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Archive for January, 2014

002

I just made the BESTEST EVER gingery carrot tomato soup.  The recipe comes from FatFree Vegan Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs, and it was super easy to make.

You only need a few ingredients to pull this soup together:  carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, veggie broth, canned tomatoes, cayenne pepper and tahini.  It cooks up in 40 minutes.  Susan, the recipe author, recommends letting it simmer longer for the flavors to really meld.  However, I was hungry and couldn’t wait, so I dove right in.  The soup was already so good with minimal cooking, I’m wondering how much better it’ll be reheated tomorrow?

On a side note, my dog Meghan goes bonkers for carrots, so she was underfoot while this was cooking.  I guess I can be nice and share with her…

On a double side note, I love my new soup mug from my oldest and dearest friend, K.

 

 

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We’re in line for another cold snap, so what better time to start some seeds indoors?

In the past, I used the dining room table to house my seed trays.  Using the dining room chairs, I propped up several homemade lighting structures given to me by a former gardener, and I was all set.

However this year, the dining room is off limits for pretty much all activity.  Seems one of my feral cats (I’m looking at you, Patches!) has taken the liberty of tearing apart the duct work under that room so that the heat now only warms up the crawl space.  The dining room is freezing!!!

I know that I have to fix the duct work and create a warm space for Patches that doesn’t involve my crawl space.  Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out what type of space to create, and I just don’t have the heart to take away Patches’ warm space right in the middle of winter.   So the easiest option was for me to find another place to grow my seeds.

A quick internet search on seed starting supplies sent me to Old Word Garden Farms and the article they wrote about building a seed-starting rack.   (Note that they also used their dining room table before building this structure!)

I then enlisted my woodworker friend J., who built the structure for me out of leftover wood he had from other projects.  I chose different dimensions for the shelf heights, but other than that, J. pretty much followed the plans linked above.

I have a very large dining room table, and I would stuff it full of seed trays, so I’m not sure how much extra space I gained.   But I know that I will love having a dedicated space for the seeds to grow.  And once I figure out the cat situation, I’ll actually be able to use my dining room!

Now… what to plant?

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rocky road

Tomorrow is my birthday.  Happy Birthday, me!

I’m actually not that “in” to my birthday these days, though I sure loved it when I was a kid.  You see, I had something to look forward to after all the excitement and celebration of the Christmas season was over.  And yes, there was a bit of materialism in there, too.  I was going to get more presents!

As the years have passed, I’ve moved away from family and I’m not as motivated by presents. I also realized that birthdays around the holidays are a bit of a pain to everyone except the people who are having said birthdays.   Case in point:  one place where I worked would host monthly birthday parties for its employees.  But the January birthday folks?  Usually forgotten, or asked if they really wanted the celebratory cake, since everyone had already eaten too much over the holidays.   I should have loudly said, “YES!”  but instead I acquiesced and  just slowly quit talking about my birthday.  Now, most of my current friends don’t even know when it is.

But I digress… back to the subject of birthdays… Last year was a big one.  I turned 50 and was going to make major changes in my life.  I also challenged myself to read 50 books, eat at 50 new restaurants/cook 50 new recipes, and try 50 new experiences.

As I turn the page on my 50th year, I decided to look back and see how I did.  At first glance, not so good. I read less than 30 books. I realized that I don’t want to eat out all the time and that, while I enjoy an occasional new activity, I am pretty stuck in routine.  I also didn’t have time to devote to 50 new adventures, what with training for my 500-mile walk on the Camino de Santiago.

But, the good news is that while walking on the Camino, I definitely ate at 50 different places, and had numerous new adventures.  Problem was (or so I thought) that some of those adventures weren’t ones I particularly wanted.

First adventure I didn’t want:  getting injured.  I never, ever thought or prepared for the possibility that I would get seriously (for me) injured.

People have asked why I didn’t plan for that.  All I can say is that it just wasn’t in my consciousness.  I’m basically healthy, and I had done lots of training. I also wasn’t trying to walk at record speeds.  I was going to be fine!   How was I to know that a massage therapist was going to hammer my heels with something so hard and unforgiving that I received a stress fracture?

My injury certainly changed the tenor of the trip, and caused great stress for both myself and my walking partner.  We had agreed from the start to go our separate ways and meet up at night, and that neither would change their trip for the other.  I also knew, deep down, that my friend wasn’t supposed to help me.  So that was okay.  But there were some interactions  along the way that did not feel particularly pleasant or supportive.  I say this admitting that I’m not the easiest person to be around,  and knowing that even though I tried not to impact my friend, my compromised emotional and physical state did have an adverse affect on her.

The second adventure had to do with some of what I just mentioned:  being around someone for a long period of time, thus leading to some disagreements, and having different views on how things should be done.  Where I fault myself is that I was too afraid to strike out on my own when the opportunity presented itself.  I couldn’t speak the language, I had huge communication issues with my phone, and I’m not an experienced traveler.  So I stuck to my friend’s schedule like glue, even when it would have been better for both of us if I had chosen otherwise.

The third adventure had to do with coming back to the States and looking for employment.  I had hoped to get clarity on my life’s direction on the Camino, and I did get some of that.  Problem is I didn’t get concrete, next steps to take.  So I came home,  injured and worn out emotionally, and decided that moving to some undetermined spot to start a business wasn’t in my best interest.

I’ve since been working temporary jobs and have had to deplete some retirement savings in order to pay bills.   When a job I thought was certain to be mine did not materialize, I fell into a tailspin of doubt and depression.

I spent the fall months of 2103 berating myself.  After all, I had a job that wasn’t particularly satisfying, but I could pay my bills.  Everyone had told me not to leave the job, but I felt I had to make a clean break.  I was going to move, after all.  Except… I didn’t move.  And I wasn’t finding employment that would be a good fit for both me and the employer.  Looks like I screwed up my life!

I hit rock bottom.

Then, slowly, from that place of sadness and desperation came several realizations.  One is that I made the best choices I could for myself at the time.   Another is that I can trust that I am always being divinely guided.   And a third realization is that fear really, really, really isn’t my friend.   Thanks to my experiences before, during and after the Camino, I’ve been able to integrate these ideas and am now moving forward in a more positive manner.

So, as I close out my 50th year on this planet, I have come to realize that the Camino truly did indeed give me a wonderful gift.  I am ready to  let go of fear and live a life of trust.   Thank you, beautiful old pathway! It took me awhile to realize it, but you have given me the direction I’ve been wanting.

I might not know the particulars, but I trust that signposts will appear to lead me to my destination.  All I have to do is look for the yellow arrows.

5-4 to estella 16 sign

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002

In an effort to distract myself from the upcoming 10-degree weather, I pulled out my seed catalogs and started browsing.   Browsing, of course, led to purchasing.  Lots of purchasing!  Which now will lead to work.  Lots of work!

Yes, I

bought way more seeds than I  have space to plant in my garden.  But here’s my reasoning:

  • I bought only one small packet each of the fall seeds and many of the seedlings did not survive.  I’d rather have more seeds than less, since I can always plant the leftovers next year.
  • I like to plant several different varieties of things. Take beans, for example.  I’ve purchased four different varieties (Landreth Seedless, Mountaineer Half-Runner, Purple Podded Pole and Snow Cap from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds), though unfortunately I forgot to buy my standby favorite (yard-long noodles).
  • I like to can.  So I bought pickling cucumbers as well as slicing cucumbers from Johnny’s Seeds.  And paste tomatoes as well as slicing tomatoes.
  • I like to try new things, such as spaghetti squash, striped tomatoes and melons.  Technically, melons aren’t new to me, I just haven’t had luck with them.  But the description of  Collective Farm Woman Melon in the Cook’s Garden catalog caught my interest:  “With a peach-pineapple flavor, Ukrainian heirloom..”    Yum!  And speaking of “yum”:
  • I was looking at the catalogs before lunch and I was hungry.

So tonight, as the temperatures drop and the winds howl, I’ll be dreaming of warm sunshine, delicious vegetables and cheery flowers.

 

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027

I’ve always treated my pets as substitute children.  I’ve bought them treats and toys, taken them on vacation to the beach, and thrown them birthday/adoption parties.  I’ve spent more on medical care for them than I ever would for myself.  I even adorned my first dog, a golden retriever named Molly, with bandanas. Though, who could blame me for that one? Goldens and bandanas just naturally go together!

So, yes, I have been known to go a bit overboard with my pets.  But never, never, never have I actually dressed a pet.  Until now.

Yep, I’ve become that kind of dog owner.  The kind who buys clothes for her dog.    And I have to say that I’m a bit embarrassed.  After all, Meghan is no fru-fru lap dog.  She’s a 55-pound, knee-high, muscular machine.  She simply doesn’t look like the type of dog who would wear clothes.

But, let’s face it: she has very little fur.  And she goes to day camp, where she’s outside for five to seven hours in cold temperatures.  So a coat was mandatory or my little pupster would turn into a popsicle.

The first coat I bought for Meghan is a quilted blue coat that has velcro straps connecting under her neck and tummy.

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The folks at doggie day camp, who are experienced in these matters, recommended this coat as a good starter.  The idea was to get her used to wearing something, then perhaps graduate to a warmer tummy-covering coat that requires some leg manipulation.  I loved that this coat came with it’s very own, perfectly sized hanger.

037What I didn’t love was picking her up from day camp after the second day of coat adornment to find the strap underneath her tummy hanging by a thread.  My neighbor B pulled out the sewing machine and performed emergency surgery.   All was well  until… the back end of her coat was torn.   The white trim now hangs loosely and the quilted stuffing is starting to come out. This is definitely not the coat to wear for rough play time!  I had to relegate it to walk wear only.

But what to wear at day camp? After a Google search and a recommendation from a cousin who also has a pit mix, I found Meghan’s second coat. The Ruffwear coat wasn’t cheap, but supposedly holds up well during rough play.   I purchased the one that is like a lined rain coat, since I figured she would need some protection from the elements.

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This coat also has a nice, tight fit, so I’m thinking I can use it like a Thundershirt to have a calming effect when Meghan’s anxious.

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It’s still a bit of a challenge to get her paws through the front sleeves, but once it’s on and zipped, she seems to really enjoy it.  And, judging by the muddy paw prints all over the jacket, the dogs at day camp enjoy jumping on her!

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image courtesy of Microsoft

image courtesy of Microsoft

Yes, it’s that time again … time to make resolutions.  Lose weight.  Exercise more.  Learn a new language.  Schedule date nights once a week.  Blog more.  (Insert your resolution here.)

I tend to make resolutions on my birthday, which is in a few weeks. But, to get in the spirit of things, I will go ahead and resolve to get back on track in several areas of my life.  One of those areas is blogging, hence this post.

Since I’ve been back from the Camino, I’ve had a hard time figuring out what to do next with my life.  I’ve gone through some really dark emotions, which I never expected.  You see, walking the Camino was supposed to heal all those hurts and disappointments and leave me all shiny new and ready for the second half of my life.  I also thought I’d come back with a concrete plan.   That didn’t exactly happen.

I also came back injured, and am still feeling the repercussions of my injury.

So, with the injury and with the disappointment of not being further along my path, I just didn’t blog.

But, it’s now a new year and the perfect time to re-commit to, and write about, the things that bring me joy:  gardening, hiking/walking, cooking, and spending time with my new dog.

So here’s to a new year full of peace, joy, creativity, and fun for us all!

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