Spring Flowers and Blueberry Pancakes

This has been the earliest spring that I can remember up here in the Sierra Foothills. We had one early snow storm, and then we had an unusual stretch of about 10 weeks of sunny days. It got all the bulbs blooming early, and fortunately, knock on wood, we have not had a winter storm to knock them down. Here’s a few views of the garden.

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And look what was almost hidden in that bed! This is the most exciting thing I’ve seen this early spring:

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Yes!!! Those are the little tips of the lily of the valley plants that came special delivery all the way from New York last year! Thank you so much Lori!

A little bit of everything in this bed: primroses, pansies, muscari, hyacinths, and daffodils. And the flowering almond bush in the back.

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Close-up of the pansy:

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Here’s a close-up of the flowering almond:

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The pink flower thief’s favorite bush is in full bloom:

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Close-up:

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Daffodils everywhere:

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And honestly, I love these little violets that bloom so freely, and self-propagate so well.

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So last night I was watching a Food Network program (as usual,) and I chose to watch Throwdown with Bobby Flay–Blueberry Pancakes. Some of you probably think its weird to watch food shows about “food I can’t eat.” But honestly, for whatever reason, I am not tempted to make or eat the food they show. I just like getting new ideas from them. And watching how they made those blueberry pancakes gave me something new to try with my beloved protein pancake recipe. Basically they whipped the egg whites into a meringue and then folded them into the rest of the batter. So after dreaming all night about how I would incorporate this into my recipe, I decided to keep the recipe as is, except that instead of using the egg beaters stuff, I used two egg whites, figuring that those would whip better. I thought that it would work to whip them in the Magic Bullet, but after doing 15 second intervals for about three minutes, they were only slightly thicker and foamy. I even added a tiny bit of cream of tartar to see if that would help. So I just added the rest of the ingredients (1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup cottage cheese, vanilla) and I did add about 1/8 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder. Whirred those around in the magic bullet and put the batter in the pre-heated pan, and then added the blueberries. They were definitely lighter and fluffier than my normal protein pancakes, but I don’t know that they were any better tasting. I used about 3/4 cup of blueberries, so they were chock-full of blueberries. They were definitely a treat on this beautiful spring morning!

Haiti Revisited

Going backward in time describing my trip has allowed me time to mull over my thoughts about Haiti. What did I want to say about Haiti this time (I visited there for the first time one year ago.) What did I think about Haiti? And then my friend posted this wonderful piece of writing about the dreams and disparity that you see in Haiti. THAT’S how I felt! She voiced it so much better than I could.

When I go to Haiti, I tend to be overwhelmed by everything. The heat! The humidity! The electricity is off! The masses of people everywhere trying to sell stuff on the sidewalk. How can any of them make enough money to live when there are so many trying to sell the same thing? The dust! The despair that I see on so many faces. The traffic! The little trucks on their very last legs packed with people like sardines in a can–how can they even breath in there? The “roads.” The slums. The LANGUAGE. I can’t understand a word they are saying. (LOL, sometimes I can’t even understand when they are speaking to me in English…)

And yet. And yet….

There are flashes of brilliance. Of greatness. Spending time with a man who serves God like none I’ve ever experienced before. Pastor Gilbert is our host when we go to Haiti. He has an SUV and two cell phones. Every day as we traveled back and forth to the villages with him, we had traveling companions with us. He would be giving a ride to this or that person. Drop them off at their work corner. Get them down the road a ways. Taking them along on his journeys so he could talk to them and instruct them. Bringing them along to experience the small villages. Delivering a bit of food or some supplies. Constantly taking or making calls (presumably to arrange these pick ups and drop offs, and fielding other requests.) Providing a word of wisdom or encouragement. And if they happened to still be in the car when he arrived home, ALWAYS, a big plate of rice and beans for them before they returned to their own home. His life is God’s life.

And now, the trip. As we arrived in Haiti, Pastor Gilbert met us at the exit and took us to his car, where there were (of course) two other women that he was giving a ride to! One was an animated American who CAME TO HAITI ON VACATION EVERY YEAR BECAUSE SHE LOVED IT. What the what???? No comprehendo. I’m still mulling that one over.

This is one of my favorite pictures. Because it is so typical of my brother. This is Pastor Gilbert and my brother trying to order a plain cheese pizza at a huge fast food joint that we went to on our first night there. It was quite the ordeal trying to explain that to the young clerk.

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This place was huge, and had a number of different types of food offered. Maybe like one of the food courts in our American malls? I wish I had gone around the corner and seen the Haitian chicken before I ordered my “steak sandwich.” I told my brother later that it was tasty, but there was no discernible steak in it! Tasty french fries though.

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The next morning, as we headed to Carrefour Poy, I was surprised to see that much of the tent cities were cleared out. I hadn’t expected that big of a change in one year.

And then we came upon these little pastel block houses that had been built at the location of one of the tent cities!

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This is just a typical scene of the street vendors. They are everywhere—city, country, and on the major roads in between.

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And then we arrived at Carrefour Poy. My friend Claudel gave me a tour of the classrooms. It was Friday, and I think the kids were in high spirits because it was a half day.

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The well that was installed in the church yard is constantly in use.

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One of “my” girls, Ketlyn.

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And the other, Elvena. Elvena was home sick, but somehow Claudel sent word for her to come to the school to see me. Its a mystery to me how they communicate out there in the middle of nowhere.

Alvena’s mom has died, and her dad is supposedly the voodoo priest in the town. What he really is is a man who has fried his brain on alcohol. I worry about her. But it does seem she has a stepmother who cares about her, because she has been well-dressed and well-groomed each time I’ve visited.

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The main purpose of our trip: my brother presented a “seminar” on hog management in each of three villages. It cracks me up how they “do business” in Haiti. The seminar is supposed to start at 9. We show up about 9:10. No one is there. Pastor Gilbert hangs around outside for a while, and pretty soon people start appearing (again with the mysterious mode of communication in the boonies.) And then we start about 10.

My brother always spoke from the Bible for a few minutes, and then got into the hog management aspect. What he does is so far removed from what they do in Haiti, we wondered if there were anything he could offer them. But by the third seminar, it did seem that he had some very practical suggestions for them. I was so proud of my brother for doing this. Just going to Haiti was so far out of his comfort zone.

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While my brother spoke, I stitched on one of my little travel quilts. I had put together some “quilt kits” to share in case anyone expressed any interest. Two different women started watching me, and so I gave each one of them a kit. One of them happened to be my favorite teacher from our previous trip to Haiti (she helped us with the shoe giveaway) so I was very happy about that. It turned out that the other woman was also a teacher! She opened her kit right away, and we sat and stitched companionably for about an hour!

On Sunday we returned to Carrefour Poy for church. It happened to be their 18 year church anniversary, so they had decorated the church with streamers.

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Church is so special to these people. They all dress in their very best. There is no glancing at watches to see if the service will be over soon. They are there to worship!

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My friend Claudel. He is the young man I mentioned in this post. 

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He was so excited to show me the construction that he had started on his new home.

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And for your amusement, (and to show that I’m not ALWAYS a whiny American baby,) here’s one of the “bathrooms” that I visited. I don’t think its used too often because the “toilet” (brick hole) was a little covered in cobwebs. A nice young woman did hold the “door” closed for me as it was quite breezy that day!

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One of the young pastors we met asked me “do you love Haiti?” To which I replied “I love the people of Haiti.” I thought to myself as the trip neared its end, I don’t think I’ll come back again. But now as I write this, I know that Haiti is an important part of my Christian pilgrimage, and that I will indeed return again someday to Haiti.

 

Adventures with Shelley!

Way back in the fall, when I started planning this trip to Haiti with my brother, I started scheming–how could I fit in another visit with Shelley? I’m so glad it worked out–it was the perfect ending to a very good trip.

Shelley and I have met up four times now, and each time we get to spend a little more time together. But none of the visits has been absent of the now traditional trip to the frozen yogurt shop!

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I finally got to meet Paco the Wonder Dog. He truly is a wonder dog–he behaves so well (Sophie, are you listening?)

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Shelley took me to the “Scary Statues Park.” It was really a very charming park with tons of walking paths. IMG_0394After walking a WHOLE mile and a half, I was ready for a big breakfast! How fun it was to visit the famous Blue Baker, home of so many post-race breakfasts for Shelley’s running club.
IMG_0406This picture doesn’t show the color well enough–it really is very blue in this restaurant!
Then we stopped by Shelley’s running store. IMG_0415 What I really look at in any sports store:IMG_0416

I actually tried on a couple of pairs of shoes. I really liked these. I’d never heard of them. They were very comfortable, lightweight, and had a wider than usual toe box. Oh, and the most important thing? They were cute!
IMG_0414One day Shelley took me to a fabulous quilt shop right in her home town! Of course, I found a bit of fabric, and quite a bit of thread that I “needed.”

And the next day, after a bit of crafting in the morning, we headed out to Navasota, where there was a wonderful spinning and knitting shop. I found some great yarn and spinning fiber to bring home with me. Shelley asked the young shop owner about a good place to eat, and when I heard “Love Pies,” my ears perked up.IMG_0435Everything was homemade at Love Pies. Our sandwiches were truly fabulous. And we had just enough room leftover for one of their mini pies. There seemed to be a lot of “bloggers taking pictures of bloggers taking pictures” going on this weekend.
IMG_0437I had Key Lime, and Shelley had chocolate. Their coffee was really superb too. It was just a wonderful meal!
IMG_0438All too soon, our time together ended. The lady at the airport (who was still laughing about the escalator “incident” was nice enough to take a picture of us. With all the picture taking we had done, we forgot to get a picture together until then.
IMG_0442Thank you again, Shelley and Jeff, for being so gracious. It was SO MUCH FUN!

Next up: THE ZOO!!

Still Here, Still Under Construction

I don’t really have anything profound to say. And there isn’t a lot to show you on the construction, but I thought I’d share a few photos that show what I’ve been doing for the last week or so.

Every day the contractor comes and works steadily. I like so much how he works. So calm. He even has a calming influence on Noah! But there is still a LOT to do. And I keep adding on to the things I want done. He is very orderly, though, and wants to finish the studio before moving on to any of my other add-on jobs.

So one day when I was out driving an older neighbor lady around to do some of her chores, she wanted to drop some clothes off at the thrift store. Its not one of the thrift stores I frequent, so imagine my surprise when I walked in and here was “the chair of my dreams!” I thought about it overnight, and then went back and got it the next day. It is very large, soft, and cozy.

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So long-time readers know how important color is to me, right? And you know how I think I’m pretty good with color, right? I mean, I dyed fiber and yarn, and could pretty much create any color I could think of. So do you know how frustrating it was when I couldn’t find the exact colors I wanted? I even tried mixing my own colors a little bit. And then I think I got a little addicted to buying those sample cans of paint. I’m not kidding, I’ve got about 20 sample cans out there. I lost sleep over worrying about choosing the right colors. My biggest worry was choosing the right color for the exterior of the house. Because that’s a big job to get wrong.

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Do you all know the website Houzz.com? It was really helpful–they just have TONS of pictures on there. I could google “painted exterior entry doors,” and there would be hundreds of pics of painted doors. DSCN0827

So I won’t tell you my final choices, and I’m not sure the final choices are even in those pictures. I’ll wait and take pictures of the house and walls actually painted.

Here’s an embarrassing funny picture. See that duct tape on the sliding glass door? Yes, I lived with that stupid sliding glass door with only duct tape and no handle for over fifteen  years. And the tracks for the door didn’t work right either. And that was the main door I used to enter and leave the house. I think that’s how I got the tendonitis–trying to get the stupid door open. I don’t know why I lived with it so long. Indecision?

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So here’s the new door between the living room and the studio. Its SO FUN to open a door with a real door knob. And to have the door open without any effort at all LOL.

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And here’s the room with drywall done. He put some texture on on Friday afternoon. I don’t really like texture too much. Oh well.

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Well, me and the contractor have had the weekend off, so we will be back to our regular routine for the next five days. I am surprised that I can actually get on with my regular routine (to a certain extent) with someone working here all the time. I’m not sleeping all that well, but I’m not stress eating, and I am getting in plenty of exercise (more than usual afternoon escapes to the gym!)

Happy New Year

Its no good. I was going to do a thorough review of my year, telling you of significant events in my life, and linking back to my most “significant” posts. I wrote 92 posts last year, so WordPress informs me. That’s less than 2 per week, but its still a lot of posts to review. My eyes are glazing over.

Let’s see if I can make it as pain free as possible, and summarize my year from memory.

I went to Haiti. That trip was easy and difficult at the same time. I have surprised myself by planning a return trip to Haiti this coming February. More on that later.

Other travel included a wonderful trip to Ohio, which included a visit with blog icon Lynn! Interesting to me is that I already have all my travel plans for 2014 made, including most reservations. And part of the plans include another blogger visit! More on that later.

I was successful at losing 25 pounds (that I had re-gained in the previous three years.) I’m very happy about this. I know that I would be having a lot more arthritis pain if I had not lost this weight. More on this later (what? Its a new year, and you KNOW we’re all going to be talking weight loss and maintenance for a few weeks : ) )

A major garden re-do took a lot of my time this spring and summer. Of course, MLG did most of the work, but I still did a lot of the lighter work. I love the garden. It looks kind of sad right now, but things are in place for a very pretty spring show.

I quilted. A lot. I joined a national organization for art quilters. I do have some goals to be more organized with my quilting and to enter some exhibitions, and to try to set up an Etsy shop to offer some of my quilts for sale.

Just two weeks before the end of the year, the construction for my new studio started! When the contractor left today, there was siding and windows already up. I can’t believe its going so fast.

I’ll write more about these last three things as they unfold in the new year.

And as my new sign says, I spent a lot of time taking care of the doggies. And loving most every minute of it.

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Happy New Year to one and all! Stay healthy, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Yikes!

Today I am taking a day off. I am having a day where I can completely relax and do what I want to do. And stay in my cabin and enjoy the warmth of the fire and my three little dogs (Noah is on vacation at the trainer’s for a few days.)

I needed this day. I know you are thinking, she is retired, isn’t every day like this? No it is not. And especially this past week (has it only been a week???) Last Saturday I met with a contractor and signed a contract to have my old covered deck turned into a studio room!!! I’ve thought about this since I moved into this cabin 27 years ago, and I started saving money for it over ten years ago. Part of me still can’t believe its happening.

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See the yellow part of the cabin in the picture above? That is just old fiberglass siding that was on the side of the covered deck. That’s where the studio will go.

The contractor said he’d be ready to start work on Wednesday. Oh my. That meant I needed to clear out at least 10 years’ accumulation of stuff that was being stored out there. I should have taken a picture of all of it. Then you would really know why I needed a day off! Here’s what it looked like after I cleared it off.

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Wednesday morning the work started. I had several errands to run. When I came home at noon, this is what I saw:

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And when I came home at 3pm, this is what I saw! Its kind of shocking actually. That was my main entrance/exit to my house.

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So I know other remodels require a lot more decision making than this, but my mind has been swirling with doors! windows! lighting! flooring! paint color!! I even had trouble sleeping last night thinking about the decisions I need to make.

I’ll keep you updated as things go along. When the studio is finished, he is also going to add on a small “mudroom” out the front door. I was almost more excited about this than the studio. Its always a huge chore to bring the dogs in and try to dry them off a bit  when its raining. And… if the money holds out, he is going to put new flooring in the main part of the house (living/dining room,) and paint that room too.

Have a good weekend, and don’t work so hard that you can’t enjoy the peacefulness of the Christmas Season.

Real Snow : )

It started last night:

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And this was the scene this morning, looking up the road:

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Looking down the road:

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Noah and I took two walks in the snow. He loves the snow so much!

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All day long I enjoyed watching these little birds flutter around the bird feeders. How do they do it?

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I know this snow is small potatoes for some of you northerners and easterners. But its a pretty big dump of snow for us spoiled Californians. I won’t be going anywhere until at least Monday. I think these are the days I am most grateful that I am retired.

Birthday Girl!

I had such a nice quiet birthday yesterday. Started the day with my favorite breakfast–protein pancakes with walnuts baked in and banana maple syrup to top them. And coffee :))

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Spent a lot of time reading and looking at some of the new books I got for myself, and then finally got dressed. I decided that I wanted to go to Starbuck’s (because I got a free birthday drink,) Walmart (because I “needed” some new yarn,) and the gym (because I wanted to eat a little lot more than normal.)

I decided to dress nicely because I wanted to wear the new scarf my BF had sent me–a beautiful blue Laurel Burch design. I just happened to have a new blue top that would go perfectly with it. So I decided to take MORE pictures of myself. (I take these pics with the feature that is built into my iMac. So I have three seconds to get the dogs to cooperate before it snaps a picture. Also, I can’t quite figure out where to look…) My sixty’s eve birthday is well-documented LOL.

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After a peppermint mocha frappucino and a Quest bar at SB’s, I went on to Walmart, where I spent a little too much money. But it was all stuff I needed, so its all good. And then on to the gym for 45 minutes on the bike while I watched Dr. Oz.

On the way home I picked up one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever had! They make them right in my own hometown, and they’re pretty famous with the skiers on their way up to Lake Tahoe. Anyhoo, in the olden days I had one of these burgers every week. I bet its been six years since I had one, and it was every bit as good as I remembered.

I ended my birthday celebration with Katie’s one minute cake, topped with that single serving frosting. Mmmm mmmm mmmm.

But best of all, today I am right back on track with my healthy living diet. And I went out for a walk, and Noah and I walked all the way to the end of the road and back. I think its been more than a year since I’ve done that. So all in all, a very good start to my goal of being a Spectacular Sixty (I like that better than the other descriptive word that goes with sixty.)

Note to self: simple mixed veggies really do fill a void when you are trying to eat lower calorie!

Note to self: simple mixed veggies really do fill a void when you are trying to eat lower calorie!

Christmas decorations for the dogs:

DSCN0573DSCN0557You guys! It is so cold here! Last night I was in the shower, all soaped up, and the pipes froze up! I had to heat some water in the microwave to wipe the soap off. Tonight I will leave a little water running, and I re-covered a couple of the pipes that the insulation had slipped off of. I brought in a ton of firewood (functional exercise) and I thought about how I now understand why people move to Arizona and Florida!

Bess made it clear that she thought it was too cold in her kitchen/bedroom. So I added a blanket. She and Mr. Monk were very satisfied with this arrangement LOL

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Thank you all for the thoughtful birthday wishes both here on the blog and on Facebook! It made it a really special day.