Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Inaugural Run

I get to use my new dutch oven today!   I got it a couple of weeks ago when Ben and I were on a trip to visit friends in GA. On the way through TN, we saw signs for the Lodge factory outlet and knew we had to stop.

I haven't gotten to use it yet, because, as it turns out, eating fewer calories means less cooking!  Today is cold and rainy, though, so I'm making a big batch of white bean and kale soup.  I'm sure it'll taste better for having been made in my cozy new dutch oven.

Don't mind the state of my stove, I'm such a messy cook!

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Recycle an Old Sweater into Leg Warmers

These are less like the 80's old school legwarmers, and more like a very long footless stocking.  Warm and cozy, like a sweater for your legs, thicker than socks and more convenient than tights for wearing all the time, since there's two of them, so bathroom breaks are more comfortable.

I'll preface this project by saying that I don't know whether this will work for everyone.  I may just have odd proportions, but I'm sure it will work for most with a little fiddling to get the desired fit.  This sweater fit me snugly as a sweater, and worked without much adjustment like this, so those proportions work on my body, at least.

I had this old sweater that I really wasn't too comfortable wearing anymore and a pair of cold shins.  I knew they were somehow meant to be together.

Start by cutting the sweater into pieces like this.  Two sleeves, cut so the cut end is more or less perpendicular to the folded side, and the bottom cut off around armpit territory.
Separate the front from the back of the bottom half of the sweater.  On some sweaters, this will mean cutting the side seam right out, and on others, you'll just have to undo the little "crocheted" seam from the manufacturer.

Fold the front (or back) in half, wrong sides together, and lay the sleeve on top of it, along the folded edge.  Cut a triangle of fabric away from the sides, up to the cut edge even with the sleeve width.  I made sure to leave the whole of the original ribbed hem intact, since I have sort of thick thighs, and new I'd need all that width.  If your legs are thin, you might want this cut angle to be less drastic.  Sew these sides together along this edge, keeping the piece folded as is, to create a tube.
Keep this the tube you just made inside out, and the sleeve tube right side out, then slip the sleeve into the other, line up the seams and sew around to make one long tube of them.

And that's it, a legwarmer.  The seam isn't attractive, admittedly, but it smooths out when it's on, and they're mostly just for staying warm under my nightgown, so who will know?


It's surprisingly difficult to take decent pictures of your own legs.

Below I've added a version of the photo above with the colors and exposure all screwy, so you can actually see the legwarmer.  They're very comfy, I'm wearing them right now!

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Catching Up

I was under strict orders (mostly from Ben) to rest my back the last couple of weeks.  But the chiropractor cleared me to work out again, yay!

I loaded up the dehydrator today with apples.  We've had this bushel of apples sitting in the kitchen waiting for me to be able to stand for more than 1/2 an hour at a time for a few weeks now.  I'm so glad to be getting them preserved, because, I'll admit, I felt slightly like they were an apple time bomb that could give out at any moment.

As usual, the chickens really enjoyed the peels and cores.  Apple time is their favorite time of the year.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Derailed

I've been feeling sort of derailed lately.  My back still isn't quite right, though it's no longer spasming badly enough to keep me bent over.  I've been resting it as much as I can.  Pretty much to the point where I'm feeling like I've done nothing for two weeks.

Sticking to our meal plan hasn't been a problem though, so I've still lost some weight.  I'm at a total of 24 pounds down.  I'd really like to get back to working out though, because I feel like I've lost some of the endurance and strength I'd gained and that's the whole point of this anyway, not weight loss.

I've been enjoying the beautiful fall weather though.  This is my absolute favorite time of year.  I never liked it when I was a kid.  At least I thought I didn't, but when I remember back, it seems like I've always enjoyed autumn a ton.

We went to New Salem, IL a couple of weekends ago.  It's a Lincoln historic site, and they have living history displays and things.  It was a gorgeous day, and I loved getting to crunch in all the leaves!  The photo above is of some of the buildings and paths there.  All the buildings are reproductions, built on the orginal foundations and labeled as they were used when Lincoln lived there in the 1820's.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

All the cool chicks call it "dustin'"

It cracks me up when I see the chickens taking dust baths, because it seems like the main goal of a dust bath is to get absolutely filthy.
Turn your sound way down before you press play, it's crazy windy here today and that's the only thing the microphone picked up.  Very loudly.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tintied Moisturizer with NO Animal Testing?

I've been on a search for a tinted moisturizer to replace my ex-favorite Neutrogena.  This search has been going on for a number of years, actually, ever since I found out that Neutrogena uses animals in testing their cosmetics and skin care lines.  So sad.

Anyway, I don't buy makeup too often, which is why my search has been so long on-going.  I'm losing patience though, because I've tried quite a few that I just have not liked.  Physician's Formula doesn't test on animals, but their tinted moisturizer gave way too much coverage for me, and felt more like foundation, which I do not like wearing.

Almay, Jane, Wet n Wild, Revlon, and, of course, Burt's Bees are all brands that are safe to buy and don't test on animals, finished products or component ingredients.  Smashbox, which is more expensive, as well as Lancombe and Estee Lauder don't either, but I just can't see paying upwards of $30 for a tube of moisturizer.

Now, just to find a tinted moisturizer that I like, is affordable, and is made by one of these companies.  I hope Neutrogena feels bad about all these complications they've added to my life.  Not to mention the sad bunnies.

I recently bought Almay's Smart Shade foundation which has very nice light sheer coverage, but it's not a moisturizer, and I'm concerned I'll miss that component as the weather gets colder and drier.  So the search continues...

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Having some Halloween fun!


Our friend Ken, who abondoned us early in the summer to move home to GA and actually live in his house with his wife, was in town this week for some meetings in St. Louis.  The James bed and breakfast is always open to friends and family, so I was more than happy to have him staying here, giving us the chance to visit.  And to keep our tradition of annual pumpkin carving!

His birthday is this month, so I made a white cake with caramel frosting and threw caution even farther to the wind with a taco buffet for dinner last night.  Of course, it's back to protein rich and nutrient dense low calorie meals today.  Eh.  Day off was nice while it lasted though!

To have the tacos ready ahead of time, I just made up the filling (lean beef and black beans in equal measure, with taco seasonings) and kept it warm in the slow cooker until dinner time.  It worked like a charm.  We also had mulled cider, kept warm in the small dipper crock pot.

I'm certainly in a Halloween mood now, and the weather is agreeing.  Lots of windy rainy cold.  Just the way I like it.  The chickens disagree.  They didn't want to get out of bed this morning, and seemed to resent my opening up their door and rousing them.  And Pickles has taken up her station under the bedspread, in the middle of the bed once again.

My back is feeling better, and I'll be very glad when I get the all clear from the chiropractor that I can start working out again.  I see him again tonight, and I'll have to check with him, but I think I'll be able to get back on track working out tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to it, I've been trying to unlock certain exercises on Exerbeat.  It's very motivating that the game makes you unlock things to do them.  As though, if I have to earn the longer work out, doing it is like a reward, lol.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fall Knitting

I love this yarn. It's KnitPicks Swish in Tumeric. So soft and squishy.
This is the start of the Suspender Cardigan fron Knit One, Knit All. I loved the one in the pictures so much, that I chose colors that would pretty much replicate it.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Progress Being Made

Does it look like maybe Pickles needs to join in on the fitness training that's been going on around here?

Things are going well with us.  My weigh in on Saturday showed that I've lost twenty pounds so far.

To celebrate, I'm going to list some things more important milestones than weight loss that I've been gauging my progress by.

  • This week, I wore my awesome "Smitten with the Mitten" t-shirt that Julie gave me in honor of our home state for the first time in a year or so, because before it had been too snug.
  • I had the strength and stamina to kneel upright at church through mass, where before, I've had to rest my back and legs often by leaning back.
  • I can keep up with Ben so much better now, at the charity walk we did Saturday morning, I think I hardly slowed him down.
  • The capris I bought at the beginning of this summer are too big.  And though that's sad because they're pretty cute, it's a good excuse to buy more cute pants next spring!
  • I can carry the bags of chicken feed (40lbs) back to the coop without stopping to rest my arms.
  • We got our bikes from the shop and have been on a number of bike rides, and this has been FUN, not difficult or onerous.
  • According to ExerBeat, I'm averaging about 500 calories burned with my workouts, up from around 300 a few weeks ago.  I can work harder for a longer time.
  • My recovery time after getting my heart rate very high and getting really out of breath has been a fraction of the time it was a few months ago.
  • Less anxiety and worry, not only about my health, but about other things as well.  Exercise is a real reliever of that.

My back hurts a lot today, I was on my feet a lot on Saturday, in addition to the charity walk and a training session, and it seems to have really strained the muscles.  I don't think it's anything serious, just some soreness, tightness, and cramping, but it was making me pretty grumpy.  Making this list, combined with the fact that I just finished my work out despite being cranky, has really brightened my day. 
Try it.  Go for a walk, and then make a list of good things in your life.  It's fun how much good a little bit of having a positive outlook can do.


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Thursday, September 29, 2011


I finished the slipper that I posted last week.  I love how it turned out!  Unfortunately, since I'm using leftovers, I won't have enough red and cream yarn to make the second and exact match.  I did, however, make sure to make another cord and pompoms before starting the second slipper and using all the red and cream yarn up.  Since the red and white pompoms and candystriped cord are my favorite part of this slipper.  The second will be, I think, red, white, and gray stripes.

I have been cleaning this week!  Ben got me a new vacuum, which I so love!  It's the Shark Navigator Lift Away, and honestly, this is the vacuum I've been wishing existed forever.  I love the way it coverts to the hose and the canister is so easy to carry around, and it works pretty well as a regular vacuum on my laminate floors too.  Anyway, I been finding out that without a vacuum, I've been opting to not clean, rather than have to do it the hard way!  It's so much nicer to get things clean and not have to do it the hard way either.

The washing machine broke the other day.  It will neither spin nor drain.  The repair guy is supposed to be coming sometime today to check it out.  I sure hope he can fix it right away!  I washed whites yesterday by stomping them in a big storage tub, and I don't want to do laundry like that again anytime soon!

Other than some fall cleaning, and knitting, this week has been pretty quiet.  I've been working out with Exerbeat on the Wii.  It's a pretty fun game, and I'm still trying to unlock a bunch of stuff, so it's been keeping my interest fairly well.  I do find some of the animated instrutors pretty humorous though.  Like the samba teacher recommends that I "use your muscles to move your arms up and down."  I ask you, how else would one move their arms? :)

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Cozy Slippers

I started a pair of slippers for myself. I'm using Pattons. Classic Wool leftover from Ben's Mario mushroom hat.  The pattern is from the new (posthumous) Elizabeth Zimmerman book, Knit One, Knit All.  So far it's gone really easily and quickly, and I'm enjoying practicing some two handed color stranding.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Free Birds

The chickens have decided that the free-range life is the life for them.  They've taken over my raised garden beds, the deck, the mulch path to the coop, and everything in between.



 They preen and groom on the deck, like I'm running some kind of chicken spa out there.


It's been beautiful wether lately.  At least by my definition, which means cool, gray, damp, and mild.  My favorite time of year is the fall, and I've been trying to enjoy every minute of it.  These little chickies also seem to be making the best of the green grass and unfrozen dust baths while they last.  I've let most of the lawn get long and go to seed because the chickens really like pecking the seed heads.  And because I just can't stand the thought of breaking into the quiet peaceful post-rain days with the lawn mower.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Busy Week

I've had lots of things to do this week!  I've been doing the monthly newsletter for the county extension.  I just finished putting together my last flyer (there is so much going on, it has so much info this month! That time of year, I guess.) and tomorrow my helpers and I meet to fold and tape and label all 300 of them and get them in the mail.  It's a relief every month when I finally finish this project.

There was a meeting for my local unit yesterday, and I was one of the "hostesses" so I made molasses cookies.  I did have one, because... well, what's the point if I can't even have one of my own best recipe cookies?! :)  Luckily, they were a hit with the ladies, so there were none to bring home and have tempting us.

I'm afraid I might have pantry moths, since I keep seeing little gray moths in the kitchen.  I'm planning to empty and sort the whole pantry today, and I might be ruthless about what I do away with.  I also ordered some traps, which are on their way now.

So, things have been busy here, but I'm afraid I haven't been doing all that much bloggable activity.  Just a lot of newsletter editing!  I did draw the little apple grapics on this post yesterday to make some table cards for our refreshment table, and a sign welcoming the group back after the summer break we've been on.

I hope everyone else is enjoying this early fall as much as I am!  It rained all day yesterday, and I loved it!  This morning is beautiful, so cool and bright.  I can't wait for my bike to get finished at the bike shop.  I want to ride!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

In Training for an Active Life

We've been doing really well the last couple of weeks.  We started weight training and conditioning with the trainer, and despite being so much more sore than I knew I could get, I'm really enjoying it.  I never played sports in high school, so I haven't ever had a practice session that involve more than jogging around the field and some catching drills.  It's been cool for me to get a taste of how the more athletic half lived.

It's really motivating for me to work with the trainer, simply because I have no idea of my abilities or limits beyond simple cardio and yard work.  I had no idea that I could do 180 crunches in one work out session.  I would have sworn I wouldn't be able to.  But because she broke it down into different kinds and parcelled them into a circut, I did it without counting them all till later.

And it's sort of fun to just have someone tell you what to do.  It wouldn't have occurred to me to work out like that, because I would have thought I was too out of shape, or wouldn't know what weight, etc to use.  But because she tells me to do it, I figure I must be able to and I just do.

I've been thinking of this period of more intense training and calorie counting as being a sort of a boot camp to switch modes in life.  I'm not training for anything in particular, like a race, but rather training to live the sort of life that will help me gain health and be fit in the long run.  We've been trying to add more active recreation to our weekends the last couple of weeks as well.  In addition to the training sessions, we've gone to the Zoo, walking through Forest Park first to get there, and this weekend, we enjoyed family day at Purina Farms, which is a really awesome attraction in a beautiful landscape.  I've got some great pictures of the Pro-Plan Preformance Dogs to post later this week.

Of course, I'm not going to pretend that I like the idea of walking a mile to the zoo, only to then spend the day walking up and down hills at the zoo, and then walk a mile back to the car.  But I did it, and I'm convinced that eventually, that will sound like my idea of fun.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Calling It

I sounded the retreat for the garden at 6:45am this morning, Wed September 7.  The battle is a defeat, but the war will continue next summer.

There are a few stragglers who have yet to be called in from the field; sunflowers and a bushel gourd vine are valiantly protecting the retreat.

Other than that, all troops have been recalled or, sadly, left to fend for themselves in enemy territory, and the land they once occupied has been ceded to the chickens.  They quickly tried to establish a sovereignty, but got distracted when a moth flew by and they chased it en masse off the deck.  They then forgot that they'd meant to start governing anything and fought over an apple core I'd tossed behind me while surveying the troops.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Gaining...

I've gotten a few concerned emails from readers who worry that our trainer may be taking losing weight to the extreme, by reducing my daily calories to 1300-1400.  I want to assure them that though I agree that this could be extreme, I have been feeling fine, and as long as I'm sure not to skip any snack or meal, I don't get hungry or ill feeling at all.  Also, please know that I am completely in charge of the process and will always have the final decision of what our food buying, meal plans, recipes look like.

I would like to make another point that's been so important for me lately.  I don't care how much I weigh.  I don't care what size I wear.  Not objectively anyway.  I care, of course, in as far as those numbers enable or limit my ablilties, but it's the ABILITY, not the number that's important.

To me, this is an important distinction, because I want to start out, and continue, working with the trainer and learning about serious working out positively.  To me, always talking about what you can't have, what you have to give up or lose is just so sapping.  So depressing.  So un-nurturing.

Here's what I do care about:

How far I can walk - whether I can make it up a hill to see a scenic outlook, or hike back for gas if we run out, or if I can spend all day on my feet--spring cleaning or at the zoo
If I can pick up heavy things - carrying feed to the chicken house, moving wheelbarrows of compost, watering fruit trees by the bucketful
How hard I can work - hoeing, tilling, bending, planting, digging
How much fun I can have - biking new places, learning new things like hiking or backpacking, being fit and able to volunteer outside my home without feeling too tired to finish my work inside it, attend any event, not worrying about whether we have to walk a mile or two to get there, have the energy for site seeing, vacations, etc.

The whole reason I started talking about fitness/diet in the first place, and got really serious about it, is because I could see I was losing things.  Losing my health, a little at a time, so it was hardly noticeable.  Losing my physical abilities, so I was surprised to find myself out of breath walking terrain I'd walked easily before.

I'm not going to be losing anymore.  Now I'm gaining.  I'm gaining stamina and endurance.  Gaining skills I'd lost in high school, and the energy to enjoy dancing fast and having fun again.  Gaining peace of mind, knowing that I'm not sick or too tired, knowing that I'll be up to the task, whatever it is.  Gaining skills and tools to do my job better and live my life more fully, helping others and giving of myself.

I'm simply just not interested in losing weight.  What I'm really after is being awesome.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Homemade Chicken Fingers

This is one of my new favorite ways to have chicken.  We very rarely eat meat as a main dish, anymore, so when I have a chunk of meat, I like to make it special.

This is more of a method than a recipe.  We recently got about six pounds of all natural chicken breast tenders on a great clearance deal.  It was such a luxury not to have to cut and trim the chicken breasts myself, I made them all into chicken fingers.


Start with a set up like this (disregard the messes in the background, I'm trying to reorganize the kitchen).  From left to right: flour seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, etc, beaten eggs, crumbs (I made my crumbs with whole wheat ritz crackers and parmasean cheese.  You can use any bread, cracker, cereal crumb you'd like to try.  I absolutely endorse adding the cheese.), and a sheet pan lined with non-stick foil brush with a little oil.  The non-stick foil is essential in my experience to keep the breading from sticking and coming off the chicken.  The oil will promote crunchy browning.

After you set up, you just rinse the chicken, dredge it in the flour, coat it in the egg, and cover it in the crumbs.  Lay it on the foil, and bake for about twenty minutes, flip, and bake for twenty minutes more, or until the centers measure 160 degrees.

 Yummy, crunchy, homemade, realtively healthy chicken fingers!



I bagged these up to store in the freezer for quick meals when I don't feel like cooking or want a treat.  I'm not really sure how they'll thaw or reheat, so I don't have any recommendations about how to do that.  I'll let you know how they turn out when we have the frozen ones later.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finished Socks

I started knitting these oh so long ago.  Here's the proof.

I sort of shuffled them aside and neglected them after I finished turning the heel because I ended up making them about a half an inch too short for my foot.  They fit my mom perfectly though.

I tried to get her to finish knitting them at the point that we discovered they'd fit her so well, but she refused.  Then I debated taking them right off the needle and giving them away to Goodwill.  I also entertained the idea that I might foist them off on some unsuspecting blog reader to finish and keep.

In the end, I girded my knitting loins and finished what I'd started.  I'll send them off to my mom soon, with the bits leftover for darning, if the need arises.  I refuse to do the darning though!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quite Contrary

My garden has been growing, though slowly.  I think the heat has slowed down even the heat-loving plants, like the peppers and tomatoes.



Baby gourds. 
It may be way too late for them, but they're so cute and fuzzy I didn't want to pull up the vines yet.

The pepper patch.
We've gotten a couple of peppers so far, but there are many more in the production phase.
The one in the corner is an eggplant that hasn't done anything yet.


My chickies are starting to look kind of ragged and worn down.  It's molting season, and they're all sort of sad and molty right now.  But they're not as hot as they were, and this earlier molt should be good so they can all re-grow before the cold weather comes.



(We got a new camera, btw.  Could you tell?)

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Monday, August 22, 2011

It turns out.

Even though I was having cramping all across my chest, and up my neck, I was not having a heart attack as the deep parts of my anxious mind feared.  The doctor has assured me that this is a musclular problem.

I never knew it, but cramping, muscle aches, and joint pain and stiffness are some common side effects of my thyroid problem.  I thought I was just getting old.

She's having the bloodwork done, expecting that she'll probably have to adjust my synthroid prescription, especially bearing in mind that I've been super tired and crazy hungry lately.

For now, I'm supposed to be resting and taking a muscle relaxer that makes me into a zombie to keep the cramping from knotting up my neck too badly.  I am allowed to work out gently, like walking, so I'm sure to be doing that.

The new trainer gave me working out assignments for every day this week!  So far, I've kept up, and I definately planning on starting out in the way I intend to go and making sure this first week is completed fully.

So far, just one session in, we're both enjoying the training a lot.  Ben and I both work better with deadlines and assignments, so this is a good motivator for us both.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not a lot to report...

I haven't done anything interesting all week.

Okay, that's not precisely true.  I've been putting together some fliers and booklets for the county extension club, which has kept me busy, but I did get to go to the printer and order them today, and have a nice lunch with a friend from the board.

I also have such a terrible stiff neck again!  I made an appointment to see my doctor about this tomorrow, because it's gotten to be a much more frequent occurance, and seems to last longer as well.  It's such a terribly painful thing, hurting with each breath and step.  I'm not whining, that's just why I'm really starting to feel like it's not just a regular "slept wrong, kink in the neck" kind of pain.

Today's dinner:
Pinto Beans and Brown Rice
served with sour cream, chopped onion, cheddar cheese, green pepper, guacamole, and Rotel tomatoes on the side.

I was going to put the Rotel right in the rice and make Spanish style brown rice, but then I tasted them.  I am a spice wimp, and there's no way I could handle the whole can in there!  I might put a teaspoon or so in my own dish, if I'm feeling very reckless and adventurous.  Ben will certainly enjoy the rest, spice lover that he is.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Garden Tip

I've been frustrated in the past with the fact that garden produce seems to bring so much dirt into the house, not to mention all the leaves and trimmings that belong in the compost and have to be brought back outside.

To help combat that, I picked up a weatherproof cell phone box in the camping section, and hung it from my trellis in the garden beds.  This holds a simple folding knife, making it really easy to clean and trim veggies whenever I'm out there, leaving all the extra organic material in the beds to compost, where it belongs.

You can see my little knife holder on the left side of the picture from a couple weeks ago of the watermelon.  I half expected someone to ask what it was when I posted the pic, but I guess it blended right in to all those watermelon vines!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

On the Health Front

Well, we've signed up with a personal trainer, but have not yet had our first session with her.  I'm really looking forward to being under some guidance and encouragement when it comes to working out.  I've lost a lot of ground, fitness-wise, in the last couple years, and I'm very enthused about gaining some back!

I got three workouts of about twenty minutes each in this past week.  Not ideal, but I'm working my way back up there.  We also walked around for about three hours Saturday morning, shopping in historic St. Charles.  Not precisely a workout, but definately activity, and much more activity than watching movies is!

I've been thinking quite a lot lately about emergency preparedness and how much that ties in with health and wellness.  Its so important to be prepared for big disasters and small emergencies.  But I've been dwelling on the fact that no matter how organized my emergency supplies and plans are, they don't mean much if I can't manage to hike, or haul, or lift, or run.  So, on my list of small motivations for weight loss and health gain, I'm definately adding the fact that it will help become fit enough to be ready for emergencies.  And healthy enough to practice and learn new skills, like hiking and camping.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

School Supplies!

I just could not resist a $.40 pack of crayons the other day. I have a terrible weakness for all school and office supplies.

Am I the only one who absolutely loves the way crayons smell?  Having so many piled in one place in the Back to School displays is like heaven.  Lately, the scent of crayons has been my drug of choice.

I had to bring them home so I could stop embarassing myself by sniffing them in the seasonal aisles.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Don't do like me

Remember the watermelon picture I posted last week?  With the pretty watermelons growing on the trellis?  Well, I'd been meaning for the last month to get some stockings to tie them up to the trellis, or make the little hammocks to rest in.

I shouldn't have procrastinated.

This morning, I found my two biggest melons broken off and cracked on the ground.  They were far from ripe, so the chickens got quite the special treat.

Don't worry, there are plenty more on the vines, and now I know not to put off supporting the growing melons any more!

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I mentioned to Ben yesterday evening that I was planning to make some more power bars and snacks today, and he got very excited with the possibility of my reinstating Baking Day Thursday.

Very long time readers will remember that years ago, when we lived in AZ every Thurday was Baking Day.  I got out of the habit when we moved here.

Ben was so excited by the thought, I officially reinstated Baking Day. So it is written, so it will be done.

Today, I was going to make date larabars, but I broke the food processor grinding dates.  Ben had also requested something pumpkin, so I made these pumpkin whoopie pies. They're way too rich for us to have the whole batch in one weekend, so I'm going to experiment with how well they freeze.

I haven't had one yet, but the crumbs are pretty yummy!

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Ashford Knitters Loom

Some dish towels I wove for my grandma's birthday present.

I'll have to post more about the loom next week. It's been a long day. And I almost forgot to do today's post at all!

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Trellised Watermelons

Growing them vertically on the trellis has given me the most success I've had with watermelons up till now.

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Getting Serious

Ben and I are looking into personal trainers.  We've talked it over and decided that, if we find one we can afford and we like, working with a trainer for some sort of boot camp/jump start program for a few months (at least) will be a real advantage for us both.

I'm voting for joining the health club with the pool and classes and attached spa, but I think he wants to work with the woman that has her own studio space and gives private training.  I'll admit, that's appealing to me as well, so I'm hoping maybe we could do both.  As in, first a start up program with the private trainer, then maybe get a gym membership later.  The private trainer is also a nutritionist, so I think she might offer a lot of services we can use.

We're going to be meeting with some of our options in the coming week, and hopefully make a decision soon.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Homemade Cherry Pie Filling

I bought some more cherries last weekend, and this week I made a big batch of cherry pie filling.

I ended up with more than I'd meant to, 8 quarts.  That'll be more than enough cherry pie for the year!  I'll be sure to save one for next Februrary to celebrate Washington's birthday!

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Glue Storage Tip

Lots of glues that have narrow precision type tips can end up completely ruined when the adhesive solidifies in the length of the tip.

I always keep my dull and bent pins on hand in a jar near my sewing table to use to solve this problem.  I store the glue bottles with a pin in the nozzle and the cover over that, to ensure that it'll stay open and unclogged.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

It's a fact of life (ha! See what I did there?) that not everything you try will turn out.

What I'm finally learning in the garden this year is that I've been seeing my food growing attempts as one big win or lose, but really, it's a lot of different small attempts that may succeed or fail independently.

I was feeling down cast at some gardening fails: the onions rotted from the inside out before I even pulled them, I have not been able to get a single bean plant to live, despite trying three varieties, those darn rabbits are causing all sorts of trouble, I was late transplanting the tomatoes a good 90% of the seedlings died afterward. I was seeing that all add up to one big statement, "The Garden is a Failure This Year."

In reality, I also have cucumbers growing like kudzu, and the first watermelons I have yet to be able to grow.  Hot peppers, bell peppers, egg plants and surviving tomatoes are thriving, and the carrots and potatoes were both moderate successes.  We ate more peas this spring than any other so far, and I've protected lots of sunflower seedlings into sunflower toddlers so far, and all is going well with them.

So when the garden never seems to be living up to your dreams... ;)

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Solutions

I don't have much working out to report, because my neck pain and cramping continued right through the week.  It finally loosened up over the weekend though, and I'm so glad to be able to turn my head again.  I'm really looking forward to getting a work out in this afternoon, after I get some other work done.

I'm making some healthy whole grain, real food snacks today.  I've done homemade Larabars, according to this recipe, and I'm planning some peanut butter granola and some power bars with oats and puffed brown rice as well.  I have the bad habit of not snacking, and then I get too hungry to think, so I either eat junk or I don't eat at all.

My two solutions to this are to really cut back on the junk we buy and to make sure there are easy to prep and eat snacks on hand.  I already don't buy most junk food, we don't keep chips, desserts, candy, snack crackers etc in the house, but I am a master of making junk food out of innocuous things, like graham crackers.  Eating the whole pack is not a serving!

And speaking of the real food/whole food thing, I think it's sad and indicitive of how too many people cook and eat that my go to calorie counter website automatically assumes that store bought canned cherry pie filling (made with HFCS, of course) is what I mean when I put in "cherries".  Really?  Since when are those not a fruit first?

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Am I the only one who leaves the newly canned things out on the counter for a day or two just because they look pretty?  And show off my industriousness?  hehehe

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Fruits

I've been working this week on cherries and peaches, since they're so inexpensive and in season right now.  I dried about 7 lbs of sweet cherries, which almost filled this two quart jar.

We also picked up a little more than a bushel of peaches.  These I dehydrated, froze and canned. We dried slices, puree (for roll ups), and shreds.  The shreds because my blender broke and I finished my dehydrator load with the salad shooter. I froze a gallon bag of peach quarters for throwing in smoothies, and canned five and a half quarts of slices in ultra light syrup.

I think I'll pick up some more cherries this weekend since they're still on sale.  I'd like to can some as pie filling and brandied cherries.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sunflowers

I like to plant sunflowers and dry and save the heads for the chickens to have in the winter.  They produce a lot of high oil feed for a fairly inexpensive price, and they're entertainment too. I hang one just above their reach so they can jump and peck at it. One will jump and knock seeds out, and the others will all scramble.

I had to fence the new plantings because Damn Bunny has been snipping every seedling that comes up right off at the dirt.  Very frustrating!

I had three volunteer sunflowers come up in the middle of the yard this spring and I cut them and hung them up to dry last week. I will keep any useful volunteer, no matter how oddly placed in the yard it might be!

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Monday, July 18, 2011

So It's Come to This

Oh, my poor neglected blog, I do love you.  I just seem to have lost touch of how to show it.

I've been unhappy with my blogging (non)performance lately, and have come to an important decision regarding how to proceed.

I don't want to quit writing.  I love blogging, and I really enjoy reading blogs, and I hope that my blog can be enjoyable for other people too.  Not to mention, I use it as an actual log too, and I often look up my own tutorials, techniques, dates, and recipes.  It's helpful in my senility.

So, I don't want to keep haphazardly limping along, and I don't want to cut bait altogether, so this is my new plan: Theme Days!

I'll assign a certain theme to each day of the week and post about that theme.  I'm always more creative with restaints, and it'll be good to have a prompt of sorts for ideas.

So here's the schedule I've come up with:
Monday-Workout Log/Fitness/Health (this is uncommon content for my blog, but Ben and I have both wanted to lose weight, and I feel like it's time to start taking working out more seriously, since I've often felt this summer that I'm literally not strong enough to accomplish some of the things I want to get done)
Tuesday-Gardening/Building/Outdoors
Wednesday-Crafts/Sewing/Knitting, etc.
Thursday-Cooking/Baking/Canning/Recipes
Friday-Open  Probably a photo or quote.

The new schedule starts today!

So I'll start out with a whimper unfortunately, lol.  I have no working out to report today, since I can't move my head or shoulders without pain right now.  I have an inherit bad neck, and every once in a while, it'll just go wackadoo on me and cramp and spasm up.

I have been working out fairly regularly for the past three or four weeks now, though have not worked up to the duration that I'd like.  I've been doing twenty to thirty minute routines, and would ultimately like to be doing an hour at a time.

Also, I'm on the lookout for some work outs/activities that Ben and I can do together.  He doesn't like the things I enjoy, like wii fitness games (gold's gym dance, exerbeat, just dance) and dancing workout dvds.  And, though I don't mind using them, his preferred exercise is the treadmill and the exercise bike, and of course we can't do those at the same time.  I'd mostly just like to ad in an activity that we could enjoy together to get us up and moving, even if it's not strictly exercise.

Hope my readers will like the thought of a new schedule!  I'm looking forward to some structure to keep me accountable and give me inspiration!

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

TCB

We headed to MI this past weekend to visit family. We timed our visit especially so we could attend the Elvis Festival in Ypsilanti. I so totally loves me some Elvis, so I was so excited I sewed coordinating shirts for Ben and myself.

I'll post more details of the sewing soon, but here's a detail self portrait for now. I did my hair in a faux rockabilly sort of style. Matching hair scarf, Rosie the Riveter style, pompador.  It was a lot of fun to get dressed up in a new way!

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Friday, July 01, 2011

In Honor of the Grand Old Fourth

Have a safe and happy weekend!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slowcooker Baked Apples

This is one of my favorite weeknight desserts. It can be super healthy, or slightly indulgent, as you prefer.  I love how quick and easy it is, and it will be hot and ready after dinner with no need to remember to start dessert during dinner prep or juggle oven availability.

This can be done with any size slow cooker, and as few or many apples as desired.  They make a great breakfast too.  Here's my method:

Wash the apples well, and core them. Try to leave a little bit of bottom in the hole, but it doesn't matter a ton if you go all the way through.

Sprinkle on cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, etc, as desired. Fill the core holes about 2/3 full with a couple of tablespoons of oats. I use old fashioned.

Add a teaspoon or so of brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, or any sweetener of your choice to the top of the oats.  You can leave this out as well, if desired.

Dust with spices again, and top with a 1/4 tbl of butter.  The butter isn't absolutely necessary either, so depending on what calorie count you're going for, it can be left out if desired.

I do all of this right in the slow cooker, so I don't have to worry about any clean up when oats or spices miss the mark.

Add a tablespoon or so of water to the bottom, and cook on low for 5-8 hours.  The cooking time will vary depending on the size and kind of apple.  Serve warm, and spoon the juice on the bottom of the slow cooker over the apples.

So yummy!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cinder Block Raised Bed Herb Garden

My cinder block beds are looking so much nicer and more finished this year! Our friend Ken came over and helped Ben haul and spread mulch over a very big part of the deck area. I love having nice paths around these beds instead of huge weeds I can't get the mower to.


These beds are for permenant perenial herbs. Starting in the back left corner and going clockwise are: peppermint (1 yr old), lavender (new planting), chamomile (new planting, I started the seedlings inside this spring), and comfrey (1 year old).

I chopped down the comfrey this past week to rot in a bucket of water to make some fertilizer. I've not done this before, but it is why I planted the comfrey (as well as for the occasional poultice), so I hope it works well. I left some behind so I'll have some leaves to pick and bury with the tomatoes when I finally get them planted.

Some of the cinder block holes are planted with nasturtiums, but most are growing weeds. I was pulling them, but sticking my hands into holes with giant striped spiders seems foolhardy, so the next task for this area is to fill in all the holes and plant them with something pretty. I think creeping thyme alternated with some sort of flower would be good. That'll probably wait till next year though, since the cost of the mulch is still sticker shocking me whenever I walk out there!

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Breakfast!

I've been harvesting from the raised beds little by little, and I've been loving grabbing a snack fresh from the dirt.

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the flower stalk of the garlic plant, and they're trimmed off when they appear in order to keep the garlic's growing energy focused on the bulb.

They're edible as well, and can be stir fried and such. Mine are probably pretty tough, since they've been growing long enough to curl back on themselves a couple of times.  I've read that they're tenderest before they start curling.

I think I'll use these to flavor my bean soup today, and then I can fish them out if they don't get soft enough to eat while they cook.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Baking Day

I had a baking day today (despite the heat!), to get some quick snacks and things ready for my coming busy week.

I made Peanut Butter Granola, whole wheat pita pockets (both from tammysrecipes.com), and a big tray of ants on a log.  The granola is so good! I couldn't stop snitching tastes of it while it was cooling on the cookie sheet.  Some of my pitas didn't puff up and "pocketize" but I was planning to only use a couple for sandwiches anyway, and I think the rest will be so great later this week toasted and dipped in hummus.

It's time for a cool shower for me, but the heat from the oven was worth it, I think, for the quick and easy meals I'll get later from these.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I am the PowerBringer!

So, for the last couple weeks, we've been noticing a few different outlets have stopped working. And the sump pump wasn't working for a bit either, until we noticed and plugged it into another outlet.

I was pretty worried that maybe mice had eaten some wires or something, and called today to have a repairman come out and check.

Ben had checked the fuse box, and none had tripped. I didn't really think it was a fuse, since the nonworking outlets were all over, in the garage, on the porch, in the dining room.

I was clearing the bikes away from the fuse box earlier so the guy could get to it more easily, and while looking at the labels, I saw those places (and the sump pump, too) are all on the same breaker.

I flipped it off and back on again, and there you go! All fixed.

I did feel a little silly calling the the repair guy back and explaining why I don't need him to come out now.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Good Luck Bear?

You'd think that, for as many four leaf clovers I find, I'd have better luck than I tend to.

I found this one yesterday while I was mowing the lawn.  Yeah, can see them from the mower now. My eyes are really trained to pick them out.  I don't usually bother to pick them, but this was whole and not chewed on, and I was stopping for the day anyway.

I should just start selling these on etsy somehow, since it seems like we've got lucky, mutant clover that overproduces four leafers.

Big storms have been coming through the last couple days, but we've been safe enough here so far.  Some of the new little trees seem a tad beat down, but I think they'll come out okay.

Hope you all are weathering your storms with lots of good natured luck!

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Bad Luck Bear Strikes Again

So, I'm a Bad Luck Bear.  I tend to get hurt/sick/infected/injured/bitten/alergic/what have you slightly more than the average person.  Maybe I rush too much, or don't use enough caution, but I do feel like I might get more than my fair share of that kind of trouble sometimes.  I try to just look on the bright side and find something humorous about the situation and get on with things, and I am grateful that I don't have Job-sized bad luck instead, or even just one big problem, so I do feel better equipped than some to deal with the continual string of small irritations.

This week my tendency to be injured while doing innocuous activities reared its head again.  I ran over a stick with the lawn mower, and it kicked back into my leg, going through my pants, and subsquently, my skin.  It was slightly startling to look down and see blood filling my shoe and dripping all over the foot rest of the mower.

The amount of blood made me think I'd sliced the back of my leg open, so I was relieved when I got inside and saw it was just a small punture.  I cleaned it well with soap and water, poured on the hydrogen peroxide, and applied antibiotic ointment.  It them proceeded to become infected badly, warranting a trip to the urgent care clinic the following evening.

Because the doctor there did not realize she was dealing with a Bad Luck Bear, she sent me home with a mark indicating the present state of the red streaks, a "just in case" prescription for Keflex, and hopeful words about how well it seemed to be healing.  A couple of hours later, the streaks had progressed a quarter inch, at least, beyond her pen marks, and my prescription was implemented.

I've spent the rest of the week doing nothing much, since I've been running a fever, and the antibiotic is tearing up my stomach.  But, I'm definately on the mend today.  Yesterday, the red ceased expanding, and it has now started to receed, thank you, Keflex.

I'm hoping to be much more productive next week, since the most useful thing I've accomplished this week is the dishes and the laundry.  Not that those are bad things, but they are bare minimum things.  I did make some maple scones for our wedding anniversary breakfast on Wed, but I didn't care for the recipe much, so it doesn't seem worth sharing.

Since I couldn't be up and about very much, I did get lots of research done looking for some healthy, quick meals for the summer.  I have bad habit foods (nachos, anyone?) that I really tend to rely on too much on the weekends, especially when I'm hot, and it's much busier with the garden work.  I like to feel like I'm having a treat on the weekend, and not having to cook like all the week days, but I've been taking it too far into "treat land" lately, and Ben and I have both gained some weight.  I've been looking for recipes and ideas of food that I can make ahead, will feel "fun and weekend-y" and also be relatively healthy.  A very tall order, I know. I'm at a loss when it comes to fast AND healthy.  I can do one or the other, it seems, but not both at once.  I loved the idea of bean burritos from Tammy's Recipes (such an awesome site!) and have a couple more ideas to try out soon as well.  I'm still on the look out if anyone has ideas or links for me!

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Drat!

Well, let the perfectionism get to my blogging last week! After I missed a couple of letters in the A-Z challenge, it seemed like I couldn't just jump back in. Then I got more behind, etc. You know the story, lol.

I had a great time with my family over Easter. It was so good to have my big brother visit!  He brought a big bag of frozen starwberries from his garden, so this week I made jam.

I used the Ball No Sugar Needed pectin and sweetened it with just a little honey. It turned out really yummy.  I can't wait till I have my own strawberries growing!

The chickens have been getting out of their pen and causing a lot of trouble among my cabbages. Naughty chickens. But over the weekend, we moved their fence and pinned it down better, and now they stay where I've put them! I'm having an awesome feeling of power and accomplishment about that. Ben says that outsmarting a passel of chickens is nothing to brag about, but it's still making me really happy.

My lawn is a jungly mess.  We've been getting so much rain! The water is deep all over the yard, so I haven't been able to mow yet.  I did clean the garage so that we could have plenty of room to tune up the mower, so it'll be ready as soon as the yard isn't a swamp.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ready!

I'm having company this weekend! My mom, dad, big. brother, and SIL are all coming for Easter.  I'm very excited because we haven't had anyone come visit for a year, and I love it when my family visits.

Our house isn't exactly equipped for six people at once, though, so I've been cleaning the usual hiding places. You know, the parts of the house that usually have the junk stashed away when people come over so the rest of the house looks pristine? Well, I had to organize for real this time, because those places will have people sleeping in them this weekend!

It's good to have things sorted and organized, especially upstairs in the storage area.  Yesterday I got all the canning jars, holiday decorations, wrapping paper, out of season clothes, etc all sorted and stored away where they belong!

So, I'm ready for my company to come, and excited to spend the weekend with them all!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Postponed!

Argh! I can't believe I forgot to post "P" yesterday.  I mentioned to Ben at dinner that I had to do that, and he joked that I could just do it today and call it "postponed".  Well, I completely forgot about posting soon after that when tornado warnings sent us to spend the evening in the closet, so I'm stealing his idea.

Luckily, no tornados came through and I don't see much damage from the big storms and hail we did get. Hope all you are staying safe in these spring storms!

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Orchard Update

I've been mulching my baby fruit trees this morning.  They all survived the winter just fine, though one did get chewed down a little. (Damn Bunny!)  I'll have to make sure I actually get around to caging them in this fall to avoid any more damage.

The cherry tree that came in the orchard pack we ordered last spring from Burgess never did grow at all, though I was very happy with all the rest of what we ordered.  Plus, they have a guarantee, so my new cherry tree to replace it is on the way sometime this week or next.

Back here in the Orchard/Berry section we've planted, dwarf versions all, three apple trees (red delicious, yellow delicious, and fuji), sand cherries, necterine, peach, pear, plum, black tartan cherry, blackberries, raspberries, and elderberries. 

I'm hoping to add some more of the sand cherries.  I don't know if they'll taste very good, but they're really pretty, and if it turns out we don't like eating them, I'm the chickens would want them, or the wild birds would be attracted to them.  I'm really hoping they're as good to eat as the catalog claimed.

We're going to be planting almonds, butternuts, and pawpaw trees this spring as well.  Those will be going at the other side of the yard, since they'd grow so much taller than the dwarf fruit trees, and we don't want to shade those out.

I'm glad to be getting these mulched! It looks so nice, but it also keeps the trees healthier, holding more moisture against the roots, and keeping down the grass and weeds that would compete with the growing trees.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Never Say Never

I like to keep everything in my yard and garden organic. I don't dust Sevin powder, I dust with cayenne powder. I use boiling water or white vinegar on the cracks in the walkways. I fertilize with coffee and manure and compost.  I find Monsanto creepy and distasteful and their RoundUp ads campaigning against dandelions pretty much make me see red.

It was my organic fertilizer urges that got me into a big predicament with a terribly non-organic.  We had a big load of manure brought in two summers ago, and we'd been told it was well rotted and composted.

With it came monster terrible weeds. These grow quickly and luxiously whereever I spread the manure. They spread underground, have the most fagile roots that break at the drop of a hat, grow up from the smallest piece of said root and also have tap roots as thick as my wrist.

I tried my best to keep them weeded from the garden all last summer, but pulling them usually left behind the root, from which two would grow, and digging them seemed to help them spread, since it was impossible for me not to end up breaking the roots apart.

So, when I saw how thickly they were covering a third of my garden this spring, and that they've already grown to two feet tall, I knew, no matter how much I hate to do it, that this once I'd have to bring in chemical reinforcements.

I may be justifying my actions here, and not being completely honest with myself, but the way I see it, very strong measures are sometimes justified in extreme situations. So, if I use poison this once to eradicate a very noxious weed that's ruining my garden, then wait for it to break down before planting, I'm saving myself a lot of frustration and concern, not to mention saving the garden plot from being taken over.

I do wish I had one of the flame thrower weeders instead though! Ben won't let me get one.  Some nonsense or other about starting devastating wildfires.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Missing!

I almost missed "M"! And I suppose this is sort of cheating on the challenge. ;)

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Here's that promised picture of my lettuce!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lettuce

I wanted a picture for this post, but time really got away from me and it was dark before I knew it!

I planted a patch of buttercrunch lettuce two weeks ago, and it's come up really well.

I'll have to take a pic of it to post tomorrow when it's light again.  I just wanted to make sure I post an "L" for today, in order to fulfill my ABC challenge posts.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Knitting Projects

This is my current "concentrate and follow charts, knit two handed, color knitting" project.  It's the cullo pattern from Knitpicks.  I love these colors! I'm really enjoying working with the pallette yarn, it's got such saturated colors. Very vivid.

My "don't need to think about it or even look while I knit" project right now is a log cabin throw that I'm knitting all in white from Cabana yarn from my stash.  I think I'll end up backing the throw with some flannel.  This will add warmth, keep the knitting in shape well, and hide the wrong side of my picked up stitches where they're a bit messy.

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