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Monday, January 30, 2017

Frugal knitting, a giveaway, when "good for you" is not good, and rassling.

After knitting like mad (with a worried eye on the ever-dwindling ball of yarn), I managed to eke out my project.   Voila!  Pink!  This is one of my favorite patterns - it's just complicated enough to make it interesting, but not so much that I throw up my hands and walk away.  I am offering this pink alligator scarf as a giveaway - to any ferocious little girl (or boy), any fashionably confident man or woman.  It's only open to the (former) US and Canada, however - postage constraints, you know.
Just leave a comment about how pink fits into your life (or not - but, then, why would you want a pink alligator scarf?) by midnight Thursday.  I will announce the winner on Friday.  Bon chance!
A pink hedgehog?
Pink 'gator!


As I am trying not to eat my way out of January/February, I am trying to both hold it down on the carbs, while introducing healthier grains into my diet.  This is a challenge for my weekend baking - for the barn crew, who appreciate sugar, fat and sugar.  And fat.  Did I mention sugar?  I've tried to sneak in some gluten-free treats and some have been met with approval, while some are just not mentioned.  This weekend I made some gluten-free chocolate chip cookies with low gluctose sugar (palm) and 'healthy' flours - teff, sorghum, hemp.  As I mixed the sandy mass, I could tell it was not going to be good.  Maybe good for you, but not good.  No, not at all.  Besides the sandy texture, it was held together with sunflower oil.  So, now we had a sandy, oily mixture.  And thanks, I am sure, to the hemp flower, there was a definite aroma of burlap.  Argle.  I tried a very tiny bit and, while I did not gag (maybe mentally), they were not good.  I put them aside, where they cooled to the consistency of a hockey puck, and whipped up an applesauce spice cake.
Blech.
Lovey and her sidekick, Baby Hippo, continue to romp madly.  There is less snarly bits now - and they even sleep very close together on the sofa.  I think she is very happy - other than having to share me - having someone to play with.  I continue to adore the hippo, with the exception of his refusal to remember that he's housebroken.  He doesn't seem to mind the cold at all, which surprises me, seeing that he's from southern Alabama. 
Cinnamon and vanilla
Their favorite game is Red Light/Green Light:







Friday, January 27, 2017

The Winter of No Sun, More Pinkness and the Adventures of the Baby Hippo

This has been the gloomiest winter in memory.  On Sunday, January 22, there was 15 minutes of sun.  I dropped everything and hustled outside so that I could sit on the deck steps, close my eyes and soak it in.  All 15 minutes and no seconds of it.  Then it was gone.


It may surprise some of you that I wrestle with depression.  Yes, yes, that positive, chirpy exterior sometimes is a brittle fa├žade.  It does not help me one little bit when there is no sun for days, weeks and weeks.  I pump up the D3 during winter and eat as much dark green, leafy vege as I can shovel in, but we're barely breaking even this year.  Then there was the loss of my 'boy', Scrappy.  Even though I knew it was coming and had been bracing myself, the reality is a whole other plane of heartbreak.  Still, I am the poster girl for stiff upper lips, so - one foot in front of the other.  I manage to keep an even keel by focusing on all the good things - and there are plenty.  There are my family and friends.  There are my dogs and cats, chickens and ducks, sheep and llama.  There is the faith I have that kindness, compassion and honesty will overcome all the anti-light-giving crap that we are currently experiencing.  When I need an extra boost, I don my bright pink PussyHat.
(Pardon the blurry pic.)  The plaster cast of one
of my father's sculptures proudly holds the
pinkest of PussyHats until it is needed.
Speaking of pink... Although I have come to embrace the power of Pink, there is only so much of it that I am willing to clasp.  After knitting three hats, I still had quite a bit left of the skein of bubblegum pink yarn - what to do....  We all know that I am adamantly against waste, so it must be used!  I think I've come up with a plan.  And it involves a giveaway...details to come when it's finished.
Bertie continues to make progress.  He is a tater tot of a baby hippo, with the most endearing folds and wrinkles under his chin.  Gah.  I do have to keep reminding myself that he is still a puppy, even though he has an old man's face.  Lovey was also two when she came to me, but she was a whole nuther banana.  This one is very self-confident, has extremely limited focus and was born to chew.  I managed to rescue an ill-placed hiking boot before it was unwearable, and I have been finding most all of my mittens, ear warmers and scarves outside.  Until he gets the house rules under his belt/collar, Bertie is crated when I am not around him.  It works well, as he needs to be kept quiet for a while until his kennel cough is better.


Bertie is gradually meeting the rest of the inhabitants - he met Linden through the fence, nose-to-nose.  It's Linden's duty, as Head Sheepie, to check out all newcomers.  He took a sniff, snorted and did a hasty retreat.  Bertie barked his head off.  There are crows and squirrels.  There are chickens.  There are ducks.  There are crunchy treats.  As we work him into our routine, there have been some 'bumps'.  When I get home from work it is dark (surprise...not).  I let everyone out of various crates, put my boots on (careful to put my work shoes on the table), then we all pile out of the back door and out into the chicken yard.  While Lovey was never brave enough to squeeze through a dark, open chicken door, Bertie has no such qualms.  I managed to snag him before he was totally inside.  I left them to run around while I went in the person door and checked for eggs.  There is no light in the coop, with the exception of my headlamp.  I left the coop, shut the door and headed over to the duck house and closed them in.  As I walked toward the deck, I heard some kerfuffle from the coop - nothing new there.  I called Bertie.  And called.  And called.  No Bertie.  (Sound of the other shoe dropping)  Coop!!!  I beat a hasty path to the coop and there he was - having silently slipped in behind me - with chicken in mouth and one on the floor.  OMG.  I shooed him out and checked the hens - both were alive but damp and more than a bit traumatized.  I put one hen in a nesting box so she could recover and the other hopped onto the roost, apparently no worse for wear.   In the morning, both were fine.  He is not a vicious dog, but he is very BUSY.


While there is definitely more work involved, now that Bertie is one of us (the hall rug must be scrubbed this weekend, shoes and boots are no longer handy by the door), he is definitely worth it.  I am hoping to get a video (then garner enough technical skills to upload it to the blog - haha) of the two dogs playing.  It's like watching a baby hippo on a mad trot, chasing a gazelle.


Potato Leek Soup is on this weekend's menu - leeks were sliced and frozen from my organic bonanza at the best farmers market EVER in South Portland, ME.  I'm having a friend over for dinner on Sunday, so I am fishing out a small turkey breast, making mashed potatoes from my stores, and creamed corn from my frozen corn.  I've got lots of bits and bobs in the freezer that I need to use up, so this week's meal planning should be fusion at its weirdest!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Where to begin...

On Saturday, I drove a half hour southwest because I was expecting a special delivery.  This package came all the way up from Alabama.  It was a rather surprise package, as I hadn't planned on delivery for quite some time and I had no (well, a little) idea of what this package would contain.
NOT from Amazon.com
Meet OnceBennyNowBertie.  He had the same foster mother as Lovey.  That woman can be persuasive.
Where the heck am I?
Needless to say, things were interesting on the LLF this weekend.
Introductions were a little spastic, but once I got Bertie and Lovey on leads and out the door, all friction was forgotten and both noses were going gangbusters, side by side.  Overall, it was a very smooth transition - The Pepperoni was introduced through his crate door (he is still recovering from his near-pneumonia), Bertie ignored the cats, and, aside from the occasional all-show-showing of teeth when competing for my attention, it was great.
Then Bertie developed Kennel Cough.  It's like Whooping Cough for dogs.  I can tell you the exact moment it manifested itself - 12:33A Monday morning.  I am glad I had planned to take the day off because there was another trip to the vet - where we were ushered in through the back door, Typhoid-Mary-like.  It's very contagious.  Now I have two dogs on antibiotics but at least Bertie manages to get his Robitussin down without drama.  Lovey got a booster on her vaccine and we are hoping it works.
We love Bertie.  Love him.  He is a difficult dog to describe - part Basset (short legs), maybe some Lab (lethal tail, chunky body), and then some Heinz 57.  He came to us as Ben, but did not respond to his name at all.  My vet and I were trying to figure out a good name, when the vet tech said, "He looks like a little lion, ala Bert Lahr."  I said "Bertie", and he looked up.  It stuck.  Kennel Cough and all, he is a delightful playmate for Lovey, has an endearingly lovable personality, and is different enough from my beloved Scrappy to not cause my heart to break every time I look at him.
*****
Needless to say, not a lot got done this long weekend, although I am still sticking to my meal planning and it is going along swimmingly.  I had so much leftover soup that I didn't have to make any this weekend - a plus, considering - and I tried a new salad recipe that I really like: Citrus Rice Salad with Parmesan.  It lasts and gets better with age, paired well with a nice piece of broiled Ahi Tuna I found in my freezer, and will be a quick dinner fix.  I also delved into my Moosewood cookbook collection and made a Tunisian Frittata with Spicy Tomato Sauce.  Good!  Also has a good rate of keep-ability, so that will interplay with the salad for dinner/lunch over the week.  I whipped up another batch of Strawberry Cheesecake Oatmeal - using the last of my strawberries - and made a batch of granola.  Am I the only one who feels both euphoria and dread when using up something out of the freezer?  I am half thrilled to be using something up, while harboring a dread that I will go hungry because I am using up my food. 
*****
The weather is...weird.  We have had the longest stretch of unseasonably warm, gloomy weather that I can ever remember in January.  The sun came out - finally - on Sunday and lasted for 15 minutes.  I dropped everything and sent out and sat on the deck steps, faced it and closed my eyes.  I sat there for the full 'duration'.  Then, starting last night, the temps dropped and I woke up to two inches of sleet.  It was quite a shock for Bertie, but he is a stalwart fellow and, after a brief pause on the doorstep, charge out into the cold unknown.
*****
I wore my pussyhat all day Saturday and cataloged a variety of reactions - 95% were positive and supportive.  5% were the expected nasty comments.  Bertie put the brakes on when he first saw me.  After all, when I do pink (finally), I do bubblegum pink.  I guess he figured that it wasn't any more alarming than two days in a crate in a dark truck, emerging into foreign everything.  The sheep froze, backed up slowly and stared at me.  It is currently resting atop the plaster cast of "Don" that my father did and gave me for my 40th birthday.  It will be a constant reminder of the mindfulness that I need to practice to safeguard my - and every woman's/human's/animal's/planet's - rights going forward.  PussyHat!  Hear me roar!
Rrrarr!



Friday, January 20, 2017

Here we are in a Kakoracy and Drama Queens

I am wearing black and avoiding all media like the plague today.  Even though there is nothing I can do to stop events, that doesn't mean I can't pretend they are not happening.  At least for a day.  I have made a vow to myself to spend the next four years doing all I can to make a difference in my little piece of the world.  It's all I can do.


(sound of favorite black boots stepping down from soapbox)


I spent yesterday morning at the vet's.  It seems to be the place I spend most of my time lately - besides the office.  The Pepperoni has been sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and hacking since Monday.  Since I am uber-sensitive to my dogs at the moment, I didn't want to wait until Saturday to have him seen.  As I sent an email to the powers-that-be in the office, I could almost see the eye-rolling and hear the tut-tut-ing.  Tough nuggets.


The only good part of the visit was that I got to see my next-favorite vet, Dr. Shelley.  She is the vet that volunteers at our town's rabies clinics and I get to work with her twice a year.  The good news was that there is nothing wrong with his heart.  The bad news is that he has a bad upper respiratory infection so we were sent home with giant antibiotic pills (really?) and instructions to give him a half-teaspoon of Robitussin twice a day.  Sigh.  You might as well tell me that I would have to load up a dart gun and shoot a charging rhino.  He (The Pepperoni) may only be 13 pounds but he is 13 pounds of Drama Queen.  The pills were easy enough to manage (so far).  I cut them in half and buried the halves in cheese.  The Hoover comes on and down they go.  Especially if Lovey gets her piece first.  Then there is the liquid dosage.  Seriously, I put it in a little hypo case that I had in my animal medicine kit and, when I went to squirt it down his tiny gullet, he screamed, tried to gum me and flipped over.  More screaming.  Most of it got on him, me and the rug.  Some of it got down his gullet.  It's crazy.  And I have to do this twice a day.  If I could find some way of hiding it in cheese, I would.  He did seem a little better this morning, although that meant twice the drama.


I can hardly wait for tonight...









Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's working!

Here we are - midway through January - and I am still organized!  It's a miracle, I tell you!  It did help that I had a three-day weekend, prefaced by an early exit from work for a haircut.  I am practicing for my retirement...


Lots went on this weekend:


Lunch with my parents
Oil change (and surprise exhaust work)
Knitting (see above)
Hiking
Visiting
Cooking
Cleaning
Manure shoveling




My meal planning efforts are starting to be worth their weight in gold.  Last week, my sister gave me this dry erase board (I so love it) and I set myself up for a week.  I list the recipes that I need to make on the bottom right (most were done at this point...) and then all I have to do is remember to consult it every morning.  That is the challenge.  Soup this week was Sweet & Sour Beef & Cabbage.  The chicken was roasted with a mustard/honey sauce.  It was supposed to be cut into serving pieces, but I was pretty much knackered by Monday night, so it was spatchcocked.
Roasted with the end of my paltry potato harvest.
I already made some changes to the plan - the "S/P crust" was for the sweet potato pizza planned for Friday.  No way that was happening by last night.  So it's now going to be an omelet with leftover roasted potatoes from Monday's meal.  I am loving this planning business.  I think I never bothered because I didn't think it was worth it for a single person.  Wrong-o!  I made my breakfasts for the week:
Strawberry cheesecake oats

GF Oat 'gnagels"
I chose a new recipe for oats this time - strawberry cheesecake oats.  I discovered a partial bag of frozen strawberries (egads - at least 2 years old, but smelled very strawberry-ey) so whipped these up.  Very healthy - strawberries, almond milk, yogurt, cough*creamcheese*cough, chia seeds.  I also whipped up a batch of KAF's oat 'bagels', which are gluten free.  Ergo, not bagels, but gnagels.  I love these.
 Speaking of breakfast, I had my favorite GF pancakes for breakfast this weekend, Trader Joe's GF Pumpkin Pancake Mix (with some frozen blueberries I discovered next to the strawberries....bad me):
OMG, the BEST mix!

The pups and I went up the mountain for a hike on Sunday - it was a sunny day; a rarity in these parts lately.  Of course, the length of the hike is only as long as the shortest legs...
Captain Short Legs

A beautiful spot
We then got to go inside and have tea, cheese, fruit and GF crackers (me) and rawhide sticks and beef jerky (pups).  It was all very civilized.  I went on a solo adult visit Saturday to a friends' for our 'holiday' get-together.  It was very revealing.  We usually (there are three of us - the Girlz) exchange little baskets of homemade stuff.  L is not very handy but she usually recycles gifts to us that she receives and doesn't want.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't care where it comes from.  She gets great stuff!  However, this year she didn't have anything to give.  Also, not a problem.  My little gift bag was entirely handmade - a pair of knitted acorns, eggnog with rum, Meyers lemon curd, homemade vanilla.  What did bother me was that she was visibly relieved to find that all of it was handmade - as if it was not worth much/anything, so her guilt was assuaged.  We all know how much time, effort and care we put into handmade things.  She is off my list for next year and I may suggest we all give it a rest.

There was a lot of knitting in between cleaning and manure management.  I ended up with some unexpected knitting time - at the mechanics, you can take it from there - so I am making progress on a pair of fingerless mitts for a friend's partner.  I also got some quality BFF time with Melanie, as we are back on our Knitting Sundays.  It's always a good excuse to get a fire going in the fireplace which makes for a cozy scene.
Kramer is a big fan of fireplaces.
Next weekend will be a little different.










Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rethinking Pink


 When I was a kid, I was a tomboy.  I wanted nothing to do with anything that would infer that I was a girl, or a wimp, or a weakling.  I was one tough cookie.  This probably had something to do with the fact that I grew fast and - for a short while - was taller than a lot of kids in my neighborhood, and the fact that I have always been a bit...fractous.  I was continually getting into fights and, because of my height and ferocious nature, was mostly victorious.  Then I stopped growing and everyone caught up.  Needless to say, payback was painful.


Pink meant girlie things - frilly dresses, dolls, clean socks.  I did not like dresses (although I had a short love affair with a dress worn by a girl sitting next to me in second grade.  It had a blow-up inner tube that made the skirt stand out like an umbrella.  She was mean to me, so I stuck it with a pin when she wasn't looking and the best she could do was a semi-inflation.  Which was not attractive.)   I refused to wear pink right into adulthood.  I did, however, knit myself a lovely alpaca scarf in what I refer to as "rose".  There was quite a bit of rationalization involved.


I am now embracing the pinkness of pink. 
My friend, Maggie.
I have joined the many, many, many knitters who are cranking out Pussyhats for the Women's March in Washington on January 21.  The Pussyhat project is a movement within the movement - a symbol of women's rights and our intention to make sure they are not trodden under with this new - and scary - administration.  I've knitted two hats - I have sock obligations as well - and my friend, Maggie, is going to be wearing one.  I've know Maggie almost as long as I have lived in New York (Upstate).  She was born a rebel and has remained one (in the most endearing way) all of her life.  Maggie has supported and fought for women's and human rights at every opportunity.  It's how she lives her life.  I am a great admirer of Maggie and very proud that my hat - 'tho it resembles more of a devil cat than pussycat - will be on her head when she takes part in history-making later this month.


The second hat came off the needles yesterday and will be winging its way to a total stranger today.  I like the idea that, while I cannot take my place beside the marchers, a little bit of pink, of my making, will be bobbing along with thousands of other bits of pink, creating an entire ocean of pink.  It gives me goosebumps just to think about it.
Lunch time knitting - off the needles.
I hear there is a shortage of pink yarn...  If you haven't heard about the Pussyhat Project, you can read about it here and here.  PINK ON!


Monday, January 9, 2017

Starting the new year on the right (left, right, left) foot.

One of the (many) glaring problems that plagued me last year was my almost total lack of organization and planning.  It invaded my garden, my eating habits, you name it.


With a clean slate at the ready, I began my new organized life.  I planned my meals for the week.  Baby steps, you all, baby steps.  The biggest problem is breakfast - I may get up before the crap of dawn (as Kay used to say) but that's my time to squeeze in knitting and other handcrafts.  The advantage being that all the furred things are still sleeping.  By the time I feed everyone inside and out, I barely have time to get myself reasonably presentable and out of the door.


I had gotten in the habit, briefly, of using make-ahead steel cut oats - but that, too, dropped by the wayside.  It's back.  Yesterday I:


Made soup - potato/lentil/greens

Made my favorite non-meat spaghetti sauce:

Working my way through three years
of canned tomatoes...


From the Moosewood Low-Fat
cookbook
Made my favorite vegan peanut sauce.

Made five mornings of steel-cut oats.


I should be set until the next weekend.  I did not get pics of the rest - there were too many distractions during the process.


The biggest distraction was Lovey's Christmas toy from one of her aunties.  We were fighting over it. It was back-ordered, as they can't seem to make them fast enough. 


I take exception with the tie.  We do NOT
"heart" him. 



Apparently the Cheetos/Doritos
effect was working...
Also on my list of How to Build a Better Me was to make it to the library at least every other week.  No more buying books - part of my No Spend Year.  I lucked out and got a freebie from my mom - we have our own lending library within the family.




And, in case you are wondering, I did, indeed, jettison 365 things from my house last year.  As a matter of fact, I exceeded that number by a few.  I am in the (slow) process of cataloging them and will, at some point, put them on a separate page.  In case any of you are having trouble falling asleep at night.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Visits, Thai Food, Death Farts

First of all, thank all of you for your kind words and comments about my loss of Scrappy.  I continue to feel his loss as painfully as if it was yesterday and I am sure I will for a long time.  He was an exceptionally wonderful dog and friend.




*~*~*~*

I made it through the holidays by the skin of my teeth - there's nothing new there.  I tend to dread the end of the year for multiple reasons:  bad things happen (yep), I get older (darn), there's no daylight (hello?)  Thanks to friends and family, I didn't have much down time - my guest room was occupied through both holidays.  I will say that my guest room is a cozy nest that brings on sleep like a load of ether.  Must be the good feng shui, heavy drapes, fleece sheets and blanket, and down comforter.  Guests sink into the fluffy burrow and don't arise for hours and hours.  My nephew was down for over 12 hours...hehe.  Of course, if you do happen to arise during the night, be prepared to face the two-dimensional cat and the doormat dachshund that lurk right outside your door...

Speaking of Captain Death Farts (aka The Pepperoni), I had to make yet one more visit to the vet before the end of the year, and was driving with The Pepperoni on my lap (Yes, yes.  I know it's unsafe - but so is trying to concentrate on the road with a hairy ping pong ball next to you) when the Death Farts started.  I mean, they were so bad that I had to crack open all the windows - it was 15 degrees without the wind chill factor - just so Lovey and I could survive until we could escape the car.  CDF is having all treats curtailed until he quits percolating these eye-watering nose bombs.

For New Year's Day (and my birthday), my youngest sister arrived with a bottle of bubbly, the ingredients for a Thai dinner and a DVD of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  While we sipped our mimosas (fresh-squeezed oranges, no less), we delved into my birthday present to myself.
It was fun - and it looks as if my sis will be under the influence of the Sun in her future!

Then it was down to business.

She made rice noodles with scallops, shrimp, mussels and a spicy coconut milk broth.  OMG.  And she made enough that I got two delicious meals out of it.  OMG.  Then we sat down, sprinkled with dogs and cats, and enjoyed the black and white camp act of two great film divas.  It was so much fun.

Now it is back to the mundane - although, frankly, it is never mundane around here for long.