I lifted 325,719 lbs. and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!

It’s a slow day here in blogland, so I’ll use the excuse to toot my own horn a bit. Indulge me.


I’ve been going to the Y for months now and have actually (gack!) learned to enjoy exercising. I love the Y. I’d thought of joining a gym in the past, but could never get past the idea of all that spandex and lycra and all those muscleheads and really skinny blondes. Not my sort of scene. Not to mention what you have to pay to a gym for the torture of lifting weights or taking a spinning class or whatever.

I looked into the local Y (mostly for yoga classes) and found that they offered a really great discount for volunteer firemen and their families. Bingo! $31 a month and I have use of the whole place and the pools and the hot tub and whatever classes I like whenever I can manage to drag myself there.

I was really, really good about going for months: 4 or 5 times a week plus two evening yoga classes. Then the weather got nice and I found other things to do. I’m the sort of person that has to be regimented about this type of thing; any slacking off, even just a little bit, leads to a total collapse of my commitment. That’s pretty much what happened for most of June and July. I was lucky to get there twice a week.

But the Y is smart. If you’ll allow it, they’ll send you congratulatory emails when you’re making progress or nastygrams when you’re slacking off. I’d been getting these nice emails telling me that I’d lifted the equivalent of 5 African Elephants in the past month and burned enough calories to eat 3 ice-cream sundaes. Then I got a couple of those nastygrams that intimated that I’d not been trying very hard and that left me feeling like a lazy bum. So I started going again, every day, and now I’m feeling really great about being committed to it again. Plus, physically, I feel so much better! There were those days, in my first week back, that every muscle in me ached, but that only lasts so long.

That sort of inclusiveness, regardless of your level of fitness or commitment, is part of what I love so much about the place. There’s senior citizens there and a musclehead or two, plus that awful grunting guy I’d mentioned before, and ordinary people like me just trying to be healthier, one stomach crunch at a time. Plus, they send nice emails when you’re trying hard, with animated balloons and stuff. Today I’d finally lifted enough weights and spent enough hours there to earn a t-shirt as an incentive to keep going. A silly thing, really, but you shouldn’t lift the equivalent of 38 elephants without someone noticing.

(Plus I’ve finally got muscles enough to open my own pickle jars!)


Image from National Geographic

How to bliss-out a bunny

I had planned a photo session this afternoon with Freckles the bunny so I could do a post about her turning 7 years old this month, but in the midst of trimming her nails and brushing her coat out, this happened and these photos are way cuter than any I took in the back yard.

Freckles has always been a very laid-back bunny and at 7 she is even more so. Nothing bothers her, nothing freaks her out and that probably explains why she’s always been so healthy. (Knock wood!) Bunnies are prone to stress, of course, and that stress leads to all sorts of health problems.

Anyway… trimming her nails is easy; I just roll her into an almost ball on my lap, facing away from me, and trim away.

After the nail trimming was done, I turned her around in my lap to face me and worked the magic of the bunny whisperer. This mostly consists of rubbing the fur on her belly.

As she relaxes, I gently run my hand over her face and draw her ears behind her. This really, really relaxes her and I don’t have to hold her at all.

Her front paws go up in the air with her back legs in a perfect imitation of a dead bunny. She’ll stay like this forever too, so long as I stroke her face every now and again.

Freckles also likes to sleep this way sometimes, causing untold numbers of near heart-attacks in those not familiar with the *dead-lop-flop*.

Rabbit experts will tell you that there is no magic in this gentling of a bunny. We call it *trancing* and it’s probably based on an instinctual response to being grabbed by a predator. Some people use this trick to trim nails or give meds, but I don’t trust it enough because the bunny can wake up in a flash and twist off your lap and hurt itself. Freckles is the only bunny here I’m able to trance, even though I never need to.

What about your buns? Can you hypnotize them – do you need to?

Pausing (tern)

Most of the weekend was spent within view of the ocean, on various benches along the boardwalk. That’s a pretty nice way to watch the world go by, I think.

Anyway… I noticed that some of the Laughing Gulls seem to be pulling back their summertime black hoods in favor of a more undistinguished (or is it indistinguishable?) look. The terns still look the same, though I could imagine this one suddenly remembering an appointment someplace to the south.

There were small flocks of peeps feeding back of the jetty and flying, fragile bits of silver and pale russet, among the beachgoers. Telling one from another is impossible, because even among the normally *easy peeps* like sanderling and semi-palms, no two in a dozen look the same at this time of year. They’re all a scraggly mix of winter gray and spring red. Shorebirds just escape my abilities!

Migratory restlessness

There is always something to savor at Cape May… any day, in any weather, at any season… something is always making its way through the skies overhead.

The time that holds the greatest interest for me is from late August until the middle of November: the fabled fall migration period. The variety of habitats: ocean and bay, salt marsh, freshwater ponds, dark swamps, woodlands and upland fields all attract a diverse array of migrants… hordes of butterflies and dragonflies, hawks and falcons, shorebirds, songbirds, bats, seabirds, owls – you name it!

Conveniently, the New Jersey Audubon Society throws out the welcome mat at one of the best times to experience migration at Cape May for its Autumn Weekend this year on October 24, 25, and 26.

Some of The Flock are getting restless and making preliminary plans to attend. Susan and KatDoc are driving from Ohio (and will hopefully avoid a stop in Camden), Lynne, I think, will cash in the ticket she bought last year and fly all the way from Minnesota (Yay!).

Other Flock members are saving their pennies for New River in April, but maybe they can be convinced otherwise. Mary, Delia, Susan, Nina, Ruthie, Jayne (can that be? Really, you’re gonna come?) – why not join us in Cape May, too? That farmhouse in W. Va. is gonna be pretty crowded and loud I think!

I’m also thinking maybe we should harass Larry into making the trip or Dave (hey – Alaska’s not that far and we could all get to meet Ghost!). Maybe Bobbie could join us for lunch and what about Heather in Pa.? The more the merrier!


I’ll sneak away there at least once before October – for the Monarchs that breeze past the lighthouse or the falcons that scream down along the dunes. I just can’t resist… there’s something in the air.

Parlor tricks

Labs are nothing if not trainable…

Luka knows to sit, stay, wait, speak and shake hands on command. He can also do all those things with just a hand signal. He goes to his crate when we tell him to and will mostly stay there of his own accord. Down, off, leave it and drop it are things we’re still working at.


Let’s face it though; these tricks are limited in their usefulness. It’s nice at dinnertime to be able to send him to his crate so he’s at least begging from a few feet away, nice when visitors come so he’ll be calm and not underfoot, helpful when I’m vacuuming so he’s not able to wrestle the hose out of my hand.

On walks, he knows to sit and wait at intersections before I tell him it’s okay to cross with me. He sits and waits to let me go out or come in the door before him. He sits and waits for his dinner. Good manners, I think, are important. Luka and I went to 16+ weeks of obedience school to learn the basics that I’ve since applied to our daily lives around here so that we can live together fairly nicely.

My husband teaches him parlor tricks.

We remove his collar whenever he goes into his crate for safety reasons. The DH taught him to retrieve the collar from the dining room table when he’s let out of the crate for his mid-afternoon walk. He reaches up, mostly without putting his feet on the table, grabs the collar and then carries it to the back door to sit and wait to go out.

Very convenient, right?

Only… he does it all the time now, whenever he wants attention. For example, this morning I was up late for work, had just stepped out of the shower and was sitting on the bed in a towel… and there he was in the bedroom doorway with that damn collar in his mouth, wagging his tail at me!

Pick up the phone and there he is with it, suddenly wanting to go out. Have your hands in a sink full of dishes? Luka’s rattling his collar at your feet.

He also likes to prance around with it and not give it up when you’re finally dressed enough to take him out. A great game when you’re already late for work, don’tcha know?


Silly dog!

(Silly DH for teaching him that trick.)

Sailing weather

Autumn comes at night, I think. It creeps in on soft footsteps in the darkness after days of thunderstorms and billowy clouds. Its telltale creaks on the stairway are the katydids, rasping at the edges of the night and shaping the season from August to September, to Autumn.

Autumn is my favorite time of year and I’m happy for the hint of it the last couple nights have brought. The air is almost crisp and there’s a tinge of ripening apples drifting in the open windows; the stale humid air of summer is a memory on nights like these. It makes me want to head out the door after midnight, down the road and to the beach, to feel the cool sand underfoot and to look at the moon and the stars and the sea with its ever-changing moods.

During daylight hours, it’s still high summer. Wet shells shine in the noon sun and the air smells of coconut oil; the slap of flip-flops is the soundtrack, the atmosphere like an amusement park. Nights though, and Autumn, bring relief. Relief from all that energy and heat and all these people. The beach can be mine again.

Cropped out of this pic is the ice and snow that decorated the bay on the January day it was taken. Also cropped out is any sense of scale; this is a remote-controlled toy sailboat. I watched a bunch of *grown-up* men playing with them in the midst of a snow squall… proof that many of us are so enamored with the coast and its many pleasant pastimes that seasons or weather can hardly keep us away; we pretend our way through the meantime.

Are we hot yet?

Who in their right mind makes chili in the middle of summer?



I’ve been looking for an excuse to make this recipe for a while, but it didn’t turn up until today. The peppers were cheap at the market and there’s still those sweet onions I plucked from the dirt a couple weeks ago, so all I really needed to buy was some chicken to roast and shredded cheese to drown everything in.

Why, BTW, is chicken so expensive? $13.00 for 4 split breasts… jeez. Good thing I don’t eat meat very often; I could hardly afford it.

Anyway… this chili is nice; not a traditional spicy chili, but something lighter and sweeter. I added some kidney beans and served it with rice… and had an avocado on the side. Delicious.

I like hot stuff, but traditional chili can easily end up tasting like dirt if you’re not careful with the spices. I usually make something like Cincinnati-style chili, sweetened with cinnamon and served over spaghetti. That’s probably my favorite way to have it. Susan keeps promising me an authentic recipe. Hint, hint!

While I’ve sort of veered away the last two weeks from the intent of Vicki’s Saturday Shopping Challenge, a good by-product is that I’m paying a bit more attention to what I spend and I’m actually spending some time in the kitchen on weekends. Generally, I’d rather do anything besides cook!

So… what was on the menu for you tonight?