Tag Archives: canning

Y is for yo-yo, yo-k?

I’m not pregnant. Again. And I’m sad about it. Yesterday was pretty rough. Today I am sad, but my friend Marie made me smile (hugely and genuinely) and my sister has a ridiculously cute new hair color that I’m in love with and my friend Kristin liked the cookies I brought her and my husband and I are taking his parents out for dinner at a (central-Wisconsin-style) fancy place in Point tonight… and overall, I have a million and one reasons to be happy. So I’m not sinking. I’m not drowning. I am dealing.

And that’s a huge step for me. A yo-yo-er.

Next illustrative story…

One afternoon this week, at work, I got prank called by an endocrinologist. He put on a fake accent, called from another physician’s office, and pretended to be someone he was not and then laughed hysterically at himself as I got my footing back underneath me when he told me who he really was. I was literally taking notes for this “new” physician who wanted my help…

It was super weird. And super funny. We both cracked up.

And then we talked for a while for seriously about the importance of perspective when considering clinical data related to false-negative rates for thyroid biopsy in the context of nodules larger than 4 cm in size.

A far cry from the former formality of all my emails that began, “Dear Dr. So and So… lots of professional words… Thank you for your time, Me Me Me, PhD.” Followed by nearly incessant joking with my office mates (I needed an outlet!).

Tuesday’s conversation with the endocrinologist? That’s moderation. Funny. Serious. Everything in between.

Final illustrative story…

The weather this week has been absolutely lovely and sunny and cool and I’ve gone for several (incident free!) jogs. During one such jog this week, I took THREE puppy petting breaks. Three.

I also stopped to take a picture of this sweet bird's nest!
I also stopped to take a picture of this super sweet bird’s nest!

It was wonderful, but not the point.

The point is that I did NOT stop my RunKeeper (it’s my app for distance and time and I love it so much– I love making it map me while I mow the lawn, back and forth and back and forth, it’s hilarious) even once during a puppy petting or photo taking break. It just ran. The clock kept ticking while my feet stopped moving and it made my time slower… and yet. The time and the distance are not the point.

This is what it looks like when I mow the lawn-- hilarious to me.
This is what it looks like when I mow the lawn– hilarious to me.

End illustrative stories… now, the point.

I have generally not tended to live my life that way. I’m usually at one end of the spectrum or the other– filled with hope or in complete and total despair. Too many jokes or too much seriousness. So much running that I crap my pants or no running at all for fear I’ll crap my pants. But this moderation thing, it’s so much better.

With respect to the big things, my mental health, my physical health, my work, these are places where yo-yo-ing from up to down, one end of the spectrum to the other, has never been good for me– yet it’s always been my default. That’s where I find moderation to be most key (key-est???), and where it’s often hardest (most hard???) to find.

Don’t get me wrong, living life on the end of yo-yo, with the ups and downs, fits and spurts, can be awesome for things like canning (pickle/tomato/apple marathon– ready go!) or sewing (it’s almost winter– time to go pick out some new fabric!!). Turning that yo-yo into a gently swaying, much more even keel, pendulum-style instrument is much more valuable in some arenas though. And I’m getting there.

Canning-- a good place to yo-yo. From left to right, top then bottom, apple butter, dill pickles, ketchup, green beans, and tomatoes. 100% of raw material provided by my in-laws!
Canning– a good place to yo-yo. From left to right, top then bottom, apple butter, dill pickles, ketchup, green beans, and tomatoes. 100% of raw material provided by my in-laws!

I’m getting there with mental health. Yes, part of it is biochemical control (better living through chemistry) and part of it is therapy (with a therapist I didn’t want to like, but do), but honestly, most of it is time and experience and patience with myself…

I’ve spent over two years trying to start a family and every month so far has ended in sadness. Sadness coupled with a headache and cramps and discomfort that all seems so unfair. Life’s not fair though. That’s not part of the terms and conditions. Life is life and it’s weird and circuitous and out of our control for the most part. And that out of control thing is key when it comes to staying off the yo-yo. I can’t be in despair when I have no control. I know that I’m doing everything that I can do, and that’s literally all that I can do (short of illegal things like stealing babies or black-mailing my sister into sending me one of hers– chimps do that, you know, I read about it in National Geographic). I can be sad. I can be hopeful. I can be both simultaneously… a little more of one or the other at times is ok, but I don’t need to go all the way over the top in either direction.

This is the chimp that stole some babies. Not a terrible idea... except a really terrible idea.
This is the chimp that stole some babies. Not a terrible idea… except a really terrible idea.

I’m also getting there professionally. I know more people, I am more comfortable with more people, I am more comfortable with myself…

At work, I was nothing but a ball of nerves for about a year or so… especially around physicians. Turns out, I was basically just being a total Dorothy to the Great and Powerful Oz– it was just a man behind a curtain. Some physicians still seem to prefer the “Dear Dr. So and So” deal, but more often, they seem to prefer when I behave like myself– sometimes silly, sometimes serious. Exclamation points and winky faces and jokes in emails, book recommendations in both directions, hugs at Cattails when I see my most favorite residents, cookies and recipes and Valentine’s day gifts. All of that with good writing, prompt service (as much as possible), and a willingness to be as helpful as I can be. I’m good at my job, and (hopefully) likable and personable at the same time.

And finally, I’m getting there with my physical health…

I’ve been a runner since I was young– maybe sixth grade. My first 5K was maybe the Belleville Strawberry Festival or the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run with my friend Kelly and co. (Where “and co.” = Emily and Danielle and Christin, most likely, but I’m fuzzy on that, so we’re going to go with and co.)

My friend Kelly sent this super old photo on one throwback Thursday. I’m in love with us as baby runners. So cute.

Since then, I’ve always always always stressed over time and distance and intensity and frequency and when I couldn’t live up to my own expectations… I stopped. Stopped entirely. Most recently, I couldn’t run my favorite distance on my favorite route without have GI issues, so I stopped. Turns out, though, if I’m careful about what I eat, run at a comfortable pace without pushing myself too hard, and make planned loops with a quick escape route to my house every three-quarters of a mile or so, I can go pretty far/pretty long… and get this: I can even enjoy it!

And here’s something really crazy: by being patient with myself and super experimental, I have even learned to enjoy many vegetables! No, not onions. But lots of other vegetables… and that’s a big deal. I don’t have to force myself to eat an iceberg lettuce-based salad drenched in ranch dressing (yuck), but I looove pretty much any green preceded by “baby” or “mixed” with some chia seeds and an Asian-style dressing.

My favorite dressing... from the 21-Day Tummy by Liz Vaccariello. I don't dig the premise (at all), but some good recipes.
My favorite dressing… from the 21-Day Tummy by Liz Vaccariello. I don’t dig the premise (at all), but some good recipes. Turns out, I’m not as opposed to rice vinegar as I am to white vinegar. Who’d have thought?

Patience and time, when it really matters. Yo-yo when it’s just for funsies. This is why, for me, I’ll take my thirties over my twenties any day. So much more time, experience, patience. It’s good.


Speaking of fun yo-yos… in sewing, yo-yos are these little dealies:



Growing up, my cousin Mary, me, my cousin Ashlee, and my sister Abby were all relatively close in age and we passed clothes, especially cute little dresses, down and down and down amongst the four of us. In their infinite wisdom, my mom and Auntie Pam kept all those little dresses thinking they’d be great for making quilts some day. My mom spent last summer making all those little dresses into yo-yos (even the velvet and corduroy ones! dang!) and then turned those yo-yos into four quilts– one for each of us.

Look at how amazing this quilt is:

Specifically, the quilt hanging on the wall. BUT, my amazing mama also made the duvet cover on the bed. And I crocheted the blanket on the end  (brag).
Specifically, the quilt hanging on the wall. BUT, my amazing mama also made the duvet cover on the bed. And I crocheted the blanket on the end (brag).

It’s so ridiculously and unbelievably beautiful and meaningful and I love it so much. My mom is incredible. This is the kind of thing that makes me continue to hope for that family– so that someday I can do something like this for my sister’s girls and their cousins, my kids. My someday babies 🙂

Beginnings, 2014 style.

Nothing like the first page of a brand new planner. I’ll always be a pen and paper girl and for me, that first week in January when you crack open the pages for the first time– heaven!

Ahhh... week 1 of 52...
Ahhh… week 1 of 52…

I love blank slates… fresh starts, do-overs, and second chances.* I also love dinosaurs. But that’s not the point.

The point is, a new year offers a fresh start. But so does a new month. A new week, a new day. Each new minute is another chance to start.

I told you like a million years ago (poetic license) that I was reading a book by Joan Chittister called Welcome to the Wisdom of the World and I mentioned that I was both excited and nervous to get to the chapter entitled “What’s Wrong with Me: Why Can’t I Change?” Excited because I thought maybe she’d have the answer for me. Nervous because maybe it would be something that I couldn’t do, couldn’t handle, whatever.

What Joan Chittister told me was incredibly simple, yet remarkably profound:

“If the question is, What is wrong with me: what can’t I change? the answer may be that I have to decide to begin. When the struggle will finally end, what the end will look like, we cannot know. We can only know that beginning to begin is the secret.”


While we aren’t given unlimited time, we always have a moment in which we can decide to begin. It’s that grace thing again. Maybe you did burn all your bridges… but you could learn to swim. You could build a boat. You could purchase water wings. You could tame a dolphin and ride him. Or you could just build another bridge, I suppose. Lots of ways to get to the other side.

Dolphin Ride

Resolutions early on in the new year are truly a dime a dozen. For that reason, you’ll hear lots and lots of naysayers– “80% of all resolutions are given up by February” and “bandwagons are bad” and all that. But a dime a dozen?! Sound like a pretty good deal to me! And bandwagons can be a lot of fun. (I imagine it to be like a hay ride– with a drum line. Sweet. Work those quads, LQ!)

I’ve got a couple ideas about what I’d like to do in 2014… not necessarily hard and fast resolutions, per se. Just some ideas:

  1. Be funnier. I’ve been a little bit serious on Under the Tapestry as of late. More jokes, more jokes!!
  2. Grow more food and/or eat more food that other people grow. This year, I’ve got to get a garden up and running so I can can some of my own stuff. (Love when two or more cans happen in a row! Can can can you do the can can?!) Also, I got a pressure canner for Christmas (oh snap, I am getting SO brave!) so that I can can stuff that’s not super acidic. Pretty pumped about that! Beans? Pumpkin puree? And I’m sure Seth wouldn’t mind more homemade ketchup (although that was a lot of work).
  3. Sew more. I was warned it would happen– fabric, half-finished projects, materials for grand ideas that never get used. I didn’t believe it would happen to me, but it did. By the end of 2014, however, I will finish my duvet cover. (omg! you guys, it’s so awesome– and more than halfway done, I can’t wait to show you!) In addition to a couple other projects I’d love to turn out sometime in the near future (I found some tweed with a touch of sparkle– it’s been begging me to make it into a super cute skirt)!
  4. Improve my home. My husband is awesome at his part of this. He’s ridiculously handy and loves learning to do even more stuff from his dad, who is even more ridiculously handy than my husband. Seth has installed new wiring, gas lines, insulation, a satellite mount, in-wall/in-ceiling surround sound speakers, and a new water softener among a million other projects both small and large. The nuts/bolts and inner workings of the house are very well taken care. The aesthetics are more my domain… I painted a couple rooms, hung some new curtains, halfway finished a duvet cover (see above), purchased the paint for another room… and then… got tired? Gave up? I don’t know what. But I need to get back on that. And stat. For that reason, I’ve joined the Apartment Therapy January Cure for some motivation, and I’m pretty excited about that! Today, I made a list of 3 – 5 things per room in my house I’d like to change. Project list– check! It’s a start, anyway!
  5. Read! For book club, of course, and anything else that sounds interesting. But I’d also like to embark on some sort of awesome book challenge. My friend Nicole pointed me to this woman’s challenge of reading a book from every country in the world. Dang. I’m amazed– she must have learned so much! I’m thinking something smaller, perhaps a little more domestic. But what? My initial thought was to read at least one book set in every state (plus one more for the UP, because I think we all know God’s country warrants at least one book of it’s own)… but I’m certainly open to any other suggestions? Also, I super want Nicole to do the challenge with me! And to blog about it! Thoughts? Anyone?

You’ve probably noticed that all of these things are things I’ve started before. I’ve told a joke (or two), canned some tomatoes, sewed most of a duvet cover, painted a couple rooms, and read many, many books. But there’s no reason I can’t begin again and I’m desperate for a ride on that 2014 bandwagon (can’t you hear the cadence?! I need to groove along with it!) so I’m deciding to begin in these 5 areas again. Because I’m allowed to do that– and so are you!

As Joan Chittister suggests, the only way to change is to decide to begin. Any day, any time.


*Unfortunately, sometimes my anal retentiveness goes a little too far and I love these fresh starts a little too much. One time (ok, several times) in high school (and yeah, maybe in college… and grad school…) (ugh, and my real life current job…) I’ve gotten so annoyed with my handwriting or a stain on something that I’ve copied it again, neater or on a fresh sheet of paper, and tossed the old one so that I could admire the new one. Pathetic? Maybe. But it just looks so nice! Plus, copying your own notes is actually a decent way to study something… it can’t really have hurt, anyway.

My sister called me homely, and I think she’s right.

A few years ago, I was at my parents’ house for the Christmas holidays, baking cookies in the kitchen and singing along to Christmas carols on their early 1990s stereo system when my sister looked at me sweetly, cocked her head like the most adorable little puppy that she is, and said:

“Oh, Rachel, you are so homely!”

Oh my goodness.  Could not.  stop.  LAUGHING!!

It would be easy to be upset, but I know my little sister and despite her brilliance (no, seriously, she is a genius chemical engineer), her vocabulary is a wee bit limited on account of her general dislike of reading when not absolutely necessary.  What she meant to say, and essentially thought she was saying, was that I was being homey.  Domestic, if you will.  Homey.  Ahhhh…  what a difference a single letter can make.  (Remind me to tell you a great joke about celibacy my dad sent me one time…)

Anyway, it’s hard for me not to think of that day, those feelings, every time I do something “homely.”  And since I’ve moved to Wisconsin, I’ve gotten homelier and homelier 😉  (And NOT just because I do most of my clothes shopping locally.  Although, I am concerned because either Penny’s clothes are getting cuter, or I’ve been here too long…)

In the past couple of years, I taught myself to sew (yay, books!  They really can teach you anything!) and to really bake, like from scratch-scratch.  (Scratch-scratch is essentially the opposite of done done.)  More recently, I’ve been doing some crazy experimenting in the kitchen, and being the scientist that I am, here is my lab notebook:

Cookbook in Progress

Love the mess, the work in progress, the chance to experiment again and again, and that unlike PCR, my life doesn’t depend on it.

Even more recently, I learned to freeze corn.  I know what you’re thinking: Seriously?  Like put corn in a freezer?  But no!  Not just that!  Like I went to the farm (lots more on that later), picked a couple rows, shucked the ears, cut the kernels off the cob, roasted it, portioned it, and froze it to eat all winter.  Like the ants.  (Please tell me you know Aesop’s fables, otherwise this is about to get confusing.)  I’ve always been more the grasshopper, waltzing my way down to the store to buy some corn in the middle of winter (or grabbing it from my mother-in-law’s always-well-stocked-with-delicious-things freezer).  But this… this was a thousand times more satisfying!  And my house smelled so good!

With this recent success under my belt, things are about to get even homelier.  I recently completed a test batch of homemade pizza sauce with tomatoes from my mother-in-law’s garden (seriously, what can’t she do?!) and it. was. AMAZING!  Best homemade pizza I have ever made.  My husband agreed through his mouth full!  Next up: learn to CAN!  (And then after that, maybe I’ll can can, but we’ll see…)  I can’t wait for the gorgeous rows of mason jars to be lined up in my basement pantry!  (I’m planning to make spaghetti sauce too, so if you’ve got extra tomatoes in your garden, you let me know and I’ll take care of them for you!)

I may be homely, but this DIY thing is so ridiculously satisfying to me.  I was a little bit bored for a minute when I finally got out of grad school and entered the real world (i.e. left academia).  What do you do with the rest of your time when you’re only working 40 hours a week?  I watched a lot of tv at first, but then that bored me too.  (Note: that is totally NOT a dig on tv, I still love it, and thanks to the magic of DVR, I still watch a considerable amount.  Especially when Lifetime, Hallmark, and ABC Family start playing holiday movies– I am such a sap!)  So I started to learn stuff, do things from scratch, and now I can’t find enough hours in the day!  I feel like every little thing I take on leads to something else and my life just keeps unfolding in new and exciting directions right before my eyes.  (Ok, freezing corn may not be what you might consider new and/or exciting, but for me, this is a big deal.)

Once upon a time, I thought that a life full of “simple” things and “mere” happiness in the absence of recognition and “success” wouldn’t be enough for me.  I stressed over every little choice and the abstract idea of the future weighed heavily on my mind.  But I love the simplicity, I love the satisfaction that comes from hard work combined with creativity, learning, and experimentation.  I love doing my own thing.  As far as I know, a scientific research writer slash blogger has never been asked to host Saturday Night Live, and I doubt that I’ll be the first (it’s not like I’m a model slash actor up for a slashie or something, le sigh…), but I’m ok with that.  I’m more than ok with that, because my definition of success has changed dramatically over the years (oh man, that’s a complicated one, worthy of it’s own series, perhaps) and I find that I really prefer going with the flow rather than constantly trying to swim upstream.  I’m a lady, not a salmon, after all.  (And maybe part dinosaur, but it’s hard to say for sure…)


DISCLAIMER: No little sisters were physically hurt in the writing of this post.  Although, she may be feeling embarrassed.  Seriously though, she’s too cute for words and doesn’t have a malicious bone in her body (nor does she know what malicious means– omg, I can’t stop!) so I know for an absolute fact that she had no idea the difference between homely and homey when she said it.  Which leads me to another funny story that is just begging to be told right now.

Once upon a time, my beautiful littler sister was honeymoon shopping with her fiance (now husband).  She was surfing the web, researching locations, doing what engaged ladies do, when she stopped short, got on her I’m concerned voice, and said to us, totally seriously:

“All these places say they’re exotic, but what if we aren’t really in to that sort of thing?!”

Because, you know, tropical flowers, beautiful sunsets, azure seas, and white sand beaches… it’s all so scandalous!  So, I had to reply, “Exotic, Shabs… not erotic.”  And then I laughed.  For years.  Literally.  Like if that scene pops into my head while I’m standing in line at the grocery store, I’m going to laugh out loud about it.  I just can’t help it.  Oh, my little sister, she’s really the best– you’d love her!  (And you will love her, because keep reading and I will make you!)