May I have a word?


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.


 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.)



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


I await the installation of the throne.


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


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.)


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.


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


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


Ah. This is how things must be.


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.


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.)



Hope in Uncertain Times

One day in December I stopped at the local gas station to fill the tank because I was going out that evening. It was the day of our annual church Christmas dinner. When I went inside to pay, the clerk was watching a little TV. I couldn’t help but hear what was being talked about, and I asked “did that just happen?” (Not having television myself, I never quite know if I am current on the latest news.) She said yes, and its only going to get worse (I think she was referring to that Mayan calendar thing.) It was news of the horrible elementary school shooting in Connecticut. I got back in my car and cried.

That night I went on to church for our Christmas dinner. Because that’s what we do in America. We say our lives will be changed forever. But the next day we go out for lunch with our friends.

Our church dinner is always a very pretty affair. Each table is hosted by a different woman, and she decorates the table using her best dishes and Christmas decorations. Honestly, it kind of irritates me. But that is a story for another time. At some point during the dinner I looked around the room and thought, it could happen here. This is exactly the kind of unexpected place where this kind of unexpected horror could take place. Uncertain times.

And it just continued on from there. A blogger died unexpectedly. A friend’s husband got cancer and was gone in four months. The Boston Marathon. West, TX. Uncertain times.

Brene Brown spoke about the collective fear she sees in our culture since 9/11 hit.

Anne Lamott wrote about her trip to Europe. A friend advised her that she needed to see a concentration camp in person “to get at a cellular level the fact that despite our great love and art, we are a violent species. Cain is still killing Abel.” There was a beginning, but there is no end to evil in our world.

When we are honest and true, we know deep down that all of life is uncertain. We just relate more to certain events. “It could have been my child.” “I am a runner.” “I am a blogger.” “My brother lives in west Texas…” And the biggest fear “It could have been me.”

As always, I turn to my God for answers. I’m afraid there are many things that won’t be answered clearly in this lifetime. I don’t pretend to understand why these things happen. I won’t try to give you trite answers, or to tie everything up in a neat little theological package with a pretty little bow on top.  But I was comforted by the words I found in the Psalms. For me, this is the only way I can live. I hope in my God. He is my Rock and my fortress.

I run to Him in uncertain times. And I find hope.


(You can see more of the quilt on my quilt blog.)

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.



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


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.


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




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.

The Next Big Thing

Hmmm. In a moment of weakness I agreed to be tagged for a post about my Next. Big. Thing. My tagger was Sharon, of Gains and Losses: Life Through Sharon’s Eyes. Last year, at this exact time, I took a trip to the big quilt show in Paducah, KY, and added some time to the trip to visit with fellow bloggers Sharon and Cammy. Sharon took me on a hike in her beloved Smokey Mountains, and we had fun baking together! We met up with Cammy for a fun day in Nashville. (You can read about that trip here.) I also got to visit with some old friends from my spinning/knitting days and my dog showing days on this trip. This has become a really meaningful part of my travels–meeting new friends and cementing our relationships, and having the opportunity to renew very old friendships.

Okay. As I wrote that paragraph, there was a little Twilight Zone music playing in my head. It seemed like a deja vu thing was happening because I realized that the Next. Big. Thing. that I am planning is very similar to what I just described. Does that negate it being the next big thing?

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got, so without further ado, I’ll tell you about the trip that is sneaking up on me very quickly now. It started when I got Nancy Crow’s huge book, and read the whole thing in one sitting. Nancy is a very famous artist who uses quilts as her chosen medium. I knew about her, but was never interested in making quilts like hers. Until I started making quilts like hers… The housetop quilt project introduced me to using solid colored fabrics in an unconventional fashion. I found Nancy’s thought process, and description of her art fascinating. And so I started fantasizing about taking one of her workshops. They are held in a huge barn, on her farm in Ohio, which sounded like so much fun. I had a friend that was going to go with me, and so that kind of helped me to make the decision to commit to it last fall. As soon as I paid the deposit, I got cold feet. I heard about how serious Nancy was. She taught her art quilting as though it was a college level course. I don’t want to work that hard! I whined. But there were no backsies, Nancy’s secretary said. So I decided to go with it.

Nancy's barn where the workshops are held!

Nancy’s barn where the workshops are held!

And then, as usual, I started exploring the area via the internet. I decided to be a little bit adventurous and booked a farm stay on a farm near to the workshop. The older lady whose house I will be staying at, said “now don’t go bringing a lot of clothes with you.” What?? I thought. Don’t you have any closets there??  And then she explained, “I’ll do your  laundry mid-week.” Wow.

I discovered there was a large Amish community in Ohio (where the workshop is,) so I added a few days onto my trip. I am going to be adventurous and just explore without making any reservations. I google-mapped to see if any of my blogging friends were close enough to visit. SQUEEEE!!! Lynn, the blogger who introduced me to this whole internet world of blogging, was willing to drive a couple hours to meet me for lunch! I first “met” Lynn when I was close to the end of my original weight loss, and I was looking for help and encouragement in maintaining that loss. Lynn was one of the “losers” featured in People Magazine’s “Half Their Size” issue that comes out every January. There was one of those little tiny boxes at the bottom of the page that said “check out Lynn’s blog.” I had never even heard of such a thing. And that was the beginning of my involvement in the blogging world!

So that is my next big thing. It may seem like just another trip. But I think that studying with Nancy Crow will improve my quilting and bring my art to another level. And then, as my BF said, “Once you take Nancy Crow, you’re pretty much done with workshops, aren’t you?” And that might lead to my Next.Big.Thing. But I’m not quite ready to share that one! Never fear. There’ll be another of these crazy fun memes coming around in a few months, and I might be ready to share it by then.

Friday a la Shelley!

When I woke up this morning, I was going to name this post Friday Mishmash. And then I thought, that sounds vaguely familiar? Oh, yes. Its friend Shelley’s famous Friday post! Oops. Anyway, I just had a bit of this and that to post about, so thought I’d share it with you all before the weekend. (This post ended up super long. Maybe you can divide it up and just read a little bit every day, since I can’t seem to make myself blog on a more regular basis.)

Yard guy came over this morning. Oh my. That guy works so hard. And so fast. I can hardly believe all that he got done this morning. And because he was working, and I needed to make decisions about where to move stuff/plant stuff, I worked pretty hard out there too. My yard has not looked this good practically since I moved here, and between him and me, we have even more ideas to fix it up. I am pretty excited about the whole thing. This is the first time I have been able to put plants in the ground in forever. And then I looked back and saw that like five out of the last six posts were about the yard and/or working outside. I guess it is consuming a lot of my time and thoughts right now.

So back to the mishmash. Do you guys floss your teeth? I have never been able to make myself floss regularly. But at my last cleaning, the tech made some semi-threatening statement about having to do some ‘gum work’ if it didn’t improve. And so I became a flossing fanatic.  I got myself one of those Reach thingies. I like it a LOT better than floss.I was so proud yesterday when she kept exclaiming about how good my gums looked! I am a convert.

I tried something new-to-me. I made a veggie stir fry WITHOUT rice. I put a lot of those bean sprouts in it, and I LOVED it. They gave it a nice texture, and without the rice, you can have a bigger volume of vegetables. And you know me, I’m a volume eater. This bowl had about 200 calories. I added some shredded chicken thigh meat and some little shrimp.


I am going to start gathering more complex vegetable recipes. If you have any favorites, let me know.

Here’s this morning’s breakfast. Its not new. But saving the leftover egg mixture is new. (I just mix 1 egg, 1/4 cup egg beaters, and 1/4 cup almond breeze, and whatever flavors I want–usually splenda, cinnamon, and vanilla.) The egg mixture keeps well in the refrigerator, and is plenty to make another English muffin french toast later in the week. I use Thomas’s Whole Grain English muffins. This breakfast only has about 150 calories (topped with spray butter, cinnamon splenda, and SF syrup.)


I got some new frying pans–8 inch and 10 inch. These are the pans I use all the time. My old ones were pretty beat up. I like these a lot so far. (Both of the above dishes were cooked in this pan.) The best part is that I found them at Ross–two for $19.99!)


And back to the yard. Here’s how the yard looked before yard guy came. Did I show you all these little perennials I planted? And that is my favorite corsican mint ground cover to support the mound around the tree.


Bleeding heart:


And this little clump of shamrock. Isn’t it charming?


This camellia was in a huge pot, but was not that happy in there. It is a low-growing camellia, and is the one that has the pretty pink blossoms in November. Yard guy patiently rotated it so that I could choose the angle I liked best before he planted it. I think it’ll be much happier in the ground here.


And then yard guy tackled this very large atlas cedar. It was in a wine barrel, and the pot I wanted it in was narrower and deeper than the wine barrel. He did a super job of transferring it. You can see how huge the pot is compared to the lawn chair in the background.


And my proudest, happiest moment today! A cherry tree IN THE GROUND!! If you only knew what the ground was really like around here. Rocks and roots and clay. And now yard guy came up with some landscaping that we can do in that area of the yard! So exciting.


See that mound of dirt in the corner of the fence? That’s from Noah’s ‘landscaping’ efforts over the past few years. We decided to add a bit of stonework around it and use it as another planting area!

After yard guy left, I moved a bit of yard art around.


And the dawrgums had to come out and investigate what had been going on in the yard! Noah didn’t hold still long enough for me to get a shot of him.


Mr. Man is content to find a sunny place to sit and relax.


Well, if you made it to the end, I will bid you a good weekend. Tomorrow I am going to one of my favorite conferences “Intersections:  Faith and the Arts” at Oak Hills Church in Folsom, CA.

Springtime in the Garden

Daffodils are in full bloom now. Forgive the fences. SOMEONE thinks the pots are for him  to play “King of the Hill” on.



Every day I go out and stand under the new cherry tree to see if it has bloomed. Will it be the cherry tree of my dreams? I do believe it is! At least it is close enough! And I just read a magazine article yesterday where the gardener said that the cherry trees had grown an amazing amount in just 2 or 3 years!


This is an interesting little shrub. It doesn’t really look like much, and then all these funny little blooms pop out. It almost looks like confetti.


The camellia that I have to practically stand on my head to get a picture of. This is one of the bushes I hope to get in the ground. I am pretty sure it will be a LOT happier out of its container.


Pansies and violas are such a cheerful addition. A lot of pleasure for very little investment.


This Japanese maple is covered in seed buds. It almost looks unreal to me.


I bought myself a few new plants at the nursery yesterday. This is a flowering almond, one of my most favorite plants. I have one, but it has never done well. The girl at the nursery said it probably has a canker. I thought she was just making that term up, and then I read it in a magazine the very same day!


Doesn’t it have the most beautiful, delicate blooms?


All the maples are leafing out now, and each one has a different shade.


There seems to be a pink theme going on here. I can’t help it. Its my favorite color.

Its been a good week. I got a lot more functional exercise. The second pile of wood is all stacked up. A lot of pots have been re-arranged. I’ve gotten in the pool twice, on the bike three times, kept up with my PT exercises, and I’m starting to do fast-walking sprints like Tabata intervals on my walks with Noah. Those are really a good workout. And that doesn’t even include all the aerobic quilting I’ve done :))


Functional Exercise to the Max

Yard guy challenged me yesterday. He brought over the “scoop” of dirt from the nursery and got it all into the bed, even though it was raining. And then he said, as he left, “next time I come over, let’s get this yard cleaned up and finished, and then we can go on to the next project.” Now, I KNOW he did not mean that I was supposed to get it all done before he came over. But there is a LOT to do out there, and a lot of it involved MAKING DECISIONS (not my strong point.) So after a sleepless night where my mind went in an endless loop of “we could move this plant there” and “we could put this one in the ground,” I decided to give up my trip to the gym today in favor of some functional exercise. What I can’t show you is the huge pots that I dragged here and there to see if that’s where I wanted to put them. I emptied some of the pots out, and put the soil in the bed, because we didn’t have quite enough soil to fill in the whole area.

I pruned a lot of bushes and trees (decisions required…) and then I finally had lunch. After lunch I wanted to do something that didn’t require any decisions. So I turned this:


into this:


And then I did a phone consult with my landscape adviser (I had emailed her a picture of the big maple that started this whole project,) and she gave me the courage to go out and prune the big maple! (This poor maple was in that small box and really suffered the last two years. After seeing it looking so stark, I was afraid that it was just too misshapen to do anything with.)

So after my afternoon coffee break, I turned this:


into this:


That required getting the ladder out and taking multiple trips up and down the ladder to make sure I was pruning the right branch. I don’t know if you can see the difference in the photos. In person, it makes me a lot happier. I think there’s hope for it to get healthy now.

Here’s a look at the preliminary stuff I’ve added to the bed.


Noah LOVES THE new bed. I imagine he thinks he can do a better job of surveying his kingdom from a higher vantage point. He also cuts the corner and was mashing the poor little primroses that I planted, so I had to put a little fence up for a while.


All in all, a very good day of functional exercise. I bet I’ll sleep a little better tonight!

AIM–A Girl’s Gotta Eat!


Its the first Monday of April and time for another AIM post. This time we’re answering a reader’s question about the “brass tacks” of our daily food plan–how, what, and why we eat what we eat. I write about that almost every day, so why am I finding this so hard? I think its because I don’t want to mislead anyone. I could just write about what I am eating now, how I plan for it, think about it, cook it, shop for it. But that is not how I’ve always eaten. When I thought about it, I decided there have been four main stages I have gone through. So far. I am pretty sure I will have to adjust my food plan again. Aging and all that, you know. So here goes.

Stage 1. When I first started losing weight, the majority of what I learned about food was from Weight Watchers. Sure, I investigated on my own. But the main focus was on counting calories (points) and paying more attention to the fiber content (high was good) and fat content (high was bad.) It did not matter a lot if the food was processed. In fact, I think it was easier to count the points if it was packaged with all that information already on the box. (This is probably unneeded information, but I was the QUEEN of Cool Whip Lite. I made sure that I never ran out of that stuff.) I did start to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. And the biggest change I think I made was having a good breakfast. I continued to eat this way when I reached my 100 pounds lost and started to maintain at that level. (Yes, I lost 100 pounds while ingesting Cool Whip Lite almost every day.)

Stage 2. I was struggling a bit with maintaining my weight loss, and a good friend recommended a personal trainer. Little did I know, the trainer was a foodie too! I learned so much about good food and nutrition from her. I started eliminating all processed foods from my diet. I learned that there were new foods that I actually enjoyed eating. Lentils, edemame, and quinoa come to mind. I also started exploring healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts–specifically walnuts.) It was during this time period that I read (among other things) The End of Overeating. The deadly combo of fat/sugar/salt really rang a bell with me. I decided to minimize wheat and sugar in my diet.

Stage 3. During an especially stressful three year period, I regained some weight (25 pounds.) I never stopped my healthy eating lifestyle. I continued to explore healthy recipes. I developed new recipes myself as I went along. I just ate too much.

And this has led to Stage 4. Through all the reading and investigating I have done, I tried one more thing. And it seems to be working. I am losing weight slowly and steadily. I am eating a little more protein, and a little less grain and fruit. As I think about it, these are the most significant changes I have made:

  • My breakfast is consistently smaller–200 calories instead of 300-350 calories.
  • Walnuts have gone on the back burner. Yes, they are a super food. But for me, they are almost as much of a trigger food as chocolate chip cookies were when I first started. I still have walnuts, but they are a much smaller portion, and I NEVER grab a big handful to eat.
  • And I have taken to eating whey protein in various forms (smoothies and Quest protein bars.) I am finding it quite enjoyable. So that is a new tool in my arsenal. I love the convenience. I love the taste. And I especially love the way that I feel filled but not stuffed for a long time after.

So on to the day to day stuff. These are the habits that have lasted through all four stages:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables. When I started out I had to force myself to eat a piece of fruit instead of a cookie. Then I got a little obsessive about keeping all kinds of fruits and vegetables available at all times. This led to either a) overeating, or b) wastage. Now I am still careful that I ALWAYS have plenty of fresh vegetables available. And I keep enough fruilt on hand. But not too much. I am keeping a little more frozen fruit–good for smoothies and convenient for baking. Fresh fruit is still my first choice. I probably shop twice a week.
  • Batch cooking of meat. Even though cooking is something I truly enjoy, I don’t always want to spend the time it takes to cook at mealtime. So I LOVE batch cooking. I routinely buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut them into approximately 4 ounce pieces, and season and cook them and then freeze the majority of them. They are ready for a big salad or just to add to some veggies for dinner.
  • Low calorie baked goods. This might be where some people think they cannot change their tastes. But once you decide that having brownies and cookies on a daily basis are no longer an option, the low calorie healthy treats start to look (and taste) pretty darn good. I really enjoy baking, so that is another part of the enjoyment. As soon as my baked goods cool down, they are wrapped individually in tin foil (makes it convenient to re-heat,) and placed in the freezer. If I start to have too many baked goods in the freezer, I put a moratorium on my baking until I need some more. These days most of my baked goods are healthy breakfast options.
  • Tracking. Its second nature to me now. A few times I toyed with not tracking or journaling my food. But I am more comfortable keeping track. It does two things. If I am feeling deprived, I can look and see what I have already eaten, or look forward to a meal or snack that is coming. And if I get anxious that I am “eating too much” I can look and be reassured that I am eating a perfectly normal amount of food. I just heard something recently. John Ortberg was talking about a book called The Power of Habit. In it the author describes keystone habits. A keystone habit is one that will set off a chain reaction to other habits.  In terms of physical health, food journaling is a keystone habit. Once people start keeping a food journal, they start to plan menus differently. Then they start to exercise, just as a result of keeping a food journal. Almost every night I write out the next day’s menu. I write down the food and the calories. I am careful to get enough protein throughout the day and make sure there are several servings of vegetables. There is usually at least one fruit and one grain, and I really like to have 200 calories left at the end of the day for a snack of my choice. I can change the menu if the mood strikes (most often it is sub’ing hot food for cold,) but I stick pretty close to the plan.

These are the main day-to-day habits that seem to come almost naturally to me now. It doesn’t mean that I don’t indulge, or make poor choices sometimes. But it is my Intention to continue to eat healthfully for the rest of my life. I have a Vision of what that life is: healthy cardiac, endocrine, immune, and musculoskeletal systems. The Means are all the practical habits I listed above. (I wrote about V.I.M. here.)

I love food. That’s not gonna change. But I can still love food, enjoy its endless variety and tastes, and live a healthy life. I hope that this might provide some inspiration for those food lovers out there who think its not possible to truly enjoy food AND live a healthy life. I’m living proof that it is.

To read more about what “a girl’s gotta eat!” be sure to check out my friends and maintaining experts:

Lynn @ Lynn’s Weigh

Lori @ Finding Radiance

Shelley @ My Journey to Fit

Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!