Friday, July 19, 2019

FROG in the Fridge

It's been a busy--and occasionally odd--little week, I think because it's felt like we're all holding our breath for the impending heat wave.

(Except for those people who are already in it, of course.)

My house doesn't have AC, but I did invest in a portable one for the bedroom.

So I've alerted the cats that, on Saturday and Sunday, we may find ourselves following in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning and retreating to the bedroom to write.

Because that's the plan: if it's too hot to move, I might as well write.

Especially since all indications are that by sunrise on Saturday, we'll be looking at "sweltering" in the rear view mirror.

So I'll try to write until applying heat to one's wrists via a laptop battery no longer seems like a sensible course of action.

Speaking of sensible, I had to do a little of this this week:

Followed, not surprisingly, by this:

And then a wee bit of this:

But that's okay, cuz now I'm all like

It really feels good to have left the throes of anxiety behind by learning how to more effectively cope with--and confront--situations where my own best interests are ... under siege.

At one point, I found myself experiencing what I'm sure others have experienced as well: suddenly wondering, "Were the lies always this transparent? Or have I just been away from it for a while?"

The answer, of course, is "yes." To both questions.

It's about learning not to be the proverbial frog in the pot of water, letting others gradually turn up the heat and create a situation you're uncomfortable with.

For my part, I have instead--as the title of this post suggests--put FROG in the fridge. Like so:

Relaaaaaxx... it's a jam.

Made in part from these little beauties:


FROG is an acronym for "Fig, Raspberry, Orange and Ginger."

That's what goes into making this little concoction. The recipe I used is here, and the only caveat I will offer is that I did not use low-sugar pectin--I simply used the pectin I had on hand--and so that may have caused it not to set so well.

When chilled in the fridge, it holds up.  At room temperature, though, it may be a bit better as a topping on pancakes. Or ice cream.

Which is certainly not a bad thing.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


This morning it was all about getting back into the groove.

Last week was a hectic one, because I'm having some home renovations done, and it was the week that involved a lot of paper signing and financial hemorrhaging check-writing and quirky errand-running.

At one point, my shopping list indicated a need for both "figs" and "pendant lights."

At another point, I felt reasonably certain that if one more person asked one more additional person, "What's the price point on that?" or "How's the price point on that?" instead of "Which one is cheaper?",  I might very well scream.

So it was that kind of week.

This means that I fell off of the exercise bandwagon for two reasons that I articulated thusly: "I'm busy, and anyway, it's sweltering."

Oddly enough, I did manage to squeeze in a bout of blueberry picking and a whole chunk of time devoted to knitting (wool, no less), but my rationale there seemed to be that I'm facing a lot of gift-giving in the near future, so these tasks "needed" to happen.

Last night, as I dozed off, I reminded myself that a bike ride "needed" to happen this morning.

This morning it was hazy and already humid ("sweltering" was the word that immediately came to mind), but I put my foot down both literally and figuratively.

I biked 25 miles.

Let's just say that, going 20 mph downhill through shady patches this morning is probably the closest this atheist will ever get to shouting, "Thank you, Jesus!"

But I did it. So this means I'm back in the groove.

And now, I have some nice plans for this summer Sunday afternoon. The bikini is on (to offset any "sweltering") and later, there will be a little barbecue. There may even be a little swim shortly before or after said barbecue.

There will be knitting and reading and a general--but sensible--sunning of self.

I can't imagine anything that's better.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Another Fourth

We're once again on the verge of a summer holiday, and this year, I've got it going on.

In previous years, I've meant to do something nice for the 4th of July, but one year it was too hot, and then the next year--you guessed it--was too "cold," so this year I decided in advance it would be "just right."

I spent the week getting the yard and gardens in shape, and they're reasonably weed free now.

The sourwood tree is putting out its summer blossoms, because that's one of the perks of a sourwood tree, that it blooms in the summer, like so: 

I had the roofer come and troubleshoot and then fix the gutter that was dumping buckets of water against my living room windows every time it rained.

I went for ice cream. (Twice.)

I ran. I swam. Tomorrow there will be a bit of biking.

In the midst of all of this, I decided that I would have a "true" 4th of July fest, so I made potato salad and bought corn on the cob and veggie burgers. There will also be pesto-marinated grilled chicken.

(There may be a third round of ice cream after these things, particularly if they've been preceded by a bike ride.)

This means that my 4th of July celebration is officially in better shape than the one currently being frantically thrown together in Washington.

I mean, seriously, guys: last minute invites to the 4th? When there's supposed to be a heat index of 100 and thunderstorms possible all night long?

Just so we can see some tanks and listen to a ... "speech"... from a weird 70-year-old guy who's beyond full of himself and--at best--hit or miss when it comes to giving speeches. (God help us if he improvises.)

I'm being kind because I've had potato salad and ice cream this week, but the whole thing is just so expensive and silly and ill-planned...

I have two sets of friends planning to visit in August, and we've been trying to figure out how to make it work since May. (And no one will be bringing a tank onto my patio or insisting on a Blue Angels flyover. At least not to my knowledge.)

Anyway, what I haven't done over the past week is write very much, but what I did do is finish the quilts, like so.

Once washed--as you can see--they shrank a bit and got the "crinkly" look that quilts often get when you wash them.

Pro tip: if you ever pay $$ for a handmade quilt and it doesn't look crinkly, be sure to ask if they've washed it.

Otherwise, unless you plan to never wash it, if they've never washed it, it will look different when you wash it. (Got that?)

Speaking of looking ... different... I think it's good the strawberries are coming to the end of their season because they're starting to become a bit... oddly shaped.

Both of those were picked today, so they set the tone for the final half-pint.

Ah well, Mother Nature is entitled to some fun on what's shaping up to be another nice Fourth! Wishing a happy one to my readers who celebrate.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Wormy, Part II

I'm sure many of you (okay, maybe just one or two of you) are wondering how my adventure with vermicomposting has been shaping up over the past six weeks.

Thank you for asking, it's going quite well, actually.

A couple of people have wondered what the whole setup looks like, so I took a couple of discreet and tasteful photos today.

Because worms are just as unhappy being photographed as you no doubt are looking at photos of said worms.

Okay, here goes.

First off, there's the bin.

As you can see, it's actually 2 bins, purchased at Stop N Shop (when the workers were NOT on strike).

The uppermost bin has air holes for ventilation drilled all around that upper edge (below the lid).

It also has holes drilled in the bottom of it, also so air can circulate and so any liquid will drain out.

If you're doing it right, there shouldn't any liquid draining into the bottom, but this way, you can check and make sure and address the problem before your little wormies drown.

That upper bin sits on a inverted planter--you could use a brick or any object really, the point is to have the upper bin raised slightly above the bottom of the lower (outer) bin, so drainage can happen.

You tuck the newspaper all around the edges so your worms won't crawl out. I lost a few at first, because I forgot that step, but it was quickly remedied.

At first, I was a bit fanatic diligent about checking to see if there was liquid in the bottom bin, but now I've become very chill about that.

Because all of the inner material that makes up the bedding has to be damp, not dry, but not overly moist.

"Like a wrung-out sponge" is what everyone says.

So when I created the bin, I created the bedding and then dampened it and set the whole ... kit and  kaboodle... up ahead of time, before the worms arrived, so I could make sure it wasn't too damp. (It wasn't.)

Now, I keep a spray bottle nearby, and give the bedding an occasional spritz. It isn't really necessary to do it very often in the case of my bin, because it's in the basement where it's dark and cool, not out in the great outdoors where it might heat up and dry out.

Okay, so you open the lid and what do you see?

Damp cardboard!

Worms like the dark, so this ensures that the bedding stays damp and dark.

Also keeps the renegades from wandering out (more or less), and in the early days of my vermicomposting, it helped me not worry when I opened the lid that...

Well, I don't really know what I thought would happen when I opened the lid, but it had vague inklings of something out of B-grade horror movie, and as it turns out, that was totally--as The Temptations sang--"Just my imagination/ Runnin' away with me."

Now, you lift the damp cardboard, and what do you see?

Shredded paper!

Like all composting, it's all about the browns and the greens.

The shredded paper is the bedding.

Worms will eat this bedding, along with the food scraps, and that's how the composting happens (when they poop, that is).

Quite frankly, it's quite the little life these red wigglers have.

A nice (if initially somewhat nervous) lady brings delicious scraps to their bed every week or two.

If they run out of snacks--no worries! Just eat the bed until she shows up!

Other than that, it's just poop and... reproduce.

I don't think my worms have reproduced yet--it's a bit too soon, I think.

But, they're doing well.

They've worked their way through quite a few batches of scraps, at this point.

If you're wondering about things like flies or smell, so far, I've had to deal with neither.

My understanding is, flies come if you don't bury the food scraps deep enough in the bedding. You can't just open the lid and throw the scraps on top--that will lead to a smell and fly problems, I think.

The only smell that comes from the bin when you open it is the smell of damp dirt, basically.

I put eggshells in the compost periodically, to help with the ph-level: it can't get too acidic.

So I go easy on the coffee grounds and any citrus fruit. Non-citrus fruit, on the other hand--pear cores and banana peels, for example--seem quite popular. Also broccoli stems and stumps.

No meat, no dairy.

I have a compost bin, so I compost regularly anyway. As I do that, I simply put worm-suitable scraps in a little tupperware and store it in the freezer.  (If the scraps are big, as broccoli stumps and banana peels sometimes are, I give them a quick chop first.)

Freezing the scraps helps begin to break them down and makes it easier for the worms to do their work.

When it comes time to feed them, I just take the tupperware out of the freezer so it can all thaw, and then put it into the bin, under the bedding.

Put the cardboard cover back in place, put the lid on and... it's done!

So far, I'm quite happy with this experiment. Harvesting the compost is done only a couple of times a year, when you have a small number of worms, as I do.  (I ordered about a lb of them, because I didn't know what exactly to expect.)

Based on my experience so far, if you garden, I'd say it's well worth it to consider vermicomposting.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Further Proof

I’ve always said that knitters (and crocheters) rule.

And now they’ve gone and officially banned any show of support for Trump or his administration on Ravelry, THE major online platform for fiber arts.

What a perfect way to wrap up a beautiful weekend.

Their policy is based on one that went into effect in October 2018 on RPG.

A Twitter user offered the following context:

I support this whole-heartedly.

Before anyone begins screaming "free speech" (which by the way, is protected from THE GOVERNMENT--it's the government that can't prohibit you from exercising free speech), let me say this.

WHY people who see a website for a private company that has a Pride flag and Black Lives Matter hashtag prominently displayed on all their social media accounts (as Ravelry does) think that they can go into and use said site, rip the shit (pardon my French) out of people who support the causes the company itself supports, call in the white nationalists to support their nonsense, and then claim THEY are the victims and anyway, we should all just be talk "crafting" not "politics," is beyond me.

Actually, wait. No, it's not beyond me.

It's about power and abuse.

That was my own experience of dealing with a couple of Trump supporters, who ironically spent a fair amount of time pretending they weren't Trump supporters--probably because we live in  "blue" states-- until Trump got elected.

(Personally, I would not want to hang my political hat on this kind of so-called "loyalty," but that's me.)

For months, I was baited into political discussions on the grounds that I "should" be able to talk with "friends" and be "open-minded,"  as they (allegedly) were. (Even though, as it turns out, they're not. At all.)

If I posted something on Facebook that leaned left, it was shot down.  (I don't lean right.)

There was no "kindness" or "open-mindedness" in how that happened, either. Still, I gave people the benefit of the doubt.

Looking back, they didn't deserve that generosity of spirit because instead of respecting it, they abused it.

If an exchange occurred in person, the response was always far less bold--I hate to say it, but that's probably because I cook good food and I'm an all-around good friend.

I think they didn't want to lose the obvious friendship perks that were on display in those moments.

Instead, in person, I found myself slowly verbally maneuvered into agreeing with some small, unimportant fragment of what was said, and later realizing that this was taken to mean that my entire opinion or objection was poised for dismissal because "deep down," I was actually agreeing with them, I just didn't realize it yet or had some "minor" point of disagreement.

Publicly, I was taunted and ridiculed.  Privately, I was told "Well, you should stop posting political stuff if you have an anxiety problem."

So eventually, I did.

Funny thing happened when I did. Trump supporters no longer had much of anything to say to me.  Suddenly, nothing about me was terribly interesting  or worth commenting on, despite our supposed "friendship."

Self-interest rose to the surface.

One day, I woke up to realize that when I did say something about a personal, non-political topic, it was now considered fair game to simply insult me.

The kinds of abusive comments that once marked heated political exchanges had been "normalized."

They were now deployed on personal topics as well. The "political" discussions had normalized abuse and disrespect as part of our "friendship."

As RPG points out, "hate groups and intolerance are categorically different from other types of political positions, and .... confusing the two legitimizes bigotry and hatred."

Eroded or "strategic" civility will slowly pave the way for overt abuse: this is what I've learned over the past year or two.

In my own case, I was now being spoken to by someone who had decided it was okay to air chauvinistic and sexist opinions and assumptions and demands when speaking to me.

My objections no longer mattered. Blatant, disrespectful sexism had become just another "political position" that I was going to have to learn to shut up about.

This is not the kind of person I would have ever chosen to be "friends" with. I found myself feeling very uncertain what to do with this situation, because I define myself as a loyal friend, but I was now trapped in a situation in which there was no loyalty, and no real friendship being expressed.

It was just all about power.  

That's when I realized that the "political" conversations had always been about power too, and never about a reciprocal exchange where BOTH people involved might actually learn and grow and change their minds once in a while.

I also realized that I might as well have been talking to a wall.

(At least with a wall, I would have known where I stood and not later discovered that I'd also been lied to a whole lot.  Really, though, I can't say it surprised me all that much by that point.)

Ah well. If I knew then, what I know now...

For my part, I regret that I wasted time and energy, and allowed someone to disturb my peace of mind (and drive my anxiety through the roof).

Never again.

After that, I began to pay attention to what often happens when Trump supporters show up to a conversation about "politics" and how even that designation--talking "politics" vs. a "non-political" topic--is often strategically maneuvered and conveniently blurred.

I began to notice how very different it is from what happens when non-Trump supporting Republicans-- or conservatives in general-- show up to a conversation about politics with people they know (or suspect) are not conservative.

Trump supporters seem to feel entitled to walk into your space (whether it's your home or your FB page or your Twitter account), and spout off their opinions, telling you why you're "wrong."

And they don't seem to think they need to be very polite or respectful about that, despite the fact that they're in your space, and they knew that when walking in the door.

But if you were to walk into their space and try to do that? God help you. I do not advise it. You would not be listened to or treated kindly.

The open-mindedness is a one-way street. If you show it, Trump supporters seem to assume they're entitled to it, but never required to reciprocate, because you've been branded before the fact as "insane" or "stupid" or "naive" or "unpatriotic" or... whatever... and the "conversation" is always ultimately about reiterating and or "proving" that "fact."

Taunting and baiting are common "conversational" tactics.

It's textbook bullying and abuse: goad and badger and bother someone about a topic until they scream, and then say, "Well, now, lookit you! You're NUTS. I'M just trying to have a conversation...
and you clearly don't want to hear my opinion."

Well, you're right, I don't. Because it's not a conversation. A conversation entails mutual respect.

And walking into someone's space and insulting them or taking advantage of their kindness?

Common courtesy dictates that you be politely shown the door and not encouraged or invited back.

So, several years into this current political maelstrom, my own experience has rendered me very tired of the "My god, my god, I'm a victim!" comments from people who have just finished behaving like straight-up bullies.

But it's not surprising, because this is what Trump does, consistently.

I've been gratified to see how many others have done what I've begun to do: don't engage with people who resort to these strategies beyond a cheerful, "Okey-dokey, then! Bye!"

Recently, I saw someone who observed, "My Twitter feed is full of 'Tweet unavailable' because I muted all the Trump supporters a while back. They think they're objecting to and arguing with me, but when it became clear they weren't ever going to actually listen to me or be polite and maybe even change their minds or adjust their political position, I muted them."

That's my role model.

There's been a lot of confusion spun right and left lately, under the guise of "politics."

For my part, I find myself regretting the extent to which I also ended up feeling confused, sometimes, because I cherished friendship and wanted to believe the best about people, regardless of their political position and despite all of the increasing behavioral evidence that revealed their true "values" (or lack thereof).

I needed to clarify my own thinking so that I could return to a clearer expression of my own principles. (I suspect I'm not the only one who has felt this way over the past few years.)

I respect Ravelry and RPG for drawing the line and making themselves quite clear. I'm particularly grateful because it has helped further my own sense of clarity that has emerged in recent months.

They've offered a role model that can be called to mind in times of abuse, confusion, chaos, by setting a boundary that really needs to be set.

PS If for some reason you think threatening a knitter--who just happens to be the mother of 6 children--over a craft pattern is just all a big misunderstanding somehow, how about when they're threatening cops

Saturday, June 22, 2019


This summer has been all about trying to develop the fitness stamina.

Well, I think it's working, because this morning, I biked 31 miles. 

My quads and hip flexors are currently complaining a bit--I think my quads may be feeling what in layman's terms is called "shredded," actually--but we did it.

I'm rewarding them with a double-sized bowl of oatmeal with the brown sugar and the raisins and the flax seed and ALL the fruit.  I've also told them there will probably be pasta for lunch.

They like that. I've also mentioned to them that the rest of the day is "really" just writing, and they like that even more.

They're strongly suggesting we do that on the couch with our legs motionless and extended in front of us.

I have not yet broken the news to them that we do have to go downstairs into the basement to get the laundry (it's the sheets for the bed--I admit, I didn't think this through) or that "technically," we need to mow the lawn.

Let's give it some time, shall we? (For the record, I have a sinking feeling that any running I do tomorrow morning will be a very humbling experience.)

My experience today is confirmation of one of the main threads of Alex Hutchinson's book about endurance--namely, that brain and belief play a larger part than one might expect.

By sheer coincidence, I forgot to reset the speed and mileage calculator on my bike when I set out this morning.

I usually hit reset on it when I get the bike out, but today I forgot and then remembered to hit it once I reached the street and began pedaling.

Well, dear Reader, here's a thing: it turns out that one of the reasons I thought I was "so slow" and "never getting faster" and "never getting any better" at biking is because my speedometer-thingy (I don't know the word for it, and I'm too tired to look it up right now) was calculating that I was starting out my ride taking a full minute and a half to go less than a tenth of a mile.

One doesn't simply recoup that later on, as it turns out.

What I found out today is that, when that is no longer factored in, I'm actually biking about 3/4 to 1 mph faster than I thought I was.

This good news, and the reminder that "last time we didn't even need to stop until we hit the 20-mile mark!" meant that this time around, I seemed to have far more endurance.

The headwind on the ride home was a bit unexpected (and unpleasant), but I was amazed to see that I was in fact able to bike up the killer hill that marks the last half mile home (although this may be why the quads are crying now).

As Hutchinson points out, belief isn't going to cut it if you don't do the training, but what I've also discovered is, what you think you're doing can affect what you actually do.

Because this is all very reminiscent of how, when I was doing weight training a few years ago, I used to mock myself about my "pathetic bench pressing."

One day, my fitness coach heard me saying to myself, "Okay, let's go get our little girl weights and lift the whopping 20 lbs! Watch out world..."

She said, "You DO know that the bar itself weighs 35-40 lbs, right? Most women can't lift the bar... you're really selling yourself short here."

To which I replied, "Oh. Well, okey-dokey, then. Look at me. Bench pressing... what is that, 70 lbs?"

When I told this story to a friend later, he said, "You didn't realize that the bar counts as part of the total lbs you bench press?! Holy shit, babe--you were lifting 70 lbs and thought it was... 20? Didn't it seem like more than that?"

I told him, "Well, you know, I thought I was kind of weak or out of shape or something. It was very discouraging, thinking I was struggling so much trying to lift just 20 lbs."

Further proof that knowledge really is power.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Gangbusters and Bandwagons

This has been a good week.

I took a picture of my sourwood tree on Monday, to mark its one-month anniversary in my yard.

If you go to this post, you'll see what it looked like when I first planted it. Obviously, it's filling out little by little.

You can't see it in the picture, but there are actually buds for flowers starting, and new leaves arriving almost daily.

The first time I went out and saw new little leaves sprouting, I gave a small hop and a skip and a "yes!" There may even have been a small fist-pump.

There was definitely a small fist-pump when I noticed a plant that I put in the ground at least two years ago now--a "cocktail kiwi"--was also flowering. Cocktail kiwi's are grape-size kiwi fruit. I had all but given up on ever getting this plant to do anything, though--it stayed super-small for quite some time, and at one point, I actually thought that it was dead.

I noticed its newfound success this year, while I was taking a break from picking home-grown strawberries: I now have FOUR PINTS IN THE HOUSE.

At first I was worried, because the bugs and other critters were getting quite a few (I have fencing and netting, but it's no guarantee against pests), but as often happens, I've found that if you can kinda-sorta make your peace with the pests being a fact of gardening life, it isn't always that bad.

I was not pleased with whoever lopped off two of my growing sunflowers--bunnies, I'm looking at you--but I simply shrieked, "NO! Don't DO that!!" and put down repellent. (Which the rain may be washing away even as we speak...)

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm participating (on Twitter) in something called 1000 Words of Summer.

Basically, you make an effort to write 1000 words a day. It started on Monday (the 17th) and it will end on June 30th.

It's mostly geared towards writers of fiction and non-fiction, not academics, but I decided I would just hop up onto the bandwagon and see what happens. I missed Monday's session, so I committed to writing 1500 words/day Tuesday and Wednesday, and now I have ... 3000! So I'm on track.

In reading Graeber's Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018), which I blogged about here, I came across the idea that because work has traditionally been "episodic," not structured by the eight-hour workday that came along in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there's a good possibility that what is essentially "time discipline" is not at all conducive to productivity and happiness.

I found this really interesting, because as I've often blogged (posts are located under the button for "Writing"), I've experimented a lot with finding a writing schedule that works best for me.

I entered this summer prepared to set aside a certain number of hours a day, and promptly found myself feeling resentful and unwilling to work this way. My rationale was, "It's summer. I did this all year."

Before the Tea-Party Republicans and Trump supporters can begin screaming, ("See! SEE!! She thinks she's entitled to summers off! Told you so! Lazy teachers! Entitled union members! NOT ON OUR DIME, baby--no pension for you! no healthcare either! Pay for everything yourself! privatize it all! Home-school! Why are teenagers staring at their cellphones and not learning??? Yeah, that's ALL on you, Sister!"), let me just say that I began to realize that, because I demonstrated time-discipline all year, I wanted a different way of working to mark the summer.

This way, I could also recharge a bit. Teaching is about thinking and doing: if you never have time to think, you can't really do your job.  

Long story short, when I saw the 1000 Words of Summer project, I immediately thought: I can do this. This would be great. I don't mind hacking out 1000 words a day for 14 days, and if I do this, at the end of two weeks, I'll have the groundwork for two research projects hashed out.

So I'm actually finding this type of labor--where the emphasis isn't on "time" or "wasted time" or "work"--but on laying the groundwork for further thought and more polished writing--more appealing.

I think that's because it takes advantage of the "episodic" nature of labor that would have characterized an earlier agrarian world: in a world of farming and harvests, you labor differently.

In my case, I decided that an easy way to fuel that motivation would be to make sure that my writing projects for the next two weeks revolve around the study of.... wait for it... graphic novels and comic books.

Because, hey, if I'm going to have to hear all kinds of nonsense about teachers and their non-work while The Big Odd Orange Guy who runs the country has already spent 187 days --slightly more than the number of contracted work days for teachers-- golfing and relaxing in Florida, all on the taxpayer's dime, then I'm gonna make sure I have a little fun sometimes too.

No worries, though. At the rate he's going, by the end of the summer, Our Current President will  have golfed away as many days as all the people who work in the private sector (231), and then all the ones who've been expressing outrage at everyone else's "laziness" will surely put their collective foot down and say "Enough!"

Can't wait to see it.

(Something tells me I'd better not hold my breath.)