Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Fridge to Table in Twelve Minutes

I was hungry for something a little different tonight, but I didn't want to spend an hour in the kitchen. Twelve minutes sounded better, minus the time it took to photograph what you see here. Since my morning and afternoon meals were high on the protein side, I thought I would balance things with some greener fare. I also wanted something with a mild heat to offset the chill from the frigid temperatures.

Taking a quick look at the goodies I purchased at Hy-Vee the last time I was there, I came up with stuffed riced veggie wraps with cheese.

If you want to make these, you will need:
Green Giant Steamer Riced Veggies with Cauliflower or broccoli
Chi-Chi's Burrito sized flour tortillas
Herdez Verde Salsa (mild for me)
Land O' Lakes Light Butter with Canola Oil
Kraft Expertly-Paired Cheddar Asadero Cheese
Nature Sweet Cherub Tomatoes
Garlic Salt
Onion Powder
Ground Black Pepper

I cooked the riced veggies in the microwave, as directed on the package. While those were cooking, I spread butter on two tortillas, about a tablespoon each, sprinkled them with garlic salt, black pepper, and onion powder. Next, I sprinkled them lightly with some of the shredded cheese. When the veggies were done, I placed two to three tablespoons of the riced veggies onto each tortilla and rolled them up. I sprinkled the tops with more of the shredded cheese and put them back into the microwave for about a minute and a half. When they came out, I topped them with the Verde salsa and the sliced cherub tomatoes. Pretty simple, really.

This combination makes excellent veggie cheese wraps. I was tempted to use pepper jack cheese inside, and I may do that in the future, for a little added spice. I may also used fresh diced onion and some diced red bell pepper to the inside, just for some additional flavor. But, as prepared, these weren't lacking flavor at all. You could change up the spices, too. The riced veggies will go with just about anything. You could also 'beef' this up with some protein, like Tyson's chicken or steak strips, or Tyson's shredded premium chicken breast meat in pouches (Bought the pouches at Walmart). I think next time, for some crunch, I'll put the filled burritos into the cast iron skillet for a minute or two, rather than the microwave. Crunchy is good.

Note: I am not an affiliate of these product manufacturers or retailers. Just wrapping things up into a neat little meal for others to enjoy.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Goal For Today

With spring right around the corner, the goal for today is to begin increasing the cycling distance again. I'm trying to go from fifteen miles to twenty-five miles today, but taken in smaller increments it should be doable. The ultimate goal is forty-five to fifty miles in a single day. At the speed I am pedaling, that means about a three-hour bike ride, not including stops in between.

But there will be stops in between, at least on the first ride of the year. It's not all about just getting to the chosen destination. It's about seeing the sights along the way. It's about stopping in some of the small towns. It's about talking with people and chronicling the trip. It's all about the journey, overall.

Increasing the daily distance is important, but so is increasing the ability to pull weight, because I will be pulling a bike trailer filled with camping gear. I have nearly maxed out the tension setting on this Exerpeutic bike, to help me prepare for that weighted trailer. However, I will continue to work on the weight factor, as I'm sure there will be hills in my future.
Aosom Elite II Large Bike Cargo Trailer - Black/Red Image 2 of 4
(Don't believe the "About" write-up on the Walmart site.
The max load capacity of the trailer is 176.4. Someone goofed in writing
the product description. The 'specification' section below the description has it right.)

With the right kind of trailer, a cyclist can comfortably pull 300 pounds along a relatively flat surface. At least that's what I've been told. I have no intention of pulling anywhere near that much. I have pulled approximately eighty pounds of live weight (feisty toddlers in a bike trailer) before and barely knew they were there, until they started hollering for snacks.

I have been very selective as to what gear will be taken. And, there's the weight of the trailer itself to be considered. Most bicycle trailers are very light, The trailer I hope to pull behind the Schwinn touring bike will be this one, an Aosom Elite II large capacity cargo trailer,  The trailer weighs in at thirty-nine pounds. It actually has a weight capacity of 176.4 pounds, according to its specs.

I have an old Rhodes trailer, the one I carried those toddlers in, and I considered modifying and using it for the 2019 journey. It has a max weight capacity of 100 pounds, but I decided I wanted something a bit sturdier for the first adventure. I have also come up with a custom trailer design for a future trip, which will be able to pull a greater weight, but may itself only weigh about twenty pounds. I just have to find the time to build it, and then test it over the road.

It's time to get on with the pedaling and with reaching today's goal. I'll be riding the entire fifteen 14 miles this morning, as usual and then adding ten 12.1 or more later this afternoon. I'm not concerned with increasing the speed, as I'll have the entire day to make the mileage goals when, Lord willing, the trip takes place.

Update: That's 26.1 miles for today! Goal achieved for today. Let's see if I can do the same miles tomorrow and everyday from here on out until spring arrives.

Update February 1, 2019: I decided to run the numbers to see how much progress if any I had made. After being sick for the first 2-2 1/2 weeks in November, blood sugar 500+, saline at 139 (bad), and barely enough energy to walk, muscle cramps, and severe fatigue, I opted to jump on the exercise bike for some serious pedaling. Along the way I added squats (I couldn't do 1 prior to this time.) and 3# dumb bells to add cardio and work on upper body while cycling. It was something to do. Below are the cycling time, distance, and minimum calories burned since November 18, 2018.

November 2018: 84.7 miles, 2,051.2 calories (minimum), 12 hours 1 minute 25 seconds
December 2018: 230 miles, 5,347.6 calories (minimum), 25 hours 24 minutes 41 seconds
January 2019 : 336.5 miles, 8,260.6 calories (minimum), 39 hours 30 minutes 4 seconds

Highest daily distance is 27.1 miles, to date. Goal is fifty.

Squats: 25-30
Weights: Now at 3# for first ten minutes of every ride.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Day Without Cycling

When you grow accustomed to a routine each day, it's tough to break away and do something different. We human beings are, if nothing else, creatures of habit.

Our weather, snow, drizzle, and ice, although necessary to the earth to help it prepare for spring work, can frustrate our best efforts to maintain our routines, whether indoor or outdoor activities are involved. That's how it was yesterday. We've been experiencing those aforementioned weather conditions and so it meant that the routine had to be adjusted.

For the last several months I have been back to riding the exercise bike on a daily basis. Top distance per ride has been sixteen miles, and probably could have been longer but at some point you have to get on with your work. The top total distance for a single day stands at around twenty-two miles. The goal is forty-five. I'll get there.

An extra early start to the day yesterday was necessary to allow extra drive time to get into town from the countryside. I had forgotten, from years past, how much a person becomes reliant on the adrenaline one experiences when exercising. Without that morning adrenaline yesterday, my body decided that if I wasn't going to push it to its limits it would limit my activity. By ten o'clock yesterday morning I was ready for a nap. I finally felt more awake later in the day, right before it was time to go to bed. At least I slept better.

This morning was almost a repeat of yesterday, except that I was ready to wake extra early and I managed to get a five-mile ride in before having to go out and face near zero temperatures, several inches of snow to scoop, and vehicles to start. I only managed to get into one of the vehicles. The doors on the other one were frozen shut. They probably still are.

I'm sneaking up on ten o'clock again this morning, but I have a lot more energy than yesterday. The temps aren't expected to get out of the teens, the roads are clear of most snow and the drifts from last night, but they're slick with that frozen drizzle from yesterday still clinging to them. The top speed on the highway coming in this morning was thirty-eight miles an hour, and that was a bit fast for some.

So, I'm following a new routine today, again, and the going is slow, but not as slow as it is when I have to go a day without cycling. A day without cycling (or exercise in general) is an unproductive one. Let's hope today is better. Walking through ankle deep snow is good exercise too, and the cold air really energizes you, but I'll take cycling in warm weather, or indoors, any day over scooping snow, scraping windows, and digging out of a ditch.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Warming From The Inside

black and white floral textile
Original photo by
@downrightpunch (Marc Newberry)
We had a winter storm move in Friday night and the temps today aren't expected to reach the teens. It's 10 ° right now, and the predicted high was for 12°. Tomorrow's predicted twenties will feel nice compared to this.

And yet, we're thankful for the freeze, thankful for the snow because that means spring comes next, followed by summer, followed by . . . well, you know the routine. We should have good moisture in the ground for spring planting time.  I'm assuming that. I don't plant things anymore. The day-to-day chore of keeping Twitchy, the sometimes water-deprived philodendron, alive is challenge enough.
Meatloaf with Sweet Chipotle Barbeque Sauce
Today, because it is so cold, it's important to warm up from the inside, especially if you have to be outside. Now, one could stand over the heat register in their favorite comfy robe, with a cup of hot tea (or coffee if that's your preference) in one hand and a hot homemade cinnamon roll in another. I agree that's a great idea, but you cannot live on cinnamon rolls alone, and eventually your mug is going to run dry.

I found another way to warm up from the inside. It was something new at Hy-Vee and I brought it home last week. Actually I brought several of them home. They were on sale. It is Stouffer's Creative Comforts Meatloaf with Sweet Chipotle Barbeque Sauce. The meal has a mild spiciness to it, and I wouldn't want the company to change that, even a little. But, well, I was compelled to change mine a little. I added a spoonful of my favorite sour cream to the meatloaf and corn. Now, this is real comfort food on a cold day and it took less than ten minutes to cook the meal, add the sour cream, and pour myself something to drink.

I like this sort of fast food! The whole meal ended up costing less than $3.50. I didn't have to wait in a drive-thru line, I didn't have to check to be sure my order was correct. and the portion size is well-adjusted and didn't leave me feeling hungry or over-stuffed. So, it's a win-win. And, they're compact enough I can, if I choose, stuff the little freezer full of them.

Stouffer's has a lot of delicious meals like the one mentioned above. Their lasagna, single and family size, is definitely worth making space for in the grocery cart. The mac and cheese is pretty delicious, too. So, if you're needing a meal that will warm you up from the inside but won't turn your grocery budget inside out, you might want to try these from time to time.

Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom Double Strawberry Light Ice CreamAs soon as lunch is over with, I think I'll cool back down with some Blue Bunny Double Strawberry Swirl Sweet Freedom ice cream.

Okay, so I go to temperature extremes. I'm just like that sometimes.

Note: I am not an affiliate of these product makers nor of the retailers. Just passing on the info so you don't pass up a good thing. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Arches National Park Ride This Morning

Yesterday it began snowing pretty steadily around three o'clock and kept going until late last night. Today, it's freezing cold and blustery outside - certainly not a hospitable climate for cycling - and more snow is expected. I wonder. Do they make studded snow tires for bicycles? (Turns out Schwalbe does.)

No worries. Today, I'm off to Arches National Park, via YouTube. The cyclist, Jerry Nolan, filmed this morning's video back in April of this year. I've ridden to this video before. It is filled with wonderful scenery and the music is pretty good too. If you want to check out even more of his videos, click on his name above and you'll be taken to his YouTube page. Or, right-click on it and open it in a new tab if you want to stay here on the blog and keep reading.

If you're stuck inside because of inclement weather, and if you have been seeking a good excuse to dig that exercise bike (or treadmill) out from beneath the clothes, shopping bags, or jackets that seem to gravitate toward it from time to time (mine attracts that stuff too), now is your chance. Leave the snow shoveling and window scraping for later, at least until the wind dies down.

Once you have your workout clothes on, and have uncovered the bike (or treadmill) and pulled it out of its hiding place and put it in front of your computer or television (if it's too heavy you may want to move the computer or TV instead), or whatever you're watching on, you can click the video image above, (make it full screen by clicking bottom right corner to the icon with four little right-angles on it), and start pedaling. Don't forget to stretch a bit first to warm up those muscles. I add in some hand weight exercises for the first ten minutes of the ride just to work the upper muscles.

Okay. Do you have your water bottle? Well, then, you're all set. Enjoy the scenery.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Chili Dog Bowls

Perfect Tortilla Tortilla Pan Set 4 Pc.The temperature raised ever so slowly today  . . . to thirty degrees. Then it stopped. That was all the heat we were going to enjoy. I could have whined about it, stamped my feet, and shouted, "It just isn't fair!" Or, I could do something about it.

I decided to make chili dog bowls for supper.

What are they? Remember those tortilla pans I talked about in another post? They're great to have on hand and, for me, are one of those products I am really glad I purchased. Tonight, chili dogs sounded good, but I didn't want a lot of bread. I had some taco-size Old El Paso Super Soft tortillas in the crisper drawer, so it was time to put them to good use.

The smaller tortillas were just the right size for this recipe, although you can bake the 10" burrito size tortillas as well. They're great for those taco salads you know you like.

To make the tortilla bowls, I took the pans and sprayed them very lightly with some Crisco butter spray and then put a tortilla into each one. I placed them into a preheated 400-degree oven for 5 minutes and then put them on a plate to cool. I cooked up the entire package so I would have a few on hand tomorrow for lunch, for tuna boats. Once cooled, I stored the extra taco bowls in a Ziploc bag.

Campbell's Chunky Chili with Bean Roadhouse

For the chili dogs, I grabbed a can of Campbell's Chili with Beans and popped the top, chopped up a couple of Oscar Mayer bun-length hot dogs, and mixed them together in a microwave-safe bowl and covered it. I then put it in the microwave and cooked it for about three minutes. Finally, I spooned the hot mixture into three of the mini taco bowls. I topped them with shredded cheese. I could have added diced onions and green peppers to the chili or as a topping, but I didn't this time. A dollop of sour cream, and you're all set.

Oscar Mayer Classic Bun-Length Wieners 8 ctThe mixture filled three of the small bowls, but would have filled one larger bowl, had I made those instead. An added benefit to this recipe is eating the tortilla bowl afterward. Yum. Give it a try.

Note: I am not an affiliate of the products mentioned above, nor of the retailers. I just thought you might like to give this recipe a try, especially if it's really cold where you are. A nice warm meal is always a good thing. Be nice, share it with a friend.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


My great niece is four, stands over three feet tall, and weighs about thirty-eight pounds. Her big brother is nine, more than four feet tall, and weighs in excess of eighty pounds. My niece wrestles outside of her weight class . . . age group, and gender. Her big brother is her favorite unsuspecting opponent when she is overcome by the desire to throw someone to the floor and sit on them. Little sisters tend to be that way sometimes.

Last year, wrestling was added to the list of sports my great nephew has tried. No one is quite sure how he came to be enrolled in the sport. He doesn’t recall signing up for the team, nor do his parents remember adding him to the roll. However, since his name did appear on the final list, he decided to give it a try. What could be better than rolling around on a spongy mat while another guy tries to bend you into a pretzel. For the most part, I think he enjoyed the wrestling experience. He has had some prior involvement with it, on a completely informal level. He has a little sister and she likes wrestling him to the floor. I didn’t know how skilled she was at it until last week.

Little sister was obviously paying attention during those wrestling practices she attended with her brother and her parents. She picked up some good tips on how to take down and pin an opponent in a matter of seconds. This week, she decided to test that knowledge.

She’s little, but she’s fierce. Her older brother realized the same thing when his younger sister grabbed him by the legs and dragged him off the couch. Thud. Before long she had him chewing carpet fibers, his face pinned flat against the floor.

He incorrectly thought he would have a moment to collect himself after she let go of him the first time, but that was only a preview of what was to come. He was able to get back up on his knees. She then pounced on him again, from a different angle, and he collapsed to the floor. It was obvious he wasn’t putting his whole effort into the grudge match. He could have easily tossed her off, but he was trying to exercise some caution. I credit him for his compassion. Too bad he couldn’t expect the same from her. He broke her hold and she backed off across the room. He was trying to get up when she charged him again. She had to get a run at him, otherwise it would have been like a cotton ball bouncing off of a brick wall. The momentum worked. Thud. He was face down on the floor again.

During the match, there was a lot of giggling getting squeezed out of both wrestlers. Not something you hear from professional wrestlers. Usually you hear a lot of grunting, and then the real acting starts. I think big brother was as surprised by his sister’s determination as much as he was by her skill.

Big brother finally had enough. Compassion went out the window because little sister was becoming more strategic by the second and he didn’t know which gambit she would use next. There was all-out laughter when he caught her and pinned her to the ground, only to let her up again so they could start all over. After several minutes, most of the laughter was coming from me. There was also a dash of concern in there somewhere, that my nephew might not be able to walk well when his little sister was done tying his legs into knots. At one point he yelped when she attempted to bend his foot in a direction it was never intended to go. He rallied and had her on the floor next. They were having a lot of fun. Little sister’s hair stood straight out on end because of the static electricity they were generating, and the sight of her only added to their amusement.

The battle lasted about twenty minutes, long after their dad returned home from work. As no one was screaming, crying, or bleeding, he made no effort to stop the match. My nephew finally managed to pin his little sister to the floor again, while she was distracted saying hello to daddy. She was a good sport about it and soon wriggled out of his clutches. The wiry ones are tough to keep down. Their father took a more analytical view of the event and began to give his son a few tips on how to improve his chances of winning. They didn’t work. Little sister was determined that victory would be hers.

Finally, exhausted, brother and sister sat in the middle of the living room to rest, before big
This is not my niece, but I liked the photo.
Edited from original photo by Diana Fiel,
@diana_f on
brother ventured off to the kitchen to get a drink of water. His sister decided it was time to exchange sports for art. She sprang to her feet and took off running toward her bedroom. She shut the door, all was quiet, and several minutes later she reappeared wearing a sparkly shirt, tutu, a pair of tights, ruffled socks, and her kitty-cat slippers. She fluttered about the living room like a butterfly just released from its cocoon, pirouetting here, pliƩing there, leaping and kicking her legs as high as she could until she was dizzy.

I was given to wonder. Was the wrestling match just her warm-up exercise for the dance recital we were treated to next?

Susan Cronk is the author of multiple fiction and nonfiction books, and the author of several personal essays. You will find more information about writing projects at her website, on Facebook and on Google+. She occasionally contributes personal essays, such as this one, to publications willing to print them and bring a little humor into their readers' lives.

It's A Good Day To Be A Writer

Days like today make me extra thankful I'm an author. It's a perfect day for staying in and editing the new novel, as well as finishing the nonfiction manuscripts that are so near completion I can't seem to type fast enough to get to the final chapters.

I did venture out . . . for twenty minutes. I helped clear the heavy snow off one of the vehicles, after trudging to the trash bins to stash a couple of bags for the trash collectors to pick up on Monday, if they can get here.

We're eight and half miles from town. Provided the wind doesn't pick up and drift the nearby blacktop shut, and they can navigate the roller-coaster hills from the state highway, the collectors should be able to make the journey. I won't be trying to get to town, though, at least not today.

The snow measured 7" deep in the yard, on a fairly level spot. That is what has fallen in just the last nineteen hours. The forecast shows the snow will continue for another seven hours. It's coming down at a pretty good pace. Still, we should be thankful for it. The rain we previously received and this snowfall will mean better ground for planting in the spring, and Lord willing, a bountiful harvest in the fall.

Writing and editing are my favorite snowy-day activities, supplemented with some hot tea, and maybe some baking later. That should round the day out nicely.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Culinary Habits Of A Muse

toddler girl wearing teal and white polka-dot long-sleeved shirt and white tutu skirt outfit walking on green sod at daytime
This is not my muse, but there is more
than one in the world.
Original photo by Marjorie Bertrand
@machosette on
I have a muse. She stands just over three feet tall, wears tutus, and weighs only slightly more than my computer backpack when fully loaded. She watches marketing videos on YouTube in various foreign languages. It will not surprise me if, one day, my muse starts a conversation with me in any one of those languages and tries to sell me something, something I probably don’t need. 

My muse is a bit of a culinary conundrum, as well. When she’s not playing with an app on her phone, video chatting with one of the few people on her contact list, playing with her dolls, or drawing things on paper, only to cut them apart and tape them back together again, my muse tries to confuse me with her culinary habits.

She really likes Oreo cookies. She is like her dad, in that regard. But she had a problem. At the age of three, she was not above taking an Oreo cookie, pulling it apart, licking the frosting out of the middle, sticking it back together, and sneaking it back into the package before the grown-up in charge realized anything was amiss. I caught her trying this one day when I left the package on the lower counter, well within reach. She had to stand on tiptoe and stretch her arm out to its limit to catch hold of it, but she loves a good challenge like that. After I caught her, and discarded the half-eaten cookie, she and I had a long chat and I explained that if she took one she had to eat the entire cookie. All selections were final. I am happy to say that now she likes to dunk them in milk before devouring them whole. No returns.

Realizing that the whole cookie is better than the frosting alone, she now tries to negotiate the number of cookies she is allowed at any given snack session. Her negotiating points are as arbitrary as her food choices. I don’t pretend to understand them but, according to her, one cookie per finger per hand is quite reasonable. We recently settled at three. I am certain she will reopen negotiations again soon.

Even though I know my muse has outgrown this phase, I still feel compelled to check the cookies for frosting deficiency before I eat one or offer one to anyone else. And, what of pizza? She has given me cause to rethink my definition of “pizza.” Does a pizza truly need a crust or sauce to be considered a pizza?

My muse loves cheese and pepperoni. She will either straight out of the fridge. Together, they taste even better. So, when I ask, “What kind of pizza do you want?” her response is always the same.


I don’t know why I bother asking for her input, and I don’t know why I ask what type of crust she prefers. I already know the answer. None. She would be content if the pizza maker left the crust and sauce completely out of the recipe. Perhaps the next time I could get them to simply melt the cheese and pepperoni together right in the box and deliver.

Since pizza qualifies as a semi-health meal, it’s something served once or twice a month. It is on the short list of foods the muse will actually eat, and eat rather quickly. One piece is usually her limit, but on rare occasions she’ll try a second slice. More balanced meals are quite another story.

When required to eat a well-balanced meal of meat and veggies, my muse takes three times as long to consume the food than it would take her to eat something from her eclectic alternative menu. Her record for mealtime avoidance stands at one hour. To delay tackling a healthy meal, she will feign a feeling of great urgency to use the restroom, sometimes multiple times during the meal. If allowed to leave the table, my muse will spend ten minutes playing in the sink water while pretending to wash her hands. Cleanliness is next to godliness, you know, and she’s closer than most by this point if hand washing is the qualifying factor. If a restroom break cannot be achieved, she will wiggle around on her chair and argue the inferiority of peas and corn over green beans until you’re blue in the face, or red and ready to rupture from frustration. If this ploy fails, the muse will concoct lengthy explanations about why she should should be allowed to huddle under a blanket at the table and watch YouTube videos during mealtime, all the while promising solemnly to eat everything if this is permitted. Don’t give in, if your muse does the same thing, for a few minutes later she will take two bites of her food and declare mealtime over. If you argue, she will tell you that if she eats one more bite she will throw up. Right there. At the table. Really. If all other efforts to extricate herself from the dinnertime routine fail, she will, without warning, slide out of her chair and rush off to her room after suddenly realizing she has left something of great importance there, usually an object or drawing you’ve been shown many times but because of its distracting power now has to be acquired, displayed, and discussed all over again. My muse is a master of distraction.

If the muse suspects that you will require her to consume a particularly healthy meal, will morph into a master of alternative suggestions.

“What would you like to eat for breakfast?” Sour gummy worms, with a chocolate milk, is not an unusual response, if there are sour gummy worms in the house.

“What would you like for lunch?” She likes the colorful Kellogg’s Unicorn cereal, which might be fine, except you’re not permitted to add milk.

“What would you like for supper?” If Ramen noodles aren’t available, the muse will be happy to suffer along with Cheetos Puffs and some Kool-Aid.

These are all perfectly acceptable items – to her. Forget the scrambled eggs and bacon, forget the oatmeal, leave out the chicken and steamed veggies. And, whatever you do, don’t offer her tuna fish, at any time of day, nor chicken salad, especially if you have added bell peppers and onions. Unlike a Gremlin she won’t turn evil, but she will get up and leave the kitchen, maybe even the house. She will more than happily accept a large slice of birthday cake or a cupcake instead. They, like mini marshmallows and pretzels, may be eaten at any time of day.

In her defense, the muse is amenable to a few healthy food options, which she is permitted more often. She loves strawberries, cantaloupe, grapes, watermelon, and orange slices. She will eat Jello-O or a fruit cup as a snack on occasion, and GoGurts are on the non-repulsive side of the menu, too. The muse will sneak in some popcorn now and then, or a multi-grain cereal bar (strawberry), and she’s not above eating baby carrots and hard-boiled eggs. So, she does try for balanced, but too often tries to tip the scale into the realm of high sugar content.

Every new day has a question mark attached to it. Will she make a selection from the meal options I give her or try her best to convince me that a honey bun is more nutritious than rice and veggies? Her arguments, at times, certainly give one pause for thought. And, certainly, they would strain the nerves of even the most committed nutritionist. It is an education for both of us, and I am keeping notes as we move along, trying to find as many points of common ground as I can. The biggest challenge is in getting her to understand that whatever choices she makes it cannot be all one-sided. There has to be balance and there has to be compromise, and in all things there should be moderation. But, there are days when I feel wholly insufficient to the task of getting her to see my side. You win, Muse. Go ahead, eat the Zebra cake.

Susan Cronk is the author of multiple fiction and nonfiction books, and the author of several personal essays. You will find more information about writing projects at her website, on Facebook and on Google+. She occasionally contributes personal essays, such as this one, to publications willing to print them and bring a little humor into their readers' lives.

Note: I am not an affiliate of the products linked in the above essay, but I have tried most of them - except for the sour gummy worms. I'm not doing it, no matter how many times my muse tells me they taste great. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Scenery Matters

It's winter here in Missouri, and although we have been experiencing unusually warm temps for January - intermittent forties and fifties - and getting rain instead of snow, it's still a bit too brisk for me to be out riding my road bike. Yup. I'm a fair-weather rider now. Rain and cold didn't use to bother me. But with age, apparently, comes a desire to stay in, read (or write) a book, and drink herbal tea.

These nice temperatures are, however, giving me new aches. The biggest one is I am aching to break my bike out of shed jail, hook up the little trailer, and load up some camping gear. While most people are planning their spring gardens, I'm lining out camping trips, near and far.

Bike in Michalowice Poland
Photo by Jacek Dylag @dylu
For the next few weeks, while I'm stuck inside, the Exerpeutic recumbent bike is filling the exercise gap and helping me set some new goals . . . and achieve them.

I have been stuck at the ten-mile barrier for a over a month, although that is better than the zero limit I was at when the medical issues began. So, I thank God for giving me those ten miles and I can't wait to see how much further He will help be go. It takes me a little more than an hour to ride those miles, but high speed wasn't one of the goals. It's the daily distance. I try to keep the speed consistent throughout, but ten miles is still a far cry from the eighteen or twenty I could do on a lazy afternoon a few years ago, one way. The new minimum daily goal is forty-five. I'm a third of the way there.

Today, with the help of a cycling video here, the journey through the Dolores River Canyon (southbound) by Jerry Nolan, I was able to change my focus from the digital readout for the bike and just focus on scenery, something other than the brown curtains covering the windows in the room. Scenery matters.

If you're working out indoors, waiting for the spring thaw, check out Mr. Nolan's videos. He has included music on some of them. However, if you have your cycling music all rounded out, you can mute the video and listen to your own. Both methods work equally well.

I am glad to finally put that ten-mile barrier behind me. The scenery is better the further you pedal.

Update: When I returned home from a group dinner at our local El Nopal, I added an extra 8.5 miles to today's ride, for a total of 22.5 miles. Halfway to minimum!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Just Type Your Number Here

My four-year-old great niece came into the kitchen late one morning carrying her iPhone.

"Just type your number here," she told me, holding it out and pointing to the screen showing the video chat app open and ready to accept my input. Typing numbers isn’t her strong suit and she can't spell anything except her first name, 
and then only if using a jumbo crayon and lined paper. Therefore, she could not add me to her contact list. Had she known my number and been able to write, she would have added me without asking my permission first.

“I want to video chat you from in there,” she said pointing toward the living room, “so I can practice talking on my phone.”
It was important to her, more important than changing out of her Sophia pajamas, more important than combing through her bedhead, more important than getting those all-important strawberry mini donuts and the chocolate milk she loves so much for breakfast. This was high-priority high-tech on a Monday morning.

I noticed that the phone she carried was larger than both of her little hands together, if held fingertip to fingertip. It is too big to fit inside the pockets of her coat, and too large to slide out of sight in the largest purse she owns, even if she removed all the miniature character figures. These issues frustrate her. I have heard her utter words of disgust as she encountered situations like these, unable to overcome them. Like the grown-ups in her life, my niece wants to take her phone everywhere, but it’s just too bulky to carry in her tiny hands all the time. Her fingers get tired.
She is also frustrated by the fact that her phone doesn’t have internet access once we pull out of the driveway of her home. I tried explaining why this was the other day when her YouTube video suddenly quit playing and she didn’t get to see how the cartoon episode she was watching ended. She wasn’t happy and would not accept the truth.
“We can’t be more than three hundred feet from the router inside.” I pointed at the window of the home office. She grumbled something about daddy needing to fix that, and I’m sure she put him to work on that issue as soon as he got home that evening. I will probably show up next week and find a tower in the front yard with a range extender taking the place of the tree and the tire swing.  
“We can restart it when we get back from our errand,” I explained. “You can finish watching it then.” She tossed the phone over onto the other side of the bench seat in the van, folded her arms, and frowned all the way down the block.
Her iPhone is loaded with apps, games, and music, all of which she knows how to use better than I know how to use the apps on my phone. Growing her contacts list is her new obsession, however. At present, the list contains four people: her mother, her father, her paternal grandmother, and her nine-year-old-brother. Her brother is the most-called contact, even though he occupies a bedroom a few feet from her own. She video chats with him because it's apparently too much trouble to walk into the next room to torment him in person. He has an older smartphone with a camouflage case covering the original pink plastic backing it came with. It used to be his little sister’s. She upgraded from the old phone she had when her mother received her new iPhone.
Her brother’s contact list is longer by three names, and I happen to know he ignores most of his sister's video chat requests.
“The battery is dead,” he told her the other day. I’m almost sure he allows it to discharge on purpose. Unhappy with his response, she marched into his room and plugged his phone into its wall charger and then returned to her own room to call him. Whatever happened to kids playing with those little wheeled multi-colored plastic phones with the rolling eyeballs and the rotary dial that jingled when you dialed a number? Whatever happened to kids playing with a couple of soup cans attached with a span of twine?

I watched my niece fumble with her iPhone before she handed it to me and I thought how amazing it is that the four-year-old possesses her own iPhone, even if it is a hand-me-down, and that she can use it so competently.
"But I don't have a ​​phone like yours," I tried to explain, looking down at the impressive device she compelled me to take. "I have an android phone and it doesn’t use that app for video chatting." She insisted I try to make it work anyway.

"I'm going to call you. I really am," my niece reassured me. 
If she had added, "We'll do lunch," I would have put her in timeout. I made an attempt to add my number, knowing that it wouldn't be accepted, and then I handed the phone back to her and explained the incompatibility issue again. She just rolled her eyes.

"You'll have to have your mother put the number in so you can text me," I told her, all the while thinking, just as soon as you learn how to spell.

My four-year-old niece sighed heavily, staring down at the screen, her little index finger pressing the “x” to close the app, and then swiping quickly right to left to scroll through the pages of apps, searching for the YouTube icon. I can only imagine the level of annoyance she felt as she turned and wandered back to her room. Her fifty-one-year-old great aunt failed the technology challenge . . . again.

Susan Cronk is the author of multiple fiction and nonfiction books, and the author of several personal essays. You will find more information about writing projects at her website, on Facebook and on Google+. She occasionally contributes personal essays, such as this one, to publications willing to print them and bring a little humor into their readers' lives.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

V8 Eggs

Edited photo. Original photo by
@anniespratt at
No, I'm not talking about high-horse-powered food. Well, maybe I am. This morning food combination is like protein and carbs on rails!

Eggs, whether boiled, fried, poached, pickled,or used as an ingredient in another recipe pack a great punch in the protein department. I think of them as one of God's perfect proteins. He has a great number of proteins that are good for the body, but this one is especially helpful. And, like the others, eggs are beneficial if taken in moderation.

Green Eggs and Ham (Beginner Books(R)) by [Dr. Seuss]I say that because if you go searching on the Internet you'll find at least dozens and dozens of different perspectives on whether you should or should not eat eggs. Those views range from eat none, eat one, eat two, eat three, eat them boiled not fried, eat them baked not boiled, eat them dyed green with ham if that makes you happy. I am definitely on the "for" side of the argument, again if eaten in moderation with a dash of common sense. 

I don't eat eggs all day, but I do allow myself one or two each day, sometimes a third one if I need a protein snack and nothing else is available, which is rare. Sometimes I split them up and eat one at breakfast and one in the early afternoon. Whatever works, works. 

Since the primary focus lately is to encourage a decline in blood sugar to healthier levels, I have been searching for quick and easy breakfast recipes that fill me up and energize me, and that help me get those necessary veggies in relative balance to the protein. So, for the last few days, I've been drinking a glass of V8 Juice (Original) and eating two hard-boiled eggs after my morning workout. 

V8 Original 100% Vegetable Juice
It's amazing how so little can stay with you for so long. On Day One, I wasn't hungry for a good part of the day after consuming these and when I took my BS reading about six hours later, it was the lowest it's been in over a month. Hmm. Here's a recipe to hold on to, and repeat, repeat, repeat, augmented with one or two other healthy meals later in the day. Did I mention I've lost two pounds in the last few days? I could lose thirty times that amount and be quite content, but then I would have to buy new clothes. Wait, that's good thing, right? 

V8 Low Sodium Original 100% Vegetable Juice 6Pk
I started drinking V8 again after my saline levels dropped to very dangerous levels due to an illness and my own stupidity. Prior to that emergency trip to the doctor, I was working hard to remove salt from my diet because, according to everything I was reading, salt was an evil thing that contributed to high blood pressure and it should be avoided as much as possible. I did a REALLY good job of avoiding it. Too good, it seems. Who knew I was that talented? I really scared the doctor. But, she's doing much better now.

In order to bring my body's salt content back up in a healthy way, I declined the hospital visit and the saline IV and went to the store. I then started drinking a little V8 every day and it worked. There is a low-sodium version of this same product as well and I may switch to that at some point, because, when I started allowing salt again I suddenly remembered where we keep the salt shakers and I've been applying a little to my eggs in the morning, in whatever form I consume them. I also plan to keep this product as a regular part of my diet. 

Ziploc 1Cup Small Rectangle Containers & Lids 5CtSo, if you're looking for a light start to your day that will stay with you for a few hours, you could try this. The nicest thing is, if you have to scoot out the door in a hurry, you can pour the juice in a bottle or grab one of the little cans (I keep mine chill'n in the fridge) and keep a couple of peeled, chilled hard-boiled eggs in a snack bag or reusable grab-and-go small container. I boil and peel them in groups of six. Then I can divide them by twos and put them in the portable-egg-container of my choice, then just rush on. Salt is optional.

Another upside to this "recipe," is, if you happen to hit the brakes too hard while driving and send the sealed egg container flying . . . well, let's just say they make a lot less mess than a slice of toast with peanut butter that you put set on the dash and didn't eat before the deer ran out in front of you. Of course, your vehicle would have a nutty scent to it, which isn't entirely unpleasant.

Note: I am not an affiliate of the product manufacturers mentioned, nor of the retailers. 
Just offering the info for your consideration.