Archive for February, 2013


I recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals for the year was to read 50 books. The second book I read this year was “Eat, Drink and Be from Mississippi,” by Nanci Kincaid. Loved it!

Maybe now is the time to explain how I go about choosing the books I read. Long ago, I pared down my purchasing of books. Small houses with lack of storage space can do that to a person.  Now, instead of browsing the bookstores, I  go to the library, wander up and down the aisles, and look for titles that speak to me.

When I saw this book, I had to check it out. I like to eat, I drink lots of water, and I used to live in Mississippi. What was not to like about this title? So I took the book home, and ended up having trouble putting it down.

“Eat, Drink and Be from Mississippi” is about a brother and sister, Truely and Courtney Noonan, who grew up in Mississippi, then left for the “greener” pastures of California. Both ended up having seemingly magical lives. Courtney met and married a wealthy man who adored her. Truely also met and married his true love, then became fabulously wealthy by starting his own company. As the book goes on, we find out that their seemingly perfect lives aren’t that perfect: parents die, relationships fall apart, new people come into their lives who challenge them.

I just loved this book. I loved the story of finding success from meager backgrounds, of finding true love, and of sibling friendship. The events in this book where the kinds of things I dreamed about when I was in high school — well, at least until the marriages fall apart. 🙂  Yes, some bad things happen, but the Noonans soldier on.  The book has a happy ending, and I love happy endings!



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I recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals is to do 50 new things that take me beyond my comfort zone.

I’ve since expanded this category to include doing new things, even if they aren’t scary, and visiting new places.

Today’s hike at West Point on the Eno falls into the broader category. I’ve hiked many parts of Eno River State Park, but have only visited West Point on the Eno during the annual music festival over the Fourth of July. It was interesting to see the park in its bare glory.


During the Festival for the Eno, the meadow pictured above houses the largest music stage, and is lined with booths for craft and food vendors.


I had Meghan the dog with me again today, so we headed up one of the trails into the woods.


It’s been raining a lot lately, so we had to walk through some standing water. Meghan didn’t mind that, but she was a bit perplexed by the river. I think it’s safe to say she’s not a swimmer!


The dam pictured above is near the old mill, below:


Another part of the mill:


Old parts of the mill:


Meghan enjoyed climbing on some of the old materials:


She was less thrilled with the old farming equipment, but I liked it!


Since Meghan wasn’t wild about the water, I passed on the canoe ride. Maybe next time?


It was nice to see that spring is coming, though we really didn’t have a winter.




All in all, a nice day. Meghan did well, and one person we passed asked lots of questions about her. So hopefully as she gets out and meets people in a non-stressful environment, someone will see her wonderfulness!

And if any readers want to meet her, she lives at the Durham, NC animal shelter.

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I recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals for the year was to cook 50 new recipes. Recipe number 3 was Bell Pepper Stir Fry from Lindsay Nixon’s Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook.

All the recipes in her cookbooks are copyrighted to the publisher, so you’ll have to buy the book in order to see the actual recipe. Here’s Lindsay’s website, where you can order her cookbooks. They are also available in book stores and on Amazon.

I’ve made quite a few of the recipes in this cookbook, as well as several recipes that appear on her website. I plan to order her other cookbooks sometime this year. Her recipes are all easy to make, using easy-to-find and inexpensive ingredients. Perfect for when you want to eat healthy but don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

I chose to try the bell pepper stir fry since I had all the ingredients handy. I changed up the original recipe by cooking a handful of fresh mushrooms with the bell peppers, then mixing in an already cooked bag of edamame. If you choose to add as much edamame as I did, I would recommend doubling the sauce in which you cook the bell peppers.

This was tasty and filling. Can’t wait to enjoy leftovers tomorrow!

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image courtesy of Amazon

image courtesy of Amazon

I recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals was to read 50 books, and to try to branch out a bit from my usual reading choices.

The first book I read this year was “Proof of Heaven,” by Eben Alexander. This definitely is a bit of a branch-out for me, not because I stay away from books about spirituality or heaven. Rather it was because I didn’t feel particularly drawn to the book or the subject matter; I already believe there’s somewhere we all go when we die. Plus, I’ve already read some very interesting books about near-death and life-between-lives experiences.

That being said, I received a copy of the book as a present from a friend, who felt the book had some wonderful information. So after the holidays wrapped up,  I dove right in.

This book about Alexander’s near-death experience was very easy to read. I’m not a critic, so I’ll just say what I found interesting about the book. The first thing was that his experiences in heaven reminded me of a shamanic journey, especially with the layers of experiences; the going up and the going down; and the guide who helped him. Not really related here, but I was immediately reminded of a workshop I attended last year on using shamanic techniques to help people who are dying.

The other thing that struck me strongly was his description of the pull he felt from his young son. I interpreted that pull to be so strong that it was one of the main reasons he came back to his body.

Now to admit something crazy about myself: at the time I was reading this book, I was pulling on the soul of my recently departed dog. For some reason, I just wasn’t getting over her death, and every night, I would ask her to reincarnate and come back to me. I would do journeys asking her to appear, but she never would. I have had plenty of journeys during which I was able to communicate with my other departed dogs, so I just didn’t understand why I couldn’t talk to Nanaline.

Now, after reading Alexander’s book, I realize that I was pulling on Nanaline’s soul and that it was disruptive for her. Alexander wasn’t dead, after all; he still had the option of coming back to his life. Nanaline doesn’t have that option. She may show up in my life again at some point, but it just wasn’t doing her (or me) any good to continue to tug on her in the way that I was.

So, since reading the book, I’ve stopped pulling on Nan, and have finally let her go.   Better late than never…

One more thing about the book: it was also nice to just hear over and over again how loved we are. Don’t think anyone can hear too much of that!

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I recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals was to have 50 new experiences.    First on this list was Meghan’s Big Day Out.

Meghan, pictured above, is a 6-month old Plott hound/Pitt mix currently living at the local shelter.  She’s been at the shelter since early December and is one of the shelter’s longest dog residents.   She’s got quite a lot of puppy energy, and is also quite anxious.  But she’s a total sweetie once she’s calmed down, and I’ve taken her on as my “get this dog adopted” project.

I was able to take Meghan out for the day yesterday.  I’m still learning how to helpfully work with shelter animals, and this was my first time taking a dog for the day.  I was a bit nervous, to say the least!  First, I let Meghan run in the shelter’s grassy pen to burn off some of her energy.  Then, it was in the car and off to the woods.  At first, she was all over the place in the car; I really could have used a helping hand to keep her seated in the back.   But we made it safely to the Duke Forest, and off we went for a two-mile hike.

I don’t think Meghan had been in the woods before.  She was very interested in her surroundings.  Though after awhile, she got nervous.  It was probably the toddler charging towards us that did it.  I told the parents that Meghan’s a shelter dog and I didn’t know how she would do with kids, so I was going to keep her away.  The family walked slowly by, but Meghan barked at them continuously.  Then the bikers scared her.   Then she barked at some random adult walkers.  I think at that point, she was on sensory overload and needed a break.  Good thing we were almost back to the car.

Next on the agenda was a visit to my house to see how she’d do inside.  Meghan walked right up the steps, walked through the front door confidently, then headed toward the kitchen, where she immediately located the cat food.  (Note to self:  puppy proof house before next visit!)  I snatched the bowl up quickly, and gave her a few puppy treats instead.    Then it was time for toys.  She jumped on the couch and proceeded to entertain herself.   Meghan really loves plush toys, so much so that she destroys them.  Here she is with a blue toy before it went to “toy heaven.”


Luckily I also brought a baseball, which caught her attention long enough so that I could take the mangled blue toy away before she ate any of the stuffing.  Meghan had fun throwing the baseball up in the air and chasing it.

Pretty soon, it was time to go to the shelter’s adoption event at PetSmart.  Yet another first for Meghan.  When we pulled up in the parking lot, she was barking at the people and the shopping carts.  Once we were in store, however, she settled down and seemed to enjoy being plied with treats every few minutes.  She is very motivated by food!  Meghan does need some work in the socialization department, though.  She scares easily, and she’s not entirely comfortable around other dogs.  She got especially upset when I shared her treats, and she tried to take another dog’s toy away.   One of the main volunteers thought she did great, though, especially considering it was her first time.

After an hour or so at PetSmart, it was time to take Meghan back to the shelter.  After having all these new experiences, I’m sure she slept well last night.     I know I did!

This was a relatively easy “new” experience for me, though I tend to get very nervous doing things I’ve never done before.  And Meghan wasn’t my dog.  And I wasn’t sure how she would react in any of the circumstances she faced.   I’d love to take her out again and help her get socialized.   And perhaps work with a few more dogs in the future.

On a personal note, I did love having a dog with whom to walk in the woods.  I have greatly missed that!   And I hope that Meghan gets a home soon.  She’s a great dog, albeit with a lot of energy, and would make a great companion.


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I’ve recently turned 50 years old and one of my goals for the year is to cook using 50 new recipes. This week, I tried a recipe for Cauliflower Mushroom Marranca from one of my favorite cooking blogs, FatFree Vegan Kitchen.

I chose this recipe because I had cauliflower and mushrooms that I wanted to use up.  Plus, in the spirit of trying something new, I wanted to branch out from my regular food staple: soup.  One item I did not have on hand was millet, but I noticed in the comments section that quinoa worked well.  That I had on hand, so I was in business!    Quick and easy and delicious.  For those who want more spice, you could add some hot sauce or sprinkle cayenne to the finished product.

Susan, owner of FatFree Kitchen, served her casserole with steamed kale and cashew cream sauce.   Wouldn’t you know, I had all those ingredients on hand, so I tried the cashew cream sauce.

Just that like, two new recipes!   And a stash for the freezer, to boot!

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image courtesy of Microsoft

image courtesy of Microsoft

About a month ago, I celebrated my 50th birthday.

Now, celebration is a rather broad term for what I did.  You see, I’m not much into birthdays.  But my friends told me that this was one to celebrate, and that I should do something extraordinary, like zip-line.

I said no to zip lining (at least for now) and yes to buying my plane ticket for the Camino de Santiago.   And I went out to eat with some friends.     But that still didn’t seem “enough.”  So I have spent some time thinking about how I’d like to spend my 50th year on Earth.   Here are a few things I’ve come up with:

1.  Do something that relates to my age, such as walk 10 miles for every year I’ve lived.   Ha!  That was easy – I sort of cheated on that one, since it just coincidentally worked out I would be walking the 500-mile trek to Santiago this particular year.

2.  Do 50 things that scare/stretch me.   This one could include all kinds of things, from driving in an unfamiliar city to attempting something new.   I tend to stay stuck in the familiar, and what better way to shake up life than expanding my comfort zone?

3.  Eat at 50 new restaurants.  This one might be hard to do, if I don’t count my time on the Camino.  My extended community has lots of restaurants, but I have a fairly limited diet, so finding 50 new restaurants where I could eat something other than a garden salad will be a challenge.   Plus, I tend to eat at home.

4. Cook 50 new recipes/use 50 new ingredients.   This seems like a silly goal for someone who likes to cook, but when I find a recipe I like, I tend to make it over and over and over again.

5. Read 50 books.  This one might be cheating a bit, since I do love to read.  I don’t keep track of how many books I read a year, but it might be worth noting.  And perhaps, since I’m stretching my comfort zone, I could read some genres I don’t normally read, like biographies and mysteries.

So that’s what I’ve got so far.  Any suggestions?

I plan to post how I’m doing on my 50 things list, so we’ll see how it goes.

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