Mint Competition & a Surprise

Meet my two new friends, Pepper and Spear.

3-30-17 mint

That’s Pepper on the left and Spear on the right. They are mint plants. Almost every year, I try to grow mint, but it is hard in this hot climate where we often have long dry spells. Mint likes to be wet. So, once again I am giving it a try because I love fresh mint tea.

I always plant mint in pots because all the books warn about how invasive it is if not contained. So this year we’re gonna see just how invasive these two varieties are. Since I bought them a couple of weeks ago, Pepper seems to be spreading more horizontally and Spear has grown quite a bit taller. I thought it would be fun to see which one ends up hogging more of the long planter. I will keep you posted as time goes by.

In other culinary news, I have also planted two varieties of chives and some purple-leaf basil. Today was a glorious spring day, sunny and warm but not too hot and not muggy. Today is what spring should be like, but almost never is here.

This evening after Walter and Spencer got back from work and were eating supper, I heard some more people come in and assumed it was Lucy and Bri—which it was. But then I heard another voice and guess what? It was Mercy! She flew down for the weekend, which is homecoming at the university. And, lest you think that she went to all this trouble just to see her family, I feel I should point out that there is a young man here who I think was a bigger factor in her decision. Either way, it was very good to see her!

Parting Shot:

3-30-17 thread

What do you think happens if you use a wheeled office chair in your sewing room, and thread occasionally falls to the floor without your noticing? The castors on my chair had stopped turning, and this is why. That’s at least ten years of thread accumulation! I need my chair to roll because I am constantly swiveling between my sewing machine and my serger. It was a lot of work to pop those castors off (I had to call in a pro—my husband) but then I got them all cleaned up and put back on. Whew! Maybe now I can get some serious sewing done!

Of Cones & Stupidity

When I was in eleventh grade, one of the few comforts in my life was the certainty that I would never again have to calculate the volume of a cone. Now I feel betrayed. Guess what I had to do with Jasper this morning? I can handle cylinders and prisms pretty well, but I like calculating the volume of cones as much as Jasper does, which is not at all. *sigh*

This afternoon, I dropped Jasper off at his 4-H skit practice and drove up to Hobby Lobby so that I could get some rocks to put in the bottom of my planters. As I waited in line to pay for my armful of heavy rocks, the guy who was two places ahead of me was broadcasting his stupidity to everyone in the front of the store.

Loudly, he bragged about making it to the north side of Tyler in 18 minutes (a 45-mile drive). I didn’t have long to wonder how this could be possible, because he proudly explained that he had been going 160 miles per hour the whole way. Also, that no one could stop him because he had his flashing volunteer firefighter lights turned on. He then confessed that he actually is not even a volunteer fireman anymore. When the lady ahead of me asked why he had given up being a fireman, he explained that after going through all the training, he realized he didn’t want to risk his life running into a burning building to save someone else’s kids, when he had two kids of his own who need their dad. His older son is eleven years old, which was rather startling to me because the dad appeared to be no older than twenty. Finally it was his turn in line, and it turned out he was there to return a model truck kit because he didn’t know that you had to actually put it together. (!!)

This experience left me with so many questions, the most pressing of which was how on earth a man of such surpassing recklessness managed to live long enough to have two offspring, one of whom is already eleven? What kind of car does he drive that can go 160 miles per hour, and how can he afford it on his blue-collar salary? Did he really want a large group of people to know that he was using his flashing lights illegally? What on earth could be so urgent in Tyler that he had to get there in 18 minutes? How did he get to be his age (whatever it is) without knowing what a “model” kit is? Did he even read the information on the box?

Encounters like this provide me with a great deal of entertainment on otherwise normal days.

Words & Music

Today was one of those unusual days when my autoharp lesson and my critique group/writers’ meeting happened to be on the same day. This meant I left the house at lunchtime and didn’t return until after 8:00 this evening. It also meant that I spent close to eight hours immersed in two of my favorite things—words and music.

I couldn’t help thinking, as I often do, how drastically my identity has changed over the last ten years. Ten years ago, I had written my first book and was working on my first novel, but my primary and really only identity was that of a homeschool mom. My homeschool group meant the world to me. All my local friends were other homeschool moms.

Now, although I am still a homeschool mom, there is no homeschool group where I feel welcome or as if I could “fit in.” I hang around on the edges of a couple of groups, but know almost no one in them. The moms I was close to ten years ago are all pretty much done homeschooling, and with one exception, I rarely see them.

Now, my sense of identity comes more from my writing and to a certain extent from my love of music. My autoharp lesson today was the first since December! We did less playing and more talking as we had a lot of catching up to do. Ann, my teacher, is such a wonderful lady and has become a mentor to me. She was so encouraging to me today. She wants me to learn to use a music software program so that I can create sheet music, then publish and offer to others some of the songs I have arranged for the autoharp.

According to her (and this seems incredible to me, but she should know!), most autoharp players don’t chord and arrange their own music. They are dependent on finding and using music that others have arranged. This is so surprising to me because one of the things I love most about playing the autoharp is that I can play anything on it. I can’t imagine being limited to playing only those tunes that others have written down the chords for. Any song that I’ve heard and remember, I can figure out the chords for, usually in less than half an hour, and then I can play and sing that song whenever I want. This process has brought me so much joy, as a song from my youth will pop into my head and within a few minutes I have written down the chords and can play it on my autoharp.

I really thought everybody did this, but Ann says that is not the case. What she wants me to do is put together a collection of songs I have arranged and make it available to other autoharp players. I am not sure when I’ll have time to do this, but I am so flattered to think that an expert like Ann feels I have something to offer the music community. She also gave me some great tips to improve my playing, and I would really like to surprise her in a good way at my next lesson.

From there, I drove back to my own town for my critique group. It was a spectacular drive out to Quitman and back today. Allergies aside, I must say that East Texas does spring very lavishly. The countryside literally seemed to glow with new life.

So, I made it to critique group just in time. My critique partners are so helpful to me. The more time goes by, the more they help me be a better writer. I am so thankful to them.

After the critique group, we had our regular meeting and our speaker was a lady who has written a historical novel set in our town. I learned some things I never heard about before and it was fascinating! I love hanging out with other word lovers.

Hard Choices

I am going to try to confine my health-related posts to Mondays, so they will be easy to find for those who are interested.

Embarked as I have upon this road toward more health and less diabetes, I freely admit that it often is not easy or fun. I have made choices for myself that cannot be unmade unless I want to be a slave to insulin once again.

Our trip to Indiana was a case in point. On the one hand, traveling without insulin feels tremendously freeing, but on the other hand that means there really is no margin for error. I knew meal stops would be hard. I had made and brought some chicken salad, which we ate for lunch the first two days (the kids had theirs on bread and I had mine on celery). For supper, though, I drank my unpalatable protein drink in the car at the appointed time, and then we eventually stopped at a fast food place so the kids could eat.

The problem was that by then I was hungry again, so my plan to sit and keep the kids company was fraught with danger. It is incredibly hard to sit and watch someone eat a juicy burger and crispy French fries, while the fumes taunt your nostrils and your stomach growls in anguish. No matter how many times I silently told myself “I’m saving my life,” I still wanted more than anything to steal one French fry.

Remember, though, that moderation does not work for me. You might be able to eat a single French fry every now and then, but I cannot. There can be no cheating for me. When you think about it, who would I be cheating? Myself, that’s who. I’d be cheating myself out of my own future.

It reached the point where I had no choice but to flee the temptation. I went back out to the car and took a few deep breaths. By the time the kids were done eating, I had more or less recovered.

One thing I did to reduce stress on that trip was to not test my blood glucose. I was very, very careful with what I ate. I did not eat a single bite of anything I shouldn’t have. However, I was not always able to eat at the exact times I’m used to. I figured if I tested my blood glucose and it was a little high, I would just fret and feel guilty and there’d be nothing I could do about it. I knew it was not going to be dangerously high, because I didn’t eat a single thing that would have caused that, so I decided I was better off not knowing. As soon as I got home I started testing again and everything was fine.

At home it is often easier for me to make my hard choices, but sometimes it means staying away from the dinner table when everyone else is enjoying a meal that I can’t eat. And this weekend it meant not even licking a single drop of batter or icing when I made yummy-smelling chai flavored cake! I just keep giving myself that same pep talk: I’m saving my life. I’m saving my life. It really does help!

Surprise!

In a stunning, unforeseen development, Miss Wisteria of the Mamamentor estate has given birth to three pink blooms. No one could be more flabbergasted than Mamamentor herself, who oversaw the choosing and planting of Miss Wisteria some fifteen years ago. After ten years of no blooms, Mamamentor admitted that she had a grudge against the Japanese wisteria vine she had tended for a full decade with no reward. She took pleasure in cruelly pruning back the luxuriant vines in hopes of scaring Miss Wisteria into blooming.

Last year, the family’s incipient hopes were dashed when Miss Wisteria produced a single flower bud, only to eject it before it was even an inch long. That false start made this month’s extravaganza even more surprising. “I never thought I’d live to see the day,” confessed Mamamentor.

3-27-17 Miss Wisteria

Just a Closer Walk

This was one of my favorite gospel songs in my youth. It seems to have fallen out of favor over the decades.

Just a Closer Walk With Thee

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Refrain

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Refrain

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

Refrain

 

A Double Drenching

Today I had more than one reason for disliking Fridays. Yes, I had to go to Aldi, but at least I had Jasper with me today. It is always so much less dismal when I have company.

After lunch, I planned to drive to the nearest Jo-Ann’s to pick up a fabric order. This is a one-hour drive. I miss Hancock’s so much. About halfway to Jo-Ann’s I drove into a thunderstorm. It was more or less like driving under a continuous waterfall.

I made it safely to the Jo-Ann’s parking lot and sat there in my car, hoping to wait out the rain. The rain laughed at me and came down harder. So I got out of the car and waded across the parking lot to the store. I was completely soaked to the skin by the time I walked in the door.

Now don’t get me wrong. I really do love rain, especially at this time of year when it washes the pollen out of the air for a full ten minutes or so. What I don’t like is not having an umbrella and then getting soaked and remaining wet for hours afterward.

After I drove back home and had supper and was mostly dry, the rain had let up to the point where it was just drizzling. I took advantage of the lull to make a dash for Walmart, where I needed to buy some more supplies for tomorrow’s chai party.

I got everything I needed and then headed out the door, only to find myself faced with yet another torrential downpour. By the time I got to the car and unloaded the stuff I’d bought, I was once again completely soaked from head to toe.

Twice in one day is a bit much. As soon as I got home I changed into dry clothes and vowed not to set foot outside again this evening. Also, I played my autoharp to improve my mood.

Double the Enjoyment

I’m going to take a stroll down memory lane here, to explain to you how I came to possess one of my favorite treasures. In 1993, we moved to Zambia for what we hoped would be years of missionary service, but which ended up being just for 18 months.

Upon our arrival, we inherited a few barrels of possessions that had been left behind by family friends. One of the barrels was full of old books, some of which were real treasures, like an original version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales–rather horrific compared to the sanitized versions I had heard as a kid! There was also a little book that caught my interest. It was a travel book about various journeys the author had undertaken in his homeland of Great Britain. Having been raised in a former British colony, I am an unapologetic anglophile, so I settled in for some enjoyable reading.

It was a charmingly dated account, written in the 1930s as I recall. My problem was that most of the places he wrote about were unfamiliar to me, and not big enough to be included on your average map of Britain. I hate not being able to picture where things are, so when a British friend of mine was getting ready to go for a brief visit home, I gave her some money and asked her to please buy a detailed map of Britain for me.

She exceeded my expectations by bringing me this:

3-23-17 atlas

A nice thick road atlas of Britain, with individual pages on a scale of 3 miles to 1 inch! I was so, so happy! I got out my little travel book and searched out all the places on the map. My enjoyment of the book was increased immeasurably once I had the map to refer to. I have referred to my treasured road atlas many times in the intervening years. I keep it where I can easily access it. So helpful if you read classic British literature.

Which brings me to this week. A couple of days ago, I started reading Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, about the travels he went on throughout Britain before moving back to the USA in the mid-90s. Once again, I hauled out my atlas and have been following his travels with great interest on my detailed maps. To my amusement, many of the place names he uses are totally made up–but they’re no stranger than some of the actual place names. For instance, a quick glance over a couple of pages yielded the following places: Herodsfoot, Spriddles, Boohay, Ipplepen, Dippertown, Quoditch, Clapworthy, and Lower Sharpnose Point.

Yes, I know I could probably look up the places in the book on Google Maps–but I really prefer the real atlas. I can follow his travels from town to town and see what route he must have taken. Having my atlas is adding tremendously to my enjoyment of this book.

Of course, it’s not as if I did nothing but read all day. Jasper and I continued our floundering with geometry. This afternoon I took Lucy out to get her birthday present–a new pair of jeans. And this evening Jasper and I went to the bee meeting for the first time in months because the speakers were a couple that I know slightly. The husband has designed and manufactured an absolutely brilliant beehive stand that keeps ants out of your hive. If you keep bees, you should check them out:

DefyAnt Stands

Also, Walter fixed the van.

A Belated Birthday Dinner

Lucy was away camping on her birthday (the 13th) and then we left on our trip before she returned, so we hadn’t celebrated her birthday before today. In fact, today was the only day we could do it this week before Lina leaves again!

So I went to Aldi this morning to get the ingredients for making our favorite beef curry and also for cheesecake, which she had requested in lieu of a more traditional birthday cake. Lina made the cheesecake and I made the curry. It’s kind of sad to make one of your favorite foods, knowing you can’t eat it, to be honest. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get a bite or two at lunchtime, but of course no rice!

As we were waiting for Walter and Lina to get home from work so we could have dinner, Walter called and said the van would not start, so I had to drive over and fetch them. Later, Lina helped him tow the van with the Suburban.

The birthday dinner was very rushed because by the time everyone was here, it was almost time for Bri and Lucy and Spencer to leave again!

The van seems to be having an electrical problem that I hope won’t be expensive to fix.

Also, I got to spend some quality time with my autoharp.

In Which I Ingest a Mystery Substance and Live to Tell the Tale

Today there could be no lollygagging about, because the class I should have taught yesterday was moved to today. I had a lot of stuff to get ready and print out. This also involved going to Walmart to buy paper, because I go through unbelievable amounts of paper when I am teaching a class.

At lunchtime, I went to make my disgusting drink (I now combine my protein drink with my greens and veggie drink so I only have to get grossed out once per day). I put the water and veggie powder in the blender, but then I couldn’t find the protein powder, thanks to the fact that Lucy very industriously cleaned and reorganized the kitchen while I was gone. I looked and looked. The container was nowhere in sight.

I texted Lucy and she thought it might be in the pantry, but I didn’t see it there either. There was, however, a container on the table that looked very much like protein powder. I thought maybe Lucy had helpfully moved the powder to a smaller container to make it easier for me to scoop out. I put a little on my fingertip and tasted it. It didn’t really taste like much of anything. There was an ancient label on the container reading “Chicken Baking Mix.” That meant nothing to me.

I decided it was protein powder, so I made my protein/veggie shake and gagged it down like the boss I am. A couple hours later, Lucy returned home and I told her what had happened and asked if the container I’d used was indeed the protein powder. It was not. The protein powder had cleverly disguised itself as something else in the pantry and she produced it as proof.

This left me with the obvious question: what on earth had I drunk at lunchtime? What even is “Chicken Baking Mix?” Did it have flour in it? Because if so, I could be in big trouble on multiple fronts. I scoured my computer recipes files for some reference to Chicken Baking Mix and came up empty. So, most likely that stuff is well over ten years old, whatever it is. My next step was to test my blood glucose because if there was flour in that mix it would not only mess me up because of the gluten, but it would send my blood sugar into the stratosphere. To my great relief, my blood sugar was just fine.

So, I have no idea what it was I drank. Whatever it was, it is so old that I have no memory of it. I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear that there is no longer any Chicken Baking Mix in my kitchen. If it has been around so long that I can’t remember what it is, then I certainly have no interest in ingesting any more of it! At least it wasn’t as bad as that time I drank kerosene when I was a kid . . .

After that interesting episode, my students arrived and we began working on research papers. The school year is hurtling toward the finish line . . .