"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere beyond the morning." - J.B. Priestly

Thursday, February 24, 2011

No Iron Chef

My culinary skills are pretty limited due to a lack of interest in cooking. Still, sometimes I try to make something and once in a while it actually turns out ok. Other times - not so much! On Monday of this week, I decided to bake bread. Now this isn't exactly rocket science for me as I have a nice bread machine. Assuming I put the ingredients in properly and the yeast is fresh, I usually get a nice loaf of bread. Such was the case this week: golden brown, perfectly shaped, and smelling Heavenly.  My problem came with slicing the bread; as the blades slid on the smooth, rounded loaf they encountered my finger. A small cut but, two days later, really sore.

Yesterday was a busy day. As previously mentioned, I have the Grandkids this week so I tend to lose track of things. After dropping Alex at school, I went to do my grocery shopping for the balance of the week. Knowing I'd have little time to make dinner, I bought one of those beautiful roast chickens at the store. When I got home, I stuck it in the oven to keep it out of the way and to retain some of the heat. In it's plastic container in a sealed oven, I thought it would be fine for the couple of hours 'til dinner. Then, I went to get Alex, took care of the mail, finished the laundry and, as the end of the day approached, decided that I should make some potatoes and veggies to go with the chicken.

Now keep in mind -I was making these things To Go With The Chicken. We have some beautiful stuffed baked potatoes from Omaha Steaks in the freezer that I thought would be perfect. I lined a pan with foil, turned on the oven to preheat it, got the potatoes in the pan and, when the oven was ready, opened it to find the chicken in a melted plastic container! Fortunately, they use pretty sturdy plastic because I was able to use the jaws of life (scissors) to remove the chicken and it was perfectly fine (and delicious).

Today I'm baking cookies. With any luck, I won't burn down the house or cut off a leg or something!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Week with the Grandkids

Kids are off on cruises this week so I get to have the little kids for a whole week!  Unfortunately, Ian won't be part of the group because his Mom is also on vacation this week, but he's in school most of the time anyway so we'll pick another time to have him here for some special days.  During this early part of the week, it's just Alex here but Jack and Anna will be joining us on Wednesday night.

We were in Rice Lake over the weekend, and we just hung around the house yesterday because there had been quite a blizzard on Sunday and more snow yesterday.  Today, we ventured out to Kohl's (so I could check on my work schedule) and we did quite a bit of shopping while we were there.  I have a 30% off card right now (on top of my employee discount) and I'm picking up lots of clothes for the kids from the 70 and 80% off racks.  Alex also managed to talk me into a Monster Truck toy while we were there.  Then, we went to the library, and to lunch at Tom's Drive-In, and to the grocery store.  All-in-all, quite a productive day.  He's playing good by himself downstairs while I'm catching up on bills and emails, etc.  I need to do quite a bit of reading shortly, though, because my Master Gardener class is tonight. 

A couple of personal asides:  I'm having a problem with a muscle or tendon or something in my right leg in the inner thigh.  It's unbelievably sore and seems to be worse every day -- that makes me think that it's a tendon that keeps tightening up.  Makes it hard to sleep.  The other thing is how really sad I am in the background of my day.  I realized how sad today at lunch with Alex when, with no warning at all, I just started sobbing.  I didn't have as much fun in Vegas last week as I would normally have done -- something I was aware of at the time, but this really took me by surprise today. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hurrying Toward Spring

On the heels of our second big blizzard, I find myself longing for spring.  It's not because of the cold or snow, though, it's because I want to get working on my gardens!  Not sure if it's the Master Gardener classes, or because I visited all of the beautiful gardens in England, or whether it's because I'm now retired and can enjoy working in the gardens.  No matter the reason, I find myself reading gardening articles in magazines, reviewing the current lay-out of my gardens with an eye toward improvement, and reviewing garden catalogs with the same interest that was once reserved for clothing and shoes.

I have only a very small raised plot for veggies -- maybe 4'x6' -- and find it to be perfectly adequate since I don't cook.  Just enough space for tomatoes and herbs.  Maybe I'll add to that this year, but not sure yet.  My real passion is flowers and flowering shrubs.  I have huge  flower beds in front and back, and a butterfly garden on the side of the house.  This Spring, I want to enlarge the butterfly garden to extend the entire width of the house, with a fence and arbor so I can have a climbing plant like wisteria or clematis.  My black-eyed susans and purple coneflowers need to be thinned, so those will be natural additions within the extension.  Then, I'll need to pick some additional plants for the space.

Thinking seriously about replacing the chain link fence on the north side of the yard, along with extensions on either side.  I'd love a white vinyl picket fence, but I'll need to get estimates to see if we need to mortgage the house just to pay for a fence!  If it's affordable, I'd like to add some fence sections in the front near the public sidewalk to highlight special flower beds.  I'm thinking that one will be for roses -- not sure about the other one yet; gotta check out ideas for a flower bed that will be mostly in the shade, I think.  Don't want to get too close to the driveway or it will be destroyed in the winter by the snowblower and salt.

So, I've been reading past issues of Birds and Blooms, and I found an old issue of Backyard Living (a former Reiman publication that I miss), plus some gardening catalogs to get ideas for my gardens and for container gardens.  I also want to do some planting on the hillside at the cottage since that area will be tough to mow, and will have lovely sunshine all day all summer.  The cottage is 4a growing zone and is sandy soil in full sunlight.  Home is 4b growing zone and is mostly clay.  I have sunny areas and areas that are in partial to mostly shady areas.  Requires a lot of planning and note-taking.  Add to that the fact that I've now added houseplants.

Based on the blizzard we had yesterday, I think I'm going to have plenty of time to get it all planned.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Las Vegas

Up $235 so far on my first day in Vegas -- good luck at Blackjack. Headed to a dinner theatre: "Marriage Can Be Murder".

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's FebruaryAlready

I'm struggling a little to understand where the past few months went.  It seems like it was just a week ago or so that I was suddenly retired from HNI and looking for something to occupy my time.  I applied for seasonal jobs, got two, went through training and hit the ground running with them.  Then, it was Thanksgiving and Black Friday -- and the last time that we went out to eat with my Dad.  I hate hindsight; I look back now and realize that eating at the Family Restaurant is not the last eating out memory with my Dad that I would have chosen.  There was really no hint that things would change so drastically over the month of December.

December is always a busy month due to Christmas -- and I was happily oblivious to the fact that my Dad was deteriorating and my Mom was struggling.  When we went to visit over New Year's weekend I was shocked.

January was the worst month of my life.  I went back and forth to Rice Lake every week during the month to help my Mom care for my Dad, so I watched him deteriorate day-by-day.  It's still so difficult to accept the speed at which everything happened.  On New Year's weekend, he could still sit and feed himself (with difficulty), and was sleeping in his own room and able to make it to the bathroom.  Jeff and Doug installed handrails in the hallway to make it easier for him to walk.  Over the next week, it became harder and harder for him to walk and he needed to be led down the hallway.  Additionally, he had very little appetite so his weight and strength continued to drop.

By mid-January, we moved the furniture around to put his bed in the living room and walking down the hallway to the bathroom was no longer possible.  We had to lift him quite a lot in and out of bed, which became more difficult as his strength continued to decline and he couldn't assist with his own movement.  On Monday, January 24 he went to the hospice room of the Convalescent Center and died on Saturday, January 29 -- only 4 weeks from New Year's weekend when I first learned of his condition.

Writing this has been helpful as I'm still in shock at the rapidity of losing my father.  We all knew he had lung cancer and, when he decided not to have further treatment, that the condition would progress.  Still, he was fine at Thanksgiving -- not great but ok -- and 2 months later he was gone.  January is still kind of a blur -- it just went and now it's February and I'm still reeling.  None of it seems real.  I was in Rice Lake for the past few days moving furniture back where it belongs, writing out thank you cards, shopping, watching TV, etc, but I still expected to see my Dad sitting at the table with Sandy at his feet.

When I come back to Appleton, I get a break from that reality as I go about my daily tasks, etc.  I'm making a point of staying away from photographs of my Dad because then I have to accept that he's gone.  Tears are very near the surface all the time and I need to be careful.  My Mom doesn't get to escape the reality, though.  She's in the house all the time and soon she'll be there alone as Dean goes back to Florida tomorrow.  We'll go back next weekend, but she'll be alone starting on Saturday for the first time in her 79 years.  Almost 63 of those were with my Dad.  I can't even begin to imagine her pain.

The outpouring of love and support from family and friends has been comforting -- and a wonderful tribute to how much people loved my Dad and Mom.  I'm grateful that she has her church family for support and friendship, and she's hoping to go back to work next week at least part-time.  Carving out a new direction for her life is going to be hard, but I know she's strong enough to do it.