Monday, October 24, 2016

Picking and pruning...

I was a bit shell-shocked after the appliance repairman left my house, but still managed to catch him still sitting in his truck asking him to hold off ordering parts.  I paid the $68 diagnostic fee and made my way back inside to freak out on the phone with my friend Mary.

All in all, fee included, it will be $440 to repair the broken bits on my refrigerator, primarily with the ice maker.  I miss ice. FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY DOLLARS!  Mary helped me immensely get past the upsettedness over that financial obstacle.  Later, when talking to Becky, my friend suggested that I only pay for the labor and part for the ice maker itself, rather than the dispenser.  After all, who really needs ice in her door?  BRILLIANT IDEA.  Labor and part will be an additional $188.  Still an incredible obstacle, but nearly as insurmountable as FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY DOLLARS!

When Becky called, I had already harvested the sage and thyme and was working on turning the soil. Well, first I dug up the herb plant remnants and then worked at turning the soil.  Those green sprouts at the end are garlic ... I hope.

I hope.
I hope.
I hope.

These are my dismal squash plants.  Zucchini and summer squash.  I just don't know what happened to them, because according to the packet, there was plenty of time for them to bear fruit.  I got tons and tons and tons of blossoms, but ...

This is the only microscopic vegetable sprouted from the plants.  I doubt, given the weather turn, that it will grow.  I have thought about just ripping these out, so that I can finish turning the soil (and digging out any weeds).

In all my turning of the rest of the raised bed, I only encountered a single worm.  I put hundreds and hundreds and hundreds in there.  SIGH.  It had grown nice and big, though.

I did so enjoy turning the soil.  I admit that I am rather proud of its richness, a lovely mix of potting soil, compost manure, and peat.  It has held up rather well over the past three growing seasons.  And, whilst I used a trowel for most of the work, I am wont to just dig in with my hands.

I brought the herbs upstairs and worked on bundling and them hanging them.  This year, instead of using clothespins (using up most of my stash for a couple of months), I decided to cut the string pieces longer and tie them (using a bow so as to easily untie them) to the rack itself.  I decided to make this change because I was tying up (pun intended) both the drying rack and the clothespins (which I would use on a laundry line) until the herbs dry out.  This way, I still have the clothespins to use when it gets too cold to hang my laundry outside (I have a line I use in the basement).

Afterwards, I tackled the very, very, very overgrown begonia in the solarium.  Being rather tired, I was, perhaps, a bit too hasty in my pruning, but it was so very large!  I left one tall branch and cut another one a bit, but staked it so that it could grow alongside the tall bit ... complement it shape wise.  Then I pruned all the WIDE branches, so the entire plant fits much better into the room, into the space, and into the pot.

If you look on the far side of the table, you will see the baby string of pearls I am gestating.  It has been a long, long, long start, but after two years, it looks like it is doing its stringy thing!

Late this evening, I poached some more chicken.  Since I am using the forgotten method most, I thought I would try the chef's suggestion for aromatics: green onion, star anise, ginger, and sesame oil.  I will admit that I do not much care for that combination.  I will be interested to see how it tastes in a salad on the morrow.  I think it is a good thing that aromatics in poaching chicken are a subtle flavoring.

Anyway, whilst I started my day shellshocked, I ended it with some good productivity ... crossing things of my list that I had been procrastinating a bit.

On the morrow, Electrician Man is coming to service the HVAC unit for the winter, as well as to replace the HEPA filter.  We also talked about having him either move the plug that was by the table to where the table is now or running a new plug to that location.  I am not sure which he'll be doing.  I am not sure I really have a preference, though moving the existing one is less money.

Also, tomorrow, Firewood Man is coming to mulch.
And bring me fresh eggs.
And admire the work I did in my beds.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

New tastiness...

I did not prune and tend to the overgrown begonia in the solarium today.  Neither did I harvest and bundle the sage and thyme from my bed.  Mostly, I rested and thought about doing those things.  However, I did achieve a culinary goal I set for myself a few months ago:  a tasty chicken meatball.

Somewhere along the line, I heard about a making chicken meatballs with sun-dried tomatoes.  First, I had to track down ground chicken (not an easy feat).  Then, I had to track down a recipe (also not an easy feat).  Finally, I had to remember that I had actually bought the ground chicken and found the recipe and wanted to make them (most definitely NOT an easy feat).

I mostly found a recipe to use, but I had to adapt it.  For one, it called for 1.5 pounds of chicken and I had a 1 pound package.  Since it was so hard to track down, I wanted a recipe that fit the amount of ground chicken I could buy in a single package.  For another, the recipe had different herbs.  I wanted to use my fresh herbs, so I substituted those.  Other than working out the different amount of the ingredients to adjust to the lower amount of meat, I switched from processed to fresh bread crumbs.

When I got everything mixed together, I was a bit worried, because the mixture was ever so wet!  I wondered if the balls would even stay together, but they did.  The original recipe called for olive oil brushed across the tops of the meatballs.  I decided to use the olive oil that was packed with the sun-dried tomatoes.  In doing so, it basically coated all of the outside of the meatballs.  I really was a bit nervous popping them into the oven.

At first, when the timer went off, I admit that I thought the oven was not on because the meatballs looked pretty much the same as when they went into the oven!  However, when I stuck my thermometer into every single meatball, they all registered 165 degrees or higher.  I also admit that I was skeptical about how these ... blonde ... meatballs would taste.  However, the end result to my recipe tweak were some rather BLOODY FANTASTIC Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Meatballs!

I ate them with penne pasta and gruyere cheese sauce.  Whilst the pasty was tasty and the meatballs were tasty, they did not really fit well together.  They competed with each other instead of complementing.  So, I want to try a tomato cream sauce and, perhaps, angel hair pasta.  Or maybe even just a tomato sauce.  I am just not sure.  However, I have plenty of meat balls to find that perfect pairing of pasta and sauce!

I am quite pleased with this culinary success.  I learned my brother and his beloved will not be coming at Christmas, which is disappointing, although I understood why.  But, oh, man!  Would these have really floated his boat!

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Today was a good day in that I got the succulents and begonias migrated up to the solarium for the winter.  It was a good day in that I got the plants moved.  And it was a good day in that the plan I had for the solarium ... went well.

When Mother came in May, she helped me get the annuals for the pots on the front porch.  Since succulents have done so very well in the solarium though the winter.  They didn't just survive, they thrived.  In fact, last spring, I left the jade in there because it does better inside than out.

Thinking about that, I decided to fill the six GREEN pots on the front ledge of the front porch with succulents.  I enjoyed them all summer and though that I could continue enjoying them next year and thereafter.  I also was thinking about how I had plants sort of ... higgledy-piggledy ... in the solarium and the changes I made to that room and how I would like the room to be over the winters now.

The succulent (which I cannot remember what it actually is) on the bookcase stayed inside all summer, too.   The jury is still out over whether or not that was a good idea.  It has new growth, but tiny bits, not large and pouffy like the rest of the plant.  Below it, I put one of the begonias and the other one on the other side of the door.

I like the symmetry with the two stands now.  I have the six matching pots up top, three per stand with one of the two bonsai pots (I killed all of my bonsai in the move here from Alexandria).   I had been keeping the jade tucked over by the corner of the bed (where the basket is) but I moved it to create a bit of separation between the two plant stands.

Besides moving the porch plants, I also dug up the rosemary from the raised bed and potted it.  The first winter with rosemary bushes, they were fine.  However, the second winter, when larger, they died.  I used these free pots I had been given, not realizing that they did not have holes for drainage.  So I am hoping that this new pot that I bought will make a difference.  I had planned to harvest the rosemary before digging it up, but I let fatigue get in the way of that plan.

The hanging basket is the un-remembered succulent that I created the pot on the bookcase and the two bonsai pots.  It is a most forgiving sort of succulent that roots well and is just so darned lovely to me.

I decided to get the stand from the attic and use it to elevate the rosemary.  I was not sure being down on the floor would garner it enough light.  Before I rearranged the solarium, I really had not found a spot in the house for the stand.  Well, it was in the parlor for a while before I moved the small desk in there.  Anyway, the marble on top of it is cracked, but I have never minded that.  I did, however, glue it together with Gorilla gel super glue today, in the hopes that the pieces would hold together.  But, if not, I might go ahead and try regular Gorilla glue.  I just figured if I was going to have something heavy on top, I should make the repair effort.  Now that it is in that spot,  I think I might keep the stand there permanently.  As long as, it doesn't feel too crowded to me.

The string of pearls is back up on the plant stand where it wintered last year.  The strings are so very long now!  I just love, love, love that I haven't killed this plant!

The rest final wall to the room is the one with the table and rocking chair and the largest begonia, which I left in there all summer.  However, I let it get so straggly that I was a bit too embarrassed to photograph it to complete the 360 view of the room.  I hope to get it pruned and tended this week (as in no longer put off what I have been putting off for months).

Tomorrow, though, what I really would like to do is harvest the sage and thyme, bundle it, and hang it to dry.  I am not sure just how low of an overnight temperature those herbs can take, but I don't want to find out the hard way.  We've been in the 40s the past two nights.  I think that is low enough.

I am pleased, though, with today.  I am thankful I got the porch plants and the rosemary inside.  And I am thankful that the vision I had for spreading plants about the room so that it was less crowded in winters past panned out for me.

Friday, October 21, 2016


A short while ago, I learned that the hormones I switched to after Larin went off the market a couple of months ago were recalled.  The pharmacist was certain that this was just a recall and would not result in my having a switch again.  I was nervous, but his words reassured me.

On insurance, you generally have a short window in which you can pick up your prescriptions early.  So, for example, I can pick up the pack on day 17 for the 21 pills.  After a long while of doing so, I am now over a pack ahead.  I am very, very, very careful to be ahead on the hormones, the arthritis pain medicine, and (now) my blood pressure medication.  At first, it was because I wanted to be ahead.  Now it is because I need to be ahead. I need to because I forget to pick up my refills and am oft late on fetching them.

Then, this week, I got the call that Gildess is being pulled from the market.  SIGH.

I freaked out.  I looked up the remaining brand options.   I freaked out some more.  I called my specialist's office and left a rather pitiful voice mail message.  And then I freaked out even more.  Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I started wondering ... what would happen if I went off the hormones?

When the nurse from the specialist called back, it turns out my doctor and she had had the same thought.  They were not sure how to bring it up with me, given just how bad I was four years ago and just how terrified I am of going back there.  But it turns out that I am the one who did first.  I asked the question.  And so we are waiting to see what the answer is.

This morning, I stared at the 6:00 AM handful of pills from the first box in the day's container for the longest time.  In it was not the tiny hormone pill that I half wanted to be there.  I kept thinking It's been 48 hours now .... when will I start the decline?  I really am afraid of what might happen.

Will I start bleeding again?
Will I get my period again?
Will I fall into insensibility again?

All the things that were resolved once my hormones were balanced.  All the things that made life so difficult.  I fear them.  And yet I have wondered.  It's been five years of hormone therapy.  Maybe I am better.  I am forty-nine.  Maybe menopause has started.  I now have the theanine.  Maybe the anxiety medication will be the difference.  Those are three huge differences to where I was five years ago.  Perhaps there is less to fear.

Even now, I am thinking ... it's been 66 hours; when will the shoe drop?  I think the difference in me, a difference I see since the spring, is that I actually have a bit of hope.  Maybe the shoe won't drop.  Maybe, even if my cycle returns, it will not be so awful.  Maybe this one part of my body will no longer be a disaster.

Still, I do not much like waiting.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Needle and thread...

I did a bit of sewing yesterday, which means I did a whole lot of resting today.  I find sewing exhausting.

This is my belated birthday gift for my nephew.  He has autism.  He likes this really old, really heavy comforter on his bed, even though he gets so hot sleeping beneath it.  I use the smaller weighted blanket I made when I sleep, just draped over my torso.  And the other smaller one I use on the couch, when I don't want visitors to realize that I what I am using.

This one is from a bolt of fabric that was longer than the first ones I made, which made it much, much harder for me to sew.  I still cannot figure out how my best friend made my full-size weighted blanket.  I would like one for upstairs, a full-size one, but I cannot figure out how you get it through the machine.

I am hoping my nephew likes it.  Blue is his favorite color, if you haven't guessed that.  I did drag myself to the post office today, in between naps, and mailed it off.  He should have his gift on Thursday.

I had the idea of making my smaller version of weighted blankets for Becky's children, who have wanted their own weighted blankets.  Her son's favorite color is red, so this is the fabric I chose for him.  As you can see, it came from a regular size bolt of fabric and so is slightly smaller than my nephew's.

Making them is not all that difficult.  First, you sew three sides of the fabric to make a sort of pillow case.  Then, you turn that inside out so the seams are hidden.  Then, you sew straight up from the bottom to the open top to create a column ... and then another ... and then enough to work your way from one side to the other.  On this one, the columns are essentially 4.25 inches.  Once you are finished, you get to start filling the weighted pellets.  I have been putting 1/4 cup into each pocket that I am making.  After shaking it all the way down to the bottom, what I do is use 1,001 pins to pin the pellets into the pocket space.  Then, I measure where the top of the pocket goes (4.25 inches) and pin on each column seam.  That gives me markers when I go to sew from side to side to create a row of filled pockets.  After that, it is repeat and repeat and repeat until you get to the top.  On this blanket, that makes nine times of filling and sewing closed.  Then, when you get to the top, you fold both sides of the top of the fabric down, pinch it closed, and pin it so that you can sew it closed.  Finally, if you are me, you go back and sew the top of the column seams so that they are completely connected to the top seam.

Easy peasy, right?

Even with pinning the weighted pellets down, I sometimes miss a few.  Yesterday, that meant that I broke my first needle.  I tried to call Becky for help, but she was not home.  So, I went to my stash of YouTube videos about my machine to try and figure out how to change the needle.  [I need a short handled screwdriver for future broken needles.]  I stand when I am pinning, using an ironing board as my work space, and so my pacemaker goes haywire and I end up sweating quite a bit (and trembling).  Sitting, working on that blasted needle, I was also sweating and Georgie let me know that I was worked up something fierce.  However, I managed to gain the victory.

This is the fabric I chose for Becky's daughter.  [I am a sucker for a toile.]  Because I miscalculated how much weighted pellets that I would need, I ran out of them when working on Ellie's blanket.  I got six of the nine rows completed.  Since I have only ever bought the pellets when they are 50% off, I had to go searching for another purchasing option if I didn't want to wait for another sale.  I finally found some.  One thing I have learned is that not all weighted pellets are alike.  The ones I originally used on my small weighted blankets are 5.4 ounces per cup.  The ones I used on these are 7.4 ounces per cup.  The ones I ordered are 7.5 ounces per cup.  You can get them as heavy as 10 ounces per cup.  I think the mid-weight ones are best.  You know ... the opinion of someone who is NOT a seamstress and who knows so little about what she is doing.

I have become much better at making bobbins.  You see, for each fabric purchase, I have bought matching thread, which means winding new bobbins.  Winding bobbins is nerve-wracking.

I am also stellar at threading needles.  This is because I STINK at snipping the thread at the end of a seam long enough to keep it from bouncing back and pulling itself out of the needle.  SIGH.

Working on Ellie's blanket makes me very much want a toile one for myself.  And it occurred to me that I wouldn't mind having fashionable weighted blankets to take with me whenever I go out instead of just to a doctor's appointment.  Of course, I would like at least one more to use on the porches on the first floor and one for the airing porch, because carrying weighted blankets up and down the stairs is not something that is in my best interests, even if the use of weighted blankets calms my nerves.

The part of me that very much needs visual rest is going a bit bonkers with the sewing machine and ironing board set up still in the dining room.  I am hoping that the weighted pellets come by Saturday, so that I can finish this project by then.  I want my neat and tidy dining room back.

The plan was to wait to mail those for Becky's children until my next budget cycle, but I have already mucked up this one with having to buy more pellets.  So, I might not wait and then just hope to make up that overage next month.  Making weighted blankets is a mere fraction of the cost of buying them, but making weighted blankets is not an economical gift.  Pellets are expensive and shipping weighted blankets is expensive.  And, surprisingly, the thread is nearly as much as the pieces of fabric I buy (Waverly fabrics at Walmart).

Amos, being a glutton for weighted blankets, would prefer that I not mail any of them out.  He adores being smothered by them (or me ... at the moment he is stuffed behind my back against the sofa).  If ever you questioned how pressure calms the nervous system, all you have to do is see the difference in my Fluffernutter sleeping beneath a weighted blanket verses sleeping in the open.  Without the pressure, just taking a deep breath on my part triggers his hypersensitive startle response.  Poor little puppy dog.

You know, my mother bought me the sewing machine so that I could hem all the curtains upstairs.  I had to learn how to use it.  And basically all I can do is sew a straight (but not really straight) line.  I was able to make the curtains for the guest room she uses, because that is just straight lines.  And I learned how to make weighted blankets because, again, that is just sewing straight lines.  I wonder what other projects I could learn that involve simple, straight lines.

Not that I want to do any more sewing any time soon.  I am still weary from the bit of yard work.  And now a bit of sewing.  It is a good thing that I have a puppy dog who doesn't mind my napping much of the day.  Still, I am a bit proud of my slightly sloppy work with needle and thread.  Hopefully, one teenager and two children will find comfort and calm as a result.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fern labor...

Saturday, I forced myself to tackle lowering the fern bed.  I was going to wait until Sunday, but I was mostly avoiding thinking about things.  I slept most of the day, not even starting the work until around 6:00 in the evening.  So, I was already racing against the light.  A part of me laughed at how I worked and a part of me wept.  I really am not strong enough for shovel work.

I raked as much of the mulch off of the bed as possible, onto the sidewalk.  A big mess.  Then I dug up the three largest ferns and moved them to the other side of the house in the three open spaces in the hosta bed.  I thought it was two spots, but I have four sets of two hostas growing over in that shade bed.  At that point, I also filled up the pot from the tree that I kept (since it is so large ... like a gardening bucket) with mulch and moved it over to the hosta bed.

Then I dug up all the remaining ferns and lined them up on the grass.  Because it was getting darker and darker, I am not actually sure that I got all of the fern.  But I tried.  Once they were removed, I raked as much of the dirt as I could to get the bed back down to the sidewalk level.  Then was the job of putting all the ferns back.

I dug holes ... a lot with my hands because I could no longer stand with the shovel.  It was a feeble job, really, and quite poor.  A C- effort at best.  I lined up the ferns more in the middle of the bed, so there would be room for expansion.  In putting them back, I had a few leftovers, so I wrapped them up in a plastic bag and thought to plant them on Sunday.  However, it rained all day yesterday.

That was great for my relocated ferns.
And thyme.
And sedum.

All of the mucking about in the yard now had proper refreshment, between the fertilizer I used and the long soaking by the rain.  The rain also helped to clean off the very, very, very dirty sidewalk.  I had put some soil back and a bit of the mulch.  I carted away as much as I could to stick behind the burning bushes (my dumping ground).  And I swept as best I could.  But the sidewalk was still dirty.  No longer, though.  The rain really was a blessing.

Of course, that meant that I did little yesterday besides languish on the sofas with Amos, who seemed intent on giving me extra affection.  Not content to lie beside me, Amos insisted on curling up in my lap.  I didn't mind.

[An earlier photo of my beloved Fluffernutter.

Copious amount of sleep and copious amount of Tylenol for my weary body.  I am still tired and sore today, but I am deeply thankful that I was able to tend to the things in the yard before Firewood Man comes to mulch.  I really am trying to set up the yard for less work for me, given that I am just not able to putter out there as I once was.

Now, I still need to get those last ferns in the ground.  And there is still a bit of the (weed-free) thyme that I would like to salvage.  But, as you might agree from the photo above, I am looking forward to Tim killing off all the infested thyme and returning the long bed into a visually restful, weed-free, simply mulched bed.  If I cannot get to the last of the thyme before he comes, I will be okay with that.

As to the ferns, I might move them over to the side garage bed.  I had put the stonecrop there, but, as you can see, it grew way, way too high and is a bit of a mess.  I dislike the look.  Although I have never been one to toss plants, I just might get rid of the stonecrop and put the ferns here.  They would do well in the shade.  And the old rose bush in the middle is slated for removal.

Notice the longer grass?  I had Tim skip the mowing this week so I could enjoy the blades waving in the wind.  I was hoping we would have cold weather and I could have long grass all winter, but it is STINKING HOT again, so I'll need another mow.  My luck will be that the weather will turn cold as soon as Tim drives off and so I have short grass all winter.

You know, if I actually want it to be STINKING HOT, it won't be.  It is annoying, to me, to have the AC running in the middle of October.  My utility bills have been higher with all this STINKING HOT weather.  And it struck me, yesterday, that maybe we will not have a Fall the way that we did not have a Spring.  We went from using the heat in May to having the AC on ARCTIC BLAST in June.  It was weird.  The poor part of me really wants those days where neither heat nor air-conditioning is required.

I should go get to those ferns.
Maybe after a nap.
Or two.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Good things...

Another yard task done today!

I keep trying to have mulch here, but it just washes away.  Or something.  And so Amos will stand against the fence protesting folk on the side street and get all muddy.  Since the thyme in the bed across the yard is being killed off to deal with the weeds, I wanted to move some of the good bits (weed free patches) here.

VoilĂ !  I will try to remember to keep watering this for a couple of weeks until it takes.  I also put some thyme into three bare spots further down in the bed here, but I did not take photos.

This was ever so much work!  I was surprised, because I thought it was something I could do.  Just moving this bit of thyme took me over two hours ... and lots of lying on the ground.  Still, I am pleased.

I also tried a new recipe: Lemon Thins!  This recipe calls for half butter/half shortening, so I took the opportunity to substitute lard for the shortening.  So, this was my first attempt to cook with lard.  I personally believe these are BLOODY FANTASTIC, if you are a lemon thins kind of person.  I immediately brewed a bot of tea and nibbled on an undisclosed number of the four dozen cookies.  Mmmm!

So, basically, this was a day filled with good things!