Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

It's the middle of the night. A mug of some wonderful Swedish tea gave me a serious second wind around 7 p.m., and now it's after midnight. It's officially Thanksgiving Day.

My Iona Sister, Tori, is here for a visit. Yay! She helped me clean out one more kitchen cupboard . . . and we found the oldest thing yet. This expired in 2003 . . . OMG. that means it was my mom's, and she's been gone 7 1/2 years . . . Well, it's all out now - flour, baking soda, baking powder, old spices - all of it out. A quick trip to the store, and I have all new baking stuff :-)

And so, with my caffeine burst, I decided to make the cookie dough for Cherry Icebox Cookies that has to be refrigerated tonight instead of in the early a.m.

It would have been fine, except that I didn't get the butter warm enough to cream easily. Normally my old mixer will power on through . . . but not this time.

I got this as a bridal shower gift the first time I got married, low these many years ago :-D I just looks ancient, doesn't it? It lasted a good long time, but I burned the motor out tonight trying to cream chilly butter. Oh well - this could finally be the excuse I need to get the KitchenAid mixer I've been coveting for decades. We'll see!

I made a great dinner tonight that included roasted Brussels Sprouts, cookie dough is done, kitchen it cleaned up in preparation for the next round of cooking tomorrow. The dishwasher is running, and now - I had best get some sleep!

Happy Thanksgiving :-)

I am so very grateful for all the blessings of my life. I have so much to be thankful for. I hope, on this day of all days, that you will look around you and give thanks.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

When I'm Worried . . .

. . . and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep - and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.

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Throughout this month on Facebook, I have been counting my blessings - My friend, Candy found the idea, and I thought it was a good one, so, of course, I swiped it :-D I have so much in my life that I am thankful for. And today, I am very thankful for all the wonderful friends in my life - I was with this group of them last night for a farewell dinner for one who is moving on to a new job and new phase in her life.

And since the season is upon us . . . I'll leave you with this, from my all-time favorite Christmas movie. Not the greatest capture, but the only one I could find. The song starts at about 1:28.

Photo Catch up :-)

Going with the smaller ones again . . . click to biggify!

316:365 Guess What?

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Chicken Butt! Well, no - Chicken Front. My friend, Linda, keeps chickens in the City of Chicago! It's virtually impossible to take any photos of them because they are pretty much constantly in motion.

This one doesn't have a name yet, but I call all of them, "Chicky Lou." :-D

315:365 First Frost

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I'm reasonably sure we had a hard frost last night. This is one of the yews outside my front door.

314:365 Holding On . . .

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This is the same tree I showed you for November 4th. These are the last of the leaves - such a big change in only six days.

313:365 Seasons Change

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Another view of the beginnings of transformation of Daley Plaza. The fountain has been drained, and the wooden stalls are in progress. And the City Sparrows keep watch over it all :-)

312:365 Oh! Tannenbaum!

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Another rainy day in Chicagoland :-) This is the City's Christmas tree, and the beginnings of the transformation of the Daley Center into the Annual Christkindle Market - one of, if not the largest one outside of Germany. Having lived in Germany for a number of years, this is a highlight of my holiday season! I can hardly wait for it to open in a few weeks :-)

311:365 Christmas is Coming

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See that man? See that ladder? See that truck - the one with a cherry picker on top? See the bundles of Italian lights hanging on that tree? Soon most - if not all - the trees downtown and on North Michigan Avenue will be festooned with Italian lights. One of the first photos I took, on January 3rd, shows how things will be looking very soon :-)

This is how the Holiday season starts here in Chicagoland. What you can't see in this photo is that the City's Christmas tree is up in place at Daley Plaza and the construction of the stalls for the annual Christkindle Market has started. Soon there will be a Nativity scene and a very large Menorah there, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Here's the Deal

A lunchtime blog post - look at me, maximizing my time! :-D

Thanks to everyone who commented and gave me feedback. It was really quite helpful as I looked at what's been going on here.

How I wish I could retire now, or work part-time - I contemplated it a few years ago when my first really severe menopausal symptoms hit. I even discussed it with my financial advisor. Just not happening right now. Just not possible. Unless I win the Lotto this weekend. I have tickets. I truly wish for the ability to occasionally telecommute - my friend, Linda the Chicken Lady is so very lucky in that regard.

I think I was not clear on my bedtime . . . I try to get to bed by 9 . . . lately, I'm not even close. 10 or 10:30 is more like it many days lately, and I still wake up around 5, so that means I've been getting by on too little sleep.

The 30-Day Shred was a recent addition to my morning routine. And it's just not working for me. It's not helping that I really don't like the workout.

So - here's the deal. For now :-)

The Shred is going to take a back seat. If I can fit it in from time to time, I will do it, but I'm not going to focus on it. I want to keep my walk at 40 - 45, and likely soon start inching that back up to an hour. That means that I will be limiting my time on the computer in the a.m. to 15 minutes. I'm getting out a timer and using it. If I haven't read it or looked at it within that amount of time, it's going to have to wait. That should still give me plenty of time to get my lunch ready and still get to work without too much craziness.

I'm looking into menu planning - and another friend has mentioned green smoothies to me, so I'm going to check into those. Most importantly, I'm going to see about actually cooking some stuff on Saturdays and Sundays that I can freeze in portion sizes for lunches during the week. I wish I knew more about freezing stuff - if anyone has any good books or websites to recommend, that would rock. I mean, I know that potatoes don't freeze well - and neither do fat-free tortillas (at least they don't when they are wrapped around my awesome spinach burritos), but I'm sure there must be a good book out there that talks about this. Joy of Cooking is amazingly deficient in this area!

I will be skimping on choir rehearsals. I read music well enough that I should be able to get over my dislike of singing without rehearsal. Since I'm going to be out of town and won't get to sing in the cantata this year, I don't feel like I need to be there every Thursday, but I can get there for the Sunday morning fast rehearsal before we actually sing during the service. That frees up the occasional evening for when I'm feeling completely overwhelmed (like I am today).

Knitting's been a little sparse lately, and spinning is pretty much non-existent, but my creativity has always gone in cycles so I'm not concerned there (although I do have some projects I'd like to finish :-)). And since I'm so enamored of the dulcimer (even the loaner I currently have), practicing doesn't seem to be much of a hardship. I'd like to do more in the mornings with it - that would mean no computer time at all in the a.m. . . . not sure I'm ready for that ;-D

I feel like I have the beginnings of a workable plan. That makes me feel better already :-)

So - thanks again, everyone - and here's my lunch!!!

Lunch

Red lettuce, pickled beets, feta cheese and walnuts :-) Yay Me!!!!

This is my cool Bento lunch box. Beets were in the red one, raspberries in the green one, and cheese in the dark blue one and walnuts in the light blue. (The lettuce was in a larger one that is the size of the two larger ones put together.

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Here is it closed - the box part goes in that bottom space and I have a flat icy thing from some other lunch system that I got years ago that fits in there underneath it and keeps everything cool, and then on the top, I have a thermos for soups that fits in there, but today I put the large box full of lettuce in there on another flat icy thing along with some carrots and a cut up apple.

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It's a kind of a big lunch bag, but I'm working with it. I'll take more pictures of it later.

I'm trying the smaller photos today - you can still click to biggify - let me know if you like the larger ones better :-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Now What?

I keep trying to catch up . . . and somehow, this fall, I am just not having great success :-S

This is a clear signal - one I have been ignoring. It's particularly apropos because I just cautioned a friend about listening to the signals her body was sending. So - I've realized that I had better take my own advice and listen to what my body is telling me.

Here are the symptoms:

I am not eating well - in fact, I have been eating fast food occasionally in the past month, and if you happen to know me, you would likely know that I pretty much just don't do fast food.

I eat out at lunch every day during the week because there is no time to cook so that I might have healthier (and less expensive) lunches.

I'm only sleeping about 6 or 7 hours a night. I've always been an 8-hour girl.

I'm dancing as fast as I can, but I never feel like I can catch up - and when I have an evening free, I pretty much just collapse rather than do the things in the house that truly need my attention.

So. Now what? What does this mean? And perhaps more importantly, what does this mean for me?

First - I believe some of my inability to keep up could be hormonal. Don't run away!! If you're a woman, menopause is going to happen in your body at some point - and if you're a man, it's going to happen in the body of a woman you care for. It's important that we educate ourselves about how it affects us.

As my body travels through menopause, what has worked best for me is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Or as I often like to call it, Better Living Through Chemistry. I'm not on the HRT that caused the furor a number of years ago. I take bio-identical hormones. Two of them at low doses, every day. The different they have made in my life is so remarkable that it's amazing - I'm one of the minority of women whose menopausal symptoms were truly wreaking havoc in my life. The HRT choice was one I wasn't sure of - but sleeping through the night again was really, really appealing (when you only sleep for about 4 hours at a time, you are never really rested - and not sleeping exacerbates everything else).

So - there's one thing - and yes, I have an appointment for my annual next week - the doc and I will be having a conversation about how my original symptoms seem to be back - not sleeping too well, inability to concentrate, anger swings, intolerance, and inability to keep it all together all the time.

Hormones aside, though, there's more going on here. I think these symptoms mean that I have fallen into a pattern of convenience - and by choice, I have stayed there. I think it means that I need to examine what's really going on with me. Over the years many friends have told me "you're doing too much" or "how can you do all these things?" I do have more energy than the average bear - always have - and I have already given up a lot of stuff I used to do. Giving up more feels very painful . . . and yet . . .

And in that spirit, I'm going to give you a typical week for me - and I'm soliciting your comments on it. I think my average week is pretty normal, but maybe I'm wrong. I have only my own perspective on it. I understand that we are individuals, and that what's normal for me might not be for you - still. What do you think? And what would you give up if you had to?

Here's my typical week.

Monday - up around 5, check email, etc. Walk for 40-45 minutes on the treadmill. Do the 30-Day Shred (I hate this workout and have only gotten two or three of them in so far). Catch the 7:57 a.m. train into the city. If I miss my train, I take the second train at 8:03 - I've missed that one twice in the last two weeks (that never happens . . . ). I look for photos to take on my way to work for my 365 Project. Work all day. At lunch, I usually go downstairs to the deli and get something to eat. Sometimes I go out and get take out, and look for photos to take during that time. Then, I almost always eat at my desk, and then take the 5:17 train home. Get home about 6:05 p.m. (yes, I'm gone for 10 hours every day). I try to eat right away so I'm not eating dinner really late. Twice a month I have Church Lady Knitting from 7 to 8:30. I (try to) go to bed at 9 so I can get up at 5.

Tuesday - like Monday except this is one night I almost always have free lately.

Wednesday - Like Monday except no 30-Day Shred. I usually walk down to Weight Watchers at lunch unless I don't want to face the scale . . . I work out with my Trainer from 7 to 8 at the club. Maybe watch a show I've DVR'd, and go to bed.

Thursday - Like Monday. Choir is from 7:30 to 9:00, but I leave at 8:30 so I can hopefully get to bed by 9.

Friday - Like Monday and Wednesday - I work out with my Trainer from 7 to 8. I often stay up a little later on Friday.

Saturday - I hopefully sleep until I wake up . . . but I usually wake up around 5 anyway - even if I went to bed late. Lately my Saturdays are my own and I'm very grateful. I try to go to the store, get things done around the house and get some dulcimer practice in. I also catch up on telly and usually knit. If there is African violet work to be done, it usually happens on a Saturday (or on a Tuesday night).

Sunday - At this time of year I sing in the choir, which means I get to church around 10:30 and am done by around 12:30. Once a month I drive 2 1/2 hours to Indiana for a dulcimer lesson.

Somewhere in there I do my best to carve out 15 to 20 minutes most days to practice my dulcimer. I also have a large number of houseplants and African violets - it takes about 15 minutes to water them all and I have to do that a couple three times a week.Grocery shopping, and laundry usually happen on Sunday afternoon. I try to read a little before falling asleep most nights - twice in the last week I fell asleep with the book in my hand and woke up at 2 a.m. with the light on . . .

What do you think? I'm interested to hear your thoughts because this seems pretty normal to me and I think I should easily be able to keep up. And yet . . .

In the meantime - here's some photo catch up :-) I have been really feeling the stress of taking photos every day - not stress, really, but I need to vary my routes and see some other stuff :-D As always, please click to biggify so you see the entire photo.

310:365 Startitis

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I have a bad case . . .four sweaters, four pairs of socks, a pair of wrist warmers and a to be felted lunch box. And there are two more pairs of mitts that need just their thumbs done that I somehow missed getting into the photo :-D

309:365 What a Find!

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All day - at the mall. Can't remember the last time I did that. Got there around 10 and didn't leave until around 3:30. It was exhausting - so many people, so much noise, and Christmas everywhere . . . already. Home to the quiet and comfort of my living room - this awesome tree was at Pottery Barn. Last one - PERFECT for this section of my house - although probably not going to stay in the middle of the floor ;-D

308:365 Molten Gold

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I was late for the train . . . but the light was just perfect. This is one of the trees in my front yard. I have never thought it was beautiful - until today. I had to run all the way to the train. I made it. Just. :-)

307:365 Hurtling Through Time and Space

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A grey day in Chicagoland - out the back window of the train headed for the City to go to work. That's the Harvey station we just blasted past.

306:365 Childhood Memories

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. . . on a carry bag :-D

305:365 "Urbs in Horto" II

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Once again - City in a Garden :-) Today they were plantings the bulbs that will be magnificent in the spring. For a taste of what the beds will look like next year - see my photo from May 13th :-)

304:365 Halloween

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A view that you don't always see. I was on South Michigan Avenue, looking Northeast across Millenium Park. The Prudential Building - now called One Prudential Plaza - used to be one of the tallest buildings on this view! And "Prudential" used to be red when I was a kid. The tower behind it is Two Prudential Plaza :-) The white square is the Aon Center - formerly the Standard Oil Building. When it was built in 1973, it was the tallest building in Chicago.

Next is the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower (BCBS is an insurance company, as is Aon and Prudential). The shorter buildings are all condos, and at the very end - the black building is Lake Point Tower - it is the only skyscraper east of Lake Shore Drive. It's also condos - building in 1965 it is still a very tony address :-)

303:365 Milang Skies

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. . . is the name of this plant. I've let it come into bloom because it's just so darn pretty. It will be disbudded soon and repotted to get ready for show next year. End of the day - had some photos, but most of yarn I was adding to my database - A violet is preferable to another skein of yarn :-D

302:365 Happy Diwali

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Today I went with a friend to see a Bollywood film, Ra.One. Before we went to the movies, we had lunch at a great Indian restaurant. This is a Rangoli drawing - I think they are sometimes also called Kolam drawings - in celebration of Diwali. Colored sand, glitter, and already some little hands have been in to it :-) I took a shot that didn't have these stark shadows - but this was the more interesting of the two photos.