Sleep Fail

So yesterday, I had a very busy day sewing and working in the kitchen, and I was so exhausted from all the not-sleeping I’ve been doing, and then I had a brilliant idea. Articles on insomnia tell you that if you can’t sleep at night, you should get up and do something else until you feel sleepy. I thought, hey—what if instead of going to bed and lying there wide awake for hours, I stay up and get work done?

So that’s what I did I stayed up until about 2:30 a.m., forcing myself to keep going until I was so tired I was almost crying. And I kept telling myself, it will be worth it when I fall into bed and immediately sink into a deep and refreshing slumber. What actually happened was that I climbed into bed and lay there staring at the ceiling until after 5:00 a.m. So it seems the timing of my bedtime means nothing at all. Regardless of when I go to bed, I must endure hours of wakefulness (and joint pain) before finally falling asleep.

Okay—sorry about the whining. I’m sure I’ll figure something out and someday I’ll get a full night’s sleep again. Today was awesome because it was gloriously sunny and breezy and Lina, Mercy and Daniel all came to visit! We went out to the Hungarian restaurant for supper and were, as always, treated like royalty. It was so good to have some family time.

And speaking of family, today is Siblings Day. Here is the most recent photo I could find of me with my three brothers, taken almost two years ago:

So grateful for each one of them!

Snow White

Do you remember how the traditional fairy tale of “Snow White” started? The queen was embroidering something next to a snow-covered windowsill, and she pricked her finger, causing three drops of red blood to fall onto the snowy windowsill. (As someone who enjoys embroidery myself, I’m thinking her hands must have been freezing!) Somehow that led to her wishing for a daughter with skin as white as snow, and lips as red as the blood that had dropped onto it.

Today I had a somewhat different “Snow White” moment. I was doing some ironing for my sewing project, and I noticed some puzzling red spots on the fabric. Since I had several pieces to iron, I set that one aside and started on the next one. That one too had some little red stains. I looked all over on and around my ironing board and couldn’t find anything red at all. Then, I happened to catch sight of my left hand out of the corner of my eye. The middle finger was bleeding.

Normally, when I am injured enough to bleed, I am aware of the injury. This one is a mystery. It’s a tiny little cut, but I don’t know how I got it and it bled on and off for well over an hour, bringing my sewing activities to a standstill. (I take a blood thinner every day, which may explain this.) Meanwhile, I had to take the two pieces with bloodstains on them and soak them in a hydrogen peroxide solution, slowing me down even further. I did not have time for that nonsense!

All day long, everything I did happened in a haze of exhaustion. I mentioned that I haven’t been sleeping well. Since my return from my last trip I have suffered from increasingly severe insomnia, leading to increasingly severe fatigue. I have also not been able to tolerate my bi-pap for more than an hour or so at a time, but I believe that may be due to seasonal allergies. Last night I was not able to sleep until after 4:00 a.m. Tears were shed.

I’m trying to figure out what to do. The last time I had this problem (apart from high-altitude trips) I solved it by increasing my magnesium intake. Now I take plenty of magnesium. I tried a strong dose of melatonin and that did not help either. Today I have resisted even a short rest in hopes that I will be too exhausted to stay awake tonight—but the lack of sleep has taken its toll. The next two days will be very intense and I really need to be at my best, so I’d appreciate prayers that I will be able to sleep.

Early this evening, in an attempt to keep moving and therefore stay awake, I worked in my garden for a while, and planted the five okra plants that have actually germinated so far. While I was out there, I noticed several things blooming so I thought I’d take you on a mini-tour of our front and side yard.

Azaleas are finally blooming—a month late. These are in the side yard:

Normally this bush is covered with blooms, but this year there are just a few thanks to that big freeze and snowstorm we had.

However, my birthday azaleas in front of the house are going like gangbusters:

The house sheltered them from the worst of the cold and wind.

The dianthus I planted last month has already started to bloom:

And we are enjoying the tail end of our lovely pansies:

Finally, I think this last flower deserves some kind of prize:

This is an asparagus blossom, with a dime for size comparison. So tiny!

The Wrong Barrel

So, yesterday when we were at Lowe’s, Jasper and I bought a barrel planter. It was supposed to be the final one of five that are part of my vegetable and flower garden. It seemed smaller than the others. However, the larger ones we found seemed too large. So we bought the smaller one.

I didn’t even pull it out of the trunk until this evening and guess what? It is indeed too small. I had to come up with a new plan. I still need another large one, but the small one will go at the end of the row like a little caboose. So I get a bonus little flower bed.

Jasper and Walter helped me set up the new barrel and add some soil to the two new beds. I fluffed up the soil in one of my other barrel planters and planted my newly-sprouted fennel plants. I have never grown fennel before and am curious to see how it turns out. I also pulled up one of my broccoli plants because even though the head is still quite small, it is clearly mature.

I tried to beat the rain today by going to Hobby Lobby in the morning while it was still just drizzling. I made a stupid miscalculation when buying fabric and will have to return tomorrow. I thought I did the math last night but clearly I had no idea what I was doing!

At least I had an art project that I could start working on, in addition to reading for school and trying to keep up with the rest of my life . . .

Food Storage Review

This morning I got Jasper to go to Lowe’s with me and pick up some stuff for the garden (I need his muscles). I think I exercised admirable self-control in that I resisted the strong temptation to buy some plants.

Afterward we went to Target because I wanted to get something that I now find I can’t live without. Which brings me to a review I’ve been wanting to write for a while. For decades now, I’ve been on a quest for food storage containers that I can be happy with.

Yes, I still have a great collection of classic Tupperware, but it’s very expensive and not all that versatile. I use it mainly for storing stuff in my pantry. I never really thought about how dependent I was on disposable plastic bags until I lived in Africa as an adult and couldn’t buy them. We washed and washed our plastic bags until they disintegrated!

Over the last few years, reusable silicone and other synthetic containers have hit the market, and I’ve probably tried most of them. So here’s what I think about them.

These were the first silicone containers I tried:

There is no brand name on them. They consist of a bag which can be made to stand up when there’s something in it, and a shaped plastic bar which holds the top together and keeps it from leaking. They work okay. The bar is not too hard to put on. The bag is fine in the freezer, fridge, and dishwasher. You can use it in the microwave without the sealer bar. I find I don’t use them very often, however.

Then I got this set from some kind of kickstarter online:

They also have no brand name, and work on the same principle. These all have flat bottoms, allowing you to stand them upright while you fill them. The sealer bars are much harder to get on and I hope that means they keep the contents secure. Like the others, they can be used in the freezer, fridge, dishwasher, and microwave (with sealer bar removed). I virtually never use these because they’re such a hassle to use.

A few months ago I saw these (re)zip bags at Target:

They are made from something much lighter and thinner than silicone. However, they are also much less versatile. They are washable and reusable, yes—but they can’t be used in the dishwasher or microwave, so they are only good for the fridge and freezer. I will keep these two I have, but I won’t be getting any more.

A few years ago, on another trip to Target, I came across Stasher silicone storage bags.

Now I can’t live without them (also available on Amazon). Unlike the other silicone offerings, they are all one piece. They seal securely at the top without a bar. They come in multiple sizes and I have them all. On the lower rank in this photo you see the half-gallon size, the sandwich size, the snack size, and the “pocket” size. On the upper right is a larger standup bag and there is an even larger one which is currently in use. I use the snack size most often and in fact I use them so much that I had to go pick up a couple more today while they were on sale—because I admit they are not cheap. However, they are the best. They can be used in the fridge, freezer, microwave, dishwasher, and oven.

My collection has slowly grown over the last few years.  These bags are also great for travel. The pocket size is now my travel soap container. I love it. Do these bags save me money? Doubtful. They will have to last for many, many years to offset the cost of buying them compared to disposable zip-lock bags. However, it is worth it for me to have quality bags that I can use over and over. I can take them out of the freezer and put them right into the microwave or oven. I have a rainbow of colors so I can color-code the contents if necessary.

And finally, I recently discovered Collapse-it containers, also at Target (and also available on Amazon):

These are more traditional in that they are three-dimensional and come with a lid. All the containers collapse down to fold flat. Like the Stashers, they are fridge, freezer, dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. They even have a built-in vent in the lid for microwaving. I will be expanding my collection of these also as I have been very happy with the ones I have.

What are your favorite food storage containers?

Easter Weekend

Sorry for my silence on Saturday—my computer was acting up. It is becoming more and more apparent that I may need to replace my computer sooner rather than later.

On Saturday Walter got most of the dirt into my new garden beds. I have some soil amendments I want to add before planting anything there. I’m excited for my garden this year! I am trying quite a few new things that I’ve never grown before.

I spent more time in the kitchen, making sourdough pizza dough and my second batch of hot cross buns (I always make a batch for Good Friday and another for Easter). I also assembled the ham-and-swiss casserole for Sunday morning.  Lucy and Tanner spent the day out at the lake. It was a little overcast and chilly, but I think they had an enjoyable picnic.

Easter Sunday was very special to me because Lucy and Tanner and Jasper all came to church with us. After months of telling them how lightly attended the early service is, they must have thought I was crazy because yesterday attendance was more than double what we usually see! It was such a blessing to me to have a real Easter service where we sang traditional Easter hymns. I have missed that so much over the last several years. They even passed out actual hymnbooks because a power outage meant the big screens did not work.

When I was a young child, before my family left for Africa, Easter Sunday was a big deal. I always had a frilly new dress (usually made by my very skilled mother). My mother and I both wore white hats and shoes—and gloves! My hair would be curled and I wore white tights with my new dress. I never felt prettier as a child than I did on Easter Sunday morning.

While we were at church yesterday, my breakfast casserole was in the oven, so when we returned home, we had our customary Easter brunch with the casserole, hot cross buns, and fruit. Afterward, I sneaked in a short nap while my meringue was in the oven, because I haven’t been sleeping well lately.

Then I cleared off the dining table and set it properly with our nice purple tablecloth and my mom’s china plates and teacups. I put the ham in the roaster oven. Right before 2:00, Lina arrived and I set a box on the end of the table and set my laptop and webcam up on top of it so that we could have a virtual family Easter tea with most of the rest of our kids.

Tea on Easter Sunday afternoon is one of our family traditions, and I sorely miss having the whole family around the table. Zoom is a whole lot better than nothing, though! We were joined by Flynn, Tiffany, Paisley, Mercy, Spencer and Jade. Mary and Jordan and Daniel were the only ones who didn’t make it. I was delighted to hear that both Flynn and Mercy had made their own hot cross buns to have with their tea.

After our family tea, it was time to reset the table for dinner and get busy on the rest of the cooking. Sammy came over just in time for supper so we had seven at the table for the evening meal.

I had to leave near the end to join a Zoom with my dad and brothers, so I assigned the pavlova assembly to Lucy, although I did take a break to whip the cream for her.

Lina does not visit often so it was specially nice to have her come twice in one weekend! She gets today off as well so hopefully she has had time to recover.

This morning I got busy early getting ready for my tutoring student, who came an hour early. We just finished reading Around the World in 80 Days so today we watched the 1956 movie starring David Niven. I hadn’t seen it in decades! Definitely slower-paced than we are used to today, but also visually gorgeous. I did have a little trouble buying Shirley MacLaine as an Indian princess, though.

After a weekend full of cooking and washing dishes, I did not feel guilty about taking a nap this afternoon. Like I said, I have not been sleeping well for nearly a week now and am so tired of feeling tired.

Despite my fatigue, however, I was able to pick up the pace a little during my walk this evening, and was even able to take my jacket off after the first few laps. Progress has been so incredibly slow in the last few months. Working through heart disease is a very slow process, it seems—at least for me.

The weather has warmed up to the point that I put most of my seedlings outside on the front steps today. I also pulled up my remaining Swiss chard as I am ready to plant something different in that spot.

Love’s Redeeming Work is Done

Last night, as we anticipated going to church on Easter Sunday, I mentioned to my husband that the one thing I really wanted was for someone to sing or play Christ the Lord is Risen Today. For years we have gone to churches that didn’t really make a big deal of Easter—but to me it should be a big deal, as it is central to the Christian faith. Imagine my delight when this was the very first hymn we sang this morning.

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

by Charles Wesley

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Our Dyeing Day

Today was a very busy day here, but it was a good kind of busy. I got up and made my gluten-free low-carb bagels. I only make them twice a year, and one of those times is Easter. I really look forward to it! They turned out very well.

Then I made a bunch of deviled eggs and mixed the dough for the hot cross buns. Meanwhile, my husband was in the yard laying out two new garden beds for me. It was a lot of work as the ground is not level. Lucy and Tanner worked on a painting project and then relaxed in their hammocks.

Lina arrived in time to have lunch with us. Afterward, she and Jasper went out for coffee while I boiled 30 eggs and made a big Greek salad. When Lina and Jasper returned, we all gathered in the dining room for our annual egg-dyeing party.

I was in and out, as by then I was working on the hot cross buns and getting them ready for their final rise.

When all the eggs were done, Lina and I took lawn chairs outside to keep my husband company as he worked on the final garden bed. When the buns came out of the oven, I piped the crosses on them and then we had our traditional Good Friday tea, with hot cross buns and deviled eggs. I enjoy these family gatherings so much.

Afterward Lucy and Tanner left to meet up with a friend, and I had a few minutes to sit down before I had to get up and work on supper. In recent years, our Good Friday supper tradition has been ham-and-swiss crepes. So I made the crepes and then filled them and put them in the oven to warm. Since I can’t have crepes, I made myself a couple of mini ham-and-swiss chaffles.

When Lucy and Tanner returned, we had a late supper of crepes and Greek salad, followed by hanging out together and having tea. Lina eventually had to leave to go home and I had many dishes to wash. Tomorrow should be a little less intense.

Parting Shot:

Some of today’s handiwork

Garden Plans

I don’t ever think about April 1st as “April Fool’s Day” because for me, it is my son Flynn’s birthday. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him today, as he and his wife went off on a birthday adventure, but I’m sure we’ll catch up over the weekend. I am so proud of him and wish he didn’t live so far away. His is the first of our three April birthdays.

The weather has cooled so much that we actually had frost in some places this morning. Some of my seedlings are very ready to be planted out, but not in this weather! It should be warmer by Saturday.

This evening my helpful husband went out to buy some more cement blocks to build two more garden beds. One will be for okra—after last year’s amazing okra success we are all eager to grow some more! But okra grows so tall it shades the other vegetables so this year it will have its own space. The other bed will be for tomatoes. Each year I hope to have a project to improve my garden and my ability to provide us with some fresh produce.

Tomorrow everyone has the day off so we can celebrate Good Friday as a family.

Stocking Up

Can you believe the year is already one-quarter gone? It hardly seems possible, does it?

Today was a big grocery shopping day because we needed food and I also don’t want to do it on Good Friday. So I talked Jasper into coming to Aldi with me as I knew we’d be getting a bunch of stuff for the holiday weekend. I was so thankful to have his help for all those heavy bags.

In the afternoon I went out to get a few more things, and one of the places I went was the dollar store. I found what I wanted there, but better yet as I was checking out the lady who came up behind me was a dear friend whom I haven’t seen since the pandemic started. It was so great to see her in person, if only for a few moments.

I bought some worms at Walmart because it seems that the worms in my composting tub must have been killed by the big freeze we had. At least I haven’t seen any since then and there used to be a lot!

Tonight and tomorrow night we are going down into the thirties, so I am glad I haven’t set my seedlings out yet. I’m still waiting for some of them to germinate! I’m enjoying what is probably our last period of cool weather until next fall.

Taking Stock

It’s always hard to get going the day after returning from a long road trip. This morning I took inventory of our food and began working on a list for a big shopping trip tomorrow. I feel very unprepared for Easter weekend!

I did also have to make a quick run to Walmart for a few items that I know I won’t be able to get at Aldi.

I toured my garden and cut a few stems of asparagus. Soon I will have broccoli! And I pulled the rest of my turnips and roasted them for supper. I need that space to plant summer squash in the next couple of weeks.