Wednesday, December 31, 2014

You can't look backward and forward at the same time.

But I'll try.

This blog covers four major areas of interest, with an occasional post/rant/photo about politics and/or social justice. Both of you already know what a blow Democrats in West Virginia took in November, so we. won't. go. there. As for the other stuff …

Knitting
I actually got a lot more knitting done in 2014 than I figured I would, it being an election year and all. I was busy, but turned out several projects, all of which ended up being gifts for grandchildren – doll sweaters, stuffed toys, a fuzzy scarf. I'm nearly finished with a scarf which will go to a friend "just because."

When I organized my yarn closet the last time, I created several kits – bags of yarn+pattern – and I'd like to get started on one of those when the scarf is finished. I gave away a couple of too-big sweaters last year and need to replenish MY wardrobe.

My granddaughter's dolls have plenty o'sweaters.

Running
As you both know, I don't run much any more. I'll pick up the pace on the downhill portion of my route once in a while, attaining speeds of up to 5 miles an hour at times! Speedy Gonzalez I'm not. I have, however, continued to walk steadily as much as the weather would allow.

My goal for 2014 was ambitious, and I missed the mark by a LOT. I'd hoped to nail 1500 miles, and yesterday made it to 1000. But I hadn't counted on a brutal winter, and I really dropped the ball during the summer.

I am, however, renewed and inspired and ready to rock walk in 2015. I like nice round numbers, so I'm going to walk two miles today to bring the total for 2013 and 2014 to 2,310 miles. My goal for 2015 will be to make the three-year total 3500, meaning I need to log 1190 miles for the coming year.

Reaping
The garden this year suffered. A lot. The deer ate what the weeds didn't smother. I just didn't have time to keep up with it, even though I cut the vegetable space by half. The mint-family herbs took over that bed and I finally just surrendered.

Next spring I'm moving the tomatoes to patio pots. The deer haven't bothered any squash in the big garden, so I'll plant plenty of summer and winter varieties, and hope to add cucumbers and onions. I might try beets again, because I love both the roots and the greens, but I will cover them with netting, in a [probably] feeble attempt to protect them from deer damage.

I'll plant herbs up close to the house and I want to convert the herb bed to a cutting garden made up of annuals, with a lilac or butterfly bush in the center of that circle. I have both planted elsewhere in our landscape and the deer haven't bothered them.

Eating
I continued with a mostly paleo plan in 2014, but definitely strayed. And paid for the straying with aching joints and low energy. I know what works for me. My success in 2013 was astonishing, and I'd like to erase 2014 from memory. I hit my lowest weight in November of 2013 and since then I've put back 30 pounds.

Which means my goal for 2015 is to get rid of those AND an additional 10. I've not followed any plan during the holidays, and have thoroughly enjoyed the treats and sweets I've chosen. But enough is enough. I plan to reach my goal using an 80/20 paleo-ish plan, a regular walking regimen, two rowing sessions per week and two weight-training sessions per week.

My attitude needs to change from "Why can't this just happen all by itself?" to "I can make this happen, one day at a time." Simple. Matter of fact. No drama.

Just do it.

And I have a new little motivator up my sleeve in my pocket to help me just do it. Santa brought a Fitbit One. I've been using it to count steps since I got it, but plan to track the daily walks/rowing sessions AND use it as a food log beginning tomorrow. Are you a Fitbit user? We could be friends – share progress, be cheerleaders for each other. Or not. It's already a pretty good cheerleader on its own.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Aaaaand … she's off!

We had a lovely day yesterday, quite busy, but lovely nonetheless. My husband's mother is pretty much housebound now, so we I catered her dinner. The whole deal – turkey and trimmings – transported from our house to hers.

My very first "real" job (other than babysitting) was working as a prep assistant for a caterer, so I know a little bit about how to manage such a task. But knowing how doesn't make it any easier.

She appreciated it very much, however, so it was worth it.

I'm leaving in an hour to visit my son and his family for a couple days, and then my husband's son and his family will be here for a couple days. The fun never stops!

Until it does. But when all the visiting and company is done and gone we've got … New Year's! And bowl games!

So, really, the fun never stops.

2015 is looking good for us already. We both feel well and are able to continue walking and appreciating what we have. We don't want a darned thing. My health insurance premium went down by a third and we each got raises (Social Security cost-of-living adjustments), so our financial health looks good, too.

I hope the end of your 2014 is a time of quiet reflection and gratitude, as it will be for us.

In a few days. HAH!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wishing you …

the happiest of Hanukkahs and the merriest of Christmases.

My day week is scheduled to the hilt and I know I won't have much time to pop in with updates for a few days, unless it's on the fly from my phone. But I would be remiss if I didn't thank you for another year of sticking with me through thin and thick.

My plan is to make next year another thin one. If I did it once …

In the meantime,


Monday, December 22, 2014

Making a list

The holidays here in the Middle of Nowhere are generally pretty quiet. We're going to an open house on Christmas Eve day and will spend Christmas at my mother-in-law's. We're taking dinner in to her.

I'm leaving the next day to visit my son and his family, and the day after I get home my husband's son and children are coming here.

Little gifties ready for the grandchildren. We'll light the
fireplace candles after they open presents.
Leaving me not much time to get things ready for them, so I spent yesterday cleaning the house. And while I was at it, I rearranged the living room furniture. The couch now faces the [non-working but filled with white candles] fireplace. The outside view used to be lush and green, but now that it's just brown and bare, I thought it would be nice to change things up a bit.

Nothing like adding to the workload, right?

My mother-in-law finally got specific and requested homemade candy for her gift. Here's a tip: Do NOT substitute almond milk for cow's milk when making fudge. All you get is fudge sauce. I added a bag of leftover marshmallows to the mixture and ended up with a decidedly not gift-worthy batch of very soft fudge, which my husband loved so much he ate half the pan overnight.

So today I'll be heading to Kroger for real milk, along with a couple other must-have ingredients for candy-making. I also need to pick up a package of ribs for New Year's, since I won't have time for grocery shopping before we ring in 2015.

My list is getting longer and longer as I sit here and think about what I need to have on hand before, during and after Christmas.

Twenty-five miles to go to hit 1000. I think I'm going to come up a little short. I only managed two yesterday – I was so tired after the epic cleaning project – but coming close to 1000 is better than coming close to nothing, right?

As the young folk say, it is what it is. And for what it's worth, the bottom line is January 1 – the grand do-over – can't come soon enough.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Thirty-one

In order to hit 1000 walking miles this year, I need to get 31 more done before New Year's Day. That's about three miles a day for the next week and a half. I'll be on the road for two of those days, and we're having company for another two.

So … we'll see. I'm willing to bet I come up a couple miles short. But I'm still going to try.

My husband and I started out yesterday afternoon, at what was supposed to have been the warmest hour of the day, but turned back after less than half a mile. We didn't take into account the cool wind, and neither of us had dressed warmly enough. I kept walking up and down our long driveway to get a full mile in (I'm sure I looked ridiculous, but  that's another advantage of living in the Middle of Nowhere: No one saw me!)

It's supposed to get up to 40° this afternoon, and no wind. NO EXCUSES!

In other news, the remaining handmade gifts are being completed on schedule. I finished up a couple things for my Big Bang Theory-obsessed teen-aged grandson yesterday. He's getting round business cards for Christmas, and since his birthday is in just a couple weeks I used the business card design to make a tile coaster. (I put his name/phone/email atop an image of an atom – it's pretty cool, if I do say so myself!) I ordered this shirt for his birthday and used the design to make a couple of fat notepads. It's really hard coming up with birthday ideas so soon after Christmas, but I went with a theme this year (personalized and BBT) and I think he'll be pleased.

My younger granddaughter asked for a red, floor-length hooded cape a long time ago, and I told her it would probably be a Christmas gift. She asks about it every time we talk. I worked on it yesterday, along with two itty-bitty ones for her American Girl dolls (the one she got last year from Santa and the new one she's getting this year). Another couple of hours and those should be ready to wrap.

I also started making an infinity scarf for myself – very simple seed stitch, in a gorgeous yarn made up of one strand mohair and one strand shiny ribbon. (It's Pingouin Douceur, for those who care about such details, and it's ancient. I've no idea where it came from or how long I've had it.) I needed a mindless project I could work on in the evenings. When my husband saw me knitting it last night, he said what a perfect gift that would be for his old college friend E, who's been going through some tough times lately and loves the color purple.

I don't have time to finish and mail it before Christmas, but it can be a New Year's or a sometime-in-January gift for no reason at all. A just-because-it's-perfect-for-her present.

And there's enough yarn left for another scarf. FOR ME.

The last thing on my list is to frame a photo for my mother-in-law and then find another little something for her. She has everything she needs and wants, but requested "a real gift to unwrap." Meaning not another gift certificate to her hairdresser.

I know how she feels. My husband never wraps anything, unless you count the envelope in which he puts a card and money to spend on myself. But my son and his wife always wrap their gifts for us, so I do have that little pleasure.

Figuring out something to give my husband's mother is more difficult than wrapping it, though. I need to Google "gifts for the homebound."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My sleep number

Eight. I get eight hours of sleep nearly every night. Some times it's an hour or so more. More often it's a couple hours less. But it averages out to eight hours per night over the course of a week, generally.

HOWEVER … my eight hours usually begins at 8-ish in the evening, meaning I'm wide awake at 4 a.m. And last night things really caught up with me and I went to sleep at 6. Right after dinner. Before the news. BEFORE JEOPARDY!

And I've been awake since 2 a.m.

On the bright side, I'm cooking spaghetti squash to freeze for future use, and the rinds will be ready to dispose of when the trash truck comes later this morning. I hate when discarded food remnants sit in a trash bag for a week. Early to rise means you get things DONE.

Next on my to-do list is to wrap all the Christmas presents. I have one more thing I need to make, a sewing project, and all the gifts are stacked up on the sewing table. Soooooo, first things first: Wrap, then cut fabric, then sew.

And then I think a nap might be in order. 

We were gone all day yesterday. I'd planned to walk when we got to our destination, but it was cold and rainy and I opted to sit in a waiting room knitting instead. But temperatures will be mild for the next week, and I should get three or four four-milers in over the next few days. I'm still trying to hit the 1000-mile mark for the year. 

But I really really really need to figure out how to make my day start at 6. Instead of 2.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Let the holidays be OVER. Please.

I seem to have absolutely NO self-control this year. Not only can I not resist others' temptations (I'll spare you the descriptive food porn, just insert treat of your choice here), I am even making (and eating) some decidedly NON-paleo food items using ingredients that cause severe pain.

I guess that makes me a masochist.

My previous post was all about eating crappy-for-me food because I was cold and needed comforting. Apparently the myth of comfort food has been busted by scientists, so there goes that rationalization!

I have NO excuse for going off the deep end now. The furnace is fixed, the house is warm, we didn't break the bank, the Christmas shopping is done, the out-of-town gifts are on their way. One project remains unfinished, but there's still plenty o'time before it gets delivered in person the weekend after Christmas.

Sooooo … if Life is so Good, why am I sabotaging myself and my success?

That's a good question, I'm glad I asked.

Because it's definitely something I need to figure out.

I've a feeling getting a handle on this is going to be a one-day-at-a-time project. Or even one hour at a time.

Maybe I should make it a rule to only eat off-plan when I'm walking. Walking hurts. A lot. And the correlation between eating grains and sugar and feeling pain is unmistakeable. Self-evident. Clearly a slap upside the head.

Or, in my case, a somewhat low blow to the right hip.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Insert title here

Because I'm all out of creative ideas for titles this morning.

We're attending an open house this afternoon, at which there will be food, of course. Not the best day to begin working on my personal infrastructure, now that our home infrastructure is back on track.

I will admit to some very not-good choices the past couple weeks, which have proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm an emotional eater.

Not everyone believes that

I AM COLD = I MUST EAT CRAP

but apparently I do. (In case you're new here, our home heating system went out on Thanksgiving and wasn't replaced until December 11.) And I really, really, really paid for it yesterday.

I walked in the early afternoon (and listened to the next-to-last episode of Serial for the first two miles). The first three miles went well. I noticed a slight twinge of pain in my right hip, but that's been going on for a long time now, and I'm 63+ years old, and who doesn't experience slight aches and pains when they hit their 60s?

But it got worse and worse and worse during the last mile. I remember thinking at the 1/4-mile-to-go point that I wasn't sure if I could make it or not. My husband was with me and offered to go get the car, but I declined, gritted my teeth and kept putting one foot in front of the other until I made it.

I took a shower, thinking the warm water might help – it didn't – after which I took some Tylenol and then I took to my bed. I got up to fix dinner a couple hours later and went back to bed right after dinner and another Tylenol.

And I woke up 11 hours later, pain-free.

The crap food I've been eating (which is only crap for ME, mind you, you may eat whatever you like) included whole-wheat sandwich buns, oatmeal with brown sugar, and pasta. In other words, gluten and grains and sugar, oh my. I don't keep much crap food in the house, but the past couple weeks have been BRUTAL and COLD, and in order to comfort myself I NEEDED carbs.

Apparently.

But I realized limping home yesterday that comforting my psyche with crap food truly does hurt my body. And when my body hurts, my psyche does, as well.

So we'll go to the open house this afternoon, a time when I don't normally eat anyway. (I try to do a three meals/no snacks routine.) If there are high-protein options, I might have a bite. If not, I'll do my very-very-very best to remember how hard it was to make it that last quarter mile yesterday.

It wouldn't hurt to remember how good it felt to wear skinny black jeans last year, either.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Today's problem

It's lovely having heat.

Now if we could just have Internet access.

Perhaps that's asking for too much.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Today's the day!

If you've been following along recently, you know our heating system has been dead for two weeks. We've been limping along with a couple of space heaters. The inside temperature this morning hovered just slightly above 50°. It's 28° outside. I wouldn't want to be the crew who will be working outside and under my house. But I can't wait for them to show up! They should be here around 9 a.m.

I've done a lot of knitting the last several days. 

Pink Kitty is done (except for the eyes). Once I sew the eyes on all four of the knitted toys, that family's gifts will be finished and ready to wrap. We never know what they'll enjoy or what they might already have. The last time we visited we took school supplies, and the boys said, "But Mom already bought us school supplies." Which, of course, I knew she would have, and what we brought them were just little crafty things to add to their already ample supply of crayons and stickers and glue sticks.

At least they requested their handmade toys … and once they're delivered they're out of my hands and off my mind!

I started a fuzzy scarf for my son's daughter yesterday and am nearly finished with it. I found several shades of pink and purple "fur" fiber, and am striping it lengthwise. It's the first time I've ever made a scarf by casting on the length instead of the width, and I'm surprised at how quickly it's working up. All garter stitch, all the time, since you can't see any pattern when using this kind of yarn.

Despite the cold weather, I've been able to walk a couple days this week. Yesterday was impossible because of rain and ice, but I figure if I'm going to be cold anyway I might as well get some exercise. And I get warmed up by the end of the first mile. Hoping to get four miles in today.

There's an outside chance I'll be able to hit 1000 miles for this year. Not nearly what I'd hoped for at the beginning of the year, but pretty respectable, nonetheless. I need to average 2.5 miles/day for the remainder of December, which sounds doable, even taking a couple days off.

And now … I think I'll find yet another movie on Netflix and finish the fuzzy scarf. I'm pretty boring lately, I know. But I'd rather be boring and warmish, watching movies in my little knitting nest, than bitching about how freaking cold it is all the time.

You're welcome. Heh.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Down the home stretch

The good thing about having no heat (installation of the new system might begin tomorrow, and we're definitely on schedule for Thursday) is that I've had lots of time to knit. I park myself in my little chair in front of my little TV in my little den with my little space heater and knit, knit, knit my little fingers to the bone.

The pink kitty (mine is solid pink, not striped like the original) – the fourth of four gifts for one set of grandchildren – is nearly done. AND IT LOOKS LIKE A KITTY! I was having doubts during the process, as it's knit all in one piece and it wasn't looking very kitty-like there for a while.

Stuffing works wonders on a shapeless piece of fabric.

All that's left to knit is the front legs. Then I need to sew button eyes on all four toys and they're DONE. (The children are 4-1/2 and 6-1/2, so no chance of swallowing buttons.)

Next up is the pink-and-purple scarf for my younger granddaughter, and I've also found a hat pattern I want to make for my grandson, whose birthday is early in January. Along with a pair of fingerless gloves and some money, I think it will make a fine gift for a young man.

Knitters with time left before Christmas morning will always find a new project to work on. Good thing I'm not baking this year. Or maybe it would be a good thing to bake this year.

At least the oven would be on and the kitchen would be warm.er.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Being there

You can gracefully decline invitations to some events. There may be certain parties you'd rather not go to, some reunions that aren't so meaningful, date nights where you'd really rather be alone.

Your daughter's law school graduation ceremony?

You want to be there. Trust me.

My daughter, the lawyer.
She takes the bar in February.
She wasn't even sure she wanted to be there, but after all was said and done, after the processional and the speeches and the, well, the pomp and circumstance of it all, she was happy to have the memories.

And so were all of us who were with her.

She graduated third in her class, and was asked to stand for special recognition with the others in the top 10 percent.

She spent four years taking classes (and tests!) at a nontraditional law school, with classmates who, like her, worked during the day, had families and friends and responsibilities outside of school. Some major MAJOR life events happened during her years of study. Events that might have derailed a woman with less energy, determination and grit.

She's truly an inspiration and a role model, not just for her children, but for all of her family and friends.

I drive between seven and eight hours when I visit my daughter and her family. I go twice a year, in January and June, and in the past have always attended performances by her children. I'm going to miss both of the recitals this year – a law-school graduation trumps a winter dance concert, and my granddaughter's high-school graduation will happen one week before spring recital.

My grandchildren have assured me they'd rather have me here for graduations than for performances.

You can gracefully decline invitations to some events. 

But you really ought to be there for others.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Brrr

And the hits just keep on coming.

We knew we needed a new compressor for the heat pump. And we need a new furnace. Because the new compressor would be incompatible with the old unit, you see. (It's more complicated than that; you'll have to trust me. Something to do with refrigerant and the ozone layer and space travel.)

The entire deal is going to cost way more than we originally thought, but we are blessed. Rainy-day funds are there for times like these, right?

In the meantime, it's cold in here. I have a borrowed space heater blowing warmish air on me but it doesn't do much good in the large room in which my desk is located. It does a great job in the den, so I think that's where I'll spend most of my day. Knitting!

Red teddy bear is done (except for eyes – all the eyes for all the toys will be sewn on at the same time). I'm now working on a pink kitty for the youngest granddaughter, after which I'll start a pink-and-purple scarf for the next-to-youngest. A special request.

She (the next-to-youngest) is the easiest of all the grandchildren to find gifts for. She appreciates everything and has so many interests. She's willing to try new things and just oozes enthusiasm.

So, yeah, when she asks for a pink-and-purple scarf, it goes on the to-do list.

Before I do anything else today, though, I'm going to fire up the oven (just saying "fire up" makes me feel warmer!) and bake a paleo apple pie. It never got done for Thanksgiving. I guess the Universe knew I would need to FIRE UP the oven a week later.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Half-full

So with the heat problem we're experiencing here in Ye Old Middle of Nowhere, you'd think – nay, you'd expect – some grumbling, right? (See yesterday's post if you're not aware of our issue.)

But that hasn't happened. In fact, the most grumbling so far has been from me, listening to the furnace run constantly, in a futile effort to keep the air warm.

Yesterday I got tired of listening to myself and adjusted the thermostat downward until the fan stopped running. The inside temperature has remained at about 60° ever since. With wool slippers and layered clothing, we're not uncomfortable at all.

My mood almost instantly changed from mumbly-grumbly to A-OK.

Granted I went to bed early, because, um, blankets! But really? I've not found anything to complain about since that constant fan noise stopped.
  • We're fortunate to have the money to have paid for that weekend service call.
  • We plan to check on our homeowner's insurance, which could possibly cover part of the replacement expense.
  • If it doesn't, the emergency fund is ready and available to handle the cost of a new compressor.
  • We have a working oven, which did a masterful job yesterday. We were quite toasty filling our bellies with food which had slow-roasted all afternoon.
  • We have a working automobile. With a heater. Which we will use today to shop for another source of auxiliary heat.
What's the common thread in all those bulleted items?

Gratitude.

And along comes science (well, Google science, anyway) to prove that I'm a happier woman because I'm looking for and listing the things I'm thankful for.

I've been doing that fairly regularly for the past 24 years – having an attitude of gratitude is a benchmark of sobriety. I'm not perfect. I still gripe and moan, and I still have wishes and wants. But finding and recognizing what I do have helps me ignore the things I don't.

Pretty soon I'm going to mix up a batch of paleo pumpkin muffins. I'll pop them in my working oven and you can bet I'll be grateful when I eat them for breakfast!

What are you thankful for? And, especially in the face of trials and tribulations and challenges … what's on your gratitude list?