Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kissing "June-uary" goodbye

We definitely got off to a warm start this new year. The weatherman says December and January were near the top five warmest starts to winter since records have been kept.

I don’t know that I’ve ever had daffodils to bloom in January, but by George, they’re doing it this year. 

I’m winding up my post-every-day-in-January goal for my blog. January’s theme was “beginnings” and I’m reflecting on how I’ve done with the resolutions I made at the beginning of the year.  I’m happy to say that I’ve kept most of them.  I’ve been walking faithfully, blogging faithfully, and I’ve thrown away some stuff I’d been hanging on to for way too long.  I’m still keeping up with the study of Psalms.

Alas, I’ve not been faithful to my finish-the-book-I’m-currently-reading-before-starting-another-one goal.  I still haven’t finished Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Planet.”  I truly like the book, but it is dense.  I’ll admit I’ve been distracted by a couple of quicker reads, and besides, I’ve been busy writing too…and visiting the hospital a few times a week. Not to mention housework and newspaper work, etc.   

I’m thinking resolutions might be kept better if they’re made by the month instead of by the year.  Goals seem more manageable if tackled in smaller chunks.

So.  February is a new beginning in itself.  What can I get done this month?  Let’s see.  I want to finish that Kingsolver book. And I really intended to paint the bathroom this winter, so I should probably start on that.  I’m ready to lay out the garden (in my mind), and I think I’ll try to lose five pounds in February. 

I did not resolve to lose weight in January, just to walk every day.  I figured if I did that, I’d at least not gain any more weight—and I haven’t. 

Although I won’t be posting on my blog every single day in February, I aim to post a few times a week.  I think I’ll start working on something longer instead…maybe a memoir-type thing. 

I know, I know, my life isn’t very exciting, so what in the world am I going to write about?  Heaven knows I haven’t been anywhere, or done anything out of the ordinary, but I think it’s the day to day process of living--the ups, the downs, the all-arounds--that people relate to anyway.

Here’s to February, the end of winter, and pea-planting time! 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Home vent to no vent?

Last week our little grandson Clay tired when he was switched to the home ventilator, so he was switched back to the hospital vent.

The doctor let him rest for a few days, but she told us on Friday that she wanted to administer a round of steroids and then begin to aggressively wean Clay off the ventilator. 

We thought the plan was to try the home vent again, but the new plan is to try to take him completely off the ventilator--tomorrow. 

That is obviously a big step, but wouldn’t it be great if Clay is ready to breathe without mechanical ventilation?  The trach will still be in place, in case he needs additional oxygen support or vent backup.   

These are big steps for our big boy, but he’s handled today’s changes well. His oxygen was turned down to 23 percent—room air is 21 percent.  His vent rate was halved and the pressure support was halved. 

Maybe it’s time.  We sure hope and pray so! 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A new game plan

Another Sunday drive home from the hospital…and I’m thankful for every single one of them.  My guess is that someday these trips will seem like a distant dream.  

I look back at that first month after Clayton Cash’s birth, when our drives home were filled with quiet worry. 

Two months later, we’re consistently leaving his nursery with smiles on our faces, and we’re saying the same things every time…

”He’s so cute!” …

“He’s got the cutest grin...” 

We smile all the way down the hall, that precious smile imprinted on our minds and implanted in our hearts;  we smile on the elevator and all the way to the car, shaking our heads with wonder, hearts full, as we think again and again how far little Clay has come since those terrifying first three weeks of his life.

The doctors have decided to try a round of steroids to help boost Clay’s lung function--the current plan is try the home ventilator again in a few days. 

I’m sure Clay will let us all know when he’s good and ready to come home.  The way those nurses fuss over him, I can see why he’s not in any hurry to do so. 

Until then, it’s a blessing to know that he’s feeling good…and he’s happy.   

Saturday, January 28, 2012

This job has its perks

Today I interviewed a friend about her collection of rare and beautiful tropical birds.   

My friend Rhonda and I have known each other for more than five years.  I’ll never forget the day we met— both of us were on EKU’s campus for summer orientation—not only for our daughters, who were also beginning classes, but for ourselves.

I saw Rhonda walking across the parking lot and recognized her as “Brittany’s mom.”  My daughter Hannah had told me that “Brittany’s mom” was thinking of going back to school too.  

Anyway, I hurried to catch up with her, and I introduced myself.  We easily struck up a conversation.  I sensed that she was as nervous about this crazy thing we were doing in midlife as I was.  We sat together during a summer orientation session and quickly learned that we had many common interests. 

When classes started up in the fall, we ended up in the same English 101 class. Together we agonized over assignments and fretted about our professor’s vague expectations. 

A couple of semesters later, we took the same Appalachian Studies class, and we often carpooled there together, both of us being from the same town.  During the trip, we’d have long talks about religion, gardening, cooking and our families.  We understood each other’s struggles as middle-aged college students from the hills of Kentucky on the verge of being empty nesters as few other people could. 

It wasn’t easy, but now we can both say we are college graduates. 

During our commutes, Rhonda would sometimes mention her bird hobby.  Every now and then, I’d say, “I need to write a feature about your birds.” 

We finally pinned down a day and time, and I went to her house today so she could show off her collection of exotic feathered friends.  

I learned that there is one thing we don’t have in common—Rhonda is a very knowledgeable bird breeder; I didn’t know a cockatiel from a love bird.

She’s won dozens of ribbons and written articles for bird magazines.  She’s set her alarm clock every hour and a half round the clock so she could feed baby cockatiels with a syringe. 

She’s got a born-in-the-wild ringneck dove eating out of the palm of her hand, which she says is pretty much unheard of. 

Not only that, but Rhonda the Bird Breeder made me a delicious lunch of cheesy potato soup, tuna salad and red velvet cake with cream cheese icing.

Like I say, this job has its perks. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

A visit with little farmer Clay

Just a quick post tonight...

My parents visited their first great-grandchild again today, our little baby Clay, and Hannah dressed him in his overalls for the occasion.
They were tickled pink to see how much progress he'd made since their last visit, and Clay seemed tickled to see them too.

Being a grandparent is da' bomb! 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Home will have to wait a little longer

We just left the hospital, where Baby Clay has been keeping us entertained for the past couple of hours. He was so wide-eyed and serious-looking when I read a couple of picture books to him.

One was a book about farm animals. I promised him we’d get him some chickens, maybe a goat or pony or two when he gets a little bigger.

 It’s fun to watch him slowly awaken from a state of drowsiness, when he’s yawning and can barely focus those big eyes, to a state of alert awareness, when we’ve got his rapt attention. 

I wonder what he’s thinking as he studies our faces and listens intently to the razz-berries we make with lips and tongue, the clicks and other nonsensical sounds. 

No doubt he thinks his Nana is strange, but I swear he’d be cooing back at me if it weren’t for the trach.

The home ventilator wasn’t a very good fit for Clay last week. He got really tired on it after 24 hours or so and respiratory care ended up switching him back to the hospital vent.  Sounds like he’s going to have to grow a little more before he’s ready for the home vent, which just isn’t as technologically advanced as the one he’s been on.

Just looking at him, Clay looks so good, so healthy, that it’s hard to imagine his lungs could be very underdeveloped at all. 

Maybe he won’t be coming home right away, but hopefully it won’t be long. In the meantime, he’ll continue to charm everyone with those cute dimples—and we’ll be thankful for every single minute we get to spend with him.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Corn pone" makes me happy!


...on not-quite wordless Wednesday...

      ....just because it makes me happy when my cornbread turns out nice and golden...

...(which is pretty much all the time, heh-heh)...

         ...(We will not, however, discuss my unpredictable gravy)...


 Check out this crust...

...ideal for smearing with butter...

and great for making cornbread salad if you have leftovers...
which I did, so you can guess what I had for supper. 

Yep, Cornbread Salad. 

Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (bottled or prepared from packet)
a good-sized chunk of cornbread, crumbled
canned pinto or kidney beans
canned whole kernel sweet corn (or not)
canned sliced black olives
red onion, chopped
green onions, sliced
tomatoes, chopped
shredded Cheddar cheese,
bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
or chopped ham will work...this is a good clean-out the fridge dish. 
I like to sub a small chopped dill pickle, too, if perchance I don't have black olives.  
Crumble the cornbread and sprinkle half of it in the bottom of a glass bowl. Pour enough dressing over the cornbread to cover it.
Drain all the canned vegetables, and layer over cornbread with dressing. Add onions, tomatoes, then cheese and bacon. 
Add another layer of crumbled cornbread, dressing, and other toppings. Finish with cheese and bacon. 

Dig in and enjoy!  Yeeeee-haw!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Less is more, when it comes to material things

Our youngest daughter, a student at Berea College, is reading a book titled Affluenza, by De Graaf, Wann and Naylor, for a consumer decision-making class.  

I read a few pages of the book a couple of weeks ago, and it’s got me to thinking about our society and how we think we have to have so much to live. 

But we don’t.  We really don’t. 

My family usually takes a camping trip or two every year when the weather’s warm.  We have a pop-up tent that sleeps six people.  If we need it, we’ll take another tent, the kind you pitch on the ground.

It seems we take a lot of stuff with us, but we usually get everything we need in the camper and a pickup truck. 

We take bedding, coolers, clothing and shoes, and a few books and games.  We take lanterns and personal hygiene products.  We take our bicycles. We take camp chairs to sit in outside. 

Whenever we camp, I’m always struck by how little we actually need to get by…and by how little it takes to be happy.  Some of the best memories we’ve ever made with our kids (and their friends) have been made during camping trips.

 If we had a way to do laundry, all we’d have to do is restock our food supply every now and then and we could get by indefinitely. 

 We always choose sites without electricity and we don’t even miss that much, at least not on long summer evenings.

We do choose a campground with restrooms and showers.

I have no desire to camp year-round because of the limited space, but I do find myself thinking more about paring life back as opposed to accumulating more things. 

Stuff has to be managed and has to be cleaned every now and then.  Yuck.  I can think of other things I’d rather do.  Like take a hike.    

Whereas some dream of moving closer to “civilization,” buying a bigger nicer home, a newer car, etc.;  I dream of moving further “back in the holler,” of getting off the grid, of becoming more self-sufficient.  

The thing to consider when we’re buying “stuff” is whether our life is really worth trading for all the “things” we think we need. 

I believe there are more worthwhile ways to spend our days. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

More (premature) signs of spring...

Strong storms blew through the area last night and the rain poured down...again. 

Today has been positively balmy.  I didn’t even need a jacket as I took a walk—it was 60 degrees! 

I spotted a couple of crocuses blooming in our yard. The forysythias are budding.  So is my azalea, some daffodils, and the bridal wreath bush is already blooming…again!  I saw blooms on it three weeks ago.

We had cauliflower and Brussels sprouts from the garden for supper. 

This is just weird. I’m not complaining about the weather—I kind of like it. But this is January, for Pete’s sake! 

It makes me nervous.  I’m just afraid January will decide to make a late appearance in April.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I joined a blog hop, and I like it.

It’s fun to scroll through random blogs and find new favorites, but landing on a favorite and finding a collection of blogs featuring similar interests all linked in one convenient spot is like winning the lottery. (I guess.)  

I love Mary Jane’s Farm website, and I enjoy reading the farm girl blogs featured there—among them: suburban farm girl, mountain farm girl, beach farm girl, to name a few. 

I found the blog hop on the beach farm girl’s other blog—“Deborah Jean at Dandelion House.”  There I also found an invitation to join… so I did.

Reading about gardening, preserving food, decorating, sustainable living, etc. is even more interesting when the writers live in locations ranging from Massachusetts to Wyoming. 

Now I’ve gone blog wild, I tell ya. I invite you to check out the links on the side of my page for lots of good reading. I’ll bet you’ll find yourself in blog heaven too.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My to-do list on this gray Saturday afternoon...

1)      Go to the kitchen pantry and take stock of contents.  Ditto, the refrigerator. 

2)      Scribble “potato chips and “something chocolate” onto grocery list below “eggs” and “bread.” 

3)      Sort mail and be thankful that income tax deadline isn’t until April 15.

4)      Watch the cat nap on the couch.

5)      Take a cat nap myself.

6)      Consider going to the grocery.  No hurry, though—it’s open until 10:00 tonight. 

7)      Wander into the kitchen and see if any deliveries have been made to the pantry.  No sign yet of chocolate or chips. 

8)      Address a birthday card that is approximately 22 days late. 

9)      Think about taking it to the mailbox…nah, the wind is raw, and the ground is muddy. 

10)   Stick head in pantry and search harder for chocolate.  Taste bitter disappointment. 

11)   Gather shoes and coat.  Note that it looks cold outside. 

12)   Sit back down.  Maybe it will warm-up now that the sun is going down.  (I assume.)  

13)   The cat is napping again.

14)   Zzzzzzzzz………

15)   I wonder what’s in the pantry?

Friday, January 20, 2012

This chocolate dessert is sinfully rich, yet sweetly simple

Lest I mislead anyone about the extent of my virtuous eating habits with my earlier post on meatless Monday, I’ll share a recipe revealing the decadent side of my life.  

Picture a moist slice of chocolate cake smothered in a generous helping of warm homemade chocolate pudding. 

Imagine the whole mess covered in whipped cream, maybe even topped with a few toasted pecans...a handful of toasted coconut…a chopped toffee bar…a drizzle of caramel sauce… 

None of those fancy-shmancy toppings are necessary, though, to make this simple dessert taste good.

 Here’s a recipe for plain old unadorned “Chocolate Pudding Cake,” and it’s easy to make!

Chocolate Pudding Cake

¾ cup sugar, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 Tbsp. cocoa, 2 tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp. salt,

 ½ cup milk, 3 Tbsp. melted margarine, 1 tsp. vanilla


½ cup sugar, ½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup cocoa, 1 ½ cups water

Sift sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together into a 9-inch square pan.  Stir in milk, butter and vanilla; spread evenly in pan.  Combine ½ cup sugar, ½ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup cocoa and sprinkle over batter.  Pour water over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. 

Spoon yourself a generous serving and top with whipped cream, chopped nuts, toasted coconut…

or not—but enjoy! 


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Summer recall

 The breeze a sigh,

 as Creation catches a breath

 on a busy day. 

 Like me

 on the front porch,

 feet propped on a peeling post,

 body slouched into a worn wooden rocker. 

My eyes trace familiar swells

 of hill and valley,

 seek movement behind dips in the earth. 

 Turkey, deer, and cattle—spotted

 as they search

 the fragrant sod.

My thoughts, free

to wander

as my gaze…


here nor there,

to scan pillows of white

and sheets of blue,

to follow a wild goose

in honking flight. 

Such joys, this living…

gentle as  

my breath in unison

with breezes

that lift

green leaves on trees

and play with strands of my hair.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Playing the waiting game...still!

Our little grandson Clay’s home ventilator was supposed to come in last week, but as of now, we’re still waiting. It’s been about three weeks now, and the company keeps saying “tomorrow.”

 I think they’ve hem-hawed themselves out of a client.  The doctor said they’re fired! 

It seems to me that we have a choice here.  We could fret about the incompetence of the health care system in this situation, or we could trust that things are working out for the best. 

Despite some frustrations, there are definitely positive things happening.  Clay is now 12 weeks old and is becoming more sociable all the time.  He has the cutest dimpled smile. 

The doctor ordered a MRI on Clay’s brain last week.  She was concerned that he might have scarring after being on ECMO for eight days during those first few weeks of his life.  The test revealed there was none.  There was some swelling around the brain, but the doctor said that isn’t uncommon in infants who have been so sick.  She thinks that will decrease as he gets older and stronger. 

Another echocardiogram was also done last week to check the condition of Clay’s heart--the aortic arch, in particular.

The cardiologist was so happy with the results of the test that he determined Clay no longer needs medication for pulmonary hypertension.  That is HUGE for a CDH baby.  Pulmonary hypertension is one of the greatest dangers to them.  We are so thankful for this wonderful news! 

The oral pathologists are having some really encouraging sessions with Clay as well, as they continue to work to push back his gag reflex.  A swallow test is in the very near future.  We are hopeful that he will quickly learn to breathe and swallow all at the same time, something that nearly all of us do without the least bit of conscious thought.  It would be great if Clay didn’t need that feeding tube by the time he comes home. 

Since before Clay’s birth, we’ve sought out blogs and websites about others who’ve had the CDH experience.  We’ve read some incredible stories of babies who’ve survived surgeries, reherniations, infections and all kinds of setbacks. 

The past couple of days, I’ve seen frequent blog posts about a little guy named Killian Kayne whose family is pleading for prayers for their son who is only a couple of week old. The doctors have said there is no more that they can do.  My heart aches for these families, but I consider it a privilege, and almost a responsibility, to pray for this baby boy, just as many who didn’t know Clay prayed fervently for his healing.  Sometimes all we can do is the best we can do. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Meatless Monday meal really "hit the spot"

Still tasty after three months in the freezer!

The only thing green in my garden is a few greens, of course, and the hardiest cole weather crops. 

That’s why I’m glad I took the time to store some extra garden produce in the freezer late last summer.

The past weekend’s wintry weather left me craving veggies, so I pulled a bag of frozen corn and a bag of sliced green tomatoes from the “deep freeze” this afternoon. 

 I sautéed the corn in a little bit of butter, and oven-fried the green tomatoes.

I chunked up some white potatoes, sweet potatoes, an onion and a head of cauliflower, tossed the mixture in some olive oil, then salted and peppered it good.  I spread it all on a cookie sheet and slid it into the oven to roast at 400 degrees.

Roasted root vegetables are unbelievably sweet and good after they caramelize in the oven.

 I baked cornbread sticks along with the vegetables. 

The cornbread sticks were tasty with the meal, and even better spread with butter and homemade pear sauce as desert. 

I can’t say that I missed the meat at all. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

For this packrat, recycling eases the pain of letting go

The New Year is two weeks old already!  I’m wondering how everyone’s resolutions are coming along…have you thrown in the towel yet, or is your motivation growing by the hour as you successfully complete baby steps toward your goals? 

My motivation for certain tasks has admittedly waned, but I’m trying to reload before I tackle another pile of clutter. 

I am rather proud of myself for hauling two tall stacks of magazines to the recycling center, as well as several bags of plastic margarine and yogurt bowls that I’ve been saving because “they might come in handy some day.”

Living out in the boonies as I do, we don’t have home pick-up of recyclables.  Although it’s a couple of miles out of my way to recycle, I find I’m doing it more and more.  Why? Because it isn’t as painful to my psyche when I know things will be reused instead of simply trashed.

It bothers me to do so for several reasons.  I feel guilty for adding more plastic to the landfill.  Or I might need that plastic carton for leftovers.  Someone else might need that carton for leftovers.

But when all that stuff piles up in my cabinets and falls out in the floor every time I open a door, it becomes clear that something must be done.

I bought a laundry sorter of a thing at a yard sale a few months ago that I put beside the trashcan to hold bottles, cans, newspaper, etc.  Every week or two, I load ‘em all up and take ‘em to the recycling center.

 This packrat has found she can handle that.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

This snowy evening calls for a sweet treat

I’ve been craving “blonde” brownies for some time now, but had successfully resisted the urge to bake them--until tonight.  With snow falling, a good book calling my name, and no place else I needed to be, I caved. 

These brownies are a family favorite and are ridiculously easy to bake.  They require just a few basic ingredients, then you can dress them up with chocolate chips or dried cranberries if you want to.  I’ll bet white chocolate chips would be good in them too.

 I know a big scoop of vanilla or butter pecan ice cream is good with blonde brownies while they’re still warm. 

Here’s the very simple recipe, if case you wanna give ‘em a try…

Blonde Brownies

¾ cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp. salt, ¼ cup butter, 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 egg, 1 tsp. vanilla, ½ cup chopped nuts

Mix flour, baking powder and salt.  (I omit baking powder and salt if I’m using self-rising flour.) Set flour mixture aside.  In a saucepan, melt butter; remove from heat.  Stir in sugar until well mixed.  Beat in egg and vanilla until blended.  Stir in flour mixture, then nuts. Toss in some chocolate chips or dried cranberries, if desired.  Spread in greased 8 x8 x 2 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.   Double all ingredients to fill a 9 x 13 inch pan. 

I’ll bet you can’t sit still and eat these.

Friday, January 13, 2012

This book's curious form makes it a quick but provocative read

What really interesting book I finished today: “The Call.”

Who wrote said interesting book: Yannick Murphy

What I thought the book would be about judging from the title:  Some religious experience, perhaps a compulsion to become a minister or something. 

What the book is actually about:  A veterinarian who lives in rural New England and frequently gets calls to come and doctor some sick beast.  The vet has a wife, a son, two daughters, and two black Newfoundland dogs.   

What eventful ways the family’s lives are turned upside down: The veterinarian’s son is shot from a tree stand and goes into a coma. The vet periodically imagines that he catches glimpses of a spaceship outside in his yard. (Or does he really?)

Who the vet’s sometimes moody and impatient wife reminded me of: Myself. 

What the book made me do on more than one occasion: Laugh out loud. 

Interesting facts I learned about animals from reading this book: Alpacas can die of fright, such as might be caused from a thunderstorm.  Horses can show symptoms of rabies from eating moldy hay. 

Why I am writing this review in such an unorthodox manner:  Read the book for yourself and you will find out.   

Mysteries I will not solve for you in case you should read the book yourself: Does the boy awaken from the coma?  Do they ever figure out who shot the boy?  Is the spaceship real?  Who steps into the story to further complicate the lives of the veterinarian and his family? 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A gal's best friend

Daisy loves snow.

Brrr…yesterday was 62 degrees; this afternoon the snow’s coming down sideways—so goes Kentucky’s fickle weather. 

I really had to push myself to take a walk after supper tonight.  I’m sure people driving by must have thought, “Look at the nut case, she’s lost her mind.” 

Oh, well. 

My dogs don’t seem to mind the cold.  They stayed right with me, as they always do.  Daisy, our chocolate lab, thrives on the cold weather, which seems to make her more hyper than ever. 

 She’s always ready to show her retriever side whenever I throw a rock or stick, but the past few times we’ve gone walking, she’s taken it upon herself to carry the same big rock around the loop as she walks beside me. 

This rock is one of her own choosing, and is almost as big as her head. It must hurt her jaws to carry it for so long, but she does it anyway.  I think she’s handicapping herself to keep pace with me.  As long as she carries the rock, she stays right by my side. Without it to weigh her down, she’s all over the place.  The only way she can slow herself down is to carry that rock, and she picks it up without being asked. 

What a lesson in loyalty, patience, and acceptance—Daisy, my BFF.   

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A wordless Wednesday post...

Just because I love the exuberance of youth expressed in this photo...and because a bit of exuberance might be just what we need on a rainy Wednesday...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

After 11 weeks in NICU, a homecoming could be near

It’s hard to believe our little grandson has been in the hospital so long.  He was born with CDH on October 24, and has never been out of the NICU—well, there was that one week when he was across the hall on the PICU side while he was on ECMO. 

I’m sure the 78 days the baby  has been in the hospital probably feels like a lifetime to his parents, who’ve spent most of that time away from their home, either at the hospital or at a friend’s house who has an extra bedroom. 

Baby Clay has been doing well for some time now, but there’s been a lot of paperwork and follow-up care to arrange.  The staff has also been waiting for the home ventilator to arrive at the hospital.  It’s supposed to be there tomorrow.  Those of us who will be helping care for the baby will be trained in its use and how to troubleshoot if a problem arises. 

Although I’m excited about having little Clay finally come home, I’ll admit I’m a little nervous.  We’re not nurses by profession, but we’ll have to be for a while, until he’s well enough for us to be ordinary parents and grandparents.  We’ll just have to take each day as it comes and hope for the best!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What if the New Year began in April?


Do you ever wish that the start of the New Year came in a different season?  Springtime would be a good time to make resolutions to get fit, because the weather is warming up and all of nature is renewing itself too. 

However, I can think of a disadvantage or two to beginning a new year in spring. 

First of all, we’d have all winter to gain weight.  Without the motivation to get fit in January, most of us would still have that to do when the weather gets nice.  Then we’d be even more embarrassed to fit our pasty legs into shorts. 

Secondly, who wants to clean and organize when it gets warm outside?  I suppose lots of people still spring clean, but I want to have mine done by then, so I can focus on planting the garden or taking wildflower walks. 

 I think I’ll stick with January as the best time to start a new year.  It helps us stay focused while the dark evenings of winter drag on.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday afternoon, a “souper time”

This afternoon, after filling out the FAFSA for the seventh consecutive year, I coerced Chelsea and her boyfriend Taylor into helping me chop vegetables for a winter soup.  Because I’m still harvesting plenty of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage from the garden, I made a soup I’ll call “Creamy Winter Vegetable Soup.” 

I didn’t use a recipe, but I based it on the concept of a cream of broccoli soup.

We chopped a half dozen potatoes, a large onion, a head of broccoli, a head of cauliflower, a head of cabbage, 3 stalks of celery, a couple of carrots and a turnip and dumped it all into a large stock pot.

Does this sound like peasant food or what? But I love good honest grub like this.

 I seasoned the veggies with a couple or three tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of butter, some salt and pepper, some Mrs. Dash, some seasoned salt and plenty of pepper, all to taste. 

I barely covered the vegetables with about a quart of water, then boiled them until soft. Lots of good vegetable-y flavored water cooked out of the veggies, creating a flavorful broth. The thing that really gave our soup a creamy richness, though, is the block of cream cheese I sneaked in toward the end. I used the reduced fat kind because it’s what I had on hand.  Besides, it’s softer and melts more quickly.

This concoction made a big pot of soup, and I thought I’d have plenty to send back to campus with Chelsea, but everyone liked it so much that there isn’t much left.   

Our baby girl is back off to college tomorrow.  *Sniff*

I’m sure going to miss having her around.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Who fast-forwarded the calendar?

I can hardly believe that only a week of the New Year has passed.  It just doesn’t feel like January around here!  With another day around 60, I’m considering where I can sow a lettuce bed or two. 

This week has been a pretty productive week… I have yet to abandon any of the new “beginnings” that I started last weekend—which still seems like a long time ago!

I’m sure winter will be back with a vengeance, and my daydreams of green growing things will soon be iced over.  Until then, I’m enjoying this unseasonable break from winter…what a night for viewing the almost-full moon! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

"It's beginning to look a lot like 'Old Christmas'"...NOT!

Actually, the temperature is expected to rise to 60 today.  My pansies are still blooming, even my primroses are beginning to bloom, and the daffodils must really be getting their hopes up that winter is about over, because they are standing several inches high. 

Today looks and feels nothing like we imagine an Appalachian Christmas should, but January 6 is the day many hardy pioneers once celebrated Christmas.

I have been known to leave my Christmas tree up until January 6, but that was just an excuse for procrastinating. 

Old Christmas is celebrated on the 6th because of the switch from a lunar calendar to a solar calendar back in the day of Julius Caesar. The length of the solar day was overestimated by 11 minutes or so; by the 1500’s, the calendar was several days ahead of schedule.

The Pope of the day decided to delete that extra time, but the British refused to cooperate.  Some were still holding onto their extra days when they “crossed the waters” to settle America. 

To this day, you can still find people in these hills and hollers who know what old Christmas is, or was.  Some say it coincides with the Epiphany, when Christ was revealed to the Magi. They say the animals kneel at midnight on the fifth, others say they moo and low, their way of paying homage to a newborn king.

However the tradition is interpreted, the truth is that today looks and feels more like St. Paddy’s Day here in Kentucky.

Pea-plantin’ day isn’t until Valentine’s Day, but I’m tempted to get a head start…kind of like the Pope, I’m ready to disregard a few days on the calendar. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Just a short post from one tired lady...

Just a short post from one tired lady…

This will be a short post…I’m about pooped from moving furniture.  We bought a new couch and rearranged an office area, so we uncovered a lot of dusty corners.  My back isn’t quite as strong as it once was, either—I may have to call for help to get out of bed in the morning. 

Today’s prompt asks what is the hardest part about a beginning.  I’ll point out the obvious, and say the hardest part of a beginning is getting started.

When a task seems overwhelming, I try to keep in mind that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

My thousand mile journey, by the way, is progressing nicely.  Although this morning was cold, the sun was out bright and the air quickly warmed up…just right for a nice three mile walk. 

Apparently we are stuck in a “La Nina” weather pattern here in Kentucky, because it’s been unseasonably warm most of January and December. 

My daffodils have already made their way up through the ground and are standing three or four inches tall. I’ve seen a few spring-blooming shrubs in bud, too. 

I’m not complaining about this warm weather, but I’d sure hate to see the bloom cycle messed up. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Season of "beginnings" includes Kingsolver's bestseller

I actually began this “beginning” a few days before the New Year.  

I had wanted to read Barbara Kingsolver’s bestseller, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” for a long time.  One of my sweet daughters bought it for me for Christmas, so I started it a few days later.   

I’m hopeful that I will eventually finish the book, which is beautifully written, but I’m notorious for starting books and not finishing them.

 “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” chronicles Kingsolver’s family’s quest to grow or buy local food as much as possible.  They began this experiment after moving from Arizona back to her home state of Kentucky. 

They learned that to eat local, one has to learn to eat in season.  When they discovered how tasty foods are when eaten fresh, the Kingsolver’s realized they wouldn’t be as deprived as they first thought they would be when they began their new eating plan.  

Her eloquent essay about asparagus stirred my appetite for the spring perennial that has become one of my favorites.

Although I’ve always participated in growing some of my own food, we never tried raising asparagus when I was a kid. I later tried canned asparagus and found it slimy and unappetizing…then I bought some fresh asparagus from a big box store and thought it tasted pretty good. 

A few years after we planted our own asparagus crowns, I finally got to taste it fresh from the patch.  That’s when I truly became a fan of the tasty spears.  Heck, even my husband likes asparagus, so it must be good! 

 Although it’s 20-something degrees outside, I’m dreaming of fresh asparagus roasted in a bit of olive oil.  Winter may be bearable yet. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This New Year tradition comes in the mailbox

One of my favorite traditions of the New Year is receiving seed catalogs in the mail. This is not a tradition I purposefully create, but one that I look forward to anyway. 

The catalogs usually start to arrive on the first or second day of January—we got one today, as a matter of fact, late because of the holiday, I’ll bet.  

Does anyone else have those days when the cold is just…aggravating?  When you’d just like to be done with it already? Today was one of those for me. 

However, when I came home and opened the mailbox…ahhh,…I could feel the thaw begin as my hungry eyes took in bright pictures of blueberries, strawberries, shiny apples and bunches of flowers. 

That’s just what I needed to get me through a few more days of winter. 

Only four more months to go...                           

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cold weather in Kentucky still means fresh meat for some families

My resolve has already been tested by one of my New Year’s resolutions. 

When I decided I’d begin a thousand mile journey (by walking the 1/3 mile loop around and around our yard and gardens), it was approximately 60 degrees outside.  The sun must have been shining.  

Today the wind is absolutely raw and cut right through my clothes.   Snow flurries are flying too.  This is our best taste of winter this season.

 By the way, the snow pictures I posted yesterday are from last year—I think I neglected to mention that. 

Anyway, I completed my prescribed walk and am currently appreciating the warm hum of the heater as I think about starting supper. 

We are having fresh sausage for supper tonight, a gift from my brother who had a hog butchered this weekend.   I’m debating whether or not to make homemade biscuits to go with it.  Maybe I’ll make gravy too.  (I know, that doesn’t sound like a menu for weight loss.) 

This cold spell makes for ideal hog-killing weather!  That sounds kind of gross when we’re accustomed to purchasing pretty packages of pink tenderloin from the grocery and never considering that it once covered the bones of a living, breathing animal. 

A couple of generations ago, however, nearly everyone in the rural areas of Kentucky kept a fattening hog or two to butcher and eat during the winter. Folks waited until it was cold to do so, to take advantage of nature’s refrigeration. 

When I was growing up, my brothers and sister and I were involved in nearly every part of the process of “working up” the hog meat.  We cut long strips of fat into cubes for rendering into lard.  We ground sausage.  We packaged pork chops and tenderloins.  We watched our dad salt down hams and shoulders and big slabs of “side meat” or bacon. 

We raised our own hogs too, so oftentimes the meat we worked up was that of animals we’d been feeding their whole life.
I'll spare you the pictures on this post. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I'm buzzed about beginnings

This is what a fresh start looks like to me.

I’ve decided to attempt another month of consecutive daily blog posts as I did in November.

December I barely posted at all, because of Christmas preparations, spending a lot of time at the hospital and catching up from November, when our lives were really crazy. 

January’s blog theme is “Beginnings.”  I love the newness, the potential of a New Year.  If we really focus, it’s a great time to be productive and recuperate from the holidays. 

I always make resolutions.  Although I rarely keep them perfectly, I can’t imagine not setting any new personal goals for myself.  That would be like deciding not to get out of bed in the morning.   

I’m beginning a few new projects this month.  One is daily posting on my blog, another is a journey of 1000 miles (I plan to walk 19.23076923076923 miles per week to complete my “journey.”  That averages out to approximately 2.75 miles per day.) I’m also beginning an in-depth study of the book of Psalms, and I plan to paint my bathroom.

 Last but not least, I intend to shower lots of love and affection on little Clay, who is scheduled to come home from the hospital in a week or two.  He’s doing great—and getting cuter by the day! 

I’d love to hear from some of my readers—what are your new goals for the year? 
 I'm also looking forward to this season's first snowfall. 
 So is Daisy.
 We've had barely a flurry, so far. 
 I think these look like giant frosted shredded wheat biscuits. 

Frost on top of a snow = exquisite.