Tomatoes–what I’ve been growing

This is my one tomato plant I grew this season.  It was supposed to hide in the middle of the 10-foot planter, surrounded by marigolds, vincas, petunias and alyssum.  Instead, the tomato plant went all ‘Little Shop of Horrors‘, and took over the planter and pushed the marigolds out of the box, and choked off most everything else.  It has grown out of the planter on all sides.  The plant is about 15 feet wide.  There is a wire tomato cage buried somewhere in the middle.

Tomato plant 2018

In mid-October, we had a surprise early freeze, with snow, so I bundled up the plant with a series of blankets and tarps, two nights in a row.  (No homeowners association rules here, thankfully.)Tomato plant 2018 covered RSR

The snow covered the ground and the tarps all night.  The windchill was in the 20s Fahrenheit.  The snow and freeze broke four very old weather records.

Now we are back to sunny warm afternoons and chilly but not freezing nights.  The plant came through the freeze mostly okay, and has a boatload of green tomatoes currently ripening on the vines.

Some of the tomatoes got scarred from the freeze, but continued to ripen.

Freeze scars aw RSR

The scars have so far been confined to the surface.  The inside growth pattern is odd, but the taste is normal.

Freeze scars sliced aw RSR

The planter faces south and gets a full day of sun.  With luck, I’ll get another dozen or so tomatoes before I have to give up on the growing season.

My foster garden helper got adopted by her forever parents this past week.  The little digger was with me for almost 6 weeks, and gained 12 pounds during that time.

Butterscotch dirt2

Desert Trip; has it been two years already?

Two years ago this week, I went to the best music festival ever–Desert Trip.  I tried writing about it when I got home, but it was all too fresh and overwhelming.  Two years later, it still seems surreal.  But it’s now easier to condense it down to the high points.

This was my first time to see Bob Dylan in person.  I was on cloud nine, hearing Bob sing Like A Rolling Stone and Tangled Up in Blue.  Earlier in the week, he’d been awarded a Nobel Prize.  On this night the Nobel Prize poet treated us to new/alternate lyrics to Tangled Up in Blue.

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The next night, Mother Nature provided a stunning real time harvest moon as a backdrop to Neil Young’s performance of Harvest Moon.

Harvest Moon2

This was my first time to see Neil perform live, and I couldn’t have been happier with his set list and performance.  He’s a rebel!

My fave song of Neil’s set was Long May You Run.

Sir Paul had my other fave song of the festival, when he called surprise guest Rihanna out onto the stage to do Four Five Seconds.

Each night had amazing fireworks at the end.

McCartney fireworks

On the third night, guitar windmills whirled,

and pigs flew.

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I had a general admission ticket, and decided not to fight for a spot at the front of GA, which was a dense crowd pushed up against a fence still far from the stage.  So I took a spot near the back, where everybody was relaxed and had room to breathe.  I could set my beach chair in place, and then go get a drink or food and easily get back to my spot.

My watch spot Desert Trip RSR

When I say I was far back from the stage, I mean, the performers were like ants on the stage.  I didn’t care.  The sound was great, and so was the vibe around me, and there were excellent video screens.  It felt relaxed, like a concert in someone’s back yard.

Stones arrow

(The band on stage is actually those teeny tiny people in the lower center.)

Accommodations

I opted for tent camping, of course.  This was my little outdoor paradise.  I had cool neighbors all around.  Some brought their own guitars for campsite jam sessions.  It was pure contentment when at the end of a long, amazing day, I would lay down and drift off to sleep hearing people congregated at nearby tents, singing and playing guitar.

Campsite-a

The tent village was well organized.  On my arrival, I was assigned an ‘address’, and driven to it with my stuff by a nice guy in a golf cart.

I took my Esbit alcohol stove, and prepared a few simple meals at my campsite.  One was Curry Cashew Chicken Rice & Veggies in broth.  I adapted this recipe from the amazing backpackingchef.com.  For the veggies, I used carrots, broccoli and cauliflower; all dehydrated at home in advance of the trip.

Curry rice chicken soup from Backpacking Chef

I also took my Bemco backpacker oven, and made myself a couple of scrumptious campsite pizzas.  I’ll save the campsite pizza details for a later post.

For coffee, I took my travel french press mug–a nice gift from my brother.  By loading it with ground coffee and water each night, I had a nice cold brew ready each morning.

French Press

More sights from my little home and the totally awesome tent village:

IMG_20161013_2313453_rewind-w-ANIMATION

For the campers, there was a pop-up downtown with general store, cool vintage boutiques, food vendors, hair salon, game room, entertainment, outdoor games and more.  I could have spent a lot of time here.  The downside was the typical US festival price gouging, but only at the general store.  $12 for a dozen eggs?  Nah, I’ll walk a few more steps and get a scrumptious pancakes and sausage breakfast for $5 instead.

Campers Center food vendors

There was a cool upcycle boutique.  I borrowed this shirt idea for my brother’s birthday gift when I got home, using a t-shirt from his favorite local band.

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One vintage boutique had a type-in ‘Guest book’IMG_20161016_1301236_rewind_kindlephoto-27061867a-w

There were dozens more pop up restaurants, pubs, shops and activities in the main festival area.  One was a vintage vinyl record shop, where the line just to get in the door was never short.

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One vendor served ice cream floats in these awesome metal cups.  The cup is now a permanent part of my camping kit.

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The taxi bikers were creatively shielded from the dust.  There’s an awesome review I’ve linked to at the end, that tells all you need to know about the dust boogers.

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Along with dust boogers, there was the near-permanent dust tan.

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Another totally awesome high point of the festival for me, was meeting up with a cross-country friend.

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Sure, it was hot, but I managed to keep my clothes on, unlike some people.  What the _?_

Desert Trip pants on fence-a

During the 3-day festival, people were speculating on who would perform at the next Desert Trip.  A Led Zeppelin reunion was universally mentioned.  Some thought Springsteen and a few others from that next generation of big stars.  Others I thought of were Eric and Ginger as Cream, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Paul Simon, and Ringo Starr.  Anyway, the answer to date, is that Desert Trip was a one-off.  I’m good with that.  While I’d love to go again, I can’t think of another lineup that I’d be as excited about as the original.

The best music festival ever deserves the best review ever, and here it is!  Seriously, I read it while on my trip home from the festival, and had to hold my hand over my mouth to stifle my laughter so as not to annoy the people sitting around me.    http://www.apparentlythismatters.com/2016/10/desert-trip-review.html 

To that I can only add that I went; I experienced; I got the t-shirt(s).

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Desert Trip wallpaper RSR mark

Sky beam RSR

And that’s enough reminiscing for now.  Next week…a sewing project.

Dehydrating home-grown tomatoes; trying to speed things up.

Confession:  I don’t like fresh tomatoes very much, except in BLT sandwiches, which I love.  The tomatoes I grow are mainly for dehydrating, for using later in breads and other recipes.  This year I only grew one tomato plant.  It became huge (as in Little Shop of Horrors) but it took forever to start producing.  Then it started producing tomatoes like crazy.  The picture below is the yield from just one day.

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I let the tomatoes sit for a couple of days after picking, and then it was time to prep this batch for the dehydrator.  Normally I would hand-dice them.  Dicing the first batch is always fun, but after that, the dicing becomes drudgery.

This time, I tried speeding things up by using a hand-crank food processor.  I roughly cut the washed whole tomatoes into quarters, 8ths, and 12ths, depending on the size of the tomato.

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I put the large cut pieces in the processor, 2 – 3 tomatoes at a time.

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It took 40-45 turns of the hand crank.  After about 25 turns of the crank, the tomatoes were reduced down so that the rest of the cranks (15-20 more) were super easy.  IMG_20180930_111802484a

The result was small, rough chunks of tomato, similar to diced size, and a lot of liquid juice.  IMG_20180930_111924249a

I strained off most of the juice.

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Then spread the chopped tomatoes on the dehydrator sheets–using the sheets with mini perforations to hold small pieces of food.  [Tip:  I wipe the sheets with a trace of vegetable oil.  It makes the dehydrated morsels easier to remove from the trays.]

This batch of tomatoes only took two dehydrator trays.  If I had diced them by hand, they would have filled 4 – 6 dehydrator trays.

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The next step was to plug in the dehydrator and let it run for a few hours.  A batch is done when the tomatoes feel hard or rubbery, with no wet or squishy pieces.

The dehydrating process for this batch of tomatoes took about 6 hours.  By comparison, a batch of hand-diced tomatoes would have taken about 10 hours to dehydrate.

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The yield of this entire batch fit in an 8-oz jam jar.  By comparison, a similar number of hand-diced tomatoes that I dehydrated last week, filled a pint mason jar.

Jarred tomatoes

This batch yielded almost 4 cups of strained juice.  The juice is a bright red-pink color, which I suspect it is packed with Vitamin A and other nutrients.  Not wanting to discard all of that nutrition, I poured the juice into a muffin tin and froze it.  I’ll try substituting the juice for the liquid called for in bread recipes and Mexican and Italian dishes.  This will be something new, as I’ve used a lot of juices and wheys as substitute liquid in recipes with great results, but I’ve never tried it with tomato juice.  I’m curious to find out if the tomato juice adds an interesting, or weird flavor.

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Conclusion:  Using a food processor to chop the tomatoes is faster, but hand-dicing makes nicer looking pieces, and a bigger yield.

Post-script:  After I wrote this post, I had another nine tomatoes ripe and ready to dehydrate.  This time I tried an electric food processor.  That made a better consistency of chopped tomato than the hand-crank processor.  There was still a lot of liquid, though.

I also tried the immersion blender on a couple of the tomatoes.  That was a no-go; it instantly juiced them.

ELO via Amtrak

In August I traveled to Dallas to see a Traveling Wilbury and his Electric Light Orchestra.

As it should be, ELO’s full sound filled the huge American Airlines Center arena.  The light show was the most extravagant and spectacular that I’ve seen; as it should be for a band called the ‘Electric Light Orchestra’.  There was no bad seat in the house.  There was no empty seat in the house, either.

ELO crowd

My seat was in the nosebleed section, which was fine for ELO’s show only because their sound and lights filled the arena spectacularly, as I knew they would.  The songs were all familiar.  The entire concert was a big, fun sing-a-long with the band and 20,000+ of their biggest fans.

 

Me-made concert outfit (partly):

I’d packed my fun green reflective bicycling dress to wear to the concert.

But as I was getting ready for the show, practical considerations won out.  I was going to have to walk 1/2 mile from my lodging to the TRE transit shuttle that drops off at the concert arena.  I didn’t want to make that trek both ways in a dress with wedge sandals; the return trip in the dark.  So, I opted for a pair of knee-length shorts, flat sandals, and this comfortable floral blouse that I recently made and wrote about last week.

ELO outfit RSR

The blouse has just one reflective bit… the button in the back.  So, anyone sitting behind me who tried to take a flash picture, may have gotten my button reflection instead of the stage.  But who in the nosebleed section uses flash at a concert?  Probably no one.

Back closureBack closure reflection

As for the concert, it was a lovely, lovely night.  Everything was perfect.  (Except for the guy sitting next to me, who had pulled up an ELO set list on his phone, and kept announcing what song was coming up next.  Grrr.)  But this guy below sure didn’t bother me.  The crowd all around me was really into the show, which made it that much more fun.

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For the best sampling of Jeff Lynne’s current ELO live show, I recommend the “Wembley or Bust” live CD-DVD set.  I ordered it after I got home, and am quite glad I did.

 

Travel and lodging

The drive to Dallas for me is a straight 6-hour shot down through the middle of Oklahoma, all on Interstate-35.  It’s a boring and crowded highway.  There was a lot of rain in the forecast too, which I didn’t relish driving in.  My solution was to drive to Oklahoma City and then take the Amtrak ‘Heartland Flyer’ the rest of the way.  Turns out it is a scenic, relaxing train ride.

Pauls Valley train stationPauls Valley downtownOklahoma scenery2

Ardmore stationGainesville station

The night of the concert, I stayed at a hostel in Irving.  This was my first-ever stay at a hostel in the US.  I booked the hostel through Hostelworld.  The girls’ room in the hostel slept 6.  When I checked in, the three bottom bunks had already been spoken for.  So this was my view from the top. 🙂

Hostel room

I enjoyed chatting with several fellow hostel guests, who were all passing through the DFW area for their own various  reasons.  I loved the hostel stay, better than a sterile, isolating hotel room.  The hostel was an easy walk to and from the commuter train station, where the TRE train took me straight to the concert venue–the American Airlines Center arena.

Irving train stop

TRE regional commuter train

The next day, I took the TRE back to Fort Worth, where after an afternoon of sightseeing, I boarded Amtrak for the trip back to OKC.  Ft Worth station sign

Here’s the ‘Heartland Flyer’ arriving in Ft. Worth to take us back to OKC.

Amtrak train approaching Ft Worth 2Amtrak train arriving Ft Worth

My departing view of Ft. Worth.Departing Ft Worth

Once the train was on its way, the cafe car opened.

Amtrak cafe car menu

For dinner, I ordered the spicy Buffalo chicken tenders and wine.  It hit the spot.  Each time I see this picture, I want that meal again.

Amtrak meal

Amtrak was also an excellent choice for the return trip, because the weather got severe as we progressed toward OKC.  Strong storms, heavy rains, tornado warnings and a massive area of flash flood warnings even caused all area trains to be ordered to shut down on the track to wait for a bad cell to pass.

Trip interrupted.

Our train arrived at the OKC station about 2 hours late, which meant I would be driving the rest of the way home after midnight, through flash flood warnings all the way.  Instead, I did a very adult thing (for me), and got a value-priced room in OKC for the night.  The storms had wreaked havoc with street lights in town.  It was a dark and eerie quiet drive from the Amtrak station to the hotel.

The hotel I chose is a huge once-fabulous sprawling complex.  As I was waiting my turn to check in, the old maintenance man told me stories about famous athletes and performers who had stayed there back in the day.  He and the hotel were absolutely charming.  The hotel lobby hints at its grand past.

Hotel lobby

The hallway leading to my room revealed that the hotel hadn’t fared so well during the storms.  They’d taken on some water.  Bags of concrete had been used as sandbags, doors were propped open for drying out, and carpet had been pulled and piled in the hallway.  I didn’t care because I was so tired.  I felt bad for the hotel.

Hotel door sand bagHotel water damage

My room was nice and comfortable for the price, but when I ventured over to the door that opens out to the courtyard, I discovered the carpet along that outside wall was wet and squishy.  I didn’t care.  I was tired, and I wasn’t going to need to go out that door anyway.

Wet carpet

In the bathroom was a relic from its past as a luxury hotel–the toilet telephone.  It still works.

Bathroom phone

The next morning, I got up well-rested, and drove home.  There were places on the interstate where flood water had obviously been up on the road.  Staying in OKC had been the right thing to do.

Now, back to the Traveling Wilburys for a moment:

A fellow music lover told me that the Wilburys had intended to keep getting together to make music from time to time, and to possibly add new members.  So I’m thinking, should Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan convene the next generation of Wilburys?  Who should the new band members be?  Should their music follow the same style and formula as the original Wilburys?  The departed original members can’t be replaced or mimicked.  But do it right and their spirit will be there with the new guys.  I have a few ideas of who should join Jeff and Bob and make some new Traveling Wilburys music.  I’ve grouped them in threes, to keep the band at five members:

Option 1:

  • Robert Plant
  • Gillian Welch
  • An Avett brother

Option 2:

  • Lindsey Buckingham
  • Dhani Harrison
  • Carlene Carter

Most of these are really huge stars, so why would they want to do it?  Well, you don’t get much bigger than Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and a Beatle, so the standard has been set.

The county fair and a campout

The night before my recent trip to the vintage clothing store, I went to the county fair.  I enjoyed looking at all of the hand crafted items, and home grown produce of the local 4-H’ers.

There were some excellent handmade garments on display, by teens and by grade schoolers.  To my distress, what you see here was all of the constructed garment entries this year.  This downtrend makes me want to stop what I’m doing and personally try to reverse the trend and bring young people into the wonderful world of sewing and handmade clothing.

DG County Fair garment construction teens

DG County Fair garment construction grade school age

There was beautiful home grown produce.

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There was gorgeous woodworking, and a fun repurposing challenge.

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The foods entries were great.  They had everything from breads and baked sweets to canned and dehydrated produce.  I was too busy admiring to remember to take a picture.

Over in the animal buildings, there were newly shorn sheep in fabulous jackets.  Two of my favorite jackets were the high necked trench coat and a fabulous hot pink number.  The sheep were quite friendly, too.

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As for the other animals, there was a handsome rooster that did a great cockadoodledoo, but refused to do a repeat performance for my camera.  There was a lovely dairy cow who looks great with purple accessories, a perfect pink pig that belongs in Charlotte’s Web, and a spotted pig on the loose, who had the prettiest floppy pig ears.

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It was demolition derby night, too!  This event was packed; standing room only.  This picture should come with sound.  The motors were loud, and the crowd roared with appreciation.

DG County Fair Demolition Derby

Campout!  

That night, hotel rooms in town were scarce and pricey, but that didn’t matter to me, because I’d opted to take advantage of the gorgeous weather forecast.  I packed my tent, chair, backpacking stove, and breakfast, for an overnight at the lake campground just outside of town.  The lake was a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) construction project in the 1930s, and has been nicely preserved.  My siblings and I loved visiting this lake when we were growing up.  Point of trivia:  William S. Burroughs had a little cabin at this lake in the last years of his life.

On this particular night, my thirtysomething nephew came out with his lawn chair.  We sat and talked while looking out over the lake until 1am, mostly sharing fun memories about the lake and about our siblings, parents and grandparents.

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1920s Homemaker

Twice a year, I get to be a 1920s homemaker for a day, 1920s dress

And bring this 3-room house at the Kansas Oil Museum to life. Lease House 3

My few hours there are simple and precious.

On arriving, I first thread the treadle sewing machine, and put the treadle belt in place, and then wait for willing seamstresses and seamsters to arrive.

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When no one is at the sewing machine, I can do some sewing myself, or knit, or …

Hang dish towels on the line, Lease House 1

Sweep the front porch and pull weeds,1920s house front

Tidy up the kitchen,1920s kitchen

Tidy up the parents’ room (which doubles as the nursery),1920s bed & Living room 2

Tidy up the front room (which serves as the sitting room, sewing room, play room, and kid’s bedroom),

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Or visit the grocery store.

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Back at ‘my’ little house, at certain times of day, the kitchen is not well lit, but is always charming.  1920s kitchen table

At Christmastime, the house is heated by a cast iron wood stove, so I bake a pineapple upside down cake on the stove.Pineapple upside down cake

The house is called a ‘shotgun house’, because if you shoot a gun through the front door the bullet will pass through the back door.  I haven’t tried it.  1920s house from the front door

My favorite moments are when a little visitor takes in the whole scene and then looks up at me and asks me if I live there. ❤  My answer is always, “Yes, but only on special days like today.”

1920s back yard

This post was inspired by a lovely post on Everyday Women of the 1920s by The Pretty and the Kitsch.

 

Recycle Routine (p.s. it’s easy and awesome!)

Back in early April, I wrote that a change was coming to my household routine.  And now the details:  On April Fools Day, I cancelled my weekly residential curbside garbage service, and replaced it with a DIY recycle routine.  Before the switch, I spent several weeks considering:

  • What I was throwing away each week (i.e., the number and type of items discarded, and the volume);
  • How much I was paying for weekly curbside garbage service ($56 quarterly);
  • How many times I wasn’t home on garbage pickup day, or merely forgot to set the bin at the curb;
  • How much an occasional trip to the landfill would cost in money and inconvenience ($25 per load, apx five miles away, open on weekends).

Then I decided to give the recycle routine a 3-month trial period.  I began taking all of my paper, glass, metal, and most plastics to the local recycle center.  Yard clippings got mulched and/or composted.  I was already composting food waste.

Recycle bins

The Verdict:  This isn’t foolish; it’s awesome!  I never want to go back to curbside garbage service.  I feel good about recycling and being more aware of buying non-recyclable stuff.  Correction:  I feel great about it.  I save a little bit of money, but that’s not even the biggest benefit.  The routine is better and easier.  Honest!

The recycle center is less than a mile from my house, and is open 3 days a week.  Gone is the problem of being away on garbage day, or forgetting to put the bin out at the curb.

The recycle center is like a reverse grocery store.  You park, put your items in the grocery cart, push the cart around to the various labeled disposal bins, and drop off your items.  I’m in and out of the recycle center in 2-5 minutes.

Recycle1

About that curbside garbage bin:  I no longer have the big, ugly, dirty garbage service bin in my yard.  Instead, I have three small baskets under a kitchen cabinet, for paper, plastic and ‘other’.  The ‘other’ basket holds cans, foil and glass.

Recycle bins kitchen--RSR

The biggest volume of my weekly curbside garbage was weeds and bush trimmings.  Those now get mulched and/or composted, thanks in part to the little chipper-shredder I bought with the initial savings from the cancelled garbage service.

chipper shredder-RSR

There are some items the recycle center won’t take, such as Styrofoam and cheese wrappers.  I seldom get styrofoam packaging, and I don’t consume a lot of cheese.  When I do have a cheese wrapper, I take it with me on my next trip to the grocery store, and put it in the garbage can at the store entrance.  In other words, I take it back to the place where I bought it.  Is that ethical?  I’m still contemplating that.  I store other non-recyclables out of the way in my shed, for taking to the landfill.  I’ve only had to make one trip to the landfill so far, and had a free coupon for it.

Has this new recycle routine changed how I shop?  Yes, a little bit.  For instance, recently, I was trying to choose between two brands of whole wheat flour; each the same price.  Then I noticed that one was in a paper package, but the other in non-recyclable, cheese-wrapper-type plastic.  So, aha, I chose the paper package.

How good do I feel about my recycle routine?  The recycle center reminds me at the end of every visit.

Recycling Center sign-RSR

Something new I learned:  Disposable wipes contain plastic.

 

A running start on 2017

Very happy New Year’s wishes to all!   Here’s to a fabulous 2017.  As for 2016…what the heck was that all about?  I wish peace to those who badly need it, and peace of mind to those who are worried about incredible changes on the horizon.

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It was calm and 32F last night at 11:45pm for the Run in the New Year 5k.  Because I’m a wimp, I dressed to stay warm while waiting to start.  Yes, I know the advice is to dress as if it were 20 degrees warmer, but I don’t care.  Being cold even for five minutes, is not my thing.  Which means starting to shed layers even before reaching the half mile point.

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The course followed our riverfront.

The race starts and ends at the Kansas Sports Hall of Famea super-inspiring place to look around before and after the run.

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Who could not be inspired by looking at Jim Ryun’s shoes and USA apparel?

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And beloved football coaching legacies, fambrough-rsr

and numerous other great Kansas athletes.

Back at home today, two kitchen appliances will not make the journey with me into 2017.

The bread machine died yesterday.  After I failed to break into it to try to repair it, it is now in the trash bin.

bread-machine-in-the-trash-rsr

This slow cooker that has never met my expectations or needs, is in the charity donation box.  horrible-old-crock-pot-rsr

The slow cooker has been replaced by my new love, the Instant Pot pressure cooker, to which I’ve pledged my devotion for 2017 and beyond.

instant-pot

Today I am listening to college basketball; cleaning out and reorganizing my home ‘office’ nook; and being inspired about 2017.

Whatever your goals and aspirations for the new year, I wish for you to enjoy the journey.  Yes, I believe in a better world.

 

Juneathon ’15, day 7

My ‘day 7’ Juneathon fitness installment was a bicycle ride for groceries; the urgency brought on with the discovery that I was out of ice cream.  Bicycled a total of 3.2 miles.  Aside from that, it was a lovely but very hot Sunday, in which I stayed cool by doing as little as possible.