Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 wrap up.

2010 kind of sucked for me.  It wasn't what I would consider to be a great year, but it wasn't all bad.  I figure that I should take some time to concentrate on the positive as we transition into 2011... for which I have great hopes.

  • The evil turd-counting neighbour moved out.  The new neighbour has never once knocked on my door to express imaginary complaints about my dogs.  He did, however, come over and offer to pay half for the row of lilac shrubs that I want to plant along the property line.
  • I still have a job.  I quit twice, so this is something of a miracle.  I really, truly quit.  I told the bosses I wouldn't work under the circumstances at the time, and went off to find something else.    Luckily for me, other arrangements were made to accommodate.  Now I've got a new job that I  enjoy, working with a new boss who I like and respect very much.  
  • I took a few steps closer to my goal of ecological living and found local sources for 
    •  humanely raised organic meats
    •  eggs from free-run chickens
    • farm-fresh produce (Two, actually.  One's organic).
  • Despite dire threats from neighbours, my house hasn't fallen down.   (Bonus points here because I won't have to reroof my house ever again.  If those same neighbours don't have serious roof envy now, they really should.)
  • Cotton got through the summer this year without panic attacks.
    • In fact, I think there was only one unscheduled vet appointment this year.  WOOHOO!
    • My book experiment helped me to find some of the best books I've ever read.  (The Help, The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Sh!t My Dad Says... the list goes on.)  I'm aware that I haven't updated my reading list for a long time.... I should get back to that.
      • I renewed my mortgage this year, which means that I've lived in my current house longer than I've lived anywhere else, since I moved out of my childhood home.  Does that mean I'm growing up?
      • I've found some great blogs that I love to read, and whose authors stop by from time to time to say hello.  Thanks all - I've loved getting to 'know' you!
      Happy New Year to you all.  If 2011 can't be a great year, may it at least provide spectacular blogging fodder.

      Monday, December 27, 2010

      The Snowball... it's back.

      The bed project has exploded.

      I mentioned in my previous blog entry that my bed broke.  The frame is made of pressboard, and didn't take well to being taken apart and rebuilt the many, many times that I've moved or rearranged the house.  The pressboard broke apart, so I set about a mission to make myself a new bed.

      Here's the thing:  I need storage.  Although I prefer a farmhouse bed, I thought I should make the storage bed, so I planned a hybrid of the two... storage frame with farmhouse headboard.  I went shopping for the wood, during which time I had an AHA moment - right there in front of God and Home Depot - and I figured out how to fix my original bed.   For $2, no less.

      Wouldn't that have been great if I could solve my whole bed problem for $2?

      I fixed it that night.   Easy, peasy - I unscrewed the swiss cheese pressboard pieces, and replaced them with real wood.  The frame is hidden, so it didn't have to be pretty.  I just used a chop saw, too many screws and a lot of glue.  

      However, if you think I walked away from the idea of the new bed that easily, you don't know me very well.  I'm like a dog with a bone when I get these projects into my head.  So, of course I also bought most of the wood that I needed to make the storage bed base. The next day I went to pick up what I need for the farmhouse headboard, and I ended up at a specialty wood store, where a nice old guy who clearly knew his stuff took me under his wing.

      I ended up coming home with birdseye (really nice grain) pine boards that were clearly cut from the same tree.  Even better that it was on sale, so I came away with the makings for a whole farmhouse bed for under $100.

      Oh, yeah - did I forget to mention that I'm making a farmhouse bed now as well as the storage bed?  Here's the thing: that birdseye wood is too pretty to be painted.  It needs to be stained, but the storage bed has to be painted.  I still need the storage bed, so I'll make that for the spare room (started already... took a break for Christmas) and then I'll make the farmhouse bed for my room.  My bed - which is a red oak sleigh bed and still quite nice - will be retired until I finish the basement and add another bedroom.

      Don't bother being impressed by my mad carpentry skills, though.    I've already wasted a half a sheet of plywood because of my inability to measure properly and cut a straight line.

      Wednesday, December 22, 2010

      Well, that sucks

      My bed, which has a solid wood headboard and footboard but a pressboard frame, just bit the dust.  Literally.  It broke into a bunch of pieces and a whole lot of sawdust, and the whole thing fell apart. 

      I guess fifteen years is all you can expect of cheapo furniture from the Brick; but now I need to make something new.

      Fortunately for me, I've been eyeballing a site I found a while back,, thinking I'd like to take up wood working and wondering what I'd do first.  I guess the bed'll be it.  I'm going to try to make her storage bed, only with the farmhouse headboard.... and I'm hoping to be able to do it for a couple hundred dollars.   If I go MIA in the next week, I'll be down in the basement, communing with sawdust, wood glue and paint.

      And the cat will be hanging out on top of the propped up mattresses.

      He seems to think I do these things for him.

      Monday, December 20, 2010

      The things I'll do for a little time off...

      I met with the surgeon on Friday, and we determined that it's time for another surgery.  This time, I decided  to get things fixed once and for all; and have opted for a complete removal of the uterus.  I chose this over another less invasive surgery that won't guarantee that the problems won't return again because I don't want to be back in the hospital in another year.

      I'm a little more nervous about this surgery and the recovery than the last one.    I'm told I'll have to take a few months off work, and arrange to have somebody to do pretty much everything else (cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, walking the dogs, poop patrol, etc) for me for at least a few weeks.  I'm really not great at letting others take over for me, and am almost as worried about how I'll manage that as I am the pain.

      I still have lots of decisions to make - who knew there were so many ways to go about this one surgery?  I'll spend the next couple of weeks talking to people who have had it done, and then reconvene with the surgeon.  As it stands now, it's looking like we'll be going ahead in March.

      Sunday, December 19, 2010

      He's old.

      After a busy evening of yanking the cat out of the closet, I decided to put up the Christmas tree a few days ago.  Winter got in the way helped.

      I shlepped the big bag containing the tree upstairs,  opened it to see if the base was in there too, and then I went downstairs to get something else.  By the time I'd come back up, Himself had climbed inside the bag and settled in.

      Later on, as I unwrapped the ornaments to put on the tree, I put the paper on the mantle in a (fairly) organized pile.  Since I'd disturbed him by removing the tree parts from the bag, Winter shifted over to the mantle and made himself a nest.  That may have perhaps been a little less helpful... as were the kitty swats and nips when I reached in to get more ornaments.

      I didn't throw any papers on the floor.

      Winter is 11 years old now.  He's only the third cat that I've had to live this long.  I was a teenager when I had the other two, and they were indoor/outdoor cats (which I suspect helped expedite their aging process).  By the time that they turned 10, they were most definitely old.  They'd slowed down a lot and they were kind of cranky.  Most of all, though, they stopped showing any desire to play long before they turned 10.  Both were gone before they turned 13.

      I really hope that his playfulness is a sign that he's going to live a lot longer than that.

      Saturday, December 18, 2010

      The Christmas Tree Debate

      I used to love Christmas decorations.  I had all sorts toy soldiers, wooden apples, nut crackers and a tonne of hand painted (by me) ornaments for my tree.  I'd string popcorn and cranberries, and I've cover the tree in the multicoloured lights that my parents used when I was a kid.  I didn't have a colour scheme - the tree was a hodgepodge of colour  and style that somehow managed to be incredibly Christmasy.  I loved it.

      But then I got Tallulah.  Tallulah, when she was younger, was a bundle of energy and curls.  Her first 4 years were a search and destroy mission; and a tree would have been a disaster waiting to happen.    So, we were treeless for a few years, and eventually I got out of the habit of putting one up.

      I did buy a prelit 2' tree and put it on my mantle.  I decorated it in a red and white candy theme.  It was so small that I didn't even bother to take off the decorations at the end of the season before storing it away for another year.  Very little effort.

      This year, I debated for quite a while.  Should I use the 2' tree again, or should I use the bigger one?  I was confident that Tallulah would be OK around the bigger tree; but is it worth all that trouble for one person?  I was leaning towards no, until I learned that my nephews would be coming to visit for a few days next week.

      The nephews would not be impressed with their auntie's puny tree, so I decided to go all out.

      Then I saw the Zadge's blue tree, and it occurred to me that I wanted something new.  The mulitcoloured hodgepodge tree has been great; but I was ready for a change.  And darn it, Brian Gluckstein ornaments were on sale.   So, I started with a good basis of Gluckstein design ornaments, and then shopped around town, refusing to pay more then 50% of regular price (almost everything was on 60-70% off.)

      I went for purple and grey.  Then I was worried it'd be too dark, so I added white and silver.    I realized after the fact that I'd forgotten to get a tree topper; but this'll have to do.  I am officially done with going into stores until at least a week after the holidays.

      Cripes.  José's in the darned picture again.  I swear, I don't plant Tula's rat in my pictures on purpose.

      I took the picture in the day, because most of the purple ornaments are so dark, they disappear in photos - but they're glass and there are lots of white lights to shine through them.  They actually look pretty great at night.

      Thursday, December 16, 2010

      I found a way...

      ... to keep the cat out of the closet.

      For the record, having this teeny-tiny room being stuffed to the gills is growing on me.  If nothing else, the ability to take pictures from where I sit, and then barely even shifting around to load them on the computer is a lazy girl's dream.   It's a shame I've got such limited number of subjects to shoot from here.

      Bathroom faux pas

      Today was apparently the day for inappropriate behaviour in the washroom at work.

      The first time I went in, nobody else was there.  I had my choice of twelve stalls, and took one in the center.   Moments later, somebody else came in.  For reasons known only to her, she selected a stall right beside mine.  It was like an inappropriate invasion of my personal space.

      Later on, I went into the washroom to find that there was somebody else using the facilites who had opted not to close her stall door.    Although it didn't register until later, I could hear peeing when I walked in.  The peeing stopped, and the door closed.  Then the peeing resumed.  Who doesn't close the stall door in a public washroom?!?

      Finally, I went in again. (Hey - I'm on diuretics.)  There was a lady in a stall, presumably sitting on the pot, and talking on her cell.  Not - "I can't talk now, will call you back" - she was having a conversation  with somebody about the road conditions, and continued talking the entire time I was in there.    I'm not a fan of people talking while inside of the bathroom stall, but I think talking on the phone is even worse.  There really are times when it's inappropriate to talk on the phone, folks!  Does the person on the other end know where they are and what they're doing?  I was feeling a bit ornery by then, so I flushed twice to let them know.

      Come to think of it, I should have gone into the stall beside hers and flushed that one too.

      PS...  The cat?  Still contemplating the closet.

      Tuesday, December 14, 2010

      Randomosity - the pre-Christmas version

      • I was at the post office yesterday.  I stood on one side of the island-style counter, and put the stamps on my cards.  The slot to drop the cards was on the other side of the island, but blocked by a slow-moving line of people waiting for service.  There was a young kid in the lineup across from me, staring at me and making me uncomfortable.  I pushed the stamped cards over to him, and asked him to put them in the slot.  He did.  After that, he picked up each card as I put the stamps on it and put it in the slot.  We worked together like that for a few minutes... long enough that the line moved quite a bit forward, but he stayed with me.  I thanked him when I was done.  His mom thanked me for keeping him busy.  It occurred to me then that I've officially become one of those people who talk to strangers and their kids when I'm out in the stores.  People like that used to drive me nuts.
      • Another group of people who drive me a little bonkers are people who put sparkles or confetti in their Christmas cards.  I guess I understand the idea of being festive; but they make a huge mess.  This year, I bought cards that are winter landscapes, with sparkles in the snowy parts.  I didn't think it through very carefully... really, I thought the sparkles were attached to the cards; I was just happy to find cards that I didn't hate.  I was in the third store that I'd looked in, so I picked them up and ran.  Needless to say, sparkles are everywhere.  For those of you who may receive a card from me, I apologize in advance.
      • After living with it for a few weeks, and fluctuating back and forth a few times, I've decided that the chaise can't stay.  Not only can it not stay, it had to be out of the living room asap, to make room for the Christmas tree.  I hear that my aunt would like the chaise, but I can't pass it on to her right away.  If I talk to her before Christmas, I'll have to come up with an excuse for not wanting to spend the holidays with her humongous, extremely chaotic family...  Other than 'your family is humongous and chaotic'.  Which, for the record, is not always a bad thing.  It's just that I'm very much looking forward to a quiet, non-chaotic Christmas this year.    So the chaise is wedged into my office until the new year.  The room is now packed to the gills, and himself thinks he's got a new launching pad into the closet.  

      • The closet door is still missing because I still can't bring myself to spend $400+ on one that would match the other doors in the house.  Then again, if I have to yank the cat out of there many more times (note the dark coloured coats that contrast beautifully with white cate hair)  I might be shelling out for a new matching closet door fairly soon.

        Sunday, December 12, 2010

        True Colours

        There's a farmer's co op nearby of five farmers that each grow a different selection of fruits and vegetables. They don't sell to stores.  They don't ship their produce long distance.  These folks are embracing the concept of the 100 mile diet.  Once a month, they come to town and set up shop in one of the community centers to sell directly to the public.

        So late in the season, their selection was limited; but their sweet carrots were at their peak.   The line up was out the door and around the corner... people were buying 50 pounds or more of carrots, as well as potatoes, beets, cabbages, parsnips or brussel sprouts.  They sold out in less than two hours.    Lucky for me, I showed up early.

        Isn't all that colour great?  If you think those mechanically shaped mini carrots at the grocery store can compete with these ones, you don't know flavour.

        I don't have room to store huge volumes of vegetables, and one of the crispers in my fridge is already full of (big) carrots from my dad's garden, so I only bought what I could use fairly quickly.   I'm wishing now that I had a cold room.

        And as an aside, I made strawberry jam this morning.  I wasn't organized this year, so I hadn't made enough from local produce to last the year.  I had to buy strawberries that were imported by the grocery store.  

        I was tempted to (but didn't) add food colouring.  Look at that washed out colour.

        Whoever heard of pink jam?  When I make that recipe using strawberries from the garden, it's red.  Sadly, the flavour is pretty washed out this time too.

        Friday, December 10, 2010

        Chipotle chili powder

        FYI, in case you're curious... chipotle chili powder is NOT the same as chili powder.  It's safe to say that they aren't interchangeable.

        The community association potluck is tomorrow.  I thought I'd get a head start by cooking up what I could ahead of time.  I said I'd make my hot tamale pie, which is usually a big hit at potlucks; but it does involve some prep work.

        I meant to buy chili powder but forgot.  Not wanting to lose my momentum, I used a tbsp of chipotle chili powder.  Needless to say, I'll be starting over tomorrow morning.  I like things to have a bit of a kick, but I don't think my cooking should be so spicy that it knocks people on their asses.

        Hot Tamale Pie with Chili Cornmeal Crust

        1 tbsp vegetable oil
        1lb lean ground beef
        1lb Spicy sausage, removed from casing (I used Chorizo Sausage)
        2 Onions, finely chopped
        2 Carrots, peeled and diced
        2 stalks celery, diced
        1 jalapeño pepper, Optional (I include this, but remove the seeds)
        1 tbsp chili powder
        1 tbsp cumin seeds
        1 tbsp dried oregano
        ½ tsp cracked black peppercorns
        1 cup ketchup
        1 398mL can refried beans
        1 cup beef stock
        1 ½ cups corn kernels

        1 cup cornmeal
        ½ cup all-purpose flour
        2 tsp baking powder
        ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
        1 cup milk
        ¼ cup melted butter
        1 egg, beaten
        1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
        1 127mL can chopped mild green chilies, including juice

        1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook beef or bison and sausage, in batches, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Drain all but 1 tbsp liquid from the pan.
        2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions, carrots and celery to pan and cook, stirring, until softened. Add jalapeño pepper, if using, chili powder, cumin seeds, oregano, and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in ketchup and refried beans, breaking up beans with a spoon until they are well integrated into mixture. Add stock and corn and bring to boil.
        3. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware and stir well
        4. Topping: In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Make a well in the center. Add milk, butter and egg and mix until just blended with dry ingredients. Stir in cheese and chilies. Spread mixture evenly over the filling. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours (It seems to work better for me on high) until top is risen and crusty and meat mixture is bubbling and hot.

        Make Ahead Tip: this dish can be partially prepared in the night before it is cooked. Complete steps 1 and 2. Cover and refrigerate cooked meat separately from vegetable mixture. The next morning, continue cooking as directed in step 3.

        Thursday, December 9, 2010


        ... looks like she broke into the liquor cabinet.

        Wednesday, December 8, 2010


        • A few weeks ago, I found a recipe for chocolate babka that looked really good.  I've now attempted to make it four times, and have had four colossal failures.  I'm now determined to master the babka.
        • the doctor yesterday referred to the photos I showed him as both graphic and dramatic.  He agreed that there is something wrong, but doesn't feel that it's an endocrine issue.  He thinks it's an immunity issue, so the next step is for me to see a doctor who specializes in immunity.
        • Remember the Deal I made with my friend?  I haven't reported back much because there hasn't been much to report.  I almost wish I had horror stories to report like the Zadge because I'm finding hers to be very entertaining.  Sadly, or maybe happily (depending on how you look at it) EHarmony seems to do a good job of weeding out the weirdos.   I have been talking with one particular guy for about a month.  He seems like a great guy; but I told him last night that I didn't think we'd work out.  My head's not in the game, so I've decided not to bow out of the whole dating scene.
        • Remember the Potty Putter, from last week?  HUGE Success.  The guys in attendance seemed to think it was a great gift.  Whodda thunk.  (I came home with a rubber chicken and a can of beer in exchange.)
        • I'm being snubbed by a cat

          Saturday, December 4, 2010

          With my deepest apologies...

          I'm going to post something gross.  I don't want to be one of those people who goes on and on about their ailments, so you don't have to worry that this will be a regular feature.

          It's just that my symptoms come and go, often without any explanation.  Even though the last few days have been particularly difficult, there's no guarantee that I won't be symptom free by the time I get in to see the specialist.  Since I've had a few doctors imply that I'm making it up, I figured I better take a picture that I can print off and bring to my appointment, just in case.

          And then, of course, once I have photographic proof, I apparently have the need to share.   I've got to admit that I'm seriously questioning the wisdom of posting this; and yet somehow I can't stop myself.  I don't know how else to explain what I'm dealing with.  

          So, you're forewarned.  The picture is gross.  I'm posting against my better judgement.  Don't scroll down if you don't want to see it.

          This is my foot on a less swollen day.  I took it a few months ago because I wanted proof that I actually do have fairly thin ankles.  It's not the most attractive foot in the world but there's not a lot of bulk to my feet in their natural state.

          Last warning

          This is what my feet look like tonight.

          For this, I've been told that "swelling is normal" when it's hot out.
          I've been told to eat meat.
          I've been told to eat more meat.
          I've been told more than once that it's all in my head.

          Here's hoping the specialist on Tuesday agrees that this is real, and that it isn't right.

          Wednesday, December 1, 2010

          This should be fun

          After waiting more than six months, I found out today that I finally got an appointment to see the endocrinologist... on Tuesday.     In the meantime, I'm to eat "normally" (not the less than 200mg of salt I usually limit myself to each day) and I'm not allowed to take any diuretics until after the appointment.   Day one, and I'm already puffed up like a blow fish.

          Let the fun begin.