Friday, November 29, 2013

Tending things...

My friend Mary suggested that I approach Thanksgiving in my own way, since I have neither family visits or feasts on holidays.  My family always choses to go elsewhere.  And I am really alone here.  So, I took her advice.  I spent Thanksgiving tending to the things for which I am grateful.

  • I changed the sheets on the bed, savoring the old-fashioned cabbage rose pattern my mother gave me.
  • I washed, dried, folded and put away the laundry, grateful for a system (using the timer) that helped me finish all in one day and grateful for the efficiency of the new-ish washing machine.
  • I ran and then emptied the dishwasher, ever so grateful for both how easy it is to clean dishes and for the lowering of my monthly water bill.
  • I updated my medical expenses spread sheet, thankful for the technology that helps me keep track of such things and the insurance program that helps cover those who are disabled.
  • I made a fire, savoring its warmth and beauty and being thankful my best friend who taught me how to properly build a fire.
  • I gave Amos a bath, swaddled him in his favorite towel (with a baby tucked close), and sat with him before the fire, reveling in my lavender aroma therapy.

    As for tending to myself, I watched all three football games, painted my fingernails GREEN (that makes me laugh whenever I look at them), allowed myself to eat two of the Peanut Butter Nutella Cheesecake Bars that are amongst all the sweets piling up in the freezer, read aloud the entire Large Catechism, and prayed through the Psalter as the day passed from early morn to early morn again.

    I admit that one of my weaknesses is the jealously I battle knowing others are out there eating turkey and gravy.  Sadly, no amount of Peanut Butter Nutella Cheesecake Bars can distract from that bit of reality.  SIGH.

    At least being alone means not having to explain why there are no green beans on my plate.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Thursday, November 28, 2013

    Fifteen minutes...

    I did not want to say it in advance, but I was thinking about how very negative both of my main doctors are about the fact that I drink Dr Pepper.  I cannot see how one a day can make that much difference, but I thought I would see if I could go without drinking them.  I did.  For a month.

    My primary thought?  Who am I if I am not the one utterly, absolutely addicted to Dr Pepper?

    The first few days were rough, mostly because of the caffeine withdrawal, even though I switched to drinking fresh brewed tea.  After that, I mainly just missed it.  Do I feel better not having had soft drinks?  No!  Did it help my waistline?  No!  I actually gained four pounds!  What did I learn?  Sadly, I feel I must admit that food tastes better without drinking Dr Pepper.  Let me repeat that:  Food tastes better without drinking Dr Pepper.

    I feel as if I have just admitted heresy, having grown up in Texas and spent my college years in the home of Dr Pepper.  SIGH.

    Today, I had one with some leftover smoked pork loin someone brought me last week and the Lemon Garlic Basil Potato Salad that I made yesterday.  I think, perhaps, I would still prefer carbonation with pizza, but I believe Dr Pepper will no longer be my constant companion, my sure-fire coping mechanism.  SADNESS.

    Now, to be perfectly honest, I shall continue to drink Ginger Ale when the nausea is particularly violent and when I want some orange juice (I just love orange juice and Ginger Ale together).  But I am no longer the gal for whom you must have Dr Pepper if you are to have her over for a visit.

    So, who am I??

    To occupy my mind, I tried making Sandra's favorite dessert.  Now, I will note that she is basically insane because she did not find the Peanut Butter Nutella Bars all that tasty.  Instead, she sent me this recipe:  Salted Nut Roll Bars.

    Now if you look at the original recipe, you will note that her photographs of the end product are nowhere near what mine turned out to be:

    Now, I did accidentally halve the butter for the Rice Krispie portion of the recipe, but even if all the butter was in there, I was not going to have a topping that is twice the thickness of the base and marshmallow layers.  Perhaps I do not know how to measure miniature marshmallows?  But even if I have to many marshmallows, surely there should have been more of the top layer??

    Did I find them tasty?  Well, given the ingredients, I hardly see how anyone wouldn't.  But I did find them to be odd tasting as a whole.  Especially the cake mix base.  I think that if you just mixed the top two layers all together and came up with some sort of wild and wonky Rice Krispies treat, that would be better.  Plus, am I right in thinking that if you mixed the marshmallows in with the peanut butter chips and Rice Krispies, then you wouldn't need the corn syrup??

    Back to who I am without being the One Who Drinks Dr Pepper.  I think I am, now, the One Who Takes Fifteen Minutes.

    No matter how late (early) it is when I head up to bed, no matter how exhausted or ill I am feeling, I always take fifteen minutes to pick up the living room and finish off any dishes in the kitchen.  No, I have not cleaned the house since just before Marie's sister visited in the middle of October.  My house really is not clean.  But it is straight.

    I have found that if I straighten up the living room—including folding up the throws (and now quilt) and setting them back into place and picking up all of Amos' babies and balls and putting them back in his bed—and then finishing up the kitchen, no matter how I am feeling when I stumble downstairs the following day, I am more at peace walking into a straight and clutter-free environment.  A counselor once told me that what I am responding to is called visual rest. 

    Now, I prefer being the One Who Takes Fifteen Minutes to what I really am ... The Anxious One.  Oh, how I loathe my broken nervous system! 

    Visitors have commented on how clean my house is. I always correct them:  It is not clean; it is straight.  Visitors will say that they cannot imagine how I keep it so clean (straight).  A part of doing so has been the wholesale reduction of stuff and organizing the whole house so that everything has a  place.  But really it is that 15 minutes.

    If I can take fifteen minutes to straighten up as I am heading to bed, anyone can.  I do pick up throughout the day.  I pile things the things that need to go upstairs on the bottom step.  I pile things that need to go to the basement on the edge of the counter.  That way, when I am making a trip to another level of the house, I am moving things along to their proper place.  And when I get things out, such as my toothbrush and toothpaste, I put them away when I am finished, instead of leaving them for later.

    I suppose the easiest way to explain is that I am a child of the seventies.  By that I mean I rarely leave a room without turning off the light.  Now, I rarely leave things out once I am done with them. That  finishing off the task makes keeping the house clean (straight) possible.  And taking fifteen minutes before bed ensures a peaceful environment in which to start the next day.

    At least it does if you are like me, if you find rest in a clean (straight) environment.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013

    Fear by any other name...

    Awoke from the worst night terror to date early this morning, vomiting, shaking, and terrified.  I am not superstitious.  Not at all.  But I gathered every single copy of the bible I have (even the non-NASB 1977 ones), all my copies of the Christian Book of Concord, and the crucifixes from all the bedrooms and the living room.  I was crying so hard that Amos fetched quite a few babies whilst I was gathering those things that are true.  I made a circle of them around me and sat in the middle clutching my puppy.

    It is hard to explain, but I dreamed about the devil. And, when I awoke, I struggled to know what is real.  Hours later I finally fell back asleep, only to awake one still afraid, still weeping, still shaking.

    Even now.
    I am still afraid.

    I wept my way through mailing the last package, dropping the blankets at the homeless rehoming non-profit, picking up my prescriptions, grocery shopping, and getting a bag of food for Amos.  I did not care what anyone else thought.  I was not about to stay in the house, and I couldn't stop shaking or weeping.

    When I was fetching groceries, I spotted a pineapple.  Thinking how tasty I found the grilled pineapple Leslie and Tom have made for me twice, I bought one.  Yes, it is 25 degrees outside, snowing, and I grilled.

    My grilling pineapple skill has yet to manifest itself successfully.  Charred pineapple is not at all tasty.  Out of the entire pineapple, I only salvaged four slices worth of edibility.

    At least my skill with chicken has not left me.  I do believe the propane tank is getting really low.  While I can get Lowe's to put a new tank in my car, I am not sure how I can get it from my car to the back porch.

    Having shopped for the month, I felt like a meat processing plant.  I have learned to separate out the bacon into packages of four slices, using wax paper. That way, I can apportion the package out over the month, rather than plowing my way through it.  I have also found, much to my surprise, that the fresh chicken is more expensive than the flash frozen chicken.  That means trimming it up and separating it into Ziploc bags before freezing it.  It was also cheaper to get two pounds of ground beef for Basil Burgers, so I had to divide that meat as well.

    After cleaning up from all the meat division, I grilled the chicken (and burned the pineapple) and made one of my dinner plate salads, with wild leaf lettuce, slivered carrots, avocado, feta, cucumber, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds, and the grilled chicken, of course.  Afterwards, I made some more of the Lemon Garlic Basil Potato Salad for the next few days.

    All the while, still shaking and weeping.
    And afraid.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    What happened to civility...

    Just admitting that I still have the pink cotton blanket from college was enough for me to wash it and the angel-themed throw blanket and put them out in the car to take to The Mustard Seed tomorrow.  Fortunately, I drive right past there when I go to pick up prescriptions, which are ready.  I will also be dropping off the last eBay package.

    Today, as I was advised to do, I filed an unpaid claim to trigger another invoice as a reminder.  The buy never contacted me again after saying he wouldn't be paying until Wednesday or later.  I learned that you are responsible for the transaction fees even if you are not paid unless you file a claim.  But, in filing the claim, I received a rather unpleasant note from the buyer.  I believe transactions in selling like this are business, not personal.  So, receiving the note was difficult to bear.  I have no reserves for being chewed out.  Nor am I skilled at being a duck ... at letting things like that roll off my back.

    I simply do not understand how we got to such a place where civility no longer exists in the mainstream.  Online, at least, people seem to spend more time slaying one another than anything else. And, to me, that lack of civility, lack of any sort of boundary, has seeped into real life interactions.  Perfect strangers have no problem telling you what is wrong with you and what you need to do to fix it, followed by judgment on whether or not you're fixing things rightly or quickly enough.

    No grace.
    No mercy.
    No kindness.

    Not even civility.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    Toast with me...

    Okay, so, we (me, myself, and I) had some success with getting the files off my my old Powerbook.

    You can see that there are lots and lots of files.  But in the smallest screen, you will notes that there is not an icon associated with the file "Role Play handout."  That's because it is a PageMaker 5.0 file.  Sadly, I do not believe that any of my Pagemaker Files can be retrieved.  And ... well ... that's my ow fault.  My organizing/reducing/donating fault.  I had PageMaker 7.0 just a short while ago. I very well could have installed it on the PC, converted the files to 7.0, and then opened them in InDesign.  But, no, I just had to go reducing the installation CDs for all the ancient software.  SIGH.

    What is missing in this photo is a key component of my success:  Amos' curled by my side.  He comforted me muchly whilst I worked my transfer magic.  Surprisingly, the solution I arrived at this time was immensely easier than what I did last time.  And I very well may need to give Microsoft the credit.

    You see, I saved the files straight from the Powerbook to the floppy, 1.2 megabytes at a time.  Then, I opened the floppy using the external drive.  On the Windows PC, I renamed all the garbled files, deciphering the titles sometimes using the date and time stamp, and changed the file extension to .doc.  That made them turn into Word files Windows could recognize.

    Now, to open them, I had to do this convoluted setting change deep within Microsoft Office 2010.  Fortunately, Microsoft Office pinpointed the problem and told me exactly how to allow binary files to be opened.  Once opened, they converted to Word 93-97 files.  Then, I did a save-as of each and every one to a Word document, which, theoretically, would make them a .docx on a MAC.

    Once all the files were saved and reorganized into folders, I transferred them to a USB flash drive.  Ejecting the drive from the PC and plugging it into the Macbook was very, very, very nerve-wracking.  However, once I opened one of the files on the Macbook, Pages converted it to a readable format and gave me the option of saving it.  That part of the labor probably will never be completed.  The point was to save my work for me.

    It was with great joy that I was able to save all but one of my dissertation files!  I have my Generals exam questions and all the source data for my research!!  I even have all the prep work that I did in my research courses and a few other graduate school classes.  Working on transferring the files, I would get a bit distracted at seeing the progression of thought on my research across the documents, across the courses.  Oh, how I wish I remembered all that learning.

    Studying is my bliss.
    Studying and writing.
    And the Psalter.

    Then, later on, I started to think about all upcoming media onslaught of family togetherness and being so very alone and had some hard moments long into the night.  Out of desperation, I set aside my emotions and very firmly took myself to task.  This was the result.

    Those pink towels (a set of two towels, hand towels, and wash clothes) are from 1985, when I went off to college.  Need I say more?  The piles on the floor are an entire set of eight, plus three bath mats.  They are the towels passed on to me that I used in my house in Alexandria and here until I was given the very luxurious new set.  The other off white set is not really needed.  The blue towels were ones I used on bicycle tours when I was a teenager.

    If ever there was a flood upstairs, I would have been set.  Truly.  Only, while I am keeping my new set of towels, I also still have eight other towels, from the ones I bought to keep beneath the bird cage for easy cleaning.  Those are now my flood insurance towels.  Those and only those.  Of course, Amos' bath towels were not up for reduction.  They are kept in the bathroom, anyway.

    I also decided that I did not need the two old matching quilts, since I have newer ones on the twin beds in the solarium.  Newer as in ten years old, I believe.  With those I added the coordinating blue scroll twin sheets set.  And I no longer have a French toile bathroom, so I do not need the black and white linen shower curtain and the matching hand towels.

    I've been saying that the two spots where I had room left to reduce were the linen closet and the servant's closet.  The latter houses all of my too-large work clothes.  An entire career's investment of rather nice clothing.  I'm not ready to set aside that bit of denial as to how much my life has changed.  But surely it was time to stop being able to tell the story of my life by looking at all the towels in the servant's closet.

    Lest I lose my nerve, I drove the whole lot over to The Mustard Seed, the non-profit that helps homeless families get back into permanent housing.  Then I took all of my packages to the post office and worked very hard at not kicking myself again, when I added up all the postage the buyers were not paying because I am unskilled at navigating eBay's system.  I am rather pleased to note that the woman who has helped me each time I have been there had been saving a smaller box for the last package I have to send priority, instead of media mail.  Her help will save me a bit of money when the final buyer gets around to paying for his purchase.

    So, once again, I am huddled beneath the quilt in the GREEN chair.  Amos is rather pleased with my switch to the quilt.  He burrows his way beneath the folds and snores his contentment like a freight train.  A muffled freight train.

    I couldn't quite bring myself to do it, but the main throw blanket I was using—this angel pattern affair that came into my possession back in 1995—ought to be in the donation pile itself.  That, along with the pink cotton waffle weave blanket from college.  [Can you believe I was ever a person who decorated her college abodes in pink?]  Next trip.  For sure.

    In any case, I managed to save some files and reduce/organize/donate away some upsettedness.  A few successes.  Toast with me.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Sunday, November 24, 2013

    The Plane! The Plane!...

    Only for me it has been:  The bid!  The bid!

    [Yes, I watched Fantasy Island when I was little.]

    Everything on eBay sold yesterday, most at the very last second.  Sadly, I made many mistakes on setting the shipping cost because I just couldn't understand what all the options meant.  So, that means for five of the six items, I will be paying significantly more in shipping than I will actually be receiving.  I also learned that eBay charges a 10% fee on the shipping, too, whereas Amazon does not.  Hence, I had a bit of an unpleasant learning curve.  Then you have to calculate Paypal's cut, too.  But ... all that being thankful for any money at all is still covering the bruises I have from kicking myself over being so dense in navigating the eBay shipping options.  If you are interested in selling media, I would highly recommend Amazon over eBay.

    MacGyver sold on Amazon this morning.  So, today was package central.  I suppose another up side of all of this is that the shipping supplies that I have kept on hand (brown grocery bags, brown packing paper, bubble wrap, foam wrap, anti-static wrap, cardboard sheets, boxes, and labels) mean that I have gained space from those utterly depleted supplies and that I have not spent a penny on packaging.  And I have cleared out three locations (two shelves in the antique cabinet in the basement utility closet and 1/3 of the deacon's bench).  I am thankful the post office still accepts brown paper packages.  No string, mind you.

    One of the eBay sales have not paid, though the buyer sent a message saying he cannot afford to pay until Wednesday.  Mostly, I think that if you do not have money to pay, you should not bid.  But I am trying to be patient since he has a 100% feedback rating.

    Anyway, this means that the costs of all three technology upgrades I have done this fall, between selling old gadgets, series, household goods, and utilizing upgrade credits, are now all paid for in full, and I have a wee bit to add to my new glasses fund.  Of course, the next time I need an upgrade, I shall be at a loss given how I've cleared the barn this go round, so to speak.

    My other crowning achievement today was the repair of my beloved ancient headset.  Yes, I used duct tape to effect my repair.  The bit that goes over my ear, the rubber portion, has been slowly tearing in half.  Before the last sliver gave way, I dug the matching color of duct tape (yes, I have four colors) and carefully spiral-wraped the curve of the earpiece to restore it to its former glory (and function).  The headset is a $26.95 Motorolla H500 from eons ago.  I bought my first one in 2006, but it met with an accident (as in got left behind at the park when I was walking Kashi) in 2008.  This one has been a faithful companion ever since, bought on sale in noncommercial packaging and with free shipping.  Since I cannot hold anything for a significant length of time, I need a headset.

    Is not duct tape a good gift of the manufacturing world?

    As a final note, this afternoon, I realized that I was a bit more cold than need be.  In order to save money, I have primarily had the heat set at 65.  If someone is here, I bump it up to 68.  However, I have been so cold of late that I have been wearing scarf, hat, and gloves indoors.  That and clutching Amos firmly to try and absorb some of his body warmth.

    First, last week I started leaving the basement door in the kitchen open to let some of the copious heat down their to rise up to the first floor.  Next, I remembered to switch my socks over to the wool ones, to reduce the instances of Raynaud's in my poor feet.  Then, before Marie came last week, I realized I could keep her warmer if I opened the duct in the kitchen.  Yesterday, I dug through the quilts in the trunk at the end of my bed and picked out one for the GREEN chair, operating on the belief that cotton really does have more warmth than anything else.  Last night, I was far more comfortable with just the one quilt than the three throw blankets I had been using.

    [After throwing it in the washing machine for the first time in ... well, let's not go there ... I believe it looks rather spiffy for an ages old quilt.  Don't you?]

    I thought I had done all I could and broke out the hat, gloves, and scarf.

    A short while ago, I realized that I had not opened most of the vent covers (large ones original to the house) for the heat to come through.  You see, I keep many of them closed when I am running the air-conditioning, so that the cold air is forced up to my bedroom, since so much of the cold air falls back down the two staircases.  When I checked, other than the kitchen duct that I opened for Marie, only the one in the living room was open.  Once I opened up the vent covers in the foyer, the parlor, and the dining room, the arctic chill that had been lingering in the air dissipated significantly.  When Marie comes to cook again, I think she will actually take off her coat!

    I will be curious, when the gas bill arrives, if all this shivering is worth it financially, or if I am not saving much more than keeping it at 70, as I did most of last winter.  When I get those dysautonomia chills, though.  All frugalities are set aside.  I have been known to crank it up to the 80s, just to try and stop those wretched chills and warm up my icy skin.

    For comparison, last December's gas bill was $105.  This was and remains a great improvement over the first gas bill I had in this house, which was just south of $400.  Upgrading the heater was literally paid for before the second year's use.  November's bill was a mere $45 and something, but we had some warm weather then.  This next bill will be an entire bill cycle of full heat use.  I am thinking to remain committed to bundling up indoors, the savings should be $25 or greater.

    Normally, I compensate with my beloved fires, closing the French doors to trap the heat.  But I have been having fires less frequently to also save the money for wood.  I believe I will be getting some cash for a small job in December, so I will treat myself to another rank of wood then.  Right now, I believe I have enough wood for about four or five fires left.

    That shall be my Thanksgiving Day treat.  A roaring fire and much warmth.  That ... and maybe I will have pumpkin pancakes and applewood smoked bacon.  Such a plan would give me an opportunity to see if making pancakes on the new cookware will be as successful as making rice has become.  It would be nice not to be such a pancake-making failure.

    For now, I am trying to figure out how to get some files off my 1995 Powerbook 520C.  I was all ready to get it out of the house when I realized that while I had transferred my fiction from there, all my scholarly work and all my files from being a college professor are still only on the ancient laptop.  Microsoft Word 6.0.  On ancient Mac.  Before, to get to the PC, I saved each file as a text only version and copied them onto a floppy.  Then, I opened them on the PC and changed each one back to a Word document.

    I still have my USB floppy drive, so I powered up the PC that no one has wanted (yet) to check if it was working.  Since I am ultimately going from MAC to MAC, I thought I could go from floppy to flash drive, passing through the PC without notice.  But my Macbook is reading all the Microsoft Word 6.0 files as executable files. Hmmm....

    By the way, did you know that, in the dark ages, you could put a PC formatted floppy in a MAC, but you could not put a MAC formatted floppy in a PC?  Even then, Windows did not play nice!

    The problem is ... I don't remember how I got all the files into a text version back when I tackled the fiction, several years ago.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    Cookin' with Marie & A Wild Ride...

    Lemon squares.  Need I say more?

    I girded my loins and made béchamel sauce by myself today, with a bit of judicious stirring from Marie when I realized I didn't have the nutmeg ground and ready.  If you are making a sauce like this, have everything ready to go, because near constant stirring is key to success.

    I used the sauce to show Marie how I do a quick-and-dirty bowl lasagna.  Penne pasta, spaghetti sauce, béchamel sauce, mozzarella cheese, and herbs if you wish.  Next time, I think that I would add the fresh basil paste to the béchamel sauce for kick.  The great thing is that the béchamel sauce keeps in the refrigerator beautifully and melts right back down to deliciousness once heated.

    So, you cook your pasta (which can be done ahead of time), fill the bowl half-way with pasta, layer on béchamel sauce, spaghetti sauce, and mozzarella cheese.  Then repeat.  Then microwave for approximately 3 minutes to melt everything together.  Mmmmm!

    In case you are interested, my favorite spaghetti sauce is Bertolli's Organic Olive Oil and Garlic.

    So, our new recipe today was Piro Lemon Squares.  These are from Anna's mother and are delicious, even if I had to cook them double the time she takes to cook them.  Flummoxing, I know!  After all, I had two technicians confirm the temperature in my ovens.  Anyway, I made that note on the recipe.

    Marie took a few home.  Sandra graciously offered to eat some.  And so I am left with little danger to my reactive hypoglycemia.  Because, honestly, I could eat a whole tray of them, given enough time to rest between puckering.  Double mmmmmmm!

    Currently, my realtor is not speaking to me.  You see, I gave her some Peanut Butter Nutella Cheesecake Bars to take home for her and her husband to try.  She got along perfectly fine before ever tasting them.  Now ... well ... I've ruined her life ... and the future of her waist line.  Such a terrible neighbor am I, eh?

    The wild ride??  Well, my old iPod no longer updates the operating system, so all those cognitive apps I use daily to try and keep what's left of my mind for a bit longer, which are still being updated and optimized for current operating systems, no longer work well.  That means I have been draining the battery on my phone, and I don't have a landline.  So, that has been the new and improved driving force behind searching out all things possible to sell:  the desire and decision to get an iPad mini.

    Last month, I shaved $150 off my budget to put into my eyeglasses fund.  This month, I missed that goal and only shaved $100.  As I noted, I plan to purchase the new eyeglasses on December 31st, which will mean the credit card bill will then be due February 22, 2014.  So, between now and then, I am working really hard to be incredibly strict with spending (no Blue Bell, even), because I want to purchase the glasses without dipping into the retirement money, even though they would fall under medical expenses.  Being so strict is good practice, because starting January 1st, I have to somehow make room in my budget for increases in my car insurance, house insurance, doctor co-pays, prescription co-pays, and a new prescription drug monthly premium.  I told my body rather sternly that it cannot cost more than $12K a year in medical expenses drawn from that meager retirement fund.  To protect that very conservative estimate, I am trying to niggle out enough money for the glasses within my monthly spending.

    All those shenanigans mean improving technology has to come from somewhere else.  I took a hard look at all that I own on DVD and yet can also stream and told myself that those wonderful, beloved companions needed to go.  Even Doctor Who.  SIGH.

    [I asked the pro bono financial advisor a tree-falling-in-the-forest question:  If you spend money not in your budget, but do so by money you've garnered selling stuff, does that mean you have not actually broken your budget???  She laughed.]

    By far, I have been pleased with the sales process on Amazon.  It is streamlined and so simple even a lack-wit like me can manage to be an Amazon seller.  It seems to me they take a larger chunk of the pie, but that is okay, because I am working on being grateful for every cent I can raise.  Between Craig's List, Amazon, and eBay, I have racked up $487 in sales (net), thus far, greatly reducing my collection of television series.  I have two more items that are currently at embarrassingly low bids (darn eBay for talking me into those teaser opening sale numbers), so that total will increase a tad.  I also have two other strong possibilities given the gargantuan number of watchers that have gathered.  Sci-fi sells well, it seems.  I admit that I shall probably shed a tear or two packing up Battlestar Galactica if it sells.

    I feel as if I have been on this wild ride, posting and getting purchase notices and making trips to the post office.  Today, Sandra went with me and when I noted what was in the packages of this trip, two of the women openly acknowledged their love of Sci-fi.  Babylon 5 and Farscape, in particular.  Be still my beating heart!!  One said she was hoping that all the series sell.  I thought that was nice ... my own cheering section.  The same woman has taken each of my packages.  Did you know that you can now track media mail packages for the bargain basement price of $0.90??  My, does that ever save on shipping!

    I have another package to mail tomorrow (The West Wing), then, at least, no more trips until Monday.  I have to rest from all this excitement (and lemon square consumption).

    Amos, by the way, particularly enjoyed pre-cleaning the lemon square plate.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    For better and worse...

    I worked on an eBlast today for someone.  It is the first time that I asserted my ... expertise ... in communication.  For a long while, I merely set them up.  Then, I started editing the intros.  Then, somehow, I found myself writing them.  For me, that's pressure.  Pressure leads to all bits and pieces of me breaking down.

    And then, today, the info article for this month was so very ... bad ... that I decided to write an entire message, based on a blogging trend, on the idea of being thankful, and on news she had.  I also chose an image to use instead of the info sheet.  Nerves awrackin' I showed my work and, after changing the image from what I liked to what she liked and some live edits as I was reading aloud, I set the eBlast up for delivery.

    [Tell me ... who would chose this

    over this?]

    Ah, but I digress.

    It is one thing to just be the technician on a communications project like this.  It is another to be the architect.  Will her open rate increase or decrease?  I'd be happy for staying even, but the part of me who basically asked someone to trust me as a writer wants that trust to be rewarded.  Yes, I want to have success, but more so I want for her to have success despite that fact that I said:  "Do this!"

    When did I become so very, very timid of the written word?  This. This is what I have always been able to do.  Wield words with skill.  A craft honed since I was little.  Yet the certitude I had about at least being able to wield a good pen, a solid pen, is all but completely disappeared.

    Next week is a tough week to send out eBlasts, since many will have their minds more on the holiday than anything else.  Of course, until yesterday—or was the the day before??—I did not know that it was already Thanksgiving.  So lost to time I am.

    Next week is a tough week and so open rates might be poor no matter if the writing and presentation was brilliant or bunk.  Really, if ever there was a time to query the effect of taking direction of a communications endeavor this is not it.  Yet we both agreed that the info sheet was not anywhere near the quality of the others nor any real value.

    I will admit that I loathe blogging trends.  Do this for 30 days.  Write this for 100 days.  Ensure every post has X amount of words.  A part of me is ... proud ... maybe ... that I have been keeping my online journal before most of the world even knew what a blog was.  I was journaling back when your post would appear in the rolling updates on Blogger's Home Page.  I wasn't blogging.  I was journaling, a craft pursued for as long, surely, as the written word.  Or almost as long.

    However, I have noted a trend of late that gave me pause for thought and helped me create a message that could replace the terrible info sheet.  Happy Things.

    Happy Things.

    I thought about the movie Giving Forward and that whole trend.  I thought about how much I dislike that the only real emphasis on giving thanks in our society centers around a holiday that is now inextricably linked to all the consumerism that has replaced the meaning of Christmas.  I do not claim to know why it is that our government decided we should pause one day a year and be thankful for what we have.  Yet I doubt those forefathers envisioned a time of gluttony (says the glutton) and greed.

    Thankfully (pun intended), we no longer dress our children up in paper pilgrim hats and paper headdresses to celebrate Thanksgiving.  I have written here before about my opinion and rather strong feelings that we have yet to honor or care for those whose land we absconded for our own purposes.  Native Americans are still being mistreated and are still maligned.  They are still facing the consequences of first boat of Europeans landing on American shores.  Humans are so very good at mistreating each other.

    Now, I am not saying it is not a good thing to stop and give thanks.  But I wonder what meaning remains in the holiday that has been warped so by our materialism.  Giving thanks is a trend this time of year, even a blogging trend ... blog some sort of thanks each day of November.  A trend.

    A trend.
    A general direction in which something is changing.
    Changing from what? To what?
    A trend.

    The trend of Christmas is surely changing.  And not for the better.

    So, this current blogging trend I have noted:  Happy Things.  Write about something that makes you happy.  At first, I admit, I rolled my eyes.  A lot.  And then I started to think about the word happy.

    Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

    When Paul writes that he is content in all circumstances, that is important.  Not that he wanted all that he faced to happen.  Seriously, who wants to be in prison?  Happiness is not about wants, but contentment, and in Christ, one can actually really and truly be content in prison.

    In Christ.

    So, this idea of sharing things that make you happy is intriguing to me.  Sharing such things can be—in my opinion—more revealing than saying what you give thanks for.  Perhaps that is because I cannot see someone announcing she gives thanks for knitting needles, but I can see someone holding them up as a happy thing in her life.  Or a pastry blender, because making pies can lead to happy times with others.  Would you give thanks for a pastry blender when your turn for sharing came round at the Thanksgiving table?

    Then I think about the beatitudes.  They have been translated blessed are and happy are.  Strange, really, given how we use the word happy today.  Happiness implies all sorts of good feelings, joy and laughter.  Yet that is not necessarily contentment.  I think this, believe this, because in the midst of great anguish, when my heart is rent and all seems lost, read me the Psalter and contentment fills me ... sustains me.

    In the midst of writhing from innards misery, I can list happy things that make me content in that circumstance:  my puppy dog, the thick bathmat, the paint on the walls, the vintage tub, the new sink.

    I have, often, been asked how it is that I am not angry at God.  Mostly, I think that is a silly question. God is not the author of evil; He did not create me for sin to ravage. We live in a fallen world because of the wicked, perverse will of the devil and of man, not God.  In the latest snippet from the Christian Book of Concord teaches this.

    As I have written, I do not want the life I have now.  Not at all.  Well, maybe the life in this house and with my puppy dog, but nothing else.  Not the failing of my mind and body.  Not the anxiety and anguish.  Not the lack of work.  Not the uncertainty.  Not the worry.

    But.  But this life I live has taught me the power and efficacy of the Living Word.  And this life I live has taught me to savor the happy things in my life.

    Moment by moment.

    There is not a place in my beautiful dream home where I can cast my eye and not be reminded to pray for someone and not be able to note a happy thing.  I mean, these days, when I am lying on the kitchen floor, waiting for the food and glucose tablets I shoved hand over fist into my mouth to take effect, I look at the hummingbirds on the wall and I am content in that moment, for the good gifts of the artist, the manufacturer, and the funds to help hang the wall paper.  It is impossible, for me that is, to be wholly and completely miserable when surrounded by beautiful hummingbirds, which are a reminder of the complex and beautiful craftsmanship of our Creator and a reminder of the gift of Caryl's friendship from which many of the gifts of mercy shared was the knowledge of how to attract live, GREEN hummingbirds to my own yards.  Hummingbirds that come visit and keep me company and in awe of the good gifts of creation whilst sitting on the back steps waiting on my puppy dog.  No matter how I feel, no matter what battle is going on in my mind, in the moment when a hummingbird hangs in front of my face, wings thrumming so loud as to drown out the entire world, I am also, at that moment, happy.  Content. Thankful.

    Would that it were a continual acknowledgement of the happy things in our lives and of the giving of thanks for all that we receive were the norm, rather than a trend around a holiday.  

    Sometimes, I am blinded by how much worse I am because of what has befallen me.  But I am also better.  I am better because of what has befallen me.  Before I would have noted the rainbows on my wall from the sunlight coming through beveled glass or the glow emanating from the sunset filtered through the stained glass window.  But I would not have reveled in them. I would not have cherished them.  And I would not have given thanks continually for them, for the gifts they are for me.

    Hey, look at that!  Perhaps the eBlast I wrote today was for no one other than myself.  A reminder of the things I sometimes forget, of the good our Triune God has worked in the darkness.

    Odd that.  On my list of happy things surely darkness would have its place.

    Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    The measure of stuff...

    Not all stuff is equal. Perhaps none is.  I find it interesting what sold on Craig's List and what didn't.  I mean, who would like snowman holiday decorations???  

    Being very firm with myself, I decided to list most of the television series I own online.  The listings are primarily on, where as a new seller, I sort of wonder if anyone will pick me.  Because of that factor, I priced everything significantly below the lowest price listed.  After all, I am not trying to be greedy here.  A few of my series are restricted items on Amazon. The explanation given is a proliferation of fraud with regard to those items.  So, I girded my loins and listed those on eBay.

    I also listed my handmade, vintage guitar on Craig's List.  [GULP]  Sadly, I should have sold it before I moved, because I just don't think there is a market for fine guitars here in the boondocks of the midwest.  My goodness, even Sonic left town!  However, I was (and partially still am) in denial over my ability to play the guitar anymore.

    Listing things has been my main task today, although I did finish up what I hope to continue to be my monthly correspondence.  Last week, albeit late, I mailed off the letters to the children I started to write.  Today, I finished off the notecards to friends and one lingering thank-you note.  After putting out all the cards atop my mailbox (held in place by my beloved piece of granite), I treated myself to another bowl of my rather tasty black eyed peas.  Then, the listing.  And listing. And listing.

    All that listing made me think about how much I savor re-reading books and re-watching television series and movies.  For example, Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica have gotten me through some really tough moments.  But I can stream those shows, and so it would behoove me should I be able to gardner some funds from the DVD collections.  However, just how beloved are DVDs to anyone anymore?  And how many science fiction fans would still be watching them  on DVDs?  

    I do have over 300 movies, many of which were given to me by my DVD-loving father.  But listing those or trying to sell them seems not all that productive.  I was hoping, though, that there would be value in having an entire series for sale.

    I have reduce every so much stuff from my life, but I still have stuff ... stuff that means something to me.  But if you walked through my house, would it mean anything to you? And, in the end, what does any of it matter once life this side of the vale is over?

    So, the last task that I did today was to create a new folder into my "memory" app (Awesome Note):  Hymns.  There were so very few that I knew before my memory loss began to increase.  Now, I can sing but a few of them.  I typed in the one I still know best:

    Lord Jesus, Think on Me (LSB 610)

    Lord Jesus, think on me
    And purge away my sin;
    From worldly passions set me free
    And make me pure within.

    Lord Jesus, think on me
    By anxious thought oppressed;
    Let me Your loving servant be
    And taste Your promised rest.

    Lord Jesus, think on me
    Amid the battle's strife;
    In all my pain and misery,
    O be my health and life!

    Lord Jesus, think on me
    Nor let me go astray;
    Through darkness and perplexity
    Point out Your chosen way.

    Lord Jesus, think on me
    That, when this life is past,
    I may the eternal brightness see
    And share Your joy at last.

    Struggling with the things in my mind, I asked someone last week to sing it to me.  I ache to hear those words based on the Word, those words that echo so much of what I encounter in my beloved Psalter.  I ache to have them poured over me.  So, I asked.  But, as I have said, I am not good at asking for things.  Now, when I am writhing on the bathroom floor or when I awake from nightmares, I can pull up the hymn and read it or perhaps even try to sing it to myself.

    I wonder if I can find the others that I can still sing and type them in, too.  First, though, I would have to remember what they are.  Do you know what I know ... or knew?

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    I blame the egg...

    Needing a pick-me-up, I thought I would make a batch of Peanut Butter Nutella Cheesecake Bars all by myself (translate that:  I get to eat the whole pan myself).  However, they did not turn out well at all.

    I blame the first egg I used.

    Look carefully and count the yolks.  Yolks ... as in plural.  Yes, a single egg had THREE yolks.  Not knowing what to do, I cracked the second egg.  In hindsight, I would have at least just added the white part of the second egg.  I learned my lesson as to why I see real chefs crack eggs into small dishes first.  Or maybe that is just for television.  Either way, had I used a dish, I would have not used the first egg.

    Granted, I also used the 8x8 pan, for which the recipe calls, but which I have not been using.  I did the same on the English Toffee Bits Blondies, when I tried to make a second batch.  Both desserts simply wouldn't cook.  I was in culinary mourning all last night.  I would proffer the poorly baked bars will be in my freezer for a long while.

    Being low on chicken and not able to grocery shop until the 28th, I decided I would thaw out the Ossian smoked ham I was gifted eons ago and take a stab at cooking black eyed peas, since I need to eat a lot of protein in my diet with my innards and low blood sugar issues.  I grew up eating them on New Year's Day and have had this inexplicable deep-seated longing for black eyed peas for a few months now.

    I have perused recipes for months and saved a few to my recipe folder.  I thought I remembered picking one, the one that called for soaking the black eyed peas in beer overnight.  So, I permanently borrowed a bottle of beer and set them to soaking in a bowl early this morning when I was feeding Amos.

    I thought I remembered picking one, the one that called for soaking the black eyed peas in beer overnight.   What is wrong with that sentence?  Yes, the word remember.  Why in the world would I think that I actually remembered something??  Yes, well, it turns out I was remembering bits and pieces of several recipes.  So, I chose the ingredients I liked most and made a recipe, rather cheekily entitled Myrtle's Medley Black Eyed Peas.

    I mean, who would choose olive oil when butter is an option?  And, if a recipe calls for white sugar and you are using ham and bacon, who wouldn't switch it to dark brown sugar??  And, given the option of ham or bacon, who wouldn't choose both???

    Having never cooked black eyed peas myself, I was very nervous.  When cooked well, they are bloody fantastic.  When not cooked well, they are a wretched disaster of bland ickiness.  What was really nerve-wracking was the fact that around the 75 minute mark, I started hearing popping sounds, as if I were making popcorn.  I was not!  However, I still dared to remove the lid to reduce down the liquid once the black eyed peas were soft.

    In my opinion, my medley recipe was tasty.  I get that not everyone likes black eyed peas, but if you are partial to them, have never cooked them yourself, and are looking for a place to start, then you might try them this way.  Of course, if you peruse all five recipes from which I drew ingredient inspiration, you might find yourself not discarding out of hand the onions and the minced tomatoes and adding them to your own medley recipe.  Although, being from the South, I will note that I have never seen or been served black eyed peas with any sort of tomato in them.

    In any case, my hankering is sated, by the good gifts of my Creator that are black eyed peas, smoked ham, bacon, and all that other deliciousness combined together into a tasty bowl of culinary satisfaction ... if you are a Southern transplant who occasionally is blind-sided by her roots.

    PS  In case you were interested, Myrtle Two was declared the winner of the throw down.  Apparently, potato salad is really, really tasty the second day.  So, Lemon Garlic Basil Potato Salad was the clear winner.  I cannot wait until the 28th, for more red potatoes will definitely be in my shopping cart!

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Gatorade praying...

    Associations are about the only way that I can learn/retain information these days.  As a former Dr. So-and-so, that's hard to swallow.  The very first time that I said this, that I asked for true help remembering something—the one who used to teach college without prep, thousands of books and studies and such in her brain and on her tongue—was with Sprint.

    I needed to change my phone number since I moved, but I already was struggling with daily memory problems ... and that was three years ago.  I wept when I tried to explain, but the rep was actually really kind about it.  She searched through the available list of numbers until she found one that ended 4590.  Then she said, "You can remember that number because 45 is half of 90."  Perfect.  I do at least remember the last 4 digits of my phone number!

    My best friend helped me with the next real association:  L is for Left and L is for Lock.  Turn left to lock the door.  You see, I could not figure out the old-fashioned deadbolt in the back door.  She studied the lock, came up with the association, and ever since then, I repeat L is for lock, so turn left nearly every time I go to lock (or unlock) the door.

    Actually, Becky was the first who showed me how helpful associations can be back when I struggled to remember how to put in my contacts, something I have been doing since I was 13.  Inside out.  No matter how often I would try to figure it out, I would stare at them and then put them in inside out.  That hurts.  Then, I was wearing Acuvue lenses, and one day Becky pointed out that I lived in Virginia so that when I looked inside the lens and saw the VA, I would have them the proper way.

    With alarms going off all day and signs about the house, all telling/reminding me what do to, I find it to be a personal victory when I do remember something I have not put in/on an alarm, a sign, a list, and/or calendar appointment.  If you ask me to do something, and I have not, ask me again.  And again.  And again.  It is needful and necessary and rather helpful for me.  I do not remember from one email to another, from one sentence to another, from one moment to another.

    But prayer ... well part of the forgetting is covered by the Holy Spirit, who brings our prayers to Jesus, who brings them to the Father.  The other part?  Association.

    Whenever I make a pitcher of Gatorade, I also spend the time praying for Mary, her beloved, and her cherubs, for she gave me my first canister of powdered Gatorade.  I pray for Mary, too, whenever I make chalupas or roasted broccoli.  I pray for Becky whenever I pour milk, smiling because of our divergent views regarding milk and spaghetti. I also pray for her, her beloved, and her cherubs, when I see the color purple, when I turn the deadbolt on the back door,   I pray for Bethanie, her beloved, and her cherubs whenever I step into the tub, for there was a time when she scrubbed it for me.  I also do so whenever I cast my eyes upon the curtains she all hemmed.  I pray for Marie and her beloved whenever I am on the kitchen floor, for they once joined me.  I also pray for them whenever I go down to the basement, cook, and when I see the color green.  Green also reminds me to pray for Celia and her family, for both she and Marie share my love of the color green.

    I pray for Tim whenever I wait upon Amos, ever so thankful for his magic wielded upon my yard, turning it into my beloved expanse of prairie.  Too, then, I pray for Leslie, for she took me to fetch the needful things for his care the day I received Amos into mine.  Ah, that beloved fluffy ball of mine!

    I pray Wynne whenever I see the color red, for that is her passion.  I pray for her and hers, too, whenever I see mention of hockey, for I still cannot believe that is her sport.  Hockey!  I pray for Sandra whenever I read the Book of Concord (or quote it), as I do also for the one who placed it in my life.  I pray for Donavon and William whenever I turn to the Psalter, for those two understand my passion and my refuge.

    When I look at my tires, I pray for my best friend's husband, for he helped me pick them out.  When I look at any website, I pray for my friend Caryl, who not only is the designer I worked with at my jobs, but who is also the most kind, generous, and best-at-customer-service web designer you will ever meet.  Now that she's sustenance gardening, too, when I stop to admire the good gifts of growing things in this world, I pray for her.  These days, whenever I look at my faucets or get a chill, I stop and pray for Janet, who emailed me a reminder to disconnect my hose so that I did not have to replace one or both of the faucets again this year.  And, of course, I pray for her whenever I make a pot of tea ... and drink it.

    I could go on and on and on.  Throughout the day are so very many reminders of people, small things that help me remember to pray.  Sadly, I no longer remember all that I am supposed to be praying for, nor do I remember to look at lists.  But I do either stop what I am doing and pray or pray for others whilst I am doing what I am doing.  Like now, as I type, I remember Sandra and Anna, who helped me convert to MAC and still service as my Apple tech support when I send frantic texts or emails.

    It is a privilege to pray for others ... and a help to me.  It is a time to remember the good gifts of God and have them be the focus—at least for a little while—rather than the struggles I face.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Lists and signs and plans...

    I was eleven years old the first time I was responsible for the life of a child on my own.  I was an eleven-year-old left alone with a baby for the weekend.  That was insane.  Before 911.  Before cell phones.  Before I could drive.  Seriously, do not leave your child(ren) home alone for an evening, much less a weekend, with an eleven-year-old.

    The baby stopped breathing on me.  I thought it was that weekend, but perhaps it was just a babysitting night.  I am not certain, but I am certain that it happened.  I walked into the baby's room and instantly knew something was wrong. The quiet was wrong.  I was trained in CPR ... the old CPR ... and got the baby breathing again.  Eventually, there was a happy ending.

    From a very young age, I baby-sat nights and weekends and weeks.  Whenever I babysat, I basically kept house.  I would cook, feed the children, bathe them, help them clean their rooms, tuck them into bed, clean the dishes, and then set about tending other things, such as laundry.  Yes, I was a very popular babysitter.

    I was also the baby whisperer.
    I am good with babies.
    Really good.

    I am currently in the middle of my three day kid-sitting stint for a friend.  She has a trip out of town, and I had offered to keep her son as an option when work calls her away.  The last time I had him after school, things did not go well, which was very hard on me.  I felt such the failure, but I also knew that I couldn't do it again unless something was different.

    So, when she asked me if I wanted to take care of her son during the trip, I said, "Yes." with my lips and shouted "I'm afraid to" with my heart.  And then I told her I needed plans.  I asked for a schedule, for a meal plan, and for a list of rules. I wanted snack options, too.  And I wanted options for non-tech play activities.  I was deadly serious about what I wanted in order to keep her son.

    I think I drove her crazy with my need.
    It is a good thing she practices forgiveness.

    The first set of papers she sent were too thin to assuage even a mote of my worry, so I asked for a more developed set of plans, menu, and lists.  I was deadly seriously.  I am fairly convinced she had no clue just how serious I was.

    I live my life ... now ... with plans.  I have alarms going off all day telling me what to do:  lock doors, water plants, take medication, feed Amos, check his water bowl, call the pharmacy for the erythromycin, check the water fountain, etc.  I rehearse things, appointments, errands, phone calls, practicing the information I might be required to give and making sure I have printed copy on hand.  I have response plans and contingency plans.  I manage to get through living a life with anxiety and cognitive dysfunction and PTSD with plans.

    I look more together than I am.
    I sound more cogent than I am.
    I live more competent than I am.

    As I have noted here ... often ... I am not skilled at all in the art of asking for help.  But, for me, plans are profound help.  They are necessary to my well-being.  And I have a love-hate relationship with this.

    I love that they help.
    I hate that I need them.
    I hate that I struggle to make them.
    I hate that few understand just how much I need them.
    I love that the still can help.

    The kid-sitting is going ever so much better this time.  I have the options and rules lists on the refrigerator.  I have the schedule in an Avery plastic job packet that is ready at hand.  In the car.  At the table.  By the couch.  I consult them blithely, not as if they are for him, but for me.  I believe they are helping us both.  But perhaps I need them to be helping us both more than they are actually helping us both.

    It is so very difficult to face that without them I could not have gotten through this time.  Well, them and "Babylon 5."  Yes, the magical lure of totally awesome, rather intriguing Sci-fi has helped ensure contentment all around.

    "Babylon 5" was written with an entire story in mind from the very beginning.  Watching it is truly like reading a book.  So, my young visitor has been asking question after question, to which I reply, "That comes later.  You have to keep reading this."  He moans. He groans.  He rolls his eyes.  He pleads silently with his whole being.  "You would never skip ahead in a book would you?"  I add.

    Wicked, I know.

    Is it weird that I relish sharing a show with an eleven-year-old who giggles at the rather dry wit of the character, especially the Narn ambassador and his attaché?

    Best non-witty line thus far:  "When you obsess about your enemy, you become your enemy."

    I actually need more lists.  And signs.  I do have one more frame that I used to hang up signs in such a way as they would not be so garish in my beautiful home, but I need more.   I need lists and plans and signs to help me navigate the days and the decisions before me.  I need lists and plans and signs to help me be successful and independent and ... still helpful to others.

    The truth is, I could not have navigated babysitting without lists and plans and signs.  It is not about being negative.  It is not about be self-critical.  It is about being realistic. And needing others to hear me, to be realistic with me.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Myrtle vs. Myrtle...

    This day was not a good day.  So, at around 8:15 p.m., I decided that I should have a throw down with myself.  See which Myrtle could be a better cook.  The plan sprung up from the computer, where I was actually organizing the gazillion recipe bookmark links I have been saving into subfolders.  Whilst I was working, I spotted potato recipes with similar ingredients.  One roasted.  One salad.

    I've never made a potato salad, so one Myrtle was already at a disadvantage.  Both had never zested, so on that plane we were equals.
    [Yes, I'm nuts.]

    I did not finish cooking until around 10:30 ish and then came the tasting.  Yes, I did try to convince Sandra to try a spoonful of each were I to drive over, but not everyone wants to eat late at night.  In fact, I am the only one I know who will launch into cooking in the late evening.  Still, I give lots of credit to her because the potato salad recipe said to cook until tender and I need way, way more specificity than that.  I need at least a time estimate so I can set one of my timers and thus not ruin my cooking because I forget that I am actually cooking.  She properly advised me to cook them 15 minutes after coming to a boil and they were/are perfect.

    Here are the contenders side by side:

    Of course I modified both recipes.  In part because I was playing that silly role of competing cooks.  That meant both recipes needed similar ingredients in my mind.  Plus, well, I wasn't about to go roasting any pine nuts because I do not even like pine nuts.  As for the sour cream ... do I even need to explain?

    Lemon Garlic Basil Roasted Potatoes.  For this recipe, as I noted, I added the zest.  I also decided not to use dry herbs, a combination of herbs, and stick solely with the fresh basil paste.  Finally, I used minced garlic rather than have the whole cloves in there.

    Lemon Garlic Basil Potato Salad.  Far be it from me to muck about with Pioneer Woman's recipe, but I wanted to have something that was as close to the roasted potatoes, ingredients wise, for my silly little show down.  So, I dumped the roasted pine nuts (gross), made the "creamy stuff" half mayonnaise and half sour cream, and added the garlic.  Other than the "creamy stuff" the ingredients for the two recipes are essentially the same.

    I honestly cannot decide which I like best.  Not only do I not make potato salad, I really do not even eat it.  But I liked this potato salad.  One Myrtle likes that the roasted potatoes have a wicked kick to them, almost leaving you in a sweat after you finish the bite.  The other Myrtle loves how the potato salad carries all three main flavors and leaves you thinking about summer with its basil finish to the bite.

    How can one be two cooks and also judge?
    Would anyone else in the world like such bold lemonizing of red potatoes?
    Just how nuts am I?

    I wish to post about why this day was so wretched, but I have been struggling to write about two of the pieces separately: 1) increasing episodes of disorientation and 2) instances where my cognitive processing mistakes lead to costly financial penalties for me.  For this day, you could also add fear, nightmares, and having to effect a repair on the new garage door so that it would actually open for me.  I also packed up the new tea kettle that I am having to return since it developed a leak.  SIGH.

    Those things are why, in a moment of great anguish, I grabbed onto the idea of my silly little showdown, headed to the kitchen, and set about pitting Myrtle vs. Myrtle.

    I missed my cooking buddy Marie.
    I wish I had someone to be a taste tester.
    I ache to hear the Psalter.

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Surgery day...

    Having successfully navigated Laundry Day, I thought I would break down and sew the missing button on my duvet cover.  That lead to thinking I should probably try to figure out a better system than safety pins to help with the too-large spacing of the buttons, which causes my comforter to regular come out of the cover.  This is bothersome especially since I recently had to replace the comforter, which is not an economical purchase, but a necessary one given that I struggle with keeping warm now that that part of my autonomic nervous system also does not work.  Since I was going to be doing a bit of sewing, I also decided that today would be a surgery day.  Baby surgery.

    Bat baby.  Gorilla Baby.  And Heart Baby.  All three needed surgery, as well as squeaker replacement.

    In case you have any illusions about my sewing skills, I thought I would show you the repair I made to my grandmother's sewing kit when I was a wee one.

    Ugly, but effective, given that the hinge repair has lasted nearly four decades.  Still, as an indicator of my sewing potential, it was also extremely accurate.  I stink at sewing.

    If you could peek inside the pocket on the lower portion of the photo, you would see an ancient packet of snaps and two ancient packets of hook and loops.  I decided that placing a snap in between all the buttons on the comforter cover would help it stay closed.

    Sewing snaps is horrid.  Arduous.  Defeating.
    Those darned things had better work.

    Two hours later, I was ready to set about conducting Baby surgery.

    Baby surgery is difficult for someone who really doesn't sew.  It is nearly impossible to effect a proper repair when you have a very, very, very anxious and worried puppy dog continually giving his babies kisses as you work.


    Oh, how my dearest puppy dog loves, loves, loves his babies.  He carries them about.  He comforts himself with them.  He offers them in comfort to others, especially his beloved puppy momma.  He aches for the injured ones, when I put them away for their own well-being until we can have a Surgery Day.  He would lay down his life for any one of them.

    Is there another puppy dog in the whole world for which the sight of a sewing kit sets him off in a fit of anticipatory glee exuding from every single curl on his fluffy person?

    Once a surgery has been concluded, Amos will snatch his beloved from my hands and race around the room with his, happily squeaking his unalloyed joy.  Once he has assured himself that his baby is well, he takes up his place at my side to hold vigil over his next baby during its surgery.

    Gorilla Baby is now Gorilla Gimp Baby, because I had to shorten one of his legs in order to effect a repair.  To make up for Gorilla Baby's partial amputation, I put a squeaker in his snout and one in his belly.  Amos approved of that decision.

    Exhausted from all his squeaking, Amos tucked his babies in his bed, with all the others, and then climbed up in the GREEN chair with me to have a snooze ... or two or three.  If we lived in a fair world, Amos would do some work for me, since I did some for him.  That work?  Well, it would be tackling the ironing basket, since it is now officially full.

    Laundry Days have been successful, now that I have started setting a timer each time I put a load in the washer.  That way, I do not forget that I am doing laundry and I can get it all completed in a single day.  All but the ironing.  Having little, I merely toss those items in the ironing basket.  But whenever it becomes full, those wrinkled pieces of fabric begin to haunt me.

    The last Ironing Day went better than any other, because I set up the ironing board low enough so that I could sit in a chair.  Standing long enough to iron is too hard for me.  But ironing whilst seated requires more skill than I actually have.  Thankfully, at least I don't have to iron those napkins!  SIGH.

    Amos does work on my behalf in other ways.  He gives me kisses, he lays by my side when I am ill, and he rarely leaves my side.  In other words, he makes my life as a chronically ill, disabled, introverted wall-flower hermit full of love and affection and companionship.  Surely that is worth regular battles with needle and thread to keep his beloved babies healthy, eh?

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Sunday, November 10, 2013

    Third time's the charm...


    This!  This is what I have been trying achieve since I first had those English toffee bits leap into my shopping cart and beg me to take them home!

    First, I tried to make them in cookies.  What I ended up with were thin, crispy cookies that were closer to wafers than cookies.

    Second, I tried to make them into blondies.  That recipe (which I have renamed) resulted in English Toffee Bits Bars.  Take a look at them in the pan:

    Does this not look like a giant cookie, just a square rather than a circle?  To me it does.  And it tastes like one.  So, when I finally got the right sort of recipe, I renamed this one to bars instead of blondies.

    Here is a photo of the English Toffee Bits Blondies (the new recipe) in the pan:

    Now, I will admit that I think these could have been cooked a tad less.  The recipe called to cook them for 45-47 minutes.  Usually, I will set the alarm for 5 minutes less when I am trying a new recipe, just in case.  But I forgot this time.  So, on my recipe instructions, I marked the cooking time as 40-45 minutes.  Somewhere in the middle would probably be perfect.  In any case, I finally achieved the consistency that I was wanting from the first glance at the bag of toffee bits.

    Here is a photo of what the blondies looked like before I put them into the oven.  My goal was to try and create a middle layer of toffee bits, rather than to just fold them into the batter as a whole. I thought that having a layer might keep the texture more cake like.

    Getting the second half of the batter on was hard because it was still more dough than batter.  I noted on the recipe that I used the wrong pan.  Instead of an 8x8 pan, I used a 9x9 pan.  So, I think the next batch will be a bit better (thicker) and a bit easier to connect the dollops of batter.  Plus, clearly I was a bit light-handed with the toffee bits.

    So happy was I at achieving my vision, I promptly ate two of them.  However, before I could continue on and end up finishing the pan off the first night, I went ahead and put them away in the freezer.  Amos happily cleaned the crumbs off of my plate and then the pan.

    Sandra has graciously agreed to be my taste tester.  Back a few months ago, she ate the English toffee bit cookies I made (and did not like).  Tomorrow, she's dropping off a box for me and will be taking away a tasting plate with a peanut butter nutella cheesecake bar, an English toffee bit bar, and English toffee bit blondie.  Even if she likes the bar better than the blondie, I will not be disappointed.  After all, it was my tastebuds I was aiming to please.

    The baking was a way for me to celebrate selling all of the items I thought should sell on Craig's List.  I still have the stool, desktop vertical file holders, and the snowman Christmas decorations.  Four different folk have texted about the file holders, but none wanted to drive to my side of town.  So, I changed the listing to note a nearby major intersection.  I will have no problem donating these items if they do not sell.

    I also went ahead and boxed up the African clothing, old family linens, and a few other odds and ends that I really do not need to ready them for a trip to the donation center.  I am also giving up the rug that has no home in this house, but was in my last three abodes.  And I am dropping off two rugs Marie and Paul do not need.  I have not yet taken an after photo of the attic, but from where I started after moving in to now is rather impressive.  I have one box of things that are not really necessary, but am keeping anyway.  It includes one dress from Africa, my master's and doctorate graduation gown hoods, and three straw hats, one of which I made and wore to my master's graduation.  Basically, in this last round of reducing, I went from four boxes of stuff to just one.

    When I die, and my best friend comes to pack up my home (I hope to die here rather than be so far gone mentally that I have to die elsewhere), she's going to be pleased with how easy it will be.  Clothing, linens, books, DVDs, and kitchen items boxed up and donated.  Antiques, artwork, and silver auctioned off.  Sell the house.  Take that trip to Hawaii ... or wherever ... with her beloved.  My stuff is NOT going to burden her.

    Of course, my brother (the minimalist) is certain I have more in my home that I can shed now rather than later.

    I also did the laundry today.  I have actually been afraid to wash the napkins I bought since none of mine matched the new chairs.  The reason I feared washing them was because I paid just $0.85 each for them.  I was also not sure how damask fabric would wash.  I was very, very thankful for the napkins I bought since none of mine even came close to matching the chairs.  Actually, two sets of napkins are ones from my childhood.  But all three clashed horribly.  However, I really was worried about actually washing them, whether or not I would ruin them because I have never actually used a delicates cycle on a washing machine.

    Happily, the napkins washed well.  They washed well on the regular cycle that I forgot to change to delicate.  I took them out of the washing machine, tugged the wrinkles out, and let them dry on a rack.  Yep, NO IRONING NECESSARY!  Happiness abounded in the basement for a while.

    My sheets are in the dryer at the moment.  As soon as they are done, I shall be lugging them to my bedroom, battle Amos whilst making the bed, and then crawl in between them and hope for better dreams.

    The nights have been hard for a long while now...

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Saturday, November 09, 2013

    Letting go, round no. 246...

    Thinking about the stack of papers I reduced from the files the other day, I thought I would take myself in hand and venture back to the shelves of office supplies and research materials and work examples.  Sort of a way to bring closure to this latest clear out.

    These are the three shelves that held all of that stuff.  Now, for the record, I will say that I have all the binders and Avery printer supplies (business cards, labels, tri-fold brochure paper, dividers, etc.) in bankers boxes on the middle set of shelves.  But these three shelves represent the sum of my work operations stuff that does not include those binders and Avery printer supplies.

    Over the past two years, I have reduced and reduced and reduced.  In fact, that middle shelf was painted and repurposed to serve as shelves in the bath for the basement living space. isn't that pretty?  [Please ignore the fact that this "after" photo was taken before I laid down the vinyl floor.]

    Well, I went to work on the shelves where I had combined all three of the shelves in the composite photo into one.  In the process, I reduced down more papers and, thus, more binders.  Here is my stack of recycling from tonight.  While it is not as impressive as that from the filing cabinets, it still represents a bit of ruthlessness on my part ... continual admonishment not to hang onto things I simply will never need again.

    Some of this is research articles on adolescents from my dissertation work, but most are examples from my communications career.

    So, the BIG REVEAL!

    Here is the before photo once more:

    What is left of all of that stuff is this:

    Note, if you will, that the space beneath the bookshelf is completely empty.  [Yes, you can also see both the vinyl flooring and part of my beloved water channels in this photo as well.]  Note, too, that I had room to store the DVDs of the complete series of Stargate SG1 and Battlestar Galactica on the left side of the second shelf from the bottom.  Finally, you could note the colossal reduction of the research and materials from the top shelf that were in the composite photo but now are mostly no longer in my possession.

    I purposely widened the shot a bit to glimpse the middle set of shelves.  On them, there are now two empty bankers boxes.  I left them in place so that everything is all ... matching.  The greatest organizing here, that is not visible, is the fact that all those Avery office products and all my paper samples are now properly grouped together and organized within the bankers boxes.  For example, I have four or five packets of business cards that can be run through a printer.  They were in various in sundry places.  Now, they are all together in one of the boxes.

    Impressive culling, eh?  The organization is pretty darned good, too, with regard to my now knowing where everything is.  Really and truly knowing.  I also made a chart so that ... later ... when I might forget what is where, I will have a reference tool handy.

    Is not such a crowning achievement worth a second Peanut Butter Nutella Cheesecake Bar??

    Of course, the sad thing is that I have given away a tremendous amount of office supplies and hundreds of top loading sheet protectors.  I have (sadly) thousands of top loading sheet protectors left (having removed the previously thoroughly organized papers that I have now reduced) and three entire bankers boxes of those expensive three-ring binders.  Perhaps, someday, I shall find a home for them.  That, or maybe, do enough volunteering that I run through my stash of office supplies.

    Yes, you can be confident that I have not bought a single item of office supplies in many years.  No, you may not comment on just how much I had ... accumulated.

    Instead, we shall focus on the fact that my five of my six filing cabinet drawers are now lean and mean and my shelving has also achieved an impressive slimness.  I still have stuff.  I am fully aware that a minimalist would turn his nose up at my home still.  However, between all the closets, all the drawers, the attic, and the basement, I can confidently declare that I am down to about 25% of the stuff I moved here.


    Reducing stuff and organizing takes all three.  It is a process that you have to work through.  Sometimes you will make great strides and sometimes you will just not be ready to let go of that which you have carried around for years.  But ... eventually ... you can get to the place where they are just things, not memories.  Some things are good to keep for what they represent to you.  But the rest?  If you are not actively using it or you do not have a very real chance to use it in the future, then let it go.

    Would that it were I could do the same for the things in my mind, the thoughts about the person I was then rather than the person I am now.  SIGH.

    I'm off to take my aching body (and heart) to bed, curl around Amos, and perhaps sleep away tomorrow (really today, since it is so late).

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

    Friday, November 08, 2013

    Cookin' with Marie...

    Marie and I cooked again today.  Surely Friday is now my favorite day of the week!

    Because she had to leave for work earlier, as I mentioned before, we set aside the attempt at making naan to a later day.  I really honed in on trying Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce, to which Marie gracefully acquiesced.  While I have no photo for proof of success, the fact that we both inhaled our portions speaks to its tastiness.  Marie took home the two left over portions for their dinner, but I made sure there was enough of the basil cream for me to use on the morrow.  I will only need to cook more chicken.

    And then ... well ... we about died and went to heaven.

    This.  This!  This is Butternut Squash Brunch Braid.  It is so very tasty that my electrician, who had stopped by for a visit since he had a job in the neighborhood, said his mouth had never been so happy.  Marie and I concurred.  There is one slab left over, and I believe I should get some sort of reward for having successfully resisted inhaling it thus far.  My goal is to wait until the morrow.

    Marie and I also made Peanut Butter Nutella Cheesecake bars, again making a half-and-half crust so that we could split the pan. I get the wonderfully tasty graham cracker crust bars and she gets the completely icky Oreo cookie crust bars.  However, since we had a shortened cooking time, the bars had not finished setting by the time Marie had to leave for work.  She made do with having one of my  English Toffee Bits Blondies, as did Ben.  Both agreed that they really do taste more like a giant cookie than a blondie.  So, I shall continue on with my quest to make a dessert with English toffee bits that matches what I envision it should be.

    Today, we used every single surface of counter and the bistro table top, in order to get everything chopped and mixed and put together.  We also used up an entire dishwasher's worth of plates and cups and pots and pans and spatulas and spoons and forks.  Basically, we made a colossal mess.

    After Marie, and then Ben, left, I took a bit of a nap.  Once I was rested, I typed up the recipes and texted the photo of the Butternut Squash Brunch Braid to make a few folk jealous (I am a sinner after all). Then I went to tackle the mess.  It was in cleaning up that I stopped and gave thanks for the good gifts of the counters, the cookware, and the dishwasher.

    I should have taken before and after photos, for it took me less than 15 minutes to rinse the dishes and fill the dishwasher, hand wash the cookware and stoneware, clean the stove, clean the counters, and even clean the microwave.  The cookware alone practically cleans itself, but with the dishwasher I simply have less work.  And, well, I am ever so thankful that my mother upgraded my counters to granite.  I am thankful, too, for the mirror glass 15-year sealant that makes clean-up a breeze.

    So, to sum, I get to savor the joy of cooking with Marie and the joy of eating tasty food and then have no real burden to clean up even when we basically set a hurricane of culinary mess loose in the kitchen.

    Basically, the only one who was unhappy today was my puppy dog.  Amos felt he should pre-clean all the dishes, rather than the four plates that I gave to him.  He sat before the open dishwasher and whimpered as each dish, pot, measuring cut, etc. went in without his ministrations.  Oh, the suffering he endures!

    I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!