Black and white

(Last night’s moon.)

Did you catch the moon last night?  It was beautiful.  M and I saw it when we came home from an evening of fun with friends in Akron.  Otherwise, I might have missed it because it was so cold outside that I wouldn’t have wanted to leave the warmth of the great indoors.

(Blowing snow.)

In my dreams

Last night I dreamed that I ran a marathon (and managed to complete it!).  That was followed by a dream in which I was chain smoking.  I’m glad I ran the marathon first.  I might not have been able to do it after all that smoking.

Nighttime dreams aside, I have decided to try to fulfill one of my lifetime dreams.  I’m going to take surf lessons the next time we go to San Diego.  We’ll be going later this year so that gives me plenty of time to get in shape because apparently you need to be in good shape if you want to surf.

I bought a Core Disk (GoFit Core Disk and Training DVD) which is somewhat similar to a wobble board, the idea being that I’ll learn some balance and strengthen my core. I also bought the book Aloha Surf Guide A Beginner’s Guide for the Vacationing Surfer.  I was flipping through it last night, mainly interested (for now) in what I need to do to get in shape.  It looks like I have a lot of hard work ahead of me.  I won’t need to do the stretching exercises from the book since I’m doing yoga on a daily basis, but I really need to do something about my (lack of) upper body strength.

Push-ups are the number one exercise.  I’m okay at the girly type of push-ups but they aren’t mentioned at all so I take that to mean I need to man-up and do real push-ups.  I managed four very shaky ones this morning.  That’s better than none, but the author of the book recommends that you “build up to doing three or four sets of 20 reps three days per week.”


Well, four is better than none and it’s a start.

In other news…

(Yesterday morning.)

Winter has returned to the Bogs.  The rain and warm temperatures have departed.  Snow, cold, and wind have returned.  No surprises there.

(Yesterday afternoon.)

Canal Street

(Canal Street and street car tracks.  New Orleans, LA.)

I was going through the photos I took when we went to New Orleans last year and kind of like this one.  It’s one of the last shots I took and it was taken through the window of the shuttle bus on our way back to the hotel from JazzFest.  The out-of-focus lights remind me of the strings of beads that are hanging almost everywhere throughout New Orleans.

Nothing much new here in the Bogs.  I had a blissful weekend.  It was relaxing yet productive.  I don’t think I realized just how awful the Cold From Hell made me feel until I started feeling better.  It hasn’t left me completely.  My sinuses are still gunked up and by evening I start to sound a little hoarse, but the all-over malaise is gone.

Last week I was able to exercise more and that means I’ve added to my mileage for the year (the goal being 1200 miles).  Without further ado, the total so far:

  • 76.38 miles

Hopefully I’ll be able to step it up some more this week.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to hit 100 by the end of the month, but I’m going to give it a good try.

(Today’s view of the pond.)

Winter hibernation

(Bella & Izzy, looking a little disgruntled after somebody woke them up.)

I’ve gone into my winter hibernation phase.  Between that and not really having anything to write about, I’ve been largely ignoring the blogs.

I’m not sure hibernation is the correct word, now that I think about it.  I’m not hiding so much as keeping busy with a variety of projects, some of the tending-the-hearth variety and some involving self-improvement.  I’m exercising, hitting the yoga mat nearly every day, and following a new healthy eating plan.  All of those things suck up a good deal of time during the day, especially the healthy eating.  It takes a lot of slicing, dicing, chopping, etc., to eat healthy meals that don’t involve processed and/or convenience foods.

I’ve also been reading quite a bit.  I’m on my fourth book of the year which is pretty good progress for me after last year’s slow-down.  Spending less time at the computer allows me more time with books.

Other than that, nothing new here in the Bogs.  The warm up continues.  It’s gray and rainy today.  Rumor has it that tomorrow we’ll have sunshine and a high temperature in the 40’s.  That’s almost beach weather for this time of year.  Sunday we’re going way up into the 50’s.  Break out the summer clothes!

All in all, life is good.


Nine years

We’ve been going through the January thaw with warmer temperatures, rain, and melting snow.  With the exception of the piles of snow created by plowing, most of the snow is gone.  It’s just as well.  It was starting to look pretty ugly, the way snow gets after it’s been hanging around a while.

Today is my smoberversary.  On this date in 2001, I quit smoking.  I can’t believe it’s been nine years.  After all those years of smoking, it feels normal to be an ex-smoking non-smoker.  There is sometimes a little controversy in the quitting world over the use of non- or ex- when it comes to those of us who quit.  Some prefer non-smoker as it puts a period on the quit so to speak.  They no longer smoke, hence they are non-smokers.  I prefer ex- as it reminds me that I should never take the quit for granted because I’m only a puff away from three packs a day.  Never taking the quit for granted is what keeps me quit.  But that’s me.  Everyone has their own approach to these things.

It’s time to have a look at the old quitmeter.  I’m happy to see that QuitNet hasn’t cleared me (or my stats) out.  I don’t visit the quitmeter often, but it’s nice to see the numbers once in a while.  They were very important to me during the first year of my quit.  Seeing the numbers grow reinforced my quit and gave me strength during those times when I wanted to give up.

Well, here goes.  My quit stats:

  • I have been smoke-free for 3,287 days.
  • I have not smoked 197,249 death-sticks.  (Can you imagine what a pile of that many cigarette butts would look — and smell! — like?  Yuck!)
  • Money not spent on the cancer sticks:  $49,305.00

In a way, this anniversary is a little more important to me this year.  My mother died from smoking.  Small-cell lung cancer is caused by either smoking or coal mining and Mom was not a coal miner.

There are times when I feel a little angry with her for not quitting.  I don’t dwell on it much and most of the time I make excuses for her because I understand why she didn’t quit.   I know how difficult it is.  Smoking is a nasty addiction.  Not only is it hard to quit, to get started in a quit, but for most of us it is difficult to stay quit.  There are times when I feel a little angry with myself for not pushing Mom to quit.  But I didn’t want to be one of those ex-smokers, the obnoxious kind who preach Quitting to all who have not quit.  The thing is, I know it wouldn’t have mattered.  Nobody quits until they are ready to quit.  And some are never ready.

Every year I review my list called The Joys of Quitting.  I originally started the list during my first year and have been adding to it once in a while.  I posted it here at the blog back in 2007.  I think it’s time to repost it and maybe add a few new things.

The joys of quitting …..….. the smell of freshly baked bread, daffodils and other flowers, fresh air, sheets that have been dried outside in the wind and sunshine, the earth after a spring shower, scented candles and incense, perfume, buttered popcorn, a freshly peeled orange, and pine needles on a forest floor.

….. the real taste of all those foods I enjoy.

….. hiking up steep hills and climbing stairs without gasping for breath or feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack.

….. sleeping through the night without coughing, wheezing, or waking up craving a smoke.

….. it’s true what they say: Sex really is better when you don’t smoke.

….. lots of spare time to use as I like rather than as a slave to my addiction.

….. the joyous feeling of accomplishment, of knowing I made it through the last craving, of knowing that I’m winning this battle, of knowing that if I can do this, I can do ANYTHING.

….. the journey into who I am and what I am and what I wish to become.

….. learning how to express my anger right away rather than letting it build up to the ultimate explosion. Learning that tears are a river of cleansing and healing. Learning to live life by really feeling it rather than hiding behind a smokescreen.

….. digging deep and finding out that I really do have the strength to do this.

….. healthy, glowing skin and fewer wrinkles. Good hair days. A twinkle in my eyes. White teeth. No more yellow stains around my mouth and on my fingers.

….. living in the moment and appreciating the small joys of life as I take this journey one step, one moment, one hour, and one day at a time.

….. deep, deep, deep breaths which reach down into my toes and seem to go on forever.

….. the look of love and pride on the faces of my husband and sons.

…. the look of love and pride on my own face.

….. the knowledge that it DOES get better if I wait long enough.

….. the swing of my arms, the roll of my hips, and the increasing strength of my muscles and lungs as I take my daily walks.

….. the freedom to no longer worry about whether or not I stink of cigarette smoke when I go out with friends who are non-smokers.

….. the freedom to enjoy a movie, a play, a concert, or a party without worrying about and looking for a smoke break.

….. more energy and a general over-all feeling of being fully, in living color, alive and well.

….. kissing my husband and knowing I don’t taste like an ashtray.

….. training for a marathon, something I never could have done while I was smoking.

….. going on holiday and sleeping in a clean smelling non-smoking hotel room.

….. leaving behind the constant, every 15-20 minutes, craving for a cigarette and knowing that those cravings may occasionally come around as a minor urge, but they’ll never again control my life as long as I tend to my quit.

….. celebrating my One Year anniversary of freedom on January 19, 2002, which is when it finally sunk in that I am really doing this, without one cheat, puff, or slip.

….. the snow-ball effect of moving from one self-improvement project to another because now I truly know, more so than when I first wrote this, that I can do anything I set my mind to doing.

….. celebrating my Two Year anniversary of freedom on January 19, 2003, and realizing that I wasn’t counting anymore.

….. getting together with old friends and family that I haven’t seen in a while and having them comment on how healthy I look.

….. taking off the weight I gained when I first quit (27 lbs.) and taking off more weight now that I truly know I’m capable of doing whatever I set my mind to do. Quitting taught me that valuable lesson. It’ll teach you, too.

….. celebrating a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth smoberversary, and having to be reminded about each of them.

….. voting to go smoke-free in the Bogs and having it pass. It’ll be great, when we move back, to be able to go to restaurants, clubs, and bars without having to suck in someone else’s poisonous smoke. (Sabbaticalville is not smoke-free, much to my displeasure.)

….. celebrating my ninth year of being smoke-free and being astounded by the amount of money I would have spent if I’d still been smoking for all these years.

….. epiphanies.  Even this late in the game, there are things to be learned from the beginnings of this quit.

I used to end this with:  ‘That’s the short list.’  But it has grown so much over the years that the word short no longer applies.

Has this journey of quitting been easy? No. And I appreciate it all the more because of the effort I’ve had to make to get as far as I have. It’s also important to realize that it hasn’t always been hard, either. The joyous, positive moments far outweigh the crappy, struggling moments. I think that’s one of the keys to quitting…..counting up those joyous moments, no matter how small, and being grateful for them.

If you smoke, think about quitting.  If you quit or are in the midst of quitting, stay quit.  Please.

Walnut (cup)cake

I was thinking about writing a blog post concerning health care and health care reform here in the U.S. but today is M’s birthday and I’d rather celebrate his life than whine, moan, and bitch about the health care rationing that I experience with my health insurance coverage.  Besides, I’m trying to practice kindness and gratitude these days and have reminded myself that I should be (and am) grateful that I have medical coverage.

I am not much of a baker.  The reason for that is I prefer a free-for-all when I cook, adding this, that, and whatever suits my mood and/or taste at the time.  You can’t free-for-all with baking.  There is a required precision to it if you want your cake, bread, or cookies to come out right.

It’s not that I don’t know how to bake or can’t bake.  As the title of a cookbook I was given by M the Younger states, You Can Cook If You Can Read (Muriel and Cortland Fitzsimmons, 1946).  (Side note:  I love old cookbooks as well as old books on housekeeping.)  I believe that’s true about baking as well.  I can read (and follow directions) so I can bake and even enjoy it once in a while, especially when it comes to breads.  There is something almost therapeutic about creating a loaf of bread.

There are a few times a year when I will bake a cake or something sweet.  Family birthdays are the majority of those few times, and the only time I will take requests although requests are probably not necessary since everyone has their favorite cake and except for a few years when M the Younger was young and experimenting, usually the requests are the same every year (thus giving me the chance to perfect my baking skills when it comes to those cakes).

M the Elder’s favorite cake is walnut cake.  The recipe was handed down to us by his Grandma Kraus.  As with a lot of her recipes, it doesn’t go into a lot of detail.  Fortunately, she did have exact measurements, something you won’t find with some of her other recipes and often we’ve had to work things out on our own, trying to figure out exactly what she meant by things such as  “a heaping tablespoon” (in her case, that’s about two to three times the amount or 2-3 tablespoons).

Grandma Kraus’s walnut cake is not low-fat.  It is not light and fluffy, but dense and rich.  It is a cake to be enjoyed and savored, and you don’t need a huge piece to be satisfied.  That’s not to say you might not want a huge piece, but you don’t need it.

For the past few years I haven’t baked a walnut cake for M’s birthday because his birthday is so soon after the holidays that we’re usually still recovering from the over indulgences of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  Instead, we go to our favorite Thai restaurant for dinner and if he’s not too full after dinner, M orders a slice of their walnut cake.  It’s not as rich and dense as Grandma Kraus’s walnut cake but it seems to satisfy his yen for it.

We did go to our favorite Thai restaurant for an early birthday celebration on Thursday.  (Note to Jen & Eric if you’re reading:  We thought of you while we were there and toasted you with our cups of green tea.)  M was too full for cake so he didn’t order it.  And since we’ve decided to cut back on buying things for birthdays and such, I decided I would treat him to his favorite walnut cake.

Not wanting to make a whole layer cake that we’ll be forced (heh) to eat, I decided to convert it to cupcakes, figuring we can freeze some of them, unfrosted, to eat another time.  I also cut the recipe in half.  Even so, it made 12 cupcakes.

I’ve had a request for the recipe over at Facebook so here it is:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Grandma Kraus’s instructions:  Combine all ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes.

I follow the basic recipe instructions for cakes (combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl; cream the sugar and butter together in a large bowl; add eggs to the sugar and butter mixture and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes; add in the flour, milk, and walnuts a little at a time).  As cupcakes, they had to bake for 25 minutes.

If you decide to give this recipe a try, keep in mind that the batter is not as thin as a typical cake batter.  And if you decide on cupcakes instead of layers or a sheet cake, fill the cups.  The cake will not rise as much as most cakes do.

The best icing/frosting for this walnut cake is a buttercream frosting.  I usually add some chopped walnuts to the frosting or decorate the top of the cake with walnuts.

The cupcakes are cooling now (which is why there are no photos with frosting on them).  They smell delicious.  If I think of it later, I’ll post a photo of them frosted (and maybe with a few candles stuck in ’em).

Happy Birthday, M!


For those wondering how the puzzle project is coming along:

We still have a long way to go.

A dip

There is not much new here in the Bogs.  The temperature has been below freezing for several days, the snow keeps coming down, and M and I are still battling the persistent and clingy rhinovirus.  Like a bad houseguest, it refuses to take the hint and go away.

After a couple of days of hanging out in my PJ’s and doing mostly nothing other than reading, I decided today was the day to try to get back into my daily routine.  That includes exercise, something I’ve been trying to keep up with while sick.  I haven’t done too poorly.  My mileage for the year so far is (drum-roll please):  36.29 miles.

Not too shabby, eh?

On Sunday M and I had a late breakfast which resulted in the decision to have a snack instead of an all-out lunch in the midafternoon.  I was going to make a bean dip.  Then I thought I’d make some guacamole since I had a few avocadoes sitting on the counter.  And then it turned into a full-out layered dip.  I haven’t made a layered dip in a very long time (a decade, maybe).  I don’t even know where my recipe for our favorite layered dip is since organizing my recipes is one of those big projects I keep meaning to get to.

So, I worked without a recipe and just made things up as I went along.  Nothing unusual about that.  I used fat-free vegetarian refried beans with homemade salsa and spices mixed in for the first layer.  I made guacamole for the second layer.  The third layer consisted of low fat Greek-style yogurt (instead of sour cream) with spices.  I sprinkled on some reduced fat cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses for the next layer, and then put diced, fresh tomatoes and green onions on top of that.  Black olives would have topped it all off except M doesn’t like olives.

I served it with tortilla chips.  Yummy!

And that, folks, is about it from the Bogs for now.  I hope you all are keeping warm and happy out there.