, which has some good ideas for adding variety to the menu plan, and the internets are full of paleo-friendly recipes.

This is one of my favorites, using almond butter instead of peanut butter.

After finishing Saturday's 5K as a walker because I was afraid of being the last runner in, I waffled about telling you my next bit of news. I wasn't the last runner; I watched the last ones cross the line, and I was disappointed in myself for not manning up and wearing a number.

Because of the self-knowledge gained from that experience and because I can, apparently, lose weight after all, sometimes, somehow, I joined a diet bet.

Jen inspired me as she worked through the first iteration of MyFitspiration. At this point I'm looking for anything that will kick my ass, and I commented to her that I'd probably jump in for the next one. Enter MyFitspiration TWO!, which begins today. In order to win back my stakes, I need to lose 7.5 pounds by May 28. Prior to paleo, I would have said, "No. Freakin'. Way."

Now, though, I think it might-maybe-could be possible. The most I could lose is 25 bucks.

And maybe a few more pounds.

Monday, April 29, 2013

April 29 - I wore this today

The umpteenth pair of Fiber Trends felted clogs I've made.

So easy, even a cave(wo)man could do it

Warning: This is long. Grab your coffee.

This morning's weigh-in results are in, and I'm about to break a promise to myself. I was going to wait a month to tell you about the tweaks I've made to my eating plan, but I've decided today's the day. Why today? Because I weighed in this morning and lost three more pounds, for a total of 16.5 since December 26, 2012. I'm slowly inching up to the one-pound-a-week goal I set for myself the day after Christmas.

April 6 was the beginning of the end of sugar, grains, dairy and legumes here in the Middle of Nowhere, as my husband and I dipped our forks into the world of paleo eating. (There's much more to the paleo lifestyle than the menu. But that's where I'm starting.) A combination of factors pushed me to this point, and I'm dragging him along for the ride. (He has not given up his slimy sugar-free/fat-free yogurt, which I never cared for anyway and which never appears at mealtime, only for snacks.) Those factors were:

  • at least three real-life or blogging friends who have been eating primally for more than a year
  • my husband's cousin, who has recently completed Whole30 and hasn't looked back
  • Bloody Head Syndrome (which I'll explain)

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. (This quote has been attributed to several famous people, including Einstein and Twain, but the first written instance of it is in the 12-step book for Narcotics Anonymous, published in the early 1980s.) Hmmm.

I'm one of those weight-loss bloggers who has had marginal success off and on over a number of years, until last year, when I found myself staring at a truly scary number on the scale. If only I'd decided 20 years ago that 140 was the truly scary number, I may never have gotten to the much higher one I saw in December.

And so I began counting calories in earnest, putting in the effort to exercise daily (have missed only a few days this year) and keeping a closer eye on the scale. (Well, at least after the first month.) From December 26 to April 6 I lost seven pounds.

Bloody Head Syndrome (don't bother Googling, it's not there) is kind of like the definition of insanity but there's the additional factor of actually hurting yourself. One could argue that I wasn't really hurting myself by simply eating less and moving more. But as time went on, I not only felt worse physically I was becoming completely demoralized emotionally.

All. That. Work.
All. That. Effort.
All. That. Time.
Seven pounds.

That doesn't just hurt, IT BITES!

It's been said and sung that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Seven pounds in 15 weeks is tough, my friends, and it was time for me to get going.

You'd truly have to have lived in a cave to never have heard about the paleo/primal/caveman diet. (I dislike the word "diet" but, as the young folk say, it is what it is.) I knew about it, thought about it, and promptly dismissed it, saying,
OH, NO, I COULD NEVER GIVE UP CHEESE, BEANS OR QUINOA!
(I've given up sugar before, once for five straight years, so I knew that one was at least possible.)

Well guess-effing-what? I can and I have. In the three weeks and two days since we started I've dropped 9.5 pounds, gotten significant relief from the aches and pains I've blamed on aging, zipped up those jeans and actually worn them and am heading for my own personal Whole60.

Because if it ain't broke, why fix it?

The quick-and-dirty theory behind Whole30 is to go cold turkey on sugar, grains, legumes and dairy for 30 days, giving your body a chance to recover from the inflammation caused by sugar, grains, legumes and dairy. You then re-introduce them, one at a time, and assess. If you feel worse or have less energy after eating beans, well then that's the culprit. Or a culprit. I didn't buy the book or even the support for the program. All I did was print out the food list and go shopping.

Because that's really what the tough do when the going gets tough. Heh.

That list, as well as several other helpful guides, are available for download by clicking this link. (Scroll down the page to the Free Downloads section.)

I really don't expect to see many out clicks on that link. After all, it took me well over a year to mull this around in my cavewoman brain. Most likely it doesn't work for everyone. But everyone I know has seen positive results (not necessarily weight loss) and, more importantly, they haven't missed (for the most part) the missing ingredients.

As for me, I miss cheese. But you know what? I'll get over it.

Last night's dinner: grass-fed beef burger topped with homemade mayonnaise,
homemade sweet potato chips (oh-so-yummy) and cucumber/onion/tomato salad.

And the winners are …

Cheryl, Mindy and Chelsea! Send me your addresses, ladies. (My e-mail is shrinkingknitter AT gmail DOT com.) Your packages will go in the mail as soon as I get your information.

To Rosie and Vickie, if you'll send me your snail-mail addresses, I'll gather up some oddballs and ship them off so you can donate them to your respective groups. Vickie, most of my non-wool yarn goes to the prison knitting group, but I have a great deal of cotton yarn, if your high-schoolers would use it.

I'll probably do this again in the fall. In the meantime … knit on!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28 - My Sunday

Rain, rain, rain. Not as much here as in the middle of the country, if you're
in one of the flooded areas, please know I'm wishing you well. The rain
didn't prevent me from walking outdoors after all, so yay for that!

I took no photos of this recipe as I made them …

but there are plenty on the website. Have you ever made your own sweet potato chips? What are you waiting for? These are truly TRULY delicious. Easy in-the-microwave method means you'll be enjoying them in minutes.

Seriously. Have you clicked through yet? GO!

A dam good time AND last chance to win books/yarn

Bluestone Dam, Hinton, WV
Yesterday morning I headed to town to participate in the inaugural 5K Dam Walk/Run sponsored by the local family resource center to help fund child abuse prevention services. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It's called the Dam Walk/Run because the start and finish are at the Bluestone Dam in Hinton.

I had registered as a runner, but ended up joining the walkers instead. The field was small, and the last time I ran in a small local event I came in last among the women and next to last overall, and I wasn't eager to repeat that experience. As it turns out, I watched the last two runners come in, so I wouldn't have been last after all. Ah, well. My not wanting to be last is simply my ego getting in my way.

I ran when I could and walked when I needed a break, trying to achieve three 14-minute miles, but missing the mark slightly. The walking route was slightly less than 5K. My result, according to the Garmin, was 3.06 miles in 43:57 for a pace of 14:21.

Today's miles might be on the elliptical. Looking at the weather map, we're going to be steadily rained upon for most of the day. Or maybe there won't be any miles today, as I've logged 19 this week. Not my greatest week, but not my worst either, and I can get my heart rate up by cleaning and mopping the acre of flooring that REALLY needs some attention.

Next up: This is the last day to leave a comment to win one of three book+yarn packages. I haven't chosen the yarn yet, but here are the books:


From left to right: Debbie Stoller's Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation, Melanie Fallick's Kids Knitting and Fallick and Kristin Nicholas's Knitting for Baby (the link takes you to the second printing which has a different cover, you will be receiving the edition which was originally published in 2002.) You knitters will recognize all these talented designers. To win, simply leave a comment before midnight Eastern time TONIGHT.

I'm going to add enough yarn to complete one of the projects in the accompanying book, which means part of my day I'll be buried in the yarn closet.

Hmmm, not a bad way to spend some time, right?

Friday, April 26, 2013

A quick reminder …

and then I'm out to weed for a while, and then walk for a while.

I'm cleaning my stash of knitting books and yarn. Three readers who leave a comment on the blog before midnight Eastern time Sunday, April 28, will win both a book AND yarn. Books are used but in good condition. Yarn has been stored in a cedar-lined, smoke-free closet.

You know how bloggers love, love, love comments. Do a blogger a favor and leave a few words of appreciation when you get a chance. It will make his/her day, I promise. I don't do it often enough, but it's one of the best ways to pay it forward in the blogosphere.

If you comment and your name is chosen and you don't knit or have no use for the book/yarn you receive, you can pay it forward by donating it to a 4-H group, charity knitting group or a women's shelter. Someone will find a good home for it if it doesn't fit in yours.

Paying it forward pays you back in ways you might never have imagined. How have you grown from passing [ good deed of your choice] on?

April 26 - Childhood

This is the first book I remember knowing how to read. My own copy was
lost; I found this one a few years ago and snatched it up. Original price? 25¢.
This version? Something like $8.95, as I recall. But now, of course, it's
PRICELESS!
One of the kittens in the story is named Tink. I names my first cat Tinkerbell.
The New Kittens, story and photographs by William P. Gottlieb

April 25 - Life is …

Messy. (It's hard to tell, I know, but I am filling a container with potting soil.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

According to today's Google doodle …

Ella Fitzgerald would have been 96 years old today.

(Fair warning: This post has nothing to do with knitting, running, reaping or eating. We will return to regularly scheduled programming mañana.)

You might be wondering why someone like me, who thinks Bob Dylan is the alpha and omega of music, would even think twice about Ella. I'm not a jazz lover AT ALL. (Approximately one percent of the tunes on my iPod are of the jazz genre.) But there's this one song she did for an old war movie that I absolutely love, and this version of it is my favorite:


I found another Ella example of the same song on YouTube that was very jazzy, indeed. But the one I offer you is the one that makes me melt when I hear it.

The song, written by Johnny Mercer in 1941, has been covered by a variety of artists. Country singer Frank Ifield's is my second favorite and might be the most familiar. Looking at the list in this article, I wasn't surprised to see that Tony Bennett and Diane Krall have recorded it, but the Beatles? Art Garfunkle? I might have to try to find their efforts at some point, just for a listen.

Because seriously? After listening to Ella? There's no need to buy more.

P.S. Thanks for your comments so far ... but I want more, more, MORE! Greedy little bitch that I am. Heh.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 24 - I saw this person today

I could have posted a photo of my husband or co-workers, all of whom I saw
today, but I saw me, too! Or at least my shadow. And those early-morning
looooooooong tall shadows are oh-so flattering, right? Heh.

Keepin' it short and sweet today, and a giveaway!

'Cause it's a work day. And 'cause I need to walk before work, which means, um, SOON!

Pop over to Aud the Broad's blog and leave a comment and you might be a winner. There's one condition: You have to promise, if you enter, that you'll pay it forward. Audrey's celebrating her 100th post by giving three commenters a handmade treat, to be delivered sometime before the end of the year.

Since I entered her giveaway, here's my offer to you:

I really, really need to reduce the number of knitting books and yarn around the ol' shanty here. To benefit from my excess, leave a comment on any blog post between now and midnight Eastern time on Sunday, April 29.

I'll choose three commenters' names on Monday morning. You'll each receive a knitting book AND yarn. My books are used, but not defaced or tattered. My yarn is stored in a cedar-lined closet in a smoke-free environment.

For the pay it forward part, well, you're on your own. I realize a lot of my readers don't blog, so asking you to do the same thing isn't going to work. But how about this? Next time you go through a toll booth, pay for the vehicle behind you. (I love doing this!) Or drop a dozen muffins off at your local fire station. Hand-deliver a cold iced tea on a warm afternoon to the traffic volunteer at your kid's school.

Help me out here, what are some other "pay it forward" ideas? You could even leave a comment and, if you don't knit, pay your book-and-yarn prize forward to the local senior center or charity knitting group or 4-H club.

Let's do it.

April 23 - Time

A time to plant.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our tiny little Earth Day activity

So Lynne and I set out yesterday afternoon to clean up "our" part of Indian Creek Road. We've walked many, many miles together there, and for such a tiny little road – one-lane, paved, only about four miles long – there's an astonishing amount of discarded trash. We decided a few weeks ago that we would take a stab at it on Earth Day.

Our time was limited; we went about a mile and a half, filling four kitchen-sized trash bags along the way. We found nothing unusual or out of the ordinary. Lots of plastic bottles and soda cans. And beer bottles. Lots of beer bottles. I'm not sure why someone thought it was a good idea to toss the plastic bag from a package of hot dog buns.

Actually I'm not sure why anyone ever thinks it's a good idea to throw trash onto the side of the road.

We spent about 90 minutes honoring Mother Earth, from the time we started until we got back to our cars. As our bags became too heavy to carry, we tied them up and dropped them along the side of the road. I went back to pick them up to be put out on trash day. We could have separated things for recycling, but oh, my, that would have been a nasty job.

If you follow me on Facebook, you more than likely saw the photo I posted. I took Lynne's picture first, then she took mine and then I smashed them together in Photoshop. Isn't technology great? Heh. (And if you don't follow me on Facebook, why not?!?)

We haven't schedule a date for the rest of the road pick-up, but I can tell you we both felt pretty good about doing something, however small, to save the planet. It was, perhaps, a bit selfish, since it's not a major highway or byway, but instead is where WE like to walk. But maybe a resident or two who passed by or saw us from a window will think twice before hurling that can out the window next time.

One can hope.

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 22 - Blurry

A tiny slice of the knitting book shelves.

Down again

If you aren't a regular reader here, you might wonder what's so depressing after reading a subject line that says "Down again."

But I know that both of you are clapping and cheering and virtually high-fiving me.

This week's weigh-in was a two-out-of-three effort, since the first number showed an astonishing 3.5 pound-loss. I didn't believe it, and stepped on twice more, coming up with a more believable 1.5 pounds gone, gone, gone.

Strangely, I'm happier with 1.5 than I would have been with 3.5. The pressure … oh, the pressure … to stay there all week would have been agonizing and stressful.

Since I made the change in my eating habits on April 6, I've lost 6.5 pounds, or about half of the total loss since the end of the year. I'm beginning to think there's no going back. More will be revealed.

I'm disappointed in myself for just one thing this week. After the tragedy in Boston last Monday, I secretly wanted to log 26.2 miles (marathon distance) for the week. I think if I'd announced it here I might have done it. That whole accountability thing, you know?

Although running a real marathon is still something I'd like to do, the possibility gets dimmer as I get older. But I've logged more than marathon-distance in a week twice this year (once in February and once last month), so I'm certainly capable of it. I missed the mark by eight miles.

I'll be out there today, enjoying a sunny day with a predicted high of 62 degrees, wearing protective gloves and carrying a trash bag. My friend Lynne and I are going to clean up our favorite walking route to celebrate Earth Day. Today's miles won't be speedy.

But they'll be environmentally friendly.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 21 - Fire

I. Love. Bokeh.
That is all.

Do unto for others

It's no secret to both of you that I've been a volunteer at a federal prison camp for many, many years. I think it's 14. I've been more consistent with this activity than anything else I've ever done. Which means:

  • knitting
  • reading
  • making art
  • sewing
  • gardening
  • cooking
  • dieting
  • running
  • walking
  • weight training
  • being married

and probably many other interests have waxed and waned over the course of my life, while making that trip to Alderson has been a consistent commitment since the day I began.

(My current husband and I enjoyed our first date more than 20 years ago, and we've lived in the same house for 16 years. So he wins. But you get my drift; we didn't marry until we'd lived in sin for 10 years. Heh.)

That's not to say I don't miss a week here and there, due to illness (mine or my dad's) or weather. Various things have occasionally happened to prevent me from going. For the most part, though, if it's Tuesday evening, I'm in jail.

Yesterday was the annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. The Praise and Worship Choir – 20 extremely talented inmates – shared their beautiful voices with us both before and after lunch. Lunch was a feast! Cornish hens, baked sweet potatoes, three vegetables, salad, dressing, pie … it was, truly, Thanksgiving in April. (And I was able to stick to my plan without feeling like I was missing out on anything, so yay for that!)

The luncheon also includes a couple hours of training, required of staff and volunteers by the Bureau of Prisons. I'm very comfortable with my involvement with the inmates, and have never felt threatened or frightened or manipulated or intimidated, but the training is mostly how to defend and protect and distance yourself from them. I'm prudent, moreso now than I was in the beginning, but honestly? The women I serve aren't there to hurt me.

If I were going into an institution with  higher security level, or into a male institution, I might feel differently. Alderson – a female camp – is the lowest level of security in the federal system, populated with, for the most part, first-time non-violent offenders.

They made a mistake, chose unwisely, had a lapse in judgement. Been there. Done that. I can't hold that against them, as society does and certainly as the BoP seems to do.

If sharing your heart with federal inmates isn't your thing, that's fine. I truly never thought it would be as meaningful to me as it has been all these years. Volunteering for something, however, will warm you and enrich you and help you grow like nothing else will. Not church, not work, not parenting.

Do you volunteer? How do you share and how does it make you feel? If you don't, United We Serve may help you find opportunities.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 20 - On your mind

Lots of stuff on my mind today, but uppermost is that it's my dad's birthday.
He would have been 83. This is one of the few childhood pictures I have of him.

Friday, April 19, 2013

April 19 - Button


All buttons except the wooden one in the upper photo are from my
grandmother's button box. She wasn't an especially show-offy woman,
thus most of the specimens are simple and utilitarian.

Lowering expectations

I worked myself into quite a tizzy yesterday, trying to accomplish too many things but ultimately getting everything done WITH time for a little bit of a lie-down in the afternoon. I surely will never be finished working on taking things/life/events one at a time.

But I really should keep on trying.

Yesterday's morning walk-before-work was lovely. Work itself was crisp and dewy and shiny. The plants are doing so well, everything looks lush and abundant. It is a JOY to work surrounded by such beauty.

After work is when my brain started frazzling, but by the end of the day I had:

  • filled my car with gas
  • had the transmission fluid checked
  • went to the grocery
  • failed to go to the bank because I forgot to bring the check I wanted to cash
  • took my second two-mile walk du jour, this time with my husband
  • showered
  • had a little rest
  • prepared and ate dinner (that taco salad again, yum!)
  • went to an evening meeting
  • collapsed

All of those things happened while my head was spinning about how I was going to make all those things happen. What did I learn? I don't need to fret so much. The fretting didn't help at all!

Lunch didn't happen, but I didn't miss it. That's happened a couple of times recently and, for someone who insists on three squares a day, it's enlightening to find I can actually function and accomplish and get on with it without a meal.

I didn't eat lunch. I didn't die. No big deal.

I've been awake for a very long time, at least three hours (it's not quite 7 a.m.), awakened by who-knows-what and mesmerized ever since by the ongoing situation in Watertown, Massachusetts. If you're there, I hope you're safe. It must be terrifying to be in the midst of such a fluid and dangerous situation. Please, please stay safe, and may this day be the one in which the Boston-area terror ends.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 18 - Hello!

Hello, horseradish! Welcome back!

Yay, me!

Just did a fairly slow 2.25 miles BEFORE work. I've been thinking about walking early on work days, but just needed to kick my own ass to get it done.

Dwindling miles, a temporary state of affairs

I can see that working just two mornings a week is going to result in a reduction of my weekly miles, unless I'm able to tack a couple extra on when I do manage to get out there. I'd planned to walk after work yesterday, but I came home and collapsed.

It's not that the work is so hard. It's that I'm so old. Heh. And while walking almost daily for three months has been good for my health, it hasn't done much for my stamina, apparently.

I will become accustomed to this routine and I will continue to work toward my goal of walking 1000 miles this year. I'm ahead of schedule by about 25 miles. And if I don't hit the goal? Well, I've probably already walked farther this year than I did for all of 2012.

Hershey and I just chased seven deer out of the back yard. If I weren't such a softie I'd build a doghouse in the middle of the garden and let her live in it during the growing season. Dogs are excellent deer deterrents. Hershey, however, is a house dog. It just wouldn't be fair after all these years to ask her to actually work for her kibble.

I am enjoying working again, despite the fatigue. I've met some interesting customers and welcomed back some old ones. The plants are thriving with the spring rain and warm temperatures we've had lately. Our newest employee is my walking buddy and one of my favorite people, and we'll be working together on Wednesdays. The good stuff multiplies.

Disappointments and tragedies and evil and accidents and bad stuff will always be a part of life. I don't know anyone who can claim otherwise. What we do with it is what makes our life fulfilling and worthy and valuable. An initial shocked or horrified or angry reaction must be channeled toward something better. Light stamps out darkness. Good triumphs over evil. Love is stronger than hate.

And, in the end, miles don't much matter. It's the journey that counts.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17 - Busy

While I was busy watering plants at the nursery this morning,
I startled a tiny wren, who has also been very busy!

Time's a wasting!

Here it is Wednesday again, a work day for me, and I have to leave the house in an hour. I'm still drinking coffee, haven't eaten breakfast or gotten dressed, and I need to Swiffer the floors. Instead, I've been cruising Pinterest, clearing out e-mail, catching up on Facebook and thinking about what (or whether) to write. You know, since I posted twice yesterday.

That run felt darned good. And I'm not especially sore this morning because of it. I could very well do it again this afternoon, weather permitting.

It rained overnight, and there's more rain coming in today, so the weather may not be permitting. Perhaps Mother Nature is trying to tell me I don't have to run two days in a row.

But. Still. It did feel good.

I planted one row of onions yesterday afternoon. The remaining sets will go in the ground in two weeks and again in four weeks. The really big gardening job is going to be simply going through the seed inventory to see what I have and what I still need. Most gardeners do this in February. I'm a little late.

However. Working at a garden center means the seeds and plants I will need are at my fingertips. It's not like I need to place orders and anticipate deliveries.

Things are really growing around here. I planted some pink tiger lily-type bulbs last year and they're coming up. I'd forgotten where I put them. It's very fun to watch the perennial bed come back to life.

And a little chocolate mimosa tree has teeny tiny new green growth on it. I thought for sure I'd killed it, as I am wont to do.

Okay, for not having much to say I've managed to say quite a bit. Time to get this party started. Today's photo prompt is "busy," which I plan to be very soon.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One. Run. Done.

As both of you know, I'm a walker these days. I still like to think I'll get back to running someday, but as long as I'm at this weight? Well, it's probably not a good idea to jackhammer my knees and hips any more than I need to. And the truth is: I don't need to do.

But today I did.

BlogHer tweeted this morning: Are you wearing a race shirt? Going for a run?

I saw it on Facebook and, to be honest, it hadn't crossed my mind. But suddenly, there was no way I wasn't going to run, and of course I'd be wearing a race shirt.

I ended up doing walk/run intervals, because it's just about impossible to go from walking regularly at 3 mph to being a full-fledged runner. You have to work up to it. Been there, done that. But I surprised myself by being able to run longer intervals than I'd thought I could, and more of them. I ended up finishing 4.6 miles in 1:06:27, a 14:26 pace, which is pretty darned good for this old lady.

The sun was shining, and there was a light breeze. The temperature was right around 70. It rained little white flower petals all along the road. Instead of cheering crowds, I heard birdsong and rushing water. There was one explosion, when I startled a deer, which then blasted through the underbrush. The trees are leafing out. Daffodils and dandelions cheerfully dot the mountainside. Spring has arrived here in Appalachia.

And I'm running.

April 16 - Favorite Color

Pink! This is a sleeve of three vintage golf balls we found in an old golf
bag in my husband's mother's basement. They are pale pastels, yellow,
pink and blue. I don't play any more, but I think it's funny that there were,
at one time, Lady Diana pastel golf balls for all those lady duffers.

Nowhere to run

A friend texted me yesterday afternoon: Did you hear about the explosions in Boston?

For someone who has run distance races in the distant past (not a marathon … yet), I'm ashamed to say I'd forgotten yesterday was the Boston Marathon.

[Aside: Runner's World is now delivered silently to my Nook and I have not read a word of any issue in a couple of months. Nor have I read any printed magazines in a couple of months. Perhaps I should stop subscribing to magazines. The reason I mention this is because they always have a big run-up-to-Boston issue. Which I missed.]

I stayed glued to the news until mid-evening, when I just couldn't take the senselessness of it any longer.

It wasn't just the senselessness of setting off bombs at the finish line of a marathon in Boston on Patriot's Day. It also was the senselessness of parsing the President's remarks, the guessing and second-guessing who might be responsible, the inaccurate reporting, the conjecture.

My last thought last night, and my first this morning, is of the – irony isn't the right word, but I can't think of one right now – of a situation in which athletes and families who support them and cheer them on and help them train, are cut down at the end, missing limbs, maimed, injured, dead.

If this were Syria or Lebanon or Israel or Palestine or Jordan or Iran or Iraq or Afghanistan or [insert name of Middle Eastern country here], they wouldn't have cut into regular programming to follow a breaking news story of a couple of bombs going off in a major city. That happens almost daily in [insert name of Middle Eastern country here]. It would be like stopping the normal broadcast line-up to follow a car wreck here in North America.

But this is North America, the United States of America, where setting off bombs in cities rarely happens. The 24/7 news cycle dictates that the networks will fill the air with something. The sponsors are paying for it, after all. One reporter said all those thousands of runners "signed up" to run the Boston Marathon. Well, I guess technically she's right. But if they didn't qualify for it by finishing a previous marathon in a specified time, then they raised a bunch of money for charity. That's how you get into Boston. You don't just pay your fee and pick up your number.

I'm feeling cynical this morning. And angry. And incredibly, awfully sad. Kind of like I did only a few short months ago, watching the news from Connecticut. I'm feeling helpless, discouraged, disheartened.

I'm feeling like there's nowhere to run to. Nowhere to hide.

Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15 - Alone

Early morning alone time is when I write blog posts.

April 14 - Water

Dewdrops dotting the tips of the daylily leaves.

On this day …

Abraham Lincoln died, the Titanic sank and it's tax day here in the United States.

Additionally, the articles of peace ending the American Revolutionary War were ratified on this day, insulin was made widely available for the treatment of diabetes, Jackie Robinson broke the color line in major league baseball, the B-52 took its maiden flight and McDonald's opened.

Aaaannnddd, it's Monday and that means a date with the scale. I stayed the same, which is pretty remarkable considering last week's five-pound dip. My mid-week check showed a slight gain, so staying the same is fine with me.

(Let's be honest, it's actually not fine, but that seems like what I'm supposed to say. Sigh. I really want to be at my goal TOMORROW. Heh.)

On this day I will well and truly take a rest day. I have some computer work to do and organizing the yarn closet has been on the to-do list for a long time. It's raining, and even though the rain is supposed to move out this afternoon, I'll keep on resting.

Yesterday, you see, was brutal.

I walked less than a mile and a half, to the water pump and back again. (The electric meter reading is back in line with normal usage. THANK YOU, DEITY!)

And lo, the garden has begun.
I took that walk after I had worked for five FREAKING hours in the garden. First I dumped three wheelbarrows full of mulch around the blackberry bushes. Which meant moving three wheelbarrows of mulch from one end of the yard (where the mulch pile is) to the other (where the blackberries are).

Then I couldn't get the tiller started so I hand-dug/hoed/raked rows for the lettuce, kale, cabbage and broccoli. I then tried the tiller one more time and it fired right up. OF COURSE. I tilled a section for onions before I put all the equipment away. And I also put up the fence, which is not a small chore.

I will be 62 years old in May, and I was dead-dog-tired when I got back to the house. I almost couldn't fix dinner. I almost didn't even care about dinner. But I worked right through lunch, so I was also famished. I do so envy those of you whose husbands know how to cook. Mine never learned, and is not interested. And I knew that when I married him, so I have no room to complain.

There have been Sundays when I've walked especially long distances and thought I deserved a Monday of rest. But it's been a long time since I've done so much hard physical labor on a Sunday. There's no doubt in my mind that I deserve a day off.

And an Aleve.

I hope your weekend was productive, and I also hope it didn't hurt as much as mine did!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

If you've got nothing to say, don't say it

The title of today's post explains yesterday's absence from blogland. I posted the photo to keep the NaBloPoMo streak going, but not much else seemed noteworthy enough to write it down.

Today, there are a couple things.

First, beneath the ad in the left sidebar are links to blog posts. I think BlogHer randomly throws them up there, and my posts have been featured several times. Not because they're so great, but because they get picked randomly, and I write a lot. The one that's up there now (it will change soon, they don't stay up for long) has the same title as one from 2012. And probably the same title as a hundred other bloggers on any random day.

Creative title FAIL!

Next, Denise commented on yesterday's photo, not about the photo but about finding a printout of an old, old, old, pre-Knit Run Repeat blog post, back when I was the Shrinking Knitter. Ah, those were the days. I'm so flattered that she printed something out and saved it. I'M IN PRINT! Heh. What's interesting is that the post was written a couple days after Christmas in 2007, and I talk about starting over the day after Christmas instead of on January 1. I wonder what I weighed then? Certainly it was less than what I do now.

So, how's that starting over on December 26 working for you, Shrinking Knitter?

And finally, Foursquare sent me an email all about a new feature that suggests places or events you might like, based on previous check-ins. I've always thought that feature should have been built in from Day One. Which is probably why I've never used it. I've had the app for a long time, but I don't think about checking in because, really, WHERE DO I GO? I did, however, check in today and learned that I joined Foursquare a year ago today.

How weird is that? I also got their NEWBIE badge – my first check-in!

So that wraps up the thoughts rattling around in my pretty little head this morning. I'm going to leave you with the photo I took on yesterday's walk. These walking photos are always hit or miss. Frequently the sun is shining so brightly I can't even see the screen on my phone. I literally point and shoot, hoping for the best. This one … the lighting, the composition, the dreamy quality of it … I just love it. And I wish you all had been walking with me, because it was four miles of babbling brooks and chirping birds, and you would have loved it, too.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

April 13 - View from your bed

I'd rather show you the ceiling fan than the messy nightstand or cluttered bookshelves.

Friday, April 12, 2013

April 12 - In the middle

I just happened to look up from my desk and see the fog descending
as dawn broke. It reminded me of a line from a Longfellow poem:
"Between the dark and the daylight …" And it's perfect for today's prompt.

300 miles: DONE!

Hit the mark yesterday afternoon, or at least I thought I did. The actual total is 299.81. DailyMile rounds its figures. Had I known, I surely could have managed another couple tenths of a mile (I think that would be one trip up and down the driveway) to make it officially to 300. Grrr.

But still. Let's just call it done and not be quite so OCD about it, 'kay? (And I'm sure both of you know I've walked more than 299.81 miles in my life. I only started using DailyMile at the beginning of this year. So those aren't lifetime stats, those are 2013 stats.)

The rain and pain kept me up last night, but I feel pretty good now. An Aleve at 4 a.m., along with the gentle rainfall from the tail end of the storms helped lull me back to sleep for another 90 minutes. The pain is temporary, as I become accustomed to working again. The IT pain I mentioned a few days ago has abated with continued roller and stretching therapy. It flares up toward the end of a long walk, but otherwise hasn't been a problem. I'm even getting in and out of my car without difficulty, so I know it's getting better.

It's amazing what one night of rain does for the garden. In addition to all. those. weeds., the hostas have emerged and the asparagus is skyrocketing! For those of you with asparagus envy, there's no time like the present to plant some. I'm so sorry I waited so long. I kept putting it off because you can't harvest it the first year (you need to let those stalks die back to provide energy for the next 20 years). It's that whole instant gratification thing, I guess. Well, you can't pick it any year if you don't plant it first.

I have since planted apple trees and blackberry bushes, which also take a while to begin producing. I learned my lesson with the asparagus. Last year was the first year for apples, and I got enough for a pie. ONE pie. I would have had more but that summer windstorm blew them all off their branches. And the birds got all the blackberries, but there weren't many since it also was their first year. I expect to have enough to share this summer.

I've shared far too many strawberries with slugs, and am considering planting them in containers this spring. I suppose slugs can crawl into containers, too, though. Fresh-from-the-garden strawberries are so much more delicious than fresh-from-the-grocery ones … it might be worth the risk. I am, however, going to till up the old strawberry bed and plant something else there this year.

After our record-high heat this week, spring is returning and we're going to have perfect work-in-the-yard weather all week long. I'm SO ready.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April 11 - Detail

The faux key handle on the curio cabinet/hutch portion of the secretary.
I lit this  with one of those little under-cabinet lights held in my left hand,
and somehow managed to aim, focus and shoot with my right.
The joys of phoneography.

The best-laid plans

I had every intention of walking yesterday afternoon when I left the garden center. EVERY INTENTION. All I had to do immediately after work was run to town to pick up eggs, a short trip that wasn't going to take more than 15 additional minutes out of the day.

If you look over there in the righthand sidebar, you'll see the Daily Mile widget says 296 miles. I SO wanted to flip it up to 300 yesterday, which would have meant hitting 300 miles on the 100th day of the year.

Obviously, it didn't happen. It doesn't mean I didn't get a good workout in. But helping to unload more than 400 plants from a delivery truck doesn't exactly translate into miles.

Oh. My. Aching. Arms. Back. Glutes. Calves.

I got to work at 9 and started watering shortly thereafter. We had a few customers, and I wasn't finished watering four hours later when this giant truck pulled into the parking lot. I wasn't expecting any deliveries. Turns out he was a day early. The owner showed up at about the same time, as surprised as I was, and called the landscaping crew away from a job to come help unload.

An hour later the garden center was JAM-PACKED with new stuff. I didn't even have time to take any pictures, but I will today.

I had time as I was leaving Tiny Kroger to snap the next-door bank's time-and-temperature sign. It was 2:11 p.m. (you'll have to trust me):


My husband said when he drove by the same sign an hour or so later it was 87°. High-temperature records were shattered all over southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia yesterday afternoon.

I came home and rested for a bit, then turned some of the eggs into a frittata for dinner. With a foundation of wilted baby spinach and topped with mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and asparagus (the last two from my garden!), it was delicious. We practically inhaled it.

The best-laid plan for today is to get those four miles done, done, done. I work again this morning, but there shouldn't be any surprise delivery trucks showing up. I woke up so early today that I have plenty of time to throw a salad together before I leave for work, and all I have to do when I get home is make a taco-seasoned ground beef topping.

I marvel at you women with children and full-time jobs, managing to juggle way more balls than I do. And then I think of my daughter who has added law school to her very busy mix.

My gratitude for my simple life is boundless, endless. How lucky I am.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April 10 - A place

This is the place I work. You know, that place I wrote about this morning.
And that place I just got home from. It's SO beautiful, I'm grateful to work
outdoors on days like this.

'Tis a work day

And again, I got up a little later than I usually do and find myself scrambling for my "me" time before I go to the garden center.

The weather outside is DELIGHTFUL, and it will be a good day to be outdoors. The temperature should get into the low 80s by this afternoon.

As both of you know, I volunteer at a women's prison on Tuesday evenings. I kind of expected it to cool off last night, so I wore a long-sleeved top. When I got into the room where we meet, it was NINETY-TWO FREAKIN' DEGREES! I thought some of the women were going to pass out.

We got permission from the staff to meet outside. The prison has this crazy rule that they keep the heat on in all buildings until May 1. What's bad about that is that it frequently gets pretty chilly in May, when no heat at all is available. I'm quite sure I could save the government some money if they put me in charge of the Bureau of Prisons. I especially have some ideas on how to reduce payroll expenses. Heh.

I hope you're having a good week so far, and if spring is supposed to be springing, I hope you can get outdoors to enjoy it. That's exactly what I plan to do.

Right now.

Photojojo University - Lesson 3, Lighting

Subject was placed directly in front of the sun, shot from a low angle.

Photojojo University - Lesson 2, Composition


From a low angle, squirrel's eye view

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April 9 - Tiny

I love my tiny little Weck canning jars. Such elegant design.

A killer day

So yesterday began with an e-bill for our water pump electric meter that was seven or eight times higher than normal.

(One of the not-joys of country living is having a well. Our water is fine, and there's plenty of it, but you have to hire someone to take care of any problems that crop up. And problems will crop up.)

The well is located down a very steep hill and the meter is on a pole nearby. We get three electric bills every month, one for the pump, one for the garage and one for the residence, how fun is that?

I called the power company and spent an inordinate number of cell phone minutes on hold and ended up walking down to the meter to take a physical reading. Which turned out to be quite accurate, thankyouverymuch, but there's no way IN HELL we used that much water.

I finally talked to Jon, a very patient customer service rep, who explained that we didn't use that much water, we used that many kilowatt hours. Which is a whole different ball game. (Speaking of ball games, the college basketball championship game was one of the most exciting I can ever remember watching!)

We got a huge bill last year, as well, and paid for a fruitless service call.

The good thing is the meter reading I took yesterday shows that we're back to a normal usage pattern. The bad thing is we don't know why, for two consecutive years, our bill as been so high during the two coldest months of the year. There probably is a connection, but since everything is underground and, thus, doesn't freeze, it's unlikely that the pump has to work any harder to push water up the hill when it's 20° than when it's 80°.

The trek to and from the meter was the killer part. It's a three-quarter mile trail walk to get there, through a cow pasture. (Don't click if you don't like cows. Or pictures of cows.) We climbed the hill back up to the house, which was less than half a mile but OH SO STEEP! My husband and I were following the water line, looking for leaks. Which were non-existent, and we figured there weren't any because if there's a leak, we usually have evidence – discolored water, low pressure, etc.

And then I walked five miles in the afternoon. So. KILLER DAY! With no good answers to the problem and a hefty chunk taken out of the checking account for water we didn't use, but kilowatt hours we apparently did use.

That condo in North Carolina is looking better and better.

Monday, April 8, 2013

April 8 - On your plate

This was lunch. I forgot about the prompt today or I would have planned
something a bit more photogenic than turkey salad for my midday meal.

Check this out

The first tiny stalk of asparagus has appeared … and there are LOTS more!
And check this out, too.

Last Monday I had lost seven pounds in 13 1/2 weeks. Today it's TWELVE, making my average weekly loss about eight-tenths of a pound.

Five pounds in one week? That's crazy-scale right there.

But still, can I get a yee-haw on that? Or a hot-damn? You know, since I live in West Virginia and all. Seems more likely I'd hear "yee-haw" or "hot-damn" than "well done, old girl." Heh.

Last week wasn't especially remarkable. I stayed below my calorie goal by about the same number as most previous weeks. I walked 17 miles, not the shortest weekly distance, nor the longest, by any means. So this mundane, average week of calories in/calories out somehow resulted in a way better-than-average result.

I've made one dietary change, which I've promised myself not to write about for a month. But I only made that change on Saturday, which surely couldn't have made that big a difference today.

I kind of feel like Maria in The Sound of Music: "I must have done something gooooooood."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

April 7 - Dreamy

Morning skies are nearly always dreamy here in the Middle of Nowhere.
This is SUCH a terrible picture, though. May skies are better.

To answer your question …

Gingerzingi commented yesterday:

Are there really weekend crowds at Tractor Supply? :-)


Well, YES. I wish I'd taken a picture, I really wanted to but didn't have the nerve after all. There were crowds of …

get ready …

CHICKENS!

When you walk in the store, right behind the checkout area, there were three huge metal troughs with warmers set up in the middle of each and dozens of baby chicks all milling about and cheeping and looking adorable.

I cannot talk my husband into keeping chickens. Cannot, cannot, cannot. I've tried. We have tons of space, a shed that could be converted to a coop and I'm willing to do all the work (which, as I understand, isn't much). He won't hear of it. Especially when we can buy eggs from the Amish just a couple miles down the road.

There were crowds of a few people there, too, but way more chicks than folks.

I found the fencing tape I needed, but had to search a while to find the step-in posts I was looking for. Finally flagged down a helpful sales associate, who walked me to the bin, instead of just pointing the way.

I guess she thought I looked like a newbie to Tractor Supply. Which I am, I don't go there often, but I do feel like the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store when I do. So. Much. Fun. Farm. Stuff.
Cue Wilford Brimley as Pop Fisher in The Natural: "Since the day I was born, I shoulda been a farmer. I love chickens, pigs, ducks – I'm kind of fond of nanny goats, I am."
Anyway, I finished my mission there, I went on to a couple other stores to get everything else on my list. Got home about 3:30, put perishables away and went for a walk. I'd hoped to get home earlier, but hey, shopping happens. (Rarely, 'tis true, but it does occasionally take over my best-laid plans.)

Finished the walk (which was lovely, by the way – warm temperatures and a gentle breeze), came home, fixed dinner and watched basketball until bedtime.

Oh, and I also played with this. Some. Merry Christmas (finally!) to me.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April 6 - Air

The aroma of hazelnut-flavored coffee fills the air in my house all day ... every day.

What happened to yesterday?

A MASSIVE headache and intense dizzy spells, that's what. Not only did I not want to look at a screen, I didn't want to leave my bed. I tried, I honestly did, but it wasn't happening.

My blood pressure was normal, I had no fever. My husband (who is a doctor) listened to my heart and lungs and I checked out all well and good with a strong, steady beat and no wheezing.

The dizziness was especially disturbing. I haven't had a drink in 22 years, but it was like being spinning drunk. Without the booze. Ick.

Anyway, I was fine by dinnertime (OF COURSE!), and had no trouble eating a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, after not eating anything all day.

I'd planned to run some errands yesterday, but I wasn't about to risk your life by getting behind the wheel of a car. I feel like I can manage it today, and so am headed to Sam's and Tractor Supply. I need the usual – coffee beans, freezer bags, detergent – at the former and I need new fenceposts and fencing tape at the latter.

You know what fencing supplies means, don't you? It's time to start working on the garden! Yay!

Taken Thursday evening. Two inches and still falling.
I brought home some kale and two kinds of lettuce from the garden center Thursday and they're more than ready to pop in the ground. The ground's not ready for them, however. I'm itching to get something in there. We're all hoping the freaky snow we got Thursday (which has completely disappeared) is the last of it.

As soon as I finish the laundry, I am outtahere! I'm waaaaay short on mileage this week and hope to walk today and tomorrow afternoon. It will depend on how badly I wear myself out fighting the weekend crowds at Tractor Supply. Heh.

Friday, April 5, 2013

April 5 - Something good

A bowl of tropical fruit is something good, right? Being too sick with a
headache to think of anything more creative isn't. RIGHT?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

April 4 - This happened today

There was much repotting of geraniums going on at the garden center today.

Better late than never

So I woke up this morning a little later than I usually do, and since I had to be work at the garden center at 9 a.m. I didn't have time to write in the wee small hours. I only work two days a week, and then only from 9 to 1 p.m. I know, it's tough. Heh.

Here's the view from inside the sales pavilion, looking out on the Greenbrier River:


Listening to the rushing water, seeing the beauty of the growing plants, dragging the water hose around moving my body in new and challenging ways – it's good to be back. I only wish the weather would catch up. Early spring at the garden center is always iffy and there always are a few days where layering is A Good Thing. But it was SLEETING when I got home an hour ago. I hope the pansies can handle a little frozen rain better than I could.

Anyway, I'd thought I would have the energy to both work and walk, and I actually might. But since it's precipitating and cold, I will opt to take a little restorative nap instead. I walked five miles yesterday after work, but I only worked two hours and it wasn't as physically taxing as it was today.

The good thing is – and I know this from experience – I'll get used to it. And the other good thing is, if the garden center's open, it must be SPRING!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April 3 - Something beginning with A

Happy Anniversary to me! I joined Instagram a year ago today.

Oh, happy day!

It's the little things, folks. Big, stupendous events are great and all – winning the Powerball would certainly increase the excitement factor here in the Middle of Nowhere, for instance. But for everyday day-to-day happy, it's the small stuff.

A little more than a year ago I bought my Android phone. I'd been going back and forth about replacing my Blackberry with an Android or an iPhone, but it came down to two things:

  • My wireless provider offers great service, reliability and reward points, but doesn't have a contract with Apple
  • Instagram for Android was introduced

Joining Instagram was such a big deal
I made a note of it on my calendar.
When I learned that Instagram was going to release an Android version, that pretty much sealed the Android deal for me.

I joined Instagram a year ago today, one of those little actions that has provided a daily dose of serious happy.

As both of you know, I've been trying to complete Project 365 for years. Here's my first photo, taken January 1, 2008. It's still one of my favorites. Back then I had a flip phone that probably didn't even have a camera. Didn't we all? I was shooting with my Canon Digital Rebel. I had to upload the photos using a card reader, edit them in Photoshop and then upload them to my blog. Neither the computer nor the phone had Bluetooth (that was for Important Business People), and the whole process was, um, a bit cumbersome.

Certainly not as cumbersome as ordering prints and scanning them. My, my, we've come a long way, baby. But still. I lost interest in Project 365 every year around March.

My Instagram page.
In March of 2012, about the time I would have given up, the magic happened. New phone, Instagram for Android and fatmumslim's photo-a-day prompts, which I had started using a month earlier.

"They" say the best camera is the one you have with you, and for most of us it's a phone. There've been a few times when I've wished for a long lens on the Droid, but damned few. When I know I'm going to be in a situation where quality counts, I grab the Rebel and get a little strength training in.

'Cause it's HEAVY!

Fulfilling the photo-a-day commitment is pretty darned easy and pretty darned fun with the camera that fits in the palm of my hand. It's also easy to send photos directly to the computer, since I am, apparently, an Important Business Person with Bluetooth-capable devices that talk to each other. It's magic!

I use the photo prompt list as my laptop wallpaper, so I know what to keep an eye out for every day. (There are other lists out there, lots of them, but I'm happy with Chantelle's.) Most of the time I get it done early, and if another opportunity shows up later, I add another shot to that day's post.

All in all, this exercise has been really, really good for my creative soul. Oh, I've picked up a few followers, and my Instagram "likes" have gone from three or four per photo to about 20. I've printed a few of the photos, but printing them isn't the point. Noticing what's around me, finding the shot and then taking it: That's the point.

My favorite shots end up on my digital photo frame, and the entire collection is on my Instagram feed. I'm sure there are lots of things I could be doing with the images, but for now, I'm just pleased to celebrate one year of daily happy.

If you're looking for a creative exercise that will make you smile, well, you could do worse.