Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Completed: Heart (a knitting project)

Husbands are so difficult to buy for, aren't they?

Okay, maybe yours isn't, but mine kind of is. He always says he doesn't need anything (which, truth be told, he usually doesn't), and he feels uncomfortable with people giving him things. He likes tools to fix stuff around the house, but I have zero clue how to buy those (and since he doesn't exactly have a system to store things, I'm not entirely sure of what he does and doesn't have). It's rare that I find things at yard sales that I know 100% he can use, and while he likes funny t-shirts, his dresser drawers are stuffed FULL of them.

So that makes buying him stuff for Christmas (and his birthday, which is RIGHT after Christmas) a little challenging. He's a scientist, though, so all things science-related are always acceptable as a gift, which is why I knitted him strep throat. He'll get a kick out of that.

But I wanted to make him something else, too. Something that said 'I love you' but also 'I honor your inner (and outer) nerdy scientist.' Something that he could look at and know that I think he's fantastic and also my favorite geek in the whole world.

What better fits all of that than...

An anatomical heart!

No, really, an anatomical heart!

How cool is THAT??? 

I wish you could all feel it. It's got a bit of heft to it for being just yarn and fiberfill. It's about the size of my entire hand, probably fairly close to what a human heart would be (which makes it a bit weird to hold! Not that I've ever held a human heart before. A human brain, yes, thanks to a science event we went to back in Tennessee, but never a human heart). It's pretty solid, not at all squishy, and I'm ridiculously proud of it. 

Look at the valves!!! So, so cool.

Part of what my husband studies involves heart disease, so this is definitely an appropriate gift.

I used the Heart pattern from Knitty, and I knit it up in some scrap yarn I'd ordered from Knitpicks years ago to make some winter headbands for family members for Christmas. There was just enough to finish this; I probably have five or six yards left, so that was lucky.

The pattern is really well-written and easy to follow. I had to backtrack and rip a bunch of things out, but that's on me, not the pattern. As I mentioned in previous posts, I'm just kind of getting back into knitting after a years-long hiatus after having my daughter. I was never a very fancy knitter; I didn't do a ton of complicated things in the past and tended to shy away from patterns that looked too hard. That said, I had pinned this pattern years and years ago, thinking it looked pretty awesome, and then, like so many other pins, never did anything about it. And since I'm trying to change that aspect of my personality, this went on the needles after I finished with strep throat. I've got another project in the queue that will require me to learn some new knitting skills, so...eep. I'm a little nervous about that.

Knitting the heart was a little fussier than I expected, though. It's knit up on ridiculously tiny needles, and due to the shape of the heart (anyone else hearing Jackson Browne in their heads right now? Just me?), you kind of have to twist and push and move the needles around to get to the next stitch in certain spots. It made that knitting slow going and a bit painful to my fingertips. Binding off was an exercise in not screaming, at the yarn for having so little give, at the stitches for being so tiny, and at the needles for constantly stabbing into my fingers. 

So all in all, despite the challenges of sharp, finger-poking needles and tiny stitches that I felt like I needed to contort myself to get to from time to time, I'm absolutely thrilled with how this turned out. My husband is going to LOVE this. He has a collection of toys on display at his desk at work, and I'm assuming that that's where this will end up as well (since, again, they study heart-related things there). And if it does, I'll be pretty proud to have it on display- but if not, I'm happy with whatever he decides to do with it. My heart is his, after all. ;)

Are you working on anything fun?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Weekly Recap 9/17/2018

Why why WHYYYYYYYYYY is it this hot again??? Where did my nice cool temperatures go? We've got the air conditioning on again, so that means the house is all closed up. Boo.

I shouldn't complain. So many more people are suffering the effects of Hurricane Florence. The reports and pictures are just devastating. My heart goes out to everyone in its path; may your recovery be swift and your spirits be strong.

As I mentioned in my last post, technology failed me this week. My computer decided to eat the document where I keep track of my daily activities, so I'm just going to do a broad recap of what went on, using nothing but my memory (EEP!), so bear with me! It may happen that I have to send my computer in to be fixed, so if I disappear for a bit, that's where I'll be. ;)


It's been a good week on the food front here. I made Cajun pasta with white beans and kale, Samosa wraps, beans and rice, and I cooked an entire chicken in the crockpot for my husband and kids (I don't eat meat, so that was all for them). I was pretty proud of that; I had it in the crockpot with potatoes and carrots by 7 am. It cooked all day and everyone enjoyed it (especially my husband! I had leftover pasta that night. The Cajun pasta is actually better as a leftover, since it gives it time for the flavors to blend together). I also baked a batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for my son's lunches and for us to have around. They were pretty good. Not the best cookie ever, but decent.

Sunday was a kitchen day. I got our remaining cherry tomatoes in the dehydrator. I made a pan of cinnamon roll baked oatmeal for my son's breakfasts before school (next year it'll be for both kids, but my daughter doesn't go to preschool until later, so I'm more awake to actually make her something!),  I used the leftover beans and rice and Samosa filling to make wraps for my son's lunches (18 wraps are now in the freezer!), I scooped out two huge containers of kiwis I bought on huge markdown and ran them through the food processor to freeze for smoothies, I made a batch of bananadoodles for lunches and snacks, and I threw together a mushroom and tomato pizza for dinner. PHEW!


Nothing major on the cleaning front, no major projects going on there, but I *have* managed to keep the kitchen looking 100% clean for an entire week now. I've been following Flylady's 'shine your sink every night' rule. I clean the sink out, then toss the rag into the wash, and the sink has been empty at night- and clean!- all week. I'm pretty happy about that.


As I discussed in my last post, I've been trying to dress a little nicer this week. It's helped me feel not so schlumpy. My husband has complimented my clothing several times, which I've appreciated. It's been kind of fun, and I think it's something I'll keep up. Maybe not every single day, but more often.

I did it again yesterday.

Thrift store skirt, again. :)

My daughter loved the skirt. The shirt is something I wore for the first time at a dinner back in college, which my husband (who was at the time and would remain for years just a friend) attended as well. He remembered the shirt from all the way back then. I have to say, it's held up well and is in great condition for being twenty years old! Frugality at its finest right there. ;) 


It's going well. My strength is improving, which is a good thing (and it SHOULD; I do 40 minutes of exercises every night!!!). I'm definitely in less pain overall, though the area to the right of my tailbone is still kind of awful, and the muscles around my right hip still hurt all the time. It's definitely a lot better than it was, and honestly, it's still pretty weird to be able to do things like walk up stairs without having to use the railing to shove myself up. There have been times when I don't even have to use the railing at all, so I can absolutely see improvement!


I'm still working on the second gift I'm making for my husband for Christmas; that should be finished sometime this week, and I'll make a post about it when I'm done.

I do have something complimentary to say about a yarn company. Earlier this summer, I knitted a pair of mittens for my mother for Christmas using Malabrigo Rios yarn in English Rose. 

Remember these?

The yarn kept...trailing off. Stopping. Ending. Probably about ten times throughout the first mitten. It was kind of a pain, especially at the end when I had all those extra little ends flapping around. It was the first time I'd ever worked with Malabrigo yarn, and it wasn't cheap, so I emailed the company and asked if that was the norm for their yarns. Apparently it's not, and not only were they extremely apologetic, but they asked for my address to send some replacement yarn. It arrived yesterday, and I was shocked, because...

Twice as much as I was expecting!

Not only did they send a replacement for the Rios in English Rose, they included a skein of Mecha in Volcan as well. Isn't that gorgeous??? I gasped when I opened the package. What a lovely surprise!

So if you ever use Malabrigo or are considering it, not only are their yarns gorgeous, their customer service is 10/10 and exceeded my expectations. Now my only problem is trying to figure out what I'm going to make with all this gorgeousness! :)


No, no, I'm actually serious.


We're slowly getting to the end of burning what was our apple tree (*sniff*. If you're just joining me, we had to cut the tree down this summer, as it had been taken down by insects and the trunk was hollowed out in several places and wasn't healthy at all. We got zero good apples the past two years, so it was past time). So we've been slowly toasting the tree down in our fire pit. It burned for four straight days this week. I'll be glad when this is done!


It's been a week for pests around here. There was the mouse we caught in our basement (no picture; you're welcome), the disgusting bugs that crawled out of the logs from the apple tree and then sizzled on the fire, and the following:

Backyard grasshopper; aren't those markings on its back leg neat?

Hard to tell, but this was a HUGE spider at the library! Nice carpet, too.

Ladybugs love my daughter! This is the second one that landed on her this week.


This hasn't been a great week for reading; I've just been too busy doing other things. But I did finish one book from my own shelves and one from my Goodreads Want To Read list, bringing my total of books on that list down to 151. Still far too high, but I have a stack of books waiting for me to finally sit down and get busy, so now I just have to quit doing all the other things. ;)


I did manage to blast out a bit of writing this week, putting the total word count of my latest...thing...over 10,000 words. I'll write more about that sometime this week.


I managed to sneak in a little practice time here and there this week. I think I'm moving on from Angel Eyes, finally; I think I've gone as far as I can go with that piece, and next up is another Jim Brickman song, this time in conjunction with Michael W. Smith, Love of My Life. This song was played at my wedding, so it's special to me. I'm able to get through the first page with zero problems as long as I'm playing slowly, so we'll see how it goes from there.

So that's about it! This week is shaping up to be similar, with two PT appointments, a party for my son's school music department on Thursday, and my daughter's first day of her second year of preschool on Tuesday. My husband is taking the day off for that; we'll drop her off together, and then I'll have to run to PT, which starts soon after. He'll pick her up while I'm still getting my back pounded into shape and then we'll all have lunch together to celebrate her going back to school. She's SO excited; she loved being there last year and is really looking forward to going back. :)

How was your week???

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday thoughts 9//14/2018

I am extremely ready for the weekend. How ready?

Yesterday, I put the potatoes in the Instant Pot. I sat down on the chair when they had 13 minutes left to cook, 13 minutes before the Instant Pot would beep.

Then I fell asleep.

That's how ready I am.

So happy Friday, everyone! Hopefully you have a weekend full of rest, relaxation, fun, or whatever it is you need. Here's a few of the things I found interesting this week.

I will readily admit that my kitchen table regularly looks like one of the Before photos here. Heaped with papers, piled with books, covered in half-finished art projects, it looks terrible and is impossible to eat at, which makes me sad. It feels like the kitchen table should be the heart of the home, but mine is what FlyLady refers to as a 'hotspot.' It's not my hotspot, but the other people in the family absolutely dump their stuff there, and I've been making a concerted effort to keep at least the table top clean and free of the stuff, partially thanks to this article. It's not perfect (the right side still has all my husband's mail on it; I've run out of solutions for places to put that. Mail racks didn't work because he just ignores it; putting it on his desk just ensures that it'll pile up and look terrible there. If anyone has any advice on this, I'm all ears!), but it's a lot better than it used to be.

The pumpkins came from our garden. :)

Do you struggle with keeping your kitchen table clear? How have you learned to deal with this?

I hadn't ever really thought of self-care as a thing before it became a thing on the internet. I don't regularly take bubble baths (I'm not a fan of baths in general. Showers forever!), I don't do things like salon appointments or manicures (not my thing, but if it's yours, that's cool), I don't get lattes (I prefer the taste of coffee made at home) or bakery treats (I can bake them myself). I have friends who will post the things they bought while shopping as evidence of self-care, but that hasn't ever really been my thing. Self-care isn't something I've ever been great at; I've always had a hard time advocating for my own needs, and that's absolutely something I need to work on. That said, reading is a form of self-care for me, as is knitting. I didn't realize how much knitting is until lately, when I've gotten back into it. It relaxes me (despite having to rip things out when I make mistakes), and that's good for my mental health.

But it rings true to me that self-care is often about the difficult things. There's a time and place for chocolate cake or ice cream and bubble baths and that new pair of shoes, but I think there's more often a time for improving those parts of yourself that need improvement. 

I used to be messy. Really messy. It didn't bother me at all to have coats and clothing and books and papers scattered willy-nilly. It embarrassed me, but I had no idea how to go about changing into the kind of person who had a clean, less cluttered house. Until one day I decided I absolutely wanted to be that kind of person, and I set about looking for ways to become her. It's a work in progress and probably always will be, because this doesn't come naturally to me, but I've found that it benefits me in myriad ways (including being helpful for my anxiety when my home is clear of clutter and mess. That helps a LOT). This whole past summer, I've been re-organizing the house in ways that have made it much easier to keep tidy, and while it hasn't always been easy, it was absolutely an act of self-care. That was what I needed to keep my anxiety quiet(er), so I spent several months overhauling the house. 

Self-care. Caring for yourself. Sometimes it's chocolate cake and fuzzy slippers, and other times it's cleaning your laundry room and basement so that the very thought of them doesn't cause you terror anymore. :)


This spoke to me this week.

First things first: there's some religious content in the article, but if you're not religious, it can still work for you, so don't let that throw you off. 


How I dress varies, and lately, it's been a bit...schlumpy. There are reasons for that. A large part of it has been because of my back pain. It's hard to make a ton of effort to look cute when you're finding it painful to walk (although I will admit that oftentimes, long skirts are more comfortable for me when I'm in pain, for multiple reasons, not limited to the fact that the waistband of low-rise pants is where a lot of my pain is, so...yeah. Not comfy). And this week, for whatever reason, I became aware of how it was making me feel. Messy. Unattractive. Sloppy. That's not to say that I looked awful- I try not to leave the house looking a mess!- but I felt kind of gross. So when I came across this article, I went, "Huh. You know..."

With physical therapy making a huge improvement in my pain levels, I felt up to the challenge, and so, instead of throwing on my capris or khaki shorts (which, honestly, have probably seen better days and aren't all that flattering on me), I got a little fancier.

Thrift store skirt!

This was my outfit for grocery shopping. I kind of floated around all day and felt super cute and light and airy, and my husband complimented my choice of clothing, which felt pretty nice. It really did make a difference in my mood, at least that day. 10/10, would do it again.

So I did.

Thrift store skirt, yard sale shirt! I think the sandals were thrifted as well. :)

I wore this out to lunch with my mom today. And I'll pick out something else nice for tomorrow as well. Because the weather is nice, I'm feeling less pain, and it's nice to wear something that makes me feel good.

Does what you wear make a difference in how you feel? 

I liked this, for a number of reasons. Homemakers don't fit into a single box. We're old and young, child-free and leading around a gaggle of children. We love to cook and hate it (but probably still do it!), we're crafty and not, we're religious and atheist or agnostic. Homemakers come in all shapes and sizes and forms.

For some of us, it comes naturally. Some of us were raised with the skills we'd need; others of us (*waves furiously*) had to scrape together the skills from books, internet sources, videos, and studying the home lives of our friends and family. Some of us are quick learners; others of us (*raises hand again*) took...uh...some time to get there. 

I appreciate the author pointing out that so much of what we do is invisible labor, that no one notices what we do until we stop doing it. If I don't do the stuff I do all day every day, the dishes pile up, the table ends up covered in mail and art projects, my daughter's toys procreate like rabbits in every room of the house, the laundry threatens to spill out onto the road, and dinner turns into nachos every night (which isn't to say that that wouldn't be delicious, but it definitely wouldn't be healthy). This is one of the more frustrating aspects of being a homemaker, the fact that your work, the work you exhaust yourself over and cause yourself pain to do (*rubs aching back*) just doesn't look like work if you keep doing it all day, every day. Is it valuable? Yes. Does society as a whole value it? Nope, unless, again, you stop doing it and the house needs to be condemned because it's overrun with rats or the crew from Hoarders shows up. I admit that I struggle with this.

So to all the bloggers and writers, to the people who have created content that helped me understand how to better run my home, how to be a better cook, how to better organize everything so that it runs more smoothly, to all of you who have helped me to become a better homemaker, THANK YOU!!! I'm always looking to improve the way I manage things around here, so I very much appreciate it. All of you have helped me to understand that homemaking is indeed for everyone. Homemaking is for me, too. :)

So...Little bit of a computer snafu this week. Monday's weekly recap is going to look a little bit different than normal, because my computer ate the log I keep of my daily activities! I'll still have an overview of the week, with updates on a few things, and I'm going to try to get another post or two up this week, because I have a few things I'd like to talk about. 

Maybe your weekend be everything you need it to be! 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Weekly recap: 9/10/2018

Ahhhhhhh! The cooler weather is here and I'm enjoying every second of it. It'll warm up again later on this week, but only for a few days. Goodbye, summer; see you next year!

It's been a busy week around here. I'm still in physical therapy and will be for a bit, so that throws my days off some, but I'm doing my best to work around that. My daughter starts school next week, so that'll throw things off even more! She's looking forward to going back, and I'm happy that she enjoys it so much.

Let's recap the week, shall we?


Labor Day! After I got ready in the morning, I cleaned the kitchen, ran the dishwasher, then got started on a stupidly large pile of mending that I'd been meaning to get to for ages but hadn't (mostly because the basement was a mess and that's where my sewing box was, and I dreaded going down there before I cleaned it up).

All fixed!

The greenish shirt at the bottom was mine; it's a ruffled, layered shirt from a thrift store that ended up having more rips in it than sewn seams! I fixed it, checking it over several times to make sure no more seams were ripped (I wore it once, then discovered the hole and hadn't worn it since. Fixed now!). I'm kind of excited to be able to wear it now!

I also repaired these. Greatest. Slippers. EVER.

We went to my mother-in-law's for lunch and a visit, and after we came home, I took a nap, since I hadn't slept well the night before. I threw together a batch of Red Lentil Sloppy Joes for dinner, and then made eight breakfast sandwiches and a batch of chocolate chip cookies for my son's breakfasts and lunches. I finished the pile of mending that night, did my PT exercises (I've decided I'm documenting those now, as a way of keeping myself accountable), and worked on my knitted Christmas gift.


I cleaned the kitchen, ran the dishwasher, then threw the ingredients for Butternut Squash and Tomato Soup into the crockpot (the squash was roasted and frozen last year), and the ingredients for bread into the bread machine. I cleaned up the living room, baked the bread in the oven, and, after my mother arrived, I went to physical therapy. PT brought a LOT of relief from the pain I'd been feeling all weekend, and I was extremely grateful for that. I finished a library book, cleaned the kitchen, did my PT exercises, and worked on the knitted Christmas gift later on that night.


Grocery day! We hit up three different stores. Store #1 expanded their clearance section, MUCH to my delight. I came home with six boxes of whole wheat lasagna noodles and four packs of organic fruit cups, all for fifty cents a package (I don't usually buy fruit cups, so those will go in my son's lunches when we're out of fresh fruit). I was extremely pleased with these deals and will be scrutinizing this section every week from now on. I was in quite a bit of pain when we got home, unfortunately, and my daughter was in a bit of a mood and not listening to a word I said, which made our reading lesson not happen. 

During naptime, I rested and read a book from my Goodreads To Read list. I picked my son up from his late choir stuff, then went with my daughter to the library. After dinner, I did my PT exercises and worked on my knitted Christmas gift.

Reba likes to help with my exercises. Headbutt! 


Before 7 am, I had a batch of white beans in the Instant Pot. I ran the dishwasher, then cut up what amounted to four freezer bags crammed full of both red and green peppers. 

Throughout the day, I washed three loads of laundry. One load was hung to dry on racks in the basement, as it was raining out; two other loads of bedding went into the dryer (I try to use the dryer as little as possible, but bedding has to go in there- it's too heavy for the racks, and I don't have a clothesline). 

I peeled and chopped almost an entire bag of potatoes that were starting to get wrinkly, and into the Instant Pot they went. While they cooked, I sauteed two onions and a bunch of garlic. We did my daughter's Reading and Geography lessons (Cuba! She was very interested in it, as she is all the islands). She went down for a nap, aaaaaaaaand...

From 12:15 until 3:30, I made white bean gravy and pierogies. 

This is one of FIVE trays like this. Four went into the freezer.

By 3:30, my back was screaming. I neeeeeeeeeeeded to sit down, and I rushed through cleaning the kitchen so I could collapse in my chair. If you've never made homemade pierogies before, they're wonderful, but they're also a LOT of work. They're a fantastic way to use up potatoes, however, so instead of letting that bag liquefy and stink up your kitchen, give it a try sometime. ;)

I emptied and ran the dishwasher again, then took my daughter to the library, picked up my husband, dropped him off at home, picked up my son and took him to the dentist (where I read a book from my Goodreads list). At home, I cleaned the kitchen, shoved the last load of laundry into the dryer, ran the dishwasher for the third and final time for the day, and finished that book from my To Read list.

PHEW. THAT was a long day!!!


By 6:15 am, I had the bread machine going! I emptied the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen. I brought in the trays of now-frozen pierogies and tossed those in freezer bags.

Yum!!! Potato and onion pierogies :)

After returning the bagged pierogies to the freezer, I folded the laundry I hung to dry the day before, then put that and two other loads of previously folded laundry back where they belonged. My mom arrived, I baked the bread in the oven, and I was off to PT. My regular physical therapist wasn't there, so I worked with one of the other therapists, who is also super nice. I got a new exercise- I have to go down on one knee, in a proposal-style kneeling, then bring my front foot in line with my knee and balance like that for two minutes.

Once again, I wobble around like I'm drunk. Ay yi yi.

My mother and daughter and I went out for lunch, and after she left, my daughter and I did her Reading and Geography lessons (Cyprus. Fascinating country; I never knew it was as divided as it is). We visited the library again, where my daughter played and I read a book from my Goodreads To Read list.

Future architect? 

Dinner was grilled cheese and garden tomato sandwiches on homemade bread, with plums on the side. I drove my son to the school football game, came home, put my daughter to bed, showered, did my PT exercises (which take about 40 minutes to complete in their entirety, so doing them takes a good chunk out of my evening), and then had to go right back and pick my son up! Such is parent life. :) 


I cleaned the kitchen, and then it was off to my daughter's gymnastics class, where I read a book from my Goodreads list. Afterwards, we took my daughter out for ice cream like we'd been promising, and we visited a nearby bookstore. At home, I tried to nap but it didn't go so well. I did realize, however, that I had almost zero pain all day long, which was...surprisingly weird. I hadn't felt this pain-free since before I got pregnant with my daughter, so I kept noticing the absence of pain and feeling really, really strange. Not a bad strange, just in a "I don't know what to do with myself!" kind of way. I finished that Goodreads book, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, and started another Goodreads book. Before going to bed, I had an extremely painful muscle spasm in the middle of my upper back, which is odd for me, so I'm going to have to mention that to my physical therapist on Monday. Oy.

Did you know that pumpkin skins/rinds/whatever you call the orange outside of a pumpkin are edible? I had no idea, but I learned this from the book I'm currently reading. Apparently you can dry that pumpkin skin in a dehydrator, then grind it up and add it to baked goods with the flour. We now have three pumpkins from our garden, so after I cook them and scrape out the flesh, the outer parts will be going straight into my dehydrator. I'm pretty excited about being able to use so much more of the pumpkin!


I cleaned the kitchen and ran the dishwasher, then my daughter helped me make a batch of floor cleaner. I wiped down the piano, including the dusty, grungy-feeling keys.

So much better!

I unloaded, then reloaded the dishwasher, wiped down my gross stove top, made pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and guacamole, then cut up a ton of garden tomatoes to roast for tomato sauce (why why WHY do I only seem to make tomato sauce after I clean my stovetop? EVERY TIME *lolsob*). And then we all saw this little guy outside our window:

Can you even STAND how cute this little guy is???

He or she was just a baby and had zero fear of the entire family (and one of the cats) staring through the window at him/her. He/she even had the soft, fuzzy baby fur. I was a squealing mess, it was just so cute!!!

After the tomatoes went into the oven, I went out to mow the lawn, where, happily, I did NOT mow over our garden toad friend that I found while mowing near the remains of our old apple tree. He was adorable! I caught him and let him go in our tomato patch. I tried to get a picture, but he was too busy hopping away. I finished the lawn (which did NOT make my back happy at all, but fortunately Monday is a physical therapy day), then came in to ice my back.

It's nice to have company when you're hurting. <3

My sister-in-law and her son came over to visit for a bit, and after they left, I hosed my daughter down (we'd had a bonfire and we all smelled a little smoky!). I showered myself, put her to bed, then went through my PT exercises, and folded a load of laundry. 

So that was my week! I think I only managed as well as I did on Thursday because I took a Celebrex (well, the generic form that I take) the night before. I do that occasionally on days when I know I'll have a lot of physical stuff to get done and I need to be able to stay on my feet. It's rare for me to do that, but there's no way I could have made the pierogies without it. Those things take a lot of work! Have you ever made them before? I don't do it often, that's for sure!

How was your week? Any big projects going? Any good news to share?

Goodreads To Read List: 153 books (I added the new Mr. Rogers biography to my list sometime within the past few weeks. I'm only adding books that I'm desperately interested in reading, and that's one of them.)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Friday thoughts 9/7/2018

Cooler weather is here! I was finally able to open the windows yesterday and it's glorious. It rained on and off all day yesterday and I relished every second of it. Do you enjoy rainy days as much as I do?

Let's get down to the interesting things I found online this week!

*9 Hard Truths About Clutter You Need to Hear*

I had to scroll back in the blog and make sure I hadn't posted this before. Articles about clutter and mess have been following me around lately and I'm okay with that. They've gotten me to the place where I question everything I buy. "Do I really need this? What I am going to use this for? When am I going to use this? Can I use something that I already have instead?" are all questions I ask now before making a purchase. Other than some shirts for my son for Christmas, I'm struggling to think of anything I've bought in the past few months that hasn't been something I'll eat, use up, or give away. 'Everything you own is something you have to take care of' is something that has truly struck a chord with me, especially since I spend SO much of my time taking care of the belongings of my family (who have not embraced this clutter-free philosophy, unfortunately), and 'Eventually someone will have to decide what to do with every item you own' has been a theme this summer, with my mother and her siblings having to go through my grandmother's things. (Not that I expect anyone here to go through my things; they'll probably just let them sit there forever! You remember what my basement looked like, right? The one full of not-my-stuff that I finally broke down and cleaned because no one else would? Point made).

Anyway, clutter is a problem for me. Are you bothered by it as much as I am?

*This Woman's Viral Thread Notes A Never Discussed Symptom of Depression and Absolutely Everyone Needs to Read This*

Show this to everyone you know.

It was a relief to me to read this. Not to know that others struggle, but to know that I'm not alone in struggling exactly this way. While my depression is in check, my anxiety is not, and this is one of the many ways it manifests. For me, it's phone calls. I'm deeply terrified of making phone calls, especially to official things like insurance companies. I'm fine if someone calls me, but calling other places literally fills me with a dread so encompassing that it can move me to tears, and I can put something off for weeks, freaking out about it enough to cause health problems, but still completely unable to make that call.

Is that rational? No. I know that. But anxiety isn't rational, nor is depression. It's not something I can control, nor is it something I understand how to free myself from. I've found certain methods to cope, but I've never truly found a way to rid myself of it, and it's honestly pretty defeating when those close to me roll their eyes and tell me to just get over it, like trying to listen or understand isn't worth the effort. Huffy sighs and eye rolls won't erase my anxiety; it only serves to make me feel worse about something I have zero control over. And that's not fair.

If someone you love suffers from depression or anxiety, read this article. If you suffer, share it with the people you love. Maybe you'll have better luck than I have at gaining a little understanding.

*How to Unclog an Upright Vacuum Cleaner*

One of my next tasks! We have hardwood floors throughout the house and tile in the basement, but we do have a few area rugs, and the one in the kitchen is getting pretty dusty and gross because earlier this summer, I noticed my upright, bagless vacuum cleaner (which isn't very old and has barely seen any use because again, three area rugs total) was basically just spitting whatever I vacuumed up directly out the back. YUCK. So I dug up this link this week and once I get a chance, I'm going to sit down and try to figure out what's going on. Hopefully this link will help me out!

Have you ever repaired your  own vacuum cleaner?

*6 Things About Chronic Pain You Didn't Know You Knew*





Pain is exhausting. There are so many days where I reach the end of the day and it just feels like I can't move another inch, my body is so worn out. Sleep? HA! If only it were that easy. Far too often, there's just no comfortable position, and sleeping when you're in pain is like trying to fall asleep with someone constantly poking you and going, "Hey. Pay attention to me. HEY! YOU! PAY ATTENTION!"

Pain makes me crankier than I'd like, shorter than I'd like with my daughter (the exhaustion feeds into that as well). It makes me have to consider if I can tolerate certain activities before committing to them (which makes others cranky with me, as I experienced this past weekend). It makes it hard to concentrate- when you're in pain and trying to focus, it's like trying to watch a math lecture and take notes (because there will be a test!), but there's a radio blaring full-force right behind your ear. I once came home from a biology class with pages full of notes but ZERO understanding of any of the material because I'd been in so much pain throughout the class that I was sweating. (Huge thanks to Khan Academy videos for helping me to understand the Krebs cycle!) And it definitely damages my self-esteem. It's hurtful when loved ones don't get it, when they get irritated with me because of my pain. Do people with more visible medical conditions struggle with this? Do people huff and roll their eyes at cancer patients or people who have seizures? I honestly don't know. It's just exhausting to deal with others' indifference or disdain, an exhaustion I don't need because, well, pain. It's one of the reasons I push myself to get so much done so often, because I feel like NOT getting a ton of things done will just cause people to assume I'm lazy, instead of just being in pain.

If you know someone who struggles with chronic pain, a little understanding goes a long way. "What can I do for you? What do you need me to do?" goes a long way (but only if you actually follow through!). I know it's not always easy or fun to deal with someone who is hurting, but it's so, so appreciated when you make the effort.

Jeez, those were a lot of bummer articles, huh? Sorry about that! I haven't had a ton of time this week online again; physical therapy and my son's schedule break my days up in weird ways, so when I'm actually home, I'm usually racing to get everything done that I need to (and usually having to leave at least a few things out because there's just not enough time). This schedule will continue for a while, so I'm just accepting it as my new normal and carrying on. As one does. :)

Have a fantastic weekend! :)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Weekly recap: 9/3/2018

Ahoy, mateys! We're sailing towards the fall here in the US, although it's been so dreadfully hot and humid where I'm at that it feels like the dead of summer again. ICK. Give me cooler weather any day!

My days are a little off lately; so many of them are dedicated to physical therapy and its aftermath that it feels like my productivity is waaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy down. Bear with me while I'm getting repaired, and hopefully I'll be a little less creaky in a bit. ;)

Let's recap!


I cleaned the kitchen, started a load of laundry, then hung it out to dry. My daughter and I did her Reading and Geography lessons (we studied the Cook Islands; she loves islands and was both impressed and deeply upset that we couldn't go there immediately or possibly ever- plane tickets there are a little outrageous). My mom arrived, and so it was off to physical therapy with me.


This was INTENSE. A lot more intense than it was at my last place in Tennessee. BUT- we're undoing a LOT of damage here. In Tennessee, the first time I went, it was like, "Okay, my back's been bad for three months, help." And after that it was, "I'm having an acute flare, let's fix this!" Here, it's more like, "Hi, my back has been bad for four years with the past year and a half being acutely bad, but for a lot of different reasons, I couldn't get here until now...GO!" So it's going to take a bit of work, and I came out of there exhausted on this day. When I got home, I chatted with my mom for a bit, then she took off and I did dinner prep (Chipotle-style bowls with rice, taco-flavored lentils, homemade guacamole, garden tomatoes, salsa, and cheese for those in the family that wanted cheese). Afterwards, I cleaned the kitchen, read part of a book from my To Read list, then finished knitting the last part of my husband's Christmas gift.


My daughter and I gave my husband a ride to the train, and later on, we stopped by Kohl's to pick up some t-shirts for my son for Christmas (I used an old gift card). We stopped by Walmart for cat food, picked up our WINIX Air Washer from a lovely lady who was giving it away for free on a local group, and after lunch I rested for a bit. This may be a bit of a theme around here, what with physical therapy taking a lot out of me, so expect more of that. :(

For dinner, I made bean balls (you know, like meatballs...but with beans) and spaghetti, and my daughter and I did her Reading and Geography lessons (Costa Rica). We hit up the library, and I picked my son up after dinner. I finished the final bits of my husband's Christmas present that night.

Strep throat is ready for Christmas!


We gave my husband a ride to the train again (he usually walks, but it's been rainy in the mornings lately). After grocery shopping, my daughter and I visited a library in a neighboring town; they had several books from my To Read list, and my card works there. Their library is gorgeous, with windows everywhere, and it's so full of light. 

This hangs in the children's department. So cool!

And of course we had to stop to say hello to the library fish.

Hello, fish! She was especially fascinated by the plecostomus. 

For dinner, I prepared jackfruit sandwiches in the Instant Pot (I double the recipe but keep the spiciness level at about what it would be for one recipe; otherwise, it's too spicy for my daughter), along with sauteed green beans. My daughter and I did her Reading and Geography lessons- we learned about Côte d'Ivoire, and she was tickled, because we met a lovely woman who came from there at one of our grocery stores. She had a beautiful accent, and one day I got up the courage to ask where she was from and she kind of waved her hand and said, "Oh, Ivory Coast." I said, "OH! Côte d'Ivoire!" and her whole face lit up. "You know my country???" she said, and we both beamed at each other. We had a lovely conversation about French (which is the official language there), and I always looked forward to seeing her. Sadly, either she's not working there any longer or she's working a different shift. I would've liked to have told her we reached her country in our studies. 

That evening, I attended a production of the play The Humans with my son at his high school. It was a fantastic production. The Fine Arts department at my son's high school is truly phenomenal. The kids work SO hard, and every show I've been to has been amazing. Don't discount your local high schools when it comes to plays, musicals, and musical performances. It's a great night out for not a lot of money, and you're supporting all the hard work the kids have put into their shows. We had a great time. At home, I did a load of laundry (I try to keep my physical therapy pants clean and fresh!), cleaned the kitchen, and finished a library book.


I cleaned the kitchen and whipped up a small batch of soup so that my mom and daughter and I could have a nice lunch together before I had leave, and my daughter and I did her Reading and Geography lessons (Croatia). 

At physical therapy, I had to do what was probably the most difficult task I've ever had to do at a PT session: I had to sit on a large exercise ball with my eyes closed, for one minute.

That's it.

Just sit there. Eyes closed.

That doesn't sound hard, right?

It shouldn't be.

By the end of that minute, I had tears in my eyes.

I've always suspected my balance isn't what it should be when my back is bad, but I had no idea it was THAT bad. I looked like I'd downed enough whiskey to kill an elephant, I was wobbling all over the place. Frankly, it was frightening to have it not only confirmed that I'm that bad off, but that it was worse than I was expecting, and I was pretty shaken by this. I did have my physical therapist laughing, though, when I told her, "I'm going to go home and tell everyone you made me sit with my eyes closed and it was HARD and no one will believe me!" :)

This little guy likes to help me do my exercises. :)

We had Meet the Teachers night at my son's school, so I did that with him. It was after 9 pm when we got home, since we stayed for an extra session on College Planning with his choir instructor. I cleaned the kitchen, showered, and read just a little of  my book before bed.


I washed and hung a load of laundry, then practiced piano for a bit before my mother arrived so I could go to Physical Therapy.


Today was another rough day.

Not physically, although I was sore from stuff we'd done (and from my back being a jerk). At one point, when she was working on me, my PT got to something in my upper back (I'm there for lower) and went, "Wait...Oh my God. Does this hurt?" and, no surprise there, I said yes. She started feeling around for stuff and gasped a few times. Apparently, she's never seen muscles as tight as those in my upper back and neck (my entire left side is tight, but the upper back, shoulders, and neck are horrendous). "Your back is a hot mess" and "I don't know you're not feeling more pain" were two things I heard during this session. I'm definitely feeling pain, but I have a high pain tolerance, and I just try to work through it, so... It's actually nice to have outside confirmation that my back is as bad as I've felt it is, because sometimes I'm made to feel like I'm exaggerating things, so hearing things like this actually makes me feel relieved in a weird way.

To celebrate hearing that my back is awful, I took a short nap and then mowed the lawn. (OW.) I picked up my son and then went to bed early...but I was in so much pain, I barely slept all night. :(


Despite my exhaustion, I cleaned the kitchen and living room, and my husband and I took my daughter to one of those bounce house places in the mall (I just sat in the parent chairs and read my book and watched her. Bouncing would be about the worst possible thing for me right now!). She had a good time; to be honest, I was pretty miserable. I was in a LOT of pain the entire time and ended up crying in the bathroom afterwards. It wasn't a good experience for me, since even sitting can be really painful at times. At home, I napped for a little bit. There was this glorious moment when I first woke up, where for about ten seconds, there wasn't any pain...and then it hit me like a brick wall. That ten seconds was the best part of my day. :/

I started a new knitting project that night, and my husband and I watched The Glass Castle on Amazon Prime. 


Still a lot of pain but not quite as intense (although that could have been the two Tylenol PM I took the night before in a desperate attempt to get *any* sleep). I cleaned the kitchen, then cut up a ton of garden tomatoes and threw them in the oven to make sauce. I read a library book on and off throughout the day in between other projects. I used up some leftovers to make burritos for my son's lunch, which I tossed in the freezer and now don't have to worry about lunch for two weeks! I squeezed a brief nap in there, made two containers of tomato sauce, roasted a batch of cherry tomatoes, made a container of roasted cherry tomato sauce, and then I cleaned my dishwasher




OMG. Be extremely happy that there is no photographic evidence of this- I considered it, but no one deserves that. This was the first time I've ever done this. How have I gotten this far in life without really understanding that this is a thing that needs to be done??? I was literally gagging at all the soap and filth and YUCK that had built up. I scraped, I rinsed, I sprayed, I wiped, I POKED THINGS WITH A PIN- that's how disgusting it was. But man, that dishwasher looks gorgeous now! After the vinegar wash, the insides looked brand-spanking-new. I'm pretty proud of that. :)

I worked on my new knitting project.

What is it? Stay tuned...

And then I read a little before going to bed.

And that was it! I'm looking forward to heading back to physical therapy this week, since my pain has been at double-plus ungood levels. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get some relief, and maybe that my energy levels will improve a little. They've been struggling this week; I feel like my get-up-and-go has gotten up and left! Boo for that.

How was your week?

Saturday, September 1, 2018

What I Read in August 2018

And now, book talk!

I find libraries so relaxing. Ahhhhhhhh.

I'm going to start backtracking at the end of each month and go through everything I've read throughout the past month. Maybe you'll find something good to read, too! Side note: I'm still working through my Goodreads To Read list, and a LOT of that is nonfiction, so if you're not a huge nonfiction reader, bear with me while I plow through the rest of the list. I promise, I do read fiction! Sometimes I read heavy stuff; other times, I read lighter stuff, which is like a delicious dessert for your brain (I enjoy cheesecake, if anyone's offering). It all balances out. :)

1. Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living- Elizabeth Willard Thames

Ohhhhhh, I loved this. I really enjoy the Frugalwoods blog; her style is so relaxing and approachable, which makes for an incredibly engaging read. The book is written in the same style, telling the story of how Thames and her husband came to save up enough money to buy the rural homestead of their dreams and be financially independent. My goals and dreams aren't the same as hers, but I still found her story really inspiring.

2. Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions- Susan Tive and Cami Ostman

A collection of essays on women at various points in their religious journeys, in what you may or may not find extreme (as the authors cover in the foreword, extreme is in the eye of the beholder, or, in this case, the believer or non-believer). This wasn't *quite* what I was expecting, but still a very good read, as I'm a huge fan of reading about other people's experiences, especially when it comes to religion, which I've always found endlessly fascinating.

3.The Things They Carried- Tim O'Brien

I was lucky enough to be able to hear the author speak last week at a local high school as part of a parent education series. This book is a fictionalized account of a man's experiences before, during, and after the Vietnam War. Some of the experiences were very similar to what happened to the author; others were not, and he discussed that in his talk. It's moving and some parts are hard to read, but it's worth it to push through, because this is something that needs to be understood, as far as we can understand another person's wartime experience. My son's English class is reading this this year, so I'm curious as to how he'll perceive the book.

4. The Curious Case of Kiryas Joel: The Rise of a Village Theocracy and the Battle to Defend the Separation of Church and State- Louis Grumet with John Caher

If you're not familiar with Kiryas Joel, it's a village in New York whose residents are almost entirely Hasidic, of the Satmar sect. Their public school district has been very controversial, and this book deals with the first major legal case against that district. Again, it wasn't quite what I was expecting; there was a LOT of legal talk that was, on occasion, a bit over my head, but it was still fascinating.

5. The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Most Endangered Languages- K. David Harrison

Super fascinating book written by a linguist who travels around the world, documenting languages that are dying out or are in danger of dying out. Hopeful, heart-wrenching, intriguing...

6. Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America- Helen Thorpe

 Loved this! Thorpe documents the final parts of high school and all of the college years of four friends, all of whom were born in Mexico. Two are here legally; two don't have documents. The struggles that the undocumented young women faced are gutting, from healthcare to jobs to school, to driving legally, to being able to rent an apartment, to being able to care for their family and younger siblings... My heart absolutely broke for those two girls over and over again. This book was published in 2011 and I'm deeply curious as to how the women are faring today. If anyone knows of any updates, PLEASE let me know. This was a great, great book. I've read Helen Thorpe before and have enjoyed her, and I'm looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

7. Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life- Nancy Sleeth

This started out well. The back cover made it seem like the author had gone on a journey to slow her life down, and here's what she tried, and here's what worked and what didn't, etc. She told the story of how she and her physician husband realized their lives weren't exactly working for them and how he quit his job and they reworked everything in accordance to their newfound religious faith.

I'm not particularly religious myself, but I have no problems reading about others' deeply held beliefs. Rachel Held Evans has some delightful books, and I deeply enjoyed John Pavlovitz's A Bigger Table (this one *really* made me think, which I appreciated!). I also really enjoy the writings of Rabbi Harold Kushner. But about halfway through, this book switched from pleasant to preachy, and I found myself disappointed.

8. What I Eat: Around the World In 80 Diets- Peter Menzel and Faith D'Alusio

A large coffee table-style book, full of great photographs of people from all over, surrounded by a spread of everything they ate on that particular day. It's arranged by calories taken in, ranging from somewhere in the 800's to over 12,000. It was a pretty neat look at how diets differ based on not only where you live but what class you belong to. There's quite a bit of text in this photo-heavy book, so prepare to be holding this giant book up for a while!

9. Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America- Linda Tirado

Tirado wrote this book after a post she wrote on poverty went viral. There's a lot of hard truths in here about what life is like for poor people- what society demands from them (but not from others), how they're viewed and treated, the ways they help and hurt themselves (and sometimes they have good reasons for doing so). This is an excellent book. For me, it was preaching to the choir (but I'm still glad I read it, huge thanks to I Heart Tightwads for making me aware of this book). I haven't experienced the type of prolonged poverty that she has, but I've worked those jobs where management doesn't schedule you but threatens your job if you don't come in every single time they call you to come in an hour before they want you to start working (this was also the same job that forced me in after I'd been awake all night vomiting. Yes, it was retail. Yes, I worked face-to-face with customers, several of whom commented on my ghastly appearance. And we wonder why cold and flu season is so awful in this country? DING DING DING). I've been food insecure, I've had to put medical stuff off for financial reasons, and I was extremely lucky to have a dentist who worked with me on paying off an extremely large amount of dental work. Like Tirado, my dental issues were through no fault of my own- hyperemesis gravidarum is not good for your teeth- but I still dealt with people who judged me for their state, and I still felt that shame.

If you're sensitive to swear words, you should steel yourself before diving in, because she uses them a lot. I'm not bothered in the least, but even if you are, this is a really important book. I was surprised by the Goodreads reviews. It seemed to me that a *lot* of people there absolutely missed the entire point of the book, and that disappointed me. Far too many people ignore the humanity of others, and think that serving the public is an undignified job and thus the people who do it are worthy of their scorn and derision. If you've never worked a crappy retail job where customers threaten your life for policy created by someone that makes hundreds of times more than you, try it out and see how great it feels to make about fourteen cents a minute for that experience (that's actually more than I made when that happened to me. Yay, minimum wage!), and then try to pay rent and buy your kid new shoes and pay off that hospital bill from that surprise bout of pneumonia and see how grateful you feel to that employer. Tirado covers all of this and more.

Super important book right here, one that I feel like a lot of people could benefit from reading, because I see far too much scorn and disgust thrown at low-wage workers.

I finished a book today and started a new one, but I'm not sure if I'm going to keep going with it. It's one my son recommended to me, and the writing style is very good, but I'm not sure I'm in the greatest headspace for it. It's rare for me to abandon a book, especially one from my To Read list, but I'm' already feeling a bit down because of my back issues (more about that on Monday's recap), so I might move on to something more appropriate for the place I'm at right now. :)

What about you? Read anything good lately?

*post contains affiliate links