Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Snow Day








































It is pouring the snow down outside at the moment and has been for several hours.  The roads appear to be horrid, based on how slowly everyone is driving on the road in front of the house like snow-covered, cautious snails.

The poor birdies outside have very little to fight over, as I haven't been able to get out to refill my bird feeders since my surgery.   The photo above is from a storm last winter.  Think of this same cardinal staring woefully in at me, while pecking at a mostly empty feeder hoping beyond hope to find a remnant, succulent morsel of something good.

I have bird guilt.

The Peanut will, hopefully, be able to fill things up for me later today, once she finishes her school snow packet work for today.

Just based on the rate of snow, I'd say her basketball game this evening may end up being cancelled as well.

When winter decides to arrive, apparently it does so with gusto.  But it is hard to complain, given that we don't live anywhere near Buffalo-level snow belt craziness.  So I'll just sit back in the warmth of my cozy house and enjoy the view.

UPDATE:  Hooray for The Peanut, who went out and filled up the feeders for me.  It is so good to have a helpful child who is home on a school snow day, especially if you are a fluffed out, cold and hungry birdie.

Friday, January 2, 2015

RIP, Mario Cuomo






Still one of the best speeches that I have ever seen delivered.

Rest in peace, Mario Cuomo.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolutions





















We are fast approaching the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.  This year, I keep thinking over and over, "thank goodness we managed to make it through the year."

Even though we have had a lot of blessings over the past year, it has been a tumultuous one, capped off by yet another surgery for me two weeks ago (albeit one that was done in a timely, thorough way that has resulted in a good pathology report -- woo hoo!).

Every year, as the change of date approaches, it is as though the tug of the new year and the lessons of the old year crash into each other in a cacophony until the lessons learned begin to clarify themselves somehow as time sands off the rougher edges.  This year, there are a lot of rough edges in need of contemplation and sanding, not the least of which is how we get healthier going forward and how to manage the day to day stresses that this sort of constant health monitoring layers on to the rest of life.

That is a tough pill to have to swallow at the ripe old age of 46.

I quite simply refuse to allow cancer to dictate the terms of my day to day life.  That is unacceptable, let alone exhausting for family and friends, because who wants to live each day waiting for another shoe to drop or for some bad diagnosis to jump out yet again?  Not me, that's for sure.

But to minimize risks and, thus, expand my health and well-being going forward, some thought has to be put into what I ought to be doing better and what choices I ought to be making to get there.

Lately, I've been reading a book entitled Anticancer: A New Way of Life, written by a doctor who has also survived a lengthy battle with a very aggressive form of cancer for a number of years.  One of the things he talks about in the book is changing the "terroir" -- French for surrounding terrain or environment -- so that your entire system is less hospitable to what cancer cells need to grow and thrive.

Call me crazy, but that sounds like a great idea.  Sign me up!

What this will mean is something I'm still trying to suss out, but it will include things that I already know I ought to be doing daily:  regular exercise, more fruits and veggies, lots of fiber, leafy greens, beans, organic meats, less environmental toxins, more tea, especially green tea...we all know the drill, right?

But doing all of this -- every single day -- will be key for me down the road.

Something else he says is key?  Stress reduction through things like meditation and yoga, two thing I love but rarely make time for any more.  That is going to have to change for the better, that's for sure.

So, what will I be doing this last day of 2014?  Some menu planning, to include a lot more veggies and fruits in our day to day eating plan.  That is something I can at least do right now.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

And Now For Some Really Good News...






We have gotten the final pathology reports back from my surgery. There were irregularities that required the surgery to happen, but I won't bore you with the grey details of why the extensive surgery was necessary.

I will, however, say this: they found no active cancer cells and I had a completely clean margin all the way around.   Woo hoo!

Best possible news and the best Christmas present ever.  Hope you are having as good as day as we are.

And because everything is better with minions, enjoy a little Pharrell from Despicable Me 2.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Holiday Prep Mode




















It's is full-on holiday prep mode at our house today.  The dining room table needs to be cleared, extraneous decorative knick knacks need to be put away to make room for Thanksgiving food.

It's go time for the holiday preparations.

The good news is that the tree is up and mostly decorated.  We'll be finishing it together this evening, complete with carols blasting and eggnog in our cups.  But today will be all about house prep and food staging for tomorrow's cook-a-thon.

Yesterday, I managed to get all the remaining holiday food bits and pieces, with the exception of our turkey which will be picked up fresh on Wednesday.  (Please don't snow so much that I can't get to the turkey...please,. please, please.)  I found some perfect turkey necks and thighs yesterday, to make a large amount of my usual Crockpot Turkey Stock.  Good stock really does make the difference for yummy stuffing and gravy.

Today, I'm planning to make a large ham in the crockpot, so we'll have that to eat on for the next couple of days, along with sweet potato casserole.  Whatever leftover we have by Thursday will get folded into the Thanksgiving table along with the rest.

Hopefully, I can get my Granny's Fresh Cranberry Salad recipe made today as well -- one less thing to make for Thursday and I'll be able to eat some every day for the rest of the week.  Yummy!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thanksgiving Basics: Early Prep Is The Key





























Every year at our house, I go into a bit of a frenzy trying to wrangle the entire house into shape, get Christmas decorations up and prep for the holiday food-palooza that is Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Some of that time tends to be eaten up with cookie planning for my usual baking-palooka.  But since we are trying to be healthier, the cookies are going by the wayside for the most part this year.  Which opens up a whole window of time for me to get other things done.

It also leaves a bit more mental thought process for Thanksgiving planning, and I'm finding that wonderful.  A couple of years ago, I posted a scheduling routine that I've been using for years to prep for Thanksgiving dinner.  Early preparation is the key to a sane and happy holiday -- trust me on this one.

Last year, I finally tried a fresh turkey instead of getting a frozen one that had to thaw for an eternity, and you know what?  It was awesome.  Especially only having to pick it up the day before Thanksgiving, so I had time and room in my fridge for a couple of days prior to prep everything else.  That completely rocked and I am doing it again this year as a result.

You can order a fresh turkey at the butcher counter at most nicer grocery stores.  I managed to get a free range, no hormones or antibiotics one last year and will be doing the same this year, and I won't have to pick it up until Wednesday afternoon.  Boo yah!

By then, I'll already have the cranberry salad made, the stuffing put together up to the baking time, the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes mostly ready to go, the cranberry salad chilling, and at least one loaf of bread already made.

The joy really is in advance planning with this.  I learned that lesson the hard way the year I had melanoma surgery, but it has served me so well ever since:  plan ahead and Thanksgiving morning is so much better for it.

Here are some tips on turkey prep and baking.  One thing that I tried last year and loved was a dry brine from Williams-Sonoma:  I put it on my turkey the night before, rinsed it off a bit the next morning, placed sliced compound butter under the skin of the breast really gently and then stuffed the cavity of the turkey with cut-up lemons and onions and herbs just like I always do.  I use a covered roaster and I swear last year's turkey was the best one I have ever tasted.

I'll be repeating that again this year.  Yummy.

Make-ahead recipes are also a life saver.  I do my stuffing ahead, so all I have to do is pop it in the over to bake along with the turkey.

An essential part of that stuffing?  Rich turkey stock:  I make mine in my crockpot a day ahead, and it is delicious and perfect for stuffing and gravy.  Make enough for both and you'll be hooked, too.

My Granny's cranberry salad recipe?  An absolute must.  No holiday meal is complete without it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Parenting Is Not For Sissies





School spelling bee today and, as usual, I may be more nervous than The Peanut is.  The words on the practice list this year are so ridiculously hard and obscure -- it is as though the spelling bee folks went out of their way to find difficult to pronounce gems to weed people out from the get go.

But each year her vocabulary grows as she learns new and more complex words, and I could not be prouder of her.

It's just awfully tough to see her standing up there on the stage, a bundle of nerves, hoping and fretting from the cheap seats while she digs deep into her brain for the next word.  And the next.  And the next.

Parenting is not for sissies.

(Above YouTube clip is from the magnificent Akeelah and the Bee. Love, love, love this movie.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank You, Veterans






A thank you, to all veterans past and present, who have served their nation with honor.  Enjoy this clip from the production team of Band of Brothers -- wonderful real life history, and it really brings home the human side of the sacrifice required of those who serve.

Well done.

If you haven't seen Band of Brothers and The Pacific, you really should watch them. Superb treatment of a moment in history when their sacrifices saved us all. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Frost Is On The Pumpkin






































We woke up this morning to a nice, icy coating of frost on the windowpanes and the ivy and grass outside.  When I took Roxie out for her morning constitutional, the world was shimmering as the grass crunched beneath her paws, and all I could think about was trying to get her to hurry so I could run inside and grab my camera before the sun began to peak over the tops of the trees across the street.

Frost is a tough thing to photograph, especially a light frost like this one was, for it melts away swiftly and leaves no trace of its crystalline beauty behind beyond a little dampness in the wake of the sun's warmth.

Mercifully, for me anyway, the dog was quick this morning. 

Here are some more shots of bits and pieces.  Let's start first with the ivy:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Game Of Thrones Redux





Love this interview segment with George R. R. Martin. His giggle is infectious, and his love of his written material is apparent every time you engage him about it. Every single time.

I have met George a couple of times at Worldcons -- the science fiction and fantasy uber-conventions that are held every year in a different location around the globe.  Every conversation with him has been a delight, and filled with little nuggets about the craft of writing and the joy that he takes in putting his worlds together.

In 2002, I interviewed George for 3SF magazine.  He was just as wonderful on the phone as he is in person, and we both mutually agreed that Tyrion may be the best character he has ever done.

So fun to hear his giggle with Amy Poehler all over again.  Sometimes, you just hear something that takes you right back.  Enjoy!

(On that note, I really need to get to a science fiction and fantasy convention again.  Am missing that milieu like crazy after watching this!)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Change for the Chilly



























First frost of the season on the car windshield, and a lot of gratitude for the seat warmers on the way over to school drop-off this morning.  Winter is coming, whether we are ready for it or not.

Mercifully, we managed to get some more birdseed and get the feeders filled up this weekend.  The cupboard has been fairly bare for the birdies, and one of the cardinal regulars has been voicing his displeasure outside the sun room windows all week. 

It isn't that I loathe winter.  I actually love it when the snow falls and blankets the town and we are forced to stay in our cozy house, with blankets and cocoa and games and good movies aplenty.  But last winter was long, so very long, and it seems like it just ended and we are already headed for another one.

Doesn't it?

This year is whipping by so quickly, it feels as though I've just blinked and gone from January to close to November in a flash.  Whatever the cause, I need to restock our snow day closet with some crafty goodness. 

Whether I am ready for it or not, the chill in the air and this morning's frosty glitter on the fallen leaves was a good reminder that the season is about to change for the chilly again.

(Photo via Moose Winans.  Love the detail in this shot!)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Falling Forward





















It is that time of year when the leaves have turned past their peak color, and the trees are rapidly shedding their colorful cloaks in favor of the bare branches of winter.  There are still spots of brilliance on the hillsides around town, but they are becoming more sparse as the days wend their way forward to the ice and snow days to come.

This year, more than any other in recent memory, I am feeling adrift. 

Almost as though I were a leaf floating free from the tree, billowing back and forth and buffeted by the wind, not knowing where the ultimate landing spot will be.  All I know is that doing the same things, day in and day out, is dragging me down and wearing me out.  What I need is a new goal to meet and overcome, something that challenges me to do better, be better.

But what?

Whether this is an effect of coming out of the throes of cancer treatment or some larger metaphysical, internal debate, I do not know.  What I do know is that this sort of floating dissatisfaction often leads to a radical change from the inside out.

The question this time is in what form this one will take hold.

It isn't enough to do the same things, day in and day out.  At least it isn't enough any longer.  Based on this itching level of dissatisfaction and chafing at my day to day routines, I am feeling the need to stretch and grow.

What that means is anyone's guess at this point, but it does make for interesting internal times trying to figure it out, doesn't it?