The Zoo!

After we returned from Haiti, my brother and I had a day and a half in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to relax and spend a little time together. Ever since we were kids, we have both really really loved animals. His loves were a little more exotic than mine–snakes and tropical fish. For a few years we even owned a pet shop together! We still love to visit pet shops and zoos when we have a chance. It just so happened, that on the day we were there, it was a perfect spring day with a light breeze blowing, so we went to the Ft. Worth Zoo! My brother says it is one of the best small zoos in America. I totally agree that it is one of the best. My legs and feet would disagree that it is one of the smallest.

They had two baby elephants born at the zoo! So fun to see them. They ran around and seemed to be enjoying the weather as much as everybody else.

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This little guy was copying his mom, and giving himself a dust bath.

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This was a huge enclosure full of cockatiels and parakeets, and you could buy ridiculously expensive sticks of bird seed to feed them. It was fun!

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Is this just the cutest? I don’t know why one baby swan gets to ride on the mother’s back, while the others follow in the water.

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This lion was beautiful, but he sure was vocalizing a lot. I wonder what he wanted?

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A komodo dragon!

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And one of the hugest silverback gorillas I’ve ever seen.

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I was really impressed with the enclosures for most of the animals, and the beautiful condition of the animals. It was a really great day.

The next morning, before I dropped my brother at the airport and headed to Shelley’s, we drove down the “historic main street” of Grapevine, TX. We lived there about 35 years ago, before the DFW airport was built! It really was just a dusty little town back then. We didn’t recognize much on the main street. Oh, and I had googled “pet shops” in Hurst, and three shops were listed: Petco, one other major corporate store, and The Grooming Boutique–MY OLD GROOMING SHOP!! We went by there too, but of course, it was a different owner than I had sold to 30-some years ago. What a kick.

We used “the lady” (google maps app for my iPhone) to direct us around the area. We only went off course a couple of times, and it seemed like the lady would then direct us to take backroads to wherever we needed to go. I felt a little like I was being profiled and had been deemed a hick that preferred backroads to major freeways (well, that’s true, but its none of her business!)

Next up (and the last of my travel adventures for awhile,) HAITI REVISITED!

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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!!

The Escalator

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Readers of Shelley’s blog already know that I ended this trip with a VISIT TO SHELLEY! We had so much fun. We fit together like peas and carrots (Forrest Gump ref.) I don’t think we look alike, but one time Shelley posted a picture of herself at 12 years old, and I was shocked at how much she looked like the 12 year old me.

Anyway, we ended our trip driving together back to the DFW Airport. I was ever so grateful that she was able to drive back with me. Its just a 3 hour drive, but you know how it is when you are unfamiliar with the roads–it seems like twice that time.

We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, dropped off the rental car, and took the shuttle to the terminal. We had our choice of elevator or escalator, and Shelley asked “which one?” I said escalator–it was closer, and by now I’d been in one million airports and done this routine two million times. I had my giant 45 pound suitcase, my carry on suitcase, and my purse, all balanced precisely. As I got on the escalator, Shelley was saying something about “You know, I have kind of an Elf thing about escalators…” (insert: okay, I just googled Elf/escalator–that is hilarious!) and right then I lost my balance and dropped the big suitcase, which fell backwards onto the escalator steps! Which meant that it just kept clanging down one step at a time as the escalator continued to go up. With each clang, the distance between me and my big suitcase got further apart. I kept stepping down to try to get closer to it (while still balancing my carry on and my purse) and yelling at Shelley “don’t you dare photograph this,” but the escalator just KEPT ON GOING UP. Finally I knew my only hope was to abandon my carry on (which, the EVERY THREE MINUTE TSA ANNOUNCEMENTS warn you to NEVER do) and somehow hop over the HUGE suitcase to get below it and grab it. Shelley rescued my little carry on, and was laughing so hard she couldn’t have gotten a good picture if she had tried. I swear, it was like a Lucy and Ethel episode.

Come back soon for “Adventures with Shelley!”

Home Again!

This trip was a long one and was multi-layered! Its going to take several posts to tell you all about it. I thought I’d write about it like that Seinfeld episode–going backwards in time. Fun for me, anyway!

I arrived home to signs of spring! This has been a crazy weather year, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen blooms this early in my yard.

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So I got home at 10:30 at night, knowing that my living room would be finished, and knowing the details of what would be done, but envisioning it is not the same thing as seeing it in person. I can’t say enough good things about J. the contractor. He took a sow’s ear of a house and turned it into a silk purse. 

Before...

Before…

and after

and after

Noah has been at the trainer’s since Feb. 5! I went to visit him on those few days I was home after the Modesto trip, but the house was so torn up, I thought it would be easier for him (who am I kidding, it was easier for me….) to leave him there. He LOVES his time there. And they like him too. While he’s there he participates in the group classes on the weekends. When did I become the world’s laziest dog trainer???

Noah practicing his sit-stay in the "new" living room.

Noah practicing his sit-stay in the “new” living room.

The next morning I walked around the yard–good grief, things were blooming!!

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As always, on return home, I went to the store, and the things I naturally want to stock up on are vegetables and dairy. I guess those are the two things that are hardest to get in while I am traveling. And, I went to the gym for my regular Sunday morning pre-church workout–it felt so good to get back to my regular exercise! Plus, it was my last chance to participate in Lori’s Heart Healthy Weekend!

Next episode: “The Escalator.”

Out of Town

Yes, that’s right. I am going out of town again. I am leaving this week on a trip to Haiti, which I am combining with a pleasure trip to visit a friend.

But what I want to write about was “how I ate” on my most recent trip to a quilt event. Yes, again. I am writing about how I eat when I travel. This time I tried a few new things, and so thought my experiences were worth talking about.

The event was the Ricky Tims Super Quilt Seminar. This is a very good, very organized event. The hours run long, but they put plenty of breaks between sessions–time to move around and yes, eat. For those of you who aren’t quilters, this is a “no sew” event. It is all demonstration and information, and you don’t have to bring your machine or supplies with you. I really liked that, since I usually end up making something I don’t like in most of the workshops I attend! Plus, easy peasy!

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Ricky does a concert and inspirational talk on one of the evenings. He plays a grand piano, but I couldn’t get a good shot of that. This is one of his Indian flutes.

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Alex Anderson and Pam Holland also presented informative and inspirational talks.

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Back to our food discussion! That last trip I took out of town I ate a little too much sugar and wheat, and I didn’t like how I felt. So I left determined to not eat (much) sugar or wheat on this trip.

Here’s a few of the things I did. I took my own yogurt and granola with me. I took some of my low calorie baked goods with me for breakfasts. I took some of my favorite Quest protein bars. And I grabbed my bag of Skinny Pop popcorn for snacks in the evening.

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I knew there was a Costco just down the road from the hotel I was staying in. So after I made sure there was a little fridge in the room, I headed over to Costco for a bag of my favorite salad mix–the Kale Superfoods salad. This salad still seems like a treat to me. While I was there, I got a box of their cherries. I was set! I had food for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and would only eat out for dinner.

My favorite department at Costco!

My favorite department at Costco!

In the morning, I checked out the breakfast buffet, and got a few eggs to try (yuck–discarded.) I ate my own muffin and had some coffee. But look! I had a container for my salad!

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Here’s how to pack your yogurt and granola for lunch, if you forgot your little container with the ice in the lid… (file under: where there’s a will, there’s a way.)

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Every afternoon they had a 45 minute break about 3pm. Ahhh, just the right time for my coffee break! (and mandatory Quest bar.)

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Now, in the interest of full disclosure on “how I eat when I travel,” let me fill in the blanks. The first night I had dinner with some old friends. I made a good choice for my dinner, and for whatever reason, they did not serve bread with dinner!! Weird. But good for me, because if it was there, I would have eaten it.

The second night the hotel had given me a free entree coupon for my favorite restaurant–Texas Roadhouse. And oh yes, I certainly did eat their bread. And the third night I went with some new friends to a local hamburger joint! That was really delicious. We split an order of garlic fries three ways, and the burger was really normal sized. I really enjoyed that meal.

Oh, and one day I had time to drive around the town a bit, and happened upon a See’s Candy store. Ruh roh. But I have a new plan. If I do go in, I only buy 2 pieces. So much better than going in and buying half a pound and then trying to NOT eat it all at once!

The event ended at 5:30 on Saturday night, and I thought that I would stop for dinner on the way home. But I decided that I really wanted to get home and could wait until then to eat. Only thing was, I needed to go to the bathroom. Okay, perhaps I could have found a bathroom somewhere besides in the Coldstone Creamery… That was probably my poorest decision all weekend. But I enjoyed my small serving, and even left a bit of it uneaten. And that was dinner.

So even though I did not stick completely with my plan of no sugar/no wheat, my food amounts and choices were quite reasonable, and I did not gain an ounce. I kept in mind some very good advice from my friend, Cammy:

Adaptability – It’s good to have a plan, but sometimes life interferes and the plan gets fuzzy. In the past I had an ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset and generally caved into the chaos. I still do that sometimes, but more often than not, I’ve learned to adjust and adapt and do the best I can in a given situation.

Back home, the little dogs were happy to see me. Speaking of adapting to a given situation, they seem to adjust quite easily to all the changes around here.

The living room awaits new floors,windows, and wall paint.

The living room awaits new floors,windows, and wall paint.

The "dining room" aka furniture storage receptacle.

The “dining room” aka furniture storage receptacle.

As long as they have a soft bed and a heater, they are happy.

Monk and Bess share the bed next to the wood stove.

Monk and Bess share the bed next to the wood stove.

The queen on her dirty laundry throne.

The queen on her dirty laundry throne.

Monk and Sophie share a little bed in the studio (do you see the theme here?)

Monk and Sophie share a little bed in the studio (do you see the theme here?)

And now I must end and pack my bags (and do a million other last minute things! Eek!) I will have lots of adventures to tell you about when I return!

C’est Fini!

The other title for this post would be Crazytown, USA. Oh my goodness. I have never in my 59 years experienced anything like this. I thought back over my entire life, and I realized I have never lived in a house that was undergoing any type of renovation, remodeling, or construction. When I was a kid, my parents did the regular things–occasional painting, repairs, maybe a few bookcases being built. But nothing like this.

And let me just say that in one way it was WAAAAAYYY less stressful than I thought it would be. J. the contractor couldn’t have been nicer, or calmer. He worked steadily and methodically. No yelling or bad temper. Always a smile, and a special pat for Noah.

But after a while, all the disarray wears on you. Last weekend I took a few days and just went to a hotel. It was quite wonderful. I realized afterwards that one of the reasons I slept so well was because I did not go to sleep or wake up thinking about what was going to be done next.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I will just show you pictures of my new studio, while it is still pristine.

The new door, going from the living room to the studio (replaced that old sliding glass door!)

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Those are LED light fixtures. There are three of them in this room and a fourth fixture with track lighting. All the quilt blogs I read said you just couldn’t get enough light. I think I proved them wrong. It looked like a scene from some martian movie the first time I saw them all lit up! That corner there is where my sewing table will go. I will be able to look out the window at my future new garden (MLG is coming over tomorrow and we will discuss this!)

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My pink wall! “Coral Shimmer” to be exact. The other colors are Antiquity and Winter Snow.

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Another view–that door leads out to the deck. This picture shows the mini-blinds inside the glass closed.

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Looking the other way, toward the front door and the closet.

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Same thing…

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And the closet. I am most proud that I was able to build those two sets of shelves all by myself. They were super super heavy, and I do believe my arms got just as good a workout as my usual upper body weights workout at the gym.

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And the exterior colors. I am so pleased with them, after spending all that time trying to decide on the EXACT. RIGHT. COLOR. The main color is Yukon Green, with Natural Wicker trim, and Savory door. I love the little landing that J. built. So much better than the step that I had imagined! Of course, you can see the old color of the house on there too. Eventually the whole house will be painted. But for now the studio is done. More furniture moving tomorrow.

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Because next, J. is going to do hardwood floors and paint and trim, oh, and replace the huge windows in the living room.

And after that he will do the dining room.

And after that….let’s not talk about it. Let’s just say that I have an idea for a REALLY. BIG. JOB. But I don’t know about that one for sure yet.

Tomorrow I am leaving for a little quilt trip, and then I will turn around and take another longer trip. I’ll tell you about that one when I come home. These trips were planned way before I ever decided to do all this construction work. But they are coming at just about the right time. I am going to be happy to be out of the house for a while, and I am sure J. will enjoy working without me in his way.

AIM: What’s in My Cart

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Can you believe my good luck? Last month, when we introduced our “ask us almost anything” questionnaire, someone actually wanted to see pictures of a regular grocery shopping trip for us. And my AIM friends very kindly agreed to make this the first question we answered.

Right up there with my love of food is my love of grocery shopping. When I travel to another town, one of the things I always do is to check out the grocery stores. I love visiting Trader Joe’s (my latest love is their peppermint tea, and I just got a box of their Chai tea bags–it has all the spices that I put in my homemade chai without all the work. I tried it this morning–most excellent!) Whole Foods is another fun store to visit, although they are a bit pricey for me. And of course, I do love to go to Costco. I have to be careful there though. The sheer volume of food is sometimes too much for a single person. (Latest Costco find–Skinny Pop Popcorn–for those who might be too lazy busy to make microwave popcorn…)

This is my favorite corner of Costco:

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So, returning to my grocery shopping trip.You know how one of the first things “they” tell you is to shop the perimeter of the store? “They” are right! I do that!

This is my regular route through the little grocery store that I do most of my shopping at. I go in the door by the produce, because that is my favorite thing to buy.

IMG_0205This day I got a few potatoes. I don’t buy too many, because I just don’t eat them that often. I always try to get little ones, about 3-5 ounces each. These are Yellow Finn potatoes. I love them because they have such flavor that you don’t need butter to enjoy them.

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This next picture is for my friend, Lynn. Aren’t those some beautiful artichokes? Artichokes don’t have many calories, and are very high in fiber. The problem with artichokes is that you are required to eat them with fat–either butter or mayonnaise. I’ve gone the gamut from using low calorie spreads to nothing. Now I eat them with a carefully measured out teaspoon or 1/2 Tbsp of butter. Just enough to get a bit of a taste on each leaf.IMG_0210

Baby carrots are a weekly purchase. Sophie and Bessie get a couple each night with their dinner. They both think I am starving them to death, so the carrots act as a kind of filler. I get to eat a few of them myself while I am feeding the dogs and getting my dinner ready. IMG_0212

I often buy scallions and cilantro without really knowing what I might be using them for. Its about 66 cents for both of them, and I do like having them on hand. This day I knew there was some recipe I wanted to try that called for both, and I couldn’t remember what it was. When I got home, I remembered that I wanted to try this Creamy Cilantro and Avocado Dressing recipe, recommended by Helen. Low calorie and SOOOO yummy! IMG_0213 Oh, I made sure to get the price in this picture. Isn’t that a great price for broccoli? My broccoli love comes and goes. I like to mix it with cauliflower and baby carrots.IMG_0214

I actually didn’t buy any fruit on this trip. I already had enough at home, and I have learned that for me it is best to not have too much fruit in the house. I feel pressured to eat it all. So I always have fruit, but I don’t go overboard. I never get tired of apples. Fuji’s are my favorite, and Pink Ladies come in a close second.

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I always have the pasteurized egg white stuff in the fridge. And I like to keep whole eggs too. I get those at the little farm stand, hoping that the chickens that produce those eggs are treated a little nicer than the grocery store chickens.IMG_0216

I didn’t buy any dairy on this trip. That is another thing that I have to be careful about. I eat yogurt and cottage cheese regularly, but I usually keep one or the other on hand. And not too much, or I will feel pressured to eat it before it “goes to waste.” Oh, and I also keep half and half for my coffee. I actually measured it one day, and I use about 1 1/2 Tbsp per cup of coffee.

I have to be careful to not buy too much meat. My little freezer gets too crowded. So this day I just bought one piece of salmon (2 servings) and 1 huge chicken breast (4 servings.)IMG_0217 IMG_0220 Okay. This is not something I buy all the time. I have rediscovered these La Tortilla Factory high fiber tortillas. Only 100 calories. I use them for those Breakfast Fruit Wraps. IMG_0224

Here’s the first time (on this trip) that I ventured into the center of the store. I like these sunflower seeds. I have to tell you, I don’t really think they are that low sodium. A commenter a long time ago did a big expose’ on how David’s does their figuring , and I believe her. Anyway, so far no one’s telling me to limit my salt, so I do eat them on road trips.IMG_0225

And just showing the whole trip here, I did stock up on Diet Coke. I still drink it. I usually have one diet coke in the evening.
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Oh, and one more little “non-diet” item. I really really like M&M’s with popcorn. So once every two weeks, I have a bowl of popcorn and 1/2 of a pack of M&M’s. IMG_0228

So there you have it. Probably a little more than you really wanted to know about how I shop. Thanks so much to those of you who joined in and asked us questions. We’ll be back in a month with more answers. Be sure to check out my AIM partners to see what’s in their shopping carts!

Lynn @ Lynn’s Weigh

Lori @ Finding Radiance

Shelley @ My Journey to Fit

Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

 If you have more questions, just click here, and you will be able to ask us (almost) anything!