Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31, 2013

Here we are at the end of 2013 already.  As I'm writing this post Carl is channel surfing, going from one station to another as cities prepare to drop the New Year's Ball to welcome in 2014.  But before the new year arrives, here's what's been going on around here since the last time I posted in November.

It's been cold, below zero for the last few days.  I didn't do much outside decorating this year, mostly because the weather caught me off guard.  Normally I'd have the gazebo trimmed and lights on random shrubbery but with running to the doctor earlier in the month and not quite firing on all my cylinders yet, I decided to cut myself some slack.  I did put one red bow on the light pole as a token decoration, though.  I look at it this way, now I don't have to go through all the work of taking stuff down in January.
We do have snow this winter, and lots of it.  My cross-country skis are back in action again, but I guess it's time to get some new boots as my current ones are over ten years old and starting to show their age.
I spend as much time outside as possible, usually skiing for an hour or more a day.  This is my favorite time of year in the garden and the farm; I can goof off now for a few months and just enjoy the scenery.
I managed to get the trees wrapped against rabbit damage just before the snow started to pile up.  It's a good thing I did, because there are rabbit tracks all over the yard.  And a few random deer have been strolling around too, along with flocks of turkeys.
I've been feeling much better since the last doctor's appointment.  I think I have a good practitioner now.  He seems to have a handle on my thyroid disease and for that, I am thankful.  His office is over an hour away, but he's easy to reach and will do consultations over the phone.  I've had another med change a week ago and things are looking up.
Though I didn't do any outside decorations, I did put up a Christmas tree, even though I didn't get to it until about two weeks ago.  For the last ten years or so, we've been cutting a tree from our property but this year, there wasn't one that particularly stuck out as a good candidate.  I was skiing through the back yard and noticed a branch on one of our big spruce trees.  Hmmmm, could a branch work as a tree?  I went back out with a saw and hauled it in.
You can see the cut I made in the middle of the picture near the bottom.  The branch was over six feet tall and when we plunked it in the tree stand and did some creative straightening out of the trunk, it didn't look too awful.
Just as long as you don't look at the back side of the branch, that is.  It's a very flat tree.

Carl helped me with cutting out and decorating Christmas cookies, which I hate to admit are all gone now.  They were delicious, though.
We had a very nice Christmas with both of our sons coming home with their girlfriends and Grandma Lucille and Ann, too.  We played Sheepshead and had a great time.

 So, here it is, New Year's Eve once again.  I've been feeling rather melancholy lately, but not for any particular reason I can put a finger on.  Sometimes the holidays can be overwhelming, you know what I mean?  But I do remember I have so much to be thankful for and many things to look forward to. 

Every once in awhile I feel like I'm snowed under.
Look, it's a Snow Cone.

2013 was a good year for the most part, even with all the doctor shenanigans.  But I'm looking forward to 2014 and am hopeful things will continue to improve.

Happy New Year!
All the best in 2014!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Burning Calories?

I wasn't going to post this morning, but something just happened that is almost unbelievable.  (No, I didn't get the house cleaned before Thanksgiving, THAT would be unbelievable.)

For the last two years you may remember I've been trying to keep fit by walking with Ms. Leslie Sansone, no news there, and also attending the senior exercise class at our church twice a week.  I went to the early class this morning which is unusual for me, but necessary, since we won't have class on Thanksgiving Day. We had a very vigorous three mile workout at class this morning and I was really sweating after it was over.

After class, I took my friend Mary to the grocery store.  Mary is an amazing lady, 69 years old and a very avid walker.  She already had seven miles on her pedometer by nine thirty this morning.  She doesn't own a car, so whenever I'm in town we go to the grocery store together so she doesn't have to carry her purchases home.   Mary said she'd see me on Monday, and I said yeah, we were going to really need exercise class by then, after eating all weekend.  We'd have to burn some more calories for sure. 

When I got home from exercise class I jumped on the freight scale in the garage to see how my weight loss progress is going.  Nothing much new to report there either, I'm holding steady on the maintenance of the forty pounds I've lost so far.   Another forty pounds lost would be ideal, but it sure seems far off.  Maybe once this thyroid gets straightened out I'll be able to lose some more.   Especially if I get back into my formal weight lifting again.  I've got a perfectly good weight machine upstairs sitting there all neglected since I quit lifting when the thyroid went bonkers.  I'm going to have to ease back into that routine.

I went in the house with the groceries I figure I'll need for Thanksgiving and stowed them away.  We're having Thanksgiving on Friday with our family and I should be getting things ready, but hey, you know me, Procrastinator Extraordinaire.  I was still tired from exercise class, so I grabbed a glass of water and headed for my chair in the living room and turned on my laptop.  The sun was shining brightly through the big bay window and it felt good to take a load off for awhile. 

 I frequent weight loss and fitness forums quite a bit and found a different online calculator for estimating body fat percentages through several key measurements.  I hoisted my behind out of my Lazy Boy and went in search of the tape measure in the bathroom.  After much scrounging around, I finally found it under a magnifying mirror in the drawer.  For some odd reason, I brought the mirror along with me back to the living room; I don't know why, chalk it up to my absentmindedness.  I set the mirror down on the floor and went to work measuring my various body dimensions and entering the results on the calculator.

Waist, thigh, hip, wrist, forearm, and calf measurements were required and I was busily entering all the data when I felt something bite me on my left leg just above the ankle.  Since this is November, it's not really bug season any more, so I was baffled, but Ouch! it hurt.  I swatted my leg and rubbed it a little, but kept my eye on the computer screen as I had just hit enter and was waiting for the website to tell me what my body fat percentage was. 

Finally the number popped up.  Really?  Still 27.5% body fat?  Oh, drat.  Gosh, I was steamed.

And that's when I smelled something burning.  I looked away from the computer screen and was stunned to see smoke rising from my workout pants....What the heck?  Am I on fire?

Yes, I was.

It turns out I had put the magnifying mirror down on the floor and the sunlight coming in through the living room window reflected onto my workout pants and boy howdy, I was smokin'.    I swatted my pants some more, putting out the fire, and quickly turned the mirror out of the sunlight. Actually, it's a good thing I did have to wait for the website to load, because otherwise I might have left the living room and set the chair on fire instead. My polyester workout pants now have a dime-sized hole in the leg.  Extra ventilation, I guess.

Even though it's taken me an hour to write this post, I'm still stunned by the ease at which I spontaneously combusted.

Leslie always says we're burning lots and lots of calories even after we're done working out.  I will never, ever question that statement again. 

She is absolutely right.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Mother's Paintings

As part of the ongoing repair and repaint program constantly going on around here, my 93 year old mother, Lucille, has been indispensable.  In fact, she is the CEO of Painting & Decoration at Quarry Garden.

Our garden gate
I know I've posted about our old wooden garden gate before, but in case you don't recall, we found the picket fence section in a landfill years ago and Carl put the hinges on it for me, turning into a gate.  I then enlisted my mother's help and artistic talents into transforming it into a thing of beauty.  Since the weather is hard on the paintings, Mom has always done restoration work whenever I ask.

 All last winter Mom was hard at work repainting the gate.  She used pictures out of magazines as models for her art work of the birds and butterflies.  

Now I have to repaint the post and railing.
Once Mom had the gate done, she was rather sad.  It was around January when she finished and she was restless.  A few years ago, Mom painted one of our rain barrels for us and it was very pretty, so I asked her if she'd like to paint two more.

The first rain barrel painted four years ago.  Mom says it needs work.
 She was a little anxious about the assignment because she didn't know what I wanted on two more big fifty gallon drums, but I told her to go with her heart and anything she painted would be perfect.

Little did I know how seriously Mom would take this assignment; she worked on those two rain barrels for months.  She knew she had a deadline, the August tenth garden walk and booyah party, and kept telling me she didn't think she'd be done.  She kept painting over her previous work and changing and adding things.

Since things were extremely  hectic here and we were working on getting the gardens ready, I really didn't take the time to check out Mom's painting progress.   The day of  the walk, she said Joel could come and pick up the barrels.

 I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the end result:

I was so pleased.  She had two ducks floating on a pond with spruce trees and butterflies in the background.
An oak tree in fall colors with birds on the other side.
There are fish swimming on the bottom of the lake.
 More colorful flowers on the top of the first rain barrel.

Here's the second barrel:
She found a picture of a dog named Molly in the newspaper and recreated it here.

Mom said 'Molly' belonged to a person in a nearby city and they had won an award for the photo of their dog.  I think Mom should win an award for her painting.

When I saw the work she had done on these barrels, I was completely stunned.  Look at how much time and attention she put into these paintings and I'm going to let them sit outside?  I felt sad about this.   She sat on her kitchen floor painting the lower sections of the barrels, can you imagine?   I would find that hard to do at my age, and I'm almost forty years younger than my mother.

As I went around the barrel, I saw more details....look at the big white rooster on the bottom, below the butterflies and flowers.

More trees, and what's that?  

Hickety Pickety, my black hen.  Looks just like our Girls.  Mom teased that this hen laid that Golden Egg.

And above the hen, a curious dog peers over the garden gate.  Another painting from a photograph in a magazine.

I was already teary eyed when I looked at all the work she had been doing, until I turned the barrel around and saw the painting above.  This is my mother's rendition of an aerial photograph of our family farm taken in 1964.  I was amazed at the detail she was able to reproduce.  And my tears were falling openly now.  I'd been overly focused on getting the gardens ready while my health was going downhill at the same time and I hadn't paid attention to Mom's project.

 The farmhouse as it looked back then, with my mother's ever present flower beds.

The barn, silos, cowyard, corn crib and machine shed.

 Mom would argue that her artwork is nothing special and I shouldn't make a fuss over it, but I beg to disagree with her.  I told her I'm afraid to use the rain barrels because I don't want to take a chance on her paintings being ruined.  She wasn't concerned, but I am.  I should have looked into getting her something besides acrylic paint because I'm not sure how well the paint will stay on the plastic barrels over time.  The barrels are safely tucked in the garage for the winter, but I do wish I'd thought ahead.

Joel put Mom's rain barrels on display in Castle Aaargh for the garden walks and booyah party and I made sure to tell everyone it was her artwork.  I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of these barrels and what her work means to me.

After the party was over, Mom was at loose ends again.  No more paintings to do.  She said she missed the challenge.   Her 93rd birthday was August 21, and I went and bought her three blank artist canvases and some fancy paints and brushes.  When she opened the presents, she seemed confused since the canvases were blank.  

For years we've been buying her paint by number kits and she loves to work on them, but I told her the art she drew on those barrels was priceless to me.  I asked her to reproduce the farm painting on one of those canvases.  I told her I want to frame it and keep it forever.  She looked at me rather quizzically and shook her head uncertainly.  

"You want me to paint the farm again?  What are you going to do with it?"

"Frame it and hang it on the wall."

"Oh, c'mon, you really want that hanging on your wall?  In the house, or outside?  I'm no artist."

"Yes, I do want this hanging on my wall inside my house, and Yes, you are an artist."

"What about the other two?  What should I paint on them?"

"Anything your heart desires, Mom."  

Again, she threw me a searching glance and seemed embarrassed, but yet pleased.

Since August, Mom's been hard at work reproducing the aerial farm view for me.   I've had a glimpse of her progress and it's very good.  I can't wait to bring it home.  Every time if I ask if it's ready, she tells me she has to add a few more details.  I'm thinking it will be the perfect Christmas present for me.

And I also can't wait to see what she paints on the other two canvases.  I'm going to buy her some more blank ones for Christmas this year. She's going to be one busy Artist.

Her paintings will always be cherished.