Scenes From the Garden

Every day there is something new to discover in the garden. Isn’t that one of the most fun things about gardening–exploring to see what is coming up, what made it from last year, new volunteers, Oh, what is that little plant?!

The first sighting of my "New York Lily of the Valley!"

The first sighting of my “New York Lily of the Valley!”

This has been the best spring I can remember. I still hold my breath a little, because we used to get freezing temps in April and May. I haven’t allowed myself to buy any frost-tender plants yet. But it looks like its just going to continue on being spring.

The tulips have enjoyed this unusual weather. Best tulip year ever!

The tulips have enjoyed this unusual weather. Best tulip year ever!

New buds on the trees–anticipation!




More frequent trips to the nursery!

A new variety of coral bells.

A new variety of coral bells.

I tried to get a nice picture of Noah after his bath. He insists on patrolling the yard when I am out there. When I am not outside, he sleeps 24/7.





And he finally stopped. Not in the most picturesque place….


And our latest big project! We needed to get this last Japanese maple in the ground. Last year it did not do well in the heat.


MLG had the idea to cut the bottom off of the pot–it looks like the pot’s buried, but its just the rim. I think its a very cool effect! Plus, this gave me a place to plant MORE GROUNDCOVERS :) I love ground cover. Here I planted lemon thyme, armeria (new to me,) and in the shade some of my beloved corsican mint.


Take time to enjoy the springtime. And for my friends in the cold east, my best wishes that you will soon have your own spring to enjoy!

Two Loops

Lately I’ve had a couple of thought loops running through my mind. I think it has something to do with turning 60. The loops do not intersect. It seems they run on separate tracks, although they are about the same topic.

The first loop is this:

I am 60 years old. I do not want to spend the rest of my life obsessing about food and weight and weight loss and weight gain and weight maintenance. I want to live the best possible life, the most meaningful spiritual life that I can. I want to enjoy a meal with friends, accept a treat when offered. I want to celebrate with food occasionally. I want to physically be able to serve God and serve others. I think often about Dallas Willard (the author I loved so much.) He lived the life I seek. “Dallas Willard would not obsess over food decisions like this,” I often think.

I am not talking about gaining weight back. But to eat this way, I need to be content to maintain at a higher weight range.

The second loop is this:

My back hurts. It would help if you lost some weight.

Yep, that’s the whole loop. While my back would not be healed by weight loss, I know for a fact that losing weight does decrease pain.

For a while, these two loops went through my mind on a daily basis. Each of them I acknowledge as truthful statements. But each of them requires that I make a decision and act on it. That has not exactly happened. One day I will follow one loop, and the next day I will follow the other. This, at least, keeps me maintaining my weight at this higher level.

You know, the truth is, that by “not making a decision to follow one loop or the other,” I actually have made a decision. For now, the truth is that I have made a decision to not actively pursue weight loss. To hold life a little less tightly. To live with a bit of pain and a little less angst. To still eat from a very healthy food template and to exercise on a regular basis. But to understand and agree that weight will not be lost this way. And for now, that’s okay.

Its Definitely Spring

Last weekend I was in the Bay Area visiting my mom. The sky and the green hills were particularly beautiful that day. You can see “Niles” painted on the side of the hill. That has been there since I was a little kid! My mom said they periodically go up and whitewash it.


And just turning in a different direction:


Then this weekend in my garden:


the flowering almond is doing very well this year:


This plant just says “Springtime!” to me.


Some new hyacinths that are an unusual color. And Noah didn’t knock them down either :)


Icelandic Poppy. I am going to get more of these next year. I think they are one of the plants that does best if you plant it in the fall.


A pretty color combo.


This camellia is one of the first plants I ever planted here (28 years ago!) It has never done well in its current location, and MLG and I were planning to move it, and then this year it decided to put on a big show!


Chinese Fringe Bush. This plant almost gave up when I had it in a container, but now after being in the ground for a couple of years, it is doing extremely well. It blooms through several seasons, and I have seen it used in commercial landscaping, so I think it is a pretty easy keeper. I think the flowers are very different and pretty.




The tulips came back!


And plenty of daffodils and narcissus.


I’m including this picture for my gardening/landscaping friends. It doesn’t look like much now, but I am most excited about this. One day a couple weeks ago, I just got it into my head to put all the rest of my Japanese maples into the ground. And the very next time MLG came around, he dug four giant holes in this hard rocky ground, and got those big trees out of their giant pots, and put them in the ground for me. I’m hoping they will be much happier there, and will give me a better show next fall.


Yep, spring has arrived in Northern California!

Storage and Garden Report

First of all, I want to say a heartfelt THANK YOU for all the nice comments on my last blog about Mr. Monk. You all knew him better than most of my friends! All of us are doing fine. Especially Queen Sophie. After she got over her worry that she might be the next to be “banished” from the kingdom, she has taken back her “rightful place” on the chair next to me in the evenings.

And, I also wanted to thank so many of you for your interesting and informative comments on the previous blog about my knee. Since I wrote that, my first ortho doc got back in touch with me. He had been battling the insurance company all this time (over their refusal to approve the Orthovisc injections), and now advised me to file a complaint with the State Department of Managed Health Care. I completed that today. It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

In the meantime, how about a report on some everyday life stuff :)

Last week J. the contractor came back to finish the little pantry and add shelves to the laundry room. Squeee!!! MORE STORAGE SPACE. I hardly know what to do with it all.

Here’s the pantry. That’s all I’ve put in it so far. I have those two big corner cupboards with lazy susans in them in the kitchen. I’m not sure what to put there, and what to put in the pantry. If anyone has ideas or opinions, feel free to share.


And here’s the laundry room shelves. Plenty of extra storage up there for I don’t know what!


I also had J. put this little hanging cupboard in the mudroom. It used to be in my bathroom. I still liked it so finally decided that this would be the place for it.


I tell you, for someone whose ONLY storage space for many years was a big closet in her bedroom, I feel like I’ve hit the storage jackpot!

And here is a view of the garden. Still pretty bare, but things are sprouting. There are little buds on all the trees. Its fun to go out there and scope things out every day. I have to be careful to not get carried away with planting, because there’s still a real possibility that we will get some frost, up until May.


The camellia bush is chock full of buds. The Pink Flower Thief is keeping a close eye on it….



The Long Farewell

“The Long Farewell”–I thought the title would be fitting for a dog named after an iconic television character. Kinda like the episode name for a TV series finale. Mr. Monk is one of the best dogs I’ve ever had the privilege of owning. And believe me, I’ve owned a lot of dogs.

I found him on Petfinder. He was at the pound in Sacramento. A stray that no one claimed, they guessed his age at 8 years old. So I got the senior citizen discount (him, not me :) ) The best $47.50 I ever spent.

The first time I met Mr. Monk (he still had anesthesia on board–that’s why he looks so pitiful.)


He was a dignified gentleman.


Over a year ago he developed what we at first thought was arthritis, but then turned out to be a slowly progressive neuromuscular disease. There were a couple of times that I thought we were going to lose him. But I was blessed that with a good vet, some good medicine, and a little assist from me, he was able to have a good life for the past year.

I will miss my little man.

Photo on 12-4-13 at 12.56 PM #2

Some Exciting News!


I am re-blogging this post from my quilt blog. I thought some of you might be interested in my “other life.” Enjoy!

Originally posted on debby quilts:


Two years ago I had the opportunity to do an exhibit of my Housetop Quilts at the Oak Hills Church in Folsom, CA. Since then I have worked on two new series of quilts, The Psalms, and The Signature of Jesus. And Monday, I delivered 25 quilts to Oak Hills. They will be on display until Easter Sunday, April 5. Anyone is welcome to visit and view them. Of course, the gallery area will be open every Sunday morning, from about 9am-12noon. And you can also visit during the week, Tuesday through Friday. Just call the church office (916.983.0181) to make sure the gallery is open. (The gallery is in their very large sanctuary lobby.) I will be at the church this Sunday, February 22, sitting and demonstrating my handwork. Fun!


I can’t say enough good things about this church. They have encouraged me to be an artist, and have provided an opportunity…

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Disintegration… and Hope

That’s been my thought for the past week or so. We’re all disintegrating, you know that right? We can fight it (and most humans do,) but its relentless. Time marches on, and bit by bit, our bodies crumble.

Geez, debby, I can hear you say. What got into you? We come to your blog for a bit of sunshine and some good recipes. Wellllll, its like this. In November, I had had it with my knee hurting all the time, not being able to bear weight on it when I step out of a car, losing sleep because it aches when I lay down. I was ready to give those gel shots a try. So I started trying to call my ortho doc and get an appointment. Many thanks to the insurance system, I had to jump through a couple of hoops to get to him, so I finally saw him in early December. He agreed with me on the gel shots, and put through the request to the insurance company that day. More insurance hoops and hoopla to jump through, yada yada yada, and I still had not had the gel shots by the beginning of February. In the meantime my ortho doc had given me a referral to the ortho KNEE REPLACEMENT SURGERY docs “just to get them acquainted with your case.” Okay. Once the doctors start referring me to other doctors, I am generally very compliant.

So a week ago I went to see these guys. I say “guys” because in the university system (which I am well aware of, since that’s where I worked) a resident comes in and sees you first, gives you the once over and gives you his professional opinion. And then the attending physician comes in and gives you his professional (and more experienced) opinion. And often, those two opinions are different.

So after sitting in the waiting room and seeing people with infinitely more serious problems than mine, and filling out a four page questionnaire (do you use one cane or two when rising from a chair?) I did start thinking that maybe my little knee pain was not that big a deal.

After taking multiple specialized x-rays of my knee, I was finally taken into the doctors exam room. Mr. Resident comes in (and really, I liked him.) He poked and prodded my knee “does it hurt here? here? does this mimic the pain?” Believe me, next time I am going in with a Sharpie pen marking the exact spots that it hurts. He reviewed the x-rays with me, and concluded that I did not need surgery at this point. He was very complimentary and said that I was doing the two most important things–taking NSAIDS and exercising correctly and regularly. I asked him “I notice you did not mention losing weight as something important to do.” And he just said, “well, of course losing weight always helps, but you had already told me…” (I had given him a brief overview of my weight loss/maintenance history.) I have to say, I know I am lucky, but I have not had a really bad experience with a doctor and weight loss issues. Even when I was “morbidly obese.”

Okay. so now the attending physician comes in. And he says, “well, up until I just now talked to my resident, I thought I was coming into a room to talk to someone who needed knee replacement surgery.” All I can think is that he read that questionnaire a little more thoroughly. I tried to give as much detailed information as I could in it.  So the three of us chatted quite a bit more. Neither of them were huge fans of the gel shots. The attending physician said, in comparing the gel shots to steroid shots–either of them have varying results, from only working for a week, to sometimes working for several years. 

Long story short, what I finally decided to do was to change from Ibuprofen to Aleve (which they recommended,) and to try a “medial unloading brace.” I didn’t want to try too many things at one time. I bought some Aleve on the way home, and I do think it is working better for me than the Ibuprofen, maybe just for the fact that I take it routinely twice a day instead of thinking (or not thinking) about taking the ibuprofen. I don’t have the brace yet. And I have a follow-up visit with these guys in March.

In the meantime, one thing I had started to think about was this. I got all gung-ho for the knee surgery because my carpal tunnel surgery was such a success. But then I remembered that they are two different things. One of them (carpal tunnel surgery) just fixed up a poorly working part of my body. The other one (knee replacement surgery) completely removes a poorly working part of my body and replaces it with an artificial part, which of course can never do the same thing as the real thing could do. I know quite a few people who have had knee replacement. I haven’t kept count, but I think the results would be just about 50/50 positive to negative outcomes.

So in talking all this over with my BF a few days later, I said, “I just have to work to come to terms with things disintegrating. When do you stop fighting it and learn to accept it?” And she said, “well judging from my parents…NEVER!” And that made me think about my own mom, and yeah, she has not stopped fighting the aging process either.

In one way, I think that is healthy. But in another way, for me, I do think that acceptance can lead to a more peaceful existence (and you all know peace is big with me.) For example, I have wanted to take a trip to the British Isles for a long time. I dreamed about walking the moors like, you know, James Herriot. Now I don’t want to walk anywhere. And that was bugging me. And I wanted to get fixed so I could walk those damn moors. But now I’m thinking, “just change your perspective. You can still travel to the British Isles. You just need to take a different kind of a tour. And if you’re honest with yourself, you didn’t even like walking the hills when you were a kid and your dad took you for a hike. You just like the idea of walking the moors.”

And for me, that’s where hope comes in. I know that people cannot live without hope. I know that from my years as a NICU nurse. No matter how grim the situation, parents would latch on to that one tiny bit of hope. Some nurses would get frustrated by that. I just said, “everyone has to have a little hope.”