Saturday, December 30, 2017

Everybody talks about the weather

I may as well address this brutal cold.  Misery loves company, and it seems as though the whole country is in the grip of Old Man Winter, even in the south.  I'm thankful for a warm place to eat, sleep, and live.  I'm thankful for e-books from the library, so I can check out a book anytime I feel like it.  Once again, let me count the reasons I love digital books. 

1.  The ease of checking out books without leaving home.

2.  I can make the print be whatever size I need.  It's a comfort knowing that as these cataracts grow (they seem to be advancing rather slowly so far, knock wood), I can make the words readable until the time comes I need to get the cataracts removed.  I know it's a simple procedure, but my mother ended up blind in one eye after her second cataract surgery.  So it isn't always as simple as you think... sort of like Cliff's 8-day torment in the hospital for what was supposed to be a "simple" gall bladder surgery.  Not so simple when you have stones all through the inside of you and have to have drainage tubes put in place to get through your ordeal.  But I digress.

3.  I often have trouble keeping characters in a book straight, but with an e-book, when I come upon the name of a person I can't quite place in the story, I hold my finger on the name and am taken to a passage that explains to me who it is.

4.  Using the Kindle or Kindle app, I can share whatever I'm reading to Cliff's Kindle.  This is nice if I'm reading a book I know he'll like, one I may have reserved for weeks or months before I got it.  If he wants to read it, he won't have to wait for it like I did.

5.  A digital book takes up no space in a house where there's already too much clutter.

6.  With my slightly arthritic wrists, holding a book can be uncomfortable.  I can lay the iPad, or the Kindle device, in my lap; when I'm ready to turn the page, the touch of a fingertip will do the job.  

Now, every time I explain online how much I like digital reading and give the reasons, I'll get somebody trying to argue with me.  Folks, I don't care if you prefer real books, I'm happy for you.  I'm not trying to convert you.  I just want people, especially older folks with arthritis and failing eyesight, to know there is a way they can read without straining the eyes, hurting the hands and wrists, and leaving home to get the book.  You do NOT have to convince me that paper books are better!  That, my friends, is a matter of preference.

Now, on to the weather.  The two Holstein calves we bought recently are thriving in spite of single-digit temperatures.  They're already eating a lot of calf starter, which could be considered baby food for bottle calves.  I know the larger of the two is eating the most of it; in fact, I don't know if the other one is even eating any of it.  That's the problem with multiple calves in a pen:  You don't know which one is doing what.  They are quite healthy, though, getting two bottles of milk replacer daily.  I also take them half-a-bottle of warm water between the morning and evening feedings.  There's no way to keep water out for them in this cold weather, and I like to know they're getting hydrated.  I've not heard of anyone else giving bobby calves water in their bottles, but I've been doing it for about fifty years; so far it hasn't hurt anything.  I feel bad for those babies when I see them shaking with the cold as they take their bottles, but really there isn't much you can do about it.  And I'd rather raise calves in winter than summer any time, because with the flies and hot temperatures of July and August, germs have a heyday multiplying in summer.      

This is Gabe, watching me create this blog entry and wishing he were on my lap.  He likes to sit on my lap or beside me in my chair, these early mornings, but there's no room on a computer chair.  My computer room is also the toy room, and this boy just can't help himself sometimes:  He'll snatch one of the Little People or a Legos block when I'm not looking and run away as fast as he can.  What a character he is.  He has most of his adult teeth now.  I'm working on his frequent tummy upsets, which usually seem to be tied to eating too fast.  I am in the process of switching dog foods, going from the very expensive kind the breeder preferred (Eukanuba) to the EXTREMELY expensive Blue Buffalo brand.  I'll be mixing them half-and-half for a long time, because I intend to use the Eukanuba until it's gone.  It seems as though if I feed him small amounts, and don't fill his water dish too full, he gets by without any problem.  If he weren't growing so fast, and if he weren't feeling so full of life all the time, I'd probably take him to the vet.  But for problems like this, sometimes I don't think the vets really know what's wrong either; they just use trial and error until something works (while throwing in an expensive x-ray or two).  I'm doing what I've always done with my calves:  Watching behavior closely and making changes slowly.   

I believe that's my blather for the day.  Stay warm, be thankful, and spoil your dogs.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

What a fun day Friday was

Cliff and I went to buy ingredients for the seasonal dishes I crave.  We don't have company coming in, and I'm not cooking Christmas dinner, but there are certain things I only fix around the holidays.  Things like sweet potato pie, brown sugar fudge, butterscotch cookies, and hot hamburger dip.  I mostly make those things for my own benefit, but things like the cookies and hamburger dip are enjoyed by other relatives who might drop by; so I wanted to be ready to make plenty.

There were crowds at both places where we shopped, Costco and Walmart, but I took a deep breath before we left our car, reminded myself that anything unpleasant that might happen inside would not be directed at me personally, and then made Cliff go in with me as a bodyguard and guardian angel rather than sitting in the car reading a book on the Kindle as he would have preferred.  I bought a Costco fruitcake for a very reasonable price, which made my day since I love fruitcake, and a big bag of grapefruit, among our other purchases.  Merry Christmas to me!  This got me into the spirit of the season, so even Walmart wasn't a bad experience this time, in spite of the swarms of people.   

I had chicken salad waiting at home (made from some frozen Costco chicken breast from our pre-Thanksgiving trip there), so we got home and made a sandwich with that.  While I was still making my sandwich, Cliff said, "There's a vehicle sitting out in the driveway."

Sure enough, there was a van with writing on the side.  Before I could figure out what was going on, my cell phone rang, but it took me so long to dig the phone out of my purse, the caller hung up.  It wasn't a familiar number, but I rang back anyhow.  It was the guy in the van, saying he had some food for us.  

"But we didn't order anything," I said.  He responded that it was a gift from our insurance company (Coventry/Aetna), and that they were supposed to have called ahead.  I explained to him we miss a lot of calls, since neither of us stays by our phone all time time.     

Well, he started bringing in boxes and I could hardly believe my eyes.  What sort of food could be in there?  Maybe Christmas cookies, or fresh fruit?  Maybe some of those cheese assortments you get at Christmas?  I was rather excited!  

Folks, I had forgotten the pure joy of opening an unexpected box containing gifts the nature of which I could only guess.  

 Two loaves of bread and 10 frozen meals:  two breakfast, eight dinners.

 Frozen milk and juices, and some desserts.

Enough soup crackers in individual portions to get us through the winter. 

 Several individual packages of peanuts and two packs of animal crackers.

 Granola bars, raisins, fruit cups, etc.

 Powdered milk

Small individual cans of food, various kinds

Now, we likely won't use the milk, either frozen or powdered.  I will see if any of my relatives want it.  The bread makes good toast, so it went in the freezer.  We microwaved the frozen breakfast meals yesterday morning just to see if they were fit to eat, and they were better than expected.  It was a decent meal.  All this food is no-salt or low-salt, so we sprinkled a little salt on it.

The funniest part of this was how happy and excited I was with something that hardly fits in with our lifestyle at all.  It was so much fun discovering the various things in those boxes.  You see, we don't do presents, and haven't for a long time.  We have everything we need, and aren't great at choosing gifts for others, which is why we stopped the madness.  I cook our meals.  Canned and frozen meals are things I wouldn't normally think of buying in the store; I don't even like them that much.  But in the form of a surprise, this was perfect timing.  

It also made me think of the folks our age living alone with barely enough money to make ends meet.  Some of them probably don't bother fixing meals and opt for a sandwich.  Those folks, I'll bet, were overjoyed to see all this bounty.  I'm thankful Cliff and I are still able to purchase the foods we love. 

Thanks, Coventry, for the seasonal cheer.  I thought I was past being surprised at this stage of my life.

As for yesterday, my daughter and I ate lunch at Jazz and went to see those mummies at Union Station before they leave next weekend.  This is one thing Cliff has refused to see with me... he thinks it's creepy.  This is the guy who thoroughly enjoyed "Bodies Revealed" when it was in town; go figure.

It's been a good couple of days, even though it ended on a sad note when I was messaged by a friend telling me her mother, one of the dearest souls who ever walked this earth, had died.  I knew her time was near.  Somehow it feels like the snow that surprised me when I went to bottle-feed the calves earlier is a message from Shirley telling me she made it, safe and sound, to her final destination.  

Beyond this land of parting, losing and leaving
Far beyond the losses darkening this, and
Far beyond the taking and the bereaving
Lies a summer land of bliss.

Songs my parents sang

My parents, like me, were average singers.  They carried a tune well, and Mother could sing her alto part in congregational singing at the Church of Christ, but there wasn't anything especially notable about their voices.  Neither of them played any instrument unless you want to count the "mouth organ" (harmonica) Daddy picked up once or twice a year.  

But they loved to sing... around the house, in the car, it didn't matter.  The only ears that heard their impromptu vocalizing were theirs and mine.  Daddy, especially, would belt out a song any time he felt like it.  Some were a little naughty by the standards of the olden days ("She had freckles on her but... pause... I loved her anyway").  He'd launch into any of those and my mom would say, "Everett???" to hush him.

They'd sing the hits of the day, songs like You Can't Be True Dear, Tennessee Waltz, Nobody's Darlin' but Mine, Smoke Smoke Smoke that Cigarette, Pistol-Packin' Mama.  The list seems endless.  Many of the old songs have since been revived by singers of a different era.  I just remember my parents singing them.  Daddy would usually start, obviously enjoying his rendition, and usually Mother would join in.  They'd sometimes sing a hymn or two.  Mother liked the Blackwood Brothers, who had a radio show... I believe on Sunday morning.  So my folks would often be heard singing, "Royal Telephone", "Life's Railway to Heaven", and others along those lines.  

Yesterday I thought of an old song they liked:  Not only did they sing it from time to time, Mother bought the record, a 78 RPM that we listened to on the wind-up Victrola purchased from an auction at a one-room school.  When I thought of that song, it sparked a memory of something that happened in  the 70's.  I related the story to Cliff, who has no recollection of the event, although he was present.  

A young man next door had joined with a group called "Kansas City Songwriters".  Donnie's family was musical and his mom wrote an occasional song.  He and a local woman attended the once-a-month meetings.  Because I had written a few songs, Donnie felt I needed to be in the group.  Usually the fact that I don't drive can be a problem; not in this case, though, because he and Nancy were going anyway.

At these meetings the members were preparing to do a show at the Benjamin Stables' grounds in the city, but that's another story.  I met a nice, very talented lady there; she, as well as I, had a couple of songs selected for the big show.  She came out to our house one night and brought friends with her, a congenial married couple.  We talked a lot about the upcoming songwriter's showcase, and at one point my new friend (I don't even recall her name) looked at the gentleman she'd brought along and said, "Hey, sing us that song you wrote."

"It's the only song I ever wrote," he said, smiling.  "Two cents, Three eggs, and a Postcard."

"Oh, wow.  You wrote that?"  I exclaimed, while thinking he couldn't be old enough to have written it.  "My mom had that record when I was a little kid!"

The lady who'd introduced me to them along said, "What?"

I didn't think they believed me, so I started singing it.

"Two cents, three eggs and a postcard
Are all that I've got in this world,
But what good are eggs and a postcard
If you haven't got a girl."     

My new friend looked at her associate and said, "Damn you!  You didn't write that song!  All this time I thought you wrote it."

Let's just say it was a very awkward situation; I should have kept my mouth shut.  

I've often wondered why anyone would choose that song to claim as his own creation, because even when I was a child, those lyrics sounded like something a ten-year-old would make up.  Perhaps the reason he claimed that particular song was because nobody had ever heard of it.  

That's my story.  If I were counting my blessings today, I'd have to thank God for blessing me with parents who spontaneously sang around the house.  It's amazing how many of those old songs I remember.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Rocks in his water, rocks in his food

Gabe had his first appointment with a groomer yesterday.  I didn't have the patience to wait until he was perfectly posed for a picture, but this gives you some idea.  

He looks a lot different.  I sort of miss his furry ears, but at least I can see his eyes now.  His hairy eyebrows were hanging down in front of his eyes before.  

A new puppy problem has arisen of late, and I think I brought it on.  I have been reading various articles online to get tips in the proper raising of a dog and found a suggestion that one should not leave dog food out all the time, because the dog will eat too much and get fat.  Of course this is a bigger problem with the smaller breeds.  Ideally, you give the dog the amount he can consume in five minutes, then remove it.  Do this twice daily (three times for a puppy) and he'll be getting plenty.  Well, it sounded simple, although I felt like a tyrant not filling Gabe's dish when he went looking for food; I was sure he'd get used to it.  

Gabe, however, decided to adapt.  Once he realized the food wasn't going to be available constantly, he started eating his dry dog food faster... and faster.  He found if he swallowed it whole without taking time to chew, he could eat a lot more in less time.  Once he had eaten his allowance of puppy food, he'd go to the water bowl and drink as if he hadn't had water for days.

Then he'd start retching, I'd jump up and carry him to the door, and he'd puke up everything he had just eaten and drunk.  When he was done, and back inside, he'd run to his bowl to fill his now-empty stomach.  This happened daily for about four days, so I did more googling.  

Turns out you can get special bowls for food and water that slow down consumption.  For around $20 I could get a couple of those and possible correct the problem I had created.  I should have named this dog Money Pit, because I find myself spending money on him constantly.  It's awfully easy to click-and-spend instantly on Amazon, but for once I stopped myself before ordering the dishes and did some more googling.  (Isn't the Internet wonderful?)  

Cesar Milan's site suggests putting rocks in the food and water dishes to slow down the dog's eating.  Well, I have rocks, and if they'll save me $20 (a pittance, compared to the total amounts I've spent on this dog, but you have to start somewhere), I'll try rocks.

Two days have gone by now with no vomiting.  When Gabe gets down to those last bits of kibble, he uses his paw to move the rocks out of his way, but he is slowed down considerably.  I'm knocking on wood, hoping this continues to work.  

It's always something, if you have children or pets.  


Friday, December 15, 2017

I'm on my own today

A few years ago, Cliff was down at Versailles with his brother, Phil.  I don't recall why they were there or why I wasn't, but when Cliff got home, he told me they had driven the backroads around Versailles, Phil showing him some of the various places where their aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents used to live.  One thing Cliff found out was that the place he remembers as his dad's parents' farm wasn't theirs; they were squatters.  The more I heard about my husband's interesting day, the more I wished I had been with them.  Cliff said sometime we would have Phil do the tour again, and I could go along.  

I brought this up the other day and he said, "Well, I'll call Phil and we'll plan to go."

I assured him I was ready, and was even a little excited about it.  However, I had forgotten one important fact:  I'm a dog owner now.  Gabe will be fine to leave all day when he's grown, but I'm pretty sure he couldn't make it 10 hours at this point.  Besides that, I don't know what he'd do here all alone.  Some dogs destroy furniture and woodwork and such when left alone too long.  So I backed out of what is most likely my last chance of getting this tour, the planning of which had been spearheaded by yours truly.  The plans were made, his brother was involved; I told Cliff to take their sister in my place and enjoy, and I'd stay home with Gabe.

As always, I have a book to pass the time, but I am also making cookies and boiling a turkey carcass from Carthage, Missouri.  My son-in-law kindly had his Carthage relatives save their Thanksgiving turkey frame for me, as he did last year.  He brought it to me double-bagged and frozen, and at that time I had just finished processing the grandson's turkey frame and didn't want to get into that mess again for awhile.  But today's the day.  Those boiling bones smell like Thanksgiving Day.  I'm going to have to stop and find something to eat pretty soon, because it's killing me.  The finished product won't take up nearly as much room in the freezer as the whole skeleton does, and I'll have a quick meal out of it some cold winter day.  Turkey frame soup is a favorite around here.  

The two calves are doing fine, bawling for their bottles every time they see me.  Their bowels have been loose off and on, so I've been giving them two pills a day, and with the one that has the most problem, I've replaced a couple of milk-meals with electrolytes, the last package of which I used today.  I asked Cliff as he was leaving to stop at Orscheln's when he drove past and pick up a few packages of Resorb, because I always want it on hand when there are calves here.

Half an hour later I got a call from Cliff asking, "Are you sure you got that stuff at Orscheln?  Because there isn't any here."  He was at Higginsville with his sister, on the way to pick Phil up.  I told him I was positive, but to just forget about it and we'd find some tomorrow.  

Five minutes later he called again.  "I got it.  Rena asked somebody who works here for help, and they showed us where it was." 

What is it about men that they won't ask for assistance finding something?  


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dogs, calves, and coats

Next Tuesday our yearling Holstein steers will be butchered, one for the oldest grandson and his wife (they've paid for theirs, including all expenses), and one for us.  We intended to get a couple of new ones a month or so ago from the dairy at Higginsville, but the guy had some big orders for his bull calves and put us on hold.  Yesterday I got a call from the guy saying they had five bull calves available, and to come and pick out the ones we wanted.  Cliff already had a pen ready for them, and a calf hutch loaded on the trailer in which to haul them home.  So away we went.  I doubt if we'll need meat a year from now when they go to the butcher, but we have family members who will gladly buy ground beef from us, a pound or two at a time; I hated to raise one calf alone because cattle are herd animals, and aren't as happy alone.

As we were getting ready to leave the house, I asked Cliff what he thought about taking Gabe.  He suggested I take a leash for when we got there to our destination.  Gabe gladly jumped in the car and seemed to enjoy the ride.  The wind was awful yesterday, by the way, to the extent that Cliff had trouble keeping the car where it belonged.  When we got to the dairy, I chose my two calves, we paid for them, loaded them, and headed home.

On the way back, Gabe was on my lap doing well until we were almost home and he began retching.  Oh boy!  Knowing what was coming, I held him with his head in the middle of my lap and watched him puke up his noon meal, making a sizable pile.  At least my new winter coat is quite voluminous.  I folded some of it over the pile of puke, and when we got home, I took off the coat, shaking the puke off on the ground.  When the calves were unloaded the coat was tossed in the washing machine.  I had planned on being able to take Gabe on short trips with us eventually; let's home he outgrows the carsickness.  

This morning the freshly washed coat got so much milk replacer dripped down it from my teaching the calves to suck a bottle, I had to wash it again.  More about the coat later.

Gabe at work keeping the calf pen clean
One of the calves needed a pill, as his bowels were watery; I withheld his milk replacer and gave him electrolytes instead.  This morning he was much improved and got his milk.  Gabe with out with me at 4:30 AM to feed them and discovered how tasty newborn calf poop is.  He'd had so much of it by noon that he didn't even touch his dog food.  No matter what fancy kind of dog you might have, if he's turned loose in the country he will eat any sort of poop he runs across and roll in whatever dead animal he finds, and he'll live to tell about it.  As much as I wish Gabe wouldn't behave like this, I'm not going to keep him trapped inside all the time.  If I'm outside, he can go with me unleashed.  Today every time he's gone out, he has headed straight for the pen where the new calves are.   A while ago he was on my lap... he smelled like carrion.  Ugh.  He's going to be getting a bath pretty soon, and then he'll be on a leash for the rest of the day.  Tomorrow, he'll no doubt stink again.

Now, about the coat.  Back when we walked in cold weather, I bought a marked-down coat online from Target for under $30.  It was called a "puffer coat" and was one of the warmest coats I ever owned.  It replaced Carhartt coveralls as my cold-weather protection when doing chores or going for walks.  It finally wore out last winter and was thrown away.  Since we're not taking walks any more, and don't have a lot of chores, there was no need to replace it.  

However, after Gabe came to live here, I was spending quite a bit of time taking him out.  Then we started talking about getting a couple more bottle calves.  Feeding calves can be pretty cold business in January.  I searched online and finally found just the coat.  It's hideous, but it's even warmer than my old one was.  It reaches to my ankles.  I absolutely love it.  Since I never claimed to be fashionable, you get to see how I look in my big, roomy, warm-as-toast coat.  It won't be leaving the property for the most part, because it's my at-home chore coat.  And hey, the Muck boots match it.  

Apparently Cliff's going to leave his retirement banner (on the wall above me) hanging in the shop forever.  

The dog needs a bath, so I'm off.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Cats can change your world

 While I was in Napoleon getting a haircut Thursday, the hairdresser told me a sweet little story I'm going to share.  I'm paraphrasing, and may get some small detail wrong, but you will get the idea.  All wives and daughters will relate to this story.  

The lady's seven-year-old daughter spotted a stray kitten behind a dumpster at a gas station and fell in love with it.  The mother reluctantly said they could keep it, but not until the vet looked at it.  Well, the vet told them the cat was full of internal parasites; my hairdresser said, "I was not taking that cat home without knowing it was free of problems," so she boarded the cat with the vet for a week while he treated it.  When mother and daughter went home they broke the news to the husband, who has never liked cats.  He was adamant:  No cats in the house, period!  It was NOT coming into his home.  This went on for a few days while the cat was with the vet.  

"You mean he turned his sweet little girl down when she pleaded with him?"  I asked.  Yep.  He did.  

Finally, while the deadline approached for going after the cat, the girl went to her father and said, "You won't even give me a chance to show you I will take care of it!  If you give me a chance, I'll prove to you I can!"  By the way, this was during Girl Scout Week, and the child then told her dad, "It's the Girl Scout thing to do!"  There were more words from both of them, and they slammed outside through separate doors.  

Mom, listening from the other room and staying out of things, then heard a knock on the front door.  Her father-in-law, who had obviously heard some of the not-so-quiet confrontation, asked where his son was; she pointed toward a door, and out he went.  

Perhaps he put in a good word for his granddaughter, because when all was said and done, the cat was allowed to come home.  "And is she taking care of her cat like she promised?" I asked.  "Oh yes," she answered.  "She even cleans the litter-box every day without being reminded."

"How does your husband feel about the cat?"

"He's fine with it now.  And you know, I never had any idea how easy cats are to take care of!"

And they all lived happily ever after.

I hope you, my reader, have a happy ending to your day.

Friday, December 08, 2017


I've always loved to read.  I remember the first real chapter books I received one Christmas in Iowa, in the early 50's.  I was probably seven years old when "The Bobbsey Twins" and "Heidi" came into my life.  Heidi was difficult for me, and as I recall, it took me a long time to finish it.  I loved the parts at the beginning where Heidi lived with Grandfather and the goats, but when she ended up in the city I lost interest (I've always been a country girl at heart).  Still, I eventually read the whole book during that long Iowa winter.  

A little later in the 50's, living in north Missouri, my mom bought me the Egermeier's Bible Story Book.  I would take it upstairs to bed with me, along with a bag of gingersnap cookies and a cup of milk to dip them in, and stay up so late reading that my mom actually took the fuse out of the fusebox so I'd have to go to sleep.

Because I've never had a driver's license, I didn't read a lot of library books for many years.  Oh, there were brief times of membership in some book club where if you buy a certain amount of books you had to buy a few more... as soon as I had fulfilled my agreement with them, I'd opt out, because we really didn't have a lot of money for books.  Then garage sales became popular, so I'd find affordable books often.  It was sort of hit-and-miss, because I ended up bringing home books I really didn't like much; but for 25 or 50 cents, it was worth the risk.  

With the introduction of digital books, I rediscovered the pleasures of reading.  I renewed my long-forgotten library card, put the Nook and Kindle apps on my iPad, and I now read to my heart's content.  I have access to books that cost me nothing, and I don't have to leave my house to get them.  AND I don't have books piling up around the house that I'll never read a second time.  It's turned out to be one of the best freebies of my life, a free gift that keeps on giving.  

I often catch myself reading the same type of book, or even the same author, so much that I get into a rut and get bored with what I'm reading.  That's when I go to an Internet friend, a retired teacher in Washington state, who has never steered me wrong.  I do like some of her suggestions better than others, but I don't think I've ever "not read" a book she led me to.  Of course if I really like a book she's suggested, sometimes I'll look up more books by the same author and read those until boredom sets in again.  You'd think I'd learn.

Yesterday I couldn't get interested in books I already had on the iPad and realized I hadn't read a John Sandford book for awhile; he's one of my favorite authors.  I especially like his Virgil Flowers character.  There are usually a few laughs along with all the detective work, murders, and mayhem.  The last one I read was set in Iowa, which was fun for me because I was familliar with all the towns where the action took place.  I wondered if perhaps the digital library had a book I'd missed reading along the way, one of his earlier works I'd skipped over.

Imagine my amazement at finding his latest Virgil Flowers book, Deep Freeze, not only in the cyber-library, but available!  It was just released in October.  Usually in the case of a recently released book, I have to put a hold on it and wait for weeks before my turn comes around... or at least I have to settle for a real book, so heavy to hold with the smidge of arthritis in my wrist. That means a trip to the library, not as big a deal now that Cliff is retired.  Virgil Flowers is just what the doctor ordered for long winter days.  The trouble with a good book, though, is that I'm done with it in a couple of days.  

On another note, Gabe the Schnauzer gets neutered today.  Originally it was scheduled for two days ago, but turns out Cliff had one more radiation appointment than we realized.  So today's the day.  I wasn't told to withhold food from him, but when I took the cats in for neutering, I was told not to feed them.  So, no food for Gabe, just in case.  We are to have him there by 9 AM.  

He's great company for me, and he brightens my winter moodiness.  I can't help but laugh at his antics, even if they involve his stealing my gloves off the couch or spreading chewed-up kleenexes all around the living room.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Living in the land of plenty

My daughter keeps telling me I look skinny.  When she hugs me, she says I feel skinny.  I'm pretty happy with my weight now (149.6), even though I wouldn't mind losing just five more pounds.  If I got below 145 I'd probably bake a pie or make biscuits and gravy, because I'm not trying to keep the weight off for vanity's sake, heaven knows.  I know I'm healthier at the lower weight, and I like the idea of wearing size 12 jeans (maybe that's vanity?).  Cliff and I got through Thanksgiving eating pretty much what we wanted for a couple of days, gained 2 or 3 pounds each, then got right back to our normal routine and lost it quickly.  

The thing is, it's easier than it used to be, which is still surprising to me.  For one thing, my tastes have changed somewhat.  For instance, pizza used to be a favorite; we all know how packed with cheesy calories, sodium, and fat it is, but I would go to sleep thinking of pizza and then awake next morning knowing I had to order a pizza.  Not so now, although I still like it... but when we're driving around and decide to eat out, I never choose pizza.  I'm always the one to choose, by the way, because Cliff says, "I eat good at home.  You get to decide where we eat."

Can you believe Burger King ranks higher on my "craving" list than pizza these days?  That isn't an improvement, of course, because that meal of Whopper-with-cheese, small fries, and a soft drink contains significant amounts of calories-sodium-fat with a grand total of almost 1500 calories.  But it doesn't seem to affect me much.  For one thing, when I eat so much at noon, I'm not hungry that evening, so I don't eat anything else that day.  

We like to eat at Tuscano's, which has the advantage of being closer to home than anything in the big city.  They serve such huge portions, though, that we've taken to splitting a meal, usually their lasagna.  When I first suggested splitting the meal, Cliff was more in favor of each of us having our own full meal, then taking some home for supper; but as I told him, that gives us two meals in one day of too many calories, too much fat and salt.  After splitting the meal one time, Cliff was convinced.  By the way, since he never wants to choose where we eat, I usually choose someplace he enjoys, which means Tuscano's, Burger King, or the Mexican place at Lexington (SO close to home!).  Perhaps once a year I'll ask for KFC, which he isn't crazy about.  But the nearest KFC at Oak Grove is so filthy, the floor so grease-covered, I don't think I'll be wanting to eat there again.  

I mentioned how my tastes are changing:  I haven't been a huge pop-drinker for years, but I used to buy a case of Pepsi to keep around for those evenings when I have popcorn for supper.  Somewhere in the last year or two, though, Pepsi started tasting awful to me.  I thought I'd gotten a bad batch of it, but when I offered relatives a can of it to taste for me, they all said there was nothing different or wrong about it.  Since then I've found Coke turned on me too.  Mighty peculiar!  Cliff enjoys Diet Coke, which always tasted watered-down and weak to me, as do diet drinks.  

Yesterday it was just me and Cliff, so I rode with him for his last radiation treatment and then suggested we eat at the Mexican place in Lexington.  We always get their quesadilla-fajita (we don't split it), and it's all I can do to finish it.  In fact, I don't eat the rice that comes with it because if I did, I'd couldn't eat the good stuff.  There's only room for so much in my belly!  I backslid after the fine meal yesterday, though.  I don't keep ice cream at home, so I wanted some Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.  I went in the local grocery store and paid way too much for a pint of it and told Cliff, "I don't care how much you eat, but I'm eating half of it (one cup)."

Not one to turn down food, Cliff took the other half.  Not only was it freezer-burned, but it had obviously half-melted and frozen back hard.  Very hard.  And yet, just to show you our old, gluttonous ways still lurk beneath the surface, both of us ate every bite of it, complaining as we ate.  That's the stupidest thing ever!  We ate something that wasn't really good, just because it was there and I had paid good money for it.  

Some things never change.  Some people don't, either.  

On a positive note, my weight was less this morning than yesterday, probably because I didn't eat anything else after the Mexican food and the lousy ice cream.  Perhaps I've found the key to losing weight and keeping it off:  Don't eat supper if your noon meal is ridiculously large.  At least it seems to work for me, although Cliff doesn't believe in going without a meal, so he always has to have something in the evening.  Last night it was an egg sandwich.

I may start blogging about food quite a bit, since it's hard to find blog topics when I'm sitting around the house reading.  I won't be blogging about dieting, though.  Just food in general.  Because I can talk about food all day.


Sunday, December 03, 2017


On nice days when I'm not babysitting, I like to take Gabe out to the pasture where he is safe to run free without a leash.  He usually doesn't get out of my sight, and when he does go over a rise or down into a valley where he can't see me, he realizes it pretty quickly and comes running back as fast as his short legs will carry him, grateful to find I haven't disappeared.  Today was one of those nice days.

He ran down a portion of this roadway through the woods to the bottom, and when he paused I thought about heading down to the back of our place.  I actually started down, but only got to the point where he is in this picture and thought better of it.  Going down is easy, even for a person with knee problems.  But coming back up is another story.  

Gabe led the way to the top.  

Once there, I found a place in the leaves level enough to lie on, without too many bumps.  There's something comforting about laying against good Mother Earth, thinking of all the people who have touched her in the same way in the past.  Gabe snuggled against my leg chewing on random weeds and sticks as I lay there.

Today I took a makeshift leash along because of something that happened during our last session in the pasture.  

The dead-end road we live on is named "Old Canyon Road", for good reason.  The back portion of our property has deep, deep gullies washed throughout, ditches deep enough to hide a two-story house in.  Our hill is made up of windblown sandy soil, and eventually if there are no preventative measures taken, will probably all wash away.  Not in my lifetime, of course; but I've certainly seen a lot of ground stolen by erosion since we moved here in 1975.  We've had several cows and calves end up in the bottom of a gully and need some serious help getting out.  

As I walked back toward the house the other day, Gabe was running here and there ahead of me, approached the edge of a canyon, and dropped out of sight.  My heart sank, because some of those straight-up-and-down walls of dirt are so deep that any creature falling to the bottom could be injured or killed.  

As luck would have it, in this particular spot it was only about a six-foot-straight-down drop, and Gabe was just fine when I peered over the edge.  Unfortunately, I didn't know how I was going to retrieve him.  Twenty years ago I'd have slid down with no problem, holding onto roots and brush as I lowered myself.  I'd have gotten out of there somehow, back then.  Not so, now.  If I'd gotten down there I'd have had a hard time figuring out any way to get out.  I thought about going to the house and getting Cliff, to see if he could figure any way of rescuing my dog.  But where would Gabe be when I returned?  I doubt he'd have waiting patiently for twenty minutes or so until I returned.  By this time he was wanting out of the mess he was in, but try as he might, he couldn't climb up to me.  However, he could climb to within about four feet of me.  I lay down on my stomach, extending my upper body over that ravine as much as I dared, reached down, grabbed his collar and pulled him up.  Whew.  I almost felt like a superhero.  

Maybe I should start carrying my cell phone when I go to the pasture.  

Today as we were almost at the point of passing that ravine I hooked the leash onto his collar and let him go look down into the trap he'd fallen into.  I thought perhaps if he became familiar with the lay of the land, he wouldn't go running and diving into the pit again.  However, he was stretching his head down sniffing as though he had nothing to fear.  I don't think he'll ever figure out the cause-and-effect process that got him in such a mess the other day.  I took these pictures of him inspecting the sight of his fall, but they really don't show how deep and dangerous it is there.

This pup has a lot to learn if he's going to live a long, healthy life.  He has no qualms about running under a moving vehicle, either.  

Get a puppy, they said.  It'll be fun, they said.  


When there's nothing to write

Ever since Facebook came along, I've seen a lot of people stop blogging.  When I go a week or more without doing a blog entry, I wonder if I'm about to become one of those "former bloggers" on Facebook, but I forge ahead, mainly for my own benefit.  It's so handy to have a place to be able to find out when a certain thing happened; I do that often with the search feature of this blog.  For instance, when did Cliff have open heart surgery?  Several entries appear after a search, and almost any of them answer my question.  THIS ONE, from 2009, tells me it was three years before that was written (2006) when he had that surgery.  

So, the few readers I have left out there are subjected to a lot of mundane things.  There are still quite a few people who read my blog when I post a new entry on Facebook, and they comment there.  But the comments right here ON the blog are few and far between.  This bothers me not at all, by the way.  Oh, I used to count the comments in amazement, wondering how all those people found me.  These days, if nobody reads my drivel but Cliff and me, it's fine.  

I've just typed out two paragraphs and said nothing!  

There's my puppy, of course.  He's housebroke, and I don't cage him when we go someplace or at night.  There's a slight problem of his dribbling pee from excitement when we return home, but I've figured out that if I open the door and stay on the porch, he comes running to me and does his dribbling there.  It's a puppy thing, so he'll outgrow it eventually.  He will sit, stay, and come.  He will walk on a loose leash at my left side.  Oh yes, he will do these things... when we're in a vacuum.  IF there are no rabbits or cats or passing cars or horses running, he's a very smart puppy.  AND if there are no interesting smells in the grass to distract him.  Oh, by the way, he's being neutered Wednesday.  

Cliff only has to go have radiation two more times.  He'll be so happy to have that behind him.  There will be tests later along the way to make sure the radiation plus hormones have done and are doing their job, and I will try to post about that.  The daily grind of having to get in the car and drive so far has been unpleasant for him, since he isn't a big fan of travel and driving anyhow.  That's why I told him we'd skip going to church on Sundays so he wouldn't have to get up and go somewhere on that day, at least.  

And here I broach the subject of Cliff and church:  He didn't grow up going to church, and he'd rather not go.  After he retired, I mentioned that it shouldn't be a big deal for him to go to church with me, and he's done that for the past few years... but only for my benefit.  Oh, he likes the people, and he likes the fact that services don't take long (ha).  But that's about it.  I, on the other hand, grew up going to church three times a week.  And while that's a little much for me these days, I feel better going to church on Sundays.  My favorite part of church is the hymn-singing, and they sing a lot of the old hymns at the church we've been attending.  BUT...

Now that Cliff's daily drives to the city are about done, I'm not so sure I should go back to "making" him go to church just for me.  Perhaps I can handle "not going" more peacefully than he can handle having to go and take me.  At this stage of life, should anybody be forced to go to somewhere when he doesn't want to?  After all, I do have those Church-of-Christ CDs of the old hymns, sung acapella, and I can sing along with those here at home.  I can always pick up the guitar and sing my favorites, too.  

It's a conundrum.  

Have a great Sunday, won't you?  Maybe some of you will be singing one of my favorites today. perhaps "Blessed Assurance", or one of the other Fanny Crosby gems.  


Friday, November 24, 2017


Granddaughter (in-law) Heather was cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her family and some of ours; many of our relatives were doing other things on the big day, so combining two families really didn't make for too huge a crowd.  I volunteered to make the mashed potatoes, knowing how rushed that last-minute prep for a big meal can be, and ended up making a few other things.

I began thinking about my favorite holiday dishes.  Knowing full well nobody would eat much of either one, I made them anyhow, just for myself.  I should try cutting the recipes at least by half, but I never do.  They really aren't traditional holiday dishes.  Well, I guess the cranberry stuff (Mother called it cranberry salad, but it isn't a salad) is traditional in my own family, but I don't know anyone else that even makes it.  And the macaroni salad is a recipe I just happen to love that came straight from the pages of an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  

Hang on, I did a quick Google search of the ingredients and found that someone else DOES make it, minus the nuts.  I imagine the nuts were my mom's idea, because she put nuts in every sweet holiday recipe she used.  Click HERE and scroll down to see a blogger talking about "Cranberry Cream Dream" and sharing the recipe.  But I digress.

I can eat my mother's cranberry salad until I'm sick, and still keep on eating.  Something about that sweet/tart (more sweet than tart), creamy, nutty dish affects me like a drug affects a druggie!  Most people don't even try the stuff when I take it to a gathering, I guess because there's so many other sweet dishes on the table; or maybe they don't like cranberries.  The thing is, I'm always happy to take it home with me and eat it all myself.  I even sometimes HOPE nobody else eats any.  I wish I were hungry right now, I'd go have some.  Cliff had a bowl of cereal for breakfast, but I'm still waiting for hunger to set in.  I'm as full now as I was when I went to bed.

I didn't make any pies because I knew Heather's Grandma Sandy would bring some, and she is a pie guru.  Yep, Cliff and I had our first pumpkin pie of the season, and Sandy insisted we take the three remaining pieces.  "I have another one at home," she told us.  I love that woman. 

We ate in the shop, simply because Heather and Arick don't have a lot of seating room in the house.  When dinner was over and Heather was getting the meat off the turkey bones for storage, I told her I'd take the roaster full of bones home for my turkey frame soup and wash the pan for her before I brought it back.  I also rescued a meaty ham bone that was destined for the trash can.  Because who doesn't love beans cooked with a ham bone?  

I had some last-minute shopping to do Wednesday, so the little girl and I went along with Cliff when he went for his radiation treatment.  When he got out I said, "Go to Costco so I can get one of those cooked chickens for $4.99.  I'll just run in and get the chicken, nothing else.  Otherwise we're going to be eating out, and it will cost a lot more than five bucks."

Who buys a cooked chicken the day before Thanksgiving?  I wasn't even thinking about all the leftovers and bones I'd have when the big feast was over the next day.  Cliff and I each had a chicken-leg and thigh at home Wednesday (the kid wanted a PBJ sandwich), along with some peas and a baked potato cooked in the microwave: a real quickie meal, but delicious and cheap.  This left me with most of a chicken in the refrigerator on the day before turkey day.  It's OK, though.  This morning I took the chicken off the bones, saved the meat in a couple of separate freezer bags and the bones in another (yes, I save chicken bones until I have a lot, then make broth), and the chicken is saved.  I can almost taste the chicken salad sandwiches now!  Except... I'm not hungry.  

So we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with the family members that were in the area, and today I eat cranberry stuff, macaroni salad, and pumpkin pie all day long.  I won't be getting on the scales until next Monday.  The results won't be pretty, but usually within a week of eating right, I'm right back where I should be.  If not, give it time.  Christmas won't be here for a month.

Here's hoping all my readers had a perfect Thanksgiving, with memories to spare.


P.S.  I think I'm almost hungry now.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Facing the facts

There are phases of growing older that I noticed in my mother as she aged.  One thing that particularly bothered me was the way she clung to "stuff", insignificant items we all knew she would never need or use again.  I even saw her cry at the idea of leaving items behind when she and Daddy were moving out here to our place.  "I'm having to give up everything," she said, alluding to the fact that Daddy's cancer would eventually take him away from her.

We moved boxes of old double-knit clothing she'd bought at garage sales with the intention of cutting them up to use as quilt pieces, and she did make quite a few quilts after that.  But some of the stuff really made no sense at all.  However, we designated one little outbuilding as her storage space.  Most all of it was still there when she moved on to senior apartments, piled high with boxes.  From there, she placed herself in the nursing home of her choice, and that little shed remained full of her "stuff" until her death, at which time it was all hauled away as trash.  The only thing of any value among all that junk was a can of motor oil, which Cliff kept and used.

Yesterday I had a revelation that made me understand what prompted Mother's unwillingness to part with seemingly useless things.  Cliff is always looking for space to store various tractor parts and seldom-used tools, things he will likely need at some point but doesn't want the clutter where he has to look at it. Yesterday as he donned his coveralls to go outside, he said, "Hadn't I might as well tear that stanchion out of the corner of the barn?"

A panicky feeling clutched my heart as I hesitated, then said, "Well... we might need it sometime to restrain an animal we need to work with, so as long as I'm raising a calf or two each year, maybe you should leave it there."

It only took a minute or two for me to recall my mother crying over junk she deemed as precious, and to then see what I was doing.  I told Cliff, "Never mind.  Go ahead and take it out.  My problem is that taking the stanchion out reminds me I will never milk another Jersey cow, and that's silly, because of course I won't.  You can have that space."

Can you believe as I typed that last paragraph, my eyes teared up?  Me!  I don't cry, hardly ever.  Even at funerals of loved ones.  I just don't.  But somehow the idea of admitting I will never have another milk cow makes me cry; that's really pathetic and self-centered of me, but there you have it.  

I understand now how Mother was feeling, and her motivation for those feelings; I hope God will pass my apology along to her.  This is one of countless times that I've glanced heavenward and said, "I'm sorry, Mother."

Getting older means giving up things as it becomes necessary.  I still have my mobility, and a husband by my side.  I have much to be thankful for and I feel so very blessed.  I need to remember to count the things I can still do and rejoice, rather than mourning for things I'm unable to accomplish these days.

Peace.  I hope you find it easier to let go of cherished skills and talents as they're lost than my mom and I have.

On another note, in the previous entry somebody called to my attention that music on CD followed after cassettes, not 8-tracks.  So probably that was a cassette player in our pickup back in the 70's.  

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A magical trip to St. Luke's East

Our little girl's daddy didn't work yesterday, so since we didn't have her, I opted to go with Cliff to his radiation appointment.  He's been playing CDs on the way to and from the hospital, working his way through songs we hadn't listened to in a long, long time.  He asked if I wanted music playing, I said yes... and that's when the magic happened.

Waylon Jennings' voice came through the speakers along with the normal thumping, simplistic beat he always sang to:  "If you wanna go to heaven, gotta d. i. e., you gotta put on your coat and t. i. e..."; I was magically transported back to the '70s. 

I was working at Harmon manufacturing with a young lady named Lucy.  She was in a record club and had brought a small catalogue to work with her which, she said, contained bargains.  Looking back, Columbia was probably just trying to clear out 8-tracks, because CDs would soon be taking over.  There was a set of three Waylon Jennings tapes:  "Dreaming my Dreams" and two others, all great songs.  But I swear, we must have worn out "Dreaming my Dreams".  Packaged together the three CDs were a real bargain, so I paid Lucy whatever the cost was and she delivered the goods as soon as she received them. 

As the songs played one after another on the way to the hospital yesterday, I was flabbergasted at the perfection of every lyric, except for one that I don't remember ever hearing.  I guess we must have fast-forwarded through it a lot.  I remembered the first four-wheel-drive pickup Cliff ever had, a shiny black work of art, and how excited he was when we got about 10 inches of snow.  School was cancelled, so he and the kids took off to see if they could get that marvelous new vehicle stuck.  It was hours before I saw them again, but they came back smiling.  It's probably just as well I stayed home.  I'm sure they would have Waylon singing in the background, because that's the first vehicle we ever had for which we purchased an 8-track player.

The CD we listened to yesterday was one I purchased used, online, when I was replacing albums I remembered from the old days.  But it's been in the car all that time, and we don't spend a lot of time in the car.  Anyway, it was wonderful hearing those songs, with all the nostalgia they provoked.  I found the songs on Amazon Prime awhile ago and made a playlist, and I'm getting ready to tell Alexa to play it for me. 

If I had to choose a favorite, I suppose it would be "Darlin' Let's Turn Back the Years".  There's an instrumental interlude that I always claimed as "my turn to sing", and although it was about one key higher than I comfortably can sing in, I belted it out anyhow.  Every time it played.  Even yesterday.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Still kicking

In two more weeks, Cliff should be done with radiation.  We are both ready for it to be over, but I know Cliff is especially anxious.  Every day until noon, his forenoon is eaten up by a trip to the city.  It's an hour getting there, ten or fifteen minutes actually in the facility, and another hour coming home.  One marvelous thing I may not have mentioned, though:  Thanks to the Lafayette County Cancer Coalition, we received a very generous check to pay for the money spent for gasoline during all this.  The only reason we knew about it was that Cliff's brother had radiation treatments a few years back, and somebody brought it to his attention; Phil had mentioned this long ago and it happened to stick in my brain all this time (amazing, I know!).  I wonder how many others in our county have had cancer and not known about this; my daughter certainly didn't hear about it during her experience with "the big C".  I intend to send the organization a yearly Christmas donation from now on, even if I have to cut some other cause from my list.

My dog Gabe is growing and learning.  I'm afraid to mention it in case it jinxes me, but he hasn't had an accident in the house for a full week, as of tonight.  It's as though something magically clicked in his head and he suddenly knew what he was supposed to do.  He has taken longer to house-train than other puppies I've had, perhaps because he's male?  However, Internet sources tell me male dogs are no harder to house-break than females, so maybe it's just the different personality involved.  He thinks he's a lap dog, although he's almost outgrowing my lap.  

I've been recalling lately how the sun looked coming up over the ocean when I was in Cozumel, and this has driven me to do all sorts of travel searches looking for a getaway to someplace warm, someplace by the ocean.  Florida seemed cheaper than some other destinations, but Facebook friends tell me it isn't all that warm there in February.  I assumed it was because several years ago, Cliff and I were visiting our son in Georgia and drove on to Florida to a tractor show.  It was one of those years when the whole state of Florida seemed to be on fire due to a drought, but the weather was quite nice... probably in the upper 70's.  I guess maybe that was a fluke.  Truth is, I am just tired of being cold all the time.  It sort of warms me up to just read about sunny oceanside destinations, picturing myself being there.  Maybe that's all I need, so I'll keep on reading and visualizing tropical places.  Hawaii sounds amazing!  

In the past, the approach of winter sort of excited me, lighting a flame of pioneer spirit that made me want to say, "Bring it on, and lots of snow with it!"  I'd dig out my Carhartt coveralls and stocking hats and gloves, actually looking forward to heading to the barn before daylight and listening to coyotes howl in the distance as I milked my cows.  Now I dread going outside for anything, and winter hasn't even officially started yet.  It feels about as cold as I want to be right here in the house.  I check the thermostat constantly only to see it's still at 72 degrees, which used to be a perfect daytime temperature for me; but now I freeze.  I wear sweatshirts aplenty, but my fingers and toes and nose feel like ice cubes!  I don't think they make nose warmers, but I could sure use one if they do.  

And now I know why many senior citizens keep their homes so hot in winter.  

Cliff and I remind one another how fast the years are whizzing past now.  Winter will be over before we know it, and there will be another spring when the winter garb is put away and forgotten.  The days will be longer and once again I can spend an hour each morning on the back deck watching the sun come up, playing my guitar and singing along with the birds as they awaken.  

This wintertime mood reminds me of a story in the Bible, book of Acts, where Paul was a prisoner in what seemed like a hopeless mess.  The ship was tossed, hope was slim, but "fearing we would be dashed against the rocks, the sailors dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight."  That's me.  I've dropped all four anchors and I'm praying for spring.
So many of the old Bible stories I cut my teeth on as a child come to mind in difficult times and light my path.  Sometimes I think about Paul and Silas in a damp, stinking dungeon, no doubt rats crawling everywhere... and they started singing hymns!  And here I am complaining about the cold as I sit in a room with the temperature at 72 degrees.  Where's my hymnbook?  

Yeah, I'm over it now, but I feel much better for venting.  


Thursday, November 09, 2017

My husband finally made the big time (but you'd never know it)

I was in the kitchen getting myself a cup of coffee when Cliff said, "Hey, that's the machine I lay under every day, right here on TV" and then said, "I'm pausing this so you can see."

The news crew was doing a brief segment about how tofu can increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer, but for about five seconds, this image was put on our local Fox 4 news:

I decided to delay my coffee refill for a minute and went to see.  

"That is the exact machine I lay in every day for five minutes," he said, almost proudly.  

"Not only that, but it's YOU in the picture," I responded.

"I think you're right!"

Of course I'm right.  I recognize the shirt and the arm, and so did he after it was called to his attention.  Normally Cliff would be wearing overalls, but he often wears his one pair of jeans to treatments.  He's hit the big-time.  He said he didn't remember anybody else in the room, but I pointed out that since it didn't show his face, he couldn't have seen a person taking a picture.  

Cliff's doing fine, although the he does have one side effect now from the estrogen in his body (lots of hot flashes) and one caused by the radiation (extreme tiredness and lots of sleeping).  Nothing terrible so far, and he only has to do this until December 5.  

I just wanted to share his fame with my readers. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Making biscuits with a four-year-old

I mixed the dry ingredients with just a little help from the kid with adding and mixing.  Then I added the lard, and she used her pastry-blending skills.

I kneaded the dough, then let her try her hand at it.  She decided she should press it all out ready to cut into biscuits, but I kneaded it back into a ball and rolled it out with my rolling pin.  In case you are wondering, yes... we DID wash our hands thoroughly before we stuck them in the dough.  After all, we handle a dog frequently.

I let the kid cut out the first biscuit.  How do you like my biscuit-cutter?  It's an old tomato sauce can.

Yes, a perfect circle!  At the upper left-hand corner of the picture is the lentil stew I'm thawing for our next meal, mine and Cliff's; the Little Princess will have mac-and-cheese or something.  Lentil stew is low-fat and low-calorie, and will help us compensate for the 5,000 calories we had for breakfast.  OK, it wasn't quite that bad, since we can neither one eat more than two biscuits each these days... not because we're counting calories, but because our stomachs fill up much quicker than they did, say, ten years ago.

 We made sure there was plenty of scrap dough to play with once the biscuits were in the oven.

Floury hands!  That's a sure sign of a good cook.

Look how much we managed to save for her to play with.  It kept her occupied for forty-five minutes.

I keep telling her one of these days she will be making the biscuits while I go back to bed.  

May all of you have a child or a puppy or kitten around (or whatever it takes) to keep you smiling in spite of what you see on the news. 


Sunday, November 05, 2017


No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
November!"     By Thomas Hood

I believe this little verse rings true to every person who ever suffered SAD. --- seasonal affective disorder, which begins for me every year in late October or early November.  I have a feeling lots of people have it who don't even realize it; until I learned about it years ago, I thought the Christmas season was the cause of my depression.  After all, December is never a great month for lower-income folks, what with gift-buying and taxes coming due, not to mention the cost of heating a house... especially with propane.  This time of year I tend to be slower to change from pajamas to daytime clothes in the morning, and you may catch me looking even more dowdy than usual (oh yes, that is possible), hair uncombed... not that I deliberately fail to comb my hair, I just don't care enough to remember to do it, plus the fact I've never been one to look at myself in the mirror.  I go days without seeing anybody but Cliff and the kid we babysit (and her parents, briefly), and I become a cave-dweller.  I play the part well.  

There are special lights, "Happy Lights", that are supposed to help with winter depression, and some of those have gotten cheaper over the years; so I may eventually get THIS ONE.  In the past, when Cliff and I walked in the pasture for about 45 minutes every day, even in winter, there was a noticeable improvement in my depression.  I could also tell a difference when I was holding down my last job at Kohl's Distribution Center, so I think just keeping busy plus being forced to interact with people was a big help, in spite of the fact I'd just as soon NOT interact with people.  Our little "borrowed girl" has been good for both of us in winter months.  This year my crazy puppy is making me laugh a lot, so he's good medicine.

This isn't something I dwell on, so I promise you won't see me harping on it all winter.  It always takes me by surprise when it hits, and then I deal with it.

The dog, Gabe, is doing marvelously well with training.  The only times he has an accident in the house are the times I don't notice him standing at the door, wanting out.  I am putting the leash on him again when I take him out because, although I've used treats (tiny pieces of hot dogs) to get him to come when I call, sometimes the temptation of chasing a cat overcomes his love of hot dogs.  That wouldn't be so bad in and of itself, but the cats will go running out to muddy or manure-heavy areas and he follows.  Gabe's little white feet get washed at the sink three or four times daily, because they pick up dirt like crazy!  We won't even talk about how they look when he's found a mole-hill to dig into.    

Cliff and I are wondering how we'll get through this coming holiday season without gaining back all the weight we've lost, but I figure since we've maintained this long while using a bread machine and my new Instant Pot, we shouldn't do too bad.  

Here's my final word on the Instant Pot:  It makes great, easy-to-peel boiled eggs, but it's less trouble for me to use the method where you put them in a pan, bring them just to a boil, cover the pan, and wait twenty minutes.  It's nice for cooking beans, but since Cliff fixed the loose handles on my old cheapo, use-on-the-stove pressure cooker, that's what I prefer.  Why?  Because the beans cook at least four times faster.  Why again?  Because that pressure cooker has a higher pressure (10 pounds).  The Instant Pot uses much less and thus, takes longer.  I'm still using it a lot, experimenting with various methods and recipes.  I understand all the hype:  the younger generation is scared to death of a regular pressure cooker and most of them haven't been willing to try it.  I learned how to use one from my mother after I was married:  I would buy a roast, but it wouldn't be fall-apart tender like I wanted.  Mother suggested a pressure cooker and told me how to use it.  It's no big deal, but you do have to follow directions closely (how full it should be, the amount of water to use, etc.) and you need to stay in the house and listen to the jiggling to keep the heat "just right" under it.  After perfecting my pressure-cooker technique cooking roasts and beans, I went on to buy a pressure canner I also used for many years.  So I have plenty of experience.

I have a pound of black beans in my old pressure cooker as I type this (because I'm going to fix taco soup later).  Once the pressure cooker comes up to pressure, the black beans will cook for two minutes.  Then I'll turn off the burner and wait for the pressure to go down completely.  I'll use two cups of beans in the soup and freeze the rest in 1 1/2 to 2-cup amounts for future use, rather than buy salty canned beans.  

If you aren't scared to use a regular stove-top pressure cooker, you won't gain much spending money on an instant pot, but there are a few nifty things it does that I wouldn't try with a regular pressure cooker (cheesecake, cooking two things at once in little pans inside it, etc).  I think the reason for all the hype is that people who were scared to pressure-cook before feel safer with the instant pot, and indeed, it IS safer.  Once you have learned how to use it, you set a timer and are then able to relax.  It will regulate itself and then turn itself down to the "warm" setting when the time is up.  

I've seen several people online saying there's no need to soak beans when you pressure-cook them, but I beg to differ.  Whether you soak the beans overnight, or use the quick-soak method of heating to boiling and then letting them set for an hour and then drain that water off them, you do away with a lot of the most notorious "side-effects" of beans, and they are no longer "the musical fruit" the famous little rhyme mentions.  I will attest to the effectiveness of this method.

We still love our bread machine.  I usually try to make bread early in the morning so when Cliff gets up we can have a warm slice of home-made bread with butter for breakfast.  I slice the rest of the loaf when it's cooled, save a couple slices for use the next day, and freeze the rest, taking one or two slices out of the freezer as we need them.  It's not the only bread in the house, though.  There are some things store bread is better for, like wrapping around a hot dog, for instance.  Here's the only recipe I use, although I substitute melted lard for oil.

Recipe By:Kathy Nowell from

"Honey whole wheat bread for a bread machine."


  • 1 1/8 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast


  1. Add ingredients according to the manufacturer's directions to your bread machine. Use the wheat bread cycle and light color setting.

I've also made some wonderful pita bread using the bread machine to do the mixing, then taking it out to form it and let it rise.  That recipe is also on Allrecipes.