Tuesday, December 31, 2013

moving into 2014

I have been reading about minimalism. The meaning of it is living with less but that means different things to different people and that's ok. I've realized in the last year that my life feels cluttered and in order to be a healthier and happier person, some of the stuff has to go.

I've gotten a good start on unloading things I don't need, don't use, don't like anymore, don't wear anymore. It's a process that gets easier the more I do it. Here's a good blog in case you're interested: Becoming Minimalist.

I've gotten some things done in the last few days after my apex of slothfulness. All of the Christmas stuff is in the basement again except for the tree which I may decide to put on the curb. It's served us well for several years but I am ready for something smaller again. All of the Christmas dishes and the one box of stuff are put away, too.

I have a physical therapy appointment this morning and a mental health appointment tomorrow. Good parentheses for the eve of the new year, eh? Patty has done such great work on my lymphedema that my scar is almost invisible and the numbness is much less. I have had such wonderful health care in the past year and for that I am very grateful.

I've done most of the things I meant to do today. 

  • Physical therapy
  • Pulse for workout
  • Grocery store
  • Dishes
  • One hour of house tidying
  • Deleted iPad games
  • Turned notifications off on phone
  • Clean cat litter box
  • Find recipe for good luck pork and sauerkraut
  • Find recipe for baked halibut
  • Finish blog post
Have a safe and happy new year's eve...and a grace-filled 2014.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

the apex of my post-holiday lethargy

Regis dragged me (not literally) out of bed this morning to exercise at the Pulse. When I came home, I did a few sedentary things then took a delicious nap. I woke with no gumption.

Finally, I decided to gather up the Christmas things and pile them on the table in preparation for the day I have the energy to put them away. The Christmas linens are all down the laundry chute. The Christmas dishes and the serve ware (what?) are all on the extra table in the kitchen. Most of the food is gone and the rest will go tomorrow.

Regis took Gus to two different dog parks today so he is happy and ready for a nap. Woodrow wreaked havoc around here most of the morning but he is peaceful now, too.

I just read the weather forecast. Pleasant turning to frigid. Lovely. Tomorrow will be a good day to huddle in front of the fire and make a pot of chili. Another reason to vegetate.

So, here I sit. Thinking about doing something but not doing it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

my grinchy side

There are some things I don't like about Christmas. I'll start with those, then I'll move on to the things I love about it.

  1. I hate the shopping hoopla that starts about the day after Labor Day. I can't stand going into stores that have displays of Christmas shit out that early.
  2. I don't like shopping much at all. It's too much pressure to spend a lot of money on something the person you are gifting may put right in the thrift store box.
  3. I hate Christmas cards that come with only a name. Seriously? Not even a hand-written phrase, like "Hope you aren't in jail again this year!"
  4. I hate those giant blow-up things people fill their yards with. They are terrifying at night and they look like a collapsed circus tent during the day. I wouldn't want to be around if one of those blew up.
  5. I hate that people ask (for weeks...and I must admit I am guilty of this myself), "Did you have a nice Christmas?" Is this like the question, "Is it cold enough for you?" Rhetorical?
  6. I do not love Mannheim Steamroller and big productions like that.
  7. I hate loud Christmas carols on the phone when they put you on hold. Give me a break. I think the clinic in Mankato is trying to drum up business for their audiologist.
  8. I can't abide country western (new) Christmas songs. Gawd, stick to back roads and girls that leave you at the tavern.
  9. Some Christmas letters. Things to not write about in a Christmas letter: hemorrhoid surgery, amputation, jail or prison, scholarships to Big Ten Universities, the A honor roll, a new Range Rover that cost more than my house, constipation problems...you get the picture. 
  10. I know this will be an unpopular view but I think Christmas as a holiday, for most people, has been completely separated from what it meant originally. So, I think people with those religious views should keep them to their own homes and churches and let the rest of us go about without being subjected to all of that. This thought occurred to me when I was at the high school and I saw the diversity of kids in the hallways. What do think of this religious holiday completely over-taking a week of the school year?
Things I love about Christmas.
  1. I love the food. We have a few traditional things like mashed potatoes and Keith's warm fruit salad, but otherwise I feel free to be reckless with the menu. One year I made roasted root vegetables. They were not a big hit.
  2. There were three things I had to have this year: a box of chocolates, Chex mix, and Schmidt's summer sausage! Score on all three! Trifecta!
  3. I love Santa. I didn't see one to have my picture taken with him this year and I'm disappointed in that. Next year, I'll work harder.
  4. I love goofy holiday hats and have quite a collection of Santa hats, reindeer antlers, snowman hats, and even a Christmas skirt for Woodrow.
  5. I love some Christmas music like the old Perry Como and Dean Martin classics. And soft instrumentals. And blues Christmas songs even though some of them are so forlorn you could cry yourself to sleep.
  6. I love Christmas movies. I have (I think) every Scrooge movie ever made and like to watch them in order. I love the old Grinch and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
  7. I love funny Christmas letters. Linda and Allen Whitaker are the champs almost every year. Perfect pitch of funny and newsy and humble.
  8. I love lefse. For some reason, it seems reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas which is a pity. A friend of mine in Norway tells me that they use lefse to wrap hot dogs instead of buns. That would make a hot dog only slightly more appealing to me.
  9. I love the family get-togethers. This year, we had lots of eat and drink, we went for a walk, the kids played with new toys, we took a group photo, and we didn't even make a very big mess. It was a hoot of a time.
  10. I love holiday smells: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger. I love molasses cookies which is why I don't make them. Even putting them in the freezer won't slow me down. There is nothing like a frozen molasses cookies with your coffee in the morning!
Alrighty...I was afraid I would end up with more on the cranky list than the happy list. Even up, I'd say. Hope yours was restful and rejuvenating.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

ah, the whole christmas season

Last year, I was in the throes of cancer treatment in December. I was a mental and physical head case so I can't remember what we ate or cooked or did. It must have have been acceptable because they all came back this year.

I subbed for six days starting the 13th and ending the 20th. I made a Christmas Eve menu, we bought groceries and we cooked everything the last few days. It was a ton of work but it was fun. I enjoyed every minute of it...but now I'm tired.

Usually I leave the tree up and decorate it for the winter holidays. But you can see Woodrow thinks it is his playground so it's going back to the basement. He is so darn cute I can't be mad at him but I am tired to picking the balls up all over the house.

I made Emerill's peanut butter pie with a chocolate ganache for dessert. The ganache was perfect which is a feat. The last piece disappeared this morning.

Gus is such an elegant looking dog. We took him up to Nicollet Avenue this morning. Regis and I went for a long walk and let him romp in the snow. He gets a big kick out of chasing snowballs.

Woodrow is relaxing under the tree. Or more likely that he is waiting for me to turn away so he can zoom to the top.

Ella and Amber made this cheese and grape Christmas tree for our Christmas dinner appetizer.

Peter and April relaxing on the sofa. Peter has grown a beard which I think looks good on him.

We had a wonderful time. Emily and I took Ella and Zoey for a walk after dark. I made a few snow angels and we waved at neighbors eating their Christmas dinners. It was a sweet evening.

Here is the whole crazy bunch. Regis had the camera set on timer and it took about thirty shots. The boys in the back always do goofy things so it's fun to see them all. You can't this many people to sit still and smile at the same time, even though most of us are adults.

So, that's it. The short and dirty version of Christmas at our house. We're ready for the holiday stuff to go back to the basement and for the Christmas carols to go back in the closet.

Monday, December 23, 2013

beautiful sun dogs tonight

yesterday and today

I posted photos yesterday of some of the goings on but I was too tired to write much. We went to the HyVee to do the big shopping for Christmas (one meal...how hard can it be?), went to t he gym to work out, took Gus to the park, tidied up the house, made more than ten dozen peanut butter cup cookies, and Swedish meatballs. If anyone breaks into our house and steals those cookies, we know you you are Bob, Regis, and Peter. Probably Alex this year, too.

Today, I make the peanut butter pie and the make-ahead mashed potatoes. Oh, and the salad that Miss Ella requested. Regis got a haircut Friday, Gus gets a hair cut today, and the litter box is clean so we are all ready for Santa's visit.

This is a picture from 2010. See that plaid table cloth on the left side? I can't find it. I have search high and low and it is nowhere to be found. I have the other three table cloths. This one I can remember hanging in the closet but I suppose in my decluttering madness, I found another place for it. It's not like I need it...I just want to know where it is. Dammit. I hate when I do that.

Regis gets a bit annoyed when, at the last minute, I think I need to buy more food. I see this picture and think, "Must have dried fruit and nuts. Must have Schmidt's summer sausage. Must have chocolates. Must have savory cheesecake." I'm trying to suppress that urge but it's hard.

Last year, in the throes of chemo, I didn't even make a menu so I have no clue what we served. I know we used paper plates and plastic forks and knives. I just checked back through my blog archives and I wrote that I had 8 packages of Christmas napkins. They could not be gone so my guess is that the table cloth and the napkins are somewhere together. It's quite a mystery.

Well, I have searched the house again and there is no sign of said table cloth or packages of napkins. Let it be.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

only pictures...too tired to write anything

ah, christmas

There was an ugly sweater contest at school yesterday and Tamara was the winner. Actually, she looks great. I was lucky to run into her at the end of the day so we could do a photo op!

Grocery buying and cooking today. Here's the menu:

Mashed potatoes
Corn and blueberry salad
Braised green beans
Keith's warm fruit salad
Christmas tree grapes and cheese
Lefse and buns
Chocolate covered peanut butter pie
Reeses peanut butter cookies 

Last night I read through Christmas letters going back to the late 90s and looked at menus and recipes going back that far, too. I love having my menu archive. And the letters are hilarious, if I do say so myself. I'm working on the current one this week. Probably won't get out in time for Christmas but what the hell. I am working on not feeling guilty about obligations.

I see our ETD is 6:40 so I better get out of my nightgown. They might frown on that attire at the HyVee.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

photo enhancing

Regis discovered on Google+, a photo enhancer that not only will make things twinkle and appear like snow is falling, but...it has a "skin softening" feature! Yippee! Look ten years younger with no botox or surgery!

Working on my Christmas letter today.

i am going to be as outrageous as possible while still being appropriate for an educational setting

It's the last day of my six day subbing streak. It's the last day before a two-week break. I have an ugly Christmas sweater to wear, a plethora of goofy Christmas hats to choose from, a Christmas bucket full of M&Ms and candy bars, and some crazy Christmas bells. Might as well have fun.

I can tell you this has been a hard week. I have missed my siesta every day, I am over-stimulated from all the noise and activity, and I'm tired of trying to make middle school kids do things they don't want to do. And I am just plain tired...I don't think I have the stamina I once had. My mojo could come back. We'll see.

I'm very grateful that we have a quiet Christmas season planned. Except for the family gathering on Tuesday, we have no plans. No plans to travel, entertain, or attend parties. It sounds very inviting. Like a tropical vacation without the airfare.

I'm anxious to get back to my long walks with Deb. They were good in so many ways...fresh air, sunshine, good conversation, and some cardio exercise.

Doesn't this look like the Polar Express? Regis took this picture from the dog park. I think the train was parked so the guys could run up to Whiskey River for lunch. Regis isn't sure how he got the snow effect (it wasn't snowing) but it's beautiful. There is a twinkle effect on my picture, too.

I made it through the day in fairly good spirits and without committing a homicide. Haha! I realized why I was so tired this week after talking to Kurt. I have been accustomed to a lot of peace and quiet and there is nothing more stimulating than a high school. It was fun but I'm glad I'm done for a while.

Welcome, Saturday and Christmas week!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

update on oatmeal

I am withdrawing my recommendation for the oatmeal. What tasted good in the morning was mostly mush by noon when I ate it. Maybe it was in the liquid for too long.

Today is my fifth day in a row of subbing. I have two more days left. I love the way people smile and say, "Oh, that's so good for you!" when I tell them. They should get a job trying to rassle young people to do things they don't want to do. Then we can talk again. Ha! It's been mostly fun but I am tried by the end of the day. I haven't been vertical for this many hours, this many days in a row for a long time.

I had one of those low blood sugar episodes last night (52) and went to bed after I felt better...about 6 o'clock. I slept until 5 am so I needed the sleep.

Regis and I went to the new Shopko last night and boy, the pickin's were slim. Lots of empty shelves. What's up with that? Christmas stuff really picked over a week before the holiday. Strange. I think I read something about retailers trying to go lean on inventory this year.

Tom and Betty, Woodrow dropped his cat bed (the one you gave him) off the cabinet yesterday and dragged it into the kitchen. We don't know if it was just something to do or if he had a purpose. The thing must weigh almost as much as he does.

Woodrow has perched himself right in front of the computer screen so he can watch the words appear and the cursor move. It's like television for him, I suppose. He is mesmerized.

The rune I drew today is Raido. It tells me to say a simple prayer for my soul's journey. It tells me to not be intent on movement, to be content to wait and while I wait, to continue removing resistance. As the obstructions give way, all remorse arising from "trying to make it happen" disappears. Timely advice for me.

I declined to get up and exercise this morning.  I have two days this week...gotten up at 4 am so I could go along but by afternoon, I am plenty burnt out and cranky. Better to conserve my energy.

Yesterday, this was the Writer's Almanac poem. I love, love, love it.
“The Journey,” by Mary Oliver, from Dreamwork (Atlantic Monthly Press).

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I don't know why the stupid thing makes this big space after the poem.

I'm going to find someone to laugh with today. That would be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

woodrow assists with present wrapping

Yeah, not so much. He is highly attracted to any kind of rustling paper or bag. He is driven to investigate. I think store-bought cat toys are over-rated. He pays about zero attention to them. He likes feathers, paper clips, dried leaves, and paper. And boxes. He loves boxes. He will also jump right into the laundry hamper when Regis brings it up filled with clothes right out the dryer.

Gus and Regis, however, were not the least bit interested in the present wrapping.Not like it was a big production. I wrapped four things.

That green thing in the front, not the shiny one, is a cat toy. I have no doubt that Woodrow dropped it there. This morning, he brought Gus's food cup into the bed. I think it was an offering to Regis...bringing something valuable to the lair.

I made the coolest oatmeal for my lunch today. I put a half cup of rolled oats in a pint jar, added about 3/4 cup of milk, a tiny bit of brown sugar, pecans and dried cranberries, a teaspoon of cinnamon and after shaking it well, I put it in the refrigerator overnight. It's delicious! So easy and no cooking! I am not the genius who invented this...it was in the Trib yesterday. They suggested making a week's worth at a time. I only had one pint jar so I didn't do that...but I might in the future.

Have to publish and sign off...almost out of battery!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

sunday in pictures

Woody waits on the rug outside the bathroom door while Regis takes a shower.

Gus hangs pretty close, too. Do they think he'll slip out the window?

Woody got behind the dresser mirror and was trying to snag this necklace. I caught him in the act.

Tough duty...being a cat.

We put real lights on the tree because the battery ones suck. Don't waste your money.

My first attempt at gingerbread granola. 

Foolin' around in the kitchen. Love the footwear?

I have that name tag on my pocket in case I forget who I am.

Regis stirs around in the granola.

Best chili ever. What a bite!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

ah, saturday

One nice thing about working is that it reminds me of just how splendid the days are when I don't work. I agreed to sub five days next week. I must have been out of my mind. I get a little ornery when I have too many things to do so next week will be a time for going to school and nothing else. Regis will be in charge of all things on the home front.

A student came into the classroom yesterday and said he was having trouble getting his locker open and he wondered if anyone had a crowbar. Whoa. And hysterical laughter. We got it open and didn't need a crow bar.

Regis is dragging my sorry ass to the Pulse to work out this morning. I know I will be grateful when I'm there but right now, it's pleasant to sit in front of my sun lamp with the hood on my sweater covering my head. OK...here I go.

Just one of the beautiful things about winter!

Friday, December 13, 2013

in the holiday spirit

A couple of busy days and I decide to relax in front of the fireplace in my Santa hat and striped tights.

After being short of sleep for about a week, I slept until 10:30 yesterday. Deep and dreamless sleep. It was glorious.

I have another purging project lined up for the weekend. Boxes are ready to be filled.

My lymphedema has improved so much that I may only have to go a few more times. Hurray!

Tiffany, Elliot and I are going to the Nutcracker on Saturday. Ella will dance the parts of a Chinese dancer and blue frosting. It will be fun to see her in this ballet we have gone to for many years. I took Tiffany for the first time when she was about four.

Regis is making clam chowder for dinner tonight while I am at school. I usually have an aversion to mollusks but I learned to tolerate clams in a sandwich years ago. I thought they tasted like deep friend rubber bands. Not unpleasant...just strange. I can't bring myself to eat them off the shell. They look like something we harvested from the creek on our farm.

I better get a move on. I'm subbing today. I think I'll wear the Grinch hat and the striped tights.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

day filled with appointments

Monday. I made it. Drove myself to Mankato for physical therapy, grocery buying, another therapy, lunch, and an undergarment fitting. I was home by 2 o'clock. The undergarment, speaking of it, looks like something used to launch cannon balls in medieval times. It's purpose is compression and I guess it does that, so who am I to complain?

The roads were icy going over and there was a dude driving a little pickup 35 mph with a mile long line of cars behind him. I didn't care as my theory it is better if drivers only drive a speed at which they are comfortable.

Tuesday has been a quiet day. I had tea and cookies with my friend, Betsy. Her husband Stan, sent me home with canned applesauce and grape jelly, both made with fruit from their yard. Birds in our neighborhood, known to have sophisticated taste in jelly, will eat Stan's homemade jelly. Or so he says. Haha! We'll see in the spring, Stan! Such nice people...right down the street from us.

Betsy and I talk until we are almost winded. We have a lot in common... same vintage, same issues, same therapy, same interests in buddha inspired living, same attempts to rid our lives of suffering. We talked away a couple hours in their sunny dining room.

I'm sitting at the dining room table with a nice beer and my laptop. BB King on the music player thing. Do I still call it a stereo? I'm watching the late afternoon bird crowd at the feeder.

I cut my hair this afternoon. Hair is one of things I let go of after cancer. About once a month I take the clipper into the bathroom and buzz it myself. It makes Regis nervous so I try to do it when he isn't home. He touches up the back for me.

Here's what Woodrow has been up to. We thought we had it solved with the orange peelings (I even replaced them this morning) then Regis came home to find this:

Waiting for my friend, Deb, to arrive. Her husband of many years died a year ago today in a terrible car accident on 169. Our community was stunned because Jim seemed larger than life. He was my neighbor and the assistant principal at the high school almost all of the years I knew him. He was a hoot which in my book, is high praise. We're going to reminisce, raise a glass to Jim, and watch the winter sun go down.

We're using battery powered lights this year. They have varied reliability depending on the individual light but mostly they suck. The first night we set them on timer (6 hours on and 18 off) and they were still on the next morning. Maybe next year, I'll spray the electric lights with Cat-Off if the smell is not too offensive.

I'm making it through these hard last days of autumn. Shorter and shorter...less and less light every day. Enjoy every day...we're on the right side of the grass. Life is good even when it's hard.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

sunday in pictures

Even Kermit needs a nap.

Paparazzi out last night for the cardinals.

Note his little feet just leaving the branch. Nice work, Fritsch!

I saw a cardinal in the back yard today and was stunned by the beauty against the snow-lined branches.

I love this fat little guy against the gray sky.

And I love the eye roll. Elliot would not join in the fun.

Bring out an iPad with this group and you have trouble.

My Christmas portrait.