Friday, June 30, 2017

my garden is growing!

I'm a recovering plant killer, so I'm pretty excited that my vegetables, which I've never planted before, are starting to grow and bear fruit.

My first two tomatoes of the season.  These are going to be cherry tomatoes. I keep trying to find grape tomatoes to grow, but no luck. I'm not good at growing from seeds, so cherry will have to do. I have roma tomatoes in the raised bed garden, although no fruit had come out yet.

Flat-leaf parsley, basil and rosemary. The basil and parsley seem to be exploding with growth, so I'll have to start using them. Basil is easy:  caprese salad!! Parsley...I'll have to figure that one out.

My first peppers. Look how tiny they are!  They popped out fast, though--I just planted them last Sunday.

Here's the raised bed garden Bob built.  I'm thinking next year I'll add one or two more. Much easier for me that digging a garden; I'm lazy.  The plants in front will be planted in my other garden. The ones on the left are something I wouldn't normally plant, but they're perennials, have a lot of color, and like full sun, which they'll get a ton of in the garden! The yellow flowers in the middle will go against the rock wall that's in the garden. I love the country look to them. My house is old, so they should look natural. They like full sun, too. The pansies I'll likely put near the house. They were half price and I couldn't resist.

And, finally, our new neighbor behind us was kind enough to have his landscaping guy use the big...whatever giant machine it clear out the area next to the barn.  For free!  He also cleared behind the barn.  There was a ton of weeds and brush there--stuff you'd find in an overgrown field--and an invasive species of tree. I believe it was Tree of Heaven, but he thinks it was poison sumac. Anyway, it's gone now.  (Don't mind the mess in the yard. We did some weed-pulling and haven't cleaned it up, plus Bob is working on the fire pit.)

So, what do you all think I should plant here? Keep in mind it's next to a barn and have only about 30 feet to the side of it (to the other side of that bush on the right) and about 30 feet behind the barn, and it's in the sun most of the day. Also, the house was built in 1735, so I'd like something that fits with the property. I'm thinking rhododendron, as my childhood home had one and I absolutely loved it. The big fuzzy bumble bees loved it, too. It would also be nice to obscure the house behind it, so maybe something that grows fast to about 20 feet tall maybe?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

meet Emily and Arlo

So, this happened Sunday afternoon. 

 Here they are in their cage before we took them home. 
Emily is on top of the condo and Arlo is in it.

Meet Emily and Arlo, the newest additions to our little family. They're four months old and, as you can see, kind of hard to tell apart.  There's a total of 4.5 pounds of cuteness there.

Bob and I had been thinking of getting a kitten for a few months now, mainly because we feel Marty needs a friend to play with to take his focus off of Leia and Louise; he likes to stalk them and just looking at Marty gets the two girls all in a tizzy, which has caused some frustrating behavioral problems with Leia.  Once we lost Thelma, that's when we got a little more serious about getting a kitten.

This weekend was tough:  we had my father's burial service. There were a few snags with the service, but it got done. We had a good time afterwards hanging out with the family, eating pizza and s'mores dip (marshmallows and Hershey bars baked together in the oven, served with graham crackers; yes, it's as delicious as it sounds!), and sending my dad off with lots of fireworks we shot off in the yard (they're legal in his state).  But it was an emotionally tough weekend overall, both because of the burial and other reasons.  We drove home late Saturday night and got home around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday morning; I was drained.

Sunday we spent some time doing yard work before we had to go somewhere. I finally got all the garden soil into the raised bed garden that Bob built for me (thank you!) and got my plants planted.  I planted three pepper varieties:  red bell, pimento, and jalapeno. I also planted three tomato plants and two lavender plants. I then planted one little corn plant.  (Oddly enough, I found a corn plant growing in my parsley plant. I think it came from some bird seed spilling near the pot. I'm going to see if it grows.)  As you can see, there aren't a lot of plants in here. I wanted to start small, since I'm not too good at keeping plants alive and tending a garden.  Also, the tomato plants need a lot of space to grow.

We then left to drive down to our old town. We stopped by the Stratford Cat Project to check out two kittens. We didn't plan to leave with them the same day, but since they're four months old, they were all set with shots, testing, and spaying/neutering.

Their first meal at home.

Having kittens in the house again is awesome! They're full of energy and love to play; they're a riot to watch. Arlo is the more affectionate one and loves a good belly rub. Emily is a little more diva-like, but likes some attention, too. It's only been a few days, but they're already running up to us and rubbing all over us when we go upstairs to visit. I've made few introductions to the other cats and it sent reasonably well. Tiffany was curious at first, but quickly got used to them; she was playing in the same area as them within 10 minutes. Max was cautiously curious and sniffing everything, but eventually turned tail and ran (interesting, because he's the biggest one in the house). Baily wasn't thrilled. He growled and fluffed his tail, then ran into the other room. Leo seems mostly indifferent. Marty is afraid of them (or mad). He hid under the bed in the other room. Once all the introductions are made--by way of bringing the other cats upstairs to them--we will open the bedroom door and let them explore. Should be interesting to see if Marty comes around quickly, considering he's the main reason we have them. But either way, I'm glad to have them. They're cute, fun, and there's the added benefit of having been therapeutic for me the last couple days.

I interrupted their playtime in order to get this picture. I had to make a weird noise in order to get them to look at me.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WLS enables you to break into your house. No, really!

Don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating for weight loss surgery so you can break into a house or otherwise break the law. I'm saying that it helped ME break into MY house last night.

Last night after work I dropped a book off at the library, went to Home Depot to buy some garden soil for my new raised bed, which my husband built for me (thank you!), then to Stop & Shop for a rotisserie chicken--I was craving it for some reason--and a few cold items.

When I got home I drove up on the lawn so I wouldn't have to carry five 50 lb. bags of soil across the lawn to the bed. I took all the soil out of the car, but in the process I heard my keys drop into the trunk. (Not sure why, but I was trying to hold onto them while wrestling with these 50 lb. bags, rather than just putting them down.) Forgetting that I heard my keys drop, I closed my trunk...and then realized my mistake when I heard the trunk hit the keys (they dropped in the well between the trunk and the trunk lid near the trunk hinge). And of course, my trunk release, which is on my car door, doesn't work anymore and hasn't in a couple years.

I tried texting my friend, who has my spare key, but no answer back. I then texted Bob just as an FYI. I thought about breaking into the house through a window, which Bob has had to do it few times. He mentioned trying the seat release (my back seats fold down), but the release is in the trunk, which I couldn't open. I was going to call AAA to have them break into my trunk, but then I figured I'd try the window.

Up until recently, it was difficult to get this window closed 100% (very old house with old windows), so Bob was always able to get in easily. Well, this window wouldn't budge because it's suddenly closing all the way like it should. I got the screen open, but not the window. I had the garden tools out, trying to pry it up, but no luck.

Bob then suggested a different window. It's near the back door and my desk is in front of it. By this time, the cats were gathering at the window, wondering what's going on and why mom isn't using the door. One in particular, Bailey, I knew would be a problem: he's an indoor cat, but once got a taste of the outside and now runs for the door when we come in or go out. My plan was to open the window enough to grab ahold of Bailey and then put him in the car, which I did. But then I realized the hot rotisserie chicken was in there. With a hungry cat. Alone. I promptly grabbed it out of the car and put it on the car roof. Bailey had his paws on the window and looked like he was trying to break out. I then popped open the screen, raised the window (it's old and doesn't lock), and climbed in over my desk. Within five minutes I was in, door unlocked, kitty and chicken safe in the house. It was very easy. A little too easy: it's a bit scary that I was able to break in that easily.

I had to wait until Bob got home to get my keys. He has the spare set and because he works an hour away and was on a double shift, he couldn't come home. But at least I got into the house.

Had this happened before my weight loss surgery, I'm not sure I would've been able to get into the window and climb over everything. I would've had a hard time getting myself up into the window, which was less that waist-high; been in pain from kneeling on the hard surface; and would have worried about the weight-bearing capability of my desk. Last night I was able to move easily, get into the window, kneel on my desk, and not knock anything over. Plus I didn't worry that my weight would break my desk (it's more of a table than a traditional desk). So, yeah, weight loss surgery enabled me to break into my house. 😁 (I wonder how many Google hits I'll get from people searching "how to break into a house"??)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

what kind of plants are these?

Due to the surgery, I really haven't gotten outside to do any weeding in the garden so it looks like a jungle out there. Some of the weeds come up without any difficulty, but some of them are hard to pull up, and the pulling motion irritates my healing abdominal muscles. As a result, I have a few plants that I don't recognize, because I normally pull them out before they grow into anything.

Any gardeners out there who can help me identify these plants? I have flowers that came up at the edge of my garden this year and I have no idea that they are. I also have a bush in my garden that produces beautiful magenta flowers every year.

These are about two feet tall right now, maybe a little taller, and they have purple flowers on top of long stems with long, skinny leaves. I think last year I pulled them up before they got this big, thinking they're a weed. I've been Googling, but I haven't had any luck yet.

Here's a closeup, in case the other pic is hard to see.

This is the bush. It's probably about six feet tall and produces these gorgeous flowers in clusters. I'm thinking it's some sort of azalea. It's part of another bush, which I was able to identify:  scentless mock orange. They look very pretty when they're in bloom, as they bloom at the same time.

So, does anyone know what these might be?  I'm keeping a log of the plants and shrubs as I've been able to identify them, either by myself or with help from readers or friends.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

small victories

As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm having a very hard time getting back to eating right after the tummy tuck surgery. For some reason, I've been buying a lot of candy the last month or two. Pretty much any chance I get, I buy it. Typically Peanut M&Ms or Justin's Peanut Butter Cups (dark chocolate). Yes, I've had gastric bypass and that usually means sugar affects me. But, as with anything else, I found a way around it:  I eat it in small portions over an hour or so, since I know how many grams of sugar I can handle at once. Not good, since that keeps me in the mindset that eating all this candy is manageable and no big deal. So, I decided to stop buying it. I have other things to work on, too, but I figure one small step with get the momentum going. After all these years I've learned that I can do All The Things at once. It's too much and I get overwhelmed and then just stop altogether.

I'm happy to report that it's been one week and I haven't bought ANY candy! Has it been tough? Most definitely.  Every time I was in the store this week I was browsing the candy rack. But I didn't give in.

Next step?  Possibly moving to grocery delivery so I can't make any impulse food buys. This is another thing that's a big problem for me and always has been.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

weekly cookbook project: blueberry muffins

Surprisingly, I've never baked a blueberry muffin in my whole life. Not sure why, since it's probably the most common muffin out there.  I'm thinking it's the high price of blueberries, or maybe always opting to make something with chocolate. That changed this week, though, when I made my first blueberry muffin ever.

I dipped into my King Arthur Flour cookbook again and made their Classic Blueberry Muffin recipe. (I tried to find it online so I could post it, but couldn't.) They have an all-purpose basic muffin recipe that calls for sour cream and a classic recipe that doesn't. Since I didn't have sour cream--no surprise there--I went with the classic recipe.

It was really very easy. Just a matter of rinsing the blueberries and then mashing some of them, then mixing all the ingredients together. These are made like a cake batter, where you cream the butter and sugar first, then add eggs, then alternate flour and milk. I topped each with a little table sugar. The other option was cinnamon sugar, but I didn't feel like making it. I opted for cupcake liners for the pan so I wouldn't have as much cleanup. I was thwarted, though, by all the runny blueberry juice. Oh well. I tried. Actually, the mess isn't that bad--I'm just being lazy. I'm thinking next time I'll spray the whole pan with Bake Easy spray and then put the cupcake liners in. Double protection.

I have to say, it was insanely hard to not grab a hot muffin right from the pan. They were quite delicate because they were so hot and I didn't want to damage them, so I put them on the cooling rack without grabbing even a crumb. I was strong--I made it a whole five minutes before I gave in and grabbed one, which I promptly slathered in butter. They were absolutely delicious and so soft! And they were jam-packed with blueberries.

The sugar content in these was about 16g of sugar according to the recipe. I don't know if that's supposed to include the optional sugar topping, but I thinking not. One whole muffin was a bit much in the sugar department, as I felt a bit queasy for about 20 minutes afterwards (fellow WLS post-ops know what I mean...) But oh man, it was SO worth it! I took another one later on; however, I cut it in half and took about a 10 minute break in between halves. That helped me to not feel queasy.

Just a note:  I realize that I can alter recipes to include more protein, less sugar and carbs, etc., and as a gastric bypass post-op I probably should.  But I'm not super creative when it comes to that. (Kudos to those that are--there are some great websites out there!) I also don't like buying a bunch of alternative ingredients that I may use only once.  Plus, I want to feel that I'm like everyone else. That I can eat regular foods, just in smaller portions. I don't want to alter something that's going to trick my mind into thinking I can eat double because it has half the sugar. Kind of like those 100 calories snacks. They make you feel like you're being virtuous because they're only 100 calories, but then you eat two portions because, really, is one usually enough? Not for me.  

Sunday, June 4, 2017

today's breakfast: fried egg on grain toast

As I've mentioned in a couple other posts, I'm really struggling with eating right and not overeating lately. Mostly due to my mindset after surgery, but also due to several losses and other things going on. I've made up my mind that I have to just suck it up and do it, and stop whining about it.  I'm an adult, I can do this.

So, today's breakfast, which is basically my favorite and is very quick and easy, is a fried egg plus one egg white on buttered grain toast. The grocery store had Arnold bread buy-one-get-free, so I grabbed a loaf of Extra Grainy. It makes great toast and grilled cheese, although I try to not make grilled cheese very often--it's very caloric and full of carbs.

As part of getting myself back in the "eating right" mindset, I made a promise to myself that I would not buy any candy while out shopping today. Lately I've been buying peanut M&Ms or Justin's Peanut Butter Cups (these are much better than Reese's--you can get them in dark chocolate, they have a lot less sugar and they just taste better) just about every time I go to a store that has a candy rack.  Not a good thing. I'm happy to say that I went out today and didn't buy any candy AT ALL! I did, however, make a few impulse purchases, but it wasn't junk food.

I'll probably take it easy most of the day, as I'm recovering from some awful lower back pain. I had multiple muscle spasms last Monday and my back is still hurting. But today I can actually walk around without much pain. Most of the week it was a struggle just to carry myself upright. I couldn't work out, because I couldn't walk on the treadmill for more than 10 minutes, and even that was a big struggle. Muscle relaxers, Tylenol, Advil, and even dilaudid (narcotic) didn't help the pain. Dilaudid took the edge off, but that was really it. Last night I pulled out the heating pad. Maybe that's why I feel a little better today. Hopefully I can get back to working out this week.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thelma: the newest Rainbow Bridge resident

I'm getting really drained having to write these sad posts; this is the third one in eight months. Actually four if you count my dad's passing in March.

After having some recent health issues, which were ultimately diagnosed as kidney failure, we made the decision to say goodbye to Thelma, sister and bookend to Louise.

We adopted Thelma, along with her sister Louise, from the Stratford Cat Project in 2011. SCP had rescued the two of them, along with a few others, from a hoarding situation several years prior. They were about six years old when we adopted them.  (I remember feeling like a rock star when we went to the first SCP event after we adopted them; everyone was thrilled.) The two of them were always together and were very bonded. They slept together, groomed each other, and when we pet one, we had to pet the other one, as they typically came over to us as a pair.

Thelma recently had major dental work, as did Louise. Up until that point--maybe it's just a coincidence--the two of them were still very bonded. After that, however, the bond was broken. They no longer slept together or rubbed on each other. And no longer did they both, together, run up to the back of the sofa to greet us. Thelma retreated to the kitchen, usually hanging out on the counter next to the sink. This is where she spent nearly all of her time, even to eat. Pretty much every morning we would walk into the kitchen to find she had peed on the floor. We're not entirely sure if it was related to her dental issues, or if it started back when we moved into the new house, as we had several cats with behavioral issues the last few years. (With multiple cats, it's sometimes very hard to track down the culprit; I've since discovered that a wireless security camera is great for this.)

The dental work led to a diagnosis of Bartonella, which required 21 days of antibiotics, followed by testing six months after the last antibiotic dose. About one week into the antibiotic cycle, Thelma started acting mopey, didn't seem to want to eat, and started losing weight again. I brought her back to the vet, where they gave her subcutaneous fluids to re-hydrate her.  The vet felt that it was likely related to the antibiotics. When she went for her re-check, she again had to be re-hydrated. At that point, the vet thought she may have kidney issues, as her urine was very diluted, but wanted to wait until Thelma was done with the antibiotics before doing further testing. Thelma went home again and started to improve, but then last week she stopped eating, became very skinny, and was very lethargic. We isolated her in an upstairs bedroom, where she hid under the bed most of the time. I noticed, also, that she hadn't used the litter at all during her time in the bedroom. Unfortunately, she was doing her business under the bed. But that's not her fault.

I took her to the vet again and got the call a couple hours later that her kidney panel showed she was in kidney failure; there's no cure for that. I was given the choice to do immediate treatment, followed by lifelong home treatment, or euthanasia. After taking into account her age, anemia, and current condition, as well as all the information and odds provided by the vet, we decided to euthanize her. Not because we didn't want to deal with lifelong home treatment, or the cost, but because the odds were not good that immediate treatment would even help. And if it did, her home treatment would only prolong her life a bit. We didn't want to put her through that.

It was really heartbreaking, as usual. Everyone at the vet's office was great. We took her home with us and she's buried out in the garden next to Thomas. I'm now looking for a nice little cat statue or memorial stone to place on her grave.

Thelma (AKA Daddy's Big Girl) was a wonderful cat. Although she came from a rough background and never warmed up to being held, she was quite the affectionate kitty. And so, so soft! Every time Louise comes over to visit, I keep looking to see where Thelma is, since two used to be inseparable. She will be greatly missed. I'm glad she got a chance at a normal life and I'm glad that life was with us.