Continuing the Conversation

After I finished the last Chit Chat post, I thought of a couple of other things I wanted to discuss. And those same topics were mentioned in some of the comments, so here goes.

Mickie mentioned portion size. Yes, portion size. That is a big issue for me. It is why I tend to eat very low fat foods. So I can have a bigger portion size. Four walnut halves is not that much fun. But a big old handful of walnuts? Yumm. Its also a lot of calories, and it doesn’t keep me satiated for very long. So 90% of the time I stick with the four walnut halves. I still have a lot of measuring cups that I use to measure out food. Its not any more work to wash measuring cups than serving spoons. And it keeps me accountable. I still put my salad in a tablespoon measure before I put it on my salad.

Anyway, I think portion size is something that can really be an important factor in whether or not your weight loss attempts are successful.

Kittie made a good comment about the decisions that she developed as she was losing weight, and then ended by saying that those are still the decisions that she uses now, saying “nothing has really changed.” I had been thinking the opposite about myself–how the foods I eat have changed over time. How I used to eat certain foods all the time while I was successfully losing weight, and now I just avoid those foods. There are lots of them, but the two main ones I was thinking about were Luna Bars and Cool Whip Lite. I had Cool Whip Lite with EVERYTHING. And Luna Bars became a “healthy” substitute for the brownies that I made and consumed very frequently. So the Cool Whip Lite. Well, its just not a healthy choice, right? I mean I don’t think it even has any real food ingredients in it. It sure was tasty, though :) And the Luna Bars, I started thinking about them because I was looking for a substitute for my Quest Bars, and I bought a couple of them. They don’t really have a good nutritional profile either. Only 8 grams of protein for 180 calories, and too much sugar. Not a whole lot different than a candy bar.

So since I started losing weight, I have made various changes to my diet. I embraced the low fat high fiber diet that was encouraged by Weight Watchers. Then I moved away from “diet” foods, and more towards a whole food diet, especially when I started working with Vickie, my personal trainer. In the last couple of years, in an attempt to lose some weight, I have added back a few processed sugar free foods, like SF pancake syrup, and SF chocolate pudding, and some protein powders, and of course, my Quest Bars.

And that is my final topic: Quest Bars. PJ mentioned that they were like crack to her. I have thought about this. Because I REALLY liked Quest Bars. Were they crack for me? Did I need to eliminate them? I pretty much had them every day, and I looked forward to it. But I never wanted a second one, like I do with cookies or candy. One was always satisfying, and it really did keep me full for a long while (because of the 20 grams of protein.) So I used them as a mini-meal substitute. Did you notice I was talking in the past tense?

I ordered my Quest bars directly from the company, because it was the best deal, and I felt like I got the freshest bars that way. A couple of months ago the order came and after I had had a couple of different bars, I thought, either my taste has changed, or the Quest bars have changed. I sent a note to the company, asking if they had changed their recipe. Sure enough, I got a nice reply, stating the changes they had made, and the reasons for those changes. Well, I wrote back, telling her why they weren’t as tasty to me. And she wrote back, saying they were still working out their new formula, and offered to replace the entire order for free! Amazing customer service. The new bars she sent were better, but still not like the old ones to me. I think it might be because they changed to truvia (not sure about this) and I don’t particularly care for truvia. Either which way, I decided to write to tell her about my thoughts, and that I would not be ordering any more bars for a while. And she offered to refund my money, which I did not take, because I was still eating the bars. THEN, just last week, I got a note saying that she was sending me a couple of bars of their newest flavor, Pumpkin Pie, free of charge. Honestly, that is the best customer service I have received in a long time.

But sadly, it leaves me without my Quest bars. I will probably be trying out some homemade protein bar recipes. Or maybe I’ll substitute some real food :)

Garden Report

It rained! It rained!! After months of no rain, we finally had a nice day and a half of rain. It was so nice to take a walk last night and not have a dust cloud following me and Noah like Pigpen in the Peanuts comics. I checked the weather this morning, and no rain predicted for the next fifteen days. Sigh…

Yahoo! I have a compost bin!! I never wanted to bother with the whole compost thing, but MLG takes my garbage away for me every two weeks, and because I eat so much fresh fruit and veggies, it was always VERY heavy, and usually soggy. Yuck. So I finally decided to bite the bullet and get a bin. I ordered one from Lowe’s and the very next week, my neighbor offered me a brand new one for free! So, I am very happily gathering all my fruit and veggie peels, and all my many coffee grounds, and taking them out to my bin. I’m looking at all those leaves falling in a whole new light too!

A few weeks ago we finished the brick patchwork path. Its kind of hard to get a good picture of it. But it is very nice to have, and in fact, Noah is really enjoying it. Seems its a nice perch to keep track of the neighborhood in both directions.


These are some of the last flower pictures I took. The salvia just stays in bloom all summer long. Its kind of messy, but I like the way it looks next to all the petunias.


A close-up. The bees really love it.


This is just a little rose, but such a nice shape to it.


And that’s about it for the garden report. Me and MLG are in “getting ready for winter” mode. We’re gonna work on the wood pile, and seal the bricks, and boring stuff like that. Today I’m having rain gutters put on my house. Quite optimistic of me, don’t you think?

Saturday Fun Day

Shelley mentioned on her blog that she was going to run 9 miles on Saturday, and that that would allow her guilt-free lazing around the rest of the day. That appealed to me. Yes, the guilt free lazing, not the running :) So I estimated that it would take me at least 2 hours 15 minutes to run/walk 9 miles, if I was even able to do that, and decided that I would spend that much time working out in the gym.

Of course, I didn’t get up at o’dark o’clock, like Shelley does when she runs. First, I had to try out a new recipe idea I’d been wanting to try for a while. I wanted to make some strawberry scones, using my basic Bare Bones Scones recipe. But strawberries get too juicy when you bake with them. So I had the idea to semi-dry them the night before. I just cut them into little pieces, and put them on a baking sheet in the oven with the oven light on for the night. That worked out splendidly! The strawberry pieces were a bit dryer, and the scones were delicious, IMO. Sometimes I eat them with plain yogurt and pretend it is clotted cream.


Okay, so then I was ready to go to the gym. But I made the mistake of checking the garden first. Two days without water, and there were some plants I could not ignore. While I moved the hose from place to place, I made good use of my time, and scrubbed the bathroom down, and then made some fresh salsa, motivated by Helen’s salsa blog! I love shrimp salsa, and decided that that would be my special dinner after my big day at the gym.

Finally, I got off to the gym. So fun to not limit my workout time. I spent 30 minutes on the bike, then went upstairs worked out on the weight machines. Back downstairs, and did some more aerobic work on something called a NuStep–kinda a cross between a rowing machine and an elliptical, only recumbent. Then, it was out to the pool, where I did 20 minutes of swimming, and then finished with 30 minutes of pool running. Its not as intense as running 9 miles, but it sure did feel like a good workout.

I did kind of laze for the rest of the day, but since I got such a late start to the gym, it was 3 pm by the time I got home. I treated myself to a new-to-me knitting pattern, and started a new shawl/scarf (copied this from Shelley too!)

Here’s my shrimp salsa. If I don’t have the little salad shrimp in the freezer, I just cut the big ones into bite sized chunks. So yummy. But, note to self, I simply cannot make good chips myself. They always come out either burned or chewy.


And just like Lori, who bikes for cupcakes, I decided to end my day with a sweet treat. I made a single iced sugar cookie. Most worthy.

It was a super fun day. I’m hoping I will make this more of a regular occurrence on Saturdays.

Chit Chat

I don’t have enough about one topic to write a whole post, but if I title it “chit chat,” I can talk a little bit about a bunch of things, right?

So the first thing that’s on my mind is the subtitle of my blog “thoughts on living a whole and  healthy life.” I don’t write too much about living a healthy life any more. But unlike what many suspicious bloggers write, its not because I’ve fallen off the wagon or anything. I’ve just been writing about healthy living and diet and food and maintenance and exercise for seven freaking years. Most of the time I feel like there’s nothing new to talk about.

So here’s a healthy living check-up: I still eat mostly whole foods. Lots of great fruit this summer. Its been a disappointing summer for fresh vegetables, but I still find enough to enjoy, and I fill in with salads for the rest. I try to avoid sugar, although it has been making a more frequent appearance in the past month or so. Wheat? I’ve been eating it a bit more, and it does consistently result in some gastrointestinal disturbance. So that is pretty motivating to keep wheat off my plate for the most part. That re-gained 25 pounds that I worked so hard to re-lose a couple of years ago? Yep, I gained it all back. That leaves me holding steady and contemplating the next step. There’s no point in what was pretty severe food restriction if its not going to result in a lower MAINTENANCE weight. Some days I log my food, and other days I wing it. The days I “wing it” you can usually find a scrap of paper or two where I am jotting down what I ate to make sure I stay within the limits I’ve set. So I guess I log my food every day :) I totally keep up my daily exercise, and really enjoy that. I go to the gym and do the bike for 20 minutes and pool-jog for 20 minutes. I stopped doing my weights exercises, just because of time restraints, and I realized that I was feeling a bit weak in my upper body. So it was back upstairs to the weights room at the gym, and I am enjoying that very much. Since its cooled down a bit, I am taking more walks with Noah and I do keep up with my PT exercises at home, and I added in a few core exercises to that routine too.

Recently I made a little change to my daily routine that I am quite pleased about. I usually have a small first breakfast (150-225 calories.) And then I was stopping mid-morning for a tea break, usually with a Quest bar. I decided to see if I could eliminate that snack. The first day I thought I might only be able to do it a couple of days a week. But now its become a habit, and I like it because it eliminates a few calories, but also because of the extra time in my morning.

Okay, back to that mention of severe food restriction. That is something I’ve thought about A LOT. I was going to write something about “You have to Decide for Yourself.” There are so many ways to eat. So very many good ways to eat. And one of the ways to cut down on the AMOUNT of food you eat is to just eliminate whole food groups. Look, there’s nothing wrong with this. Many cultures seem to live just fine with SEVERELY restricted food groups. But we don’t live in those countries. We live in America, the land of the free, where every conceivable food from every single food group is available every single day everywhere you go. So you have to decide what works for you. Don’t assume that just because eliminating food groups results in weight loss or claims of better health works for someone else that it will work for you. YOU HAVE TO DECIDE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. And sometimes you have to try new things. How will you know that a certain way of eating will or won’t work for you unless you’re willing to try?

Changing subjects: the seven freaking years of writing? That all came back to me as I took on a daunting assignment the past couple of days. I write an occasional blog as “the healthy quilter” for The Quilt Show daily blog. But that “occasional” stretched out into a months long absence, and the longer it went on, the more I felt guilty, and the more I DIDN’T write. So I came up with the idea to take an entire day, and write a year’s worth of blogs (12) in one day. Oh, and the blogs are mainly recipe recommendations. So I spent about 12 hours searching my archives, looking over recipes, trying out recipes, finding photos of food, and then writing all about how tasty and delicious that food was! Fun????

Well, the fun part was that I did find some good old recipes of my own, and a couple of new ones that I am going to try out. This morning I had my Almond Joy Oatmeal (extra yummy,) and yesterday I had a brand new try–Crispy Oatmeal. It was super yummy, and I think might become my new winter BFF. This was all for one of the blogs that I titled “Oatmeal Three Ways.” The third way was Overnight Oats, which is also good, but its cold. And I’m pretending that its getting to be fall around here. Tonight I’m going to have one of the salads that I recommended. Got all the ingredients, and ready to go!

Here’s another thing I’ve been thinking about. Controlling your food environment is a very good thing. If its not in the house, you really will find something that will satisfy you that (hopefully) is a better, healthier choice. If it IS in the house, it is going to get eaten (I’m looking at you, Costco-big-bag-o-snacks.)

Well, that’s more than enough chit chat for one morning! I’m off to try to get back into my quilting groove!


Things are returning to normal, at least inside the house. The fire is well contained. Yesterday, while working in the yard with MLG, we heard helicopters coming and going all day!

So on my first day back in the studio, I noticed something weird. Both girls were crowded under my chair. This was okay, unless I WANTED TO MOVE. I thought maybe they were traumatized by recent events, and just wanted to make sure they were as close to me as possible. Then I remembered THE BED. Their studio bed was still in the car.


I went and got the bed, put it back in position, and all was restored to normal. This gave me the idea for “Le Tour de Beds.”


Here is the other bed in the studio. It is a cuddly bed, but doesn’t get as much use, because, I guess, it is farther away from where I am usually working.


And then we have my bed. Someday, when I grow up, I will get a real bed. That is just a headboard leaned against the wall. When I first moved up here, I found a really cool antique bed, and I was going to re-finish it. Needless to say, that project never got completed, and I made some fatal errors, and the headboard was the only thing that survived. I think I’m still in mourning for that bed. In the meantime, my bed is very comfortable and functional (still no bed skirt, you’ll notice.) Sophie sleeps under the covers ,


And Bess sleeps right next to me in this bed.


When we get up in the morning, the girls move from the bedroom to this little bed in the dining room.


This bed probably gets the most use. It is next to the chair that I sit in every night. I covered it with a quilt because it gets so dirty. A quilt is easier to wash than a doggie bed.


I almost forgot this bed. Sophie jumped up and posed for you this morning. This is just a nice pillow that I covered and put in the wood grate. The girls LOVE it in the winter when I have a fire going in the wood stove.


And, there is a bed under my desk.


Noah would like equal rights. He always lays on this little rag rug when he is in the house, but he makes it pretty clear that it is not doing it for him.


So he spends most of his time outside on his favorite perch. He LOVES this sling bed.


Thus ends Le Tour de Beds. So far I have resisted putting beds in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. There is always a huge selection of beds at Home Goods, and they are quite reasonably priced. That’s how the whole thing started. But I’ve gotta say, its really done a good job of keeping the girls happy and off of the furniture, for the most part.

Here’s a few more doggie shots. I found this woman’s t shirt at the thrifts, and finally got around to making it into a shirt for who else–the Queen!


Noah had a little photo shoot after his last bath. Here he is, giving me “the eye.” He does this quite often, and the other thing he does is bug out his eyes when he is super excited about something. He looks quite wild.


Here’s how I like him best, in his calm, pensive mood.



Well, that’s it for another week. Have a good weekend, and stay safe!



It all started with the electricity going out on Wednesday afternoon. I thought maybe it was because they found out I had been watering the plants all day. Then I was just irritated that I had to eat my dinner cold. THEN a neighbor came to tell me that there was a fire headed straight toward our road! (An alarmist, and I did find out right away that that was an exaggeration.)

By the next morning, I knew where the fire was, and I knew I would not have electricity for the day, but I truly thought that it was far enough away from where I live that it would only be an inconvenience for me. I headed to town, to get coffee and to re-charge my cell phone. After spending some leisurely time at Starbuck’s, I headed to the gym. I planned to spend more time than usual there, because I knew there wouldn’t be any electricity at home. As I swam, I did watch the smoke cloud, and I did wonder if perhaps it was getting bigger… I stopped at the store, just to get water and some ice, and then planned to get a burger on the way home. I noticed a bit of frenzied activity in the store, and I asked “have you heard anything about Hwy 88?” “yes, its closed!!” the clerk said excitedly. Honestly, that was the most nervous I was in this whole ordeal. I headed up 88, and it seemed normal for a while. Then I noticed cop cars blocking the entrance to all the major roads to the right of 88. And then I hit this scene:


In all my years of living up here, I have never seen cars backed up like this. It was like this for the last five or so miles into Pine Grove. The whole time I worried that I would not be allowed to go home to get my dogs.

Once home, indecision set in. What should I do? Where should I go? Also, I did not really have internet access, so I didn’t know for sure what was going on. There was really no one to tell me what to do. Noah’s regular trainer lived on the side of 88 that had already been blocked off, so I knew I could not take him there. I pretty much knew there was no place in the world I could take Noah, due to his “issues.” (Noah: “what? I bark a bit. No biggie.”) Finally I called my BF in Oregon, who is the voice of reason. She said, “call the vet, and see if they can take him.” I pretty much knew they couldn’t, but I did call, and they directed me to several boarding kennels. I called the first one, and timidly said, “well, he barks a lot.” The guy just sort of laughed and said, “we’re a boarding kennel, we’re used to that.” Oh, and the other bit of advice my BF said was to take the dog’s beds with me. That was a bit of genius!

I really didn’t pack a lot of stuff. None of my quilts. No paperwork, which might have been a good idea?, and just enough clothes for 3 days. Oh, and did I say it was scorching hot that day? I got all the dogs in the car, and we set off on our “adventure,” not quite having a whole plan.

After I dropped Noah off (which was in a place farther from the fire, and probably only 1500 foot elevation,) I saw this:  That is not a cloud. I thought maybe it was some kind of chemical intervention. Or maybe just part of the fire. Anyway, that’s really the only interesting picture I took of the fire.


THEN, I had to figure out what to do for me and the girls (Sophie and Bess.) I headed back to Jackson, which was closer to home and the fires (but still safe) and stopped at the main hotel. They were working off of a waiting list… Okay, I’m not waiting in this heat in a car with a pug that can hardly breath in the best of conditions… I thought hard, and finally remembered the name of a hotel that I had stayed in in Folsom (about 30 miles, 45 minutes away.) Called them, and they did not accept dogs, but the desk clerk kindly informed me that the Staybridge Suites were accepting dogs. I called them, and not only did they accept dogs, but they were giving a discount rate to people who were being evacuated!! (oh, and side note: in the middle of me trying to tell her that they were good little dogs, etc., they got into one of their rare, but very dramatic fights, in the front seat of my car, while I’m trying to talk on the cell phone!)

We finally got to the hotel, and checked in (I won’t even tell you what happened in the lobby, but it was extremely messy, and I was extremely embarrassed.) The girls were SO EXCITED!! What a big new house to explore. Honestly, the whole time I was there, I felt like one of those old ladies with the hyperactive little dogs that she doesn’t know how to control . Its not like that at home :)



They WOULD NOT settle down, until I remembered THE BED. Ahhh, it was almost like being at home.


We stayed in Folsom for two days, checking constantly to try to figure out what was going on with the fire.* I finally decided that I wanted to go home, to get a few more things, and I planned to accept an old friend’s offer of coming to her house to stay. I was getting nervous about how much this was going to cost me. I also wanted to water my plants if possible. I imagined that they were all dead and dried up from three days over 100 degrees and no water. (*here’s a link to the stats on this fire. Its astonishing how huge it is, and how fast it grew, and how many firefighters and equipment is involved.)

I had talked to MLG, who said he had heard that PGE was bringing in generators to bring power back to Pine Grove. As I drove into town, I saw this! Can you tell how huge these things are? Like freight train cars. And there were probably 8 or 10 of them in that parking lot. I was very impressed with all they were doing to try to help people.


And how happy do you think I was to see this? I hopped out of the car and took this picture right away. Can you tell that there is smoke lingering in the air? I actually thought there was smoke coming from my house as I drove up the road!


I was actually shocked at how good all the plants looked. It seemed like a miracle that they didn’t even seem like they needed that much water. Here’s a picture of how everything looks–ash flakes covering  everything.


So this morning I went to church, and what a special service it was. To see friends who I was worried about, and others who had been worried about me. To lift our voices together in praise for our God, and to hear of four families in our church who had lost their houses, while others’ houses had miraculously been saved. There was one family there, whose house had burned to the ground,  and they had all their little doggies with them (they were extremely well behaved little dogs!)

Afterwards, I went to pick up Noah. I still wasn’t sure that I would be able to stay home, but I was really worried about how expensive all this was getting. Imagine my shock when they said there was no charge! Its one thing to hear about the kindness of strangers, but quite another when you are the recipient of that kindness.

And now tonight, with the latest news that they have opened up all those roads that were closed on the right side of 88, I do feel a little bit safer, and like I might not have to leave my house again. I am left with a very uncertain feeling. It very much reminded me of what I wrote a couple of years ago. Back then I was just observing other people’s uncertainty. Now I am experiencing it. My hope remains the same.


“Hope in Uncertain Times”

Bits and Pieces in the Garden

This time of year, you have to look around to find bits and pieces of color. The grand swath of color that comes in spring is gone. So I took my camera out, looked for those bits and pieces, and played with the close-up lens.

First, here is MLG’s work from yesterday. We are continuing the patchwork path up on the other side of this front bed. I have to say, I LOVE walking on even ground! MLG likes to finish a job in one day. I had to cajole him to stop working halfway through. We will finish it next time.


I don’t have a lot of yard art, but here is one piece I really like.


This begonia is doing really well. I don’t always have such good luck with begonias, so I really appreciate it when they do well. I’ll have to remember that it likes this spot.


These marigolds are finally doing well. They were the first annuals I bought in the spring. But unfortunately, we had a big storm right after I planted them, and it took them all summer to recover!


Just some of the “free” petunias, along with the gone wild salvia. What a nice combo, one that I did not plan.


A little rose.


Gaillardia. LOL, I couldn’t remember the name, and I googled giardia. Umm, no, that’s a stomach virus our dogs used to get.


The Flowering maple (abutilon) is doing very well.


Standing on my head to get a close-up.


This little front bed filled in nicely. I had moved the lantana from somewhere else in the garden, where it was not doing so well. It seems to appreciate being here!


Lantana close-up:


Here’s the other little blue flower in that front bed. Its not as showy, but I love the color, and the bees really seem to appreciate it.


Here’s my new little “firecracker” flower. I had to hold it still, because it was on a long stem and wouldn’t stop waving.


The fringed daisy has put out a new set of blooms. Isn’t this a cool shot? I don’t know how the background came out so dark.


And the honeysuckle vine has bloomed consistently all summer, in spite of being “pruned” on one side by the deer.


Have a wonderful weekend! Here we are having a preview of fall weather, and I am loving it.