Saturday, February 21, 2009

Traveling, I Hope

The weather forecast for tomorrow is "Winter Storm" with 100% possibility of snow or rain. The temperature? The weather people are saying 38 degrees. The snow wasn't supposed to begin until afternoon but now the forecast says morning. UGH!

But until I hear different from Orbitz, I'm just going to keep thinking I'm traveling tomorrow.

I made the Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake for G's evening desserts while I'm away. It smells and looks lovely. I fiddled a bit with the recipe, which reminds me, I should made notes on the recipe card. I also turned the remainder of the No Knead Loaf into croutons for salads. Waste not. Tonight G is having Sausage, Mushroom and Onion Pizza again because he liked it so much the last time. And there will be extra to have with soup or salad one night this week.

This coming Sunday, a group of foodies is having a "No Shopping Week". They are going to try and make all the week's meals out of the freezer and pantry. You know, all that food we buy and then just store. Until it goes bad. I am so bummed about being gone for this. Sounds like good fun. Inventive meals. Everyone will be making suggestions of recipes for the odd assortment of things we have available to cook. Especially as they get closer to Saturday. I may have to do it when I get back home. No stockpiling. Just roll with it. And, yes, you can go get milk or eggs if you really MUST in order to make something. But no cart of groceries.

My walking buddy is back here in Maine for a few days (been away 6 weeks) and she is eating anything that is open in her cupboard. Crackers, cereal, stuff like that. She did purchase some milk and eggs but nothing else. She will be trying to fly back to Florida tomorrow.

G has arrived home to joyous doggie greetings. The pizza was another success and my re heated soup and two large salads was very filling. The croutons so much better than store bought.

I had a very bad time today, trying on clothes and finding that most of last spring's wardrobe is way too tight. Mostly in the waist and hips. I am happy that I tried things on instead of just packing and thinking they would fit. So now I have to chose and pack.

Clothes for gardening. Clothes for going places. Clothes for cutting and piecing a baby quilt......... I selected, ironed, cut and stacked fabric for my applique circles. The 8.5 squares were WAY too big so I went with 5.5 inch squares and an appliqued 4 inch circle in the center. I also chose thread to go with the fabrics and have needles and clippers. I even packed some freezer paper in case K doesn't stock any in her quilt room. I have a journal, pens and a glue stick for the daily updates.

Now I guess I need to go stuff things in the carry on and be ready to go. Tomorrow I have to have the dog walked before my daughter picks me up to drive to Portland. So dog walk followed by shower and a quick check to see if I have everything.

I need to smear peanut butter on the Kong and stick it into the freezer overnight so Riley will have something to do when I leave. Before he falls asleep. Monday, Riley goes to the kennel for 11 days. He'll be exhausted and dirty when we pick him up. And "So Happy" to see his nice cushy beds and toys. He'll be "roughing" it at the kennel.

Now to pack. And then set the TiVo to record things that I might miss seeing. So much to do. I will NEED a vacation after all this stress! Cheers!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not Over Until the Fat Lady Sings

We have a preview of Spring with swelling buds on the forsythia but they have been that way for several weeks now.

Last night and this morning we had heavy wet snowfall. Heart Attack Snow. G and I worked together to clear off the long driveway and garage apron. And the huge pile the plow heaps up at the bottom of the driveway. That's the heart attack part. We are wet, tired and later today, we'll be sore. Best part. While G is in the shower, after shoveling, the power goes out. I had to go in and light the bathroom candle (no windows). Nothing as exciting as a shower in complete darkness. When the town plow comes back he will certainly plow all the shoveled snow right back into the drive. It's what they do for laughs.

I have two estimates for my leaking chimney. One for $6600 to take down the 24 year old chimney and replace it with a properly built (ahem) new chimney. And one for $5600 to take down the chimney and replace the roof shingles and put up cedar clapboard, fascia etc. I have one more estimate to get. Take down chimney and replace with windows.

The brick faced hearth inside the house was built with proper bricks and is in good condition. And the hearth is a design element of the great room. So removal will change the look and character of my home. I wonder how great the importance of this brick is to the house's value? If I leave the hearth, I can eventually get a gas fired wood stove to replace the wood burning stove that I detest. No need for a chimney with a gas "wood" stove. And once we have opened Pandora's box (propane service), then I can have a gas stove and gas logs in the living room fire place. Of course, there is installation of gas lines and tank etc. $$$$.

I am certainly spending money (or thinking of spending money) like a sailor on shore leave. I can hear that fat lady warming up in the wings. I wonder if G and I could take down the chimney ourselves. A little do it yourself project. I don't like paying $75 an hour for someone to do something I could do for free. I can't build a chimney, but I can haul bricks in a wheelbarrow. It might take me 4 months to finish but I could still do it.

Lunch at 111 Maine today after we do errands. We need to visit the post office, bank, Petco (Riley's food for his kennel vacation) and Home Depot. I need to revisit the grocery store for some Graham crackers, cream cheese, eggs and a lemon. I'm making Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake for G's desserts next week (while I'm gone). I think I added cream cheese last time I made this. I wish I could buy three eggs, not six.

Pot Roast tomorrow in the crock pot. With mashed potatoes, green peas and cole slaw. My all time favorite meal. What's not to love about a good pot roast, huh?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I made it through Monday. I got all four of my items on the list accomplished. Today the sun is shining and I have an appointment to get my hair cut. But first, walking the dog.

I wanted to talk about this. On Sunday evening, the dog decided NOT to lay on his dog bed in front of the couch where G and I watch evening television. We tried to coax him but he just stood there. And then he did the most amazing and perplexing thing. He began to make "sounds" while making eye contact. He was trying to communicate. To explain why he couldn't lay on the bed. And when it was obvious to him that we didn't understand, he sighed and lay down on the wood floor.

Last night I removed all the bedding and replaced the cover with one of his favorite beach towels and he lay right down and fell asleep. So something isn't "right" about the bedding. It could be the Febreze. All the bedding will be washed, again today and hopefully whatever "smell" it had, will be washed off. And I guess the Febreze can be used to keep him away from things we don't want him sleeping on.

The soups I made yesterday were (are) delicious. I enjoyed the cutting and chopping. "habit is more powerful than will". I almost made 1200 calories yesterday but went over. As I wrote in my journal. I can only try each day. The next day is another chance. Today I begin with oatmeal and coffee. And I have no idea where they day will take me.

When I go to work outside the home, the "habit" of employment takes over. The list of things to get done each morning starting with washing your face and ending with packing your tote and getting into the car. It all falls into place (unless something goes wrong) and each morning is the same as the one before. The evenings follow a pattern or "habit" also. Arrival, dog greetings, dog walk, change clothes, prepare the meal, eat, news, cleanup (laundry) and settle into the couch to fall asleep. Working outdoors, I fall asleep by 9 pm, which is very unusual for me.

So, in order to get any art done around here, I need the "habit" of art making. I need to begin in some small way to include art making in the pattern of my day. Mornings are spent eating breakfast in front of this keyboard. Reading blogs, sending comments and reading the newspaper on line. Then I dress for the day and walk the dog. Errands are done after the walk and the dog's lunch. (he still eats three meals a day) Afternoons are frittered away and this is where I can make the new habit fit into my day. Today. Not too much. Just a start.

My plans for the day. Get Dressed. Walk Dog. Return Book To Borders. Get Hair Cut. Groceries (return tomato paste in a tube/ buy G yogurt, juice, noodles). Throw dog stuff into washer/dryer. Make some small bit of fabric art or paint. Make Dinner.

Wish me luck.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another Monday

I was reading a post on grief over at the Voodoo Cafe, and got to thinking that maybe that's what's wrong with me these days. Some type of cellular grief. It maybe the reason I am dragging my feet re: settling my dad's estate. This is not depression with all the usual attachments of sleeping all day, wearing pajamas all day (only half the day) and eating a number of grilled cheese sandwiches while reading and re reading the same book over and over. That kind of depression isn't depicted on the television advertisements.

So here I am, in my pajamas, trying to avoid walking the dog. Once I'm dressed and outdoors, it's good. I'm just not that interested until I am outside the house. And, while it isn't as cold, it is very gray and icy outside.

I made a lovely Valentine's Day dinner. Steaks, baked potatoes, asparagus and wild baby green greens in a salad with homemade croutons. Dessert (for G) was a nice deep chocolate brownie. Dessert for me was finishing the bottle of merlot. Yes, I did.

Yesterday, spent out shopping thrifts with my daughter, I threw together a pasta with fried onion, bacon and mushrooms with Parmesan cheese for G. I had some toast with peanut butter.

The diet isn't going all that well. I just don't care. I'm not motivated. I look old and flabby and lumpy and my skin is still hanging in wrinkles like a deflated old balloon from the last diet. There isn't even any food that would "comfort" me. There isn't any book I want to read or reread. I have trouble falling asleep so sleeping all day isn't even possible. I have things I could be doing but it's like I'm dragging a 1000 pound weight around with me called procrastination.

So small steps today. Get Dressed. Walk Dog. Make Soup. Clean Sheets On Bed.

The Art Rule for Today: Number 8. Use Intuition/ Master Technology. Did you notice the link? I think intuition requires a "leap of faith" and so does technology. Every time I press the publish button--- I wonder.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Une Balance

I had forgotten how complete the concentration was with the 1200 calories a day. Deciding what to eat, when. If I have this now, can I have that, later. It is day four. I have been hungry only in the deprived "I want that" sense. I want bread.

I went back and read my food diaries from the 365 days. The first diary had the best food choices. An actual breakfast of toast and an egg. An actual lunch of soup or a sandwich-- with bread. Dinner was usually a large salad. Later diaries had a slice of cheese and 15 almonds as lunch. For the same calorie count I could have had a few ounces of good bread and an ounce of 50% reduced cheese. Or an apple. In the first diary, I always had an apple with me, in case. so I have packed up all the other diaries and have the first one sitting next to my journal. These next few weeks will be noted in the regular journal. As I won't be thinking of anything else anyway.

I bought my plane ticket and will be visiting K in Atlanta later this month. Riley will go to the kennel to run with the "big dogs" and G will get to come home from work and sleep on the couch after eating restaurant meals. In other words, we all get to do what we enjoy.

I will be returning to work after I get back from my vacation. I miss working. It adds stability to my days. Purpose. And I get everything else done in the time after work.

I am now considering what sort of project to take with me on my vacation. I usually bring some sort of applique. I have a French inspired quilt top I have wanted to make. All I need to do to get ready is cut out squares (need to decide on the perfect size square) and cut out freezer paper circles (that fit on the chosen square). Then iron the freezer paper circles onto more squares. I'll hand stitch a circle onto each square and when they are all finished, sew all the squares together. Simple. The fabric is the star. And since I truly, deeply, adore fabric, this seems like a good small project. I can make 5 or 6 each evening while watching television.

When I made my chicken quilt, I stitched a chicken head each evening for 12 evenings. My dad would watch me work and I always gave him the finished work to look over. He would run his hands over the surface, concentrating on the design and technique. I loved sharing my work with him. And in the afternoons he would come by the front bedroom in his house (I had made it my workspace) and watch me cut and select the applique pieces for that evening's chicken. Later he watched me piece the 13 baskets and start putting it all together. I have it on my wall, right here, where I see it each and everyday. An emotional journal.

We bought some ShamWow! towels at Target on Monday and they have come in handy as the woodstove brick fireplace has water running down the back wall. And I need to keep soaking it up and wringing the towels out into a pail. I called a local woodstove company and they repair chimneys (???) so I have them coming out next week to look see. Probably a cracked flue liner along with a number of broken and cracked bricks on top. I would really like the whole thing removed (even though it is beautiful) as I don't like the woodstove (dirty and smelly), the smoke makes it hard for me to breath (allergy to smoke), and we only use it in ice storms. I would prefer a gas fired stove if we have to have one, and, really, I would rather have windows where the brick fireplace is now. We will settle for the solution that is least expensive. And after the chimney is repaired ( or removed) we will have new roof shingles put up. I think there are a few places near the many skylights where the shingles are leaking. The shingles up there have lasted, in good condition, for 24 years. We'll replace them with the same quality shingles.

And a new furnace. And a new refrigerator. Both because a newer one will be more cost efficient. The furnace is 24 years old and the fridge is 18 years old. And I have hated that fridge for each and every one of the 18 years. As you can see, I will be doing my part to stimulate the economy. Une Balance in everything.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Southern Winds & Warming Sun

The January thaw has arrived. Forty four degrees. I had to take off my hat, my scarf, my gloves and the short down underjacket on the walk today. And then I pulled out the lawn chair and took a short rest in the sunshine.

My photo today was taken many weeks ago and I still haven't cracked the thriller on the left open but I have read parts of this vegetable gardening book. I like it. I might want to own it. It would certainly come in handy if I return to work at the greenhouse (please let me return to work at the greenhouse). Since my wish hasn't been granted yet--I filed online for my next week's unemployment check. I file on Sunday and the check is here in my mailbox on Wednesday. Like magic. Who knew the government could be this efficient?

I have been reading VooDooCafe and really enjoy the way Rice writes. I need to link to this blog but do not have the url handy now that Paula has given me very good (most excellent in fact) instructions on how to "link". That little card was here yesterday...........

Today is Sunday so we are having SOUP. I used the last "broccoli crown" in the veg drawer. Thank heavens it was lurking in there because I didn't have much else to work with. I melted the last few tablespoons of butter and sauteed a diced onion and a big carrot, also diced and the aforementioned broccoli chopped up with the stems diced. I salted and peppered lightly. Added some dry basil and paprika. Then spooned 2 tablespoons of flour in the pot and mixed it in so as to make a roux (of sorts) while the water kettle heated up. I added 2 cups of water and 2 vegetable boullion cubes and let everything simmer till "not raw anymore" which I guess is 10 or 15 minutes on low. I also added one 15 ounce can of corn, drained and one can (same size) of diced tomatoes, drained. That's where we are right now. When it's time to eat, I'll heat the soup up and add 1 pint of light cream (I have some half and half and some milk in the fridge) and 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar. Once the milk and cheese goes in--no boiling or you get vegetables and curds soup. Not as popular around here.

The sausage, mushroom and onion pizza was VERY popular on Friday evening. I browned the sausage first till it was crispy. I don't like juicy meat. I like meat that is dark brown and crispy. I like it past done. G's best friend, Charlie, always asks in diners and restaurants, for "the roast chicken you have in the kitchen, the one that's overcooked and dry and you're planning to pitch". What they serve him is never dry enough. Charlie always starts my hotdogs early and doesn't call me to the grill to pick them up until they are blackened charcoal. Got to love a guy who makes that kind of effort.

My pizza had three slices of bacon, diced and very crispy, red onion and green peppers. Not very interesting (not enough bacon) so I added red pepper flakes after baking. And I tried something new and stretched the ball of pizza dough over my knuckles to make a perfect circular pizza. Chewy crust. I had been rolling it with a rolling pin and it was "breadlike". Stretched over the knuckles is the way to go.

I have surrendered to the knowledge that I have to return to the 1200 calories a day eating plan. I don't want to, but just "trying" to eat right is only resulting in a half pound of weight loss a week. At this rate, I will be doing this for years. I just want it over with. I want the twenty pounds gone by the time I stop wearing my winter clothes.

So I started counting, weighing, adding, multiplying and dividing everything I eat. My blueberry pancakes this morning were already 770 calories so I don't have much to work with for the remainder of today. I made the pancakes because I WANTED THEM and it's best to get those sorts of things out of the way. I also WANTED the nachos I had for lunch yesterday. You can see why I wasn't doing very well on the "honor system".

So all that is now in the past. Not that I eat that way, usually. I tend to eat moderately and am paying for excesses in eating that occurred in the fall and winter at work when I ate bagels and big lunches and bacon pizza and doughnuts and handfuls of fried peanuts. Yes, I did. So now I have to suffer because of all that eating at work. And when I return to work I have to be very careful not to do it again. Or I have to stay home, where I tend to be very good about what I eat. I could blame it all on Kenny. He's the one who kept buying all those pepperoni and bacon pizzas and sharing them with everyone in the lunchroom. I think I will eat in my truck in the parking lot when I return to work. And chew gum.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday-The Day I Don't Walk The Dog

G finally has a day off and he will be walking the dog today. I can rest my left foot. I even got to sleep late today (10 am) and haven't finished my coffee yet. I was reading blogs. The dog usually sighs and sits patiently (for as long as he can) while I read blogs and type comments, and then he comes over and wedges his big head over my left typing hand and pushes until I get his message. Or he goes over and rings the bell we have on the back door.

The sun has been strong this past week, even though it's been very cold (yesterday it was 10 when we walked) and my winter tan is shaping up nicely. I look healthy with a tan and tired and old without one. Paste-y. I drag my cheap lawn chair on to the back "stoop" and settle in for a little sun while Riley digs holes all over the yard looking for buried treasure. There are times when only his butt and tail are still visible. I have to be out there with him when he digs. He's social.

We are having a new pizza (for us) tonight. Italian sausage, mushroom and onion with red pepper flakes. I think my pizza will be onion, green pepper and black olives. I could add bacon. I have bacon in the freezer now as part of the "well stocked freezer". Bacon was on sale (sort of) and I bought 2 pounds. I cut long strips of parchment paper and lay 3 strips of thick cut bacon on the paper and rolled it up and placed the rolls in freezer bags. Very convenient to just pull a roll of bacon out and use it for soup, carbonara or pizza. We're having Italian sausage because a nice package of two butcher shop links was in the "marked down meat" bin when I was in the grocery this week.

What I really want and crave is Nachos. And a Margarita.

I had a good hair day yesterday. Usually my hair has given me a "lunatic" sort of vibe this winter. Standing up and swirling around in crazy patterns. I lost my favorite hat from last winter and have been using a combo of wool and fleece to warm my head. This combo itches and makes my head too hot so I am forever pulling my hat off and putting it back on when my head starts to ice over. Where did my hat go? Probably fell out of my pocket one day last spring while I was digging around looking for a hankie.

Riley expects a treat every time I stop to dig in my pocket looking for that hankie. When I was in kindergarten my mom pinned the hankie to my slip. We had to have, and show, a fresh hankie in school every day. I usually lost mine if it wasn't pinned to my slip. And all notes from home to school or school to home were pinned to my slip. I was a real air head, I guess. My report cards always mentioned my complete lack of attention to what was being done at school. Earth to Joanne? And I didn't get high marks for "playing well with others". But, later, my excellent penmanship got me the honor of writing all the vocabulary lists on the blackboard in third or fourth grade. Perfect s's, r's and t's.

I just sprayed the house with a new bottle of Febreze and I'm not too excited about the smell. Woods and rainwater don't smell like this. I may have to open windows. I think the dog smell was better than this smell.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Surrounded By Beauty

I have been rather forlorn lately. But how can I continue feeling this way, when surrounded, as I am, with beauty and happiness? This blooming Clivia would cause any gardener's heart to race and who couldn't melt when greeted by an enthusiastic dog (waggling his tail)?

Two days ago I was stumped with trying to list 50 things that made me happy. The first item I wrote down was: 1. happy the milk for my oatmeal wasn't spoiled (sour).

I am pleased that you liked my chairs. I like them, too, and I loved seeing the other 12. What I loved most was the stories the chairs told. a simple chair. Really, not so simple at all. and that is truly the artist's gift. To take something ordinary and make it say something just by the way you presented it. And why was it that most of the chair seats were pointed to the right? Is it because that's the way we read? from left to right.

I just finished re reading a wonderful book, "Bread Alone" by Judith Ryan Hendricks. I have enjoyed the seemly effortless style of writing this author has and the way the story progresses in a very natural way. Like real life. I have the sequel waiting for me. After walking the dog.

I was pleased to see the President get out of the White House, even briefly, to read to some second graders with Michelle. He must feel so "TRAPPED". I know he wanted the job, but people aren't co operating (and not telling the truth or paying their taxes) and he can't just go for a walk or go visit a good friend down the street.

The Democrats are so delighted to shoot themselves in the foot. Here was a golden opportunity to be THE party and instead they have given the Republicans so much to work with. Such fools. I'm sorry, but every appointee who has taxes owed should resign. Even the ones already confirmed. If I have to pay, they have to pay. And where was the (Republican led) IRS? If I make a mistake on one year's taxes, the IRS audits all my returns just in case I made the same mistake again. Why didn't they audit the new Treasury secretary? Their new boss. Shameful! Really, I am ashamed to be a Democrat. Tim needs to be unemployed.

The crock pot full of pulled pork was excellent. I served it with steamed broccoli and roasted potato chunks. Which leads me to this "tip". The new Reynolds non stick Release foil is excellent to line your baking sheets. The potatoes browned up nicely and didn't stick (slid right off into the serving bowl). Better yet, this is the fourth time I have used the SAME sheet of release foil. I simply wash it, dry it and return it to the baking sheet (which I also wash and dry). Since it's release foil, nothing sticks to it and it cleans up beautifully. Why throw it away? I wash it while it's still on the baking sheet and then remove it to dry flat on the counter top.

Okay, time to dress in every warm item I own, strap the YakTraks on my boots and walk the dog over snow covered, ice covered, streets. And bag any waste my dog deposits on the very tippy top of the highest snow bank he can find. At times the dog leash is stretched straight up over my head. Like I'm walking a dog kite. No wonder my shoulder aches.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Friend Of Twelve by Twelve -Chairs

Chairs. Here are the two fabric collage chairs that I made for this challenge. Positive and negative images. I painted the green fabric for the chair on the left and cut it out. Later, I thought about using the leftover fabric image layered over the background.

This chair collage has painted fabric times two. The pink"floral" is commercial fabric over painted and marked with a dye pen.

Here the painted green fabric, negative image of the chair, sits on top of the background and I slipped additional fabric scraps under the painted fabric to add interest to the chair legs. I used parts of the enlarged photocopy of the original paper collage and letters cut from the background fabric used in the first fabric chair collage. This chair is a combination of fabric and paper.

I had fun making these two chairs and I enjoyed painting the fabrics, layering the textures and adding hand stitching. I have "plans" to try this style on a few more still life subjects and would like to make a large (45 by 60) chair to see if it translates to a larger size. I haven't been very successful so far in creating larger versions of small works.