Another of “Those” nights

I’m up in the middle of the night, AGAIN! I think there are several parts to this problem. I have been reading a lot lately, and I think that I am not getting enough exercise. I’m going to have to tire myself out for several days in a row, and reestablish an earlier time to rise and go to bed. I think consistency in my day is important.

It’s also possible that this sleeplessness is related to depression. I’m still grieving for my sister, and probably will be for a while. When I see the doc I’ll ask whether melatonin might help in the short term.

I’m also disturbed by the unbelievable scenes of the mob breaking into the Capital building. I am astonished that any of them thought their behavior was appropriate, and I worry what will happen on January 20th. I really think that the inauguration should be held inside the building. (Note to God: Dear Sir, would you please provide foul weather for the day to drive them inside?)

And, we are in our tenth month of sheltering at home (mostly). We’re all tired of the separation, lack of touch, missing special events in our families, the fear that we might catch the virus after all our efforts and the grief for all who have been lost.

Some of that I can’t control but I suspect that more exercise is a good part of the solution to how I feel about all of this. I just wish I could do it sitting down.

Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. Stay six feet away from EVERYONE. Wear a mask! It’s very little to ask to prevent the spread of the virus, and maybe I’ll get a little sleep.

Baking Day

I went off the deep end two days ago and spent the day in my kitchen.

I made a large batch of Chex Mix first, so that it could bake as I worked on a loaf of banana nut bread. Dear Husband loves quick bread, and I had bananas that were too ripe for my taste. I’m going to try freezing them for the first time so that I can see how they work in banana walnut bread when defrosted.

While the nut bread was baking I made a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. In our household they really shouldn’t be called chocolate chip cookies because I swap the amounts of nuts and chips. If DH was baking, it would become a nut cookie, with no chocolate chips.

I tend to make large cookies, so those baked up quickly. The next item up was a Dutch Apple Cake. I tried it yesterday and was a bit disappointed. The cake is very dense, and there’s not enough cinnamon on the apples. I’ve eaten it at breakfast, but I don’t think I will make it again.

And last, but definitely not least, I made a three layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I found the recipe online. It’s called “Sandy’s Chocolate Cake.” It might be from Taste of Home. The cake is made with brown sugar, which surprised me. It’s a superb cake recipe. I don’t have three cake pans, so I cooked the first two layers, and when they were cool enough to take out of the pans I cooked the third layer. I resolved that problem yesterday by buying three matching good quality cake pans!

The icing was made with bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate, butter, sour cream, vanilla and 10X sugar. I think if I ever make this frosting again, I might try making it with just semi-sweet chocolate. I was surprised with how the icing came together, but I think it’s a great recipe.

I don’t have room in the refrigerator for the cake in a cake keeper, but luckily the garage is very cold and works well as a refrigerator. I have one piece of cake each day. I will probably eat less than half the cake before I have killed off my jones for chocolate cake. Dear Husband doesn’t eat cake. He’s a pie guy, so the next time I bake, I’ll be making pies (and maybe bread).

I think I’ve satisfied my need to bake, at least for a while.

Christmas Books

I love books. I want to be able to go back and re-read a passage, or look for a map or a chart, or something that has important information. I have a well-worn Kindle and use it all the time, but I find it harder to navigate than an old fashioned book.

There are good reasons to have a Kindle. If you travel it’s a great way to carry lots of books with you. I can check my mail or Facebook, or read the newspaper, or play games. But, when I’m at home and I have choice, I prefer to have a book in my hand.

For Christmas, Dear Husband gave me three books. I bought him two more. I haven’t started them yet, but I have Barak Obama’s “A Promised Land,” and Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” The third book is “Clanlands.” Oddly, the first book I read was one of the ones I ordered for DH, a Clive Cussler Oregon Files pot boiler, “Final Option.” Of the characters Cussler created after Dirk Pitt, I like Juan Cabrillo and his crew the best.

I’m hoping that Christmas of 2021 I will be able to put Diana Gabaldon’s next book on the list, and perhaps Louise Penney and Donna Leon will have new books out, too. And, maybe Lois McMaster Bujold will write one more book featuring Miles Verkosigan! The thing these women have in common is that they have all written multiple books in a series. I love to see a story unfold and the characters develop.

If you love books as much as I do, consider ordering them from your local bookstore. Part of what pleased me about my Christmas books was that I knew DH bought them locally. Now that card files have gone the way of the dodo, the next best thing is to wander the aisles of a bookstore. One day I went to the help desk. I listed four series of books that I loved, to give the ladies an idea of my taste in books, and asked them for recommendations. It was a good way to find new books to read! I’ll have to try that at the library, too.

Crosswords

I have the oddest pattern in my life. I go to bed, and a couple of hours later I’m wide awake. So, I get out of bed and do the crossword puzzle. It helps to pass the time until I am tired enough to go back to sleep. Well, maybe not the Monday puzzle, which is pretty easy, but certainly the other days of the week.

I’d really rather be doing the puzzle over breakfast, with Dear Husband there to share it. Sunday morning I couldn’t remember the name of Hagar’s dog, and DH came up with it: Snert. I suppose I would have gotten it eventually, but it amazes me what he is able to remember or sound out.

I’ll tell DH the number of spaces and what letters (if any) I might have. Without seeing the grid he can come up with possibilities. He’s quite good at it. Unfortunately, he’s a creative speller, so he won’t bother to do the puzzles on his own, but he seems to be content to start the day helping me.

My mother used to do crossword puzzles in ink. I’m not willing to work on puzzles unless I can do it electronically. I use the option that tells me when I put in a wrong letter. I suppose I could do it my mother’s way, but it would take me all day.

When I was first doing puzzles as an adult my favorites were those by Eugene T. Maleska. He was the editor for the New York Times puzzles. He and I thought about language the same way, and I was more likely to finish one of his puzzles. Now, the editors are not requiring information in the clues such as “two words.” I don’t think the clues are as clever as they used to be, so when I come across a good one, I share it with DH.

I’ll have to put Maleska’s puzzles on my wish list and see whether any of the kids can find them for me. Perhaps I will be doing puzzles like my mother after all.

Great Sadness

I am learning what grief is, first-hand. My oldest sister has passed away from a brain tumor. While we were all sheltering at home, the tumor was growing, and we didn’t recognize the symptoms until it was too late. She was cremated and when it is safe for us all to be together, there will be a memorial service.

Sis was the first of our generation to pass away. Although she was in her early eighties, I thought she would be among us forever. There is a huge hole in my heart where she used to reside. I hope that eventually I will find she is still there.

One of the best qualities she had was her ability to include everyone in what was going on. She always made me feel a part of things, and welcomed Dear Husband and me to every holiday gathering she hosted. That was no mean feat, given that she had a huge family. I loved getting to see how the kids were growing and having the chance to hear what was happening in the adult’s lives.

I could give you a laundry list of all her accomplishments, but I know that her immediate family would prefer that her life not be spread over the Internet, so let me just say that she was an amazingly talented woman, who raised a lovely family, who was generous with her time and compassion. She was the person we all want to be.

I miss you, Sis.

Catching Up Part 2

I can’t believe I haven’t been here since February 25, 2018. I write blog entries in my head all the time, but it seems that I rarely get around to putting them down.

It’s been a tough year for all of us, more so for some. As I write more than 322,000 people in the US have lost their lives to covid-19. The numbers across the world are horrifying, and yet we have a portion of our population who see wearing a mask as an infringement on their personal rights. I’m so very tempted to let them suffer the consequences, but there are several problems with that thought. First, they could possibly spread the disease. The idea of wearing a mask is to keep the virus to ourselves, and perhaps it reminds us to be more careful as we go about our day, so that we aren’t in places where we can pick up the virus.

Secondly, the nation is paying for the astonishing cost of care that a person with covid-19 requires. Those who don’t wear masks/wash hands/social distance are likely not to be able to afford that cost, so we as a country have to shoulder the expense for those who are not willing to do what they can to eradicate this beast. How long will our medical personnel be able to keep up the effort required to help people with the virus? The constant fear of becoming ill themselves, and the emotional toll of seeing patient after patient die is more than we should be asking of them. While it’s nice that the President is sending military medical personnel to California to help in the hospitals, wouldn’t it have been better to head this off when they knew it was coming?? I digress.

I suppose I have to admit that there is a moral problem with my suggestion, but anyone who is so egocentric that they feel they don’t have to help in this fight has a moral problem. My husband feels this is a form of natural selection, but the problem with this is that they take others with them.

The vaccine is available. It’s just starting to be administered. We have a LONG way to go inoculating the country, but we’ve made a start. Hubby and I won’t be in the first or second wave, maybe not even in the next two or three months, so we are still sheltering at home. Christmas was hard, not being able to be with family.

I’m lucky that my husband is my best friend. We are comfortable passing the time together. We have a simple routine that gets us through the days. I’m going to need to get out and walk this Spring. I’ve gained the covid 15 (and more). I can see adding treadmill sessions to our Zoom exercise until the sidewalks are clear again.

We’ve been trying new recipes, cooking together. Hubby is an excellent sous chef, and willing to work with me in the kitchen so that we can try more complex recipes. I have such a taste for baked things and have been trying to limit them, but I just ordered a magazine called “Bake From Scratch.” Maybe a bad choice! I did not make a single Christmas cookie this year!

I hope that those of you who may read this blog, or just this post, are making good choices. I hope my friends are well, and have escaped all the problems that covid-19 has thrust upon us. I wish you well in this coming year, and hope that 2021 will allow us to be together again without fear. Hugggggggs!

We bought a home two and a half years ago, and I knew at the time that we needed to change some of the plantings at the front of the house. The previous owner planted holly bushes in a two-foot strip between the sidewalk to the front door and the garage. There are three major problems. One is that the area is in deep shade, no direct sunshine at all. And the second is that holly is prickly, and our guests could be scratched as they walk up the sidewalk. The third is that holly should be much too large for the area where these have been planted. The space requires a much smaller planting. I need to move two or three of the six plants to the back gardens, and give away the rest.

On the other side of the sidewalk there is a shrub rose and two plants which might be red-twigged dogwood. All three of those plants need to be moved, so that they get the sunlight they need, and the area leading up to the front door is open and inviting. I’ll have to research shade plants that will work in those two areas. Hosta and coral bells would work, but I’d like to look a little further.

We also have a bank of shrubs touching the front face of the house. There is a mass of overgrown juniper, a beautiful barberry, and a yew. The specialists at the Growing Place tell me we need to rip out the juniper because it is so overgrown. It would be okay to replant juniper there, but the present plants can’t be pruned back to a reasonable size. The yew brings in a green that doesn’t go with anything else that has been planted. I won’t mind ripping that out. I could bring in grasses behind the barberry, to contrast the form and color.

As soon as I learn how to upload a picture, this will make more sense. I have the perfect view of the house to share.

Winter’s End

We have had an astonishing Winter. We went 87 days with snowfalls of an inch or less. Actually, I bet there were about 85 days with NO SNOWFAll! I can’t remember a Winter like this; it’s a first. Temperatures were unusually mild. It felt like Spring a month ago. We were out on the lawn measuring everything that didn’t move, preparing for a landscaping class. Our neighbors were out working on their lawns, using leaf blowers to clean the sidewalks and drives.

Of course, now that we are in our last week of Winter, temperatures have plummeted, and storms are on the way. We had a couple of inches last night, and they are forecasting 6-9″ in the Chicago area, tonight and tomorrow. Cook and Lake counties, which border Lake Michigan, and DuPage county, are likely to have lake effect snow, which will bring them nine inches. We’re in Algonquin at the moment, and the northern suburbs may have six inches, perhaps a little less to the south.

I can deal with this. What worries me is that Winter could possibly come when we should be seeing Spring. I’ve lived through a blizzard that shut down Chicago in May. I’d rather not see that again. Everyone, think positive: NO MORE WINTER!!

Christmas Giving

I’ve probably posted on this subject every year for the past ten years. I feel like the Grinch! I really don’t like to shop, and rarely know what to give my family, yet I need to make the effort.

My oldest sister gave me a book I can’t wait to read. My younger sister, who knows that we love to watch our backyard birds, gave us a suet holder and suet, and birdseed bells. Both of these are perfect gifts, something I really enjoy. Now, why couldn’t I remember that they love these things, too?

I told someone recently that I thought we should either have a specific limit as to how much we could spend on a gift, or, perhaps we should try having a year where we only gave things we made. I’ve been operating along a mix of those two ideas for a while, and both of them have pros and cons. It takes a lot of time to make things for my entire family, and not everyone wants something I can make. There are times when the perfect gift falls outside the cash limit that has been set. I need more ideas. I want to give more than a card, but not be bankrupt at the end of the holidays.

And, time is always an issue. I may have to start working on Christmas in September to accomplish everything. It takes a LOT longer these days to get it all done.

I feel very Grinch-y right now. It’s a good thing Christmas is past.

The Good Thing About High Winds

…is that you may not have to rake your lawn when they die down. Of course, while your leaves may be in the next town, you might gain someone else’s leaves. You just have to wait to see how things settle. I figured that we might have to rake part of our neighbor’s lawn because our leaves were being blown into their yard, but we may luck out.

Dear Husband has a flight test to take to finish the requirements for his pilot’s license. It was scheduled for tomorrow, but it’s been put off until Sunday. That’s a good thing, because the winds will be so high that there won’t be any flights tomorrow. Unfortunately, Sunday is the day the association will be taking the gliders apart for winter storage. Fortunately, they are receptive to Dear Husband’s need, and will save his glider for last. Keep him in your prayers and positive thoughts, please. I hope that he will accomplish his goal and not have to carry this over to next year.

The winds are really gusting tonight. I think the noise may make for restless sleep. For sure, we will have to keep an eye on the roof to see if any shingles need to be replaced after this weekend. It could be worse. Somewhere to the North, they reported 33 inches of snow. At least we have just the wind!