Clearing it Out and Taking it Off

It’s another cloudy morning, and I don’t mind.  I have “stuff” to do, and the weather doesn’t matter.  I have bright stuff in my mind, and the overcast sky can’t dampen that.

Yesterday, an organization that handles all sorts of issues relating to homelessness in Chattanooga sent their crew to pick up furniture that I’m donating.  It cleared my rec room of clutter and some important memories.  The blue leather sectional couch that they hauled away, still with years of wear left, was a purchase for my first home as a single parent.  It has seen dozens of slumber parties, initially Dayna’s preschool and early childhood friends, more lately young adults crashing here for fun or myriad other reasons. 

Of course, moving lots of furniture means facing the accumulated junk that has slipped underneath in five years, including a pair of prescription glasses and (not enough)  pocket change.  We’ve got some carpet cleaning to do today.

My girl is home for the summer.  Amazing how much it eases your mind to have a sick child in front of you instead of three hours away.  She’s doing great now, if you don’t count the residual allergic snot that has her carrying around a roll of tp.  She is painting.  I have always loved seeing what comes off her brush.  Maybe we’ll have new masterpieces for the new house. 

I did my bit for a national health plan this morning. ( emailed me and made it easy to call my state senators and ask if they’re going to be supportive.  I called Bob Corker’s office and spoke to an aide.  I briefly told her about my own situation (retired doc, now disabled) and interest in seeing a public health care option.  She told me that Bob hasn’t released his opinion yet, but she’ll pass along my message.  It took two minutes, and I feel good now that I’ve had a chance to speak and encourage a Senator.  Click this to find your senator and a way to contact her:

I am gradually getting back in the swing of recording my intake and sticking within my points limit for Weight Watchers.  Important weigh-in tomorrow.  Every weigh-in is important.  I am tired of being obese, and I’ve gotta stay focused on translating that frustration into action.  Yesterday I got up on my sore feet and danced during some commercials.  I climbed the stairs to the second floor.  I walked in the grocery store instead of climbing into the cart.  Try, try, try…

My doctor visit confirmed that I can put osteoarthritis on my list of medical conditions.  We’re starting with orthotics in the shoes and an increase in basic meds, along with my commitment to decreasing the weight burden on those poor joints.  There’s a plan.  That always makes me feel better. 

Time for more coffee.



Moving by Running

Some time ago I had a two-day fascination with making bunnies.  I began a white bunny of my own design using a double strand of Jamie, the old baby yarn with a little sheen to it.  Somehow-okay, not surprisingly-the bunny sat a few weeks without being completed.  (Listen how I say that, like maybe the crochet completion fairy should have showed up and stitched him into existence.)  My daughter reminded me that she wanted to see him, so I’ve pulled him back out and finished his chubby self, save for stuffing him to the gills with polyfil.  His shape was totally determined by my eye as I crocheted (a little plumper for the belly, dip in for the neck, let’s zoom out into an arm here…), but it seems to totally work.  I even like his ears and arms (okay, front legs), which were worked in the round from a partially attached root.  Tomorrow I will stuff and photograph.  Oh yeah, he needs a face – some embroidery will do it. 

I’ve received the yarn for my dad’s vest and it is cast on and ready to continue.  I’m going to knit it in the round to the underarm.  It will save a lot of time, should be able to fly through it.  I haven’t planned any fancy stitchwork.  He’s not a fan of that, although I thought about a little basketweave.  Seems like he’d enjoy that, but I can’t be sure. 

I ran a little bit yesterday, down the hall in my hotel room.  I went outside, did my errand, then ran back down the hall to my room, just to assure myself that it really happened.  My knees are not happy tonight, but I don’t care.  I am psyched to know that it is possible.  I’ve worn pants that I couldn’t get into the past three years.  That’s another great milestone.  I’m so excited to see how I can do when I’m back down to minimal prednisone. 

Another physical challenge was the rec room upstairs.  It was packed with things that should have been sorted and sent on their way ages ago.  In about two hours, with the help of Julian and a couple of his friends, three bins of toys and a couple of trash bags of stuff were piled in the garage for donation.  Several formerly prized items wound up in one of the many trash bags.  Puzzles and games finally found homes in the closet, and a million books were put away on shelves.  Remember VCRs?  A couple of dozen tapes lost their precious shelf spots and went to donation.  I laughed when I realized that they were so old they were mostly children’s movies.  When Dayna was little I subscribed to Feature Films for Families, and they made some incredible, high quality, complex stories on film.  I loved them and felt a pang of regret putting them in the bag.  Overall, however, there was nothing but joy when I saw the completed room, all neat and usable and ready to vacuum and have a good carpet cleaning. 

I’ve begun to think about where I will go, and to set firm criteria for a new home.  I had mushy criteria the last time I shopped for a home, and they were unrealistic.  I wound up in a home that didn’t serve me the way it should.  No more of that.  For this one, I go by the list.  The coolest thing on my list:  a deep tub for soaking and enjoying.  Priorities, ya know!


Yes, I’m really writing about steel cut oats.

Post Number 427 in the “cheap date” and “easily amused” categories.  I know.  But for the first time, I cooked steel cut oats at home, and I have to give them a couple of rhapsodizing paragraphs.  You people with real lives can move on to the CNN website. 


I am a big fan of hot cereal.  I was raised on cream of wheat, oatmeal and grits, all cooked the long, slow way in my early childhood, then later as flavored, sugary packets that you could mix with hot water.  I loved the early stuff, and when I got to a time where nutrition became more important than speed, I went back to it.  Last trip to Georgia, I ordered steel cut oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning, and absolutely loved it.  I swore that I’d be giving up my mushy oatmeal.  Yesterday I purchased some at the Village Market, and I’m in new food heaven.


This doesn’t even look like oatmeal!  It’s little chunks of whole oats, not flat, pressed down slices.  The finished product is much chewier and has a nuttier, fuller flavor than oatmeal.  I could imagine using these in a casserole or as a dinner side dish.  They have their own flavor, and don’t need butter or sweetness to enhance it. 


People complain about the time it takes to cook these.  Use your rice cooker.  Steel cut oats plus two times the amount of water, 45 minutes of watching the news, and you’ve got breakfast. 


One cooked cup of these oats has 150 calories, 2 g fat, 4 g fiber, 6 g protein.  That equals a measly 2 Weight Watchers points.  I’m hooked for life.



Funny Little Knitted Things in My Head

Yesterday was Monday, and in my life that now means Weight Watchers night.  I missed two meetings – the first when I visited my daughter, the second for the icy weather last week.  (Were we really worrying about icy roads one week ago, and it’s 72 degrees today?)  The crowds from the first of the year seem to be thinning out, one clear measure of the half-life of a New Year’s resolution.  I guarantee I did not lose a pound while I was out of town, so I was thrilled to find I’d lost 4.4 oounds since my last weigh-in.  The total is 12 and counting.  I can feel the difference.


I am back in the realm of medication side effects.  Remember when I tried to wean off Cymbalta last year, and had the awful brain-shaking side effect?  Well, I’m at it again.  I had resumed Cymbalta at a lower dose last summer when I became severely depressed (my depression has always been extremely chemical).  Now that prescription costs $118 per month, after my prescription plan pays its part.  I’ve stopped the Cymbalta again to return to good old generic Prozac.  $4 versus $118.  Easy choice.  Cymbalta had some pain lessening effects, but not $114 worth.  The feeling of something being loose in my brain is back, but it’s not as bothersome.  Maybe side effects are only as bad as the amount of attention you can give them.  I happen to have other things on my mind (yes, pun intended). 


I’ve got some mailing and photographing to do, and haven’t even had breakfast and meds yet.  I started late because of  this:  It’s the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has a wonderful website with endless photos of interesting textile pieces.  I was glued to the knitting for an hour.  I keep trying to tell you there’s art in my soul!  Yes, I know, and rocks in my head.


So, Like, This is What Happened…

We are not quite two weeks into the new year and I am already two days behind.  At this rate, I’ll be six weeks behind by the end of the year.  Par. 


I am fond of certain types of technology, especially those designed to save me time and effort.  Here is a tale with a lesson.  I had a number of my monthly bills on “auto-pay”.  I signed up at each company’s website to have the payments deducted from a certain account.  Cool.  No checks to write, no postage needed, no paper-wasting bills in the mail for most of them, everything on autopilot.  End of the year, I changed some accounts, including the one that everything got paid from.  And surprise, I had never constructed a comprehensive list of everything that was on autopilot.  For a month I’ve been getting polite notices that the account that is paying the bill is no longer there, and I’d better give them an alternative, or else.  So much for cool autopilot.  This time, as I make the changeovers, I’m writing it down.  There isn’t a function on my keyboard where I can push the button and get an instant list of my auto-pay bills.   Oh Lord, I am not good at lying.  I am not writing it down.  This could so happen again.  But I am thinking of making the list. 


Today is the day to talk about weight, since I didn’t do it yesterday.  I realize I jumped right over the kiddie store, but that’s because I’ve only moved four items into it so far.  A week ago, Weight Watchers entered the new year with a sort of new program.  The upshot is that I had to start counting points on everything I ate.  At the weigh-in a week ago, I had gained two pounds, so I didn’t mind starting to count – I wanted to rein in whatever I was doing wrong.  Surprise!  I haven’t been eating enough.  My usual diet is so much whole grain, fruits and vegetables, all plain stuff without sauce or grease or fatty accompaniments.  When I started the core program, and my carbs were limited, I guess I dipped into the starvation zone, where my calories were low enough to make me hold onto every ounce. 


Long story short, I ate and ate this week to get enough points in, and I lost 2.6 lb.  This is going well.  I’m not suffering a bit.  For increased activity, I stand instead of sit for kitchen work.  I stand when I do laundry.  I make myself walk extra trips back and forth in the house, rather than conserving energy and steps.  I’m averaging more than 30 minutes per day of “activity”.  My feet hurt, but that’s what pain meds are for.  My sacro-iliacs are not too awful.  And that’s on less prednisone – I’ve tapered from 10 to 8 milligrams.  It’s all good. 


Slowly I’m getting relatives to commit to doing this with me.  I sure want us to be on the Today Show.  Or the Ellen Show.  We’d be old news for Oprah – she’s the weight loss hero on her show.  You know the headline:  Family Loses 800 Pounds, Goes to Disneyland.  Yes, laughing.  How can you not?


Essie’s Cable Brim Hat: A Year-End Freebie

What I did this year:

1.  Got out of the house.  I stopped hibernating and went to knitting group, family get-togethers, my daughter’s place, the grocery store.  Nothing remarkable to you, but a definite increase in activity, especially the last quarter of the year. 

2.  Renewed some acquaintances.  Got in touch with some old friends and made more effort with my neighbors. 

3.  Made some decisions about my store.  Decided to treat it more seriously, and to open the children’s store.  Started more intense marketing, including carrying some finished products around with me to show off.

4.  Started to deal with my weight.  Joined Weight Watchers two weeks ago.  Increased my activity at home to an average of 40 minutes per day.  Lost seven pounds in the first two weeks. 

5.  Realized that I had been making decisions like a dying person.  This led to some major changes in how I handle finances.

6.  Decided to put my house on the market.  It’s that or take in boarders.  I don’t want stranger-boarders.  I’m too picky. 

7.  Cut off my hair.  Who needs hair?  Seriously, we hang on to dead hair like the person underneath isn’t beautiful in their own right. 

8.  Put extra effort into continuing education.  Got my 20 hours and then some, in areas that are important to me. 

9.  Took a different approach to pain control.  Pain limits activity, thus I need to take at least enough medicine to get me moving every day.

10.  Started cleaning out the clutter.  Even sent boxes of books to the secondhand bookstore.  Not that there isn’t enough stuff left to fill an eighteen-wheeler.

11.  Got more serious about herbal medicine.  See 12/24/2008 post.

12.  What?  I need more?  Hell, I was busy!


Aside from taking stock of my year (which took all of five minutes) I am knitting today.  (I know that comes as an immense surprise.)  I’m halfway through a pink lace scarf in my favorite Breeze (the cashmere and silk wonder that Karabella is discontinuing in spite of my objections). 


I’m more than halfway through a cabled hat in Blue Sky Alpaca organic, undyed cotton.  I was thumbing through a cable book today and saw something similar, only with a narrower band and plain top.  Of course, I’m obsessed enough that my top has to have teeny cables all around it, too.  When I put buttons on it, it will be a fashion statement.  I actually knitted in buttonholes so it will have a functional tab. 


My cousin’s black cashmere mittens aren’t done.  I let them rest while I waited for my portable craft light (Mighty Bright, $13 at to be delivered.  My eyes really needed the help. 


Joining the etsyknitters team has opened my eyes to some of the devious things people do to make their shops more successful.  Boo.  My experience has been that most knitters are wonderful, honest people.  I can’t get focused on the bad and ugly.  In that vein, I will now tell you how I made the cable hat.  This is a “how to”, not a pattern.  It will work for pretty much any button-banded hat. 

1.  Decide what design you want on the band.  Since you’re going to the trouble of making a band, instead of just knitting in the round from the forehead up, make it count.  It should be a design that lends itself to vertical display, like cables or ribbing or other vertical stitchwork.  It can be like the random-brim hat.   

2.  Cast on enough stitches for the width of the band.  In the case of the cabled hat, I used a chunky yarn and size 8 needles and loosely cast on 18 stitches:  4 each for the cables (8), 2 for each purl section surrounding and between the cables (6), and 2 each for the knit stitch bands at top and bottom (4). 

3.  Proceed to knit your desired pattern for 20 (if stretchy) or 21.5  (not so stretchy) inches.  The next row, knit in the desired number of buttonholes like this:  Follow your pattern to where you want the button hole.  Yarnover for the next stitch.  Knit (or purl-whatever works with your pattern) the next two stitches together.  Knit over to the next button hole location and repeat the process. 

4.  Work two more rows in your pattern, then bind off. 

5.  Turn your band on its side.  Use two circs or four double points that are at least one size smaller than the previous needles.  Starting two rows past the buttonholes, pick up and knit one stitch for every row of band.  Connect to work in the round. 

Round 1:  (knit 1, yo, knit 1, yo) repeat all the way around

Round 2:  It’s your choice!  You can make the top of this hat whatever you want it to be.  In the case of my cable hat, I picked up and knitted 40 stitches, so round 1 gave me a total of 80.  For round 2, I did (knit 4, purl 1, knit 2, purl 1) all the way around, to set up my mini-cable pattern.

Round 3 (my cable hat):  (knit 4, purl 1, 1×1 left cable, purl 1) all the way around. 

Row 4 and beyond:  I repeated rounds 2 and 3 up to where I decreased to make the top.  Okay, actually I’m not up there yet, but when I have about 7.5 inches total I will.  At that point, I’ll probably knit 2 together for a couple of rounds, get it down to something manageable, thread the yarn through the remaining stitches and pull tight.  You know the drill.  I want my hat to be kind of flat on top, so that means rapid decrease, instead of gradually decreasing towards a more pointy top. 


Okay, I guess that’s a pattern after all.  It’s copyrighted, folks.  Don’t sell it, just make it for yourself and your cold friends and family.  I do so love sharing!


Breathing and Eating


No, I am not a crazy, overprotective mother who can’t sleep when her child is three hours away at college.  My daughter has been sick for a week, and was diagnosed with pneumonia.  She was too sick to travel, so her dad (who lives just an hour from her) went and took care of her.  I stayed on the phone and did the long distance worrying.  Every day I debated whether I should jump in the car and run down there, and every day they told me “No” and I had to go on trusting that she was okay.  After her dad left, friends looked after her.  Today, feeling considerably better, she jumped in her car after evening rush hour and pedalled home. 

I am breathing much better now, thank you. 


Bigger miracle, perhaps, is that I have followed my Weight Watchers instructions during this week’s ordeal.  I haven’t snacked, resorted to nervous eating, or excused myself from faithful participation.  I’ve cooked and planned my meals and even though my daughter’s cookies are right next to me I’m not touching them.  It has struck me that I deserve this.  I knew that intellectually, but lately it seems to be understood by some essential, deeper element in me.  ‘Bout time.


Now I can decorate for Christmas.  I couldn’t do anything until my girl could be home, at least watching and giving orders.  Maybe we’ll do that tomorrow.