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.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Carrot News

I met person who owns my 10x10 carrots.  Her husband purchased the Carrots for her anniversary gift at the Arts Are Elementary fundraiser in October.  And today, I introduced myself to her while she was visiting the greenhouse and doing some shopping.  This is the 12x12 version of the Carrots (the 10x10 image is blurry).

The fascinating thing about this chance conversation (is anything actually by chance?) was that when the new Carrot owner placed the Carrots above her mantle---all the other odd bits of purchased art (drawings, watercolor etc) came together.  My art had completed the ensemble.  And over the holidays a large, exuberant bunch of bittersweet looked perfectly at home as well.  The carpet, in hues that matched the Carrots (but hadn't been noticed before), was also brought to life.  How extraordinary.

The new owner of my Carrots was able to do something I hadn't been able to do.  She went back, at the end of the evening, to see what had not sold and try and figure out why. To better study the kind of art people purchase.  I did do my own research matching the list of sold pieces to the images on the website.  Not as good as seeing them in person, but still a valuable learning tool.

Updates, Please

I get comments from readers and when I try to reply--I get my mail returned to me.

Di-Tri-Ing.  Island quilter is what comes back.

I enjoy replying to your comments ( quite a lot) so it helps to have a proper, working, email address. My email is

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's A Poinsettia World @ Work

I keep forgetting to take my camera to work so you can see how amazing the greenhouse looks right now.  All red, white and pink.  Loaded.  And the balsam from the wreath decorating makes everything smell like Christmas.

Not that I spent any quality time in the greenhouse today.  I played "hide&seek" doing gift shop transfers from our store to the "mother" store.  The written cues aren't all that great so it's hard to find stuff without looking at the tiny sku numbers on the price tags.  I got sidetracked looking for tiny snowmen ornaments .  But, I managed to learn how to do transfers in the computer.  I did five and on the last one--I did it without looking at my notes.  And, I managed to work calmly at the cash register through a mild "rush", while answering the phone.  It was all good.

Today is G's birthday.  We are the same age again.  He spent it:  1. having the house wired to receive power from a generator  2.  Replacing the springs in his garage door opener   3.  Cleaning the house and vacuuming  4.  Walking the dog.  When it's time to eat, we'll be going out to the restaurant of his choice.

We got a delivery of heating oil.  $370 for a really cold house.  But I think the bill is for 3 months.  And I didn't turn the heat on until near the end of October.  I decided that I don't care about the cold house (much) but I do value the hot water in my daily shower.  I have tried to decide how much each shower is worth, to me.  What would I pay for my shower each day?  Right now it's $12 per shower if I divide by 30.   $6 per shower if I figure it on a 60 day use of the oil or $4 for 90 days.

I have decided that the $11 a day I pay for Doggie Day Care for Riley is worth the price.  Not every day but the days when G and I are both working.  Three days a week.  I had been paying for DDC out of my check from work.  It was like I worked one hour (plus) to take care of Riley.  This is how I decide how far I will drive to any job I take.  I decide how much something is worth to me in time or money.  I hardly know when this happened.  When I started deciding things by how much I was willing to spend on it.

 I do know that eating out at restaurant--G's favorite thing to do--- is hardly ever worth it.  The food is never as good as the price we are asked to pay.  The service is rarely anything we should "tip" for.  The presentation of said food is okay at best and I truly hate having the main course served while we are still eating our salad or appetizer.  I think the wait person deserves a tip if everything is served in it's own time.  We aren't left feeling rushed.  Can you tell I am ambivalent about tonight's dinner out?

It's cold today.  Snowing every once in awhile.  Colder tomorrow.

I had my hair cut a little different yesterday.  Longer on top.  The same all around the sides and back. It feels and looks more different than I thought it would.  I like it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What The Body Wants

Here is a bit of something from a guy who is fighting the same battle I am.  Low carb diet to control weigh regain.  We have both successfully lost 60 to 80 pounds and kept most of it off for over five years.  This in nothing short of a miracle.  Really.  Almost all lost weight is regained in 2 to 3 years.  Usually quicker as the body regains the upper hand, so to speak.

Here's what my cyber friend has to say:

On Thursday I was 197. Today, just 2 days later, I am 205. The ability to gain 8 pounds in 2 days is a remarkable feat, and has to do with my body thinking that my weight is far to low for its comfort. In reality, my body decided long ago that I should be at least 250 pounds and while I have kept it from that number for many years now, my body has never been in agreement with me on this, and the past two days – when I have given it the opportunity through providing it what would be considered a ‘normal’ amount of daily carbohydrates (300 grams per day), it has taken the opportunity to go for the gusto and start to rebuild my fat stores back to what it deems appropriate.
My body and I will never see eye-to-eye on this. And to prevent my body from following the course it is most content with, I will need to maintain a low carb diet for the rest of my life. I have known this for many years now – I can just point to the past 2 days as to a concrete example as to why I believe this is true.

His problem, this week, was a birthday and a holiday.  And a few days off from work.  Plenty of time, and a lack of a schedule, to indulge in food.  Which he loves.

I tried, in vain, to substitute low carb things for higher carb Thanksgiving menu items with a low degree of success. For the past two days I have added a scant 1/3 cup of normal stuffing to my leftover plate of turkey and vegetables.  The small taste was enough to make me think I was celebrating a holiday.  And the resulting gastrointestinal discomfort is enough to make me forego this in future years, no matter how much I love stuffing.  

I am astonished to learn that my body can't digest wheat or most grains.  Remember the "farty" cereal of the olden days of eating low calorie?  Still farty.  LOL.  Easy enough to pass up these "treats" as the results are not what I would call "socially acceptable".   Sugar, on the other hand is something I just say NO to rather easily.

I was trying to remember what bread and pasta taste like the other day (a dangerous pursuit).  Not that I wanted any, but it seemed so strange to not remember what they taste like or feel like when being chewed.  Two food items I practically EXISTED on.  I guess I am farther along this new evolutionary  path than I had expected.  Which is very good news.  Thanksgiving is TOTALLY a FOOD HOLIDAY and the most difficult to get past. I am glad that most of my favorite dishes are the vegetables.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Daughter Cleaned My Kitchen Counters

After Thanksgiving dinner.  And I am loving the empty, bare, clean look of my counter tops.  In "real life" there is always stuff on these counters.  And, in case you are wondering, this photo was taken with me in the computer chair and the camera on the very edge of the center island facing the back garden.

The little sticks are my white orchids.  I didn't intend to have 9 white orchids.  I tried buying colored ones but in the end, I seem to only be able to keep the white ones alive.  And they are ALIVE.  Been blooming since last winter.  Always have flowers.  Amazing, but true.

The round orbs are glitter balls.  The original intent was to replicate the polka dot lights spinning around a shop I adored, Brambles.  The sunlight refracted off the little mirrors on the balls and the entire interior of the shop was washed in swirling white dots of light.  It was dreamy.  I don't have enough mirrored balls, nor do I have the right amount of light coming into the windows.  I can only have floating dots when I get the orbs to move.  They stop moving--no more dots.  Perhaps the dots swirled at Brambles due to customers entering and departing and making waves.

The little iron moon with a bell to the right of the window was a Zen thing I purchased during my Japanese Zen period.  I like it and moved it into the house.  Used to be outside the front door near the Indian Goddess that my neighbors think is a Buddha.  I do have a new Buddhist monk (on my bedroom dresser) that I could put on the table by the front door.  He looks more Buddha-like except his hands are in prayer.  So a monk not a Buddha. You have to know these things when buying statuary.

Somehow, quite randomly, I now have items in place that reflect a rather meditative decorative style, if not personality.  I just wish this personality would manifest itself with better housekeeping.  I am happier, calmer and more creative when everything is neat and all surfaces are clean and bare.  Hardly ever the case.  No wonder I am usually crabby.

I found a website with Watercolor 101 posts.  Now I want to go searching for my watercolor supplies (which I know are buried under tons of crap) and fill all the little paint pans with paint and arrange my brushes with the tips on a rolled towel.  Then I can practice washes, dots and drags.  Since the dining room table top is also clean and bare; it seems like a good time to prepare for winter painting practice. I am going to the library and the bank this morning, so I can purchase a pear.  My "model".  Or an apple.

My cranberry sauce finally jelled.  But the SF orange jello was a flavor miscue.  Next time, no jello.  The orange overpowers the cranberry.  I know!  How can anything overpower cranberry?  I have a large amount of the stuff to eat.  Perhaps I will enter it into the disposal sooner rather than later.

I also sorted my sock basket.  Summer socks are now on the bottom and winter socks and work socks are on top.  I feel better.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Day After Thanksgiving

Yesterday was non stop cooking and cleaning, in my pajamas, until just before setting the table for a later than usual dinner.  G had to drive to work to fax something and the turkey waited until he got home for it's bath and prep to go into the oven.  

The turkey @ almost 15 pounds had very little meat on it's very large and heavy bones. What there was was wonderful.  I ate the dark meat off both legs so my family could have all the white. We three had generous portions (one each) and I have almost nothing to serve tonight with the leftover sides.  I do have two wings and two thighs which I plan to crisp up in the oven and serve.  Unless G has pizza before I get home from work.

The ONLY low carb menu item that worked was the green bean casserole. My experimental cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie were all disgusting failures and went down into the disposal.  G and S had the real, original versions.  My gravy was super delicious.

 Next year I plan to have the smallest possible "tasting" serving of the forbidden foods.  And stop trying to make subs.  I KNOW I will never be eating the way I used to--ever again.  Low carb without sugar and wheat is the way my life is going to be forever.  So I need to just stop trying to make "fake" food and learn to eat the things that are good for me.

That baked squash turns out to be VERY good for me.  Just had it for breakfast with butter and cinnamon. I finally looked up the nutritionals. Six net carbs for a big CUP of the stuff.  The oatmeal was so much higher and had too many sugars.  And only 40 calories for the cup serving of the squash.
Now, I worry I won't be able to find it the next time I go shopping.  It would make me happy to be able to eat baked squash and butter for breakfast all winter.  And I seem to have lost some flabby fat around my waist in the last few weeks.  I wore a pair of slim fitting medium LL Bean black stretchy cords last night (from the old days).  And I didn't look like I was wearing a sausage casing.

Back to work today with a packed lunch of Greek yogurt and red grapefruit sections.  I really like the taste combo of the creamy yogurt and the spicy grapefruit.  And I am getting so good (and efficient) at sectioning the grapefruit  and getting segments with absolutely no pith. Practice does make perfect in some things.

Hope the holiday was a happy one for all of you.  I still haven't had a moment to even open any of the books on my side table.  I think they will all be returned unopened, unread.  But there is always January and February.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Picadillo Recipe

I started making this when I was living in Germany.  I think I served it as a sort of starter with corn chips or as a casserole with corn chips and perhaps sour cream.

2 pounds ground beef browned well with one large onion, diced, and 3 T oil.

After browning (and removing extra beef grease) add one large diced tomato (I added two 14 ounce cans of diced tomatoes because it seemed dry), 2 mashed cloves of garlic

Then add the spices: 4 T vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, pinch of ground cloves, half teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons salt (could be less) 3/4 cup raisins.

Simmer gently for 30 minutes and then add 1 cup blanched, slivered almonds and I cup of green stuffed olives (salty).   Heat thru.

I had it just like this in a bowl for dinner last night and it "needed" something to be a complete meal.  I may add some of the garbanzo beans I cooked last month and put into the freezer.

It is very salty because of the olives.  But, for me, salt is good as it forces me to drink water and, right now, I am dehydrated (muscles cramping).

Feel free to add tomato sauce or salsa to this.  I remember it being more saucy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Five Weeks

That's how many weeks till Christmas for all of us.  And it's how many weeks until my Pajama Sabbatical from work.  Guess which one I am counting down to?  It is being made especially tense because G will be retiring on the same day I stop working.  We have Medicare to get settled and try and figure out how we are going to pay for stuff.  Big stuff always happens around the holidays it seems.  Makes it all so tense.  Less joyful. 

The image on top of the screen is my "in progress" Doodle which I began at the last Art Club meeting. I had made a few in years past and included newspaper text (the legal classifieds) as another texture in the Doodles.  I liked it and think I may do the same in this one.  In the larger areas.  Most of the Doodles I watched on YouTube used floral images.  I think that is too feminine.  For me.

My plan for today is to finish the laundry, iron the shirts resulting from that laundry, go to the bank to deposit four paychecks and my 10x10 check and READ.  I have an idea for making Piccadillo with ground beef, tomatoes, green olives, almonds, raisins and spices if I can find the recipe I used and loved in the 1980's.  G doesn't like it so I will be the only one eating it.  Sounds like a good work lunch.  Now that it's cold, a good warming lunch is nice.  And I could also eat it after work for dinner.

The greenhouse is now filled with Christmas.  Poinsettias.  Cyclamen.  Norfolk pines.  Christmas cactus in very unChristmas colors like salmon, white and yellow.  We even have supplies for Fairy Houses.  Watering is time consuming.  Balsam greens are being used to make the Holiday boxes and wreaths over on the Christmas table in the back of the greenhouse.  So the smell of balsam is a lovely background for my work days.  Balsam needles in my clothes--not so special.

Our Open House was well received.  We were actually busy.  The Christmas Trees aren't here yet and that will make the days more interesting.  We'll have more "boys" working the tree yard.  And our annual Secret Santa is always fun.  I think a nice potluck lunch once a week would be nice.  Nothing big and not all of us cooking every week, but a day set aside to bring in something to share.  Or not.  I have to order my "tall, fat, wild" tree.  A large bottomed tree.  Like me.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fat People Are Like Snowflakes

All different.  I have been asked to just "be happy" with myself as I am and not to focus on my goal weight or the size of my clothing.  I have read an article on a dieter who, after many struggles and the loss of 100's of pounds, is still OBESE.  My weight falls in the "High Overweight" BMI range.

The BMI chart.  I lost 80 pounds in 2007.  I went from obese to overweight.  I would have had to lose another 20 pounds to get to the high end of Normal.  I looked like a dead woman walking at minus 80. No one wanted me to continue.  And I was unhappy and angry.

Guess what?  Losing the weight hadn't magically made me any happier.  I started eating as I had always eaten and, because I eat a good healthy diet, it took three and a half years for me to pile on 40 pounds. It has now taken 18 months for me to lose half of that.  I am guessing as I don't have a scale.  It has been many, many months since I experienced any weight loss.  I am maintaining which is a VERY GOOD THING in weight loss.

I am writing about this since the reasons for the weight loss, weight gain and maintenance is all a great big problem in this country.  Something is wrong.  With humans.  With the food we eat.  With the manufacturers of clothing.  With the images we see of ourselves and others in media.

We are making ourselves sick.  Or crazy.

IF I ate the very same foods (I have my food diary from all of 2007) today and for the next months, I would probably gain weight.  Not lose weight.  Crazy, isn't it?  I know it is.  I HAVE tried it.

I try, all the time, to seek a more normal way of eating.  And by normal, I mean eating things that everyone else eats.  Simple things like oatmeal, bananas, apples, butternut squash or white potatoes. Yes, those are the simple things I try adding to my food list.   Not pizza or loaves of bread, donuts or cookies. Never pasta.

 I have had oatmeal for breakfast for as many days as it takes to empty the large box of Quaker oats.  The waistband on my pants is snugger.  I am not as comfortable wearing the pants I have worn for months.  Nothing else in my diet has changed.  Just oatmeal.  I will not be buying another box.  I will give up on thinking I can eat oatmeal for breakfast like I did everyday in all of 2007 and lost 1 to 2 pounds a week.  Like clockwork.

This morning I had baked squash for breakfast.  With butter and cinnamon.  We'll see.

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Embarrassment Of Riches

Books.  And more Books.   I ordered the newest of the new, expecting a long wait, as usual, but everyday the e-mail lets me know another book has arrived.  I have to take some back (unread) to make room for others.  I can always order the returned books, again, later.  I have waited over 18 months for Phantom by Jo Nesbo.  That one stays here.  It's like choosing your favorite child.

Work, yesterday was very good.  The wreaths have arrived and we added bows and pinecones.  I must have over ordered the houseplants and I have five trays to unpack and set out today unless a co worker has already done it.  Open House tomorrow and Sunday.

G and I went to the afternoon showing of Skyfall yesterday after I got home from work.  It was good.  Not great.  Too long.  And Bond looked ill.  Thin, haggard and listless.  Perhaps Daniel Craig isn't feeling the love for Bond anymore???  He did all the fights and stunts but it seemed more like he was just putting up with it all and not enjoying any of it.  "When it crumbles, when it falls"

After the movie we went to Ruby Tuesday to use our coupon.  The food was okay.  Service was okay. Food presentation on the plate was terrible and sloppy as usual.  And portions were skimpy as usual.  I think the only reason anyone still goes there to eat is the coupon.  We have two more coupons and I really don't see us using them.  A new Panerra is being built next door.  The hole is being dug right now.  The Town wanted an Olive Garden.  As we drove thru Town we looked into the windows of the restaurants we passed.  Lots and lots of empty tables.  And, of course, the number of closed for good restaurants, increases as the winter closes in.  They never save summer tourist cash for the winter months.  It has nothing to do with the economy and more to do with the lack of budgeting skills.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Economic Caboose

Maine gets everything last.  This includes Recessions.  The Great Recession has finally reached Maine. We haven't felt the pain that the other states have, until recently.  At Art Club last evening we listed the businesses that have recently decided to close, get smaller or just fold up and disappear.  The remaining businesses, like the ones where G and I work, are suffering a lack of customers and sales.  Our employers are having to choose; fewer employees or less hours per employee.  Either choice creates unhappiness.  Nothing new here for Readers from Away.  (anywhere that is not Maine is Away)

Our candles got another workout last night.  15 minutes before Art Club would have shut down on it's own, the power went out.  Pitch black.  We used iPhones to collect supplies and venture out into the parking lot.  Power stayed out at my house until nearly 9:30.  CMP said they were going to knock the power out to repair a burned line--15 to 30 minutes tops.  Better now than during a snow storm. G and decided to spend $700 to get a designated power box for the generator.  So we could plug it into the house grid from outside the house and run the furnace and, after we got warm, the fridge and the television and a few lights.  Not all at the same time.  We may try and get information on solar panels for the roof.  Heat the house that way or heat something.  We have a large south facing roof with a high pitch.  The south side rooms are always warm, even in deepest winter, if the sun is shining.  These are things we discuss when the power is out.  Also, we need to restock the candle supply @ Target.

I was approached at work (today) by a member of a local (100 year old) Town organization known for it's gardening.  To speak to the group in April at their annual meeting.  Wow.  I am already speaking at a February Garden Club meeting.  Getting nervous about all this "new" stuff.  The classes I teach at work have led to these opportunities.  In fact, so many things are appearing due to the work classes and the 10x10 fund raiser.  It's rather amazing. And Art Club is a wonderful experience.  I did a Zentangle type doodle while we all chatted and worked on transferred images, driftwood sculptures or decoupage.

Work went well today.  I repotted my lavender plants for the winter in the house.  One of the plants could possibly have remained outdoors as it is a Zone 4.  Next year I may leave it outside.  I purchased ornament hooks for the Christmas tree.  I had been using bent paperclips for the past few years.  These look nice.  Professional.  100.  Should be enough.

The French Onion soup was fantastic.  We even had it served up in little brown and white crocks and I browned the cheese topping in the oven with the broiler.  20 years in this house with this oven and never before used the broiler.  It worked perfectly.  I was shocked.  So much room for new experiences here in my little world.  I think it all started when I bought that new microfiber underwear (in colors). LOL.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Houseplant Adoption Agency + Edit

My new profession.  Drop off the houseplant or even the overgrown annual you can't bear to dispose of, and I will find a new home for it.  Or hope to find a new home.  Yesterday a large jade plant that had spent the summer with me in the greenhouse at work, was finally relocated to a new owner.  It involved "therapeutic" phone calls to the "owner" and then a handover to the new owner a few days later.   The photo at the top is of some sort of begonia I think--rooting in water.  Looking for a home. The shelf above has a large 60 year old coleus specimen which was shoved into my arms by it's owner.   I refused the second huge pot.  One was MORE than enough.  The owner of the coleus (given to her by her fifth grade teacher), had been kept alive all these years by taking cuttings and starting new plants each spring. Now I am expected to take cuttings and keep the coleus alive for another 60 years.  Actually, what she wanted was for me to propagate it for sale in the annual house in 2013 and beyond.

I wish that I worked in that sort of greenhouse.  I don't.  Propagation is discouraged.

A customer (president of my old quilting group) came by yesterday to let me know that a day time quilting group meets at the Baptist church (one town over) from 1 to 3 each Monday afternoon.  I cannot define the amount of anxiety and confusion this little piece of information has caused.  I know I am trying to be open to new things, but this new thing has too many variables to feel safe, the first being the Baptist church.  Equal only to the first quilt group meeting I attended at the Elks Social Club.  I returned home with nicotine embedded in every fiber of my clothing and the quilt I was working on, but at least I had been invited and was expected.  I have not been invited to the Baptist church nor am I expected at the Monday group.   Walking in "COLD" and introducing myself feels awkward.

It's supposed to be warmer and wetter today.  G dug up the two large lavender plants and I need to repot them for the winter in the house.  The citrus is looking good out on the unheated sunporch.  So far.  Riley has misplaced his flea and tick collar.  My library books will be overdue tomorrow so I have to choose what books to renew and keep.  I have enough onions to make onion soup for dinner (and I found a good recipe which includes all the stuff I have in the cupboard).  Riley is asleep next to my chair with his paw alongside my foot--he can sleep knowing any movement on my part will alert him so he won't miss out on any activity.  Riley will be six in April.  He is slowing down. Sleeping more.  Observing rather than chasing any (all) animals trespassing our (his) yard.  He has a stronger dog odor.  Less of the sweet puppy smell.  I see a comparison to my own aging in his.  I just hope I don't smell.

Edit:  I was going to mention the onion soup--but I had already done so.  I also made four servings of SF raspberry jello.  The box says 8 but I think four is better.  I like to have a dessert available in case I need sweetening in the evening.  I also looked online for a SF cranberry sauce recipe.  None of the recipes make the smooth jellied version.  Only the chunky one.  I happen to ADORE the canned stuff.  Anyone know how to make a "homemade" version of the canned stuff?

Friday, November 09, 2012

Finally, Friday

It's been quite a week.  The excitement of the election.  Then the aftermath of really funny stuff (Karl Rove) and some not so wonderful stuff (politics as usual from the House Speaker).

I had another busy day at work until 3.30 and then it got really quiet and not much happened after that-- well, I had a repeat customer with a dead lavender plant.  This is the third time we have tried to save a lavender plant for this guy's "sweetheart".  I'm wondering if she really likes the plants?  One never knows.  Perhaps the "sweetheart" is imaginary?   These are the kinds of things I think about on slow days at work.

There was a customer yesterday that dragged a large pot and the plant I had in it out of my front table display (she was buying them).  In doing the dragging she also knocked over three wire deer, leaving them in a pile of legs and bodies with little concern.  I know it is good to have customers like the display so much that they want to buy it, BUT she ruined it and I had to rethink and rebuild.  It's never as good the second time.  And it's the front table.  Other than that--the greenhouse is looking very nice. Ready for a busy weekend, I hope.  I hope everything is gone by Sunday when I come to work.

Tomorrow is my day off.  Pretty excited about it.  I have hardly any household chores other than paying the bills.  The dog will want a walk.  I should dig my own lavender plants out of the garden (unless it's too late and they froze to death).   I have books to read and a 12x20 to work on.  The only fly in this happy Saturday is making something for dinner.  It was so much easier when I ate pasta.

There was something I had wanted to tell you but I can't seem to remember what it was.  Oh, yes.  Only 854 more pages and this blog will hit 100,000 pages read.  Pretty excited.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing At All

More white kitchens.  I love the idea of not having any of the "edges" to keep clean.  Just sweep it all into the sink.  And the faucet in the wall might be hard to keep clean.  Have I shown you this before???

Today, I woke to snow and wet and cold wind.  I had to be at work early to unlock the doors etc.  We broke another key in the front door lock (not me!!).  The loaders carried in four more tables for the greenhouse (to replace the open space where we held classes) and I had to "fill" them with interesting displays of plants.  Kept me busy all day.  And it rained.  Could weather be more miserable????  I tried not to complain as New Jersey and New York were getting the same.  Wicked shame!  To lose power again?  Not fair.

I never made the Alice Springs chicken.  G wanted to go out to eat tonight, so I put the chicken into freezer bags for another day and we went out to eat--and he ordered chicken.

I have tons of onions--why not make onion soup?  Ironed all G's work shirts. Was actually dressed appropriate for the weather today.  Two thermal shirts, down jacket and fleece vest.  Gloves.  Watched the John Stewart show regarding Karl Rove on a coworker's iPhone at lunch.  Very, very funny.  My neighbor flew home from Florida tonight (where she went to vote) and they still don't have a count.   Not funny.  Let's just vote to have Florida be a non-voting state.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Late To The Party-- Remember to Vote

The winter squash party.  I think this is the Kabocha squash I have been hearing so much about.  I finally bought one--no make that two-- and baked it along side the pulled pork already in the oven.  It is dense and starchy as described.  The skin is edible but probably better when steamed and not baked.  These squash are from a local farmer.  So, Maine squash.  I saved seeds.  For my 2013 garden.

Today we vote.  Please vote.  This election process, due to the Super PACS, has been relentlessly ugly, mean and tiresome.  I, for one, am sick to death of it all.  The 47% (of which I am a member since I got a tax refund last year and plan to collect and use my Medicare and Social Security benefits) need to bundle up warm, stand in the long lines devised to keep us from voting, and VOTE.

Why?  My stocks are up.  My house value is rising.  I have a job and can get another.  I am employable even at 66. No insurance company can deny me coverage.  Obama has been a good President for me. He may have even had a chance at great but the Republicans vowed to make him a one term president in 2010 and have done everything they could to obstruct any plans Obama may have had for the last two years.  I just wish the 99% had still been protesting.  I wish they had had a cohesive mission statement.  I wish they had not given up.

 The people who can't find a job need to learn better job skills, get dependable transportation to work and have stable child care options.  A good meal three times a day would also help everyone as would a good sturdy roof over their heads at night and running water.  It's what we all need.  Want.  Hard to be a good employee, husband, wife or parent when so many things so difficult.  Employers discovered they could do the same amount of work with fewer workers during the Great Recession of 2008-9.  Why hire them back? Indeed. Why.  These workers now must learn new skills in order to get new jobs.  The old jobs are gone.  Never to return. Wage earners learned to make do with less in 2008-9 and now won't go back to their free spending ways.  Indeed, why should they?

The economy, the jobs, the skills have all changed in this past four years.  What worked before, does not work now.  We all need to wake up and "smell the coffee" as Ann Landers says.  Are you better off than you were in the Bush years?  I am.

And best of all---- Pretty soon we won't be at war with anyone and our soldiers will be coming home.  War is good for Republican business.  Just ask Cheney.  I'm tired of war.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Now What Was It I Was Trying To Say?

It may be time to turn the furnace on.  I have had to reheat my cup of breakfast coffee twice (three) times so far and it is still cold when I go to sip some.  Now, the real problem could be a 26 year old microwave.  The appliances here at #12 are getting old.  As are the residents.

I had to figure out how to open the battery space in the Bluetooth touch pad before breakfast.  I know how to change the batteries in the wireless Mouse.  Still not sure about the keyboard.  G has got me supplied with an entire drawer full of batteries (for the storm) but they should keep things rolling in the computer for the winter.  My lifeline to the world.

I have begun wearing socks and slippers to keep my ice cold feet slightly warmer.  I enjoy wearing my thermal long sleeve tees to work under the company tee shirt.  I am looking forward to wearing my Santa flannel pj's.  Remember I purchased them just before Christmas last year.  Now I can wear them for a full 2 months.  A trip to Target this afternoon for toilet paper and thermal shirts (on sale this week) would be fun.  Perhaps they are selling the Skinny Peppermint Mocha?   Now you know how simple it is to keep me happy.

I will be putting a 6 pound pork roast (purchased on sale) in the oven soon.  Using the pulled pork recipe from Martha Stewart.  And I need to stop at the grocery for more cans of sauerkraut and a bag of onions to make my favorite pulled pork side dish.  Chicken is on sale and I discovered the Outback Alice Springs Chicken recipe and need to buy a large package of chicken, bacon, mushrooms and cheese for that dish which should be good for lunches at work.  I am back on track for buying and using whatever meat my grocery has on "special" each week.  I am not going so far as to stock the freezer with meat.  That doesn't work for me.  Last week's 6 pound pot roast was amazingly delicious.

I seem to be caught up on housekeeping here at home.  After my few errands I can perhaps do some reading.  Iron the half dozen shirts I have washed.  Sort my socks.  Work on making a Zentangle Doodle in my pen and paper journal.  Last month's desk top calendar page was well scribbled with sample designs I got off the internet.  Watching YouTube videos.  This is the sort of thing I save for winter entertainment.  I also brought home supplies to make two hand tied wreaths.  One for the front door and one to have handy as a gift, should I need one.  I could also make a Kissing Ball.

I'm off to the the attic in search of some lighted trees that a co worker might want to use.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Winter Citrus Season (A Do Over)

Is just beginning.  The tiny clementines are spicy and delicious but the red grapefruit hasn't hit the right degree of  sweet juicy-ness.  I bought a bag--hoping for that wonderful taste, but alas, not quite ready.  And so tiny.  I was going to just peel one and eat it, thinking I would get more of the juicy flesh that way.  But after getting the peel off, I slipped my peeling knife under the center edge of one segment and managed to release the juicy flesh without any pith using my finger tips.  I ate that grapefruit and decided to peel and segment a few more to have with tomorrow's lunch of yogurt.  I have a full tub of segments in the fridge.  It took about an hour.  I may go back to it and finish off the remaining two grapefruit.   I may even look for the recipe my daughter found for me for a red grapefruit cheesecake filling.

I am "one of those people" who don't mind how long a task takes or how labor intensive it is, IF the end result is something I will enjoy.  Needle turn appliqué?  Yes.  Hand mending of holes and tears? Yes.  And now segmenting grapefruit.  And not the way they do in culinary school which results in mess and a pile of juices.  My way resulted in just segments.  I had to check the clock to see how long it took. Very restful.  The mind can wander while the hands are at work.  Which is why the original Winter Citrus post was deleted and this one is being read by you.

I watched the second season of Luther on BBC America last night.  Sad that it is now over even though it was quite violent.  But I didn't delete them so can watch again (and enjoy) in the dead of winter.  The Hour returns to BBCA on G's birthday later this month.  Until then I have Elementary and Masterpiece Theater.  G has Revolution and Vegas.  I am also working my way through episodes of Big Bang the way I did through That 70's Show.  G is annoyed when I watch them.

I actually wish I could be watching West Wing from the beginning.

I have books to read (Louise Penny's Still Life) and the PD James Jane Austen mystery.  I finally got my check for the 10x10 Carrots and the name of the person who bought it.  The name sounds familiar.  Like I should know this person.  It may come to me.  While I peel the other two grapefruit?

I am at a point in life where I wish I had a "group" to be a member of.  To visit with.  Talk with on the phone (even though I hate that) and do things with.  I feel very isolated and alone.  Art Club meets next Tuesday so that will help.  I am reaching out as best I can.  Most of my personal conversations are with customers at work.  Or coworkers.  A work benefit I value.  A Lot.

I also have you to talk to, but it's a one way conversation.  Like talking to myself.  Only it's okay and I'm not actually talking out loud.  Though, while making holiday boxes yesterday at work, I was talking out loud.  To no one.  It's sad being all alone in that large greenhouse in the winter, filling boxes with balsam branches.  And starting tomorrow it will be darker down there while I am working alone.  I need to find my flashlight or the Bug Lite my friend in Florida gave me.  Or buy a head lamp.  The walk to my car is pitch black at 6 pm.