Saturday, July 19, 2014

Halloween related stuff: Yes I know it's only July. (Crafts, shopping, and related thoughts)


I saw Halloween merchandise in a store yesterday.
And I got really excited!

I was in Michael's, looking for supplies for an altered art project for a swap I'm participating in, and saw that there were some random bits of Halloween merchandise on a few end caps around the store. Not a lot, but enough to get me excited. Because Halloween is my favorite holiday. And knowing it's coming up means that the weather *will* eventually be cooling off. Which is even more of a reason to get excited.

Usually I'm happy to wait until the beginning of September before thinking much about Halloween though. But I had a reason to take notice this year.

The main reason why I was looking around in Michael's was to find supplies for an altered Halloween themed shadow box swap I'm participating in. You take a shadow box with compartments (or take the open kind and make compartments in it) and decorate the individual compartments. Some are deeper and have more objects in them. Some are shallower and use more scrapbook or papercrafting kinds of techniques. Mine is going to be on the shallower side I believe and a blend of papercraft and objects. The person I'm crafting for wants something Goth and spooky/creepy/scary. I had an idea and went through all of my craft supplies and pulled out everything I thought would work with it so I can go from there. I also ordered a few key pieces of creepy embellishments for it, and they should be here next week. I've got about 6 weeks to finish gathering supplies and putting it together. There are a couple very specifically Halloween things I want to use on it and I will just have to wait before they show up in stores. But things like colored paper, paint, inks, etc... can be bought whenever, so I figured I might as well pick up what I need as I can find it that way I'm not rushing around like mad trying to source it all and put it together at the last minute.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Blueberry harvest #1 for Spring 2014



These are the first blueberries of the year from my blueberry bushes. The amount picked came to just over a pint. There are about a pint and a half left on the four bushes, waiting to ripen (by my estimate at least). 

I grow the Rabbiteye type of blueberry bushes. I have one each of four varieties: Climax, Tifblue, Powderblue, and Premier. This picking had some berries from all the bushes. Two of them had some berry loss when we had a very hot weekend while I was sick and I wasn't able to go out and water. Since I grow them in containers, it's important that I keep them good and watered, so missing a couple of days during a hot and dry spell was enough to cause the bushes to drop a lot of berries. 

Last year I had a big problem with birds eating the berries when they were ripe, before I had a chance to pick them. But I had a suggestion from a member of a message forum I belonged to, to put out pinwheels to scare the birds away. Well, I didn't have pinwheels, but I had colorful wind spinners that worked just fine at keeping the birds away from the berries. As well as the cherry tomatoes planted next to them. 

I was asked to make a batch of blueberry muffins, so I will be doing that for sure with half of these berries. The rest I'm going to be enjoying as-is or mixed in with some yogurt. Maybe I can find some good low-sugar and lower-carbohydrate recipes to try when the second half of the berries ripen. Maybe some kind of baked crumble with a whole grain topping and sweetened with xylitol or something? 

I'm just happy to actually have enough berries to do things with this year. The previous year the birds got them all, the year before that, the bushes were still too immature to produce much. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My life's been on hold for a while, but now I'm ready to start moving forward again.

And, it's that time again. Yesterday was the first day of the year that we had temperatures over 90F in the Houston area. If that wasn't bad enough, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sunshine was brutal.

Time to dust off my sunglasses collection, and pack away all of my long sleeved shirts and other cool weather clothes. 'Cause it won't be getting cooler again until the beginning of October. Thank goodness for air conditioning, cotton fabric, and iced tea.

I've got a few more weeks to enjoy the warm weather before it starts to get unbearable to me, and I plan to make the most of it. A beach trip to do touristy things in Galveston is in the works, as is a daytime trip to the Kemah Boardwalk amusement park. I'd gone at night once this month, and want to do it again but with a daytime perspective.



So, my entire life pretty much got put on hold at the beginning of September. My mom passed away, and while she was older, it was unexpected. She was quite far along with Alzheimer's, but seemed to be for the most part, physically sound. She had been in a nursing home for a while, and one day never woke up from her after-lunch nap. So, there wasn't a health crisis, or other kind of warning. One day she was as okay as she could be given her age and stage of Alzheimer's, and the next day she was gone.

She and I had not been close since I was a kid. And really weren't close at all after I reached adulthood. After my dad passed away, I had hoped that she and I could become close again but she wasn't interested. I suspect she was already dealing with Alzheimer's, because her behavior became really erratic, really quick. Or there was something mental going on with her that she never had a chance to address. I'll really never know, because she was very stand-offish and didn't want me spending too much time with her, or checking up on her too often.  And then she was unable to safely live alone anymore, and ended up in the nursing home. That was pretty much that.

So, from September to mid-February, everything went on hold. And it's been slow going getting back in touch with life.

First I decided to start working on my health, diet, and weight. My blood glucose levels had been creeping back up, so I started to follow a reduced carbohydrate diet. Mostly non-starchy vegetables and some meat, a little bit of dairy, nuts, beans, and lower-sugar fruit. It's been easy to stick to, partly because I really like vegetables. But mostly because it's not oppressively strict and I'm getting plenty of food to keep satiated and nourished. I bought a scale so I could track my progress, and downloaded some apps for my phone to track my calorie/carbohydrate intake and blood glucose levels. And over the past 10 weeks, I've been making some really solid progress.  My weight is down, my blood glucose is down, my blood pressure is down. It's slow progress, but that's okay with me. I'm not trying to get there overnight. I just want to maintain the lifestyle changes I made several years ago and continue to let my body take care of itself over time, in terms of my blood glucose and weight. I'm not trying to get thin, just less fat and healthier.

Exercise has been a bit rough because of lower back pain, but I do as much as I can. I haven't been going to the pool a lot, but working on getting back into it. I take short walks when I can. 15 minutes is about my limit before sitting right now, but that's enough to get to the end of the pier and back, or a section of the walking track at the park. Even walking around a store for a little bit counts. Every bit counts.

I didn't do much with my garden. I let my Fall garden go to crap and never maintained it. I put a lot of effort into getting a Spring garden going but haven't maintained it as faithfully as I should. I do what I can do when I feel up to doing it. And it is what it is right now. I did plant a lot of colorful annual flowers. I just wanted to be able to look out of every window in the house and sit on every bench and swing in the back yard and see something bright and colorful. The poor things have been neglected a bit, but I'll do the best I can for them before it gets so hot that they start to wither away. They served their purpose, they gave me a much-needed boost in terms of moving forward again. As Audrey Hepburn said: "To plant a garden, is to believe in tomorrow."

I still have time to plant my melon seeds though. I have some that make short vines that are trellis-able and make little softball sized melons that are a cross between a cantaloupe and a honeydew, the Green Machine Melon. I'll get those going Sunday. I also impulse bought a pack of seeds a couple days ago, of a very rare variety that makes small 1-1.5 pound melons that are pale yellowish green with red and dark green streaks, the Kajari Melon .Since they sound so decorative, I'll trellis them up by the front porch. Maybe I still have time to put in some eggplant plants or if nothing else, some heat tolerant flowers. I'll have to do my research. I did get my pepper and tomato plants in on time and they are setting their fruit. Loads of baby jalapenos and tomatoes. And the mini-eggplant I grew a while back. The plants are just starting to set their fruits. But the green beans, squash, and cucumbers seem to have done diddly squat. Because I didn't keep up with them. But I can always plant more in the fall. Seeds are relatively cheap.

I also decided that I wanted to get back into scrapbooking. And as it would happen to be, there is a big scrapbooking and papercrafting event in the Houston area coming up at the beginning of August, CKC, Houston  So far, I'm just going to one of the evening crops, but I might pick up a class or two or get there early enough to check out the vendor hall and do some shopping. That depends on how my back is doing come August, and how long I can walk around. That's 3 months away, so maybe I'll feel up to more than the crop.

I've been making myself get out and be around people. I was spending so much time at home by myself that I started to not be very comfortable interacting with groups and out in crowds. I need to get over that before it becomes a problem. This month I spent an evening at an amusement park and a morning at a flea market where there was a concert and festival going on. As well as a trip to the local crochet meetup and a few trips out shopping and to eat during the peak of the day when the stores and restaurants were crowded. It's getting better. Every time I go do something, the anxiety is a little less and my comfort level is a little better.

So, that's the big update, smaller and hopefully more regular ones to follow.