Art, Tacos and More

Arts Alley Then Tacos

The hubs and I slipped out to Mission Taco Joint at Crossroads for a bite to eat. It was the first time we had been, but it sure won’t be the last. The Mango Hop-Anero Shrimp taco is to die for, sooo good! You can look at their menu here.

But first, we stopped by this rather cool alley. I found the art interesting and cool…

There are some very talented artists in Kansas City!

They Look Closed

Aaarrrrgggghhhh!

We really should have checked the website before loading up our van with a ton of half-empty paint cans.

Because they were most definitely closed today. Soooo…on Thursday we can try again. We inherited quite a few with the house, at least 200 partly empty cans. Thankfully, the city allows you to bring as many as you can hump on down to them at their East Bottoms location just a half a block down from the Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Yummy Soup!

My husband loves bean bacon soup and I whipped some up last night, adding in both bacon and ham. It turned out creamy and wonderful.

Here is the recipe…

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans white beans*
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 8 strips of bacon
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced thin
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 1 Tbsp pork bouillon (or 3 cubes)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt

Directions:

Cook the bacon and remove with a slotted spoon, reserve 1-2 tablespoons of the drippings and use them to saute the celery, carrot and onion until thoroughly cooked. Add water, celery, carrot, onion, bouillon and seasonings to a large soup pot and bring to a boil.

Add beans, bacon and chopped ham to soup. Mix milk and flour in a separate bowl, whisking until smooth. Add to soup and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes and allow the flavors to fully mix.

Serve with crackers or crusty French bread.

*I can my own beans, so I use two pint jars. Two 15 oz cans of white beans, drained and rinsed, works just as well.

Enjoy, I know we did.

I’m working on getting all of my recipes in order and on my website. Let me know if you have any trouble with the links or if I’m missing a photo here or there, I’ll do my best to correct it!

 

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Posted in Community, Recipes, Recycle | Leave a comment

Chocolate Cake for the WIN!

Last Thursday was my mother’s 70th birthday and I was booked solid with cleanings and errands. Knowing this in advance, and also knowing how difficult it can be to connect with her, I sent her an email…

I’ve got a full week ahead of me on the weekdays, but Saturday is wide open.

So here is what I’m going to do. I’ll be serving a yummy lunch (what I’m not sure yet) along with a beautiful home-baked devil’s food cake. It will even have candles on it.

At approximately 12:30, we will gather together and eat lunch with yummy aforementioned cake directly after. We will look awfully silly singing Happy Birthday to you if you are NOT here, so I would suggest that you plan on being here at noon. Then, if you want to go do something, I am available for at least a couple of hours – we could go to an estate sale or something!

This worked, and she emailed me back to tell me she would be here.

Now, I’m new to homemade cake-baking. I’ve made a couple over the years, but it isn’t a regular thing, and I had never made a devil’s food cake. I knew that was her favorite, so I decided to give it a try.

I found a recipe online and altered it.

In the end? Mom loved the cake and said it was, “the best chocolate cake she had ever tasted.” What we did not devour then and there was quickly dispatched the next day. So quickly, as a matter of fact, that there is no photographic evidence that such a cake ever existed (yup, that’s a stock photo above). Believe me, it did, and we are all (especially me and Mom) a little fatter for it.

The icing is to die for. I have some remaining in the fridge. And no, I won’t be sharing it with you. Not one single bite. Go make your own!

The Best Chocolate Cake EVER

Here is the recipe as I made it…

Frosting:

  • 16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 – 1/2 cups heavy cream

Cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 – 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp butter at room temperature (plus more for buttering pans)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 – 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions:

To make the frosting: Put the chocolate and cream in a double-boiler over medium heat (remember to add water to the bottom section!) Gently whisk until the chocolate has all melted and incorporated into the cream. The mixture should be smooth. Remember, gentle is the ticket, otherwise you end up with butter!

Cover the surface of the frosting with plastic wrap. Set aside and let set up at room temperature until it is mostly cooled off, then refrigerate it to have it set up further and be easy to spread.

To make the cake: Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with a circle of parchment or wax paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and slowly add the sugar. Continue beating until light and smooth, about 4 minutes. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the cocoa powder and vanilla and beat at medium speed for 1 minute more. (Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl again, if needed.) With the mixer running at medium-low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Combine the water and milk in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat.

With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture, about a 1/4 cup at a time. Carefully pour the hot liquid into the batter. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a large rubber spatula, finish combining the batter until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

The batter may seem rather runny, but will set up perfectly in the oven, don’t worry!

Set the pans on the middle rack in the oven. Bake until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and the center springs back when touched lightly, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool the cakes, in the pans, on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn the cake layers out of the pans and cool on the rack. (If not assembling the cake right away, wrap the layers in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 day, or freeze for up to 2 months.)

Assemble the Devil’s Food Cake. Place 1 cake layer upside-down on a cake stand or flat plate. Scoop about 1/3 of the icing onto the center of the layer. Using a large, offset spatula, spread the icing evenly over the layer to the edges. Place the other cake layer, rounded-side up, on top. Evenly spread half of the remaining icing over the top, spreading any excess icing down the sides. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake. Use the tip of the offset spatula to make a swirling pattern in the icing. Serve. Store under a cake dome or loosely wrapped with plastic, at room temperature, for up to 2 days.

If it lasts that long…because it tastes so good…

I had leftover icing which I’m considering using to cover some fresh baked cupcakes. But honestly? I just might eat the frosting straight because it is that good.

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I write about everything from gardening and community, to education, the writing process, DIY, and more. I maintain four blogs, write fiction and non-fiction books, and I am a community educator.

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Posted in Baking/Cooking, Recipes | Leave a comment

The 6th Annual NEKCHS Homes Tour

I meant to post this a month ago, I truly did.

And then I began to feel bad that I only saw four of the locations. “How can I post pictures of the tour with only four of the stops? The others might feel left out!”

I was serving as a docent in the afternoon, so the morning was rushed trying to get to as many stops as possible before I quickly ate lunch and reported for duty at one of my favorite homes (of which I have no pictures!).

In any case, I decided I would go ahead and show folks just what they are missing by not going on these fantastic tours of old homes.

There are so many great ideas and fascinating details to be found in the windows and woodwork of these lovely homes. Even the one undergoing renovation is important. Here we have a distinct “before renovation” and you see how much work goes into projects like these. It is truly a labor of love!

Enjoy!

100 Garfield Avenue – “The Castle”

Built for Dr. Flavel Benjamin Tiffany in 1909, the newest owners bought this gorgeous building in 2016…

1836 Pendleton Avenue

Constructed in 1888 for Phillip E. Chappell, the former mayor of Jefferson County, Missouri and the Missouri State Treasurer, this home has been in the Palazola family since 1934.

1731 Pendleton Avenue

Built in 1905, the original owners of this house were Mr. & Mrs. Lafayette Trabor. In 2016 this home was purchased by Alan and Jessica Bossert who are fully restoring this home. It is important to see what kind of condition these homes often are in – it makes the adventure of their restoration all the more amazing!

1841 Pendleton Avenue

Built in 1889 for Augustine “Gus” P. Marty, this home has been brought back from ruin by Nathan and Marian Wegener, who dealt with pigeons, bees and raccoons as they worked hard to restore this home to its original beauty.

Again, I do apologize for not being able to show ALL of the destinations on the tour.

I love the little details that go into making these homes such amazing showcases of the old and new, and I can’t wait to see more homes!

Remember, NEKCHS holds a home tour every year, the second Saturday in October. Mark your calendars, because this is one event no one should miss!

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I write about everything from gardening and community, to education, the writing process, DIY, and more. I maintain four blogs, write fiction and non-fiction books, and I am a community educator.

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Posted in Community, Events/Tours | 2 Comments

What I See Happening Here Instead

The last few months have seen an upswing in gun violence, burglary, car chases and more.

And perhaps I’m more of an optimist (although I prefer Optimistic Realist, thank you very much) because while I see the crime (or rather hear about it), I also see…

Local Kids Participating in NaNoWriMo

I was invited by my daughter’s teacher to come by an after-school session of NaNoWriMo. For those of you not in the know, November is known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which is empowering for writers and aspiring writers alike.

I walked around the room, stopping to talk with the kids, answer questions on spelling, and more. There were at least fifteen of them in the room – snacking on chips, typing away, and having a fun time.

It makes me wish that NaNoWriMo had been a thing when I was a kid. I don’t remember being encouraged to write – certainly shamed for not writing in the assigned journals we all had to complete – but not encouraged to write in any other fashion.

This changed in high school in San Francisco when I attended a small private school where we primarily learned out of books through independent study. It was there that I was allowed to escape from the torturous diagramming of sentences and instead jump headlong into the creative process.

I love that my daughter’s fifth-grade teacher was hosting this and encouraging the kids to just write, in whatever form it took.

When we moved here four and a half years ago, we had been homeschooling our daughter for a couple of years. I joked that we were half committed before to it, and fully committed to homeschooling now that we lived in the city itself.

Circumstances changed and when we enrolled the kiddo this year, I had a great deal of mixed feelings and trepidation. I am, however, incredibly impressed with the kindness, involvement, and dedication that each of my daughter’s teachers provide to her and to her classmates.

As homeschoolers, we encountered and tried to dispel many myths about what homeschool is or can do. On the flip side, however, I’ve learned that not all public school is the same, and that there are some phenomenal teachers out there.

After Ms. L. told the group, “Christine is our visiting author” the kids came up, looked at my books, and asked questions.

“How long does it take to write a book?” was the predominant question.

They seemed a little daunted by the answer – “It depends. For me, anywhere from six weeks to several years.”

I can’t help imagining one or more of these kids in a few years – cranking out a YA masterpiece that will change their lives and start them on a writing path.

Harmony Project KC

I can’t say enough good things about Harmony Project KC!

From the phenomenal teachers and their smiling faces, to the difference they make in so many children’s lives, our community is lucky to have them.

My daughter was in the very first class, nearly three years ago now, and plays the cello.

In case you are new to the area, Harmony Project KC provides FREE music education to youth living in the Northeast area. This includes singing in a choir, learning to read music, play the recorder and other basic instruments, and then transitioning to classical instruments (again, all provided at zero cost) such as the cello, viola and violin.

They recently added more instruments, but I’ve been out of the loop on what those are.

You can learn more about them by visiting their website and their Facebook page.

 

Our Neighborhood Associations

As silly as it might sound, I had never heard of neighborhood associations before moving here. And I questioned the need or worth of them until I had attended plenty of meetings.

Even after my husband joined our neighborhood association in Lykins and eventually ended up as president, I remained dubious. What was it really for? What could it accomplish?

And until this fall, an evening class for the kiddo had prevented me from attending our Lykins monthly meetings on the 2nd Monday. I went to November’s meeting, the first in a year or two that I was able to attend, and was bowled over.

There were speakers, so many of them, and they were talking about investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in rehabbing existing structures (currently abandoned), building new housing in vacant lots, and revitalizing an area that I have come to love.

We also were lucky to have a police officer, one of those tasked with community outreach, available to give us a “Crime and Grime” update, as well as someone from the CID and NEAT, asking for help with creating more safe and crime-free destinations for our youth to go to on Friday and Saturday nights.

I found myself volunteering, having come straight from NaNoWriMo at our local elementary school, to host a writing class for teens. In the up and coming Maker Space on 12th, which is where we hold the neighborhood association meetings, there are classrooms being built that could eventually accommodate that.

I left the meeting so excited about the future of our neighborhood. In my mind’s eye I could see cute bungalows rising in the empty lots, decrepit and boarded up homes sparkling with a fresh coat of paint and new windows – and all of them filled with families of all ethnicities and walks of life.

If you want to see the future of our community, you need to attend one of your neighborhood association meetings.

Northeast Kansas City Historical Society

I moved here to live in an old home. I adore old homes and consider it a banner day when I get to see the inside of one and explore the changes the years have wrought upon it.

Each year, the Northeast Kansas City Historical Society holds a walking tour of around 4-6 homes. We were lucky enough to be one of those homes on the 2016 tour. All of the years (all six) have been phenomenal and it is a joy to hang out with others who share my love of architecture and want to help preserve it.

If you love the older architecture here in Kansas City and would like to:

  • See and learn more about it
  • Attend a home tour (or serve as a docent – you get to see them for free when you do!)
  • Meet others (including a historian) who share your interests
  • Support a group dedicated to preserving our architectural history

Then I strongly recommend you consider a membership with NEKCHS. It’s just $20 per year and you will get reduced prices on tickets for the Homes Tour the second Saturday of October, as well as a discount on their books and merchandise.

They also have an amazing book out that highlights so many of our historic properties and a second one coming out in February 2018!

These Are Only a Few

I’ve listed a small handful of organizations and activities that are occurring. Half a dozen more have occurred to me while writing about these!

There are so many good things happening in our area. And I hope to continue to focus on the positive, not the negative, even as we take steps to stop the negative from occurring.

I count myself as lucky to live here and I hope that you do as well.

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I write about everything from gardening and community, to education, the writing process, DIY, and more. I maintain four blogs, write fiction and non-fiction books, and I am a community educator.

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Posted in Advocacy, Community | Leave a comment

Reinforced Shelving and Pesto Bread

I used to hate winter. Now I love it – well, I don’t love the cold but I do love the time inside for projects and especially love whipping up some comfort food.

Reinforced Shelving

A couple of months ago, one of the big shelves from IKEA was wrenched out of the wall by the weight of the books on it. CRASH! We came home to a kitchen splashed in purple, littered with glass shards, and reeking of spilled wine.

It was impossible to get back up on the wall and my dear husband’s patience was put to the test. With nothing but lath and plaster walls – we couldn’t find a stud, and the anchors the first hardware store sold us were easily bent and broken.

We needed something with a little more oomph to stop these shelves from coming down again.

After diligent research, my hubs found just the tool and we took down and reinstalled ALL of the shelves so that we would no longer have to worry about them capsizing on us.

Pesto Bread and Leftover Soup for Dinner – YUM!

Thanks to no central a/c and only window units during the hot summer months, my attitude towards fall and winter has changed dramatically. I used to HATE the onset of winter, but now, instead of just shivering in the cold, I smile and turn on the oven. It is the perfect time for baking bread and dishing up some hearty soups.

The minute it gets cold, and I do mean the minute, I am in the kitchen and whipping up yummies to fill our stomachs and chase away the cold.

And as I put the finishing touches on organizing my pantry and my open kitchen shelves I suddenly envisioned fresh-baked bread with pesto and parmesan.

Now I had never made it before, so I paged through a couple of possible recipes online and finally just prepped it like I would my Chile Cheese Bread recipe, except I substituted parmesan for the cheddar and pesto for the chiles. I wish I had some pine nuts, that would have been a lovely addition!

Next time, for sure!

Here is the recipe for the Pesto Bread. Enjoy!

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp pesto
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 6 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts

Mix the water, yeast, salt, sugar, pesto, and cheese together. Add the flour and pine nuts and mix with a wooden spoon until dough is mixed and resembles a “shaggy” consistency. Cover and let rise for two hours.

Cut off 1/4 of the dough, dusting your hands thoroughly with flour and shape it into a ball. Place on a baking pan with a non-stick surface, liberally dusted with cornmeal. Let it rise again for 20 minutes or longer if you have refrigerated the dough.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, add a baking pan to the bottom shelf of the oven. When the oven has come to temperature, place the dough (baking sheet and all) in the oven and add one cup of water to the baking pan below and shut the door. Bake for 25 minutes, more or less may be needed for bigger or smaller loaves.

Loaves should be a golden brown on the outside.

This batch turned out rather well. The husband was quite happy, as was I.

The strong flavor of the pesto turned off the “kids” – my 11-year-old and the 71-year-old overgrown kid of the house, but hey, the “adults” liked it!

Organized Pantry

After running to the grocery store on Saturday morning and somehow losing a freshly bought jar of pickles to the chaos of a disorganized pantry – I realized it was time to reorganize it.

And this time I was going to label it!

It didn’t take long. It was mostly organized already, but enough things had been moved or set into place in random areas to make it confusing.

Canned chiles for example – we had them scattered in three different spots. So now I have eight cans of chiles. Which should last me through spring, possibly longer.

It sure is nice to have it all organized and labeled!

Monthly Newsletter

I will be adding an “organizing tip of the month” to my monthly newsletter. The newsletter also keeps readers updated on a number of things:

  • Book promotions and special pricing
  • Requests for interested beta readers to critique and review my books for free
  • Current writing projects and plans
  • Links to all of my monthly blog posts – I post in four different blogs, so it can be easy to miss one.
  • Upcoming classes or events

Signing up is easy and I guarantee you I will never sell or share your email address!

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I Miss Sleeping

The hot flashes have subsided. In fact, I haven’t had one in weeks. But sleeping the whole night through? I wish!

I seem to manage about 5-6 hours a night, where before I was a strict eight hours a night kind of gal.

I hate the idea of taking sleep aids, but I’m telling something has got to give if I keep waking up so early in the morning!

I took one last night and only woke up to the chaos of three dogs jumping off of the bed at 6:30 in the morning. It is a daily race to the the bottom of the stairs, down the hall, through the kitchen and utility room to jump over each other trying to get outside when one of us opens the door. I refer to it as “the running of the dogs.”

It was fantastic to get a full night’s sleep. In fact, I think I managed over NINE hours of snoozing.

So wonderful!

Melatonin seems to wear off after about six hours and Tylenol PM is what I took last night, but I would really like to find something natural that will keep me asleep for my needed eight hours.

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I write about everything from gardening and community, to education, the writing process, DIY, and more. I maintain four blogs, write fiction and non-fiction books, and I am a community educator.

Click here to join the email list and receive ONE monthly newsletter that will provide you will all of the links to my blogs, updates on my writing projects as well as book promotions and special pricing.

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Posted in Challenges, DIY, Organized Living (and cleaning), Recipes | Leave a comment

Rest In Peace Porch Cat

My dad has described his parents as folks who “always brought home strays.” I think in their case it was of the human variety, but I tend to find the furred variety on my doorstep and invite it in.

About a year and a half, nearly two years ago – my husband noticed a gray tabby. He had a hurt leg and was limping. He was also scared to death of humans and bolted (as quick as you can on three legs) whenever one of us came near.

At the time we had one inside/outside cat – Einstein – who is now in his twelfth year – and they seemed to tolerate each other pretty well. Einstein did his best to ignore Porch Cat and Porch Cat was pretty laid back (except for running like the devil himself was in pursuit anytime we showed our faces).

We began to set the food bowl outside for Einstein and Porch Cat – something the local neighborhood possum appreciated as well [sigh].

And after over a year, even longer, Porch Cat began to be less and less nervous, and even allowed us to pet him occasionally. Just a touch of fingers, then a light rub, and finally, finally, a good scratch behind the ears.

He grew to be a fixture on our front porch, lolling on a chair cushion or the carpet – and finally even came to like visitors and their attention.

About a month ago, my husband walked out of the house early in the morning to find the most incongruous scene before him – a possum and Porch Cat – spooning on a chair on the front porch! The possum ran away, but Porch Cat didn’t, he knew he was safe.

On Monday, shortly after my daughter Em returned home from school. I let out the dogs into the backyard and as Em and I were talking we heard a strange sound. Em walked over to a window to look to see what the sound was and began screaming incoherently and running for the back door.

Our three dogs, unfamiliar with Porch Cat, were attacking him in the dog yard. Em stopped the attack and Porch Cat limped away to a windowsill. It was chaos – our neighbors came running after hearing the screaming, Em was crying and hysterical, my heart was pounding so hard I thought it would burst, and the cat was terrified and growling at my attempts to coax him into a kennel and take him to the animal hospital.

There he was treated for shock, including IV fluids and pain meds, and he was also tested for FLV (Feline Leukemia Virus a.k.a. Feline AIDS). We learned today that he tested positive. This was heartbreaking.

As an outdoor cat – he represented an infectious danger to every cat in the neighborhood. Most were, I am sure, without FLV vaccine protection. As an indoor cat, if he even COULD be an indoor cat, he represented an infectious danger to our indoor cat.

And so we made the hard decision to put him down. I will be having our indoor/outdoor cat checked tomorrow, and put down if he has it, because he has already shown a proclivity for outdoor living (i.e. he craps on the floor if he’s kept inside).

The indoor-only cat will be tested as well, but we will keep her regardless of results. She will always be an indoor cat and there will simply be no other cats in the house while she is here.

The kiddo has cried buckets on every day this week. She sobbed as we got into the car at the vet’s office without Porch Cat and said, “I know we are doing the right thing, but it sure doesn’t FEEL right.”

It’s a punch in the gut, to be sure.

Animals come into our lives, and we do the best that we can for them. We love them, care for them, feed them – and all I can think is that we did the best we could for Porch Cat. His last nine months on earth were good ones. He will be remembered with fondness.

Rest in peace, Porch Cat.

Posted in Critters, Pets | Leave a comment

Plateaus and Planetesimals

Plateaus…

You remember how I mentioned (at least once or twice) my weight loss goals?

Well, I hit a plateau. One that saw a weight gain of three pounds before slowly creeping back down.

I have no one to blame but myself and my obsession/love affair with food. I remain fully convinced that if food didn’t taste so damned good I’d be a skinny little minx by now.

But food is wonderful, full of yummy, tantalizing goodness. It says “I have chocolate right here” in that sexy, come hither voice. And I stop thinking about the scales and instead focus on eating every bit of chocolate, or whatever other scrumptious bit of home-cooking or pizza or eating out has to offer.

And the weight stays on me, or worse, GROWS.

So, when I posted on Facebook three weeks ago – “205.5!” – it did not last It was a flash in the pan, because it soared up to 208 before I got a handle on it and slowly maneuvered it back to a new low this morning of 205.

[sigh]

Rule #1 – I weigh myself every day under the same circumstances at approximately the same time of day. This allows me to keep on top of weight changes and fluctuations.

Rule #2 – I do not starve myself, deny myself any treats, or eat weird foods in order to lose weight.

Rule #3 – I set five-pound-at-a-time goals – “get my weight below 205” is my current goal.

Rule #4 – It isn’t enough to make the goal, it has to hold steady for three weeks before it is considered “accomplished”

On September 26th, I hit my last goal of “below 210” for three or more weeks and called it good. And over a month later, I am now once again approaching my new goal “below 205” which I will need to hold steady through most of November before it is fully “accomplished.”

I am determined, however. Even though the next two months will be a parade of food – I can do this and get my weight closer to 200 by the end of next month.

Below 200…that’s something I haven’t been in nearly ten years.

Planetesimals

When I was choosing a title for this post, “plateaus and planetesimals” kept reverberating in my head.

But honestly, I’ve got nothing on planetesimals. Sorry.

Instead, I’ve to images of black holes of time sucking, non-productive minutiae running about in my gray folds. Facebook, for one, there is a time suck I’m doing my best to avoid. I’ll drop in for ten minutes or so each day, but that’s it. I need to focus on getting a book (or books) written in the next few months.

Why?

Well, for several reasons:

  1. It’s cold out, so no more gardening or fence building or other outdoor activities.
  2. I really need to get these stories written while I have some free time – the kiddo is in school and my days are relatively free for a couple of hours per day.

Yep, time to write.

Wait, you said SEVERAL reasons – you only listed two. That makes a couple of reasons, not several.

My, my, aren’t you observant?

I’m not ready to tell you reason #3. [wink]

All in good time.

Posted in Goals/Dreams, Health | Leave a comment

Bring On the Roses!

After losing my shirt…well, $140…on plants from USA Nursery (NEVER EVER USE THEM!!!!), I’ve been a little more cautious about where I spend my money.

I wanted quality plants, but for a reasonable price. And my problems with folks walking through our yard, while massively reduced from when we first moved here four years ago, is still a problem.

The border, and my desire for more plants, are intrinsically connected.

I just received my favorite plant catalog. It isn’t fancy, it doesn’t even have color photos, but what it does have is decent prices, heirloom plants, and a good reputation.

I have bought all of the fruit trees I have planted in the last eight years from Fedco Trees. But they don’t just sell trees, they also have roses, strawberries, and more.

Today, the roses caught my eye and I realized immediately that they were the perfect answer to my woes. For one, they are beautiful and smell great. For two, when planted at the base of say a window, or along the border of a yard you want folks to stop walking into, they are kind of perfect.

Guaranteed to scratch the crap out of intruders, they are a pretty, nice-smelling way of keeping folks out of places they should not be.

And I’m a fan of being nice, when possible, yet firm.

So I’m perusing the list of offerings from Fedco and I am picking out all of the rosebushes that grow tall and wide – Rosa Rugosa is at the top of the list for thorny wonderfulness, and at $16.50 for a bundle of five, it will be the basis of our living fence.

Rosa Rugosa grows four feet high and spreads to six feet wide. For maximum coverage, I think I will plant these just four feet apart along the back of the Cottage West. That should provide an excellent wall of blooms that deters folks from entering the backyard within the next year or two.

I’ll probably purchase two bundles, so that I can alternate Rosa Rugosa with other cultivars, since Fedco has eight more varieties to choose from:

  • Maiden’s Blush
  • Maxima (also known as Jacobite Rose)
  • Baiset Sunrise Sunset
  • Cinnamon Rose (smells faintly of cinnamon and cloves)
  • Alain Blanchard
  • Tuscany
  • Dart’s Dash (an old-fashioned rose)
  • Linda Campbell (an old-fashioned rose)

Of that list, only the Baiset Sunrise Sunset and Tuscany are roses that I would not plant along a wall or property border. They are both a mere two feet by three feet – and I want the big ‘uns that grow to four or five feet tall by six to eight feet in width.

So, one of each the big cultivars plus two bundles of Rosa Rugosa for just under $140 before shipping.

Bring on the roses!

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More Brick-Laying

Sweeping sand into the cracks between the brick pavers – this path leads around our big maple tree and to our side gate into the dog yard

Soon it will be more than just nippy in the morning. Then winter will descend upon us and I’ll be focused on the inside projects.

Until then…

This is the west side pathway. This picture was from a couple of weeks ago. The pile of bricks is now gone!

Brick Moving = Brick Laying

I have nearly moved all of the brick from the sides of Cottage East!

The paths on both sides are clear, with a few bricks scattered here and there, and several large stacks.

I woke up this morning and decided I would re-do the brick paths in my side yard. Originally laid directly on the ground with no weed blocking landscape fabric, often the wrong kind of bricks (ones with holes in them), and far too narrow of a path – it all needed to be re-done.

Herb garden to the right and maple tree to the left

So I pulled up a few rows of bricks, laid down the landscape fabric, and got to work on the new (and wider) path.

Later I nagged Dave into running to the store and buying some sand and together we put down around 180 pounds of sand and swept it into the cracks between the bricks.

I’ll probably need around three more 60-pound bags, but the path looks GREAT!

From the other side (Cottage East in the distance) – I think I will wrap the path around the maple tree. And here is where I ran out of sand!

Plans Change

My plan for laying all of the bricks we collected off of the sides of Cottage East in the backyard as an English garden has changed.

View from the other side. This took hours, but it is going to look awesome and be very functional for us.

For one, the yard is very uneven and will need leveling. For two, I’ve laid a majority of the brick down on both sides of the Cottage as walkways, and I really like the look of it. I would have to give up having the paved walkways on each side in order to have enough bricks for the backyard.

I’ve planted the sides of this path with plenty of iris and daylilies. They will grow in strong in the spring!

So the bricks that are in stacks will go to widen pathways and make new ones – all done properly, with an underlayment of landscape fabric and paver sand to help hold the loose bricks in place.

The base of the maple tree is planted with lamb’s ear, hosta, daylilies and some herbs. I think I will wrap the path around it to further accentuate the plantings.

Eventually, I’ll landscape the backyard of Cottage East and lay in a path of bricks from one corner of the yard to the other to get guests from the off-street parking to the back steps of the Cottage.

This new path is twice as wide as the old one. Which is good, because the plants really tend to fill in and block the walkway. I will eventually take this path all the way to the front walkway. I still need to “curve” it a little more.

Posted in DIY, Garden Planning | Leave a comment

Weight Goals and Upcoming Event

I considered adding these topics to my last post, but it was already long enough, so here you go – a brand new post!

Weight Loss Goals and Accomplishments

I’ve mentioned before that, since rescuing my dad from Panama late last year – I’ve had a couple of fires lit under my butt.

#1 – Lose weight and avoid the onset of Type 2 diabetes

#2 – Get a plan for retirement in place because planning on living with my kid when I am old and decrepit is NOT a retirement plan

So by mid-May, I had figured out this whole “diabetic-friendly diet” and began in earnest. I started weighing myself daily, eating sensibly while cutting down on carbs, sweets, and portion sizes.

Goal #1 – Get my weight below 220

I accomplished this on 6/28 and immediately set a new goal:

Goal #2 – Get my weight below 215

This was accomplished on 8/5, which led to my third goal:

Goal #3 – Get my weight below 210

And on Tuesday, after having been below 210 for a full 20 days, I considered that goal accomplished as well.

Because my weight can fluctuate 1-3 pounds on a daily basis, even though I weigh myself at the same time and under the same circumstances, I figure that a time span of three weeks at the target weight is appropriate for considering a goal “accomplished.”

I hit 209.5 on 9/6, which started the clock. I got down to 207 last week.

I don’t need huge weight loss all at once – what I need is a healthy decline in weight over time that STAYS off.

So now I’m on Goal #4 – get my weight below 205.

My long-term goal is to get my weight down to 170 pounds. I haven’t been that weight in more than two decades, but I know it can be done. If I average six weeks for each five pound goal, then we are looking at me arriving at my long-term goal of 170 by mid July 2018. That really is not long at all when you consider how long it took me to get to the weight I am now!

But that is assuming that I just continue to lose weight through sensible eating. I imagine my weight loss will slow and I will need to begin exercising more by then. So we shall see.

Another way to look at it? If I continue on this current path – I will have lost ALL of the weight gained over the past 20 years in just over ONE YEAR. When you look at it that way, I think it sounds pretty frickin’ awesome!

Meanwhile, I went in on Tuesday to see Dr. Edwards, who heads Kansas City Direct Primary Care and get the A1C blood test, a test that looks specifically at your blood sugar levels over the past 90 days. The A1C test indicates whether you are normal, at risk for developing diabetes or already have the disease. Here is the breakdown:

Normal below 5.7 percent
Diabetes 6.5 percent or above
Prediabetes 5.7 to 6.4 percent

Thanks to my diligence, my dad, who has been a type 2 diabetic for 20+ years, scored 5.6 on the test recently! I have tested at around 6.2 percent, which is prediabetic, both four years ago and again around four months ago. My test results now? 6.0 percent!

My doc wrote, “Even a change of .2% in the right direction is a HUGE change since most of the time I’m seeing people who are moving in the other direction…but full percentage points. Keep up the good work!”

So, while I am still considered pre-diabetic, I’m making changes to see that A1C fall to normal ranges.

I was talking to my chiropractor yesterday about this and he said, “Imagine an A1C of 14%.” It turns out he had that, plus blood sugars in the 500 range. He made changes to his lifestyle, his eating habits in particular, and is now back out of diabetes and in the normal range.

A good calorie calculator I just found is my next step in dialing in my weight loss goals. You can play around with it to determine short-term and long-term weight loss goals. If, for example, I want to weigh 150 pounds and know my lifestyle will be sedentary, according to my height and age, I should limit my caloric intake to 1600 calories per day. OR I can make changes in my activity level, and “earn” myself the right to more calories per day if I think that 1600 calories are too little.

I don’t plan on obsessively counting calories – after all, I already weigh myself daily and consider that rather extreme – but it is a nice tool to use.

Northeast Kansas City Historical Society Sixth Annual Homes Tour

It’s that time again!

I have to admit that I look forward to this homes tour every year. I really do! Last year, having our neighborhood as the tour destination was phenomenal, and this year, I’m excited to see TWO of my cleaning clients as destinations on the tour!

I will be a docent at one of them, probably in the morning, at the house on the top left in the photo above. I can’t wait, I love to look at the rooms and get decorating ideas each time I am there to clean it. The owners have impeccable taste and have done so much work to improve the home over the years.

I hope you will set aside some time in your schedule to visit each of the houses on Saturday, October 14th. The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Allocate plenty of time, you won’t want to miss lingering over the carved wood, antiques, fireplaces, and stenciled ceilings. And so much more!

Posted in Events/Tours, Health | Leave a comment