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Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20, 2015 Gingerbread people, angels and bears

The one thing I really enjoy doing at this time of year is baking cookies. Not just any old cookies, like the Snoopy cookies. I bake those all the time. This is the time to bake all of those cookies I tend to only make for the holidays, gingerbread being at the top of that list. I wasn’t really thinking about baking much, but I got a sweet message from my dear friend Sue, from Bellingham. She said how much she was going to miss my gingerbread people. So I got my act together and started baking. I even bought an oven thermometer because I thought my oven temperatures might be off. It’s one of those convection ovens, and I’m still getting used to that.

 Have to remember to chill that marble slab. Helps even though it's been darn cold here lately.

Almost ready for the oven.



Last Tuesday, I squeezed in some time to make the dough, it has to chill for at least two hours. I didn’t get around to baking them until two days later. With teaching one class at 9:00 a.m. and the other class at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday’s, I just didn’t have the time to get the baking done. But that was okay. I got them baked, let them cool off and made the royal icing to add some decoration to the people.

They turned out beautifully! The royal icing sometimes doesn’t stick to well if I don’t get all of the excess flour off of the cookie. 


This one eyed cutie was just calling to me to have a bite. Really nice with a cup of tea. Thinking of you Sue, again, another time when we could be sharing tea and cookies.


So, our neighbors here will get a little bit of homemade Christmas cheer. I also baked up some of  Jay’s favorites and an old standby I got from Carolyn, the Nutmeg Cookie Logs. They are already half gone. But that’s okay, even though I made only half a batch of the icing, there’s enough left over to ice another batch of cookies!! And who doesn’t need more buttery cookies?


p.s. Your cookies are in the mail!!
Jere's guy suffered the one-eyed fate.


Friday, December 11, 2015

December 11, 2015 javelina damage

Back in November the big home improvement stores and the local plant nurseries were all advertising Fall color spots. You know, the pansies, geraniums, mums and other winter hardy flowers? And how I am a sucker for those? I have a neat little stacking planter that a friend gave me and a large clay pot I thought would look nice with some color for our front patio. One day early in November Jay and I were at Lowe’s and they had some beautiful plants so I picked up a few pansies and dianthus and a couple of geraniums. Just a few, no need to go overboard. Besides, I was going to be in North Carolina for a week and I didn’t want too much for Jay to have to tend to.

They were all coming along fine, a sweet bit of color walking up to the front of the house. I had them right out by the driveway so even if you were walking by you would be able to see it. We don’t have gates on our front patio, to make it more welcoming, and besides they are expensive.

I had been warned that javelina, the local wild pigs, love pansies and acorns. We have two oak trees in our front yard and at this time of year the acorns are ripe and fall all over. Last year I never saw any evidence of the javelina any where in our yard and the neighbors didn’t report seeing any. You think I would have heeded the advice of others, that it would only a matter of time before they would show up. And they did.

One evening last week, about 9:00, Jay had already gone to bed. Toby and I were sitting on the couch watching Jane the Virgin on Netflix. We both heard a clattering sound, his ears perked up so I knew the noise was outside. He’s a pretty good watch cat. If it’s a noise inside, he doesn’t pay attention to it, but if it’s coming from outside, he looks up to see where it’s coming from and sometimes will get up and go to the window to see what’s happening outside. I didn’t think much of it, we had been working in the garage so I thought maybe something had fallen over out there, even though Toby told me it was outside. Then the noise came again, this time more from the front bedroom. I hadn’t been in there all day so I knew nothing had fallen over in there, but thought I better get up and see what’s going on. As I walked toward the front bedroom, there was more noise and definitely coming from outside. I opened the window blind and peered out to see three small javelina having a jolly good time knocking over my planter and rooting up all of my pansies and dianthus, eating the flowers and making a general mess of it all.




I ran to the bedroom to wake up Jay because he hadn’t seen any javelina since moving here. He was sound asleep and not wanting to wake up but finally did and was excited to see them. I opened the blind, then opened the window and with that noise they ran off. He was disappointed as he wanted to watch them and the damage had already been done so why not just let them root around. Because, just like raccoons, they would come back until they were done doing what they wanted to do. Jay went back to bed and 5 minutes later, they were back to finish things off. I did shoo them away just long enough for me to dash out and save my geraniums. They were on a little metal table and I didn’t know if the javelina would try to knock that over to get at those too, so I took a chance. Javelina are mean and they were small ones so there could have been a larger mother pig I didn’t see. They are known to charge when they feel their young might be threatened. 


it's a goner....
They continued their foray in the front then moved around to the side of the house rooting up one of the small grassy plants and as many acorns as they could find. I swear I heard them bumping the gate in to the back yard like they were trying to get in there to see what other tasty morsels might be available, but at that point I was probably just hearing all kinds of things going bump in the dark night.

the one they didn't destroy











In the morning, we went out front to assess the damage. I picked up the root balls, found a smaller pot and now have everything on the back patio. Away from the marauding herd of javelina.

Rumour has it, they were back in the neighborhood in the middle of the day two days later. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1, 2015 Impermanence

As part of the Yoga teacher training I attended, one of our lessons was a walk in Duke Gardens. The focus was on impermanence. We were given 30 minutes to walk in silent meditation in this beautiful park and reflect on aging, death and dying. Then, we would meet back in the Memorial Garden and pair up with one other person for active listening. One person speaks for 3 minutes while the other, just listens without the usual verbal and visual listening remarks. It's interesting, I can remember what my partner told me, but I am having trouble recalling what I said to her.

The garden spoke to me, with it's fall beauty. I began to think of all of my senses and what each one was experiencing as I silently walked the winding paths.



Impermanence

The sound of water trickling over stones.
A bird rustling among the fallen pine needles.
Dry leaf as it lands on the earth.

The smell of sweetness of flowers fading.
Earthy decay of the fallen pine needles.
A crush of mint emits its heady scent.

The feel of wetness as my hand touches the water.
Dryness of the fallen pine needles.
Smooth is the peeled log hand rail.
The sight of the amber leaf that once was green.
And brown are the fallen pine needles.
Children playing on the green lawn.

The taste of air on a full inhale.
What would a fallen pine needle taste like?

As I walk in the garden of life, can I be
in this moment? These fleeting senses are
ever changing, never to be exactly the same

in another moment.

Those who are in our lives are also
ever changing. Be in the moment with them.
For they too will become

the fallen pine needles.




Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015 A small painting project

before
I have been wanting to do this project for a year. Last year when I had the den and bedrooms painted I had the painter dude order another gallon so I could paint the laundry room. It wasn’t needing to be done right away and I didn’t want to pay him to do it. It’s a smaller space and I figured it would be an easy project, one that I could put off for a really long time. It worked out just fine, because I have since moved the table out of there and in to the front bedroom. It just wasn’t working to have my sewing/craft table set up in there. The litter box throws off too much dust and besides, who wants to be in there when one of the cats decides to dump a load. Pee-yu!! Smelly stuff. It’s all working out better, they’re happier to have more privacy and I’m happier to have all my craft stuff in one place and relatively dust free.

new color on the left, old on the right
Anyway, I am happy with my progress so far, should have it done today. It’s the same color as the den and will make it a brighter space. Jay is busy getting the garage closer to being done. He got the water softener moved, leveled the storage cabinets in their new location, moved his car stuff, and painted the walls. Next will be setting the cabinet and the new smaller utility sink, hanging the few garden tools we still own, installing a hanger for my bike and then sitting back and enjoying the fruits of his labor. We’ll get all of this stuff done and then we’re going to take a break and take the trailer out for a few days before Christmas. A mini vacation to the hills.


a little bit of progress
P.S. Happy 86th Birthday to my wonderful Mom!! You are an amazing woman!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 29, 2015 Post Thanksgiving

Do I ever love pumpkin pie!! 


After a wonderful week away studying therapeutic yoga for seniors I came home to help plan our Thanksgiving dinner with the neighbors. They have had a few challenges lately and energy levels were running low so I offered to cook the turkey. I had already committed to making pumpkin pie, which I love to do, and I like to cook turkey too. They brought mashed potatoes, a recipe from The Pioneer Woman,(not exactly low calorie, but who cares?) and roasted sweet potatoes, both of which were absolutely divine.

On Wednesday morning I got busy baking a pie. Yes, only one pumpkin pie. I figured since there are only going to be 5 of us for dinner, one pie would be enough. We don’t need a bunch of leftovers around for a couple of days. The dough gave me a little trouble. I had the butter and lard chilled, and used ice water. I brought out my marble slab to roll it out on and as soon as I put the dough on that, it sucked all the cold right out of it and made it stick to the slab. I never had that problem in Bellingham, the thing never got over 68 degrees. But here the room temperature is usually over 70 and so the slab had retained some heat. I rolled it out anyway and managed to patch up the holes after getting it in to the dish. I remembered the sugar in the filling and it baked up beautifully. I took it out of the oven and left it on the counter to cool as I went about the rest of my day.

After teaching my 3:00 yoga class and a meeting about care givers scheduling for a dying friend I went home to fix dinner. And there was that beautiful pie, calling out to me. I told myself, no, you don’t get any pie tonight, that’s for tomorrow’s dinner. We had a light dinner, saving up for our big Thanksgiving day feast, and there was that pie, calling me, saying ‘it’s okay, you can have a little piece tonight. What’s the worst that can happen?’ The pie won. I had a piece and it was so delicious and I savored every bite, even without whipped cream or ice cream. 

The next morning, Thanksgiving day, Jay says we should have pie for breakfast, and take some to the neighbors so they can have pie for breakfast too. Then my friend’s son called to ask for Jay’s assistance in replacing a kitchen faucet. My friend isn’t eating much these days and I had planned to take her some pie later, but why wait? So I sent the pie with Jay so she could enjoy it this morning too. By now, there is less than half a pie remaining. Jay says, just make another pie. So I do. Jay put the marble slab in the freezer for me and the pie crust dough was ready from yesterday, nice and chilled. I rolled out the dough on the super cold slab and it was perfect! Then I made the custard, remembering the sugar, but substituting 1/3 of the white for brown sugar, just for something different. Don’t bother doing this. It was okay, but just not as good as using all white sugar. Not to worry, we ate all of that pie too.

We are grateful for all of our good friends, our families, we have what we need and can share with others. We are thankful for the police in our country who are going through difficult times in doing their jobs to the best of their abilities, thankful for the soldiers who are protecting our country and our freedoms. Many blessings to all as we enter our annual holiday season of joy and good cheer.



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November 18, 2015 more of Durham

I arrived safe and sound Thursday, November 12 in the afternoon at my AirBNB accommodation, a charming little house in a very quaint neighborhood. Lots of restaurants nearby, close to the Farmer’s Market location, about a mile from the downtown area with more restaurants and shops. here is a pretty typical mix of building types, old tobacco mill buildings converted to apartments and shops, post WWII plain buildings, some older stone and brick buildings and churches. 

my room


On Friday the 13th, I made my way to the Duke Integrative Medicine facility where the Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors course is being taught. 


not a LEED certified building
I walked part way along Main St. and took the free Bull Connector bus part of the way, it stops about a mile from the Center for Living Campus so I had a nice downhill walk.

 This is part of the route from my AirBNB place to town.




The building is a LEED certified, very simple on the outside with beautiful organic touches on the inside and inner courtyard spaces. The outside flows in and the inside flows out. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 17, 2015 Durham, North Carolina

I am at a Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors training at Duke Integrative Medicine. I started to write more the other night but realized I was tired and had too much going through my head. So, I will share this peaceful space with you today.



There are a couple of wonderful meditation spaces that I am taking advantage of, this is one of them. Find your own peace.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November 11, 2015 Honour our Veteran's

I am off to Durham, North Carolina tomorrow for a week long training session, Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors at Duke Integrative Medicine. So, no pictures of flags or memorials, there is plenty of that every where and I do thank all of our active duty and veteran's for service for our freedoms and protecting our country. Ditto for all the Border Patrol and Homeland Security people.

I am just going to share with you today some peppers and cactus. The sun was shining on these peppers through our kitchen window and deserved some time with the camera.










The other day Jay and I went for a walk and I saw this dead cholla. It too, presented light and shadows that gave me an opportunity to play with the camera.




This is a saguaro that offers something different, I see a heart.
Maybe you see something else, maybe just a cactus.

Enjoy.

Valerie


Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 8, 2015 Rattlesnake season


The other day it was a beautiful sunny morning here with cool temperatures. A perfect day for an early morning walk. I decided to take a walk in the neighborhoods instead of going in to the desert, so I laced up my shoes, grabbed my hat, dark glasses and camera and set out. Once I got down to the main street out of the neighborhood, I remembered there is a very nice cactus garden not too far away that is all small and miniature cacti. I took a bunch of pictures there in the spring when things were blooming so I thought it would be fun to see how it looks in the fall.

The sun was low, but warming up the air nicely as the night time temperatures have been dipping down below 50, kind of cool for the rattlesnakes and I knew to be on the lookout for them. As I approached the garden it was getting some nice sunshine and good shadows for some pictures. And as it turned out, a good spot for a very large rattlesnake to catch some warmth in the morning. My attention turned to the snake, all coiled in a pile, head up, tail up, but motionless. I thought, well, its cold and I’m not a threat so it’s not going to rattle if I leave it alone. I kept my distance and took some pictures of it, all the while it’s not moving one iota, even as I moved around a large palm to have the sun at my back. 

I thought it would be fun to share my find with a few people so I sent a text with the picture attached, “look who I saw this morning!” Jay calls me right away and asks if I called the Fire Department to come and remove it. If it’s that close to the sidewalk and in someone’s yard it should be moved away. The signs at the recreation center remind us to call and have the snake removed if we see one. So, I walked back to the house, saw that the snake was still there, not having moved at all, and called the non-emergency number for the Fire Department. I gave them the address, and they said I didn’t need to wait around as it wasn’t at my house so I was going to continue my walk. I called Jay back to let him know that the Fire Department was on their way and he said, “did you knock on the door to let the people who live there know about it?” Well, no. It’s early, about 8:00, I don’t want to bother them. But hey, it’s Green Valley, every one gets up early around here, so no big deal. I go up to the door and ring the bell, sure enough a old guy comes to the door. I say, “Good Morning, sorry to bother you so early, but I just thought you should know you have a very large rattlesnake in your front yard and I have called the Fire Department to come and get it.” He chuckled and said, “it’s a rubber snake. It’s been out there for about 10 years.” Boy was I mad. How dumb is that to put such a realistic rubber snake out that near to where people walk their dogs, especially during rattlesnake season. Then I thought, not only is he an idiot, he’s also a liar, because I know that the rubber rattlesnake wasn’t there in the spring when I was taking pictures. It’s a big one and there’s no way I would have missed it. 

same garden, no snakes here.
After he told me that, I left. I wish I would have told him I thought it was a dumb idea to do that or some other snappy comeback. Then I phoned the Fire Department back and told them it was a false alarm, just a rubber rattlesnake. I called Jay and told him about it and he said I should have just let them come out to make a commotion about getting the rattler out of there and then they could have told the guy it wasn’t a good idea to do that. Maybe he would have been embarrassed about being called out for being an idiot and to keep the damn the in the backyard.

the black stuff is irrigation tubing, not baby snakes




When I got home, I sorted through all my pictures from last spring to find the ones I took in his garden. No rubber rattlesnake. Next time I’ll let the FD come out and deal with the idiot.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1, 2015 creativity flow......

The other day I started looking through my yarn stash to find something for a new project. I’m going to North Carolina in a couple of weeks for a yoga school and figure I need a small knitting project to take with me. No, I’m not done with the quilt project but it is much closer to being completed and I have been diligently working on it. Toby is helping to press the blocks that are waiting to be finished.



So as I am digging through boxes of yarn I’m thinking socks. Small, compact, easy to do while traveling. Then I came across some skeins of mohair. Hand dyed from New Zealand. What was I thinking when I bought this? It’s so pretty, so soft, I must have it, it’s on sale or something along those lines. It’s been years since it made it’s way to my stash and seeing it I thought why don’t I just wind that into balls and see what it looks like. 





After being in the box for so long it was all smashed and flat. This is what I got!!! It’s gorgeous! Magnificent and soft and beautiful. And they don’t look alike even though they are from the same batch and color lot. The tag on them says for even color distribution, using 2 hanks balled, knit 2 rows from 1 ball, 2 rows from 2nd ball, carrying thread not in use up the side. That will be a different process. But now what to make? I’m thinking a lace shawl, if I can find a pattern that will accommodate the amount of yarn. I have only two skeins of this color lot, I have two other pairs of skeins in different color lots. That’s a lot o’ mohair.
these are not leg warmers


But back to the socks. That too is a challenge, to find a pattern that will accommodate the sock yarn I have. Not all patterns are equal and as I learned with the leg warmers, pay attention to the weight of the yarn I choose before starting. I lucked out with that one and had an extra ball. They are a little heavier than I thought they would be because I didn’t use sock yarn but I am happy with the results.





Oh, and on the home front, Jay installed a couple of new exterior lights. We desperately needed one near the front door, it was an absolute dark hole, and since he found these two light fixtures at our favorite store, the White Elephant, for cheap, why not install one on the other side of the garage. 







new light on the left side of the garage door.






Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 31, 2015 Happy Halloween!!

We decided we needed to see one more parade this year so we went to the Country Fair White Elephant parade right here in Green Valley. It’s always the last weekend in October and this year it fell on Halloween. Never having been before I don’t know if the participants always dress up in costume but there were plenty of ghouls and goblins along with the marching bands, (some in uniforms, some dressed as zombies), floats and Shriners. The weather was perfect too after yesterdays rain, about 70ยบ and clear skies. The difference this year is I had someone to watch the parade with, Jay.



neighbor Julie
I knew someone in the parade, my neighbor Julie, dressed as Minnie Mouse, (she's a volunteer at the thrift store) and I saw other friends who were there to watch the festivities. Best of all it was short and sweet, just over an hour.

a very cute spectator collecting candy

my friend Margie
old tractors were on display
zombie color guard
zombie marching band

zombie cheer

a couple of uniformed marching bands

The White Elephant is a thrift store where people donate their stuff and it gets sold to the community. They raise over $1 million dollars a year and donate it all back to the community, the Food Bank, schools, youth programs, all sorts of agencies benefit from the White Elephant. It is staffed almost entirely by volunteers and the prices are cheap! Which makes it all the more amazing at the dollar amounts they are able to give back. This guy opened and closed the parade.


At the end of the parade the Community Church had free root beer floats for any one who wanted one. What a treat!