New Year Presents

I’ve often said that my only New Year resolution is that I will never make a New Year resolution. That is still true, but that doesn’t mean I don’t constantly work to make things better. It also doesn’t mean I can’t pass along a few things at an appropriate time.

I’ve had some good success lately. Here’s what I’ve used.

Gentle Alarm

I only used this for a few nights, then the Spousal Unit was on vacation for two weeks, and I was pursuing other sleep solutions anyway. When I don’t wake up on my own, this is my backup.  It’s a bit complicated, but I’m recommending it for one feature, so if you can find that feature elsewhere, grab it. Gentle Alarm an option they call a “pre-alarm.” This is a very, very quiet alarm (it is adjustable) that goes off 30 minutes before your regular alarm. If you are in deep sleep, you won’t hear it. If you are in light sleep, you will.  Why do this?

The reason you wake up feeling hit by a truck is because you’ve been wrenched from deep sleep.  Deep sleep cycles vary greatly, but 30 minutes is usually enough time for you to be out of deep sleep, and back into light sleep. The idea of the pre-alarm is that you never wake from deep sleep.  If you’re in light sleep, and hear the pre-alarm, you can get up and not give your body a chance to go back into deep sleep. If you’re in deep sleep, you won’t hear the pre-alarm, but you’ll probably be in light sleep by the time your regular alarm goes off.

They have tons of other features handy for those who have trouble waking up, but the pre-alarm is their best idea.


(iOS here)

I’ve tried out several meditation apps. Calm is the first one I’ve stuck with.  They are very low on woo-factor. If they have something like “breathe healing light into your ass chakra,” I haven’t heard it so far. They do recommend improbable things with breathing (“breathe into your toes”…uh…), but nothing too ridiculous. I like Tamara Levitt’s voice, and she narrates the meditations nicely.

They have pretty home screen animations and sounds, music selections, meditations for many purposes, and specific stuff for sleep. They have Sleep Stories, which are bedtime stories for adults. No, not like that, you perv. They are narrated by different folks, including one by Stephen Fry.  Honestly, they don’t work for me. I try to stay awake to find out what happens next, even if nothing much is happening. The sleep meditations, however, do work for me very well. More on that later.

There’s plenty of free stuff on Calm, but since I was using several functions, a couple times a day, I decided to pony up.  I have been meditating at least once a day–to sleep–and usually twice a day, for more than a month now. That’s pretty darned good for someone who was convinced she couldn’t meditate.


Fabulous is a general self-improvement app that helps you reach specific goals. They are a less intuitive, and I still refuse to say affirmations in front of a damned mirror, but for the most part, they’ve been extremely helpful.  They work incrementally, slowly, to get you adding good habits and routines. It is specifically set up so you can’t jump in and do everything at once. With me, that’s a smart move. Probably because of this approach, I’ve been able to stick with Fabulous. I’ve followed their lead (the mirror thing was just a re-charge I didn’t need, not a regular habit, honest!), even when I had my doubts. I’ve done my absolute best to keep up the new habits. And yes, it’s working.

Again, I ponied up for the monthly subscription once I realized it was going to be useful to me. I am truly enjoying working through their “spheres.”  It’s a little adventure.  Just start small, look around, and don’t expect everything to be available right away.

Now, the “more on that later”

I have been plagued with insomnia all my life. I’m a low-spoon individual for a variety of reasons, and I wanted to make some progress on that. The first thing to tackle was sleep.

If you’ve ever tried to conquer your insomnia, you’ve probably heard “have a bedtime routine.”  Gosh, I thought, a routine. I like those. I’ll go to bed at the same time every night, and be sure to floss my teeth!  Yeah, no.  My routine is, of course, personal to me, but here are the key components:

  • The bedroom is clean and the bed is (usually) made.
  • I clean off my CPAP mask with a lens wipe. I just figured that out, and it’s made life so much better. I use these.
  • I take a quick, hot shower–just a rinse–without getting my hair wet.
  • I lay down and put on a sleep meditation from Calm.


I can’t just go to sleep then, because the speakers emit too much light, and the phone can’t be trusted to stay quiet, so I take a few seconds to shut things off. I don’t get up; everything is right by the bed. That doesn’t ruin the meditation. I’m able to snuggle right down, and I’m asleep in a few minutes.

There are other items that Fabulous has added on. The whole routine takes me about 20 minutes. The Spousal Unit sets a 30-minute timer, so I’m just about asleep by the time he comes in.

I have been more than a month without insomnia. I wake up early on my own, and feel pretty darned good. My only slips are when I’ve indulged in sugar–that messes everything up. But since I’ve been baking sugar-free treats, those instances have been rare.

There are other changes, like the afore-mentioned sugar-free treats. Pokemon Go has been helping me stick with daily walks. As well as daily sessions parked between two pokestops and a gym…ahem.  Having a mall that opens its doors early for walkers helps during the cold weather.

I leave you with a recipe. It isn’t as low-carb as I’d like, as I’m still experimenting with flours. The last batch I made with all almond flour was mealy, so I went back to all-purpose for the moment. A regular chocolate-chip cookie has about 140 calories and 19g carbs. Not so nice for diabetics. My cookies have 77 calories and 5g carbs. Not perfect, but a whole lot better.  They don’t make me feel icky, and they taste really good.

Kitty’s Lowish-Carb Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields about 4 dozen cookies



Line a baking pan with parchment paper, and pre-heat oven to 375°.

Cream together the first five ingredients, adding the egg last.

Put the flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl and whisk them together lightly. Add them slowly to the other ingredients. Use some elbow grease to add the chocolate chips by hand.

I use a small cookie scoop, which is 2 teaspoons. Drop cookies about 2″ apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes–more on the 8 side. They will be golden brown around the edges, but pale and puffy in the middle. Take them out and let them cool for about 15 minutes, and they’ll start to look more like the chocolate chip cookies you expect. They can be moved off the pan after 15 minutes (though I give them 20).

Favorite trick: I put a dozen in the oven, then I line another pan and scoop out two dozen–spacing doesn’t matter–and I stuff the pan in the freezer. That still leaves me another dozen to bake.  Once frozen, I put a dozen each into Ziplocs. It’s so very nice to just dump a Ziploc out on to a pan, quickly arrange the frozen lumps, and have cookies a few minutes later.

When I find a better flour solution, I’ll post it.

Green Smoothie? Are You JOKING?

I am terrible about eating vegetables. I don’t hate them, I just think they’re a pain in the ass. But I’m getting older, and I really, really need them greenies. What to do?

I had recently tried smoothie bowls, mostly, I admit, because so! pretty!  The usual instructions make this huge bowl of food, which I thought I could no way eat all at once…then suddenly, it was gone. Om nom. So, I thought maybe if I looked up something like “green smoothies for veggie haters” I’d find good info, and I did.

So this morning, I went all-in:


It is totally yummy. No one is more surprised than I. It’s actually a little too sweet, probably because of the vanilla protein powder. I have a huge jar of it to get through, so I’ll just have to figure out how to cut the sweetness until I can get unsweetened.

I’m calling this my Pineapple Coconut Greenie, because that’s what it tastes like. I didn’t believe ’em when they said spinach is basically tasteless, but they were right.

Pineapple Coconut Greenie

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 generous handfuls fresh spinach
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup (or thereabouts) frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Blend the spinach and water on low until the spinach is liquefied, about one minute (I learned that from this recipe, and it works). Slowly add chunks of frozen fruit until blended. Add coconut and protein powder and finish blending.


Bonus Ray pic from the Spousal Unit:

Lookit dat belly!


I don’t often get political here. That’s saved for facebook and twitter. But this has taken over my life, and this blog is about my life, so here we are.

The Spousal Unit and I are stepping up as much as we can. For the Women’s March on Washington, we stepped alllll the way out of our comfort zone, and hosted a houseful of wonderful people.

Ray photobombs the marchers. Creepy Ray is creepy.

We were expecting ten, and eight showed. And the house didn’t even feel crowded.  So, if we’re going to rent a stupid-big house, we should take advantage and use it for something important. I really enjoyed cooking for everyone, and the late-night conversations after the March were great.

Next time: make sure I have poster-making supplies and clear backpacks.

On a more personal level, I saw a need for some positivity–something to keep folks going when the news is too much. I created Inspire to Resist (also Twitter), with stories of resistance, and actions you can take. I’ve registered the domain in case I want to do an accompanying website. Just going through my feeds, looking for stuff for ItR, puts me in a better mood in the morning.

We’ll be hosting and marching frequently, and getting our hands in wherever we are able.



I have struggled with a life-long sugar addiction. It has a number of consequences, including a recent diagnosis of diabetes (aside: my sister linked this TED talk, which I found very interesting). Of course, that’s just me. No biggie. But when the Spousal Unit was diagnosed pre-diabetic, well, we’re not having that.

I’ve tried cold-turkey, and it doesn’t work, so my current obsession is making sweets with sugar substitutes. My favorite for years has been Whey Low. It’s been around for ages, though few people have heard of it. I believe it’s similar to Swerve, but at half the price. I also like Yacon syrup, which has a taste between brown sugar and molasses, and the texture of honey. It is, however, extremely expensive.


It takes some backflips. For example, if I want to make this ice cream recipe (and I do!), I have to make my own sweetened condensed milk. There are ways, and I’m stocking my pantry.

Of course, if I’m going to make sweets, I want them to be pretty. SweetAmbs is my new favorite youtube channel.

I could watch this all day.

For my first foray into decorating, I made some royal icing, and tried the wet-on-wet technique, creating marbling by dragging the end of a cake tester through the icing.

They…aren’t the prettiest. The icing was very hard to pipe (TIP: Wilton bottles suck–the tops pop off), and yet, I had to keep these in the fridge to prevent running. It’s been 17 hours and they aren’t set. So yeah, pretty sure I did that wrong. I may have to make adjustments for using Whey Low Powdered, though I think I just didn’t have enough egg whites. I have meringue powder now, and will be trying that.   HOWEVAH, they taste mahvelous. This sugar cookie recipe is great for the impatient–no need to chill. It seems crumbly, but conditions nicely as you roll it. The taste and texture is almost like shortbread. It has a soft bite, but I think it would be strong enough to build cookie houses.

Because I must make meringues, I won’t get much further in my adventures without a stand mixer.  This baby will be mine soon. It doesn’t have the pretty colors of the KitchenAid, but it has a better mixing method, and some other superior design features, at less than half the price–and the attachments are included.

I have overripe bananas, so it’s banana bread today, but my next project after that: tempering chocolate.

I will learn how to temper chocolate if it kills me. Yes, that’s five pounds of chocolate. Don’t judge.

I will get back to posting journal entries soon.


Most folks, they have boxes of ornaments they’ve had since they were kids. Dozens of trinkets with historic, sentimental value. I think those kinds of trees are special for kids. They establish tradition, and encourage storytelling. Not to mention, kids’ ornaments are often a part of the tree (I know mine were), which sparks creativity, and shows off the results in a perfect fashion.

I…always felt like those ornaments were an obligation that tied me to one tree forever. I think my sister has the childhood stuff, if any of it still survives. Me, I always wanted a designer tree. Instead of creating memories with individual ornaments, our whole tree marks the year.

I finally started in 2005. Unfortunately, I wasn’t great at documenting my efforts at the time.

Victorian Tree, taken with Bill’s Christmas Holga. Remember when they were a thing?

My first tree was Victorian themed. I created bundles of bulbs, silk roses, and ribbon, and interspersed them throughout the tree. I filled in the gaps with bulbs, fruit, and single roses.

A slightly better pic.

At the time, I called it my “Martha Tree,” because I felt like Martha Stewart.

Putting together a tree like this is expensive. Really, really expensive. Thus, we had the Victorian tree for several years. It’s still a favorite. Yes, I have kept all the stuff for all the trees so far. I may have to rethink that in a few years.

My next tree didn’t happen until 2010. I’d been wanting a “Merry & Bright” tree for a few years, so I was able to think ahead, and raid the post Christmas sales.

I thought of this as “Merry and Blight” KC liked the fleece tree skirt.

I hated those paper birds so hard.

My first shot at Merry & Bright was not happy making. It was limp, and to me, it looked thrown together. Yeah, I’m my own worst critic. I thought I’d make some pretty paper birds to fill in gaps on a budget. I think I finally threw them out this year, because I hated seeing them.

After that, I went back to the Victorian tree for a few years.

Back to Victorian for 2012

I would not be defeated by Merry & Bright. I was determined to get it. In 2013, I think I did much better.

Ah, that’s much more cohesive

Colors were grouped, rather than scattered, giving a rainbow effect. Don’t remember being nuts about this tree at the time, but looking back, I like it.

I have no pictures of a tree in 2014. I’m gonna guess we went back to Victorian, because it’s our go-to. But I do remember what happened  after Christmas in 2014. I was going through the bins, and saw something pretty and purple. I decided I must have a purple tree. I filled two (maybe three?) carts with deeply discounted purple bits. I had learned that more is better. You don’t want to be scrambling to fill gaps, and a full tree looks more professional.

Purple tree

I love this tree. It used some stuff from the Merry & Bright. It also re-uses a key idea from the Victorian tree: flowers.  Almost anything can be a Christmas ornament, if you have enough of it, but this is especially true of flowers. Even a tree with tons of daisies would be cool. Hey…60s tree?

As we were browsing through Home Depot that season, Bill saw some felt ornaments he really liked. They were expensive, and didn’t go with anything, so we left them there. But I remembered. After Christmas, there were still tons of them, and they were cheap. I thought they’d work with a Nordic or Woodland type theme.  It’s been really big the last few years, so it was easy to find stuff…but I didn’t.

Don’t buy one ornament. Buy at least 30. Not kidding.

Instead, I made the rest of the ornaments myself (with help from the Spousal Unit). Little felt critters and bundles of “frosted” pine cones.

Foxes, bears, and owls

I adore this tree, even though I wasn’t sure about the ornaments when Bill spotted them. As with the Purple tree, nothing is breakable. I’d had enough of shattered glass ornaments.

This year, Bill has been eyeing things I would describe as Mid-Century Modern…which is a fantastic theme for a tree, but I’ll have a hard time finding retail items. I better get making stuff.



Ray was sooooo bored. He would scratch bad things for attention, and bite our feet. Playing with him wasn’t enough. He was starting to lose his kitten sparkle. So we got him a Christmas present.

Meet Rebecca Maxine Troublebutt:

Yup, he’s done for

We adopted her from the Montgomery County Humane Society. We were so very impressed with their setup and staff! I’m used to seeing long, dark hallways lined with cages, full of miserable animals. What we got here were two rooms with spacious cages, and a big (clean!) free area in the middle so people could meet and greet. We spent some time in both rooms. Several of the kitties were appealing, but didn’t quite have the energy to match Ray. In the second (quarantined for colds) room, we met “Maxine.” She’s younger than we planned, but she’s very rambunctious, and was taking no crap from the resident bully.

Playing at the Humane Society

Bill liked the shelter’s name for her. I thought she seemed like a Becca or Becky. It doesn’t really matter–it’s not like she’ll come when called.  But with Rebecca, they have a couples name. Resistance to the cute couples name is futile.

We introduced her slowly, giving her plenty of alone time in one of the bedrooms, so she didn’t have to put up with Ray constantly. Ray is obsessed. At first, she was full of fuggoff for him, but now she goads him, tackles him, and comes up to him for loves.

The routine is:
nuzzles and grooming for greetings
A bit of chill
Bec starts shit several times
Ray gets wound up and chases her everywhere
Bec gets fed up and goes somewhere Ray can’t
Ray cries for a while, then chills out

I expect to find her IN the tree soon

I’m waiting for them to snuggle up together to sleep, which I’m pretty sure is coming.

Since Becky came home, Ray hasn’t chased or bitten either of his humans. Or even scratched something he shouldn’t for attention.

Of course, now I don’t have a cat following me around all day, which is a little bit of a bummer. But they do both come in for pets.

Becks is extremely well behaved for a 5-month-old kitten. She doesn’t even fuss much when she gets medicine (she was on the end of an antibiotic course for a cold). Of course, Ray was perfect for the first few days, too, so I’m not getting my hopes up.

Ray, watching Becky


The Last Journal: Milk toast

Mom suffered from depression, alcoholism, and paranoid schizophrenia. There is surprisingly little evidence of the last in her journal, but here you can see a sliver of it. Her awareness of the event is unusual. I do remember her talking about this, though it may have been a similar incident. 

Feb. 23 1983

Wednesday, back to routine and work. Good days off. Got a lot done. Still need a bed, just have to keep looking. Just about ready to sart on books. Miss Mar this morning for some reason. S to school today, got a lot of work done yesterday, too. Weather fair, cloudy, not yet raining. To bed at 11, up at 11.

Where’s the button on this…oh there it is. For some reason, I love this pic. Obviously the first one we took with a new camera.

Feb 24 – 83

To bed at 4:00, up at 11:30. Drink too much. Was woke up at about 5 and told to eat milk toast and I did. I still don’t understand it. I think it was my mom–whoever–they had control of my mind and that scares me.

S off to school, having some rough days due to being ill early–just got to keep plugging. Bad food night, but got some work done. Jack went back with his wife. I was hurt for a while. That’s life. No word from Mar yet since last Saturday. Miss her a lot;  most of the time. Hope check comes today. Hope, hope, hope.

S wrote grandmother [paternal], sent yesterday. Hot flashes still with me, not as bad as I think. Vites helping, mind much clearer. Weight 145, still holding. Weather like spring yesterday. Still nice, but wet today. Sprinkled Bold all over carpet–hope it gets some of the dog smell out. My head still itching. Work is just a time passer for money. $179.60 per week, $25 under the table.

The Last Journal: The impossible feeling

This was about the time I realized this journal came to me when I am nearly the same age as she was at the time. Yes, hot flashes are crappy.

Feb 20 – 83

Zenna not PG. Wants me to do some redoing of her furniture–I ain’t got time to do my own. Need 2 me’s. Good night at work. I feel better–more energy. Up at 12: 45, to bed at 3:15. Ate good. Boss in good mood. No period again this month–maybe I am all done with it. Cheese san & fruit today–will hold. Hope to get some of my room done tomorrow.

Feb 21 – 83

Yay, it’s Monday again, a day off. Up at 10 – to bed at 2:30. Just tired and a little stuffed up head. Getting well. I sure see why women get depressed and kill themselves. These hot flashes give you the impossible feeling every time before they begin, and it’s always a fight back. What a dum way to live. It’s over in about a minute, but it’s hell.

Slow food night, but got lots of work done. Band in bad mood, so was boss. S off to school. Got shopping done at Zim’s: $47.00. Got me a coat, re-did side-view mirror, and S a fry pan, all for 7.00 at Saint Vincent DePaul.

Feb – 22 – 83

My dad would have been 81 years old today. Born in 1902, he was 30 years old when I was born. I will be 51 in 19 days. Hope the other check comes in today. If it does, the pressure will be off a little. Cleaned and changed house around–looks good. Made a nice dinner. Got gros, should last 2 weeks most of it. To bed at 2, up at noon, did not sleep good–hot flashes. S home today, working on school. Head hurts.

The Last Journal: One big sick happy family

Feb 17 1983

Rain, rain, rain & wind. Not nice. Zenna called–she thinks she is going to have another baby & is about 6 weeks along. Sold very little food last night, but I am feeling a little better. I had bad throat, headache on way home. Ate good. S went to school–one bus late–but went. She’s doing well, but her cat still is not well. All mattress out, now for new ones. Try to come down sick, not even think good. Soup, salad, san, feel better, took new vites. Should be really up in a few days. More and more flies. Mild winter–not good.

Feb 18 – 83

Mar still hasn’t called. Can’t seem to get smell out of her room. Got to do some more scrubbing so it can be my room. Cat still not up and around good. Got home late last night; not much food again. Didn’t feel too good. Drank some beer – 7 in all. To bed at 3:15 up at 12 noon. S went to school. S & Lane went to a movie last night. I picked her up about 1:30, she must be tired. Changed glasses at work, these are nice. Ate san, soup & dumplings. A new pill out to stop you from smoking called “Bantrum.” It is Friday going into another weekend. Got to get the lead out. I am tired too much. Straight home & no beer for a while.

Lane and Geddy

Feb 19 – 83

Well I got the dam flu again. Fair at work, fair dinner. Head not itching so much. Mar called from Houston, Texas–they made it to there Thursday, Feb 17-83. Work last night at a tavern for $25 a piece. Kinda ruff but she loves it. Quite a trip. Kern was sick and crybaby. S & Lane not feeling good either. Just one big happy sick family. Cat still not doing well. To bed at 3:15, up at 10 & 9 & 6, but will try to nap later. Doing dishes right now. I looked nice last night, but felt like hell. But made it. Not looking forward to tonight. Weather wet still, no wind, a little cool. Great in Houston–will be looking forward to next report. It’s a brand new day get out and live it–right. Houston has 3 million people. That dam toy that walks down windows sure messes them up.

The Last Journal: Just plain pooped

Reading the journal has created a great confusion of names. I am Cat, but not here, but there is a cat. Took me a few mentions to realize I wasn’t the one with fleas. My brother’s name is Lane Dorn. He now goes by Lane, but then he was Dorn. And yes, I was dating someone named Lane. Again, it took me a while to remember that I wasn’t fighting with my brother.  Also, Zenna (who is now Ivy) and Dale’s baby…Dorn.  Hope that clears things up. Heh.

Feb 15 – 83

Here I sit 5 to 2, 2nd day off waiting for laundry to get done. I still burn out, run down, wore out, or just plain pooped. Scrubbed mattress again with rug shampoo. Hope it works.

Valentine’s day good. Got Dorn and Margaret ‘Mom & Dad’ cups each. S home, miss the bus 2 times. Went to school yesterday. Her toe still bad but working on it. Lane got a job!!

Long day yesterday. Just felt wiped out. Done shopping–veg, fruits–at McNight’s, then to St. Vincent DePaul then to Safeway, Hallmark, Payless, then back out to Zim’s. A little more life today–not much–doing laundry. Have many loads. 1 in now hoped to get two in, in 10 mins.

Zen & Dale got their house. 3 bedrooms+, 410 a month. Move in March 15-83. Got me a new purse, cost .50 cents. Got rid of [sattle?]. S has six pairs of shoes down her. Oh well I don’t have that many.

Feb – 16 – 1983

A very nice day out. No rain. To bed at about 1:30, up at 9. Room still stinks. Mar gone a week and a day now. Went to Dorn & Margaret’s for dinner. Real nice & good too–have a nice old house. Bug & I enjoyed ourselves. Car dripped some. Needs ball joints & tune up. Work today. Got all the laundry done yesterday, 5 loads. Going to start exercising today as soon as S leaves for school. My head still itches a lot. Got to get some C & E. Hate to use my backup 20, but had better. Seems like I am back to minus. I new year, a new start, I must believe that.

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