Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where Has All the Fitness Gone?

Where has all the fitness gone?
Long time passing...
Where has all the fitness gone?
Long time agoooooooooo....

Where has all the fitness gone?
Gone to middle age every one.
 Oh, when will we ever learn?
Oh, when will weeeeeeeeeeee ever learn?

I used to be a fairly fit person. Not triathlon fit, but I could bend over without passing out. My sister was fit; she liked to go on long hikes and climb random mountains and such. My brother-in-law was fit; he worked for the forest service and spent his summers carrying fire-fighting equipment and dashing up steep slopes in search of fires.

What happened to us?

I certainly never gave my body permission to change, but in spite of my comfortable aura of well-being and fitness-hood, I am discovering that somewhere along the way my body has betrayed me. I've always had the feeling of fitness...that sensation of coiled energy just waiting to be unleashed. At any moment....if I wanted to, of course.....I could run for miles, zoom around on my bike, or do other feats of super-fitness. The ability was there...I could feel it!

The fact that going up stairs left me slightly winded and riding my bike half way down the driveway ( I have a long driveway, OK!?) was enough to do me in for the day had no impact on my assessment of reality. But then this January came and I began P90X. It really wasn't for me, you understand. My sister had started a new exercise regimen and needed moral support, so I began going over there to humor her.

I planned to hold back my awesome fitness powers so I didn't embarrass anyone, but I was eventually compelled to admit that there was no need to hold anything back. I was giving it all I had and I could make it...oh...about the first 15 minutes of the hour-long routines. I mean, who was I trying to kid?---the warm-ups pooped me out. If there was any small consolation, my sister was in worse shape than I was.

It is now March. We are almost finished with Week 7 of the 13 week course. And I am just starting to feel the first stirrings of fitness somewhere deep---very deep---inside me. Things have progressed to the point that I am able to finish the entire workout most of the time. Of course, I fast-forward through all the repeats of exercise sets, so I am really only doing half the video, but I am still finishing.

It has been a real eye-opener how hard I had to work to get to the place where I am ready to BEGIN getting fit. Evidently, you can't store up old fitness any more than the 5 foolish virgins could store up oil in Jesus' parable. Those ladies felt like they had plenty of the Holy Spirit in their lives, but feeling wasn't enough to combat the reality that they were running dry.

I didn't have to make a decision to get out-of-shape; all I had to do was quit exercising and keeping my body fit. It was so easy that I didn't even know it was happening. I hope I never slip back into the complacency of thinking my physical fitness is better than it is, but more than that, I hope I'm never fooled into thinking that I'm a spiritual giant when I'm really a spiritual couch potato. I'm pretty sure that being spiritually fit takes purpose, time, and a commitment on my part----just like P90X.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Good Touch/Bad Touch

My name is Mr. Finley, and I will be your guest blogger for the evening. I want to deal with a topic that is near and dear to the heart of every civic-minded pooch.

Good Touch/Bad Touch.

It hardly seems possible in this enlightened age, but there are still humans out there that don't understand how to tell the difference between good touches and bad touches. It is important to educate those who are ignorant and it is with this goal in mind that I approach the topic tonight.

Hands scratching my belly: Good Touch

Hands holding me back from tearing that pesky neighbor dog to pieces: Bad Touch

Hands petting my head: Good Touch

Hands holding Q-tips and cleaning my ears. Very Bad Touch

Hands getting out treats and feeding them to me: Good Touch

Hands turning on the faucet to give me a bath: Bad Touch

Hands holding my tug-of-war rope: Good Touch

Vets' hands: Bad Touch. Period.

Hands making Jackie stay home while I get to go for a ride: Good Touch

Hands pulling ticks out of me: Bad Touch

Hands patting the bed in invitation: Good Touch

These are just a few examples, but I trust they will be sufficient to illustrate the important differences between Good Touch and Bad Touch. In fact, it is so plain I don't see how any human could possibly be confused on the matter. Let us have no more of this uncivilized behav........What is that?

Why do you have the comb and scissors?

Leave my ears alone! I like my burrs. I've been collecting them for weeks! Weeks, do you hear me! Whatever happened to "No one has the right to touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable?" Does having your hair pulled out by the roots look comfortable to YOU!?


My mom is a hypocrite.

The First Thunderstorm of Spring

Or so I'm told!   
I live 10 miles south of town and it's not at all unusual for us to have completely different weather. Friday night we had some freezing rain blow through, but Westby had a much more exciting time of it than I did. In the morning I woke up to a little bit of ice on the car and the trees, but when Caleb and I got into town we found a winter fairyland coated in crystal ~ plus ~ they'd gotten a loud thunderstorm directly overhead into the bargain.

The first good storm of the warm season and I sleep through the whole thing. I was in a rush to get to church, so I couldn't take the time do the scenes justice, but I snapped a few shots on my way into the house.

We never had freezing rain in California...our rain was ordinary and didn't know how to do any tricks....so I'm still excited by how pretty it looks after a freezing rain storm. Pretty, but treacherous if it rains hard enough, so it's best to stay in the house if you can until it thaws. Otherwise, a full suit of armor lined with quilt batting would be very handy to have.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You're Not Sleeping In MY Bed!

Ah, spring...that season of warm air, birds singing, and endless vistas of mud. Last night we got home late from Damon's birthday party. I let the dogs out for a bedtime pit stop, and this is how Finley repaid me. Five minutes! That's all he was outside for. Someone's going to have to learn how to use the litter box or else hold it until the ground dries out!

Muddy go-go boots!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Community Concert, 2012

This weekend was Plentywood's annual Community Christian Concert. Last year I made a Galilean fishing boat for the front of the concert hall, and this year I was asked to help out again. The theme was "Walking with Jesus", so I decided to do a couple of scenes from the Holy Land---a cross and an empty tomb. I was also asked to play my flute in an instrumental group, but the less said about that the better!

My first step was to get some foam board. Thankfully, my parents' neighbor has a little building supply warehouse and he gave me a couple sheets for free. That saved me a whole afternoon's trip to the big city to buy them for myself. Then I drew the shapes on (not very challenging this time around) and cut them out using my traditional technique.

First, you heat a knife over your stove burner, then slice it through the foam while it is still hot enough to melt it. Magic!

Occasionally the knife catches fire, but these are minor inconveniences, not to be worried about. There was one tragic incident....my trusty little knife got too hot and the handle melted. Thankfully,  I had another one, so it didn't slow me down much.

My canvases

After the shapes were cut out, I painted the base coat using leftover house paint I had on hand. The cats were outrageously intrigued by all the novel activity going on and I had to watch them like a hawk so I didn't end up with a kitty Slip-n-Slide across my boards. As it was, I had to put up with them frolicking under the drop cloth and batting at me when I least expected it.

I put some of the basic coloring on with cans of spray paint, then added in more detail with brush work. Of course, it is much faster to write about it than to do it, so the week was mostly gone by this point. Everything went smoothly though, and I finished on time in spite of the best efforts of my cats.

One night they decided that the foam made a lovely scratching post and my empty tomb cutout was a perfect feline rock-climbing wall. When I woke up there were little blue claw marks going from the bottom of the piece to the top. When I tried to spray paint over their scratches I found that the paint melted any uncoated foam into a cancerous-looking mass. Lovely. I was left trying to cover over their "artistic endeavors" by hand, but it didn't look too bad if you didn't know they were there.

Sunday, Caleb and I arrived early to set up. The Dixie Land Band was already there, so I got to put up the scenery to the accompaniment of "When the Saints Go Marching In" Both scenes ended up looking very nice when everything was put together. The concert was a lovely success as always, and people seemed to really enjoy the artwork. I ate WAY too much angel food cake with strawberries on top, but there was so much left over, I was just trying to help out!

The garden scene with the empty tomb

I think the cross scene is one of my favorites of all I've done so far, mostly because of the vibrant colors. I don't often end up working in oranges, yellows, and reds. I guess I'll have to paint more sunsets!

A Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Lazy Sundays? Yeah, right! Do they even make those anymore? It reminds me of an Andy Griffith episode where Andy, Barney, and Aunt Bea were lamenting how no one took the time anymore to be neighborly and to relax on Sundays. So they spent all Sunday afternoon getting hot and sweaty running around trying to fix up the uniforms, instruments, and band stand so they could have a Sunday concert. The episode ends with them discovering that in working so hard at relaxation they had no time left to relax.

That is so me. In my 30's I am finally starting to realize that there will never come a time when the work will be done! I have to relax anyway or I will reach my twilight years and realize that I spent my entire life working so I could relax, and now there is no more time left to do it in. Funny lead in for a post about all the work I did last Sunday, but, hey, I sat and painted on my paint-by-number some, too!

So anyway, last weekend I decided it was time to paint the kitchen floor. It has been the bane of my existence for quite some time because it only had white primer on it, and let me tell you, white floors and the country don't mix. I hadn't wanted to spend money on paint for it because I intend to put linoleum down someday, but who knows when that will be. In the meantime, I got tired of mud-brown floors that had to be scrubbed by hand constantly or they looked terrible. I hated scrubbing the floors, so they spent a great deal of time looking terrible.

I began the project by shaving my floors---at least that's what it seemed like after moving the stove and fridge to discover several dogs' worth of fur collected under there! I'm SO getting a Mexican Hairless next time.

  Oh, yeah, baby! 

Saturday night we shut all the cats away while I put on the first coat. It didn't take quite forever as Caleb predicted, but pretty close by the time it was dry enough to release the beasts without risking little brown paw prints all over the house. As it was, I did get one set to remember my rotund orange tabby by.

Sunday morning I quickly put on the final coat so it could dry before our pastor came for a visit. As long as I had the kitchen all disarranged, I took the opportunity to get our California kitchen table out of storage and put up, oh, almost 2 years later. The pastor and Caleb helped assemble it in my beautiful(ish) kitchen. OK, beautiful might be a bit of a stretch, but much improved is certainly true.

That left me with an extra table, so Caleb and I moved the junker couch outside and put the table in its place. The couch was too heavy to wrestle into the barn, but everyone needs a yard couch, don't they? Its color is very complimentary with the dry grass, and the view is spectacular!

The sunset from our yard couch

Meanwhile, our power had been off all afternoon. The power company was duly notified, but it was getting towards dark with no sign of progress, so my knights-in-shining armor came galloping up in their pickup trucks. My dad and brother-in-law, Jack,  brought out Jack's powerful work generator--guaranteed to light up your life! They labored over it, setting up the jacks, fiddling with the lights, getting everything ready for use before dark.

Just as the sun slipped below the horizon and dusk spread across the land---twing---my power came back on again. Then they got to reverse the process and ride away, towing the generator behind them. But I still appreciated all their effort.

While I laughed at them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cookbook Review

My lengthy and unending progression through last year's fall cookbook,...trying Every. Single. Recipe. (Except a few that I really didn't want to make, but you'll never know which ones because you don't have the cookbook!)

Sweet Potato Gratin

Sweet potatoes
Brown sugar
Orange juice
Chopped nuts

Bake sweet potatoes whole until cooked through, then scoop the pulp into a large bowl. Mix in butter, brown sugar, eggs, orange juice, and spices and dump into casserole. Make topping by cutting oats and flour into butter, sugar, and cinnamon until it makes coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts, sprinkle on sweet potato mixture, and bake for 30 minutes or so.

I liked this recipe with some provisions. I liked the crumb topping; that was kind of a unique preparation. The dish itself was an odd cross between salty and sweet; not quite a sweet dish and not quite a salty dish. I think if I make it again I will make it sweeter (but not by much) and leave out the eggs. They gave it a fluffy texture, which some people may like, but I'm not used to "fluffy" sweet potatoes. All in all, not too bad, and a great dish for my grandpa---high fiber, high calorie (once you add on lots of butter), and easy to eat.

Butterscotch Malt Zucchini Cake

Brown sugar
Malted milk powder
Baking soda
Baking pwd.
Grated zucchini
White chocolate chips
Butterscotch chips
Chopped nuts

The preparation for this recipe is fairly standard cake fare; mix the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients separately, then mix together. You don't beat the cake to make it fluffy; believe me, there's no making this mix fluffy! Because so much of the moisture is in the zucchini, the batter is very dense. Then you pop it into a greased and floured bundt cake pan and bake it for an hour at 350. When the cake is cooled melt white chocolate chips and butterscotch chips and drizzle over cake.

I really liked this recipe and would definitely make it as an alternative to zucchini bread during that awkward part of the summer when one is buried under a mountain of unwanted squash. I didn't really taste the malt and I'm not sure I'd put in the white chocolate chips---neither one seemed to add much to the flavor and no sense in having empty calories. Otherwise, it tasted great, had a good texture, and an attractive presentation. I do have to say that there was no "drizzling" the melted chocolate. It stayed on the spoon, so I had to put it in a plastic bag with a corner cut out and squeeze it onto the cake.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Prune Diaries, Vol. 1

Working as I do in the line of elder care, I am getting to be quite creative with the use of prunes. I happen to like prunes, if for no other reason than all the kids but Devon hate them. There will always be prunes in the container when I want a snack. But I hadn't really explored their culinary possibilities until recently.

Now I am compiling recipes for my new cookbook, 101 Ways to Cook Prunes. I'm expecting a call from the Food Network any day now to discuss my own cooking show.

This morning's delight:

Belgian Waffles with Stewed Prunes and Whipped Cream

Confession is Good For the Soul

Don't ask me why this particular story should come to mind 'cause I ain't telling ya'! But I will tell you that the reason has nothing to do with me in a personal sense.

I was a cute child, if I do say so myself. The youngest of four, I enjoyed the perk of having an entire family at my service, but not everything about being the baby of the family was perfect. No matter what milestones I achieved, someone had always gotten there first and could do it better than me. I craved distinction of my own. Certain family members may say that I succeeded in being distinct beyond my wildest dreams. (I was famous amongst my long-suffering, Type-A sister's classmates for being a nudist)

Even in the course of childhood diseases I remained simply one of the pack. Chicken pox found us all, we all got colds, and we all got the flu. Finally, however, there came to me a disease that was solely my own. NO ONE ELSE IN MY FAMILY HAD IT OR HAD EVER HAD IT. At last, I was special.

The only problem was that I had to stay home the whole time I was sick. It was highly contagious and all the appropriate precautions were taken. But the disease ran its course and the day came I was nearly through. Just at that time there was a day camp overnighter planned with our church. I really wanted to go and I'm sure (in retrospect) that the prospect of seeing my rear end disappear into the distance was somewhat attractive to my mom by that point.I'd been on medication for a very long time, was almost well, and my mom judged that I was no longer contagious. I could go.



I finally have something special about me and I'm not allowed to tell anyone? That just didn't seem fair, but it was only under that condition that I'd get to go, so I reluctantly agreed.

The day came and we left on our overnighter to somewhere, I don't remember where. We must have been staying in one of the school gyms or something, because I do remember a large room full of kids layed out in sleeping bags. I was with my beloved counselor, someone who seemed to me at the time to be a majestically older woman. The atmosphere of the gym was one of camaraderie and fellowship. I desired to open my heart to this girl who meant so much to me. Surely it was OK to tell her my deepest secrets. My mom probably meant not to tell just anybody....

I leaned close to her, gazed up into her face confidingly and whispered my confession.

"I have....impetigo."

I leaned back onto my sleeping bag, satisfied with the import of my news.

I'm not sure what happened on the adult end of things, but I didn't get sent straight home. I know Noni was sure mad at me (Mom told you not to tell anyone!!!!!!). Poor girl was desperately trying to be the most sophisticated 6th grader ever and now her little sister was not only a famous nudist, but one with a plague as well. I'm sure I gave my young counselor a thrill, too.

I still chuckle every time I think about it---ah, the trusting innocence of childhood where it never enters your mind that you might be an object of extreme revulsion to those around you.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Where There's a Will There's a Way

As mentioned approximately 500 other times, this has been an unseasonably warm winter with very little snow. My snow play equipment has languished in storage except for the one time we got to sled down an icy road for a few minutes. Over the past week we've gotten a little bit more snow so I was determined to get out there Sunday and play.

Only by the time we made it into the great outdoors, most of the snow had melted from the sunny 40 degree day. Foiled again.....or was I?

We had the sleds and snowboards, the warmly-clad participants, and some very antsy dogs all piled into my van. I was not going through all that work just to head home disappointed. Then it came to me. The gravel pit.

The gravel pit has large piles of different types of gravel. In the warmer months it's used for target practice by local sporting enthusiasts, but not much happens there during the winter. In fact, when we drove in we flushed a whole herd of deer that had been hanging out there in relative comfort and privacy.

That all changed when we opened the doors and released a river of canine enthusiasm. Of course I waited until the deer were hopelessly in the distance, but that didn't stop the dogs from trying anyway. Some time later, they staggered back panting with happiness; Jackie was so winded that she had to take a snow bath then and there to cool down.

Meanwhile, we began a cautious and tentative exploration of the gravel pile's sledding possibilities. At least it was on my part. As I teetered half way up one of the smallest piles, I looked up at the sound of wild whoops and hollers to see Caleb snow boarding down the tallest gravel mountain. He kept his balance and made it all the way to the bottom----whew! No unscheduled trips to the emergency room today.

Unfortunately, the next trip down was a little less successful. He made it halfway before tumbling head over tail down the rest of the slope. At least after that he put his jacket back on so he could keep a little bit of skin.

Damon has none of that magical stuff known as health insurance, so I made him stick to sledding.

After I saw how much fun they were having on their majestic mountain I decided to leave my little hills and go join them. Yup, it was great. So great that nothing else would do but that my mom should try, too. After all, where is the fun in standing safely on level ground watching your offspring risk their necks without you?

I helped her about a third of the way up the slope and got her situated on the sled. She was little far down the length of it, so I tried to get her to hold still while I slid the sled down slope. Only problem was that she kept going down slope, too. I had to give up and cut her loose with a cry of, "Look out belooooooooooow!" It was a good thing Caleb listened and rolled out of the way, because she flew right over the snowboard that he'd been lying on 2 seconds before. My mom, the sledding assassin.

Little by little I inched my way higher on the slope for my runs. Finally, on my last run of the afternoon I went all the way to the top of the hill. The gravel on this hill is well mixed with dirt, and since the slope is south-facing, it had thawed into a warm, soft, dirty slide. It's kind of interesting, because the first part of the run is through gravel and sprays you with fine dirt and rocks. Then you hit the snow at the bottom and get coated with a liberal spray of ice. It was EPIC!

That wasn't even quite dirty enough for the boys, who spent a good share of the time throwing muddy snow at each other or rolling around in the dirt. They were lucky I even let them back in the car for the trip home. On the plus side, they got good and tired!

The dogs had a great time, too, climbing hills and chasing each other once they secured the area from any vicious deer. Jackie liked to chase snowballs the boys through for her---a border collie's work is never done. Finley just got muddy like the mud pig he is. Anika (a short little dog who likes to sit on high places) mostly just patrolled the hill tops.

This is why mothers---and washing machines---of teen boys age faster than the average population!

Wearing his glasses, no less!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Live Life Like a Border Collie!

Yesterday my mom, Caleb, and I went to Minot to visit Laura at her school. We were taking Anika, my little black dog, on somewhat of a farewell visit, since she will have to be put to sleep soon. She has bladder issues and is incontinent a good share of the time. Somehow, I'm not really sure how, we ended up with Finley and Jackie along, too. So we had the 6 of us crammed into a van that was only going to get more crowded after my mom's and my monthly trip to Walmart.

You may not think that 3 people and 3 medium size dogs could fill a large van, but then you haven't met Jackie. She is typical of her breed and very, VERY dedicated to her work. Which happens to be getting toys thrown for her and herding cars.

She doesn't herd cars on foot, no, she's much too smart for that. She waits until she gets a ride, then spends the entire time staring fixedly out the window...watching, waiting. When a vehicle comes, particularly a semi, she lunges at it and smashes her nose against the glass. Every. Single. Time.





Once in a while, when it's been quiet for a while and you've forgotten that she's there, she'll let rip with a shrill yip right in your ear.




It was a long day. One pouty Springer Spaniel, mad because I wouldn't let him ride on my lap, one incontinent dog that has to pee every 15 minutes, and one psychotic border collie. Sounds like a great road trip to me.

We started back right as it began to get dark. Snow had been falling off and on ever since we got to Minot, and roads which had been wet with snow quickly froze and became icy. Add to that snow that was still falling and a brisk wind to stir the snow on the ground and you had some tiring driving conditions. The trip took an hour and 15 minutes longer than usual because I had to drive so slowly. We were all exhausted.

Except Jackie. She may have been exhausted, but no mere fatigue could swerve her from her chosen path of duty. The whole way home there were border collie ears silhouetted in the rear view mirror. The other dogs slept, but not her. The roads were almost deserted because of the storm and cars were few and far between, but it mattered not. Should one come, it would find her ready.



I have recently taken "Live life like a Border Collie" as my personal motto, and last night only served to highlight how inspirational one psychotic canine can be. The Bible says to watch because our Master will come in an hour we're not expecting Him. If it were Jackie in question, I can guarantee that she would be found faithful.