Friday, April 12, 2013

A Whole Bunch of Catching Up...

I've been going to write this blog post for a while, but things keep getting in the way. Besides writing and editing, my health has been kind of out of whack lately, and I haven't quite pinned it down. All kinds of crazy symptoms with fatigue, insomnia, trembling, racing heart, and being out of breath. I had to change my diet completely and start getting away from the computer more. Things seem to be coming back, albeit very slowly.

So here you have the pictures of what I've been up to the last couple of months, when I wasn't writing or trying to get enough sleep.

Back in February, we bought an old dump truck to use around the yard. It has a plow and a hitch, 4WD, and all that good stuff. Dumpy is a bit rough and needs some TLC, but it runs and should come in handy. We have mountains of topsoil and mushroom compost in the back lot that are going to build beds around the house and bring up the soil level in my garden. 

I went thrifting again! Yes I have a thing for glass or ceramic baking dishes. I have to stop here, my cabinets are stuffed.

The purple ones you don't see often. The Cornflower Blue Corning Ware is a classic. I'd love to find a lid for that.

The cabinets here on the farm have been generous, they seem to swallow everything I put inside them. Sort of like that Dr. Who Tardis. Gee I miss having cable TV!

Just before the big snowstorms hit I had gone to a couple craft stores. Call it cabin fever, because I really don't need this stuff.

I think I just needed to have something colorful to play with. The white cording is supposed to fix some chair cushions that lost their ties. 

I don't get much time for crafting anymore, writing has sort of taken over my life. That may have to change, because I need to do more with my hands than type. 

I bought a few books too. I don't do that often anymore as I have tons of them packed up, but now and then, something speaks to me. I have always loved reading. 

The romances I got because I have been thinking about expanding my writing repertoire and attempting to write a few. You should read a genre to write well, and I've read so little of this. 

The O'Brian book is because I love swashbuckling tales. When I was young and single, and supporting myself with odd jobs, I babysat a lot. One of the mothers was an aspiring writer who wrote romances with a seafaring backdrop, and her tiny living room was decorated with pictures of tall ships, naval bric-a-brac, and books galore. She was an inspiration because she talked about writing a lot. She had a big black ringback notebook filled with the book she was working on, all hand written. Never forgot that.

The cookie cookbook... well it's cookies! Does that need any further explanation? 

I could not resist this picnic basket. 

I have to fix a hinge but it is going to house my dishtowels and potholders 

The kitchen has plenty of cabinets but there are no closets in the place. I have baskets all over the kitchen now.

I grabbed the towel because it was cheap and we go through so many of them.

It is that half size, between hand towel and bath towel, that I like. With the renovations  ongoing, and everything else that happens here, towels get dirty fast. A slightly bigger towel doesn't get soggy as soon either. 

Always liked that style of spatula, even if I'm moving away from nonstick pans. I never have enough of those either, we love to cook! I have ceramic and enameled metal holders in a couple of spots in the kitchen filled with big utensils like this. It seems like the one you need is always in the dishwasher.

When I walked through the thrift shop door, there it was! A big old turkey platter!

This one is plastic just like my old one, which 25 years later is still in use on the holidays. They don't chip like ceramic or weigh as much, but they will hold over a 25 lb turkey with stuffing inside. We had a second one in the past, but found out the hard way that if dropped from a height they will shatter. Since we sometimes do a bird along with a roast or ham, this sure does come in handy. Takes up very little space as far as height too, they are thin but strong. That's why I nabbed it!

I finally found a casserole dish that will hold a quart bag of my home frozen veggies before they get thawed. The bags tend to be rather boxy and the veggies all freeze together in a clump so they were hard to lay out and have the cover closed.

This one is wide and flat, and so the contents can stay frozen until you cook them. It's already seen quite a bit of use and went from, "What's this for?" to "Where did you put my favorite dish?"

Sometimes you see something, and you just know it will fit in. I wonder what other family used this one, and what they cooked in it. It's been used, but gently. 

February 8th through 9th, we had a blizzard that dropped 30" of snow in my yard. The National Weather Service called it 'NEMO' but here in Connecticut, where we've been naming winter storms far longer, it was referred to as, 'Charlotte'. Well Charlotte was no lady, lemme tell ya!

That's a drift on my barn roof, with the howling wind blowing fine snow off. Blowing and drifting snow was a huge problem with this storm.

Classic Nor'easter, the winds were from the north, blowing south.

This is looking south, you can see I didn't overestimate the snow fall, and it was still coming down.

Dumpy, unfortunately, refused to start or stay running. It was a very inconvenient time to go 'Diva'!

Poor little birds, they still have to eat. Couldn't get out there to clean the feeders off for a couple days. Surprisingly, a lot of that caked stuff blew off, though the mesh feeders took a hard hit. They got to 2/3 that seed anyway, and the wet stuff got dumped into a tray by the porch. The suet was popular. 

I figure I spend less on birdseed and supplies than some women pay for hair and nail appointments. This is my winter therapy, because seeing something alive and moving out there is heartening. 

That is the big white lilac bush between the house and barn. It's a hotel for a lot of the birds who hit the feeders in the yard.

They look cold, don't they? It makes you appreciate how hard they work to survive.

Yeah the icicles were impressive, but they all fell off over the next couple of days. Most of the snow blew off the roof the following morning. 

It snowed all day. Cleanup efforts were futile. The state shut down the highways to regular traffic. We were lucky and never lost power.

Yeah, another bird feeder picture. That green feeder is close to 20 years old, and it was one of several I had at my other house. These used to have a wire spring mechanism and snap shut for squirrels or larger birds, but it's shot and I have to prop it open with a piece of stick. 

The big feeder has mixed seed with sunflowers, the mesh one is all sunflower seed. Those are juncos (snowbirds) underneath and a cardinal on the feeder.

Yeah, it was a winter wonderland. That sure is a lot of snow! I do feed on the porch as well, sunflower seed, suet, mixed seed, and thistle. We put a tray on the table for bread and cracker scraps, small bits of suet cakes, nuts, and wet seed.

The little table was originally the base of an old gas grill that I asked to have some plywood nailed to. It still has the wheels. I've used it at my other house for holding baskets and clothespins by the clothesline (less bending), and over here as a potting table. One of those stupid little things you find very handy, I love re-purposing items that other would just throw out.

Poor little guy, he looks so cold! We still have a few juncos with us even this month. It's been a very cold spring this year.

Winter is a great time for soups, stews, and casseroles. This one's got green beans, chicken, potatoes, lots and lots of cheese, and is topped with French's onions. Just something I threw together when the chef from the night before fell asleep before anything thawed got cooked. 

That Chantal dish is one of my favorite pieces, it is huge and everything in it cooks so well. Not thrifted but I got it at T.J Maxx for $12.95, a third of what it normally sells for. Yeah, I love me a good bargain much! 

Lemme tell you about this little angel...

We go thrifting maybe once every 3-6 weeks, if and when I can afford it. In February, after the big storm, I had major cabin fever and needed an outing. I saw this little gal there. I figured she would fit in nicely in one wall space I have between kitchen and dining room. But I didn't like her price, because she is a little banged up. So I passed.

She haunted me all the way home and every time I looked at that spot on the wall. This is a shop where things turn over quickly. But I sent Lee out several days later with money and a description because I wanted her if she was still there.

She was still there. I have yet to put her up, I can't find the durned step stool! But she lives here now, and my home is protected by a $2.99 wooden angel. And that is good!

I love my basket collection! These came home during the cabin fever thrifting session. They are très Shabby Chic—non?

I always have some books on hand for #1 grandson Ben, not that I see him that often. He has a very busy social life for someone who will be 9 on the 16th, and lots of loving family. The harbor book might come in handy in writing.

Yeah, more kitchen stuff. The mold is going on the wall with others, the Farberware cover fits a pot I got at the same shop last year that had none, and the little prep bowl is happily nesting with two dozen other metal bowls in the cupboard. 

OK, I am a bit excessive at times...

I had several of these little baskets at the other house and used them for everything from gathering eggs to hauling a few clothespins, to picking cherry tomatoes in the garden. You can rinse stuff right in there with the hose. It was only 99¢, so that the hey...

And then someone found one of my old ones and brought that over. So now we have two of them.

I had some grandiose idea about a plant teepee when I bought these, and I guess I missed the price. I still took them anyway. They will get used somewhere and save us many dollars, and then my spendthrift ways will be vindicated!

Because you know, I needed another one of those soup mugs! We do use ours quite a bit.

The glasses are Tupperware, and very lightly used. A good size for juice, or milk for my tiny appetite mom. 

Now that spoon looked interesting and I was glad I grabbed it because...

It actually belongs to the canister below. They are reunited at last!

There is a loop on the other side of the canister that spoon fits perfectly into. I dug the spoon out of a bin of silverware and found the canister three aisles away. It smelled like coffee. I didn't realize until I got them home that they were a couple. 

That little ceramic bowl is now officially my mother's soup bowl whenever she visits. 

When I brought my goodies to the counter, the elderly lady at the register picked up the plaque and said, "You always pick the nicest things!" Do you think I go there too often?

Meet Chippy, our other acquisition this winter. 

We are very fortunate to have found people who will sell us items like this we can pay off over time. This place is full of brush as is the lot we own next door, and a chipper will make quick work of the stuff that is too small to cut up for firewood and kindling. Dumpy has the kind of hitch that allows you to tow this.

Yes, we will be very, very careful. Chippers can be quite dangerous. No long sleeves, sloppy clothing, reaching inside, children or pets nearby.

We're in mid March now, and the ice is finally off the pond. We have ducks again! 

You can still see the lingering snow, we got another fairly substantial snow storm after the big one all melted away. That happened a couple of times in fact.

He looks serene out there, that mallard drake, but I can tell you, it was COLD!

That hill behind the pond shades the area, lots of pine trees up there. The snow tends to linger.

He was eventually joined by his lady love. It's always good to see the returning wildlife. Mallards don't migrate that far, but they do need open water to feed it. They head for the shoreline where the salt water doesn't freeze over.

I was very fortunate and privileged to win a free Galaxy Zento post card featuring artwork by fellow writer Dave Wilde. Dave has got quite an imagination and he has an entire ongoing series with a pantheon of characters on his site: You also should check out his other blog: because he really is an amazing guy, and this book he wrote which I am reading and it is very good!  Dave is on FB and Google+, so you might want to friend him or put him in your circles. This is a guy well worth watching, he is an inspiration to me.

The blackbirds started returning last month, we began seeing them at the feeders. First the grackles, then the redwings, and finally the brown headed cowbirds. They've had to put up with windy, cold days, frigid nights, surprise snow storms, and miserable cold rain. They make pigs of themselves at the feeders, and squawk all day long, but they are entertaining and a sure sign the weather is turning at last. So I welcome their arrival. These are redwings down by the pond, staking out territories and singing their little hearts out. 

One final shot of the pond, as the snow is receding even further. 

It's been a long winter for me, and not always an easy one. There have been the lingering health issues, which until it recently became severe, kind of crept up and took me by surprise. And then we got into a situation where we needed big items and had to charge them, and the payments got punitive. Not serious financial trouble, but it was a setback, and time to pull in the reins. 

We have always lived frugally, and so we sat down to reevaluate what we want and need to do, and what's possible or practical. Everyone agreed, family and household comes first. 

I had been planning on attending the third annual Pulp Ark, the convention put on by my mainstay publisher right now, Pro Se Press. We usually book well in advance, but this year, things kept getting in the way. Besides Dumpy and Chipper, which were cash deals budgeted for, we put in two furnaces and ran into some snags requiring extra building materials and a snowblower. A family member is possibly facing surgery, and I have no idea what the heck is making me feel so fatigued that I can't get out of my own way. Clearly it was time to scale back.

We cancelled on Pulp Ark. About broke my heart to tell the folks in charge. But I think it was the right thing to do. The expenses are something we don't need right now, and I'm just not up to that kind of trip.

I've spent the last three years chaining myself to the computer to pump out as much fiction as I can create. Because of that, other things in my life have gone by the wayside, including my health, and now that is coming back to bite me. I love my writing, and I'm proud of what I've accomplished, but there is so much sedentary computer time that goes along with it, in self-promotion and supporting the companies that have published my work as well as the other writers I'm associated with it, that it's virtually taken over my life. Right now I am paying for those excesses of too much sitting around while I work, too many meals on the fly, and other added stress. 

My doc is warning me to get away from the computer more often and get active again or I am going to pay some stiff penalties in poor health that will go downhill rapidly. I've had to tinker with diet and push myself at times when I feel ill to get back on my feet and move around more. It's a slow process and I've had good days and bad ones, but I want my health back. Until I started getting up and getting moving, I never noticed just how crappy I was feeling.


4-12-2013 update

As an addendum to what I wrote last night, I have news.

I felt so awful this morning, I called the doc's office and they insisted I come in. We did all sorts of interviewing and testing there, including an EKG, and other than my blood pressure being elevated, nothing conclusive came of it. They sent me to the local hospital for a lab panel and CT scan, and found nothing at all amiss other than a few crushed lung sacs. No blood clots or pulmonary embolism, no pneumonia, my white cell count was normal, my non-fasting blood sugar was excellent... We're mystified as to why I have episodes of racing heart, shortness of breath, and shakiness. I do have a followup appointment in a week where we will discuss what to do next. In the meantime, at least I know I don't have a ticking time bomb in my chest. 

Knowing what I don't have is a relief! Now we have to figure out what is going on, treat it, and I can get on with my life. I have stories to write, and a garden to plant.

Yeah, I never give up. 


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