Monday, December 30, 2013

Re-entry

 
I guess I really have become a homebody. We got back from traveling on Saturday night, and I'm still trying to get my head screwed back on straight.

It's been a year here, and I still revel in how good it feels to come home. Didn't have that in Jax for the longest time. Really makes you realize the difference between compromise and happiness.

It was a good holiday; Yule was awesome, and Christmas was fine. Everybody put on their happy faces, and I tried not to choke on the hypocrisy. We hit his mom's place first for Christmas Eve and Day. No big talks occurred, because of time constraints, and because we all recognize the futility of speaking seriously to people who are too high for anything to sink in. We then traveled to my mom and Lil Sis's place from Boxing Day til Saturday. It was a nice visit, and a nice way to come down a bit from the tension of the other place.

Les got me a gorgeous anniversary jacket band to go around my engagement ring (we celebrate 15 years in 2014; he's been wanting to get me something like this since around year 10). I plied him with weaponry.

Things won't get back to normal for another week unfortunately. We lost Les' Aunt Kaye on Christmas Day, and we're traveling again this week to see her laid to rest. She was a dear lady.

*****

The weather's winter-grey and cold around here, with a whisper of snow in the forecast.

Image from here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Solstice!


"Fill your mind with thoughts of peace, courage, health, and hope." ~ Dale Carnegie

Traveling all week. See you in January. Happy New Year!

Image from here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Just because...


One of the many things Christmastime should be about (as opposed to the negativity of the last 2 posts).

Image from here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Well. Damn.

http://brenebrown.com/2013/12/10/rsabear/

This has been floating around the web for about a week now (well, probably longer...what do I know?)...and I finally got around to watching it. And realized that that whole last post, where I bitch (if we're being honest) about my family members not living their lives, was coming from a place of sympathy (if I can even be accused of going anywhere near that emotion), rather than a place of empathy.

It's interesting to recognize this, because we talk and talk about how the family members in question are addicts, so they're not going to get help until they are ready and willing to do so. But it doesn't stop us (well, me) from coming at the situation from a perspective of "at least."

You're hurting, so you neglect your daughter. At least you have a daughter. You hurt so much you think you can't get out of bed. At least you have options, if only you were able to recognize them. At least you're alive, not strapped to a bed unconscious, unable to wake up, unable to hold your daughter.

And that's where the emotions become so damn hard to control. Just thinking about it brings up hurtful words, adjectives like "you miserable, selfish, lazy excuse of a..." and my Irish temper goes red and wishes I could shake sense into the person I'm "speaking" to...

None of us are coming at the situation from a place of empathy, and that's why nothing will get accomplished if a "talk" occurs. And that's a shame, but it's also inevitable, because the one person who needs to exercise the necessary empathy to make changes, isn't strong enough to do so, and wants those around her to do it for her instead. Which ain't gonna happen. We have our own lives.

I own Brené Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me. I admired her work and wanted to start at the beginning. It sits on my bookshelf next to the bed, alongside other "important" tomes (like The Way of the Bodhisattva), that get occasionally flipped through, but haven't been "read" yet. It's definitely time.

Meantime, I'll do what I said I would. Let my feelings be known to the people in question, so I won't choke on hypocrisy while there; and pour my love onto my niece, not in that order. The holidays are about the small ones, giving them joy. Everything else is a choice, whether or not we engage.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Making sense of pain



 
I was raised Catholic, so I went to my fair share of funerals as a kid, not always for relatives with whom I was familiar. So the grief itself didn't make a dent, rather it was a place for my brother and I to dress up and be complemented on our exemplary behavior. I remember shedding tears when Popie died (my dad's dad), and that was probably my first recognition of death. But it simply doesn't sink in until it hits someone close to you, which is why Dad's passing hit me like a truck on the highway.

One of the niggling side effects of blog trolling is happening upon the truly sad stories, the miscarriages, the children with cancer, and such. Facebook introduced me to Sammy (may he rest in peace), whose mother, it turns out, I went to elementary school with. That blog introduced me to another Sammy. He passed this morning.

It's pretty easy to decipher why these passings make me pensive, beyond the knee-jerk sadness of a child dying. I'm still at an age where I could produce children, and it's still a desire, a rather deep one. I also watch and listen helplessly while my niece is neglected by her parents, and the rage about that burns deep.

*****

Lil Sis's friend continues in a holding pattern. She redeveloped pneumonia and remains in a medically induced coma while hemodialysis attempts to continue the healing of her kidneys. She has developed intermittent contractions in her breathing pattern, which could be the pneumonia, or a new symptom of the possible brain damage from when she suffered cardiac arrest. They can't know until she's stable enough for a long MRI, just what's going on upstairs. All progress is maddeningly incremental, and doesn't yet tell the whole story.

My friend Diana won't be home for Christmas as she's being discharged to a rehab facility first. She's on the mend, but it's hard not to think about how the decades of smoking have shortened her lifespan.

I've definitely relearned how to pray these past couple of months. I think daily on these folks and send my individual desires for their health, or their families' peace, out into the universe. It's all I can do, and I reconcile myself to that.

*****


All these people will be in the back of my head when I visit family at Christmastime and interact with family members who take life for granted everyday, who lie in bed the majority of their days popping pills and refuse to do anything to better their lots in life. It's very hard for me to walk in their shoes. I have real trouble with people who won't help themselves, and unfortunately there are quite a few candidates in this scenario.

I will wear my mala beads, meditate when able, and shower my niece in love while we're there. I can't wait to play with her, distract her from her situation, and watch her delight about Christmas. There will likely be plenty of yelling this holiday, and I want no part of it; which is not to say that I'll hide from it. Actually I'm pretty sure my opinions will become known the minute I interact with the people in question, and hopefully that will squelch any further arguing. Hey, a girl can dream.

Reading nook pic from here. Snow pics from here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Spooky coincidence



Found this within an hour of writing the last post. At this rate, I've got another 10-site day ahead of me. I shoot for 20. Audible sigh.

Definitely in my head this week

If you have no interest in football, religion, or social perceptions, you may want to skip this one...

Time Magazine named their Person of the Year for 2013, Pope Francis. The article is informative and well-written, and I needed to read it after a seriously off-the-cuff remark made by Peter King, of all people, earlier this week.

I read MMQB to follow the NFL, and I have enjoyed his columns for a couple of years now. He keeps it interesting, for someone like me who doesn't fully understand the game still; and he's a funny guy and good writer. In his non-football thoughts of the week, he threw in this non sequitur:

"The more I look at Pope Francis, the more he looks like Chance the gardener."

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski is one of the few books I read and absorbed against my will in high school. It certainly helped that they made a decent movie adaptation of it, and my teacher saw it as such and took pity on us and showed it in class. The book has been called both a satire and a social commentary on people's perceptions. It's also one of those movies where you wonder how anyone else could have nailed the role like Peter Sellers. Chance was his last role, and he was exquisite.

Loooong nutshell: (circa 1970s) Chance is a middle-aged, simple-minded man who works for a rich, old man, mainly tending the garden. His life is very sheltered, he rarely leaves the house, and his only entertainment is TV, from which he derives his limited views of the world. When the old man dies, Chance inherits his clothes and a few belongings, but is thrown out of the house. While wandering the streets, he happens upon an electronics store and is mesmerized by his own reflection on the TV in the window (they have a camera pointing out, and Chance has never seen this before). He absentmindedly backs into the street and is bumped by a car. Though not seriously injured, the society woman in the vehicle insists he come home with her. When he says his name is "Chance, the gardener," she sees his expensive-looking clothing and assumes she heard Chauncey Gardener. As he unwittingly ingratiates himself with her society friends, their perception of him as a once-rich and learned man blossoms, until he is advising heads of state with his simple aphorisms. But in truth, he's a '70s Forrest Gump, thrust into situations that are far over his head, but which inexplicably respond to his level of folksy wisdom. When he says, "I like to watch TV," they take it as a lesson about taking time for oneself to relax and reflect. When the society woman's husband, and Chance's new benefactor, passes away, the board of directors unanimously vote Chauncey Gardener as the new CEO of his impressive company.

*****
 
So my first reaction to Peter King's line about Pope Francis was that he must be a pissed-off Catholic hard-liner. My second reaction was that Pope Francis does look a bit like Peter Sellers. Pretty sure that second one is random though. My third reaction was just plain confusion, which is why I was grateful for the Time magazine article this morning. It's an excellent short biography of a kind and intelligent man, who is coming at the position of Pope from a far different place than quite a few of the rigid scholars before him. But it's also a cautionary tale of how the media takes his statements out of context in an attempt to force progressive thinking on a religion that isn't going to be making major changes any time soon.

Honestly, it seems like Pope Francis has two main notes on his to-do list for the foreseeable future:

1. Help the poor. Pray for the poor. Help the poor.
2. Clean up some of the abysmal corruption that has run rampant through the Vatican.

Everything else is window-dressing, and don't let his use of 21st century technology to get his point across fool you. This guy was new to retirement and miserable at it, and giving him the pointy hat finally gave him the pulpit he's always needed to get his point across. But he's driven by charity and prayer, thankfully, not the trappings of the almighty dollar; and that could go a long way in the fiscal reformation of a vessel rife with money laundering and greed.

Pope Francis isn't a simple-minded puppet, but neither is he a progressive reformer who's going to change the face of Catholicism. And that's OK, because if you look at Catholicism on its face, it doesn't need changing; it obviously speaks to the spiritual needs of millions already. But his views on charity and helping the poor are a really good start; it reminds me of how volunteerism got such a kick in the pants after Obama was elected. These are ideas that should have been popular before these learned men took their posts; but if their presence is what it takes to start movements, then we're lucky to have them.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In my head

It is quite possible to wear mala beads daily as a reminder to be present, and still find your thoughts taken over by family strife. This angers me. These issues barely deserve my thoughts; they are not my problem. We receive the ripples of the actual problem, and it's up to us not to let it overtake our emotions, especially when we have no control over any possible outcome.

Heather B. of beautythatmoves is hosting a Hibernate workshop in January. I've found my gift to myself this holiday season.

*****

I ache with Mandela's passing.

Checked Long Walk to Freedom out of the library the next day. The only reason I didn't buy it that day is because thanks to the purchase of a new washing machine, we are poor as church mice for the next 2 weeks.

I read it about 10 years ago, on a whim, and it, along with Kingsolver's exquisite fiction The Poisonwood Bible, stirred my interest in African history. I never retained much history in my schooling; I considered it boring and the teachers I had did not help matters, as they were, for the most part, a stuffy and monotonous lot. As an adult, my brain's finally mature enough to see different sides, and the layers of these stories are fascinating. Also fascinating are the number of fallacies that make themselves known, the difference between what I was taught in grade school and what we know to be true today (or think we know to be true). Imagine how different history will read in another 50 years...

Watched Obama's speech at Mandela's memorial today. It was just boilerplate enough to piss me off and set me wondering how many white men are still on the speechwriting staff at the big white house. Mandela wasn't a pacifist or even a thunderous orator, so why compare him to Gandhi or Dr. King? Because those are people quoted just often enough to make a dent in the short attention spans of the populace?

I'm a fan of President Obama; I've drunk the Kool-Aid and am among the whiners who believe he is a great man who won't leave nearly the mark he should in history, because he's stuck with a tight-assed Congress that's petrified of social change. I just wish he'd had the time to throw some more of himself into that speech.

*****
The holiday tree is up, a handsome artificial model from Lowe's that was a bit of a splurge, but looks much better than any of the crap they were hawking at Walmart. Bought it at the same time as the new washing machine, so there was a bit of holiday cheer to accompany the sting of throwing down $400+ cash on our first real major appliance. Les's mom bought our first set used, as a house warming, from a nice enough mom-and-pop outfit in Asheville, but we looked at their inventory and realized the last thing we wanted was to be in the same boat a year from now, with another broken down machine.

The soft light of the tree in the living room in the evenings is like a blessing. I'm itching to make some new ornaments. Those we have are OK, but hold little history. It needs some garland too. I'd love to make a construction paper chain for it, but finishing knitting of holiday gifts has to come first.

Image from here.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Building Traditions

For the last decade, at least, as a family, Les and I haven't celebrated the holidays. This isn't as bleak as it sounds, as we've certainly exchanged gifts (when there was money to do so) and enjoyed the season. But we stopped bothering to put up a tree quite a while back, because we were always traveling around Christmas, and besides, the old apartment was small and such an epic clutter pile, it had no room for any extra decoration.

We traveled, usually to his folks' house, and spent a couple of days doing Christmas there. Nothing wrong with that, certainly, and we're both agnostics, so we don't feel any religious obligation to deck our personal halls. But I miss it, and in the face of traveling to a house that feels less like a home now (thanks to the family drama that lives in it), I determined that this year needs to be a time of building our own traditions.

We bought a new artificial tree, which we will decorate tonight. I'm also going gathering for pine branches to hang around the house. We're not sure if Les is allergic to pine, so this will be a way to test him out without going whole-hog with a real tree.

We're spoiling each other a bit with gifts, for once. I'm having us open our gifts on Yule, rather than drag stuff down to his folks' house. I'll make us a nice meal. Maybe we'll watch a movie together, or go catch the new Hobbit flick. I'll refresh my memory about winter solstice. We'll light candles around the house, and ponder the turning-inward momentum of this time of year. Tonight we light the 2nd candle of my version of Yule advent: courage.

We'll still travel to both our folks' homes, but we're keeping the trip short, both for my work sanity and our personal sanities. Having the holiday land smack in the middle of the week this year is going to be grueling for me, as my work week runs Sunday to Saturday. Laptops are marvelous portable devices, but no amount of distraction known to man could get me to concentrate in his folks' house, where my 7-year-old niece resides, and besides, I want to be available for her. She's the real reason we're making the trip.

*****

My friend Diana is out of ICU and on the mend. Lil Sis's friend Kendra remains in a medically induced twilight. All prayers appreciated.

Image from here.

Monday, December 02, 2013

New Month

Thanksgiving...survived it. May I always have the ability to have it at my own house, because I do nail it when I have control over my surroundings.

The meal was exquisite. We were concerned about cooking the turkey too long, because it seemed like the thermometer wouldn't rise enough whenever we checked it, but Hubs basted religiously and it was delicious. I did the sweet potatoes in the crock pot, eliminating the need for a pot on the stove, and we popped the rolls into the oven the minute the turkey was out. And that Brussels sprouts recipe of Emeril's is amazing!

It just came together so nicely this year, I guess via a combination of the larger kitchen and fresher, local foods. Hubs' uncle couldn't make it, but we hosted his mom, so it was simple and quiet.

*****

It was a white Thanksgiving. It snowed the entire day before and didn't melt as quickly as I thought it would; there's still some white stuff sticking around in deeply shaded areas, but the temps will rise the next 2 days, and then drop again. It's overcast most days lately. The leaves have dropped, and the mist and fog covers the mountaintop in the twilight hours.

We'll decorate next weekend. Still not sure where the tree is going, but it's going somewhere.

*****

I lit the first candle for our Yule advent on Saturday. Under the heading of making our own traditions, I settled on 4 themes, which hilariously, I cribbed from a favorite quote of Dale Carnegie's: "Fill your mind with thoughts of peace, courage, health, and hope." So the first candle was for peace, peace for us, our families, and the world.

*****

My friend Diana is back in the hospital with pneumonia, and Lil Sis's friend still wavers between the light and the dark. All prayers welcome. Also, on a completely materialistic bent, I wouldn't mind prayers for my washing machine too, which decided to stop agitating this past weekend.

*****

It'll be a pensive week here, as we get back into our own rhythm. Hosting family is fun at times, but it also helps us realize how much we love our life together, just the two of us. Maybe someday there will be children and more animals, but for now, we're happy.

Have a great week, y'all!

Image from here.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Finding Compassion

"Once you understand that everyone, everywhere is operating from a place of fear, you know what to do: just encourage."

~ Karen Maezen Miller

The hardest part of all this, of dealing with the drama on my husband's side of the family, is deferring judgment. I'm a hard person. I have set ideas about how people should operate, and there's a streak of weakness in this storyline that causes me to be judgmental. It's much harder to render usable ideas, or rather, to be a useful person whose opinions are heard, from that mental place.

I've been carrying or wearing my mala beads lately. They are a reminder to be present, to be patient. Now, they will remind me to encourage too, to be the positive voice.

I abhor self-pity. It's a byproduct of depression; I do understand that. But there are always ways to fight depression and to improve your situation, if only you are strong enough. I have trouble understanding people who aren't strong enough to do that. Are family members then charged with doing it for them? I resist that. How will that person ever cope on their own without other people's help? At any age (except young childhood), I resist this. And I'm not talking about my age...the people in this scenario are mid-60s and late-30s.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas will be tests. Ultimately, I try to just celebrate the holidays. Thanksgiving is self-explanatory. Christmas is another animal; I'm leaning Les and I toward exchanging gifts at Yule, so that our holiday is separate from the Christian movements we have to make for family.

But in the midst of the Christmas celebrating, they want to do an intervention of sorts. I cringe at the timing, and pray I'll be taking my niece for a long walk around the neighborhood, or hitting a playground with her, because I know nothing from this "talk" will change anything until the parties involved are actually ready to make the necessary changes. A clearing of the air needs to happen, but it also smacks of futility, and I have real trouble with that.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Recognizing

I'm fairly certain the only way I'm going to survive the holidays without becoming emotionally unspooled is via better time management and organization.

Pretty sure everyone feels that way about the holidays at one time or another.

It mainly has to do with family drama that I would like to choose not to subscribe to. I think that with a little meditation and positive energy, I may be able to avoid it the way I want to; but I need to start practicing now.

*****

I went on an interview today. Pretty sure it helped me realize a couple of things. I can't be objective about the impression I delivered to the individuals with whom I was interviewing, but I can recognize that there's nothing wrong with feeling like I work better from home than in an office. If I am lucky enough to get the position, I will certainly step up and brush off my people skills. We need the cash, and I can certainly use the experience. But I also recognize that it's completely OK if I don't get it, and that I do have the intelligence and motivation necessary to improve my situation, without necessarily going back into an office. There are stories out there I can write about. I have ideas that could become book proposals. I even have it in me to self-publish, if I don't want to bother with rejections.

I have a voice. I'm still shaping it, wondering how the heck to take all the thoughts in my head and whittle them down to focused topics, but it's there.

*****

Check out Melanie's Gym and Dark Meadow for the latest on those rooms in my psyche. And when you have a moment, send some prayers out into the universe for some very special people. One is a personal friend who is struggling with COPD. The other is a friend of my sister's, who is going through rather horrific, life-threatening complications from pneumonia and childbirth.

My friend with the COPD is in her 70s. My sister's friend is maybe 30.

I guess it's always going to be natural to take life a little bit for granted, until your world is rocked by your own health failures or the failures of those close to you. But it's no less shocking either way. As I mention in Melanie's Gym, I'm achy this evening and while I don't think it's gall bladder-related, it's still a very loud wake-up call ringing in my head about the changes I still have to make, to obtain more improved health. While I've been a little complacent this week about diet and exercise, a woman who had to deliver early because of the flu, gave birth to a beautiful little girl who's doing well. She then had breathing issues that could not be improved, so they life-flighted her to UAB where she has been fighting for her life ever since. The baby was their 6th IVF treatment.

I'm a pagan, so I rage against a god that gives us these kinds of tests. But I also believe in the power of prayer, mainly because it's the only thing to do in situations like these. I'm not a doctor, I don't even know the family. But I can get down on my knees, literally or figuratively, and pray to whatever universal entity is out there, to please let this woman live, so she may know motherhood and continue the beautiful life she has with her husband.

Image from here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Yea, definitely...

Weekly posts are totally doable here. I'm busy as heck these days.

We hosted Lil Sisinlaw and her significant other last weekend. We hit Craggy Gardens, cooked a decent meal. It's becoming easier to put in the effort on a decent meal, when the alternative means spending money we really shouldn't. Again, not exactly mind-blowing stuff, just takes effort.

Thanksgiving and the holidays loom. I'm into the sticks and string these days, actually working on small knitted items that can go in people's bags. The crazy thing is I'm starting far enough ahead where these projects may actually reach completion.

We got the lightest of flurries yesterday afternoon. The windows stay closed now, and I'm anticipating the plants will go outside less. Really wish I had the room for larger hoophouse materials. It's motivating.

Check out the latest posts at Melanie's Gym and Dark Meadow...

Have a good week, y'all!

Image from here.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Weekly post?

Definitely going to try to embrace farmer's hours in the near future, because this daylight-savings-time-ending thing is just too weird. Usually I could care less about springing forward or falling back, except for the pinch of inconvenience it brings with clocks and such, which isn't even that bad anymore because everything's so automated to change on its own now. But for some reason, this week's newfound darkness by 6PMish has me sleepy and out of sorts, and desperate for more TIME.

Part of it is work's fault, as I was locked out of the system yesterday, the sites dripped in there like molasses today, and we may have family visiting this week, so my desire to cram as much work in as possible is butting up against these obstacles...all of which have nothing to do with how many hours of daylight there are, since none of this activity takes place out of doors....but still.....

It does get me thinking about time management, and what I desire to accomplish in a given "day." Truth be told, I'm not doing nearly enough to follow my heart while bringing in dough, and reading folks like Shannon (my latest obsession), Amanda, and that little powerhouse, Jenna, I get angry with myself a bit, because I know deep-down the only difference between them and me is organization. And I don't even have the excuse of having kids or farm animals to wrangle! That shit's gotta change, because I really do love this life we're creating here, and don't want to have to go back to any kind of office job unless it's plum in my field and the employees fart rainbows.

So with that in mind, I'm going to try my damnedest to limit the posts here to once a week for the foreseeable future, because my time babbling on here to an unsuspecting public could be better used writing articles, drafting book proposals, exploring the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. shipping it off for rejection, and hand-making as many holiday presents as possible for our also-unsuspecting family members.

Wish me luck, try not to miss me too much ;)

Have a great week, y'all!

Image from here.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Friday?!?!

The Hubs hates getting his picture taken, so posing is almost
never in the cards, but I just love this outfit...the knee-high moccasin boots, color coordination up top, and hat with tails handmade by yours truly. We were driving through a section of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, taking pictures and drinking in all the beauty. Even got to see a herd of elk!

Seriously, where'd this week go and how do I get it back? Better yet, how do I find the energy to eat right when eating wrong makes me so rundown...

Such a learning experience. I keep saying that, and then I let something verboten slip in, like last night's few pieces of Halloween candy, and my inflammation is up around my midsection and I'm dragging my ass.

Whining about that nonsense should be reserved for Melanie's Gym, so I'll shut up. It's just frustrating though, going from a complete glutton and hedonist to someone who has to CAREFULLY choose their meals. Lot of emotional and physical hurdles to cross.

No trick or treaters this year :( I should've expected it, I mean, Weaverville is a town of about 3,000 people and we live smack in the middle of a main drag, so of course parents are going to want to hit actual neighborhoods. I was hoping being next to the trailer park (one of the nicer ones) would help, but no dice. So we have leftover candy, which I will happily keep my grubby paws off of now and let Hubs inhale instead.

Halloween made me ache for a child this year.

Weather was epically Halloweenie yesterday: cool, overcast, and blustery. It was awesome!

Have a great weekend, y'all!

*****

Editor's postscript: you guys were saved from some serious (likely long-winded) introspection this morning. I learned after writing this post, that a colleague, who I knew well enough to consider a friend, passed away this week from complications from the flu and other respiratory ailments. Only 28 years old. How do you die in your sleep at the age of 28???

I'm not close enough to the office or the situation to know the complete circumstances, but it definitely gets you thinking.....did he not understand the severity of his condition? did male ego or finances play a part in him not going to the doctor as his condition worsened? I have a real problem with the reasoning of "it was just his time..."...I save that BS for random car accidents and natural disasters. But it does punctuate how painfully tenuous our time on this earth is, how nothing should stand in the way of our health. Hug your loved ones, folks.



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So much in my head

I'm slowly getting back into my groove after several days of travel and family visiting, and it's hilarious how writing here is a NEED more than a want, because it's not like I have anything mind-blowing to report.

I inherited a new-to-me iPhone 4, so I have a camera again, which is 14 kinds of awesome...once I get around to downloading the pictures, which should have occurred about 2 days ago...but we went hiking on Sunday, which meant lying around in a dazed brain fog yesterday, groaning occasionally because my everything hurt, and my right ankle arthritis flared up like the little bitch that it is and I couldn't find my decent ankle brace anywhere, because apparently it's been a good ankle year and I haven't used the damn thing since we moved.....

So the picture is from Tumblr, because I'm a lazy cuss, and I'm still piecing together how fricking adorable and weird Gatlinburg was...like an American tourist trap crash-landed and sprawled all over this delightful southern valley, so that it felt like a Jersey Shore boardwalk had transplanted itself in the mountains.

This autumn doesn't feel quite as showy, color-wise, as it was last year, but it was still incredible. The hotel we stayed at was within walking distance of almost everything of note, so we barely used the car...which also explains why my legs still aren't speaking to me. The prices there were about what you'd expect, so we didn't splurge much (and Hubs and I couldn't splurge til Friday anyway, because my delightful company decided to play around with payment processing and not tell those of us affected). But just wandering was a blast too, all the people-watching and hilarious storefronts. Ripley's is big there, and handmade candy kitchens, and all variety of shops; and the black bear is definitely the unofficial mascot of the area.

There's a ski resort smack in the middle of town, so we took the tram up there to look around, and I wished I had the balls to take the ski lift up the rest of the way, because the alpine slide looks nifty as heck...but I pussed out (I have a mild fear of heights). I'm the person who wishes rope tows still existed, so I could ski without having to deal with lifts. We hit a moonshine distillery for their free tasting (good stuff!), and discovered that peak season is not the time to hit the pancake houses (the lines were laughable).

My Lil Sis celebrated her 30th turn around the sun with this trip, and it was delightful. On Friday we headed to Bryson City to ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad up to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The train has open cars with no windows for leaf watching, for those of us who aren't afraid of freezing our tails off (temps were in the 40s that day). We came prepared and appropriately clothed, and it was an awesome time! We found an AMAZING restaurant/coffee shop in Bryson City for dinner afterward, which was a terrific way to end the trip.

Saturday I had to get some work in, so after we picked up Mom's dog at the kennel and hit the farmer's market, I dove into the sites and Mom and Lil Sis wandered town, and then we met them for dinner at Avenue M. Food was delish, service was meh. They need to school their servers on sommelier terminology. Telling us the wine comes from grapes ain't gonna win you that 20% tip.

Sunday we hit Craggy Gardens, which was a lot easier than I remember, though my body is definitely telling me differently now. It reinforced how we need to be taking weekend days for hiking around here; there's no shortage of nice places/trails in the area and it's nuts that we're not taking more excursions. Of course, I'm getting this jones when we're a month away from the Parkway closing ;) That's OK though, as it definitely isn't the only game around town.

Pretty sure the rest of this week is workworkwork. I'm a bit behind, and much as I'd love an apple orchard excursion, I'm also recognizing that pickings are winding down and work must take its place front and center. The local Ingles and Greenlife have decent produce sections if I get in an apple butter and sauce making jones...but right now I'm more concerned with getting work done so I may can blackberry jam and cherry preserves with my freezer stock this coming weekend, and getting the bread recipe right. I was going to bale on the edX cooking course, but woke up today with renewed vigor toward learning that stuff. If I'm hoping to process more of my own food in the future, I definitely want to know the science of it. I thank Ben Hewitt for that motivation; his posts of late have been all about food making, and I'd love to be able to do that without the crippling worry that I could poison family members.

Image from here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gallivanting

 
So deliciously chilly out this morning! 50s with a stiff breeze with more of the same into the weekend. I'm so simultaneously delighted and surprised by it. I really did get used to no seasons in Florida, because having it cold again so soon feels very weird. Not complaining, mind you, far from it...just tickles me that I'm so surprised. Half my brain is thinking, "wait, it gets cold in October?" while the other half reminds me that every Halloween as a child was frustrating because Mom and Dad would make us wear jackets over our costumes when trick or treating.

We're off to Gatlinburg this week! It's a quick trip to celebrate my Lil Sis's 30th. We'll enjoy good food and see the sights, and hike a pinch of the Smokies. Friday we'll play tourist leaf peepers on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Should be cold, but gorgeous!

Mom J's weekend visit was quiet; we went to town once, but mainly stayed in, which was good for me, because with back-to-back visits, I worked quite a bit. Been working hard this week to afford taking the time for this trip without coming unspooled, and so far so good. I'll bring the laptop, but I'm betting I'll be making up what's left of this week's quota mainly on Saturday when we're back.

Have a great week, y'all! Go crunch in some leaves!

Image from here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday

Another week past. It was a good one. Still not eating enough veggies or completely off wheat, but I'm reading Wheat Belly and should be initiating the latter very soon. So far, that book is well-written and illuminating.

The niece caught strep and couldn't come visit. We'll probably take it easy this weekend. I'm trying to finish up work, so I can join Hubs and Mominlaw on their jaunts.

Got the bill from the ER visit. It was just as bad as I thought it would be. I'll be calling the financial counselors at the hospital on Monday to see what wiggle room they have on payment plans, cuz that sucker's gonna take a while to pay off.

Discovered this blog this morning...should make nice filler today when I'm struck with concentration lapses while working.

Mom J came bearing the gift of a gorgeous old-fashioned butter churn. She found it for $50 at a local antique store; the image reflects it nicely and it's bigger than I thought it would be - 4 quarts! Can't wait to put that sucker to good use.

Gotta get back to work while there's no distractions...have a great weekend, y'all!



Top image from here.




Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Aaaaaaaand, we're open again!

 
I'm posting political vitriol here tonight, because I can't post it on Facebook. I have a wealth of friends and relatives who are conservatives, and I'm not about to get into a pissing contest about the shutdown with them. They're never going to see my side, and I'm certainly never going to see theirs, ever again.

As some of you know, I was a Republican in college. I ran for student offices, held leadership positions, and blindly followed a herd, mainly because my parents were conservative and I didn't know how to think for myself yet.

Yea, OK, also, there was this guy......anyhoooo.....

College is supposed to instill free thinking, but I was a serious late bloomer. I didn't come to my liberal senses until about 10 years ago, as I watched government change, the nation change, and I realized I believed many things that were actually ideals on the left side of the aisle. Not maligning conservatives here, because we live in America and everyone is entitled to their opinion, and free speech is #1 on the Bill of Rights hit parade. I used to make fun of card-carrying members of the ACLU and now I am one. But this isn't about a mea culpa, not really...

I'm watching CSPAN tonight. The House passed the amendment allowing for the reopening of government tonight, following the Senate's passing of their bill, and it's headed to the White House for Obama's signature. I'm just enough of a masochist where I went to FoxNews.com to see how they were taking the compromise. Sure enough, the headline reads "It's Over...For Now."

They're right of course, as these amendments only extend our finances into January 2014. But what they really mean is that they're not done fighting to somehow take the Affordable Care Act and unmake it as a law. And while that baffles me on 14 different levels, it also doesn't surprise me at all, as I do remember the poor and lesser Americans not being worth the time of day back when I was a rightie. The sound byte was all about giving a hand up vs. a hand out, and there was no room for negotiation in that statement. But they don't seem to get how that separates them even further from the constituencies that they're attempting to represent, and I really pray that it starts biting them hard in the ass. Because dividing America between the haves and the have-nots must not stand.

It's an epic-sized ivory tower in Washington, where they don't see that for every welfare crack mama with no job and 4 kids nursing on government's tit, there's also 10 lower-middle class families who work their fingers to the bone to make ends meet and when they come up for air, they find they make too much to obtain any government subsidies, but meanwhile their kids can't afford college. Jon Stewart illustrated it rather beautifully last week in a segment where CNN or some-such interviewed a woman who was finding she made too much money to take advantage of the state subsidies provided under the ACA, but she lived in a miserable looking, manufactured single-wide. Her quote could've been written by anyone in the under-$40K-a-year bracket (paraphrased): "When you're faced with the choice of going to the doctor or putting food in your kids' mouths, what do you think the choice is gonna be?"

I got off on a tangent...my original reason for opening this post was anger. Not at the shutdown, but at the Republicans' continued unwillingness to compromise. They act like they caved, they're all going to affect hangdog expressions for the next day or so as they speak in compliant, Reaganesque tones about everyone working together for the good of the people, and they'll pray to the election gods that their party lives through any primaries this month and next.

I can't find it on the Interweb anywhere, whether the vote required a regular majority or a 2/3rds majority, and my political science degree is seriously dusty. But I'm going to assume they only needed a regular majority, because that's the only explanation I can find for the House conservatives saying that even though they (personally) were voting "no," there was no doubt that the bill would pass and we'd be up and running again, thanks to their efforts. Yea, I wouldn't sit by the mailbox waiting for the thank-you notes, you magnanimous bastards. Because if the vote needed 2/3rds to pass, then I'm livid. There are currently 432 House members able to vote on the floor. The bill passed 285-144. I'll save you the trouble of clicking on your calculators.....2/3rds of 432 = 285.

Coincidence? I'm just saying, even though it was probably a regular majority that was needed, we liberals definitely can't sit on our laurels now and think "whew, dodged a bullet," because we didn't dodge a damn thing, and in a few short months, we could be right back where we were, fighting with white men who think like it's 1950 and don't care about anyone below their tax bracket.

Y'all know I take the Affordable Care Act fight personally. I created my profile and started shopping on healthcare.gov the day after my ER visit last week, and I'm hoping to get in on some of the NC state subsidies. As an obese freelancer, I was turned down by not one, but two insurance plans when I went hunting months back, and the only reason they gave was my weight.

I may be the size of a Biggest Loser contestant, but between my family history and my actual health, I'm not exactly a heart attack waiting to happen. I'll bet it wasn't even my weight, rather, my BMI was too high on one of their all-knowing charts. They pigeonhole people, because it's a business that doesn't want to do what it's built to do: pay for people's medical care. I get it; they're private, they're there to make a buck. But that only punctuates how important it is to have a government-run health care system. Another Jon Stewart gem from last week brought up the point that when uninsured people go to the ER, and then default on their bills, the insurance companies are, in part, forced to take up the slack financially, which in turn results in higher premiums for the hard-working Americans who are paying into the system properly. This is where I get confused with the Republicans' insistence that the ACA is evil...because if more people are insured, won't the insurance companies have to come up with a new excuse for raising premiums? Oh, not to worry, since all the private insurance companies are so concerned with the government taking away their business, that they're spreading the rumors about higher premiums anyway "to cover the costs of ACA."  And any left or centrist publication will tell you that's bullshit.

Half of me didn't even want to bother with insurance for me, because it's hard enough right now making the payments on Les's premiums. I found a doc here in town who caters to the underinsured and uninsured, and they're doing a bang-up job. But thanks to that little jaunt to the ER, I was fully reminded of the necessity of health insurance...and we haven't even gotten that potentially-cringeworthy bill yet.

My point (and I do have one...sorry, guys, this was a long one) is that the system's still VERY broken, but the Affordable Care Act is at least a Band-Aid for the very large crowd of folks like me, who desperately need insurance, don't want to be a burden to society, and can't afford or get into a decent plan. I am losing weight now and getting healthier, but Obama's pre-existing condition clause in the ACA still practically made me weep when I learned about it, because it said "my government gives a damn and isn't going to leave me out in the cold." Sure, that's a rather Currier & Ives way of looking at it, but I still believe in that American Dream. I don't see that I should be excluded from a system that ultimately helps government, just because I'm plus-sized and have the audacity to work for myself.

Image from here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This and that

To be feeling so much better, is a gift.

The leaves are finally turning this week, and it's definitely fall. It could drop into the high 30s at night as early as this weekend, but looks like I still have a week or three before the first frost. We're pulling the last of our meager harvest this week, and I'll cover and move things around.

We spend our days and nights with the windows open now. Electric bill should be awesome again. It's chilly today, and I look forward to walking later.

I will own a flannel shirt this year, and wear that sucker so much that I need to patch the elbows by spring.

Repairing a flat-screen TV, it turns out, costs just as much as buying a new set. This is a disappointing realization, not just because we're sinking money into repairs that may not be worth their cost, but also because it so punctuates just how much of a throwaway society we've become.

That said, it's also helped me see that I don't need to be in front of the box as much as I usually am. I do work better with distractions, but so much of what I normally have on in the background is crap I've already seen. I'm hoping this drought of TV watching that I've been subjected to this week, will help me steer away from having it on for the sake of having it on. I really should only watch first-run stuff. Been dipping back into knitting and reading this week, and I know my head's in a better place because of it.

Sucks that such a drastic health issue needed to occur for my habits to change, but I am relieved that some changes occurred rather easily and quickly. I have one cup of coffee now in the mornings, then switch to water, and then have a cup or two of tea in the evenings. My head hasn't balked at the change in caffeine intake, and my moods are stabilizing after the first week. Well, I think they have, anyway...Les might have a different take on the subject. ;)

Feeling so. damn. good.

Image from here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Week

Didn't feel much like a weekend. Saturday was work interspersed with errands. Sunday was work interspersed with kitchen stuff. Made two loaves of white-wheat that came out maddeningly flat (will I never get bread right?), and an apple butter pumpkin pie that should more than make up for the breads.

Hubs adores apple butter pumpkin pie. It's a Paula Deen-pre-diabeetus recipe, and we were purging the freezer a week ago and discovered some apple butter left over from last year, so seemed as good a reason as any to make a pie. We'll be hitting Sky Top at least once in the next 3 weeks, so there will be more apple butter making in the near future...and applesauce, apple pies, apple muffins....sigh...

I had a single bite, because it's pretty off-limits to yours truly right now. It did not disappoint. :)

Carefully adding more protein to the diet this week, and decreasing the high-glycemic carbs even more. Recognizing that I can't really have crackers or any bread right now, and that's OK. I indulged in a slice of toast yesterday, and it was fine; but this is about losing weight and keeping the gallbladder in check, so I'll do whatever it takes. Plus, I can't lie, much as we talk about how we can't let our emotions be guided by a number on a scale...the fact is that I dropped a whole 10 pounds last week, and my gods, that feels GOOD!

I know I can't keep up that pace; I was practically starving myself last week, out of sickness and fear dictating my food choices, and I know it's not healthy for the body to lose weight that quickly for an extended period. Heck, it could even cause another gallbladder attack! But I'm over the first hurdle, my motivation is set, and my mind is clear.

Mom J and the niece roll into town on Thursday, for a weekend stay. I only hope I've got enough work done where I don't have to be completely antisocial while they're here. Lil Sis and Mom visit the week after; Lil Sis is turning 30 so we're jaunting over to Gatlinburg for a short visit to celebrate. Should be a blast!

Have a great week, y'all!

Image from here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Check-In

 
It was a quiet week. Yesterday was the first day I started to feel normal again. My belly pain is all but gone, I'm trying some new supplements, and my diet has undergone a pretty severe overhaul. That picture is as close as I'll get to bread for the foreseeable future.

Editor's note: What's wrong with bread? High-glycemic foods cause the pancreas to create more insulin, which in turn causes the liver to create more cholesterol. I know, that was a newsflash to me too! Too much cholesterol filtering through the gall bladder creates gallstones. So, the good news, at least, is that these dietary changes oughta knock any pre-diabetes off the list as well, as I drop weight.

It's a big learning experience, figuring out what I should eat. I made wilted greens the other night to go over a sweet potato, and confirmed that I'm not a greens gal. Recognizing that this needs to happen in stages. Start with the foods you know you like, that you're allowed to eat. Experiment as you go. No point trying to force new foods...that'll only lead to disappointment and potential cheating, and there's no room for cheating right now, not if there's any chance of it bringing back that pain. I definitely got the hint.

The health distractions this week mean I'm a little behind on work. The weather's amazing here, so that ain't helping. The leaves are s...l...o...w...l...y...starting to change. Hubs and I hit the Antique Tobacco Barn yesterday while running errands and came away with a bread box and a hand-crank coffee mill. I hope to start walking again this weekend, gotta see how the body feels.

Have a good weekend, y'all!

Image from here.

Monday, October 07, 2013

A quiet week

This is going to be a quiet week here, probably. One of reflection, of turning inward. There are books to read, I'm starting that e-course, and work keeps me hopping.

I had a health issue this past weekend; Melanie's Gym has more on that. I'm learning what's OK to eat and what is not. I'll be practicing meditation, and in another day or two when my energy is back, I'll start walking again. I thought about walking today even, but I'm still pretty bone tired, and besides, it's soggy outside.

The queues are pretty dry lately, which means more working in the evenings. That sucks a little; I'd rather my evenings be spent with a cup of Tulsi and some knitting or a book. But it is what it is.

We're going from warm snap to cold snap here, so the leaves should start turning more this week. It's nice to have an extra layer on occasionally. Need to assess plants, and buy hoophouse stuff end of week.

Have a great week, y'all!

Image from here.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Friday

Not much to report. An average week. Get up, try to focus. Keep a clean house. Watch expenditures. The simple things.

Tropical Storm Karen is supposed to bypass most of Florida and drench us instead early next week, so thought that image was appropriate. And purty. I so adore fall.

Haven't been driving in a couple of days. Tomorrow, we'll drop off recycling and hit the north farmer's market, and I'm hoping to see more color in the trees. It naturally occurs a little later here, but we're getting close to peak.

New post at Melanie's Gym. Send some strength please that all that talk becomes reality.

Have a good weekend, y'all!

Image from here.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Hello October!

My favorite month. The leaves are taking their sweet time changing up here, but I'm betting that will adjust itself in just a week's time. The pumpkins are out at Whole Foods, and the apple orchards are getting busy. The silly temps are climbing just a bit this week, but honestly, we're talking 70s here, so I'm still my usual happy self.

Can't imagine working in hospitality up here right now...they've got to be losing their minds a little. The government shutdown means the Blue Ridge Parkway stays open, but all the facilities, like visitors centers and bathrooms, are closed. Great for short drives, not great for big, long hikes. Naturally, those closures extend to all the national forests and parks up here too, so bottom line is that if Congress doesn't get their shit together soon, the 2nd largest industry up here (tourism) will take a yucky hit.

I'm a Daily Show/Colbert Report fan, so I just rail against the right and try not to post political stuff on FB, where my conservative friends and relatives can attack. I've never been a debater, which feels cowardly as I type it, but it's also because I look on the whole health care thing from a deeply personal viewpoint, so don't even try to change my mind. I'm self-employed, and one of the uninsured, waiting for January 1st when my pre-existing obese ass can get insurance, thanks to President Obama, so don't whine to me about how the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, when the Supreme Court made it law months ago.

*****
I'm seesawing a bit, but rallying. Spent yesterday fighting for focus, mainlining carbs, and generally being a grouch. Today I woke up knowing I was going to get stuff done, and sure enough, there's fresh bread and rolls on the counter, homemade waffles in the freezer, and bowtie lasagna to eat the heck out of the rest of the week.

I unearthed the 2nd bedroom this past weekend; sucker had gone to seed before our trip. HP replaced my bum adapter, so I can work on my laptop now without saying a prayer every time I plug the damn thing in. I'm getting a handle on my time management. Life is good.

Image from here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Getting back to real life

It's been just as hard as I expected, getting back into a groove of work and such. The dishes seem to pile up faster this week, and my focus isn't great. This is pretty normal, the focus anyway, as my work is dry and I have to catch up on it before I can work on any fun stuff, like article/essay ideas or book proposals.

But what's neat is how my thoughts aren't sliding toward indulging in a game of solitaire to blow off steam. Instead I find myself wondering why people make small, curved hoophouses on raised beds or over containers (with PVC and plastic), when attaching elbows and making a rectangular structure might be easier to deal with. Is it that it's more expensive and labor-intensive to do this (I am betting that taking a hacksaw to PVC loses its novelty after the first or second pipe), or is it because the corners afford less heat/more cool to get to the plants? Probably both, but that may not stop me from trying it. Can't wait to tuck into this new book acquisition...haven't made enough time yet in the evenings this week.

These thoughts are on my mind, because Hubs has been keeping an eagle eye on weather lately and informed me we could be looking at frost at night as early as late next week. I've got a serious pile of still-viable plants out there, so it's time to invest in some plastic and rearrange the house to possibly accommodate some of the smaller stuff. My first tomato looks like it's dying off, but there's half a dozen new fruits on its branches!

The herbs will go undercover or come inside. The sweet potatoes will be fine. The peppers and tomatoes need to go undercover, and since they're still growing like gangbusters, I need to get creative with any hoophouse creations...actually, teepee style would be better than rectangles, now that I think about it. But I can already tell I'll also be glad when we get past leaf peeping season (I love having people visit, but this place is starting to get smaller as our dreams expand), as I'm definitely going to need to rearrange the 2nd bedroom to accommodate a mess of plants this winter (never mind that we're wanting to add more herbs).

I totally need a greenhouse. If that realization doesn't get me saving money, nothing will. Since we took our own car to PA (the rental idea fell through), our first saving will go into brakes, 2 new all-weather tires, and an oil change. But rather than taking an "it's always something" attitude, I'm just going to work my tail off and find a way to save. We're so ready.

Bah! Digressing too much! Back to work!

Image from here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Re-entry

Yup. No pics from PA. My camera acted like it was fine and then took exactly one picture before going back to the blindingly bright outputs it was giving me a coupla months ago. We brought Les's mom's camera, but we don't have her cable for downloading anything. Weather was meh the whole time anyway, but still would've been nice to take more pictures. We got a pile of 'em on the ride back; hopefully some of them came out.

The fair...when you build up a trip like that in your mind, it turns out to be everything and nothing like what you expected. But it was awesome. So much good being done there. Such a great vibe, even with as huge an event as it is becoming. It poured rain for most of the day Saturday, but people's spirits were undaunted. Some folks rearranged their workshop schedules and piled into the indoor classes; the rest of us nuts braved the wet to the outdoor tents, and most of the vendors were real troopers, staying open amidst the downpours. The resort was pretty good about shoveling fresh wood chips in places where the mud threatened and keeping drainage areas open. The animal smells near the live tents were never more than a light scent. Any tech issues with TVs and Powerpoint presentations were sorted out within 5 minutes. Really good management all around.

So much to think about and reflect on...it'll likely be dribbling out of me in the next couple of blog posts both here and at Dark Meadow. How much we learned. How much we want to learn now. How we know we are ready for a dog, ready to purge more, ready to start saving. How neat it was seeing Ed Begley Jr. and Joel and Daniel Salatin in real life. How pretty the Pennsylvania farmland was, and how nifty it was to mingle with Mennonites. How gorgeous the West Virginia mountains were. How much we both look forward to learning more about herbalism now, and creating a home apothecary. How we're already excited to re-attend when it comes to Asheville next spring.

If you're interested at all in sustainable living, homesteading, or farming, it's worth a trip. The selection of workshops is borderline overwhelming, but that's good, because it forces you to pick and choose carefully and they repeat some classes, so if you can't catch it during one block, there's a chance you can catch it (or something similar) at another block. So glad for our cell phones, because Les and I attended a lot of workshops separately and then met up intermittently throughout the day (and that's a common theme with couples). I spent so much of the weekend grinning like I'd just moved to Asheville again. These were my people.

More soon...gotta get to work.

Image from here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Prep time

You'd think after 9 months of freelancing, that I'd have my time management down. Not even close. Most of the time, I'm relying on shit luck still.

It came through this week in the form of ecomms. Those suckers pay the same as regular sites and take all of 5 minutes (instead of 20). Since we leave Thursday for PA, it means working my arse off Sunday to Wednesday. I'm ahead of the game now for this pay period, and can take today to relax and plan for the trip. It's necessary, apparently. My food choices sucked yesterday and I slept in until almost noon today. Guess I needed it....the sleep, not the Junior Mints.

The windows are open and I'm hoping we can keep them open. It's not supposed to get above 75 today. I'm lingering over my first cuppa while I decide on brunch. It'll be a puttering day. I'll rearrange the plants out front. There are 9 apples on the kitchen table waiting to be turned into something. I'm thinking hand pies for the trip, if I can squeeze their shelf life out til Wednesday-ish.

I needed this day badly. When I get focused on hammering out the quota, my concentration on everything else goes out the window, and things get neglected. I need to find a happy medium there, but it ain't gonna happen this week. This week is about PA, spending money smartly, and having a good time while we learn a whole bunch.

Getting excited :)

Image from here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

44

Something nice and round about that number, I guess.

It was a relaxed day and a good one. Got up without the alarm, made myself breakfast and chilled. Checked email, let work know I wouldn't be on unless ecomms popped up or hell froze over, goofed off a bit. Around lunchtime, I rousted the Hubs and we went to Echoview Fiber Mill here in town. Very small, nifty place...we got a mini tour, chatted up a nice lady and her golden retriever, and I bought a couple of hanks of alpaca.

Then we headed into town. We were far too early for dinner, so we took a meandering route to French Broad River Park and walked a bit. Headed back to town only to discover that the restaurant we were planning to hit doesn't open til 5PM, so with time still to kill, we wandered Lexington Avenue and cased some shops we hadn't popped into before. Hubs made the point that we should really take a day each weekend, park downtown, and walk a particular street to learn all the gems that are down there. Local indy business doesn't have to mean overpriced, and there's so much neat stuff in those stores.

We dined at Bouchon. My city brain was originally craving something more canned, like Cheesecake Factory, which thankfully we don't have in Asheville, until I remembered just how excellent the farm-to-table sitch is here. A little Googling and a craving for French Onion Soup led me to Bouchon, which did not disappoint. Les is a duck fan, and their roasted half duck with cocoa nibs and orange sauce was the best he's ever had. I enjoyed the steak au poivre with fresh steamed veggies and fries, and a house red, and sighed with every bite.

We popped into French Broad for cake to go (first time I've ever been able to walk right up to the counter!). I was half delighted to discover that the cake slice I chose was just OK, that I could actually make it better, thanks to a friend's recipe. But I will always swear by that place for their truffles and brownies, at least; it's really an extraordinary chocolate shop!

It was a wonderful year for gifties: Dr. Hyman's book, which I've been dying for in hardcover; an artisan baking book, which was a delightful surprise from one of my oldest friends; 2 seasons of Law & Order: UK (does the Hubs know me or what?); and a pair of Minnetonkas which should hit my doorstep today!

I'm buried in work between now and the PA trip, so if it goes quiet here, that's why. Have a great week, y'all!

Image from here.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Friday Review

Where'd the week go?

Work, work, work...and Jill is a dull girl, I guess. I'm hauling tail on sites this week in the hopes of taking us to PA with a paycheck that will allow us to not cringe every time we hit the gas pump or a fast food joint. Pay period ends Saturday, but I'm working through Sunday so I can take Monday off for my birthday. My brain should be oatmeal by then.

Can't decide what to do for the birthday that won't cost much money, but will take us outside of our normal routine a bit. I'm blowing off the NC Mountain State Fair (though I'd LOVE to go), because it just looks too pricey so close to the trip. Could go Wednesday when the admission is just canned goods from Ingles, but then there's fair food and ride tickets. Was thinking Chimney Rock State Park, so naturally they're closed on Monday to do tree removals. It's a pinch too early for apple picking. There is stuff to harvest right now, but the yield will be much more impressive in about 3 weeks. Besides, PMS and apple cider doughnuts are a dangerous combination!

Maybe a jaunt to Mount Mitchell or Grandfather...make that Mount Mitchell...turns out Grandfather is more expensive than Chimney Rock :( Another time then...

The broken section of the Blue Ridge Parkway opened back up between Ox Creek and Mount Mitchell, but the speed limit along that entire 21-mile section is 15 MPH, strictly enforced. Should make leaf-peeping interesting. Hope the tourists read the BRP updates before coming or there's gonna be some slow-moving, pissed-off peepers this year.

*****

I'm not happy about turning 44. This is almost completely because we are still childless, and the clock ticks loudly. We haven't been trying, and I'm still regular on my female stuff by the grace of the gods (VERY happy about that, as my mom had lost her plumbing, so to speak, by the time she was my age), so nothing to do but make an effort in that department, and push through the milestone in the meantime.

There's a powerful emotion attached to the fact that we could "easily" create our own child, in spite of our meager finances, but that making a play for a family member who could certainly benefit from our stability is something completely out of reach, because it would require a lawyer and a court fight, and that means money. Because we live in a different state and live on a single salary, we'd be at the disadvantage, when the parents in question are both neglectful addicts without jobs. But these are the Carolinas we're talking about, with their strong laws regarding what constitutes "family". So all we can do in the meantime is stand by and pray. But I also envision a conversation when we go down there for the holidays, one that punctuates to the individuals in question that the only thing holding us back is the money, that shit's gonna get real when we're in a better position, unless they change things for the better.

But because of those roadblocks, there's only so much worrying you can do over a situation like that. So I look ahead to our future instead, one that involves a house and some land. I had a line on a rental in Candler that seemed to show promise "on screen," and made a crack to Lil Sis about how with my luck, it's smack in the middle of a nest of meth labs in the backwoods or something. Within 24 hours of making that crack, I read a local news story about a couple of meth heads who got busted RIGHT DOWN THE ROAD from that rental. Classic! So my searching online will definitely include more homework before I come close to getting my hopes up about a place. Having almost an acre to play with would be nice, but not if your neighbors' mobile home explodes and renders the place toxic. Ah, the things you learn when you get outta the city...

Guess I needed a quick verbal ramble here today. I normally get pensive around my birthday, but since the birthday itself is making me grumpy, I'm just marking time. At least this year, everything else about my life is pretty wonderful. I live in an area I'm absolutely, unabashedly in love with, and things really do fall into place sometimes when you make a big move like that. Sure, there's probably folks out there wondering why I don't go back to an office job with bennies, but we're OK for now and both happy, so why disrupt that? Heck, I'm doing a better job now of keeping the wolf at the door than I did when I was making more money and had bennies.

My food intake has slacked in areas this week (see Melanie's Gym), but I'm keeping up a walking routine (see Dark Meadow Farm) and finding more muscles waking up from hibernation. It's an amazing, albeit exhausting feeling!

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Image from here.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Weekend Review

Yea, OK, we're only halfway thru the weekend, and it's a holiday weekend at that. But it's the first of September, and that makes me all hopeful n' stuff. I don't own any flannel, but September makes me want to remedy that shortcoming.

Instead though, WNC has been seeing a last ditch effort at summer in the last week or so, temps cranking up to high 80s but still tempered by breezes and middling humidity. Yesterday felt pretty hot when we were surrounded by people at the Apple Festival, but I realized as we were heading back to the car, that it still wasn't as bad as Florida, that the humidity difference is still apparent. I got sun and was crazy-thirsty last evening, as my body adapted to the activity and climate we'd been in, but it didn't shred me at all.

Unfortunately, it did shred the Hubs and the MIL. They're both migraine sufferers, and she's no spring chicken, in spite of appearances. Mom J hit the sack early and is still out this morning. I'm thinking of going in there to put a mirror under her nose if she doesn't emerge by 10 AM.

It's rather astonishing to not be shredded after a day like that. My body aches, but I know it'll get better as I wake up and move around today, and I'm taking today off from exercising to rest.

Apple Festival was another one of those activities where I find myself thinking, I'm glad I went, now we won't have to go again for a couple of years. Hitting an orchard is definitely more fun. All of WNC was in Hendersonville yesterday, it seemed, and while the mood and atmosphere resembled a carnival, the crush of people was off-putting. I guess I'm out of practice around big crowds. But I just people watched and grinned like an idiot, to be out in the sunshine and have my body adapting so nicely to just 10 days of exercise and smart eating.

I'm buried in sites this week. It's the last pay period before our trip to PA and we need all the dough we can get. Everything big is paid for, but I'd love to go up there semi-comfortable, to not be worried about where the next tank of gas is coming from.

Meanwhile, there's apples on the counter hopefully turning into the above picture later this week, and sourdough starter in the fridge that will become fresh loaves later today or tomorrow. I stocked up on lettuce at the market yesterday and am still embracing salads. I know my food choices aren't perfect yet, but I'm getting there.

Have a great week, y'all! Happy Labor Day!

Image from here.

Editor's note: MIL emerged around 9:40 a.m. No mirror needed :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Midweek

The usual going on, but wanted to stop in.

It's a learning week here, a week of creating habits. I'm eating healthier and exercising, and listening to my body. My right shoulder doesn't appreciate the new exercises I've been trying, probably in part because I work a mouse everyday too (and have very minor residual nerve damage from shingles up yonder), so I'm modifying those particular exercises until that part of my bod gets used to the new activities.

I also took yesterday off from exercising, and I'm so glad I did! I didn't hit a wall, so to speak, but I recognized that my body needed a break. Can tell even going back to walking today is going to be a little hard, one of those workouts that you slog through a bit, but I'm undaunted, because I've been feeling so much better.

Allergies kicking up because the local farmers just ran their second cutting of hay. Going back and forth with Sabadil and Advil Allergy.

We killed the chicken pot pie last night. Tonight will be BLTs with farm-fresh lettuce, homemade sourdough bread, and tomatoes from our own plants. Can't wait!

This last week of August is dragging its arse a bit, with highs in the 80s and more humidity. Hoping it drops just a bit for the apple festival this weekend.

Image from here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Week - Random Thoughts

I woke up at 6:30 this morning, tried to go back to sleep, then did the math and realized I'd gotten my 7 hours and didn't necessarily need to go back to sleep. So I got up.

There's new posts at Melanie's Gym and Dark Meadow Farm that illustrate all the goodness going on in my life right now.

We had the windows open last night again, and should be able to do that a couple of nights this week. Autumn is on its way!

The MIL is visiting this weekend, so the push is on to get my work done so we can hit the Apple Festival on Saturday.

Dr. Bronner's coconut oil retains the smell and flavor much more strongly than the lesser brands out there. Learned this the hard way on the chicken pot pie I made this weekend. Not an unpleasant flavor, but I'll definitely use less next time.

There are sourdough whole wheat English muffins rising. There's homemade energy bars for snacks.

Such abundance!

Have a great week, y'all!

Image from here.