May I have a word?

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The Queen has requested an audience. Much like her owner, when she is falsely accused (scroll to bottom of entry), she is like a dog on a bone. She won’t let it go.

I am NOT a Pink Flower Thief.

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 I provide photographic evidence. There is NOTHING to be had in this garden BUT pink flowers. (editor’s note: my latest purchases from the nursery.)

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There has been much goings on in the garden these days. A new throne room has been added.

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I await the installation of the throne.

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It is the appropriate height. The Queen must ALWAYS be higher than her minions.

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Well, where is it??? A queen MUST have a throne. (editor’s note: all of this conversation must be read in a high, squeaky, demanding, queenly voice.)

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In addition, I feel the need to unburden myself of the extreme vexation of living with unruly servants. This bed was installed for MY pleasure. I must be as close as possible to the lady (editor’s note: I put this little bed right next to my sewing table to keep Sophie from pacing.)

My manservant. As usual, doing NOTHING. He has gotten old and relatively useless to my purposes.

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My lady in waiting. She has turned out to be quite the challenge. I am not done training her yet.

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I finally tried sharing it with her. It DID NOT feel right.

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Ah. This is how things must be.

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Still, I must not be too hard on my servants. That is the true nature of The Royalty. Generosity of spirit is what we are known for (editors note: oh brother…)

The manservant, though relatively useless, is a very loyal soul.

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I bid you all a fond farewell. I shall keep you informed of the latest comings and goings in my kingdom (editor’s note: there will be more garden updates in the future.)

 

 

Project Garden Improvement Update

MLG (Master Landscaping Guy) (is that a better name, Lori?) was over this week. I haven’t ordered the landscaping stones we need (300!!) so he got busy putting plants in the ground. I can’t really explain how delightful this is to me. After living here 27 years, and always planting things in pots, its almost miraculous to me. The ground is just clay and rocks and tree roots. So each time he digs a hole for another plant, he makes the hole extra big, and improves the soil all around the plant. This time he got FIVE plants in the ground.

This is the camellia, and three hydrangeas. None of them have been happy in pots.

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Already the camellia looks better than it has looked in years!

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And here is an updated picture of the bed. I planted two bleeding hearts (one pink and one white, some little begonias, and some irish moss. I love ground cover. I also planted my favorite corsican mint under the tree, and I am attempting (one more time) to grow elfin thyme between the pavers.

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Here is photographic evidence that The Queen is a Pink Flower Thief!!

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Y’all have a good weekend. Its finally warming up here, so I am planning to get some serious swimming done today! Right after I get some serious quilting done.

I Grew A Tomato

Tonight I didn’t take a walk.  I watered my plants instead, hoping that Noah would get enough exercise running around the yard (sorry, Dog Whisperer, I know its no substitute for THE WALK.)  Anyway, look what was ripe on my little tomato plant!  I am such a proud mother.  I got some old planter boxes from my mom, and thought they might work like raised beds (because the bottoms of the boxes were rotting out,) so I got one tomato plant and one zucchini plant.  I laugh at myself every time I see them, because they were little plants when I got them, so I very nicely planted pink petunias in the corners of the boxes, thinking how pretty and decorative it would be while I was growing vegetables.  Poor petunias. They don’t see much sun these days.

Anyway, this is not a good picture of my tomato, but it is the funniest ever.  A good follow-up to last night’s photo op.

Along the lines of vegetables (we were talking about vegetables, weren’t we?,) as always, when I come home from a trip I am absolutely crazed for vegetables.  Seems I get enough fruit on trips, but veggies are hard to come by.  I know, salads.  But I like cooked vegetables a lot.  So I guess that’s my version of mindful eating.  I just really really want to eat a lot of vegetables.  Tomorrow I am going to make a pot of steel cut oats and push the envelope to see how much zucchini I can add and still enjoy it.  There’s a lot of zucchini in zucchini bread, so I think it will work well.  That makes me think that it would also work really well in baked oatmeal.  I will try that in the fall.

And at the same time (coincidentally, I think,) I have watched a couple of documentaries:    Food Matters and Dying to Have Known.  Both are along the same lines, about the great qualities of a vegetable based diet.  Dying to Have Known was all about the Gerson Diet/Therapy/Cure,   Dr. Gerson was a physician in the 1920’s who discovered that a plant  based diet could cure quite a few incurable diseases, including  cancer.  Even if you don’t believe all of the evidence that they provide, you can’t help but think that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is a good thing.  I know I don’t get sick very often.  Dr. Gerson also believed in coffee enemas, which I used to think was REALLY weird.  But this time when I heard it, I thought about all the recent articles I’ve read about the “hundreds of helpful components” of coffee, and studies that show that coffee drinkers live longer (raises coffee  cup to Lori!) and I thought, why not?  If it works good in one end, why not the other?  Its not any weirder than some of the other things they use from that direction.  And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Here’s a couple of other random thoughts I’ve had about these documentaries (and others like them.)  One thing they never mention (on both the vegetable and the paleo side of the fence) when they talk about how much better people feel/lose weight/are cured/etc. is that  most of these people are going from a highly processed crap-food diet to a purely whole food diet. Whichever end of the whole food spectrum they are changing to, it has to be a wonderful shock to their body.

There is one thing I kinda disagree with the vegan documentary people about.  That is juicing.  They seem to think its necessary to juice to get enough vegetables in.  Is that because it would take too long to eat the vegetables the normal way?  Because in America we are in too much of a hurry and couldn’t spend that much time eating?  Or is it because your body wouldn’t allow you to eat that many vegetables?  They don’t address it.  It doesn’t seem right to me.  God didn’t put a Veg-A-Matic in the garden.  On the other hand, it sure seems like a good excuse to get one of those super VitaMix machines that I see at Costco.

Oh, and now that I’ve mentioned God, let me give you my opinion on the whole Paleo, eat like our ancestors did thing.  I kinda think that before the fall, when God first created everything, man  didn’t need to eat meat to have a perfect diet.  All those plants were plenty.  And I think there were grains in the Garden of Eden too.*

(*disclaimer:  I did not go to theology school or Bible college.  I haven’t even spent a lot of time reading Genesis for proof of my theory.  So take it with a grain of salt.  BUT NOT TOO MUCH SALT!!!)

Good Food

Thought I’d report in on some good eats from the past couple of days.  First of all, in spite of the cold weather, and my usual reluctance to eat salads when it turns cold, I have thoroughly been enjoying my salads this winter.  When I travel, I find myself actually looking for a reason to eat lettuce.  If you had told me this when I was a kid, I would NEVER have believed you.  Lettuce was just something to be picked off of the hamburger bun.

My version of the California Chef's salad: baby lettuce topped with chicken, oranges wedges, carrots, blue cheese, and pecans.

So I told you about the food I was going to fix for ‘sewing day,’ and I have to tell you it was a resounding success!  That triple berry granola crisp is a no-fail recipe.  People absolutely love it, and they seem to really enjoy hearing that it is a low-cal healthy recipe. If you have access to a Costco, their frozen triple berry blend works great, and is the most economical way to buy berries.  I served it for ‘brunch’ (we meet at 10am and always have some sort of treat and coffee to start the day) and I had a bowl of Fage mixed with cinnamon and splenda to top it with.  Yummy.

On to lunch.  Helen, the soup was the smash hit of the day (I made Helen’s coconut curry kale soup.)  Everybody loved it, and every last bit of the soup had disappeared when I went back to the kitchen.  I made the recipe just as printed, including the chickpeas.  I didn’t have a can of tomatoes, so I chopped up a couple of tomatoes and then I found a bag of frozen cherry tomatoes in the freezer and threw them in too.  I think that was about the same tomato content as a can.  I put in 36 mid-sized shrimp.  One of the ladies, who is an excellent cook, took the recipe home to make for her husband, and she mentioned to me that the flavor was very similar to the soup served at Lemon Grass, which is a very nice Asian Bistro restaurant around here.  Now.  I have to admit.  I still don’t like the flavor of curry very much.  And I picked out all my chickpeas!  But that’s just me.  I really wish I liked curry, because it just seems like the ‘in’ thing. That’s okay, there’s plenty of other food I like just fine LOL.  Case in point:  I LOVED the low fat corn bread that I made.  LOVED!!! I don’t know if its because I’ve been corn bread deprived for a couple of years, but I thought it was quite delicious.  And I tried to make a ‘healthy’ honey butter by combining Smart Balance Lite and some honey.  Its probably because the smart balance lite has a higher water content or something?  It kind of separated, or became weepy.  It looked weird, but it tasted DELISH on the bread.  I was never so happy to have one piece left over!  Guess who had a second piece of corn bread with dinner.

Which brings me to my next topic.  The whole idea of a ‘treat day’ or a ‘treat meal.’ I’m a little on the fence about this whole idea as it applies to me.  Of course, I LOVE the idea of a day to eat what I want.  But there’s so much I want LOL.  I have a tendency to go overboard.  And then there’s the inevitable ‘unplanned’ treat days that just naturally occur in real life.  So if I fully subscribed to the ‘treat day,’ and had it planned for the end of the week, but in that same week, 3 unplanned treats occurred that I partook of, I would still be wanting my ‘treat day.’  Which leads to a whole lotta overeating.  Now that is JUST ME.  Just what I know about me.  And the funny thing was, when I was discussing this with my BFF, she described the exact same thing (eating the unplanned extras and still wanting the planned treat day.)  So for the most part, I think its best if I don’t plan (and look forward to) a WEEKLY treat day or meal.  I think maybe once a month might do it for me.

That said, I did decide that Tuesday (sewing day) would be a treat day.  Quit laughing at me LOL.  I had my favorite cottage cheese/pear/walnuts combo for dinner, along with that second piece of corn bread, and some leftover broccoli, just to make it healthy.  And then I tried a new recipe.  That chocolate covered katie has it going on when it comes to single serving recipes.  You heard it here:  I will NEVER buy another bakery cupcake.  There is no way they can compete with the deliciousness of her single serving cupcakes.  I tried this little chocolate cake, and I had some pre-made vanilla icing that I had bought at that Harvest Festival.  Oh my goodness.  It was quite worthy.  I made myself look the calories up (300 for just the cake.)  That helps me to eliminate it from any kind of regular rotation.  But for a once in a while treat?  Quite worthy.  I had some kettle corn too.  See what I mean about going overboard?

But back on track today.  And no problem doing so.  And this is the low-cal day of the week–no fruit, and one grain.  No problem.  I tried one more thing this morning that I want to pass along.  That multi-grain oatmeal that I told you I loved?  I made it custard oats today–FANTASTIC.  The most fantastic part is that you fix it in the microwave, so there is only one dish to wash.  After I microwaved the oats for two minutes, I took them out and stirred in 1/4 cup of egg beaters.  And microwaved for maybe 30 seconds more.  Yumm yumm.

Today I had to go to the lawyer’s about my dad’s trust, and she talked lawyerese at me for over an hour.  QUITE anxiety producing.  But did I eat?  No I did not.  I went to the gym as planned! Like Lori says, you never regret a workout.  I felt quite victorious after that.  Had one of Vicky’s California Chef’s salads for lunch, and then went to Starbuck’s for a little session with my Kindle Fire.  I had a Quest protein bar for a treat with my coffee.  Those Quest bars are hands down the best protein bars I’ve ever had, but they have a pretty hefty price tag too.

I’ll end with a stealth photo of the Queen.  Her majesty has some new crown jewels.

What’s Going On?

What’s going on?  Not much, really.  In case you can’t tell, I’m not much interested in chatting about weight loss these days.  Weight loss?  What is that?  When does that happen?  How does it happen?  I still have some of that ‘weight creep’ hanging on, and I am working more and less consistently at trying to remove it.

  • Eating healthy?  Check with an asterisk. I guess I’d say 80% of my choices and portions are very healthy.  I’d probably lose weight if I could make that 90%.  At least that’s what Jillian Michaels says.
  • Exercising?  Check with an asterisk.  My hand strength is  back, but the incision is taking its sweet time to heal, which is VERY aggravating.  And that little ‘knee hurt’ that I mentioned a few weeks ago?  Maddening, really, that I could injure myself so badly from a few paces at a slow jog.  A jog so slow that Noah didn’t even break his pace.  But it was enough to jar something out of place.  So with only having one good hand and one good leg, I haven’t gone back to the gym.  I have continued to walk once or twice a day through the HORDES OF FLIES.  I’m sure these horrible little things have some reason for being, but for the life of me I can’t imagine what it is.

So most of my blogging’s been about the “and life” section of my subtitle.

The foodie speaks:

A few days ago I experimented with using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Biscuit mix to make my blueberry scones.  Very nice!  A little ‘doughy’ in taste and texture, but I really like them.  Here’s the scones in progress.

At the same time, I had a massive yogurt making operation going on.  Multiple batches, and straining some of the yogurt to make my own ‘Greek style’ yogurt.  I wanted to make extra yogurt to share with my neighbor who shares her vegetables with me.

The finished scone:

And an inside peek to show you the berry to dough ratio!  I put two whole cups of berries in each batch of scones.

Some of the great tomatoes my neighbor shared with me.  I’ve been having them with a splash of balsamic vinegar and some chopped basil.  Very tasty!

As I mentioned, I’m VERY SUGGESTIBLE when it comes to food.  The other day I had planned on a piece of pre-cooked chicken breast and some left-over cooked broccoli for dinner.  That was as far as my planning went.  When reading the blogs that afternoon, Lynn mentioned sprinking some parmesan on her broccoli.  Mmmm.  Then Lyn wrote about some meat lasagne, which got me in the mood for Italian.  Hey!  I had some TJ’s marinara sauce in the freezer.  In about five minutes I had my chicken breast with some marinara sauce and topped with an italian cheese mix, as well as sprinkling some of the cheese on top of my broccoli.  This time being highly suggestible turned out healthy…

My breakfast clafouti, with raspberries in it.  To be honest, it looked better than it tasted.  Raspberries are too strong a taste for me, and so I ate it, but I picked out about half the berries.

And I have already mixed up dinner and have it waiting in the refrigerator.  Love to do this, because most days, by the time dinner rolls around, and the doggies have been fed, I am DONE.  Tonight I am going to finally have the   Apple-Bacon-Chicken Salad that Miz recommended. I followed the general recipe, but just mixed up a single serving.  I took a preview taste, and mmmm-mmm.  Thanks, Miz!  (Edited to add:  This was so delicious.  My easier quicker single serving: 3 oz. pre-cooked chicken breast chopped, 1 medium apple, peeled and chopped, 1 Tbsp pre-cooked bacon, 2 Tbsp yogurt, 1 tsp mustard, and I added 1 Tbsp roasted pepitas, which really added a needed crunch, and I didn’t have any green onions so I left those out.  Served it on a bed of chopped romaine.  Approx. 250 calories.Sorry, I ate it down before I took a pic!)

The Sophie Chronicles:

Since I started hand-quilting again in the evening, Sophie has been in seventh heaven.  She snuggles down right next to me under the quilt I am working on.  This is the most relaxed you will ever see Sophie.   She can almost forget all her worries about ruling the world.

New quiltworks:

I’ve been busy quilting!  This is the ‘quilt kit’ I made to work on post-surgery.  LOVED working on this.  A modern take on the traditional Double Wedding Ring pattern.

Love the backing fabric on this.

I really like this next quilt.  Very simple, but very cheery, to me.

I like the backing fabric on this one too!

These quilts, along with a few others, are on my Etsy site!   I’m getting better at putting the quilts on there.

Well, that’s all the news that’s fit to print around here.  Hope you all are doing well.  Keep making those healthy choices.

Food Inc.

Have you noticed that when I come back from just a few days away I am typically more creative with my cooking endeavors?  Maybe its just coincidence, or maybe its me craving some really good, healthy food.  Anyway, here are some of my new (and old) creations.

I planned on buying a large container of Fage 2% yogurt for the week.  But it went up in price to $8/quart and I just couldn’t make myself do that.  So over to the milk I went.  I got a gallon of organic milk for $6, and went home to make my own greek yogurt.  Its a little time consuming, but so very delicious.  And I have plenty of whey left over for smoothies.

You’ve heard me talking about the excellent turkey bread that Vicky makes, right?  Its a homemade wheat bread with ground turkey, veggies, and cheese rolled up inside and baked.   Well the other day at the gym I was asking Vicky when she was going to make turkey bread again.  And it occurred to me that I had most of the ingredients at home to make it.  So that was first on the slate for Monday morning.  I actually had a recipe for Vegetable Stuffed Bread that Vicky had given me a long time ago.  That’s what I ended up making, because I forgot to buy some ground turkey.  The thing that made it possible for me to make the bread was that I realized I had a bag of Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough in my freezer.  I bought the stuff on a whim, and almost let it go bad, but stuck it in the freezer at the last minute.  Let me just say that this dough worked great!  I was really surprised at how easy it was to work with, and it was very delicious tasting too.

I grated and cooked up a ton of veggies and cheese, and followed the recipe.  Rolled it all up and put it in the oven.  TA-DA!   I was so excited when I took this out and it looked so perfect.  And I was even more excited that it tasted so delicious. Next time I might add a little more cheese and a little less vegetables.  This loaf makes about 8 nice sized slices at about 200 calories each.

Closer view:

And inside the slice:

It was very easy to make.  A little time consuming with all the vegetable shredding and chopping.  But in the end I have 7 lunches wrapped and ready for me to take out of the freezer for the days I DON’T feel like cooking (and believe it or not, there are plenty of days like that.)  I will try to post my version of this recipe in the next few days.

Lately I’ve been looking for organizational items at the thrift stores.  I found this old wooden box and thought it might work for my collection of perle cotton thread.  Perfect!

Whether its alive or an inanimate object, SOMEBODY feels the picture is incomplete without her in it.

I’ve been buying glass containers and decorative tin boxes at the thrifts to replace the bags and plastic containers of all the many bulk items I buy.  I reorganized the cupboard AGAIN.

Sunday evening I opened a can of pumpkin to try a new recipe that is not worth mentioning.  I only needed a tablespoon of pumpkin.  So that can of pumpkin has been staring at me every time I open the fridge.  This morning I decided to try the pumpkin custard oats again.  Between the pumpkin and the egg whites, the oatmeal gets quite voluminous.  I topped it with pepitas and some of that homemade granola.  Quite satisfying.

But there was still almost a whole can of pumpkin left.  I knew it would either go to waste, or I could freeze it, or…I could use it.  Looked up that oldie but goodie recipe for Pumpkin Custard .  Yumm yumm yumm.  this is my favorite way to eat pumpkin.  Very satisfying dessert, and I think there’s only about 60 calories per slice.  I’ve got a slice waiting for me as soon as I finish writing this.

While I was thumbing through my cookbook , I saw my old recipe for Shrimp and Avocado Fiesta Soup.  Hmmm.  I see its not in my blog’s recipe index.  I’ll have to post that for you, because its very easy to make and VERY tasty.  Low in calories too.  I was thinking tonight that you could substitute shredded chicken if you didn’t want the shrimp.  Or just put some beans in there if you’re in the vegetarian mood.  I think I’ll try it with lentils next time.

So the shrimp reminded me:  a little seafood talk.  That last bag of shrimp I bought (I always buy the pre-cooked frozen shrimp) seems like it is a little overcooked.  Not really enjoyable.  In fact, I picked out half the shrimp in this bowl.  And Sunday night (this is almost laughable) after having that perfect piece of salmon at the seafood restaurant, I decided to try a piece of frozen salmon from the bag I had bought at Walmart.  Ummm.  No.  No way.  There is no comparison.  Just to say, that if you are someone who thinks they do not like seafood, and you have never had really great FRESH seafood, give it one more try.  Pay attention when you are cooking it so you don’t overcook it.  I am convinced, once again, that you get what you pay for.  As little as I eat meat these days, I will buy myself a single piece of fresh fish once in a while.  Of course, the further inland you live, the harder it is to get fresh fish, I suppose.  We have one market in town that brings in really good fish, so I will go there.

So today I was all set to go to the gym for my TRX class.  I go out to the car, and it is like nightmare deja-vu all over again.  Same day, same class I want to go to, same DEAD CAR.  After paying over $600 for a new alternator, I was not a happy camper.  The worst part was that I would miss my class.  In the end, AAA came out and gave me a jump, the mechanics paid for a rental car for me so they can diagnose the problem, and I went to the gym and just did my own workout.  Since I’ve gone back, I’ve stuck with the lower weights and higher reps.  I set up a circuit of machines and free weights that I want to do, and rotate through them three times.  It gives me a really good workout, and also is a little more cardio.  I am being super protective of my back, and also, I think its just a good idea to change things up once in a while.   Followed that up with a nice 30 minute swim.  I’m really getting back into the swimming groove.  Its very meditative to me.  I only do sidestroke bakc and forth.  I might add some more vigorous moves in, but for now its a very good follow-up to my weights workout.

Well, its getting pretty late.  Gonna jump in the shower, wash my hair, and sit on the couch and watch something or other on the computer!

Pondering

Yep.  I’ve been pondering my own blog post.  Ever since I wrote that last one.  I feel fitter and healthier than I ever have.  But when I catch a glimpse of myself in a window or the mirrors at the gym, or horrors, some very unflattering picture that some other blogger posted on their blog (NO, I am not providing a link to that blog, LOL,) it does not match how I feel.  So can I be content with that being the image that others see me as, and only the inner knowledge that I am fit and healthy?  I think my brother’s words were wiser than I first thought–“Don’t settle.”

Yesterday I went for a walk–the four mile version.  I went for a walk the day before that. Today I will go for another walk.  I am still tracking all my activities on the  President’s Challenge:  I have earned 10,000 points since April 27.  Almost all of those points are from walking.  You have to earn 40,000 points for the bronze award.  I’m aiming to earn the bronze award by the end of the year.  In case anyone is interested, that works out to approximately 101 miles walked in the past two months.

I think a lot about my time these days.  Having three dogs takes quite a bit of time.  In and out. Out and in.  Take this collar off, put that collar off.  Really, its time to eat AGAIN?  I started feeding all my dogs twice a day.  Sophie was glad that I finally caught on that it is also best for doggies to eat small frequent meals throughout the day.  Did I ever tell you that when I went to get Mr. Monk, they had a female pug that had come in at the same time as him?  I was willing to adopt both of them, but the female had already been reserved.  Good thing for me.  Can you imagine if I had a Dowager Empress in the house competing with the Queen for top spot?

Me thinks not.

I do believe those Rocco Dispirito brownies are the best healthy brownies I have ever made.  I think Rocco went overboard trying to make healthy brownies, because I found a different recipe online that was only 53 calories per brownie, and from the looks of that recipe, that is all they would taste like.  I think he developed this recipe second.  It is definitely worthy.  I gave most of them away, to two Weight Watcher friends, to get their opinion.  One of them said they were almost too rich.  Her non-dieting husband ate all the rest of them.  He didn’t know til afterwards that they were ‘black bean brownies.’  Anyway, I found them to be rich and fudgy, and definitely satisfying to have just one.  135 calories with 1/4 cup of raisins and 1/4 cup of walnuts added.  I read somewhere about someone taking the time to remove the skins off of the beans.  This might improve the texture a little bit, but I don’t know that it would be worth the time.  I think the secret is really pulverizing those beans in the blender or the food processor.

The last brownie.

Yesterday on the walk, I challenged myself to walk as quickly as I could up the steep hill with no stops or slowdowns.  I counted the steps–275.  That’s the same as going up 11 flights of stairs without stopping!  Me and Noah did 4 miles.  That’s cause we got out before 7:30, before it got too hot.  On the way home I saw a baby bird just sitting on the road.  It looked a little stunned.  I nudged it a bit, and thankfully,  it flew up into a nearby branch.  I bet it crash landed on its first flight out of the nest.

Did I tell you I did take my first swim of the year?  that was a relief to get that over with.  And I couldn’t believe how out of swimming shape I was.  I did four laps and thought I couldn’t go any longer!  I did keep swimming for about 20 minutes.  Does anybody else have the experience of swimming making them extra hungry?

The scale seems to be moving slowly in the right direction.  I am cautiously optimistic.  I will let you know when I reach ‘goal’ again.

Well, those are the random thoughts for the past few days.  Here is Noah’s blinky face.  We need to get out for a walk before it gets too hot, and before I have to leave for my long-awaited appointment at the ortho doctor (for my hands.)

Have a great weekend everyone!