Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31st- Pomegranate Salad

My red pears are finally ready to eat.  Perhaps a bit too soft.  So I decided to look for a vehicle in which to eat the pears.  A salad.  I just happened to have, approximately, all the ingredients.  I see that as "good luck".  Lovely way to begin the New Year.  Or end the Old Year.

Edit:  I made the salad and found it too sweet.  Perhaps it does need the tart, crisp apple to be successful.  If I make it again, I will add more cabbage, I didn't add the full 2 cups.  And just vinegar and olive oil.  No honey.

Winter Chopped Salad With Pears, Pomegranate and Apple

4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped (sliced) red cabbage
1 Fuji Apple, cut any way you want
1 Pear, any way you want
1/2 cup Pomegranate arils (seeds)

The dressing is 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 T honey and 1/4 cup good olive oil.

I don't have red cabbage nor an apple.  So I will be using green cabbage and 2 pears.  I do have Pomegranate arils in the fridge.  I bought a pomegranate and cut it in half and then turned it cut side down over a bowl in the sink (splash back) and beat the peel side with a wooden spoon until all the arils had fallen out.  The bowl caught all the delicious juice.  Martha Stewart video.

I had intentions of dropping the arils into a cold glass of champagne.  Still might.

I digress.  Back to the salad.  A coworker has told me about an amazingly delicious salad dressing that she uses on "everything".  Equal parts of good olive oil, Balsamic vinegar and real maple syrup.  If you make this chopped salad.  Use this dressing.  Or the one up top with Balsamic and not red wine vinegar (which to me is always too sharp).  Trader Joe's has a fantastic Balsamic in the chubby 17 oz bottle.  With the nice watercolor of Tuscany on the label.

Things are going very well here.  I am eating my way through the vegetable soup, having the occasional bowl of whole milk Greek yogurt (6 oz.) with red grapefruit segments .  No aged cheese,  no deli ham, no peanut butter, no Muesli with half and half.  Now that I assess what I WAS eating I can see why the pounds do not come off.  I am making a large box of sugar free raspberry jello as soon as I hit publish.  For the sweet tooth.  I may not be thinner but I feel so much "lighter".  It could all be in my head--but who cares, really.  I live in my head so I am content with feeling "lighter".  Imagine it and it will happen.

G and I went to the 4 pm showing of Jack Reacher yesterday afternoon.  Not as much action and violence as G likes and just enough "talking" to keep me happy.  The theater parking lot was completely full when we arrived and when we left.  Our theater was practically empty.  The hallways were empty.  The lobby was empty.  Neither G nor I could understand it.  Movies overlap.  We should have seen more movie goers at some point in our visit.  All we can assume is that everyone was seeing Django.  And that it's a very long movie.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Annual Dog With New Snow Picture

Riley is usually a bit more excited regarding new snow.  This year.  Not so much.  He just sits on the stoop and stares back at me.  Wondering why I don't come outside.  It's cold outside.  Even in the bright sunshine.  No squirrels.  And the biggest source of amusement is the nearby compost pile (we decided to use the one outside the garden this winter) and Riley has decided to jump over the side walls and into the compost bin.  Every time we let him out.

G has been retired an entire week.  We haven't harmed each other.  Yet.  G has been busy.  He added a bit of insulation to the perimeter of the inside basement walls and, of course, he has been kept busy with all the snow.  We are going to the movies this afternoon.  Walking the dog is difficult in the woods.  G has to use snowshoes on the paths and that makes the going slow and tedious.  Riley has to run back and forth between where he wants to go and where G is lagging behind.  So, good exercise for the dog.

The house seems colder than usual this morning.

I filed for unemployment.  Felt like being welcomed by an old familiar friend.  This is the fifth time I have applied.  All the same questions.  All the same answers.  The results are always different.  I wonder what they will pay me this year?  I noticed that the recently unemployed Maine Hostess Cupcake employees are all getting the maximum benefit of $374 a week.   That would be nice. But I get much, much less than that.  But it's something.  Better than nothing, as my dad would say.

I made a nice pot of soup yesterday.  Hit the spot.  I had, probably 5 or 6 cups of soup.  For lunch and then for dinner.  I have more in the fridge for today and tomorrow.  Next time I make it I will add escarole along with the cabbage.  Some bitter greens with the sweet.  The escarole adds a depth to the soup that I enjoy.  I need to make a "soup list" for my next visit to the grocery.  So I have supplies for soup making at hand.  I did add some frozen garbanzo beans to the pot of soup yesterday.  About a cup in total.  So only a few in each bowl but it added a nice balance to all the veggies. I think cannelini beans are lower in carbs so I will buy some of those for future vegetable soups.  I have been finishing off my Cuties in the evenings and eating pineapple chunks before breakfast.  The pears are still very hard but I may just eat them that way.  Less sugar.  I have a serving of Greek yogurt in the fridge with red grapefruit segments.  For lunch or for dessert.  I haven't had any cheese.  Or wheat.  Or eggs. Very little meat.  Not much fat. My rings are loose.  My pants are buttoning very easily.  A vegetarian diet.  A change.

I intend to do some work (research) for the talk  I am scheduled to give in February on Roses.  I also have a Houseplant class to teach on January 26th.  I had wanted to set up a little watercolor station on the table here in the dining room and work on a little watercolor exercise each morning.  I have yet to get started on that.  I think all my paper is upstairs.  I also wanted to work on my friend Gregor's quilt for her youngest grandchild.  I have put that off for too many years.  The blocks are all different sizes (G was having mini strokes while working on the blocks and losing her right brain) and I already took apart and replaced the centers as I really couldn't leave the blocks with the very strange fabric combos. Gregor kept saying she could "see" the work and what she couldn't see was the art.  With the right side of her brain damaged.  I used the fabric she had purchased in the year before her strokes.  A very nice selection, and kept the borders as she had them.  Nice blues and greens.  I just need to lay it all out and figure out how to attach the blocks to each other.  Let someone else quilt it.

Well, I should get started with my day.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Planning To Clean The Fridge

In anticipation of the New Year.  Tomorrow I get to file for unemployment.  Always a thrilling bureaucratic exercise.  G is dressing to go into the crawlspace to insert insulation around the perimeter of the house foundation.  Our daughter did this on her house and pronounced the whole house warmer.  We like warmer over here, also.  So we are giving it a try.

I had yogurt and red grapefruit for dinner last night  (with Bran Buds to soak up excess liquids) and noticed my hands got a bit swollen and other things happened.  I also ate some almonds and started sneezing (it could have been the tangerines?).  Noticing what I eat and what happens after I eat is terribly sad.  These are things I like.  My hands are not swollen this morning.  Ring is loose.

 I had two hamburger patties (over cooked by accident while reading blogs) with the leftover sautéed sauerkraut and onion.  A disgusting breakfast if there ever was one.  But that's Atkins.  I also prepped my pineapple as I am going to be eating more fruit this week.  The pineapple isn't very ripe--so less sugar.  I like puckery fruit.  I also have red pears.  They are very hard.  The softer the fruit the more sugar.  The more sugar, the more carbs.  In case you are wondering why I am doing all this--it seems that an allergic reaction to foods you eat will stop weight loss even if you should be losing weight.  Auto immune something or other.  This has always been the probable cause of my stall.

Family history of allergies is very much something I am taking into consideration.  Eggs, Wheat, Cow's Milk, Beef, Chocolate from my youngest brother as well as drugs and alcohol.   Moldy foods from my mother.  Aged cheeses, mushrooms etc. but she was addicted to sugar and wheat.  My middle brother suffers from a bunch of respiratory and migraine issues.  But I am not speaking to him so I can't ask what foods he may have problems with.  My dad had problems with alcohol.

I was the "chubby" member of the entire family.  Bone thin until I turned 10.  Then "chubby".  Whatever allergy kicked in at 10 years old-- it stayed.  The only way to lose weight was to just eat overcooked ground beef, salads and vegetable soup.  Meanwhile my mother was begging me to eat cream puffs and cake.  She wanted me to be the "chubby" one.

I'm starting on the soup.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thinking About The New Year

More so than usual this New Year as we are now "retired" and have lots of TIME.  Well, some of us do.  Thank goodness for the snow that fell yesterday.  G now has work to do clearing the driveway. We have been trying to stay out of each other's way.  I managed a full day in pajamas yesterday (I was feeling sort of "flu-ish") and G didn't make a suggestion on my getting dressed until dinner when he wanted to go out to eat.  I quietly explained that our weekly Italian dinner out would now be a monthly event.  This always makes me sad.  G loves eating out but at $70 a pop, we just can't do it as often as he wants.  He would give up lots of other things in order to eat out several times a week.  We'll have to discuss what those things are.

My elimination protocol so far today:  No cheese. No wheat. No eggs. Breakfast was two hamburger patties browned with the remaining peppers and onions from Trader Joe's.  I added a half cup of roasted brussels sprouts (but would have enjoyed adding a slice or two of cheese).  Some salt.  Coffee.  The key words here are "so far".

I think we will be going out after G is finished with the driveway.  Then I can pick up my last paycheck from work and buy some fruit.  I am thinking pears and perhaps a pineapple.  I have the remainder of my bag of Cuties to finish.  I do love eating my fruit with Greek yogurt.  See where this is going?????

I spent time this morning reading about "cold wax" mixed with oil paints.  I like the finished product but have noticed that whatever artist is making the cold wax art--they all look the same.  Like old painted surfaces with scratches on them.  Not paintings.  It's like that with any new process, even if this one is actually quite old.  Everyone jumps on and tries it and they all do the same things.  Is it workshop mentality?  I never could understand the workshops where all the students made the very same thing.  I even participated in a few and by lunchtime I was making changes in my work.  I called them "improvements" but they were just changes.  Then I stopped signing up and started teaching.  I never gave anyone a pattern.  There were no "losers" as there was no original to measure against.

Today is actually a beautiful winter day.  The sun is shining from a cloudless blue sky.  The brown earth is covered in crisp white snow.   The black dog is running around making little paths.  Tomorrow another storm.  But, right now?  Beauty.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Elimination Diet

Along with a lovely image from someone's Pin interest collection.  A Boro top and waist wrap.  Which I love.  The stitches and the colorful look of the outfit.  I could "add" dots to plain things and not have to shop around looking for delightful dotted clothing.  Only on top.  No dots below the waist.

I left a comment on a blog which has two lovely low carb recipes that I wanted but lost out on when the site disappeared.  So, I was interested in the reply I got regarding my long, long (never ending weight loss stall).  Food allergies.  There is a family history which I never thought applied to me.  But, perhaps it does.

My brother was allergic to nearly everything.  Eggs, milk, cheese, wheat.  His entire body was covered in a red rash.  Eggs would shut his breathing down and he would come close to dying.  This did not stop him from eating these things.  The doctors, at that time, treated food allergies with monthly shots and steroids.  My brother is no longer with us.

So I did research and found an elimination diet.  On this diet I can eat all fruits (no citrus), all vegetables but none of the nightshades (tomato, eggplant and potatoes), turkey, olive oil and salt and pepper.  For three weeks.  Then I can add one food group for a day.  Stop.  Return to the diet and list any symptoms I have for the next two days.  Runny nose, achy joints, loose bowels. bloating, food cravings, headaches etc.  As I add and test for symptoms I will know what I can't eat.  I already know that wheat and grains give me gas and constipation as do beans, lentils and peas. Eggs, too. So I won't be eating those.  I have a feeling that I will have problems with dairy as well.  My favorite.   I don't see nuts on the list so I will have to go back and read it again.  Nuts are probably not good for me either.  What will I do without peanut butter?

Rice was on the list but it is a bit too closely related to wheat and grains.  I may add some brown rice and see what happens.  That might be my first addition.  Not low carb.

It's sort of like the diet G had when his tummy was sick.  Rice, Banana, Applesauce and Toast.  Minus the toast.  And the rice.  And I haven't had a banana in 2 years.  Sigh.  I actually haven't had any of the four items in 2 years.  Not low carb.  Wish me luck.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Oh, Christmas Tree

Here it is Christmas Eve.  Work is done for both G and I.  The sun is shining.  The tree has decorations. I have a few things to do today.  Not many.  I slept late and guess I needed a bit of extra sleep. No snow.  But no rain, either.

The tree is decorated with things from Christmases past.  Little ornaments I bought years ago (tiny sock monkeys collected on a road trip from Maine to Florida @ Cracker Barrels along the way), things we made when my library coworkers had the annual ornament making party each year.  Anyone with an idea for an ornament brought supplies so we could all make one.  I have them all.  And this year they are on the tree.  No expensive balls or snowflakes.  Just simple and homemade.  And well loved.  I felt myself softening and getting into the spirit as I hung the little stars, horses, lambs etc on the tree.

I was remembering the first Christmas G and I had with our little baby daughter.  We had money enough for a small runt of a tree, a few strings of lights from Woolworth and no decorations.  I wrapped the tiny baby cereal boxes in foil and the bits of ribbons I had and hung the boxes on the tree.  No gifts. We really had only enough for rent, gas and food.  I wish I had kept those little boxes.  They would be a wonderful reminder of how far we have come in forty four Christmases.

I hope you can hang memories and dreams on your tree this year, too.  Stay warm and hug your loved ones. Have a Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Patching Things Together Into A Holiday

The only "Holiday" left at work are the poinsettias in the greenhouse and a small pile of trees out in the nursery.  Everything else has been taken down, boxed and shipped to the warehouse for storage.

 The "boro" image is from the internet.  This is the way I would like to be stitching any fiber work I will be making in 2013.  I would also "like" to be stitching my clothing this way.  I want to wear art.  Actually, I have always wanted to make art and wear it as clothing.  Perhaps it is time to just start doing that.  Learn about construction as I go.  I prefer boxy shapes so how hard could it be????

Today is a very busy day for me.  I have a few out of the house errands and then I have to start cooking.  Pierogi for my daughter.  Possibly making some for my husband as well with a different filling.  She wants cream cheese and he likes a combo of potato and sauerkraut.  Dinner tonight is pork steaks with sauerkraut (finally a dinner I can eat).  The pasta sauce was excellent according to G.  I had a bowl of lentil and baked squash soup when I got home from work along with a few slices of ham wrapped around a piece of cheese.  Getting tired of that meal.

Work yesterday was unbelievable.  It was raining sideways.  Cold.  The wind was making the greenhouse into a horror show of dripping water and horrific noise as the greenhouse panels moved with the wind.  The big lights were on all day but it was still very dark. And I had to water, so I was wet from the knees down. The parking lot was deep in sucking mud.  Here we had one of the busiest of holiday shopping days and the wind and pouring rain (and power failures) kept everyone away.  It's like a tunsami of bad luck for our business.  Plus it was the last day for so many co workers.  We hugged and said "see you in the Spring" hoping that we actually do see each other in the Spring.

The worst part was driving home in the dark and rain.  I think I should be limited (by law enforcement) to dry, daytime driving.  I absolutely could not see where my lane was.  Our Town buys the cheapest stripe paint for the streets.  So I was driving with on coming glare blinding me (my severe astigmatism) and no visible yellow or white lines to guide me to stay in my lane.  White knuckle all the way.  By the time I arrived home (safe) my shoulders were so tight and my head was aching.  Even the hot shower didn't help me feel better.

This has to be a trend for winter in Maine.  At least December in Maine.  Remember when my roof was leaking from all the rain in December and I had to have the guys put on a new roof in the cold?  Was that 2 or 3 Decembers ago.  And I think it rained a lot last year.  I still have green grass.  No wonder it doesn't feel like Christmas.  Of course if all the rain we had yesterday (lots) had been snow--we would be buried under feet of snow, still digging our way out to the road.  Rain is okay.  Better.

I never did any Christmas shopping.  I wrote checks.  Never sent any cards.  I wrote emails.  Still haven't decided to decorate the tree.

Friday, December 21, 2012

View From The Sunroom

I was letting the dog out and thought this "picture" was blog worthy this morning.  It's cold and raining again.  A strange, wet December.  I had just moved the big casserole containing a beef and mushroom red sauce (meant for G's dinner tonight) off the stove top and onto the floor in the sunroom to cool before storing in the fridge.  And then I will go off to work and Riley will go to doggie day care.  It seemed strange at first to be cooking dinner in the early morning.  But it turns out to be a time saver and gets a good meal on the table in little time, especially on the nights I don't get home until late.  It works best when the sunroom is COLD.  As you can see, the temp is 30 degrees out there.

G and I managed to work together and get lights on the tree yesterday.  Somehow, lights seem to make even the oddest looking tree--pretty.  I don't know if I will add decorations.  Maybe.  I do have a strange assortment of handmade items and tiny sock monkeys that I might add to the tree.  For old times sake. This is not a year where I am "feeling" the love of Christmas.  I never made my annual Christmas cards.  We haven't gotten many in the mail.  Two.  Perhaps four.  I don't count the ones from the bank or the septic cleaning people.  Has the time for cards passed?  I remember sending 2 full boxes of cards each Christmas.  My fingers cramping from writing a personal note in each.  Years ago. I only made 10, a limited edition, of my hand made cards, when I did make them.  Now that my dad is gone and my friend no longer wants me in her life and others have drifted away--  the cards just make me sad instead of joyful.

G used his day off wisely and called Social Security, Medicare and our Advantage company.  We are waiting to get new cards with Part B.  Before January 1st.  Social security says they are "in the mail". He also visited his lung doctor to see how much his prescription actually costs.  We need to know for the Part D donut hole.  So, it's $250 a month. And his doctor would like him to keep taking it.  This one prescription will put us right to the edge of the donut hole.  We won't be collecting social security until we reach 70.  This is going to be an interesting financial adventure.

Today is my second to the last day at work.  I said farewell to coworkers I won't be seeing again, this year.  Some I may not see again at work.  It is bittersweet.  But I intend to use my 10 or 11 weeks of unemployment to get some things done.  I say that every year, don't I?  And get nothing done. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Blackboard Love

Ever since a co worker painted a bunch of cut sections of a 4 by 8 piece of plywood with black board paint, I have been "in charge" of changing the items on the boards.  Classes, open house and now holiday sales.  I have five colors of chalk.  The boards have a lively, expressive feeling.  Like a "party".

I am seeing chalk boards all over right now--especially in home decorating.  It seems like all the designers are painting one wall or a door or a something and letting everyone express themselves with chalk.  Menu, to do list, pictures and here--problem solving.  The guys on Big Bang use dry erase white boards.  I wish they used black boards and chalk.  My recent Pottery Barn catalogs had chalk drawings behind the sideboard in the dining room.

And, of course, my fabric art is getting a bit of "chalk" treatment as well.  I draw on the black fabric and then stitch on both sides of the chalk lines with my machine.  A simple straight stitch.  Some of the chalk disappears and some remains.  I am also going to paint a few pages in my journal with black gesso and use my new chalk pens to draw designs on those pages.

I am not as exhausted as I thought I would be today.  I got almost no sleep last night.  A combination of an active mind, coffee and chocolate and a stuffed up nose.  I stumbled out of bed and around the house in the dark to finally take an allergy tab.  It must have been 4 or 5am by then.  Alarm rang at 6.  So I slept for 90 minutes???

Still cold today but not 32 degrees.  Rain, snow and later tonight rain and sleet, but it all melts when it hits the ground.  Delightful.  And warm again tomorrow.  The parking lot at work is squishy, slippery mud.  Waiting for someone to get stuck driving their cars into that mess.

The person who received my Secret Santa gift loved the warm, soft scarf I gave her but intends to save it for special occasions.  I told her to "wear it" and not save it.  You can't wear out Isotoner products.  I have 20 or 30 year old gloves that still look good.  I just wish they kept my hands warmer.  My fingers are so cold--all the time.

I am making cake mix cookies today to take to work.  A second batch for G to eat.  DH chocolate fudge cake mix (dry) mixed with 2 eggs, 1/2 cup melted butter (one stick), 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 t vanilla.  Mix well and then add 1 cup of chocolate chips.  I am adding white chocolate chips to G's and chocolate chips to the ones I take to work.  You can also add 1/2 cup nuts.  If I skip the nuts, I add more chips.   Drop by the tablespoon on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12 minutes for chewy and 14 for crisp cookies.  Cool 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving to a cooling rack.  I always forget to wait and the cookies get all smushed.  Still delicious but not pretty.

No cookies for me.  I did find a website with all of Candice's cookie recipes (Ticklemysweettooth) on another blog so there is no excuse for not making some SF low carb cookies.  But.  I don't want to start eating cookies.  I have plenty of SF jello to keep the sweet tooth happy.  I discovered that my 85% Lindt chocolate bars are VERY BITTER.  I have tried mixing them (melted) with any number of things and I can't get it"sweet".  I have ten bars.  I think I will definitely be making a flour less chocolate cake with the bars.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Heavy Sadness

I am struggling to find my footing.  I have a tree that needs lights.  I have cookies to bake. I have soup to make now that it has snowed for the first time this winter.  Yet, here I sit.  Just staring at nothing.  The world is such a hurtful place right now.  I can't watch or read any more about the poor children. There is a funeral mass about to start (here in my town) for the son of someone I have known for many years.  I remember checking books out to this young man when I worked at the library.  He must have been 6 or 7. A young adult now.  Perhaps in college.

This must be how my dad felt in those last years.  Watching people younger than he, dying before him.

I will do what I can today.  Tomorrow it's back to work.

It's now a few hours later:  I am working on the cookie dough.  Snickerdoodles.  The Lentil soup with Pumpkin is the strangest I have ever made.  The organic green lentils are still "crispy" to the tooth and even the carrots are crunchy.  Been simmering for over an hour and I keep adding water to help things along.  The is a great deal of ingredients  to trash if the lentils don't get soft.  Might be my last time to buy "organic".

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Friend of Twelve by Twelve - Sweet

It's come to an end.  The five year adventure that I decided to "follow along".  This has been quite a five years for me.  I have changed.  My work has changed.  And I wouldn't trade a minute of it.  Best decision I ever made--to just jump in, and best commitment -- I stuck with it.   And I usually don't.

This piece was whole cloth (the back side of some very cheap Walmart black), chalk, and slim pickings out of the wastebasket of my own painted fabrics and the last bit of the discharged black.  One piece of commercial fabric (the one with text).  A few little cross stitches to hold back folds and French knots.  A sweet thank you to a dear friend who got me started blogging (the line drawing of a stem of flowers).

I don't think I can say much more.  I would start crying.  Not because I am sad but because my heart is filled with thankful happiness to have shared this adventure.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It May Be Christmas, But I Am Thinking About Gardening

This little calendar is for sale at my work.  I love it because it feels like something I "should" have made myself.  Little watercolors of the things I love.  Garden things.  And pickles.  I finished off the last three pickle halves in the half gallon jar of refrigerator pickles this weekend.  I only made the one jar.  The recipe is one that my mother and father made (in their separate homes) each summer.  My mom always had a plate of these pickles on the dinner table, no matter what was being served for dinner.

I wore my boots and used my trowel to plant 80 daffodils and 60 tulips in my daughter's garden.  And, I reverted to my favorite summer breakfast this week.  Tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with lots of good olive oil and Balsamic vinegar.  My grocery even put the tomatoes on sale this week.  Helping me to decide to continue eating tomatoes and cheese for a second week.

I found squash with a "certified" Kabocha Squash label.  They look very similar to the ones I have been baking and eating since before Thanksgiving but these have their name on them.  The real deal. I am looking forward to making a kabocha/lentil soup to take to work next week.  There are canned tomatoes, onions and carrots in the soup with some Spanish spices (saffron).  I found it in my weekly gardening newsletter from AWayToGarden.  I don't know which lentils to use.  I have red ones and black ones.  I don't have any of the cheap beige ones I usually cook soup with.I could go and buy new lentils.  I have to go shopping anyway as G asked me to make chicken soup and I need carrots, celery, garlic and noodles for that.  Soup always starts out the same.  Onions, celery, carrot.

Now that it's the season for latke, I am wanting potato pancakes.   I can't remember what time of year my mother made potato pancakes.  Was it Easter Eve?  She served them with tuna salad made with onions, celery and canned peas.  Really.  Christmas Eve was potato and sauerkraut pierogi.  Which reminds me that I have to tune up the pasta maker and make a double batch of cheese pierogi for my daughter for Christmas Eve.  I may even make some for G.  I LOVE them but they are SO not something a low carber can eat.

My Christmas tree is in the stand, out on the sidewalk in front of my porch.  Not in the house.  Yet.  The tree looks miserable and it's not what I thought it was.  Too tall.  Too Thin.  Too Sad.  My daughter had the same experience on Saturday.  She was so disgruntled (we both had our "dream" trees last Christmas so this is especially hard for us) while looking at trees that the tree guys (at my job) wouldn't come out of the tree shack to approach us. They took one look and listen and backed up and ran for the shack.  Because I am her mother (and possibly responsible for her behavior) I stayed out there and held up every wild tree (several times each) until she decide to take the best looking runt home.  Having a bad tree is sometimes a life learning lesson for those of us who love a perfect tree.

I ordered a seed catalog from Johnny's Seeds.  I stare wistfully at my closed down vegetable garden (all covered in leaves) and must wait patiently until March.  I will be saving seeds from my certified kabocha squash and from these breakfast "Backyard Tomatoes" grown hydroponically here in Maine.  And tending my citrus trees.  And waiting (for a long time) for my amaryllis bulbs to begin sending up leaves and flowers.  Only 90 days.  And Spring will be here.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Why Does It Always Rain On My Day Off?

I had (well, I still have) plans for today that included planting daffodils and tulips in my daughter's back yard.  I have on warm, heavy clothing in preparation for going over there and digging holes.  I can't wait.  The weather could decide to change into winter at any moment.  Here it is December 8 and the ground is still not frozen.  In Maine.

My Christmas Tree is still leaning up against the garage.  We still don't know if it's too tall.  We still have no twinkly lights in the house to suggest there might be an upcoming holiday in a few weeks and I am thinking I may not put any ornaments on the tree this year.  I just don't want to fool with them and G has no real love for Christmas.  I don't intend to do any shopping other than for my Secret Santa at work.  I will send money and let everyone buy their own.  I do need to buy new bones for Riley's Christmas and it would be nice if I could find a new puzzle ball for him.  The ones you fill with treats and the dog has to roll and chew to get the treats out of the ball.  He certainly likes the one he has but it's sometimes too easy to get the treats.  He likes to work on it so a more difficult ball would be fun.  And there is always the peanut butter Kong.  Christmas is easy for Riley.

I don't need anything but I think I may look for a cashmere wrap.  Something nice to throw over my shoulders when we go out.  To keep drafts off my neck and shoulders.  I still have Christmas presents from two years ago that are in the boxes--unopened and unused.  One is a pasta maker.  Isn't that a useless gift to ME.  From ME.  I can't even remember what the second one is and there is nothing of interest in the cookware catalogs that I want or need.  I certainly don't need clothing or candy.

I should bake some cookies.  To send to my son.  I need a cookie tin to fill and then mail.  This week would be a good time to get that done.  And bake some cookies for work.  I can't decide what to get for my Secret Santa.  I'll have to ask my daughter for an idea.  She helped me last year and the gift was a BIG hit.  I describe the person and she comes up with a few gift ideas.  What a skill.

G has all the electronic stuff he needs.  He got the iPhone and iPad last Christmas.  He still wants a new TV but the old one (purchased in 1988) is still working.  And I don't think I like watching TV on those odd, wide screens.  In other people's homes, the wide picture is always slightly blurry.  I think I would lose all the pleasure the picture we have now, gives me.  Even here on the computer screen, I dislike going with the full screen view.  It makes my eyes and my head ache.  This computer screen could actually BE a screen where I watch DVD's but I would have to roll my chair about ten feet away.

I should just get started with today's list of things to do.  The bulbs, the grocery, the library books, the shirt ironing, the changing of bed sheets, the laundry, washing the dog towels and making G's pizza for dinner tonight.  I made the dough last night before going to bed.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fairy House Display

My employer purchased Fairy House/Garden supplies at the spring show and they arrived just before Christmas.  Most of the tiny furniture was sold already and I wanted to make the display "cuter" so I brought in the fairy house I had made many years ago out of a simple cardboard box, glue, twigs and dry autumn leaves.  The roof is shingled with sugar pine cone "petals".  I got the idea for the house from the elaborate houses at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens which I saw on Martha Stewart.

The BBG has replicas of famous buildings and landmarks made from plywood and coated with leaves, twigs etc and then coated thickly with resin.  To protect the buildings.  They are arranged on an elaborate landscape with hills and "woods" with many trains running through the "town".  Small trees and shrubs landscape the terrain.  You may be able to search for this on the internet and see it for yourself.  I don't have the time to learn how to insert such a link.  Going to work in minutes.

I wanted to try the idea out on something small and quick before attempting a large building.  I had planned to add a building to the front landscape area of my house (under the mugo pine).  I did manage to provide the children at our Town library with a program where they made fairy houses out of pint cream cartons (which already had a pitched roof) before giving up on this project and starting work on the original Spooky House made out of a cardboard box.  Also, thanks to Martha Stewart.

In fact, I was always talking about creative things I had learned from Martha Stewart that my friends, at the time, expected to arrive at my house to see that I had elaborately stenciled my driveway.  Whenever I would see a MS program where Martha was sewing something (with the iron at hand for pressing seams, I was overcome with desire to sew.  She just made sewing on a sewing machine seem like such a WONDERFUL experience.  Nothing like the experiences I shared with my machine.

I would wander down the hall and look at my machine and ask it "why" it had to be so stubborn.  Broken threads, wads of knots in the bobbin, broken needles, gathered seams when I expected smooth flat ones.  So much anguish.  None of the serene bliss of watching Martha sew seams and make scarves, pillow covers and other lovely things.  I now have an excellent machine and better thread.  The machine and I still have our "moments" when nothing goes right, but I know to walk away.  More often things are lovely when I sew and my Bernina and I are happy.  Not as happy as Martha, but happy.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

This Is Where I Work

A bit like working in Santa's Workshop isn't it.  This was taken on a cloudy day with all the big greenhouse lights on but it still looks amazing and colorful.  I just love standing at the top of the walkway and looking down on the riot of color.  The smell of balsam makes it all seem so very Christmasy.  I'm very lucky to have this job and be able to work in the "big house".

Today was finally very busy at work.  I was very "in demand" and got to answer questions and be helpful most of the time.  After work I planted tulips in the front garden bed.  Nothing like waiting till the very last minute is there?  Good thing it was in the 50's the past few days with light rain.  Any frost in the ground was gone.  Still.  It was hard on the butt and knees.  I didn't think I would be able to stand up at the end. There I was, on my knees on the sidewalk, nothing to hold onto to get up.  That's when you actually know you are 66.  I did get up on my feet.  Herculean effort.

My pants are fitting better.  At least this pair of cords is fitting better.  I'm not in the mood to go trying the others on.  I am making a strong effort to limit carbs in my diet. I did find little bottles of liquid Sucralose at the grocery (NEW).  The Splenda packets have dextrin and other powders which add carbs but not calories.  This liquid is pure sucralose in water.  Zero carbs. Zero calories.  I am getting used to it.  I think I may be able to have hot tea again.  The additives made the tea taste weird. The company that makes Splenda refuses to sell the liquid in the US.  I think it is available in Canada and Europe.  Or it was.  I have to practice with the squirt bottle.  I had hoped it would dispense by drops.  Easier to control.

I bought six little bottles.  I learned my lesson with those lovely squash I liked so much.  Don't expect the product to EVER be available again.  Buy it when you see it.

Working down to a "seasonal furlough" is quite different that what is happening with G.  He is working down to retirement, working side by side with his replacement.  Watching as so many things are being changed, right in front of him.  It has to be difficult.  He seems quieter each evening as he comes home from work.  Not that he wants to continue working.  It's just a passage in life that he has to get through.

Well, we are going out to dinner.  I have nothing to prepare into a meal.  Bad shopping on my part.  Plenty of stuff for my diet but nothing to use to make dinner.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Bringing The Plants Indoors

On Saturday G and I hauled all the houseplants (that had summered outdoors and then chilled on the sunporch until it got down to 25 degrees) into the house and found them homes up on top of the cabinets.  I will take a picture of all the citrus trees lined up on top of the Kitchen Altar next time.  The sun is shining this morning, so a good time to take a picture.  It's been dark, wet and cold for the last week or so.  We have Christmas cactus, lavender , bay laurel and rosemary from left to right.  Everything is in a container, saucer or Walmart boot tray to keep water off the cabinets.

See my 26 year old microwave "custom built" into the cabinets?  Can't replace it with a new one.  No one makes a cabinet mount microwave anymore.  When it dies (and it is slowly losing the ability to regulate temperature), I will have a big ugly hole where it once was built in, and no tiles to fill the space.  These cabinets were custom.  I don't have a tall set anywhere else in the kitchen to replace this short set.  Actually, I have a large selection of cabinets in all sizes but none that match any of the others.

Wait until you see a photo of the Kitchen Altar.  Where the stove resides.  Isn't this a waste of space?  Those are the citrus trees up on top.  The back of this altar is a wall in the room we now use as a dining room.  I think it was supposed to be a great room.  It's just a big wall that sits there in the middle of a huge cathedral ceiling room.  The kitchen island is directly in front of the stove across from the wall of cabinets in the top photo.  No stove hood or vent which is why I have a fan up on top and a can of room freshener on the counter.  My Kitchen Aid mixer lives in the bottom right cupboard (next to the knife block) with it's very own outlet.  The cabinets have nothing much in them, up top.  The bottom cabinets are full of pots and pans.  I dream of knocking this whole damned wall down and making the island double it's width and length and adding a sink and dishwasher to the island and putting the stove where the microwave now lives. With a vent hood. And buy lots of drawer cabinets. Only drawers.  Oh, I have lots and lots of expensive plans.  Sigh.  I need a better paying job now that G is retiring.

Just as I was getting used to cold, wet and dark, the weather shifted.  I drove to work Sunday morning on ice slick roads with sleet covering my windshield.  I drove home, in the dark, in a misty fog where visibility was nearly zero.  When I went to bed it was a balmy 50 degrees and raining.  Twenty more days until this year's work is finished and G is retired.

And I picked out a Christmas Tree.  D (at work) thought it was 12 feet tall.  I measured (with yardstick) and came up with 10 feet. G thinks its 12 feet. Men. My ceiling in the living room is 8 feet.  I have no problems removing as much from the top as necessary to have a very fat, full bottom on the tree.  Plenty of "boom, boom".  I had just about given up on having a tree this year.  The pickings in wild trees was slim.  Wild trees are trees that no one has clipped or cut into nice shapes.  They have bare spots and are leggy, fat, weird and totally like trees out in the woods.  They have personality, spunk and a bit of homely charm.  And they are cheap.  Last year's fat bottomed tree was a total delight.  I loved it.

I am living in a state of confusion right now.  My summer pants were very loose.  Then I started wearing the cargo pants from Spring 2008 to work and they fit with no wedgies.  Now I am moving into my winter pants (cords (2008) and jeans (2008)) and nothing fits.  They fit last winter.  Now they are too snug in the waist.  Why?  That's what I am asking myself since I am still fitting into the cargo pants just fine.  Things that usually didn't fit--fit and things that usually DID fit, don't. Crap!

Needless to say.  I am backing away from the very few carbs I was eating and upping the fat in my diet.  I even had eggs for breakfast (yuck) and salads for lunch.  I am combing the websites for support and food ideas.  I think it is easiest to just have two or three things and eat as much of that for the 2 weeks it will take to get the waistband loose again.  It's not like I was eating CRAZY or anything.  Clothing is the devil.  Especially pants.

I never got around to reading my books.  My after work showers put me into a coma.  I nearly fell asleep in the shower yesterday.  Today I have the dining room table to clean and the house to make look presentable.  The medicare supplement  "person" is coming to interview us on Thursday.  G has the paperwork for Medicare Part B ready to mail (our employer's office manager finally got it filled in and signed).  I think a visit to the SS office is in our future plans in 2013.  This retiring is such a mess of paperwork and tension.  My tummy is in knots with worry.  Will we outlive our money? Sigh.