Lynn's blog

I blame Brenda Dayne (the former pride of Portland) and her blasted good musical taste. I was spinning today--more on that later--and listening to Cast On when she played a song. She warned us. She said it was an "ear worm." What she didn't say is that:

A. It's about a B movie-style mad scientist--my favorite kind!--and

B. It's by the same guy who did the hilarious and strangely tuneful bluegrass version of Baby Got Back that I blogged a while ago, Jonathan Coulton.

It's called Skullcrusher Mountain:

Welcome to my secret lair on Skullcrusher Mountain
I hope that you’ve enjoyed your stay so far
I see you’ve met my assistant Scarface
His appearance is quite disturbing
But I assure you he’s harmless enough
He’s a sweetheart, calls me master
And he has a way of finding pretty things and bringing them to me

I’m so into you
But I’m way too smart for you
Even my henchmen think I’m crazy
I’m not surprised that you agree
If you could find some way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You’d see the voices that control me from inside my head
Say I shouldn’t kill you yet

And it gets better from there! And it's a rockin' tune! And you can download it free except that I paid the $1 because it's an awesome rockin' tune! And he's going to be in Portland on the 23rd and I'm seriously thinking about going even though I never go anywhere! He's that awesome.

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Please put your hands together and give a big TNH welcome to our newest community member, Josephine. Why? Because she's my daughter, Josie (the user name was already taken)! She's been busy writing book reviews and is going to blog too. *sniff* I'm so proud.

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In Niger, along the Sahel desert, farmers are turning desertification around. No aid agency or government is helping or guiding them; the methods they're using are commonsense, and either cheap or free:

Recent studies of vegetation patterns, based on detailed satellite images and on-the-ground inventories of trees, have found that Niger, a place of persistent hunger and deprivation, has recently added millions of new trees and is now far greener than it was 30 years ago.

These gains, moreover, have come at a time when the population of Niger has exploded, confounding the conventional wisdom that population growth leads to the loss of trees and accelerates land degradation, scientists studying Niger say. The vegetation is densest, researchers have found, in some of the most densely populated regions of the country.

“The general picture of the Sahel is much less bleak than we tend to assume,” said Chris P. Reij, a soil conservationist who has been working in the region for more than 30 years and helped lead a study published last summer on Niger’s vegetation patterns. “Niger was for us an enormous surprise.”

What really got the ball rolling was, of all things, the privatization of trees. Up until 30 years ago, every tree in Niger--no matter where it grew--was considered the property of the state. You could not own a tree in Niger. As is so often the case, when everyone owns something, no one owns it, and so no one cares for it. Once farmers were allowed to own trees and their byproducts, they started nurturing the trees:

About 20 years ago, farmers like Ibrahim Danjimo realized something terrible was happening to their fields.

“We look around, all the trees were far from the village,” said Mr. Danjimo, a farmer in his 40s who has been working the rocky, sandy soil of this tiny village since he was a child. “Suddenly, the trees were all gone.”

Fierce winds were carrying off the topsoil of their once-productive land. Sand dunes threatened to swallow huts. Wells ran dry. Across the Sahel, a semiarid belt that spans Africa just below the Sahara and is home to some of the poorest people on earth, a cataclysm was unfolding.

Severe drought in the 1970s and 80s, coupled with a population explosion and destructive farming and livestock practices, was denuding vast swaths of land. The desert seemed determined to swallow everything.

So Mr. Danjimo and other farmers in Guidan Bakoye took a small but radical step. No longer would they clear the saplings from their fields before planting, as they had for generations. Instead they would protect and nurture them, carefully plowing around them when sowing millet, sorghum, peanuts and beans.

Today, the success in growing new trees suggests that the harm to much of the Sahel may not have been permanent, but a temporary loss of fertility. The evidence, scientists say, demonstrates how relatively small changes in human behavior can transform the regional ecology, restoring its biodiversity and productivity.

And while my essentially libertarian self might want to point out that privatizing the trees stopped the desert, much more important is this: "Relatively small changes in human behavior can transform the regional ecology." Libertarianism didn't stop the desert. Hope did.

Over the years, polls taken around the world show that while most everyone believes humans are causing global warming, Americans more than any other people believe there's nothing they themselves can do about it. Why bother? It's hopeless.

Because doing something is better than doing nothing. We don't know if it really is hopeless. We only feel hopeless. But desertification in Niger was considered hopeless. There was nothing anyone could do about it. "Everyone" said so--the aid agencies, the governments. Africa would turn into one big desert and there was nothing anyone could do. But no one told those farmers that.

If African farmers can turn back the desert based only on hope, why can't we make changes ourselves?

No one's asking us to pound our laundry on rocks. We're being asked to do things like use compact fluorescent light bulbs, turn our heat down in the winter and AC down in the summer, hang out our laundry to dry more, and drive less.

Why not? It might help global warming, it usually saves us money as individuals, and it also sends less money to foreign oil interests that frankly hate us and spend that money accordingly--rejection of the oil economy is the ultimate in patriotism. You cannot (willingly and intentionally) drive a gas guzzler and claim you love this country.

Our government's not going to do what needs doing, that's been made increasingly clear. It's going to be up to us as individuals to make the changes, not just for global warming but in dozens of other small ways. We just need a different set of habits. These are changes that can't hurt--they can only help.

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We watch Food Network a lot around here; it's one of the few things we can all watch together, for starters. And so I was happy to see that (one of) my foodie crush(es), Tony Bourdain, has about the same takes on FN folks as I do. Namely:

  • Alton Brown rules:

    How did Alton slip inside the wire--and stay there all these years? He must have something on them. He’s smart. You actually learn something from his commentary. And I’ll admit it: I watch and enjoy Iron Chef America--in all its cheesy glory. Absolutely SHOCKED and thrilled when guys like Homaru Cantu show up as contestants--and delighted when Mario wins--again and again, forestalling his secretly long-planned execution. His commentary is mostly good. And that collar-bone snapping fall off the motorcycle on Feasting On Asphalt? Good television!

    Alton, of course, being my other big foodie crush. If you only watch one FN show, Good Eats should be it. Home cooks can learn more from a little Alton than from any amount of "bamming." And Alton single-handedly saves Iron Chef America.

  • Ace of Cakes is surprisingly fun to watch, as long as you don't expect to learn anything.
  • Somebody please save me from Rachael Ray. Too bad, says Tony, she's unstoppable:

    Complain all you want. It’s like railing against the pounding surf. She only grows stronger and more powerful. Her ear-shattering tones louder and louder. We KNOW she can’t cook. She shrewdly tells us so. So...what is she selling us? Really? She’s selling us satisfaction, the smug reassurance that mediocrity is quite enough. She’s a friendly, familiar face who appears regularly on our screens to tell us that “Even your dumb, lazy ass can cook this!” Wallowing in your own crapulence on your Cheeto-littered couch you watch her and think, “Hell…I could do that. I ain’t gonna…but I could--if I wanted! Now where’s my damn jug a Diet Pepsi?” Where the saintly Julia Child sought to raise expectations, to enlighten us, make us better--teach us--and in fact, did, Rachael uses her strange and terrible powers to narcotize her public with her hypnotic mantra of Yummo and Evoo and Sammys. “You’re doing just fine. You don’t even have to chop an onion--you can buy it already chopped. Aspire to nothing…Just sit there. Have another Triscuit…Sleep….sleep….”

    mmm...Triscuits...wait! I'm wheat-intolerant! d'oh!

  • Sandra Lee is pure evil. Holy cats is that true.

There's only so much home cooks can learn from professional chefs; the challenges of running a home kitchen are far different than a restaurant one. For instance, has watching Iron Chef (both versions) taught me anything, really, about cooking? No, not really. I just like listening to Jeffrey Steingarten insult the other judges. But Mario Batali on his old show Molto Mario? He taught me scads. Jamie Oliver, the same, though I know he grates on some pros. And Alton teaches everyone.

I'm sad that FN has turned away from that mission and towards a...well, I'm not really sure what their mission is now. They say they're "way more than cooking," but I don't want way more than cooking. If I wanted way more than cooking, I wouldn't be watching the freakin' Food Network, would I?

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I only had the stomach part of this bug for about 36 hours, but through today I have been as wrung out as a dishrag--just exhausted. We went to church Sunday night because the girls were in a pageant; by the end of the night I was so tired I shook walking back to the car.

Anhata came over today and helped me get a little caught up with laundry--thanks again, Hata--and tomorrow I'm going to try going in to the rehab gym. I'm nervous. I'm not feeling 100% yet and I have to drive myself. We'll see what happens, I'm going to take it very easy tomorrow.

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I've got a stomach flu. I've managed to choke down a couple of popsicles and that'll be dinner tonight. John and the girls made mashed potatoes and steak and it's weird: It smells wonderful and horrible all at the same time. :( I'll probably be mostly AWOL till Saturday.

Oh! John's first day of work was today. It went well. It's going to be good.

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It's interesting this came up, I just got a bracelet-making kit in the mail promoting this very vaccine: Merck is lobbying the states to require HPV vaccinations for girls.

Merck & Co. is helping bankroll efforts to pass state laws requiring girls as young as 11 or 12 to receive the drugmaker's new vaccine against the sexually transmitted cervical-cancer virus.

Some conservatives and parents'-rights groups say such a requirement would encourage premarital sex and interfere with the way they raise their children, and they say Merck's push for such laws is underhanded. But the company said its lobbying efforts have been above-board. ...

Gardasil, approved by the federal government in June, protects girls and women against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, that are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. A government advisory panel has recommended that all girls get the shots at 11 and 12, before they are likely to be sexually active.

But no state has yet to add Gardasil to the list of vaccinations youngsters must have under law to be enrolled in school.

I am, as always, against states legislating this sort of thing; vaccination is a decision parents should be making for children, not the state. However I am supportive of this particular vaccine.

We're selective (and delayed) vaxers in our house. The kids didn't get the chicken pox vaccine; they did get the MMR and polio vaccines. And when the time comes I'll definitely be getting the girls vaccinated for HepB and HPV.

The argument that vaccinating against HPV somehow encourages premarital sex is ridiculous. I just can't imagine a girl saying to herself, "Well! Things sure are heating up in the back seat here with Jimmy! Guess I better cool things down or I might get HPV since Daddy wouldn't let me be vaccinated!" Because I remember being 17 and being hot and bothered enough that nothing else really mattered all that much. (And no, there was no Jimmy, nor a back seat, more's the pity. I just sat around by myself being hot and bothered.)

Not only that, but there's no guarantee that if Jimmy marries the girl before she has sex with him that he hasn't had premarital sex himself--and then passes on HPV to his virginal wife. Punishing your daughter by potentially giving her cervical cancer if she has sex--at any point in her life--seems, well, not really all that loving an attitude for a parent to take.

The bracelet? Josie's wearing it. In two years, she'll get that vaccine. I may or may not be here when she's a grown woman, but wherever I am I want to know that I did right by her--and I want her to know it, too. If a vaccine can stop her from getting cervical cancer, you bet I want her to have it.

New poll: Do you intend to vaccinate your daughter against HPV?

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That's what the Japanese Health Minister says at any event. No wonder the Japanese population is declining, if this is the caliber of guy the women have to put up with.

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I got an email today listing all of the various ways agri-business tries to pass itself off in the health food segment as small, mom and pop natural/organic companies. Most of them I knew about--when in doubt, assume it's owned by Hain-Celestial--but this I did not know about: Colgate bought Tom's of Maine last year. I'm almost as upset as when Kraft originally bought Celestial Seasonings in 1984. I honestly thought Tom's was still owned by the Chappelles. Perhaps it's time to start making my own.

My ongoing, oldest work in progress. :) The younger work in progress hasn't sat still long enough today to have her picture taken.

Josie has been working on crafts a lot lately. She's taking her knitting everywhere, and she's been bugging the heck out of me for sewing lessons. She's reading her Mary Frances books and can't understand how Mary Frances is so much further ahead than she is. I explained that sewing isn't as fast as reading about sewing, which seemed to startle her.

Here is the apron she's working on, by hand. It's a scrap of striped cotton that I made a pair of Turkish pants for bellydancing a loooong time ago. I like yarn-dyed stripes like this. Her hem is uneven and some of her stitching leaves a bit to be desired, but she's doing very well and should be done with the last bit tomorrow. Once we get back on our feet financially we'll finally be able to take her sewing machine to get tuned up.

In the last couple of days I've finally felt well enough to spin. I really haven't had it in me lately, even though I've got lots of lovely wool here to get through. This is a colorway called Missouri Breaks from Butternut Woolens and I cannot for the life of me remember what kind of wool it is. It's soft, It might be merino. I got it at Oregon Flock and Fiber in 2005 and I'm finally getting around to spinning it. I'm driving myself crazy spinning it very fine and then Navajo-plying it--crazy because I neglected to put on the bobbin with the higher spinning ratio and have been treadling like mad to get the laceweight. I have no idea what I'm going to do with this when it's done.

Not socks. It's going to be far too fine for socks. Besides, I'm still working on these. This is a different Butternut colorway called Aspen. This is my standard toe-up short row heel and toe pattern just knit off the top of my head. One sock is done but I'm not happy with its fit and will probably frog it. My feet and ankles are so weird now that I'm finding I have to do several sets of increases starting about halfway through the foot. But then, that's the joy of handmade socks: A custom fit. Which is good since I can't find any commercial socks that feel good now. (Shoes are a similar issue. I'm having to work out in my gardening clogs.)

Finally, here's Josie's sweater. I'm at the underarm and can't find my #8 double points to do the sleeves. Because I'm lame. But do enjoy the lovely color. Handspun worsted weight Romney in two colorways of pencil roving from Crown Mountain Farms, except they don't use Romney any more, they use Corriedale. The colorway are Forget Me Not and Blue River. I've got like 2 pounds of it spun up; it took me so long that one of my girlfriends made me spin something else in the middle of it because she was sick of looking at it. :)

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Months ago I accidentally nuked the posting guidelines for the site. I've finally gotten around to updating them. The synopsis: Flaming and spamming are still verboten. ;) The big news: Political speech is back as long as it's kept polite.

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We took the lessons we learned in our first attempt at spelt pizza seriously the second time around, to wit:

  • Many small pizzas are better than one big pizza.
  • Don't over-top. No more than 3 is best.
  • Don't over-sauce. A little goes a long way.
  • Bake directly on the pizza stone.
  • Build the pizza on the pizza peel (see below).

Following those guidelines, I made a double batch of spelt pizza dough and we proceeded to make four small pizzas with different toppings to suit the four of us. Making the pies right on the peel made it so much easier to get them onto the stone, I can't even TELL you what we were thinking trying to do it any other way. And baking them on the stone made the crust in the middle much much crisper. We broke another pizza rule--you should let the stone heat up at full temperature for at least 20 minutes, but we were hungry and it turned out pretty well for all that.

John ignored the 3-topping rule and built a pie so top-heavy it wouldn't come off the peel. He finally got it off into a big cheesy messy heap and stalked away cursing. (Let this be a warning to you, O Potential Flouters of Pizza Rules.) But I tell you, it was a delicious if lumpy pie.

Each of us had enough pizza of our own design to satisfy and to share. The crusts puffed up on the edges and were crispy on the bottom. By golly, this was pretty good spelt pizza!

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He got it! They called at 8 am this morning--we were still in bed, but we've been so worried about this that every time the phone rings no matter what we're doing we put on our best phone voices, so I managed to sound awake and perky and so did he. :)

It's a significant pay cut from his last job, but the benefits are much better, the commute is easier, etc etc as I posted yesterday. And he discovered that instead of working 5 8-hour days he'll be working 4 10-hour days, which we much much prefer; it'll give him a day to help me, and I still need a lot of help around here.

More in a bit, time for rehab. :)

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After a long search, John has *almost* gotten a job. They're running a background check (which he'll pass) and then they're making him the offer. Please keep thinking good thoughts because we're paranoid; we won't feel 100% certain about this until he's got an offer letter and has signed it.

This is a good job, with the state of Oregon; it's a good mix of his technical skills and people skills, and it's super super stable, which is the #1 thing we're going for right now. The money is not great, but we've lived on less before and can do so again. We'll just eat at home even more than we already do, which is to say we'll eat at home 99% of the time instead of 95% of the time. John can take the bus or ride a bike to this new job so that cuts out a lot of gas expense. He swears up and down that this time he'll remember to take his lunch with him. :)

The hardest adjustment will be for the girls and me. We've gotten used to having him around. But this will be good for him; he's going stir-crazy.

John's been unemployed since mid-November, with no unemployment insurance. Between that and being denied my disability, we've been hurting. Something has to break for us, and we're hoping this is it. Cross your fingers.

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Since I often share my sorrows it's only fair I share my good times.

I got up, and I felt pretty good. I went to the rehab gym, had a good workout, and felt pretty good. Came home, did knitting circle, got tired, but still felt pretty good. Did therapy, came home, had a really tasty dinner (made by John), watched a little telly, did a little work here, and went to bed still feeling pretty good.

Yesterday I had a good day. Just a plain old good day. I cannot tell you the last time I had a good day. I'm almost afraid to jinx it. Perhaps--just perhaps--I'm turning a corner.

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*ring ring*

"Mom? We're running the self-cleaning function on the oven..."

"Wow, have you ever done that? I thought you were nervous about the wiring."

"That's been fixed, so we figured it was time."

"You really should run that thing more than once every five years, Lynn."

"We weren't sure about it, we just weren't sure what to do. Plus didn't you do it when you were here this summer?"

"(sigh) No, I just wiped it out."

"Is it supposed to smoke like that?"

"I wait for a sunny day so I can open the windows. Wait, how much is it smoking?"

"Well, we can still see each other..."


Three hours later, it finished up; it smoked for some time but subsided by the end. We gingerly opened it up and viola! a clean oven! An oven filled with ashes, but clean! gosh darn, what an invention...

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So far, so good; we're running on Drupal 4.7 now. Yay us! :) (No sooner do I write this than I see that the front page says it's "Wednesday, December 31st, 1969." Something I have to fix. sigh.)

I have made quite a few changes.

--One that several of you found right away, and that only just now works, are the new albums. If you're a registered user you'll see that under add your stuff there's now a choice called acidfree media. That choice will allow you to either create an album, add a photo or add a video (yes, video!). The photos and videos will automatically appear all neat and tidy in the album you specify, and you can put albums inside albums--ie, you can have a main album, say, "Lynn's Album" and inside that you can have sub-albums, say, "New Year's Eve 2006," "Finished Objects 2007," and so on. Sweet, no? And for those of you who've been with me long enough to have used the old system--no, I don't think I can get the old image galleries to go into the new albums. I will try but I'm not optimistic.

--You can now easily switch themes between the old center-style theme and the new left-style theme (left is the default, and you need to be a registered, logged-in user to change that). Look at the very bottom of the page if you're using the default theme and you'll see a pull-down menu.

--Bookmarking pages in your browser is now easier; at the top of the column you'll see links to click on that will add bookmarks to your browser for either TNH's home page or the particular page you're on.

--You can also now keep a list of bookmarks here at TNH if you're a registered user. Look in your navigation menu (the one with your name on it) for "my bookmarks". You can bookmark things at TNH or things on other sites, and you can share those bookmark lists with others.

--Registered users can now invite their friends to join TNH using a simple form.

--The buddy list is back. If there are people here whose posts you don't want to miss, you can put them (with their permission) on your buddy list. It's kinda like having friends at MySpace.

--You can now vote on posts!

--If you have a Yahoo ID and have thought about signing up at TNH but just didn't want one more stupid password and user name to remember, you can now sign up with your Yahoo ID and password.

Other things coming: A new chat room area that promises to be much superior to the old one, RSS feeds for comments as well as posts, notification for replies to your comments, and a user brownie point system--the more you participate here, the more points you get. What that will mean in terms of reward I have no clue yet, but I think at the least you'll get a cool icon. :)

Thanks for your patience!

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Hang on tight, kids! I'm updating the software for the site and it's going to be weird, probably through Sunday. I'm adding some new features (to be announced--we'll see what works), upgrading some that haven't been working right (weblinks and image galleries, for instance), and getting rid of some features that never really got used.

Hold tight and wish me luck!

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Some of you may have noticed that it's been hard to get into TNH lately. I found the problem--in my mailboxes of all places--and think I've fixed it. Let me know if things are still sluggish.

And while I'm being all meta and stuff (BTW, "meta" means I'm talking about the site itself), I'm going to be upgrading the site to the latest iteration of our software this week. There may be some bumpiness, but I'm going to try to keep turbulence to a minimum. I'm hoping, in fact, to do it this weekend when fewer of you are out there.

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pizza not cooked yet
Josie and I miss pizza. Not being able to eat wheat is a drag sometimes. In fact, it's such a drag that I sometimes eat wheat anyway, and if I'm already stressed it makes me quite ill. Dumb Lynn. So I'm working really hard now to avoid eating wheat at all. Josie is better at not eating it than I am, how weird is that? Kid has willpower.

Saturday we took a drive to Bob's Red Mill to do some stocking up. We were out of spelt berries to grind our own whole spelt flour, oat groats for porridge and some alternative flours like tapioca and sorghum. While we were there we found that they now make "light" or white spelt flour, the spelt equivalent of wheat all-purpose flour, and so we bought a sack to see how well it worked.

pizza cooked
Last night I made pizza dough with it, using my favorite old dough recipe from The Greens Cookbook and just swapping spelt straight out. It didn't rise as much as wheat, but we knew it wouldn't--but it did rise. The top picture is how it looked when we topped it. The bottom picture is how it looked when it was done (the first time).

Yeah, the first time. While the crust was nicely browned at the edges, and the top was just this side of burnt, the sausage wasn't completely cooked and the crust in the center wasn't done. We put it in a lower temp oven for 15 minutes longer and it was done enough to eat. And it was pretty tasty, but I was disappointed I didn't get it right. It's been years since I made pizza because of the wheat thing.

Interestingly, we were watching the Portland/Seattle episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and he was eating at local hotspot Apizza Scholls (just a hop from TNH Central--Tony was in my neighborhood! *fangirl swoon*) and the folks there gave their rules for killer pizza--both of which we'd broken.

Rule One: Three Toppings, Max, and Only One Meat. We had only one meat (sausage) but we had at least six toppings--and they were heaped. Too much to cook through.

Rule Two: Don't Put On Too Much Sauce. We really over-sauced things.

So next time we're going to make two small pizzas instead of one big one so that we can cook it directly on the stone, and we're going to be moderate in our topping and saucing.

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Lynn in Clapotis with unbrushed hair

Started: 12/23/06
Finished: 1/03/07
Pattern: Clapotis, altered to be more of a scarf and less of a stole. I know, I'm 2 years late for the party but who cares.
Materials: Sandy Sitzman-dyed merino/silk, handspun and Navajo-plied into a worsted weight; the world's most beat-up #9 Inox straight needles, which I finally threw out after this was finished. Life's too short to use crappy needles.

The first FO of the New Year. It's been finished for a while, but I just now had the chance to take a picture. Ignore the hair. Oy. I'll try to get a shot soon of the whole thing spread out to show the drop-stitch bias pattern. Nothing more fun than intentionally dropping stitches.

Now on the needles: Handspun merino socks for me (finishing up sock 1 in the next couple days); handspun Romney sweater for Josie (almost done knitting the body--doing it bottom up in the round).

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This cardiac rehab thing is really getting me down. Yesterday was an absolute disaster. I think I did too much. I'll spare the details but suffice it to say that I felt so crappy after I finished working out yesterday that it took me two hours to get home, most of it waiting until I felt fit to drive, and I spent the rest of the day on the couch. I took a long nap, too, and today I feel like a wet rag--a very sore and tense wet rag. In short, I'm flaring.

John thinks I'm not exercising enough on my "down" days, but I thought you were supposed to be able to exercise three times a week and have it mean something. I'm progressing; I started out doing 20 minutes of aerobic activity, and now I'm doing 40 minutes, and that was in the span of 3 weeks. I'm wondering if I'm pushing myself too fast, but then there's always that nagging voice in the back of my head: "You're just a lazy no-good malingerer looking for attention." I'm going to talk with the gals at the clinic.

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For now, I'm putting the content on the left and the columns on the right. I'll revisit it when I upgrade to the next version of the software.

If you absolutely hate this layout, there is an alternative! Log in, edit your account, and choose the "winter" theme instead of the default "w-exper" theme. "Winter" is the content-in-the-middle format, and "w-exper" is the content-to-the-left format.

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One more experiment. Here is the content over to the right instead of the left. Comments?

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Happy New Year, my dears! So what are my plans for 2007, since I don't like making resolutions?

  • To keep exercising. I'll be through with cardiac rehab (Phase II) in early March (I think) and will graduate into Phase III then, which is mostly home exercise with some check-ins at the hospital. (If you're wondering, I think Phase I is the heart trouble that lands you there in the first place.)
  • To shed more stuff. When I'm fantasizing about finding myself stranded somewhere without all my stuff, and being relieved about it, I know it's time to get rid of stuff. I've already gotten rid of a lot--much of my old clothing, probably a bookcase's worth of books--but it's all filled in again already! I haven't bought clothes in a couple of years, and yet the closet is full again. I've bought a handful of books, and yet the bookcase is full again. How does this happen! *cough*my mom*cough* I'm actually looking forward to really getting in there and cleaning stuff out.
  • To grow some food! I'm excited about digging the garden beds this spring with Leonard. Josie really wants to grow potatoes, so we'll probably try the straw/trash-can method just to see what happens.
  • To spin more. Last year was a knitting year, I want to make this a spinning year. Knitting too, but I really want to ramp up the spinning. I am knitting a modified clapotis (thinner than the original--more scarflike, less shawl-like) out of some handspun merino-silk that should have been a lot softer than it turned out to be. I think I overspun it; it's much firmer than I wanted. :( It disappointed me tremendously. I want to develop more control so that I get the yarn I WANT as opposed to the yarn I GET. And I want to learn how to spin bast fibers--plant-based fibers like linen and cotton. I will always prefer my beloved wool, but I have a hankering to spin enough linen to weave handkerchiefs. heh.
  • To sew more. Josie is driving me INSANE with requests to learn how to use her sewing machine, and as soon as John has a job we can take it to get tuned up and get going. But I myself want to sew more. I need some placemats--none of my old ones match any more (who is stealing my placemats?!). I want to make some window quilts after the relative success of the door quilt. I need some cute aprons, I'm tired of wearing my icky stained canvas ones. I want to make the girls some pinafores. I want some cute skirts and blouses for this summer. And I refuse to buy stuff when I can make it and I have a basement full of fabric!!
  • To develop more of a rhythm in our daily life, including homeschooling. I try this every g-darn year, but you know, I'm not going to stop trying no matter how many times I fail.

I know I'm forgetting stuff. They say menopause makes you forgetful, and I swear I am losing more mind than hormones. If I remember more, I'll come back and add more.

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I'm trying a different layout. What do you think? I kinda like it.

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Happy New Year!And good riddance. What a perfectly sucky year. I mean, the only way 2007 could be worse is if it was just like 2006 except John never finds a job and I die and stay dead this Mother's Day.

At least, that's what I was going to write about. I've just changed my mind, right this minute. I'm really stuck in my anger over this last year--the last four years, really--and I need to move past it.

Here are the good things from 2006:

  • If I ever wondered whether my husband really loved me, all I had to do was read the blog entries he posted here when I was in hospital. Those blog posts mean a lot to me, and so does the man who made them. You're my best friend, John Ark.
  • If I ever wondered about my mother's love for and commitment to me, all I have to do is think back to the three-plus months of her own life she put on hold to take care of us here. As if that's all she's ever done for me; that's just the tip of the iceberg. Thank you again, Mom.
  • If I ever wondered about whether I had friends--and believe me, I have--I don't have to any more. For the first time in years, I have friends. Good friends. Fabulous friends. Real life friends! The kind of friends who'll come all the way across town to take your kids to play group because you're too sick to go, who'll visit you in the hospital, who'll make you a blanket for cryin out loud.

    No one ever believes me when I say I haven't really had that many friends in my adult life, but it's true. Rarely have I been able to count on people, in no small portion because I myself was not reliable in my youth. I have few friends in my life who've known me more than a handful of years--one remaining friend from high school, one remaining friend from what would have been my college years, and neither of them in town, no one from my 20s at all. I cherish these good friends I have now more than they realize. Anhata, Melisa, Laura, Karen, Colleen: What would I do without you?

  • I have a new cardiologist. I'm hoping she works out, but she couldn't be any worse than the one I had. So far she's done a good job of listening and taking me seriously. And I'm finally, four years late, in a cardiac rehab program, after being told over and over that no such program existed because the hospital chain I'm in doesn't have one and didn't want me going to the one across town for fear of losing me as a patient. (Note to the alleged cardiac care "institute" at Providence: Bite me.) It's kicking my ass, as I've said, and it's scaring me a little, but it's going to be okay.

    Can you tell I still need to work on the anger issue a little?

  • I found a great counselor who's helped me tremendously with the PTSD and anxiety from all of this, and who found the cardiac rehab program and pushed me (along with Mom) to get into it. Thank you, Deb.
  • I lost the ability to work, but ad revenues from this site and OMI have picked up dramatically this year. Not so much that John can retire or anything, but it's keeping us from losing our home while John looks for work--that, and help from family. I was denied SSDI disability a couple of weeks ago, so 2007 will be the year of struggling to get that reversed.
  • We were blessed with garden help from the folks at City Repair. This was a real gift--a miracle, actually--and while it's going to take a while to get everything in place, things are under way.
  • I knit a hell of a lot of stuff. Hardly any unfinished stuff lurking about.
  • And finally, my fabulous daughters kept getting fabulous-er. I worry all the time about them--being lonely, not getting out much because of me, whether I'm doing enough for their education--but then they'll each do something to show me how well they're doing, and what wonderful women they're going to be. I wish there were another homeschool girl Jo's age nearby; that's all I could wish for her right now.

And with that, I have to go walk on the treadmill. That's something that began in 2006 that will continue into 2007 whether I like it or not. :) Tomorrow I'll write about what I want to accomplish in 2007.

What went right for you in 2006?

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Not really; I've subscribed to podcasts from those universities and a lot more at Productivity Hacks. It's put out a long list of free university lecture podcasts--some of them full courses. Obviously you're not going to get credit, but if you're wanting to brush up on, say, Oral Communication in Contemporary Society or Microeconomics, you're in luck for sure.

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I completely forgot to post this! I meant to post it days ago: John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise is available as a free download--the whole audio book, not just a sample--right now in the iTunes store. Quick! Go get it! It's hysterical! Hodgman is probably best known as PC in the "Mac and PC" ads for Apple, but if you're a Daily Show fan you'll recognize him as the show's Resident Expert, who regularly makes up everything. John and I have been listening to this and just howling. While I wouldn't call it foul in any way, it's not appropriate for kids, just fyi.

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