Where Do I Start?

To borrow the language from some of my favorite cooking shows, this vacation had a lot of different components to it, which added to the complexity and the “flavor” of the experience!

Who flies across the country to spend three days with a person they’ve never met?  Only a blogger, I think!  Of course, I ‘knew’ Sharon from reading her blog for the past two years, and I felt that we would get along well, and I was right!  Sharon was such a gracious hostess.  She has written all about our time together, so I will not elaborate here, except to say THANK YOU once again to Sharon for her time and generosity.  Sharon and I developed a really fabulous muffin recipe that I will share in a separate blog.

Here’s a picturama of our hike in the Smokey Mountains!

Everything is so green in Tennessee–I love it!  Kind of a young green, if you know what I mean.

We saw this deer in the middle of the stream, which seemed so unusual.  Later, when she moved, we could see that she looked pregnant?  Hormones, maybe?

These little log bridges were a bit scary!

I have a bit of an obsession with stumps.  Isn’t this beautiful, though?

And we made it to the waterfall!!

I loved that you could get right up next to the waterfall!

And photographic proof that we were there!  You know, I think these national parks underestimate their mileage by quite a bit.  It sure seemed a lot longer than 5 miles round trip to me!  But worth every single step.

Next, Sharon and I drove to Nashville to spend the day with Cammy.  What fun!  (and why is everyone TALLER and THINNER in person than I thought they were?)  Hey, nobody says to me “You’re taller and thinner than I thought you were LOL.”  I guess nobody imagined that I was 4′ 8″ and 110 pounds?  Anyway, we had another great day, and Cammy wrote all about it here, so I won’t try to improve on her report.

We went to the Opryland Hotel, which was a mammoth place, and included INDOOR waterfalls!

And gorgeous flower plantings.

It would have been just plain weird if Cammy and I had met and frozen yogurt was NOT included.  This was CiCi’s, and it was really delicious.  And much more decorated than most of the froyo places I’ve been!

I had a day to recuperate from all the festivities, and then an old friend from my spinning and knitting days drove up to meet me in Nashville.  The last time we saw each other was in 2003, when we had the great experience of co-teaching (actually I was assisting her) at a national spinner’s conference.  It was like no time had passed at all, and we had so much fun talking dogs and knitting and life.  We went to a gorgeous yarn shop, and I spent too much money, and then we went to a big mall and sat in the courtyard and knitted and talked some more.  What a great day.

And then the quilt show tour began.

If you can stand it, come back for more tomorrow!  I know I included a ton of photos, but I came home with 400 pictures on my camera, so consider yourselves lucky LOL.

What to do, what to do

Already I am quite bored by my limitations.  Like a spoiled child, wanting to do the one thing they aren’t allowed to do.  I’m just so used to having handwork to do while I am watching movies/tv shows/talking on the phone, etc.  In one way I am quite thrilled with how much easier this is than I thought.  The fact that I can type with both hands is a huge plus.  I haven’t had much pain after the first night.

But I can’t use scissors, or a rotary cutter, or write, or “hold anything more than a box of tissues” (official instructions.)  My hands are just itching to hold a needle and put it through a piece of fabric.

In the meantime, I am trying a few other things.  Marianne encouraged me to draw with my right hand.  Here is my pitiful first attempt.  This actually took a long time, and by the end I had developed a lot more control with my hand.

This also made me realize I needed a LOT more colors to choose from, so am contemplating ordering the “big box” of colored pencils (which is a lot more expensive than the big box of colored crayons we all used to love…)

I watched a marathon of Master Chef competition shows yesterday.  Probably not the best choice for someone trying to watch their weight.  On the other hand, they are always eating dinky portions of the food, which gave me the idea to just have two of the grilled chicken and mozzarella ravioli with a salad.  That was very satisfying actually.  They were topped with just a bit of the pesto sauce I made last week.  That stuff is good.  I googled low calorie pesto sauce and found quite  a few options, but this one had tomato in it, and that sounded really good to me.  Its 100 calories for 1/4 cup, but I usually have only used 2 Tbsp because its flavor is so strong.

So.  I also need to find some exercise to do.  Getting dressed is a wee bit of a problem.  But I think I will attempt it today.  Because as much as I have complained about it being hot and dusty, I am missing our evening walks.  And I think I will dust off the weights and do some one handed exercises, as well as some of the leg exercises Vicky taught me.  And if I can get dressed properly and drive safely, I think I will go to the gym for some of their yoga classes next week.

In the meantime, I am working on my little kit of double wedding ring blocks.

(need to put the bead tray away)

I love these little prints.

I am missing my creativity in cooking.  But at this point I have a LOT of food already cooked, so will be content with what’s at hand.  I think I’ll be able to do quite a bit more in a week or so.

In the meantime, I will probably continue with the Master Chef marathon.  I am inspired by the creative ways they work with what they’ve been given.  Its quite similar to how we all have learned to use healthier, lower calorie foods in different creative ways.

I’ll leave you with some of the inspirational photos I keep in a folder on my computer.

Hope you all are having a great holiday weekend!

Home Again, Home Again

Oh its good to be home again.  Except for the unpacking, the washing, the doggie smell to deal with, the dust.  Oh my, the dust.  Yes it is very dusty here in sunny California.  No misty mornings to keep everything looking nice and clean.

Well, you know I want to talk about the food.  I rented a little cottage for the five days I would be on Whidbey Island, so I could cook a bit and fix my own  breakfasts and lunches.  Plus, I love being able to spread out, even if it is only me.  I know I’ve talked about this before, but if you are interested, just google ‘vacation rentals.’   Many times the vacation rental is very closely priced to a hotel room.  I stayed at Cozy Harbor Cottage, and it was just as advertised. (Ha!  I googled cozy harbor cottage, and came up with a little place on the coast of Maine.  That just might be my next destination!)

Here’s the sign they had on the living room wall.  It proved to be an accurate prediction.

But let me backtrack just a wee bit.  I am pretty organized when I travel now, and there are two things I do consistently.  I try to take some of ‘my’ food with me.  And I google maps and directions for everywhere I am going to go.  Since I was flying this time, there was a limit to the food I could take.  But I decided I could take most of the fixin’s for my Spackle 2.0.  That stuff is a nice treat, and it definitely holds me from breakfast to lunch, which I figured might be important while I had my art quilting lessons each day.  So I packed a container of the oat bran/flaxseed meal combo, whipped up some walnut butter (figured it could be unrefrigerated for 24 hours,) and packed some walnuts and chocolate chips.  I also took a few ‘energy bars,’ which I don’t routinely use any more, but they are pretty good for traveling, and maybe a little better than a candy bar.  So using all my mapquests and directions, I found my way from the Seattle Airport to Whidbey Island, and I even took a side trip to a quilt shop (imagine that!)  The only wrong direction I took landed me right at the grocery store that Marianne had recommended, so I stocked up on food before I even got to the cottage!  Fruits and veggies, cottage cheese and yogurt, some honey and granola, and a couple of steaks as a treat for dinners.

I met Marianne for coffee shortly after arriving.  We had been corresponding by email for almost a year, and had only spoken on the phone once, but it was almost like meeting an old friend, similar to how it is when bloggers meet up.  [For those of you who have not been following along, Marianne is a quilt artist whose work I noticed in a magazine, and after corresponding for a while, I asked her if she would be willing to give me some private lessons.  So that is what this trip was all about.]

Okay, don’t worry, I am not going to give you a blow by blow of every second of my trip.  I did want to include the stuff about food to show that it is possible to travel and eat real food.  (BTW, finally saw that Oprah episode with Michael Pollan, where he ends with his famous statement “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”)

I LOVED Whidbey Island.  It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books, “Anne of Green Gables,”  which was about farm life on an island.

Here’s a scene along the shore early in the morning.  That dot of a bird was a very large heron, who was there every morning as I went by.

The town of Coupeville was very small, and quite charming.  Here’s a picture of some of the typical flowers in these Washington towns.  I thought Lori might like to see them.

Every day at lunch I took a walk.  Here’s just one of the scenes I saw.

Marianne had a beautiful perennial garden that was home to a LOT of beautiful birds, and also a mother deer with two fawns!  Isn’t this a lovely treatment–the way the tree is pruned makes a perfect frame of the bay beyond.

Another day I walked from Marianne’s house into a forest!

One day, after my lessons were over, I headed up to Deception Pass State Park, up at the top edge of Whidbey Island.  It was quite beautiful and wild.

 

I decided to take  a hike up to Gooseneck Point, which they SAID was only 1.2 miles.  Ha!  Of course, being a “Point” it was straight uphill the whole way to the top.  And when you don’t know where you’re going, did you ever notice it seems a lot farther?  halfway up they nicely provided this bench for us old folks.  Ha!  I didn’t need that.

Why, when you photograph a hill, does it never look as steep as it is in real life?

Here’s a little doodle I did at Marianne’s. The gold is a resist glue so you can paint on silk and the colors will remain separate.

 

 

 

 

And here are a few more views from my last lunchtime walk.

 

And with that, I left Whidbey Island for the next leg of my trip.  These ferries are quite common over there.  It sure is a different way of traveling–just drive your car onto the ferry.  I kept thinking I had to organize my stuff, but no, I could just leave it spread out in the car!

And a little teaser for those of you who might want to look at millions of garden/flower pictures–I went to Buchart Gardens, and I think I only took 300 pictures LOL.

Here is the little doodle after I painted it.  I have started stitching on it.  It will be a nice memento of my time with Marianne.  Marianne is a true artist, and was so generous in sharing her knowledge with me.  My brain is kind of overloaded with inspiration right now.  I’m sure it will all come out eventually.

Back home, I stopped last night for a few staples at Walmart.  I even made my first batch of homemade yogurt last night, and let it set all night–first time I have done that.  It came out great!  This morning, before picking up Noah, I went to the grocery store and got a BUNCH of great looking vegetables.  I’m back in business!

Lotsa Pictures. and Not Much More.

I had some interesting blog thoughts this morning, but they are gone.  I’m just going to share some of today’s pictures and call it a day.

The other day when I was working in the garden, I did some serious pruning.  I took a whole branch off of one of my japanese maples.  It was painful to remove that much of the tree, but in the long run it will make it a more balanced tree.  I brought the branch in to enjoy it for a few more days.

I went outside to take a picture of the leaves on this Japanese maple.  It is called ‘Full Moon.’  Its a beautiful tree.  I love the unusual shape of the leaves.

“Aster’s Last Stand.”

Actually all six of the little asters look like they are going to make it.  They seem to have lost their fascination for Sophie and Noah.

Inside, Monk waited, hopeful that I would share the chair with him.

This is where I sit most mornings, and journal, read, and pray.  Isn’t this a pretty journal?  I love the bow that my friend put on it.

I do not share my chair in the morning.  Sophie and Monk seem to finally have resigned themselves to this fact.  This morning they  were especially cute as they slept together on the ottoman (right in front of THE CHAIR.)

Close up of Mr. Monk for his Number One Fan (Pubsgal’s Thing 2)

Here are some of the projects I’ve been working on.  This is part of the very large quilt I  have been working on consistently.  Its very bright.  I love the colors, but they don’t seem so restful to me.  Maybe more restful for a teenage girl?

You can see the quilting better in this square.  I used a variegated thread that had blue in it.

Here is a partial picture of the whole quilt top.

Here is a little quilt that I uncovered when I cleaned off the back of my quilting table.  I had absolutely no remembrance of making this.

These are just some squares I put together the other day.  You might recall I have a LOT of pre-cut strips and squares that I play with sometimes.  I actually don’t like these as-is.  I am staring at them on the design wall, trying to think what I want to do to change them up a bit.

 

Noah has been particularly quiet the past few days, giving me plenty of opportunity for photos.

Doesn’t he have the most beautiful eyes?

 

SOMEONE thought I was taking pictures of the wrong dog…

Have a great weekend.  I am heading out of town for a few days.  There may be a bit of stress involved.  I have a few things in mind  (besides eating) to calm myself.  Just being more aware is helpful, I think.

The Way It Is Around Here

Exactly how many pictures can one take of a sleeping pug, anyway?  Apparently there is no end to the sleeping-pug-photography.  Heaven knows there is unlimited opportunity for this kind of photo around here.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love the big guy?  Yesterday I made a stab at trying to clear my little courtyard of sticks and his old doggie bed.  This morning I peered out the window to find he had dragged  his new doggie bed out of the dog room to his favorite place to keep watch. The Dog Whisperer has been saying lately ‘You are not always given the dog that you want, but you ARE given the dog that you need.’  My dad used to say something to that effect to me about Noah during the ‘troublesome years’ (oh, were they only months?)

Today was another stellar ‘vacation’ day.  I took a walk with Noah this morning, and brought my camera to capture this field of yellow wildflowers.

Tried to snap a close-up but I had the wrong setting on my camera.  Still, can you see that some of the flowers are single and some are double.  Interesting to see such variety in wildflowers.

It was already warm when we headed out, so I was ready for something light and refreshing when we returned home.  Made this canteloupe smoothie with just some frozen canteloupe chunks and some of that yogurt whey from the other day.  Just a bit of cinnamon and splenda to round it out.  VERY refreshing.

I don’t know if its a fluke or not, but it seems we’ve entered a new era around here.  Noah is staying inside the house without a leash, and for the first time, he spent a good part of the day outside without his bark collar on!!!  And, for the second day in  a row, I went out and sat in my chair and enjoyed the warm breeze without all the dogs going nuts.  So peaceful.  I ran inside to get my camera to take a picture, and SOMEONE was keeping my seat warm for me.

I wanted to try to get a picture  of these coral bells contrasting with the pale Japanese maple leaves behind it.  Not quite what I was looking for, but here’s what I got.

ppp

That is the end of our picture show for the day.  But I still have stuff to talk about.  I have to admit to buying a box of Fiber One bars.  I LOVE those things, even though they cause certain gastrointestinal disturbances.  To say nothing of the fact that they are COMPLETE junk food.  I make myself look at the label each time I eat one.  So today I made a batch of Katie’s Raw Cookie Dough Balls (just walnuts and dates with a few chocolate chips thrown it.)  I think they are just as good, and definitely much more nutritious.

Continuing on my vegetarian way, I am going to have some sauteed veggies with marinara sauce for dinner tonight.  And if I’m energetic, I might sautee some brussel sprouts too.  I’m not sure why I’m so veggie oriented right now, but I’m gonna go with it.

I made the beginnings of Katie’s Voluminous Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert tonight.  Only 40 calories, can’t beat that.  I’ll probably have some strawberries on top.

I ran across this quote in Debra‘s blog on the first day I came home from my trip.  I love it.

People should live joyfully most of the time, eat healthfully most of the time, exercise most days, then treasure the body that happens, regardless of its BMI category.

As always, Debra’s articles are thought provoking.  One of her main points in this article is that it is extremely difficult and requires a lot of vigilance and just plain hard work to maintain a large weight loss.  All I can say to that is amen, sister.

And lastly, while chatting with my BIF Jill, I realized that two weeks from today would be my FIRST DAY OF RETIREMENT.  Can you believe it?  I can’t!  I don’t think I’ll really realize it for a few months.

Oops, Belated Bloggiversary Greetings!

How bout that?  Can you believe I’ve been doing this silly blogging for three years now?   This seems like the best time to share the funniest quote about blogging that I’ve ever heard–

Never in the history of the world have so many people had so much to say to so few about so little.

Come on.  You can’t be offended.  That is just plain funny.

Of course my first thought when I heard the morning radio dj’s say that was, “harumph,  you guys just don’t understand blogging.  And its not like you have such great words of wisdom to offer at 6am in the morning either.”

But it made me laugh, and it was funny enough that I memorized it LOL.

Oh, back to MY bloggiversary.  Which is, I know, of immense interest to so few  the masses.  Here’s a link to my very first post.  And lookie there–who was my only commenter?  That’s right, its BIF, good blogbuddy Jill!  Through thick and thin (harhar) Jill and I have stayed friends.  Jill recently encouraged me when I said to her in an email “darn it, I’m sick of the struggle” (referring to the never-ending battle to make good food choices and try to lose a little weight.)  Jill emailed back,   I’m tired of the struggle too, but giving up is not an option. We just have to keep forging ahead. I mean really, we are the Navy Seals of weight loss – we will not give up!! :) ”  Which totally put a smile on my face for the day.  I think it was a week later that I realized it was a reference to the current events of the day.  I think I flunked current events in the sixth grade…

Honestly, I’m having trouble stringing together coherent thoughts into a good blog post.  So I’ll just a share a few incoherent thoughts and be done with it.

I’m pretty sure you’re looking at this first picture and thinking, Man, Debby’s really lost it.  Taking an unattractive picture of an old plastic grocery sack?  Well, this was my food bag for today’s excursion. And I wanted to share exactly how easy it is to take your own healthy food with you for the day.  No fancy equipment needed, even when your food requires refrigeration.  I just take one of those blue ice thingies, plop it in the plastic bag, and then put my plastic container of yogurt and fruit on top of it.  Also in the bag was a small baggy of granola to add to the fruit and yogurt, and another small baggy of nuts for my afternoon snack.  And a plastic spoon.  No excuses people.

Last night’s dinner.  An absolutely delicious combination.  There’s half a skinless chicken breast under there, smothered in sauteed onions and mushrooms, with just a bit of melted cheddar cheese on top.

Katie to the rescue!  I’ve really enjoyed trying some of the new desserts from Katie’s site.  Her recipes are usually very healthy, and many are sweetened using only natural ingredients (dates and bananas.)  They aren’t always low calorie, but they are VERY tasty and satisfying.  And I especially like that they are usually small recipes.  I recently tried her ‘Single Lady Cupcake,’ the strawberry shortcake version.  THAT was heavenly.  And no leftovers in the freezer to keep obsessing over.  I want to try her Snickerdoodle Blondies next.  They are her version of the black bean brownies, only she uses garbanzo beans.  Very clever, Katie!

Something that I have been glad to have in the freezer?  Those Magic Rolls, courtesy of Lori!  Absolutely delicious as a little afternoon snack.  I plan to have one for my ‘dessert’ later tonight.

My Left Thumb.  After almost ruining my hands by knitting too many hats (I got carpal tunnel syndrome,) now it seems I have a ‘trigger thumb,’ probably caused by repetitive grasping/pinching actions (aka hand piecing, hand quilting, etc.)  Come on, darn it!  Give me a break here.  For now I have put away all my hand piecing/quilting/embroidering, until I go to the doctor on Thursday.  The internet says you need to rest it 4-6 weeks.  I have rug hooking camp in three weeks…

Don’t I live in a beautiful area?  I try to appreciate where I live instead of just looking down at the ground I’m walking on.  This old tree intrigues me.  It looks like its had a rough life.  But it still wants to live.

Well, that’s about it for now.  I fluctuate between ‘life as usual’ and being indescribably sad.  Fortunately for me, the periods of indescribably sad are short-lived.  More often I feel like I have a hangover.  Oh, maybe that would help–drinking that giant jug of brandy I have sitting on the counter left over from making my mom’s fruitcake…

I’ll end with one of my all time favorite pictures, from my third blog entry about Other Worlds.

Hope you all have a peaceful and restful Sunday!

Miracles and Other Stuff

Diane wrote a very good post about that ‘Magic Moment,’ referring to the moment that actually started her on her successful weight loss journey.  Other people call it an ‘aha moment.’  I thought  back to when I started this whole weight loss thing.  It never seemed like it was one moment.  It was more of a process.  I think of it as a miracle.  I emailed APJ (accountability partner Jill) and asked her if she thought this was going to be our magic moment.

I grabbed Noah and headed out the door for a nice long walk.  I have so many brilliant bloggy thoughts on my walks.  I should take a tape recorder with me.  What?  They don’t make tape recorders anymore???  Anyway, by the time I get around to writing something, my thoughts have disintegrated a little bit.  And then I go back and read some of my old blog entries, trying to find a reference to something or other, and I see that I was thinking/writing/doing the same old thing TWO YEARS AGO.  And I get all embarrassed and decide never to write another blog.

Well, in essence, what I was thinking about was the decision/effort/goal to re-lose the 19 pounds.  Wondering if this time it was going to ‘take.’  Thinking about all the factors that go into that.  And, thinking about the ‘unknown’ factors about our bodies.  And there are some things that are unknown about our bodies.  You just might as well accept that as fact.  Yesterday at work I sat in on a family conference, similar to many of these family conferences I have sat in on over the years.  They are always heartbreaking.  In fact, the first one I ever sat in, I thought to myself, now I know what it means to have a broken heart.  And I am not even the parent.  Parent People, you better be darn thankful for your perfectly formed children .  Oops, got a little off track there.  The point I wanted to make was this:   in these conferences they will go through the various body systems of the baby, talk about the things that aren’t working, what we have done to try to fix them, and the doctor will say over and over in reference to various problems we don’t know. And that is at a university teaching hospital with some of the most brilliant doctors in the world working together as a team.  Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I’m not saying all that as an excuse to fail.  In fact, I’m still feeling very positive about the whole thing.  Hee hee.  Got four whole days under my belt.  What am I doing differently?  I think mostly I’m trying to stretch out the time between meals until I actually feel hungry.  Still eating great food, but not eating for the pure joy of eating.  Thinking twice before I reach for a little snack of this or that.  Except the baby carrots.  I am allowing myself to crunch on those.  Still chewing my food quite a bit.

I took a lot of pictures on our walk today.  Some big and some little miracles.  Some just ‘other stuff.’  First thing I noticed was the beautiful blue sky.  Wonderful to see after almost two weeks of nonstop clouds and rain.

Next thing I heard was some VERY happy froggies.  I looked over, and there was a pond where there used to be just a hollowed out area.  This is never a pond.  How do those frogs find it??  Its  a miracle, I tell you!

Here’s the little stream by our mail boxes.

This is NOT a miracle.  Does anybody know what poison oak looks like?  Is this it?  It grows on the path to ‘my’ little waterfall.  I’m not allergic to poison oak, but I don’t want to test it either.

This is the first time I’ve ventured down to the waterfall since all of our rain.  It was quite wonderful.  I was on the watchout for hobos, bears, and those vicious banana slugs.

Isn’t it pretty?

Walked down a steep hill so I could get a different shot:

Wanted to get a more complete picture of the waterfall and stream, but the darn trees were in the way.

Then I thought about what nature photographers must go through to get just the right shot, and I took a chance.  Put one foot on one of these mossy rocks, the other foot on the other rock, and held onto that little tree trunk (and Noah,)

and got a much better shot!

Oh, this is my favorite shot of the day.  I noticed these little succulent type of plants growing out of this rock wall on the way home.  Isn’t that a little miracle, that plants can grow out of a rock wall?  Love the textures and colors in this picture.

Here’s a picture of the rock wall:

Oh, I saw this on my way home and it cracked me up.  Could be its been there forever, and I haven’t noticed.  Years ago I had a girl at work make me some rabbit signs pointing the way to my house (the ears point the way.)  (Did you all know that I raised angora rabbits for a while?)  Anyway, whether the sign says NO HUNTING RABBITS, or NO HUNTING  SCHNABELS, I agree with its sentiments LOL.

Ohhhh, lookie what time of year it is!

I got a gander of the stick dance that the trainer described:

And then Mom said that was enough of that.

These daffodils STANDING has to be considered a miracle.  This is the same pot I showed in this post.  They got hit by even more snow and rain after that picture was taken.

Gonna sign off.  And make myself a bowl of the apple blackberry sour cream pie in a bowl. Habanada!

Kawangware

So, at 7pm London time, we boarded our final eight hour flight for Kenya.  If you’re keeping track, that is 38 hours total travel time, and two nights sleep in those wonderful airline seats.  (On the trip from Chicago to London our seats were upgraded to economy plus, which gave you extra leg space, and that was extremely wonderful, even for a short person like me!)  I have to say that the whole travel thing went extraordinarily smoothly.  Every single flight was on time, or even a little early.  There was never any prolonged time sitting in the plane waiting to take off. And our tour leader was extremely proficient at moving 17 people through all the different check in points–that was very comforting to not have to worry about any of that.  Security in some places was pretty lax, while in others they were extremely thorough.  I never had to be searched, though, thank goodness.  Someone had told me to not wear loose clothing.  So I had a comfortable outfit that was fitted–black cords and a black cotton turtleneck sweater, along with my fuzzy white jacket and a black and white silk scarf that I had woven years ago.  It was the perfect traveling outfit, I have to say.  I take dramamine for motion sickness when I fly, and even though it is labeled ‘less drowsy formula,’ I cannot stay awake on a plane!  Another plus on a long trip!

Eight and a half hours later we arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, at 8:30 in the morning.  During our orientation, our leader had explained that the Kenyan people are extremely relational, and time is not extremely important to them.  Just as he described, we were greeted by about 8 (extremely good looking) young men, and every single one of them greeted every single one of us with a handshake and a smile, and exchanging names.  Doing the multiplication, that is about 136 handshakes!

In general, the Kenyan people are very beautiful.  I saw so many young men and women that I thought “they could be models” if someone ‘discovered’ them.  I was particularly impressed with their beautiful teeth and smiles.  The woman (from the couple that was my age) was a microbiologist, and she explained that for tooth decay you need bacteria AND sugar.  They eat very little sugar.  Which was a good thing for me!

Let me backtrack here and explain again about the organization that I traveled with.  Their name is Vapor Sports Ministries, and their goal is to provide humanitarian aid and sustainable life change, alongside sports and teaching people what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  Like I have said several times, I am not much interested in sports.  But I decided to support this group because it seemed more personal to send money to a smaller organization, to people that I actually knew and trusted.  I know that there are many other organizations that are doing the same thing, and doing it well.  Actually, that was one of my takeaway thoughts–the enormity of the problem of extreme poverty in this world.  You could allow it to paralyze you into apathy or inactivity.  But we can’t allow that to happen.

In the orientation, they talked about how traditional ‘missions trips’ are not actually helpful.  To just swoop in and paint a building or hand out some food and clothing does not solve the problem.  So one of their goals is to empower the local people to use their resources(!) and to build leadership from within.  This was really one of the great things that I saw.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Back to the airport.  We were all tired, of course, but the goal was to keep us up, so we would get on Kenyan time and be able to sleep that night.  So we got all loaded up–17 people and 34 giant bags–that’s a lot of loading up!  Each person took one large bag for themselves, and one large bag loaded with sports equipment for the soccer teams there.

Driving through Nairobi I was struck with the, well, with how dirty and unfinished everything was.  I’m not talking about the slums.  Just in general they do not have the resources or money or whatever it is that we have to ‘make things nice.’  And then, how there was nice housing like right next door to slums.

I’ll try to describe the road to the guesthouse that we stayed at.  So you turn off the main road (OMGOSH, I’ll have to talk about the traffic and the driving later.  I just chose to trust that our drivers were extremely skilled and competent…) and on the corner there was a very large, very nice brick catholic church.  But the road in front of it was just a rutted dirt and rock road leading straight into a slum area.  The slum areas all had multiple little shacks that were businesses of various sorts–food for sale, shoe repair, hair ‘salons’, which seemed to consist of a chair out front with a woman braiding her customer’s hair, etc.  Multiple goats and chickens running around, and tons of darling little kids waving and saying “howareyou howareyou howareyou?” in singsong voices.  The driver explained that that is the first thing they learn in school and are waiting for us to say “fine.”  So we continue down this rutted dirt road, past more goats and chickens and kids, make a couple of sharp turns, and come to this guest house, kind of like a little apartment house (which I imagine is similar to what we would find in America in ‘the projects’ or such.  VERY basic facilities.  There was a shower, no stall.  You had to turn the hot water heater on each time you wanted to take a shower, and the showers were usually lukewarm, with the occasional blast of ice cold or scalding hot water.  Not complaining, just describing.  Next door to where we stayed were our hosts for the trip.  An EXTREMELY charming and gracious couple who served a great breakfast every morning.  Let’s just say my resolve to not eat much wheat went out the window on this trip.  Toast, french toast, pancakes, sandwiches…you name it, I ate it.  They did also serve good eggs, even made omelets sometimes.  Not a lot of fruit, and not as many veggies as I am used to.  Very little dairy.  Because there is not much refrigeration  available.  They did serve FANTASTIC coffee every morning.  My friends had kindly allowed me to borrow their little coffee maker, but I really didn’t need it most mornings.  Because we started every day at 7am!

Anyway, we arrived and this pretty vine was growing on the outside of the building.  I was still in the ‘its impolite to take too many pictures mode’ so unfortunately I don’t have any other pics of where we stayed.

Then back in  the bus and on to the center in Kawangware. Now.  I had looked at all the pictures on the Vapor website.  And had seen videos when they came to our church to speak.  But as with anything, pictures are not the same as in person.  So the sights were not surprising to me.  The enormity of the space and problem was a bit overwhelming.  Coupled with the fact that the whole time I am thinking, this is just one slum in one city.  Actually this is not even the biggest slum in THIS city.  And then of course the other senses are bombarded.  Specifically the sense of smell.  And actually, for whatever reason, the smell was not as offensive to me as even our own American dumps.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because it was the ever present smell of burning coals. They always have little coal ovens going.  Sometimes there were piles of garbage burning, but more often it was cooking something or other.  They are very industrious, and even in the slums there were lines and lines of little stalls offering food and other stuff for sale.

We had been told during our orientation to be sensitive and to not take pictures in the slums, which was disappointing to me because I wanted to take pictures to share and for inspiration for possible quilts.  So I didn’t take many pictures, but I do have some that were taken by Drew VanFossen, who does volunteer work for Vapor.  His pictures show exactly what I saw.  I think they are beautiful and artistic despite the poverty that they show.

This scene was so typical.  These ducks were ever present, along with the goats and the chickens.

They split us into smaller groups and the Kenyan guys who work for Vapor took us on a tour of the slums.  Kids were everywhere, the piles of garbage were everywhere, and little streams of sewage were running down the middle of the street.  I wonder if my years of raising dogs and cleaning out dog kennels made this less horrific to me??

 

 

We went by this stall and I was completely fascinated.  I told Lawrence, my guide about my fascination with quilting and all.  So on the way back he brought me back by these ladies, and I had him ask if they minded me taking a picture because I loved to sew too.  It looks like maybe they had a business repairing or even making work clothes for people.  Probably they did whatever was needed.  I didn’t see anything that looked like quilting. But again I was struck that not much is needed in way of space or materials to try to be creative.

oooo

The second day at Kawangware they again divided us into small groups and had each leader take us to his home (which was in the slum) for lunch.  Oh, adventure!  By this time we had already had one Kenyan lunch, so I was only a little nervous.  I wish I could have taken a picture of their home.  Two rooms.  The room that we ate in was maybe 8 feet by 8 feet.  Maybe.  Lawrence’s wife had done her best to make it beautiful.  There was a narrow bench in the middle that served as the table, with a narrow bench along one wall, and little chairs against the other wall.  Somehow eight of us fit in there to eat.  There were clean pretty cloths on the bench, and draped over the entrance into the other room.  Lawrence disappeared and came back with warm sodas for everyone.  Eventually (Kenya time was a common  phrase on the trip,) a bowl and a pitcher of warm water was presented–they poured the warm water over our hands to wash them, which I thought was a very sweet thing to do.  I don’t know if that is a custom, or if that was special for us Americans.  The meal that Lydia presented was really very good–gumbala, rice, some kind of stew, and these delicious tortilla-like things called chapati.  All of this was cooked outside on her little charcoal cooker.  I’ll tell you, I was humbled by their hospitality.  I think I can’t entertain because my house is too small and messy for people….

Here is a picture of Lydia.  Isn’t she a beautiful woman?

Now then.  There was a LOT of soccer playing going on on this trip.  I’m not complaining.  After all, the name of the group is Vapor Sports.  I’m just saying.  For this NON-sports loving woman, there was a LOT of soccer.  The little guy in the yellow shirt is Freddy.  He is one of the first kids they ‘rescued’ at Vapor.  His mom had died, and he was living with his alcoholic dad who did not take care of him at all.  Freddy is quite a character, and very confident.  He is so typical of the kids (and adults) around there.  VERY slim.  My microbiologist friend was more inquisitive than I was, and asked one of the guys how often they ate, and they said matter-of-factly, “oh, once a day.”  There you go, girls.  The simple answer to all our problems with losing weight and keeping it off.

Being my usual shy, insecure self, I found myself sitting on the sidelines observing many times, while others in the group talked and played with the kids.  This little girl, who was shy herself, picked a  blade of grass and began tickling me!

We had fun talking and tickling, and she was quite intrigued with my camera and took quite a few pictures for me. Here’s the picture she took of me (remember, I am ‘puffy’ from travel LOL)  The brick building in the background is the bathroom…Oh my, the bathrooms were also a challenge.  Most of them were just a hole in the floor.  But I have to say that I was patient, and only once during the whole trip did I have to use the hole in the floor.  I did, however, always have my own tissue paper in my purse.)

Nanci and I together.  The buildings in the background here are nice apartment buildings that have been built directly on the edge of the slum!

Wow.  If you have made it this far, thank you.  Come back tomorrow for continuing adventures in Africa!