Friday, June 15, 2018

June 15, 2018 a poem

This has been an interesting journey for me. Without having to report to a job, either paid or volunteer, my time is truly my own. Not every waking moment includes introspection or productivity, or doing of anything. I'm even hesitant to establish any kind of schedule for anything, except meditation and yoga practices. I do begin most days with both of those habits. With that I can feel pretty complete and let the rest of the day unfold as it will.

I know this will change, everything does. So I am doing my best to be in the present moment each day. I am always surprised at how quickly the time passes with whatever I choose to do. Today I made the effort to work on my Chair Yoga teacher training course outline. Something that is important to me and yet, I can procrastinate getting to it quite well.

me and Brownie on the Mickelson trail
The weather was fine the other day so I went for a 20 mile bike ride on the Mickelson Trail. Yesterday it was blazing hot,(100+ degrees) so the neighbor and I decided it would be a good goof off day, going for a drive, doing some shopping, lunch, all things that would provide AC to keep us cool. I also make a little time for knitting, picking my banjo and writing.

On one of my hikes shortly after my arrival here I sat down and came up with this poem. I call it,
My Old Friend.

My Old Friend

The trail is like an old friend
Always with me to the end
Listening with an open ear
To help me face my fear.

And when I go off the path as if to stray
The old friend is there to guide my way
I watch the sunlight dance on the water’s surface
As we both flow on to our purpose.

Travel lightly, travel long
Know all the while you’re not alone
Along the trail, whether dusty or dry
The old friend will be there when you cry.

The beauty of each long mile 
Will bring back that beautiful smile
Moss gives comfort cushioning a rock
Giving me time to think and maybe talk

When I feel like falling apart
The trail will be there to warm my heart
Even thought there’s no one to listen 
I watch the suns rays as they glisten.

And wonder at the blue sky
Asking myself the question, why?
Where on the trail it might be hidden
I know the answer lies within.

The end of my walk is near
I know there is nothing to fear
The trail is like an old friend
Always with me to the end

Monday, June 11, 2018

June 11, 2018 A little pain to slow me down

I think there’s nothing quite like pain that will make a person stand up and take notice, or as the case may be lie down on a heating pad and hope for some relief. 

Brownie and Humpty having a story
On long days of driving when I wasn’t going to be with someone, I would take a break after 2 or 3 hours of driving and go for a long walk or a bike ride. It was a nice way to explore the communities a little, have some lunch and get some exercise. From Missoula to Billings I stopped in Bozeman for my break. They have a wonderful trail system with free parking near the library, so Brownie and I took a walk in the park.There were may others out enjoying the beautiful spring day too. The sky truly is big in Montana, with wide open spaces and big puffy clouds.
view from the top

I made it to Billings and checked in to an historic old hotel downtown, the Dude Rancher Lodge. Not my best choice, but their ad made it sound like it had been renovated like some other old hotels I’ve been in. The room was frighteningly dirty. I was afraid if I took my shoes off, my feet would stick to the carpet. The bathroom was relatively clean, but the sheets were questionable. My phone rang shortly after I walked in to survey this accommodation and I chatted with my friend Debbie for a few minutes. This gave me more time to really see what this room looked like and I decided there was no way I was going to stay here. I didn’t say anything to her about it, just told her I needed to call Jay and that I would catch up with her later. 

downtown Billings
I went to the front desk and politely inquired if they didn’t have a cleaner room available? I told her the carpet in that room was beyond filthy. She said why yes, we do. I can put you on the second floor in the renovated rooms. They are much nicer, we just haven’t gotten around to the first floor and a lot of dirt gets tracked in from the parking lot on those carpets. Honey, I’ve got news for you, those carpets have a lot more than dirt from the parking lot on them, and by the way, what in the hell is all over the walls?

So I moved up to the second floor which was much cleaner but in the renovation work they failed to upgrade the AC unit which blew air out of it, but none of it was cool. I shut that off, cracked open the window, and unplugged the fridge which of course was running constantly, and after wandering downtown to get some supper I settled down to get a little sleep so I could safely finish my journey to CSP the next day.

It was a warm, sunny morning, good for getting an early start for about a 5 hour drive. I was very happy to be leaving the Dude Rancher Lodge, definitely mark that one off the list of places to go back to, and headed east toward Sheridan, Wyoming.

Since I didn’t sleep very well I thought Sheridan would be a good place for my break. About 2 hours driving, and a good place to get fuel and lunch. It was my lucky day, at the gas station there was a food truck selling burritos. I got a burrito the size of my head full of grass fed beef, beans, lettuce and salsa verde. Making my way again to the library parking lot, near the town park and trails, I found a little bit of shade for my lunch and a nap.

After resting and letting my lunch settle, I wanted to take my bike out and explore Kendrick Park. It’s a nature preserve right in town with elk and buffalo. Not like I’m not going to see plenty of those where I’m going, but a bike ride will be a great way to explore. I got all geared up and slowly set out, there being a lot of people in the park, and not knowing exactly which way to go. The path crossed a residential street that had cars parked on both sides. I saw a pick-up truck coming my direction and thought I would cross as it was going slow. But I didn’t see on the other side of the parked car that there was another car on the street right at the crossing. I had just pedaled down and saw it out of the corner of my eye, slammed on my brakes and managed to land on the crossbar of my bike on the inner left side of my groin. 

Wow!! Did that hurt or what?, I thought. Never done that before in all my years of riding. The car went on it’s merry way, I let the truck pass by, then continued to cross to the other side and the path. My inner groin was sore and I thought I’ll probably have a pretty bad bruise there. I kept going, taking in the sights of the kids playing, the amphitheater, the swimming pool and uphill to the game preserve seeing a couple of buffalo and elk hanging out together. I went on to another part of the loop trail, all nicely paved and then downhill back to my car. I checked on my inner leg and it was sore, but I didn’t think much of it. Loaded up the bike, stowed my gear and headed on my way east. 

I finally made it to CSP about 5:00 in the afternoon and Jay was pretty darn happy to see me. I told him about my escapade in Sheridan and he asked if I was wearing my helmet. Yes I was, but I think a cup would have been a better safety option for this little accident.

my bike having a rest
The next morning I checked on my inner leg to assess the damage as I was feeling some serious discomfort there. I had a bruise the size of a goose egg, very tender spot on my pubic bone and a very purple bruise. (sorry, no pictures! Private parts you know.) Dang! What a way to start my summer, with an injury. It really didn’t seem to bother me too much, until I went for another bike ride, that was uncomfortable. So I thought I’ll give that a rest and just hike until it heals. The first 3 mile hike was okay. The next 4 mile hike a few days later, the last uphill mile was a challenge, mostly for my low back. Then I did an easy 7 miles, meaning not much grade change and after that, my back was giving me more pain than my groin. Great. No, not great. I hurt, a lot. I didn’t know where that back pain was coming from. Pulled muscle? Pinched nerve? Didn’t feel like either of those, but I was recently given the diagnoses of arthritis there and in my hips. If that’s what arthritis feels like, I’d like to take a pass on that. 

I'm so happy to see you, Ruby says
A couple of days of heat and ice, anti-inflammatory meds and some easy walking, I feel like a new person. The goose egg has all but vanished, the purple bruise is lightening in color, my low back feels like nothing happened. I know the arthritis can flare at any time, and that I might fall again on my bike. But I know I must still allow for some healing. It takes longer the older I get. 

This short experience with chronic pain has given me good insight into what Jay feels with his back pain, and what many of my students who come to my yoga classes might be experiencing. As I moved through my yoga practice I spent time checking in with what my body needed during this time of healing and did less than what might be a typical practice for me. I reminded myself to explore the sensations in my body, how does a particular movement feel in my groin, my low back? Is this helping or hurting at this time? How can I take this experience back to my students? 

It was another gentle reminder from the universe to be present and to take care of myself. I also noted that this accident happened on the last day of my long driving trip. I had been on the road for 20 days. I was beginning to feel tired, even with my breaks. Travel can do that. Even though we are excited for the adventure, to have new experiences, even with the best intentions of awareness and rest, when we go too long, our senses can become overwhelmed. It helps to know my limits. Now having been at CSP for 2 weeks, I am enjoying my time, waiting for the next adventure to begin.
I'm happy to see you too!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

May 31, 2018 Traveling solo

3,602 miles of driving, I arrive at Custer State Park in South Dakota, our home for the summer. I began this journey May 4, leaving Green Valley as the temperature neared 100 F degrees. Brownie was ready for adventure and I too was excited for this solo road trip. Jay left home with the 5th wheel, the RZR on a 10’ trailer behind, and both cats on April 19th.

It was a fun journey, emotional at times and long stretches of road with some incredibly beautiful scenery through Montana and Wyoming. After arriving at the Park and spending a couple of days with Jay resting, we went for a drive through the park, stopping to pick up the new copy of Tatanka, the park guide book. The message from the park superintendent included a quote from Traveling Light,  a book by Max Lucado:

“Somewhere between the first step on the floor and the last step out the door, you grabbed some luggage. You  stepped over to the baggage carousel and looked up. Don’t remember doing so? That’s because you did it without thinking. Don’t remember seeing a baggage carousel? That’s because the carousel is not the one in the airport, it’s the one in the mind. And the bags we grabbed are not made of leather; they're made of burdens.

The suitcase of guilt. A sack of discontent. You drape a duffel bag of weariness on one shoulder and hanging bag of grief on the other. Throw on a backpack of anxiety. An overnight bag of loneliness and a duffle bag of fear. Add on a briefcase of perfectionism. Pretty soon we’re carrying more than a freight train. No wonder we are so tired at the end of the day. Lugging luggage is exhausting.”

The superintendent's message was to take a deep breath and set down all the baggage, at the “lost and never to be found” box. I can’t think of a better place to do that. I know, last year I talked about some of the negatives here, but mostly that was working in customer service and less than optimal working conditions and living next to a large dumpster for 2 months. The rest of it is amazing. Who gets to sit and write with 5 or 6 bull bison outside their window, rolling around and rubbing against picnic tables and power boxes, trying to lose their winter coats? Or take just a few steps out my door into a wonderland of trees, birds and a babbling brook?

It was so nice to be greeted with that message at a time when I really needed it. I love how the universe works to give us what we need at the right moment if we give ourselves the chance to be present so we can see it. It’s more of that slowing down I talked about before. 

The past few days I have had time to reconnect with my meditation and yoga practice. Both of which were needed, I really feel it in my body. Doing a shoulder opening sequence one day, a hip opener sequence the next, gets into all the spots that were crunched up over all those miles of driving. I’m going to get out and look for a work opportunity, either volunteer or for pay somewhere. And I’m going to get out and hike.

Throw on a backpack of anxiety. An overnight bag of lonelines
The superintendent's message was to take a deep breath and set down all the baggage, at the “lost and never to be found” box. I can’t think of

It was so nice to be greeted with that message at a time w

Thursday, May 3, 2018

May 3, 2018 Things you can see when you slow down

I was recently reminded of the need to slow down. It's something I think about a lot, my days are full, teaching yoga, planning classes, playing golf, hanging out with Jay and the cats, etc., etc. how can I slow down? Do I need to slow down? Am I missing something by keeping so busy, moving through life without necessary pauses?

Since I was given this kind reminder, yes, by a very nice young man in a uniform, I realized that I have been speeding through my life the past few months. (The aforementioned reminder was a warning, free of charge). I do need to slow down and I know how to do it. Clear the calendar, drive the speed limit and take notice of my surroundings. I don't have to listen to every interesting podcast or read every intriguing article about yoga and anatomy. I'm going to try a technique a friend of mine uses when reading articles and news, quickly skim the words, landing on just the ones that stand out and write them down. Then review them to see what seems important for that day. Our minds work in funny ways, I bet if I were to do this with the same articles a week apart, different words might stand out.

This practice reminds me of a writing technique called stream of consciousness writing. This is where you sit down and write whatever thoughts come in to your brain. Write them down, they don't have to make sense or be grammatically correct. It's just what you're thinking about in the moment, to try and get into the habit of writing everyday. It also helps to get ideas flowing for creating stories, to just get the words on the page and see where my mind takes them.

In my recent efforts to slow down I have been able to accomplish things on my list to ready myself for my departure from Green Valley for the summer. I was able to fix my sewing machine by taking time to see what had happened to it. My usual instinct is to get really upset, stomp around angrily for awhile, eat something and find someway to fix it, immediately. I calmly cleaned up my work area, put away projects and thought I’ll deal with it in the fall, I’m not going to need it until then. But the next day, I had some time so I sat down in front of it, in the clean work area and methodically went through rethreading the needle, the bobbin, removing the bobbin and the bobbin carrier and what did I find? A missing screw. I thought it was lost for sure, but it happened to have fallen into the tool compartment the last time I had it apart to clean all the lint out. I got the appropriate screwdriver, replaced the screw, but everything back together and tested it on a scrap of fabric and it worked! I was so happy and it was because I was able to take a pause, by slowing down.

flattened horny toad in the road
I have also had the extreme pleasure of seeing many beautiful cactus blooming. Instead of racing by on my bicycle in a hurry to get nowhere, as I caught a glimpse of color flashing by, I would stop and turn around to admire what the cacti are offering. Seeing the many lizards out this time of year, a big gila monster in my yard, the birds on their migratory paths and so many things nature has to offer.
Gila monster in my backyard
rattlesnake in the neighbor's yard

I hope you can find a way to take a pause in your life, slowing down to rest your body and your mind. When you do this you actually have more energy to return to the busy-ness of your life.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

April 22, 2018 Investing in the future

When I was young, my Dad did his best to teach me about money. He was always telling me to save for the future, save for emergencies, save for that special thing that you want to buy and to make wise decisions when spending money. I wouldn’t say he was a tightwad, but the terms thrifty and frugal come to mind. I recall a red ski jacket he had back in the 70’s when we went skiing a lot. He and my Mom split up, he moved away, married Carolyn and moved back. In the 90’s when I was visiting him one time, he was showing me something out in his garage and there was that red ski jacket hanging on a hook. It had become his gardening jacket. Even years later when they moved to Kent from the Bellevue house, that jacket was hanging in the garage for when he was tinkering or gardening. 

I couldn’t quite get the idea about saving money. I liked it when I was able to open a savings account at the bank and felt important when I would go in to deposit my babysitting money. When I was in my 20’s the idea of saving any money seemed a really foreign concept, I barely had enough to pay rent and buy groceries let alone set aside even five dollars for savings.

But now I need to go back in time a little to when I was 9 or 10 years old. That’s when Brownie came into my life. I had received some money for my birthday and was told I could do with it whatever I wanted, but it would be really wise to put it in the bank and save it, I was also told. I had other plans for that money. It must have been around Christmas when my Mom had taken us into 
Frederick and Nelson’s department store to do some shopping. She let us browse in the toy department, it was a wonderful toy department back then. Shelves lined with dolls, stuffed animals, trains and games, all beautifully displayed. There I spied the cutest little bear, in a pretty box with a cellophane cover, her shiny brown eyes peeking out as if to say to me, ‘please, take me home with you.’

Of course I couldn’t. We were shopping for others, not for ourselves. But I didn’t forget about that little bear. It was only two months later, my birthday being in February, when I received the money, likely from my grandparents. I asked my Mom if we could go back to Frederick and Nelson’s where I had seen the little bear to see if I had enough money to buy it. I don’t remember the dollar amount, but there was consternation from my parents on my decision, so it must have been what they felt too much to be spent on a toy that might just get relegated to the back of the shelf when I got tired of playing with it.

That didn’t happen. Brownie went everywhere with me. To the cabin, to my best friends house, she even played dress up with Barbie. As I got older, she didn’t go as often and spent more time with Mary Bear and Ted (the cross-dressing bear, he always wore a dress) on the side lines, but she was always waiting for me. I still have Mary and Ted too. Over the years there were times when she got to come along, but mostly she just waited at home for me.

Brownie is ready to go!
Then a few years ago, when Jay and I started traveling away from Arizona in the summer, I thought, we need a mascot. Brownie was willing to step in to that role. She can fit just about anywhere, doesn’t eat much and makes friends easily. It’s been almost 50 years since she came in to my life and has brought me so much happiness. Just looking at her sweet face makes me smile. I just wish my Dad were around to see that it was a good investment, to buy that stuffed bear so long ago. That sometimes spending the money is the better choice than saving it for later.

So that’s some history on Brownie. Now she is my travel buddy, other than Jay and the cats. She gets to go places where the cats don’t go, and to places where Jay won’t go and sometimes with me and Jay. She has an adventurous soul for a stuffed animal and is willing to go outside her comfort zone, except where water is concerned. In that regard she is not a typical bear.

She and I are about to set off in to a new adventure. A solo road trip in the new Subaru Outback, with a mountain bike. With a little help from Jay, I managed to install the trailer hitch and rack onto the new car. I wanted to bring the kayak along, but he didn’t think I needed to be packing that so he took it with him to South Dakota. 

Yes, he is solo, well almost solo, he has both cats with him, on his way to South Dakota. He got a job as a Water Technician there for the summer. They were unable to think outside the box for what I suggested a great volunteer job for me would be, so I have no commitment to the park to be there, just to my hubby. More on that later.

Pretty soon Brownie and I will be heading out, first to California to see my sister and her kids. It’s been a long time since we’ve been together and the kids are teenagers now so it will be fun to see them. Brownie might even get to try her hand at lacrosse, that’s the kids’ favorite sport these days, they both play.

After that we will head north up I-5 on our way to Washington. We plan to make a couple of stops in Oregon to visit some friends there, then on to the Seattle area for a few days to connect with some family and friends. 

From there we’ll head east over the Cascade Mountains to the beautiful Wenatchee Valley, making a short stop there before making our way across the amber waves of grain to Spokane Valley to see my Mom and my brother. Should be fun for Brownie to see all the wonderful fountains and plants at my brother’s garden nursery there. 

Before we know it, it will be time to head further east and south to get ourselves to Custer State Park to meet up with Jay and Ruby and Toby. It will be a happy day when we are all together again.

Stay tuned for more! And here are some fun desert photos, cacti and gila monster.

in the garden 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April 4, 2018 Self-criticism and self-doubt, let them go.

What is success? Is it something we really want? Do we need it?
It seems that there are many articles out there written about how to achieve it. How we can be more productive in our lives, such as these headlines from Medium:

Want to Live a Life 99% of Other People Will Envy? Read This Immediately (click here for this article)
7 Small Things You Can Do In 10 Minutes That Will Improve Your Health Substantially (tips for healthy living here)

I’m not against finding things that will help make our lives better, or different from what they are. I encourage people to explore their inner self, to understand that they can be in charge of their own happiness and well-being. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by pressure I put on myself to study and to continue learning so I can pass on more information to my students. I feel that I always have to present something new, forgetting that something I already know might be new to my students, or I have new students and it’s new to them anyway. 

I wrote that a week ago, just trying to get some thoughts on the page. As I reread it today, I find it is still relevant to my current state of mind. I had the opportunity this morning to have a session with a ‘life coach’ or something like that. She recently obtained certification and part of her curriculum is to give 50 hours of coaching. I felt it was something I could use and I’m always eager to help someone achieve their goals. 

It was one of those conversations where the person asks you how you want to spend the time together. Really putting the ownership on to yourself of what you expect to get from the meeting. Then, as I start talking about how to put less pressure on myself, how to eliminate self-doubt and to know that I am competent, capable and complete, she would ask what do I do that nourishes me in these areas. Do I not already have resources that I have learned to know how to boost myself? Do I know how to self soothe? Do I take time to rest so I can feel energized? And the answer to all of those questions is yes, yes, yes. 

The self-criticism and self-doubt will always be present, and the only solution is to just act in spite of them. 

How true. That is exactly what I was talking about with my life coach.
This statement came from another article on Medium, by Thomas Oppong, titled, “You’ll Seriously Regret These Life Choices and What to do About Them.” (live without regret) Yet another well written article to help a person make positive changes in their life and to live authentically. I did take time to read again this article because that statement was highlighted, it’s exactly what I’m feeling, as are apparently a whole lot of other people. 

So when I have times of stress or performance anxiety, or are just feeling overwhelmed by all of what life throws at me, I know what to do. Sometimes it’s okay to just sit there, and not do anything, instead of “Don’t just stand there, do something!” Do nothing and see what happens. If you are interested in where that saying came from, click here 
And know that I am competent, capable and complete. 

By the way, did you know that April is National Poetry Month? I thought poetry was something I had to ‘get’, my 7th grade English teacher presented poetry as something to be dissected in order to be understood. But as I have been writing, I realize you can just read poetry and let it be what it is for you as you read it. It can rhyme, it cannot rhyme. It can tell a story, evoke feelings, describe nature, or any number of things. At any rate, it can be enjoyable. I hope you will enjoy the poem I have included here, along with some new cactus photos.


Tonight it’s quiet or in the quiet
Or, at least, the quiet
Is all around us. What is it
I’m worried about when I
Worry about anything? What is it
I tangle up in, wanting to go home?
From down here I look up at myself
In the little bright square of window
Staring down at me in bemusement
Querying what’s it worth. But that’s
A question snaps shut on itself
Thoughts with teeth or claws
To scrape away to the very core. What
Cares contains its value, a half life,
Mixed, no doubt, yet fair.
It’s always fair or anyway
It’s always what’s there...
And it’s not our fault.

By Norman Fischer

Monday, March 19, 2018

March 18, 2018 I love my cats....

Really I do. They wonderful companions, they don’t take a lot of effort to care for. They are pretty content to sleep most of the time, letting me know when they need to be fed. Even though they are 12 years old, they are still mischievous and can create some havoc on occasion. 

Toby likes to get into things. He likes to pull books off the low book shelves in an effort to get in behind them. If there’s a paper bag with a few items in it, he’s trying to get into that bag. He likes to get into dresser drawers, pulling socks and shirts out just because he can. He also likes to climb if he thinks there’s a possibility of getting on top of something. 

The other evening, after dinner, Jay was sitting outside relaxing and I was working on the computer when all of a sudden I heard a strange crash. I quickly got up to go check on Jay, it sounded like something might have tipped over on the patio, but not the sound of broken glass. All was quiet in the living room, but I didn’t see either of the cats. Further investigation into the creation room (which is the guest/meditation/yoga/reading/creating space) found the box containing my button collection on the floor. Spilled on to the floor. No easy feat, even for Toby. I had left the closet door open in the creation room. The box containing the buttons was on the top shelf, on top of other boxes. It weighs about 10 pounds. As you can see in the picture there are stacks of plastic boxes on the floor which makes the overhead shelf in the closet more accessible to a cat. The two quilts in the corner didn’t have anything on top of them which made for a clear space for him to get to. Then somehow, he got in behind the button box and sent it and the two boxes it was on to the floor, the contents of everything scattered around.

do I look guilty?
That’s why I couldn’t see either of them in the living room. They took cover in the other bedroom, far from the scene of the crime. Ruby was smuggly curled up on her bed and Toby was trying to look innocent.

I love my cats. Really I do.

Friday, February 16, 2018

February 16, 2018 Let's talk about food

As you know, I enjoy cooking. This is because I enjoy eating good food that has been well prepared, at least most of the time. Sometimes what I cook doesn’t turn out quite right, but that’s all part of the fun of cooking, learning how to cook something, and playing with the ingredients. I have managed to pare down my selection of cookbooks to a handful, or two, of favorites, The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian see the 10th anniversary edition hereboth being near the top of the stack. 

There are always new recipes coming out, magazines like Bon Appétit and Cook’s Illustrated always having something appealing. We used to subscribe to Bon Appétit and had a lot of fun working with the recipes there, finding some new favorites and realizing that sometimes their recipes call for way too much olive oil. 

While standing in line to pay for groceries I notice the shiny magazines with their beautiful photos of luscious dishes with promises of this being the next best party dish. I usually avert my gaze and remind myself I have stacks of magazines at home with recipes waiting to be tried, my cookbooks and of course, the internet. Last year I fell for one, this one, with an amazing chocolate cake on the cover. I vowed I must make that cake for my birthday. So I shelled out the 10 bucks without hesitation and brought home the magazine. I must admit this was a good investment. There hasn’t been a bad recipe in it that I have tried and some we have had more than once. 

I did make the cake. Including the caramel filling, I had never made caramel before and it was a challenge. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour as called for in the recipe. I know better than to make that type of substitution, especially with baking cakes. But I had cake flour I wanted to use up, and really, how much difference would it make? A lot. The flour didn’t have enough surface area to absorb the moisture and didn’t raise properly. It stuck in the pan, the layers were thin and full of large bubbles. But I was insistent. I made the caramel, and spread it over the thin layers made by slicing the cakes in half. I watched it disappear into the cake itself. All those big bubbles were just holes for the caramel to soak in to. There were no layers of cake and caramel. 

It had an interesting texture. Very soft, not cake like at all and very sweet. The next day, after it had time to set up, the caramel became more like caramel and the whole thing was more like a dense, gooey coffee cake. Some day I may try it again, but without the caramel filling. Or I may just go back to a good solid cake recipe from my Cake Bible cookbook. 

looks just like the picture in the magazine!

get this at Trader Joe's

Further perusal of the magazine led me down another path. I always have a couple of cans of chickpeas in the pantry. They are a great staple to have and easy to toss in to a salad or soup, so I was happy to see a recipe using them in this magazine, Pasta e Ceci. Pretty quick and easy, especially with the pancetta cubes from Trader Joe’s. I always pick up a couple of packages when I’m in Tucson and have them on hand in the freezer. So with just a few simple ingredients of things typically on hand in the pantry and fridge I can whip up a tasty meal. 

If you like chickpeas, I also found this recipe, Kung Pao Chickpeas, which is delicious and vegetarian. It’s from The Splendid Table, a radio cooking show on NPR and you can also sign up for their email list and they send you weekly recipes and kitchen tips.

As for that pile of Bon Appétit magazines, well, I’m still lightening the load and most of them made their way to the recycle bin last week. I actually moved 10 pounds of magazines from Bellingham to Arizona 3-1/2 years ago. I figure if I haven’t opened one of them since then, it’s time for them to stop collecting dust and move on. 

Cook well and in the famous words of Julia Child, Bon Appétit!

Friday, February 9, 2018

February 9, 2018 "now you have something to write about," he says

I do love an adventure. Life is an adventure. I like my adventures to have a modicum of safety to them. I know some people may think, where’s the adventure then if it’s safe? I find it interesting when DH and I are in the midst of one of these adventures he has a nifty way of saying, “now you have something to write in your blog!” 

I don’t really have a shortage of ideas for things to write about, I have a shortage of time to write about them. Lately it seems my head is brimming with ideas, and fun stories, it’s just making the time to write them down.
This past weekend really fit for an adventure story, so here we go.

Our friends from Saskatchewan, who have a Polaris RZR 1000, whom we ride around in the desert with, found out about a big off road vehicle race in southern California, called King of the Hammer. They thought it would be fun if we all went there to have an experience. We would load up our trailers, RZR’s, pets and supplies and head west. It was going to be about 7-10 days long. Well, I can’t go away for that long at this time of year because I teach yoga 3 days a week. So where can we go for a few days, that isn’t too long of a drive for me, so I can get home before they head west? Just 2 hours north of home, Florence, AZ. 

Apparently there are many riding trails in the area with some cool old coke ovens, nifty box canyons and challenging trails. So that’s where we went. 

We arrived Thursday afternoon and found a spot in the desert about 300 yards from the main road. It had some nice trees to afford us afternoon shade and there were just a few trailers to the east of us.This all changed by Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, we were surrounded by about 20 trailers, all with ATV’s, dirt bikes, and side x sides. And kids. And dogs. 

But let’s stay within our little time line. Friday morning about 9, we loaded up, Tika got his new doggles on and was hamming it up for the camera with Jay and Ron. We headed east to explore the roads, the weather was fine, not to hot and not a bunch of riders so there wasn’t too much dust, relatively speaking.

The road was rough in spots, but we managed to get through. Then we came to a spot in the canyon where two large outcroppings of rock met that were just a little bit narrower than either of our buggies. We thought that must have been the end of the box canyon but by my estimation this wasn’t the box canyon the website was referring to. As it was nearing noon, we thought we should head back and have some lunch, regroup and figure out how to get to the coke ovens.

You might be asking, what the heck are coke ovens?  This website provides a brief explanation: What are coke ovens?

On to our adventure. Ron figured we could get there by going out east and hanging a right where we turned left to go out to the canyon. He said it wasn’t more than about 15-20 miles out to the coke ovens and shouldn’t take us too long to get there. So we packed up again, with no extra water, no food, no extra fuel, no flashlight and only a light jacket. Heck, it’s 82 degrees and we’ll be back before sundown. No need to be prepared for any mishaps. Off we go at 2:00 in the afternoon. You can see the map we used here: RiderPlanet map

Stair steps, yep, we went up this in the dark
As soon as we make that right turn the road turns into more of a trail, I hesitate to call it a goat trail, not sure goats would want to walk on it, it was so steep and rough. Loose rock, hard rock faces, narrow in place with steep drop offs. It’s all pretty cool, part of the adventure but it sure makes for slow going, 5 maybe 8 mph. After about an hour and a half of this, we come to a spot that looks like a stair case for the Jolly Green Giant. Turns out it’s called the Stair Steps. Jay goes first to find a way down. We are both too wide to go on the far left side where it looks like ATV’s go up and down, so we go down right over the face of the rocks. All is good! So Ron and Lynn, with Tika the dog, come down too. And we’re off! Like a herd of turtles, 5-8 mph

After another half hour or so, we get to the top of a ridge and survey our surroundings. 
Lynn pipes up and says, ‘it’s quarter of 4, how much farther?’ 
‘Not too far now,’ says Ron. And on we go.
It’s about 5:30 next time we pull over and I suggest we consider not trying to find the coke ovens and maybe try to find an alternate way back to camp. We are going to run out of daylight in about 45 minutes and I don’t relish the idea of driving back the way we came in the dark.

Continuing on, we head downhill toward the Gila River. I figure there must be a road that runs along the river and Jay said there is the old railroad and we could follow that back out the highway. 

Then a barbed wire fence with a broken down gate appears in our path, no trespassing signs and private property posted on both sides. Ron thought we should turn around, but I said we should continue on, take our chances. We really need to find a way out of here before dark. Around two more bends down the hill and what appears? The coke ovens! And we almost gave up. Well, technically we had given up finding them, we didn’t know they would be right there. So we stopped and took a few pictures, stretched our legs. Lynn misstepped off the curb in front of the doorways and took a tumble but she does know how to tuck and roll and came away unscathed.

Anxiousness is settling in about the lessening daylight so we loaded up quickly and headed downhill again. The trail quickly turned to sand so I knew we were going in the right direction to get to the river. It was only a couple of miles through a mesquite and tamarisk jungle to the rivers edge. This happens to be one of the few rivers in the area that actually has water in it. Quite a bit of water too. Flowing at a pretty good pace and kind of deep. Oh, how I longed to be on the other side. But it was not to be. Too deep and too fast. 

At the point we realize that we are going to have to go all the way back the way we came. Fortunately, our GPS leaves a blue line on the map from where we have traveled so we led the way. We came up away from the river and back past the coke ovens, across private property, and up the ridge where we could enjoy a beautiful sunset. Gaack! I don’t want a beautiful sunset! I want it to stay light for another 2 hours! Where is the full moon? Even moonlight would help out here.

upper left curve is where Ron tipped over in the dark
Driving as fast as we dare, which isn’t very fast, we keep moving. Remember 5-8 mph? Now we are doing it in the dark. We do have a lot of headlights, running lights, driving lights. But that’s all we have. And it’s dark out here. I keep turning around to make sure Ron and Lynn are behind us. After one particularly steep incline over very bumpy large rock faces, we pause near the top. I look over my shoulder and I don’t see any headlights. I jump out thinking I’m going to run back to see what’s happened and as soon as I am out of the headlights, I can’t see where to put my feet. I let my eyes adjust and see Lynn and Tika walking up towards us with a weak light shining on her feet. She yells, “we’re on the side”. They had tipped over on the incline. 

Jay is turning around so we can help them get upright. I’m starting to shake by now, it’s dark and I can’t see very well. Jay tells me to get the controller for the winch out and plug it in. I don’t remember where to plug it in and am fumbling with get the cable unwound. He says it’s in the glove box so using the flashlight in my phone, I manage to get it plugged in. I press the button and nothing happens. He comes over to make sure I’ve got it plugged in the right way, which I do, but there is no power to the winch. We hook on to Ron’s buggy anyway, then Jay gets in and pulls backward to get Ron’s wheels on the ground and to keep some tension until he can get up past the rough spots. Okay, that was scary, but everyone is uninjured and nothing is broken. It was about this time when Jay informed me that the fuel light was flashing, low fuel. Really? And we have no extra? And this is about the time I should be starting to panic. But for some reason all along, I didn’t have a sense of panic. Once I realized we were going to be driving all the way back in the dark, I had a sense of acceptance. It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, but what other choice did we have? Be in the present moment, it will soon be in the past.

On we go. Up the hill. Down the hill. Up the hill. Down the hill. For another hour and a half. We are going through a low spot and on the side of the road is a 4-seater buggy, missing a wheel. There are no people around and I am trying not to panic. I tell Jay to just keep going, we aren’t going to stop to check anything out, we have our own problems. About 5 minutes later, we see oncoming headlights. We slow down to chat with the two guys in this vehicle, they are on their way out with a new wheel and tire for the broken down buggy. We tell them we didn’t see any people there and they were dismayed to hear that because they didn’t have the key to the vehicle and weren’t going to be able to drive it back. Don’t know where those people went, but they weren’t hanging out in the desert in the dark. I did ask them how much farther we had to go to get back and they said quite a ways. They were right.

yep, going down
I kept wondering at this point, did we bypass those stair steps? I think we did. We must have. We have been driving for so long, we must have gone around them already. The road has smoothed out, following the creek, surely we went around them. Nope. We rounded the bend and there they were, right in our path. In the dark. We still can’t go the easy way up, the way the ATV’s would go, too narrow an opening and the rocks on either side are too high to get around. Jay finds a way near the cliff wall and slowly creeps up. He high centers half way, can’t get a foot hold on the back wheels. I see what’s happening and tell him to back down a skosh. There’s a low spot where the back wheel drops down so I find three big rocks to fill in the gap. It’s just enough to keep that back wheel up so he can make it. We stop at the top and get out to help guide Ron up. Lynn got out to walk, no more tipping over for her. Ron gets stuck.

Our winch isn’t working, but Ron’s is so we roll it out and hook on to our buggy. Jay is manning the winch, I hop in to drive backwards, to pull Ron up over the rocks. It’s touch and go, but after what seems like forever, he’s up. And back to our crawl to camp. Another 45 minutes, but the road is getting easier to drive. We start to see the lights of Florence in the distance, that means no more ridges to get over. We pass a pick up parked on the side of the road, lights blaring. It’s the driver of the broken down 4-seater. He was happy to hear the guys were on their way, don’t know how he didn’t see them when they went by.

It quarter of nine by the time we get back to camp. Lynn just says, “that was horrible.” She said that’s all should could say to Ron on the way back. It pretty much sums up the experience as it was happening. But we all managed to not panic, even when we were in those pretty difficult situations. We whipped together a quick supper and ate in the comfort of our trailer. 
Here’s a recap of everything we did wrong, all the bad decisions that could have made it worse:

  • Too late a start,
  • Not knowing the way,
  • No extra fuel,
  • No extra water and food,
  • No warm clothing,
  • Not making sure all our equipment was functioning properly,
  • No flashlights,
  • And whatever else I’m forgetting that we should have been prepared for.

As I said before though, I was surprised by my own reactions, or lack of reactions. I didn’t panic or yell at anyone. There was no one to blame, we were all part of the decisions we made to either go on or turn around. I was relying on someone else to know the way, and they didn’t and that’s part of the adventure.  I don’t always need to be the one to know what’s best, I don’t know all the answers. If I stay calm, I can function more rationally and be more useful to help get us out of a jam. Even though my adrenalin was running high I didn’t let it get the better of me. I was really happy to be back to the trailers in one piece, me, the buggies and all of us. And for a couple of stiff shots of my friend, Jack Daniels, just to take the edge off all that adventure.

this is the way to Box Canyon, we didn't go there,
not even in the dark
Believe it or not, on Saturday we loaded up in the buggies again to set out to find the real Box Canyon. I was surprised that Lynn and I were both willing to go out again without knowing exactly where we were going. We set a time limit, including setting an alarm, for when we would need to turn around. We thought we had it figured out how to get there, and I think we did. But when we came to those Stair Steps again, we decided to turn around. We’ll have to talk with some of the locals to find an easier way to get there. That was enough adventure for that day.

I never made it to the Box Canyon. Ron and Jay did on Sunday. I had to head south for home. Lynn didn’t go either. She decided she’d had enough of the dust and adventure so she and Tika stayed at camp. Jay tells me the road to the Box Canyon was good enough I could have taken my new Outback up there. Another time, maybe. Or on to the next adventure?

Here's a link to more photos of the weekend.Florence, AZ album

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