Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I saw my wonderful surgeon today and am done!  My granuloma is gone; there's no more drainage.  I will always be at higher risk for a small bowel obstruction just because I've had abdominal surgery; same with abdominal incision hernias.  So, I'm supposed to take continuous nausea, vomiting, pain, and particularly the lack of bowel movements or gas very seriously.  I'm also not supposed to lift anything more than 15-20 lbs, namely anything that would cause strain, which would cause an incision hernia (along where I have a diastasis recti and two hernias already.)  Still, otherwise, I am good to go.  And I can bathe and swim!  I've decreased my painkillers, down to just Tylenol with Codeine.  And I go see my physiatrist (pain doctor) tomorrow about PT to start to strengthen my core.  She said I could call her if I had questions or any of the above.

And I presented her with a pretty purple-y "Sunset Stripes" large Granny Square afghan, as a thank you for all of her care.  She was impressed that I had made it and grateful.  We talked a little about my plans, even hospice chaplaincy, and she was kind to say she thought I'd be good at it.

So an experience that started on a very low note in an emergency room eight weeks ago, in many ways officially ended today on a high note.  Sure, the healing isn't over, but it's a new phase.  And at least today (bored as I am most days, and still limited in many things), I'm optimistic.

Memorable Memorial Day

We had our big family weekend over Memorial Day, with us split in two gorups for most of it. Mama and Bud headed to his annual kung fu tournament near Philly on Saturday morning. The competition was on Sunday, all day, so they spent Saturday at the aquarium in Camden, NJ with the penguins and hippos.  Pictures of Bud show just how happy he is around penguins--huge smile on his face.  They also enjoyed seeing the hippos fed--caretakers just chucked cantaloupe into the enclosure so dangerous are the animals.  There was even a tunnel of sharks that you could walk through.  They had cheesesteaks for lunch and dinner and settled in to rest before the big day.

Bud competed in Tong bei (a fist form) and straight sword.  In Tong bei, he received a bronze . . . at least until they realized they'd put him in the group with the 16 year-olds!!  When they put him in his age group, he got gold!  Though, the excitement was tempered because he was the only one in his age group; still, I'd say earning bronze against the really big kids (almost twice his age . . . and size!) is also an achievement!  He then got gold in straight sword, beating 10 other kids in his group.  We are very proud of him.  Mama said the whole team stayed together as best they could (i.e. when not waiting for their own events), rushing over to each area when a teammate was competing so they could cheer.  It was a great (but long) day.

Meanwhile, Sis and I lounged around the house; she was still under the weather with heavy allergies. We watched a lot of tv--mainly "Switched at Birth" and "Saddle Club."  We did rouse ourselves to make a delicious chocolate chip pie, which I got off FB.  It was excellent with ice cream.  Otherwise, we made crock pot chicken and had a few take-out meals.  I crocheted and tangled; she played some video games.  

At one point, we took ten of my crocheted afghans outside to photograph them.  Our neighbor, the soldier, came over and invited us for some brisket.  And what Texan can refuse brisket?  He was born in Texas and stationed there later, too, and made a great meal, smoking the brisket with a rub of salt, pepper, brown sugar, and garlic only, and then adding a sauce afterwards.  So good, best I've had up here, reminded me of home, which pleased him because he said I was the only one up here who could understand and appreciate it (and I'm not exactly a connoisseur, having not been to the best Texas bbq places.)  We both agreed we needed Mrs. Baird's white bread and some banana pudding. He invited us to stop by on Memorial Day and even said Sis could come over to eat anytime she saw him outside cooking.  He mentioned chickens, fried turkey, and even homemade french fries--she was in!

So yesterday, the kids and I wandered over to our neighbor's, taking my homemade banana pudding with us.  He was so excited to see the pudding, knew exactly what it was before I said because of the 'nilla wafers.  Though we didn't discuss it, it was interesting to spend time with a soldier on Memorial Day--he's the only active military soldier I've ever known.  On that note, he and his family ask to spread the word about courteous use of fireworks on all patriotic holidays; the loud bomb-like ones are really hard for many soldiers to take.  My neighbor has PTSD and hates how people celebrate what should be his day with such awful noises.  

 It was late in the day when we showed up and we missed the main meal, which was fine, but the kids had Klondike bars, pasta salad, potato salad with capers, hummus, tabbouleh, and that good old strawberry pretzel salad!  Then I hung out with the adults while they wandered around with the 2 1/2 year old, looking at their chickens.  And while it sort of felt like a gathering from my childhood, with beer and food and lawn chairs and curse words* and adult stories, there were major differences.  See, half of the people were Israeli and so a lot of conversation was in Hebrew; while I don't have any Hebrew, enough of it was translated that I got the gist. None of them had ever heard of much less had banana pudding--and they liked it (and compared it to an Israeli dessert, though not with bananas.)  And our neighbor wants to have more gatherings, introduce some Southern hospitality up here, he said (so he asked for my hush puppy and also barbecue chicken recipes.)  I told him I'd bring ramen salad to the next party!  By the time we left, there was no more banana pudding.  

The last activity of note:  I gave away my loom.  A local friend who weaves and is active in the historical society traded me basket, soap, and candle-making supplies and equipment for my 16-heddle loom and brand new warping board, plus all my weaving magazines.  I had come to the realization that I was just not a weaver, especially because it's hard on my back . . . and that's okay.  I know she will use and enjoy it--she's already planning a complicated 10 heddle colonial overshot pattern.  And I am looking forward to trying soap and candles.

All in all, a great weekend.

(*Ah the cursing!  How come they didn't curse in Hebrew??  When I curse, the kids get 15 minutes of extra screen time and so I laughing said they could have the same deal; they racked up an hour and 45 minutes really fast (and I stopped counting at that point.)  But that's fine. Hearing occasional cursing never hurt anyone--and they've never listened to adults chatter so quietly and intently!)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie Recipe from Nestle
1 unbaked pie crust, homemade or store bought
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter softened
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325
Beat your eggs in a large mixer until foamy.  Add flours and sugars, then butter. Stir in chocolate. Pour into unbaked pie shell.  Bake 50-55 minutes.  Cool before eating.

Banana Pudding

 It’s not traditional banana pudding—with the cream cheese—but I like the not-so-sweet rich texture.

12 oz. vanilla wafers
tub of Cool Whip (large)--I used 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream, whipped
package of cream cheese (large)
package of Jello Instant Vanilla pudding (large)
5 bananas, sliced in rounds

            Line the bottom of the dish with wafers
            Make the pudding. Make the whipped cream. Add cream cheese, beating with mixer, and fold in the whipped cream.  Add bananas and more wafers and stir very gently.
            Spoon pudding mixture on top of wafers.  Cover with remaining wafers.
            Refrigerate and serve.

Mommy Hungry

Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad
2 c. crushed pretzel sticks
3/4 c. melted butter
3 tbsp. sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip
1 (6 oz.) pkg. strawberry banana Jello
2 c. boiling water
2 (10 oz.) pkgs. frozen strawberries, partially thawed

Mix first three ingredients and press in bottom of a 9"x13" pan. Bake at 350 degrees (metal pan) or 325 degrees (glass pan) 8 minutes. Let cool completely. Beat 1 cup sugar and cream cheese. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread over pretzels. Mix Jello and water until dissolved. Add strawberries. Stir into Jello, then set aside for 10 minutes. Pour over cheese mixture. Chill.

from Cooks.com

Aunt Janie’s Hush Puppies

A staple of bay fish fries!  And Aunt Janie’s are the best ever.

2 ½ cup cornmeal
2 cup flour
1 ½ tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon sugar
1 cup grated onion

Add milk until stiff.  Fry.
Aunt Janie

Mr. Campbell’s Barbecue Sauce
Very tart but real BBQ sauce, from Grandad's good friend, Mr. Campbell.
I remember the green-handled wire brush and the bay leaf floating in the saucepan on the stove where Mom kept it warm between bastings at the old Weber kettle.

1 quart vinegar (apple cider)
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Coleman mustard
2 tablespoon paprika
salt to taste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 Bay leaf
1 lemon sliced
¼ cup worcestershire
red pepper
1 tablespoon black pepper

            Simmer for 30 minutes.  Add ¼ lb. butter or oleo; cook until melted.  Can be frozen. 
            Brush on chicken before and during barbecuing.
                                                                                                            Mr. Bill Campbell

Ramen Salad

2 packages ramen noodles, crumbled
1 large package broccoli slaw
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup sunflower kernels
1 cup toasted sliced almonds
½ cup oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup rice wine vinegar
seasoning packets
Combine noodles, slaw, green onions, seeds, and nuts. Mix oil, sugar, vinegar, and seasoning packet together. Pour over salad and toss. Note: this makes a ton; you can cut the recipe in half.
Mr. G

Thoughts and Prayers

Sending love and hope to my home state, which has been hammered by storms this weekend.  My family seems high and dry, though it was apparently a rough drive home for my sister after the holiday weekend.  Still, they are not near the worst of it, both of them north of the heaviest flooding. I was reading about Wimberley and the 40' river crest (triple its flood stage!) that swept a home off its stilts and then hit a bridge, presumably killing almost everyone inside.  My thoughts and prayers are with the whole region, especially as the weather continues for the rest of the week.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Prayer (Blanket) Flags

"This is my blanket.  They are all my blankets." --Albus

I've made them for the kids (the big pink and blue ones in the middle), the prayer shawl ministry at church, hospice, my surgeon, and friends in need of comfort.  This is the batch mostly from this spring; with surgery, I've been able to make several.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fengle Frenzy

Sis stayed home sick today, with heavy congestion and a cough no doubt due to allergies (99.5F this evening might mean a sinus infection??  Or a cold.)  She stayed on the couch all day, hardly budging, as we watched "Switched at Birth" and also High School Musical.  She did rally to get deli lunch, but that was about the extent of her energy.  
And so I crocheted (finished a small lap afghan) and tangled a lot, experimenting with something called a Fengle, which is just the fancy Zentangle term for something that looks like a pinwheel or starfish or flower, with five or six points.  I varied the leaf shape and even made a few look like mandalas, I think.    I had actually intended to start experimenting with paisleys but found this shape with leaves decorated like paisleys and went from there . . . . 

Since Mama and Bud head to the kung fu tournament in the morning and Sis will probably still be under the weather, I imagine I'll have a lot of time to play with these, and maybe paisleys, too, in the next two days.

I Love Our Cats

And I especially love taking photos of them....I've never had a tabby before. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Still Life with Crafts

An un-arranged view of the couch on which I camp all day.

Not Quite Midsomer

The weather today is only about 62F, with some watery sunshine.  Definitely more spring than the unofficial start of summer with Memorial Day this weekend.

Stoke Poges
And I continue my recovery at home, watching a lot of television.  My go-to show right now (since I watched all of season 3 of "Vikings") is "Midsomer Murders," an hour-long British murder mystery series which started in 1997 and is still running!  I think I'm on series 8 right now (you know, the BBC series have fewer episodes per season than in the US--10-13 or so each year if you're very lucky--just ask the "Sherlock" fans.)  It's gentle and well-done, with gorgeous scenery; each narrative is solved in a single show.  Lots of thatched cottages, red brick buildings, half-timbered buildings, huge country houses, old pubs, stone churches with lychgates, and English gardens filling the dozens of towns (like Midsomer Worthy, Midsomer Were, Midsomer whatever!) in fictional Midsomer county (a county with a very high murder rate!)  It's filmed around Wallingford, Oxfordshire and many other places.  There are a ton of regional accents, which I never can identify.  My favorite part is the numerous depictions of British daily life--well, a kind of insular, white, middle class Britain that probably hasn't existed in decades, if ever--I'm not sure there has ever been a person of color in the show yet, much less an immigrant (well, unless from Ireland!)  So it's definitely nostalgic and idyllic, with its numerous town fairs and festivals, horse races, regattas, bell ringing competitions, flower shows, etc., even if there is a murder thrown in to muddle things.  I recommend it if you liked "Murder, She Wrote" . . .  or England, and if "Broadchurch," "The Fall," or "Prime Suspect" are a little too dark for you.

I realized I watch a lot of British shows and was glad to hear that many of them--"Call the Midwife," The Fall," "Broadchurch," "Grantchester," "Vikings," "Mr. Selfridge," and "Doctor Who"--had been renewed.  And "Downton Abbey" will end after this series.
Aldbury Pond


I think you could chalk up my Anglophilic wanderlust to these shows (or is it vice versa?), even.  We're still planning our vacation for next June, though now we've dropped Scotland (we think the kids need to be older for Scotland) and are focusing on "just" England again.  Since Bud is so into Camelot, maybe we'll do Glastonbury.  And I've always wanted to see Canterbury.  And we'd all do London again.  The Lainston in Winchester is a must-return, too, when we see Lambeth and Mrs. Lambeth. Which means we're all over the map!  No doubt it will change, too.
Especially if I seek out some of the filming locations of "Midsomer Murders!"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I spent the morning watching the ABCs of Zentangle on YouTube. Right now they only go up to J, a great letter. It was fun practice and I look forward to more videos from z-inspiration, written by Dilip Patel, a CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher) in India.

One of my favorite tips was to plan the coloring in of features by putting dots which makes it easier especially if the coloring alternates.  In my own drawings I've tried to indicate the step-out of each pattern without actually having to draw it 6 times

Thankfully, Mama and the kids will be home soon.  There's not much more television and crafts that I can take


I'm working on my doodling and Zentangles today, working through some ideas and patterns.  I did these last night by holding cookie cutters in place and working around them, without actually outlining the cookie cutter.  Cool!  You should try it, Gommie, my Zentangle buddy (glad you liked the Mother's Day supplies!)

I had been doing a lot of flowers, especially for thank you and sympathy cards I've been sending out.  My uncle, two cousins, and I exchanged cards over the death of Aunt Sis, and I sent cards with flowers.  I think she would have liked them.  (I wish I could figure out how to put more than one photo on a line.  But I do like the small images for these drawings, I've decided--the inconsistencies are less obvious!  I know, no judgement.)  Flowers, I find, are easier than mandalas, because you never need a perfect circle and can build them organically to fill in the space.  Though, several of them, like the one on the left, look more like mandalas ("Zendalas") than flowers. Sometimes I color them; sometimes not.

In the next few days, or weeks, whenever the tangling bug hits, I'm going to work my way through the ABC of Zentangle videos on YouTube.  I've seen a few and they are straightforward and easy-to-follow.  I don't usually like videos, but they are useful for this, especially for patterns I have trouble learning from diagrams.

I'm not sure what's after that--paisleys, maybe--but there is much more to explore with doodling.