Moar Badges

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that Garmin makes it easy to earn badges in January- given that it’s New Years Resolution Season… Here’s my latest haul. I always think of ALICIA363 when a new one of these pops up! 😁

A hexagon around a stylized dumbbell.  Below it are the words, “Super Strength.  1pt - Record 5 strength training activities.  You earned this badge on January 11.”
A hexagon around a stylized dumbbell.  On the edges of the hexagon are written: “4:00” and “2022.”

Below the hexagon are the words: “January Gains.  1pt - Join this challenge and do 4 hours of strength activities in January.”
A hexagon around two stylized clouds.  Below are the words: “Deep Breathing 3. 2pts.  Record 25 breathwork activities.  You earned this badge on January 15.”
A hexagon around a stylized snowflake.  Below are the words: “Frosty.  2pts.  Record an activity when it’s below freezing. You earned this badge on January 18 during Snowblowing Meditation”
A screenshot from the Garmin App, showing “Snowblowing Meditation 😂”

January 18 
Duration 1:04:18
Distance 0.83 mi
Energy 406 kcal
Avg Speed 0.8 mph

Below this is what looks like a child’s scribble in red, coloring in a driveway.
“Snowblowing Meditation” 😉

Venu 2s – new year, new tracker

My combined Xmas / Birthday / New Year’s present to myself is a Garmin Venu 2s. I like all the bells and whistles; I have only ever worn glorified pedometers until now, so it has been a big jump from just steps, to monitoring my heart rate and O2. So far I find it interesting that the “body battery” pretty well reflects my recent exhaustion. Too much stress, not enough rest, slowly running down the reserves. Time for a break, to recharge.

A chart showing a downhill sawtooth pattern where each day’s high and low are decreasing since the day before (y axis = energy level, x axis = date)

I have also been racking up badges, left and right, lately. I always think of ALICIA363, when I earn these, LOL. Between the seasonal ones and working on a stressful project that involves physical activity, I’ve earned four in short order:

A hexagon with a graphic of fireworks - “Finish strong: record one activity on New Year’s Eve.”
A hexagon with a graphic of a rocket - “Strong Start: record an activity on January 1”
A hexagon with a cloud graphic inside - “Deep breathing 2: Record 5 breathwork activities”
To counter the stress, I’ve been using the “bellybio” app on my iPhone.
A hexagon with an anatomical heart graphic.  Along one diagonal edge is 4:00 - “January cardio: record 4 hours of cardio activity”

Solstice Quiz

A tall balsam tree stands, decorated.  A white cat in a rocking chair sleeps nearby

WATERMELLEN mentioned Yalda in our Google Group, which reminded me of a fun quiz I once constructed for a holiday party at work. Here it is, if anyone would like to play. I will post the official answer in a week, 🙂

The winter solstice occurs at the instant when the Sun’s position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane as the observer. Often since the event is observed as the reversal of the Sun’s ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstitially based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings. Also reversal is another usual theme as in slave and master reversals.The word solstice derives from Latin “sol” (Sun) and “sistere” (stand still), Winter Solstice meaning “Sun stand still in winter.”

Use whatever means you like, to match up the culture with each celebration. There is one best match for each pair.

List of Celebrations:

1 “Festival of lights” (Dec 16–23)

2 “First Fruits” (Dec 26 – Jan 1)

3 “Holiday”

4 “The Extreme of Winter” (Dec 22)

5 Alban Arthuan (Dec 22)

6 Cristes mæsse (Dec 25)

7 Eid-al-Adha (Dec 30/31)

8 Festivus (Dec 23)

9 Inti Raymi – the Festival of the Sun (Dec 22)

10 Korochun (Dec 21-23)

11 Lenaea – the Festival of the Wild Women

12 Natalis Solis Invicti (Dec 25)

13 New Year’s Eve (Dec 31)

14 Rohatsu – Bodhi Day (Dec 8)

15 Saturnalia (Dec 17–23)

16 Shabe-Yalda (Dec 21)

17 The death of Osiris (Dec 21)

18 Yule

List of Cultures

A 20th Century Western Culture (NBC)

B Ancient Egypt

C Ancient Greece

D Ancient Incas

E Ancient Rome

F Buddhism

G China

H Christianity

I Druidism

J Islam

K Judaism

L Pagan Scandanavia

M Pagan Slavs

N Pan-Africa

O Pastafarianism

P Persia

Q Post-Gregorian Western Culture

R Roman Empire, 274 ~ 400 AD

Ready, set, GO!

Update: A friend objected that Pastafarians were not represented and provided this appropriate greeting:

An image of a Flying Spaghetti Monster, with the words, “May his noodly appendages touch you this holiday season.”

…so I added the appropriate holiday to the quiz. 😉

Roasted squash for curry soup

Today looks like this:

My front yard with low gray clouds in the sky, and everything covered with an inch or two if snow.

So it’s time for another fire and to use the heat for cooking something. This time it is butternut squash that we grew and are going to turn into a curry soup. To start with, I need my matching pairs of sheet pans. Into each pan goes:

  • Olive oil drizzled in the bottom of the pan
  • Seeded, peeled, chopped winter squash
  • A chopped onion
  • A bulb of garlic, each clove crushed under the side of a knife, peeled, and the end cut off
A rectangular sheet pan holding bright orange cubes of squash, interspersed with white pieces of chopped onion and whole cloves of peeled garlic

The onion and garlic go in between the chunks of squash, toward the center of the pan, so they are less likely to burn. I make sure every piece is in contact with the bottom of the pan (a single layer of veggies). Next I sprinkle seasonings on them:

  • Some kosher salt
  • Dried red pepper
  • Cumin
  • Curry powder
The same veggies, now sprinkled with seasonings.  Next to the pan the other half of an enormous butternut squash waits to be cut up

I cover with a matching sheet pan (makes a convenient lid and is reusable forever, unlike foil)

A matching sheet pan being placed on top upside down, as a lid

Then I slide it into the oven for roasting. This is when it is handy to have sheet pans which can hang directly on the oven brackets (no need to deal with racks). Every few hours I will rotate the pans, since the uppermost one is exposed to heat directly from the firebox above.

The open oven of the wood stove, with both covered sheet pans in it

This takes a long time. It requires planning ahead, but is otherwise very easy because I can do all kinds of other things in the meantime. This takes so long that the pets may also end up roasted and melted into untidy puddles around the front of the stove.

A wider shot of the stove, with the oven door closed and one dog and two cats sprawled on the warm slate tiles and bamboo floor in front of it.

Epilogue: Once the juices started caramelizing, I put the veggies in a pot, deglazed the pans with a little hot water, added some more liquids (broths left over from other projects, plus some more hot water), and pureed everything with an immersion blender. Done!

A pot full of bright orange, pureed squash soup

I served it with a dollop of Greek yogurt, to offset the heat from the peppers that sort of sneaks up on you. 🌶

A bowl of the soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt in the middle

Baked Beans (the *really* old fashioned way)

Today it’s overcast and rainy and it seems like a good idea to add a little heat into the house, since the sun isn’t doing it for us.

So that means it’s a good time to cook something really slowly in the wood stove. One thing that comes out really nicely is baked beans.

I arrived at this method after browsing the internet for old recipes and consulting The Fireless Cookbook (which was developed for early thermal cookers). Some of the recipes in there came from Miss Farmer’s “Boston Cooking School Cook Book,” Yes, Fannie Farmer back before we all knew her by that name.

Anyway, I had conveniently pre-cooked a pound of dry pinto beans in the thermal cooker a few days ago, so they were ready to go. Here’s the full list of ingredients for the batch I’m making today:

  • 453.6 g dry beans, cooked (1 lb bag)
  • 213 g thick cut bacon (cut into thirds)
  • 118 g molasses
  • 424 g onions, chopped
  • 8 g dry mustard (1 T)
A large ceramic bean pot surrounded by a squeeze container with “molasses” written on it, a yellow tin of Coleman’s Dry Mustard, a third of a pack of bacon, and a large bowl containing chopped onions and cooked beans

I mix everything except the bacon in a big bowl. Next I put a layer of bacon in the bottom of the bean pot (this helps the contents avoid sticking). Then I spoon in the bean mixture. About halfway I stop and put in another layer of bacon. Then I put the rest of the bean mixture in, smooth the surface, and lay the last of the bacon on top. Finally I add water up to the top of the beans.

The bean pot filled, with strips of bacon on top of the contents

Next the pot goes into the oven of the wood stove, and sits there for 8-12 hours while the fire heats the house and boils water for tea. Since it’s already early afternoon, this batch won’t be ready to eat tonight. We will probably have some tomorrow.

A wood stove with flames in the firebox and the oven door showing the bean pot inside

The fire also heats the pets.

The oven door is closed, and the bean pot is visible through the glass. A white cat sits in front of the stove, staring into the oven.
A dog has joined the cat, standing and toasting one side.  The cat is looking over her shoulder at the camera, as if to say, *really?!*

What to do, with all of those tiny little oranges?!

A small plastic container holding about 30 oranges the size of golf balls

Among our little anti-scurvy orchard we have two calamondin trees. Between them, we end up with a surprising number of golf ball sized tart little oranges with sweet, kumquat-like rinds (calamondin / calamansi is supposedly descended from a cross between a Mandarin and a kumquat)

Five potted citrus trees lined up in the sun against a sliding glass door​.  Pet beds and a cat tree with animals on them are nearby.

H likes to make orange liqueur by infusing them into ever-clear. But there is only so much of that we can make; anyway, I don’t really like alcohol, and although I eat the occasional little vitamin C pill right off the tree, I ADORE marmalade, and you can supposedly make it with these. You can ALSO add them to homemade cranberry relish, and with a convenient natural bog on our property, we happened to have some berries we recently picked. So…

A pot holding fresh cranberries and wedges of tiny oranges

After hunting around online, I finally found a useful ratio by weight for this relish:

  • 100g fresh cranberries
  • 60g calamansi (sliced into about 6 longitudinal wedges each, seeds removed)
  • 45g sugar

I added a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness and 5 cloves, because it seemed like a good idea.

Put everything in a pan with a splash of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 min. Then can in a hot water bath as per any preserve.

Two small jars of bright red cranberry relish, punctuated with triangular pieces of orange peel

For the marmalade / preserves, I found this ratio:

  • 100g calamansi (seeds removed, each sliced into about 12 very thin longitudinal wedges; I left the pulp in, and didn’t bother removing much of the pith)
  • 67g sugar
  • Water up to the top of the oranges
A potted Thai pepper plant in a sunny window.  There are two little red peppers on it, a green one, and some blossoms.

Because I like fiddling with recipes, I cut a Thai hot pepper we grew into tiny pieces and grated about 2T ginger root into the pan with a microplane, and added a pinch of salt. I brought it to a boil, then covered the pan and put it aside for a day.

The next day I brought it back up to a slow boil, uncovered, to thicken, and checked it every 15 minutes to see how it dripped from a spoon. Every 15 min I stirred and also removed any seeds I’d missed (both calamansi and pepper). After about an hour it seemed thick enough to put into jars.

Three small jars of orange preserves.  A small red ring of Thai pepper is visible in each.

We should be good to go, until the next batch ripen…

A close-up of small green calamansi ripening

November Maintenance Anniversaries!

A Keith Harring type cartoon of multicolored stylized people supporting each other in a pyramid, with the one on the top reaching for the sun

This is the third month we’ve had maintenance anniversaries to announce, and no SP to announce it on… It’s sad to think that many of the people on the Hall of Fame won’t see us celebrating their anniversary anymore when it comes around, since so few have provided a URL or place to find them. So, besides announcing it on the Maintenance group, I’ll be posting an announcement here, and at MFP.

If you happen to see this and are in touch with former Sparkers elsewhere*, such as on FB, or MFP, your blog, or any other place online, please feel free to copy and re-post, to spread the word! (It helps to include a link to the Hall of Fame so that people will know where to go, if they would like to update their information 🙂)

*And if those folks have a visible online profile anywhere, please encourage them to update their maintenance info to include a URL, so the rest of us can congratulate them! ❤️

Congratulations to our November maintainers! 

Maintenance Hall of Fame:

To get onto this list or update your information, go here:

These are important milestones!

  • Among people who have just reached goal, the likelihood of regain is 80%+ to 95% (various sources).
  • Among people who have maintained for 2 years the likelihood of regain in the group drops to 50%.*
  • Among people who have maintained for 5 years the likelihood of regain in the group drops to 27%!*


And don’t forget, we have lots of maintenance information and advice collected in our Big Page of (maintenance) Links. Our most valuable maintenance resource, however, is our dedicated group* of real, live, Maintainers and Aspiring Maintainers! 😀

*This group is agnostic with regard to tracker and/or fitness platform. Our members are using: LoseIt, MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, FatSecret, MyNetDiary, 1st Phorm, etc. We encourage folks to use whatever works best for them, personally. The main thing is having the support of other people who get what it’s like, to be in this for the long haul. 💖

Oatmeal Raisin Bribes

A bowl of oatmeal raisin cookies with the book the recipe came from, behind it, and a red carafe containing chamomile tea

In preparation for winter, we have been making some improvements on the premises. H is working on putting in a second set of shelves in the pantry.

A corner of a laundry room with a shelves on two walls, meeting in the corner near the ceiling.  There is a front loading washer and a big metal utility sink next to it.  The shelves hold preserves, peanut butter, protein bars, paper towels, etc.
Before (there are shelves like this all the way around the room)
Same corner with a second set of shelves, approximately 12” below the original shelves.  The items listed for the previous photo have been joined by energy bars, tahini, almond butter, more preserves, dishwasher detergent, saltines, etc.  all the cleaning supplies are now adjacent to each other, and there is more space between the items
After (We have nearly doubled our storage space. Lots of room for all those canned tomatoes, preserves, chutneys, relishes, and sauces! 😃)

He also rigged up a way for me to hang the fuchsias upstairs and see if I can get them through the winter.

Interior shot of a horizontal pole suspended by chains from high exposed beams at the peak of the ceiling.  Potted fuchsias hang from the pole, bathed in sunlight from the south-facing clerestory windows.  The pots are about 6’ above the floor, making it possible to walk underneath without bonking the pots with ones’ head.

So I baked a batch of cookies to encourage him 😁

I used the recipe in this, but made them right away instead of freezing. I appreciated that it only produced 24 cookies. That’s plenty.

A close-up of the cookies

I also used less butter, half the total sugar (plus 6g molasses because I don’t have brown sugar), whole wheat flour, and home-rolled oats (from steel cut ones). Even with the reduction in sugar they are awfully sweet. If I make these again I will probably cut the sugar in half again, and only put in 50g total.

I put home-rolled oats in this week’s batch of whole wheat sourdough yesterday also and H says he likes how crunchy the crust is. So maybe that will become a regular thing…

I wonder if ROSESAREBLUE would like a post about making sourdough, starting from grinding the flour from the wheat grains? 😉

Sock Reboot Reboot

I’m new to knitting (since 2019), but I don’t think that’s an excuse for not measuring my gauge on the first aborted pair of these socks. If I had measured the gauge, I would have known that I’m getting 35.5 sts per 10 cm, and that the second sock attempt did not require 84 sts around 😳.

The soles of a pair of toe-up TAAT sox, with speckled black toe boxes.  The yarn is self-striping Debbie Bliss Botany Lace 1792

So I’m trying again, again. This time I added black reinforcement thread on the toes because the top of my big toenail is what tends to go through my socks. I guess I tap my toes against the top of my shoes a lot, or something 🤷‍♀️

The top side of the same sox in the previous photo.  The diamond slip stitch pattern is barely visible.  The stripes just look shorter than they do on the soles in the other photo.

I’m also doing a subtle slip stitch pattern on the tops of the feet – a slip every 6 sts, plain stitching alternate rows, and offsetting the slip stitch rows in a diamond pattern. This would probably be more effective if I were using two colors in a helical fashion. But it does break up the self-striping a little. I’m not sure I like it with this yarn, but it is keeping me from getting bored. (I have a short little attention span that I need to indulge or I will find myself wandering off and doing something else)

Small flattened oat flakes, made from steel cut oats.  Because the oats weren’t whole, the flakes are irregular and not big ovals.

The flake mill attachment for my mixer arrived, and now I have a way to make rolled oats from steel cut ones. It helps to rehydrate them first. When the steel cut oats run out I will start buying whole oat groats. They will keep longer, the way wheat berries do. If I want something like steel cut oats, I can always grind the groats with my flour mill set to the largest gap (which is how I do cracked wheat).

Applesauce and a Sock Reboot

Yesterday I made “Not Cowboy Cookies, Either.”

A bowl of cookies.  They are lumpy with rolled oats, coconut, chocolate chips, and walnuts

These are probably closer to what was intended, but I couldn’t resist messing with the recipe, and ended up thinking that I should have only included two of these three things: walnuts (subbed for pecans), cinnamon, bittersweet chocolate (subbed for semisweet). Also, it made too much. I don’t need that many cookies sitting around the house. H doesn’t eat them up fast enough.

I also discovered after knitting one of the heels, that the sox are too small. This is one of the disadvantages of knitting sox TAAT, especially if you don’t know what you are doing. 😳 Maybe it would be helpful to read the instructions a little better, before charging blithely ahead. 🤷‍♀️

A foot with a too-small sock on it.  The heel is almost falling off the heel, and the fabric on the instep is crazy tight

So, frogged ‘em and restarted.

One thing that we did do right was a batch of applesauce. H scored some free apples from a tree he knows (they have a close relationship, apparently), and brought them home.

A bowl of small yellow apples covered with scabs and scars
Not the most aesthetically appealing apples in the world, but they taste fantastic! (These were the most attractive ones)

We pared and baked them according to this recipe which improved the flavor, further. We didn’t have time to grind and can them that day so they went into the fridge. Today I pulled them out to finish the process.

An Ankarsrum brand mixer on its side, with the meat grinder attachment.  A tub of browned baked apples and a big wooden spoon is on the right.  The mixer and hopper and short plastic pushing rod are in the middle.  To the left of the mixer under the grinder exit is a pot, catching ground apples

We decided we wanted the pieces on the larger side and to keep the skins so we ground the apples instead of straining them.

Four jars of crushed, baked apples, ready to go into the pantry for later use

Although I otherwise love my Ankarsrum, I have yet to get its strainer attachment* to work without backing up and juice coming out of places it shouldn’t. Maybe if I had put the ground apples through it, I might have had better luck than in the past. I will save that experiment for another day.

*I didn’t actually order the strainer – the place I ordered the meat grinder from accidentally included it, and didn’t want me to bother sending it back. Maybe there is a reason for that?🤷‍♀️

A tray of various red peppers - some tiny Thai ones, a few jalapeños, small red pickling ones, and larger conical ones

It’s pretty cold and drippy and dreary today. Threatening to go down to 37 tonight, so I picked the peppers. We didn’t get very many this year.

Two small plastic tubs filled with wet mushrooms: oyster, Mukitake, and Nameko
The mushrooms are still happy, though.