Sunday, January 30, 2011

It ain't easy being green...

Being green and environmentally responsible takes a lot more than desire -- it takes $$, too. And that's something I don't have a lot of.  I've been lucky when it comes to finding a truly super-efficient refrigerator at a reasonable price.  GE makes two that I've found, both using something like 30% less energy than most other energy star models.  I understand that Whirlpool also makes some, but I haven't see those.  Most of the stores around here don't carry such things.  At the local store, I was comparing the projected dollar operating cost of the GE's (about $35 per year) with the units she carried (more toward $40-50) and her only comeback was that over a year's time that wasn't much difference.  The point, of course, isn't the cost but the efficiency.  The point is to not use the energy in the first place.  Ah, well.

Enter the lawn mower question.  There is nothing green about any gas powered mower -- even the CARB certified models are still pollution machines.  Plus they are very heavy, require fuel and maintenance and all that stuff.  I've been doing some research, and found the Neuton Battery Mowers, which larger municipalities are offering at a cut rate to people who trade in their old gas powered machines.

I kind of like it, and for the most part it has good consumer reviews.  The complaints are mostly that the battery is only good for an hour at a time and that it cuts a narrower swath than most gas mowers.  I can live with both of those.  So, I have to cut half my yard one day and the rest the next day -- no big deal. The problem can be solved with an extra battery, which costs another $100.  Better yet, kill off the weeds and grasses in the rear portion of the yard that I want to use for other things.

It's quiet and it's lightweight so I can easily lift it onto my front porch for safety (I've been wondering what I would do with a mower to keep it safe, even though nothing has been bothered in any of these yards in the year I've been here).  On the negative side, even battery power isn't really green -- it's just lower on the scale than gas models.  Batteries eventually need to be replaced and then disposed of, and electricity comes from coal-powered plants.  Don't even get me started on the oxymoron 'clean coal technology'.  There's nothing clean about the process of getting coal out of the ground, although they may have found ways to burn it cleanly. 

I need to make a decision today, because they're having a $100 off sale and frankly, I can't afford to lose $100 unnecessarily.  I don't need it yet because lawn mowing is a summer enterprise around here.  But, it'll keep. I just can't quite bring myself to do it yet.  I don't feel all that secure in my job right now, and if that goes belly-up I'll need all the savings I can  hold onto.  On the other hand, the grass is going to have to be cut this summer, so if I don't have my own machine I'll have to pay someone else to do it.  This thing will pay for itself over the course of one summer, judging by what I spent last year to have my neighbor do it.  I have until tomorrow to order at the sales price.  What to do, what to do!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A good day's work.... in the SUNSHINE!!

According to the weather channel it is 69 degrees outside right now! I could not swear to that, but I know it's warm and sunny and the house is warm with no gas in use.  Hallelujah!  I know it'll only last a couple of days, but right now a couple of days of sunshine is very welcome. 

Four solid work hours out in that sunshine (with a half hour lunch break that's not included), made good progress with my weekend's projects. 

First, I laid out the edging to make a straight line and be sure I had enough for this length.  Then, I cut a groove to mark the cut line.

Cut down the line with the shovel. It didn't need to be absolutely straight, I just wanted to be sure I ended up where I wanted to be at each end.  The cedar mulch covers the edge completely.

Used my hand trowel to trim the edge, then fit the edging into place.  After I got it all in place, I decided it was a little too deep, so went back and raised it a bit.  Not a lot, just enough that it'll keep roots from forming over it, too.  We hope.

A few cardboard boxes and four bags of cedar mulch later, this long (24') section is about finished.

Then, I unrolled the hardware cloth to lay it flat, hope to make it workable, then turned under both of the new beds in the rear.  I've added supplements lately, thought it would be good to get it turned under for the rain that's forecast on Monday.  This is how I've left it for today, folks. 

Tomorrow I'll work on the shorter section, although I won't be able to complete it because I need one 2' length to make it fit the space.  I guesstimated the distance when I made the purchase.  I also don't have enough cardboard to cover all the areas, but will use what I have, then scrounge more from work later on.

I think I may have created even more of a monster with The Brat -- let her out on the back porch and let her snoop around the back of the house for the last while I was out there.  She's been complaining since I made her come back inside with me. 

Oh, and I made my own version of Senate Bean Soup while all the rest happened.  Bought a bone-in shank slice of beef this morning, added onions and mushrooms (of course) and some flageolet beans I bought in Napa last year. Now, I have soup. Forgot the garlic -- dang it!

Sunshine projects...

Since the weather is cooperating  by being warm and sunny this weekend, I've opted to attack a project in the yard so I can take full advantage of both.

Ten  bags of cedar mulch, five 8-foot lengths of metal edging, three corner stakes.

You know the issues I've had with the hated Bermuda grass.  It's taken me a year, but I've pretty much ridden the garden area of the stuff.  Being insidious, once the stuff starts growing again the roots will creep into the cleared area and sprout up again, so I'm trying something new.

You also know how much I hate plastic, so I bought 4" metal edging that I can bury at ground level to hopefully block the roots.  If this doesn't work -- I give up!  There are stakes die-cut and attached at the ends that are supposed to 'snap off'.  Sure they do.  Not in this lifetime, for me.  But, since I'm going to bury them, I don't think I'll need the stakes.  Once I get the edging  buried, I'll lay cardboard over the exposed walkway areas and top with more cedar mulch.  I know I don't have enough edging for the entire garden, only two long sides, but once I see how it works and how difficult it is, I can go for more.  I think this will be enough for today.

I also bought some hardware cloth to use to make a more sturdy compost bin and if energy permits tomorrow I'll work on that.

The great news is that the weather today should reach the mid-sixties and that's something to look forward to.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is it spring yet?

On days like this and the forecast for the next few (62 on Saturday!), I long for spring more than ever. We all do.  Everybody is tired of the snow and cold.  I'm getting ready to work on my garden some this weekend -- even did a little prep work today.  I plan to stop at Lowe's tomorrow after work and get a bunch of cedar mulch, try to finish mulching all around these four beds.   The cover crop I planted here didn't work too well -- probably because of the excessive cold.  It's a winter crop, but not for the cold we had.  I raked the straw off and sprayed all the greenery with EcoSmart weed killer.  Should be done on a 'warm, sunny' day, but we had to settle for sunny.  I'll be happy just to weaken them.  My back porch is piled with cardboard boxes that are going to be laid down under the cedar, and that should keep the weeds in check.

My greens bed has been renewed!  I added various supplements, took out the old lettuce, chard and beets and planted new seeds for all.  The spinach was still doing great, so I left it, but put a little less straw on top.  Had to remove the storm window because while it protected the lettuce, it got too warm for some spinach that was under it.  Hopefully, by the time seedlings emerge the Reemay will keep them happy.

Found quite a few small  beets left in the ground -- in the oven as I write this, roasting for dinner.

Had a sort of busy day.  Started of by getting blood drawn for new tests (I want to see if my efforts of this past month result in improvement), went by our Gold's Gym to check it out, drove to Rockmart for milk and eggs, visited a local appliance store, finished another new story for my 'Tales' blog, then did the yard work.  Not a bad day's work.  I really want to join the gym -- it's inexpensive and I need and want the exercise.  Just can't do it alone, and I'm tired of the excess pounds.  Besides that, I really enjoy working out.

When I came back inside I found The Brat playing with this piece of rope (one of her favorite toys) and trying to fight her way into and then out of a plastic bag the EcoSmart had come in.  Silly kitten.
So, that's been my day.  It really feels good to be back outside, working in the yard.  So much better than working inside!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kittens and Computers......

.....don't mix.  Now, I know that's not a newsflash, but I had a personal experience with this last week.  In preparation for going to the archives, I hauled out my laptop and plugged it in to charge, working with it at the same time.  The kitten kept wanting to play with the cord, I kept yelling at her and then suddenly the screen went blank!  The computer would not restart for a few minutes.  After a second effort with the same results the charger started making a weird noise so I did a quick Google search and found that the small cord is very sensitive, can be broken/damaged easily.  One person even reported that his cat had bitten it.  There is no cure for this other than a new charger.  I found one, ordered it, but of course it didn't arrive in time for my trip to Atlanta.  Turns out I didn't even use the laptop while I was there so it didn't matter.

This was a 'posed' photo this morning, using the old charger. The Brat was only too happy to take part and illustrate her technique.

Fortunately, the computer doesn't seem to have been damaged.  It charged right up with the new one (out of reach of The Brat).  I rarely use the thing, but when I want it, I need it charged.

We have rain here today, supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow but without sticking.  It's not all that cold (anything above freezing falls into that category nowadays) and isn't projected to be cold enough for travel issues.  We hope.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A random act of kindness....

I had to go to Atlanta today for my boss, to renew his dealer tags at a DMV office near the Atlanta airport.  I had maps, knew where it was, even  had a blow-up map of the I-75 interchange so I could see the ramps clearly.  Unfortunately, Google Maps screwed this up royally.  I drove past the interchange at first, because the turn off is a long way before the interchange and none of the streets listed on the sign matched the road I was looking for.  Just at the point where I couldn't make the exit, there was a DMV sign up ahead on the exit road itself, not on the interstate before the exit.  OK.  I drove on down to the next exit and turned around.  Not that far.  Again, when I got to the exit there were several street names, but none that I was looking for.  It's a complicated interchange and hard to describe, but after I got on the exit road I had a choice whether to take the first road or another further down.  Since I knew I needed to cross the interstate, I took the first one and just as I got on it I saw another DMV sign, past the turn I took and hidden by trees.  No way to see it before that point.

OK. With no other option, I drove to the stop light planning to turn left over the interstate and see if I could find the place.  I noticed a motorcycle cop pull up behind me, caught his eye in my rearview mirror and he smiled.  Wishing I had a way to ask him how to find the place, I deliberately put my map up on the steering wheel and bingo, he pulled up to my right and asked what I was looking for.  I told him, but traffic started moving so he told me to make my left then pull up on the right.  I did that -- blocking a traffic lane on the bridge -- and he pulled up on my left and told me I should have taken the other street (which I already knew), then said the best way to get there now was to 'make a U-turn here, go to the first left and take it', etc.

Now, we're sitting on the right hand lane of a four lane road with a lane-wide median in the middle.  "Are you gonna let me make a U-turn here?" I asked.  "Yep.  I'll stop traffic for you."  And then he did just that.  Turned his lights on, made sure all traffic behind us stopped, pulled into the next lane, motioned me to come, and he stayed beside me until I crossed the shallow median and headed back in the other direction.  Now, that is not something you see every day!  I don't know if he was a city cop or state, didn't even notice, but he certainly made me feel great.  Found the place just fine after that.  The road I needed was Henry Ford III Parkway but Google Maps listed it as Old Dixie Highway.  See why I was confused?

Anyway -- after two solid hours dealing with the DMV (the incompetency of which I don't even want to talk about right now), I got the stickers and headed off to the Archives, which aren't too much further south. After registering, putting my bags and other things into a locker, I was allowed to take my laptop and my folder of paperwork inside.  No pens, no bags, nothing where any of their paperwork could be hidden.  Spent a couple of hours looking at microfilm from 1815-16, didn't find a thing that was usable.

I tell you, if I had any lingering doubts about why I don't go into Atlanta more often (this was the first time in 15 years unless you count flying in two years ago, when all I did was drive straight to Cedartown and back at off hours), those were all dispelled with this trip.  In one word:  t-r-a-f-f-i-c!  It was horrendous when I lived there, and hasn't gotten any better.  I was on the outskirts, too, the entire time.  I could see the downtown skyline in the distance, and that was close enough, thank you very much.

So -- now I'm pooped and ready to chill for awhile.  I sure won't forget that nice cop anytime soon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Does Cold Deter Weight Loss?

A few nights back I heard Jon Gabriel interviewed on the radio and much of what he had to say caught my attention. He lost over 225 pounds without dieting and has a more mind-body approach to the entire subject. During the show he gave out the code word that allows people who buy his book to download a free evening visualization CD.  I've listened to this for the past few nights, and it certainly does help sleep, and it does seem to be changing my body's approach to food.

Today, I looked on Amazon and read parts of the book and was really interested to see that much of his research centered around that old demon stress hormone, cortisol.  I've known about this for years, and have made efforts to cut stress out of my life, but he brought up a wide variety of stressors that can stimulate cortisol and one of the biggies is cold.  If your body is thrust into a cold weather situation, it wants to eat in order to gain weight in order to better insulate against the cold.  Makes sense, and it really clicked with me.

My weight gain began when I first moved to Oregon 15 years ago and where I just wasn't comfortably warm most of the year.  Despite exercise and careful dieting, I couldn't keep the pounds off and finally accepted living with 10 or so extra pounds.  When I moved to Brookings, that 10 extra pounds grew. Despite all the hiking and walking I did, and despite eating healthily, my weight just shot up, mostly belly fat.  My apartment faced north, never got sun, and was hard to keep warm even in the summer.  I think that's the only place I ever wore sweats year-round.  Because electric rates were so high, I couldn't afford to keep the place comfortably warm.

Since I've been here, I've mostly been either cold or hot and of course, this winter has been particularly cold.  Plus my office is cold all the time.  It was during the December cold snap that I suddenly put on a bunch of extra pounds and even now that fat doesn't want to go away despite the healthy diet I've been on, despite no alcohol or sugar and very little in the way of refined carbohydrates.  I haven't been dieting to lose weight, but I'm not eating high-calorie foods, either so I did think weight loss might be a side benefit.

Interestingly enough, the times when I've lost weight have been in warm weather situations -- two weeks sailing in the Caribbean plus last summer, when the weight went away until the August heat wave when I began eating KFC and other fast foods rather than cook.

So, I'm thinking maybe the cold is the problem -- the only place I can get warm is in the car and usually, in bed. Sometimes in the house once the place warms up for the day. Other than that, it's just plain cold and my body is stressed by that.  Who's to say if this is really the issue, but it makes sense to me for now.  He didn't offer up much in the way of specifics about food during his interview, but when one caller asked for specifics he said that what he did was be sure to include certain things in his daily diet: lots of Omega 3 and 6; 'living' food (fresh greens, other raw fruits/veggies); and plenty of protein.  I already do pretty well on all of those, but haven't been eating much 'living' food since my garden gave up the ghost to the cold.  I've started adding ground flax seed to my daily diet and a daily salad.  It's not much, but it's about all I can do for now.  I already can't eat cruciferous veggies (cabbage, broccoli, etc) because they negatively affect my thyroid, and our local stores offer a really poor selection of fresh veggies.  Hopefully, my garden will start producing greens again before too long.  I peeked under the storm window the other day and at least one lettuce plant has survived!

Speaking of survival -- I started a bunch of Rudbekia (black-eyed Susan) last summer and nursed them through all kinds of efforts on their part to die.  They are on my back porch and while more or less sheltered from frost, do get the cold temps and did get a dusting of snow.  And they are still alive! A bit stunted, but alive.

I plan to set them out this spring, if I get a place to do that.  I need to paint the brick foundation first, then bring in a bunch of topsoil to raise the slope of the land away from the house, and then I can plant.  I'm proud of these guys -- if they survive this, they should be able to survive anything.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Culinary Discovery

I was going to have a quick pasta with ajo y ojo (butter and olive oil, plus garlic) tonight, add a little natural Italian sausage, but this is what I ended up with and it was so easy!

Cooks around the world have for generations kept favored seasonings and seasoning mixtures handy, and I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with this combination. But, it's new to me.

My diet this month has been heavily favoring mushrooms and onions, among other things, for immune-boosting properties.  Since mushrooms don't last long in the fridge, and onions don't keep well, either, a couple of weeks ago I decided to just saute a whole onion, and a whole box of mushrooms -- separately.  I used what I needed for my frittata, stored the rest in the fridge.  A few days later I bought a Newman's Own pepperoni pizza and decided to use the leftover mushroom/onion mixture on top of that.  Wonderful!

Did the same thing yesterday.   Today, when I wanted pasta, I got the bright idea to toss some of the mixture into the 'sauce' (nothing but olive oil, butter, garlic and Italian sausage, to that point).  Again, delicious! And oh, so easy.  I'm thinking this is going to be a staple of my fridge now, and I'll bet I find all kinds of uses for it.

Quiet day here -- sun is out again and it feels so good.  I spent an hour and a half in the back room just flaking paint off the door trim.  That's really hard work for me -- I'm either reaching up above my shoulders, bending over, or down on my knees.  Doesn't sound so difficult, but holding the positions for the necessary length of time really upsets my spine, both in the damaged neck area and the damaged lower area.  Otherwise, it was a day of laundry and cleaning. And finishing a new 'Tale' for my other blog.

The best thing to happen this weekend -- other than the snow melting -- is that the neighbors across the street with all the kids have moved out!  They were the bane of the neighborhood -- one early teenage girl and four or five younger ones ranging from just toddling up to maybe 8 or so. These kids were wild.  Totally undisciplined -- played in the street, rode their bikes in the street, on sidewalks, on yards, wherever they wanted to go.  No sense of property rights -- never bothered my yard too much, but did some damage to my neighbor's fish pond and generally drove us all a little nutty.  Pretty much tried to destroy the front screened porch -- screening down, slats from the lattice work torn out to play with.  I was never sure how many people lived in that 2-bedroom house that's smaller than mine.  Parents and 5-6 kids, plus one other single man, at least.  My neighbors said there were two families living there and that may be the case.  It was hard to tell who belonged with who.  While I'm glad they're gone, I'm a little trepidatious as well.  You know that old saying that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know?  I'm just hoping we don't get somebody worse in there next time.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Kitten Watch

The Brat really loves looking out the front window.  I prefer privacy at night.   This is her solution.  Clever little brat!  She'll sit here for a good while in case another cat invades her property or, whatever it is she's watching out there.

This morning my backyard doesn't look a whole lot different than it did a few days ago, other than the big bare spot where my car sat. The snow isn't as thick, of course. 

It's a good morning for hot chocolate but alas, no sugar in this diet.  The house walls seem to be just sucking up the heat that comes from the heater.  It doesn't go out the ceiling, based on observation in two snow storms of how long the snow stays on my roof.  That's a good thing.  I really need to get these walls insulated, but it won't  happen this winter.

I have a feeling this is going to be a lazy day, other than a trip to Rockmart for food, maybe get my car washed (all that salt needs to come off).  It's been a stressful week, between driving on icy roads and my boss, who creates significant amounts of stress when he wants to, and lately he's wanted to a lot.  We can always tell when something in his life is upsetting him, because it filters down to us.  Not fun. But, I don't have to go back until Tuesday, then Thursday I will run an errand for him in Atlanta then visit the State Archives in the same neighborhood, with pay, so I'll only have two days in the office.  I need it!

We really do have a warming trend coming up -- anything above freezing is lovely.  Yesterday, sunshine and 51 degrees after a 10-degree morning.  About the same today, but not quite so cold this morning.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What a North Georgia ice storm can do.....

No, this photo is not sideways.  This was taken on the Appalachian Trail a few days after an ice storm worked its way through that part of the state many years ago.  Look closely, and you can see that underneath those horizontal branches there is a trail. Really.

I had four whole miles of this trail assigned to me to take care of.  Since I wouldn't drive in snow, a friend drove me up there over miles of dirt forest service roads so we could hike my section, see what the damage was. I think this is the only photo that survives the day, but this is what we encountered all day as we walked.  Not all this bad -- some worse.  But there was debris everywhere.  We cleared what we could by hand -- physically picking it up and moving it off the trail -- but some, like this, demanded a saw and we had to make a second trip to get those.  Snow was everywhere, although you can't see a lot of it here.

I think we covered about 2 of those four miles, but with all the clearing it was slow progress and we eventually had to turn back.  Plus, my friend got a big gash above one eye as a branch flipped the wrong way and caught him.  We were afraid at first that it had caught his eye, and with the flowing blood I really couldn't tell.  Finally, I scooped up a big chunk of snow and held it to his brow to stop the bleeding so we could see what the damage was.  I promise you, that was the last time I went into the woods without carrying butterfly bandages!  We had to stop at the ER in Dahlonega on our way back to Atlanta so he could get stitched up.

We had some 'icy rain' awhile ago, but it seems to have stopped now.  From all I hear on the radio and various weather sites, the worst of it seems to be over.  I haven't had an email cancellation of the severe weather watch, but it just doesn't look as if it's going to be as severe as previously forecast. Thank goodness!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Why is it that....

.... I can be on a healthy, alcohol-free, sugar free, coffee-free health conscious diet for an entire week and not feel any better and maybe, worse?  Oh, I didn't feel truly bad to begin with, but little things that I thought were the result of sugar, or brandy (which turns into sugar in the bloodstream) are still with me, maybe more pronounced.  I'm sleeping great (thanks to the right amount of lecithin before bedtime), but I'm groggy, foggy, tired when I shouldn't be, and all kinds of little annoyances.  And I haven't lost weight, to boot.  Losing weight isn't the goal of this month -- health is the goal -- but it would be a welcome side benefit.  I passed a big test this afternoon at the grocery store when I had the munchies and all the smells of fried chicken and other stuff filled the air.  I bought cat food, which is all I was after.  Good girl!  I still wonder why I don't feel any good results of all this healthiness.

My new meditation pillow arrived yesterday, and I love it!  One reason I haven't bought one before is that all the ones I could find online, or even in stores in Eugene, were too small.  I've measured my 'knee-span' when I'm in position, and it's wider than the standard zabuton, or meditation cushion.  Since the knees are supposed to touch the 'ground', or surface, I didn't want them hanging off in mid-air.  I found a couple of jumbo sized examples this time, 'suitable for those 6'1" or taller', and while my knees can fit, there's not a lot of extra room.  Anyway -- it's fluffy and soft, no more ankles hurting on the hard floor, no more cold seeping from the wood.  Lovely!  The kitten also likes it -- found her perched on it quite comfortably a little while ago. 

BTW -- if you have any interest in mind/body medicine at all, check out this blog: Living in Harmony. It came to me in an email from its author, Mary Ann Wallace, an incredible practitioner in Corvallis with degrees in nursing, medicine and psychology as well as being a devoted practitioner of Vipassana Buddhism and general meditation.  I bought a copy of her book from her several years back and she has kept me on her mailing list.  It's a newish blog, should be very worthwhile for anyone interested in the subject.

We are battening down for what an Atlanta news weatherman said this morning was a storm that has the potential for being the worst we've seen in the last 20 years.  My, goodness! That would cover the blizzard of '93 that I remember quite well.  Brought Atlanta to a standstill.  I called the nursing home where my mother was in Rome and asked how they were doing -- they had power, but none of the staff could leave, no replacements could get in.  They were 24/7 for a couple of days.  The locals said it wasn't as bad as another that had happened a few years before I arrived, but it was pretty bad.

I was fine.  The news people had been warning for days that the storm was coming.  Not 'might', but was coming, and since it conveniently hit over a weekend, I stopped at the store on the way home from work Friday and stocked up, hit Blockbuster for a bunch of videos, and snuggled in for the duration and fortunately, my power stayed on.  It was beautiful -- I went for a walk along the access road to my apartment complex, which happened to run alongside an interstate highway.  I walked to the bridge over the interstate and looked in both directions -- nothing but white, on a highway that is generally filled with cars.  Cool.  Walked to Blockbuster the next day to return the videos, and eventually, walked to work on Monday morning, which took me a couple of hours.  I can't think this one will be that bad -- the weather services aren't making nearly as big a deal of it as the morning weatherman did. This one isn't due until Sunday night/Monday/Tuesday, and I've already got it in my head that I won't be going to work until Wednesday. That would be fine by me. 

My lunch with the ladies yesterday was wonderful -- two beautiful people that I am so happy to have met.  I have family, even if they are distant family.

Nothing on tap this weekend except working on the back room.  Oh, and there's a little football game Monday night that I guess I'll have to watch.  GO DUCKS!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Be careful what you ask for....

OK -- so I didn't really ask for rain.  But I did ask for warmer weather and along with that came rain.  Not heavy downpours like we often get around here, just a good, steady rain.  By 11:15 this morning, this is what my front yard looked like.

From my screened porch, looking left....

And from my screened porch looking right.

Believe it or not, there are three storm drains in these pictures, none of which seemed to be functioning.  In the photo above, there's one near that red mailbox.  In the first photo, there is one below my black mailbox and another on the opposite corner beneath the street/stop signs.

Eventually, the city sent people out to look, then people to actually try doing something.  Took 'em 4-5 hours, but suddenly the street went dry.  There are some pumps a block away that are supposed to take the water away when the drains back up, but the streets department and the sewer department seem to have some territorial battle about whose responsibility lies where so nothing ever seems to get done. I heard this last summer from the streets overseer. The first guy out today asked when the drains were last cleaned and I told him last summer.  He shook his head, and grumbled that 'they said the pumps aren't working but if the water can't reach 'em, they can't pump it.'  I guess the pumps really weren't working in the end, because nobody did a darned thing to those storm drains -- all the work was going on a block away where, apparently, the pumps are, and the water disappeared way too quickly to have drained normally.  In fact, it disappeared during my 30-minute meditation time -- rather a surprise to come back into this room and see pavement, instead of a lake.

I emailed these photos to our new city manager this morning, expecting that he would not see them until Monday or Tuesday or whenever the city gets past its long weekend.  I can't say if he happened to be working, or happened to check his email from home, or if it was just coincidence, but the first city car, a patrol car, drove through within 20 minutes or so and during the course of the day it looked to me as if somebody had been told to get this issue solved.  Other times I've seen crews come out here, shovel at the drains, shrug and disappear.  All kinds of people out here this time, and they worked until it was fixed.  On a holiday.  I hate to see the overtime bill on that one, but I'm not complaining.  My guess is that if Robbie didn't see my email today, he'll see that there's a permanent fix on those pumps, and fast.

Tomorrow we're back to sunshine for a few days, at least.

Happy New Year!

My expectations for 2011 are not, I'm afraid, exactly worth writing about.  I don't see this year being much different from 2010, other than that I won't be moving across country and that's a really good thing.  Still, it hasn't been an awful year so if the status quo stays the same, I'll consider myself to be in fine shape.

I have been looking forward to this day for awhile now -- although with very mixed emotions.  Many years ago when I worked in the Napa Valley wine industry I began what became a yearly ritual one January after a holiday season particularly laden with excessive amounts of fine food and even finer wines.  When folks there throw a party, it's done right, and during the holidays there's a party pretty much every day.  So, at the end of that particular year I decided that my body needed a break from all that rich food and all that wine, so I set the month of January aside to eat reasonably and be alcohol-free.  The first couple of days were a shock to the system, admittedly, but I was determined and soon found that the habit was easily broken -- substitute a pot of herbal tea for the evening glasses of wine, and all was well. 

I've done this almost every year since, partly because it just feels good for my body, and partly to be sure I can still stop (I do come from two families of alcoholics). Thankfully, stopping hasn't been a problem.  This year I'm adding a couple of new twists to the deal, and those, frankly, are going to be tough.  So, I thought I'd write them down here.  Writing it down, telling a lot of people, supposedly makes it harder to go off the wagon -- and I'm not talking about the alcohol part. 

This year, the biggest change is cutting out coffee.  Makes me cringe even to say it, and the smell of green tea in the untasted cup before me also makes me cringe.  I don't like green tea.  Or black tea.  But, the idea for this month is good health, cleansing the body, so a healthy tea is a must when it comes to substitution for the coffee.  I'm not worried about the caffeine loss -- I cut that out months ago.  The issue with coffee is the way it boosts the demon cortisol hormone that puts belly fat on our bodies, and that happens from the coffee bean, whether caffeinated or decaf.  Yesterday, I put the coffee maker away out of sight, no more to be used.  Alas. 

I also really have to stop the sugar-fest I've been on for the last few months.  Not sure where it came from, as I've never craved sugar the way I've been doing lately.  So -- that's out, too.  See why I've been dreading this?  I'm a little afraid that I've bitten off a bit too much all at one time, but it's all needed so I'm going to do it all. 

Aside from that, I'm going to concentrate on eating healthy, immune-building foods such as yogurt, eggs, mushrooms, garlic, chicken soup, beef and sweet potatoes.  Beyond that, as long as it's not a sugary food, or something that turns to sugar in the bloodstream, it's an open book for fresh fruits, veggies and cashews for snacks.  I spent 3 days last week making chicken soup -- two days simmering the stock (I'm really fussy about making chicken stock) and another day simmering half the stock with onions, mushrooms and garlic then pureeing it into a sort of broth.  More stock left in the freezer when this is gone.

Green tea -- yuk!  Awful way to start the day, frankly. On the positive side, the outside temp was 62 when I got up at 5:30 -- and about the same inside.  Been awhile since I could say that.