Monday, February 29, 2016

Searching for the perfect little tractor

When we first got married and shortly thereafter bought a house on twenty acres, my parents sold us an old Minneapolis Moline tractor for very little money ($100?  $150?).  It had no brakes and we lived on a hillside; Cliff's brother's little boy had a close call with it once, riding along with Cliff.  We soon bought a safer, more dependable tractor, a little Ford 8N.  That served our purposes pretty well, but after a couple of years, a co-worker of Cliff's was restoring an Oliver 550 he was going to sell.  Although I strongly protested, as we had to get a loan to buy it, buy it we did, and Cliff thought he had the greatest tractor ever built!  On down the line, we sold it when we no longer needed it.

Because Cliff's hobby these days seems to be restoring old tractors and tinkering on them in general, I started harping at him that I wanted a 550, just for old times' sake. 

He obliged me.  Then he sold that one.  I complained.  He bought another one and soon sold that one too.  I don't know how many 550 Olivers we've gone through, but it must have been five or six.  There's THIS ONE in 2010.  THIS ONE in 2012, the most recent one sold; Cliff had it painted up pretty and we were taking it to shows, but he took it up north somewhere to get it worked on and the tractor mechanic called to ask if Cliff wanted to sell it, so he did.  One time there was a 550 and a super 55 he picked up really cheap somewhere that he sold to one guy (the guy "up north" I just mentioned, as it turns out).

Just type "550" in the search thingie on the upper left corner of my blog and you will see plenty of pictures of the various little Olivers Cliff has looked at and bought and sold; one resides in Hamilton, Missouri, at the home of a friend and former co-worker.  

The thing is, that's the particular model of tractor I personally want him to keep.  That one and the Allis, because those are the two he was proudest of and used the most in our younger years.  I whine every time he sells yet another 550... he even won a show with that last one, and poof, it's gone.  His excuse has been that he wants one with power steering (I never understood this, because he won't be farming with it, just taking it around to tractor drives and parades and shows).  Anyhow, each time I whine he says, "I'll find another one."

For the last month he's been looking at a 550 for sale that he spotted on a Facebook Oliver group.  Two problems:  the guy wanted an arm and leg for the thing, and it was located in Indiana.  Every time Cliff mentioned Indiana, I excitedly responded "Road Trip!!!".  But the price was crazy.  He kept talking about the thing and finally I said, "Just call the guy and talk to him."

The guy came way off on the price (I had to start someplace, he said); Cliff and his brother headed to Indiana yesterday morning and will be bringing the tractor home today.  Oh, and it has a really nice loader on it that we can sell to recoup part of his tractor-fund money.  This 550 is a late model (1973) and does indeed have power steering.  I missed out on the road trip because the timing wasn't right... I needed to be here today to babysit.  That's OK, it was a really fast trip with no extra stops to look at points of interest.  

Cliff will be selling this little 550 over my dead body.  Which of course isn't saying much, at my age. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A nice, leisurely walk

I'll just share, in order, a few of the things I noticed on my walk.  First of all, the yearling heifer, Hope, was let out in the big pasture for the first time.  She didn't know what to do with herself and followed me for a while before turning back and heading toward her little haven in the smaller pen.

One of the horses checked her out.
This is about the time she turned tail and trotted back toward home.  Now that I had some peace, quiet, and alone time, I laid down under a tree using a tree root as a pillow.  Believe it or not, it was pretty comfortable.  I enjoyed looking up at the pattern made by the branches above me.

White fungus?

That stump has been there a long time.

I heard a train whistling below, drawing near.  Keep watching through the trees.

I walked on for quite a while.  Then suddenly, I was no longer alone.

Any time you see Titan, his people are bound to be close by.  He isn't one to go running around the woods by himself.  

People everywhere!  What's Cliff doing on the tractor?

Ah, he's harrowing the horse doodie into little chunks of fertilizer.  

So much for today's walk.  Pretty eventful, I'd say.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

We're only fifteen years behind in our television watching

Cliff and I don't really keep current on newer TV series.  Sometimes our daughter, who is so busy I can't even believe she finds time to watch television, gives us a heads-up.  And we don't always like all the shows she enjoys.  

Let me pause to tell you that our daughter really IS that busy; that wasn't some sort of back-handed remark designed to give her guilt or make my readers think she doesn't have time for us.  She puts in a lot of time at her job, even traveling out of town several times a year.  I think she likes her life being this busy.  And if we need her, she'll be right here.

Now, back to my thoughts.  Cliff and I never discover a TV series on our own, never have.  CSI had been on for years before my friend Joanna turned watched an episode during a visit and got me hooked.  From then on I watched every episode I could find, no matter how old.  When I had run through those, I found E.R. and Law and Order in syndication, and those filled the void.  When I started with Law and Order, they were showing two old episodes daily, back to back, so it didn't take so long to watch all twenty seasons.  

We somehow discovered "The Good Wife" without any assistance, and haven't missed an episode.  This season is its last, and I think that's good timing.  They've done about all they can with that plot.  

When my daughter's oldest shared his Netflix subscription with us, I first thought it was a total waste:  I don't like vampire or zombie shows, of which there are many.  "Orange is the New Black" wasn't my cup of tea, nor anything else along those lines.  My grandchildren all seemed to think I was turned off by the lesbian relationships on the show, but no.  It was just boring to me; I got past being shocked many years ago.  I forced myself through several episodes and finally threw in towel.  

Cliff and I watched "Breaking Bad" a few times, but it was depressing, and just the same stuff happening over and over, going from bad to worse.  Meh.

Imagine my surprise when I finally found a show Cliff and I both love, "The West Wing".  We watch an episode every evening; it's the highlight of our day.  We think we are learning things, but of course it's a TV show, so maybe the way the show depicts events isn't how they really are.  I just did a google search to see if I could find out, but I don't have all day before Cora arrives, so I let that slide.  However, I will include THIS LINK just for my husband, because there are some interesting facts.  Got that, Cliff?  Hey, it's my blog.  I can do that.

There was one episode with a White House lock-down due to a terrorist threat when some high-school kids were shut in with the staff.  Questions and answers flew like crazy, and later on Cliff said, "You know, I need to watch that last episode again; there was a lot of information in there."

So we watched it again.  My favorite character on the show, by the way, is C. J. Cregg.  

We also watch a daily episode of NYPD Blue, but let's face it:  a cop show is a cop show.  Yeah, we watch it and really like Sipowicz, but we are liable to be reading the paper or checking Facebook at the same time.  Not so with West Wing:  Before it even starts we go to the bathroom, put aside all distractions, and focus on the show.  When it's over, you will hear us saying things like, "That's all?" or "It can't be over!" or, "Man, that's a great show."

You know it's a slow day when I give you reviews of twenty-year-old television shows, right?  

Here's a totally unrelated item:  From what I have seen on Facebook, coffee is the best thing you can consume for your health; it fights off Alzheimer's and heals liver damage caused by alcohol.  And wine is good for you, and if you drink it every night it helps you lose weight.  From these and other associated Facebook facts, it appears that we can all just dispense with food.  All we need for a long life is coffee and wine.  If you drink too much of the wine, the coffee will fix that for you.

You gotta love the Internet.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Oh how I've missed "greasy spoon" cafes! (Smell my shirt.)

"Greasy spoon is a colloquial term for a small, cheap restaurant or diner typically specialising in fried foods. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term originated in the United States and is now used in various English-speaking countries."

There's a little burg over on I-70 almost due south of here, Bates City.  It isn't a notable place, really.  Sort of an accidental little town with no square in the center like you expect with a burg made up of older homes.  The only time we even passed through it was when we had the motorcycle, due to the fact that the road from our place to that town, as well as one that leads on south, is curvy and scenic.

A Facebook friend casually mentioned that she had met someone at the Bates City Cafe for lunch; both of them spoke about the eatery in positive terms.  I checked to see if there was a Facebook page for the place.  There was, and I found only positive feedback.  Now, as often as we've passed through Bates City on our bike rides, I never saw a noteworthy-looking restaurant, but my curiosity was aroused.

We went one day for lunch, just to check it out; it's located just off the freeway in a building that, many years ago, was a gas station; there is nothing fancy at all about this place.  When we entered,  I was immediately taken back in memory to the 1950's when, for a brief time, my mom and Aunt Ruby worked at Laura Reed's cafe in Eagleville.  Ah, the smell of a greasy spoon!   To enhance my memories even more, there are pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis on the walls, and a vintage Fender jukebox on display. 

The food was good and the atmosphere friendly.  As customers entered, the staff called them by name.  We were the only strangers there, it seemed.  All that separated us from the cooking was a counter across the room, and we watched the cook enjoy his job.

I noticed at the time that the Friday night special is currently all-the-fish-you-can-eat.  We aren't eating out much these days, as we really are serious about losing weight, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.  Last night was the night.

The cafe presented a much different picture on Friday evening than at mid-week lunch-time.  There were a couple of guys busy in the kitchen, and people were coming in the door at a steady rate.  Even so, everybody seemed to know everybody else.  We ordered the all-you-can-eat fish and relaxed in the atmosphere.

Our plates appeared in good time.  Oh, the baked potato!  How is it that something so simple as a baked potato can taste better at certain places?  We each received three large pieces of fish piled on our plates, and when the waitress came to our table to ask if we were going to want more, we were so stuffed we told her we just couldn't eat another bite.  

Now here's a strange thing:  When she brought our ticket to us, she had originally made it out for $15.99, which was supposed to be the cost; but she had scratched all through that and charged us only $10 each for the meals.  I don't know why.  Maybe because we couldn't eat any more?  Maybe because she finally realized we're old?  But that would be the largest senior discount I ever got.  

When we got home I put my nice comfortable pajamas on.  As I picked up the shirt I'd just taken off, I got a whiff of the wonderful, greasy-spoon smell of the Bates City Cafe.  I took it in the living room with me, held it up to Cliff's face, and said, "Hey, smell my shirt!"  

He just grinned as he took a whiff.

I smelled the shirt again this morning and it brought a smile to my face.  Maybe I won't wash it for a couple of weeks until we can feel justified in going out to eat again.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Three hours on Youtube

Quite some time ago, I decided to delete my Google Plus account.  I never even visit Google +, since Facebook is my number one social media site.  I saw absolutely no need for a second one.  So I decided to delete it.  

I didn't realize how deeply Google gets its hooks into a person until that moment.  As soon as I tried to do away with Plus, I couldn't access any of my Youtube videos, because that's another Google site, as is Blogger.  I panicked, so I don't really remember what hoops I jumped through, but finally I got my Youtube back.  Of course, I had to sign up for Google + again, because I couldn't give up my videos.  All those movies of relatives and various dogs I've owned and all those horseback and motorcycle rides I recorded, gone?  I couldn't let them go.

However, when I got my videos back, they had all been set to private, meaning only I could watch them.  And the only way to change the settings on them was to do one stinking video at a time.  I was so frustrated and drained that day, I let it go.  I didn't have the energy to even begin the task.  

Well, this morning I got to thinking about the private blog I made when I started babysitting Cora.  I set it up so friends and relatives could keep track of her goings-on without the whole world spying on our activities.  A lot of videos were on the blog, and since my big Google boo-boo, they couldn't be viewed by anyone but me.  I decided today was as good as any to start fixing the situation.

The biggest mistake was my decision to do the Cora videos first, because when I watched one and changed the status to "unlisted", I had to watch the next.  I have looked at videos clear back to the time she was two months old, and I've laughed and cried at them for three hours.  Videos of me reading to her, singing to her, making a fool of myself for her.  

I'm worn out!  This is the first morning I haven't even attempted to meditate since sometime back in December.  I didn't only fix the baby videos, although I gave them first priority; I did a couple others along the way.  I'm sure after another 2,000 or so, I'll get them all back to the proper status.  

On another subject:  Suddenly the blog entry I did from the hospital when Cliff's "simple" gall bladder surgery went bad is getting a lot of hits.  I wonder who resurrected that and passed it around?  Not that I care, because after all, this is a public blog; it's just one of those things that makes me go "Hmmm".  Of course, now I am fanning the flame, because I'm now sharing the link here.  I can't believe it's been almost three years, which means that's how long we've been without a motorcycle ride, too.  I think Cliff misses it sometimes, but I can honestly say I don't.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Chicken Tales

I've reduced the flock to three hens and a rooster now.  The three hens will provide all the eggs Cliff and I can eat, and the rooster gives me the satisfaction of hearing a rooster crow in the morning; plus the fun of watching him lie to the ladies, telling them he's responsible for every tidbit of food that goes into their pretty little beaks.

If I were pushing for maximum production, none of these birds would be here:  They're all past their prime.  Of course, "prime" when you're talking about laying hens, is anything over a year old.  Also, the rooster wouldn't be here, since he contributes nothing toward production of eggs.  But I don't need to justify what I'm doing with chickens.  They're a hobby, pure and simple.  Now that I think about it, I justify very few things in life.

As fate would have it, each of the three hens lays a different-colored egg, so I know exactly who is working and who is not:  The white hen I inherited from a neighbor (I call her Whitie) lays white eggs, and does a respectable job of it.  She's my most prolific egg-producer.  Mama Hen, my "settin' hen", is next runner-up in production and gives me brown eggs.  And Chickie, the Araucana, is the least productive and lays blue-green eggs.  She probably lays one egg for every two the white hen gives me and goes into molt earliest in fall.  Although so far, Mama Hen is the only one who has not given me an egg this season.  But eggs are cheap in the store.  I don't care how productive the girls are.  

I have lately encountered a problem with Chickie.  (To read her life story, click HERE.  Go ahead, I'll wait.)  Chickie spends the nights, not on the roost, but high above on one of the rafters in the hen house.  After I traded for Mr. Rooster, another Araucana, he decided that was a great idea and started roosting up there too.  Then Whitie, the leghorn, joined them, leaving nobody but Mama Hen below on the actual roost.  I guess her flying skills aren't as well-developed.  

At this point, Chickie decided enough is enough and began roosting alone on the opposite rafter.  She was raised in a box alone with nothing but her own reflection in a mirror for company, so I guess she took after her mother (me) and became a loner.  I don't really care where they spend the night, but eventually she decided the perfect place to roost was right over the feeder that was hanging from the rafter.  

Chickens poop often, even while they're roosting at night.  Chickie's poop was now falling right into the food supply.  

Actually, the chickens didn't seem to mind.  But I did!

I noticed Chickie always roosted in the same spot, studied the situation, and decided the
problem could be remedied by simply moving the feeder to a different place below the rafter, so I did that.  

Chickie moved too.  I have no idea what was going on in her feathered little brain, but she followed the feeder, continuing to poop in her own food.

I finally decided to cut a gallon milk jug open and place it snugly on Chickie's rafter near the wire suspending the feeder.  She certainly wouldn't be able to roost on the plastic, and might even be a little afraid of it.  

Last night was the first night with the milk carton in place; at dusk I went out to see where Chickie was roosting.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a picture.  But as I created this entry, I decided to go to the chicken house and take a picture so my readers could truly enjoy my success with me.

That's Chickie, the hen on the right.  The only thing in danger of being pooped on now is Mama Hen.

Success is sweet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The camper dilemma

We've are still shopping for used campers, but we have lowered our expectations.  When we started our current search, we wanted something that would be a step up the ladder from pop-up campers.  We've had two of them in the past, and they are affordable if you are willing to buy a used one; however, setting them up in bad weather can be a drenching experience, and we thought there might be something in our price range that would be a step up.

Evidently not.  So we find ourselves, once again, perusing Craigslist for used pop-ups.

The thing is, we don't plan to go to Arizona for the winter, or Texas.  We only want to go on a few three-day weekends to tractor shows across the midwest, perhaps visit Branson once a year, and maybe go to Colorado once in awhile... although lodging is very affordable there, and we really wouldn't need a camper.  

I'd love one of these if you could find a used one for $4,000 or less, but evidently that can't be done.  Don't even think about looking at new ones!  Whew, what prices.  

We looked at one nice twenty-seven-foot-long camper, and it was a deal!  It was so roomy I could easily live in it year-around.  It was immaculate and priced right... but not for our budget.  We admitted to one another that while we were inside the camper, we lusted after it.  

But common sense prevailed.  There is no way to justify paying thousands of dollars for something we might use five times a year at most, and it appears to me that even maintaining one of those behemoths would be cost-prohibitive.  Besides, it would be just another house to clean, and I don't do so great keeping up with the one I call home.

We want a minimum amount of space:  a bed, a stove, a place for an ice box and porta-potty.  The only way we can get the size camper we really require for something in our price range is to buy another pop-up camper, which can be pulled by any ordinary car and, bought used, is affordable.  We have owned two of them in the past and know what problems to look for.  As simple as those campers are, there are things that can go wrong, and we've had experience, so we know what to watch for when we're shopping around:  things like mouse invasion, damage to the mechanism that cranks out the beds (fixing that was quite an experience, but we knew someone who told Cliff how to do it), and leaks.  

As it turns out, you have to watch out for leaks on all used campers, even the big expensive ones.  

So we looked at a Craigslist pop-up camper yesterday, eight miles from home.  They're asking $1,500 but would go down to $1,300.  It would actually work for us, and I think Cliff would buy it, but there are some little things I'm uncomfortable with.  It's had new canvas put on, but it's had a leak in the top that has been fixed (?), a couple of broken lights, it has absorbed a lot of cigarette smoke, and isn't the cleanest inside, although it's easy to disinfect and clean something that size.  I don't think it's worth over $1,000; the lady said they've been offered $800, but it will sit in the yard forever, she says, for that price.

While we are keeping that one in mind, I think we'll look further.  I'd pay more for a camper just a little newer and cleaner.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

It isn't you. It's me.

I've received several revelations, both big and small, since I began my morning meditations.  None of these things shows up during meditation, because even if a thought did try to show itself, I'd be simply watching it float past like a far-off cloud in the sky.  Thoughts aren't welcome during meditation.

(Here she goes with that meditation nonsense, I hear some of you muttering.)

It's rather difficult to tell you what the biggest thing is I've discovered, because it's about my own makeup and personality.  I have hesitated to share this because I'm afraid some folks who only know me online are going to try and build me up, telling me this isn't how I am.  Nobody who really knows me will argue with what I am going to say here.  

First of all, I've always freely admitted that I am self-centered.  If you only know me as an Internet friend, you might have figured this out; but I've found in the past that many of my online friends think what they see through the rose-colored glasses of my blog is the whole truth.   Please don't put something in the comments trying to make me feel better in this regard, because believe me, I've never felt better!  From here on, I won't be talking about online friends, but about my real-life friends and relatives. 

Here's a fact about myself I've come to realize more and more lately:  I push people away if they get too close.  I don't have close friends except for my poor husband.  I've had good friends over the years, but the minute they cross some invisible line, I back up and "go to my room".  I've always known I was a loner, so that's really no big surprise.  

I shared my latest discovery with my husband:  "You know Cliff, I've figured out something about myself.  All those people toward whom I've held grudges and despised and griped about (I named one for him), anybody I've felt had insulted me or treated me badly... it wasn't them.  It was me.

And, as he often does, he responded, "You are just now figuring that out?"

If you are rude to me, the only way it will hurt me is if I react, and boy, do I react, which of course, only stokes the fire.  It's always worked for me because I'm a loner anyhow.  Never mind the times I've been the rude one, the one who insulted someone else, the one who didn't follow through on a promise.

I'm seventy-one years old.  I will always be a loner, because that's how I like it.  It's my true nature.  But I do hope I don't spend the rest of my life expecting others to act a certain way or to behave according to my rules.  

Nobody has to like me, or want to be around me or cater to my own expectations.  Feel free to be yourselves, people.  I think I can handle that now.  At least I'm learning.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Oh, those Fisher-Price Little People

The first major play item I bought for the little girl we babysit was, I believe, a set of Legos for toddlers when she was over a year old.  When I say I bought them for her, I mean I bought them for her to play with when she's here.  She has lots of toys at her house and at both sets of grandparents' homes, but we had very few toys around for a kid to enjoy, and she was going to be spending a lot of time with us.     

Her motor skills weren't well-developed at the time, but she did enjoy playing with the Legos, especially when Cliff or I played with her.  It turned out to have been a sensible purchase.  

Around this same time, I became an Amazon Prime member; it seemed like the sensible thing to do.  That's when I, the woman who doesn't drive and has always hated to shop, became sort of a shop-a-holic.  I don't spend huge amounts of money with this addiction, but Amazon has given me the ability to find treasures and little gadgets (sometimes useless) that I would never have known existed otherwise.  And everything is rated by satisfied customers, so you KNOW just how wonderful it is!

Because the Legos were such a success, I found myself drawn to the toys on more and more, and before long I became fixated on a Fisher-Price Happy Sounds home, which comes with a family of three and a car, and has a phone that rings and a bathroom stool that "flushes", and the house sings a song when your people go up the stairs or open the door.  What little girl wouldn't love that?  

And Cora did love it!  Ah, but I had opened Pandora's box.  Every time I opened the laptop, I heard Amazon's siren call:  the next irresistible toy I found was a barn, with horses and other assorted livestock.  Like the house, you can change the time from day to night and the sounds will change appropriately, with cows snoring... you get the picture.  And anyhow, the child NEEDED a horse because her parents have horses, and she needed chickens and cows because she sees my chickens and cows every day.  

She loved the barn!  Of course the barn came without a tractor, and Cora already knew any farmer worth his salt has a tractor.  Besides, the little set that included a tractor and trailer wasn't very pricey.  

And then I bought a stable.  And a set of farm animals that weren't included with the barn when I bought it.  And a doctor's office complete with a doctor in a white coat (it was pretty cheap though) and Mickey Mouse and Minnie with Pluto in their happy little co-joined houses, and a pig-sty with a wallow and pond, and oh my goodness, Cora just HAD to have that little birthday party set with a birthday cake that actually plays Happy Birthday!  And oh how I was rewarded when the first time she heard the tune playing she started singing along, with the biggest smile on her face you ever saw.

And she has loved every single piece I've purchased, and plays with some or all of them daily.

The other day I received a revelation.  I've had a lot of those since I started my daily meditation sessions.  These don't come during the time I'm meditating, but later on in the day.  

"Cliff," I said, "I don't think I'm buying these things for Cora so much.  I think I'm buying them for me."

"You're just now figuring that out?  I knew that a long time ago." 

Cliff has a little magnetic sign on one of his restored tractors that says, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."  

Especially if you have a bright-eyed child around to remind you how much fun it is to be a kid.  Yes, friends and neighbors, I'm reliving my childhood.   

Thursday, February 11, 2016

That "next blog" button

Just above the header of most Google blogs like mine, you can see the words "Next Blog".   

I say "most blogs", because every once in awhile it's missing.  There must be some way to opt out of it, although I don't know how, or even why it would matter.  Most people ignore it anyhow.  

Being a curious person with plenty of time on my hands, once in a blue moon I click on that "next blog" and see where it takes me.  Sometimes I'll keep going to the next and then the next for quite a while.  When I end up on a blog without that option, I simply back up to the last one I visited, click again, and it will take me to a different blog.  I've learned a few useless things while wasting time like this:

1.  Nine out of ten people don't last long at this blogging thing.  Some only manage one or two entries, but those few words typed into cyberspace remain.  I always wonder what their original plan was when they created a blog in the first place.  Maybe they just wanted to see if they could do it.

2.  The Mormon church must encourage young parents to start blogs about their families, because every time I blog-hop like this, I end up seeing a lot of young Mormon parents sharing pictures and stories of their oh-so-perfect children.

3.  When you are plugging along through blogs and come to a warning "mature content only", unless you are VERY adventurous, don't let your curiosity make you give consent.  I learned the hard way that I don't want to see whatever is on the other side of that warning.  Yes, I did click.  An idle mind is the devil's workshop, and I ventured forth.  I'm still regretting it.  There are some things you just can't un-see.

I just now stopped my typing, went to my blog, clicked on next blog and found THIS, which is fairly relevant to my life.  I might check it out a little later.  From there I found one that looks even more like my cup of tea HERE.  After that, though, the common theme disintegrated and led me to a bunch of stuff that didn't make sense, plus one guy who left his blog and moved to Facebook and suggested I meet him there.  

I guarantee that if I sat here and kept on clicking through blogs, I'd end up meeting some new Mormons.  Don't get me wrong, they seem nice enough.  Just too cookie-cutter picture-perfect and boring to suit me.

Just consider this your dose of useless information for the day.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Things for which I'm thankful

1.  I finally used my common sense and started getting outside and going for a walk in spite of knees that are worn out.  I walk slowly.  I walk less often.  Yes, my knees might be a little more achy the day after, but they get over it.  It's so wonderful to be able to get out there in nature again.  The lesson is this:  Don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself because you can't do things as often or in the same manner you once did; just do what you can, when you can.  You might surprise yourself.

2.  My knees.  Yes, they remind me often of their presence, but I have learned that when I'm having a "bad knee day", the best thing I can do is remember what good and faithful servants they have been to me for seventy-one years (I do take a Tylenol, of course).  I remember the fields and hills I wandered in Taylor County, Iowa, and Harrison County, Missouri, when I was a child and know these knees have served me well.  Not to mention the jobs I've worked where I was on my feet walking, day after day:  National Bellas Hess, Whitaker Cable, Beckner's Orchard, Kohl's Distribution Center.  I had sit-down jobs too, through the years, but I always preferred working on my feet, standing and walking!  
And then there was all the walking I did for exercise almost every day from 1980 right up to 2014.  I loved every minute of it. 

3.  The ease of obtaining wonderful books to read at no cost.  As a non-driver, I am especially thankful for the way I can check out library books while sitting at home in my easy chair.  Not only that, I have ways of finding out which books I will likely enjoy before I check them out.  I often check the New York Times Best Seller page online to see what others are reading, and this helps a lot.  I frequently look at the lists from previous years, since a good book is timeless. 
On the same topic, I'm thankful for devices that, when I'm reading, allow me to find the definition of a word simply by holding my finger on it; or to change the size of the print, when necessary, for my aging eyes.  
By the way, at present I'm reading an outstanding book, "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd.  

4.  All the wonders of the Internet.  There's no need to list the ways in which I'm thankful for the World Wide Web.  

5.  That the oldest grandson bought this property, releasing us from a lot of concerns and cares.
6.  For the little girl we've been babysitting for over two years.  It has been an ideal situation for a couple of old folks.  It's mostly four-day weeks, so we have three-day weekends free to make plans.  If we want to go off someplace for a week, Cora's mother is only too happy to take her to Iowa for a visit with Grandma and all the other relatives up there; if we want a vacation, we just have to say the word.  Not to mention what a ray of sunshine that little girl is, especially during the cold, gray, shut-in days of winter that used to drag on endlessly.  

OK, I know it isn't Thanksgiving.  But today I am feeling so grateful for all I have, I just couldn't hold it in a minute longer.  I could go on, but then everybody would get bored and stop reading.  

Keep on the sunny side, folks.  It makes life so much easier.

Monday, February 08, 2016

juggling calories

Most grocery stores planned their sales last week with the upcoming Super Bowl in mind.  We weren't doing anything big for the game, but I'm aware that some of the best buys on certain items are geared toward things people might be serving at their parties; sometimes there are even items I seldom buy because of price, and yet at times like these they are wonderfully affordable.

Here's the item that really caught my eye in Price Chopper's ad:
Wow, what a steal!  We do most of our shopping at Walmart, and I do realize they price-match.  Their produce, however, leaves something to be desired.  Since we happened to be in Blue Springs anyhow, I made a quick run into Price Chopper and picked up two heads of cauliflower and two bunches of broccoli... HUGE bunches and heads were there for the taking!  I figured if I didn't use them in our meal plans in a timely manner, I'd blanch them and freeze them for later.  

You local folks might want to hit Price Chopper today or tomorrow while that price is still good.  If I lived closer to Blue Springs, I would certainly be getting more, if only for the freezer.

We had some steamed broccoli yesterday with our beef tongue and baked potato.  I planned to have cauliflower with today's meal; our favorite way to eat cauliflower is with a cheese sauce, but oh, the calories.  I went to and put the ingredients of my Better Homes and Gardens cheese sauce into the recipe calculator, so I'd have it there for future reference.  142 calories per serving, which sounds terrible, but when you realize you're putting it on cauliflower that has practically no calories at all (60 calories for two cups), it's not bad.  The problem with calorie-dense foods is that we can only afford one of those at a meal.  I decided on an old recipe I used to make years ago with from chicken breast, Rice-A-Roni, and cream of chicken soup.  But wait, that's two sort-of saucy items in one meal.  Maybe I'll just cook two chicken breasts... or better yet, one chicken breast and split it between us.

I juggle things like this constantly, trying to take care of certain cravings without stepping out of bounds on calories, and it can be time-consuming.  Anything that involves using the Sparkpeople recipe calculator ends up taking thirty minutes or more, simply because it's sometimes difficult to find the proper ingredient in the right amount on the website.  Often the process involves my going to the kitchen and weighing something on my recently purchased kitchen scale, which works SO much better than the old spring scale I used to have, and translates to either ounces or grams.

I'm just saying it takes up a lot of my early-morning hours.  But once the recipe is stored, it's there forever.  I may forget for two years at a time, but it never forgets me.

I'm glad I have so many casseroles and one-dish meals at my fingertips.  It saves me a lot of trouble entering them on my daily tally of calories.  

One of the wonderful things we have discovered is that I can make a batch of my home-made spaghetti sauce, pour it on 10 ounces of cooked spaghetti, and we can eat spaghetti for two days in a row and when we weigh the next day, we our weight is less; sometimes only a fraction, but it's down every single time.  This is especially great for Cliff, since spaghetti is his favorite food.  Of course we can't have bread with it, but that's a concession he's willing to make.

Cliff is down fourteen pounds so far, I've lost eleven.  

It's working.  

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Odds and ends

There's nothing major going on here, but it's time I checked in.  

Shortly after New Year's Day, I mentioned here that a couple of my hens had started laying, which really surprised me, since they usually don't start back to work until late February or early March.  I had no more than put the words in my blog than a couple of weeks of super-cold temperatures hit, and the egg-laying stopped.  Nature knows how to keep animals alive, and I guess they needed all their resources to keep warm.  

Today I went to the chicken house to see if there were any eggs as yet and three of my four chickens were inside on the roost.  Strange indeed!  It's fairly nice outside, and they don't usually venture inside until evening is approaching.  No eggs in the nest yet, but it occurred to me that the white hen a neighbor gave me last fall was missing.  Great.  A hawk or some kind of varmint must have gotten her.  I looked around, keeping an eye open for a bunch of white feathers that would indicate a struggle.  Nothing.  I came inside, but decided if there was something eating chickens, I had better go back out and get them in their pen.  For the last week I've let them roam freely, not even shutting the chicken-house door at night.  Three of the four roost too high for any night-prowling critters to get to them, up on the very rafters of the building.  The other one, I guess, can't fly quite as high and stays on the roost.  

In order to get them back in the pen and into their house, I planned to toss them some chicken scratch:  They'd run in to eat the grain, I'd shut the door to the pen, and they'd be caught.  However, when I called "chick-chick-chick", here came the missing hen out of the corner of the shed beside the chicken house, and at that moment I knew exactly what she had been up to:  Back in the corner were four white eggs in the straw!  So they get to be confined to their pen for awhile until they all figure out where they're supposed to lay.

It's been almost ten years since Cliff had CABG surgery.  He had an appointment with the cardiologist Friday for a routine checkup and got a good report, except for a stern warning to loose weight.  I told the doctor, "We're working on it already.  He's lost over ten pounds since New Year's."

Moving on:  Cliff and I took a wild notion a couple of days ago that it would be nice to have a camper, and began looking on Craigslist.  We don't want another popup; we had fun with the one we had, but all that setting things up and putting things down, sometimes in the rain, got tiresome.  We want as small a pull-type camper as we can find (which seems to be 18 feet long).  If we found a decent used one, it shouldn't be too pricey, right?  

Yeah, right.  We started out thinking about spending $2,000.  Ha!  For that price you get something that leaks, and turns out it's very expensive to fix leaky campers.  OK, so we raised the bar to $4,000, but now we have realized that you could easily find something for that price or more that looked good, bring it home, and find out later that it leaks.  

At our ages we are NOT going to spend a fortune on something that we would only use maybe three times a year at tractor shows and possibly a trip to Colorado once in awhile.  We did find one very nice fellow who has an R.V. sales place in Grain Valley who took our name and said he'd call us if anything came through.  We have a nephew who works for the guy, and he told me this morning that you can get a decent camper for $4,000, they just aren't that easy to find.  

We wouldn't be using a camper until spring anyhow, so there's no hurry.  And we really don't have to have one at all.

So much for today's report.  Cliff has the TV going, gearing up for Super Bowl.  I'll probably retire to the other room and read, or maybe find something to watch on Netflix.  

Over and out.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The missing baby

Cliff and I often get down in the floor (painfully, at times) to play with the Fischer-Price Little People stuff I've gradually collected for Cora.  When I first started buying all this stuff, it seemed outrageously expensive; but Cora has enjoyed it all so much, it's been worth every penny.  

As soon as she arrives each morning, as soon as she has kicked off her cowboy boots and peeled off her stockings because, at Grandma Donna's house, the girls go barefoot, she usually reaches toward Cliff or me.. or both of us... and says, "Pay wis me," pointing toward the toy house and barn that are always stationed in the living room.  We eventually take turns playing with Cora and the Little People because, hey, what else are we doing?  We're retired.  Certainly nothing is more important than make-believe play with tiny plastic people in their house and barn!  

Cliff tends to be more creative in his play than I am.  See, I have this need to keep all the Little People and animals together in their tiny world and leaving other toys, those that don't belong, in the toy box.  Cliff mixes in other elements.  

Also, the farm animals poop when Cliff is in charge.  Sheesh.

Cora is great about keeping all these elements separated from other, non-Little-People toys.  At this point I really don't plan to buy any more of the stuff, although I've often wished it were possible to buy the fence pieces separately, because we have a lot of animals and need larger pens.  You can't buy individual animals or people, either:  they only come in certain sets, so you have to buy a whole set if there's one critter you're looking for.

A couple of weeks ago, the Little People baby came up missing.  I first noticed this because that day Cora chose to be in charge of the barn and I got the house.  There's a nursery in the house, so of course I needed the baby in order to set my little world right.  Search as we might, we couldn't find the baby; days later I was still repeatedly searching while Cora, tired of helping me look, would simply hand me a different child figure, expecting me to use some bigger kid as my baby!  Ha!  

I searched the Internet for a way to buy another baby, but there was none to be found without buying a whole other house.  I looked under furniture, beneath couch cushions, in bathroom trash cans (because sometimes Cora takes one of the figures with her when she goes to potty).  I looked in the toy box, where we NEVER keep the Little People, but I thought perhaps the baby had been thrown in by accident by someone who didn't know the rules.  

At some point last week I gave up.  I would just have to use one of the other kids as my baby.

Yesterday Cora was pulling toys out of the toy box one by one; like most toddlers, she never stops until every toy is pulled out and thrown on the floor in a pile.  When she picked up the John Deere dump truck, something she seldom plays with, she looked at it closely, held it toward me, and said, "Baby" as calmly as could be.  At that moment, I recalled seeing Cliff, as he was playing with Cora several days before, somehow fitting the baby into the truck to drive.

I might have known Cliff was responsible for this travesty!  Anybody knows babies can't drive!

But all is forgiven, because the baby is back.

The empty nursery will once again be filled with the cooing and fretting of a baby.

And we all lived happily ever after.  The end.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Silly horses

After church and dinner today, I decided to take a blanket and go out to the pasture.  I didn't make it my usual walk, because I did that two days ago and don't want to push my luck with the knees.  It's just that the sun was shining and I felt the need to get out and enjoy it.  I took the camera just in case something struck my fancy.  

I noticed the horses near the pond, but I was heading for the point, back near where my cabin used to be.  I took some pictures of my favorite trees there; then I spread the blanket over the damp ground, rolled over on my back, and watched clouds drifting past.  Then I moved on up the hill a little.  I noticed the horses had come around the corner and could now be seen grazing contentedly at a distance.  I lay down, closed my eyes, and enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my face for awhile.  After awhile I opened my eyes and glanced toward the horses... their curiosity was getting the best of them!

I had forgotten how nosy horses can be.  

Come on guys, can't a lady get a little peace and quiet here?

I guess that's a no.

Enough with the big brown eyes!

And the nose!  I don't care how soft and velvety it is, get back.

Even when I got up, packed up the blanket, and started toward the house, they followed.  

I don't get any respect.